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My DM made a campaign and, without revealing any information, had us create our characters. My character has a chaotic neutral affiliation, and his backstory revolves around gaining "pure" knowledge meaning he hates religious institutions and supernatural elements. Yet once the campaign started it turned out that it revolves around helping an Oracle repel evil forces. I contemplated killing the Oracle to stay true to my character, but being a low level in a short campaign it is most likely impossible.

How would you rectify staying true to your character in the face of an impossible challenge?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not posting small or incomplete answers (even ones phrased as rhetorical questions). Please use answer posts to submit answers instead. Prior comments containing answers have been removed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 14 '17 at 22:40
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Truth: the DM didn’t make it easy on you.

Did your DM review your character before play started? It’s often good for a DM to lay down certain ground rules for characters if they have a definite idea of what the characters will need to do.

If it went, “Make your characters, and I’ll plop them into the game,“ sometimes it’s not a great fit.

As far as I can tell, you have been true to your character, so far

Your PC met the oracle and thought, “I want to kill that zealot,” but had a compunction. Good job so far.

Your character is chaotic neutral and hates organized religion. Killing a benevolent person because you disagree with their religion would be what we old-school DM’s would call a decidedly evil act — so you are playing true your your characters traits and alignment, so far.

Dramatic conflict can be fun

Having to work with someone you don’t like is the beginning of just about every cop-buddy movie ever, a tried-and-true plot. This oracle stands for everything your character hates, but that’s just the surface-level, “political” dimension.

You and the oracle have something fundamental in common: the quest for knowledge. You just approach it in fundamentally different ways. That seems to me to be the basis of a great rivalry — not wanton violence. What a moment of triumph, every time you reveal some piece of “pure” knowledge the oracle had not known. The expression on your rival’s face will be priceless, and much, much more satisfying than cold-blooded murder.

Maybe that fool oracle is OK…personally

Maybe, after working with each other (through necessity) you will connect on a more personal level, and even learn to respect each other, and each other’s views. That’s called character growth whether done in story or out.

In the meantime, of course you can be looking out for #1, finding those little bits of “knowledge“ you crave, and keeping what you can for yourself — all while doing what you need to do to keep the world from being overrun by evil.

Or…just punt

If something like that doesn’t seem tenable, then the most responsible thing you can do is to tell your DM you need to make a new PC, because your current one is not compatible with the story.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So much this. CN characters should not be serial killers who murder anyone who disagrees with them or represent an institution they think should be cast down....that's the realm of CE characters. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jun 14 '17 at 17:51
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You have three choices:

  1. Have your character reluctantly work on the Oracle's side and reluctantly and with much in-character whining fight the evil forces. This has the advantage of allowing you and your friends to play the game and have fun.

  2. Throw out your character's backstory and make up one that fits with the campaign. This also has the advantage of allowing you and your friends to play the game and have fun.

  3. Stay true to your character's ethos and refuse to participate. This is called my guy syndrome and has the disadvantages of being no fun for anyone and making you a jerk.

This is not a difficult choice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's also a third choice: Mix those two. Work with the Oracle until the situation regarding the evil forces has been resolved and the world is no longer threatened... And then kill them. \$\endgroup\$ – Daraka Jun 14 '17 at 0:29
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At first glance: Neither you nor the GM seem to be co-operating with other.

You: Are playing a pathfinder game and have created a character with a built-in bias against a large swath of standard fantasy tropes. It's not obvious how far this hatred of "religious institutions and supernatural elements" goes, but it seems like it would range from being a major handicap (if he just doesn't get along with religious institutions) to potentially crippling (if, in an extreme, he doesn't believe in things that are self-evident to other denizens of the setting, and/or which are just ground-truth level true in the game.)

Even if the former, try substituting "wizards" or "elves" for the subject of his antipathy, to see how this could be very limiting.

The GM: Gave no guidance about the campaign world, but accepted as-is a character that seems destined to be beating his head against the campaign world. This sort of head-beating is usually not fun.

Here's the thing, though: In giving no guidance about the campaign or feedback for the character, this situation could be as bad or worse than we've made it sound, or it could be better. The GM could be planning a nuanced campaign where the Oracle is fallible (either mystically in his/her visions, or morally or politically in his/her decisions) or where other elements come into play to keep your character interested and viable. It could be. Or it could be just a bog-standard righteous religion against evil orcs. At this stage, you have no way of knowing.

The conversation to have with the GM is delicate, here, because a straight up question about the Oracle's motivations and fallibility might only be answerable with a spoiler that the GM is unwilling to give. I've had much better luck with asking clear but high-level questions: First, lay down your concerns ("I made my character X, Y, Z, but all I see in the game is A, B, C,") and then ask, "So given all that, do you think this character is viable? Are there things for me to do that are both fun and in-character? Or is he just going to get ground down by the campaign and be causing problems for everyone?"

