Making The Big Bad. Or in my case… Several of them

There are few things in a GMs life that are as rewarding as when you get it right with a villain.

I mean, I don’t know about your gaming world. But in mine, most stories are pushed forward by the actions of the bad guy.

After 30 years of gaming, it seems, I have developed a villain for every situation. And I’m going to share some of them with you in future articles.

But, someone posted on Twitter that they wanted to see how I go about developing things.

So, you may be sorry you asked but…here ya go. This is how I develop my villains:

(Oh and just to clarify. I know that there are antagonists out there who aren’t evil. I have them in my world. They simply have conflicting views and different motivations. But this article is about the REALLY bad guys.)

Step 1: What kind of Evil are they? Here are some of the archetypes I use:

Stupid Thug:
The typical bully, he didn’t have any sort of master plan. He just really likes to punch things and make people give him their stuff.
These villains are best suited, in my opinion, for low level adventures. I just don’t think that they have the capacity to hang with mid to high level adventurers.
That is, of course, unless they happen to be the public face for the real villain, who prefers to pull the strings from the darkness.
Examples: The Leader of a Street Gang, a local Hill Giant who steals sheep, etc.

Fear born of ignorance is different from stupidity. It can be changed with a little knowledge, but in the case of a Big Bad, they don’t want to learn. There are lots of examples like the Elven King who looks down on other species because he thinks them inferior. The Dragon who believes the gods created the universe for his kind, And all others are interlopers on him,and his species’, inheritance.

The Fanatic:
This can be one of the most scary villain out there. The reason why is because they have something they believe in completely. And there is no way that you’re going to convince them that it’s wrong.
You want an example of fanatics, simply turn on your evening news.

Let’s face it. Some people are only in it for the gold.
Most villains are greedy for power and riches, like crusty pirates, evil overlords, nasty wizards. This is the most popular explanation for evil deeds. A bit cliché.. But hey… Whatever floats your dingy…

Examples: Long John Silver, Voldemort, Sauron… Do you really need examples for this?

Angry and Hurt:
The villain could be angry, hurting and vengeful. He was wronged in some terrible way and wants to set things right by hurting people. Situations like this make an antagonist more sympathetic. Though you may not agree with his methods of finding healing, you can relate to him.
I use this when I want the villian to someday become an ally.
Examples: Darth Vader or Magneto

Mindless Instinct:
This is for when your villain is an alien colony or a otyugh or a man-eating monster or all those creatures defending their homes when you decide to go traipsing into the “dungeon”. Can it be a Big Bad? On an adventure level, sure. On a campaign level? I’m sure it could, but it would have to be a MAJOR threat. Like the Terrasque.

Most supervillains fit into this category. The Joker being my favorite. If you want to do it right be sure to look up some of the symptoms online. You’ll be amazed at some of the things you can find and it can give your villain a feeling of being truly insane.

And lastly…

Being TOO good:
Yup, you can be too good. You can be so sickly sweet that it makes people hate you. Don’t believe me? Remember that paladin that wouldn’t let you move on until you gave last rights and burial to that orc village that he HAD to destroy?
The extreme side to this is kind of tied with the fanatic. It’s that paladin that sees every little shade of grey as evil and wants to wipe it from the face of the earth.

Step 2: The Villain’s Goal

What’s your villains goal? Does he want to be rich? Does he want to be powerful? Does he want to take over the city? The world? The multiverse? Or does he simply want to end everything?

Knowing what your villains end goal is will help you as you’re thinking out the steps he takes to achieve it.

Step 3: Method
What are the ways that your villain goes about achieving his goal?

Does he need to rob the kingdom of the ground rules? Is there someone who needs to have murdered? Does he have to raise an evil spirit or an evil god?

This is really important as these are the adventures that your players will be going on.

Little tip here:
Don’t just have your villain sitting there waiting for the heroes to stop his machinations.
He’s always moving. Always working on new plans.
If they do him in one place, is okay, he’s got four other schemes already in the making

Step 4: Minions
The big bad always… I repeat ALWAYS has minions. And they can be cookie cutter, like kobolds defending a dragon lair. Or they can be just as unique and, sometimes, just as powerful as their master.

Minions… Gotta have em.


You don’t HAVE to have them. There are some villains who don’t really fit the minion having mold. But they do spice up the battles and can make a very straight forward campaign multilayered.

Well, that pretty much how I do it… Not really that complicated was it?

Hope this helps..

Anything I missed out any other methods you use?

Be sure to leave then in the comments.

And if you like this article, please share it.



One thought on “Making The Big Bad. Or in my case… Several of them

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s