Motivating evil characters


Scarab Sages

My campaign has all neutral characters, bordering on evil. I have purchased some modules since I wanted to make things easier on myself, but obviously modules are written with the assumption good characters will want to help. This doesn't exactly work with them.

I am trying to come up with ways to motivate the players. For the first few levels I had contacts give them rewards for "missions" but am trying to make the campaign more immersive and give PCs goals instead of bribing them.

So far I have asked them what their motivations are, and which factions they wish to join. So I have a little to go on, but still not a lot. The only rule I laid down was no PvP or scheming against each other. (We've been together about 15 years so I am not worried about that)

How do I:
1. get them to actually run through a particular adventure (helping others is out)
2. get them to stop skipping side encounters/wandering monsters. This is mainly a problem since those encounters cannot drain them of resources before the BBEG. Plus, they end up skipping a lot of cool stuff.
3. come up with enticing reasons to go out and do ... anything

Character motivations:

The LN Warpriest of Irori is concerned with self perfection. He is using the others as a way to challenge himself with the monsters they end up fighting. He has joined the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye.
The CN Arcanist wants to eventually become a lich, and so looking for a way to join the Whispering Way. He is the only one that has a long term goal.
The CN Slayer wants fame and fortune.
the CN Barbarian wants fame and fortune.
The N Hunter I know the least about. He has expressed interest in the Green Faith.
For the last 3 players, I have used a Pathfinder contact to reward them or give them things to do.


Campaign is in Ustalav, and has centered around a Troglodyte cult of Yhidothrus, which I am inserting into the modules via clues. The Arcanist is interested in them since they have lich worshippers. This cult is in competition with the Whispering Way to get artifacts to help them raise their god/godlike being.

Also, they are trying to recover an artifact I made up called the Staff of Tar-Baphon (like the rod of seven parts, in pieces throughout the modules, they have one so far).

The above is centered around the Arcanist and his goals, so it leaves everyone else out, and want to try to pull them in.

Modules I'm trying to integrate:

I have the following modules I wanted to try to integrate:
From Shore to Sea (moved to near thrushmore) why would they bother?
No response from Deepmar (moved to near thrushmore) again, why would they bother

Others I am probably going to use, and potential hooks:
Hungry Are the Dead (I figure i can put a peice of the staff here, as well as have the BBEG be part of the cult of Y.)
Wake of the Watcher maybe i can use Yhidothrus instead of Dagon, and instead of the mace something else. Oh and throw in Marsh Giants, which I just read about.
Crucible of Chaos I am thinking of just using rumors of a fabulous city of treasure to attract them. I just read City of the Fallen Sky and am inspired by that.
Pact stone Pyramid they may be interested in artifact hunting, but not sure i have a reason for them to travel to Osirion, so thinking of changing this around somehow.

Just sit them down and tell them what you want.

Evil or not, it's a game about team play, if the players want to wander off, break up the group and not adventure...

Then go fire up your favorite console or PC game and enjoy.

I've had the pleasure of running a few evil games with sensible players. I would try introducing a powerful, unifying concept or NPC. In my campaigns a god worked well, but there might not be way to combine Irori and thd Green Faith's goals.

The idea I use is, "If you help me achieve X, I can help you achieve your goals at the same time." Maybe something homebrewed that is in opposition to the cults of Yidothrus?

Also, take a look at the Way of the Wicked AP. I have not read it myself but it is highly recommended by most who have used it. I would feel like using good aligned APs would probably only allow you to borrow bits and pieces that might fit together and not any kind of longer term campaign goals.

Best of luck!

As far as skipping encounters, just don't let them.

Put at least one other thing between them and the BBEG that is unavoidable. The BBEG should probably always haves guards outside their room. When they inevitably start fighting them, the noise attracts the dungeon down on their head at once. Not necessarily all at the same time. Buy maybe without any break in between to rest or heal up.

