"Dark" but not Edgelord?

Asita

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In the backstory thread, I mentioned a Pathfinder Tiefling I have on the backburner and am hesitant to use without at least a confederate or two because otherwise there was too high a chance that "people would just assume that 'edgelord' was Zerris's intended archetype rather than the starting point he'd grow out of". And I've been thinking about that lately because...well, character building is a good distraction.

More to the point, I was wondering what everyone else's experiences with 'darker' archetypes was. I know a lot of us can probably say that our first 'developed' tabletop character was probably "Grumpy the Grim" or one of his many siblings and that's something we aren't proud of. Rest assured, I'm not asking about that character.

No, I'm asking about ones that you think were more successful and any tricks or techniques you used to make them fun to play and fun for other players to play with. How do you make your character(s) dark without making the rest of the table roll their eyes and assume you're "that guy/girl" pulling out another awful edgelord?
 

Tireseas

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Here's the better question: What constitutes "dark" for your purposes?
 

Asita

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Here's the better question: What constitutes "dark" for your purposes?
A fair question, but in truth I'd really intended this to be somewhat vague, with what constitutes 'dark' being up to individual interpretation. The question could very well be "where do you draw the line" or "what do you do when you want to make a 'dark' character?" I invoked my Tiefling mostly for the sake of example and explaining what initially prompted the question.

Not to dodge the question, however, here's a little more context for that example. In the case of my Tiefling, I'd used the "Motherless" variant from Pathfinder's Blood of Fiends. To quote the relevant excerpt directly:

Like their qlippoth forebears, the motherless instinctively despise mortals and their sins, but rather than turning them toward a path of virtue, such scorn instead drives qlippoth-spawn toward bitterness and cynicism. By their reckoning, hypocrisy and sin rule the mortal heart, and thus all mortals deserve little more than extinction. Jaded and leery loners, they see treachery and deceit behind every action, and prefer to stab others in the back before they themselves are betrayed. Perhaps because they have never felt the bond between a mother and her child, qlippoth-spawn are almost always incapable of love, trust, or affection.

The motherless always display their bizarre deformities at birth. Covered in barbed tentacles, oozing tumors, crudely shaped and stunted appendages, pieces of carapace, or other defects that seem more appropriate for insects and other lower life forms, those who survive their early years learn the true meaning of rejection. One of the rarest of all the tiefling heritages, the motherless tend to arise in clusters of half a dozen or so births occurring over roughly the same time period in a village or town. Such infestations are as quick to dissipate as they are to appear, and while somewhat more common near the Worldwound, such outbreaks are still infrequent.

Now, making an evil character wasn't the end goal, and didn't want him to be truly "incapable of love, trust, or affection", but it felt like it would be a narrative 'cheat' to use this variant and have him miraculously free of the baggage that comes with something that is implied to be cut from the same cloth as Frankenstein's Monster. I could justify a sympathetic role model or two, but with almost everyone else treating him like a rabid dog for as long as he could remember? Much harder to justify him not having some terrible anger and self-loathing and taking some perverse solace in the fact that he wasn't wholly powerless and could hurt those who 'deserved' it. My compromise was that I gave him good goals (zealously devoted to the church of Sarenrae and his almost-father figure) but evil methods (too much internalized hate to really 'get' redemption and doesn't give a damn about the moral ramifications of his actions so long as he thinks they're effective), making him a shade of Lawful Evil rather than the "watch the world burn" Chaotic Evil that BoF suggested was the expected norm for qlippoth-spwan. Furthermore, it was my intention that the party help him break out of these bad mindsets to become a properly good character rather than the nominal one he started as.

Some obvious 'standard edgy' habits naturally crop up as a natural consequence of being legitimately afraid of being run out of town if anyone so much as got a good look at his face, but to more directly answer the question, "dark" in this case meant loner, anger issues, 'ends justify the means' attitude, etc, albeit with an intended character arc which would have him grow out of most of those traits.

That being said, I would like to reemphasize that what constitutes 'dark' is intentionally somewhat vague. Depending on the speakers' experiences it can be anything from a character being a little grumpy to being gleefully evil in alignment or having the most tragic backstory ever.
 
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happyninja42

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In the backstory thread, I mentioned a Pathfinder Tiefling I have on the backburner and am hesitant to use without at least a confederate or two because otherwise there was too high a chance that "people would just assume that 'edgelord' was Zerris's intended archetype rather than the starting point he'd grow out of". And I've been thinking about that lately because...well, character building is a good distraction.

More to the point, I was wondering what everyone else's experiences with 'darker' archetypes was. I know a lot of us can probably say that our first 'developed' tabletop character was probably "Grumpy the Grim" or one of his many siblings and that's something we aren't proud of. Rest assured, I'm not asking about that character.

