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Orcus on His Throne

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"Sorry, Kimmie. The Supreme One always delegates."
Future-Shego, Kim Possible, "A Sitch in Time"

Deep in Mordor, at the top of the Evil Tower of Ominousness, the Evil Overlord awaits. He has his Legion of Doom, the Artifact of Doom, and any other Doomy Dooms of Doom you can think of. His power is vast and he is poised to strike and destroy all we hold dear at any moment.

Any moment now.

Aaaaaany moment...

No? Okay, never mind. Looks like we have a case of Orcus on His Throne. A villain with great power and the potential to wipe out the Forces of Good turns out to be an awfully retiring sort. Sure, they're out there somewhere being evil, probably oppressing someone else, but they don't actually seem to do much; they just sit about resting on their laurels or at most maintaining an active training regimen, waiting for the heroes to come and overthrow them. One wonders how they ever mustered the ambition to climb to their position of power in the first place.

Named for a line in the Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons Manual of the Planes, where it mentioned that Orcus, the lord of the undead, might once more be on his throne, one bony hand clutching his terrible rod. The original justification for this was based on the way D&D works; by not having Orcus (or any other given major villain) actively doing anything, but prepared to strike out against the forces of good, the dungeon masters who were buying the source books and playing the game could have the villains do whatever they wanted or needed them to do for their custom-built campaigns.

Relatedly, this is a very common trope in Video Games, where the villain waits passively in their throne room while the hero is leveling up, killing increasing tiers of their minions, Storming the Castle, occupying each base and methodically foiling their plans. If the Big Bad is coming, why not just wait and prepare yourself? But if the Big Bad is sitting by their Lava Pit of Doom, for whatever reason, just waiting for the Hero to arrive, then of course the Hero has to make their way all the way there.

In the villain's defense, maintaining order in one's domain can be a really time-consuming task, what with all those Rebel Scum, stupid henchmen, backstabbing lieutenants, and the other daily tasks an Evil Overlord has to face every day. And any tactician will endorse the benefits of a fortified position surrounded by your most powerful servants. Then again, what kind of Evil Overlord doesn't take the time to smell the roses, pillage a village, and give a hero a good Final Boss Preview every once in a while? They deserve a little "me" time, too!

The Big Bad might also be spending all their time offscreen searching for a Plot Coupon (Lost Superweapon, Artifact of Doom, etc.) that would render conventional means of conquest unnecessary. Why waste time and effort commanding the Legion of Doom when you could conquer/corrupt/destroy the kingdom/world/galaxy with the push of a button? Still, it's easier to send their minions out to do this instead, which is probably another reason they never have to leave the castle. In the case of a Non-Action Big Bad, the villain acts like this because personally, they don't have power, or at least not the sort that would be useful in direct combat, and they primarily work through their subordinates. It could also be that the hero is already doing something the villain wants, so why interrupt the enemy when they're making a mistake?

Villainous counterpart to Take Your Time. Compare Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering. Contrast Royals Who Actually Do Something and Frontline General. The opposite of this is Risking the King. Not to be confused with — though principally very similar to—Greater-Scope Villain. See also The Pawns Go First for when the Big Bad chooses to let their minions fight a particular battle for a while before intervening, or Villain No Longer Idle for when Orcus gets off his throne. Similar to Offstage Villainy, where we only know the villain is evil because the author says so; with Orcus On His Throne, we only know the villain is dangerous because the author says so. May lead to It's Personal with the Dragon, since if the Big Bad is spending all his time offscreen seemingly doing nothing, then his enforcers who are doing the work may become the target of the hero's ire. Can be justified if it's a Dark Lord on Life Support. Lazy Dragon is sister trope unique to literal dragons. Can also overlap with Unknown Rival if the villain simply isn't aware of the heroes for some reason.

For narrative purposes, an author may deliberately write his archvillain in this way. A Big Bad that is defeated by the heroes in every episode will lose its dramatic effectiveness.

This is not to be confused with Sealed Evil in a Can, where an abomination, demon king, or other powerful villain is not interfering because it has been sealed away (or "mostly" sealed away).

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Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, the Commander of Planet Gray gives Big M. and Little M. their orders through their television (or other device) from the comfort of his chair and is never seen getting off of the chair to do much else.

    Comic Books 
  • Apocalypse: It's sometimes been pointed out that with his massive power, Apocalypse should've been able to take over the world personally long before the modern era (since his powers emerged back in Ancient Egypt). However, he's generally been content with observing and provoking conflict behind the scenes (when he isn't in hibernation). This can be justified by his Social Darwinist worldview.
  • The Clone Saga: Norman Osborn was introduced very late in the game. He doesn't even enter the picture until all of his subordinates have been snuffed out, apart from the Scriers (who later came to his rescue after he was captured by Spider-man). He explains that he'd been living sumptuously in Europe and rubbing elbows with the Scriers, spending years gradually usurping the organization and converting it into a tool for personal revenge.
  • 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. 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 remaining heroes, and nearly conquers the Multiverse.
  • 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.
  • Subverted in Hellboy. The Osiris Club is a fraternal order that is supposedly "waiting for the right moment" to seize control of the Oghru Jahad and rule the world... but they've done nothing of importance for so long that most of the other players in the occult underworld consider them a Brotherhood of Funny Hats. They were literally waiting for the right moment - the minute the Apocalypse begins, they reveal they actually have a working ritual to bind the Oghru Jahad. The only thing stopping them from conquering the planet is that they didn't plan far enough ahead to stop the heroes from undermining said ritual.
  • The Kingpin is a street-level version of this trope. He can and has fought the likes of Daredevil and Captain America but prefers to keep the illusion that he is a legitimate businessman (or at least a fat mob boss) and has his mooks do much of the fighting. When it comes time to throw down, however, it turns out that all that weight is pure muscle and despite his size, he is a skilled and even agile martial artist.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Death in the Fall of Deadworld storyline. Whenever he shows up elsewhere, he's always The Brute since he likes to "dispense justice" personally, but in Fall he has an army to command and doesn't leave his HQ.
  • The Korvac Saga: The titular villain does not take an active role during the story outside of killing the Collector; he mostly stays at his luxury house and uses his omnipotent powers to avoid detection.
  • The Big Bad of Loki: Agent of Asgard, Old!Loki, who has Story-Breaker Power, and the benefits of foreknowledge, but no real inclination to use it for anything more than trolling. For a long time, they were quite content to kick back in their cell. The explanation for this is that Old Loki is a time traveller and when they actually mess with the present they could very well derail it into something else or even better.
  • Raptors: Don Miguel Y Certa, the master of the vampire order, doesn't really play an active role in the day-to-day politics of vampirekind and lets the Council of Vampires bother with such things, instead contenting himself with feasting on the food his servants bring him. In total, he makes about three appearances in the entire comic.
  • Sinestro Corps War: Superboy-Prime sits on the Moon watching Earth for much of the conflict. When he finally gets involved, he does whatever he wants including punking his own teammates. The only reason Sinestro picked Superboy-Prime as a teammate, plus two other Omnicidal Maniacs, at all, was that he knew they'd eventually try to kill each other but not before advancing their own plans by hurting their mutual enemies.
  • Empress Gandelo spends most of The Killers of Krypton storyline doing nothing but sending her minions after Supergirl and complaining when they are unable to kill her as they were instructed to.
  • The Goblin King in the Superior Spider-Man saga is this, acting behind the scenes and building up his army but not actively attacking Spidey in any meaningful way. It isn't until the final arc, "Goblin Nation", that he finally does something. And he does it in a big way.
  • In Simon Furman's The Transformers Megaseries, Nova Prime and the other Dead Universe inhabitants need to eventually kill Optimus Prime for their evil plan to work. However, Nova hangs back and works behind the scenes through agents in Real Space instead of using his immense power to easily do so. This is because Dead Universe inhabitants can only survive for brief periods outside of it, so he doesn't want to risk ruining the plan to take out a single enemy. Except that's just what Nova tells his henchmen to avoid looking weak. In reality, he could easily kill Optimus and be back within the time limit, but he's scared that if he faces the guy directly then the Dead Universe will see Optimus as a better physical avatar and abandon Nova in favor of possessing Prime's body. When the two finally fight by necessity that's exactly what almost happens.
  • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: Yahn Rgg sends killbots and soldiers to attack, but he does not do much of anything by himself. By the time the heroes get to him, he has locked himself into an escape pod, ready to start the self-destruct behind him.


