Evil party campaign cues

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Hi guys,

My players asked for an evil-themed campaign. One of them is an experienced player (about 4-5 years of playing),  one is fairly experienced (3 years) and the others were new about the game when we started playing a year and a half ago. As they gain more experience, getting the basics of learning the core mechanics and going now to innovative strategies (with my help, I'm trying to teach them how to think outside of the box), I'm realizing playing evil is hard for them, as they have to think against what they've experienced in most games. Still, this feeling of playing evil feels good to them (and to me), but it's hard to offer real evil plots, except from taking some usual stuff and turning it over (like defend from holy crusaders, chase an artifact and kill that alchemist hiding it, etc.). I'd like to let them plunder and loot, but being myself new to DMing (1 year and a half, playing from once a week to once per month), it's hard to plan every inn, shop and NPC as encounters.

Do you have any cues on how to desing cities and NPCs?
Do you have any cues on how to give a real "evil party" quest?

I feel like WotC haven't thought about this twist. My players have a great party, they are cohesive, even if evil, and they work out great together. I'd just like to give them the universe to make it happen.
Most important rule for a campaign where the DM creates the heroes and the players create the villains - instead of the inverse - is to maintain even more communication than usual.

People who use "role-playing their alignment/character/something else" as an excuse to destroy the party with infighting make it boring/stressful for everybody else. There are in-character reasons for characters to work together, and there are in-character reasons not to, but it's on the players who came up with the characters to come up with the in-character ideas that don't make it harder for them to work with everybody else. Inter-character conflict is only entertaining if it is controlled by the players enough that there will still be a next session.

Also, if you're having trouble coming up with opponents, remember that Evil is NOT One Big Happy Family, even if the PCs big happy family happens to be evil. The Godfather had no good guys, but the story was still memorable because of the extra-ruthless conflict between the villain protagonists and the villain antagonists. Imagine what you could do with a story about villain protagonists, hero antagonists, and villain antagonists. Perhaps the other villains are playing the heroes and the protagonists against each other from behind the scenes?

Basically, think of every villain protagonist story that you can: Macbeth, Tragedy of Caesar, Talented Mr. Ripley, The Punisher, Death Note, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Revenge... Do they just show the other side of the same story, or do they show a different story?

Now, I realize that the popular paradigm on this board - that forms the basis for a lot of the advice you're going to get - is that the players aren't supposed to have opinions about what they want from the game that they're taking time out of their real lives to play, that any player input into making death/failure scenes cooler will result in not having any death/failure scenes, that getting more people involved in surprising each other will mean that nobody gets surprised...

Asking the players about what the DM is traditionally supposed to prepare for them is not laziness in the sense of making the players do your job, it's letting the players express ideas that they might have already. If you don't know exactly what you want to give them, and you think that they might have cool ideas for what they want to be challenged by, then finding excuses to make their suggestions happen is a lot less boring than finding excuses not to.

One source for specific scenes that I recommend a lot is The Comprehensive Guide to Alternate Goals in Combat: a community effort to come up with a bunch of ways to make hero/villain conflicts more interesting than just throwing bigger numbers at each other until one side dies.

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

I believe to get the right feel, tone and immersion, running a evil party, the players need to perceive the world around them as being "evil" and "weak" and in essence they are the ones doing good.  To protect the weak is to allow weakness to exist, causing suffering.  A so called "good" king, kind and merciful..all signs of weakness is nothing but a foolish selfish, weak king, who don't have what it takes to lead and protect his people, and must be removed.

The players need to think like Darth Vader.  He perceives himself to be the savior of the galaxy, and all his action is to bring order and peace...  he sincerely believe in his own bs.

Playing the evil side if done right can be immersive, fun and sometimes eye openning, but I think it requires a bit of change of perception on the players part.   Being evil is not about petty theft & random violence.  The engine behind the players decisions should be a philosophy...  and the belief that they are the ones who are the true heroes, saving the world.

Personnaly, I think majority of dnd players are evil if judging by their over-all motivations (treasures), actions (lot of random violence), decisions (mostly selfish to the core)...but majority of them wouldn't identify themselves as evil.. but good heroes.  Figure that one out.
 
Something to the effect.  You know what I mean.  Be a Darth Vader.
Now, I realize that the popular paradigm on this board - that forms the basis for a lot of the subsequent advice you're going to get - is that the players aren't supposed to have opinions about what they want from the game that they're taking time out of their real lives to play, that any player input into making death/failure scenes cooler will result in not having any death/failure scenes, that getting more people involved in surprising each other will mean that nobody gets surprised...



This is way way off topic, but you copy/paste this into almost every post you make and it's really not true.  I've been reading these forums for 2-3 weeks now and I've pretty much only seen advice, from many people, that equates to 'ask your players' or 'talk to your players'.



As for Ghost's post not all evil-doers think they're the good guy.  Darth Vadar may have fallen to the darkside due to believing his own BS but he eventually just kept on keeping on being evil beause that was the path he'd fallen on to.  Walter White is much the same.  Then there are those that are evil simply because they've decided they want power and don't care how they get it.  They don't believe they're doing the world/galaxy/whatever any good at all, but so long as they're doing themselves some good they don't care.

I get the impression his players don't want to play a campaign where they're still the good guys, just from the opposit side.  I get the impression they actually want to be evil.

I'd also disagree with this completely:
Personnaly, I think majority of dnd players are evil if judging by their over-all motivations (treasures), actions (lot of random violence), decisions (mostly selfish to the core)...but majority of them wouldn't identify themselves as evil.. but good heroes.  Figure that one out.

 

Getting treasure is fun and cool, but that's a reward after the fact.  That's not the reason the party dove into the cave of ogres to rescue somebody.  The violence is rarely random.  There are evil beings doing evil things and you stop them.  There's not much random about it.  Random would be slaughtering townsfolk and goblins alike.  I really just haven't seen anything to make me think any part of the quoted section is accurate.
More than any other kind of game, an evil campaign is going to require a Session 0 to make it work. Get everyone on the same page in terms of motivation, conflict resolution, and consequences before you start playing.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'd say keep the Evil Campaigns short, not much longer than a dozen game sessions... one-shot campaigns with pre-gen Evil characters might not be a bad idea (especially if you've run an Evil Campaign with this group before only to find it going in an unsatisfactory direction, though you will probably get a lot of resistance to pregens no matter what you do.)  Either way, let the players know that you only intend to run an Evil campaign for the short-term.  If it somehow works out well enough that everyone wants to keep going, you can always expand things later.

I say that, because, on one hand, I get the feeling that Evil adventures are something most groups only dabble in as a change of pace from the usual.  On the other hand, there's usually only so far an Evil campaign can go, before the players are aimlessly killing everything in sight, burning down villages, disrupting the storyline, and showing other signs of not having any investment in the setting.  And, on the gripping hand, most players have a rather poor concept of how to play an Evil character beyond ludicrous caricatures, with the result that every single thing they do is "for the Evulz", even things that insane, sadistic, suicidal, low-grade morons would have enough sense not to do (see Stupid Evil and Chaotic Stupid for common examples - look for player-on-player violence, theft of each others' gear, murder of helpful NPCs and quest-givers and anyone else you try to insert in the game in an attempt to keep the party from self-destructing, and that sort of thing.)

Communication, as someone mentioned above, is important - the players (and the DM) should take a session before character creation (Session Zero) to set the dice, rule books, and blank character sheets aside, and first lay out what boundaries should not be crossed, and next to create the characters together, in the open, as a cohesive party of three-dimensional characters that have common goals - they might be Evil, but they still need to work together as a team, and be on the same page about who their characters are, and what those characters hope to achieve by working together.  If the campaign lasts longer than a one-shot adventure, consider having additional Session Zeroes every few levels, just to make sure everyone's still on the same page, and to help take care of the results of character development since the last Session Zero.

