It’s time for the next stage of Bedtime Heroes! Right now this is the last installment that I have planned but who knows what the future holds! Last time I wrapped up some guidelines for creating villains that your heroes can thwart and this time I’ve got sidekicks to help them out and plots for them to enact. Try them out and let me know what you think!
While it’s often enough to have a cool villain in your story, it can be fun for the Storyteller and the players to have sidekicks in the mix too. In terms of story, this allows the villain to effectively be in multiple places at once and it lets the heroes have easier challenges to overcome without the villain seeming like they aren’t really that tough. Having a small victory against a sidekick can make players feel encouraged to keep going in a story they otherwise might feel is too long and too discouraging. It’s also neat for the Storyteller to have another character in a scene so that they can talk to each other and provide jokes, reveal their plan, or yell about how the cool and capable heroes are besting them.
Sidekicks like any other creature have all the same qualities described on page 88 of No Thank You, Evil! They’re level can be anything from 1-6, though it should be at least one less than the main villain’s level. Their health and damage are equal to level (unless you want to mix it up) and they have stuff that’s similar to the main villain’s stuff (unless they don’t carry anything themselves). The types below will give you options for skills and quirks depending on how you want them to support the main villain.
- Assistant: A sidekick at the villain’s side who does whatever the villain says.
- Helper: A sidekick at the villain’s base who supports them from a distance.
- Partner: An equal sidekick at the villain’s side who wants an equal say.
- Pet: A simple sidekick that doesn’t talk and just reacts like an animal.
- Swarm: A group of many tiny sidekicks that work as a large group.
- Trainee: An up-and-coming sidekick who wants to be a villain someday too.
When you hear the word “sidekick,” you probably think of what we’re calling the assistant role in Bedtime Heroes. They are next to the villain in the scene and when the villain snaps an order the assistant hops to it. They are an extension of the villain who works for them loyally for some reason: they may think the villain is the coolest person ever, they may be paid by the villain and like their job, they may be in love with the villain (not a great model for love, feel free to play that up), or anything else you come up with.
Ideas for Assistants: Depending on the main villain’s scheme, an assistant sidekick could be a robot, a little goblin, a knight in armor, a ghost, or whatever else you imagine.
Skill: If the assistant hits with an attack then the person they hit can’t stop the villain’s action this turn. They can take action against the assistant or another character, close a door to prevent the villain’s escape, or somehting else but they won’t be able to stop whatever the villain has planned this round.villain from what they are trying to do this round. The person could still do something else like help a friend or close a door so they can’t escape but they can’t do anything to stop the villain themselves.
Quirk: They are at the villain’s side which also means they can be underfoot. With a Smart roll (the Goal is the assistant’s level +1) the heroes can trick the assistant so that they crash into the villain, trip them, spill something, or otherwise make a mess. The Goal of actions to affect the villain or assistant this round are 1 lower than normal.
In many ways the helper sidekick is like an assistant sidekick who isn’t right next to the villain. Of course, an assistant can go out on their own or be separated from the villain for a while so it’s better to say that the helper is a sidekick who’s supposed to be away from the villain. They help the villain from afar or stay in one area while the villain goes somewhere else.
Ideas for Helpers: Depending on the main villain’s scheme, a helper sidekick could be a computer in their base, a magical dragon that the villain rides, an intelligent car or plane, the guardian spirit of a circle of stones, or anything else you can imagine. The helper sidekick is also a useful “one time” extra for a particular plot.
Skill: Although they’re not usually in the same place as the villain, helpers can be very… well helpful. Rather than taking a normal turn, the helper sidekick lets the villain take a second turn to do something.
Quirk: Helpers connect with the villain through something that fits the situation (a radio link, a mystical bond, etc) but it’s usually limited in some way. Maybe they can hear what’s going on but not see the scene, or maybe they can see it but only in a specific direction. A mystical connection might mean that the helper can only perceive what the villain can! Whatever the specifics, if the heroes can act to take advantage of this limitation then the helper is confused and loses their turn this round.
Most villains are too selfish to really share the spotlight but sometimes they don’t mind giving a little more say to their sidekick. This is the partner, a friend or ally who follows the main villain’s plan but is on a little more of an equal footing. If the relationship is truly equal then you need two villains in your adventure (though they can share a plot) but when there’s one villain taking the lead and the other villains following then that second group is partner sidekicks.
Ideas for Partners: Unlike other sidekicks, partners might follow the themes of the main villain or they might be totally separate. You can have team ups between unrelated villains with a main one in the lead but a related partner sidekick might be a little sibling, a friend who’s not great with plans, a robot copy of the main villain, or anything else you can imagine.
Skill: Pick a villain skill from the same approach (noun) of the main villain, or a different one if you want to have them be contrasting characters.
Quirk: Since villains are selfish and the partner sees themselves as an equal participant in the villain team, a useful plan is to make them argue with each other to disrupt the plot and help the heroes defeat them. Tricking the villain and partner into arguing is probably a Smarts roll but if successful then the heroes get a +1 on their next roll to stop the villain.
