The Complexity of Evil Campaigns and why I feel like I'm alone in my view of it.


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I have a group who I recently started playing with again, and of course they want to do a Evil Campaign. However it's my opinion that their understanding of Evil is skewed in that their idea of evil is just backstabbing each other, and continuously getting side tracked by their own pity squabbles to the point that no "Campaign" ever gets completed, because they are to busy killing one another, rolling new characters killing each other again and the cycle continues until they've exhausted every type of character you could want to play in a PVP fight... and how these transgressions general come to pass is that, one person will feel that they should be in charge, or they should decide how the party does this or that, and my personal favorite "Who gets what in terms of party treasure." in other words not fairly divvying up loot or generally plotting to antagonizing other party members

The way I see it, Evil is the most likely to work together because they know there are fewer people who are openly evil, which makes each evil person you come across all that more important assuming they will you.
to accomplish a greater evil.

am i entitely wrong?


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Being evil does not mean being stupid.

Teaming up is definate something evil people would do. So long as they all had a common purpose. It is literally what cults normally are.

Will there be initial distrust? Yes. The same as any group of adventurers.

The most important thing in an evil campaign is to make sure all the characters have a common goal. Very very important. In a good campaign it's easy to just go "we help the village" but in an evil campaign not so much. It is easier to develop plot hooks for good characters rather than evil characters and as such evil campaigns do end up more sandboxy.
That is why you MUST have a common goal. The party must be working towards something together. Summoning the old ones. Destroying the justice league. Whatever. They must all share that goal.


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You can be selfish together as a group.
The thing, being evil is much more proactive than being good.
The party needs to desire something. Evil campaigns are impossible to do without an overarching goal to strive towards.

Silver Crusade

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Evil campaigns, in my experience, need a Leviathan set above the party. A greater evil capable of both forcing the PCs into line, and providing rewards for success. The evil overlord can provide shared goals. The PCs can, of course, have long term plots to replace their overlord. But without such an overlord, the OP's fears will be realised and it will be a short-lived PVP fest.


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

I dunno... the most cohesive 3.5 group I was ever in consisted entirely of evil PCs, but there wasn't really an overarching goal, just shared interests.

A Neutral Evil cleric, bard, and ranger, paired with a chaotic evil barbarian/fighter and a lawful evil rogue/wizard.

We would pocket loot without telling each other, and we would brawl at the drop of a hat, but otherwise, the internal loyalty was intense- because our characters knew no one else would share their interest in murder, thievery, and mayhem.

No one else would watch my cleric light a rival faith's church with attached orphanage on fire and nod approvingly before stealing the collection box.

No one else would find the barbarian's habit of turning prisoners into test dummies for new weapons quite as funny.

No one else would understand WHY we need a shovel and a few flasks of acid in the middle of the night.

They were utter scum, totally vile filth (the best thing they were likely to do was kill you outright- the other options were all worse), but they liked each other and stuck together whenever a paladin came sniffing around or the villagers in the latest settlement realized where all their children had gone (the other guys didn't initially share my cleric's religion, but they understood that gods need the odd sacrifice or twenty to keep the healing magic coming).

The only goal we all shared was a desire to keep getting away with the horrible things we were doing, but it was more than enough to keep the group together until I moved away.

Dark Archive

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Cole Deschain wrote:
but they liked each other and stuck together whenever a paladin came sniffing around

And that's a different sort of tie, other than the overwhelmingly powerful overlord keeping them in check, is for the world to be generally hostile to them, and force them to 'hang together, or hang separately.'

The evil party is hanging out together for the same reason that certain fringe groups with controversial interests or opinions hang out together in the real world, because they don't feel welcome (or even safe) mingling with 'normal' people. It's just easier to hang out with other X, particularly if your special brand of X happens to be illegal, or considered immoral, or even treasonous, to the rest of the people around you.

Playing an evil party in a campaign where evil's on top, in a place like Cheliax, where they are pretty much dominant and have the freedom to turn on each other, etc., is, IMO, even harder, than running an evil group as something of an oppressed minority, who have to keep their excesses light (or make sure to leave no witnesses...), or be one step ahead of bounty hunters, church inquisitions, special task forces, 'the law,' or even the nation's military, like some sort of Heel Turned A-Team. The existence of an external, existential threat, might serve to keep *smarter* evil-character-players from stabbing the only allies they have in the back over some party loot division, or other petty squabble.