As a DM, your job is likely to be much harder, unless the players are willing to create characters with motivations that go beyond "I'm chaotic evil - I just do a bunch of chaotic and evil stuff!"  It's generally easy to dangle plot-hooks in front of heroic characters and get a bite, as heroic characters will generally jump at the chance to answer calls for help, answer challenges to their honor and decency, help the helpless, try to gain the favor of NPCs just for their acknowledgment and gratitude, and so on... and, if nothing else works, you can always dangle some treasure and money in front of heroic PCs to at least play to the PCs' need for good equipment and so on.  Generic Evil parties, on the other hand, tend to do whatever gets into the players' heads, and whatever that is, it's not necessarily something that will be interesting to you as a DM or likely to provide much more adventure than burning the city down or killing a few town guards or something.

Beware of Angsty McLoneWolf:  the strong, silent, aloof, tortured loners are not a good fit in any party, good, evil, neutral, mixed, or none-of-the-above.

I'd say that Evil parties and sandbox campaigns are probably not the best combination - you will probably be much better off with a very focused campaign with clear objectives.  Evil parties in sandbox worlds seem to have a tendency to wander around aimlessly performing random acts of pointless evil and chaos, escalating things in an attempt to get some strong reaction from someone, somewhere, until the campaign eventually falls apart.

I might suggest combining an Evil Campaign with an experiment in throwing out alignment altogether, by directing the players to come up with actual, recognizably human(oid) personalities and motivations for their less-than-heroic characters without blindly leaning on alignment stereotypes, but something tells me that won't be a popular suggestion.

Good luck in any case.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
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  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
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I would just expect the challenge to be who gets what.  The core of evil is selfishness.  Why is that evil guy stealing?  Because he wants stuff for himself.  Why is that evil guy killing people?  Because he enjoys killing.  etc.

In a group of 4-6 people all running on that motivation you're bound to have just endless internal conflict.  You find small exceptions.  Childhood friends that grow up together and end up partners in crime.  Fiercly loyal to each other, the rest of the world be damned and all that.  Trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for why a group of evil folks sticks together beyond a single 'job' could be hard.  '"Because they're useful" is typcially the reason evil people work together, but that only lasts so long. 

I would suggest reading the Book of Vile Darkness and the Open Grave supplements; both give some good insights to how to run more evil themes .


I myself am playing in an “Evil” game, in as much as we where given freedom to do as we wished within the game and the entire party just leaned towards evil


+1 to having a Session 0; you need to lay down the base rules of what can/can’t be done, and maybe want to hammer in the unspoken rule that the party should act like the party; in an evil game people are much more likely to bash heads with their fellow player; if this is handled by laughing or arguing can be headed off in a good pre-game session.


Just remember to always have fun and it’s just a game, my party and I have had many an hours of good gaming sailing around a fantasy sea looking for a quest item, but why not play Pirates and burn down a few villages why you do it?

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/1.jpg)

Also, make sure everyone understands each others moral boundries. Evil isn't too different from good, actually.

tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Stup...

That link is to demonstrate that evil doesn't have to be hacking/looting barmaids and killing commoners and serving the lich their hero characters would be killing.


Evil characters in my game are defined by 2 things:

1. They have less social empathy.
They are willing to use others as they need to. They have less regard and patience for others.

Being evil doesn't mean being someone who breaks the rules of civilization. It means when asked the question "There are 2 burning houses. One contains a baby and one contains a puppy..." An evil character isn't one who will say "Roast marshmellows and dance!" An evil character might ask "Which one is more beneficial to me? The baby is inconvenient for a super villain, but that dog might be useful. The baby might be worth a reward or title but the dog might belong to a wealthier owner who can pay more. Which one looks less dangerous? does one look more dangerous to commoners and less dangerous to me, meaning it will look more heroic than it is?"

2. Evil characters don't "work for evil" (even if they do evil work to achieve their ends).
Evil characters will be glad to help the mayor by rescuing his children from the thieves guild.

They want to be recognized so if they get in trouble with the law, he owes them a favor. Besides, if the leader of the thieves guild starts getting public attention, the members might get upset. "I might be able to install someone more beneficial to me, or even make my own bid for control." Evil characters don't want the lich to succeed in casting the Armageddon spell. I mean, how profitable is the world if it were a desolate wasteland? Would that be fun to live in? Do you want to serve a being without regard for your life?  Well, maybe if it gets you close. Instead of rushing in the dungeon and killing a lich, you might start next to the lich on ritual night, then betray him, kill him, fight your way out. And, if you prevented the public from knowing your involvement in helping the lich, you can increase your reputation as a "good guy".


I suppose I am trying to say that you don't need to tell them to poison rivers in a siege. Rather instead of helping the good guys they might help the bad guys. They might approach both groups to learn the bigger picture, and decide whichever is more profitable. They might pick the winning side because its less work and more likely to keep their head in tact.

Lastly, you can always use misguided good enemies. The church led by a corrupter who practices demagoguery to persecute spellcasters or members of a different religion; or begins witch hunts against a specific vice (no gambling, no drinking) and turning the tavern into a milk serving prayer lodge. You can have a "good cleric" who believes in forcing his morality on others that irks the players. You can have a good aligned mayor who is gullible, so the players abuse his good nature. There might be a church or good aligned faction who has extreme racist or sexist beliefs (even if the majority of their faction does not hold those views.) Everyone would probably hate these factions anyway, and evil people would simply be more inclined to "do something about it" without having to have legal permissions, social approval or evidence.

Within; Without.

I
The players need to think like Darth Vader.  He perceives himself to be the savior of the galaxy, and all his action is to bring order and peace...  he sincerely believe in his own bs.


Exactly. Evil doesn't have to be about destroying the world. The villian who wants to operate the ancient artifact and destroy all life isn't so much evil as just crazy.
Plus(and yes, I am going to bring it up) evil doesn't need in any way to be tasteless or creepy.


Hi guys,

My players asked for an evil-themed campaign. One of them is an experienced player (about 4-5 years of playing),  one is fairly experienced (3 years) and the others were new about the game when we started playing a year and a half ago. As they gain more experience, getting the basics of learning the core mechanics and going now to innovative strategies (with my help, I'm trying to teach them how to think outside of the box), I'm realizing playing evil is hard for them, as they have to think against what they've experienced in most games. Still, this feeling of playing evil feels good to them (and to me), but it's hard to offer real evil plots, except from taking some usual stuff and turning it over (like defend from holy crusaders, chase an artifact and kill that alchemist hiding it, etc.). I'd like to let them plunder and loot, but being myself new to DMing (1 year and a half, playing from once a week to once per month), it's hard to plan every inn, shop and NPC as encounters.

Do you have any cues on how to desing cities and NPCs?
Do you have any cues on how to give a real "evil party" quest?

I feel like WotC haven't thought about this twist. My players have a great party, they are cohesive, even if evil, and they work out great together. I'd just like to give them the universe to make it happen.


There should be no difference between designing cities in "good" or "evil" campaigns, because cities are just that: cities. However, the focus is probably going to be on the city watch which will try to stop the evil PCs and the city government, which may or may not be on their side.
In my opinion, NPCs in an evil campaign should be designed as "good" NPCs as should organisations. Good aligned religions and people will be opponents in this sort of campaign.

As for the topics of an evil campaign:
If the group is interested in plundering, there is the option of piracy or racketeering.
If there is an interest in murder, assassination is a viable option.
Then there is the whole venue of exploitation like child abuse, prostitution, drug trafficking and slavery.
For a grander scheme, try putting one evil organization against the other. Think of this as Hell's Angels vs. Bandidos in real life. Or one thief guild against the other with the watch as a third party.

I am assuming that you are not going for a "my PC is a total sociopathic killer" route, which might likely end in a self-inflicted TPK. The examples above could be played in a much more controlled environment, in which PCs that have an evil goal, but will not go crazy. And if they do, only by accident or short-term loss of control.