No, I'm asking about ones that you think were more successful and any tricks or techniques you used to make them fun to play and fun for other players to play with. How do you make your character(s) dark without making the rest of the table roll their eyes and assume you're "that guy/girl" pulling out another awful edgelord?
Well, I think it mostly comes down to motivation, and presentation. For example, I had a paladin of...shit what was her name...the Raven Queen? 4th edition neutral god of death. Think it was Raven Queen. Anyway, her thing was he HATED the undead, so I had my guys background be he was part of a small sect of the Raven Queen, that lived in a monastery in the mountains, sort of your cliche asian martial arts dojo, isolated, but very martial in training. He was there, with other members of his order, when the temple was attacked by a necromancer, who had a flair for dramatic irony. He killed all of the members of the sect, save my PC, and raised them all as undead servants in his army. My guy survived by Sheer Luck(tm), and when he learned of the fate of his friends, he vowed to hunt them all down to the ends of the earth, and put them to rest.

That was his personal motivation, and a hook for the GM to pepper in npc's as he saw fit, if he wanted. But, other than that, I played him fairly normal. He wasn't some death junky, but simply saw it as a normal part of life, that needed tending to. So he had an "edgy" background I guess, but I didn't play him as like, seeking out the dead so he could do some crazy death rituals or whatever. He basically acted like a mortician, and grief counselor, in his role as a death paladin. If there was a threat, the greatsword came out for some smiting, but otherwise, he would try and just help the living, say goodbye to the dead. To prevent things like restless spirits from rising, due to unfinished business, and to let the living have their deserved grief, and the dead have their deserved rest.

He did get really pissed when things like...oh the murderhobo rogue, deciding to kick open coffins of the dead in a tomb we were going through on a dungeon crawl, because you know, robbing from the dead in front of a fucking paladin of death seemed perfectly reasonable to him, and he didn't understand why my guy was annoyed at grave robbing. *rolls eyes* But otherwise,he was pretty normal.

I think a good rule of thumb for you, if you are intentionally trying to NOT be all edgy with him, is to simply ask yourself what WOULD an edgelord do, or act like in various situations, and then just....well, not do that.

Especially if your entire idea for the character, is that they want to grow beyond their dark past, the first thing to do for that kind of thing, is to not always dwell on it. Being a broody sourpuss doesn't help.

I'm just spitballing here with ideas, since I don't know the details of your background but, one way to look at it, is to have your character be stubborn about their past, in the sense of refusing to let it break them, and make them be all Edgy McEdgelord von Whineypants III Esquire. So they actively try and live beyond their tragedy, and move past it. But like anyone who has suffered actual trauma, it's a work in progress, and certain things might trigger them having a sour time about something. Like, if say, part of the background is they had a younger sister, who loved to dance and sing, who died. And the GM has the party go to some festival, and they comment about some lovely dancers/singers moving through the crowd. That might be a good time for you to roll play the character having an episode, as they see someone that reminds them of their sister. Maybe they excuse themselves from the outside fun, and go find a tavern, and start downing pints in a dark corner, and acting moody, prompting members of the party who want to investigate, to ask what's wrong. But all the regular days, without the emotional trigger, they wouldn't act like that.

Honestly, maybe just do a little research on sites about dealing with trauma/PTSD, the testimonials people give, about their daily lives, and how they try and manage, and what works, and what doesn't. Because honestly, most "dark, edgy" pasts, that players come up with, are the kind of events that warrant psychological counseling IRL. Murdered family, abused, torture, life as a slave, all those things really happen to people, and they don't ALL act like edgelords. So there is precedent for moving past it, and acting like a regular person while doing so. Some days will be good, some won't. Maybe have a shared background with another member of the group, from After The Incident, who is there as a pressure valve perhaps. Perhaps they know of the incident specifically, or maybe they just know Something Bad Happened, but the two of you get along, and they make an effort to try and mitigate your PC's more extreme emotional reactions when triggered.

To me, that's how you do "dark, but not edgelord."
 
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Gethsemani

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A good rule of thumb I generally use when I want to make characters that are darker then the rest or are more morally repulsive is to ensure the rest of the group is onboard. It is easy to make an 'edgelord' that is quick to use violence, feels the end justifies the means and in general is angry, lashes out and acts like a dick to everyone at the drop of a hat. To counteract that, I suggest some heavy OOC talk with the rest of the group about when and how they feel that kind of behavior is alright and how much of it they can take. Similarly, discuss it with the GM and see how much shit the GM wants to throw on your character to provoke it.

I generally find that the problem is not that characters are too dark or edgelord in itself, it is that those things tend to eclipse the rest of the game. The edgelord will always try to put their EMOTIONS! front and center, even when you're in a scene when another member of the group should be given some time to shine. That's a major problem. But if you can keep a neutral baseline for the character that veers into darkness and moodiness on occasion, it can provide some gravitas to the roleplaying itself.

The ideal is to have a baseline character that has some really dubious values (kill 'em all and let God sort them out) but has a neutral if slightly grumpy/evasive personality. Then have the GM occasionally set up situations that test the character and the party's ability to deal with it. If a village tries to run the party out because of the character that's a great time to go full edgelord and ramp up the drama, if only so that the rest of the group can roleplay out their characters reactions to your characters anger/violence/despair.

