Warning: Are You Making these Tinyplot Mistakes?

December 10, 2012 at 4:24 am (Plots) (, , , )

I always think it’s great whenever a player wants to take a shot at running a plot. However, there are some pitfalls that you should be aware of before you do.

Failing to Skip the Boring Bits

So your players have to take a 6 hour car ride across the Midwest to get to the Great Forgotten Burial Mound in order to put the ashes of the Demon of Darkness to rest? Great.

They will spork you in the eye–or at least, they will want to–if you throw out some pose and expect them to spend hours RPing the car ride, unless you specifically say, “Tonight’s just a social RP scene of being stuck in the car.”

See, there are two modes that players get into. In social mode they can talk for hours, and a car ride isn’t a bad break from, say, the local bar.

In plot mode players expect something to happen, and that something had better be more compelling than a messy rest stop bathroom.

Deduct -10,000 points from yourself if you kick off with a one liner about the fact that they’re on I-75 headed south.

You Rely too Much on BBPosts

The BBs are a wonderful tool, but most players just don’t read them. If they do, they often forget to respond to them.

They get swept off in talking to their friends or RPing another scene and they forget to respond to you.

In addition, the BBs are a passive method for communicating with passive people. I guarantee you that if you put some sort of clue or lead on a BB almost nobody will respond. They won’t be sure whether or not their character can do anything about the problem.

There is an exception. Use the BBs to announce a big public plot event. Spring the actual action of the plot on the players when they are there to get personally wrapped up and involved in it.

Or you can page individual people and draw them into the plot, springing the action on them directly. Then tell them how to follow up on leads.

Be aware that some players are just not natural investigators. They’re great at socializing, but if you ask them to draw a strategy out of thin air or to figure out how to track down a monster they’re just going to flounder. If they say “I don’t know what to do” you might have to tell them how to be awesome.

Even experienced players can run into the “I don’t know what to do here,” syndrome. If you know they’ve done this before they’re probably telling you that they’re frustrated and that you haven’t described things well enough, or that they feel like you’ve been working to thwart them too often.

Overstating the Scary

“Beware! Ionus Rexus is the biggest, baddest, villain you’re ever going to meet! He’s horrible! You never want to meet him! He’s terrible! Oh please god no!”

People do this all the time. Then they pose the villain waving a gun around (ineffectually) while sipping Darjeeling and playing Chinese checkers.

Of course, a truly scary villain could sip Darjeeling, show you his whole pink tea cozy collection and still make you sweat, but most people can’t pull that off.

If you’re going to tell the heroes how scary the villains are then you’d best be willing to live up to it.

Better yet, don’t.

Just put your villains to work doing villainous things without selling their villain cred at all. Then let your players tell you how terrifying he is.

Much more satisfying, I assure you, and far more effective.

Losing Momentum

A 3 day plot that comes to a satisfying conclusion is going to be more memorable and better than a 3 month plot that simply peters out into nothingness.

Don’t drop the ball. Be a little bit less ambitious if you’re not sure you can keep it up.

Here’s what happens if you lose track of your plot: players go away. You suck them into a story then leave them hanging. Suddenly they don’t know what to RP.

If your story became really central to the character’s motivation then it becomes almost impossible for players to continue. Some will contact you in six months to let you know that they just decided they found their wife’s killer without you–but let’s face it, that’s lame.

Most will just leave.

If you run one really good memorable night you’ve helped your MUSH and elevated people’s opinion of you by a considerable margin. If you start strong and then disappear for weeks without wrapping up? Not so much.

Overdoing Combat

Combat is awfully fun, but it shouldn’t be the end-all be-all of your plots.

Here’s what happens when you overdo the combat. You get a MUSH full of 2D combat badasses (or wannabe badasses) because you’ve taught your playerbase that’s all that matters.

Second, you’re going to get bored. By the time you run your 1007th combat you’re going to be really bored.

If you use combat think about livening it up. Run a combat on a swinging rope bridge over a chasm, not a featureless parking lot. Even a street fight can be spiced up by using the scenery. There are objects to duck behind, bystanders to scream and duck, car alarms to set off and storefront windows to break. Liven it up or risk everyone going to sleep.

Think back to the last few books you read, too. The best stories aren’t just combat. They contain lots of talking, character interaction, investigation, puzzle solving, strategy, diplomacy, investigation, trap disarming and spying, too.

At the end of the day, a good tinyplot reads like a good book…one the characters get to have a direct impact on. Strive for that, and people will flock to get involved every time you announce one of yours.


