Rant A Week

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Rant A Week

Post  Vayne on Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:10 am

Every week, I'm going to be doing a rant. Want to request a topic? As long as it doesn't violate guild rules, feel free. Why am I doing this? Because it's fun and, sometimes, offers constructive insight. Sometimes.



Rant of the Week: Villains.

What the heck is with people when making a story, game, movie, tabletop campaign, what-have-you, they make the villain out to be some unrelatable monster? I propose to you: faceless puppetmasters and Tolkienesque Dark Lords are some of the worst villains to exist. Easy? Sure. Effective? Not as such. Let's compare two villains, Bob and Joe.

Bob comes from an ambiguous background and frequently wears a hood to obscure his face. He controls the Army of Lamesgard through magic, and his motives are simple: he wants power. Later in the story, he becomes more overt in actions and does all sorts of horrible actions to make you hate him like killing babies and stealing the souls of the fallen. In comes the heroes, who cut him down to hear him wail, "I hate my dad!" The heroes are renowned and are full of pride and joy at having put down such scum.

Um, right. That's nice, Bob, but who is your dad? Why were you trying to take over the world in the first place? Why are you such a jerkbutt? You see, while Bob is certainly big and scary, there is no depth to him. He's a 2-dimensional entity consisting of the letters E-V-I-L. There is no substance. he is depraved and power hungry simply because he is depraved and power hunger. Or, perhaps, because he hates his dad. But we don't have enough context to make much out of that. Time for Joe.

Joe was born to a standard family in the Betterstory Empire. He had a hard childhood, his father skipping out and his mother of a frail constitution. As a matter of fact, let's be really sadistic, and say his mother dies when he's ten, leaving him with his four year old sister. He grows up raising her, because what else could he do? He is beaten and battered by a world that couldn't afford to care, but he was okay. Because she gave him meaning. He watches fondly, but protectively, as she grows. He was uneducated, but with an indomitable will and love for a world that didn't love back. But a skirmish--an uprising of the people promptly silenced by the military--leaves him holding her still-warm body in his arms. Slowly, he rises. The Empire was an oppressive monster, and he would make them pay no matter the cost.

Joe joined the Resistance, and grew in power, driven by thoughts of his departed sister. He would avenge her. He would avenge her. He..would avenge her. No matter the cost. As time goes, Joe takes more and more radical measures to meet his goal. This eventually leads to the Moral Event Horizon, where a character becomes irredeemable. In this instance, perhaps he sees a normal man trying to protect his own sister--a wounded soldier in a siege on the Palace. He begs Joe to stop. Pleads, asserting she wasn't a threat. But she..she was one of *them*. One of the people who took everything from him. He cuts both of them down, only to realize what he had done. *In trying to fight monsters, he had become one*. Joe is horribly aware of what he's done, but he's too far gone to care. The last shreds of his humanity beg silently to be stopped, but the rest of him is a machine fulfilling it's purpose: revenge. At the death of Joe, he realizes all that he has done. Something in the hero moves him to see the error of his ways, but he's too late. Joe dies thinking of all the people he had harmed. And for all his efforts at revenge, it solved nothing. Joe died alone.

You tell me. Which villain is more powerful?







Comments are always welcome.

If you're wondering, Bob's dad took his train as a child. No-one would ever take something from him again.
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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Auramune on Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:37 am


Well, I think this falls under the villain of two different types of horror types. Villains are typically based off of things that people are afraid of. Making them able to react and feel what's happening to the characters in the story, in some fashion. Fears are very personal.

Some people are frightened by the unknown dark evils, and just that is enough to make them scared. Even without substance; the occult, dark scary, supernatural, things that go bump in the night.. just the very presence of them is enough to send shivers up peoples spines. Or use graphic imaging to distort a ghost in to some mouthless black-eyed abomination.

On the other hand, some people are more afraid of "real" fears. A psychopath serial killers, or the government setting off a bomb to detain a virus. That sort of stuff. They delve deep in to mind to bring out realistic horrors.

So really, it's all a matter of who finds what scary.
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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Lenaliere on Sat Oct 20, 2012 12:21 pm

Auramune wrote:
Well, I think this falls under the villain of two different types of horror types. Villains are typically based off of things that people are afraid of. Making them able to react and feel what's happening to the characters in the story, in some fashion. Fears are very personal.

Some people are frightened by the unknown dark evils, and just that is enough to make them scared. Even without substance; the occult, dark scary, supernatural, things that go bump in the night.. just the very presence of them is enough to send shivers up peoples spines. Or use graphic imaging to distort a ghost in to some mouthless black-eyed abomination.

On the other hand, some people are more afraid of "real" fears. A psychopath serial killers, or the government setting off a bomb to detain a virus. That sort of stuff. They delve deep in to mind to bring out realistic horrors.

So really, it's all a matter of who finds what scary.

I agree with this.



