The Franchise of Evil

mcevilcorpMurder Hobos expect the enemy’s structure to look something like a corporation:

  • Multitudinous low-level scrubs on the bottom are scrubs who do scrub things and produce scrub-like XP;
  • The scrubs have a boss who has boss moves and boss drops;
  • That boss has a boss with more interesting drops and XP payouts;
  • On up a linear pyramid of evil until the Murder Hobos reach the Apex Boss, whom they then defenestrate.

Evil has a nice, traditional, pyramidal corporate  structure with endless scrubs on the bottom and an apex monster with prime loot drops at the top.  The corporate pyramidal structure makes perfect sense if evil has a singular-stated mission.  Missions like: taking over the realm’s wineries, running the local undead castle, or selling magic item counterfeits to unsuspecting wizards.

That leads to a few important questions:

  • What happens if the evil mission is to control an ever-growing slice of territory?
  • What happens when evil wants to dragoon cheap labor/random encounters to grow their bottom while keeping the same quality of leadership at the top?
  • What if evil wants to rule the world?

Successful evil organizations are successful for a reason.  They’re nastier than the other evil guys out there.  They’re the Big Bad. They’re the #1 evil. Why else would Murder Hobos quest against all odds in snowstorms while going up a mountain to stop them and save the world?

With nastiness success comes name recognition. With name recognition comes branding: logos, commercial endorsements, trolls guarding bridges and wearing t-shirts emblazoned with corporate taglines.  A household evil name is more than a brand. It’s a stamp of evil quality.  Murder Hobos know what they’re getting when they run with that brand.

The thieves’ guild?  Dangerous thieves.  Red dragon under the mountain?  Dangerous dragon. Lich under the mountain? Lichness.

Murder Hobos hear a name or a jingle from the Old Man Quest Giver in the pub and they’re all, “oh, man, you know about that super evil from 10,000 years ago that came bubbling out of the Underdark and has a catchy staring eye in a cave logo?  We’re fighting that guy.  And we’re screwed. He has a hell of a brand.”

Brand is power for evil wishing to break out of the strict corporate pyramidal power structure.  Evil lends their brand name to smaller, less associated groups of thugs. Little groups use the overall evil brand’s name to strike fear into the hearts of locals. The evil pyramid adds manpower without offering the above vacation plans and 401Ks. It’s a perfect marriage of brand recognition and manpower hyper-growth.

But the core evil mission doesn’t want to hire these groups full-time. Littele thug groups are expensive to in-source. Instead, core evil draws up franchise agreements.

The Franchise

Originally, the franchise concept came from Kings who granted a person or persons – aka Murder Hobos – the right to carry a service for the realm.  Services like killing bad guys and rolling their bodies for stuff.  In return, the franchisee got to levy a fee.  Even Kings sometimes have good ideas.  Evil organizations looking for serious fast growth into new territories work identically.

Newer, faster evil organizations have gone for turbo-charged growth. They need people, and they need them fast. Sure, there’s evil staffing companies who can fuel hyper-growth. But, the evil organizations want to grab new chunks of physical territory quickly.  That takes more than bodies. That requires tentacling out the organization.

Evil organizations send scouts into new territories. Scouts interview the local gangs of thugs, hobgoblins, orks, and other creatures on the lawful evil to chaotic evil spectrum.  Instead of killing them off as challenges to the brand, the representative identifies the most promising thugs.  During the meeting, if everything works out well (ie, no one gets stabbed), the representative offers the thugs an “affiliate package.”

The package includes:

  • Training to “level up” beyond 1st level;
  • Improved weaponry – nothing rusted, pitted or scarred;
  • A playbook for evil success;
  • Access to the organization’s credit and banking line from the Transmuter Bankers;
  • And use of the evil brand (with free branded gear) to terrify the locals.

In return, the franchisee must:

  • Generate a certain level of measurable financial growth year over year;
  • Share a slice of revenues from terrifying and/or rolling villages with the home organization;
  • Agree to form a solidarity pact to defend the home organization from Murder Hobos or other evil organizations.

