Quest Profiles – On Antagonists

The Evil and the Evilish

The NPCs in the mod come from all sorts of places.  There are traditional archetypes, personal stories, specific philosophies, or just random people I’ve met in my life.  Then there’s Nelos.  Nelos was inspired by bacteria.

When we talk about drug-resistant bacteria, the word resistant is a bit of a misnomer.  There are no armies of bacteria parrying blows from white blood cells, slowly leveling up to Final Fantasy victory music as they move inexorably toward your vital organs.  No, resistance is a handful of bacteria who happened to be born with just enough of a mutation to make your medicine ineffective.  Even the term evolution implies a modicum of strength.  When in fact, it’s really just dumb luck.

You would be hard pressed to call Nelos’ resistance the same.  Inside his personal Tamrielic Petri dish, greater and greater magics are developed in order to fight off the armies of darkness.  Whether your aim is to harm or heal, the urgency is what drives progress, and there is nothing more urgent than life and death.

When crafting a villain, I find a realistic motivation to be the most important factor.  Nelos (Corey Hall) has a bit of god complex, but his objective is ultimately magnanimous:  he wants to usher in a new age.  A utopia.  Somewhere, at the end of this dark, vacuous tunnel, is a septim of light, a day when spells are made that will make all roads lead to Aetherius.  After all, we’re past the days of making baddies who are evil for evil’s sake.

Or so I thought.  Then, about a week later, I decided to make one.

Marigoth, the witch, who was voiced by Lila Paws and will be featured in v2.22, was inspired by Nelos. Or rather, she was a response to all the moral ambiguity and realism that I instilled in the previous antagonists. When I found myself traversing down a similar road with A Children Fair, I screamed a couple expletives, clicked CTRL+A and pounded my fist on the delete key before wiping the cookie crumbs from my screen.

The original Marigoth was too wise, too sympathetic, too…believable.  Just as fashion and music comes and goes in cycles, so does fiction. We may crave realistic villains now, but we are a fickle species, and tomorrow we may want bell bottoms and big hair and villains that are both irredeemable and cartoonish, just like we did before we changed our minds the first time.

As such, I made Marigoth a caricature. A Disney villain. And it turned out far better than I could have envisioned, given my only goal was to be different.

Which ultimately has been the way I’ve approached every NPC after the first one. By constantly comparing the new characters to the ones I’ve previously made, I think I’ve been able to achieve some measure of originality.  Which is all originality really is. Taking the old stuff and adding a slight mutation, and praying to Darwin the text survives the antibiotics.

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2 thoughts on “Quest Profiles – On Antagonists

  1. I like badguys who you can relate to, or even sympathize with. I am reminded of the first time I saw the movie, The Rock. The lead antagonist, played by Ed Harris, is this UC soldier that has seen his fellow soldiers die and have their deaths covered up. He was sick of all of the bureaucracy, and tired of seeing his soldiers treated like pawns.
    Only about half way through the movie, (Spoilers) he is shot in a fire fight and dies. Then he is immediately replaced as the lead antagonist with these mentally unstable Marines that just want money and will kill millions to get it (aka: The Disney villian). I feel that the movie would have had a much more interesting ark if they kept Ed Harris’ character as the main antagonist. He was a good guy turned bad guy because the supposed good guys were corrupt government assholes trying to cover their tracks.

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