And why he has to, since the very Spiral Power he possesses is exactly what he was trying to protect the Earth from by forcing humans to live underground.
The Emperor of Darkness, the Big Bad of Great Mazinger, the sequel from Mazinger Z. He spent the whole series sitting on his throne in the underground as his generals led the war against the surface, and he never left the Underworld, not even when all generals of his army were killed off. The only thing he did in the entire series was bring Dr. Hell, Big Bad of the former series, back to life to lead his army, which did not work exactly well. He not even was Killed Off for Real in that series, but in a manga chapter of UFO Robo Grendizer (the version penned by Gosaku Ota), the last part of the Mazinger trilogy.
Excel Saga has Il Palazzo, who sits on his throne playing dating sims and guitar while Excel and Hyatt do all the actual work. This, despite having (in at least the anime) psychokinetic powers that let him tear through an squadron of Ropponmatsus without the slightest effort, as well as at least some level of Super Strength and Super Speed. Among other things, he is unscathed by a half-dozen or so Ropponomatsus latching onto him and self-destructing, catches a mini-missile launched at his face with one hand before throwing it aside like a piece of junk, and zips across the floor too fast to follow and Neck Lifts the original Ropponomatsus...then proceeds to behead them by squeezing his fists shut.
He only got those powers in the final episodes from his shadow alter ego.
In the manga he has various technology-based powers, most notably teleportation, but it takes him over ten volumes to discover most of them due to his amnesia. He is eventually either cured or overtaken by a secondary personality (it's unclear to say the least), and gets off his throne to personally lead the conquest of (the economy of) Fukuoka.
Quite literally the Phoenix King from Ranma ½, as he is expected to do nothing but sit on his throne and shed light and heat so his subjects enjoy a comfortable life. Saffron, the latest incarnation, can vaporize mountains with heat beams whenever he feels like it, and yet he suffered an incomplete maturation that deprived him of control. One wonders why his previous, perfect, embodiments didn't go out and raze the world unopposed.
Justified in Code Geass. The Emperor has since left the conquering to his elder children Schneizel and Cornelia because he's busy preparing to "kill the gods."
Bleach brings us Sosuke Aizen, who, despite being the Big Bad for much of the series, seems content to wait on the sidelines looking pretty until he's forced to intervene.
Baraggan was like this in his backstory, too. He'd consolidated his power in Hueco Mundo so effectively that he had nothing left to do there but sit on his throne, and he was considering dividing his army in two and making them fight just to relieve his boredom. Why he didn't try attacking the Soul Reapers, the eternal enemies of the hollows, isn't addressed.
Self preservation instinct? The shinigami themselves may be confused as to how much of a threat Hollows pose to them ( HINT: they overestimated big time)) but maybe the hollows themselves realised.
Of course, then the Vandenreich arrive and their leader throughly averts this - he sends in the elite fighters first, and *then* the mooks, and on top of that, personally leads the assault on the good guys, a few chapters after he first showed up. They end up drastically decimating the Gotei 13 and killing their leader, with at most 6 causualities on their own side.
Father, the Big Bad from Fullmetal Alchemist is the perfect example; the only thing he does until the day of the eclipse at the end of the series is sitting down in his throne, letting the homunculi carry on his plan.
In Saint Seiya, the Pope Gemini Saga spend most of its time waiting for Bronze Saints to come in the throne room on top of the Sanctuary.
Shinzo has Lanancuras, who technically has a good reason to sit on his throne: it's his prison. Except he never tried breaking out until AFTER the barrier maiden had discovered the power to keep him there, which is three hundred years (five hundred in the dub). And he does absolutely nothing during that time.
Knives from the Trigun anime fits this to a tee. The ability to destroy cities? Check. Rabid hatred of humanity? Check he looks human but isn't, he's actually a plant. Sits in an oasis in the middle of nowhere for the entire series? Check.
Great Demon King Chestra in Violinist of Hameln follows this trope in letter, but, amusingly, not in spirit. He stays on his throne until his crippled body regenerates both legs, yet this does not prevent him from bringing his magic to bear against armies that challenge his minions as soon as he appears in the story.
Jellal from Fairy Tail is quite happy to send out minions to attack the Tower of Heaven's intruders, rather than fight himself. In the next arc, Laxus sits in Kardia Cathedral while everyone fights his team and tries to avoid a set of magical traps. There's a reason for the second example though: Laxus may hate Fairy Tail's reputation enough to try and take over the guild, but he's not truly a bad person, and won't admit to himself that he doesn't have the guts to deliberately kill someone.
Pasdar, the Big Bad of the first half of GaoGaiGar would sit on his throne... if he had a butt. Instead he justifies this trope by being a giant grotesquely horrifying mechanical head that's growing out of the ceiling. When he eventually grows a body, it requires a huge amount of energy to do, so much so that he has to assimilate most of Tokyo to do it.
The Former Crimson King from Samurai Deeper Kyo spends nearly the entire manga doing this until he finally gets up and fights in the last 10 chapters or so.
Digimon Xros Wars gives us Bagramon, leader of the Bagra army. He hasn't done much for the past 50 episodes except sit in a chair, looking menacing. In the last 2 episodes he finally takes matters in his own hands, literally.
Takuma Saiou of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Barely any of his interactions with the main cast serve any purpose throughout the first half of the season. Halfway, he gets a weapon of mass destruction that allows him to destroy the world, and he literally spends days doing nothing but contemplating whether he should destroy the world or not and he pretty much falls out of focus, until some weird split personality crisis makes him give away the keys to the satelite to the heroes.
Frieza from Dragon Ball Z definitely qualifies. Basically his entire army had to die before he finally decided to get out of his chair and do something, despite the fact that he could've very, very easily curbstomped anyone on the planet.
In Fables, Mr. Dark originally comes to Earth to wreak revenge on the Fables who he thinks have abused his power. But after he discovers they have fled their New York place of residence, he decides to build his domain there and wait for the Fables to come looking for him. However, this trope is subverted in issue #100. After Frau Totenkinder has learned how to Box him, she comes to New York to face Mr. Dark, and almost defeats him — but not quite. This near-defeat makes Mr. Dark finally abandon his throne and come after the Fables, who are forced to flee Earth altogether.
Darkseid from The DCU, despite being a major Big Bad who ruled an entire planet with an iron fist, had access to incredibly advanced technology, and possessed divine powers that could smite just about anything in the universe, didn't get around to committing much actual villainy (outside of the original New Gods series anyway). Justified by his obsession with the "Anti-life Equation"; a formula that removes the free will of anyone that hears it. Note that in Final Crisis, when he finally has a chance to use the Equation, he immediately enslaves the population of Earth, has his son Orion killed, launches a campaign to subdue the Earth's heroes, and nearly conquers the entire Multiverse. Oh, and he also subjects Batman to a Fate Worse Than Death, closely followed by actual death.
Hell he basically does all this while sitting in a chair.
Played with in Tarantino's Kill Bill. Evil supervillain assassin kung-fu samurai guy Bill sits in his plush Californian villa, waiting for The Bride to work her way through his subordinates and seek him out for a personal duel. His only real action was to warn his brother.
Possibly justified : it could be argued that he was entertaining the unrealistic idea that he and Beatrix could still settle their differences peacefully for the good of their daughter. The fact that he never once told her that BB had survived the chapel shooting does imply that he was hoping to use this revelation as a way to manipulate her emotions. Moreover, that would also explain why he didn't help any of the other people she intended to kill in any significant way : he was hoping that this carnage would finally convince Beatrix that they are Not So Different in the way they retaliate to the harm that has been done to them, and that her desire for revenge was no more legitimate than Bill's own "overraction" had been. Needless to say, the Bride was not impressed.
