How do you prevent PCs from assuming EVIL = ANTAGONIST?


Advice

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Comic for illustrative purposes.

Silver Crusade

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You're gonna have to be more specific.


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I had an NPC who was a patron of the party, a respected member of the community, and an enemy of the BBEG, but was also Chaotic Evil. They were a politician out for personal power and whatever they could get, no matter what happened to other people (evil) and believed that tradition and rules were shackles the weak used to avoid having to think for themselves (chaotic). They were perfectly able to function in society though, and faced with a megalomaniac evil wizard and giant attacks, perfectly willing to help organize opposition to a rising runelord.

If the PCs occasionally discover that CE people can be helpful, socially productive, members of society they may start thinking about what is actually happening rather than just picking sides based on alignment.


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First: low level PCs don't give off evil auras, which by itself can discourage the continual spamming early on as little information is revealed.

Second: If you forge a minor alliance for mutual benefit early in the career, trust can grow that way. This is how you show them that people of disparate ends may work together.

Third: Don't give them the option to attack the "Evil" guy. If you randomly kill a guy in town with a bunch of guards, you'll have to convince them somehow you were just. Indiscriminate killing based on alignment is not somehow good just because they are of the opposite alignment. It has to be just.

F.E. A paladin can't just "Detect Evil. GAHHHHHHH!!!!" <chop guy in twine> and be somehow the good guy. It has to be Just or else you're as bad as an evil guy indiscriminately killing people.

While I won't be harping on about minor alignment problems with my party, major ones like killing the innocent will probably involve a large quest with your now-very-mediocre guy atoning for his act(s) or finding new gods.

That'll teach you in a hurry that the gods don't just give you great power all willy-nilly.


Rysky wrote:
You're gonna have to be more specific.

Detect evil --> it's evil --> it's my enemy.


Ring_of_Gyges wrote:

I had an NPC who was a patron of the party, a respected member of the community, and an enemy of the BBEG, but was also Chaotic Evil. They were a politician out for personal power and whatever they could get, no matter what happened to other people (evil) and believed that tradition and rules were shackles the weak used to avoid having to think for themselves (chaotic). They were perfectly able to function in society though, and faced with a megalomaniac evil wizard and giant attacks, perfectly willing to help organize opposition to a rising runelord.

If the PCs occasionally discover that CE people can be helpful, socially productive, members of society they may start thinking about what is actually happening rather than just picking sides based on alignment.

This is a miscommunication of expectations. In my mind, if a guy is Evil, he has to have done Evil things. You don't get an Evil alignment in Pathfinder for killing your neighbor's dog. You have to eat some babies.


Simple: show them examples of Evil that aren't caricatures or monsters. If the only Evil creatures the party ever encounters are murderous and dangerous, then it's only pattern recognition to think Evil means villain. If however the party encounters Evil beings that are just people with different viewpoints, but still part of society, they might have a more nuanced view.


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Knight Magenta wrote:
Ring_of_Gyges wrote:

I had an NPC who was a patron of the party, a respected member of the community, and an enemy of the BBEG, but was also Chaotic Evil. They were a politician out for personal power and whatever they could get, no matter what happened to other people (evil) and believed that tradition and rules were shackles the weak used to avoid having to think for themselves (chaotic). They were perfectly able to function in society though, and faced with a megalomaniac evil wizard and giant attacks, perfectly willing to help organize opposition to a rising runelord.

If the PCs occasionally discover that CE people can be helpful, socially productive, members of society they may start thinking about what is actually happening rather than just picking sides based on alignment.

This is a miscommunication of expectations. In my mind, if a guy is Evil, he has to have done Evil things. You don't get an Evil alignment in Pathfinder for killing your neighbor's dog. You have to eat some babies.

Gonna have to disagree with that. Plenty of evil takes the form of "petty" evil - like the guy who sees nothing wrong with harassing his neighbors to the point he's killing their pets and livestock, even if he'll never actually kill a person.

Basically, the typical joe-shmoe pinging as evil does so because he's a massive d*&#!ead, not because he's a murderous psycho.

And there's lots and lots of way to be a massive d#%*!ead without crossing over into "eats babies."

(And yes, I'd say the typical person putting Chaotic Neutral on their sheet and then "playing their alignment" by being massive d*#*@eads are actually playing lightweight chaotic evil, not chaotic neutral.)


Falcon's Hollow(Towns of Inner Sea/Darkmoon Vale) has some good examples of Evil community members, and even points out conflicts adventurers may come across or get involved in, where they have a stake in the community or just passing through.


I'm on Zhanger's side here. If the only Evil can be Murderously Evil, then the only Good can be "Immediately forgives a murderous person regardless of their intent or reasoning."

You can't just weight half the system way down with huge expectations and plop everyone's alignment to neutral. Good can be "I do regular charity" or "I attempt to benefit those around me routinely while abstaining from obviously selfish acts" or similar.

I guess it depends on how neutral and Gray you want the world to be, but I am definitely of the mind that variety here (for the sake of making spells useful and whatnot) is good.

Plus, if that's all that evil is, it doesn't differentiate from things that are CN that destroy everything in their path (Chaos Beast) or things like Giant Ants (N) which will kill you dead for being near them because you're a source of food for the hive or LG protectors of some area that kill those that trespass because they're protecting some sacred artifact that "real" good guys wouldn't dare approach.

