Baddie Flattery
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"Most impressive. Obi-Wan has taught you well."
- Darth Vader, Return of the Jedi

Basic Information

Baddie Flattery is a characterization trope where the villain is particularly polite and complimentary. Charismatic, flattering, reassuring… you just can't help but kind of like this villain, even while they're plotting destruction on a massive scale. But of course, that's their plan, isn't it? They're just buttering you up to throw you off your game.

There is also the outside possibility that the PCs and the villains share an agenda - when, for example, the characters in a WHFRPG campaign seek to shake off oppressive authority and free slaves, they share a cause with the followers of Tzeentch, and run the risk of one of his champions praising them for the chaos they have caused. This can even extend into metacurrency - they may end up getting points of chaos taint, simply by doing things that conform to the agenda of the dark gods - alternatively, they may end up with in game currency, goods or favours as a reward from people (or things) they would rather not have the gratitude of.

Related Tropes:



Game and Story Use

  • A likely tactic to be used by foes with high mental and social attributes.
  • If there's a bit of a mystery plotline going on, and the PCs can't be 100% certain who the villain is, a bit of flattery and politeness can go a long way towards making them delay or stall. The downside if you kill the wrong character is usually enough of a deterrent to keep them on the fence.
    • I've used this in Amber DRPG campaigns to make the players hesitate so long that the villain gets the opportunity to literally destroy the universe. It's a dirty tactic, but it pretty well sums up exactly what Amber is all about.
    • The same almost never works against GMs / NPCs. It works on players because they can't be certain what the truths behind the facade are. The GM on the other hand, knows whether or not the PCs are rotten or manipulative, and almost always knows what the PCs goals are in any given session. So if it's going to work on the GM, it pretty much only works because the GM actively and intentionally decides to have a particular NPC make a mistake.
    • Of course an NPC may well be civil, courteous and not particularly evil. That doesn't mean your PCs don't need to kill him…
    • Conversely, you are entirely free to have villains who aren't the PCs antagonist and may even be … well, co-belligerents at least.
    • Or you can play this with the sort of BBEG the PCs can do nothing about … consider, for example, d'Artagnan and the Musketeers. It is entirely possible for them to encounter Cardinal Richelieu around court. It is entirely possible he could express genuine appreciation of their courage, principles, ingenuity etc. - and will continue plotting and they will continue to foil his plots with him taking only a very limited amount of offence at their machinations.
  • There are a few games with specific social combat rules that can handle this. In these games, the PCs have the ability to use this same tactic against NPCs, and the "Baddie Flattery" villains can gain actual mechanical benefits for being so damnably polite.
    • 7th Sea has a fairly robust repartee and reputation system that can function as either a carrot or a stick. It's pretty good at rendering social scenes and courtly balls into interesting tactical challenges. The "Montaigne" sourcebook expands it further, incorporating an elaborate NPC web that allows you to track public perception and court gossip and politics.
    • Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay 3rd Edition has several usable social actions that model this well. For example, there's a "winning smile" that can be used to prevent or delay another person's action. Some of the other possible actions give penalty dice on opponents attempts to hurt or manipulate you. The "Lure of Power" expansion has expanded rules and powers for social encounters and characters (or so I've read, it hasn't released yet at the time of this writing.)
    • This can turn the encounter into a kind of scry-vs-scry battle.
  • Even in games where it serves no mechanical or plotline purpose, the Baddie Flattery trope can help make your villain memorable. He's not just another orc chieftain, he's the orc that always had something nice to say about your hair.
  • It can be used as a way to demonstrate to a player that their karma meter is running low. (See, for example, the cRPG Deus Ex - compliments from Anna Navarre are usually a sign that your playing style is tending towards the trigger-happy).
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