"They say the Zombie Master controlled these foul creatures even before his own death, but now that he is one of them, nothing can make them betray him."Some monster or non-human species have aristocracies with Blue Bloods that just so happen to actually have blue blood. And rarely, lowborn monsters (frequently former humans) can aspire to earn such titles with "heroic" deeds, political savvy, or by dint of Asskicking Equals Authority. Beyond that though, some Monster Lords are physiologically different from rank and file Mooks. Maybe the species as a whole has a caste system, and over time the leaders have become a different "race" that is more powerful by nature. Other monster races may have a life cycle where old or "mature" mooks become lords if they grow really powerful, use a magic ritual, or they have a really strong willpower. Frequently, the Monster Lord will be The Man Behind the Monsters. Even though not human, they will look human-like because the process of climbing the Evolutionary Levels ladder raised them higher up on the Bishounen Line. Likewise, while their lesser kin may only be about as smart as an animal, the Monster Lord will typically have human-level or higher intelligence and be capable of speaking and understanding human speech (though not human morals). Of course, in some works the Monster Lord looks more monstrous than their brethren. And even in settings where the Bishounen Line is in effect, if there's a rung above Monster Lord, it'll probably be a One-Winged Angel and make them monstrous again. Both types are likely to repel what lesser monsters are weak to. Their children/infectees will likely be stronger than other mooks, have an easier time becoming a Monster Lord, or naturally be born one. They will usually become a Hive Queen or have great Psychic Powers over the lesser monsters, especially ones they create. And of course, they will be physically stronger, tougher, and faster. Sometimes, they'll even prey upon their lesser kin. Monster Lords also tend to be the oldest members of their species, thus the strongest. One downside though is that Monster Lords tend to be epic spell components or chow in the Food Chain of Evil. So wizards, other monsters, or even their own underlings will try to eat them to gain more power. In video games, their "sprite" will likely be wholly unique, not a Palette Swap. The net effect is that the Monster Lord is a King Mook with a few extra bells and whistles. Supertrope of Insect Queen, Vampire Monarch, and Demon Lords and Archdevils. See The Beastmaster, a more watered-down version of this. See also the Monster Progenitor, who is usually the top Monster Lord of its kind.
— Magic: The Gathering card "Zombie Master" flavor text
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Anime & Manga
- Guyver has this in the Zoalords, Hyper-Zoanoids, and bog standard Zoanoids.
- The Youkai in InuYasha fit this; specifically InuYasha's father was a Lord of all the Inu-Youkai and had non-Inu Youkai vassals.
- The Abyssal Ones in Claymore, the strongest among the Awakened Beings and Yoma. In particular, Isley of the North, who rallies an army of lesser Awakened Beings to assault Pieta.
- The royal family of monsters in Princess Resurrection fit this trope to a 'T'.
- Played with in Slayers: while all Mazoku are formed from concentrated negative human emotion, the five Mazoku Lords are distinct in that they were literally created from the Dark Lord's (who represents the sum entirety of said negative emotion) own substance.
- Demon King Chestra Violinist of Hameln is the only Mazoku to possess infinite magical power, and thus immortality. All the other Mazoku depend on the flow of magic from him, and without him they will eventually crumble to dust and die.
- There's a Shinigami King in Death Note. Not much is known about him other that than he created the Death Notes and has power that far surpasses all other Shinigami, such that they are absolutely unwilling to disobey one of his rules (the punishment for doing so is generally instantaneous death, without the King needing to actually be physically present).
Film — Animation
- Dragons in How to Train Your Dragon tend to follow Alphas who acquire their positions via Asskicking Equals Authority. For example, in the first movie, the dragons only attack the village to collect food for the Red Death, a far larger dragon who controls the whole nest. Similarly, in the sequel, Bewilderbeasts are massive ice-breathing dragons who can command smaller dragons and rule nests as the Alpha. The first one to appear is a good guy who protects his nest from dragon-trappers and gathers food for them. Unfortunately Drago Bludvist turns out to have a Bewilderbeast of his own, which under his command kills the good Bewilderbeast and takes control of all the adult dragons. Fortunately Hiccup manages to help Toothless resist and defy him, causing all the dragons to recognize Toothless as their Alpha.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Horrifying Hero Jack Skellington is described as the "Pumpkin King" of Halloween Town. The community also has a monstrous mayor.