And, done well, it should be more palatable to the players than 'you Stormtroopers can't fight amongst yourselves, because Darth Fabulous will force-choke your pancreas if you get out of line.'

It also helps if the PCs have goals. Not just 'I want to roam around pointlessly starting fights and spent the rest of the campaign running from the authorities because I'm a senseless dick,' but actual goals, like 'I want to start up a church to my evil god,' or 'I want to corrupt and convert a local church to some neutral/good god,' or 'I bathe in the blood of those I kill, to absorb their strength / bind their spirits to serve me in my cruel strong-eats-weak afterlife' or 'I want to start up an evil business, based on addicting people to a drug that makes them suggestible and leapfrog up to swindling the addicts out of their life savings and / or making them my pawns.' Then the GM can help them work towards their goals (and / or throw the occasional monkeywrench at them, for drama. Nothing good is free!), instead of them 'getting bored' and burning down the town after killing the town guard because someone looked at them funny.

Goals are great for evil campaigns, because they *are* often more proactive and less about 'stop the big evil before X happens and it's another Tuesday night in Sunnydale!'

Character goals, in a good campaign, where quite often the party has a mission to stop X, are, IMO, more often a source of frustration. 'But I wanted to start a business, or establish my church in the area, or clear out the local woodlands of bandits and monsters, to open up the area for settlement...' 'Tough, now the party is going into the Underdark / across the Sea of Blood / to the Moon! to gather information / item X, in a six part hunt for whatever you need to stop the big evil. Your characters dreams and goals are meaningless. Get on the train!'


Different things are fun for different people, evil campaigns and the various ways of playing them included.

Some people enjoy competing against other players instead of just the GM, only cooperating as much as needed to accomplish their goals (in some ways, the most realistic way to play an evil character.) Others don't enjoy this sort of game, and probably shouldn't participate if that is the type of game being played.

As others have said, there are a lot of different ways to play in evil campaigns, with more or less PvP and indeed more or less evil. Obviously any game you don't enjoy, or don't feel comfortable with, you shouldn't play in.

That doesn't mean though that other people are doing it wrong.


One of the longest-running and most stable groups I played in was a mixed evil and nonevil party. No backstabbing, no random PC deaths. The game went on for years.

You aren't alone at all.


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The first campaign I ever played in was an evil campaign that lasted for nearly 4 years. The players worked together for a common goal (to appease their deity) so whatever they did they did to glorify him, no matter how simple or complex the adventure was. It can be done. It just sounds like your players are immature and lack vision. Bear in mind I'm not trying to insult your friends, but they just don't seem to have a clue.


Ran two evil campaigns. Biggest problem was motivation for all the PCs. Most of the group worshipped Asmodeus so it was easy for a high level cleric to order them. The problem was one player was simply a rogue with no ties to asmodeus and was neutral evil. Money was his only concern. Eventually was able to make him go under orders since he was now a half fiend and that ability came from working for Asmodeus.
None of the group really fought one another, since all were actually friends outside the game. The first campaign ended due to being so difficult to run such a high level, being around 18th. The second campaign worked as well no one causing problems. A Chaotic Evil Antipaladin is smart enough to realize safety in numbers. It's the Chaotic Neutral and jerk players who want to start PVP garbage.
The issue is motivation does change in encouraging evil PCs to go on quests. You have to rethink why they would go on adventures. It's going to be different then why a good adventurer would. A paladin and other good character will leap at the chance to save a poor village being attacked by goblins. Why would an evil aligned party? That was a problem for me. One solution is make them all part of an organization with high level powerful bosses. Offer of reward is another to inspire them to save the goblin threatened village.
Something to consider playing evil is a different mindset and downtime in a village, town or city could get ugly and disturbing. The mouthy drunk in a bar will come to a bad end. My advice prepare for this and allow a lot of leeway for this behavior.


