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12 January 2021

Golems: Gobs of Magic and Material


Rules as written, golems generate uninspired foes. They are constructed creatures made from a natural resource such as clay, iron, or stone mixed with the key ingredient in many Dungeons & Dragons worlds: magic. Most golems are not sentient. They serve as glorified bodyguards or muscle at a scholarly establishment. Perhaps they are soldiers in the army of a mad mage. Maybe they’re abandoned creations of an ancient people. At their best, golems are mysterious constructs of material and magic that might be wielded by an interesting foe; mechanically, they are phenomenal! Sadly, at their worst, golems are simplistic metallic monsters for the party to fight; if that's what the party is searching for sometimes, then they're adequate enemies.

But we do not want adequate enemies because we're not adequate Dungeon Masters. 

Let’s remedy golems, first by exploring their history in D&D, then by defining how we can ensure they’re compelling foes to fight and interact with.

History of Golems in D&D


Golems have been present since D&D’s earliest incarnations.

Golems in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons


I took awhile to pore over golems in my AD&D Monster Manual from 1977—and they’re interesting creatures. Initially, only four varieties existed in D&D (the core four have existed in almost every other edition, too): flesh, clay, stone, and iron. This old book details how one might create the golems, how they act, what actions they might take in combat, and which spells do and do not affect them.

To create any of the golems, it costs 1,000 gold pieces per hit point of the golem, an array of spells (like resurrection, polymorph any object, or wish), and a certain class prerequisite (like magic-user or cleric). Time is also of concern; construction takes one to three months.

The golems are first and foremost servants of their creator. They are able to perform simple tasks instructed by their master: guard this door, kill intruders, hold this pillar, or watch and listen, among others. Complex tasks are not understood by the golems. They cannot go on quests, deliver monologues, or spar with animals or trespassers in a more than one-dimensional interaction. Concisely, they are automatons. In AD&D, their uniqueness does not arise from how they act or what they do. Instead, it arises by how they’re made (see above) and how characters may interact with them.

In combat, clay golems and flesh golems both have a chance to break free from their master’s control. In the clay golem’s case, an evil spirit might wrestle control of it. The flesh golem, well, it might just go berserk. Both are 1%, cumulatively-stacking chances every round! The iron and stone golems do not possess any feature similar to this.

Each of the four golems has only a few ways it can be damaged in combat. Special, usually magical weapons, are a must. Most spells do not affect the golems—and some hinder or help them in unique ways! For example, let’s look at the flesh golem and then the mighty iron golem.

Normal weapons have no effect on a flesh golem; only magical weapons may slice through its stitched together body. Most spells also have no effect. The exceptions are fire or cold based spells (fireball, icestorm, etc) slow the golem by 50% for 2d6 rounds. Any lightning based attacks or spells (lightning bolt) restore life to the golem. That could lead to some deadly scenarios for lower level characters. Keep in mind, this is the weakest golem in AD&D.

Iron golem from the fifth edition Monster Manual.

Let’s look over the most powerful of the AD&D golems: the iron golem. This construct, usually bipedal, manlike, and wielding a sword, may only be harmed by magical weapons that are +3 or greater. Other weapons do zero damage. Fire spells and lightning spells are the only magical effects that affect the iron golem. All fire based spells repair damage dealt to the golem, while lightning spells slow the golem for three rounds. There’s also a note that iron golems are susceptible to rust monsters, which is lovely. They do have a glaring weakness!

I’ve only briefly played AD&D, so my opinion might be muddled here: golems seem like an ultra bore to fight against and run as the Dungeon Master in AD&D. Only certain weapons affect them, otherwise no damage is dealt. A select few spells harm them in interesting ways, yes, which might make the players and their characters feel clever, but everything else has no effect. Perhaps we can view golems as an evolution in game design from AD&D to the present: if the party went up against a golem back then without the proper equipment, they’d die or run away. There would be no way to outsmart it or outplay it if they weren’t prepared, they’d just lose the encounter (rules as written). Today, and in other editions besides AD&D, golems aren’t stone, clay, iron, or flesh walls that the party cannot bash down or outmaneuver; they’re beatable even if the group is unprepared. And, we as DMs might allow clever groups to take them down in exciting ways. I’m not sure where AD&D leaves space for that.

However, the golems’ method of creation is riveting, albeit senseless for our modern games. The book states the following components are required to build a stone golem:

"…[stone golems] are constructed by means of a magical tome or a magic-user of 16th or higher level employing the following spells: wish, polymorph any object, geas, and slow. The cost in materials is 1,000 gold pieces per hit point, and it requires 2 months construction time."