    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort sits out most of the climactic 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 he lets 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.
  • In Jupiter Ascending, Balem spends a lot of time sending minions to do his dirty work, but not once do we see him leave the Jupiter refinery.
  • In Kill Bill, evil supervillain assassin kung-fu samurai guy Bill sits in his plush Central-American 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 (and possibly bail out) his brother.
  • Mickey in Killing Them Softly does not spend one single iota of effort to pursue the thieves he was specifically ordered to Boston to kill. Unusually, his doing so is not actually a plot hole; it's a very deliberate illustration of just how far organized crime has fallen.
  • Kull the Conqueror: Akivasha spends most of the film doing nothing but staring at the great fire in her temple while General Taligaro actually does the dirty work of pursuing Kull.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thanos shows up in the stinger to The Avengers to reveal that he was the unseen backer of Loki's attempt to take over earth, and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) shows that he is also behind Ronan the Accuser and is seeking the Infinity Stones. Despite being The Dreaded, at least to those who know of him, he has yet to take any direct action. For bonus trope points, in most scenes featuring him in the above films, he's actually sitting on a throne.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, he finally gets off his ass in the Stinger to get the Infinity Stones by himself, setting up the events of Avengers: Infinity War, where he FINALLY gets his hands dirty.
      Thanos: Fine. I'll do it myself!
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, we see for ourselves the results of Thanos finally subverting this trope, and they are nothing less than spectacular. He curbstomps Hulk in his first active appearance, kills half of Xandar, Heimdall, Loki and Gamora in the first half of the movie, arrives for the finale mercilessly defeating everything the heroes throw at him, and collects all the Infinity Stones and succeeds in his plan to murder half the universe. He's so ludicrously effective when he gets off his butt it really makes you wonder why he didn't get to work a dozen or so movies earlier.
    • Avengers: Endgame subverts this trope when it reveals Thanos was never really just relaxing while letting his lackeys fight. He's been personally leading his army in a crusade across the galaxy the entire time. He relied on agents such as Gamora and Ronan to pursue the rest of his plans while he was occupied.
  • The Scorpion King:
    • Despite being the best warrior of his empire, Memnon sits out in his palace and sends his lackeys to kill Mathayus and bring the sorceress back. Mathayus actually overestimated him, since he kidnapped the sorceress expecting that Memnon would come after him personally.
    • Sargon in the prequel is probably even worse since he has magical powers but never actually goes anything to stop the heroes in their quest to find a magical sword that can kill him.
  • Star Wars:
  • Troy: The Big Bad Agamemnon is the king of Greece but is never shown getting involved in battle himself, relying on the talents of warriors like Achilles to fight for him. Achilles lampshades in at the start of the film:
    Achilles: Imagine a king who fights his own battles. Wouldn't that be a sight?

