Non-Action Big Bad
"You see, I never had the chance to serve in battle, nor did fate provide me the opportunity to sacrifice myself for humanity as it did for so many others in the Great War."The Big Bad, as everybody knows, is the source of conflict in a work of fiction, with their defeat being the main goal of The Hero which brings an end to that Story Arc. But, what exactly makes them 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, the Evil Counterpart of the Non-Action Guy. This guy has zero fighting skills. They aren'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. In the event they do encounter the hero, they usually try to trick them into not attacking them or just run for it. If encountered in a video game, this character will either act as a deliberate Anti-Climax Boss or an outright Zero-Effort Boss, or even be The Unfought. Compare The Man Behind the Curtain. For Big Bads who have power but act like this until the climax, see Orcus on His Throne, where the Big Bad doesn't carry out any plans beyond sitting around being generally evil. Compare Dragon-in-Chief, where The Dragon serves as the de-facto Big Bad for the story, though not necessarily because of this trope. This trope may result in It's Personal with the Dragon, as The Dragon doing all the heavy lifting may become the hero's personal Arch-Enemy.
— The Director, Red vs. Blue
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Anime & Manga
- The Major from Hellsing. For an Omnicidal Maniac enamored 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 a clip of ammo at him. Eventually, he just has his more loyal Mooks do the killing for him.
- One Piece:
- Spandam 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 does have a Cool Sword - The Elephant Sword - but the problem is that he can hardly use it properly. When he unleashes it on Franky, Franky convinces the Elephant to squish SPANDAM.
- The World Government are the ones ordering the marines, including the Fleet Admiral. The members of the World Government seen haven't fought nor seem like the types.
- Maybe, anyway. Several of the members of the Five Elder Stars have what look to be battle scars, and one even carries a sword, so it's very possible that they're retired fighters.
- 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 for failing to defeat Kakashi, only for Zabuza to return the favor by killing Gato himself. After that, every other Big Bad in the series has fully embodied Authority Equals Asskicking.
- Sakyo of YuYu 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.
- Ghoda in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex never fights or even has any weapons, and 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.
- 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 everything bad that happens in the series. The reason it's all arguable is that he's doing it to prevent universal destruction due to entropy. A more "traditional" Big Bad is Walpurgisnacht, but that is more of a force of nature than a true enemy.
- Villain Protagonist 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.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED subverts this trope. It initially appears that Non Action Guys Muruta Azrael and Patrick Zala will be the show's Big Bad Ensemble. The former is a psychopathic madman who leads the Earth Forces from behind the scenes, the latter an Insane Admiral turned President Evil who rules ZAFT with an iron fist. Both lead massive armies, and are dedicated to eliminating one another. In reality however, they are both Unwitting Pawns of Badass Ace Pilot and Magnificent Bastard Rau Le Creuset, who is the real Big Bad of the series.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny has a Big Bad Ensemble of Lord Djibril and Gilbert Durandal. Both have more than enough resources (and madness/manipulative ability) to make up for their lack of frontline combat skills, with Djibril heading a world-wide network of hate-groups, and Durandal as ZAFT's new President Evil.
- Chancellor Wong in Mobile Fighter G Gundam is the bad guy in the second act- he's super manipulative (he even has literal chess-pieces in the shape of the Gundams), is the De-Facto leader of everything and holds authority over Master Asia... however, he hardly stands up from his floaty chair, only sets up fights for Domon, and has an L-Level sweet tooth. Suffice to say, he's almost vaporized by collateral damage—which was the direct result of his own manipulations—and when he actually gets in a Gundam (unwillingly) he lasts all of two minutes. And most of those two minutes are spent talking.
- Jail Scaglietti of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Being a Mad Scientist with Super Intelligence and a lot of resources, he was one of the biggest threats to the TSAB itself in the franchise and came the closest to taking The Federation down even though he himself has little to no fighting abilities. The battle against him was pretty much over once all of the Combat Cyborgs guarding his base were neutralized and Fate finally got around the Capturing Threads set up in his lab.
