# Turning a Campaign Evil Leads to “Problems”

The campaign I'm running right now has a noble-kinda purpose: to kill the Evil Witch and save the world, etc., you get the point.

As a plot twist I am thinking of turning the campaign to being more evil. Not the kill-everything-on-sight evil; more like we-should-rule-this-world-avoiding-unnecessary-killing evil.

The Trouble: I proposed it to the players and 5 out of 6 agreed, and said that they'd probably enjoy it. However the one that didn't like the idea said that his character would stay Good, and that he would kill the rest of the party. He asserted that a Warden should be Good, and due to respect for Nature he wouldn't break the harmony unless it's mandatory to restore peace, etc. The player doesn't object to playing an evil character, he just feels his character wouldn't become evil.

He is the one who will probably get killed, but the point is that I wouldn't want them to fight with each other.

Finally The Question: How am I supposed to handle this situation?

The two questions you should ask are:

1. whether it's the player or the character that's uncomfortable with your proposed shift in mood, and

2. if it's the latter, whether your players would be OK with the kind of intra-party conflict the shift would generate.

### Is the player really OK with it?

If your player is uncomfortable with the campaign turning evil (or at least morally ambiguous) and just "doesn't want to go there", then I'd generally suggest not going there. You started the game with characters that are noble heroes, and all your players seem at least OK with that — you shouldn't change that in the middle of the campaign, unless you're sure your players will be OK with the new theme, too.

If you do still want to try the mood shift, please do make sure to talk things out clearly with the objecting player. Even if they say that it's their character who wouldn't go along with an evil plot, they could be using that as a cover for personal unwillingness to explore such themes. Just make it clear — preferably in private — that they can say "no" if they want, and that you'll respect it.

(Also, no discussion of game themes and intra-group tensions would be complete without a link to the Same Page Tool, so here it is.)

### So the player is OK with it, but their character isn't. Now what?

So you have five nominally good characters who are increasingly tempted to "cut corners" and use questionable means to achieve their ends, and one who refuses to do anything of the sort. That's a great recipe for lots of tension between the party members.

This can be a good thing or a bad thing. It can be bad because it requires a tricky balancing act between party cohesion and inter-character conflict, and maintaining that balance can require some skill from both the GM and the players.

On the other hand, it can be good because, done well, it can be really fun to play and makes for great plots.

Note that such conflict doesn't necessarily have to turn into an actual PvP fight (which, based on what I've heard, would generally be a bad idea in 4e anyway). In fact, I'd suggest that, at least 99% of the time, this is something you shouldn't let happen, just like you generally wouldn't let the party get all killed by falling rocks or let the characters just split up and go their separate ways. It just doesn't make for a fun game.

Instead, if you want to try this, you and your players should agree in advance, out of game, to never let things get quite so far that a fight (or a party split) would be unavoidable. This means that the other players — and their characters — need to stay aware of the fact that they need the "pure" character's help (for some reason; preferably a plausible one) and that they therefore have to stop just short of doing anything that this character would find totally unacceptable.

It also means that the player playing that character has to be OK with the fact that their character also, for some reason, needs to cooperate with the others, even if he (the character, that is!) is feeling distinctly uncomfortable about it.

This does require a certain amount of "meta-game" communication between players, and possibly some creative adjustment of character behavior or even plot events to avoid escalating the tension too far. Do tell your players that it's perfectly OK to, say, ask another player out-of-game how their character would react to a particular action by another character, or even to just raise a hand and say "Guys, please don't do that, there's no way my character wouldn't righteously smite you if you did it."

• I love the idea of adjusting the world to integrate this new information you found out about the character. Adjusting the campaign so that the tension between the morally ambiguous players and the morally good character is always in balance sounds like a difficult task, but one which could be surprisingly rewarding in the long run. Take things slowly, and see how far they'll descend before the good guy draws a line, and when they back off, push in a slightly different direction. You might be surprised how far they can go before he steps in... – Adam Davis Feb 25 '14 at 18:35
• The second part is inspiring; The “good” character can easily serve any campaign as a buffer to stop the group from turning into rampaging evilness and keep them on the ”rule-the-world-without-unneccessary-kills” track. – Jonas Schäfer Mar 10 '14 at 10:50

D&D4e does not support PVP

Regardless of how you ultimately decide to settle the issue; You should know that 4e does not support and was never intended as a Player vs. Player combat system.

Why not try a Gray Morality game instead?

Games work best when everyone one is interested

Rather than seeking to make the new, evil campaign work/force it on the 1 player, why not try to find some middle-ground that everyone is interested in? Why not a very gray campaign where the heroes are still trying to do some good in the world, but the choices and their outcomes are not clear. They are forced to make hard decisions with insufficient information and hope that they made the right choice. Sometimes its a choice between the lesser of two evils, sometimes its a rejection of the choice outright, but this can be a dark morality focused campaign that isn't explicitly evil (see: the Witcher Series).

