• Jonah Elliot

Cooperative Evil

My favorite module -- maybe the only one I really know well -- is Return to the Tomb of Horrors published for second edition. It's a revisit and an expansion of Gary Gygax's classical module from the 1970s. The original has a well-earned reputation as the completely unfair adventure with traps that promise instant death and tricks that make no particular sense other than Gygax's whim. But it was designed to give some humility to arrogant players.

The Return to the Tomb of Horrors makes a bit more cohesive sense than the original Tomb (which itself is one of about five or six regions that the players must explore) Some of the deathtraps make more thematic sense, but they're still as deadly.

Anyway, that's not really the point of this post, though I could do a recap on it. I'm actually relating a fond memory of the last time I took a group through this module. I've run the module three or four times, with only one crew getting to the end. It's tricky to interest people in play second edition nowadays. Still, a couple years ago a coworker of mine mentioned that his D&D friends were looking for a fresh challenge, and I offered to run them through it. The day came, and there was my wife, my friend, and my friend's four friends who were pretty much strangers to me. A pretty good-sized crew. I didn't have much rapport with them -- more than half this group were strangers to me -- but I still had memories of the dysfunction from RPGs from the old days of High School and College. In a module like Tomb of Horrors, the last thing you need is player in-fighting. I actually saw that happen once before. I forgot about it until now. One of the PCs insulted another, which caused the insulted PC to pick up the obnoxious drow elf and hurl him into one of Acererak's blatantly obvious traps, making the poor guy appear naked at the entrance of the tomb. Might not have happened if he kept his tongue under control. Anyway, being older and more jaded, that's the last thing I want to deal with. Heck, most of my memories of role playing games is one petty bit of infighting or another. It's what this blog is about, after all.

So I made my starting speech. "Okay guys. This is the Return to the Tomb of Horrors. Cooperation is key here. The last thing you need is backstabbing. So here's the deal. You're gonna start off high level. And you can play what you want as long as it's in the core books. No weird classes. I advise against multi-classing. And here's the main thing. I don't care if the party is Good. And I don't care if you're Evil. All I care about is you don't stab your buddy in the back. So if you're an Evil party, if one of your crew is injured or hurt, you go back and save his ass. You want to cheat, screw, mess with the NPCs, be my guest. But you still go back to rescue your buddy, or we might as well not bother." Then I let them loose for Character Generation. And a funny thing happened. They looked at each other. "You know, we never made an evil party before. Maybe we should try it."

So they did. And I got to admit, it was hilarious. They made a mercenary company that claimed to serve "The Bloody Baron." There was no Baron, but it was their standard answer to who they were. "Who are you guys?" "We serve the bloody Baron." And that was it. They even gave themselves position in the Bloody Baron's court. The evil wizard was the Baron's vizier. The Thief was the Baron's Jester. My wife's dwarven fighter was the Baron's Headsman. And so on.

They actually worked well as a team. As they voted on a course of action, the Vizier would say: "We may be an evil party, but we are a democratic, evil party."

It even came in useful for certain parts of the adventure. When they found the miserable prisoners who were being held as guinea pig subjects for the evil Necromancers, my good parties usually spent some good spells freeing the poor souls. The Bloody Baron's court however.... simply shrugged and moved on to the next room.

Best of all, no infighting. There were other problems that erupted later, but not from that.

Is this too much to ask for, that a group can play evil PCs and still get along, have a good time, and Bill isn't angry at Fred for cutting his character's throat?

Sure. So far as the evil is directed outward, rather than inward.

So in my opinion, mind controlling characters sucks... but evil characters don't have to.

Especially if they have a bit of an understanding.

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All