The Generic Villain on Load-Bearing Bases

Last week,I talked about load-bearing bosses. This week, I’m going to take a step up and talk about the load-bearing base. These may not be as common as load-bearing bosses, but as far as I’m concerned, not rare enough. One central headquarters, mobile fortress, or whatever it is gets taken out, and boom, there go all the forces. Demoralized, deactivated, desummoned, whatever—point is, they’re gone. Can you see the problem with this? No Pyrrhic victories, no chance that one of your survivors will fight on—the only ones who get any benefit from this are your opponents (and the particularly impatient past-the-Wall types who don’t want to sit through a cleanup).

I recognize that there are reasons why taking out a structure like that might take out a chunk of your forces. Sometimes we need to mind control them; sometimes they’re automata and need both a power source and constant instruction. (If you ask me, working it like that is a design flaw, but I suppose it’s better than the risk that the heroes can get your forces to turn on you.) Sometimes we’re at the peak of a hive mind. And yes, in these cases it’s pretty much inevitable that the troops are going to be dependent on the structure. But for the love of the Dark Powers, if it’s at all avoidable, don’t like them like that! Give your troops the ability to function autonomously; there are other ways to make sure that being able to outlive you isn’t going to make them try to outlive you.

If linking your troops and your structures is an inevitable hazard of business, consider having multiple structures rather than putting all your minions on one control center. That way, one base being taken out doesn’t mean your forces are completely neutralized. You can approach how to divide them in a number of ways; people dedicated to efficiency might suggest dividing your units between bases by type, but I prefer either as homogeneous a mixture as possible, or divisions mostly by type but with a few surprises for people who think they are fully divided by type.

And if you really must put all your eggs in one basket, try to keep the enemy’s eye off the basket by making the load-bearing base small, subtle, or (preferably) both. Let’s face it, heroes luck into items or spells with mass destructive capabilities on a pretty regular basis. If what they have to aim at includes an ominous floating fortress of Doomy DOOM, you know they’re going to aim at it, and then they’re probably going to hit it. So it’s best to do one of three things: don’t make that fortress at all, make that fortress a decoy for your actual load-bearing base, or ensure that the load-bearing part is so thoroughly shielded it could survive the destruction of the ominous fortress that houses it—and I don’t mean passing, Titanic-QC-level ensure, but actually making sure. I find that improbable structures to house load-bearing components also help—nobody would expect the actual source of power/control to be somewhere in that outhouse a few miles down the road.

If none of the above possibilities are feasible—maybe even if they are—then at least make sure your forces go out with a bang. Powering robots or something? When they lose contact with the load-bearing base (or even better, an hour after, since that gives your foes time to let their guard down and does mean that if your bots glitch out you have a chance to recover them), make them explode. If it’s mind-controlled people, leave something nasty in the flesh or the subconscious. Make the prots pay for their victory.

Load-bearing bases may occasionally be a necessity, but unless you want your movement to last only as long as its structures do, you really need to find ways to work around them.

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