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Sorcerous Overlord

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"Mages who sit on thrones always mean trouble, Olive-girl. They take themselves too seriously."
Olive Ruskettle, The Finder's Stone Trilogy

Take an Evil Sorcerer, mix with Evil Overlord, place against one incredibly physical and muscular protagonist and leave to stew in a realm of Creepy Crows, palantirs and monstrous minions.

The Sorcerous Overlord is probably one of the most common variations of Evil Sorcerer due to the strong themes that come out of having a single hero or small Ragtag Bunch of Misfits against a ruler whose power comes from a vague, nebulous and potentially ever-pervasive source.

They can always have a number of devices to keep inserting their presence into the plot: Magic Mirrors, evil animal minions, setting up magical warriors. Every element of the overlord's realm can be a more direct extension of themselves (with inherent Always Chaotic Evil) and they can come up with various ways of sending a threat against them.

They also make good foils for the strong hero who fights through mainly physical stabbing-meaty-things-with-pointy-things methods. On the other hand, this can make it hard to explain why there are any limits on the sorcery when fighting the hero.

See also The Magocracy, which often has one of these figures at its head. If the magical overlord is also a Lich then their realm doubles as The Necrocracy, a domain ruled by the undead. Contrast Benevolent Mage Ruler where a magic-user rules benevolently, and Court Mage, where a magic-user is a ruler's advisor rather than the ruler themselves. For a smaller-scale version, when the magical overlord is the master of only one or a few ordinary humans, see Muggle in Mage Custody. Compare Emperor Scientist, who has science instead of magic. (However, Sorcerous Overlord and Emperor Scientist are known to overlap quite often.)


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Di Barrow in The Five Star Stories is a former Evil Chancellor who managed to become the sorcerous overlord of a country. And then it turns out he's just a host body for the ancient wizard Bosjathfort, who plans to become overlord of the galaxy.
  • High Priest Zagato appears to be this in the first part of Magic Knight Rayearth. When the heroines arrive in the world of Cephiro, he has imprisoned Princess Emeraude, the rightful ruler, and instigated an iron-fisted reign of terror enforced by both his minions and his own tremendous magical ability. It turns out to be a bit more complicated than that. The short version is that Zagato is in love with Emeraude, who reciprocates, but is distressed because the continued existence of Cephiro requires its ruler's constant singleminded prayers for its peace and stability. When her thoughts start drifting more and more towards Zagato rather than her duty, she imprisons herself and summons the heroines to come and kill her (both because she is unable to commit suicide and because her selfish thoughts will eventually create a Superpowered Evil Side that will annihilate the world before it has a chance to select a replacement ruler). Zagato, finding the whole setup extremely unfair (to say the least) amasses power, followers, and a reputation as a Sorcerous Overlord on purpose in an attempt to keep the heroines from fulfilling their mission in an attempt to flip the world that denies his love a giant middle finger.
  • In the light novel, anime and manga Overlord (2012), Villain Protagonist Ainz is a very, very rare example of a protagonist being this trope. Even more so once the territories of the New World that he takes over are officially recognized as a sovereign nation, with him being granted the title of "Sorcerer King".

