The Generic Villain on Earning Your Victories

One reality we all have to get used to is the importance of respect in this business. And no, I don’t just mean the respect of your minions, though not having that is usually a one-way ticket to perpetual failure. And I don’t mean the respect of random people on the street, though it does help with your PR a great deal (and let’s not get into the other emotions one can instill in random people on the street, we’ve already been there). The respect you’re looking for is from your enemies, from the particularly effective neutrals, from your rivals, and from the other side of the Wall.

You’d think it would be enough just to have a major advantage and ensure they know about it. Skills. Phlebotinum. Resources. A really awesome weapon or familiar, with or without additional supernatural powers. It’d work for you, right? Most of you will have gotten past this and realized that it’s no good having something like that if you’re not the kind of person who uses them, and uses them well, preferably on the heroes at a nice dramatically appropriate time. But even those aren’t a guarantee; there’s one last thing that you’ll need. What is it?

When you win, someone needs to be able to tell that you’ve earned it.

You might ask, isn’t that hero-talk? We don’t earn, we take, right? Well, yeah. But that’s for resource things, and usually even if we didn’t earn the things themselves, we did earn taking them.

If it helps you understand, a heroic analogy. Let’s say you’ve managed to catch yourself three heroes, and (I know those of you who read this would never do this accidentally, but bear with me, all right?) left them separately in solitary, and they got away. Now they’re at your door. One of them seems to have been rescued by his puntable familiar, assisted by a traitor in your forces, and directed to your audience room by someone playing living GPS. The second has mustard in her footprints, several wires twined around her finger, one of your minions at swordpoint, and a hotwired death ray in her off-hand. The third—actually, even he doesn’t seem to have any idea how he got here, and has the slightly poleaxed expression of someone who’s been deus ex montaged to his destination. They’re all going to win, that’s the Laws of Dramatics and you’ve had more luck defying gravity than resisting those, but which one are you going to take most seriously seriously in the process?

They, and the beings beyond the Wall, look at you in the same way. It doesn’t matter how clever a plan you had, or what sorts of awesome powers you brought to bear in the most appropriate manner possible, or even how many of the people opposing you you destroyed with a single wave of your hand—if none of them ever see it, for all they’re concerned you were just deus ex machina’d to the appropriate location. You don’t want that. But let them see you working for your victories—your sweat and blood, your every ounce of cunning, even those times when you find yourself irritatingly in the role of the underdog and somehow prevail anyway—and then, my friend, then they will take you seriously.

Those who matter are always watching something. Make sure they’re watching you, and give them a good show.

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