If the GM is thoughtful in general and has put thought into his campaign, he should be able to answer that high-level of a question clearly, but without being forced to give spoilers.

Once you have that answer, you can decide what, if anything, to do about it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ self-important atheists are a thing in real life. Not all that common, but a thing, just like self-important believers. Only ever saw it once at a game table, and the second session we switched to a space game for socially tactical reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 14 '17 at 19:01
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To be fair to the DM, a character who "hates religious institutions and supernatural elements" and whose first instinct to a religious figure who "repels evil forces" is to contemplate killing him, is ill-fitted for most fantasy RPGs.

If you want to stay true to your character, you have very few options. He wouldn't work in 90% of Pathfinder/D&D parties, regardless of any foreknowledge the DM gave you. Your best bet is to find some way to soften your character's resolve. Find a way to make an exception for things that would otherwise ruin a campaign.

Maybe your character can compromise in order to fight a greater evil. Maybe he has an epiphany and realizes that there is good religious knowledge and bad religious knowledge. Maybe he refuses to kill overtly good people, regardless of their religious/supernatural nature. Maybe anything. But the fact is that this would be a difficult character to fit in nearly any campaign, and refusing to bend will break a game.

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One thing to keep in mind, although it might seem obvious:

The goal is to let everyone, including you, have fun.

Pathfinder is, above all else, a cooperative game. It's easy to see what a GM's responsibilities are: to create and sustain a world everyone can have fun playing in. But you, as a player, have a responsibility too: to create and play a character everyone can have fun playing with. So if your character would, in the interest of being self-consistent, derail the campaign, then something about your character needs to change.

Is your GM likely to have some twist ending waiting for you when you finally meet the Oracle? If so, then perhaps having a character with a healthy level of mistrust toward him/her, even if it's for an unrelated reason, might be a good thing. On the other hand, if your GM tends to build plots that are pretty straightforward, intentionally acting against the Oracle will go directly against the goal of the adventure. This is a bad idea, no matter who your character is.

Some possible justifications:

  • Maybe your character befriends someone who belongs to an organized religion, throwing his worldview into question.

  • Maybe your character finds an organized religion similarly devoted to knowledge-seeking (like the church of Nethys), throwing his worldview into question.

  • Maybe your character discovers that some truths just aren't attainable without supernatural assistance, or aren't explainable in non-supernatural terms (which is definitely the case regarding divine magic).

Bottom line: It is your responsibility to justify going along with the party's goals, however you accomplish that. Do not subvert the adventure simply because "it's what my character would do."

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The other responses have some solid answers about how to roleplay in this sort of situation, if you want to play out your own personal plot arc. You have a ready-made conflict between your character and this apparently friendly NPC, and that can produce some interesting roleplay. That all depends, though, on having the DM play along with the specific arc of your character, and that's not guaranteed. Some DMs will support your personal development. Some DMs thing that RP is a good thing, but mostly want it to be window dressing. Some don't care about it at all.

Based on the interactions described thus far, you sound like someone who wants a decent amount of attention for your personal story - the search for "pure" knowledge, the opposition to religious groups, and so forth. The DM sounds like someone who has an idea of how he wants or expects the campaign to go, and who might or might not support your story. If that's the case, you might wind up playing only one half of a rivalry, which is no fun for anyone. You'll get frustrated because he keeps not responding like you want or expect, and he'll get frustrated because you keep tryign to derail things.

My suggestion would be to talk about it with him. If he's prepared to support you trying to gank this Oracle, and that's what you really want, then gank away (likely plotting it out ahead of time). If he wants the campaign to go in more or less the original direction, but is willing to support a rivalry between your PC and this NPC, then have fun with that. If he'd find that overly frustrating to deal with... well, your character was pretty extreme, and now you know more of the context of the game. Build a new character who can fit into the established narrative a bit better. If you want to keep things extreme, then perhaps a fanatical follower of some faith associated with that oracle? That'd let you chew the scenery while still keeping you pointed in more or less the right direction.

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I think most people would misinterpret your use of the word "supernatural". After all, this is a fantasy setting, and so magic is everywhere. I'm not going to say that a character like this won't work at all. Despising religious institutions, and religion overall, would still make sense in this world. So that's a start.

I would say that "supernatural", in this case, would mean undead/spiritual beings. Many religions involve an afterlife, and some say that you can communicate with the spirits of your ancestors, or that they can communicate with you by leaving omens, for example. Your character could very easily dismiss these claims, believing it impossible to talk to the dead. Plus, from what you've described, he/she would hold very strong views against the use of necromancy, which is outlawed anyway in most civilisations in Pathfinder. So really, this all ties in rather well.

You could also say that your character doesn't believe in divine magic, since it's meant to be granted by deities, although you would have to state what source he/she believes it comes from instead. There is actually a section on "false divine magic" in the Pathfinder wiki (under "Divine magic"), where arcane magic users have pretended that they have been granting divine magic to followers.

I hope that helps.

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