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So I have this cleric character who, after some traumatizing near death experience, has turned to evil and necromancy in hopes of finding the key to eternal life. But he also has to hide his alignment because he doesn't want the rest of the party and his community to know about his obsession, and isn't evil to the point where he will just do evil for the sake of it. He is evil because he thinks it will save him, and he does evil to advance that.

How can the said cleric hide his alignment and necromancy from other players, and how do you role-play such character?

  • How can the cleric magically mask his alignment from detection by spells and whatnot?
  • How can the cleric hide his evil actions over time whilst adventuring with the party?

Note: the cover-up is not required to be perfect. The other players who pay enough attention should be able to get suspicious of something.

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How much of this happened in-game and how much of it is character background? –  Hey I Can Chan May 30 at 1:17
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What level cleric are we talking about? How creative are we allowed to be? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 30 at 1:33
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Does your party frequently detect their alignments? –  okeefe May 30 at 1:43
    
Anakin, no!!!!! –  BBlake May 30 at 14:53

4 Answers 4

Magically hiding your alignment is pretty straightforward. The 2nd level cleric spell Undetectable Alignment makes you immune to magical alignment detection. This would be susceptible to Dispel Magic, so you might want to invest in a magic item that generates a similar effect. An item that constantly protects you with Undetectable Alignment would be 6000 gp.

For hiding your evil actions from the party, take a look at this question: How do I Raise the Dead and Look Good Doing it? That question talks mainly about how to hide your use of undead and necromancy from other people, and has some pretty good stuff in it.

Based on your description of the character, I don't see any reason for him to be doing evil acts outside of using undead. Remember that alignment isn't a straitjacket. If your character's goals before were to help the innocent and save the world, that won't necessarily change now that he's trying to use undeath to protect his life. He's less likely to risk his life to save people, but that's hardly an evil act.

If you find that you do need to do evil acts for some reason, the best way to hide your actions is to do two things.

  1. Give a reasonable reason to be away from the party for a while. You certainly don't want to be sacrificing children in front of the paladin, so you need an excuse to be away from the party. Take a magic item crafting feat, and build a small lab/shrine in an enclosed space, away from the party. That way, if you need to do something bad that takes time, you have a good reason to hang out away from everyone else. You'll want to make sure that anything overtly evil in your lab is hidden when you're gone (preferably behind a wall and past a sheet of lead), but that shouldn't be a problem.

  2. When you're off doing evil things, act cool when you get back. If you spend a few days sacrificing children to your dark god while making magic items for the group, act like nothing is wrong when you get back. Party members generally trust eachother unless given a reason not to. If you say "I spend a few days making those magic items, and here they are", then there's not really an in-game reason for your party to distrust you. If they never look for evidence of wrongdoing, then they're a lot less likely to find it.

One thing to keep in mind is that your party will probably need a very solid split between player knowledge and character knowledge. It is nearly impossible to not make your fellow players suspicious about your evil actions if they're a secret out of game as well as in game. Nothing makes a player want to investigate more than passing secret notes to your GM. You're probably going to want to have a conversation about this with your GM and other players, just to make sure that when people try to find you out, they're doing it based on in-game reasons and not metagame ones.

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"If your character's goals before were to help the innocent and save the world, that won't necessarily change now that he's trying to use undeath to protect his life" -- that's what they all say. And yet there they are, unleashing undead hordes on innocent villages for some reason that no doubt makes perfect sense to them ;-) –  Steve Jessop May 30 at 12:13

Undetectable Alignment will prevent you from detecting as evil. The fact that your hiding your alignment could still be noticed, though!

For completeness, a DC 70 Bluff check lets you actively display a false alignment. Good luck with that...

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First, clear this with the other players in your group. Second, enjoy being mustache twirlingly evil and see if your evil plans can be hidden from the characters.

While it's possible to hide evil activities from the players, hiding things (for most games) takes the fun out of the roleplaying, as there's no-one to appreciate your evil plots.

Instead, use my guide to absolute mind-twiddling as a handbook to hiding your activities from the characters by making them not mind.

