Tips on Playing An Evil Character (Your DM Might Actually Allow)


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Evil characters tend to be tough sell, and a DM who's been burned by one baby-eating barbarian will likely disallow such characters forever more. If you want to make an evil character that will be persuasive though, then check out this handy dandy guide from Improved Initiative.

Remember, bad guys are people too.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

As a GM, in general I do allow evil PCs as long as said PC has some in-game reason to work with the group, and that the group has an in-game reason to trust the evil PC.

I liken it to GURPs "thieves code" disadvantage, where a PC may be a rampaging, evil blackheart; that PC will still go to great lengths to protect the group.
The other PCs must also accept the evil PC. Without such trust, things break down, inner group conflict tends to become reality.

Of course there are exceptions. If I plan an "all evil" campaign, I expect a lot of trope reversals and inner group shenanigans. Some groups actually enjoy and thrive on inner group conflicts. Other groups may have players that find inner group conflict too distracting and unenjoyable.

If I am breaking in a new group, with people that have not met before, a no evil PC policy is a good thing as it prevents some people from making a bad impression out of the gate. It helps eliminate the issue of a good player with an unlikeable PC come across as an unlikeable player (he/she betrayed our group, we don't want to play with him/her again). First impression PCs should be someone others WANT to play with. Once said players get to know each other more, THEN evil PCs can be considered for future campaigns.

I had an evil character once. I think the biggest thing of all is that you'll need to build into your evil characters personality and backstory, reasons he won't just kill, backstab, steal from or screw over the party. I was able to do so with my evil character, and the rest of the party was fine largely because of it.

I would also say to have a reason he's evil. A solid one and one that can devlope / evolve over time.

Lastly, I guess I'd just suggest to try focusing on playing a smart evil person. One that knows the right time to kill that innocent guard isn't amongst other guards in broad daylight while your party is around. But chaotic run and sword, destroying can be fun too.... if your party and DM are good with it.

Just suggestions of course though. I'm not going to tell ya how to play your characters of course haha.

One of the things I have found most effective is to not tell anyone else that you're evil. This sounds pretty obvious, but I can't count the number of times someone got so excited that they blurted it out to everyone out of character, and that meta knowledge tainted everything. Said evil PC couldn't pay for rooms at an inn, offer food to the party, or make strategy suggestions without everyone else looking at him sideways.

If they can't tell you're evil, then you're working well with them. Then if/when they find out you're evil is a dramatic surprise that will make the other PCs question their actions and mission. Good times all around.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Two words: Frank Underwood

My friends actually have a duo character waiting in their rafters. One's NE and the other is NG. The good one basically redirects the evil at people that deserve it, so if someone's willing to be a leash you might be able to get away with it.

Not a bad selection so far (most were covered in the guide; glad to see we're all on the same page though).

Does anyone have any stories about evil characters they've played or seen that really made the game work instead of wrecking it?

High Priest of Asmodeus (started as a minion) travelling with the party as the helped out various clergies, acted as a healer and provided the plans and kept everyone on task. Cultured, pleasant and sophisticated. Got along very well with nearly everyone-so long as they were efficient.

Those who weren't .. well lets say at least one ended up "dissappearing" (bent over an altar).

Oh and his reason for "helping"?

.. gathering blackmail material to use against various clergies, and garnering favors from those who couldn't be blackmailed.

Sovereign Court

LE tends to work better in a group than NE or CE. They can easily have their own form of honor which keeps them working with the group. That's why when I GM, I allow LE (with oversight) but I don't allow CN.

I no longer allow evil PCs after what we shall refer to as an "Incident". To be fair, I suspect that the player was the problem rather than the alignment.


I've found that's often the problem. For some players it doesn't matter the alignment or character, what is going to happen is a long series of nonsense that will be used almost exclusively to jump the game off its tracks, or to create inner-party conflict.

