The Generic Villain on Keeping Respect in the Final Confrontation

Everyone knows that one of the most important skills in a villain’s bag of tricks is intimidation. Whether she’s blatantly fearsome, innocuous yet creepy, or something else entirely, she has to be able to strike fear into her foes when she wants to. We all know that, so we all try. But we don’t all succeed, and often all we get is those blasted heroes laughing at us. How do we make sure they take us seriously, particularly in the end stages where intimidation is most of what we have left?

Many of us employ the time-honored intimidation strategy of telling our opponents just what the consequences are if they fail. And sure, it works pretty well on paper and in the other stories. But there are two major problems they run into. The first is lack of originality: the default threat, and thus the one most amateurs or inexperienced Hands use, is the old subdue them, overwhelm their forces, and kill off all their friends/destroy their valued places/turn their keepsakes into slag/so on and so forth while they can do nothing but watch, then spend an amount of time proportional to the speaker’s sadistic tendencies killing them. Problem is when you run into one of those heroes that gets this all the time. I once heard one muttering about how when you’ve heard one of those speeches, you’ve heard them all—it’s harder to get the proper shock value if you’re using someone else’s threats.

Even if you can create a threat that actually intimidates them, you’re going to have to be able to get across why you’re going to win. We all know that we can’t give too much information; not only is that information that the heroes can use against us, but it gets us monologuing, and that’s not a situation in which it’s safe to monologue. But the other extreme, not providing any reason save your own confidence, is just as bad; it comes down to telling the opponent “I’m going to win because you’re going to lose.” Leaving aside the inherent logical fallacies, you run into the issue that every hero, deep down, understands that Dramatic Necessity works for his weal—and worse, some of them have good enough track records that “I don’t lose” is one of their rules of the universe. So make sure you can give them a reason that, while it doesn’t give your whole plan away, still tips their calculations in your favor, from as broad and far-reaching as “My army is larger, better trained and knows from tactics” to as immediate as “The tip of a poisoned sword is currently sticking out of your chest. Guess who’s holding the other end.”

Whatever you do, make sure not to lose control in front of the heroes—or at least, not to lose any more control than is your usual. If you’re already a frothing berserker, nobody’s going to notice a little more foam around the corners of your mouth. But if you’ve built your reputation around being suave and unflappable, completely confident even when it looks like the opponent has the upper hand because you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve, or otherwise hard to shake, flying into an unstoppable rage, even with a corresponding powerup, isn’t going to say “Now I’m serious”. It’s going to say “You’re winning now and I can’t stop it.” Or “Yes, you’re a threat, you’re a threat, why don’t you just finish me off now instead of rubbing my nose in it?” What it’s not going to say is “I’m going to win now, so you may as well surrender and hope for the best.”

Remember these when you’re getting ready for your final confrontation. The last thing you want there is for the hero to lose all of his respect for you, because as likely as not the narrative is going to follow his opinion. Whether you win or lose, make sure you have a proper ending.

Leave a Reply