- Dragon Ball:
- Commander Red in the Red Ribbon Army saga is such a weakling that when his subordinate decides he wants to be in charge he kills him easily.
- Babidi in the Buu arc of Dragon Ball Z is a powerful magic user but is absolutely no match for the planet-splitting main heroes, relying on his minions to do the fighting. He's eventually killed when Buu realises that being bossed around by someone so much weaker than him doesn't make sense, and reacts accordingly.
- Desparaiah from Yes! Pretty Cure 5. While her Dragon-in-Chief Kawarino is the most difficult villain the girls have to face in this season, the only things Desparaia does during the Grand Finale is summoning Mooks, blocking the attacks with a barrier... and undergoing a High Heel-Face Turn! Weirdly she is the most powerful being in this season, the only reason why Kawarino is so damn loyal to her.
- Every single antagonist on the Pokémon series, since it's the Pokemon who do all the fighting for them, while the main antagonist are not shown to have any fighting ability whatsoever. The Pokemon themselves are said to never be evil, while the theatrical legendary Pokemon are merely troubled, confused, or highly protective, and are Easily Forgiven at the end.
- Code Geass: Schneizel el Britannia is a purely political figure, but he more than does the job with his silver tongue and has the protection of the Knights of the Round, and late in the series, FLEIJA and Damocles.
- Marder from Panzer World Galient, who is completely defenseless in an actual battle and got almost killed at least once when Hy Shaltat wasn't around.
- Played with by Aizen of Bleach. While a legitimately powerful threat who could wipe out most of main cast by himself if he wanted to, after The Reveal he just spends most of his time sitting on his ass. He still has his usual machinations, but he leaves the heavy lifting to the Espada. But even though that could be seen as Orcus on His Throne, after he leaves Hueco Mundo and makes it to Fake Karakura to kick-start the final battle, Yamamoto envelops him in a fire prison. Although he likely couldn't do much regardless, his dialogue makes it fairly clear he had no intention of doing anything anyway. It's only when most of his soldiers are dead or defeated does he finally decide to get involved personally...and even then only got truly serious once his MacGuffin started giving him Power-Ups.
- The king in Chess. It's barely superior to a simple pawn, and spends as much time as possible hiding and fleeing (especially since it usually can't attack another piece without moving into check first).
- Sin City baddies tend to be this trope. The Roarks, Ava Lord, Wallenquist, and 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.
- Incredible Hulk villain The Leader. He may be a mutant, but his only power is Super Intelligence, and he's got the physique of a string bean.
- In most forms of media The Joker is this - he's generally portrayed as scrawny, and occasionally it will only take one punch from Batman to bring him down. He makes up for it by being a Magnificent Bastard and stacking the odds. In a number of stories, the tension isn't on Batman beating him in a fight, but trying to catch him before he murders more innocent people.
- This usually goes for most of Bats' Rogues Gallery, to various degrees. Guys like Riddler or Scarecrow are more masterminds than fighters. Two-Face or the Black Mask are gangster types who are capable of using a gun or fighting, but don't have the physique or skill needed to take Bats on in a straight fight.
- In the pages of Iron Man and The Avengers, we have seen guys like the Roxxon Oil heads, Justin Hammer, and the leaders of the Maggia who were corrupt business men or mafia bosses who could not go up against the heroes one-on-one and often employed super villains. Obidiah Stane and Count Neferia also started off this way but both men either gained powers later or eventually wore a suit if Powered Armor.
- Darth Vader, of all people ended up this way in the Marvel Star Wars comics. The reasoning behind this was that Lucas Arts did not want to have Vader and Luke fighting too often, lest it conflicted with the movies, which the comics were supposed to coincide with.