At the end of the day, I see it mostly as a attention problem. Giving your character time to dwell on their past and face situations that distress it is great roleplaying. Your character being front and center with it all the time and constantly disrupting the game because you kill prisoners, piss off quest givers and sulk about the hardships of being part-demon is problematic. It is all about striking a balance with the rest of the group so that your darkness isn't getting in the way of the story, the other characters or anyone's enjoyment. A good deal is to run debriefs/after talks after each session during the first few sessions (but generally, always do this) and ask the others if they think you should tune it up or down and if you need to make any specific changes to the darkness. If you make a dark character and make them bland like vanilla that's no fun either.

As a last, sort of unrelated tip: I also find that cynical snark is a great way to convey your character's darkness or repulsive morals while keeping it light. You get the point across that you'd rather ransom the princess or murder the quest giver, but you do it in a non-obtrusive way that can also elicit a few chuckles. It shouldn't be overdone, least you become the comical relief, but works to remind people that your character isn't nice without you needing to go full Dirty Harry.
 
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SupahEwok

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I made a shadow monk assassin sort of dude once. Village murdered, raised by evil spymaster, forced to murder his best friend in his final initiation test, etc. The edgelord stuff. The idea is that he would clash personallity-wise with the rest of the party, but gradually they'd show him a better way, lead him out of darkness, also etc.

It didn't quite work. My roleplaying wasn't up to snuff, and playing a strong silent type also doesn't help with the necessary emoting. Also, probably would have helped if I'd worked with the DM more about what I wanted the arc to be. We kind of wrapped up that campaign without ever working in a proper cathartic resolution; I just kind of arbitrarily broke the geas (a death-curse binding him to the spymaster's will, basically) in the penultimate dungeon before the climax, which activated a sort of wasting disease, and then used the scene of the final battle (a fight with Tiamat in the caldera of a volcano, which began exploding when she was forced back to the Hells) as an excuse for the final endgame that character was always meant to move towards. He stayed in the volcano, used a force bead to protect himself from lava and fake his death, fell through a hole in reality to land in another plane of existence (where the geas wouldn't follow him), eventually found his way to Sigil (basically a city at the crossroads of the planes of existence in D&D), and opened up a detective agency under his born name (he'd been going by a code name throughout his time with the party).

It wasn't a smoothly executed ending.

I guess the moral of the story is that, in my experience, you really need to work with the GM if you want to incorporate a strong narrative character arc into the overall story, and it's also good to give your fellow players a heads up of at least your intentions. But evil characters are most fun if you just get to be batshit crazy and the rest of the party is okay with it (or are batshit crazy themselves).
 
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More to the point, I was wondering what everyone else's experiences with 'darker' archetypes was. I know a lot of us can probably say that our first 'developed' tabletop character was probably "Grumpy the Grim" or one of his many siblings and that's something we aren't proud of. Rest assured, I'm not asking about that character.
He, you didn't have to call me out like that.

The serious answer is, that your characterization as dark sounds very vague. I hope you are clear on some of the specific ways your character is dark and is meant to grow as well as on a redeeming quality or two. Is he just generally a grumpy bastard or is he grumpy about something specific? Is there a way for him to work on himself, a revelation he is supposed to have, a fundamental contradiction in his worldview and purposes, something? Are there specific triggers for his darkness to come to the fore or is he just abstractly rogue-ish? (there is a difference between a ruthless mercenary and somebody who is specifically vindictive when it comes to the people who shot his dog) Once you are clear on those specifics you can start deciding on how to signal them to the group.
 

Asita

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He, you didn't have to call me out like that.

The serious answer is, that your characterization as dark sounds very vague. I hope you are clear on some of the specific ways your character is dark and is meant to grow as well as on a redeeming quality or two. Is he just generally a grumpy bastard or is he grumpy about something specific? Is there a way for him to work on himself, a revelation he is supposed to have, a fundamental contradiction in his worldview and purposes, something? Are there specific triggers for his darkness to come to the fore or is he just abstractly rogue-ish? (there is a difference between a ruthless mercenary and somebody who is specifically vindictive when it comes to the people who shot his dog) Once you are clear on those specifics you can start deciding on how to signal them to the group.
Well there's a reason that the character's still on the backburner. I got into more details on him in the backstory thread, but the long and short is that the guy desperately wants to be good, but he's internalized the common knowledge that - because of what he is - he can't be good, and he hates himself for it.

The longer version is that his Tiefling variant mandated that he be an orphan, and I had him raised by the Church of Sarenrae (goddess of healing, compassion, redemption...all those good things), but with the exception of the local not-bishop, nobody really believed in him, treating the idea of redeeming him (a child whose only sin was being born (admittedly a gruesome process for a qlippoth-spawn tiefling)) as an exercise in futility and mostly didn't do a good job of hiding that.

If we want to get more specific, I'd made him an Inquisitor who'd start with the Heretic archetype, mechanically because of alignment, narratively because he sucks at living up to Sarenrae's teachings. This is a guy who thinks that he has to prove to Sarenrae that he is worthy of redemption by obliterating those that the church sends him after as irredeemable. The irony of this is completely lost on him: He himself is commonly understood to be irredeemable and believes that the best way to secure his redemption is to assume that redemption for those he is sent against is impossible and that they only deserve death (That'll show the goddess of redemption what a devout follower he is, right?). If the church sends him after someone, they are going to die...probably painfully, and probably not alone. Granted, he's only really sent against cultists of Rovagug (who "glory in destruction for its own sake and dismiss building and creating as a pastime for those too weak to destroy"), but he's still too brutal and doesn't really 'get' his religion's teachings even if he knows them word for word.

