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Yeah, yeah, grey morality this and moral ambiguity that. Most games still have some major enemy, or enemies, you spend most of the game fighting against. You may even get the chance to side with them in the end-game or before, but that doesn't mean they aren't douchebags.

 

So...which RPGs have done a good job with these characters? Which RPGs have done a bad job? When you picture the villains of P:E, who are you hoping they resemble the most? Irenicus? Sarevok? The Transcendent One? Caesar? The Master? The Enclave? Insert-cool-villain-here (my personal favorite)?

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I'm partial to Irenicus almost purely because of David Warner's voice. Also, he was very well written. His motivations were understandable for one thing. That to me at least, is an important bit to get right. Darth Revan from KOTOR blew my mind too, albeit, more because of the unexpected revelation that he brought (And I dont even like Star Wars that much).

An example of one done wrong? The Reapers from Mass Effect. And no, its not because of the way the game ended (I've blogged about that before and wont go into it here). But because after the fantastic job Bioware did with their introduction in ME1 (I absolutely love the franchise btw), the subsequent titles did little to give them any sense of personality at all. The whole "We are too advanced and bad ass for your puny mind to comprehend" trope is nothing but a cop out. Taking out a villain should be a palpable thing, act that connects deeply on an emotional level, not just a hollow achievement that says "I beat the game".

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I'm partial to Irenicus almost purely because of David Warner's voice. Also, he was very well written. His motivations were understandable for one thing. That to me at least, is an important bit to get right.

 

Irenicus is a frustrating villain. For me, he is a good villain that started with the possibility for greatness.

 

When I first played BG2, the entire first area ('Chateau Irenicus', as its been dubbed) gave off two major themes:

 

1) The guy running it is a real sick puppy.

 

2) He is interested in experimenting on people, in the case of Charname for the sake of tapping his/her power.

 

There was a suggestion, a hint, that Irenicus was interested in drawing out and enhancing your power. His motivations are not given. This lead me to think: what if this 'villain', despite being a sick puppy, is in fact genuinely trying to 'help' my character in his own twisted way? How interesting would it be to have a primary antagonist who is completely monstrous in every aspect, save that his long-term goal actually advances your character's interests in some fashion? And your choice in this game amounts to either opposing him because he is so monstrous and terrible, or aiding him with the hope that his work will make you that much more powerful?

 

All of this was building in my head until Spellhold. Then I found out he just wanted to steal my soul and indulge in some smug gloating, and that, no matter what character I was playing, I would have to beat him up in the end game. Bummer.

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I'd like the absentee villain.


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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One game that had no "super villain" was Fallout New Vegas. Since I was going for independant Vegas, I considered all Ceasar, NCR, Mr House as rivals and I believe I enjoyed that experience much more than running behing a super villain like in most rpgs. And games in general.

Edited by Sedrefilos

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One game that had no "super villain" was Fallout New Vegas. Since I was going for independant Vegas, I considered all Ceasar, NCR, Mr House as rivals and I believe I enjoyed that experience much more than running behing a super villain like in most rpgs. And games in general.

 

I would disagree. New Vegas had three grey factions (NCR, Mr. House, and Independent) with both positives and negatives and one faction that was a pretty straightforward villain: Caesar's Legion. Oh, you could side with them, but as mentioned in post #1, that doesn't mean that they aren't douchebags. And it doesn't mean you aren't a douchebag for helping them.

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For the record, I understand and agree with people about the importance of providing lots of grey moral choices and lots of factions which are neither 100% wrong nor 100% right. However, I think its silly to think that every faction will be like that....or should be like that, for that matter. That there should be no villains at all. Even in a world where people are partly right and partly wrong, there will be some who are much more wrong than right.

 

And why not? That's the real world, people. We have plenty of people who are genuinely awful, whose beliefs and values are genuinely a dead-end, and smacking them down can be genuinely satisfying. We have our Stalinists and we have our Nazis and we have our terrorists of all political and religious persuasions, just as we have the Idi Amins and Pol Pots to lead them. Villains aren't inherently bad. They just need to be done well and satisfying to defeat.

