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Update from the AaW Art Department!

In Art Department news, the crew is working feverishly to produce an adventure trilogy written by Jonathan Nelson and Stephen Yeardley. Todd is working on maps for the first of this series, and they are coming along just fine.

The art department is also working on visuals for another exciting contest. The title of the contest is “You can win this treasure trove”, a juicy prize for sure, several original pieces of art from a TSR AD&D card game, three popular Forgotten Realms novels signed by Todd Gamble for the cartography he did in them, and an awesome unique “Umber Hulk” preproduction resin casting from the D&D minis line, PLUS a free one year annual membership to

In other news, more dungeon tiles are in the works as well as side quest maps for those who cannot get enough adventure! Todd is also producing more fascinating maps for, a companion site for game masters everywhere who want a trove of great maps.

Tim Tyler, our wonderful character and cover artist is working on some professional illustration projects for himself and while he is working on these projects, Tim has introduced us on to another wonderful artist, (Silvano, from Italy) Welcome to the team Silvano! Stay tuned for more fun stuff from the art department!


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Under His Skin by Michael McCarthy

Jonathan: Michael, please tell us what inspired you to write “Under His Skin” your latest adventure module released on

Michael: Every adventure is inspired by something. A book, a movie, an exciting moment in one game, that the writer wants to crystallize for the reader to experience.

Hi, I’m Michael McCarthy, and I’m going to be talking about what inspired me on my recent adventure, Under His Skin, and my upcoming one, It All Falls down.

Now, the former one is simple – as my first offering for Adventureaweek, I wanted to make sure it was accessible; level one, and it had to be relatable too; which is why I went with the theme of ‘a wizard did it’, one of the tried and true core concepts in adventure writing. There’s even a chapter named after the idea – a wizard built it – because I wanted to pass the feeling on to the reader even beyond the tower and the jungle itself.

It All Falls Down was less clear, when I started, what the adventure was going to be. All I knew is that I wanted to include one major encounter that felt like a movie scene, with the players outrunning a ceiling bent on collapsing. Why did I want that? Because, of all things, of an environmental effect in Skyrim, where a little bit of dust falls from the ceiling as you pass through a door. That’s right: a particle effect.

From there, there were lots of options, particularly whether I wanted to set the collapse on its own, or as part of a bigger dungeon. Maybe a giant was smashing through the ceilings of the building the pcs were running through. Or maybe the dungeon could collapse as the pcs try and escape with a maguffin.

In the end, I went with a chase scene, which was closer to the movie feel that I was trying to replicate anyways. And, it introduced the new problem of what to do with the group now that their exit was buried under tons of rock. They would escape, of course.

The underground portion was based on an excellent game I played some time ago – Avernum. Each exit is guarded in its own way; dragons, hazards, secrets. But there were ways out, and the players would find them.

For anyone of you who write your own adventures, remember. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and anything could inspire you if you need it too. In a few months, my adventure To Catch a Serpent comes out, and it was inspired by a mislabeled cardboard box in a warehouse. Like I said – anything.

Jonathan:  You can read Michael’s adventure “Under His Skin” and any upcoming adventures as they are released as a subscriber to, or alternatively purchase them on or!

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Pathways Magazine and Adventureaweek join forces!

Pathways Magazine has joined forces with Adventureaweek!

A new featured AaW article will appear in Pathways each month written by AaW team members Will Myers, Nathan Land, and Cory Vickruck.  It’s free so pick up your copy now at!

How can you say “No” to a collection of Pathfinder haunts and templates, high-level foes and minor constructs, feats and domains, and all of it bundled together with a collected view of upcoming third-party products for the Pathfinder RPG? You’d have to be crazy to turn it down.

The first of each month Rite Publishing brings you Pathways, a free ‘zine packed with plenty of Open Game Content for you to take to the table. You’ll find articles by Jonathan McNulty (Coliseum Morpheuon), T. H. Gulliver (#30 Haunts for Ships and Shores), Robert Emerson, Steven D. Russell and a host of other Pathfinder-compatible publishers. In every issue there are also interviews, reviews and more.

You can download your free copy at DrivethruRpg or
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When the Ship Goes Down by Stephen Yeardley

Jonathan: Stephen, tell us a bit about A12: When the Ship Goes Down and what inspired you to write this adventure.

