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The Smart Villain part 2: Community

Posted By Matthew J. Neagley On June 1, 2011 @ 1:23 am In GMing Advice | 4 Comments

887006_63662379In part 1 of The Smart Villain, we gave two general approaches to how smart villains are handled in game. In parts3 and 4 we’ll discuss the smart villain’s lair, and in our final part, we’ll take a look at the smart villain’s gear.  This time we’re discussing, in depth, some community based strategies for your smart villain to employ. To the smart villain, community is of great importance.  Not only does the community serve as an information network and a resource base, but they’re a source of minions, a standing militia, and a reputation booster. Here’s a variety of ways that your smart villain can make use of their community:

  • Make many allies: Smart villains are often portrayed as surly, withdrawn and egotistical, but it takes little in the way of resources time, or brainpower for your average smart villain to make friendly overtures towards anyone and everyone in their local community that may be of future use in some capacity or another. Judicious use of false identities and other ruses may be necessary when courting factions or individuals opposed to the villain or their more public allies, but the more allies a smart villain has, the more friends, favors and resources they can call on when needed.
  • Foster goodwill: Many smart villains keep a low profile, but suffer eventual defeat after the heroes were tipped off to their nefarious nature by a third party. Much like gathering as many allies as possible, a smart villain should try to foster as much goodwill as possible, so that most members of their community scoff at questions of the smart villain’s integrity.
  • Informants and Spies: With all their allies in the community, smart villains have ready access to informants and spies to size up any potential threats and alert the smart villain to their presence. With snitches in every corner of their community, smart villains should not only never be surprised by the arrival of opponents, but they should have at least some knowledge of their capabilities as well.
  • Double Agents and Saboteurs: Since the smart villain has allies in and controls many of the services and freelancers in his community, it’s easy for them to soften up threats by having their saboteurs and double agents ruin the PCs gear, disturb their rest, or outright turn on them at inopportune times.
  • Thugs and Traps: With even less subtlety, the smart villain can simply have allies that are difficult to trace back to them attack threats or entrap them. This can be literal traps and attacks or they can be more exotic, such as legal troubles or similar hoops.

About  Matthew J. Neagley

First introduced to RPGs through the DnD Red Box Set in 1990, Matt fights on ongoing battle with GMing ADD, leaving his to-do list littered with the broken wrecks of half-formed campaigns, worlds, characters, settings, and home-brewed systems. Luckily, his wife is also a GM, providing him with time on both sides of the screen.

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "The Smart Villain part 2: Community"

#1 Comment By Alias On June 1, 2011 @ 1:47 am

Lots of good points there, especially the allies and goodwill ones. It’s much harder to take down a villain that appears as a hero to a non negligible part of the population.

#2 Comment By Lugh On June 1, 2011 @ 7:08 am

I’d like to see some expansion on the last two bits. A smart villain can do a LOT to soften up the heroes long before they get close, especially if the villain has political ties. Police harassment is an obvious one. But, what happens when the heroes’ power gets turned off? Or there is a mysterious “bank error” that wipes out their savings account? Or a business owned by, or friendly to, the heroes suddenly needs a lot of extra inspections? These are the kinds of things that villains would use to gently warn heroes that they are out of their depth. They also happen to be excellent ways to make the players REALLY hate the villain.

The movie Enemy of the State has some good examples of ways to really screw with someone without directly attacking them.

#3 Comment By Volcarthe On June 1, 2011 @ 11:00 am

The classic “Smart Villain” for me would be Victor Von Doom.

Not only is he very intelligent, but he does at least attempt everything on this list.

The citizens of Latveria may not always love Doom, but there are multiple occasions where they are shown to prefer his rule over others, and hold loyalty to him.

And, of course, who doesn’t love weilding some diplomatic immunity?

#4 Comment By Knight of Roses On June 1, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

When I played an evil character, I pretty much followed those rules. The other characters were very important to keep as allies and building a web of friends and contacts was part of my strategic plan. Only an idiot makes enemies if you do not have to.

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