Welcome to another post with advice for anyone who wants to run a fantasy tabletop RPG like D&D for the first time.

As the Game Master, you will control all the antagonistic forces arrayed against the PCs. As such, you'll need to know a few things about them.

Some GMs design all their antagonists from scratch before the first session; others let the enemies emerge organically from play. The latter type might invent a villain for each session, and if that villain sparks the players' interest, then that villain gets expanded treatment.

I recommend that you invent a couple of villains before the first session. You probably won't use all of them, which is fine; just the exercise of creating several enemies will be worthwhile (and it's always nice to have a spare villain in a back pocket for when the story takes an unexpected turn).

I'm going to go ahead and create an antagonist and his faction while we go through this process, and I'll use that antagonist in the later posts in this series. You can totally swap out that antagonist if you prefer.

You need to write down six things about each antagonist:

  • Faction Type
  • Leader
  • Name (faction and leader)
  • Goals
  • Resources
  • Current Actions

The Faction's Type

What kind of faction do you want to create? Is it a well-known religious order, a merchant house, a tiny cult, a group of bandits, a tribe of barbarians, a street gang, a necromancer leading undead, or something else?

This will establish many other factors about the faction, such as where it normally operates, its rough size, and its reputation. Write down as much of this as comes to your mind naturally, though you don't need to stress over recording every single element of the organization.

For our example, let's choose a tribe of goblins that lives in a forest, on the edges of civilization.

Letters from Iwo Jima by Bill Strain

The Faction's Leader

Knowing the faction's type will guide you in deciding on the identity of its leader. It's usually best to stay simple and obvious here. A religious organization should be led by a zealot, a merchant house by a wealthy merchant, and so forth.

Now, just because you take an obvious route for your leader, that doesn't mean he or she has to be an over-the-top cliché. The Catholic Pope isn't out there screaming hate-filled speeches or leading armies of clerics, but he's definitely highly committed to his faith.

For our example, let's create a goblin shaman who's had a close encounter with a small god. This god has charged the shaman with taking over land from humanoid neighbors, and the shaman has demonstrated the god's power to his tribe and turned them into effective, obedient worshippers.

Let's further say that the shaman has no ulterior motives, and honestly sees this as a chance to improve the goblins' survival as a tribe. He's acting for the good of his tribe.

The Name of the Antagonist and the Faction

When naming your antagonist, it helps to choose an unusual but not overly strange name. "Kagingovax" is much harder to remember than "Kaga," while a name like "Bram" is so generic it'll slip out of your players' minds.

If you're stuck for names, just search the web for villain names and take part of one and part of another. Mixing Sauron with Magneto gives you Suneto, Magon, or Aureton, all very suitable villain names.

If you're really stuck for names, make up a list of simple consonant-vowel syllables (like ko, gu, and ma), and stick them together until you find something you like.

The faction's type will help you determine its naming structure; a shadowy cult will be known by vague epithets like "The Black Hand," while a group of bandits might just be "Clint's Bandits."

It's easy to get really caught up in this step and try to create the perfect name. Resist this temptation! It's better to come up with a decent name now. If it's really bad, your mind will suggest a better name later.

For our example, for the shaman's name, I threw a few consonant-vowel syllables together until I came up with "Kogo." Let's name the tribe after the god, and again I'll throw together some syllables until I get "Vargon." The tribe will be known as "Vargon's Feet," since they're spreading out physically from their current home.

In the next post, we'll flesh out the rest of this advice and the goblin tribe.

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