And giving the BBEG plenty of time to buff up or plan an escape.

As far as motivating evil characters, usually speaking money and/or a chance to kill things usually served as sufficient motivation for any evil characters I had. If those don't suffice, they really just don't sound like evil adventurers to me. More like evil layabouts.

So are they the "I put random babies on spikes because, hey, why not?" kind of evil? Or are they just "I do what I want and I don't give a damn about everybody else in the world" kind of evil.

If it's the first one, then you probably have to bring in some overpowering irresistible leader figure to FORCE them to quit misbehaving and start adventuring.

If it's the second one, then all you need is a big enough reward to make them want to go after it. You're on the right track, but those goals of theirs are all individual goals with no group goal. Lacking a group goal means they won't ever agree on what they should do next. So find them a group goal (the super-leader thing can work here too, but he might not have to force them, he might just tempt them instead).

These guys are 15-year veterans so why is it so hard for them to find a common goal they can all work toward? With their gaming experience, they should know that this is an integral part to successful adventuring as a group.

It's up to your players during character creation to choose motivations for their characters to work together and do interesting things.

You can encourage them to do this, guide them, and make suggestions - in fact, it's in your best interest to do this, particularly when you have inexperienced/new players involved.

However, unless you are dealing with Pre-Gens, if you have to think of the motivations for the players and do the heavy lifting of providing interesting motivation and other characterization for them, something is wrong.

Self perfection - Tantalize him with rumors about about a book that raises a stat, possibly 2 strength. Possibly some pirates based near the shore to sea adventure may have gotten the book with some loot, and they cannot read.

I don't know about deepmar, but if a well known hero vanished there, out doing him provides the fame some people want.

A magic sickle that rots undead would be a great tool for someone interested in joining something called The Green Way.

Anybody thinking of becoming a litch may need rare ingredients like vampire blood, werewolf fur, and something with a big piece of jet for your pilactery.(sp)

Give them some benefit to them if they do it, or make it appear that such a benefit exists. Evil people can still do good acts, it's just more likely for them to do them if they are self-serving acts at the same time.

Milo v3 wrote:
Evil people can still do good acts

Yep, they can. But that's the part that most players of evil characters seem to forget. Especially the George Lucas fans. The assumption seems to be that evil characters must murder underlings, overthrow every government, put babies on spikes, and especially kick puppies. All of them.

If evil really behaved like that, they would have gone extinct ages ago, and each new evil person would try that crap and get annihilated for his trouble.

Judging by the OP's list of characters, these guys aren't really evil. Just a bunch of neutrals with some of them probably leaning toward a bit of evil tendencies. Nevertheless, players of neutrals, especially veteran players, should still create characters with group-oriented motivations. Even if their endgame is the selfish aggrandizement of their own growth and power, they still need to get there, and for that they need help: a team of other like-minded individuals to work together, safety in numbers, while they gather their own ultimate power. And they need not be ruthless scum and villains toward all NPCs across the globe - one day they might want to rule over some of those people, and not have to quash a new rebellion every month or two.

Wealth; Danger/Threat to either self, property or people close to them [evil can care about people too, they're just unlikely to care about people in general]; Pleasure

Dark Archive

What I do is have someone mess with them or the things they like and then they should have a cohesive goal for revenge against the guy that messed with them.

Well, one way to do it would be to add a 'mysterious benefactor' into the mix.

Almost no one knows who it is...except the arcanist (hint hint).

So the mysterious benefactor is offering the arcanist an entry into the boy's club, as well as access to resources that helps his goals.