It's saying that CG guys who attack the lawful for imposing laws on them are really just CE because they killed someone; regardless of the fact that the LC scale is just as important an indicator for potential violence as the GE scale.

Scarab Sages Starfinder Design Lead

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One of my favorite NPCs of any campaign I ever ran was the Imperial Librarian of Te Essar, an elven rich who was unrepentantly evil, and devotedly loyal to the (neutral) emperor of the ancient elven empire that was an ally of most of the good-aligned nations.
The Librarian noted he was a servant of the Emperor because he was smart enough to know that riches get stitches, and he had no desire for a group of Holy Crusaders to hunt him down and destroy him. By serving the emperor he got to do 90% of the experiments and research he wanted to anyway, when Imperial Inquisitors shut down or destroyed groups performing illegal/immoral experiments they brought those notes to him, and the Empire protected him. It was strictly and explicitly illegal to act against the Librarians as long as he was in or doing his best to return to the library (a vast, multi-building complex).
The fact that this evil character was a powerful tool of an ally of good nations, and that his enlightened self-interest kept him from risking attack by heroes without altering his morality, set the tone for a campaign where being evil was not a crime punishable by death.


It's important to get across the distinction between "Good" as a metaphysical entity and "Good" in terms of "what is considered most desirable" as these are not the same thing at all.

It's entirely possible to have a civic leader who is popular, competent, and effective in promoting prosperity, safety, self-determination, education, etc. who is nonetheless evil. Evil, not because of their goals (even if their goals are simply remain in power by making people want to keep you in power) but because of the methods they are willing to cross lines if that's what it takes to create beneficial outcomes.

If the popular and effective mayor of the town the PCs are from scans as evil, and there are no demon cults or undead armies lurking in his closet (he's just assassinated a few people that you could make a strong case had it coming, for example) they'll think twice about attacking everything that scans as evil.

Liberty's Edge

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Smite on sight is a ridiculous notion that needs to be retired already.

Fun Fact about detect evil that people tend to miss:

SRD wrote:
Animals, traps, poisons, and other potential perils are not evil, and as such this spell does not detect them. Creatures with actively evil intents count as evil creatures for the purpose of this spell.

Good/neutral creatures detect as evil when they have evil intent. Evil creatures detect as good when they have good intent. Also, the spell detects intent, not actions.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

I give the party obviously evil allies. Allies that genuinely like the PCs and are willing to help, but have highly questionable moral values.

One of the party's allies is a mobster who traffics petrified creatures as artwork on the black market. The mobster is highly flamboyant and often invites the PCs to his fancy parties. He likes them because they're a major thorn in the side of his enemies.

The PCs also resurrected a potentially evil demigoddess as part of a plan against their archnemesis. The demigoddess is an expert necromancer with a nefarious reputation. She's creepy and has done some very evil things, but she is allied with the PCs and has no reason to betray them. In fact, she's willing to do favors on occasion if it amuses her.


Zhangar wrote:

Gonna have to disagree with that. Plenty of evil takes the form of "petty" evil - like the guy who sees nothing wrong with harassing his neighbors to the point he's killing their pets and livestock, even if he'll never actually kill a person.

Basically, the typical joe-shmoe pinging as evil does so because he's a massive d$@&$ead, not because he's a murderous psycho.

And there's lots and lots of way to be a massive d&%+#ead without crossing over into "eats babies."

(And yes, I'd say the typical person putting Chaotic Neutral on their sheet and then "playing their alignment" by being massive d&+*!eads are actually playing lightweight chaotic evil, not chaotic neutral.)

I feel you could make an argument for both points of view. That's kind of my point. If the players expect that Evil means that the guy is literally eating babies for breakfast, its going to be hard to get them to work with him. Especially if the GM thinks Evil means "just a d~&@+ead".

Consider, from the NPC gallery, the thief, the leader of the thieves guild and even a cannibal are all neutral.

Cattleman wrote:
I'm on Zhanger's side here. If the only Evil can be Murderously Evil, then the only Good can be "Immediately forgives a murderous person regardless of their intent or reasoning."

I sort of agree :p In my mind, granny smith, who always tithes to her temple and give kids cookies is just Neutral. To ping Good, you need to be willing to take a bullet for a stranger, or willing to forgive your brother's murderer if you think he is repentant. Things of that magnitude.

Liberty's Edge

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Knight Magenta wrote:

I feel you could make an argument for both points of view. That's kind of my point. If the players expect that Evil means that the guy is literally eating babies for breakfast, its going to be hard to get them to work with him. Especially if the GM thinks Evil means "just a d~$+#ead".

Consider, from the NPC gallery, the thief, the leader of the thieves guild and even a cannibal are all neutral.

Theft is usually not an Evil act. Cannibalism isn't either, though hunting sapient creatures for food tends to be.

I'm therefore unconvinced that those NPCs are good evidence that someone who, say, beats his wife but would never dream of killing anyone, or a swindler who targets elderly widows but abhors violence aren't Evil.

Now, those particular examples aren't likely to win the PCs over...but what about a mercenary who just isn't super particular about turning down jobs? He could be LE, immensely trustworthy, and potentially very much on the PCs side.

Knight Magenta wrote:
I sort of agree :p In my mind, granny smith, who always tithes to her temple and give kids cookies is just Neutral. To ping Good, you need to be willing to take a bullet for a stranger, or willing to forgive your brother's murderer if you think he is repentant. Things of that magnitude.

