Moral and Ethical Ambiguity, Part 2 of 4 – Morality
As I said in Part 1, this series deals with Morality and Virtue as we…
This has been a fun series of articles to write so far, but I had some feedback from another designer who suggested I needed to slow it down and focus more on a single product at a time. So to address that concern, today we’re going to focus on Insta-NPCs #3: Scum and Villainy, Inc.. Not just because it’s the next product in the Insta-NPCs line I was going to talk about, but because it marked a shift in the way I looked at these products as a designer and GM.
Let’s look at a usual scenario for game masters. You’re planning an adventure or series of adventures and you know you want to introduce a new villain. Maybe you have some ideas for the bad guy (or gal, or non-gender-specific aggressor). Maybe you don’t. But what you need is a villain you can introduce into the plot who has some serious reasons for being there. Not necessarily to maim, destroy, and kill innocents, but to make a serious point for whatever philosophy they represent.
I’m working on defining a previously underused portion of a world I’ve explored a few times over the last 20 years, so I’ll likely plop this new villainous creation somewhere in there. I suspect that this villain is arcane in origin, is a big fan of privacy, and has had that privacy disturbed recently. This is only a mid-level villain, but one whose influence should be seen a few times before being encountered directly.
So with that in mind, I’ll head over to my copy of IN:SAVI, print out the worksheet (page 7), grab a pen and a few dice – and see what I come up with.
It starts with Origin and a d8 roll. I get a 7 on my d8 – “Unmatched intelligence.” That can definitely work.
The area in which this villain appears is the outskirts of a once fantastic empire that dissolved in a brutal civil war. Essentially it was the best and brightest kingdom of men and elves that had ever existed, but a few greedy, power-mad individuals decided they wanted more control. The elves fled to found a new land, humankind fled to form three new kingdoms, and what was left behind became the Land of the Dead – Bede – ruled by an undead king. There is a “No Man’s Land” along the edge of the dead kingdom that borders a great grassy sea that eventually gives way to the new lands of men.
This grassland is dotted with the remains of the once great kingdom of man and elves. Slowly, mankind has inched north and east, reclaiming more of the lands that they once roamed freely. Some still do roam freely across the grassy sea – nomads belonging to one of three tribes. And as civilization has crept further north, the nomads have ranged closer and closer to No Man’s Land. Also in this grassy sea lies our villain with unmatched intelligence.
Let’s see what this individual is up to…
Next up we determine the villain’s Goal with a d10. With a 2 on our d10 – “Achieve justice.” Someone wronged this individual or someone they loved and now the villain wants justice to right that wrong. Again, I think this can definitely work.
The third thing we need to discover is the villain’s Methodology. How do they plan on achieving their goal of getting justice? That’s another d10 roll. In this case, I get a 9 – “Faith.”
Lamnus was the god who caused the ripples that began the civil war in Bede. His parents, An and Enni created the universe, the world of Phaedrus, and eventually the elves and dwarves. (Typical creation myth with layers of creation, the birth of gods and goddesses, and the eventual betrayal of the parents by the children.) Lamnus saw them create the first races and decided he wanted to get in on the act, so he created humankind. His parents were not pleased and tossed him out of the heavens, creating a tear in time and space that shows up as the Whirlpool in the far northwest – beyond the mountains of the dwarves. Lamnus eventually landed in what became the Underworld.
Our villain will worship Lamnus, but will focus on the good aspects of the god of the Underworld and his attempts to balance the amounts of light and darkness in the mortal world.
With our Origin, Goal, and Methodology determined, we can now focus on the Role of our villain. I can roll a d4 here, but instead I am going to select “Hidden threat.” That’s how the villain will interact with our PCs – from behind the scenes, seeking only to further their own goals. And that will eventually intersect with the PCs themselves.
Lastly, we need to see what the Core Emotion may be for our villain with a d20 roll. Strangely enough, I get a 1 – “Love.” This will not be our traditional villain!
Let’s sum up what we know so far based on our die rolls…
So where do we go with this? We still don’t know the gender or race for our villain, but I’m getting the feeling that she’s a priestess and a human one at that. She’s been kept alive through her faith in the god Lamnus, though we’re not sure if it’s a curse or a blessing and what trouble exactly she’s going to cause for our PCs.
Let’s focus on that next time!