Non-Action Big Bad

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The Big Bad, as everybody knows, is the ultimate evil in a work of fiction (or not). But, what exactly makes him such a threatening villain? Is it because they're cunning? Eviler than anybody else? Or maybe because they're powerful? In practically every work of fiction centered around action, the latter is the case. Well, not always.

Enter the Non-Action Big Bad, which is Evil Counterpart of Non-Action Guy.

This guy has zero fighting skills. He isn't interested in becoming stronger or more powerful either, but probably has a lust for conquest or something similar and will rely on a second-in-command or a Quirky Miniboss Squad to do all of the dirty work that needs to get done. Compare The Man Behind the Curtain. In a video game, they may be The Unfought. For Big Bads who have power, but act like this until the climax, see Orcus on His Throne.

Compare Dragon-in-Chief, where The Dragon serves as the de-facto Big Bad for the story, though not necessarily because of this trope.

Examples of Non-Action Big Bad include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Major from Hellsing. For an Omnicidal Maniac enamoured of war and carnage, he noticeably lacks any combat involvement and limits himself to inspirational speeches.
    • Hilariously, he can't even shoot a disobedient soldier standing right in front of him, despite emptying an entire clip of ammo at him. Eventually, he just has his more loyal Mooks do the killing for him.
  • Spandam from One Piece is the leader of the Cipher Pol 9, an elite group of government assassins. He's also physically weaker than a single common fodder soldier.
    • He actually does have a Cool Sword: The Elephant Sword. The problem is that he can hardly use it properly. When he unleashes it on Franky, Franky convinces the Elephant to squish SPANDAM
  • Nagi dai Artai in Mai-Otome, albeit largely because males can't become Otomes.
  • Gato in the first arc of Naruto, which ended up being his undoing after he tried to dispose of Zabuza, only for him to turn on and kill him. After that, Authority Equals Asskicking took full effect.
  • Sakyo of Yu Yu Hakusho is head of the antagonists in the Dark Tournament Saga, even if Toguro overshadows him in plot importance. He also knows he can't fight, despite being the fifth member of Team Toguro, so he says that the outcome of Toguro's match will decide the outcome of his, thus enabling whoever wins it to win the tournament.
  • Gouda in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex never fights or even has any weapons, and even his mooks rarely use any violent means. Which doesn't stop Aramaki to have him riddled with exploding bullets when he refuses to be taken into custody.
    • Though it happens offscreen, it's made clear that he has numerous innocent people "disappeared" because they saw something inconvenient, and further it's implied that he did that solely to annoy Section 9 who would find out anyway. And that's not even accounting the attempted nuking of millions of people.
  • Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. He never actively bring the girls into harm, he simply gave the girl their wishes and let them fight witches as magical girls as payment. There are only two reasons to consider him a villain at all: he doesn't value individual human life at all (and doesn't even understand the idea), and he is directly or indirectly responsible for just about everything bad that happens in the series. The reason it's all arguable is that he's doing it to prevent total universal destruction due to entropy.
  • Dr. Tenma in the 2003 version of Astro Boy.
  • Johan Liebert. Tell that to him not doing anything physical except for using his gun, poisons, and manipulation on making people go suicide.
  • Light Yagami from Death Note. Although it is shown he can throw punches to L, this is never shown as the series progress.
  • Neither Degwin Zabi or his son, Gihren were up to much physical action in the original Mobile Suit Gundam. As the political (and military in Gihren's case) rulers of Zeon they didn't need to be.


Board Games[edit | hide]

  • The opposing king in Chess. It's barely superior to a simple pawn, and spends as much time as possible hiding and fleeing


