RPG Superstar 2009: Villain Round

The Paizo RPG Superstar 2009 second round is in, and you can go read and vote on the villain entries from the top 32!

I am disappointed in these, especially in comparison to last year’s excellent entries.

What is it with druids and bards?  The two lamest classes.  Whenever my gaming group fights a bad guy and realizes they’re a bard or druid (or monk), we laugh, relax, and get to spanking them.

And the motivations this year – jeez! Everyone was a cliche. “I like to kill because…”

  • I’m EVIL!
  • I’m INSANE!
  • I’m a CULTIST!
  • I want WEALTH and POWER!

Here’s my thoughts in depth.

Phenyekashi (3/10)
A bone devil that just meditates but leaks corruption into the area.  Seems more like a plot device than a villain.  Could be an artifact instead of a creature and have the same “corrupt the locals” effect.

Bricius, The Wrath of the Forest (2/10)
An anti-civilization druid.  Pretty standard really, I’ve seen a dozen just like him before.

Sharina Legendsinger (4/10) *
An annoying paparazzi.  More of a plot device than anything, as all the proposed schemes/plots require the DM to assume social engineering succeeds on a level way past a 6th level bard’s capacity.  “She starts a war!”  Really?

Paradigm Theoguard (4/10)
A forceful pacifist.  OK, at least that’s different…  The name is awful.  And you’d better have a *really* good-aligned party, or else they’ll just catch his  minions stealing something and terminate them (likely legal in most medieval municipalities).

Montellan Corey (2/10)
A generic serial killer.  I’ve never seen one of *those* before.

Kar-en-haris (6/10) *
A thinking man’s cultist right out of one of the Mummy movies.  Still a bit of a stock character, but at least he has an agenda more interesting than “kill.”

Haldon Valmaur (4/10)
Well, it’s a little more colorful to want to kill elves rather than just kill.  But only a little.

Varrush (2/10) *
A generic rakshasa that sounds like every other rakshasa in the world.  Declaring a villain a mastermind doesn’t really make him more interesting.

Aelfric Dreamslayer (8/10) *
A pro-elf druidical lich.  OK, that’s interesting.  Heck, it might make Haldon an interesting character to be used as a foil.  Good staying power.  I like it!

Zelicia (6/10)
Crazy hot scorpion lady.  Interesting and memorable, though seems like a one trick pony for a standard adventurer “kill your way up the food chain” adventure.

Volner Tain (5/10) *
I liked the setup backstory but then he turned into “generic evil undead guy.”

Count Falconbridge (6/10) *
Hmm.  The execution’s not all I’d want, but I like the idea here, especially if unwound gradually enough and with enough plausibility to get the PCs initially on his side, ask themselves some hard philosophical questions…

Zavanix (1/10)
A killer pixie.  Like a generic serial killer but with more cliches sprinkled on him.  No thanks.

Boemundo (2/10) *
Just a monster, really.  “He used to have a personality, but now that he’s a wraith he done forgot all that.”

Derinogen (3/10) *
A good kernel of an idea that could have been very Nip/Tuck but instead just got boring.

Malgana (7/10) *
OK – more of a plot device or even object than a villain, and more helpful than really a villain, but it’s just so much FUN!  Assemble your own undead goblin!  She needs a better endgame than the lame “and then she’ll kill them” however.  Though I agree with all the other judges’ comments, this one at least interested me, unlike 90% of the other entries.

Uninteresting, cliche, and plot device.  Three strikes.

Jeroim Borloz (3/10) *
I had to laugh at the phrase “the misfortune of being born a dwarf.”  Doesn’t really grab me – a dwarven monk mastermind.  Declaring a villain a mastermind doesn’t automatically make him deep.  And dragon learnin’ makes you a monk?

Rustin Harp (2/10) *
More of an annoying NPC than a villain.  And I guess it depends on your setting, but being a nonhuman lowers the threshold of “just kill the damn thing” pretty low for most PC groups.

Father Avon (3/10)
One strike for using psionics, especially with the “elan” thing. And is he a villain really?  I mean, his endgame isn’t really even evil, unlike the similar Rezo the Red Priest from Slayers.

