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Playing with Evil Characters 
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Ulthal
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Post Playing with Evil Characters
Plenty of advice online about how to play an evil character but much less on how to play alongside one. Looking for ideas on:

1. Why would my neutral character bother hanging with this person? Motivation ideas, please! This becomes an even trickier problem for those aligned as good I reckon.

2. How to role play this in a productive way -- that is -- how do I keep the story going? In real life I wouldn't have anything to do with such a person and I hope I'd turn him in to the authorities if he was a danger to others. (Cue sound effect: needle scratch on a record). But that would make a crummy role play and certainly would derail the game. Does anyone have suggestions for saying 'yes' in this kind of improv situation?


Thu Apr 05, 2018 4:42 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
I don't allow evil PCs...ever. Reason being an evil character is out for themselves only (NE), doesn't give a rip and no action is beneath them (CE), or simply grates on everyone's nerves (LE). Of course that is really simplified and cleaned up. The LE would have the best chance of getting along in a party simply due to their penchant for adhering to the party rules though they may be excessively cruel and heartless towards enemies or even those others that really are not on their short list of people to respect. The CE and NE would simply screw the rest of the party, public, and anyone else in their way, over at whatever whim or opportunity presented itself. Obviously this would result in a LOT of party infighting, friction, and just plain bad feelings all the way around...including killing their fellow party members if they felt there was a reason. A good example of an evil PC party would be the Death Eaters from the Harry Potter franchise from a realistic perspective. I've also gamed with a group that exclusively ran evil PCs and it was more 'how to screw your neighbor' than delve the dungeon...until the one night I took the stops off while playing my Anti-Paladin/Cavalier...and had one person end up in the bathroom physically sick by the time I was done. (shrug) Evil wasn't so attractive to them after that.

Not saying that it isn't possible, but the party becomes more of a ticking time bomb in the campaign than it does a cohesive team. One way to mitigate that to some extent is to make sure the evil PC has definitive goals and character traits then make sure the player adheres to them otherwise the alignment simply becomes an excuse for disruption in my experience.

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Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:12 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Yeah, I never allow for evil characters either. I used to, but I had my group come close to a nuclear melt down because of it.

As for how to role play it, that comes down to how you play what your character actually knows versus what the evil player lets your character know. Ultimately, your probably going to have to decide if your more evil than good.

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Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:26 pm
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Lore Drake
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Penny-Whistle wrote:
Plenty of advice online about how to play an evil character but much less on how to play alongside one. Looking for ideas on:

1. Why would my neutral character bother hanging with this person? Motivation ideas, please! This becomes an even trickier problem for those aligned as good I reckon.

2. How to role play this in a productive way -- that is -- how do I keep the story going? In real life I wouldn't have anything to do with such a person and I hope I'd turn him in to the authorities if he was a danger to others. (Cue sound effect: needle scratch on a record). But that would make a crummy role play and certainly would derail the game. Does anyone have suggestions for saying 'yes' in this kind of improv situation?



Perhaps you are trying to get them to stop being evil? You may have hope that it's possible to get them to change.

Maybe you are related to the character and have a familial obligation, willingly or reluctantly or a mix of both, to accompany them?

You may be under an order from a superior to be with this person for some reason, even though it goes against your judgement or morals.

You are part of an organization, group, etc. that goes beyond alignment and therefore cannot or will not take their alignment into consideration.


Fri Apr 06, 2018 12:58 am
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Lore Drake

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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
What about "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"? Perhaps both the good and evil character share a common enemy or goal which cannot be accomplished without the other. Thus it is in their best interest to work together.

A paladin and an assassin would have much fun with that scenario... heh.


-Fizz


Fri Apr 06, 2018 1:21 am
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Sometimes these things just play out. The evil person finally needs the team's help but finds himself standing alone as everyone walks away. The journey between start of play and that point is just a sum total of the events your characters must stand by and watch until it's the final straw.

Or, you all realize you are evil and decide to just go with it when you see the success this person enjoys. But usually the person in question has already been seduced to the dark side and you have missed that scene and won't be similarly seduced.

Often when I have a game with a strong alignment factor, good and evil, or law and chaos, are strongly tangible, real things in the world, that are forces and sides that you truly embody as a being. This is more strong with monsters, such as the chaotic elves or nixie of Three Hearts and Three Lions, and humans have the most choice in the matter. Other games, the alignments are Cthulhu and Sucks To Be You. Or the world is really neutral and it requires strong convictions to be anything else. But it's good to find out what alignment really means in your setting.