  • Guthrum from The Ballad of the White Horse, as a result of his Fatal Flaw being Despair. He's sufficiently tired and certain of victory that he doesn't bother even raising his eyes to the battle until his army's already routed.
  • Justified in The Belgariad. Torak, the Big Bad of the Belgariad, was critically wounded in the backstory, and literally cannot rise until the appointed time. Averted in the sequel series the Malloreon though; Zandramas keeps 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.
  • In the Bridge Of D Arnath quartet, this is true for two of the Lords of Zhev'na. Notole and Parven almost never leave their fortress; the former can usually be found conducting research in her library or building powerful artifacts, and the latter in his war room telepathically coordinating Zhev'na's armies. Averted by the third Lord, Ziddari, who is prone to getting out and about gathering intelligence and undermining the Lords' enemies; he's actually nicknamed "the Exile" because he spends so much of his time away from Zhev'na in various guises.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Blackout: Due to his large number of vampire enforcers, it has been a long time since Moses "Reet" Weldon needed to do his own fighting and dirty work (his right-hand man hasn't even seen his Game Face in a decade). Consequently, he is out-of-shape and highly outmatched during his battle against Spike.
  • Justified in The Candy Shop War. Magicians cannot leave their lairs without instantly reverting to their true ages, so they have to work through minions and apprentices.
  • Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain. Arawn, despite being the "Death Lord", works primarily through proxies like The Horned King, Morgant, Magg, Achren, and Pryderi and leaves Annuvin just once to steal Dyrnwyn. It's Justified, and even borders on Reconstruction, in that Arawn can be killed if he leaves Annuvin and takes a mortal shape, and would rather not risk his own life when he has a horde of deathless Cauldron Born to go out and do the dirty work. Further, while he is willing and able to fight if he needs to, Arawn is more of a trickster who gets what he wants through manipulation and guile and his actual offensive power isn't really anything special, which gets proven in the finale when he takes to the field personally for the first time when his hand is forced… and promptly dies in battle. He puts up an okay fight before going down, but you can really tell just why exactly he was delegating to minions up until now.
  • Lord Foul the Despiser from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant almost never leaves his lair (though where exactly said lair is varies depending on the current sub-series); Word of God notes that he does his best work through proxies. Basically, Foul's not the kind of guy who just kills you, he manipulates events long-term so you end up killing yourself for him. His chief minions, the three Ravers, on the other hand, are disturbingly good at showing up exactly when they're least convenient.
  • High Lord Kalarus, a major villain in the middle three books of Codex Alera, develops a bad case of this is book four, Captain's Fury, despite having been a highly active and proactive villain in the previous two volumes. Completely justified. He survived the fight he got into with Bernard and Amara at the end of the previous volume, in which they dropped him out of a high-speed mid-air chase directly into a dense forest, and it’s strongly implied he was no longer in good enough physical shape to be getting out and about under his own power.
  • The Crimson King in The Dark Tower. 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.
  • 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 chastity) 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. Sourcerers 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.
  • Otha of The Elenium is a literal and justified example — he's a The Caligula who lives for excess and has been around for millennia (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.
  • Empire of the East:
    • At first it's more a case of "Orcus Stuck In His Prison Cell", since the demon- Orcus himself!- was tricked into confinement millennia ago. Then once the Big Bad has finally decided to summon him (and discovered that Orcus, rather than just another demon you can force to serve you, is actually the Biggest Bad there is), Orcus takes an active role in the final battle of the story, attacking his enemy Ardneh.
    • The other Big Bad of the series, Emperor John Ominor, is quite happy to remain in his capital for the first two books and let his agents deal with La Résistance. This is quite sensible, however, since Ominor has an entire empire to manage, with rebellions and insurgencies going on in many places at once, with the rebellion in the West not being obviously more serious than any other until the third volume. Once the West has made clear that it is the primary threat to the empire, Ominor takes personal command of the armies fighting the West.
  • In Isaac Asimov's novel Foundation and Empire, it turns out the Galactic Empire has become this, thanks to psychohistory. A strong Emperor cannot allow strong subjects (who will certainly depose him instead). A weak Emperor will be deposed by strong subjects. And, a strong Emperor can't get involved on the galaxy's fringes (where the nascent Foundation is) since civil war will draw him back home.
  • 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 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 case of Order of the Phoenix, this is also justified: since Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge is running a smear campaign against Dumbledore and Harry as part of his Head-in-the-Sand Management, Voldemort decides it is within his best interest to allow Fudge to weaken his enemies.
  • 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.
  • Galbatorix from the Inheritance Cycle spends 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 lampshaded in the second book when La Résistance leader Nasuada reflects that "Galbatorix's pride" is the best defense that she has against him. It's commonly accepted that should he ever decide to ride out on his dragon to crush them there's nothing anyone could do about it. It's 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 fourth book reveals that this is correct. He gets defeated because of his failure to account for the possibility of Eragon having learned an even greater secret: the ability to use raw, untamed magic without language. Of course the book offers no real explanation why he continuously sends out armies and agents to battle the rebels rather than easily dealing with them himself and then returning to his work.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien does this with most of his villains in his Legendarium, but only towards the ends of their careers, in keeping with his 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, but eventually become throne-bound.
    • Morgoth fights Tulkas personally at the dawn of time, and later personally destroys the Two Trees and steals the Silmarils. He also personally handles the corruption of the first Men. But after he's been beaten by Tulkas, then nearly killed by Ungoliant, he becomes something of a coward. The last time he appears in public is when he duels the elvenking Fingolfin, who leaves him severely wounded and unable to heal. In the War of Wrath, he flees into the deepest of his mines and begs for pardon rather than fighting the Valar.
    • Sauron is actually a subversion, if you look at his life story in chronological order. In the First Age he is a powerful, active Enemy, at least until he's defeated by Huan the elvish hound - after that he flees and hides for the rest of the First Age. In the Second Age, he takes an active role in forging the Rings of Power and personally corrupts the Numenoreans. However, he loses a lot of his power in the fall of Numenor, and after his defeat by the Last Alliance (and the loss of the One Ring that holds much of his power), he becomes an Evil Cripple, able to watch events and influence events with his will, but unable to actually do anything.
    • Although he's the weakest of the three Enemy warlords, Saruman manages to avert this, staying active until his death. Even just days before his fall from power, he's still leaving Isengard on occasion. After his armies and Isengard are destroyed, he leaves Orthanc, travels to the Shire, and tries to ruin it with his ruffians.
    • Smaug zig-zags around this as well. In his youth, he fought some great battles and won the prizes every dragon desires — a big pile of treasure and a secluded lair in which to sit upon it. Having succeeded in this goal, he mostly just lies around and sleeps, to the point where he hasn't even been seen in decades. That said, he flies to deliver some immediate retaliation when someone is stupid enough to provoke him.
