Hierarchies of Villains
Below is a discussion on antagonists based on how they are organized and what purpose they play in opposing the player characters. These primarily describe building human or sentient enemies, although it also describes how some of these roles can also be defined as belonging to less intelligent foes as well.
Also known as mooks, or cannon fodder, minion antagonists are ultimately the lowest level of foes. These are the enemies that primarily bulk up the opposing forces but whom actually pose very little threat. Enemies created for this role attack in groups to compensate for their otherwise less than stellar attributes. Examples are conscripted spear-men, rioters, zombies, or a pack of feral dogs.
When making minion enemies, the character's primary attribute is equal to their PL, their standard attribute is equal to PL -1, and their inferior attribute is equal to PL -2. Skills are equal to PL -1, and they also only have one condition slot (at the lowest, or simple level). To have a challenging fight between a PL 2 party and a group of PL 2 minion enemies you would need to have three times as many enemies. This tends to make the fight dangerous only if the characters get cornered or to the occasional lucky shot.
Remember, when making these types of enemies, Movement cannot go below 2 meters (4 meters for quadrupedal enemies), and skills cannot have negative ranks. These enemies very quickly become throwaway encounters just used to emphasize the size of the primary antagonist's forces. For this reason, use them sparingly. Only if the combat actually adds something story-wise should you really use enemies of this type, as the lack of challenge will quickly bore the group.
Grunts are the base level of enemy, and are considered an even challenge for a player character of the same PL. Their primary attribute is equal to PL +1, their standard attribute is their PL, and their inferior is equal to PL -1. These are going to be the bread and butter of most encounters, and will make up the majority of the foes a troop will fight. It is not an uncommon tactic to mix these with the minions, however, confronting a troop of four players with two grunts and six minions as an example. This is useful to make a group look large and intimidating but still not be an overly hard combat encounter.
Also called lieutenants, elites are the most powerful normal antagonist a troop will come across, being generally better than their PL would normally suggest. This makes them a much more formidable foe, and they often take the form of highly trained soldiers or especially tough beasts, but sometimes will be the actual leader of the bad guys as a whole.
An elite's primary attribute is equal to PL +2, their standard attribute is equal to PL +1 and their inferior attribute is equal to to their PL. Elites also get PL +1 ranks in all skills and also get two condition slots for the first two levels of conditions, although all conditions still affect a single combined condition tracker. This makes them quite a bit more resilient than standard grunts, although still faster to defeat than the players. Often elites are part of a larger group of grunts or large groups of minions.
Remember, elites are usually reserved for pivotal points in the story; by definition these guys are the best of the best and are often take their orders directly from the mastermind. They are supposed to be important and may even become long running antagonists in their own right, even graduating to mastermind status themselves. To this end, only have the final blow mean death if it is dramatically impactful. The fact that the defeated elite may seek revenge or even turn on their master is a fun part of most genre fiction, and if every important character is just killed at the end of combat then you miss out on everything this type of story can bring.
Also called the mastermind, archenemy, boss, or big bad, the nemesis is the top-level antagonist in any story. He is the most dangerous villain either because of his intelligence, his ability to deceive and inspire others, or for his shear combat prowess, or often some combination of the above. In the long run, these are the antagonists who actually make up the story.
These types of antagonists have a nearly player character level of detail, taking the stats of an elite and then gaining a full set of condition trackers (Focus, Injury, and Morale). This makes them far more resilient to damage and with the heightened characteristics are often quite difficult to defeat head-on, not to mention this is antagonist most likely to have special abilities. Because of this, a single nemesis can often take on a troop of 4 player characters alone.
Much like the elites, it is wise to consider what the final blow to a nemesis character means. If at all possible, the best case for most ongoing stories is to have the nemesis escape, although capture or even rehabilitation are great alternatives that add extra drama or interest for the right type of villain. Others, however, may find that the catharsis of ending their evil for good is a better answer.