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View Full Version : Ever fight a user of the Evil Overlord List?



tomaO2
2008-04-06, 04:32 PM
Evil Overlord List (http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html)

I think we all know about this list and it's a lot of fun to read but has any DM religiously implemented this list to a villain that the players are fighting or better yet has anyone written a story about a villain that followed it?

There is a list and everyone knows it and understands the total logic of following it but (other then a few brief jokes in webcomics) no one seems to actually do any stories or campaigns that really utilize it. Which I think is a shame because I would really enjoy reading about a villain that understood how to avoid the pitfalls of classic bad guy overlord behavior.

Mark Hall
2008-04-06, 04:37 PM
I'm reading a series by S.M. Stirling (starting with Dies the Fire, going into The Protectors War, where its first mentioned) where its implied that the main bad guy actually does use the Evil Overlord list, and hand it out to his barons.

Crow
2008-04-06, 04:45 PM
I don't think anybody really uses it because for most groups getting your butt kicked and constantly rolling new characters isn't all that fun.

Kol Korran
2008-04-06, 04:57 PM
actually, there is a book that deals just with that! (and it was inspired by that exact list!) it's called "if i were an evil overlord", and contain 14 short stories dealing with the subjects. i'f i'm not mistaken, at least 4 of them clearly make use of the list (or parts thereof)

Prometheus
2008-04-06, 05:01 PM
I agree with Crow. #38, #47, #98 tend to kill them off fairly quickly

Xuincherguixe
2008-04-06, 06:09 PM
The Evil Overlord list is only really acceptable if the heros also are allowed to be completely unfair. Such as wishing him out of existence.

The standard seems to be that we're either in a Saturday morning cartoon like situation where there seems to be this agreement that no one kills each other, or in a James Bond like situation where the evil Overlord is suicidal.

FlyMolo
2008-04-06, 06:25 PM
Any BBEG who follows the evil overlord list basically has to be destroyed by sheer force. Nothing else will work.

Tsotha-lanti
2008-04-06, 06:35 PM
I don't need to use a list to play intelligent and credible villains. Who would? Surely doing the idiotic cliche isn't the default?

GoodbyeSoberDay
2008-04-06, 07:01 PM
A BBEG always has limitations. Otherwise, he's a boringly-unbeatable force. If he has a relatively huge pile of resources compared to the heroes (including but not limited to: Personal combat skill, one or more competent and trusted advisors, skilled lieutenants, a wealth of manpower, money, and super-weapons) then one of the few things left with which to limit the BBEG is by downgrading his cunning to that of a four-year-old advisor. But if one strips away the loyalty of his lessers, or his piles of gold and items, or even his de jure command status (he could be the ruler's trusted advisor), one all of a sudden has the opportunity to create a cunning BBEG who is forced to take reasonable gambles to achieve his goals.

At that point, it's the PC's perogative to turn "reasonable gambles" into "fatal errors" by whatever means the BBEG doesn't control, or even know about.

Hadrian_Emrys
2008-04-06, 07:18 PM
I tend to run brutal games. BBEG's have no limitations but their own personal code of conduct as dictated by their objectives. Expecting cliche weaknesses will get you killed faster than a frog in a blender. If my players (in a serious campaign or story arc) aren't scared and feeling far outmatched by their foe, I've done something wrong. The BBEG is better than each individual member of the party, that's why there is a party in the first place. If Gulstaff the Great could solo the freaking job, the BBEG would not qualify for the BB part of the title. He has more resources than you, he's more powerful, he has a long list of backup plans/failsaves, and hell he has a staff of CR appropriate cohorts that greatly dwarfs the number of NPCs in the collective backrounds of the party. What makes you heroes is how, as a team, you face these impossible odds and still somehow manage to save the freaking day! Anything less, in a serous game, cheapens the whole thing.

Tengu
2008-04-06, 07:19 PM
Any BBEG who follows the evil overlord list basically has to be destroyed by sheer force. Nothing else will work.

They can still be outsmarted - the Evil Overlord list just makes the BBEG idiot-proof, but it doesn't turn him into an unstoppable force of evil nature. It just requires more effort than tricking a genre-blind overlord.

