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What Lurks in the Shadows – A Guide to Intrigue and Villainy

Hey there, this is essentially a compilation of my interpretations of a lot of what goes into being a villain in the midst of a society that hates you. While it was built with Stormwind and the surrounding Kingdom in mind a lot of it can be carried over to almost anything. Naturally not everyone will agree with what I believe is the image of different classes, and there are of course exceptions to every rule. More importantly this guide is meant to inspire everyone except Maulbane to give intrigue RP a shot.

There are few character archetypes more dangerous to play than those who are hidden amongst the rest of society. Outcasts and traitors, you are but words away from death, always running, always hiding. Fear is at the core of your being, though you won't always show it, but it is the fear of your death that keeps you alive. You adopt a false life and live with false friends all so that you can remain a part of the society you have grown to despise, why? Because they hate what you do, they despise you want, they abhor what you are. Yet despite these obstacles you continue down your path of darkness, you are trapped by it, enthralled by the thought of the knowledge that is so close to you. In truth after a while you become a prisoner to that knowledge, and then it is too late to turn back, too late to be redeemed. The darkness is a fickle thing, and it does not give up what it claims.

Of course you are not without your own weapons, you still have protection, a means to defend yourself from those who would seek to bring you to false justice, but these weapons are not swords or spells. A man cannot attack those whom would threaten them in their own enemies' land. Rather, your weapons are your words and the fact that you are anonymous, as long as your secret is yours you may catch your enemies off guard, but fail this, and you are doomed. One must beware who learns their secret for it is a tool that can be used to coerce you, and even destroy you. Death is a fickle thing, and he does not forgive those who make mistakes.

So, do you want to know how to walk in the shadows? I will guide you but there is a price for knowledge and it will have to be paid.

The Secret
It is the most valuable thing you possess should you wish to blend in with the rest of the fools in town, as long as you can fool them you will be safe. As one of the masses their warriors who would seek to slay you will fight to protect you, and there is little more satisfying than this. We have a saying on this path. An enemy turned is as killing two birds with one stone, you gain and your foes lose. I can think of no better bargain, but I can assume you already realized this.

Unfortunately your secret is a double edged sword. Should it ever be found out by the wrong sort of people, then you will lose both your power and your life. Thus one can conclude that the secret should never be told, but you already know that this is impossible. For one of our kind to operate alone is to be vulnerable. There is strength in numbers, and with your fellows, you will walk farther into the darkness than ever before. So, the question is then how do I know whom to reveal my secret too, and when? Do not underestimate the ruthlessness of your own kin. Show weakness and they will turn on you, or swallow you up and spit you out once your usefulness has been spent. You must show them you are not a fool for them to respect you, for without their respect, no, their fear; they will surely turn upon you.
And so the game of probing begins as two followers of the darkness engage in a dance of sorts, a dance of words that will result in a mutual victory, or the death of the loser. It is important to not reveal your true self until you can be certain of your own protection. You must either be able to coerce your opponent, be indispensible to their cause, or woo them to your side. In any case, a smart man will have prepared some sort of contingency plan should they make a mistake, but you already knew that, didn't you? The optimum way to reveal your secret is to present a piece of information that while meaningful to an intended recipient is either trivial or nonsensical to anyone else, thus assuring that only the enlightened will understand your intent, and so you are one step away from defeat.

Always remember, your secret is the most important thing you possess. Do not forget that, and do not give its' power away lightly.

Second only to your secret your most powerful weapon is your words. Any man can wear a suit of armour and be immune to the lash of a blade, just as any man can buy scrolls that ward off malignant spells, but it is another thing to protect against words. You cannot buy protection against them, and indeed one can never be sure when they are being assaulted by words, but words have the capacity to change the world, never forget that. It is much harder to be caught when using words than it is were you to stab someone with a sword, I'm sure by now you have realized that your spells are pathetic weapons when compared with the versatility and strength of the art of persuasion. Any man can learn to cast a spell, but words are an art, and when performed correctly, words can turn friend against friend, and country against country, and all while you are protected from harm. It is very likely that the bulk of your ambitions will be fulfilled with the use of words, and it is rare that violence will be employed to solve your problems until the final stages where either you are poised to succeed or on the brink of failure. Careful wordplay will gain you alliances, and sow the seeds of distrust within your enemy organizations.