    • Lampshaded in The Return of the King by Denethor, who comments that all great lords rule and fight by using others as their weapon. That is why he sends his sons to fight and die for him. He predicts that Sauron will only appear for the final battle when all else has been conquered.
  • 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.
  • The Autarch from Masks of Aygrima is only seen outside his palace once (aside from the prologue) and never leaves the capital city.
  • 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 borderline Physical God so powerful the rebellion was never a threat to him at all. The Sequel Series show just how absurdly powerful Compounding a single metal is, and he has the ability to do so with ALL of the metals. He could easily put down an entire army of regular Allomancers himself, and has historically allowed his minions to fight among themselves or get killed in revolts for a while before acting, just to remind them why they needed him.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, most of the time, Jack Frost is content to dispatch his goblins to retrieve or protect the artifacts. It's only when they fail at the tasks repeatedly that he goes to do something himself. This is played for drama in the movie, where the fact that he does this while the snowman army does all the work makes them turn on him.
  • 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.
  • Shannara: Uhl Belk from The Druid of Shannara literally cannot move from where he standsnote , but his son slowly pushes the boundaries of the domain every day.
  • Star Wars Legends: 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 can't let Shimrra get too far away from him for long without risking his Mind Control slipping.
  • Sunshine: While vampires grow Stronger with Age, they also grow more vulnerable to light in proportion to the total amount of evil they have committed over the course of their undead existence. As such, the ancient "master vampires" are astonishingly powerful but cannot tolerate even moonlight or starlight (some can't even speak words related to light) and must work through younger (and thus weaker) minion vampires whose karmic debt is still light enough to let them go out under moon and stars. It's noted that part of the reason the book's Big Bad is trying to get rid of Constance is that his Vegetarian Vampire ways allow him a very high level of mobility for a vampire of his age and power, and the masters are worried about his example catching on.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign: Very much averted; the Big Bad, The White Queen, is active in every single volume. The only reason the Queen doesn't immediately curb-stomp the main character Kyousuke is because she's in love with him, and considers it fun to let him win. In the afterword of the first volume, the author even notes that this is one of the main themes of the series.
  • The Vagrant (first book of The Vagrant Trilogy): Heroic version. After Gamma fell, the remaining members of the Seven retreated to the Shining City to mourn, leaving the infernals to rampage unchecked across the land. If they banded together and fought back, they could drive them off easily. Even mostly dead, Gamma manages to kill the Uncivil and the Usurper with the tiniest remnant of her power left behind in her corrupted Knight-Commander.
  • Zig-zagged in Michelle West's High Fantasy saga (sub-series The Sacred Hunt, The Sun Sword and The House War). The overall Myth Arc is kicked off in the first series with the reveal that Allasakar, local God of Evil and Big Bad is not on his throne in the Hells, raising the question "Where is he and what's he up to?" Turns out Allasakar and his demons are gearing up to invade the mortal world. Then played straight in the second series; Allasakar made it over, but the heroes of the first series managed to frustrate his plans somewhat and weaken his power. He spends most of this series hanging out in his new stronghold in the mortal world, bringing more demons over and playing chessmaster from the shadows without personally involving himself until he knows he's ready.
  • Worlds of Shadow: Shadow. For most of the series, Shadow's exact nature is not even known to the heroes and never leaves the palace. Though some monsters are sent out to stop the heroes, Shadow never just intervenes to crush them personally. It turns out that she is bored and doesn't view them as a threat, concentrating on conquering another universe, with her power on the world of Faerie basically absolute, so this is not surprising.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Mayor did precious little villainy, even counting what he delegated to his minions or Dragon; hell, the second Dragon came to him looking for work. Being a Non-Action Big Bad limits his options, and by the time the heroes even know he's a villain he's already unkillable and just needs to wait for the time of Ascension, but this doesn't explain why he did nothing about the Master or Angelus, given their plans would have severely wrecked his plans.
    • Glory was like this in the fifth season. 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. In her defense, she was established as not being mentally all that stable (she needed to eat people's sanity on a regular basis just to maintain any sort of coherent thought) and it's implied that Ben is the dominant of the two beings for most of the season, so Glory was unable to come out to play most of the time. 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 that time being much more proactive.
    • The First Evil was like this in the seventh season. 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. In its case, being Made of Evil means it has no physical form, and must rely on its minions to actually do things.
  • Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk heavily insulates himself from his criminal dealings on the street, his underlings primarily speaking only to James Wesley. To the point that before he makes himself a public figure, it's impossible for Matt to find anything on him, and even harder is finding a witness who took a direct order from Fisk. And the only times Fisk personally dirties his own hands rather than have someone else do it for him are when he's really pissed off. In Season 3, Fisk is technically under FBI house arrest, so he spends the entire season confined to a Midtown penthouse under the guard of FBI agents who are secretly in his pocket. It's those agents, Dex especially, who do the brunt of his dirty work for him.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • While Tywin and his bannermen are out fighting the war in Seasons 2/3 and Tyrion and Cersei are scheming for power in King's Landing, Joffrey does nothing except abuse peasants and engage in emotional abuse of Sansa. Justified because:
      • He's certainly not a warrior, no matter how he may posture, is a terrible battlefield commander, and is too stupid to be a schemer like the rest of his family.
      • Leaving King's Landing would be political suicide, as it would be easy for another aspirant to the crown to take control of the region in his absence. As pointed out by Tywin, the only (other) reason Joffrey is considered more than a "claimant" to the Iron Throne is that he physically sits on it.
    • For all his talk about "I take what is mine", Balon hasn't actually left Pyke in his campaign to conquer the North. So far only his children have done any actual fighting and conquering.
  • 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. Admittedly he thought he already had everything he needed for his master plan, and 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.
  • While Kamen Rider doesn't do this trope much due to how their villains are structured, they do fall for this trope occasionally, though these reasons are justified.
    • Kamen Rider Fourze has the Big Bad not do anything while his loyal Horoscopes do the work for him. Justified because he doesn't really care if they live or die, provided that their Switch is intact so that he can invoke the Dark Nebula. Though it's only when it gets close to the end after he mortally wounds his dragon when he realizes the latter's double life that he manages to kick the heroes' asses.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard subverts this trope. The Wiseman can actually just zap away the mana from Haruto on his throne (really, it's a stone bed thing but still), ensuring he won't be defeated easily. He still sits on his throne and lets his mooks do the work for him, but he does do stuff when he's the White Wizard.
    • Kamen Rider Dragon Knight: Despite having all the means to get things done in a short time and with little effort, Xaviax prefers to scheme and recruit people to fight for him rather than get his hands dirty. He runs out of proxies eventually and his love for power and theatrics finally come to bite him when toying with the protagonists gives them enough time to recover and prepare a counterattack.