- Most of the X-Men's human villains like Reverend Stryker, Bolivar Trask, Senator Kelly, Arcade, etc., since they mainly represent humanity's hatred of mutants (except Arcade, who's just crazy).
- 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 him. 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.
- Ultimate Spider-Man:
- Bolivar Trask, the man who (may) be responsible for the deaths of the Parkers, as well as the Brocks, and the main villain of the Symbiote Wars arc. Justified because he's a middle-aged businessman, without any superpowers whatsoever.
- Kingpin again. Not that he isn't strong, he just prefers to sit back and stay incredibly rich, rather than get his hands dirty. Well, dirtier.
- 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. According to secondary materials he is an expert swordsman but never gets the chance to show it in the films.
- 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.
- Star Wars:
- Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope, in a prime example of the films' Early Installment Weirdness. Although he commands the Death Star and leads the hunt for the Rebels, he's just a bureaucrat and lacks any sort of Force power, in stark contrast to the major villains of the other movies and the saga in general.
- Jabba the Hutt from Return of the Jedi serves as a Disc One Final Boss version of this, a massive gangster who can't even move from his throne and is so inept at the physical stuff that Leia simply strangles him with the chain he was using to enslave her.
- Memorably subverted with The Emperor, who projects an image (both to the audience and to Luke) of being a helpless feeble old man who needs Darth Vader to fight for him. Then he busts out the Force Lightning.
- Pretty much every James Bond villain relies on The Dragon, The Brute, or just a Giant Mook to present a physical threat to Bond, while they provide the resources and ideas. There are some exceptions though; Alec Trevelyan in Golden Eye is a match for Bond, being a former MI6 agent himself.
- Dick Jones from RoboCop (1987). Aside from trying to take the Old Man hostage, he never even attempts to harm anyone directly, instead using his ED-209 drones and Clarence Boddicker.
- Rex Lewis/The Doctor/Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Slightly subverted. While he does leaves the dirty work to his Vipers and McCullen, he does use his tools in wanting to torture Duke. Which makes sense since Rex blames Duke for his apparent death.
- Discussed in Unbreakable, where the mother of Elijah Price, a comic art gallery owner, mentions the "soldier villain", basically an Elite Mook who fights with his fists, and the mastermind villain, who plots and plans and is often much more dangerous. David Dunn, the Nigh Invulnerable protagonist, runs into the film's Big Bad, who is an example of the latter, pretty much immediately afterwards. It turns out to be Elijah.
- Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier does nothing more in terms of action than use a gun to hold people hostage a few times. Dr Zola is much the same, although he at least has the excuse of being a computer now.
- Morton in Once Upon a Time in the West, a crippled railroad baron who relies on gunslinger Frank and his henchmen to "remove small obstacles from the track." The trope's played with though: Morton initiates the film's events but Frank grows increasingly insubordinate, and the two spend the second half of the film trying to kill each other.
- All three Big Bads in the Taken trilogy are this, with the second-to-last villain putting up a big fight with Bryan Mills near the end of each movie.
- Valentine from Kingsman: The Secret Service. He has no stomach for blood or violence, and he's a feeble techie to begin with, so he lets Gazelle do the fighting for him.
- Under Siege 2: Dark Territory: Travis Dane, the mastermind who hired the mercenaries and devised the plot to hijack the Kill Sat, isn't much of a physical threat. This is exacerbated by Ryback's Invincible Hero status, as The Dragon lasts only a few minutes in a fight against Ryback, Dane only seconds.
- In Rambo IV, unlike the other villains, Major Tint is shown running for his life and hiding from the battle at the end of the movie.
- Unlike the other villains in the Mission: Impossible series, Solomon Lane from Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is the only one to not engage in personal combat with Ethan Hunt, other than executing a few people.
- Balem only has one fight in Jupiter Ascending, and he loses pretty easily. Even Jupiter, who gets abducted or taken hostage by everyone in the film, can easily defeat Balem in a one-on-one fight.
