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Tips for running "bad" or "evil" NPCs?

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PingGuy

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« on: (10:36:46/11-07-18) »
Now that I've been running a campaign for a while, I'm starting to identify some of my problem areas.  One that is going to be a problem coming up soon is that I'm too nice.  My NPCs are probably all a little too friendly and accommodating.  My runners are nearing the point where they will be dealing with some bad dudes, borderline evil, and I want them to stand out from the NPCs they have experienced so far.  To give you a better idea, I'd say it would be hard to distinguish an NPC I was roleplaying to be friendly to them, from one that is neutral to them.  Crossing over into a more oppositional role should be more noticeable, but I want to get past noticeable, into memorable.

The group is in the process of taking down a small gang in Redmond, partially by subversion and partially by infiltration.  I've let them find their own paths to each goal.  The leaders of the gang are father and son.  The father is a former MCT exec who would sell out anybody to survive, including his son.  His son is former Yakuza, with a drug habit and no morals to speak of.  He is particularly fond of murder and abuse.

At this point, the runners vaguely know these things.  They know that the son did some bad things to the female protagonist of the plot.  They know these guys started this gang to make money on the backs of disposable gangers.  But I feel like no matter what they end up knowing, if I don't RP the NPCs correctly, it won't be as fun as I want it to be.

Does anybody have suggestions for ways to RP some bad dudes?  Or for ways to flesh them out to make them more bad, especially ways that make them easier to RP them that way?

adzling

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« Reply #1 on: (10:54:27/11-07-18) »
everyone has motivations that drive them, and psychological tendencies/ predilections that define how they react to and interpret the world.

define those two elements and your NPCs will be much more realistic.

while almost anyone can react in an "evil" manner almost no one is just "evil".

the exceptions are folks with real psychological problems that result in them reacting to/ seeing the world completely differently from most people.

example 1: malignant narcissism
read up on wikipedia for how these people see the world very differently from normal people.
or just watch our president.

example 2: psychopath

example 3: megalomaniac

etc.

almost all world leaders whose rule resulted in extreme human suffering had some diagnosable psychological underpinning for their behaviour.

i.e. Hitler: malignant narcissism
Stalin: psychopath with an inferiority complex
Mao: neurotic with an inferiority complex

etc.


PingGuy

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« Reply #2 on: (11:53:05/11-07-18) »
I do try to give each character some kind of motivation.  In this case the father's is greed and a lust for status in the Seattle scene.  He's using the money he's gaining to try to climb the social ladder (his presence in the gang is mostly secret).  The son's motivation is more about power and the ability to throw his weight around.  He's more maniacal and abusive.

I'll definitely read up on those psychological definitions, they may give clues on how to roleplay those mentalities.  Mostly I'm worried about my delivery not matching the picture of the NPC I have in my head.  I just don't have a love for bad guys in any story.  I don't even play bad guys in video games like SW:KOTOR.  Trying to act like a Sith seemed more stressful than fun, so I skipped that side.

Dangit, I'm just too nice.  That's the problem.  Like I could easily have the NPC take bad actions, but I'm not sure I can verbalize bad-guy-speak.  This is going to take some writing ahead of time.  Time to go research villain dialogue...

Reaver

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« Reply #3 on: (12:00:15/11-07-18) »
Ok, This is can be a hard thing for some people to act out. Adzling is correct that generally there is a mental condition that lies behind anti-social behavior.

The trick is how to "show" this to the players. The first and most obvious method is to stage a scene for them where these two leaders do something horrific;
This is where the villain shoots the heroes dog in the movie (John Wick), Burns down the farmstead (Outlaw Josie Wales), or rapes and murders a loved one (The Crow).

Sometimes to can convey their evil through a dialogue interaction, or other speech event... (Hilter's address to Germany),  (Plans to sell contaminate drugs to kids)

And sometimes you can show how evil a villain is through what they don't do... many people find a complete lack of empathy, to be very disquieting....
The Mob boss who complains that the man they are turning into hamburger is crying too loudly...


Since you're the GM, the trick will be to navigate the scene to allow you the time to convey  how evil they are through action, inaction, or dialogue...

Maybe the Players oversee them deal with an rival dealer?
 Maybe they watch them discipline a wayward member?
 Maybe they overhear their plans to burn down a school house full of children? (Or other event)


Sometimes you can convey just how damaged an individual is with just a sentence or two...

"Marty, I want to round up a couple of guys, go down to that walk in clinic on 5th, Spray the place with lead, and toss in a fire bomb for good measure."

