Temptations of Evil – Part Two: Evil in Group(s)

Evil in a Group

Probably one of the strongest and (in my humble opinion) most tempting designs for a character not only you will remember is an evil one. I’ve played a few of them, (since my personal hero-playing behaviour is predominant), but always enjoyed them. The basic for a great (not only good) evil design in a group of good guys is usually not to make him extraordinarily powerful or scheming. As a player it should be your focus to find your personal niché – to adapt and expand your groups portfolio and flair by your character’s concept. (Actually I think this should be the key to virtually every character design and I would really love to have my players always keep this in regard before any other things).


So what does really work good for an evil character in a good group? (I’m really relating this on the black & white good/evil thingy here)
I think disguises are an extraordinary way to play an evil character in a good group. I remember one of my very best appearances as actually three characters. Victanys, Kryscarin and Cairoa in during a few sessions and the best was – they were all just one. Let me explain:
Cairoa (Honored mother of night) is a priestess of Shar (goddess of night, forgetting and secrets in the Forgotten Realms setting) with an unrivaled hatred for Cyric (god of murder, hatred in the FR setting) and his machinations. While acting openly got her into problems really fast she decided to use a different identity as bard (she knew pretty well how to tell stories and dance so this was as close as it could be) named Victanys Klingenspiel. As bard she travelled around and told stories of a red headed mercenary called Kryscarin… And more often than not – her stories told and song she sang were clever intrigues against Cyrics priesthood.

To get the game running I was seeking counsel with my game-master and arranged a capture of the party. Of course they found a bound and exhausted Victanis in the same location and – they were mission-briefed against a mighty mage from a (disguised shar priest) cyric high priest, who was ritual-casting a Geas/Quest spell on them – forcing them to operate against this mage. (Who was one of the rivals of Shar in Luskan) – and at the same time guiding the group against Cyric (who obviously was behind this brutal capture and whole forced quest).
It was a brilliant feeling to see the eyes of the other players on me, when I first lifted a veil and revealed that Kryscarin, the Mercenary was no other than Victanis with a different hair-color and a bit of magical disguise added. But the final revelation of Cairoa the Shar priestess (when I stopped playing the character) behind this mask – was phenomenal. I think it was one of the densest background-stories and best “feeling” characters I ever played.

Of course this works the other way around as well – not that easily but I could tell a story of a (bard) neutral/good character leading a mixed gang of evil mercenaries. Just keep in mind that with extraordinary stories – and their admittance by the DM – it should not be your fun that counts, but the fun of your whole group. Then the concept will work – when you target at astonished faces of your co-players.

Evil Groups

Another interesting experience for dungeon masters and players alike is playing actual evil characters in a group. So once again we got a few approaches to it:

Dungeon Keeper

According to my experience this is the variant of evil that works worst. Dungeon Keeper concept means you have a gang of evil characters and send the good guys against them. The problem is you rely on your players to keep the story (for them) running and add just a bit of annoyance, assassination attempts and other flavor factors to it.

Dungeon Crawler

Dungeon Crawler is most likely the closest-to-good-party as can be. The main difference will be method when they face other adventurers (especially weaker ones), their relationship to slavery and their approach to criminal acts. It can make a great experience for mature players as you can test and try a lot of things in the virtual world that you hopefully don’t consider in the real one. It’s often a new are for the Dungeon Master as well, when he has to take the city-watch against the characters for the first times…

Assassins & Mercenaries

Sounds very promising and can lead to very interesting adventures – but – make sure you have a great connection of the character background if you do not want PvP (Player versus Player) scenarios. For me as Dungeon Master this is just one of the variants that you offer your players similiar to a Shadowrun Adventure – you got your “Johnson” and he offers you something you can hardly deny to do… This aspect of the game makes it (almost vital) to have some reputation of players and keep track of it. It gives great possibilities for development as well as epic campaigns.

(and of course others)

Of course there are many other approaches of evil, as usual I would ask you dear reader, if you got any ideas. Via Comment or Trackback – just go ahead and tell me what Evil Experiences you have had in the past. 

Bookish Evil (or what you should consider before you copy a character)

Raistlin Majere is probably one of the best known examples of an evil character in a group of heroes. So I see the temptation of creating just that one mage, with just that much power and just that evil demeanor. But when you’re really going that way, do not forget that Raistlin always depended on his brother Caramon and the rest of the characters to keep him from utter and ultimate evil in the beginning – and do not forget that Raistlin had some adventures all on his own. There is always (or most of the times) a great opportunity of roleplaying for these evil characters in your group, but it should never depend on the other players and their characters to keep you from falling down the other side of the edge. This will most likely ruin the game for everyone else, unless you’ve agreed on this before the game started.

Preview for the next chapter:
Temptations of Evil – Part 3, will take in account dungeon mastering an evil group, creating creative backgrounds and hooks and make sure you’ll have plenty of fun as villains.

4 thoughts on “Temptations of Evil – Part Two: Evil in Group(s)

  1. There was an awesome boxed set that was released way back in the olden days called reverse dungeon.

    It was basically a one-shot game where the players would design a dungeon, poplate it, then defend it from the DM. I always thought it was a concept that was before it’s time.

    Personally, I like to set up one of the player characters as a hidden agent within the party. It isn’t always an evil character, but the secrets and subterfuge make for an excellent role-playing aid.

  2. Totally agreed Donny, but I’ve done that hidden agent thing before (as DM and player) and think players get suspicious over time and it’s a concept best used rarely (but then with enough preparation to make it a great thing to remember).

    I liked the pc-game approach of Dungeon Keeper (honestly) but I have to look into this reverse dungeon concept if it’s a really good one for the table. Have you tried it?

  3. Yes! IT was a rousing beer and pretzels success! It can be tailored to fit the size and levels of the group by simply reverse engineering the CR mechanic.

    Cr of dungeon = Calculated CR of a “50%” encounter X the number of seperate encounters.

    A simple dungeon will usually only have 3-5 encounters. For a CR5 party (4 5th level adventurers/5 3rd level adventurers) we get an average of a CR20. The caveat is that the most powerful INDIVIDUAL dreature cannot exceed CR5. it’s got a kink or to, but comes out fairly close.

    In my experience, the players will choose one BBEG with a couple of stronger type critters as the final encounter, and litter the rest with expendables in huge numbers, or traps.

    I wish they’d re-release it.

  4. It does indeed sound like a fine way to spend – some time.
    And I’ll try to have a look at that old version of it – maybe I am lucky and can find one.
    Thanks for the description – now I at least understand the fun of it 😉

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