Not all sidekicks are talking characters who can discuss the plan with the main villain. If you have a sidekick that’s not as smart as a person then that is more of a pet. In some ways pets are more reliable than other sidekicks since they won’t argue back or complain but on the other hand the villain can’t give them things to do that are too hard for something as smart as an animal to do. A pet sidekick can block the door to keep heroes from entering but they aren’t going to fly the jet while the villain parachutes into the museum.
Ideas for Pets: Depending on the main villain’s scheme, a pet sidekick could be an animal, a not-so-smart robot, a bundle of plants, an elemental made of fire or wind, or anything else you can think of.
Skill: The pet has senses that are different from the villain’s and without so much hard thinking they are often more focused on danger. The Goal of a roll to sneak up on the pet sidekick (or the main villain when the pet is nearby) is 2 higher than normal.
Quirk: A pet sidekick mostly responds to instinct and that means sometimes they can’t help themselves. If a hero has something the pet might be interested in (like a hamburger for a tiger sidekick or some awesome decals for a robot) then the hero can make a Smarts roll to try and distract them with a Goal of the pet’s level -1.
Instead of one big sidekick this is a group of a bunch of little sidekicks. Here “little” can mean a lot of different things from insect-sized creatures to creatures just shorter than the main villain. The size can be reflected in the sidekick’s level (a swarm of moths would be low level and a band of cat-warriors would be higher) but the important thing is that the swarm sidekicks are really only effective as a group.
Ideas for Swarms: Depending on the main villain’s scheme, a sarm of sidekicks could be insects, tiny robots, swirling leaves, little puppets, a flock of birds, or anything else you can think of.
Skill: Since they are a large group the swarm can attack two different targets on their turn instead of just one. If they really stretch thin they can attack three but then the Goal of the defend roll is one less than normal. In either case, each character attacked rolls there defend separately.
Quirk: An attack against a swarm can scatter them instead of doing damage. When you choose to do this you don’t deal damage but the swarm of sidekicks will lose its next turn.
While a trainee is a sidekick for now they dream of being a full fledged villain someday. They could have plans to be just like the main villain they work for or they might want to be entirely different. Whether the main villain is excited for them to become full-on villains or whether they’re just relieved for the help and don’t actually mentor their sidekick at all… well that depends on each villain.
Ideas for Trainees: Depending on the main villain’s scheme, a trainee villain might be a younger version of the villain, a little sibling, a super fan who’s seen all their videos, or a creation that’s in the process of being programmed.
Skill: Following the main villain’s example, the trainee always takes their turn after the main villain in a round. When the trainee does the same thing as the main villain, the Goal to stop the trainee is one higher than normal.
Quirk: Just as they follow the main villain’s example, the trainee also follows their mistakes. When a hero takes an action against the trainee that another hero already took against the main villain this turn then the Goal is one lower than normal.
While villains have levels, you can mix things up by giving the adventures levels too! Plots are usually level 1, 2, or 3 and they add to the villain’s level. Trying to stop a villain from escaping is a task that involves adding the plot’s level to the villains, so a level 3 villain with a level 2 plot in the works is level 5 when you try to stop them escaping at the beginning of the adventure. After you work through the levels of the plot to reduce it to level 0 then the villain is back down to level 3 and they’re easier to stop.
Add the plot level to the level of the villain (and sidekick) when…
- The action would undo or stop the main problem of the story such as grabbing back something they stole or stopping their escape.
- The villain (or sidekick) are helped by their planning such as having a trap already set or breaking into a lab that they’ve planned to rob.
- The heroes are rushing in and having time to plan which relates to the two items above.
Usually, heroes have to figure out how to stop the plot and take actions to fix that. Every time they stop one part of the plot, reduce the level by one. When it’s down to zero they can have one final confrontation with the villain and then save the day!
Someone Took All the Supplies At the Carnival!
This is a pretty easy level 1 plot. The carnival can’t happen with everything missing so the heroes need to figure out who did it with some investigating. Once they figure that out, the plot drops to level 0 and they can confront that villain and make them give the stuff back.
Something’s Missing From the Museum!
Museum’s are important places for learning and school trips, how dare a villain steal something?!? This level 2 plot involves figuring out who did it and then figuring out where they hid the item. Once they accomplish these two parts, the heroes can regain the museum item and get it back to where it belongs.
Someone Stole Dr. Hiromi’s New Energy Battery!
From the research lab that’s always inexplicably poorly watched in this city a scientist has made a new, powerful battery design. It’s missing so the first step in this level 3 plot is looking at who took the battery and following clues back through the city. When you find clues leading into the sewers you need to find your way to the villain’s underground lair to recover it. When you arrive, of course, the villain has already hooked it up to a machine so you need to dismantle the villainous robot before you can pull the battery free. With that done you can confront the villain themselves and return the battery to the lab.