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The Motivations of Bad Guys

August 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm (Roleplaying Posts) (, , )

Television and the movies have sort of screwed us MUSHers.  So have books, come to think of it.  They’ve done it, because they’ve taught us that the motivations for the bad guys should always be huge motivations.  The villain should always want to take over something, so the myth goes, and it should always be no smaller than a city and preferably as large as a world. Or possibly a universe.

Unfortunately, this can’t really happen on a MUSH.  Unless wizards are really talented or really flexible, it can’t even get close to happening.  And nothing is more frustrating for any character, bad, good, or in between, then constantly failing, being thwarted, and looking in competent.  It’s one thing to do it when you’re GMing and running NPCs, but if you want to play the character, it gets annoying, fast.  Then the bad guy players start accusing the wizards of being too focused on the good guys.  The wizards, understanding what it takes to keep the game from going downhill fast, can only sigh. And bang their heads a lot.  And make some lame comments about how it happens in stories.

So before we start talking about some alternative motivations for villains we should talk about the necessary tension between Ultimate Goals that makes a MUSH go.

The Ultimate Goal of the good guys can’t ever happen either.  Their UG is a peaceful world where nothing bad ever happens.  True good guys are idealists at heart, which is why they throw themselves in front of horribly dangerous circumstances again and again to try to keep other people safe.  True good guys aren’t even out to just protect their own family or friends,though those people act as strong motivators.  They want people they don’t even know and have never even met to be able to live in peace, without pain, and without fear.  When you take this into account you realize the good guys never really win either.

The really bad supervillain style badguys that happen either as a result of theme or literary convention tend to want everyone under their control.  They want their enemies–99% of the MUSH, usually–rounded up, killed, imprisoned, coerced, controlled, and afraid.

It’s easy to see where EITHER success would completely kill RP on your MUSH.  If the good guys win you rather run out of tinyplot fodder quickly.  If the badguys win you murder your entire playerbase, drive them away, piss them off, and depress them.  So the wizard constantly has to allow victories on both sides, erring on the side of 99% of the MUSH–the good guys.

So if you want to play a bad guy and the idea of failing all the time pisses you off, there’s only one answer.

Quit trying to be THE bad guy. THE take over the world bad guy.  Be a different sort of bad guy with different sorts of motivations.

This post was inspired by one of my new players, who wrote for herself a villain’s motivation that, while not so original that I’d never seen it for, was still original enough for MUSH to be commented on.  It’s also inspired by the character Fidelius, from Jim Butcher’s “Codex Alera” series.   So we’ll start with their motivations first.  Note that all motivations aren’t appropriate for all games or all themes.

To reclaim the glory days: The villain could give two shits about ruling anything, but she wants to be young and beautiful again.  Or she wants to be immortal before she turns old and ugly.  Or he was once a big shot in sports, the business world, or some other highly competitive arena–and he or she will do ANYTHING to reclaim that former glory, including things that other people would find reprehensible.

To do the “right” thing: Politics is a messy business, and if you’re not standing in a very simplistic theme where one side is always evil and the other side is always good, it could be very easy to have a character that does all the things the good guys do–just for the side the good guys hate.  This person, for whatever reason, has decided the unpopular “evil” side of the game is on to something.  Believes that working with them is necessary to save (whatever).  This also means that his goals and the heroic goals sometimes coincide closely enough that he’s forced to work with them, as politics can “make strange bedfellows.”  It also means he may spend more time manipulating and convincing heroes to do things than he will maiming and killing them.

Money: Why money is never a motivator on MU*s will always escape me, because greed is surely a huge motivator anywhere else you go.  Maybe it’s cause most MUSHers are good people at heart and just can’t fathom doing anything bad for anything less than world domination.  That said, for most of us, having $1 million at our disposal or more would be just as good as world domination and without all the silly responsibility to boot.  Even rich people can be greedy and want to get richer, especially since I understand that sometmes those fortune 500 guys can get very fierce and very personal in their competition with one another.

Vengeance: Someone wronged you, hurt you, hurt someone you loved, killed someone you love, took away the most important thing or things to you in the whole of the world.  Justice didn’t get served through the proper channels.  You’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore–and to hell with the “rules” or anyone YOU might hurt along the way.   Nothing will stop you until you’ve exacted the revenge you’ve planned against those you’ve planned it for, in whatever methods, big or small, you intend to pull this revenge off.

