Ask GV: Protagonist Question on Appearances

Shinali, on behalf of Samar Nadra, asks,

What can a person considered evil by those around her learn from Hands of Darkness without compromising her morals?

Dear Samar,

You are aware I am contractually obligated to attempt to compromise said morals in hopes of recruiting you to my cause or at least neutralizing your beneficial effect on the world, yes? Good. Disclaimer over.

What you bring is actually an interesting question. There really isn’t a lot of difference between the evil-by-reputation protagonist and the PR-conscious antagonist. So I’ll forgive the fact that you’re out there attempting to protect a mess of people who seem to actively hate you—or at least, I’ll forgive youlong enough to give you an answer.

The first thing you can learn is camouflage. Now, while many of us subtle Hands of Darkness are decently good at hiding what we do (or at the very least, not running around scattering Signs of Evil and Dark Omens like confetti), we do have Dramatic Necessity constantly pushing people towards the realization that we are, in fact, villains. You, on the other hand, have a similar but opposite problem; you have simple reputation pushing people towards the belief that you are, in fact, also a villain. Which means that everything you need to do to protect your reputation, you’ll have to do twice as hard—moreso, in fact, since you’re more righteously indignant about this reputation of yours and thus likelier to protest a whole lot harder. It’s not easy being good. (Hint, hint.) This can include just plain never using any abilities that might mark you as whatever you are (we, for instance, quickly learn that dark fire and anything that involves the sale of a soul are very bad ideas when practiced visibly in nice neighborhoods), or moving away from where they expect you to be evil.

And then there’s the Bald Admission Trick, known to some as the Baby-Eating Brother Technique. Remember how I mentioned that protesting that you’re good too hard might backfire and make you come across as evil? With the right target, protesting that you’re evil too hard, particularly if you’re showing no evidence whatsoever of innate evil beyond whatever it is that causes people to jump to conclusions, can make you seem not evil at all—you just have to be willing to sacrifice any and all dignity in the process. This works best with a target who refuses to take things at face value, and who has some reason to want to believe that you’re really one of the good guys; it helps if you weren’t supposedly evil when they knew you, and that what you’re about to say fits with some image they have of theoretically!not!evil!you. (Do try to avoid using it on people who don’t understand sarcasm, or who smite first and ask questions later.) Now, actively try to convince them you are evil by dropping hints at activities so stereotypical that they’ve fallen out of use, preferably ones that you know they know theoretically!not!evil!you would never have had the stomach for. Make them sound as much like you’re trying too hard as possible: “Speaking of babies, what’s for breakfast?” and “I value human life… in tastiness, that is!” are good benchmark examples. For extra efficacy, do so while engaging in deeds that are at worst neutral; your actions should not fit your words AT ALL. The dignity damage may well be worth it.

Of course, there’s also doing good, but people are likelier to be suspicious of that than they are of being overly stereotypically evil, probably because it’s so obvious.

That’s just appearance, mind you. For the rest…. I might come back later, and of course there’s the fine art of looking through the archives. Evil is proactive, after all.

Got your own burning questions about work as a Hand of Darkness? Just leave a comment to Ask GV!

1 comment

  1. Shinali says:

    Well, I make a point of not summoning demons in city limits… Actually that one doesn’t work so well on the sarcasm/baby-eating-brother front. Just the other day I had to make it very clear to a demon hunter that I don’t summon demons and I also consider demon summoning a bad idea (and she isn’t of the sort that would assume I’m evil, either!). [For the record: I do not summon demons. I could learn to if I wanted to, but they are more trouble than they're worth.]
    Seeing as they tend to assume things like demon-summoning and human sacrifice, and to a lesser extent eating people, or destruction of Creation [Note to self: set up a good PR department!], what sort of Bald Admissions *can* I use, or is that method not really going to work out for me?

    It’s a little hard to avoid such neighborhoods when the only “neighborhoods” that don’t think I’m inherently evil are either plagued by an evil so evil even the forces of evil find it too evil for them (*shudder*) [and backwaters to the extreme], actually in the lands of evil (They know I’m good, of course. I still am on the “to kill” list, but at least they get my viewpoint correct), or rather hard to get into (Setting’s version of heaven. Yeah, you need references and proper documentation just to enter.) so avoidance is a touch difficult.

    Mostly I’ve relied on camouflage thus far, and the fact that I have a history as the sort of person you don’t kill but you don’t invite to dinner parties either (In this case, a shaman. No one invites us to parties unless we are there to negotiate with local spirits). It comes out as, “No, I am not an evil demon-summoner, I’m a shaman.” or “I’m a traveling doctor. Nothing odd about that!”

    I appreciate the effort to compromise my morals. It shows you respect me as a credible protagonist. That’s not something I get much of from the mortals. If I meet any actual demon-summoning, people-eating, creation-destroying, human-sacrificing types who need advice and aren’t my foes, I’ll send them around. Thank you.

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