Friday, April 1, 2011

B is for BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy)

Continuing our Blogging from A to Z challenge.  Today, is day 2, which means that brings us to the letter B.  I can't think of anything more important to an adventure, or a character's story, than the BBEG.

The Big Bad Evil Guy is pretty much the reason that the adventure exists (unless your characters are just plodding around some open world and not really fighting anybody... who wants to play one of those game?? :P )

Every good Adventure, whether that adventure spans only a few levels, or if it spans the entire life of a character, needs to have a strong BBEG to keep the story interesting and create tension and action for the players.  A BBEG should be a complicated character, with an intriguing story, but the BBEG also needs to be able to kick some serious hind-quarters.  However, the BBEG shouldn't be someone right there in front of the players.  They need to be in the background, an ever looming threat, which finally shows up at the very end of the story and bring the smackdown to the players (who invariably return that smackdown obliterating said BBEG).

There are a lot of great BBEG's out there to draw inspiration from in movies, books, or gaming sources.  I want to talk about two different types of BBEG's, inspired by a film created a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away.  I want to go over a few of the interesting differences between them.

The Emperor type BBEG

Sure, maybe the more recent Star Wars Trilogy wasn't that great (lots of hate out there), but I will admit, I really liked the way the Emperor rose to power throughout that trilogy.  It was great, seeing the bad guy right in the middle of all major action in the world.  Everybody in the audience knows this guy is as evil as it comes and is going to become the biggest bad-guy in the universe.

The Emperor type BBEG starts off as a subtle villain. He might even appear as a friend to the heroes of the story, but in the end, when it finally comes out that the players have been trolled by the bad guy, things start to seriously go awry and the players have to contend with a horribly evil power broker who wields massive influence and commands the loyalty of millions of evil little pawns.  This BBEG is all about working in the background.  The heroes have to go up against him every bleeding day, but they might not ever get to actually lay eyes on him until the final act.

Using an Emperor Type BBEG is a great way to develop an awesome adventure.  The only problem with this type of character though is the players are probably going to see it coming.  This type of BBEG is used so often in fiction and gaming that people are going to "game" the story, thinking in the meta, and try to figure out who the real bad guy actually is.  The way to fight this: be even more subtle about it.  Make the players think that even though the King is helping you all out, something about him seems to be a little off; maybe they will game it and come to the conclusion that he's actually the bad guy.  Then, when the players have pretty much made up their minds, throw them a curve ball.  It wasn't the king, it was Princess Peach all along!!

The Darth Vader type BBEG 

There are a lot of different ways to look at Vader, THE BOSS, as a BBEG.  I like to think that this type of BBEG is a lot less subtle.  He shows up more often in person than from behind the scenes.  He's a bad, bad man and he wants to be right out there in the open flaunting his power and strength.  Vader type BBEG's work great as recurring villains who constantly show up to thwart and generally despoil the characters, their families, and their friends.

But the Vader type BBEG also has a very involved story.  He's not a simple, one-shade of Evil.  He's many, many shades and one of them just might be good.  He might be really, horribly awful, but with the right motivation, and the proper persuasion, he might be finally turned to the forces of light in the final hour when the players are faced up against somebody even more evil than he is (see Emperor type BBEG for an example of one such "more" evil BBEG's).

There are plenty of other BBEG types out there.  Try to change it up when you're developing your adventure. Try not to get repetitive.  If you constantly abuse the same BBEG type your adventures are going to get stale. Hope that this BBEG advice has been helpful.  Adventure On!


  1. I often struggle with developing BBEG's worthy of the acronym. Most of them don't make it past the first encounter with my PCs. I really think I need to step up the diabolical factor...

    Well posted! I'm adding you to my "to follow list"
    Oh hey! I just noticed you're a fellow Obsidian Portalier!

  2. My favorite BBEGs are the ones who play against type. I'd be locked in a room with Valdemort in all his dark-robed, flat-faced glory any day before I accepted a challenge from Dolores Umbridge.

    With the bad guy in black, you know what you're getting. But when evil comes dressed plump in pink, it becomes all the unnerving.

    Nice blog--and a great looking site!

    Dead Reckoning

  3. Thanks guys. I agree with you Joe about the enemy in Pink thing. Sometimes I use kids as enemies in campaigns. Only once though. Once you do that with one group of players they are never going to help a poor little orphan again.

    Look forward to hearing from ya'll again.

  4. I have one such BBEG - goes by the name of 'Kazrath', and has, or rather, had been the bane of my former rpg group's lives. He still exists and was never defeated, mainly due to the fact he never came face-to-face with the group, but left that to his minions. Most of whom the group dispatched, and some of whom nearly dispatched them. For me, the main element of my BBEG was more the psychological factor. The implied notion that 'he' was never far behind - and I only say this as my old group had done some very disagreeable things to the BBEG's followers, and put paid to several of the BBEG's plans/operations.

    Ultimately, any BBEG needs a really nasty second-in-command, and Kazrath was fortunate enough to have one such being, along with a nasty little sideline in reanimated assasins, whose mere name alone would cause the party to rethink and ( nine times out of ten) haul butt. Got to keep those players on their toes.

    Thanks again for following me, tis an honour, Sir!

  5. @EvilDM - sounds like you have yourself a first class BBEG to me! I always like hearing stories about crafty, evil villains. Great stuff. Thanks a bunch for sharing!!