For those of you who live under a rock, facial hair is a sure sign of evil. If you’re unsure of the degree of said evil, feel free to consult the handy dandy chart (Warning – TV Tropes link).

Let’s take a moment to talk about tropes and villains in a general sense. There’s a lot of genre knowledge contained within the average gaming group, and there’s a lot of pressure on GMs to step up their game and deliver fresh new takes on shopworn archetypes. I know that I’ve run myself ragged trying to figure out how to make my tyrannical despot a misunderstood antihero, or even turning some low level demon into a hard-working company man just trying to get through the day at the multiverse’s shittiest job. But you know what? Nine times out of ten, subverting the trope is not necessary, or even especially desirable in a tabletop RPG. I’m not saying you shouldn’t shoot for nuance when your characterize your NPCs, but if you’re all the time trying to crank out antagonists with motivations as complex as the heroes’, you’re taking precious character development time away from the most important characters in the story: the ones belonging to your players. My take is that you should reserve the “full character treatment” to BBEGs and especially interesting henchman. My rule of thumb is always there are two, and any more than that is getting into overkill territory.

For my part, I will say that I’m enjoying my latest stock character villain. I just introduced a mustache-twirling elven ambassador into my dragon riders game. He poisoned an escaped captive that the party wanted to question, declared diplomatic immunity, and went back to the evening’s soirée. It was his first appearance, and my players are 100% certain that they hate this guy’s guts. I think that visceral reaction is worth a little sacrifice in the originality department.


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