And welcome back to ‘Advice for Idiots: Villain Edition’. I’m your host, Shaidaxi Enkhaelen.
Yes, the transcriptionist is still incapable of doing her own off-the-clock work, so has called me in to assist. Granted, making sense of several thousand years of Halion history—as is her next task—can be daunting, especially when it pertains to the ogrish empire, but at this point she really should not be making excuses.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed our last little talk, especially since none of you talked back (except Hygelac), so I will submit myself to this process again. With reluctance.
Transcriptionist’s note: All reluctance is feigned. He loves to talk about himself.
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.
I am honestly terrible at riddles. Making them up, solving them, either way I just don’t see how they’re anything resembling ‘fun’. Taunting notes? Certainly, why not. Jabbering nonsense that people are supposed to decrypt rather than laugh at? Perhaps I’m oversensitive but I don’t feel the need to scrape up a bit of inane poetry to lead some lackwit to my next target. Why not just write ‘Such-and-Such St. in one hour, catch me if you can’? That is the intent of it, after all. To give your enemy the chance to outwit you. It’s the hallmark of someone who wants to be caught.
Likewise for that reasoning about leaving weak enemies alive. Who are you showing that they are not threatening? Them? Their friends, their own enemies? Why do you care whether or not someone thinks your defeated enemy was a threat? If you want to leave them alive to avoid charges of murder, certainly do that, but if you don’t care about the consequences of killing someone, leaving them alive just shows you don’t have the guts to do it.
Or that you’re a double agent.
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.
I like to consider myself my own five-year-old child.
Part of the process you should go through with any plan is to look at it and think how you, yourself, would counter it. If you were put in the hero’s shoes, how would you defeat yourself? Close those avenues of attack, then go back and try it again—keeping in mind the hero/heroes’ particular skill-sets—until you no longer see a way to defeat yourself. Have your advisors do the same.
The five-year-old child is suggested, I think, because of the perception that children have an easier time pointing out bad logic than adults do. Adults are used to using intangibles like experience and assumption to flesh out a plan, and are also prone to altering their stated opinion for purposes such as toadying or plotting your downfall themselves. A five-year-old is assumed to be less interested in destroying you and more in destroying everything you have plotted, and is unlikely to stay silent when something is unclear or insufficiently supported.
We all make assumptions, and one of villainy’s most damning flaws is that we often come into it through ego or intelligence. Ego is obviously blinding, but intelligence can be a hobble in itself, in that you can swiftly lose the ability to understand how lesser minds think. It is possible to be extremely clever in your design and implementation of your intricate master plan, only to have all your work smashed to bits by one meathead with a magic sword. Heroes do not see your labyrinth of wit and guile; they see walls that need demolishing.
Learn to think like a meathead, or at least how to listen to the concerns of your more meatheaded minions. Then fix it.
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.
I’m not entirely clear on why one would announce or celebrate the death of an enemy. To demoralize his allies, I suppose, though such actions are just as likely to enrage them more.
But of course those are just details. The core lesson is not to assume your enemy is dead until you have personally seen to it. No third-parties bringing you a heart or an ear or a finger as token of the deed; no surprisingly unblemished corpses looked over briefly then sent to a morgue to be dealt with later. If you want the heart, pull it from their chest while they scream. If you have the body, cut it open for autopsy then cremate it. If it is important enough for you to announce far and wide, it is important enough for you to investigate personally.
This is especially true if your enemy was ever admired by anyone on your staff, either as a worthy opponent, a potential pawn or a love-interest. If you do not ensure the enemy’s demise yourself, one of your staff will take advantage of this to pursue their own plans.
Remember, they would not be at the side of a villain if they were not aspiring villains themselves. All villains dream of power over others, of stepping on the necks of those who looked down upon and abused them. As their master, your subordinates may well consider you their primary target for ascension, and any weapon that you are unwise enough to overlook will be used against you.
14) The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.
Not even a last shag? It’s so flattering when they ask.
But seriously, I understand how this would have been polite at some point. Honorable. Back in the age of yore when both sides of the conflict were honorable.
Has that ever actually been true?
I’m not honorable. Empathetic sometimes, yes; I’ve been on the surrendered side of the equation often enough to know the desperation, if not the desire to go out with dignity. But honest behavior has mostly fallen by the wayside in these situations, leaving the ‘last request’ as a stalling tactic or trick—an attempt to manipulate a villain who wants to think of him or herself as honorable into leaving an opening for escape or victory. If you value your own success over the appearance of honor, ignore such requests. If you value honor over success, remember that your opponent most likely does not.
If that still won’t stop you from fulfilling a last request, you’re a better sort than most. Why are you evilly overlording again? Perhaps you could do with some introspection.
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.
