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Witch Queen Iggwilv, thinking of who she's going to use next.
"I put out my hand, and the fish swam right into my net—as they always do. It's all in the brightness of the lure you offer."
Fzoul Chembryl, Forgotten Realms
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In the fantasy realms of Dungeons & Dragons, there are a great many who craft the strings others dance upon.

All spoilers are unmarked. You Have Been Warned!


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Multiple Settings

    Examples 
  • Asmodeus, the Lord of the Nine Hells, is the Wicked Cultured, Affably Evil, handsome and brilliant Archdevil who, ever since his fall from heaven, has been running a grand chess game that few can even begin to understand. Asmodeus knows every plot against him by the other archdevils and delights in thwarting or subverting them to his own benefit while making his own plots that can take centuries or even millennia to come to fruition in ways that benefit him. At one point, Asmodeus was even deposed from his throne in Nessus, only to later reveal it was simply a ruse to root out potential traitors. Since becoming a god, Asmodeus has only increased his power and effectiveness with some fearing he is perhaps the greatest threat to all the forces of good in existence.
  • The Demon Lord Graz'zt is theorized to be an archdevil who carved out his own territory in the abyss and decided to reside there, and it is easy to see why. Graz'zt is stunningly intelligent for a demon, plotting and scheming against his fellow demon lords while seeking to take the title of Prince from Demogorgon, and is known for making deals with mortals, as well as being disturbingly charismatic to those he encounters. In one instance, Graz'zt even captured the goddess Waukeen and held her hostage in his nation of Zelatar, even using this to pervert part of her clergy to his own worship later. When he was summoned and imprisoned by the witch Iggwilv, Graz'zt seduced her, with the two having an intense love-hate relationship ever since.
  • The Witch Queen Iggwilv once manipulated a group of adventurers, seducing her magical master with them, to bind a demon, steal all its forbidden knowledge and then abscond with magical items. Becoming a powerful witch and authority on demons, Iggwilv enslaved a powerful sorcerer to enhance her strength and even bound Graz'zt to her, resulting in a stormy love-hate relationship between the two. Even after being defeated, Iggwilv comes to prominence in Savage Tide when she helps the heroes defeat the Savage Tide and even the monstrous Prince of Demons Demogorgon, only to steal Demogorgon's own essence and use it to revive a kingdom for herself, becoming a new power to be reckoned with.

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Dark Sun

    Examples 
  • Pharistes the Cerebral Telepath is one the leaders of the mythical Order, master psionicists who use their mental powers to preserve balance on Athas. Assuming control of the Order through power and cunning, Pharistes uses an ancient artifact called the Psionatrix to create a suppression field that cancels out all psionics in the region, while gifting his followers shards that protect them. Wishing to save Athas through long term manipulations, he sends his agents to harass and entrap adventurers throughout their long journey to destroy the artifact, and even ambushes and murders their angelic mentor when he comes to negotiate. Upon discovering that insectoids such as the thri-kreen are driven berserk as a side effect, he sends a loyal follower to direct hordes to destroy one another before they attack the Order's fortress. Confronted by the adventurers and rogue Order members, Pharistes disables the shard's protection to disable psionics for both sides and relying on the many traps and guardians to defeat them, yet nevertheless fights to the bitter end to preserves his goals and ideals. Had he not been defeated, Pharistes had hoped to cast down the Sorcerer Kings and even the Dragon to save his dying world.
  • Kosveret the Mind Lord is an ancient and powerful elven psionicist who rules over the Last Sea, among the last fertile lands on Athas, alongside his colleagues Thesik and Barani. Many millennia ago, the trio received a message from the future warning of the defilement that would ravage the world and Kosveret researched a mental technique that let them see into the future and observe the destruction. Reluctantly placing their minds into obsidian orbs to live forever, the Mind Lords rule a tyrannical utopia where discontent is punished with psionic reeducation or mental enslavement in orbs, yet save their people by creating an impenetrable barrier around the valley, creating the cleanest water on the planet to drink, and saving the non-humans from genocide by the Champions of Rajaat. Kosveret is the mad god of happiness to his people and travels around playing usually harmless yet other times harmful pranks whenever it fancies him. Secretly wanting to finally die after millennia of insanity, Kosveret murders many innocents and steals their brains to use to travel back in time to stop the warning from occurring, only to unintentionally deliver the message himself and ensure his own fate.

