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I was about to make an evil non-Lloth Drow for my AD&D group. Most of the players have never played AD&D before, so they don't know much about the alignment system. But the player and the GM do know, and protested the choice.

Their main argument was that it's too dangerous if the group runs across a Paladin, and some quests won't be doable because quest givers would hire someone with detect evil first. And that I would 'have to' do evil deeds.

My argument was that this is a game mechanic and not that frequently used, and would most likely only be a problem for truly 'good-aligned' quests for some specifically 'good-aligned' god that uses paladins in the first place (like Tyr or Helm). There is also the consideration that even a lot of citizen are evil without going on a rampage, like cold-hearted merchants and barons.

After some more argument, the GM decided that I could play the character, as long as I explain it away with a plausible back story that details why I would work with them and don't back stab the party at the first opportunity I get. I decided to switch to a true neutral alignment dwarf, just to avoid friction.

I am still interested to see if this is really such a problem with the game to play a coldblooded character with every paladin and cleric having access to ways to detect evil. Most of my knowledge of the setting is gleaned from novels; I have not played much AD&D other than PC games. But in those, it never seems to be an issue (mainly drizzt and liriel come to mind, two drow that are actually good, but they never were scanned).

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And Good and Evil is a bit simplistic anyway. I read the online log of a campaign that was quite interesting: there was an order of Paladins that worked for an empire who often performed oppressive acts, putting down peasant rebellions and such. It was better, more Good, for there to be Law and Order even if evil barons occasionally took advantage, you see. And of course the view of Good from neighbors of this empire was often quite different. Likewise there may be very good reasons for an Evil character to join a quest. Money or power are good ones. And it is actually quite easy for Paladins – Zan Lynx Nov 19 '12 at 18:18

Having read nearly the entirety of the Drizzt series, I am fairly certain that he never actually met a Paladin. However, I have a theory as to why. See, if a Paladin were present, then simply by looking at him he could confirm that Drizzt was not evil, and thus the majority of the social drama Drizzt found himself apart of would not have occurred.

You see, the difference between the likelihood of coming across a Paladin in the novels is, ultimately, less than that of coming across one in a game. In the novels, a being with the ability to detect the presence of evil in a person almost effortlessly tends to pose a difficulty to the writer, as it brings up the questions like, 'Why couldn't the Paladin just tell everyone that the Drow isn't evil?'

Where as, in a game, coming across a major city built around the stronghold of a Paladin Order, seems more like a challenge for the evil character in the group to overcome, as opposed to an issue for the writer (read, GM) to work around. This would create a situation where the presence of paladins would add to the experience, as opposed to subtracting from it.

All that said, I think your problem is less one of playing an evil character in a non-evil group, and more based around trying to be a member of a primarily evil race. The simple fact is, the vast majority of Drow are evil. While the existence of characters such as Drizzt allows for the possibility of one that is not evil, it does not change that fact. So, a good-aligned character contracting out work to a group of adventurers would be not only likely to do so, but justified if he were to ask for a cleric or paladin to confirm that the Drow isn't evil. Especially when it comes to find out that said drow actually Is evil.

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And Good and Evil is a bit simplistic anyway. I read the online log of a campaign that was quite interesting: there was an order of Paladins that worked for an empire who often performed oppressive acts, putting down peasant rebellions and such. It was better, more Good, for there to be Law and Order even if evil barons occasionally took advantage, you see. And of course the view of Good from neighbors of this empire was often quite different. – Zan Lynx Nov 19 '12 at 18:14

Reading between the lines, their argument about detect evil is not their real objection. The real problem is that they expect an evil character in a good/neutral group will be a backstabbing, disruptive jerk, and lots of players have direct experience with games and groups being destroyed because of allowing one evil character in a group. The detect evil argument is a panic defense of the real objection.

To be frank, I agree with them, but for slightly different reasons. To play an evil character well without causing disruption you need two things: the experience and knowledge of that common failure mode for evil characters, and the cooperation or trust of your group. The first is an analogue to "know the rules before breaking them"—without knowing well how this arrangement usually goes bad, even with good intentions you can still accidentally go in that direction in smaller and larger ways, leading to smaller or larger degrees of disruption of the group. The second is necessary because "don't play evil characters" is often an expectation of a group, so contradicting that really requires them to be OK and on-board with it, else everyone else becomes the source of disruptive friction as they panic to contain the threat to group cohesion.

Aside: detect evil isn't especially common in the Realms, but I wouldn't call it rare either. I wouldn't expect it to be used in the normal course of hiring people, because that would be hugely expensive unless they already have the spell or power personally. I could see a hired detect evil for the rare very important or sensitive job, but it would be unusual even then, akin to a new client in a modern setting sitting down with the party and showing them that they've been extensively dossier'd to ensure utmost trustworthiness. It's an unusual step to take.

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Being one member of the group, I don't actually expect the evil character to cause trouble. I expect an evil Drow to cause us to spend half of our time, more or less, to deal with the general mistrust and paranoia such a character causes among the general surface-dwelling population. – Martin Sojka Nov 19 '12 at 17:04
+1 for acknowledgement that "Detect Evil" is not the core problem here. – deworde Nov 19 '12 at 17:47
+1 for getting to the real problem. – Tynam Nov 19 '12 at 17:52

A lot of the disconnect you may be experiencing is your history with AD&D. In a novel, the writer sets forth certain things to be expected in the setting, and does things that are outside of the norm in order to satisfy the requirements of his narrative. These things just are part of the background, and you go with it. The same thing can be said for CRPGs.

RPGs are a bit different, however. The ultimate rule is 'change whatever you like to make your game your own and fun for all'. The unsaid bit about that is not to change expectations under the player. Your DM is the ultimate moderator of your experience, and the world that this experience is set in.

It seems your DM was trying to set expectations as to what you could expect in his world, and the difficulties that came along with it as a character, and as a party, which is exactly what a DM should do when the player is making a character concept. And this is pretty much defined by the DM's setup for his world- not what the writer of a novel or CRPG (that in many cases go outside of what is possible/seen in the pen and paper game).

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In my D&D games, I allow players to have evil PCs. But I also warn them that if they backstab the party, I will do nothing to stop the party from seeking revenge. This generally yields players who are more interested in characters with selfish, self-serving evil than anything suicidally crazy.

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A Paladin is lawful just because you detect someone is Evil does not mean that they will do an Evil acts. It is the doing an act that is Evil and punishable. You can't just walk down the street as a Paladin and kill anyone the Detects Evil, that is called a Vigilante and most civilised placed lock people up for that and his god should punish them, as everyone is redeemable. Yes a Paladin might not trust some one which Detects as Evil but that is not the same as just attacking them. I am not sure about AD&D but in 3ed you need to be a reasonable level to be even detected as faint unless you where a cleric or outsider.

On another level, I would suggest you really don't play an Evil character at all, play a Neutral Drow or Dark Skinned ordinary Elf if you must. Unless the rest of the player are ok with you having an Evil character it will be nothing but a pain. It will ruin the group dynamic and player really hate having there stuff nicked or left in the lurch because "it is in character for me to do it" etc.

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Yes. Paladins are lawful good! They can't go around murdering strangers for being evil (unless they're some place where that's actually legal!). Breaking the law leads to loss of paladin powers just as fast (if not as permanently) as doing something evil. – Tynam Nov 19 '12 at 17:54

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