Standard Evil Empire Hierarchy

Running The Empire is hard work. No Dark Lord, no matter how powerful and feared, can manage everything on his own and a military-style hierarchy is usually the best of delegating tasks to the various henchmen and minions. As a result, if the heroes wind up having to topple The Empire, they'll end up going against a Standard Evil Empire Hierarchy.

Unlike a Five-Bad Band, which tends to be fought as a group, a Standard Evil Empire Hierarchy is defined by the roles they have within a larger Imperial hierarchy. Each member will be encountered individually, either with their assembled mooks or by themselves. In addition, the members rarely deal with each other unless the Emperor calls them for a joint orgy. Infighting is common as they all attempt to assert their authority and it's not unheard-of for one boss to aid the heroes, only to turn on them afterward.

One of the hallmarks of the hierarchy is that there is often no clear-cut Dragon role, as all of the bosses answer directly to the Emperor himself. The hierarchy usually consists of:
  • The Emperor: The Big Bad himself. Although he might not be an actual Emperor, he is the undisputed ruler of The Empire and the heroes won't reach him until very late in the game, if not the very end. His Imperial Majesty will very rarely do much himself, putting things in the hands of his generals and various subordinates. Is very likely to be The Chessmaster and Evil Overlord, naturally.
  • The Right Hand: Commonly the Emperor's bodyguard, the Right Hand will often exist outside of the official military and police structure. While his position makes him most likely to be a clear-cut Dragon, it's also possible for him to be dumb muscle that's sent to calm down a particularly troublesome situation. A common device is for him to face the heroes mid-way through, sometimes winning, and then pop up again right before the Emperor. If he is The Dragon, having his own agenda or plans to take over will be much more likely due to his more independent nature. When The Emperor is literally an emperor, this trope's position can be filled by the Battle Butler, or his Empress.
  • The General: Leader of the Empire's military. Most likely to be portrayed sympathetically, The General could very well be a Worthy Opponent, though a General Ripper is also common if the setting runs on Black and White Morality. A Mook Lieutenant is rare, as The General is usually portrayed as being competent, morality aside. Common for him to be The Dragon, The Brute and The Smart Guy rolled into one, though never an Evil Genius since his smarts come from his strategical and tactical abilities. In settings with more than one military branch (army, navy, air force) there can be more than one General.
  • The Guard: In contrast to The General, who is in command of the field armies, The Guard is in command of a high-profile prison, fortress or other stationary strong-point. They will likely contrast with The General and be portrayed far less sympathetically, sitting back in their comfy, well-protected stronghold. Expect him to be any combination of Ax-Crazy, a Dirty Coward or simply incompetent. They will usually be encountered and defeated early on, to make it clear that The Empire is evil before the heroes encounter a more sympathetic member of the hierarchy. Often serves as a Threshold Guardian, both literally (in the "gatekeeper" sense) and metaphorically.
  • The Security Officer: Is in charge of the State Sec and its Doom Troops, stamping out internal dissent and rebellion in the Empire. Often he is also in charge of spies and commandos, one of whom is likely to be the next character on this list. Often he is also The Guard or The Oddball.
  • The Evil Counterpart: Whether he's a Rival Turned Evil, Sixth Ranger Traitor, Turncoat or simply someone who happens to have similar powers and abilities, he's someone with similar powers and abilities as the heroes, often times creating a Mirror Match. Could fall under any of the other slots depending on the setting, but most commonly The Right Hand or The Oddball.
  • The Oddball: If The Right Hand or The Evil Counterpart don't fall under this, expect The Oddball to be a Dark Chick or Evil Genius, wielding powers far different from the others, either dark magic or science. They will have their own agenda and they will be unpredictable, even for their own allies. Alternatively, they could be a mercenary or other form of lowlife hired to track down the heroes, in which case they'll employ the standard weaponry but use unconventional tactics. Either way, the emphasis is that they're connected to The Empire but different.
  • The Man Behind the Man: If The Emperor really isn't the Big Bad, expect this one to be. Often times The Man Behind the Man will be allied with The Emperor, promising dark powers and victory if The Empire aids him in his quest to recover an Artifact of Doom or unlock some Sealed Evil in a Can. The Man Behind the Man is far more common if The Empire is shown to be in command of forces that would be outside what's considered mundane by the standards of the setting.

Compare and contrast with the Five-Bad Band, Standard Evil Organization Squad and Power Stable.


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    Comic Books 



  • Lord of the Rings:
    • The Emperor: Sauron
    • The Right Hand: The Mouth of Sauron
    • The General: The Witch-King
    • The Guard: Saruman (though he thinks himself Sauron's equal and seeks to overthrow him)
    • The Oddball: Shelob

  • The Silmarillion:
    • The Emperor: Morgoth, also Evil Counterpart to Manwë
    • The Right Hand: Glaurung, a literal Dragon
    • The General: Gothmog, leader of the Balrogs
    • The Guard: Sauron, Saruman being the same position for Sauron later is intentional
    • The Oddball: Ungoliant, ancestor of Shelob
    • Evil Counterpart: Carcharoth to Haun (But one could argue all Tolkien villains are evil Counterparts to someone)

  • Animorphs
    • The Emperor: The Yeerk emperor
    • The Right Hand: Visser One (though Visser Three fit in to a point as well even before becoming Visser One formally)later Visser Three.
    • The General: Visser Three, though a rather non-sympathetic variant.
    • The Evil Counterpart: David, briefly.
    • The Oddball: Taylor, in two books at least.

