Evil player characters
OK…lets talk about a topic that will eventually come up: The evil player characters!
It can have it’s place, but usually, in my experience, these games don’t last too long. In this post, I will offer some ways to make this at least an enjoyable experience, even if a short one. And even before I start the discussion, let me say that if your players want to delve into this, I cannot emphasize the importance of the social table contract in this!
When contemplating an evil party, the players need to define the “EVIL BOUNDARIES!” I am not going to get philosophical as to what is the nature of evil, but briefly discuss how it works in RPGs. It was important enough that the early in our hobby, the concept of alignment was brought into the game, but it remained somewhat vague as to what good vs evil was and then by adding lawful against chaotic, the idea was to create distinct definable moral guidelines. Then another game tried to define those morals with descriptives, like Scrupulous, or Selfish. Now somethings can always be accepted as evil, on their face: genocide (oh, wait, what if it is killing evil creatures, like goblins?), Murder (Oh, wait…this is technically what many adventuring parties do), rape, blatant theft (or is that just not nice?). What about the Evil Empire, like in Firefly or Star Wars? Well, a lot of people lead pretty comfortable and peaceful lives under these systems. A good place to begin discussing how this would work starts with the old AD&D alignment system. Let me give you my interpretation, and it has always worked well for me.
GOOD: Greatest benefit for the most people
EVIL: Greatest detriment for the most people
LAWFUL: Oriented to the organization; the means must justify the end
CHAOTIC: self oriented; ends will justify whatever means
NEUTRALS: Socialistic; the privileged support those not so
OK…you have talked about what you are comfortable with, discussed how far people can go and you still want to run the evil campaign. In my experience, an evil campaign kind of ends up being one of three types:
1: Players try to become leaders eventually running a guild or even a nation (really only viable for Lawfuls) Think the Star Wars Emperor
2: Players are tool of someone who is leading a guild or nation (in which case they are like secret police or senior enforcers) This may lead to them either coming to odds with their boss and having to dismantle what is in place or them becoming the heir apparent and taking over later, which becomes the first case.
3: Players end up turning on each other to become the best at whatever they are doing (Really only suitable for chaotics)
If your game is going to become one of these, then what kind of scenarios can you run? well, you can run any adventure you would run with any other team, but the hooks tend to be selfish. Why do EPCs (Evil PCs) go out to fight the Ogre Bandits? Because they are infringing on their profit or victims, not because it is the right thing to do. Why do they crawl a dungeon? To get the riches and magic items, not to recover the lost art of the Dufuss empire…unless they sell really good, or they will really look good in his lair! Once you have worked out the types of hooks you can use, what kind of story arcs are ripe for the EPC?
Stories can be similar…but the reasons for the arcs usually are things that GOOD players probably would not. These will probably be brutal or horrifying stories, as they delve into places we have learned to fear and avoid. Even the mastermind character will be moved by the violence against children…(which works to solidify your strength; anyone who will do that to a kid…). Remember that the “rebel scum” / “Browncoats” story line would be an evil story line from an Empire/Alliance view. Again, make certain that everyone understand the things that are out-of-bounds by the contract. (Generally I don’t recommend playing EPCs, but occasional short explorations can be fun. Make certain that what happens at your table is within the bounds of what everyone accepts!)
Now, just to touch upon the more disquieting part of this exercise. When playing evil characters, they will usually migrate to the extremes. They will either play the comical evil; the cackling evil “Supervillian” type that pulls the wings off fly’s and kicks puppies. This is what many people’s idea of evil PCs is. The other extreme is the sadistic non-repentant madman, who considers mass murder, and rape as a character building exercise. If this is the type of evil PCs you have, you might want to keep very tight reigns on how this game progresses. Even if this is acceptable within your table contract, you will probably like to keep a lot of the stuff behind the scenes. On the other hand, if you keep too much off the table, then you will likely be avoiding the reason people want to play evil characters. So, keep the feedback flowing. You need to be comfortable and capable with the ongoing story, but everyone at your table needs to be as well.
One last part of an EPC game: PVP, player vs player, or inter-party conflict. In an evil game, this is very possible and maybe even an expectation. It is a point that needs to be re-addressed in your table contract for this game. You have probably already addressed this, at least briefly, for your regular games. But for this setting, it needs to be decided if it can happen, if it is expected, or if it is going to be avoided. This could be a defining aspect of an EPC games, so give it the proper amount of attention!
OK. To wrap this up; Evil player characters can be fun, and will may be fairly base. The story’s will be similar, but the motivations will be different and the resolutions of issues will likely be less epic, but can be very personal. One thing I’d like to suggest: this game type can be kind of cathartic, but that will also make it quite an emotional game, so be ready for this and be ready to drop it at the first request. As I said, I don’t usually recommend this type of game, but if you want to try it, embrace it, and keep my warnings near to your heart.
Aside from that, Keep Rolling!