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Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:30 am
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
So many great ideas and thoughts. Thank you.

I decided my character would tend to err on the side of pragmatism starting with openly addressing any elephants in the room (in this case the torture of a child) and to set some personal boundaries. But I see that Treebore's insight is absolutely correct. You might guess that a lawful or good character would be impacted the most but maybe not. I would argue that the neutral character is most at risk for an alignment shift. There will inevitably come a time when a decision has to be made that will tilt her in the direction of good or evil. As Howard Zinn said: "You can't be neutral on a moving train." Even if you sit still the scenery around you is changing. Passivity means you have sided with the person controlling the action. By definition you will be a collaborator. Please refrain from quoting Rush. hahaha


Fri Apr 06, 2018 1:16 pm
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Lore Drake

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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Of course, i have seen a number of characters who would be described as evil despite their official alignment. So many are out for gold, arguing how to split the treasure, just wanting to expand their own power and glory. They may not kill innocents, but they're not out for the betterment of others either.

I had a supposedly lawful good monk who always acted alone, never coordinated with the rest of the party, erratic and unpredicable. and out for herself. She was chaotic neutral at best.

But the most egregious instance involved a pc paladin. He killed a foe who had surrendered, so that the other characters would not get the foe's money. Yeah... bye bye paladin powers... only time i've had to do that. Heh.


-Fizz


Fri Apr 06, 2018 9:49 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Many years ago I played an evil PC in a campaign that lasted a little over 5 years. The party included several neutral PCs, two good aligned PCs (one of which I was able to convince to change his alignment over the years of the campaign), and my PC. Even with the wide variety of alignments, our party was damned good at accomplishing goals. I coined the term "cooperative evil" while playing with that group. The biggest thing about playing an evil PC in a group is this: Don't sh!t where you lay.

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Sat Apr 07, 2018 10:39 pm
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Lore Drake
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Ancalagon wrote:
I coined the term "cooperative evil" while playing with that group. The biggest thing about playing an evil PC in a group is this: Don't sh!t where you lay.


Exactly, just because a character is evil doesn't mean they will not cooperate if it serves them best to do so. When the time comes, as it usually does, that they come to an impasse with the others, then that character may not be in the game any longer, depending on how egregious it becomes. If the players are ok with this, then I allow evil characters.


Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:05 pm
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Unkbartig
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
I think there are lots of reasons one could find to adventure with an evil character – provided they’re not playing DE – Disruptive Evil. As long as they’re not screwing over the group with their actions, there’s a lot of wiggle room for alignment.

Think of it as having to work with someone who you don’t like, or that you need to fight beside to accomplish your goals. The analogy doesn’t quite hold up, but look at the adventuring party of Frodo, Samwise, and Gollum. They needed Gollum, but certainly didn’t trust him.


Mon Apr 09, 2018 3:05 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Jyrdan Fairblade wrote:
I think there are lots of reasons one could find to adventure with an evil character – provided they’re not playing DE – Disruptive Evil. As long as they’re not screwing over the group with their actions, there’s a lot of wiggle room for alignment.

Think of it as having to work with someone who you don’t like, or that you need to fight beside to accomplish your goals. The analogy doesn’t quite hold up, but look at the adventuring party of Frodo, Samwise, and Gollum. They needed Gollum, but certainly didn’t trust him.


That only works for a short time if the player is truly playing as evil rather than simply chaotic convenient, which is the case for almost everyone playing evil characters. Most, thankfully, just do not have it in them to play as truly evil nor have they had close exposure to such. Evil is a lot more than the simple personality clash that you are describing with the work analogy.

Gollum turned on them the moment it appeared he had the advantage. Evil is simply too arrogant, self-centered, selfish, and greedy to cooperate within anyone else for long and will always end up as DE without a twinge to their conscience. Those other goody two shoes losers are tools (in every meaning of the word), nothing more. And disposable at that, especially after whatever the goal of the moment has been achieved. It's why evil is typically self defeating in the long run. A more realistic example:

A Neutral Evil PC wizard per se, is part of the party with a goal of gaining power and knowledge. The party is advantageous to him for both protection and making it easier to gather wealth, materials, etc. However, the party comes across a magical item the NE Wizard really wants and yet is refused by the party, the item going to someone else. At that moment, the party becomes the enemy and the Wizard, if the player is truly playing evil, will begin to ruthlessly work against the party and planning the demise of the temporary owner of his magic item. A lawful evil wizard would simply be accepting, if not irritated, since the split occurred by the party rules though spells might come a little late or less than honest information forthcoming in the future while the ire is worked through. The Chaotic Evil wizard is simply likely to attack or kill them off covertly (and gruesomely as future examples and for the fear factor) at the first opportunity not likely to result in his death after the rest of the party defied him.

