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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    So I have a game set up to play that I am thinking is lawful evil. Not sure. So I’d like some advice.

    1) Campaign is basically going to be players are spies being sent to a foreign country to destabilize said country. The REASON is that nation is gather resources and is an economic (and possibly) military threat. The player nation is acting in a Machiavellian interest essentially. The nation under attack is essentially lawful neutral/good.

    2) I could spin this to a “good” or “neutral” campaign. But what I don’t want to do is have the players set out on a path of altruism. They have a mission. But I also don’t want my players to act in a fashion that is murder hobo. That isn’t how spy games work. So I could use some recommendations.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by blackjack50 View Post
    So I have a game set up to play that I am thinking is lawful evil. Not sure. So I’d like some advice.

    1) Campaign is basically going to be players are spies being sent to a foreign country to destabilize said country. The REASON is that nation is gather resources and is an economic (and possibly) military threat. The player nation is acting in a Machiavellian interest essentially. The nation under attack is essentially lawful neutral/good.

    2) I could spin this to a “good” or “neutral” campaign. But what I don’t want to do is have the players set out on a path of altruism. They have a mission. But I also don’t want my players to act in a fashion that is murder hobo. That isn’t how spy games work. So I could use some recommendations.
    Creatures from literally all alignment engage in spy work (even unaligned animals who are just helping the funny biped who speaks their language and give them food).

    If you want a campaign where everyone is lawful evil (no capitalization in 5e, it's relevant) then the only way you can achieve that is telling your players "I want an all lawful evil campaign where there is no path to altruism nor murderhoboing", have the players agree to it, and have them stay on that path.

    But do keep in mind that lawful evil people are perfectly capable of altruism or random murderhoboism. Lawful evil is the description of their typical behavior, not a limit they have to follow. If they find out the ambassador is kidnapping the child of someone who helped them, they can decide to rescue the child instead of scoring points with an authority figure who's doing something malevolent.

    Even literal Devils have more range in their personality and actions than "only lawful evil", and they're personifications of the concept.

    All in all my advice is: you can only present the starting point of the campaign, if the PCs want to go one path or another is up to them. If they want to become good guys after seeing the harm they're causing, it's also a good and interesting campaign.

    What's more important: you having decided the PCs cannot go down a path of altruism, or the players' and PCs' decisions mattering and having effects and consequences on the world?
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2021-04-17 at 09:00 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    The murder hobo part is relatively easy; if they go around murdering a bunch of people, they're going to get caught and their mission fails. To that end, it's worth making NPC's that are more powerful than them fairly common. The message should be clear: mess around and find out.

    The alignment part is more an element of what kind of story you want to tell. Are the PC's soldiers or mercenaries? They should be used to going on missions or taking orders from a chain of command. I.e., the morality of their actions shouldn't matter to them all that much, barring extreme orders.

    You could also go for a "reveal" where the party is attempting to complete the mission, thinking they're working for the good guys, but it turns out they're really not. This could be an interesting narrative payoff.

    The main thing I think you need to think about, regardless of the particulars of the story, is Why Are the PC's Doing What They're Doing. If you can work with their backstories and characters to create sensical motivations, it doesn't matter as much whether they are motivated altruistically or not.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Corran's Avatar

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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    My advice is to allow enough room for the players to pursue their own goals. Sure, every now and then they'll have a new mission to perform, but there must be time in between these missions for the pc's to do whatever they want to do, if anything. If they dont get that chance, then the campaign might feel a little too railroady (not everyone wants to play the blind tool ater all, because I dont suppose that they will always know why they will be doing everything that is being asked of them to do). Let them interact with the world, create their own enemies and friends, and with that done, you then can create conflict whenever you please. Know that enemy they created on their spare time? Turns out she is working for their side, so now she'll have to tag along with them to their next spy mission, and she better make it out alive because she is important. Know that friend they made in the local inkeeper? Control wants him captured and sent over for interogation. Stuff like that.

    The players setting on a path of altruism is not a bad thing (heck, every spy probably things they are being pretty altruistic anyway). They need to be above suspicion, and the least likely person to be suspected is a hero.

    Murderhoboing or refusing to do their missions invites consequences which you have to carefully think of ahead of time. No different than it would be for any other campaign.

    A problem that might occur for you campaign has to do with tone. All it takes is just one player to destroy it for everyone. If everyone is having their characters be as discrete as possible, but one player is having their pc do stupid things that create too much heat for everyone, that will be a problem.
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    I remember of an old campaign where we were all playing worshipers of Bane in the aftermath of our cult's destruction and our leader's demise. We were all keeping a low profile, trying our best to escape the good guys' attention, trying to get in touch with other survivors and collecting info about where the good guys were safekeeping our dead leader's remains. Anyway, all of us liked the tone of the campaign, keeping a low profile, operating secretly and all that. All but one player, who would always do the thing that drew unwanted attention and ruined it for everyone else. Eventually the DM had that pc killed, and the player rejoined after some session with a pc who was acting more in line with the tone of the campaign.