Mark Hall
2008-04-06, 07:32 PM
They can still be outsmarted - the Evil Overlord list just makes the BBEG idiot-proof, but it doesn't turn him into an unstoppable force of evil nature. It just requires more effort than tricking a genre-blind overlord.

Right. Additionally, the evil overlord will still have weaknesses based on what is possible given his resources.

Douglas
2008-04-06, 07:38 PM
Most of the things on that list that would really be problematic in the "too hard to beat" sense assume either resources that may not be practical or that there are very few, preferably just one, groups of heroes for the BBEG to worry about. For example, sending his right hand man immediately rather than a series of progressively stronger minions requires both that he knows about the heroes, not necessarily a given even with a large investment in spy networks and such, and that said right hand man is not occupied with a list of a dozen other groups of heroes, each of which is more of a threat (right now, anyway) than the PCs.

bugsysservant
2008-04-06, 08:21 PM
I tend to agree. I wouldn't use the list because so many of the suggestions are just jokes. They assume that the Evil Overlord has one credible threat: the party, which he can focus all his resources on. If he's engaged in schemes to take over the world, he probably would allow the standard chain of command to take care of things, none of which would be as bright as him. Playing a villain as an all knowing force of nature is pointless and shatters the verisimilitude worse than any metagaming the players could do.

Mark Hall
2008-04-06, 08:32 PM
I tend to agree. I wouldn't use the list because so many of the suggestions are just jokes. They assume that the Evil Overlord has one credible threat: the party, which he can focus all his resources on. If he's engaged in schemes to take over the world, he probably would allow the standard chain of command to take care of things, none of which would be as bright as him. Playing a villain as an all knowing force of nature is pointless and shatters the verisimilitude worse than any metagaming the players could do.

Yes and no. Remember that series I mentioned at the beginning of the thread? The leader of that little kingdom distributes that list to all of his officers. So, not only is HE following it, but so are THEY (in theory; in practice... well, read the books. You've got city libraries.)

bugsysservant
2008-04-06, 08:43 PM
Yes and no. Remember that series I mentioned at the beginning of the thread? The leader of that little kingdom distributes that list to all of his officers. So, not only is HE following it, but so are THEY (in theory; in practice... well, read the books. You've got city libraries.)

But, so many of the things on the list are blatantly impractical jokes...

Some are common sense, like not interrogating people in your inner sanctum or ever telling people your plans, but most... So, all his barons and advisers can't have children? That seems kinda weird. Or having a bright and cheery dress code? Also, having lesser leaders just leads to regression. The big leader can't focus on the little things, but all the only slightly less leaders can? Whether you're conquering the world, or conquering a bordering country you're still not going to "sweat the little stuff." To make them do so is patently absurd.

Rayzin
2008-04-06, 08:47 PM
Following something like the Evil overlord list makes the Evil overlord more powerful, but more importantly intelligent. As such its more fun when my DM makes a villain act smart and actually set up proper defenses and some more foolproof plans.

Mark Hall
2008-04-06, 08:54 PM
But, so many of the things on the list are blatantly impractical jokes...

Some are common sense, like not interrogating people in your inner sanctum or ever telling people your plans, but most... So, all his barons and advisers can't have children? That seems kinda weird. Or having a bright and cheery dress code? Also, having lesser leaders just leads to regression. The big leader can't focus on the little things, but all the only slightly less leaders can? Whether you're conquering the world, or conquering a bordering country you're still not going to "sweat the little stuff." To make them do so is patently absurd.

True, to an extent. However, on the "bigger picture stuff", remember that bigger picture is relative. Each level gets their orders, and perhaps some of what their orders mean in the bigger picture. So the guy at the captaincy level isn't trying to a corporal's job, he's trying to do a captain's job. He got told to do that job by a colonel, who got his orders from a general. They're each concerned with carrying out their level of the plan, not with carrying out their underlings level.

Hadrian_Emrys
2008-04-06, 08:57 PM
Impractical? No doubt. However, many a DM/writer/artist cannot seem to shake the need to pose their villians in such a way as to make them these stupid, STUPID, freaking posers. What ever happened to being practical?

