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I'm setting up a character to have an arc, but I want to hide my intentions from my GM and the party.

Specifically, I created a rogue who lived as an urchin until meeting the party. He had no combat experience prior to meeting them, but they bought him a cheap dagger and a leather bladestopper, seeing potential in his sleight-of-hand. I plan for him to slowly become caught up in the massacre of an RPG, until he reaches a point where bloodlust is his only joy in life. I already have some plans, like moving from primarily social and evasive feats to brutal combat-based ones, and of course drifting towards the Evil end of the neutral scale in his actions... so, how can I do this all subtly enough that the group doesn't realize until it's too late, all while avoiding the perils of "My Guy" syndrome?

(Why?, you ask? My group are very much believers in forced method acting, and avoiding out-of-character knowledge like the plague. If I could both pull off a subtle but sure insanity character arc, and pull off revealing it at the same speed for the players as for their characters? Hoo boy, that'd be marvelous for everyone.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This character sounds like it will probably very disruptive. Is that something your group is going to be okay with? If you don't know, you may want to check in with them before going down the rabbit hole, so to speak. \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Nov 28 '16 at 16:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Wesley Obenshain Eh, we do this sort of thing a lot. Though, apologies in advance if there's a question along the lines of "HOW STOP ROGUE FROM KILLING EVERYTHING" in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Nov 28 '16 at 17:05
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Well, this kind of psychological change is inevitably going to show up in the character's behaviour to some extent, unless he's a really gifted actor. So I think you need to tell the GM, so that he can play NPCs' reactions to this. If you can't trust the GM not to tip your hand, then you are trying something too subtle and/or complicated for the group, and need a different group.

It seems legitimate to let the other players realise what's going on from your character's behaviour, but be warned that they may realise this much earlier or later than you intend. This is a fact of life in role-playing: it's a shared creation, and you can't decide what other players will do or think.

It's very possible that if the players realise what's going on before your character has become utterly bloodthirsty, they will try to save you from this fate. They are entitled to try to do that. They have, after all, taken you on as a companion whom they trust in dangerous situations. You wouldn't complain about them saving your character's life down a dungeon; they can reasonably try to save him from the effects of PTSD.

Besides, an arc where you suffer and are redeemed seems more interesting than one where you become a dedicated killer and are likely executed for it in the end.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems good. Great, actually. If the group finds out before my rogue breaks into evil laughter and slaughters half a village, and tries to prevent it, tood on them. If they don't catch on from said action, though... well, I'm going to question whether or not they actually are my lifelong friends or just clones/aliens/androids/Frank/whatever. \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Nov 27 '16 at 16:20
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In my opinion, be clear and obvious

I get your point. You want to let your character shift slowly under the radar without the other players noticing before it is too late.

It would work awesomely in a book or a movie.

The problem is, I have seen tons of these attempts as GM and most often they fail. The typical reason for this failure is that not only did the other players not notice, they noticed none of it. When (If ever, some players sit on their characters secrets all campaign and they never gets revealed) the secret finally gets revealed, the result might well be "Huh, what? Strange." rather than the desired effect.

My advice would be to consider what you want to get out of your characters development. Do you want to tell a story? Do you want to surprise the other players? Do you want to get a certain emotional reaction?

Whatever you wish to accomplish, the route to get it is probably not for you to have certain internal experiences (in your mind when you roleplay) but rather for your fellow players to have certain experiences. Focus on those. Do the entire transition in an obvious way. Make the starting state believable, show and tell (the other players do not know what your character feel unless you tell them or show them) every transitional event that shapes your character.

This way, when the finale comes, you will know that the other players are on board and pays attention.

This is theater. You don't have to tell them the script in advance (you should not), but make sure every step of the way hits the mark in an obvious way.

On telling the GM

You should definitely tell your GM about your plans. At least as a general outline. There are three good reasons for this:

  • The GM can help you. Make sure opportunities for certain scenes happen, leave clues to the others that do not appear to come from you, etc.
  • The GM probably has plans of his own. Give him a chance to bind your story to his, otherwise you might well ruin all his carefully prepared campaign-work. In concocting a story like you are, you are in part doing GM-work. As such you should make sure to work together.
  • The GM does things like this all the time. Villains with a secret plan is not very interesting if they take their super secret plan to their grave. Since the GM probably already have encountered this issue, he might have great tips to give you.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I probably couldn't pry anything new from my GM - aside from me, all our collective GM experience is through a per-campaign rotation with each other. I've taught them most of what they know about the exclusive hurdles of a GM over other writers. \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Nov 28 '16 at 1:09
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Is there a reason you are hiding your intentions from the GM? They may be able to help you carry out your plans with even greater subtly, such as having private sessions with you or passing notes when you want your character arc to grow increasingly more brutal.

