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What is Evil?

Mark Iradian

The word 'evil' is a universally hated word. It speaks of things like the Nazis in World War 2, Terrorism, and the typical Orcs in a fantasy setting. People might know what Evil means, but do they understand it? With hoards of MMORPGs and RPGs being announced daily, players are striving for a good storyline or a good role-playing environment to play in. Unfortunately, they're those who believe evil is nothing more than Player-Killing new players in online gaming, or writers who can't come up with anything better than 'bad orcs' and cliché 'world domination' villains. Here, we will be discussing proper guidelines on creating Evil within your world, as I lead you through the process.

Concept of Evil

So what is evil? In a nutshell, evil is not naughty, misunderstand, disturbed, quick-tempered, annoyed, or pissed off. Evil is selfish, bloodthirsty, cruel, vile, corrupt, black hearted, and merciless. They will kill, sacrifice, manipulate, or by any other means necessary to satisfy their thirst for achievement in goals.


The problem with most games in the market is they try to do the same old cookie-cutter villain template. Too many times have I seen a villain that wants to dominate the planet, land, or Earth by getting some special artifact of power or some other ridiculous concept. Evil doesn't have to control the entire universe or get some mighty power to look evil. Evil can just be like the player, except the two have conflicting goals.


There are three branches from the general concept of Evil: Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil. Taken from Dungeons and Dragons Alignment System, Lawful Evil simply means that they believe in following the law but they will use loopholes within the system to give themselves a benefit (e.g. A guard who will beat a criminal to the edge of his life, even though not needed, because he finds it entertaining). Chaotic Evil, on the other hand, doesn't believe in things called "Law" or "Rules", and will do as they please as long as they get something in return (e.g. A murderer or thief). Neutral Evil villains tends to follow the laws and break them, with their only goal is look out for number one and finish their goals, no matter how long it takes or what the cost is (e.g. two-faced dealers, hypocrites).



Chaotic Evil: just because it's so damn easy.

Almost every villain in video games can be classified as "Chaotic Evil", mainly because it allows much room for freedom in character development and its been practiced wildly for years. Almost anyone can come up with a small concept of a villain such as having a dislike for elves, and work on from there.


The only obstacle, however, is how to make a memorable Chaotic Evil villain.


The cliché world dominance or control all living beings in villain development in RPGs are considered a taboo. Before you even begin describing the villain's background or appearance, you must first come up with a concept. Start with a simple concept, and then begin adding twists to make your villain interesting. Just remember that this type of villain doesn't follow any sort of Code of Morals or Law whatsoever, so you can get really creative in this part.


Example Villain - Yuri is a dwarvern vagabond murderer. After retiring with his fellow bandits, Yuri believed that he didn't felt challenged despite the years in his elite bandit group, The Iron Claw. With his above-average skill in sword fighting and blacksmithing, he sets out in the wilderness, slaying anyone from children, women, men, adventurers, and seniors to find a perfect 'game'. He doesn't kill just because he can; he kills because he takes pleasure from it as if were a pastime sport. He doesn't steal, since that is no longer 'fun' and his wealth is already great. He just hopes that one day he will find someone who will be a challenge to his skill.


After you have fleshed up your concept, it is time to give your character some background. No, we are not talking about story background. We are talking about power background.


A power background requires clever writing to be tied into the story background of the villain. To put it briefly, a power background is what describes your villain position of power in society (For example: Leader of a thief guild or cult). Every memorable villain is going to be in a very high seat of power, whether be individual power-wise or political, no matter what. Evil cannot be a pushover, otherwise they will be forgotten very quickly and easily. There has been somewhat interesting concepts where a commoner suddenly becomes the 'bad guy', but the best villains are usually the ones that are hard to take down.


