To this day, I'm still amazed at how all of this transpired. My buddies and I had just started the 'Legacy of Fire' campaign for Pathfinder, and I had decided to roll up a pretty simple character concept: I would play as an evil orc barbarian named Grimjaw who was hellbent on gaining power and becoming a ruthless warlord. My backstory for Grimjaw was that he had been captured and sold into slavery at a very young age to be used for hard labor, and over the years of his life, he had developed a cynical outlook that filled him with both bitterness and rage. He hated being subservient to others, and due to the abuse he suffered during his captivity, he was often very distrustful of other people's intentions. Because of this, Grimjaw had secretly become a worshiper of Rovagug, the God of wrath, destruction, and disaster, hoping that through his devotion he would eventually become strong enough to gain his freedom and unleash a plague of carnage against all the peoples of the world.
Now, before I go any further, I realize that this character concept sounds very incompatible with most traditional parties, but I can assure you that I had no intention of causing conflict with my fellow PCs. While it was true that Grimjaw was a selfish cold-blooded killer, he still saw the value in fighting alongside powerful, or at the very least 'useful', allies. He wouldn't betray his comrades unless they gave him a very good reason to, and he would happily work with the party so long as they helped to increase his wealth, notoriety, or overall prowess in battle. Earning his freedom was his first priority, and once that was achieved, he would continue to travel with the other PCs in the hopes of becoming stronger and finding more opportunities to indulge in his blood lust.
As it turns out though, most of my party members ended up being rather 'unsavory individuals' as well, with one of them being a devil-worshiping tiefling fighter who specialized in making drugs, while another was a human trader who later died and was replaced by a ninja kasatha (which is basically a four-armed alien with a secretive nature and very dubious motives). Grimjaw, as you might imagine, didn't trust either of them, but he figured that so long as they didn't interfere with his goals, he would be willing to tolerate their presence. However, the fourth and final member of our party was another issue entirely, for not only was this particular character the only good-aligned PC in the group, he was also a devoted follower of Sarenrae, the Sun-Goddess of redemption, healing, and honesty.
Yes, as luck would have it, the official 'healer' of our party worshiped a deity who was renowned as one of the most kind and generous Goddesses throughout the entire multiverse, and her followers by extension were also encouraged to be compassionate and forgiving, even when dealing with evil-aligned people. Yet despite this benevolent outlook, there was one God that Sarenrae despised above all others, and as such, she openly urged her followers to hunt down and kill any worshipers of this particular deity.
And this deity was none other than Rovagug himself.
This essentially meant that Grimjaw was immediately repulsed by this cleric, for the animosity between the followers of Sarenrae and Rovagug was legendary indeed. However, his disdain for this PC didn't stop there, but in order to explain why, I'll need to give you all a little bit of context.
And so, without further ado, allow me to introduce Imhotep, the duergar cleric of Sarenrae.
The backstory for this character was that unlike most of his kin, Imhotep did not enjoy the brutal and wicked demands of duergar society, and had thus decided to abandon his clan in order to make the perilous journey up towards the surface world. Now, for anyone unfamiliar with how duergar society operates, they are essentially gray-skinned dwarves who live deep in the Underdark, and their entire culture is built around slavery, toil, and an extreme xenophobia towards all other races. And while most duergar would scoff at the notion of venturing up to the surface world, Imhotep himself had no such issues. He was tired of dealing with the hateful nature of his people, and had thus resolved to try and find a better life for himself.
Although his journey was long and difficult, Imhotep eventually managed to emerge from the Underdark and get his first glimpse of the brilliant sky above, and when he saw the glorious ball of fire burning brightly in the Heavens, he immediately fell to his knees and extended his hands in awe. Never in his life had he seen something so breathtaking and grand, and although the rays of sunlight initially stung his eyes, Imhotep found himself strangely invigorated by the warm and cleansing light. With a new resolve in his heart, he quickly set out to learn more about the sun, and after several days of searching and adjusting to life on the surface world, his travels eventually led him to a temple of Sarenrae.
