The Generic Villain Has a Destiny

(This title scheme again. Is the Management trying to get me killed?)

Heroes aren’t the only ones who find themselves flying in front of the tailwind of Fate. Sometimes we, too, find ourselves the beneficiaries of prophecy, and spend a brief time recognized as the favored child of the forces that create our worlds. Sadly, most of these times, we find ourselves very abruptly removed from power. It can’t last forever, but how can we at least make it last long enough to enjoy ourselves a little?

If you’re actually at the heart of a prophecy, make a point of studying it. Never, ever accept the idea that the Cliff’s Notes version will be enough for you. This goes double if it’s supposed to make you invincible, or give you cosmic power, or otherwise turn you into the Unstoppable Juggernaut of DOOM. Know your loopholes. If there’s something that can stop you, find out what it is, no matter how improbable it sounds, and figure out everything it could mean. If it talks about what can’t kill you, figure out what that list doesn’t cover, and use as liberal an interpretation as possible. If you’re going to die from your one weakness, it’s much better to go down fighting than to not bother defending because you were sure the attack was going to fail. If it’s vague, operate under the assumption that it’s likelier to work against you than for you—great kingdoms have fallen because people didn’t bother to check whose great kingdom.

Speaking of which, you have a Destiny, not narrative immunity. Don’t. Get. Cocky. There are a lot of things that can happen to you between when you get started and when you carry it out; you might run afoul of someone else’s Screw Destiny, you might end up horribly injured and in no position to take advantage of whatever it is you’re supposed to be responsible for, you might end up used as a puppet and backstabbed the moment you carry the thing out, you might already have done the thing that ensures the event takes place and therefore be dramatically expendable, your entire purpose in life might be to take the fall because the protagonist isn’t strong-willed enough to end the story himself. In short—don’t assume nothing can threaten you as long as the endpoint hasn’t been reached.

If it’s a destiny you feel the need to run away from, be careful how you do it. A lot of us have doomed ourselves by attempting to kill the Chosen One who is meant to destroy us, and succeeding only in killing everyone else and ticking said Chosen One off. If you’re going to try to pull a Screw Destiny maneuver, first, try to figure out if your world’s metaphysics allow for it… and second, do it as morally as possible. Trust me, the one thing worse than being backlashed by Fate for trying to sneak out its back door is getting mugged by Karma at the same time. And for the love of the Dark Powers, if you know perfectly well who the one likely to kill you is, don’t make a special effort to antagonize them. I don’t care if they’re easy to underestimate, I don’t care if it’s your special coping mechanism for the way you fear them, I don’t mean you need to fawn over them, just don’t go out of your way to tick them off!

Unless you’re a career antagonist (or truly immortal, in which case you can expect something technically more unpleasant than death to take you out), you’re probably not going to survive your destiny. But if you’re careful, you can at least make the fun part last, and lose with sufficient dignity.

3 comments

  1. Tom Coenen says:

    Nice post, it reminds me of the Evil Overlord List (http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html).
    It’s a list of things generic villains do that don’t end well for them.
    Generic villains aren’t genre savvy and often make mistakes like blindly following prophecies, killing the chosen one, etc.

  2. Ravyn says:

    GV: Oh, the List? Yes. The Management had been studying that one for a while before she hired me on. I’m here to elaborate on the things the list covers only briefly, or to give advice on dealing with people who might themselves have the Savvy to know what the List would have us do–it’s been out there a while, after all. Even Good adapts, long though it may take. Evil should adapt faster.

    And a quick reminder: I do take, and in fact encourage, questions and advice requests. I promise both a linkback to anyone who leaves a question I can wring a post from, and honest, sincere advice–I know perfectly well the Management will have my helm if I deliberately steer a questioner wrong. You can see previous questions under the Ask GV category.

  3. UZ says:

    Ah, “ultimate power”. Review the history of “ultimate power” attempts and you’ll find that most of the time, it turns out to just be code for turning into a giant, stupid-looking monster, it’s a bit like when Rassilon promised people “immortality”.

    The only one who could ever handle it was Dracula, he actually seemed to enjoy being a giant stupid-looking monster. He could own it, somehow.

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