[Saga Stuff] Big Bad Antagonists

Hail all...

Players in the Via Umbrae game, stay out or ruin the game for yourself...

So, I've long had in mind the shadowy bad guys behind a lot of the stuff in my saga. Over time, they've gelled more and more in response to the development of my players and their wizards. Now they're firming up, and I need some input.

I started thinking about what other SGs have done with respect to Big Bads in their sagas, the great antagonist that the wizards eventually face off against at some point. I'm treading a bit lightly as the Quaesitor of the group has hit Intellego 20.

The bad guys this time around are a layered group. There's a Mystery Cult within the Order itself that is their hermetic front. Then there's a large regio off the coast of Spain that the real menace exists within - an exotic tradition of magician-priests living on an island combining elements of classical Roman, Greek, and Phoenician civilization. Their goal is to establish a magical kingship in France, using a Merovingian monarch raised according to their principles, and through such a symbolic marriage of Merovingian king and the land, increase the power of the Magical Realm. On a social engineering scale, they plan to establish wizards as the new nobility and undermine the church and divine nature of kingship.

They use a form of the Goetic Arts to deal with ancestor spirits, the ghosts of prior mage-priests who provide magic resistance as well as a form of immortality as long as they are bound to a living mage-priest. They appear as youths until the bond between spirit and priest is destroyed, at which point they age in an eyeblink. To an extent, this will also factor into baffling attempts to gain information from captured agents of the priesthood, as Mentem magic will instead read off of the spirit's thoughts and memories, not those of the bonded priest. Thus an Intellego person like the Quaesitor will get information from such efforts, but not the information they necessarily expected when they first encounter these agents (who become apprentices to Twilight addled mages as a cover to operate within the Order), and it will invite a lot of speculation. I'm trying to reward the Intellego specialist with information, while still allowing this plotline to brew overtime depending on how the wizards proceed and react. The scale of the mystery cult and its conspiracy are meant to be discovered bit by bit, and connect disparate threads into a larger whole, if I pull this off correctly.

THAT SAID... I'm worried. Wizards can do a whole lot, and I want to present fun and enigmatic opponents yet I fear my players, a smart bunch, will cast a spell and cut right to the chase in a heartbeat. Such is the issue when running games for wizards, I suppose.

What have others done when doing long term planning for the omni-capable character group such as a Covenant?


Agents of the enmy exist in the covenant and launch a sabotage campaign preventing the playersfrom 'getting to grips' with their enemy - curses - foiled again!

Give the villain the kind of defences that min-max players would come up with - give em a whiff of their own medicine.

This might include:

charged items with massive penetration scores dealing incapacitating, but not fatal wounds (such as curse of the circe)- dished out to the villain's top henchmen.

A parma score on the arch villain that would challenge Boisagus himself

Mage slayer goons with enhanced abilities for fighting mages, such as amulets of magic resistance (in a supplement somewhere though lord knows which one) potions of various pimpage factors (temp stat boosts etc). They are part of a cult right, maybe they have been initiated into virtues that make them special in ways magi might not be - such as immunities, the ability to see in the dark, maybe they can be intangible at will.

Guardians / henchmen on the way. Go for powerful mini encounters that each challenge the characters in a specific way. Do they have allies such as a fey tempting the players into arcadia and dumping them back out in Constantinople 5 years later. Mix up violent encounters such as a huge fire elemental in the main ritual chamber, with more subtle ones like a dragon they cannot possibly defeat but can be tricked, or offers a challenge for right of passage.

An ingeniously defended stronghold with numerous traps of a more mundane nature, again those that avoid parma such as a boulder falling on your head. Good luck fast casting your way out of that one if you dont see it coming. Maybe there is even a little magic there, magic that supresses the noise of the mechanism so you get a big penalty to an awareness check. Other traps might hurt mages in a more complex way - such as waiting spells that give a burst of warping - that is going to throw an element of randomness and be quite unsettling.

It is fair to assume that they have been preparing to fight the players as much, if not more, than the players have been preparing to fight them. I am not suggesting you should be looking to kill off the players, but stopping them from rushing in and having the whole encounter end in a second because someone has pilum of fire with +40 penetration from a charged item.

I tend to make arch villain lair encounters a series of encounters. In the first instance they learn it aint gonna be easy. Subsequent foreays into the lair they overcome obstancles and encounter the layered defence - each layer of the onion presenting a new challlenge that cannot be overcome easily or... right now. Force them to go back home and learn/invent new spells/items to deal with these particular problems. It all adds to the challenge. ArM Isnt D&D, when you hit a problem you dont jam up the door to the room and heal up for the night - you go home and work on a solution - well that is how I see it anyway.

The only risk is over doing it and the player getting fed up of reliving an Indiana Jones movie (urgh, not the new one though), when you suspect that is creeping in, no problem - just remove any encounters you had ahead of them and save em for the next supervillain. Cut to the main drag!

