Evil campaigns

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

This idea has been around. I thought I'd add my two cents in. My last group I played with we had been gaming with for over ten years. So my first bit of advice is know the players. My first game with an all evil campaign was for the most part successful. I had one player who was more irritating then a problem. He was greedy material wealth his motivation. Once I got that the campaign was fun. All the players were mature enough to handle being evil without trying to screw the game up. I knew with the group they wanted to have fun and being evil was fun since for most of us it was a refreshing change of pace. Me and my best friend had been playing D&D for years before Pathfinder so we had played every good and neutral alignment. I knew given a fair amount of leeway they would do my NPCs and various town some damage but would restrain themselves enough not to screw the campaign itself. I knew of a few players who would end the campaign simply because they could.
NPCs in an evil campaign will Die. Expect and plan for that. Certain important NPCs can stay alive with proper planning. But expect and have several unimportant NPCs around to be killed and abused. One NPC I expected to die was a male Alcolyte who challenged a high level female PC cleric for running a new church for their respective deity. She didn't kill him instead brutally torturing him and kept him around to serve as a warning for others. He served no other purpose yet the group loved him. As a GM I planned for lots of NPCs to die or suffer horribly and it helped the campaign along.
Now that doesn't mean the party should run roughshod over every town village or city. We ended up using Waterdeep for one evil group. We caused a few problems but we had no illusions we could take it over or abuse the city. We knew the various powers in the city would join forces and destroy us if we tried. But a group of evil PCs coming into some small village or town is another story. Some places have mid to high level NPCs protecters. Some don't or the protecter is no match for the group. Good PCs will tolerate whatever crap that that village or town will inflict upon them ranging from simple jacking prices up or belitteling the group. Evil will not and shouldn't. If you expect that and said village isn't important to the overall campaign let the PCs run wild. My old group was actually kind compared to what they could do. For the players those moments of evil were more fun then the actual quest they were sent there to complete.
I and my fellow GM banned Chaotic Evil since that alignment and chaotic Neutral often refuse to work within a group. We allowed Chaotic Evil for Antipaladins with the understanding they had to resist the urge to screw or kill the party. It worked for my group but it may not for all groups.
Motivation is a problem. My friend suggested that Evil PCs can be motivated to go on quests with a bit of work. For me it was all of the group worshipped Asmodues. He gave orders to go do something we all obeyed. The reward for most of the group was becoming full fledged devils. It helps to have the PCs be from a group with a powerful leader to enforce some power over the PCs.
Again can't stress this enough. Know the players and their maturity level. My old group had two problem players whom we never hinted we were playing an evil campaign to them. They would screw the campaign up. One would play chaotic stupid and end the campaign. It wouldn't matter how he'd find a way. The second player simply wasn't mature enough to play evil. While one player was rather brutal to NPCs he never did anything to stop the game. Yes he had loads of fun causing damage to various NPCs he never pushed it to end the game itself. His wife was actually more devastating to NPCs yet again never to the point of ending the game. Hopefully this helps.

In the future, I would suggest some kind of editing and formatting to make your post more accessible. That is a big block of text.

The way I've run evil games is entirely different from the way a more "typical" campaign operates. In a story where the protagonists are evil, the plot hooks, conflicts and motivations will be completely different.
They're not ridding the king's road of bandits, they ARE the bandits. Trying to stay a step ahead of the law. They aren't on a quest for the Thirteen Keys of the Apocalypse to prevent a crazy cult from performing some crazy ritual, they want the Keys FOR the ritual, and are racing against the do-gooders in an attempt to get the artifacts assembled before their adversaries can intervene.

One of the more disturbing games I ran was for All-Hallow's-Eve, where we had a ghastly wizard, a skeletal ranger, a specter barbarian and Jack-o'-the-Lantern, crypt-walker, fire-fiend and the King of the Pumpkin Patch.

Things got dark. Then they got gross. Then they got so dark and gross they got sad. And then the pilgrim-knights and penitent priests of the Inquisition caught up to them, banished Jack back to the bowels of Hell and destroyed the foul creatures of the night.

Everyone left quite satisfied.

Yea, I've found the biggest hurdle in evil campaigns for the PC's is motivation.

An over-arching hook is needed to reign them in to a cohesive group, otherwise there is no reason for them to tolerate one another and their different goals.

Logically, an evil group would soon disband with all their different goals pulling them different directions (and single-mindedness about those goals.)

You cannot really adapt modules or AP's for evil campaigns without seriously being ready for ANYTHING.

Best done sandbox, or a home-grown campaign designed for evil players.

mardaddy wrote:

An over-arching hook is needed to reign them in to a cohesive group, otherwise there is no reason for them to tolerate one another and their different goals.

Logically, an evil group would soon disband with all their different goals pulling them different directions (and single-mindedness about those goals.)

Well, that implies that evil people are incapable of teamwork or compromise, which just isn't true. Or at least, it's no less true than it is for any other characters. Cooperation and prioritization are signs of intelligence and civility, not moral purity.

I've found that the tried-and-true tropes of "you're more useful to me alive", "I could try to kill you...but then you'd try to kill me" and "I don't like you, but I don't like them more" are enough to justify the basic character relationships if there's absolutely nothing else to go on.
If there's a player trying to spike your wheel and mess with your game under the guise of "but it's what my character would do", kick them to the curb regardless of what alignment the PC's are. That's not a problem with any sort of game, that's a problem with people.

Me and a fellow GM used some stand alone modules but it was mostly homebrew. Quixote I apologize for editing or lack of. My campaign started disturbing and got worse. Most people I know have a dark side and playing evil encourages them to show me how dark. My group loved messing with the NPCs more then the actual adventure.

Yeah, that's something to watch out for, for sure. It's noy much of an issue eith people you've known for years, but if you've got a newcomer to the table, it can lead to disaster.

I ran a game a long while back. There was a...probably an excessively detailed torture scene. One of my players, unbeknownst to me, had served in the military and was reminded of some things that they obviously would have preferred not to think about. I apologized profusely and took the lesson to heart. Now I always ask my players if there's any specific kind of content they'd like to avoid, or ask what sort of "rating" they'd like the game to have.

It took middle school-me a long time to understand that putting "adult content" in your games doesnot make your games more mature or inherently better.

Chronicles of Darkness has an amazing little passage about aiming for a tone of disquiet; not only will your player's imaginations fill in the blanks and scare them more than you ever could, but you'll avoid desensitization as well as dredging up painful feelings that you're not aware of, instead letting each player get as involved as they feel comfortable.

One of the more cohesive evil games I've played in was the one where I was playing as a powerful psychic goblin. My character charmed the other PCs to get them to do what he wanted to do which happened to be the adventure. Sure, it wore off eventually but since none of the characters had a problem with what I'd convinced them to do they each found their own justification for continuing to follow me, for now.

The "campaign" only lasted a few sessions though as all of us got kind of bored with it. This is because completing the initial objective didn't lead to anything else that was particularly interesting.

Evil games can be interesting, but the group needs long term goals that aren't readily attainable. Additionally, you need to make sure that it doesn't devolve into a pure hack and slash game as those don't tend to have much longevity (I can't tell you how many games I've played where "You are all gladiators in an Arena" that didn't last more than 1 session).

and I agree with Quixote. I honestly haven't read what you wrote I just read the responses to get the jist of what you said.

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