The infamous lists of "Things I'll do if I ever become an Evil Overlord".
Read them, and you'll be Dangerously Genre Savvy, able to avoid dooms of many villains. Fail to read them, and your Genre Blindness will condemn you to pick up any Villain Ball you see, perhaps even demoting you to the rank of Harmless Villain, and failure will be your only option.
The original Evil Overlord List was compiled in 1990 by several members of the FidoNet Science Fiction and Fandom email echo. The FidoNet list originated with a 1988 Saturday Night Live skit featuring Bond Villains touting a book "What Not To Do When You Capture James Bond". The FidoNet list arose out of discussions regarding what sort of advice might be in that book, and was compiled and published by Jack Butler.
The original version of the list can be found here while the list Peter Anspach later compiled can be found here.
The version reproduced for TV Tropes is the more well-known list that sprang out of discussions on the Star Trek mailing list around 1994, discussing common cliches that appeared on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It started with 25 items and growing into eventually 100 items with several appendices grouped into "Cellblock A" and "Cellblock B". It is no longer updated, though it can still be found at this site.
Both Peter Anspach and Jack Butler acknowledge the existence of each other's lists, that both lists originated independently of each other, and state that their two lists have been so cross-pollinated over the years as to become effectively identical. Since the version below and the appendices are reproduced directly from Anspach's site, the copyright notice has been maintained out of courtesy.
See also Evil Overlord List Cellblock A and Evil Overlord List Cellblock B. If you wish to add points of your own, see the TV Tropes Additional Evil Overlord Vows. See also Evil Plan and Stock Evil Overlord Tactics for more general information.
If you don't want, or are unable, to be an Evil Overlord, look up The Universal Genre Savvy Guide.
After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.
I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way — even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless — my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savagesarmed with spears and rocks.
I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.
I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.
I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.
If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.
If I must have computer systems with publicly available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.
My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.
All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.
When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.
If I decide to test a lieutenant's loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.
When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk "Project Overlord" and leave it lying on top of my desk.
If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.
I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."
I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.
After I capture the hero's superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.
I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it's an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.