Consequences of playing "EVIL" races

aco175

Adventurer
Another thread got me thinking about traditional evil races and the consequences of playing them. In the other thread a gold dragon was attacked by a drow and then killed. Is/ should there be problems with playing evil races in your game? In my games monsters are monsters and villagers will hire PCs to kill them if they come into town. On the other hand how do you accord your friend who wants to play a drow or bugbear and walk into town. I'm sure this has been done before, but interested in thoughts not about playing lawful good, but about how to play and give the players what they want, but at the same time have the DM put parameters on the world.

I have seen where you can play in the outskirts of society where the roadside inn caters to anyone with coin or a nation that is more lawless and has some elements like slavery so other races are tolerated. I see in FR where Waterdeep is supposed to be very cosmopolitan and everything is accepted.

I'm not sure if this is Hasbro selling books and making FR allow these races since players want to play them or if I'm being a gronard and applying some sort of bias by not allowing them.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
My world design is usually player-oriented. Players in my games are often fairly freed to make up the lore of the races they play, if they are into that sort of thing. So, if someone wanted to play a Drow, I'm going to ask them what's the position of the Drow people in the world. If the player positions them as evil and everyone knows it... then there will be consequences. If they really like the mechanics and style of a race, but want to jettison much of the traditional baggage, I'm good with that too.

If it is later in the campagin, and the position of a species has been establised in play, and a PC dies or a new player joins... their experience is going to be determined by what has already been established in-game.
 
L

lowkey13

Guest
I'm not sure if this is Hasbro selling books and making FR allow these races since players want to play them or if I'm being a gronard and applying some sort of bias by not allowing them.
Eh, I haven't come within miles of an evil campaign in decades.

Look, to each their own. I'll run morally complex and nuanced campaigns, but I have neither the time, desire, or, quite frankly, the stomach to run an evil campaign.

Quite frankly, people can go edgelord somewhere else. There's enough real evil in the world I don't need to playact it.


...as for the other question- in many typical "D&D" campaign worlds, with real alignment ideas (in other words, there are humanoid races like drow and orcs that are "evil" and not just of a differing belief system), then ... they would not be welcome in the same areas, for the most part. But people gonna do what they gonna do.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I think is really setting and table dependent.

"On the other hand how do you accord your friend who wants to play a drow or bugbear and walk into town."

I can't answer in the general case but...

Drow are in my setting extinct. Ok, they aren't, but that's a campaign level secret that would be specific to a particular game where and how it was revealed to the players that some Drow survived the Kinslaying. The Drow and the Kinslaying are such remote events from a human perspective, that most humans have never heard of it and if a Drow walked into a human village or city, they wouldn't be recognized as a Drow but would simply be presumed to be an elf or half-elf. The average elf, first seeing a Drow in a human village would think it was some sort of sick prank, and be offended, and only get murderous once they realized it wasn't. Generally speaking, I would not accommodate a friend who wants to play a Drow until after that friend had played in a campaign where the existence of the Drow was revealed.

Bugbear in my setting are goblinkind, and as such are one of the Free Peoples. There are parts of the world where a Bugbear would not at all be out of place on a city street or sitting at a bar. I wouldn't accommodate a friend who wants to play a Bugbear because they are a +ECL race, and I don't allow +ECL races as PCs normally because balance is complicated. But, there have for example already been a couple hobgoblins in the party. I generally allow players to play hobgoblins or goblins if the starting setting accommodates that easily. If I was planning to start in a setting where the level of goblin xenophobia was high, then I probably would take them off the table. Of course, there are areas where the level of elf xenophobia is pretty high as well, and I might consider taking them off the table for some campaigns.

In general, your question is a subset of the general issue, "What if the player wants to play a bug-eyed monster with a "heart of gold", or at least a lot less of the general monstrosity associated with bug-eyed monsters."

