So you've decided to become an Evil Overlord.  Congratulations!  As a career choice, Evil Overlord has a lot to recommend it.  The successful Overlord can work from home (or from a tastefully-appointed Lair or Fortress, as you prefer), you can pretty much set your own hours, there's usually no dress code to adhere to, there's not much paperwork involved, you can hire and fire underlings with impunity, and your salary is limited only by your own creativity and ruthless desire for wealth.  The fringe benefits aren't too shabby, either – your every whim can be catered to by a harem of voluptuous, scantily-clad serving girls (or a stable of buff, scantily-clad manservants, if that's your thing), and the simple pleasure of seeing your subjects tremble in your presence as you rule the land with an iron fist is a perk you just don't find in very many other career tracks these days.  Nice work if you can get it, right?

But like any other job, if you really want to be a success at it, it pays to study and learn from the successes – and failures – of others in your chosen profession.  Follow these recommendations, and you too can spend your remaining years enjoying the all the good things (so to speak) in life: wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, the power of life and death over your hapless subjects, unbridled debauchery that makes the Roman orgies of old look like a Victorian tea party, the ability to indulge in eccentric, antisocial, and psychotic behavior to your heart's content...

...and, most importantly, your very own ominous theme music and a contractural guarantee that you'll be back for the sequel.

  1. My Terror Troops shall be equipped with helmets with clear plexiglass visors that do not conceal the identities of the wearers and prevent them from spotting imposters in their midst.  (Besides, how do I know they're not making silly faces at me under those helmets?)
  2. All ventilation ducts in my Fortress of Evil will be too small to crawl through.  If larger ducts are absolutely necessary, they will be lined with razor wire, electrified with lethal voltages, or otherwise made impossible to crawl through.
  3. My noble brother, half-brother, cousin, etc. whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.  (After all, how evil can I really be if I don't even have what it takes to kill my own brother?)
  4. Any artifacts which are the source of my power and/or the key to my destruction will not be hidden deep within the innermost chambers of the Caverns of Fire on the summit of the Mountain of Doom, guarded by the Dragons of Eternity and surrounded for a hundred miles on all sides by the Desert of Blood from which no man nor beast has returned alive in a thousand years.  Such artifacts, assuming they can't simply be destroyed, will be kept someplace even more securely impregnable: my safe-deposit box.
  5. A quick death is not too good for my enemies.  In fact, it's highly recommended; slow demises via fiendishly-clever death-traps only give them that much more time to escape or be rescued.
  6. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other last request.
  7. I will not waste time trying to make an enemy's death look like an accident.  I don't have to answer to anyone, and my other enemies won't believe it anyway, so why bother?
  8. I will not assume an enemy to have perished simply because he's fallen over a cliff, into the moat, down a mine shaft, etc. and failed to come out again.  I will send a squadron of suitably-equipped Terror Troops down into the canyon, mine shaft, etc. to make sure of it, with strict orders to find and bring back the body for positive identification and disposal.
  9. If they don't find the body, the above-mentioned enemy will be presumed to have escaped alive, and my future plans will be adjusted as necessary.
  10. When the hero dares me to fight him one-on-one and asks, "Or are you afraid to face me without your guards to back you up?", I will reply, "No, just sensible,"  and then shoot him.
  11. When I've captured the hero and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?", I will say "No,"  and then shoot him.
  12. I will never say to the hero, "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want you to know..."
  13. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we shall be immediately married in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my Master Plan will be carried out.
  14. I will not order my trusted lieutenant to find and kill the infant who is destined to overthrow me.  Some things simply should not be trusted to underlings.
  15. I will only employ bounty hunters and assassins with a proven track record of being strictly in it for the money.  The ones who do it for "the thrill of the hunt" tend to do stupid things like giving their quarry a five-minute head start before pursuing them, or tossing away their guns and challenging the hero to a fist-fight to make things more "sporting."
  16. I will not interrogate captured enemies in my inner sanctum.  A small hotel, preferably located well outside my borders, will work just as well.