Star Wars: Emperor Palpatine. But then, he's got an Empire to micromanage and plots to set in motion; he has Darth Vader to do the in-person chasing after of Rebels.
Only in the Original Trilogy though, he is very active in the Prequels. In the sense of Lucas modeling The Empire after Rome, in the PT he's Octavian/Augustus while in the OT he's Tiberius with Vader as Sejenus and Tarkin as Pilate.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort sits out most of the climatic battle. This is partially justified: Harry has been systematically destroying his Horcruxes and Voldemort is understandably worried that Harry might succeed in killing him if given the opportunity. It still counts because Voldemort lets his minions pound away at Hogwarts' protective shield to no effect, only to singlehandedly bring it down in a fit of rage. He could have conceivably destroyed the entire castle if he had been so inclined.
Also in the previous few books since he was consolidating his power and trying to eliminate his weaknesses and any strong opposition first.
In Star Trek Nero appears to spend about twenty-five years doing absolutely nothing so Kirk can be old enough to stop him when he finally continues his plan. A deleted scene shows that he was held captive by the Klingons during this time.
To be fair, he didn't have the red matter until much later. Once he did get it, he started his rampage very quickly. His ship was damaged by by the U.S.S. Kelvin as well, so it would have taken some time to repair.
Uhl Belk from The Druid Of Shannara literally cannot move from where he stands, but his son slowly pushes the boundaries of the domain every day.
Galbatorix from the Inheritance Cycle spends a good forty years preoccupied with his Eldunarya, which he has to break and control to use the full power of. His unwillingness to fight the Varden directly is Lamp Shaded in the second book, when La Résistance leader Nasuada reflects that "Galbatorix's pride" is the best defense that she has against him. Also it is suggested in the third book that Galbatorix is inactive because of his obsession to find the name of the Ancient Language which would grant him near omnipotence. The "Name of Names" grants Galbatorix control of all verbal magic, allowing him to instantly nullify any spell cast by the heroes. The Eldunari he has grants him the raw strength to do anything, plus the mental force to withstand any psychic attack, with verbal magic and psychic attacks being the main two magical fighting methods. Nonverbal magic still works, but only a few characters can use it, and of them, only Saphira's dragonbreath is actually reliable. Plus Galbatorix has enough wards that even then it won't really work. Good thing Murtagh broke free of his control and also knew the Name of Names to get rid of said wards.
J. R. R. Tolkien does this with his villains, but only towards the ends of their careers — he had a theme of deliberate Villain Decay and The Dark Side Will Make You Forget, with smart people with real goals turning to evil but evil itself corrupting them and gradually turning them into cardboard cutouts. Together with this, they start out going out and kicking ass by themselves (e.g. Morgoth fights Tulkas personally at the dawn of time, Sauron comes out to fight Huan in The Silmarillion) but eventually becoming throne-bound. Might have to do with the fact that Morgoth got utterly pwned by Tulkas, and Sauron got humiliated by a Glorified Super Dog. Often after one too many of such direct interaction had a painful outcome (e.g. Morgoth after his duel with the elven king Fingolfin, Sauron after his defeat/half-death and loss of the Ring in the War of the Last Alliance). As the rhyme says,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
In Simon Spurrier's Warhammer 40000Night Lords novel Lord of the Night, Sahaal remembers his primarch, the Night Haunter on his throne, and has his followers build him a throne where he sits while they search the hive for information he wants.
In Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, Voldemort puts world conquest on the back burner for a year while he tries to get hold of the prophecy. Averted from the end of that book onwards, however: though of course most of the "grunt" work goes through his minions, Voldemort starts kicking ass after he is revealed to the wizarding world in Order of the Phoenix and doesn't stop (notably, tracking down and killing a few witches and wizards his Death Eaters might find troublesome, like Amelia Bones). The only times he gets "lazy" are when he's a powerless ghost and when there's a job he has a good reason to avoid doing.
In The Hunger Games, Thresh is probably the best example of this. He's the largest and strongest of all the tributes, but spends most of the Games waiting in a wheat field and living off of the food that he finds there. But then his district partner Rue dies, which finally forces Thresh to go on the offensive and hunt down the remaining Career tributes.
Supreme Overlord Shimrra from the New Jedi Order is like this, though it doesn't stop him from playing politics in his court and having an impact on the plot in that matter. Probably also justified in that Onimi couldn't let Shimrra get too far away from him for long without risking his Mind Control slipping.
Perfect reconstruction, actually. Shimrra actually does a leader's job. He just doesn't show in first line, but that's what political leaders do — he has a general-in-chief for military command. But before confronting him, Luke is warned that the Overlord is actually the last resort weapon. The Overlord being both a badass and Orcus on His Throne is what prevented the throne from being vacant in millennia.
Inverted in Darth Bane. The titular Sith Lord devises a grand master plan for the Sith to conquer the galaxy and crush the Jedi once and for all, a plan so epic he doesn't expect to be alive to see it come to fruition, believing it will take somewhere in the region of a century. This sinister super scheme is actually the one initiated by Palpatine in the Star Wars movies. Thing is, that "century" actually lasted a millenium. Entire generations of Sith Lords failed to execute his plot.
Otha of The Elenium is a literal and justified example — he's a Caligula who lives for excess and has been around for milennia (and was never terribly bright on top of that). The end result is that while he's the most powerful sorcerer who's ever lived and The Emperor of half the continent, he's physically too fat to even stand up and has to rely on minions if he wants to accomplish anything. Of course, the real main villains of that series are the God of Evil who Otha worships and the Magnificent Bastard who acts as The Dragon anyway.
Justified in the Belgariad and subverted in the sequel series, the Mallorean. Torak, the Big Bad of the Belgariad, was critically wounded in the backstory, and literally cannot rise until the appointed time. In the Mallorean, Zandramas keeps very busy, continually attempting to sabotage the Child of Light's efforts. The heroic B-team even unknowingly runs into her at one point, whereupon they watch her eat one of her rivals for Big Bad status alive.
The Lord Ruler from Mistborn seems to have a bad case of this, hanging around in his palace and not exerting himself even when his whole capital is going up in flames. Justified because he's a Physical God so powerful the rebellion was never a threat to him at all- he just wanted to let his minions get mauled for awhile before acting, to remind them why they needed him.
Justified and subverted in The Dark Tower with the Crimson King. Until Roland and his gunslingers destroy Algul Siento, Randall Flagg is either fleeing the gunslinger or trying to frustrate his plans, but the King does nothing. Then when the King does get off his throne, it's only to run to the titular Dark Tower, where he is then trapped and can only attempt to frustrate Roland's attempted entry.
Fulbert from Malevil sits in his fortified manor in La Roque. He tricked the villagers into letting him keep the food and weapons, there isn't much they can do but suffer his abuse and cruelty. For the most part he is content to live a lazy life of post-Apocalypse "decadence" at the expense of others. He also takes no real action against Malevil itself, until the end when he convinces a rogue military commander who captured La Roque that the castle would make a better base of operations.
In Septimus Heap, DomDaniel spends his day sleeping on a throne on the Vengeance while Jenna and Boy 412 are stealthily going around on his ship.
In the Discworld novel Sourcery we learn that Unseen University was more or less created to invoke the trope, because the plural of wizard is war. The university exists to give wizards something to do other than trying to kill each other, or at least structure the killing to reduce collateral damage. Wizards are forbidden to marry (and are implied to be bound to be celibate) because the eighth son of an eighth son is a wizard, but the eighth son of the eighth son of an eighth son is a Sourcerer with access to magic as far beyond wizards as wizards are beyond, say, CMOT Dibbler. Sourcerors eventually fall into Orcus-on-his-throne-itude because reality pretty much reshapes itself around their whims so they don't have to do anything, and those that aren't killed by their peers wind up just getting bored and going ... elsewhere.
