I recently asked some strangers for advice about an ethical dilemma, and was disappointed by the results. All of their advice was based on basic premises that I did not disagree to, usually some tripe about maximizing total happiness or whether I wanted my actions to become the general principle by which people behaved.
AFCP, I am an evil overlord. The entire point of my existence is to minimize total happiness and prevent anyone else from having the power and autonomy that I enjoy. I may have failed to make this clear to the people I originally spoke with, but I was unable to clarify, as they all died in an unfortunate accident shortly after giving me such terrible advice. While I am busy rebuilding my board of trusted advisees, could you solve my dilemma? I quote my original memo below:
It has come to my attention that a prophecy predicts a child born today will someday defeat me in single combat. Since these kinds of prophecies are impossible to avert, I was wondering how I should respond to this information. My first impulse was to become even more evil and decadent, thus allowing me to milk as much mileage as possible out of the few years I have left. My demise would create a power vacuum that would result in the kingdom falling to another Deep Evil within two generations; furthermore, due to the sudden admiration he receives from defeating such a great evil, the hero will quickly succumb to pride and corruption.
An alternate route is to immediately reform all my ways, pass out puppies to all my subjects, and usher in a golden age of freedom, happiness, and prosperity. The “hero” will still be doomed by the prophecy to defeat me, the most beloved ruler since the Ancient Ones. Therefore he will have to turn out as villainous scum, and will seize power and make an admirable tyrant.
How should I groom my successor? The first option affords more opportunities to come back as a lich or some kind of possessing spirit, but the second is so attractively devious.
-The Troll King
Increasing the oppression and darkness of your reign would be a very classic approach, and with good reason. As you mentioned, even if the hero does remain uncorrupted (something which can be avoided if you are careful), your return options are simply unparalleled. I myself have come back as a disembodied personification of evil five times, and I would recommend it if for no other reason than to see what the servants have gotten up to in the intervening years. Even under benevolent rulers, they still fight with other kingdoms and sometimes they come up with rather marvelous ways to torture and kill while you are waiting for the ritual to kick in.
The reformed path does not have to start immediately, Troll King. In fact, I would recommend taking the good path, but only just before the hero reaches adventuring age. People can be quite captivated by a tale of last-minute “redemption” and will be devastated when you are cut down just as you were trying to do some good. The danger with going good too early is that people will start to see flaws and defects in your ruling style and will be able to come up with some small justification for the hero’s actions.
It is possible to go partially good, while retaining some of the more amusing necromancy tricks that will enable you to come back for an encore. If possible, go good, then see if you can finagle the hero into your inner circle. Heroes tend to suffer from extremely bad luck and unintended consequences early in their careers, so it should not be too difficult to get the hero to tempt you back over to your old ways. Then, resume your studies of the dark arts and start to gradually go more evil. This requires a delicate touch, since if you are merely a good ruler with a weakness for necromancy, your spells cannot be powerful enough to make you a recurring villain after your death. However, if your new foray into evil makes your current ways pale in comparison, you will be in a very favorable position for a return visit and plenty of hero angst.
-Train the Child