My group just finished off a fairly long running campaign where the characters were predominately evil aligned characters. Many of the players intended their characters to be other alignments, but their actions within the game defined them otherwise.
Most of the moments within the game that made me realize they were playing Evil characters revolved around pivotal moments when they could have chosen to show mercy or restraint, and they chose instead to act with decisive cruelty and outright malice. It all really came down to culpability in a given situation.
And seriously, sometimes it’s fun to play the bad guys.
When we consider alignment, we’re talking about ETHICS.
It is simply a moral philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.
A creature’s general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment. Alignment is a tool for developing your character’s identity. It is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two characters of the same alignment can still be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are completely consistent when playing make-believe characters. Alignment should influence a player to add depth to the character.
When we consider the differences between Good and Evil, we must remember that we are speaking of a game with a central setting that Humans are the “main” race and society. If that is indeed the case, then everything to follow is reasonably correct. Because let’s face it, D&D has always functioned within the idea that characters are interacting in a mostly Human world. Therefore, if your campaign setting is set within Menzoberranzan then perhaps you would have to reconsider the alignments reflecting the culture, society, and beliefs of the Drow rather than the Human world.
Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. It implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others. Generally, it assume that the Good character is taking actions that are generally intended to help others rather than harm them.
“Evil” actions implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
Beings who are neutral with respect to Good and Evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships. And even then, relationships may not be enough to carry them through to the end.
Being Good or Evil can be a conscious choice. For most people, though, being good or evil is an attitude that one recognizes but does not choose. Being neutral on the good-evil axis usually represents a lack of commitment one way or the other, but for some it represents a positive commitment to a balanced view. While acknowledging that good and evil are objective states, not just opinions, these folk maintain that a balance between the two is the proper place for people, or at least for them. This is where the need for “Neutral Good” and “Neutral Evil” comes into play.
Most beings are not simply “Neutral” “Unaligned” or “True Neutral.” Such an alignment would only really be applicable to beings of an alien nature or animals. Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral rather than good or evil. Even creatures or monsters that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior.
To be Evil, one must be profoundly immoral and malevolent. It embodies the desire to advance oneself at the cost of others. It deals with a level of culpability in action that causes the most harm in any situation where a different solution might have been available or even more reasonable. To these beings, they use their power and ability to cause pain, misery, and suffering.
Evil beings can even be trustworthy for extended periods of time when a larger goal is at stake or their interests or goals overlap with others. If someone pleases them and seems nonthreatening, they may look after that person, possibly even becoming protective, though with a tendency toward possessiveness and manipulation.
It is important to recognize that Evil does not have existence in and of itself within the Balance of all things. It cannot be removed or eradicated. Rather, it only exists as a privation on that which is Good. It exists in the same way that a wound exists on an arm or as rust exists on a car. The rust cannot exist on its own any more than cold can exist without the existence of heat or darkness can exist without the existence of light.
Evil has its place within the multiverse.
What will you do with it?