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Evil means to players that they can do whatever they like, and often to each other. You will run into the huge problem that evil PCs cannot be motivated by anything but greed, which is tough over time.

You have to find something that unites them as a group, if such a campaign is to go anywhere. And prepare for it to be short, anyway. Having the PCs work for someone in power may work, but your players may throw you a curveball there, too.

One of the games where the group was evil ended with most of the party being really down after a long fight. The only one who was fit was an assassin. He used the oportunity to murder the group, take the loot and hike off into the sunset, and their quest be damned (...better a sparrow in hand...).
He was right saying that this behavior was in character with him, since it fit his background and playstyle so well. Unfortunately it tends to cut campaigns short, if evil PCs act in character.

There is also the problem with crime. Evil PCs will break the law in many ways, and if not low level, they can get away with a lot. Let alone some of the ugly things people do, if they can, it presents a big DM problem. Just consider what to do when mages and rogues combine their abilities for a crime spree to amass wealth. And assuming they succeed, which is not so hard with various spells, you lose the motivation by wealth.

Anyway, we have given up playing evil groups, since the problems are not worth the hassle, even if not every PC is a psychopathic killer.


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I wouldn't say that evil characters cannot be motivated by anything other than greed.

A lot of people think of evil as just selfishness or just murderousness, so when they think "Evil Campaign, they think Psycopath Campaign. This is where most of the problem lies, I think.

Evil means different things to different people, but it hardly means that they must like killing, or be unable or unwilling to curb that desire. It also doesn't mean they cannot have loyalty. They can be motivated by just about anything that wouldn't push them into neutral territory.

I think what you need for an evil campaign to work is about the same thing you need for a good campaign to work. The players need to on the same page in terms of tone and theme, etc, and they need to make characters that will be able to work together at least as much as is needed for the campaign.


It depends entirely on motivation.

We've had 2/2 highly successful evil campaigns. The first was a high seas, swashbuckling pirate campaign, in which the characters were most certainly evil, but it was still a light-hearted and fun campaign.

The other was an evil party working together to overthrow an evil and oppressive kingdom.


Grellik wrote:
I think what you need for an evil campaign to work is about the same thing you need for a good campaign to work. The players need to on the same page in terms of tone and theme, etc, and they need to make characters that will be able to work together at least as much as is needed for the campaign

Pretty much, though I'd say it's easier with good characters, since that in itself gives reasons to avoid all the backstabbing and treachery.

The answer for an evil game lies in the metagame. Figure out what you're looking for and give your characters motivations to match. Do you want PVP, backstabbing and treachery? Get that out in the open on a player level. Make sure everyone's on board and try to come up with some compromises to the game doesn't end in a TPK over the first nice piece of loot.
If you want evil, but not PvP game, then you need to build in motivations that hold the party together. It's better if those come with player involvement rather than just imposed by the GM - helps make sure everyone understands the in game reasons are an excuse for the PCs to work together, not something forced on them that they should be looking for ways to evade.

In Vatras's example, killing the rest of the party might have been in character for the assassin PC, but the player should have been looking for an excuse not to do so - or had a better one built in from the start. Because game ending TPKs aren't usually in the player's interest. Find another way.


Yeah, definitely easier with a good campaign, just not fundamentally different. It all lies in the metagame, as you said. Don't bring your lone wolf along without a hook to tie them in to the other PCs (unless its really sandboxy, I suppose :D), and don't bring your Psycopathic murderer along without some thing to make him play nice either. :D


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One of my favorite characters is still my second character ever, a Lawful Evil Monk.

He was surprisingly less bloodthirsty than the supposedly non-evil people in the group since he actually had an honor code. I ended up having to kill a prisoner because the rest of the players (and the GM) were like "Dude you're evil you should just kill the guy or you're going against your alignment" when I said I'd spare him if he gave us info.

10 minutes arguing over this and I just did it so we could move on.

Not sure if this is 100% relevant to the discussion, but basically the point is I don't think Evil characters are a problem in and of themselves.

