OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Do your roleplay villains have a sensible cause?

10433202_10152850667551605_3472694221903309925_nHaving villains in your roleplay works so much better when they’re realistic. We’ve posted some tips about creating an effective villain before (read it here), but what also makes a big difference is credibility (we’ve posted an article about this before too – see here).

The best villains aren’t just ones that are “evil” or do “evil things”, because if you think about it… what does that mean? That’s not realistic.

There was a great quote from an episode of Fringe I watched recently, I won’t tell you who said it because it’s a bit of a spoiler, but it went like this:

Nature doesn’t recognize good and evil. Nature only recognizes balance and imbalance. I intend to restore balance to our world. Whatever it takes.

This villain (or maybe he isn’t a villain, nothing’s ever that black or white) has a goal, and he’s doing villainous things, but has justified them to himself because in HIS opinion he’s doing the right thing.

A realistic villain is one with a cause you can understand (even if you don’t agree), and this also makes them a much more interesting character.

Someone in your game will be the one playing the villain, most likely the GM, but not always. You might have a villainous character (check with the GM first though, or it might annoy everyone else!), and it’s much more interesting if they have a goal they want to achieve. This gives the rest of your characters something to do – to stop the villain from achiving his/her goal!

What do villains want?

When we talk about villains, we might not be talking about individuals. We could be talking about a type of monster, or a race of creatures. Each of these still have motivations. A pack of trolls might want to capture you and eat you in a stew, and a pack of werewolves might just want to chase you out of their territory. Stormtroopers might want toarrest you for being rebels, and the Borg might want to add you to their collective. Each of these have clear motivations that are actually quite sensible if you’re familliar with them.

But what’s interesting is if you start thinking about ways to make the story more interesting. If you meet the Dalek you know they’ll want to exterminate you, right? That’s what Daleks do, exterminate exterminate? But I’ve got a problem with this.


Are they just evil? Okay maybe they are. Fair enough. Boring, but fair enough. But what if you’re trapped on a planet with a single Dalek, and only YOU know how to escape. Would the Daleks still want to kill you even though it means condemming itself to never escape?

Similarly, if you met a troll would you assume it immediately wants to kill you like a mindless creature? Or maybe its goal is a bit more complex than that, it actually wants to capture you and use you somehow to find more tasty Humans. That might be a more sensible goal.

  • SilverCrowns

    I really like this topic. It’s very interesting especially since the suppose “hero” or “good guy” can technically be the “villain” himself. To the opposing force, the opposite will always be the “villain” in some sort of way. Then again not everyone’s definition of a villain is the same. To me, my hero can be such as much as a villain then the actual villain is. To the hero (and those he/she are allied with) will view any opposing force as the bad guy, vice versa. For instance, I just watched X-Men Days of Future (For like the billionth time) and throughout all the movies, I’ve never seen characters such as Magneto, Mystique, etc. as really villains. They each wanted peace for their kind, but instead they took a different path than Charles Xavier. I think I had more that I wanted to say, but I totally forgot what it was while typing this. Oh well, wasn’t meant to be I guess.

    • SilverCrowns

      That was such a poorly written paragraph. I plague myself with society’s thirst for perfection.

  • Silent Hunter

    The Daleks want to exterminate everything that isn’t a Dalek; one might quite happily die if it advanced the overall cause. Also, some of the best villains do indeed just do it for the LOLs; the Master (or Mistress as she now is) is completely and utterly crazy.

    • Okay I forgot the Dalek’s extreme racism! But I don’t but that the Master is crazy. He’s intelligent, and has a plan. His motivation is to finish that plan through to the end

      • Silent Hunter

        It’s entirely possible to have a plan and be completely crazy. Look at the Joker.

        • True the Joker is erratic, flamboyant, and at first you might think he seems insane because he doesn’t conform to normal social conventions. But he’s goal-oriented, and dedicates effort toward completing his current nefarious scheme. And he does it with his own particular panache!

  • Jaxx

    My favorite bad guy is Riddick. He is not evil but he is a smart animal that never gives up. Kinda reminds me of a more savage batman.