 

So we have a group like Caesar's Legion: in their favor, they 'make the trains run on time' (well...they would if they didn't believe trains and technology in general were evvviilllll), keep the peace in their territory, and the folks who aren't chattel slaves can usually live fairly well under their rule. They also commit genocide (cultural and otherwise), use child soldiers, practice mass enslavement, backstab and forcefully extinguish the cultural identities of their 'allies', crucify entire towns, burn people alive, promote the most vicious form of misogyny use terrorist tactics, suppress technology, support totalitarianism and militarism...and are led by a hypocrite who reserves life-saving technology for himself and gets rid of anyone who is as educated as he is. Oh, yeah, and the whole thing is pretty much destined to collapse in upon itself when he dies anyway.

 

That's not grey. That's black with a few flecks of grey thrown in for appearances sake.

 

And is that so terrible? It's fun to kill them.

Edited by Death Machine Miyagi
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I'm partial to Irenicus almost purely because of David Warner's voice. Also, he was very well written. His motivations were understandable for one thing. That to me at least, is an important bit to get right.

 

Irenicus is a frustrating villain. For me, he is a good villain that started with the possibility for greatness.

 

When I first played BG2, the entire first area ('Chateau Irenicus', as its been dubbed) gave off two major themes:

 

1) The guy running it is a real sick puppy.

 

2) He is interested in experimenting on people, in the case of Charname for the sake of tapping his/her power.

 

There was a suggestion, a hint, that Irenicus was interested in drawing out and enhancing your power. His motivations are not given. This lead me to think: what if this 'villain', despite being a sick puppy, is in fact genuinely trying to 'help' my character in his own twisted way? How interesting would it be to have a primary antagonist who is completely monstrous in every aspect, save that his long-term goal actually advances your character's interests in some fashion? And your choice in this game amounts to either opposing him because he is so monstrous and terrible, or aiding him with the hope that his work will make you that much more powerful?

 

All of this was building in my head until Spellhold. Then I found out he just wanted to steal my soul and indulge in some smug gloating, and that, no matter what character I was playing, I would have to beat him up in the end game. Bummer.

 

 

Hmm. My feeling about him were similar to yours for the first bit of the game. Right up to spellhold all I wanted to do was kill him a thousand times over. But once I got to the dialogue between him and

, that changed. I felt sorry for the bastard, I still hated him of course, especially for what he did to Imoen but killing him now became almost an act of mercy. This is why it still resonates with me. In that I guess, you and I disagree.

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Flitting from villain to villain (and outside the genre)...

 

BG's Sarevok: Interesting motivation, but he gets so little attention that I really couldn't care about him.

 

Mass Effect's Saren: Often brought up as a Good Villain, but I just couldn't take him seriously with his ****ing hoverboard thing. Not exactly a great way to maintain dignitas and gravitas.

 

Dragon Age's Loghain: Almost really good, but a big part of his motivation got cut. Don't know if it was for time or because they just didn't want that bit in the game or what. The Return to Ostagar DLC played with it a bit, but fell a bit short.

 

Mass Effect's Reapers: Loved the cuttlefish aesthetic, and the sound! The BRRRRM! Awesome. The infamously bad ending wounded them a lot, of course. The proposed alternate ending with the rapidly decaying stars and all that would have helped, but it still had flaws. The reapers claimed that their motives were ineffable, and yeah it's a cop-out, but if the choices are between that and something silly, I'm gonna go with "unknowable". To roughly paraphrase Stephen King: "When the hero opens the door and sees the meter-tall spider, the reader thinks, 'Whew! I was worried it would be a ten meter tall spider!' And if that spider was ten meters tall? The reader would think, 'Whew! I was worried it would be a hundred meter tall spider!'"

