Just for Fun: The Annotated Evil Overlord, Part 1

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Back in the days when Usenet was the largest discussion forum on the Net, there was a discussion of all the things that an EFFECTIVE Evil Overlord had to do -- and NOT do -- that were often overlooked, or directly worked AGAINST, in many works of fiction. It became a thread of discussion titled "If I Am Ever the Evil Overlord...", and various people (including myself) contributed to it as it grew. Eventually it (and its successors/companion pieces such as If I Am Ever the Hero, If I Am Ever the Sidekick, etc.) was gathered together and posted at various points on the web. One version is here.

However, I had... issues with the list as a whole, and some particular entries in it. I felt that it would benefit from a critique by some actual villains.

I've done this exercise more than once, but while the following uses parts of one of the earlier, I've modified and expanded it considerably to use villains from several of my stories and more than one universe.

I'll be posting it in five parts, so no one part is overwhelming to the reader.

So... ON WITH THE CRITIQUE!

Our Expert Panel

We have assembled for this special conference several fine villains who have wreaked havoc throughout the known multiverse. Let's meet them:

  • Virigar. King of the Great Werewolves and progenitor of the species, Virigar is the most-feared monster on all of Zarathan. A soul-eating, nearly indestructible being, Virigar's age is unknown, his full powers a mystery. He has killed gods and demons and men, shrugged off or consumed spells and energy weapons, and survived multiple planned attempts to destroy him. His only known weaknesses are silver weapons, and -- of course -- other soul-destroying beings or weapons. Seen in Digital Knight (and more in the expanded version Paradigms Lost to be released in late 2014) and implied in his existence in Phoenix Rising. In his true form he is a nine-foot-tall fur-covered monstrosity with diamond teeth and claws eight to twelve inches long, vaguely wolflike but much more alien; while he can take on any shape, his preferred guise is a handsome young man (late 20s, early 30s) very much like a young Robert Redford.
  • Master Wieran. Cold, analytical, fanatical, Master Wieran is what modern people would call a mad scientist. Combining knowledge of alchemy and multiple branches of magical study, Wieran's quest is to discover and analyze  the source of life, nay, the very source of reality itself -- and he will sacrifice anything, and anyone, to achieve that goal. Tall, thin, white-haired though not ancient, with deep-set eyes in a narrow, ascetic face and usually wearing something that does look rather like a labcoat, Wieran looks exactly like what he is.
  • Maria-Susanna. Perhaps the most tragic result of the epically tragic Hyperion Project, Maria-Susanna (alluded to in Grand Central Arena and finally encountered in Spheres of Influence) is the idealized self-insert (yes, the Mary-Sue) of the Project's driving force. The collapse of the project combined with the death of the man she was designed for drove her completely over the edge. She still believes she is the good guy -- the very noblest of good guys -- and her delusions will, and have, allowed her to rationalize away literally dozens of murders. A genetically engineered superwoman, Maria-Susanna is the very ideal of the beautiful blonde, and is also physically capable of taking on just about anyone. In addition, she's educated in a huge number of disciplines and can do just about anything she puts her mind to.
  • The Dark Wanderer. One of the legendary heroes of Zarathan is "The Wanderer", a hero supposedly from Earth itself who appeared several thousand years ago. Wizard, warrior, sage, trickster, he's said to be many things. The Dark Wanderer is his moral mirror image, caused by something terrible that happened to the original. With a special immunity to destiny and a unique approach to mystical powers, the Dark Wanderer is one of the most terrifying of all possible enemies to those on the world of Zarathan... and almost no one knows he exists... yet.
  • Thornfalcon. The major adversayr revealed at the end of Phoenix Rising, Thornfalcon is a swordsman, a would-be bard, a lover and a hero... and actually a psychopathic serial killer with very high functionality, empowered by something that can at the least imitate a god, and a manipulator par excellence. Tall, slender, with a long, flexible actor's face that can go from sympathetic to comedic to psychotic in a flash, the brown-haired Justiciar wears a bird-themed "Raiment" that is both defense and mystical weapon, and wields considerable power of his own, especially as his position as the favored agent of his "patron" has made him something more than merely human.
  • Endgame. One of the major villains in my currently-being-shopped-around superhero novel Stuff of Legend, Endgame is an Omnicidal Maniac with the power to make it believable that he WILL destroy the world if not stopped. What event or events in his life filled him with such hatred for all things is not known. He wears a dark armored costume with a cape, and is massively muscled. He is brilliant and extremely tenacious, but constrained in his behavior by the essential rules, so to speak, that govern super-beings' interactions.
  • Amanita Verdant. Entering the discussion as of Point #8, Amanita is one  of the main villains in my to-be-Kickstartered Oz-based novel Polychrome, Amanita was once a Giantess whose first name is unknown, only being addressed as "Mrs Yoop" in her canonical appearance. Having been transformed in such a manner that prohibited her from ever again regaining her true form, she has taken on the shape of a supernaturally beautiful young human woman with green hair and eyes. Amanita is an absolute master of transformation magics, and understands others quite well. She is also quite utterly insane, although able to disguise it well under most conditions. Part of her issues probably stem from her treatment (implied) by her husband, for whom she shows no concern at all when she knows he was captured, dragged off, and imprisoned in an isolated cage in the mountains.

