Away from the Dinner Table #4: So You Wanna Be Evil?


Most fantasy LARPs are meant to be good-against-evil constructs. There is probably room for not-especially-good characters, and even outright dishonest ones. But actually evil characters, well, that's a whole other kettle of fish. If you play evil, the cards will be stacked against you.

So you want to be evil.

The first question you need to ask yourself is: "Are you sure?"

Most fantasy LARPs are meant to be good-against-evil constructs. There is probably room for not-especially-good characters, and even outright dishonest ones. But actually evil characters, well, that's a whole other kettle of fish. If you play evil, the cards will be stacked against you. The rest of the PCs will want to either shun you, or throw you in the dungeon, or execute you. The monsters aren't going to automatically be on your side, either. That troll coming out of the cave doesn't care where you sit on the ideological spectrum; it cares about how tasty you'll be once it gets through all those black clothes and spiky armor. If, knowing the odds are against you, you still want to play an evil character, well, okay. But consider the following.

You're going to have a heck of a time making friends in character. True, evil people (and characters) don't go around wearing "I'm Evil" t-shirts. Or if they do, they don't get away with being evil for long. But if you're truly playing an evil character, eventually folks will figure it out. The good guy PCs will pick up on the fact that you never tell them anything about yourself, or they'll wonder why you're always skulking about, listening in on other people's conversations, or they'll ask awkward questions like, "Where were you when the skeletons attacked us last night?" Even if you manage to put up a good front for a long time, your PC will practically never be able to confide in any of his fellows. He'll never be able to sit 'round the fire and share his hopes for the future with his companions. ("Me, I just want to save enough money so I can build an inn of my own someday. How about you, Zargo the Dark?" "Oh, I hope someday to subvert the king, place a puppet on the throne, and rule the kingdom with an iron fist from the shadows." "Ooookaaaay, well, I gotta go now....") Maybe you'll get lucky and find fellow evildoers (this is a chancy endeavor-how are you going to do this without revealing that you, too, are evil) to share your plans with. But even then, you're going to have to watch your back. You're evil, they're evil; it's just a matter of time before somebody betrays somebody else. Which brings us to another point.

You're going to have to screw people over eventually. Sorry, but it's part of the whole evil gig. Your PC, as an evil character, doesn't care about other people. So what if you leave your companions to be eaten by trolls? You survived, right? So what if you sold out your friends to the Necromancer for Zombie parts? You made a passle o' money. So what if you had to murder the Paladin everybody likes? She was in your way. That's a big part of what being evil means. Your PC will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. And sooner or later, all the other PCs will stop at nothing to stop you. Screwing people over does not make one's character very popular. And say what you will about keeping the game and the real world separate, this unpopularity can and does bleed over into the real world.

If you play an evil character, you're going to have a heck of a time making friends with your fellow LARPers out of character. Yes, LARPers all tout the importance of separating fantasy from reality and keeping out-of-game stuff out-of-game, but sometimes, just sometimes, LARPers forget you also have to keep in-game stuff in-game. It's not easy for Joe Player to remember Zargo the Dark, who mercilessly murdered the character he spent three years developing, is not the same as you, the guy who plays Zargo the Dark. Sure, the mature thing to do would be to leave the frustration on the LARP field, but you just killed Joe's character. You probably even betrayed him, 'cause, hey, Zargo's evil. How do you reckon Joe's going to be feeling about you? Don't expect him to buy you dinner after the event, that's for sure. This is especially true if your first LARP character is evil. All these folks know about you is how you behave in character (and maybe how you behave at the check-in table). They will see you acting in anti-social ways, being generally mean. They will draw the logical conclusion: you really are a mean person. If you don't care what your fellow LARPers think of you, go ahead and play evil. But LARPers (including you, Zargo the Dark) by nature are sociable folks. You're going to get lonely.

Robert Heinlein cautioned his readers never to try to convince a person by appealing to their better nature, but rather by invoking their self-interest. Up until now, that's what I've been doing: don't play evil-you won't enjoy it. But the closing argument against playing evil PCs must appeal to the players' better nature. There's a reason it's hard to play an evil PC: people won't like you. There's a reason people won't like you: You're wrecking their fun. When your PC steals from someone else's PC, when your PC betrays someone else's PC, when your PC murders someone else's PC, you generally darken their mood. By playing an evil PC, you're basically making it your goal to mess up everybody else's LARP experience. That's kinda mean. Suppose someone murdered the PC you had spent years developing. How would that make you feel? And you want to do that to other people? You might say, "Hey, it's only a game. They should grow up." Well, true, it is only a game. A mature LARPer would be able to take the death of his character in stride. But no matter how mature a LARPer is, he's still going to be sad when his character dies, and more so if his character died in what he feels is a pointless way, i.e. murdered by you. It's an insensitive thing to do, killing someone's character, and make no mistake: sooner or later, if you play evil, you will find yourself in a situation where you either have to kill someone's character or have your own character die. If you take the logical path, you will be wrecking someone's fun. That's mean. Don't be mean.

