Greetings, minions and minionettes. My transcriptionist is too weary to be clever tonight, so I have regretfully had to step in and break the fourth wall for her. Well, actually, I don’t regret it; I enjoy the opportunity to talk about myself incessantly for the next several pages.
I am Shaidaxi Enkhaelen, and I like to consider myself a villain, not just from a practical self-awareness standpoint but from a professional one. I’ve done quite a lot of horrible things on purpose, either because they seemed like a good idea at the time or because they were essential but too much for the squeamish. I think there is a role in the world for professional villains, not just as heroic punching-bags or shoulder-devils–as you might say–but as the clean-up crew to endure what would psychologically break the ‘good guys’. Every hero needs to have a villain lurking in his shadow, ready to finish the deed.
All regimes employ assassins.
That being said, I have also played at rulership before—and I do mean ‘play’, though not in the castle-made-of-toy-blocks way. It was a strange and temporary situation and I don’t miss it, but I think it does qualify me to respond to this thing here, this ‘Evil Overlord List’.
I’ll paraphrase because some of these terms aren’t pertinent to my experience, but the lesson translates well. Now, let me see.
1) My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear visors, not face-concealing ones.
I admit, we did use face-covering visors, but that was a practicality issue as well, since the whole of the armor was one semi-sentient organic piece that bonded with the wearer’s face—as well as everything else. Since it could overpower almost anyone who had not been prepared for it through proper indoctrination, it was a bit difficult to use to infiltrate the Palace, especially since it would have had to be cut off its previous wearer.
What this point hints at but doesn’t entirely address, though, is that your footsoldiers should know each other, and know who is authorized where. Garrisons should know their commanders on sight and by voice; if they don’t freeze in their tracks when they hear your officers’ voices, then your officers aren’t doing their job right. Visiting military are an issue, of course, and any disguise gives an infiltrator a chance at a first shot, but that doesn’t mean you can lay all the blame on the uniform. Minions have ears and brains as well as eyes. Teach them to use them.
2) My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
This depends on whether your ventilation ducts actually ventilate things, or are entertaining trap-fests.
In my personal experience of running an organic life-form in the shape of a stronghold, ventilation ducts were not a problem, especially since they could eat anyone crawling through them. In common practice I suppose they could be an issue, especially if your minions are too dim to notice an open ventilation shaft or too deaf to hear someone scuttling around in one.
However, one can not entirely avoid the necessity of some large ducts, such as chimneys and forge apparatus that need to be cleaned lest everything go up in a cloud of flame and ash. One solution would be to employ (or create) less-than-man-sized minions to do the cleaning and thus shape the ducts to their size—I would suggest goblins or mechanical scrubbers, since a child-sized duct tempts fate in the form of heroic children. Another would be to have your forges or whatnot offset from the rest of your compound, thus not overlapping with the smaller ductwork from the rest of the place. That way you can breathe thoroughly soot-free air in your villainous sanctum and not have to worry about the place burning down.
3) My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
Never had a noble sibling to test this on, I’m afraid. The problem I see with it is not about the suggestion—because keeping anyone anonymously in a forgotten cell is just asking for them to be rescued and you not be alerted in time. It is the idea that somewhere out there in the vast universe, some villain decided it was more fun to ignore his or her fallen sibling than to torment them mercilessly at any opportunity. I suppose it shows maturity in a way, but…really, why be mature at that point?
I’m not saying you need to hang them in a cage in the middle of the grand hall. If their survival is supposed to be a secret, why not somewhere just off the inner sanctum where you can prod them with a fire-poker whenever you’re bored of fiendishly plotting? That is probably breaking a plethora of rules in itself, but doesn’t it sound fun? Plus, it being your sanctum, your sibling will be constantly under guard—not easily-encountered by some other fool you’ve thrown into the dungeon or any ridiculous freedom-fighter who happens to break in.
There is pragmatism, and there is pleasure. You won’t rule forever—probably—so why not balance the two?
4) Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
Too true. Kill at a distance. Who wants to be constantly laundering their clothes for bloodstains?
No opponent who still poses a danger should be approached. No opponent who might still be vaguely alive should be approached! If it is not headless, do not approach it! Even then, you might want to consider carefully, especially if there has been any magic or…chemistry or whatnot around that might make it capable of killing you while sans face. Trust me on this. I’m not even speaking in the capacity of a victim; I am speaking as a practitioner of necromancy who, more than once, has been injured to my apparent death and then foolishly approached.
There is this thing called ‘playing dead’. Many prey-species do it. As a predator, I find it hilarious to pull the same trick.
And if the rationale is saving ammunition, consider: which is worth more to you? Your ammunition or your life?
Anyone who fights through your minions so successfully that they put you in the situation where you are the one doing the death-or-torture call is too dangerous to torture. If you have a bizarre fixation toward them, fine, do what you think you must. If you just like to see people suffer and—voila!—here is someone who came right to you in need of suffering…abstain. There are many, many more potential victims out there. Do not approach a vicious predator thinking that he is your prey.
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.
Beside that, if you keep it so far away, how are you to get it when you need it? Maybe you have a portal ready and waiting, but those tend to be two-way. You do plan to come back, right? So you’ve built a backdoor into your lair in the same place that you keep the item most dangerous to you. Brilliant.
Personally, I had a working relationship with my object-of-weakness, especially since I created it to be just that. It shows a lack of dedication to villainy, I suppose—that I made something specifically to cancel out all my magic, to render me defenseless—but at the time I was uncertain as to whether I…liked who I had become. Uncertain if I could hold myself together, or if the voices would swell into some loathsome, devastating chorus that I could neither refuse nor ignore.
