I can’t imagine that anyone is at all interested in my not-so-original D&D character creations, especially when they only exist in an ancient video game hardly anyone plays anymore, but I do enjoy writing about them, so there’s that. This time around my inspiration comes from Petyr Baelish, a character from HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones who is also known as “Littlefinger”. I haven’t really read far enough into George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels to claim them as much of an influence, or to know if the character from the books differs significantly from Aidan Gillen‘s portrayal of him on the show, but that hardly matters because I wasn’t aiming to re-create the character so much as come up with a new one loosely based on him. With that in mind, I named him Dedo Menique, which is Spanish for “little finger” (except that due to the disallowance of special characters in the character name field it’s missing a tilde, but that hardly matters either since the Spanish language itself doesn’t exist in Faerûn, which is the setting of the Neverwinter Nights base game in which our boy happens to currently reside).
For some time now I’ve wanted to make a Rogue PC that was a little less typical of the ones I usually play, and had previously experimented with several different types but they never really held my interest long enough to get very far in the game (incidentally, for those of you who weren’t aware, I seem to be addicted to creating new PCs for the purposes of re-playing the first chapter of the NWN default campaign, with the unfortunate result that I’ve never once completed the second chapter). Anyway, I guess you could say that the idea has been simmering in my brain for a while, even though I haven’t recently given it any conscious thought. At least, not until the sudden inspiration to use Littlefinger as a template came to me unbidden a couple days ago seemingly without any external prompting, when out of the blue I had the thought that it would be fun to play someone who was a complete rotter and had only taken on Aribeth’s quest for his own gain, and Petyr Baelish immediately sprang to mind. His alignment would be Neutral Evil, but he’d have a high Charisma as well as Dexterity and Intelligence, relying more on charm, persuasion, cunning schemes, and the use of magical items than skill in combat.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
The first thing I set out doing, before I even started up the game, was to create a custom portrait using the one from the Game of Thrones Wiki, but due to failing eyesight I messed it up in Photoshop just slightly enough not to notice until I’d installed it, ran the game, and entered character creation that there was a thin white line at the bottom of the portrait where there absolutely should not be one, so I was about to abort character creation and fix it when I noticed that I had already installed a custom portrait as part of a pack I’d downloaded which was apparently based on a similar image of Petyr Baelish, only this version was even better because it more resembled a painting and the subject looked younger (as would befit a character just beginning their adventuring career), and also less blatantly like a character stolen directly from a show which, I have to admit, I no longer have the fondest of feelings for.
As is often the case when I create a PC solely for the fun of roleplaying them rather than any notion of “beating the game”, I didn’t follow all of the expert advice out there (such as is laid out in this excellent guide to playing a rogue in NWN) to optimise my character. Instead I made him physically weaker and slightly more frail than is usually recommended for a rogue in order to increase his Intelligence and Wisdom, since I consider cunning to be a combination of these. A higher INT also means more skill points as well as access to higher levels of Wizard spells once I multiclass him into a Necromancer. Also, with that future in mind I made him a follower of Vecna. Perhaps his ultimate goal is to become a lich himself, but for now he just hungers for power, and as the saying goes, “knowledge is power.” And since in this AU he doesn’t have a Cersei to disabuse him of that notion, he will continue to live by it.
Since Dedo Menique is a commoner with pretensions to nobility, much like Petyr Baelish himself, I chose the rapier as his favoured melee weapon (the light crossbow would become the main instrument of his ranged attacks), because of its in-game description as “a light, thrusting sword popular among nobles and swashbucklers”. This will eventually be upgraded to the Namarra rapier (Neversleep) which is a nice little magical weapon that has a chance to daze an enemy on a successful hit. I also chose to have him go without armour, relying instead upon his high dexterity and the use of magical items such as the Amulet of Natural Armour to avoid getting hit, as well as feats such as Dodge and Mobility. For his considerable wardrobe I selected the Rogue’s Tunic, Assassin’s Garb, Necromancer’s Robe, Noble Outfit, Noble’s Tunic, and Noble Guardsman Tunic. He has since also acquired on his own quite by chance a Robe of Cold Resistance followed by a Robe of Fire Resistance, which I thought was interesting given that I based him on a character from A Song of Ice and Fire.
For Dedo’s in-game voice I chose the only suitable option available to me in my current bare-bones base game from ancient CD installation, the one named “Mature Swashbuckler“. It doesn’t exactly fit Littlefinger’s character, who as soft-spoken as he is in the series might have been better represented by the voiceset named “Stealth Specialist” which I no longer have access to, but in the end it just serves to differentiate my character from the original inspiration so I’ve come to embrace it. Besides, the Stealth Specialist is a bit too American-sounding, and there’s just something about the Mature Swashbuckler’s occasional outburst of “Haha, that’s it for you! Take that!” which seems very apropos for this sort of rogue, even if he sounds a bit more jovial than I’d like.
