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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Halfling in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Default By NE means necessary: a guide to Neutral Evil

    By NE means necessary: a guide to neutral evil

    Hello everyone. Do you like bandwagoning? Because I like bandwagoning. All aboard.

    Contents

    (hyperlinks to be implemented)

    1. Introduction
    1.1 What is evil, anyway?
    1.2 How evil are you? A matter of scale
    1.3 On alignment and personal comportment: evil people are people too
    1.4 Excuses

    2. Common Archetypes and examples from popular culture
    2.1 The hired gun
    2.2 The mobster
    2.3 The brute
    2.4 The scientist
    2.5 The child
    2.6 The desperate man
    2.7 The sociopath

    3. Motivations
    3.1 Necessity
    3.2 Obsession
    3.3 Blindness
    3.4 Joy

    4. How to play evil in a productive and successful manner
    5. Religion; evil as a force within the D&D multiverse
    6. Case studies
    6.1 James Bond


    1. Introduction



    "Lord Voldemort showed me the truth. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it." -Quirrel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


    1.1 What is evil, anyway?

    At its heart (its black, slick, squamous heart) evil is about hurting people. Where individuals may vary in nearly infinite ways in their motivations and methods, they have this as their one commonality. They want to hurt people, or they don’t care if they hurt people, or they don’t want to hurt people, but do so anyway, because it furthers their aims.

    Neutral Evil is unique amongst the evil alignments in that it has no credo beyond this. A neutral evil individual need not believe in the power of structure and order, nor seek to rebel against it. She serves power when it suits her, and breaks the rules when it benefits her.

    Quote Originally Posted by our friends at WotC:
    She is out for herself, pure and simple.
    A selfish outlook alone, however, is not enough to merit an evil alignment, no matter how unpleasant the individual. No, evil must be applied. The individual must be willing to go the distance; in other words to inflict suffering. This comes more easily to some than others. A selfish character who does not steal or hurt or kill (or one of the other innumerable acts that qualify) is not evil but simply selfish.

    Neutral evil individuals tend to be moral relativists, holding that values differ from society to society, from person to person; that they are conditioned by the society in which they arise, with no absolute right or wrong. As a whole, very few have the probity necessary to acknowledge themselves as evil, instead couching their acts in terms of necessity or utility.

    I had to murder those children; they would have grown up to become bandits.
    Quite beyond the personal horror of admitting one’s evil nature, there are social disadvantages to admitting that one is evil.

    The scale of exactly what qualifies as an evil act varies from DM to DM, game system to game system.


    1.2 How evil are you? A matter of scale

    If neutral evil is a matter of having no limits; no compunctions, then surely every evil is the same? Not so. Evil is a personal matter, and even within this alignment, people draw the line at different places. The categories listed below have no basis in D&D mechanics, but I have listed them for ease of reference.

    Petty. A person capable of petty evil may well retain a neutral alignment under many GMs. A petty act of evil might inflict inconvenience rather than harm. Many individuals and societies will overlook acts of petty evil, particularly if they are committed by powerful individuals. Minor theft, bullying and vandalism are all examples of petty evil.

    Felonious. This is the point at which GMs will generally start to take note of actions as evil, and watching a neutral character for an alignment shift. Felonious acts of evil inflict major long-lasting or permanent harm on the victim, and it is the kind of thing that tends to be prosecuted by any society with a functional legal system, though as with petty acts, a powerful individual inflicting himself on a person of low standing may find that they face little repercussion for their crime. Assault, murder and arson are all examples of felonious evil.

    Grand. Grand evil is where the individual ventures into supervillain territory, and acts of grand evil will etch an E on your character sheet in permanent marker. Grand acts of evil tend to inflict suffering on a societal level, rather than merely at an individual level. Perpetrators of grand acts of evil are subject to lynch-mobs regardless of the state of the local legal system, so a wise individual prepares against this eventuality. Warfare, poisoning a well, and raising an evil god from the dead are examples of grand evil.


    1.3 On alignment and personality: evil people are people too

    Wickedness is a myth, invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.
    — Oscar Wilde


    I’d like to take a moment here to address one of the most widely held misconceptions with regards to not only Neutral Evil, but the evil spectrum as a whole: that evil characters are somehow obliged to be jerks to everyone all the time. This is simply untrue.

