In any tabletop role-playing game, the main antagonist is paramount to the atmosphere of the game. It is easy to consider a villain to simply be a flat-out evil being who simply wants to achieve their goals with no remorse for how it impacts others. However, this character has so much weight in the story that you’ll want to pay extra attention to them so that they complement your setting. That is why for this article we’ll be focusing on how to get the most out of your villain.
Motivation is a crucial part of the antagonist because they need to have a strong purpose as to why they seek out conflict with the heroes. Oftentimes this conflict means putting themselves through a good deal of stress and discomfort so the reward for victory must be clearly worth the trouble.
Do they wish to impress a respected peer? Honor their nation? Serve a master for monetary gain?
Answering this question will help to shape who this villain is and can pivot their initial perception as an evil doer to someone whose motivations can be understood and respected.
The devil is in the details and this rings true for such influential nonplayer characters like your main antagonist. You will want to consider how they act in and out of the conflict because this character is their own unique individual with likes and dislikes that should be shown to the heroes.
Do they love to eat? Do they care about fashion? Do they enjoy providing aid to the impoverished? Do they love the arts?
Just because the antagonist is working actively against the party does not mean their entire life is consumed with nothing else. They need to have breaks and respite just like the main characters. Having the party bump into the villain in town can lead to awkward yet entertaining scenes that make the climax that much more satisfying.
This section on Mastery highlights exactly why this character is to be feared. What skill set makes them an expert in their field to the point where they try to stop the heroes from achieving their goals?
Do they have access to a mass amount of funds to hire a legion of sellswords? Are they one of the greatest swordsmen in the nation? Do they possess intense charisma that can sway people to their side?
Being able to narrow down these aspects will help to build an antagonist that your players will be able to picture vividly and may even enjoy engaging with. Even major villains such as Darth Vader (Star Wars), Orochimaru (Naruto), and Vegeta, all have such rich backstories that help to complement the overall story.
I hope this helps provide a solid way to improve your future sessions that are much more unforgettable!