It is a bracing way of life to pursue vice to the fullest, though not usually amenable to growing old and bold. Thus the evil mastermind must necessarily have thoughts to threats upon his or her own mortality.
First off, a definition of the term "gruesome": it is what bothers you, ultimately. If severed heads and incinerated wrecks do not weigh heavily on your mind, then no one is forcing you to increase your defenses against such outcomes, and, conversely, if you really do not want to have anything to do with flower petals to the point that it keeps you from thinking clearly when laying your plots, then that is where you must really take charge of your security, no matter what anyone else says. Ultimately, the proper and dignified way to make your exit is to do so on your own terms, as if unconcerned with any external constraint.
Ideally we could all rely upon a trusted and capable bodyguard to ensure that our persons remain safe. Sadly, we all know how rare that particular desideratum is, even rarer than the malefactor who succeeded in going out gracefully and with fearsome nobility, the way we all would like to do.
- Branding. Choose the image with which you wish to be associated for eternity. Perhaps it is not the one of your dying screams echoing amidst the jeers of the laughing crowd. In many cases, once you have completed the signature accomplishment of your diabolic career, it becomes time to retreat to more sedate, comfortable quarters savoring that moment and the nervous anticipation of the masses.
- Stick to best practices. Remember that many wise villains have gone before you in carving out their own niches in evildoing, and learn from their hard-won experience. Avoid death whenever possible by means of standard villainy practices: knowing your limits, building up your defenses, and preparing your escape paths.
- Target your weaknesses. Lessen the impact of the vulnerabilities you know about: poison, bullets, wizardly attack. Keep your overall defensive posture in balance, however, so that no one threat looms so large as to obscure other real dangers. If possible, involve a trusted mentor to render a frank assessment of whether your emphasis is justified or whether you might be sidetracked by paranoid obsessions or delusional phobias.
- Build up your defenses. Although a charismatic offense gets all the attention, defense is what determines who comes out ahead when good is pitted against evil in the crucial moment. Periodically test your main defenses and the backup systems, occasionally pitting captives or underlings of doubtful loyalty against them to see how well they hold up.
- Keeping your noggin off the pike. Have a back door. Consider rigging up a dead-man's switch that dematerializes you in extremis, or alternatively a teleport gadget which spirits you away to your safe room to fight another day. Keep your ace in the hole secret as long as possible before having to play that card.
Strokes of genius
- He's my brother. Rulers have often kept doubles around to foil would-be assassins, because they work. Someone around your size, wearing your wardrobe, possibly mute and illiterate, would be just about perfect. Also: do not teach him to duck.
- Enlist a dragon. If the enemy is the type who will try to break into your lair and take you out when you are unprepared, you want some sort of extra-special defender on your side. Just be sure to keep your firedrake happy with you as master.
- Ventriloquism. The ability to make your voice seem to come from some place other than your face can be surprisingly handy, when someone is hell-bent on doing you harm. 90% of the talent is in misdirection, but the effect can be aided by some creative microphone placement and concealed speaking tubes in the places you frequent.
- Take a break. If the pursuit gets a bit too heavy, you might follow the course of action described in How to inhabit inanimate objects, choosing a nondescript vessel in which to lie low for a while until your enemies have been lulled to a state of indifference. After three or four centuries have passed even the most odious deeds reside mainly in the history books; after three or four millennia they either pass into legend or are completely lost to living memory. Then you can stealthily creep back out and resume whatever it was that had gotten people so riled up in the first place.
Traps for mere fools
- Lack of proportion. Frightful though the threats against your person might be, you must still guard against ceding too much control over your own life in the pursuit of security. If you spend all of your time worrying about being apprehended, you are just imprisoning your own spirit. A wise knave will pursue his corrupt path to the utmost of his ability, letting the chips fall where they may. (Knowing that he has that vital exit strategy, of course.)
- Sulphur-scented parcels. Don't rush to open unexpected packages from foreign places, especially from the netherworld.
- Random chance. You know for a fact that they are out to get you, of course, but do not let that blind you to the real possibility that you will be done in by something utterly nonsensical, not something intentional. Just as fortune favors the prepared mind, she tends to smile on those who take the trouble to tie their shoelaces, to tie down their fourteen foot gun batteries, and to leave the keys to the death ray locked in a strong cabinet when not in use.
Precious and needful
- Bodyguards. Inhumanly strong and mindlessly loyal, if you can manage it.
- A big cabinet of disguises.
- Mystic amulet of protection.
- Pocket blaster. Keep a few energy charges in your desk drawer just in case.
- Large wad of cash. Make it clear to the petty thugs that there's plenty more where that came from if they can see fit to leave without disturbing your bodily integrity.
- How to destroy the planet
- How to set up a lair
- How to flee your pursuers
- How to defend against magic swords and other weapons
- How to become invulnerable to bullets
- How to clone an army
- How to deal with invading aliens
- How to make the world live as one
- How to keep a giant spider
- How to breed monsters
- How to create an evil menagerie
- How to raise a brood of vipers
- How to haunt an evil forest
- How to get started with giant robots
- How to conceal weapons
- How to walk away from defeat
- How to exploit advanced technology
- How to worship an evil god
- How to inhabit inanimate objects
- How to prank your adversaries
- How to escape from shackles
- How to work with vampires
- How to conceal an island
- How to perform an emergency stop on a dragon
- How to switch to open source software
- How to repair a broken portcullis
- How to read minds
- How to get apes to accept you as their leader
- How to restore a vintage spaceship
- How to betray your master
- How to understand warrior maidens
- How to buy a used death ray
- How to walk away from an explosion
- How to survive a road trip
- How to sleep in peace
- How to get rid of giant eagles
- Image credit Iraqi Ministry and toppled Saddam statue, International (Green) Zone, Baghdad, Iraq by James Gordon
- Image credit alfred hitchcock presents. by veronica lola
- Image credit 2009.01..17 - UNKNOWN, Unknown by a.drian