So. Sometimes one does need to design a kill-switch for oneself. Likewise, one should be careful what one does with it. Having it on the low-down yet under surveillance and with multiple contingency plans seems like the least you could do.
6) I will not gloat over my enemies’ predicament before killing them.
This… This just takes the fun out of everything.
Though really, if you want to gloat you should probably at least have them tied down or in a cage. Then you could poke them too, like your noble sibling.
Have some ego. Have some fun! Just prepare first. And gag them if they’re the type that starts rolling eyes and cracking wise after the first few grandiose declarations. You don’t need that kind of a buzz-kill when you’re in the midst of a gloat.
I suppose this is part of the whole ‘don’t talk during a fight, just fight’ school of pragmatism. Yes, unleashing your inner scenery-chewer does take your attention off vital things like surviving the day. But it is a great cathartic release, especially if your enemies have been idiots throughout their incursion. Few things feel better than telling an idiot just how much of an idiot he is, and just what kind of prize he’s about to get for it.
But really, it goes along with the ‘shooting is too good for them’ as well. Lying on the ground is only a proper show of weakness if you have nailed them there. And never nail them there personally. That’s what minions are for.
Then you can gloat. As long as they don’t have friends around.
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.”
Most heroes don’t deserve to know. Most heroes are clods with muscles and no imagination; the few clever ones are probably trying to bait you for time or evidence. If you don’t plan to keep a prisoner around for caged poking, this is valid.
If you are so pent-up with your own majesty that you have to gloat to someone, why not your trusted lieutenant? If he knows, he can better assist you in your endeavors, and you won’t have to carry such a burden of greatness so silently that it spills out when one wretched interloper dares to ask. Really, this behavior is pitifully attention-seeking. If you want adulation, if you want to rant or frighten, if you want to drive someone into the depths of despair…
Get a dog. Or a reliable partner. Or a therapist. Don’t give your enemies the embarrassingly easy win.
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.
Think about how much planning a wedding takes. Think about how much planning a cunning, wicked plot takes. Why would you ever want to do both of those at the same time?
Trust me. I’ve tried to juggle several plots at once, with minions and enemies nagging from all sides, and it nearly made me pull my hair out. Thank all the powers that the worst of it only lasted a month. If one of them had involved a bride-to-be that I may or may not have actually had to pay attention to—including any wooing or drugging or whatnot—I don’t think I would have gotten any sleep.
Wait, no. I didn’t sleep that month, actually.
Suffice to say that even if your princess is locked up in a tower with minionette handmaidens watching her at all times, she’s still another moving part in the intricate machinery of your plan. A part that is probably spoiled, finds you distasteful, and knows exactly how to terrorize servants into doing her bidding. She might be a lovely match, but as you are marrying her against her will, don’t count on it.
And what kind of an idiot bases a plan on marriage, anyway? If you need her just to complete the plan, why bother? (What plan needs you to marry a princess just for a day, anyway? If you just need a convenient spectacle, surely there are easier ways.) If you need her to keep the plan going after completion—well, now you’re stuck with her.
Professional tip: once you’ve married the unwilling princess, never eat or drink anything she’s even looked at crosswise. One way or another, she will poison you, and you’ll deserve it.
9) I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labeled “Danger: Do Not Push”. The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead be a trap.
The funny thing is that I’ve been the self-destruct button for another villain’s plan.
Yes, that’s right, come over here and push me.
Seriously though, perhaps it’s because I’ve been the (un)trusted lieutenant so often that I find this so entertaining. As a villain, you need to keep a keen eye on your subordinates, because in a grand plan you really can’t do everything yourself. You need to delegate. And while some of the people you delegate to will be reliable, some will be nefarious, and some will just be stupid.
If you leave them enough leeway that they can re-rig your system to do something you hadn’t intended, then you haven’t just failed. You’ve been tricked by a far better villain or some infiltrating scum-hero.
Granted, this is mostly about blatant villainous idiocy. I just happen to think it’s always necessary to have some way to bring down the house on your enemies’ heads.
10) I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum — a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.
Cages and poking!
No, mark that. Cages and poking are for permanent fun-time captives, not interrogation. Only people you plan to keep should be allowed in or near the inner sanctum.
I suppose this shows my collector mindset. I don’t really like to kill people if they’re interesting. Once they bore me, certainly; off with their heads. But for the duration of the amusement, one might as well keep them close.
Interrogations, however, are more like business transactions. The enemy has something you want, and you pay him for it in the coin of pain. Yes, cheesy, but dramatic!
But it’s just business. It isn’t personal. You don’t have to get involved; your minions probably want some fun too. Myself, I always did my interrogations in the dungeons of whatever allied force was closest to the point of capture: military, police, Inquisition, whatever. As I was seeking information only I could interpret, I had to be there, but usually acted by proxy—another body between myself and my foe.
And never anywhere near either of my sanctums. No one in those dungeons knew where I laired, so if the hero happened to break free, he would gain no knowledge from his surroundings or the personnel.
Only pragmatic. Save the scenic sanctum tours for those who will appreciate your grandeur and brilliance, not for those who seek to destroy it.
Bored now. I’ve been told that there are more entertaining topics further down the line, but I can’t be bothered at the moment. I have my own projects and can’t always be popping in to rescue a blasted transcriptionist. There are…a hundred of these things?
No, two or three.
Blight and blood, she knows I’m a completionist. Manipulative little–