And for me the answer to this is, carefully. Make it really clear up front that the player will provoke a lot of hostile social responses and be generally treated as a second class citizen at best, and as a sort of monster to exterminate at worst. Have a solid set of mechanics in mind for how you plan to fairly arbitrate how that will actually work so that you aren't just always relying on fiat, but will have a fair mixture of responses from NPCs. I generally give flat xenophobia penalities on all social rolls, to PC's of a race interacting with another race. And I generally will start anyone that looks "wierd" one or more levels of friendliness below normal. Expect a lot of, "We don't serve their kind here!" and so forth. For sorcerers, which are in my game rather close cousins to the X-Men in a supers setting, this is often built straight into the class depending on the chargen choices you make.

The main problem you run into with a character playing a bug-eyed monster with a heart of gold, is that it's very easy for that one player to dominate all of the party's social dynamics, motivating the party to either always leave the character out of play, or else making the character always the center of attention. So either you have to run a Star Wars cantina setting were no one really cares, or you have to have a pretty mature player.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Another thread got me thinking about traditional evil races and the consequences of playing them. In the other thread a gold dragon was attacked by a drow and then killed. Is/ should there be problems with playing evil races in your game? In my games monsters are monsters and villagers will hire PCs to kill them if they come into town. On the other hand how do you accord your friend who wants to play a drow or bugbear and walk into town.
Generally, I don't. If someone gets (un)lucky on a racial abundance table or a reincarnation roll then the character can (try to) come in if the player so desires, but don't count on acceptance. :)

I'm sure this has been done before, but interested in thoughts not about playing lawful good, but about how to play and give the players what they want, but at the same time have the DM put parameters on the world.

I have seen where you can play in the outskirts of society where the roadside inn caters to anyone with coin or a nation that is more lawless and has some elements like slavery so other races are tolerated. I see in FR where Waterdeep is supposed to be very cosmopolitan and everything is accepted.
Rather a big difference between being accepted (or at least able to function) in a big city and accepted in an adventuring party.

I've no problem with people playing evil characters as long as they're willing to accept there's liable to be some (potentially violent or even deadly) pushback from the party goody-goods...and I've no problem with the pushback either.

But tack on to that you're also trying to play a species which most of the party have been training half their lives to learn how to kill, and your life expectancy is very likely to be extremely short.

Example: some years ago I was a player in an ongoing party where someone tried to bring in an Ogre as a PC. Really bad idea for a few reasons: one, Ogres and Giants were favoured enemies of at least one party member; two, Ogres had been the main opposition in a recent and rather nasty adventure (which, in fairness, this player hadn't been involved in); and three, we had a few warrior-types in the party (I was one) who saw Ogres as nothing more than target or melee technique practice.

It died before we even learned its name. (EDIT: for context, we met this Ogre on arriving at the adventure site thus it's not like we met it in town or somewhere else where we'd have reason to think twice about how-why it was here)

Player came back with a different and more conventional character, and on we went. :)
 

Gradine

Final Form
Depends on the setting too; in Eberron there are no "always <alignment>" mortal races and it's not unusual to bump into Orcs or Bugbears or Gnolls whatever (at least in places like Sharn), and so it was nice when we got better stats for playing one as a PC. I had a goblin PC in one of my old homebrews too. The "always evil" thing never set well for me, though. It always felt so reductive and regressive.
 
It’s definitely something that requires a bit of thought by both DM and players.

First, you have to decide if certain races are inherently evil. For things like demons and undead, that’s a given. But does that need to be how goblins and orcs and the like are handled?

If no, then players can play those races freely. If not, then perhaps the player is some kind of “aberration” and is somehow different than its folk.

Beyond the races though, it’s quite possible to play an evil campaign. The problem is that very often “evil” is mistaken for “mindlessly bloodthirsty” and that just doesn’t work. But there’s no reason that people who we’d consider evil can’t be thoughtful and practical and loyal and actually have an agenda that they pursue. Look at other forms of media for examples....Sopranos, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Peaky Blinders...these would all be evil campaigns (with maybe some neutral folks in there, too) in a RPG.