    Comic Books 
  • Kulan Gath from the Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja comics. Most of Conan's foes, actually.
  • Doctor Doom is a fusion of this trope and Emperor Scientist. He started out relying almost exclusively on science, but over time began utilizing his innate talent for magic as well.
  • The Dread Dormammu is this trope, as he is an Evil Sorcerer as well as being a demonic god-tyrant, Pure Magic Being, and Dimension Lord. Unlike other examples, he both draws on magical beings for power and is a magical being whose power is drawn upon. His sister Umar also fits this, though she has fallen victim to Shapeshifter Mode Lock and appears to be a handsome young woman.
  • Darkhell was this in the country of Shiar, with some Emperor Scientist aspects. He lost the place after the Legendaries defeated him for the first time, though, and remains a mere Evil Sorcerer in most of his latter appearances.
  • X-Men:
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Haazheel Thorn is an incredibly powerful and ancient archmage who has built his own dark religion to conquer the Empire of Lynn and prepare the world for the arrival of the forces of hell.
  • Mickey Mouse becomes this in Wizards of Mickey. Yes, seriously. After winning the Grand Tournament and gathering all magic in a crown, Mickey becomes de facto lord of the local lands, using his magic to help the people and settle disputes. He starts out benevolent, but the manipulation of the being calling itself the Crown's Guardian causes him to undergo a (temporary) Face–Heel Turn.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The young Victor von Doom mixes this with Emperor Scientist as in canon, though he leans as much towards his magic as his technology early on, liberally mixing the two.
    • Surtur, after initially starting out as a Jor-El type who actually succeeded in saving his world - it helped that he managed to persuade the Phoenix to grant him the power to save it, after touching Her with a heartfelt plea. Unfortunately, power corrupts and he developed a god-complex, and became this, before eventually becoming an Eldritch Abomination.
    • Malekith the Accursed was also an example as ruler of Svartalfheim - though no slouch in close combat, if he had to fight - wielding magic that's described by Word of God as being a notch or two beyond even Loki for both power and skill. Making matters even worse, he had the Aether a.k.a. the Reality Stone, and despite the fact that its instability rendered it horribly inefficient, he still nearly conquered the Nine Realms with it. It's implied in the sequel that not only is he still alive (as they Never Found the Body), but all this time he's been hiding in Faerie, going by Oberon.
    • Apocalypse started out as this - or more accurately, he started out The Poorly Chosen One, being Doctor Strange's first apprentice, who he genuinely believed would be the one to stop Thanos, and deposed Kang the Conqueror in Stone Age Egypt. Unfortunately, he wasn't content to guide and protect from the shadows, instead demanding the right to rule. Given that he was an immensely powerful mage-mutant, Strong and Skilled enough to put Doctor Strange on the run, no one argued too much. He than rapidly expanded his power to become a fully-fledged God-Emperor, believing that his role of saving the world meant ruling it and preparing it for battle via his insane Social Darwinist philosophy. He conquered most of the planet, killing the Winter and Summer Queens, as well as a number of other Physical Gods. Unfortunately for him, betraying Doctor Strange is a terrible, terrible idea, and Strange masterminded his downfall, then chose to make an example of him.
  • Kingdom Hearts New Epic The First has the malevolent and dangerous Wolfang Richler. Despite initially appearing to be a harmless, wacky trickster, it is made evident even in his introduction that this is not someone you want interested in you. He has incredibly fearsome magic that is, by all appearance, solely One-Hit Kill moves. Including a very literal Death Glare. It's even mentioned that he once had a lot more power in the worlds than he currently does, and he's looking to get all that back.
  • Subverted in The Difference One Man Can Make. Sure, the Witch-King-Beyond-the-Wall seems to be this: he uses mystic powers, he rules over the cold and dreary Land beyond the Wall, the wildlings bow to him and his reaching to Essos and the Seven Kingdoms implies he nurtures the ambition to go south of the Wall as many of his predecessors... Except that the Witch-King is actually Harry Potter, Nice Guy to the finest who only seeks to improve the Free Folk's lot and has no wish to involve himself or his people in the game of thrones.

