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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground

    Join Date
    Jul 2012

    Default Ideas for a Refreshing Evil Religious Faction

    It seems like Evil religious factions always make the most sense when you're thinking about bad guys. They're intelligent, they're diverse in ability, etc. etc. But to me, these religious factions can get very stale very fast. What are some innovative and interesting ways that you could or that you have used an evil religious faction, or any religious faction for that matter as the opponents to your PCs?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    the Netherlands

    Default Re: Ideas for a Refreshing Evil Religious Faction

    Well, to put it simple, let them be evil.

    That doesn't help much, does it? In truth though, this is the thing that many evil overlords lack. You know, when you watch a movie and you can't help but think that it would be so much better if they had cut out that lame unmotivated villain that doesn't add anything to the storyline. (This goes for pretty much any genre, but especially movies for a younger audience.) Well, that's what you need to avoid. To do that, every villain/evil organization should have a good motivation.
    The other thing you need to do is a bit more complicated. You have to hit the PCs where it hurts. With a steamroller, preferably. Yes, that would be the evil part. Betray them, kill their loved ones. Have you read Old Man Logan? Because that's basically what you have to do.

    One of my players handed me a very small background for her NE tiefling. She was a orphan and never knew her parents. She grew up on the streets. She is on the run for a ranger named Byron because she "accidently" burned down his house and his wife.
    This player asked me for a dream session, so I came up with this contract devil that showed her a woman that signed some contract then flash forward to giving birth to some tiefling girl that very much resembled herself. She then saw the father taking the tiefling to a hospital and abandoning her that. At that moment, she recognized her father as Byron. The contract devil then took her to hell and showed her her mom burning for all eternity. She agreed to perform 3 tasks for the contract devil if he would sent her mom back to heaven.
    So that's what I did. Trust me, she loves to hate that devil. Make it personal, that's the easiest way.

    Edit: Something else I read somewhere: "You wake up on a roof with an unloaded crossbow in your hands. You see a lot of people running around, or fleeing from something. On a stage you see a man holding a woman who seems to be bleeding. A crossbow bolt is stuck in her chest."
    So guess what, you just killed the queen and you have no idea who made you do this and how it happened. You do know that you're public enemy number one, and that everybody has a motive to kill you. (The guards because it's their duty, bounty hunters for the money. Even the assassins guild wants you dead because they were collecting protection money from the royal family.)
    This was probably from some movie or game I haven't seen or played, but it sounds like a cool one-on-one campaign.
    Last edited by the_david; 2014-09-16 at 03:38 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Beyond the Stars

    Default Re: Ideas for a Refreshing Evil Religious Faction

    They arrive in pairs, dressed in black robes, and always at sundown. They wear masks plain, smiling yet emotionless faces. They knock three times. And when you answer the door, the hold up a tome made form what looks like human skin, and they say:

    "Salutations! Have you heard the Word of Nth'sslz?"

    And unless you join, they never go away. Always at sunset, in black, in pairs, with those masks. They arrive, ask you if you've found your way. And then one day you just...disappear. The last person who saw you alive can only say you sounded...happy? Speaking hopefully about the Word.

    And that's if you're civil. Strike them down, it was just an empty hood. Cast a spell to watch them, and they appear as an empty space in the world. Ask them their purpose, or their name...

    "I am Chosen. Have you heard the Word?"
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground

    Join Date
    Jun 2012

    Default Re: Ideas for a Refreshing Evil Religious Faction

    Evil Religions don't necessarily have to follow the overdone "secret society" model, necessarily.

    One idea I used to great effect was a faction called the Church-Militant, the organized religion of the Lawful-Evil god of war and tyranny. For all their ambition and zeal, they were rational enough to settle for complete domination of a major city, instead of trying to take over the world. As a result, they basically control all travel and trade up and down the setting's most important river. Even though they aren't the most aggressive evil cult ever, their dominating presence can still be felt in virtually any part of my setting.

    I feel like the Rakdos, from Magic: the Gathering's Ravnica, are a good model for a different Chaotic Evil approach. Their religious doctrine is basically, "try every vice you can think of, until you find one you like. Then indulge it. Then indulge it some more."
    They still mainly employ sociopaths, serial-killers, undead and demons, a pretty standard Religion of Evil roster, but their circus-inspired, fun-loving personality sets them apart.

