Bring on the Bad Guys
by Gareth-Michael Skarka
December 12, 2000
"Evil, ya know? I'm talking tie-you-to-the-train-tracks, now-my-electro-ray-will-destroy-Metropolis EVIL." Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Everybody knows that a "good" villain is a key to a great adventure. Without a truly impressive, scene-chewing villain, the whole thing just lies kind of flat. Think of some of the best: The original Star Wars trilogy wouldn't have been the same without Darth Vader. The various slasher film series (Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) cranked out the sequels partially because of the popularity of their central villains. Hell, one of the defining elements of Star Wars Episode One was the presence of Darth Maul, who was on screen for barely 15% of the film.
A hero needs a villain it's as simple as that.
So what about our game?
Well, the Arcana were formed to combat the forces known to them only as The Enemy. But who are they?
Another admission on the part of your humble columnist: along with werewolves, I've always liked demons. Demons allow horror of the cosmic variety, without having to rely upon the quasi-scientific nihilism of Lovecraftian beasties (which I do enjoy, but I do find a tad over-used, especially within the gaming community). They come packaged with a gloriously ornate structure to them the various hierarchies and religious baggage. Great stuff.
And what's even cooler, using demonic forces as your villain allows you to use their human followers as well: the Cultists! This throws an element of mystery into the game, which is, of course, necessary. After all, it's kind of easy to figure out who the bad guy is when he's eight feet tall, bright red and sporting two massive horns from his forehead. With cultists, though, any townsperson you meet could secretly be in the employ of the forces of evil... which can result in a nice level of paranoia for the players. With any luck, the players will be jumping at shadows from the constant level of uncertainty.
(A lot of this, by the way, has been on my mind recently due to my immersion in the various collections of the HELLBOY comic by Mike Mignola. This is really kick-ass stuff, and I highly recommend you take a look. The fact that the main character is a classical monster (in this case, a demon) who actually investigates and combats paranormal forces is an unintentional mirror to the plight of our wayward werewolves.)
So, demonic forces, and their worshippers, are constantly assailing the structure of our reality. They hope to re-shape the world in their image, so that this plane of existence can be used as a beachhead for an invasion of Heaven. (After all, Earth lies between Heaven and Hell) The Arcana have, throughout history, located these incursions and stopped them. That's their charge. As Theiss, the Livonian werewolf that I mentioned in my fourth column, said: "The werewolves are the Dogs of God."
Some of the Arcana secretly wonder why they are left to fight against The Enemy alone. Why the demons themselves take more active part than the forces of Heaven seem to but these questions are kept quiet. Doubt is a door, after all, that could allow a demonic intruder into the deepest heart of the Arcana itself.
That'll do it for this week. I'd like to see some more of you posting in the forums give me some indication of what you'd like to see discussed, what areas you want me to detail. This is all for you, the players make the most of it.
Sleep well, and I'll see ya in 7.