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Every story needs them, and in fantasy tales they come in two varieties:

The Complete Monster variety with no redeeming qualities who serve as the very definition of all things evil and destroyer of worlds (yes, plural, he/she/it/they is THAT evil).

or

The lying, scheming, conniving usurper type out to pervert, despoil and corrupt all that is good in the world from within.

If you want a foe that your heroes can slay without a second thought go with #1, but if you’re looking for some court intrigue and delicious backstabbing, #2 is the way to go.

Plot driven stories prefer the first option as well. You don’t have to worry about the motivations of the Big Bad who is a murdering fount of madness. Of course you have to be careful that you don’t stumble over unfortunate implications if your evil race shares too many cultural markers with real world religion or ethnicity.Easily avoided by making them monstrous or outerworldy.

Character driven stories rely on #2 because the villain’s motivation(s) lie at the heart of the conflict. The heroes must play a cat and mouse game to uncover the plotters plans before it is too late.

Of course the evil prince might turn into a complete monster once he gets the throne and the unspeakable horror might have a few words to say after all.

Plus, you can have both in the same story. Either #1 plays the Dragon to #2 or #2 plays the role of the inside man for #1. The evil mastermind has someone to do their dirty work for them (and someone to blame if things go wrong) while the Unspeakable Horror has an agent on the inside easing their path to victory.

The specifics are left to each author, of course. But whatever Big Bad shows up will shape the character of your story. After all, it is the challenge that the Heroes must overcome.

Here is a trailer from Dragon Age to show you what I mean by Unspeakable Horror. Enjoy! 😀

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  1. […] that not everyone in an entire race can be evil yet still maintaining the fiction that allows a convenient target(s) for the heroes to slaughter at will without any moral or personal repercussions. After all […]

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