Games Where Player Characters are the Bad Guys


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Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
Only a few games I know of sound close to that:

Kult: While not entirely true because you aren't really playing outright bad guys, but the game definitely give players the impression the the whole world is growing increasingly hostile to them as they continue, which can push players into reactionary stances, which can sometimes lead to the players looking like some crazies running around at midnight doing bad things.

L5R: While the assumption of the game is that you are all playing samurai loyal to the empire, the absolute rigidity of the social rules often motivated me to play scorpion clan characters, who aren't bound by any of the same rules, get to backstab anyone as long as they retain their clans honor (as in nobody saw it, it never happened), and generally act like the bad guys in the script.
 


An awful lot of oWoD and nWoD games other than Vampire: The Masquerade feature bad guys if we go by the "don't harm innocents and leave the world better than how you found it" definition. In most cases (including Vampire) they're being struggling against doing that damage, by default (usually with a later splatbook where they can simply lean into it), but they are doing it. I didn't really regard my main Werewolf character as a "bad guy", but like, not everyone he ripped to shreds was an intentionally bad person, sometimes they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time (I mean, usually a very wrong place, like a Pentex facility, but still).

Exalted has you pretty much always being some kind of bad guy. The odds of you leaving the world better than you found it and successfully not harming innocents, especially as a Solar, are pretty low, especially with the oft-overlooked Limit Break mechanic and the Solar Flaws meaning it's just really a matter of time before you go on some kind of rampage. And a lot of Exalts just Bad People - I mean, I'd say Dragonblooded for sure, but they have hordes of defenders (I mean, if they're good guys, so is the British Empire and no it isn't), Abyssals, Sidereals (OH MY GOD they're worse than Solars!), Infernals, etc.

So yeah Exalted, absolutely stuffed to the gunnels with people who think they're doing the right thing but are either horrible monsters, brutal overlords, just ticking (nuclear) time bombs.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Paranoia has Troubleshooter characters who a nominally good guys, but they spend most of their time backstabbing each other for obsequious favour ti a tyrannical and autocratic Computer. They are essentially playing a SS group of enforcers for a totalitarian state, if you think too hard.

CITIZEN! Excessive thought is insubordination. Insubordination is treason. Please report to sector RPG for remedial unlearning and psychosurgery.
 

MGibster

Legend
The only game I know where the character is a villain is Vampire: The Masquerade.
I think I could also make an argument for Delta Green. This is a game where it's completely reasonable for Investigators to frame an innocent man for murder if it means accomplishing their mission. It's one of the few campaigns where I had a PC send a kill squad after an innocent family to recover an alien artifact from the teenage son who didn't know what he had.
 

Mezuka

Hero
In one AD&D2e campaign players wanted to be pirates. They started level 5 with a ship. But soon the pirate life of crime became very difficult to continue. They had many enemies. Some players wanted to stop being 'evil'.

They became the King's Commissoners and started chasing the other pirates. Thus becoming the good guys.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Technically, Edge of the Empire doesn't default to bad guys, but it's VERY easy for PCs to be bad guys by interpretation of random table rolls....

My current Edge group has PCs behelden to two different hutts from different Kadjics (cartels) - Sinasu and Jabba - a third wanted by Teemo the Hutt, one affiliated with Black Sun (the SW Mafia), and one in debt to Crimson Dawn... Oh, and one's hunted by the Imperial Inquisition. Criminals all... They recently broke a group of Jawas out of an organ harvesting ring, becoming domestic terrorists. Fun, Right? (They were supposed to kill them... but morality intervened.)

From certain viewpoints, dungeon fantasy as a genre is "home invading spree-killers looting subterranean homes"...

The largest and most lauded Classic Traveller Campaign is all about a stolen item and the secrets it contains... and the crimes the search leads to. (CT: The Traveller Adventure. MgT: Aramis: The Traveller Adventure.)
 


Mezuka

Hero
I recall a 1e AD&D game in which all the players wanted to be chaotic evil. It didn't go very well. They didn't make it to the dungeon they were supposed to loot for an evil magic-user. They attacked each other over petty egotistic reasons. Some were killed. Tension was very high. I put an end to the session. I let a month pass before we started the next campaign.
 
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Ulfgeir

Hero
In the game Neccessary Evil, you play the supervillains. All the heroes were killed off by aliens who invaded Earth, so now it is up to the villains to form the resistance and to kick some alien behind.. You do need to have characters that actually can function together though.
 
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Battlemaster

Villager
Definitely judge dredd games. The judges are fascists, nothing more.

If RAHOWA were actually playable,(thankfully it isn't.) you'd be playing bad guys, literally Nazi bad guys.

There was a game called 'dogs in the vinyard' where you basically played Mormon religious law enforcers making sure no one dissented from the faith, by any means necessary.

Sufficiently advanced was a sf game where you played galactic IP enforcers,who might have to take away or destroy technology people needed to survive if they had jt in violation of IP laws.
 

