December 2017 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: December 2017

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The Next Step in My Author Journey

If you have followed me—here on my blog, on the Fantasy Fiends Podcast, social media, or my reader mail—for more than a few weeks, you’ll no doubt have seen some mention of The Last Bucelarii series and/or the bad-ass assassin known as Hunter of Voramis.

Blade of the Destroyer (the first in The Last Bucelarii series) was the book that started my career as an author. I was blessed to find an amazing publisher in J. Ellington Ashton, and I have enjoyed every moment of working with them. Over the last 2+ years, they have helped me publish the three first adventures in the Hunter’s journey (Blade of the Destroyer, Lament of the Fallen, and Gateway to the Past).

But, as I’ve been learning in the last few months, the book publishing industry is changing. The way people find books, read books, and buy books is vastly different than it was when I released Blade of the Destroyer in August 2015.

If I’m to make a proper career as an author, it’s imperative I change with it.

One of the hardest things for me to learn was that “packaging” is often more important than the quality of the product itself. Specifically, if people weren’t interested in the packaging of the product, they’d never give the product a chance.

This, unfortunately, begins with the book covers.

Let’s get one thing straight: I LOVE the original covers for The Last Bucelarii! I love how grim, dark, and gritty they are, the perfect exemplification of what to expect inside.

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But while I knew and loved them, a lot of potential buyers looked and thought, “Nah”, then went on to buy someone else’s book.

Another thing I learned is that a lot of readers like to know IMMEDIATELY what to expect when looking at a book. The cover is vital, but the title has a lot to do with it.

The title “The Last Bucelarii” was clear in my mind, but for the average reader who doesn’t know that the name “Bucelarii” is used to describe half-demon, it was unclear. Many had a hard time pronouncing the name, which led to more confusion.

These factors are just a few of the things that prevented the books from seeing the success I wanted. But it’s not about the money. Granted, millions of dollars in sales would enable me to focus fully on writing novels. The truth is that only way an author knows that people are reading their books is if people actually buy them. Low sales = not a lot of people buying/reading the book. High sales = more readers.

Thus, I have made the decision to unpublish the series as it stands (existing book covers and title), re-package them, and relaunch them with new titles and book covers.

This is actually AWESOME news, for a number of reasons:

  1. I get new covers! Trust me, I’ve seen the artist’s first draft, and after a few minor changes, they are going to be truly spectacular. The covers have a much more “epic” feel to them, which means they will appeal to a broader audience.
  2. I get to take another go at cracking the Amazon algorithm. Thanks to a lot of helpful resources I’ve been reading, I’ve learned a bit more about the data science that drives Amazon’s methods of promoting and distributing books. I intend to use that knowledge (and everything else I can acquire) to re-launch the books to hopefully much greater success.
  3. YOU get the remaining four books more quickly. One of the drawbacks of working with a publisher, even one as awesome as JEA, is that there are other books to be edited, formatted, and published. Thus, books end up being released farther apart.
    Not so now! The fact that I am publishing them myself means I can deliver you the content you want much more quickly. In fact, you will receive the final three installments in the series before the end of 2018. That’s right, you heard me: all SIX books will be written and published before the end of next year.

I know it’s a lot to ask for many of you to go and buy my books AGAIN. The story will remain largely the same (with a few updates and changes). If that’s a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, and I’ll see what I can do.

However, I’m firmly of the opinion that this is the right thing—both for my career as an author, and for the story as a whole. Thanks to this new change, I will be able to deliver more high quality books at a much faster pace. Though it will put my new project (military fantasy: The Silent Champions) on hold for a few months, it means I get to finish the first series I ever started—a series following a character that is near and dear to my heart.

Over the next few months, I’ll start posting more details about the book re-launch, including launch date, the covers, updated blurbs, and more.

For now, I leave you with this:

New Series Title: Hero of Darkness (doesn’t that send a shiver down your spine?!)

