I'll admit this question may be a bit vague, but a deliberate lack of knowledge is kind of one of the boundary conditions here.

You, dear Worldbuilding Stack Exchange user, have recently been promoted to the head of a three-letter organization (let’s call it the Department of Superhuman Affairs, or DSA for short) which is tasked with controlling and neutralizing supervillain threats. While usually, you’ll have your own team of superheroes stopping the powered psychopath du jour from doing too much damage, they aren’t the most reliable team, and there are certain times that call for a soldier’s expertise rather than that of a superhuman. With that in mind, you have been tasked with equipping and outfitting a team of special forces with the task of killing supervillains. While the individual powerset of a villain is nearly impossible to predict until you actually engage them in combat, they share a few general patterns of behavior:

  • Supervillains work alone.

    While a villainous team-up isn’t unheard of, more often than not the villain in question considers all others beneath them, and will refuse to work with even like-minded criminals.

  • Supervillains are highly mobile.

    The average supervillain doesn’t stand up to much direct firepower, and instead usually prefer to even the odds with some sort of mobility-based ability, be it flight, superhuman speed, teleportation, or something even weirder.

  • Supervillains prefer urban settings.

    A city is a villain’s playground. It’s full of impressive monuments to destroy, buildings to crush, and weaklings to torment/take hostage. You may have to battle a villain outside a metropolitan setting, but the odds are vastly skewed towards the city.

  • Supervillains and heavy vehicles don’t mix.

    Using a helicopter or a tank against a supervillain is almost inevitably a mistake. They’ll usually head straight for it as a show of force, and the amount of collateral damage a tank or helicopter can cause can be immense if it isn’t completely under control..

  • Supervillains tend to focus on a single power.

    Supervillains having more than a single ‘major’ power is nearly unheard of. It would be exceedingly unlikely for a villain to have both pyrokinesis and impossible strength, for example. This means that if a villain is uncreative, their behavior is prone to predictability and repeated strategies.

  • Supervillains are rarely tactically gifted.

    The most intelligent villains are usually the most subtle. Conversely, the most violent and aggressive villains are usually prone to underestimating their enemies, especially if said enemies are composed of ‘puny meatbags’ (their words, not ours.)

  • Supervillains (for the most part) eschew conventional weaponry.

    When you can shoot lightning from your hands, suddenly you lose a lot of interest in firearms. Most villains will rely entirely on their powers for offensive attacks. If a villain uses guns, this likely indicates that their powers rely more on defense or utility than direct attack.

Given modern technology, and assuming money is no object, what equipment and tactics would you utilize to ensure you neutralize the villains with the minimum amount of collateral damage?

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    $\begingroup$ Why reinvent the wheel? Copy the D.E.O. or other existing task force. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Aug 26, 2018 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ Well, we don't actually get much of a look into D.E.O field operations, first of all. Second, much of their tech is reliant on speculative sci-fi, rather than modern tech. Third, this is more of a technical challenge than a narrative or organizational problem. $\endgroup$
    – case
    Aug 26, 2018 at 4:28
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    $\begingroup$ I like how there was a post about anti supervillain task force like the day after a super hero tax post was made. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2018 at 8:40

3 Answers 3


One thing you don't mention in your list is one thing that villains of every stripe have in common; and is also, I propose, a weakness that the DSA could exploit.

Namely, the henchman. Every villain needs a veritable army of henchmen: from the lowliest of "environmental techs" (I mean, even evil supervillains have to eat and crap and someone therefore has to spritz the throne and empty the waste paper baskets) up through the ranks of engineers, thugs and managers and all they up to the senior ranks of the arch-villain's favourites.

The key focus of the DSA will, therefore, be to seek out, vet and train highly skilled officers to infiltrate all levels of the supervillain's organisation. These officers will, of course, not only serve as double agents, obtaining super secret plans & data and sending that back to DSA HQ, but will also, at the appropriate times, seek to infiltrate the upper echelons of the henchmens' leadership and thus find themselves close to the supervillain himself.

Once there, it will be their primary goal to eliminate the target, secure all data, technical plans, schematics and critical materiel; secure the high ranking favourites and henchmen for trial; and for the DSA officers assigned to the lower ranks, blend in with the now jobless henchmen as they seek employment with another already active or up and coming supervillain.

