This time, it’s personal: tips for making villains worthy of player grudges

Not just for the cinema: vengeance motivates RPG heroes, too. Image Copyright Paramount Pictures.

A primary goal placed before a dungeon master (DM) is finding ways to connect players emotionally to the group’s Dungeons & Dragons game; after all, while it may be exciting to defeat a statistically superior foe in combat, such an event can be made even more meaningful if the player secures an “emotional victory” at the same time.

For the purposes of this post, the best way to define “emotional victory” is through example. Years ago, this writer ran his D&D group through the classic D&D module, Night’s Dark Terror. The module led the party in an ongoing struggle against a slaving operation known as the Iron Ring, and against one of the ring’s agents in particular: the yellow-robed wizard, Golthar. While the module provided several opportunities for the party to cross swords with Golthar and his subordinates, the wizard always managed to escape as the heroes were securing victory, typically delivering an insult or two toward the party’s fighter during the escape. After letting the wizard slip through their grasp a couple of times, the players – espeically the fellow who played the fighter –  became obsessed with the idea of capturing or killing him. When Golthar was slain near the end of the adventure, some of the players were eager to see what treasure or information the wizard carried. The player who ran the insulted fighter had no interest in such things; when asked why, he responded, “Who cares what he’s carrying? I just killed Golthar! I’m going to Disneyland!”

Clearly, the victory over Golthar meant more to the player than treasure and experience points. It was so memorable, in fact, that the Disneyland quote found a permanent home on our D&D Quote SheetContinue reading