Book 1: Darkblade Assassin

Book 2: Darkblade Outcast

Book 3: Darkblade Protector

Book 4: Darkblade Seeker

Book 5: Darkblade Slayer

Book 6: Darkblade Savior

 

I hope you will bear with me on this change. In the end, I intend to make it absolutely worth your while by telling a truly spectacular story of the half-demon assassin who saved his world.

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Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: The Bully

Joffrey Baratheon.

Dudley Dursley and Draco Malfoy.

Anyone ever named Biff, Spud, or Spike.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, but they are all the same: cruel to others, often for cruelty’s sake of cruelty, but just as often using cruelties to hide their fears and insecurities. They know no reason and cannot be reasoned with. Their one goal is to gain power, strength, and control, no matter who they have to hurt in the process.

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Bullies: The Origin

Bullying has been around as long as humans have existed–one of the darkest aspects of human nature.

On the face of it, bullies are defined as, “A person who is cruel to others, especially those who are weaker or have less power.” They assert their dominance through physical, emotional, and psychological aggression. From physical attacks to verbal assaults to social pressure to the modern methods of cyber-bullying and trolling, they use “force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.”

An article on Psychology Today gives an insight into bullies:

  • The vast majority of children (60 to 70 percent) are never involved in bullying, either as perpetrators or victims. Early in development, most children acquire internal restraints against such behavior. But those who bully do it consistently.
  • Their aggression starts at an early age.
  • It takes a very specific set of conditions to produce a child who can start fights, threaten or intimidate a peer (“Give me the jump rope or I’ll kill you”), and actively inflict pain upon others.
  • The person hurt most by bullying is the bully himself, though that’s not at first obvious, and the negative effects increase over time.
  • Most bullies have a downwardly spiraling course through life, their behavior interfering with learning, friendships, work, intimate relationships, income, and mental health.
  • The aggression of girls has been vastly underestimated because it takes a different form. It is a far more subtle and complex means of meanness than the overt physical aggression boys engage in.

Bullies have a slightly different psychological makeup than the “average” person. According to one expert, “they have a distinctive cognitive make-up—a hostile attributional bias, a kind of paranoia. They perpetually attribute hostile intentions to others. The trouble is, they perceive provocation where it does not exist. That comes to justify their aggressive behavior. Say someone bumps them and they drop a book. Bullies don’t see it as an accident; they see it as a call to arms. These children act aggressively because they process social information inaccurately. They endorse revenge. That allows them a favorable attitude toward violence and the use of violence to solve problems.”

Other traits of bullies include:

  • A strong need to dominate, and they derive satisfaction from injuring others.
  • Bullies lack what psychologists call prosocial behavior—they do not know how to relate to others.
  • Bullies are also untroubled by anxiety, an emotion disabling in its extreme form but in milder form the root of human restraint.
  • They seem to have a low threshold of irritability and exist in a “mood state of readiness.”
  • Bullies see themselves quite positively—which may be because they are so little aware of what others truly think of them. Indeed, a blindness to the feelings of others permeates their behavioral style and outlook.

The interesting thing is that bullies aren’t just going to pick on anyone. While they usually start out doing so at a young age, by the age of seven, they tend to find the weaker members of the “pack”—the “whipping boys”, the ones who lack assertiveness and radiate fear—and bully them.

But looking behind the façade of cruelty, there is often a weak, scared individual. One scientific study states, “Aggressive behavior is rarely a spontaneous behavior that appears without any connection to previous or parallel experiences involving some type of victimization. Some studies indicate that victimization and perpetration are interconnected: bullies are, or have been, victims; and victims are, or will be, potential bullies. Evidence suggests that the overlaps between different forms of violence, even those that seem unrelated, are so deep that it can be difficult to identify individuals who have experienced, or perpetrated, only a single form of violence. Bullying can be a response to a large and varied assortment of different forms of interpersonal violence and abuse including victimization, neglect, maltreatment, and others.”

It has been said that “Hurt people hurt people.” Bullies are often the very definition of this. Because of events in their past—events that left them scared, powerless, or feeling weak—they use aggression and violence to control their environment and dominate others so they will never feel that way again.