It all depends where your interests lie.

Can I ask a question, though? I have asked this before and did not get an answer because, well, maybe people do not want to explain themselves: what do you find appealing to play this sort of game? I am not judging you, I just would really like to know since this not my cup of tea at all. So what's the appeal and what is so interesting about this? Thanks.
Can I ask a question, though? I have asked this before and did not get an answer because, well, maybe people do not want to explain themselves: what do you find appealing to play this sort of game? I am not judging you, I just would really like to know since this not my cup of tea at all. So what's the appeal and what is so interesting about this? Thanks.



My guess on some level the players (maybe the DM, too) want more player narrative control and the impetus to be more proactive in the context of the world. Villains and roguish heroes are much more able to do this than hero-heroes, generally speaking. Superman flies around waiting for crime to happen; Lex Luthor, on the other hand, has committed more crimes before 9 am than you've committed all day! There's a blog on this. (It's D&D With Pornstars. Not sure if that's safe for work.)

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
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My guess is that players enjoy worlds which feel like the real one in subtle ways. In a world like Game of Thrones, a lot of people are out to screw each other, advance their own goals, has dirt on their hands; very few people are "honorable and heroic". Sometimes, the world just operates in a way that "it's hard not to be evil, folks."

I think players also have perceptions that being evil means following less rules of civilization; instead of butt-kissing the guards, groveling to the king, and beating up the bad guys just because they are bad. Maybe they have ideas that evil characters will "free them from some limitation", as though being good leaves you "less options" to "handle" something, especially something "dirty".

I also think the archetype being portrayed as some rich genius with a great life (up to their moment of death), and the heroes "getting screwed" and "holding the bone" over and over while bad guys always seem to get away, be a step ahead, be an inch smarter and just have "2 more inches of macho" causes players to just want to be whoever has less limitations and more freedom.

In many groups where I have observed the desire to play evil, I also noticed a trend of evil characters and NPC's being "Teh Awesome" and good guys generally losing badly until a "Power Ranger" shows up and saves the day. This could be part of how some DM's over-focus their villains to be "so awesome" that the image of "Good" is reduced to looking weak, being morally objectionable or being forced to "make a sacrifice" while not having the same "buffed" flavor attention given to enemies. Maybe this is just attrition of trying to come up with great enemies?

I rarely have players ask to be evil in my game, while now and then a player might "become evil" in the course of a game (often, discovering "oh, this character is evil" long after character creation).

Within; Without.

Can I ask a question, though? I have asked this before and did not get an answer because, well, maybe people do not want to explain themselves: what do you find appealing to play this sort of game? I am not judging you, I just would really like to know since this not my cup of tea at all. So what's the appeal and what is so interesting about this? Thanks.



My guess on some level the players (maybe the DM, too) want more player narrative control and the impetus to be more proactive in the context of the world. Villains and roguish heroes are much more able to do this than hero-heroes, generally speaking. Superman flies around waiting for crime to happen; Lex Luthor, on the other hand, has committed more crimes before 9 am than you've committed all day! There's a blog on this. (It's D&D With Pornstars. Not sure if that's safe for work.)



This is precisely why I've said that often-times a superhero game is better played from the side of the villains if the DM (or source material...or both) is not able to provide a rich enough world for the heroes to manage and interact with.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

My guess is that players enjoy worlds which feel like the real one in subtle ways. In a world like Game of Thrones, a lot of people are out to screw each other, advance their own goals, has dirt on their hands; very few people are "honorable and heroic". Sometimes, the world just operates in a way that "it's hard not to be evil, folks."

I think players also have perceptions that being evil means following less rules of civilization; instead of butt-kissing the guards, groveling to the king, and beating up the bad guys just because they are bad. Maybe they have ideas that evil characters will "free them from some limitation", as though being good leaves you "less options" to "handle" something, especially something "dirty".

I also think the archetype being portrayed as some rich genius with a great life (up to their moment of death), and the heroes "getting screwed" and "holding the bone" over and over while bad guys always seem to get away, be a step ahead, be an inch smarter and just have "2 more inches of macho" causes players to just want to be whoever has less limitations and more freedom.

In many groups where I have observed the desire to play evil, I also noticed a trend of evil characters and NPC's being "Teh Awesome" and good guys generally losing badly until a "Power Ranger" shows up and saves the day.



So much truth in this post! Especially the last sentence!

A lot of evil play does seem to be a direct response to a complete lack of agency at those tables (or at past tables) when those players have played on the side of good. They feel entirely reactionary and, realistically, very well may be forced into that role by a DM that is presenting a story rather than allowing the players to simply play. Hence, in their minds, the bad guys are the ones that are free to do as they please so if they can be the bad guys instead they will get that similar freedom. Of course, if it's at the same table that won't happen because the problems are not the dynamic of good/evil but rather the dynamic of choice/constraint being formed by the DM.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I think players also have perceptions that being evil means following less rules of civilization



I think this is just a symptom of an underlying problem: The players are actually objecting to the way the DM is constraining their choices in this or previous games. "Rules of civilization" are often just a proxy for the DM demanding things go the way he thinks it should go. See: Ubiquitous town guards.

But then, I earned myself plenty of hate and about a year of trolling last time I suggested this was really the issue. So I'll leave it at that. Good luck, OP.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

One of our games is currently an 'evil' campaign set in the Nentir Vale- our party/ it's servants are basically becoming a darker version of the Roman Empire, with the recently conquered Gardmore Abbey as our seat of power; Winterhaven is already under our protection as are several outlying areas...we're all 'evil,' yet everyone gets along pretty well because there's an established structure to how we want things run, and it works.
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I can somewhat understand wanting to feel empowered in a way that good PCs cannot. Because when playing an evil PC, you can be both, good, should the need arise, and evil, because that's what your personality is. I can also see that restrictive DMing makes being the bad guy look cooler, because the evil opponent just seems so much more awesome.
This seems to be the argument of players being somewhat "forced" (if that's not too strong a word) to that kind of play-style. 

But, and I think this is a great but: you still have to go to that dark place within yourself that produces evil actions in the game on a roleplaying level. Unless we are talking about the nerdy, romantic way of looking at evil (more tongue-in-cheek, really), real evil as seen in real life is something completely different. And I find it hard to come up with these sort of schemes, plans and PC-NPC-interaction and actually follow through with it.

DM: "So, you captured the girl and she is kneeling in front of you, shackled and naked. What do you do?"
Player 1: "Well, I **** her, wasn't that the plan?"
Player 2: "Yeah, it was, so we do it!"
The players: "Wow, what a great game night! Playing the raping of women really is fun. Let's do this again next Wednesday."

I do not think a reaction to any over-empowered, dictatorial DM-style does explain well why one would want to play this kind of genre and go to that place roleplayingwise. I have always been of the opinion that there has to be something else. But what is it?
Too many good posts to +1 them all, so I'll just give my support.

I have played in a number of Evil campaigns in most versions of D&D, and one thing that has come up repeatedly is that D&D ASSUMES good-aligned (or at least good-focused) characters. Communication is key, as is keeping the Evil based campaign short (especially your FIRST "Evil" campaign). 

Also, you have to be clear about what you are willing to DM; if you aren't comfortable with players DOING evil things, then don't be forced into running a game where that is the idea. Ask them AHEAD of time what their goal is, and then build a 8-10 session arc that ends with the opportunity to do whatever they wanted to do.

As a side note, we had a GREAT time playing an Evil campaign that lasted about a year, and then the NEXT campaign was GOOD players disrupting the Evil character's established stuff (the Evil characters became NPCs and major villians in the game world afterwards).


Edit: Aaannnnd... in before lock. 
So many PCs, so little time...

I personally enjoy playing an evil game due to the reasons posted above, but also, I was one of those kids who had ever marvel/dc comic villains’ action figures, but none of the heroes.


