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TTRPG Tips: How to Make a Bad Guy

What is a bad guy?

It’s important to note that in almost all instances, villains in literature are proactive and

heroes are reactive. For example, look at how Batman doesn’t act until Joker has already

made his move. This is because villains must be portrayed as the aggressors to function

correctly in any given narrative. What must be remembered is that the act of aggression is

only seen as such by the victims. The shark from Jaws didn’t really do anything wrong in

terms of natural behaviour, but as it was eating humans, it was the perceived aggressor.

I personally prefer to build a game starting with the villain, due to how they are technically

the driving force of a campaign. If they didn’t exist, the players would have no need to take

up arms.

The Types of Villains

Villains can generally be grouped into the following categories:

● The Beast

● The Machine

● The Fanatic

● The Embodiment of Evil

● The Mastermind

● The Bully

● The Henchman

● The Obsessive

● The Anti-Villain

Each type of villain has its pros and cons, and different ways to function in literature, and

many can overlap with each other as you will see traits of one category in another.

The Beast

The Beast is one of the most simple, yet effective, villain archetypes to use well. They’re

traditionally an animal that are “overstepping their boundaries” and infringing on human life

and settlements.

The Beast has no motivation other than survival. It needs to eat, sleep, breed, and breathe

just like any other species in existence currently. If you want to be realistic about it, the Beast

would flee if it felt its life was in danger most of the time. They want to survive as much as

you do. They aren’t vindictive, and they won’t seek revenge. If you would desire to use The

Beast in your game, ensure that you emphasise that they are just a creature doing its own

thing. Acts of aggression are territorial, predatory, or in defence. The Beast cannot be

reasoned with. Try convincing a bear not to eat you, it won’t work.

Examples from fiction include:

● Bruce from Jaws

● The Xenomorph from Alien

● Parasites from Parasyte: The Maxim

● Dinosaurs from Jurassic Park

The Machine

The Machine is very similar to The Beast. They’re simple, effective, cannot be reasoned

with, and very easy to use in TTRPGs. However there are some differences between them.

The Machine follows orders exclusively. It has no consciousness of its own.. It does not

relent, and has no sense of self-preservation. They are generally at the behest of a larger

intelligence or hive mind that overrides their instincts. This is what makes them so

dangerous, as you could remove limbs and it would still keep attacking and fighting,

remaining fearless as they have only their orders.

If you desire to use the Machine in your game, ensure that they’re entirely objective in their

nature. “Seeking Player. See Player. Eliminate Player.”

Examples from fiction include:

● Ultron from Avengers

● The Cybermen from Doctor Who

● Nazi Zombies from Call of Duty

● The T-1000 from Terminator

The Fanatic

The Fanatic is also sometimes referred to as “The Holy Warrior”. These villains have a cause

or belief and will stop at nothing to achieve that. Think “the ends justify the means” and you’ll

be on the right track. They see themself as almost a god-like figure and the one to bring

about a “necessary” change in the world. They will achieve their goal regardless of the

bloodshed or destruction in their wake.

These villains are quite tricky, as they are most effective when their cause can be

understood and empathised with. Someone wanting to enslave the world in a show of

dominance isn’t always going to cut it. There needs to be a purpose and drive.

If you desire to use the Fanatic in your game, first consider their cause. The more

sympathetic and believable, the better. Maybe you could even convince your players that

they are right.

Examples from fiction include:

● Thanos from Avengers

● Viego from League of Legends