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Villainous characters


Disciplines > Storytelling > Characters > Villainous characters

The classic villain | Villainous characters | See also


The classic villain

The classic villain is the antithesis of the hero, being bad where the hero is good, selfish where the hero is selfless, harming others where the hero saves them.

This opposite-ness is particularly useful in the contrast that it provides between the hero and the villain. In this way, they each define the other.

Villains described here are:


Villainous characters

The Mastermind

The Mastermind does not commit the crime, but is the brains behind the big event, whether it is a stealing, a scam or some other crime. They are typically brilliantly clever and master planners, allowing for every eventuality including being caught in the act.

They may also leave a deliberate signature, such as a rose or some other symbol, to taunt the police and show that they cannot be caught.

The hero who captures the mastermind must outwit them at every turn, including avoiding the snares and false trails that the mastermind leaves behind. Moriarty, for example, is the mastermind that is the nemesis of the brilliant Sherlock Holmes.

The Thief

The Thief steals, often from a remarkably secure environment, somehow overcoming the security systems that protect the wonderful treasures kept there. They are dextrous and agile, able to get past any defence. The lone thief may also be clever enough to be classed as a Mastermind.

Thieves are seldom violent and their villainy is based in their lack of concern for the rights of property of others. When they are involved in combat, their agility and precision can make them very dangerous.

The hero who defeats the Thief is a detective, discovering the clues that others miss and piecing together the jigsaw of how the crime was committed and how to find the Thief. The Thief story is thus a cerebral one, where the hero outwits the Thief's mental dexterity.

The Robber

The Robber is less subtle than the thief and may work in a gang with others. Where the thief is precise, the Robber is clumsy. Where the thief waits until people are away, the Robber will steal from the person's body.

The hero who catches the Robber may do so by entrapment, into which the Robber walks unawares. Other methods of capture include basic police work.

The Thug

Below the Robber in the intellectual order of villains is the Thug, who gets what they want simply though physical violence.

They seldom work alone, needing direction from elsewhere and may act as guards or a human battering-ram into the fortress where the treasure is kept.

Defeating the Thug is relatively easy if you can dodge their heavy-handed blows. Their slowness and size makes them a simple target for a quicker opponent. Otherwise they can be easily outwitted ('Goodness, look at that!' -- whack!!).

The Sneak

The Sneak is known for their dishonesty and general lack of values (it's not that other villains lack them -- it is more that the sneak has even less). They will work for whoever pays them. They thus make good double-agents -- as long as your offer remains the most attractive.

They are often very cowardly and will squeal easily under pressure. Their tendency for lying, however, makes what ever they say difficult to believe.

The Sneak is defeated first by never trusting them wholly and then by buying them off.

The Trickster

The Trickster is a mischievous character who is not what might first be envisaged. They often have their own agenda and may be the main Villain or a distraction that adds confusion to the story.

Tricksters sometimes play tricks simply to entertain themselves so they can marvel at their own ability and domination over others. They also may set traps to ensnare the unwary and ply false trust to lead the naive astray. The Hero is always on guard and defeating the Trickster demonstrates intelligence as well as bravery or skill.

The Trickster reminds us not to trust people and that not all is as it seems.  Their deviousness and the uncertainty of their actions shows that sometimes people behave in unpredictable ways and for unknown reason.

The Knave

The Knave is a higher-class rogue who has uses his aristocratic position to get what he wants, including favors from a lady. He may promise much in return, but in fact gives nothing.

The hero defeats the Knave by exposing his deception. He may also have to battle the Knave who, lacking honor, may again use deceptive methods here.

The Assassin

The Assassin is a dark and secret person who kills to order. Their killing is not the open murder of others but a hidden delivery, perhaps with poison or distant rifle. When up-close, they prefer the dagger, which may be hidden before use and closely controlled in action.

Defeating assassins is difficult as they are very skilled in their art. When they do not wish to be found they can be almost invisible. Sometimes it is easier to defeat the person who commissioned the Assassin.

The Lovable Rogue

The Lovable Rogue is a sympathetic and attractive character who is steeped with charisma. They somehow balance selfish acts with sudden and unexpected generosity and kindness that endears them to us.

We (and story characters) thus have a love-hate relationship with them as we wish that they would improve the integrity. In some ways we also envy them their freedom as they make their own rules in the world.

The False Hero

The False Hero is a a deceptive person who seeks to usurp the glory of the real hero, either by claiming to having done what the hero did or otherwise claiming some other greatness that overshadows the hero.

The False Hero often seeks the same end as the Hero, such as the hand of the princess, making it a zero-sum, win-lose game. In the end, they may have to fight to prove who is the true hero, and where perhaps the underhand, non-heroic methods of the False Hero exposes reality.

The Bad Boy

The Bad Boy is a naughty child who does wrong. The Bad Boy may know what they are doing and be well on the road to evil, or they may be going through a phase and are still redeemable.

We all know Bad Boys of some kind, and perhaps we recognize ourselves in some of the variants. Because they are children, they may evoke some sympathy, particularly if they have not yet gone completely bad.

The Evil Genius

The Evil Genius is a very clever person who has turned their ingenuity to selfish and harmful means. They are often also Mastermind, getting others to do their bidding. They may also work for another, such as the inventor of dastardly devices.

The audience may be aghast at the perversion of a good mind and at the bad that can be done by it. Like a gun, a brain can do good or evil.

The Nemesis

The Nemesis is the exact opposite of the Hero, seeking to beat them at their own game. Where the hero is a Genius, the Nemesis is a Mastermind. Where the hero is a Warrior, the Nemesis is also likely to be a fighter.

Moriarty, for example was the Nemesis for Sherlock Holmes, matching his intellect and cunning.

The Nemesis scares the Hero and the audience perhaps more than any other villain as the hero's defining characteristics are cancelled out.

The Psychopath

The Psychopathic villain has the classic symptom of psychopathy, being a lack of empathy for others, combined with a cunning that manipulates people in unbelievably callous ways. The Psychopath may thus appear to be good, right up until the moment of betrayal (making them very difficult to detect and defeat), after which they show no remorse at all.

Psychopaths scare us as they indicate that anybody might fall into the same category. More than others, they trigger the anger and retributive justice of betrayal.

The Fanatic

The Fanatic is single-minded person whose crime is seldom of the traditional variety (robbery, etc.). They may well driven by religion or some other ideology that gives them the fervor to carry out their mission.

The Fanatic is difficult to defeat as they typically put their mission above their own safety and will fight like a Madman.

The Traitor

The Traitor is the archetypal betrayer, seeming to be on your side but eventually betraying you to the enemy. Their reasons may be that they are spies, they are bought by the enemy or that they are actually good, but they are blackmailed into their treachery.

Defeating Traitors may occur if they are detected before their treacherous act, but is usually afterwards, when they may be caught as they try to hide or escape.

The Monster

The monster is a creature that seems or is intelligent enough to have evil intent attributed to it. Archetypally this is a dragon who destroys towns, hoards gold and captures maidens.

Monsters may also be:

  • Mythological creatures such as Medusa or Cyclops.
  • Folklore creatures such as werewolves or vampires.
  • Religious monsters such as demons and devils
  • Aliens from another planet.
  • Fierce real creatures such as wolves or bears.
  • Humans or people who have become so distorted by their evil that they seem as monsters.

The Other

The 'Other' is a critical and possibly mysterious other person that throws heroes and main characters into relief. They may be villains or reflections of the hero, including anti-heroes and those with aspects of the hero's darker side.

The principle of the 'other' comes from Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory, and hence has a deep and complex attribute system.

See also

Heroic characters

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