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Nemesis Personas

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 141
Because having a nemesis is more personal than just having an adversary, it’s important to consider what makes the nemesis tick. Certain archetypical nemesis personas, such as those in the following suggestions, are common in fiction and help to build a memorable foe.

Embittered Protege: Perhaps the nemesis was once a follower of one of the PCs or a close ally, or shared the same mentor. The protege was dismissed from training, whether for lack of talent, failure to pass a key test, or because of some transgression. The protege blames one or more PCs for his failure, claiming the PCs were shown favoritism after outshining him, or that the PCs somehow sabotaged his education.

Fallen Idol: The nemesis was once a person of great repute, honored for his heroic deeds, or revered as a mentor of the PCs. Whatever his former prominence, the idol has fallen on hard times. This may not be public knowledge, and early encounters with the fallen idol might preserve the facade that things are going well. However, the PCs have unknowingly disrupted the fallen idol’s (possibly illicit) scheme to recover his position, plunging him further into desperation. The nemesis becomes obsessed with regaining his former fame, resorting to ever-more-questionable methods and outrageous schemes in a losing battle to regain respect; in short, he’s become the very thing he once stood against. The PCs might never realize that their old mentor and their new nemesis are one and the same until the final confrontation, after which they must decide whether to redeem or slay the fallen idol.

Herald of the Future: The nemesis is devoted to the cause of progress, seeking to abolish the old ways and usher in a glorious destiny. This new future might come about through science, political upheaval, the rapturous return of a deity, or the advent of alien intelligence. Whatever his creed, the nemesis promises it will change everything. His goals and dogma might be strange, leading the PCs to either oppose his view of the future or simply compete with him for the same resources. For instance, his goal to collect strange artifacts might place him in a race against the PCs for the otherworldly relics. While urbane and sophisticated, the herald dismisses dissent as smallminded ignorance. At first, he might feel more sorrow for his opposition’s shortsightedness than anger, but he still won’t let the PCs stand in the way of progress.

Obstructive Official: The nemesis is a person of political power or prominence, such as an officer of the law, a moralizing judge, an ambitious aristocrat, or an arrogant noble. Whatever his role, or whether he holds his position through birth, wealth, or personal strength, he is dogmatically dedicated to a specific set of rules that the PCs, in the course of their adventuring activities, violate with some frequency. The obstructive official is not interested in the PCs’ motivations or justifications. To the nemesis, they are dangerous vigilantes who bring trouble in their wake. So-called “heroes” are menaces that need to be controlled or, failing that, eliminated. This sort of nemesis uses his connections to make life more difficult for the PCs, but always through legal avenues. Eventually he hopes to have the PCs thrown in jail, exiled, or otherwise removed from the equation, but only after he has built an ironclad case against them.

Trickster: The nemesis is an agent of chaos, a troublemaker who may act with malice or out of pure capriciousness. The trickster respects no laws, authorities, or systems of control. He may be prone to acts of charity when the mood strikes. He may even be a hero to some, but he may just as quickly turn on those who supported him, or abandon them for a new scheme altogether. The trickster’s opposition to the PCs may be a perverse social experiment to undermine their principles or to disrupt the world around them. Or, it may be just a game to him, and the PCs are simply too much fun to ignore.