  • Belisarius Series
    • The Emperor: Skandagupta
    • The Right Hand: Venandakatra the Vile
    • The Guard: Possibly Nanda Lal
    • The General: Damodara and Rana Sanga
    • The Man Behind the Man: Link
    • The Oddball: Narses

  • The Elenium
    • The Emperor: Azash
    • The Right Hand: Emperor Otha
    • The Guard: Primate Annias
    • The General / The Evil Counterpart: Martel
    • The Odball: Princess Arissa and Prince Lycheas

  • The Belgariad: Angarak Kingdoms

  • John Devil (1862) by Paul Féval. Henri Belcamp intends to create an Empire

  • The Wheel Oftime: The Shadow as of the Last Battle
    • The Emperor: The Dark One
    • The Right Hand: Moridin
    • The General: Demandred
    • The Guard: Mazrim Taim
    • Evil Counterpart: Slayer for Perrin. All of the above characters also pull double-duty as someone's Evil Counterpart: the Dark One for the Creator, Moridin for Rand, Demandred for Mat, and Taim for Egwene and Logain.
    • The Oddball: Shaidar Haran and Lanfear, albeit for vastly different reasons note 
    • Of course, considering how vast WOT's cast is, even for just one faction, there are lots of other minions of the Shadow who don't fit into this configuration due to either being less important or simply focusing more on undermining the Dark One's enemies than leading the Shadow's forces.

  • New Jedi Order: The Yuuzhan Vong, circa The Unifying Force
    • The Emperor: Oniminote 
    • The Right Hand: Shimrra note 
    • The General: Nas Choka
    • The Guard: High Prefect Drathul and High Priest Jakan
    • The Oddball: Nom Anor
    • The Evil Counterpart: The Slayers collectively, to the Jedi.

  • The Sundering
    • The Emperor: Satoris
    • General: Tanaros Caveros
    • Guard: Vorax
    • Oddball: Ushahin

  • A Song of Ice and Fire

    • Joffrey's regime in A Clash of Kings:
      • The Emperor: Joffrey Baratheon
      • The Right Hand: Sandor "the Hound" Clegane
      • The General: Tyrion Lannister
      • The Guard: Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane at Harrenhall
      • The Security Officer: Varys
      • The Oddball: Vargo Hoat
      • The Man Behind the Man: Tywin Lannister

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    Web Original 
  • The Antagonists in To Boldly Flee
    • The Emperor/ The Man Behind the Man: The Executor
    • The Right Hand: Darth Snob
    • The General: General Zodd and General Ferdinand von Turrell
    • The Guard: Lame R. Prick
    • The Evil Counterpart: Most of them counts: Turrell (to The Nostalgia Critic), The Executor (to Oancitizen), Darth Snob (to Luke Mochrie), Mechakara (to Linkara), Seven-of-Eleven (to Obscurus Lupa), and Ma-Ti (to Film Brain)
    • The Oddball: Mechakara

    Western Animation 
  • The Fire Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • The Emperor: Fire Lord Ozai
    • The Right Hand: Princess Azula
    • The General: Zhao
    • The Guard: Boiling Rock's warden
    • The Evil Counterpart: Prince Zuko
    • The Oddball: Mai and Ty Lee

  • Darth Maul's Shadow Collective, though an underworld empire, fits this better than Five-Bad Band.

  • The Toad Empire in Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars

  • The Neosapien Commonwealth in Exosquad:
    • The Emperor: Phaeton, being an obvious Hitler expy
    • The Right Hand: Livia, Phaeton's most trusted general and advisor always at his side, almost bordering on Girl Friday and Unholy Matrimonynote 
    • The General: Shiva, the most brilliant and loyal Neosapien general, who is also the only top-rank presented as a Worthy Opponent to the Terrans
    • The Guards: Draconis and Typhonus, governor-generals of the Neosapien-occupied Venus and Mars, respectively, noted for their cruelty and repeated treachery attempts
    • The Security Officer: Livanus, the One-Episode Wonder chief of security on the Neosapien-occupied Earth who uses his telepathy to track La Résistance members
    • The Evil Counterparts: Thrax, a Neosapien Ace Pilot frequently pitted against Able Squad's own hotshot ace, Kaz Takagi; also, Amanda Connor, a Terran collaborationist in charge of Neosapien propaganda and the Rebel Leader Sean Napier's ex-wife
    • The Oddballs: Xenobius and Praetorius, the Neosapien Mad Scientists, the latter of which additionally genetically engineered the Evil Genius race of Neo Megas, who also serve as Oddballs within Phaeton's regime