Dark Archive

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One issue I've seen is that evil characters in modern media tend to be pretty over the top and stupid. Someone brings the big bad some bad news? He flips out and kills the messenger. What's the takeaway for all the henchmen present? Never tell him bad news. Let him be nastily surprised, instead. Also, run away or surrender when the good guys show up, instead of fighting to the death to defend this toad.

Playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was constantly annoyed that the 'dark side' choices were so wasteful. Someone made something for me, and could make an amazing contact / resource for later? Nah, let's just force choke him to death for no darn reason at all. No wonder the Sith always lose!

Even when evil is pretending to be super-smart (because there was, for a time, the notion in movies, TV, etc. that people who were 'too smart' had to be bad-guys, while the good-guys were more likely to be blue-collar folk), the decisions they make are invariably stupid-evil, like betraying their allies, for utterly trivial short term gains, and never seeming to be even cognizant of long-term ramifications of their jerk actions (which would beg the question of how this dude ever became a crime-boss in the first place, if his every interaction with other people is all about making them hate him and want him dead).

Even when role-playing someone who is dumb, but evil, which is rare, since I prefer smart evil, I play them as smart enough not to bite the hand that feeds them, or to bury their mess afterwards. I figure if a *dog* can figure out how to conceal evidence of wrongdoing (and how to not get caught doing stuff that gets it punished), then so can my barbarian...


Set wrote:

One issue I've seen is that evil characters in modern media tend to be pretty over the top and stupid. Someone brings the big bad some bad news? He flips out and kills the messenger. What's the takeaway for all the henchmen present? Never tell him bad news. Let him be nastily surprised, instead. Also, run away or surrender when the good guys show up, instead of fighting to the death to defend this toad.

"In modern media"? When are you starting "modern"? Doesn't this trope go back to both myth and ancient history?


One big problem with evil campaigns is the potential to end friendships. I mean how do you look at Bob the same way after his character does something so unspeakably vile that it sucks all of the life out of the campaign, especially if it was to another PC?


The other problem is the tendency to try to describe evil as merely an alternative lifestyle choice.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Vatras wrote:

Evil means to players that they can do whatever they like, and often to each other. You will run into the huge problem that evil PCs cannot be motivated by anything but greed, which is tough over time.

You have to find something that unites them as a group, if such a campaign is to go anywhere. And prepare for it to be short, anyway. Having the PCs work for someone in power may work, but your players may throw you a curveball there, too.

One of the games where the group was evil ended with most of the party being really down after a long fight. The only one who was fit was an assassin. He used the oportunity to murder the group, take the loot and hike off into the sunset, and their quest be damned (...better a sparrow in hand...).
He was right saying that this behavior was in character with him, since it fit his background and playstyle so well. Unfortunately it tends to cut campaigns short, if evil PCs act in character.

There is also the problem with crime. Evil PCs will break the law in many ways, and if not low level, they can get away with a lot. Let alone some of the ugly things people do, if they can, it presents a big DM problem. Just consider what to do when mages and rogues combine their abilities for a crime spree to amass wealth. And assuming they succeed, which is not so hard with various spells, you lose the motivation by wealth.

Anyway, we have given up playing evil groups, since the problems are not worth the hassle, even if not every PC is a psychopathic killer.

Fact is evil characters can't do whatever they want anymore than good alligned PCs can. Actions still matter and have logical consequences. So an antipaladin who decides to sacrifice a whole orphanage to his demon god of choice calls for retaliation for those agencies deeming such an action abominable. As long as the risk is great enough said antipaladin should think twice about such overt acts of evil, or the rest of the party should discourage him from following his instincts because they put the whole group in danger.

Besides that the GM has all the tools he needs to prevent such actions from ruining a campaign. Ultimately it's the GM and the players togheter who determine if a campaign should be cut short or continue, not a character's allignment.


Evil should not be equated to stupid nor selfish. While some people might like PvP, PF is terrible for this and it can easily rurn sour if everyone isn't on the same page.

In fact, being on the same page is kinda critical to any PF game. A paladin bossing everyone around with his lawful stupid code or a thief recking every plot hook line with his kleptomania eill be disruptive without needing to be evil.