Maybe I should do that for an upcoming article. "Solving Inter-Party Conflict: Taking Off The Kid Gloves"


The evil character I've played that worked out alright was a serial killer that liked to cut the faces off his victims and use them as masks for disguises (DM ok'd). He was quite adept at it too.

Anyways, eventually the other party members found out in surprise and the good player in the party asked my evil character to stop killing. My character said that wasn't going to happen, but he would only kill those who were evil. It was the faces he was after, not a particular type of person after all. However, I found this the perfect time to pick up what I call the ghost rider point of view. That person that just bumped into another without apologizing? Evil and fair game. He'd usually leave big targets (Important NPCs) alone until they've served their purpose and would only add their face to his bag if the opportunity was good.

He took the other party members on as his "toys". That's what he called them at least. It was the reason he wouldn't kill them while they slept, After all, it's no fun to play with broken toys. For that matter he was against others breaking his toys, thus giving him a reason to defend them... to a point. He didn't care much about gold, save for getting his own share. Gold simply wasn't what he was after.

Probably one of the most memorable characters I've played and most definitely my top 3 most fun that I've played. That being said, I had a fairly understand play group and they enjoyed it. I doubt it would have went as well if a paladin or the like were in the group.

As for the article, I don't see how one on party conflict would hurt. I'm sure there are some out there, but the more the better as one generally at least a couple a week on these threads alone.

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HyperMissingno wrote:
My friends actually have a duo character waiting in their rafters. One's NE and the other is NG. The good one basically redirects the evil at people that deserve it, so if someone's willing to be a leash you might be able to get away with it.

Giving a blood relation between the two could serve well to explain why they stick together.

NG wants to keep his brother from causing trouble, while NE thinks his brother is going to get himself eaten by a dragon and works to save his dumb bum. Saving the rest of the party is incidental, and honestly only a mild priority for NE (mostly because he wants someone else to be arrow to use as a meatshield). is a more colorful example- a pair of paladin and slayer twins. The slayer is a lawful bountyhunter that has to deal with the underworld a lot, and he has seen his fair share of ambushes and betrayals. He doesn't hesitate to throw out those sneak attack damage dice. Sometimes, he even took contracts to catch runaway slaves. It didn't matter who he was after to him, since it was just a job, and he never pities his targets (maybe he reluctantly took one of those slave catching jobs, decided to help insted halfway through, and then woke up the next morning with all his stuff stolen- people grow tough when the world gives them beatings)

Meanwhile, our paladin sees his class features, and thinks that he is a fantastic tank that can take a beating. So he decides 'yeah, I can handle trying to see if those hill giants are actually friendly, even if the answer is no'.

And that attitude just infuriates the slayer. He thinks 'I got to keep this idiot from killing himself'. So the slayer follows along in the party, always waiting to do 'what has to be done'. And the paladin always tries to help his brother trust people again. So in the end, both brother have similar intentions, even though their ideologies are completely at odds with each other. Setting up something like this helps to justify and smooth the conflict alignment can bring

Out of curiosity, has anyone ever planted the seeds of a character who might become the next big bad by the end of the game? The sort who would knock the evil god off his throne just to sit down in the warm spot he'd just vacated?

I've got a story about that I'd share if people are interested?

Dark Archive

Time and again I try my hand at developing character concepts only for a significant number of them to eventually end up squarely in the deep end of the alignment pool - a tendency I blame on a rather neglected desire to try my hand at GMing (and thus, amongst the numerous other roles a GM must fulfill, play the villain).

