Thursday, May 14, 2009

Legendary Villains: The Warlock

Sometimes, bad guys just break the rules. Like Sauron, they're badass warriors and powerful wizards both, dangerous no matter how you approach them. Their capabilities are legendary. 

And they can be made very easily in either D&D or The Fantasy Trip, with a little judicious house ruling. 

This idea came to me when playing around with a megadungeon concept for The Fantasy Trip (by the way, megadungeons don't actually work well in TFT, but that's another issue). I wanted to create a "vault of the warlocks," where powerful evil wizard-kings were entombed, and I thought it would be nice if they were more than just high attribute wizards. The basic idea I came up with is simple enough. In TFT, you have two types of characters: heroes (who have quite a few talents) and wizards (who have all the spells). But what if warlocks are occasionally born into the world -- characters who are (in game terms) both heroes and wizards. In TFT, this means you let them spend thier IQ pool on talents as a hero and then "double dip," also spending the pool of IQ points on spells as a wizard. All other rules apply. This creates a dangerous foe without adding too much paperwork or prep.  

You can do the same thing in D&D, and the combinations are even more fun. You simply say that once in a century, a man or woman is born who walks two paths. In 3rd edition, there are already rules available for this: the rules for building gestalt characters. In classic D&D, you do the same. Create the warlock using a "best of" approach when combining two classes. Take the better hit die, the better attack progression, the better spell progression, and so on, and you have your epic villain. 

In B/X or BECM/RC D&D, this gives you villains like: 
  • The Dark Lord: fighter and magic-user
  • The Necromancer: magic-user and cleric
  • The Grandfather of Assassions: cleric and thief
  • The Ninja Master: magic-user and thief
  • The Crime Lord: Fighter and thief
  • The Anti-Paladin: fighter and cleric
These aren't just multi-class characters. They're powerful foes who can draw on the best of two domains, and they will stand apart. If you want to give them a little lasting power, you can even steal a page from 4th edition and inflate their hit points: instead of giving them the "best of" hit dice, give them the total of the hit dice from both classes. Sure, that's nasty, but let's face it -- your dark lord is eventually going to die at the hands of a PCs regardless.

But he'll also be a foe to remember.