That seems a little excessive to me. If all Granny does is pay tithes and bake cookies Good is probably a stretch, but if she's a devoted organizer of various charity projects and puts a lot of her time and money into helping others with no hope of reward, I think she's Good even if she's not the forgiving sort regarding actual crimes.

I'm pretty sure the game supports me on that, too.


I make sure my players understand there are shades of evil. What evil is acceptable? That is for them to decide.


I am having a blast with my player as they go through the 5th book in the Iron Gods adventure path. I came across the issue of trying to keep the players from killing every evil thing they meet. I did what came natural to me, I made them likable.

Sure, he's a bit shady and has a bad reputation because he's a drug lord that has the lower quarter wrapped a round his finger, but come on! He's hilarious, pays well, and treats his minions extremely well. Yes, he extorts people every now and then, but its all for a good cause and he is willing to use his vast resources to help you take care of that (rival) organization that is causing so much trouble.

There are quite a number of Evil NPCs that I have in my worlds that are quite content with their current level of power and do not seek to really 'rock' the boat. Yes, they are willing and able to do quite a few horrible, nasty things if someone really pissed them off, but really? Patient, subtle evil is soooo much better than serial killer evil. Sure, you need that kind of evil too, they make a good distraction.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Knight Magenta wrote:

I feel you could make an argument for both points of view. That's kind of my point. If the players expect that Evil means that the guy is literally eating babies for breakfast, its going to be hard to get them to work with him. Especially if the GM thinks Evil means "just a d~$+#ead".

Consider, from the NPC gallery, the thief, the leader of the thieves guild and even a cannibal are all neutral.

Theft is usually not an Evil act. Cannibalism isn't either, though hunting sapient creatures for food tends to be.

I'm therefore unconvinced that those NPCs are good evidence that someone who, say, beats his wife but would never dream of killing anyone, or a swindler who targets elderly widows but abhors violence aren't Evil.

Now, those particular examples aren't likely to win the PCs over...but what about a mercenary who just isn't super particular about turning down jobs? He could be LE, immensely trustworthy, and potentially very much on the PCs side.

Knight Magenta wrote:
I sort of agree :p In my mind, granny smith, who always tithes to her temple and give kids cookies is just Neutral. To ping Good, you need to be willing to take a bullet for a stranger, or willing to forgive your brother's murderer if you think he is repentant. Things of that magnitude.

That seems a little excessive to me. If all Granny does is pay tithes and bake cookies Good is probably a stretch, but if she's a devoted organizer of various charity projects and puts a lot of her time and money into helping others with no hope of reward, I think she's Good even if she's not the forgiving sort regarding actual crimes.

I'm pretty sure the game supports me on that, too.

I mean, that was sort of my point... I was responding to Zhangar to say that these people who I would definately call... Bad, shall we say; Are still marked neutral by Paizo. So to be evil you clearly need a higher threshold of despicableness.

With regard to Good, you are likely right. I was not trying to set a minimum threshold :)

About the LE merc: I would only call him evil if he would have no qualms about getting payed to, say, murder a couple of kids to secure a royal succession. But ya, you could have affably evil NPCs. If you do, there should at least be the possibility of those NPCs doing something evil enough that the PCs do a spit take.


On topic, one of the ways one of my GMs made us work with evil NPCs was time pressure. We had multiple time-limited quests to deal with, and an evil army marching on our town. The local mobster buying elections barely made the top 5 things we cared about at the time.


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The answer, as always, is Asmodeus. There's other LE gods but they tend to have... issues. Achaekek is probably the second most approachable but has far too narrow a focus. Zon-Kuthon just makes everyone else uncomfortable. Many of the rest are just lesser devils, why settle? Go straight for the big A himself. A Cleric of Asmodeus will happily help you hunt demons and daemons (probably devils too, if the price is right). Need a good lawyer? They got it covered. Need medical treatment? As long as you can pay (or offer something of equal value) they'll do it. Basically, Asmodeus is Abadar, just Evil. Abadar will point out the loopholes in the contract, Asmodeus will suggest where you might be able to insert a few more (that favor you, of course). Abadar takes payment for services, Asmodeus is willing to accept "a favor, to be cashed in later". So having a Cleric of Asmodeus in your village is no different from having a Cleric of Abadar as long as you have restraint and self-control.

Also, pregen NPCs probably shouldn't be included. Here's a tribal shaman from the GMG (TN). Here's a lower level version of the exact same thing from the NPC codex (NE). This guy literally just reads as the guy preaching the world is going to end on a street corner (CE). This one only hurts their enemies and their own worshippers (who presumably had to accept this as part of joining). No random violence. And those are the ones with actual information. Wild Lancer (Barbarian), NE, "Some barbarians are most at home on horseback." Does this mean all mounted Barbarians are Evil? Is it just Barbarians or does anyone with a mount turn Evil? Half-orcs also seem to be disproportionately Evil, all other things considered. It might just be the specific sections I was checking but it still comes across as a bit racist.

So introduce a Cleric of Asmodeus. For extra fun, a LN one (they'll still ping as SUPER EVIL because Asmodeus is). Go all-in on the look (black and red, skulls, spikes everywhere). Have them be a fairly normal, mundane cleric. Minor healing, handling disputes, things like that. If you can make them high level enough to survive, all the better. Perhaps they were relegated to low level duty because they weren't cutthroat enough (not actually being Evil) so they need to play up the aesthetic if anyone comes to inspect them. For extra fun, after the players are arrested for assault and attempted murder, have their defending lawyer be that same cleric.


