Monday, March 20, 2017

Villainy Unsound

Villains! Roleplaying games and literature just wouldn't be the same without them. I've spent a lot of time lately writing short fiction for an e-book (more on that to be announced.) The stories I'm writing right now are space opera of a sort but they deal with the crew of a small freighter trying to meet expenses, deal with passengers, locals and their assorted craziness.

 I tried very hard to stay away from the tropes of SF I grew up with and sometimes succeeded. There are no square jawed heroes with nerves of steel. The damsels and guys take turns being rescued and everyone screws up regularly in some way.

When it came to villains I wanted to do some more mold breaking and I looked at a few traditional villains to plan my villains' departure from said tradition.

1) The villain possesses ample resources to deal with the likes of your motley crew.

In truth most criminals I've known or heard of (hey, I live in New York City) had way less money than the average middle class person. That could have caused their life of crime (people gotta eat one way or another) or been the result of it (defense attorneys aren't cheap). They might have ample weapons or cars if they are trading in them but might be short on cash or other resources.

Trying to get over on the heroes unfairly or illegally because you're hard up can make a villain a sympathetic character to some degree. But you're still a villain.

2) They're all badass renaissance men.

If we're talking a global mastermind running a huge empire then they probably don't have 6 hours a day for a work out and mixed martial arts and weapons training. That's what the bodyguards are for. If he is a badasses usurper who killed the mastermind and then took over then he will lack a certain experience and administrative savvy. No one is good at everything.

3) They don't have to be confrontational.

Getting revenge on the team that messed up your big secret deal is satisfying. No doubt. Some might call it a waste of time and resources, especially if that big secret deal was one of seven that month and the other six went off without a hitch. Why seek vengeance when what happened is more of a business expense?

In the real world criminal types do not go out of their way to antagonize the law, unless their region has little law or government. A group that hurt the villain once might be actively avoided. Law officers and other irritants might be bribed and not killed or operations could be suspended or moved to a more favorable location.

4) They have but one penalty for failure.

Bullshit.

Would you work for someone like that? How big a failure are we talking? Do you off the servitor who didn't cut the crusts off your bread? What about the loyal lieutenant who took all reasonable precautions but still had his big deal broken up by the good guys? Truth is having a secret enterprise stay secret requires a fair amount of loyalty. In the later seasons of the drama Breaking Bad viewers are introduced to the concept of legacies. When a minion (yeah they don't call them that in the series) gets arrested and sent up they continue to draw a salary which is sent to their dependents or their own account. That buys a lot of tight lips.

5) There is but one penalty for disloyalty.

This actually makes sense. There can be extenuating circumstances for failure. Having a big mouth ought to guarantee your former coworkers will show up to shut you up fast. This is even more likely if the coworkers have a legacy plan in effect, full medical and are treated well. If the head of the operations gets killed or jailed that will all go away.

Villains are people too and sometimes they get betrayed by someone who is too close to them to just remove (ask Don Michael Corleone.) Love, denial or custom might buy them their life. These people might be isolated, guarded, sent into a sanitarium or tropical island but they'll still be around for future betrayals.

6) They have no honor or morality.

Villains have honor and morality unless we're talking someone like the Joker (I have no idea how he keeps finding gang members.) Remember the things like the legacy plan and henchman support system shows