Dragonlance

    Examples 
  • Raistlin Majere starts as a frail, sickly magician, cursed by god and mage alike. Desiring ultimate power, Raistlin goes back in time, to study under the most powerful dark wizard ever, Fistandantilus, murdering him when he tries to steal Raistlin's life force. Raisltin then proceeds to organize a war to get himself close to a gate leading to the abyss, manipulating a holy cleric named Crysania into falling in love with him to help him open it. With this achieved, Raistlin intends to lure out the supreme Dark Goddess Takhisis so he can kill her, take her place and then usurp the rest of the gods, all while abandoning Crysania to death when he needs her no longer. Raistlin manipulates countless people along his path, from the forces of darkness to the armies of light, coming within a hair of achieving his goals. The only thing that stops him is a pang of conscience when he sees his brother Caramon, instead opting to sacrifice himself to rescue Caramon and Crysania in the end. Even after his death, Raistlin occasionally resurfaces to pull off a new gambit to assist his family, being feared even by the gods themselves.
  • Fistandantilus the Dark was one of the greatest mages who ever lived, and his ambition and scheming would shape centuries of Krynn's history. As told in the Kingpriest Trilogy, he carefully masterminded Beldinas's rise to power over the course of decades in order to create a suitable pawn to help him become a god; though Beldinas ultimately proved unsuitable for the role, Fistandantilus was able to quickly adjust his schemes and find a suitable replacement. Failing in his goals only due to random chance, his spirit nonetheless persisted and was able to groom Raistlin into a suitable successor - and even when Raistlin turned the tables and consumed Fistandantilus's soul, he was unable to escape his legacy and continued to carry out the schemes Fistandantilus had laid down to their bitter end. From the rise of the Kingpriest to the War of the Lance, Fistandantilus's subtle hand shaped much of Krynn's history, cementing his legend as its most powerful, cunning and feared wizard.
  • Kitiara uth Matar rises from humble village girl to Dragon Highlord of the Blue Army via wits and grit. Ruthless from a young age, Kitiara outwits and kills the woman who conned and drove her mother to her death, later seducing the knight Sturm Brightblade to get him to forget his vows. Later becoming part of the army of Takhisis and becoming a Highlord, Kitiara proves herself a nightmare on the battlefield while also attempting to manipulate the feelings of her old lover Tanis Half-Elven to lure his beloved, Laurana the Golden General to her own death. Later uniting the remnants of the armies under her banner as the Blue Lady, Kitiara nearly takes the City of Palanthas in her never ending quest to satisfy her ambition.
  • Hotak de-Droka is a general of the Minotaur empire who grows dissatisfied with the corruption inherent under the rule of Chot Es-Kalin. With his wife Nephera, Hotak launches a brilliantly planned purge of all of Chot's allies and family known as the Night of Blood, killing Chot himself and establishing control over the Minotaur Empire while using his charisma and political skill to establish complete control. Planning to invade the continent of Ansalon and strengthen his empire, Hotak proves to be one of the most effective and dangerous minotaurs on Krynn.
  • The Best: The red dragon narrator disguises himself as a human to find the best adventurers who have a chance of destroying him. Luring them into a treasure hunt, the dragon brings them to his lair, only to ambush them and wipe them out completely while they barely have a chance to fight back so the dragon may simply enjoy his treasure without fear of pesky dragon slayers, distinguishing himself via incredible charm and wit in the narrative.

