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I have started playing as an evil character in a group of neutral and good characters. We are traveling in a caravan through an undead-ridden world. No teleportation or plane traveling possible.

We travel from city to city (fortresses, really) to do trade, but we specifically handle protection.

My character is a human gish specialized on taking out mooks. Lots of low level monsters in encounters though we are level 12 now.

Now, I have decided to try a very evil character. We don't keep track of alignment but I consider her between LE and NE. My problem is that either I don't act evil or I'm Dick Dastardly in the "twists mustache while laughing maniacally" which is kinda ruining my character. Due to the setting, my character has reasons NOT to kill the people in the caravan, especially the PCs (paladin is twin brother, for the lulz).

I have searched for a guide on playing an evil character but I could not find decent direction save for stereotypical "kidnapping a princess and locking her in the tower". The most I have thought of was to Prestidigitation some rocks into gold coins and lacing them with contact poison to punish street urchins that kept stealing gold from us. Lots of undead have poison or disease to repeat this process.

I have seen D&D movie "Book of Vile Darkness" and the Vermin Lord was a bad example. More of that, enjoying the suffering of peasants I am trying to steer away from.

There are plenty of opportunities to commit evil deeds. There is always friction with new traders in the caravan (they come and leave the caravan depending on where we are headed and in which city we drop off/pick off traders) as well as old traders, but since they pay for food, my character has swallowed his pride. "Accidents" have happened to these hated fellows, my character can't be EVERYWHERE at once and some undead "slip" through the defenses. But this is not enough.

I don't have access to the Book of Vile Darkness nor the other one. I think its called Champions of Horror or something of the sorts. Any guidance to a good resource or even an example of your own character might give me the framework to base my character's behavior.

More about her, she was born in a city that got overrun by ghosts. Not many know she is a she because of clothing and sometimes a little magic and I sometimes refer to her as him to throw off pncs and pcs alike. She and some of the pcs (the original cast, some died and rerolled) escaped and found the first caravan, where they grew up in a diverse environment of skills and practices. Most of us have a mix of prestiges. As a child, many attempts to rape her came along but her brother came to her rescue. She got a distaste for men ever since. Constant threat of monsters as well as nightmares have made her dark and bitter inside. She can't sleep without magic anymore though she has gotten over screaming in her sleep. She is extremely pragmatic and self-disciplined. She has a level in barbarian and sometimes goes into a Rage on low health to show her trauma and constant anger.

In her party, there is her twin brother, a paladin. He is most often the highest ranking officer in the defense team, but still takes orders from the caravan leader(s). We also have a shapeshifter druid without an animal companion, a wizard with little spells and a bard. All humans.

If there is anything else you require to know and I haven't mentioned in this book of a question, feel free to ask.

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7 Answers 7

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There's no such thing as senseless violence, according to the one who commits it. Characters who kill or torture without at least an internal justification are crazy, not evil. You don't have a reason to kill people in the party or at random, so you don't. This doesn't make you nonevil.

Also remember that just because you're Evil doesn't mean you're a villain. Many Evil characters have no ambitions higher than their own survival and/or comfort; they don't aspire to great power, nor to purge the world of the target of their hate. They're just trying to get by, not so different from the rest of us.

The traditional list of Seven Deadly Sins was originally compiled not so much as a list of inherent sins, but a list of reasons that people sin. This makes it a great source of motives for Evil characters. I prefer to expand the list to nine, adding Fear as Wrath's twin in the fight-or-flight reflex, and Despair because it was actually in the original list; Sloth replaced it later.

Avarice: The key to happiness is having things. I will have it all.

Envy: I deserve it, not them. I will have it from them.

Gluttony: Pity those not at the top of the food chain. I will never be in that position.

Lust: I want to do it all, and I will let nothing get in my way.

Pride: I must be better then them: so much so that my superiority is never even questioned.

Sloth: I just don't want to do it. Let them do it for me. If they refuse, make them do it for me.

Wrath: They will never hurt me again. I will punish them for what they did, and leave them unable to do it to anyone else.

Fear: They must not be allowed to hurt me. (Note the lack of an again here: this is one of the big differentiators between Fear and Wrath, but it can make a huge difference in the character).

Despair: I just want the pain to end. Giving it to others helps.

Also keep in mind that these are core motivations. Any one of them will need to be elaborated upon. What is it? Who are they? How does the character plan to achieve this goal? Also worth noting is the lengths that your character goes to to hide her motives. Evil characters often prey upon one another's weaknesses, and while Wrath-type characters might not worry about seeming weak due to their motives, Sloth-type and Fear-type characters likely would. These folks are likely to construct a facade, often but not always based on Wrath, as a matter of posturing.

Your character sounds like a Wrath-type, with a focus on the undead. Because her main focus is on something that is not so amenable to the survival of humanity in general, she can get along decently well in society, and even be a very useful sort of person to have around. Some might even mistake her for heroic. But she has a twisted fight-or-flight reflex: any slight or injury, real or imagined, runs the risk of touching on that trauma, for reasons that make sense only to your character (if they even make sense to her). She might lash out disproportionately at small threats, or even against things she mistakenly believes to be threats, but are not.

