The Psychology of a Rebellion



Renegades - every Wraith player knows who they are and what they are. But far too often, a player just ups and claims "This character hooked up with some Renegades and has been running with them for a while." Of course, in a mixed-faction game, that's a perfectly acceptable answer. But (you were waiting for that, weren't you?), in either an all-Renegade game, or one where more than one PC is a renegade, there is one question that is just begging to be asked: Why?

Short, succinct, and yet so many players have to take time after making their characters to come up with something. Hopefully, with this article, you'll be able to come up with a good reason for your Renegades to be just that: Renegades.

So why would a character rebel? There are several reasons which can be loosely worked into groups.

Perhaps the simplest is the stereotypical Renegade, a mercenary who has a good time kicking ass and taking names. Sure, it might not seem developed, but there are a few good characters that could come of this. So ask yourself, as a player, 'why does my character want to be like this?' Did his parents treat him badly? Was he bullied in school but nobody would believe him, leading to a distrust of authority figures? Or was he the bully, wanting to have power over those (physically) weaker than him?

This kind of renegade is best described as a hatred of authority. The character is rebelling against the Hierarchy either because they don't want people having any authority over them, so they beat the ever-loving crap out of anyone that would; or they believe that they should be the only authority. Think about why the character wants to push people around and smash their heads in. What in the character's history makes them want to do this? Spend a few minutes thinking about this, and hopefully that passion of "Bring down the Hierarchy" can make a lot more sense.

Of course, there will be those (usually new) players, who will just say 'He's rebelling because he hates the Hierarchy'. Again, why? Flesh out these reasons. Maybe he was slated for the Forges, or he knew the local Anacreon. Hell, maybe he was the one responsible for the death of the local Anacreon and is willing to Harrow anyone that would implicate him. There are a thousand reasons for this kind of Renegade to be how he is, and if you can't think of one, then go further back into the history of the character.

The second kind of Renegade is the one with philosophical differences with the Hierarchy. Usually, such a character is the opposite of the one above. She may even support much of what the Hierarchy does, but disagrees with others. The classic two are Soulforging and Slavery. Many Wraiths of this kind are against Soulforging because of what it is. Melting another Wraith's soul down into raw plasm and reshaping it raises lots of questions, and if the character can't justify those reasons to herself that is a good start. Maybe the character was a philosopher in life. Or as another angle, what if she was one of the people performing the death penalty on convicts? Having seen what death is really like, could she honestly bring herself to condone Soulforging, which can be seen as just another kind of capital punishment?

Slavery is another touchy issue. The repentant plantation owner and the ex-slave are always good concepts for philosophical rebellion. The plantation owner might like the idea of the Hierarchy, but since he knows what he did to his slaves was wrong, can he justify the Stygian attitude towards slavery? If not, then sign him up for the Renegades.

Of course, there are other angles to take. Thinking anarchists, philosophy students and anyone on a debate team are all good Renegades. Of course, they may go on to be the mercenaries and the bullies themselves. The one thing that still needs to be asked is 'Why are you rebelling?' Fortunately, for the thinkers, it is usually an easier question to answer.

This, of course, outlines the two ends of the spectrum. Most Renegades fall somewhere in between. The freedom fighter might have worked out precisely why he hates Stygian rule, and be there in the streets, throwing a Relic Molotov. The best way to determine this is to get right into the character's head. Once you've come up with a concept, be rigourous. Sure, you might have the character's Fetters and Passions listed, but go in deeper than that. Think about what is causing that little spark inside that says "I don't want to be a part of the machine".

What was the character's childhood like? Schooling? What about his first love? All of these can reveal reasons not to go along with the System. Then think about his emergence into the Underworld. This can be during or after the Prelude. Once you've got deep into the head of the character, try basing your responses on things out of his past. Also, try adding bits to the character's history to give reasons for why he did what he did. This will give you an even better idea of what's inside your character's head. While I would advise this for any character, it's practically essential for a Renegade.

Another complication thrown into the already volatile mixture of a character's thoughts is the Shadow. I'm not going to go into too much depth (see last month's article, "Being a Better Shadow" for more), but think of the many ways that said Shadow could make the Wraith seek eventual Oblivion. Sure, there's the classic more-Renegade-than-thou, but even that can work. A touch of Shadow Life, and the character's in for a very interesting time indeed. Whether the character performs daring raids on Hierarchy bases while under his Shadow's control, and then awakens to see his comrades giving him respect he doesn't feel he deserves ("But I never... these guys are making me out to be more than I am..."), or tries to subvert the group's stated mission to something the character would never go along with (a group trying to abolish slavery in the local Necropolis finds itself trying to take over the Necropolis), the Shadow can accrue a fair bit of Angst rather easily.

A good angle to take for the Shadow of a Renegade (particularly one with the Parent archetype) would be to go against the Renegades, either selling them out to a local Legionnaire patrol or by having the character sign up for the Legions in a sudden burst of 'patriotic fever'. Just imagine the look on the psyche's face when he realises that the bunch of 'pro-hierarchy scum' he's just clapped in chains were his old Circlemates. Of course, such an angle isn't for every game, and indeed is only suitable for those with powerful Shadows with the right Thorns (Trick of the Light, Freudian Slip and Shadow Life are perfect for this), it can make a fitting end to a story, when the character's Shadow eases off and the character realises what he has done. Angst up the wazoo.

As a Storyteller running a Renegade game, look through the characters, and ask them about their Circle's motives. Then decide how you're going to play it. Obviously, for a Renegade game to have much of a thrill to it, you have to make sure that the Hierarchy presence is well fleshed out. Are the Legionnaires sadistic bullies (*coughGrimLegionchoke*) that are hunting the characters and putting on far more of a squeeze than they have to, or are they really the 'good guys' that the Circle refuses to see the virtues of?

I've touched on a fair few points, many of which may be obvious, and some of which you will no doubt think are crap. Just remember the key to creating a Renegade: What's wrong with the Establishment, and how are you going to fix it? Once you know that, you should know your Renegade a lot better.