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- Join Date
- Aug 2007
- In a shadow of a shadow
Making a BBEG: The Archetypal Cynic
Well, as a curio, I bought a PDF of Fantasy Flight Games' single-book RPG, Grimm, wherein you play an unlucky child sent to a world of darkly twisted-and occasionally morbidly hilarious-fairy tales built from twistings of well-known ones. The Emperor With the New Clothes, for instance, rather than admitting he was gullible, decreed that all within his land wear his fine "clothing", which provoked a great illusion to settle over the whole thing, with the two swindling tailors trying desperately to keep the whole thing together. Beast found he could not have Beauty's affections as a prince, nor was he as infatuated with her, so he made a deal with the Rotten King of the Dark and Terrible Wood to turn himself back, and now serves as his enchantment-inclined lover's bodyguard. Speaking of the King, he was once known as Humpty Dumpty, but as it turns out, the king could put him back together again...using necromancy, turning him into an insane and paranoid lich who corrupts everything into amoral and dark creatures like him thanks to the evil rot that lives within his yolk.
It's that last one that interests me-the Rotten King is pretty much the Evil Overlord of the Grimm Lands, but he strikes me as an excellent puppet as much as a main villain. The obvious answer? The guy who suggested that necromancy be used in the first place.
See, I like the idea that the Lands were once a terribly beautiful world of tales and fantasy until they were corrupted so that only the dark and macabre aspects of the stories were emphasized. The Rotten King is a reason, but there must be an original cause, something that allowed his unlife in the first place.
Then I thought, "hey, don't people get a kick out of removing the positive, child-friendly aspects of fairy tales out of a belief that they are more realistic? What if the real reason was an embodiment of both that practice and the frankly nihilistic philosophy that goes into it?"
So, the Dour Sage was born. Once, he was simply a spirit of skepticism and inquiry, always pestering other spirits about the flaws in the things they embodied. He only wanted to help, really, but the other spirits grew annoyed by him and exiled him to the Real World, where he was at least right about there being a core logic to everything. Unfortunately, this was on the eve of World War I, and he found a place in the mind of one Fritz Haber.
Watching the slow descent of a man of science, the very thing he loved, become a merchant of one of the most horrible aspects of modern warfare due to national pride...Well, it broke him. Not at first, mind-but the knowledge that, for all of Haber's sins, his efforts did not work in the end, that did the trick. Germany overcome by the Allies, humiliated, and then reduced to nothing showed the Sage something he, as a child of dreams, never comprehended before-that even the most positive and noble of dreams could lead to such futile horror. Depressed, he detached from Haber and played muse to HP Lovecraft for a while, giving the man insights into the world filtered through his increasingly dismal view of it. From that vantage point, he saw Prohibition, the Great Depression, the rise of Nazi Germany, the atom bomb...all caused by dreams that people believed noble, and at the core, were-only horrifically flawed. Over time, the Sage came to believe that all noble dreams were flawed and doomed to horrific failure, the success of a critical few only because of random, infinitesimal chance.
Over time, his nature changed to reflect his newfound philosophy on life-whereas before he was the critic and the peer review, now he was the pessimist and the nay-sayer, the embittered artist who thought that true art could only be tragic, the nihilist who derided the very concept of hope. He had become the Cynic in its most brutal incarnation-the self-fulfilling prophet who is actively offended by paltry delusions such as hope, dreams, and imagination, working against them to protect people from disappointment and error.
And from that perspective, he came upon a dark realization. If hope and dreams were the source of all horrors...what would happen if he removed them from the equation, allowing humanity to exist with no illusions about any nobler aspirations they don't have?
Thus, the sorry state of the Grimm Lands-he manipulated them as a testing ground, systematically removing any trace of "happily ever after", allowing the imaginative children drawn by the plane to see life as it really is-nasty, brutish, and short. Perhaps soon, when the Lands have been completely corrupted, he will then return to the realm of the archetypes, and give them a few life lessons...
So, do you like the idea? How would you play him?
Last edited by Leliel; 2012-09-20 at 12:16 AM.My Homestuck role is Thane of Space of the Land of Insanity and Frogs.
The Malkavians would be proud.
Thanks to Mokipi for the Exalted avatar!
For avatars of your own, he's on White Wolf.
- Join Date
- Dec 2010
Re: Making a BBEG: The Archetypal Cynic
I have to say, I like this idea a lot. Just reading about this guy gave me chills. You've obviously put a lot of thought into his reasons and motivations, and I like that.
One thing I am wondering about (not being familiar with Grimm) is what the general feel of the world is like. Obviously it's 'dark' and corrupted, but is it a place of sadness, madness, unrestrained horror? I ask because I'm wondering what the Cynic thinks of the world he created. Is it how he envisioned it? Is it more or less terrible than the world of unbridled (failed) dreams he was trying to keep it from becoming?
Your description of him leads me to believe he is not fundamentally evil or corrupt, simple a being of unlimited inquisitiveness with a strong penchant for logic and 'the truth', whatever that means. Has he fallen so far from where he once stood, become so nihilistic that he genuinely believe what he has created is the lesser of two evils, or are there aspects he regrets creating, perhaps things (small or large) he wants to change.
I suppose my real question is: Is he supposed to be a tragic figure? My impression is yes, so are you intending for the players to sympathise with him in some way, or to view him as the result of truly irredeemable corruption?
These are the questions that came to my mind reading about him.
As for how I'd play him, that's an interesting one. Certainly this is a being with a tremendous weight on his shoulders, someone who has seen into the depths of the abyss and can never un-see what he glimpsed there. I suspect, due to his logical nature, coupled with his (presumed) immortality his plans would be water tight in their planning and execution. No possible avenue of failure would be left unexplored, and if it took years for a small part of his overall scheme to fall into place, so be it. He certainly wouldn't be reckless, I wouldn't have thought. Alongside that I suspect a great sadness would be upon him. There is no potential for a happy ending, everything he sees, no matter how seemingly idyllic is heading for inevitable failure and corruption. Perhaps it pains him to see people happy, because he knows, deep down, that that happiness will only make the coming pain (which, as his world view specifies is guaranteed) all the worse.
That may be a bit of a ramble, there's actually so much to talk about here, but that's what jumped to my mind.
- Join Date
- Aug 2007
- In a shadow of a shadow