Evil party campaign cues

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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.



I do not think that DnD alignments per se exist in real life. Humans tend not to be black or white but something in between. But evil deeds do exist. And a lot of times the people who commit them are punished by society. And I do not agree with the notion that players are interested in morality in the game because they have experienced evil in real life and wish to have "evil" be punished in a better-than-life fantasy world. I think that most people ask questions of morality in their games because it is one of the most fundamental aspects of life and therefore part of anything. After all, literature, movies and art is full of this. Why not RPGs?
If alignment means anything in the game (I can and have played without alignment for many years), it must mean that evil characters tend to do evil things while good characters tend not to and try to be, well, "good". Otherwise why specifically name a game an "evil campaign" (the very topic of this thread) when "evil" as a concept has no meaning and impact in the game you play? Why not play without it entirely?
And I do not agree with the notion that players are interested in morality in the game because they have experienced evil in real life and wish to have "evil" be punished in a better-than-life fantasy world.

I believe it is in some cases, but that's the pop psychologist in me.

I think that most people ask questions of morality in their games because it is one of the most fundamental aspects of life and therefore part of anything. After all, literature, movies and art is full of this. Why not RPGs?

Because it's excessively cerebral. The draggiest parts of Return of the Jedi are when Luke and Vader look around trying to deal with their internal conflict. Thankfully these moments are pretty short and tend to be bracketed by action.

If alignment means anything in the game (I can and have played without alignment for many years), it must mean that evil characters tend to do evil things while good characters tend not to and try to be, well, "good".

No, it mustn't. It could work just as well, and perhaps more compellingly, if it were just an aspect of someone's make-up, like eye-color or blood-type and had no actually influence on their behavior, but was simply believed to. People could choose to act per the stereotypes (since they'll be treated as if they do anyway) or try to rebel against it.

Otherwise why specifically name a game an "evil campaign" (the very topic of this thread) when "evil" as a concept has no meaning and impact in the game you play?

It doesn't have no meaning, it just doesn't have any one person's specific meaning.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.



I think that most people ask questions of morality in their games because it is one of the most fundamental aspects of life and therefore part of anything. After all, literature, movies and art is full of this. Why not RPGs?

Because it's excessively cerebral. The draggiest parts of Return of the Jedi are when Luke and Vader look around trying to deal with their internal conflict. Thankfully these moments are pretty short and tend to be bracketed by action.


But it can be played out in dialogue among the PCs as well. At least that is how the players in the group I DM do it. And I sit back and watch. It's great.


If alignment means anything in the game (I can and have played without alignment for many years), it must mean that evil characters tend to do evil things while good characters tend not to and try to be, well, "good".

No, it mustn't. It could work just as well, and perhaps more compellingly, if it were just an aspect of someone's make-up, like eye-color or blood-type and had no actually influence on their behavior, but was simply believed to. People could choose to act per the stereotypes (since they'll be treated as if they do anyway) or try to rebel against it.


I do not understand what you mean by "since they'll be treated as if they do anyway". This only works if the game offers alignment mechanics as Detect Evil in the first place. And then I would hope an evil character is not played in a stereotypical way all the time as it makes for a more interesting gaming experience.
Why should the evil alignment not have an impact on sombody's behaviour? This is exactly what alignment represents: a behavioural (sp?) code or a view on the world that heavily determines how one behaves. This is the purpose of alignment!


Otherwise why specifically name a game an "evil campaign" (the very topic of this thread) when "evil" as a concept has no meaning and impact in the game you play?

It doesn't have no meaning, it just doesn't have any one person's specific meaning.


For me, the problem with alignment in the first place is that it is not arbitrary or solely dependant on the player's view. Instead, the alignments in DnD are defined in the rulebook with more or less clear boundaries. Sure, players and DMs might disagree on some things and in borderline cases. But I am afraid that one of the main reasons why alignment questions and quarrels come up over and over again is because the description is in the rulebook and represents a very specific meaning, namely that of the designer.
And even if it has different meanings to different people, for the sake of a coherent game experience and peace at the gaming table, you need to have a discussion about it. To be transparent on the meaning of alignment in the game was one of the first - and in my opinion the very best - advice given to the OP in this thread. And once you have established the meaning of alignment for the campaign-world through discussion, it has that meaning for your game. And if "evil" has a meaning but it does not matter anyways: why brand a campaign "evil"? Surely one will be expecting evil content, and probably not only from the DM-side of things.
But it can be played out in dialogue among the PCs as well. At least that is how the players in the group I DM do it. And I sit back and watch. It's great.

