I'm playing a warlock, a follower of the old god Cthulhu (chaotic evil). My character is chaotic neutral, and has been doing some not-so-neutral things (in my opinion). My patron god is a big part of who my character is, and in the future I want to be able to use Create Undead and Death Touch. Having undead creatures can be seen as evil to most everyone.

One of my party members (as a player) mentioned that it can sometimes be "not fun" to play with my character because of his dickishness, which they attribute to him being evil. My defense, of course, was that dickishness is not evil, but they still have a point because I've killed 2 people that they otherwise were letting go free, a decision that I mostly regret. In addition to that, I've been less than eager to help others, except for trying to stop the apocalypse. Due to this, a conflict broke out, which I believe was handled properly between players, and our druid stormed out of a dungeon (justifiably) and our bard left the room disgusted to collect gold that was outside the room. As players, we're not sure if there's much reason for the druid to stay if my character is still there, because of this perceived wickedness.

So here's my issue: I like my character, I like our party, and I don't want to pull a 180 on my character and make him nice or throw away important motivations for him. I also don't want my character to be "not fun" to play with. I personally found the conflict between our characters exciting and fun, this is why I play. As a small caveat, none of the other players voiced any concern about my character but they weren't present during the conversation. I want to come to a compromise without ruining the character I've invested so much thought and time into developing. We have plans for my character to possibly become DM controlled if he does end up leaving, but I'd like to avoid that if possible.

Is there a way for me to worship an evil entity and raise the dead without being specifically evil? I realize this sounds like "can I be evil and not be evil?", but I'm looking for roleplay suggestions on how to remain neutral so that our party has reason to be together.

I'll add one more caveat. I don't think this issue has anything to do with "my guy syndrome" and this question is in fact not about justifying my past actions, only seeking to move forward in a way that will satisfy everyone. I don't ask this question to get you to agree with me or to suggest that I think I'm in the right and my druid friend is in the wrong. Quite the opposite, really. To add more context to what happened would make this more complex than it needs to be and would, honestly, be irrelevant.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is pretty much what happens after someone detects the MGS. The players understands that the current gameplay is he is taking is (by some reason) flawed, and wants to change. This is an excellent question! \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 16:11

11 Answers 11


So here's my issue: I like my character, I like our party, and I don't want to pull a 180 on my character and make him nice or throw away important motivations for him.

Well, it sounds like your character just may be evil, or at least on the evil side of neutral.

That doesn't mean he has to do evil things, especially if he has a reason not to.

And, if he wants to stay with the party, he probably does. You've already had an in-character conflict where one character "stormed out" and another "left the room disgusted." That ought to be a pretty good clue to your character that, if he wants to hang around with these guys, he'd better start to act nice, even if he's only doing it to keep the other party members cooperative.

Even if your character was a complete psychopath who loved kicking puppies, if he was sufficiently smart he should be able to realize that there are situations where it's better to heroically save the puppies instead. And it doesn't sound like your character is anywhere near that bad.

Basically, you're playing a conflicted character. This can be a lot of fun, if that's the kind of thing you like.

It doesn't matter that the cause of the conflict may be (at least initially) external; even so, it's a source of mental conflict for your character. On one hand, your character worships an evil god. Even if his choice is fundamentally based on pragmatic reasons (power!), a pact with Cthulhu will surely have some influence on him, tempting him to more evil acts and means (not that a hunger for power couldn't do that all by itself). On the other hand, he's also fighting to save the world (even if it might be for his own ends), and has teamed up with a bunch of more noble, good and squeamish types to do so. This means that, whatever means he might want to employ in the pursuit of his goals, he now also has to consider their effect on his fellow party members.

And, of course, once he starts to consider the way his actions are perceived by others, he might also gradually come to realize that there's also a side to himself that doesn't like what he's doing. Maybe not instantly, but after a while. Morality has a funny way of growing on you like that — from "I have to be nice or I'll get punished" to "hey, other people are actually nicer to me if I don't act like an asshole" to "you know, I really should be nice just on principle, because it makes the world a better place."

None of this means "pulling a 180" on your character, or at least, not in a way that he wouldn't have good in-character reasons for. Sure, the conflict with the other party members (and possibly subsequent reflection) might be the trigger that makes your character realize that he needs to drastically change his behavior in order to achieve his goals, but his motivations will still be the same as before.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ps. See also this question, which is sort of the flip side of this one (party increasingly sliding towards evil, while one player wants to stay good). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Picked this answer because you answered in context of my character, and not me as a player. Thank you for the wise words :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is really a fine answer. I'd also add that aside from mustache-twirling caricatures, nobody thinks of themselves as "evil." You always have reasons and rationales. This is a little different in rpgs where good/evil are objective, measurable quantities, but for role playing purposes, figure out what those motivations are. You aren't "evil" to be evil, you detect as "Evil" because you want power, or money, or like to see people hurt, or just think undead are nifty. \$\endgroup\$
    – JesseM
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point about the puppies. Sometimes this is used to distinguish well-played evil characters from so-called "Stupid Evil" characters who feel that if they don't put their own goals on hold in order to burn down every orphanage in the kingdom, they are somehow not being true to themselves. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 6, 2019 at 15:36

Yes, you can follow an evil being without being evil yourself.

