The Generic Villain on Recruitment Spiels

Decrease the ranks of Good by a few. Add to your own at the same time. Is it any wonder we like doing a little recruiting in our spare time? But if we’re going to try to recruit the forces of Good to our side, we need to do it well. Half-attempts only get us dying horribly, but if we do well? On very rare occasions, we might even succeed—if not, we’ve a decent chance of getting them to decide we’re far too interesting to kill. After all, some people are suckers for a good recruitment spiel.

So how do we do it?

As I’ve already noted when talking about both whispering and weaponized psychology, one of the biggest elements of just about any attempt to talk with protagonists is knowing as much as possible about them—and more importantly, knowing how to use what you know. If you’re trying to exploit character flaws they don’t even have, you’d better be blasted good at making your targets think they have them, and if you’re going the “enemy of my enemy” route, you’d better make sure that all the enmities are in place.

Impress them with your own personality. Sure, mind control might let us turn someone who doesn’t like us, but mind control can generally be broken. On the other hand, if there’s something in us that they just have to respect, it’s that much easier to recruit them. So if there’s anything that can possibly make them more inclined to give you grudging respect rather than just hatred, this might be the time to kick it in. a lot of it plays off of being either similar to them or similar to what they wish they were; you’ve got a code or at least standards and are willing to enforce them, you always know exactly what to say, you’ve got pretty wicked sword skills, you get the idea. Sure, even when they know you’re irredeemably evil, they still have to respect that certain je ne sais quoi you wear like a dramatic cape.

Make sure they still understand that your power and potential—and theirs, should they choose to learn from you—is greater than, or at least complements, their own. In cases like this, the order of the day is “show, don’t tell”. If you tell them you’ve got a mess of hidden secrets that could be theirs, too, if they were to see reason, that’s one thing. But if you’re casually using something impressive they haven’t the foggiest idea how to create, let alone how to use, that shows them you’ve got what it takes. This is important—if you can convince them of your philosophy, but not your own importance, what’s to say they won’t try to kick you out of the way and try to do the job better themselves.

And above all, leave them with the impression that, in some way, possibly even by their standards, you’re right about something. The more somethings you’re right about, the better. It doesn’t necessarily have to be morals, mind you; they might still object to your approach. But being able to lean on things like the overall benefits of what you’re doing, the fact that the people around them are blooming (and more importantly, contagious) idiots whose stupidity will eventually grow beyond your target’s power to resist it, a point of inherent unfairness of the universe that your plan seeks to rectify—if you can get them to stop, blink and mutter, “Huh, she has a point”, then you’re partway to convincing them that they belong in your organization doing something about it.

Last of all, flatter them. Sure, there are heroes without decent egos, but they’re not much fun, and not too recruitable. Assuming you’ve successfully impressed them with your respectability, your skills, your position as someone who knows things they have yet to learn, and your disturbingly believable take on the world, being able to take all that and add “And she finds me interesting.” Even the people who currently think they’d never in a million years serve you are vulnerable to this; sure, it may not inspire them to join you, but it might well make them decide you’re interesting. Once you’re interesting, they’ll listen to you more.

It won’t guarantee your spiel—or at least, your spiel on that particular occasion—works. But it might make them a bit more receptive over time, and likelier to give you time to be convincing over.

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