  17. No matter how glitchy the security system is, my Terror Troops will be instructed to treat any camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency to be immediately investigated by at least two heavily-armed squadrons.
  18. I will be secure in my superiority, and will feel no need to continuously prove it by leaving clues in the form of "impossible" riddles for the hero to find, or by leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat to me.
  19. Whenever possible, I will design all Doomsday Machines myself.  If I must hire a mad scientist to assist me, I will either make sure that he is sufficiently twisted to never regret his evil ways and seek to undo the damage he's caused, or I will arrange to have him properly disposed of once the weapon is finished.
  20. My Doomsday Machine will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless it is absolutely essential.  If, for some reason, it is absolutely essential to include a self-destruct mechanism, it will not be triggered by a large red button labeled "Activate Self-Destruct Mechanism."
  21. My Doomsday Machines will not have digital countdowns.  If, for some reason, a digital countdown readout is absolutely unavoidable, it will be rigged to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is only just beginning to put his plan into operation.
  22. No matter how well it would perform or how spectacular the devastation it would cause, I will not rely upon any Doomsday Machine which is completely indestructable except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
  23. I will never build only one of anything important.  Nor will I pin all of my plans for World Domination upon any technological device or magic artifact which my mad scientists and evil wizards tell me was created as the result of a billion-to-one accident or coincidence which they don't understand and which can never, ever be duplicated.
  24. I will try to maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses.  Granted, this takes some of the fun out of the job, but at least I will never utter the line "No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!"  It is a proven fact that every Evil Overlord who has uttered that phrase has perished almost immediately thereafter.
  25. Despite its proven stress-relieving effects, I will try not to overindulge in maniacal laughter.  When so occupied, one tends to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual might notice and adjust to accordingly.
  26. If one of my Trusted Advisors should raise questions about any point of my Master Plan, I will first consider the possibility that he just might know something I don't, and will hear him out before berating him for his lack of vision and having him shot.
  27. One of my advisors will be an average eight-year-old child. Any flaws in my Master Plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
  28. My undercover agents will not have tattoos, piercings, jewelry, or any other conspicuous marks which would identify them as members of my organization.  Nor will they be required to regularly meet in person with anyone who is identifiable as a member of my organization.  If blind drops were good enough for the underground resistance in World War II, they're good enough for me.
  29. I will not fly into a rage and kill the messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am.  Honest messengers are hard to come by in the Evil Overlord business.
  30. I will not ignore the exhausted, wounded, and obviously agitated messenger who stumbles into my Inner Sanctum, berate him for disturbing me, and force him to wait until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished.  He might actually have something important to tell me.
  31. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at an assigned task, I will not berate them for their incompetence and then send them right back out to attempt the same task a second time.
  32. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not attempt to consume any energy field larger than my head.
  33. No matter how valuable their assistance would be in my plans, I will be very, very careful when striking any bargains with demons, aliens, or the undead spirits of previous Evil Overlords.  Such beings may be Evil, and they may be powerful, but they're also extremely unreliable allies and prone to "renegotiating" the agreement at inconvenient moments.  (Not that I blame them; I'd do the same thing in their place.)
  34. If I do strike a bargain with such a being, I will not then turn around and double-cross them just because I feel like being contrary.  I will, however, make sure that I have a backup plan in place for when they decide to double-cross me.
  35. I will not have a son.  While his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would fail miserably, it will inevitably come at some particularly critical moment when I really can't afford to be distracted.
  36. I will not have a daughter.  While she would be as beautiful as she was evil, one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'll betray her own father.
  37. As an alternative to the above, I will have many sons and daughters, and let sibling rivalry take its course. My sons will be too busy jockeying for position among themselves, and my daughters too busy sabotaging each others' attempts to seduce the hero, to pose any significant threat – and by the time they finally do get around to trying to take on their old man, I'll already know all their tricks.
  38. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original, unique-looking uniforms for my Terror Troops, as opposed to cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes.  All were eventually defeated, and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
  39. High-ranking female members of my organization will not be required to wear stainless-steel bustiers, outfits made entirely from skintight leather or latex, or chain-mail bikinis.  Such outfits, while undeniably eye-pleasing, are generally best reserved for formal occasions.
