3/7/2011-Patriot University opens new PhD program

I don’t want to treat my villains like some ancient dragon living at the bottom of a dungeon where the climactic battle is supposed to take place, signaling the end of the adventure.  I know many GMs feel the same way; yet, they don’t want to potentially expose their big-bad-guy to the heroes because the big-bad-guy could possibly be wacked too soon in the story.  Let’s face it, the big-bad-guy is going to be killed eventually; so, they are generally designed within the Heroes’ capability to be killed.  This GM’s dilemma has created several different gaming methods; some work and some do not, all affect the tone and theme of your story.  They also have an impact on how entertaining the game is for the players.  Here is the 1st typical method:

The Master Mind Cliché:  This is frequently used in many books and movies, perhaps to its greatest height in spy movies.  It’s when the Master Mind (Mr. Evil PhD) has a home base and a multitude of henchmen to send out against the protagonist.  He doesn’t quite reside in a room waiting for the heroes, but he really does not interact with them unless they are captured.  From story design, it works really well.  The Emperor has Darth Vader and his empire’s resources while Jabba has Boba Fett.  Dr. No has his hidden lab with the “Three Blind Mice” assassins.  Sauron’s eye lived on top of a tower and had Nazgûl with legions of orcs and men.  The list goes on.  This setting device automatically produces tension because it places the protagonist as underdogs.  Additionally, it gives a sense of gradual accomplishment as the players defeat henchmen and step by step move closer to Mr. Evil PhD.  From a gaming point, the device satisfies both wishes from a GM; Mr. Evil PhD is protected from an unceremonious end by the heroes and creates a need for Mr. Evil PhD to have motivation a/k/a his evil plan.   

However, there are some drawbacks to this.  First, despite having the heroes being the underdog, the players might have problems buying-into the setting and also into Mr. Evil PhD.  If your players start asking feasibility questions, such as: “Where has Mr. Evil gotten all this stuff?  Why has no one noticed Mr. Evil before?”  or “what school would give him a PhD in evil?”  Then you have not successfully drawn them into the setting.  Second, you have to have the players care about defeating Mr. Evil PhD beyond the fact that he has a PhD in Evil.  How effective would the confrontation between Luke and the Emperor be, if the Emperor was just a mad cultist?  Not much, the fact that this man’s defeat was key to the rebellion’s success added more drama to the story.  Jason Bourne’s amnesia creates a mystery that adds to the drama of fighting his CIA’s superiors.  Third, the lure to railroad your players is very high.  Essentially, all you have done is move the dungeon outside; instead of using walls, halls and doors to direct the heroes, you have to use setting and plot devices.  Having the heroes outside a simple dungeon automatically grants them more choices and if you use clumsy tactics to keep them on your track, then they will not have any fun.   

Pete

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2 Comments on “3/7/2011-Patriot University opens new PhD program”

  1. boccobsblog Says:

    Agreed. It can be all too easy to fall into the cliches when we write a plot. I try and give Dr. Evil a moral twist that makes the pc’s wrestle with their alignment to decide if they should kill him. Great post.


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