Stephen: Well, this was inspired by one of the two comments from our group that have stuck with me most as I DMed. Foz, a player that really likes to know what’s going on before he flies into action, had been caught out by a trap and for a while, his character’s mantra became;

“I check there’s a floor to this room…”

(For the record, the other comment is, “You greedy dwarf, you’ve eaten all the candles!” But that’s another tale.)

I’m also a big fan of confusing PCs’ expectations. PCs are mostly used to getting their own way, so, for example, in A6, they are thwarted at every turn and have to go through a lot before they succeed and in areas of A9, many of their expected ways of doing something have to be changed completely around.

So it struck me that PCs expect “the dungeon” to be a certain way up. We’d looked at zero-gravity in A9, so didn’t want a repeat, but sometimes it’s a minor difference rather than a major one that becomes the inconvenience. What might that inconvenience be?

Two films came to mind as well. “The Cube”, which has been an inspiration in many ways for a decade and a half, as it goes from providing ideas for deadly traps all the way to showing the way characters’ feelings ebb and flow, albeit in a shortened timeframe, and to a lesser degree, “The Undiscovered Country” with its the assassination scene, not because of the anti-gravity, but the way it looks with the assassins in the magnetic boots, climbing up and down at different angles.

Of course, creatures that can fly, climb well or just plain float won’t ave any probem with any of this, so the inconvenience is only for the PCs, who must either be well equipped, use lots of magic or just climb a lot. That fighter in his banded mail, boy, I bet he wishes it wasn’t quite so heavy…

Jonathan: You can read Stephen Yeardley’s adventure “When the Ship Goes Down” right now on or purchase the PDF which should be released on Paizo and RPGnow sometime next week! Enjoy!

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Death is Cheap: Resurrection

Death is Cheap: Resurrection

A brave band of adventurers is fighting their way through Castle D’Evil, when Fortuitous the Brave, a Paladin of some renown, perishes under the overwhelming attack of the rabid dire badgers!  Once the evil badgers have been dispatched, Porcini the Monk, to whom Fortuitous was betrothed, begins weeping openly for the loss of her love.  Tankeroneous the Fighter places a comforting hand on Porcini’s should.  “Don’t worry, Por.  The nearest high-level cleric is only a day’s ride away!  Forty will be back on his feet in no time!”

Death is something that everyone must face, especially RPG characters.  It’s a fact of life, so to speak.  As a group, you may allow for the “character’s twin brother” to appear, claim their stuff, and continue on.  Or you might require the player to roll up a new character.  But what are the actual effects of character death?  Unfortunately, the questions that come from this topic are difficult to answer and, ultimately, the DM has to come up with those answers.

In this week’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’ll be looking at character death and what it means for you (the DM), your players, your world in general, and what you can do about it.  This week’s example character will be poor Fortuitous the Brave.  This article was inspired by “Back From the Dead” in Dragon #210 and “Cheating Death” in Dragon #342.


So, Fortuitous is dead.  Maybe he was eaten by wolves or zapped by a Wizard or they suffered from a terminal case of pointy-metal-stick-to-the-gutsosis.  But it just so happens that a wandering (or wondering) Cleric strolls by and by taking 1 minute out of his day (and giving up a diamond worth 5,000 gp), casts raise dead, and Fortuitous is back!  Huzzah!  More stabbing!

Yeah, that's a critical hit


But wait.  Is Fortuitous the same person he was before he died?  What did Fortuitous experience when they were dead?  Heaven?  Hell?  The Abyss?  Celestia?  New Jersey?  Was he happy where he was, only to be sucked back to earth for another chance to put the beating on the evil archmage?  Okay, I know that the character’s soul must be free and willing to return to the body for any of the raise dead chain of spells to work, but the point remains.  It’s possible to guilt a soul into coming back, I suppose.

But I’m getting off topic.

Anyway, the description for raise dead in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook says, “Coming back from the dead is an ordeal.”  Granted, the description continues with the physical description of the ordeal (2 permanent negative levels or 2 points of Constitution drain, depending on level), but what about the mental ordeal?