@Vayne: I do admit though, Bob is not very developed. The father comment made him LESS scary. If he were just a guy doing all of this for S and giggles, he would've been a lot scarier. Some people just LIKE to cause random destruction. Having to deal with someone like that would be frightening, simply because there's no negotiating. They. Will. Kill. You. Or. Get. Killed. No middle ground.

On the other hand, Joe seems to be someone that others will fear too. Why? Because he's actually more like the COMMON human. It brings up questions about one's self. "Will I go off the deep end? Could I become someone like that?" However, those fears are about you yourself and not the people around you.

The first is still scary because they exist, they will always be that way, and you can't do anything about it. You're helpless to do anything but put this guy down to save the world. Will you question if there was another way? Maybe. Will you believe that it was the right thing to do? Maybe. However, you will NOT forget that others will exist like that, and that they will ALL do all of this on a whim. I mean look at Cathy/Kate from East of Eden. She was evil just for the sake of it. Nothing that comes up early in the story or later on shows that she did all of this because of trauma. She had always loved lying and deceit. On the other hand, she does feel remorse later, however what that is from is not stated plain out. It COULD have just been because she'd lost her iron fist grip of manipulation. I'd be scared of that.

The second is scary because they exist, they haven't always been that way, and you COULD do something about it. However will you truly waste time trying to help this person? Will you risk lives trying to save the one man or woman who has been trying to end them, simply because they weren't always that way? I don't think I need an example for this one, because you're agreeing with the fact that this type of villain is scary, Vayne. I think.

Sometimes, what's scary isn't just the action of the villains. It's the affect that they have on the hero. I know that I'D be more afraid facing a psychopath/sociopath with no chance of coming back to sanity and being a productive, happy member of society more than someone who just had a bad past and went down the wrong path. That's just my opinion though.

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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Vayne on Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:31 pm

I can see both your points. Though, rants aren't meant to sway anyone. It's just me, being bored, and expressing how I think. I've never been a fan of Tolkien villains. But, that's just me. I prefer my villains to be real and relatable. Because monsters don't just exist. They're made, somehow. How terrifying it is, to stare evil incarnate in the face. Scarier still is it to look and see something human beneath all the terror. Something that was redeemable once. It's the basis for most of my creative writing as far as villains go. That, or they're not evil, just radical or desperate.
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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Lenaliere on Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:38 pm

Vayne wrote:I can see both your points. Though, rants aren't meant to sway anyone. It's just me, being bored, and expressing how I think. I've never been a fan of Tolkien villains. But, that's just me. I prefer my villains to be real and relatable. Because monsters don't just exist. They're made, somehow. How terrifying it is, to stare evil incarnate in the face. Scarier still is it to look and see something human beneath all the terror. Something that was redeemable once. It's the basis for most of my creative writing as far as villains go. That, or they're not evil, just radical or desperate.

I understand what you're saying. I just felt like contributing. I always feel like I don't do that enough.

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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Vayne on Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:06 pm

And everyone is more than welcome to!
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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Dellinger on Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:43 pm

It really depends on what you're going for in a plot sometimes, as well. And this includes character development. In gaming, there are advantages to picking each type of villain for your 'big baddy.' I say this, having done both and knowing some of the dynamics involved with using those villains and what that means for the plot.

The villain who is relatable gives the heroes a conflict within themselves. If the villain is truly developed, and have what he believes are good intentions, as well as having intentions that could possibly sway the player characters, the conclusion of the plot effectively courts the possibility of strong party betrayal and tests the characters' loyalty to themselves. The progression of trust looks something like this.

  1. Trusted
  2. Conflicted
  3. Betrayal / Loyalty / Complete side switching
  4. Eventual resolution


An unrelatable villain allows for party gathering that allows for a more dynamic party, in essence. A villain who is totally unrelatable gives GMs and players the ability to work with "Parties that would not normally ally themselves to each other" to function. The goal of ousting the "big bad" overrides the personal feelings of each character, and gives these normally not-so-friendly races to put aside their differences to reach a goal favorable to all of their races. Progression of trust is as follows:

  1. Unknown / Possibly Conflicted
  2. Skeptical Trust
  3. Comraderie in the face of Annihilation or something of the sort
  4. Resolution as a party


The use of various villains really depends on the plot people want to follow up on. Both can be well developed, but a lot of times the choice of villain also depends on what sort of development the GM wants to inspire in the characters. Does he want to challenge them with strong inner-party tension, or does he want to unite them in a common goal and give them a reason to break the ideals and traditions their held to? And these are only a couple of ways that each villain can be used effectively in a pen-and-paper game. Sometimes a combination of the two is just as fun.

Dellinger's Two Cents.
Cheers.
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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Kenelm on Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:41 pm

I believe I've seen villains of both generalizations in action.

On a tangent: I think the Traditional Fantasy alternate universe setting currently has both simply to have slightly different flavors of chaos.


Getting back on track: I'd like to suggest hero types get discussed next.

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Re: Rant A Week

Post  Vayne on Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:07 pm

Very well. Next week I'll go into a much longer and more diverse rant on heroes.
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