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Datapad Notes: Being the Bad Guy

By Kovani - Posted Feb 10, 12

 
How often do we see someone cause misery for the sole sake of making others miserable? Rarely, I'd say. With the exception of people like Tom Brady (go Giants), the vast majority of people are human beings, and I, personally, believe that we're all good people. That said, people don't get on with each other all the time, and some more than others. We have people we don't like, people who aggravate us. We have our villains, and they're a sad, if unchanging, part of life. In roleplay, it's the same – can you imagine an Old Republic without the crackling, forboding voice of Darth Malgus? The problem with creating a villain, however, is that quite often they can antagonize players just as much as a character, and when this happens, roleplay falters. In this Datapad Notes, we'll be exploring the ways that players can create memorable villains without antagonizing others.

Do you play a character that irritates, attacks, or doesn't always do what their faction expects? They can be a Jedi Knight, irritatingly superior with harsh morals that often aggravate the people they work with. Perhaps they're an Imperial Agent, willing to side with the enemy to ensure that the greater good survives. Or, alternately, they could be a Sith Inquisitor, determined to make the Republic fall to its knees, so the galaxy can, once again, know true order. If you do, good work. Hopefully, you haven't run into the problems that come with creating an antagonist, counterpart, anti-hero, villain. If you have, perhaps this will help you work on keeping people interested out-of-character, or improve your character. We'll be discussing how a villain can contribute to roleplay, the importance of backstory in making a character, and we'll also touch on how to handle the delicate inticracies between players and characters, and how to keep them happy.

Buckle up, folks, and get ready to fall to the Dark Side.

"Placing this image in your articles only makes more people join my cause, Kovani."

Now, the first thing we need to realize is that we're talking about a villain, here; we're not talking about an evil character. There's a subtle, but distinct difference between the two. A villain creates a plot against other characters. An evil character, on the other hand, doesn't.

"A villain is a foil for a hero. They're an integral part of a plot that moves it forward and has an arc of their own," said NagiNagi. "A generic evil character [...] is a less-developed obstacle who's less a character and more an event within a story." Roleplayers generally agree that roleplaying (that is what we do here, right?) is simply the creation of a story; and, typically, stories require conflict. Villains are the source of that conflict.

"What makes a good villain is.. an inclusive and interesting plot!" offered Rosa. Bad villains can be cast in a negative shade of light, she explains, if they forget their core role, which is to create an interesting story.

Think about this for a few moments, if you wish. If you truly wish to take the role of a villain, you're going to need a plot, a brilliant mind, and the patience of fifty Jedi Masters, and it's typically not something that's easy to learn. That said, let's take a look at one of the Expanded Universe's biggest, and greatest, villains: Grand Admiral Thrawn. What makes Thrawn one of the greatest villains of the Star Wars universe, and what can we learn from his plots? They were fun to read, first up. Secondly, they were, without a doubt, brilliant and destructive, and finally, it was possible for him to be defeated in an amazing climax.

Firstly, we know that they were absolutely brilliant, epic to watch, and, no doubt, terrifying to behold. It's important to remember that despite most people's desire to keep roleplay somewhat grounded and realistic, your plotline needs to have the breadth and scope to ensure everyone's having a great time. Of course, people's opinions on what entails a good time differs, but if people have sufficient storyline to sink their teeth into and roleplay, they'll generally make their own fun. I'll say that, personally, keeping a particular section of roleplay focused to just a few hours is a very good idea, and communicating with everyone to keep appraised of the situation helps, too. Adapting the plot, as any Game Master can tell you, is a necessary evil to keep players happy, but telling them that they should focus, bunker down, and slow up can help, as well. As long as you're ensuring people are having fun, that's what matters.

Secondly, your plots need to be brilliant – you may need Thrawn's level of intellect to successfully create a believable threat. Thrawn successfully took a small handful of Star Destroyers and managed to turn that small start into an amazing army that brought the New Republic to its knees. Don't focus, however, on how his plans worked out.

"Villain roleplay isn't ego-boosting or making yourself awesome in every degree for an epic showdown against the good guy," Rosa offered. "The calculated plots that everyone can enjoy are always the best known."

In order to be a believable villain, your plot needs to be smart, well-developed, and, more importantly, difficult to overcome – even better, impossible to overcome until the very last minute. If it can be beaten by a few Jedi decimating your opponents, you're in trouble. If, however, Force-sensitives are continually subjected to pain and agony whenever they embrace it... you're on the right track. Make it challenging, smart, and difficult to overcome, but make sure it's possible. This leads onto the final point in my inventory.

Your plot needs to end with the heroes winning, getting away, and ending up triumphant; and, yes, this isn't precisely realistic, but it's necessary. The purpose of a villain is to promote and encourage roleplay, as I said, earlier, and the simple fact is: if people consider a character impossible to defeat, they won't be interested in it. People like to win. Perhaps they shouldn't need victory as a motivator to take part in roleplay – I know some people who don't – but a large number do. And, unfortunately, if you're playing a villain – not an evil character, but a villain – you should be willing to make this sacrifice, even when you don't want to.

