So I wanted to make my first character for 4E someone who's very involved with institutions, politics, the world. I also wanted to make someone who was morally/emotionally conflicted, but not in a melodramatic way. I also wanted to see if I could make a paradoxical concept work.
So here goes my first whack at it:
Tiberius Corvax, Chosen Man (Human Rogue)
Personality: a fierce nationalist who believes in the cause of his government as the cause of the "greater good," but who is torn by the enjoyment he takes in his cover identity as a freewheeling adventurer. The classic case of the undercover agent “going native.” In persona, Tiberius is a gregarious, somewhat cynical fellow, who strongly believes in following “the plan” and acting strategically, doesn’t like people who act unprofessionally, and is somewhat paranoid. Out of persona, Tiberius is much quieter and more idealistic, although the rest of his character traits are part of his normal personality.
Appearance: average height, with a lean, compact sprinter’s build, long limbs and digits. Keeps dark hair cut short in a military fashion, scrupulously clean-shaven. Hard eyes, constantly moving to assess threats. Long, sharp nose that’s been broken a few times, but reset well. Sharp features, very little spare flesh. Normally virtually still, virtually no excess movement, but when he moves, it’s with clockwork timing and the precision of a lunging snake.
Wears simple, dark clothes, over leather armor. Prefers a broad-brimmed hat and a poncho, to keep the rain and sun off his face, and to keep his weapons hidden. Under the poncho, he carries a shortsword strapped to his right thigh, a dagger concealed at the small of his back, several shuriken in his sleeve and on his belt, and a hand-crossbow in a shoulder clutch under his left arm. Tiberius is a man who believes in being prepared.
Quirks: Doesn't like having a lot of coins on hand, prefers being paid in gems, will convert cash to gems if given a choice. Very particular about his blades, has a fussy ritual, ensuring that he cleans and sharpens his blades in the correct order every night, with the proper high-grade oil. Fond of rare books. Not spellbooks or anything, but just regular works of literature and philosophy.
Distinctive Marks: Broken nose (but well set), prison brand on his right hand (wears a glove on that hand)
Background: Tiberius Corvax is the youngest son of an impoverished gentry family with a proud tradition of service to their country, be it in the military, in government, in law, and so on. Even as his family’s position deteriorated due to accumulated debts, mortgaged properties, and declining revenues from their few remaining properties, Tiberius was raised to love his country, uphold its laws, and dedicate his life to one of public service. For the family, pride increased as their position fell, and Tiberius learned to use his devotion to noblesse oblige as a kind of defense against shame and humiliation, to hold himself above “the false nobles” who thought of nothing but their own advancement. He was also raised on the legends of the Lost Empire of Man, the time before the Fall, when civilization extended far and wide, and justice reigned from on high. It was a golden age compared to the dangerous times of the day.
When Tiberius' father died fighting off a bandit raid upon their estate, his oldest brother Tomas inherited the title and the estate and the rest of the children (by this point well into their teenage years) went into service, as was the family tradition. The next eldest, Karl, went into the military, and his sister, Melisandra, joined the clergy. Tiberius found himself rather aimlessly joining the civil service, out of a sense that he was supposed to do something of service to the nation; his father's death continued to knaw at him, the belief that his father had died doing something important. There, he met his Uncle Vanya, who the young man looked to as a substitute father figure. When the rather frustrated young man asked what he could do to "make more of a difference," Vanya recruited him into what Tiberius believed was the secret intelligence service of the kingdom.
Over a period of several years while working as a minor civil servant, Tiberius was given the finest of training by retired spies, master criminals working off their sentences, and assassins working “on retainer.” After his course work, Tiberius was sent into the streets to do “field work,” i.e committing crime with government sanction, in order to gain familiarity with the criminal world. This deeply troubled the young man, as he had been raised to uphold the law; but as he was instructed, all of his actions were in service to the kingdom, and the commands of his superiors were a higher law. What appeared unlawful, if it uncovered traitors or eliminated lawbreakers, would protect the lawful and just. Tiberius took to these words with all of the fervor of a young man, something that his tutors didn't quite realize.
Two years passed, and Uncle Vanya gave the word that Tiberius was to be “graduated.” This meant that Tiberius was led into a deliberate trap by one of his tutors, arrested for grand theft larceny, and promptly convicted and sentenced to ten years in gaol. The dedicated young man nearly went mad with the thought of the shame and disgrace he had brought upon his family, and attempted escape three separate times before finally succeeding in launching a breakout. The ghost of his father tormented him in his dreams, accusing him of dishonoring the sacrifice that his father had made for the family.
On the run, spiritually and physically lost, Tiberius was holed up in a barn in some out of the way farmhouse when his Uncle Vanya strolled in the door and explained the situation. Tiberius would be a unacknowledged secret agent, with a now well-established reputation as an up-and-coming rogue that would become his primary cover identity. “Tiberius Corvax” would become a wandering adventurer, able to cross borders and eliminate threats to the security of the realm without suspicion, using the proceeds to fund his operations. Missions and communiqués from Uncle Vanya would arrive occasionally via a discrete courier service, and Tiberius would steer his party towards fulfilling them under the guise of quests offered to slay dangerous villains. Seeing the young man's fragile state, Uncle Vanya held out a ray of hope: he told the young man, who had been raised to revere his nation, that all of this was part of a greater plan. As their homeland grew in strength and power, that strength and power would be used to push back the darkness, and rebuild the shattered civilization of man. The young spy swallowed hard and rationalized the situation as well as he could, but the experience was a hardening one, and Tiberius found himself drawing upon Uncle Vanya's promise more and more to get himself through each day, to give his life meaning.
Tiberius has been a professional adventurer for a year, and is really beginning to like it…so much so that he might have trouble giving it up. On the surface, Tiberius is a garrulous rogue, eager for the fight, for the next adventure, tempered with a professional's cynicism. The guise is a comfortable one, that allows him to evade the tensions lurking beneath the surface, to live the life of a simpler man. Behind the exterior, Corvax is a driven man, a fanatic dedicated to the cause of the re-establishment of the Empire of Man, a better Empire. In the Second Empire, justice will fall equally upon the weak and the strong, and no man shall live in fear or want. To bring about that day, Tiberius has appointed himself a secret guardian of the future. Each mission brings him a step closer to his goal, each crime he commits makes the Second Empire that much more free of the original sin of all empires, for Tiberius will take them upon his own conscience. For the moment, Tiberius faithfully believes that his masters seek the same goal, but should he ever feel that they have betrayed the greater plan, he will face a moment of crisis.
Primary - Idealism
Secondary - Loyalty
Tertiary - Professionalism
Short-Term - survive as an adventurer, fulfill current mission
Medium-Term - steer his party towards his missions, gain prestige/recognition form the service
Long-Term - Fulfill the Great Plan, Establish the Second Empire of Man, Reconcile His Identities