Evil characters

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Evil characters

Post by Snarg of Wildpaw on Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:06 pm

This has been discussed in brief before, but I think it's interesting enough for more.

I don't like alignments. Half the time it's just an excuse for your character to do something and the other half of the time it's just sitting on the side doing nothing. If I had my way, I'd do away with alignments. That being said, I think evil characters absolutely have a place in tabletop games and can be a part of most groups without incident, provided there's not some metagaming going on. Obviously the setting and campaign will place limits on characters on occasion, but if you're just speaking in general, I think it's just as valid as selecting a good character. Yes, even selecting an evil character in groups with characters such as paladins. Now, that does mean that you'll need to somewhat coordinate and make sure the other side of the coin isn't represented: the "stupid good" who'll strike down someone if they even find out they have an evil alignment.

The problem I see a lot is that a lot of the time they're played "stupid evil" where they do terrible things just becuase "well, I'm evil." It's not even for their own gain half the time. In my mind, playing an evil character doesn't mean you're thinking of ways to screw the other person over 24/7, but rather you're more inwardly focused than usual. Example: the lawful evil and lawful good person might help the out-of-control wizard child who's about the burn down the town. Neither of them want to die, neither of them want the town to die, but in the end, the evil character might be the one who pushes for some power, resources, etc, out of the town if he saves it. Not an "evil" act or undeserved, but he's looking out for number one.

That doesn't mean that your goals won't coincide with the good paladin's quest over there or be a boon to the party in general. Evil characters shouldn't be opposed to doing "good" deeds. They might even feel good about it or want to do it sometimes. It means you're not doing fairy tale evil, which I think is best reserved for NPCs. If you're an evil ruler, you could genuinely care about your subjects and want them to succeed, be happy, etc. Of course you'll do better if that's happening, but that's beside the point.

TLDR; I absolutely think there's a place for evil characters as long as they're not just always the "bwahahaha kill everyone for fun, steal everything in sight, and cause mayhem whenever possible" type.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Zeiss on Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:30 pm

Well, since Zeiss is the closest thing we have to an evil character, I felt compelled to post. Razz

But the truth is, I do not see Zeiss as an evil character. Surely, he is more selfish than other people and it is easier for him to be indifferent to the misfortune of others. But it doesn't mean he takes pleasure in killing people. And he is more than willing to do what would be considered "good" actions. For example, we are pretty far in the campaign right now and Zeiss's personality changed a lot on this journey. He learned that killing was not always the first solution we should come up with (thanks to one of Snarg's plan against the Tusker we met). He also learned that putting gold in a group's found to procure healing to the party members in need was something that should be done more often.

And because of that, Zeiss has planned to create an organization that heals people for free and which would be financed by the Exchange. While some "good" party members would create such an organization just for the chance to help people, Zeiss would also do it to receive good publicity from the population. If the Exchange is seen as a "good" organization, he knows it can be a powerful political advantage. It doesn't mean he would do this solely for the good reputation.

So I also think an evil character can be played if some thought is put into it. Not the chaotic evil kind though.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Snarg of Wildpaw on Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:35 pm

Posting this here because it's too big for the chat.

If the rule is that the evil character is going to be some sort of villain or the foil to the party, will always be cruel, always be wicked to others, always a murdered, etc, that's just going to go wrong no matter how you look at it and I don't think that's the way it should be played at all. That's also setting bad expectation on the player by telling him that an evil character has to be like that - it doesn't.

A good example of an evil character in my mind are character such as Catwoman, Vegeta, and even characters like Han Solo (A New Hope) to a certain extent. Yeah, they're in it for themselves, and yeah, they won't see eye-to-eye with the good characters all the time, but when the chips are down, they'll be the ones coming in at the last minute. Maybe not because it's the right thing to do, but because they perhaps like the party members, they have some personal gain from this, or it's just generally going to make things better for themselves (and other people by consequence). They're not stupid. If the dragon is going to destroy the world, they don't want that to hapen. "Let's blow this thing and go home!"
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Snarg of Wildpaw on Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:42 pm

I could see Zeiss being an evil or neutral character, at least the way I'd define him. Obviously I don't play him so I don't know all the details, but if I had to brand an alignment on him that's what I'd do.