Thus one of the new generation of Skywalkers lives up to his reputation, becoming a whiny %#!&$.

I might be mocking Darth Caedus/Jacen Solo, above – to be fair, his character is annoying – but he provides the brief example I want to show here. Character development can overcome nearly any flaw, if it's done well. Jacen's fall to the Dark Side is fairly engrossing, compared to Anakin's miserable whining. More importantly, characters that are seen to be well-developed and roleplayed create a certain good reputation for the server, and improve it for all.

"Great roleplayers become a catalyst for other roleplayers to learn and develop their own stories," offers Villaine Cutrow.

Lon'ta, another roleplayer, said that, "characters without any development or substance come over as bland, boring. At the extreme end, they come over as highly stereotyped or generic."

More importantly, roleplaying well, and having a character developed by many other people builds a reputation. Lord Adraas has Sebaya, Sriin, and Ryger, as an example.

So, we know that character development is vital; more importantly is letting yourself be seen developing your character encourages others.  I'll lapse to an anonymous contributor, here.

If you are trying to design an 'evil' character, you've already started down the wrong road for a viable long-term antagonist. You're in the wrong headspace. Counter-culture or fanaticism are the roots of proper villains. They firmly believe what they're doing is 'right.' They have very solid reasons and should they be questioned about why they did something... They should have a very strong defense for their actions. One that is very challenging to argue with, preferably.

I've quoted them, verbatim, purely because of the good point they make. The best villain is one who people get to know before they were evil, for the most part. Jacen Solo's fall is more disturbing because of what he once understood, but Vader's terrifying because of how little of his past we knew. Difference is, however, that Darth Vaders don't always make the best impression in roleplay, and I, personally, happen to think that's very unfortunate. Nonetheless, what we do know is that a well-developed character who promotes roleplay throughout his progression as a villain will always be respected, and that's important. "You're going to have to have some reputation to be the server-specific villain," offered Sriin. Even if you do, however, there's one last problem you need to solve, and the final element of this article will discuss that.

And across America, politicians thought, "Man, this guy is smart."

Palpatine's representative of the final point I have to make, purely because of how brilliantly he manipulated people. I don't mean to say, of course, that you should manipulate people into appreciating you, but that keeping people happy, out-of-character, is one of the most important jobs of a server villain, and there's a variety of reasons why you need to do this. As I mentioned earlier, people need to be enjoying themselves, since this certainly isn't a job. But two other, slightly darker reasons involve issues such as character death, or unwanted roleplay. Sometimes, some people don't want to roleplay with a character from the ugly depths of life, or have limits. And it's important to respect that. "Making sure your roleplay partner in any scene is comfortable.. that's a must," offered Ihlrath. That said, it's not the unanimous opinion of the server. "In real-life, I always ask my victims if I can stab them or tie them up," was one retort.

This is, for the most part, a simple argument. Sebaya previously discussed in her Darker Side of Life that some people never leave character. Personally, I think that's impossible, and that OOC communication is necessary, if only to ensure people are enjoying roleplay, but others argue that high-quality roleplayers should expect things to happen to their characters, often unexpectedly, and sometimes unpleasant... and react accordingly. One of those things? Death. Villains die. Villains kill people. How should you do that?

"Every story has its ending," was one person's opinion in chat, but just the same, everyone also agreed that it's one of the things that needs to be coordinated, out-of-character; even those that argued that consent regarding an attack isn't needed. It makes sense. Let's just look at it from a practical perspective: you can't delete another person's character and stop them from roleplaying on it, right? More importantly, we roleplayers are vain as all hell. We spend a lot of time developing characters, and we're more than a bit attached to them.

"I won't let a random loss or roleplay kill off my character unless I'm deciding I'm bored with said character and I'm going to create a new one," offered Solarborn.

"If I do decide to kill of a character the reason should be to move plot, not destroy it," added Sien Zoth.

So, killing's unacceptable without discusisng it out-of-character, even if it makes sense. As a roleplayer, do you really want to be killing off characters that people have spent years on, even if it makes sense? It's the same line that's followed towards other acts of violence, though some say that there's a difference. Generally, the argument follows that characters should expect unexpected things to happen; that if they don't stop someone from roleplaying a character, why ask? The best roleplay is unexpected. A sub-argument says that anything that makes a player uncomfortable, however, should be checked, and others claim that people cutting off a character's finger or cutting them off isn't acceptable unless people are alright with it.

"People should never feel like approaching you out of character will only be met with a negative response. That's usually where things go bad," offered Niatara, and ultimately, what you do is up to you. That said, if you're a villain, this is something you have to keep in mind.

I do hope this article has either inspired you, narrowed down your character's focus, or, perhaps, changed your opinion on roleplay. It's a touchy subject, and a lot of people have varied opinions. If you're still confused, just remember the simple words of SWTOR-RP's official artist, Siriin: "Don't be a tool."

Stay safe, for now, and make sure to check out next week's Datapad Notes: we'll be covering how to deal with out-of-character disagreements. Hope to see your opinions and arguments in the comments, folks, and see you next time!


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