How to play Evil characters that are not senseless murderhobos or cliché, moustache-twirling villains?
I'm thinking of playing a Lawful Evil character. Possibly a Bard, now that (in 5e) they can be Lawful, but I also have no clue how to play a Bard, let alone one that is not a jolly drunk with a penchant for sweet talking ladies into doing the nasty.
the best sort of lawful evil is the kindly gentleman who cocnerns himself with his friends, his duties, and seeks out pleasant things to amuse himself. He doesn't casually harm or kill, he doesn't seek to outright hurt anyone. He'll take advantage if there's no real harm in it for himself, but he can give and take.
But god help his enemies, who see the casual, profligate brutality of his powers used to harm. no deed is to base, not plan too vicious, no curse to cruel to be used against those who mean him or his companions harm. He'll slaughter men, women and children in the name of protecting his own, and he'll ruin reputations, destroy lives, and cause riots if the powers that be have offended his sensibilities or singled out his friends for their ire.
I played a sorceress who was friends with a paladin. She ppreciated his views and tried not to get caught at her machinations just to spare the poor man the anguish of how she made sure none of the enemies they had would ever bring the fight back tot hem - either through terror, murdering the people he let live behind his back, or using spells that would have offended his delicate sense of honor. He was a fine friend, and she happily took care of the business he was too gentle to cope with, for his safety.
Evil characters don't necessarily have to be at odds with the goals of a good or neutral aligned party, especially in order to thwart a third party that poses a threat to everyone.
They may however be more willing to throw neutral parties under the bus in the name of the quest.
Even playing in an evil campaign, you have to take time to explore why your character is evil, and whether it's a particular facet of their character that drives them towards acts of selfishness and malice, or whether they're just an all-round bad apple.
For LE, often you wanna take a strong sense of personal justice, and crank the punishments up to overboard tiers of wtf. My most recent LE was a half orc who when crossed by a local gang, and swindled out of money, took it to the obvious extreme. It ended in him inciting a riot, wiping out both the one gang and their rival, and crippling the black market. The way you roleplay it though, is deadpan "you took something from me, I take something from you."
Let's start from the beginning. Just drop the alignment for a second. What does your character want? Power? wealth? women? all of the above with a cherry on top? work this one out to begin with.
From there you work out what they will do to achieve that goal. Here's where alignment comes in. If you are lawful evil, you do have certain code of conduct to uphold (lawful) but other then that you are perfectly willing to do anything neccesary to achieve that goal. Use suggestion on a girl to get her in bed? Easy. Marry some countess and poison her family to inheret her estate? Done. Falsely accuse a political opponent of worshipping the gods of evil, to get him and his entire family burned at the stake and take his position? like stealing candy from a baby.
TL;DR don't pllay an evil character, play a character that happens to be evil.
Also, this should be how you build any character: from the ground up. Forget about stats and rules, focus on motivation and history. Wants, needs and flaws should come first, then you can figure how this character handles things.
To be good, you need to be good all the time.
To be bad, you only need to be bad one time.
You are a bard, you want people to think you are cool, so you can act good most of the time. Just think of some circustances where your bad side would trigger. Maybe you have anger issues? Maybe you tend to do bad things when you are sure nobody's looking? Maybe you have a little too much pride? It's in those little moments when your true aligment shows, not the everyday "hero" stuff.
Evil characters don't actually have much trouble fitting into the typical adventurer party mentality. Most of the stuff adventurers do is pretty morally questionable already when you get down to it (robbing graves for treasure, being hired to kill something/somebody), and even if you are fighting some evil force many adventurers are motivated by promise of wealth and fame and desire to protect what they have rather than furthering the cause of good.
The big problem is that evil characters tend to be pretty untrustworthy, as they only really care about themselves. However, lawful evil characters generally fall under the category of "reliable traitor"; you know he'd betray you if he'd gain more from it than from stickign with you, but as long as he has no reason to betray you you can trust him to watch your back and not touch a hair on your head. Lawful evil character also value order and are more likely than other evil characters to have a code of honour, so they might not betrya you even if given a chanse because they consider owing a dept to you.
As for playing evil characters in general, as others have said don't make "evil" the character's main attribute. The character has dreams, goals and ambitions just like nybody, but the difference between evil characters and good (or even neutral ones) is that he is willing to do whatever it takes to reach his goal, even if it involves doing morally questionable things.
I think people fail to realize how normal evil is. There is evil all around you. Evil is self-centeredness. The degree of evil is merely how much you are willing to sacrifice others for your own benefit.
I'm also trying to figure out how I'm gonna play the evil character I just made for a campaign, he's an elf magus who was a part of this organization in his homeland that was dedicated to the pursuit of self perfection and the mastery of weapon and magic. They were also kind of racial supremacists. Then when the good elves came to arrest them all for execution his wife got killed in the battle and he fled the country. At the start of the game he's started training himself again and is seeking greater foes to test himself against, eventually I guess he might want to try find an apprentice and be like an knife eared sith lord or some shit.
Malack, a character from the OotS.
