Evil Will Always Win Because Good Is Dumb: Four Reasons Your Next Campaign Should Be A Villain Campaign
Despite the incredible diversity in game systems and mechanics, most campaigns share one underlying feature: the players are the heroes. That’s not to say that heroes must be ‘good’ characters; an evil character can also be the protagonist in the story (an anti-hero, i.e. Deadpool). However, we as players typically play the good guys, the protagonists, the heroes. To break free of this limitation, try playing your next campaign as a villain campaign: the players all play as characters who are the bad guys in a story. That’s not to say that everyone has to be ‘evil’, either, but rather the campaign is set up in such a way that the players play the role of the antagonist in the story. This is a super fun twist on your typical role-playing game and can be done either as a one-off or in a long term campaign. Here are four reasons why you should embrace your inner villain.
1. Explore new characters-
While there is limitless diversity amongst playable characters in role-playing games, the majority of them typically play the role of hero in the stories they inhabit. Protagonists typically share basic motivations derived from their similar role in the story. Playing as a villain opens up new and diverse characters for the players to explore. There are typically some classes or abilities underutilized by ‘good’ players due to their particular moral bent (i.e. blood magic, sacrifices, torture) that become more appealing when you embrace your villainous nature. Even more than that, there is a whole new world of character motivation and morals to explore. No longer do you need to concern yourself with collateral damage. Honesty can be thrown out the window. Murder and mayhem are now excellent tools for problem solving. The pursuit of power can finally be unfettered by such pesky principles as decency, integrity, and virtue. Long story short, you will likely end up playing a very different character than you’ve played when you were one of the heroes.
2. Inverse questing-
We’ve all been on countless numbers of those stereotypical quests, whose reiterations can be found across all mediums and systems of role-playing games: rescue the important person (often a damsel) from the monster (or other form of distress), save the townies from the baddies, escort the fat rich guy through the dangerous place, kill the boss at the bottom of the dungeon. We become inured to the resulting monotony and just push through these humdrum acts of heroics for the XP, loot, or just for something to do. However, if you are the villain, you are the one who gets to kidnap the princess, destroy the town, ambush the merchant, and hold court from your deadly dungeon. These familiar quests are given new life when you are working from the other side. For example, kidnapping someone is a surprisingly different endeavor than rescuing them. Rescue missions are typically just smash and grabs where you beat all the baddies between you and the target. Kidnappings are stealth missions occurring against overwhelming odds, where getting caught or slowed down means death for the interlopers. Similarly, how many ways can you think of regarding how to destroy a village? Conversely, how many ways can you think of regarding how to save a village? There is infinite creativity in how to bring about destruction, but only one or a few ways to avert it (and those are entirely dependent upon the threat posed). Long story short, you will likely end up playing out very different scenarios even in similar situations faced when you were one of the heroes.
3. Defeat, where is thy sting?-
Normally, when the PCs are defeated in a campaign, it is a moment of disappointment and failure. Who doesn’t have the scarring memories of losing beloved heroes to the forces of evil? However, in a villain campaign, when the players are finally overthrown, it’s actually a happy ending for the world; good has finally triumphed against evil! The point behind a villain campaign is not to beat the bad guy and live happily ever after, as is our wish for our most beloved heroes. It is instead to set the world ablaze and watch it burn as long as you can. Typically, evil does not desire to live happily ever after, that’s not got an evil enough ring to it. When it comes down to it, role-playing games at their core showcase the struggle between good and evil in which we want good to triumph. Long story short, in a villain campaign, all it takes is some player death for the world to right itself.
4. Leave your mark-
This point is particularly for those of you who play in a persistent world. There is no doubt that villains leave an impression upon the world; how much of the world’s politics in the latter half of the 20th century was dictated by the actions of Adolf Hitler? The ramifications of actions done by the player villains can live on in future campaigns. Indeed, even the villains from your campaign can live a second life by starring as the bad guys in subsequent campaigns. A villain campaign doesn’t need to end with the death of the villains; they can be spared for the very same players who gave birth to them to bring about their end. It makes the struggle between good and evil so oft played out in RPGs a more personal one. Being thwarted by a villain whom you created is simultaneously both a frustrating and proud moment. Defeating your villain will often be bittersweet, as the joy of victory will be linked with the sadness of having one of your characters die. Long story short, playing the villains can provide players a new way to leave their mark on the world and generate great stories for subsequent campaigns.
Villain campaigns are always a blast. None of us would see evil triumph over good in this world, but it is undeniably enjoyable to see it happen temporarily when you are the triumphing evil. So if you’re bored of the same old campaigns played year in and year out, why don’t you give being the villain a try? Dark Helmut seems to think it’s a good idea.
- Jake is a closet villain with a love of role-playing games, world history, board games, and fantasy in general.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.