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kengr posted a link to this comic (link) in her LJ. It raises a good point about evil in stories, and the fact that how the story ends is less important than the facts that 1. Evil overlords generally get a few decades at least of living like a god. And 2. History is cyclical, and the story doesn't end just because the storyteller stops talking.

Inspired by this, I commented, getting some tips from my dark sorceress character, Lyria, about how to be evil (or, in her case, dark but neither good nor evil) and not get yourself killed in the process (or at least, reduce your chances of getting killed, and increase your odds of having a long, productive career in evildoing). Here is what I said:

My character Lyria says the secret to getting away with being "evil" is to lie low, avoid angering anyone more powerful than yourself, until you've learned enough and worked hard enough in secret to get to the point, some day, when you don't have to take shit from as many people; I say "as many" because you still need to keep from angering the people "bigger" than you, and also, your peers can gang up on you. But still be polite and politic as much as possible, to everyone, unless they try to abuse you first. Do not abuse your power; piss off enough people who are beneath you, or just the right person, can be hazardous to your health.

Avoid fighting if you can. But if someone threatens you and running away would only make them a thorn in your side, either make sure you run farther than they can follow, or kill them. She lives by the mantra, "Don't leave a live enemy behind you."

Another secret to being evil is, make people fear you enough to give you a wide berth, but not so much that they come bearing pitchforks and torches. Also, make your own henchmen if you can. But however you get your henchmen/henchwomen, treat them very well, but not *too* well. It inspires loyalty.

Also, don't seek power for power's sake. Have some goal. Lyria doesn't conquer, she holes up in her fortress and occasionally travels in search of more information. Her eventual goal is to defeat death by becoming a goddess, even a Creator. Her basic rule of thumb is, don't give anyone more excuse than they need to try to bring you down. And in case someone gets angry enough or bored enough to try to bring you down, be prepared. Not only is Lyria a formidable sorceress, she also has a huge army of unkillable supersoldiers, and in case all else fails... well, I'll not spoil things too much. But she has a backup plan for her plans, and all her backup plans have backup plans. She also has the capability to run to safe places if she has to.

Another good rule she lives by is this: defy labels. No one is truly good or truly evil. If you're aware of this and play your cards right, you can get allies from anywhere. Having friends and allies who are "good" as well as "evil" can be of tremendous help, as long as you are honest with them from the get-go, and they befriend you knowing full well that you're not a goody two-shoes. Same goes with "evil" allies: they have to know up front that you are a complex person with your own ethics and that there are some lines you won't cross. Nothing is worse than lying to friends and allies about what kind of a person you are, because Good may feel obliged to take you down, and Evil may think you're a traitor or a snitch. Even being honest up front like that is risky, so don't make too many friends from either side.

So, like anything in life, get good at hiding (but not too good), get good at gathering information, get good at finding trustworthy allies, don't abuse your power, don't be an asshole, and get good at kissing ass (politics). Keep your head down and work diligently without attracting undue attention, until such time as you can strike. And be clever, but don't get a swolen ego. Don't overestimate yourself, and don't underestimate others. And if your particular skill involves changing yourself through science or magic into something faster, stronger, and better than you were, be very careful not to rush things! Be methodical in your research before making any changes, and give yourself time to get used to the changes you make.
It takes lots of cunning, hard work, the tongue of a politician (not literally), and a well-balanced air of mystery to survive in the dark, fuzzy area between Good and Evil, or to be evil. Not everyone's cut out for it. Between rivals and heroes, villainy has a high mortality rate. If you seem to have no agenda except to survive, it gives you a kind of protective invisibility.

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 3rd, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
That would be awesome. :-)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 4th, 2010 11:27 am (UTC)
Dec. 3rd, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
One thing the comic doesn't mention is that there are plenty of evil empires where the hero does not triumph - it's just that the bards never sing about THOSE...
Dec. 3rd, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
Too true. :-)
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
From your description (especially the bit about lines she won't cross) I'd say Lyria is what D&D (at least in the old days) would classify as "Lawful Neutral".

The Lawful part is because she most definitely has rules she lives by (as opposed to operating on whims, which would make her Chaotic).

The Neutral part is because it sounds like she doesn't consider Good or Evil as important criteria for living her life.

Dec. 4th, 2010 12:38 am (UTC)
Yes, makes sense. Lyria's basic rules are:

1. Don't hurt children.

2. Don't hurt anyone unless they deserve it.

3. Don't hurt animals except where necessary for food or survival.

4. Protect the ones you love.

5. Don't wipe out an entire people. (She has a rule for this for a very good reason that is personal to her.)

6. Revenge, while not forbidden, should not be engaged in without careful review of the situation to assure that none of the other rules are broken.

7. Treat your equals and subordinates with respect and kindness, when appropriate. Treat people more powerful than you with respect so they don't feel the need to hurt you.

8. All rules have exceptions, including this one.

And that's pretty much it, AFAIK. But insofar as hurting people who DO deserve it, and protecting her loved ones, Lyria can get truly terrifying (some of her greatest acts of evil are/were done to protect her loved ones, or revenge them). And ultimately, her ethics can best be described as situational. She knows that no matter how hard you try to adhere to certain rules, there will always be exceptions, and those exceptions depend on the situation.

I guess if I had to attach a label to her philosophy, it would be "Satanism/Setianism." Definetely Left-Hand-Path, though.
Dec. 4th, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
Ah. Given *those* rules, she's actually somewhere between Lawful Neutral and Lawful Good.

Folks tend to not understand that Lawful Good folks are *not* necessarily someone you want near you.

"Don't pray for Justice. You won't like it. Pray for Mercy."

Actually, given the bit about exceptions to rules, that'll pull her toward Neutral on the Law-Chaos axis as well.

Edited at 2010-12-04 12:51 am (UTC)
Dec. 4th, 2010 01:06 am (UTC)
Lyria is offended at the suggestion that she's Good. She likes the Lawful Neutral label.

Reading up on alignments, I think Lyria is somewhere between Lawful and Chaotic. Maybe Neutral Neutral? *Reads up on True Neutral* Yeah, that makes more sense. She does have her own "rules," but they're more like guidelines. She's out for herself and her loved ones, everyone else is just a tool or an obstacle.
Dec. 4th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
Reading these alignments, it's not entirely clear where Lyria would be. And frankly, I like that. One thing I like about Lyria is that she's hard to pin down, she defies labels. The more you know about her, the less you can figure out. Especially with some of the things I have planned for her in future stories.
Dec. 18th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
Pretty much...
...my considerations on the Drow, outside of the "stonewalled theocracy" (which isn't too interesting anyway). There are only two basic situations for such characters:

1) They are really sure that they can afford to be sure they are able to get away with whatever they want to do now.
2) Acting mostly Neutral Sneaky while watching for an opportunity to expand their power without too much risk.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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