There's a lot of stigma around playing evil characters in roleplaying games. Some of this is warranted. Many people don't want to see detailed depictions of reprehensible acts, and indulge in roleplaying for the sake of escapism, or at least they don't do it to seek out awful things. And evil characters aren't necessarily the best for playing well with others, or engaging in the thrilling heroics that are a staple of many roleplaying games.
That said, evil characters are still very much viable as PCs, and the fear impulse that many people have in regards to playing alongside an evil PC shouldn't be all-consuming. Evil PCs can be complex and rewarding to play, and can certainly have a place in the narrative of most campaigns.
One common misconception is that evil means you're going to turn on the party. This simply isn't true. You don't have to steal from or try to kill your fellow party members. It simply means that you adventure for different reasons than your more altruistic comrades. Whereas many good adventurers will undertake quests out of kindness or ideology, you will likely do so for more personal reasons. Perhaps it is pragmatic. Maybe you want to gold being offered in reward, or you want people to think well of you. Maybe you simply enjoy being liked for the sake of your own selfish ego, or perhaps you plan to exploit the good will of the people at a later time. Or you might ally yourselves with more decent folk to fight a common enemy. As the enemy of my enemy is my friend, this could work out quite well as a sort of business partnership. This sort of mentality might even extend further. Perhaps you fight alongside the PCs because you care strongly about one or more of them. Though evil characters are primarily selfish, they can still form connections to other people. An evil character with a sufficiently strong connect to someone might very well risk their lives to fight alongside someone they care about, as the pain of losing that person might outweigh the risk of personal harm in the eyes of the evil PC.
One issue that does arise often is one of methods. For example, a party with a lawful good paladin might not take kindly to an evil PC. The paladin might prejudiciously harass the evil PC before they do anything wrong, or the evil PC might insist on unsavory tactics like torture to progress the goals of the group. In this instance, the other party members will often have to serve to mediate. This is also just best avoided in general by those at the extreme ends of the spectrum playing characters that are defined by more than simply their alignment. I'll always encourage depth of characters, but when an evil character is thrown into the mix, it becomes a bit more important if you want to have a compelling and belieavable reason for them to exist in a party.
Unless the entire party is evil. Which is also an option. I've played in campaigns were we design all of the PCs to be evil, and we play more as the villains in a story than we do the heroes. Granted, these campaigns tended to be short lived, since many people fall into those same tired old misconceptions that evil characters just want to kill each other (it's not that they should want to kill each other, but more that they'd be willing to if they were pressed to do so.) But it's fun for a nice change of pace. Might be worth looking into if you feel particularly drawn towards evil characters.
In short, evil characters are still people, and with enough depth they can still mesh with an adventuring party. You should be prepared for clashes, should they occur, but if everyone is doing their best to make sure that the game is enjoyable for everyone, then this shouldn't be a common issue. On that note, make sure that you don't take things too far. Playing an evil character does not excuse actual abhorrent behavior at the table. If it's clear that your vivid descriptions of violence or other unsavory things are making someone at the table uncomfortable, then stop. Have a talk with your table about what's acceptable. Tone it down if necessary. Or be willing to play something else if it becomes a major problem. Even if you're evil, everyone wants to have a good time.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For more on this topic, see my personal blog for the posts "Evil Characters in Good Parties" and "The Evil Campaign." Until next time... Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor.
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.