How to start a villainous D&D campaign

Playing the bad guy can be fun.

But why is it the GM that gets to have all that fun to themselves?

An evil Dungeons & Dragons campaign is a way to flip the script and explore a different side of this RPG. But with malevolent motivations, things can quickly go awry.

You can avoid the party imploding or the evil characters going on a horrific murder spree with a few tips.

And we here at Dungeon Crate just happen to have some.

Give them a good antagonist. They could be hunting down good NPCs and monsters, working to please a dark god or attempting to plunge the world into darkness. But they don’t have to be put up against other good characters only. There could be a bigger, badder, evil-er villain they seek to unseat.

The characters need something to bring them together. Serving the greater good is what usually brings together a regular party, but you’ll need something stronger to keep them working together. A strong antagonist, a load of gold, or the threat of violence if they don’t pull a job could all work.

Give them goals. Just because they’re bad doesn’t mean they need to turn the murderhobo dial up to 11. Give them attainable goals that they can achieve without killing everyone in their path.

They don’t have to be straight-up villainous. Perhaps they’re mercenaries pulling jobs for a bigger evil organization. Maybe they’re rogues hatching heists for the local thieves’ guild. They can still be heroic. Evil characters can be more about self-interest than the pursuit of wickedness itself. Maybe they simply care about themselves more than the greater good.

Decide on limits. Just because players have evil PCs doesn’t mean your campaign should allow them to kill and burn and pillage everything. Decide on what you’re comfortable with and inform the players what you expect.

Watch out for chaotic evil. That alignment just wants to destroy everything. By definition, they don’t work well in groups. Perhaps warn players against picking that character.

Encourage the players to make allies. Just because they’re all baddies doesn’t mean they’ll all fight each other. Think of the party like those cheesy reality show casts where people with differing goals make alliances to help each other out and further their personal goals.

Make sure you have a way to resolve player conflicts. Dastardly characters can, uh, find ways to get on each other’s nerves especially when their diabolical plots intersect. Having predetermined ways to work things out could help keep temperatures down.

Flip the usual quest structure. If a regular campaign is about helping rid a city of hobgoblin warbands, an evil campaign could involve using hobgoblins to occupy a city while the party steals its treasure. And like a regular campaign uses NPC helpers, so can an evil campaign. Just sub in something like a malevolent dragon rather than a kindly, helpful wizard.

* * *

Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.