R is for Rousseau, Paladin of Tyranny

Name: Rousseau
Campaign: The Great Tower of Oldechi

Just take the drink now.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau the philosopher was of the opinion that people were at their best separate from civilization, that a human is inherently good and wise when removed from a corrupting society. Thus the society that is least a society, one where all individuals are loosely associated and free, is the ideal society for the human condition. Reliance on the opinions of others for esteem and survival limits the ability and well-being of the individual and develops the damaged civilization we have today. Of course, in D&D, the best person to represent this philosophy is a paladin of tyranny.

I don’t actually know that Rousseau the character is named after Rousseau the philosopher (it could be a random name, or it could be based on something significantly less intellectual), but the differences between the two are too pronounced to not be funny. Rousseau was a dragonborn cleric/fighter dedicated to Bane, the 4E/Forgotten Realms god of hate, oppression, and fear. He did an alarming amount of damage and had equally alarming defenses for a healer, letting him saunter into combat and stab things until they weren’t things any more. In between murders he buffed and healed the party and controlled the battlefield pretty well. As a total package he was an amazing fifth character, his dedication to crushing his lessers notwithstanding.

What I liked about Rousseau was how powerful he was in-story. By the end of the campaign his Strength was 30, the absolute forever maximum of a 4E character, and he took an epic destiny that made him taller and heavier than the average dragonborn, an already tall and heavy race. I let him get away with acts of strength and size that shouldn’t have been legal in 4E because it felt right to me that he should be more powerful than just about any other creature. Starting in the One Piece campaign we referred to this trait as “narratively X”, where the character is more X than the system allows but we ignore those limitations for story purposes. Rousseau was narratively strong, able to bend obdurium prison bars but not strong enough to dealt several hundred dice of damage on an attack, and he was one of the first characters I saw who did it.

With his character focus on oppressing the weak, his statistical focus on being a threat to everybody and having no weaknesses, and his story focus on being strong enough to make any player sit down and shut up, Rousseau seemed ill-suited for heroism or even alliances. But in a party of outlandish characters and personalities (recall he was in the same group as Cid, Lao!ze, Meisha, and Plague; no I am not putting four links there) he was more of a quiet background character who could move to the forefront whenever he wanted. Rousseau’s player ran him as the kind of guy who would sit back and let everybody else worry their heads off, step in and get the job done whether that job required tossing a dump truck or making a witty quip, and leave the spotlight like nothing had happened. Everything about him met the needs of the table.

Rousseau ascended to godhood as Scourge, god of conquest and skill, and so far he’s the only new deity who’s factored into a later campaign. I promise that’s the last time I’ll link “ascended to godhood” this month, which if you’ve been paying attention is kind of a spoiler for Saturday.

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One Response to R is for Rousseau, Paladin of Tyranny

  1. Robert L. says:

    It has been fun reading these entries after being away for a while.

    Yes, the character was named after the philosopher. I had some difficulty early on roleplaying Rousseau. Rousseau was pragmatic, cold, and wanted to get things done, but he wasn’t very smart. He later indulged in the madness of his party. There were times where I would want to say or do something, but it wouldn’t quite fit. I did not want to play him as a dumb brute. Though when he was the one to walk up alone and solve magical puzzles and things he wasn’t specialized in, it gave me (and others I hope) great joy. [We are in the library looking for historical records and the cursed slimeman is just soiling everything . . . and the bugman is about to eat the map we need!] I think later in the campaign I got more comfortable.

    ““narratively X”, where the character is more X than the system allows but we ignore those limitations for story purposes.”

    I liked how you said that. It allowed certain things to happen that you could very well see happening but maybe the system is too rigid, does not have a good way of resolving it, or you know this is just awesome enough to allow.

    [Flex a hole in the obdurium cage, critically punch the curious guard in the face with righteous fury, steal his spear, stab a guard, stab another because I have insane reach for being big or having noodle arms, use a daily to stab another by extending my reach more, and finally make my prison break.]

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