Please enjoy the seventh submission for our latest contest: Your Best Worst Villain! See the rules and prizes here!
My players are smart, they don’t trust me. They assume everything I say has malicious intent, that every NPC has some dastardly plot and that every action they take will, in some way, lead to their inevitable doom. To be fair, they’re not wrong. But the villain who really nailed these facts home for them, was Jericho Cain.
Introducing my best villain took some doing though. Set in the Urban Fantasy world of The Dresden Files book series, my campaign has my players sitting on the sidelines of a war between the White Council of Wizards and the Red Court of Vampires in Portland, Oregon, one of the last safe bastions from the war. Enter Jerry Adamson, a minor league sorcerer from Vancouver, B.C. looking for safe harbor from vampire attacks that are getting more and more common.
Over the course of a “season” of this campaign, Jerry helped my players solve a series of gruesome murders involving low-level magical civilians where all evidence pointed to one of the party members as the killer. It took time and sacrifice, but eventually Jerry earned the trust of our heroes, saving their lives on multiple occasions. They took him as my own projection into the world, an NPC that I could use to be part of the adventure as well (as is a GM’s right). With Jerry, I could always fudge things slightly to their favor; taking care of that last bad guy, dispensing some point of exposition and even used as a basic errand boy. He was there for them when other allies abandoned them and even supported my player who was being set up, eventually helping prove his innocence.
All of this, of course, was a ruse. Jerry Adamson never made it to Portland. In the next season, doubt was cast over Jerry’s activities. Who he was and what motivated him. Slowly but surely, over the course of a year’s worth of bi-weekly adventuring, Jerry Adamson was revealed to be the heartless sociopath who called himself Jericho Cain. Once revealed, it quickly became clear that “Jerry” had been responsible for many ill moves cast against my players over the past seasons, and could even be linked to events that transpired before he arrived. Cultist attacks, demon possessions, the framing of my player for the serial killings and the murder of some of their loved ones (who my players thought they had avenged by killing high ranking members of the supernatural community).
Part Joker, part Deadpool and with just a smidge of Green Goblin for flavoring, Jericho Cain began destroying lives with no real reason or agenda. He took psychotic glee in manipulating the emotions of my players, leveraging them against one another while mocking mortal society with his wanton slaughter. Using a combination of magic and mortal means, Cain lead my players along a path of death and destruction that had to be stopped by any means necessary.
When he was eventually cornered, Cain took one of my player’s best friends as a hostage and in the middle of negotiations, killed him in an attempt to force that player (a wizard of the White Council) to kill with magic, thus making him break one of the seven laws which bind all wizards. And he succeeded, creating a taint on my wizard player which has yet to be cleansed. Cain was destroyed in an arcane blast which wrecked the building their showdown took place in and while his body was never found, the black feeling of murder that has pervaded my wizard player’s magical senses, confirms his death.
Now though, even after another “season” of play has passed, my players are constantly attempting to ascertain whether or not the conflicts they face are simply new threats I’ve made up, or the continuing machinations of Jericho Cain.
He was my ultimate antagonistic experiment in which I figured out that a GM can’t always split the party physically, but split them emotionally and your players will do the damaging work for you. [Insert Maniacal Laughter Here]