It is said amongst gamers that you should never allow evil characters in the party. There is a good reason for this. As a Dragonlance fan, I’m reminded of the Law of the Dark Queen, which states that evil feeds on itself. This is a truth that surpasses the Dragonlance setting. When you have an evil character in the party, they often cause untold havoc. They don’t work as part of the team, as their motives are self-serving. In other words, they don’t play well with others.
I experienced this phenomenon a couple of times myself. I will say upfront that I, as (a much younger) game master, was as much at fault as anyone else, if not more so. I knew that evil campaigns ended badly, but I didn’t heed the warnings.
In one case, I ran a Realms game where the player characters were determined to kill, rape, and plunder everyone in sight – often in that order. It didn’t last more than two game sessions. By the time it was all done, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. A gamer should never leave a game with that sensation.
In another case, I thought that a couple of bounty hunters in a Star Wars game could still work within the mold of a heroic game. As it turns out, heroism doesn’t pay well. The players abandoned the whole premise of the campaign in one fell swoop. Before I knew it, the party was somewhere else in the galaxy other than where my game was, and I sat there staring. I was a game master defeated.
Mercenary games, in general, are not to my liking. I like some of the concepts of games like Shadowrun, but the idea that all you’re doing is adventuring to get more money so you can buy more stuff is just not something that interests me personally. Plus, mercenaries can be jerks at times. I like heroic games, where you fight for some greater cause and some better purpose.
Yet can’t evil fight for a greater cause? Many evil organizations do just that. Look at the Empire in Star Wars, or the Knights of Takhisis in Dragonlance. Both entities seek to bring order to their respective settings. It’s when evil puts aside its own ambitions for something greater than itself, whether misguided or not, that it becomes palatable to play.
If you are dead-set on playing an evil character, then my recommendation would be to assign characteristics to the player character that makes him more than some murderer. If you want him to gel with the party, give him a reason to. Maybe he’s working under orders, or has a code of honor he cannot break. In these cases, I would recommend using a character with a Lawful Evil alignment. They seem to be more likely to work well with others, whereas Chaotic Evil would just kill and maim everything indiscriminately.
Maybe the character has something he cares about more than being evil. If his wife has come down with the plague and the party is questing to get the antidote, he might decide to play nice. Or, maybe the character was once good, but was misled, and so now he lives a life of evil. I would recommend placing some chances at redemption if you go this route.
While I still do not recommend evil characters, I think they can work so long as the players are experienced and willing to put aside any issues that would disrupt game play. Use the group template, and talk to the other players and GM about how you can make this work.