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I am new to tabletop RPG's. I have been playing some Pathfinder recently on roll20 and I have enjoyed it quite a lot. But I'd also like to try being a GM. I don't want to run a standard cookie-cutter hero save the kingdom story. I came up with this idea for a campaign to run either on roll20 or IRL. It's an evil PC only campaign, the players would start off as a dirt poor street gang in a medieval high fantasy version of the fictional city of Roanapur from Black Lagoon. the players goal would be to build up a criminal syndicate and drive out all of their rivals for control of the city. as the players become more more successful they'd be able to create NPC lieutenants that would serve to run aspects of the organization such as drug manufacturing and distribution or prostitution. these divisions would also allow players to have a new character already if the character their playing is killed. I would also have them have a illegal weapons running which is how they would get most of their more powerful items and magic weapons. With the advantage of this being that the players would eventually have large amounts of gold to be able to just buy out right magical items. as the players become more more successful they would be attacked by other mobs and because the city is carefully balanced by the four pre-existing organized crime groups the city would plunge more and more into chaos, until eventually the players drive out or kill all the competition.
I'm looking for general advice on all facets general GM advice, story and campaign creation advice, and is running an evil campaign is even a good idea.
My best advice I could give you is to just jump right into it. Hell, you honestly can learn a lot just by winging. Read through the rulebook just to get a feel, but there is no need to stress out over memorizing anything. That's what the index is for.
It may be a little wonky at first, but you will quickly learn what works and what does not. A lot of times, you will find the players can really lead the way in regards to story, and you just really need to be open and adabtable.
Most importantly, remember you are the GM, meaning you can theoretically just do whatever you want, I mean, noone is going to know if you're flubbing something, and if they do, who cares because that's your right as GM ;p
Good luck to you!
- Have fun. Make sure the players are having fun, and make sure you're having fun too. Whatever you do: if everyone is having fun it's never wrong.
- Keep things moving. Don't know how a certain rule works? Make it up on the spot, and don't stop the game to check the books. You can do that later, and maybe ever retcon something when need be. But keep the game moving along.
- The default answer starts with: "Yes, but...". Players like being empowered, so give them - whenever feasible - what they want. But there's always a catch. Sometimes the PCs can now do something cool, but so can their foes. Or they can get that super-special item... after a great quest to earn it.
- Have fun.
- Let the owner of the place you play in set house rules.
- Let the group as a whole set group rules (what to do when someone's late, who brings the munchies, etc.)
- Set game rules (how to roll dice, what kind of books are allowed, stuff like that.)
- Evil can be fun, but put a blanket ban on PC vs Pc activities of any kind. No stealing from each other, no inner-party murders... nothing of the sort. Stuff like that can really only work when the players and their GM really know each other.
- Make a handful of NPC descriptions, and use them as needed. Bob, the moustachio'd Human with a slight limp and the tendency to wheeze could end up an innocent bystander, or the quill merchant, or a member of the palace guards. Whenever an NPC suddenly needs to be fleshed out a bit because the PCs take an interest... he'll be Bob.
- Have fun.
Well the Way of the Wicked 3rd part adventure path is probably the most successful evil adventure path i am aware of. You might want to have a look at it for ideas even if you dont want to run it directly.
Running an evil campaign can be a problem unless there is some kind of check on destructive behavior. When players write that E on their alignment line they start to go a little interparty murder happy. Talk to the group before hand. Indicate that you think this is a good idea but that you need help from them to keep the game moving. In party back stabbing will bring the game to a halt, make sure it doesnt happen. This could be simply by a gentlemans agreement, or it could be by the pcs being strongly connected (best friends, sibblings, bound by magic etc), or by having some kind of a boss figure to keep them in line.
Evil campaigns can be tricky - I'd suggest giving the party a shared goal to avoid intra-party... Friction. Like Kolo and others have mentioned, evil PCs can turn on each other shockingly fast.
If you're really new, then maybe you could do a "test" campaign first? We Be Goblins(!) is a free , short, evil-aligned, and very funny one-shot adventure module. It'll take you between one and three sessions to complete and it's a great way to get into the swing of things.
