Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four
5 DEVIOUS VILLAIN TACTICS
1. Seize Control With Questions
To help a villain gain the advantage in any parley have them
ask the questions. He who asks the questions controls the
conversation and what comes from it.
If possible, the villain should try to begin conversations
with a question, which should lead to another question and
If the villain is asked a question, he/she/it has two
a) Answer the question and then quickly ask a question
before the other party has a chance to ask another
question of their own;
b) Answer the question with a question.
The skills you will need to develop as a game master,
through practice, is to have your villains control
conversations and ask questions in a manner which doesn't
tip the players off or shut down the discussion by being too
aggressive. Sometimes you may have to give a little to keep
things going in the villain's favour.
2. He Who Speaks First Loses
This is a trick a real estate agent taught me long ago and
it can definitely help your villains. In a conversation,
when your villain wants something and you think the time is
right, then just go ahead, be direct and have the NPC ask
the question...and then Be Silent!
He who speaks first loses. Go ahead, try this out next
session and you'll see what I mean.
This is not a guaranteed trick. The PCs could always say no
(if they do, just stay silent and watch what happens...).
But no matter what, he who speaks first will not get what
they want at that time.
3. Be On The PCs' Side
Do you ever wonder how a sail boat can sail into the wind
and still move forwards? I'm no sailor, but I do know that
by turning your sails at a certain angle, combined with the
angle of your hull and rudder, you can make good progress
even with the wind in your face.
Your villain can do this too in order to further his own
ends. Even when the PCs are trying to fight evil. Just have
the villain employ the PCs in ways that further the
characters' goals but also end up helping the villain.
* Return a portion of loot recovered from places the
villain knows of and which are not offensive to the PCs
(i.e. tombs, abandoned ships, ruins, greedy rich folk).
Villains can always use more money.
* Helping the PCs fight other evil bad guys who also happen
to be enemies of our villain. Two birds with one stone!
* Hitting a bee's nest with a stick. The villain hires the
PCs to attack a group of creatures, pirates or bad guys who
will then retaliate against the nearest settlement, city or
group of peaceful people.
(Thanks for the tip, Jason D.!)
4. Give PCs Choices, Not Ultimatums
If your villain gives the PCs an ultimatum, "do it or else",
he is making the PCs choose between yes or no. That's not
good. The villain should present choices where any choice
the PCs make somehow helps the villain's cause.
Do this by asking open-ended questions. Questions which
can't be answered with "yes" or "no".
"Will you hand me the wand or fight my pet tarrasque?
"What can I do to help you decide to investigate that tomb?"
"The path is easy, would you prefer to go it alone or can
I send Lurch along to guide you?"
Villains should take the time to learn what's important to
their adversaries so that they can gain some advantage.
Use F.O.R.M. as an easy-to-remember guide:
The villain should send agents to chat with the PCs and
those who know the PCs in order to gather this kind of
valuable information. Once the villain knows what's valuable
to the characters he can go after it and use it against
* "Where are you from?" leads the villain to relatives of
* "What do you do for a living? Where do you work?" leads
the villain to the PCs' employer(s) an co-workers.
* "Married? Kids? Women troubles? Know anybody in these
parts?" leads the villains to all kinds of potential
* "Looks like it's time for new armour eh? Did you see that
ship they've got for sale down at the pier? Heard taxes
are going up again..." can help the villain learn if the
PCs are poor and money-hungry.
5. Smoke'em If You Got'em
Evil villains should never be afraid to use their followers
and regard them as expendable. There's always more people or
creatures who can be bought or dominated into servitude.
So, go ahead, send that poor scout ahead to learn where the
PCs are hiding. Have those slaves dig till they die in the
gold mines. Use that army to start a war and draw the forces
of good away from the secret entrance. Make that bureaucrat
steal those documents and risk his career.
You and I would never do those things, but don't let that
stop your villain from doing them.
Have more fun at every game!