Playing evil characters has never really appealed to me. Most of the campaigns that I have seen try this have quickly crashed and burned. I find that when I am running a game and allow characters of more insidious nature players usually do their best to have their character just a bit closer to evil than the character completed before them. It could just be my imagination to some degree. That's not to say that I don’t think you can play a game where the goals, motivations, and alignments of the characters are evil. I am just saying I think it is difficult.
Then I came up with the idea for my new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, and I decided to challenge myself while running the game and allow the players to do something a little unusual. They could play characters of an evil nature, with a few limits imposed. The background for the game is the PCs are being held for various reasons on a prison on the moon when every superhuman on Earth except one are destroyed in a battle with an extra-dimensional entity. The surviving hero is tasked with organizing a new team of defenders from among the convicts of the lunar prison.
So you have the one hero picking a group from among a group of superhuman convicts. The players are allowed to make their characters with a much darker approach, but any character who is a homicidal maniac that enjoys random and often spree killings would never be selected. With that in mind the players can have at it during character creation. The player who is playing super cop to the convicts is a big Superman fan and a comic fan so I know he will keep the group of villains in line.
This is about as close as I have come to being able to comfortably run a game with a party of evil characters. I have ran games before where a character was quite evil but the rest of the group was either unaware or needed an ability or object that the evil character possessed. A few times a character has done something incredibly evil and the party handed down a swift sentence against another party member but evil has always been the exception in games I run. The parameters for my campaign keep the characters from being too dark and evil to function in a group. If we remove these guidelines what sort of characters would the average GM get in his campaign? How attractive is the dark, edgy, or flat out villainous PC to the average player?
Most published adventures assume that the players will play characters that have a little bit of good in them at a minimum. A neutral character might also fit into a published adventure, but an evil character probably will not find a home. Designers are obviously not thinking that playing evil PCs is something that many players would want to do. I read a lot of blogs, message board, and forum posts that seem to point to the exact opposite. The younger the player the more they seem to like the idea of playing a truly wicked PC. I recognize that not every gamer wants to play a paladin or Captain America, but how many would rather play Artemis then Drizzt?
I enjoy campaigns that have a bit of longevity. I have to questions how much longevity a campaign centered on an evil party can have. Evil by its very nature does not work well together or get along to accomplish long-term goals. It is the classic downfall of everything from The Empire to The Masters of Evil. Selfishness, greed, and cruelty are difficult traits to role play and still be a sympathetic and reliable companion. This inability to work together for a common goal is what allows heroes to defeat villains against overwhelming odds a lot of the time. The couple of times I have tried to run a game in the past with characters that had no moral compass the game came apart quickly. I am hoping the few guidelines I have handed out for upcoming Marvel Heroic game will help the campaign have a little staying power.
I would really be interested in hearing your thoughts on playing evil games. I am sure there are some of you out there who have done this and been successful and I would like to know what was the reason for the success. Did the party all fit under one evil banner like the church of Bane or did each player have their own individual agenda and the players manage their characters in a such a way that allowed them to act like a unit? Until next time, Roll Hard!
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