The Henchman

by Alan Atkinson (ackslog@beyond.net.au)

I was thinking about the various "What I would do if I were an Evil Genius" rules, and I wondered why the heck don't more of them follow those rules? I mean, they are geniuses, right? Then I thought, you know, maybe they don't get the chance. Maybe they aren't really the ones in charge. Just maybe... the highly visible evil genius, the one who always lands in the pit of acid or whatever -- is the fall guy.

So who is in charge?

I call him The Henchman. OK, so he can be a she, especially if she is acting 2i/C for the Black Widow Empress. But let's just use 'he' for the time being, for all the usual reasons (not least that 's/he' just plain sucks).

The Henchman is a highly mutable individual. There may in fact be more than one Henchman around (the Hench-conspiracy?) but while the villain in question only ever knows his Henchman as the dependable Igor or the ever-faithful Estrellita, once the castle goes up in flames and the howling mob has hurled the villain to his screaming death to the crags below, rarely does the henchman himself ever get caught. And why? Because he's the harmless-looking individual who is on the next stagecoach out of town, that's why.

I see the Henchman as having, at the least, fantastic disguise skills. In more cinematic games, he might actually be not quite human, able to alter his appearance and even body structure (sex change, anyone?). Along with this, he has spectacular persuasive ablilites combined with at least a moderate tactical skill. The Sanctity advantage from GURPS (or similar, from other systems) would also be massively helpful. Other abilities to augment or back up these qualities are also entirely possible.

The Henchman first wants to get close to a Villain. The Villain in question might be a low-level crook, or a wannabe warlord -- someone who isn't all that bright. The Henchman gets next to him, and starts to make quiet but sensible suggestions that are quite profitable for the Villain. One thing leads to another, and the Villain finds himself climbing the ladder of prosperity, with the Henchman right behind. Of course, the Henchman defers all offers of riches -- he has a different idea (see below).

The Henchman works to make himself indespensible to the Villain. Utterly trustworthy, capable of organizing the minutest details, never betraying his trust for an instant. Until, of course, he knows all there is to know about the Villain's organization, weaknesses, fortress and personal equipment.

At this point, the Henchman starts to work ever-so-subtly against the Villain. Small things -- suggesting that a particular village be raided for tardy protection money, or that a specific bank be robbed. His advice was good in the past, right? He can couch the suggestion so that the Villain even thinks it was his own idea. But this is designed to get the attention of any Heroes in the area. In addition, the Henchman will arrange to have vital information about the Villain's organization leaked to the Heroes, through intermediaries. This will go on, with the Henchman publicly supporting the Villain and privately backstabbing him -- of course, with complete deniability.

And finally, the Heroes will, in their bumbling way, find their steps guided to the Villain's redoubt. In the ensuing chaos (in the leadup to which time the Henchman has taken the opportunity to ensure that the Villain's personal equipment isn't quite up to spec anymore) the Henchman takes his leave -- with a considerable quantity of the transportable ill-gotten gains.

You see, that's all the Henchman is there for. To build the Villain up to the point that there's large amounts of disposable wealth for the taking, then arrange matters so that it can be taken. In effect, he is a predator, and his natural prey is the villain...