Petty Evil

Thursday, February 14, 2008 - 12:00 PM

Recurring villains in a campaign are a great deal of fun. If pacing is maintained, and your players don't get lucky or outwit you, you have a great opportunity for building a complex relationship between heroes and villains. This relationship only adds to the feelings of accomplishment and success when the heroes finally bring their adversary to justice... or just plain kill him, as some might vote to do.

The players in my DnD game have a handful of adversaries who, through distance, cunning or power, have managed to evade defeat. Against some surprising odds, they've pulled down some powerful opponents (as players are wont to do), but from as early as level 3, Adun Lemekvorr has evaded them.

Adun has betrayed his allies, bribed and blackmailed contacts and authorities, murdered, cheated and stolen in order to evade capture. He has even hurled other villains into the spotlight to attract the attention of the dogged heroes on his tail. As you can guess, he's done little to endear himself to our heroes, and they've been avid about running him down. He has managed to stay two steps ahead, however, and they lost him for quite a while.

Recently, they have recovered his trail, and this time he's finding it very hard to keep ahead.
Originally, they knew Adun paid fealty to some god of greed, but with their new sources, they've learned Adun has long since switched allegiances. Now they understand why he's been so difficult to locate. Adun's new patron is notorious for keeping his followers hidden, and as the party has discovered, the patron is notorious for other things, as well.

Sometimes, evil is just a petty, ugly thing. Adun's patron, Mormo, is just such a creature. This is not a cult with overarching plots and plans. It is a small, hateful knot that loves to spoil what other people hold precious. In the next couple of installments, I will reveal more about Adun, his patron, and the cult they are connected to.

  • A few notes about Mormo, from a designer standpoint:
    Mormo is a name from Greek mythology, one of a large number of little-known and seemingly incidental quasi-deities. Apparently Mormo was connected to Hecate in some way, but I've not found any specific references as to who or what specifically Mormo was, outside of some inferences that s/he bit bad children or bad people. The origin of Mormo's use in my campaign is actually from the H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Horror At Red Hook”, which inspired the cult as I use it. I do not claim that my version of Mormo has any real connection whatsoever to actual mythology. If anybody out there has some reliable sources that give more details about the original Mormo, I'd be happy to hear about them.
  • Second, as noted above, sometimes evil is just petty. I wanted a cult that didn't care about conquering the world or spreading evil. The cult of Mormo is designed to be utterly foul, a secretive cult that loves to hurt people for no real reason except that they can. This is the kind of garbage that heroes love to take out, and they should feel accomplished when they do it. But on the other side, the cult of Mormo isn't that alien or bizarre. There are reasons why people join it, after all. The sad fact is that most Mormo cultists aren't even insane (though most of the actual priests sure are). The other part of this kind of evil is that it can live next door. It's personal, in a brutal sort of way, and Mormo's brand of evil starts with simple discontent or jealousy or insecurity. Sometimes, all people need is the right excuse.

Just as a side note, occasionally, people hear about these ideas, and they say something like 'people aren't actually that bad, they really won't do that to each other'. For a blatant retort, I recommend they take a closer look at what's been happening in Africa these days.



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