Herewith is the final part of the dissection of the Evil Overlord list. Back to more "regular" columns later this week!
For convenience, I'm including our panel listing in each post.
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.
The Annotated Evil Overlord, Part 5
81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
Virigar: Oh yes, this one's related to the taunting enemies.
Master Wieran: It's related to people being idiots! Why would you NOT drop flat, or dodge aside, or something, rather than turn around like some cow-brained fool to see whatever it was that got the hero to drop to the ground, heedless of the fact that you could then finish him off with ease?
Maria-Susanna: It applies equally to us heroes, of course. Because you can't be sure you're not the hero that will die tragically to motivate the OTHER heroes.
Dark Wanderer: Riiiight. Anyway, this is another specific of the general case "when the hero does something that looks really strange, he probably has a reason for it. Act appropriately."
Thornfalcon: I will confess that often the problem is reaction time. If the hero sees, say, the swinging blade heading towards us, and reacts to it, I have been delayed by the amount of time it takes me to recognize his action and decide what to do about it.
Endgame: Which is why automatic defenses and invulnerability are by far the preferred solutions to tactically superior adversaries.
Amanita: That is a challenging problem… for those who like to face their opponents in personal combat. I prefer using my own summoned legions.
Thornfalcon: Ahhh, my lady, if only they would be so courteous as to not come after you THROUGH said legions…
83. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.
Master Wieran: I will not shoot at them unless I can avoid HITTING the crucial support beam. I know the Great Wolf probably doesn't care, but I have time, effort, and considerable money invested in my heavy, dangerous structures and won't have it wasted!
Dark Wanderer: The idea is that they make you THINK you can hit them and then dodge out of the way.
Virigar: That's why I prefer to use up-close, personal weapons. Or suck out their souls from a distance.
Dark Wanderer: Same principle can apply. Imagine fighting your mortal friend Jason, and you have him backed up against what turns out to be a tank of silver nitrate solution…
Virigar: Ahh yes. That could be… painful.
Thornfalcon: Still, I think we all agree that this is another that can be generalized to the rule "I will not allow the heroes to make me do something suicidally stupid.".
84. If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
Dark Wanderer: Er, no, I'll develop an immunity to iocane powder and put it in BOTH drinks.
Virigar: In my case, I HAVE the immunity already.
Maria-Susanna: Poisoning? That's so... rude. And at dinner, too.
Master Wieran: What do I care for your notions of proper behavior? In any event, if I had to attempt to poison someone personally, I would do so using a tailored two-component poison, one part administered by, say, drinking, and one by eating, or breathing. And I would know by tell-tale signs that only my genius can detect which is the correct drink!
Thornfalcon: I love your confidence, but I went one better: I put the poison in the glass and tailored it to the types of targets I prefer. Works every time.
Master Wieran: (unwillingly)… you know, I will confess that you describe a far better solution to the problem.
Endgame: Poison both drinks and be immune.
Amanita: Oh, so very much poison in both drinks.
85. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.
Virigar: Not an issue for my people.
Dark Wanderer: I know what they're getting at, but in this day and age you'd better check to see what their preferences are. Especially with the popularity of slash and all.
Master Wieran: "Slash"?
Maria-Susanna: You REALLY don't want to know.
Thornfalcon: In any event, the general concept seems sound. Don't select guards whose hormonal/romantic issues could possibly cause them to have sympathy for the captives. Unless of course that's part of your diabolical plot.
Endgame: Taking no prisoners solves this dilemma.
Amanita: Endgame, dear, you are positively the worst host.
86. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."
Virigar: Do they think these Ultimate Goals are set up arbitrarily?
Master Wieran: Yes, apparently.
Maria-Susanna: What do you mean?
Dark Wanderer: A lot of these plans have complicated final steps because, well, that's just the way the magic or whatever WORKS. If you don't fulfill the conditions, it won't work out.
Thornfalcon: Exactly. To be honest, I'm having a hard time thinking of an example of an Evil Overlord who clearly COULD have achieved his ultimate goal with a simple action but CHOSE to use some complex ceremony instead. Aside from our esteemed Wolf friend here, but he KNOWS that he's doing such things, and can generally get away with it.
