In previous posts for this month’s carnival I have spoken about different manifestations of darkness. Creatures. Places where it exists. Some folks have spoken about how to banish it by bringing light. Others have spoken about introducing it to your players to change the mood.
This time I want to talk about the darkness within a character. Those urges we choose to ignore or fight against. Thieves fighting their kleptomania. Killers battling back their homicidal tendencies until they are needed. The curious stopping themselves from going too far in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge.
It’s these boundaries we sometimes feel unsure of when sliding into our fictional roles. We may ponder them at character creation and then forget about them as the characters gain in experience and ability. Or we may bump into them frequently, using them as great opportunities for role-playing.
I’ve played two different characters where this has come into play.
First was Didius Cato, an escaped slave who definitely had some psychological problems. When he encountered slaves, he often attempted to convince them to rise up against their masters and seek the freedom they were denied. When he encountered slavers, he often lost his mind.
In one instance I can remember, we had to enter a slave market and DC was faced with an impossible choice. Let things stay the way they were and maintain a low profile, ensuring his own continued freedom. Or attack the guards and give their chained charges a chance to escape.
He chose the second path, much to the displeasure of the rest of his party. But he held true to his beliefs that slavery was wrong and he should do something about it even endangering his own freedom. He was on the run, but he had to do what was right.
He was willing to kill those slave market guards to accomplish his goal. It was a socially acceptable practice he felt was ethically and morally reprehensible. If killing a few guards released a few more slaves into the world to make their own choices, then that was a price he was willing to pay.
Definitely a chaotic good kind of character.
Second is Tieg McMann, a war veteran with survivor’s guilt in our current Zeitgeist campaign. I honestly don’t think that the word “guilt” begins to cover it.
Tieg is revered as a war hero wherever he goes. He doesn’t want the press. He doesn’t want the adoration. He just wants to be left alone to do his job. And sure, maybe he’s a member of the cops these days, but that’s not really his job.
I feel like Tieg is really looking for any way to end his life in a blaze of glory. He’s protecting his team. He’s trying to keep the innocent safe. But he’s more likely to charge into a dangerous situation than avoid it. And each time he does that and survives, the feelings of remorse and guilt for continuing to survive grows a little bit more.
And now he has a romantic entanglement with a female NPC he encountered in the previous chapter of the campaign. He’s trying to do what is right by her and yet finds himself in conflict with this desire to go out in a blaze of glory.
This is what role-playing is about for me as a player. Finding these juicy roles to play and struggling with the decisions that these characters would make in the moment. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it adds an extra dimension that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
The darkness in both cases is within these characters. Fighting the urges or rolling with them.
So I would encourage players to look beyond the darkness outside their characters and see what they can find within.
What do YOU have lurking in the dark? Let’s shed a little light this month, shall we? Please leave a link, and perhaps a brief introduction, for your submission for the March Carnival in the comments on the kickoff post. Looking forward to seeing what folks can come up with! (The kickoff post was here.)
A big thanks goes out to Johnn Four of Roleplaying Tips for hosting the RPG Blog Carnival Archive and keeping us all on track every month!