This goes for any object that pulsates or lights glyphs or whatnot before its detonation. For villainy’s sake, if it’s your master device, the only person who needs to know what the countdown actually has to hit is you–therefore you might as well make it as incomprehensible as possible so that the heroes never know what exploded them.
Better yet, don’t have a visible timer at all. Fill your evil armchair with explosives, set it to detonate a certain amount of time after you have vacated it, and watch from afar as the heroes busy searching your chambers are blown to smithereens.
The only purpose of a visible countdown is to instill fear in the viewer. If you want them dead, what’s the point of frightening them if it also alerts them to a problem that can be solved? Once they identify it, they can potentially survive it, even if all they do is huck it out a window.
16) I will never utter the sentence “But before I kill you, there’s just one thing I want to know.”
But what if I really want to know that one thing?
Oh wait. Is there someone else I can ask?
Maybe I’ll try them.
Again, a stalling tactic—this time from your side. Like letting your weak enemies escape, this is a sign that either you’re not really into killing, you’re much too curious or egotistical for your own good, or you’re trying to give the hero an opening.
I suppose it can work if you’re trying to flush out a confederate of the hero who thinks you are unaware of him or her, and thus might take this extra gab-time as an opportunity to sneak up on you while you have the bait-hero at your mercy. Otherwise, unless there is something only the hero knows that you absolutely must learn (like who does his hair), either kill him or reevaluate your line of work.
17) When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.
Constructive criticism. Outside perspectives. Like the five-year-old example and my babble about meatheads, everyone operates on a different cognitive level. A high cognitive level does not mean that you see all options available beneath you; it means that you can derive complex solutions to problems that may not need them. An elaborate puzzle-lock can be solved by a genius (complex solution), broken open with a hammer (thuggish brute force), and several options in between.
Advisors are there to temper your grandiosity and your penchant for complex problem-generation. Likewise, when you go at something too simply, they should also be capable of pointing out avenues you have missed.
One thing I think every villain needs is a mocker. Some people use a court jester in this position—a person who is given permission to ridicule, parody and otherwise deflate grand ideas before they can overwhelm the faculties of their owner. We are all prone to plans that seem to take on a life of their own, whether or not they are feasible; the mocker is there to puncture such dangerous daydreams and any other overwrought, over-complex, over-analyzed plot. The mocker should be given free rein to say whatever they please without threat of harm, in the hope that their speech may loosen up the thoughts of your other advisors, who may be withholding criticism in the fear that you will hurt them for speaking ill of your plan.
I would not suggest that you allow the rest of your advisors to be as…mouthy as your mocker, and certainly feel free to turn the mocker on your advisors’ plans as well. But you should always look at your plan with an eye to how it could blow up in your face, leaving you with soot-smudges and a surprised expression—how it could bring you down to a point of ridicule.
Don’t be that villain. It’s just embarrassing.
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.
Ahh, personal anecdote time.
I’ve never had a son. However, I did splice/construct/midwife(midhusband?) a son for my Overlord-at-the-time, out of his…substance and the more traditional physiology of his kidnap-married princess. That was not the exact circumstance, but you get the idea.
He turned out well. Not at all like his father, and quite hostile to the old man. And there was indeed a laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power that served as a fatal distraction, but mostly because I prodded him into it for just that purpose.
Your children are not molded only by you. Especially if you are a ruler, your children fall into the care of an untold amount of servants, lackeys, mentors, minions, sleeper agents, friends and outright fools that will all have an influence on their upbringing. If you treat them with disdain, disappointment or outright abuse, you are shaping your own enemy. Our children are already designed to replace us; it is the reason we have them. It is their destiny. Holding yours at arm’s length—or whip’s length—or assigning all of their human interaction to a series of tutors and confidants whom you may have killed at any given moment will only strengthen their hatred toward you.
It does not matter if they end up on the ‘good’ side or the ‘evil’. If you treat a son like a pawn, or a puppet, or a rival, he will not be fond of you. He may serve you, he may mouth allegiance, but he will know in his bones that his destiny is to overthrow you. Strip the love from your relationship and there is only your throne and his inevitable ascension.
Add advisors who want you dead and him on the throne—either as a better ruler or a puppet of their own—and you have sown the seeds of your own defeat. (Yes, yes, bad pun.) You had to deal with scheming advisors already, and now you add a creature of your lineage into the mix, whom you likely had very little influence in raising?
Oh, and add your kidnapped-and-forced-to-marry-you princess, should you have one. What is she teaching your darling boy? The mother-son dynamic is fraught enough already; how long will it take for them to turn on Daddy Dearest?
In my circumstance, the Overlord’s son was a good man—molded that way by the concerted efforts of myself and the princess’s attendants. He felt trapped in his situation, and his jailer was his father. It was not difficult to convince him to join an uprising already in progress, and his addition to the cause helped tip the scales our way. After all, the blood was key.