Making a power background isn't as easy as it sounds, because a group of thugs isn't going to behave the same way a group of guards will behave. A group of bullies, bandits, and thugs hardly follow rules, guidelines, or regulations. At times, they would probably kill one another just for a scrap of food or someone's queer look. The boss of these groups, which may or may not be your villain, are in charge because they are the one who gets things done. They are the ones who can make their followers be scared or in awe, while ordering them around. There will be times where a certain character will try to oppose the leader because they want to be in charge, but there will also be times where one of the leader's most loyal followers will inform the leader about this. Most of the time, if the leader is killed, the group of evil characters will fall apart and scatter.


The problem with a group of criminals is they tend to be in very small numbers because of the harsh ways of the group. The typical villain doesn't have much patience into getting into his goals; hence it would be impossible for him to start a farm or build a castle. Instead, they would prefer to pillage other towns for food or siege a castle to own one. Chaotic Evil happens to have an advantage to become 'efficient evil', which means they rather go for a quick straight line towards a certain goal instead of being blocked by small things like "Laws". Don't like the peasants in that other town? Kill them. Heroes keep following your trail? Leave false trails and raiding parties along the way.


One of the good advantages of having a chaotic evil group is they are very unpredictable and tough. Most groups will do bizarre things such as fight to the death or destroy an entire region (considering they have the power). They build their tactics on surprise, speed, and overpowering offence. A fiercer warrior is the one that strikes without mercy, not the one who constantly hides behind the shield. Because of this mindset, chaotic evil groups tend to twice as powerful, yet they only live half as long.



Lawful Evil: we make it look good.

Lawyers who illegally win cases for crime lords, the mafia, and a disciplined soldier who asks for money to save a dying grandfather are all fine examples of Lawful Evil. Probably considered to be the hardest evil to pull off, Lawful Evil is a type of character that follows a code of honor and law but at the same time, goes with his own ambitions and goals by using loopholes within the system. A villain who goes by such a route uses only one weapon to intimidate his opponents: The Law.


Like Chaotic Evil, you must first develop a concept to start your villain. However, the only thing you must remember is that your character must be using authority (whether be from a city, guild, cult, religion, or his own code of honor) on their side. They will not murder unless they have authorization to do so and will use their influence to get what they want. It is very hard to come up with a developable concept for these types of characters, but in the end, you will have a villain that everyone will be feared by and cannot be touched.


Example Villain - Turack is part of a guild of warriors willing to save lives when ordered by his superior, Captain Peterson. Just today, he went to an underground temple to save a life for a noble family who pays daily tributes to the guild. Turack's mission is quite clear: To find the noble family's son and bring him back to his home. Turack, after many days within the temple, finds the child, only stricken with a life-threatening disease. He did, however, find a cure within the temple. He brings the sick child to the family, who rewards him well. He mentions that he has a cure for the disease the child bears, but it will not be used unless the family triples his reward. There is no law forcing Turack to give the cure, he has ever right to leave and not assist the family if he wishes to do so. Captain Peterson doesn't mind Turack's approach the situation.


Lawful Evil characters tend to be more intelligent, organized, and manipulative. Unlike the Chaotic Evil, Lawful Evil tends to be extremely organized in their work. Violence to them is the last resort of things like bribery, blackmail, threats, breakdowns, or political shuffle. Lawful Evil tends to enjoy a subtle approach, instead of being open for all to see. Unlike their Chaotic Evil cousins, Lawful Evil doesn't downright kill their target, they prefer to wait until the target sleeps like a baby then poison him.


The society of Lawful Evil characters has far greater potential of growth and longevity because they are based with discipline, obedience, and order. A group of bandits is easy to take down because all you have to do is eliminate their big nasty leader. On the other side, Lawful Evil groups, like a group of dark paladins, are doing their job with discipline and finesse. Other people are waiting to take over the leader's spot if one manages to fall down without scattering.


A society ruled by Lawful Evil villains is a hard one to take down because of the sheer stability and organization the society will feature. Instead of a group ruled by one person only, the structure of the society will be complicated, ruled by several superiors, similar to a pyramid with the tip being the highest in power. If you manage to cut down one General or Commander, another person from the military will replace him. There might be a few noteworthy individuals in the army such as leaders, champions, and so forth, but they do not rely on them heavily unlike the Chaotic Evil groups.