Quite the process. AD&D is an enthralling, complicated system.

Golems in 3.5e D&D


This edition doubles down on the mindlessness of golems, but does state that golems are powered by spirits from the Elemental Plane of Earth! Again, the 3.5e Monster Manual merely includes the core four varieties and explains their general mechanics and capabilities. All retain immunity to most magic and weaknesses or buffs from certain spells; they also keep their unique abilities. Clay golems can caste haste on themselves and iron golems can spew poisonous gas. So, while most is the same, there are a few gripping new passages. For example, the construction of a flesh golem requires a minimum of six different bodies and the terrifying greater stone golem is introduced. This mass of stone is said to weigh 32,000 pounds and stand 18 feet tall. Overall, there’s not much development of golems here—and with how they are described, why would there be? Perhaps 3.5e’s successor would change it up...
 

Golems in 4e D&D


The fourth edition Monster Manual dedicates a single page to golems—and there are only two of them: flesh and stone. However, in a third of the space given to these monsters in AD&D and 3.5e D&D, both the flesh golem and the stone golem are made far more captivating foes to fight. First, their lore evolves a tad. They are no longer animated by spirits from the Elemental Plane of Earth; instead, a spark of energy from the Elemental Chaos gives them the ability to obey their master’s commands. Second, they’re no longer immune to almost all magic. Third, they’re both given new abilities.

Let’s look at the flesh golem. The flesh golem gains Berserk Attack and Golem Rampage; both more than make up for the stacking chance for the golem to go insane from previous editions that is now absent. The former allows the golem to attack a random foe in range while it is bloodied (a 4e term meaning below half hit points) and is hit. Awesome! The latter is more like a 5e dragon’s breath weapon and grants the golem the ability to run through multiple creatures’ spaces and make slam attacks against all of them. Wicked. These changes evoke the image of the flesh golem going berserk more than a stacking 1% chance to go wild ever would. This is something we can take to our fifth edition games and use as legendary actions or even villain actions.

Manual of golem mastery from the fifth edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

Golems in 5e D&D

Of course, the golems in D&D’s current edition—5e—are the best form of golems we have. Their lore is expanded (back to being spirits from the Plane of Earth!), and their pages in the Monster Manual are littered with inspiration for how these mindless automatons might be used, even though it all revolves around serving a master obediently or spinning out of control. Mechanically, they are interesting, truly unique 5e monsters with niche abilities, wild weaknesses, and invigorating strengths. For example, the berserk abilities of both flesh and clay golems are present, reworked, and great (though not as good as 4e’s). All four core varieties are present as well, and they all have special immunities to weapons and spells again, although these protections aren’t as unforgiving as AD&D. Overall, the golems are mechanically compelling but narratively the same; and only four are present! Fifth edition did a good job with golems, but can more be done? Can we effectively wield these gobs of magic and material in our games?

How to Wield Golems Well


Armed with knowledge of golems and their history in D&D, we can now create exciting, unique, and in-depth golem-related campaigns and adventures. Let’s open the manual and discuss the specifics.

Golem Varieties


The fifth edition Monster Manual outlines four varieties of golems. We can expand that list using golems from editions of the past. If we are feeling creative, we can even mold a few of our own constructs. Remember, we can use the four golems in 5e as a starting point and add the abilities and unique features of these golems with ease. There is no need to construct them from nothing.

Let this comprehensive assortment of golems from across the editions and our minds inspire us.

Adamantine golem from third edition D&D.

The adamantine golem is made from iron imbued with adamantine, as well as the forever-drained magic of wizards or other spellcasters. It’s nigh unkillable in combat: unaffected by non-adamantine weapons. However, it moves at the speed of a slug. If it reaches a foe, though, it’s likely to crush them with a single slam.

The alchemical golem is a strange combination of material: wood, metal, glass tubes, and mysterious chemicals. It’s often armed with foul toxins that can disarm, paralyze, or even incapacitate enemies for extended periods of time. If it isn’t killed carefully, its body explodes and spills chemicals in a wide area, creating a chemical hazard.

The brain golem is an illithid creation and more intelligent than other golems. Its entire body is made up of brain tissue, with its head usually being a massive brain—perhaps a deceased elder brain. Immensely powerful psionic blasts emanate from this creation and controlling it using psionics is more than possible.