The franchisee runs as an independent entity with a distant, corporate owner who provides support and name recognition they could never do on their own.

Once agreed, they shake hands.  The home organization sends another group of representatives to carry through with the package.  Military trainers come for a two-week “intensive Ork-leveling” course.  The organization provides shoes to kobolds.  Everyone gets a jaunty embroidered ball cap.

The benefits are not unlike the benefits of a McDonald’s franchise.  The franchisee gets access to credit and growth to fuel their own gang and the power of a household recognized evil brand.  The franchiser gets to tap into unused potential from otherwise randomly spawning mobs and a new stream of revenue.

Franchisees also bring local knowledge of the area to the franchiser who now doesn’t have to invest in that sort of “market research.”  This is valuable to an evil organization wanting to fuel hyper-kinetic growth.  The local franchisee knows the local Murder Hobos, the Quest Givers, the law enforcement, the corruptible, and the local economy. And the franchiser provides the franchisee instructions on how to leverage their intelligence into evil success. You too can defeat the Murder Hobos!

But, most important is the brand.  The random spawning Ork band becomes the King Lich’s Men with all that brand entails.  Poof, they go from 1st level scrubs to terrifying with much higher XP and loot drops.  One good atrocity at their hands advertises the brand to new possible franchisees. The brand spreads.

Of course, there’s the free riding problem. Any Orks can call themselves the King Lich’s Men without a franchise agreement. But rest assured, if they’re caught by the real King Lich’s Men, bloody, terrible retribution comes their way.  Death at the hands of a ticked-off franchiser is much more messy than death at the hands of Murder Hobos.  After all, the franchiser must protect their brand at all cost.

Free ride and die.

Delicious Infighting

The franchiser expects the franchisee to control their territory with the same verve and conviction as the home office.  The franchisee can go about their business how they choose. But, they cannot tarnish the brand, miss payments to the home office, or soften the evil image.  This is all about territory grab growth; if the franchisee can’t hold up their end of the bargain, the franchiser needs a new franchisee.  Think entrepreneurial, the home office says to their franchisee.  This is more than an opportunity to get levels and frighten townpeople.  This is an opportunity to run a business!  An evil business!

And plop plop plop the home office goes popping up franchisees all over the countryside.  Fresh orks and highwaymen are always interested in free swords and fast leveling.

This all works – pretty well, actually – until the home office gets too aggressive with their franchise operations. Proximity to other branches is important to the overall success of the franchisee.  If the franchiser drops franchisees randomly all over a territory without forward planning, they collide.  All the franchisees have the same financial reporting requirements to the home office.  If they’re too close together, they encroach on territory. They’ll start to poach each other’s profits and drain their ability to pay.  Not paying means the franchiser pulls their franchise agreement and lets the branch die.

The franchiser doesn’t care.  They make money taking a cut of the franchisee’s sales, not their profits.  They care only about controlling territory and taking a cut in the aggregate, not in the specific. Opening new branches always leads to taking more territory and an increase in overall “sales.”  If a new branch cannibalizes the territory of existing franchisees, the mother company still comes out ahead.

Incentives are not well aligned in the world of quasi-corporate fantasy evil.

Of course, in the world of chaotic evil, random mobs, and rampaging orks, there is no recourse to the law.  Orks cannot take the Lich King to court and sue him for encroachment. They do have all these lovely new swords and brand new military training that leveled them up to an acceptable challenge for Murder Hobos.

And the lovely infighting can cause impact on the overall brand.  If it goes on long enough, or creates enough blowback on the original brand, the home office might step in. Or they might not. Again, there’s always new and willing franchisees ready to take free weaponry, training, and access to liquid credit.

