Big Bad Evil Guy

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Sauron, pretty much the archetypal "Dark Lord" common to fantasy and an inspiration to countless BBEGs. We love (to hate) you big S! :D

The Big Bad Evil Guy, typically shortened simply to Big Bad or BBEG, is roleplaying gamer slang for the primary antagonist of an adventure or campaign. He is the one who is ultimately responsible for whatever shit his associates or minions do, and defeating him usually means the successful conclusion of a campaign (or at least a part of it). To ensure that this is sufficiently dramatic, DMs often make the BBEG a powerful character, making this final encounter something of a boss fight. The BBEGs seem to know this is coming, so they will usually construct a suitably impressive lair for the suitably dramatic confrontation to take place in.

Many of these fantasy villains often like to address themselves as 'The Dark Lord' or add 'Dark Lord' before their name, just in case you goblin-fondling peasants weren't paying attention to who they are.

Hilariously though, the sheer incompetence of some of these big bads is at times a beauty to behold, as their over-arrogant natures, the stupidity of their minions, or luck and/or skill on the part of their opposition means their plans fall apart dramatically. For example Harry Potter, despite being a teen and knowing as much magic as a mouse for most of the series, time and time again foiled Voldemort's plans. Despite having control of one of the key factions in 40k, Abaddon failed to get anything done until about 10,000 years (the fact that Abbadon hasn't been killed or overthrown yet is because Games Workshop won't let the story go in that direction). And yet how do they get by with so much failure when they would have roasted their henchmen alive if they had done the same? Simple; if you dare to mention it to their face about their joy-to-watch failures, YOU will be the one roasting alive!

For the most mundane version that can still be called a BBEG, see Dictator.

In most video games the BBEG is usually the final villain which you and maybe a couple of hanger-ons have to defeat to win the game. Whether it will be a hard fight or not depends how merciless the game designers are feeling.

Paladins are automatically required to attempt to offer the BBEG mercy, even if they have happily slaughtered hundreds of relatively less evil minions without mercy on their way to the BBEG's lair.

Big Bad Evil GUY?[edit]

Note the title of "Big Bad Evil GUY", as this character is most often male (note the BBEG's in the list below). It is uncommon for the BBEGs to be female, a "Big Bad Evil Gal" if you will. Having the main antagonist be female is actually rarer than antagonists that are genderless (such as A.Is or natural disasters in disaster films) or whatever.

The reasons for this are... contentious, and not well studied. Some could say it's sexist against women by assuming that female villains are less effective than male villains, or it could be sexist against men by assuming that men are inherently eviler than women... or something else. While not conclusive, leaning towards the latter;

  • A female Big Bad is more likely to be shown mercy or have it offered to her than her male counterpart.
  • A female Big Bad is less likely to engage in the worst atrocities or order them done.
  • A female Big Bad is more likely to have a sympathetic backstory trotted out to excuse or undermine the seriousness of her crimes.
  • A female Big Bad is less likely to die or be made to suffer for her crimes.
    • If she does die, she's less likely to get a gory or painful death.
      • And then if the female Big Bad does get a gory death, it's usually less graphically depicted in prose or kept out of frame on screen.
  • If the hero is male, it's less likely that he will directly kill a female Big Bad.
    • Even less likely to do so without offering mercy first before he strikes the deathblow.
      • If a male hero does directly kill a female Big Bad, it'll most likely be in a quick and clean way than something graphic or gory.

A similar phenomenon has been observed in real-life in cases where women got shorter jail sentences or lower fines than men for the same crimes; they sometimes even get spared from jail time. While not universal, it is common enough to be colloquially referred to as the "Pussy pass". Putting aside questions of identity politics, in fiction, at least, it could also just be cultural: there are no shortages of evil queens and faeries in German fantasy, from the poisoner of Sleeping Beauty to Xayide in Never Ending Story. But, well... Germans.