  • 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 to sit around and berate their underlings' continual failures until the final five episodes or so. The villain division of labor being such that the Big Bad doesn't go out and punch things like a common Mook every single week (and thus lose street cred by being seen defeated over and over and over.) Rather, it's the Big Bad's job to run the operation, coming up with plans, while The Dragon is there when you need someone to keep the Rangers distracted while the Monster of the Week kicks puppies and the Putty Patrol isn't enough. A Non-Action Big Bad like Lord Zedd or Venjix who runs the operation competently, casts the occasional spell or builds the occasional weapon, and shows you now and again just why the minions are so loyal/terrified/both, but leaves the fisticuffs to the season's Goldar type isn't necessarily an unimpressive one. However, you've got a few villains whose stated badassery is never proven and they do nothing until the final episode, where their admittedly impressive combat powers still make them seem like "really strong monster of the week" rather than "Diabolical Mastermind and author of everyone's troubles." And that's how a red light on a pole can be the franchise's most competent villain and an incredibly powerful fighter like Xandred can be the franchise's least.
    • Lord Zedd from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is 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 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 lazing 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.
    • Lothor from Power Rangers Ninja Storm 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.
    • 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.
    • 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." The first time he enters the human world he dries up rather quickly forcing him to return to the Sanzu River, but he was able to get around this by absorbing Dayu becoming half-human and not dry up like last time. Still, aside from his two fight scenes (the Grand Finale basically being a really long fight scene), he's still not very active after leaving his lair.
    • 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, however, she did participate in battle against the Rangers more often than her predecessors. 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 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, and he never does anything other than give orders/make idle threats, 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.
    • In a somewhat literal example, the Big Bad of Power Rangers Megaforce, Emperor Mavro, is confronted by the Red and Silver Rangers and considers them so beneath his attention that he actually sits down and claims that he can beat them without standing up. He then proceeds to deliver an almost effortless smackdown to the heroes without standing up.
  • This applies to almost half of all the Big Bads in Super Sentai, Power Rangers' parent show; they spend most of their screen time in the show in their throne, sitting like living furniture, and only get off their asses in the Grand Finale to fight the heroes in giant form.
    • Star King Bazoo, the Big Bad of Dengeki Sentai Changeman, at least has a justification for staying on his throne: he's just buying time until his real form arrives and allows him to destroy Earth.
    • Great Professor Bias of Choujuu Sentai Liveman is another justified example. As his generals are all effectively his students, Bias lets them take turns handling the Evil Plan each episode and stays back in the Brain Base to grade them on their performances.
    • The Gorma Emperor of Gosei Sentai Dairanger is a lazy Manchild who spends almost all of his time playing with toys. He hardly does anything in the story besides one time he takes action to resurrect a single minion he particularly liked even though he probably could have revived far more. There is no real reason why he never bothers to fight the rangers himself since he is as powerful as all the rangers combined. It later turns out that the Gorma Emperor had died a long time ago and been replaced by a duplicate made of clay. The duplicate may have had its personality altered to make him easier to manipulate.
    • Daimaou of Ninja Sentai Kakuranger has a good reason for usually not fighting himself. While he is the most powerful villain in the show, by the time he is revived, the rangers are already strong enough that they are capable of defeating him, and they actually do beat him several times when he takes to the battlefield, and only survives due to being tough enough to only be wounded by attacks that would kill any other monster.
    • Dark Spectre's counterpart, Javious from Denji Sentai Megaranger, also competes for the title of most inactive Big Bad ever. Despite being powerful enough that he could easily wipe out his generals in an instant if he ever found out they betrayed him, he barely even gives commands and lets generals do whatever they want. He ends up being killed by his traitorous generals before the rangers ever even learn that he exists. After his death however, it is revealed that he had a reason for never fighting himself. It turns out that he actually was a Genius Loci, the consciousness the Neziregia dimension, and so it was not possible for him to leave.
    • Operation Overdrive's Flurious seems to be in keeping with GoGo Sentai 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. This ends up proving to his benefit however as he ultimately outlasts all the other members of the Big Bad Ensemble and becomes the Final Boss.
    • You know what we said about Master Xandred above? His Samurai Sentai Shinkenger counterpart, Chimatsuri Dokoku, is the same, only he's not taking medicine — that's sake and he spends all his time drinking himself into a stupor instead of commanding his minions, without the excuse of constant pain from the previous generation's attempt at permanently sealing him.
    • Another lazy villain is Ginis of Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger. He spends most of the series drinking and sitting on his throne, which, very fittingly, is actually part of his body. He is content to watch his minions fight for him for most of the series because his main motivation is entertainment and he doesn't care if his minions win or lose. It turns out however that his power is greatly reduced outside of his ship and it is eventually revealed that he acts like this because he is deeply ashamed of his origin and is doing everything he can to make everyone see him as a superior life form.
    • Dogranio Yabun kickstarted the events of Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger by declaring his intention of retiring and letting whoever conquers the Earth be his successor. As such, him fighting or planning would defeat the purpose of the whole exercise. But after watching countless members of this criminal syndicate be defeated by the heroes, he began to have serious doubts about his original plan. After his right-hand man Destra falls in combat, Dogranio finally to take matters into his own hands. Sadly for him, those years of sitting on his ass and letting his Collection powers do all the work has left him aged and out of practice. Once all his Collection pieces are removed, his remaining might, while still nothing to sneeze at, isn't enough to stave off defeat from the Patrangers. To top it all, unlike all the main Super Sentai villains series, Dogranio was not killed by the heroes after his final defeat but he received A Fate Worse Than Death: he was imprisoned in an underground maximum-security cell for the rest of his, presumably very long, lifespan.
    • Boccowaus from Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger spends most of the series as just a face and an arm sticking out of the wall. While he apparently is powerful and feared, he doesn't take to the battlefield himself because he can only move around on tracks in his base. Mostly he just gives orders and pounds on the ground when he is mad. It isn't until he is completely fed up with his minions failing and finds out that the rangers are spying on him that he decides to power himself up into a form that can move freely. During his transformation into his battle form it is revealed that the giant wall wasn't his real body and his real form inside is tiny until he powers up.
  • In The Wire, drug lord Avon Barksdale plays with this trope. The justification is that if he never touches drugs, money, or guns, and he doesn't meet with his underlings in the field, he becomes difficult to prosecute. Until Jimmy McNulty stirs up a crusade against him, most police have never even heard of him, and they have a very difficult time digging up any intel or even a physical description. In contrast, Stringer Bell does and says plenty in the course of running the gang, though he is likewise very careful about it. A lampshade is hung on it in the scene where D'Angelo teaches his dealers the rules of chess; they liken Avon to the king and Stringer to the queen. After Avon returns from prison in Season 3, he wants to war with Marlo Stanfield and lead personally but gets resistance from his colleagues and Stringer, who aren't eager to risk the king.


