Author Topic: What is a (Real) Villain?  (Read 11079 times)

Kryos

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What is a (Real) Villain?
« on: June 03, 2016, 09:33:06 AM »
My eyes have caught glimpses of this topic spread about, from topic to topic, here and there.  To keep things succinct, I'll start with the question of the title, then offer my take.  What do you believe is a good villain, specifically to this game?

My take on the most enjoyable of villains in literature is the same as that I find in the game:  a villain I most enjoy proximity to is no grand and overplayed caricature , nor insufferable in their mental deficiency or abnormality.  The villains I enjoy the most are people with a path that crosses, contests, others.  Who have ambition, pride, narcissism, or loathing of self or others enough to defy and contest for what they desire.  People who would stand against you, yet with a twist of fate, might have been a stalwart ally.  Real people, not larger than life opposition.

In other words: a villain is a title given by those who view another with contempt and not a state of being aspired to or applied upon birth.

But that's just my opinion.  What's yours?

Desertman

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2016, 09:51:28 AM »
I like villains with weak points that can be exploited.

I intentionally make my villains have a weak point that will ultimately lead to their demise if someone can just figure out how to go about it.

I played an assassin once named Eye who's weak point was actually another person. I believe the name was Sergeant Russ of the T'zai Byn.

I decided that Sergeant Russ would be my character's only weak point as he would trust him as his only friend and never betray him or question his authority. He considered him his best and only friend and as such those that Sergeant Russ appeared to trust/befriend also got the same treatment from my character.

I forget how, but Sergeant Russ died. This left Eye with a void. Shortly after Sergeant Russ died, Eye was approached by another PC that Eye knew Sergeant Russ had trusted and considered a friend.

This PC got Eye into a meeting, a meeting Eye would NEVER agree to with anyone else for any reason. It had all of the makings of an obvious trap. I as the player was PRETTY SURE it was a trap in fact. I went into it thinking, "Yeah, this is a fucking trap, but Eye would do it.". Heh.

I get to the meeting, sit down and start discussing what I immediately as the player recognize as "Filler business.", but Eye wouldn't recognize that. Within a few minutes the curtain opens and in comes a horde of Templars and soldiers.

The party who betrayed Eye and got him there was hilarious. They put on the best but obviously false façade of "surprise" about what was happening. (The player played this masterfully and I couldn't help but laugh. They did it in a way that I would know I was betrayed OOC while IC'ly it would still be questionable to my PC. So well done.)

I was publicly executed. Pretty good end to a story I enjoyed.

My character had one single weakness he would follow to his death and that was his only friendship to another person. That trust in that one person and the people that person trusted by extension led to his ultimate demise pretty much the way I kind of expected it might when I made the decision to put in that weak point.

tldr: I like villains who have weaknesses that can be exploited. Weaknesses the players put into their PC's. Villains are there not to win the game. They are there basically to provide the rest of the playerbase with something to play against. I could have hid in the shadows pretty much indefinitely with that PC and not risked them and been a scourge for a very long time if I had chosen to. But, I chose to put in a weakness, and followed it to the end. When it was all said and done, it was sort of poetic and a lot more enjoyable as a whole than living forever in an untouchable cage of "I never make mistakes ever.". Your villains should be just dangerous enough/wicked enough to be good villains, but don't try to win the game with them. Try to make them interesting for "the good guys" to go after.
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LauraMars

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2016, 10:19:22 AM »
Villains are there not to win the game. They are there basically to provide the rest of the playerbase with something to play against.

This times a million.  For a villain played in Armageddon, the main criteria should be the entertainment of others.  You shouldn't go into it expecting to win the game or achieve great things, but rather to provide an antagonistic figure that players can unite in hatred against. The players of villains should expect to be targeted and possibly taken down by a person or a group of people, and I think this is something that needs to be OOCly accepted and internalized by the player before antagonistic play can truly be entertaining and beneficial for the game.

