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I am playing a highly combat focused story in Pathfinder. My character is a neutral evil summoner, he basically thinks that the real freedom is achieved by leaving all moral, and that the weak must pay for their weakness. However, I don't know how to roleplay this alignment in combat; at the moment the only things that come to my mind are:

  • leave allies in trouble when they fail because of their fault
  • use area spells without regarding of allies position

But those approaches can put the party in trouble, I am searching something more focused on enemies. Who can help me? And more in general, how to roleplay alignment in combat when playing classic dungeon delving story?

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Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/10225/… –  mxyzplk Apr 23 at 14:00
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You may want to ask how much their alignment matters in combat, at least for characters that are mostly rational. The consequences of alienating allies might be a good reason not to piss them off in a life-or-death battle. –  okeefe Apr 23 at 20:06
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FWIW this is not the only way to play evil, and I think this is frequently misunderstood. Evil can just mean "not good" or very self-serving, and certainly doesn't have to mean "Actively wishing harm on others", especially not indiscriminately. –  Two-Bit Alchemist Apr 23 at 22:11
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Allies are useful, therefore thinking of yourself may(!) include not actively harm them. But only if they don't act foolish while fighting, otherwise they deserve death (in charakter)! –  user10570 Apr 24 at 5:39
    
Another possibly reason not to screw over your allies: even neutral evil people have friends, and it's not cool to hurt your friends. Might this conflict with your characters moral code? Possibly. Is playing characters with cognitive dissonance fun? Heck yeah! –  Hovercouch Apr 24 at 20:24

5 Answers 5

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Take inspiration from the Church of Satan, perhaps one of the best guides to playing (lawful) evil. Interestingly, kindness and responsibility can be used for evil. Your character seems to have a 'weak deserves to die' morality. That's fair, combine it with the CoS, which punishes the foolish.

The idea is to be completely, utterly selfish. Evil people indulge in life's passion at the cost of anything else. They don't get out of their way to hurt people. Harming people is foolish because it doesn't advance your own goals. An evil person would rather go partying somewhere or enjoying their loot rather than torturing someone to show off how cool they are. Truly evil people are self-confident enough not to care what others think.

View your friends as you would view your (evil) self - they are greedy, indulgent beings who are never satisfied with what they have. They're only trying to use you to get to their goals. They'll betray you when you're of no use to them. They're prideful and want praise. Praise is free... give liberal praises to your allies. It's cheaper than gold and works better.

Your allies are your servants and meatshields. You avoid hurting them whenever possible, because then they'll turn on you. Keep them between you and the enemy. Recognize their strengths. If they were worthless, you would have left them behind.

At the end of the battle, remind your allies of your role in the combat. Explain why you deserve a larger share of the loot. Not so much that you worked hard for it, but because if you didn't negotiate, they'd cheat you out of your rightful share. Remind them that if you weren't around, they'd be dead. You could have looted their corpses if you wanted, but in your generosity, you let them live so that they would reward you.

And if they refuse to give you your rightful share, you shouldn't be so generous next time. The next time you end up in a losing battle, you just might 'accidentally' lose control of your summoned dire wolf who 'accidentally' kills the well-armed tank. Then much later, you'll come back to bury your fallen comrade and sell off his gear in his memory.

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Use them and take the loot. I like those ideas :) This is the most complete answer, thanks :) –  Alberto Apr 24 at 23:55

According to alignment system, Neutral Evil alignment is the most selfish one. Generally, NE characters only care about themselves and may do Chaotic or Lawful actions depending on how it benefits them, like buying slaves (lawful) and conning someone for money (chaotic).

Neil Slater already pointed out some Neutral Evil-y things you can do while in combat, but I think raining down area spells on friendlies might not be a good idea. If you are sure that your character WOULD rain down area spells on friendlies, and if you think that is the proper way to roleplay that character, then you can find a way to roleplay your character in a different light.

Your character should think selfishly but he should also think about long-term benefits of not killing friends. Sure, having friends is for the weak who needs a strong individual, but if your meatshie... I mean "friends" think of you as a friend, they won't get suspicious when a magic item goes missing or something. You are not their friend, but there is no reason not to act like one.

Use the party for your own personal agenda and see your party members as tools. Don't get them killed but don't risk your life for them either, use them. Thinking about the safety of your party members only means thinking about the safety of your toolkit for a NE character. You wouldn't throw your toolkit to garbage just because the screwdriver in it got a little rusty, would you?

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Thales put his finger on both of those approaches right away-- taking actions that directly put your teammates in danger just means that after the fight they'd probably decide to take a piece of you too. If your party members are so weak that your summoner doesn't see damaging them as something to avoid, why would he travel with them? They'd just be impediments to whatever his actual goals are.

I'm inclined to say that alignment almost never comes into play during combat, but what's really true is that alignment rarely matters during combat. Assuming that your character finds the other party members useful and powerful enough to keep around, it's in his best interests to help them out when they need it (unless doing otherwise is in keeping with a low int or wisdom score, and you're choosing to play it that way.) However, in an intense situation where you have a lot to gain, definitely consider breaking this rule! When you've established that you'll back your team up (even if it's for selfish reasons), it makes for a more compelling character situation when you decide it's worth it to change.

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"alignment rarely matters during combat" is a good point, I never think about this. –  Alberto Apr 24 at 23:56

Roleplaying alignment has always been subjective and something of a contention point among tabletop gamers. How you treat alignment during combat should be a natural extension of how you treat it outside of combat. Here are a few guiding questions I usually use for my characters.