    Myths & Religion 
  • Egyptian Mythology: Ra of all people. He pretty much sits on his solar barge while every other god does their work against Apep and other demons, and has his enemies slaughtered before his throne.


  • Even though he is the main antagonist in Destroy the Godmodder, the titular Godmodder doesn't actually do stuff that often. Usually he either summons entities or blocks attacks. Averted in 2, where the Godmodder's DPS was often enough to wipe out the entire Anti-Godmodder entity list if the players didn't support them or summon new ones.

    Tabletop Games 
  • CthulhuTech:
    • Hastur. Sure, the Rapine Storm does all of his dirty work, but if a Great Old One — even a weakened one — actually entered the Mêlée à 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.
    • Nyarlathotep assumed a 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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Happens an awful lot when the writers need to fit in fair challenges for lower-level players that are still suitably epic, need to leave options open for DMs to use the character, or both. Though to be fair, they usually offer some sort of justification or Hand Wave, such as the entity being kept busy by other matters, stuck in a can somewhere, or being on a different plane of existence entirely.
    • Orcus, of course, through most of his history. Justified, in that not only is he in an Evil Versus Evil war with various other Demon Lords, but also with the Fallen Devils as well. Back in First and Second Edition however 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. 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 he got himself put on the cover.
    • Asmodeus' was badly wounded during his fall from heaven, so his avatar can't go far from the hells for long periods of time, and he is enough of a Magnificent Bastard that he doesn't have to leave hell to be the dangerous creature in the multiverse. 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.
    • Many, many Darklords in the Ravenloft setting. The most extreme example is Soth, who spent decades literally just sitting on his throne because he didn't care anymore. 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. Ironically, the original Ravenloft module completely defied this trope — the vampire lord Strahd has spies looking out for you when you invade his castle, and if he knows where you are and you linger too long in one area, he will attack you and try to kill you rather than wait for you to find him, and on top of that the game randomises where the final battle with him is supposed to take place so rather than finding him on his throne, you have no idea when and where you will run into him. He'll also have multiple social interactions with the party long before then, safe in the knowledge they're no real threat to him.
    • Eberron: Used as a consistent part of the setting. Every major power, good or evil, has some reason not to just send out their strongest people out conquering. The big limiting factor is the Draconic Prophecy, a constantly changing series of Either/Or Prophecies. The demons of the Lords of Dust are all completely immortal and many of them could fight armies by themselves, but they only want to release the Overlords—and the only way to do that is through very specific manipulation of the Prophecy. They can't just start a war to release the Rage of War, they need to start a war in Aundair using a disinherited prince of a dead nation who murders his aunt. That has to be set up very carefully through agents, and stopping it likewise requires mortal agents. This was an intentional design choice, as the point of the setting is "Eberron needs heroes."
    • Forgotten Realms has Larloch, a lich archmage of unsurpassed power who's spent 2000 years accumulating magical artifacts and undead servants, including dozens of lesser liches. He prefers to spend his time doing research in the depths of Warlock's Crypt, only occasionally acting to secure interesting magic items or information... or to unleash sixty liches on a nearby town to see what happens.
  • 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 and have dolled out some nasty punishments already; 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. 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. (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.) 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).
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Oloro, Ageless Ascetic sits in his chair, in the Command Zone, gaining you life, all game long. Most decks that play Oloro consider casting him very low on their priorities list, especially as it leaves his signature life gain ability more vulnerable to being taken out of play.
    • Nicol Bolas does a lot of prep work but during the War of the Spark itself is so confident in his plan and contemptuous of his opposition that he spends the entire invasion sitting on his throne, occasionally giving an order to a minion, mostly ignoring his enemies and never focusing his immense magical might upon them. Ironically the one time he acts directly before the end, intervening to save Liliana Vess (presumably simply to spare himself the bother of commanding his Eternals personally) it ends up backfiring as Liliana betrays him and uses the Dreadhorde's God-Eternals to strip him of his power. It's especially glaring because in his previous appearance in Hour of Devastation, he had personally handed the Gatewatch a humiliatingly one-sided beatdown even though he was clearly Just Toying with Them purely for the joy of it.
  • In Nomine:
    • God comes across like this. His hand will appear in small ways through Divine Intervention, but He's not taking the field personally till Armageddon — he's only communicated with angels at all twice since the Fall.
    • Lucifer, meanwhile, plays with the trope. He is quite active both in Infernal Interventions and in maintaining Hell's hierarchy, but he doesn't personally involve himself in the fight against Heaven — he spends more time judging his inferiors' success instead. Nonetheless, he can pop up whenever he wants — even if he just happens to wander by and open a stuck door for demons (though this should only happen in a more comedic campaign). He also sometimes speaks to angels and is rarely openly hostile toward them (though that doesn't mean that that angel isn't now in very serious trouble).
    • The Superiors from both sides to varying degrees. Yves, Archangel of Destiny, Kronos, Demon Prince of Fate, or Malphas, Demon Prince of Factions, prefer to work through others.
  • Pathfinder:
    • This tends to happen to liches. Powerful evil spellcasters who have achieved immortality, and thus have all the time in the world to discover even more powerful magic, along with the additional powers their undead state grants? They should be ruling the world, right? While it's true that many start out with Evil Overlord ambitions, as the centuries pass the concerns of the mortal world matter less and less to them. Lacking the need to eat and sleep, they spend all their time on their research, until even that bores them, and a creeping lethargy sets in. Eventually they may cease to function entirely and become barely sapient (though incredibly powerful) demiliches.
    • In the description of Wormsmaw in Undead Unleashed, the legendary undead warlord Erum-Hel is found sitting on his throne in the depths of his fortress, waiting for the intruders to come to him and ignoring their progress through his lair until they do.
    • Kevoth-Kul, the Black Sovereign of Numeria, is a justified example of this trope. He's a powerful and dangerous barbarian king who conquered the throne of Starfall by force, but these days he never leaves his palace because the real power in Starfall, the Technic League, keep him drugged and distracted so they can run the show. The game's second edition reveals that after the Technic League's destruction in Iron Gods, he becomes a much more proactive and effective ruler.
  • Justified for the Dethroned of Princess: The Hopeful. Despite being the most powerful of the Darkness's servants, Dethroned are so consumed by their own despair and self-loathing that, left to themselves, they simply remain in the Dark World, endlessly reliving the events that stripped them of their Belief. And since any lesser creature of Darkness who gets too close to a Dethroned risks being subsumed into the Dethroned's self-flagellation, Darkspawn rarely seek to awaken a Dethroned save in extreme circumstances.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Of the daemon Primarchs 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). And 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. This goes double Lorgar and Fulgrim. Every other daemon-primarch assaulted the Imperium at least once. Lorgar has spent the last ten thousand years meditating on the nature of Chaos, while the Word Bearers are ruled by his lieutenants. Fulgrim left his legion shortly after Horus Heresy and even the Emperor's Children can't find him. The Emperor's Children no longer have any kind of unified command structure after that incident with World Eaters, Kharn and a flamethrower.
    • Thanks to Twin Switch antics, it's ambiguous as to whether Alpharius is alive, whether his twin brother Omegon is alive, or whether they're both alive. Whatever the answer is, they haven't been heard of in ten thousand years.
    • The Emperor is effectively sustained by life support on his throne and has been for ten millennia. He's less of a villain, but this is WH40K we're talking about.
    • The Chaos Gods, when they aren't stuck in their literally eternal Enemy Civil War, rely on their daemons and mortal followers to cause havoc in the Materium. In their case, they're just so powerful that they physically can't manifest in or influence the Materium in any way. Their ultimate goal is to permanently merge the Materium and Immaterium, which would give them free rein over everything.
    • Fanon interpretations strike Khorne particularly hard with this trope, referring to him as a particularly lazy slob who won't simply stand up and start spilling some blood himself. This is partly due to the "SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE" part of the infamous warcry, which leads to interpreting him as really loving that throne too much to leave it, and because every other god seems to be doing something in their wait: Tzeentch keeps weaving plan after plan, Slaanesh spends time murderfucking Eldar souls for eternity, and Nurgle continually brews new plagues, and even if he were fully idle at least his domain justifies it. Khorne, whose domain would expect more activity than any of the other three, does nothing of the sort, and apparently all he does is watch his servants fight everyone forever, with only the occasional gift to a powerful warrior. Thus, as impressive as his servants are, the God himself ends up coming off as less of an unstoppable force of violence and more of a "paraplegic sociopath".
    • 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 while there are rules for him leaving the vehicle he's very expensive, so doesn't get to go out in person much. In the lore, he's The Chessmaster and Evil Overlord, so it's justified that he doesn't get stuck in all that often.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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 how 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The Director of Project Freelancer and the man behind all the atrocities said operation committed, never directly confronts the heroes, even when they storm his hideout, he just lets his army of robot Agent Texas doppelgangers deal with them. Justified, as he is revealed to have become a washed-up shell of his former self by the time the series gets to him, who's ready to kill himself by the time Agent Carolina and Church finale confront him face to face.
    • The Chairman spends almost all three seasons of the Chorus arc sitting in his heavily guarded flagship, far away from the real action and leaves all the dirty work to his Co-Dragons Locus and Felix and their army of Space Pirates. Subverted in the finale of season thirteen, after The Blood Gulch Crew exposes his corruption to The Federation and he has nothing left to lose, The Chairman personally flies his ship to Chorus with an army of Humongous Mecha and the remainder of his infantry, in an attempt to take the BGC and as many of the people on Chorus with him as possible.
  • RWBY: Salem prefers to work from the shadows and let subordinates act in her stead, as it enables her to turn humanity against itself and leave them pointing fingers at each other instead of her. She directs her forces remotely from the remnants of the Domain of Darkness. After she learns in Volume 6 that her subordinates failed to obtain the Relic of Knowledge, which is being carried to Atlas by a newly reincarnated Ozpin, Salem decides to personally take action, crafting an aerial Grimm army and leading the attack on Atlas. In Volume 8, she is temporarily taken out by a Fantastic Nuke from Oscar, in a one-shot explosion from Ozpin's cane, just long enough for the kingdom's people to be evacuated to Vacuo.
  • Fire-Human, from the Water-Human series, 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.