If Fortuitous is a melee type and is constantly getting hurt and healed, dying might not be so bad.  Physical trauma can be mentally wearying.  Death would give Forty a way to not be beat up anymore more.  It might be peaceful and welcoming.

Coming back from the dead should have an effect on your character other than what’s listed in the rules.  Fortuitous the Brave may develop a phobia regarding what killed him.  If Orcs killed him, role-play the fear that comes up the next time Orcs appear!  Fortuitous, a Greatsword-focused Paladin, may suddenly switch to a crossbow because he’s afraid of dying again.

More questions arise.  If your character dies and is resurrected, who gets his stuff?  Fortuitous died, right?  That means his property should go to his heirs or family.  If there are none, the party usually splits the gear.  But he’s alive again, right?  Does he still have a claim on his gear, land, and holdings?  Is he still betrothed to Porcini?


A Cleric who can cast resurrection is a minimum of 13th level.  The rules for resurrection (and true resurrection) state that a Cleric can bring someone back to life as long as they haven’t been dead more than 10 years per caster level!

So, there’s King Filetmignon, happily ruling his country, when his (great x4) grandfather, King Fortuitous (he got a lot of promotions) comes striding through the door, still brushing dirt off of his burial clothes, demanding to have the throne back.  Who has the rightful claim to the throne?

Are we sure anybody really wants the throne? It's kinda creepy...


If Fortuitous is declared the King, and he didn’t die of natural causes, those that killed him will want to kill him again.  If he’s not declared King, he may think he deserves to be King and raise an army to take on the “usurper.”  How do the PCs react to the situation?  Are they part of the King’s Guard?  If so, which King do they follow?  Are any of the PCs related to the current King or King Fortuitous?  That could be awkward.

Let’s say our pal Forty and Porcini got married, but alas, poor Forty was ambushed by the Rabid Badger Gang and died.  Porcini is devastated, but eventually gets over her grief and married Tankeroneous.  Then, thirty years later, Fortuitous walks in the door to find his wife in the arms of his friend.  Now, most marriages are “’til death do us part’ and Forty died.  But he’s back and alive now.  Are Forty and Por still married?  Would Porcini still want to be married to Fortuitous?

The PCs enter the dungeon of Castle D’Evil and they fight their way through the monstrous guardians and make off with the loot.  What happens a couple of months later when Fauntleroy D’Evil (he gets around), resurrected by a cohort,  has lawyers that appear and want all of their (now re-living) client’s stuff back?  They have a list of what was taken and want every single gold piece back.  What then?  If they can’t return everything, having spent the gold and traded away magical item, does it go to court?

I'm sure there's a 'bloodsucker' joke in here somewhere...


So, Fortuitous has been killed and brought back to life.  Is he alive or undead?  The use of Necromancy might lead some people to say that Forty is now some type of intelligent undead.  This could lead to some Cleric orders refusing to deal with “his type” or anybody who associates with him.  This could be difficult for the party to get healing or magical assistance.

But wait.  I hear you saying “All undead are evil!”  Forty was a good guy in life, so he couldn’t possibly be evil in undeath could he?  Actually, yes he can.  Every undead listed in the three Pathfinder Bestiaries has Evil in their alignment.

Let’s say that Forty, who was Lawful Good in life,  was turned into a vampire, and became Chaotic Evil.  As he’s contemplating his now immortal life, he decides to go through some of the loot he meant to deal with, but never had time.  He puts on this nifty looking helmet that happens to be a helm of opposite alignment.  With the helm, both axes of alignment change to the opposite, so Forty the Vampire is now (again) Forty the Lawful Good Vampire.  He goes to the King and explains the situation and is believed, so he pledges to protect the King as long as he is able.

Sixty years down the line, a group of adventurers is hired to destroy a vampire that haunts the castle.  Guess who?  That’s right, a rival of the King hired the adventurers to take out Fortuitous so that the rival could get a shot at the throne.  The group manages to kill Forty!  Hooray!  No more vampire!

But another twist!  The King had decided (and wrote down) that Forty counted as a citizen, so killing him is murder and whoever killed him would be brought to justice, just as if they had killed the dockworker or the apple cart salesman.  Does the King resurrect Fortuitous again, in hopes for another semi-immortal protector or reward him by letting him rest in peace?


