Player Advice: How To Play A Good Evil Character
There is a saying where I come from, in the Frostlands to the north. That phrase is "Wicked Good". It means an emphatic declaration of the overall goodness of something, such as "That is a wicked good hamburger.". Any normal person in the "Flatlands" below the eternal tundra that is New England would see that phrase and think to themselves, "That makes no friggin sense."
Wicked means bad, and Good means... well, it's sort of self-explanatory, isn't it? But, there is a way that Bad and Good can come together in a glorious co-mingling that tantalizes the senses. Where these two forces can be combined into an amalgamation that, if done right, will leave your fellow players slack-jawed with awe.
The Evil Character.
"Even the bad guys are PC these days!"
Many Game Masters have feared this type of character for years, and for good reason. Most campaigns are centered around good aligned characters. Throwing an evil character in the mix is a good way to shatter party harmony and create in-fighting, or the aforementioned evil character will just live up to their alignment and murder everyone while they sleep, which is really the GM's job when you stop to think about it.
However, there is a way to play an evil character in such a way that they actually compliment your party instead of repel them. Today, I am going to show you how to make an evil character that will fit into your party without trying to murder everyone and everything for no reason at all.
"Remember to check with your GM before purchasing 'Baby Mail'"
What Is An Evil Character?
Before we can begin creating an evil character, we first need to know what one is. To do so, we need to break down the type of characters you might see at your gaming table.
The HeroThe hero is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. This is a good person. They do things selflessly, take joy in defending the innocent, battling evil, and sometimes sacrificing themselves for the greater good. You are not this person.
The Anti-HeroA character that does not posses conventional heroic qualities. This is the Wolverine or Punisher type. They have no qualms about killing people or breaking laws, as long it's for a somewhat good cause, or if someone pisses them off enough. Frank Castle straight up murders bad guys, because their bad guys. He has no notion of mercy, nor does he give a damn if someone wants to redeem themselves. You are almost this person, but even they air too much on the side of good.
The Evil HeroYes, you read that right. An Evil Hero. Let me explain. This character is profoundly immoral and malevolent. What does that mean? Where others may be caught up on moral issues like torture or sacrificing an innocent to further a greater cause. While the line between good and evil blurs with the anti-hero, it is crystal clear where you land. You are this person, and you are not a very good person.
But, you can do good things.
How Good Can Bad Be?
The key to playing an evil character in a party of good characters is to find a way to align your interests with theirs. This is best done in the backstory, but can evolve naturally in the story itself. Perhaps a big bad in the game wronged you somehow, and you want revenge. Well, there are some like-minded folk that want to stop this guy. While your plans might not be the same, the end goal meshes pretty well. And that is what you really want; similar goals. Moreover, you want to use the party to achieve these goals.
Figuring out what you want from your character and the party can be a pretty important step in the character creation process. That is why I took the liberty to whip up a short questionnaire to help you peg down those needs and wants.
Now, being evil doesn't necessarily mean deceiving your party into performing evil acts. They are perhaps your most important asset, and that kind of betrayal is not looked favorably upon.
Besides, not every single thing an evil character does needs to be overtly evil. Darth Vader does not eat his breakfast evilly. Doctor Doom does not brush his teeth maliciously (though I imagine there is a manichal laugh after spitting). You don't need to be evil in every single thing you do. Instead, be evil for the big moments. If a single man is the key to a prophecy that foretells the end of the world, and his continued survival means that the apocalypse is nigh, kill them. Kill them without a second thought, for no other reason than you live in the world, and would rather it didn't end today. But don't waste it on trivial things. Don't murder children for their toast. Threaten them sure, and take their toast, but don't murder them. That type of stuff draws unwelcome attention, and there are always bakeries.
Which brings me to my next point...
How To Be Evil In A Good Way
A lot of people think evil, and they immediately think of some genocidal maniac that needs to murder everything in their path. And while that may sum up the majority of player characters, it is not sort of representation you want to be associated with you. Why? Because your longevity is greatly reduced when people know you are actually evil.
Let me explain. Most campaign worlds are populated with good people. They are the majority. They live in the land, rule the kingdoms, and are otherwise on ever street corner. In short, you are hopelessly outnumbered, and as you well know, there is no shortage on adventurers to hunt you down, kill you, and steal your boots.
But you have bigger concerns. You also have bad guys to contend with. They don't usually take well to competition, and if you are traveling around with a group of good guys, you are likely to make some bad guy enemies. The world is quite literally against you.
That is if they know you are evil. And they shouldn't
A great evil character knows when to show that dark side, and when to play it close to the chest. Your reputation precedes you wherever you go, and if you associate yourself with good people, then all the good people out there will think you're a good person. They will avoid poking you with pitchforks and burning down your windmills.
But if it is that much work, trying to fit in with the "normies", then wouldn't it just be easier to play a good character?
Yes. Yes, it would.
Despite what Star Wars has taught us, evil is not the quick and easy path. Evil is a lot of friggin work, especially if you want to do anything with it. You need to work in secret, formulate plans, execute those plans, and repeat, every day, for the rest of your life, which will be shorter than most because, as I said before, there is no shortage of people that want to end you for the sake of justice or whatever good guys tell themselves to help them sleep at night.
"Yeah, I'm going to need those TPA reports on my desk by 4. If you could to that, that'd be greeeaaat..."