Power Rangers in general has Big Bads who subscribe to this trope. Sometimes they have a reason for this; other times, however, they're content sit around and berate their underlings continual failures until the final five episodes or so.
Lord Zedd from the original series was one of the most egregious examples of this; he's been shown to be capable of clobbering Tommy with little effort, but spends most of his time sending ineffective minions after the rangers and yelling at everybody.
Power Rangers Operation Overdrive had Flurious, the smartest and arguably most powerful of the four competing factions of enemies attacking the Rangers that season. After being a major threat in the first three episodes, he spends the next 27 lazying around in his arctic base, letting the other villains do all the work. It isn't until the finale that he swoops in and attempts to make a grab for victory.
An excellent example of this trope done right is Lothor from Power Rangers Ninja Storm, he is indeed very powerful, just not quite powerful enough to carry out his ultimate plan, so he deliberately plays up this trope and sending monsters and generals to their deaths just to fill up the abyss of evil so he can absorb that power once it overflows.
Possibly justified in the case of Venjix of Power Rangers RPM, a computer virus inhabiting a hard-drive cylinder Once he builds a robot body, he starts to have a more active role.
Usually, though, the Big Bad is the one who comes up with the actual plans and sends monsters out, even if it's done from the same room in the lair. There are a handful of villains, though, like Flurious, that leave you saying "Why the hell does this guy exist if he doesn't ever do anything?" Most of them show their stuff near the end, though - if only then.
Case in point: Master Xandred of Power Rangers Samurai. He has a good reason for staying in the lair (he'd dry out and die in minutes if he crossed over to the human world) and he gets more active later, but in the early episodes he didn't even do any scheming; he just spent most of his time saying "Yeah, do whatever; I need some medicine for this freakin' headache."
Power Rangers in Space has the Ultimate Alliance of Evil, composed of every one of the series villains. All they ever seemed to do was throw parties for themselves. Even Astronoma, who took command of assaulting Earth, played this role. That being said, they shook it off with a vengeance in the series finale, where they launched a coordinated assault on the entire universe. They defeated the Rangers and all their allies very quickly, and required a Dying Moment of Awesome from Zordon to lose.
Dark Specter might be the worst example of this in the series. He's portrayed as the Ultimate Evil and the Man Behind the Man for all of the Zordon-era villains (Rita, Zedd, The Machine Empire, Divatox, Astronema, etc.). Sadly, he never once fights the Power Rangers, in fact he never does anything other than give orders, and spends the entire season being unknowingly plotted against by his subordinates. In Part 1 of the Grand Finale he's killed by The Starscream, though to his credit he at least takes him down too.
Although it is suggested that he is the one who conquered Eltar, Zordon's home planet.
This applies to almost half of all the Big Bads in Power Rangers' parent show Super Sentai; they spend most of their screen time in the show in their throne, sitting like a living furniture, and only get off their asses in the Grand Finale to fight the heroes in giant form.
Operation Overdrive's Flurious seems to be in keeping with Boukenger, in which Gajah (the villain Flurious essentially replaced) mostly winds up hanging back, only really doing anything of significance after one of the other factions has one of their plans fail, in at least one case using the flaming wreckage of the failed plan as the foundation for his own. And then he turns out to be the Big Bad after showing up sporadically.
Arthur Petrelli from Heroes gained practically godlike power in the first few episodes he appeared in. After that he spent most of his time sitting in his base, drawing pretty pictures and sending out his incompetent minions occasionally. You'd think an unkillable guy with power over time and space could be a bit more proactive.
He did go to Africa to kill the seer and Hiro.
He's got a pretty good defense: he thought he already had everything he needed for his master plan. When he found out that he was lacking the last component of the formula for the Super Serum he wanted to make...he and the rest of the cast were Brought Down to Normal that same episode, so he couldn't use his powers to get it.
Glory was like this in the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was powerful enough to kill Buffy easily, but she spent most of the season hanging around her penthouse and sending ineffective minions out to do her work for her. It was implied that she couldn't afford to kill Buffy because she knew where the Key was, but this didn't really help - if anything, this should spur her to capture Buffy and force the information out of her. If she talks, excellent. If not, just kill her and at least she can keep searching for the Key without the Slayer getting in the way. That being said, Glory was established as not being mentally all that stable.
It's also implied that Ben is the dominant of the two beings within him for most of the season, so Glory actually was unable to come out to play most of the time, much less organize a raid of Buffy and the Scoobies herself (Mooks tended to get smacked down fairly easily except when in high numbers and with the element of suprise). Only by the last few episodes of the season is she able to come out for more than a few hours before her energy was depleted and she spent much of that time feeding on human sanity. By the end episodes of the season though, it's gotten so bad Ben get's fired because he has been missing from work for days at a time.
The First Evil was like this in the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The entire season is spent warning, warning, warning that eventually an army of uber-vampires will arise to destroy the world, but it never actually happens. Finally, in the last episode.... they still don't arise. Buffy and the potential slayers decide they're simply tired of waiting for them to attack and go attack them instead.
That said, back in First and Second Edition, he was a real terror. First he died, then he came back from the dead, terrorized the planes, killed a bunch of gods nobody cares about, and died again. He hasn't been the same since his second resurrection. Appropriately, he accomplished much more as an undead god than he ever did as god of the undead.
In 4th Edition, Orcus is fully statted out for combat in the Monster Manual. Clearly he's gotten a bit more active if he needs epic-level heroes to face him. What's more, he's not only the most powerful monster in that book, but — probably through some Xanatos Roulette — he got himself put on the cover.
From the same setting, Asmodeus suffers from this. Justified in that his true form is a serpent the size of a galaxy, so his avatar can't go far from it for long periods of time, and that he is enough of a Magnificent Bastard that he doesn't have to do much personally to be the most evil and powerful creature in existence.
4e offers another justification for Asmodeus; Hell is his prison and he can't leave. It's worth noting that he wasn't imprisoned there to protect the mortal world from him, but to protect the other gods from him. He became a god through deicide, and the other gods are scared shitless of him (and potential copycats).
Orcus' arch rival Demogorgon tends to do the same thing. His excuse is that he considers the wars with devils and other demons a necessary annoyance, and his true interest is researching the nature of the Abyss. For the record? Demogorgon is said canonically to be more powerful than Orcus, and at least in some versions, was the demonic equivalent of Asmodeus himself.
Maybe he's still recovering from the beating he got from the Bhaalspawn... and the fact that he has a literal split personality constantly at war with itself, making it difficult for him to reach a consensus.
Justified for Zuggtmoy — she spends most of the "Temple of Elemental Evil" sitting around because she's magically bound to her throne. If the PCs smash the binding spells in the course of the adventure, she's perfectly willing to "thank" them in person.
Honestly, this is what demon lords are supposed to do — they have so many plans going on so many different planes, not to mention blood rivalries with pretty much everyone they've ever met, that they're probably busy as switchboard operators in their bone-carved palaces. This is why, despite having literally infinite soldiers and resources, the Abyss has never accomplished much of anything. If anything, though, the good and neutral gods are worse — demons at least have the decency to show up if you cast gate. Try finding something, anything, that will get Bahamut or Boccob up off their butts.
Really, all of this is justified based on the way D&D and similar games work; they aren't there to tell a story, they're there to give you the tools to tell a story. They give you the setting and the villains, and let you build an adventure off that. The reason Orcus sat on his throne was so he would be free for DM's to do with as they pleased.