MGibster

Legend
From certain viewpoints, dungeon fantasy as a genre is "home invading spree-killers looting subterranean homes"...
Not from most points of view, at least not in my experience. Even in the old days with adventures like Keep on the Borderlands, it was usually made clear in the adventures that PCs were kicking doors and clearing out bad guys. i.e. The default assumption of most of those fantasy games isn't that the PCs are bad guys.

In the game Neccessary Evil, you play the supervillains. All the heroes were killed off by aliens who invaded Earth, so now it is up to the villains form the resistance and to kick some alien behind.. You do need to have characters that actually can function together though.
Necessary Evil is, by necessity, a game where the PCs are most definitely villains. My group made over-the-top villains in the vein of the silver age of comics.

Definitely judge dredd games. The judges are fascists, nothing more.
Having read a lot of Dredd comics, I'll have to disagree at least in part.
  1. At great risk to himself, Dredd went out of his way to avoid killing a citizen suffering from future shock who was going on a rampage.
  2. He used his discretionary budget to provide a dying girl with a robot body so that she might live. He was under no legal obligation, but did so out of a genuine desire to help her. When she later died anyway Dredd was devastated.
  3. He went out of his way to save the life of a citizen who mutated into a spider creature and placed her somewhere where she couldn't do any harm until doctors found the cure. When she broke into Mega-City One in later issue asd a nearly mindless spider, Dredd went out of his way to capture her unharmed in the hopes that she might be cured.
  4. When Dredd had doubts as to the legitimacy of the Judge System, he lobbied the Council of Five to allow the citizens to vote on whether they wanted democracy or to keep the system. Most Megacity citizens couldn't be bothered to vote one way or the other.
  5. From the age of 5-20, Dredd was in training to become a judge. That's some child soldier brain washing material right there.
  6. When the city had to face a grave psychic theat, the head of the Psi-Judges elected to send himself to face it on the grounds that it was a death sentence and he couldn't in good conscience order anyone to do something he wasn't willing to do himself. (Most facist leaders would happily throw their underlings at the problem.)
I'm not saying the Judge System is good, there are plenty of instances where people got the shaft for breaking a minor law that nobody really knows why is on the books, but I can't classify Dredd himself as a villain. I think he's more complicated than that.
 


TheSword

Legend
I think it's fair to say that the majority of table top role playing games operate under the assumption that the player characters are the good guys. But now that I've typed that out, what does it even mean to be the good guy? To start with, it doesn't necessary mean that the PCs are paragons of virtue free from moral ambiguity. In some games, like Cyberpunk Red, the PCs are most often criminals but are they the bad guys? Well, no, I wouldn't say so. The PCs are usually going against violent gangs and mega corporations that toy with millions of lives in an effort to raise the price of their stock a few points. In my experience, PCs are more likely to protect a food co-op in the inner city from corporate interest seeking to kick them out so they can turn the building into a condo. For the purposes of this thread, I'm going to define good as leaving things better than you found it without harming innocent people. This may be a bit simplistic, by philosophers are still debating what is good and we're probably not going to come to a satisfactory answer in a thread on En World.

How many roleplaying games out there exist where the PCs are the bad guys by default?

Vampire the Masqurade is the best example I can think of. In Vampire, the PCs are, well, vampires, who literally have to prey on other humans to survive (though a PC could theoretically live on animal instead of human blood). Especially in 5th edition, it's only a matter of time before a vampire hurts or kills a human being and this includes those the PCs love. The PCs are monsters.

An early release version of Blade Runner is available for those who backed the Kickstarter. Based off the 1982 movie of the same name and the recent 2017 sequel, characters are blade runners, police officers tasked with hunting down rogue replicants and retiring (killing) them. These replicants are nearly indistinguishable from human beings making Roy Batty and company runaway slaves. In Blade Runner, player characters make their living tracking down and killing runaway slaves. You might argue that Roy Batty was a dangerous murderer, but a slave rising up and killing his oppressors is perfectly natural in my book.

What other games are there were the PCs are bad guys by default? Feel free to disagree about whether the PCs in Blade Runner or Vampire are "bad guys" if you'd like. I can't control you guys and it'd be foolhardy to try!
Way of the Wicked is an evil adventure path for Pathfinder 1e. Published by Fire Mountain Games…

..well, by it’s lying, cheating, $40k thieving, Kickstarter-ghosting author.

It’s actually a really good AP. First time I ever DMd a party from 1st to 20th level.
 



Battlemaster

Villager
Hey aramis, have you seen 'dreadnoughts breaking ground' yet? It's a storyline detailing the earliest days of the collapse of modern America and the creation of the judge system.
 

Darth Solo

Explorer
Vampire = evil.

DnD adventurers are normally good-natured characters. They kill evil monsters not everyday people. If your party kills everything in sight that party is evil by definition.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Hey aramis, have you seen 'dreadnoughts breaking ground' yet? It's a storyline detailing the earliest days of the collapse of modern America and the creation of the judge system.

I have (had?) a version of that story from the 90's...
The Judges there are not evil.
By the definitions in 5E, they're LG. Paladins. By AD&D standards, on the border of LG and LN. With a few NG folk, like Cas Anderson.
 

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