I’m continuing to follow Rich Burlew’s guide to creating a villain. As you can see from the title, I’ve named her Iola. There’s nothing behind this name, it’s simple one that I liked the sound of. Part 1 is here.
Step 6: What obstacles must the villain overcome?
The players characters will arrive quite late in the story from our villain’s point of view. The obstacle Iola must first deal with is that she is outnumbered by her target. Should the humans of the island she wishes to depopulate discover her goals, she will be quickly defeated. Starting off in her forest by the graves of her friends she has no allies to call on for aid. Her second obstacle is a lack of mortal allies.
Not that having a band of loyal warriors will be enough to kill potential thousands of humans. Her solution to this is the use of plague. Now the third obstacle becomes getting hold of a plague that she will have some level of control over. For this, Iola’s going to need divine help. Attracting the attention of a god willing to aid her is her third obstacle.
These three obstacles create three chapters to her story before the main event begins. At some point, the player characters could encounter her looking for allies, searching for a plague or performing acts to gain divine attention.
Step 7: What is the villain’s primary means of projecting influence?
Our villain is a capable leader and is practically minded. Iola’s preference is to perform tasks herself or with her close allies. However, to get what she wants, she also has to be persuasive and manipulative at a distance. To properly exploit and exacerbate the chaos caused by the plague will require careful handling of the human faction leaders and the mob. To get divine patronage and protection she will have to work hard to attract the attention of a powerful enough god whose agenda can be served by her own goals.
This conflict between preference and need will add layers to the character. In particular, Iola doing too much herself will put her plans at risk of discovery. Her non-human nature will require her to find an ally she can trust to speak for her. Being forced by her own schemes to be hands-off will likely try her temper, making her more interesting.
Step 8: What are the villain’s resources?
When our villain starts off her resources are limited to her own skills: her leadership abilities and that she is an exceptional survivalist. Iola’s plans make use of human irrational fears. By the time the heroes really begin to interact with her schemes she’ll have gathered the following:
- A company of like-minded non-humans, all loyal to her but with their own personal reasons for supporting her plans.
- A centaur cavalryman seeking to protect his family on the islands from the humans.
- A faun hunter, a distant relative of the villain and seeking revenge for his fallen family.
- A gegenee blademaster who speaks limited Greek and is looking for something.
- A minotaur for who the villain is his first friend.
- A djinn trickster who is fulfilling a debt owed to the villain.
- The company has a reputation as being an effective military force.
- The company has a horde of wealth from their mercenary work.
Her most powerful resource is the support of her patron god. Which god will influence her planning and how she can achieve her goals. None of Olympians stand to gain anything from the extermination of a large number of their worshippers. A Titan could be interested in causing a crisis and then providing a solution in return for worship but the plans calls for death. The amount of suffering and death involved leads us more towards one of the dread gods: Eris, Typhon, Enyo or Phobos and Deimos. As the plan doesn’t involve bloodshed in battle, Enyo won’t have been attracted. Typhon prefers to enact his dreams of destruction on a grander scale using huge monsters and would little time for a small faun. Eris is a difficult one. The strife caused by villain’s goal would certainly interest her but it’s only a minor part of the plan. Eris prefers to let argument be the source of trouble rather than an external source like plague.
This leaves the twins, Phobos and Deimos, the gods of Fear and Terror. In appealing for their aid in exchange for bringing fear and terror to the people of the island, our villain has her patron gods. Phobos and Deimos provide Iola with power over the realms of fear and terror, access to their symbol and a measure of protection from other gods.
Step 9: If no heroes were to interfere, what would the villain’s plan to achieve this goal be?
Iola’s plan is in three parts:
1) Gather a group of allies: she has traveled across the known world for several years, visiting at least North Africa, Arabia and Hyboria. This part of the plan is likely to involve possible encounters with the heroes the least, as she will be avoiding contacts with humans. She eventually forms a party of non-humans, united in their negative feelings towards mankind.
2) Gain the attention of a god: with a group of capable allies, our villains influence in greatly increased, increased enough to perhaps gather divine notice. All the while she was searching for allies, she was praying and worshiping Deimos and Phobos, almost acting as a priest for them. With her mercenary band, she accepted contracts that would allow her to commits acts of terror and fear. Her band gained a reputation for being effective but utterly brutal. On two occasions she enacted the ritual to summon the twins to a great battle, resulting in mass slaughters.
It was at the second of these summonings, as the terrified fled for their lives, that Deimos and Phobos made her their champion, so pleased were they with the acts she had committed in their name.
At this stage the villain’s reputation is enough that the players are somewhat likely to have heard of her. They first encounter with her will be at this stage in her plan. As the players are travelling, they come across a small polis that has hired the Iola’s company to remove bandits from a nearby forest. Here the party will, at a minimum, see evidence of the brutality the she happily employs against humans.
3) Unleash a deadly plague: her target is the island of Euboea, the second largest of the Greek islands and off the coast of Attica. With an island so large, it is going to be difficult to spread the disease quickly with only a small number of followers. Her plan is to start the plague in several small fishing villages and use her allies abilities to make sure there are no survivors. Once fear of the plague spreads to the island’s largest city, she’ll spread the plague there as well. Her mercenary band will be conveniently on hand to accept a contract from the oligarchs to keep order in the streets. Under the guise of inspection, the villain makes sure that everyone leaving the city is also infected. With the assistance of her divine patrons she drives the city into misery and fear. After being ‘forced’ to burn the city, Iola then gathers up the human survivors. With them, she forms an army that does the merciful thing and sweeps the island clear of humans, to stop it spreading onto the mainland.
With the island now empty of humans, she leaves to spread the word that it is a deadly and cursed place, where no human should go. It becomes a refuge for many non-humans across Greece. Buoyed by the success of her plan, the villain move onto other islands and seeks to wipe out human life there as well.
That’s enough text for part 2. In this post I’ve talked a lot about Iola’s plans and how her fear is driving her to justify heinous acts. In the next post I’ll be adding some finer details that will affect how the players interact with her.
Image Credit – Greece-0766 by Dennis Jarvis – CC BY-SA 2.0