View Full Version : RPing an Ex-Child Soldier turned BBEG

2010-12-15, 12:26 AM
Yeah, I know. Potential real world debates, please do not do them.

Anyway, part of the backstory for my potential Eberron Mecha game BBEG, Rikath Arathale, is that he was basically a conscript in a civilization-destroying war (not the Last one-he was born before the Age of Monsters ended) since the age of ten. It's part of the complex that allows him to morally reconcile working with the Lords of Dust (albeit planning to backstab them when they've served their purpose) with the eventual goal of world peace; much like a certain demilich who built the Tome of Horrors, a lot of his personality comes from a childhood pathology that, well, never was treated. Unlike Acererak, this has manifested as a matyrdom complex; If his last actions in unlife (he's an archlich, like the Aerneal ancestor elves) are to ensure that no other culture is destroyed by it's own actions for the near future, then he didn't fail to save his own.

Of course, with Acererak, this mainly serves as an IC justification as to his chronic Genre Blindness (and maybe a way to rile him during a confrontation if clever PCs and DM are involved). With Rikath, I want to milk it for the "tragic hero" angle-he could have been the players' closest ally, were it not for his obsession with utopia. As a result:

How should I hint at some pretty deep mental scars before the big reveal of Rikath's past and motives?

2010-12-15, 02:19 AM
I assume melee type?

Make him unusually quick to aggression (if this is possible to notice with your players, it is hard with some)
Afraid of the dark: not run away, but uneasy and on edge. Everburning torch is left in his room 24/7
Sprinkle in PTSD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptsd)
Don't play it up. Players are dense/rule of three and all. However if you do too much with it he will seem like a joke or be completely failed in delivery. Subtly is unfortunately the approach which can be hard to notice.
I recommend spreading some rumors that make the player look into it and have the guy have an iron will that lets him hide it when he knows he is being observed.

2010-12-15, 06:28 AM
Children are psychopaths. Selfish and cruel, they don't readily understand the difference between needs and wants or that they can't always get what they want. Learning to control this, in many ways more then just the physical changes, are what we call 'growing up'.
Now, give someone who hasn't this power.
Scary isn't it?
Remember though, they are also just a little child, alone and probably a little scared. They want to be loved, they want attention, they want what they never had, a nurturing childhood.

2010-12-15, 06:52 AM
How should I hint at some pretty deep mental scars before the big reveal of Rikath's past and motives?

He doesn't want to kill the PCs. He wants to make them believe in his dream of utopia.

When that doesn't work, he kills/destroys everything they love, because in his mind only then can they know what he knows, and feel how he feels. Only if they truly understand him, can they join him.

Maybe he even cries as he goes about his evilness, or he doesn't, but his eyes are always red and swollen, or he has cried so much in the past that now he is literally dry.

For every evil thing he has to do to achieve utopia, he changes, grows older, his hair turns to grey, his skin crumbles, and the wrinkles around his eyes suggest an expression of sadness. Even though at first he looks fearsome, as the story progresses he becomes almost pathetic.

So yeah, a good way to suggest unseen scars is by visual representation. Another way to do it is add real scars from the war to go with his emotional ones.

2010-12-15, 08:31 AM
If your group can go with it, how about some experimental roleplaying techniques?

So they find a battered old manual. Since it is so ridiculously old, perhaps what they actually find is some kind of magitech device similar to a child's toy. The kind you would keep with you as reassurance. Turns out it has multiple magical functions, not all of them readily apparent. One is that it can store and play back memories. In the ancient civilization, this would be the kind of thing you gave your six-year-old the day they started school, perhaps, as a present and so they could compare what features theirs has to what features those of their classmates have. Photo diary thing, telepathic, etc.

This one is broken, and various code combinations are necessary to unlock it. Every now and then a combination is discovered, and it turns out that this is a very good thing, for some parts of the BBEG's master plan seems to use magitech features that no-one else knows about but that are revealed, piecewise, in the memory segments. Maybe more and more segments are simply revealed as the device has time to re-charge. So to counter that master plan, the PCs must gradually, as a recurring side quest, sift through the memory segments.

When they do, tell them you will do a special 30-minute minigame session, or something like it. Hand out pre-made characters with some paragraphs on life situation, personality and backstory, including their relations to each other. And stats. If you have PC stats, then you are a real person. Play a very short, relatively railroaded minigame consisting of the span of the memory fragment. Then return to the present, where the PCs just tranced through that as a shared experience.

With each such occasion, maybe once per game session, they get a little further into the backstory of the BBEG. The pre-made characters are Rikath and his school friends. This might not be apparent at first. First memory might be just showing what life as an eight-year old with loving parents, school rivals, and loyal friends was like in ancient magitech Utopia. Then there are weapons of mass destruction, nationalist parading, calls for genocide. Parents dying, children being drafted into the army and sent to purge civilian populations. Discovery of secret powers. The death of said loyal friends and a promise of revenge. Watching the ruins of the ancient civilization and thinking that it should never happen again.

Since it's just a minigame, players are likely to accept pre-written motivations and personality traits, as well as much more railroading (since you determine where in the past a segment starts, it could be just after they decide to do whatever that segment is about). Since they get to BE this person and their friends, the past-self BBEG somehow becomes a PC as well as an obstacle. You can also introduce lots of insight into his abilities, weaknesses and quirks this way, and if the player depiciting him in the flashbacks comes up with something good, introduce it into the present-day BBEG as well.

EDIT: If you want peaceful interaction with the BBEG initially, and then a big reveal, and if he, like the poster above suggested, wants to turn the PCs to his cause, then maybe he actually made sure an item like this dropped into their laps? Names and distinctive traits might be edited out, so for a long time, they cannot connect one of the past children/angsty teenagers to their brooding modern-day patron/friend/rival, they just know that this strange item they have found might be key to determining just how to stop the big threat against their world. Little distinguishing marks crop up, tiny subtle quirks, and then they realize, after the last segment, that the scar that the historical person remembers getting is exactly the same as the one Rikath has. If you want to prevent anyone guessing before the reveal, present a red herring character instead, i.e. some sage making an educated guess at the person in the memory segment being some suitable historic villain with connections to the plot, but not the actual one.

2010-12-15, 12:48 PM
I assume melee type?

Swordmage, actually.

I've been leaning towards Wizard, though-the man is quite smart, and I think it would be thematic for someone who is both a behind the scenes threat and a looming presence (think Moriarty, or a good Bond villain).