Depends how it's handled. In-character argument tends to go nowhere, because the penalties for giving ground are basically open-ended. At times I've had to specifically promise that I won't try to "get" the players for making a particular choice, just so they'll pick something and move on. I never want to be in another "what do we do with the prisoners" conversation again.

I do not understand what you mean by "since they'll be treated as if they do anyway". This only works if the game offers alignment mechanics as Detect Evil in the first place.

Obviously. But in a world in which alignment is a real thing and is believed to reveal how someone will behave, people would pay through the nose to have alignment-revealing abilities and items. Such things are superstitiously believed to exist in the real world, so in a world in which they really work, and in which a doppelganger or disguised demon really might try to enter your home, it would be foolish to live without them.

And so, people who happen to have been born with an evil alignment are done for. No matter how they behave, they're going to have trouble living safely near civilization. Alignment-disguising abilities and items would be the harshest contraband. Meanwhile, those born with a good alignment can get away with anything. Many embrace their alignment, others spurn it. That's interesting.

Change alignment, you say? Maybe, if there are sensible rules for it. There have yet to be, as far as I have seen.

And then I would hope an evil character is not played in a stereotypical way all the time as it makes for a more interesting gaming experience.

How long can an evil character do good deeds before the DM threatens to change their alignment?

Why should the evil alignment not have an impact on sombody's behaviour? This is exactly what alignment represents: a behavioural (sp?) code or a view on the world that heavily determines how one behaves. This is the purpose of alignment!

It does a pretty poor job of that, then. It's never been clear how much of Alignment X  a PC has to exhibit to claim Alignment X. Some feel actions determine alignment, not the other way around. That's why I like to play them as if behavior and alignment are independent, but that some people behave as if they are not.

For me, the problem with alignment in the first place is that it is not arbitrary or solely dependant on the player's view. Instead, the alignments in DnD are defined in the rulebook with more or less clear boundaries.

Not clear at all.

And even if it has different meanings to different people, for the sake of a coherent game experience and peace at the gaming table, you need to have a discussion about it. To be transparent on the meaning of alignment in the game was one of the first - and in my opinion the very best - advice given to the OP in this thread. And once you have established the meaning of alignment for the campaign-world through discussion, it has that meaning for your game.

This is true. But bet on that discussion not going anywhere produtive, except "Let's not bother with alignment."

And if "evil" has a meaning but it does not matter anyways: why brand a campaign "evil"? Surely one will be expecting evil content, and probably not only from the DM-side of things.

I think you're taking the term "evil" too literally and narrowly. For most people "evil" just means "how we would act if the DM didn't keep threatening to change our alignment to evil." The treatment of prisoners is the classic example. Players take a prisoner and then argue what to do about it. If they kill it, that's evil. If they tie it up, that's evil. If they just let it go that's either evil because it won't survive in the world, or stupid because it will just try to kill them later. If they bring the prisoner along that's stupid because it will hinder their efforts, or evil because they're enslaving it. It's just too easy for a "good" campaign to tie itself in knots and not get anywhere interesting, so they elect to just play an "evil" campaign.

The best bet for these groups would be for them to dtich alignment. But that's hard for a lot of people to do.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

From my experience it is important that there be enough differentiation between what an evil party does as opposed to a good party. My friend wanted to DM a campaign for an evil party but we haven't really done anything that distinguishes us as evil. I'm not saying the players should be forced into moral conundrums and have to do despicable things, but they should be regularly confronted with the reality that their players are evil. I would think this has to start at the basic thematic presentation, have evil goals, be presented with opportunities to do evil, I wouldn't ever choose to run an evil campaign so I don't really have too much advice on what works, but I've seen what doesn't.

I do not understand what you mean by "since they'll be treated as if they do anyway". This only works if the game offers alignment mechanics as Detect Evil in the first place.

Obviously. But in a world in which alignment is a real thing and is believed to reveal how someone will behave, people would pay through the nose to have alignment-revealing abilities and items. Such things are superstitiously believed to exist in the real world, so in a world in which they really work, and in which a doppelganger or disguised demon really might try to enter your home, it would be foolish to live without them.


As long as there are no specific game mechanics connected with alignment (and that seems to be the case in 4E), alignment is purely a meta-game construct to name moral preferences for a character and should IMO be handled as such. If you do not get rid of alignment alltogether, that seems to be a step in the right direction for me.


And so, people who happen to have been born with an evil alignment are done for. No matter how they behave, they're going to have trouble living safely near civilization.


