Atlantis: TLE– Greatest Disney BBEG?

I realise that my current naming convention could lead to spoilers. Most Disney villains are obvious from the outset, but occasionally we get a plot twist. I don’t care how old a movie is, I don’t like giving spoilers if I can avoid it.

So if you haven’t seen Atlantis: The Lost Empire, go and watch it. Now. Seriously. You should go and watch it immediately, it’s great. Then come back here, and we’ll talk about how that villain would make a great Big Bad for your Table Top game.

Warning given.

So Atlantis is a great movie, and also a great adventure. If you were going to take the villain as inspiration for your own RPG, you might also borrow liberally from the story beats and set pieces too. The challenge for the Games Master will be keeping the fact that the NPCs are going to betray the hero(es).

Lyle Tiberius Rourke. Even if he didn’t turn out to be the main villain, he’s an interesting character in his own right. But when he does flick the switch, he plays the part of Big Bad Evil Guy very well.

Presence – 4 out of 5

Even when Lyle is playing the good guy routine, he’s a strong personality. Confident, pragmatic and physically dominant over most people around him. He leads every conversation he’s taking part in and commands with utter certainty. In a TTRPG, your players would see this as the person to answer to and as the GMs main story-driver.

His ‘turn’ is very fun to watch on a second playthrough. It’s gradual, increasingly less subtle. From the beginning he implies wealth is the goal. As he gets closer to that goal, you can see the eyes gleefully widening and the civility hanging off him more and more loosely.

When he’s absolutely certain he’s at the point of victory, we see the real him. Leering, quipping and flexing in every scene, revelling in his own greed unashamedly. He actually says, out loud: “I love it when I win!”.

In the final fight, we see there’s another layer underneath the ego. He’s a bit of a monster.

All rage and malice. No longer mocking and teasing the heroes like some Disney villains. This is a BBEG that goes for the throat. Describe every well-trained, expert move with all the violence you can. Even when he’s being turned into a gem, he’s out for blood.

Atmosphere – 2 out of 5

You could score Lyle lower on this one. Individually, he’s not bringing any magical change to the scenery or a special location with him. However, he’s a full-blooded adventurer like the players, and he’s only going to show up in the most interesting, forgotten places. What’s more, everyone acts differently in his presence. Whether they work for him or not.

And if you’re engaging with other NPCs, he will make himself a factor in those discussions. His pushiness and urge to win might impose a disadvantage on carefully laid negotiations. Or he might just blow a hole in a cave wall if you’re taking too long.

Omniscience – 3 out of 5

Regardless of what tomb, dungeon or ruin you are exploring, Lyle turns up having done some research. He’ll need the heroes to fill in the blanks, but he’ll put them in situations where they can work things out for him. His understanding of nature and topography is limited – he won’t spot that your camp is set up under a swarm of exploding bugs. He’s also quick to adapt and can problem solve at lightning pace.

Henchmen5 out of 5

I don’t think I’ll give out too many 5s for this category. Disney henchmen are either bumbling fools or pointedly flawed. The team that Lyle has around him are excellent. Some of my favourite Disney quips and conversations live in this movie.

They might not be deep characters, but they absolutely suit the TTRPG dynamic. There characters can be summed up in a sentence or two, they are distinct from one another, useful to the PCs and they can do drama and comedy in equal measure.

They even have a scene that’s a staple of every Roleplaying Game – “as you sit around the campfire, why don’t the party tell each other a bit about themselves”.

Vinny alone is a 5 out of 5:

Now, you could remove a point, because they turn on Lyle in the end. But I actually think that’s worth more. Not only does it make the party feel like all their RP has created bonds, but it’s clear that they are all needed to take Lyle down.

Heck, it’s only after he finally betrays Helga (also a 5 out of 5 henchmen, obviously) that the heroes can get the upper hand.

Threat Level4 out of 5

On his own, Lyle is a 3 out of 5. Very capable marksmen, tough as nails in melee. He gets the extra point only if you add his allies to the battle map. And you should, because he is always prepared. Even when his first team doesn’t go with him at the end, he just happens to have men, weapons and a getaway vehicle ready to go. He is threatening on his own, but unless he was truly taken by surprised, he is going to have backup and the fight is going to be brutal.

Finale – 4 out of 5

A chase, a dogfight, a fight on a balloon, explosions, it’s a good finale on a good movie. The only thing holding this back from being a 5 out of 5 is that the finale is mostly generated by the hero, not the villain. He’s just trying to escape, and the good guy brings the Atlantean air force. Had Lyle had his way, the group would have been left in his dust. When they do catch him, the results are epic, but he can’t take all the credit for that.

Final Score = 3.66

Lyle gave Jafar a run for his money there…

Disney VillainScore
Jafar 3.83 👑
Lyle Tiberius Rourke3.66
Cruella de Vil2.00
Queen of Hearts1.33
Edgar Balthazar0.75

…and that makes sense. Lyle’s not on the same power level, but he’s got a fleet of great NPCs around him, and significantly more real malice and forethought than Jafar. Besides, not every TTRPG is a high-magic, high-fantasy affair. For any adventure that is more mundane or gritty and real, Lyle is wearing the crown.

Lyle is a well trained, dangerous warrior at range and close up. He doesn’t need a weapon to be dangerous, and he’s agile for his size.

So he has a dash of monk, a touch of barbarian, a little bugbear and a little smidge of boar, making him a tough Boss to stand toe-to-toe with, whilst also being difficult to put down.

Lyle is a reasonably good character, a good villain, but his greatest asset is the team of loveable, useful folk around him. So if you use his as a BBEG in your game, make sure he does all he can to keep the party on his side, and ensure that he has at least one exit strategy if it doesn’t work out.

Thank You For Reading

The other Disney BBEG contenders are right here.

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Author: Rufus Scott

I am a long term Gamer, a full-time History Teacher and a part-time geek. I enjoy writing about the positive aspects of gaming, especially when it comes to education. My posts are sometimes nostalgic, occasionally irrelevant, largely meant to provoke further discussion. I'll sometimes punctuate these whimsical ramblings with a random comment on gaming and/or teaching.

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