Heroes born don’t necessarily stay that way
by Seth Johnson
Tired of running villains whose only character traits are megalomania or psychotic madness? Looking for a more complex antagonist to play off of your players’ developing characters? Heroes often find that their most tenacious opponents are their own dark reflections. But for chance or choice, these are the villains that the heroes themselves could have become…
Shortly after a young Rarnag Sarl traveled from the southern wastes to the kingscity, he found his fate bound to that of a group of adventurers led by the famed wizard Dilancelo Trevanir. Stories passed among the peasants tell of the next five years Rarnag spent traveling with Trevanir’s band, exploring the ancient ruins discovered during the wizard’s academic researches and battling the creatures found therein. By all accounts the young barbarian quickly became one of the aging wizard’s closest confidants, and Trevanir even began to instruct Rarnag in the mystic arts. Further, the tales tell of fabulous treasures recovered by the delvers, and that even their lowest camp followers were as wealthy as nobility.
Thus it came as a shock to the people of the kingscity when Rarnag suddenly returned, stumbling into a tavern clad in rags and carrying nothing but a battered greatclub and raving in a strange tongue that not even the well-traveled merchants on hand could identify. Ever since, Rarnag has bullied his way around the merchant’s quarter, taking what he likes and beating those he doesn’t. Occasionally he imbibes enough strong drink to calm down temporarily, and those who dare get close enough might be able to glean information about long-lost treasures, faraway dungeons…and possibly whatever it is that drove the Rarnag Sarl mad.
4th level Barbarian / 2nd level Wizard
STR 18 (+4) DEX 17 (+3) CON 16 (+3) INT 12 (+1) WIS 8 (-1) CHA 11 (+0)
Race: Human, Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +4
Base Attack: +6; Melee +10, Ranged +9
AC 16 (+3 Dex, +3 Hide armor), HP 48, Move 40
Feats / Special Abilities: Summon Familiar, Scribe Scroll, Rage (2x/day), Uncanny Dodge, Extended Rage (*1*) , Improved Critical (Greatclub), Power Attack, Track
Attacks: +2 greatclub of thundering (+12 to hit, dam 1d10 + 6 + 2 + 1d8 sonic, critical 19-20/x2)
Spells (20% failure chance): resistance, detect magic, flare, prestidigitation, mage armor, true strike
Skills: Intimidate +7, Ride +5, Wilderness Lore +7, Handle Animal +5, Climb +3, Swim +3, Spellcraft +1, Knowledge (geography) +4, Knowledge (ancient treasures) +4, Knowledge (nature) +4, Profession (herdsman) +2, Spot +2, Search +2, Listen +2
As a child, Pietro Pallanova lived on the streets and developed a flair for locks and mechanical devices. When the Kingscity Council decided to clear the traps protecting the ancient crypts of the Noble Hill necropolis in order to replace them with guards and open the crypts to paying visitors, Pietro found a life inside the law when he convinced the Council and the church to hire him for the job. Though he lost a finger in the process, it was a small price for gaining the appreciation of the city’s upper class.
Over the following twenty years, Pietro worked for much of the city’s wealthy nobles, disabling old traps and building new ones. Paid well for his work, Pietro sunk much of his money into a well-appointed mansion near the cemetery where he got his start.
But the next summer Pietro returned from a journey in the country to find that his beloved mansion had burned to the ground. His grief turned to rage when he heard that the residents of Noble Hill had merely gathered to drink expensive wines while they watched the building burnincluding the elemental sorcerer who could have easily snuffed the blaze. When Pietro confronted the sorcerer, the mage simply sniffed and explained: “You should know that thieves aren’t acceptable on Noble Hillyou’re the one that made them so unwelcome.”
Going underground, Pietro began to put twenty years of accumulated knowledge and experience to work. Within months an army of young thieves under Pietro’s tutelage and command were unleashed on the kingscity in general and Noble Hill in particular, easily passing through the “impenetrable” web of traps set by their leader. Mercenaries and city guardsmen sent to find the aging trap expert have found wherever he might be hiding to be will-hidden and presumably, in the case of those who didn’t return, well protected.