I want to see villains that are unafraid of conflict, and initiate it whenever possible.  I want the villainous figure to be ICly scary, but managed by a player who OOCly has care and respect for the playerbase.  I like larger than life villains who have both lethal and non lethal ways to antagonize people. Most of all, I want the villain to not think of themselves as a villain, because nobody does. Allow your character to be the hero of their own story, while OOCly recognizing you are playing a legitimately bad person.
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Patuk

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2016, 10:43:06 AM »
Quote
What is a (Real) Villain?

anyone with guild_pickpocket
Quote
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Molten Heart

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2016, 11:01:01 AM »
.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 11:13:39 AM by Molten Heart »

Armaddict

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2016, 11:13:19 AM »
Yeeeaaah, I don't make villains.  I make people.

Everyone is an antagonist to someone.  People band together as fellow protagonists.

I have never once sat down to make a character and said 'I'm gonna make a bad guy.' or 'I want this guy to be a white knight.'

I try to make a background with a running theme of perception, then react to people based off of that.  Sometimes I become known as a bad guy, and sometimes I become known as a hero to people.  The moment you're trying to wedge people into good or bad guy roles is the moment you're probably gonna fail at it.
She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together. --J.D. Salinger

Desertman

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2016, 11:59:45 AM »
I try to make my villains have very specific sets of morals, and then I stick to them.

For example, my character might be REALLY into torturing people, but he will never torture a little girl for any reason because the only person he ever loved was his little sister and all little girls remind him of her on some level. He would never break this code and go out of his way to possibly help such individuals whereas he would be disgusting on every other level.

I look for things I know the players of characters will find morally abhorrent and give my PC an IC reason to play to that.

The thing to remember is that to be a truly great villain, you have to actually make the character behind the keyboard appalled at your PC.

The difference in my opinion between playing a good villain and a great villain (which I'm still trying to do one day) is when the protagonist's players can hate/fear/be disgusted by you, as well as have their PC's do the same.

Anyone can roleplay their character considering your character a villain. When I play one, I set out to make the character's players consider my PC a villain on a moral level that they can't suffer to exist/be around.

When they finally get me, I want not only their PC's to feel like they have accomplished something.

I want the players behind their keyboards to say, "Fuck that fucking guy. Stupid piece of shit. I'm so glad I finally got that fucker. He needed to die. He was fucked.".

« Last Edit: June 03, 2016, 12:01:59 PM by Desertman »
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Malifaxis

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2016, 12:18:49 PM »
A villain rarely, if ever, looks at his actions and goes "YES, I AM NOT PROPERLY EVIL!  MUAHAHAHHAHA!"

A villain is almost always, without fail, a protagonist in their own mind.  They think that while, yes, they sometimes do Grey Area stuff, that the evil is necessary for a greater good that they perceive.  They fucking think they are the good guy.

That's the important bit.  That makes them real.  The villain, the realistic villain, thinks they're the fucking good guy.

They have an ever expanding pit within them, a gnawing, churning void of morality towards getting the end result.  It may start with stealing from one dude to give to their ailing mother.  Then later, they might mug another dude, because there wasn't just stuff that could be taken... but again, done for the ailing mother.  Later on, a murder, because if they could do this ONE SCORE then their mother would be set for a while.  They always rationalize it, there is always a reason, a realistic reason, as to why they are being a moustache-twisting damsel-putter-in-distresser. 

There should be, in ever villain's life, a moment where they have to confront what they are.  A moment of stark, naked realization that, holy shit, they are a monster... and that moment should have a profound impact on how they move forward.  Do they embrace the darkness and stop casting magick missiles at it?  Do they turn and flee and try to fuck a unicorn in order to become more pure?  This should be a real, pivotal, visceral moment of internal clashing that should shake the fucking pillars of heaven, Wang.

And that's how I play villains.  I always start them as a good guy... but with some moral decay.
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Kryos

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2016, 12:41:46 PM »
A villain rarely, if ever, looks at his actions and goes "YES, I AM NOT PROPERLY EVIL!  MUAHAHAHHAHA!"

A villain is almost always, without fail, a protagonist in their own mind.  They think that while, yes, they sometimes do Grey Area stuff, that the evil is necessary for a greater good that they perceive.  They fucking think they are the good guy.

That's the important bit.  That makes them real.  The villain, the realistic villain, thinks they're the fucking good guy.