I realize it may not be for everyone, but too often this stuff gets dismissed out of hand as potentially disastrous. I find that to be a bit overstated.

It’ll take some thiught and some discussion, but it can work and can be quite a fun campaign.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
man idk, I don't think I've ever run d&d where there were "evil" races, like I find the idea in of itself kinda dumb. my current dm is also the same way. orcs in his world are largely warriors who rule the deserty part of the world. we also had an entire adventure where we kicked out an orc tribe that took over an entire small kingdom. doesn't mean orcs are inherently evil, we even had a half-orc paladin join our party halfway through that adventure. prior to that we befriended an orc cheesemonger who wrote to us from time to time.

I get that maybe certain things are always gonna be evil, e.g. demons and devils, but even with things like tieflings if it's within the purview of a playable race I don't see why they should be inherently evil or good. even WotC had addressing this issue, and you can tell 'cause in 5e we're told that orcs and goblins and the like are still influenced by the gods who created them which felt like a better explanation than before but still fairly contrived.

but to answer your question (lol) I dunno, I feel like maybe goblins might not be as accepted if say a town has had a bad history with goblins, or are currently embroiled in a war with them, but if a town hasn't had any bad goblin experiences as of late idk how they should be treated differently from other adventurers (who should face similar prejudices depending on where they are imo).
 

FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
I've always found it curious how many DMs enforce rampant NPC bigotry against races not in the PHB-- or not in their preferred PHB-- based on Alignment, but not against the neighboring elves, dwarves, and humans who just murdered their uncles and sheep during the last High Festival.

You know, in the name of realism.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I've always found it curious how many DMs enforce rampant NPC bigotry against races not in the PHB-- or not in their preferred PHB-- based on Alignment, but not against the neighboring elves, dwarves, and humans who just murdered their uncles and sheep during the last High Festival.

You know, in the name of realism.
idk I think elf/dwarf animosity is still pretty common, because y'know "realism".
 

FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
Never heard someone say a new Dwarf PC "won't last long" because there's already a couple of Elves in the party or because the townsfolk don't like them.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
Two-Thirds of my groups tend to be more "EVIL" than good.

Or it Rassling terms, it is more run to play the heel than the babyface.

And just like any other role playing, just because you are good does not mean you attack/kill evil on sight.

Otherwise, in lots of fantasy the Elves and Dwarves are bitter enemies. Why do they not attack each other on sight ALWAYS?

Or in your campaign, a region might have a real hatred for humans (and for story reasons it works), does that mean all human PC's are not allow thru?

I have role played many non-human PCs (elf , dwarf, orc, ogre). It just adds another layer to role playing.

Most often, when going to a tavern, the inn-keeper will require all fees to be paid in advance (for food, ale, etc.).
 

Celebrim

Legend
I've always found it curious how many DMs enforce rampant NPC bigotry against races not in the PHB-- or not in their preferred PHB-- based on Alignment, but not against the neighboring elves, dwarves, and humans who just murdered their uncles and sheep during the last High Festival.

You know, in the name of realism.
I'm not really sure what you are trying to say.

Goblins are in my preferred PHB. In my introduction to goblin-kind for new players, it reads, "Human mothers have been known to warn their children to be obedient, or goblins will eat them. Goblin mothers say the same thing to their children, but with rather more sincerity."
 

Celebrim

Legend
But there’s no reason that people who we’d consider evil can’t be thoughtful and practical and loyal and actually have an agenda that they pursue. Look at other forms of media for examples....Sopranos, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Peaky Blinders...these would all be evil campaigns (with maybe some neutral folks in there, too) in a RPG.

I realize it may not be for everyone, but too often this stuff gets dismissed out of hand as potentially disastrous. I find that to be a bit overstated.
I find that when I don't run an evil campaign, I get characters that in practice have about the same morality observed in Sopranos or Breaking Bad or what have you.