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Sin City baddies tend to invoke this trope. The Roarks, Ava Lord, Wallenquist, and even the Colonel never get their hands dirty and are likely incapable of doing so. Instead, they send dirty cops, mooks, hitmen, and assassins to do their jobs.
  • Lex Luthor most of the time. He does have a battlesuit, but he tends to get in fistfights a lot less than he uses his Manipulative Bastard and Corrupt Corporate Executive aspects.
  • Spider-Man villains:
    • Mad Scientist and underworld supplier the Tinkerer is an old man with no fighting skills. The same can be said for Jonas Harrow, who's a Dirty Coward on top of it. (Ironically, Harrow was a one-time suspect for the Hobgoblin's identity.)
    • The Kingpin is interesting in that he is a very strong and skilled fighter but is usually in the mob boss role. In his earliest appearances, he had legitimate Super Strength and could fight guys like Spider-Man and even overpower them. Once he became a Daredevil villain, he was brought down a peg or two and less likely to fight Spider-Man. Instead, when he shows up in Spidey's books now, he is usually employing supervillains to do his dirty work for him.
    • Fortunado is a crime boss who, at one time, filled the Evil Power Vacuum left by the Kingpin. While portrayed as a competent fighter in his youth, he's an old man at present whose physical skills have degenerated.
    • Silvermane is this when not a cyborg; usually he's running his criminal organization from a wheelchair, being a half-crippled. In one storyline he was even running his organization while bedridden.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Cutler Becket from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He loves to sit and enjoy his tea while he watches his armies fight against the pirates.
  • Dieter von Cunth in MacGruber, for all his fearsome reputation, just stands there and gets his ass kicked when the finale comes.
  • Sauron from The Lord of the Rings film series is a partial case. He does come out, and he DOES do some major damage in the prologue against the Last Alliance. But he never comes out to play again during the main story arc; in the film explicitly because his form is just an eye on his tower.
  • Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope
  • Karl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me. One of the least physical Bond villains, he prefers to let his employees deal with his enemies while he kicks back and listens to some Bach.
  • Christo from Act of Valor doesn't even try to resist when his yacht is boarded.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • President Snow in The Hunger Games.
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn from The Thrawn Trilogy. He's actually implied to be at least a decent fighter, and is described as being powerfully built, but he has no interest in engaging in combat himself- it's strategy and trickery that hold his interest, not brawling. The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook gives him ridiculously high stats, but then again it's made so that fans can roleplay through the events of the trilogy, and they might be able to force a physical confrontation.
    • Explicitly averted in one of his later (but chronologically earlier) appearances. One of Thrawn's intricate plans includes a requirement for an elite bounty hunter's involvement. The bounty hunter is the linchpin of the plan, and would have to be given more information than such an inherently mercenary individual should be trusted with. Thus, Thrawn simply puts on a suit of Mandalorian armor and assumes the role himself.
  • Lord Straff Venture in the second Mistborn book- he's a thoroughly evil man, but is middle-aged, out of shape, and a Tineye (meaning that he has magical abilities, but they involve Super Senses rather than anything physical). As such, he prefers to work through his army and his Ax Crazy Dragon and illegitimate son Zane.
  • Lord de Worde in The Truth doesn't hit people. He hires people to do that.
  • The title character of Artemis Fowl, largely because he's twelve years old