If you really want the experience of playing an evil character, I suggest you find yourself a group of tabletoppers who all want to try evil characters and you go and play evil together. At least that way everybody knows what they're getting into.

Hiya Craic

Good article. I agree with you.

Having said that I do know two ways in which you can be evil and have group-friendly fun.

The first may be UK-centric. We game in clans, and often game against (in a semi-friendly rivalry fashion) other clans. Thus it's possible to be evil, so long as your evil is directed outward and not at the group you game with. Even the good in the clan are going to be toe-to-toe with the rivals at some point. The evil just get more chance to be evil, by bushwacking the other clansmen. Since everyone knows this there's no shock when 'valuables' (in-game money or magic items, please note, not somebody's cell phone or wallet) get stolen or PCs get assassinated. It's all part of the clan war and treated as such.

The second way is by being a plot monkey.

Plot monkeys are good roleplayers. So good, in fact, that they've caught the eye of the GMs. They always need someone they can rely on to help them with their plots, otherwise the NPCs would be the same old guy-in-a-green-mask every session. Admittedly by being evil this way you're more of an NPC than a PC, but plot monkeys are usually woven so deeply into the story that they're around for several sessions if not years and get just as much play-time as a real PC. Besides, role playing is role playing whether there's an N in your PC or not.

Still, I agree that playing evil isn't much of a way to make friends and influence people. It's easier to be one of the group and get along with others than it is to be the lone wolf.

c ya

You article may ring true for most groups of gamers, but I have had a different experience. In our game one of our most popular and powerful characters in the game decided to become evil. He did it secretly and very well, until one day he was ready to "out" himself and betray the entire town. The players loved it! The were shocked and horrified by his actions in-game, but they were impressed with his committment to the character and his roleplaying ability. In fact he inspired a large number of other players to begin playing evil characters. For a while, the town was at worst,a haven of evil doers and at best, populated by the suprememly self-interested. The name of "Mayor Rat" is still enough to strike terror into some player's hearts.

I have to side with Adam on that one.

Evil and to a lesser extent anarchy, have to be "inflicted" on people outside the group, clan, coven, cult or horde. But I must admit that eventually the weak character gets bullied by the rest of the group.

The "plot monkey" as was described in the previous post is of a different sort altogether because it exist to serve the DM, it is basically a plot device and nothing more.

The evil player inside a good party never works out unless the evil guy shares an enemy with the PC's.
Ex: a Chaotic Evil Cyriscist joins a good party that is fighting the followers of Bane and the Red Wizards.

I play in an evil campaign, so far this is the most united, goal oriented and collaborating group of characters I've seen us play. There is less bickering, less tension and less arguing around the table than when there were supposed Jedi or "lawful good" characters in the party. We all know our place and are aware that if the going get's too tough those who've pissed off the rest of the party will be left to die in the gutter (unless we're affraid their corpse might reveal our secrets under a speak with dead spell). Incidentally, the only character death to have occured reflects the fact that Eric's character had antagonized the rest of the party as a whole and none of us found it worthwhile to stabilize him at the risk of our own lives. Of course had it been easy to save him some of us who could, would have tried. But the two clerics didn't like him, so too bad mister halfling you got to croak. We didn't kill him, we just didn't do all we could to save him.

Playing evil requires more skill, I think, than playing the good guys. For 3 main reasons:

1- Distanciation: Most of us aren't evil in the least. So playing evil convincingly requires one to play outside one's normal behavioural range.
2- Deviousness: Unless you play a rampaging, bloodfrenzied butcher, you need to be more tricky than good players because if you get caught you're in serious trouble.
3- Ruthlessness: You have to be commited to evil unless you want to be just a goon or a meany or a greedy bastard. True evil takes effort and dedication. No pitty (unless you mean to inflict more misery later on), No act of selfless kindness (unless to earn the trust of someone you plan on betraying) and finally no remorse (period).

Cthulhu matata.

Heh. That's funny. I was going to post about my own experiences as an evil character, but Ralpheous beat me to it, I see :)

My character ("Rat") started out rather cursed, and was eventually corrupted by the evil stowed away inside him. I made sure my "coming out" made for a good show-- this involved turning a good friend into a zombie and performing a public execution of the same.

If you're interested in the background information on the character and the LARP he was a part of, check out

Playing an evil character can be lonely and thankless, but someone's got to do it, otherwise it's always Players vs. NPCs. Scheming as an "undercover" villain can be lots of fun, but requires one to be crafty enough to escape discovery.

happy gaming!

You got that right.

I would agree that not all PCs should be the "lawful good" paladin/cleric type, but not everyone can pull off playing an evil PC, either. There's a delicate touch involved in playing an evil PC that I haven't seen in the LARP I used to play.

