I continue rushing headlong into the second year of writing Coldforged material, and this year I hope to cover enough topics in preparation to print as is possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch. I’m starting a new series here about writing adventures and trying to get the flavor of Coldforged setting to come through. This week, I take a look at the types of villains, where they come from, and what might drive them.
Within every setting, the villains, their allies, henchmen, and other enemies provide the backbone of an adventure. These individuals, be they NPC’s, monsters, or even natural calamities, form the connective tissue that pulls each of the encounters into a single whole.
In the Coldforged campaign setting, many adventures can be had by taking the pillars of the setting and combining them with the adventure archetype and adding a villain to the mix to provide the direction. Here, I’ll go over a number of regional villains that make sense for each civilization or region, as appropriate. not all regions will have appropriate villains within them, but by looking to neighboring regions, we can count on some bleed through to provide us with options. These villains are here to provide a springboard for your own ideas, so don’t assume that you have to keep with any of the provided information. Adapting ideas to your playgroup and campaign form the core of Roleplaying games, and this one is no different!
Killbarums’ history as the Magocratic Republic and now a shattered territory scattered through with powerful warlords of all types holding sway over contested territories and city-states makes it an excellent location for adventures with compelling, humanoid villains. Monsters are not remiss here, but the greater villain in a Killbaran adventure very strongly calls out to be an intelligent humanoid with dark motives.
Mad Arcanists – after the mage blight and the ensuing purge that slew hundreds of arcanists around the Republic, most went into exile or hiding, and a strong portion of these individuals was able to return to society once the general was dead and the republic shattered, resuming their position as leaders and community pillars. Not all were able to retain their cognizance.
The Mad Arcanists were unable to come to terms with the shattering of the society they once ruled and the system that they enjoyed. With colleges abandoned or reduced to rubble, their compatriots executed or driven away, they lost their grip on reality. Now, these Arcansists of all sorts – Warlock, Sorcerer, Wizard, and Bard – pursue widely varied goals, like the destruction of those who wronged them, the downfall of a specific city that betrayed them, or simply the annihilation of all Killbaran civilization. They live in towers and keeps, dungeons and labyrinthian forests, and all manner of safehouses in between, providing excellent adventure opportunities to stop a clear villain.
Ambitious Thieves – While Killbarum was intact, it harbored the home of the greatest thieves guild that Tysis had ever seen. The Black Widows had their web spread across multiple cities and even into different kingdoms throughout the continent, bringing in vast, untold riches to the leaders in the city of Killbar itself.
Now, decades later, the guild is leaderless and scattered, shattered at its very core, gutted when the city was razed and the majority of its members slaughtered. That does not mean, however, that individuals don’t crave a return to what once existed. Dozens of low-level individuals along with those who ran smaller branches in other cities and kingdoms strive to recreate the glory of the Black Widows, organizing crime syndicates and attempting to wrest power invisibly within the areas they inhabit. These underhanded and vile organizations provide a viable enemy organization at all levels.
Strong Warlords – In the aftermath of the fall of the republic and the collapse of the senate, various individuals swiftly took control of their local cities and provinces, either organizing resistance to Moduru’s forces or capitulating to them and providing armed assistance against the rest of the continent. After Modurus defeat, these cities, many of which had long and storied histories before they were conquered by Killbar, did not reunite but began waring with each other.
Since those initial days, little has changed. Warlords vie for control of cities and their surrounding areas, armies march, fight, and lay siege to cities far and wide. Different warlords have risen and fallen, created grudges with each other, and bleed the countryside dry. Few limit their ambition to their own city, coveting nearby resources, power, and wealth. These Warlords are not limited to individuals of martial prowess, with some of those in control being devious thieves, master manipulators, political savants, and renowned arcanists. The power of these individuals makes crossing one of them dangerous no matter the circumstances, though often in very different ways.
Savvy Nobles – Sustaining the Tyndaria for years with food, warriors, and mercantile skill, the nobility carried with them the weight that they were the backbone of the kingdom, holding it together with the sheer might of their combined wills. When first the Silentknives, and then other houses, rebelled to form their own kingdoms, instability, and doubt have been the diet of the nobility in all of the fractured realms.