Most of it was they where proactive figures, as stated above heroes respond to things in most games; but in a game where you are “Evil” it is totally acceptable to go and start your own plots or crimes simply because that’s what your character does, there is no need to sit around and be feed a quest when you are playing a self-creating quest character.


Also to answer the question of is there an evil itch we are trying to scratch; I believe that is getting into a philosophical debate about the nature of our species; some would argue that mankind is a violent beast that has been “civilized” to play nice in large numbers.


So yes; there is something of a dark itch that I at least enjoy to scratch every now and then along with a lot of my fellow players; this is not saying we all are walking about having ****/murder fantasies going through our heads.


This is seen mostly through video games, especially the ones which are more open ended.


Skyrim- Why ever kill an NPC that a quest doesn’t require it or that not an outright enemy?


COD- Why in the single player campaign do people open fire on the crowd at the airport when you don’t have to finish the objective?


GTA- Hell, why do most the things people actually do when they play GTA.


Though I am sure many won’t agree I think it boils down to everyone has their personal demons (skeletons in the closet) we each deal with them in our own way ((and the people who don’t are our criminals and madmen))


By playing a game, virtual or tabletop which allows us to interact with these elements we are allowing ourselves to itch that little dark spot inside of us without having to fully engage in acts that we know are evil and uncalled for. I would never shoot someone in real life that wasn’t trying to kill me or a loved one; but why do I enjoy going all chaotic evil when playing Skyrim?


I’m not sure if this answers anything; and more than likely this answer will split people more than unite; but I for one don’t think me or my fellow gamers who play “Evil” games are bad people or are closet rapist/murders or are evil social deviants; we are just scratching an itch that everyone has, we just happen to be doing so through the medium of a game.  

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/1.jpg)

I think this is just a symptom of an underlying problem: The players are actually objecting to the way the DM is constraining their choices in this or previous games. "Rules of civilization" are often just a proxy for the DM demanding things go the way he thinks it should go. See: Ubiquitous town guards.

But then, I earned myself plenty of hate and about a year of trolling last time I suggested this was really the issue. So I'll leave it at that. Good luck, OP.



Well, I'll come out and say it, then, because I've been thinking the same thing:  I am very sure in many cases that the motivation for a group deciding to play an Evil Party (and, less often, individual players wanting to play evil characters in otherwise good parties) is a protest against having too little freedom ("you can't do that... you can't do that either..."), too few engaging experiences in their regular games ("this is BORING, let's make stuff happen!"), a bit too much self-restraint in the usual games (maybe they're afraid of disrupting the DM's epic plot usually and thus treat everything in the usual games like it's made of glass, and then want to loosen their collars every now and then in a world they can't really break), just a little bit too many experiences the DM being too clever for his own good ("yet ANOTHER back-stabbing face-heel-turn NPC 'surprise'?!?!  That's it, I just want to kill every NPC that turns up!")  I think a clear sign of this is when "game-world vandalism" appears:  those instances where anything a DM creates, the PCs burn, destroy, murder, and otherwise disrupt.  (I think you'll also hear a lot of "but that's just what my character would do" excuses anytime something seems a little too malevolent and personal, and you try to call the players on it.)

I think in some of those cases, and in many of the cases where the players are happy with the DM's campaign, there's also an element of the players wanting to try their hand at DMing a little:  creating villains, and dictating the plots that occur in the game world.  As someone above said, it's a little more proactive than being a hero and waiting for something to happen... DMs (and their NPCs) don't typically seem to sit around waiting for things to happen, they actually go out into their game world and make things happen.  The players are perhaps wanting to set their own pace for a change, or to see if they can do the job of making villains and telling stories better.  Perhaps this isn't a bad sign - perhaps it's just a sign that one or more of your players are interested in trying their hand at rotating DM duties - if so, let them at it:  you probably deserve a break from time to time!

And, I'm sure there are a few players who genuinely want to try their hand at creating an interesting, three-dimensional character with a dark side, and see that character through heavy character development and so on.  Perhaps it's an exercise in playing against type, or an artistic expression.  For example, it's tough to get a more dramatic character development moment than the one where a Scrooge suddenly gets an epiphany about the direction his life is heading in, turns his life around, and seeks redemption.

And, I'm also sure that you have the occasional Troll, who has the same motivation as internet trolls in seeing how far he can push the group and/or DM's buttons and get an entertaining reaction.  And, maybe in very rare cases you have genuinely troubled players who really want to test the waters for acting out fantasies that would get them arrested for expressing any other way... I doubt that most players are like this, and I'm sure you'll have a feeling something's wrong if you do happen to have one of these guys in your group.



For myself, I will play less-than-heroic PCs in games in the horror genre, just to see them get their just desserts.  I guess it's related to the way horror and detective fiction writers make up slimy victims for awful stuff to happen to:  it just feels right when bad things happen to bad people.  I'm sure I can't be alone in that motivation, and so maybe some of these Evil parties are really hoping to see a DM give their Evil party the worst.  If so, then I'm sure that would be something that would come out in Session Zero, as players explain their character concepts and what their own goals for those characters would be.



[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
But, and I think this is a great but: you still have to go to that dark place within yourself that produces evil actions in the game on a roleplaying level. Unless we are talking about the nerdy, romantic way of looking at evil (more tongue-in-cheek, really), real evil as seen in real life is something completely different. And I find it hard to come up with these sort of schemes, plans and PC-NPC-interaction and actually follow through with it.

There's also fantasy evil, which can be serious, but not in a horrible to describe way. It's about the approach, of cutting through problems, rather than working them out. I don't think evil campaigns, in general, are about simulating how disturbing real evil will be, more about acknowledging that the PCs' actions are already fairly evil, when looked at a certain way.

Obviously some people go over the top and get really dark, for various reasons. But that's not necessarily the same as an "evil game."

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

It's nice of you to answer in great number.

However, we've been playing this evil game from lvl 1 to lvl 6 I think and enjoying it. They play as a group, they have a drive to stay together and I give them opportunities to stay close. Up to now, that's what I've come up with:

We're in my universe, so nothing you know of, but I'd say it's a mix of the main settings, let's say Forgotten, Nentir and Underdark. The party started in drow jails as slaves. They were Warpstone miners but an unknown drow came disguised as a guard, gave them an escape route and planned their evasion. They were targetted among other slaves to be freed for a Shadow sorcerer who intended to use them as scouts to clean some underground passages (sewers, crypts, etc.) that ultimately would become a network of safe routes for evil doers of the underdark. On first game, they decided to flee and went to a nearby city, Greenfort, settled in a marsh-like environment. They were chasing one of their last master's slave which fled away with a mysterious urn that summoned undead (in a world where undead have yet to appear). Up there, they sought some work and found a thieve's guild that asked of them to engage in the milicia to do sidejobs. Having their patrol routes as a cover, they managed to find an alchemist who was working on rituals to animate and control golems. They found a schematics, but they also captured the guy and brought him back to the city, where they were supposed to give him to the Thieve's guild leader. They screwed up and offered him to the milicia captain, which then seized him, as he was tracked for mysterious crimes. Truth is, he knew stuff about the mayor, which is also a powerful alchemist, stuff players never dared to ask, as they are too straightforward to think about such plots.
Then, the Thief gave them info on the mayor. It happens he's creating, with the help of some elf enchanters, a Virtuore, a orange-like stone that alienate it's bearer. The city being surrounded by monsters (a la Nentir Vale), he used it to assimilate the savages and creatures, using them as an army and assuring a relatively peaceful area.
My group, as defenders of freedom, decided to free some of these creatures. They were hostile at them, as they wanted to loot their gems, but they managed to kill the leaders and steal most of it, letting hatchlings grow far from the stone. However, the drow who saved them came back looking for it's lost slaves. They then fleed to another city, as their motives became known by the milicia and their emplacement known by their old enemy.
They then arrived to Icarne, a city settled in a crater surrounded by a circular mountain. Ultimately, this will become an undead city. For now, the lake in it's middle is frozen and hald the city is quarantined because a disease is sprawling. My party met an Innkeeper, faithful servant of the god of lust, who asked them to retrieve a lost artifact stolen by elves who intended to purify it an destroy it after. They gladly killed elves and they made a reputation as an ally of this woman who's not well regarded in the city... but it happens it's just a front and that she's the servant of the city lord. This man's twin, however, is not such a good guy, and he hired them to find info on the frost lake at the mountain's top, where once an influent family was established. They found nothing but spirits that gave them a dark lantern... and some guys in bright armor that, as soon as they arrived at their sight, flied in a beam of light towards floating island. Back down to the city, they found their contact was murdered and that an handkerchief with two moons was left on him (elf nightstalkers guild). They were first suspects, sold by the innkeeper, so they took a boat and realized the ice was only preventing corpses from getting in the water, but not crafted objects, which could float as usual. Their lantern appeared to be what could light the way on the lake, and they set foot on the quarantined area. There, they learned the lore of the city and met some landlord who's been thrown out of it's manor by a drow. They found a secret entrance, where they've been ambushed by the nightstalkers, and fought their old nemesis, the sorcerer's henchman. After an epic fight, they claimed their loot, and found that he was sending slaves to the fortress west of the village, where the lake falls underground under a mage's family tower... Even though they could not care less about slavery, the reward is good for bringing them back and, as ex-slaves, they feel angered towards those evil-doers.