 

   So... let the commentary begin!

 The Annotated Evil Overlord, Part 1

  1.  My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.

         Virigar: One's making the assumption that an overlord NEEDS Legions of Terror. If I had any, they're all my people, and what they wear isn't going to affect them.

         Master Wieran: I DESIGN my Legions; if they need visors of any sort, they're BUILT IN!

         Maria-Susanna: I think it's always so much better for your ENEMIES to supply the Legions of Terror. That way you have much less trouble convincing people that you're really NOT evil, just misunderstood.

         Dark Wanderer: I prefer to operate on my own, or with small groups. I suppose, if I needed to rule a country and couldn't do it through my own omnipresence and so on, I'd follow the good Master Wieran here and manufacture some -- intelligent golems inherently loyal to me, etc., you know the drill.

         Endgame: I, also, tend to operate on my own. My major … ally has her legions, but they aren't subject to the problems addressed by this issue. It is irrelevant!

         Thornfalcon: Small groups of reliable associates, then disposable legions of monsters is much more my preference. If I achieved dominion over large areas, I would prefer my peacekeepers to not look like legions of terror, any more than I myself look like a monster.

         M-S: Are you? A monster, I mean.

         Thornfalcon: You weren't listening carefully on the introductions, were you? But to you, lovely lady, I would be anything but a monster.

         Master Wieran: You are wasting time. Let us get on with this foolish exercise!

 

  2.  My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.

         Virigar: Why have ventilation ducts? Breathing is for the weak.

         Master Wieran: Some of us have not yet transcended physical form. YET, I say! One day, I shall have transcended all space and time and...(supreme effort overcomes rant mode) Sorry. A better option might be simply placing appropriate ... greetings in your ducts. Allows for excellent air-flow and ventilation while not welcoming univited guests.

         Maria-Susanna: Nanobots in the ventilation informing me of anyone in them, followed by either sleep gas... or lethal gas, depending on if the latter is truly necessary.

         Dark Wanderer: Automated atmosphere renewal inside. This eliminates the need for ventilation. If you MUST have it, making your guards AWARE OF THE VENTILATION SHAFTS would probably be a good idea. So that they don't carefully check a room and ignore all those ducts.

         Endgame: I agree with Master Wieran and Maria-Susanna; have the right surprises waiting for the heroes thinking they have found a safe route through your stronghold. Or perhaps, simply monitors, so that a welcome party can be… arranged.

         Thornfalcon: Yes… but here's the thing. You seem to assume some sort of gigantic air-vents, which isn't the way I've seen them built. Practically speaking, I am, I confess, unable to see how ventilation shafts, small as they generally are, could be a vulnerability of note.

         Dark Wanderer: True, true. Why, there's no risk at all with a shaft only four to six inches across, not as though, say, a Toad, could pose any threat if he got into the –

         Thornfalcon (wincing): Oh, I take your point. Well sped, well sped indeed, that shaft – so to speak.

         Maria-Susanna (cutting off the Wanderer as he opens his mouth): Oh,please, let's not start a pun war, or we'll never finish this.

 

  3.  My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.

         Virigar: Alas, imprisoning my ... brother would be difficult. One day, of course, I will consume his essence, but that will take... preparation.

         Master Wieran: I have no brothers. Rivals, now... especially jealous rivals, fools who could not understand my genius, who laughed at me in the Academy...[cue standard rant #2]

         Maria-Susanna: Well, I don't have brothers as such, but killing them... *sigh* there are times it's necessary, but I really hate to do that, except when it's for mercy. I'm SURE eventually they'll come around and see that I was right! So I'd HAVE to imprison them in a snare of delusions, you see that, don't you?

         Dark Wanderer: Oh, certainly we see that. Note to self: make sure anti-illusion charms fully operational. Now, my "brother", i.e., my former noble self, is -- as far as I know -- dead, as of the moment I came into existence. If he isn't, well, that would be bad, and indeed, kill him as soon as possible. Imprisonment simply gives him more chances to escape and Do Unto Me.

         Endgame: Like the King of Wolves, I have no actual… brother, but one that might be considered something of the sort. Killing him is problematic in a number of ways. Imprisoning him, also. My plans have to be a bit… larger than that if I am to hope to truly eliminate his interference permanently.

