View Full Version : DMing an Evil campaign

2009-01-27, 12:46 PM
I recently decided to start up a campaign for a group of friends at my school, and all the players decided they wanted their characters to be Evil when we sat down for character creation. I wasn't planning on this and I've never run a game with any Evil PCs before. I was wondering if anyone has any tips on what I might need to change about my approach to the game to accommodate my players and how I can keep things from getting out of hand.

2009-01-27, 01:01 PM
The easiest way to do it is, rather than have them fight evil creatures, set up encounters with Neutral or Good. Rather than encounters with bandits, they'll face Good NPCs who have come to kill them.

Ways to keep it from getting out of hand:
1) Make it clear that any killing of other PCs will result in Divine Justice (ie, you will kill the offending PC).
2) Ban Evil Stupid alignment. If the PCs go on rampages, send in overpowered Exalted NPCs to "wipe the evil from this world."

2009-01-27, 01:05 PM
First things first: Why do they want to play evil characters?

Next, what kind of evil are we talking about? Is this going to be an excuse to kill every NPC who crosses their path just for laughs? Are these characters going on a standard adventure but with different RP motivations? Do they intend to torture, rape, and pillage their way through your world? Or are they going to be playing "Saturday morning cartoon" evil?

You really need answers to those questions to proceed. A campaign with reasonably evil characters (say, they like to lie, cheat, and steal their way through life) is going to be way less awkward than one with chaotic evil/stupid characters (whose only solution to a problem, heck, their only motivation, is to create a path of bodies behind them).

If it's something like the latter, I'd recommend renegotiating the nature of the characters/game. If all they want to do is kill stuff, you can play a minis game. If all they want to do is bring chaos to an ordered world, play Jenga.

Delaney Gale
2009-01-27, 01:10 PM
I'm going to disagree with the above poster to an extent, actually.

The most unrealistic of all evils is monolithic evil. An evil party might oppose an evil ruler because that ruler being in power hurts them- say, a lawful evil tyrant who has locked down on thieves' guilds might attract some attention from chaotic evil assassins. This then puts them in the position of being seen as the "good guys"... which is twice as fun when you're actually evil!! Alternatively, the lawful evil ruler makes them a scapegoat for his own evil actions and they go out looking for revenge...

Discourage your characters from killing each other, I can agree on that- give them valid reasons to work together. Say, they're evil but actually like each other, or a stronger force has compelled them to work together. For example, although my Vampire character detests his entire coterie, he has to work with them or have bloodhunt called on him.

I would also tell them that there will be consequences for their evil behavior, but Exalted NPCs is not the way to do it. When your PCs can't get basic goods or services because of their bad reputations, and the guard of said lawful evil ruler are hunting them down at every turn, they'll regret the random killings!

2009-01-27, 01:23 PM
Don't let anyone on the forums scare you off. Evil campaigns can be fun and rewarding! It's only as tough as you make it. Like others have said, the first thing to do is ask your players what they think "Evil Alignment" means--if they think it means you'll let them rip and tear their way across the countryside, remind them that they're low-level and won't last long that way.

Just because you're Evil doesn't mean the Patronage system can't work for you! I suggest looking through the Fiendish Codexes I and II, and see which of the Archdevils or Demon Lords strike your fancy. That will give the players a "boss" who enjoys their willfully spreading destruction and/or tyranny in the world and actively thwarting the servants of light. Maybe you could show the players and let them actively decide on a Patron for the whole group, or let them each pick their own (you have to be careful about picking rivals, though--a follower of Graz'z't probably won't get along with a follower of Orcus, for example).

The next thing they'll need is easy targets. There's no reason Evil characters, even fiend-followers, can't be attractive to corrupt or just passive (Neutral) Lords and Barons as mercenaries. Have a minor Count or Burgess give the PCs a rote job (goblins infest this hill/ghouls are haunting this cemetary/this gang is corrupting the docks, wipe them out) because they're the toughest guys around. Even a Chaotic Evil PC should understand why it's profitable to fulfill a contract--you get more jobs that way.