D&D is perhaps the most frequent user of this trope. There are about a million staggeringly lethal beings that could utterly ruin the universe if they wanted, but instead sit around making occasional forays into the mortal world, only to get driven off by a bunch of ragtag adventurers who all met in a tavern somewhere. It goes to the point that it almost turns around and becomes understandable— there are so many staggeringly lethal beings out there that if any one of them spent too much effort into making incursions in force on the mortal world, it'd invite attacks from the other staggeringly lethal beings.
This explicitly noted in the Forgotten Realms setting. There are a few dozen really powerful wizards and such who rarely do much directly, good, evil, or otherwise. They are all avoiding reprisals from each other, trying to avoid the continent-leveling effects of direct conflict, or working on ultimate power to circumvent all the wrangling. They are geniuses who can estimate each others' responses decades in advance, and they are too crafty just to slug it out. Occasionally, one will make a big move, and entire civilizations tend to be upended.
In Warhammer Nagash, the lord of the undead has been sitting on his throne in his fortress of Nagashizzar ever since the human demigod Sigmar beat the crap out of him. Apparently he's regaining his strength and making up a new master plan for world domination.
Nagash actually has a pretty good reason for not showing himself: despite his power he's a coward entirely focused on avoiding his own death, and there are entities in the world that could defeat him. His reticence came about after he'd been killed twice. Both times he was struck down by the leader of his current enemies, and his power has been permanently reduced both times. Consequently he's working on a plan to eliminate all beings that could threaten him in a way that doesn't rely on him winning a sword-fight. Actually a pretty sensible reaction.
In the latest Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts books he is remarked to be gathering his forces and artifacts once again. He lost last time because Sigmar had the most powerful of his tools, his crown, and that is still held in the Imperial capital. That said, all of his leutenants that remained loyal have been raised and re-united with various undead factions, Arkhan found his staff, he still controls his own capital, and even the last of the von Carsteins is his ally. At this point he's just waiting for a moment of weakness.
Of the daemon Primarchs in Warhammer 40000, only a handful have left their daemonworlds and attacked the Imperium on a regular basis. Mostly because they don't actually give a crap about the Imperium anymore. They have godlike powers and rule entire worlds that are shaped according to their whims, so they have very little reason to leave their homes and go kick some mortals around. Angron, the most active, is a bit different as he exists to kill things, and mortals are more fun to kill than demons (as demons can't truly die). Not to mention it takes an enormous amount of energy to actually summon them to the physical world.... and every time poor Magnus the Red ventures out, the Space Wolves stab him in the eye.
In a surprising turn of events, Mortarion left his for some unusual open heart surgery despite liking his planet the most out of the daemon primarchs.
Angron also spends most of his time rebuilding his Legion after Kharn has some fun with a flamer during Battle of Scalathrax, plus being banished locks out of real space for a few thousands years.
Lorgar has spent the last ten thousand years meditating on the nature of Chaos. His legion is ruled by his lieutenants.
The Emperor is effectively sustained by life support on his throne (and has been for millennia), so he may count as an example too. He's less of a villain, but this is Warhammer 40,000 we're talking about.
Don't forget the Chaos Blood God Khorne's skull throne, considering how much people his chaos legions over the years, is probably extremely huge. And to this day he demands more.
Asdrubael Vect, ruler of the Dark Eldar, is an in-game example. His model is a floating open-topped tank, which he's had a throne installed on, and there are no rules for him leaving the vehicle. In the lore he's The Chessmaster and Evil Overlord of his entire race, so it's justified that he doesn't get stuck in all that often.
Under the latest rulebook, Vect has the ability to leave his vehicle, and is terrifying. Unfortunately he's also very expensive, so doesn't get to go out in person much.
Many, many Darklords in the Ravenloft setting for Dungeons & Dragons. The most extreme example is Soth, who spent decades literally just sitting on his throne because he didn't care any more. It has been theorized that the Dark Powers let him escape Ravenloft because he ceased to be of any interest, in contrast to Darklords like Strahd, Drakov, or Azalin whose existence is a constant cycle of Yank the Dog's Chain.
Exalted: The Deathlords once unleashed the Great Contagion, a plague that wiped out 90% of all life in Creation. Then they did nothing but plot for millennia. Somewhat justified, in that their Neverborn masters really hate failure. The First and Forsaken Lion was welded into his own armor — painfully — for screwing up his own plan by encouraging the Fair Folk to run wild and incidentally add strength to reality, and Princess Magnificent With Lips of Coral and Robes of Black Feathers was almost fed to Oblivion for losing hold of her shadowland until the Lion spoke up for her. If one of them's going to come up with a fiendish plan to destroy Creation, they're going to make damn sure it works first. Amusingly, this might be the sole reason Creation still exists - if the Neverborn had been willing to stomach a few failures instead of terrifying the Deathlords too much to try, the destruction of the world might have been a done deal already. Though, in fairness, one probably can't expect much management skill from half-dead, maddened Eldritch Abominations. This, more than any other reason, is likely why the Neverborn have deliberately set about having the Death Lords unknowingly train their own replacements (that being the Abyssal Exalted).
Additionally, they all want to be the one to destroy the world themselves, which means they spend a lot of time keeping an eye on each other to make sure no-one else gets the glory. Really, if they could put aside their differences and team up, they might be a more credible threat. (Some treatments, such as Eye and Seven Despairs, or the Lover have been presented as being more interested in the distractions and satisfactions of existence, and have strayed from the path of seeking Oblivion as anything other than lip service.)
In Cthulhu Tech there's Hastur. Sure, the Rapine Storm does all of his dirty work, but if a Great Old One - even a weakened one - actually entered the Męlée ŕ Trois himself, it would be over very quickly. It's implied that he's actually unable to leave his domain on the Plateau of Leng, but he's an Eldritch Abomination, so it's hard to say for certain.
And then there's Nyarlathotep, who's assumed human form and runs a Mega Corp which secretly helps almost every cult in the setting. He could probably drive a small country mad all by himself, but for some reason he lets his secret network of cultists do all the heavy lifting.
In In Nomine, God and Lucifer come across as this - they might intervene in small ways (i.e., via divine or infernal interventions on certain rolls), but will not appear in person (until Armageddon, maybe).
The Superiors from both sides also fit this trope to varying degrees. Yves, Archangel of Destiny, Kronos, Demon Prince of Fate, or Malphas, Demon Prince of Factions, prefer to work through others.
Somewhat averted for Demons - any demon can meet Lucifer. You just have to ask him for a Word.
Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Sure, Hyrule Castle Town is deserted apart from ReDeads and the castle is transformed into his evil lair, but the rest is relatively safe from him. Okay, he has his minions spreading terror, Zora's Fountain has been frozen solid, but he's just sitting in the castle waiting for Zelda to show up. You'd think he'd go after Link when he starts gathering the Plot Coupons, but no, he doesn't. He makes just one appearance after you take down Phantom Ganon, but that's just to get rid of him in a You Have Failed Me moment and taunt Link about how "the real me won't be so easy" before returning to the castle. He's mainly an "act through his minions" style of Evil Overlord.
He actually states toward the end that he believed Zelda would come out into the open if he left Link alone, and that he could then capture her and lure Link to his castle, bringing the three pieces of the Triforce together. It works.
Same with Zant in Twilight Princess after the fourth dungeon (where he appears to revive the boss).
General Onox shows up in the beginning, captures Din, sinks the Temple of Seasons, then retreats to his Fortress of Doom. It never occurs to him to finish off Link before he gets the Plot Coupons and invades the Fortress. Compare this to Veran in the other game, who is actively trying to build the Black Tower and interacts frequently with Link.
Bane in Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. He actually appears outside of his citadel a few, but despite the fact that the player has already ruined most of his progress, he's pretty lazy at that point.
