Dragons in Dungeons

Villains of the Most Dastardly Kind

The villain that the players hate and fear makes fighting for their mission all the more invigorating.

As part of boosting homebrew campaigns, I have begun some much needed world building. See the original post Building a Fantasy City. As part of this project, I have been working on villains, much needed characters that form the community of the city. To create fuller villains, I have done some research and made some notes on crafting villains. See the ongoing Villains document here.

I post here the opening of the document to share with fellow D&D game builders. My hope is to solicit input, such as comments, suggestions, additions from the community. By extension, my ulterior goal is to solicit additional world and game builders to the Dragons in Dungeons group and its efforts.


The following are notes about creating villains for use in this and other adventures.

Role in Story

Villains drive the plot. They become an antagonistic force that the heroes of the story must oppose, knock down, and ultimately defeat. They create the call to action for the heroes. In so doing, they should be:

  • introduced

  • make appearances

  • send minions or other organization members

  • engage with the heroes

  • employ subterfuge

  • wound heroes in roleplay, exploration and combat

  • Have some horde of treasure or information worth obtaining

Ultimately, the villain should have a lair or stronghold into which the heroes must gain access. Here is where the final encounter of the campaign is reached.

The villain should be a powerful force but should not be intended to bring about a TPK (total party kill). The villain should be a challenge, one that inspires among the heroes creativity, teamwork, scheming, prepping, and excitement. A good villain is one that is talked about outside of gameplay even after the adventure has ended.

The other danger is to make the villain a meatbag, one simply defeated by an relentless assault of combat. Roleplay and exploration should be needed to defeat the villain.

Like all campaign elements, villains should be rated using the campaign element scorecard seen below.

Campaign Element Scorecard

Qualities of an Epic Villain

Not all villains can and should be epic. However, villains should be created with the epic villain as the gold standard. A one shot should have at least one minor villain, who may reoccur in an adventure. An adventure should have some minor villains with some boss villain laying in wait. This boss villain, if significant, should fit in with the corresponding longer campaign. Ultimately, in the campaign, some major villain, an epic one with loyal members at his feet boosted by forces with a long list of feats, should form the arc of the campaign with boss and minor villains in his wake.


Epic villains should be unique. An epic villain will have an elaborate backstory. She will be filled with both expected traits and unexpected characteristics. The villain’s backstory will be crucial.


Epic villains should make multiple appearances. They should make indirect appearances through minions or retold stories.


At the end of the day, the epic villain should be evil. The nature and origin of their evil ways should come into play to make the story alive and to give the heroes something to worry about. As well, the heroes are motivated not to just remove the villain himself, but rather to eliminate evil.

Significant Purposes

Epic villains have more than just strong intentions. Their convictions and motivations are well forged over time with great emotion, pain or joy. These purposes cannot easily be unseated or even abated. What makes their villainous purposes most frightening is that they are wrong. They are wrong in that they cause harm or suffering. They are wrong as they are self-serving. They are wrong in that they are unnatural. An epic villain with a strong person is unapologetic.

Fatal Flaw

A villain will need to have weaknesses in the face of strengths. An epic villain, in being epic, will need a fatal flaw. Most often, this fatal flaw will be part of the villain’s strength. This fatal flaw will be necessary for the heroes to uncover over time and exploit in order to defeat the villain.


An epic villain should have significant power whether it be abilities, knowledge, spellcasting, charm, wealth, or influence. This power should be enough that the heroes should not be able to defeat the villain in first encounters. This power should be demonstrated to the heroes to create a sense of awe and dread. The heroes must work to build up equivalent power to be able to defeat her.


An epic villain so often is subject to his passions. He may be a calculating genius, but he can be blinded by his rage. She can be generous to those loyal and near to her but break into mad fits destroying all that is within her reach. This irrationality should be demonstrated as part of her strength and her potential to harm and kill. It should also be revealed as a possible fatal flaw.

Villain Types


These minor villains know the heroes well and work to counter their objectives. They will have often worked on missions together previously. They may have competed in contests or pursued shared love interests. At some point, the rival or the hero gained some sort of advantage for which the counterpart seeks some return.


These minor villains have done evil or caused suffering. They are often wracked with guilt and shunned by others. They often oppose the heroes. However, they can often be swayed by the heroes to step aside or provide assistance by appealing to the anti-hero’s conscience. As villains go, they can be deemed sympathetic.

Vengeful Villain

This villain has a cause from which she cannot be swayed. Appealing to her reason will not work. She has become mad. However, her madness offers her an intensity.

Villain Partners

Characters who normally would oppose each other but have found a common goal make for a unique villain combo. On the one hand, their different strengths complementing each other make it difficult for heroes to find an advantage. On the other hand, finding ways to break this alliance can provide an opportunity for characters as long as they are not caught in the backlash.

Devious Genius

These villains are in control of the heroes and their choices from early on in the adventure. They use subterfuge, sabotage, and conflict to direct these heroes towards the completion of their own ends.

Insane Ruler

This villain has gone insane from power or the result of violence used to obtain it. This epic villain will go to unending lengths to achieve her aims even if it means self-harm or peril. The most frightening aspect of this type of villain is that she is unpredictable and random.

Our Villain

The most important element of the villain you create should be that your villain becomes so involved and intriguing that your players come to describe it as "our villain."

Card image cap

Pinterest Board

View our collection of photos and drawings. Examine the legendary heroes, the evil villains, and the awe-inspiring scenes. Check out these sections

Spark your imagination with these pins. Be sure to subscribe.

Go Pinterest

About Us

The Dragons in Dungeon group strives so hard to deliver inclusive, interactive, imaginative and immersive D&D games for more people to enjoy. We offer

  • campaigns
  • adventures
  • one-shots

We play online and at local game lounges.

Join group


Connect with us online.