Knight Magenta wrote:
About the LE merc: I would only call him evil if he would have no qualms about getting payed to, say, murder a couple of kids to secure a royal succession. But ya, you could have affably evil NPCs. If you do, there should at least be the possibility of those NPCs doing something evil enough that the PCs do a spit take.

So taking a contract to kill innocent adult witnesses to cover a crime, maybe the murder of those kids would not be evil?

EDIT ADD
LOL, sidetracked. If there are consequences for killing people without cause, you will have a good start. If there has been peace with the [ogre/goblin/harpy/.....] tribes, and the party goes murderhobo and riles them up because they are evil, then they might learn something if they are made to pay for it. Have the party witness the execution of an adventuring party for stirring up the [whatever] tribes. Have some of that tribe brought in to witness this.

Liberty's Edge

Knight Magenta wrote:
I mean, that was sort of my point... I was responding to Zhangar to say that these people who I would definately call... Bad, shall we say; Are still marked neutral by Paizo. So to be evil you clearly need a higher threshold of despicableness.

Generic NPC stat-blocks are a bit inconsistent, as noted. Also...I'm not finding anyone who has definitively done anything actually immoral (no, theft and crime are not inherently immoral...depends on your morality and the circumstances) who's not Evil. I mean, I guess there's the cannibal, but like I said there's not actually anything inherently Evil in eating dead folk.

Knight Magenta wrote:
With regard to Good, you are likely right. I was not trying to set a minimum threshold :)

Well, my point is that there is a minimum threshold, for both Good and Evil. But it's not dying for the cause for Good, nor eating babies for Evil.

Knight Magenta wrote:
About the LE merc: I would only call him evil if he would have no qualms about getting payed to, say, murder a couple of kids to secure a royal succession. But ya, you could have affably evil NPCs. If you do, there should at least be the possibility of those NPCs doing something evil enough that the PCs do a spit take.

In my book, if they're willing to take money to murder any innocent person, they're probably Evil. Even if kids are off the itinerary.

I do agree that anyone who's Good aligned is likely to be inclined to spit-take at some of the things a friendly Evil guy has done. Neutral people might be less shocked, even if they'd be disinclined to do that themselves.


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Knight Magenta wrote:
This is a miscommunication of expectations. In my mind, if a guy is Evil, he has to have done Evil things. You don't get an Evil alignment in Pathfinder for killing your neighbor's dog. You have to eat some babies.

This here is half of the problem; many people seem to have such a high bar (low bar?) for the evil alignment that anyone who has this alignment must be nothing more than a slavering monster to be put down as soon as possible. It doesn't help that most published adventures reinforce this notion; it's a rare day you'll find an evil NPC in a Paizo-published adventure that doesn't betray the PC's at some point (even if doing so runs against their self-interest. Stupid Evil and all). I personally reject this view, and I think the thread creator does as well. The good and evil alignments are equal but opposite. Whatever threshold we have for being evil, the threshold to be good should be roughly comparable. So if being evil requires a character to be an irredeemable monster, then being good would require a character to act as a perfect saint. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would put almost every character (PC or NPC) in existence squarely in true neutral and leave only the caricature extremes in the other 8 alignments.

As I mentioned earlier, part of the problem is that published adventures tend to feature over the top villains and outright monsters. This makes sense from a narrative standpoint, creating unsympathetic "supervillain" antagonists that are satisfying for the party to oppose. This also helps make sure that you don't run into the issue of having the PC's agree with the villain (NPC's with well-developed motivations can actually be convincing sometimes). That leaves a lot of underexplored territory of more mundane evil. To give an example of a more typical evil character, imagine a landlord who extorts his tenants for money, threatening them with eviction over spurious allegations unless they pay him for the "damages" they've caused. Of course, these are always young families, and the landlord picks his timing so the family will be thrown out on the street in the middle of a rainy night. He does this sort of thing frequently, using his money and power to bring suffering upon others for his own personal gain. You don't have to kill and maim to be evil, there are plenty of perfectly mundane and petty kinds of evil out there. Focusing only on supervillains can miss a lot of very interesting explorations.

Now with that out of the way, let's talk about the Paladin, who is the other half of this equation. In my experience, people don't choose to play a Paladin because they're looking for an exploration of moral nuance. They do it because they want an epic and unambiguous struggle between good and evil. The very narrative premise of their character is about finding and smiting evil. They're not here to philosophize about the nature of morality and evil, they're here to kick it's ass! In many ways, a Paladin player is looking for narrative simplicity, an environment where their actions are inherently justified by virtue of them being good and their enemies being evil. However, if you peel away this simplification and expose the underlying foundation, it's a lot shakier. A character's actions aren't morally justified because they are good, they are good because they take actions that are morally justified. This requires careful consideration of every action, which creates a dissonance with the player's narrative expectation. To repeat: they're not here to philosophize about the nature of morality and evil, they're here to kick it's ass!

I'd suggest testing the waters. Ask your players why they believe they are justified in performing a summary execution on this NPC. Make clear that it's not a trick question and that you're looking for a serious answer, because Paladins can't just go around murdering people. Your player's reaction will tell you a lot. If they object to the very notion that an evil character might deserve less than death, then I think you might have a rather uphill battle. If you can your player catches where you're coming from and rolls with it, you might be able to reconcile that.