- The bad guy in Dragon Bones is a noble who has all the dirty work done by his underlings. He is after a substance that can greatly increase a mage's power, but doesn't intend to use it on himself, he wants to use that on a powerful mage who is completely loyal and subservient to him.
- President Snow in The Hunger Games, being a politician who has lots of underlings to do things for him.
- The Council of Thirteen are Non-Action Greater Scope Villains, as they're political leaders and their hosts are apparently just normal Hork-Bajir and Taxxons (though a few have unknown hosts). They could take a normal human in a fight, sure, but they probably wouldn't stand up to the Animorphs. Their morph-capable servant, Visser Three, is the real Big Bad.
- Subverted with Visser One. You wouldn't think a middle-aged housewife could be very formidable in a fight, even if she is controlled by the leader of the initial invasion of Earth. You would be wrong.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- Grand Admiral Thrawn from The Thrawn Trilogy can get physical when required and is implied to be at least a decent fighter, but he has no interest in engaging in combat himself- it's strategy and trickery that hold his interest, not brawling.
- The Big Bad for the first six books of Galaxy of Fear is a Shi'ido named Borborygmus Gog. While the series' other Shi'ido, Hoole, takes several different forms in order to fight various menaces, Gog prefers to use his talents for impersonation and trickery. His menace comes from his projects and schemes, and while he menaces people with a blaster a couple times and once detonates an Explosive Leash in a creation's skull, he never actually fights anyone 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 and wouldn't last two seconds in a fight. And doesn't; although his scheming in the first book causes no end of trouble, once Holly escapes she just punches him in the mouth.
- Prince/King John in most versions of the Robin Hood tales never confronts Robin directly, leaving that up to the Sheriff of Nottingham.
- In one of the Israeli writer Bormor's short short stories, an adventuring party fights its way thorough the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, defeating many bosses along the way. At last they encounter the Big Bad in his throne room... and he falls after the first strike. The adventurers justify it: after all, the Big Bad was dangerous because of his commanding talents, not because of personal fighting prowess.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- The Mayor hates getting his hands dirty (literally, as he's a Neat Freak who loathes germs) and while he gains Nigh-Invulnerability that's all he gets; Xander could probably take him in a fight. The problem is he's just as good a politician amongst demons as amongst humans, with no end of mooks and evil pacts to give the Scoobies a headache. His ultimate goal is to become a giant demon snake, averting this trope... for all of ten minutes before the Scoobies blow him up.
- The First Evil, having no physical form, must resort to Mind Rape as well as The Dragon and its Elite Mooks. It does not want to be this trope and attaining a physical form is implied to be its endgame (since it is Made of Evil, the more evil it can make the world the closer to fulfilling this ambition it gets). On the flipside, it is completely invincible and As Long as There Is Evil it will always exist, so its a pretty high-functioning example of this trope.
- Tousei Kaneshiro from GARO The One Who Shines In The Darkness. Justified, as he knows that the sect of demon hunters that oppose his plans are forbidden to slay ordinary humans. Thus, his complete lack of superpowers ironically becomes the perfect defence against his superpowered enemies.
- Doctor Who:
- Davros is an Evil Cripple who created the Daleks. He can't do much beyond sit and talk and laugh maniacally, although he gets an artificial hand that can shoot bolts of electricity later in the series.
- The Daleks were occasionally depicted in this way in stories such as Frontier in Space in which the Master was said to be working with the Daleks as silent partners, where they only appeared at the end. In The Daleks Master Plan, the more visible and active Big Bad was Mavic Chen and even included an appearance by the Meddling Monk.
- The Master didn't start as this but became it later. The Roger Delgado incarnation did a lot of dirty work himself and got into quite a few physical confrontations, including a memorable sword fight against the Doctor in "The Sea Devils". Later incarnations changed him to be more of a Manipulative Bastard who preferred working behind the scenes and through patsies, and would run at the first sign of an actual fight.