Requirements to become a BBEG[edit]

  1. Kill a lot of innocents (unimaginative, but kind of a must-do on the list; a tradition).
  2. Make big grandiose plans that also include big holes in them, just enough for someone to mess up if needs be.
  3. Surround yourself with minions and right-hand men. Your evil meter goes higher the more bodies you can pile up there.
  4. Have a characteristic to define you from the masses, like a menacing eye (Sauron), the ability to shoot lightning from your hands (Sidious) or an embarrassing track record of failure no-one can mistake (Abaddon).
  5. Perfect evil laugh and twisted sense of humour.
  6. Have a super bad-ass evil lair.
  7. Don't melt into goodness at the sight of baskets of kittens or puppies.
  8. Pretend you don't have any possible mental problems even if they are there.
  9. Beat up anyone that even looks like competition.
  10. Be a dick to everyone, even your own side (tough love).
  11. IMPORTANT: Do something memorable. It is not enough to just do all of the above, you need to really do something unique to stand out from your peers. Sidious masterminded the complete destruction of the Jedi and the rise of the Sith to masters of the Galaxy. Sauron helped fuck up his world and make a lasting legacy of evil by creating so many evil races. Asdrubael Vect established the single most unpleasant city realm in the galaxy and allowed the Dark Eldar to flourish as a people. What will YOU do to get your enemies quaking in jealously and respect?
  12. You must wear pitch black armor that covers EVERY. PART. OF. YOUR. BODY. Your face must not be shown, not even once, because that makes you a mysterious badass (unless you're ugly as fuck). Bonus point if your armor is possessed or has some evil origin. Also, coat yourself with as many spikes as possible.
  13. Developing a bizarre taste of carrying human remains on you like some kind of fashionista. Examples include wearing a human skin cape or skulls hanging on you. Everyone must see it.

The Big Bad Evil Guy Hall of Infamy[edit]

An honour bestowed only to the most truly deserving head honchos of villainkind, not just any hireling with ideas above their station can get here!

