What makes a good villain?

Many times, there are people who want to be able to play a villain for your (or their own) story, but I have found that many people seem to miss the mark on these kinds of characters. I have had issues, many times, when playing in someone’s RP that they allow a player to be the main villain (co-villain in the case of survival RPs), but they don’t truly understand what makes a villain evil. The other issue is that sometimes you will have people that try to play a villain too over the top for the setting they are walking into. I am going to go over a few different types of villain players that I find the most that ruin an otherwise great RP, and then go over what I have done in the past as a villain that has gotten people asking me to play the villain for their RP.
I have played in many different types of RP in my time. Modern, Future, Sci-Fy, High Fantasy, Modern Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Wilderness Survival, you name it! In many I have played from Lawful Good, to Chaotic Evil, and trust me it isn’t like it just came naturally to me. Playing extreme viewed characters is not easy for anyone until you gain an understanding of the character you are playing, and I find that this is where most people have a disconnect. I have come across many-a RP killing villains as-well-as many good villains; all having the same traits in their areas. Though I could go through all the types of villains I have seen I have been able to fit them into three basic categories: Bulldozer Villain, Its my Job Villain, and Development Villain.

“You may know me from my work.” The masked man says as he activates the hand detonator. Several floors of a hotel/office building/what-have-you explode, as is begins to fall to the ground. “I am the villain, and that is my work.”

Okay, terrible writing, but the point is there. Many, many, MANY people play villains like this and think that is how villains are. They are a bulldozer of bad things; where ever they go they have to destroy something, disrupt the norm, kill as many people as possible in order to make sure you know he is the bad guy, he is the one everyone hates. I mean sure if you gun down a bunch of people MW2 style, you’re the bad guy, you are the guy that people are going to want to stop because killing people for no reason is bad, but his is also your down fall in the grand scheme of things… You are doing this for no reason. Your villain is essentially doing bad things, just to be stopped. You are doing these things to make people fear you, but you don’t have any real weight to your actions. Today you will blow up a bank, tomorrow you will mass shoot a park, but how are these correlated? Your “bad guy” is no more than a deranged person with unlimited resources. You aren’t getting anywhere, you have no build to your crimes or deeds.

There was a survival RP I was in a LONG time back that was really fun. We all played survivors of a commercial plane crash on an island of unknown kind. After a few days we deduced it was somewhere in the tropics thanks to a biologist character who was able to classify some of the animals and plants. After a few weeks of playing we had developed a pretty cohesive group battling the elements of survival when the GM allowed an outside player (Not part of our formed group) play an antagonist to make things interesting. We were okay with this until he decided to make his first post. Now keep in mind that only a week had passes within the game, and he opened in this manner: His character was finishing up driving a bit of plane into the chest of what was a survivor as they screamed in pain before they died. Tying them to pike he stood them next to five other dead figures. Strolling past the now empty huts he came to one where three girls were tied laying on the floor. “You’re going to wish you had died on the plane.” He said as he threw a lit torch into the hut. (que bad guy walking away from burning victims.)

There were several issues with his post that involved having made a small encampment later he said had walls within a week of time without proper tools, know how, and time. He also had started his path as a bulldozer killing machine with the personality trait of Psychotic. That was it. That was how he wanted to play the villain of a Wilderness Survival RP. Needless to say; after his second character post the RP died and my friend PMed me with some very choice terms for that guy. This is the case where a villain has no motive, drive, or reasoning behind his actions. I could see this character working in other RPs, but was completely out of place in a Survival RP.

Another Bulldozer I experienced was in one of my DCU RPs where we had moved on to chapter 2 of our RP, yes; I have plans that span for generally 3-4 chapters. We had a group of hero characters, as well as a Deviant Hero group, and two major villains. One was played by me and was the over arching villain, and the other was played by a good friend of mine who was a leader of a multi-gang crime ring that was under the main villain. These groups worked well, but the two “hero” groups were working through the leads and story a bit quicker than I had thought. So, I put out a feeler for another villain, but I wanted it to be someone from the outside in order to get more OC in the game. I found someone who was willing to do some reading to catch up and jump in as a multidimensional villain. I thought this would be great, we could throw in some cult activity, some monsters, take detour into some lite horror. Unfortunately, this person thought they needed to make a statement and start with their character on the top of the most feared list by erecting a monolithic tower in the middle of down town. The tower destroyed three city blocks, and over shadowed the tallest building in the city. She said to me. “This is the only way my character would be able to contend with the powers in play.” At this time the City was governed normally with some increased gang activities. Nothing major had happened to make the city a power struggle, but this person felt the need to derail the entire plot in order to make an entrance.

This is a bulldozer villain that will do whatever it takes to make sure the spotlight in on them. They are the kind of people that feel mass destruction, Over the top actions, and making sure the stand out as being bad is the way a villain is played. This is how you make people know you are the villain yes, but at least have a build up to these kinds of things. You can’t just have everything already in place to blow up half the town on a moment’s notice. You have to work your way to these kinds of events. Make a story out of it or you just seem pointless to fight. No amount of planning will stop you from mass destruction if it is already in place.

Please stay tuned I intend to continue this three part post with the next part being about the "Its my job" type villains with their, I am evil because I am the bad guy here mentality. Then the final part about how I was able to eventually come across a few Development Villains and play one of my own that my friends tell me they truly miss. feel free to PM me with questions, or just leave them here and I will try to get to them as soon as I can.

Until next time,
Stay Tilted.