Although you must be careful with this, do not be afraid to go back on your promises should things change, nor should you be afraid of actually aligning with your enemies. It has been said that one should keep their friends close and their enemies closer. This is most definitely true. If possible always attempt to woo over your foes as it is much easier to slip a blade into their back if they are not prepared for it. Consequently it is also convenient to be able to throw away your pride and accept a defeat. A man who runs away today lives to fight tomorrow, you're worth very little to most people dead. Be aware of your options when bantering with your opponents. The careful slip of inaccurate information can lead them on a completely wrong path or better yet have them perfectly placed for an ambush. Bluffing is also a useful tactic provided you are convincing enough and don't think too big. They will be less inclined to attack you should they believe you have one of them hostage, or that something terrible will happen if you are slain. Even if they don't believe it perhaps they will be honour bound to at least investigate these claims, which will buy you more time. Feigning betrayal of your comrades is also a useful tactic, as it allows you to turn on your foes when they expect you to be fighting for them. But as always bide your time and do not act foolishly. Carefully consider every word you say before you say it, that is the key to survival.

If you can win a battle with words, then you truly have the right to call yourself one who walks the path of the shadows.

You are an actor, the world is your stage and I'll show you why. Throughout your life you have made choices, choices to follow the shadows, and those choices have lead you to become a very unique person, a person that is hated by society, so what do you do? You become someone else, someone accepted, perhaps even revered by those around you. Some of us become the bakers, the librarians, the schoolteachers, the merchants, every job, every life, you can be it, in fact you must be it in order to survive. Even we who are so cloaked in darkness need food, a roof over our heads, and so we do what we were good at before we took on our secrets and that is why we are the actors of the world.

Of course there are other reasons that we do what we do. Sometimes being a part of the common masses is useful. Gossip can be valuable, and as can contacts. Those who lead us can make use of our false lives. The baker whom provides a place to employ poisons, the librarian who has access to records of the blacklisted books, the schoolteacher who has access to the most influential hostages, and the merchants whose contacts work tirelessly to uncover artefacts that the shadows deem valued. As you can see, living a double life can prove quite valuable.

But the other and perhaps more important aspect of being an actor is that you can build for yourself an alibi, a smokescreen of sorts. Who would dare accuse the kindly old lady who works in the bakery and gives bread to the children every Friday of secretly employing the dark arts. Similarly the kindly schoolteacher could never be taken for a ruthless assassin. We employ these masks to draw attention away from our darker activities. These opinions that others create of us can be a more effective shield than many would give credit too.

“All problems can be solved with the careful application of violence”

While this is not entirely true it does explain the concept quite well. You see the issue with being on the path of the shadow is that no one can know you're actually on it. When a warrior thinks of violence, he would picture a blade cleaving his enemies in half. We do not have that luxury; instead think of violence as a scalpel, a tool, not a weapon, that can be used to clear the path for your work. It is important that when violence is employed it is done so properly. If your enemy knows who attacked them then they have a target for their revenge, and that is unacceptable. Instead it is much more convenient to make use of pawns when it comes to combat, preferably pawns that cannot be linked to you or are easily disposable. This creates a sort of safety net effect, protecting us from the gaze of so-called justice. In the rare cases that you must commit yourself to a battle, then the only advice I can offer up is that if you're going to wound someone, ensure they are wounded beyond the ability to effectively retaliate, as little is more vengeful than a man whose pride is hurt.

The true master of this tool is the one who carefully employs trickery and deceit for fooling their victims into still calling them friend even while they are being attacked. This is usually done through the use of third party mercenaries; these warriors can take the blame for the attack while you merely act too slow or end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps best of all is the fact that they are far more disposable than your usual henchmen. It is good to consider also that disposable does not necessarily mean have them killed, but rather dropping communications is also sufficient, or perhaps taking on a new guise or faking your own death. Any ways in which you are no longer associated with your disposable minions is effective, but use your discretion when dealing with this as it is a case by case matter.