Film — Live Action
- Labyrinth gives us the unforgettable Jareth the Goblin King. Unlike his subjects, who consist of Ugly Cute Muppets, Jareth is portrayed by David Bowie in a pair of Painted-On Pants that leave very little to the imagination. Dance, magic, dance!
- Alien Queens in the Alien franchise probably count.
- As does the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact.
- Boss Nass (portrayed by BRIAN BLESSED!), the Gungan leader in The Phantom Menace, looks a lot different from the other Gungans. The Legends continuity explains that he's a member of the Ankura race of Gungans, which constitutes a minority but nonetheless maintains a strong presence among the Gungan leadership.
- In Return to Oz, the Nome King starts out looking similar to other Nomes — that is, a creepy moving face on a rock surface. But true to form, as the heroes fail to pass his test one by one, he grows in power — and becomes gradually more humanoid in the process. However, his One-Winged Angel form in the climax is a mass of rock that looks even more monstrous than before.
- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King has a couple of examples. The Low Men are weak-minded ratlike creatures; they rank lower than the Taheen, which are more or less humans with animal heads; and the whole bunch turns out to be led by ancient vampires. Among the vampires themselves, there are a couple of weak echelons made up of people converted to vampirism by the ancients, who are again the Monster Lords.
- Aragog, the humongous leader (and father) of the Acromantulas in Harry Potter, and the only one of his kind shown to speak English on-screen (although it's possible the others do as well).
- Myrdraal in The Wheel of Time are Monster Lords to the Trollocs.
- Dracula is a count, and the other vampires mentioned in the book clearly view him as superior... but this may be less to do with his title and more to do with the fact he's implied to be their husband and/or father and also happens to be a badass.
- The villains of Mercedes Lackey's Obsidian Trilogy are the Endarkened, who draw inspiration from classical depictions of demons and devils, with such features at bat wings and red skin. The servants of their world are Lesser Endarkened, who are uglier and lack wings, but have fur and cloven feet.
- Just about every non-human faction in The Dresden Files has these. Notable examples are all of the various gods and their followers, the Sidhe (with their three-queen hierarchy), and the Goblins with their Erlking. The Red Court of Vampires has a king. Lord Raith for the White Court vampires.
- Roald Dahl's The Witches gives us the unspeakably nightmarish Grand High Witch, memorably portrayed by Anjelica Huston in the 1990 film adaptation.
- The goblins in The Hobbit have a Great Goblin. Likewise, the Nazgûl in The Lord of the Rings have a Witch-King.
- In The Iron Teeth, a particularly strong, smart and well-fed goblin can metamorphose into a hobgoblin: bigger, smarter, more territorial and bearing horns, and often found commanding goblin tribes. There's a substantial bounty on hobgoblins due to how much more dangerous they can make a goblin tribe.
Live Action TV
- Vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer can become "Lords" if they live long enough... usually, this results in their Game Face getting stuck on.
- Angel, meanwhile, had the Archduke Sebassis, lord of a legion of demons.
- In Farscape, the Scarran ruling class looks far more humanoid than the "horse-faced" variety the series introduced first.
- The officer caste Martian Ice Warriors in Doctor Who are very different in appearance from the usual ones (slimmer and much less heavily-armoured), although contrary to fanon the name "Ice Lord" is never used on-screen. Daleks and Cybermen also have hierarchies, respectively led by a Dalek Emperor and a Cyber-Controller.
- The Alphas in Teen Wolf all the way. While Betas are limited to Wolf Man, Alphas can fully shape-shift into huge, half-wolf forms. They're also stronger, heal better, and are the only type which can create more werewolves.
- Game of Thrones introduces the Night's King as this to the White Walkers.
- Ultraman had a "Chief of the Monsters" named Geronimon in one of its final episodes. He looked kinda silly (by "chief", we mean he had a beard and a Native American headdress), but he possessed the power to resurrect kaiju and planned on bringing back 60 monsters to wage war on Ultraman and humanity.