    Films — Animation 
  • Merlock in DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. It's not stated explicitly what possessions he ruled over, but he's an Evil Sorceror who used Genie to spread terror and fear wherever he wanted. His dark floating fortress at the end wouldn't look out of place as Sauron's residential palace.
  • Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, who's either an Evil Sorceress or one of The Fair Folk. She seems to rule over a dark land adjacent to the human kingdoms from her ominous castle, populated only by her monstrous and incredibly dumb minions.
  • The Horned King in The Black Cauldron, although his magical powers are fairly limited and require complex rituals to realize. This tyrant is a horned, robed member of the undead, probably a lich. He plots to take over the world from his fortress by acquiring an army of skeletal warriors known as the Cauldron Born.
  • Jafar in Aladdin manages to work his way up to the trope full-time for the last act of the film. He is already a talented wizard at the start and hypnotizes the Sultan, being an Evil Chancellor, but once he gets the Genie's magic lamp, he wishes himself Sultan, and then wishes himself the most powerful sorcerer, IN THE WORLD!!! His third wish, however, turns him into a Genie himself after he's goaded by Aladdin, which traps him in a lamp.
  • Ommadon in The Flight of Dragons is one of four wizards, each one of them representing an aspect of the magical world they live in ("water and sky", "light, air, peace, and transcendence", "earth and nature", and evil). He is the evil one out of the bunch, naturally. He reigns over a Mordor-like desolated kingdom and his powers include Mind Control over dragons and various other creatures to serve his deeds, teleportation and summoning dragon heads from his body.
  • Blackwolf in Wizards turns a bunch of mutants and demons into an expy of Nazi Germany, intentionally. His good brother Avatar could be a king but seems to be too lazy to be more than just a powerful wizard.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Thulsa Doom in the first Conan the Barbarian (1982) movie. He's obviously magical what with the turning into a snake, the snake arrows, and the Mind Control, but sometimes you get the feeling that he's really best defined by being the opposition to the sword wielding Barbarian Hero.
  • In Star Wars, Palpatine and several Dark Lords of the Sith are this trope, only IN SPACE!! Despite the science fiction setting, Palpatine lives and breathes this trope to the point of going around in public wearing a black robe. The Expanded Universe takes this a lot further, often depicting Sith Lords even more explicitly as dark wizards doubling as galactic conquerors.
  • In The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the Dragon Emperor qualifies, not only is he a good fighter, he has control over magic as well, and plans to gain immortality.
  • Matai Shang in John Carter, a Sorcerous Overlord IN SPACE!
  • Queen Ravenna from Snow White & the Huntsman is a powerful Vain Sorceress who has usurped the throne.
    • Her sister Freya in the sequel.
  • In In the Name of the King, this is how Gallian is able to retain his magical abilities, while not actually serving a king (this appears to be a requirement for all magi). He explains that he uplifted the mindless Krug and made himself their king. Thus, by serving himself, he became this trope. His eventual goal is to crush all opposition and rule the world. Of course, it's stated that only Gallian's twisted mind could make this work. Naturally, he is primarily opposed by Muggles, specifically Farmer, who has no powers of his own but still kicks plenty of ass. His good counterpart is Merick, the magus serving the King of Ehb.
  • Kull the Conqueror: Queen Akivasha is an ancient witch queen who once ruled over Valusia and is resurrected by the bad guys to remove Kull the Barbarian from the throne. Though her plan is apparently to bring Hell on Earth, the way she came to power by marrying Kull and then arranging his death (he escaped) means she can't really be upfront that she's evil to her subjects and has to be a Villain with Good Publicity.
  • Willow: Queen Bavmorda, who's not only a conquering ruler but also a powerful sorceress.
  • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword: Vortigern becomes this after seizing power due to a pact with some eldritch creatures.
  • Howling II: Stirba: Werewolf Bitch: Stirba operates like this in Transylvania. She rules over a cult of werewolves from her castle, while possessing explicit magical powers. Yes, a werewolf witch-queen.
  • Sorceress: Evil sorcerer Traigon rules over a domain where from what little we see executions and torture of his citizens are ubiquitous. He plans to gain further power by sacrificing his firstborn child.
  • The Beastmaster: Maax, an evil sorcerer, seized power in the kingdom of Aruk.
  • Mirror, Mirror: The Queen, who's a sorceress and usurped the crown from her husband, then his daughter.
  • Deathstalker: Immortal Wizard Munkar has ruled ever since overthrowing the old king.
  • From Amazons, King Kalungo. He wants to conquer the whole world, has magical ability, and even a shape shifting lioness that can be used as a spy
    "I paid a high price for my power, and... I intend to use it."
  • Crossworlds: Ferris is a warlord in another dimension. He also possesses powerful magical abilities. It's unknown if the other warlords have similar abilities.