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In Stories:

Bullies come in every conceivable shape and form:

  • Biff Tannen from Back to the Future was a bully as a teenager, and continued to a bully as he grew into an adult.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is filled with bullies: Ser Meryn Trant (who delights in beating a helpless teenaged girl), Gregor Clegane, Joffrey Baratheon, and Ramsey Snow.
  • Draco Malfoy is the cold, cool “better than you” sort of bully who uses his power and status to push Harry Potter around, while Dudley Dursley is the much more physical sort of bully.

Bullies can be a primary antagonist, a secondary antagonist, or a simple obstacle for the protagonist to overcome. They may be redeemable, but often the best way for the protagonist to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, give them a taste of their own medicine, and remove them as an obstacle.

Go back to the main list of villains and antagonists…

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The Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: Dastardly Whiplash

Snidely Whiplash.

Darken Rahl.

Colonel Sebastian Moran.

From cackling, moustache-twirling, and melodramatic to pompous, arrogant, power-hungry nobleman or ruler, the Dastardly Whiplash is simply “evil for the sake of evil”. They use their wealth and power to prey on the weak for their own amusement or enrichment.

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Dastardly Whiplash: The Origin

This character type originally started out as the melodramatic foil to the straight and somber hero—like Snidely Whiplash from the Dudley Do-Right cartoon series.

  • In British literature, he was typically a minor nobleman of some sort, usually scheming to gain power or riches.
  • In American literature, he was typically a man of wealth and power: banker, oil baron, real estate mogul, railroad tycoon, etc.

His appearance was always pretty standard:

  • Evil-looking features—long nose, dark and shifty eyes, and an exaggerated chin
  • Black top hat and other accessories (gloves, cane, etc.)
  • Curling black moustache or similarly “evil” facial hair
  • Old-fashioned suit with cloak used for dramatic flourishes

He is typically evil for evil’s sake. Even when given the chance to make the right decision, he’ll typically cackle, rub his hands, and do the most ridiculous things for the sake of foiling the hero—the things that ultimately foil his own plans or lead to his untimely demise.

The problem with this villain type is that it’s incredibly one-dimensional. People are rarely evil just because they enjoy it (like the “Chaotic Evil” alignment of Dungeons and Dragons). Instead, a well-developed character will typically have an explanation as to how they can rationalize their “evil” actions. They tend to be amoral or have a twisted morality rather than simply a desire to commit evil.

An article on Psychology Today has an interesting explanation of “evil”:

“Evil people are those who are unable to empathize with others. As a result, their own needs and desires are of paramount importance. They are selfish, self-absorbed and narcissistic. In fact, other people only have value for them to the extent that they can help them satisfy their own desires, or to which they can exploit them. This applies to dictators like Stalin and Hitler, and to serial killers and rapists. Their primary characteristics is an inability to empathize with others. They can’t sense other people’s emotions or their suffering, can’t see the world from other people’s perspective, and so have no sense of their rights. Other human beings are just objects to them, which is what makes their brutality and cruelty possible.

This is usually the explanation behind the “Dastardly Whiplash” character.

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In Stories:

The perfect example of a well-developed “Dastardly Whiplash” is the Grinch from the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas. While the Grinch initially is portrayed as a character who is “evil for the sake of evil”, the movie gives a glimpse into how he became so: as a result of being bullied for his unusual appearance. He became the Grinch as a result of his mistreatment, not as a choice.

Darken Rahl from the Sword of Truth series is another similar character, as are most of the villains from that series.

Sherlock Holmes’ antagonist Colonel Sebastian Moran is another excellent example.

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Guest Post: The 9 Perils of Writerhood

 Today, I’m fortunate to have a guest post written by my good friend (and EPIC beta reader) Rosie Bates. A writer in her own right, she has a few words of (humorous) wisdom on what to expect when taking up the author’s path…

The 9 Perils of Writerhood

Thinking about taking up writing? As a hobby, or maybe a career? Well, be warned. You are about to pursue a perilous occupation. A vortex of chaos, creativity and solitude that will suck you into its inescapable depths. Writing is not for the faint-hearted.