Where the darkness really come in is anything related to Rovagug, which draws out the worst in him. He - a qlippoth-spawn tiefling - is outraged that this qlippoth lord has any following whatsoever. Aside from the theological and practical reasons to hate such cults, there are some shades of projected self-loathing in there. He fears that he's too much like them, could easily have been one of them, or is - by his nature - necessarily associated with them and thus their very existence adds to his sins. So as you might imagine, he has absolutely no chill when he corners those cultists...as in if left to his own devices and not reined in he'd probably brutalize the corpses and crucify any survivors who asked for mercy.

To clarify, the character is not especially well socialized, but unless he's dealing with something Rovagug related, it's less that he's an asshole and more that he doesn't know how to interact with people. The closest thing he ever had to family is dead (natural causes, nothing vengeancy), he's never really had any friends or a social life, and he's kinda married to his work because he thinks he's fighting and losing a one-man war for his soul (which, considering his actions and how that's reflected in his alignment....he kinda is, just not for the reasons he believes).

That clear things up at all?
 

SupahEwok

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Well there's a reason that the character's still on the backburner. I got into more details on him in the backstory thread, but the long and short is that the guy desperately wants to be good, but he's internalized the common knowledge that - because of what he is - he can't be good, and he hates himself for it.

The longer version is that his Tiefling variant mandated that he be an orphan, and I had him raised by the Church of Sarenrae (goddess of healing, compassion, redemption...all those good things), but with the exception of the local not-bishop, nobody really believed in him, treating the idea of redeeming him (a child whose only sin was being born (admittedly a gruesome process for a qlippoth-spawn tiefling)) as an exercise in futility and mostly didn't do a good job of hiding that.

If we want to get more specific, I'd made him an Inquisitor who'd start with the Heretic archetype, mechanically because of alignment, narratively because he sucks at living up to Sarenrae's teachings. This is a guy who thinks that he has to prove to Sarenrae that he is worthy of redemption by obliterating those that the church sends him after as irredeemable. The irony of this is completely lost on him: He himself is commonly understood to be irredeemable and believes that the best way to secure his redemption is to assume that redemption for those he is sent against is impossible and that they only deserve death (That'll show the goddess of redemption what a devout follower he is, right?). If the church sends him after someone, they are going to die...probably painfully, and probably not alone. Granted, he's only really sent against cultists of Rovagug (who "glory in destruction for its own sake and dismiss building and creating as a pastime for those too weak to destroy"), but he's still too brutal and doesn't really 'get' his religion's teachings even if he knows them word for word.

Where the darkness really come in is anything related to Rovagug, which draws out the worst in him. He - a qlippoth-spawn tiefling - is outraged that this qlippoth lord has any following whatsoever. Aside from the theological and practical reasons to hate such cults, there are some shades of projected self-loathing in there. He fears that he's too much like them, could easily have been one of them, or is - by his nature - necessarily associated with them and thus their very existence adds to his sins. So as you might imagine, he has absolutely no chill when he corners those cultists...as in if left to his own devices and not reined in he'd probably brutalize the corpses and crucify any survivors who asked for mercy.

To clarify, the character is not especially well socialized, but unless he's dealing with something Rovagug related, it's less that he's an asshole and more that he doesn't know how to interact with people. The closest thing he ever had to family is dead (natural causes, nothing vengeancy), he's never really had any friends or a social life, and he's kinda married to his work because he thinks he's fighting and losing a one-man war for his soul (which, considering his actions and how that's reflected in his alignment....he kinda is, just not for the reasons he believes).

That clear things up at all?
Give him something to love. Puppies, fantasy football, his knife collection, porn magazines, anything. You'd be amazed how much that ends up humanizing him, and gives him a relatable branch for others to approach him, while maintaining his initial social awkwardness.
 

Asita

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Give him something to love. Puppies, fantasy football, his knife collection, porn magazines, anything. You'd be amazed how much that ends up humanizing him, and gives him a relatable branch for others to approach him, while maintaining his initial social awkwardness.
Funny you should mention that. I actually have a section on that in my character notes. His almost-father figure (essentially the head priest of the local church of Sarenrae) had a tendency to go out and feed strays and - as most of the character's positive memories are linked to that almost-father figure - he kinda inherited a fondness for animals, cats especially. Catch is that - per lore - most animals are naturally distrustful of tieflings. They can be trained out of it, but it's a bit more work than usual. That said, the guy deals with animal rejection better than people rejection and still rather wants a pet of his own, and still tries to endear himself to them, but he's not about to traumatize them by forcing them to stay with him if they're scared of him (corollary: animal cruelty is actually his other big berserk button). So basically he'd be that guy who breaks out a can of dried sardines whenever he sees a cat and then pouts a little when they hiss and run off (and would be positive over the moon if one decided it liked him)

The other bit of love that's immediately apparent is that he will not hear a word against the aforementioned father figure. The man was a model Sarenrite and this character wants nothing more than to live up to the man's expectations of him. One of the supplemental materials I actually wrote up for this was a posthumous letter from the man - which was wrongly withheld from my character - admitting to his early prejudices but ultimately affirming that despite common knowledge he was not a demon or devil, but mortal. That whatever prejudices people had, he was as capable of good as anyone else, and that he knew that if the tiefling put his mind to it he would grow into an excellent and compassionate Sarenrite and that he was proud of the man that he had every faith the character would become. The idea was that my character would finally get it some way into the campaign and actually break down crying because of it, probably giving him the final push to really change his approaches.
 