- Common enough in Justified. While Boyd Crowder (Seasons 1-the present), Bo Crowder (Season 1) and Robert Quarles (Season 3) were capable (and in Quarles' case, terrifying) combatants, most of the other big players rely on their underlings to do their fighting for them. Mags Bennett (Season 2) was an older woman who operated through her sons and never personally pulled the trigger, Nicky Augustine (Season 4) executed an unarmed man, but always let Mr. Picker do the fighting, and Theo Tonin (Greater Scope Villain to Quarles and Augustine) never appeared in person, operating through more physically capable agents like Sarno and Elias Marcos.
- In Blake's 7, Servalan was originally meant to be just this. It was initially thought that the Supreme Commander (later President) of the Federation would have better things to do than personally go around chasing Blake. In the real world, a Commander in Chief wouldn't command a flagship during wartime, let alone go about chasing terrorist units. Those are jobs for his generals, admirals, and Black-ops units. The Federation was just that big. Originally, he (yes, Servalan was orignially conceived as a male character) was only to have only appeared once in the series. Jaqueline Pearce's performance was so well received that she became a regular character and archenemy of Blake and Avon.
- Breaking Bad's Villain Protagonist, Walt, becomes this toward the end of the series after he assumes the role of Big Bad. Being an older man with no combat or shooting experience dying of lung cancer means he's useless in a fight and can be taken out by his own protege, the short, string-beaned Jesse Pinkman. Walt uses this in his favor at points as more dangerous drug lords consistently underestimate him through the series; his intelligence, chemical knowledge, and cunning make him far more dangerous than you'd think.
- Dr. Wily in The Protomen's albums. It's lampshaded in Act I.
- 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.
- Sofia Lamb from BioShock 2 spends all her time ranting at Delta over the radio, and even in her attempt to kill him she didn't harm him directly. Andrew Ryan of the first game as well, until you deal with him and Fontaine takes over the show.
- Zachary Comstock from BioShock Infinite is weak and dying from years using dimension-tearing technology and in no shape to put up much of a direct fight against Booker. This wasn't always the case, but saying any more than that would spoil it.
- 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.
- 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.
- John Brightling in Rainbow Six, to the point that once you reach his lab he simply surrenders.
- 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.
- Baron Alexander in Amnesia: The Dark Descent never fights the player. Unlike most games it isn't as jarring, as there's no combat anyway.
- Fallout: New Vegas:
- Caesar does not fight 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.
- Dr. Mobius in the Old World Blues DLC. 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.
- Resident Evil:
- Ozwell Spencer is a 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.
- Resident Evil 6 has Carla Radames, Ada's Doppelgänger. She's more of a schemer than a doer, but as shown when she oversees Jake's capture and personally infects Chris' squad, she's more than capable of getting her hands dirty if she has to.
- Marian Mallon in Dead Rising 2: Case West is an Evil Cripple in a wheelchair. In Dead Rising 3 she fights Nick with a series of cranes, but doesn't physically challenge him. She is later killed unceremoniously by the game's real Big Bad.
- Call of Duty:
- 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.
- Mass Effect 3:
- After spending Mass Effect 2 in an uneasy alliance with Shepard, the Illusive Man becomes this, 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. Originally, the creators intended for the players to fight a reaperized version of The Illusive Man as the final boss, however they felt that since TIM was meant to be a villain whose intelligence was his greatest weapon it would undercut the character for him to become a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.
- The Catalyst doesn't seem to have any weapons, powers, or anything else to oppose you or anyone else, until the Crucible is plugged in - yet, as the Reapers' governing intelligence, it at least indirectly controls thousands upon thousands of enormous machines designed and optimised solely to destroy entire species.
- Dr. Breen in Half-Life 2. The final battle consists of sabotaging his teleporter before he can run away (nuking you in the process), while he taunts you.
- 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.
- The alien brain in X-COM does absolutely nothing but sit in its underground base, waiting for someone to shoot it.
