Almost every tabletop roleplaying game has villains and antagonists. The conflict against these foes creates dramatic tension, risk, and obstacles for the protagonists. Antagonists give the protagonists something to fight against and opportunities for harrowing danger. Much of the fun and excitement comes from harrowing encounters with these foes. This is not to say that every game session must feature an antagonist. Entire sessions could revolve around a protagonist’s romance or even lodge politics. Still, antagonists are likely going to show up from time to time, and that’s what we’re here to discuss.
Firstly, I want to say that not every antagonist in Nevermore need be a gloating and moustache-twirling villain or a vicious and horrifying creature that seeks only to destroy the protagonists. Most antagonists in Nevermore stories are far more complex. They might be victims of ancient wrongs or terrible curses and the protagonists may find themselves having to confront these wrongs rather than just fight a monster. A spirit may need to be laid to rest, cure removed, or an ancient wrong righted. Likewise, not all aethyric entities are what we might call truly evil, but rather they might be beings that are consumed by madness or rage.
Who are They?
So who and what exactly are the antagonists of Nevermore? Well, lets start with a few of the playtest adventures I have run. They might be a deranged scientist who discovered an aethyros and is using it’s powers to create terrifying machines. Or you might find the ghost of a woman and her children who were wrongly murdered for being a witch. It could be a barghest, summoned to act out an ancient curse. In addition to these, a story could center around a cursed house or item. And of course, there are so many creatures of the night that hail from tales of Gothic Horror: werewolves, vampires, ghuls, animated skeletons, resurrected dead, possessed people or animals, ghosts and poltergeists of all sorts, witches and warlocks, and much more. And, of course, a Nevermore protagonist may face off against more mundane adversaries such as normal people (perhaps part of a cult) or dangerous beasts (wolves controlled by a vampire) and much more. These Nevermore core rulebook will feature many different types of beasties to make things easier for narrators who want to jump right into playing.
How do Antagonists Work?
The stats for antagonists have been kept to a minimum. Although they will have Qualities and skills like protagonists, these numbers are rarely used, and only the most important skills are listed. The most important stat is the antagonist’s Rank. The Rank is the number of Foil cards that the narrator gets to play. (You can learn more about how Foil Cards work in a previous blog entry.)This makes combat and such super easy for the GM because they just need to remember that one number. Despair is the amount of Despair a protagonist gains on first encountering the. Grit and damage work exactly the same as for protagonists. Finally, there’s the fun stuff… Inherent Traits and Dark Gifts which are usually only possessed by aethyric entities.
Inherent Traits are fundamental aspects of an entity that are always active, and the narrator does not need to spend Doom to activate. A few examples are Analgesia which means the entity does not feel pain; Bane, which is something the entity fears and cannot approach; Deathless, which means the entity cannot be killed; or Vulnerability which may allow another trait (such as Deathless) to be overcome.
Dark Gifts usually require a narrator to spend Doom to activate, and the activation may last for one action or a combat scene, or longer. Some examples are Chilling Wail (or howl), with which an entity emits a wail so horrible that it causes Despair, Curse of Death which allows a spirit to inflict the cause of their death upon a protagonist (such as freezing, drowning, or fire), or Vicious Attack, which automatically inflicts a damage condition as well as causing Grit damage. The Nevermore core rulebook will have extensive lists of both Inherent Traits and Dark Gifts so that you can easily create your own antagonists.
Hopefully, this has given you a general understanding of the types of antagonists protagonists are likely to encounter as well as a little about how they work. As usual, if you have any questions, comments, or something you want to know more about, hit me up in the comments. Finally, I wanted to say that art included here is some of the first antagonist artwork by Winston Clark. You can find more of his artwork at The Subconscious Eye.