I think that this is a very rare thing. I don’t know that a ton of people ever really complete their D&D games. There are multiple reasons for it potentially not being completed. But, is that something that’s okay, or as the DM should you […]
Tag: Wizards of the Coast
Welcome to the dark side of Dungeons and Dragons. Today we’re looking at the only evil alignment, in my opinion, that would make sense to join a generally good adventuring party, and that is why they make an interesting character. I also think that Lawful Evil makes for the most interesting alignment for your BBEG.
The reason I think that it makes a good BBEG, is because when you are lawful evil, you still have a set of rules around what you are going to do. A chaotic evil BBEG would have no issues killing off a 1st level adventuring party if they messed one thing up for them. A Lawful Evil BBEG would see that the adventuring party has some promise and try and twist them into joining them or to use them to unwittingly help the BBEG. Thanos is an an example of a lawful evil BBEG, in the movie, in the comics, he’s doing everything to impress Death because he has a Thanos crush. But in the movie, while his plan of destroying have the living beings won’t solve the problem forever, and there are better options, it’s the option he came up with so he’s sticking to it. But he has rules around doing what he is doing. And that is what you want when creating a BBEG for a game, someone who has rules, who has a reason to monologue at the end.
But, what about on the other side of the DM’s screen for the PC’s. I made a pretty bold statement saying that a lawful evil character is the only one that would join a non-evil adventuring party. Why do I say that? This is similar to your BBEG who has their plan, a lawful evil character is going to be willing to join up with an adventuring party to help complete their own goal or to help stop the BBEG of the game, because it would have a negative effect on their plans as a whole.
A good example of this would be someone in a thieve’s guild. A thieve’s guild isn’t about stealing stuff at random, they are concerned about running the secondary market and the market on illegal goods in a city. If they get out of control, the city guard is going to crush them. Instead they are focused on staying just out of sight and just behind the scene and actually bolstering up the town so that the city leaders are fine having them commit crimes because if they take them out, whomever replaces them would likely be worse.
Now, that might not make the best adventurer, but you can certainly tie in pieces of that to a character. In that case, you would probably have to focus at least some of the story on that character, probably based around something threatening the balance of that the city and the thieve’s guild have. But even in that case, it can be a side plot, and maybe your character has to work with the adventuring party to gain their trust prior to them helping them with this somewhat questionable thing.
But back to the alignment. A lawful evil character is going to have their own set of rules that creates their laws. Now, some of those laws that they follow might be the actual laws, but most of them are going to be self imposed rules. An example of this for a character, they might not have an issue killing their rivals in cold blood, but they also might not let mind altering potions into the black market because they don’t want to potentially cause chaos. So both of those things might be illegal in the town or nation, but the lawful evil character will only follow one, because it’s good for them.
Another reason that I think that a lawful evil player character is interesting as well, is that a lawful evil character is more likely to have a long term plan. Going back to the Thanos example, in the MCU, he has a plan that he slowly spends time on, he doesn’t grab the infinity stones in a day. In the comics, there is a whole lot more that Thanos does impulsively. So when you roll up a lawful evil character, come up with your long term plan, of what you really want to work towards. For example, maybe you want to take over the government with as little bloodshed as possible, not because the government is at all bad, but because you want to rule. So you could join up with the adventuring party to go to various towns, pay out bribes, make a few threats, and schmooze to get a groundswell of support, and that would be your long term plan, but you team up with the group on their adventurers to be able to do that.
Even with all that said, I do think that you need to really think before you take a lawful evil character into a generally good game. Mainly because as a player there is going to be a lot more work for you in the game than if your alignment is closer to that of the rest of the characters in the game. You are going to have to do your evil things away from the group otherwise you might become their next target. This is easy enough by focusing on it as downtime activities and stuff between sessions when it’s appropriate. But you also have to keep a reason around why you’d continue adventuring. This means that your evil plan is progressing or at least, you are stopping someone else’s evil plan that would interfere with your own. And that is on you, as much as the DM, to do in the game, because the DM has the rest of the table to focus on as well.
I want to add in one final thing that you could think about as well. If you want to play a lawful evil character and drop a big surprise in the game, you can work it out with your DM that your character is going to be the BBEG when all is said and done. Maybe there is another “BBEG” who is doing what you want to do, just not as well, so you have to take them out to take over for them. That would be a great twist to put on the rest of the players at the table, and would be a moment that people remember. I would say, if you do this, once it’s revealed that your character is actually the BBEG, the DM takes over and you pull out your new character who will join the party. That way it doesn’t feel like the odds start to stack up against the players. Unless it’s the case where your character goes BBEG and you immediately have a fight and whatever side wins, that ends the game. Or, one final way to keep control of your character would be to take over yourself as the DM and the DM can pull out a character sheet, which would be a fun twist as well.
Would you play a lawful evil character in a game? Have you played one, and was it in a good campaign? How did it go, if you have?
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Wait, wait, wait, isn’t Dungeons and Dragons fantasy? Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons is epic fantasy and we’re adding aliens into the mix. And not just some weird creatures from another plane, we’re adding in spaceships and craziness like that to Dungeons and Dragons, deal with […]
Final topic for things to think about with a party. We’re going to try and figure out what alignments you should have in your adventuring party. Probably a trickier subject because some people really don’t want an evil character with their good character, or they make the rogue steal everything and everyone hate the chaotic neutral rogue.
I do think you can have any combination of alignments in an adventuring party. However, I would say that it depends on the game that you’re playing. If you’re getting all your information from the church, having a chaotic evil character is probably not going to work that well (and generally Chaotic Evil is going to be the hardest to make work in a campaign). Even a lawful evil character will be willing to work with the party as long as it’s in their interest.
