NW15: Manipulative Bastards and Believable Clerics


This was arguably the most useful panel I attended in terms of it being something I’d not previously seen at conventions, and in terms of giving me some really deep questions to ask myself about my current work in progress.

The two talks shared a time slot, and though I was there for the clerics one, I found both to be funny and useful.

The first focused on why we love terrible people in modern fiction, while the second talk focused on how to improve your faith-based characters in writing and roleplay.

Panellists: Helen Gould, Phil Bettinson


My Notes – Manipulative Bastards

– A tragic past to balance out ‘evil’ or ‘dark’ actions can lead to them being sympathetic.

– Having a close relationship with a nice person can also add to our liking them.

– Intelligence is another favourable characteristic.

– Each character has a fatal flaw; something which gets them into conflict.

– Its’ often more interesting to watch malevolent acts than benevolent.


My Notes – Believable Clerics

– Often the cleric’s role in games and stories is to wear a robe, cast healing spells and maybe hit things with a mace.
– However, this misses the great scope for why they take their journey and what’s made them believe; what experiences they must have had.
– There must be reason they chose that god. “Mumble mumble PHENOMENAL POWER AWESOME” may be a believable reason.
– Common themes for clerics are that they were left outside a temple. However, the best way to lose faith is to be in a religious school. How did they survive that: low intelligence, reason to not question or spent it drunk?
– If a cleric of a religion with afterlife, then may not have a fear of death.
– No one sacrifices everything for nothing: what does your character gain form their religion?
– It’s unnerving to shift from agnostic to religious: you’re changed to someone who feels the need to act. Often friends will shun, family may not like the change. Sudden conversion is not realistic.


Do your characters have a sympathetic past and a fatal flaw?

Have you ever had a religious character or cleric? How did you decide upon their backstory?

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