I've had ny share of PvP and I would simply not ever allow it again, or at least keep it quite contained. If the party wants to play a bunch of treacherous sadists, that'd be fine with me, but I'd impose a table rule that this should never serve as an excuse to turn against each other.

Dark Archive

thejeff wrote:
"In modern media"? When are you starting "modern"? Doesn't this trope go back to both myth and ancient history?

Hah, good point. Oddyseus was a cool example of a 'smart hero,' but some got by on their divine 'midichlorian Jesus' genetic advantages.


I think its fair to characterize that the prolific appearance of the evil guy who kills people for no reason as a relatively modern trend. You have that kind of character in myth and history, but it seems like a more recent trend to use it as a short cut to get you to see he is evil.


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The last Evil campaign I ran had the group built by a bigger, badder evil guy. The group didn't quite seem to understand that evil needs to be proactive - you don't get quests coming and falling in your lap like when you're a good guy.

I tried to fix this by having them run into another villain, an antipaladin 'bounty hunter' with a plan to release evil monsters - like a pyrohydra - so he could then 'save the day' by killing them. He wanted to gain power and influence with the local government by being a hero. And planning up front what he was going to fight allowed him to be 100% prepared when going into battle.

The 'evil' PCs killed him, found his 'how-to' book...and the turned it into the local authorities with is body.

In fact, the entire 'evil' group wound up being renowned in the region for their acts of heroism and shoring up the local economy by restoring a mine to service. Oh, then they went out of their way to help a LG dragon fight off a LE dragon.

The whole time, I kept waiting for it to turn out they were playing at heroes to then take over, but nope. They were just heroing to avoid being found as criminals. Of course, they studiously avoided committing crimes so they weren't criminals here at all.

Worst at being evil PCs in history.


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I find the easiest way to be "evil" is to have a smaller circle of caring.

Do you respect and care for, say, the rest of the party? Absolutely. Do you defend them, help them, support them? Yes! Do you care about the members of the city watch you're killing your way through to bust out one of the party who got arrested? Hell no, they're obstacles at best. You do what you need to do to help the rest of the party, everybody else be damned.


Gerrinson wrote:

The last Evil campaign I ran had the group built by a bigger, badder evil guy. The group didn't quite seem to understand that evil needs to be proactive - you don't get quests coming and falling in your lap like when you're a good guy.

I tried to fix this by having them run into another villain, an antipaladin 'bounty hunter' with a plan to release evil monsters - like a pyrohydra - so he could then 'save the day' by killing them. He wanted to gain power and influence with the local government by being a hero. And planning up front what he was going to fight allowed him to be 100% prepared when going into battle.

The 'evil' PCs killed him, found his 'how-to' book...and the turned it into the local authorities with is body.

In fact, the entire 'evil' group wound up being renowned in the region for their acts of heroism and shoring up the local economy by restoring a mine to service. Oh, then they went out of their way to help a LG dragon fight off a LE dragon.

The whole time, I kept waiting for it to turn out they were playing at heroes to then take over, but nope. They were just heroing to avoid being found as criminals. Of course, they studiously avoided committing crimes so they weren't criminals here at all.

Worst at being evil PCs in history.

I don't know, that sounds pretty wildly successful to me.

Do you know what is even better than getting to live a life of luxury while everyone hates you?

Getting to live a life of luxury while everyone loves you.


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Having read through this thread I get the feeling that one of two things was going on in the long-lived evil campaigns.

One, the PCs may have been selfish at times but they were largely not evil in actions. See Gerrinson's post for perhaps the best example of this.

Two, the D/GM and players were mostly meta-gaming. That is, playing the game but not really roleplaying.

These two conditions are of course not exclusive of one another.

I play RPGs to step out of reality not wallow in its worst aspects. Take the following real-world examples; each article discusses some aspects of an "evil adventuring party".

Stuff like this and...

Stuff like this...

Are why playing an evil character has no appeal to me.

In the former case, these "murder-hobos" are about as strict an organization as one can find. Which means they are "lawful" in the 3.PF sense.

In the latter case, one of these "murder-hobos" turned in his fellow adventurers in order to appropriate a slightly lessor sentence for himself. These guys were either "chaotic" or "neutral" depending.

Both groups are plainly evil.