Unrequited: Sometimes there is nothing more painful than being the scorned lover.  Sometimes this drives people to do some pretty insane, hurtful things.  The stalker.  The villain who creates problems for the heroine just so he can ride to her rescue.  The villain who knows its hopeless so turns his attention to hurting the one who spurned him or the one who got the lover he so desperately wanted–or both.  The villain who came to hate an entire class of people because of this unrequited love and works hard at taking advantage of it.

The status quo: For some supernatural organizations it’s important to constantly be able to display your power.  Being able to stretch out your hand and hurt someone is more a matter of displaying that you can still do it and so deserve to be followed than any overarching scheme.

Sadism: Some people are just psychotic bastards that like to hurt and murder other people.   This is very hard to do well and it’s very hard to sustain; in my opinion it is easier to pull off as an NPC.  PCs who play this concept need to be extremely good, well respected, established RPers.  They need to be patient and slow, and have a knack for being that guy nobody would ever suspect, until it’s too late.

In the name of science: Or knowledge.  Or magical power.  These villains are a little bit detached and off their rocker.  They want to KNOW things, and to them people who whine about a little pain, torture, death, or mutation when they are clearly serving the greater cause of Science are petty, lesser individuals.  Of course they’d never volunteer themselves–they have the brains so they have to be safe and unharmed to DO the experiments. Aren’t you listening?

Survival: Some people turn to crime and bad guy actions because they’re not real long on choices.  Perhaps the Family has roped them into it.  Perhaps they don’t have a way to get a legitimate job and so commit crimes because they need to eat.  Perhaps they’ve been blackmailed into it and their own self-interest outweighs what they might have to do to others.  Perhaps they’re forced by politics, social obligation, or even fear of bigger, badder bad guys.  Perhaps when they got turned into a supernatural bad thing the only thing they could do was turn to the other supernatural bad things for help and support, and that means obligations to help and support their community in turn.

All around self-centered: This villain doesn’t have overarching motivations–he just wants whatever he perceives as being best for him at the moment.  He’ll do whatever it takes to get it.  If he can do it by nice, normal, conventional means he will. If not, he’ll take the other routes.  He’s got nothing against other people, he just loves himself more than he loves anyone else.

Attainable ambition: In the real world, Ruling the World just doesn’t happen.  There are too many forces and factions just as powerful ready to smack anyone down who tries it.  That said, there are plenty of more attainable positions that require plotting, scheming, and evil to pull off.  The corporate CEO position can be just as appealing to many villains as World Dominators.  So can Mayor, who doesn’t have absolute power but has enough power that the villain can call his pushy, shallow family and take some pride in his title (motivations should be complex and human too–people’s families, people’s opinions,lovers, and friends factor heavily into most people’s decisions.  Villains shouldn’t be much different–playing the AHAHAHAHAA guy who hates and holds everyone in contempt gets OLD, especially on a social exercise like a MUSH).

Just professional, nothing personal: If your character is an assassin it’s not particularly personal to be trying to kill someone.  It’s just the job.  Assassin isn’t a great MUSH role unless you’re fully happy with killing way more NPCs than PCs and in having less than a 100% success rate.  This is also a good motivation for mercenaries, agents of rival factions, etc.

Feels humiliated: Something someone said or did has left this person feeling humiliated and hateful.  They’re not going to rest until the person or faction who humiliated them has been brought down or humiliated in turn.  This can also work if they feel abandoned by said person or faction–they won’t rest until they’ve returned the hurt.  This is kind of a vengeance motivation–only a lot less extreme.

Addicted: People who are addicted to anything–drugs, sex, that special rush of dark magic–have to feed that addiction until they die of it or that addiction is broken.  Addictions don’t lead themselves to high ambitions usually.  What they lead to is a lot of death and destruction.

Proving myself: If you’re the kid who always got sand kicked in his face you might get a little unhinged, enough to be intent on proving that you’re the bad ass now.

Your motivations are outweighing the greater reality: Sometimes villains are villains cause they’re focused on all the wrong things at all the wrong times.  The unrequited guy bursts in with a gun to yell, “Why won’t you love me, Lenora!” when what really needs to be happening to save everyone from the monster attack is that the heroes need to get Lenora to the site of the magic nest so she can do her Cleric Prodigy Glowy thing.  This kind of villain can be just as deadly as the other kind.

