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Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: Scheming Mastermind

Ultimate Guide to Villains and Antagonists: Scheming Mastermind

The Crimson King The Crippled God Emperor Palpatine These figures hide in the shadows and scheme to gain power, increase their wealth, or conquer the world. Their presence is rarely discovered until well into the story or even in the climax, but their invisible hand is responsible for moving all of the pieces and controlling the villainy from behind the scenes.

Scheming Mastermind: The Origin

Games of intellect—such as Chess, Go, Senet, and many more—have existed for thousands of years. Each of these games reflect the intelligent nature of their players, and they showcase the success a cunning, manipulative mind can have when they are thinking multiple steps ahead of their opponents. Historically, many of the greatest leaders have been the ones who conquered from the front lines and went into battle beside their men. But not all men (or women) are born with the skill or strength of a warrior. Some have to rely on their intellect, cunning, and wits to succeed. Unfortunately, in a society where strength and valor equal the right to rule (look at most war-like cultures throughout history as an example), men who cannot fight will never be permitted to ascend to positions of ultimate power. Thus, in order to wield that power, they must manipulate their physically stronger (often intellectually weaker) counterparts—the “mind behind the throne”. The problem is that high intelligence doesn’t equate with high moral intelligence (a sense of morality). In fact, studies have proven that the two develop independently of each other. People with solid moral development will typically use their intelligence for moral purposes. Therefore, people without that moral development—the result of an unhealthy, abusive, toxic, or immoral upbringing—will typically have high intelligence but a lack of morals. Thus is born the person who uses their intellect to achieve their ends, ends which rarely are structured around morality due to that stunted moral development. They simply don’t have any sense of ethics or morality because none developed during their formative years. Their intelligence gives them the tools to succeed without the ethical restrictions that keep our society ordered and makes peaceful coexistence possible.

In Stories

This is one of the most popular types of antagonists due to the fact that the ultimate reveal of “the invisible mastermind” makes for a very tense, climactic scene.
  • Emperor Palpatine manipulated Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi, and the Galactic Senate until he was ultimately the most powerful person in the Star Wars universe.
  • Professor Moriarty is the intellectual counterpart to Sherlock Holmes, but his lack of morality has ultimately led him to controlling London’s criminal underworld.
  • The Crimson King from the Dark Tower novels is only introduced in Book 4, but his actions affect Roland throughout the entire series.