The Big Bad Evil Guy, also known as a Big Bad or BBEG for short, is an extremely potent Character with evil plans and the muscle, magic, or brains to achieve them. In a TV show, they are the source of all or most of the threats for at least a season, possibly the whole run of a series.
Note that Big Bad is not a catch-all trope for the biggest and ugliest villain of any given story. The Badass leader of the outlaw gang that the heroes face once or twice is not the Big Bad. He is probably The Dragon. The railroad tycoon who turns out to be using the gang as muscle is be the Big Bad. Attacking the Big Bad directly is either extremely difficult to do, or would have dire social consequences. The heroes may have to work their way up the chain of command, defeating lieutenants before they get to face the Big Bad. They may have to unmask him publicly, or discover his only weakness before they can defeat him.
Big Bad Evil Guy Archetypes:
Sometimes, the Big Bad isn't even a person, exactly. They might be an impending natural disaster, a hideous monster, or a cursed item. Such an inanimate or unintelligent Big Bad may still be somewhat personified. It certainly can't be defeated by a method as simple as a gunfight. If a single battle, easily initiated, can overcome the villain or threat, then it's not the Big Bad. Sometimes, it'll seem like some such inanimate source of evil is the Big Bad, until it's later revealed that they were created or summoned by the true Big Bad Evil Guy.
Game and Story Use
- The Big Bad Evil Guy may well be the most important NPC in your entire campaign, so extra care should be taken to make him memorable.
- Special attacks, custom spells, or flavorful henchmen should be at his disposal.
- Personality, quirks, back story, and sinister motives are very important trappings of the BBEG.
- Think about what he looks like. Then you can foreshadow his arrival, hint at his involvement, or warn the players from afar.
- Check out the Villains trope page to figure out what type of villain he might be.
Building This Character
- High level - at least. Epic is not unheard of, and they may be more powerful than the entire adventuring party of PCs. As tempting as it may be to make the BBEG a weak little putz with a big army, that doesn't work as well in fiction and gaming as it does in real life. Authority Equals Ass Kicking.
- This can be subverted by use of The Dragon to protect the BBEG, or other means of preventing the PCs from simply storming in there and killing him: making him unkillable (as above), disguising his identity, making him someone the PCs can't afford to kill, making sure the campaign arc is about finding him rather than simply killing him or even using a rules system in which the PCs don't default to nearly unstoppable killing machines who can slaughter entire armies.
- Or if you must play that sort of system, let the PCs wade in blood, kill the person they thought was the BBEG and discover that not only was he not even The Dragon, but they've just given up any hope of anonymity as they go after the real villain.
- Social Attributes have to be high to keep the Evil Empire or Convoluted Scheme running smoothly.
- Mental Attributes can range from medium to very high depending on the rest of your depiction. The BBEG can be a clever Moriarty, or just a bumbling villain with unreasonable expectations.
- Of Physical Attributes the only requirement is that the big bad not go down in the first round. Some Constitution or Body may be in order to make them resist the first hit or two.
- Social Skills help make your schemes and empires more believable. Persuasion and Bureaucracy get things done. Disguise or Acting conceals your identity. Intimidation assures that those who know your wrath will truly fear you.
- Needs to be able to hold their own in a fight, but being a combat powerhouse isn't really necessary. You've got The Dragon for that, and an army of Mooks to throw at them. Let your henchmen do the fighting, and just step in personally when they screw it up - or to unleash your big power.
- Speaking of big powers, every BBEG needs one - at least if powers of any sort are in-genre. The goal is to make the power distinctive or flashy. Even if it's not that potent, it should be memorable. Powers that can serve as foreshadowing, clues or other plot device effects are great.
- Powers that enable an escape are particularly good - just take care that there's some possible way for clever PCs to circumvent or prevent it. Unrestricted teleportation is probably a bad idea, but limited once per day teleportation back to their tower of evil would work fine.
- They are the Leader of the bad guys, which is often a support role in combat like Character Buffer or The Healer.
- Traditionally, they're not a Front-Rank Fighter, as they have bodyguards or The Dragon to do that for them. However, some versions of Big Bad may be Magical Artillery or the Sneak Attacker, capable of dishing out lots of damage at little risk to themselves until the PCs mow through all the Mooks.