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Big Bad / Tabletop Games

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"The ultimate villain of the story, who's causing the problem the heroes must solve."

Note that Big Bad is not a catch-all trope for the biggest and ugliest villain of any given story. The Big Bad is the one who turns out to be behind several other seemingly independent threats.

The RPG fandom likes to use the full Big Bad Evil Guy name or its initialism "BBEG".

  • In general, in any cooperative game without a traitor, the game itself is the metaphysical Big Bad.
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  • Divis Mal from Aberrant is probably the biggest candidate for being a Big Bad, though there are definitely other threats out there. Project Utopia, for example, which is actually more of a candidate for the setting's Big Bad than Divis Mal, since their protocol of sterilising all novas they induct into their services causes the very nova/baseline apocalyptic war that Divis Mal always warned was inevitable if novas trusted baselines.
  • In Blue Rose there is Jarek the Lich King, who isn't just the worst villain around, but actually one of the few truly evil characters in this very idealistic setting. In a world where most antagonists are misguided, or weak-willed and fallen to temptation at worst, Jarek is just plain bad to the bone.
  • The Big Bad in Dungeons & Dragons varies between settings and editions, but the recurring cast is Asmodeus (a Satan stand-in), Vecna (the god of the liches), Tharizdun (the god of Omnicidal Maniacs), Orcus (a ridiculously powerful demon lord who rules the undead), and Lolth / Lloth (the goddess of the eeeviiilll Drow).
    • Tharizdun could be seen as the Greater-Scope Villain, because as of 4th Edition he is responsible for the current evilness of all of the above villains except Vecna, and in Demonomicon it is explicitly stated that the shard of evil he created the Abyss with gave him a huge power boost. Since he was already a god this makes him the most powerful being in the setting, strong enough that the level cap of 30 isn't high enough for the characters to fight him.
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    • In terms of overall campaigns, Vecna's one of the more common, and it's implied that his ascension to godhood was one of the key factors in the storyline changes between 2nd and 3rd editions.
    • Acererak the lich/demilich (varies) has been the main in at least one module or dungeon per edition. He's, of course, most central for Tomb of Horrors, but he was also the big bad of its sequel where he supposedly died (HAH!), and most recently appeared as the Greater-Scope Villain for the 5E module Tomb of Annihilation, where he planned to create a god. As you do.
    • Eberron has a wide variety of potential Big Bads, fittingly for a DnD setting designed to provide challenges for a wide variety of stories and player power levels:
      • The Biggest and Baddest are the Overlords, who straddle the line between Demon Lords And Arch Devils and God of Evil and ruled the world millennia ago, but are currently all Sealed Evil in a Can, and are therefore forced to work through their less powerful (but still incredibly nasty) minions, the Lords of Dust. They're far from the only nasties out there, however.
      • The Kalashtar vs. Inspired subset of the Myth Arc has the Dreaming Dark, which seeks to control all mortal dreams and already rules The Empire of Riedra through the Path of Inspiration note .
      • Then there are the Daelkyr, Humanoid Abomination rulers (maybe) of the plane of Xoriat, who view destroying worlds as a form of art and tried to destroy Eberron millennia ago; while they were stopped, several Daelkyr remain imprisoned on the mortal plane and, like the Overlords, they have their share of minions of worshippers still active.
      • Erandis Vol, the Lich Queen, can't really compare to any of the above in terms of raw power, but she's had several millennia to spin plans and has her fingers in lots of pots across Khorvaire, and she also helped create one of the setting's major religions.
      • On a more mundane level, the Aurum are a conspiracy of wealthy and powerful merchants and aristocrats who seek to control Khorvaire from the shadows.
      • Perhaps the least powerful, but most iconic (to the point that he made it onto the cover of the Fourth Edition setting book), Big Bad of the setting is the Lord of Blades, a renegade warforged who seeks to subjugate living beings to his kind (and possibly become a god in the process). He was designed as an antagonist in the vein of traditional supervillains and is frequently compared among fans to Doctor Doom and/or Magneto.
      • Though those are the main "unambiguously evil" threats facing Eberron, the setting's use of moral ambiguity and Grey and Grey Morality means that even some of the more seemingly benevolent or neutral organizations (the Dragons of Argonessen, the Undying Court, or the Dragonmarked Houses, for example) can be potential Big Bads if the PCs get mixed up the wrong way in what they're doing.
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    • In the Greyhawk campaign setting, the evil demigod Iuz the Old is probably the most prominent because he actually lives on Oerth (although so do some other evil demigods). There are also a wide variety of others.
    • In the Ravenloft setting, the Darklord of each of the Domains is this. Neatly organized too, since they are both the rulers and prisoners of their Domains.
  • Exalted has the Deathlords, ghosts of powerful First Age Solars — pinnacles of super-human achievements — who now serve the Neverborn. Arguably, the biggest and baddest of them all is the First and Forsaken Lion.
    • The Ebon Dragon embodies the principle of Big Bad-hood and is running the plan to reclaim the world with the Scarlet Empress as his thrall. And he was one of the creators of the world. In fact, he created the God of Heroism solely for the purpose to define his own existence.
