I am new to D&D and I am joining a campaign that automatically starts me in level 6. We are playing 3.5 version. I am a half-elf fighter with an alignment of chaotic neutral. I want to play my character where I take advantage of the others and slowly but surely bend them to my will. I want to become a character that is strong enough to not be loyal to any one. I need advise on what skills I will need and how to get them. I thought of my approach as starting as a thief before revealing my true nature. How do I do this? Of the five players I have the trust of three. How can I take advantage of this?
I upvoted the question since it's the sort of thing that new players often wonder about; but the only possible answer is Stop what you are doing right now!. D&D (and roleplaying games in general) are very specifically not about being the winner or 'bending other characters to your will'.
It is conceivable that a particular campaign may allow the party to dominate NPCs and become the most powerful force in the area; if the DM allows this, it will only be possible if the whole party co-operates, and can trust each other. Similarly, it is possible (with experience and the willing assistance of the GM) to play an evil character who is loyal to nobody and will betray the rest of the party whenever it suits him. Unfortunately, the rest of the party will find out about this in due course, and a good roleplayer would execute your character immediately. (As others have mentioned, most players would take the extra precaution of never playing with one of your characters again.)
This game is clearly going to be very different from anything you are used to: I strongly suggest you abandon your preconceptions, start with a simple character like a fighter who prefers hitting things to thinking, and see how the campaign develops. There's nothing wrong with being a tyro, but it does mean that you have to learn how to play rather than imposing your ideas on others.
First: Talk to your DM. Ensure that this character is right for the game they are running. Does the DM force/allow social skills to be used against other PCs? Does the general plot have a point at which you could take control of the party? Is there a reason that the other players would go along with your character? Is there a reason some higher authority won't just squash you? If the DM does not think that the character is a good fit then stop and find another character.
Second: Talk to the other players. Have any of them played in games that included betrayal? Have there been past betrayals in this group? How did the players (not the characters) feel about that? Are they okay having a single party leader? How would the Paladin that's been in play for the last three years react to a thief trying to takeover the leadership role? If the players have had bad experiences in the past then stop and find another character.
Third: If you have the agreement of the DM and a sense that the other players will not be put off by such a plot line, then focus on:
- social skills - assuming that the DM allows those to be used against other characters
- indispensability - either being the most damage dealing or survivable character in a combat focused game, or the most useful in a more varied challenge campaign.
- role play - gather dirt on the other players, maybe that Paladin secretly covets the high priest's wife, maybe the wizard is a little too friendly with the crazed necromancer...
Finally: Accept the fact that the party may turn on your character and kill them off, or simply walk away from your character and you may have to roll up a new one.
First of all - think very carefully about whether you want to do this and why you want to do this. As a number of people have already mentioned in the comments to your original post, if you don't handle this well then it's a one-way trip out of the game probably and a lot of annoyed friends.
On the flip side - this has been done a lot in fiction and is almost a fantasy trope. Of course, in most fantasy, the manipulative snake-in-the-grass gets found out and strung up at some point or other and you should be prepared for that too.
If you decide you really want to go down this path then speak to the GM and get their buy-in before proceeding. You're not going to get anywhere without their cooperation anyway so you might as well find out if you can secure it before you even start.
So - if you're still sure you want to do it and the GM is happy then here goes my advice:
First of all - avoid the obvious choices in terms of class (rogue being the primary one) and stick with something less obvious (your choice of fighter here is a pretty good start). Pick up skills that allow you to manipulate NPCs (diplomacy and gather information are good ones [unless they exist only in pathfinder and I'm mis-remembering them as 3.5]) and do sneak stuff - that's not too easy for a fighter so you might want to look at progressing a few levels as a ranger or some other class that has access to some handy skills (check out the players handbook for a comprehensive list of what skills each class gets). Maybe picking up a level or two of rogue would help although be cautious here as that often draws suspicion from people. A level of wizard or sorcerer can also add a great deal of variety and surprising abilities to your character if you can keep that acquisition from the other characters.
At the end of the day, though, the success of this sort of character will be in your hands playing it more than it will be in skills, stats or abilities of the character. And whether or not you get away with it without losing kudos with your friends will depend very much on how well they take to having their characters manipulated, deceived and/or betrayed.
I have played in D&D groups that where not totally cooperative. I didn't like it but once I did "win". Let me share that experience with you and the outcome.
This was an AD&D game, 1e, with some heavy house rules. The group was five strong. I will not use real names in order to protect the privacy of these folks.
- Saul, the DM.
- Lenny, playing an AU cavalier in full plate armor.
- Tim, playing a cleric of some flavor.
- Ron, the elven fighter/thief.
- I played a monk.
I was the new kid in the group and this group loved to "debate"… everything. Lenny's favorite thing was to yell, at the end of combat, "I KILLED DA MONSTER! DA TREASURE IS MINE!" Tim backed Lenny. Ron would mutter about poisons. I was a monk and my needs were simple. Sounds chaotic doesn't it? It was – words can't come close. But it was a bit fun. Until my alignment slipped. I went from LN to N.
Saul pulled me aside and we talked about what was happening. Because of plot we had been cut off from our world and we lived in a dimensional pocket that was an insane alchemist-mage's mystical compound. So I couldn't get back to my monastery. I would gain no more levels as a monk. Because we were locked in this crazy mage's house Saul allowed me to pick up as a magic user (dual class rules, not to be confused with multiclassing) by using some of the house's training facilities we had found. I didn't want the rest of the party know I was no longer a monk. As a monk they left me alone, I was a non-threat. I saw advantage in remaining viewed in that way. When asked how I would explain having magic I came up the idea of praying to my ancestors to cover the magic. I pray and then would "feel my ancestors' power" and cast a spell.
Saul informed me that I could get a familiar; he wanted it to be a faerie dragon. I was down with that. Suddenly, my "ancestors" became much cooler. The faerie dragon, Tig, very much loved to stay invisible all the time and screw with the party. Answering my prayers to the ancestors was also a favorite activity for Tig.
The sessions went on and I was getting tired of the other players and the bickering. I began to pocket things while the others argued. My alignment shifted again, from N to CN. I talked with Saul about my changing my character. I had just purchased a copy of Oriental Adventures, and I wanted to try out some of it. Saul had wanted to as well. The party was still stuck in the pocket dimension, mostly because Lenny just wanted to find stuff to kill and didn't care about finding a way out just yet. Saul allowed me to switch classes, extending the dual class rules. I then became a Wu Jen/Ninja.
Two sessions later the game ended with my "monk" assassinating Lenny's cavalier in his sleep using a dagger of venom I had stolen from a loot pile. The monk took all of Lenny's treasure and escaped the pocket dimension. Tim and Ron remained trapped. No resurrection was possible for Lenny, so Saul said.
While this was nowhere near a typical gaming group I did find it fun for a short time. I would never want to do it again but the experience was worth doing it once. Afterward, Lenny and Tim didn't want to play with me again. Saul was fine, as was Ron.
Take from that what you will. But, if you really want to do this, then I say don't use a fighter. You need stealth. You need misdirection. You need cunning. You need a DM that will not be hostile to what you are doing. Finally, you need to be sure relationships out of game will not be affected. I say they will be, regardless of what you may think.