by Mike Shea on 15 February 2010
"You sent them to their death," said Akti. Arantham turned his black eyes to the ice-lich. "Uganan knew this - I could see it in his eyes.
"It was necessary," said Arantham. "With the power of the soulstream no longer in our grasp, we needed more time. The attack on Zvormarana will buy us time. Soon the Shieldbashers will enter Death's Reach. We must uncover the Reliquary before they do."
Arantham turned to Ghovran Atki. "Stay here in Sigil," said Arantham. "Should they return, you must slow them further. Shonvurru and I will return to Death's Reach, finish the excavation, and call upon the Prince of Undeath to speak of our progress.
Ghovran Atki kept the black orbs of his eyes upon his master as he nodded.
Aranthamturned to Shonvurru and nodded.The six-armed, serpentine-bodied demoness tossed a cloud of red dust into the portal and it roared with black-red fire, illuminating the chamber in strange light.A deep boom vibrated the chamber around them and the dark mist flowed down into the portal of deep red.
"Death's Reach," whispered Arantham. "Let us complete our quest."
I know, I know. There's nothing worse than hearing about someone else's game. I hope you will forgive me for using up valuable words with a cut from my own out-of-game bit of storyline. However, the above snippet shows a new concept that I'm going to start trying out - quests for villains.
We all know and love quests for characters in 4th Edition. They solidify what our PCs do, what options they have available, and give some bonus experience or treasure for meeting a set goal. Good quests can tie together a larger storyline and give each PC something specific to shoot for. They're a great tool for DMs to help build structure around their storyline and help clarify what might otherwise get muddied in a complex arc.
But what about our villains? Why can't it do the same thing for them? What possible quests could they be working on while your party of PCs carves their way through some dungeon? What motivates them and what do they hope to gain?
Quests for villains, or any set of NPCs for that matter, can serve the same advantages that quests for PCs serve. They can help solidify your storyline by tying together motivations and goals. They keep villains focused on a set outcome rather than simply waiting in a big room for your PCs to come kill them. They help fill out the personality and character arc of the villain you have in mind.
Consider this. Your party has the quest to hunt down a necromancer in the icy north. They have to find his evil tower, defeat its guardians and traps, and face the necromancer himself. That's a good solid party quest. What about the necromancer? Perhaps his quest is to release a terrible primordial evil buried under the ice for half a million years. To accomplish his quest, he has undead slaves digging deep into the ice while he researches a spell to awaken the beast below. As your party hunts down the tower, the necromancer is likewise moving forward in his own quest, sending his guardians to locate old tomes of forbidden knowledge. He is enslaving a local barbarian tribe, slaughtering them and reanimating them for his slave pit. If the party cannot move forward fast enough, he might even succeed and awaken the Darkness Below.
The nice thing about this idea is the feeling that the necromancer is just as alive as the PCs. He's moving forward, following his own path while the PCs follow theirs. Instead of villains filling up monster closets, just waiting for a PC to open the door, the villain has his or her own path.
A good villain quest might also include a timeline. How many days will it take the necromancer to dig down in the ice to the beast below? What would slow him down or speed him up? How long will it take him to unravel the dark magics required to awaken the beast? As your party thwarts his plans, it might push his timeline out. If they fail in one path, it might speed him up.
Quests for villains are an easy way to make your villains come to life. They give your villain purpose and motivation. They give your villain a goal and steps into which the lives of your PCs can mingle. They help make your villains come to life.
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