Ancient Scroll’s Secret Room: No Remorse

Hi there folks. I am in a killing mood, so we’re back to talking about “killing” in RPGs…

Often players will decide to take the role (class, profession, etc) of a killer (assassin, night blade, etc.) with a very simple concept. I am an extremely skilled person with extremely powerful abilities I can use to kill other entities. I’m so good that even armies are afraid of me. But I’m not afraid of anything myself because I can kill anything… Blah blah blah… Bullshit. This character is as pale as the air I breathe.

Why? Because of emotions and human consciousness. Nobody can survive and remain mentally stable for long if he spends his life killing other people. - hand-with-knife-by-laobc

You’ve probably heard about famous sharp shooters from World War II, especially those from the Finnish Army who fought the Russian invasion. Those snipers were hunting for Communist soldiers in the woods of Finland, eventually killing hundreds of them. Yes, hundreds! They became national heroes. And they disappeared before the war even ended, mentally devastated!

So how do you keep up with a player whose character is a wannabe assassin? It is not easy. Here’s how I handle it…

In my many campaigns there was one (yes, one!) assassin who was a perfect killing machine. But the way to perfection took him (and me, as GM) a long time. Slowly, from adventure to adventure, I was working on him. Checking the boundaries of the character’s sanity and humanity. (Of course, I was not informing the player of my efforts.)

His name was Cassilias and he was born in Shadizar in a Conan D20 campaign. He become a killer. He started his career on the streets killing people for a bunch of money and became very skilled in his chosen profession. But as he was growing up, he started to think about the consequences of his… job.

Slowly, he started to become famous in the circles of well informed people. Famous and expensive. Soon, he was taking a new job once or twice a year. Yes, one or two dead people yearly! Why? Well, he was expensive. But he also needed a time for mental regeneration. One more “why”? Well, assasins quite often kill “good” people. It is “bad” people who hire killers, not “good” people. “Good” people are more often targets, than employers. Got it?

It was our first step on the road to become ultimate killer.

I was asking my PC all the time about his feelings, opinions, levels of self-confidence, his dreams, psyche, etc. I was asking him all the time: what would you do in such and such situation. And slowly he was answering more and more often: I would kill.

So, we came to the moment when his solution to most of the problems, was “killing the problem”.

Then, I decided that he needed some background help. In one of the stories he was playing his… grandfather. I mentioned it once, a grandfather in his child years. He met a strange person when he got lost in the wilderness. This strange person saw in this PC a – lets skip the problem of good and evil now – darkness. But not evil, I told you. The darkness was a key to freedom. Why? The explanation was like this: most people judge each other using only common sense – something is good or bad. The darkness opens a new door and frees people from the two-color world of black and white, and lets them peer into other dimensions where good and bad do not exist. A killer who is able to cross the line of darkness achieves a different level of consciousness. He sees a world from outer space. He believes that he works in the name of balance. There is no good or evil. There is only an eternal equation. Blood for blood (not vengeance, but simple plus and minus).

Why darkness? Well total darkness is something beyond the perception of ordinary men. People see only brightness (light) and shadows. Their perception ends when the shadows turn into ultimate blackness. So darkness was a final frontier for human perception. People can guess what lies in the darkest shadow, but blackness is out of their reach and imagination.

When Cassilias lived again in his grandfathers adventure, he was almost ready. He decided (understood) that he could not judge himself in human manner. He is part of a larger universe. A holy messenger of darkness. A warrior of balance. He is killing because it is the circle of nature. Blood spilled in one place of the world offers a chance for new life in the other… And so on.

The last step was to build a support circle around him. Cassilias was invited (he discovered?) to the nonexistent (yes, totally virtual) guild of killers. He had to pass a test standing before the ghosts of long dead assassins. His test was simple: kill the other masked guy who wants to kill you. And Cassilias prevailed. But when he took off the mask of his opponent he discovered that… he had killed himself.

This was the final test. Cassilias become a real assassin. Stripped of any moral issues. Ready to kill with a light heart. Believing that he is doing it in the name of higher good.

Was he a psycho? Nope. He was not killing for a pleasure. He was not killing just because he could. But when he was killing, he knew why.

Was he a psycho? Yep. Because he was thinking in a different way than the rest of society. And feeling no remorse.

Remember – RPGs are only games. Treat them as such, and nothing wrong will happen.

This post is dedicated to my Brother Root aka Cassilias.

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2 comments to Ancient Scroll’s Secret Room: No Remorse

  • I had never thought that much about character development. For sure, I would try to put myself in his/her shoes, to make decisions on a campaign that fit the character’s alignment…but I don’t normally pay attention to WHAT shaped my character’s thoughts and actions. You have a lot of great points here, and I will definitely put more thought into my character in my games.

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