He offers the slayer and barbarian a lot of money, as well as an opporunity to wipe out some infamous opponents (ie- competitors to the 'mysterious benefactor', as well as beasts that serve as components for nebulous schemes and the arcanist's plans)

The 'infamous opponents' might have their own research, which could be used to improved the body (maybe a bonus to natural armor, DR, or enhancement bonus on unarmed strikes?; just treat it like items and have it as a portion of his WBL)

The only real problem I see here would be the hunter, since he wants to go witht green faith (ie- a faith that is kinda against any...hypothetical... organizations wishing for death of all life on earth and their conversion to undeath). So either you keep the backer EXTRA mysterious, and make sure to aim the party at evil (read: competitors)... and just accept that this will either come to a head or the hunter will just kinda...glaze over the issue so it doesn't cause conflict (ie- the "I'm going out for a walk now" paladin next to a bluff and sleight of hand specialst rogue)

For the record things like world destruction still kill evil characters so self-preservation works as a motive regardless of alignment.

I'd be wary of giving one character a key plot role and not others I usually give all of mine at least a minor sub-plot with a link to the main.

I also think a 'dark version' of traditional hero motives is an underused trope - e.g. romance or family stories with an evil twist e.g. save the heroine because you need her to sacrifice, dark yes but it would let you know jut how evil your characters are.

Or save the heroine to extort a reward out of her [be that reward monetary, political or... carnal.]

Scarab Sages

Thanks all. Yes the lack of group goal is mostly my fault. Except for a false start on an AP 2 years ago, this is the first campaign I GMd in 15-20 years. So I didn't have everything ready from the beginning. I had NPCs and factions and a campaign arc, but dropped the "why the hell are you here" besides a short Reservoir-Dogs type intro for the first module.

They are the smarter evil sorts. More like unscrupulous, and don't do stupid things ... except for the barbarian charging in all the time.

I have been talking to them about these issues. Luckily I am more bothered by the lack of group goal than they are. The key seems to be for me to limit their options and simplify the campaign, and drive them with the one benefactor I've already established. (This would mean dropping the Green Faith). Their evil benefactor is wealthy with a large organization and certainly would share the "good" goal of stopping the destruction of their home by some upstart Yhidothrus cult.

I was trying to go for the feel of the older scenarios where people of different factions would have small subgoals, but I think that is just a little too difficult.

Let them fight to have something that's theirs.

Then have something try to take it away from them.

E.G. a thief campaign:

Story Time!:
Part 1 - Council of Thieves
Started out as up and coming expendable grunts in a thief faction, in a city with four of said factions. Rivalry turns into war, and we end up on the top of the pile. The only people we haven't dealt with is the vampire-lead faction, because they're really quite scary and we're not sure if we can take them. They seem willing to get along, so whatever. We win, it's our city, and if anyone says different, our ogre enforcer will shoot their face off with her cannon. The imperial army knows to stay out of our way, and we reap fat loot besides.

Part 2 - Wrath of the Wicked
So apparently one of those factions got desperate, and broke some seals that shouldn't have been broken. We knew they summoned demons, we killed them whereever they popped up, but after the demon-summoners had been dealt with, the demons kept coming.
We hired a paladin, and carried him through a quest to find the 'Guardian of Balance'(ancient magma dragon). It was supposed to test him if he was worthy and yadda-yadd-yadda, and (being an ancient magma dragon) ended up one-shotting said paladin, declaring that he 'wasn't worthy' or some similar bull-crap. We weren't having that, of course, so we killed it and took its stuff.
Then we faced off against the demon general, who was opening a portal to the abyss, WotR-style, right smack dab in the middle of our city. We made it through on our own without celestial aid, thank you very much.

The party was solid evil(one or two neutrals), leaning heavily chaotic, and the second part of the campaign was a fairly standard 'heroic' arc.

It can be done really well, you just need to give them selfish reasons to fight. Treathening to take power or material things away is much more compelling than the promise of reward.

Sometimes, let them go off and enrich themselves on unrelated 'quests'. Don't bone them too much for being bandits or whatever, or let the consequences be problems they can deal with. Maybe a group of paladins turn up and need killing.

Alternatively, a politician could put up a trade embargo, or agiate for war for moral reasons, and they have to find embarrasing truths about the politician so they can make her shut up.

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