Back to Murder Hobos

Murder Hobos drop into a world of territory-guarding, heavily militarized orks fighting other heavily militarized orks for scraps of farmland, cows to extort, and illegal businesses to conduct.  Eradicating one group may not necessarily lead up a nice, clean chain of command to some button-downed Ogre Mage in a suit.  It simply causes one of the franchisees to become stronger than before by gobbling up the dead franchisee’s territory.

There’s no clear pointer “up.” Evil decentralizes the Boss Monsters. The more Murder Hobos cap evil mobs, the stronger the evil mobs grow until the home office comes along and plops a bunch of new franchisees in the middle.  Even if the Murder Hobos burn down the home office, shielded as it is through layer after layer of franchisees, the strongest franchisee will take over the brand and become the new home office.

With this infinite churn (and infinite XP), what is a Murder Hobo to do?

The home office’s weakness isn’t their decentralized nature of territory taking and holding.  It’s not the franchisees who may or may not pursue the home office’s goals.  It’s their brand.

The brand attracts evil to evil. It strikes terror into the hearts of the local townspeople.  It causes the local government to open their coffers and hire the Murder Hobos to do something about the menace.

  • First it was evil and evil’s ever-running plots.
  • Then, it was evil spreading like darkness across the land by enlisting franchisees.
  • Now, it’s the constant bloody warfare in the hills between franchisees as they tussle over territory!

The darkness never stops! The people live in a state of terror from the hills running with blood! They require heroes!

The key to stopping the spread of evil through franchise agreements is to hit the home office in the brand.

  • The franchisee is usually less competent than evil from the franchiser.  Getting news out of incompetence (via Bard!) helps to make the brand less attractive to future evil groups weakening the overall enterprise;
  • Nimbler, pyramidal-style corporate evil can exist everywhere and nowhere. Franchisers are deeper tied to territory. Push franchisees out of their territory completely to weaken the brand. It’s possible to fight a war of attrition;
  • Franchisee tendency for bloody violent infighting may cause the entire enterprise to unravel.  Heating up their fights may force them to kill each other instead of locals or Murder Hobos with mixed results;
  • The amount of risk taken on by hyper-growth may cause the home office to collapse under its own weight if fed enough problems.

An unstable or weakened brand will break the hold of the franchiser over the franchisees.  Once it’s no longer “cool” or lucrative or terrifying to join the home office and wear their insignia, the franchisees dry up.  Infiltrating and destroying a brand from within by engineering incompetence isn’t a job for any Murder Hobos. It’s not about simply rolling monsters and taking their stuff – although that’s part of an overall strategy.

This dovetails back into the brand’s legend.  A brand so fearsome, so terrifying, so horrible it requires famous Murder Hobos to stop it!  Destroying it requires subtlety, planning, magic, and creating a drip drip drip of bad press. Enough bad press forces the home office to finally act.  Once the home office acts, the Murder Hobos have a hook to get to the “inside.” And from there, they can go on their own particular rampage of righteous bloody vengeance.

Until, of course, there comes a day when a new evil organization has their own brand of evil to sell to franchisees…

Authors Note: I liked the franchise of evil idea for WoD Immortals with their weird cliquishness, or cyberpunk corporation vs franchise. But then again, I like the idea of trolls going into battle wearing Lich-branded jackets and wielding Lich-clubs.

Image Credit: Art by Jaydot Sloane of Vanity Games –


  1. It’s just like opening a Cosa Nostra pizza franchise.

  2. Sean Meaney says:

    …or the Red Scimitars whose mysterious leader is just a shape changing Brown Dragon. Is she responsible for the evil of franchisees? All she provides is a banner and philosophical doctrine under which the franchisees might function. They prey on one another if it looks like any franchisee is failing to keep up their end or isnt being evil enough. All Milicent the Brown does is relax on a pile of gold in her cave while a regional manager (favourite evil murderhobo) puts in an appearance congratulating the crazed vegan fanatics on their latest occupation of wherever.

  3. Hello! Been reading this blog for maybe a year now and just wanted to say that I love it. So, please, keep up the fantastic work and have a wonderful day! 🙂


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