An Essential Ingredient for EVERY Villain Encounter

A GM on Reddit the other day was lamenting about a classic villain disaster.

They introduced the BBEG at the start of their campaign to sew hints, hooks, hatred, and all that. But then the players unexpectedly attacked. Crits were rolled. The villain died.

The GM’s now prepping a new campaign.

Before you put villains into contact with player characters, be sure to have one specific thing prepared….

I first came across the idea of Combat Outs in this Critical Hits article from 2011. It’s such a great method that I now always include it in my Wizard of Combat program:

Have alternate means for the combat to end beyond the D&D default ‘one side is dead’.

Extending this to villains:

Have alternate means for the villain to escape if the characters get the upper hand.

I like to prep at least three ways a villain can escape if I intend for them to get within blades’ reach of the party. For example….

d12 Villain Escapes

  1. Begs for life, promises to share secrets, plans to escape captivity later.
  2. Stalls and waits for reinforcements to arrive.
  3. Has a special transport magic item. I often make this a one-shot item like a scroll or potion.
  4. Sets up a wall of minions before them and then runs away.
  5. Knows where the secrets doors are and never strays far from one.
  6. Keeps a mount nearby. Preferably a mount with a movement type the party can’t easily follow.
  7. Has a magic item that tricks the party, such as a hat of illusion, potion of invisibility, or a ring that charms others.
  8. Blocks Line of Site with smoke bombs, glitter explosions, magical darkness, or other means and then sneaks away.
  9. Uses a doppelganger, perhaps with remote vision and hearing so the villain can eavesdrop.
  10. Blocks movement. Villain interposes walls of magic, giant hands, or foul creatures between themselves and the party.
  11. The villain is actually a parasite or symbiote and will crawl away from the body when the PCs leave.
  12. The villain is a surprise relative of a PC. Your move, Luke.

Once we have a few ideas in our back pocket about how our precious villain can escape, we drop hints about this ahead of time in the encounter.

Then, when the villain summons his nightmare steed disguised as a pegasus, not only does the BBEG escape the party’s sweaty clutches, but he confuses them with his choice of mount. Maybe the BBEG is the good guy after all?

Time will tell. But for now, our NPC has spit danger in the face and lives to spit another day!

Have more fun at every game!

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