Thursday, February 27, 2014


As both a purveyor of sci-fi/fantasy and a creator of D&D campaigns, the concept of the villain is one I'd had little choice but to think about. What makes a good villain? What makes one frightening? How does one create a character who is believably evil or, at the very least, someone worth stopping?

Mostly, though, I wanted an opportunity to talk about The Master and Moriarty, and why I love them so much.

One of the reasons I'll always consider Final Fantasy 6 to be a superior game to Final Fantasy 7 is their respective villains. Sephiroth is a genetic experiment, twisted by the will of a malevolent, ages-old creature and convinced that it's his destiny to continue its work of destroying worlds or whatever it is Jenova does. Kefka, on the other hand, is a simple psychopath, whose desire for power drives him to godhood, albeit the god of a ruined world that conspires against him.

In the end, Sephiroth confuses me: I'm not sure if I should feel sorry for him or not, and I'm not even sure how much of the events of the game are actually his doing--I'm pretty sure that the "Sephiroth" that kills President Shinra and Aeris was actually just Jenova, taking on the appearance of Sephiroth in order to strike fear into Shinra and lure Cloud to where it needs him to be. So, in that regard, Jenova is the real villain, and Sephiroth is just the puppet, I guess? It's not clear, and neither is Jenova or Sephiroth's motivation.

Kefka, though, is clear: he wants power, he wants control, but most of all he wants the world to suffer and burn. Why? He's psychotic, probably. Or maybe he was traumatized as a child, and he wants the world to pay for it. Who knows? It's irrelevant, though: what's clear is his actions: you watch as he tries to burn down Figaro, poisons the citizens of Doma, and kills the noble General Leo. The whole first half of the game is dedicated to making you understand that Kefka is a villain who must be stopped. The second half of the game is about gathering the strength and the courage to accomplish that feat. It's simply beautiful.

The art of crafting a villain is important to me. In particular, though, I like to think about what makes a villain frightening. Magneto and the Joker from The Dark Knight are frightening to me, not because they're violent and powerful (though they are), but because they're intelligent; they make sense, which might mean that their philosophies are right, and the implication of their philosophies being right is the scariest thing of all.

Villains like The Master from Doctor Who and Moriarty from the new Sherlock are incredible to me because they seem to thoroughly enjoy villainy. Rather than a brooding, shadowy figures, they show mirth the same way regular people do: genuine laughter, dancing, and myriad other expressions that would normally be lovely, but in the context seems horrifying. It's like everything the Joker wants to be yet can't, since his clown-like appearance and odd mannerisms keep him from ever seeming truly human and, therefore, giving people another degree of separation between themselves and the villain.

There's no one way to write a villain, and I suspect that what terrifies people changes from generation to generation. That said, for me, right now, the most terrifying thing to recognize myself in a villain and realize that, as villains so often like to say, we're really not so different, they and I.


  1. I see your point about The Master and Moriarty now, Charlie. And I agree that Kefka is a more compelling villain that Sephiroth (who I thought was boring).

    I guess I was expecting a more menacing villain to be The Doctor's #1 enemy. But perhaps the roles of hero and villain had been reversed for that show.

    The Doctor, the hero of the show, does bad things sometimes. He broods a lot, he gets depressingly lonely when he's on his own, and he punishes those who harm his friends in extremely brutal ways (like trapping that alien inside a mirror for all eternity). So I guess it makes sense for The Doctor's #1 enemy to be the opposite of him: lighthearted and happy...


    I don't like this realization I've come to.

    1. If the villain can't make you uncomfortable, they're not doing their job~