Kefka in Final Fantasy VI. After becoming a god, ruining the world and wiping out many cities, he doesn't exactly do much afterwards, at least nothing the player is made aware of. It is implied by talking to NPCs though that Kefka spent the year Celes was in a coma randomly firing the Light of Judgment at anyone who irritated him, just because he could. Then the Returners stormed his tower and he decided pissing on the ashes of the world wasn't fun anymore. There's also the theory that he was so bored for that year he actively waited for the heroes to band back together and fight them one last time because really, when you become an all-powered God of Magic who rules a dead world, what else is there to do but smack down anyone who opposes your rule?
In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Chaos does remarkably little for being the God of Discord and the Big Bad of, possibly, the entire series. Sure, he nukes Cosmos that one time, but aside from that one moment, he spends the game doing an impressive Slouch of Villainy on his throne until someone finally shows up to fight him. It's mostly because the endless repeating cycles of his war with Cosmos have burned him out to the point that he just doesn't care any more.
Bowser's tendency to wait around doing nothing while Mario comes for him is lampshaded in the Paper Mario games, where his minions are shown to do things like host game shows and go on field trips to while away the boring hours of sitting around being evil.
Justified in Super Mario Sunshine, where Bowser is on vacation and his son is the one causing all the trouble. When Mario finally catches up to him, he's lounging in a giant hot tub.
Bowser Jr. seems to put his dad to shame in the active villain department. Whereas his pop practically invented the practice of game villains sitting in their castles waiting for the hero, Junior is constantly wreaking havoc throughout the course of the game. This happens in New Super Mario Bros. Wii as well: Junior shows up to taunt you at the end of each level and occasionally attacks in his airship. Meanwhile, Bowser doesn't appear in the game at all until the very last stage.
Smithy in Super Mario RPG is an example, he sits in his Factor making Weapon Monsters which then go to to do his dirty work. Unlike the other Mario RPG villain you never even get to see him till the end.
Subverted in the older computer RPG Ultima VII, where the Big Bad plays mind games with the player before the player generates his character and enters the gameworld. Within the gameworld, you're never quite certain either, as the Big Bad (named the "Guardian") continues to try to Mind Fuck the player - sometimes by helping the player with hints,sometimes by misleading the player with those same hints. Of course, the player's ultimate goal in VII is to prevent the Guardian from entering the gameworld and Ending The World As We Know It - this is not revealed to the player unti near the end of the game.
And massively averted in Ultima V, in which you spend the first half of the game on the run from the Shadowlords and dodging Les Collaborateurs.
Pretty much every Mega Man villain strategy, starting with Dr. Wily, has been "wait for Mega Man to fight his way to each Robot Master who themselves are waiting for him in a airlocked room, beat them, go through one more level and possibly fight all the copies of the Robot Masters in a row before fighting the main villain of that game.
The implication, of course, is that Wily is controlling his various Robot Masters to take over the world. When Mega Man inevitably defeats them, he barricades himself in his massive, well-defended fortress, hoping it will be enough to keep the Blue Bomber away. Through the magic of video game protagonist determinism, it never is.
In World of Warcraft, nearly every villain is found within their lair, or in some cases prison. From Onyxia in her lair, to the Lich King on his Frozen Throne, Illidan in his Black Temple. Subverted in the recent Dragon Soul raid, where Deathwing's forces are actually on the offensive, and the players must break the siege of Wyrmrest and turn the tide against the attackers.
Somewhat justified with the Lich King, who, although this is debated and flip-flopped endlessly, struggling with the two souls inside his own head, and one of them is actively holding him back. Of course he also reveals that even though he could have crushed the party the second they entered Northrend, he intentionally let them survive and carve their way to his thone room, where he would one-shot the raid party and raising them as his newest undead minions once they actually got to him since they obviously proved themselves to be strong. This actually would have worked if not for a borderline Deus ex Machina. On the other hand, it's made clear that his forces would be perfectly capable of winning his war anyway, so this is arguably another sign of his inner conflict; making up an unnecessary plan because he can use it to justify his inaction.
For that matter, Dracula seems to be waiting in his throne room in most Castlevania games. He'd have a much better chance if he were to attack the intruding Belmont the instant they enter the Castle; with his Bosses helping out. It's not like Belmonts use stealth.
Given a possible explanation hilariously in this, Dracula doesn't have any time to get out of his throne room after he wakes.
Happens in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver where Raziel goes through dungeons to kill his brothers. Although a couple are trapped and can't move most seem to know he's coming and can't be bothered to seek him out. Kain on the other hand avoids him only to manipulate. Dumah takes it the most literally, partly because he's the only one left with enough humanity to actually be able to sit, and partly because he's nailed down to it when you find him.
In truth, all of them are trapped and one of them is actually dead, when you encounter them. Which means they couldn't seek Raziel out if they wanted to. So this game Averts this trope.
Dumah is really sitting on the throne, but is also incapable of moving, since he is, as mentioned, nailed down. Zephon is fused with the wall and literally cannot move from his "throne room". Rahab can only move underwater and is extremely vulnerable to sunlight, while Raziel cannot enter the waters, and mostly roams well-enough lit areas, for Rahab to be uncomfortable tracking him down. As for Melchiah...it is possible he hadn't known for long enough, since Raziel had showed up quite recently.
The real problem here is that in Soul Reaver, the bosses weren't actually plotting anything. Raziel was actually the one driving the plot, as he had the motivation of revenge. He was actively hunting his brothers down. Kain was the only antagonist who had an actual plan, and that involved leading Raziel along. It's much worse in the original Blood Omen, where most of the bosses sit around in their fortresses while Kain infiltrates them, waiting for him to reach them in the inner sanctum. Though this actually made sense in Malek's case, as his fortress was almost guarenteed to kill or weaken Kain, softening him up before the fight.
Queen Zeal in Chrono Trigger. Once the Ocean Palace has risen and been reconstructed as the Black Omen, in the year 12,000 BC, she has a direct line to Lavos (which he apparently tolerates) which grant her and the Omen an eternal existence. Even if you visit in 2300 AD, centuries after Lavos brought about the endof the world, she has never actually done anything with her vast powers and it's evident she never will. Random NPCs in previous eras will just comment on how pretty and shiny that malevolent floating castle with the ominous name looks in the morning sun, implying that Zeal doesn't even botherrulingthe world. Then again, if you try to enter the Black Omen in 2300 AD, it's clear that Queen Zeal has lost her mind and doesn't have enough sanity left to actually do anything with the power at her command other than admire the wreckage.
She's not the only one, either. In the sequel Chrono Cross, FATE has already succeeded in opening the seal to the Frozen Flame using Serge's body, and she can control the mind of every single inhabitant of El Nido via the Records of Fate. What reason could she possibly have to let Serge and his small army infiltrate Chronopolis, other than brag to them in person about erasing Prometheus? And for an almighty, otherdimensional creature of Gaia's Vengeance that has vowed immediate annihilation upon humanity, the Dragon God seems pretty content just chilling atop Terra Tower, keeping an eye on the Frozen Flame, and waiting for the heroes to arrive.
Mind, that last one mentioned is averted in one of the bleakestMultiple Endingsever if you just leave it to its business instead of taking it out before killing the time devourer.
The vast majority of villains that aren't Sealed Evil in a Can are like this in the Wario Land series, with Captain Syrup in the first game being seen to do absolutely nothing other than sitting in the throne room before the final battle (although averted in the second, where she's a Recurring Boss). The Black Jewel in Wario World just lays dormant in a treasure chest until the final battle, and The Shake King in Wario Land Shake It, after taking over the world, putting his face on everything and capturing the princess, just sits on his throne waiting for Wario to enter, in complete darkness. Although in that case, the time out penalty is Wario being warped to his boss arena, so it may not be completely unjustified.