  • A Chorus of Dragons: The god-kings were wizards of immense power, each ruling over a country as an unanswerable overlord and shaping entire artificial races as servants and soldiers.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Subverted with the magician Coriakin from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader who governs an island inhabited by dim-witted dwarves known as the Duffers. The Duffers see him as this because he forces them to work in his garden with the use of tricks and magical spells, but in reality, he is a Benevolent Mage Ruler who has to do it because the Duffers are Too Dumb to Live, and would not survive without his oversight (this is an obvious metaphor for the relationship between God and humanity, and, in particular, for "working in God's vineyard").
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Sauron is probably the Trope Codifier, having vast supernatural abilities beyond being a nigh-unstoppable warrior in his Tin Tyrant shape, as he is a Maia, essentially an angelic being who was corrupted by his cruelty and lust for power.
    • The Witch-King of Angmar often acted as this, ruling his own independent realms with little direct oversight from Sauron.
    • Saruman the White, who, along with Gandalf, is actually a lesser Maia somewhat similar to Sauron. Saruman tried to establish his own dominion by allying with Sauron, but it didn't work out for him...
    • But way before them was Melkor/Morgoth. While most of the other Evil Overlords of Middle-Earth are mortals or Fallen Maiar, Melkor is a Vala of great might. Maiar are extraordinarily powerful. Valar are more powerful than Maiar. Melkor was more powerful than all of the other Valar combined. He demonstrates this by using his magical powers to destroy and twist matter into his liking, mind raping people, and being a generally Manipulative Bastard.
      • Here's how powerful Melkor is/was: Sauron poured his essence into the One Ring to stay alive. Melkor poured his essence into Arda itself. That's right. Nothing short of The End of the World as We Know It can kill him.
  • In Masques, the ae'Magi is one of those. He has entire towns of people do his bidding, because he has charmed them to love and admire him so much that even saying something negative about him will get you beheaded by the next random passer-by.
  • Clark Ashton Smith liked this one:
    • Maal Dweb, by virtue of his magic, is the absolute ruler of a solar system with six planets. He spends most of his time alone in his fortress with a harem of petrified women, collecting tributes and getting rather bored.
    • Malygris is the preeminent Necromancer on a remnant of Atlantis. Although he isn't a formal leader, he's so feared that he's offered a tithe of the island's trade as a matter of course, as the "overlord of all kings and sorcerers." Being dead has barely slowed him down.
    • Ossaru was this for the realm of Zothique, ruling half the continent with the blessing of a God of Evil even before an Eldritch Abomination arrived to tutor him in the arcane. He's introduced as a legend in "The Tomb-Spawn" and has merged with said abomination to form the titular beast..
  • Galbatorix from the Inheritance Cycle is a powerful magic user and also the ruler of the Broddring Empire.
  • The Shadow Lord from Emily Rodda's Deltora Quest series. He arrived as a mere Evil Sorcerer, now he rules the shadowlands formerly known as Piria with designs on adding it neighboring land of Deltora to his domain, which has the ports he can use to spead his evil to other lands.
  • The Warlock Lord, Brona, from The Sword of Shannara.
  • Emperor Ariakas from Dragonlance was a Magic Knight flavor of this: challenge him, and he can best you in a duel, char you to a crisp, or some combination thereof.
  • Emperor Otha of Zemoch from The Elenium, also head of the local Religion of Evil. He's also completely sedentary and dumb as a post, but he makes up for it with his magical power and being the head of the single most powerful nation in the world. He's still answerable to his god...
  • The Black Company series by Glen Cook is chock full of these guys and gals, with the most prominent being the Lady (in the present day) and the Dominator (in the backstory). There're also some former Sorcerous Overlords—specifically, most of the Taken seem to be this—who were enslaved by the more powerful ones. Always a Bigger Fish, indeed.
  • Emperor Ma'elKoth from The Acts of Caine books fits this to a tee.
  • Elric of Melnibone. He's somewhat less evil than is usual for the trope.
  • The Shadowlord from Tanya Huff's Smoke and Shadows.
  • Ozorne, the title character of Emperor Mage. He has a good counterpart in Jonathan, the king of Tortall.
  • The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia pulled this off twice. In The Magician's Nephew, she is found in suspended animation on the dying world of Charn, where she murdered the planet's population with a Fantastic Nuke rather than allow her rival sister to defeat her. She escapes to Narnia, where she is able to rule for a century of Endless Winter and wanton petrifications before getting eaten by Crystal Dragon Jesus in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • Harry Potter: Voldemort's long-term goal was to become one of these, being an immortal dark wizard who would rule over a fascist magocracy. However, for most of the series he's more of an underground terrorist against the current rulers. Even after usurping control of the Ministry of Magic in the last book, he elected to control it behind the scenes through a puppet minister, as basically crowning himself would have been too blatant a move for the wizarding world to ignore.
  • The Elminster Series:
    • In Elminster: The Making of a Mage, a country was taken over by a cruel archmage. He's known as "the Mad Mage" because torturing people is his pastime. Elminster tries to defeat him, but almost gets killed and has to be rescued by Mystra.
    • Elminster himself consciously averts this at the end of the same novel: after overthrowing the Magelords, he could legitimately claim the throne for himself by right of descent (and having the witnesses to confirm that he really is who he says, too), but decides that he's not really rulership material and that the kingdom likely has had its fill of being governed by wizards for a good long while.
    • One of Elminster's friends is a more ambiguous version: she's a very powerful mage and also queen of her country. Though not cruel, she's feared by her subjects due to being reckless and unstable.
