by Sean Larson
A Rogue's Life
When was the last time you attended a live-action role playing event and were able to see a convincing rogue character? Better yet, when was the last time you saw a rogue character portrayed by an actual player, and not part of the staff running the event?
This is partly due to the image of the rogue, and partly due to unfamiliarity within many players as to how to portray this type of persona. While both are understandable concerns, getting beyond them can make the playing experience more enjoyable for anyone that interacts with the new character.
First off, while the rogue is generally viewed as being synonymous with thief, this isn’t the complete picture. A rogue is more specifically a character that can be dashing while being a bastard, and charming while stabbing someone in the back. Examples abound throughout literature and film, and some of the greatest anti-heroes of all time are best classified as rogues. By altering the definition of rogue away from the classic idea, it broadens the horizons of what a roguish character can do, and, even better, what they can get away with.
On to the problem of how to portray such a character. The first hurdle to get around is a misconception that only naturally charming people can possibly pull of such a character convincingly. This is completely untrue. For the same reason that you don’t need to be able to know how to use a sword to portray a swashbuckling character in a LARP, you don’t need to be dashing and debonair to present a rogue to your events. After all, the character isn’t you.
Above all else, a successful rogue character is all about confidence. To paraphrase a saying, “when the going gets tough, the rogue digs in deeper.” By exuding confidence within the persona, the rogue is able to get away with far more than other characters could. Where many characters in a similar situation might face punishment and degradation, the rogue can come out of a situation shining brighter than they did entering it, simply due to their confident approach to the situation.
Secondly, a rogue character must be able to veil much of what they say in half-truths. While not outright lying, a half-truth can allow the character to verbally sidestep a situation that may not have been able to be avoided by a less savvy character. When it comes time for the rogue character to speak the full truth, odds are that they will not be believed by the majority, but the ones that do are usable later as witnesses to prove what was said.
Another thing to keep in mind while portraying a rogue character is that it really is all about them. They are manipulating their surroundings to better their own environment. A rogue character will be able to place themselves into a position of power before others realize that they’ve gotten there. The clever rogue will have done so without anyone realizing that they have the power, as they manipulate their chosen puppet to fulfill their desires.
The next key to a successful rogue character is that, to an extent, they should be feared. Not feared so much that other players will go out of their way to eliminate the character before it has run its course, but feared enough that the rogue won’t be used as an example when something goes wrong. Also, an appropriate level of fear that others feel towards the character will allow it to get away with more of the manipulation that is necessary to further their own goals.
Finally, a rogue should never be without options. They should have a failsafe planned for almost every situation, and enough backup plans to keep their head about them, even in the midst of impending doom. After all, how can anyone ever talk about the really cool rogue character that they all enjoyed interacting with if it doesn’t live long enough within the event to get any serious interaction? If it helps you, keep a notebook handy listing the different ways to escape from situations the character has at its disposal, and review them as necessary.
Hopefully, this will help bring the character of the rogue out of the shadows it is typically relegated to, and allow it to step forward into the light all the other characters share. If done successfully, you could find yourself having a long-lasting character on your hands, a character that people love and hate to deal with at the same time. At the very least, it will allow you to step outside of a preconceived notion as to what the rogue is, and provide a more fully-rounded role playing experience for everyone involved.
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