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Being able to correctly handle darkness is extremely important in my preferred RPG Vampire: The Masquerade. Whatever your character starts out like, they need to be flawed enough to continue their predatory undead life, and not just commit suicide. Conversely, they need to have enough of a sense of order (if not humanity), to not just commit random, plot derailing acts of cruelty. The longest lived characters in the campaign I played the longest were a megalomaniacal and unfeeling Giovanni played by me, and a generally humane Toreador played by my friend. My character was basically evil to the core, with no real regard for the welfare of others. This was balanced out by an aversion to risk which kept most interactions fairly civil, and a genuine desire to both learn and teach the occult, especially necromancy. The Toreador was generally kind to those in need, but could be brutal with people who crossed her, and thrived on the adoration of others. (Typical Toreador, basically)
 
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happyninja42

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Well there's a reason that the character's still on the backburner. I got into more details on him in the backstory thread, but the long and short is that the guy desperately wants to be good, but he's internalized the common knowledge that - because of what he is - he can't be good, and he hates himself for it.

The longer version is that his Tiefling variant mandated that he be an orphan, and I had him raised by the Church of Sarenrae (goddess of healing, compassion, redemption...all those good things), but with the exception of the local not-bishop, nobody really believed in him, treating the idea of redeeming him (a child whose only sin was being born (admittedly a gruesome process for a qlippoth-spawn tiefling)) as an exercise in futility and mostly didn't do a good job of hiding that.

If we want to get more specific, I'd made him an Inquisitor who'd start with the Heretic archetype, mechanically because of alignment, narratively because he sucks at living up to Sarenrae's teachings. This is a guy who thinks that he has to prove to Sarenrae that he is worthy of redemption by obliterating those that the church sends him after as irredeemable. The irony of this is completely lost on him: He himself is commonly understood to be irredeemable and believes that the best way to secure his redemption is to assume that redemption for those he is sent against is impossible and that they only deserve death (That'll show the goddess of redemption what a devout follower he is, right?). If the church sends him after someone, they are going to die...probably painfully, and probably not alone. Granted, he's only really sent against cultists of Rovagug (who "glory in destruction for its own sake and dismiss building and creating as a pastime for those too weak to destroy"), but he's still too brutal and doesn't really 'get' his religion's teachings even if he knows them word for word.

Where the darkness really come in is anything related to Rovagug, which draws out the worst in him. He - a qlippoth-spawn tiefling - is outraged that this qlippoth lord has any following whatsoever. Aside from the theological and practical reasons to hate such cults, there are some shades of projected self-loathing in there. He fears that he's too much like them, could easily have been one of them, or is - by his nature - necessarily associated with them and thus their very existence adds to his sins. So as you might imagine, he has absolutely no chill when he corners those cultists...as in if left to his own devices and not reined in he'd probably brutalize the corpses and crucify any survivors who asked for mercy.

To clarify, the character is not especially well socialized, but unless he's dealing with something Rovagug related, it's less that he's an asshole and more that he doesn't know how to interact with people. The closest thing he ever had to family is dead (natural causes, nothing vengeancy), he's never really had any friends or a social life, and he's kinda married to his work because he thinks he's fighting and losing a one-man war for his soul (which, considering his actions and how that's reflected in his alignment....he kinda is, just not for the reasons he believes).

That clear things up at all?
....sooo....you made a homicidal, anti-social zealot with a self-hate complex? Yeah....I don't see that going over very well with a group if you're going to play him the way you seem to describe, namely kill everyone and let their blood run in the streets. The kind of party that would be fine with that murderhoboing would...well be more murderhobos, and they likely wouldn't bother trying to "redeem" you, or give him some avenue to change. And a group that wouldn't be along the murderhobo alignment probably would look at him like, well, a homicidal maniac.

Also, not really sure how well the "doing the complete opposite of the god I worship" would fly, especially for a god like Sarenrae. I mean it's canon in Pathfinder that she's got a clan of goblins converted to her, you know, because she believes in redemption and stuff. I mean this is a reality where gods are ACTUALLY real, and like manifest and stuff. I suspect that Sarenrae might take issue with someone running around slaughtering in her name, when it's specifically antithetical to what she stands for. Since you implied that he's going around smiting those that don't actually need smiting.

So, I mean I appreciate your desire to try and not make an edgelord but...you've made an edgelord.

