Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness
An antagonist can be classed on three orthogonal parameters:
- How much danger they, or their plans, pose.
- How effective they are.
- How much the audience is supposed to hate them.
This is a method of quantifying the second one.
Note that this does not cover any degree of sympathy; rather, it covers how probable their success is. To expand on this scale's orthogonality to the other two: it is entirely possible for a Complete Monster to fall at 'credible' or even 'low' on this scale (for example, a monster who is merely chief henchmen to, say, Ming The Merciless); and it is possible to have a villain who bats at the level of Superman, but is so dumb that most of his threat comes from the fact that his plans will inevitably fail in a spectacular way.
Further, please do not add in Villainous organizations, groups, or nations to the Examples section at High or Infinite levels, and be particularly aware of Fan Myopia.
None: The villain succeeded in his evil scheme, but it wasn't destroying the world at all, it was... to step on a flower?!? Or alternatively, there's no villain at all.
- Harmless Villain, Minion with an F In Evil, Crazy Cat Lady, Peek a Bogey Man, the most agreeable examples of The Extremist Was Right
- Examples: The League of Super Evil, Swiper from Dora the Explorer, Team Rocket (Pre-Best Wishes), Professor Chaos of South Park.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, No One Respects the Spanish Inquisition, Villainous Harlequin
- Examples: Dr. Drakken from Kim Possible, Invader Zim, The Dark Hand, many villains written by Dean Koontz, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, the Diamond Dogs.
Credible: Rarely succeeds, but only because heroes take action.
- Evil Overlord, The Empire
- Examples: Most Disney villains, Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, The Galactic Empire from Star Wars, The Decepticons (occasionally highly effective). Twilight's Hammer. The typical villains from Power Rangers / Super Sentai also fall into this category. The Fire Nation whenever Azula isn't available as a strategic consultant.
Inadvertent: May succeed without realizing it, so heroes must be especially cautious.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters, Humans Are Morons, Humans Are Cthulhu, Non-Malicious Monster, Obliviously Evil, Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds, Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, Hero with an F In Good
- Examples: The crew of the Red Dwarf, the Red King in Through The Looking Glass, the replicants of Blade Runner.
High: Almost always succeeds when not thwarted by a hero and have a decent number of victories under their belt, expect them to get a secondary goal completed even when they lose.
- Magnificent Bastard, The Chessmaster (when evil), Hero-Killer, Corrupt Corporate Executive, The Men in Black (when evil), Complete Monster, Manipulative Bastard (when evil), Monster Clown, No-Nonsense Nemesis (when evil)
- Examples: David Xanatos from Gargoyles, The Light, Kefka Palazzo, Hazama/Terumi Yuuki, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Princess Azula, Amon, President Snow from The Hunger Games, Shego.
Infinite: The villain will always win, and the heroes will always lose, even if the heroes should by all rights win. This may be due to the villain being truly all powerful, or the heroes being utterly incapable of confronting them in the first place, let alone stopping them. At best, the heroes could delay or annoy the villain, but the villain will triumph in the end regardless and the heroes must evade or escape the villain now that its goals are met.
- Eldritch Abomination (esp. in stories where you can't punch them out), Cosmic Horror Story, God Is Evil, You Can't Fight Fate, Rage Against the Heavens, Downer Ending, Villain Sue, Diabolus Ex Machina.
- Examples: Many, many horror stories where the protagonists die or suffer a Fate Worse Than Death. Final Destination. H.P. Lovecraft. Villain Sues. Battle Royale.