The easiest way to avoid these problems is to simply say to your players, before play begins, “There is no coming back from death.  If you die, you roll up a new character.”  Personally, though, I hate using the “Because I said so” reason and prefer an in-game reason.  That’s what this section is about.

Ways and Means

First off, you can limit who has access to resurrection magic.  Maybe only certain (evil) religions (or cults) that worship the God or Goddess of Death have access to resurrection.  Maybe there is a special rite all petitioners must go through for the church.  If the party contains a Paladin, or especially if the Paladin is the one who died, the Paladin probably won’t want to come back, if he’s being raised by an evil organization.  Deeper still, if the party gets a member resurrected by this evil church/cult, then the party might owe the organization a favor on top of the price for the spell.

Even deeper yet, the political power of such a cult increases dramatically as the rich and powerful are indebted to the cult, especially if this church is the only one with access to that magic.

Make each raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection unique to each dead person, so the party’s Cleric can’t prepare those spells “just in case.”  If a party member dies, then the Cleric must prepare one of those spells the next time they prepare all of their spells.

Require a feat at 9th level (the lowest level needed to cast raise dead) to cast resurrection spells.  This makes the Cleric have to decide if resurrection magic is important enough to take a feat to cast it.

Make resurrection spells rare by placing them on scrolls that need to be adventured for or that are exorbitantly priced.  Place a specific church’s seal on the scroll, so that only a specific church or member of that church can use the scroll.

The Deity of Death does not give up souls without getting something in return.  A life for a life.  Potentially, the Deity may tell the party that, in addition to the normal spell components for resurrection, that the Cleric must sacrifice a creature of the same time.  This might raise a few objections among the party, especially if Forty isn’t the one who is actually dead (for once).

She's not really the bargaining kind...


Places and Times

Another way to limit resurrection magic is to limit when or where it can be used.

Many cultures believe that there is an actual realm where the spirits of the dead rest after death.  Make the party venture to the Land of the Dead to find the soul they need and convince the soul to return to the body when the spell is cast.

If the party needs a rift or gateway to get to the Land of the Dead, they will have to find one and it may be guarded.  The PCs would have to negotiate with whomever hold the rift, owing favors (as above), money, or even loyalty.  Even if there is no one currently guarding such a portal, there’s nothing to say that ghouls, ghasts, or other undead might have gathered, drawn in by the link to the Land of the Dead.  At that point, the party has to decide whether it’s worth trying to fight through the opposition, possibly losing more members, to get to the portal or spend more time looking for another location.  Not to mention a potential chance of another, possibly malevolent, spirit coming through the portal as well.  If that happens, the rest of the party must defend the Cleric while the Cleric is casting the spell.  This would be made extra difficult because the party is already down one member (the dead one) and are now down another (the Cleric), especially since the Cleric wouldn’t be able to use any of their abilities to help damage or turn the undead.

Next is the Eve of Spirits.  Halloween is considered by some to be the day that the fabric between the realms of the living and the dead are the thinnest, allowing spirits to cross from one to the other.  This can happen once a year (a specific holiday), four times a year (solstices and equinoxes or the day the seasons change), or once a month (three days of the full moon).  You could also place this Eve once per week, such as on the Deity’s holy day in the hour of noon or midnight.

The positive side to this is that it limits the use of resurrection magic because of the short time window the party has to bring the character back to life.  The negative side is, you guessed it, that it limits the use of resurrection magic because of the short time window the party has to bring the character back to life.

Another positive to this is that the DM can reinforce the importance of the day by having festivals or processions to remember certain events or people.  The DM can also introduce spiritual phenomena, such as faint wailing or moaning being heard, small objects being moved, ghostly writing appearing in the dust or dirt, or someone feeling a chill when moving through a certain place (feel free to add your own).

Missed it By That Much

But what happens if someone is brought back to life without it being the Deity’s holy day or the spirit hasn’t been spoken to?  Does the spell still work?  Or does the PC come back…different?  Here are a couple of options for the time-crunched PC who doesn’t want to wait until next Thursday before coming back to life.

Stunted Growth

The spell works and the PC comes back to life.  Mostly.  Until the PC can get to a priest of the Deity of the Dead on the Deity’s holy day, the PC doesn’t progress.  They don’t gain XP or new levels, so now more hp, skills, or feats until they complete the necessary steps to finish the rite to bring them back to life.  It’s hard for the character to learn anything new and they have a hard time remembering anything that has happened since the day they died.