Maybe add the following to your background to make it more palatable? :

Keep the "kill everyone in her name" homicide stuff if you insist, but include a visitation by Saranrae herself at some point, after one of his bloody purges. Or perhaps he encounters a paladin/cleric of Sarenrae that isn't tied to his sect, and when they hear the reason for this bloody Tiefling running around killing people, they get righteously pissed, and put some divine smack down on him, and literally show him the errors of his ways. Like a village that he goes to purge, happens to be the retirement home of a strong paladin of Sarenrae, and your PC ends up going toe to toe with a high level pally/cleric, and they are directly shown the power of the god they thought there were obeying, being used against them.

Having been shown that what he was raised to believe is a lie, he's still got a lot of blood on his hands, and has to find a path of redemption. You can still have the self doubt, of whether he's worthy or deserving of it, but actually have it shoved in his face, by the god he thought he was exalting, as a task that he must do "or face the very righteous judgement he visited upon so many others." That would be his personal arc, the larger, multi-level, full campaign objective for him. "Accomplish X task for Sarenrae, and you will find redemption." But give it some strict caveats, I dunno like, he can't ever kill anything while acting upon this quest. Or, he must always help anyone that asks him for help, regardless of the situation. Something like that.

If you just make him be this guy who hates himself, thinks he's incapable of anything good in his life, that he's as evil as everyone has told him he is, and his hobby is just killing people without mercy, and THAT is the way he operates on Session 1, that is pretty much the definition of an edgelord PC. Have all that stuff be his background, that he's already been shown the error of, but now he's got to deal with the ramifications of his actions, while under a divine mandate to do it. To me anyway, that's how you make that core idea, be dark, but not edgelord, when you bring it to the table.
 

Asita

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Before I go further, I would like to apologize to everyone, I did not mean to have my example dominate the thread like this.

....sooo....you made a homicidal, anti-social zealot with a self-hate complex? Yeah....I don't see that going over very well with a group if you're going to play him the way you seem to describe, namely kill everyone and let their blood run in the streets. The kind of party that would be fine with that murderhoboing would...well be more murderhobos, and they likely wouldn't bother trying to "redeem" you, or give him some avenue to change. And a group that wouldn't be along the murderhobo alignment probably would look at him like, well, a homicidal maniac.

Also, not really sure how well the "doing the complete opposite of the god I worship" would fly, especially for a god like Sarenrae. I mean it's canon in Pathfinder that she's got a clan of goblins converted to her, you know, because she believes in redemption and stuff. I mean this is a reality where gods are ACTUALLY real, and like manifest and stuff. I suspect that Sarenrae might take issue with someone running around slaughtering in her name, when it's specifically antithetical to what she stands for. Since you implied that he's going around smiting those that don't actually need smiting.
Respectfully, that paragraph makes me think I explained it poorly. I wouldn't necessarily describe the guy a murderhobo, for instance, as unless he has strong reason to believe that a person is willingly involved with the cult of Rovagug he's not going to go out of his way to hurt them. This isn't to say that he won't fight if the situation demands it (he's by no means a pacifist), but he certainly doesn't go around killing people for funsies.

To help explain this, let's look at a few different situations:

1) Zerris finds a bandit mugging a old lady on the road. He goes in to fight the bandit and protect the old lady. Like most adventurers he probably wouldn't shy away from lethal force, but if the bandit cuts and runs and leaves the lady's stuff behind he's not going to give chase. Lady tries to thank him, he'll shy away because...well, it's a familiar song and dance. Lady gets a good look at him, sees what he is, screams that he's a monster...he'll sigh, deflate a bit and walk away a little depressed.

2) Eating in a tavern, some tough guy drunk tries to pick a fight with him? He'll do his damnedest to escape the guy's attention. Drunk keeps insisting, he keeps refusing...guy tears off his hood and all of a sudden all eyes in the tavern are on the 'monster' in the room. For the sake of upping the stakes for the example, we'll assume some yahoo adventurer decides to draw his sword on Zerris. Given the option, he'll drop the coin for his tab on the table and walk out. If not given the choice and the adventurer starts fighting, he'd try to disengage and bolt. He'd be upset about losing a good place to eat and feeling terrible, but that's about the extent of his negative reaction to it. If anything, he actually presumes that they were right to drive him off and that it's another sin on his shoulders that he needs to repent for.

3) He gets sent after a cult of Rovagug? Guy stakes out the target, looks for evidence corroborating the accusations, figures out who else might be involved, and then gives them no quarter, taking vindictive pleasure in eradicating them.

To try and sum it up, it's probably easiest to think of him as if he were seeking vengeance on Rovagug. If you aren't associated with Rovagug, you're probably no more in danger from him than you are most other adventurers. He'll fight if combat's required, flee if the problem is his presence, and generally will try to stay beneath notice rather than cause trouble. If, however, you are a willing associate with the Rough Beast, and he verifies it, he's going to try to kill you with the same glee as Hellsing's Alexander Anderson would. Or to be more classical about it, Rovagug is the White Whale to his Ahab. Much like Ahab he's actually a decent enough sort when 'the whale' isn't involved, but when it is guy sees red and prioritizes hurting it over everything else.

I maintain that the guy takes too much enjoyment in paying evil unto evil and basically loses himself in those moments, but I'd argue that the fact that he only has those moments when Rovagug or his cults are involved makes him more Jack Bauer than murderhobo. Whether or not he's an edgelord...I'm obviously the least qualified to judge, but as I said he's a character I still consider a WIP and I've been very hesitant about him specifically because of such concerns.