Mythology And Religion
- Dungeons & Dragons has had this with Lizard Kings (lizard men), Lamia Nobles, Noble genies, "Greater" monsters (basilisk, daemons/demons/devils, lammasu, shedu), demon princes and archdevils. A couple of adventures have had zombie lords as well.
- Kindred in Vampire: The Requiem grow stronger with age and experience, represented by the power stat Blood Potency. Truly powerful vampires (Blood Potency 6) can only feed on humans note and can create bloodlines which they can bestow on all their progeny and even supplicant vampires. Basically, a bloodline is a second "clan" that gives all vampires in the bloodline a fourth in clan discipline, which is often unique and very powerful compared to the core ten. Of course, they also develop a second curse.
- The Ventrue also style themselves as this in both Requiem and Masquerade (its predecessor) to the point where their nickname in Masquerade is "Blue Bloods," though they have the same weaknesses as most other vampires; on the other hand, their Blue Blood nickname probably stems from their tradition of Embracing nobility and they do wield the majority of temporal influence. There's even a Ventrue bloodline in Requiem, the Deucaliones, who are formed around the idea that the Ventrue are the supreme clan and all others are innately flawed (which they are, but of course so are the Ventrue).
- In Requiem, vampires can become this literally by creating Ghouled animals and plants, or by creating Larvae as minions — Larvae are "incompletely embraced" juvenile vampires, which thusly function more like blood-drinking, sun-averse zombies. This path is easier for Draugr than regular vampires, though.
- The Raksha Nobles, the more powerful type of Fae, are as different from (non-heroic) Commoner fae as a protagonist is from a mook — literally, since the fairies treat stories and narrative tropes as their food, drink and laws of physics.
- The Descending Hierarchy of Malfeas is also like this; by order of the Yozi Cecylene, the lawmaker of Hell, the greatest demons (generally those of the Third Circle, the souls of the Yozis) are designated Unquestionable, Second Circle Demons (the souls of the Third Circles) and the most exceptional First Circles are citizens, with numerous privileges and protections, and all others are merely serfs, beholden to whatever commands those of higher rank would impose on them. The Yozis technically preside over the entire hierarchy, but are functionally distant, and even the Unquestionable are more preoccupied with their own alien agendas, so most actual politicking and conquest is done by the citizens without reservation.
- Magic: The Gathering has this in the Zendikar Block. Only the most powerful vampires can convert people into true vampires by draining their blood, but lesser vampires can create zombies (called nulls) by draining the blood completely from a target. This power doesn't come up much in the game, but it is there in the fluff. The picture for this page features a vampire and some follower nulls.
- Magic has these all over the races, and they used to even have the creature type "Lord." The type has been lost, but the effect remains: they power up other creatures of the same type, and some even make more of them, or make them easier to cast. Because the old versions of these cards bore the "Lord" type before the Grand Creature Update (which instead made them the same class of creatures and made it so that their abilities didn't affect themselves, but could affect other copies), now any card that boosts creatures of the same type are called "Lords". Goblins, Soldiers, and Elves are popular choices for lords because of their consistent focus on a group mentality, but there have been lords for Vampires, Merfolk, Zombies, Treefolk, Saprolings, Elementals, Warriors, Faeries, and Beasts. There's also Adaptive Automaton, who in exchange for having no abilities other than buffing others, has the ability to buff any type of creature of your choosing.
- The Innistrad block has recently given rise to several of these, as it is largely based on Gothic Horror. Vampires have Olivia Voldaren, capable of turning other Creatures into Vampires, getting stronger because of it and then taking control of them, as well as the Bloodline Keeper/Lord of Lineage card which creates Vampires and then transforms when you have enough, making them stronger as well.
- The Lorywn-Shadowmoor block brought a megacycle of "Lieges", Ten creatures with 2 colors each that buffed other creatures that shared the same colors with it (the more colors they shared, the more they buffed). The set of allied color Lieges had minimal effects beyond this, usually some generic effect such as "trample" or "Flying", while the enemy colored lieges had effects ranging from being a nuisance (summoning worms each turn) to devastating (such as destroying any creature you want when you cast a dual colored spell of the same color). They were effectively lords for creatures of their colors.
