The Generic Villain on the Proper Use of Philosophy

So you’re a Hand of Darkness who runs to the intellectual side of things. You have style. Depth. The soul of a poet, inherent rather than somewhere in your collection of odd mad scientist trinkets. You might even say you’re a philosophical sort—and being intelligent, you know how not to make the mistakes that turn many villains’ willingness to start talking nature of the universe (and what’s wrong with it, and how they’re going to fix it, and why that justifies all the collateral damage) into their greatest weakness.

So how can you, as a Hand of Darkness, use your own gift for philosophy as one of your advantages?

The most straightforward answer, of course, is to use it to help those somewhat oblivious protagonists understand that you’re right—or if not right, then at least well-meaning but going about the good goals the wrong way. The former result gets you recruits, the latter tends to inspire lenience—and in some cases laxity in guarding you, if you get one of those ones who really, REALLY wants to believe you’re a good guy at heart. And if you can’t convince them, probably because they’re too stupid to make sense of your reasoning (remember what I said last time about the ones who call decent tactics “a trick”)? Confuse them. The problem, though, is making sure that they’re actually going to listen to you, which means….

Wait until they ask, and then explain yourself. This first part is absolutely critical. Most of the time, the people who consider themselves villain-philosophers start with a long interminable rant at the slightest provocation, regardless of whether it’s tea with an old foe asking them how their ideal political system works (you may scoff, but I have seen this happen) or a random bratty kid tapping them on the shoulder as they stand staring majestically into space and asking “Whatcha doing?” You can probably imagine which one of them is likelier to get the point across. I strongly recommend coming across as intelligent and perhaps even reasonable first; it makes it easier to get them to ask.

Consider intermediaries. The thing about hero-types is that when they realize who we are and what we represent under the Laws of Dramatics, they go downright paranoid around us. Even the hyper-trusting types, the ones who’d say “Gosh, really?” if a friend told them that their best friends were really shapeshifting aliens, tend to get downright incredulous when we’re concerned. So if it’s going to convince them, it might need not to come from us.

Show, don’t tell. Why spend all your time pontificating about what you consider to be the inherent nature of the world to people who will refuse to listen to you when a visual demonstration without the commentary not only will make a better impression on them, but make them think they figured it out themselves? So instead of telling people how inherently flawed the world is because of this, that and the other trait of humanity, maneuver them so they see the trait in question making everybody’s lives miserable. After all, heroes have to stand in opposition to something; why not give them a more convenient target?

Being a thinker—even a villain-philosopher—doesn’t always mean you’re going to talk yourself into an early foiling. If it’s one of your strengths, know how to use it!

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