The brass golem is the simplest form of golemkind. It is made for a single purpose. Once that purpose is fulfilled, it rests forever, a statue. If that purpose is never fulfilled, it continues its work. Similar to stone golems, brass golems are rumored to control time and even enter the heads of those around them. The most powerful brass golems may be able to cast spells such as slow, haste, and even time stop.

The cadaver golem, sometimes mistaken as a flesh golem, is an intelligent form of golem able to pick and choose which bodies are stitched to its body. Many times, it will take the corpses of animals and attach them, becoming an abomination comprised of beast and man. This, of course, does take a toll on its intelligence and causes it to become more primal. Give the cadaver golem claw and bite attacks, maybe even the flight of a giant owl or the pack tactics of a wolf.

The coral golem is a sea-faring construct built by underwater peoples like tritons, sea elves, and even sahuagin. Mostly they are shaped like crabs, lobsters, or giant fish. Adventurers are susceptible to drowning; grappling foes under the sea should be part of the kit for the coral golem.

The demonflesh golem is a flesh golem of stitched together limbs and organs of demons. Over countless centuries of creating these, demons have turned the creation of these golems into a sport of sorts: the ugliest, deadliest golem wins. In 5e, we can combine the abilities of various demons and use them as the demonflesh golem's mechanics.

The dragonbone golem is sometimes seen as a dracolich or zombie dragon, though it is not. It follows its master’s commands like an obedient servant and it sometimes armed with the ability to breathe bony shards at its foes. We can re-flavor the breath weapons of 5e dragons to deal piercing damage instead of their respective element.

The gas golem resides in a glass shell and is armed with the ability to fly. It can also cloud gas around its form, obscuring it and potentially poisoning enemies. An ability that represents cloudkill could work with the gas golem.

The hellfire golem is a being formed of bubbling lava and deep black boulders. With ease, it can regurgitate lava at foes and even walk through the usually devastating substance. All battles with hellfire golems should revolve around lava and the danger it presents to adventurers.

The ice golem is a golem chiseled from ice of the purest glaciers. Almost skeletal in shape, the golem is able to fling icicles at foes, as well as easily dig into sheets or walls of ice and ignore its difficult-to-navigate features.

The mithral golem moves quicker than all other golems, constructed from one of the lightest materials known to mortals: mithral. It’s also able to fly using blasts of arcane energy located in its feet and hands. More reactive than most golems, it is able to adapt to situations and “change” its directions to better suit its master. Give not only legendary actions to the mithral golem that showcase this, but a repertoire of unique reactions that allow it to shift position and outmaneuver enemies.

Mithral golem from the Epic Level Handbook.

The minogon is a unique golem created in the shape of a minotaur and infused with the soul of a minotaur of Baphomet and a fire elemental. Some minotaur cabals create these to incite terror among local enemies. When a minogon charges, it leaves behind a trail of blazing fire, similar to the wall of fire spell.

The rope golem is the sadistic creation of a long-forgotten wizard. Eerily intelligent, it is formed of slithering ropes which it uses to communicate and kill any who harm it or its master. Armed with the arcane, it can grant life to inanimate ropes. It can also grapple two targets at once!

Manuals of Golem Mastery


One of the most interesting aspects of golems is that they’re accessible by the player characters. Utilizing a golem manual, a PC can potentially build a golem from scratch to work as a servant, guard, or companion. On pages 180 and 181 on the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, we are provided with how golems are made in this system: the manual itself, gold for materials, the ability to cast two fifth level spells, and time. Much simpler than AD&D’s process, assuredly. In long-running campaigns, don’t be afraid to reward player characters with a manual of golems or two. If the PCs run a fortress, need a guard for a hoard, or would love to leave a permanent and somewhat living mark on the world, a manual of golem mastery or three is the perfect way to give them that recourse.

Manual of golem mastery from the fifth edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

Golem Masters

We might be able to spice our campaigns with unique golems and give our PCs the chance to make a golem themselves, but most of the time, a golem is only as interesting as its master, especially if we stick to the core four golems. Ensure the golem’s master is riveting, their goal fascinating, their lair dangerous, and the golem will mold to fit them.