11th level Rogue
STR 15 (+2) DEX 18 (+4) CON 15 (+2) INT 17 (+3) WIS 11 (+0) CHA 13 (+1)
Race: Human, Alignment: Neutral Evil
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +3
Base Attack: +8/+3; Melee +10/+5, Ranged +12/+7
AC 22 (+4 Dex, +4 chain shirt, +4 ring of protection +4), HP 42, Move 30
Feats / Special Abilities: Uncanny Dodge, Sneak Attack +6d6, Skill Mastery (Disable Device, Escape Artist, Open Lock, Tumble, Use Magic Device, Decipher Script), Evasion, Alertness, Lightning Reflexes, Mechanical Aptitude (*2*)
Attacks: shortsword +2 (+12/+7 to hit, dam 1d6 +2, critical 19-20/x2), dagger of returning (+10/+5 to hit melee; +12 to ranged, dam 1d4, critical 19-20/x2)
Skills: Appraise +9, Balance +6, Climb +7, Craft (trapmaking) +13, Disable Device +13, Decipher Script +7, Escape Artist +11, Gather Information +8, Hide +6, Listen +13, Move Silently +9, Open Lock +13, Knowledge (city) +10, Search +13, Spot +13, Swim +6, Tumble +10, Use Magic Device +9, Use Rope +13
A favored son of the elven clans and a well-loved friend to the human towns in the wood, Haladrian Greentree was named Warden Protector of the High Forest at the relatively young age of 140. Entire human generations passed under his watchful eye, and the High Forest was long known across the land as a place of peace and beauty.
When a rare creature previously unseen outside the astral plane was spotted grazing in the High Forest, the Alchemist’s Guild sent a party to stalk and kill the creature so that its parts could be used in alchemical concoctions. Greentree found the group first and turned them away. Hoping to change the elf’s perception of the situation, the alchemists banded together to purchase a helm of opposite alignment, then hired a glib-talking bard to convince Greentree to try it on.
The helmet worked--better than the alchemists might have expected. The moment he put it on Greentree turned into a bloodthirsty psychotic, killing more than a dozen men before escaping into the darkened wood. Over the coming weeks and months patrols were sent deep into the High Forest, first to try and help Greentree and later to try and kill him. None found him, though the elf seemingly appeared at will in the previously peaceful forest communities to attack innocents and burn their buildings to the ground. Few stayed to rebuild.
Within five years the High Forest became a place of darkness. Some rumors tell that Greentree now commands an army of beasts, while others say that everything in the forest save the elf is dead. Few dare enter the wood, for fear of discovering the truth.
9th level Ranger
STR 16 (+3) DEX 18 (+4) CON 15 (+2) INT 11 (+0) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 15 (+2)
Race: Elf , Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +3, Will +3
Base Attack: +9/+4; Melee +12/+7, Ranged +13/+8
AC 20 (+4 Dex, +3 studded leather of shadow, +2 amulet of protection +2, +1 Dodge), HP 82, Move 30
Feats / Special Abilities: Track, Favored Enemy (magical beasts), Favored Enemy (humans), Point Blank Shot, Far Shot, Rapid Shot, Dodge, Elven racial abilities
Attacks: Mighty composite longbow (+13/+8 to hit, dam 1d8 +3, critical x3), 30 standard arrows, 10 arrows of wounding
Skills: Climb +6, Hide +9, Jump +5, Knowledge (nature) +7, Listen +6, Move Silently +6, Spot +7, Search +5, Wilderness Lore +8
Even as a small girl the parents of Yumil To could see the dark sparks in her eyes that forebode danger. Unable to tame her growing recklessness, they gave her into the care of the monks at the School of the Open Circle. There she remained in training and meditation until the age of 23, when she attained the rank of Journeyman and was sent to the court of Baron Agee, where by long-standing agreement a student of the Open Circle provided protection and counsel to the baron.
