Friday, July 18, 2014

Relations: Introduction

There's a difference between a successful villain and a career villain. The successful one has a set of objectives and is making progress on meeting most or all of them, and villainy is a method for doing so. The career villain, on the other hand, has proficiency as a villain as their goal.

This topic is advanced villainy, and is geared toward the latter sort of person. Today we're going to talk about relations - between you and other villains, heroes, the press, civil servants, private citizens, organized crime, the works. We'll cover specific classes of relation in specific posts, so the goal here is to lay down a few ground rules.

Every relationship is a balance of risk vs. reward. All the rules you must follow are based on that truth.

Risk

You're a villain, duh. What you have to remember is that this strongly affects the reactions people have with you, and dictates the sort of people who will work with you openly. Note the keyword "openly", kids - this is your ticket into legitimate channels, and you have to be careful when using it.

Anyone who isn't a worse person than you is risking their professional reputation - and, they think (rightly or wrongly) their lives and sanity - by interacting with you. To cultivate a successful relationship with someone, you must find ways to mitigate that risk. Saying "trust me" isn't going to cut it.

You have three methods to mitigate risk. The first is anonymity, the second is utility, and the third is reputation.

Anonymity

The easiest way to convince someone that you're a villain worth talking to is to pretend you aren't a villain. This is a common reason to leave a civilian identity or two laying around. But don't expect to pick an alias like "John Smith" and expect to roll into a new social situation. The key to making a new nom de la paix work is to be a known quantity. You can't just come off like Deep Throat. Wherever your target tends to hang out, you need to seem like you fit into that setting too.

Utility

Woodward and Bernstein listened to Deep Throat because Deep Throat had meaningful, important shit to say. If you want to build a relationship with somebody, you need to have something to offer them - you can't just lean on them for information or favors without reciprocity.

At the same time, as a villain, you don't want to give away the goodies. For example, a reporter who knows they're talking to a villain but does it because they get good intel on the super scene might eventually be hauled into court. At that point, they face a choice: protect their source and go to the clink for contempt, or narc and lose their access? Your goal is to avoid forcing your people into that kind of choice. Frequently, the only level of useful stuff you could offer to make a reporter take that gamble is also the stuff you don't want to be talking about anyway - for example, dishing dirt on your fellow supervillains will get you in trouble fast. Nobody likes a rat.

Reputation

You might have solidly established yourself. Maybe you've cultivated such a reputation that people now take you at your word. If so, risk is mitigated if your code of behavior also includes treating people well, not atomizing them if they offend you, that sort of thing. Nobody wants to risk being the first to push you over the edge, of course, but it does sweeten the pot if you are already offering something of value.

I'll be talking about villain morality (soon! I promise!) and that's one way to build up this sort of rep. But assuming you already have one, work it to your advantage.