- Liege of the Tangle is implied to be the collective will of Mirrodin's forests, or at least one of the rulers of the "trees" there. It's effect is that it can "awaken" your lands into powerful elementals, specifically 8/8 elementals. Being an 8/8 elemental itself, this implies that it was the lord of the "tree spirits" and it was unique in that it could awaken others.
- Rune Giants in Pathfinder were magically bioengineered by a vanished civilization to be Monster Lords for giantkind as a whole. They are enormous (around forty feet tall, which is about twice as tall as the next-largest giant races), and have some magical mind-control abilities that are particularly effective against giants. Other giants don't like them much, but don't get a choice in the matter. Notably, Rune Giants were themselves meant to be controlled, and simply serve as intermediaries through which the rest of giantkind can be enslaved.
- In Promethean: The Created, most Pandorans are effectively mindless - even the ones with some degree of intelligence are more "animal cunning" than "thinking creature". Sublimati, however, have broken through that into true sentience. They often gather a number of lesser Pandorans around them as a hunting pack (typically with the Transmutation "Mantle of Lordship" - learnable only by Sublimati or Centimanus Prometheans), with which they track down and entrap Prometheans to feed on. Some Sublimati have other thoughts than just hunting, as well; one, the Lady of Chains, went so far as to start a cult among human beings. It has its own website.
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 both have several of these. Some of the more notable ones:
- The Daemonic Heralds are more or less the rank-and-file daemons you can normally choose to fill out your armies, but have special perks to them (called Locus/Loci as of the latest edition) as well as heightened attributes (differs depending on the kind of daemon, as Khornate Daemons just have better statistics while Tzeentchan Heralds are more powerful wizards). The fluff itself implies that all daemons of the same alignment are the same, it's just that the higher ranked ones are just way more powerful versions of it's underlings. The Chaos Gods themselves are implied to be the most powerful Daemons of their alignments (although this is by a wide margin, as even Khorne's greatest champion is but a mere insect compared to him), and it's outright stated that there are many, many lesser gods that are just not as influential as the big 4.
- The mortal worshipers of Chaos in both settings results in this as well. As a champion rises through the ranks, he gains the attention of the Chaos Gods and are granted their boons in the form of mutations or daemonic artifacts. The end result is the mortal becoming a full daemon; either they master their new abilities and ascend to the status of Daemon Prince (on par with most Greater Daemons in terms of power) or they succomb to the insanity brought on by the daemonic influence and become Chaos Spawns (gibbering masses of flesh that have no right existing, let alone moving under their own power).
- Skaven who are born with Black Fur are taken away to be trained into Stormvermin, their elite fighting regiment. Their black fur is an indication that they are capable of growing larger and stronger than the common skaven, and thus can surpass the usual meek strength of the normal ratmennote . Likewise, Skaven born with Grey Fur are marked by their patron god, the Horned Rat, as being future Grey Seers. Grey Seers are powerful wizards of the Skaven and are held with both awe and suspicion; awe because they can invoke the wrath of the Horned Rat to kill their enemies, suspicion because you never know when you'll be deemed "an enemy".
- Genestealer Patriarchs from 40K are ancient purestrain Genestealers who managed to start up their own cults. Their maturity has granted them psychic powers over the other members of the cult, even other purestrains. However, because they're so old (and because their servants dote upon them), they've grown obese, making them less suited to the physical combat prowess of their younger broodmates. They compensate by being some of the most powerful psykers within the Tyranid vanguard force. A similar creature, the Broodlord, is instead a heavily modified Genestealer that retains its combat prowess and psychic powers, in exchange for no longer being able to control more than its immediate brood (which is usually only around 30 genestealers rather than a whole planetary force).
- Tyranids as a whole are built upon this, with Synapse Creatures specifically being bred to command their lesser rabble directly. Since each creature is simply a genetic modification of another, it's not surprising to see something as huge as the Hierophant share common organs and biomorphs as, say, a lowly ripper.
