Thursday, September 18, 2014

Evil PCs - Do You Allow Them?

I remember quite vividly when AD&D 2e dropped assassins and half-orc when jumping editions. I was upset that TSR had dropped evil classes and races from the realms of PC use. This, after playing in 3 groups in 2 different states and seeing just one evil PC - a half-orc assassin. I really should have been more upset at the filing off of the serial numbers of the demons and devils between editions.

It isn't even like any of those groups had a hard and fast rule against evil PCs - we just used the commons sense rule of "even evil doesn't have to be a dick!"

These days, I'd probably allow an evil PC if he player were able to explain up front how they could play the alignment and NOT be a dick to the rest of the party.

So, do you allow evil PCs? Yes? No? Why? Why not and all that other shit that comes prepackaged with these types of questions ;)


  1. The majority of PCs at my table have defaulted to Neutral Amoral. So yes. Sort of.

  2. Our group allowed evil characters if you really wanted to play one. You just had to play smart and appropriate to the alignment. Those that tried to play Chaotic Evil usually ended up getting eliminated in the first gaming session due to poor impulse control. The Neutral Evil would last longer, but would eventually be found out and brought to justice in one form or another. The Lawful Evil characters were the ones to look out for because they would develop a code of ethics that would allow them to disguise their true motivations.

    That being said -- I always had a problem with alignment as a detectable palpable quality. Too often I encounter players that share the common misconception that being Evil, automatically means that you are stupid and perform deeds that advertise your true nature. It also means that you encounter the ultra dickish GM who railroads the party by having permanent alignment detection zones located all over the place, because, in truth, he really doesn't want Evil characters in the mix.

    If the magical means to detect alignment gets removed or severely restricted, it becomes incredibly hard to determine alignment unless you pay attention to the characters actions.Evil characters can, and often do, perform good deeds to mask their true intentions. To take a side journey into the realms of comic books... Lex Luthor is an excellent example of a Lawful Evil character. Unless you examine his motivation for his actions, all you see is a millionaire tech genius who is using his money and intelligence to create new way to improve everyday life. Additionally, just because a person detects as Evil should not mean they are automatically guilty and should be imprisoned or killed on sight. In any Lawful society, you still need proof of their Evil deeds.

    Being a dick to the party tends to reflect the nature of the player more than the character. I have often found that people who play Lawful Good tend to be worse than those that play Evil of any stripe. It is oft repeated -- "Lawful Good does not mean Lawful Stupid" but many people just can't seem to get it right. Another dick is the thief character who feels compelled to steal from the party even if they are allegedly Good aligned, just because it is what they do.

    Sorry... I didn't mean to go off topic quite so far. To recap -- Evil PCs -- Yes, Stupid Players -- NO. The game is about getting together and having fun, so if you can play an evil character and not cause the game to self destruct, there is no reason to not allow them. It is only when the game play becomes irrecoverably disruptive that action should be taken to remove them.

  3. I think that if you are going to have an alignment system, you need to allow for neutral and evil PCs. If you don't, then you lose part of the fun--gates that allow some alignments to enter and not others, magic items that have alternate effects for different alignments, etc. Also, your party in 1st Ed. had some built in moral and objective complexity--Paladins and Rangers working alongside Assassins and Half-Orcs, different Clerics of different gods--the interesting question was, what problems are big enough to bring these guys together? Or at what point will the quest for treasure necessarily bring them into racial/objective conflict? It's an interesting time bomb to have ticking, if your players can manage a little basic maturity at the table.

  4. Only if they are, in fact, "Eviler than Skeletor".

  5. I stopped restricting alignment choices thirty years ago and have never looked back, This has led to some campaigns which ended up where the players effectively turned into the evil villains, but those were quite fun.

    But as g-woulf says, I do not allow stupid players, either.

  6. I don't allow Lawful Good, pretentious a.holes

  7. I only used alignment as a shorthand for NPC behavior.

  8. I only allow evil PCs in an "evil" campaign. If a player insists on choosing an evil PC for a regular campaign, I make it clear he'll have a lot of trouble for not being and acting like a hero.

  9. Yup PCs can be evil but anyone writing evil on their sheet for short-term gain and the illusion of being able to do whatever they want is in for a serious surprise.
    What do most PCs do? Hunt down evil-doers, kill them, and take their stuff. Gee I wonder how NPCs would react to an evil dude in the local tavern...

  10. I never messed with alignments, Dragonquest didn't bother with them. The bigger question is how much variance from team play does a group of characters/players permit. The lawful good prig can cause as much of a headache as the chaotic neutral thief pick pocketing the crowd. I tend to think the "Don't be a dick & Don't do something profoundly stupid" tend to be the two common sense commandments of player groups. Most of the time when players have gone evil, being a dick in moments of convenience was hard to overcome.

  11. Nope, no good either. I prefer lawful/neutral/chaotic, and chaotic is for monsters and NPCs.

    If I do run AD&D some time, I will probably leave out alignment entirely or something. I honestly don't see why an assassin has to be motivated primarily by a desire to hurt others, as evil characters are in Gygax's description.

    I have never really had players demand alignments or a more robust alignment system. It is a solution to a non-problem if you ask me.

  12. It depends on the game, but generally yes. If I'm running an open game there is no reason not to allow it.

    One of my favorite campaigns involved a party with a nearly even balance of good, neutral, and evil characters. It kept me on my DM's toes, let me tell you. They had a lawful neutral fighter who was nominally agreed to be the party leader.

    The best part is that none of it was planned. They just rolled up the characters and the synergy happened naturally. The LN player didn't even want to be a party leader at first, but realized he had to step up or the group would kill itself, or get picked off by their enemies.

  13. Having dropped alignments in my game . . . so, sort of? People can play the character they want to play, but jerks are likely to be punished by the world or the rest of the characters or both.

  14. Back in the day we saw 2e as a sell out to the D&D panic and didn't really bother with it. We allowed evil characters because we saw no reason not to. A much older wiser me now would also allow them them for two reasons.

    The first, the genre is Role Playing Games. Evil however you define it is a role just like fighter or MU. If you as a player want to explore what it is to be evil through your play (rather than actually being evil in real life) then fill your boots.

    The second is frame of reference. The group ISIS currently lopping off heads in the middle east and elsewhere is generally considered by the west to be evil, possibly even chaotic evil. Were you to ask them, they would no doubt consider themselves to be lawful good. Evil then in a game context can simply mean a different moral code from the majority. A player who can pull that off is worth having around.


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