Kagan in Blood Rayne 2 plays this straight almost to the complete description. In earlier years he was a Nazi commander who got his hands dirty in field work until a booby-trapped MacGuffin blew up in his face (not quite a defeat, nor facing a superior enemy.) In the game he's occasionally shown in cutscenes, surveying his domain and getting surly with the help, but is only encountered near his throne.
Being an AI, SHODAN might not have the option of hunting you down and murdering you personally, but that doesn't stop her screwing with your head with taunts and threats as she sends her minions to destroy you.
She does mess with doors and other remote-controllable equipment when she can, though.
Every final end boss of the Ghouls 'n Ghosts series, especially Lucifer, who doesn't even get off his throne when actually fighting.
Heavily averted in Overlord. You might be an Evil Overlord, but you never get to sit on that throne. Even if you linger in the throne room too long, your adviser will tell you to go and do something evil. Your enemies don't do much sitting either (well, except Oberon, the Fallen Hero who's been corrupted by the sin of Sloth).
His son in Overlord II does have a throne he can sit in (complete with Slouch of Villainy), though it's also the way he teleports from his Netherworld to quest areas.
Ilya from Fate/stay night. Her Berserker is the strongest of the servants currently participating in the Holy Grail War and she's an extremely powerful magus on top of it — but besides her first appearance in which she almost effortlessly subdues both Shirou and Rin combined, she never takes another offensive action afterwards, in any of the three routes, despite the fact that she could probably flatten all the other participants except for Kotomine and Gilgamesh.
This is probably because she is the vessel for the Holy Grail, which takes over her body when it activates, so she has no reason to even try.
Averted in the fantasy strategy wargame Lords Of Midnight 2: Doomdark's Revenge. The Big Bad Shareth the Heartstealer personally leads her armies against the lands of the good guys, such that it's entirely possible for her to be killed in battle before the game is even halfway finished. (No, killing the Big Bad doesn't win the game immediately. It's one of the requirements for the best ending, though.)
The original game, Lords of Midnight, is based on The Lord of the Rings and played this one completely straight. The Big Bad Doomdark patiently waiting in his fortress HQ for the good guys to arrive and fight him.
Averted in Prince Of Persia Warrior Within; when you finally reach the Empress of Time's throne room, it's completely empty. Turns out the Empress is actually the woman companion who's been following you around for much of the game.
Averted in that she's been doing everything in her power to sucker the prince into killing himself by giving him a supposedly cursed sword and sending him on pointless but horribly dangerous quests.
Played straight for a large majority of bosses in Fire Emblem, although this is because sitting on thrones gives them a large boost in their stats; they can dodge better, tank better, and thrones even heal them.
Though in most cases, it still amounts to the enemies basically just sitting there as you wipe our their minions, and making defeating them much easier due to their very limited range (in fact, some such enemies don't even have a ranged attack, so by doing nothing but sitting on the thrones you can easily pick them off from a distance).
Played straight and averted with the final boss of Path of Radiance. On the easier difficulties he is perfectly content to sit still and let you wail upon him, however in the harder difficulties when someone comes into his attack range (or after a certain amount of time has passed) he will swoop down upon you, usually dealing massive amounts of damage or death.
Ashnard even follows this trope story-wise: he never actively interacts with the heroes before the final battle. (In fact, the protagonists don't even see him until then, as shown by Ike exclaiming "Thatis the king of Daein!?") You later find out he has a very good reason for this: he's a Social DarwinistBlood Knight who wants to see if the heroes are worth his time before fighting them himself.
While Fire Emblem: Awakening plays this straight with some bosses, other bosses will actually move if you enter their attack range, and some bosses will move anyway after enough time has passed.
The Demon Sovereign in Heroes of Might and Magic V. Justified in that he's been imprisoned in the last war and needs his Demon Lords to do the job. His primary goal in this game and Dark Messiah is to free himself from the metaphorical Throne and in two of the endings of Dark Messiah he succeeds. Other villains in the game also tend to do this after reaching their primary goals.
Markal, after taking over the Griffin Empire. Justified by being caught up in the war with demons trying to capture Isabel. And he does launch a massive invasion of the Sylvan Elves' homeland lead by his newly vampirized Dragon Nicholai.
Biara, disguised as Queen Isabel. When her disguise is removed by Arantir she gets off the Throne and back to wreaking havoc across the Empire.
The various evil villains in RuneScape don't seem to do very much between quests, and the bosses like the King Black Dragon pretty much just sit around and wait for the players to try and kill them.
They're not really evil (at least not in the games) but just what do the Gym Leaders, Elite Four members and the Champion in Pokémon get up to when you're not there challenging them?
They train Pokemon. That is generally what you do in a gym. You work out.
This is actually explored in later games, which have shown gym leaders (and sometimes Elite Four as well) outside of their gyms. In Platinum, the gym leaders, Flint and some other characters will visit the player's villa; in HeartGold/SoulSilver, the gym leaders appear outside of their gyms at certain times where you can take pictures of them and such, and they will also commute to the Fighting Dojo for rematches. Black and White explores it further, depicting all the Gym Leaders as having another job alongside their Gym duties (though generally their Gym and the other job are housed in the same building). Meanwhile, the champion Alder is shown to spend most of his time away from the Pokémon League; the trope is, however, played entirely straight with Grimsley of the Elite Four, who is never seen outside of the League. Interestingly, Grimsley uses the Dark-type... deliberate reference there?
Draak, the Big Bad of the PC adventure game Darkstone, is like this. It's somewhat justified in his case, as he's so corrupt he doesn't have a chance of collecting the MacGuffin pieces the player character is seeking. All he can really do is send out his hordes of evil and hope that they sufficiently screw things up for the Pure of Heart. In one of the randomly-generated quests, he actually does put in an appearance (in human form, as opposed to his usual dragon body), but all he does is make some snarky comments and threats before wandering off and letting a minion fight for him.
The Illusive Man in the Mass Effect universe does most of his villainy/Well Intentioned Extremism from his chair, but it's acceptable, since he's a leader, not a soldier. Plus, if you had an office as awesome as his, you'd never want to leave either.
In the book Mass Effect Retribution, the Illusive Man does personally supervise a project... which promptly gets ambushed by a whole army of turians. His escape confirms our hypothesis about his combat skills, as, though he can fight, he's hardly end boss material.
"Massive"-ly averted in ME3, as the Reaper invasion is an excellent example of what happens when Orcus wades in big-time.
But then again the ending of Mass Effect 3 gives us an example that has probably sat on the throne for longer than everybody else on this page combined! The Catalyst, the AI that controls the Reapers (in a hands off kind of way), set up the cycle of destruction and just seems to sit around watching the events of it's final solution unfold.
Played with in Evil Genius. While the player (as the titular Card-Carrying Villain) can send his minions out into the world to commit various acts of camp villainy, most of your time is spent maintaining the evil base.
And once they obtain enough loot to keep their minion's loyalty up, the player's avatar will probably spend all their time skulking in their sanctum out of the way of wandering assassins.
There's also the fact that every enemy agent will be gunning for your Player Character, so the best bet is to put him deep in the belly of the lair. At most, you can have him execute a random minion for a quick stats boost of all those nearby.
Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2 spends the entire game sitting on his throne and making vague proclamations as to the aims of the organization. This a a particularly fun example, because Days has you playing as one of the minions that Xemnas does his dirty work through.
It works for Xemnas, since his entire aim is to absorb a Kingdom Hearts strengthened by the hearts released by Heartless destroyed by Keyblades. There's nothing he can personally do to aid that goal. Sending his minions to die in battle also helps—less to share.