They have an ever expanding pit within them, a gnawing, churning void of morality towards getting the end result.  It may start with stealing from one dude to give to their ailing mother.  Then later, they might mug another dude, because there wasn't just stuff that could be taken... but again, done for the ailing mother.  Later on, a murder, because if they could do this ONE SCORE then their mother would be set for a while.  They always rationalize it, there is always a reason, a realistic reason, as to why they are being a moustache-twisting damsel-putter-in-distresser. 

There should be, in ever villain's life, a moment where they have to confront what they are.  A moment of stark, naked realization that, holy shit, they are a monster... and that moment should have a profound impact on how they move forward.  Do they embrace the darkness and stop casting magick missiles at it?  Do they turn and flee and try to fuck a unicorn in order to become more pure?  This should be a real, pivotal, visceral moment of internal clashing that should shake the fucking pillars of heaven, Wang.

And that's how I play villains.  I always start them as a good guy... but with some moral decay.

Especially in game, I like this approach.  I lean towards more of a spur of the moment decision rather than trying to forecast, though I force them to confront what they are as their lives progress.  I might be able to elevate a bit by tweaking this.

If you play a character with any sort of social relationships or organizational involvement, you will find yourself before difficult choices.  I have found making the most of that to be a great way to make my PCs visceral.

Decameron

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2016, 12:47:09 PM »
Digging up a bit of the past on this one:

Man, really wish I could find where I had posted about this the last time it came up.

In either case, playing a villain, in my opinion, is like playing any other character, it's just a matter of priorities. When you're a villain, you are priority number #1. The first rule of being a villain is looking out for #1.

Let's use a scenario - you and your friend are out in the middle of the sands, and suddenly, you run into a huge problem. You forgot to bring a waterskin, and you're very, very far away from civilization.

This is where your 'sane brain' will kick in and say - "I must alert my friend to this crisis! He can provide me with his water-skin/food/cuddle-power and we can work together to get back to the City, and live in harmony!" Well - that would be all well and good - but it would not be very evil, now would it?

Always remember to think of what's best for #1. Alternatively, let's consider the situation faced from a villain perspective: "I forgot my waterskin! But wait! That's alright, my friend Amos is holding a waterskin for me!" How and where it goes from there depends on a variety of factors, but if it came down to it, the villain isn't going to be the one giving up his waterskin so the 'other guy' can ride into the sun-set.

A normal person can be seen in a very evil light when matters of survival come into play, and it's very easy to sort've snow-ball evil once the ball gets rolling: "I killed Amos - but I had to, because I needed the water, or I would've died. When I get back to the City, there's going to be people asking questions - he was a magicker, he turned, and I had to put him down. He wanted me to betray <whoever the fuck matters> and I didn't have a choice. I'm a hero."

People are always the narrators of their own story, and there's very few cases where people stare into the mirror and say something like, "Oh god, I am a monster!" There's always a reasoning, a justification for their actions, and that's how evil people can do evil things and still live with themselves.

Pale Horse

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2016, 01:34:32 PM »
I read a fantasy book entitled "Villains by Necessity" that explored the idea of the "evil" guys having to save the world from the "good" guys before it burned from it's own purity.  I won't go into the plot, but I have always been struck by how one of the main characters explained his perspective on being a "villain" to another character.

He said (paraphrasing here) that he was a villain not because he did morally bad things for the sack of being morally bad, not because he didn't "know" his actions were "bad" and not because he was just "evil."  He made his decisions and choices based off of selfishness, based off of his needs and wants and most times didn't give a damn about what the consequences meant to someone else.  He went on to explain that just because he thought this way doesn't mean he wasn't capable or altruism, friendship, loyalty and love.  He was, and had done all those at one time or another but the majority of his decisions always came down to "what's in it for me?"
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bardlyone

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2016, 03:13:15 PM »
A villain rarely, if ever, looks at his actions and goes "YES, I AM NOT PROPERLY EVIL!  MUAHAHAHHAHA!"

A villain is almost always, without fail, a protagonist in their own mind.  They think that while, yes, they sometimes do Grey Area stuff, that the evil is necessary for a greater good that they perceive.  They fucking think they are the good guy.