It'd be a lot easier if the alignments were named something other than "good" and "evil". Although, again, I think they should just be done away with, and that's generally what I've done when I've GM'd some, but that does break a lot of the game and require some house ruling.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Archengeia on Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:47 pm

The real problem is the word 'evil' has to be defined before it can even be approached which, again, leans me more towards NOT allowing such a thing because of the hassle involved. I have no doubt a 'roguish' type character like Han Solo would work in a party (even before he was one of the most good characters in the series) because the classic example of Neutral Evil is, basically, selfish. They're in it for themselves. Hell even the example of Chaotic Evil isn't what I call Stupid or Psychotic Evil, just actively against authority or order and in it for themselves (Belkar from Order of the Stick is a good example of this). And finally Lawful Evil if done properly and with a brain can work though, in my personal opinion, works WORST as a party member since ultimately a LE with a brain will almost naturally lend themselves towards, to put it simply, taking over. As in not the party, some quantity of power or land or people. All just my opinion, consequently.

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Re: Evil characters

Post by Snarg of Wildpaw on Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:55 pm

Right, it can mean different things to different people. To me, in order to make it playable, it means getting rid of the expectation that "evil" means you must always be someone who is going to screw the party over. I suppose that will be different from player-to-player, but for me, I'd probably just sit down with my group and say: "look, you can play evil characters, but if you're just doing it to screw over everyone - don't. You can play Han Solo. You can play Mal. You can play Belkar. You can play xyz. Just don't play someone who'd fit in with an 80's Saturday morning cartoon. No one that's evil just to be evil." Now, I don't think I'd need to do that with the people I play with, since they'd done evil characters before and it has worked out just fine in several campaigns. Don't get me wrong, there is tension sometimes, but it has never unraveled anything and we always have a good time with it.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Tam Lin on Tue Jul 02, 2013 1:52 am

Hey, I just came to read some more campaign archives, but this is pretty interesting. Hopefully you don't mind me chiming in. I can scram if ya do.

I feel like Snarg could definitely be right that evil players can work in a party, but I think there needs to be a tacit understanding and agreement to allow such characters into a campaign from both the players and GM.

From my experiences, as both a player and GM, I've found that evil characters can negatively affect the enjoyment of the whole group, even if they don't undermine the party's goals. Firstly because non-evil characters can become frustrated with the actions (or more frequently inaction) of the "evil" character. Secondly, because of that tricky question of what "evil" is (as Archengeia brought up). For example, in a game I ran once the party had a neutral wizard who was willing to let a drow fleshwarper (indisputably evil, yes? =P) go free in exchange for the location of her back-up spellbook (she destroyed the one she had to strike up this bargain). The debate of whether or not this was "evil" caused some friction among the actual players and made trusting the wizard difficult for the party, even though he had in no way undermined their goal at the time.

So evil characters don't just cause potential strife in the party (not always a bad thing), but can also cause strife among the actual players (always a bad thing) if they become frustrated with one another over evil or possibly evil acts. I'm sure it can be done, but everyone involved has to be willing to participate in those kind of debates and moral dilemmas without having hard feelings about it. Creating a metric for evil is extremely difficult, if not impossible for the morally "gray" areas, so I'm sympathetic to any GM who disallows evil characters. They just tend to be not as fun as everyone hopes. Unless its an evil campaign, of course.

Alignments are something of another discussion, but I think they contribute to the overall problem in this case too.

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Re: Evil characters

Post by Snarg of Wildpaw on Tue Jul 02, 2013 1:34 pm

It's my belief that if there's actual strife among the players as a result of tabletop character actions, I think there's probably a bigger problem than just the character's alignment. Being completely honest here, I don't really get how another player's actions in a game causes conflict in real life. I hate to use the old saying, but: "it's just a game". You don't play a tabletop game to play yourself (although that did make for one VERY interesting game once), you play a tabletop game to play someone different. Maybe someone you'd normally despise or wouldn't ever associate with. Sure, I understand frustration when the dice consistently don't roll your way or something like that, but it's not directed at anyone.

Every group is different though. Rather than cause potential strife among players, would it be better to just outlaw evil characters? Yes, of course. Why make people go through that? I have tremendous fun debating moral dilemmas in-character and I know others who do too. If the characters don't get along after a lot of crap, one may leave the party. It happens. Of course, no one should try OOC to drive them to that, but it'll happen sometimes if everyone just creates whatever character they want to without any guidelines.

All-in-all, probably depends on the group, but I'd not hesitate to allow them in a game that I was running provided you're not just trying to be a douche OOC. That's usually pretty evident very quickly and doesn't even have to be an evil character - it's just a convenient thing to blame it on.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Tam Lin on Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:28 pm

You make a good counterpoint. I too actually really like debating moral dilemmas in-character. I once played a fighter who was trying to redeem a victimized evil character, but had to convince the paladin in the group not to hand that character over to a small town justice system which was unconcerned with redemption. No one was clearly in the right, and it was tons of fun.

