What makes a Good Antagonist?

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Vazbol
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Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:49 pm

What makes a Good Antagonist?

Post by Vazbol »

basically the subject. What makes a character into a memorable antagonist?


I wasn't really around for the time in Clok where antagonistic folk who weren't just trolls marched across the lost lands. I'm not sure of the type of plots that were ran that really made people go "Well, I'm peacing out of here before I get dragged in." Or. "let's band together and get em!" or better yet, "I like the cut of this one's jib. Let's join their club worshipping an eldritch horror."

So anyone want to recount their stories of plots that got your character involved on one side of the aisle or the other? Just so we can get a feel for the type of stories that people get excited for, and see the extent a GM goes in support of the more crazier ones? At times I feel as if new players (I included) don't know the amount of artistic freedom they assist with for good ideas. Might contribute to having difficulties with approaches to throwing wrenches into people's days, not thinking an idea is possible.
glare
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Re: What makes a Good Antagonist?

Post by glare »

I'm yet to really face an antagonist in Clok but here are a few things from observing what I considered to be a good antagonist in other MUDs and what I took from these points to make my own Antagonist who was my favourite character I have ever had the honor of roleplaying to date.

1. Antagonistic actions.
Good Antagonists in MUDs are very different from Good antagonists in books. 99% of people who play not just MUDs but games in general do so for gratification of some kind. Whether that be to win at something or to form a social circle and make frends etc. A good antagonist in a book will threaten the success of these things in some way which gives the MC a truly life or death reason to oppose it. A good PC antagonist in an MUD however will never actually directly threaten these things but rather threaten something adjacent to it to allow one step of seperation so OOC emotions don't cloud the RP.

I.e. In a book an acceptable antagonist will come and kill your entire family and burn down your village with his forces then kick you in the stomach and say your mom's cooking sucked for good measure. (Jaug ancrath, prince of thorns would totally do this.)
In comparison I have never ever seen so much as an evil PC breaking into someone's house to destroy and burn all their stuff produce anything other than a rage quit or toxic responses that self perpetuate until an authority figure has to hard reset the situation.

Rather what a good MUD antagonist might persue is to burn down your temple and kill a few of your brother monks then sit on the ashes and have a conversation with you whilst cleaning her teeth with the finger bones of your abbot.

yes that temple is pretty important to your cleric or monk of whatever, but you don't live there, most likely your character's friends or family might have been in there but you the player can see the situation with one step of detachment and respond appropriately.

All in all with this point I'm trying to illustrate one thing. People have a hard time seperating OOC and IC when something not just antagonists, but when anything in the game they're playing makes them lose what they, the player care about. A good antagonist makes the attempt to interpret where these lines are and avoid them whilst still doing unquestionably antagonistic stuff.

there will be those that disagree with me and think that not being able to have this seperation at all times in all aspects of gaming is petty and childish. I rather think its just realistic and means we're human. We care about what we care about and it doesn't have to make logical sense.

2. Consent and multiple fail states.
A good antagonist allows for consent in some way. This one can be difficult to pull off 100% of the time on the part of the antagonist, especially if they are some kind of assassin or someone who favours ambush tactics in general but 80% of the time. A good antagonist's actions allows for 2 or 3 points at which the people affected by their roleplay can back out or stop involving themselves in opposing the antagonist. In my opinion surrender is way more fun but it almost never happens. Surrender equates to losing and well, see my above comment.

Clok has an advantage over most other MUDs in that most CVC doesn't come out of nowhere and that even if you lose at CVC or CVE the death penalties are more or less non existant.

3. Winning and Losing gracefully.
A good antagonist will likely lose. The player of this antagonist should be experienced in gaming enough to know that most games are hero centric and that it is very unlikely that they will win any sort of perminant victory. They should infact have a plan for losing that allows them to lose with style and mos timportant of all, let that loss be a defined end point to that line of roleplay.

the very first MUD I ever played was not an RPI and there was quite a lot of PVP. At one point half way through my run there I was put in an antagonistic position which I merrily persued. come the final battle, i chose to hold it in an end game zone where every creature was moderately powerful and we had a merry 2 hour chase with an entire clan chasing my one character through lich infested tunnels. At the time insults of cowardice and worse were laid at my feet but one week later that entire clan congratulated me on the affair and said it was the most fun they'd had as a group in years. From this I learnt that the best antagonists might be reviled in their time but in retrospect, they seem to gain a strange if fond legendary status if their acts were big and bold enough to leave a lasting memory. So long as they didn't say, take all the hero's stuff and destroy it. Even if that would have been thematically appropriate.

When an antagonist wins however, it becomes even more important to win with grace. You mark your win and let the win be a defined end point. IN both winning and losing, nothing is gained from dragging it out and nothing justifies repetetive attempts at the same goal. One win, one loss, one death. A good antagonist never ever repeat kills or repeat attempts the same thing if they are the one killed.