That's the important bit.  That makes them real.  The villain, the realistic villain, thinks they're the fucking good guy.

They have an ever expanding pit within them, a gnawing, churning void of morality towards getting the end result.  It may start with stealing from one dude to give to their ailing mother.  Then later, they might mug another dude, because there wasn't just stuff that could be taken... but again, done for the ailing mother.  Later on, a murder, because if they could do this ONE SCORE then their mother would be set for a while.  They always rationalize it, there is always a reason, a realistic reason, as to why they are being a moustache-twisting damsel-putter-in-distresser. 

There should be, in ever villain's life, a moment where they have to confront what they are.  A moment of stark, naked realization that, holy shit, they are a monster... and that moment should have a profound impact on how they move forward.  Do they embrace the darkness and stop casting magick missiles at it?  Do they turn and flee and try to fuck a unicorn in order to become more pure?  This should be a real, pivotal, visceral moment of internal clashing that should shake the fucking pillars of heaven, Wang.

And that's how I play villains.  I always start them as a good guy... but with some moral decay.

Everything Malifaxis said. This guy gets it. A villain is always the protagonist in their own story - the hero in their own story - at least for a time. They don't do stuff to just 'be evil', methinks people conflating the two are thinking of supervillians (as a counterpart to superheros), not the guy who's just sort of a shit person with no morals, trying to do the best they can to get along and achieve goals that are reasonable to them.

But to really oversimplify it: Is the guy you're facing off with at odds with you? You found your villain. The villain is the guy who opposes the protagonist - and as all characters are to at least some degree the protagonist of their own story - that means its "the other guy".
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Patuk

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2016, 04:03:50 PM »
My contribution to this thread may have been a joke so far, but I do think you're overthinking things here.
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SuchDragonWow

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2016, 04:44:41 PM »
I knew a guy once who sold his mother's pain pills.  I do not believe he ever did a good thing or thought he had a cause.
I knew a guy once who abandoned his family.  He didn't do it for any noble reason.  He was selfish.  Everything he did was for selfish reasons.
I knew a girl once who liked to torture animals.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she was a serial killer, now.

Some people are just born bad.  They're not like you or I, and their lack of a heart is the trigger, the alarm that tells us normal people that something is wrong.  There is a strong chance that some of you fit that criteria.  There is an even stronger chance that the low morality of Zalanthas creates A LOT of these people.

But if we're being real here ...

... I do think you're overthinking things here.

A real villain is any antagonist to your protagonist, so it would be impossible to play one on purpose.
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Asmoth

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2016, 04:48:59 PM »
I knew a guy once who sold his mother's pain pills.  I do not believe he ever did a good thing or thought he had a cause.
I knew a guy once who abandoned his family.  He didn't do it for any noble reason.  He was selfish.  Everything he did was for selfish reasons.
I knew a girl once who liked to torture animals.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she was a serial killer, now.

Some people are just born bad.  They're not like you or I, and their lack of a heart is the trigger, the alarm that tells us normal people that something is wrong.  There is a strong chance that some of you fit that criteria.  There is an even stronger chance that the low morality of Zalanthas creates A LOT of these people.

But if we're being real here ...

... I do think you're overthinking things here.

A real villain is any antagonist to your protagonist, so it would be impossible to play one on purpose.

What they are saying and I think you're missing is that not everyone is born a psychopath who kills because they love it.

Some people start out just trying to progress their goals, and when their goals cross the proverbial line of acceptable conduct, they fight to keep going towards their goals and not conform to the social norm.

So not everyone played is an inherent evil being.

Some of them just end up doing bad things because of circumstances beyond their control.
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SuchDragonWow

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2016, 04:53:11 PM »
Yes, I understand what is being said.  My post was in response to the OP.  I think if you want to play against your tragic anti-hero with an axe to grind, well ...  Yeah, I guess that's cool.  It's all been done, though, right?  The most authentic thing, in my mind, is perhaps not as entertaining, but is plentiful in the world, nonetheless.  That no-soul, black-as-tar motherfucker who took your coins because he can.
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Jingo

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2016, 05:21:00 PM »
Quote
What is a (Real) Villain?

anyone with guild_pickpocket

Much like pickpockets (actual pickpockets that actually pickpocket), villains aren't really possible unless players allows them to exist. Even if I were in a position where I could be a villain if I wanted to, I could not be bothered knowing how swiftly and efficiently the the player-world will react.