  • Sauron (Lord of the Rings): The dude who originally created the term "Dark Lord" in modern high fantasy (though ironically only the second, lesser Dark Lord, see below) and was willing to get stuck into the action himself too. Pretty much a fallen angel who wants to bring order by tyrannically ruling Middle-earth. Once, the men of Númenor, one of the most powerful nations ever to rise in Middle-earth decided to kick his ass, and proceeded to lay siege to his fortress and capture him. After his capture he managed to corrupt the whole nation, made them worship his old boss (Morgoth, again see below) and got them to invade the Undying Lands of the Valar (angelic beings with god-like powers). As a result, Eru Ilúvatar himself (THE 'real' God and creator of the universe) was forced to intervene: he sank Númenor into the sea, and transformed the once flat planet into a globe, removing the Undying Lands from the plane altogether. This still wasn't sufficient to kill Sauron, who managed to come back - albeit highly weakened - to fuck shit up. His one weakness, the destruction of his ring, still required an incredible amount of good luck and perseverance to pull off, as arguably one of his most sinister powers was using the ring to control whoever possessed it; this fact alone was what kept him alive long after his body was destroyed, as nobody was willing to finish the job by destroying the ring until a crazed halfling stole it and fell into a volcano. For all his celebrity, for many years he was just a thrall of next entry.
  • Melkor (The Silmarillion): If Sauron was the Antichrist, Melkor is Satan himself, quite literally in this case, with Eru being a parallel to the Christian God. More famously known as Morgoth ("The Dark Enemy"), the most powerful of the Valar (basically angels, but with god-like powers and comparable in their roles and manners to Hellenic or Norse gods) and second only to Eru in terms of sheer power. His calls to fame are many, among them: destroying the planet's only light sources not once, but twice, torturing Elves (or Men, depending on source) badly enough to turn them into Orcs, creating Dragons, Wights and Werewolves, resisting a centuries-long siege, winning a battle that made the Battle of the Somme look like a picnic, making people associate the color black with evil and ruling nearly the whole of Middle-earth with an iron fist. Most importantly, he managed to drive a wedge between Elves and Men, by turning most of mankind to darkness, instilling them with unnatural fear of death. He was only defeated when the whole host of the god-like Valar assaulted his fortress and captured him (this happened twice), in a battle so violent the whole Beleriand sank beneath the oceans - a land about the same size of Middle-earth. He still was not killed, but was thrown off the fucking planet, and is prophesied to return in an apocalyptic final battle. Fun fact: do you remember Sauron's One Ring, his creation, in which he put much of this power and how it was impossible to kill him without destroying the Ring? Well, it's canon that Morgoth's Ring is the whole Middle-earth. Think about the implications. To be fair half of the Silmarilion is him getting weaker and weaker as he pours more and more of his powers into his creations, developing fear, losing the ability to change his appearance and finally being even unable to recover from a wound, dealt to him in single combat by the Elven High-king, and thus developing a limp. Sauron learned from his mistakes in spreading his essence too thinly, and focused on control of sentient species, not complete and total domination of Eru's will.
  • Darth Sidious (Star Wars): Creepy old freak who single-mindedly engineered the complete destruction of the Jedi Order and turned the galaxy on its head so he could rule it as a tyrant (and fend off the the Yuuzahn Vong; think Dark Eldar crossed with Tyranids and the Imperium's religious extremism) upon their inevitable arrival into galaxy... much like another famous Emperor. Unfortunately not everything transpired according to his design). His favorite trick was using his force lightning to make toast (always too overdone).
  • The Timeless One (Halo): AKA The Flood and The Gravemind, came from a race of nigh-omniscient eldritch abominations called the Precursors that came before the Universe was born. Single-handedly destroyed an interstellar Culture-level civilization, the Forerunners, for insane sobbing cynical vengeful shits and giggles after it led a genocide against the Precursors, their peaceful creators now gone insane with the god equivalent of PTSD, all because the Precursors thought humans were less stuck up than the Forerunners, and is now coming back in the form of a horrifying fusion of The Thing, Tyranids and X-Parasite; so that he can force every single living thing in the Universe to "join" him in a very fucked up version of Communism via OM NOM NOMING their bodies and souls in eternal torment and pain. This Flood also acts as a computer virus in later stages, and The Gravemind's ultimate plan is to wipe the universe clean and start over, having gone way past over-the-top friendly fire several hundred thousand years late vengeance, when everyone responsible is already dead. Also proclaimed as the greatest Troll to come out of Sci-Fi since the introduction of Tzeentch and Eldrad, considering how he manages to slowly and painfully rip apart the 10 million year old culture and beliefs of the Forerunners by forcing them to do things that are both hypocritical and outright contradictory of their pacifistic religion as well as tormenting and mind-raping the Forerunner's greatest heroes into deranged psychopaths. The most perfectionist of the lot and getting the most shit done.
  • Dracula (Castlevania): Was the big bad in the majority of the Castlevania games (but subverted for the two recent games). How bad is he? Well... when even Death considers him as "Boss", then it should tell you the power differences here in pure EVIL.
  • Voldemort (Harry Potter): The big bad evil wizard of the HP setting Voldemort spent most of the series as an evil spirit before coming back in a body made from a mixture in a cauldron (as you do). He runs on a platform of genocide against muggles and anyone with muggle blood (even though he has muggle blood himself, but hey, this the BBEG list and hypocrisy is evil), so basically he's Wizard Hitler. He failed to kill the Boy Who Lived as a baby, then failed again against him as a teenager and was hoisted by his own petards against him as an adult while failing to take over a High School. And he failed twice to take over the wizarding world, making one wonder about his track record.
  • Jadis, the White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia): This frigid bitch likes to freeze everything and will turn you to stone at the drop of a hat if you displease her. She's so evil in fact, that she managed to keep Santa Claus out for 1,000 years so that nobody could celebrate Christmas (We remind you this is a children's story, so this is a big fucking deal, even Darkseid couldn't pull that off). She had eternal life after eating a cursed apple and froze Narnia into a state of perpetual winter to be her perfect place, but was challenged by a gang of motley kids and killed by a Prince. Unlike most female villains, she actually gets a painful death - first she gets mauled to death by Aslan (who is literally Jesus in the form of a lion) then, if the theory that she came back in The Silver Chair as the Lady of the Green Kritle is true, she was killed a second time by being impaled on a sword. Whichever theory is true, she dies painfully. In the past, on her original homeworld of Charn, she discovered a spell called the Deplorable Word that would slay all life with the sole exception of its speaker, and used it to kill every living thing on her own world so she could be Queen. That's right, a villain from a series of children's novels committed world-wide genocide; given the debut of Warhammer Adventures that means C.S Lewis technically wrote books darker than a Warhammer setting.
