Evil Overlord List

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The Evil Overlord List, also known as If I Were An Evil Overlord, is one of several popular lists of planned actions for a competent Evil Overlord to avoid the well-known, cliché blunders committed by supervillains in popular fictional works, typically explained in a comical fashion. The lists were compiled by science fiction fans over a number of years, and copies of the list that can be found on the Internet vary in number and order of entries.


The most famous specific lists, both referred to as the Evil Overlord List, were developed concurrently. Both were published to the Web in the early 1990s. The original, if lesser-known list was compiled in 1990 by members of the now-defunct FidoNet Science Fiction and Fandom (SFFAN) email echo. The FidoNet list originated with a 1988 Saturday Night Live skit featuring Bond Villains touting a book What Not To Do When You Capture James Bond. The FidoNet list arose out of discussions regarding what sort of advice might be in that book, and was compiled and published by Jack Butler. It predated the following list, but was only widely published later, and is the more obscure of the two.

The later-produced and more famous version of the list was compiled in 1994 by Peter Anspach (hence it is occasionally titled "Peter's Evil Overlord List") based on informal discussions at conventions and on online bulletin boards in the early 1990s,[1] and has subsequently become one of the best-known parodies of bad SF/F writing, frequently referenced online. It was originally The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord, but grew to include over 100 entries.

Anspach and Butler acknowledge the existence of each other's lists, and state that their two lists have been so cross-pollinated over the years as to become effectively identical.

The Evil Overlord List has led to spinoffs, including lists for stock characters including (but not limited to) heroes, henchmen, sidekicks, the Evil Overlord's Accountant, and Starfleet captains.[2]


In Australia, a minor literary scandal erupted in 1997 when it emerged that award-winning author Helen Darville plagiarised this list for her regular column in Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper, which led to her being fired.[3][4]

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, noted author and lecturer, uses an expanded version of the list in her lectures on writing science fiction. She recommends selecting five random clichés from the list, and using them, or their reverse ("Say you've drawn A-34, 'I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.' You can have a character turn into a snake and find it doesn't help, or do it and find it very useful indeed") as the basis for a plot.[5]

From 2001–2002, the alt.eo Alt.* hierarchy newsgroup was dedicated to discussing and adding to the list.[6]

In 2007, issue #6 of Marvel Comics' Heroes for Hire featured a Doombot which had been reprogrammed with the contents of the list.

If I Were An Evil Overlord, a 2007 short story anthology edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis, explicitly references the various lists as source material.

PS238, issue 33 (published in 2008), includes a mention of the EOL in the main story, plus an appendix with fifty major points from the list.[7]

In the S.M. Stirling novel The Protector's War, excerpts from the list are printed in the back of the book of plans distributed to the Protector's subordinate nobles.

Jim Butcher refers to the list a number of times in his contemporary fantasy series, The Dresden Files.

In May 2012, students from Lehigh University of Pennsylvania published a blog post that examined how much it would cost to follow all of the instructions on the list. The students concluded that while some money would be saved, overall it would require $14,268,632.[8]


  1. ^ Anspach, Peter. "Peter's Evil Overlord List". Retrieved September 26, 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Stupid Plot Tricks - The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot". Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2006-12-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Greason, David (15 February 1997). "The Review – TZADIK". Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. Archived from the original on 12 October 2006. Retrieved 26 September 2006. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Editor dumps Darville". The Australian. 5 February 1997. p. 3.
  5. ^ "The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot" Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine Excerpted from Teresa Nielsen Hayden lecture on Stupid Plotting Tricks
  6. ^ "Official Alt.eo FAQ v0.1.2", 8 December 2002
  7. ^ Aaron Williams, PS238, issue 33, July 2008.
  8. ^ "The Cost Of Being An Unbeatable Evil Overlord". Centives. May 27, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-27. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

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