For example, we could use a bandit lord who wants to guard his booty and uses a clay golem to do so. Or the bandit lord might want to protect his booty, of course, but his delirious and slowly dying sister is much more important, so the golem guards her instead. In the highest room of a massive & beautiful mansion the golem sits, its surroundings lavishly decorated and not at all suited for combat, but for pleasure. Back to the booty: the booty goes to clerics who try to cure her, but fail and fail again. One of the clerics established a relationship with the bandit lord and was the creator of the clay golem. Now, the cleric doesn’t know that the bandit lord is just that: a bandit! What happens if he finds out? Might he use the golem against the bandit lord? Does he take it away? How does the bandit lord react? The sick sister?

Despite all the bells and whistles we can attach to our golems, we must remember that, at their core, despite their awesome mechanics or places in the plot, they’re not creatures who can speak or feel. They are automatons. Steady and sturdy means to specific ends. If we bolster their foundation with captivating stories, they fuse with the campaign and become vital pieces of it as well—not just random chunks of “living” material to fight.
 

Golem Examples


Let these golem-related quests, NPCs, encounters, and villains inspire our thoughts.

Golem Quests

  • A Book for a Body. A careful and inquisitive gnome requests the party find a manual of mithral golems. Inside waits the secrets to creating the long-lost, dexterous mithral golems. He won’t only pay in coin, but in the creation of a mithral golem for the party as well. The manual is rumoured to be buried deep in the heart of a duergar kingdom overtaken by illithids and their odd shadow dragon tyrant.
  • The Late Delivery. The local innkeeper bought a stone golem to protect her establishment, but the shipment never arrived. She wants the party to investigate.
  • Consumer of Beasts. A cadaver golem is rampaging through a nearby forest, slaying dire animals of all species and adding their claws, teeth, and hide to its body. As it grows increasingly furious and more beasts are slaughtered, a circle of druids reaches out for assistance.
  • All Tied Up. When the executioner hired a wizard to create “helping hands” in rope golems, he never thought they’d take control of his home, tools, and family. He cannot get in, the city watch refuses to help, so he turns to the party to route the rope golems and free his family.

Golem NPCs

  • Angel in the Flesh. A flesh golem with a hopeless celestial trapped inside it. The golem its vessel, the celestial desperately tries to escape its cage to no avail, assailed and berated by any it successfully contacts.
  • Brass Father. A brass golem whose only task is to ensure a loved one is buried in a certain spot.
  • The Fish Mind. A brain golem that has wrestled control of a kuo-toa tribe from its cast out shaman. The shaman seeks revenge, though the golem’s grip on its tribe is too strong.
  • Savee. An alchemical golem that serves as a medic on the battlefield of war.

Golem Encounters

  • A band of goblins use a clay golem to their advantage, using it as a shield, mount, and being of pure force to push their advantage. The most elite goblins carry vials of acid from the golem that can be used to melt foes.
  • An iron golem patrols the vault the party needs to break into, but it’s far too powerful. However, there are plenty of obstacles and traps they can lure the golem into—or they can steal the control amulet from the vault’s head of security first!
  • Stone golems imbued with speaking stones welcome the party into a grand ruin. Inside, the party are assaulted by other stone golems while the golems at the entrance block their escape.
  • An ice golem guards the home of its frost giant creator on a massive glacier, where it can easily slide across the ice and ignore the biting cold, whipping wind, and endless flurry of snow. The party, though, might have issues.

Golem Villains

  • The Iron Hydra. An iron golem molded in the shape of a hydra. It retains its ability to breathe acid, has five attacks, and is commanded by a mad mage & fanatic of Tiamat.
  • Blastik. A kobold tinkerer found the command amulet of a stone golem and is carving out far more territory than his eccentric mind should be able to.
  • Sir Veginald Largreeves. An exotic collector is trying to obtain all types of golems across the mortal world, but it’s discovered that his ambition is not out of desire or curiosity: it’s for malice and destruction.
  • The Iron Giant. An evil trickster god grants divine sentience to an iron golem defender in a city that goes on a killing spree. It must be destroyed.

Our Musing Summarized


As described in the core D&D ruleset, golems are shoddy.
  • Golems in D&D date back to the AD&D. However, their best iteration rests in 5e.
  • There are plenty of ways to integrate golems into campaigns in a compelling way, from including seldom-seen varieties to allowing the player characters to get in on the golem creation action.
  • Golems can serve as excellent centerpieces for quests, NPCs, encounters, and villains.
Until the next encounter, farewell!

First time reading RJD20? Begin here, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, and join the discussion in the comments below.

Consider picking up my first supplement, Villain Backgrounds Volume I on the Dungeon Masters Guild. It helps fund D&D supplements of the future.

