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Thread: Ask a GM [09/14/08]: "Evil" Campaigns

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    Ask a GM [09/14/08]: "Evil" Campaigns

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    Ben Rostoker asks, "Have you ever done an 'evil' campaign?"

    Have you ever done an 'evil' campaign? That is have a campaign where all or most of the PCs were of the Evil alignment and were either fighting other Evil monsters and Villains or Heroes?

    In other words have you ever turned the whole D&D model of Heroes saving the day from the evil monster upside down?

    If so what were the results?
    If not why?
    Robert A. Howard
    Pen & Paper Games
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    No, I have never done an evil campaign. I have seen a couple of posts on the site from some folks who have been in a campaign like that though. The closest thing to an actual evil campaign that I have done is that there was one time that I managed to get an evil NPC (non player character) into the party. The NPC was actually a henchmen of the parties main adversary. When the party was getting close to the adversary's stronghold, they devised a plan to gain access that with any luck would not draw attention to themselves. They woke the next morning only to find that the NPC skipped out on them in the middle of the night while he was standing watch. It didn't take them long to realize that their plan was now seriously compromised.

    There is a thread on the forums that has a whole debate about different levels of evil. Going with some of the view points on there, I do think that it would be possible to have an evil aligned party that is not bent on total world domination. They would however be completely interested in making things better for themselves, no matter how it affects anyone else.

    At the present time, I'm not inclined to have a game with a totally evil alligned party. Just not my cup of tea.
    Last edited by cplmac; 09-09-2008 at 08:45 AM. Reason: spelling error

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    I have run an evil campaign, but I have never played in one. For the most part I avoid them because people tend to think that "evil campaign" is analogous to "go crazy and kill each other."

    Years ago some of my friends wanted to try an evil campaign and I agreed to run it despite that reservation that I hold. The one thing that I did to attempt to put the worry to rest was make a single simple rule: The characters must work together as a team.

    That rule made all the difference. The campaign went fine until it's natural end, and while there was some conflict within the party, it really was not about beating each other up or killing every single random person they found.

    Through the course of the game sessions they realized that the more overtly evil they played the characters, the more annoying the heroes who came to stop them were. That balance kept things in check.

    My advice for anyone who wants to run an evil campaign:

    1. Tell the players to work as a team.
      • Maybe they are part of the same cult.
      • Maybe they work for someone who will obliterate them if they don't.
      • Maybe they are family.

    2. If they do great and public evil, send in the heroes and whip on them something good. Teach them caution.
    3. GOALS! GOALS! GOALS! Keep the characters too busy with things to do so they don't have time to kill each other.
      • Maybe they are hunting down things needed to summon Orcus and don't have time to squabble.
      • Maybe they are racing to stop heroes from uncovering a goodly artifact.
      • Maybe a war is going to start and they have to accomplish their goals before it can.


    That's my effective short list. If you do that, and your players are really interested in a campaign, it's pretty easy from there.

    Other games/genre's:
    I think it actually gets easier once you step away from fantasy/D&D. Imagine evil characters in a Cthulu campaign who are trying to summon an elder squid? The end (insanity) might come faster, but it could be really fun.

    With Vampire the characters are inherently evil to begin with.

    A "modern" game could be pretty fun. Reverse James Bond type stuff. The players are agents of world organizations bent on evil ends. Spy work for the bad guys would be a lot of fun.

    Future games would be great too. Cyberpunk with evil on the mind would be great.

    I think that it's easier in more modern/futuristic settings because people assume that the reach and scope of the law is a bit stronger than in fantasy, so they act accordingly on instinct.

    Fun
    The key, as always, is fun. Don't run an evil campaign if you know you won't enjoy it. As the GM your first obligation is to have fun -- because if you aren't, nobody in your game will. That noted, it's very possible to have fun running an evil game, provided you make a few things clear before the dice ever start to roll.

    Good gaming!
    Last edited by Grimwell; 09-01-2008 at 10:47 AM.
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    Grimwell

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    Yes, I have done an evil campaign. I believe there are six key rules to keep in mind if you are planning an evil campaign and they are:

    Rule One: Lawful evil not chaotic evil
    Rule Two: Villians need style
    Rule Three: Villians need motivation
    Rule Four: While good can be passive, evil must be active
    Rule Five: Minions come in two flavors: Competent or Loyal
    Rule Six: Villians need heroes

    Okay, that's a lot to digest. Let's break them down and take them in order.

    Rule One: Lawful Evil not chaotic evil.

    It is fun to be bad guys. It is fun to laugh maniacally, have minions (who you kill if they DARE fail you), concoct an evil scheme, build an underground superfortress complete with death ray, raise an undead army, construct a giant robot o' doom, organize a cult of fanactic devotees and try to kill those fools FOOLS who dare oppose you! They laughed LAUGHED AT ME THE ACADEMY! BUT WHO'S LAUGHING NOW AS YOU TASTE MY VENGEANCE?! ON MY COMMAND, MY MINIONS, UNLEASH HEL...

    Ahem...sorry.

