Burning good villains

I was curious if there is a good, solid method to burning villains, like a rule of thumb…

I know that burning a villain should be a matter of importance to the game and fiction, but mechanically speaking are there suggestions that could be useful?

This of course applies to non-mostrous villains. Should I give them 1-2 lifepaths more than the group?

Basically I’m trying to get some idea of this process and what others do, so I am prepared before it comes up for me. Any help is appreciated.

Lifepaths represent life experience; I’d definitely start antagonists with 5-6 LPs, if I want them to be powerful and intimidating. Remember that your antagonists won’t be logging tests, so they already have to play catch-up with your players’ characters.

It depends on the role of the antagonist. A duelist who’s a terror with a sword can be a nightmare to fight with just 4 LPs, while a geezer with 8 LPs starts to look a little frail. A powerful church leader’s stats are far less important than his beliefs and his authority with a big organization. A three-LP village tough who’s ornery and obstructive and causing problems can be a serious antagonist. It all depends on the game you want to run.

It’s my (minority) opinion that a fair number of villains don’t need to be burned. You need to know their beliefs, and you may need to know some stats (like DoW), but their full character stats are just never going to matter.

I tend to agree myself that full burning isn’t necessary. But it is good to know the methods used by others…as the saying goes, Knowledge is Power.

Also, great point on the importance of the antagonist’s role.

If you haven’t already, read this post: [BW] The Storm King.

Yes, read the storm king. It is a wonderful lesson in building an antagonist that does justice to both the story and the characters. I’m at the very beginning of running a new game and can honestly say that burning up antagonists is very far down my list of priorities simply because I have no idea what kind of people they are or will become. I have broad brushstrokes in my head, but until the player character’s interact with them in a meaningful way, they are just empty vessels that I don’t want to spoil. When the time is right, I may do a full burn, but even that decision is one that is not set in stone.

Heh, heh.

That actually reminds me of how I started presenting the image of an antagonist in my game. Then it came time to do a full character burn. Let’s just say that the full character burn has given an incredibly interesting spin to the character. I’d say more, but I have a player on these boards…

I definitely think the character burn can be a great thing to do, because it forces the GM into the same constraints as the players. It helps to guide and shape your character, and it gives you better ideas than you would have come up with. I also definitely think there’s a lot to be said for waiting until the characters have been somewhat established before you give them a full burn.

The “Sticky Antagonists” thread is worth a read, too, when you’re trying to build up their BITs.

My most successful antagonists have either:

  1. Had goals the players/characters empathize with but methods they abhor.
  2. Conducted themselves in ways the players/characters respect, but with goals which they oppose.

Every once in a while, you just want a villain they flat out hate and want to see die, of course. But players really love it when there’s something in an antagonist they respect. In my recent Burning Baltic game, the players’ characters were mercenaries who were fighting to free Prussia from the Teutonic Order. One of the players took a Teutonic knight as an inimical relationship during character burning. They hated that guy! He tried to undo all their works. But he was also a man who believed in his mission with religious fervor; he wasn’t corrupt and out for himself. The players often suggested that their characters were the villains and he was the hero of the story.

Wow, this seems to me more than obvious. Yet, I never thought of it in those terms. Great rule of thumbs. Thanks for the share, and One That Was, thanks for the question!