Pain of Campaigning VIII: What About the Bad Guys?

over9000ry4Intro: Looking at the Campaigning Inquisition, I saw that the vast majority of people favor heroic or at least characters that have the potential to be heroes.  Considering the nature of the D&D beast, this makes sense, but I worry that people may be hesitant to try one of the most enjoyable modes of D&D: playing as one of the bad guys.  My favorite D&D game of all time had us play demon-summoning, undead-raising, townsfolk-terrorizing evil sons of bitches waging war on civilization; until my character betrayed the party when he realized ruling over an empire of uncivilized barbarians would be completely unacceptable.  This article is going to give some tips on how to organize and maintain an evil party, how to make enjoyable for players that may be leery of the idea, and how to make it enjoyable for you even if you have reservations about such a game as a DM.

Maintaining & Organizing Play: The first problem people have with an evil party is keeping it together and focused.  Rather than abiding moral sense to help people you have a group of pricks and selfish jerks.  So, you have to have a hook that keeps the party together and you have to make it clear that it’s necessary during character creation.  Some good hooks involve the need to overthrow a sickening empire of good, an even more evil apocalyptic power seeking to destroy the very world that the PCs would dominate, or a simple case of necessity where law enforcement, good religious groups, or polities are going to hunt them down one by one.  Either way, make it clear and firm that these motivations are required AT THE START.

Winning over the Dubious Player: Some of your players may have understandable reservations about hanging up their hero boots and switching sides to the villains.  First off, just because a character is evil doesn’t mean they have to contemptible murderers.  You could play an honorable, but brutal, warrior or a otherwise selfish spell caster that’s looking out for his family.  Alternatively, some parties have the resident bad guy that works with the heroes: a character could be the opposite: the good guy that finds himself amongst cutthroats and bastards because of circumstances.  Or a character could be the mole or spy, but this time a spy for the good guys.  Its important to realize that just because the party may have selfish/evil goals doesn’t mean each PC has to be that way.

Winning over the Dubious DM Inside You: The idea of having a bunch of bastards scheme, connive, murder, and rampage through your campaign world may not win you over at first, however there are a lot positives.  First, there’s something morbidly amusing about watching PCs deal with normal legal authorities and going totally against the grain.  Secondly, as big, bad and evil as the villains are that you’ve created, you’ve never seen anything compared to the scheming of a group of PCs.  The plans they execute and the things that truly ‘evil’ characters come up with can be pretty mind blowing.  Which leads me to my final point that the long term can fully appreciate.  When its all said and done, and the baddest, most despicable PCs have built their empire of evil you have something great: a ready made second campaign.  Imagine the horror of your players when they’re forced to retire their magnificent bastards and be the poor group of souls that have to figure out a way of BEATING them…

The Pain of Campaigning I: Story and Pre-Game Decisions
The Pain of Campaigning II: Starting the Game
The Pain of Campaigning III: The Plot Thickens
The Pain of Campaigning IV: Put a Little Politics In It
The Pain of Campaigning V: Suitable Villains
The Pain of Campaigning VI: Give Your Villains Some Panache!
The Pain of Campaigning VII: The Finale (Part 1: What You Want the Adventure to be)
The Pain of Campaigning VIII: What About the Bad Guys?


  1. I just ran an evil Eberron campaign and what I found effective to keep the party working cohesively together was to give them a patron that they recognized was more evil and more powerful than themselves. They became very focused on completing their missions and had very little squabbling in the party. In some ways they behaved less evilly than when they had played nominal good guys, since they were always afraid of the boss coming down upon them.

    And of course as they rose in power I switched up their boss so they had that fear of the hammer coming down.

    Captain Cursor´s last post: Lex’s Computer Levels

  2. Something that Captain Cursor said sparked an idea. The party could still defeat the next boss in line, just like in a more traditional game, but then take that boss’ place.

    We once played bumbling bad guys; a pair of liches. It was really fun. We had a cave with a sign that said, “No Liches Here.” We dug a pit in the entrance, but we 1.) realized that a pit right inside our front door was dangerous and 2.) got really lazy and never finished it. So it was only about an inch deep. We took over a town, but there was nothing in it, and we felt bad the people didn’t like us. So we ate their brains, but then we didn’t have anyone to rule over. Ahh…those were the days. 😉