Ask GV: Heroes Aren’t the Only Ones with a License to Meddle

Reader DrBurst, on behalf of Henchman #984324957893462, asks:

Dear Generic Villain,

I want to aid my master (GM) in making things more interesting… The heroes have many conflicts within their group. One member finds another really annoying, the whole group dislikes the healer, it would be so easy to rip them apart, but we can’t. Got any tips?

Dear DrBurst/Henchman-with-unnervingly-long-number:

I’m tempted to begin with “Slip a note saying that the numbering system could do with a little updating in your Overlord’s suggestions box”; having to recite a number string that long when reporting for duty can’t be good for efficiency. But that’s another matter.

As to the heroes: So you’ve got a potentially squabbling group of protagonists, perfectly ripe to be divided, set upon each other, or otherwise treated to what will probably end up as a Heartwarming Life Lesson in Teamwork but at least will slow them down and provide some much-needed amusement in the process. (Everyone likes watching heroes bicker, at least in the beginning—though after a few hours it goes from “How do I exploit this?” to “How are these idiots still cohesive, and why are they a threat to me?” Unless they’re witty enough not to repeat themselves, which is unlikely.) And your main issue is that you want to to take advantage of these divisions, and recognize that it would be easy to do so, but you can’t?

From what I’m seeing here, you have two problems. One is the issue of how to meddle with those meddling heroes. The other, and this may have something to do with why you’ve got a number string that looks more appropriate as an encryption code than a minion designation, is confidence.

The first will be the easiest to address. First, observe these heroes further. See if you can find the cause of their interpersonal problems—is the healer snooty about who ‘deserves’ healing? Does the annoying one tend to be found wrist-deep in someone else’s pocket? Is there someone who pulls out weapons during conversations? The more closely you can identify the problem, the easier the second step will be. Then exploit it. If the healer’s snooty about who gets healed, introduce the group to seemingly avoidable things that look like environmental damage and see if the resulting discussion of whether healing is due or not splits them further. If you know what annoys the one person, arrange for it and shove the blame onto the other guy.

As to the can’t—let’s put it this way. Yes, you’re a numbered minion, and that means you’re rather squishy, often seen as a prop or a punching bag by the protagonists, and probably don’t have any notable skill level in most potentially useful areas. The problem is, it sounds like you’re treating that as your lot in life rather than as what you’ve aspired to. Odds are you have a skill that doesn’t seem too narratively useful. Try to find uses for it. A hidden penchant for acting can be parlayed into a way of bringing local authorities down onto the heroes. Being a dab hand at poetry can let you create prophecies that look real, which someone else can probably disseminate. Don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers (of which I think I can safely assume you have quite a few) for help; the strength of minions is numbers, and that many people with that many random skills thinking hard enough can probably find a way to turn them all into one massive solution.

And if you’ve got a little time, you can start training up other, more obviously useful skills. If your organization offers a training program, take advantage of it. If it doesn’t, consider getting yourself reassigned to a named organization member’s staff, then watching closely and/or asking questions. (If this person is possessive of their role, those questions may need to be phrased along the lines of “How can I best avoid getting in your way?”) While it’s not as good as actual training, it might get you the basics. Filching items that provide powers can also work, but I recommend being careful about that; they’re very distinctive, and your organization may have policies about turning in acquired items of power from the heroes.

Good luck making things interesting!

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