Now, I'm running Thunderspire labyrinth with them, where I've tweaked some characters and plots. For instance, the final mage, sworn to Veccna, will become a Night stalker trying to convert the shrine to Veccna to a shrine to the god of Justice. They will have to make a choice: let hells go loose on Icarne or let the God of Justice clean it all. I'm sure they'll go for the first option, then they'll understand all what was going on in Icarne, but when they'll get out, the world will have changed, as while they were fleeing from the drow sorcerer, he managed to build a ritual that will tear the world they know (one huge continent governed by elements), transforming it and streacthing it (arrival of a new map I achieved).

So, now, I found some plots. One of the 2 original party members (others have died and been replaced) has been cured with Warpstone, but he will suffer some secondary effects. They will have to choose: finish the ritual (find the sorcerer), cleanse him (go to a city and play it honest) or remove the stone with another ritual (go to an orcish island where goblins shaman can help them).
From there, they can either join the thieve's guild leader which told them he would be in another city and we'll play it mafia-style (gang wars, petting, murder, etc.), they can join the goblins and raid other villages, and maybe sail to elven islands to destroy some good, they can go on a crusade to find back the party of light on their floating island (a moving island that serves as a tribunal for the followers of the god of Light), they can go help the undead find some artifacts and defend against the good that will want to eradicate them while they're young on this earth, etc.

So it's not a "what is an evil game" post. It's more "do you know any tools, books or precise questlines that could help me design the world for them".

but thanks for the input, I've found useful stuff!
Theoretically, it's the same as questlines, tools, books, and world design for good characters, isn't it? 

The only real difference, on a theoretical level, is that the characters are a motivated a little more by self-interest, and have poorer judgment when it comes to picking business partners and role-models and making decisions, right?

Evil characters aren't an alien species with alien motivations, backgrounds, and so on - they're really just like the rest of us, with a few bad choices behind them, or an unfortunate personality flaw, or the pressure of desperation pushing them to do things they might not want to do.  We've all made decisions we regret; evil people make regrettable decisions on a regular basis, and have convinced themselves they had no better choices.  With that in mind, the questlines and world design should naturally be more or less the same as for heroic characters, perhaps with plot-hooks that appeal to lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, a tendency to overreact to real and percieved insults or injuries, envy, pride, and other common weaknesses... in a way, with so many possibilities, it may actually be easier to create plot-hooks for evil characters than it would be for good characters.

As someone else pointed out, most classic heroic D&D adventure scenarios basically boil down to the formula of a gang of ne'er-do-wells getting drunk at a bar, where they proceed to get talked by a mysterious stranger into breaking and entering another stranger's private property, killing servants and guards, stealing stuff, and splitting the loot.  You don't really need to make any changes to that premise to make it work for an evil party.

The main difference is one of characterization, and here, as much as anywhere, one of your most powerful storytelling tools is the group of players across the table.  If they want to play an Evil party, but can't think up any good questlines and game world elements that interest them to populate your campaign with for you, then perhaps an Evil party isn't the best choice for them.  Invite their input a lot... raid their character sheets for plot elements and ideas... let their ideas, characterizations, and so on be a guide for where to go and what to do.  If you find yourself stuck and painted into a corner, ask for the players to suggest a way out.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
The only real difference, on a theoretical level, is that the characters are a motivated a little more by self-interest, and have poorer judgment when it comes to picking business partners and role-models and making decisions, right?

Evil characters aren't an alien species with alien motivations, backgrounds, and so on - they're really just like the rest of us, with a few bad choices behind them, or an unfortunate personality flaw, or the pressure of desperation pushing them to do things they might not want to do.  We've all made decisions we regret; evil people make regrettable decisions on a regular basis, and have convinced themselves they had no better choices. 



I would argue immediately that you're wrong. Modern capitalism in America is evil, rooted in egoism, and motivated ONLY by profit. For god sake, for the last 30 years, our health care system has exploited the sick and created personal debt instead of personal wellness, on a micro level. on a macro level, it filled up the bankruptcy courts, and caused foreclosures galore while people died, and suffered unable to get the medical treatment they want. Capitalism has taken the concept of Evil and created an economy out of it. We have been shipping jobs over to foreign labor prisons, and work camps which create poverty in the nations we "create jobs" in by paying under the bar over there, just like over here.

Is this a "poor business partner" when it is the one guaranteed to make the most money? How about the moral guardians demand that in the name of Morality, that capitalism must no longer be allowed to perish the quality of human life to save a dollar? Poorer judgement? Poor role models? Maybe, but these people for the crimes they commit, on the level these crimes occur on, one could argue they are the best role models with very good judgement; after all, Capitalists have made sure that the only "value" is money and all other national values are under it. Who do you want to go into business with? A socialist who pays his employees 2x wages, or a company who offers .01 more percent return while creating jobs in labor prisons only?

I would finalize by arguing that in America, all other economic models have been proclaimed evil. America is a great model of how an "evil merchants" power center would work. Yet, many don't agree that its even evil. Sometimes, we have things we KNOW are evil, but we don't know how to solve them in a moral way, sometimes there just isn't a means to bring about a "moral solution" and sometimes, people think the "evil" is "good" or at least "good for me".

So, when you break down the details, Good and Evil isn't so "black and white" but rather there are a million shades of grey. Most capitalists in America will deny that they are participating in something evil, and many just blame the workers when asked why they pay such low wages. So, why are people evil in real life? Well, most of them don't think of themselves as evil. Also, Capitalism like the recent NSA scandals, have their duties spread so thin between so many organizations that each component is "not responsible" for the "bigger picture", and they will all deny the presence of a bigger picture.

As you can see, in a capitalist society, "it's hard not to be evil, folks. I just live in a world where evil makes money and everything else is expensive. Real expensive." When the means always justify the ends, and the "victims on the way" are just "externalizations" and your employees are just "externalized" as undesired costs, anyone who can't predict the outcome probably isn't even smart enough to play craps or checkers. Why does this evil appeal, why not just force them into goodness? Ironic truth, is that the "evil capitalists" are also often the "moral guardian club".

I suppose this is because, even "evil" thinks itself as having morals, being right, not being "bad".