  • Sword of Truth: Darken Rahl, lord of the D'Haran Empire. Later Emperor Jagang, head of the Imperial Order. Both have powerful magic and rule as brutal despots.Some might also see Richard as this later on, despite him officially being the hero, since he becomes ruler of the D Empire and uses more than a little brutality.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: Water wizard Kiloran wants to be this for all of Sileria. He takes over one of its cities to begin once the Valdani depart.
  • The Fighting Fantasy game books have no shortage of these. Chief among them are the Demonic Three, Card Carrying Villains who studied the black arts together before going their separate ways to pursue world domination:
  • Discworld: Sourcerers essentially become these by virtue of being sources of magic, which is why wizards are forbidden to have children. Their power is so potent that they enhance the powers of the wizards around them and multiply their ambition to rule over everyone else. In fact, sourcerers were around during the early days of the disc and began the "Mage Wars" which nearly led to its destruction, due to the reality-warping nature of unleashing raw weaponized magic which devastates everything.
  • In Imajica, the Autarch of Yzordderrex rules three Alternate Universes, mainly by virtue of his unmatched magical prowess and utter ruthlessness.
  • The Crimson Shadow: King Greensparrow is a cruel wizard who rules Avon, Eriador and the islands nearby.
  • Tigana: The Peninsula of the Palm is ruled by not one but two sorcerer conquerors, Alberico and Brandin.
  • Worlds of Shadow: Shadow is one for Faerie, ruling with a cruel hand for centuries and hands down the greatest magic user still around.
  • Smegin in The Great God's War was, for most of his reign, both the hereditary King of Amika and a Magister of lightning. He was also quite horrible and prone to using his powers to electrocute people who had failed him, all while being dead set on conquering the neighbouring kingdom Belleger even though the endless war had already driven both kingdoms to the brink of ruin.
  • Second Apocalypse: In Aspect-Emperor series, Kellhus has become the most powerful sorcerer in the world (perhaps of all time) as well as the Aspect-Emperor of the Kellian Empire, in which he is also worshiped as an aspect of the God. He's a cross between this and a Benevolent Mage Ruler. His rule is brutal, but entirely focused on the one goal of saving the world from an Ancient Conspiracy.
  • A more contemporary version shows up in Anno Dracula novel One Thousand Monsters, Lord Majin - a Sword and Gun wielding, Humongous Mecha riding sorcerer, has magic that lets him generate earthquakes, create a Nigh-Invulnerable magical barrier and give him eternal youth. The source of his magic is that he takes Japan's undesirables for punishment by feeding them to the yokai of Yokai Town. From the agony of the victims and the blood frenzy of the yokai, he draws in that negative energy. He's the de-facto ruler of Yokai Town (the Emperor and the Black Ocean society don't care what he does behind its walls, while Yuki-Onna is sleeping on her role as yokai queen) with his aim to eventually take over the whole of Japan.
  • The Magicians ultimately reveals that the Beast AKA Martin Chatwin is the unofficial ruler of Fillory in all but name and an incredibly powerful hedge-wizard; in between massacres, the Beast has been trying to gain access to the high king's crown so he can make his rule official. To that end, he gives the main characters (via a minion) an enchanted horn that can summon him, tricks them into going on a quest to retrieve the crown from the magical defenses surrounding it, and then letting the group's own self-destructive behavior do the rest.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Ma'ar, Mage of the Black Fire and Big Bad of the Mage Wars Trilogy was both a phenomenally powerful Adept and the leader of an expansionist country that has conquered much of the kingdom. Dealing with him was actually difficult because apparently before him, mages seeking martial over mystical power was a bizarre oddity.
  • The Beyonders: Emperor Maldor not only rules the world, but is also the last Edomic Adept (wizard) to exist (excluding Rachel who comes from Beyond and Orruck who has been mutated beyond recognition).
  • Downplayed with Magister Scacz in Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell's The Tangled Lands, Scacz has effectively absolute power as the last great Magister in the city of Khaim and will do things like rape women who capture his fancy or experiment on poor schmucks as well as create a palace in the sky for himself. However he's so addicted to using magic that he's growing less involved with the city and he's partners in crime with the Mayor who does the real work of rulership (so status and political power-wise they're essentially the same). Additionally it's only because the world is in a state of After the End, that Scacz is considered a great Magister. In the old days, he'd only be a step above journeyman compared to the legendary Magisters that came before him.
  • Most of the Adepts of Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series fit the description fairly well, being feudal lords with great magical power who live in formidable fortresses and oppress the masses to maintain their monopoly on power. The only exceptions are Blue, and later Red and Brown, with the other Adepts becoming known as "the Adverse Adepts" in contrast to the good-guy faction. They differ from the typical Big Bad version of the trope in that there are too many of them to be a unified evil army, and their agenda for the world is less a Card-Carrying Villain goal than a bad way of dealing with ecological problems like a shortage of magical energy.
  • So This is Ever After: The Vile One ruled Chickpea after usurping its throne and he was a powerful mage. He persecuted other mages and had oppressed the population generally.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Legend of the Seeker: Darken Rahl, an evil sorcerer who's ruler of the D'Haran Empire. Richard also becomes this briefly when possessed of the power of Orden in an alternate reality. With its magic he can make everyone obey his word. He quickly turns evil with its influence, ordering people to kill each other (unless the power is tempered by the touch of a Confessor), before the Boxes are again separated, and this restores him to normal.
  • Game of Thrones: The Night King is a thousands-year old undead necromancer and the leader of the army of the dead that is preparing to invade the Seven Kingdoms.
  • Kingdom Adventure: Zordock is this Religious Edutainment series' Satan-analog. He has magical abilities including Forced Transformation, an Agony Beam, creating a variety of objects and substances with magical effects, and corrupting the forest into a dangerous Dark Wood, and is the series' Big Bad; his stated goal is to make Lumans his slaves.