If you use this idea, I would suggest only doing this for a short time, as you don’t want the stunted character to fall too far behind, especially if raise dead was used, as that causes a loss of 2 levels.

Foot in the Grave

The character is brought back to life, but not completely.  Their soul is stuck part way between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.

Ways to portray this may be to make the character constantly fatigued, the character has a lower number of hit points (say, -1 per Hit Die), only receives 1/2 the number of hit points from cure spells or a Cleric’s Healing Burst, or takes a -4 on saving throws against enchantment effects.


So, you don’t want to actually limit the use of resurrection magic, but you feel like there should be something that comes out of it.  What options do you have?

Marky Mark

First, there’s a Mark of Passing or a Mark of Resurrection.  This is a non-removable mark on the character’s hand or face (somewhere obviously seen by others) and it tells other people that the character has died and come back to life.  This can lead to that character being ostracized, refused service, and some members of superstitious societies might consider the character to be as evil as the undead.

The Haunting

Another variant is to have the resurrected character have a chance to bring another spirit back with them.  The spirit would be someone connected to the character in some way, whether that’s a friend, loved one, or enemy.  The haunting would last until the raised character can find someone to exorcise the spirit.

Until the spirit is exorcised, this is a great role-playing opportunity for the character.  The spirit can talk to the character, but none of the other party members can hear it.  Maybe the spirit is actually a poltergeist and moves the raised character’s things around.

So, there you have an entry on the difficulties of character death.  I wish I had more answers, but there really aren’t any “correct” answers for me to give.  These questions will need to be answered by your group, especially the DM.

Time to Grow Up

You can also use these variations for NPCs and start leaning your campaign toward something more “adult” by turning these options into something horrible.

“Please!  You have to help me!  My wife was killed by bandits and when I went to the church to bring her back, she turned into…something else!  Something evil!

Maybe it was just done on the wrong day.  Maybe the wife’s spirit wasn’t contacted.  Or maybe the wife’s spirit didn’t want to return (for whatever reason) and instead, a malevolent spirit came back and inhabited her body.

This can be used to give your campaign a little nudge toward something more serious, especially if this is used to give the PCs their first glimpse into what can happen when someone dies.  This can show the PCs (and the players) that death is serious business and it isn’t always resting in peace.  If something goes wrong, it can have consequences.


So, there you go.  A discussion about character death, what it can mean, and how to handle resurrection magic.

Remember to find me on Facebook:

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Thanks for reading and until next time, be awesome to each other and good gaming.


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More Than Stealing Candy: Making Your Villains Evil

More Than Stealing Candy: Making Your Villains Evil


Last week, I posted a blog entry on how to create a memorable villain.  That was good character design.  Lord Fauntleroy D’Evil could be a memorable villain, but he wasn’t that bad.  So, how do you make your villain, well…villain-y?

Example: Effective Villain

In today’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’m going to talk about how to take your memorable villain and make them more evil.  In last week’s episode, I gave you a villain whom the heroes will hate due to how he was portrayed.  This week, you’ll get tips on how to make your heroes hate the villain due to what he does.  In this week’s entry, the example villain will be Fauntleroy’s sister, Lucretia D’Evil.  Let’s get started.


Fear is a great role-playing tool.  One good way to use fear is to find a way to get your players to fear for their characters.  Give your players praise when they get past a challenge, whether that’s combat, diplomacy, or a trap.  Get the players to write a back-story for their character.  Make your players become emotionally attached to their character.  Then put the characters in serious danger.  But how do you do that?


Make the villain extremely tough.  Give them magical items or spells that the players may not have a way of beating.  Increase the villains Armor Class or give the villain armor with the Fortification special ability, which may negate extra damage from sneak attacks or critical hits.  But if you take away one weakness, you have to give the party a way to find and exploit another non-obvious weakness.  Let’s say your party’s spellcaster is fond of fire spells, like fireball or burning hands.  Lucretia, being intelligent (I’ll get to that in a minute), has scouted this and is wearing her Salamander Armor, which gives her total immunity to fire and DR 10/magic, like a real salamander.  Great!  The party’s main tactic is foiled!  However, Salamander Armor, just like a regular salamander, makes the wearer vulnerable to cold.  And look!  The party picked up a wand of cone of cold earlier in the adventure!  Huzzah!  Have the players make Intelligence checks or Knowledge rolls to see if they can figure out the new weakness.  If so, the battle might go quickly.  If not, well…they could possibly still win the fight, but they’ll have to expend more resources than they thought.