Unlike 3.X, 5e has no real alignment restrictions. Good characters can follow evil deities and vice versa, and chaotic characters can follow lawful deities and vice versa (to the extent that chaotic & lawful even mean anything). The trick to cases like this is coming up with a reasonable explanation.

  • Maybe your character sees the deity differently than most people (correctly or incorrectly): "Cthulhu's coming will be terrifying, it's true, but he will finally remove the bourgeois oppressors and bring prosperity to the proletariat!"
  • Maybe your character thinks following the deity is simply the best choice available: "Yes, Cthulhu promises madness and death, but his return is inevitable and worshiping him earns me a quick, (relatively) painless demise when that dark day arrives."
  • Warlocks are a special case in that their powers actually derive from a pact/contract/bargain with their patron. Perhaps your character was tricked or coerced into entering the agreement, or made a mistake for some other reason: "Yeah, I know he's evil. All I'm gonna say on the topic is that there's a reason I don't drink any more." Alternately, "Yeah I know he's evil now. When he made the offer I was kind of busy being chased by a couple hundred goblins, so I didn't really have time to do a background check and have a lawyer look over the contract."
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the last bit regarding forced into servitude. Take Spike from Buffy TV series for example. Unquestionably evil to begin with, he's forced not to kill people and eventually becomes a good guy. In the interim, he's serving the side of good despite being of a most definitive evil alignment (emphasized by repeated failed attempts to kill people despite his chip). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 19:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 especially for the hilarious (and plausible) first and last reasons. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 2:29

I like @clyde's answer because it addresses both the problem you think you have and the real problem you have; the other answers do not but are more correct in the way they address the problem you think you have. So, I'm posting a new combo answer.

You Can Be Any Alignment

In 5e, there are no alignment restrictions. As a warlock you have no alignment restriction, and the individual pacts with patrons including the Great Old One do not have alignment requirements. There are a variety of ways to roleplay a good character with these class choices. Some things may require harder justifications than others, but even the warlock class description suggests a variety of ways pacts happen and different types of relationship to have with your patron from "friendly, antagonistic, uneasy, or romantic."

...Except for "True Dickish"

However your real problem has nothing to do with alignment, but with being "dickish" as you even put it. The real solution to your real problem is contained in What is "my guy syndrome" and how do I handle it? You control how your PC acts and therefore largely determine whether your friends can and/or should cut bait and not work with you any more; take that responsibility and don't use class, alignment, or anything else as an excuse. Your character is your construct, not vice versa. Just as you can come up with ways to justify a good or neutral character with a pact with the GOO or Fiend, you can come up with ways for an "evil" character to not pathologically betray/screw with his buddies.


Fear Your God

There's a lot of historical and literature cases where people worshipped a god because they were afraid of the consequences of not worshipping the god.

  • Yahweh would punish the Hebrews with war and famine if they did not worship him properly. When Saul didn't properly exterminate Amalek, Yahweh chucked Israel into a civil war.
  • The Aztecs regularly did human sacrifice to keep their gods from getting miffed at them.
  • Poseidon made the minotaur because Minos didn't sacrifice the right cow.
  • I've heard before (probably apocryphally) that sailors used to worship the devil to get good weather.

This makes it pretty easy for a good person to worship an evil god. You're try to appease it, not express devotion. Maybe Cthulhu is lulled into dreams by his worshippers. Maybe it sends storms of madness if you don't sacrifice people to it. Maybe it keeps the time vampires away as long as you kick puppies. But whatever it is, your character has to worship an evil deity in order to keep everyone safe.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your first example is a bit sketchy. (It also has the very real problem of appearing rather offensive to a considerable majority of the world's population.) \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 2:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with Tuggy's assessment and have therefore upvoted this answer. Yes, up: the provocative nature of the first bulletpoint highlights the heart of the issue: good and evil are frequently a matter of perspective. Believers can accept a nominally omnibenevolent god literally demanding his chosen people commit genocide, and have historically justified their own genocides in His name. Most people today condemn genocide, yet claim to worship the same god. A person's relationship with god can be very, very complex, and even contradictory. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 15:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sketchy or offensive, those facts are documented in their own holy books... \$\endgroup\$
    – Dr. Andrew
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 12:23

Yes, but it ain't easy.

