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So You Want To Be Evil

Good and evil….shadow and light….can the two co-exist? John Hutton explains!



You want to play an evil character in your D&D game.  DON’T!  Wow.  This is going to be a short article!  Thanks for reading!  Of course, I’m kidding.  Shout out to Stapletor on the Six Sides of Gaming Discord channel for the idea for this article.  Let’s really talk about this.  You want to play an evil character.  Why?  What does that mean?  What are some of the potential problems that come with playing an evil character?

It’s Not Easy Being Evil

Let’s assume your DM allows you to play an evil character.  They really shouldn’t but for the sake of argument, let’s assume you have the green light.  Why do you want to play an evil character?  I’d say 7/10 times it’s because everyone plays a hero and they want to try something new.  That’s all well and good.  I’m totally for experimentation; especially with role-playing.  Playing a villain can be fun.  But the problem is this is D&D.  Evil in D&D is pretty clearly defined as not just the random jerk in the tavern.  Evil is enslaving the world to your desires or burning it down trying.  Also, It’s not just you playing.  You’re playing with a party of individuals.  So, if you’re going to be evil, there have to be boundaries.  And that’s where “THE TALK” comes in.  All the players know you’re playing an evil character, but the other characters don’t know that.  And it’s only a matter of time before they find out.  If you have a paladin or a good-aligned cleric in the party, that immediately will cause a problem.  Especially with the paladin. 

Angering The Gods

Everyone always jokes about the paladin being lawful stupid.  But there’s a reason for it.  They really don’t have a choice.  That’s what paladins do.  They fight evil.  And they aren’t the kind to distinguish between major and minor acts of evil.  It’s evil.  Things are a bit different in 5th edition, but back in the old school D&D days, paladins were a big deal.  It wasn’t a starting class.  Back when players had to roll 3d6 in order for stats and they needed a 17 in charisma just to qualify to be a paladin, getting to that level was a very big deal.  And any acceptance of evil came with big penalties.  They would become an oath breaker.  They’d lose all their magic from their god.  They could lose levels and experience points.  All of a sudden, all that work to become a paladin gets erased because someone in your party wanted to twirl their mustache.  

It’s the same for clerics.  Being around evil would mean breaking the vows for their order.  Now all their healing magic doesn’t work.  Or doesn’t work as well.  And healing magic is the number 1 reason people play clerics.  If there’s an evil person in the party and there’s a good-aligned cleric, chances are good they won’t be in such a hurry to heal you when you inevitably get in trouble.  

The Three Evil Commandments

The other reason to have “THE TALK” is that it’s important to understand why you want to play an evil character.  Is it just because you want a character-driven reason to be a jerk at the table?  Do you want to steal from the other players?  Maybe you just want to be the guy who chops off fingers during an interrogation or randomly stabs people in the face.  If that’s why then you’re just being disruptive.  No.  You don’t get to do that.  So, anyone thinking of playing an evil character must take the gamer’s oath.  

  1. Thou shalt not turn on the party
  2. Thou shalt not steal from the party
  3. Thou shalt not do things to jeopardize the party.

The first point is self-explanatory.  When things get rough, you don’t run away.  You don’t sell them out for fortune and power.  The party is the party.  The others might be goody two shoes, but they are your goody two shoes.  You won’t let them get killed and there’s nothing anyone can say or do to change your mind.  Yes, even if Halaster Blackcloak offers to give you a seat by his side and rule over the Undermountain.  Even if he lets you take something from his personal bag of swag, you can’t turn on the party.  Because it’s D&D.  If your goal was to betray the party, then why did you even roll up the character?

You can’t steal from the party.  Even if you swear this out of character, the second anything goes missing, everyone will point at you anyway.  Because you’re evil.  

The third one is where we have a restriction at our table.  No Chaotic or Neutral Evil characters.  If you want to be evil, it has to be Lawful Evil.  And this is where I can no longer avoid talking about alignments on the internet.  I mentioned it a bit earlier, but in old-school D&D, alignments were a very big deal.  You can’t act outside of your alignment.  DMs would severely punish players for breaking alignment.  This means up to and including level loss.  This was mostly to discourage noble-aligned characters from burning down orphanages and puppy stores.  But it goes both ways.  Chaotic Evil characters are like the Joker in The Dark Knight.  They want to watch the world burn.  If suddenly, you’re not a gibbering maniac, well, the DM is going to force you to change your alignment.  You should’ve cut off that NPC’s face and worn it as a hat while quoting Descartes.  You’re Chaotic Evil.  

Wrap Up

In 5th edition, alignments are a bit more like guidelines.  And if the DM is willing to let it slide, then there is something to playing an evil character.  In fiction, there is the tragic fall story and the redemption story.  A character can start evil and over the course of the adventure become good.  There’s no reason to punish that if that’s the story the player wants to tell.  The same with the good character falling from grace.  

I stand by the rule against no evil characters at the table.  But it really does depend on the story the player wants to tell.  It shouldn’t just be because evil is fun and they want to do something different.  Really think about the character and the story you want to tell with that character.  And if you’re willing to have “THE TALK” and take the gamer’s oath, then give it a go. 

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