He's not a good person and has
a pretty evil plotgoing on, but he's not a murdering psychopath about it: Being evil is business, and business is left in the workplace.
He talks with the party and has some nice conversations with them. He befriends one of the characters despite being polar opposites ideology-wise with him, he enjoys spending time talking and drinking tea with him because he considered him to be both an intelligent conversation partner and a good friend.
He kept a bunch of secrets that he couldn't reveal, but he still talked about them replacing some terms, feeling supported by his new friend that cared about him, something that he was completely thankful for and that he remembered to the point of
keeping his word.
The general anchor to a decent character is to make sure they have friends and cares, just like a normal person. At the very least remember that killing people you might be able to use later is not a good long term plan, just like how getting a bad reputation rarely helps out on the execution of rand schemes.
For example, they wouldn't go out of their way to murder people for shits and giggles, but neither would they see any problem with killing an innocent (when they can get away with it) in order to achieve their means.
They wouldn't go into a burning building to save some random guy, but they might do if they can get something out of him.
They won't do charity work, but they'll help our their companions because they do a good job, they help protect you, and at the end of the day they've had your back for years, and betraying them would be a dick move.
Lawful evil vampire cleric of Nergal, who is ally of the tyrant of land - whom also happens to be party bard's papa.
Became good friends with cleric of Thor of the party ( which ended poorly ).
Has anyone ever played an attourney? If yes, how did it go?
My current character is neutral evil in a party of good-aligned guys. And he's also the face of the group.
How does it work? My guy is genuinely a friendly, easy-to-like person, with a charming smile and easygoing nature. He's kind and helpful and gentle. He likes making friends and never goes back on a promise.
The twist is that he's doing all this because he wants to make friends and allies while maintaining a good reputation and amassing arcane power during his travels, so that he can at some point, year and years from now, (you guessed it) take over the world´and rule with an iron fist. Then, become like a god.
Of course he sometimes slips in his charade (like strangling a peasant for a petty reason when nobody is there to witness it), but nobody ever suspects him because he's the nice guy.
You need to aim high enough, that's the secret. Stealing, raping and murdering is small-time. You need to aim for cosmic, existential evil.
I have. I played Sir Anne Vyl of Hammerfront,Esq. A social Rogue with pretty much no dex or str.
It was amazing, except for combat. Then I sucked dick and could do jack shit but hide and maybe sneak attack from 30ft away.
I wasn't Evil, either. I believe I was Lawful Neutral, and simply represented whoever paid me the most - which included several of my party members, who kept getting arrested or being dragged into legal altercations because of their reckless nature.
I played a Tiefling attorney once. He was a Warlock and worked for Hell. Sadly, he never got to do much courtroom stuff, but I did get to fuck with people's heads by using telepathy and cleverly worded Suggestions.
Being evil - at least in D&D settings - usually means that you are pretty much psychotic asshole who enjoys killing people ( not that different from regular adventurer ). But you can make a sensible evil character.
First of all, there has to be reason why they do those awful things. They might do them because they are the easier path, more convenient and more rewarding. Choosing upstanding course of action is not beyond them - they just don't do it if there is more easier way, usually at expense of others.
Even though I would consider lot of evil characters driven by their own agenda and goals, they can have friends and allies. Unless they are husks without emotions, they might enjoy company of someone completely opposed to their views - they won't have problem with them, but the other one might have. Of course, they might be just so self-centered that they view them as tools, expendable ones. Or irreplaceable ones.
For example, my previous evil character was the healer, buffer and knowledgebot of the party. He was rather protective of them, but his biggest motivation was the money and rare specimens he might encounter.
What drove him was his fear of death - strange considering he tagged along with adventurers. He wished to find alchemical way for immortality, and hoped to find it by dissecting exotic creatures his allies slew.
Or other still-living beings, just to what sort of improvements he can do to protect himself.
This reminds me of an concept I've had floating around in my head for a Drow Cleric. The basic idea was that he was a follower of Vhaeraun who had been trained in espionage by his fellow Clerics with the intention of sending him to the surface in disguise as a light skinned Elf to do... something I hadn't came up with yet to get Drow men out of the shitty situation they're in.
I shelved the idea because I couldn't really figure out how I'd play him, how 'evil' he'd be. I mean he'd essentially be a pretty twisted dude by his nature yet at the same time the motivation I'd came up with for him was more or less one of social justice. Then on top of that'd he'd be pretending to be a different person entirely. Alignment is hard.
Play a bard that has a penchant for sweet talking ladies into doing the nasty, then leaving them dead in a ditch after taking all their possessions.
You can be a serial killer without being a senseless murderhobo.
Devil cultist. He does what he does not because he's psychotic, not because he hates the world, but because when he dies he wants to get the best he can. He works to fill his quota of acts necessary to gain credit in the infernal hierarchy in order to get as comfortable a position when he goes down there as possible.
Evil has many faces, many forms.
At it's base, I'd argue that true evil is when you fully accept that there is no cost too great to others if you stand to gain from it, no matter how small.