         Thornfalcon: Not having relatives – living ones, that is – I suppose I can look on this as a metaphor. Really, though, there are generally ways to… persuade people to come around to your side.

         Maria-Susanna: Oh, that's always so much better! Convincing them to do the right thing!

         Thornfalcon: She's… serious, isn't she?

         Master Wieran: It would seem so. And they call me mad.

         Maria-Susanna: What do you mean?

         Endgame (laughing in a way that shakes the room): Foolish child. The right thing. As if you know what is right and wrong, and could act on it if you did! Your true nature is manifest in—

         Dark Wanderer: Hey, hey, now, let's not start the mockery this early. I want everyone to survive to the end.

  4.   Shooting is not too good for my enemies.

         Virigar: For those vulnerable to shooting, true. With a few exceptions -- that is, those for whom that would be a terribly plebian and dishonorable death even in MY eyes.

         Master Wieran: And in DEATH they will LIVE AGAIN... to serve me and my own purposes!

         Maria-Susanna: *sigh* If I HAVE to kill them, shooting's as good as any other way. But can't we work this out?

         Dark Wanderer: Shooting, stabbing, whatever. I prefer to use thermonuclear weapons, when possible. Less chance of missing.

         Endgame: For most of my enemies, shooting them – even with a major piece of field artillery – is a minor annoyance. But I agree with the sentiment, in general – though the shooting must be done properly.

         Thornfalcon: "Shooting"? Some form of killing, I presume from context. For many enemies, I agree, a quick blade through the heart. But the more formidable and… useful enemies serve me best as sacrifices.

         Maria-Susanna: I just read your file. You keep away from me or I'll force-feed you your testicles.

         Dark Wandarer: And she can do it, too. Don't bet on your Justiciar speed, either; you're not the superman you think you are, and she IS the supergirl she thinks she is.

  5.  The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

         Virigar: It's much better to BE the source of your power. (grimaces) Oh, if only it could be ONE object that was my weakness. Unfortunately, thanks to my meddling "brother", it's an entire ELEMENT that's my weakness.

         Master Wieran: In a "safe deposit box", whatever that is?? I say NOT! It will be kept in my laboratory, under my watchful gaze or that of my loyal servants, at all times! How else could I make USE of it, anyway? (thinks) Hmm... allowing me to channel its full power while not being nearby... could be very useful... But then why make it accessible AT ALL? Hide it in another dimension, or under the roots of the mountains with NO ACCESS!

         Maria-Susanna: The sources of my power are truth and justice, and my ability to convince people to follow me. If I have a weakness, it's that I'm too kind sometimes.  Neither one's going to be locked up. (looks around) In fact, why am *I* being put in THIS group? These people are all a bunch of VILLAINS!

         Dark Wanderer: Hmmm, De Nile is more than a river in Egypt...

         Maria-Susanna: What do you mean by THAT?

         Dark Wanderer: Oh, nothing. Anyway, the source of my power is what I am. Can't take it away, can't hide it.

         Endgame (chuckling nastily): How quaint. She not only believes herself to be in the right, but believes that truth, justice, kindness and so on are strengths! (sneers at Maria-Susanna but composes himself) The true source of my power is all around us, even now. There is nowhere I cannot find it, and no possibility I could be separated from it… which is why my victory is inevitable.

         Thornfalcon: The source of my power… well, partly it's my noble patron. But I have generally found that the best "power" is secrecy, foresight, and preparation, such as having multiple allies and weapons in reserve. Alas, that doesn't really fit this question.

 

  6.  I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.

         Virigar: You know, this list is starting to take the fun out of being an Evil Overlord. It's at least half the POINT of finally catching your enemy to take that shining moment to gloat -- and of course give him the chance to put that last, desperate plan into action.

         Master Wieran: Gloat? What an utterly unscientific attitude. However, it should be important to impress upon them what FOOLS they've been to oppose an intellect so vastly superior to their own that [cue standard rant #8]

         Maria-Susanna: Gloat? What a horrid thing to do. But I'll always given my enemies the chance to repent of their misguided ways, explaining how their defeat was inevitable, and that they can't possibly expect to win against the side of right!

         Dark Wanderer: But never gloating, no, certainly not.

         Maria-Susanna: You're just too cynical and jaded to believe in good.

         Dark Wanderer: Oh, far from it; I am all too aware of the existence of Good as a tangible force. In any case, whether I gloat would depend on how amusing it would be for ME. I rather agree with Virigar. There's an element of style here.

         Endgame: Virigar, Wanderer, you are entirely correct. It is not sufficient to merely win. One has to win properly. Your enemies must be forced to recognized to realize their failure, to appreciate and despair at your own genius! They must be broken! They must kneel! And only then do you grant them the death they so richly deserve!