Once they get up to mid-levels, then they can really shine. Have their patron give them jobs that actively assault the forces of good (burn down this Druid-grove, cave in this Dwarf-mine, burn and loot this Temple of Heironeus). They can still find allies to help them (Hobgoblins, Kobolds, and Hextor-worshippers for those three examples), and reward them when the mission's completed. While Delaney is certainly correct that "monolithic evil" is a ridiculous cliche, temporary alliances for mutual gain (the Kobolds gain a mine, those Dwarves will never make magic weapons to be used against your PCs) are quite possible, even between opposed forces (lawful Hobgoblins and chaotic Orcs, for example).

If you feel squeamish about giving the Forces of Light and Justice a square kick in the ass, midigate the blow by playing up their irritating stereotypes. You'll feel less bad if the Paladin your PCs kill was a pompous blowhard, the Dwarves were faux-Scottish insulting stereotypes, and the Elves in the grove were ineffectual and debauched.

Most of all, don't let anyone convince you you're doing D&D "the wrong way" or that playing a thoroughly evil PC (and enjoying it) means there's something wrong with you as a person. I've played several rotten bastard mass-murderers as PCs and I'm certainly no worse for the wear!

2009-01-27, 01:55 PM
An good example is the Evil persons in the newest 3 starwars movies; all of them want a big, stable empire of ever lasting peace, free of corruption, under their *personal* gentle guidance of couse. :smallwink:

A lot of the really good evil personas has been guided by the best intentions in the world, there is lots of really good ideas to use in movies, books and comics. :smallsmile:

2009-01-27, 02:36 PM
Here's a quote from one of the Giant's gaming articles that I like to keep in mind when I'm working on backstory for my own evil characters.
First, remember that alignment is a guide, not a strait-jacket. Not even for NPCs. Evil characters can love, good characters can hate.

Another suggestion I might make is to read this (http://www.darkencomic.com/d/20031216.html) webcomic. It chronicles the adventures of an evil party and might give you (or your players) some ideas.

Finally, you can show this comic (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0606.html) to any chaotic stupid types that crop up (particularly the eighth panel).

Also keep in mind that evil characters can undertake what might otherwise be a good quest if the reward is good or it furthers evil goals they might have.

Gah, sorry this is so terribly disjointed. Tired Rae is tired.

Anywhoodle, hope some of what I said helps. :smallsmile:

2009-01-27, 02:42 PM
One of the best campaigns my group ever had was an evil campaign. The two things I did to make it a workable group were:

1) The PCs are all on the same side, and don't want to betray one another (even though they were evil)
2) The PCs have a clear goal, that requires them to work together

The PCs were all former lieutenants, soldiers, priests, advisers, etc. to a lich who had tried to take over the world, but had been defeated by a group of good adventurers. Because these adventurers didn't know where the Lich's phylactery was, they simply imprisoned him below the earth, and used memory modification magic to split the knowledge of how to release him, so that no one person would be able to.

Because of this, the PCs had a clear goal: Track down the members of the old adventuring party, and through the use of magic, guile, torture, whatever, get the location of their master so they could release him, and he could continue domination of the world.

This allowed me to split the campaign into 5 parts, as they went after the different good-adventurers:
1) A bard who had retired to become mayor of a town
2) A rogue who had returned to work in the thieves guild
3) The Paladin who had started his own paladin training school
4) The Cleric who retired to a ancient monastery of Pelor (which was headed by a gold dragon)
5) The wizard who retired to a tower to continue studying magic

They PCs were able to choose what order to go after the old adventurers, and on the way were able to make alliances (with a bunch of drow), and establish new enemies (Having an entire thieves guild upset with you isn't a good thing)

So...yeah. That's very briefly what I did, and it worked extremely well. So an evil campaign can definately work.

2009-01-27, 02:59 PM

That's an awesome idea,

Keld Denar
2009-01-27, 03:25 PM
Yea, the best way to do Evil is to run a really structured game. Set up a plot with an ultimately evil goal (spread a plague, summon a duke of hell, cause the fall of X good church, imprison Y goody goody outsider who keeps foiling your dastardly plans). Give the PCs a taskmaster who is WAY more powerful than them, and make the cost of failure VERY high. This will keep PCs on track and hopefully prevent them from "I set the tavern on fire" moments. For inspiration, check out the Warcraft story line with the summoning of Archemond or the spreading of the Scourge plague. They involve lots of dangerous fetch quests (aquire the Book of Medihv, the Skull of Gul'dan, a tube of KY jelly, and 4 stray cats). That kind of thing. Maybe have various leutenants of the big boss trying to maneuver the PCs into positions that help them more than another leutenant, or even scheming to have the PCs assassinate the big boss so that the leutenant can get a premature promotion. Lots of fun stuff you can do with this that DOESN'T involve mindlessly slaughtering every peasent in sight, animating them, and holding a malevolent tea party with their remains.

