As a GM, what/who is your favorite BBEG you've ever created? That did the BBEG do that made it so interesting? And how did the players feel/react? Here's mine.
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Let me tell you a little story about Hogarth
Such an unassuming name - Hogarth. Hogarth was a druid who joined a group I was GMing. The player had an awesomely simple and hilarious backstory for Hogarth.
Hogarth had been raised by his wealthy aristocratic parents to only cherish money and material gains. When he was a young man however, he met a druid who showed him how to become one with nature. This led to Hogarth pursuing druidism. As he grew older and more powerful, he was always looking for a way to contribute back to society. After his parents died, he spent his entire inheritance building a weather station atop a local mountain, hoping to learn more about the storms that supernaturally plagued the region. Unfortunately, the day after he was done building, lightning struck his station and burned it to the ground. Without a penny to his name, and being laughed out of his town for pursuing such foolishness to begin with, he traveled around for awhile, offering his services to mercenaries in exchange for enough money to buy him food and booze. Eventually, he met up with the other PCs' characters and somewhat befriended them and rolled with them for awhile.
However, around level eight after many adventures, the player began to have doubts that Hogarth would stick with these other characters. After all, they were traveling deep into forests to seek out fortunes in ruins, killing monsters along the way. While they were mostly good, they were definitely reckless.
The player decided that Hogarth would retire, and with my permission (and with his agreement that I could use Hogarth as an NPC to my own ends) he rolled up a new character. We role-played everyone parting ways, with a particularly emotional goodbye between Hogarth and the party's gnomish rogue, Fizly, who had developed a friendship.
For many adventures afterward, anytime they came back to that town, they would find Hogarth in the bar, drinking. He always seemed more depressed, and the gnome's player even spent an entire session one night trying to find a way to help Hogarth, to no avail.
Then, one day while visiting the town, they couldn't find Hogarth. No one in town knew where he'd gone, and quite frankly, no one even missed him, making the gnome even sadder. However, after a few more sessions, they eventually stopped looking for him, assuming he'd found another town in which to drown his sorrows. Occasionally Fizly, upon entering a new town, would ask around, hoping to stumble across Hogarth, but he never did.
Rumors, Reports, and Rumblings of Hogarth
Over the course of several months (and several levels), the PCs' characters began to hear rumors about odd occurrences, mostly in places they had been before. It started as an odd message they received - a caravan runner the characters had helped before had recently perished when several of his wagons sank into an unusually deep mud hole on the main path between two cities. Another rumor involved a small village the characters had once saved from Kuo-Toa - the river next to the village had overflowed, killing dozens of people in the village. Then a monastery on the side of a mountain, which the characters had frequented many times in the past for healing and advice, was buried in an avalanche.
After that third occurrence, the characters finally decided they needed to check on things. At the site of the monastery, they spoke with several of the monk survivors, and learned that the day before the avalanche, a mysterious man visited. The description of the man sounded a lot like Hogarth, but the monks said he was dark and grim, and nothing like what the characters remembered.
The party spent a few weeks and sessions trying to find Hogarth. Finally, they tracked him to some old ruins in an ancient forest. They confronted him and tried to appeal to his better side, and attempted to learn why he was doing this. Hogarth revealed that after witnessing the utter lack of balance in all the characters' actions, he must rectify their inequities. Their pleas to Hogarth fell on deaf ears, and after tensions rose, the characters felt they had no better options other than to bring Hogarth down through combat, and hopefully imprison him until he came to his senses.
Hogarth was able to escape however, leaving behind no clues about his plans.
Hogarth disappeared for awhile, leaving the characters in darkness. They continued their adventures, always keeping an ear to the ground for the druid's next move.
After awhile they finally found a clue to Hogarth's final plans. They discovered Hogarth's hovel, where he had lived in the intervening time between his retirement and his latest actions. Inside, the walls were covered in ancient proverbs about a Chosen One becoming One with Nature and turning the world back into a pristine land such as the lands upon which the Goddess once walked. One word was written over and over again: "Fahr'Koher."
The characters spoke with some of the wisest people they knew, and found out that the "Fahr'Koher" was an ancient, celestial word for "Primaeval," and was a ritual, performed by the Goddess only once in the history of the planet. It was used when the people of the world had begun to sin so much, and spread so far, and destroy so much, that the only way for the planet to survive was to wipe off the existence of all civilizations and start over. The Goddess had used the ritual to create massive floods, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters that had destroyed all of mankind, and over the course of a year, had regrown all the forests of the land, leaving no trace of the people who had once lived in the world. The only reason the ritual is even known is because the Goddess had passed down the word through a select few, those she determined were Chosen, so that they could protect the world and keep such a thing from needing to happen again.
Now the group knew what Hogarth's plan was. He was going to attempt to perform the Primaeval, and reset the lands back to the way they had been before humanity had settled. Millions would die. They knew what they had to do.
About this time, they heard the dire news that their hometown and home base was being attacked by an army of trolls. They rushed back to defend, fighting trolls and even giants, and discovered that the army had been brainwashed and sent there by Hogarth as a distraction. Meanwhile, Hogarth was beginning the ritual. At the apex of the full moon, the very next night, the ritual would be complete.
They were able to determine Hogarth was casting the ritual on top of a small mountain surrounded by forest. They prepared and rushed to save the day. The very trees of the forest were against them, blocking their path, with treants guarding every possible path. At the top of the mountain, Hogarth performed his ritual, surrounded by dire bears and vine dragons. The party went to work, trying to get close to Hogarth, but his guards were too powerful to just ignore. Finally, after half a night of combat, with Hogarth only minutes away from completing the ritual, the last of the guardians was slain and the group confronted Hogarth.
Hogarth was prepared, however, and created a tempest around himself, flinging fire, lightning, and wind. The group attacked, seeing no other way, using their most powerful magics. The battle was fierce, leveling much of the forest around them. Hogarth showed no sign of slowing down, and the group was running out of resources.
Finally, when it seemed as though Hogarth was just about to gain the upper hand, Fizly the gnome, who had been a friend to Hogarth, was able to use stealth and backstab Hogarth, bringing the druid to his knees, and ending the ritual. The moon passed its zenith, and below, Hogarth died in Fizly's arms, with the rest of the party looking on.
We completed the campaign shortly thereafter, and all of us still play together, but to this day, we still reminiscence about that last confrontation, and the epicness of the battle, and the awesomeness of the role playing from all the group as they defeated their old friend.
That's it. That's my favorite. The BBEG had everything that was needed to make the campaign one of the best our group has ever played - he had a goal, agenda, and reason for doing what he was doing. He had the power and the motivations to accomplish his ends. And most of all, he had an emotional resonance with the party that I've never been able to match with any other BBEG's I've created.