"Boss, isn't that the free clinic that helps out the Orks in the area?"

"yea, So? they are refusing to pay protection. Besides, it's not like Orks are people"
Where am I going? And why am I in a hand basket ???

Remember: You can't fix Stupid. But you can beat on it with a 2x4 until it smartens up! Or dies.

adzling

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« Reply #4 on: (13:24:26/11-07-18) »
xclnt stuff reaver!

Beta

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« Reply #5 on: (16:19:02/11-07-18) »
I think this depends a lot on how the players are going to be interacting with them (as fake gang members, at the end of a gun, investigating from a distance, making a proposal face to face, .....)  I guess I'd say map out when/in what stage you want to make it clear, then figure out what could go there.

Also, your players may or may not care that the guys are evil (after all, many runners are pretty amoral themselves).  They may care that the guys are a threat to the runners in some way.  One way you could possibly show that is to have something fairly awful happen to a contact.  "Hey Wax, I haven't been able to get in touch with Tic-Tac for a couple of days and I need some fancy ammo for a job.  Any idea where he is?"  "Didn't you hear?  He refused to sell frag grenades to some gang boss, and the guy blew Tic-Tac's knee apart, and then killed his security guy, before trashing his workshop.  Tic-Tac's in Doc Chop's clinic, plugged into the autodoc, trying to decide if he's getting a full leg replacement or only from the knee down.  I bet he's going to have to jack his prices to pay for that drek."
Jawsey  --
speechthought

PingGuy

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« Reply #6 on: (09:04:02/11-08-18) »
Well, it sounds like I'm more on track than I realized.  I had the backgrounds developed ahead of time.  Some events that are bad have already been presented to the runners.  Since we're coming up on some potential face to face interactions, I wanted to be sure to maintain the image I've been developing for them.  If they meet this guy who did bad things, and he talks like the evil equivalent of Barney the Dinosaur, then I'll be disappointed in myself.

I think I'll focus on the son first, since he's the next most likely point of contact.  If I can establish some areas of confidence around him, that will allow me to be more brash in conversations.  I want to be sure he can be bold without easily exposing weaknesses.  This is in part to improve the experience for the players, but also to establish a sense of caution in their minds when dealing with him.  They can take this guy down, if they work together and are careful.  But I want it to seem daunting, and I want them to be afraid of him, at least at first.  If a good portion of that fear comes from my actual roleplaying of the guy, that would be even better.

To some degree this is just inexperience.  The longer I GM, the better I'll get at running NPCs, and hopefully the more diverse they will seem.

Sphinx

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« Reply #7 on: (10:19:55/11-08-18) »
A few thoughts about designing a good antagonist:

1. What's their deal? Every good villain needs an agenda. Something they're trying to accomplish. "Random mayhem" might work okay for some, but it's not for everyone. Most have an objective, and they feel perfectly justified doing whatever is necessary to accomplish it. Revenge. Influence. Wealth. Dominance. Possession. Everyone thinks they're righteous, even (perhaps especially) the biggest bastard on the block. 

2. Who matters? To a sociopath, other people don't matter; they're just part of the landscape. To a psychopath, other people do matter, if only as potential victims. But villains can complicated. Maybe they love someone fiercely and will commit atrocities to protect them. Maybe they value loyalty, and draw clear lines between "us" and "them." Maybe they have a grand vision that's simply more important than any regrettable casualties along the way.

3. How far will they go? Some villains have no boundaries; there's no line they won't cross. But most still think of themselves as decent people willing to make sacrifices and tough choices. They can still have a code. Maybe they refuse to harm priests, or women, or children, or dogs. "What kind of monster do you think I am?" You can give players a glimpse of that monster lurking inside by showing what happened to someone who got in their way.

4. Where's the common ground? What circumstances might make the hero and villain set aside their differences, temporarily? A shared prejudice or passion (maybe she's a monster, but she's got great taste), or a common foe (the enemy of my enemy is my friend ... for now). Villains are more memorable when you sympathize with them a little.
« Last Edit: (10:21:36/11-08-18) by Sphinx »

« Reply #8 on: (10:28:42/11-08-18) »
I'd highly recommend this if it hasn't already been done:

Find out what the limits are for the real-world players. It's not going to be very much fun for the player(s) involved if you trigger real-world memories by cranking the evil factor up through NPC's despicable actions.


Jayde Moon

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« Reply #9 on: (11:10:08/11-08-18) »
He means boundaries, of course!