I primarily play PFS at the moment, which means that these concepts either end up unused or heavily watered down to fit a neutral alignment - my main is exceedingly pleasant for a Diabolist, and has done a number of "good" acts (taking in a pair of orphans, dismissing the bound angel the party was fighting rather than killing him, NOT setting the hallowed monastery alight with hellfire, etc.) in the name of preserving group cohesion, garnering good will, and bringing more wayward souls into Asmodeus's flock. I am content with her being lawful neutral for now, but in the fullness of time she must eventually take the plunge - she's going to Hell anyway. :p

As for properly evil characters, I feel it is always important to develop them as intelligent individuals - not necessarily in a high INT score manner, but in recognizing the value of other party members (as well as the value of KEEPING them your allies - i.e. not stealing from them/overly pissing them off) and in understanding that subtle evil is often better than blatant evil. While I tend toward LE alignments, I feel that NE or even CE can be played successfully in a group with the proper dynamic, so long as everyone is on board from the start and the player is willing and able to avoid the anecdotal "kill a teammate for his loot" or "let's see if I can make the Paladin fall today" situations.

At present, the most heavily developed (though never actually statted out) evil character in my mental "To-Play" collection is a woman I call Invidia - a high-level NE spellcaster, probably witch, that periodically murders people and drains away their youth to prolong her life, but is otherwise a quiet, unassuming, seemingly normal young(ish) woman living in a run-down tenement in Sigil's Lower Ward (What can I say, I'm a Planscape fan).

I'd post a bit of her backstory, but that would cause this post to balloon like crazy. I fear I'm a bit on the loquacious side... :/

I played a character would was... in hindsight most likely CE in a group with a LG cleric. This... ...
Is a pretty good read to see how to make it work :).

But to answer Neal's question- yes... ish? I played basically a mobster turned pirate who is going to be one of the lesser bads in the next campaign I'm running.

I had a evil wizard in a campaign back in 3.0 that in his back story has a very powerful Devil shrouded in shadows tell him that he would be destroyed in no uncertain terms if he did not keep these 4 others alive no matter what. That NE wizard would do whatever his black heart wanted to others behind the scenes. He was a truly trustworthy sage to the group. I think only one other character ever even suspected he was evil, but we had a great GM for that campaign and most of the evil I recall had to be with killing threats prematurely to the 4 he must keep alive.

He was not willy nilly evil, he was a plotter, schemer and coldly logical. The true catch IMO is having a really good reason your black hearted villan wants to play nice with others. Her was just as interested in most adventure hooks as the party if even more, as long as he saw a reason, even far reaching reason to do so.

It'd be good to hear your story, Neal.

I'm always interested in "successful" evil, as it, by some quirk, always ends up with my evil games being the most successful campaigns.

Apparently my goodly games are often only mediocre.

I wonder if that's a character flaw? :P

A mature player can make an evil character very viable.
IMHO the moral alignments come down to this:

    *Good: is ready to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of others
    *Neutral: is more-or-less just as ready to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of others as the other way around, depending on the circumstances
    *Evil: is ready to sacrifice the happiness of others for their own sake

If you keep to this, and don't play chaotic characters as random whirlwinds of mayhem (looking at you, cliche CN and CE players), evil characters are not that different from other aligments. The biggest difference is that they won't go out of their way to help others without reward and have little difficulties with stealing or otherwise harming others for the sake of riches.

In my experience, most players play their non-paladin characters rather like this version of evil anyway, regardless of their actual alignments.

My favorite villain thus far (who debuted in a "last man standing" sort of game where he was the first to go down, but only 1 of 2 to survive) was my antipaladin Ezekiel Cairn.

He'd begun his life in duty and with a desire for justice. He fought in trenches against the wickedest of foes, and acted as a shield for his staunch allies. Grizzled and hardened, he was still a good man and a just follower of his god. Until, as eventually happens, he died in battle. He experienced the sheer pleasure of paradise, and took in the reward of it, until his allies resurrected him.

Ezekiel took his sword back up, but he was filled with doubts. Why would a just and loving god, or any god for that matter, condemn mortals to suffer for decades before giving them their rewards in the realms supernal? This nagging doubt kept eating at him the more pain he witnessed, until he decided the only way to bring true peace was to murder the world.