- Necrons are a sinister case of this; to be able to turn their entire species into metal cyborgs, they had to speed up the process through mass production. This meant that the chassis the common citizenry got was of a far less quality than their ruling class, which meant that the eons of hibernation and nature did a number on their systems. Even some of their lords weren't immune to this and a good number of them woke up insane, confused, or stupid. Much of the common "warriors" are little more than automatons, only capable of following the commands of their lords (who in turn follow the commands of their respective Overlords). The fact that their own repair system is imperfect too means that with every battle their soldiers loose a little more of their soul, not that they know or care anymore.
- Orks (and orcs). Orks biologically follow Large and in Charge, as the more an ork fights and the more boyz are under him, the bigger he gets, and therefore the more fights he can win and the more boyz will follow him (due to beating the leaders of rival clans). The most successful bosses call themselves warbosses, and really big armies are led by warlords.
- Disgaea has this, even if you don't count the basically human Overlords. Examples include the higher tiers of most of the monster classes (Zombie King, Orc Master/King, Lord Cat God) as well as the Nether Nobles and some bosses.
- Starcraft has a justified variant of this with Kerrigan. She's more human than the rest of the Zerg because she is an Human-Zerg hybrid. With Kerrigan's deinfestation in Starcraft II part 1, it looks like this trope will be played straighter than ever come Heart of the Swarm, as the mostly-human Kerrigan will still be commanding some, if not all, Zerg. This is taken even further by the conclusion of Heart of the Swarm, when she becomes the Primal Queen of Blades, leader of all Zerg not controlled by Amon.
- Doom 2 has the Arch Vile, which is not only the most powerful non-boss monster, but also one of the most human in its appearance. It has the power to bring dead monsters back to life.
- Kingdom Hearts has Organization XIII for the Nobodies.
- Popularized by the Trope Codifier Dragon Quest, medieval j-RPGs often have their Big Bad played by a "Maoh," a loose term often translated as "Demon King". It has become the series tradition for a Big Bad since the 3rd installment in 1988. Whatever species they actually are, they tend to rule over the local monsters and command some kind of dark magic. Unless it's just a negative title.
- They exist as a class in the Shin Megami Tensei series.
- Chrono Trigger's was translated as Magus, given he turned out to be a discolored, pointy-eared human of great, inborn magic. Though on paper that sounds like a Monster Lord of humans.
- The DS script still calls him Magus, but also adds the title Fiendlord, which is much better at getting this trope across.
- The very first character to use the title in a video game was none other than Bowser of Super Mario Bros. in 1985. He's a particularly tough Koopa whose children are also much tougher than your run-of-the-mill baddies.
- Beating Mario by a few days, however, was the lesser-known "Great Demon Lord" (Dai Maoh) Astaroth from the Arcade Game Ghosts 'n Goblins.
- The second was Ganon in The Legend of Zelda. The others before Dragon Quest III were Valarys in Hydlide Special, Azathoth in Jaseiken Necromancer, and Lucifer in Shin Megami Tensei.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Daedra throughout the series play the trope straight. There is a clear heirarchy with unintelligent beasts at the bottom, various human-animal hybrids like Daedroth, Spider Daedra, and Winged Twilights in the middle, and the intelligent, humanoid Dremora/Daedra Lords at the top.
- Morrowind has Dremora Lords as a high-level enemy. They have almost twice as much health as a regular Dremora, do a bit more damage, have a stronger magical barrier, and almost always come with a Deadric or Ebony weapon (compared to regular Dremoras, who are more likely to have Dwemer or Dreugh weapons.) And from a distance, they look exactly the same.
- In the Dawnguard add-on to Skyrim, the Vampire Lords have all the powers and weaknesses of a lesser vampire, but can access a very powerful One-Winged Angel form that no other vampire can access. They gained these powers because they have a stronger connection to Molag Bal, the god that created vampires.
- In Monster Girl Quest this trope is used by its very name. Technically it's the title awarded to the most powerful monster in the world, though in practice, every Monster Lord has been part of the bloodline of Alipheese Fateburn, the original creator of monsters and considered the opposite of Ilias. The current (16th) Monster Lord happens to be Luka's traveling companion and romantic interest Alice, while the 8th Monster Lord Black Alice is one of the main antagonists.
