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D&D Ultimate Edition

Evil Mode

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Evil Mode

Unread postby icycalm » 15 Dec 2020 20:52

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In the main Pathfinder adventure select map, on the Battlegrounds site, we have a very interesting update today: at the bottom of the Hell's Vengeance description, an unlock has appeared: "Unlocks: Evil Mode mechanics". In this chapter I will explain what that means, and it means a lot, so please pay attention, especially if you're participating or planning to participate in Battlegrounds. Other DMs running Ultimate Edition in their own universes might choose to ignore these rules, and that's fine, it's their universe so they can do whatever they want with it, but in my universe we will be utilizing these mechanics to the full, so you've been warned. So let me explain precisely how they work.

It is a common falsehood that in D&D, and in RPGs in general, you can play "whatever kind of character you want". This is of the same order of the falsehood that says that in D&D, "You can go wherever you want to go", whereas in fact you CAN'T go wherever you want to go, you can only go where the DM wants you to go. And that's one of the major problems that I designed Ultimate Edition to destroy, by introducing the videogame-style Overworld phase and associated mechanics. So in Ultimate Edition the DM has absolutely zero control over where you go. Of course, UE ties your choice in travel direction with some particular published adventure, so that when you HAVE gone somewhere, you are supposed to generally follow the path or paths laid out in the adventure, since after all you chose it! But as UE DMs, we allow as much wiggle room as possible on top of that, without outright ruining the adventure. And ruining the adventure is an option too, as long as it's strongly justified through role-playing of the characters. Bottom line is UE's claim to allow you to go wherever you want inside its universe is not false, it's 100% true, and it's the first edition of D&D—or of any RPG I am aware of—where this is true.

And I am doing the same for the alignment debacle.

The alignment debacle is as follows. ALL the Player's Handbooks ever published pretend as if the players can pick any alignment that they want, including chaotic evil, but the fact is that there have been practically ZERO adventures published for evil characters. The only notable exception I am aware of is a very recent one: Paizo's aforementioned Hell's Vengeance campaign, released in 2016. By all means tell me if you know of more exceptions, because I am very interested in running them, but you won't be disproving my point no matter how many you find: one, two, three, or whatever. There are HUNDREDS of adventures that assume the players are good, at least as a party if not as individuals, so it's quite obvious that D&D was not made to handle evil parties, and can barely handle individual evil characters as it stands. In a normal D&D campaign, if a character is evil, he will either have to hide it from the party, or he'll eventually be expelled. But normal D&D can't handle expelled characters, because it's written as a single-party game, and character expulsion essentially means PLAYER expulsion from the group! And if the evil-preferring PLAYER is fated to be expelled from essentially ALL groups running published adventures, how can you say that the game is built to handle evil characters? It's all baloney at that point lol. Take that bs and stick it wherever you've been sticking all the OTHER bs about how "10-year-olds and up" can write their own Tolkien epic sagas and worlds lol.

Now, I would never in a million years dream up an Evil Mode for D&D on my own. But Paizo is a trailblazer here as they have been in so many ways, and their Hell's Vengeance INSPIRED me to create Evil Mode mechanics for Ultimate Edition. After all, it wouldn't be Ultimate if it didn't allow you to build up an evil god-emperor now would it? And it's precisely through my Empire phase that I will BALANCE Evil Mode so that it fits into the game perfectly and doesn't ruin it. You could still add Evil Mode even without the Empire phase, but the game wouldn't be as elegant as it'll be now. So here's how it's going to work.

First, some group will have to unlock Hell's Vengeance, so we can run it and see exactly how the masters at Paizo have envisioned the evil campaign. Once that happens, that group has unlocked the ability to switch nearly ANY published adventure to Evil Mode at any time. They won't have to say anything in particular: their characters will simply make it obvious at SOME point in the adventure (could even be the later parts, or even the final scene) that they are being so evil that the adventure cannot be run as written and will have to be adapted to Evil Mode. Note that the vast majority of adventures give SOME leeway to a couple of characters' being evil to a small degree. You can already do that in the game, and that's fine. Evil Mode is when you CAN'T do that without requiring the DM to adapt chapters and perhaps even add brand-new ones in to accommodate your ENTIRE party's actions. At that point, your DM will advise you via Discord voice chat that "This action will turn on Evil Mode", which means that the session will likely have to be stopped at that point so the DMs can consult and can take the time to adapt the adventure. Usually, one week will suffice, but sometimes more time may be required. Don't worry about the quality of the adaptation, such changes are easy to make because the DM already has the personalities and motivations of all the NPCs, so it's just a matter of figuring out their reactions to the new situation, which he does anyway all the time in order to run every adventure. The only difference is that here these reactions will be more extreme than normal, because the players' actions are more extreme, and not foreseen by the adventure's writers. So this definitely requires more experienced and talented DMs than the typical adjustments made for the typical adventure, but danjiro and I are not typical DMs, and believe you me we can handle this challenge perfectly, and will in fact relish handling it. (And by the way, this challenge is great training for those wishing to write their own adventures some day, so I advise them to strongly consider introducing Evil Mode into their games, and dealing with it.)

