Villainy Knows Some Bounds

 I love a good villain. The best villains are the ones with some admirable or at least likable traits. It's a lesson that American writers have seemed to forget, a character can be an absolute ass at times and still be interesting. My favorite example (though no villain) is Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife from the old Andy Griffith Show. Don Knotts created a pompous little windbag of a character and yet, you wanted him to make good. His faults and flaws stemmed from trying too hard, and not being as important or capable as he thought. Also he did come through for the sheriff occasionally.

Contrast with Maj. Frank Burns on M.A.S.H. A terrible human being, a sub par doctor, a straw man set up for the main characters to best every time. No wonder Larry Linville left the show after a couple years. Not a good villain. 

There is a whole group of villains, by the way, who are well rounded human beings (though they still ave rough edges), DC comics' Secret Six. They include: Deadshot, who could shoot a fly trough its heart at thirty paces and was likely to do it when it flew between your eyes, Catman a stealthy and stabby sort of guy who started as a Catwoman clone, and Ragdoll. I can't describe Ragdoll. You need to read the series. The guy will make you laugh and squirm. He is made out of squick.

Murderers, assassins, mercenaries, and they pull for each other. They even do some good. Catman contributes some of his loot to big cat conservation. Deadshot is a good dad (though estranged) and is setting up college and trust funds fir his daughters. Ragdoll... likes nice things. We learn about these good deeds when the team is having a meeting to discuss their salaries and investments. Yes, they're investing some of their money. They want to retire at some point. Who would want to remain a criminal the rest of their life?

What can we learn from them? A few points below:

1) They are a team. Consider making your 'villain' several people. that way eliminating one doesn't end the Evil Plans (TM).

2) They try to avoid the good guys. Good guys hurt your bottom line. After realizing your group can interfere with their plans they will often lay low or make themselves hard to find. And FFS, move out of Gotham/Metropolis!

3) They look out for each other. Kill one of them, they will replace them and go after you when they can. This might interfere with #2.

4) They have some standards. They will do their best to accomplish their mission (the goal of the real villain? Muwahaha). This is a practical concern. Reputation is important in the villain game.

5) Morals. Yes morals. It may be a matter of not wanting to draw the ire of the Navy, government or police. It may be an aversion to carnage. In fact this can lead to...

=The Team Up+

In its purest form, the villains offer to help the good guys with a problem. Maybe the big bad is taking psionic children to power a super weapon. The kids are like batteries and not the rechargeable type. Maybe the villains even kidnapped kids before they knew what it was about. Now they want to set things right with a little revenge on the side? Can you trust them? Can they trust you? That's a fair question with what I've seen. In the usual run of things, you can trust the average npc or pc as far as you can spit a raccoon. Comfortably.

I admit I am a sucker for the bad guys helping the good guys against a far nastier third party. Batman: the Animated series did a number of riffs on this with various villains trying to take down a third pats and Batman caught in the middle. 

I know I gabbed a number of examples from TV and comics. I feel they work well even in grittier Res, like where you can die in character generation and then do math to work out travel times.


  1. You make an interesting point with Frank Burns. MASH writers corrected that with Winchester


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