The game of D&D and the writings that can be inspired by it are often filled with twisting plots, filled with shifty, mysterious and enigmatic characters. The plans employed by villains to accomplish some nefarious end are met with cunning ploys imagined by the players to confound the machinations of evil, each more cleverly concocted than the last. As players develop their skills and make allies within the game, they become better and better at foiling whatever diabolical puzzles the game master can create.
This means that more experienced players, even when playing lower level characters, are a tremendous obstacle for any game master to overcome. As they get better, the game master has to keep getting better as well, or else there is no real challenge for the players. Not many players want a game that is a virtual cake walk. They like tough adversaries, well-planned campaigns, and a world that is rich in every possible aspect for exploration. Not every monster needs to be dispatched during a particular game; in fact, the best monsters are ones that are met in battle, escape, and live to fight again. Adventurers like a complex enemy, and if a monster can earn a group’s respect, it becomes more than just a critter to kill with loot to find. It occupies a vital niche in the world and players will want to overcome it the harder it fights to keep them at bay.
By now you have probably conjured an image of a great dragon or perhaps a powerful undead horror. But the most cunning of enemies are the ones lurking in plain sight; a treacherous courtesan, a corrupt Bishop, or a sinister foreign agent. Liches and wyrms get all of the glory in the artwork but the real dangers are the people whispering at the King’s cotillion. As risky as it is to explore the depths of the Underdark, adventurers know that it is dangerous. They assume safety in the halls of Lords and Ladies. But everyone therein has an agenda, too. And they are terribly good at being treacherous when more curious things are afoot for the players to focus on. One hardly knows when the backstabbing will begin, but be assured, it will happen.