Now let's get something straight here before we continue any further. Evil doesn't mean that your dream job is killing puppies for Satan, as it is in a parody RPG released in the early 2000s [ > ]. That's the caricatural view of evil (which is very popular in society today, because IQ and T are dropping like a rock), just like the caricatural view of good is the paladin. But this is a fantasy game, so the caricatural view of good DOES have its place here, and that's the paladin, just like the caricatural view of evil has its place, and that's the antipaladin (who will be unlockable through play, btw, along with countless other classes). But just as you don't need to be a paladin to be good, you don't need to be an antipaladin to be evil. I.e. you don't need to be a caricature. Evil simply means that you lack a conventional moral compass. It simply means that you're unbothered by conventional morality. That's all it means. In some cases, for characters of high intelligence and wisdom, it can even mean that you regard conventional morality AS EVIL, since it blocks evolution by defending the weak against the strong, thereby multiplying weakness and ensuring species degeneration. A Nietzschean character who believes that humans should be exterminated to pave the way for superhumans—just like Neanderthals were exterminated to pave the way for humans—would be such an evil character in Ultimate Edition, and the rules should be built in such a way as to be able to handle him, and give him the kind of adventures and campaigns he would enjoy. And, of course, such a character would see the GOOD characters as evil! Isn't relativity great? And I hear that relativity is all the rage these days. So Ultimate Edition is a super-progressive RPG, a super-tolerant one, that respects all viewpoints equally.

And of course, all that means that evil characters in Ultimate Edition are perfectly capable of loving others, and even of self-sacrifice. I sure as fuck would sacrifice myself for Nietzschean goals in real life, so I sure as fuck should be able to in a fucking role-playing game! And given how absurdly more sensitive people like me and Nietzsche are to life and the human condition, and to all kinds of emotions that the average person can't even fathom, I sure as fuck won't tolerate effeminate nerdy faggots trying to censor my game and force me to think and behave like them!

As for cancel culture concerns: look at Hell's Vengeance. If Paizo can get away with that, we can get away with it too, thankyouverymuch. Or what about Osbidian's Tyranny? That's the videogame equivalent of Hell's Vengeance, and Obsidian hasn't been cancelled yet either. Not that I care about "being cancelled". I've been cancelled for 15 years now, and I've been having the time of my life. I find the threats of nerds and bureaucrats hilarious, they are one of the great joys of life even.

Either way, don't expect campaigns of brute terror and destruction, simply because such campaigns wouldn't be interesting. Large-scale terror will naturally happen in the late-game Empire phase, simply because that phase will be dominated by large-scale wars, just like any strategy game, and such wars are horrible. And since with the role-playing dimension you will be able to zoom in and survey the devastation of your actions, you'll get your fill of the horror of destruction either way, even if you're a good character, without the need of early-game characters going on mindless rape- and killing sprees. So the way evil actions will play out will be much more subtle, so let me explain that in some more detail.

So let's consider what will be the "metagame" so to speak motivation for, and consequences of, evil actions, i.e. conventionally socially reprehensible actions. Note that stealing and assassination etc. are already in the game: there are entire classes for them, and no one objects. And the reason they don't object is because the stealing and the assassination are always performed for "GOOD", "SELFLESS" ends: that's the chaotic good alignment. Where things change is when the VERY SAME ACTIONS are being performed for "SELFISH" ends, and this is where the Empire phase comes in. Being evil in the midst of published adventures merely means that, in most scenarios, your character is looking out above all for NUMBER 1: i.e. for himself. He's more interested in stealing the princess's inheritance than in saving her; though he might also save her if he can do so without dying in the process, as he might for example like to take her for his wife, etc. But it's also possible to genuinely fall in love with her and sacrifice himself for her: and there are characters in novels where this happens. It doesn't happen in D&D because the game isn't really built to handle evil characters, as I said, so this unwritten prohibition essentially LIMITS the scope of human temperament allowed in play, and therefore also limits the psychological scope of the role-playing. But UE solves all that.

