Tuesday, October 20, 2020

How to be good at being evil

Yesterday, I made the point that evil isn't so great, really.

So let's say you and your fellow players in my game decide, yeah, let's be evil. Let's have a whole party of evil and not-evil-but-amoral types.

Some of this advice is generic, but it's largely predicated on being for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy in DF Felltower.

How to do it?


Let's handle some out of game issues that affect an evil party differently.

Trustworthy Evil

The first issue is, will you be loyal to one another despite evil being evil? Will it still be a cooperative game of magic items going to the one who can best use it or most needs it, loot divided by need, people buying each other potions and whatnot?

Or not?

It's a big decision, and it's one you need to make right way. This is first-principles evil campaign stuff. If you don't all agree on "all for one, one for all" then it's every man for himself. Know that when you throw your buddy the idol, he's not going to throw you the whip.

If it's all for one and one for all, dispense with the big issue of evil being untrustworthy by being loyal to each other with disadvantages. We're evil, yeah, but we're a tight fraternity/sorority/family/knitting circle/company of evil. You can take Sense of Duty and Code of Honor and all of that. Or lack them, but generally act as if you have them.

Squick Factor

The second issue, know other people's squick factor and trigger issues. Maybe someone doesn't have an issue with saying, "We torture the prisoner for a +6 to the roll" but really does have an issue articulating it. Maybe they'll play the bad guys well but really don't want to get into the issue of what selling kids into slavery really means for them. Stuff like that. Know these and respect these. It's a lot less of an issue with good parties. People might want to choke you when your holy warrior gives his +1 sword to the church when he finds a better one and doesn't give it someone else in the party, but they won't feel uncomfortable at the table.


What are in the in-game issues of being evil?

Heal Thyself

One big issue with an evil party is healing. Simply put, you don't get any in town from the Church. You don't get any in the dungeon from your Evil Cleric. Your neutral types may be able to get healing in town - and in DF Felltower, that's really iffy. Known association with evil types is quickly going to end with a reputation, and probably eventually Social Stigma (Excommunicated).

Evil Cleric: Get PI4 and take Steal Vitality pronto. Use it to drain foes and heal your injuries.

Unholy Warrior: You'll want Blood Healing immediately. Wild Talent will let you cast Steal Vitality once a session, or let you access any evil cleric spells as needed . . . once per session.

Everyone: Rapid Healing, high HP, and potions of healing are your friends. Learn First Aid, and make sure you have a good score in it.

The best way to avoid a need for healing is a good offense.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

The evil templates in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy do offense well.

Unholy Warrior: Evil characters should be liberally using poisons - and Unholy Warriors have access to the Venomous Tongue perk, which is a great way to save cash for healing potions by getting free poison. Blood Harming is useful but will cost HP to do. Striking ST for surprise attacks are good - remember, killing by stealth and treachery is easier than killing in a straight-up fight.

Evil Clerics: Unlike good clerics, you have a lot more offensive magical power. Death Vision, Deathtouch, Wither Limb, Frostbite, Madness, and Terror are all useful ways to deal with foes. Zombie and Mass Zombie will make them your friends after you steal their FP and HP and kill them. Summon Demon is a good top-end spell to get, too, to get demonic aid. You get what you pay for - like elemental summoning, if you do bare bones and minimum you won't get a fight-winner. But you might be able to get something serious to aid you if you put some real effort and energy into it. Don't try to be a good cleric, only evil . . . comb the spell list for ways to be offensively-minded and end fights quickly and unfairly and use them.

Others: Basically any template can be evil, of course, not just the two above. Adding a lens for either Unholy Warrior or Evil Cleric can help make you more so, and access their own abilities to add to your offense and allow you to "heal" by theft of life. A special shout-out goes to the Assassin (DF12) as a template that fits thematically better with evil parties (and which does well with kill-by-treachery). And to wizards, who are actually harder to make good than to make not-good.

My Kind of Scum!

One last benefit to being evil - the evil creatures in the dungeon are potential allies. You can do all sorts of things to curry favor with them, too - bring them sapient beings to eat or enslave or sacrifice, bribe them, give them tools that harm civilization, whatever. You can take part in their dark rituals - and maybe teach them a thing or two about darkness that they don't know. And, of course, kill them when it benefits you. It's easier to side with whatever horrible creatures you find, or use the unholy and unspeakable knowledge you uncover, if you're evil, horrible, unholy, and unspeakable yourself. "We should destroy that, not use it or sell it as is" is not an issue . . . unless you find something Holy.

