An antagonist can be classed on three orthogonal parameters:
- How much danger they, or their plans, pose.
- How effective they are.
- How much the audience is supposed to hate them.
This is a method of quantifying the second one.
Note that this does not cover any degree of sympathy; rather, it covers how probable their success is. To expand on this scale's orthogonality to the other two: it is entirely possible for a Complete Monster to fall at 'credible' or even 'low' on this scale (for example, a monster who is merely chief henchman to, say, Ming the Merciless); and it is possible to have a villain who bats at the level of Superman, but is so dumb that most of his threat comes from the fact that his plans will inevitably fail in a spectacular way.
Further, please do not add in Villainous organizations, groups, or nations to the Examples section at High or Infinite levels, and be particularly aware of Fan Myopia.
None: The villain succeeded in his evil scheme, but it wasn't destroying the world at all, it was... to step on a flower?!? Or alternatively, there's no villain at all.
- Harmless Villain
- Minion with an F in Evil
- Crazy Cat Lady
- The most agreeable examples of The Extremist Was Right
- Examples: The League of Super Evil, Swiper from Dora the Explorer, Team Rocket (Pre-Best Wishes), Professor Chaos of South Park, President Priest and Bunny.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain
- No One Respects the Spanish Inquisition
- Villainous Harlequin
- Goldfish Poop Gang
- Examples: Most Looney Tunes villains, Dr. Drakken from Kim Possible, Invader Zim (most of the time), Waluigi, The Ice King, The Dark Hand, many villains written by Dean Koontz, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, the Diamond Dogs, Mashmyre Cello (in the first half of the series), Dr. Eggman (from Sonic Adventure to Sonic Unleashed), The Pack. The Dark Kingdom qualifies due to Queen Beryl's poor management, though most of its villains are Credible threats in their own right.
Credible: Rarely succeeds, but only because heroes take action.
- Examples: Most Disney villains, the Master from Doctor Who, Invader Zim (on his worst days), Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, The Galactic Empire from Star Wars, The Decepticons (occasionally highly effective), Twilight's Hammer, The Fire Nation (whenever Azula isn't available as a strategic consultant), Tarrlok and Verrick, The Enclave, Sauron during the late Third Age, Dr. Eggman (pre-Sonic Adventure and post-Sonic Unleashed). Bowser (pre-Super Mario Sunshine) fits here, but is frequently highly effective against anybody other than the Super Mario Brothers, though he'd be more effective if he didn't kidnap Princess Peach. The typical villains from Power Rangers / Super Sentai also fall into this category, Most Redwall Villains, Schlemi/Fifi, Brizon and most minor villains, Demona, Patrick Zala & Muruta Azrael, Lord Djibril, The Homunculi, The Covenant.
Inadvertent: May succeed without realizing it, so heroes must be especially cautious.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters
- Humans Are Morons
- Humans Are Cthulhu
- Non-Malicious Monster
- Obliviously Evil
- Then Let Me Be Evil
- Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds
- Hero with an F in Good
- Nature Is Not Nice
- Examples: The crew of the Red Dwarf, the Red King in Through the Looking-Glass, the replicants of Blade Runner, Everfree Forest creatures.
High: Almost always succeeds when not thwarted by a hero and have a decent number of victories under their belt; expect them to get a secondary goal completed even when they lose.
- The Dreaded
- Magnificent Bastard
- The Chessmaster (when evil)
- Genre Savvy (when evil)
- Greater-Scope Villain
- Hero Killer
- Knight of Cerebus
- Not-So-Harmless Villain
- From Nobody to Nightmare (when evil)
- Corrupt Corporate Executive
- The Men in Black (when evil)
- Omnicidal Maniac
- Manipulative Bastard (when evil)
- No-Nonsense Nemesis (when evil)
- Examples: The Daleks, David Xanatos, The Light, Gendo Ikari, Kefka Palazzo, Littlefinger, Hazama, Yuuki Terumi, Relius Clover, and Izanami, Palpatine, Darth Vader, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Princess Azula, Amon, Vaatu, Unalaq, Zaheer and Kuvira, Freeza, Cell, and Majin Buu, Katsuhiko Jinnai, Richard Wong, XANA, Shego, Ra's al Ghul, the Joker, and Bane, Bowser (The Galaxy games and pre-Super Mario Sunshine) whenever the Super Mario Brothers aren't around, note Lionel Luthor and Brainiac, Rau Le Creuset, Haman Khan, Morgoth (pre-War of Wrath) and Sauron (pre-Third Age), Thanos, The Lich, Raul Menendez, Naraku, Kyubey, Nightmare Moon, Discord, Queen Chrysalis, King Sombra, Lord Tirek, Starlight Glimmer and Cozy Glow, Dio Brando, Kars, Yoshikage Kira, Diavolo, Enrico Pucci, Funny Valentine, The Indominus Rex, President Snow, Shogo Makishima, Kirito Kamui & the Sybil System, His Divine Shadow, Mantrid, Prince and Vlad, Malcolm Merlyn/Dark Archer, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, Ra's al Ghul and Damien Dhark, The Major, Katz, Azazel, Lucifer and Crowley, Master Xehanort, Goku Black, Zamasu, Tai Lung, Lord Shen, Cinder Fall, The Gravemind, Galeem and Dharkon.
Infinite: The villain will always win, and the heroes will always lose, even if the heroes should by all rights win. This may be due to the villain being truly all powerful, or the heroes being utterly incapable of confronting them in the first place, let alone stopping them. At best, the heroes could delay or annoy the villain, but the villain will triumph in the end regardless and the heroes can only evade or escape the villain once its goals are met.
- Invincible Villain
- Eldritch Abomination (esp. in stories where you can't punch them out)
- Cosmic Horror Story
- God Is Evil (unless there's some sort of good Anti-God that can meaningfully oppose Him. Iron chariots work, too.)
- You Can't Fight Fate
- Rage Against the Heavens
- Downer Ending
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog
- Villain Sue
- Diabolus ex Machina
- As Long as There is Evil
- Examples: Many horror stories where the protagonists die or suffer a Fate Worse than Death like Final Destination, the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Battle Royale, Big Brother, Judge Holden, Anthony Fremont (in the short story "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby, and in the original episode "It's a Good Life" from The Twilight Zone (1959)).