"Yes, I'm dressed simply, in an outfit with color no less. I have no cloak that billows in the wind. I do not laugh at how evil I am when my plans work without a hitch. Do I look impressive on screen? No. Do people cower before my might as I stroll down the street with a blank look and mundane looking clothes? No, but I would have to stand OUT enough to be noticed before that could happen. This new band of assorted misfits attempting to remove me from power? Sure, I disregarded them when they were not doing anything more than annoying my low ranked minions and killing off "allies" who were more of a burden at this point anyway. However, disrupting my plan to keep the local duke in my pocket ranks them as an immediate threat. I'm waiting on word as to where they will rest tonight. Sleeping foes pass from this world quietly."

tomaO2
2008-04-06, 09:32 PM
I like that discription Hadrian_Emrys.

I can't help but think that it could work but you'd have to play it properly. You have to give clues that this villain doesn't play by the old rules. Probably other heroes have tried to take him out before but failed and the stories of those failers have spread.

Obviously, OBVIOUSLY, there would have to be other groups trying to take him out. You can't let him focus on your party until they got a grip on the situation. People would know about his hiring of fake heroes to call out at the bell tower. Would know that he has a 5 year old advisor. It would probably be a prized position in the city he rules with a contest every year for all the five year olds. The way he selects people to be assassinated would be important too.

He's not all powerful, he can't see everything he's just got a commonsense approach and we need other ways to get out of situations. It could have interesting aspects, like a trusted lieutenant could monologue and then get shot by the overlord as he comes in and shouts "NEVER EVER MONOLOGUE!!!" (people should be frequently quoting his rules as well). Or the doomsday device that wasn't SUPPOST to have a reverse switch but did (who added the F***ING reverse switch???). I like rule where the BBEG will spare the life of anyone once if they save his life. Perhaps someone that saved the BBEG's life would write a note for a hero so that when the BBEG was about to kill the hero, the hero could bring it out and would have to be let go. That's not the rule but it's a reasonable modification to it in terms of giving players a chance.

After awhile they would metagame what's going on and would be ready for certain tricks like the fake maps that lead to the execution chamber. Especially if you follow the rules slavishly and why wouldn't you? It's just replacing one trope with another. Or an air vent is too small for a man but not too small for a halfling. I'm sure that one could find ways of getting around the rules and coming up with new and interesting situations to be roleplayed.

Eclipse
2008-04-06, 09:58 PM
I make use of the list sometimes, but I use it to remind myself of things a smart villain might prepare for that I might forget. I also remember that villains are people too, and may be subject to the same character flaws as other people may be. So it may be appropriate to apply some of the Evil Overlord measures, but not others.

For instance, I'm running a campaign in which there was a dragon arrogant enough to leave it's most valuable asset, a powerful, immovable artifact called a totem, in it's lair guarded by some relatively high level monsters. Anyway, the PCs decided they wanted to be heroes, so they concocted a plan with a high level npc to keep the dragon occupied very far away from the lair, and then went in and fought the monsters while chipping away at the totem. The totem, as it was reaching it's death throes, called out to the dragon for help. It came teleporting in, and drove most of the PCs away. One of them, a sorcerer, stayed behind, and managed to destroy the totem just before the monster mages nuked him good with some fireballs as they finally arrived on the scene with the dragon. Needless to say, our good sorcerer did not survive, and was later brought back by a cleric after his friends scraped together the money for a true ressurection.

Now, the dragon was arrogant, and that combined with the clever planning of the PCs, allowed them to bring down a huge source of power for the dragon. However, dragons are also highly intelligent creatures, and the PCs, in executing such a plan effectively, became one of the most serious threats to this dragon. Knowing it had to act in order to destroy the group before they became to powerful, it designed an elaborate trap.

The first stage was to create a duplicate of herself to lure the PCs to her lair so they could get back the brave sorcerer's magical gear, among which was a powerful artifact that aided in both his defense and spellcasting. Next, the dragon would send this duplicate, with a telepathic bond, to ruffle some feathers in town, though it made sure not to engage the PCs directly, as it was far weaker than the original. The PCs, thinking they'd loot the gear and a little of the hoard, teleported in. And the party sorcerer was promptly hit with a dimensional anchor, so no one would be teleporting away. After that, the true dragon, still in the lair, made short work of the PCs since they hadn't picked up on the fact that the dragon in town was a fake. (They could have based on the fact they weren't nearly as frightened by it this time around, or if they noticed it's odd behavior in avoiding a direct confrontation with them, among some other indicators.) The campaign's continuance after that point is a far longer story.

