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Super Bad Villains.
Showing off your 🍑 in Antagonist for superhero roleplaying games.
Superhero games need super-level antagonists. Antagonists bring the conflict to the setting. They might be “evil,” but you should also give them other motivations. In your early game sessions, your players may not be proactive in being superheroes; bring those villains, adversaries, and rivals in hot. They don't have to wait for the players to take action. These are folks with schemes, agendas, and the willpower to execute! Hard framing scenes is a near-game-universal GM ability. As long as the players look to you for answers, you keep bringing on the heat by framing the next scene. Superheroes have historically been reactive to the whims of the supervillain. I love running supers roleplaying games; I feel like it’s the genre where the GM gets to totally run amok with a supervillain.
Antagonists come from a cornucopia of places. In Champions Now, which I'm currently neck deep in, each player's situation will suggest adversaries. From the obvious Hunteds to the problems a Dependent NPC comes with -but this could be any Supers RPG. Inside the character's mundane life is the landlord, the unruly neighbors, the clingy coworker, or the nosy boss.
Motivations > evil. Villains should have motivations, a purpose, a scheme, but they don't have to be sympathetic. Decide on motivations for them that make sense for your game. Your antagonist can also be more than just one person; you can put several of them into play to challenge the players regularly. Inanimate objects can work well as antagonists too. In the movie Armageddon where an asteroid was on a collision course with Earth. It was the antagonist to a team of miners sent to handle it. Your antagonists must create tension in the game by making the players act toward what they care about. You can accomplish this by tying your antagonists into things already happening in their characters’ lives. If a rival NPC has some influence over one player's character, then connect that NPC to another PC to make matters dramatically messy. These cross-connections can create tension within a group during play making NPCs we love to hate. We want an antagonist with several goals and interests that can be pursued simultaneously. We want an antagonist directly or indirectly tied to other PCs or NPCs of interest. We also want them to be persistent over time to have lasting effects on the game world and characters.
My best example is my “YoungWild KATS” Champions Now game. Black Tom was an NPC supervillain gone straight. Both player-characters had NPC moms they spent points on, a teacher, and a lawyer. I connected Black Tom’s situation with both mothers. He worked as a consultant for one and was the college boyfriend of the other. The first session was letting the characters discover these connections as they and several law enforcement squads followed Black Tom, dressed in a suit, down a school block to his first day at work. We played to find out the messy rest.
Nothing new here; you’ve seen these motivational triggers...
• I’ll liberate my people from ___ by capturing a PC’s technology to do it.
• My parents were killed by a superhero (accident) - I will make the PC’s group pay the consequences.
• Through conflict, we are made stronger. Survival of the fittest. Are the PCs strong enough? I must test them.
• I don't trust technology. The PCs have too much and might be a threat to the world.
• Millenia ago, my people were nearly wiped out. I was one of the few who survived. I am avenging my people by opposing the PCs.
• ___ is the scourge of the universe. I will make it my mission to destroy it/them.
• ___ has taken everything from us. We will have our revenge.
• My science experiments are too dangerous for the normal world. I will use the PC’s universe to test them.
• I will free my home world from the grip of the PC’s people.