2009-01-27, 04:02 PM
Read book of vile darkness. Don't let the player read it

2009-01-27, 04:04 PM
Evil campaigns can be tons of fun, trust me. However, unless you and all of your players are okay with PvP, I recommend you have a good in-character reason for the party to stick together and not betray one another.

2009-01-27, 04:14 PM
As an alternate to the structured-story, a freewheeling game can work fine as long as the players respect the difference between 'Evil' and 'Psychotic.' Evil characters can form lasting bonds and friendships; they'll betray them more easily than Good characters, perhaps, but they're still there. One of the classic D&D campaigns is simply 'Rogue-ish adventurers on the make.' The prototypical D&D campaign is a dungeon crawl where you kill things and take their stuff, and there's nothing inherently Good about that. Expanding it to the larger world doesn't mean that they have to commit mass-murder, either; it just means that they'll take every chance they get for self-advancement.

So I'd play it like a straight-up campaign. Just be aware that the players will gouge the town elders for clearing out the kobold raiders that are hurting trade, that they'll cast a Charm spell on local merchants to get a better deal without a moral qualm, and that they'll steal from the guy who hired them and blame it on the bandits they killed. They don't have to edge into world-conquest or PvP conflict to have a good time with Evil, especially at low levels.

2009-01-27, 04:44 PM
Playing evil characters can be quite challenging at times. Many cRPGs actually make "evil" play more difficult by limiting rewards, making many things more difficult to do/achieve and punishing players for any "good" decisions, if the "evil" power is somehow related to "evil-meter". This seems quite counterintuitive, since it forces players to be evil for evil's sake (since they would usually end up with more money/stuff/experience by being good or at least neutral-ish). Still, I use this to show that playing evil characters doesn't have to be all fun, make sure that some bad things are happening to them because they're evil, it can add a lot of flavour to the game. Maybe add some difficult choices: doing something good will give a better immediate reward, but will make achieving long-term goal more difficult, that sort of thing.

In a way, it's simply reversing traditional values and choices upside down, but it's a good way to avoid "stupid evil" inclinations and make players think about what to do next.

2009-01-28, 03:47 AM
1. Require / demand, the PC's have a solid reason to work together. Be it a greater goal, unachiveable for now (liberate a kingdom, destabilise a rival kingdom, religous things like free a mad god they all worship), a solid band of friends since forever, they have too many enemies for them to NOT band toghether for survival (spies in enemy territory, evil chars in a good kingdom) or a combination of above.
Not good enough: "To kill stuff" or "Get rich". Those two will up the chance of a backstab something fierce.

2. Stupid evil things, like pointless massmurders will get the good enforcers on their tails. Causing attention to themselves will get them scyed upon, then paladins teleporting in when they sleep. Trial & execution soon follows. The players will need to know this is an option that will happen when they do too much showy kills, at a time you see fit, possibly without warning.

3. (optional). Mention to them that being evil does not prevent them from doing a good deed. Especially if it is a good deed with lots of publicity.:smallwink: (Example: Saving a nobleman's daughter from monsters and NOT demand ransom for her, could lead you into being known as a useful team among nobles... and from there lots of devilishly things can be done)

If they object to those things, they problebly DO want to be stupid evil for a while, at that point either refuse or surrender and let them go nuts. Hopefully it will get it out of their system.