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Mon Apr 09, 2018 4:04 pm
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Lore Drake

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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Go0gleplex wrote:
Gollum turned on them the moment it appeared he had the advantage. Evil is simply too arrogant, self-centered, selfish, and greedy to cooperate within anyone else for long and will always end up as DE without a twinge to their conscience.


Well, Gollum was an individual, and had much more going on with him than just being evil. One could say that selfishness is an evil trait, but i don't think evil necessarily means selfishness, at least not in the sense of your own well being.

Consider orcs. They work in groups, form armies, have an organized structure. They hate others, and they do what is best for orc-kind at the expense of others. But being evil doesn't mean they will automatically turn on each other. Individuals might, but if they were all ultimately destined to turn on each other they would have killed themselves off long ago.

Another example: rakshasa, or mind-flayers. Very very evil. But they don't just kill each other at the first opportunity- and they're highly intelligent, so if they wanted to find ways to backstab their buddies, they could.

I would say turning on each other is more a chaotic quality, not evil. The same can happen with good characters- they may work together for a common cause, but once that cause has ended, they may go separate ways (and even become enemies).


-Fizz


Mon Apr 09, 2018 7:24 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Orcs, I believe, are LAWFUL evil...so yes. They will work in concert...as long as they are afraid of the more powerful orcs or ogres or whomever else is in charge. The only reason they have not overran the less prolific races is because they DO turn on themselves. Tribal rivalries, internecine power struggles to make themselves top dog (trial by combat for position and judgement per se), etc. just like humans...only they lack the moral compass that tempers the non-evil humans and achieve things by unrestricted force and treachery.

Your assumptions on mind-flayers and rakshasa are not supported by the many works of fiction they appear in or the many modules. Yes, they are highly intelligent and do cooperate...because it is beneficial for their goals of the moment. However, they work for themselves first and foremost and only comply when the other partner(s) are stronger...and don't for one minute think they are not plotting the downfall of their superior(s) so they can replace them at the first valid opportunity. And if you had fully read my initial arguments, you would see that I do make distinctions due between lawful, neutral, and chaotic evil.

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Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:36 pm
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Lore Drake

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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Quote:
Quote:
Evil is simply too arrogant, self-centered, selfish, and greedy to cooperate within anyone else for long and will always end up as DE without a twinge to their conscience.

And if you had fully read my initial arguments, you would see that I do make distinctions due between lawful, neutral, and chaotic evil.


Yes, i saw. But i was referring to your earlier statement about evil never cooperating with anyone else- there was no mention of law/chaos in that.

Quote:
Orcs, I believe, are LAWFUL evil...so yes. They will work in concert...as long as they are afraid of the more powerful orcs or ogres or whomever else is in charge. The only reason they have not overran the less prolific races is because they DO turn on themselves.


This sounds contradictory to me. You're saying lawful creatures only work in concert if forced to. That's not a lawful trait but a chaotic one. Chaotic creatuers only follow authority if they are forced to- they're the ones that need brute power to keep them in line, and break apart into individuals if that power is broken.

Lawful creatures tend to have "obedience to authority" (from PH). The source of that authority can be anything such as strength, intelligence, charisma,... whatever. Lawfulness doesn't preclude ambition, and individuals can do things (horrible things if evil) to work their way up the ranks, following the rules of their social structure. If there is a power gap, then there may be infighting to establish the new order. But once the order is established, they largely respect it.

As for mind flayers and rakshasa, to what works of fiction are you referring? Works of fiction worry me since there can be so many variations (vampires aren't evil and drive volvos you know, the Twilight books said so). But in the written adventures i can recall, they have worked together.

Basically, the way you phrased things made it sound like evil will always be individualistic. I don't think that is the case- that's what law/chaos is for.


-Fizz


Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:22 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Evil is individualistic by its very nature. The books, Sword Coast series, 3e short novels, Spell Jammer, several different modules over the years, etc. I tend to read 4-15 books a week and have for the last 40+ years. It all tends to get jumbled about anymore.

I also spent a lot of time in the 90's discussing human nature, including evil and psychosis as it applies to the human species with the uncle of my second ex. He held a PhD in both Psychology and Anthropology. I also have my own personal experiences with evil I draw my conclusions from.

