Laidback DM: Villains – upping the ante

Role playing games enable players to take part in their own ongoing TV show—a soap opera of sorts, with a growing number of support characters, a fantastic and evolving environment, and ongoing stories linked to the players’ backgrounds and adventures.

As with any melodrama, what can make or break a long form story is the villain. A good villain is worth a thousand henchmen, as it were. Here’s a few ideas to up the ante with your campaign villains.

1. The Recurring Villain

Some of the best villains are the ones that come back to aggravate the player characters (PCs) again and again. This can be tricky in a game where the bad guys are regularly dispatched. If you want a villain to return, make sure he has an escape plan. One of my fave villains was a quirky NPC with the mannerisms of Captain Kirk, as played by the inimitable William Shatner. Great fun for the players and me, and one of the reasons they didn’t kill him.

2. The Apocalyptic Villain

This guy is set on destroying the world. Always great for a campaign, as it ups the stakes and drives the heroes onward to stop them. Must be immensely powerful, so that the PCs have a great challenge and really feel like they’ve earned their win (or death). I like using a major villain who was defeated in an earlier campaign but has come back more powerful than before, using his followers to harangue the PCs and providing gradual insights into his nefarious schemes of revenge and world domination.

3. The Sympathetic Villain

This villain has a backstory or motivation that puts the PCs in a moral quandary, forcing them to choose between helping or hindering them. I love these types of villains, and use them a lot. One of my faves was a priest who lost his wife and child to a scouting party and sought revenge by tracking down the murderers. The PCs were tasked with protecting the murderers, but as they gradually discovered the villain’s backstory they had to choose who to back. Made for some fiery discussions.

4. The Hidden Villain

This is the ‘slow burn’ villain. You don’t know much about them as they manipulate from behind the scenes. It’s often someone known to the PCs as an upstanding citizen, supportive of the party in public but secretly working against them behind the scenes. As long as they remain a mystery, the big reveal leaves the PCs gobsmacked, making it all worthwhile.

Great villains are the foundation of great campaigns. Spend a bit of time creating your villain, and the payoff will come in spades for you and your players.

For more Laidback DM, click here.

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Laidback DM: Free Map – Tinsen’s Bluff

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Tinsen’s Bluff

From a recent adventure I ran for my 13th-level players. Tinsen’s Bluff was a quiet backwater until the people started mutating into crazed, blighted beasts. The Duke’s distant cousin sent a letter indicating this might be some kind of infection that could spread across the country. But what is the source? No one has heard anything more from the town. Time to investigate. Don’t forget to wrap up – it’s the dead of winter and you know how the snow brings out those mutated abominable yeti and white wolves…    

laidback dm - tinsens bluff - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Support the Shotglass Adventures Kickstarter at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/laidbackdm/shotglass-adventures-10-adventures-for-dandd-5e-an?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=d%26d
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Laidback DM: Free Map – Elemental Cruxis

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Elemental Cruxis

The party have to recover elemental seeds from each part of the cruxis, teleporting from the column room to each of the elemental crucibles and facing various elemental hazards and creatures. Once the seeds are joined, they summon an elemental god of your choice. Who’s not very friendly…    

elemental cruxis - laidback dm - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Ruined Tower and Crypts

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Ruined Tower and Crypts

Here’s a map you can spring on your players. The labels may be misleading – after all, the map’s pretty old, and it may have passed through a few sets of hands and many years before it got to the current possessors…  

ruined tower and crypts - laidback dm - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Mountain Monastery

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Mountain Monastery

Nothing like a remote mountain monastery and temple full of crazed monks for the player characters to discover. Not only will they have to fight those jazzed-up, battling ninja monks, they also have to deal with the deadly demons the monks made pacts with to fuel their power…

This is a bit different from my other maps – I spent a bit of time getting the architecture of the temple sections right. All hand drawn, of course. I thought it turned out pretty good!

laidback dm - mountain temple monastery - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Serial Killer Inn

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Serial Killer Inn

The party stops overnight on the road between adventures. It just so happens this roadside inn is run by a serial killer, who preys on travellers who stay overnight. They kidnap unsuspecting guests during the night and hold them in deep, sound-proof pits in the cellar. They only go after individuals. Looks like each party member will be getting a room to themselves, tonight…  

serial killer inn - laidback dm - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Above and Below

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Above and Below

An interdimensional nexus created by a mad wizard, ‘Above and Below’ features moving corridors and rooms that rise up and down. Rooms that pass near corridors can be seen from the corridor (if the corridor is above) and vice versa. This moveable feast makes for interesting combats and pursuits, say by a few Goristro demons (MM). Of course, the player characters will need to recover several items in order to activate the teleporter in the middle to escape. Oh, did I mention the nexus is unstable, so the construct is collapsing in on itself? The PCs are on a timer, upping the ante and adding another layer of tension…   

above and below - laidback dm - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map! Giant Mound

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give away my hand-drawn maps any chance I get.

This week: Giant Mound

You can use this map for any kind of giant insect or burrowing animal you like: Giant Ants (KTOB), Burrowlings (KTOB), Thri-kreen (MM), Kruthiks (MTF), Cave Fishers (VGM), Chitines (VGM), Choldrith (VGM), Meenlocks (VGM), Neogi (VGM), Tlincalli (VGM), Dogmoles (KTOB), Millitaurs (KTOB), Ratfolk (KTOB), Giant Rats (MM), Tosculi (KTOB), etc., to name a few.  

Change the scale and suddenly it’s a Purple Worm (MM) breeding mound! Or home to mutant insect/dragon hybrid creatures! The sky (or rather the mound) is the limit!