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Most of 24's Big Bads, who prefer to leave the fighting to The Dragon or other more violent underlings.
  • Linderman from Heroes, who as a seemingly friendly old man with healing as his power is the only Big Bad without decent combat skills.
  • Obviously the First Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer who having no physical form must resort to Mind Rape as well as The Dragon and his Elite Mooks
  • Joffery Baratheon from Game of Thrones. Notorious for being a cruel sociopath and one of the biggest assholes on the show, he can't fight worth squat, and isn't a good strategist either. At first glance, being as young as he is might be considered an excuse, but given the setting (younger female characters were skilled at swordplay) it can only truly be attributed to laziness.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Dr. Wily in The Protomen's albums. It's lampshaded in Act I.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Doctor Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog games. You'll never see him fighting outside an Humongous Mecha.
    • Even more so, Dr. Wily from the Mega Man games. Every lesser baddie is a fighting robot built or commandeered by Wily himself. Since Mega Man himself is this kind of fighting robot, of course Dr. Wily can only be a match for him by fighting in a Humongous Mecha in the final Boss Fight.
      • King Cepheus and Lady Vega in the first two Mega Man Star Force games tend to rely on their ultimate weapons, Quirky Miniboss Squads, and minions to do the fighting for them. In both games, the final boss isn't the villain, it's the device they planned to use to take over/destroy (delete as applicable) the world.
  • Queen Brahne from the first half of Final Fantasy IX
  • Sofia Lamb from BioShock (series) 2. Andrew Ryan of the first game as well, until you deal with him and Fontaine takes over the show.
  • Bob Page from Deus Ex. Although he's in the process of becoming a god, at that particular stage in the process he's so vulnerable that effectively all you do is turn off his life support.
  • Gabriel Roman from Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
  • Lord Lucien in Fable II.
    • King Logan in Fable III is this too. After cutting a swath through his armies, The Hero storms Logan's throne room, only for him to surrender gracefully.
  • Henry Leland in Alpha Protocol. He can be the final boss, but the fight is a joke and its made clear that this is just an act of desperation. Sergei Surkov is also one.
  • The head of the terrorists in Silent Scope.
  • John Brightling in Rainbow Six. Once you reach his lab, he surrenders.
  • The Kilrathi Emperor and Admiral Tolwyn in Wing Commander.
  • In the arcade version of The Combatribes, the main heroes spent the last two stages chasing after a man in a suit who fits the image of a stereotypical crime boss. When the crime boss is cornered in the final stage, he is betrayed and killed by his female bodyguard Martha Splatterhead, who proceeds to fight the player in her boss' place.
  • Dr. Curien, Goldman, and the Mysterious Man in House of the Dead series.
  • Baron Alexander in Amnesia the Dark Descent.
  • Dr. Harlan Fontaine in L.A. Noire.
  • Caesar of Fallout: New Vegas does not fight in the game unless you decide to assault his fort, preferring to let his Dragon Lanius take command of the military campaign. It's justified in that he's an aging man with a brain tumor and doesn't put up much of a fight by himself, though statistically he is equivalent to an Elite Mook with nonexistent armor since he wears ceremonial robes and is surrounded by Praetorian Guards.
    • In the Old World Blues DLC, there's Dr. Mobius. While he spends the entire DLC siccing his Robo-Scorpions on you in as maniacal a manner as possible, when you actually meet him he turns out to be a heavily senile and grandfatherly old brain who can barely remember half of what he says. Most of his more maniacal rants are due to him taking Psycho. You can fight him, but he's hardly a match for you. Similarly, The Think Tank at the end are equally pitiful in combat, though it's made clear early-on that without their pacification field there's nothing stopping you from curb-stomping them.
  • Ozwell Spencer of Resident Evil is a crippled old man in a wheelchair. Needless to say, without the Undying Loyalty of his Dragon-in-Chief, Colonel Sergei Vladimir, he wouldn't be very dangerous.
  • Marian Mallon in Dead Rising 2: Case West is an Evil Cripple in a wheelchair. Needless to say, she has yet to be confronted.
  • Major General Nikita Dragovich from Call of Duty Black Ops. The best he can muster against Mason and Hudson when he confronts them directly at the end of the game is to try and shoot the former with his sidearm, before being easily beaten up and choked to death.
    • The same can be said of Imran Zakhaev from the original Modern Warfare. Without his Ultranationalist armies to protect him, he's just an angry old dude with one arm. The only reason he manages to kill Gaz and most of Soap's other squadmates is because they previously had a tanker truck explode in their faces. The moment Soap gets hold of a gun, he's done for.
  • After spending the second game in an uneasy alliance with Shepard, the Illusive Man becomes this in Mass Effect 3, with Kai Leng acting as The Heavy. It's kind of like they split the role Saren had in the first game into two people - Shepard and the Illusive Man constantly try to talk the other around to their way of thinking, while Leng is an exclusively physical threat who ends up on the wrong end of Shepard's omni-blade.
  • Dr. Breen in Half-Life 2.
  • In Evil Genius, the Evil Genius character is unable to attack enemies (though that doesn't stop him/her from dispatching Mooks).
  • Dr Neo Cortex of the Crash Bandicoot series, he's a super genius and at least arms himself with a deadly laser gun, but he's also a weedy midget with a head almost bigger than his stick-like body. Granted Rule of Funny applies on occasion, in Crash Twinsanity he actually brawls with Crash toe to toe.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]