And that is the real difference between a good character and an evil one. Growth. A good guy is going to start good, end good, and in the middle, they will probably be good. Evil characters, on the other hand, evolve. They have more character growth than anyone else because they have to do more. Not want to; have to. You are evil. There is no way around that. You may think what you are doing is for some greater good, but the rest of the world will hate you. Over the course of the campaign, you will be tested, both morally and mentally, internally battling between doing noble things for selfish reasons and unforgivable things for noble reasons. You may even be redeemed over the course of the game, but you will still have to live with the darkness that festers in you like a cancer.
You are an interesting character.
20 Reasons To Be With The Party
The big question is, why would someone as stone cold evil as you want to pal around with a bunch of do-gooders. This is the real trick of getting your character into the party in a meaningful way. Below is a list of reasons why you would want to associate yourself with... those kinds of people.
1. You are their Captive/Prisoner
2. You owe a member of the party a life debt, or something similar.
3. A member of the party or one of their patrons is trying to redeem/reform you.
4. You were wronged by a villain the party opposes, or could oppose in the future, and want revenge.
5. You are related to a member of the party
6. You are romantically involved with a member of the party.
7. You are close friends with a member of the party.
8. The party is searching for an object you want or knows where to find it.
9. You have been cursed by dark powers, and now need to party's help to lift it.
10. You have been cursed by the powers of light to venture with the party and perform enough good deeds to break the curse.
11. Someone powerful is trying to kill you, and you use the party as protection.
12. You God/Dark Patron/Evil Master ordered you to venture off with the party, leaving their reason for you doing so completely unanswered.
13. You actively want to reform yourself/
14. Fulfilling a dying ally's final wish.
15. You know of a prophecy of which the party is central to and want to be a part of it.
16. A social experiment
17. Sent to spy on the party.
18. You desire power and wealth, and the party is the fastest path to it.
19. They are part of your master plan.
20. You were bored.
The 3 Flavors Of Evil
Evil is like Ice Cream, at its core, there are three flavors that really count. A Neapolitan blend of nefariousness. Those familiar with the alignment system are no strangers to what these three flavors are, though they are usually used to seeing them applied to the things you fight instead of fight beside. They are Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil. We're not going to concern ourselves with all that true neutral or chaotic neutral crap. They're indecisive. You, on the other hand, know what you're about, and it ain't good.
"Right about now Lawful Evil is wondering why it has to be Mr. Pink."
Like any alignment, there are pros and cons to be considered when choosing one, and because they are evil, I will include little tricks to help you blend in with a good party, at least a little.
Lawful Evil: These guys are black knights, the Doctor Dooms of the evil-verse. They are the perfectionists of darkness. They have a personal code of ethics (or lack of ethics) that they hold to, much the same way a paladin has a personal code they follow, though the Lawful Evil version has much wider loopholes.
- Pros: Plays well with others. Can put aside evil agenda to aid good guys, though usually for something in return, i.e. reward, protection, favors, etc. You have honor, twisted though it may be, it is often viewed upon favorably, especially if you are a villain of your word. It gets scarier when you start making threats and back them up with unparalleled precision.
- Cons: Their code of "ethics" might not fly with everyone, and some of their deeply held beliefs may be offensive to those of a more sensitive demeanor (good guys), and cause more conflicts in the party, because deep down, they know you're right.
- The Trick: Find a reason to align yourself with the party, especially against a common foe that is greater than you, though you may not outwardly admit that. Your methods may be brutal and merciless, but they are for the sake of the party and the greater good,
Neutral Evil: Also known as selfish evil, these guys are usually out for Number 1 (that's you, by the way). They don't take many actions unless it serves them in some way. These folks almost always have an agenda. They don't concern themselves with the hang ups that come with being lawful, and they don't feel the need to rebel against "the system" like their chaotic counterparts. They play both sides against each other and finish off whoever is left.
- Pros: Very motivated. Go-Get 'em attitude. Excellent planners. Unparalleled moral flexibility.
- Cons: Tend to be a tad nihilistic, sometimes feel that nothing matters, and have a difficult time not finishing off party members after a battle, especially if they fail you.
- The Trick: Find a reason why you need the party. They may be the only thing standing between you and total destruction. They may be looking for something you want, or at least looking in the same place. Have no doubts, you are using these people, but even the most dastardly villain's henchman can start to grow on them.
Chaotic Evil: The madman. The rebel. Mr. Zero McFucksgiven. This fella has given Game Masters nightmares for decades. They represent evil unchained, running around, killing for no reason other than it is real, really fun. That, however, is not chaotic evil, kids. That is chaotic stupid. As we discussed before, the kill-crazy rampage draws a lot of attention, and the whole world can come crashing down on these poor fools like an asteroid. True chaotic evil is a person or thing that doesn't feel they are required to follow laws or rules and has nor moral qualms with performing evil acts. It is a person driven by their passions. Yes, sure, they revel in destruction. They can be a blunt instrument, but those can be a good thing too.
- Pros: Good at breaking things, like bodies, walls, and sanity. Unconcerned with restrictive things like laws or plans. Easily distracted. Passionate, and open with their feelings.
- Cons: Does not play well with others. Can be a slave to their passions, which more often than not revolve around destruction, death, and kitten-kicking. Tend to be unpredictable, which when done with a good guy is endearing, but terrifying when you're evil.
- The Trick: Finding common ground. Maybe the party has a strong stance against slavery. Being free and unbound being yourself, you may feel compelled to aid them in stopping the slavers, or in your case, killing them off, then their families, then their pets, and never stopping until every hand they ever touch and every person they ever loved lays cold on the floor. You are pretty intense.
If you can find that level of party harmony without actively trying to screw your fellow player over, an evil character can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Just remember, though, if they give you lip, give it right back. After all, you are evil, and you ain't takin' none of that sass.
It's good to be bad,
+Ed The Bard
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