 

Suikoden 2's Luca Blight: Man, what is it about Luca Blight? He's the most one-dimensional mother****er ever, and everyone loves him. Even me. Is it because he just doesn't give a **** about anything but wanton slaughter? Is it because he's so god damn hard to bring down? I just don't know.

 

Half-Life 2's Dr. Breen: His speeches, man. "You have destroyed so much. What is it, exactly, that you have created? Can you name even one thing?" I believed that he believed that he was the hero.

 

Starcraft Brood War's Kerrigan: Blizzard's writing has always been mixed, and I think they kind of lucked their way into a good villian with the Queen of Blades. Half the damn point of Brood War is making the player think, "So, Kerrigan is... good now? Right? Awesome. No, wait, she's amoral. But still kinda good? No, wait, she's bad. But she can be redee- nope. No redemption. She's evil. Hot damn is she evil. And she's not even the worst thing around."

 

And it was a great ride, but then Starcraft 2 came and forgot that 95% of Brood War ever happened.

 

NieR's Shades: Not just the boss. The Shades in general were awesome adversaries. I mean, they're just generic shadow monsters for most of the game but then you reach the end and (massive spoilers for a legitimately pretty good game ahead)

the Shades are... peoples' disembodied souls? And the Shade that kidnapped your daughter is... you? And he just wanted to reunite her with her own Shade-soul? And now you're beating the **** out of your own soul to determine whose daughter lives? ****...

 

And then New Game+ happens and

you can understand the previously indecipherable speech of the Shades. Not you the character, just you the player. So now you know that the Shade you just killed was actually a child begging for its Shade-mother the entire time. You ****ing ****.

 

 

 

Neverwinter Nights 2's King of Shadows: Despite the generic as hell name, his backstory was actually... good? Yeah, his backstory was good. I thought the "btw u want join me?" bit felt pretty tacked on at the end, though the scene where your companions chose sides was kinda cool.

Edited by Tamerlane

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For the record, I understand and agree with people about the importance of providing lots of grey moral choices and lots of factions which are neither 100% wrong nor 100% right. However, I think its silly to think that every faction will be like that....or should be like that, for that matter. That there should be no villains at all. Even in a world where people are partly right and partly wrong, there will be some who are much more wrong than right.

 

And why not? That's the real world, people. We have plenty of people who are genuinely awful, whose beliefs and values are genuinely a dead-end, and smacking them down can be genuinely satisfying. We have our Stalinists and we have our Nazis and we have our terrorists of all political and religious persuasions, just as we have the Idi Amins and Pol Pots to lead them. Villains aren't inherently bad. They just need to be done well and satisfying to defeat.

 

So we have a group like Caesar's Legion: in their favor, they 'make the trains run on time' (well...they would if they didn't believe trains and technology in general were evvviilllll), keep the peace in their territory, and the folks who aren't chattel slaves can usually live fairly well under their rule. They also commit genocide (cultural and otherwise), use child soldiers, practice mass enslavement, backstab and forcefully extinguish the cultural identities of their 'allies', crucify entire towns, burn people alive, promote the most vicious form of misogyny use terrorist tactics, suppress technology, support totalitarianism and militarism...and are led by a hypocrite who reserves life-saving technology for himself and gets rid of anyone who is as educated as he is. Oh, yeah, and the whole thing is pretty much destined to collapse in upon itself when he dies anyway.

 

That's not grey. That's black with a few flecks of grey thrown in for appearances sake.

 

And is that so terrible? It's fun to kill them.

 

To be honest, this is why Caesar is very endearing. If he's gone full evil, nobody will took him seriously.

Instead, he took a polite persona and all of his "evil" (sorry, I don't believe in good and evil) deed is brutally effective in a war, making him a very interesting ally/adversary.

 

Effective as in, NCR is way bigger than them and have more resources, why can a relatively small group like Caesar Legion fight them back?