Another way to show invulnerability is to give Lucretia numerous minions, especially high CR lieutenants.  The players want nothing more than to get to Lucretia, but they have to fight their way through her half-dozen 3rd level Minotaur Barbarians who are led by an Ogre Mage who has three levels of Sorcerer.  This group, as an example, should be able to hold off most adventuring parties long enough for Lucretia to get away.  And by the time the party defeats the Ogre Mage/Minotaur combo, who knows what new and powerful minions Lucretia may have waiting for them?


Lucretia is a Wizard of epic proportions.  She is the smartest person to ever live.  But the average person isn’t that intelligent, so how do you play a genius?  Easy.

Easy for him, anyway. He's an evil genius.

If the party is making an assault on the fortress of the villain, then the villain probably knows that the party is involved and would do some research on the party.  This is where you, as the DM, have to know the characters.   Strengths.  Weaknesses.  Favorite tactics.  Look at things from a player’s point of view and then plan against whatever you come up with.  Following the previous example, if the party’s mage enjoys a number of fireballs, then the guards may have a magic item or potion that helps them resist fire damage.  If the party uses sonic attacks, because not too many monsters or people are immune to sonic attacks, Lucretia hires/conscripts troops that are deaf.  These deaf troops have created their own sign language for simple things like “Attack!” or “Retreat!” or “Flanking action!”

Does your “genius” villain spend all day in their tower simply waiting for the PCs to show up?  Then that’s not so smart.  But if Lucretia has used her über-powerful spellcasting to set traps, along with physical, mechanical traps, then that is smart.  Anything that makes the party expend resources before confronting Lucretia obviously works in her favor.  But just like with the Invulnerability section, you have to give the PCs a way around the problem.  A scroll of teleportation, cleverly hidden and possibly missed, can make a good way around the traps.


If your players are afraid of something, then odds are that their characters will be afraid of that same thing.  Use that.  Pick monsters from the Bestiaries/Monster Manuals that will evoke that fear.  Arachnophobia?  Lucretia has made a deal with local Driders for combat support.  Acrophobia?  Lucretia has a castle in the clouds and you have vivid descriptions of the distance between the flying carpet and the ground.  Claustrophobia?  The path to Lucretia’s inner sanctum is through a narrow cave system with no natural light.

Another way to use phobias is if Lucretia has the ability to read minds and generate illusions.  There are a few spells that will change Lucretia’s appearance so that she resembles a character’s (and player’s) worst fear.

Remember, though, that phobias can be pushed too far.  If one of your players is deathly afraid of snakes, do not go into excruciating detail about how the scales feel on their skin or the sounds of the rattles.  If it goes too far, it removes the player from the game and could potentially ruin the game for that person.  You don’t want that, so if you’re going to try these tactics, make absolutely certain that everyone is okay with the idea and that you’re reading your players correctly.

Powerful Friends

If Lucretia is an evil Wizard that lives in a secluded tower and is terrorizing the populace and experimenting on the homeless, then the PCs, as the King’s Champions, have every right to bash down her door and dispense justice, in which ever form is deemed necessary.

But what is Lucretia has no magical abilities, but is a mayor?  Or senator?  Or Queen?  Or that she lives in the middle of the city that the PCs have sworn to protect?  What is she does have her magical power and she’s a Court Wizard that has served the ruler faithfully for many years?  She’s popular with the people, she’s well liked by the ruling class and the King and Queen are her greatest supporters.  She would have tremendous political power.  But then the PCs find out that she is experimenting on the homeless.  How do they go about reporting the popular, faithful Court Wizard as a creator of monsters that she wants to use to kill the King and Queen and install herself as the new monarch?

