Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lairs: an Introduction

Villains have three places they usually hang out - a civilian residence (one or more), a safe-house, and a lair. This week, we'll be talking all about the hows, whys, and wheres of lairs.

What is a lair?

A villain's lair, basically, is where they hang out and do villainous things. This is where you keep your money, your equipment, weapons, captives, and whatever. If the heroes come after you, this is where you want them to show up.

The reason to have a lair is that it gives you a solid psychological separation between a civilian cover identity and your villainous alter-ego. Even villains who don't maintain a full-time secret identity often need to pose as civvies - you can't go into McDonald's wearing spandex and a mask.

Stocking your lair

A lair should have, at minimum:
  • Two human-scale entrances, preferably well hidden.
  • One service entrance, for loading and unloading cargo.
  • Lighting, plus a stash of emergency lights (candles, flashlights, and so on).
  • A cache of weapons. This is mainly for you and henchmen or hirelings. I recommend a combination lock, rather than a padlock. Change combinations regularly and do not post them anywhere.
  • A change of costumes.
  • A generator and enough fuel to run for several days.
More serious lairs will include any or all of the following:
  • Cells enough to hold half a dozen mundanes for several days.
  • Enough food and water to sustain you, and any captives you might have taken.
  • Sleeping quarters, plus recreation and living facilities for any henchmen you have (pool tables, refrigerators, sodas, the works). You can typically find a good starter set at Staple's. IKEA also carries a nice selection of affordable kitchen, den, and bedroom furniture.
  • A self-destruct mechanism. Carry around a dead-man switch which will set this off.
Security Introduction

A good lair will be secure from casual, and hopefully determined, searches. Cameras are not a deterrent - they are there only to alert you that someone broke in. Lairs are not meant to withstand a determined assault. Instead, they are there to act as a choke point for any heroes or cops who break in. A good lair will keep the good guys busy while you make your escape.

I cannot stress enough how important small details are when planning a lair. Even a random squirrel getting into your site can cause havoc. Lost cats have been traced to underground villains' lairs. Animals are as much a risk as human intruders, so seal up your lair as efficiently as you are able.

For these reasons, underground lairs are often the most popular design, followed by underwater lairs.

I want to talk about the self-destruct for a second. "Mr. Big, why should my lair collapse as soon as I'm defeated? I worked so hard to build it!" Here's why.
  • It destroys evidence for you. No villain should need this explained to them. Did you have a better plan for erasing all the files you've been keeping on future bank robberies when the cops show up?
  • It slows down the good guys. Let them think you've got captives in the back (or really take some, it depends on how you roll). They'll focus on rescue, letting you get away.
  • If possible, it blocks off the good guys' own escape route. If these are mundane police, you can immobilize an entire raid if you're skillful about timing the explosion. This also ties up vital civic resources in a rescue effort, sowing further confusion (which is good for you).
  • If your lair has been found, it is now useless! Losing a good lair is like breaking up with a hot girlfriend (or boyfriend if that's your thing) - you regret the lost opportunities, but hey, it's healthier if you move on.
Upcoming notes

My next several posts will talk about some important parts of lair design and maintenance, including:
  • when to build solo vs. when to use contractors
  • lair security in detail
  • lair locations - terrain, concealment, and more
  • shared and team lairs
As usual, write in with any questions you have!