Provide any feedback or inquiries to @RJD20Writes on Twitter or rjd20writes@gmail.com via email.

05 January 2021

How to Create a Compelling Dungeons and Dragons Villain Part 1: Villains Die


As Dungeon Masters, we follow the player characters in our Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. If we’re playing D&D as many believe it should be played, the player characters are the movers and shakers, the folk we focus on. They adventure, interact with the world, and ascend in power. We help them rise from novice wizards and green fighters to epic archmages and weapon masters; from arrogant vagabonds to heroes of the realm; from disparate allies to close companions. However, they will rarely evolve without a catalyst. We must curate the perfect catalyst for them, else their growth will cease and our campaigns will suffer.

For our campaigns to thrive and the player characters to evolve, we must create compelling villains.

But the formation of a villain is a complex process, especially in a game like D&D. In a movie or novel, creators know how the protagonists will react. They understand on what terms good and evil will battle. They control everything. In D&D, that’s not the case. Our players and villains are like two stags fighting: rugged antlers clashing, scratching and piercing. Our players perform difficult-to-predict actions with their characters. Perhaps they’re more intelligent than us (and thus our villains). Or maybe they wish to ally with our villains! The possibilities are endless, but that should not frighten us; it should excite us.

If we can figure out how to create a compelling villain and run them successfully, we will drive PC evolution forward and improve our campaigns, laying the groundwork for years of exciting games.

Villain Backgrounds Volume I


In September of last year, I released my first supplement on the Dungeon Masters Guild called Villain Backgrounds Volume I. While this series is completely different and dives into what makes and how to run a compelling villain, the supplement assists in making a great villain using the Backgrounds system that arrived with fifth edition D&D. The book is pay-what-you-want, includes six villain backgrounds: the Boorish Thug, the Elder Entity, the Fallen Angel, the Mad Researcher, the Misguided Fool, and the Psychopath, and has been received positively. I'm currently writing the second volume, but if you're interested in the first and would like to support my work, here is a link to it!

The Most Important Fact About Villains


Laconically, the ideal villain consists of four parts:
  1. A clear primary motivation
  2. A unique personality
  3. A connection to the party
  4. An array of interesting tools
However, before we dive into this multi-part installment on villains, there is one fact we must all understand.

We want our villains to invoke rage, disgust, and horror in our players and their characters. Plus, we want our villains to challenge our groups and threaten their lives. It’s only natural. We must remember that, in D&D, we’re trying to build an exciting, pleasurable, and gratifying experience for us and our group. There’s a fine line we must balance when we create villains. Despite all these negative emotions we want them to evoke, we also want them to contribute to the fun of our games. If we build them to be too conniving to face and they frustrate not only the characters, but the players as well at every turn, we might want to rethink them. Or if they appear to be a pushover that’s mowed down by the party in half-a-round and outwitted in almost every situation, we probably need to ameliorate them.

Art by William O'Connor

Our villains should inspire fury in our groups, but they should also make the game more fun.

Remember, the game revolves around the player characters and their actions. Our villains are secondary actors. They should foil the characters and eventually be defeated. Which leads to the primary focus of this premier article.

Villains Die


As we set out to construct the perfect foils for our D&D groups, we must understand that it is unlikely they’ll last forever.

The sinister trio of liches who’ve domineered a poor archipelago will certainly be defeated, their phylacteries shattered. 

Yeenoghu will probably be banished back to his layer of the Abyss and the land will most likely be saved. 

The death curse will be halted and its vile creator will, in almost all cases, be punished for their transgressions against the world.

Art by Franz Vohwinkel.

Villains can win—of course—but it’s quite likely the player characters will defeat them. As Dungeon Masters, we need to be ready for that. Many of us insert an abundance of effort into our villains. After all, the players have their characters and we have the foes that undermine and assault them. Since villains are the primary catalyst for our parties’ rise to glory, they’re probably the people we’ll be portraying the most. Or at the least the ones we’ll be thinking about the most. It’s surprisingly common for Dungeon Masters to become too attached to their villains. When the adventurers finally do outwit, outplay, or outlast the villain, some DMs intervene to protect their precious machinator.

It’s the end of a two-year campaign. Tiamat lays near death. The adventurers surround her. But suddenly she rises again, reinvigorated and ready to destroy—as everyone else remains on the edge of life.

It’s the conclusion of a mini-arc in a greater campaign. A certain someone has grown close to their rakshasa villain, so even though the group has stripped the creature of all valuables and it has exerted all its spells, it manages to teleport out!

