D&D 5E How would you conduct an evil campaign?

hawkeyefan

Legend
I don't think the evil alignment must mean that they will backstab each other and so on. I mean, it's possible, but not a given. Evil guys have friends, associates, and family. I think because fantasy settings allow for truly evil creatures like demons and dragons and the like, it creates an expectation of what evil means. But I don't think PCs who are evil need to be like the villains in a good aligned campaign.

I think the bigger challenge is the fact that you have decided that each PC would have their own goal, rather than some sort of shared goal.

I think it's smart to give PCs individual goals, but it's essential to give them a shared goal. Something that actually holds the group together and explains why they remain associated.

As for how such a campaign would play out....just look at movies that feature evil characters as the protagonists, and mirror that. The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, Goodfellas, Usual Suspects, The Warriors, Kill Bill...plenty of ways to handle it. Have the PCs all be members of the same guild or crime family, working to further the group's power and influence. Have them all be hired for a job that then goes wrong, and they have to stick together until they can sort things out. Have them all be wronged by the same person, and band together for revenge. Have them all be working for a merchant house that has gone to a remote frontier type of location in order to seize land and resources from the indigenous folks.

Or, as some folks have suggested, maybe they're just adventurers who wander from place to place, looting and killing.....just like classic adventuring parties. They can just be less scrupulous adventurers.

There's no reason that evil PCs absolutely MUST be at odds with one another. It's certainly more likely than it might be in a good campaign, but it's not a necessity. Tie them together in some way first, and then worry about each PC's individual goals after that. As long as the players are on board and are mature enough to handle a game that is a bit less traditional, it should be fine.
 

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ccs

41st lv DM
Personally, I think your idea of betraying the party in an "endgame" does not sound fun. The problem with PvP games is that they lead to too many secrets, and secrets can be toxic. I mean secrets between the player and a DM. It can feel very unfair, like the DM and the other player are engaged in a different game entirely, and you are cut out of the loop.

Plus it's boring. I don't care if you're character has a secret. Or secrets. Or is secretly doing things. Or is secretly plotting evil things against my character. But from a player pov it's like missing part of the story.... And that's just boring.
 

akr71

Hero
My thoughts pretty much echo [MENTION=6801845]Oofta[/MENTION].

1) Strong Session 0 outlining the basic premises.
2) What kind evil? Lawful Evil might be the easiest to pull off (see 3)
3) The Evil Overlord as quest giver - the threat of punishment for failure should be on the party's mind and keep them cooperating.
4) If the campaign survives long enough and as the characters get more powerful, the desire to eliminate the competition might start to show up. Maybe have lots of NPC targets - or even plant the seeds to suggest they could overthrow their lord/lady
 

Satyrn

First Post
Any thoughts?
My first thought is that you're talking about 2 major, distinct subjects: Evil PCs don't have to engage in PvP, and a PvP game doesn't have to involve evil PCs.

And really, you're contemplating a PvP game, for which I can't offer any advice since I've never engaged in one.
 

Corwin

Explorer
Plus it's boring. I don't care if you're character has a secret. Or secrets. Or is secretly doing things. Or is secretly plotting evil things against my character. But from a player pov it's like missing part of the story.... And that's just boring.
This. For clarification on my earlier anecdotal story, the player of the cleric, and the DM, had full advance buy-in on my pulling the lich trick.
 
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Warpiglet

Adventurer
Wow. My experience with friends has really differed. We played in several evil campaigns. Many of us were lawful evil and a few were neutral evil. We simply did not want to do PvP and so that was not a part of the game.

In one case we were vagabonds on the run and hunted. As a small group of fugitives, we stuck together to good effect.

In another, we were power hungry evil cleric, wizards etc. and formed a pact of mutual assistance. We conquered a lair and went on adventures from this place to collect items of power and wealth. We were a small squad who used any means required to get what we wanted.

I have never seen the NEED for pointless PvP or backstabbing. It CAN happen, but we choose to avoid it. We might take some risks to help one another but are not going to be altruistic.

Consider this: IRL, some pretty "evil" regimes lash out at others but generally avoid destroying themselves. Even further, in the confines of the fantasy, devils, hobgoblins, duergar, and many others have some cooperation over long periods of time and are NOT nice.

It all comes down to player agreement and maturity. As I get older, the fun of being a bad guy even in magic tea party land has lessened. I root for and want to be the good guys. Its a happy escape!

But the fun we had as villainous characters can't be beat. We still laugh (nearly 20 years later) about getting cornered in an inn and my very fat red-haired barbarian busting down a wall to escape after quaffing a potion of giant strength! The list of antics goes on...

Have fun!
 

TheNoremac42

Explorer
The only "evil" campaign I ever played kind of ended up that way on accident. We rolled random alignments based on background ideals. Most of the group turned out to be some branch of evil with one true neutral character. The most evil thing they did was torture a goblin for information (then killed him afterwards) and threaten the neutral character into obedience.
 


schnee

First Post
The most successful evil campaign I was ever a part of was led by a core few members that were Clerics and Wizards that served Hades, and the rest were either believers or blindly obedient and weak-willed.

Yeah, one character said "I just go along with things. That's what I do." He was chaotic, but was easily cowed and controlled by the incredibly charismatic leader, and they made it a really fun RP team.