This game (and D&D stuff in general) has its roots in table top battle simulation games- in many ways like warhammer. The humans and orcs were just there for convenience's sake. Labels to mark which team each side is on. It was only later on that we switched to individual units with their own stories and characters.

In many ways, we never quite got past that. 'Evil' is often used as a convenient way to separate things into 'stuff we kill', which is separate from 'stuff we probably shouldn't kill'.

It is an ingrained reflex to make this separation. You need to take the effort out to provide a framing device to stop them their knee jerk reaction. Personally, I would make a roll in front of them- the sudden roll awakens their instincts too ("Is that a saving roll?"). Anyway, reveal it to be a DC 10 knowledge roll- common sense roll, basically. Then give them at least some hint 'slow down and listen'.

Example- DC 10 knowledge (local) roll in cheliax to learn 'it is illegal to attack a devil without proper justification or payment.'


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I'm blessed. Unless s/he's directly in the way, my players generally go, "Oh, good! A project!" and work with them while thoroughly working to get them to shift to non-evil.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tacticslion wrote:
I'm blessed. Unless s/he's directly in the way, my players generally go, "Oh, good! A project!" and work with them while thoroughly working to get them to shift to non-evil.

This happens in my games all the time. I think it finally reached its apex during WoTR, when

Spoiler:
upon learning of Arushalae and that it was possible--if very difficult--to redeem demons, our party practically started a succubus reform school. The character who had the hierophant path actually took Divine Source and ended up with redemption as part of his portfolio.

I haven't noticed that a lot of the evil NPCs in APs turn on the party after working with them. Any examples? I've run and played in 7 (almost) so far, and half the time we end up with a whole bevy of questionable allies. (Though maybe in the ones I wasn't running, the GM changed the part where they turn on us...which I like better anyway if it would be obviously dangerous for them to do so.) It's common enough for us that it's become kind of a running joke about which one we're going to adopt this time.


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Not reading the spoiler, 'cause I'm supposed to be a player in that, but...

Meraki wrote:
It's common enough for us that it's become kind of a running joke about which one we're going to adopt this time.

... yup. This is totally us! XD

The weirdest example:

In one weird game, I even went so far as to "redeem" - well, sort of, it's a work in progress, admittedly - the primary villain and her right hand of one adventure without ever really fighting her; after we managed to infiltrate as a minor would-be "servitor" of hers, we secretly arranged for some bad guys to get the blame for us assassinating other bad guys, fought a general of hers in personal combat and won, and we then kind of just... took over.

We then arranged it so that everyone remaining was in their exact position as before, but negotiated a peace treaty (including an official apology and "compensation" to those who'd been previously kidnapped), disarmed and distracted her military (by introducing an addictive game, "Bjorker" ((it's really just a simplified orcish football)), and established trade agreements that ensured she got paid much more than she ever would by raiding and pillaging (taxes, amirite?!) and forced her into effective retirement (though still, technically, the ruler. They were all very confused, but quite happy with how things had changed, over-all.

They were still evil, but we were working on that problem. XD

My GM determined this was the weirdest game ever. XD


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In one adventure path, I needed a 9th-level filler adventure between modules. The party returned from the countryside and stopped in the city of Magnimar for their pay. While spending that pay at the magic mart, an evil woman approached them (the party's lyrakien bard has constant Detect Evil). She introduced herself as Deedee Baythorne and said she had a job for them. Three months before, the party had defeated a evil character in a haunted house. Ms. Baythorne had been assigned by the new owners of the house to clear the haunts from it. She wanted to hire the party for the job.

She knew she radiated evil to senstive individuals such as clerics. She explained that her job was to deal with dirty messes and that involved getting her hands dirty. She was unrepentant.

The players liked her, because she had personality. They did the job and got paid. Ms. Baythorne stuck around town and helped the party occassionally by passiong on information from a mysterious source. Then they discovered her secret.

Back at 6th level, the party had foiled the plans of an evil sorceress in a mask. The sorceress escaped, but the module said she would never return, for her boss would kill her for her failure. Instead, she stripped off her magic items, dyed her hair, and adopted a new identity as Deedee Baythorne. For revenge, she found a suitable suicide mission that would kill 6th-level players and persuaded the party to undertake the mission. She stole money to pay the party. What she had not anticipated was that the characters would become much more powerful in a mere three months and have no trouble with the mission.

Afterward, she changed her plans. Her enemies were powerful enough to kill her boss. If they did so, she could step into his job once the heroes left. She became a double agent, working both sides against each other for her advantage.

Eventually, the party figured this out from the little clues I provided. They took revenge by destroying her secret cache of magic items, but left her in her role as double agent. She was useful.

And in the end, when the party confronted the final boss, Ms. Baythorne could no longer play that game. She had to choose a side. She could side with the evil overlord who would let her kill indiscriminately but might kill her after any failure. Or she could side with the good guys who would force her to follow the law but always treated her with respect. Though she was still evil, she sided with the good guys.


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I had a character like Deedee. When she was asked why she only worked for the good guys, she had a solid answer. "If there is going to be any backstabbing, I want to be fairly sure it's only me that's doing it."


DRD1812 wrote:
Rysky wrote:
You're gonna have to be more specific.
Detect evil --> it's evil --> it's my enemy.

