View Full Version : Redemption stories

2012-08-07, 04:09 PM
Certain things I've read recently have gotten my brain firing on this idea : What if a very dark, very capital-"E" Evil person had a change of heart? How would this work into an adventuring party? I kind of want to play this in a game, but I'd like to avoid any overly cheesy cliches, so I bring this to you, the Playground.

The idea I have in mind is a reformed Assassin or Blackguard.. or, to be more accurate, one who *wants* to be reformed. I'm thinking, still having the tendencies for doing Evil acts, or at the very least a dark Neutral, constantly having habit say "It'd be so much easier to just stab the guy and be done with it!", and fighting that. Maybe he's seen something awful - a Blackguard who didn't know what he was buying into, or an Assassin whose loved one was just murdered on contract. They've seen the darkest depths of what they've become, and they want out. Problem is, they've been doing this for so long, they don't know anything else.

I think what I'd really like is to see this character in a group with a Paladin, preferably starting at a high enough level to have previously held rank within their organization - in D&D terms, we're talking at least high enough to have had levels in the appropriate prestige class. The inter-party conflict this could bring about seems delicious... how does the Paladin respond when he learns that the Assassin is using poisoned blades, or that they killed that guard so that the rest of the party could get by without alerting anyone? It seems like a fun idea to play with, and one I haven't seen explored before, but I'm wondering if this sort of character would appeal to you as part of your group, and seeking to avoid falling into using too many cliches.

2012-08-07, 06:24 PM
Thoughts/Possible options:

1) The exact implementation will depend on your setting, but one option would be a sort of brief encounter with true evil - maybe he sees what happens when a daemon really gets a hold on someone's psyche.

2) Is the original character just ruthlessly pragmatic rather than sadistic, or something really nasty - torching children for the fun of it? If he is just pragmatic, maybe he thought he was untouchable, but someone close to him (a bastard child, and old lover, a comrade in arms) got killed in retaliation for something he did?

3) I know you said you wanted the change to be voluntary, but it's worth considering an involuntary change of behavior - a magical geas or some kind of pact that requires him to do good. Over time, the change can become a real change of heart.

2012-08-07, 06:30 PM
The real problem here isn't RP; the monster who has an epiphany and tries to atone for their misdeeds is a great and classic concept.

Paladins, at least according to BoED, should be okay with sheparding them through their redemption as long as they aren't trying to escape the just consequences of their actions. At the same time, while recovery implies occasional relapse, the predominantly Good party shouldn't tolerate much back-sliding which sets up a dramatic conflict.

The problem is, Assassins and Blackguards have an alignment requirement; if they stop being Evil, to the extent that their alignment actually changes, they lose X levels worth of class features.

A flexible DM will ensure that part of the redemption arc is using the PHB II retraining rules to retrain their Assassin/Blackguard levels into something less Evil. This could be as simple as going on a quest to find Metallic Dragons who teach you a dance and give you a new source of power (Zuko in A;tLA), or as complex as having to stay de-powered until you actually learn a new way of fighting (Kenshin in Samurai X).

An inflexible DM... ugh. Better to be an Evil Crusader or Factotem, so that your character won't go from an Evil PC to a Good NPC at the climax of the story.

2012-08-08, 10:57 PM
Yeah, working with an inflexible DM, I'd work the mechanics around it - play a Rogue, and just *act* like an assassin, as an example. With a flexible DM I would have a little more leeway.

And yes - I'd like this to be a voluntary change. I think pragmatic evil would be more sensible, sort of a "Easiest route to the end goal", and a belief that he was untouchable, or just didn't realize the road he was walking. Something happened in the backstory, and his eyes were opened to the fact that he wasn't as untouchable as he thought, or holy crap, he's actually been working for the bad guys this entire time. And he's not okay with putting his friends/family in danger, and is definitely not okay with devils having any sway over his soul. So he's trying to make a change for the better.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-09, 12:19 AM
I had a similar situation with a Neutral Evil Assassin. This was back in the day when I was excited about the Night Angel Trilogy 3-4 years ago. I apparently suck at being bad for any prolonged length of time so I wanted a redeeming arc of some kind.

I decided that he wasn't likely going to grow a conscience since he was entirely indifferent to the pain and suffering he'd inflicted hitherto. Dues ex Machina was out as it seemed too much of a contrivance and my character would have simply lost his sanity if he was forced into following the arbitrary moral structures of another. So I simply emphasized his sociopathic tendency towards absolute independence and applied it to the evil forces that wanted to consume or control him. He saw the Good and Evil powers as Chessmasters and himself as an hapless pawn, and decided he'd have none of it. He became neutral, and started piecing together a philosophy of his own which came out as a sort of cynical anti-nihilism.

As far as the mechanical alignment difficulties, as "assassin" is a class and not necessarily your profession there's no reason why a former-evil assassin's skills should vanish. You'd still have all the skills to kill people for money after you decide to kill people for other reasons. Blackguard is more iffy as you're entering whole god/devil territory.

2012-08-09, 01:20 PM
That actually sounds like a very interesting premise for a character, but I do want this to be a full redemption arc, from evil all the way back to good. Probably start with a "I don't want to be some other person's plaything" angle, and then work up enough of a conscience to grow that into full-blown "Making amends for what I've done".

2012-08-09, 02:06 PM
I've toyed with ideas like this too simply because I enjoy reading redemption stories.

But some things to watch out for here is other party members. This idea can be great for a solo campaign, but might be annoying to others in a group if not done right.