2009-01-28, 04:45 AM

I have mixed experiences with evil PCs. On the one hand my most high-level PC back in AD&D days was thoroughly evil, but my GM managed to engage him in the campaign anyway. To make it short, we served a king, who turned to evil in the course of the campaign. With no better idea, the other (good) PCs finally decided to assassinate him, with my character fully in agreement, and as reward, we were all ennobled by his (initially) good successor. Now my PC had no choice but to defend the kingdom, for his power depended on it.
You can use this quite productively, I think. Have your evil PCs, through some twist, come across as the good guys, and receive a reward that depends on them playing along with the mainstream. They can still be evil (my PC ultimately corrupted the new king, splitting the group for a while, until they came back together for a final adventure, defeating the ultimate evil, because they needed me as the lesser evil), but they have to save the day once in a while, to hang on to their blessing.

The negative experience I have is that most players tend to get bored with evil after some time. We had a group once that consisted of three drow, who were sent on missions by their house. We worked well together, because anything else would have incurred the terminal displeasure of the matriarch. However, killing people and doing naughty stuff lost its charm after a few levels, and we buried the campaign.
Now this wouldn't be so much of a problem, if your characters aren't drow or another generally evil race. They could repent, reform, and try to make up for their misdeeds. Would be quite interesting, indeed, because it might be quite the uphill battle to gain the trust of their former enemies.


2009-01-28, 06:10 AM
With an evil campaign one feature I had mentioned as important which I've come to agree with in the evil campaigns I've played in is that evil campaigns need to be more heavily PC driven.

Where your good campaigns see the players happier about been led around and doing "good deeds" the evil campaign requires the GM to be more responsive to the players drives. As Halaster mentioned the evil players getting sent on evil missions starts to pall much quicker than the reverse in a good campaign. Thus you should be looking at what the PC's long-term goals are. In Halasters example the drow PC's should have been offered a chance to lead a revolt, become the power behind the throne acetre.

A large part of intelligent evil is the lust for "Power". The players need to be given the opportunity to garner the various sorts of power their PC's desire. Work with the players both in and out of game to minimise reasons for PvP conflict. A bit of tension adds spice, but party war is boring and campaign ending. Remind the players the "single stick breaks, a bunch of stick hold firm" applies to evil parties as much as good parties.

As DM you need to accept that part of the fun of evil campaigns is ignoring the GM's plot and branching off on an alternate track. Rather than coraling them in when they do this you need to reward them. Thus when you introduce them to the local warlord, who wants to hire them to go off on a quest, be prepared to go with the flow when they decide to try and organise a coup against him. Even if you had planned for his kingdom to be secure throw up some discontented nobles who'll happily plot with them and give them a fair chance for success. Remember rulers don't have a level restriction so sucess should be as much based on plot as level.

Stephen E

2009-01-28, 06:43 AM
Do not ban stupid evil.
Evil comes in many facets, and many shapes - one of which is stupid evil. There are people out there who just like to kill, to main and to torture. If you are going to let your players play an evil game, then they've got to be free to be evil in whatever form they wish. This might be stupid evil, it might be take over the world evil, or it might be tax-collector, be unkind to children evil.

Sometimes it is fun as a player to be able to brutalise something or someone, to open up a can of whoop-tushy for no other reason than you can. Is it low-brow, most definately, but being a villain doesn't mean one has to have a handlebar moustache, snicker manicacly and say "Good show". Nor does it have to be Pinky taking over the world. The game is supposed to be fun, and you can have a lot of fun with stupid evil.

Now, as to other advice, give your players fair-warning that just because they are the players doesn't mean that they will be successful. One thing about Evil is that it does tend, by nature, to be more at odds with itself. Law and Chaos aside, Good creatures of those ethics are more likely to work together than Evil. As such, the Good guys will be more determined to work against them. This might see the game end dramatically with a TPK, but that's the life of a villain.

Still, this gives further credence still to the game. Evil fights evil. Sometimes just because they can, sometimes because they think that all hats should be worn sideways, or sometimes because their nefarious goals conflict. So your evil characters can fight evil just as much as they can fight good, they just don't do it out of any altruistic sense.

Still more options are to just let them be mercenary. Why does the game have to be anything with earth-shattering complications? Why can't they just do what all characters generally do, go out, kill things and take their loot. The only real difference is that when the monster casts Protection from Good or Blasphemy, it doesn't work. Evil guys can be greedy, instead of delving into the Dungeon of Zahir to get the Diamond of Istab to help defeat the Cult of Xaggi, they delve into the Dungeon of Zahir to get the Diamond of Istab because it's worth a gazillion bucks.