Threats of violence are equally valid options, particularly when applied to someone the true target loves deeply. Many men can take pain, but few can stand to watch their loved ones suffer under the spiteful lash of a whip or the agonizing pain of the flame and the stake. If you want a man to talk, your best target is his woman, failing that any old family member will do, or a guild mate, whatever you can manage to get your hands on.

Hostages make excellent bargaining chips, which is why it is not always wise to slay your opponents. There are many ways to take a hostage, and not all of them necessarily revolve around you physically holding the target. Rather, poison is my preferred method of control. The theory is quite simple you see. Toxins can be used to put a collar on their victim. Once infected it may take many days before the subject dies, and then it is usually a simple matter to keep a cure as bait to bend them to your will. Mind you, a wise man does not carry the cure on them and makes that fact clear to their hostage, as it deters them from lashing out. This method can be used to bend a man to your will, but always remember there are limits and there is a point in which the victim will not value their life over what you ask. Push this line and your plans will backfire.

Sometimes the more viable option then is to physically capture your hostage. While this means they will not be able to perform tasks for you, it does ensure that your captive does not escape, and allows for the extraction of information through torture. It is advisable to consider when taking hostages if you plan to let them live or not, as it will effect what you say and do around them. They have eyes and ears and will betray you once they are released, always remember this. Unfortunately you cannot simply go about slaying hostages when you are finished with them, as that ruins your credibility and lowers the bargaining power a hostage holds. No one is going to act against their hearts for a corpse.

Social Classes
Your social class plays a very important role in your position within the society structure of the shadows. Being a part of different classes means that you will have access to resources that would normally not be available to some people. Perhaps it is fitting that I start at the bottom rung of society.

If you are poor then sadly there is little chance that you will be in a leading position with the rest of your peers. This is simply due to the fact that you are unlikely to possess the amount of wealth and connections it takes to fund such operations. Do not despair though, there is a place for you and should you work long and hard enough your superiors may take notice. It is not unheard of for loyal servants to be elevated not only in knowledge of the shadows, but in social status as well. Thus being good at what you do is your key to advancement. There is however one advantage to being poor, you are anonymous. It is a simple task for you to change faces and assume a new personality as your work demands. Likewise it is easy for you to disappear, leaving no track record. Never forget that the poor are numerous, and they are the eyes and the ears of the streets. This knowledge can be used to various ends, and you would do well to exploit it as it is one of the few resources you have.

There is then the middle class with a less defined role. It is very likely you will start out as a servant, however the leaders are more inclined to allow you to climb in status, confident that you do need them, and thus they will be unlikely to turn on you. This mentality offers you a bit of protection that is convenient. It is also likely that you have a proper job and a good screen to rely upon for protection. Likewise you will have all the benefits that go along with whatever your chosen profession entails, and a good leader will be able to utilize these skills, making you all the more invaluable.

The high class generally represents the leaders of most organizations because they have access to the massive wealth it requires to operate such things. Equally true they have the connections within the workings of the law that enable their organizations to get by unnoticed. However despite this power they are also the most likely to be betrayed by their minions, even more so by members of their class, which is why members of the high class rarely trust each other, even though they will put on a good show of it. Living the high class is a bit like a game where the stakes is your life and the reward is power. Play your cards right and you will do well. It pays to have loyal servants, as they will help you in your goals as long as you provide for them, thus give pause to the thought of making them all disposable, it can leave you at a disadvantage. Also, remember to carry a healthy amount of paranoia as it will protect you, though not so much that you would be driven insane.

Some refer to them as the tainted, others call them slaves to their art, both of these are true and more. Warlocks are the true result of filth and corruption. At their core they are rotten, hateful, fickle beings more prone to following their emotions than others, and this makes them less stable than many of their shadowy counterparts. If you are a warlock of the Alliance there is a good chance you reside in the southern regions near Stormwind for that is where the Warlock Coven resides, the center for all fel research in Alliance lands, and the largest repository of blacklisted texts. It is here that the warlock societies convene and discuss their internal politics and set agendas for their agents, this is where you love to be, in the thick of it where emotions reign supreme and charisma is valued more than strength. Here you can continue your research in the safety of the Coven's walls and under the protection of the corrupted nobles that would rather fulfill their greed than stand for what is just. In any case, they say all roads lead to the Coven, and I believe this is true.