The point I intended to illustrate is that even intelligent villains have flaws (in this case arrogance), but when they work from their strengths (in this case, intelligence and vast resources), they mask those flaws, or they compensate for them. And though this villain didn't follow all the evil overlord rules, one in particular she did follow was to neutralize a growing threat before it became too powerful to deal with. After henchmen didn't work, she made sure they wouldn't cause her problems again. My hope for the PCs had been they'd figure out the best course would be to run and/or hide for awhile, rather than continuing to return to her lair and test fate some more.

tomaO2
2008-04-06, 10:05 PM
The tomb of horrors thread reminded me that, actually, plenty of players enjoy an impossible mission. If they didn't, then why would that scenario be so popular?

If they like impossible missions then an almost flawless BBEG would also probably be okay, as long as they understood what they were getting into. Perhaps a follower of the Evil Overlord list would be more popular an opponent then you guys think?

Hadrian_Emrys
2008-04-06, 10:11 PM
Toma: Thanks for the kind word, and you're right. Sometimes players want the afterglow of managing the impossible. The Tomb of Horrors and the Ravenloft setting are proof of that. For low fatality adventures Dr. Evil works, for everything else there's the evil overlord. :smallamused:

Ascension
2008-04-06, 10:54 PM
I'm actually quite fond of clichéd, overblown villains. I think a lot of people are. That's how the clichés got to be popular in the first place. Monologuing is fun. Billowing cloaks are cool. Sure, a boring villain can be threatening, but he's still boring. Even as he kills you horribly and efficiently, he's still boring. If you want realistic villains, just read the news. In an RPG I want the theatrical Snidely Whiplash villain stroking his waxed moustache.

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHHHH!!!

lumberofdabeast
2008-04-06, 11:35 PM
I've always wanted to give it a Girl Genius/Discworld-esque spin. The players defeat the BBEG, relax for a couple days, get called away for a few months because someone on another plane needs their help...

And then they return to find their homeland has dissolved into complete and utter chaos, because the BBEG was the only thing keeping the country together. Oh, and of course, since everyone heard about the party defeating the king, someone in a tavern grumbles "We'd still have peace if it wasn't for those damned heroes," and before you know it, the entire nation hates the party as well.

(That someone, of course, would be the rezzed and disguised BBEG, who was smart and planned for his own death.)

Overlord
2008-04-06, 11:51 PM
I AM THE

...Oh, sorry. No, I haven't used the list.

Drascin
2008-04-07, 12:45 AM
I tend to have them use it... partially. Every BBEG I make has a few fatal flaws that the party can exploit if they're smart. Be it hubris, boredom, or simple lack of understanding of human and minion motives, no BBEG is perfect. But they are certainly going to be a challenge if you try to approach them by conventional methods. For example, I used the "fake weakness" with my last BBEG - he was a consummate actor, and acted as if he had a real terror to fire while he was with anyone he didnt absolutely trust. So the party bribed a minion, learned this, and showed up in the place with enough fire spells to burn the Amazon... and the BBEG showed up with a ring of Immunity to Fire. That was fun :smallamused:

Khanderas
2008-04-07, 01:10 AM
Sleeping foes pass from this world quietly."
Evil. :smallbiggrin:
But I agree with the post, makes for a villain who survives. If anything make sure that the nightly assassination is botched though. The players may be alittle miffed to hear they were killed while sleeping in an inn.

Sstoopidtallkid
2008-04-07, 01:14 AM
Yes, do not assault the players while they're asleep in a town. This is like stealing the Wizard's spellbook, or having an Alchemist sell them poisons instead of potions. Yes, it's doable. Yes, if this was real, someone would try it. But all this does is guarantee every time the players go to sleep from now on, you have to listen for 20 minutes while they describe the various layers of protections they have up. It's realistic, but it'll make the game less fun in the foreseeable future.

Zeful
2008-04-07, 01:42 AM
What's fun is applying the evil overlord list to high level wizards. They'd use simuclariums, clones, magic jars (leading to vader babies and 8 year-old necromancers) and other things.