When I start a game, I generally recommend to my players, since we don’t play evil campaigns, that we go with the part of the alignment matrix that is Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral Good, and Chaotic Good. That means that the party should generally be on the same page. Though, we don’t use the alignment system that heavily, so a Chaotic Good character has some flexibility in what they do, as well as a Lawful Good character. I might write on the different alignments soon. But by having your party generally in the same area of the alignment matrix and not dipping into evil or trying to be a true neutral character allows you to have a more cohesive party.
But what if you have someone is playing a lawful evil wizard in a party with a lawful good paladin? And then you have a chaotic neutral rogue, and a true neutral druid? How do you make that work for the party?
You really need the full party buy-in for that. It’s too easy to have the paladin and wizard at each others throats while the rogue steals there stuff, and the druid just sits by and does nothing. And then eventually you end the game in a battle royale after the wizard and paladin realize the rogue has stolen their stuff. That’s going to be less fun for everyone, and definitely less fun for you as the DM as you have to basically scrap your campaign or work it in such a way that everyone ends up happy sometimes.
But, if everyone at the table has buy-in before you start playing, you can do things to negate this. The lawful evil wizard can animate the dead for missions while the paladin is off doing something else. And both players can make sure that’s how it’s working. The rogue can respect the party enough that she doesn’t steal from her party members, but in turn, the Paladin will not notice when the rogue steals from a shop. Once, however, one person in the group decides that the effort to make that happen to not step on the other player characters and players toes, you have a chance for breakdown in your game.
Now, you could also just run an evil campaign for a little bit so that lawful evil wizard gets their game for a bit, and everyone is playing an evil character. I might eventually write about evil campaigns, but they tend not to be that interesting an idea to me, I prefer the heroes journey.
So, basically the recap this last bit. Figure out the alignments that are going to work well for your campaign and offer those up to the players. Give some wiggle room in them, but try and keep the party focused in the same area so that you don’t have to deal with anything odd. And that can be either a good party or an evil party or anywhere in between. And if someone is an outlier, it’s on them to figure out why they fit in, not on the other players and not on your as the DM.
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We’re back with some D&D. This time we’re looking at Party Dynamics and how you might want to create your party so that you feel like you’re a good part of the game.
The the first thing I’m going to to talk about is the size of the party. This means, how many players do you want around the table. Assuming everyone is controlling one character, which they should be, is there an ideal number?
Wizards of the Coast in their D&D books would suggest that 4 is a pretty strong number. It allows you to have the balanced party of a magic user, a healer, a tank, and a rogue-type character. That keeps you bases fairly covered for what you need in a game to do well against a lot of what a DM might throw at you.
But do you need to have four players, can’t you go above four? Critical Role starts with eight players, if I remember correctly. And they consistently have a fairly high number of players, possibly seven most of the time, it’s been a long while since I watched. So you can certainly play with a larger number. You can also play with a lower number. I ran Dungeons and Flagons with 3 players for a long time, and often without that traditional combination.
The there are two things you need to know as a DM when you do that.
First, the math for encounters will change. Basically, the more people you have, the monsters you can throw at them, the less people you have, the less monsters you can throw at them. In the Dungeon Master’s Guide, they tell you how that math works. However, I recommend not doing the math yourself, you’re going to be doing enough math in the encounter anyways. Instead there’s this very handy Encounter Calculator that I found from http://dhmholley.co.uk. This is going to do the math for you so that you can see the XP budget that you could be using for different types of encounters. I believe that D&D Beyond has an encounter creator as well, and if you have a subscription for that, it would be great to use that.
The other thing, and this is more with the larger groups, but with larger groups as a DM, you need to keep everyone involved. It’s easy to simply pull a single person’s story and make it the biggest focal point and focus on that person who will interact with you the most. But you need to keep everyone involved and keep things moving at the table. One thing you’ll probably have to do is ask someone who hasn’t spoken up in a little bit, specifically, what they want to do, or what they think of a situation. Sometimes you’ll need to pull out that interaction. And that suggestion isn’t just for the DM, sometimes as a player you will have to do that to another player as well. But there will also be some people who, in combat, take up considerably more time than everyone else, so it feels like the focus is really on them. I would suggest implementing a rule (made to be used sometimes), where players have to have an action ready when you come around and if they don’t, they have a signature action that they can use without having to think about it. The reason I say this rule is made to be broken, because sometimes you’ll have a player who wants to target a certain bad guy or wonder about a situation, but they should still have a plan and something to fall back on.
With smaller groups, you can really focus in on each players story and give them all the spotlight from time to time. You can certainly run into the issue of focusing on one players story too much, but with less people, it’s easier to move around and engage everyone. The tricky thing with a smaller party is creating encounters. You might have a barbarian who is extremely adept at killing everything, so you might throw in something that is going to be able to hold up to him, but now is that going to just murder the wizard? Or maybe it’s resistant to magic because the wizard has been mind controlling and polymorphing everything, now does that mean you ruined the druids fun who casts smaller spells? I personally have kind of rotated combats so that sometimes the magic users have the advantage in the battle, and sometime the melee combatants do.
So, what is the right number? I don’t think there is a right number, games can work well at higher numbers and lower numbers. Personally, I like running for a smaller group, 3-4 seems ideal to me. But for you, that might be a large group and having that dynamic is what you want. If you are just starting, I’d suggest starting with a smaller group and then working up to a larger group.
Do you have a preferred number of players to run a D&D game for? Or, as a player, do you have a preferred number of other players to play with?
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