Jul 232012

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”
William Congreve

Introducing a Nemesis
Romance comes and goes when you’re living the life of adventure. But what if a past sweetheart, her life ruined by the man she felt she would give her all for, returned, looking for revenge? Erna Bodil is just such a character. The discarded lover of one of the player characters (PCs), she appears in the story bearing no grudges. Instead, her competitive spirit and superior abilities mark her as a challenging ally to have around. All the while, however, the thorn embedded so long ago, works its way deeper into her flesh and revenge is soon to come.

Creating a Better Half
In creating Erna you’ll need to pick a male character from the party, probably the most philandering one is best. It’s also worth chatting to the player you pick to see if the return of an ex-lover, who you’ll create, is going to be fine with them.

Now build Erna along similar lines as her ex. You’ll want her to be two or three levels higher than him, with skills that overshadow his own abilities or exploit his weaknesses. You want Erna to outshine him in any encounters they have, or if they tackle the same dungeon or quest, you’ll want her to have the upper hand.

Next, you should write up her companions. These companions should cover the basic needs of an adventuring party, while not specifically being the anti-party that is an exact mirror image of what the PCs bring to the game. They should be able to give the players a run for their money without intimidating them when they first meet. Note that while Erna’s companions might work with Erna for the most part, they won’t necessarily follow her into her madness and could become valuable allies to the party later on.

With regards to alignment, choose something that will allow Erna some freedom to switch between being seemingly helpful and downright murderous.

Profile of a Killer
Erna Bodil is the daughter of Jethro Bodil, a rich merchant who doted on his daughter and paid for her tuition at the best academy of her chosen profession. No doubt he was her greatest comforter after her lover disappeared. When she first met the PC, she was young and naive, and fell head over heels in love with him. Then he left her, heart dashed upon the rocks. For a time, all she could do was dwell on the black thoughts stewing in her mind. Her father, seeing her distress, asked her to choose a trade, thinking it might take her mind off her loss. It was an easy choice – the same trade as her ex-lover. He had recently begun learning the trade and had spoken of little else. Their conversations had sewn a seed. Little did she know that pursuing this path would drive the thorn in deeper.

Years went by and she worked harder at mastering the skills of her profession, focusing all of her attention on her task. She cared nothing for men and so had little to distract her and every reason to outdo her male peers. Soon she was at the top of her class.

Bad Memories
Now, as she finds herself staring across a crowded tavern at the man she once loved, a flood of mixed emotion bubbles up inside her. She decides to bravely hide her feelings by issuing him a challenge: a drinking contest, cards or maybe darts. But she is careful to only show how happy she is and how little she needs him.

One challenge leads to another and soon her and her companions are competing with the party time and again. Sometimes they beat them to the gold, other times they appear just in time to save the party from certain doom. It’s clear at this point, that Erna and company are a force to be reckoned with.

A Woman Scorned
When the time is right, either after the party pulls off a big win or Erna is ready to play her hand, competitive, friendly Erna snaps. Emotions once buried come flooding back. Clearly driven mad with thoughts of revenge for her lost love she becomes murderous and foul tempered. She’s not playing games anymore; it’s time for him to feel the pain she felt in her own heart all those years before. She’ll fight and ruin him or those he’s close too, particularly any other female characters he seems friendly with. And she’ll do it with the help of her allies or other nefarious entities, including building alliances with the party’s worst enemies. She’s not beneath selling the party out if she can make things right again, exacting revenge for her deep wounds.

Erna is the kind of villain that you can build up slowly and then turn on the players with all the benefits of someone who knows the party intimately. She’s also adaptable, and you can tweak her to fit your story perfectly. Timing will be the key concept here, but taking your time might work to your advantage too, so play it cool until Erna is ready to explode magnificently.

Image by obsidianentity

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Rodney Sloan

Rodney Sloan has been writing adventures for the South African convention scene since 2009, for such systems as Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, 4th Edition and Pathfinder. He gained notoriety for creating Dr Frank and his flesh golum, Stein, who took an entire army of LARPers to put down. By day he enjoys rock star status as a teacher of English in several Japanese high schools. You can read more on his blog over at Rising Phoenix Games.

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