Trying to take over a Lawful Evil empire, once it is fully established to its potential, isn't an easy as a cutting the front lawn because of the organization involved by obeying their superiors and planning. Individuals are nothing more than expendable resource, for individuals are merely cogs in the power machine. Instead, they believe when it comes building fortifications, siege weapons, or anything in particular, that anyone can do it.



Neutral Evil: we're number one!

Spiderman, before his dear Uncle Ben was murdered, would be a perfect example of Neutral Evil. Chaotic Evil enjoys slaughtering for the mere enjoyment while the Lawful Evil believes in expanding with an iron fist. However, this alignment only has one concern: Look at out for number one.


This type of villain somehow convinces his prey to obey the rules, while he goes out and breaks them. They are the double-crossers and hypocrites, following their rules to get their gains until they believe obeying the rules is no longer needed. Their goal is to simply get what they want, whether be riches, power, a wand, or a new pair of shoes. Anything they desire for, the villain will through great lengths to get it, even by bartering or waiting with extreme patience. Once they have acquired whatever they seek, they go out again once they are bored with their old 'goal' as if it were a toy, looking for something new to find.


Making a concept for these types of villains is very easy because all you need to do is figure out what they want. Once you have that part, you merely decide if your villain follows the rules or not while in play. A Neutral Evil villain would be one that follows a 'good' party to get to their goals, obeys rules, follow contracts, as long as it is a benefit to them. If the benefits of being associated to any rules, organization, or party ever fade, the Neutral Evil will exploit this opportunity to claim their prize.


Example Villain - Oper is a necromancer with a taste for wealth and power. Since he hasn't ventured long, he decides to accumulate wealth to purchase 'resources' such as new spell books, scrolls, or possible henchmen to boost his career. His first assignment was to help a village from constant orc and bugbear attacks. At first he didn't care, until the village headmaster agreed to give a reward for his work. Impressed with the wealth the headmaster has, Oper decided to accept the offer and completes his quest. Several moons later, at midnight, Oper appears with a small army of undead orc and bugbear soldiers. He smiles at the headmaster and orders everyone in the village to give all their wealth or die by his undead army.


The first rule of acting like a Neutral Evil character is to not really care about others. The villain simply exists to take care of himself, no one else. Village being burned to ashes? Don't bother. Local bandits require extra help? Yawn. Neutral Evil villains only care about things that will benefit them in the end, which makes them very unpredictable creatures since they stab you in the back just because you are not longer required in their grand schemes.


This may sound powerful for an individual, but anything related to societies, organizations, or groups in Neutral Evil can be considered comical. These organizations are very short-lived because they would ignore it, go on their way, and watch their creation crumble. In order for an organization to work, the result would have to be a very large payoff. However, they would prefer going to another city and abuse their laws for their own twisted purposes instead.


Much like a parasite, the Neutral Evil villains tend to stay in one location until all the necessary resources for their goals are gone, and then go the next area.


Conquering a group of Neutral Evil villains is very effortless, since they would probably let you take over their land first. Then, while your back is turned, they will kill off the commanders, generals, champions, and exploit your loved ones. Your girlfriend is after you because she thinks you cheated on her, while your best friend who recently been robbed blames you. Neutral Evil simply loves to exploit behind the scenes, while whistling innocent tunes that they follow the 'structure' of the city.



Making Evil look better than designer clothes

After developing a concept, choosing the appropriate "alignment", making a story background, finishing off the power background, creating a personality, it is now time to give your villain a certain style. If you don't know how to create a good background or personality for your villain, perhaps you should start learning how to role-play first to develop ideas.


A style is the main factor that determines whether your opponents are planning your demise or shaking in their iron boots. A murderer going around killing people is boring. A murderer that leaves a 'calling card' such as a decapitated cat or twisting the corpse into unspeakable positions (e.g. Putting two feet inside the corpse's mouth) is one that people will fear. A style can make a common criminal into a fearful foe.