Although there are no mechanical alignment restrictions in 5e, it is very difficult for a character who draws his power from an evil deity to integrate with a non-evil party in a believable way.

Evil Gods Require Evil Servants

If your character truly reveres, worships and supports an evil deity he or she will find it difficult to maintain genuine neutrality for long. Your god grants your character his or her power in exchange for your servitude and that servitude will require your active participation in evilness eventually.

Why would Cthulhu help you to spread sunshine and sanity when his entire basis is the opposite? It would be very difficult to justify why your character would be able to remain neutral and still wield the powers of an evil deity.

You'd need some satisfactory answers to several questions. Why does your character want to serve a god he doesn't wholly agree with? Why does the god tolerate your half-hearted support? (Maybe Cthulhu is just crazy enough not to notice….) Do your fellow party members know? Why do they tolerate your creepy rituals and undead fetishes?

Okay, so what if I decide I am evil?

Unflinching Trust - Party members regularly trust each other with their lives. From a story/narrative perspective there has to be an incredibly believable and compelling reason for this trust to exist between a good party and an evil character. That's an incredibly big ask. Evil characters, especially chaotic ones, are the definition of untrustworthy.

If you Aren't Careful - I have read many accounts of parties who have assassinated the one evil character in the group. This may sound harsh, but it isn't, because good parties slay evil creatures. It's part of what makes them heroes. I don't necessarily think this is something my group would do, but I wouldn't put it past them. It could be a cool direction to take the story, and if you are willing to give up your character, you could even propose the suggestion. Who knows, maybe the DM could turn your character into an arch-nemesis for the whole party. It sounds like you're already discussing this option with your dungeon master.

Don't Be That Guy

Another point to consider is that it takes a lot for a friend to tell you that your character is 'not fun' to play with. This likely means they've been thinking about this for a while, and have only recently spoken up. I recommend that you read the following post. The answers are varied, but I think in part they speak to the root of this question.

What is "my guy syndrome" and how do I handle it?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, Lawful Evil characters are often paragons of keeping their word, but will do no more than they are required to ("The contract said I had to guard the tower from orcs, it said nothing about rescuing orphans or telling anyone that the bridge was about to collapse!") and often will try manipulate the system. They can work well on a team if you keep them on a tight leash and do not trust them to exercise their own judgment. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 21:14

Think motivation first. Your druid wants peace and prosperity, you want the dominion of an Old One who will surely devastate and drive mad. Long term, you two aren't going to get along.

But in the short run, perhaps both characters want to prevent BigBadGuy from collecting all the Unobtainium. They've different reasons, but you'll work together. For now. Then it's up to the players and GM to ensure that the characters have enough 'for nows' to allow your table to work.

The underlying party conflict has a classic expression in the ever-simmering Sturm-Tanis-Raistlin dynamics from early Dragonlance--and that may be a good place to go for some roleplay inspiration.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You would think it's easy to prevent someone from obtaining unobtainium \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 14:17

I feel like playing a character of wildly differing alignment than the rest of the party is something that needs to be run by other players in the group. Are you familiar with the same page tool? It deals with addressing what individual players are looking to get out of a game. If players are looking for drama and tension between the characters, having alignment conflict is great fun. If some or all of the other players are primarily interested in putting on helmets and going on heroic adventures with their friends, you're in for a bad time. The issue isn't that you or they are roleplaying incorrectly; it's that you're essentially not looking to play the same game. I think it may be time to discuss the situation outside the game, and at the very least figure out specifically what isn't fun about your character being dickish.

Failing that, your best bet may well be to talk to the DM and find a way to bail out of this character. One player in a long-running campaign I take part in decided he didn't have anywhere to take his character and was tired of playing her, so he emailed the DM suggesting a sub-plot where his character becomes an antagonist to the party. We hired a replacement (the player's new character) at the nearest pub and then went on a fun quest.

Just for the record, I think it is indeed possible for a good character to worship an evil god by mistake (having misunderstood the religion's tenets), deception (false prophet sort of situation), or for "altruistically pragmatic reasons" (believing it was for some reason necessary to prevent far worse evils from coming to pass, eg the staff of The Facility in "Cabin in the Woods"). In your case, though, unless I'm badly misreading the situation, I think finding a more friendly way to be evil is fixing the wrong end of the problem.


From PHB: "The Great Old One might be unaware of your existence or entirely indifferent to you, but the secrets you have learned allow you to draw your magic from it."

It seems to me you don't need to follow or worship your patron in any way, you can just draw power from it so differences in alignment would mean nothing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to sort of miss the main point of the question, which is really more about group dynamics than strict rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 2:31

The short answer is Yes.