Here's some thought about Caesar from Josh Sawyer: http://www.formsprin...998024811254129

 

Dark grey is indeed the new grey for villains :)

Edited by exodiark
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Effective as in, NCR is way bigger than them and have more resources, why can a relatively small group like Caesar Legion fight them back?

Here's some thought about Caesar from Josh Sawyer: http://www.formsprin...998024811254129

 

 

 

That was really interesting Exodiark, thanks for sharing.

Edited by Shadeheart

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To be honest, this is why Caesar is very endearing. If he's gone full evil, nobody will took him seriously.

Instead, he took a polite persona and all of his "evil" (sorry, I don't believe in good and evil) deed is brutally effective in a war, making him a very interesting ally/adversary.

 

Effective as in, NCR is way bigger than them and have more resources, why can a relatively small group like Caesar Legion fight them back?

Here's some thought about Caesar from Josh Sawyer: http://www.formsprin...998024811254129

 

Dark grey is indeed the new grey for villains :)

 

Yeah, I've read that before. And to be clear, as I've stated elsewhere, I hate cackling mustache-twirling villains who wear their evilness on their sleeve. Games for adults that are meant to be taken seriously should never have those. Any villain you meet n game should be convinced that, on some level, they are doing the right thing. The most horrible people in world history, I'm guessing, have all thought that somehow they were in the right.

 

That being said, they were still horrible.

 

Really, I wish more of Josh Sawyer's concept of the Legion made it into the actual game. I wish we had had the chance to see some civilian areas under Legion control, with no raiders and the chance to interact with people living fairly ordinary lives under Caesar's rule. The Legion still would have been the clearly 'evil' choice, but the balance wouldn't have been tipped quite so heavily towards them being utterly godawful.

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One game that had no "super villain" was Fallout New Vegas. Since I was going for independant Vegas, I considered all Ceasar, NCR, Mr House as rivals and I believe I enjoyed that experience much more than running behing a super villain like in most rpgs. And games in general.

 

I would disagree. New Vegas had three grey factions (NCR, Mr. House, and Independent) with both positives and negatives and one faction that was a pretty straightforward villain: Caesar's Legion. Oh, you could side with them, but as mentioned in post #1, that doesn't mean that they aren't douchebags. And it doesn't mean you aren't a douchebag for helping them.

 

Yes, but you were not AFTER some villain in that game. You just pursued your way about who you wanna help get the Vegas (or leave it free to the communities). There was not me VS someone. That makes the game villain-free to me.

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One game that had no "super villain" was Fallout New Vegas. Since I was going for independant Vegas, I considered all Ceasar, NCR, Mr House as rivals and I believe I enjoyed that experience much more than running behing a super villain like in most rpgs. And games in general.

 

I would disagree. New Vegas had three grey factions (NCR, Mr. House, and Independent) with both positives and negatives and one faction that was a pretty straightforward villain: Caesar's Legion. Oh, you could side with them, but as mentioned in post #1, that doesn't mean that they aren't douchebags. And it doesn't mean you aren't a douchebag for helping them.

 

Yes, but you were not AFTER some villain in that game. You just pursued your way about who you wanna help get the Vegas (or leave it free to the communities). There was not me VS someone. That makes the game villain-free to me.

 

I always thought of it more as "decide for yourself who the villian is, and pursue if you want." I mean, Benny was the guy that shot you in the head, and that is a good reason to hunt him down, ignore his pleas and dismember and eat his corpse (okay, maybe not all of that). Then again, Ceaser was a different kind of villian - he felt the world should be rebuilt on the principles of the roman empire - albeit a bit modernized. Was he evil? I don't know - I don't think he was particularly kind or helpful, but I do think his plan would work and benefit the world in the end - just at unimaginable costs. The NPR was a bit villanous to me - some far away oligarchy wanting to assimalite more and more territory and offer pseduo-citizenship while taxing and corrupting. Yeah, that would work too in the long run - maintaining some sovereignty, yet also having some military force with which to protect it; the greatest threat to the common man was the corruption and exploitation from senior regions. Mr. House was an extreme capitalist and was largely about forming a meritocracy (so long as he remained dominant); paradoxically, the enlightened despot can sometimes be the greatest threat to the common man. Not to mention you can bring disaster and anarchy - intentionally or not.