Now, when a party activates Evil Mode, they are forfeiting the adventure's EP: they will not gain any EP from this adventure, even if they somehow successfully complete it. I added this rule to balance the game, because the advantage of being evil means the party has a much wider scope for maneuvering, on top of being able to essentially ignore all the goals of the adventure and simply loot and pillage everything that isn't nailed down, and many things that are. This is a tremendous advantage for the Empire phase, and it has to be balanced somehow. It doesn't need to be PERFECTLY balanced, because this isn't a simplistic 1v1 versus videogame, but SOME degree of balance is desirable, and that's what we accomplish by refusing these players EP, with ONE exception: the party that first unlocks Evil Mode by unlocking and playing Hell's Vengeance: they get EP when they successfully complete adventures even in Evil Mode, but they get 25% of the normal EP.

Of course, I am sure there will be players who'll have no interest in playing evil characters, let alone be part of an evil party (and the party has to be evil overall in order to turn on Evil Mode; though it can of course contain neutral-ish characters), and that's fine. Battlegrounds currently includes 15 players, plus dan and I would like to play in each other's campaigns on occasion, which brings it up to 17. The normal Pathfinder campaign group is four players, so we have enough players for four parties! So I am sure that if some people do not want to ever be part of an evil party, they can form a permanently good or neutral group (i.e. groups that cannot turn on Evil Mode, since Evil Mode requires the agreement of every member). You can sort that out now between yourselves, and there is definitely time to rearrange parties, but even later in the game, party splits are possible, since an evil alignment no more means that the characters are always in full agreement any more than it means that for good characters. There are as many ways to be evil as to be good, and the even more incredible thing about this REAL universe of ours is that at the extremes of this spectrum, the two are practically unrecognizable lol, which is how you get "tolerance"-loving anti-fascists becoming more fascistic than actual fascists lol. Having multiple parties in the world, plus the complete freedom to move around afforded by the overworld, means that we can role-play situations that a regular single-party game and world can't accommodate, such as all sorts of crazy party splits and rearrangements, whether that be group vs. group, or groups joining forces, or group realignment into good and evil groups. You won't even have to roll new characters; the character that's fallen out with his group will simply take off, and will "happen" to travel to where his target group is, at which point players and DMs will collaboratively devise a justification for the team-up. And the world will keep turning, as long as no players freak out and demand that all the players in the game conform to their moral whims. If that's you, D&D Battlegrounds is clearly not the game for you, and probably Ultimate Edition isn't either, without heavy editing at least. If so no worries, you can bow out right now, or whenever in the future you want. We're all adults here, or at any rate I am.

Bottom line is, this mechanic will be incredible in too many ways to count, both for players and DMs, and will deepen the game absurdly at all levels. And you haven't even seen the Empire phase yet, which I'll be elaborating shortly. It will be absolutely incredible, and the crowning achievement of Ultimate Edition. And the advantage of Evil Mode is that it significantly benefits players aiming for empires by giving them free reign of behavior in the world. The disadvantage is lower EP acquisition, which means fewer rulebooks unlocked, and fewer cool adventures played (and some adventures that are inherently good like the Dragonlance Saga will even have good parties as prerequisite, though note that turning Evil Mode on for ONE party doesn't mean that ALL your future parties have to be evil; they can even be part of the same bloodline as the "black sheep", and so on).

In sum, in Ultimate Edition evil simply means you make your own morality, on the fly even, if need be. And yes, UE will have its own chapter on alignment, and it will be a legit philosopher that writes it, not the typical nerdy effeminate dude that writes Player's Handbooks, so stay tuned. It will be the first "beyond good and evil" mechanics in role-playing history, I believe, and certainly in D&D history.
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icycalm
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Unread postby icycalm » 15 Dec 2020 21:04

The discussion with dan:

CULT|icycalm
I am just finishing a rules chapter called Evil Mode
I will send it to you before I publish it
It's quite controversial to say the least, so I want to hear your stance before I go ahead with it

CULT|danjiro
Sure, I’ll take a look at it

CULT|icycalm
[chapter sent]

CULT|danjiro
I think it's a really good idea (pun intended lol). I wouldn't expect it to be controversial normally, but who knows nowadays with all the overly sensitive people running amok
To me it would just make sense this way

CULT|icycalm
Yeah, in the '90s no one would have blinked
I am posting it then. Glad you see it this way. I was a little apprehensive I would lose you