The Order from Strife is utterly apathetic to the point of absurdity. When your mercenary hero isn't runing around the town with an arsenal of obviously illegal weaponry, he's sneaking into the Order's facilities to wreak havoc and murder guards en masse - and yet the Order never bothers to as much as send a bunch of assassins after him, and the mooks encountered around town still treat you like any other citizen. The Order's high-ups basically just sit on their asses and wait patiently until the hero arrives to kill them. The only point in the game where they actually take action is if you accidentally destroy the "power tap" The Front uses to hide themselves from The Order's scanners - a bunch of mooks will then pop up at the doorstep of the Front's secret base, supposedly a "scanning crew" (who nevertheless are unable to detect a bustling base which is just behind a secret door in a next room).
Action RPGMetal Walker reveals the final boss, and the source of the island's problems, is a supercomputer, justifying why the Metal Masters are sent out in its stead. Supercomputers can't walk.
Subverted in in Dragon Age: Origins by Witherfang, who is found in the inner sanctum of its own turf, but couldn't be called 'evil' even while she was bound by a curse. Otherwise averted; Loghain lounges in his throne room for most of his screentime, but the final confrontation occurs within an open council chamber, and the Big Bad Archdemon is never shown to have a lair or other HQ, takes proactive leadership, and is fought while leading an invasion on the capital city.
Mother in Awakening never leaves her heavily secured chambers; even while her most crucial agents are dying in the field, all she can do is throw tantrums. This chamber is naturally where the Final Battle takes place. Justified for her at least as she doesn't appear to be physically capable of leaving said lair.
Also subverted by the Arishok in Dragon Age II, who just looks like he's been lounging in the same spot with the rest of his qunari for years, but was rather searching for the relic Isabela stole from them and keeping as much as he can in line with the Qun while trying not to let the chaos, weakness, corruption and strife of Kirkwall get to him. When he gets off that chair... well... havefun.
Very nicely averted in Guilty Gear X2: Overture. King Ky Kiske is only shown in his throne twice. Once as exposition, and the second time because he was sealed there for reasons unknown. Throughout the rest of the game, he's right out there on the front line fighting the Big Bad's army personally, sometimes even beside his own son.
Played straight by Zepp's current leader, who just sends Potemkin to do some errands most of the time. Justified in that this is Potemkin we're talking about: He can handle it.
Played with in BlazBlue. Rachel spends most of her time teleporting around, "observing" (she's canonically one of the most powerful beings in the game, and is referred to as Princess by her subordinates). However, her "observations" can sometimes help people, and she actually does fight the big bad (though there is implications that she shouldn't be doing so). This would almost be played straight by the Imperator Librarius: She's never shown on screen, but she actually takes down Amaterasu off-screen at the end of Continuum Shift.
Deconstructed in Planescape: Torment. The Big Bad spends the entire game attacking you through pawns and intermediaries and killing off anyone who's been in contact with you, but will never face you personally until you crash into its lair and confront it yourself. People you talk with (such as Coaxmetal) explicitly describe this as the Big Bad's Fatal Flaw, and in the end you even figure out why — the Big Bad is afraid of you, and wants to avoid you at all costs because of what you two meeting will entail for you both.
Caesar in Fallout New Vegas spends the game sitting in his throne in Fortification Hill and lets Legate Lanius take command of the Battle for Hoover Dam. It's justified in that he's an old man with a brain tumor, and he's stationed close enough to the dam that he can just give orders to the troops.
Darth Nihilus in Knights Of The Old Republic II. You hear from everyone that this guy's dangerous, eats planets, is hunger personified, etc. He comes out of hiding once and is a 30-second Boss Battle once you catch up to him. He has a very good reason for avoiding younote The same reason as his boss battle being so short: the hole in the Force that you are is the Kryptonite to his Force-draining hunger., but he doesn't know that.
In both Lightning Warrior Raidy games, every boss and mid-boss is far too busy raping and fornicating with their prisoners to go stop the protagonist rampaging through the dungeon. On the other hand, the floor design is made so that Raidy has to come to them anyway, so it all works out.
Averted and sometimes Inverted in Alice Soft games like Sengoku Rance or Big Bang Age. Attack a region, and they attack back, often with that region's respective Dragon or Big Bad in tow. Hang around doing nothing for too long, and they'll attack you because they want your land. Or because you did something bad ten turns ago and Karma finally caught up...
Escaton of Might And Magic VIII spends the entire game sitting on his throne waiting for the Elementals to reach the Ravenshore Crystal (which would cause The End of the World as We Know It). Justified by him not keeping an eye on the mortal realm and not wanting to complete his plan, being aware that it is wrong and unecessary in this case thanks to a situation his masters had not anticipated, but being kept from actively stopping the plan by the failsafes in his programming.
It is also implied that not sitting on the throne, or at least remaining in the Plane between Planes could weaken the spell. Since he doesn't actually have any agents in the other planes (the Elementals are being influenced towards a specific course of action), that means he can't really do anything until you get to him.
In the first two FEAR games, Alma was an active threat, either directly hindering the player or killing his allies, or even directly attacking him at certain points. In the third game, however, she is pregnant with her third child and can't do much more than randomly appear in the form of ghostly apparitions. On the other hand, her influence is still very strongly felt, considering she's a Reality Warper whose mere presence has driven most of the people in the city insane, and her birth contractions are powerful enough to knock down skyscrapers.
Halo's Rtas Vadum accompanied you (as the Arbiter) on several missions in the campaign in Halo 2 as Spec-Ops commander. In between Halo 2 and 3, he took control of an Assault Carrier, the Shadow of Intent, and became a Shipmaster (technically Fleetmaster). He no longer accompanies you in gameplay, but you can hear him directing the fleet from his ship's gravity throne (and beating an enemy fleet 3 times its size).
Radiant Historia: Queen Protea does absolutely nothing of note, lounging in luxury while her city falls to pieces and a rebellion brews right under her nose. This is an intentional move by her retainers, Dias and Selvan; as long as they ostensibly do anything she says and keep up her illusion of power, they can persue their own agendas freely, and the populous hate her so much that in one timeline, selling her out to the county they're at war with is seen as an improvement. In the other, they turn out to have underestimated just how cruel and stupid she is, and when the resistance get up some momentum, they book it.
Nicely Subverted in Realm Of The Mad God. Oryx spends most of the game bragging about the power of his boss minions from afar. When you kill all of said bosses, however, he summons you to fight your way through his castle, after which you fight him in a showdown.
Very much averted in Divinity 2 by Damian, who doesn't even seem to have a throne. He often goes out of his way to chat with you and taunt you in person (before throwing a bunch of mooks at you after he leaves on a few occasions), and he's very prompt when showing up after the Dragon Knight hits certain points in their quest. He's even seen participating in the razing of Broken Valley, after you get your Battle Tower. And the moment he finds out that someone is trying to thwart his plans? Show up alone in person, kick the Dragon Knight around a few times while they're down, and tell him/her that while it's nothing personal, he will kill him/her if they continue on their quest. Sure, for some reason, neither he or the Dragon Knight attack each other for some reason despite often getting rather close and personal, but still.
The Syndicate in Saints Row The Third. They take a proactive role in the story exactly twice: once in the beginning, when they give the Saints a reason to come after them, and once at the beginning of Act II, when they blow something up and frame the Saints for it. Otherwise, they spend the entire story sitting on their butts, waiting for the Saints to show up and start trouble, and never striking back or trying to reclaim what they lost.
In Adventurers!!, Khrima is frequently shown waiting like this. Sometimes he gets impatient when Karn's out Level Grinding instead of advancing the plot, and wishes he'd brought a Game Boy or something. He's occasionally shown researching lasers or playing Scrabble or something.