Endgame: I concur. While dramatics of my world certainly play a part, I do not set out to deliberately complicate my work; the Hellvortex has to be summoned in a particular way, I cannot, unfortunately, just order it to open.
Amanita: Well, of course! No magical ritual can be done in a moment! You have to spend just hours of time setting up the circles and wards, engraving the right symbols, et cetera, et cetera and so on.
87. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
Master Wieran: I do not know this "code", but this is just a variant of employing a device you haven't adequately researched.
Dark Wanderer: Yes. Redundant. Next!
88. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
Dark Wanderer: Yes, "Van Helsing", I'm looking at YOU!
Virigar: This seems simple and reasonable.
Dark Wanderer: But if you do that, how are you to have a spectacular duel above the bubbling vats, or fall into them and gain additional superpowers, albeit a hideous visage, for use in the sequel?
Master Wieran: I would prefer to gain my 'superpowers' from the result of careful research and retain my distinguished appearance.
Maria-Susanna: For values of "distinguished" which equate to "wild-eyed madman".
Thornfalcon: I agree with this entry. I have no idea why I would want to have vats of alchemical peril in a position which would allow me to accidentally plummet into them.
Endgame: It is, I agree, a sensible precaution. In my universe, with the rules that constrain those with superpowers… it may not be possible to avert dramatics so easily.
Amanita: I don't use hazardous chemicals as such, and seething vortices of fell mystical power should be easily accessible.
Virigar: And easily consumable.
89. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.
Virigar: Eat them instead.
Master Wieran: As a blanket statement this makes some sense, but comes perilously close to shooting the messenger with Virigar's addition.
Maria-Susanna: Exactly! It depends on WHY they failed miserably!
Dark Wanderer: Right. Often when you see this it's because the henchmen have been "denied critical, need-to-know information" about their targets. Update their information and perhaps give them some increased capabilities, if the failure wasn't their actual fault.
Thornfalcon: But this does connect back to the one on not sending out progressively stronger opponents, too.
Endgame: Precisely. Take the failed group, give them a boost – are you not falling into that trap, Wanderer?
Dark Wanderer: Hm. Good catch, yes. Though there are possible wrinkles you could make use of, especially if the powering-up was of sufficient magnitude.
Amanita: That does keep me from having to get my hands dirty, but one should also recall that giving a servant too much power can become… a problem.
90. After I captures the hero's superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
Virigar: Indeed. We are all agreed on this?
Dark Wanderer: (after a glance around the table) Yep. Unless the reason is that you WILL use the superweapon, and HE wouldn't.
Thornfalcon: Even so, why would I disband my Legions? Unless I feel like using my unstoppable superweapon to solve minor disputes in administration, I'll have a great use for an extensive force of persons to police my realm.
Amanita: Exactly, Thornfalcon. I personally may be able to relax, but there will be so much work for my Legions to do…
91. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.
Virigar: Control rooms are so next millennium. But my throne room has only one chair, my throne, and it faces the only entrance.
Master Wieran: The circular and external-looking layout seems common, yes. But one could simply station some guards at the entrance.
Maria-Susanna: I'd think that if the Heroes are already AT the Main Control Room, you have other problems.
Dark Wanderer: Yeah. If one of the Main Control stations isn't "security", or if it is and they haven't caught on yet, I don't think I'd worry about which way the stations face; these guys aren't going to notice the Hero until he shoots them.
Thornfalcon: By analogy I can understand this one; a command center with various stations, like the bridge of a large ship. Yes, I agree, if the Heroes have already made their way to your command center and you didn't know about it, the fact that you're not all facing the right way will be the least of your worries.
Endgame: I work alone, in general, and have no need for control rooms. But yes, you catch the essence of it.
92. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
Master Wieran: What sort of a pompous fool is wasting his time on personal grooming when there's WORK to be done?
Maria-Susanna: And here, yet again, we find an area in which the Mad Scientist does not understand normal human beings. I *thought* I smelled something...
Dark Wanderer: Psst! Wieran! The "clean cantrip". Learn it. use it.
