An important aspect of RPGs is their collaborative storytelling nature. The players are a key part of the storytelling, and if they don't get the story, that's a recipe for disappointment and missed opportunity. As a result, it's important to put as much information in the hands of the players as possible, particularly information about motivations and plans of the villains they face.

What's a good mechanism to communicate a villain's motives and thoughts? The monologue! Sometimes derided, the villainous monologue that presents key exposition is a very valuable narrative device. This is doubly so in an RPG, where the villain's motives can easily go entirely unseen by the players (who are key to the storytelling experience).

Your villains should give monologues. Here are some keys to do this well.

What this means:

* Action must stop. When a villain starts talking, it's tempting for a player to shout, "I attack her while she's mid-sentence!" or similar. But all action must cease long enough for the villain to get the monologue out and perhaps for the players to ask a probing question or two. Remember, the goal of any monologue is to elucidate the players, not confuse them further.

* The monologue must give key information that the players don't otherwise have. "Key" information means something plot-relevant. Why the villain chose to magically detonate a counting house, for example, could be key; why the villain has a poor relationship with her sister--who otherwise isn't at all relevant to the story--isn't a good monologue topic. "Players don't otherwise have" is a sneaky requirement with two facets: it can be information that the PCs otherwise have no way of knowing (like the fact that the villain doesn't care about money, but only wanted to kill the chief clerk of the counting house) or information that the PCs had a way to learn, but they unknowingly skipped (such as if an earlier clue led to the chief clerk's house but the PCs dismissed that clue as unimportant). Both are great reasons to give a monologue.

* The monologue must conclusively end. The action starts right away when the villain is done talking, and you should clue your players when that is. Monologues don't trail off into polite conversation, they end where action begins. Classic villain monologues are over with a line like, "and now you die!" or "of course, I can't let you survive with this information." Rolling initiative is the best way to show that time for talking is over and time for action is now beginning.

* Some rules effect is fine, and in fact useful. You might consider a monologue to be a negotiated exchange: the villain is giving the players some valuable information, but the cost is some minor debuff to the players. Perhaps the revelation is so shocking or disturbing that the PCs must make Will saves to avoid being shakened or sickened; perhaps the villain gets a free Intimidate check to demoralize the PCs. (Something more serious, like paralyzing players with fear or forcing them to flee isn't appropriate here; if you want something like that, use a monster like a lich or a mummy that already has an ability like this instead.) Canny players will understand this "deal" and accept that getting useful information at the risk of a minor hindrance for the upcoming fight is a pretty good exchange.

What this does not mean:

* Don't bore your players with lengthy exposition. Keep a villain's exposition to a few sentences.

* Don't let the villain cheat on actions or spell durations. Using the villain's one-minute monologue as a cover for the villain to slit a hostage's throat, to have her henchman to pre-cast 10 buff spells, or the player's preparatory spells to expire isn't cool. If the players don't have a way to ever stop a bunch of "free actions" the villain gets during a monologue, they'll come to dread monologues and look for every way they can to interrupt them, instead of valuing the information they get.

* Don't tell the whole story. A monologue assumes some small measure of inefficiency for the villains: if someone confronted you with blowing up a counting house, your safest bet would be to just fight back right away, not take a minute to explain your motivations. So there's already a bit of tweaking realism here. But this doesn't mean villains are idiots, and it doesn't mean you need to give the whole story away. Just because the villain explains that she blew up the counting house to kill the chief clerk doesn't mean she gives away the fact that the clerk knows her one weakness. So long as there's more investigation or narrative to play out, leave some secrets untold so the PCs have something to do.

* Don't overuse it. Only significant villains should give monologues, and should do so not more than once a session--in fact, once every two or three sessions at most is just fine.

Now, get out there and get monologuing!