20 Things to Find in a Villain’s Desk

Some villains ride at the head of their troops slaying and looting indiscriminately seemingly without any plan. Others lurk in their lairs plotting convoluted schemes.

Artwork by Claudio Pozas, copyright Expeditious Retreat Press, used with permission.

Artwork by Claudio Pozas, copyright Expeditious Retreat Press, used with permission.


Such villains often have a desk in their personal quarters. Running any organization requires at least a modicum of record keeping. Use the table below, to generate discoveries of minor interest in a villain’s desk.

  1. A finely crafted dagger in a supple leather sheath lies in one draw. The dagger is sharp enough to shave with and has clearly never been used for combat.
  2. Papers cover the desk. Some are reports from informants in the local area, while others are inventories of supplies and so on.
  3. A crude map of the local area showing all villages and towns. Several other locations are marked on the map. These either depict good, well-hidden spots to camp or the locations of permanent outposts manned by the villain’s minions.
  4. A crude map depicting the location of several hidden caches of equipment for the villain’s personal use. These caches represent emergency fallback positions in case the villain should be forced to flee.
  5. A small leather pouch containing 20 gold coins and a single platinum coin.
  6. Three vials of ink, two quills and a small stack of unused parchment fill one desk draw.
  7. A hidden compartment holds a single piece of vellum. The vellum holds the names of a dozen individuals; only four have not been crossed out.
  8. Four holy symbols each dedicated to a different good-aligned god. Each has been defaced. A fifth holy symbol—also dedicated to a good-aligned god—has not yet been vandalised.
  9. Crude carvings—obviously idly done with a dagger—decorate the desk’s surface. The carvings show stick men being killed in various gruesome and inventive fashions.
  10. A fine silver candlestick (worth 50 gp) stands atop the table. It holds four black candles. Three of them are almost burnt down to stubs while the fourth is as yet unused.
  11. Several scraps of paper name the PCs and provide rough descriptions of their appearance and abilities. The notes—given the different handwriting styles—seem to have been written by at least three different people.
  12. A desktop mirror—shattered by a single punch to the centre of its glass—lies on its side near the back of the desk.
  13. A golden locket (worth 30 gp) is hidden at the back of a draw. It contains a small picture of an elderly, smiling woman. Perhaps, this is the villain’s mother?
  14. A simple wooden bowl stands on the villain’s desk. it contains several apples and a pear. These could be nothing more than a snack or a poisoned trap for the unwary. Under the fruit, the villain has hidden a small key.
  15. A carved wooden stand holds two exquisitely crafted ink pens along with a small bottle of black ink. The set is worth 30 gp.
  16. A pile of correspondence addressed to the villain from his spies scattered throughout the surrounding area. Much of the correspondence is mundane, but several missives contain pieces of blackmail, little known facts about notable personages or locations and lists of potential (or actual) allies.
  17. A large bunch of keys that fit the various locks in the villain’s lair. One key—different to the rest—is small and rusty. It fits no lock the PCs can find in the villain’s lair.
  18. A letter—written in the villain’s hand—reporting his scheming to an unnamed individual. Perhaps the villain belongs to a larger organisation or he has pledged his loyalty to a greater power. This revelation could propel the PCs into a completely new set of adventures.
  19. One of the drawers of the villain’s desk is securely locked. When the PCs try to open it, the sound of scuttling tiny feet suddenly comes from within…
  20. The villain’s diary. It starts out in typical fashion, but a close reading of the text reveals the villain was beginning to have doubts about his scheme and his general life choices. An entry—dated only a few days ago—relates how the villain had made a “big decision that will change everything.”

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