Master Wieran: Bah!
Thornfalcon: Returning to the subject, yes, one should realize that -- especially if you have a proper Evil Overlord reputation -- a messenger won't be staggering up directly to you unless he really thinks it's something you NEED to hear. Don't be stupid.
Endgame: Hmph. Yes, true enough.
Amanita: Oh, really, this is foolish. If it were so urgent that the difference between finishing my latest project, or doing my nails, and not doing so will be fatal, wouldn't I be aware of it long before some puny servant could possibly be able to tell me about the problem? Keeping them waiting is a way to reinforce to the others that your level of urgency is not mine.
93. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)
Virigar: Well, that could work.
Master Wieran: A phone? What is that, some sort of long-distance communication spell? A waste of time. I'll simply have to deal with him later anyway, so why not get it over with?
Maria-Susanna: I'll admit I would want to give you the benefit of the doubt if you said you'd reform. But I'd keep an eye on you.
Dark Wanderer: Only SOME heroes are that gullible. A lot of them would want more material proof.
Thornfalcon: And THEN you taunt them.
Endgame: Oh, yes, they'd believe that from me. NOT.
Amanita: I rather like this tactic. Men especially are likely to believe it.
94. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.
Virigar; Double execution? Double the executioners, then. Kill them both at the same time.
Master Wieran: I do not DO such wasteful demonstrations. I will disassemble them for use in the organ vats.
Dark Wanderer: Hmm, wouldn't have thought you so squeamish. I agree with Big V; kill both at once.
Thornfalcon: Ahhh, now, the problem is *spectacle*. Public executions are entertainment, and you're now insisting on cutting it in half.
Endgame: And they're also dramatic emphasis of your will and power. Cut that in half, cut the effect in half.
Amanita: Ohhh, I love a good execution! Don't waste them!
95. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.
Virigar: Well, yes, of course.
Master Wieran: Whose guards are that dense?
Maria-Susanna: It's a shame that most people are in fact smart enough not to do that.
Dark Wanderer: Another of those basic "when the Heroes do things that don't make sense, don't go along with it!" things. Of course, you need quality guards to not get bamboozled by this, since usually the one doing the grabbing will be the Innocent Kid or the Beautiful Heroine, which mess up the usual guard's perceptions.
Thornfalcon: So very true. If you have a large number of not-very-bright warriors, they'll tend to make general assumptions about their prisoners, and items, that they shouldn't.
Endgame: And this is why I don't generally imprison people, just kill them.
Amanita: Oh, I like to let them grab things. It points out what they think is important, and then I can confiscate it all later!
Dark Wanderer: (eyebrow raised) I'll admit, that approach had not occurred to me. And has some legitimacy.
96. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it's an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
Virigar: Well, yes, if you keep them locked up rather than swallowing their life essence, you probably should recognize that they might get sick... or might try to convince people that they are.
Master Wieran: Health-equipped guard golems.
Maria-Susanna: If I were a villain, I'd agree. Though...
Dark Wanderer: Ah, yes, you see it. If you have a medical team with guards sent in, you may just be sending them what they ordered -- a case of weapons and healing packs for their escape.
Thornfalcon: Indeed. After all, if these guards are so capable, why didn't you have them out on the front lines trying to stop the heroes in the first place?
Endgame: If I must imprison people, it is unikel that I care terribly that they die, so I will have no need of medical personnel or attending to medical complaints!
Amanita: Hmmmm… Well, if I have prisoners, as I said, I'll probably change them to something funny and inert until I need them again.
97. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.
Master Wieran: What? What is this nonsense?
Maria-Susanna: Oh, dear me.
Dark Wanderer (snickering): Again, "oh, that trick NEVER works". Believe me, no matter HOW you work it, the heroes will simply find a way to exploit it.
Endgame: As I recall, the Sea Wasp designed it so that blasting the controls put things like prison cells, interrogation cells, etc into lockdown, but other places into automatic open. Basically as one would want to do for power failure anyway. And you're right, the heroes will find a way to use it.
98. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.
Virigar: I'm a bit puzzled by this one. What is the problem with reflective surfaces? Are we assuming an Evil Overlord who's also Medusa?