Then, there will be some interesting tension as it comes down to "how good is your execution?" rather than the normal "did the other PCs pick up on this?" By embracing this "basically NPC" status, and by agreeing with the other players that you'll use your powers of mind [twiddling] only for hiding your activities, the entire group can enjoy your success or failure in this regard.

To summarize that answer:

  • Use necrotic cyst to implant remote-domination tumors in your party members
  • Use hypnotism (either via the pride domain, or via a dominated bard) to gradually adjust your party members' views on certain things such that the default interpretations are what you want them to be.

Then, you can play wording games with your post-hypnotic commands and have the tension be "did you word the things correctly."

I've learned this lesson when I was playing a ... somewhat morally evil character in a 3.5 game. My bluff score, due to a number of spells and magic items, was stratospheric. Because the other players didn't trust me, it didn't matter what my bluff was, the game just kind of fell flat. Most of this manipulation must be simulated and must happen to the characters with the players support. It can happen in game, iff1 the game is about this sort of thing. If the game is about the normal D&D thing, then the engine and social agreement at the table themselves will inhibit any useful hiding actions in this regards. The lack of plausible reciprocation of your defection by the other players at the table will make them less inclined to suspend disbelief and more inclined to find colourable reasons to kill your character.


1If and only if.

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Hiding Alignment and Activities

Only in the most restrictive societies will there be prohibitions against merely possessing an alignment. After all, being evil doesn't necessarily mean acting evil all the time, and evil creatures can contribute to a group's--and a society's--prosperity just as other creatures can. Evil can still have friends.

This means if the character's friends discover his alignment, it shouldn't be a big deal. Unless the character's friends are in the habit of killing what they perceive as evil in all its forms (e.g. unkind shopkeepers, misbehaving children, feral cats), a fellow adventurer's alignment shouldn't matter except to those with codes prohibiting association, especially if the other characters have fought beside or had their lives saved by the newly-revealed evil character. But, if the character must keep his alignment secret from a city full of paladins1 or whatever, here're some ways.

  • Ask the DM the cost, weight, and time to line the character's armor or clothing with lead. While most detect spells "can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood/dirt blocks [them]" (PH 219)
  • Many spells conceal alignment, making the spell's target essentially detect as lacking any alignment instead of detecting an alignment. This is, obviously, suspicious. Thus the 2nd-level Clr spell undetectable alignment [abjur] (PH 297), the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell cloak of Khyber [illus] (City of Stormreach 59), the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell nondetection [illus] (PH 257), and even the 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell mind blank [abjur] (PH 253) are inferior to spells which reveal a false alignment like the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell misdirection [illus] (PH 254), the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell misrepresent alignment [illus] (RoE 188), and the 4th-level Clr spell moral façade [illus] (CC 125). Note: There exist some similar psionic powers (e.g. the 6th-level psion power aura alteration [telepathy] (XPH 78-9)).
  • Magic items exist which conceal alignment. The ring of mind-shielding (DMG 232) (8,000 gp; 0 lbs.), while relatively cheap, convenient, and multipurpose, suffers the same problem as spells that conceal alignment rather than reveal a false alignment, as do many other items (e.g. less and greater Harper pins (Mag 159-60) (8,000 gp and 79,000 gp; 0 lbs.), the mask of lies (MIC 115) (4,500 gp; 1 lb.)). Undoubtedly there're items that permit an owner to reveal a false alignment rather than no alignment, but I couldn't find any.
  • Some feats can conceal alignment or reveal a different alignment. The feat Mind Mask (SoS 117), in addition to other effects, reveals a creature's alignment as neutral no matter what his actual alignment, as does the feat Mask of Gentility (ElE 25) which has much stiffer prerequisites. The feat Veil of Cyric (CSW 146) conceals the evil component of the creature's alignment from lower-powered creatures.
  • A Bluff skill check (DC 70) permits the creature to display a false alignment.