Remove alignment. Easy peasy.


Belkar Bitterleaf?


The main problem I see is that usually, the immediate connection of EVIL = KILL is a metagame problem, not a character one. It's usually followed by "He's evil, I'm gonna kill him, 'cause that's what my character would do" and all rational thought goes out the window.

Shadow Lodge

I'm running an adventure with new players, and they have met a few evil people - at least one of whom was the actual antagonist - and went away not realizing anything. Partially because nobody's tried to Detect any Evil, and partially because the Good-aligned heroes genuinely do not want to kill people who sound reasonable. Of course, when it turns out they aren't reasonable, then violence occurs.

Long-winded anecdote:
Twice, the evil people with whom they conversed were corrupt authority figures, but everyone left thinking, "He seems nice," or, "I wanted to say something, but I didn't know how to handle it." If one of the corrupt authority figures didn't plot to ambush them later, they may have gone on actively helping him, if they hadn't attacked his minions.

They're now in an escort mission, with their NPC to escort being CE. She has a blatant disregard for everyone, has caught allies in her AoE spells, and tries to get away with whatever she wants. She's also kind of rude, but doesn't think she's evil: "It's a tough world full of stupid people, and I'm just trying to get what I'm owed." Basically, I play her like she's "Chaotic Neutral".

The first time they met her, she jumped to conclusions and attacked, but surrendered once her spell slots ran out. They let her go after swapping spells with her. Now they have to get her to her place of community service, after she was arrested for selling drugs that turned out to just be icing sugar cut with chalk dust. "I was in a really desperate place," she told them. Nobody minds, and since they never bothered to keep tabs on her, she snuck out one night, got a new tattoo while drunk, and basically told the villain who gave it to her where she was going, and with whom, and unintentionally tipped her off that she was with the Good Guys. I'm going to have that villain, when she meets with them, out their escort and make fun of them for trusting her. I'll see how they react to that.

Oh, and one of their team-mates has an evil PC, and nobody's tried to moralize with her at all.

If good PCs I'm playing as find out that an ally or trusted NPC has an aura of supernatural evil, they'd usually ask them if they need any help reforming or redeeming. Though if said NPC actually is an antagonist, and whose tactics state "Fight To The Death," then they'd accept that outcome.

Sovereign Court

The best one a GM ever pulled on my Paladin in D&D 3.5 was the following:

Me: I Detect Evil. <<Detect Evil>>
GM: <<Picks up some dice and rolls d100>> Yeah, looks like he's evil.
Me: ...

Threw me for a loop. And he did it more than once.

Shadow Lodge

Arassuil wrote:

The best one a GM ever pulled on my Paladin in D&D 3.5 was the following:

Me: I Detect Evil. <<Detect Evil>>
GM: <<Picks up some dice and rolls d100>> Yeah, looks like he's evil.
Me: ...

Threw me for a loop. And he did it more than once.

How's that? Did you Detect Evil into a crowd, and the GM rolled dice to see if anyone counted? Or was it more of a randomly-generated-alignment thing?


If the players think evil means "wants nothing but to inflict misery and death upon others" and the GM thinks evil means "puts their own needs above those of others" then one solution is to write "chaotic neutral" on the non-good patron's stat block.

I find it's easier to shift my own definition of where the dividing line is between neutral and evil than it is to shift everybody else's.


The Shifty Mongoose wrote:
Arassuil wrote:

The best one a GM ever pulled on my Paladin in D&D 3.5 was the following:

Me: I Detect Evil. <<Detect Evil>>
GM: <<Picks up some dice and rolls d100>> Yeah, looks like he's evil.
Me: ...

Threw me for a loop. And he did it more than once.

How's that? Did you Detect Evil into a crowd, and the GM rolled dice to see if anyone counted? Or was it more of a randomly-generated-alignment thing?

Imagine that it was a random encounter on the road, an armed man riding the other way. The GM had not decided whether the stranger was evil, so he let the dice decide.

But that also means that the stranger had no background. Without a background, he had committed no crimes. Sure, later the GM could put up a few Wanted posters accusing the stranger of terrible crimes, but at that moment, the stranger had a clean slate.

One of the conveniences of D&D and Pathfinder is that the game seldom leaves the player wondering whether an enemy is an enemy. Orcs just raided a peasant village and your party tracked down the raiding party. A high priest of Lamashtu has kidnapped a woman for a human sacrifice. An ogre is always a cruel man-eater. The other person attacked first, so your counterattack is self defense. And if all else fails, and the hostile stranger is unidentified, try Detect Evil.

But no matter where the game draws the line, there is a line of ambiguity. What if the friendly stranger detects as evil (he is a non-violent embezzler)? What if the orc raider who just hacked a farmer with an ax detects as neutral (he is a loving father but his village is starving)? Arassuil's GM carelessly created an ambiguous character and threw Arassuil 's paladin for a loop. Or the GM wanted to see how the paladin dealt with doubt.


The local banker might be a LE follower of Asmodeus because of greed. He might even be high enough level to ping on a detect evil if he did some work earlier in his career as a guard. The party trying to attack the owner of the bank leads to the town guard considering them a bunch of murderous bank robbers.

Shadow Lodge

Feral wrote:

Smite on sight is a ridiculous notion that needs to be retired already.