It all just got out of control. This guy did something bad once, made a terrible choice.  He killed his lover in a fit of jealous rage and instantly regretted it.  Or he embezzled a million dollars to save his home and the next thing he knew he was having to perform darker and darker deeds to cover up that embezzlement.  Or politics forced him to betray the person he loved and he’s found himself drawn in deeper and deeper ever since.  He may even desperately want to be a decent guy again–and tries to be whenever he can.  It’s just that the web of his own actions keeps trapping him and drawing tighter and tighter around him until one day he looks in the mirror and even he doesn’t know what he’s seeing anymore.

Now if you’ve sat here thinking, “Oh shit, some of this could easily happen with heroes too,” good.  Because these aren’t just “bad guy things,” they’re human things.  Often what separates one from the other is only a matter of results and degrees.

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Overlooked Villain Actions

April 27, 2009 at 3:09 am (Roleplaying Posts) (, , )

Overlooked Villain Activities

There’s a common lament on MUSHes that tends to be true—playing a villain is hard work. It can be fun, because you’re the guy or gal instigating all this great RP simply by virtue of being yourself. On the other hand, sooner or later every self-proclaimed hero on the game is ganging up on you. You run headlong into consent. And you find yourself falling into the trap of Kidnap-Torture-Kill. Kidnap-Torture-Kill. Kidn…you get the idea. You can only play Kidnapper Whose Victims Always Get Rescued so many times before you’re utterly frustrated by the whole process—villain or hero, nobody likes to look incompetent.

So I have prepared a list of Other Things Villains Do. This is a list which could potentially spark a huge amount of RP, without you ever having to touch the Trifecta. It’s also a list which players are more likely to consent to, and a list of more subtle actions that may keep you from being targeted every time your villain tries to pick up a cup of coffee. They are presented in the order in which I thought them up.

Blackmail: Heroes make mistakes. They skirt or break the law. They fall to temptation (sometimes helped along by your villain). They’re gay and don’t want anyone to know it. They went too far and killed someone in the past, by accident or design, and would go to prison for it whether their intentions were good or not. Your villain may be after money—greed is the most commonly overlooked motivation on MU*s for some reason—or something else, from securing the victim’s aid, to information, to a hot date. Of course, this will require you to do some digging. Possibly to earn someone’s trust so you can pull up all those secrets. Maybe to masquerade yourself as a good guy for awhile. Maybe…RP.

Theft: While potentially difficult to coordinate, the truth is villains steal things. They often do it without killing anyone, because murder has a tendency to bring a different level of attention. The villain might be after diamonds, documents, or the latest magic item, but in the consent dance this is much more likely to happen than you getting to kill the hero. The hero might, upon agreeing, even agree to GM or emit the challenges of getting the item for you…which again means more RP for you.

Surveillance: It’s another way to gather blackmail material. It’s a way to find out secrets that the villain needs to know, such as heroic plans or the location of that thing they want to steal. If done openly, it’s a good way to spook your target without ever resorting to much of anything that the police are going to have time to worry about. You may need to do some breaking and entering RP to plant some devices, or you may simply be following the other person. Think about it though—if you suddenly realized someone was following you and you didn’t have any notion why, would you start to get nervous? This can expand out into its close cousin, stalking. Simply add nasty notes and pictures of the hero at vulnerable moments, stir well.

Destroy Credibility: What you really need is more people on your side, whether they share your alignment or not. People can be talked into things, duped, convinced. Especially if you find a way to really trash the opposing team, making them look crazy, greedy, controlling, hypocritical, socialist, Communist, or any kind of –ist that you can think of. If you can publically expose even just one major lie then you’ll have everyone around that person wondering what else they’ve lied about. The other heroes may turn on your victim, chasing him instead of you. Sure, in MUSH land these things are eventually cleared up, but you can have a lot of fun in the meantime…and some allies will remain no matter what.

Destroy Assets: Does the hero have a massive account they’re using to bankroll efforts against you? Find a way to make that account disappear. What about their car or house, which aren’t easily replaced? What about getting them fired from their job? It’s hard to face down a villain when the bills are mounting and the problems are growing, because realistically you have to split your attention. Even if the hero quickly finds friends who will let him move in or couch surf, you’ve still caused him some grief.

Hire Other People: You need a lawyer, preferably one who doesn’t mind defending scum or sees it as his constitutional duty—either works as long as he’s good. You could use an accountant, especially one who is adept at hiding assets and cooking books if you do that sort of thing. You might need people with other superpowers if you have them, to fill gaps in your own capabilities. If you’re no good at breaking and entering or hacking or the like yourself, then you’ll need people who can do these things. It’s ok, even preferable, if they think they’re fighting a good fight for a heroic cause. It’s okay if they’re in it for the money too, or if they just haven’t examined it that hard, or if they’re just as much of a scumbag as you—just hire them. You have to RP with them to do that, and it gives your villain a circle to RP with.

