Impractical Applications (A Lair of Its Own)

This week, the Generic Villain gives us our base article. You may have noticed the example in the post on innocuous dwellings, the description of one such place that goes beyond not-evil and starts looking like something you might see in a more benevolent sort of place or a good god’s temple. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that that’s actually a landmark from my own games; I originally designed it as a way to mess with my players’ heads when they were going against their first major antagonist. It fit pretty well with his thematics; I wouldn’t call him quite “evil for a good cause”, but he considered what he did to mostly be duty.

From a distance, it had looked like it could reasonably be an evildoer’s residence. Big, imposing, black walls, demons on guard, you get the idea. From there, the group went into an outer building that had sort of an onion effect (this turned out to be important later, when they triggered the magical defenses) and was decked in black marble tiles and frescoes on the walls. And doors, lots of doors (also important later). But then they found the inner door, faint not-quite-sunlight shining through it, stepped through with a certain amount of confusion (sunlight?) and immediately began wondering if they were in the right place.

Where they stepped was into a courtyard. The light was dim—shadowlands tend to do that—but it was the kind of light they expected from the outdoors. The ground was covered with grass, rather sickly-looking. A flagstone path led towards the central tower, and on either side of the path were statues, some standing and some kneeling, all exquisitely carved and all looking up with expression of awe. This was a thought-out design decision; not only did it support the thematics that his style of magical architecture was supposed to use, but it was also an allusion and a homage to his own patron. And, well, beautiful: always a good way to put people off balance.

At the end of the flagstone path, they found the door to the central tower, unguarded. It was of mahogany wood, set with crystals (another allusion to his patron) around a Celtic knot of materials in bright red and brilliant gold that, due to their surroundings and in contrast to the very dim light illuminating the place from skyward, practically glowed. Part of this was just for the continued “Ooooh, pretty!” effect, and that worked: by this time, they were mostly agreeing that destroying the place was NOT in the game plan as it had been not long before. Another part was convenient circumstances; along with being pretty, the stuff the knot was made of was pretty strong, making it that much more difficult to bash through the door.

Then they opened the door and found that the full first floor was a ballroom, tiled with a huge mosaic. This is when I threw in my other “wait a minute, what are we dealing with here?” element: a stunningly pretty young woman, with whom about half the party was familiar, who looked over at them, smiled, and asked, “Tea?” Her name was Rukan, and she had been my secret weapon for a while. You know the Evil Overlord’s daughter, the one as evil as she is beautiful? Yes, Rukan was my main antagonist’s eldest daughter. Yes, he’d left her here with the means to bring him in should the group do something for which she was unprepared (which was almost anything involving actively trying to carry out their plans, as Rukan was an excellent talker but next to useless in a fight). Yes, she was beautiful. But Rukan was also genuinely nice, actually concerned about everyone involved, and doing her level best to arrange a compromise. And for most of the group, trying to figure out whether this was the real her, or whether she was just a really good manipulator (both, apparently, was not an option), put the group even farther off-balance.

Which meant the last thing they were expecting was one of their own betraying them. That incident was fun.

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