Fun Fact about detect evil that people tend to miss:

SRD wrote:
Animals, traps, poisons, and other potential perils are not evil, and as such this spell does not detect them. Creatures with actively evil intents count as evil creatures for the purpose of this spell.
Good/neutral creatures detect as evil when they have evil intent. Evil creatures detect as good when they have good intent. Also, the spell detects intent, not actions.

I don't see why. People know that just allowing Evil to do their thing is 100% going to cause pain, death, suffering, or worse evil. Individuals are not evil simply because they don't care about others, or just because they are selfish. That's why mundane harmful things and most lower level things do not detect as evil, because they are not so fully committed to it yet, but how Evil priests, Outsiders, and Undead do, and also have a particularly powerful aura and presence.

I find the insistence that "well they have not actually done anything yet" very weak, especially when what generally happens is the DM outright forbids the players to look into it and find it as they are effectively protected by plot armor and DM fiat.

Ultimately, it tends to come down to a situation where players are put into a No Win position, and one that probably ignores both logic and morality, (ie Good is dumb).

Dark Midian wrote:
The main problem I see is that usually, the immediate connection of EVIL = KILL is a metagame problem, not a character one. It's usually followed by "He's evil, I'm gonna kill him, 'cause that's what my character would do" and all rational thought goes out the window.

In my experience, it tends to be the opposite. Metagame yes, but it's generally on the DM side. Compare it to a very dangerous, but attractive plant or trap in the middle of town. Would a Good character, or even most Neutral characters be ok, knowing what it can and very likely will do simply allow it remain there? Yah, probably not, even if they are in a super big rush and there is a "greater evil". Some random kid could come and try to touch it or something and get hurt or killed.

Maybe they will not personally go take care of it, but they probably will make sure that it is taken care of, gated off, removed, destroyed, or whatever. Insisting that people just ignore a known danger just because they are the DM's pet NPC or something makes that much sense, too.

So, that being said, if a DM wants to put in an NPC, (assuming with the intention of them being reoccurring) and not to get "smited" by Good characters, here are some tips I'd consider.

1.) Avoid the idea of them teaming up to fight against a "greater evil". A "greater" evil doesn't really exist. It's just a bunch of different evils that are all effectively making the world worse in different ways.

2.) Truly consider what exactly is enough to make them be Evil. Consider why is it required that they be Evil. Why would the average person simply allow them to do their thing?

3.) Really, the only way that such a character will work is if there have been plenty of examples in the past of other evil characters not screwing over the party, and not having plot armor/DM fiat. But, then we run back into the issue of, well, why are they Evil?

Even if they are just a politician that is power hungry and doesn't care what happens to rivals, that's not really enough to make them Evil. They have to be a politician that is power hungry and either making pacts with demons or kidnapping their rivals families and friends to torturing them until those rivals give in or back out. That's what Evil is and does. Killing, torturing, stealing, cheating, and harming others isn't a possible option, it's the quickest and easiest option most of the time that they can get away with it.

4.) Are they there to be a possible redemption device? Maybe. I'm very leery about how Paizo has handled redemption in their products and setting. But, if that is the goal, or at least a reasonable possibility, and the PCs and DM are interested in it, that might be a pretty good reason to have the NPC.

Sovereign Court

Discuss the laws of your fantasy country with your players. A bare minimum for keeping the peace would be...


  • Explain to them that in this country you're not guilty of a crime until you've actually committed it.

  • That thinking about doing something bad is not itself a crime (you got cut off by someone during commute and thought about hurting him, but came to your senses).

  • That the PCs are probably not legally the judge, jury and executioner of anyone they meet. Just because you're a paladin doesn't mean people don't have a right to a trial. (Though it's possible that PCs literally mete out professional vigilante justice.)

  • That crimes committed against evil people are still crimes. If they haven't been outlawed, they're still under the protection of the law.

If an NPC detects as evil that's still a cause for suspicion and investigation, but not for summary execution.


Sorry, off topic a bit, but I've always thought it was weird that people write "an NPC" rather than "a NPC". It's weird because an NPC sounds right, but by grammar rules should be wrong...

Anyways, I agree with showing the PCs that there are consequences if they just attack an evil NPC, and portray the evil NPC as the victim. Show them that they are still people, and it isn't right to just attack them.

Silver Crusade

Actually, 'an NPC' is gramatically correct, based on the fact that it's an acronym. Since what we actually say is 'en-pee-see,' the acronym would be written to start with a vowel if it was written as a word, so 'an' rather than 'a' is its appropriate indefinite article. The same rule works for any acronyms that start with F, H, L, M, N, R, S, or X.

Sovereign Court

Mathmuse wrote:
The Shifty Mongoose wrote:
Arassuil wrote:

The best one a GM ever pulled on my Paladin in D&D 3.5 was the following:

Me: I Detect Evil. <<Detect Evil>>
GM: <<Picks up some dice and rolls d100>> Yeah, looks like he's evil.
Me: ...

Threw me for a loop. And he did it more than once.

How's that? Did you Detect Evil into a crowd, and the GM rolled dice to see if anyone counted? Or was it more of a randomly-generated-alignment thing?

Imagine that it was a random encounter on the road, an armed man riding the other way. The GM had not decided whether the stranger was evil, so he let the dice decide.

But that also means that the stranger had no background. Without a background, he had committed no crimes. Sure, later the GM could put up a few Wanted posters accusing the stranger of terrible crimes, but at that moment, the stranger had a clean slate.