Why would I want to roleplay actions anything like that? And even knowing that it's all pretend actually makes it harder. It hits the 'ol ick button for sure.


Set wrote:
One issue I've seen is that evil characters in modern media tend to be pretty over the top and stupid.

If anything, evil characters in modern, and even not so modern, media are far too subdued, kid-friendly, and, so to speak, intellectual, overburdened with justifications and ideological reasons. Even characters whose entire schtick is being unpredictable insane psychopaths regularly get loaded with pseudophilosophical baggage.

Set wrote:
Playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was constantly annoyed that the 'dark side' choices were so wasteful.

Well, no s%*@. Egocentrism, power tripping and placing self-serving group loyalties over any univeral notion of fairness tend to have detrimental effects. Why do you think societies full of thugs and selfish bastards tend to be disfunctional and corruption past a certain level can crash civilizations?

Speaking of the main theme of the thread... Over time I grew to increasingly suspect that the main things separating a good campaign from an evil campaign are players' belief that their GM would punish them if they get off the rails or push him out of his comfort zone, and their unwillingness to tolerate discomofort arising from tensions within the party associated with an evil game. I have a bad feeling that if you make an OOC social contract against teamkilling and ensure players that they would not have sudden paladin hit squads dropped on them out of nowhere for doing nasty things, most groups would go pretty far off the deep end within a few sessions. At the very least, goblin chidren would never again pose any sort of dilemma anymore, and treatment of surrendering foes would be based solely on their possible usefulness to the party (though looks may play a role in case of females). Our current pirate campaign seem to be living up to my suspicions so far.

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Pathfinder is a team game.

It doesn't matter what the group's alignment is. The party should be working together. I never understand why people keep forgetting this.


"On paper only" evil and metagaming are not *required* to play an evil campaign, but I consider some level of metagaming to be *good* for all games, evil or otherwise. In my younger immature years, "evil characters" ended up getting banned in most games because it generally degenerated into PvP with someone killing the other in their sleep or dueling to the death over petty affairs. Guess what, it didn't change a thing, the same players were doing the same thing as CN instead. In my book, alignment is meaningless (heck it is harmful, because often people are pressured into "acting like their alignment", instead of their alignment being a reflection of their character).

Stupid characters and PvP are not dependent on alignment, I've seen people play extreme examples of all alignments to the detriment of the game. However, evil alignments tends to incite more of this destructive behavior, because many people just assume that being evil equates to being an a@%~@~#, and being an a~+&~&# requires being an a*+#*@+ to everyone. It doesn't. And players should be reminded of this.

Just as any campaign, it revolves around character motivation. Maybe they seek a comfortable life, with great power and slaves to tend to their every needs? Overthrowing the government could be the main objective of the campaign, with shady deals, assassinations, and backstabs. Disguise yourselves as members of one nation and go perform a very public hit on royals of the neighboring nation, plant false evidence to make them suspect each other and help escalate things to a full out war, then take advantage of organized crime to sap their resources, maybe get the soldiers addicted to some drugs. Once casualties start to mount, rally surrounding monstrous hordes of orcs, hobgoblins and the like, then come offer aid as a mercenary force to the besieged faction, then... you know, keep on with all the double-crossing until you get what you want. Think of Emperor Palpatine. Your goals are selfish, but you can all work together to achieve them. Or maybe you only really care for the afterlife, life sucked enough for you that you just want to bring your pain to everyone else. Find some means to make a deal with an archfiend to get a comfortable afterlife in exchange for opening a portal to their plane and allowing evil to seep into the material plane. Maybe punch a hole to the negative energy plane in the process? Perhaps you need to sacrifice 1000 children to align the planes properly. If you go around town saying "we are evil and we will slay all your children", you likely won't go far. But if you pose as good people, maybe run some orphanages where kids occasionally "run away", you can be praised as selfless benefactors all while pursuing vile deeds. You can do a whole bunch of "good" acts to further your ends.

The flavor of the game, though, will be up to the GM and the players. It doesn't need to be utterly deprived of good taste, with all kinds of graphical descriptions of horrific acts. It could be, but doesn't need to be. Setting limits first is always a good idea.