CULT|danjiro
I've tried to run evil games in the past, but as you said it was particularly difficult because each adventure assumed all sorts of altruistic rationales in a bunch of places
It was easier to run evil games in World of Darkness

CULT|icycalm
I will need to check that out

CULT|danjiro
Vampires, werewolves, mages, changelings, wraiths and more all in a dark, modern setting makes morality much more relative than the typical heroic fantasy game

CULT|icycalm
Maybe it can give us some ideas on how to handle evil in D&D
I hope Hell's Vengeance helps there

CULT|danjiro
They even used to have some books specifically labeled as "more evil" than the rest of them with adults only labels just in case, even in the 90s
Instead of White Wolf they were published as Black Dog lol

CULT|icycalm
lol
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Unread postby icycalm » 06 Jan 2021 14:18

Evidence that evil characters were being played by players all the way back to the earliest days of role-playing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackmoor_(campaign_setting)

Wikipedia wrote:The next issue of Corner of the Table promised "the start of the 'Black Moors' battle reports, a series dealing with the perils of living in Medieval Europe." Initially, The Northern Marches was set up to be an ongoing multiplayer wargame, with the potential for Braunstein games. The Barony of Blackmoor formed the centerpiece of the game, and the various players attached to it (Bill Hoyt, Marshall Hoegfeldt, Duane Jenkins), initially represented the forces of good. Duane Jenkins, for example, ruled the Northern Marches, first as a bandit chief, later promoted to Baron as Sir Jenkins. As the game progressed, more of Arneson's Napoleonics players joined in increasingly diverse roles. Mike Carr, for example, became a village priest, and then Bishop of Blackmoor. Others chose early in the campaign to side with the forces of evil, such as a wizard played by John Soukup. Early descriptions of the activities of the Blackmoor campaign circulated in a news sheet called the Blackmoor Gazette and Rumormonger. Players became increasingly drawn to the innovative dungeon exploration mechanic that Arneson invented; by 1972, that had become a major focus of the game. As demand for Blackmoor increased, Arneson fielded out refereeing duties to other players in his local circle.


This btw is also evidence that multi-DM worlds and campaigns existed from the earliest days.
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Unread postby icycalm » 06 Jan 2021 14:21

Also note how they put out magazines to detail the world's narrative as it progressed, as we're doing in this forum.

All these elements—multiple groups and DMs, evil players, publication of the ongoing narrative—are elements which the overwhelming majority of games being played by DMs utterly lack. There may not be any such games ran today aside from my Battlegrounds, as far as we know.
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Unread postby icycalm » 19 Jun 2021 15:13

After a little research it turns out there aren’t really any evil official D&D adventures. Pathfinder has quite a few though, and not just standalones but entire campaigns. Hell’s Vengeance is the most famous one, but Skull & Shackles, the pirate one, is also essentially evil, and Wrath of the Righteous CAN BE evil, if the players want it. I know of a couple more cases but I’ll reveal them later for maximum effect. So say what you want about Paizo SJWing, but they have delivered on the evil front in spades.

While looking for evil D&D adventures I came across an old thread from 2003 where someone gives a genius piece of advice to DMs looking to accommodate evil parties: https://www.enworld.org/threads/module- ... ost-929032

At various points in different published modules, a party of evil NPCs is given a task to stop a party of heroes performing a quest.

Instead of giving the evil party the "good" quest, you can have a good party of NPCs assigned the quest and task the evil PCs to stop the good NPCs from completing their quest.


This isn’t as simple as it sounds because in the adventure the good party’s path will be very fleshed out while the evil NPCs will just be guest starring in a single scene most probably, so you’ll need to do quite some work to flesh out the evil path. But you won’t be starting from zero, and most of the work will have been done for you because most of the work is the story and the characters and the locations, all of which are in the book. You’ll have to rejig stuff instead of making up stuff from scratch, so it’s a lot easier and it will be a lot better result than if you started from scratch.

This is basically the essence of Evil Mode: that when you flick it on you instruct the DM to flip everything around for you.

Maybe I’ll make this action cost EP to discourage people from abusing it.
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Unread postby icycalm » 19 Jun 2021 15:24

It makes sense to cost EP because the players will tend to turn on Evil Mode for personal gain, so they’ll essentially be exchanging EP for money and power. Given that they will always have limited EP, this will make Evil Mode self-regulating. It can be used for fun and to acquire power (presumably for the purpose of the TaleSpire strategy phase), but with limited EP it can’t wreck every single campaign in the entire universe.
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