One of the conveniences of D&D and Pathfinder is that the game seldom leaves the player wondering whether an enemy is an enemy. Orcs just raided a peasant village and your party tracked down the raiding party. A high priest of Lamashtu has kidnapped a woman for a human sacrifice. An ogre is always a cruel man-eater. The other person attacked first, so your counterattack is self defense. And if all else fails, and the hostile stranger is unidentified, try Detect Evil.

But no matter where the game draws the line, there is a line of ambiguity. What if the friendly stranger detects as evil (he is a non-violent embezzler)? What if the orc raider who just hacked a farmer with an ax detects as neutral (he is a loving father but his village is starving)? Arassuil's GM carelessly created an ambiguous character and threw Arassuil 's paladin for a loop. Or the GM wanted to see how the paladin dealt with doubt.

You would think it was a random encounter. But not in that instance. It was one of the main NPCs. The GM at the time just decided to roll the dice and say "He's evil". The act of the dice roll was just to mess with my mind, I think. And it did. And he did it more than once.

I believe my Paladin at the time just didn't trust what said NPC did. Which was helpful at some times.

It's a tactic I've used once or twice as a GM since then, pretending the dice roll mattered, but it didn't.


Teach them the hard way...


Redelia wrote:
Actually, 'an NPC' is gramatically correct, based on the fact that it's an acronym. Since what we actually say is 'en-pee-see,' the acronym would be written to start with a vowel if it was written as a word, so 'an' rather than 'a' is its appropriate indefinite article. The same rule works for any acronyms that start with F, H, L, M, N, R, S, or X.

Yeah I see that now, my bad. For some reason I always read that specific acronym (not other ones) as Non-player Character every time. So uh, my b.

Silver Crusade

thelivingmonkey wrote:
Redelia wrote:
Actually, 'an NPC' is gramatically correct, based on the fact that it's an acronym. Since what we actually say is 'en-pee-see,' the acronym would be written to start with a vowel if it was written as a word, so 'an' rather than 'a' is its appropriate indefinite article. The same rule works for any acronyms that start with F, H, L, M, N, R, S, or X.
Yeah I see that now, my bad. For some reason I always read that specific acronym (not other ones) as Non-player Character every time. So uh, my b.

I think glimpses like this into how our minds work are fascinating. I probably should let this thread back on the rails, though :)


Ascalaphus wrote:

Discuss the laws of your fantasy country with your players. A bare minimum for keeping the peace would be...


  • Explain to them that in this country you're not guilty of a crime until you've actually committed it.

  • That thinking about doing something bad is not itself a crime (you got cut off by someone during commute and thought about hurting him, but came to your senses).

  • That the PCs are probably not legally the judge, jury and executioner of anyone they meet. Just because you're a paladin doesn't mean people don't have a right to a trial. (Though it's possible that PCs literally mete out professional vigilante justice.)

  • That crimes committed against evil people are still crimes. If they haven't been outlawed, they're still under the protection of the law.

If an NPC detects as evil that's still a cause for suspicion and investigation, but not for summary execution.

I recall a Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition game where my younger daughter played a halfling cleric of the god of thieves, my older daughter played an arcane spellcaster, I played a gnome paladin, a young friend from church played another cleric. We had never played D&D with this friend before.

The party, while investigating a crime, was lured into an alley and attacked by thugs. We won. And then my friend's paladin said, "I slit the throats of the bandits who are still alive," which was all of them. The last standing thug had even dropped to his knees and surrendered while still conscious.

My daughter's cleric immediately leaped in his way and declared, "No, you'd have to fight me. Thieves are under my protection."

I was shocked that my friend played a merciless paladin. Staying in character, my paladin said, "Friend, you must have trained as a paladin fighting in the wilderness. Here in the city, criminals are brought before a court alive."

Later we learned his previous games had been pure hack and slash.

Sovereign Court

Characters would absolutely know the "laws of the land", like who's allowed to perform arrests and pass sentence, and when it's acceptable to kill bandits/in self defence/proactively.

Players don't live in the fantasy world, they don't know these rules lurking at the back of the GM's mind, until he tells the players.

This is an OOC conversation, where you educate players about the setting because it's stuff the players need to know, that their characters would already know.


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What you want is for the players to think in shades of grey, and nothing does that better than showing them some really heavy black and white. Once they have tracked down some really nasty folks, have them be directed towards someone who is evil but perfectly friendly and reasonable with the PCs. Lawful evil is the best at this, but even chaotic evil can seem reasonable if the Character is convincing and the PCs have some first hand experience at whatever cause they are rebelling against. Have them offer remunerations for any perceived fault (not to the PCs, that seems suspicious) and then talk about offering the PCs some work to help improve the community.

Evil is really quite easy for PCs to support provided their prior experiences with evil are with madmen and uncivilized folk. Just play the evil character like any other reasonable quest giver and watch the party slowly fall. Just make sure to give a few hints and make the jobs seem questionable at times but never cross the line. If the PCs don't realize what is going on you can have an awesome reveal that doesn't even need to be a betrayal. If that reveal ends up causing the paladin to fall, first talk to the player about it, and make sure to clarify that they will have a chance at redemption as the first quest in the next arc. Remember, a paladins fall should only ever be punishment as a last resort. Instead it should be part of the narrative and rely as much upon the paladins faith in themselves as their actions and their faith in their diety.

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