Now, one quality every arch-supervillain shares, apart from vanity and a predilection for sultry babes, is that of paranoia. And not just your everyday worry about whether people on the train are looking at the zit on your nose. No indeed, every arch-supervillain knows with certainty that he is being followed and watched! It is for this reason that, while henchmen are a necessary part of his evil plans, he can never trust any of them. Even his high level officers and counsellors he must always view with some level of circumspection. This suspicion will naturally lead him to wonder if there are not any moles in the ranks. And if he finds a mole, perhaps the chief engineer who spends just a little too much time tinkering with security subprotocols or maybe that thug commander who watches everything. And I mean everything! Now, even the best arch-supervillains can't directly read the exact thoughts of another, he does certainly have the ability to sense when one of his rank and file are not behaving like the mind numbed robots they are paid to behave like. Sooner or later, he's going to suspect that his organisation has been compromised.

Of course, by now it's too late to change the Evil Plan, but it's not too late to court a suspected spy. Perhaps give him a new position, some extra "perks", watch him for a while and see where his weaknesses are! Perhaps try and secure him as a triple agent.

Naturally, we at the DSA know that triple crossing us is a (faint but real) possibility. It is therefore the case that the DSA also has at its disposal a secret & elite Internal Affairs Corps of utterly uncompromising officers whose primary role is to evaluate the activities of all the other infiltrating officers in the arch-supervillain's organisation. It is this corps's duty to secure and tidily neutralise a compromised DSA officer.

The DSA's job is never done!

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for beating me to the key issue, which is intelligence gathering. However, suggest that you add a specialised internal affairs section whose main mandate is identifying whether a DSA henchman infiltrator has been compromised by a supervillain with mind control or mind reading powers - otherwise the DSA intelligence apparatus may become an asset for the supervillain. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2018 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 -- thanks for pointing that out! I actually was thinking about how to deal with DSA officers that have turned sour. But I figured the immediate concern was dealing with the arch-supervillain. Will make note of that. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 26, 2018 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ Do you think supervillains working alone only applies to other supervillains? I personally read it as a "completely alone" type thing. Maybe I should add henchmen protocols to my answer? $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2018 at 6:44

I would set up a team of defense and reconnaissance based heroes.

Defensive Heroes are just supposed to take a hit or two, gauge the enemies power. Get them monologuing. Any situation that requires a superhero to be distracted or kept in place, we have one or two guys who can stand in front of them without being hurt.

Reconnaissance based heroes are just that, they gather information. The powers and location of the supervillain, the number and whereabouts of hostages, and descriptions to feed back to the support team at base to identify if the supervillain has been seen before. Sound, sight, scent, and any other skill that can identify the scene are of the utmost importance. The more info we have, the better we can prepare for the villain, and in turn the better we can do protecting civilians. (In the case there is hostages, reconnaissance is in charge of retrieval, so identifying ingress, egress, and potential threats to their safety is of great importance. Heroes capable of saving hostages with super speed, teleportation, or other such methods are a high priority for recruitment.)

Support skills such as tracking are also considered, depending on the viability of the skill.

Once hostage safety is confirmed, or extraction is ruled out without a diversion, then the defense team roles out. Their job is to occupy a villain with unknown powers until the power is identified, or to distract villains while hostage retrieval is under way. Priority for recruitment is given to heroes who are near impervious or can mitigate attacks, and impervious heroes who can restrain a villain for any amount of time. A hero capable of restraint from a distance is a candidate for recruitment, but lower priority to a hero capable of direct suppression while being defensively sound.

There are also Two to Three attack type Hero spots available, which are not always filled. If a suitable hero is found who is capable of hurting a villain who is defensively capable, they may be recruited. Preference is given to long range attacks, sure kill techniques, and techniques with minimal collateral damage. Slow moving techniques are usually rejected, unless they have a high accuracy, minimal collateral damage, and massive power for subduing supervillains with high defenses who otherwise are hard to detain for long periods.

The team has a lot of non hero support, including lab techs, engineers, think tanks, data analysts, and out keystone: sniper support. Nearly all subjugation is done through snipers, with support from reconnaissance and defense. Reconnaissance identifies the target(s), removes hostages, and fulfills on site objectives.