Subverting this forms the basis of a short arc: Khrima says he's tired of waiting for the heroes to do stuff, and along with one of his lieutenants, decides to go steal a mini-Cosmic Keystone to use as a water cooler.
The few times he does get involved in a fight he usually stomps a mudhole in his enemies. Furthermore, it's revealed early in the story that one of Xaos' few limitations is that he can't escape the dimension he rules due to a powerful curse. He spends most of his time either sending his minions to "test" the Wotch or hunting down the artifacts that will allow him to circumvent his imprisonment.
The Order of the Stick. When the lich Xykon is first introduced, he appears to be very much a case of Orcus on His Throne, sitting down in his lair waiting for the heroes to arrive (and watching them on his crystal ball, with picture-in-picture for when the party gets split up). However, after his defeat, he becomes a much more proactive villain.
In Dorukan's Dungeon, it's justified since he needed the heroes to reach him for his plan.
...aaaaaand goes back to warming the seat on his throne (in a manner of speaking; he's a bone-cold lich) after conquering Azure City. He explicitly states that even crafting magical items takes up only 8 hours of his day, and, for lack of anything else to do, he has taken to offbeat torture of his prisoner, forcing gladiatorial sport on his slaves, and has developed a liking for Zombie Gladiators.
There is a reason for this. Check out this episode and brace yourself for HUGE spoilers!
Nale sees his father Tarquin as an example of this and resents him for it. He doesn't understand why his father is content to spend his dwindling days in the lap of luxury when he has the resources and skill to conquer the world and rule it forever.
It should be noted that Xykon was convinced to stay in Azure City by Redcloak so they could find more intel on the remaining Gates and what's defending them; in reality, Redcloak was aiming to solidify hobgoblin control of the country. And Xykon stated in Start of Darkness that, with the immortality of lichdom, time is on his side. He can afford to dilly-dally as much as he wants.
In Sluggy Freelance the Dimension of Pain demons were a recurring threat for several years, had their own B Side Comics for a while, and became major antagonists during the "That Which Redeems" storyline. Yet the Demon King, the guy who's in charge of the dimension and bosses Horribus around barely appears, and actually seems barely interested in or even aware of the demons' actions. That is until Torg interrupts him on the toilet.
The Black Queen in Homestuck doesn't really do much except sit on her throne and make Jack Noir wear silly outfits. Subverted later on, as Jack completely shakes the game up as soon as he kills her and takes her power and has shown no signs of stopping.
It is implied that the Royalty in Sburb are limited in what they can do till certain conditions are met as it is part of a "game". Jack in the B1 universe, DD in the B2 universe, and Condescense demonstrate just how broken the game can be if the royals acted with Genre Savvy.
El Goonish Shive has Lord Tedd, an evil alternate-dimensional version of one of the main characters. He first appeared and was established as a threat back in 2003 and has yet to act significantly (although it is later learned that he did create the Goo Monster that the first story arc was centered around).
Of course, the entire run of the comic takes place over a few months...
Fire-Human, from the Water Human series, exemplifies this trope big time. He spends the entire series sitting on his throne and playing Nintendo DS games. When The Hero is captured and delivered to his fortress, he just sends the captors away because he's too busy playing, and never realizes whom they brought.
After The Nostalgia Critic succeeds in taking over Molossia in Kickassia, he spends all of his time watching Hogan's Heroes instead of actually running the country though not before wiring up the entire place to explode in case of "nasty-wasties".
In the Metamor Keep storyverse, Nasoj is quite content to just bide his time instead of making another attempt to destroy the keep and conquer the midlands. However, zig-zagged in that there is one arc dedicated to him assaulting the keep.
Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar The Last Airbender filled out this trope to a tee for two and a half seasons. "You must defeat the Fire Lord before he takes over the world" was the mantra. In the last season he makes up for it, however.
In fact, Word Of God even comments that he was designed this way from the start, saying the first villain they designed for the show was Ozai and that they imagined him "leading from the comfort of his own throne" up until the end.
Thoroughly averted in the Sequel SeriesThe Legend Of Korra, where Big Bad Amon is very active right from the start and leads his operations personally. Justified, as he is not only a superb fighter, but his unique ability to take away people's bending is obviously very useful against the majority of his opponents, and since he has built his forces through personal charisma rather than by inheriting a throne he takes full advantage of any opportunity to impress people and spread his message.
Prince Phobos of W.I.T.C.H.. This actually becomes a plot point in the second season finale- the Guardians are trying to lure him to a place that will rob his powers if he enters, but he throws a wrench in that plan by simply being too lazy- or as Raythar puts it, "doesn't want to muss his hair"- to leave his throne room until his forces are victorious. And then it backfires on Phobos too, because it gives Cedric the oppurtunity he needs to seize power himself.
Van Kleiss of Generator Rex, though with good reason: his powers only work if he is in contact with his native soil of Abysus. Most of his plans involve him trying to avert this somehow, with varying degrees of success. As long as his powers are active (or he has some plan in the background that will get his powers active), he's perfectly willing to leave home to fight the good guys directly.
Mr. Selatcia of Metalocalypse is notorious for always ordering his secret tribunal to wait and observe Dethklok without interfering...despite the fact that the tribunal's stated purpose is to get rid of Dethklok. Eventually this annoys two of his underlings so much that they begin secretly attempting to murder the band. When Selatica finds out, he is VERY unhappy. Appropriately, he is almost never seen out of his throne.
Justified in that Selatica's plans require Dethklok to be alive. The real reason he's leading the tribunal is to prevent them from carrying out their mission.
The Queen of the Crowns in Galaxy Rangers rarely leaves her well-appointed palaces, instead making use of Slaverlords, paid mercenaries, and Mooks to do much of the heavy lifting. Justified by the fact that she does have an Empire to run and that her palaces have the necessary equipment to mash her enemies down for Life Energy. Why waste time going to them when you can trick your enemies into coming to you?
Darkseid in the DCAU is a bit more active than his comics counterpart, but he's still pretty passive for an evil alien tyrant. The final episode of Justice League Unlimited has Darkseid coming back from the dead and so angry that he's decided being passive is for wimps. He immediately decides to invade Earth, and when an aide reminds him that New Genesis will retaliate, Darkseid tells him that's where he's going next after he's done turning Earth into rubble.
Zordrak of The Dreamstone is a gargantuan Eldritch Abomination who could probably trample the Land Of Dreams under his foot, let alone with any of his dark spells (such as the power to place his spirit into another being). For some reason however his duties rarely exceed sitting on his throne and chewing out his far less fearsome mooks, the Urpneys, who he instead charges with the duty of stealing the title MacGuffin the large majority of the time.
In the Transformers Generation One episode "Triple Takeover", Blitzwing makes a football stadium his new headquarters and has the Constructicons build a giant highway maze around it. He then gets the Autobots' attention by firing into the city. He then waits in the stadium for the Autobots to come to him, occasionally sending the Constructicons into the maze to deal with them. By the time they finally reach him, they're exhausted and injured, and he casually tramples them and makes a throne from their bodies.
Lord Darkar in Winx Club is initially active, nearly killing Aisha and freeing the Trix, but he then spends the rest of the time scheming in his castle and operating through minions.
Averted with Megabyte from ReBoot. While he can often been found scheming on his hover throne (sometimes spending whole episodes there) and has plenty of minions at his disposal, he's just as likely to personally antagonize Bob and co. himself and is not above getting his own hands dirty.
Hades in Disney's Hercules and in the spinoff TV series. Despite being a god with an arsenal of fire based abilities, he never fights Hercules directly, instead sending out Pain and Panic or some monster from Greek myth. Possibly justified in that he doesn't want his treacherous nature to be exposed by directly attacking the son of Zeus.