Giant Insect Mound - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding.jpg

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Tower and Undertemple

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: Tower and Undertemple

Local villagers have been going crazy after visiting a ruined tower on a peak not far from town. Something has been climbing up from the bowels of the earth, infecting them and the denizens of the ruined temple below the tower with madness. The huge cracks lead to the source of the infection, deep down… 

The lowest section of the temple is partially flooded, and a cure for the infection lies in the south-eastern cavern. The PCs need to get past the crazed guardians before they can claim it, and try to stay sane themselves…

Ruined Tower and Undertemple - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Big Bad Boss Castle

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: Big Bad Boss Castle

Yep – there’s always an endgame, and the Big Bad Boss is the dude or dudette at the end of the adventuring horizon. Here’s a castle for them, hovering miles above the world in a patch of magical ocean. Eldritch sigils prevent flying/teleporting, impossibly sheer cliffs prevent scaling – I guess it’s time to grind through high-level beasties from one keep to the next. Every bridge is a new underboss and a new environmental hazard. Taking to the water? Sea Dragons and Water Super-Elementals might make your PCs think twice.   

Big Bad Castle - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Clifftop Temple

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: Clifftop Temple

After climbing all the way to the top of the cliff, the PCs must bypass the Animated Armours (MM), various traps and crazed Zombie (MM) monks to access the inner well. Down the well, past flying Flameskulls (MM) to the undercliff, where a terrifying Draegloth (VGM) stalks those who seek the treasure of the pool. Watch your step, as quicksand, Piercers (MM) and pit traps abound… 

Clifftop Temple - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Entombed!

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: Entombed!

This partly collapsed tomb features magic guardian statues in the reception antechamber, a number of sarcophagi with undead occupants, treasure rooms and narrow tunnels, home to infected, undead underdwellers. Enjoy!

Entombed - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Maps – Four Encounter Settings

Time for some free maps! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: Four Encounter Settings

Here are four maps that I’d call basic encounter settings: a small mansion, a country farm, a tiny temple and a mountain pass. It wouldn’t be too hard to combine all of these into a single adventure – come on, DMs! You can do it!  

 Basic Setting Maps - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding copy

Above: Just right click and save.

These maps are free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use them commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve

P.S. I’m writing a book of dungeon maps, adventures, tables and tips! Coming soon!

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM: Free Map – Duergar Stronghold

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: Duergar Stronghold

Down into the Underdark we go, to a Duergar Stronghold protecting the only bridge connecting north and south for 300 miles!

What are the mysterious stone-carven columns over the bottomless chasm’s north side, and why do strange lights flicker and move amongst them, barely perceived out of the corner of one’s eye? Any who linger amongst the columns are never heard from again…

The Drow Outpost on the north side supplies local Duergar addicts with Faerie Dust, the latest magical hallucinogenic drug. What’s their true purpose here?  

And what is the mysterious mist that rises from the Stronghold’s streets, bringing madness in its wake? 

Duergar Stronghold - Laidback DM - stevestillstanding copy

Above: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve

P.S. I’m writing a book of dungeon maps, adventures, tables and tips! Coming soon!

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

Laidback DM – Free Map! The City State of Ranisvlad

Time for a free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I give them away any chance I get.

This week: Ranisvlad, City State of Thieves

Anything goes in Ranisvlad, a murky, muddy and depraved city state in the outlands, ruled by Ranislov, so-called Lord of Thieves. Humans, humanoids and otherworldly creatures mingle and mix, fight and trade. Dangerous job offers and shady deals can be found all along Skull and Dagger Way. Disputes are settled in the Lord’s Arena, the only real justice in town. In Ranisvlad, you can find fame, fortune or a quick death, if you choose.

Beware the dark secrets of Barislev Tower, where vampires and wizards collude to raise the Demon King of Bats. Lone travellers are often waylaid by cannibal brigands on the Bridge of Thieves. The necropolis of Death’s Throne is the repository for Ranisvlad’s dead, who rise from their graves at night to claw at the cemetery gates…

Ranisvlad City State of Thieves - Laidback DM - stevestillstandingAbove: Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

P.S. I’m writing a 52-page book of dungeon maps, adventures, tables and tips! Coming soon!

For more Laidback DM posts, click here.

The Laidback DM #12 – Free Village Map!

Time for another of my irregular Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! Map drawing for D&D adventures is my thang. I now have far too many maps, so I’m giving them away free each week.

This week: Village at the Crossroads!

At first this may seem like a boring little map, but imagine your player characters defending it against an attack by Hill Giants, Trolls, Ogres and Ogrillons, led by an Arch Mage! Just got a lot more exciting, huh? And imagine there’s a mysterious tomb under the local temple that the Arch Mage is trying to access to recover a powerful magical staff, that will give him enough power to take over the region (gotta start small: today, this village and region, tomorrow, THE WORLD! Bwah-ha-hah!

Actually, I drew this map in the style of those found in the old Judges Guild’s City State of the Invincible Overlord supplement. Anyone remember that classic? Ah, memories. What good are they…

Village at the Crossroads - 13x20 - stevestillstanding

Above: Actual map is 13cm x 20cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Laidback DM #6 – Free Map!

Despite being a bit laidback when it comes to D&D Dungeon Mastering, I do like to draw time-consuming maps. Since I don’t always use the maps I draw, I thought I’d offer them for free here on my blog.

The following map is a base for a bunch of pirates who have an alliance with a Blue Dragon. The pirates are part of a death cult that regularly raids coastal villages for sacrifices before returning to their island. Naturally they provide the Blue Dragon with a sampling of treasure. They have a high observation post for spotting incoming ships. The tide plays an interesting part in this map—as it rises the caves on the left of the map are swamped with water. The Blue Dragon’s lair is above the tide level of course, and it can conveniently use its lightning breath to electrify the water if anyone approaches during high tide…

Pirate Cove and Dragon Lair Map

Above: Actual map is 15cm x 10 cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

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