Now that we’ve had a bit of introductory discussion about Evil, let’s move into the most intimate placement of Evil in a game: within the Character.
An interesting comment was made regarding whether or not an Evil character knows that what s/he is doing is wrong. Are Evil characters simply misguided?
The idea of “misguided” is actually a crucial key in developing the background to an Evil character. We are the sum of our experiences, good and bad. For a character in a game, there is a dividing line between their experiences: all that will come from roleplay, and all that came before and made your character who s/he is. Just like real people, well-developed characters had things occur in their pasts that changed them forever. And, also just like a real person, the characters’ perceptions of these events in their pasts usually makes all the difference. Creating a compelling history of how a character wandered down a darker path gives a character a sense of realism. And really, it’s realism that makes an Evil character frightening. To see traits you have yourself magnified, to see how easy it could be to slip away from the Light.
Playing an Evil character presents certain challenges. For one, chances are you can’t make your intentions known. Troupe play tends to require a certain amount of togetherness, and face it… if you’re serving a dark overlord and running around with a paladin bent on making the world safe from jerks like you, chances are you’re aware that honesty is not your best policy. So that presents a challenge to act true to your character’s intent, but not end up as a meat ornament on someone’s lance. For two, chances are your character is not much like you. Anytime you play a character that’s not like you, it can be a stretch to get into the role. Worse, because of the need to keep your wicked wiles on the hush-hush, you tend to be forced into a playing a character not like you with required subtlety. Let me tell you, subtlety when you’re trying on an ill-fitting character is hard as hell. I will also say that the best Evil characters aren’t the wild megalomaniac ones. They’re the ones that are finessed to the point that you find yourself emotionally or mentally wound up with them. Nothing is quite so evil as making someone abandon their own ethics in favor of yours. Except making them love you.
I have played one Evil character in my life, and it was some of the most rewarding roleplaying I’ve done. My character was a Doppleganger, and it was an obvious suicide mission. The GM warned me that my character was likely going to die once her cover was blown, but we’d see how far we could get. I had someplace to lead the party, a certain thing to filch out of the pack items, a relationship within the party that I had to wither in order to make it work. Everything I did in the game was calculated to my ends, I lied when I needed to lie, I found ways to pass their truth tests, and there were some close calls. However, I did manage to get the party to where they needed to be to get their asses kicked, and I did, indeed, get killed by one of the other characters when I revealed myself.
Perhaps I shouldn’t smile so much looking back at that game, but there is a certain satisfaction of watching betrayal hit the faces of people you’ve been gaming with for months. One person was so angry at me they had to leave the room, one almost cried. The one who had to kill me called for a break so he could “deal with it”. The entire party (once they survived their encounter) was radically shaped by that betrayal. They didn’t trust ANYONE after that, and that in and of itself tarnished their ethics and ideals. Once you’ve been used, it can become far more easy to be corrupt and to use others. I guess the interesting thing to me is that people STILL remember that game and that character, even better than I do.
I’ve only touched on a couple of challenges with rping an Evil character, but I’m attempting to prompt discussions, not write dissertations. So I’m interested in hearing about others’ experiences with playing Evil characters, the challenges you faced, what you enjoyed about it or not.
And if you’ve never developed or played an Evil character, I invite you to give it a try if the situation presents. It will challenge your character creation skills and your actual non-mechanical rping skills. You might even develop an appreciation for why “wicked” means ‘incredibly cool’.