    Evil, as all alignments, encompasses a wide range of people and personality. Some of the most common archetypes will be examined in part two, but even within people who conform to these archetypes, there is room for variance.

    Every character is a person first and foremost, with hopes and dreams. Even the most alien-seeming cultist monster should in most instances have something to their being beyond “I want to screw up the world.”

    Evil characters tend towards malice, but they are not exclusively malicious. Unlike good, which obliges the character to act virtuously to maintain his alignment, evil imposes no compunction against affability, friendship or even love. A robustly written evil character is not defined solely by his alignment, but rather by his own interests and desires.


    1.4 Excuses

    Wait a minute, you say. This definition of the alignment includes my character. He's not evil! He's doing it for the greater good!

    Well, here's the thing, boyo. Everyone thinks that. Well, nearly everyone. Most people seek to rationalise their worst actions. But it doesn't matter why you did it; at the end of the day, if you do bad things then you're headed south on the alignment spectrum.

    Don't worry, though. You're in good company...

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Halfling in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Default 2. Common Archetypes and examples from popular culture

    2. Common Archetypes and examples from popular culture


    2.1 The Hired gun



    There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
    — Small Gods


    This guy is evil for hire. He has a job to do, and isn’t squeamish about what it is, what laws it breaks, or who it hurts. He’s usually not working towards a grand scheme, except perhaps a comfortable retirement or college for his kids, and as such he’s likely to act like a regular citizen when not “at work”.

    Examples in popular culture: Rhino (spiderman), Mike (Breaking bad), Boba Fett


    2.2 The Mobster

    “There’s no such thing as good money or bad money. There’s just money.” -Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano

    While at first blush this might seem like a LE archetype, the mobster is typically less lawful than you might think. The myth of the honorable mafioso, guardian of his community is just that; a myth. It was an image beneficial to the mob at the time, and as such, portrayals of honourable gangsters have been encouraged.

    In truth, while a criminal organisation might have lawful tendencies, they are communities dedicated to breaking existing laws and profiteering from that activity, and as such tend to attract NE types.

    The mobster follows strictures and rules insofar as they benefit him, and no further. He might pretend to higher ideals, and have some measure of loyalty to friends or underlings, but he is there for the money, and the power and the glamour that his position affords him.

    Examples in popular culture: The penguin (Gotham), Jimmy Darmondy (Boardwalk Empire)


    2.3 The Brute

    “I'm right and you're wrong, I'm big and you're small, and there's nothing you can do about it.” -Matilda's father, Matilda

    Where the mobster tends towards using coercion, threats and social position, the brute prefers using physical force to get what he wants.
    He differs from the hired gun in that he is primarily does what he does because he enjoys it, rather than because he is getting paid to use force. The brute often appears as an ancillary character to someone with a bigger E, but that doesn't mean he's an idiot, necessarily.

    Examples in popular culture: Gregor Clegane (Game of thrones), Crabbe and Goyle (Harry Potter)


    2.4 The Scientist

    “There was no more dangerous kind of madman than one who devoted a good brain and a courageous heart to unhealthy ambitions.” - city in the autumn stars

    He wants to bring his wife back from the dead. Or he’s out for revenge. Or he wants to win a Fields medal. Whatever the root, the scientist has a singular obsession that drives him into evil, with little regard for order or chaos. This archetype is unlikely to indulge in evil unrelated to his obsession, but generally believes himself to be above the law. While a distaste for rules might imply a chaotic alignment to some, the scientist has no enmity with the system as such. He would just rather they not apply to him.

    Examples in popular culture: John Lumic (Dr Who, rise of the cybermen), Mr Freeze, Bolivar Trask (X-men, days of future past)


    2.5 The Child




    The child archetype is characterised by the fact that they are completely oblivious to the needs, wants and often the sapience of those around them. They cannot or will not recognise the rights of others.

    If the individual is in a position of power, they will be capricious and cruel. This archetype has a tendency towards the chaotic, but they lack the distaste for rules and organisations that typifies CE. When the individual has a romantic interest, they will often couch it in terms of “possessing” or “having” the person in question, as they are unlikely to recognise the individual as anything more than an object.

