Playing evil

From ThresholdRPG Wiki

Evil is a very complicated subject. It has been discussed, debated, and analyzed by philosophers and theologians for millennia. I will not attempt to do that here, as my qualifications and your patience are probably both insufficient to do the topic justice.

Evil, by its nature, is the antithesis of that which is acceptable by society. Just as history books are written by the winners of wars, ethical and moral norms are defined by the will of society. Thus, those who are evil are always at odds with society and as such must operate with extreme care, caution, and cleverness.

Playing an evil character well is very hard. I'm not talking about cartoony, handlebar mustache, "I bow to no one!", "I would have succeeded if it weren't for you meddling kids" kind of evil. I am talking about truly insidious, sneaky, deceptive, subversive, SUCCESSFUL evil. In the world of Threshold, we are blessed to have some people who are capable of playing such high quality evil characters. They are able to follow dark gods while they still enjoy the respect, and often admiration, of neutral and even good aligned peers.

A large part of the excitement of playing an evil character is this very challenge. An evil character knows the odds are stacked against them. Such a character knows that a few slip ups can result in complete and total alienation from society and all its benefits. Or perhaps worse, it can result in Frankenstein-like persecution by a fire-wielding mob! The trick is operating just under the nose of well-meaning, good-intentioned society. The evil character walks the razor's edge of debauchery and decorum. Such characters know if they slip, they'll be cut.

So what does this mean for the aspiring malevolent fiend? It means that if you choose to play an evil character you are facing an uphill battle. The way in which you would shape the world is not something you can freely shout from the mountaintops. You must be cautious in speech, careful in deed, and sneaky in action.

This is especially true if you openly follow an evil deity. The deities of Threshold derive their power from the number and strength of their followers. As a result, all deities must maintain some degree of social acceptability in order to have access to the largest pool of talent- adventurers. While there do exist three cults in Threshold whose "deities" do not seek social acceptance, the deities to whom these cults are sworn are incredibly weak compared to the 16 Deities of the Aether- so weak that they are almost insignificant by comparison, and thus they have no player character followers or clerics.

What kinds of things can happen if you falter in your pursuance of evil ends and engender the open scorn and disgust of society? Well, a whole host of things can happen, and most of them are very unpleasant. You can be kicked out of your guild, and thereby denied valuable training and supplies. You can lose the protection of the laws, and thereby be subject to any sort of violence at the hands of those who detest you. You can be hounded by the above mentioned fire-wielding mob. You can be kicked from your clan (they cannot risk their own alienation by continuing to openly align themselves with you - you're on your own!). You can be barred from entry to major cities or prevented from attending special events (the STEA is yet another arm of society, after all). In short, things can get ugly. Further, the prospect of redemption is quite often not possible. The repercussions listed above are often, though not always, permanent. It is easy to forgive folly in a child, but Jeffrey Dahmers and Osama Bin Ladens are not so lucky.

Should your actions cause humiliation, embarrassment, or damage to your church, and therefore a reduction in the ability of your dark god to recruit more followers, you can be the target of any variety of horrific, divine punishment. If you are lucky, you may only be kicked out of your church (or defrocked if you are a cleric). Should your actions be particularly damaging to the faith, punishments may include being flayed alive, transmogrification into a foul smelling greasy stain, being eaten alive by insects over a thousand years, the eternal burning of your flesh while on an hourly basis your eyes are gouged out and the sockets filled with acid, being afflicted with a cornucopia of festering diseases whereupon you are fed nothing but the pus and ooze that leaks from your weeping sores while you wail in agony from the rotting of your flesh and the savage beatings you endure at the hands of scourge wielding, slavering demons of punishment, and other things too horrible to even describe.

So why be evil if it is hard? Well the challenge is part of the fun! But so is the exhilaration of knowing you are not subject to the shackles of the obtuse moralists who feel protection of the weak is a virtue. There is the freedom of kicking a pathetic beggar in the teeth for having the gall to ask you for charity. There is the hilarity of spoiling true love through deception or seduction, and watching the couple turn upon themselves. There is the amusement at ensnaring a respected member of society in a reputation destroying scandal by exploiting his greed and lust for power. There is the triumph of convincing the public that concepts like mercy and law are nothing but a means of the establishment to perpetuate itself and subjugate the masses. There is the liberating joy that ultimately, you owe nothing to anyone but yourself, and that which you can obtain for yourself is what you rightly deserve - you have neither a duty nor a responsibility to aid "the less fortunate." Perhaps most of all, there is the pride in knowing you have achieved greatness by the strength of your own will, rather than through the coddling of society.

Evil is a difficult path, but it can be a very entertaining and intellectually stimulating one. Since most (all?) people here are not evil in real life, playing an evil character is all the more challenging and rewarding. There is certainly a perverse thrill in doing things you would never imagine doing in real life, and trying your hardest to get away with them.

By the time you have reached this point in the help file, it should be overwhelmingly clear that the path of evil is NOT the path of least resistance. You are hereby warned in advance that being evil is HARD and no amount of complaining or whining about it will be tolerated. If you choose evil, you do so with open eyes and a clear explanation in advance of what sort of challenge you are facing. Evil players who bemoan the difficulty of their ethical path will suffer the kind of treatment that evil beings generally reserve for pathetic, mewling, weaklings: destruction!

This help file is not to be interpreted, twisted, and contorted like a religious text. I am not saying more than what you are reading here. The purpose of this file is to act as a guideline for people who play an evil character or who are considering playing an evil character. It is harder to play evil, but it certainly is not impossible. It is also not impossible for the sum and total of evil players to be more powerful and more influential than the sum and total of good, neutral, or even good + neutral players. The key here is that evil, by its very nature, is something that must be insidious and beguiling. So in addition to everything else that is difficult about rising to power, evil characters must be more deceptive about their motives and true ends.

Also, alienation from society is not reserved for evil beings. Those who profess to be good and yet pursue a "life of evil" through murder, violence, abuse, or theft (assuming it is known) will suffer the same fate. Society judges you based on your actions, not merely by the color of your aura.

Cliched evil is easy, trite, hackneyed, and boring. Creative, interesting, devious evil is demanding, but it makes for an eminently more exciting and intriguing game world.

Help File

help evil