Tuesday, November 29, 2011

RPG Carnival November 2011 - Summary

Thank you very much to everyone who participated in this challenging topic! We heard from a handful of intrepid GMs who offered their insights and advice on how to think like a villain in your campaign. Here’s a brief recap:

Runeslinger: wrote "Cracking Open the Skull of Evil" with a focus on Horror-Genre villains, Runeslinger offers his considerations of the villain’s motivations and provides some great examples to illustrate what he means.


Berin Kinsman: over on Dire Blog, Berin accepted the challenge with  “The Indifference Trap”, in which he focuses on how to think about Traps that the GM’s Villains might spring on their Player Characters. Traps must serve a purpose: to guard things, to give an opponent tactical advantage, and to capture players without killing them.  Great insights!


Lee at HouseRule wrote "Players Have All the Answers": A short but sweet post on his thoughts regarding traps. A key bit of advice here is to not lock your Players into a trap that corners them hopelessly… give them choices along the way. And provide a sense of urgency as you do it.  Worthwhile advice!


Satyre at Satyrlite wrote ‘Villainous Psychology – traps & tricks’ a well organized overview of methods and motives for trap building with great examples. Method, Motive, Opportunity are the subject titles. Well worth the read!


Desyth at DrunkDM wrote a post “Tricks & Traps” that focuses on a series of really killer traps. Lots of fun and great fodder for ideas!


Runeslinger followed up with a second post, “A Penticle of Trapping”, which focuses on the second side of my question: the traps, in which he explains the five principals of trapping. This set of principals is where you want to be as a Villain-Thinker. Great ideas.


Michael Schultz at LateToTheParty wrote about his bad guys, how they think and how they function. Most villains, in fact, don’t consider themselves villains – they’re driven by passions, but they rarely say to themselves “I’m evil, mwhahaha”. Bringing realism and depth to your villains is a great idea!


Fitz at Game Knight Reviews posted “Thankful for Gleeful Villains” some interesting advice on letting your villains have fun with their wretched diabolical plots. After all, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing… why do it?  LOL!


IronWolf at IronTavern wrote his entry “Thinking like a villain: tricks & traps” and discusses how to provide balance in the pursuit of villainy. After all, if villains are as smart as the GM (ie – omniscient) then the Player Characters may never survive. So it behooves to consider villains as characters of depth, and offers his advice and observations on the topic, as well as two great examples of two types of villains.  Great!


Again - Thank you everyone for some really great ideas and examples!

And as for my own thoughts, I will post them soon in another post.   For now I leave you with a small poem that washed up on the shore of a desolate beach in Elthos one day, written in bloody script, doubtless by the hand of a Player Character who'd been done in at last by his Villainous foes...

Down, down, down
to the Hilts of their swords
they will strive...
till all but their anguish 
lies dead and forgotten
in the sands of time

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

November 2011 RPG Carnival: Tricks & Traps

Tricks & Traps, or How to think like a Villain.

This month's RPG Carnival is being hosted here on Elthos RPG.  The way you participate is to write a blog entry (or two, or three, etc) on your own blog that answers the question raised by the RPG Carnival topic, and then post a link to your post in my comments page here on Elthos RPG.   

At the end of the month I will write up a summary recap of the posts entered and we'll all have a merry time of it!  The ultimate Archive for all of the RPG Carnivals is being held at Nevermet Press, so you can go there to look for previous (and future) RPG Carnival links.  Ok, ready?  Here we go!

Setting up challenges for RPG Player Characters that make sense in terms of the story is a matter of thinking “What would the villain *really* do?” Learning to think like your villain is a bit tricky because if you think too well then your players may not survive very long, but if you don’t think enough …well, it is just too damn easy. What Tricks-n-Traps have your villains set for those who dare impinge on their turf, or interfer with their nepharious plots? Did the PCs live or die, …or something far far worse?! 

Have at it, Mates!   :)

As for me, I take a lot of time between games thinking about what my villains are up to.  Sometimes I discover that old ideas from last week don't really measure up.   Sometimes I realize that the villain has thought about something so well that should he put his plan into effect the PCs would definitely be doomed.   I'm also always trying to comb my campaign's hair by working out the kinks and smoothing the complexities.   One of the things I have found that helps is to keep a board (yup a regular old cork board) with little bits of paper tacked to it that show each villain (actually all protagonists and antagonists in the current campaign), as well as key places, in relative proximity to each other.   This helps me a lot to remember who is where, especially when there are multiple NPCs who are each having some effect on the Campaign back story, and sometimes have links to one another.

All of which is helpful when I'm designing my tricks and traps.  For me the key, really, is to not let things get *too* complicated.   There is a sweet spot somewhere between intriguing and holy-freaking-cow-what-the-hell-just-happenned.   Finding that sweet spot is like finding just the right herbs to add to your soup.  The right mix, and the soup tastes great.  Too much is just as insufficient as too little.   And this is really why Gamesmastering, regardless of system or tools, is not merely a technical activity, but also very much an art.

At some point during the Carnival I'll post something about one of the villains in Elthos, the tricks and traps he created, how my players reacted to them, and how I feel that the Campaign succeeded in it's goal of creating an entertaining story by keeping things not too complicated, but far from simple, too.  Villains, I think, should pose significant challenges for Player Characters, but not be so smart, so knowledgeable, and so freaking powerful that the PC's have no chance.  It is kind of a tough balance, actually, and it requires some finesse and artistry on the part of the GM.   What's your technique?

I look forward to reading your posts!