## Beware of bait-and-switch

Did you invite players to a campaign with a particular pitch ("save the world, noble-kinda purpose"), and are now wanting to play something tangential or opposed to the game everyone signed up for?

Even if the majority of players are willing to make this switch, you should be very cautious of delivering something different than what you'd initially promised. (Explicit or implicit, every campaign pitch makes promises to the players.) It sounds to me like you are essentially pitching, "I thought of a different campaign I think is more interesting, let's switch campaigns, but keep these characters." It's a new campaign pitch, and not the game initially "promised".

You should approach this much as you would, "I'm tired of D&D, let's play Gamma World instead." It's essentially a change of game, and how you handle it is much as if you have one player who really doesn't like Gamma World. The proposal to switch is neither good nor bad, but you should recognize it for what it is... a request that it be "okay" to deliver something different than what was initially promised.

## Is this a character-driven problem?

If the core of the problem is not that the player wouldn't enjoy this game, but that he is currently playing a character that is fundamentally incompatible (a Good character who either mechanically must remain Good, or whom the player cannot justify a change of alignment), then maybe the player just needs a new character. That would just need worked out between player and GM. (Don't penalize him... let him build a new character with the same XP and equipment value.)

But assuming that it's a "I don't really want to play that game" problem...

## This is a basic social conundrum of gaming

All but one of us want to switch from playing X to playing Y. Is it more important that we preserve our social connections (keep the group intact, not exclude our friends), or is it more important that the majority of us get to play what we want (we voted to play Y, you can stay and play or you can go find someone else to play with).

Which you (the GM and the group as a whole) value most should drive this decision. It's very situation-specific... your best friend since kindergarten is a different relationship than someone you just met at the FLGS and only know through this game.

Is it worth alienating a player or making him unhappy with the game to go in this direction?

## This isn't an in-game problem

If it gets to the point of PCs fighting each other, it means you (the group) have failed to resolve the real-world social issues and have (apparently) forced a player to switch to a campaign he doesn't want to play. ("We're making the switch, you're free to come along or leave.") If you force it, the right thing for this player is to just leave instead of trying to wreck the game for everyone else.

(This is presuming that an out-of-game decision has been made to change the direction of the campaign. A bunch of players deciding their characters take unexpected actions, possibly contrary to earlier behavior, and pulling the story in a new direction that some players object to is a slightly different issue. Though I think it resolves the same way... a real-world discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page should happen before in-game PvP violence happens.)

## The safe choice: Deliver what was originally promised

Overall, if everyone is happy continuing with the original campaign concept, the most socially-preserving choice is to stick with that.

You should not just ask them if you should 'turn your campaign evil'

Asking people about your campaign like this will not lead to useful answers, and most likely not to a satisfactory conclusion - people will be divided. Not only because of their different flair for good and evil, but because it's hard to choose when given such broad and easy to misunderstand choices.

Instead, present them with hard choices

Within your story, make sure that you present them with a range of possible solutions with different trade-offs. It is important that you explain the situation in a way that allows them to see the trade-offs that the make - don't spoil everything, but present the situation clearly.

• Maybe it's been a bad summer, and winter has begun. The people are hungry and scared, and food riots have begun to break out. But the granaries of your city only holds so much - if you feed the hungry now, the whole city will suffer soon enough. Do you violently stop the riot, or will you start giving out food that isn't yours? Or will they try to help at least some by spending their own hard-earned treasure?
• Maybe the way to protect the kingdom is to hire that mercenary army, despite the rumours about how little they respect the law and restrain themselves when it comes to civilians. But they could certainly stop they immediate threat of $EVIL_NEIGHBOR. • Maybe there is a weak, spoilt king. He means well, and tries to help people, but is too lazy and stupid to get anything done. Still, he is the true king by blood and right, and the guard stands behind him. • Maybe the church of$LOCAL_DEITY offers help - they will send holy warriors to face \$EVIL_NEIGHBOR, if only you force the populace to convert, and ban the holy men of the current deity. But the current church can offer no help - their monks are poor, and devoted to peace.

Show them the consequences of their actions

Regardless if the party strives to be radiant heroes or despicable murder-hobos, they should see the effect of their actions. If they took a short-cut that cost the peasants, tell them about their suffering. If they managed to save the blind priest at great cost to themselves, show them the happiness of his congregation.

And then...

After they had to make a few hard decisions, you see what they lean toward. If they keep on choosing the light side, offer a greater variety of feel-good options. But if they prove to prefer the sinister path, offer them bleak and cruel alternatives, and let them revel in the darkness they created.

This will always happen. And you cant do much about it except try to reason with players. But there must be always understanding between them, no matter what alignment they play - for the common good of the party in the 1st place. This does not require being good in general, but their actions should never break party apart.