Orcs...you have two equal tribes led by two equal leaders. They are doing a joint attack on a human village. Each will either command their tribe individually, doing as they see fit without regard to the other tribe or the leaders will fight or have champions fight to establish who is actually in command...or they will attack each other so they do not have to share the spoils with the other tribe and can increase the number of those under their command. It will not happen any other way. Pride, ego, and the threat to their own authority will not allow it to without a more powerful third party that they have to respect, if for no other reason than to preserve their own life at the time.

But, rather than waste everyone's forum space...maybe this whole thing might be better served by a Domesday article or such.

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Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:34 pm
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Lore Drake

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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
Go0gleplex wrote:
Evil is individualistic by its very nature.


I disagree with this. If that is the case, then there is no point to having a chaos/law axis for evil characters because you're lumping them all with the same behavior. It's the difference between the ethical and moral axes.

From the PH: "Lawful characters characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition and judge harshly those who fall short of their duties". None of that sounds individualistic to me.

Conversely (also from PH): "Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition and do what they promise only if they feel like it".

Now, for completeness, the PH says the following about evil: "evil implies hurting, oppressing, killing others and selfishness". Perhaps that "selfishness" is from where you get the notion of individualism, but those are not the same thing. Selfishness means they don't care about others one way or the other- it doesn't mean they hate structure or hierarchy.

Lawful evil characters "value structure and order ... place no limit on attaining it, especially if the goal is their own benefit." A group of lawful evil characters don't need a strong man to keep them in line- they follow their leader, and may want to be so, but they do so according to rules.

The chaotic evil character "tends not to value anything, often seeking to destroy others for their own selfish reasons. They seek power ... wield it as they see fit".

So when you say "evil is individualistic by its very nature", that feels like chaotic evil to me, not evil in general.

Quote:
I also spent a lot of time in the 90's discussing human nature, including evil and psychosis as it applies to the human species with the uncle of my second ex. He held a PhD in both Psychology and Anthropology. I also have my own personal experiences with evil I draw my conclusions from.


Perhaps in the psych / anthropology context, but i'm using the terms as defined in the context of roleplaying (and whether they are playable as PC's in the long term). Clearly, no rpg-defined alignment fully describes anyone, even inside of a game, much less so in the real world.

Quote:
Orcs...you have two equal tribes led by two equal leaders. They are doing a joint attack on a human village. Each will either command their tribe individually, doing as they see fit without regard to the other tribe or the leaders will fight or have champions fight to establish who is actually in command...or they will attack each other so they do not have to share the spoils with the other tribe and can increase the number of those under their command. It will not happen any other way. Pride, ego, and the threat to their own authority will not allow it to without a more powerful third party that they have to respect, if for no other reason than to preserve their own life at the time.


Again, i disagree. There are many ways this could go. Orcs may be brutes, but they are not stupid. If the two groups are equally matched, they may decide it's better if they make an arrangment in advance ("what you kill you keep", or some such). Per the definition of lawfulness, they would uphold the agreement.

That said, even if the orcs did not make an agreement and did go to fight each other, what you're describing are not acts of evil. The leaders fighting or choosing champions is an organized way to reach an agreement- i'd call that lawful. Good characters can have duels too, the difference being it might not be to the death.


-Fizz


Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:50 pm
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Unkbartig
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Post Re: Playing with Evil Characters
The thing is that being arrogant, selfish, self-centered, and greedy is hardly solely the domain of evil characters.

An evil character that desires wealth and personal power, but otherwise aligns their goals with the group, is far less disruptive to a campaign than an LG paladin that tries to hand the thief PC over to the authorities for pick-pocketing.

I do not think an evil character is inherently destructive to the group dynamic. Certainly, some players use the alignment as an excuse for disruptive behavior, but chances are they’d do those things regardless of alignment. These days, I see more warning signs when a PC comes by with CN alignment than anything else.

I’ve played evil PCs and LG paladins, and whatever my concept is, I’ve always done my part to make it work with the group as a whole.

Go0gleplex wrote:

Gollum turned on them the moment it appeared he had the advantage. Evil is simply too arrogant, self-centered, selfish, and greedy to cooperate within anyone else for long and will always end up as DE without a twinge to their conscience. Those other goody two shoes losers are tools (in every meaning of the word), nothing more. And disposable at that, especially after whatever the goal of the moment has been achieved. It's why evil is typically self defeating in the long run. A more realistic example:


Tue Apr 10, 2018 8:08 pm
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