How to start a villainous D&D campaign

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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.

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How to resolve fights at the game table

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Role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons are collaborative.

The players work together to create a story, battle monsters, and enjoy epic adventure.

It all works great. Until it doesn't.

Sometimes, players get in fights with players (or their characters fight each other), and that’s never good for the group, the game or the campaign.

So how to resolve it when things come to head? We can help.

Ask yourself if it’s a one-time thing or a persistent problem. Sometimes the lawful good paladin gets annoyed with the chaotic neutral rogue, and they fight. It happens. That’s not as big of a deal as a player who consistently makes antagonistic characters or another who always causes trouble.

If characters are about to come to blows, help find a rational way to work it out. Maybe they actually fight, but should it be lethal damage? To the death? Or would it be better to create some other kind of competition? It might be more fun for the characters to see how many orcs each one can kill in the next dungeon or something like that. They don’t necessarily have to fight each other.

If two characters are always bickering, find a way to fix it. That may involve asking the players to calm it down or to step outside of the game for a second and figure out their differences.

Roll new characters. Maybe the two characters who always seem to butt heads need to be replaced. One of them could roll a new character. It could even be a similar character class with a different alignment or backstory.

Take a break. During a long session, it’s always good to step away from the table for a minute. And if things in your weekly or long-running game are coming to a head, maybe you take a week off and let everyone cool down.

Is it one player always causing the problem? Time to take that person aside and address the issue. We all seem to know a guy who specializes in antagonizing other players. That can be funny or entertaining from time to time. If it’s becoming disruptive, approach the player outside of the game and ask them to knock it off or at least tone it down.

Can’t resolve the conflict? Ask that person to leave the game. This is a last resort, but if one player’s actions consistently bother the other players, disrupt the game, or cause trouble, maybe it’s best for everyone if they don’t play in that campaign any more.

Start a new campaign. Maybe this D&D campaign has too much baggage. This is the nuclear option, but a fresh start with a new story and characters could save your friendship and enjoyment of the game.

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How to use common D&D spells in a creative way

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Most spells in D&D and other RPGs have a pretty straightforward use.

Cast Fireball and watch your enemies try to dance out of the way of its hot, roaring flames. Magic Missile lets you see bolts of force crash into bad guys. Cast Knock and watch that locked door click open.

Maybe it’s time to branch out. Think about casting spells in unusual ways and using their effects to cause all kinds of havoc.

Speak with Animals: Lets you comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts. A lot of times, you can get nearby animals to tell you details about who’s passed by or the features of a dungeon. You can also ask them for a favor. Convincing them to overrun a nearby orc camp, cause a distraction, or lead you out of the wilderness (many animals have an innate sense of direction) are also good uses.

Create Water: Creates up to 10 gallons of water or causes it to rain in a 30-foot cube. Drop the water on a slope, causing a miniature waterfall. Follow it with an ice/cold spell to make a frozen puddle. Ask your GM if you can drop that water inside a red dragon’s mouth and extinguish its breath weapon.

Prestidigitation: Create a small effect, object, or condition such as a puff of smoke, a simple trinket, a sound, or an illusory image. Shake it up by using this spell to flavor plain rations and make them taste delicious. You could also create a fire no matter the conditions or make keys to get yourself out of a cage.

Fear: Creates a phantasmal image of a creature’s worst fears. Typically, you use this to frighten a monster and make them run away. But with its Wisdom save, you could use it on a nearby group of low-Wisdom monsters or animals, forcing them to cause chaos around your target.

Wall of Stone: Creates a wall of stone between you and a monster. Good to wall off some unknown force, but it also has an AC of 15 and 30 HP, so holding it as a Ready action means you can throw it up just as a dragon lets off its breath weapon or a big bad minotaur comes charging your way.

Darkness: Creates magical darkness that not even darkvision can see through. Interestingly, you can cast it on an object or an item in addition to a place, so you can use it to hide an object of interest. You could also follow it by casting Devil’s Sight to let you cut through the darkness and let none of your enemies see you coming.

Find Familiar: An animal familiar appears within 10 feet of you. Interestingly, the spell does not say you have to see where the familiar is summoned, so you can have it show up on the other side of a wall, inside a building, or outside of a locked jail cell. You also communicate with it telepathically, letting you tell it to unlock a door, steal an item, or discover more information before dismissing it into the ether.

Thaumaturgy: Create a menacing effect for a minute or so, like loud noises, trembling ground, or brighter flames. Though typically used as part of an intimidation check, you can have some fun with that one. Cause a fire to flare in an enemy’s face. Drop a thunderclap in their ear. Slam a door shut when a foe tries to walk through it.

Polymorph: Turn any creature into another creature. Use it to turn the big bad into something easy to kill. It relies on a Wisdom saving throw, so a not-so-smart creature is your best target. It’s not as easy as smashing a giant demon you just turned into a chicken -- creatures revert to their original forms when reduced to 0 hit points. But everyone in the party can prepare extra spells and attacks as reactions for the moment the chicken turns back into a demon.

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