Everybody wants to be the hero of the story. That’s part of the appeal of Dungeons & Dragons. It lets you become the hero of your own story, where you get to affect the outcome with your own decisions, and a little luck from the dice.
To that end, most folks like to play Good aligned characters. Deep down, we all want to be noble and heroic, even the people who call it bland and overdone. It’s just the nature of what we see as good and noble that tends to change depending on who you ask.
Even characters with an Evil alignment can be pursuing goals they personally see as good and noble. Just being evil, in the world of D&D, doesn’t make you a super villain. It just means you have a different viewpoint.
Being a Necromancer with an army of zombies trying to take over the world kinda makes you a super villain, but that’s a whole different matter.
There are ways to play an evil character in a party of good aligned ones that doesn’t involve being a jerk or laughing manically as you rub yours hands together behind their backs. It mostly comes down to the role play, however, and taking advantage of the the moral grey areas that the alignment system creates.
Below are some alternate ways you can approach an evil character, as a role playing experience, mental exercise, good old fashioned fun, or to mess with your fellow players.
We all know that the Lawful Evil type is the alignment most likely to take advantage of an orderly world for their own selfish goals. But what if their goals weren’t entirely selfish?
Perhaps, you are playing a character who sees how the orderly world has lead to a caste system that is unfeeling and unsympathetic to the plight of the poor. Their goal is to take over, rule the world, and make it fair for everyone. Even if that means creating a lot of economic upheaval and putting the upper class to death. While their actions are certainly evil, their goals are not.
What’s interesting about playing a character like this is that they know how the system works, how to work within the system, how to manipulate it, and how to tear it all down. They are well aware that their actions will create a lot of chaos and instability, but it is all in the name of their goal. To create a world that is truly fair, which they will ensure remains fair with the iron grip of a tyrant.
They are evil in action, yes, but in pursuit of a goal they see as noble and good.
Working within a party of good aligned characters, the goal of this character should be to slowly work their allies into accepting short term evil for long term good. Killing this merchant may be bad at the moment, but he has been fleecing both his customers and the city on taxes, to make a huge profit for himself. In the long run, his death will serve the public good, and make the world a better place, right?
Of course, having gotten rid of the merchant, this Lawful Evil character will take possession of all that hoarded money, to further fund his own actions.
Getting Good aligned characters to accept little evils is how this type of character works best. Be reasonable in your approach. Offer up perfectly valid reasons for doing bad things, use logic as your weapon, and don’t hesitate to do research on NPC’s who’s deaths would benefit your goals.
Ease your goody two shoes companions into the life of evil a little at a time. Don’t pronounce your desire to rule the world. Just be focused on how it could be more fair and kind to the less fortunate. Good characters eat that shit up, and if you are careful and smart, they’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand, doing your dirty work for you, and paving the way for you to rule everyone with the gloved fist they need for the world needs to be fair and just.
See? I almost had you convinced it was a worthy goal, didn’t I?
Most Neutral Evil characters are played as dispassionate loners who only care about themselves, and have no qualms about killing if it pleases them. This is the purest sense of a Neutral Evil character.
The more varied sense is one who is evil, but not for the sake of it or because they don’t care. They are evil because they chose to be. It isn’t that they feel nothing at killing someone, it pains them greatly, but the world is overpopulated, and a culling must happen if true freedom is to flourish.
Ousting that nobleman who taxes his people into poverty doesn’t solve anything, no matter how good it feels. Another equally terrible noble is sure to take his place. The only real solution is to set fire to the village and kill them all. They will be free, and the noble will go broke. Other nobles will be shocked, and perhaps take greater care to be kind to their own people. It’s cruel, but sometimes, we must be cruel to be kind.
Take that orphan child over there. Is it really better to let him grow up in a world that took his family from him? Or is it better to smother him in his sleep, and let him rejoin his family in the the afterlife? Really, when you think about it, that’s the greater mercy, isn’t it?
Of course, getting your indoctrinated sheeple companions to go along with this will be impossible. You must act behind their backs, and mourn with them at all these tragic loses. Never let them know what you are doing, or they will surely fall into line with how they’ve been told to think and try to stop you.
If you really want to operate in the open, however, then just be honest about it all. As an example, the party is tasked with finding out what’s behind a rash of disappearances. During their investigation, they learn a city guardsman was paid off to look the other way while these nefarious actions were carried out.
Stabbing him in the face is the quickest way to serve justice. Handing him over to the authorities won’t do any good. He’ll sit in a cell for a long time just to get a trial, and be imprisoned, further draining the tax revenue to feed, clothe, and shelter a criminal. It’s in the best interest of society to just kill him now and be done with it.
Put the actions in terms the good players will have trouble arguing, and while they may not like the murder sprees you go on, they won’t actually try to stop you, because you are actively making the world a better place by offing bad people.
Sure, the Paladin in the party may complain, but he can have an unfortunate accident when it’s just the two of you, right?
This one is the hardest to pull off in a party of Good aligned players, because Chaotic Evil pretty well sums up what the alignment is all about. There’s really not a way to play it in the open and have the other characters be accepting of it.
Which is why you have to remember that Chaotic doesn’t mean stupid.
You want to bring true freedom to the world by way of anarchy. Tear it all down and let everyone fend for themselves. Who needs cities, walls, and soldiers? What good have they ever done? You want to make the world truly free by removing all rules and restrictions.
The other characters are just tools you use to that end. Present yourself as being like them, but always be ready to seize an opportunity to realize your true goal. Plant evidence, or create it if you must, to incriminate noblemen and royalty alike. Take advantage of corruption where ever you find it. Blackmail anyone and everyone into becoming your unwilling servant all in order to have them act in your stead when those nicey nice jackasses are watching.
Being Chaotic Evil is more than gloating monologues about how pathetic everyone is next to you. It’s about cunning, manipulating every situation to you advantage, and always having a patsy ready to take the blame should things go wrong.
Get some dirt on a local merchant, then use it to force him to do something else you can hold over his head. When the time is right, send him off to assassinate the king, for which he’ll take the fall, and you’ll be in the clear as the world moves a step closer to falling into total anarchy.
It’s all in how you play the alignments that matters. Never be afraid to approach evil as it’s own version of good, and play a character with the idea that they are the true hero, just misunderstood by society, and those around them.
If nothing else, it’ll be a fun experience for you.