Finally, cmon you can't really let them kill the bad guy can you> I mean, that is never how it goes in the movies... surely he has a secret escape method planned just big enough for him and his shaved cat...

Make sure that the lower orders of your Mystery Cult not only have baffling and incomplete information, but have also been fed deliberate lies regarding the inner structure of the Cult. Preferably lies subtly pointing toward innocent members of the Order of Hermes. For instance a memory (real) of overhearing Big Bad Boss #1 call Big UnderBoss #3 "Maldito" (which is not Big UnderBoss #3's name), and there just happens to be a Maldito in the Order in the right general area. That way you can reward your intelligo specialist by giving him the info he deserves (the rest of what the captured underling knows), but wrapped up in a layer of lies your group will have to unravel, preferably without magic (the real Maldito was nowhere near the alleged meeting, and can prove it, but just scrying the information out of him, when he is in fact innocent, is not going to be good for the reputation of our Quaesitor).

Meanwhile, Bid Bad Boss #1 and Bid UnderBoss #3 are arranging to (deliberately) send OverAmbitious Little Underling #42 a letter meant in fact for Medium Boss #7, full of information Little Underling #42 is not yet supposed to have, and which he will promptly memorize before delivering the letter. That information is, of course, false, but our Little Underling #42 believes it :smiling_imp:

Oh dear, I really should have previewed my previous post. Apologies that it is so long as to remain unread by any man with any sense!


A classic bit could involve a subtle and slow attempt to recruit the PCs as they get closer to the secret. After all, they too benefit from having Magic assume primacy. It is at least as important for the bad guys to be able to talk eloquently about their master plan than to have a master plan. So these guys need to have a way to deal with or co-opt the Divine, or something that seems plausible. Otherwise the plot reduces to "Discover what these crazy guys are up to and stop them before all magi suffer the wrath of God."

As for rewarding the Intellego expert with information--what would happen if this guy learned everything, cutting to the chase in a heartbeat? For the scenario to remain interesting, there need to be reasons why the PCs are not willing to act; that is, the costs of acting must be greater than the cost of not acting.

For example, rather than attack the PCs directly or violently, actions that make the PCs look bad or at fault, that undercut their reputations and alliances, are likely to have a more powerful effect than a frontal attack, which alerts others to the existence of a conflict. How much good will it do the Intellego expert to know everything if he is no longer a Quaesitor in good standing and other magi don't trust his beliefs because they think he is still suffering from a bad Twilight effect?

Hmm. I guess I'm recommending two approaches: 1) Co-opt the Intellego expert by offering him a great place in the new order and showing him how it meets his real desires, or 2) Undercut him, so that other magi either ignore him or blame him.



Indeed, I'm struggling to figure out a way to have them work with the Divine or otherwise make interaction with the Divine more of a boon under their Brave New World.

Thanks to all for their suggestions thus far!


Holy mages.

Make them believe the church corrupt and that it's twisting the word of the Divine for the church's own purposes (hardly far from the truth in some cases). They want to restore the divine being directly influential, rather than speaking through priests etc.


Well, there is a Magic tradition in Mythic Europe that interacts closely with the Divine but is not itself Divine, for all that the canonical rules (incorrectly, IMO) represent it as Divine.

It is a perilous tradition, nay, a set of traditions, whose practitioners--the real ones, who have the ability to actually get somewhere, not the dabblers or scholars on the periphery--run a real risk of death, madness or spiritual annihilation. That tradition is Kabbalah. It is holy magic, yes, but magic.

You already have a mythical Jewish connection through the Merovingians, so why not add another? So, you have a conspiracy that is plausibly backed by the Divine (it probably isn't; insanity is an occupational hazard of Kabballah) and that will result in greater harmony between the realms, perhaps with Messianic overtones, if you like, Davidic king and all. Your PCs won't have to convert or anything like that, to join the conspiracy, though pagan stuff is right out.

(Here's one way to appreciate the danger of Kabballah. Where miracles of the Divine involve the Divine acting on one's behalf, the practice of Kabballah is about being God, to an infinitesimal degree. At the extreme, Qabalist learns the secrets of creation; he understands the correspondences of the world the way God does and wields them; he has insight into the complete workings of the universe from a Godlike vantage; he can divert the angelic emanations of God (very carefully) to mediate between his own will and the world, rather than God's. (Some simply contact the spirit realm, and are much humbler, which is safer.) Unfortunately, as his power and insight increase, it is increasingly easy to forget that God still has infinitely greater power and perspective. It is easy to want to use that power to 'fix' something that is already the way it should be; it is easy to believe one's new insight, instead of realising that the grand vista is but a glimmer.)



DAN BROWN MEROVINGIANS FOR THE WIN!!!! :laughing: :laughing: :laughing: LMAO