Dear Dr. Evil,
I'd like to come up with a cool villain, but I have so many d20 books, I just don't know what to do! Please help!
Hi Jimmy. There sure is a lot of d20 stuff. A ton, in fact. And you can bet your eternal soul that I have oodles. In fact, the big problem I have, much like you, is that once I get a book, I'm really not sure what to do with it. But I've found every d20 purchase I make has value, whether it serves as a source of new ideas or as something to inspire me to come up with something new.
I suppose the best help I can give you is through an example. Let's build a bad guy, Doctor Evil style. Grabbing a few books from my shelf (in addition to the core rulebooks of course), I'll use Eternal Rome, Fang & Fury, and the Advanced Bestiary, giving us a historical-based campaign setting, a vampire book, and a monster book. Hmm. This might be tricky.
The first place to start is with the base encounter, the monster. Well, Advanced Bestiary, as many of you know, is a big book of templates, and there are example monsters aplenty inside. I could just pull something from that book and be done, but that doesn't help with the vampire issue and certainly not the setting book. So, let's apply a template to a creature or creatures from Fang & Fury. The big difficulty is marrying Eternal Rome to these books for my standard Greyh... er... fantasy campaign.
A fantasy campaign is big enough to pull material from all sorts of myths and cultures. Why, just look at the pegasi, griffons, and other varmints in the MM, so we could say that our setting's... ah, but wait! Flipping through the campaign setting, what do I find but the orator prestige class. OK. Consider this, we have a vampire who's a very public figure, perhaps a mayor or maybe just a spokesperson for some organization or other. He needs some ability to move around during the day, right? I mean, what good is a public figure who comes out only at night?
This is where Fang & Fury comes in. Looking at page 49, I find the daywalker template. Spawned from a vampire scion and a human, these damned souls have some of the abilities of vampires and some of their drawbacks too, but are not affected by sunlight. Excellent.
Now, Advanced Bestiary. What to do, what to do? We already have a template, should we add another? Of course! And, since I'm Dr. Evil, what would be better than the demon-possessed template (see page 51)?
We have our creature. But how do we use him? To make sure Jimmy can use our demon-possessed daywalker, we need to talk in broad terms. We know he's a public speaker and perhaps an influential member of a community. That's enough for Jimmy to slot the monster into his campaign, probably as a neat reoccurring villain. But we can say a few things about his history and do the grunt work in providing statistics. Since Dr. Evil is kind, he'll provide everything you need to use this fellow, but if you'd like more information on the sources for him, be sure to check out Eternal Rome, Fang & Fury, and the Advanced Bestiary, all available as PDFs through RPGNow, or in print from your local game store, or through Green Ronin's Web Store.
Kelian Aldensten is a popular figure in Anytown of Yourfantasycampaignsetting. He travels in the most influential circles, attends the most extravagant parties, and courts the most attractive women. But Kelian has a sinister secret. He was born cursed. He never knew his real father, but as his mother told it, a strange force blew in through her window one night and loved her like no other had ever done before. She would have dismissed the affair as a dream, but weeks later, she discovered she was with child, and her husband had been at war since before the time of conception.
Worried, she hid her pregnancy, confused about how it could have come about. Luckily, the child was born before her husband returned, and she claimed she had found the babe on her doorstep. Though her husband was no fool, he was a soldier and knight, and womanly matters didn't concern him too greatly. So, Kelian grew in the Aldensten household, and later gained brothers and sisters. But to his mother, he was always special—a miracle.
Kelian knew he would never inherit anything from his father since he was not of true blood. Being a clever lad he installed himself in the good graces of important people, making a name for himself with his clever wit, and fierce, almost animal good looks. He "treated" the ladies of Anytown very well, and they in turn rewarded him for his attentions. And when their husbands came home, Kelian was clever enough to play the innocent, and charm his way out of trouble.
Well, his days as a rake and lover would not last. One day, he received a strange missive that requested an audience at midnight on the corner of High Street and Church Row (or two other streets of your choosing... really, Jimmy!). It emphasized the importance of the meeting and claimed the repercussions would be terrible if Kelian refused. It was a matter of some delicacy.
That night, Kelian went to the meeting place. What he found was not at all what he expected. A strange man, a vampire hunter, claimed to know the identity of Kelian's father; Kelian had the blood of vampires in his veins. To support this accusation, he showed the young man a journal of the vampire that sired him, explaining the circumstances of the villain's nocturnal visits. Now this hunter was no scrupulous hero, but rather an opportunistic bastard who saw shiny gold coins in the misery of this young aristocrat. The hunter demanded 5,000 gold or he would reveal Kelian's secret.
Kelian had no money; he survived by feeding off the attentions of the ladies and the generous support of the well-placed citizens. But he agreed anyway and then fled down the streets. Unbeknownst to poor Kelian, his behavior had long attracted a succubus who enjoyed his antics in cuckolding the men of Anytown. So while Kelian fled, muttering prayers to any who would listen to save him from his fate, the succubus entered his body.