    I dont know how you'll do it, but at the very least make sure that your players agree to the tone of the campaign before you run it for them. And as I said in the beginning, give them breaks to pursue their own thing. Having a break will help with getting in the right mode whenever a new spy mission arrives.
    Last edited by Corran; 2021-04-17 at 12:48 PM.
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post
    My advice is to allow enough room for the players to pursue their own goals. Sure, every now and then they'll have a new mission to perform, but there must be time in between these missions for the pc's to do whatever they want to do, if anything. If they dont get that chance, then the campaign might feel a little too railroady (not everyone wants to play the blind tool ater all, because I dont suppose that they will always know why they will be doing everything that is being asked of them to do). Let them interact with the world, create their own enemies and friends, and with that done, you then can create conflict whenever you please. Know that enemy they created on their spare time? Turns out she is working for their side, so now she'll have to tag along with them to their next spy mission, and she better make it out alive because she is important. Know that friend they made in the local inkeeper? Control wants him captured and sent over for interogation. Stuff like that.
    I think this is key advice - while they're on a mission for their home country and will have certain things they need to do to keep the bosses happy, letting players decide how they'd like to impact the country is also cool, and lets them feel like they're in control rather than just carrying out whatever instructions they get given like automatons.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by Skrum View Post
    The murder hobo part is relatively easy; if they go around murdering a bunch of people, they're going to get caught and their mission fails. To that end, it's worth making NPC's that are more powerful than them fairly common. The message should be clear: mess around and find out.

    The alignment part is more an element of what kind of story you want to tell. Are the PC's soldiers or mercenaries? They should be used to going on missions or taking orders from a chain of command. I.e., the morality of their actions shouldn't matter to them all that much, barring extreme orders.

    You could also go for a "reveal" where the party is attempting to complete the mission, thinking they're working for the good guys, but it turns out they're really not. This could be an interesting narrative payoff.

    The main thing I think you need to think about, regardless of the particulars of the story, is Why Are the PC's Doing What They're Doing. If you can work with their backstories and characters to create sensical motivations, it doesn't matter as much whether they are motivated altruistically or not.
    The reveal aspect really appeals to me. The issue I have is that I am concerned that it will lead them down a path less dedicated to their mission (at least initially). I suppose I could frame it as lawful neutral? I’m just not certain where evil vs neutral lines are in the lawful spectrum.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by blackjack50 View Post
    The reveal aspect really appeals to me. The issue I have is that I am concerned that it will lead them down a path less dedicated to their mission (at least initially). I suppose I could frame it as lawful neutral?
    I think you're placing too much importance on alignments. A character's alignment doesn't matter more than their Ideal, Flaw or Bond.


    If your players *want* their PCs to be less dedicated to their mission, then let them. But have in-universe warnings about what being less dedicated to their mission will cost. And let it have consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by blackjack50 View Post
    I’m just not certain where evil vs neutral lines are in the lawful spectrum.
    Not really a spectrum, but:

    Lawful neutral (LN) individuals act in accordance with law, tradition, or personal codes. Many monks and some wizards are lawful neutral.

    [...]

    Lawful evil (LE) creatures methodically take what they want, within the limits of a code of tradition, loyalty, or order. Devils, blue dragons, and hobgoblins are lawful evil.
    The difference is pretty clear, IMO.
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2021-04-17 at 01:50 PM.

  8. - Top - End - #8
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    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by blackjack50 View Post
    So I have a game set up to play that I am thinking is lawful evil. Not sure. So I’d like some advice.

    1) Campaign is basically going to be players are spies being sent to a foreign country to destabilize said country. The REASON is that nation is gather resources and is an economic (and possibly) military threat. The player nation is acting in a Machiavellian interest essentially. The nation under attack is essentially lawful neutral/good.

    2) I could spin this to a “good” or “neutral” campaign. But what I don’t want to do is have the players set out on a path of altruism. They have a mission. But I also don’t want my players to act in a fashion that is murder hobo. That isn’t how spy games work. So I could use some recommendations.
    That sounds like a good campaign hook for primarily Lawful Neutral and Lawful Evil characters, and possibly Neutral and Neutral Evil if they're getting paid well enough. Just be prepared for the steps an evil character might consider valid methods for completing the mission(s). Be sure you want to open that door.

    I'd recommend ask that each character to either have an ideal or a bond that ties them strongly to serving their country. Any alignment can work with a Bond creating strong motivation to complete missions. A mismatch just might cause some periodical conflicts along the way when it comes to the way they execute their orders: internal, external (with party), or external (with mission giver). The biggest potential problem in that case would be party conflicts IMO.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: Lawful Evil Campaign? Is it? Tips?

    Hmm, I see a lawful evil campaign be one of grim necessities. The wet work and black ops needed to keep a society functioning, even in the face of the realities of war. Think of some of the stuff a certain humble tailor did to help seal a Federation and Romulan alliance or the kind of work Section 31 claims to do. It's not pretty, it's not nice, and it's certainly not good, but it needs doing. Or so they say. Whether it truly is is up to you and the players.
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