- Tewi Inaba from the Touhou series is a Rabbit Lord (or Lady, as the case may be), having evolved into a near-human form by dint of simply living long enough. (Chen and Ran from the same series don't exactly qualify, as they were created that way.)
- In general, Eastern mythology (from which the series borrows heavily) often holds that an animal which lives long enough becomes a supernatural being or youkai, gaining powers and the ability to take on a humanoid form. Of course, modern works tend to use this mainly as an excuse to make their characters a Little Bit Beastly.
- The Darkstalkers from the eponymous series have their own social hierarchy and aristocracy in Makai. The weakest members in the S and A Class noble families in Makai (from which Morrigan and Demitri hail from) are borderline Physical Gods, while C Class comprises livestock, slaves and humans, and D Class are monstrous/inhuman beasts.
- The MMORPG Runescape has this with their versions of vampire-like creatures called "vampyres". The order of ascending power goes like: juvenile, juvinate, vyrewatch, vyrelord(lady), and lastly the Drakan siblings who reign over all vampyres. Notably the lowest-tier partially resemble feral Nosferatu expies and the higher-tier vampyres have a more 'refined' form.
- Undertale has the imaginatively-named Boss Monsters, as well as the only known member of their kind: Asgore Dreemurr, King of All Monsters and Giver of Lame Names. Only known member, that is, until the player figures out Toriel's identity.
- Bowser, King of the Koopas, from Super Mario Bros., leads the Koopa Troop, an army consisting of turtles, mushrooms, ghosts and many other creatures.
- Nightmare in Soul Series is the lord and master of the Malfested, those afflicted with the Soul Edge's evil energy, since he is the wielder and avatar of the cursed sword who unleashed its evil upon the world.
- Neifirst of Phantasy Star II is the humanoid prototype and controller of the Biomonsters. She and her sister Nei appear like humans with pointy ears or Cat Girl ears, depending on the artwork, while most Biomonsters are evolved simple lifeforms with a few animals in the mix.
- Poharex has the Horned Snakes, which make up the commanders and officers in Darrakith's army, while the Silver Snakes, a different species, are the low-rank infantry.
- In Nast the Enchanter, the King Slime conscripts the protagonist and his girlfriend into fighting some goblins. King Slimes are sapient, able to take on humanoid appearances, communicate intelligably, and command their otherwise mindless fellows.
- High Orcs in the Monster Girl Encyclopedia aren't just orcs with darker skin and a mean axe: High Orcs are immensely strong and can bowl over even heavily armored knights and have the wits to command war parties. Their very presence emboldens the often cowardly orcs into rampaging marauders and their body odor drives them into a sexual frenzy. However, if a man actually beats a High Orc, the orcs immediately collapse onto the floor and beg for mercy. The High Orc herself also has a 180 in personality, going from a belligerent warlord to soft, loving, and devoted wife to the man.
- Gorillas usually live in troops led by a single mature patriarch. True to form, this patriarch is visually distinct from the other members of the troop by the silver fur on his back (which is why he's called a "silverback"). Most of the other troop members are the silverback's mates and children, but he may have several subordinate "blackbacks" — adolescent male hangers-on who aren't quite old enough to have the distinctive silver fur.
- Wolf packs were previously thought to follow strict social hierarchies led by an "alpha" male and female who rose to their positions via Asskicking Equals Authority. Subsequent research has revealed that this mainly happens in zoos. In the wild, as with the gorillas mentioned above, "alphas" are just the parents while subordinate "betas" and "omegas" are their offspring (though siblings within a pack will jockey for status among themselves, so Asskicking Equals Authority does indeed apply). Unlike gorillas, though, wolf parents don't display any distinctive physical features to separate them from the rest of the pack (like an adult male gorilla's patch of silver fur). Moreover, wolves are typically monogamous, so both parents share equal alpha status — unlike in gorilla troops, where the presence of multiple females prevents any of them from becoming a singular alpha female in the way that a silverback is the alpha male.
- Insect queens are this by definition.