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If you read me, you may have likely read much of this before.  With the closing of the old Round Table many, many moons ago my post on this topic was lost.  I felt it wise to repost this here because it is still valid today.  Of course, I tweaked it a bit too.  ::grins.:: Ya know… just a little updating…  I want to keep the issue as relevant as I can.  There are two things that aren’t in this article: content and timing.  Both of these are very important ingredients in playing a successful villain.  But both of them are not specific to playing the villain, they are specific to in-room play.  Therefore I decided to put these points in their own article.  Thanks.

Please note: all “you”s in this post are meant in general.  Also, always keep in mind that FFRP is about interactivity, we all want to play! Don’t treat the other players like they are the audience!

Antagonists’ make the game more enticing and fun.  Conflict moves stories and offers a variety of ways for character growth.  Think about it; we don’t have a point system.  Our characters can’t grow if we don’t create ways for it to happen.  Bad guys are excellent tools for character growth!  If there were never any “bad guys” what’s there for the “good guys” to do?  Domestic storylines, maybe a few personal dramas, but otherwise “heroes” really can’t shine without a few good villains to challenge and confront them.

The way we in DCH do it; “Big Bads” are built to fall for the greater glory of the “Good Guys”. They are meant from the onset of their creation to eventually lose. We look at our DCH characters more like NPC’s than “stars” or “primary characters”.  They are tools we use and invite others to use too.  What others do with them influences how we play them.  The characters have over the years grown into a conglomeration of many players and not just ourselves, hence why we think of them as NPCs; creations created to be shared for the greater glory of the characters and their stories!

As for the mechanics on how we in DCH work…  We invite the other players to dictate what happens to their characters, (meaning write whatever they want.) They get to say what we did or didn’t do IC to their characters.  To clarify, they call consequences on their characters and their IC creations while we let them blame ours.  This works phenomenally well for us actually.

The Most Important Tip EVER:  Apply COMMON SENSE Liberally!

This applies to life as much as FFRP and playing a villain, friends…  Common sense will take you a long way in anything you choose to do!

Being the villain shouldn’t be about dominating the community but enhancing it.

The Bad Guy role should be about adding to the collective, communal play while not turning it into a platform for grandstanding.  For those who make villains because they believe it will give them an edge over other players, get over yourselves.  FFRP was created so that the individual player retains all rights to what happens to whatever they created.  A player can try and bully folks into doing what they want, but in the end, it is and always will be the choice of the individual creator as to what will happen to their characters and in their stories.

Interactivity isn’t everyone taking what some player or players choose to dole out; it’s about mutual or reciprocal actions and influences.  FFRP is all about teamwork.  One player or set of players dictating actions is not interactive it’s reactionary especially when the other players involved are given no say over what is happening.

An interactive, widely-accepted and successful villain requires that the player be respectful and considerate of the other players and their IC creations.  Play to them, (i.e. play to their character(s) established IC), play with them, (i.e. collaborate!), never play *at* them.  Most in the community frown when played *at*.

Try to avoid the most obvious of pitfalls like charges of “powergaming”, “godmoding”, and/or “metagaming” by double checking!  Before doing anything that will change the landscape of another player’s IC creations, don’t just ask once, ask twice! Before posting, before running amok with a new direction, run the ideas by the player(s) likely to be impacted first.

Now when I say run the ideas by the other players, I mean tell them what you are thinking about doing to find out if its going to be ok.  This isn’t a game about “Surprise, look what my baddy did to you today!” That’s not collaborative, that’s crossing a line.  Of course, a player can do things like that but they shouldn’t be surprised if others get angry, blow them off, ignore them or even pull their post off their boards.

Your IC is yours.  Their IC is obviously theirs.  They have final say in anything and everything that happens to their IC creations.  Just like you do over yours and I do over mine.   If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to someone else and before you do anything to someone else’s creation it is wisest to ask.  Oh, and simpler too; a lot less OOC drama tends to ensue when everyone is on the same page.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me that is always what I aim for.  OOC drama does not equal fun for me!

Don’t Call Consequences!