On your journey you will encounter submission guidelines, internet trolls and *gasp* reading fees. If you are lucky enough to get away from them unscathed, you are still destined to fall victim to the countless dangers of writing. Although for the sake of time-saving let’s say there are nine.

The Curse of the Grammar Nazi

With proficiency in the written word comes an impulse to correct people’s grammar and spelling; a practice that is universally frowned upon. In no small part because it’s a little bit condescending even if it does clear up some outrageous uses of the English language.

As the rest of the world demands you keep your mouth shut, you will be forced to stew in your exasperation for eternity. Although, where the internet’s prying eyes cannot see, you will be safe to unleash your new curse. The household shopping lists will be impeccable, one way or another.

Demonic Possession

Short of floating out of bed and babbling in tongues, you wouldn’t believe you were being possessed at all. That’s what the Demons want you to think.

We believe the characters we create and grow to love are under our control. But they get under our skin, into our heads and control our thoughts. Whilst innocently daydreaming some dialogue for your new imaginary friends, their words will come tumbling out of your mouth quite without your permission. At dinner, on the tube, at the library, in the middle of an important interview. At every conceivable inconvenient movement. So don’t be surprised if you come home to an intervention one day with a demonologist and a priest siting in.

Imagination Fatigue

The adrenaline rush of an idea grabbing you and running away is like nothing else. Your wedding day or that big promotion all pale in comparison to this thrill. Spending several hours on a whirlwind adventure in your own brain and putting it to paper is an excitement that has lured many a writer into its eternal clutches. However, after any epic high, there is an inevitable crash. When you’re finished with that flash of productivity, your brain will feel like an exploded water balloon. You’ll be lucky if you can think up what to have for dinner.

Legal Trouble

Writers research everything. How else are you supposed to craft realistic crime dramas and historical romances? Nobody’s that confident in their estimations of an autopsy to start writing about it without looking it up in a search engine first. Those Google searches are not for the squeamish.

As a result of your curiosity, your internet histories become weird and wonderful collections of web pages you’ve clicked on in the pursuit of piecing your work together realistically. They also become article one in your murder trials if your enemies are vengeful enough.

Whilst at the time your search on the world’s deadliest poisons was perfectly innocent, it may not look that way when there’s a dead body in your living room with all the signs of cyanide poisoning. Moral of the story, don’t be a writer. If you really must be a writer, then be sure to make no enemies who might be motivated enough to frame you for murder. As our next point explains, that may not be a problem anyway.

Dying a Social Death

Writing isn’t merely a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. It gets into every nook and cranny of your life, including the social sector. Coffees with friends make way for editor’s deadlines. Brainstorming sessions instead of hosting the parents. Losing your mind perfecting a scene instead of sleeping.

Your friends and family begin to question whether you ever existed or if you were just a figment of their imaginations. Until one day you finally show up to a birthday party and dole out a few heart attacks.

Keyboard Burn

When inspiration hits, you won’t be able to get the words down fast enough. So beware when speed typing, for your fingertips may burn on the red-hot keys. That best-seller in the making will gather dust at the back of your hard-drive whilst you enjoy the delight that is hospital food.

Irritable Scowl Syndrome

Writing takes peace and quiet. But the quietest times are the best someone bursts into your study exclaiming that they need their dry cleaning done, there are no jam tarts left or the house is on fire. Sigh.

Be warned, the first interruption will not be the last because when it’s OK to barge in once, it’s always OK. Such is the logic of serial interrupters. You will begin to develop a fearsome scowl upon hearing the words “Just before you sit down…” or “Are you busy?” that will send any enquirers scurrying in the other direction.

As these interruptions happen more and more (and rest assured, they will) this scowl will become your default expression for anything you even remotely disapprove of. Your reputation will be forever tainted and you will be remembered as a terrifying individual. Or perhaps that’s what you were aiming for.

