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You Wanna Fight?

An Open Letter to the Evil Overlord's Grunts

Bryan Jonker
February 19, 2002  

This was, obviously, inspired by the Evil Overlord List - things not to do when you are an Evil Overlord. Lists are popular, they're easy to do, and frankly I need a filler article to get my life on track. Anyway, I see this as the Evil Overlord's grunts list. Where's the guidance for the little guy, the person who does the day-to-day maiming, pillaging, and looting? I see you on Xena, Hercules, Star Trek, and countless James Bond movies. You usually end up dead. So, to alleviate this problem, here are some suggestions.

You fight to the death

This is important. You may have even been in this scene: the Hero is charged by a half-dozen of your comrades. Through bad choreography, all six of your friends get dispatched quickly. Very quickly. At this point, do you a) run away, b) surrender, or c) attack? Most normal people would realize that this is, in fact, the Hero, and leave. Run away.

Yes, I know you've been motivated by fearing your sergeant and/or commander more than the Hero. Possible death is preferable than certain death, and you may be the one who gets in the lucky blow and kill the Hero. They may even be paying you a lot of gold, giving you 50% of the spoils, and let you live your life in comfort, never having to be a mercenary again. But, is this all worth your life? Especially if your sergeant is miles away, and can't see what's going on? Cut your losses.

And remember, surrendering is always an option.

You do the same thing as everyone else

OK. For whatever reason, you are determined to fight the Hero. Assuming it's a fantasy setting, you've seen your six comrades go at the Hero with swords. All six die. Suggestion: don't use your sword. Use a bow. Or a net. Regroup and try to ambush him. Call for backup. Or get armor. Something.

A side note: mixed troops tend to be more effective than one of any type. An archer and a swordsman, generally, are more effective than two archers or two swordsmen. Of course, there are exceptions - if mobility is needed, all light cavalry or light transport is better because heavier equipment will slow the whole unit down. However, when you don't know what to expect, have a mix of troops.

You don't care about your squad mates

When the aforementioned six comrades were slain, you don't seem to bat an eye. Most training encourages fraternization. Is your army different? Didn't you make friends, or at least get somewhat close to your teammates? You don't have to have New-Age sentimentality, but you are not just a mindless killing machine. The fire of watching your comrades die may give you some extra adrenaline.

Of course, the opposite may also take place - you may freeze. Training tries to strip the fear of death from you, but sometimes the impact of watching a friend die can overwhelm even the most ingrained training. It happens.

You ignore the law, without consequence

Cities and communities, almost by definition, have laws to protect the citizens. Cities with laws have police, or some way to enforce the laws. This is fairly basic.

Yet, when you start fighting in open spaces, fighting where someone can get killed, where are the police? At best, someone will be on the scene while the fight is in progress, and try to break it up. They won't know who started it, so their priority will be to stop the conflict and apprehend everyone. If the fight is over before the police get there, they will question witnesses, collect forensic evidence, and try to stop this from happening again.

Even when you restrict your fighting to inside the Evil Overlord's castle/base/fortress, there still will be problems. Unless you are a nation unto yourself, you will have to deal with the legitimate government. The Koresh cult learned this the hard way when the ATF started investigating their weapons stockpile.

You fight at first sight, without provocation

I know that the Evil Overlord recruited you because of your brutish nature. I know that your training encourages you to fight. But, whenever you see the Hero, you do you instantly assume he's going to violently resist? You draw your weapons and start the fight. Why don't you try something before attacking? A more reasoned approach may work better. First, state who you are, convince the Hero that the odds are against him, and give him the chance to surrender. Or, walk past him and club him when he's not looking.

This goes double for those who actually are the law. I mean, the Hero is usually law-abiding. Announce "City Guard" or "Police", and arrest the Hero. The Hero is usually armed, but you can disarm him when he's in custody.

Of course, if the Hero has already attacked you or your comrades, feel free to strike first, using all necessary force.

You need more training

The Evil Overlord's troops seem to be divided into two groups - incredibly competent and horribly incompetent. I mean, "can't shoot the broad side of a Millennium Falcon" incompetent. I guess this is more of a message to your sergeants. Sending incompetent troops to get shot doesn't help the cause. But, the sergeant isn't going to get killed - you are. So, make sure you have the proper training.

You are automatically supplied

Whenever I see you march into battle, I see troops. That's it. Where are your supplies? What do you eat? Modern armies have over 50% of their resources tied up in logistics. Of course, a medieval setting doesn't have the electronics of a modern army, but the supplies have to be closer to the front line.

This also goes for the non-human armies. Basic ecology requires that dragons need a lot of land to hunt. The population density for the Asiatic lion is 1 lion for every 7 square kilometers. Dragons may be grouped, but you're not going to find several groups all in one area.

One last note...

Never, never ever say "I will not fail you again" to the Evil Overlord. You're just asking for trouble. Trust me.

In all seriousness

Of course, some campaigns foster the mentality of "mindless grunts." Feng Shui almost based its entire game around the grunt. If that's the type of game you want, more power to you. However, hopefully this article will give you some hints for a more realistic game.

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What do you think?

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Wanna Fight by Bryan Jonker