After speaking with the high priests and educating himself with the Goddess's doctrines, Imhotep soon became an official cleric for the Lady of Healing Light, and vowed to embark on an epic quest to spread Sarenrae's teachings and make the world a better place.
Now, when Grimjaw first met Imhotep, he really didn't hold him in very high regard, for the duergar simply came across as just another misguided fool serving a weak and pathetic Goddess. However, he couldn't deny the value of having a healer in the party, and from Grimjaw's perspective, his other two teammates were basically useless by comparison. In the end, he figured that so long as he could keep his devotion to Rovagug a secret, the cleric would have no reason to ever act against him, and even if he did, Grimjaw was confident that he could kill Imhotep if they ever came to blows.
Ironically though, any concerns he had about fighting this duergar were quickly thrown out the window when Grimjaw learned of a terrible and horrifying truth: this idiotic cleric was a pacifist as well.
That's right, this delusional servant of Sarenrae, who hailed from a people who were normally renowned as some of the most ruthless and brutal denizens of the Underdark, refused to inflict harm upon any other creature. It didn't matter if they were demons, undead abominations, or mindless golems: Imhotep would not attack any of them with either weapons or magic, not even to defend his very own life.
'The Gods must truly hate me,' Grimjaw thought bitterly, as he gazed upon his so-called 'companions' with a look of utter disdain. 'I'm stuck with a coward, an alien, and a drug-dealing degenerate. Knowing my luck, we'll probably all end up dead within a week.'
With a frustrated growl, Grimjaw hefted his mighty great ax and resolved himself to his fate, for he knew that it would only be a matter of time before this rag-tag group of adventurers ended up turning on one another. After all, the party basically lacked any semblance of unity or trust, and although Imhotep was willing to work alongside us, the duergar wasn't naive enough to think that he was traveling in the company of altruistic heroes.
As you might imagine, our first few sessions together weren't exactly easy, for it quickly became apparent that the only person suited for combat (aside from Grimjaw) was the drug-dealing tiefling, while our ninja was mostly meant to act as our skill monkey and 'occasionally' deal damage with a lucky sneak attack. In reality though, our ninja spent most of his time going invisible in combat and graciously allowing the rest of the party to soak up all of the damage. To make matters worse, as we progressed further in the campaign, Imhotep (in the hope of building up his defenses) eventually started wielding a tower shield and also began wearing a set of dwarven stoneplate armor as well (and keep in mind that the stupid duergar wasn't even proficient with either of these items)! This essentially meant that after taking his enormous penalties into account, any hope we had for using 'stealth' as a group became utterly impossible, for the sound of Imhotep's clanking boots could probably be heard from over a hundred yards away. Yet despite all the adversity (which was admittedly, mostly self-inflicted), we somehow managed to work together and overcome every encounter that the DM laid before us.
Now, it was around the half-way point of our campaign when Grimjaw finally got the chance to act out on his own, for after earning his freedom and openly declaring himself as a follower of Rovagug, he immediately began recruiting allies and gathering his power. Using nothing but his wits and strength, the clever orc soon amassed a following of criminals, slavers, and outcasts, and shamelessly began converting them to the worship of his God. Over time, Grimjaw eventually established himself as the leader of this new cult, and had even acquired a sizable dungeon/temple to act as his base of operations as well. Whenever the party had any downtime, Grimjaw would use the opportunity to raid local caravans, pillage nearby tribes, and establish new crime syndicates within the regional cities. Soon enough, slaves, drugs, and stolen goods began to fill his coffers, and with many of the monstrous races rallying behind his cause, Grimjaw's dream of having his own army was slowly becoming a reality. With any luck, by the time the campaign finally concluded, Grimjaw would be strong enough to unleash the full force of his power and drag the entire countryside in a brutal and bloody war.
It was only a matter of time...