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I loosely quote: All that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for good people to do nothing.

So it seems to play a good example of a bad example, would be to merely do whatever suits your character without a care for how it influences others around her, while keeping the locals afraid to do anything about it.

Include into her actions:

-murder: slaughtering people for the fun of it

-theft: taking what belongs to another simply because you want it

-blasphemy: find out what is the name of the main god of the lands and be sure to annoy the locals with negative reports about their big honcho

-fornication/adultery: hereby meaning, don't care whose husband or wife you do, just do him/her

-rebellion: not in the Star Wars-style, more in the get the locals to hate their beloved leaders who actually care for their people. Can't have one nation happy while all nations around suffer, you know?

-lie: to and about others whenever there is an opportunity. This breaks trust between brothers and friends, and has potential for a much not-needed bloodbath

-covet what others have: this will in turn, in time lead to one or any combination of the above, which in turn may give your character the opportunity to go into even lower acts of dishonour, which i will not mention here.

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Evil, an entire range of possibilities open up to the evil character.

The good character must do what society expects of them to remain good. But the evil character doesn't have to but they could.

For example a good character might capture an enemy, and promise them freedom for info and actually let them go even though that would risk danger to the good character.

But the evil character who also captures the enemy, could still promise them freedom and get the info, and then just kill them! Or if they for some reason want to keep their promise, cut out their tongue, or blind them so the evil character couldn't be identified. Or let them go off the edge of a cliff. See lots of possibilities.

Consider a genie, constrained to grant wishes, but they don't have to give the character what they want just what they wish for. Twist it any way you want.

Also, consider that an evil character can act like a good character until they need/want to do something that a good character wouldn't do. Then they can do it with no qualms. Just try to not be caught.

Evil luck with your game.

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Now, I have decided to try a very evil character. We don't keep track of alignment but I consider her between LE and NE.

This suggests that you know what evil means to this character: believes (perhaps weakly) in some principles of behavior, but those principles do not include the altruism that adds up to "good".

OK, so first thing what are the principles?

enjoying the suffering of peasants I am trying to steer away from

Not a casual sadist, that's a start. But maybe there are types of people whose suffering you would enjoy, because of what they are or what they've done? Find them and hurt them. Or maybe you don't enjoy suffering at all, even in revenge, but you won't shy away from inflicting it to achieve your goals, whatever they are. So identify anyone standing between you and your goals, and destroy them. Different way of choosing targets, same evil outcome. Once you've identified someone you "should" be harming, don't accept excuses not to, any more than the good guys would find excuses not to protect the caravan. Evil people do not respond to peer pressure, or to airy speculation that maybe being nicer will bring better results. They do respond to "it's too dangerous", but should be no less brave in striving to their goals than the good guys are brave in striving to protect innocents. Or whatever the heck good people do. Who even cares? Losers.

To showcase the ways in which you deviate from socially acceptable behavior, you're going to want to contrast them with the things that on principle you won't do. Presumably you aren't "Lawful" in the sense of an active adherence to the law, or you wouldn't be poisoning children, but make sure you know what your mild lawful streak implies.

Second thing, what are the principles that you (the player) are used to applying, that you need to consciously avoid applying? This is where your everyday evil actions are going to come from.

Empathy for other people is obvious (so you treated those urchins as a vermin problem to solve, great). What about keeping a reputation as someone to be trusted? The desire for other people to like you? The desire for an efficient working relationship with others in the party? These aren't things that evil characters necessarily lack, but they are all things that, if you lack them, people are going to think of you as pretty nasty. So by declining to apply some or all of them in your decision-making, you play a character that's easier to see as being evil. No nefarious schemes or cackling maniacally, just consistently don't do the stuff that a reasonable person acting in good faith would be expected to do.

Then every now and again hit them with something seriously bad.

since they pay for food, my character has swallowed his pride

This touches on something that might be worth discussion with the other players and DM. Non-Dick-Dastardly evil characters have to consider whether reward justifies risk, they just have a different idea of "reward" from good guys. If the game world and the other PCs are going to severely punish you for behaving in ways that are actually criminal, then either your evilness is going to be limited to things done covertly and being a jerk, or your character's relationship with the party (and maybe with life) is going to be short. On the other hand, if everyone is on board with the game being (in part) about the relationship between a sociopath and the people who tolerate her, you can go further.

So, suppose for the sake of argument that your character decides that someone in the caravan is causing more trouble than they're worth:

  • if your character is socially constrained to appear non-evil, and the DM feels that in this game bad deeds generally result in a comeuppance, then humiliate that person and bide your time until you can "accidentally" let the monsters get them.

  • if socially constrained but the DM isn't making the world behave justly, poison them.

  • if not socially constrained, beat them up and threaten to do the same to anyone else in the caravan who causes inconvenience. Let the other players think about and roleplay how they react, how many warnings they give, and why they even hang out with you in the first place. Angsty.

