Having just watched Non-Stop, aka Liam Neeson Versus The Sky, following tonight’s Doctor Who finale where ancient legends run from him, and seeing that social media meme of “the protagonists of the last three things you read/watched/played are the members of your zombie apocalypse team” this afternoon, it all got me thinking...
Who are the scariest badasses in your setting? The deadliest warriors, the most influential political movers, The World’s Greatest Xes? Is it the PCs? An infamous NPC? A legendary figure like a mighty ruler or ancient god? The title character in a licensed game? The Big Bad of your campaign? Liam Neeson?
The PCs playing second fiddle to such a character is a common complaint about licensed games and metaplots (often fairly) but having some really badass characters around can enrich a setting, and it feels fair if the PCs could theoretically take them on without GM fiat protecting them. Even if the PCs take the place of the stars, there’s still the Big Bad.
I had several of these characters in my Vampire: The Requiem Second Edition game Nobody Wants You because the PCs were all new in town and supposed to be weak and vulnerable, and the PCs carefully avoided some, worked with others, and set others against one another before finally taking one down directly. Even the ones they didn’t tackle head-on were affected by their actions. Walker, the designated scariest badass, seemed aloof and untouchable, but he still got pulled into the conflict in the end - I had huge fun playing him for a few scenes but I hope I didn’t make him a GMPC.