Thankfully the rest of the party remained blissfully unaware of Grimjaw's ultimate intentions, so they decided to tolerate his antics so long as he didn't cause any trouble for the group. To be honest though, Imhotep was the only person who seemed mildly concerned about what Grimjaw was doing, yet to the orc's surprise, the duergar never once made a move to try and act against him. Instead, the cleric simply began preaching to the masses and spreading the 'good word' of Sarenrae's teaching, while at the same time establishing his own organization that was designed to buy up slaves and grant them their freedom.
Needless to say, it didn't take long for Grimjaw to realize that many of the slaves he had captured were now being purchased by a certain duergar cleric, and if that wasn't enough, almost all of the people that Imhotep freed immediately became followers of Sarenrae as well. To say that Grimjaw was annoyed by this would be a mild understatement, yet he honestly couldn't find any fault with what Imhotep was doing. The fact that the freed slaves were joining the church wasn't exactly something that Grimjaw could control, and as much as he hated to admit it, part of him did....admire the fact that Imhotep was freeing all the slaves regardless of their race: dwarves, humans, elves, and even the lowly half-orcs.
Every last one of them were being granted their freedom, the freedom that Grimjaw had craved for most of his natural life.
For the first time, the mighty orc began to feel something akin to guilt growing inside his soul, yet he refused to allow himself to succumb to such weakness. After all, why should he give a damn about those other people when no one had ever bothered to give a damn about him? No, freedom was just a luxury that was granted to the strong, and he would not allow some stupid duergar to make him doubt his path.
Out of a mixture of desperation and arrogance, Grimjaw decided to try and convince Imhotep to abandon the worship of his worthless Goddess and devote himself instead to the glories of Rovagug. He knew that this plan had almost no chance of success, but he hoped that it would cause Imhotep to lose faith in his cause, or at the very least, make him give up on his pacifistic ways. When the two of them finally sat down together, Grimjaw carefully laid out a rather compelling argument, stating that if Imhotep truly wanted to change the world, the inevitable use of force would be his only option. Words alone would never be able accomplish his goals, and no one would respect him if he continued to pursue his cowardly beliefs.
"Your achievements will be small and your suffering will be great," Grimjaw explained firmly. "The only reason that you are still alive is because I have protected you, and given the growing strength of our enemies, the odds of your continued survival diminishes by the day. So heed my warnings well Imhotep: abandon your suicidal ideology, for you will only end up wasting your life as a martyr for the weak.”
Satisfied with himself, Grimjaw allowed a confident smile to gently grace his lips, for he was certain that his compelling speech had rattled the foolish duergar. After all, he had used this same tactic many times in the past to convince the weak-minded to join him in his cause, and his clever (if somewhat brutish) logic had never failed him yet.
However, as Grimjaw would soon learn, Imhotep was nothing like the crazed and desperate cultists that he was so accustomed to dealing with.
“I am grateful for your concern my friend, but you must understand that it is not out of fear that I choose to do no harm,” Imhotep stated softly. “Back in my homeland, the very concept of compassion is scorned by my people, while violence and cruelty spread like a plague. It is a wretched existence that leads to a joyless life, and I knew that if I stayed there, my fate would be the same. Yet after traveling to the surface world and learning about my Goddess, I was finally given the noble purpose that my soul had always craved. I am thankful for this, and I am also thankful to you for helping me stay alive. You are truly a powerful companion, and as long as we continue to journey together, I promise to do all that I can to ensure your survival as well.”
As much as he might wish to deny it, Grimjaw knew that Imhotep wasn’t trying to deceive him, for he had spoken with such an earnest sincerity that the orc actually found it difficult to hold on to his hatred. In spite of their numerous differences and the countless reasons to hate each other, Imhotep had still chosen to treat him with both dignity and respect, which was something that almost no other person could ever claim to have done.
For the longest time, Grimjaw said nothing as he simply stared at the cleric with a cold unreadable look reflected in his eyes. Then, with a sudden abruptness, the orc stood up from the table and promptly walked away, cursing under his breath with every step he took. He knew that in that moment, nothing he could say or do would change Imhotep’s mind, and if that wasn’t bad enough, that gnawing sense of guilt he felt was only growing stronger.