Sartel Bollen (7/10) *
Ooo, loads of nonstandard here.  Headless zombies.  She needs just a little more long-term viability to not be “monster of the week,” but it’s very very evocative.

Dalatai Shontrick (2/10)
A halfling merchant/crime boss.  I’m probably jaded from Finn from Freeport but it’s been done, and in this case, not in a very interesting way.  This is a random NPC that the party will have trouble remembering clearly.

Gulga Cench (4/10) *
It’s just hard for me to take an otyugh villain seriously.  Heck, I didn’t realize they were even intelligent until one spoke to our party in Curse of the Crimson Throne, and we thought it must be an illusion or something for a minute.  And his last name just begs to be corrupted into “stench.”  Other than being a rank poo-beast, it’s OK.

Cermyk (4/10)
Hrm.  More of a monster with a cute story the locals tell you so that you can go decrapitate him.  A bit overwrought, but at least he has a little “zazz.”

Ssyth’ek (5/10) *
I like the demon eating angle, but other than that he’s just like every other lizardfolk shaman with a bunch of swamp lizard minions waving their little spears as I hack through them.

Fashym Goldmane (3/10)
A cleaned-up gnoll.  Doesn’t have a lot of “villain” in him.  Also, depends on a city allowing even washed-and-brushed gnolls to rove around free.

(3/10) *
Also has very little “villain” in him.  And admitting he’s a cliche is questionably better than not.  Now, the Rodney Dangerfield angle could be
played up more with a villain who tries to stir up adventuring groups etc. against themselves so that they can feel like a supervillain…  But he also lacks execution.

Gale (2/10)
Generic hot assassin chick.  I seem to remember killing these by the handful in… every ninja video game I’ve ever played.

Bracht Darkhouse (6/10) *
Good description.  In the end it’s a generic experimenter cultist guy.  But, you know, they make the world go around.

Veddic (7/10)
A living statue, that’s interesting.  And an arms dealer, which provides actual
justification for the otherwise lame “organization that just likes to spread  war” angle.  Don’t like the vagueness in the entry though.  Has a nice pulp feel to him.

Kardam (6/10) *
Hmm, extra credit for being a villain with a real class (barbarian).  And a  very anime look to him.  It’ll be a little difficult to use him long term, as warlords tend to just be the boss the characters kill after killing some waves of his minions.  But with some careful planning, he could be fun as there’s a number of different angles (like the devil angle) to this.

Archibald Graveleaf
I like him as a NPC.  But a villain?  Seems like a normal True Neutral druid with a specific ideology to me.  Neutral isn’t “unwashed good” after all.

6 responses to “RPG Superstar 2009: Villain Round

  1. I’ve quickly scanned them and have to say your right. I don’t think the judges were impressed with the available choices either. Sad really. To be honest, I’m not sure if making a good magic item means you can make a good villain or adventure.

  2. It definitely doesn’t mean that, which is why there are multiple rounds. This allows the truly excellent designers to rise to the top, while giving everyone an opportunity to learn from feedback and competition.

    I was one of the judges for RPG Superstar, and I don’t think we got to the “meat” of the contestants until we hit the top 6 or so.

    Designing for RPGs–and doing it in a popular way that connects to hundreds or thousands of people–is not nearly as easy as many people think.

  3. Last year, I should have noted. I was a judge last year. I’m not this time around.

  4. Yeah, but last year even in the first two rounds we saw the flashes of brilliance that were further refined… So far I just haven’t really been captivated by *any* entry this year. I still remember many of last year’s villain entries vividly. I’ve forgotten most of this year’s already.

    Maybe they’ll spruce up in the further rounds… It’s a great contest, and worth doing. It certainly flushed a whole load of great talent out last year, let’s see what happens this time.

  5. And the results are in! I’m mostly vindicated, but the suboptimal Varrush, Boemundo, and Rustin Harp take spots belonging to Veddic and Zelicia (the only two I gave 5+ that didn’t advance). Next up, stat blocks for the villains. Kinda boring but important.

  6. I’ve put a star (*) next to each entry above that advanced for your convenience.

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