This is a continuation of a conversation with Aaron that began over social media.
I have been thoroughly schooled in moral relativism, so it is often difficult for me to introduce one-dimensional “Big Bad” villains into my games. Generally, I think this is for the best as it positions players in a way that they have to make hard decisions between two opposing viewpoints. In that vein, I wanted to explore some of the common motivations that tend towards Chaos and then to imagine what a villain who embodies each motivation might look like.
A word of warning, some of this stuff might be X-Card material or otherwise triggering.
All know the allure of this force. It can whisper softly in the night, but can also shoot straight as an arrow. Many are willing to temper their otherwise lawful tendencies to indulge in this element of self-indulgent chaos. For example, the king no longer tends to the affairs of state now that he has a new concubine who keeps him away from his throne.
A villain could deplete the treasury to partake in his vice, allow his kingdom to fall into chaos through neglect. A villain could be unsatisfied with simple pleasure and resort to more and more sadistic acts. A villain could seek out specific targets that remind him of his first true love. An army might commit acts of rape upon a conquered populace. A group might be willing to commit other crimes to keep their unconventional practices a secret.
Movies: Dogville (by Lars Von Trier), Lust, Caution (by Ang Lee), Eyes Wide Shut (by Stanley Kubrick)
Stories: King David & Bathsheba, Lancelot & Guinevere, Helen & Paris
Some seek temporary relief by indulging in alchemical or pharmaceutical remedies. Often, this begins innocently enough or by using a substance as prescribed but quickly escalates into a dependency. Once addiction is established, all manner of actions become justified in order to secure another dose.
Villains will hurt innocents and the helpless in order to indulge. Other moralities become secondary to the addiction. The amount of substance required to achieve the same effect increases over time. The villain might act at the behest of another, who controls the supply.
Media: Drugstore Cowboys, Trainspotting, Requiem for a Dream
The allure of the battle is something very real, some people never feel more alive that when they are engaged in a stressful situation for which they have been prepared. Those who embrace this as a vice would seek out conflict without reason.
This villain might approach be prone to over-reaction, perhaps a lord resorting to violence over trivial matters. This villain might resort to other vices to stimulate the adrenal rush such as dog-fighting, hunting, martial tournaments, dueling, gladiatorial games, torture, etc.
Inspiration: Hurt Locker (film), Robert Baratheon (GoT), The Most Dangerous Game (film)
The natural world is cruel and uncaring. The strongest, fastest, and most resourceful are rewarded with the spoils of their victory. There is no moralizing in this jungle, the only logic is that of the hunt. Strength is a moral absolute, victory is black and white. All disputes are resolved with contest. The victor carries neither guilt nor shame.
This villain believes that “law” has perverted the base nature of man. That society has grown away from its tribal animalistic roots. Wards of the state, the old, the ill are all viewed with disdain and the villain will deal with them as one would deal with a pest. This villain does not act with chivalry and tosses aside moral codes, he views morality as a tool of the system. His goal is his own liberation, to act with freedom and without conscience. He also believes that he is acting to rid the world of the cancer that is “lawfulness” with its false moralities.
Hell is other people. These are the people who cannot stand being told what to do, being beholden to another, or being forced to participate. Even if they see the reason for the requirement, they will do the opposite out of spite. They will lash out at any perceived authority, and take even casual offers of advice or suggestion as an unwanted imposition of will.
These villains will reject any compromise. They will use others, but will never willingly subjugate themselves to another. They might work with someone else if they believe that they have the upper hand, or if they believe themselves to be manipulating the other party. They might strive to lord over others, as in a gang or in an autonomous holding. They might seek isolation in wilderness or in an urban expanse such as an empty library or abandoned catacomb. They might have information that they are unwilling to share or responsibility (as by blood) that they are unwilling to fulfill.
I feel confidant that there are more motivations that would lead one towards chaos. It could be fruitful to see what you all think about Chaotic alignment. I skipped some motivations that felt like “low-hanging fruit” and I tried to steer away from echoing the seven deadly sin model. What do your chaotic villains look like? What other sources of media do you think could inspire a chaotic villain?