Tales from the Gazebo – Skull Candy

Skull Candy
By Cape Rust

Last week, we discussed foes and introduced you to the frumpy but likeable Raven who will represent most of the players’ interactions with the Alliance… long live the Brown Coats! This week I will focus on the other two major antagonists, the leader of the Brown Coat sympathizers and our resident villain, the leader of the pirates. As I develop these next two foes, think about plot hooks that you could use as a GM.

I will save the villain for last. Next up is the leader of the Brown Coat sympathizers. Because people who support the “Coats” are not looked favorably upon by the Alliance, it is important that ranking members of the sympathizers keep their identities hidden. To the players, the Brown Coat Leader will be known simply as Mr. Brown. His actual name isn’t important for now though. What is important is his back-story.

Mr. Brown is actually young. Too young, in fact, to have served in the war. One of Mr. Brown’s relatives served and Mr. Brown believes that the only way he can compensate for being too young to fight during the war is to fight the alliance in every way he can. The biggest problem Mr. Brown will have is that at times, he may believe that he did what his dead relative did in the war and takes credit for that relative’s heroic actions. I don’t envision Mr. Brown being completely insane but a little crazy will add some flavor to him. Dummies tend to die quickly so I don’t want him to be stupid, just a bit delusional, and for more flavor, I want him to be a beast when it comes to hand-to-hand fighting. I will make the players go through two or three layers of minions and force them to go to multiple locations to finally get a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Brown. This will add to the mystery and underground feeling of the Brown Coat sympathizers.

Now we will move on to our final major foe: The villain, the leader of the pirates. There are so many ways to go with this. There is the typical pirate, the fat pirate, the sexy female swashbuckler, peg legs, parrots, and of course, eye patches. I’m sure you guessed that I will avoid most of those, not because they are not fun, but because it’s kind of the way I roll. My gut tells me a bespectacled, balding, 40-something male of average height with a wife and kids is the way to go… imagine Frank Oz! Now the wife and kids are real important here. Too often, we forget that some pirates have families. This will not only add plot hooks to the leader, but it will make him more human and give him a slight possibility of being likeable. No matter how hard the heart is, people will pause and think when they know that a person has a family. If things go really bad for the PCs, they could always try to track down the family and use them as a bargaining chip.

Sticking with my current naming convention, I’ll call him “The Skull”. The Skull makes people think of super-villains and the famous pirate flag with the skull and crossbones. For our adventure, The Skull got his name for his ability to get inside of his opponents’ heads. I see The Skull being far removed for the day-to-day rape, pillage, and plunder that are normally associated with piracy. I envision a guy who hates direct violence and refuses to engage in it; however, indirect violence is a different story! The Skull has stayed alive and worked his way up the ranks through cunning and skill rather than the normal killing people and breaking things. To give The Skull a good escape valve, I’ll make sure that he not only has great pilot skills, but an unarmed, fast, and highly maneuverable ship that he is never far away from.

I’m sure you are saying, “How could The Skull be such a villain?” Well, remember the whole indirect violence thing? This is where The Skull gets into people’s heads. The Skull plays with his prey the way a cat does. He will attack a humanitarian shipment of medicine and strip the target ships of everything but the minimum supplies needed to arrive at their original destination just so the victims can land and let the people expecting life saving medications know that everything was stolen. The Skull will have his pirates escort the stripped down ships to their destination to make sure the message is delivered loud and clear.

The Skull has attacked alliance ships and left them with just enough life support to be able to see their rescue ships approaching before they died. If you are a pilot and The Skull captures you, he will do whatever he can, no matter what the cost, to keep you alive while preventing you from ever flying again. This could involve cutting off your arms and legs or just paralyzing you from the neck down. If you are a well-known singer and he captures you, say goodbye to your tongue and possibly your vocal cords. From a GM standpoint, think of the most debilitating thing that could happen to the players and if captured by any of the Skulls’s men, do it! This should make the players think twice before pushing The Skull or members of his organization too hard. One more thing about The Skull: He will listen to reason and he loves to make a deal; however, he will never agree to a deal unless it will benefit him now or in the future.

Remember, if you are running the game, you can run these villains and foes however you would like to. Heck, you could even change who they are working with. The key here is to really think about your villains, figure out what motivates them, and (for the most part) stick with it. People’s motivations change, but I have seen too many bad guys that always seem to have goals that are directly opposed to the PCs and always change based on what the GM knows, rather than what the villain would know.

When you think about villains and foes, keep it real. If the players blow up a space station, the villain will probably know about it but if they rob a store on a small backwater planet, a villain living on one of the core worlds might not have a clue that the robbery occurred. In the Verse, information travels fast, but not that fast! Remember ,Villains and foes have to eat and pay bills. Their motivation might be nothing more than making lots o’ money. When it comes to villains, foes, and even NPCs, keep it real!

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