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Villains are one of the core elements of any roleplaying game, as they are typically the reason why your player’s characters are doing what they are doing in the first place. In addition as a long time DM/GM/Keeper I’ve always thought of the villain in my game as “my” character. They’re the primary way I express myself in the game and where I have the most important moments of the game, most notably when the player characters get to interact with them. Some of my best villains have always been written to be sympathetic in some way and not purely psychopathic monsters. To do this, I find when I create these characters I try to establish a mood when writing their motivations that will reflect how the party interacts with them. One of the best ways to inspire me and help my writing, is music.

For example, when creating the primary antagonist of Icarus Protocol for Shadowrun I made myself a little series of tracks to set a theme for how this character generally thought. The music reflects that characters mood and general tempo for the way they think, which is then reflected in the way I write about them.

Fiona Apple – Pure Imagination: This is a haunting rendition of an otherwise classic song from the Wizard of Oz. It’s oddly appropriate for Shadowrun as it was commissioned from an advert for a game Chipotle collaborated on, which decries factory farming practices and corporation driven intensive farming (by, oddly enough, another large corporation). The song itself talks about a world of imagination, which fits with this antagonist due to the sheer power they possess and the fact they are willing to use it to change things. Probably not in a way that the Runners are going to like. The sad and haunting tone fits with the genesis of the villain as well, which helped me write how I wanted that origin to feel.

Portal – The Pit Song: This is a quirky and highly strange song referencing the demented AI robots of the Portal series of games. Again this piece of music fit with the villains origins and nature, which shape their particularly warped and cruel opinions about what Metahumanity “Should be”.

Anaria – I See Fire (Ed Sheeran cover): This is an interesting metal interpretation of the Hobbit Soundtrack song “I see Fire”. The female vocalist I think does very well and the video is kind of delightfully goofy with how it reminds me of LARPing. I tend to listen to this when writing the scenes in the story where the villain takes direct action either against the Runners or their enemies directly. The heavier tone of the music and the wonderfully written lyrics, about burning in dragonfire, are fantastic inspiration for the moments where the Runners are in major trouble against an enemy they can’t (yet) defeat by themselves.

Avengers Age of Ultron Trailer Music #3, Avarice: This is actually the theme music used for the most recent Avengers trailer, but the slow build up in this piece of music to the darker tones later on is absolutely perfect. This is what I usually listen to when I write scenes where the Runners need to negotiate with the main villain or groups, which often start off cordial enough but rapidly rise in threat the longer they go on.

This is a small selection of what I generally tend to listen to, but I hope it conveys the general style and approach that I take. It might seem somewhat odd, but I’ve always found that this kind of matching music with the scene I am writing is very useful. It generally helps me get through writers block much easier than when I try sitting in silence to write!