This can range from stealing coin because you want it, all the way to inflicting pain on others simply because you find it pleasurable.
This can be an inherent trait, some people are simply born in such a way as to be devoid of all care for others, they feel no guilt or empathy.
Others are made, through circumstance. Poverty can lead to crime, and through it a lack of sympathy for those born into nobility or wealth. Trauma can cause a similar mindset to take hold, be it from personal loss or injury imparted by another.
Evil doesn't just mean you cackle and twiddle your moustache. It's insidious and patient, cruel and unexpected. It's the friend who stabs you in the back when you need him most, the comrade who turns you in for a bag of gold.
The best way to actually remember how Lawful Evil is supposed to be is, "Power Preserves Order", whether that's keeping the slaves and serfs in place, or legal loopholing everything, think of the brutally repressive dictator who everyone loves, or at least doesn't hate. Basically The Prince not taken as satire is your bread and butter.
I was actually gearing up to play a ridiculous evil bard myself. Was going to use my magic to inspire a populace to take after new trends, which subtly downplay virtues and slowly but surly morally bankrupt, if now the entire the populace, then its power players. Socially disarming the upper class so I can mount a coup later down the line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOnAo9dvrEw
So, basically The Prince as it is interpreted now and was back then.
I can count on one hand the number of people that actually consider it satire and political commentary written by a man forced to write.
We're doing an evil campaign in 5e at the moment, my character is LE so he's a mafia enforcer, doesn't care about killing the innocent or killing to make a point. He wants power, wealth and security.
He's not really an asshole exactly, evil in the alignment sense but not a supervillain or a team-killing dickhead.
This. Most PCs are essentially NE or CE anyway.
In fact our current evil group are significantly nicer than the last group of designated good guys we played, they were straight up psychopaths.
Step 1: make a morally good character with motivations that lean towards a cause above all else (even if that cause is self interest)
Step 2: remove most or all concerns for hurting others while doing it
Step 3: give them one group or person they would never hurt. As a counterpoint and impetus for internal conflict
Step 4: make them unable to see consequences of most or all immoral actions
That's a basic framework.
Lawful would be more like trying to get in married ladys pants and heart.
Then suddenly husband dies in mugging and his will is all to his wife
Suddenly bard is married in seemingly passionate and happy relationship.
And then the wife tragically dies in riding accident leaving all to her husband.
And so bard moves to next city until money starts to be a problem again.
Just look out for number 1. Be nice and friendly to the party and NPCs when they're useful to you, then ditch them when they've lost their purpose. Don't be above fucking someone's shit up if they don't give you what you want.
Once I played a cleric Saccarias whose god was a greedy god of the underworld.
Basically they operate churces and graveyards with extra guarantee that their blessed dead will not raise again as their god hoards souls into his lockbox but because this god is greedy motherfucker he demands tithe so insert "totally not orzhova from ravnica" that operates in banking, does shady reanimation to keep people who die in dept work until it is paid and top of the hierarchy is council of basically liches.
Smoothly operate, bribe and coerce people under your influence and make reanimate few dead children for mules for groups loot as he gathers money and influence to gain access into higher tiers of his church and ultimately lichdom and place in the council.
This went well... Until expedition into swamps and multiple lizardman spears through his chest because a fellowplayer failed his roll while he was in nightguard duty and they ambushed our arses.
Play a murderhobo with reasonable restraint.
>play serial killer
>refer to self as 'bounty hunter' despite having serial killer-esque title
>speak in Manson-tier gibberish when confronted
>flex hands and look incredibly hungry when talking to less intimidating NPCs
>always opt for the most dangerous missions
>assemble crew of mooks
>spend all your time teaching them a single musical intro aimed at recruiting more mooks
>this is how you create an in game army
Why not be the best Orator?
One of the earliest characters was a LE monk described as a barrister named Elijah Dongenbergstein. His life's goal was to guide the party into, and out of, trouble with the law as he saw fit. Any place where the law wouldn't reach or could be twisted to his advantage, he would take that opportunity to create unrest that would likely make some business happen. Some fine examples:
-Spread the remains of powerful mage turned to clay that caused bouts of insomnia and insanity across hub city
-Saved hub city from some Slither-esque terribleness by burning slums to the ground. Took over last building standing.
-Hung a dead guard from a noose in a tree with forged confession/suicide note. I don't remember the circumstances. I think he was found dead outside newly acquired building.
-Convinced members of party to torch a small village, testified against them in court
Shit was pretty fun. As a DM, I decided to use Elijah as an NPC to represent my players in a trial after some "rebels" convinced them to assassinate a "terrible" duke. Evidence was stacked against them, so they got a load of people to provide some fake alibis. They got a friendly reminder that clerics exist after the duke himself walked in to provide the damning testimony.
Honestly, I think Bards are bad class for an Evil character or campaign. Might just be because I think that if you're going evil, you might as well go full evil and make an edgelord like Lord Soth or that one other Death Knight.
Evil bards could be fun. You could play a spin off of the alleged satanic influence on rock music.