Games with Evil characters don't really neccesitate much of a change of perspective as a DM and can often be incredibly interesting and fun both to play in and to run, especially if you don't mind having your tongue planted firmly in cheek.

2009-01-28, 06:57 AM
For evil characters, motivation becomes paramount. Good characters are easy to motivate: if someone needs saving, they feel a moral obligation to do it.

Evil characters need goals. They need reasons to be evil. Unmotivated evil is dull, trite, pointless, and ultimately frustrating to play. There's no point to evil for evil's sake. "Why are they evil?" is not an important question. Evil isn't - shouldn't be - the core of the character, their raison d'Ítre. Evil is a variable, a curveball, a mixer. It changes how they do things. (Although, really, good good-aligned characters need goals too!)

The motivation isn't as important. Indeed, evil characters can have the same goals as good ones: defeat the orc horde, depose the evil tyrant, slay the terrible dragon. They may even have the same motivation: their people need protection, their family is in danger, they want to change the world, they want a better government... but their methods will differ. The evil characters will do things the good ones would not, and that's where the actual fun of it is: in what you do.

So you need to make your players give their characters real motivations and clear goals - short-term at least, and preferrably long-term too. This will require working with them to introduce them to the gameworld and setting, and to integrate their characters into it. If someone wants to play a character who wants to become Caliph instead of the Caliph, you need to find them a Caliph, and think on ways to let them play toward this goal. If someone wants to play a wizard who wants to become a god, you need to figure out ways for them to advance this goal. And you need to help them come up with reasonable short-term goals. Making the PCs work together on their goals, and forming a unit - or multiple units - out of their PCs, bound by common goals or origins, is important. It can be very hard to fit any characters together, but evil ones are that much more difficult to bring together and keep together.

Working together on goals that tie the PCs to the gameworld, and helping the players refine and re-define those goals during play, is pretty much the best part of running a game. Seeing the players actually take an active interest in your world and setting, through their own desire to change it (which you must absolutely both foster and facilitate), is one of the most rewarding things about GMing.

You must be careful not to let them degenerate into pointless, petty "evil for the sake of evil" - murdering, burning, looting, eating babies, sacrificing puppies on dark altars and the like. It's pointless. You must be even more careful to keep them from turning on each other; if you give them any cause for conflicting with each other, they probably will do so, and with lethal results. Keep them focused on external goals and enemies, and try to make sure they have good reasons to stick together and cooperate.

2009-01-28, 07:08 AM
You must be careful not to let them degenerate into pointless, petty "evil for the sake of evil" - murdering, burning, looting, eating babies, sacrificing puppies on dark altars and the like. It's pointless. You must be even more careful to keep them from turning on each other; if you give them any cause for conflicting with each other, they probably will do so, and with lethal results. Keep them focused on external goals and enemies, and try to make sure they have good reasons to stick together and cooperate.

Who is to say it is pointless?
Evil for Evil's sake is completely viable if that's what the players want to play. Evil for Evil's sake can be fun. If they want to play butchering bastards then grow bored of it, then that's fine. They've had their blast, and then you can move onto something with more meat. But the players should be entitled to play the characters they want.

Not all evil games have to be bring damnation to the world.
Not all evil games have to be about defeating/corrupting the Paladin Order.
Not all evil games have to be about working for a big boss and killing his arch-nemesis.

Some evil games can just be about being a bastard.
Some evil games can just be traditional-D&D but with Evil alignments.

2009-01-28, 08:33 AM
Awesome Campaign

I have some friends who are, shall we say, of a naturally evil bent. I think they would love this kind of idea. Of course, I might even give them an option of once they reach the restoration of the lich, they can try to take him on.

2009-01-28, 02:21 PM
I have some friends who are, shall we say, of a naturally evil bent. I think they would love this kind of idea. Of course, I might even give them an option of once they reach the restoration of the lich, they can try to take him on.

Heh, we actually timed it well so that they defeated the last adventurer on the last session of the semester, else they might have tried it.

One thing that was fun, however, was about 5 months later (I had taken a break from DMing) we started a new game, and the PCs were all soldiers on the opposite side, whose armies had just been decimated by the lich army (and his new drow allies). The PCs ended up attacking what had been their base in the former game, and got to fight their old PCs. It was really cool when it suddenly hit them who they were fighting, because they got extremely frightened since they knew how powerful their old PCs were.