How does my alignment affect my relationship with the party?

How you view your allies is going to depend on your alignment and character type. A Lawful Good Paladin might go out of the way to ensure the party acts nobly and with honor. In combat this character usually plays team leader, since he is always so sure his way is the right way.

A Neutral Good Cleric could see the party as a literal godsend, a way for them to further their chosen deity's goals and help the world. During combat they would be more concerned for the party's well being, always ready to lend a healing or buffing spell to an ally in need.

In my mind, Neutral Evil is the most selfish alignment. So your character could view his party as mere tools to further his own agenda. You don't discard a good tool for no reason, so why would you act in a way that made the party leave/turn on you? That said once a tool has outlived its usefulness to you feel free to leave it behind.

How does my alignment affect my relationship with the enemy?

Like above, how you handle conflict can be very alignment driven. That Lawful Good Paladin might advocate taking captives alive so they could be put on trial, rather than just outright slaughtering villains. He'll call for and accept an opponents surrender, and expect the party to honor his agreements.

The Neutral Good Cleric doesn't want anyone to suffer and is always looking for converts, so she might tend to wounded enemies or preach to captives. If there is a non-violent, or at least non-lethal, way of handling a situation then that will be her preferred option.

As for your character, favoring strength over weakness means that during fights you would be aiming to kill your enemies to prove your superiority over them. If you have a character in the party like the above Paladin who wants to take prisoners you can accede to his wishes as long as you need him around. And if you decide to threaten/extort the prisoners during one of those long, lonely night shifts then that is nobody's business but your own. Similarly, anyone who is stupid or weak enough to be kidnapped or taken hostage deserves their fate. As long as you can convince the party that any collateral damage was an accident or unavoidable then who cares what happens to them.

@Neil Slater has a lot of good suggestions in his answer on what to focus on for an evil alignment. The one I would most emphasize is make sure your character has a goal. This is important for roleplaying any character, but doubly so for a character who may have different morals than the rest of their party. Even if your reason for working with them is as simple as "I can't take over the world if the Big Bad destroys it", that is at least enough to justify your character's behavior and actions. Then you could say things like "Little Timmy deserves to die for falling in that well, but if I save him the Paladin will trust me more. That will make stabbing him in the back later easier." Son ow you could even perform "good" actions as long as they further your, ultimately evil, long-term goals.

The important thing to remember is that the stereotypical Evil Overlord should not be your role model. They should serve as a warning about the mistakes an effective Evil character shouldn't make.

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The "correct" way to play an alignment is often a mire of opinion and self-contradiction.

For me, the key aspects of a Neutral Evil character are:

  • They actively wish to cause harm to others.

  • They will prioritise their own minor needs and desires above the happiness and well-being of anyone else.

  • They may follow a specific agenda on how to do harm (based on an Evil religion or philosophy).

However, this cannot be followed slavishly. Any wise Evil creature must adjust its actions and do what it can get away with, in order to survive and succeed in non-Evil surroundings. I could make the following suggestions:

  • Ignore all non-important neutral casualties or friendly-fire when deciding who and how to target with a spell (unless an ally makes it hard for you do so)

  • Roleplay indifference when spells hurt non-sentient beasts, and choose spells/effect that cause suffering to sentients (often this motive can have a face/demeanour of "I'm targetting the leader" or similar).

  • Ignore or twist attempts by a losing enemy to surrender or parley.

  • Let allies take the strain when the going gets tough, but not to the point that it risks them not remaining allies (of course if they are about to die, activate your self-preservation strategy).

  • Have good and valid IC excuses ready that make it look like your character is pulling his weight - or more - in combat, whilst following an agenda of self interest. As a summoner, calling up creatures that help, but sometimes are a little over-enthusiastic, is a good starting point IMO.

  • It may help if you or the DM can give the character a personal objective that he could pursue at appropriate times. It would give a bit more depth than just hurting people. For instance, perhaps he is obsessed by insect-based creatures in a mad-professorish kind of way, finding them beautiful and wanting to pet/feed them (on the bodies of recently-slain humanoids of course). Something that adds some colour, perhaps a little disgust in the eyes of other players, but ultimately won't affect his effectiveness as a team member in combat.

Depending on how open the rest of the group is, you can play this openly with all players in full knowledge of conflicting alignments/personalities. This can short-circuit any player-player tensions and turn into fun banter during combat ("No, don't let the summoner rescue the hostages, remember what happened last time when the Fiendish Crocodile ate the innkeeper's wife!") Also it allows for free discussion of why the characters need to stick together.

On that last point, do get it straight in your head why your Evil character is working with the PCs of the other characters. It helps if he has a good over-riding reason to like them or follow their suggestions/instructions in a fight. Play up to that as much as you play up the evil side of the character, and those divided loyalties could be a source of a lot of interest and fun.

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I'd like to add an "if they think they can get away with it" clause. Blowing up innocents and ending up in jail isn't evil, it's dumb. –  Theik Apr 23 at 13:43
    
@Theik: Yes, I guess that was too weak/implied in my answer. Edited something in to that effect –  Neil Slater Apr 23 at 13:45
    
Having a personal objective is a good advice, under this light I think I have to rethink some aspects of my character. –  Alberto Apr 24 at 23:53

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