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Al Swearengen in Deadwood, best bad guy in any party ever.

The problem with most evil parties is they are played up to the hilt in some moustache twirling parody of evil and it gets silly. Evil can co-operate, and 'enlightened self interest' is a thing.

Finding a common cause is usually the difficulty, but evil people have a raft of motivations - not just greed and wealth grabbing, and not just 'stabbing people in the back for teh lulz'.


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I had a crappy experience that seems relevant. I was invited to a new game, and told no evil characters were allowed. Turned out the DM and one of the players just had no idea what evil meant. The player's character, a bard who pre-dated my entry, used enchantment spells for sex, physically abused the elderly, stole, framed people, and even suggested selling mutagenic drugs capable of leveling cities for personal profit.

Not only did the player and DM deny that none of this was beyond the bounds of Chaotic Neutral, but it later turned out their moral bankruptcy applied to real life as well. Needless to say, I'm no longer playing in that game.


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The best way I've found to play evil people is to play them as evil people. They have friends, family, and loved ones. Being evil does not have to mean deranged or even psycho/sociopathic. They can feel, they can hurt, they can love. But they hurt, oppress, and kill others.

But they are people.


supervillan wrote:
Evil campaigns, in my experience, need a Leviathan set above the party. A greater evil capable of both forcing the PCs into line, and providing rewards for success. The evil overlord can provide shared goals. The PCs can, of course, have long term plots to replace their overlord. But without such an overlord, the OP's fears will be realised and it will be a short-lived PVP fest.

The DC animated series are IMHO, excellent guidelines on how evil parties can run... and the particular obstacles they have to deal with. My particular favorites are those featured in JLI Unlimited and Young Justice.

And there's evil and there's evil. There are major differences between the Injustice League, and The Rogues as headed by Captain Cold, in particular where lines are drawn.


Best way to run an evil party is not to.


evil can be a very fun way to play. In one game (3.5) I played for nearly two years, we started out mostly neutral. But, i was a necromancer, and no matter how pragmatic i tried to be about it (only animating monsters and animals, never robbing graveyards or permanently retaining undead humanoids), i was stigmatized and oppressed. I gradually drifted to evil in a logical way that no one complained about, and my evil actions brought about the evil in some other party members until we were all mostly evil (i was staunchly Lawful Evil to the extreme at this point). I had the charisma, however, and so i was the party face as well. Very well-liked when i took care to re-invent my identity (having faked my death) as a non-necromancer.

we were rather successful for a good long time. I attribute this to:
- being careful, not breaking laws (and when we did, being careful not to get caught)
- our main enemy was also evil, they were take-over-the-world evil and we were against that because we (I) wanted to be in charge, not someone else. they were gathering shiny artifacts so we wanted to keep them for ourselves. there were powerful patrons paying us to defeat this evil because they didn't know we were evil, they just thought we had some minor behavioral issues (a certain CE half-orc ranger in the party was a continual problem).
- someone was definitely in charge of the party. there was some pvp, and this person (my necromancer) had emerged as the victor whenever someone felt the need to challenge him. eventually, the challenges stopped and we worked together. also, he would step in whenever two others wanted to fight to stop it or at least make sure no one died (permanently).


RDM42 wrote:
Best way to run an evil party is not to.

I haven't had a 100% evil party in years (though I have had parties with like 75%+ as evil), so I'm curious as to why that is.


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Ashiel wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
Best way to run an evil party is not to.
I haven't had a 100% evil party in years (though I have had parties with like 75%+ as evil), so I'm curious as to why that is.

I should have, and meant to, insert 'for me'

I have no interest whatsoever in playing an evil party, nor can I truly get the attraction. I also have no interest in GMing for an evil party. Really, none at all. There is little about it that holds attraction to me.


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RDM42 wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
Best way to run an evil party is not to.
I haven't had a 100% evil party in years (though I have had parties with like 75%+ as evil), so I'm curious as to why that is.

I should have, and meant to, insert 'for me'

I have no interest whatsoever in playing an evil party, nor can I truly get the attraction. I also have no interest in GMing for an evil party. Really, none at all. There is little about it that holds attraction to me.