With all that in mind I think I'll talk a little bit about my own antagonist, the only actual antagonist I've ever played.

the wizard M was a boy born to a single mother who was largely dispondant due to his father being sacrificed to appease the local priestess of evil god X. As a result he grew up austrocized from his peers and was occasionally used as shark bait when the fishing season yielded poor results. Additionally he never learned to interpret facial expressions properly and he grew into his teenage and adult years without this skill. He did at least become an excellent swimmer.

Being socially awkward and having the curse of intellect he never really had friends at magic school and grew up to be a socially mal adjusted wizard with far too much power far too young and far too fast. His lack of identity resulted in a huge ego and he self proclaimed himself the protector and owner of main city X. Most of the time he was a little unpleasant but alright to deal with by other players. he was however, unquestionably amoral. He killed unicorns and beings of unquestionable good and innocence to empower himself. He fought paladins because he found their ethics inefficient and pointless. He stole from the dead to enrich his already bulging coffers and he killed a man once for no better reason than he wanted to see what was behind door X. Wasn't a quest or anything, he was simply bored and apathetic on that particular day and realised he had never been past that door in that part of a city.

The level of personal power he held meant that people would willingly deal with his unpleasantness because at the end of the day he had all the good stuff but when it came time for the antagonist hat I the player always asked 2 things.

1. How can I hurt the character and not the player of my target.
At the end of the day we're all people an my aim as an antagonist is to fulfill my character's goals. My only goal as a player is to play the game and respect the other players.

2. When was the last time I did something antagonistic
at the end of another day being a good antagonist means having some connection to the rest of the player base. You can't really evoke emotional anguish if you're the stereotypical villain X who is 100 percent the enemy 100 percent of the time. For this character it means that I would never perform antagonistic actions more than once every few months. In the down time new players and characters would be created, or old ones would find some reason to forgive / delay their own IC hatreds enough to give him a chance to worm his way back into something like cordial interaction.

In addition, People / players including myself get worn out pretty fast from antagonism and so there is a certain pacing that needs to be observed.

thats all I got for now.
Thanks for bringing this topic up Vazbol. I really enjoyed writing this.
Ocelotl
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Re: What makes a Good Antagonist?

Post by Ocelotl »

I will chime in and say that everything Glare said is very accurate, and I especially like the point about pacing and giving people a chance to react and back away. It's no fun being crushed to death when typing speed dictates how an rp goes, and this fits in nicely with the little extension I'll make to that point

When there's an rp going on, give your victims time to react. Let them type out their emotes, rebuke your claim, etc. even if they just end up running away, that'll give your char a chance to rp chasing after them. What you don't want to do is, for example, proclaim your evilness and behead a good guy the very next second. It might give your villain satisfaction, but I will compare this to harvesting apples from a tree and then cutting it down in comparison to leaving the tree up and continuously harvesting apples from it. The tree in this case is the rp potential and the apples are the rp that come from it. By effectively blocking the other from doing anything, you're taking the apples for yourself, cutting down the tree, and leaving the other with a stump. Great, you've got apples and firewood now, but the other person has none and you've got a limited amount of apples until you find the next tree.

Another point sort of related to this is to give your villain weaknesses . A good example is Dunkin. With that honor system he has, he's affectively giving his character a very real and believable weakness which gives others a chance to use it against him if they realize it. No, you don't need to make your evil person a very beatable weakling which any shmuk could put in the ground, but feel free to make your char as strong as they need to be without making it impossible to beat them. To return to that tree analogy, turning your villain into someone who has no chance of being beaten or confronted in any way robs others of the ability to do anything about said villain, and your villain is being robbed of character development. Without taking some l and learning from mistakes, your villain ends up stagnant which makes it boring for everyone after a while of the same stuff. Now, both parties lose out on rp because the good guys don't do anything because they know they'll die no matter what, and your antagonist has nobody to go up against and nothing new to learn. The tree has been cut down, and apples are going to run out at some point.

It's always nice to see when an antagonist is amicable and does other things when Not actively eviling. I guess it all ties back to the idea that a character should be three dimensional. Sure, sir Evilus Maximus might like to spread the word of dark lord Bizamoth by the sword, but he also enjoys good cooking, is fond of rabbits, plays the trumpet in his free time, and might think artists are stuck up. Nobody can be unpleasant and evil 24/7, and this gives yourself more rp with people that might not be conflict-related, and it gives others a chance to know yours a bit more. Plenty of bad guys and gals do that already, and it's always nice to see. Also, villains can hang out with good guys. There isn't anything stopping sir Evilus Maximus from talking about the best types of music with a trumpet with those who might not be evil.

That's basically all I could think of, but I'll make sure to say more if anything comes up. Thanks for posting this. Hopefully this doesn't come off as being too negative, because it's honestly not ment to be, but sorry if it comes off that way.

Happy eviling!
vidor
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Re: What makes a Good Antagonist?

Post by vidor »

Not in any way assuming that I play a *good* bad guy, but I'll give you a few of my thoughts as I created Dunkin.

