In honour of my recent forays into demonology in the name of research, let’s talk about warlocks. How do you play them, how shouldn’t you play them, what ways are we just sick of them being played?
The stereotype as it currently stands is the grand cackling evildoer – like the ultimate grand vizier, only without actually having the ear of a king. Alternatively, we have the demonology student, trying to turn the Burning Legion against the Burning Legion… and then there’s always those people who, for some reason, roll a warlock and yet don’t ever actually draw attention to the fact that they’re using demonology and other such sources.
So, how else can you play a warlock? Let’s go into a couple of ideas.
The Researcher. “Crikey! Here’s one of them Burning Felhounds! What a little beauty! Let’s see if we can get a bit closer!”
Alright, so I’m not actually suggesting that you play some kind of felozoologist along the lines of Steve Irwin. If you did, I’d recommend a gnome, personally (and I think that would be made of awesome), but I understand that most of you are looking for something a little meatier with your roleplay, something that lasts longer than just a one-note joke.
If you’re not, I want you to know that I support you running with this idea a hundred percent, but I know that’s not the majority of you.
There are ways to take this concept and play it straight, though. If you still wanted to go into field research, and that seems to be the most obvious way to do this with a warlock, consider taking this avid interest in and curiosity about demons and play it a bit more straight; what do less show-businessy zoologists and animal workers do with the animals under their study or in their care? What sparks this interest – compassion, awe, curiosity? Consider these factors, and then apply them to the branch I’d like to call felozoology. As I said, this works best for a gnome, who have a racial history of being intrigued and drawn in by unusual and curious things, and I can’t imagine there’d be many among them who wouldn’t leap at the chance to find out what makes a demon tick.
Alternatively, you could go with a desk researcher, who works with demons to find out more theoretical things than physical, but I’ve spent so long on the first subject I feel like I shouldn’t linger over-long on this one. This is more suited to some of the other races, the ones less driven by how things work, but it’s still very playable.
The Repentant Damned. It’s a deeply troubling concept, at least to me, in a lot of ways; what do you get when a character has lived a life they recognise as immoral, and who takes no steps to better themselves – indeed, who takes steps closer and closer towards perceived damnation – because they believe that they deserve to be damned, and might as well cement the process? It’s a sad, bitter concept, and yet one so suited to the warlock. In a way, this may overlap somewhat with the demonology student discussed above, but it’s primarily about the motivations, not about the actions – the motivations will colour the actions in a way that makes the character that little bit different to the norm.
Possibly a late-life convert to The Light, this character led a horrible, immoral life before they saw the truth of their ways, and now believes that there is no way that they can repent for the evils they have committed. Who even knows what the so-called sin was? Whatever it was, it was big enough that they see themselves as doomed… so why not give themselves over to the demon arts and save some time about it? They’re damned even if they don’t, so why not try to get some kind of good out of it?
This concept can be essentially good or essentially recklessly evil, depending on how you choose to play it; either way, they’re very much a fringe-dweller to society and probably won’t have very many people in their confidence, if any at all.
Not Quite Himself: When this character started training to be a warlock, they didn’t think it was all that bad. Certainly not the kind of thing everyone said it would be – there’s a lot to be gained from this, why does everyone keep saying it’ll take your soul eventually? All the people he’s met seem fine enough, and he certainly still feels fine.
Every passing day, however, he loses a little more of himself to the dark side. How aware of it he is depends on the character – and, of course, your personal perspective of the lore. However much he didn’t think it would happen to him, or how much he tries to deny it now… he’s losing the battle against the dark side, and his soul is being more and more overtaken by the demons.
One day, there won’t be any of him left.
This is a hard concept to play right; it’s easy to fall victim to the temptation to overplay it and end up being ridiculous, while the risk of underplaying it and losing the essential factor that makes them interesting is still ever-present. However, a good roleplayer and storyteller can get this gradual idea across, and if it can be done, it’s a great idea for a warlock concept.