         Thornfalcon: I certainly applaud the spirit, if not the details, not being quite as… what was the term I heard once… Nhilistic, that is it… as you. The dramatic speech, the chance to reveal your plan, the desperate attempts to escape – and, yes, even that risk that you're perhaps not quite as good as you thought – this is part of the fun of it all.

         Dark Wanderer: Ahh, yes, that's what I was trying to think of! All this talk of being so practical that you stop being a grand-scale villain is just plain "Bad Form". From the movie "Hook".

         Master Wieran: Movie? What is this word?

         Virigar: Never mind, my fantasy-world friend.

      

  7.  When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."

         Virigar: And HERE is another perfect example of Bad Form. Gloating and explaining your Evil Plans are part of the POINT of being an Evil Overlord. I seem to recall seeing a similar list for the Benevolent Ruler which went quite a distance towards making them into an Evil Overlord, and I'm starting to suspect that THIS list is heading down the opposite path. Both of them meet in the middle somewhere at "Pragmatic Ruler", and if everyone was like that, how boring would the world be?

         Master Wieran: Education. It all comes down to education. Of course, if these so-called "heroes" have gotten all the way to my secret laboratory and don't ALREADY understand what "it's all about", I rather doubt they have the mental capacity to GRASP my brilliant plan!

         Maria-Susanna: Oh, explanation is always a good thing! Maybe once they really understand what I'm up to they'll KNOW they're on the wrong side and change their minds!

         Dark Wanderer: Yeah, good luck with that. I'm basically on the dramatics side of things, but I also have sympathy for the Mad Alchemist over there with respect to –

         Master Wieran: Mad? MAD? All great men are called mad by their lessers! [cue standard rant #6]

         Dark Wanderer: (continuing despite rant) yes, yes, we know. They laughed at Bozo the Clown, too. Anyway, I'm in sympathy over the "how could they NOT know what it's all about if they've gotten this far?"

         Endgame: Oh, indeed you must explain it to them. Not only is it – as I must agree – a matter of "Good Form", it is necessary to break them, to force them to recognize how completely and utterly I have outmatched them, outreached their pathetic powers and plans in every way!

         Thornfalcon: Of course I'll explain to them. This keeps them distracted from the fact that I've already arranged their deaths… or, possibly, their brainwashing, as I believe you called it once, Wanderer.

  8.  After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.

         Virigar: Marriage... is not really an option here.

Master Wieran: A waste of time. Why would I kidnap some girl for such a sordid purpose?

         Maria-Susanna: I'm not sure whether to be grateful that you don't understand, or pity you for that fact. In any case, I would NEVER kidnap anyone for such a terrible reason.

         Dark Wanderer: You sure wouldn't need to kidnap ME. I'd go completely of my own will. As would most men, I'd think. In any case, if I found some girl so fascinating that I just HAD to have her as my wife, I'd find a way to make her like it, or at least make everyone think she did.

         Endgame: Ha! If I choose to indulge such passions, there will be a spectacle indeed – the rulers of the world will attend, and they will BOW before us – before they are destroyed as part of the celebration!

         Thornfalcon: How rude! Killing guests, that is. I'm more in sympathy with the Wanderer. Kidnapping is such a foolish choice; you want to marry someone who you had to kidnap? She'll just try to stick a knife through the most delicate portion of your anatomy at the first opportunity! And while the bound-and-gagged routine may be entertaining for the first few weeks, one of these days she'll get a hand free. Or possibly have learned special techniques which you REALLY don't want to know about. Much better to charm them – magically or simply with the appropriate charismatic words and actions – so they come of their own accord.

         Endgame: For those so weak they need fear such things, I suppose. I know those who could provide the proper… re-education for my prospective bride, if she was not already of the appropriate frame of mind.

         Maria-Susanna (muttering): I've got some "re-education" for you all… You know, I am feeling not merely out of place as a heroine in the middle of you monsters, but I note that this is otherwise quite a sausagefest, isn't it?

         Dark Wanderer: Ha! You're right, it is. We could bring in another female villain, I suppose. Hello? Another lovely lady for this little discussion?

         He Who Writes: Oh, come on. I thought I had enough baddies here as it is. Do you know how much of a pain it is to write all these entries…? Okay, fine. Do you want the one that's total nucking futz, or maybe something a little perkier and not as explosive?

         Dark Wanderer: Oh, I think while many of us have our… quirks, we could use someone who's completely off their nut in an amusing way. Go for it.

         He Who Writes: All right. Then here, everyone, meet Queen Amanita Verdant, one of the two current rulers of Oz, whom some call one of the Usurpers.

         Amanita (a dazzlingly beautiful green-haired, green-eyed woman apparently in her early 20s): What an… honor to be included in such august company. And some of you so handsome! (bats eyes at Virigar, who's in his human form, then studies the Dark Wanderer). There's something… familiar about you.

