Straight into the fray tonight, as I’m in no mood to dither.
21) I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
At first glance, I find this a bit vain and laughable. In my opinion, uniforms should be more functional than fashionable—but then I have never been accused of being a fashion-plate. Still, you can’t have your minions wearing something that doesn’t protect them adequately just because it looks nicer that way. This ties in with the visors; full face-coverage might be intimidating to your foes but it makes your men easier to impersonate.
But yes, I can see the merits of having your men like the way they’re dressed, and feel like they’re more powerful in the uniform. That’s one of the reasons for a uniform, after all: the sense of purpose and unity that goes with it. You just must not skimp on the practical aspects of it—whether magical or mundane—for the sake of aesthetics.
Myself, I’ve helped design two ‘uniforms’. Maybe I should put sarcasm-quotes around ‘design’ as well, since as I’ve said, I’m no fashionable man. The first was the armor for the White Flame order—religious fanatics and my dear monstrous Emperor’s bodyguards. For them, the practicality was in the material, as it was the stuff of the Palace itself and thus imbued them with strength and energy from that source. I mentioned during the visor question how they used a blank faceplate, this being because the Palace material was bonded to them invasively yet provided the sensory input they required. I mostly made sure that all the material hooked properly into all the nerve endings; my associates—that bastard Caernahon in particular—gave me ‘suggestions’ as to the aesthetic sculpting of the external parts, so that it would be as blindingly white and eye-confusing as the Palace itself. I hate that place.
The second uniform was– Oh, let’s not even kid about this. It was a black robe. I’m not creative when it comes to stupid aesthetic things! Give me my scalpels, though, and I’ll show you real art.
But yes. Black robe. Hooded, floor-length, long-sleeved. Functional, all-covering and not magical, because the wearers—one of my best projects—would just have absorbed the energy of any wards I put on it. Intimidating like no one’s business, with the deep hoods and the loose hang that hinted at the malformations of the wearers. Meant as an angry counterpoint to the White Flame Palace armor, thus the color scheme—though I had to abandon the black to blend them in with their victims when I needed them to. And yes, black is for villains. I’ll get back to that, but here, like elsewhere, the coloration was purposeful.
22) No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.
The biggest mistake I ever made.
And that’s a long list of mistakes to choose from, let me assure you.
Technically though, I was not trying to gain ‘unlimited power’ from the act. …Well, I suppose in a way I was, but it would not be channeled through me. More like taking in the energy field would have given me the reins of a great and terrible entity whom I thought I could control.
I was a fool, and I spent centuries cleaning up after that mistake.
Going strictly along with the point of this statement, you have to remember that you are a finite being. No matter how much you might desire godhood, or how powerful you are among mortals, you can not swallow suns. You can’t even swallow a common forge. Power has a type of pressure—psychological, physical—that one must adapt to slowly, like ascending from a deep-water dive. Too much too fast and you’ll give yourself an energy-field version of the bends, your mind and body incapable of properly incorporating the newly tapped power.
I would advise consuming it a bit at a time, expanding your energy-handling ability in stages. Or consume a gradient of smaller objects if the one you want has to be taken whole. Either way, work your way up to it, don’t just try to take it all in at once. You’ll blow your fool head off.
As for that mistake of mine, I was trying to bind a portal to myself, so that I would have control over what and how much came through. On the other side of the portal was a fantastically powerful entity, my erstwhile ally, and by binding the portal to myself I thought I had outwitted him. I could control his access to my realm, and thus he would have to obey me.
I already said I was a fool.
23) I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way — even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless — my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
Not being from a realm with energy weapons, I will associate this with mages. Mages have many protections from direct conflict, but should also know how to deal with being physically attacked while they can not use magic. Running away is always an option, but some rudimentary training in self-defense—or even a regular class in hand-to-hand and armed combat along with their standard magical work—is invaluable.
Equally, all wielders of enchanted weapons should be just as comfortable using non-enchanted or improvised weapons. You won’t always have your weapon of choice at hand, so if you rely on it to the exclusion of all else, you might as well surrender the moment your enemy takes it away from you.
As an example, the akarriden blades of my real arch-nemeses are melee weapons of varying lengths, styles and powers, but one thing they have in common is their ability to cut through all non-enchanted material. This means that fighting with an akarriden blade often involves parrying the enemy’s weapon with the edge of yours, thus cutting right through it.
