A hallmark of an Evil Lord is the dungeon. Evil Lords fill multi-level sprawling structures with treasure rooms, traps, hidden corridors, and overwrought set pieces. No true villain is complete without a huge, intricate and expensive pad. She has to keep her stuff somewhere and if Evil Lords have anything, it is stuff. Their lair isn’t always dungeon-shaped, per se.
It could be:
- The enormous multi-level underground temple culminating in an enormous, cathedral-like altar where the Evil Lord attempts to summon Her Dark Goddess;
- A vast and sprawling Versailles-like palace with maze-like gardens, infinite rooms, hidden corridors, and unending secrets capped with the luxurious Throne Room and His Dark Majesty;
- A huge towering 13th century castle with both dungeons underground and towers below ground stuffed with guards and finished off with a capstone battle on a parapet;
- The hundred level techno-arcology overflowing with drones, robots, and armed guards leading to both dire laboratories in the third sub-basement where the Chairman seeks to remake humanity and the sprawling penthouse with majestic views;
- A hollowed-out mountain with one secret entrance, giant echoing chambers, vast money pits, armies of orks, and one highly intelligent red dragon before reaching the penultimate final boss chamber.
These structures are expensive to run, expensive to maintain, and expensive to build. Constructing giant dungeon-like structures is a capital and time-intensive undertaking. Yet, the Evil Lords always have one for the heroes to come and destroy and burn down, explode or implode. How do the Evil Lords locate the capital to invest in their ego-stroking structures? Here’s five options, with their pros and cons.
1. Military and/or Cult Labor and Plunder
The simplest and most accessible source of construction labor for the conventional Evil Lord is her army. She’s already assembled a cult-like leadership among their following. She’s rolled her mounted dragon brigades over their borders. She’s plundered nearby countries for gold and treasure. She’s stripped everything they laid hands on for parts. Nothing stops the Evil Lord from putting her loyal following to work building her architectural vision! Except incursions from player characters trying to stop her every step of the way.
- Spiffy uniforms in abundance.
- The Evil Lord has no threat from labor uprisings or unionization.
- Military or Theocratic cults already regimented and trained to take precise orders.
- Financing comes from plunder via invading nearby nations.
- Should the project experience cost overruns or delays, the Evil Lord can invade another nearby country and strip it for parts.
- Architects, civil engineers, interior designers, and various high-end craftsmen must exist among the Evil Lord’s faithful.
- Maintaining high approval ratings among the Evil Lord’s faithful is expensive. The Evil Lord must house, clothe, feed and entertain her legions of workers at a level to which they’ve become accustomed. Even the most ardent and strident supporter will stop wallpapering the Evil Lord’s newest deluxe bathroom if they’re forced to do it starving and in rags.
- Cost overruns are almost guaranteed. The Evil Lord must put the project on hold to invade other countries and strip them, in turn, for parts to help fund the project.
- And finally, the Evil Lord may run out of countries to invade, leading to payment shortages and project collapse.
2. Slave Labor
The second most accessible source of construction labor are the conquered people of nearby invaded nations. If the Evil Lord is going to roll her brigades into nearby nations to strip them for capital, treasure and parts, she can strip the population, too. Then she can ship them back to work on her vision while her army and faithful reap the rewards of evil victory.
Cheap building costs.
The Army can invade other countries while the slave labor, shipped back from the Front, builds the Evil Lord’s grand vision.
Unlikely to stop based on cost overruns.
- Sloppy building. Slaves aren’t going to pay attention to the little details. Like, which way the wallpaper goes. Or, putting tape along the ceiling and wall edges before painting. They’re too busy starving and freezing.
- A lack of specialized expertise. Maybe an architect is among the enslaved. Maybe they captured designers. Who knows? Slaves are a mass of people with undifferentiated skills with no categorization. The military can screen for useful skills while shipping slaves to the building site. It doesn’t mean they’ll attract the best, or even good.
- Constant uprising from within and a magnet for player characters to cause trouble.
- The Evil Lord may run out of people to enslave based on access to convenient countries, leading to project collapse.
In many, but not all, cases, the Evil Lord is, in fact, a Lord. The simplest method for producing an architectural artifact is to outright pay for it. Use standard hiring and building techniques. Reach into the treasury purse and hire workers to build an edifice is the simplest way to get something done.
- Paying people well to make a thing not only gets good results but also has a local economic stimulus effect.
- Problem-free infrastructure investment almost always leads to good will and higher approval.
- Project is likely to complete.
