The Generic Villain on Being a Deal-Maker

Last week, I talked about making deals with the heroes, and things to keep in mind when doing so. But there’s another important element to making those sorts of deals, and that’s being the kind of Hand of Darkness the heroes are willing to make deals with and not necessarily kill on sight. Tricky? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. So what’s a villain to be?

Know how your goals and the heroes’ intersect, and know how they think your goals intersect with theirs. In general, heroes are likelier to put up with someone whose plans aren’t completely opposed to theirs, and who manage to stay off of their berserk buttons. If you’re a world-destroyer, you haven’t a chance; if you’re just in it for power, they might be able to deal with you. It’s better if you have something that in some sense is technically the same goal, even if your means are nearly incompatible; if both you and they want to protect the patch of world you’re sitting in, but they’re trying to spread freedom and you think the optimal means involve mind control to protect people from themselves, there might be enough common ground in your long-term goals to allow from negotiation.

Know how they’d relate to you as a person, not just a Hand of Darkness. You’d be amazed by how much slack you can be cut if the main thing that keeps you from being friends with this person is being on opposite sides in the endless battle between us and them; if they like your personality, they’re likelier to think you’re probably not all bad, or at least not all bad in a way that requires being put down before the evil spreads. And try not to be too off your rocker; if you’re insane you’re unpredictable, and if you’re unpredictable they can’t trust you to keep your end of the bargain. (Yes, I know insanity doesn’t always work that way, but this isn’t reality we’re talking here, it’s reality through the hero-filter. They have very simplistic outlooks on life.)

If you’re in a situation in which combat is the logical choice in action, you’re going to need to be able to present a very good reason why making a deal with them is going to be better for them in the long term than pounding your face in. This isn’t near as easy as it sounds, but at least you have choices: you can make negotiating better by, well, upping the reward, or you can make fighting worse by incorporating a dead man’s switch, secondary ploy, or something else that just says “Too big a price to pay.” (If you want a long-term bargaining relationship with the heroes, I recommend the former. If you want them to understand that you are a force to be reckoned with when it comes time for the actual reckoning, it’s all about the latter.)

Make sure they have some way to ‘know’ you’ll live up to your side of the deal. Sure, you don’t have to actually go through with it (particularly if you don’t mind them never trusting you for something like this again), but if they don’t think you’re going to hold up your end of the bargain, why would they bother bargaining with you in the first place?

Keep these in mind; there’s nothing quite as undignified as being destroyed when you’re trying to make a deal.

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