Evil Parties: First Tier Play

first tier playA DM worth his salt knows that your plan never survives contact with the player, and with an evil party, that is doubly true. Expect your party to get into trouble and plan how to handle that trouble when it happens. Expect them to make a mistake at some point and don’t let a single bad roll or encounter spell the end of the campaign. Evil character will eventually draw the notice and the ire of good. It is entirely possible that they will get in over their heads, and here are a few options for dealing with it:

  • An evil party that decides to test itself against the city guards can certainly die. But death is not permanent. Consider having a Lich or Necromancer raise them to serve its nefarious designs (or by the side of good to defend against a greater Evil). Now their goal is to regain their freedom in any way they can.
  • A party captured by the forces of good for their crimes are not done and over. Make escape an option. Make Geas an option. They have skills and can attempt to bargain or bribe their way out of trouble. Give the party the opportunity to gain intelligence or leverage that allows them to blackmail their way out in any given scenario.
  • The party or a member of the party murders someone in the plain site of a witness. Give the option to bribe, tamper, or otherwise affect whether or not those charges stick. Consider giving the PCs the option of manipulating the events to their advantage by using their power or influence to rise above the law. Doing so may have unintended consequences when the lower classes become restless or angry with them, refusing services, protesting, or rioting for justice.

Do not be afraid to remind them (at least initially) of the potential consequences of their actions. When the CE Dwarf Barbarian says he is going to attack the barmaid, remind the player that his character could be captured or killed. There is no harm in stepping out of gameplay to make sure your players are aware of the (obvious) consequences of actions. They may still choose to take those actions, and that is fine.

First Tier Play

In some ways, gameplay may not differ much from a normal party, though to call it the same is not quite right either. Give your players the chance to define their characters. You can easily create generic encounters, such as wiping out a band of Orcs. For most characters, good or evil, starting out in play is acquiring gold and power. However, you should remember that players are playing evil characters.

Consider how a villain would approach a mission to kill Orcs. Encourage or hint at the possibility of allying with these creatures if it speaks to the motivations of your characters. Allow them to bargain with their quarry. Maybe the Orcs offer more coin to look the other way; maybe if the PCs allow the Goblin band to go unchecked, they will be willing to fight on behalf of the PCs in the future.

Consider this: Oftentimes missions for good characters are set up as “Go there, kill that.” If you set up your original missions as “Go there, bargain this,” you give the characters a chance to show what they are really made of. Perhaps the village hiring the party only want the Orcs to move on. They don’t want bloodshed. The mission encourages the bargaining between the PCs and the Orcs, which is more likely to result in options that define your PCs better. If your PCs end up murdering the entire Orc clan, it says something about the PCs as well. The villagers may not be happy but might accept whatever turn of events the PCs choose to tell; but the tale of their deed is not Evil to most people, and they may get hired for more nefarious work if they are willing to get their hands dirty.

If you are looking to change up your gameplay a bit more, ensure alternate options are provided by their enemies.  After a father hires the party to save his daughter, a rival duke might ask that they kill the damsel in distress instead so that he can marry her sister to gain a better inheritance when the father dies. Make the reward worth the effort. But don’t rule out a double-cross by the party to ransom the damsel in distress back to her father, to out the duke for a reward from the father, or ultimately kill her if they think something more can be gained by her death. Taking normal tropes in fantasy and turning them on their head can yield excellent options for an evil campaign.

What are some other common tropes that can be played with to offer an evil party an interesting encounter or campaign?

Read this article on Session Zero: Evil Parties

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