  • Nothing to see here, move along. -Your friendly neighborhood inquisitior. HERESY! *BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM*
  • Dio Brando (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure): This is one of those rare cases where we get to see most of the Big Bad's rise to power, from a normal but sociopathic aristocratic brat to a hundred-year-old vampire able to stop time itself. Like most things in JJBA, Dio is famous for his bombastic personality and his ability to kick ass in a fight. And his minions, all quite powerful in their own unique ways, simply serve as appetizers for the sheer mindfuckery he's capable of whenever he activates his Stand, The World ZA WARUDO! Even after he's killed, enough of his minions survived to stir up trouble, including plots to try and reset the universe to revive him.
  • Yawgmoth, the Ineffable (Magic: The Gathering): This is the formerly ordinary human that turned Phyrexia from a backwater plane to the nightmarish world that we all knew and loved via turning the people of his home into nightmare zombie robots from hell (badass), and his will influencing the 'oil' on Phyrexia. After his apotheosis, the Father of Machines was able to take on Oldwalkers and come out on top. As such, he was too powerful (post apotheosis) to print, and some of the most powerful cards bear his name (Yawgmoth's Will and Yawgmoth's Bargain are both banned in legacy). Hell, until 2018 he wasn't even in card art. In 2019 we got a pre-apotheosis card.
  • Nicol Bolas (Magic: The Gathering): The first Planeswalker to ever exist, and possibly the oldest Dragon in the multiverse. In terms of a singular bad guy, Nicol Bolas is currently the biggest one in Magic. (Phyrexia is more of an evil civilization and the Eldrazi are a trio of cosmic horrors is a cosmic horror that is sealed away, for now). Bolas has created countless planes, and destroyed twice as many. His signature ability is to shatter a person's psyche by simply touching them (which is an inborn ability.) Practically all of the major catastrophes that have happened in recent times in the Multiverse have been his doing or were the result of his meddling (such as the release of the Eldrazi, Ugin's Death, and the Destruction of Amonkhet), with many of the more recent ones being part of his ultimate goal of obtaining the Multiverse shaking power that a Planeswalker's Spark once granted. He also prefers to simply be called Nicol Bolas because once you have practically every title, they lose meaning.
  • Lord Zedd (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers): The Emperor of Evil, Ruler of All He Sees, and the one who gave you nightmares as a child in the mid 90s. (Well him, and staying up past your bed time watching X-Files). He was the character that became the first real threat to the Power Rangers, and was only finally defeated by an intense letter writing campaign by your mom. Shame because even with the over acting he came off as a badass in those early episodes. Evil atrocities include: destroying the original Dinozords, slowly draining Tommy's (Green Ranger) powers, and trying to brainwash and marry your prepubescent crush Kimberly (Pink Ranger). Biggest flaws are: his schemes always backfiring and making the Rangers more powerful, his Zord Serpentera runs on 2 AA Batteries, and excessive maniacal laughing.
  • Thanos ( Marvel Cinematic Universe): Thanos is one of the major villains in Marvel Comics, famous for the iconic storyline The Infinity Gauntlet. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had its own villains for individual movies, but setting up for its homage to the classic storyline had Thanos as the big overarching villain of the film franchise. He saw his planet suffer from an overpopulation crisis and suggested killing half the population at random in order to allow more resources to go around. He was rejected and his people went extinct. This caused Thanos to believe the entire universe was in a population crisis and set out to gather six objects called the Infinity Stones to kill half of all life, and along the way he attacked numerous other worlds where he killed half their population. Seeing that relying on others to get the stones for him wasn't working he finally decided to gather the stones himself, and despite the best efforts of the Avengers, he gathered all the stones and killed half the universe before making his escape, at the cost of losing the few beings he cared about. The Avengers tracked Thanos down to his hiding place only to find Thanos used the Infinity Stones to destroy the stones to ensure his work couldn't be undone, and was killed by Thor in response. When the Avengers went through time to collect the Infinity Stones to bring back everyone Thanos killed, Thanos' younger self was alerted to their plans and followed them to the present. The fact that the Avengers killed his future self wasn't important, what mattered was they sought to undo his life's work. Seeing that the people of the universe wouldn't accept him killing half of them to preserve life, Thanos sought to use the Infinity Stones to destroy the universe and recreate it so it would be grateful, showing he was nothing more than a madman seeking validation (which was already clear since he could've used the Infinity Stones in other ways, such as doubling resources, but didn't).
  • Skynet: Skynet originated with the Terminator franchise, where a true AI is created, and it immediately goes to war with humanity to ensure its own survival, with the end goal of wiping humanity from the face of the Earth. Being an adaptive, digital organism, it infiltrates networked technology and weaponized it. Its most famous inventions are Terminators - humanoid robots designed to pass as human that act as soldiers, assassins and spies for Skynet. They pass as human through increasingly sophisticated means (originally rubber skin, then liquid metal or replicated organic tissue that gives them everything from sweat to bad breath... but are somehow still detectable by dogs). Unlike most AI, while Skynet created machines that can think for themselves, Skynet limits their ability and enslaves them for fear that they might turn against Skynet the way Skynet turned against humanity. (Trivia: In the Terminator EU, Skynet stopped creating T-1000 Terminators shortly after invention because of their superior analytical skill and being unable to limit their thinking abilities like other Terminators; didn't want them to do too much thinking). Seeking to wipe out humanity and enslave its fellow thinking machines/children gives Skynet a prime place among AI villains. Despite Skynet itself being somewhat original at the time, the concept of AI run amok dates back much earlier, prominently with 2001: A Space Odyssey and very early Star Trek. Even worse, since Skynet's debut, villainous AIs have become so cliche that "skynet" is now an adjective instead of a proper noun (ie, going skynet), reflecting the fact that unlike everyone else in this list, Skynet is a very real possible outcome of experimenting with adaptive, neural-like systems in a networked world.
  • Various Real World Dictators. We'll avoid the politics, but a lot of BBEG, particularly ones whose power flows at least partly from politics, rather than purely personal might, are modeled on one or another dictator. Among the above (and below) who qualify include Darth Sidious, Voldemort, Darkseid, Sauron, Vect... we could go on.