Thus he raised armies of cutthroats and savage mercenaries, raised devils and demons, and drew the dead from their tombs in a campaign of bloodshed and death. The innocent were killed quickly, and buried with proper rites to send them on to the next world. His march was eventually halted, and he himself put to the sword. His sheer determination to save the world, regardless of how it damned him, infused his armor, and he rose as a grave knight to continue his campaign of slaughter.

Give Evil Parties . . . How They Fail and How to Fix It a look.

Lots of folks had some good advice for playing evil PCs well. And for how non-evil PCs can accept an evil PC in their party.


Thanks for the link Master Arminas! Added this to my reading list so I don't repeat myself on future posts.

Third Mind wrote:

He took the other party members on as his "toys". That's what he called them at least. It was the reason he wouldn't kill them while they slept, After all, it's no fun to play with broken toys. For that matter he was against others breaking his toys, thus giving him a reason to defend them... to a point.


Not until the time is right, anyway.

I played a Suli NE abolitionist in Eberron. She was a Cleric who lobbied and drummed up support for abolishing Elemental slavery in Elemental machines (airships and trains, etc) because they were intelligent creatures. She was evil because she would cheat, steal from or murder her enemies going against her abolitionist movement. She was also motivated by revenge against Gnomes who killed her Janni mother. Finally, she used skeletal workers in her weapons factories (animate dead is evil). She also identified herself as a not a women or a man (pronouns zee and zer) despite her biological sex.

Evil characters with goals will do things in the most efficient manner in keeping with their goals.. Sometimes it's a good act of generosity, sometimes it's blackmailing or extortion.

We've all brought up a lot of good points... characters who are highly motivated often tend to be evil.

Secondary question that might be a bit off topic. What do you do when your DM approves your character and motivation (whatever your alignment), but then doesn't use that to help pull you into the adventure? Do you find that if you're playing a good character that you're more likely to go with the flow, whereas if you're evil you tend to force the game to follow your goals?

I've just found that characters who are either very good or very evil tend to demand that things be done in certain ways to achieve certain ends. Since I tend to end up as the party leader this often leads to interesting results.


In my experience, you're better off not starting with an alignment and working to justify it, but starting with a character concept, and it gets labeled as Alignment: _E, so be it as long as you can play it properly.

Put another way, why do you want to be evil in the first place? Is it just for novelty's sake? Or do you have some nefarious goal you want to dedicate yourself towards?

I think the most compelling reasons to be an evil character (and for a GM to allow you to be so) is if you want to play a Cleric of an Evil deity. In this case, the GM understands that you're motivated not by a secret desire to backstab your allies, but by a desire to play the class you want to play and cast the spells you want to cast. Just about all the evil deities in the CRB have deep enough portfolios that you could build a cleric of any one of them, and simply focus on the non-evil aspects of that deity.

Dark Archive

You could be a recovering "addict" to everyone in the party and take your "Medicine" 2/day to keep calm until you run out. Medicine=Elixer of Repression

Have a purpose that relates to completion of the quest. Being a dick is not role-playing - it's just being a dick. So... Role play your character, regardless of alignment. Your motives and methods can still be evil, but if your purpose is only to sabotage your party members' quest or just ruin the campaign, why would anyone want to play RPSs with you?

Don't start evil, become it but for a completely logical and credible reason - the 'greater good' and 'just following orders' are tried and tested historically.

We had an evil character in a campaign that just ended. He was greedy , self centered and would kill if it would profit him. But he was also smart enough to know that killing for killing sake did not make him money and betraying the party would be a bad idea and working with the rest of us was very profitable. Evil does not mean psychotic.

As a sidenote-we (at our table) have had two cases of psycho random evil.

One got his throat slit in the night by another evil character as a matter of pragmatism. (the pc then swore up and down that it was the paladin who offed him-though between lighting on of the npcs on fire, being a general jerk and trying to get us all killed, it really could have been any one of us)

The other was drugged and then given to some unseelie fey after the party had had enough.

Neither player returned, and our table is better for it.

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