    When the individual is not in a position of power, they will pout when not getting their way, and manifest their evil tendencies much less overtly.

    Examples in popular culture: Queenie (Blackadder), Titan (Megamind)


    2.6 The Desperate Man

    He's doing this to save his life. He'd get out if he could, but he's being coerced. At least, that's what he says. Most often, this is how stories justify protagonists committing heinous acts, and this is perhaps the most sympathetic of the archetypes.

    Examples in popular culture: Elric of Melnibone, Walter White


    2.7 The Sociopath

    (work in progress)


    An aside: archetypes from other handbooks that can fit neutral evil with little modification.

    The bad cop Though the bad cop operates within a system, and abuses her power in this context, this is not necessarily down to any personal loyalty or belief in the system in question. A neutral evil bad cop uses the power-structure around them as a convenient prop and source of authority, nothing more.

    The jerk, and the radical Just as the bad cop is not necessarily of a Lawful bent, the jerk and the radical are not necessarily proponents of chaos. If a radical is not dedicated to tearing down existing power structures, he may well cross the line into Neutral (with chaotic tendencies)


    Last edited by Mrs Kat; 2015-10-10 at 03:48 PM. Reason: work in progress

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Halfling in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Default 3. Motivations

    3. Motivations



    A man may fight for many things: his country, his principles, his friends, the glistening tear on the cheek of a golden child. But personally, I'd mud-wrestle my own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing clock and a stack of French porn. -Blackadder the 3rd

    Why did you do it? Why would you do it? That is the question that this section must seek to answer.

    This will attempt to address some of the more common motivations for neutral evil characters. Because neutral evil straddles the centre-ground between the opposing forces of law and chaos, some of these will seem to support characters with chaotic or lawful tendencies. And, though they are presented here as discrete entities, these motivations run a spectrum, the lines between necessity and obsession in particular being easily blurred, and many characters will pick from multiple sections on the list.


    Necessity


    “I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there... any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.”
    -The Operative, Serenity


    Because I had to. Many characters feel compelled to do evil by circumstances beyond their control. This may be a literal hostage situation, such as a man behind the scenes threatening the life of a loved one, or something more ideological, such as a belief that genocide of a particular race is necessary to protect the world. This motivation also covers evil done for self-preservation; a character who burns down an orphanage to get his hands on an antidote to a poison, or a magic user who sacrifices innocents to become a lich.

    Like those motivated by obsession, an evil character motivated by necessity might only commit evil acts in a particular context. An evil character motivated soley by necessity may see what he is doing as unpleasant, but is likely to rationalise it as "the only way".

    This is the gateway for many characters, and a character who remains on the path of necessity for two long may graduate to obsession.


    Obsession

    I want it. I want to have X. I want to be Y. I want to do Z. Obsessed characters have a singular goal and will stop at nothing to achieve it. Those who bother to rationalise their actions may appear similar to necessity-motivated characters, and there is some grey area, but as a rule an obsessive is less apologetic about what he is doing and why he is doing it.

    This motivation encompasses lust for personal power, the desire to own a particular person or thing, or the desire to accomplish a particular task. This need not be a singular motivation, but when it is, the obsessed character tends to become myopic, perhaps straying into blindness.

    What makes this evil is not necessarily the goal itself, but the lengths to which the character will go to attain it.


    Blindness

    We thought we were the only thinking beings in the universe, until we met you, but never did we dream that thought could arise from the lonely animals who cannot dream each other's dreams. -- the cocoon, Ender's game

    Sometimes evil is unwitting. Someone sufficiently single-minded or alien might be genuinely unaware of the suffering that they cause. Someone sufficiently dedicated to a cause might look the other way. A child-like villain might not see their victims as people, and a narcissist might not recognise the feelings of anyone but himself. Sometimes this blindness is enough for a character to commit an atrocity unthinkingly, particularly if that character is in a position of power. More usually though, this will manifest itself in petty-level evil, unless coupled with another motivating factor.


    Joy

    “Sometimes I wonder about Piter," the Baron said. "I cause pain out of necessity, but he...I swear he takes a positive delight in it."
    -Dune


    Some characters simply take glee in making others suffer. Sometimes this is simply an aggravating factor; an obsessive who takes joy in the suffering of others might take the route to his goal that includes inflicting the most pain.