We never plotted or planned against each other, but that's because the Hierophant of the Church of Hades put a Geas on the first character that did that. Nobody else dared. :devil:
 
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eayres33

Explorer
Everytime I see one of these threads and I see the responses of evil = PVP, or evil equals players in conflict and out of control; I try not to throw up. Then I remember that I know people I respect that think Luke is the high point of the OT Star Wars.

I know, I hang out with some crazy people.

For three or more years I played a truly evil character in an online SW RPG, he murdered thousands of people during that time, but he did so with the belief that he was in the right every time. The character was evil because of what he did, not because of his justifications. He was like the Parliamentary Agent from Serenity. He believed he was righteous.

That has how I’ve played evil, and how I’ve run evil campaigns. It’s been fun, I actually struggle playing a hero, and it takes a lot more work.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I'd run it as comic book evil. The villains would ideally have grandiose plans to conquer or take over something.

Comic villains often team up into teams to combat their mutual enemies. As long as they need to take out the same opponents then they should be able to work together, they always need to be on the watch for a double cross though since sacrificing their allies to accomplish their own goals is a common occurrence. At the end of the campaign it will likely be a grab for power which may pit the players against each other.

All in all, I think this could be fun if done well. I've never run an evil campaign before but would be interested in hearing about successful evil campaigns.

Sent from my SM-G925I using EN World mobile app
 



koga305

First Post
For anyone that is seriously interested in this, I would strongly recommend taking a look at the Way of the Wicked adventure path for Pathfinder. I ran the first adventure in the path for some friends in a marathon session a few months ago, and I can safely say that it was the best experience I've ever had with a prewritten adventure. Even for those who would like to run their own evil campaign, there's a lot of good advice and inspiration contained in just the first book of the path.

I also wrote a blog post detailing the conversion of that first adventure to 5E, if anyone's interested.
 

TallIan

Explorer
A lot of people, in this thread and other similar ones, seem to think that evil PC's equal chaotic evil. An evil party doesn't have to stab each other in the back. A chaotic party does. A party of all CG/CN players shouldn't last long either - they're chaotic, oaths and laws mean little to them. They don't have to actually murder their companions, but they should happily break promises and not be dependable, something that does not lead to long term parties. This doesn't HAVE to be true for evil parties, unless they are all CE.

An evil party should be defined on the good - evil axis. If they are mostly LE/NE then there shouldn't be a problem of party cohesion, everyone thinks that laws are required and they all accept the need for each other and their place within the hierarchy. The difference really should be, "well the guy we've been hired to kill* is holed up in that tavern, lets barricade the exits and burn it down." As opposed to a good party who should take the approach of "the guy we've been hired to capture* has a hostage, let him go, we'll catch him later."

*This is also a difference between good and evil parties, the job is WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE. No bonus XP for guessing which party chose which option.

If you want to run an evil campaign you'll really have to discuss it with your players, and set limits on your evilness. I know plenty of people who happily play evil characters and play them well, but steer well clear of anything really dark involving women and children.
 

werecorpse

Adventurer
The reason that evil might equal pvp is that if the party finds a treasure hoard or thing that more than one character desires why share when there is no reason not to just kill your party members. This possibility must be dealt with conceptually.

I once rand a 1e mini campaign where the PC's were young Daemons on the prime plane. They had limited power and had to stick together to survive as they were hunted by good guys, used by witches etc. They got to be evil and play fish out of water types.

The game needs to be more than just evil PC's being evil IMO. They need the usual things - goals, character development etc
 

Draegn

Explorer
I ignore alignments. No matter which edition or other game that uses them, they never work. People always deviate from the given game definition. You could make a scale, on one side list the seven deadly sins, on the other the seven virtues. Then see where the players fall. Would a cleric of the goddess of love choose a path towards chastity, lust or somewhere in between?
 

TallIan

Explorer
The reason that evil might equal pvp is that if the party finds a treasure hoard or thing that more than one character desires why share when there is no reason not to just kill your party members. This possibility must be dealt with conceptually.

I would disagree, a LE party who's goals align could reasonably agree to help each other to achieve their goals, sharing the spoils as they go along, without killing each other. That is the lawful part of their alignment. Now when one of the party is getting in the way of anothers goal, that would result in PvP.

A CG party on the other hand, I foresee MANY more problems with inter-party rivalries, just dealt with differently depending on alignment, the robin hood type character should happily steal extra share of the loot from the rich noble.

Sent from my Nexus 9 using Tapatalk
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
How would I run an evil campaign?

Simple.

Step 1: make it clear that anything goes - any alignment, any outcome (don't force everyone to be evil, just make it clear that it's both allowed and welcome*)
Step 2: make it even clearer that what happens in character stays in character, and that nothing is to be taken personally by the player(s)
Step 3: roll up characters and drop the puck.

* - to avoid headaches you might want to ban Paladins

Notice something there? Between steps 2 and 3 there's no mention of world-building or adventure design or any of that stuff, as for the first while you probably won't need much of it. Experience tells me it'll probably take two or three sessions for them to get the PvP out of their systems, after which they'll turn their unfriendly attention outward to the game-world at large; and only now will you need an adventure or something else relevant for them to do.

Lan-"in other words, pretty much like any game I run"-efan
 

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