I have to admit that I have never played in a game with quasi genetic alignment. It has always been a background/society thing. This way, certain "monsters" were shunned because of their behaviour in the society they lived in. Otherwise, why should the question if a baby orc should be killed be such a difficult thing to answer on a moral basis?


How long can an evil character do good deeds before the DM threatens to change their alignment?


I think this fits well with the idea that "evil" campaigns are founded on the basis of "crappy DM"ism. Before reading about this theory here in this thread I have never heard or experienced this argument before. It is quite surprising to me actually.


Why should the evil alignment not have an impact on sombody's behaviour? This is exactly what alignment represents: a behavioural (sp?) code or a view on the world that heavily determines how one behaves. This is the purpose of alignment!

It does a pretty poor job of that, then. It's never been clear how much of Alignment X  a PC has to exhibit to claim Alignment X. Some feel actions determine alignment, not the other way around. That's why I like to play them as if behavior and alignment are independent, but that some people behave as if they are not.


You need to have a definition of alignment for your table before you can know what the meaning of it is for your game. I disagree with with you that with a proper transparent discussion beforehand it should not be clear what is expected of a PC with any alignment. And I do not understand how - if you play with alignment at all - any behaviour should not be influenced by alignment. It is part of the character description. I also cannot remember fruitless discussions about alignment and their definition. I found it to be easy because everybody I played with seemed to agree that it makes playing much easier. Everybody has a vital interest in defining the terms.


I think you're taking the term "evil" too literally and narrowly. For most people "evil" just means "how we would act if the DM didn't keep threatening to change our alignment to evil." The treatment of prisoners is the classic example. Players take a prisoner and then argue what to do about it. If they kill it, that's evil. If they tie it up, that's evil. If they just let it go that's either evil because it won't survive in the world, or stupid because it will just try to kill them later. If they bring the prisoner along that's stupid because it will hinder their efforts, or evil because they're enslaving it. It's just too easy for a "good" campaign to tie itself in knots and not get anywhere interesting, so they elect to just play an "evil" campaign.


I do not think that the prison dilemma is such a hard nut to crack. Alignment and "stupid" are two different categories. Killing a helpless prisoner, however, is a moral dilemma for some. It helps to think about this like a real-life situation. "Taking a prisoner along" is most certainly not enslaving it, not under any rule of law really. It is just that, transporting a prisoner. Neither is tying the prisoner up. If anything, claiming THIS is evil is the most narrow definition of the term "evil", not me asking for evil content in a campaign that is called "evil".
If anyone is playing in a so called evil campaign just because the DM will block the players otherwise, I feel sorry for those players, especially if this seems the only way to cope with a crappy DM.
But in my opinion there is so much more to evil and evil deeds in real life, playing in a campaign like that does not even come close to it.

That said, I KNOW people on this boards and others that play games with evil content. And I would like to know what kind of evil things they come up and why. What is the appeal. "Avoid crappy DMing" is not an answer to that question, but only shows that there are a lot of unhappy DnDers out there.


The best bet for these groups would be for them to dtich alignment. But that's hard for a lot of people to do.


I think that we are not too far apart in general. DnD always had alignment hardcoded into the mechanics. 4E got rid of that. Maybe that was one of the many reasons why people did not like the edition too much. Maybe there really is no market for a alignment-free DnD.
All I can say that I rather like playing without alignment-based mechanics and classes. Always have. Alignment worked for me only as one of many means to describe character. Like hair-color.
And playing without any alignment (as in: you purely have to live with the consequences of your actions) is much better than playing in a so called evil campaign just for the leeway of it.
I use evil content because I want "believable evil" instead of "rated g evil with disney villains". Likewise, I could ask why I shouldn't use it. Why should I censor evil out of the game, and force the players into good? Why should I let "Goodness" limit my decision?

I would describe my games as having "Rated R" content in some places. This does not mean evil players "kick the puppy". If a person is limited in their concept of evil to "kick the puppy" they shouldn't run "evil games". Sometimes, the puppy will be kicked. Or punted across the field with a pair of Spiked Boots.

I believe that absence keeps the heart warm, as the first rule of kicking puppies. Every puppy kicked after the first will reduce the drama of the next kicked puppy, and eventually it doesn't matter anymore. When the puppy is kicked, it should be in a meaningful scene. Red Weddings don't happen every day. But when they do, they are important. 

I also enjoy giving "puppy kickers" a few "good moments", my top puppy kickers have all had a moral code, and had reasons for puppy kicking. Now, I will attempt to establish some etiquette around puppy kicking.