Make Friends: Even the Godfather had people he hugged and was happy to see. Too often villain RP consists of gathering at the local villain hideout and snarling at the other villains about who is on top of the pecking order. Meanwhile, the one who treats these people like friends and does things like friends do: defending them, working with them, bringing them presents, talking to them—tend to end up in charge by default, because everyone likes them. Imagine how much more you’d play your villain character if you could log on and get a social scene, light scene, or character development scene with a friend, just like everyone else?

Lie: Lie by degrees. Lie a lot. Lie with a smile. Lie with a straight face. Misdirect. Lie by omission, lie with just enough kernels of truth to poison it. Send the heroes in the wrong direction. Deflect attention from yourself. Conceal your activities from your SO, who might otherwise be heroic if she weren’t dating you. Come off as a charming nice guy who believes in a reasonable cause. Talk a good talk, write a good speech, conceal your true activities, but lie. Lying can provide lots and lots of great RP, because it adds a whole new undercurrent to a social activity. Just lie well—getting caught in your own web of lies sucks. Keep your stories straight. Lie about your motivations. Help the heroes take down some rival villain or threat sometime so they think of you like a hero too. Learn to act, walk, and talk like a hero—avoid the faux mysterious or smugness thing that a lot of the villains do.

Fraud: Closely related to lying is fraud. Your villain may get his house burned down just to collect the insurance money. He may forge checks. He may be running some sort of fly by night get rich quick thing. He may be a scammer who plays on people’s greed and then leaves them with nowhere to go because they were trying to do something illegal too. Steal other player’s identities with their consent and use them to take out massive loans. You get the cash, they get the bills and the headache and you both get RP. This also covers things like insider trading, cheating on your taxes, and embezzlement.

Sharklike Lending: Sooner or later someone will need a lot of money, fast. You may have even caused the problem through another scheme, or they just ran up a gambling debt somewhere. Maybe their mother’s medical bills need paying. Lend them all the money they want, at 50% interest, and then send Guido to break their legs when they don’t pay, so they can go scrambling for money AGAIN.

Arson: Arson’s great for insurance money, destroying evidence, destroying assets, and threatening your players. Even if nobody’s in the building at all, if you can obtain consent to burn something down, you’ll provide RP all over the grid and will have done something massively effective from the shadows. Bonus mastermind points if you can get someone you hired, or one of your friends, to do it for you.

Intimidation: Perhaps that pesky kid really is getting too close to blowing your operations wide open. Maybe that detective needs to understand just how good your lawyers are and just what you’ll be doing to his family when he’s done annoying you. You can do this through smooth, calm confrontations with the heroic factor, or through notes, through arson, through slamming them into a wall and getting into their face, through showing up at their kid’s bus stop and simply standing there talking amiably to the trusting young soul—then smiling real big at Dad or Mom when they come to pick him up and making some pointed statement. Really, the more subtle this is the more RP is in it for you. Open threats can get you arrested. Subtle threats can’t, because they can be reasonably explained away and nobody can prove them in court.

Crapkicking: Sometimes all you need to get your point across is a well deserved beating. You can either do it on the spot or somewhere really scary, followed up by kicking the unfortunate out of the car on the side of the road sometime later and driving away. This can drive home a point to the hero, either by doing this to one of the heroes’ friends or relatives or by doing it to the hero himself. You’re saying, essentially, that you’re tougher than him, smarter than him, can get away with this and consider him to be so little of a threat that you can’t be bothered with killing him or torturing him. It’s also useful for getting people who owe you money to pay you. It can further be useful for letting people who have left your organization know that you are watching them and watching close—kind of like a warning shot to keep their mouths shut before you have to resort to the ICC of killing them. (And since they want their family and friends safe, they probably lie about it—joy!)

Bribery: You need the judge to look the other way. You need evidence to mysteriously disappear. You need to look at something you shouldn’t be seeing. Never underestimate the power of a well placed bribe. Always put the money on the counter and say something innocuous, like, “This should cover the costs of copying that for me,” as if copies really did cost $150. They’ll either take it and keep their mouth shut or get offended. If it’s the latter apologize, wide-eyed, for the misunderstanding, take your money, and leave immediately. If they take it, you now know who you can pay to do stuff for you.