Without casting a single one of her numerous spells, Lucretia can destroy the PCs.  They can be fired from the position of King’s Champions, their reputations can be destroyed, the King’s own assassins can be charged with killing the PCs, or they can be arrested and their prized possessions can be taken from them.  Even the PCs loved ones can be threatened.

But how is this frightening?  Because the DM must make it absolutely clear that something very bad will happen to the PCs if Lucretia finds out that they know her plans and something even worse will happen if she finds out they are trying to stop her.  The PCs will have to be extremely careful, keeping their own plans a secret from Lucretia even while trying to save the King.  One wrong move, one question too many asked to the wrong person, and it’s curtains for our heroes.  The PCs will have one chance and one chance only to take down Lucretia and if they fail, they will be ruined and hunted forever (or worse).


This is one of my personal favorites.  At some point, the PCs will feel that they have no one to trust and nowhere to hide.  The enemy has surrounded them and controls almost every aspect of a situation.  Even the most trustworthy NPCs seemed to have turned against the party.

But why don’t the PCs trust anyone?  Plenty of reasons.  Maybe Lucretia, among her many talents, wields mind control magic.  Maybe she has a small cadre of doppelgangers working for her.  As the Court Wizard, maybe she has placed a rather large bounty on the heads of the PCs and everybody they know wants to collect or she has planted evidence accusing the party of experimenting on the homeless for their own ends.

To make this work, the DM has to burn the party over and over.  Every NPC they come in contact with recognizes them and wants a piece of the action.  The PCs closest friends (or who they thought were their closest friends) lure them in with promises of security and safety, only to try to trap the PCs for the large reward.

Even better is when they first come in contact with Lucretia, she makes a comment that is verbatim something that the PCs said that they were sure was private.  When that happens, the party might turn on each other.  If they were in private, how did Lucretia know their plans?  Is there a rat in the party or was she scrying?  Who can the party trust if they can’t trust each other?


So far, the players should hate the villain because that villain is tougher than they are, smarter than they are, knows their worst fears, and is feeding their paranoia.  But while the players may hate the villain for the villain’s abilities, it’s what the villain does with those abilities that can truly push the players over the edge from “I hate that woman.” to “Let’s go kill that woman!”

And when that villain is finally defeated, the players will feel an incredible sense of satisfaction.  But how do you get the players to that point?

Loved Ones

Like I said earlier, Lucretia could threaten the PCs loved ones.  The Paladin’s uncle Siegfried might be threatened, but if Siegy’s a one-dimensional character, the players might not care, or it they do it’s only superficially.  An NPC that you want to put in danger later on has to have a personality and a connection to the PCs.  It’s their matronly aunt or the guy in the back of the potion shop that can get them the “good stuff.”  Someone they deal with regularly and feel a connection to.  That way, when they are threatened, the players want to do something about it.  If you have to give the players even more motivation, kill the NPC.  Do it in front of the PCs eyes.  The heroes run in just as the killing blow strikes and the villain teleports away.  Evil laugh is optional, but recommended.

This image almost lead to the death of the Green Goblin. That's how personal you want it to be.

Heinous Crimes

Make your villains the lowest of the low.  They torture peasants and burn fields.  They lie, they cheat, and they steal to get whatever they can.  They release plagues, they steal candy from babies, and they kick puppies.

Even more, they commit these crimes against the PCs!  The PC comes back from saving the town/country/world and they find their own house on fire!  That was where they kept their stuff!  When the villain unleashes its ravening horde of gorilla-bats, the PCs probably see this as a chance for some combat and maybe get to the villain themselves and lay down a smacking!  But when the villain goes that extra step and attacks the heroes specifically, but indirectly, then it gets personal.


This one works well with Paranoia.  In the case of betrayal, the heroes have just accomplished their goal of rescuing the Princess or saving the town, but then someone, maybe the Princess herself, turns around and accuses the party of being in cahoots with the villain or is even the villains themselves!  The “thieves” that were caught by the PCs and hauled off to jail instead insist that they were paid to rob places so that the PCs could catch them, thereby increasing the notoriety of the PCs!  If one of the thieves happens to have something that belongs to one of the PCs, then even better!  Pour on the paranoia!

There you go.  Ways to make your villains even more villain-y.  The worse you make the villain, the more the players will want to see the villain dead, which is exactly what you want.

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