Orcus On His Throne
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Basic Information

Orcus On His Throne is a characterization trope of a Big Bad Evil Guy or other Evil Overlord where we're told he's big and awful, and can take over the world, but for the course of the plotline he just sits back in the Evil Tower of Ominousness and waits for the heroes to defeat his henchmen and level up.

Related Tropes

Achilles In His Tent
Brilliant but lazy
Informed Ability
Offstage Villainy



Game and Story Use

  • Not just a classic, but really useful for RPGs in that it gives the PCs time to level-up and gather allies to defeat him.
  • Better justified if you have an Enemy Civil War to occupy him, or a MacGuffin that he's focused on.
    • If there's nothing to distract him, you might want to at least offer a Final Boss Preview - but make it clear to the players what's going on. It just might suck if they assume he must be a properly balanced challenge for their level, and get themselves killed out of stubbornness.
    • Listen, he's a busy man! If he took time out to personally crush every band of heroes who came after him, why he'd never get any evil accomplished! That's what minions are for! If this group proves troublesome enough to demand his personal attention, then he'll deal with them himself; but personally he doubts that they're anything his Dragon and his Amazon Brigade can't handle.
    • Have him kill their initial patron or mentor, whom the PCs know to be far above their power level - this demonstrates that he is not a level appropriate challenge for them and gives them a personal stake in his defeat. As well as being a popular narrative trope.
    • Make him dependent on his place of power, sealed into an artifact of doom, waiting for a total eclipse of the plot, or give him some other reason why he can't or won't act personally… yet.
  • Actually, levelling up is a RPG convention. In a more realistic setting, what would happen is that the lower-level henchmen would wear the PCs down so that by the time the minions are dead and the BBEG is ready to get his hands dirty, the PC's have already used up most of their ammo/spells/hit points while Captain Nasty is fresh and ready to go.
    • This (and previous points) assumes that you play an RPG in which levelling and "level appropriate encounters" exist. Other systems exist.
  • Also important: to make this work, you have to ensure that the PC's can't just target the BBEG first and bypass all the henchmen. That's what this troper's players would do. Have the Big Bad gloating at them from a distance or seated behind an impenetrable force field or loaded up with anti-missile spells or something.
    • making the BBEG literally someone like Orcus who will squash them unless they first weaken him with the MacGuffin and a series of plot coupons should deal with this problem.
  • Of course, the BBEG may not be doing anything because he has other things on his mind - any trouble the PCs have been having is just random noise from his followers, or local projects by local managers - actually starting to oppose him may have the perverse outcome of attracting his attention to the PCs and their location (dimension/world/nation/town … whatever). By an escalatory response the PCs may turn a potential threat into to an actual one.
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