At first, he was frightened, but the demon's honeyed words calmed him, soothing his worries and explaining he had great potential if he would just use it. She would help him of course, so long as he agreed to house her. He agreed and she instructed him to go back to the vampire hunter. Kelian crept through the shadows, weaving through the streets like he was a rat or some other treacherous vermin until he finally came upon the blackmailer. Surprisingly, the unscrupulous man was still there and chuckling at his good fortune.
Kelian leapt from the shadows, grabbing the man and sinking his teeth into any place where the man's flesh showed. It was over before it started (surprise allowing Kelian to win the day). But the blood Kelian consumed unlocked his darker nature and he became a creature of true wickedness.
In the weeks following, Kelian has found it harder and harder to deal with his hunger. He's killed several commoners, and fear now stalks the streets of Anytown. What's worse, he's become bolder with the women he sees, feeding while these women are in the throes of passion, and using suggestion to conceal his ravenous hunger. The succubus goads him to more and more audacious acts of wickedness, but Kelian is starting to fear for his life, such as it is. Suspicions mount, and soon, he knows, he will have to kill someone of consequence.
KELIAN ALDENSTEN (CR 7)
Male human daywalker aristocrat 6, orator 1
CE Medium humanoid (chaotic, evil)
Init +6; Senses Spot +3, Listen +2
Languages Common, Abyssal, Elven, tongues
AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 14; Dodge
hp 38 (7 HD); DR 10/cold iron
Resist electricity 20
Fort +1 (+3 against poison), Ref +6, Will +9
Weakness spell vulnerability, the thirst
Spd 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee slam +6 (1d6+2 plus 1d6 against good)
Melee masterwork longsword +7 (1d8+2/19–20)
Base Atk +4; Grp +6
Special Atk blood drain, captive audience, oratory (3/day, inspire complacency)
Spells Known (CL 1st):
1st (2/day)—charm person (DC 19)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 7th):
1/day—charm monster (DC 22), detect thoughts (DC 20), suggestion (DC 21)
Abilities Str 14, Dex 14, Con 8, Int 18, Wis 15, Cha 26
SQ blood gift, doomed, possessed
Feats Dodge B, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Negotiator, Persuasive B
Skills Bluff +22, Diplomacy +24, Disguise +19 (+21 acting), Gather Information +20, Intimidate +22, Knowledge (local) +13, Perform (oratory) +17, Sense Motive +13, Spot +3
Possessions masterwork studded leather, masterwork longsword, ring of protection +1, amulet of health +2.
Blood Drain (Ex): Kelian can suck blood from a living victim with his fangs by making a successful grapple check. If he pins the foe, he drains blood, dealing 2d4 points of damage each round he maintains the pin and "cures" an equal amount of damage from himself.
Captive Audience (Ex): When addressing an individual or a crowd, Kelian can make a Perform (oratory) check (DCs follow) to hold the individual's or crowd's attention, as if they were under the effects of an enthrall spell. He can hold their attention for up to 3 hours, or as long as he continues to speak. This is a language-dependant, mind-affecting ability and only affects those who can both see and hear him.
Inspire Complacency (Ex): As a standard action, three times per day, Kelian can convince those under the effects of captive audience to relax their vigilance and let down their guard. Subjects take a –4 circumstance penalty to Listen and Spot checks, automatically surprised. This effect ends if any member of the audience is attacked.
Blood Gift (Ex): Kelian can feed his blood to another vampire (including other daywalkers). It costs 1 hit point to start the process, and he can then transfer 1 hit point per round per level of the lowest-level vampire in the exchange, to a maximum of 10 hp/round.
Doomed (Ex): Kelian can never cast or directly benefit from augury, commune, divination, greater planar ally, lesser planar ally, planar ally, or miracle spells.
Possessed (Su): A succubus possesses Kelian and it remains in constant telepathic communication with him. The succubus loses all of its supernatural, spell-like, and extraordinary ability, cannot cast spells and may only use Intelligence-based skills. However, it cannot be targeted by spells or effects (except for those noted under spell vulnerability), though it can be detected by divination spells. The succubus can leave Kelian at any time as a standard action, appearing in an adjacent space.
Spell Vulnerability (Ex): When targeted by a dispel chaos or dispel evil spell, Kelian must succeed on a Will save against the spell's DC or lose the demon-possessed template as the succubus moves to an adjacent square. (His Intelligence drops by 2 and his Charisma drops by 6; his Bluff and Disguise skill modifiers each fall by 2 and he loses the Dodge feat; he loses access to his spell-like abilities, resistance to electricity, damage reduction, poison resistance, and the tongues ability.) The succubus is also subject to the banishment or dismissal spell and an antimagic field suppresses all effects of the template. Finally, a remove curse removes the template completely, and the succubus again appears in an adjacent square.
The Thirst (Ex): Kelian takes 1d8+7 points of damage every day at noon. Damage taken in this way may only be repaired by drinking blood.