From what little I know about your character, your interests in following a CE god are likely... a pursuit of power? Power for the sake of power trends toward Evil, but if you're willing to dip your hands in filth in order to pursue a goal that is less-than-evil, that's when you get into the murkier aspects of alignment.

Some ways to not be actually evil:

  • Pursue power for a neutral/good/chaotic cause (knowledge, defeat a greater evil, exact revenge on someone who wronged you)
  • Maybe your character isn't so well-read on societal norms (or has no moral compass) and actually needs to be told that you're not supposed to kill and eat sentient beings just because you're hungry.
  • The knowledge is rather Meta, but you have to be evil (or really good at regenerating) to be able to best destroy the Book of Vile Darkness. There are good reasons to be bad.
  • More neutral, perhaps Cthulhu wants you to destroy the book because it has too much information about him now. Chat with your DM about whether that could be a character arc for you.
  • You can find a way to pawn your character's behavior off. Assign behaviors or moods to a d-whatever, and roll to see how your character is going to react in a given situation. Your character's following the dice, it's (luck, the gods, chaos) that makes the choice.

One final, loosely-related thought: As a friend of mine is fond of noting "CN is the scariest alignment. You can't tell what someone is going to do, as they are completely unpredictable. CE is at least reliably evil. Someone that's CN may save an orphanage, and then burn the city to the ground afterward." -- You can do something extremely good to balance your past behavior. As CN, there isn't much limit to what you can choose to do.


The answer is most definitely yes.

There is nothing in the book restricting you from following an evil god and not being evil. Even in 3.5, clerics and the numerous prestige classes associated with them, could be one alignment away from your god.

Would it be logical to have a lawful good paladin worship a chaotic evil god?

Sure. But the reason behind it would have to be incredibly good. I would start by having the chaotic evil god masquerade as something lawful good, and cast a curse on the paladin that makes him THINK he is doing good deeds. That kobold he just killed? Totally a farmer. The group screaming at him to stop? He hears it as praise and appreciation.

Now, I would not expect him to live for long acting that way. Your party would kill or cleanse him.

But that is just an example. In my group we have a good necromancer. His logic is that it doesnt put animals or living people at risk unlike inconsiderate rangers, druids and anybody using a follower.

Side note: Raising the dead being seen as evil is dependent on your campaign setting, and largely hinges on biases still hanging out from 3.5.


How Long Will This Team Stay Together?

I personally found the conflict between our characters exciting and fun, this is why I play.

Do the other players also enjoy it, or don't they?

  • If yes, no problems.
  • If no, work that out first before worrying about abstractions like alignment

Just a note about alignment in D&D 5e: it's not a box you fit into, it's how you trend.

As a small caveat, none of the other players voiced any concern about my character but they weren't present during the conversation.

Communicating with the other players is pretty important. Have you talked to them, and have your group's norms been established to where everybody's fun is considered?

We have plans for my character to possibly become DM controlled if he does end up leaving, but I'd like to avoid that if possible.

Who is we? You and the DM, or you and the other characters, or both?

Even evil people give grandma flowers for her birthday

You can act as you need, in character, in order to achieve a given mission or goal -- you don't have to preclude a given action because it isn't evil enough, or because it is evil at all. Do you betray an alignment if you cooperate with a party to achieve an end, or a series of ends? No. Alignment is squishy in 5e, and is best used as "guidelines" rather than as hard and fast "rules."1

Let's talk about your party

You can't do all of this "save the world stuff" by yourself: that is the core piece of advice for your character. You can't serve The Old One on the Prime Material Plane if you can no longer act there. (die)
As the members of your ad hoc party grow in power, you may find your in-character goals incompatible because your fellow players are also investing in their characters, and in their goals, and their role-playing. It looks as though you are preparing for the day where you part company. That's as good in character as it is OOC.
How long do you (your character) want to keep working with this party (all the other characters)? You, the player, are in control of that. In character, negotiate the blending of individual aims and goals that allow the party to stay together for your benefit. Make deals. Quid Pro Quo.

p. 34 Basic Rules Chaotic neutral (CN) creatures follow their whims, holding their personal freedom above all else)

If it is important to you to role play Chatotic Neutral as described in the book, then it is all about you from your character's perspective. Getting them to help you is consistent with the stated alignment from your question.
How hard you push is a matter of style, but pushing it really hard leads to why the My Guy link gets referred to so often.

1 Here's an example of why you might want to leave alignment to "guidelines" rather than rules ... the case of the lawful neutral Paladin ... @user3735278 Dec 17 '14 in a comment to this answer

... a lawful neutral paladin might think "I am willing to do evil only when absolutely necessary", a lawful evil paladin might think "I am willing to do evil because it IS absolutely necessary. The only way to effectively fight evil is through evil means"?


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