The We Be Goblins PDF can be found here.
thank you all for the advice, I will run those two recommendations first. as I build all the NPC characters, early encounters, and early story pieces that will be needed for my homebrewed setting and campaign. As for keeping players from killing each other, I've come up with several solutions. Best hopefully the shared goal of taking over the city will be enough, but if necessary I can impose certain rules such as permanent death action am inclined to impose that anyway because the Implications of resurrection on the society can make my head hurt. And that the new character that the play would take over will be one level below the previous. And as in between encounters income will be decided by skill roles. for example crafting alchemy used to decide how strong the drug are and by extension how valuable they are. this should keep everyone in line as killing each other would hurt their income and all money would be shared. And in between jobs will be their primary moneymaking method. And that encounters will either be about taking more territory so they make more money, driving out a rival business so that they can charge more, or holding territory so they don't lose money. also another form I was given the recommendation of getting Ultimate Campaign and it looks like from the description that it will be extremely helpful.
One bit of advice: Comb film and books for story ideas for your 'evil' campaign... but not fantasy films and books. You want books with anti-heroes, and pretty darn dark ones at that. Cull your plot ideas from pirate lore, gangster movies, secret agent books and so forth. Poke around history texts for the behavior of inquisitors, conquistadors and Mongols and see if anything feels 'right' for your group.
"Ah, what a beautiful new land! Let us set fire to it! But first... the gold!"
I can definitely recommend Ultimate Campaign, it's a very good book for any campaign and it has some rules that are especially useful for homemade settings and running businesses and/or kingdoms. If you treat the city they're trying to take over as a "mini-state" then the kingdom rules would fit perfectly.
Coincidentally Paizo are awesome and make pretty much all their stuff open content, so you can browse those rules online before you pick up the Ucmp to make sure they're something you want to play with.
Those can seem a little bit... Erm... Overwhelming at first, but once you get started they work very well indeed.
thanks for everyone who's responded with advice so far it's greatly helped me refine my campaign ideas. there are some new things that came to mind and hopefully the community can help me. One is in some sections of the story I hope to have them be solved multiple ways. As an example here is what I came up with the players have to enter the mention of a rival mob boss to kill him. There are several ways of completing this objective, the simplest and most dangerous way is to just go in head-on and kill everything that moves. The second is talk their way in and try to get in to his office in ambush him. streaking in is a possibility but probably too difficult since not all the players will put a lot of skills and stealth. and finally going in from underground using the sewer system, however to do that they have to get a map sewer system, from a one eyed goblin that has been experimented on by wizard to be super intelligent not just for goblin but for anybody and he's the only one who knows everything about the sewer system. The problem is he still goblin so he still of vengeful pyromaniac, and so they'll have to do a job for him mainly assassinating the person who took out his eye by setting the perpetrator on fire while they're still alive. additional scenarios along these lines could be helpful.
also I'm hoping to have some random encounters such as enemy syndicates attacking their facilities, NPC members of their mod making assault on enemy territory, raids by the guards that sort of thing. These random events would be purely optional for the players to participate in but that if they don't participate success or failure will be decided by a random D20 roll. additional random encounters ideas would be appreciated.
I've also refined the money making idea for the players, between each section of the story each player will roll a skill check based on whatever moneymaking section of the mod there in charge of. So for example the player who's in charge of drugs would roll a skill check based on their craft alchemy and I would multiply the result by 10^x with the variable increasing based on where they are in the story so first multiplied by 10 then by 100 then by a thousand and so on. Also the gang would have a large central money pool that they can all use to buy equipment and expenditures that they will will have full control of divvying up among themselves, as well as smaller private funds based on what they looted after encounters.
the third problem more delicate, as example from what I mentioned this story will be going into very dark places, and I want the campaign to still be fun for the players. the solution I came up with is make it clear to the players that if any facet of the story makes them uncomfortable tell me in private and I will either tone it down or remove it entirely. If anyone has other solutions to this problem it would be appreciated.
I would simply not suggest an evil campaign to start with unless you know your players well. An evil game is probably the most tricky type of game to run as it can quickly devolve into a PVP/Player vs. Player game and that is almost never fun for all the players.
That being said, it's your game =)
Think about how you would keep some sort of party cohesion. A "mafia" model is one of the few things that works well for this but still has to be controlled.
Something else to consider is evil games can easily become uncomfortable for the players and the GM. If it were me I would try and set some expectations/limits from the outset.
if you give players a sandbox with no guidelines and/or limts it will almost certainly end in disaster =/
Personally, I would probably consider a fuedal Japanese campaign. That is a fundamentally Lawful Evil society that does not value life. However, it is fairly well structured with "rules" so it is fairly easily controlled. Yakuza fit right into waht you are after.