Example Villain - Rennis is a female elven assassin. Like many assassins, she goes around killing certain targets for either gold or anything that can be considered valuable. Unlike many assassins, she marks her 'areas' after her targets are killed. On the night of the kill, she brings dark red lipstick along. For each person she kills, she puts on her lipstick excessively, and kisses the forehead of the corpse, even it is decapitated. After she is done her job and the authorities walk in, they only see corpses with blood red lipstick on anyone who is dead. This is the calling card of the Kissing Assassin.


Evil doesn't admit they are evil, usually, what they think they are doing is the 'proper' way of things. A priest of a dark god who wishes to eliminate weak children won't say he is doing it for evil, instead he is doing it for get rid of the weak and bring out the strong. They are times where some truly twisted villains will admit gratefully about how evil they are, which makes convincing them that what they are doing is wrong seem impossible. Villains can be considered like common people, only with no remorse. Anyone can kill, steal, burn, or anything violent towards another person or thing. However, knowing your villain that will do anything to achieve his goals with no remorse, whether be slaughtering innocents or burning the year's crops, is a big leap to understanding evil.


But having no remorse isn't enough to look good, you still need style. There is large thick line between being the common thief and being a legendary rogue. Villains need to have a certain way of things when doing their evil deeds, whether be a calling card, fashion, or housing. If you manage to get a good style to work with, even those who hate you will give you respect for putting effort into your evil ways. You need to be extremely creative if you wish to have a certain style.


Evil has one true weapon that can make all the enemies soil themselves: The unknown. Shocking or just being brutal will only leave a small taste in your opponent's mouths. But when they don't know what you are going to do next, that is when the chills start getting in. The best way to be an 'unknown' type of villain is not give great speeches of spreading death across the land or how you will rule the world. The best way is to simply keep your plans, movements, and any other actions behind closed doors. Don't let confidence overtake you and start giving out your plans like a cliché spy flick.



This is the end...

Thanks to Gary Gygax, RPGs have been created because of the popular RPG system highly known as Dungeons and Dragons. Many games have been spawned such as Final Fantasy, Wizardry, Ultima, and many others because the whole concept of rolling dice for damage, stats, or hit points. Things like 'classes' were used to determine the character's profession in the world. All was good.


But with games being more technological advanced each year, our expectations have become higher for games. We demand great graphics with amazing music. We want some brilliant AI with a novel-like storyline. We wanted a perfect game for our buck.


Unfortunately, one of the many flaws with RPGs is they tend to be very cliché or boring when it comes to villains. Plots have been overdone from simple 'gather artifacts to save the world' to 'stop the orcs from raiding our village'. It is as if the writers and designers just couldn't figure out something better to write and put in the basics of storylines made over 20 years ago.


So what is Evil? Evil is simply getting to your goals without caring. It is such a simple concept yet very few understand it fully. Brian Jacque in his Redwall series understood the concept with such memorable villain like Cluny the Scourge. Cluny didn't want to take over the world or believed in world domination. He wanted to take over an abbey with his large vicious army, using all sorts of tactics from lowering morale to hostages to get what he wants. This is a fine example of a good villain.

If you are reading this, you should up to the point of understanding how Evil works in fictional situations. Many people can make a character that goes around causing havoc and destruction with no thought. But very few people can make characters like Kingpin, Green Goblin, Darth Vader, or Slagar the Cruel. If you are a writer, then you are now able to understand your villains more and create memorable ones for your audience. If you are a roleplayer, then the others will give you great respect because you make the word Evil look so good, even if you are just out there for Player-Killing and Phat Loot.


Just remember that this article is a guideline on how to create villains, not the absolute rule. It is to make you understand how Evil villains works, behaves, and thinks. If you ever get stuck in creating your villain, simply go back to this article to get your thoughts on track. By the time you completely understand how villains and Evil works, you should be creating legendary villains in your world in no time.

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It's been very good said that the greatest sin is pride. It is all about me, damn the consequences, or all others. Even well-intentioned extremists are these. Even when they're  right, they are convinced that the use of evil or non-benevolent means are acceptable. Others simply don't care.

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