         Dark Wanderer (with a glance upwards): Oh, I have no doubt. But I assure you, Amanita, I'm not at all like the other guy with my face.

         Amanita: Oh? In that case, perhaps we can get along… very well indeed.

         Maria-Susanna: Well, um, nice to meet you, but… I'm not evil.

         Amanita: Most of us aren't evil in our own minds, are we?

         Virigar: I am. Most enthusiastically.

         Dark Wanderer: I am called the Dark Wanderer for a reason, and it ain't because I'm sweetness and light!

         Endgame: Does my name give you a clue? I am the darkness of the human heart incarnate! I am the power of your hatred and the strength of your fear and the green-poison energy of jealousy and spite! Yes, I am evil!

         Master Wieran: Good and evil are merely labels used by the ignorant to label things for their feeble-minded convenience! They dare judge me – ME – according to their standards, when they cannot possibly comprehend the slightest – [cue standard rant #11]

         Maria-Susanna: Oh, dear, he's off again. But you see that I'm hardly a member of this group! Why don't you have Fairchild here?? Or Lex, or the White Queen, or…

         He Who Writes: I did think about Fairchild, but weren't you complaining about the lack of females? And Lex and Queenie aren't mine to play with. Even I don't want to face … lawyers!

         Virigar: Point. I don't even like eating them. (grin) Joke. I love eating anything. After all, I'll consume it all in the end.

         Endgame: ENOUGH. Let us complete this pointless exercise!

 

  9.  I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

         Virigar: Well, I've never been in this position MYSELF, you understand, but it seems to me this is rational advice -- although it IS skirting rather close to the Bad Form region of behavior.

         Master Wieran: How short-sighted of you! The real problem with this is that SUBTLE help is hard to find. Which means that cleverly mis-labelling the controls to mislead those misguided fools opposing me is likely to backfire when one of my idiotic if loyal assistants is required to push the correct buttton and is then misled by my own oh-so-clever strategy.

         Maria-Susanna: Well, NATURALLY! Never try to get overly-clever with your plans and designs. If you need a self-destruct, simply make it personally coded to your own biometrics.

         Virigar (with a blade-edged grin): Indeed, do that.

         Dark Wanderer: If we're up against YOU, Big V, the fact that you can fool biometric locks is probably the least of our worries. M-S there has a good point. Let the controls be all obvious... just not easy for OTHER people to use.

         Thornfalcon: I agree. The subtlety should not be in an area that can, itself, lead to disaster.

         Endgame: My power does not rely on mechanisms, so this is irrelevant to me. I suspect some of my… colleagues would agree with the general sentiments of this group.

         Amanita: A self-destruct mechanism… oh, now, how intriguing! Yes, yes, an excellent idea, but why have a button for it? Just make it linked to my life-force!

         Dark Wanderer: Ah, yes, the upraised middle finger at destiny, the last "screw you!" act. Pull the house down around you if you can't win it all.

         Endgame: I like the way you think, Queen Amanita.

 

  10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

         Virigar: I'll interrogate them anywhere I choose.

         Master Wieran: What nonsense is THIS? If I am going to interrogate anyone, by the Final Source it will be in my own laboratory, where I have the maximum security, safety, and power, not in some outside location that they could easily compromise.

         Maria-Susanna: Well, I suppose the idea is that the "capture and bring into the secret base" might be your enemy's plan. Still, I agree; assuming I were so inclined, it would seem silly to abandon all the advantages of my own stronghold just to minimize the chances of potential discovery.

         Dark Wanderer: Unless your major strength is IN the secrecy, I agree. There are some scenarios I could imagine where it's better to do the anonymous hotel bit -- for instance, you don't want anyone KNOWING you interrogated them or had time to, and your stronghold's two weeks away.

         Thornfalcon: Hmmm. Yes, I agree with my colleagues for the most part. Although the best "interrogation" is carried out such that the one questioned doesn't even realize that it happened. It's amazing what young ladies – and sometimes young men – will tell a would-be bard and raconteur of the right reputation.

         Endgame: I care not where I interrogate them, so long as they talk.

         Amanita: Ooooh, definitely in my inner sanctum. I have so many more resources to devote to … encouraging cooperation.

         Thornfalcon: My lady, you carry your most formidable resources of such encouragement with you at all times; and they need no power other than the charming breaths that infuse you with life.

         Amanita: Well, aren't you the charmer? Perhaps we could talk more… afterward.

         Maria-Susanna: I confess to a morbid desire to have that interaction monitored just to see exactly how it all goes wrong.

  ⁃ 

  11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.

         Virigar: Oh, dear me. This is more "Bad Form". My superiority is what ALLOWS me to leave people alive or allow vague but potentially useful prophecies. Keeps things entertaining.

