JC Boyd and I started a series of articles for RollCraft (our patreon for tabletop gamers) about playing with evil parties, and this is the first of the lot. If you are brave enough to DM a party of Evil PCs, remember that Evil is selfish, just as good is selfless (more in a future article). What is important now is that you understand that the motivations of your characters are your first priority. Unlike most generically Good parties, who are expected to act on behalf of others by virtue of their alignment, Evil PCs do not possess the same altruism and usually need to see the benefit to themselves in some way to act in a given scenario. Gone are the days of dangling a damsel in distress and expecting a character or party to act.
1. A Session Zero is more important here than in most other campaigns. I do not always utilize a Session Zero, but here it is pretty much required. I strongly encourage you to make use of one.
2. Players should build characters with clear motivations and make those motivations available to you as the DM. Not all Evil PCs are excited by gold or power, and knowing what drives a PC helps you to craft memorable encounters, adventures, and campaigns.
a. If a player is attempting to say, “I just want money,” ask the player to delve deeper. Does the character find comfort in wealth? Was the character once wealthy and want status? Is the character attempting to buy something or gain something from having wealth?
4. Discuss how infighting will be handled if it does come up. Below are some options.
a. You can always handle it how it is handled in your normal game. Evil does not always mean things must change.
b. Outlaw it. Infighting is not allowed. If characters get in an argument, then it never goes beyond words.
c. Infighting is permitted, but death is not possible. Characters get “knocked out” but never die.
d. Infighting is permitted and characters who “die” become controlled by the GM as a potential Ally (of the characters that didn’t kill) or a villain.
e. Infighting is permitted and characters can die. Let the characters sort it out themselves. If one particular character does not play well with others, the party may decide to either kill her or kick her from the party to become controlled by the GM.
f. Remember that the GM can always interrupt a fight with a well-timed encounter. Sometimes an innkeeper bursting into the room asking for help or a random dragon attack can do wonders. However, if the GM does this too often, the players might grow suspicious.
b. Neutral Evil does not mean they are conniving to eliminate their companions. They should revel in being part of a group that does not restrict them from accomplishing their goals and will likely bargain, tit for tat, to gain something from their companions.
c. Lawful Evil does not mean that they are any less Evil than the others. They are most likely to engage in manipulation with their companions, but also should be aware that a long-lasting alliance should not be wasted for petty gains.
6. Remind them that Evil does not equal Stupid. Murdering someone in the street has consequences, and if they behave in that way, their character will face reprisal. Murdering a companion loses a valuable ally who generally does not judge his companions for moral reasons.
a. The common misstep on the part of the player is “Well, my character would….” And you can gently remind the player, “Yes, but don’t expect your character to be around for very long.” Just because a character is rash, does not give it license to commit crimes without costs.
7. Determine what topics are appropriate or inappropriate for gameplay. Just because your characters may commit an act, does not mean the players are comfortable discussing the act. Below is a short list about which you should ask your players. If anyone is hesitant, do not introduce the topic. Consider utilizing fade to black in regard to certain topics if players are comfortable with that option.
e. Excessive violence or gore (explicit brutality in description or act)
The above are just some of the topics you should discuss during your Session Zero. If you have any other ideas, please let us know in the comments below. As we delve deeper into this series, let us know what topics you think we should address.
Have a fantastic week!
JC and Joshua