OngoingWorlds blog

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


Try these Heroes & Villains

The following is an extract from an article by Steven Savage from his Way with Worlds series of articles. It’s really intended for writing a book, but I thought it was interesting for creating heroes & villains in your roleplaying game. 

Heroes and Villains by Screwbald

The best “hero” in your book is someone who:

  1. Has the most believable influence on the outcome.
  2. Has the best perspective on the situation.

There of course may be multiple heroes. They may see things at different time. You have to switch perspectives. You may have to fudge a bit for narrative to get them together at the right way(believably of course). But those two rules help you make sure your heroes are really, well, heroes – and good characters to tell the story.

They also open up opportunities. The guy that makes the vaccine against the alien bioweapon and the two-fisted grunt who delivers it are both heroes – and their interaction could be fascinating.  Maybe a “secondary” hero is so good at providing perspective they tell the tale (Dr. Watson, anyone?).  These two traits could lead to a plethora of realizations, plot, and character opportunities.

Now as for the villains.

The best villain is someone who:

  1. Has the most believable influence on the negatives of the situation
  2. Has the most invested in the negative outcome.

Note of course the villain doesn’t have to be “evil” here, or think of themselves as evil. They just are invested in and causing whatever adversity is going around.

Try These Heroes

  • Right Person Wrong Place – A great hero is one who is the right person (skilled, etc.) having to cope with whatever adversity comes up. A lot of real-life heroes are like this – you don’t often know you were the “good guy” until after.
  • Get The Band Together – Often it’s a legion of people making things happen, so maybe your tale or game is an ensemble cast thing.
  • Ready And Possibly Willing – If adversity approaches someone may be groomed to be the hero – they’re essentially a weapon. They also have supporting heroes in those that made them what they are.
  • Sliding Saviors – It may not be the heroes all work together, but each has a role to play in fixing things. Maybe your narrative hands off between them, or you have an evolving group of protagonists. That combines easily with other models.
  • This Is My Story – If there’s no major heroes but many, pick a good “lens” and look at one of the people making things work. Perhaps you scale back from a global story and tell it from one perspective.
  • We’re The Legion – Sometimes a group of people are rained/made into heroes, such as a military unit. THis is a great chance to have an ensemble, a hero (the leader or a specific member of the team), or slide between.

Try These Villains

  • Wrong Person Right Place – Maybe the villain is someone taking advantage of a situation. The power is there, they got to take it, and problems start.
  • I Am Trouble– A series of events (trauma, war, medical experiments, poor upbringing) end up creating someone specifically meant to create trouble (even if it wasn’t the intent).
  • Top Of The Creep Heap – There’s always people conspiring together for good or bad. One of the bad ones may come to the top and be the villain by default they’re the leader of a band of a-holes.  They may not cause all the problems, but can be a pretty good central villain.
  • For Love Of Evil – Maybe out of the band of people messing things up one person is the most interesting to explore and study, if there’s a “bad guy point of view.”
  • Down The Spiral – In a case of a real meltdown type situation, it may be that there’s plenty of people who are villains, and its hard to say who is the bad guy. A post-apocalyptic or conspiracy story may fit this.

Note that none of these ideas require the world to be dumb, or in cahoots with evil, or the hero to be some Omnicompetent amazing person. It’s just a perspective that fits your setting designs, your world, and the right people.

The original article this was taken from is Beyond the Planet of the Morons – by Steven Savage. The top image is by Screwbald on Deviantart.