Hoping for an exciting assignment, Yumil instead found the clockwork play of manners that made up life at court. The only enjoyment she had was in tracking down a group of bandits that had been preying upon traveling merchants and the peasants of the barony. When she finally cornered their leader Daricel in an isolated orchard, she found the man…strangely intriguing. Rather than fight, they found themselves talking of their shared frustrations, and at sundown Yumil made the decision to step off the path of the Open Circle and throw in her lot with Daricel’s Raiders.
The next year was one of the happiest in Yumil’s life, until the day the swaggering Raiders made a raid on the baron’s keep. Hoping to make off with the seal of the barony, Yumil and Daricel made their way to the baron’s chambers in the high towerwhere they found the baron and three of his best men waiting. Though Daricel was good with his sword, the baron was better--Yumil watched in horror as Baron Agee ran his blade through the man she loved.
Leaping from the tower into the muddy moat the former monk made her escape, though she broke her arm in the process. Rejoining the remnants of Daricel’s Raiders, Yumil called for any who would challenge her right to command. Killing three men who came at her together, she cemented her claim and declared that the Raiders would no longer simply pillage the landthey would destroy it. Setting forth to spread a wave of destruction across the land, the blood-red leather armor of Daricel’s Raiders and the name of Yumil To are now feared across all the Southern Baronets.
6th level Monk / 2nd level Fighter
STR 17 (+3) DEX 17 (+3) CON 14 (+2) INT 13 (+1) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 16 (+3)
Race: Human, Alignment: Chaotic Good
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +5, Will +5
Base Attack: +6/+1; Melee +9/+4, Ranged +9/+4
AC 18 (+3 Dex, +4 bracers of armor +4, +1 Dodge), HP 64, Move 30
Feats / Special Abilities: Unarmed strike, stunning attack, evasion, Deflect Arrows, Still Mind, Slow Fall (30 ft.), Purity of Body, Improved Trip, Two-Weapon Fighting, Ambidexterity, Dodge
Attacks: Quarterstaff, used twice/round (+7/+2 to hit, dam 1d6+3, critical x2), shortsword +3 (+12/+7 to hit, dam 1d6+3, critical 19-20/x2)
Skills: Balance +8, Climb +8, Diplomacy +6, Handle Animal +1, Hide +9, Jump +6, Listen +5, Move Silently +8, Ride +5, Swim +3, Tumble +9
Long before he became Commander of the Holy Sword, Lord Baringer was once merely Baringer the Blade, a popular freeman gladiator. Hoping to become cultured, Baringer hired a learned man to instruct him in reading and writing. The tutor taught Baringer from books of religion and philosophy, and the fighter completed his instruction not only literate but deeply devoted to the principles of order and discipline.
A year later Baringer left the gladiatorial pits and became a cleric of the god of order. While traveling the villages of the Barrier Mountains, he became angry when the edicts of the church forced him to simply move along when his words fell on fallow ground. As the rage built within him, Baringer broke ties with the church and gathered those who believed in a stricter adherence to the ways of order. Together they formed the Path of the Holy Sword, and named Baringer their Lord Commander.
The Path of the Holy Sword began their crusade high in the mountains and began a quiet but unstoppable progress toward the plains, for those who refused to convert to the Path were immediately put to the sword as “lawless heathens”. As his order grew, Lord Baringer found that his god approved of his actions and granted him special abilities. These have only strengthened his resolve, and the other religions of the land will soon need to deal with the formidable challenge of Baringer and the Path of the Holy Sword.