- Hyman Roth in The Godfather 2. Once you get past his plans and mooks, he's a Zero-Effort Boss who can be killed however you like with ease.
- Jack Denham in Syndicate (2012). He tries to shut down your CHIP, but when that fails he doesn't raise a single weapon.
- Victor Branco in Max Payne 3. The one time he tries to pull a gun on Max, he gets disarmed quickly and only The Dragon saves him. The "boss fight" with him is just blowing out his private jet from under him.
- In Ace Combat: Joint Assault, neither the Valahaia leader nor Oliveri fight you in the air.
- Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl: Peter Crisp, the old, wheelchair-bound Corrupt Corporate Executive, who doesn't actually do anything during the final showdown, instead sending waves of mooks (and a helicopter) at you.
- Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time has Le Paradox, to an extent. As Sly points our while dishing out a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Le Paradox never actually stole the Coopers' various canes himself, instead leaving it up to his various partners to do all of the dirty work for him. That being said, he does put up a good fight against Sly during the Final Boss fight.
- Tomb Raider (2013) has Mathias, who largely leaves it up to his Solarii goons or Himiko's Stormguard to do the fighting for him. He does attack Lara in the finale, but is easily shot off of a cliff.
- In Byteria Saga: Heroine Iysayana, The Man Behind the Man Behind The Man is an unidentified superior being attempting to bring down the Celestial Bureaucracy. He doesn't want the archangels to come for him, of course, so he stays hidden and lets Paulinus, his mortal Dragon-in-Chief, execute his plan. He only (carefully) manifests himself when he tries to convince the heroes to join him; he could presumably wipe the floor with them but doesn't risk leaving traces.
- City of Heroes:
- The Center, leader of the Council. Heroes have only ever been able to talk him via radio in a mission added over six years after the game's launch. Villains can meet him in person during one of their story arcs, where he is indeed not a combatant.
- King Midas, leader of the Gold Brickers, has never appeared in person at all.
- Subverted in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. With the bad guy being a Senator, you'd think you'd only have to reach him, and it would all be over. After all, you're a cyborg. Then he goes and starts riding a Metal Gear. And then he further subverts this to ridiculous lengths, personally giving Raiden the worst beating he'll take in the whole game. Nanomachines are a thing of wonder, ain't they?
- The Camerata in Transistor were never combatants to begin with, but while two of them gain some method of fighting Red, Grant, their leader and the cause for everything, ends up being The Unfought.
- Batman: Arkham City has Hugo Strange; his "fight" with Batman consists of a cutscene where he's shoved aside so Batman can access some consoles. The Joker, as the other major player in the Big Bad Ensemble, is even more of an example than usual, as he's dying of blood poisoning and understandably not up for a fight.
- Shadowrun Returns: Adrian Vauclair of the expansion, Dragonfall, is an elderly scientist in the process of dying of leukemia. His security chief/assassin, Audran, is a huge orc with a minigun and military-grade power armor. Unsurprisingly, the latter is the final boss, while the former shoots himself once it's clear his plans have failed.
- The Emperor in Final Fantasy II is a powerful magician, but spends the majority of the time out of the spotlight, plotting and wreaking magical havoc on the world. Even when he gets a demonic upgrade after the party easily kicks his mortal head in, he's content to sit on his throne and let his minions do the work.
- In Watch_Dogs, Lucky Quinn and Damien Brenks are both physically unimposing and prefer to get others to do their dirty work.
- The Shadow Overlord in the "Rise of Red" story arc of The Irate Gamer. He's trapped in a mirrored prison and relies on the Evil Gamer and R.E.D. to carry out his plot to defeat the Irate Gamer. He is ultimately crushed by the decapitated head of the Humongous Mecha sent to destroy his arch enemy, who remains in the dark about his existence.
- Red vs. Blue:
- Season 10 has The Director of Project Freelancer. While the main characters are hunting him down, he does nothing to stop them except leave a bunch of Tex-bots for them to deal with. The page quote comes from season 6, Reconstruction.