This does not work with a normal sword or dagger. Parrying with the edge of a normal sword or dagger will damage your weapon as much as it damages the weapon of your enemy, and thus you are just as likely to break your own blade as theirs. Akarriden wielders need to understand this, and thus train with common weapons as well as akarriden so that they do not put themselves at a ridiculous disadvantage should they be caught without their accursed blade.
As for improvised weapons, anyone who expects to end up in an informal combat situation should be comfortable with the idea of hitting someone with a chair. My associate, an assassin by trade, once told me that when she enters a room, she automatically evaluates every object for how she could kill someone with it. I myself have used a host of odd items to ensure my survival, and I am what you might consider a ‘wizard-type’. Your preferred weapon will not always be available to you. You must be prepared to work with whatever comes to hand.
24) I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line “No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!” (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)
The only way to survive this business is to be keenly aware of what you can and can not do. I advise cutting and running the moment you feel you’ve gotten in too deep. Plans can be redrawn, resources recollected, but you can’t reattach your own head.
Well, most of you can’t.
Don’t take this as advice to be a coward, though. Many plans require walking the razor edge between success and failure, and if you don’t have the stomach for that kind of tension, you’ll never achieve greatness. The point is not to have an overblown sense of your own abilities—especially in comparison with your enemies’ abilities. If they’ve gone through many trials to reach your doorstep, they are perhaps no longer the weaklings you think them. Minions are useful here; never go into direct conflict with the ‘heroes’ unless you’ve already taken their measure.
Also, keep in mind that while you can perform amazing feats when pushed to the brink of disaster…so can they.
There is a saying about knowing your enemy and knowing yourself—that if you can do both, you will never fail, while if you know only one or the other, you are flipping a coin. If you know neither, you will never win, for you can not even see the shape of the battlefield.
So know yourself, and craft the battlefield to your personal needs; hide yourself, so that the enemy is reduced to flipping his own coin; and study him, so that nothing he does will catch you by surprise. Do not be the one to say ‘I underestimated you’.
25) No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
That is what sane people call a ‘design flaw’.
Can’t say that I’ve ever done this. I try to make all of my constructs as indestructible as possible, and if there is no way to do so in one particular medium or material, I move on to another more suited to the purpose. There should be no reason to cling to a flawed design. You are a clever person—a genius, perhaps! Think up a better version!
That being said, nothing is entirely indestructible. If this masterwork is to be the centerpiece of your plan…have backups in place. If it is to suck up the majority of your money, attention and security forces, consider using smaller, cheaper and more easily replaced mechanisms. That way, the destruction of one of your many mechanisms will truly be ‘a minor setback’, instead of the crippling blow the heroes need it to be.
Hm. Now I’m considering a mob of cheap decoy machines, each with one complicated and precise ‘fatal flaw’ that my minions are allowed to tell the heroes if caught…
26) No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.
I heard tell of a member of my Emperor’s female staff who did that with my young nemesis. It didn’t end well for her. Then again, she was trying to seduce him to our side, not just have some fun, so I suppose the attempt was part of her job.
On the other side of the coin, our poor prince—who couldn’t keep it in his pants if his life depended on it—did that with a young lady of the ‘rebellion’ who probably should have killed him, but was instead instrumental in convincing him to turn against his Emperor father. So there is that danger, as well.
But really, if you’ve gotten this far by using your brain, don’t spoil it all by thinking with your nether parts. This is one of the reasons I turned my libido off. I don’t need that kind of distraction, physically or mentally.
27) I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
This goes alongside the design-flaw and improvised-weapons-training suggestions. Always be prepared for the wrecking-ball that is your opposition do to some serious work on everything you’ve been trying to assemble. While in some cases this might be impractical or prohibitively expensive, at least ready some cheap decoys to distract the enemy from the true, expensive, necessary devices.
In magic, I’ve found it important to have backup wards, contingencies, energy shunts and other panic-mode spells prepared ahead of time, whether hanging in the ether around me ready to be cued or imbued into physical objects that can not be dispelled or interrupted. One of my hobbies is making arcane ‘toys’ for myself and others, specifically to be used when casting magic is made too dangerous or impossible. Items that duplicate magic I commonly cast, items that can instantly do things it would take me a long time to prepare for by hand, items that trigger upon their destruction or their removal from my vicinity…
I have had a lot of time to weaponize my personal effects. I would advise it to everyone.