As another point of clarification, I would apologize for some poor phrasing on my part. When I said that "he's internalized the common knowledge that - because of what he is - he can't be good, and he hates himself for it", that should have been that common knowledge is that he can't be good, and he internalized it as meaning that he's naturally evil and has never redeemed himself of the sin of his nature. This accounts in large part for the anger towards Rovagug and glee in eradicating his cults, he thinks that in so doing he's rejecting his nature and proving he can rise above it. Eliminating these cults was the mission the church gave him, and he's misunderstood that to be his penance, with the further misunderstanding that his penance won't be complete (and thus he won't have earned the goodness he strives for) until such cults no longer exist. He tries to be good, but he treats goodness as transactional and believes that he'll remain deeply in the red until his mission is complete.

----

Edit: I think I just figured out a more succinct way to put it, and that would be by looking at the pantheon. The character is a devout worshiper and desperately wants to do honor to Sarenrae, but his character flaws make him (at introduction) a bad match for for her. Not the worst match, but certainly not a good match. If you were to ask his superiors what god they'd peg him as the best match for and they honestly gave it consideration, they might say Gorum. This isn't actually true, however. Such a conclusion is mostly due to circumstantial evidence filtered through their own prejudices (nobody's perfect, and I figure this would be a damn hard prejudice to shake even for a Sarenrite) and unwillingness to actually get to know the guy enough to have a good feel for him. In actuality, he'd be a spectacular match for Ragathiel. You know, tries to prove his goodness, unforgiving to his foes, struggles with his darker impulses, can fall victim to lapses in judgement and going too far in pursuit of punishing the wicked...that's basically Ragathiel's faithful in a nuthshell if not Ragathiel himself. But while that is a better match for the character, he wants to be a good Sarenrite and struggles with it.
 
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Iron

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Remember that the most important thing about interactive storytelling and roleplaying with others is cooperation. If your character would naturally not cooperate with the others you might as well play by yourself. This shouldn't be brought up constantly if you've begrudgingly agreed to play along either, since that would just antagonize your teammates. Read the room and play according to the consensus of the group. Even if you are on the outskirts of the consensus, you shouldn't steer out of it if you think that this is what your character would naturally do.

Out of general tips, the best way not to make people dislike your choice of character is to show rather than tell. Show the character through their actions, you might as well not even tell them his backstory or try to bring it forward with his appearance. The second tip is whenever you show the "dark side" of your character, don't hinder the party's efforts (i.e. insist on murdering the captive that is about to tell you important plot details because you swore a blood-oath to kill all of his kind. I mean, you can kill him after he had stopped being useful, or later off-screen).
 
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That clear things up at all?
Certainly though some of the gameplayrelated details don't ring many bells I think I get what you are going for. My memory of the mechanics of these type of role playing games is rather fuzzy. Well there is definitely enough detail and motivation here to not just be generically dark and grumpy so that won't be the problem. Do you have a plan for some kind of arc out of these attitudes or barring that some kind of climactic downfall? (I realize that this is hard because you depend on your teammates and dungeon master to give context to that part of it) One of the advantages of giving your character some humanizing aspects and unresolved contradictions is that those can be a good levers for self-improvement. In my experience edgy characters aren't half so annoying if they are at least going somewhere. If they just statically display the same edgy character traits for 12 sessions in a row, well then you might be reveling in it a bit too much.
 

Asita

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Certainly though some of the gameplayrelated details don't ring many bells I think I get what you are going for. My memory of the mechanics of these type of role playing games is rather fuzzy. Well there is definitely enough detail and motivation here to not just be generically dark and grumpy so that won't be the problem. Do you have a plan for some kind of arc out of these attitudes or barring that some kind of climactic downfall? (I realize that this is hard because you depend on your teammates and dungeon master to give context to that part of it) One of the advantages of giving your character some humanizing aspects and unresolved contradictions is that those can be a good levers for self-improvement. In my experience edgy characters aren't half so annoying if they are at least going somewhere. If they just statically display the same edgy character traits for 12 sessions in a row, well then you might be reveling in it a bit too much.
Yes and no. I've got a vague outline but have been reluctant to go too in depth on it, both because I don't foresee using him in the near future and because I worry about being too specific and stepping on a prospective GM's toes. That said, there are a few narrative beats that I want to hit (such as the letter mentioned in post ten), and a few things I'd like to see but view as unlikely, such as becoming responsible for an NPC for a time, which would better develop his empathy, sense of communal responsibility, and hammer into him that protecting the innocent is more important than punishing the guilty. Failing that, I'd try to arrange with the GM for a stray to take a shine to him to achieve a similar effect or at least expose the group to his softer side. Attentive/cautious members of the group might notice him sneaking out of camp before dawn and if they ever decide to follow him would discover that he's simply doing a daily devotion in offering prayers to Sarenrae as the sun rises. So lots of little things that show cracks in his metaphorical armor. Don't get me wrong, I've got some more dramatic ideas, but those would naturally need to be coordinated with a GM.