And, I agree with everything about the fact that players just watch over a course of a few games how awesome "bad guys" are and how wimpy "good guys" are would be more inclined to believe "Oh. I get it. Good guys heal each other for a little damage here and there, have to butt-kiss the guards and save every damsel, while bad guys get to just do what they want to."  If you want players to be "good" then redefine "good". So long as its "better to be evil" and "bad to be good" then it will always be good to be evil.

Within; Without.

If I were to play a evil charactor, I be so good at it that no one would know my true motivation, matter of factly other players would think im good, except the dm whom I must inform why I am doing what I am doing. I dont do random violence. I do controlled meaningful violence for a specific end. I would, lie, cheat, kill in the dark, appear to tell the truth, appear honest and save lives in the light, all to achieve my purpose... To obtain absolute power over the land, with thundering applause of the masses, whom I would utterly enslave once I obtain the power. I think i would enjoy being a evil pc..  Emperor Palpatine is prime example of how "evil" should be played.  Not going around randomly burning towns, acting crazy and chaotic and then calling it being evil.  What insult. :p
If I were to play a evil charactor, I be so good at it that no one would know my true motivation, matter of factly other players would think im good, except the dm whom I must inform why I am doing what I am doing. I dont do random violence. I do controlled meaningful violence for a specific end. I would, lie, cheat, kill in the dark, appear to tell the truth, appear honest and save lives in the light, all to achieve my purpose... To obtain absolute power over the land, with thundering applause of the masses whom I would utterly enslave once I obtain the power. I think i would enjoy being a evil pc..



Sounds like you've figured out the whole point of evil. I always keep information public when possible, and I don't let my characters keep their alignments and other things secret. It just creates a habit of "I keep secrets from other players" which spirals down the ol' slippery slope. When players play evil in my game or world, they are not running around chopping down barmaids and looting farmsteads.

I just try to consider "every faction in the game" probably has individuals who are good, neutral and evil and likewise VERY few people or organizations would ever be considered "wholly good or evil".

Within; Without.

Playing at such level as Palpatine is too much headache though as pc and for the dm. I prefer fresh and simple approach of utter single minded selfishness for wealth, like the Eleanor Gek shadakar in book of dark vial. She is so single minded and selfish, she is styling and hot...enough for a paladin of pelor to fall in luv.
I tjink I prefer to play that as pc, fresh and simple then a sith lord evil. Lol
...[political diatribe]...

...So, when you break down the details, Good and Evil isn't so "black and white" but rather there are a million shades of grey.... So, why are people evil in real life? Well, most of them don't think of themselves as evil. Also, ...spread so thin between so many organizations that each component is "not responsible" for the "bigger picture", and they will all deny the presence of a bigger picture.

As you can see, in a capitalist society, "it's hard not to be evil, folks. I just live in a world where evil makes money and everything else is expensive. Real expensive." When the means always justify the ends, and the "victims on the way" are just "externalizations" and your employees are just "externalized" as undesired costs, anyone who can't predict the outcome probably isn't even smart enough to play craps or checkers. Why does this evil appeal, why not just force them into goodness?....

I suppose this is because, even "evil" thinks itself as having morals, being right, not being "bad"....



Pretty much what I'm saying:  "evil" is nothing really alien, "evil" is no harder to understand than "good". 

You come in contact with "evil" motivations every day of your life and probably succomb to a few of those motivations - we all do as human beings. 

If anything, "good" motivations  are the ones that require a little more effort and special materials to understand and utilize in a game world.

For some reason, it seems to be harder to write and perform believable characters who give in to "evil" motivations and it's easier for players (and DMs, for that matter) to fall back on cliche's and caricatures, and that, I think, is why Evil campaigns are more challenging for a group to run than Heroic ones are.

But the plotlines and so on for Evil campaigns are easy - they're all pretty much the same ones used for heroic ones, except that Evil characters are (theoretically) a little easier to please, as far as getting them involved, and Evil characters would tend to take the Low Road as far as their methods go.  Need the party involved in any storyline you need them in?  Have a villain NPC step on the Evil characters' toes a little - what Evil character wouldn't want a chance to get revenge?  Or, provide a good reward for promises of little or no effort to get it - what Evil character wouldn't want some easy money? 

Or, threaten the Evil character's loved ones, or way of life, and so on - if the players are being at all genuine, their Evil characters would object to it just as much as a Heroic character would, but would be less inclined to risk their own necks to do something about it... that's alright, it doesn't take much modification to use even traditionally Heroic plot-hooks to motivate evil characters.  A well-rounded Evil character probably wants to believe she is doing the right thing, and can think of some justification to say that her victims deserve what happens to them, that the means of a few sacrifices justify whatever motivates the character.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Pretty much what I'm saying:  "evil" is nothing really alien, "evil" is no harder to understand than "good". 

You come in contact with "evil" motivations every day of your life and probably succumb to a few of those motivations - we all do as human beings. 

If anything, "good" motivations  are the ones that require a little more effort and special materials to understand and utilize in a game world.

For some reason, it seems to be harder to write and perform believable characters who give in to "evil" motivations and it's easier for players (and DMs, for that matter) to fall back on cliche's and caricatures, and that, I think, is why Evil campaigns are more challenging for a group to run than Heroic ones are.

But the plotlines and so on for Evil campaigns are easy - they're all pretty much the same ones used for heroic ones, except that Evil characters are (theoretically) a little easier to please, as far as getting them involved, and Evil characters would tend to take the Low Road as far as their methods go.  Need the party involved in any storyline you need them in?  Have a villain NPC step on the Evil characters' toes a little - what Evil character wouldn't want a chance to get revenge?  Or, provide a good reward for promises of little or no effort to get it - what Evil character wouldn't want some easy money? 

Or, threaten the Evil character's loved ones, or way of life, and so on - if the players are being at all genuine, their Evil characters would object to it just as much as a Heroic character would, but would be less inclined to risk their own necks to do something about it... that's alright, it doesn't take much modification to use even traditionally Heroic plot-hooks to motivate evil characters.  A well-rounded Evil character probably wants to believe she is doing the right thing, and can think of some justification to say that her victims deserve what happens to them, that the means of a few sacrifices justify whatever motivates the character.



I think evil is actually easier to understand than good, because anything can be twisted to sound good. I am only bringing up Capitalism because people are divided on how they feel about it, while nobody can deny the many unpunished evils of it (or any system). Any in-game merchant organization, faction, guild, church, crown, order, anything at all probably claims and believes among its "masses" to be good. There might even be "some good consequences" of "evil actions" which occur on a wide scale, combined with a lack of information and blind patriotism or loyalties.

I find heroic campaigns more challenging than evil ones. Think about this: In a world like "Game of Thrones", it would be really hard to be "good" because after living long enough, the elements of life would drive you mad. A species who lives for some 300 years, some 1,000 years or 10,000 years or longer will definitely experience pain as their friends age and die.

The empires they built begin to fall to ruin, the "problems of the world" just seem to go "on and on and on" and "it becomes hopeless to resist". (These are in-game reasons players used to justify their characters actions in how they felt their characters were thinking, so I built on that). I find ways to make a little good and bad on almost every side. This gives the players the freedom to "justify" their characters beliefs and actions, which gives them more player agency. Even as they age, the world develops new generations of heroes and the "old heroes" fall to the wayside. Many of my best villains are "old heroes".

All of your examples are great motivations for an evil person to behave the way they do, and the presence of "evil" doesn't disrupt my games at all. I find that evil characters often choose a different side in the worlds comings and goings, and they often don't "go postal" or try to commit "game vandalism". They don't play evil to "rebel against good/rebel against the world/punish the DM/destroy what the DM created". Instead, they play evil for a different perspective in the storylines their characters have developed over time. They might make an enemy, so I let them play a group of heroes within enemy ranks who happen to have evil alignment, goals opposing the goals of the players, and might be "good people" in spite of all that.

Within; Without.