- Doing good things for the local economy counters the “Evil Lord” narrative. What Evil Lord stimulates local economies by providing good paying jobs via a completely stable system that covers cost overruns and reaps later financial rewards in more immigration, more jobs, and large tax bases? This makes no sense.
- The Evil Lord must start with an actual tax base. The Evil Lord has usurped the other Lords, murdered their families, pressed the local population into the military, invaded foreign lands, and held the country together with her iron fist. She might not have a solid stream of definable income from the local population.
- The Evil Lord must get everyone on board to pay their taxes. If her buddies, the sub-Evil Lords, are noping out of paying into the treasury due to “being the Evil Lord’s bud,” she may not have enough cash to cover project.
- The people must have money to tax. An Evil Lord who pursues poor economic policy and leads her country into a depression will find her tax collectors squeezing blood from a stone. She’ll need to pursue growth policies to fund her architectural pursuits.
4. Debt Financing
The Evil Lord might have all her cash, including her treasury, tied up in her military. After all, she’s an Evil Lord, and she needs to get up to some serious evil. Evil is expensive. But, she can always have her government (if she leads a government) or her corporation go into a debt. She can issue infrastructure bonds to cover the projected cost of the project.
- Issuing bonds attract external investment in the project. Other sub-Evil Lords – or other Evil Lords – buy bonds. They make their own steady stream of income off issued debt payments. And, infrastructure bonds are safe sources of investment.
- External investors also become enthusiastic supporters of the regime. They dial their enthusiasm knob to their financial upside.
- If the project has major overruns, the Evil Lord can issue more bonds.
- Debt financing is also attractive when interest rates are low as the project will come out to near-cost but amortized over a longer future.
- If the Evil Lord runs a country where she pegs the currency to a physical metal (gold, pools of mercury, vaults of unubtainum) she risks running up an unstable debt-to-income ratio. She has a fixed amount of cash washing around in her economy, so she has to balance debt to receipts. A little debt is a good thing; the entire tax base gobbled up with interest payments is not. If she runs up too much debt with issuing bonds she runs the risk of stiffing her military. And an unpaid military is an angry military.
- And, worse, if the Evil Lord runs up too much debt, she can no longer cover her interest payments. She’s left with angry lenders and angry investors. Angry lenders and investors have a tendency toward angry acts – like repossessing the Evil Lord’s dragon brigades.
- If the Evil Lord’s fiat currency floats against other currencies, and interest rates are low, she can print more money. This lowers the debt-to-income ratio. Sure, her currency valuation tanks, but, now, goods from her country are cheap. Trade picks up. Tax bases expand.
- With fiat currency, the Evil Lord only has one downside: if she destroys every country in the world, she has no other currency to float against. She needs at least one major enemy.
5. Public-Private Financing
Finally, the Evil Lord doesn’t have to go it alone. She can enlist a private corporation – in fact, another Evil Lord’s corporation – to invest in part of the project in return for future profits. The private corporation owns a certain percentage of the Evil Lord’s Iconic Dungeon for some contractual length of time (15, 30, 100 years). The government raises more money for the project than their current tax receipts or the bond limits. The government can build bigger, grander, and cheaper. The corporation shares in the longer-term rewards.
- The Evil Lord can raise huge sums of money for even bigger, gaudier, sillier evil dungeon projects.
- A completely different Evil Lord (or multiple Evil Lords) now has skin in the game. They’re ready allies against meddling player characters with their own legions of evil.
- Prudence? Who cares about prudence. Let’s build a thing! And crenellate that sucker! Gold crenellations all the way down!
- So much graft! If the project wasn’t full of graft and kickbacks before, wait until a corporation receives greater than the bond coupon in return for its investment!
- No reason for the project to ever complete. As long as the corporation pumps cash into the Evil Lord’s scheme, the corporation has the Evil Lord right where she wants her. And, he makes money off the deal.
- For the next (15, 30, 100) years, the corporation will monetize the hell out of the Evil Lord’s dungeon. Player characters will have to pay for fighting monsters. Corporations will fill dungeons with “In Dungeon Purchases.” Want to get to the next Evil level? Pay 1000 gold.
In Quick Conclusion
The Evil Lord the player characters fight is likely up to debt to her eyeballs. Evil is expensive. Golden, gaudy evil even more expensive. Want to hit the Evil Lord where it hurts? Go into banking and offer her a loan to pay for her evil schemes. It’ll be quicker, safer, and more lucrative than getting suited up in armor and pulling off one-man heroics.
Image Credit: Art by Jaydot Sloane of Vanity Games – http://www.patreon.com/VanityGames