    What isn't fun is petty squabbles amongst the PCs that end in everybody killing everybody else. And so your villians (at least those in a group) must play well with others. You are all members of the Guild of Calamitous Intent and that stops you from offing each other without first proving your fellow villians are traitors. The grand master of assassins forbids one assassin from attacking another. The Zulkirs of the Red Wizard forbid magical dueling without permission. However you arrive at inter-party cooperation, it is essential in a successful evil game.

    Well planned, carefully crafted betrayals can be fun. Random interparty violence ... almost never so.

    Rule Two: Villians need style.

    Yes, you are evil. But there is a big difference between being evil and being tasteless. If your evil campaign devolves into anything overly graphic (particularly regarding torture, rape or the abuse of children) or overly banal (repetitive crimes, boring schemes that take way too long), then your problem is that your villians have no style. As the GM, you must encourage style.

    Build in a mechanical encouragement for style. Give a best villianous moment award at the end of every session. Entertaining schemes with lots of panache just seem to work better. Boring or tasteless schemes ... well ... they just always seem to fall flat.

    Rule Three: Villians need motivation.

    Ask yourself, why are these characters evil? Why are they out to take over the world? Why do they want to kill the hero? If you can't answer that question quickly and directly, your villians don't have a strong motivation. Why does Doctor Doom keep attacking the Fantastic Four? To prove his superiority over Reed Richards! That's a strong motivation. Why does Ernst Stavros Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE, keeping trying to kill James Bond? Revenge! Strong motivation. Why does the Emperor keep trying to crush the Rebel Alliance? So the Sith will once more rule the galaxy! Again, a strong motivation. Evil without motivation is boring and lifeless.

    You either need to build in a reason while creating the campaign or make sure the PCs arrive at a suitable goal during character creation.

    Rule Four: Good can be passive, evil must be active.

    A good guy can sit at home and peacefully raise crops. A good guy can wait for the villian to come along and kick over his sandbox. The villian does not have that luxury. To be evil, you must be doing evil.

    You've got an organization, style and a motivation. Now, you need a plan. Concocting a wicked scheme and implementing it can be the most rewarding but most challenging part of running an evil game. The best plans are the ones that you and the PCs come up with together.

    Rule Five: Minions come in two flavors: Competent or Loyal.

    The villians will likely have minions but only rarely will they be of any real use. Minions either die like flies, failing at their tasks, or betray you. Its the problem with being evil, its just hard to find good help.

    Why is this? It forces the evil overlord to leave his underground base and take matters into his own hands. This gets the villian into the thick of the action and that is a good thing.

    Rule Six: Villians need heroes.

    Perhaps most important, as much as they don't want to admit it ... villians need heroes. Without heroes, who would there be to appreciate the full geometry of your wicked, world conquering plan?

    Have fun and remember ... the heroes' feeble skills are no match for the power of the dark side!

    Gary

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    I have both played and ran evil campaigns, and I do like them. Generally when I do run an evil campaign, the players belong to a said group/organization, must follow the group's code of ethics and must work for the groups goal or goals. Traitors and screw ups are punished severely, if they stray outside this code, work against the group or no longer work towards the goals. Some evil groups I'll allow NE, but not always.

    Rarely, I've seen the party be a group of advisors or the leaders of the group they belong to. This has worked, but generally from what I've seen, only works for a very short time (around a month or 2).

    ((Mcbride, I love your rules-I think I mostly have done my evil campaigns like you have written up, but never could write it down how I did it. ))
    There's nothing to fear except fear itself and, of course, the boogeyman.

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  6. #6
    Mac Who Else Guest
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    Yes I have done such a campaign, twice. The first time I played, we all worked for a Vampire who was controlling the Politics of the City, our group was a death Cleric, Rogue, Assassin(me), and a Fighter. It worked well, we all planned and schemed, and of course didn't trust each other, but we all all knew they Vampire would slaughter us if we started killing one another... so it kept people in line icly.


    the second time I played a swashbuckler in a group and the group had a large ic break down where they turned on each other over distrust and almost everyone got killed, save my character... who was actually C.G and working TO kill the entire group off for the King. they can be loads of fun, the part where they DON'T work are actually at 2 spots....
    1. Power Gamers, players who think the game is all about them and they want to be the STAR all the time and do things simply to screw with other players... people I generally don't r.p with.
    2. Keeping the characters who are evil from turning on each other, you need powerful NPCS normally to keep that in check.

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    I ran a D&D 3.5 game that I called the "Thieves of Turean" campaign once. Each of the PCs started as a low level thief or other miscreant on the wrong side of the law.

    The adventures generally had them warring with other guilds and taking jobs. One of them created an apothecary as a front for a poison / alchemy store. Another was a cat burglar.

    As GdMcbride said, as long as they are Lawful Evil it is not as big a problem.
    Current characters:
    SW: SAGA DoD - Lt. Raimi "Dead-Eye" Joanes (Noble/Soldier/Officer) Alive

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    I like being the GM so I can control the Villains (Muuhahahahhaa), I'll have the players save the day for me.