  • if all bets are off, and the business of guarding caravans is a complete seller's market so you don't even need to worry about scaring off future customers, just stab them to death. Real-world "professional outlaws" like pirates or drug dealers have done and do worse. The other merchants will probably try reasonably hard in future not to upset you, and the way that those NPCs fear and hate your character is all part of your character being believably evil.

You may also need to look at your motivations together with your character's. Why did you decide to try an evil character? Since you don't officially track alignment, it's not just so there's someone in the party who can use evil-aligned magic items! How would you like the game to be different from a game in which you play a good character? Do you want to bring down the vengeance of society and your fellow PCs on your head, and constantly be trying to evade the punishment your character deserves? Or do you want the game to be dark-tinged due to your cruel and selfish actions, but relatively stable until the DM introduces plot? Once you've figured out the sort of things that contribute to what you want, do more of them.

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What is your definition of evil?

When playing a character, you need to play a character. They should be well developed and have reasons for what they do.

In this case, you want to play an evil character, but "evil" is not a well defined concept.

This is in D&D. Remember in D&D (depending on which setting) overt, puppy-kicking evil can be seen as a valid religious choice. Depending on settings there are often deities backing up people who (to borrow a line from Batman) just want to watch the world burn. You can play a character who wants to destroy all life and aspires to be undead and have it be totally valid and fit into the universe. You can even toy with it and have someone who does some of their more overtly evil acts just to please their deity while feeling quite uncomfortable with it.

Another way to look at it is someone without boundaries. Then you start getting into anti-hero territory and you can have someone fighting for "good" but doing so with an ends-justify-the-means attitude that can bring them into conflict with more idealistic "good" people. She won't see herself as evil...she'll see herself as practical. An iconic example is The Punisher.

Something else that fits into evil is the more stereotypical greedy person who will stop at nothing to satisfy their own desires. They seek money, power, etc. and will happily kill or torture to get it... But most people (unless they see "evil" as a valid religious choice) don't want to see themselves as evil. They will find ways to justify what they are about to do. Perhaps they steal because they deserve it more than those they stole from. They kill only in self defense...but they'll still it as self defense if the other person started fighting when the evil character demanded all their coins. Those justifications help make the character interesting and help avoid the "mustache twirling" cliches.

How to do it?

So, to play your evil character well, you first need to determine what you mean by evil, at least in the case of this character. Then figure out why they got on that path. In short, give them a backstory. Once you have the backstory written out with that particular brand of evil in mind, then play the character you have developped and fleshed out.

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The difference between a good character and an evil character is that the evil character is able to solve problems in ways the good character can't because it would be "wrong".

You need an information from an NPC? A good character would be limited to asking nicely and doing them a favor. But as an evil character you have the options to use intimidation, threats and torture.

Your caravan meets a trader who sells something they need? A good character would ask "What's the price?". An evil character would ask "How strong do their guards look?".

As an evil character you are also not expected to do anything for free. While a good character is expected to do certain things because they are "good deeds", whenever an evil character is asked to do something, they have the right to ask back "What's in it for me?".

When no such opportunities occur, for example because the campaign goes more in a hack&slay direction, you could actively seek to initiate intrigues. You could, for example, persuade one of the traders to pay you for murdering their rivals. They don't have any rivals? No problem. You just forge some evidence and persuade them that they do.

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Evil is not just kicking puppies for the sake of it.

Well, usually.

Generally speaking (in AD&D terms anyway) just running around bashing people in the head and cackling wildly is a pretty mindless and boring character.

What your character needs is motivations, reasons and goals and then a lack of morals or twisted moral code to follow.

Motivations

First and foremost determine what motivates your character; being "evil" for no reason at all is pretty senseless. Prime reasons are things like money and power, most people want these things - what they're prepared to do for them is what makes them evil.

You can pick from the seven deadly sins as excellent inspiration as well.

  • Envy: You enjoy seeing others fail, so sabotage them.
  • Greed: Money, wealth, power, magic items - it all must be yours.
  • Wrath: You enjoy slaying intelligent people, possibly even torture.

Reasons and Goals

Now you have a motivation, select a reason typically a bit of background history - a baron killed your family and now you want revenge however you can get it; your family was poor and you started stealing, etc etc.

What are you prepared to do?

Evil isn't just, as I mentioned, kicking puppies; there's things that some people just won't do, even if they are "evil". A moral code helps you determine what sort of thing your character will get up to; this is the crux of being evil - being prepared to do things that other people won't do to get the job/spouse/money/power/etc

For example a renowned assassin could have the code

Will kill anyone for a price:

  • Will kill anyone who gets in the way of their target
  • Will die trying to kill their target if necessary
  • Will steal, but only to further the assassination

That's pretty basic, but should give you an idea.

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6  
@Discipol "How" to be evil can't be answered without "why?" being answered. How you be a psychopathic serial killer is a lot different than how you play an evil (but legitimate) merchant who is looking to increase power and influence to rule over lesser beings. Both are evil motivations, and the "how" on them is completely different. –  Tridus Jan 22 at 13:53

protected by Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 25 at 9:36

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