To conceal the character's activities, he should do everything within the confines of the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion [conj] (PH 256) or another extradimensional space (e.g. the pocket paradise created by a rod of security (DMG 236) (61,000 gp; 5 lbs.)) while under cover of the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell Mordenkainen's private sanctum [abjur] (PH 256). Things just don't get much more secure than that in Dungeons and Dragons.


As an aside, I'm not sure if this belongs, so let me know if I'm overstepping, but

Are You Sure the Character's Truly Evil?

Evil isn't bad or unpleasant or desperate, although it can be. Evil is evil. Wanting to be immortal because of an earlier trauma isn't evil. Wanting to be immortal at all isn't evil, and, in the abstract,2 becoming immortal is as reasonable a goal for the stalwart paladin who wants to protect people forever as it is for the druid who wants to watch the seasons change endlessly as it is for the vampire necromancer who wants to plunge the world into eternal night and live there forever, feasting on the remaining, mewing blood after the sun's blotted.

In other words, while becoming a lich is one path to immortality, it certainly isn't the only one. One can use spells to gain immortality, perform rituals to do so, take classes3 that grant it--whatever. Going from, "That horrible event showed me I really don't want to die," to, "I better become an evil necromancer," is a huge leap that shows the character did little research.

And that's kind of cool. That's a valid role-playing hook. That's not evil. That's misguided. A misguided protagonist is a lot more interesting than an evil protagonist.

What the character's stepped into is pretty serious, though. Dungeons and Dragons has oodles of creatures who'd love to convince such a character that their way of living forever is the best way of living forever, and once the character's made some tentative friendly gestures their way I'd expect those creatures to come out of the woodwork and start angling for the character's feats, soul, XP, time, cash, and other resources in exchange for teeny-tiny steps along the path to what they claim is the best kind of immortality. That's very helpful to the DM who now has tons of plot all because of that character.

Further, if the character's already committed to capital-E Evil, he'll be totally okay with whatever those creature propose. Betray country, friends, loved ones, and former gods? No problem. Poison a village? Sure. Eat a whole pile of cute puppies? Whatever. Get piercings in weird places?4 Okay. For the promise of immortality, those won't be a big deal to someone already evil.

But to someone on the fence, those are real, serious choices that determine the character's fate. A willingness to do evil things to get what one wants doesn't make one evil; actually doing those things makes one evil.

If you've already written Alignment: Chaotic Evil or whatever on your character sheet and are getting mechanical alignment-specific bonuses from having done so, don't worry about all this and keep chugging along, but if you haven't and these events are all taking place during the game and the character's still on the fence, I'd urge you to keep the character on the fence. Let him make bad but not evil choices. Let him investigate evil as an option. Have him interact with some of the folks with whom he'll spend eternity. Let him make an informed choice about evil.

The Joys of Atonement
The 5th-level Clr spell atonement [abjur] (PH 201-2) is, in my opinion, sorely underrated. One of the purposes to casting the spell atonement is redemption or temptation, which reads

You may cast this spell upon a creature of an opposing alignment in order to offer it a chance to change its alignment to match yours. The prospective subject must be present for the entire casting process. Upon completion of the spell, the subject freely chooses whether it retains its original alignment or acquiesces to your offer and changes to your alignment. No duress, compulsion, or magical influence can force the subject to take advantage of the opportunity offered if it is unwilling to abandon its old alignment. This use of the spell does not work on outsiders or any creature incapable of changing its alignment naturally.

So just in case it turns out later the character made a misguided, uninformed choice, there's a way back. If more alignment wiggle room's needed consider the feat Heretic of the Faith (PF 46), and to see what the character needs to do to be redeemed, employ the Use Magic Device skill to emulate a paladin's detect evil class feature while wearing a pendant of redeption (CC 140) (8,000 gp; 0 lbs.).


  1. I was a player in a campaign wherein one city was ruled by paladins. The roads were fabulous. Road maintenance was the typical punishment for even minor infractions.
  2. Although in a specific campaign things might be different.
  3. Character classes... not, like, Immortality 101: Avoiding Boredom.
  4. Hey, it might be a thing: "Clerics affiliated with Baalzebul wear blue and black and favor gold jewelry and body piercings" (BV 159).
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