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Old 08-16-2011, 09:10 PM   #21
Agemegos
 
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Default Re: The importance of an over all goal/climax to a campaign?...

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Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert View Post
Even if you don't have a specific climax in mind, I consider a good villain to be absolutely essential to most campaigns - or rather, ideally you'll want several memorable villains that the PCs can fight against. Give the PCs (and the players) someone they can really love to hate, and they will always be motivated to continue the adventure.
I prefer to plan in terms of an antagonist rather than a villain, and "feel strongly about opposing" rather than "love to hate", because an ambivalent relationship with the opponent stops the intrigue and so forth from collapsing into assassination and outright war.

My favourite example is Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers (the original novel and the 1973-74 pair of movies with Michael York. All other versions turn Richelieu into a villain to save time and fit the story into a movie. The three musketeers and D'Artagnan respect Richelieu (even if they fear him a little), think he is a great man, a patriot, and the bulwark of the country. It's just that as gentlemen they can't countenance his Machiavellian methods, in particular his determination to make France safe by destroying the Queen and by assassinating the Prime Minister of England.

This makes the adventures a lot more dashing and romantic. The main characters want to save the Queen because she is an innocent woman (well, at least not guilty of anything they don't do themselves), but there are things they won't do to save her, such as assassinating Richelieu or encompassing his downfall. So they have to refuse the choice, find the third way, and do something difficult and complicated to resolve their dilemma.

Quote:
And if you have worked out the villain in sufficient detail - and I don't mean game stats with that, but character, motivation, resources, and long-term goals - you will be able to rapidly improvise new adventures, no matter what the PCs are doing. Just think to yourself: "What would this guy do in this situation to advance his goals", and new adventure possibilities will come to you easily.
I strongly agree. A great antagonist should be a well-rounded and fathomable character, steadfast to a core motivation, and with a physical dimension, a psychological dimension, and a social dimension all in evidence. I find a great advantage in running the sort of socially-constrained adventure that allows the PCs to interact with their antagonist in a situation that does not permit, say, gunning Goldfinger down on the first tee at St. Andrews because "we've got a licence to kill, and his name is the name of the module".

Of course most good campaigns do lead to facing the villain over live steel once the stakes have become so high that that is justified. But I never plan that encounter. I design the antagonist; put him in a situation that will not let the PCs leave him alone, nor him them (the "crucible"); and keep raising the tension until someone cracks.
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Old 08-17-2011, 04:40 PM   #22
SolemnGolem
 
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Default Re: The importance of an over all goal/climax to a campaign?...

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Originally Posted by Brett View Post
I prefer to plan in terms of an antagonist rather than a villain, and "feel strongly about opposing" rather than "love to hate", because an ambivalent relationship with the opponent stops the intrigue and so forth from collapsing into assassination and outright war.
I second this approach. Some games will benefit from a clear-cut "evil supervillain" who the PCs can unquestioningly oppose and triumph over.

Others, depending on gaming group and campaign flavor, will benefit from "shades of grey morality". The campaign I'm running right now is set in a civil war, and there really isn't any clear "good guy" faction. There are plenty of factions that do terrible things to each other and to the hapless civilians in the crossfire... but almost every one of the factions has something to recommend it, something that the players might think twice about opposing and demolishing. They all have negative aspects and the players could choose any one of them as the villains of the piece, but I leave that for them to reason through rather than imposing that on them.

It's the difference between the Wicked Queen in Snow White vs. Shakespeare's Macbeth. Even if the villain is ultimately bad news and he must ultimately be removed for the greater good, I like to give him enough redeeming qualities so that the players might think "there, but for the grace of God, go I".
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