1. I am not the main character in the TV series, I am a villain for a season, with an option to return. Dunkin had a set arc, he accomplished it (by... not accomplishing it?), and he's been hanging out. He may appear in the background, and if he gets brought back it'll be for an intentional plot. Too much has go into his development (on multiple fronts and from multiple people) for him to disappear. But I don't think it's healthy to dive right into finding the next thing to smash with him.

2. Flaws make you powerful. Dunkin has a lot of weaknesses, some physical/mechanical, some psychological/rp. Some of those weaknesses are mine IRL (my tolerance for constant conflict in my off hours is relatively low). Some of them are very intentional and were the basis of his creation (his honor code). There's something to be said for the force-of-nature villain who you can't defeat, but there's a lot more enjoyment for good and neutral folks when there's something you can do.

3. Conflict is all about consent. Consent can be either explicit (ooc or ic saying "Yeah, let's fight), or implicit (trash talking a villain, attempting to start conflict in some manner). If someone is actively avoiding conflict rp or has told me "man, there's a lot going on ooc right now, need the game to just kind of be a game," I will always respect that and will go against my ic development not to mess with the person. That being said, if someone says "I need a break," and then starts conflict, then I take that as consent.

4. Build for interest. As Zeldryn said in his post, you learn how to minmax your character. Find a weapon, or ability set, or whatever, that is interesting to you but leaves a hole for a smart other player to figure their way around your work.

5. Team up. Find other villains, or want-to-be villains, and team up together. Three or four low powered folks can overtake anyone if they work together. And there's a reason that rogues galaries are so much fun.

6. Have days off. In ic, let your bad guy have fun, farm, do a trade. In ooc, it's okay to step away, especially when/if it feels like a job.

7. Sacrifice. You are working harder, with less interaction, for the good of the game. Realize that going in, realize that you are not guaranteed taint, or gm support, or victory, or interaction. Realize that some people will treat you oocly based on how you treat them ic. Realize that people will try to stand up to you, will lose, and will take it very poorly. But realize that you are making the game a better place, helping define other characters through conflict, and creating history.

8. Have fun. It's why we're all here. If it's not, do something that is.
Zeldryn
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Re: What makes a Good Antagonist?

Post by Zeldryn »

vidor wrote: Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:36 pm Not in any way assuming that I play a *good* bad guy, but I'll give you a few of my thoughts as I created Dunkin.

1. I am not the main character in the TV series, I am a villain for a season, with an option to return. Dunkin had a set arc, he accomplished it (by... not accomplishing it?), and he's been hanging out. He may appear in the background, and if he gets brought back it'll be for an intentional plot. Too much has go into his development (on multiple fronts and from multiple people) for him to disappear. But I don't think it's healthy to dive right into finding the next thing to smash with him.

2. Flaws make you powerful. Dunkin has a lot of weaknesses, some physical/mechanical, some psychological/rp. Some of those weaknesses are mine IRL (my tolerance for constant conflict in my off hours is relatively low). Some of them are very intentional and were the basis of his creation (his honor code). There's something to be said for the force-of-nature villain who you can't defeat, but there's a lot more enjoyment for good and neutral folks when there's something you can do.

3. Conflict is all about consent. Consent can be either explicit (ooc or ic saying "Yeah, let's fight), or implicit (trash talking a villain, attempting to start conflict in some manner). If someone is actively avoiding conflict rp or has told me "man, there's a lot going on ooc right now, need the game to just kind of be a game," I will always respect that and will go against my ic development not to mess with the person. That being said, if someone says "I need a break," and then starts conflict, then I take that as consent.

4. Build for interest. As Zeldryn said in his post, you learn how to minmax your character. Find a weapon, or ability set, or whatever, that is interesting to you but leaves a hole for a smart other player to figure their way around your work.

5. Team up. Find other villains, or want-to-be villains, and team up together. Three or four low powered folks can overtake anyone if they work together. And there's a reason that rogues galaries are so much fun.

6. Have days off. In ic, let your bad guy have fun, farm, do a trade. In ooc, it's okay to step away, especially when/if it feels like a job.

7. Sacrifice. You are working harder, with less interaction, for the good of the game. Realize that going in, realize that you are not guaranteed taint, or gm support, or victory, or interaction. Realize that some people will treat you oocly based on how you treat them ic. Realize that people will try to stand up to you, will lose, and will take it very poorly. But realize that you are making the game a better place, helping define other characters through conflict, and creating history.

8. Have fun. It's why we're all here. If it's not, do something that is.


Just wanted to point out how fantastic this, and Glare's posts are. Seriously-- good advice from great people, take it as it comes, folks.

it's late on my end, so I won't add my particular flavor of villain's approach tonight. But i'll be sure to come back here in the next few days and add to what's been offered. Because there's plenty i've done wrong, and a few things i've done right.

Great discussion so far though, ya'll. Keep it up.
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