Whether a “good guy” or a “bad guy”; make sure not to call consequences on other players’ characters or creations without permission first.  Especially make sure not to call consequences on things that will impact players that aren’t involved in the storyline.  (For example; blowing up the WestEnd will impact everyone who lives there.  So maybe before declaring something like that, a player might want to reconsider… and only blow up a portion of the WestEnd they created.)

Avoid pissing everyone off; it’s the communal thing to do.

The community understands wanting to do the grand gesture.  They also understand wanting to “build-up” the bad guys.  But no one wants their IC creations dissed and/or abused without at least having the option to say “Sure, I’m in” or “no thanks” first.   When people insist on doing these kinds of actions it tends to put a large portion of the player base off.  More often than not it equates to the baddies being ignored by the majority and revered by the snertling horde desperate for that kind of control over… well?  Anyone or anything really.  Unfortunately it only alienates everyone else.

Think about the IMPACT your villain is about to have.  If it is too far-reaching (i.e. brainwashing the entire city) then expect people to ignore it.  If it is too story specific people will stay out of it rather than research it.  If it walks on other players’ IC realities, it is likely to upset them.  The most suitable goal for a successful villain is to make the villain’s vile deeds open and easy to play off of while avoid stepping all over others feet.

Playing a villain is a give and take.

Actually… to play interactively is a give and take process too.  For everyone to get what they want the best way is through communication.  For anything outside of in-room “pick-up” play, we really should negotiate from the onset.  This goes for villains too.  Sure, we can be equal opportunity in our sharing of our bad guys and their nasty ways in public rooms, but before we take it to the boards or into another player’s story, we should chat with the player beforehand.  Not only to discern what their limitations are and what they want from the interactions but so that the player of the villain can do the same.  This helps to avoid crossing lines, (and pissing people off), but first we need to know where those lines are.

Take Consequences!

With or without negotiation players should always be prepared to accept consequences for their character(s) actions.  If the character(s) actions affect a lot of people, or impact the city in some overt, obvious ways, (like burning down the Marketplace,) expect people to want some say.  Especially if they feel that their storylines are being walked on, overlooked or downright ignored just so another player can have their story instead.

If a villain never loses and always wins, be prepared to have others avoid them.  No one likes to feel played *at*.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that as a villain everyone gets to walk all over them either.  There are lines and they work both ways!  The player of the villain has rights too.  As a player of a villain, yes, I do retain all rights for the final say on what happens to my baddies.  I strive to be as open as possible, but there are times when the heroes are a little over zealous and demand far too much.  During those times, I have no problem telling them “no” firmly.  Again, my creation, I get to have the final say every time.

Stay OPEN!

A successful villain is one that not only pushes the buttons of the character(s) they have been created to harass, but rather be more of an equal opportunity baddy willing to push everyone’s buttons that are willing.  The more the merrier!  Take advantage of any opportunity to share your vile villain! Just remember that not everyone will want to play, be kind and don’t force it!

As a player of a villain one should recognize that they may come up against many characters, not just the one(s) they were designed to interact with. Friends or relatives of the villain(s) victims, many who will want to “get even”, give some “pay back”; you get the drift.  Be prepared to negotiate and compromise on the fly so that everyone can get what they want and no toes feel walked on.

Players of villains shouldn’t expect to be liked, or even welcome when entering public rooms.  Fact is the bad guy is meant to be vilified, that is his/her job. One of the things we in the DCH play group realized many, many years ago, (yeah, way back on AOL), was that to play an effective bad guy, you don’t need a high body count, you don’t need to bully others into situations that make your villain appear ever nastier.  You don’t need to make post after post glorifying your villain and their vile deeds.  You just need to make all the other characters really, really hate your villain. The more they hate your villain is a testament to the quality of said villain!  IC wise, I mean, not OOC wise.  You want the characters to hate your villain, not the players hating you.

An interactive bad guy takes the time to know his/her Victims.  Better to exploit their weaknesses which go a long way in earning their hatred and offering character growth.  If we treat our characters like real people that is typically what happens; we are confronted by challenges in our lives that we must rise up and overcome allowing us growth.  The same happens when the villain uses a character’s weakness against them it opens up opportunities’ for them to grow.

There are downsides to playing villains just like everything else….

