STRAIGHT UP VILLAIN: From Random Encounter To Intentional Antagonist

Yeah, no feelin'


In the latest session of Where Hell Comes To Prey my Nightwick Abbey campaign, the players made an interesting gamble. Two players decided to kick in a door despite the sounds of torture behind it. The door gave way, gave them a surprise round, and they pounced on their cannibalistic opposition dispatching one immediately and two more in short order.

The final hulking figure was knocked unconscious by a thrown crowbar (improvised weapon, thrown, 1d4 non-lethal dmg; rolled a 4!). The players interrogated this creature which yielded them information about a blood cult, a Baroness, an obsession with meat, and punishing the weak and undeserving.

Eventually, the cannibal broke free and after a failed lunge at the player, ran for an exit. The players did not pursue it. This cannibal is as follows:

Berserker: AC 12, HD 1+1*, 1 x weapon (1d8), MV 40, ML 12; 
Rage: +2 to-hit against humanoids


Okay. Its easy enough to say encounter done- next. But why not increase this interaction impact in the dungeon? The cultist would not doubt be pissed it had been captured and seek revenge. In doing so, the party's choices have a displayable impact beyond the typical markers such as the removal of treasure and interactions with "known" NPCs.

Now, this is not a totally novel idea- it's a riff on the "Nemesis System" found in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. In MeSoM, if enemies kill the player or survive encounters with the player they are promoted within the game and become harder to kill. And I think that is neat!✤ The Abbey already has a related mechanism-- depending on who/what dies there.

Before jumping to the powers and rewards of defeating such a foe, how will we implement this into the play procedures? Because if a group creates 2-4 of these special antagonists it could get a little cumbersome to run. Here are my thoughts:

Add Them To An Empty Room: Very simple and makes use of empty realestate which ~30% of the area of the dungeon. But that might make the monster pretty static and the megadungeon might be complex enough players don't run across the same room again.

Straight Add To The Random Encounter Table: Easy- just write the creature in as the next number on the random encounter table. But this potentially expands the table with just singular encounters or create the need for DCC dice (roll a d7). Also singular threats tend to not last long.

A Leader Of A Like Group on The Random Encounter Table: A more stream-lined approach might be to just add them as +1 to a like group or something close to it. So the entry for "2d6 skeletons" might read: 2d6 skeletons + villain X. This preserves the structure of the table, shortens the delay of the appearance of the villain, and allows it to have friends- bigger threat.


Alright so well add this villain to the random encounter table as a leader of the next group of like enemies. Now how do we transform my surviving humanoid creature above who is a member of a blood-cult? 

Well, here are my suggestions after ~20 min of thinking, and each time this villain escapes death or kills a PC, I will roll on this d6 table up with a max of 3 times:

1 | Thirst for Blood: Cannot be charmed or affected by mind-altering spells
2 | Hellish Hunting Spears (2x): Deal 2d6 dmg & pin on a to-hit of 4 over target AC
3 | Vicious Visage: Save vs. Paralysis or move half speed away from creature
4 | Teeth! Teeth! Teeth!: Gain claw/claw/bite 1d4/1d4/1d6 dmg, but will not use weapons
5 | The Relentless: Unless killed, next 3 encounters will be with this villain & company
6 | Murderous Messenger: Kills victims in the party's village/town/safespot; leaves taunts

I think it would also be good to increase the XP value of this villain and to keep things easy, let's just use the unguarded treasure table for that. Our villain has the following rolled each time they gain a new power: 

LEVEL 1 Unguarded Treasure according to Moldvey Basic: 1d6 x 100sp, 1d6 x 10gp (50%), 1d6 gems (5%), 1d6 jewelry (2%), and any 1 magic item (2%)

And we'll turn this treasure into cosmetic dressing for the NPC making them as unique and notable; enhancing their "silhouette" in video game terms.


And here is our new villain berserker! I will add them to the random encounter table along with the berserker entry and look forward to the next time the players need to roll a random encounter. The new random encounter entry reads: "12 1d3 Berserkers + The Moonlight Murderer"

ill: C. Huth
The Moonlight Murderer: AC 12, HD 1+1*, 1 x weapon (1d8), MV 40, ML 12; 
  • Rage: +2 to-hit against humanoids 
  • Murderous Messenger: Each time the party carouses, kill one villager; 1-in-20 its a known NPC; a disturbing message is left calling out the PCs & a riddle to a location for a show-down
  • Silver Nails (600sp): Heads bear the sign of the Baroness, driven through its left hand creating a permanent fist

✤ And if you're wondering why we don't see that in more games, I heard some rumor that the Nemesis system locked up as IP somehow- a shame if true.


  1. I like this. You don't *need* rules for returning antagonists, but if you're going to have them, they should be simple but fun, and this is exactly that.

    1. Thanks for the read! Yeah, its more creating new in-game material with what you have at hand, already prepped, that has been influenced by prior PC choice-- the key element to me.