Most people take a binary view of things: good and evil, black and white, order and chaos, etc. Others argue a trinary view, where gray, balance, and middle ground are as clearly defined as the polar opposites. Still others argue that it's all an illusion, and the concepts of good and Evil are only the result of an inadequate mind attempting to relate much higher concepts in a way that it can understand.
Granted, most of the folks you hear about in the third group are attempting to justify actions people in the other two groups would consider horrific... If it's all an illusion, then satisfying my own idle curiosity by releasing a necrotic, flesh-sculpting virus that drives its victims hopelessly insane is not really that different from making a nice apple pie for orphans, right?
|OMFG WE CAN HAZ PIE?!|
When it comes right down to it, what defines the evil that our players (hopefully) strive against? How do you motivate them beyond the promise of wealth and other fabulous prizes? Aside from railroading them into a specific story, how do you engage them and keep them interested in Mr. Big Bad?
MOAR after the bump.
Big Block of Small Disclaimers
Not every opponent will be evil. Not every villain should be evil incarnate. Every henchman need not know what the Master has planned, and your players will react more strongly to 'real' evil when it's encountered if it's not something they face every single second of every single game. Give Evil a break, it's got a rough job.
|Overlord Winky brushes his whiskers and|
decares, "TO WAR, MY MINIONS! Also, Wendy
in Human Resources will be defiling your corpses
via sodomy-induced necromancy. Should you
have any questions, please consult your
pre-employment agreements." Mr. Flopsy
suddenly regrets neglecting the fine print.
Yet both of these are so frequent that they're considered common tropes.
Still, every RPG system I'm familiar with has a progression system, and most people view these things as necessary evils. However, in the interest of realism, drama, and making the final battle the culmination of months of fear and frustration, allowing them the feel of achieving something truly epic, I present another option:
Run the #@$% away. We've already established that your players are unlikely to be actually heroic, so pride is the most likely culprit for resistance to this idea. Still, when they see an army of rampaging demons headed their way, they're more likely to understand that standing and fighting is a poor choice. It's unlikely you're going to be awarding experience and lewtz for running away, and your players are NOT going to enjoy themselves spending every playing moment fleeing for their lives and not accomplishing anything, so much of the conflict in your games is free to come from outside the primary Hero/Villain relationship.
What does that mean? When the bad guys and his minions show up, it becomes a catastrophic event until much later in the game. Your players won't need much prodding to hate the Evil guy, as they'll be itching to take down the menace that's made them feel helpless in their fantasy where they should feel powerful.
|If you're only using four measly Horsemen of|
the Apocalypse, UR DOIN IT WRONG.
All that sodomy-induced necromancy will only keep the minion pool going for so long, and you've got to have a decent base to start out from, so we have to discuss the dirty business of contract labor. Sure, your villain may pick out his minions from the folks congregating about the (world-equivalent) hardware store, but chances are that if he did, he didn't get far enough to be a credible threat. Not having credible threats really only works for the first few levels of the game, or for the odd bout of comedic gameplay.
When we're talking about major antagonists, we want both quality and quantity. The rank and file troops deserve thorough discussion, but for today we're going to focus on the lieutenants--they're most likely to have a profound impact on the game, and they present far more opportunities for intense storytelling drama.