    As for Neutral Evil? I feel like instead of having their own thing, they'd rather drift between both of the above, depending on which one is more convenient for them to be associating with at the time. They're too independent for organized religion, but they lack the enthusiasm of a group following the Rakdos model.
    Last edited by Freelance GM; 2014-10-09 at 01:30 PM.
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Troll in the Playground

    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Re: Ideas for a Refreshing Evil Religious Faction

    Speaking of the Rakdos, by RTR they basically took over the entertainment industry of the plane. Which both pushes them away from and toward the "Try ALL the vices!" Model in that a) they're actively selling these things instead of hoarding then amongst the group, and b) all the crazies devote their energies to keeping their guildmaster (A demon) happy, which means they're not cluttering up the PR.

    An even more nuanced portrayal of Chaotic Evil, IMO.
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    At this point, however, I'm thinking way too hard about the practical problems of running a battle royale school for Russian assassins, so I think I'll leave it there.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Tragak's Avatar

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    Jan 2013

    Default Re: Ideas for a Refreshing Evil Religious Faction

    A faction that strives to strengthen the community as doctors, vigilantes / law enforcement, farmers, ... so that they have more victims in the community to choose from when they do commit cruelty. Some genuinely believe that the lives they save "make up for" the lives they destroy, others just see it as a clever PR scam, but the innocents who survive the faction's indulgences are legitimately better off then they were before the faction showed up. It's just surviving the faction that makes things tricky.
    A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, impose mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.

    Tragak's Planar Reconstruction Archive (current active project: Acheron)

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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
    DoomHat's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Austin Tx

    Default Re: Ideas for a Refreshing Evil Religious Faction

    There is one, and only one thing you need to do to make an evil faction of any kind more compelling.

    Make them 100% certain that they are the good guys.

    Ravnica has already been brought up, but what hasn't been talked about is how horrible many of the non-black factions are, or at least can be interpreted to be.

    In the original fluff, Selesnya is a cult that promotes oneness and harmony with nature to the point of total annihilation of self identity. It could be easily argue that Selesnya isn't an organization, but a single terrifying entity that devours the souls of the unwary and then makes puppets out of their empty husks.

    Azorius is a league of paladins who just want to keep everyone safe and insure that all levels of society get a fair shake. Unfortunately no rule can exist without exceptions, so their efforts to cram a complex world into a neat orderly little box has resulted in a vast mega-bureaucracy that threatens to strangle or crush absolutely everyone. Including the noble paladins so caught up in the machinery that they'll uphold their vows to protect the innocent even if that means burning every single innocent alive one at a time.

    How about we flip it on its head and look at the supposedly evil Golgari. Much like in people, for a city the condition of the bowels is all important. Ravnica would fall apart without the Golgari. They maintain the sewers and clear away the trash. There are no empty plots of land in Ranvica to waste on graveyards. The dead have to go somewhere. The living who've been so disenfranchised they have nowhere else to turn find welcome arms hospitality and comfort with the Golgari.
    But undead make up some of their number, and they consort with ugly unwholesome and dark things. They look, smell, and sound repugnant... but are they evil?

    Beyond that, why would a culture openly in service to an evil god think of itself as evil? Would they have to be up to evil at all times on all days?

    What if the worshipers of evil are culturally indoctrinated with a mass from of battered wife syndrome?
    "Khorn is only cruel because he loves us. We are not worthy of his love and for our sin we must be punished. We make sacrifices of blood to atone for the crimes of our ancestors who, in their evil vanity, raised arms against him in childish disobedience!

    Those who do not grovel in the Holy Light of Khorn are unrepentant sinners! Khorn has blessed us to purge their evil, and as reward for our righteous action we my partake of all that was once theirs.
    Praise Khorn! Good for the Good God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!"

    Lastly, think about the implications of a supposed NG god of sunshine, healing, and happiness. A god of all good, all the time, who shields their worshipers from all conceivable suffering and gives them nothing but plenty, is one who hobbles the growth of their followers in all ways.

    No pain no gain as they say. A chess master who's never faced a challenging opponent knows nothing about the game. A warrior who's never laid a hand on another is a dancer in a soldier's costume at best.
    Such a god could easily be secretly a god of sloth, making a lazy contented population that will never achieve anything of note. Because even their art will be bland, uninformed by any kind of struggle.
    ...with a vengeance!

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