But whatever you do. Don't confuse "villain" with "kick the dog". You'd just be every other character in the game world who is mean to an elf because ???
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BadSkeelz

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2016, 06:20:09 PM »
Much like pickpockets (actual pickpockets that actually pickpocket), villains aren't really possible unless players allows them to exist. Even if I were in a position where I could be a villain if I wanted to, I could not be bothered knowing how swiftly and efficiently the the player-world will react.

What if those people are the real villains of Armageddon? Petite-bourgeois milquetoast status-quo affirming villains, but villains all the same.

I also agree that there is a distinction between a Villain and a simple Asshole.
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Armaddict

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2016, 06:35:50 PM »
I keep trying to tell people that you could make a character with a history that grants them the perception to see dainty, smiley aides as villains.

That sees corrupt soldiers as normal, and the 'true believers' as villains.

That sees independent hunters as villains.

That sees salters as villains.

All it takes to make a conflict-oriented character is to put them in a position, mentally, where the common themes of characters, through following those common themes, are participating in a heinous crime against your character or their freedom or their world view.

This is how we villainize people in real life.  This is how it can be done in game.  Conflict abound!
She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together. --J.D. Salinger

Jingo

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2016, 08:01:15 PM »
Much like pickpockets (actual pickpockets that actually pickpocket), villains aren't really possible unless players allows them to exist. Even if I were in a position where I could be a villain if I wanted to, I could not be bothered knowing how swiftly and efficiently the the player-world will react.

What if those people are the real villains of Armageddon? Petite-bourgeois milquetoast status-quo affirming villains, but villains all the same.

Well I would agree. Villains both IC and OOC.
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Majikal

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #20 on: June 03, 2016, 08:20:17 PM »
They have an ever expanding pit within them, a gnawing, churning void of morality towards getting the end result.  It may start with stealing from one dude to give to their ailing mother.  Then later, they might mug another dude, because there wasn't just stuff that could be taken... but again, done for the ailing mother.  Later on, a murder, because if they could do this ONE SCORE then their mother would be set for a while.  They always rationalize it, there is always a reason, a realistic reason, as to why they are being a moustache-twisting damsel-putter-in-distresser. 

There should be, in ever villain's life, a moment where they have to confront what they are.  A moment of stark, naked realization that, holy shit, they are a monster... and that moment should have a profound impact on how they move forward.  Do they embrace the darkness and stop casting magick missiles at it?  Do they turn and flee and try to fuck a unicorn in order to become more pure?  This should be a real, pivotal, visceral moment of internal clashing that should shake the fucking pillars of heaven, Wang.

And that's how I play villains.  I always start them as a good guy... but with some moral decay.

Well said.
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LauraMars

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #21 on: June 03, 2016, 09:54:39 PM »
Petite-bourgeois milquetoast status-quo affirming villains

the OOC villains
Child, child, if you come to this doomed house, what is to save you?

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Jingo

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2016, 11:55:15 PM »
I suppose to remain on topic.





This is a resource for game developers but useful to anyone trying to write a villain. Probably good for us too.
Now you're looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.

SuchDragonWow

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2016, 12:04:41 AM »
Jingo, we all know you want to play an elf and be loved, welcome to like, every elf character ever.
Where it will go

Jingo

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Re: What is a (Real) Villain?
« Reply #24 on: June 04, 2016, 01:58:28 AM »
Jingo, we all know you want to play an elf and be loved, welcome to like, every elf character ever.

I am the Eternal Elf Ear Endorser.

Racial roleplay aside. My point was that player prerogative to be a badguy seems to manifest in kicking down at elves etc. It just happens to be an easy way to be bad without actually engaging in any meaningful conflict.

Over the years I think this has resulted in some weird undocumented head canon that has cemented city elves into a nearly unplayable role. But wait, that's another thread.
Now you're looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.