Repetitive Name Injury

There’s names you like, and names you don’t. The names you give our characters you often love. That’s why it’s difficult to give these beloved names to only one character. Where does the injury come in? When you’re bashing your head against the wall trying to think of new ones that sound just as good.

Addiction

Drugs are bad, kids, and writing is one of the hardest highs out there. It starts out innocent, just a short story or two in the privacy of home, but it doesn’t take long for this to escalate. You’ll start holing yourself up in your study penning novels and sketching settings. Soon enough, you’ll be writing on the train to work, and in the car waiting for your kids to get out of school. Write long enough and no rehab on Earth can help you return to the way things used to be.

 

About the Author

Rosanna Bates was born in Worcester, England at the height of baggy jeans and boy band popularity. Her childhood was spent reading and writing stories she was too embarrassed to show anyone. To date, she has had short stories and flash fiction published with 101words.org, The Fiction Pool, and Anti-Heroin Chic, and is currently preparing her debut novel for future publication.

Follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosiebateswritingforlife/

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bates_rosie

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: Entropy/Chaos

Azazoth.

Apep.

Eris.

These names may be unfamiliar, but they all speak of one thing: chaos.

They are the embodiment of entropy, disorder, and the chaos inherent in all things. They seek to restore the universe to a state of chaos, the way it was BEFORE creation brought order. Perhaps not fully “evil” in the way we perceive it, but their intentions (the undoing of all things) leads to “evil” outcomes for everyone. Thus, they are the ultimate villains!

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Chaos: The Origin

The “Chaos” villain is actually a mixture of science and mythology.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that, “The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.” To put it simply, the universe is always trying to return to a natural entropic or chaotic state, but it is only our efforts to organize, define, and coordinate that keep everything from devolving.

Most ancient civilizations viewed chaos as “the nothingness at the beginning of the world”. In their view, the gods brought order to the universe, and there is this nameless, faceless force of “nothingness” that is seeking to restore the universe to its natural state before the gods intervened.

Egyptian mythology had the god Apep, the giant serpent that was the embodiment of chaos and the antagonist to Ma’at, “the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice, and the personification of these concepts as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.”

On a smaller scale, Greek mythology had the goddess Eris (in Roman mythology, she was named Discord). She was the reason for the Trojan War, and she sought to bring strife and discord among men.

Chaos is more than just an Ancient Evil (see the previous post on Ancient Evils)—it’s a force of nature as immutable as time and space, one that is ever seeking to reclaim its own. It’s typically used as an opposing force to law and order, as well as to creation and life itself. If these primeval beings of chaos succeeded, the universe would cease to exist and all things would be entropy.

This taps into our most primal fears:

Fear of extinction. When the universe is unmade, no trace of our families, race, world, or universe will remain. It is the most drastic form of extinction possible!

Fear of loss of autonomy. In the face of these ancient, all-powerful beings of chaos, there is nothing we can do to prevent the total eradication of life as we know it. Thus, we are totally powerless—entrapped in a doomsday scenario from which there is no escape.

With beings of Chaos, there is no ambivalence: they want to put an end to order in the universe as we know it. Thus, though they are simply playing to their nature, they are the ultimate “evil” because their triumph would mean to total undoing of everything.

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In Stories:

Chaos has appeared in modern fantasy:

  • Tolkien’s Silmarillian talked of a void, from which Eru, the Middle Earth version of God who created all things.
  • Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos has many beings of chaos: Azathoth, the “Nuclear Chaos” and Nyarlathotep, the “Crawling Chaos”, and Xexanoth, the Lurking Chaos.
  • Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series had the Prim, a force of chaos that would return if the Tower ever were to fall.

On a Large Scale:

The ancient, universe-destroying creatures of Chaos tend to be the ultimate evil, the god worshipped by the Evil Cult, and the big, bad threat looming in the background of the story. Though they tend to have mortals doing their bidding, they are the ultimate horror that will be perpetrated upon the world if the hero doesn’t succeed in stopping the villain.

