Personal Observation: On Villains With Recruitment Spiels

An “Are you sure you want to continue fighting me?” in the middle of a fight. An “It’s a pity they’ve already got their hooks in you” between conflicts. A philosophical debate between enemies. I admit it, I’m a sucker for villains with recruitment spiels. But that’s because, as villains go, those types are interesting. Whence the fascination, you ask?

First of all, particularly if they’re making a serious effort to bring you onboard, it’s a compliment. A recruitment spiel, at best, means that the recruitee has something the recruiter wants, particularly if it includes just what display of desirable quality prompted the recruiter to ask. Even at worst, it means that the recruiter considers the recruitee to a bigger pain to try to defeat than to try to recruit; when it’s pretty clear they’re having none of it, but the recruiter tries anyway, that can really say something.

It creates a more interesting dynamic than I destroy/you destroy, particularly if the recruiter is designed so her recruitment pitch is actually decently convincing. A two-dimensional antagonist can get away with “Join me and we will rule together/I’ll give you shinies/you won’t die horribly and be eaten by phosphorescent maggots, not necessarily in that order/etc”, but when you’ve got someone who can fully explain why it is that they’re doing what they’re doing and think you really should do it, and it makes that certain scary sense, then you know you’ve got an interesting one on the line.

For my playstyle, one of the greatest advantages is the implications that come with “You really should join me”: namely, that while the villain poses a threat to numerous things regarding the character, her life is not immediately among them. (Yet.) Since I’m not fond of the risk of death, I find that to be an excellent selling point; sure, there’s the distinct risk of being, say, captured and brainwashed, but that’s interesting. Nothing like being in too deep and getting out of it, right?

But my favorite advantage of the villain with the recruitment spiel, and in my opinion the most fascinating part, is the creation of a whole new train of ‘what if’s. After all, the fact that the villain’s asking means that the option might (plus or minus chance of deceit) actually be on the table. And if that’s something that actually can happen, what would? What happens if the character actively joins his recruiter? What would it take? Would it last? What kind of character dynamic might result? How would the other characters take it? And every now and then, there’s the sudden jolt to the plot as a character actually does….

Last of all, it leaves them open to counter-recruiting. If this is a character you want to have survive, any uber-convincing argument they make against you might give you a sense of what they prioritize, which can later be used to try to talk them around. Even if not, it’ll make for some good cutting one-liners when they’re finally defeated

Others’ experiences may vary, but that’s why I can never get enough of the villains with the recruiting pitches.

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