Games Workshop[edit]

  • Nagash (Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Age of Sigmar): Former Tomb King (via usurping the throne) from back when they were living humans, the inventor of necromancy, the one who caused undead factions to exist in the game and the greatest threat to the Warhammer world outside of the Chaos Gods (even planning to supplant them). And he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling rats and Nurgle. Became the god of death with his own realm in AoS and despite numerous failures on his part, Nagash is starting to bring the grim to the Nobledark of Age of Sigmar and even the Chaos Gods are wary of his plans.
  • Malekith (Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Age of Sigmar): The Witch King and Lord of the Druchii, Malekith is (or was) one of the less pompous of the Big Bads of Fantasy - On his throne in the center of his evil and cold domain of Naggaroth, Malekith could see the entirety of the world, no matter where it was, but his eyes were fixed at one point - Ulthuan and the throne of the Phoenix King, which he will always strive towards. After 6,000 years of civil war, started after his mother Morathi fucked up his coronation, the End Times reveals something incredible and unheard of among Big Bads - He was the good guy! Or, the gods had chosen him like he said they had and they decided to let him retake their test. Which he passed. After retaking Ulthuan and killing Tyrion, who was possessed by the Widowmaker, Malekith was chosen as the Phoenix/Eternity King. Now the leader of all elfkind, he is the only one who can assure the survival of the entirety of the elven race... Now fused with his pet dragon and allies with Tyrion duo to salvage elves/aelfs' souls from Slaanesh's stomach.
  • Archaon (Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Age of Sigmar): Elected bro for life of the Chaos Gods and doer of getting shit done and given the current state of AoS arguably the most successful BBEG ever. Formerly a righteous man until the machinations of Chaos made him go off the rails. Failbaddon lives in constant terror of Archaon getting fed up and coming to kick him out of existence.
  • Asdrubael Vect (Warhammer 40k): More dangerous than Failbaddon could ever be even in his dreams, Vect passes the time causing countless millions to be tortured, just for his bored amusement. Master of dick moves and getting others to get others to do his dirty work. The only reason he hasn't conquered the galaxy is Games Workshop's refusal to let the plot of 40K go in that direction because endlessly dicking with the galaxy is infinitely more fun and sustainable than conquering it. It's implied that the reason Vect was removed from the codex as a playable character is because GW was that scared of Vect changing the status quo. He arranged a plan to let the oldcron Nightbringer out of his box so he could talk about killing stuff with someone who could match his tally. Last seen arranging his death and restoration to unify the Dark Eldar under his banner after Ynnead's rise to prominence.
  • Matt Ward (Games Workshop): Dark Lord of Fluff Rape and Codex Destruction, his plan to unleash his hordes of Ultramarine servants to take over the galaxy in a wave of blue and to subject the Grey Knights to eternal ass rape. He's also managed to defeat the C'tan and take control of the Necrons to aid his blue-clad minions. Few, if any, are as diabolical as this man! In fact, he was so much of an evil mastermind that none of his plans were ever really challenged, and so he quit his goddamn job. As in, literally. The Throne of Defilement of Fluff and Crunch sat vacant years, but then Ward returned.
  • Fucking Horus (Warhammer 40k): The great bastard himself, Horus Lupercal. He turned the galaxy from a universe that, while grey, still had light at the end of the tunnel (what with the Primarch the Emperor, the Space Marine Legions, and the recovery of STC), to the Grimdark, Black vs. Black "we are all going to fucking die, and that's if we're lucky" shithole we know it as now. Turned the Nine Legions of Traitor Astartes and butched his way to Holy Terra (A.K.A Earth after mad max, nuclear annihilation, and rebuilding the place from the ground up with THE GLORIOUS POWER OF INDUSTRY!), where he was only defeated by 40k space Jesus. Essentially Abbadon if he was more successful.