- General Doyal is this for Seasons 11 and 12, not even having any fighting experience (he was promoted from brigadier's secretary) and having no control over Locus. Even when he is revealed not to be the Big Bad, this trope still counts to the true Big Bad, Control, who only gives orders for Locus and Felix to carry out while Control sits and waits.
- Subverted by Tombstone from The Spectacular Spider-Man. Spider-Man invokes this trope, right before Tombstone beats him in less than 5 seconds.
- Dr. Drakken in Kim Possible can be beaten by Ron in a fight and relies on Shego to do all the dirty work for him, but his plans are surprisingly menacing when he gets serious.
- Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget. He doesn't lift a finger throughout the show, or even deigns to show his face. He just dispatches his Mooks, then escapes at the last minute once Gadget defeats them. He has, however, personally engaged in vehicle-to-vehicle combat with the Inspector a few times, usually at the beginning of an episode before the plot's kicked off, but it rarely has anything to do with his plans.
- The Brain from Teen Titans season five is a very good Chessmaster- but he's also a literal Brain in a Jar, and without his minions he can't even defend himself against a slap.
- Shendu from Jackie Chan Adventures. Being Taken for Granite will do that to you. Averted with his true form- a 16 foot tall flightless dragon and powerful and devious Demon Sorceror who even without his magical talismans is seemingly invicible and an extremely dangerous enemy. In both his natural form and when he's stuck possessing unwilling human hosts, he demonstrates supernatural and impressive fighting skills as well as the ability to breath fire. And until the 4th series, he could summon his Elite Mooks the Shadowkhan at will to fight either for or with him.
- Xanatos from Gargoyles starts out this way; he's a Magnificent Bastard to the bone, and surrounds himself with lots of Mecha-Mooks and a very dangerous partner, Demona, but while a skilled fighter by human standards he's physically no match whatsoever for any gargoyle. He does, however, recognize this, and soon has a suit of Powered Armor made for himself that levels the playing field.
- On Young Justice, Queen Bee is a Living Aphrodisiac with the resources of her own country, but Word of God admits that her powers "aren't particularly physical." The one time she was involved in an actual battle she was knocked out pretty quickly by a female assailant, allowing the males of the Team to enter the fight. Lex Luthor admits that he thinks physical battles beneath him, though he does keep his trusted bodyguard Mercy around for that purpose.
- Hurricanes: Being a Corrupt Corporate Executive, Stavros Garkos usually dispatches minions to do his dirty work. However, he's not above doing some of it himself.
- The Ultimate Spider-Man version of Norman Osborn started out as this; he the one behind Dr Octopus's chasing of Spider-Man, but for most of season 1, he remains passive and does nothing besides giving Octavius orders. Then he becomes the Green Goblin.
- The Delightful Children from Down the Lane from Codename: Kids Next Door. They rarely face off against the heroes without a tough fighter, an army of mooks, or a Humongous Mecha backing them up, and they get soundly beaten in the rare event that they do.
- Varrick from The Legend of Korra is this. He is quite ruthless and surprisigly competant a villain, yet hardly lifts a finger when opposing the heroes. Varrick isn't effective on the field, instead relying on Mooks to do his dirty work. He also makes up for it by being a Magnificent Bastard.
- The Tallest in Invader Zim rule the Irken Empire, which seeks to conquer/enslave everyone and everything, but they much prefer to sit back and eat snacks than bother with any hard work. Though to be fair, they do manage to win a space battle when attacked by the Resisty, and an unfinished episode script reveals that they used to be members of the Irken Elite.
- Major Nixel from ''Mixels prefers to just stay at base and let his minion Nixels do the dirty work. He brilliantly spelled out in "Nixel 'Mix Over'":
Major Nixel: Now go. Get me. Some Cubits! And I'm just gonna stand here!