  • Gloryhammer's Evil Sorcerer Zargothrax is this in Tales from the Kingdom of Fife where he conquers titular kingdom, and then again in the alternate universe from Tales from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex. As his Image Song reveals, one of his titles even is Wizard King.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Queen Himiko in Japanese Mythology had a dash of this. She was a shaman-queen of Yamataikoku, the land that would become Japan. Legend says she ruled her people with magical mind-control, or something to that effect.
  • In The Bible, King Manasseh of Judah is said to have practiced sorcerynote , and he is depicted in the Bible as perhaps the most evil ruler in Judah's history.
  • In the Malian Epic of Sundiata, the historical king of Sosso, Soumaoro Kanté, was portrayed as an evil sorcerer king who oppresses his people and takes advantage of the fall of the Ghana Empire to conquer his neighbors before being defeated and overthrown by an alliance of states lead by the Mandinka prince Sundiata Keita. Sundiata would then go on to form the Kingdom of Mali.

  • Razikale of To Rule is patron both the magics and the sciences.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dark Sun: Every single city-state in the Death World of Athas is ruled by a Sorcerous Overlord. And they are horribly evil, every single one of themnote : they got to be where they are now because they sucked all magic out of the world in the past to fuel their bloody campaigns, turning it into a blasted wasteland. Indeed, each has ascended into a dragon-like monstrous entity by virtue of committing genocide and consuming the souls of entire species. This is why Athas has no trolls, orcs, gnomes, pixies...
    • Dungeons Of Drakkenheim: Two thousand years before the setting's present day, dynasties of sorcerers and their Mage Species and Half-Human Hybrid offspring rose to rule the known world as the Arcane Empire. They ruled for a thousand years, but were so cruel that ultimately a nascent faith called the Flamekeepers or the Church of the Sacred Flame rose up and overthrew them over three hundred years of struggle. Ever since then, mageborn have been feared and persecuted.
    • Forgotten Realms:
      • Manshoon, the creator and leader of the Zhentarim mercenary company, serves in this role for centuries until he's deposed by his lieutenant Fzoul Chembryl (who isn't technically a wizard, but an incredibly powerful priest of the dark god Bane).
      • The Red Wizards of Thay, an order of mages who rule a country that suspiciously sounds like Mordor sometimes.
      • The Simbul, also known as the Witch-Queen of Aglarond. As one of the most powerful spellcasters in Faerûn and a peerless Lady of Black Magic, her subjects fear her as much as they respect her due to her unstable nature.
      • Laeral is a downplayed example, despite being the daughter of a goddess of magic (which makes her a powerful immortal, but not a demigod). In between her career as an adventurer, she ruled the kingdom Stornanter in the northern Sword Coast, but that part of her story has never been given much focus. She's currently Open Lord of Waterdeep.
    • Greyhawk: This was part of Vecna's path From Nobody to Nightmare. He learned the dark arts from his mother before she was executed for witchcraft, built armies, established himself as sorcerous overlord, ascended to lichdom and expanded a Necrocracy, and finally ascended to divinity as a god of magic and secrets.
    • Mystara:
    • Planescape: The supreme ruler of the githyanki is Queen Vlaakith CLVII, a lich and an epic-level wizard. She jealously guards her power by devouring the souls of any githyanki whose power even begins to approach her own.
  • Pathfinder:
    • The seven Runelords of ancient Thassilon. They sealed themselves away 10,000 years ago to avoid the calamity of Earthfall, and both the Rise of the Runelords and Return of the Runelords adventure paths dealt with them escaping their cans. As of Second Edition, Belimarius, Runelord of Envy and Sorshen, Runelord of Lust are the only two left, and have both reestablished themselves as rulers in the area known as New Thassilon. Sorshen has had a Heel–Face Turn and is now a relatively benevolent ruler. Belimarius, not so much.
    • Gex and Nex named the countries they founded after themselves and their spells against each other scarred the land, creating a desolate region region between their countries named the Mana Wastes. Both were immortal, but Nex disappeared after one of Geb's attacks, resulting in an obsessed Geb eventually killing himself but lingering as a ghost due to his uncertainty over Nex's fate, and he still rules.
  • In Warhammer the dark elves are ruled over by Malekith the Witch-King, a Tin Tyrant who requires a magical suit of armor to give him strength after an encounter with holy fire.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons Legion, who crafts complex plans from the Planet of Sorcerers. Ironically, Magnus was the ''good'' counterpart of this trope, being a peerless scholar and warrior-magus who lead his Legion respectably, albeit indulging them and himself in some studies in the dark arts. He would have gone on this way, until betrayal and desperation lead him to making a pact with the Chaos God Tzeentch in order to save the Thousand Sons from total destruction.
    • Any Tzeentch-aligned Chaos Lord also counts, though any Chaos warbands, worlds, or other entities lead by a Sorceror counts as well.
    • Tzeentch, deity of sorcery and ambition, runs on this trope as well as weirder stuff.
    • In any other setting, The God-Emperor of Mankind would have been one back when he could actually move. He was the greatest psyker in human history, led a Grand Crusade to conquer the scattered lost colonies of man, eradicated multiple species and religions, and trillions have died over the millennia as a result of his actions. But in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, he qualified as a Benevolent Mage Ruler.
  • The Lich-King of 13th Age was like this back when he was simply the Wizard King. Following his death and resurrection, he wants to start doing it again, but as one of possibly the least popular figures in the world with the other power players, it's not going to be an easy row to hoe.
  • GURPS:
    • GURPS Wizards has "Overlord" as one of the templates. However, while it suggests the template is good for creating powerful villains, only one of the worked examples comes across as one: Count Boris Czesko, a Carpathian nobleman for GURPS Horror who is paranoid, ruthless, and prone to trusting his zombies more than his subjects. (The others are two potentially-antagonistic-but-not-actually-evil characters, and one Benevolent Mage Ruler.)
    • GURPS Technomancer: Maria Hawker, President of the Magiocracy of Surinam, is probably as close as you can get to a modern version of the trope: a tinpot dictator whose rule is backed not so much by her own necromantic powers as by the wealth and influence of a magic Mega-Corp.