         Master Wieran: You are an irrational dolt. While giving them some short moments to appreciate the foolishness of their position is perfectly reasonable, allowing them to live, or actually giving them clues DELIBERATELY as to the nature of your plans, is idiotic.

         Virigar: Ahh, child, there speaks inexperience and youth. After your first two or three billion years of unbroken, uncontested victories, you get back to me on that. Boredom, my friend, is a powerful motivation.

         Maria-Susanna: This is one of those "villain" things again. I don't LIKE killing people, and if I could leave my enemies alive, I would -- they might come to their senses, after all. Unless the poor things are so broken that nothing will help them, in which case it's best to put them out of their misery.

         Dark Wanderer: Ah yes, a shining angel of mercy, that's you. And no offense, Big V, but you're in a pretty much unique position. That said, I agree with the general concept of Good Form. If I'm gonna be a baddie, I'll be one with style. Still, this is one of those optional Form rules, and I think I'd rather let the opposition, at least, do the prophecies, and whether my enemies get out alive should be a matter of luck or, to be honest, momentary impulse on my part.

         Thornfalcon: Oh, there is nothing optional about style. That said, there are stylish ways to kill your weaker enemy, and I have practiced many.

         Endgame: If they are my adversaries, they are by definition weaker, even Legend himself. But there are some reasons why I might permit them a few more days or weeks of life, if I can lead them to choices that will facilitate my destruction of the world.

         Amanita: Destroy the world? How silly! It's so much more fun to terrorize it. Now my King and I, we have some excellent reasons to leave our ostensibly weaker adversaries alive… until they can all play their parts in their own defeat.

 

  12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

         Virigar: I eat five-year old children. You go through too many advisors that way.

         Master Wieran (curiously): Why at that age? Are they more tender? In any case, what could a CHILD tell me about my plans? Even their low-browed parents could not possibly begin to understand my genius, I, who at the age of [cue standard rant #4]

         Maria-Susanna: You know, I think most of your problems come from this defensive reaction over your younger experiences. We have therapists where I come from who... well, never mind, I can see you're looking at me *that* *way*. Anyway, much as I love children, I really don't think any of them could contribute much to my planning. I *was* designed as a superman, after all.

         Dark Wanderer: Oh, now, there's always a possibility of missing out on something in your plans, no matter how bright you might be. But this is one of those things that comes from bad late-night movies and TV Miniseries, and comic books. Most decent villains have plans that would hold up to examination at least by a 10 year old. Me, I'd rather put my plans up for critique on a Usenet newsgroup.

         Master Wieran: "Miniseries"? Usenet?"?

         Maria-Susanna: Entertainment and communications media, ancient from my point of view. Don't worry about it.

         Thornfalcon: In my case, I have a patron who will… cross-check my choices. I don't know why I'd choose a child as a replacement, but certainly someone with a different outlook is indicated.

         Endgame (begrudgingly): I have been defeated before, so I suppose it is not not unreasonable to have someone assist in critiquing the plan. (dark grin) But I admit it is difficult to convince someone to do so reliably when the success of your plan will ultimately lead to their deaths.

         Amanita: Oh, I leave the complicated planning to Ugu dear. My job is to provide – how do you say it? – the heavy artillery. Until such time as Ugu's no longer necessary, of course.

     

  13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.

         Virigar: I find this to be a rule MUCH more useful for the heroes than for myself. They're the ones, foolish optimists, to take the bright view and assume their problems are over.

         Master Wieran: This is not a problem for ME. If they were sufficiently superior specimens as to actually pose a difficulty for me, I will recover their bodies as they will be most useful in my experiments.

         M-S: Eeeeeew. You're creepy. I agree with the practical approach, though. If I really don't think they're salvageable and I MEANT to kill them, well, obviously I should make SURE whenever possible.

         Dark Wanderer: I agree with old V; this is much more a problem for heroes. Yes, sometimes the hero survives this way, but generally because it wasn't a PRACTICAL thing for them to go after the body -- you know, plummeted down a bottomless pit, last seen as you were fleeing your fortress just before it blew sky-high, that sort of thing, not because we, as villains, were unwilling to let them have those last few bullets in the head.

         Thornfalcon: Yes, exactly. It's usually our kind who DO make sure, one way or another. At least, much more often than the heroes. After all, which side has that general idea that stabbing a man when he's down is rude? Not ours.

         Maria-Susanna: There you go again, putting ME in with YOUR sort. You're all horrid people.

         Thornfalcon: There's a reason you're in this group, my Lady, though I can see you'll never recognize it...

         Endgame: Hmph. In my case the very laws of the universe tend to work against finishing off the hero so simply; I've had to devise multiple methods just to keep my nemesis occupied during my final plan, because I know killing him won't work… permanently, anyway.

         Amanita: Oooh, I want to be the one putting the knife in his heart – if I'm not going to make use of the hero in other ways.

