Long Campaign Technique: Antagonist Audition

August 15, 2014

I spend most of my gaming time running long campaigns with fairly little preparation. The purpose of this series is to describe some of the techniques I use. This technique is my favorite method to produce villains, a strategy I’ve dubbed the Antagonist Audition.

In running long games players and their characters will interact with many different characters in the world you are building together during play. As the GM (or what not), you will create most of these. Some of these characters will be prospective rivals, enemies, threats, or impediments to the players’ and their character’s goals.

What you want to take careful note of during these encounters is how the players react. If there is a strong enough connection or response, that suggests your obstructing character or characters may serve as a future villain. Just be careful that the response isn’t a borderline issue trigger or simple annoyance.

Based on that first audition, bring the antagonists who passed back for a second one. Think about your stable of interesting troublemakers and consider it when you are looking for a foil or problem down the line. This second audition is crucial, since here you will determine if the connection with the potential villain is strong enough to make a truly memorable enemy. Be open to other possibilities though, sometimes old enemies can become friends or at least allies.

Once an antagonist passes their second audition you can start thinking about their plans on a larger, longer scale. This is when you decide how your villain will be repeatedly running afoul of the players’ characters. This indicates you are leaving what I think of as the first phase of the campaign, you are establishing fixtures and starting to reincorporate elements more and more. Eventually if the villain survives and stays interesting it will make it to the last phase, where you crank up the tension and start to tie off the threads you’ve built together.

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