Running and Evil Campaign
You’re an experienced Dungeon Master who has played their share of campaigns where heroes reign supreme and you’re ready for something new. Or perhaps you’re new to running a campaign but are intoxicated by the allure of hosting a more sinister party. Well, my friends…you’ve come to the right place. Let’s talk about how to run your very own evil campaign! Here’s the breakdown:
- Define Limits with the Group
- Talk with Your Players and Discover Everyone’s Comfort Zones
- Reassure that No One Must Start in an Evil Alignment
- Be Sure to Stay Flexible
- Fun Plot Hooks for EEEEVIIIIIIIIIIIIL!!
Define Limits with the Group
First things first, you’ll need to talk about boundaries. Tell your players what you’re comfortable with at your table. You are the Dungeon Master and you must let everyone know up front just how far you are willing to take things. Your number one job as a Dungeon Master is to ensure that everyone at the table is having fun, and that includes you. Be sure to establish the repercussions of crossing whatever lines you have set.
That being said, we’re talking about an evil campaign where the players are the villains. Thus, there will be a lot of things going on that will be morally questionable or incorrect. Set your limits but be sure that they are reasonable. The best way to do this is to be understanding that running an evil campaign like this calls for acts of evil. Define what you are alright with transpiring at the table and make sure you are clear and concise.
If you have any limits you would like to establish on player versus player combat let that be known as well. This is key as evil characters tend to clash more often than your standard group of heroes.
Talk with Your Players and Discover Everyone’s Comfort Zones
After you’ve laid down the rules and limitations of your table as a Dungeon Master, it’s time to get to know what your players are uncomfortable with in the game. This step is crucial because the last thing you want to happen is for one of your players to feel awkward or uncomfortable. Dungeons and Dragons is meant to be a space where you and your players feel safe and can have fun. The best way to do that is to discuss how far the players are willing to go when it comes to acting evil.
As a general rule of thumb, I like to think to myself that whatever transpires in the game, I want to be comfortable with telling my friends and family about it. As such, there are some obvious things that I will not condone in my game (i.e. rape/ molestation, etc.). Your players should respect your limitations, but you must also allow them to tell you about their expectations for the game to avoid future conflict.
Reassure Your Players That No One Must Start in an Evil Alignment
Just because you are running an evil campaign does not mean you should limit your players choice on alignment. You must think of alignment as a fluid thing that is ever changing. Your players can start off with a neutral character who figures that this current alliance with these evil characters is beneficial at the time. You can even have a player that is of a good alignment and it just so happens that his/her goals align with these evil characters. This good character could then become corrupted by his/her new companions over time and experience a drastic alignment change in the future depending on what occurs.
Talk with your players about different villain personalities, archetypes, and tropes. Figure out if any of these archetypes are appealing to your players and work with them to create their characters. Give your players notes on how the archetype they want to play usually reacts to the world around them to inform your players’ decision making.
Be as flexible as you can with your players agency. This is a point I cannot stress enough. This is something that you should take into consideration regardless of what sort of campaign you’re planning to run. However, it is especially prevalent in running this type of campaign. Evil campaigns can be hard to carry out successfully, especially with new players. So above all, allow your players the freedom they rightly deserve.
Be Sure to Stay Flexible
Try to stay open as possible throughout your evil campaign. Again, you want to allow your players their agency. However, allow yourself to adapt to the situation. Acts of evil should never go unnoticed in any world, including a fantasy one. Therefore, you must tell your players that no matter what decisions they make, there will be consequences. Sometimes, those consequences can lead to a total party kill. It happens.
Keeping that in mind, try to maintain flexibility with the timeline of the campaign.
Perhaps it would be best to start the campaign out as a one shot. Then after the campaign has achieved what you planned for, it can grow into something more and turn into a persistent campaign. The world will then begin to twist and be molded by the players actions, presenting new and thrilling challenges. I would advise against starting your evil campaign as an on-going one. Especially if most of your players are new. Start simple, keep an open mind, and let your players grow through the experience before making big timeline decisions. Trust me, nothing is worse than working your tail off on this amazing story framework just to realize that your players don’t want to play in this evil campaign anymore. All that work then becomes wasted, and that’s no Bueno.
Fun Plot Hooks for EEEEEVVIIIIIILLLLLLL!
When building a story that revolves around evil characters, you need to embrace a wide variety of interesting plot hooks to keep your players engaged. As such, I’ve got some ideas for plot hooks I’d like to share with you!
- After some time, your party has travelled the world and advanced themselves through evil means. The party’s actions have drawn the attention of another adventuring group of do-gooders. Now, this group of adventurers seeks out the party to put an end to their evil ways…one way or another.
- The political and/or economic environment of a nearby city or town has grown weak and corrupt. The party could infiltrate the city/town’s infrastructure, slowly plotting, scheming, and back-stabbing their way to the top. Eventually they will sit as the rulers of this dominion.
- The party’s activities have drawn the attention of ancient, evil entities. They have been under surveillance by these beings for quite some time. After the party has proven themselves in the eyes of these beings…they come to the party and want to make a deal. If the party refuses, the entity may choose to leave, or attack the party.
- Perhaps the party has come across an ancient evil that seeks dominion over the world. The party is offered a choice, join the legions of this monstrosity and be rewarded with lands, titles, and any riches their hearts desire. Refuse, and they will be cut down.
- If the party joins this evil empire, give them missions assigned by their new master that are important and challenging. Let these quests act as trials to test their abilities and to prove their mettle.
- If the party declines and escapes, perhaps they find another party of adventurers whose goal is to eliminate this great evil before it can spread and gain dominion over the land. The party could set up a temporary alliance to deal with this threat. As they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend…. for now at least.
- Perhaps the party joins this evil legion in hopes of eventually staging a coup. They will work for the leader of this evil force, all the while devising a plan to overthrow him/her and take their throne for themselves.
Thank you all again so much for reading. I hope this article helps those of you Dungeon Masters out there wanting to run a successful evil campaign. Please feel free to comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for more tips, tricks, and articles! Happy gaming my friends!
Author: Ven’Orik (Zach)
I’m just a regular nerd with a passion for storytelling and fantasy. Growing up I read books by Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, and this solidified my love for the genre. I first started playing D&D when I was 13 and have been pursuing it since. I’m just here to share my knowledge and hopefully learn a thing or two from all of you as well!