CHAOS IS A LADDER
Though Dedo is not a lawful character, he is currently working with the forces of law and order, and would much rather do so than become a known outlaw, as a chaotic character might, because that will get him nowhere in life–or at least, nowhere that he wants to be. Now, that’s not to say he’s averse to engaging in criminal activity, however. After all, the real Littlefinger was a crimelord in addition to being Master of Coin, a pimp and owner of a string of brothels. And to quote another of Littlefinger’s sayings, “chaos is a ladder.” As it happens, the city of Neverwinter’s current misfortune–the chaos brought on by the Wailing Death–has proved very much to Dedo’s benefit, so he is not so much working to assist the current power structure in maintaining itself as he is to position himself for a rapid rise within its ranks, but at the first opportunity he would betray his employers if it meant gaining even greater wealth and power.
This, I feel, is the crux of the neutral evil alignment. A great example of this sort of character is one Louis Bloom played by Jake Gyllenhaal in the excellent film Nightcrawler. Though he does occasionally exhibit the sort of behaviour usually associated with a chaotic evil alignment, for the most part he only goes as far as he needs to in order to get ahead in his newfound career, which is why he gets away with the things he does so easily, since he’s more or less operating under the radar. Chaotic evil characters are less inclined to rein themselves in, tending to give themselves over to their basest impulses, often on a whim, and glorying in murder, mayhem, and destruction for its own sake. That’s not to say that they can’t make plans and follow through with them (Batman’s Joker proves otherwise), but whereas a chaotic evil character might just want to watch the world burn, a neutral evil character usually only seeks to destroy whatever stands in the way of their success, even if it means that countless others will suffer in the process.
So when Dedo convinces Judge Oleff Uskar to let him search for the tomb of Halueth Never, the semi-legendary founder of the city of Neverwinter (even after blackmailing Oleff earlier for his involvement in a “sinful operation”, namely the bordello known as the Moonstone Mask), the rogue almost immediately agrees to deliver any holy artifacts he finds into the villainous hands of Gilles, a cleric of the evil deity Talona, not because he personally feels any allegiance to the abstract concept of evil, or even to any of the deities that might ally themselves with his own patron Vecna, but simply because Gilles offered him more money.
FIGHT EVERY BATTLE IN YOUR MIND
For a rogue such as this, with such low scores in Strength and Constitution, a tank is required for a henchman. I chose the dwarven monk Grimgnaw, partly due to him being lawful evil. I could’ve just as easily gone with Daelan Red Tiger, the half-orc barbarian, but apart from the issue of alignment, Grimgnaw with his monk abilities is virtually unstoppable. Also, he has a shared interest in getting to the bottom of the undead infestation that has lately overtaken the Beggar’s Nest, though for very different reasons. Little does he know that he is being used, not to rid Neverwinter of the scourge of undead (though that will inevitably happen as a consequence of their quest), but rather for his employer to be able to gain more knowledge about the dark arts of necromancy.
With Grimgnaw at his side to fearlessly wade into every battle ahead of him, Dedo has become what the rogue guide I linked to above calls a “Gunship”:
The "Gunship" references the military combat helicopters of today, which strike from the edges of the battle and can change tactics mid-battle with ease. Gunships are the most versatile of the Rogues, already a versatile class, and often add spell-casting or other arcane or divine abilities to the Rogue mix. Gunships are usually the Rogues with the lowest number of hit points and the worst armor class, but make up for it in mobility, speed, and terrifying combat capabilities. They can't stand in a fight for long, but they make an impact out of all proportion to their size for as long as they ARE there.Ross Glenn, “Neverwinter Nights Rogue Character Guide”
Hanging back in order to repeatedly shoot down the monk’s assailants with his crossbow means Dedo gets a sneak attack on virtually every enemy, and can often take down spellcasters before they even have a chance to finish casting their first spell, or at the very least interrupt some of their spells, causing them to fail from loss of concentration. If cornered by foes who happen to slip by Grimgnaw, as can sometimes occur when there are just too many for the dwarf to handle, Dedo will fight back using his magic rapier with Finesse, a feat which allows his attack bonus to be based on his high Dexterity rather than his much lower Strength, and if need be he can borrow time using his Parry skill (augmented by the Gloves of Swordplay) to hopefully fend off the attacks until Grimgnaw is able to come to his rescue.
However, as is the case most of the time in this campaign module when playing characters who are not themselves tanks, boss fights are the real problem. But since I’ve played through chapter one multiple times I already know how to fight every battle in my mind. You can call this metagaming, and technically you’d be right, but I rationalise it as my character having done an enormous amount of information gathering as he goes about his business, much the way Petyr Baelish with the help of his network of spies seemed to know almost everything that was going on in Westeros before anyone else did (except Varys, of course). This line of reasoning will continue to hold up in chapter two, assuming we get there, because he’ll be out of his element and for the most part flying blind (I did make some progress in chapter two with a couple of prior PCs but it’s been so long my recollection is a bit hazy).
Needless to say, so far I’m enjoying playing this character with all his subtlety, which allows me to roleplay a villain even as the game requires advancing him on a hero’s quest, which to my mind would make a lot less sense for a chaotic evil character. Dedo’s neutrality when it comes to law and chaos also makes for more versatility than a lawful evil character which is typically played as a more principled villain, even if their principles don’t always align with those of society at large. It also renders inconsequential the annoying fact that nothing your character does in this campaign will ever impact their alignment along the law versus chaos axis. Only choices deemed good or evil have consequences in this game unless you’ve installed a later module.