I imagine trying to find out a player's Limits.

"Yeah, your physical limit is 3."

"Bruh, I run track, it's higher than that!"

"Yeah but you can't lift 50 pounds and Agility doesn't factor."

On topic, I don't think you'll have a problem.  The answers above are all solid.

I'm a fan of the 'invisible' villain, someone that appears, does evil, and then stays a step ahead, leaving a trail of whatever they're leaving, and needling the PCs at every step.
That's just like... your opinion, man.

Rosa

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« Reply #10 on: (09:50:24/11-10-18) »
If your players can handle it....have the ones infiltrating the gang walk in on the son and his closest cronies watching a taping of him abusing someone  ( maybe the female protagonist you mentioned ) and clearly enjoying watching his own abuse on the trid commenting on his own form, then have him notice the infiltrating players and have him casually ask them if they wanna come pick up some chicks later on. That should have them instantly hate him as well as make them worried about what they will have to participate in in order to maintain their Infiltration.

Magnaric

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« Reply #11 on: (16:43:06/11-10-18) »
One thing that's always resonated with me is a quote I heard a while back, can't remember where. "Every villain is the hero of their own story."  Now you can replace hero with antihero, badass, whatever, but the point is that almost no one sees the things they do as wrong. Or at least, not wrong without purpose. It could be that their morals are twisted or absent, that they have a compulsion to do certain things, or even that they realise they're doing unsavory things but they justify it as necessary to do a greater good(as they see it).

This has honestly helped me write NPCs a lot better. Sphinx made a great summary with his post above about basic motivations, priorities, etc, and for me the most basic question is "What does this guy/girl want, and how do they want to get it?". A street thug in a gang probably only really knows how to get what they want through violence, so for them every problem can be solved the same way. That's why they make great basic bad guys. You don't need to feel bad for shooting the guy that just wants to rob/kill/etc everyone.

For other bad or evil NPCS, take a look at TV, movies, and even real world examples and then try to see how they view whatever they're doing as the "right":thing, or see themselves as the hero.

The gang leader? He's seen his friends, family, etc get killed, turn to drugs, sex trade, or worse. He's been hurt and stepped on, so he'll do whatever it takes to not get hurt again, and to show the world how tough he is.  As long as people show him the respect he thinks he deserves, they're good. Doesn't mean he won't crack a few skulls to make sure people know though.

Organised Crime? Nearly every single group here has some group they respect and care about, and a code of ethics to operate by. The Mafia and the Yakuza, for example, entrench themselves deeply in the communities they operate in, to the point that they're sometimes seen as more benevolent and helpful than the government. The Italian mob rose to power largely by taking care of local businesses and peoe in their community and being less corrupt than a lot of the police and government officials. Sure they charge for "protection", but on some level they tried to keep business and family separate, and boy did they respect family. And the Yakuza are no strangers to helping out communities ether. In the relatively recent floods in Japan, it was the Yaks that made sure food, supplies, and aid in trucks got through to help a bunch of communities that were suffering afterwards. Seriously, Google it, it's really neat to read about. Do they commit violence, horrible crimes, etc? Sure. But they try to be as civil as possible about most of their business.

Honestly some of the most "evil" people are those who use the system to achieve positions of immense power. How many government leaders and corporate CEOs are there that have done unspeakable things in the name of power and profit? As Gordon Gekko once said, "Greed us good", and boy do they believe it. Their main motivation is to constantly acquire and keep as much power and wealth as possible. Why? Because it gives you freedom. Freedom to say yes or no, to do what you want, to get what you want, and to stop the other guy from saying you can't do or have something. What they're willing to do for this varies widely, but on some level their morals tend to usually be sone version of "The ends justify the means". After all, when you make the rules, who can tell you they're wrong?

Anyway this was much longer than expected, but always try to figure out why an NPC believes they're right , and it'll help a lot.
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The Wyrm Ouroboros

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« Reply #12 on: (05:15:08/11-11-18) »
Tips for the RP side.

For the father:
This sounds like a mastermind.  Tone down your expressions as much as you can -- pleased, upset, whatever, they should all come out as various stages of 'thoughtful'.  Since everything he does is calculated to get him power and influence, let him react and interact with the PCs as both potential issues to be eliminated and potential pawns to be utilized.  'Calculating' is the key, here; even the smiles are calculated, so pause just for an instant before giving the players one.