Master Wieran: I'm not sure. Perhaps someone once used reflective surfaces to dazzle a guard? Seems unlikely enough to not justify the question.
Maria-Susanna: Unravelling seems a bit more obvious.
Dark Wanderer: Yeah, if you can do that, you might get rope out of it. Not good. In terms of the reflective surfaces, I dunno. Hypnosis?
Thornfalcon: I can't really say either.
Endgame: I would point out that if you have the classic "energy weapon" as standard issue, then –
Dark Wanderer: Oh, very well thought of, Endgame. Yes, then you can trick the guards to shooting and bounce it back at them. Still, does seem very limited – hardly worth an entry.
Amanita: Well, then, let's reformulate it, shall we? I shall have my Advisor of Choice examine my cells, and remove anything from the cells which the Advisor thinks has any reasonable chance of providing prisoners with tools for escape in any form.
99. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.
Virigar: Oh, that's brilliant. Yes, please, go ahead, ignore that young Jason Wood and his fiancee Sylvia. I'm SURE that will work out well for you.
Master Wieran: Are the authors of these idiots? Is there some POINT to this one?
Maria-Susanna: Oh, it's a cliche -- and not a very strong one.
Dark Wanderer: It's sort of a heroic version of the saying "opposites attract". In some of our stories it was fairly common to see the main male and female characters constantly bickering, until suddenly when under extreme danger they recognize the attraction they have for each other. It works well. The first time or so.
Thornfalcon: Yes, I must confess that I would find the non-bickering couple to be far worse. Tobimar Silverun and Kyri Vantage, for example, never bickered.
Endgame: I –
(everyone): -- will order everyone's execution, yes, we know.
100. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.
Virigar: Now this is just TOO obscure. WHY? Why are you padding the crucial data files? Why to that particular size? I'm sorry, I must find the person responsible for this question and swallow his soul.
Dark Wanderer: Oh, it's just an overspecific and very time-dated one. That's data-storage limitation on floppy discs, back in the say. I'm not even sure there's a good generalization of this one. If your heroes are already ACCESSING your data, I think you're screwed.
101. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.
Virigar: Heh. I suppose that would be an interesting approach. Though in some universes that's already the norm.
Master Wieran: What is this 'Internet'? And if I wanted my subjects in a mindless trance, I would make a device to assure it. On the other hand, how would I tell such a state from their normal one? It's not as thought the common people have minds to concern me!
Maria-Susanna: I think the writers overestimate the effectiveness of universal communication at pacification. It is much more likely to result in the opposite. My own universe includes something like this, only far more effective, and it hasn't locked any of them into mindless trances.
Dark Wanderer: Or, in places and times where that's not possible, you might use wet T-shirt contests, gladiatorial games, or just drugs in the water.
Thornfalcon: The right spells should accomplish the same end.
Endgame: Killing them all would rather eliminate the problem too.
Amanita: Yes, but rather unamusingly. I have, however, perfected means of performing tranformations which leave the transformed one happy, so I could simply use that technique on any potential troublemakers.
And that's all, folks! I'd like to thank our distinguished panel of guests for their cutting and sometimes amusing commentary!
Virigar: It's been a genuine pleasure. So many new universes to... investigate.
Master Wieran: I trust that we are through wasting my time here? Good! For you have been interfering in work that is as utterly beyond you as it was beyond my so-called colleagues, who --
Maria-Susanna: Now, now, Master Wieran, let's not END on a numbered rant, shall we? As for me, I don't know HOW I was put into this group of villains, but to those of you reading, thank you so much, you've been lovely!
Dark Wanderer: It's been fun, and I've learned a few interesting things myself.
Thornfalcon: Anything that gets me out of eternal darkness is good. And the feminine company has been MOST appreciated, even if perhaps a bit too dangerous to engage, so to speak.
Endgame: Enjoy your brief and useless lives while you have them! This has been but a short reprieve!
Amanita: How did I know something like that was going to be your final word? Oh, well, it WAS fun, and I hope many of you will come visit me in Oz. I'm sure you'll find it... a transformative experience!