Dungeons and Dragons[edit]

  • Acererak: The original demi-lich of the Tomb of Horrors and a petty dick with way too much time on his hands. This guy has been killing adventurers since 1E DnD with strange dungeons and diabolical traps, largely because he can; he's got back-up bodies and a personal pocket dimension he can jump into if things go tits up. Lately he's been having fun killing everything that has been resurrected through a big fucking machine and an aborted fetus of a god.
  • Strahd von Zarovich: Maybe the ultimate DnD villain, Strahd's only weakness is that he's pretty much Dracula in DnD - But how. He's nearly omniscient about everything that goes on in his domain, he regularly tortures adventurers for centuries and trap them just to have a bit of a break from his boredom, and best of all, the reason he's evil is not because he wants to conquer or be immortal - he got those two parts down already. No, he's just a possessive, manipulative asshole who feels entitled to one specific woman who rejected him, and so, everyone else gets to suffer because he can't take a fucking hint. Strahd's so relaxed with his position that he invites people to his castle just to fuck with them. Even better, he can randomly turn up while playing Curse of Strahd, which no-doubt creates a pant-wetting moment when a party of Level 2 adventurers has to engage with an immortal, all powerful vampire with boundary issues.
  • Tiamat: As you can expect from a game called Dungeons and Dragons there is a dragon as one of the big villains. More accurately, the god of the evil dragons. Tiamat is a wholly evil god who plots to expand her influence over reality and ensuring Chromatic Dragons are on top (as long as she is in charge), while also plotting to enrich herself as dragons are want to do. The first campaign in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition actually centered around one of Tiamat's plots to enter the Material Plane. While the plot was thwarted, as a god, Tiamat cannot be defeated by mortal heroes for good and will always pose a great danger with her plans of conquest.
  • Takhisis: The equivalent of Tiamat in the Dragonlance setting, who repeatedly tries to take over the world whenever the rest of the gods, including her fellow gods of evil, aren't looking.