Closing Thoughts: This just a quick scratch at the surface of what evil characters could do in DF Felltower. I'm not saying it's a good idea, or that these are the only ways to go, or anything like that. But for all that evil is, ultimately, weaker than good, it's not helpless or hopeless. It has some tempations and some power that good does not have. The above might make you give it a second look beyond scanning the templates for healing spells and then moving on. They aren't Good + Cool = Better than Good, but they aren't Good - Utility = Worse than Good, either.


  1. "Trustworthy Evil"

    This is a big one, no doubt why it opens the post. You can run a "Untrustworthy Characters, Trustworthy Players" campaign, I've been in many, many Vampire campaigns and that's basically the core of it's premise. However, and this is a very important however, the Players need to be able to separate 'real world' from 'game world' and be willing to screw over their paper man. not just in the "I know Bob's Character just borked over my guy, he's mad, but I'm copacetic", but in the metaplay. Like they have to be able let their Character walk into a trap set up by a fellow Character where as a Player know it's a trap and be willing as a Player to let it spring and possibly end their Character. Otherwise I'd suggest going with your approach, "Evil, but Team Players".

    "Squick Factor"

    And the second biggest importance. Be prepared for a Player to realize that "You know, this just isn't my bag". Even if they know themselves, they might not really //know themselves//. As a GM (and as Players) you just have to be ready to accept that someone might find out halfway through a session that whatever is being described, whatever their Character is doing is just not for them. So be ready to let them off the hook and/or modify the trajectory of the game.

    Frex, I've played some capital 'E' Evil Characters over the years. The first when I was 11, all the actual 'Evil' shenanigans (torture, slavery, etc) were off screen, between sessions. Filler for what the campaign was about, which was a political campaign (I was a self-willed skeletal bodyguard for the group's Evil Cleric leader, think The Mountain to Cersie, but 30 years before that show). So the petty Evil stuff didn't really have too much of spotlight.

    Second Evil Character was in high school, I was playing the Adversary for a group (started out with them, betrayed them, then fought them on the run). That evil was on-screen, and some of it just wasn't my bag. By the campaign's end I'd decided there were lines I wouldn't cross, even in rpg form. But it wasn't worrisome enough to force a campaign shift, and that revelation came with only a handful of sessions to go, so I went with it.

    I have nothing to add to your Ingame Thoughts, you covered every aspect.

  2. I'm pretty sure the squick factor ends a lot of "evil" campaigns. As it should.

    Back in high school a group of my friends played a chaotic evil party (a campaign I didn't participate in). I gather it was pretty over the top and a bit cartoony, but even so it only took a couple of weeks before the players started feeling slightly ill about what their characters were doing.

    I've only been asked to run a campaign like this once, probably because I opt for a certain realism in my games, especially when it comes to NPC characterization. In that instance the session, and the campaign, ended after about an hour when I accurately described the reaction of a victim. In four words.

  3. Trustworthy evil: You don't have to be doing charitable stuff for the party regarding treasure. Once the treasure is acquired it gets sold. If a person wants it, he gives the group the equivalent value into the pool to buy it from the group. Don't have enough? Too bad. You could try taking it by force but the rest of the party outnumbers you and they all want their cut of the sale so they'd fight you and that's not good. Unless you think you have the power to take them all on and win, but the way GURPS character points relate to power it is unlikely unless you are way out of the league of your companions.

    Evil may also have healing from all those nifty toys the good characters keep destroying rather than keeping or selling. They just don't know because they quickly destroy them. Maybe the solution to evil healing problems lie in all those evil artifacts...that would certainly explain why evil beings covet them so strongly!

    In your group I think a "moderate evil" group could work. As you allow players to maintain multiple characters and pick from the stable for each excursion, those interested in borderline evil play could create these characters and leave them in town until a session when everybody who shows up is okay with playing those characters together. If someone isn't interested in that experience they pull out the "good" characters and continue with them.

    You seem to have a very narrow view of evil but what I've seen in AD&D, literature, and television (and history) is there are all kinds of evil. They don't all have to be backstabbing, selfish b*****ds. They could have an ultimate goal supporting their view of an idealistic society...in which there is no free will or maybe zero tolerance of discordant thoughts. Absolute order, as defined by them, and maybe cooperation, forced charity, or anything else that good people choose to do is allowed or required by their views. Good would definitely classify these people seeking world domination as evil but they aren't required to be baby eating rapists or other red flags on what you call the squicky scale. Your game, your views, but I think there is more room for variety in Evil. Finding a sub-species of evil all the players consent to is the way to successfully play an evil group.

    1. Don't forget that in GURPS DF, Evil is a real, detectable force. Choosing Evil Cleric or Unholy Warrior means aligning with that power. You can be evil and bad without being Evil, but not that way.

      Plus, ultimately, in a fantasy world like this, a deep enough shade of grey will be treated as black by the forces of white. And you have to know that going in.


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