If you're intent on not involving the GM, I'd just take notes every session and make notes of big events that influence your character.

Maybe he crit and it gave him such a visceral feeling of euphoria that he slowly becomes addicted to it. You could maybe measure this with him slowly becoming more and more blood thirsty as the narrative progresses.

Ultimately, it will be up to you to roleplay this convincingly to get the full effect, GM intervention or not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The goal is sowing the seeds and tending the crops silently, until the finished salad is on the table irrefutably, in a sense. I want to keep the GM out so he doesn't accidentally tip my hand. And the crack that sets this whole thing off won't be some lucky hit, but the first body to hit the ground. \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Nov 27 '16 at 6:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Depending on how slow you want the dissent to go, I would just slowly start having the character become more barbaric roleplay wise. The best way to pull this off would be to keep a body count tracker, and to adjust your portrayal of them the more he gave into their new vice. \$\endgroup\$ – user32584 Nov 27 '16 at 10:11
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Make sure you GM is ok with the retraining rules, if they are then between periods take the retraining. Make sure to space this out in real time, possibly as an excuses as to why you are not present at a session.

Then ever so slowly start changing the options of your character. When you level up those are the things that are easiest to "hide" from others. This generally means trying to avoid talking about your character for the whole game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Retraining doesn't seem appealing - no urchin in their right mind would ever throw away skills useful for cons, pickpocketing, or getting out of a jam. Granted, this character won't exactly be in said right mind, but still. Besides, spending several days and a king's ransom isn't exactly under the radar, or even really justifiable unless the build is utterly broken. \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Nov 27 '16 at 5:36
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Don't do that without telling your GM.

Why? Because it has all the reasons in the world not to work. The GM has a story to tell, and this story is not necessarily about your character going crazy. Maybe he can fit a place for it, but for that he has to know it. Otherwise there won't be space for it to be correctly covered.

An other point to consider is: what if no particular reason occurs for the character to go crazy ? Will you make your character act in this direction ? It sounds silly as it's a player goal, not a PC one. The GM, if he knows about your plans, may make this happen in a more realistic and believable way.

As a more subjective point of view I don't find particularly fun the fact one of my teammate is suddenly crazy and I didn't see it coming. Maybe it is different around your table, though. Anyway you should be sure it is fun for the other players before doing something like that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Look. I have explained that we are a group of writers, and as such, we roleplay mostly for the character chemistry and seeing how we would think they react to the environment. These campaigns are ran with personal storytelling not only in mind, but as a focus. Further, I do have a reason for the rogue going crazy - he hasn't killed until he joined with the party, and the rush of doing so consumes him. Finally, while I ultimately won't outright say "hey guys i'm crazy now hurr" until the character snaps, I will be dropping incredibly heavy hints. \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Nov 30 '16 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems your GM actually doesn't have a GM role. Anyway, you are anticipating the fact killing people will have this very effect on your character, so if no killing happens, what will you do ? Finally, for experience I can tell most of the players don't get these kind of hints. Maybe your friends are more perceptive than most, but if it is not the case you are doing this for nothing. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Nov 30 '16 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't answer the question, it just tells the OP not to do it. The player has clarified that his group is okay with these types of things and expects they will enjoy the character progression. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Nov 30 '16 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Anne Aunyme A good GM has three jobs: Making sure the rules are followed to an extent, making the world in which the characters interact, and accommodating the other players. You seem to imply that a GM's role includes full control of the entire plot (they do - to an extent, but..). If so, I do feel sorry for you; your sessions must be dreadfully boring with all that railroading. \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Dec 1 '16 at 3:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ My point is "X is how we have fun, now either share some of your rich experiences with roleplaying to help me achieve it instead of telling me what my friends and I find fun, dammit." \$\endgroup\$ – Papayaman1000 Dec 5 '16 at 11:18

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