[RPG] How to get players to realize that their enemies aren’t evil


For an upcoming game, I'm planning on making one of the early hooks a standard-seeming "tribe of monstrous humanoids (in this case, lizardfolk, if that makes a difference) is bothering us, go deal with it," thing. However, I'm hoping for this to be less of a hack-and-slash campaign, and more about the players trying to prevent violence between different groups. Therefore, I want the players to think that they're about to fight an evil group, only to discover that the lizardfolk aren't evil after all, just operating under some misunderstanding that can be cleared up by getting the two groups to talk.

That's my hope, at least. I'm worried that, in hinting at the lizardfolk's non-evilness, I'll be too obvious or too opaque. Is there anything that I can do to communicate this information and, if it's not too broad, any less specific advice about running the scenario that I've outlined?

Best Answer

This echoes some of the other answers, but I wanted to weigh in:

Flesh them out

Create an actual NPC village exactly the same way you would create one of a non-monstrous race. Create villages, shops, story arcs, government, etc.

At the humanoid village

Try to keep most of the "crimes" of the monstrous race to be non-specific. Have the villagers say things like "there's one that I caught stalking my daughter!" (reality: they both happened to go to the river for water at the same time). Maybe give one actual issue that people keep citing but upon deeper reflection most of the other "stories" are really misinterpretations or outright racism.

Do not create random encounters

The party's first encounter with this group (I'll say lizardfolk from now on but obviously whichever race you choose), won't be "okay now the PCs are going to meet 5 random lizardfolk, rolled from XYZ table with ABC treasure", but it will be "the village has patrolling guards." They will act like guards do. They won't attack unless attacked first, they may be interested in why the party is there and ask them questions, but they won't attempt to detain the party unless the party gives them cause.

If you really want to create an effect where "they seem hostile at first, but the party begins to slowly realize..." you can create a "crime" for the party to commit by accident. For example, if the party trespasses in someone's farm or, worse, an egg creche, without realizing it, then the guards will try to arrest (but not kill) the party, and the party, expecting combat, attempts to fight back.

The guards, when some of them are killed, the rest would probably flee rather than fight to the death. Flesh out their inventory with things that guards might normally have, like whistles, standardized weapons and uniforms, etc.

Have the local government respond the way a lawful good government would

If this is the beginning of the campaign, the party will almost certainly not be able to overwhelm an entire large, organized settlement. The reason that civilizations go the organized route is that it keeps the people alive and conserves resources (as opposed to the chaotic evil that constantly wastes resources fighting each other). If it's one town, there will still probably be some people that are higher level. They may eventually capture the party and give them a trial and counsel and the party may realize that it's not a sham trial, and that "oh crap, we just killed some people with families etc. what have we done?"