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Old 10-05-2017, 11:53 PM   #1
hal
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Buffalo, New York
Default Advice sought for fleshing out a major villian

Hello Folks,
The campaign I'm running is essentially a GURPSification of NIGHT CITY from CP2020.

Recently, the hero of the story (Using FG2 to run this), got involved by heading over to the Afterlife bar, which serves as a sort of recruiting hall for mercenaries. Long story short, the player couldn't muster enough bodies for the jobs being offered at the time, and jumped at a job that he thought he could handle where it required a security detail - one that reputable mercenaries ALL turned down.

So, the first mission was one where he had to bodyguard a scientist who was engaged in illegal scientific research on humans. He infected them with a tailored plague while disguising his research as petroleum based research for genetically enhancing algae to produce a high energy plant based oil substitute.

Long story short, the player is now discovering that his employee, is not a good man, and that he has fingers in pies that involve treachery, greed, and human misery. An individual who assesses people like a profiler would, said "he's a psychopath who hasn't personally killed anyone - yet". That this man is also a multi-millionaire tycoon is a sign that the man is ruthless.

So, here is the problem. Eventually, I'm going to want to detail the Psychopath's organization and how he works to increase his profits. "Anything for a buck" would be the motto this man lives by.

So, ideas? Thoughts? Ways to make this into a major league MEMORABLE villian without spilling the beans up front?

I think that a few missions that seemingly have nothing to do with the Tycoon will eventually get tied in. Perhaps eventually, a set of "books" that detail the earnings of these criminal enterprises, or perhaps mercenary work that demolished certain businesses or opportunities, would eventually be traced back to the Tycoon.

There is Moral
Immoral

And finally, there is Amoral.

Our tycoon is the latter. It isn't that he constantly does evil per se, it is just that he does both Good and Evil and doesn't care. He just knows enough to hide his "highly profitable options" because that also brings down a lot of people trying to shut down his profit making venture. He could just as easily be financing robotic research for rescue robots, and just as easily finance illegal medical experimentation. He could also just as easily hire a geneticist to create experimental genetically altered humans, and not bat an eye when these artificial constructs die still born, or worse yet, survive, but at a horrendous cost.

Think Cyberpunk meets Biopunk if you will.

THoughts, ideas, suggestions?
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Old 10-09-2017, 02:28 AM   #2
Michele
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Udine, Italy
Default Re: Advice sought for fleshing out a major villian

It's the small things that are telling.
Think of the opening scene of House of Cards. The deed done won't affect the world, or the USA - but it tells us a lot about the ethics of the character.

So show your NPC do something like that. If he's into medical research, then an employee tells his something like: "Our orbital lab's report: they've found the means to prevent mutation LB-534. However, the economic analysis shows it's never going to pay, the treatment is exceedingly costly and the syndrome will only affect some 10,000 persons per year all over the world in the foreseeable future".
The boss: "OK, then let's drop it, tell them to research something profitable. Oh, and make sure our insurance companies screen for that mutation and refuse to cover potential subjects".
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Old 10-09-2017, 07:35 AM   #3
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Advice sought for fleshing out a major villian

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michele View Post
So show your NPC do something like that. If he's into medical research, then an employee tells his something like: "Our orbital lab's report: they've found the means to prevent mutation LB-534. However, the economic analysis shows it's never going to pay, the treatment is exceedingly costly and the syndrome will only affect some 10,000 persons per year all over the world in the foreseeable future".
The boss: "OK, then let's drop it, tell them to research something profitable. Oh, and make sure our insurance companies screen for that mutation and refuse to cover potential subjects".
I'm not sure that I buy that decision as actually unethical. If you look past the profit motive, what's going on is that a company is deciding not to put a large number of resources into a product that only benefits a small number of people. Since those are resources of its pharmaceutical division (let's say), they are going to go instead into developing other products. Now, on one hand, given its criterion, those products are presumably going to benefit larger numbers of people, since there are larger target markets for them; on the other, since the eliminated product is "exceedingly costly," presumably the other products average less costly, and perhaps the company could even come up with three or four of them for the same cost as this one product, even further enhancing the disparity. So at least in this case the profit motive seems to point directly to "the greatest good of the greatest number." A total altruist, or a disinterested civil servant setting priorities for a state health care agency, could arrive at the same decision.

That's not to say it couldn't register as "amoral" in its effect on the audience's sentiments. But you seem to be aiming at a subtle and thus cerebral effect, one that emerges if the players think about it. It seems as if a casuistic approach to morality would work better than a sentimental one.

So what kinds of decisions could someone make in the pharmaceutical industry that maximized profits, but were actually indefensible in terms of service to the customers? How about having evidence that a product they've been working on could have really nasty long-term side effects, and ordering either that the study that found them be suppressed, or that a new study be conducted that's set up to avoid finding the same side effects? Oh, of course eventually it will come out, but by that time the company will have taken its profits, and our man in particular will have cashed out and retired, leaving the shareholders with the costs of any lawsuits? (So he not merely puts corporate gains ahead of service to the customers, but puts personal gains ahead of his duty to the shareholders.)
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Old 10-09-2017, 08:11 AM   #4
Michele
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Udine, Italy
Default Re: Advice sought for fleshing out a major villian

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I'm not sure that I buy that decision as actually unethical. (...)
Indeed! That was the thrust of my attempt. It's what I gathered from the OP's description of the character. I'm not in disagreement with your analysis.

Going back to the House of Cards first scene, I said it was telling about the character's ethics - not the lack thereof. Some would disapprove of that choice, some would say it is defensible. It would be pretty "not sure", as you say, pretty gray.
All viewers certainly gather, however, that this guy is a very cold-blooded SOB. Not afraid of dirtying his own hands, literally. And memorable. This is what I think the OP wanted.