28) My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.
This, I suppose, is one of my main peeves with the behavior of most ‘villains’. If you keep a creature as a pet, it should truly be a pet—not a display piece, not a caged threat. If it does not love you, it is a danger to you and should not be anywhere in your vicinity.
If you abuse your pet and are then accidentally exposed to it, you reap what you sow.
My main foes among my fellow mages have always been the Summoner types. They capture spirits and elementals, cage them, brand them, bind them to their will, and then use them against other mages and mundane enemies in combat. They either do not recognize or do not care that spirits and elementals have will and emotion, identity, personality—though those aspects do not always manifest in ways that we can understand. They use their servitors like blunt instruments, for whatever purpose they can conceive, whether or not it will harm the servitors in its performance.
This is just…wrong-headed. I am not a bleeding heart by any measure; as a prisoner of my own moods, it is entirely up to whim whether I will kill or spare anyone in my path. But mistreating something—either sentient or animal—that could be your ally if only you behaved better is just… I don’t understand it.
And keeping creatures that you have no control over, that lust for your blood as much as that of your enemies… What kind of imbecile would do that? Perhaps they have been seduced by the allure of the predator—all those fools who cage tigers as pets and think that bars and collars and shock-prods equal control. All those fools who would hood and bell a hawk, and think that its return after the hunt means it cares for its possessor beyond the certainty of food.
Predators, wild animals and monsters are not pets. They have uncontrollable instincts, and whether these be triggered by blood, flight or simple proximity, they will act upon them automatically. A true pet—a domesticated, trained creature—is one that can countermand these instincts before they cause it to damage you, its loving owner. Nothing else should ever be kept close.
29) I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
This amuses me, but it points out the importance of color scheme when you consider your minions’ uniforms and your own grand attire. If you look evil, who has any qualms about striking you down? But if there is doubt…
I will admit that I wear black robes in my primary persona to deliberately give an ‘evil’ impression. I have colored my magic dark as well, to raise the intimidation factor and let everyone in my vicinity know that they should consider me a danger. This is not meant to scare off my enemies, but to flush them out of the shadows by presenting myself as a wicked target in need of destruction.
I want enemies. They entertain me and, in pursuing me, they serve my purposes.
When I do not want to incite conflict, I pick from the brighter side of my wardrobe. For various reasons, I disdain white, and I’ve found that overuse of that is just as troubling sometimes as an overuse of black. It shows a frozen perspective—a sort of moral absolutism that is dangerous and easily corrupted.
My preference runs the fire-colors side of the spectrum—blue, white, yellow, orange, red. I’ve been told that my fashion sense and color-coordination disability could be considered an aggressive act, but I’ve never been attacked for it, or called out as a wicked man. Loud shirts and eye-straining coats are also easy to be lost in; people remember the garment more than the wearer, making them a strange sort of camouflage.
But yes, if you act and dress sunnily—but not saccharinely—your enemies will have a harder time flinging accusations at you and having them stick. Image is powerful.
As a side note, if you have skills that are stereotypically bound to some sort of clothing style, like robes for mages, do try to find an alternate style of dress that doesn’t give you away so quickly. The more you can obfuscate, the less of a grip the enemy will get upon you. I prefer standard peasant attire when traveling or snooping around, and a nice minor-noble’s outfit when not actively playing the role of The Evil Necromancer.
And if all else fails, you can try being naked just to see if your enemies claw their own eyes out. Victory!
30) All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
Not only is this ineffective against the darker sort of hero, who neither requires nor desires comic relief, but it assumes that you have the time and resources to go after all of these sorts of people in addition to all the other Overlording you have to do. Certainly you can ask your garrisons and local militias to do away with any of these sorts you find, but it’s just as likely that a hero will swoop in to rescue them and thereby gain a trusted, if inept, ally.
Perhaps it would be better to start a program of sponsored apprenticeship for such fools, including propaganda and training, so that they graduate from impressionable fumblers to loyal—if not competent—minions. After all, they can always be used to test whether or not certain plans are foolproof…
And who knows? Perhaps proper training can turn these sorts into mighty wizards, proud knights, rallying troubadours and fierce assassins…on your side. Don’t let their troublemaking potential in the hands of a hero dissuade you from getting there first, and becoming their hero.