Research: The heroes need to know about the Book of Wonder and where to find it. So do you! You might have plans for that thing. You don’t even have to be the main opposition. The main opposition might be the Demon of Rhuul, but you can see just how great it would be to own the Book of Wonder so you set your mind to outsmarting both sides. Maybe you even go ahead and take out the Demon of Rhuul yourself. He counts as a rival, and that will help you look surprisingly like a hero, which makes it harder for the real heroes to prove you’re a massive scumball later.

Public Relations: You’re not trying to stomp on the little guy, you’re trying to control costs so you can maintain jobs. You’re not trying to starve the little children in Africa with your sweat shop, you are providing jobs to hungry families. You’re not running a brothel, you’re simply running a club (that provides jobs). You’re not after the Book of Wonder for your own selfish purposes, you simply have the resources to keep it very safe. You’re not hurting anyone by destroying this thing, it’s a big threat they should be scared of and you are protecting them. The better you are at this the harder it is for the heroes to leap all over you. Make some big public charitable donations too. . Open a few children’s hospitals or something with your largesse and stand proudly at the ribbon cutting with a great big smile on your face. Be invaluable to the good guys from time to time. It confuses them. Someone will always be on to you, but in that case, this will piss them off a great deal, and that’s always fun.

Seduction: Good hearted people want to believe the best about everyone, especially about people they love. Mr. or Miss Hero is getting in your face? Try to get them to fall in love with you. Maybe they’re trying to “save” you, or maybe they’ll convince themselves, and everyone around them, that you’re not that bad. Or maybe they’ll commit an indiscretion that can be used to blackmail or keep them under control later. Seduction does not have to be about sex. If you’ve got Mr. Hero convinced that you’re his best buddy with only the public interest at heart, then he’s less likely to attack you. Bonus points if you can get Mr. or Miss Hero to get pissed every time someone speaks ill of you and goes about alienating all of their family and friends on your behalf. This is also known as recruitment.

Destroy Evidence: So someone finally got your activities on video tape. Better hunt that sucker down and get rid of it. Whether you have to break and enter, stalk, intimidate, commit arson or crapkick, evidence control and cover-ups should be a number one priority for you as a villain. After all, if the good right hand discovers what your shadowy left hand is doing your life might get a lot less cushy fast, and all of your efforts will be for nothing.

Take All The Credit: Yes, you pilots did a good job. But truly, you wouldn’t have been able to do it if Mr. Villain here hadn’t provided us with his experimental doom helicopters, which is why we’re giving him a grant and helping him keep his warmongering weapons plant open. (Bonus points if you can get all the heroes to admit it was the experimental doom helicopter, too). If you’re the person that made something good happen then it’s harder to target you.

Double Cross At A Crucial Moment: A favorite scene I was in involved anther player’s villain. He’d spent months befriending my cop character and her husband, also a cop. These were not easy people to befriend. Paranoid and with a dim view of humanity in general, they tended to stick to cop friends only. But he kept asking for help, and giving them good tips, and inviting them over to dinner with gracious invitations they could hardly refuse. They started to like him. A lot. Which is why it hurt twice as much when he lured them to the top of a snowy mountain with another request for help. They didn’t even realize the attackers were his as they got pinned down by enemy fire. He revealed it at the final moment, as the male half of team Cop was holding on to the cliff face for dear life and yelling for the villain to help him while my cop remained pinned down by the fire. Villain smiled at him, punched him in the throat, said, “I’ll take good care of your wife,” and tossed him off the cliff. Then, as she was running up in a panic, he knocked her out and took off with her. Beautiful (even if it does involve a kidnapping). (And potential killing, but it was only an attempted murder. Male cop lived because of a timely magical rescue). The sting of that betrayal haunts them even now that that villain is six feet under. It can be done so many ways too. There’s something really cool about the expression on heroic faces when, after you’ve spent months hunting down the Book of Wonder with them you suddenly pull out your gun and tell them to hand it over.

Use Manners: I’ve touched on this before, of course, but the villain who doesn’t walk around acting like a prick to everyone he meets is going to last long. The more you can masquerade as a genuinely nice guy the less time you’re going to be spending on the receiving end of a keystone cops scene. It also gets less frustrating for you—how fun can it really be to be in a pissing match constantly?

Variations: Sometimes your normal guy or hero will be drawn to do some of that too, just as your villain might someday take an actually heroic action. The motives may be all that differ—and that leads to some richer RP as well!

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