MATT: Hello! My name is Matthew Mercer.
I’m a voice actor and the Dungeon Master for Critical Role here at Geek & Sundry, and today’s wonderful
topic of GM Tips is curbing murder-hobo behavior and running evil campaigns. [music] No matter how much prep you do or how alluring
the heroics may be, and how strong the call to glory and justice might prove, sometimes the players
will give in to the id and become impulse-driven murder-hobos. A murder-hobo by the way is a player character
in a roleplaying game that has no home and wanders the land killing things and taking
all the shit off their corpses. While this style of play can occasionally lead
to some ridiculously funny scenarios, it can make it difficult to maintain a long-form respectful narrative
for the whole party and for you. However, there are a number of interesting and fun ways to develop
great roleplaying and story moments out of these scenarios that can also possibly curb perpetuating
such behavior in the future. Now many of these are written for fantasy games, but these notes
can be easily tailored to many other genres and settings. Here’s an example. The players get into an argument
with a merchant and end up stabbing him with a sword and killing him. You know
what I’m talking about; you’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve probably done it.
In the game. In the… game. Now consider the legal ramifications of such an act.
Will the party now try to hide the body and play it off like nothing happened? If so, do they succeed?
Or is there now a manhunt for a murderer within the city and the party is always dancing
around the rumor whenever it comes up? Do they begin to see wanted postings with characters
that look eerily familiar? Does the guard discover them and attempt to take them in for questioning?
If they go along, do they stand trial or will they attempt to break free of prison, leading to a fun prison
break adventure and leading the party into an outlaw-style journey where certain townships
are best avoided or done incognito. What if a very powerful investigator is hired
and finds them, besting the party with his men and dragging them to his office where he makes
them an offer that they have no choice in taking, one that involves doing an uncouth favor for
the same investigator? What if a family member of the slain hires a seer or a diviner, discovers
the murderer’s face, and hires a bounty hunter that is now hunting the PC for an ongoing
period of time, introducing a recurring villain to the campaign? Perhaps they rifle through the slain merchant’s
stuff and they discover he’s actually a very terrible person, like a cultist to Asmodeus and the like,
perhaps a higher-up within the order, and he’s likely to be summoned soon
to a gathering he was leaving for. Now if they just keep stabbing anything you
put in front of them, perhaps you should talk to the players about respecting the narrative that
you’ve worked so hard to construct. If they still seem negligent to your quest, just quickly
TPK them with a series of high-level guards and give them a whole epilogue on justice
and the rarely noble end of the murderer. Mind you, sometimes it can be fun for a group of
experienced players to communally give in to their dark side and decide to play a campaign
of morally dubious characters. Thus can begin the weird and fun experience
of running an evil campaign. [evil laugh] [cartoonish gunshot] Now, talk in advance with all the players and
have them coordinate characters that can have some semblance of working together in collaboration.
Lawful Evil as an alignment works well for this as respect for structure and rank aid in maintaining
party cohesion when everyone is being an evil f***. Now be aware, there are degrees of immorality,
not all of the same kind of evil, and not all players must be evil. A neutral individual among evil companions
can still serve the same purpose, and one can even start as a good character who slowly is corrupted
by their surrounding companions. Just check in with what kind of campaign the folks
want to play out. Is it more serious, dramatic, dark criminal underground story, or the sillier Saturday
morning cartoon show villain type story? Both are a lot of fun but make sure you’re
all on the same page before you get too deep into the nuts and bolts. Have players consider evil with limits, or a code of conduct.
It helps when defining your character what their boundaries are and what drove them to the darker side of life. Let that internal conflict lead some interested
inter-party encounters. Many “evil” folks don’t actually righteously consider
themselves evil at all, only pragmatic. As the GM, be prepared for a short campaign.
Don’t write a super extended story arc yet, let it organically grow from there, if it’s even meant to,
as most evil campaigns end up with PCs just killing each other. It’s part of the nature of the beast. Be very clear with your initial discussions
with the players about the level of mutually-approved player versus player possibilities in the game
should they arise. However, it may develop into a very interesting long running mafia-like
story if you run it very carefully and the players are on board. Now this is an important one. Make sure
you and all of your players are clear on what elements of evil you are comfortable with, and which
elements everyone is not comfortable with. You want to avoid a circumstance where a PC
eventually pushes things too far and makes it very awkward or too dark to continue enjoying the game.
Define those limits early. If any time a player begins to push those boundaries, you are allowed
to as a GM or player to put a pause on it and check in with the others, just to be safe. Another cool thing is to consider a plot that enables
the PCs to work towards a political foothold within a town or city. As we well know, evil generally
flourishes when business, politics, and civilization are involved. The glimmer of a promise of power, wealth, servants,
and spies can entice any player’s dark side. You can also play with existing storytelling tropes
and turn them on their head. You can have the party encounter upstart adventurers who’ve hunted
them down to stop their evil plots. Or have them encounter dark entities that offer a chance
to make dealings with them as opposed to fighting them. Perhaps the heroes return
from a grand quest where they save the town in danger, recovering a great holy artifact,
and your party is imparted with the mission to corrupt the artifact, turn the heroes against each other,
and eventually enslave that very town they saved. Eventually, offer up some serious dangers to
all things good and evil, where the party must team up with more morally high-grounded interest
to ensure both sides’ survival. This can lead to some very cathartic vengeance on those prissy
paladins when the danger finally passes. Anyway, I hope these tips have been useful to you.
You can check out more GM’s Tips episodes here on geekandsundry.com. My name is Matthew Mercer,
thank you for watching and I’ll see you on the internet. [music]