    Video Games 
  • Battle Axe: The main villainess, Etheldred the sorceress, whose powers can create hordes and hordes of goblins and undead and she is sending them to conquer entire cities from the comfort of her fortress. You spend the whole game fighting her minions in order to confront her in her throne room.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Blackberry's goal in reviving the ancient wizard Diamond Mine is under the belief that he his magical rulership over the world would be the best form of governance. Zophy and his companions oppose her believing that he would be a Sorcerous Overlord instead, given the immense power that the world's most incredible wizard in history possessed. Given that his followers in ancient times had sealed him inside a diamond, they might be onto something. In Attack of Darkforce, she misses out on the window to fully revive Diamond Mine and instead performs a ritual to become the second generation Diamond Mine - Diamond Black. It remains to be seen whether she becomes the Benevolent Mage Ruler she imagines or a Sorcerous Overlord for Zophy to bring down.
  • Overlord:
    • The Villain Protagonist, eventually. You start off as an armour plated warrior but to advance and gain more power and to fit more stereotypically into the Evil Overlord mode you can gain magic powers.
    • The Old Overlord, possessing the Gandalf stereotype wizard who killed him, is a more straight example.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Arthas Menethil, the Lich King. Combination of one of the most powerful necromancers and death knights? The world is screwed (if he can get up from his throne, that is...).
    • Queen Azshara, once queen of the night elves, described as the most powerful mortal mage to ever live. Her people loved her, but the only person she considered worthy of her was the leader of the Burning Legion whom she attempted to bring to Azeroth. Now she rules over the naga, plotting her revenge.
  • Magus from Chrono Trigger, until his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy in general loves this. Out-and-out examples include Golbez, Exdeath (both of whom mix it with Tin Tyrant), and Ultimecia, with other characters depending on your definition of an empire.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: The Big Bad Sorceress Ultimecia rules over an uncertain future, can possess sorceresses in the past (which is when the game takes place), can create monsters and corrupt GFs, and said GF is one of eight monster guardians in her castle whose job it is to stop the opposing SeeDs from being able to put up much of a fight against her in the Final Boss fight of the game. Oh, and she can create GFs and spells herself. Her goal: compress time into a single singularity, apparently so she can be the sole living being in existence with complete control over all of reality.
  • Mortal Kombat: Shao Kahn, to the point of being the Evil Counterpart to Raiden, who is a god. Shinnok also has shades of this, though he is a fallen Elder God who just seems to have a bit of a sorcerous theme going on. Shang Tsung also falls into this when he's ruling the titular tournament as an old, decrepit man, and is a textbook example since his personal nemesis both in this form and later is Liu Kang, a Wushu practitioner who was one of the main protagonists for most of the series.
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning: The Ice King, who rules over the ghouls of Dante's Freezer, is a warlord who wields ice magic.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Ganon's magic abilities, which mostly derive from the Triforce of Power, are more or less divine. In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Ganon rules the Dark World and has a host of magical powers to go with it. He's stated to have ruled a tribe of wizard-thieves (shown to be the Gerudo in later games) when he was Ganondorf as well.
    • Vaati in Four Sword Adventures and The Minish Cap. While his overall power, as pertains to both magic and dominion, pales in comparison to Ganon's, he makes up for it by making greater actual usage of magic in combat.
  • Dragon Quest IX has King Godwyn, ruler of the Gittish Empire. He experimented with draining the magic power of Celestrians as power, and he is an extremely competent mage. Even his normal attack seems to have at least some sort of magical element to it.
  • Manannan from King's Quest III rules over Llewdor, but more like a bully than a king who rules outright, keeping the population in fear and maintaining a watchful (and paranoid!) eye over them from his telescope.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth, Cartman plays the role of the Grand Wizard of the King of Kupa Keep and leader of the human faction. He's not an actual wizard however, just playing the role of one.
  • Disney's Magical Quest: Emperor Pete, the Big Bad, is a Dark Lord with vast magical powers ruling from an imposing fortress.
  • In League of Legends, Noxus' head of state is Swain, the Grand General. While he functionally acts like a military leader whose threat mostly comes in the form of making power moves to expand the empire, he himself contains immense magical power that he claimed from slaying a demon of secrets. Said power is "eldritch" in nature, highly destructive, and most importantly allows him to absorb the secrets of those he kills, making him even more of an intellectual threat.
  • A 4X video game called Master of Magic involves 14 wizards with various affinities towards particular magics (Life, Nature, Sorcery, Chaos and Death).
  • Super Mario World: Piranha Island: The Piranha Wizard is the evil ruler of Piranha Island. He possesses immense magical power and can send many types of projectiles at Mario in both of his boss battles. His castle, Piranha Castle, is even an elaborate Pipe Maze filled with his Piranha Plant minions. He also has a fleet of tanks, which is used to guard his castle from intruders.
  • Starcraft I: Sarah Kerrigan was originally a Ghost (psionic humans trained to use their powers for assassinations) before being captured and remolded by the Zerg into the Queen of Blades. At that point, she was still more of a melee Magic Knight even after taking over the Swarm (her powers limited to cloaking, summoning electricity and eating her troops to regain energy), the "sorcerous" part comes across further in the expansion, where she mind-controls a Dark Protoss matriarch across several light-years and manipulates her enemies into attacking each other. Then in Heart of the Swarm, she's briefly depowered before being re-powered by the Primal Zerg, giving her a lot more psionic abilities (including the equivalent of a Terran nuke) to give her the power she needs to fight the rogue Xel'naga in Legacy of the Void by turning into a burning, flying angelic figure, eventually Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence (and taking Jim Raynor with her).
  • Kyros the Overlord from Tyranny. Kyros' calendar begins on the day they spoke their first Edict, a powerful magic that makes Kyros' proclamations physical reality. Although currently in possession of a giant empire and massive armies, the Edicts are a magic unique to Kyros and makes long-term resistance against them infeasible. The Player Character later unlocks the ability to analyse Kyros' Edicts and replicate them, setting them up as the first real challenge to the Overlord in centuries.
  • Valder from Wargroove, being the last in a long line of mortal necromancers to wield the Fell Gauntlet.

