Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four
EXIT STAGE LEFT: HOW TO PLOT YOUR VILLAIN'S DEMISE
1. Set The Stage
Create a dramatic setting and situation for the final
For example, let's say 'Tanglebeard the Cruel' is our
pirate villain. He has slain relatives of the PCs during his
raids, started a war between two countries through trickery,
mercilessly robbed the PCs on two of their returning-from-
the-adventure trips when they were weak, and spread nasty
rumours about the PCs which have quickly spread up and down
the entire coast.
To set the stage properly then, a final confrontation with
Tanglebeard could take place in a life and death battle on
the rolling deck of his ship, at night, during a raging
storm at sea. That's drama!
2. The Killing Blow
What action or actions are required to destroy the villain?
Picture the final scene in your mind like it was a movie and
make it as dramatic as you can imagine.
When I pictured Tanglebeard vs. the PCs I suddenly thought
of a monster 40 foot wave breaking over the bow of his ship.
The wave crests and falls right on top of Tanglebeard
and drags him overboard right before the PCs' eyes.
3. Oh The Irony Of It All
Try to give the villain's death an ironic twist or hidden
Irony is hard to define but here are some things you can
tinker with and twist to help create an ironic end:
* The place of death (i.e. villain is shot and dies, falling
backwards into the grave he has just dug intended for the PCs)
* The method of death (i.e. villain is slain by his own
* The slayer (i.e. the mighty Goliath is slain by a mere
shepherd; the villain is slain by his own malfunctioning
* The aftermath (i.e. the evil CEO has been taken down, but
the corporation lives on and another is promoted)
* The ends justify the means (i.e. sure the evil Overlord is
dead, but the heroes had to lie, cheat and kill to do it--
so what makes them different from the villain?)
The ending of Tanglebeard in a giant wave is ironic because
it was the sea delivering the death blow--the same sea the
pirate used to commit his foul deeds upon. It might also be
ironically interpreted that the sea was cleansing itself.
4. Create A Weakness & Make It Important
See Issue 26 for more information about villain weaknesses:
http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issue26.html Step #2.
Give your villain one or more exploitable weaknesses for the
characters to take advantage of. Try to make weaknesses non-
cliche and not obvious.
And, for the weaknesses to truly be important and valuable,
your villain must have really good defenses or strengths in
all other areas.
What good is setting up a villain to be exploited through
his weakness for gambling if the villain can also be easily
defeated in a fight, takes no precautions against snipers,
car bombs and poisoned food delivered by room service, and
keeps a large collection of poisonous pet snakes in his
Here's another tip: weaknesses should be special. What does
it matter if the Demon Prince can only be slain by magic
weapons if all the PCs have magic weapons?
Ask yourself, 'Why hasn't my villain been defeated before
this point in the story? What is his weakness and how has he
5. Help The PCs Learn About The Weakness
It's a tricky dance revealing clues about your villain
without giving the whole secret away in the first shot. But
it's important that the players feel they have a hope of
thwarting the villain and that they can take action to learn
how to do it. So you eventually have to give out important
information about the bad guy.
Here are some ideas for revealing clues during play:
* Overhearing the final few seconds of a conversation
* Partially destroyed letters, orders and personal notes
* Witnessing a mysterious meeting but the words cannot be
* Allies relay important but incomplete information
* A disgruntled minion of the villain reveals information but is
suddenly killed before all can be told
* Discovery of hoarded weakness (i.e. an evil Superman could
hide all the galaxy's kryptonite in a cavern at the bottom
of the Arctic Ocean for his protection)
* Discovery of a villain's treatment/remedy, but it's full
nature is not revealed (i.e. an unmarked pill container)
* Villain's habits can be monitored (i.e. always going to
* The enemy's enemy may reveal clues
* Ancient lore reveals obscure clues
* Interaction with the villain (i.e. why does he avoid
Have more fun at every game!