Advice For Running An "Evil" Campaign?
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  1. #1

    Advice For Running An "Evil" Campaign?

    First, a little background ... I've been playing D&D since 1979, and DMing since the late 80's and during that time I have never played in nor run an "evil" campaign.

    I recently started up a new gaming group (myself and 6 players, most of which are old friends / former co-workers) to play in my new home every 2nd Friday evening. So far, things are going great!

    A few of the players expressed a desire to play evil characters, but I didn't want that to be the focus of the main campaign. I decided instead that in the event that 2 or more players can't make the regular game, I'd run a second campaign for the fellas that could make it ... and just to mix things up for myself, I figured I'd give the evil campaign a shot ... what's the worst that could happen, right?

    Well, I've looked thru my gaming books and adventures, and don't really have anything suited to run for an evil group, other than "The World's Largest Dungeon" ... which, after a few modifications might be just fine.

    Now, I'd like to tap into the EnWorld DM Brain Trust and ask ... how do I run an evil campaign without things getting out of hand and make it a fun, memorable experience for everyone?

    Thanks in advance!


  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Metal-Demon View Post
    Now, I'd like to tap into the EnWorld DM Brain Trust and ask ... how do I run an evil campaign without things getting out of hand and make it a fun, memorable experience for everyone?
    The first difficult you'll notice is that, typically, evil tends to be proactive, but "the good guys" are reactive. In other words, usually it's the good guys out to thwart the evil guys, but the evil guys are the ones coming up with what to do. This makes adventure planning harder, as you'll (almost guaranteedly) have to come up with stuff for the PCs to react to rather than give them the burden of coming up with everything, but it's still doable.

    Regarding keeping things from getting out of hand, some sort of social contract is in order, or at the very least, agreeing on some ground rules. As a hero, it's infrequent that people will be taken out of their comfort zones. Evil? Things will come up, i.e. torture, etc. Remember that people have different definitions of "evil"

    Good luck, hope it turns out fun!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Metal-Demon View Post
    how do I run an evil campaign without things getting out of hand and make it a fun, memorable experience for everyone?
    just a thought, here...

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    Are you open to running a game where the PC's can do almost anything? Or are you restricted to running modules/adventures/published stuff?

    If it's the former, you just need to adjust your expectations. When the PC's meet the evil crimelord, they won't want to kill him and wreck his organization; they will want to join him and work their way up toward the top.

    I have run campaigns with evil players *cough*@Drowbane*cough* and the most important thing IMHO is to be on the same page with the players as to what constitutes "acceptable evil." For example: stabbing the mayor during a private meeting may be okay but what about stealing from fellow PC's? I strongly recommend talking this out before making characters so that there are no horrible surprises later on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aeolius View Post
    just a thought, here...
    HAHAHAHAHAHAH! Enable your XP for a second. lol

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    From what I understand, the two main things that derail an "Evil PCs" campaign are as follows:

    1) Party in-fighting. At some point, whether due to competing agendas, selfishness, or simply using violence in response to disagreements (this includes non-damaging magic, e.g. "I'm using charm person on you, so yes you DO want to give me first pick of the treasure!"), the PCs will come into conflict. This can very easily result in party members killing each other, which can cause a premature end to the game, or worse, hurt feelings.

    2) Differing levels of acceptably evil actions. People have different standards of what they will and will not be okay with, and if some of your players start feeling uncomfortable at what the other players do (e.g. "So, while we're holding the mayor's wife hostage, I'm going to have my way with her.") it'll quickly kill the fun, and quite likely cause some people not to want to come back to the game table.

    Talk to your players before you start this campaign, and work these issues out ahead of time. If your players can be respectful of each other and mature regarding these issues, you should be able to play an evil game that's fun for everyone.

  7. #7
    Hello Lord Metal-Demon,

    My first piece of advice is don't - try and talk the players around if you can. I have never been involved in a successful evil campaign - things derail, player conflict seems almost guaranteed. A neutral non-heroic campaign can cover almost the same territory/scratch the curiosity itch without some of the hassle. If the players just want to play with the "evil toys" and abilities let them gain access to them with a neutral character who can't help but be tempted by the dark side.

    My second piece of advice is if you insist in going ahead with it, make it a one shot that then continues, a session at a time until it implodes.

    My third piece of advice if you are hell bent on doing this is:

    - Regular adventuring and exploration does not work as well as it does with a "normal" group of PCs. This typically (in my experience) ends up with the PCs doing evil things to the other PCs as doing evil things to monsters becomes pretty boring and undifferentiated from what the good guys do to the monsters anyway. [I think the worlds biggest dungeon could be a mistake in this regard - tread carefully if using this].

    - Your guys are evil, and there are two sorts of enemies: those that are the "more" evil main protaganists and competition for the PCs and then the "goodie two shoes" who get smacked around almost as comic relief. Sometimes the best approach is the PCs being the lackeys of an Evil Mastermind (TM), who are sent out to screw up different organisations (mercantile, church or other evil guys). The main idea of doing this is that the player's need for performing evil stuff is directed against targets in the game rather than each other. As soon as the players start thinking about screwing each other over, the imploding timer gets turned on.

    - The best way of doing this successfully is to homebrew it, riffing off of some interesting ideas in published adventures where you reverse it around and have the PCs replace the "evil" guys defending against the good guys and making them fail in increasingly miserable ways (more XP for the more spectacular the good-guys failure). Have the PCs infiltrate an evil organisation and screw it over from the inside. Targetted and focused missions work best, rather than protracted adventuring and exploration.

    - Think very carefully about what it is that is making the campaign enjoyable but also sustainable after each session. Emphasise this.

    - Make sure the players understand that if they screw each other over, the game will eventually fail - so make them have a gentleman's agreement in this regards if they can.

    I wish you the best with your evil endeavours.

    Best Regards
    Herremann the Wise

  8. #8
    I would consider having your PCs play evil characters in the context of stealing, immorality, and lawlessness. As long as they aren't sadistically evil they might actually be able to survive on the edge of society. If there is a greater evil sweeping the land, the PCs may be tolerated in the face of a greater threat and might be able to fill a needed anti-hero role. Think Riddick from Pitch Black... evil, but with a streak of nobility.

  9. #9
    I like the idea of having a conversation about what is evil, and what I'll allow ... Getting that on the table before hand is a great plan!

    I will NOT allow any party in-fighting, so I'm thinking that I make them all mercenaries devoted to a single, evil entity (brotherhood / god / cult / demon / whatever) to (hopefully) ensure that they'll still act as a team (maybe by means of a ritual blood-bond?) That team will have to ... I dunno ... destroy an ancient artifact of good or a being intent of thwarting their cause ... you know, that sorta thing.

    And I'm hoping to (for lack of a better term) "limit" them to a dungeon-crawl (with perhaps a few excursions to a city / community) so the desire to "run rampant" will be less of a concern.

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    How about instead of heroes using a town as a base while they go into dungeons to defeat its denizens, you can have the anti-heroes use a dungeon as a base with a goal of taking over a town.

    You can detail a smallish town (complete with defenses and notable NPCs that might stand in the PC's way), find some reason for the PCs to want to take over it (if having power and influence over others isn't enough) and allow them to recruit/force help from some monsters or use whatever method they want.

    You can mix political city adventures along with traditional dungeon crawling. If they ever succeed in their aims, it would be funny to turn the tables on them as another evil power group tries to take over the town, forcing the evil PCs to defend it.

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