    For others, though, this is the wellspring of their evil actions; a natural bully might take a job as a policeman so that he has the opportunity to beat people. A man who enjoys killing might take a job as a bounty hunter.

    This category includes many poorly written villains, and is in many ways the least sympathetic.
    Last edited by Mrs Kat; 2015-10-10 at 06:55 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Feb 2009

    Default 4. How to play (neutral) evil in a productive and successful manner

    4. How to play (neutral) evil in a productive and successful manner

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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Feb 2009

    Default 5. Religion; (neutral) evil as a force within the D&D multiverse

    5. Religion; (neutral) evil as a force within the D&D multiverse

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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default 6. Case studies

    6. Case studies

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: By NE means necessary: a guide to Neutral Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs Kat View Post
    1.4 Excuses

    Wait a minute, you say. This definition of the alignment includes my character. He's not evil! He's doing it for the greater good!

    Well, here's the thing, boyo. Everyone thinks that. Well, nearly everyone. Most people seek to rationalise their worst actions. But it doesn't matter why you did it; at the end of the day, if you do bad things then you're headed south on the alignment spectrum.

    Don't worry, though. You're in good company...
    This made my day. I am really loving what you did with this guide, focusing on the ideologies and premises that make Evil so darn Evil and having a darn good time with it. It's clear that you spent a lot of time meditating upon just what evil is and why it works in the world, and the energy with which you present it certainly keeps me invested (also, the quotes are glorious).

    One thing I would like to see more of is how evil interacts with the world. How does society view you, or your fellow adventurers? How does evil fit in in a world where morals insist on being so darn objective?
    Dark Green, the color of Chaotic Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    Altruistorc is leaving me deeply disturbed and intrigued at the same time...

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: By NE means necessary: a guide to Neutral Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Thealtruistorc View Post
    This made my day. I am really loving what you did with this guide, focusing on the ideologies and premises that make Evil so darn Evil and having a darn good time with it. It's clear that you spent a lot of time meditating upon just what evil is and why it works in the world, and the energy with which you present it certainly keeps me invested (also, the quotes are glorious).

    One thing I would like to see more of is how evil interacts with the world. How does society view you, or your fellow adventurers? How does evil fit in in a world where morals insist on being so darn objective?

    Hey, thanks. You're too kind. :)

    I was going to touch on that a little in the religion section. The gods, and the nature of the planes outside the prime material, are what put in place the strictures of the alignment system, and I think it's important to examine that relationship. What exactly is a paladin seeing when he detects evil? Do evil acts leave a mark on the soul of the perpetrator, or do they open up some kind of sympathetic link with the negative energy plane? Does he see what his god thinks is evil? Who arbitrates these things, exactly?

    A lot of these things depend strongly on the DM and how they view the gods, the planes and alignment as a whole, so here I was going to put forth a number of possible interpretations, and what their implications are for the three main 3.5e settings: Greyhawk, Eberron and Forgotten Realms.

    I was also going to touch on the law/chaos axis, its origins in the Moorcock multiverse, and the concept of the Balance and where NE fits within that. Any input people have is welcome.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Titan in the Playground
     
    AvatarVecna's Avatar

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    Default Re: By NE means necessary: a guide to Neutral Evil

    I'll give you the same advice I've given the other semi-neutral guide makers: make sure to not just focus on the archetypes that are solidly NE, but also the ones that are just this side of the line between NE and its adjacent alignments (LE, CE, and Neutral).


    Currently Recruiting WW/Mafia: Logic's Deathloop Mafia

    Avatar by AsteriskAmp

    Quote Originally Posted by Xumtiil View Post
    An Abattoir Vecna, if you will.
    My Homebrew

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: By NE means necessary: a guide to Neutral Evil

    I think the scientist archetype is spot on. As I mentioned in another NE guide thread, Kellhus (and his whole society) from the Prince of Nothing trilogy is like this, philosophers devoted to discover at the expense of everything. And Dr. Mengele as a real world example.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: By NE means necessary: a guide to Neutral Evil

    Any chance of this getting finished?

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