Let’s talk about evil organizations a bit. I know that when you think about D&D, corporate espionage isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are several reasons why you should consider fleshing out a few of these organizations.
It gives the player a springboard to pursue different interests. Maybe the player wants to be a kleptomaniac but they are having trouble selling their ill gotten gains and need a fence. When they talk to the fence to unload their wares, they mention a big score coming to town. These NPCs are a great way to give shady adventurers plot threads while still enabling their desire to be a kleptomaniac. I’ve also found that adventurers don’t murderhobo their way through them immediately when they are benefiting from the system.
Now, there are two different kinds of evil organizations you can make; illegal and legal.
This is probably what immediately jumped to mind when I brought up the evil corp. A group of evil doers working together under the radar to benefit from their illegal activities. Thieves, Assassins, Smuggling, Illicit Substances, Grave Robbing, and literally anything that someone can do that’s illegal but can scrape a profit is under this umbrella.
These groups are the easiest to throw together for a quick adventure too. ‘This organization is doing this bad thing, stop them.’ However, you can make them far more dynamic by either having the players benefit from the illegal activity, or by giving the organization a dash of altruism. Just like with the kleptomaniac example above, if you can get just a single character to plug into your evil guild they will be less inclined to take them down in the future. What happen’s when a guard hires that adventurer to catch a fellow clepto, or better what happens when they arrest someone for a crime the player committed?
Also, these guilds are rarely black and white. An illegal gambling hall may be funneling gold to the impoverished district which has been ignored by the nobility. The human smuggling ring may occasionally kill their ward to prevent them from snitching, but they try to help apostate clergy escape the oppressive and tyrannical religion which would ‘re-educate’ them if their secret is discovered. Do the players think that the good these organizations do justify the evil?
Now let’s talk about Lawful Evil. These companies have technically done nothing illegal. Their I’s are dotted and T’s crossed, but everyone who attempts to stand up against them is crushed, imprisoned, or simply disappear. There are two kinds of legally evil organizations; the explicitly evil and those that pretend to be nice.
‘How can any organization be openly evil and be allowed to function?’ I hear the cynic in the back saying. It is actually very easy to imagine in the world of supply and demand. If the evil company is literally the only one that create’s potions of healing since they can hire all the alchemists, lobby the government to regulate small potion businesses to death, and can take a loss on potions in a reason until the local business dies before hiking up the price again. These companies would have an obscene amount of influence since anyone that would get on their bad side could be blacklisted of all magical healing. If the potion company wants to stiff the bill of the iron beard mining co every once in a while what can they do about it? Nothing. Because the leaders of the iron beard mining co need those healing potions to make sure the dwarves are safe in the mine. Monopolies and companies that employ a large percentage of the population ‘companies too big to fail’ are great starting points to make this kind of corporation.
Now, when a company doesn’t have the muscle to strong arm the opposition to get their way they will have to create a persona to maintain the public perception. Maybe the wizard guild Wayland Wand Corp is perceived very highly in the public eye. They make inexpensive wards for smaller villages to protect their walls, and provide a number of mass produced wands that are reliable, safe, and inexpensive. But what the public doesn’t know is that Wayland has been creating abhorrent chimeras to fight in the king’s incessant war. They also have created wands that reanimate dead soldiers (both loyalists and the enemy) to continue fighting. They keep these intellectual properties very secret knowing how it would ruin their image if their secret got out.