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Playing the Long Game – Near Immortal Villains

28 June, 2010

Playing the Long Game
Near Immortal Villains

If you had all the time in the world, what would you do?  What could you do?  Near immortal villains are a staple of RPGs (and their source material) ancient gods, elder dragons, lich-kings, immortal superbeings, ages-old vampires . . . the list goes on and on.  But what would you do with all that time?  Traditionally, create intricate plots that mature over the centuries, just in time for the heroes to interrupt them at the last moment.

Long term planning seems to be the key, after all, you can wait for the long term payout if you have eternity to look forward to.  Invest in stable, long term investments, bury treasure to come back for it later, work yourself into legends and prophecies, build a power base.  Sure, some of these will not work out, even governments collapse and currencies change but if you have enough of them going, some will pay off and some will pay off handsomely.  After a few centuries you should be secure as far as wealth goes, have a few places to call home and several more secure bolt-holes with enough of whatever you need to start over if things go wrong.

Redundancy is another thing, you have the time to make multiple plots and contingency plans, do not stake everything on one throw of the dice.  For the immortal villain, plots should be like trains, there will always be another one coming along.  Sure, your plan to use spores of the emerald mushroom to mind control all of the noble houses of Vun was thwarted, luckily your army of wood golems is just being finished up, the pirate lords of Shanlesh are willing to accept your rule in exchange for new ships and weapons, and the subversion of the fey court of Nickmock is moving ahead on schedule.  Remember, you only need to win once to take over the world, the heroes need to win every time to stop you.

Of course, you need to survive, immortality may keep you from falling dead of old age but a stake through the heart will usually make life, well, unlivable.  So plan accordingly, make sure it is very difficult to kill you, use agents and allies to front your operations when you can and keep behind the scenes.  The plots and the resources you committed to them are ultimately expendable, you are not.  Remember what I was saying about the heroes?  Here it is reversed, you need to kill everyone who tries to destroy you, they only need to get lucky once.  Do not neglect personal defense, because someone will try to kill you and if you are not ready, they may succeed.  Getting killed by a servant with a grudge and a powerful weapon from your collection is no way to go.

Revenge may seem attractive but will it really help you achieve your goals?  Perhaps it would be better to ally with the heroes and send them against your rivals.  Heroes like to be heroic, give them every chance to do so, as long as it advances (or at least does not interfere with) your cause.  If you work hard, perhaps you can even subvert some of the heroes to your cause.  After all, you want a happy peaceful world as well, just one with you at the top.  While there is the risk that the heroes will turn against you using the weapons you helped them to obtain, at least you will know what they are capably of and, if you have been efficient, their weaknesses.

There you go, some thoughts on using long-lived to immortal beings as villains or just characters.  Hopefully, they have been useful.

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