It was because of evil PCs that I stopped playing the LARP I played (as did several of the people I roleplayed with.) The actions of those PCs resulted in a feeling of constantly being under seige, with no help from any of the "neutral" PCs, and the game just wasn't fun any more.

If you really want to play an evil NPC, be careful that you aren't destroying someone else's fun. If you see (or hear) someone getting mad at you (or your actions,) approach them out of game and talk to them. Apologize for making the game not fun for them. Let them know that it isn't personal. Try to back off on your "evilness" some, especially where the mad person is concerned.

If your evil PC results in several people quitting, was it really worth it to play an evil PC?

my personal opinion is that playing evil characters is like playing good characters, obviously your just not very good at playing evil characters.


Thankyou for this interesting topic. Its made my afternoon. I disagree with a lot of the detail of what you said, but paradoxically I agree totally with your conclusion that it is difficult and dangerous to play evil characters. I scarecely know where to begin, I have so much to say:

(1) First, You have posited a particular kind of dynamic. A group where an evil character is present in a largely non-evil group. Alas, this happens too often and generally ends in tears due to unimaginative role play. But even in this situation, the evil pc can operate quite successfully with the group as long as he uses the group to foster his self interest and directs his evil impulses outwards. Like MayorRat, he might bide his time and betray the group in some final backstab, but even this is not inevitable, after all, even an evil guy needs reliable allies. If he has a brain, he will never ditch them unless he has a much better offer.

(2) Second, your suggestions of how an evil pc might act are not very sophisticated. Now in this you may be correct because few players can manage to play evil characters in a truly realistic way. They are generally played as melodramatic cardboard cutout figures, much as in fantasy films. In this case your criticisms hold true.

But consider for a moment how evil people operate in the real world. Except for those who are cheap hoodlums, they don't go about declaring their evil intent. They are pillars of the community, giving to charity, supporting political parties and good causes. When they do something in their self interest it is never for themselves, it is always for a higher cause, or against some convenient external threat. They will string the other players along, always making sure that they benefit too, so that they remain allies. Their true effect will be to corrupt the actions of the party, to take them into morally dubious situations to the profit of all, except the poor victims who are lying dead on the ground.

(3) To further develop the theme of how a truly evil character might play successfully within a non-evil party:
Remember, that an evil character doesn't have to be a coward. He may well risk his life to defend his comrades, either because he needs them, or because he likes a good fight, or even because he is genuinely fond of them. Even evil guys can have friends.

(4) Again, in the real world an evil guy seldom operates alone. He has to have allies. Some of these will be dupes, but more often he will gravitate to likeminded individuals who agree with his methods.

To end my remarks let me say that I agree that it is very difficult to play an evil character successfully in the D&D world especially in a non evil group. But this is not my real reason for avoiding playing evil characters. I hate to play evil charracters because I despise them in real life. This is about fantasy, this is about the kind of guy I would like to be. I play good characters because it makes me feel good. I avoid evil characters because they make me feel bad. In this point, I think we sort of agree because you mention how playing evil characters can affect your relationships in the real world. I agree.

If you want to play an evil character at a Larp, it's usually a lot easier to start off as a good or neutral character with a 'built-in' fatal flaw that slowly but steadily corrupts them. That gives you an opportunity to make friends, gain allies, etc, that will either keep you alive longer by denying you are corrupt or who may end up descending with you as you fall. Also, avoid picking a 'sign-post' name including words that sound like evil, demon, named after famous villians, etc. If you want to be Daemon Blacksoul, then wait until you've fallen and simply change your name or make sure anyone that hears your 'true' name doesn't live to spread it. Also, try to include an amusing entertaining quirk or two. People are alot less likely to kill someone they find entertaining and such can be rationalized as the villian's mental unstability - truly interesting villians tend to be a little 'off' and grandious meladramatic over-complicated plots tend to be more fun for those involved.

In the game I'm developing I've written a bit in the to-be-released rulebook on playing evil characters:

"Whether you are good or evil, lawful or chaotic is determined by your own actions. This means you are free to play an 'evil' character just as you are free to play a 'good' character, as long as your plot committee hasn't stated otherwise. Just be aware that if you decide to play an 'evil' character that the plot committee is under no obligation to protect your character from their personal blunders. If your character is able to pull off all kinds of evil acts without getting caught, you are playing evil correctly. Just remember that if you want to play 'evil' and not suffer retribution for your actions from your fellow player's characters or non-player characters, you must play smart as well."

I think it's a pretty good article. I always liked to play to play evil guys in role playing games, but it may not always be the best. I think there is always a way to work things out but it may still have a huge impact on the game and not be as much "fun" as it should be. For now i try to be on the evil side in role playing computer games when i can, but i real RP it's not always possible.
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