  • 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.
  • Emperor Kreedor from Dubious Company. Throughout the story he has personally done NOTHING to carry out his evil plans, instead relying on his elite squad of goons to carry out his goals. In the meantime, the only things Kreedor can be counted on to do are issue orders, yell at his minions, and call out every so often for whatever bit of pampering he wants to undergo next. Even gaining immense, world-threatening godlike powers has done nothing to convince him to actually get off his throne and actually do something.
  • El Goonish Shive has Lord Tedd, an evil alternate-dimensional version of one of the main characters who hasn't made any significant actions since his introduction (although it is later learned that he did create the Goo Monster that the first story arc was centered around).
  • Homestuck:
    • The Black Queen 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 and DD and the Condesce in the B2 universe demonstrate just how broken the game can be if the royals start acting Genre Savvy.
    • Subverted with Lord English, who doesn't enter the story until fairly late in the comic, but not because he's just sitting around. He has to prepare everything so that he can even enter the universe in the first place and has been manipulating nearly everyone since the very beginning to do so. When he finally does make his presence known he more than makes up for sitting around. It also turns out that he's been part of the story from the very start observing everyone through the eyes of his Soul Jar, Lil' Cal.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • When Xykon is first introduced he appears to be this, 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. But then he 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. Xykon stated in Start of Darkness that, with the immortality of lichdom, time is on his side, and he can afford to dilly-dally as much as he wants.
    • Later subverted when it's revealed that Redcloak manipulated Xykon to spend more time in the city they'd conquered since Redcloak was trying to turn it into a new goblin city-state and needed time to get it to where it could handle Redcloak being gone. Xykon eventually gets sick of waiting after his favorite prisoner to torture is broken out and forces Redcloak to get ready to leave to get going on the rest of their quest for the gates.
    • Subverted again when they arrive at the desert gate. Xykon is furious to see that the heroes beat them there and the gate is destroyed and decides to just kill the whole party then and there. However, The Monster in the Darkness recognizes the party as friends of his friend O'Chul and tricks Xykon into letting them live and hurrying on to the next gate instead.
    • 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. Although from Tarquin's point of view, it's entirely reasonable, as he's a very active Chessmaster who is actually constantly expanding and reinforcing his empire through an elaborate continent-wide campaign of manipulation.
  • Played for Laughs in the The Perry Bible Fellowship comic "Zuthulus [sic] Resurrection".
  • 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.
  • Justified in Swords: The demon king fell into depression after being stabbed with the Boredsword, which is still embedded in his chest.
  • In Tower of God, Jahad, the King of the Tower, is gradually revealed to be more and more of an evil ruler, but in the meantime, all he himself does is hibernate or something. You have to look in the background material to know even this, and that there are people called the Three Lords who rule in his stead. Until he becomes aware of the protagonist's existence, and the heroes are suddenly faced with a whole army division sent just to get them.
  • The Witch's Throne: The Witch, even though she has enough powers to destroy all living things, waits atop her throne to fight the four warriors from the prophecy.
  • The Wotch. Melleck Xaos pretty much subscribes to this philosophy. When he does bother doing anything, it's usually to banter with his minions or create some new Fallen. 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Lord Ozai 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. Word of God 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.
  • Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2 has Eris in the finale—though it's justified in that she has to stay on the throne or she won't gain the power to spin merillia.
  • The Bots Master: Corrupt Corporate Executive Leon Lewis Paradim, despite being the Big Bad, has his Co-Dragons Dr. Hiss and Lady Frenzy deal with the heroes rather than doing things himself, to the point where he appears in fewer episodes than they do.
  • Darkseid in the DC Animated Universe is a bit more active than his comics counterpart, but he's still pretty passive for an evil alien tyrant. This is justified in that after his first attack on Earth it was under the protection of New Genesis. 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. There was at least one case when his throne was equipped with a jet engine; he Curb Stomped the good guys, they Summoned a Bigger Fish — an entire living planet — the two engaged in a Beam-O-War, which Zordak was winning... then the good guys pulled the plug on that engine.
  • Fangbone!: Despite his status as the setting's most powerful and dangerous Evil Sorcerer, Big Bad Venomous Drool pretty much never leaves his fortress and prefers to just send monsters after Fangbone and Bill to get his magic toe back from them. This is more justified than others however as Drool's magical power is severely diminished due to his missing toe, so he actually poses far less of a threat to the heroes than he normally would. Additionally, the finale reveals his powers are linked to Skullbania itself, so if comes to Earth, he becomes completely powerless.
  • 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?
  • 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. After Van Kleiss got a new powerset that doesn't tie him to Abysuss, he became quite the Mobile Menace, helped out by how one of his minions has impressive teleportation powers.
  • The Sorceress from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has formidable magic that could help He-Man in his fight against Skeletor. However, she is unable to leave Castle Greyskull without transforming into a hawk.
  • Inspector Gadget's foe Dr. Claw is the embodiment of this. The closest Gadget ever got to a face-to-face confrontation was the opening sequence of the show (and even then, it was a booby trap left by the villain). Other than that, Claw didn't seem to leave his dark control room or his fancy limousine for even a minute, where he directed the actions of his minions remotely, keeping the good guys — and the viewers — from even seeing his face.
  • In Kim Possible, Shego does this during her stint as The Supreme One during A Sitch in Time.
  • Mr. Selatcia of Metalocalypse is notorious for always ordering his secret tribunal to wait and observe Dethklok without interfering... despite how 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. Selatica's plans require Dethklok to be alive, and the real reason he's leading the tribunal is to prevent them from carrying out their mission.
  • Hawk Moth of Miraculous Ladybug, despite being the Big Bad, never confronts the heroes directly and just stays hidden in his secret lair. This is because his Miraculous is the Moth Brooch, which is used to grant powers to others while also making them his brainwashed servants. Therefore he just finds civilians who are suffering to turn them into supervillains in a deal to get revenge. Since Hawk Moth can keep creating minions over and over again at no cost to himself, there's no real need for him to personally risk himself in the field. Also, he has a Secret Identity as rich businessman and fashion designer Gabriel Agreste and needs to protect his secret and never do risky moves. Furthermore, one episode implies that he simply lacks the stamina to actually face the heroes in one-on-one combat, though that turns out to be untrue later on.
    • He usually never left home in his civilian identity as well, but changed his mind and went back to appearing in public without his villain costume.