Talic
2008-04-07, 02:02 AM
What you have to realize is that The Evil Overlord list does, if you follow it, is turn you into an opportunist.

The following can sum it up:

Fair fights are for suckers.

To this end, the Evil Overlord will always go for opponents weaker than himself. Or, at least, in a helpless position relative to him.

He will most likely gain his initial power through treachery. From there, he will seek out fringe groups, ideally ones at odds with others, and supplant them, gaining both popularity, and their power base.

Once he's absorbed enough to tangle with bigger fish, he'll begin trading his fame on a few minorly controversial acquisitions or policies, and continue seeking out opposition (or potential opposition), and eliminate it, continuing to focus on targets that can enhance his power base, prestige, or both. He's still likely too small a fish to perform widespread searches for opposition yet.

Once he gains popularity, he'll likely begin legitimate bids for power, along with his less scrupulous methods. Expect a political office, and official policies that enhance the welfare and comfort of the average person.

After getting to a position of legitimate power, expect subtle policy changes, designed around paving the way for his coup, and setting the way to identify obstacles and threats. You'll see beginnings of trends towards centralizations of military power, and safeguards and limitations on weapons usage within the overlord's sphere of influence. Centralized power will be to either establish control of the military, or to provide a single target for removal.

Coup will again happen through betrayal. Expect a large gathering of prominent figures, during which a subtle method of removal will be used (historically, poison, or military use. As poison is limited in scope in D20, go for something more effective). There will be a coverup, where it seems that the few not in attendance were spared the treachery of <insert next organization to be absorbed here>. This provides an air of legitimacy to the acquisition of power, and simultaenously provides the next means of growth.

From here, subtle controls get stricter, while the overall populace continues to enjoy a variety of creautre comforts, ranging from TV to gladitorial entertainment. This is to keep the general populace more easily controlled. Military will be kept under a tight leash, with individual leaders selected who typically harbor resentments and conflicting agendas against each other. Policies and procedures will now be set to keep subordinates in opposition, to prevent other potential overlords from acquiring power. At this stage, beginning to look for potential usurpers would commence. An overlord in this stage is very difficult to overthrow.

Talic
2008-04-07, 02:08 AM
Evil. :smallbiggrin:
But I agree with the post, makes for a villain who survives. If anything make sure that the nightly assassination is botched though. The players may be alittle miffed to hear they were killed while sleeping in an inn.

To save them from assassination, they merely must have something that's needed. A reason more compelling than expediency to be kep alive. Information, typically, but a unique and powerful ability that could be of use, and a history of being fairly mercenary could be enough.

Hadrian_Emrys
2008-04-07, 09:13 AM
Evil. :smallbiggrin:
But I agree with the post, makes for a villain who survives. If anything make sure that the nightly assassination is botched though. The players may be alittle miffed to hear they were killed while sleeping in an inn.

The trick is to use the event to scare the hell out of the party, but not off them. Remember, the point of an "Overlord" game is to keep heart rates going just as much as it is to make the players feel a genuine sense of accomplishment in the end. Having the party woken up by a near fatal coup de grace on the tank accomplishes a lot of things at once.

1. It sets a mood, and makes the party panic.
2. They also angry, and thus the need to take down the BBEG is made personal instead of just some collection of stats that needs to be taken down in order to loot and level.
3. The party will now fear resting (as they should, if they don't already) and will make sure that part of the nighty routine is to set up safeguards against the methods used in each attack. This is great for story telling and teamwork building.
4. It shows that they are being watched, and makes them more observant and attentive to the details of what's doing on around them as a matter of survival. This is another mind game used on my players in order to make the world feel more real and alive.

There is so much more in addition to the above, and all of it for the sake of making an intense game for your players to enjoy.

Illiterate Scribe
2008-04-07, 10:38 AM
What's fun is applying the evil overlord list to high level wizards. They'd use simuclariums, clones, magic jars (leading to vader babies and 8 year-old necromancers) and other things.

Dude, this is how Emperor Tippy and co. play their PC wizards.

Hadrian_Emrys
2008-04-07, 10:58 AM
Dude, this is how Emperor Tippy and co. play their PC wizards.

Turns games into shades of gray, Spy vs Spy nonesense. I love it so.