As a creator and GM, I find myself constantly chasing that spark of inspiration to start the engine that is my mind. It’s an artist’s duty; to find things in the natural world and turn them into something fantastic. Luckily, with the information age that we live in, we can do this from the comfort of our homes. It never really compares to getting out there and seeing the real world, but for someone strapped for time and money, it suffices. We’re constantly bombarded with pop-culture media, eagerly devouring other people’s creative work. When you lack inspiration, why not just mash some stuff together and change the details? It’s easy to make things look original when you do that. Today we’ll be looking at some, in my opinion, pretty underrated villains that could be used as some inspiration. Shall we?
1) The Lich (Adventure Time)
Though a show intended for kids, Adventure Time has some pretty gripping themes with an incredible plot that hides under the veil of childish silliness. Finn the human is constantly battling evil forces from the past, present, and future all at once whilst trying to find any remnants his species in a world that has been morphed by a catastrophic event called “The Mushroom War.” When a majority of the people you know are talking candy people or animated objects, it’s a wonder how Finn was able to become such a strapping young lad. The big antagonist of the series is a fellow who simply goes by The Lich.
There’s a ridiculous amount of speculation around his background and where he comes from, but everybody can agree on one thing: he’s a complete and total badass. Just to give you an idea, he’s voiced by Ron Perlman in the show. It’s beyond perfect. Basically, The Lich is your cookie cutter “I need to kill everything” type bad guy. There’s something about how he’s animated and his speech pattern that just chills you to the core. Taking some of the speculation around how he came to be, what he’s actually done in the show, and what he may yet do would be a great way to lay the basis for a similar villain. The Lich is simple but an incredibly satisfying villain. Ossen, the big bad necromancer from my Ald Sotha game, was based off him, although given a more concrete goal and terrifying means of interacting with the player characters from afar. Dangerously cunning, immensely powerful, and just outright creepy. Certainly some traits that make for a fantastic undead villain!
2) Sharku (The Lord Of The Rings Films)
Being given no more background information than a sinister look in The Two Towers, Sharku is a surprisingly cool bad guy. This dude was the captain of the warg riders in the second film, and that was one of two scenes he was in. To be fair, he’s a character fabricated by Peter Jackson for the films, so there isn’t any depth to him that can be considered Tolkien canon. Since then, he’s had an appearance in a couple of the video games, but nothing more. For a villain that didn’t do anything besides throw Aragorn off a cliff, gloat, cough, and die a gurgling death, he had a profound impact on me. I had imagined his past as the leader of a largely annoying and harrying force to the free peoples of Middle Earth, a constant problem forced to be reckoned with.
Orc dudes riding around on wargs is no foreign concept to fantasy RPGs by any stretch. Plopping this one down into a campaign could be cool for a long-term villain that pops in and out of the PCs lives every now and again. Alternatively, making him just an episode villain for the night could be interesting. Given the fact that he’s such a minor villain in the films means that, unless you’re playing with LotR nerds, you can probably get away with using the same name, even. Give him the same attitude, a badass group of elite warg riders, and a bit of backstory to have an aesthetically pleasing, simple to build villain.
3) Nemesis (Resident Evil 3)
Everybody who played this game still pees a little when they hear something in the distance grumble, “S.T.A.R.S”. Nemesis was the ultimate killing machine in Resident Evil 3, relentless and stoic. What a lot of people didn’t think of until the film Resident Evil: Apocalypse, (which was terrible, though the special effects were cool) is that Nemesis actually could have a bit of a story to him. The film changes the original story a bit, but it’s generally similar. Nemesis was an offshoot of Umbrella Corporation’s “Tyrant” program, an experiment to create a bio-weapon that was unstoppable and autonomous. The main program worked, but Tyrant was a little lackluster, giving birth to Nemesis. He was intelligent, could follow orders even, but was simply a killing machine that made your heart scream in protest every time he showed up. His orders? Find and destroy any remaining members of Raccoon City’s S.T.A.R.S division, as they’re the ones who uncovered their sinister plot in the original Resident Evil.
The film took an interesting take on the subject, making Nemesis created from one of the main protagonist’s close friends. It gives the creature a little more depth, especially since it can still think, though bound to its creator to a degree. Taking this concept and morphing it into something that fits in a campaign could be a simple yet effective idea.
These are just a few of some villains who are easily swept under the carpet due to their seeming lack of depth. In the case of Sharku, I suppose it’s not just seemingly so, he actually didn’t do much of anything. Man, that poor guy wasn’t around very long. Picking up on the small ticks of seemingly tropey or innocuous villains and injecting that into something you’re creating could add something truly special to a campaign. Post comments about some transformations you’ve given to pre-existing villains!
Sean is the Heavy Metal GM. He’s an aspiring freelance writer and blogger that loves the hobby more than life itself. Always up for a good discussion, his blog covers general gaming advice as well as specialized advice/homebrew rules for 13th Age RPG. You can find his website at www.heavymetalgm.com, join the conversation.
Picture Reference: http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/Nemesis_(Resident_Evil)
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.