But then, that was with an NPC which was evil. The problem I ran into when those debates were centered on PCs was that it made the accused player feel persecuted, even though the debate was valid. Mind you, the group I played with was composed mostly of people who have been friends for well over a decade so no one was truly bent out of shape, but it hurt the fun of the intimidate session. That's why I feel like it can be done, but only if everyone is really on-board with the idea. If someone didn't come to the table okay with engaging in these dilemmas and defending themselves (in character) then it will affect their fun.

Edit: Regarding alignment, I'm having trouble putting it into words at the moment but, I think it's almost the mechanical effect it has on gameplay which can cause problems. Bah, I keep drawing a blank. Work is not the best place to organize my thoughts, heh.

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Re: Evil characters

Post by Snarg of Wildpaw on Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:43 pm

Yeah, you're right, it's not going to work if everyone isn't on board.

I'll post a more detailed response when I can. I feel you on the work thing.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Archengeia on Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:52 pm

I'd also like to toss in a quick two cents: I've never bought the 'it's just a game' mentality, for video games or tabletop either, personally. The fact that it's not real does not change the fact that I put time, effort, and caring into it and as such can still care about it and become, in real life, happy or upset or anything across the spectrum as a result of its actions and interactions.

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Re: Evil characters

Post by Snarg of Wildpaw on Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:42 pm

Sure, that doesn't mean that it can't affect you at all or you can't care about what you've done. Maybe that was a bad choice of a phrase, but what I meant is that what players do in the game should not have negative consequences out of the game with other players like they meant to personally attack them out of game or something of that sort. I've most frequently heard the phrase "it's just a game" when someone is upset with another player, be it tabletop, video games, sports, etc, for something that occurred solely in-game and was not in any way a malicious act against another player. Maybe a more complete saying would be "It's just a game, he's not trying to do anything to you ... now kiss"
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Archengeia on Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:17 pm

But kissing... is COOTIES! Bleh!

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Re: Evil characters

Post by Rory on Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:14 am

I don't get that. I play games that advertise choice-->conflict driven plot/gameplay because I can do more than project my personality onto the protagonist, I can do what I would do and talk or react the way I want to. Then, of course, I'd run through it again as a complete jerk. Not because there's content that I missed, but genuinely I wonder, "what if I act like a complete jerk?"

Obviously I don't have the stomach for butchering animal carcasses like Rory, but that's what I think is where the appeal is. You get to do things you normally can't do. Being yourself is just the first thing I do when I get into a game like this. Sure, I'll go be an asshole or a General Stick-in-the-Mud later, but first, right now, I wanna be me. It's me out there, not only kicking ass and taking names, but behaving the way I'd want to, and pushing the situations in the direction of the outcome I find most favorable or right, with the source of influence I feel most comfortable with. I'm the one out there fighting the good fight, not some guy in my head who isn't me...but then later in another campaign it can be some other guy who I have in my head who isn't me, being a jerk.

As for ideals, I can't really play a guy with opinions and beliefs I don't much care for or understand, like forest-crazed druid. Guy who cares only about his own personal gain? Sure, I could play that guy. I think we all could, but that's beside the point.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Tam Lin on Wed Jul 03, 2013 3:14 pm

^I can appreciate that perspective. Whenever I make a character I tend to put a lot of time and effort into the basis of who they are and what drives them. Even if they aren't a direct avatar there is always a piece or two of myself on display. There really aren't too many games that give as much control and freedom with your character as tabletop often does. Even if you're just playing in a published adventure the creative freedom is pretty hard to match.

The only limits I'd really place on myself are the ones related to what we've discussed so far: not pissing off the actual players with your in-character actions. Something like that.

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Re: Evil characters

Post by Rory on Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:09 am

As sort of on-topic, since playing as a Salarian I now totally understand why choosing a race other than Human is so appealing. I just needed to play as "me" the first time around just to get "me" off my chest, and I can't really play as me best if I'm not Human.

As for the musclebound brawler thing...I went through a phase, let's leave it at that.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Kolson on Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:12 pm

Eh, it's cool man. I haven't met too many folks that don't go vanilla their first time out. It just makes it easier for them to relate while they learn the ropes. Hell, I did it too.
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Re: Evil characters

Post by Zeiss on Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:38 pm

That's actually why I chose to play Zeiss : we share some beliefs (except the assassin part, I'm really kind IRL).

But when I started Snarg's campaign, I felt I should try something different. It's becoming more and more interesting to play the silent cleric who follows a group of strange fated individuals.

Though I still prefer to play humans/elves for reasons I already explained.
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