Thursday, November 6, 2014

Laughing Evilly

Ah, Lawful Evil. If you want a one-off villain you can have a party encounter and beat quickly, countless Chaotic Evil characters are lined up to take that role. If you want a truly terrifying villain that's always one or two steps ahead of you, though, Lawful Evil is the way to go. A truly powerful Lawful Evil character could be right beside you, grinning smugly to your face, yet completely untouchable. Think Al Capone, living a life of luxury in Chicago for over a decade, a veritable celebrity and known gangster, yet nobody could touch him due to lack of evidence and fear of both legal and violent repercussion.

Granted, if you're good enough, you can turn someone from any alignment into a villain, creating a truly interesting situation that causes the players to doubt their own cause and reflect on their actions. Still, I think Lawful Evil is the most satisfying alignment to defeat. Assuming you can actually defeat them in a satisfying manner, rather than just arresting them on charges of tax evasion.

Belkar is the God of Tyranny, formerly the God of Protection, and I really don't remember naming him after Belkar from Order of the Stick. I think that's just some strange coincidence. They are certainly nothing alike.

Belkar is certainly the most organized and powerful of the evil deities, militarily speaking. If Waymon is said to be whispering in the ears of each benevolent ruler, Belkar is whispering in the ears of each despotic emperor. After all, a firm, strong government with absolute control of its territory is necessary for its protection, right?

In many ways, Belkar is not regarded as evil by the general populace. He is popular especially among city guard, policemen, and soldiers sworn to protect their realms. In fact, many despotic rulers that may not be inclined to tyranny have turned that direction, not out of preference, but as a concession to the groups that fight their wars, defend their cities, and protect themselves from assassination. Sometimes revolutionaries say that governments should fear the people, but in these instances it seems more prudent for the government to fear its own soldiers. History is filled with instances of soldiers, fed up with their rulers, simply "allowing them to be assassinated" in order to install a more agreeable ruler in their place.

The freedoms that Belkar encourages rulers to take away from their people are all designed to make soldiers' jobs easier, as are the harsh punishments levied on those who break those rules. Nothing is safer than obedience, after all.

That said, Waymon, Kincheloe, and Belkar, the three most powerful deities, are like three sides of the same three-sided coin. They bicker and fight amongst each other, but they all share a common goal: the preservation of their civilizations. As such, they work together almost as often as they quarrel.

Belkar seemed to be one of the primary villains of my first campaign, but his plan to dominate that continent was thwarted when the Goddess of Manipulation, his long-time ally, backstabbed him. In the end, his assistance was instrumental in helping the party defeat his former partner.

The other Lawful Evil deity is Bialey, the Goddess of Wealth, former Goddess of Health. She was named after Max Bialeystock, the character played by Zero Mostel from The Producers. The parallels are clear, I think.

The change from health to wealth is pretty straightforward: the poor are far more prone to starvation, disease, and death than the rich. Therefore, the fastest way to health is wealth! Bialey's teachings encourage people to seek their fortunes, whatever the cost. As such, Bialey is the patron deity of bankers, merchants, and traders, and though not all of these people are evil, their lust for wealth often leads them to unscrupulous behavior and excess, which Bialey seems to encourage.

Bialey has no patience for gamblers, however. After all, gamblers aren't seeking wealth, they simply seek the thrill of winning. Thus, gamblers have much greater fondness for Tak than Bialey.

You may be noticing a pattern here, by the way: evil deities are not necessarily seen as evil, neither by themselves nor by the general public. A Lawful Good hero may worship Belkar, and a lifelong philanthropist may show respect to Bialey. I've never been a fan of cartoonishly evil villains, and I think my evil deities reflect that.

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