1. The player is never the puppy. (An NPC might attempt this action, and 99% of the time, sorely regrets it. Players are pit bulls, not poodles.)

2. The player is never told to "Prove yourself! Kick the puppy!" (Some NPC's might ask them to.)

3. The player might be interjected into a scene in motion in which a puppy is kicked. The player reserves the right to ask this scene to be skipped (or "fast forwarded" to the end of the scene.)


I use alignment for a lot of mechanics; however I never play "gotcha". You don't have to kick the puppy to be evil, or save the baby to be good. There are also degrees of good and evil; the assumption of "wholly good/evil" is the first mistake. I also feel that an "evil game", like a "good game" can get lame when alignment dictates or blocks an action. I like games where I can decide my own good/evil for myself, and not be limited in my choices by alignment. Alignment is like a "spice", not the "main ingredient".

Within; Without.

I firmly believe that anybody can and should play any kind of RPG-style they want. If it is fun for you, go for it.

Evil NPCs do evil things in the game that I DM. They commit atrocities. They will lie and cheat and will sometimes be helpful. They will also disguise themselves. So you might never know. That is what they are there for. The PCs fight against that and the other players are not interested in playing evil PCs. They told me many times - and each other in many situations during the game in which they reaffirmed their stance on morality issues on a roleplaying level - that this is not the type of character they want to play. These men and women will not kick harmless and cute puppies.

Now, why do you want to play a character that kicks puppies? What kick do you get out of it? What is the appeal of kicking puppies in a game environment? Especially with spiked boots (I have never kicked a puppy or played a character that does that, but it seems to me that using spiked boots is worse for the puppy than kicking the puppy with, say, naked feet).
Now, why do you want to play a character that kicks puppies? What kick do you get out of it? What is the appeal of kicking puppies in a game environment? Especially with spiked boots (I have never kicked a puppy or played a character that does that, but it seems to me that using spiked boots is worse for the puppy than kicking the puppy with, say, naked feet).



On the inverse, why do I want to play a character who "pets the kitten"? What "kick" am I supposed to get out of that?

Evil NPC's do evil things in my game as well; and sometimes, a player wants to play that kind of a character. There is a morbid curiousity inside of humans which attracts us to our differences, and at times, our opposites. Playing an evil character, or running a truly evil villain requires you to learn how "evil works" and how "evil thinks". You have to. If you aren't able to get inside the mind, rationalize it, justify it and understand "that perspective" then you aren't able to play that perspective correctly; at which point instead of a detailed character who kicks puppies, you are playing a puppy-kicking sociopath who doesn't understand why he does it.

Having studied psychology and philosophy, I have learned how to rationalize and understand views which are not my own. Studying cultural anthropology and sociology taught me how to understand ways of thinking, and doing things which are very different; and in fact, opposing to my own. I am disgusted that anyone would "force or deny any action" on the belief that "Because God wants...". I still don't understand why a player would ever want to play such a narrow, close-minded simpleton, but some players do.

One should be aware that evil people exist in the real world. They run empires and nations, preach in churches, own companies and businesses, they donate to charity and smile, while kissing a baby. They have "logical" (in their own mind) reasons for their way of thinking and doing things. Some of these evil people would never hurt a fly. Some good people would do brutal things in the name of goodness, I know plenty like that.

I like using psychological elements in my games, and "delving deep down the rabbit hole" is fun. Of course, I have mature, adult players. In my game, evil players don't run around kicking puppies; but every now and then, they might just kick a puppy. Normally, I narrate "around" the scene, and allow the actions to be implied. (You didn't think I was going to describe a grotesque scene from Hostel, did you? I said evil, not sick.)

I think the distinction between Evil and Sick is the determining factor here.

Some people feel that Evil is sick, wrong, terrible, bad, should be punished, etc.  I am not one of them. I believe evil is a necessary component of having consciousness. I know people who suffered hurricane Katrina, and they think hurricanes are "evil", as though a cosmic force "aligned against goodness" caused them pain.

I allow both good and evil to express the better and worse parts of their nature. Sometimes, R-Rated scenes occur where puppies get kicked (and far, far worse.) I will remind that these details are discussed at Session Zero, when each player discusses their boundaries. Kids and teenagers don't play in my games.



You just won't get a good answer from me. I play those kind of NPC's for a variety of reasons. There is nothing inside of me that gets "giddy" when the puppy is kicked. I don't "enjoy" an evil character any more than I "enjoy" a good one. Maybe someone who "gets amped" to play evil can explain it for both of us.

