This is the first in a series of posts I am writing about how to successfully accomplish the daunting task of running an evil campaign. I was fortunate enough to have a fun and evil experience at my own table this past winter. I talked with my friends about putting one together after going through a particularly undead-heavy dungeon delve that forced everyone to play good characters. Having to act righteous didn’t sit well with everyone at the table so we we talked about how things could work differently if we were evil. One of the players (sort of a goody two-shoes in his own right) objected to the idea of having everyone play neutral-to-evilly aligned characters, but he was quickly overruled and promptly threatened with death. That little event led to me spending the following few weeks putting together an exciting and egregious two-month-long campaign that we still talk about on occasion. Some of the highlights were a fireworks show-diversion, the secret (un)planned assassination of the king, and a battle royale that followed the crashing of a “tournament of champions.”
Evil Campaign Resources (or lack thereof)
Since I live in Korea, the land of 24-hour Starcraft channels and after-school schools, it is impossible to find a gaming store catering to tabletop RPGs. Fortunately, we have the fastest internet in the world over here (and it’s getting faster!) so I find most of my resources online. If you type in “evil campaign D&D” into your favorite search engine you will quickly learn that the most the internet has to offer is a bunch of forums with old D&D warhorses talking about “evil games of yore” and people blabbing about how characters just end up killing each other a session or two into their attempted games. For every twenty of these dead ends, you might find something useful, but there is a frustrating lack of material on the subject.
Ultimately, I was only able to find one really decent article I liked. It is a fairly useful article that Wizards posted in 2005 that is general enough to apply to any evil campaign. It was the best resource I found on the subject, and I recommend that you read the whole thing for yourself, but in the meantime, here’s a brief summary:
“When you run an evil campaign, a lot depends on character motivation. You could run plenty of adventures the same way for good or evil parties. But since your players seem to be defining their characters’ evil natures as “not good,” they are not motivated to do the kinds of “good” deeds that you’re used to using for adventure hooks. But the lack of a motivation to act in one way doesn’t necessarily equal a motivation to act in another. Your players need to decide what they are interested in doing, both individually and as a group, if their characters are to come together and risk their lives for a common goal. If the players want evil PCs, what kind of evil do they want to be? Once you know that, creating adventures that relate to matters in which the party is interested should become a lot easier.”
Rodrigo from Major Spoilers put together a fun and colorful post with his advice on the subject in March. It’s the second article that offers actual concrete advice on how to put together a fun experience and get everyone to work together despite their separate agendas. I especially liked what he had to say about character development and motivations. You can read it for yourself here.
Both of these articles are excellent for giving some basic guidelines to work with, but they are the only two I could find. That’s why I decided to post my own experiences and advice on the matter as another resource for all fellow GMs and would-be villains out there. The first topic I will tackle is how to build a campaign setting with scenarios that work well for the immorally inclined. I want to gather more examples before I publish it here, so check back in a few days.
Have you ever ran or participated in your own evil campaign? How did it go? I’d love to hear stories and what others have to say on the subject.