“Can I play an evil character?” It’s a question that every GM has heard and, in my experience, has come to dread. It usually doesn’t mean “Hey, I want to play this really interesting idea, and I think it would require an evil alignment” but rather “Look, I REALLY want my character to kill everyone, especially innocents, is that ok?” That’s why today I’m going to talk about playing an evil character in an RPG and ways to avoid doing it disruptively. So first let’s look at…
What Evil Means
Evil characters aren’t necessarily murderers. They could just be selfish, to the point that they’d be willing to sell out other people for their own benefit. They may be sadistic, or greedy, but they might also have friends who they care about, and they might even care enough about those friends that they would never consider selling them out or even hurting them. They don’t have to be demon-worshipers. They might not even ACT exceptionally evil, and in a world with heroes walking around they would be wiser not to. Which goes into…
Evil Doesn’t Mean Stupid
You know how in real life you might really want to punch someone, but you don’t because of consequences like getting arrested? Well now imagine that you live in a world where not only are there authorities, but probably also people capable of fighting bears with their bare hands just walkin’ around. In most RPGs, you live in a world full of adventurers, and that makes giving people a reason to want you dead a bad idea, especially if that includes good aligned team-mates. Which means you could have some…
If you want to be an evil character that is also an effective part of the team, here are some good guidelines:
- Don’t Backstab the Party: Seriously, the other party members are your friends and if you backstab them then as a character and as a player you’ll be in hot water. Saying “I’m evil” is not justification to be a bad player.
- Don’t Destroy Everything: Again, if “It’s in character” is your justification for being a disruptive player, you need a new character. If you say “Well I’m evil,” and try to kill all of the townspeople, you’re doing it wrong AND your character should probably get killed through the natural consequences of their actions.
- Be More than Evil: Being one-dimensional is for NPCs. Being evil is not enough to make your character interesting. If the rest of the party is evil, then it’s not special, and if they’re not then you need a good reason why they’re traveling with you. If anything, being evil puts more pressure on you to develop your character.
So what does an evil character done right look like? Well, here’s a concept I drew up a while back when I was thinking about putting the “E” on my character sheet.
Drugan, the Sadistic Hero
Drugan was a greedy, brutal, and sadistic killer, but he kept that to himself. He learned at a young age that the day-to-day life of a hero is easier than the lives of all but the best of thieves and mercenaries, and you tend to make far fewer enemies. He had built a reputation as a protector of good, so, so what if there were rumors going around that he tortured his enemies? His enemies were the likes of that brigand group that had been abusing the village for years, so what if he may or may not have killed them horribly even after their surrender? Besides, those were just rumors anyway. He treats the villagers with kindness, knowing that in exchange they’ll feed their champion well and give him a place to rest and spread good words of him across the countryside.
Just don’t get on his radar as an acceptable target. If he thinks it would be easy, he might even go after you without reward. People will say he was being gallant by clearing out the bandit camp without even asking for a reward. He even donated some of their stolen booty. After all, a good reputation is priceless.
So next time you ask your DM to let you play an evil character, do so with this in mind. Evil characters CAN be very fun to play, but they require a certain amount of finesse.
Note: I’m sorry that this week is all a day off. The real life has been really putting the spurs to me,