 

But those are factions - for individuals it is a different sort of question, I think. Did they mean harm? Did they achieve it? Was it on a scale that makes them sinister and villanous? Benny serves as an example of this to me - his greed and power lust convinced him to sabotage Mr. House's plan and try to kill the player, he jepordized what was arguably the greatest chance for a rediscovery of pre-war society rather than a remaking, and he cost thousands of lives as he prolonged the NCR/Legion conflict and the anarchy in the streets of Vegas. Conversely, the Legate is, in my mind, the sublime man for Ceaser's role; he knows that relentless expansion is a bubble, and that he needs to refocus - not become weak and full of infighting, but to reforge the blade that is the empire.

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So...which RPGs have done a good job with these characters? Which RPGs have done a bad job? When you picture the villains of P:E, who are you hoping they resemble the most? Irenicus? Sarevok? The Transcendent One? Caesar? The Master? The Enclave? Insert-cool-villain-here (my personal favorite)?

Sarevok (BG), Irenicus (BG2), the Master (Fallout), Kerghan (Arcanum), the Architect (DA:O-A) and Meredith (DA2) were great antagonists with their own understandable (though twisted) views and agendas. Akachi from MotB was sort of intersting, though in a bit different way.

 

The worst couple of villains I've ever seen in CRPG are Archdemon and Loghain from DA:O. One is a ridiculously underwhelming Old God that remains unseen, hiding in underground tunnels for the whole game, then pops up for the final battle only to be defeated in a matter of minutes by the magic powers of hot witch sex and a couple of ballistae; while minority-oppressing, slave-trading, incompetent-assassins-hiring, having-a-pompous-douchebag-for-a-second-in-command Loghain is so cartoonishly villainous that all the talks of his past heroics and being a great general sound like some incredible stunt by his PR team.

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So...which RPGs have done a good job with these characters? Which RPGs have done a bad job? When you picture the villains of P:E, who are you hoping they resemble the most? Irenicus? Sarevok? The Transcendent One? Caesar? The Master? The Enclave? Insert-cool-villain-here (my personal favorite)?

Sarevok (BG), Irenicus (BG2), the Master (Fallout), Kerghan (Arcanum), the Architect (DA:O-A) and Meredith (DA2) were great antagonists with their own understandable (though twisted) views and agendas. Akachi from MotB was sort of intersting, though in a bit different way.

 

The worst couple of villains I've ever seen in CRPG are Archdemon and Loghain from DA:O. One is a ridiculously underwhelming Old God that remains unseen, hiding in underground tunnels for the whole game, then pops up for the final battle only to be defeated in a matter of minutes by the magic powers of hot witch sex and a couple of ballistae; while minority-oppressing, slave-trading, incompetent-assassins-hiring, having-a-pompous-douchebag-for-a-second-in-command Loghain is so cartoonishly villainous that all the talks of his past heroics and being a great general sound like some incredible stunt by his PR team.

 

Oh man, how I loled at that. I completely agree. I forgot about the archdemon because well...he's utterly forgettable.

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My favorite computer game villain used to be Arcturus Mengsk from the original Starcraft. At first, he appears as the brave rebel leader who recruits you to join his fight against the oppressive and inhuman Confederacy that (as he makes you believe) engineered the Zerg as a super weapon gone wrong. Later, it turns out that he is a ruthless mastermind, willing to sacrifice billions of lives in order to become ruler of the remaining human worlds by successfully presenting himself as hero of mankind (remember, originally, there were only thirteen terran worlds, of which nine had been devastated by either Zerg or Protoss over the course of Act I). He is a tyrant, but he still strives to unite humanity into a common front against its new adversaries.