6th level Fighter, 2nd level Cleric, 5th level Cult Leader (*3*)
STR 18 (+4) DEX 16 (+3) CON 12 (+1) INT 10 (+0) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 17 (+3)
Race: Human, Alignment: Lawful Evil
Saves: Fort +12, Ref +3, Will +9
Base Attack: +11/+6/+1; Melee +15/+10/+5, Ranged +14/+9/+4
AC 22 (+3 Dex, +8 scale mail +4, +1 Dodge), HP 86, Move 30
Feats / Special Abilities: Power Attack, Cleave, Great Cleave, Dodge, Mobility, Combat Reflexes, Spring Attack, Sunder, Specialized Metamagic (Maximize Spell: inflict serious wounds)(*3*), Turn Undead, Leadership (as if 16th level)(*3*)
Attacks: +3 flaming greatsword (+18/+13/+5 to hit, damage 2d6 +6 +1d6 fire, critical 19-20/x2)
Spells (Domains: Law and War, 25% failure chance): cure minor wounds, detect magic, read magic, detect poison, inflict minor wounds, command, detect law, doom, magic weapon, bull strength, enthrall, calm emotions, inflict serious wounds, blindness
Skills: Ride +6, Climb +2, Swim +2, Spot +4, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (religion) +8, Sense Motive +4, Listen +3
Tarak of Underkeep
Many centuries ago Underkeep was a thriving dwarven hold, so much so that the dwarven king commanded that the city be enlarged by digging deeper into the mountain. Mining and shaping began immediately and the city quickly expanded--until the miners broke through into an ancient cavern already inhabited by dark, evil creatures protecting an evil demigod. The monstrous minions of the demigod poured into the dwarven city and slaughtered all who stood in their path until they arrived at the palace.
Speaking with the voice of his master, a herald of the demigod announced that the dwarves had intruded upon sacred territory. That territory now included all of Underkeep, and its massacred citizens would soon rise to join the ranks of its undead guardians. Those of royal blood would be spared, but the ruler of the city would always be under a geas cursing him to command the undead and protect the demigod’s lair. Otherwise the eternal would unleash its creatures in a wave of destruction that would consume not only the dwarven holds but the rest of the land as well.
For generations the dwarven kings ruled over a crumbling city. Fifty years ago a young dwarf named Tarak left the hold in search of a way to break the geas and free his father. Tarak sought aid from the clerics of good deities, and eventually became a paladin of the god of life. But when he felt a magical sickness overtake him, he knew his father had died and he was being called back to Underkeep.
Strength rushed into Tarak’s body when he mounted the throne of Underkeep, and he knew he now commanded the legions of the undead. He also felt a change come over his mind--he not only was bound to protect Underkeep and serve the evil demigod, he wanted to do so. When adventurers come to the dwarven hold in search of its abandoned riches, they face not just the legions of the undead but also the necromantic magics of King Tarak…
7th level Paladin, 8th level Wizard
STR 14 (+2) DEX 13 (+1) CON 11 (+0) INT 17 (+3) WIS 15 (+2) CHA 9 (-1)
Race: Dwarf, Alignment: Lawful Evil
Saves: Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +8
Base Attack: +11/+6/+1; Melee +13/+8/+3, Ranged +12/+7/+2
AC 14 (+1 Dex, +3 ring of protection +3), HP 64, Move 30
Feats / Special Abilities: Combat Casting, Enlarge Spell, Improved Initiative, Maximize Spell, Spell Focus (Necromancy), Quicken Spell, Weapon Focus (longsword)
Attacks: +2 longsword of life stealing (+15/+10/+5 to hit, damage 1d8+2, critical 19-20/x2 + special)
Special Items: rod of rulership
Spells: disrupt undead, ray of frost, detect magic, daze, cause fear, ray of enfeeblement, magic missile, mage armor, summon monster II, protection from arrows, darkness, flame arrow, hold person, displacement, summon monster IV, fear
Skills: Concentration +7, Diplomacy +10, Heal +6, Knowledge (religion) +8, Listen +7, Scry +9, Search +8, Sense Motive +8, Spellcraft +11, Spot +6