Son:
I don't know what he did to get kicked out of the Yakuza, but being an unrepentant psychopath would do it.  Pick three weird things for him -- one to laugh at; one to be totally blase' towards; and one to be angry about.  These should be atypical reactions for whatever it is; laughter at the misfortune of others is something of a default, (you don't need to make it 'total cackling madman', just a brief 'ha-ha!!' can be enough, if there's real amusement on your face) but it could be anything you wouldn't normally laugh at.  Trolls, perhaps; they just strike him as being really, really funny.  The 'angry' thing should be related, however peripherally, to the 'last straw' that got him kicked out of the Yakuza.  Blase' might be 'specific violence' or something, or whatever might work for the character.  The trick here is to make odd choices for these, then be able to actually bring them out in front of your players.


I do want to point out that, properly employed, the father at least could last dozens of missions, whether as an employer or a recurring foe.  Getting rid of him now, at the very start, may be ... short-sighted, even if the PCs do become his opponents and foil every plan of his they come across; as they grow in strength and influence, due to other things he has in motion so does he, until eventually ...
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PingGuy

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« Reply #13 on: (10:06:56/11-12-18) »

Lots of good stuff in here that I'm going to use, but there are a few I want to reply to.

If your players can handle it....have the ones infiltrating the gang walk in on the son and his closest cronies watching a taping of him abusing someone  ( maybe the female protagonist you mentioned ) and clearly enjoying watching his own abuse on the trid commenting on his own form, then have him notice the infiltrating players and have him casually ask them if they wanna come pick up some chicks later on. That should have them instantly hate him as well as make them worried about what they will have to participate in in order to maintain their Infiltration.

I've kind of already spoiled the opportunity for that to happen, but I like the concept of them witnessing his actions as opposed to trying to use his words to convey his level of derangement.  So I'm going to think about a way to do something similar.

Tips for the RP side.

For the father:
This sounds like a mastermind.  Tone down your expressions as much as you can -- pleased, upset, whatever, they should all come out as various stages of 'thoughtful'.  Since everything he does is calculated to get him power and influence, let him react and interact with the PCs as both potential issues to be eliminated and potential pawns to be utilized.  'Calculating' is the key, here; even the smiles are calculated, so pause just for an instant before giving the players one.

Son:
I don't know what he did to get kicked out of the Yakuza, but being an unrepentant psychopath would do it.  Pick three weird things for him -- one to laugh at; one to be totally blase' towards; and one to be angry about.  These should be atypical reactions for whatever it is; laughter at the misfortune of others is something of a default, (you don't need to make it 'total cackling madman', just a brief 'ha-ha!!' can be enough, if there's real amusement on your face) but it could be anything you wouldn't normally laugh at.  Trolls, perhaps; they just strike him as being really, really funny.  The 'angry' thing should be related, however peripherally, to the 'last straw' that got him kicked out of the Yakuza.  Blase' might be 'specific violence' or something, or whatever might work for the character.  The trick here is to make odd choices for these, then be able to actually bring them out in front of your players.


I do want to point out that, properly employed, the father at least could last dozens of missions, whether as an employer or a recurring foe.  Getting rid of him now, at the very start, may be ... short-sighted, even if the PCs do become his opponents and foil every plan of his they come across; as they grow in strength and influence, due to other things he has in motion so does he, until eventually ...

It's like you were there in my head when I made these NPCs...  :)

That's definitely the way I'll play the father, he's not concerned with anything but his own success.  It fits with how this entire story came together.  And he'll be the last NPC they need to take down, hopefully in a rather public event of shaming that foils his plans.

The son is definitely a psychopath, or at least borderline.  The story basically goes that dad was using his position in MCT to steal from the company.  The son was leading a very small splinter group of Yakuza to do the stealing.  The son got a little drugged up and crazy during one of the thefts, and after some drama, that led to them both getting caught.  They ended up escaping, with a little inside help, before those that caught them had reported it.  My players are the runner team that are trying to clean this up quietly, so the MCT execs that never reported it can sweep it under the rug for good.

I guess as far as the Yakuza is concerned, the son is MIA, assumed dead.  They fled Japan and came to Seattle where they started this low-level gang in the barrens.  They haven't really been on the radar of the Yakuza here, and use lieutenants to deal with the lowbie gangers.  It's a terrible gang, and a few pulls at a few threads could easily tear it apart.  The runners are working on their second thread now.  Ideally they won't be taking on the son just yet, but they will be meeting him face to face very soon.  They've managed to infiltrate the gang at the lieutenant level, and I have no idea what they are planning yet.  Things will probably get interesting and I'll have to think fast.