Defense is always sent in before snipers take any shots, to help protect the snipers from super villains that have anti-bullet powers. A villain who cannot be taken by a sniper will be confined by defense, or taken out by an attack based hero, should one with the appropriate power level be available. If the villains movements are deemed to erratic or fast for a sniper to take a shot, then heroes with restraint abilities are called in to suppress them. Snipers always have some guards for protection, supported with the best anti-villain tech available at the time. This gear is constantly maintained and upgraded by R&D back at base.

At base there is a moderately sized force of analysts, programmers, and crime specialists who are always on clock identifying current villains, checking for ongoing crimes, and marking high profile targets that villains might target. All systems have high security, multiple backups, and run on several different networks to protect them from hacking, disabling, and other interference by villains. There are also smaller sub bases around town that can function independently of the main office, restoring order and sending backup in the case of a villain attack.

Only the largest bases do R&D, with the R&D focused on body armor, better accuracy rifles, and tech to get on scene. Technology that can be turned against heroes by villains is avoided when possible, but higher ups often push us to develop them anyways.

The agency relies almost entirely on quick response times, with high speed vehicles, personal emergency roads, road light alterations, multiple deployment points, and heroes with high speed transportation abilities all utilized in order to subdue a threat with the fastest possible time. Our priority is to save civilians, protect ourselves, subdue villains, and minimize property damage, in that order. Fast response is the only way to maintain these standards, with our three pronged reconnaissance, defense, and snipers approach designed to protect civilians, protect our employees such as our snipers, and finally to subdue the villain in the least destructive way possible.

Villains are given a chance to escape if we cannot fulfill our first two goals, and pressing them to escape is our strategy in such a scenario. Data from any given encounter will be compiled, a strategy formed, and new tactics employed as necessary against the villain the next time they are identified. We are not above removing an identified villain who has tried to renter a town in civilian clothes, if we have positive confirmation on their identity. If uncertain of identity, we may choose to detain a suspicious person at an off site secure facility to conduct interviews and take appropriate samples and reading.

Sites that are high profile targets sometimes have pre installed sniper outposts, sometimes with an entire temporary division set up with all layers of reconnaissance and defense.

Also our spokesperson is a guy who looks like he has a lot of war scars, but is also well versed in small talk. It's good for our image as a highly trained but public first organization.

Any questions?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you think supervillains working alone only applies to other supervillains?... -- I interpreted that part as supervillains don't work collegially, as a team. Their inflated super-egos get in the way. Plus they are thoroughly suspicious and paranoid of what others might get up to. Supervillains might congregate in Monaco for relaxation and networking, but their organisations rarely combine. I think it would be difficult for even a supervillain to work completely and utterly alone. Not impossible, but perhaps very rare. I think you'd do well to consider the possibility of henchmen, yes. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 26, 2018 at 16:49

Drone snipers firing chemical weapon pellets.

Supervillains are usually human stock. A drone one or two miles above the action will probably go unnoticed. These drones can fire down chemical weapon pellets, which will burst above him/her and shower down a chemical agent. These might be nerve agents or other paralytics, or whatever the circumstance calls for. Ideally the shower of chemical agent takes place quietly without the super villain realizing he is under attack from above. He figures out something is wrong when he starts drooling and can't breathe.

Even the Hulk has been defeated more than once with poison gas. Having drones take care of business reduces problems if the super villain decides to attack the drone. You do not have to hold a funeral for a disabled drone. There are not civilian bystanders 1 mile above the city.

Chemical weapons are also nice in that they are not invariably lethal. A rapid response team can move in and rescue the super villain as well as bystanders who may have been affected by the chemical. There may be things to learn from a super villain, and value in capturing him alive.

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    $\begingroup$ Just be very careful with the nerve agent used! There will certainly be civilians within a few blocks of the action! Once the drone delivers its payload, the nerve agent is on the uncontrollable wind of a big city! The question then becomes one of overburdening the first responders with the afflicted. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 26, 2018 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas - the nice thing about having drones deploy pellets is you can combine some precision with the field effect. It is not rolling barrels of chlorine out of helicopters. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Aug 26, 2018 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, that is true! -- a (much) reduced hazard. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 26, 2018 at 16:38

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