    • Chejop Kejak can be seen as the Big Bad for the returned Solars. The Sidereal old man engineered the Usurpation of the Solar Deliberative! ... Well, he had his reasons.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, it was formerly Yawgmoth before he got wiped from existence. Now... it's a three-way Big-Bad Ensemble between the remains of Phyrexia, the Eldrazi, and Nicol Bolas.
  • From the Mutants & Masterminds setting Freedom City, Darkseid-expy Omega may qualify as a possible Big Bad, due to his desire to drag the entire universe into the Terminus with him. There is also the mysterious Man of Wealth and Taste, Mr. Infamy, who grants wishes, for a payment to be specified later. His calling card sure has a lot of sixes on it.
  • The One Ring features Sauron as the force ultimately behind all the evil in the world, though as he is Doomed by Canon, the players can't actually defeat him and have to content themselves with defeating his dragons, which are sometimes literal dragons.
  • The Setting of The Dark Eye offers two independent ones, which one is prealent depends mostly on where in the timeline you are. In the start and after the Third Demon Battle the Bog Bad is the Nameless God, in between he almost gets forgotten and in steps Borbarad, a demigod mage.
  • Spirit of the Century: Dr. Methusala. This guy is so much more powerful than any other character that the book suggests you treat him as an event, rather than go into straight up conflict with him.
  • Tech Infantry has a variety of Big Bads, from The Bugs, to Rashid King, to Modred. Ultimately, the biggest bad of all is the Crapsack World nature of the universe itself.
  • The Warhammer setting has its share of these guys, notably Chaos warlord Archaon, Malekith the Witch King, Grimgor Ironhide, Nagash the Undying, and the Skaven Council of Thirteen.
  • There are plenty of people in Warhammer 40,000 who could make claims for this spot:
    • Abbadon the Despoiler, Warmaster of Chaos (Archaon's sci-fi counterpart). Has led thirteen Black Crusades against the Imperium from the Eye of Terror. Thankfully, they were all stopped from reaching Terra, although each time, millions of innocent people on dozens of worlds died. Come the Gathering Storm arc at the end of 7th Edition, Abaddon smashes aside the Imperial defenses that had held him at bay for so long, setting Chaos as the true Big Bad for 8th Edition.
    • Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka (Grimgor's SF counterpart). An Ork Warboss the size of a Dreadnought, making him the biggest and baddest Ork in existence. Claims to receive visions from the Ork gods telling him to unite all the Orks in the galaxy under a big WAAAAGH, and already has millions of Orks under his banner.
    • The C'Tan Star-Gods. One of them, the Nightbringer, is responsible for making every living thing fear death.
    • Asdrubael Vect, the de facto kingpin of the Dark Eldar. Every Dark Eldar raid and attack in the galaxy from the last few thousand years can be traced back to this monster. Oh, and the Dark Eldar's ancestors were responsible for creating the Chaos God Slaanesh, and the previously mentioned Eye of Terror.
    • The Tyranid Hivemind. As a faction, they're a good contender for the overall Big Bad of Warhammer 40000. Consumed thousands of worlds, and it is hinted that everything we've seen so far is just a tiny percentage of what they're capable of. Their goal is to sweep through the galaxy and eat every living thing in it, and the scary thing is that at the rate they're going, they will very likely succeed.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar plays up Nagash as the central villain of the setting, with Chaos getting a bit of a demotion (due to having spent centuries getting soft and overconfident after one big win).
  • Rocket Age has a classic one. The Red Scorpion, head of the Red Scorpion Crime Syndicate in the Trail of the Scorpion. As to the Black Scorpion's identity...
  • Most Pathfinder Adventure Path's feature one:
    • Rise of the Runelords has Karzoug the Claimer, Runelord of Greed, whose resurrection kicks off all the events of the plot.
    • Curse of the Crimson Throne has Queen Ileosa, whose increasingly tyrannical rule the players are trying to overthrow.
    • Second Darkness has Allevrah Azinrae, drow matron of House Azinrae, and the mind behind the plot to cause a second Earthfall.
    • Legacy of Fire has the genie Jhavul, whose plan to fuse with Xotani the Fire-bleeder is the cause of all the story's events.
    • Council of Thieves has tiefling nobleman Eccardian Drovenge, who aims to take over Westcrown for himself.
    • Kingmaker has Nyrissa the mad nymph, who uses every other villain of the Adventure Path for her own ends.
    • Skull & Shackles has Admiral Druvalia Thrune, whose plan to take over the Shackles is responsible for everything the players subsequently go through.
    • Reign of Winter has Queen Elvanna, whose imprisonment of her mother, Baba Yaga, and triggering of the eternal winter spell, are the focus of the plot.
    • Wrath of the Righteous has the demon lord Deskari.
    • Iron Gods features Unity, a computer tyrant that aims to achieve true divinity and antagonizes every other character in the story to do so.
    • Giantslayer has Volstus the Storm Tyrant, a megalomaniac storm giant seeking to conquer Avistan and the surrounding lands.
    • Hell's Rebels has the mad inquisitor Barzillai Thrune, the tyrannical Lord Mayor of Kintargo with dire plans for the city and the entire region of Cheliax.
    • Strange Aeons has Count Haserton Lowls, a cultist of Hastur scheming to bring his master one step closer to true divinity.
    • Ironfang Invasion has the hobgoblin warlord Azaersi, leader of the titular Ironfang Legion, who has embarked on a seemingly unstoppable campaign of conquest in Nirmathas.
    • Ruins of Azlant has Ochymua, a veiled master planning to reenact the catastrophe that destroyed Azlanti a long time ago.


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