We need to accept that our villains will die. Sometimes they will escape—when it serves the story and helps build animus toward them in our groups—but many times they will die.

That nasty gnoll warlock with a bone hyena mount? She might die in a single round.

That awesome, mighty, magnetic red dragon who was supposed to be the antagonist of the entire campaign? He could be locked down and defeated in an epic, premature battle thanks to a genius plan.

Villains die. They die all the time. A campaign might go months without a player character death, but a dozen villains might bite the dust. We need to understand that and not get upset when our players outmaneuver them, whether strategically on the battlefield or socially in the halls of a queen’s court.

Art by Tomas Giorello.

As a brief aside, the “death” of a villain does not always need to mean their physical demise. Quite a few villains are defeated without dying. Here are a few examples to inspire us.
  • The jaded wererat wizard joins forces with the party against the lords who lured his deceased friends into a trap.
  • The maniacal halfling warlock is trapped in a soul gem and used as a consultant on planar matters.
  • The draconic goddess is forced into the bowels of her plane of existence, ceasing to grant her followers divine power and losing them all in the process.
  • The corrupt half-orc cleric is imprisoned for his crimes, despite his repentance and assistance to the party.
Once we’ve cemented these ideas into our minds, we can explore avenues we can use to ensure our villains make a lasting impact before they meet their destined end. There are plenty. After that, we can begin to create our villains.

Villainous Impact


We’ve concluded that villains die constantly, but they need to be the driving force for the player characters to evolve. How do we achieve that? We ensure they make an impact on them. To make an impact, our villains can do many things. Simple concepts like attacking the party, stealing from them, or hurting someone they care about can form a firm foundation. Complex ideas such as infiltrating the party, manipulating a faction or notable figure to the party, or pursuing the same goals as the party (albeit using different means) can be layered on top.

And even these ideas can be broken down further. Let’s look at one simple idea and one complex idea and break them down.

For example, attacking the party could mean:
  1. The villain attacks the party.
  2. The villain sends minions to attack the party.
  3. The villain manipulates another, unrelated faction to attack the party.
  4. The villain sends minions to attack the party, falsely comes to their aid, and gains their trust.
As for a more complex idea, infiltrating the party could mean:
  1. The villain comes to the party disguised as an ally or patron.
  2. The villain uses magic to enter the minds or dreams of the party.
  3. The villain sends a doppelganger to gather information from the party.
  4. The villain kidnaps one of the party members or someone close to them, uses an intellect devourer to consume their thoughts and memories, and has the devourer continue to portray the kidnapped individual.
In many of these examples, though the villain is obviously impacting the party, they are not at risk of death or capture. They are unlikely to be defeated. It may be simplest to showcase a villain by having them assault the party or stride before them, but it’s also the most dangerous. Truthfully, their impact does not even need to be their own direct doing. Storytellers on the street might speak of the villain and their machinations in hushed voices. Evidence of the villain’s actions lie strewn about: a toppled tower, a razed village, a scorched forest, or an assassinated king. Lore about them lurks in lost tomes. The villain doesn’t always need to be targeting the party—but their actions, present or past, should always be affecting them.

Art by James Zhang.

If we want a long-lasting villain to also have impact on our groups, they constantly need to be in their thoughts.

And if we want our villains to survive combat encounters with our groups, we need to provide them with the necessary tools to do so. But these tools should be alluded to, understood, and mechanically sound. We’ll discuss this more in the final part of this series.

Lessons Learned


Finally, we’re discussing villains. Remember what we learned in this first part.
  • Villains die. Once we accept that our villains won’t live forever and aren’t the stars of the show, we can create and let go of them much easier. Our focus is on ensuring the campaign remains fun for everyone involved—and plenty of that relies on a compelling villain that the party loves to hate.
  • Villains must impact our groups, and there are many ways to accomplish this. From direct attacks on the group and faraway manipulation to merely reading about their vile deeds in a book or discovering one of the player characters is related to them, villains must have an impact. They are the catalysts for adventurers—they are the calls to action.
Be on the lookout for the next part on villains. We're far from finished.

Until the next encounter, farewell!

First time reading RJD20? Begin here, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, and join the discussion in the comments below.

Consider picking up my first supplement, Villain Backgrounds Volume I on the Dungeon Masters Guild. It helps fund D&D supplements of the future.

Provide any feedback or inquiries to @RJD20Writes on Twitter or rjd20writes@gmail.com via email.

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