To the overall thrust, there was one thing I'd remembered hearing about strong character arcs and which I'd taken to heart in crafting this character: A character's destiny should be almost the complete opposite to where they start.

For the sake of example:
Han Solo starts off as a very mercenary outlaw who is only looking out for himself and his survival. He ends up as a general and war hero so devoted to the cause of the Rebellion as to lead a suicide mission. Zuko starts as an exiled and disowned prince who is desperately trying to capture the Avatar to reclaim his honor and - more importantly - earn his father's love. He ends up disowning his abusive father, becoming one of the Avatar's closest friends and mentors, and wisely ruling the nation he was once exiled from. Po (Kung Fu Panda) starts off as a martial arts fanboy who is well aware of his lack of physical ability and apparent lack of aptitude. Moreover, he tacitly agrees with his mentor's appraisal of him as being a mistaken choice despite his determination not to quit. He ends up as a destined hero several times over, one of the greatest masters at least of his generation, and a teacher in his own right.

With Zerris, the idea was that he'd start off as something that his church was ashamed of, partially because of their own prejudices, partially because of his character flaws, and partially because the very job they gave him is kinda seen as an unfortunate but necessary evil ("to entertain the Rough Beast is to display a total rejection of righteousness", therefore 'search and destroy' is the appropriate response) that seems otherwise antithetical to the goddess's tenets. Zerris's own personal failings - most prominently doing the morally dubious maybe-right things his job requires for definitely-wrong personal reasons - add weight to that, as further reflected in his Heretic class archetype.

Ideally, I'd want to see his growth redeem him from that archetype (which is akin to that of a fallen paladin), and possibly even embracing the Redemption Inquisition. And what I like about that Inquisition in particular is that it turns his "too brutal" flaw on its head by giving his weapons the merciful trait. That means that by default they only deal nonlethal damage, which contrasts so nicely with his most obvious character fault.

To put that more directly, we start with a character that lashes out at the cultists because he sees them as an impediment to his own redemption. Moreover, he hates them because they represent another path he might have taken (ie, representing his assumed inner evil). The trajectory of his character arc is towards him realizing that if they represent another path he could have taken, so too does he represent another path that they could take. If they represent the evil he might have been, he represents the good they can be. The merciless executioner becomes the compassionate reformer who wants to give his targets every chance to repent, so to speak.
 
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To me the difference is in presentation and aesthetic, and more similar to what dictates camp than anything -- not something you can really pin down, but you know it when you see it.

In D&D, specifically Dragonlance, compare Raistlin with Lord Soth. Raistlin was dark, Soth was edgelord. Raistlin was power-hungry, chronically ill, hated his frailty and loathed for it to be seen or known, had zero patience for foolishness, and generally just wanted to be left the hell alone. But, Raistlin did his job damned well, was generally there when he was needed, and for the most part didn't push boundaries with companions. Meanwhile Soth was over there, "woe is me", dark and mysterious murder-force with a penchant for stalking women.

More broadly, compare Cloud with Squall. Former, dark; latter, edgelord. Cloud was doing the right thing or trying to, not trying to push his problems on others, but had crippling mental issues that grew over the story's course, came to a head, then were resolved. Squall's ass...well, it's still difficult to not see the character and hear Linkin Park in my head.

In terms of tabletop dynamics, at least in my opinion you can boil it down to a single question: "is this character an annoyance to the other players?" Are they causing problems with other NPC's that impact their interactions, or leaving messes for other PC's to clean up or work through? Does your PC make intra-party interaction laborious or tiresome? Does your PC go against party consensus more often than not, or when they do, contradict the party's collective interests or wishes?

---

Thought I'd add this as a hours-later postscript, rather than double post.

Being able to correctly handle darkness is extremely important in my preferred RPG Vampire: The Masquerade. Whatever your character starts out like, they need to be flawed enough to continue their predatory undead life, and not just commit suicide. Conversely, they need to have enough of a sense of order (if not humanity), to not just commit random, plot derailing acts of cruelty...
Expectations are slightly different in VtM than other games, on the other hand. A certain amount of camp is to be expected, and there's more leeway granted for that, particularly for the fact "Lestats" are generally regarded as the annoying ones, not "Draculas" or "Lost Boys".

Case in point, my longest-played VtM character was my Transylvania Chronicles Tremere. Complete balls to the wall, sociopathic, no redeeming qualities whatsoever, rather kill you than give you the time of day, walking WMD, maniac. Post-Fistandilus, Legends trilogy, Raistlin on steroids. Got along swimmingly with all the other PC's except the Ventrue, including the Assamite if that should give you any indication.

How/why? The other PC's were simply too useful to piss off, Claudius didn't shit on their doorstep and they didn't shit on Claudius' doorstep. In fact, Claudius would go out of his way to do them solids without considering it a boon, simply to ensure if/when shit went down, they'd have his back. Claudius would play practical jokes, like arranging to have the Sabbat besiege another PC's city but make sure the siege wasn't strong enough to actually take the city, or send an annoying but not dangerous wraith to haunt a PC's haven for a few years, but nothing serious the other PC's couldn't laugh off.

Ergo, party harmony was maintained, even though I was playing hands down one unflinchingly evil sumbitch.
 
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