         Dark Wanderer: I thought your tastes ran to –

         Amanita (transforming a donut into a crystal dagger held to the Wanderer's throat): Not those ways, these ways. (smiles prettily)

         Dark Wanderer: Ahh, I get your point.

 

  14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.

         Virigar: Oh, now, this is yet MORE "Bad Form". Naturally give them a last request, as long as they're clever enough to make it something that isn't clearly a threat (for instance, a gun with a silver bullet). It's amusing and occasionally surprising what the pressures of impending death cause people to come up with.

         Master Wieran: More dramatic idiocy. A hero's last request IS a stunt, usually. For those few that, like our immortal and nigh-invincible shapeshifter acquaintance here, can AFFORD the luxury, I suppose it might be worth risking. But rationally, it makes no sense at all.

         Maria-Susanna: You mean the VILLAIN isn't entitled. I'm a hero. I have no idea why I'm in this horrid group. In any case, of COURSE he's entitled to his last request. If I'm forced to kill him, I'd hate to deny him a last moment of satisfaction.

         Dark Wanderer: I'm torn. I agree on the Bad Form, but my rational side agrees with Master Wieran. Arg! Ah, well, the price of a dramatic upbringing.

         Thornfalcon: While I am as in favor of proper dramatics as any, I won't grant a last request unless it amuses me. Especially with an enemy that showed itself even vaguely close to my capabilities.

         Endgame: I have no interest in granting them their requests; once defeated, they are simply disposable.

         Amanita: I agree with the charming warrior in his fancy armor. Granting a last request may be a matter of proper form, but only if the last request itself has some style to recommend it.

  15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

         Virigar: Oh, come now, that trick would NEVER work.

         Master Wieran: Indeed. The probabilities with respect to Heroes show that what would almost certainly happen in that instance is that the hero would arrive and recognize the threat with the counter at 177, and would successfully have deactivated it 59 seconds later at 118.

         Maria-Susanna: For such circumstances a better ploy would be a motion sensor or more complex action detector that triggers the action if anyone starts to tamper with it.

         Dark Wanderer: If you insist on leaving a critical device in a location and circumstance that the hero can find it, you'd better be resigned to it being deactivated no matter WHAT you do. Yes, I know, superbeings all here, but in a Heroic Universe it takes more than just superhuman abilities and so on to defeat the forces of Square Jaws and Upright Morals.

         Thornfalcon: It does on occasion seem that the universe has a bias, doesn't it?

         Endgame: "On occasion"? It is a natural law, at least in the universe I come from – which, if I am not mistaken, is the same as yours, though a few years in your future and on Earth, which you call Zaralandar, rather than Zarathan. Oh, I know the Heroes and their ways well – how seemingly final deaths are anything but, how exile to a thousand worlds away takes not centuries but days to overcome… oh, indeed, trust not in a device not still in your hands.

         Amanita: Well, I have every hope that we can use our power over the very core of Faerie to… bias things back the other way.

         Endgame (with a raised eyebrow): Indeed? Then I would be extremely interested in discussing –

         Amanita: No, no, silly boy. You already admitted you're interested in complete destruction, which simply won't do. Now, Thornfalcon, we might be able to reach… an accord.

         Thornfalcon: I will be completely at your disposal later, Lady Amanita.

  16. I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."

         Virigar: Tsk, tsk. All together now...

         (Everyone): BAD FORM!

  17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.

         Virigar: Yes, naturally. Although I have not generally NEEDED advisors very often.

         Master Wieran: If I require some assistance in a field which I have not had the time to master, naturally I will hire competent consultants and listen. Only a fool would do otherwise.

         Maria-Susanna: It IS a bit of a cliche, though. Having a second-in-command giving him thoughtful advice and the evil mastermind shrugging it off in a fit of ego. Not being a villain, *I* don't have to worry about that.

         Dark Wanderer: Naturally, naturally. And I agree about the idiocy.

         Thornfalcon: Are we all agreed on this?

         Endgame: I suppose, though there is nothing more annoying than an underling who thinks he knows more than you.

         Amanita: As if they ever would!

         Dark Wanderer: Oh, Endgame, I differ extremely with you. I think it's vastly more annoying to be thinking "I should've listened to my advisor" as the hero's blowing me away just the way my advisor warned me he would.

         Maria-Susanna: That's what we heroes count on… why do you all keep laughing when I say that??

         Thornfalcon: I think the Wanderer has the right of it. However, I think we can all agree that bad advisors have only one use…

         Virigar: Soul food.

         Master Wieran: I was thinking experimental subjects and spare parts.

 

  18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.

         Virigar: How limiting. My children have always been my best servants. You simply need to make... examples of any who don't follow the proper path.

