Next to the Catasrophe, one of the most intimidating of all villains is the Conqueror. Possessing not only a brilliant mind, but also an army to back him up, and loyal lieutenants to make up for his possible weaknesses, a Conqueror is a force to be reckoned with.
The Conqueror – History and fiction has never run out of villains of this stripe and for good reason. The Conqueror is an impressive villain by virtue of being an evil perversion of authority. The Conqueror is the god-king, the centerpiece of a massive threat: his army. And nothing really quite grabs an adventurer’s attention than news that there’s an army marching their way.
Let’s take a moment to analyze therefore the elements that make up a true Conqueror:
- Charisma – Few Conquerors are lacking in this regard. Unless they were put into a position of power by virtue of tradition or social rules, Conquerors get to where they are by sheer charisma. This doesn’t mean that the Conqueror is the kind of guy you want to spend friday nights out drinking with, but what it does mean is that the Conqueror can speak and people will listen. They will pay attention, and they will most likely agree with him, or fear him enough to do so.
- Ambition – Conquerors can’t be such without any ambition, otherwise they’d be content to sit around all day admiring the palace garden. Conquerors are driven individuals, ones that are certain that there’s more to be had, if people are determined and powerful enough to take it. Add that to their considerable ambition and it’s more than enough to sway people to follow his lead and his promise of greater things.
- Loyalty – It takes loyalty to gain loyalty. And with a vision for greater things for himself and his people, the Conqueror can eventually surround himself with the best and the brightest of people that share his views, his dreams and are swept away by his fervor. It’s this near religious faith in the Conqueror that empowers his armies to feats of strength and the will to commit atrocities in his name.
- Power – Of course this is a necessary step. Power, whether personal, or political, is what allows the Conqueror to act on such a grand scale. Usually this is portrayed as being royalty, but the occasional military powerhouse is also common. Fantasy and Anime campaigns often grant magical capabilities to the Conqueror as well, and Superheroic campaigns feature Conquerors that rule due to superior alien technology.
How to use the Conqueror in a Campaign:
- Sword of Damocles – The Conqueror is a particularly interesting villain as it lends itself particularly well to being foreshadowed early in the campaign. Whether by seeding rumors at an inn, or hearing from refugees from cities taken by his forces, the Conqueror’s reputation grows with each encounter, and when the Player Characters finally stand against him, they know they’re in very big trouble.
- Caught in the middle with nowhere to run – The Conqueror, due to the scale of his plans, might not even be initially aware of the Player Characters, but with his war machine in full swing, the players no longer have a place to hide, and everything they cherish is in the path of the army marching this way. This is a good option of the Player Characters have no personal ties to the Conqueror, and also have no ties to any other kingdom or faction. Survival in the face of war and the horrors inflicted by the Conqueror’s army should be a powerful motivation.
- Conqueror and friends – Another staple of the Conqueror are his Lieutenants. Not to be confused with the rank and file soldiers and the occasional henchmen, the Lieutenants are capable and dangerous adversaries nearly at par with the Player Characters themselves. No man stands alone, and the Conqueror would be a fool to ignore that fact. As such he surrounds himself with people of differing talents and abilities to augment his own. The Conqueror is a leader as much as a combatant, and therefore knows how to field a team that might just be able to give the Player Characters a run for their money.
The Conqueror’s Resources:
- An Army – This is pretty self explanatory. Legions of soldiers, war machines and special forces are all part and parcel of the Conqueror’s threat. Much like the Catastrophe, the Conqueror isn’t a villain you want to face head on lest you drown from the sheer number of bodies throwing themselves at you to with the intent of making sure you don’t survive.
- Resources – Part of the fun of conquering anything is adding their riches and resources to your own. Mercenary companies and traitors from the enemy are all fair game to be paid off to work for you as specialty troops to augment your core army of loyal soldiers.
- Lieutenants – Again, I have to repeat myself, but few villains have a valid excuse to have their own adventuring party working for them to match the Player Characters blow by blow. Lieutenants are one of my favorite GM tools and while they take a while to build, can be spun-off to become other villains or even allies depending on how things turn out.
GMing Notes for the Conqueror:
The Conqueror benefits and suffers from the fact that it’s a popular and common stereotype. As a GM who loves reading up on genres and archetypes for games, I sometimes accidentally include common mistakes for these kinds of villains. This won’t do, so I highly recommend a visit to the “Top 100 things I’d do if I ever became an evil overlord” list. As humorous as this is, some of it is pretty sound advice.
- Xerxes from Frank Miller’s 300 comic book and movie
- Darkseid from DC Comics
- Krang from Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles (though this may be a partial subversion as he’s hardly charsimatic)