What Villainous Lair would be complete without a big red button labelled “SELF-DESTRUCT”?
Really, all of them, surely? Certainly, there are some reasons why one might, ultimately, wish to destroy one’s base rather than have it fall into enemy hands, but if you’re fairly serious about your lair, it probably makes more sense to put energy into making it a safe place for you to Villainize, not an easy place to destroy. The self-destruct option should probably be quite difficult to activate. If you, the archvillain and/or leader, are unable to hit the thing, you’re quite probably already dead. If you feel you need a “blow up this fortress” option, you should probably make it fairly difficult to access.
We’ve heard this is some kind of Bond thing. We wouldn’t know. In the 13 Bond books by Ian Fleming (which are the only Bond works we acknowledge as cannon; sorry-not-sorry, Mr. Gardner) James Bond does not, in fact, hit a self-destruct button of any sort anywhere, and if he’s trying to blow up a warehouse or a ship, he brings his own bombs.
(We’ve heard rumours that the film version of “You Only Live Twice” removes some of the significant nuances of both the manner in which Bond finishes that particular mission; but we’ve no interest in watching such a disgraceful thing ourselves.)
(And besides, by any reasonable 2020 definition, Bond is not a hero, even in his own mind. But that’s another story.)
Now, the modern idea of the ‘Big Red Self-Destruct Button’ appears to be somewhat parodic; by now, most of us are acquainted with the button labelled “Self-Destruct”, which either triggers a death trap, or makes the button, itself, explode, causing, one presumes rather a lot of damage to our intrepid intruders. And that’s not bad.
But it’s not really using the concept to its full potential.
If one must have the sort of lair which is likely to be visited by heroes—either because one intends to use it to destroy one’s adversaries, or because one’s foes are unusually implacable and resourceful, or (perhaps) because one is determined to drive traffic to one’s gift shop, one ought create multiple layers of traps, and not all of them should be physical. Some, in our opinion, ought to be partially, or even entirely psychological. What better time to sew confusion and unease amongst one’s adversaries than when they’ve arrived at one’s very door?
(Or window, or secret passage, or portal gate, or what-have-you.)
In practice, the Big Red Self-Destruct button is not necessarily unable to stand on its own merits. Perhaps you’ve exceptionally trustworthy servants, or unusually important secrets; or a stone-cold death wish.
But the real key with this particular item is that you need not trade-off form and function. If you want a really visible way to destroy your lair, then you’d hide it in plain sight.
Because, by the time the heroes get to your Big Red Button, they should be so utterly demoralized and confused that even if they defeat you, and they win, they won’t really know, not until they press the damn thing, what it’s going to do.
And if you do it correctly, that moment of fear and uncertainty, even if it comes just before they hand you a resounding defeat, should be so stressful and traumatic that they’re scarred for life.
It is simply rude not to give guests something by which they can remember you forever.
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities and create things. Every year, I put on Evil Expo, the Greatest Place in the World to be a Villain. I also write a lot of fantasy and science fiction.. You can get most of my books right here. Go ahead, pre-order “I HATE Your Prophecy“. It may make you into a bad person, but I can live with that.