Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Show Of Evil

A Show of Evil
by Tobie Abad

So you have players who insist they want to be evil characters.   Maybe they're the minority in the group.  Or maybe they outnumber the ones who want to be heroes.  And after considering things, and talking to all your players, in the end you have all decided to still go for it because yes, it can be fun.

Here are some things to consider adding or bringing up with the group to make the game more interesting:

1) The No Kill Rule
A mixed group of good and evil can sometimes spell very rapid character deaths.  The Paladin might decide he HAS to hunt and kill the evil Assassin.  Or the Fallen Angel might make it a point to destroy the Saint.

Tell them: Don't.
Instead, remind them that the game can remain more fun if a no-kill rule applies.    And once they feel its a stupid rule because there's no fun if the good/bad guy doesn't terminally deal with the other, quickly shoot off the following examples:  Batman and the Joker, The Devil and God, and practically any other franchise that features a hero and his rival villain.

For the Hero, the concept of redemption will always be there.  There may be a time the villain can be rehabilitated. Or can be made to understand the evil he does.  And if not, there's the idea that the hero MUST not become the villain.  He must never cross that line.  And at its most basic, maybe the hero does want to cross the line, and can, but if he does so, the villain has the last laugh.  In the end, the hero's pride keeps him from letting the villain win.    (And if the player does kill the villain, tell the player of the villain to feel free to HAUNT the hero for the rest of the game.  Or be sure to throw the full weight of his actions upon him in later narrative arcs.)

For the Villain, the hero must be broken down.  The hero must be made to give up.  Killing him is easy, but removes all the fun and fulfillment of being evil.  Killing him removes the point of being his dark reflection.  And in the end, if he does kill him, the Hero player can always create someone who wants to avenge the old character.  The game can continue, but now the stakes definitely may change.

Remind both players a "killing" moment makes for a great climactic moment in a story.  So to time it well, rather than just make it something that happens by accident.  Or by opportunity.  And remind them this no killing rule applies only to each other.  All other non-player characters are free game.

2) RewardsWhether or not the game itself has an existing system, be sure to create a reward system for whenever either player acts in full accordance to his preferred role.  The Hero must gain something for doing good things, such as saving total strangers, or doing "the right thing" even if it may be to his own detriment.  While the Villain gets something for showing cruelty, or for having moments of megalomania and the like.    This way, the two feel the distinct difference in their roles.  The Hero who opts to resort to violence does NOT get the extra fruits of his decision.  The Villain who shows compassion does not get the bonus for being nice.

This ties in to the fact that if you want to encourage an approach, you show a benefit for doing it.

Maybe the reward can be a bonus they can apply to their roles.  Or maybe, plan and simple (which can work for almost all games out there), each time they receive the "bonus" they get a token which they can cash in to reroll any roll whose result they did not like.

3)  TemptationsOn the flip side, you might want to throw temptations in.  Sort of, throw small systems to see how hard and determined the player is in embracing their chosen role.  The Hero might get the bonus whenever he resorts to violence, cruelty, and breaking his word.  The Villain might be thrown allies, friends, and other bonuses for free whenever he decides to sincerely try kindness.  Or care for someone.  Or even just doing it in reverse, by making such allies and advantages cost time and effort to have as a villain, but come easily when he does good.

Tempt them to stray from their roles.
This should give birth to pretty cool role-playing opportunities.

4) Show me you mean it
My last suggestion was one I've embraced for any game where a player might opt to kill/sacrifice or otherwise eliminate another player character from the story.  Firstly, this applies only to games where I've made it clear to all players that character death will be something that happens in the game. While in some games the players enjoy a "no kill unless you really act stupid or is dramatically appropriate" rule, I've run other games where I've made it clear, "There is no fate or destiny in this game.  If you die, then you die."

So in such a game, if a player, for example, opts to literally sacrifice the others to save himself/others... have them walk up to the player whose characters were killed, face them as they pick up the character sheet (and yes, the other player is free to plead, beg, and do everything save for touching the other player to convince them to reconsider), and tear it up in front of the other without breaking eye contact.

This was my version of "Show me you mean it" and nicely, it has worked wonderfully in practice.

Hope you find these ideas fun!
Do let me know if you tried them out.
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