I was listening to a podcast over the weekend and they were talking about villains and it got me thinking about what kind of villains I like in roleplaying games and what kind I really, really, really hate.
Anyone who has other views, please let me know in the comments, I’d love to have a discussion.
I hate overblown villains, the mustache-twirling, evil for the sake of being evil villains that are ridiculously unrealistic. If you can’t understand what they want and why they want it, there’s a problem with the villain. Sure, you can have crazy villains, but the crazier they are, the less effective. The villain that wants to bring about the end of the world, without any understandable reason why they want to do it, I hate those people.
And I really don’t understand why so many players like them. You can’t get into the head of a villain who has no discernible motivations. You can’t outsmart a villain whose reasoning you can’t possibly understand. All you can do is kill them and often, that’s not a lot of fun.
And those villains, as depicted above, are often just Snively Whiplash, bad for the sake of being bad. The idea that “Why? Because I’m evil!” just holds no interest for me in the least. In fact, the most intriguing villains are the ones for whom you can, if you think about it enough, understand and maybe even agree with their motives just a little bit. The motives need to be well reasoned and thought out, there has to be logic behind them and they need to be reasonable when examined from a certain point of view. And the reason these villains are so intriguing is because the heroes can understand why they’re doing it, even if they cannot necessarily condone their course of action. This sets up conflict in the heroes and conflict drives the story along. There isn’t much story in “this guy is unquestionably evil, let’s kill him!”
But of course, lots of people disagree, they want the “bad for the sake of being bad” guys, whose motives are either undeniably evil or utter insanity because there are no moral questions involved, it’s all black or all white. I just find that kind of thing terribly shallow and that’s why I tend not to write or play “black hats” or “white hats”, everything is done in varied shades of gray.
So what about you? Let me know what you think. What are some of your favorite villains, either in games or in media? Tell me why? Let’s have a conversation.