  40. If I find that one of my beautiful consorts or harem girls has been secretly associating with the hero, I will have her shot.  This is regrettable, but maybe her replacement will pay closer attention to the anti-fraternization rules during her orientation meeting.
  41. If I find one of my concubines in my bedchamber unexpectedly, and she is startled or surprised to see me, I will immediately order my personal guards to thoroughly search her, the room, and everything in it to find out what it was she was either trying to steal from the room or plant in it.
  42. My Terror Troops will have a competent Internal Affairs division to, among other things, make sure that none of my henchmen or concubines are old childhood friends or former lovers of the Hero.
  43. My armory will include a full complement of low-tech weapons – swords, crossbows, and various projectile weapons – and my Terror Troops will be fully trained in their use.  That way, even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless, my Terror Troops will still be able to mount some kind of effective defense rather than having to stand there and be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
  44. All Terror Troops will be required to undergo basic marksmanship training, and to have their proficiency evaluated at regular intervals.  Any Troop trainee who cannot learn how to hit a man-sized target from at least ten feet away will be reassigned to a position more suited to his skills, such as "janitor", "ditch-digger", or "target-practice dummy".
  45. If I am engaged in a duel to the death with the hero, and I manage to knock the weapon out of his hand, I will graciously allow him to retrieve it.  He will be so startled and confused by this seeming gesture of fair play and good sportsmanship that dispatching him afterwards will be child's play.
  46. If, however, we are dueling on a moving platform, and the hero should suddenly glance at something over my shoulder and drop flat on the floor, I too shall immediately drop flat rather than quizzically turning around to find out what it was he saw behind me.
  47. I will always keep in mind that no matter how attractive a certain member of the rebellion may be, there are almost certainly several other people within my realm who are (a) just as attractive, and (b) not desperate to kill me.  Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a comely prisoner to be bathed and sent to my bedchamber.
  48. If my supreme command center comes under attack, I will immediately flee to safety in my prepared escape pod and direct the defenses from there.  I will not wait until the heroes break into my inner sanctum to attempt this.
  49. I will not have only one escape pod, which the hero can easily track and follow.  Instead, my escape system will simultaneously launch at least a dozen decoy pods in as many random directions.
  50. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I cannot accidentally stumble.
  51. Any being, beast, or demon which I control via magic or technology will nevertheless be treated kindly and with respect.  That way, if the control is ever broken, they won't immediately come after me seeking revenge.
  52. Even though I don't really care because I plan on living forever, I will hire engineers able to build a fortress sturdy enough that if I am slain, it won't tumble to the ground for no good structural reason.  If nothing else, this will save me the trouble of rebuilding everything when I get reincarnated for the sequel.
  53. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be pre-emptively put to death, and all amusingly quirky or neurotic robots and androids will be melted down for scrap.  The heroes' quest will be infinitely more difficult if they have no source of comic relief.
  54. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary, greasy-spoon diner waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
  55. I will arrange for plucky young lads and lasses dressed in strange clothes, with the bearing and accent of an outlander, to regularly climb some monument in the main square of my capital and denounce me, claim to know the secret of my power, rally the masses to rebellion, etc.  That way, when the real thing finally comes along, the citizens will be too jaded to pay any attention to them.
  56. I will not employ devious schemes that involve the hero's party getting into my inner sanctum before the trap is sprung.
  57. I will not turn into a snake.  It never helps.

Note: the origins of the various Evil Overlord Guides are, like many bits of Internet lore and humor, somewhat apocryphal, with multiple versions floating around the net and several different people claiming authorship of the versions of the lists which appear on their respective websites.  Given that sci-fi and fantasy fans have been circulating humorous lists of TV, movie, and comic-book cliches as far back as the days of purple-ink mimeographed fanzines, I'm not sure any one person can really take credit for the whole list... but just for the record, credit is hereby given to whoever wants to take credit for whatever portions of this list may resemble anything they may have written. :)