Within; Without.

How long can an evil character do good deeds before the DM threatens to change their alignment?

I think this fits well with the idea that "evil" campaigns are founded on the basis of "crappy DM"ism. Before reading about this theory here in this thread I have never heard or experienced this argument before. It is quite surprising to me actually.

I sort of mixed two ideas together. I prefer the "alignment is like blood-type" approach. It's the basis for certain reactions, but doesn't control you, and can't be controlled. Most people take the approach that either your alignment controls you (so you can't do certain things) or you control your alignment (so eventually your alignment will change if you do certain things.) I'm just saying that it was never clearly defined in the rules (or at any table I've ever sat at) how long you could be how much like a certain alignment before it changed.

You need to have a definition of alignment for your table before you can know what the meaning of it is for your game. I disagree with with you that with a proper transparent discussion beforehand it should not be clear what is expected of a PC with any alignment.

No, I agree with that. But that discussion is a tricky thing to have, as this and other conversations about alignment demonstrate.

And I do not understand how - if you play with alignment at all - any behaviour should not be influenced by alignment. It is part of the character description.

So is, as you observe below, hair color. Neither should influence the character's behavior, but both should influence how others judge the character, regardless of behavior.

I also cannot remember fruitless discussions about alignment and their definition. I found it to be easy because everybody I played with seemed to agree that it makes playing much easier. Everybody has a vital interest in defining the terms.

I don't see how alignment makes playing much easier. Even race doesn't automatically do that.

I do not think that the prison dilemma is such a hard nut to crack. Alignment and "stupid" are two different categories.

Not if you're "bound" by your alignment to do things that seem "stupid."

"Taking a prisoner along" is most certainly not enslaving it, not under any rule of law really.  It is just that, transporting a prisoner.

Sure, until you force it to carry a load, defend the group, go ahead to trigger encounters, and do other work for you.

Neither is tying the prisoner up. If anything, claiming THIS is evil is the most narrow definition of the term "evil", not me asking for evil content in a campaign that is called "evil".

My point is that they're both narrow. I'm not saying that a game in which people commit atrocities is not "evil," and you can't say that leaving a prisoner tied up to starve is not the kind of "evil" people have in mind when they mean an "evil campaign." "After we intimidate him into telling us about the ambush, we tie him up and leave him." "Huh, normally I'd ding you guys for that, but you are 'evil.'"

If anyone is playing in a so called evil campaign just because the DM will block the players otherwise, I feel sorry for those players, especially if this seems the only way to cope with a crappy DM.

That's what I'm saying. They're stuck with this idea of how alignment works and it's damaging their normal gaming, so rather than ditch alignment or playing more in tune with their alignments (which I'm not recommending) they retune the game to be the alignment they're already interested in playing.

But in my opinion there is so much more to evil and evil deeds in real life, playing in a campaign like that does not even come close to it.

Right, this is why I'm saying you're stuck on the name. Calling it an "evil" campaign doesn't mean it has to be atrocious, even though atrocities DO fall under "evil."

That said, I KNOW people on this boards and others that play games with evil content. And I would like to know what kind of evil things they come up and why. What is the appeal. "Avoid crappy DMing" is not an answer to that question, but only shows that there are a lot of unhappy DnDers out there.

There are, and that's really the main point. But othe than that, it's just taste. Some people like the Saw movies or death metal. Some people "like" evil things. Not my preference, or yours, but there it is. Are they "evil" people? Some of them. It happens.

The best bet for these groups would be for them to dtich alignment. But that's hard for a lot of people to do.

I think that we are not too far apart in general. DnD always had alignment hardcoded into the mechanics. 4E got rid of that. Maybe that was one of the many reasons why people did not like the edition too much. Maybe there really is no market for a alignment-free DnD.

There's not "no" market, and I think the lack of alignment enforcement was just another excuse for the people who already didn't like 4E. But some people see alignment as a leash for keeping their players in line, so maybe it was a dealbreaker for some people.

All I can say that I rather like playing without alignment-based mechanics and classes. Always have. Alignment worked for me only as one of many means to describe character. Like hair-color.

This is what I'm saying. Think about how hair alone is the basis for assuming much about a person in the real world, and I think it's clear how alignment-based prejudice could really be a fun way to go.

And playing without any alignment (as in: you purely have to live with the consequences of your actions) is much better than playing in a so called evil campaign just for the leeway of it.

I agree, but not everyone is interested in ditching alignment.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

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