Perhaps this explains why explicitly evil campaigns are dominated by over the top puppy chewing villains.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I'm pretty traditional, and run a living world. That means people react as they would normally react regardless of what the players do. That is, I won't suddenly make goblins a neutrally reacted to race in a town of dwarves just because a player is playing a goblin. The players know that going in.

Re: evil PCs, I disallow CN and evil alignments unless I know the player well and know it won't be disruptive. More often than not, a player wanting to play an evil or CN PC just is using that as an excuse for their own disruptive behavior. The game is a team sport at my table.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Re: evil PCs, I disallow CN and evil alignments unless I know the player well and know it won't be disruptive. More often than not, a player wanting to play an evil or CN PC just is using that as an excuse for their own disruptive behavior. The game is a team sport at my table.
I specifically asked for characters "willing to be heroes" in both the campaigns I'm running, because that's what I want to run. I am not at present (that I know of) allowing any of the traditionally evil races for PCs; some of them don't exist in my world.

Doesn't mean they don't belong at other tables. Doesn't even mean I wouldn't play at a table that allowed them (though I'd probably think at least twice before joining an explicitly evil campaign).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Depends on the setting too; in Eberron there are no "always <alignment>" mortal races and it's not unusual to bump into Orcs or Bugbears or Gnolls whatever (at least in places like Sharn), and so it was nice when we got better stats for playing one as a PC. I had a goblin PC in one of my old homebrews too. The "always evil" thing never set well for me, though. It always felt so reductive and regressive.
Yep, agreed.

In my games, the world contains these races and always has, and for me...that means people will be somewhat different than they are IRL. Part of that is simply not assuming the worst when they see a humanoid that stands over 7 feet tall and has large tusks, or dark grim-looking dwarf with white hair, or a little dude with jagged teeth and yellow eyes. But it's also that these races aren't "always" anything.

Some worship evil gods that whose priests promise them power and dominion, while others raise goats and others sail boats and still others waylay travellers on the road and "offer safe passage" in exchange for a small fee. And that's true of every humanoid race.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
On the other hand how do you accord your friend who wants to play a drow or bugbear and walk into town.
My friends know my stance on playing such things & what types of games I run. So that'd be a very odd request from them.
For people new to my games;
1st I'd sincerely encourage them to save this character for when someone else is DMing.
2nd, if they still just really really really had to play such a thing now? Then I'd make sure that they realize that the world is going to react to them as if they were the XP generating monsters they appear to be.
And then I'd carry through on that.
Ex: See, Drow have their bad reputation for a reason. 99.99999% of everyone you meet won't care that you're a (supposedly) Good Drow. Just that you're a good & DEAD Drow.
 

Tonguez

Hero
I find that there is not enough prejudice in DnD worlds and unfortunately playing evil races tend to make them appear even more tolerated. Evil races as PCs gets to the point where Monsters get treated as another viable culture in the world - which imho is a unfortunate :(


I have towns that outright ban orcs, giants and pixies and keep them outside the gate.

Towns without a gate might tolerate half-orcs wondering through but the local tavern or black smith might refuse to serve the party unless they get the pig outside and preferably dead.

Elves are all feared as soul stealing sidhe imc, so drow even moreso are objects of dread to be attacked and killed on site.

strangely enough goblins are tolerated like other vermin in the sewers
 

shawnhcorey

Explorer
I generally don't play D&D because alignment is stupid. In my campaigns, orcs (not what they call themselves) are patterned off of lions. The daughters stay with their mothers and the sons are booted out to find their own way. They group together to form roaming bachelor bands which go around looking for another tribe they can take over. It's these roaming bands that give the orcs their evil reputation since they will attack lone travellers, hunters, lumberjacks, and isolated farmhouses. But are they evil? They're just doing what they biology drives them to.
 

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