[spoiler Why I think We See So Many Complaints About Evil Campaigns]
I would suggest that the complication in DMing an Evil campaign is largely a limitation of the Evil D&D PCs' default characterization: "I just do a bunch of Evil and Chaotic stuff because that's what my alignment is".

It is not a very useful characterization to create adventure around.  But then, "my personality is that I just do a bunch of Lawful and Good stuff because of my alignment" and "my personality is that I just do a bunch of Neutral stuff because that's my alignment" aren't really much better.

Non-Evil alignments under these conditions of shaky characterization just barely work, I believe, because the players start out with the assumption that it's the job of non-Evil characters to just go with the flow of the story - it's the path of least resistance to the DM. 

And thus one of my conclusions earlier is that, essentially, players may sometimes decide to pick Evil characters and Evil parties, because they conclude that Evil is the path of greatest resistance to the DM - when this is the motivation for playing Evil characters, it's a direct declaration of war on the DM, whether the DM realizes it or not, and whether the DM deserves it or not... and, chances are, the DM deserves it, and doesn't realize what's motivating the players to play Evil characters.  And eventually, the DM winds up in here to ask about what's going wrong with his Evil campaign, while the players wind up in "What's a Player To Do" to describe what a wet diaper the DM is.


That's not to say that describes every Evil party or Evil Campaign, by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I bet lots of them work well, though we (almost) never hear about the ones that work well in the forums here. 
[/spoiler]

Well-rounded, interesting characters of any stripe can help carry just about any storyline in D&D, just like in any other character-driven work of fiction.  If your group is skillful and lucky enough to have well-rounded, interesting characters, then you won't need any special materials or tools to run a game for one classification vs. any other.  If your group doesn't have well-rounded, interesting characters, then no amount of special tools and materials are going to carry you very far beyond that limitation.

So again, I say:  look to your players for inspiration and help.  They are some of the most powerful and effective tools at your disposal to keep any storyline going, as part of your storytelling team, and as the folks in charge of writing the main characters.  If they have solid characters and if they are interested, engaged, and active players, then the storylines will write themselves.  Any time you find yourself painted in a corner or you are out of ideas, all you need to do is put the ball in the players' court and ask them for a way out.  If they are at all interested in their own characters, they'll find the way forward.


And, to answer directly the original poster's questions -

Do I know any tools, books or precise questlines that could help design the world for them?  The tools, books, questlines, NPCs, settings, and quests can be found in the usual Dungeon Master's Guide, Players' Handbook, Monster Manual, a basic campaign setting, any decent pre-written adventure, the players, and a little imagination (or, at least, some TV shows, movies, or stories created by someone else with a good imagination).

Do I know how to design an Evil Party quest, setting, and NPCs? Sure.  As long as you have a group of well-rounded, interesting PCs, the design of any given quest, setting, NPC, or PC should work exactly the same way for Evil PCs as it does for Good ones... general advice for these things in general is often the best advice for their specifics. 

[spoiler For examples]
NPCs:  the role of any NPC is to help support the PCs' starring role and help the PCs look awesome; avoid DMPCs; keep NPCs who are there for combat purposes balanced fairly; keep your stable of NPCs varied in their personalities and reactions to the PCs (avoid, for example, a whole campaign full of sullen, quiet, lone-wolf type NPCs who glare at the PCs and insult them and do little else); give important NPCs well-rounded personalities and motives (for the unimportant ones it's probably alright to just sketch them in), try to forget anything you think you know about Alignment and toss it out the window for NPC creation purposes (if you are creating characters whose personalities and motivations begin and end with True Neutral, Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil, or whatever, you probably aren't going to get very far in creating a memorable character that the players love, or love to hate).

Plots:  the role of plots in any character-driven fiction is secondary to helping the characters do awesome and entertaining things; the plotlines are there to support the player-characters rather than the other way around; the players should, as a group and as individuals, be active participants in creating and choosing plotlines that help their characters look awesome and Session Zero is a great time for them to start doing this.

Settings:  avoid info-dumps of information; the setting is there to support the player-characters as a place to look cool in rather than the other way around (yes, there is a pattern here), the players are a valuable source of setting details that would help their characters look awesome; you can invent your own setting, but pre-written campaign settings are a decent shortcut, and you can always rip off a setting from a movie, TV series, book you enjoyed, and so on (as long as the players know what you are aiming for, it's a great short-cut)
[/spoiler]
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I really enjoyed the very informative posts.

So, as far as I understand this discussion, an "evil" campaign is really just like any other campaign with a bigger scope of character actions (because evil PC have more options to act and react in situations). It does not seem to be about "evil" as a concept.
Now, alignment is a weird thing anyways. But the things mentioned in this thread all fall very well under the 4E alignment of "unaligned".

And here I was thinking that "evil" campaigns are about being a cult member of Kyuss or Asmodeus or starting a racketeering ring or destroying good-aligned temples to further evil, fighting and killing all those in the way. Instead it's like going on any adventure for more selfish reasons. My goodness, I find that not overwhelming.

Considering this, playing "good" heroes seems to be much harder to me, because the game has to be focussed on the morality of one's actions all the time. I would even claim that playing good heroes is more challenging then because of this.
It also seems to me that a lot of people who play in so called evil campaigns deliberately do not go all the way for "evil". And probably for very good reasons, too. Because maybe it really is hard for a halfway decent person to even play a fraud and to willingly exploit the weak in the game. Let alone commit atrocities. Which any membership in a mob-like organization or some evil fantasy-game cult comes along with all the time. After all, you can't be half a gangster and stay in business.
...

I think evil is actually easier to understand than good, because anything can be twisted to sound good. I am only bringing up Capitalism because people are divided on how they feel about it, while nobody can deny the many unpunished evils of it (or any system). Any in-game merchant organization, faction, guild, church, crown, order, anything at all probably claims and believes among its "masses" to be good. There might even be "some good consequences" of "evil actions" which occur on a wide scale, combined with a lack of information and blind patriotism or loyalties.

I find heroic campaigns more challenging than evil ones. Think about this: In a world like "Game of Thrones", it would be really hard to be "good" because after living long enough, the elements of life would drive you mad. A species who lives for some 300 years, some 1,000 years or 10,000 years or longer will definitely experience pain as their friends age and die.

The empires they built begin to fall to ruin, the "problems of the world" just seem to go "on and on and on" and "it becomes hopeless to resist". (These are in-game reasons players used to justify their characters actions in how they felt their characters were thinking, so I built on that). I find ways to make a little good and bad on almost every side. This gives the players the freedom to "justify" their characters beliefs and actions, which gives them more player agency. Even as they age, the world develops new generations of heroes and the "old heroes" fall to the wayside. Many of my best villains are "old heroes".

All of your examples are great motivations for an evil person to behave the way they do, and the presence of "evil" doesn't disrupt my games at all. I find that evil characters often choose a different side in the worlds comings and goings, and they often don't "go postal" or try to commit "game vandalism". They don't play evil to "rebel against good/rebel against the world/punish the DM/destroy what the DM created". Instead, they play evil for a different perspective in the storylines their characters have developed over time. They might make an enemy, so I let them play a group of heroes within enemy ranks who happen to have evil alignment, goals opposing the goals of the players, and might be "good people" in spite of all that.




Just avoiding the political distraction, as the only way to derail a conversation further than a discussion of alignment would be a discussion of religion, politics, or which edition is better

I think those of us who dance cautiously around the question of Evil Parties/Characters/Campaigns have seen too many threads started in the wake of campaigns using those elements that self-destructed, with dazed DMs wondering what went wrong. 

Some of us have even actually participated in such campaigns, either as DMs or as players trying to live with the resident Evil PC, or as the Evil PCs themselves.

I'm sure lots of games involving Evil PCs go quite well - I've heard lots of examples of the ones that do work well - but, unfortunately, folks only rarely start threads here to talk about the ones that go well.