Quote:
How about having evidence that a product they've been working on could have really nasty long-term side effects, and ordering either that the study that found them be suppressed, or that a new study be conducted that's set up to avoid finding the same side effects? Oh, of course eventually it will come out, but by that time the company will have taken its profits, and our man in particular will have cashed out and retired, leaving the shareholders with the costs of any lawsuits? (So he not merely puts corporate gains ahead of service to the customers, but puts personal gains ahead of his duty to the shareholders.)
Sure. But I would expect that the OP's gist is that this sort of thing emerges later, as the PCs get to know more and more about the activities of the NPC. Note the OP doesn't want to "spill the beans up front". The almost casual remark I suggested, or something like that, wouldn't even be considered something worth of being dealt with in secrecy, so it can be dropped within the PCs' hearshot without too much fuss. What you suggest would be kept secret, and the PCs should have to work to find out about it.
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Old 10-09-2017, 08:31 AM   #5
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Advice sought for fleshing out a major villian

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Originally Posted by Michele View Post
Sure. But I would expect that the OP's gist is that this sort of thing emerges later, as the PCs get to know more and more about the activities of the NPC. Note the OP doesn't want to "spill the beans up front". The almost casual remark I suggested, or something like that, wouldn't even be considered something worth of being dealt with in secrecy, so it can be dropped within the PCs' hearshot without too much fuss. What you suggest would be kept secret, and the PCs should have to work to find out about it.
Okay, that's a fair point. At the very least, anything along those lines should be hinted at in a way that preserves deniability, rather than said outright. "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"
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Old 10-09-2017, 08:51 AM   #6
hal
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Buffalo, New York
Default Re: Advice sought for fleshing out a major villian

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Okay, that's a fair point. At the very least, anything along those lines should be hinted at in a way that preserves deniability, rather than said outright. "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"
And then, if someone DOES rid the troublesome priest, two things happen. Publically, the action is condemned as "But that's not what I meant", and privately "Oh, yeah, I feel bad about being imprecise. it wasn't your fault, but mine. Tell you what, here's a consolation payment to keep things quiet. Ok?"

Maybe something along those lines perhaps?
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Old 10-09-2017, 08:49 AM   #7
hal
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Buffalo, New York
Default Re: Advice sought for fleshing out a major villian

I'm of two thoughts regarding "subtlety" here...

It is a GREAT idea to be sure, and one I'd use in a heartbeat for other players. However, I think that in this case, I'd have to be about as subtle as handing a defective firing pin laced gun to the player character involved, before the "ethics" aspect of the NPC would impact sufficiently on the player himself.

:(

For what it is worth, I'm using INTERFACE ZERO as a sort of source book for ideas in generating background events, including "Mercenary tickets" for which the player can either accept, or pass on. The agency that hands out these "mercenary tickets" employs a system where they grade or rate mercenaries who take their "tickets" by means of Employer feedback. "Success/Failure" being the primary means of judging the mission, and lack of "news reporting" on the ticket being another. On the flip side, they also rate "contractors" (those who offer the jobs) based on input from the mercenaries where complaints are involved. In a way, they act as a bonding house because they expect the payments to come to them (so they get their cut of the fees) and they release the payments to the mercenaries.

The thing is - there will be a lot of "random events" not even connected to the "contractor" who is the Arms Dealer. So, how to interlace the "random events" with the planned events, and how to paint the progression such that it becomes a big selling point that this man needs to be stopped - that is the problem.

Creating a bioweapon that can be used against populations, and have a reliable cure comes under the heading of "Amoral" where profits are concerned. Building a high rise knowingly using faulty materials and then arranging the kidnapping of the building inspector's family to insure that he doesn't spill the beans of the issue - might be another aspect. How would this play out? The "Contract" might be to protect the man's family from a "revenge" attack. It would be painted as "The man has gambling debts, and his family, unaware of the danger they are in, are oblivious to the situation. Your job is to arrange an unwilling extraction, keep them safe against organized crime for three days, and then release them. While you are doing this, a second team will be hunting down the original team that was sent out to kidnap and exact pressure against the government official."

Now that seems like a semi-plausible scenario - maybe. But if the player takes the job - the only way he'll find out what is really happening is if he digs in deeper to find out that the government official is really little more than a building inspector, and that the second team is making an effort to either falsify the material evidence, or compromise it so that it doesn't affect the "Amoral" individual's life.

The real problem from my perspective? Is how do I build this UP without being heavy handed?

Case in point? In one campaign, I had an NPC. She was ONLY supposed to be a single scene walk on type of character. Well, the players took to her in a big way. She got involved in a situation that resulted in her hubris being rewarded with a major humiliating slap down, and that slap down resulted in her having a wakeup call about her life, as well as the companions she kept. That she fell in love with one of the player characters is NOT something I'd have thought of had it not been for a reaction roll atop of the humiliation - that and the player's teasing display of chivalry at a time where she didn't deserve it. Long story short, as GM, I set this up to be a long term thread. I thought I was being "Subtle" - and I even made an attempt at "opsec" by not discussing this with my wife in ANY manner. It took less than 4 game sessions for my wife to blurt out at the table "You Idiot - can't you see she's in love with you?"

So, I really need to work on being subtle (Or maybe I was being subtle enough, and my wife was just that good, because the other player was shocked to find out of the situation, and eventually did end up looking at the NPC as wife material after all - despite her history).

Probably what I need are a progression of "non-random" missions where the "villain" either supplies the missions himself, or are supplied by his victims targeting the villain" that basically escalate things in the eyes of the player character.
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