I’m proud of him. His father is not.
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.
Just reading this makes me want to go punch certain people.
Yes, I have a daughter. I’m told it was a bad idea but I don’t regret it.
Father-daughter relationships are just as fraught as the opposite, unless you have a darling little lesbian on your hands. (Oh if only.) And when you’re fighting any hero your daughter might conceivably find appealing…
Or want to irk you by sleeping with…
Or need to put her own plans into effect…
Perhaps you see a strain of paranoia in my thinking. If you do, you are obviously not paranoid enough. What’s that saying? ‘Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you’? The moment you decide to become an Overlord, the world is out to get you. Your sycophants want more; your subjects have demands; your military needs direction; your neighbors are mostly leery of you, if not outright hostile. And your family dynamic goes batshit.
Granted, most people’s families are batshit crazy already. It is the nature of families. Mine certainly was. Don’t get me started on my relationship with my parents, grandparents, my uncle, my further ancestors… Oh Light, my in-laws…
My daughter and my wife were the two points of stability in my existence, and I lost both of them. Only one returned to me, sword leading. When you are in a position of authority, your enemies will take any tool and sharpen it into a blade aimed for your heart; my enemies took my child. It was not quite as the entry says—after all, we had been estranged for nearly her whole life—but nevertheless it hurt in the way no other conflict could.
I think it was the only situation where I would have used any of those stalling tactics to avoid finishing the fight.
But this entry is more about heroes romancing your daughter, and—it makes me furious just to say that. FURIOUS.
How dare he—
What can she possibly see—
Has he touched her?
Oh gods. No, no, no. Not my little girl. How dare he even think himself worthy?
And yet the problem is less on his end than on hers. How much have you sheltered her? Coddled her? Treated her like a little princess? Spoiled her? Are you overbearing? Is she ready to break out of this gilded cage? Did you even give her an opportunity for her own life, or have you promised her to someone?
Did you turn her down?
If she’s as wicked as you, she probably has plans. A pushover husband; a wine goblet full of poison. Your throne, if she’s eligible. My daughter wanted her inheritance and had no qualms about how she got it. The hero is just a quicker means to an end, one that can give her a bit of fun before she lets him loose on you.
It’s not about his merit—or at least it shouldn’t be, if you’ve raised her right. It’s about his use to her. If she managed to live with you all her life and still be some kind of fluttery romantic, some love-at-first-sight ball of fluff, then you didn’t want her taking over from you anyway. Probably best that she betrayed you, so you can cut her out of the will.
Still. Sleeping with my arch-nemesis? How you’ve hurt me, Mariss.
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.
All right, yes, back into a villainous mood. Concentrate, Shaidaxi. Maniacal laughter, stress relief…
No, I just want to throw things.
Take a deep breath, stop thinking about that. Think about standing atop a pile of enemy corpses instead. Yes, exactly. And…inhale. And…laugh.
The thing about maniacal laughter is the maniacal part. Just laughter is good. Healthy. A sense of humor is important if you delve into the gory side of life like we tend to do, else you become one of those brooding over-serious idiots whom no one can listen to without wanting to cut their own throat.
Maniacal laughter, though, is a sign that you are about to break, one way or another. It may be cathartic in its way, but as the prompt says, it’s distracting; it unleashes that unpleasant little part of you that’s doing its damndest to take over. That wild, amoral part that just wants to wade through the world with a scythe, that knows neither danger nor pain, only conquest.
The problem is that it’s still attached to a mortal body (unless you’ve managed better, in which case bravo! indulge in mania as much as you like!). Your mind is your most important asset—after your continued existence—and the urge toward maniacal laughter is a warning sign that you’ve strayed toward the jagged edge. Either you’ve become absorbed in your own feelings of superiority and power and are starting to lose sight of the landscape, blinded by your own brilliance, or you’re creeping close to madness.
Neither are good.
Basking in your own glory is understandable when you’re in your throne room looking down on the cowering masses, or preening in front of a mirror. It’s not acceptable in the middle of a conflict or when any of your enemies are anywhere near. And the maddened sort of maniacal laughter is never good—though if you’re to the point of laughing like that, my advice will hardly impact your life-choices.
Most advisors will give you nervous glances when you start laughing maniacally, and this is another instance where it is important to heed their reactions. They are not cowering before the evidence of your might; they are wary because you’re starting to act crazy. Crazy is not a good trait to have in a master.
If you have trusted advisors who can safely tell you things you don’t want to hear, make sure that ‘maniacal laughter’ is on their watch-list. It is a symptom, not a stress-relief tactic. If you want stress-relief, try other options. Something will be right for you.
Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to go light a few people on fire.