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Forgotten Realms

Tabletop Game

    Examples 
  • Bane, god of Strife, Tyranny and Hatred was once a mortal man who achieved godhood. A brilliant schemer and strategist who frequently plays other gods against one another, forming and betraying alliances as proper, Bane even leaves a way to return post-mortem after his death after the Time of Troubles, being reborn from the body of his own son. Learning from his defeat, Bane promotes understanding and cooperation among his clergy who are now likely to settle conflict with reasonable debate to stay united against their enemies. Bane shows himself to be as brilliant and dangerous as ever, even subjugating the goblin pantheon to him, stopping at nothing to dominate all other powers before him.
  • Gromph Baenre is the archmage of Menzoberranzan and a genius manipulator who is the undisputed master of the city's wizards. Keeping control through his own power and constantly playing his rivals against one another, Gromph showcases his penchant for manipulation by being one of the powers behind his sister Triel's throne and when the Priestesses of Lolth lose their power with the Goddess's absence, Gromph takes it upon himself to guide the city in the meantime. After being defeated by the evil lich Dyyr, Gromph is captured by a mind flayer and shows he prepared for a possibility with an impressive Memory Gambit that even programmed his own reactions to achieve it. He then attempts to eliminate one of the architects of the invasion of his city by fusing his hand to a crystal that burns like the sun when the other drow slips into the plane of shadow, trapping him there. Mixing an odd nobility with a ruthless ambition, Gromph repeatedly demonstrates just why he is one of the oldest and most powerful Drow alive.
  • Mask is the god of thieves and shadows. A master of intrigue and scheming, Mask orchestrated the death of the god Bhaal during the time of Troubles with himself as the weapon in his guise as the sword godsbane. Working to undermine the mad god Cyric, Mask helped to arrange Cyric's defeat and later works to defeat his mother Shar, the goddess of nothingness and darkness. Mask helps to foil her plots to reduce all to nothingness while leaving his essence behind in anticipation for when Shar absorbs him, even sending his Chosen Erevis Cale's son into the future with a plan to bring about his own revival in the end.
  • Vhaeraun, the Masked Lord, is one of the Dark Seldarine, the Drow pantheon. Wanting to conquer the surface and defeat his mother Lolth, Vhaeraun appeals to many male drow with his focus on gender equality, as opposed to his mother's fierce misandry. An exceptional schemer, Vhaeraun nearly destroyed Lolth during the Silence and upon her rebirth formed a plan to assassinate his chaotic good twin sister Eilistraee, gain her followers and destroy Lolth. Stopped by the goddess Mystra, Vhaeraun later returned and formed a peace with his sister, the two working together against their mother with Vhaeraun organizing his clergy into doing good deeds and appearing respectable, all to work to their true goals of domination and freedom for the drow, no matter the cost.
  • Fzoul Chembryl, chosen of Bane, joined the Zhentarim and steadily converted it to being a branch of Bane's church. Overthrowing and destroying his mentor Manshoon and many of Manshoon's clones, Fzoul later even helped to undermine Cyric after Bane's fall. Upon Bane's return, Fzoul happily takes his place at his god's side again, reorganizing the church and devoting it to conquest and schemes to advance Bane's aims upon the world. Even after dying in defense of Zhentil Keep, Fzoul is raised as Bane's Exarch, dedicated both to his own power while retaining his charisma and faith.
  • Szass Tam is one of the chief leaders of Thay, the Zulkir of Necromancy and a powerful lich who is a consummate genius who manipulates the other Zulkirs and his enemies alike, playing off different factions in Thay against one another to maintain the power of the Red Wizards and his own. Eventually deciding to take godhood for his own and remake the world without suffering or death. Forming a secret army of the undead, Szass Tam arranges for Thayan armies to lose to their enemies, even causing a Thayan city's fall, to spread unrest and eliminate several other Zulkirs. Bargaining with the god Bane for forbidden knowledge in the ensuing war, Szass Tam even manages to reclaim the advantage when his right hand Malark betrays him, eliminating the remaining Zulkirs even as his plots for godhood are ruined. Undaunted, he simply decides to get back to work with new plans.
  • "The Sibilant Shade," Aurgloroasa, is a powerful shadow dragon and devotee of the draconic death god Null. Intending on one day elevating herself to becoming Null's consort, Aurgloroasa infiltrated the city of Thunderholme, manipulating the dwarves into building a temple for her to appear in, whereupon she destroyed the city, raised all dwarves as undead and consecrated it to Null. For her raids, Aurgloroasa disguised herself as other dragons to make them take the blame, constantly fooling adventurers and eliminating rivals. Allowing the Cult of the Dragon to "find" her via laid clues, she allowed them to "convince" her to become a dracolich but without the usual method of control, later taking over a chunk of the remnants of the organization while operating from the shadows.
  • Out of the Abyss: Vizeran DeVir is a powerful drow archmage exiled for his worship of Lolth. Desiring revenge, Vizeran manipulates the player characters by devising a plan to draw the rampaging demon lords to a single spot to have them fight until one is left and too weak to stop the heroes in a fight. What Vizeran does not tell them is he intends to have the demon lords converge on the city of Menzoberranzan, killing thousands of Drow in the process in what Vizeran sees as both vengeance and necessary step in destroying the dominion of Lolth over his people, all the while strengthening himself with whatever arcane knowledge he can manipulate others into providing him.