Good times.

2009-01-29, 03:10 AM
I recently decided to start up a campaign for a group of friends at my school, and all the players decided they wanted their characters to be Evil when we sat down for character creation. I wasn't planning on this and I've never run a game with any Evil PCs before. I was wondering if anyone has any tips on what I might need to change about my approach to the game to accommodate my players and how I can keep things from getting out of hand.

I'm also wondering what the motivation of your players is. Do they just want to play a fantasy RPG version of Grand Theft Auto? Do they want to conquer the world?

I'd say the most important rule is make sure the players have to deal with real consequences for the actions. If they go on an extended stupid-evil rampage, especially early in teir careeers, there are going to be forces who will try to stop them - and those should be appropriately powered folks who'd be dealing with such threats to society, not simply ECL -appropriate encounters they'd find in a dungeon.

2009-01-29, 04:56 AM
Playing an evil campaign you'll need to:

1. Define "Evil" as mentioned in several above posts. Is your party going to be insane bloodthirsty marauders, power-hungry backstabbers or just the usual adventurers with unusual alignments?

2. Set down the ground rules for inter-party fighting/backstabbing. If done well and your players are mature enough to handle it, conflict and backstabbing in the party can make for a great story. It can also make for a great story breaker.
If your players think in-party conflict necessarily means hitting each other with the weapons/spells, just buy them a D&D Miniatures starter set instead.

3. Avoid the cliches- Just because good parties usually fight evilly aligned opponents doesn't make the reverse true. There's no such thing as the Brotherhood of Chummy Evil PCs and NPCs (unless your setting has one of course) and evil characters get along and work together usually through displays of power, intimidation, common cause or the promise of reward.

4. Remember that evil people are persons too. Even the chaotic evil psychotic barbarian had a mother. Granted, he may have killed her and be wearing her teeth in a necklace, but there's a story behind that too, hopefully a more interesting one than "I'm a chaoctic evil psychotic barbarian, die mother!".

Evil campaigns can be very rewarding, if done right. It's the doing it right part that tends to be difficult since we have a harder time setting ourselves in the mindset of evil characters and tend to fall back on stereotypes and cliches- which is okay part of the way, but a story quickly loses it's charm if its stereotypes and cliches all they way

2009-01-29, 06:43 AM
Dropping in an example that hasn't been touched on yet, an Evil party in an Evil society or organisation can work very well, even teamwork-wise. Even though you can't trust anyone, it is useful to have people whose interests mostly co-incide with yours, doubly so if you make a habit of journeying to other lands where the 'Great and the Good' rule.

Was involved in a campaign like this for several years, and the dynamic that formed was pretty good as far as my perception of an 'evil' party went - there were two chaotic madmen in the party, a classic evil-psychopath CE skeletal Fighter and a CE Doppleganger Shifter with multiple personality syndrome (many of which were mean), but they were held in check by a loose contract between the other three party members, a LE Blackguard, a NE Necromancer and a NE lycanthropic Shadowdancer. The three of those united were a stronger force, more or less, than the other two, who though dangerous were also too different to be able to work together properly. As the plans of the blackguard, necromancer and shadowdancer usually led to gold, prestige and a good fight, though, the skeleton and the doppelganger usually went along with it.

There were disagreements, there were arguments, and occasionally the party came to blows, but party members never died from it (a dead ally is not a useful one). The players themselves were pretty good about it, and after a while, a certain esprit de corps formed; an unspoken 'us vs. the world' feeling. As the individual goals of each party member were subtly different (Blackguard - furthering the cause of her God; Necromancer - arcane lore; Shadowdancer - money; Skeleton - a good slaughter; and the Doppelganger, depended on what form it was in at the time) there was rarely the kind of squabble over spoils you might expect, and there was a tendency among the party to be scrupulously fair over division of loot - because they knew that screwing ther other party members out of their share would lead to a breakup, and most of them could see no long-term advantage to breaking up the team over something so petty.

That sensible approach to things and that evil team spirit are, I think, two factors that allow evil parties to function.