  • Xykon in The Order of the Stick can be considered this as he's an Evil Sorcerer, leads a horde of goblins and, after the former get slaughtered, an army of hobgoblins and started the strip holed up in an impressive cavern system containing one of the linchpins of the universe. He became a more classical overlord when he conquers Azure City, though he's loath to just sit there and rule it in typical overlord fashion, since what he's actually after are The Gates, not to mention the fact that the nitty-gritty of statesmanship bores him. His Dragon, Redcloak, on the other hand...

    Web Originals 
  • In The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids, the planet Shenanig has been ruled by those for several hundred years — specifically, a dynasty known as the Dark Lords of Shenanig, Wielders of the Legacy of the Nameless Overlord. The Queen of the Black Market is also a mild example, using the wraiths at her command to maintain her youth and "keep the peace" in her pocket dimension, even if she's not depicted as villainous past her debut, and her domain is not really a self-sufficient realm.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: Mozenrath is the perfect example of this. He is the ruler of the land of the black sand, he has powerful magic, and his schemes usually involve conquest or becoming more powerful in some way to facilitate said conquest. Aladdin fits the role of the muscle bound protagonist with his, as Iago put it, "two fisted ways." In this particular example, the sorcerous overlord and the musclebound protagonist sort of form a yin yang. Mozenrath is not completely incapable of defending himself in a physical confrontation, and Aladdin has the Genie and his magic to help him. The reason for this might be due to Word of God stating that the original plot of the third Aladdin movie was to reveal that Mozenrath was Aladdin's brother.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Fire Lord Ozai, as well as the Fire Lords before him since Sozin. Firebending isn't unique to the royal family, but it does show up with unusual consistency when it's usually completely random, and they're often much stronger than average.
    • Just for reference, it's entirely possible for one of a pair of identical twins to be a bender while the other is not, and even being the offspring of the Avatar and one of the most powerful waterbenders ever won't guarantee you bending powers, yet every prince and princess of the Fire Nation is throwing fireballs before puberty.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): Skeletor, similar setup to Thulsa Doom: big guy with loincloth and sword fights weird villain with powers that vary Depending on the Writer.


Video Example(s):



Jafar is the royal vizier of Agrabah and hungers for power, roping Aladdin into retrieving the magic lamp for him.

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