Literature

    Examples 
  • The Legend of Drizzt:
    • Jarlaxle Baenre, third son of Yvonnel Baenre, survived his birth and sacrifice against all odds, growing into a talented mercenary leader who thrives off the chaos of Menzoberranzan. Constantly hiring out his forces, the Bregan D'Aerthe while playing multiple sides in any conflict, Jarlaxle later goes to the surface, manages to win over nearly everyone he comes across and even uses an attempted coup from his underlings as a way to buy himself a vacation, eliminating the worst traitors and leaving the one Drow he can trust in charge of the group before manipulating powerful kingdoms, ancient dragons and monsters into doing what benefits him most. Jarlaxle is so successful and talented at his games that there are those who wonder if he is actually blessed by the normally virulently misandrist Lolth as a chosen of chaos.
    • King Obould Many Arrows is a brutal orc chieftain who unites the fractured orc clans into a single, unified army and unleashes them upon the north and Silverymoon. In a series of brilliant campaigns, Obould carves out the Kingdom of Dark Arrows, becoming the personal chosen of the orc god Gruumsh in the process. Obould also completely subverts a group of Drow who think they can use him, killing their priestess at the end after she attempts to murder him. Later even assisting the heroes against another army loyal to Gruumsh's old ways, Obould then sues for peace from a position of strength, knowing it will be too costly to dislodge his people from their new home. Peacefully dying later in his sleep and being made an exarch by his god, Obould is without doubt the most successful and ingenious orc to set foot on Faerun and remains one of Drizzt Do'Urden's most deadly foes.
  • War of the Spider Queen:
    • Pharaun Mizzrym is the son of House Mizzrym who became a powerful wizard. Well known for his ostentatious, clever manner, Pharaun helps to outwit the Illithid Lich leader of a slave revolt and destroys him after scheming and investigating his way to the bottom of the plot. Pharaun proves himself just as capable in helping to defeat a conspiracy in Ched Nassad, outwitting and destroying a powerful demon later on and even seeing through the machinations of his own ostensible leader Quenthel Baenre. Upon revival from his previous death, Pharaun even begins bonding with his son Kael and shows no hesitation in sacrificing his existence for him at the end.
    • Nimor Imphraezl, a drow-Shadow Dragon hybrid, and Anointed Blade of the Vhaeraunite Jaezred Chaulssin, is a ruthless assassin out to overthrow the order of Lolth. Manipulating the Menzoberranzan slave revolt, Nimor forms an army to invade Menzoberranzan and throws the city into chaos by assassinating a high-ranking Matron Mother. With his clever strategies and diversions, Nimor nearly arranges for the city to fall before Lolth's return. Later establishing his own fosterage in Menzoberranzan, Nimor continues his schemes to bring down Lolth's order by weaving clever plan after plan and achieving whatever victory he can manage whenever he can.

Video Games

    Examples 
  • Baldur's Gate franchise:
    • Original game: Sarevok Anchev spent his childhood persecuted for his Bhaalspawn heritage until he was adopted by the merchant lord Rieltar Anchev who once had his unfaithful wife throttled in front of Sarevok as a harsh lesson. Growing up, Sarevok plots with Rieltar to become the Grand Duke of Baldur's Gate by using a campaign of subterfuge, assassination and manipulation to make his merchant house, the Iron Throne, all the more powerful. Deciding to subvert Rieltar's plan to his own ends, Sarevok plans to kick off a war and use the resultant slaughter as a way to ascend to his dead father's divinity. Even arranging for Rieltar's assassination and framing the heroes, Sarevok is stopped just before he can become Grand Duke before returning in Throne of Bhaal, using vital information to force the heroes to restore him to life, where he takes a stand to help save the world and find a place for himself.
    • Baldur's Gate II:
      • Jon Irenicus was once an elven sorcerer named Jonoleth who attempted to become a god. Cast out of elven society with his soul stripped from him, Irenicus forms plans to steal the soul of the heroic child of Bhaal and resume his plans. Manipulating the heroes and allowing his capture with the hero's half-sister Imoen, Irenicus directs the heroes' actions through his spy, Yoshimo, and takes over the entire prison he was sent to, just as he intended. Stealing Imoen and the player's souls and escaping, Irenicus manipulates the Drow into attacking his old home of Suldanessalar and is stopped just minutes away from draining its divine tree of its power to ascend to godhood.
      • Balthazar is one of The Five, a group of Bhaalspawn ostensibly seeking to revive their dread father. In truth conspiring against his kin, Balthazar throws in with Amelissan the Black-Hearted to hunt down and erase the other Bhaalspawn, assisting his siblings with their own schemes. Knowing of Amelissan's ruthlessness, Balthazar sees it necessary to even allow the entire city of Saradush to be destroyed while plotting to eventually betray and kill his siblings, including the hero. Once this is done, Balthazar intends to commit ritual suicide to destroy Bhaal's dark taint forever.
  • Neverwinter Nights: Mephistopheles is the Archduke of the Eighth Hell Cania who has been roped into the service of an ambitious drow sorceress, the Valsharess. Wishing to free himself, Mephistopheles subtly draws the Player Character into conflict with the Valsharess, as they own a relic of his that binds them to Mephistopheles. When the Valsharess tries to order the Devil to strike the player down, Mephistopheles is able to break their covenant and turn on her. Banishing the player to Cania in his place, Mephistopheles begins his conquest of Toril with the intent to turn it into the Tenth Hell, lowering it below the Ninth Hell ruled by Asmodeus so Mephistopheles may be the most powerful Devil in the planes. Witty, charismatic, diabolical, and always staying one step ahead of everyone else in his schemes, Mephistopheles is the very definition of a Devil.

