View Full Version : Evil Campaigns & Saving the Players from themselves

2007-02-21, 12:01 PM
Two months ago I returned home from CNU for winter break and managed to get involved in a D&D campaign run by a few of my friends back home. There were only 3 PCs, each representing a different part of the spectrum of evil.

A Chaotic Evil Human Rogue 5/Invisible Blade 1 with little wisdom
A Lawful evil Human Cleric of Zarliss (Human Nazi god) and Herman, his cohort and "Reich Marshal"
And a Neutral Evil half elf Barbarian (my character)

It went well, and was one of the most intense games I have ever played in. We worked together for the "greater" evil, trying to stealthily build the worship of Zarliss up...

On the other hand my RPing troupe at CNU can't seem to play in an intense campaign at all. They fold like a wet paper bag under pressure every time, and then they equate evil with the worst of stereo typical Chaotic Evil.

Any advice on what I can do to adjust the campaign to my players' lack of compitence? (sp? I'm tired...)

2007-02-21, 12:05 PM
Not really sure what you're getting at. Are you saying that your players don't want to play in an evil campaign? If that's all it is, just don't play an evil campaign.

- Saph

2007-02-21, 12:09 PM
Well, it sounds like your 'together' party was playing the Idealized Evil route. Idealized evil characters work surprisingly similar to their good counterparts, they're just dedicated to destruction, etc. rather than saving people and things.

A less heroic, more realistic evil group, however, is very, very prone to infighting and PC murder. If you want to get a group that thinks like this doing evil deeds, you might want to go with a more neutral route. Say, rather than an evil deity, they serve a neutral deity that encourages an equalization between good and evil forces. Then, you can drop them into veritable utopias and you can reasonably expect them to raise hell.

2007-02-21, 12:11 PM
I'd suggest an "evil mentor." Remember that kindly old wizard back in first level, that helps the PC's along and lets them know something about what's going on, keeps them in line, and gives them direction? Bad guys need that too. A higher-ranking evil cleric, perhaps; or their boss in the Thieves' Guild.

It's actually a bit easier for a bad guy to get his PC's in line. Let them screw up once, and have the boss bad guy rescue them. Then, beat them within a HP of their lives. "I will forgive you. Once. Fail me again, and if the town guard doesn't kill you, I'll make you wish they had."

2007-02-21, 12:38 PM
Thank you Telonius, thats a very good, very simple fix.

Indon, we came to the conclusion that in this Good dominant world we would have to work together towards our goal... but Our cleric never healed us, We never trusted the rogue and my fellow PCs were very, very wary of the strange, scarred up fellow with more hp than the two of them combined. Also, they want to play evil characters; they just suck at it.

2007-02-21, 01:22 PM
evil = power lusting.
that is generally the way of it, just ask them questions about what their characters want to achieve and work from there. you can use an npc to do this(the big bad guy behind/above them) or just ask them yourself.
even most evil clerics worship an evil god because that god encourages them to do what they want to anyway

2007-02-21, 02:12 PM
evil = power lusting.

I'd phrase it "evil = selfish", but that's basically what you said. Not everyone wants power. Some just want money, or freedom (yo ho, a pirate's life for me), or any number of other things. (I usually put "good = selfless, evil = selfish, lawful = cooperative, chaotic = disruptive").

The only way I've ever had evil campaigns work (and it's been a while) is to make sure that it's the party that's selfish as a whole, rather than the individual PCs. Otherwise it just degenerates. There are usually a few ways to tie that: siblings in the party, long time friends, etc. - or, of course, the great equalizer: money. If it's force, as Telonius mentioned, it better be from outside, otherwise there's internal resentment.

But having the party be hired by someone else for gobs of money is usually a good cohesive force, too.

2007-02-21, 03:01 PM
Read Darken Comic. That is how you play an evil party. Or you can read War of the Spider Queen.

2007-02-21, 03:12 PM
Heh, guess this is where I stop lurking.

Here's my take:
Good: generally helps and aides others even at considerable cost and/or risk to self.
Neutral (on the G/E axis): may help or aid others if the cost and risk to self are appropriate or worth the benefit; may cause cost/damage to others if the benefits outweigh the cost and risk to self.
Evil: generally performs actions that provide the best self-benefit even at considerable cost/damage to others.

It's really all about motivation, not choice of action. Take a character who slaughters an invading horde of monsters and takes payment from the town being threatened. A Good character chose to protect the innocent and take an acceptable reward to help said adventurer afford to continue his good deeds. A Neutral character chose to do a job that had a decent chance of success and got paid far more than the typical weekly wages. An Evil character coerced the town into paying the greatest reward possible, possibly through threat or coercion ("I'd hate to see another tribe of savages catch word that your town is so defenseless...")

Here's the bottom line, though:
* Your players are not their characters.
* Your players are, in fact, completely in charge of the choices their characters make.
* It is your players' task to make decisions that fit the outlook and flavor of their character while avoiding the dissolution of the party mechanic.

This goes for evil characters, as much as it goes for the Good dwarven fighter whose player is too wrapped up in his character's disgust of the gnome pulling on his leg and calling him "big brother" to come up with a reason why the dwarf would permit her to tag along. (Thankfully, the player decided, "she'll follow anyway; if I agree, it might persuade her to shut up.")

That's the challenge of good roleplay; simultaneously creating a complex and compelling character while making decisions that build on the story and campaign, rather than taking away from it. This goes double for evil characters; so many players focus on "my character does what they want," instead of realizing that even the most vile person will bide their time, given the promise or even hint of a better opportunity to come.

So, here's some suggestions:
* Sure, your cleric values the ability to heal himself instead of spending that magic on others... but also has the wisdom to see the value of having others in the debt of a god's service...
* Sure, no one trusts the rogue. That's why the others let the rogue hold all the money. No one can steal what they already have; the work pays better than going solo; and I'm sure the threat of one divine scry and a rage-induced beatdown can hold off the temptation to make off with the loot, at least for now...
* Sure, having someone who flies into a death-filled frenzy frequently triggers the fight-or-flight instinct in nearby allies... but it has been easy to direct that rage at convenient targets, and one cannot doubt the results.

Basically, everyone continues to do what best serves them. Or, more bluntly, everyone saves their backstabbing for the perfect moment, all the while anticipating their allies to do the same. But for today, you work together.

Hopefully that works for your players.

2007-02-21, 03:18 PM
I have run a successful evil campaign for over two years. The major thing that has saved the characters from themselves so to speak is that everyone views everything as a resource and thus more power for themselves. And all of the power structures are pyramidal and totally debased. (The acquisition of power/resources is a major features in my brand of evil) As an example say the players decide to destroy a town for the fun of it. They can do this but they have come to understand that this action will probably draw some powerful patron that controlled that town/resource out against them and if they succeed against him he will more than likely have connections through whatever organization he is affiliated with that will allow him to affect the players in some way if not outright killing them.
On the other hand, they also have the opportunity to sell themselves as a more potent resource and gain backers that would protect them.
Woven throughout all of this is the treachery and backstabbing common to "evil" societies as i define them. So there are far more reasons for them to walk the straight and narrow (protection, gaining more resources for themselves, opportunities to advance, opportunities to doublecross etc) than there are for them to go on random killing sprees.