 

Then, in Starcraft 2, he turns into a buffoon who spams his subjects with silly propaganda, operates a television network whose threadbarely nonsense even a five-year old alcoholic could see through and, in response to the the sudden Zerg onslaught on the Dominion, regards it as more important to blackmail Raynor than to raise the defence against the nightmarish invaders.

 

So, I like villains like Starcraft 1 Arcturus who are despicable because they smartly fool the player, not because the game forces their supposed evilness on me.

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Starcraft 1 to Starcraft 2, the rise - and fall - of Blizzard. It's staggering how they managed to sink so low so quickly.

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Villains can be tyrants, psychopaths, murderers etc. the most important thing is to make them have logical and understandable reasons behind all their actions so we can say: "yes, I understand why you do these things, but you are still wrong so I will stop you"

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Only boring people get bored

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How about a "villain" with *real* issues? Like, a villain with split-personality? His "special power" could be his ability to manipulate others through words alone on a level that's not expected. He would be able to see others down to their core due to his mental illness. One part of his personality would be constantly crying out for help, while the other would plunge deeper into the abyss in a spiral of (self-)destruction. We could make him / her so ridiculously overpowered, that his failure is only possible because somewhere he *wants* to be stopped, he wants to die. As the story progresses the main character could explore what made him into something monstrous like this. But this would be his / her personal story. Hmm... maybe not suited for a crpg.

 

But you guys are right, i like stories where there is no real villain, where the story goes more like "everyone against everyone" than "the good guys vs the bad guys".

Edited by Naesh

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How about a "villain" with *real* issues? Like, a villain with split-personality? His "special power" could be his ability to manipulate others through words alone on a level that's not expected. He would be able to see others down to their core due to his mental illness. One part of his personality would be constantly crying out for help, while the other would plunge deeper into the abyss in a spiral of (self-)destruction. We could make him / her so ridiculously overpowered, that his failure is only possible because somewhere he *wants* to be stopped, he wants to die. As the story progresses the main character could explore what made him into something monstrous like this. But this would be his / her personal story. Hmm... maybe not suited for a crpg.

 

But you guys are right, i like stories where there is no real villain, where the story goes more like "everyone against everyone" than "the good guys vs the bad guys".

 

Thinking of marvel's Cable character? He was a bit like this.

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Thinking of marvel's Cable character? He was a bit like this.

Actually it's my first time hearing from him. Gonna' check it out.

Edited by Naesh

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Eh.... ultimately there should be someone prodding you in the world. Otherwise, why am I even playing the game and doing the quests? I'm just going to go get my stronghold and lay back. That's what my lazy character would want to do. Why would I sacrifice blood and sweat and tears if I don't have someone being a thorn in my side? Haven't played FO:NV so I can't say how that works out in terms of character motivations.

 

Ultimately, there should be an antagonist, but an antagonist doesn't always have to be a person.


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Eh.... ultimately there should be someone prodding you in the world. Otherwise, why am I even playing the game and doing the quests? I'm just going to go get my stronghold and lay back. That's what my lazy character would want to do. Why would I sacrifice blood and sweat and tears if I don't have someone being a thorn in my side? Haven't played FO:NV so I can't say how that works out in terms of character motivations.

 

Ultimately, there should be an antagonist, but an antagonist doesn't always have to be a person.

 

New Vegas to me was more of "Many people have wronged you, who are you going to go after, or are you going after anyone?" The latter of which was achievable by basically being a raider/bandit and out for power, slaughtering and optionally eating anyone you came across. This sometimes didn't work out well with npcs that tended to not be killable. I'm all for an antagonist, whether it be a person or a faction, but I think a soft introduction would be preferable. That is, I'd rather start off a bit, maybe with some conflict from a background or prologue, which draws you into a location/time where you realize/choose the major antagonist. I think this was one of the things I really liked from The Dark Eye: Drakensang - not as convoluted, but you receive a letter from an old friend asking for you to come to his residence, and then you run into trouble along the way.

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