Ravenloft

    Examples 
  • Count Strahd von Zarovich, ruler of Barovia, is a powerful vampire and Darklord of the Land of the Mists. Having killed his brother when he became a vampire and losing his love Tatyana, Strahd lurks in Barovia where he zealously guards his territory to defend his food supply and out of a shred of noblesse oblige. Strahd is well known to be a charming, manipulative and dangerous man, constantly playing his enemies and outwitting them, with many who enter Barovia to defeat him never leaving. His greatest victory involved manipulating heroes and his rival Azalin into going back in time to undo his pact with a fiend to fulfill the prophesized Grand Conjunction, which very nearly gave him his freedom and a reunion with his reincarnated love Tatyana. Strahd is able to defend Barovia from outside enemies with his own strategic brilliance, constantly demonstrating why he is one of the most dangerous and charismatic figures to lurk in the Mists.
  • Azalin Rex was once a tyrant who reigned over a kingdom in Oerth with an iron fist. After executing his own son, Azalin sought Lichdom before he was claimed by the Mists and worked with Strahd on the mysteries of the demiplane before finding Darkon, which he rules strictly, his mind ever on escaping the Mists. In his most audacious scheme, Azalin tricks an adventuring party into escaping the demiplane with his phylactery and then letting them kill him to allow his soul to escape as well. This plot, alongside the Grand Conjunction, gets the better of the Dark Powers and nearly unravels all Ravenloft. Having launched multiple plans that have nearly opened the Mists, Azalin is a crafty puppeteer who uses agents and heroes alike for his own ends, even having sought to use the half-fiend children of the wicked incubus, the Gentleman Caller, as a force to allow him to regain his lost son so he could raise him "properly" again.
  • Harkon Lukas is a wolfwere bard that grew enamored of human culture and sought to unite his chaotic people into a unified society, but drew the attention of the powers of Ravenloft after going on a rampage when he was rejected. Drawn into the mists as the Darklord of Kartakass, he made the best of his new prison by creating a false history for his new domain, funded musical academies to make his people the greatest singers and minstrels in Ravenloft, and set up a secret society for his own kind to hunt humans in safety and leisure. Nevertheless seeking an escape, he manipulated a necromancer into raising a zombie horde and tricked monster hunters to fight them, and took the opportunity to swap souls with one of them to leave his domain, though he ultimately failed. Later betrayed by two of his children, Lukas learned of their plans and engineered their downfalls to ensure he would stand alone as perhaps the most successful of all the Darklords.
  • Lemot Sediam Juste is an infamous actor and playwright who sought to master his art by creating the perfect tragedy. After his actors don't perform to his expectations, Juste replaces their props with lethal alternatives and then burns down his theater with the audience still inside after they denounce his masterpiece. Taken by the Mists of Ravenloft along with the theater, Juste can create anything he can dream of upon the stage in his new domain of Scaena. Moving his theater between domains, he lures in audiences with flair and pomp and tricks victims onto the stage with illusions to have them participate. Using these illusions to force his victims through complex plots and to tragic ends, Juste lets his audience go if they enjoy his performance or burns them alive if they do not. Should strong willed heroes break through his initial deceptions, he weaves webs upon webs of illusions to break their minds and turn them into his perfect actors.


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