On the Small Scale:

Chaos can also be used as a minor antagonist. Similar to the way Eris, goddess of strife, received power as a result of the discord she sowed, so too antagonists can become more powerful due to small-scale chaos (on a city-wide, nationwide, or world-wide amount of chaos, rather than the total unmaking of the universe).

For example:

  • Warmongers profit from causing two countries/kingdoms to go to war
  • Evil races flourish when the “good” races fight each other, or they just enjoy violence
  • People suffer and die from political and/or religious chaos tearing their city/country/kingdom apart

 

Whether chaos is on a cosmic scale or street level, it is a force that must be battled by the protagonists, champions of law and order.

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The Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: Ancient Evil

Satan.

Sauron.

Cthulhu.

These names immediately bring to mind ancient forces dedicated to one thing: evil.

For thousands/millions of years or “since the earliest age”, these supernatural, supreme beings have operated under the agenda of bringing death, despair, oblivion, and other evils. Whether they were created for evil purposes or simply always existed as the evil counterpoint to good, there is no ambivalence to them. They are EVIL—full on, unrelenting, deathless evil.

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Ancient Evils: The Origin

The concept of evil is as old as humanity itself. Civilizations as old as Ancient Egypt had Isfet, a god of disorder and violence that fought to kill the sun god Ra. Judaism perceives evil as a result of man’s bad actions. Platonic philosophy states that “evil does not exist as a substance or property but instead as a privation of substance, form, and goodness”.

But the origin of this “Ancient Evil villain” has its roots in two of the five primary fears common among all humans: fear of extinction and fear of loss of autonomy.

Fear of Extinction – Imagine a being so powerful that it could kill or even “unmake” you with the blink of an eye or the snap of their god-like fingers.

Fear of Loss of Autonomy – What could you, a single mortal, do to stop a god/supernatural/cosmic being from destroying our world/universe/reality? If such a being existed, we would have no control of our circumstances.

These two fears are the primary driving force behind the horror of the Ancient Evil. But there’s a third: the fear of the unknown.

Zombies are terrifying because they take something familiar (humans, friends, family, etc.) and twist them into something grotesque. It’s not the shambling, rotting corpses that are scary—it’s the shambling, rotting corpses of people we KNOW and LOVE that’s terrifying.

Belief in a Higher Power, Supreme Being, or Ultimate is something that unifies nearly all humans on the planet. Whether you call the being God, Yahweh, Allah, or Rufus, most of us believe in some sort of higher power or divinity to some extent. Given all the marvels in the world and universe around us, it’s hard not to believe in something greater than us. Even the world’s most renowned scientists agree that there is a possibility a God-like being exists.

Now comes the terrifying part: what if that God-like being WASN’T a good, loving god of mercy and peace? What if they were a god that wanted to bring death, suffering, chaos, and oblivion?

Whatever the reason for the Ancient Evil’s existence—to balance the gods of good, to bring chaos to the universe, or to destroy for their own malicious purposes—it is enough to know that their actions will be perceived as “villainous”. They cannot be bargained or reasoned with. There is no fighting them or holding them off. They simple ARE, and they intend to bring DOOM (all caps!) to the world.

In stories:

These Ancient Evils are typically used as the ultimate villain/antagonist.

  • If Frodo didn’t bring the One Ring to Mount Doom, Sauron would have regained all the might of the twenty magical Rings of Power and been absolutely unstoppable.
  • The Great Old Ones are the eternally threatening presence looming in the background of H.P. Lovecraft’s works.
  • Terry Pratchett introduced us to the “Dungeon Dimensions”, a background threat to those who use magic incorrectly.

They tend to be the greatest threat to the heroes, but will rarely be the primary villain/antagonist. Mostly, there are less powerful men and creatures seeking to summon/unlock the cage/open the gateway for these Ancient Evils to enter the world. The protagonists have to stop the primary villains/antagonists from unleashing this evil on their world. After all, saving the world is just part of the job, right?

 

Go back to the main list of villains and antagonists…

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