Like when the “heroes” rush into the room and demand to kill off the baddies.  I get it, I understand wanting to be the hero.  Heck, that’s one of the reasons I make baddies to play.  However… if I allow everyone to kill off the baddy as soon as it shows up… it kills any chance of a story.  Again, be realistic.  Obviously the villain has been created for some reason… and it is doubtful it was made just to die for any random character wanting to be the hero for the night.

Don’t get me wrong!  We in DCH strive to offer up “Doritos” whenever possible.  Feel free to slaughter as you please!  But if we aren’t offering a character up for such slaughter don’t expect it anyway.  That’s just rude!

Remember… sometimes the villain needs to win. Every now and again, it is always kindest to offer up morsels to your villains!  Otherwise…  The villains appear ineffective, neutered and laughable.  Give us players of villains a break and don’t be stingy; let our baddies win now and again!  Besides… it makes for a better story in the long run!

I don’t know how many times I’ve passed through the lobby and seen things like “Dude, I could play a better bad guy than <insert any of my villainous sns here> because I would kick their fucking asses!  My character would kill all those suckers in a heartbeat!  Oh, I rock out playing an assassin!”

Ok, anyone else see the issue with that way of thinking?  Yes, I could have my big bad waltz into the room and ::Slaughter them all!:: And what would that do for me, my villain or any of the stories I might have been hoping to inspire?  Well…  It would do just what I wrote…  “Slaughter them all”.  No one would play with me!  There’d be no stories but ‘oooo baby, ain’t I the big man on campus now!’ <-  Sarcasm people.

To play my villains respectfully means sometimes my baddies are going to look stupid, seem ineffective, come across as lame to others.  That’s cool with me as long as those I am playing with are having fun and enjoying the shared stories.  But I do see how this could create the illusion that to be a “Great Big Bad” one might think they must BULLY the community to avoid looking lame.

So here’s the thing… which would you rather?  Have people play with you but some may think you are lame or be ignored as a Bully/Powergamer/Godmoder/Metagamer?   Since my goal is interaction not domination, control or the spotlight, I don’t mind people thinking me lame.

The last issue, or downside to playing a villain that I feel worthy of mentioning is the inevitable demand on the player of the villain’s attentions.  Playing a successful villain can easily be overwhelming in a crowded room.  Please be patient, don’t assume you are being ignored.  Send the player an IM, let them know if they missed something in the room.  Be kind, most of us are doing this for you just as much as for ourselves.  Work with us!  If you are confused, ask!  If you want to play and don’t know how, ask!  Communication goes a long way in what it is we do and it really can help us get everything we want out of a scene.  We can make magic working collectively!

A little advice to extend to those who want to play a villain as their primary…

If everyone hating on your character bothers you?  You may want to avoid getting everyone to hate your character by not making it a villain. In fact, you may want to pass your “Big Bad” off as, you know, “A Good Guy” in the public’s eye.  I’m talking about the Wolves in Sheep’s clothing; the seemingly good guy, who may not be nearly as wholesome as his or her reputation suggests.  They are much harder to spot and typically they have to work to keep their “dark secrets” in the background.  This type of villain can be the most rewarding to play, because you reap the favor of the masses while still getting away with all the dirty little dark deeds.  Are they “evil”, are they “bad”?  That is the question, ain’t it?

But please…  If you decide to play your villain in every one’s face?  Don’t get upset when everyone hates your character.  That’s the point of playing a villain.  Don’t want everyone hating on your primary, don’t make your primary a villain.

In closing…

Sure, it takes communication, common sense, respect, a modicum of attention, a little familiarity, and a heck of a lot of guts to play a successful villain but the payoff can be spectacular; a room can light up with the right kind of evil stroking!

Without the bad we wouldn’t see the good; we need the bad so that the good can overcome. Conflict moves the stories. Exterior conflict from a “baddy” helps to team build. It effectively pulls the “Good Guys” closer together as they close ranks. Interior conflict tends to tear groups/characters apart which can end storylines and play-partnerships. Playing a villain isn’t always easy,  and doing it interactively and open can be challenging. Snerts love to jump in and kill without thinking, some players may take umbrage, and many characters are very likely to greet your bad guy with a sneer rather than a smile, but in the end, a good antagonist makes the story go ‘round.

Lan
Howe’s Player
Evil and Proud of It.

Disagree with the author?  Have something to say?  Something to add? Let us know!