    Yes, I believe in an experienced group an evil party can be a lot of fun. but it's just I always encounter the same problems in every evil campaign I play/GM:
    - The players start randomly murdering everyone they see
    - The players turn on each other in-character
    - The player turn on each other out-of-character
    End of campaign.

    So I just stick with a Neutral or Good party and I don't allow evil characters in my group.

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    I have, and it was AWESOME!

    We referred to it as the (Mean Green) "Avengers" or the "Brotherhood of Revenge" campaign. Though we were all "evil" orcs, ogres and goblin characters we were all bound by the same driving force, revenge. This is what tied us together and kept us from killing each other.

    The second game we played in which we were all evil was a Thieves World game in which we were all (big surprise) thieves. But we had started our own guild and were muscling in on the established guilds territory. A very dangerous game in which you had to really rely on each other.

    One thing that helped was that in both games no one was really motivated by greed or self interest. Also we didn't have any lone-wolf power gamer types. Like has been mentioned before, shared goals and the killing of traitors can really help a game like this.
    It's as if there are people who play RPGs that don't have computers or something. Seriously, people need to upgrade to 1994 already. - - -TheRedRobedWizard

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    i'm pretty down on evil pcs. one of the rules of my campaigns are that there are no evil pcs, only evil npcs. cross that line, and welcome to the character creation dice. thus i've never run an evil campaign. i've never played an evil pc, either. i have guested in as an evil npc for the dm before. one-shot encounter type stuff.

    there is one exception where i would allow players to be the evil pcs. i once heard of a campaign where, as a break, they all played evil pcs up to a pretty high level. then they started another campaign, and it was back to hero-ing as usual. only, the villains of the new campaign were the characters they had just finished playing. thus they had to work their way up to high enough level to take down their previous characters. ^^ that sounded like fun. talk about investment. =D
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    I have run and played evil games and I personaly enjoy playing an evil character. I have found that evil characters are often held together by the fact that no one knows who's side the rest of the group will take if it comes to blows and no one wants to fight 3-1 odds. I have found that alot of players want to play evil because they have the fredom to do whatever they want and are either smart enough to not be outlandishly evil or that because they now the ability to be evil it losses its apeal. And I agree with the eariler statments that you must have a greater evil to keep them in line. There is a modual called the revers dungen it has a few diffrent games where you play monster repealing heros from your cave.

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    <<<I have found that evil characters are often held together by the fact that no one knows who's side the rest of the group will take if it comes to blows and no one wants to fight 3-1 odds.>>>

    Too bad at least 2 players of my group are very close friends and they always work together. They betrayed a character of me while I was stealing something and my character got in prison. Then I had to make a new character.

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    Arch Lich Thoth-Amon is offline Cursed by the Gods
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    I've been playing evil type campaigns since the '70's, and they were always fun and successful most of the time. What we havent done was turn it around and have our characters kill hero's. Of course they would if the heros got between them and their goal.

    What i've always wanted to do but, as of yet havent had a chance to do, is to play a Reverse Dungeon type game. This is where the humans and such attack a band of... lets say, kobolds, found in their layer-we being the kobolds. There is at least one module out that lets you reverse the role. Looks to be fun.

    So...

    #1: Yes
    #2: Not really. Only if a hero got in the way.
    #3: Very successful
    Last edited by Arch Lich Thoth-Amon; 09-19-2008 at 11:52 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cortosis View Post
    <<<I have found that evil characters are often held together by the fact that no one knows who's side the rest of the group will take if it comes to blows and no one wants to fight 3-1 odds.>>>

    Too bad at least 2 players of my group are very close friends and they always work together. They betrayed a character of me while I was stealing something and my character got in prison. Then I had to make a new character.
    Wow thas pretty harsh. I use to game with 2 guys that always teamed up also so I can see how that would make a diffrence in game play.

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    Arrow

    First, 'm going to answer the Thread's query - and then I will review and respond to what all else is posted here.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    It is rare for me to get a group of Players that are mature enough to do play in an all evil game.

    By maturity, I mean that the Player can laugh when another Player's Character shives their Character in the back - killing them.

    If I am remembering correctly, I have only run two successful all evil games:
    Undermountain & The Temple of Elemental Evil. (AD&D 2e for both.)

    In both cases the Players made their characters and met as seperate individuals.
    Unlike a lot of "good-games" where just-created characters of even 1st level simply know each other (mostly to save time by avoiding the RP of meeting - and get straight to the Adventure) as the DM, I make them all actually roleplay out what their character is, and what makes them Evil: "What are your reasons for being this way?" and "What are the limits that this is willing to do to achieve their goals?". There are more then enough reasons for them to get together: Greed being the most common, with lots of powerful foes to kill to get the treasure being next up.

    Sadly, I have never succeed in running a full Campaign that went beyond just Adventuring.
    To me, and a lot of my NPCs - Adventurers are just another type of Mercenary: they are just more picky about who they take money from, and what jobs they choose to do.

    Heroes and Villains are the ones that really stand out from this crowd: anyone can pick up a little bit of Class skill and kill a few dire rats and related monsters.

    Heroes should jump in and help - even when there is no apparent reward.

    Villains should give those Adventurers reason to become Heroes.

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