Villains and bad guys come in a vast range of shapes and formats, but they are rather rare, and to find them done well is even rarer still. They are also essential to any good story-line or plot for breeding conflicts and tensions. Within World of Wacraft, you can happily and easily content yourself with Blizzard’s pre-made Bad Guys in the form of the Legion, the Scourge, the various cults, and so on. But some folk look for and desire something on a more close and personal basis, something that can develop and grow, change and adapt to suit their story and within their time frame. This leaves a desire and/or a need for player character (PC) villains for that personalised and touch and the ability to adapt with a story-line. As such occasional people will create a character to stand in as a bad guy for various plots and stories for themselves, their friends or their guilds, and some people will just be drawn by the idea of playing a bad guy even if they don’t have a pre-set need and slot for the character. We are going to talk about all kinds of bad guys here so buckle up and stay tuned.
More Articles in the Venerable Villains Series: Venerable Villains: Index
DISCLAIMER: As usual folks, I am writing from a stance of experience, but not knowledge. I don’t have a degree or formal schooling any of these topics (Can you get a degree in roleplaying? Sign me up!). I have no letters after my name that validate my words. I’m not writing facts and my posts are by no means the be all and end off of role-play doctrine. Not at all. It’s the kind of topic that everyone takes, uses and plays their own way so there never will be a defining line. What I have is experience and that is what I use to write these posts. If you disagree I would love, love, love to get into
What I have is experience and that is what I use to write these posts. If you disagree I would love, love, love to get into a discussion with me, so leave a comment. If you agree, likewise. But for the record, I’m just a gamer with a passion and almost a decade of experience. Take my words as you will, fine people of the internet, but never take them too seriously.
I have been playing a ‘Bad Guy’ for a good few years now, and while I will not in any way claim he is the best, nor even the top of the Bad Guy career ladder, he gets the job done. So while I am no guru, I am going to write a little sub-series on role-playing Bad Guys for anyone that has always wanted to give it a shot and feels they would benefit from some guidance. Again, my guidance comes from years of experience, research and reading, personal experience, and knowledge – and is somewhat backed up by running a successful criminal guild for over three years now. If that is enough validation for you, read on, young padawan.
What Kind of Villains Are There?
First, you need to choose what kind of Bad Guy you are going to aim for, as there are levels to this:
- Good Guys Gone Bad
- Bad Guys Trying To Be Good
- Bad Guys That Might Actually Have A Point
- Power Hungry Bad Guys
- Bad Guys Lacking Their Sanity
- Bad Guys Seeking Kicks and Thrills
There are literally millions of tropes and typecasts for bad guys. Check out TVtrope or wikia and you’ll find them by the shed load. Each has their merits, their boons and their struggles, and each have areas that make them hard to fit into an MMO setting – some more than others, admittedly. We will look into all of those aspects in more detail with the rest of the series. For now, it is only important to work out which type of villain your Bad Guy is. Do you have a pre-set group of characters or setting that you are aiming to work within? What kind of villain do they need to work in tangent to their goals? For example if you are creating a bad guy for your guild to use, what are the aims and goals of the guild and what kind of bad guy would be suitable? A military guild for example will not be overly troubled with a street thug or political manipulator. Think about the local race and area and what fits their culture. If you have a blank canvas, what takes your own personal interest? 90% of what makes a character wholesome and alive if your own personal interest and drive: if you are not overly bothered, they will fall flat very swiftly.
So, is your bad guy evil through and through? Is he the lacking sanity, burn the world kind of madman? Is he corrupt, perhaps; believing some lie religiously enough that it affects his world view and validates his actions? Is he perhaps just selfish and self-serving, rather than harboring any malicious intent towards others? Or perhaps he is just amoral and uncaring; perhaps he genuinely believes he is doing good and his ‘badness’ is an unintentional offspring. It’s a spectrum and your character can land anywhere on it; hell, they can move up and down it as the story progresses. Nothing about it is fixed – and he can even harbor traits of several aspects. Once you have an overall idea of the kind of Bad Guy you want to play you can fine tune the details.
My main is somewhere between amoral and self-serving, and if you had to cut him under a trope it would likely be ‘Trying to be Good’ and ‘Seeking Challenge’’ with a touch of a few other aspects in there too. We will go into what those actually mean in more depth next time. For now, I’ll break down the process of how I came to choose the right kind of bad guy for me, how do you find where on that sliding scale of badness you lie.