Your life could have followed many paths. Perhaps you were once a noble who stumbled upon illicit texts that piqued your interest? Or maybe a student of the academy who simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the Coven has a habit of scouting recruits from the Academy. There is of course the chance that you did not come from the region at all but instead travelled far on rumours alone hoping to find your salvation in the Coven's loving embrace. No matter the reason, somehow you found yourself with forbidden knowledge at your disposal and once the seeds have been planted they cannot be reversed. For you, emotions hold as much value as reason, and for that you can be dangerous to both yourself and your foes. From cold and calculating to rash and impulsive, one never knows where a warlock's heart truly lies.

You are also an addict, that much is true. Addicted to the art that you were once told was evil, above all you cannot resist expanding your knowledge, it is what drives you whether you acknowledge it or not. A warlock will ultimately always choose the path that leads towards greater knowledge, and the farther one falls down the path, the more risks they will take to obtain their drug. This is the bane of many warlocks, driven to chase knowledge that was never meant to be theirs and slain due to their foolishness. A true master will acknowledge this weakness and work around it, for that is why he is the master, and has succeeded where his lesser have failed.

Warlock society is based much around community. Through the sharing of knowledge they advance together while secretly plotting to oust their fellows. Do not mistake them for cannibals though; they know when it is time to backstab and when it is time to stand. If an outside influence forces them they will unite to crush the assault, for their colleagues death at the hands of enemies is worthless if the knowledge cannot be recovered. Together the warlocks root out weakness by praying upon each other, for that is their nature, vampires sated by knowledge who live to feel the fel coarse through their veins. Knowledge is passed on in many ways, though usually it is by master to student originally in exchange for loyal ally against enemy warlocks. As a young member progresses he may gain his own following and move to books in search of knowledge, but a warlock will rarely turn upon his former master. In this way at least some measure of safety can be assured, even warlocks cannot live with a blade constantly at their throat. Being a warlock is no easy task, and only the strongest will survive. It is the epitome of Social Darwinism.

Necromancy, some would say it is more damning than fel, regardless there is a word for your kind, and it is sociopath. At your core all necromancers progress through the stages of sociopathic behaviour. As your strength in the art grows your price is your humanity. Never again will emotions plague your thoughts, you will not allow yourself to be distracted by such things, rather you simply are no longer capable of it. This brings up an interesting point, what is it you want? Many human goals are set by their emotions, but not you. So what does that leave you with? Simple, your goal is to win.

No matter what you do and what you wish to accomplish, your goal will always be to win. You do not care who you hurt because you simply do not feel the pain a typical subject would. Unable to love and unable to care, it becomes a simple task to deal with family and friends, all the better in your line of work. It is almost impossible for a man with a conscience to comprehend what life without it would be like, if it can be called life. This is not to say you cannot feign emotion. Acting is what you're good at. Boredom and the lack of interpersonal relationships have given you the time it takes to plan, and to ponder. Ultimately, it is inhuman to be so cold.

That is what you will become as you advance, inhuman. It starts off gradually but as your body becomes a host for death himself you lose what last grips you had on your conscience. Only the deepest of acts of love and compassion can stir your heart for it has long frozen over. Unlike the warlocks, you are stable, and thus perfectly placed to lead your fellows. You are a manipulator after all, simply because it passes the time.

You would never admit it, but it was fear that drove you to your art. Why is it that humanity puts up with the suffering that is daily life? Why do we toil so hard for uncaring masters? It is the fear of what is beyond life that keeps us here, and for you, your goal is to escape that fate. Your goal is to cheat death himself of your life, not an easy task but if you master your art you will master death, and then you may begin paying him back with the souls you reap in his name. Like your warlock brothers there is a chance you are part of the Coven, but a minority at best. As a follower of death you tend to stick to yourself, not that you cannot deal with people, but rather you prefer skeletons to the living and the constant mockery of warm flesh and heartbeat. If you live near Stormwind then Duskwood is likely your true home, a land where you cannot walk without feeling the presence of some sort of corpse. It is the ideal land for honing your skills to perfection, and with so many subjects living nearby it is a simple task to test your creations. You could not have asked for a more perfect location.

