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

DM_Anonymous

Villager
One thing to remember is just as your players' heroes squashed the plans of evil doers in past campaigns, there will be a set of NPC adventurers out to thwart your players. You also have groups like the Harpers.

Evil comes in many forms. Street gangs, politicians, business owners. Not all are evil, but not all are good either.

I agree with many of the people here have said, session 0 - Triggers and limits. I play with a woman who was raped, so that would be off the table immediately.

You could have the party start as a group of muscle or shakedown team. They start under heavy control by the thieves' guild, gang captain, political figure, etc. Then as the characters advance in levels, you open the reigns more and more. Set the pattern of cooperation early on. The players are human and we love our trained behaviors, routines, and everyday patterns.
 

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Ogre Mage

Adventurer
I would set up a situation so that the player characters have a strong incentive to work together. Lawful Evil characters are probably better at this. I played in a Menzoberranzan campaign where all the PCs were members of a noble house. We had a strong incentive to work together because other houses were eager to take us out so they could rise in rank in the city hierarchy. And we wanted to work together to take down other noble houses so we could do the same. A major accomplishment during the campaign was when we destroyed another house and were rewarded by the Menzoberranzan Ruling Council with a higher house rank.

Without a strong incentive to work together an all-evil campaign can quickly descend into nonstop player vs player chaos. I don't find that fun.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I've only been in one reasonably successful (as in lasted more than a few sessions) of D&D. It was back in the 2e days. The DM had set us all up as newbie agents of the Zhentarim (IIRC). I was fine with that. Only problem is that I think the other players were terrified of me/my character. Not that he threatened them or anything, he considered most of them beneath notice--posers. However, I don't think they had all properly thought through what "being evil" meant.

I was in another one that started off twice, and only lasted one session each time. This was during 3e, and well... the other players seemed more interested in sitting around basking in just how much darker and edgier they all were, preening on their shiny black armor and demonic familiars. I was playing an obsequious little kobold-wererat sorcerer-druid, originally intended to be the sidekick lackey of another character. Sadly(?) no one was worth following.

The funny part was, we were exploring some ancient pyramid. They kept treating me like an expendable trap-tripper. Too bad for them that combined features of a were-rat spellcaster made me really-really well suited for this scouting. I had a ridiculously low strength, so I could only carry so much. I just kept looting each room before coming out and saying "All, clear! Oh and I found this stuff!" While keeping the best loots under my weight allowance in my little bag. I did this openly at the table and it was hilarious watching some of the other guys going nuts, but with no cause for their characters to suspect in-game I kept getting away with it. Cresecendo moment was me getting frustrated at basically tackling the whole dungeon myself (and getting bored of teasing them) and trapping them all behind a rotating passageway. (After, again, being sent forward to "scout").

In any case, if I were to run an evil campaign, I don't know that I would use D&D. If I did, I would borrow heavily from Blades in the Dark, and a few other games. I think starting small with a criminal enterprise of some sort would be the way to go. Most of your foes will be other criminals. Eventually, your activities might attract the attention of actual do-gooders. One particular thing to focus on would be relationships and creating a interesting underworld.
 

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