I knew right off the bat that I did not want to play a super-evil mustache twirling cartoon villain. This was my first character that was anything but good, and also my first male, so I didn’t want to play anything overly ostentatious or hard as I was already on new and unfamiliar ground. I also know that in an MMO setting those pure-evil characters do tend to be a lot harder to pull off and do well. Pure evil can usually only be reasonably fueled by madness, and venturing into that area negates a lot of the consequences and balancing factors that make these kinds of characters playable. For example if you roll and out-and-out nutcase that wants to take over the world and blow everything up, he is going to untie basically -everyone- against him and it realistically won’t be long until he is caught. Which we will look at in detail later as well. And when he is caught for crimes so serious that’s game-over pal. If you want to go all-in for evil then I would only do that if you are not connected to the character, you don’t plan on playing him overly long-term, and you think you can pull off the madness well so that it drives story and doesn’t just annoy people. Pure evil bad guys also tend to kill people and the people being other player characters don’t often want to be killed, more on that later. For me? I knew I wanted to stay more to the amoral side of things and break myself in gently, as well as keeping things like role-play hubs, cities and other guilds on the table for cooperation.
For example if you roll and out-and-out nutcase that wants to take over the world and blow everything up, he is going to untie basically -everyone- against him and it realistically won’t be long until he is caught. Which we will look at in detail later as well. And when he is caught for crimes so serious that’s game-over pal. If you want to go all-in for evil then I would only do that if you are not connected to the character, you don’t plan on playing him overly long-term, and you think you can pull off the madness well so that it drives story and doesn’t just annoy people. Pure evil bad guys also tend to kill people and the people being other player characters don’t often want to be killed, more on that later. For me? I knew I wanted to stay more to the amoral side of things and break myself in gently, as well as keeping things like role-play hubs, cities and other guilds on the table for cooperation.
What about style? Was he a political revolutionary? A rebel? A murder? A hired killer? A thug? A junkie? A thief? A con-man? What business does he do and how does he do it? Personally I knew I did not want to get involved in too much Fight-RP, as I am not a huge fan of big fights every other day and/or duals, or roll systems or any of that in my role-play. I knew an overly violent character or idea was not something I was going to enjoy as I tend to prefer more espionage, word-smithing, and intrigue based RP, but at the same time I did not want another spy-type character. What I did want was something a little different and with a bit more drive and purpose.
I came up with a businessman, his upbringing rooted in gangs and thuggery, but tapered with a baseline of business ethics. His business is many things these days, but primarily focuses on drugs. What appeals to you? Be mindful of the things we spoke about in character creation for the they apply here too. Think about the kind of RP you want and create a character that will allow you to get there, rather than drag you into things you don’t want to do. What kind of criminal are they? What laws are they breaking? How are they doing it? Why are they doing it?
This word is the one that everyone hates, but it is vital to consider with bad guys more than any other character. Etiquette on that is another post, but for now before you get too deep into planning your character have a think about the possible consequences. If you are going all-out evil, chances are you will be outlawed fairly swiftly – and that is if you manage to avoid being caught, imprisoned and killed, which in turn means you are denied any RP within the city-scape, which is where most of the RP is, sadly. Maybe you have alts to fill that role, or maybe you don’t mind not RPing in the city: then all is well.
Keep in mind, however: if what you are planning is very visible and vocal, you might suffer some blow back from it that can limit your character and RP. My previously mentioned thug-come-businessman fit all my criteria: he was not evil or overly difficult to play; in fact, the business/method is subtle enough that he can still walk around the city perfectly happily and without issue. His business is all below the surface, meaning it also does not limit my RP opportunities in any big way either, which was another big thing for me.
He has networks of people, namely my guildies, selling drugs throughout the city, running cons á la Oliver Twist and Dodger, we have thugs to back things up when certain things go awry and spies to keep tabs on the political things he is moving slowly into. All of which they do under the guise of running a tavern, the information for which was taken from the mafia. Criminal acts and people that can work in a community setting and still live visibly within said community.
So with those three things in mind, you should have a fair idea of the kind of character you’re looking at playing. I am not going to into massive detail on fleshing them out as characters and people, as that is all covered in my From the Ground Up posts and is not much different for bad guys as to good guys. What I am going to do, however, is summarise where things may vary and differ, and take a deeper look at motive and stakes. I will also look at methods of Bad Guys and how to translate their plots and plans into substance in-game. Then we will look at MMO community etiquette and tips for navigating it as a villain character, as well as other similar things. So stay tuned for more in our Venerable Villains mini-series!
Till then be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook and get in touch!