Quick Plot Design: How To Create A Villain Plan First Draft
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1115
Been working on my campaigns and thinking a lot about villain plans.
I like to craft a roadmap for how the villain can win their goal.
I call this Villain Win-State.
And that road map becomes my adventure outline for villain type adventures.
So what are the first couple of steps for making an awesome villain plan?
Step I: Begin With the End in Mind
In my campaigns villains never work alone.
They have lieutenants (stage bosses), minions (Primary and Secondary Agents), and contacts.
They have resources (influence, money, soldiers, equipment).
They essentially become a Faction.
Let’s assume we’ve already created our villain and we just need a Villain Plan for them.
In my Terror in the Badlands campaign, the next villain is Ganglot the stone giant. He wants to become chief.
He’s been assigned to make sure the orcs do their job of delivering more victims for The Masters.
The chief of the orcs is Dourgash.
Dourgash is half orc, half scorpion. And many of his clan are the same. A few members are basic orcs.
Dourgash relies on his shaman, Snagbug, and the strongest clan member, Rungfish.
Snagbug has an awakened pet bat, Griftwing.
Rungfish has an inner circle of sycophants, Baugh, Rednail, Shubag, and Claws.
We have this Faction Pyramid now:
What would victory look like for the villain?
We need to understand the end game for our villain so we can draw a direct line towards it. You can’t hit a target you don’t have.
Ganglot the Stone Giant
What is Ganglot’s goal? What’s his definition of success?
Ganglot wants to be chief of the stone giants.
Power for him and his family.
He’s a simple villain.
Where’s the villain at right now? What resources can they wield right now? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
We want to understand the villain’s starting position so we can figure out the gap between current state and Win-State.
The bigger the gap, the longer the adventure.
The stone giant is the only member of his clan involved in this operation.
He likes it that way so he can plot in secret.
He’s got the Gloom Orc clan as fearful servants. And one casts magic, which is a bonus.
He’s got a good home base in the bottom level of the ruined dwarven citadel.
And he has a good operation set up to take kidnapped surface victims and deliver them to The Masters, earning their increasing goodwill.
Step II: The Road to Victory
What wins along the way does the villain need? What steps do they need to take?
I like to aim for 3-5 steps in a Villain Plan.
These usually become encounters or 5 Room Dungeons.
Brainstorm. In no order yet, he thinks he needs:
- Blessing from The Masters to take over
- Unite the orc clans for more troops
- Whack the current stone giant chief
- More surface kidnappings to gift to The Masters
- Call a stone giant moot
Brainstorm complete, I put them in a tentative order for gameplay:
4, 2, 1, 5, 3.
Do the Two-Step
That’s my Villain Plan first draft.
From here, I flip the plan into an adventure outline.
I then go through my adventure building steps to flesh encounters out.
In this way, my Villain Adventure is powered with an active Villain Plan at the center.
When the PCs tangle with Ganglot’s plan, I’ll refactor it between sessions.
I might add steps and change order.
Perhaps I call the giant moot, invite The Masters, and then get their blessing to hold a coup.
I’ll leave it up to gameplay and the villain, as circumstances change. Meantime, I’ve got a simple Villain Plan that lets me be an Agile GM while still having a great adventure ready to run.