The reality seems to be that, even though they should theoretically be easier, for most groups, Evil Campaigns are a challenge for the DM, and when it's at it's most challenging the challenge usually seems to come about from an adversarial position of the Evil PCs vs. the DM and his game world, or the Evil PCs vs. each other.

And, more than anything, it comes down to Alignment stereotypes and caricatures:  Evil characters by no means have a monopoly on Alignment-driven out-of-game problems, but Evil Campaigns seem to become the special focus of such problems, perhaps because they are campaigns that are specifically designed around Alignment.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I really enjoyed the very informative posts.

So, as far as I understand this discussion, an "evil" campaign is really just like any other campaign with a bigger scope of character actions (because evil PC have more options to act and react in situations). It does not seem to be about "evil" as a concept.
Now, alignment is a weird thing anyways. But the things mentioned in this thread all fall very well under the 4E alignment of "unaligned".

And here I was thinking that "evil" campaigns are about being a cult member of Kyuss or Asmodeus or starting a racketeering ring or destroying good-aligned temples to further evil, fighting and killing all those in the way. Instead it's like going on any adventure for more selfish reasons. My goodness, I find that not overwhelming.

Considering this, playing "good" heroes seems to be much harder to me, because the game has to be focussed on the morality of one's actions all the time. I would even claim that playing good heroes is more challenging then because of this.
It also seems to me that a lot of people who play in so called evil campaigns deliberately do not go all the way for "evil". And probably for very good reasons, too. Because maybe it really is hard for a halfway decent person to even play a fraud and to willingly exploit the weak in the game. Let alone commit atrocities. Which any membership in a mob-like organization or some evil fantasy-game cult comes along with all the time. After all, you can't be half a gangster and stay in business.




Paizo publishing produced a free one-shot Pathfinder (essentially a 3rd Edition D&D revival) adventure based around a party of pre-generated Goblins.

In a world where Goblins are, on the whole, deranged, child-like, malicious little pyromaniacs, the basic plot is to turn the Goblins loose on a quest to find and loot a beached shipwreck full of fireworks.

It seems like the adventure almost always works out quite well:  the pre-gen characters seem to capture the players' imaginations, the party has a common and virtually irresistable goal right in line with the characters' motivations, the PCs are given an interesting "tutorial" area where their characters get a chance to immerse themselves in the game world by doing the things that Goblins do on a daily basis in ways that appeal to the players' instincts for dice-rolling challenges, and the characters are then turned loose in a world where the players are encouraged to role-play the band of destructive little beasties the characters should be.

I've never had a chance to run the adventure or take part in it, but it seems like a load of fun.



Edit to add:  ..and, what I'm getting at is, yes, I mean Evil, rather than unaligned, no, I'm not opposed to Evil adventures.

And, the "We Be Goblins" adventure seems to work equally well as an introduction to fantasy RPGs for new adventurers, because the things that work for the evil party, also work for good ones:  cooperation between the DM and players, entertaining characters, common goals, helping the PCs to look awesome at what they choose to do, and so on.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
The most important advice I can give to any DM regarding adventures is that your players will only need adventures tailored to them if they are reactive. Making them active is far easier. To do that, they have to understand their characters. You want to make sure their character has personality, history, motives and goals before they ever hit the table...otherwise they will just be aimless. With good characters this means that they follow along the same all tired hooks that are offered to them. With neutral characters it means they default to doing what the group does. With evil character it means they act out in typically self-destructive ways.

Only way to prevent that is to make sure your players know their characters and their characters motivations/goals. Work with them on it. A good mixture of short term and long term are best. Nothing beats self-motivation because then you don't have to dangle hooks...the players will actively go out and DO THINGS. You just have to be prepared as a DM for this...which means good skill at improvisation and a great working knowledge of your world.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Considering this, playing "good" heroes seems to be much harder to me, because the game has to be focussed on the morality of one's actions all the time. I would even claim that playing good heroes is more challenging then because of this.

That's precisely the point. Players get tired of the DM blocking them over alignment, and DMs get tired of policing the players, so they take a break and say "Hey, remember how we always joked about how much easier it would be if we were all just evil?"

Others avoid this by realizing that the game doesn't have to be focused on the morality of one's actions all the time.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Considering this, playing "good" heroes seems to be much harder to me, because the game has to be focussed on the morality of one's actions all the time. I would even claim that playing good heroes is more challenging then because of this.

That's precisely the point. Players get tired of the DM blocking them over alignment, and DMs get tired of policing the players, so they take a break and say "Hey, remember how we always joked about how much easier it would be if we were all just evil?"

Others avoid this by realizing that the game doesn't have to be focused on the morality of one's actions all the time.


Yes, I think that could indeed happen in a group in which there is an overemphasis in alignment, especially when playing a system with specific alignment mechanics (you know, Detect Evil, this sort of thing). I do think, though, that players who choose a very specific alignment like Lawful Good or Chaotic Evil for their character have something in mind when making that choice. At least that is what the players in the group that I DM in made clear to me. So in my experience, alignment forms a clear basis of that character's personality and is an integral part of the group's roleplaying experience. At least that is what happens in the group of people I play with. The players who chose that alignment want it that way and questions of morality seem to come up naturally without me doing anything about it as the game develops according to how the players plan and their characters act/react. Otherwise, you can always choose "unaligned" and will be pretty unrestricted.
So if I should ever choose to play an evil character, which is highly unlikely because of experiences with "evil" in real life, I would want that alignment to matter. Not as a reaction to some dictatorial DM-style or because it would offer more options of choices in play. But because I think that evil alignment should matter content-wise. It sure does in real life.
It sure does in real life.

There's no such thing as alignment in real life. But this seems to confirm something I've long suspected: that some of the people who are most concerned about morality in their games (either enforcing it or flaunting it) are those who have had direct experiences with immorality in real life. A fantasy game gives them an environment in which they can see morality rewarded and immorality punished more in accordance with what they wish the real world was like.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Thread was too long for me to read the whole thing, but I gotta say you gotta look at "evil" differently than you probably are.  It can't be evil like Jafar, or any Disney bad guy, but if you have read the Sword of truth series, Darken Rahl.  Darken Rahl is a bad evil man who does all sorts of questionably evil acts.  However, he does it for peace, for what he thinks is right.  He beleives in Socialism and wants to pretty much do away with magic and kill the wizards, cause they fight for freedom and democracy.  However, he views his way as right, and uses some pretty evil means to get what he wants, but in the end he is really just trying to do good. 

Adolf Hitler is another good example.  I don't think too many people would argue that he was not "evil" but he was only doing what he thought was right and good.

This should affect their overall quests and goals in the game.  There should be something they want to accomplish, just like a good party, because they feel it is right.  It should not be them just running around destroying everything just because.  That's just insanity, not evil.
Adolf Hitler is another good example.  I don't think too many people would argue that he was not "evil" but he was only doing what he thought was right and good.

Let's not go there.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Adolf Hitler is another good example.  I don't think too many people would argue that he was not "evil" but he was only doing what he thought was right and good.

Let's not go there.

+1
"The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development." -Albert Einstein Resident Left Hand of Stalin and Banana Stand Grandstander Half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo House of Trolls, looking for a partner Wondering what happened to the Star Wars forums?
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141722973 wrote:
And it wasn't ****. It was subjectively concensual sex.
57036828 wrote:
Marketing and design are two different things. For instance the snuggy was designed for people in wheel chairs and marketed to people that are too incompetent to operate a blanket.
75239035 wrote:
I personally don't want him decapitated.
141722973 wrote:
And do not call me a Yank. I am a Québecois, basically your better.
And the greatest post moderation of all time...
58115148 wrote:
I gave that (Content Removed) a to-scale Lego replica. (Content Removed) love to-scale Lego replicas. (ORC_Cerberus: Edited - Vulgarity is against the Code of Conduct)