No but I mean, you must have a reason. I prefer heroic characters myself, or at least clouds with a silver lining.

Nothing about being evil means that you have to be inhuman. A mercenary company is by the large probably evil since they hurt, oppress, and kill for profit. That doesn't mean they can't sympathize with others, have friends and family, love people, and do things commonly associated with heroism for example.

I often get the idea that "evil party" is synonymous with "chaotic brigands" which is only a subset of evil parties. And it isn't. It can come in that flavor but it doesn't have to.

I've had parties where there were good and evil characters of different spreads. Sometimes 0% evil, sometimes 25%, sometimes 50%, sometimes 75%, sometimes 100%. A character of any alignment can be played in a way that promotes a great game. In the same way, a character of any alignment can be played in such a way as to ruin one.

Owner - Gator Games & Hobby

I think this is the kind of thing that is better handled via setting campaign expectations.

I'll describe the kind of motivations that I think will work for players to have (e.g. for Wrath of the Righteous characters had to want to fight demons and save the world, for Jade Regent you have to be willing to travel across the world to bring someone else to claim a throne). Characters don't have to walk into the campaign expecting these things, but players should.

Likewise I have a general rule of no player vs. player conflict - but character vs. character is fine.


I've run many games where the PCs were evil, and they ran fine. Basically play the good guys like cops, where they are accusatory, even kind of jerks due to their suspicious nature. Granted the PCs are indeed bad, but being treated so got the evil PCs to want to kill them. Even as an evil party, they didn't arbitrarily harm innocents. Even the non-lawful ones lived by a code of honor to some degree. These games were played during D&D 1e and 2e. I did play in one evil party that mostly became undead of various types, though we didn't start out that way. I played a fallen paladin who became an antipaladin, and eventually a grave knight as we got into upper levels (above 20). Playing evil groups isn't very difficult, just a different way of thinking. And all the players are mature enough to play it, and no backstabbing in the party. Everyone shared the same goals.

Its not for everyone, though.


I think a large number of people are way to venial in what they categorize as evil, and anything which is truly worthy of being called evil I would not want as the protagonist of the story.

People assign the label 'evil' to something much too easily.


I have an evil aligned character playing in my home game. It's great for adding a touch of tension and intrigue at the table.


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RDM42 wrote:

I think a large number of people are way to venial in what they categorize as evil, and anything which is truly worthy of being called evil I would not want as the protagonist of the story.

People assign the label 'evil' to something much too easily.

An evil character is anyone who hurts, oppresses, or kills, especially for personal gain. That describes pretty much 100% of mercenaries or any adventurer who isn't actively promoting altruism, protecting life, etc.

It's very easy to be evil and some are more evil than others.


I have a wider strip of neutral than that. Evil alignment, like good alignment, isn't achieved from venial acts.

I find defining evil i such a broad way as above robs it of any meaning or significance and renders it merely petty.


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And yet that's how the game defines evil, so that's where anybody with those character traits will be.

You don't need to be a kitten punting baby eater to be evil.


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'course, if you have Horror Adventures, then you can make pretty much anything an "evil campaign."

Have all the players create virtuous heroes who strive to protect the weak and innocent and oppose the wicked. Common "good guy" tropes. Have them save the world from evil, help others, etc. Everything you'd expect from a team of Good characters.

However, at the beginning of the campaign, give every PC a wand of Protection from Good and have them use it three times. According to Horror Adventures, they are all automatically evil. If they ever do enough good for their alignments to revert to neutral, they can all use three more charges of PfG. Now the PCs can do as much heroics as they (and you) want, while still having an Evil alignment. Because that's Horror Adventures for you: 100% rules-legal, 110% silly.

It only works if you are using HA, though. If you just go by the core rules, the PCs can't be Evil without hurting, oppressing, and killing others. It might not even work with HA, though, since I don't know what the policy is for a contradiction between core and a supplement (in 3.5 they had a detailed policy for resolving conflicts between rule sources. I don't know if Paizo has anything like that. If they do, then the entire explanation of alignment changes in Horror Adventures is overridden by the Core Rulebook.

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