Unlike most spellcasters your art is more centralized upon being passed down by teachers than it is books. Though there are many books on the subject they fail to properly elaborate on the more complex and subtle rituals and positioning required to enact a proper animation. This is why many necromancers are found in pairs at the least. It is rare for a school devoted to the art to manifest, although it is not unheard of. Scholomance is an example of such a place, and on a lesser note the Coven. Loyalty to your master is absolute, for what would you do without him? Betray him and his knowledge will be lost to you, leaving you alone and helpless, unable to advance down the road you cannot turn back from. Typically you were a mage before your fascination with death took hold of you. Many are at first abhorred by the thought of the living dead, but over time you come to appreciate the escape they offer. This is why you turned to necromancy over the lure of fel magic. Fel offers you the path to power, but necromancy offers you the salvation of immortality, ultimately though the warlocks are your allies in society, they will protect you, provided you do not come off as weak. Even the strongest of us need allies.

Perhaps one of the more unique members of the intrigue fellowship, rogues are the blades and the spies of the underworld. More often than not the ringleaders of those who walk in the shadows will dispatch their favoured rogues as assassins to root out competition or witnesses; however it is more common to see them employed as spies. Artisans of stealth and guile, while the rogue has no arcane affinity to rely on his skills make him more than a match for an unsuspecting opponent. Generally speaking your past is less eccentric than your counterparts. The blade is a respectable art after all, and can be studied in the open. But the wise rogue practices in secret regardless, for his strength lies in his cover. Perhaps you are the town baker who makes bread. This is the image you want to project for yourself so you must play a kind hearted man not interested in violence. The more people believe your act, the safer you are, so don't do a half ass job at it.

Under the table you likely work for some other organization, it makes little sense for you to lead your own group given your skills but in the rare cases you will head up teams of your fellows. Night is almost always when you become active and thus sleep is a rare luxury for you and at any point in the day should you spot a chance for a nap you would do well to take it. Your skills lead you into many dangerous positions that could be your end. Only by focusing on your goals above all else are you able to pull off these seemingly impossible tasks. No matter how you are told to have your skills employed it is rare that you will take action in a manner that threatens your own life. More likely you will abandon your cause should a better offer arrive, and this is why many of your employers will not give you their trust. However there are a few odd cases where rogues are found to be completely loyal to their cause. These men are highly valued, and as such they tend to receive a more steady supply of work, albeit more dangerous as well.

Typically you are an introvert, meaning that you are comfortable when just working alone. Many times life's lessons have shown you that the only person you can truly count on is yourself, and this is evident in your own personal philosophy. Sometimes though there are other motives for your dark inclinations. Sometimes you have a family to feed, and your work is the only source of real income available. Do not be ashamed of this, but many employers would abuse you if they figured this out, so it is best to keep silent. Other times you will be coerced into work, held like a cat would grasp a mouse. Merely remember that in these cases if you're not sure you can escape it's best to shut your eyes and ears, the less you know, the more likely it is you're going to escape with your life. Ultimately, if you are good at your work most employers will take measures to protect you as a good tool is invaluable. Look for these opportunities as they mean steady work and reduce the likelihood of getting yourself killed off.

My last bit of advice to you is that if you have any principals you had best lose them. Such things can only spell danger to yourself in this line of work.
Loved it. Excellent guide, and you've convinced me to roll a more subtle villain. As if I needed any more pushing. . . .
Outstanding Vrahn. /clap
You get no praise! You get exterminated for sharing our secrets! /backstab

(Nice guide, Vrahn. :D)
Hehe, thanks for the positive reviews guys. XD
If I ever roll an evil character, I'll be sure to check up on this guide for tips.

Great guide!
Excellent Post and very detailed :D


Awesome guide!
Even though I mostly play evil characters, I'm for sure going to make something... more manipulative.
Entertaining to read at the very least. Maybe one day I'll be able to make proper use of it. Thanks for writing it.