The Generic Villain on Reasons to Play Dead

Sometimes, the thing to do is to fight to the death. But far, far more often, the key to your survival, to your plans, to your very future, is to find a way to let ‘em think you’re dead.

What’s it get you?

The first thing it buys you, of course, is time. Most protagonist-types are either prioritizing their immediate problems or trying to engage in normal civilian lives; if you’re apparently pushing up daisies, that either drops you right off the to-do list or just to the very bottom. It isn’t heroic to go wreak havoc on the non-belligerent dead, after all. While they’re doing that you can recover, draft out contingencies, acquire resources, take your own break—keep on living.

Second is a smokescreen/alibi. Granted, that stops working as soon as you make your official return. But if you can act anonymously, as long as you stay anonymous they’re likely to go off chasing butterflies rather than come straight to you. After all, it couldn’t have been you—you’re dead, right?

If you’re a chronically recurring villain in a cape-verse, it gives you a way to excuse yourself that isn’t time in the cardboard prison. Yeah, yeah, I know, most people don’t really believe you’re gone, but there’s a sort of gentlemen’s agreement going on in there, partly due to the kinds of crazies that pop up in said cardboard prison. The costumes alone… well, never mind.

Running into people—or at least, the non-genre-savvy—creeps them out. Seriously. That’s worth milking just for the amusement value. Extra points if they’re sure they killed you.

You get a chance to see what your minions are like when you aren’t around (assuming, at least, that your current stalling identity or what have you doesn’t rank them). It’s a great way to see who’s individually competent and who’s just good at taking orders, and to figure out who’s actually doing all the jobs you sent down the line and left it to the others to sort out. Potential troublemakers will spot the vacuum and try to do something about it, the vultures from outside will circle in, fights will break out—and you can just swoop in at the end, pick up the pieces and bask in their reactions.

If you can figure out how to make it stick, feigning your own death can be a tactical lifesaver later.


  1. UZ says:

    Sasha: Drax Extenuus! Didn’t I… this is embarrassing. Didn’t I kill you at Broken Heart Spire?

    Drax (drawling Britishly): Oh, that old thiiiing…

    Sasha: I remember it pretty clearly, I even had a one-liner for it, something about magicking my sword out of your… yeah, gizzard. It’s a lucky thing that you’re a wizard or that wouldn’t have rhymed at all.

    Drax: Weeeeeell, it has do with-

    Sasha: It was that pool of slime, wasn’t it – you fell in afterwards and then did some magic slime regeneration thing. To this day I couldn’t figure out why Broken Heart Spire had a slime pool, it doesn’t really suit the name very well.

    Drax: No, it wasn’t-

    Sasha: So what was it?

    Drax: You missed. Or actually you didn’t. The gizzard isn’t a vital organ, well not quite anyway. But I did have to have gizzard reconstruction surgery and I still have trouble digesting seeds.

    Sasha: Oh! I didn’t realize you had one, I meant that to be ironic.

    Drax: Quite.


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