Advice on playing a villain

Hello! I’m in the process of creating my first character and was wondering if anyone had any advice for playing a villain/antagonist/bad guy role?

Is it inadvisable to play as villain?
Does playing a baddy limit RP?
Should a villain be sly and underhanded or outwardly nefarious?
What do you think would make a cool/unique villain?
etc.

I think a lot of this depends on what you classify as a “villain”, or who your “victims” will be.

Empire has had characters making important military decisions leading to the loss of thousands of civilian lives. Do they count as villains?

It’s also had people con others out of vast wealth for personal gain. Do they count as villains?

Others have delved into religious beliefs that the Synod seems to be heresy, blasphemy or idolatry. Do they count as villains?

Ultimately those against what you’re doing will see you as a baddie, and those who like it will see you as a goodie.

Empire is a game of loyalties and difficult choices, so it may be easier to focus on what your villain wants and why than particularly focusing on trying to play them as a baddie.

Playing a character as specifically antagonistic to another group of people - e.g. orcs, briars, Highborn - that I’ve seen done to great effect, and it is often based on characters having strong, stubborn opinions and ideas based on the setting which flow into in-character actions.

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So, basically I’m having a hard time deciding whether or not to play a more underhanded character. Not sure how much I can discuss OC, but I was thinking of someone along the lines of Disney’s Judge Frollo, Jafar or Scar; not a blustering, loud baddy, but someone with dreams of ultimate power combined with a lack of scruples. I would like to play a Highguard priest, so anything villainous that combines well would be ideal.

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Alternatively, I have considered playing a benevolent and cheery monk (á la Friar Tuck) and battlefield healer. Combined with some over-the-top optimism and a hammed-up version of my west-country accent, I think this could be quite a fun alternative to the dark and scheming Judge Frollo type.

Picture it: “Alright my luvver! Oh dear, yer arm seems to be hangin’ off. Not to worry! We’ll 'ave you fixed up in a jiffy.”

Aaaaaargh… How do you guys create your characters’ personalities when there are so many options?! :sweat_smile:

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Why not do both? You can be entirely antagonistic whilst being jolly and benevolent at the same time after all, and i think its a lot more effective for it as people find you a LOT harder to just write off or ignore.

For example a healer who wont touch Briars because of the taint or orcs because they arent real people dearie, have you tried looking for a vet instead?

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I am not sure it’s possible to have a ‘villain’ in Empire. As mentioned, most villains are just people whose goals opposed the goals of others. Any consistent villain is a hero in their own mind, so you need to know why this person does what they do.

Just be aware that the legal system in Empire can be brutally efficient and the death penalty exists. Assassins and muggers, while common in certain other systems, have short lives because you cannot stop someone screaming for help and you cannot kill someone in one shot. Even when they die, they can be brought back to identify their murderer either by a spell or by a ritual.

Some nations have normalised some definite prejudices (ask a Navarr about Briars, for example) and this can make for interesting roleplay opportunities. The League has a bit of a strange soft spot for confidence tricksters, but also hates people cheating.

You can also be a downtime villain. Some imperial armies have some dark reputations, piracy is not bad work if you have the resources for it, Navarr have a notorious love of poisons and we don’t always want to know what they do between visits to Anvil, Highguard’s Unconquered sound like they do a lot of things which they don’t advertise… Just keep your darker side pointed at non-imperial orcs, vallorn or nations we hate and it’s all good.

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If you want to play the heretic variety of “villain” there are some pretty good suggestions here: https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Schisms_and_Heresies

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I’m not sure to what extent the conman type villain has been explored…

(Have you read “The Lies of Locke Lamora”? Good book, that sort of character)

PD do NOT want random murderers. Power-hungry schemers are fine, conmen who walk off with the orphanage donations are fine, utterly racist xenophobes are fine (and often on brief)…

You could always try being the jolly friar who takes everyones money and never gives it back, manipulating all his flock for what he sees as his own good? :stuck_out_tongue:

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Why am I suddenly thinking of Father Chains?

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I’d say you shouldn’t aim to play a villian, just play a character with a set goal and a distinct line they are willing to cross to achieve that goal. The best villains are the ones who have entirely reasonable intentions.

Also, if you play someone too obviously villainous, you risk being actively targeted by a lot of players, which won’t be fun for you.

I would say my character was probably seen as a villain by some members of Highguard and other nations because of his stance on some particular plot (and his ability to influence that plot). I didn’t set out to be that, I just got involved in plot and knew what I wanted to achieve. It’s just that was at odds to others goals.

So, don’t try to be a baddie (because at worst the will come across as ham-fisted and obvious), just play a character who’s prepared to do what it takes to get what they want.

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Here’s some great advice from the always helpful LARPHACKS :slight_smile:

FAKE IT: Playing a Villain

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Lots of useful advice, thanks!

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Most of the Virtues can be quite Villainous. (not an accident)

  • Ambition (aka Scar) - I want this, and fratricide is only a small step.
  • Wisdom (aka Dr Jekyll) - I did it for Science!
  • Pride (aka Gaston) - I’m amazing, an inspiration to all around me.
  • Prosperity (any suggestions?) - Keep that money rolling, rob the miser and spend it!
  • Courage (aka Faust) - I dared do what others would not.
  • Loyalty (aka Magneto) - Mutants deserve to rule, they are clearly superior.
  • Vigilance (aka Palpatine) - They were a threat to the Republic.

Add to this the principle of Clemency and consider what Better Call Saul could do with it, and you’ve any number of villains.

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You can also combine virtues:

  • Prosperity - Money and resources should be used for the betterment of all; I plan to steal from a hoarder so I can spend their money and enrich the whole empire…
  • Vigilance v2.0 - If they do not recognise a scam, they are not being vigilant enough.

Suddenly, your ‘crime’ is an ideological attack on an unvirtuous person in the name of two Virtues. It would be heresy not to do it!

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I’d put aside the words “Villain” or “Bad Guy” and focus on antagonist. That’s a person who has good reasons for what they’re doing, they just aren’t willing to compromise with another group of people about what they both want. This kind of character is much loved by the Empire game runners as they’ll generate game all by themselves by grabbing hold of plot and refusing to compromise for “The Greater Good”. For this they will be villified as unmutual and “wrong 'uns” but stand fast as you make great game :slight_smile:.

Last time I played someone like this I put myself very much in the mindset that he was a patriot doing what he did to protect his people from outside aggression. Yes some people might have died in the name of progress but well you can’t make weapons of mass destruction without breaking some eggs and all that. Just keep in mind that you’re the hero here and people who disagree with you are the selfish no-goodniks. It’s all about a healthy sense of self belief, which handily the Virtues entirely support. Just pick a virtue or two and go hard, possibly with the aid of hallowings, annointings, other auras or even tonics to push aside any pesky second thoughts.

The other thing to do is have a self supporting world-view and reasons for why you do what you do. As a Highborn you will have an entirely justifiable suspicion of the eternals and their toxic effect on the Empire. So worrying about how that’s going to effect the souls of the lineaged is the right and virtuous thing to do. Other people might be negligent but you will shoulder the burden of protecting the rest of the Empire from the threats they don’t see.

And again don’t think of disney villains, think like Cardinal Richelieu villain to some, but he and many would consider him a patriot who helped create France and indeed the idea of the modern centralised state.

Highborn Synod Priests are the politicians of the nation and as with most things if you’re in power (which you need to be able to get shit done) someone else isn’t. Even just playing a politician and playing the political “game” will cast you as a villain to some, you won’t even need to twiddle your mustache, unless you want to :).

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