"Sane is boring."
hen it comes to character creation utilizing the Book of Vile Darkness, evil adventurers are little different from other types of characters. You still choose a class, race, feats, and powers, then purchase equipment. For the most part, the options available to good and unaligned heroes serve just as well for evil characters. Power strike, for example, proves as effective for an evil fighter as it does for a good fighter. Exceptions in both story and mechanics do exist, however, and they are discussed below.
Nearly all adventurers are heroic in some way. Their jobs lead them into dangerous places, where they spend their time battling monsters and thwarting dastardly plots. Upstanding heroes fight against the darkness to protect the last bastions of light and goodness left in the world.
On the surface, evil adventurers look and act like other adventurers. They tromp through the same kinds of dungeons and fight the same kinds of monsters. Where they differ is in the motivations that drive them into these places.
Most evil adventurers fall into one of three archetypes. These categories describe in broad strokes how the character might behave and what goals he or she pursues. You don't have to choose an archetype, but look them over as you think about the kind of character you want to create.
The most palatable option for adventuring groups, the antihero is a classic archetype in fantasy fiction, films, and television stories. These characters often pursue good ends, but in ways other people find objectionable.
Antiheroes compromise their morals and ethics by performing despicable deeds they believe they have to commit. Few are the means these dark adventurers won't employ. They might commit murder, steal, torture to extract information, threaten innocents, and commit any number of other heinous acts. As much as they regret these actions (if at all), they see them as necessary to achieve a greater end that might actually be noble were the methods not so reprehensible.
If you're thinking about playing an evil character in a party of good or unaligned adventurers, the antihero is the best archetype to play. You share your allies' goals even if you do go about achieving them in disturbing ways. You are probably insightful enough of know how your companions view your actions, and you know the limits of what they will tolerate. As a result, you might conceal your activities from them to avoid causing disruption. Even so, you're not likely to apologize for your actions should they come to light.
Michael Moorcock's Elric is an excellent example of an antihero.
Only the naïve believe all adventurers have the world's best interests in mind. Sure, certain shining examples might save the village from certain destruction or brave the bowels of the Abyss to stop some demon lord from invading the natural world—all for altruistic reasons.
Still, extraordinary people who selflessly champion the weak and fight against evil's advance are the exception, not the rule.
Most people are not so noble. They are content to go about their lives, attend to their responsibilities, and look after their own. Among these "regular folk," the ones who set out to adventure do so for other reasons: revenge, wealth, glory, or something else. All in all, they do not possess high-minded goals. For the most part, they are in it strictly for themselves.
Self-interest as a driving motivation tends to make nonheroes unaligned or evil. These characters fit into mixed alignment groups with only a little friction as long as they are compensated for their efforts or convinced a job will profit them even if no immediate financial rewards are offered. Nonheroes work best in groups of other nonheroes, usually working together for the same objectives.
The characters in Glen Cook's Black Company novels are good examples of nonheroes. They'll work for nearly any sort of employer, provided they receive their regular pay.
The last evil adventurer archetype is the villain. In some ways, the villain is a fusion of the antihero and the nonhero, but without the good parts. Basically, villains do evil because they want. Rather than help people in need, villains exploit them. Rather than destroy evil monsters, villains enslave them. Villains are truly the bad guys.
A villain is rarely an appropriate addition to a good or unaligned adventuring group. Villains oppose anything and everything a hero fights for. They create needless friction and complications for the group. It won't take long before a confrontation results. The best outcome possible is for the villain to go his or her own way; the worst results in character death and dissolution of the party.
In certain instances, a villain party member could work. Your adventurer might be replaced by an evil doppelganger and your DM might let you play that character for a time until the villain's unmasked. Alternatively, the party might join forces with your villain character to defeat a common foe, though such arrangements are fraught with tension and often short-lived. Outside these and similar situations, you should probably avoid introducing a villain to a nonevil group even if the other players are on board.
A villain is best used in groups made up of other villains and nonheroes. Such story lines hardly resemble a normal adventuring experience because the characters are not likely to undertake the same kinds of missions. Even if they do, they do so for some sinister purpose. Villainous groups go on missions to destroy good enemies, prowl through dungeons in search of evil magic items, recruit evil humanoids to besiege a castle or invade a city, and endeavor toward other goals that nonevil adventurers are so often called upon to stop. A villainous group lasts only as long as the players refrain from plotting against each other. So tenuous are the ties that the discovery of a single magic item desired by two characters might be enough to tear the group apart. For this reason, villainous groups are best used for short campaigns spanning, at most, a tier.
"Do not shun the evil in your soul. Embrace it."
—Baalzebul, the Lord of Flies
As one who has embraced evil, you walk a dark and dangerous road to greatness. Given the hardships you face, you might be tempted to become a blood-crazed berserker, contract killer, demonologist, idol of darkness, or vermin lord. Regardless of your choice, you continue to blaze a path for dark forces.
"The power of the Abyss is mine to command. Demon, obey!"
Prerequisite: Any arcane class
You have nothing to fear from things you control. It's the things you can't control that can ruin you. As a demonologist, you know this lesson well. When you look into the eye of the Abyss, you have no doubt in your mind that you can learn to master it—one demon at a time, if need be.
You have never shrunk from looking into shady places to serve your ambition. The longer you peer into darkness, the more certain you become that the secret to overwhelming power is hidden in the Abyss.
As a consequence of your studies, you have gained the attention of a minor demon—a filthy quasit. Discussions with this companion have expanded your mind to grim new possibilities. At the same time, the lessons have dissipated any reservations that perhaps you have gone too far. The more you learn from this quasit, the greater the power you control. Thus far, you have blithely ignored a nagging suspicion that somehow things might go terribly wrong.
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.