It’s funny how things in your life can dovetail so nicely when you’re working on a project. I just finished rewatching Episode III of the Star Wars saga, and it really hit the nail on the head regarding perspective having everything to do with alignment. Especially near the end, where Anakin is so certain that he is out for justice and peace and to save the life of Padme… and yet, he’s just slaughtered younglings in the Temple, single-handedly executed the separatists, and assisted the Dark Lord of the Sith in turning the Republic into an Empire seated in the hand of the Dark Side of the Force. Evil? All point of view at that point, isn’t it?
While we’ve talked about Evil in rping, playing and playing alongside compromised characters, really it’s the GM in the hot seat whenever someone decides to play a character that doesn’t “play well with others”.
When an compromised character is in the mix, it opens up a whole other realm of solutions and courses of action that your general vanilla characters wouldn’t dream of doing. As a result, you have to be a bit more prepared for the creativity and the consequences of that wider battery of choices. The same scene that would leave principled characters scratching their heads are nothing for a character who has no compunction about “aggressive negotiations”. It does tend to keep a GM on his/her toes.
Sometimes over the course of a game, a character might start out principled and, through events and experiences, take a turn for the worse. I’m not much of a babysitter of alignments as a GM. I’m just really big into consequences. I’ve also made it a habit of lobbing the phrase “You can be bad, and you can be stupid, but bad and stupid get you dead.” And sure enough, evil characters who make stupid choices find themselves quickly in tough situations or reconsidering that alignment or getting smarter by the minute. But no… I figure characters are like people. They make their choices, they have their consequences, then they either stay their course or realign. As a result, I don’t fret much over it.
When I have dealt with alignments, it was primarily in relation to classes such as clerics and paladins who had to curry favor, or when experience was tied to roleplaying a character well. My favorite way of dealing with alignment in all cases save cleric- and paladin-like classes is to let the players do what they will for a few games and then assign them their alignment based on what I’ve seen them do. But if you’re going to be rigid about it and pick an alignment and base your character around that alignment… well, I’ll make you live up to it.
I don’t like characters knowing anything about each other in advance unless they have concurrent histories that precede game time. We don’t get that special treatment in real life, and frankly, it’s just too much fun to watch the principled characters do something to trip up the unprincipled ones (and vice versa). Makes my life far less difficult when the conflicts and challenges are self-created within the player troupe.
What I do find I have to do regularly with Evil player characters is get them to cultivate some depth to their creation. The psyche of a diabolical or even simply selfish character is a landmine map of places you just don’t want to step. There’s always a lot of potential for both intimate development and later redemption, should the character end up on that kind of path. But because we rarely get to exercise our Evil sides in real life, there’s tendency to play Evil characters rather flatly (or as I mentioned above, rather stupidly), and that gets boring quickly for both player and troupe and GM.
I don’t think I’ve ever restricted someone from playing an Evil character. Like I said, I’m all about consequences. From a GM’s standpoint, an Evil alignment isn’t a carte blanche for mayhem and madness. And I will certainly allow the other characters to take your ass out without even a NPC “Maybe we shouldn’t…” to mitigate their lynching urges. It’s a risk you take when you play out of bounds. But then, that’s why a lot of folks play Evil characters anyway. It’s a walk on the wild side.
My job as a GM is to show you just how much of a jungle is still out there.