Tales from the Gazebo – Foes

By Cape Rust

Foes and locations are a huge part of any game. If you don’t have the right bad guys, most games feel kind of flat. Look at Darth Vader, he is one of the baddest bad guys ever and we couldn’t forget him if we tried. In fact, Luke’s showdown with Vader on cloud city was an excellent example of a great location and an epic foe. Well-designed locations will enhance any game and well-thought out foes will do the same; combine them and you are golden. In the next few weeks we’ll look at exactly what a foe is, three of the foes our players will face, how to grow your foe and finally combining foe and locations.

I started this article out talking about villains and bad guys, but a foe, while encompassing villains and bad guys, can be a good guy as well. Foes might not be bad, just people who do not want the same types of good things that you or your adventuring party want. I love bad guys, I’m not talking about the bad guys who have a heart of gold and just do bad things, I’m talking about the kinds of bad guys who kill baby seals and make jock straps from their warm fur, but not all adventures need the kind of adversary that will expel their own mother out of an airlock just because she is taking up too much space in the ship. This is where the foe comes into play. I am a Brown Coat at heart and in the Firefly game that I am developing, the leader of one of factions vying for the mystery cargo that the alliance wants delivered happens to be part of a faction that supports the Brown Coat cause as well. Can I call this person a villain or even a bad guy? I don’t think so, but because of the differences of opinion when it comes to that mystery Alliance cargo, this person is defiantly a foe. So let’s take a look at the three major foes our erstwhile adventures might face.

First we will get an idea of just how the Alliance contact that is dealing with our adventurers thinks. For now I want to make this contact a female. Not sure why female, but why not? I will go ahead and throw away the mysterious raven haired vixen who is out to prove something to every man she meets. I am going to go for the overlooked, only gets dates because she is stuck on a ship with a limited pool of possible female companions and never gets called back when the ship reaches homeport. For good measure, I don’t want her to be smart. I want her to be a yes woman! Before I have put any stats to her I can already see a few hooks that can be used. Because of the flexible planning style I like to use and combine the fact that I am lazy I’m not going to get too deep into developing her.

I will go ahead and name her. In a small twist I have decided to give her a name that is completely different than her personality, Raven is sounding good; it will hopefully conjure up images in the player’s minds that will be quickly dispelled by Raven’s frumpy disheveled appearance. I think this “any woman” appearance might actually make her semi-likeable, even if she does work for the Alliance. I want to be careful to avoid any “Usual Suspects” situation so her concept will be more of a low-level Alliance admin person who has the ability to make things happen but doesn’t realize it. She will have few social skills and even fewer physical skills and be off the charts on mental abilities. I will give her a random of seemingly useless skill that I will try to incorporate into the game or to use as a character hook. Raven has a name and a concept so now it is time to finish up her appearance.

Ravens concept will dictate how she looks, no big surprise there. I want to make her short, I’m not talking midget short but real close. I served with plenty of vertically challenged soldiers and no matter how squared away they were, no matter how physically fit they were they had a hard time finding a uniform that fit right, and let’s face it most uniforms do not exactly favor the female form. Because Raven is Alliance she will have to wear one of those ill-fitting uniforms and it will only add to her becoming memorable. Another factor I love about shorter characters is the player’s tendency to overlook (pun intended) and underestimate them. I’m thinking mousey brown fizzy hair, no glasses and unique colored eyes (I’ll figure the exact color out later). I am hoping like me you can start to picture Raven. I have already started to play with a few back story ideas and I have yet to put a single stat or skill allocation point to her.

I believe in stating out my NPCs, because it keeps them from being in “god mode” all the time. But like every other character sheet everything should be in pencil and should be subject to change if those changes make things more interesting or fun. I like to keep things loose, but there is a temptation for GMs to make their NPCs way too much like PCs. This problem will be magnified if the GM likes the NPC. The stats for the NPC tend to keep me as a GM from making that mistake.

I believe that there is a difference between foes and villains, for this adventure two of the three major antagonists will be foes not villains. NPCs should never be an afterthought as they can really make or break an adventure or campaign. Spend time on them, but not too much time and do whatever you can as a GM to avoid turning an NPC into your personal PC; you can run the game or play in it, but not both! Next week we will cover our last two major antagonists then the following week we will discuss growing foes and combining foes and locations. And please remember, keep the PC out of NPC!

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