So I just got done beating Final Fantasy IV on the DS and it was really great to play through that game again! I haven’t played it since I was about 16-17, so it’s been 11-12 year, give or take. I still remembered the overall plot, but forgot much of it, which was great because it, especially with the new graphics, cut scenes, etc, was like rediscovering the game all over again.
Final Fantasy IV really has the makings of a great story. It has loss, trials and tribulations of the main character, has a love arc, exploration, defeat and tragedy, and a villain (Goblez) that was totally inspired by Darth Vader.
My main complaint, and the whole purpose for this post, is the MAIN villain. Zemus/Zeromus. Who the hell is this guy?! I have no emotional attachment to this villain. His name, his appearance, nothing means anything to me. He’s mentioned in the later part of the 2nd half of the game, and it’s almost an after thought.. “We must stop Zemus!… Oh yeah.. He’s the bad guy who wants to destroy the world..” Ok.. Well.. why? “Cause he’s really angry..” Oooo.. Scary.
Having a villain with flavor is so important. I’ve faulted on this many times, and many games I’ve been in have also had this. People get so caught up in the plot they are crafting, the world they are building, etc, that the villain almost becomes a side dish, and not the main course.
Creating a villain that the characters have a personal stake in is a good way to get them interested. I know that the whole, “My father is the evil one” or the like is over done, but there is a reason it is over done. It works. It gets the player(s) involved.
Before it was revealed that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father, we knew he was bad ass. We knew we should fear him, and we also knew that we loved him! Think about a New Hope when after the blazing entrance of the kamikaze Storm Troopers, they hurriedly line up and Vader enters, with his slow mechanical breathing. Right there, you are hooked, and you know this guy will f*%k you up. That’s the way a villain should be.
If you don’t want to start a villain with a link between the characters, create on later, but give that villain an entrance! Have them do something that will make the players remember that person and fear them.
Think of Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII, when Cloud is telling the group about his time with him, after escaping Midgar. When Sephiroth goes insane and burns down Nibelhiem and you see his face with flames swirling around him, and he turns and walks away, his bad ass sword trailing behind him with his cloak billowing in the wind. That was a holy sh!t moment!
Having your party do something to affect the plans of the villain without them knowing and then having retribution enacted upon them is a good way to get them to go WTF. Having them return from an adventure, resting, to suddenly have their beloved town set ablaze around them while a lone figure watches in the distance to then turn and disappear, is a good way to pique your party’s curiosity.
Check out Johnn Four over at Role-playing Tips! His eZine is full of useful ideas to get your villains up to top-notch villainry!
What do you do to get your players interested/captivated by your villains?