         Master Wieran: I have no time for this clumsy biological procreation. I will CREATE a son, the son of my mind, superior in every way to those mindless breeders who [cue rant #28]

         Maria-Susanna: If I ever find the right man, we'll have plenty of children and raise them right, and they'll be the joy of my heart!

         Dark Wanderer: Pass the Pepto, please, Miss Golden Child here is giving me indigestion. No, I really don't want a son. Love women, but children could be trouble, especially if they inherit my peculiar abilities.

         Thornfalcon: I intend to live forever; given that, having children would be a potential inconvenience; if they inherited my … tendencies, I'd be an obstacle once they got past the tender years. No.

         Endgame: … (opens mouth, then frowns, sitting back down silently)

         Amanita: Ohhh, something has reduced the bombast of our supervillain? What, have we a hint of the cause of his hatred of –

         Endgame (whirling on Amanita, fist drawn back with black energies crackling around it): DEATHBOLT –

         Virigar: Not here. (the dark energies disappear, leaving Endgame looking stunned) As for you, My Lady, you are well advised not to taunt any of us. Even those you think harmless. (suddenly shows crystal-toothed Werewolf grin)

         Amanita (slightly shaken): I… see. Well, to the subject… no, children are not in the future.

 

  19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'd betray her own father.

         Virigar: How amusing. My first-born daughter has been by far my most faithful follower.

         Master Wieran: Need I repeat myself?

         Maria-Susanna: I suspect you often do, but not in this case. Nor must I.

         Dark Wanderer: Yes, I suspect we're in similar agreement as to the sameness of this one.

         Thornfalcon (glancing at the other two remaining, who nod): Yes, I think so. Same answers apply. Next!

 

  20.   Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.

         Virigar: MANIACAL laughter, perhaps so. But suitably ... atmospheric chuckles to the doomed, under the right circumstances, add so much to the ambience.

         Master Wieran: I dislike the characterization, but in a moment of triumph, as my plans are unfolded and the powers of my creations finally unveiled to the TERROR of those PUNY BEINGS that dared to MOCK ME? AAAAHAHAHAHAHHAHA! THEN I shall laugh, LAUGH as they FLEE before me! [continue rant #34]

         M-S: At times one cannot quite restrain a ladylike laugh at the attempts of evil to stop righteous beings like myself.

         Dark Wanderer: You mean that spine-tingling "OOOhhhooohhooohoooo" that I think your designers stole from a dozen anime villainnesses? Oh, yes, ladylike.

         Maria-Susanna: You're a horrid little man.

         Dark Wanderer: Horrid maybe, not so little, in any sense of the word. I think laughter is something for careful choice. Some PC's just find it annoying, others it creeps out or even scares or intimidates. In the first case, don't laugh.

         Master Wieran: "PC's"?

         Maria-Susanna: Never you mind.

         Thornfalcon: Oh, it's definitely a situational thing. I've used a properly intimidating or triumphant laugh to effect in more than one situation. There are other times it just won't work.

         Endgame: As have I, but the point you are all missing is it's what sort of laugh you can make. I, for instance, have a voice capable of shaking the earth and making it tremble in fear. If, on the other hand, you have a voice like… well, that actor, Rick Moranis? Don't try. Please.

          Amanita: It's in the intonation you choose. Do you want to inflict fear, or make someone think you're simply a jolly person? A little shift of expression and emphasis, and you can do one or the other.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Xander Opal says:

    I so enjoy reading this. I can just picture the antagonistical characters of yours kbitzing in the green room…

    This also makes for a good writing exercise, methinks.

    • I was actually thinking this could make a fun panel; have a bunch of appropriately-selected authors who were willing to play, and then either they, or the audience, chooses one of their villains for them to portray as they go through the list. Or do it for the Hero list, or Sidekick, or whatever.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard says:

    My only comment is that Virigar has too many advantages compared to the “run of the mill” would-be evil over-lord.

  3. Robert Carnegie says:

    In conversation I will be… judicious in use of the dramatic pause. Most particularly if it’s already being overused by my… associates. We can’t just stand around being pregnantly silent at each other, we have… things to do. Also if someone doesn’t realise I’m pausing, and jumps in first, that’s…… oh, do excuse me, I don’t know where I was going with that. But you know what I mean, don’t you?

    • Richard H says:

      I hate it when my DM does that. (He fancies himself quite the evil overlord.)
      Mostly, I hate it because it makes me want to scream “get on with it!”

      Maybe if my world weren’t so turn-based, I’d be able to do something about it while he is mocking me for my occasional failures in performance.

      (Signed, Talendral, fighter)

  4. And besides, too many pregnant pauses one… after… another… and people think you’re doing a William Shatner impression…

  5. Daniel Neely says:

    Virigar’s brother….

    Have I missed it, or is this the first mention of him?

Your comments or questions welcomed!