In spite of this fragmenting, or even perhaps because of it, the nobility of the Kingdom strives to maintain its preeminence in society. Once powerful houses serving the King and Kingdom of Tyndaria, they now seek to enforce their powers in whichever kingdom they now find themselves within. These individuals are master manipulators who strive tirelessly to ensure that they and their interests remain paramount to whichever kingdom they side with. These nobles have a broad span of abilities and powers, from arcanists to warriors to simply commoners with charisma and intellect to spare.
Devoted Cultists – When food is abundant and life is tedious and plain, many look to deities to provide them with a sense of meaning. For generations, the Nobility of Tyndaria was able to guide the commonfolk to the divine patron that had blessed their house, providing a personal line to the well being of the towns and cities across the kingdoms.
With Tyndaria falling apart and near-constant war between multiple actors, commonfolk are less likely to see the deities of their liege in a positive light, instead, they link those same patrons to the troubling times. It is not a pleasantly happy citizen that turns to the cults of the accursed for salvation and change. The cults of the accursed and their leaders have started to emerge from the darkness, bringing with them retribution against the divine, the promise of power, and the magical might, both necromantic and otherwise.
Ardent Crusaders – Tyndaria has a long and proud history of dedicated divine champions who devote themselves to the causes of righteousness and justice, built of noble families, and spread to commoner and freefolk alike. These true believers stand strong in their faith and fight for their deity’s cause with zeal and ardor.
In troubling times, however, these can be extremely detrimental traits, as what is right and wrong is easily turned on its heads, and those who were once seen as allies are now sworn, enemies. These righteous champions of pious might and divine retribution can set their wrath on undeserving towns and villages for small slights, and sometimes entire kingdoms or people for betrayals either real or perceived. When they set their eyes on a task, it is nearly impossible to sway them from the cause.
Vengeful Shaman – In the forests of Thrax, where Orc and Human live side by side, there have always been those who could speak with the spirits of nature itself, Communing with the stones, mountains, trees, and glades, speaking with animal, location and plants alike. These shamans often guide the chieftain’s decisions toward that which the spirits desire and have communicated through omens and visions.
There are times, however, when a particular shaman may speak falsehoods or commune with the angry spirits of the land. While this may lead to smaller actions against particular people, it is often the guidance of a vindictive and monstrous shaman that leads to uniting and conquering tribes, combining into a horde that can destroy all in its path, often including more technologically powerful kingdoms.
Fervent Chieftain – The tribes of Thrax have always looked to powerful chieftains to direct them, who in turn look to their shamans to interpret the world around them. These chieftains are ultimately responsible for the lives of their tribes, and the direction of the tribespeople. There are always those looking to unseat an unpopular chieftain, and the easiest way to become unpopular is to refrain from combat.
Some of these chieftains, however, never offer restraint, and never take advice from their shamans. Instead, their fervent belief in their own leadership skills, combat prowess, and physical power will often lead them to make decisions for the good of the tribe. Often, this leads to conflict between tribes, and sometimes exile or banishment. Few of these Chieftains, banished or otherwise, are without a cadre of powerful warriors and skilled shamans to guide their host into combat.
Pledged Warlocks – Throughout the history of Thrax, there have been shamans who have spoken with and listened to the spirits of the earth, heading their council and listening to their guidance. There have always been some, however, who have empathized beyond simply advice, and have sworn to enact the spirits will on the mortal world, and are provided the substantial powers to do so.
These shamans sworn to the spirit world have embraced the outlook of their patrons, and seek to further their aims. Often, as these spirits are nature-oriented, they seek reclamation of nature or destruction of civilization in some manner. These spirits generally have limited goals and ability to plan, so they are good to use as a straight forward villain, threatening a specific area with the henchmen that they’ve acquired and influence they’ve attained.
These are the first few, I’ll try and be briefer on my next go round.
Until next time!