Having a paladin (or possibly a good cleric?) around could be pretty cool yes, but make sure you coordinate with that player OOC first.

And I wouldn't try to play a character like this from the very beginning of a redemption story, it has a to big chance of blowing up in your face in game. Start the character of at least somewhat down the road on being redeemed, especially if you pick a class that doesn't have an alignment requirement (then just but him in the dark en of neutral, just having gotten out of Evil). That way he can still have fairly evil-ish ideas and knee-jerk reactions, but has at least gotten to the point where he doesn't act on them anymore.

Also, I'd try to leave evil deities out of the picture (but this is just me) since to me it's so much harder to justify having someone who worships an evil god in D&D having a change of heart. Why? Because most of them are obvious and pretty much blatantly states that they're the evil god of destruction/death/plague/dirty laundry. If you get involved with them you know damn well what you're getting yourself into and you accept it. (And leaving often has... consequences.)
A more pragmatic/practical evil character however? The assassin who sees himself as a tool, and not responsible for his actions since SOMEONE would be doing it anyway. Or the bounty hunter who always prefers to take someone dead on "wanted: dead or alive" jobs because dead is easier to deal with logistically. Or just someone who in general is following the path of least resistance.
Those characters are much easier to explain why they're trying to change their ways. Maybe at some point they saw the results of what they did (assassin turned a kid into an orphan, sees the kid later. Someone they took down for a bounty was actually keeping a small community of people from starving, etc.) and finally realize that sometimes you have to go the extra mile to not hurt innocent bystanders in the process.

As for cliches? I honestly wouldn't worry about them to much, cliches are cliche for a reason and if done right they add to things. Besides they're sort of expected in a redemption story. :p

Kitten Champion
2012-08-09, 04:02 PM
That actually sounds like a very interesting premise for a character, but I do want this to be a full redemption arc, from evil all the way back to good. Probably start with a "I don't want to be some other person's plaything" angle, and then work up enough of a conscience to grow that into full-blown "Making amends for what I've done".

The best I've ever seen a full turnabout done is in the Hunter X Hunter manga. The BBEG (http://hunterxhunter.wikia.com/wiki/Meryem) goes from pure, if naive, evil world conquering abomination into being one of the most sane and objectively moral characters in the series (this is not as deeply complimentary as it may seem). What's more this transformation is perfectly reasoned out by a rational being without any direct outside influence.

His natural sense of superiority (which is fairly endemic to evil) was challenged by a tiny enfeebled blind girl with prodigious chess skills -- a game he had taken to (a fictional equivalent, technically). As he challenges her to rematch after rematch, forcing her to play for her life, she exceeds human capacity of strategic thought. He could easily snuff out her life on a whim -- as he considers doing -- but determines that would be a hollow victory and would depreciate himself in his own eyes. This ideal turns into the beginnings of an honour code, which he starts to take very seriously. After being defeated numerous times, he's left with a sort of awe for the girl, which turns into respect for her existence and even caring. He begins to see a general potential in humanity, something beyond their skill for violence -- of creativity. This process leaves him incapable of seeing others as mere things which he can use or destroy at his leisure, and begins to perceive himself as monstrous for that conceit.

The simple act of playing chess destroyed all his rationalizations and forced him to reappraise himself. It wasn't an immediate or "cry tears of regret upon seeing true beauty and goodness" type experience, but a methodical consideration of righteousness from a highly intelligent being. He's still willing to kill, and even sees the beauty in fighting, but there is a tone of regret for wasting potential in such a fashion.

I'm considering RPing something like this with my amoral wannabe-Nietzsche Exalted PC who dismisses humanity utterly for their failing to meet his standards.

2012-08-10, 11:54 AM
I personally think that there is only one advice to offer in a situation like this is: be sure to play with people you trust, both from the players and the GM side.

Personally, I think that would be an awesome character to pull off, and that it would be much, much more rewarding RP wise to have them start right at the beginning of the path, still as an Evil character. His companions and the things that happen to him will play a big influence in how the character develops and reacts, but for this you need to be sure that neither your fellow players nor your GM are going to screw you over.

Of course, on the other hand, screwing you over in a good sense, meaning 'having strange/horrible/awesome/bad things happening to your character, for the sake of helping you with the character path' should be encouraged - and for that, you need to trust the people you game with.

Also, I'm personally not a fan of the 'forcefully changed alignment' device, but to each their own.

Maugan Ra
2012-08-10, 12:27 PM
I've never managed to play a character through the process of being redeemed, but I did play a character who had his backstory as being a redeemed villain who was doing his best to stay on the side of angels.

He had plenty of difficulty with this, because whenever he looked at a situation, his instinctive response tended towards evil. He had to consciously turn away from that towards something more moral, even when he knew it would take longer or be less efficient or even when he suspected it just wouldn't work. Sadly, the game ended before the DM could work in his past coming back to haunt him or something similar.

It's always been, I think, one of the most important elements in a redemption story - it takes time, and the individual doesn't just instantly change how they feel about everything. Unless you're using magic to force the change, which I dislike because it basically combines the worst elements of rape, torture and brainwashing into a single action.

2012-08-10, 12:32 PM
Unless you're using magic to force the change, which I dislike because it basically combines the worst elements of rape, torture and brainwashing into a single action.

Yes! Thank you for saying what I wanted to say better than I could. That is exactly the reason I disike forced alignment changes too, of any kind! :smallsmile: