Friday, April 17, 2015

M is For Master

One of the things I enjoyed about Fullmetal Alchemist was the different villains that it showcased. There always was another villain behind the current one. It allowed the heroes to progress in power, ability, and knowledge, while still providing them a challenge.

When we are first introduced to the minor character Cornello, he is a false priest stirring up revolution. His claim to fame is the ability to craft 'miracles' based on his faith.

When Ed and Al defeat him, Father Cornello is then confronted by Lust and Gluttony. Another bit higher up the chain. That encounter does not end well for the poor father.

We then encounter further 'Sins' up the ladder such as Envy and Wrath. Sometime later 'Father' and the first of the 'Sins' Pride.

By having multiple villains of various power level and various abilities, the characters have to learn and adapt. For example, when fighting the Sin known as Greed, Ed learns that Greed's Ultimate Shield is carbon based and manages to weaken it using his alchemy.

While it's good to have a chain of villains related to one another, in this case Cornello working for Lust, Lust working for 'Father' and the various other circles that happen due to 'Father's influence, such as the Crimson Alchemist working for Pride who in turn works for 'Father', it's also important to have characters and opposition that is not necessarily related directly to those foes.

Fullmetal does that with their antihero Scar. Originally from the war torn country of Ishval, he hunts down the State Alchemists who he feels are responsible for so much pain and suffering in his home country. He almost manages to kill both Ed and Al in their first encounter and only through strange circumstances do Ed and Scar wind up as allies against the Sins.

The Pathfinder Adventure Paths by Paizo follow a similar pattern. The first few books may often involve some lowly creature, like say a horned bandit king in Kingmaker, while five books down the road, the power behind the throne awaits. Because it's a huge setting, Paizo also throws a few other bits in there to insure that it's not just all minions of the big boss all the time.

And often there are opportunities to bring foes over to your side. This allows former enemies to become allies. In Kingmarker there are several such opportunities and in other Adventure Paths, similar circumstances allow players, through clever role playing or mercenary individuals who see opportunity when the player's come calling, to switch sides.

When designing your own villains, don't forget, there's always somebody smarter than yourself.