    • In the second episode of Season 2, through Loophole Abuse he uses his power on himself, to give him another set of powers and costume, goes to cause mayhem, and gets defeated by the heroes with no problem, because they were close to finding out his secret identity, so he creates a Second Super-Identity to hide suspicion by pretending he is another victim of Hawk Moth.
    • In the Season 2 finale, Hawk Moth finally leaves his hideout and appears in public, because he managed to boost his own power to make an army of supervillains made from his previous victims, and is an advantage, which was his ultimate plan, even when the whole army is defeated, it's shown that he can fight against the heroes on his own.
    • In Season 3, finally he leaves his hideout in the Hawk Moth costume and without a plan because he needed to save his right-hand woman Mayura from getting defeated and captured by the heroes after she recklessly tried to confront them without talking to him. Not only does he genuinely care for her, but if he didn't save her, he would lose a Miraculous, and Mayura being unmasked would risk his own identity since without costumes, she is his secretary.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's premiere for its third season portrays King Sombra in this way during the flashback to his oppressive rule over the Crystal Empire. This case is more justified than most considering his 0% Approval Rating; all of his subjects are kept enslaved by him and his Black Magic, with no army of mooks to shoulder the grunt work for him.
    • This is averted in one of the potential Bad Futures shown in the season five finale, where he personally leads an army of Slave Mooks in a long and brutal war with Equestria. Averted again in season nine opening two-parter, where the resurrected King Sombra, lacking any army of his own, marches on the Crystal Empire and Equestria himself and starts tearing through everything while brainwashing ponies left and right to serve as his minions.
    • When Grogar shows up in the final season he does nothing but bark orders at his Legion of Doom from their headquarters. Justified as Grogar is actually Discord in disguise pulling a False Flag Operation to trick the villains into attacking Equestria to give Twilight Sparkle a confidence boost.
  • Emperor Belos from The Owl House rarely leaves his palace, partially due to suffering from a rare affliction that he's trying to cure. At least until "Hollow Mind" revealed that the actual reason is that he is a Witch Hunter with a genocidal hatred for witches, thereby indicating that he stays in his castle to have as little interaction with the witches and demons of the Boiling Isles as possible.
  • In Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, Betrayus is this. Losing his body and being reduced to Sealed Evil in a Can seems to have made him really lazy. Despite having powerful Playing with Fire abilities, he just sits on his throne watching his minions on TV. He says it's his job to do so! The fact that he's terrified of the thought of Pac eating him and spitting out his eyeballs helps.
  • Samurai Jack:
    • Jack's sword is the only thing that can kill or even hurt Aku, so he mostly hides in his lair and sends minions out to do his dirty work, and he only ever attacks Jack personally if Aku has some advantage he's sure will let him win. By the time of season five, Aku hasn't even been seen outside of his lair in years. He destroyed all the time portals, so there's no reason to confront Jack and risk being killed by his sword (he didn't know that Jack lost the sword during their last confrontation).
    • Even before Jack came back on the scene Aku was having minions created to do work for him, minions just as mortal as he is not. One of them speculates that the work was too slow when he did it on his own. Given the scope of Aku's powers and the total Lack of Empathy he has for his minions, it's also possible he just gets bored of doing all the killing himself.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has Hordak, who delegates his minions to go conquer the world for him while he rests on his throne... partly because he's spending most of his time building new minions, but mostly because he's Secretly Dying, and needs to stay within easy reach of his laboratory if he's to keep himself alive, and also because he’s working on portal technology that will let him return to the side of his master, Horde Prime. He’s a busy man. He does strap a BFG to his arm and begin leading from the front in Season 4, some time after his armor gets an upgrade to its life support, but this happens mostly off-screen.
  • Steven Universe has Blue and White Diamond. Blue is too caught up mourning the assassination of Pink to lead, and White never leaves her throne room/ship, instead having White Pearl act as her voice in all matters.
  • On Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, Skeleton King spends the entire first season never leaving his throne aboard his fortress/ship, the Citadel of Bone. Justified, as we find out he's linked to the place and literally can't leave. After its destruction at the start of Season 2, however, it's averted, as he's now free to move about and be more active.
  • General Mudula fills this role in Sym-Bionic Titan, sending monsters and mooks after the protagonists but not bothering to go after them personally. However, it's quite justified since he's too busy managing his new empire and crushing rebellions to be bothered to chase after three measly enemies, regardless of how important they are.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): For all his faults, Shredder does not have this problem. Krang, on the other hand, does. While a couple of episodes show he's more than capable of fighting physically, he rarely leaves the control room of the Technodrome, letting Shredder and the "gruesome twosome" do the dirty work.
  • Mumm-Ra, in the original ThunderCats (1985), rarely leaves his citadel, except when powered up into Mumm-Ra the Everliving, and even then he can't bear to spend much time away from it. Justified when it turns out that the "Ancient Spirits of Evil" are either bound by unbreakable arcane laws or else major-league jerkasses; they will grant the power that Mumm-Ra uses to become Mumm-Ra the Everliving to anyone who stands in the mystical chamber and invokes them in the proper manner. As proven when Snarf does so and becomes "Snarf-Ra the Everliving". Also, Mumm-Ra cannot survive outside of his coffin for more than 24 hours.
  • In the The Transformers 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.
  • During the second season of Transformers: Animated, Megatron could have left the underground base of operations he'd set up any time he wanted, and there was no one on Earth who could stand in his way. But Earth didn't interest him, nor did going out of his way to kick around a lowly Autobot repair crew. In fact, Megatron stayed in not because he was taking it easy, but because he had a project in the works that he intended to use to bypass Cybertron's defenses, and it kept him too busy to go out.
  • Emperor Zarkon in Voltron: Legendary Defender doesn't bother personally chasing down Team Voltron despite being immensely powerful even without his army backing him up. Justified, as he's managing an empire and doesn't really have time to run off after a single group of enemies. Further he's not exactly worried about being unable to find the heroes, as he used to be the Black Lion's paladin and still has some connection to it, allowing him to figure out where the team is anytime he wants. Further he would actually prefer it if the team did get past his minions and reach him since that would give him a chance to reclaim control of the Black Lion; while he wouldn't be able to form Voltron, neither would the heroes which, combined with the Black Lion's power, would be a pretty good consolation prize.
    • Averted with his son Lotor, who's much more proactive.
  • 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.
  • Prince Phobos of W.I.T.C.H.. This 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Orcus On Her Throne


Dark Lord

JP "recommends" having the Dark Lord not leave their fortress and only send progressively stronger minions out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / OrcusOnHisThrone

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