Plus I don't think its natural to change a campaign from 'noble-kinda purpose' to 'we_should_rule'. For one character ofc, but not for all of the party. Although your plot can be good, I don't know.

Why do I think that? Mostly because a group of people gather to play with each other. If they don't want to play along, they shouldn't play in this party at all. Their conflict should not escalate to bloodbath. They can argue about their choices and boycott if needed, but never slit each other throats.

I'm always against breaking party up.

PS. About deity. I do believe its always up to DM. It's always fun to make some kind of kick from the past for players. They never expect it.

Q: Well it's definitely not my purpose to break the party apart. Do you happen to have something in mind that could satisfy everyone?

A: First of all - as I told, its not really natural to change campaign alignment quickly. Your plot can be good, but it should not convert your players to evil alignment right away. Try to make plot where they can corrupt naturally, slowly. Also, its not really good idea to bend your party to your plot. For my taste you should give them your idea and let them decide if they want to corrupt inside that plot. Not to ask them from beginning. If they will decide to play bad - good, if not - still good. Try to explain them that they can try to achieve their char goals without breaking party apart.

Some players might actually decide they don't want to be evil. They want to be neutral. It will be natural and can fix your good player situation. Also its helpful to remind them about party common good and idea of being just good. Not fanatically good. Killing people because they're evil is not really great role play of good alignment IMO. Instead, it's better to try to change them for some time. Or secretly sabotage their evil deeds...

• Well it's definitely not my purpose to break the party apart. Do you happen to have something in mind that could satisfy everyone? – Valamorde Feb 24 '14 at 15:59
• First of all - as I told, its not really natural to change campaign allignment quickly. Your plot can be good, but it should not convert your players to evil alignment right away. Try to make plot where they can corrupt naturally, slowly. Also, its not really good idea to bend your party to your plot. For my taste you should give them your idea and let them decide if they want to corrupt inside that plot. Not to ask them from begining. If they will decide to play bad - good, if not - still good. Try to explain them that they can try to achieve their char goals but without breaking party apart – UtherTG Feb 24 '14 at 16:30
• These comments need to be edited into your answer - most comments are not supposed to be permanent and will get pruned – Wibbs Feb 24 '14 at 16:38
• I'd like to reiterate that it's a bad idea to suddenly shift a campaign like that. That said, converting to an evil campaign could be done slowly by introducing subtle, societal, corruption. Cajole members to make, or accept, bribes. Present them with opportunities to be dishonest and open themselves up to blackmail. Here's the link to corruption in a campaign again. That would be the only way I could see things happening "naturally" and possibly preventing a fissure in the group. – Squish Feb 24 '14 at 17:01
• Slow corruption might work very well. We had the reverse of the OP, where one party member got slowly corrupted instead of all but one - by the end, she had turned into the final boss. We were all fine with that. – Izkata Feb 24 '14 at 21:28

You have fundamental disagreement between your players as to a direction that you are considering taking the campaign in. Consulting with them was absolutely the right thing to do, but the fact that they were not unanimous in their feedback leaves you with a choice.

If you go ahead and make the change in direction, one alternative would be to accept significant inter-party conflict, including by the sounds of it violence and murder. If all of your players are happy to go down this route then fine. If not, you need to appeal to the player who is the dissenting voice and see whether you can work together to come up with reasons his character might go along with the situation rather than turning all murder-happy.

This can be done at a player or character level. For example, appealing to the player you might highlight the fact that you've been having a really good game, with a good group of players so far, and ask for some flexibility from him in the way he runs his character to see if your idea might work. Appealing to the character on the other hand might focus on possible motivations/reasons the established personality might NOT resort to murder.

If the dissenting player refuses to change the way they see their character reacting, and the other players are unhappy for there to be violent PvP, your only choices are to abandon the idea and continue as is, or ask the dissenting player to leave the game. If you make the change without getting the required agreement/compromise, then you will be destined to unpleasantness, and a bad atmosphere at the table.

• Asking him to leave the game is out of the question. However he is more of a power-gamer, so do you think that suggesting "going evil will make him more powerful" might work? – Valamorde Feb 24 '14 at 15:48
• Intra-party conflict in D&D usually devolves into violence. You need to talk to the player. – okeefe Feb 24 '14 at 15:54
• If that's the main motivation for his playing, possibly yes - the only way of knowing though is for you to ask him. On a separate note, I am not sufficiently familiar with the setting to answer the edited in part of the question. – Wibbs Feb 24 '14 at 15:54

Are the "5 out of 6" happy with your campaign so far? If so, maybe you should start a distinct, more evil-oriented campaign, not including the "disagreeing 6th".

That being said, if you feel that your roleplaying is restricted by how D&D handles the concepts of "good" and "evil" (i.e. subjective concepts having magical, and thus physical effects — I can see that you capitalize "Good" and "Evil"), then maybe D&D isn't the game you need. Maybe another game, or a tweaked D&D would suits you better…