by Jason Campbell
I am a RPG creator which recently has taken up most of my available creative time, but I’ve also written novels, short stories and comic strips and books. Until recently I thought of those disciplines as separate things, “never the twain shall meet.” That was until I had the revelation that the themes, underpinnings and raison d’etre for my other writings could have a real place in my RPG creations.
My previous adventures and creations were based on “wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas. A secret underground cavern, a newly discovered dungeon, a legendary haunted mansion. And then a neat idea for a big bad guy, The eternal undead witch king, the sorcerous vampire, the reborn evil demigod. But my other writings had different origins like a conflicted poor wretch pondering their reasons to live, star crossed lovers who are kept apart, or a lost soul with worries they can’t come to terms with. But these motivations and situations from other fiction and non-fiction belong in your RPG story as much as in any other creation.
Let’s look at a non-fantasy story that many people know: William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. The basic story is that Caesar is the ruler of Rome and his power is increasing. Another politician, Cassius, believes this will be bad for Rome and plots Caesar’s murder. Cassius manages to convince one of Caesar’s allies, Brutus, that Caesar has become dangerous to Rome and Brutus agrees to help with Caesar’s assasination. After Caesar is killed, his ally Mark Antony tries to get the people of Rome to oppose Cassius. It is found that Casius took a bribe to kill Cesar.
In your RPG campaign, your villains can have complex motivations like this. The evil character may be evil because they are going to kill an ally, but why? Borrowing from Shakespeare, perhaps the evil character is planning to kill the ally because he was given false information from another character who was paid to set up the assasination. The assassin might reveal that they were an ally until they found information which changed their minds. Maybe there’s even an emotional conflict that the evil person went through.
If you establish motivations for villains it will make it easier to know how they will behave in any situation. These motivations can be drawn from any style of fiction or nonfiction. It’s a good thing to expand your influences and not separate your writing styles.