From that point forward, Grimjaw’s desire to raid and pillage was noticeably reduced, and even the prospect of owning new slaves no longer held his interest. He would still orchestrate gruesome deathmatches and blood sports among his followers, and he even acquired a magical amulet that allowed him to imprison the soul of a recently slain enemy once per day. However, any urge he had to inflict harm upon the ‘innocent’ had all but disappeared, so he mostly ended up capturing the souls of powerful ‘evil’ people in order to bargain them away to a devil or a demon.
When the campaign finally continued, Grimjaw also began to pay closer attention to Imhotep’s actions as well, and he quickly began to notice that the foolish little duergar wasn’t nearly as cowardly as he initially believed. On many occasions, the cleric would purposely put himself into the thick of a fight, holding up his massive tower shield in order to defend his comrades, while constantly imploring his enemies to abandon their wicked ways. Many of his pleas fell on deaf ears of course, but for anyone who listened to Imhotep’s words, they were always granted mercy and a chance to redeem themselves.
Over time, Grimjaw’s bitter annoyance towards the cleric was gradually replaced with a grudging respect, for he knew that without Imhotep’s aid, he surely would have perished in battle a long time ago. His other two party members could burn in a fire for all he cared, and he would happily watch them scream in agony as the flames slowly consumed them. However, when it came to Imhotep, Grimjaw realized with a startling clarity that the thought of watching the duergar die did not seem to bring him any pleasure at all. He wouldn’t exactly say that Imhotep was his ‘friend’, but he was willing to acknowledge him as a comrade in arms.
As the campaign neared its conclusion though, the tension in the group swiftly began to reach an all-time high, for while everyone agreed to work together to overcome the primary villain, a noticeable degree of paranoia was now brewing among the party. Grimjaw wasn’t surprised by this of course, for he fully expected treachery from both the ninja and the tiefling. However, what concerned him the most was how Imhotep might react once the primary villain was dealt with. You see, although the humble duergar had never shown any signs of aggression or deceit, Grimjaw realized that as soon as the larger threat was dealt with, the party would have no need to cooperate anymore. This essentially meant that if Imhotep truly wanted to have Grimjaw killed, all he would need to do is withhold his healing magic during the final encounter and simply allow the orc to succumb to his wounds.
“He’s been planning this outcome from the very start,’ Grimjaw thought furiously. ‘He’s been using me this entire time to help destroy his enemies, and now he means to let me die as soon I’ve served my purpose. That wretched little bastard! If he thinks that he can take my life then I will show him how wrong he is!”
After taking some time to equip himself with an array of useful items (such as the boots of teleportation, dust of disappearance, and over a dozen healing potions), Grimjaw calmly started to map out his strategy for surviving the final encounter. There was still no guarantee that the party would be able to defeat the primary villain, and if worse came to worse, Grimjaw wanted to be ready to abandon his ‘allies’ as soon as things went south.
Fortunately though, he should not have worried, for despite all the odds and the mounting adversity, the group somehow managed to defeat the big baddie and save the entire country from utter disaster. This wasn’t to say that the fight wasn’t incredibly difficult, and if it hadn’t been for Imhotep, Grimjaw would have certainly perished during the final encounter.
Yet the most shocking twist was yet to come, for instead of turning on each other like Grimjaw had expected, his party members carefully eyed one another before calmly agreeing to go their separate ways. The ninja and tiefling wasted no time in heading off on their own, yet before Grimjaw did the same, he decided to have one last conversation with the humble little cleric.
“Why did you not kill me?” Grimjaw asked impatiently, as he gazed down at the duergar with a scowl upon his face. “You had the perfect chance to end my life, and yet you did not take it. Was it pity that stayed your hand, or are you simply too stupid to realize that I will never change my ways? If it is my redemption that you seek, then you can shove your feeble words right back up your ass! I care nothing for your Goddess, and I care even less for you! So answer me you degenerate dwarf! Why did you even bother to save me at all!”
Several moments of silence passed between the two of them, as Grimjaw angrily waited to hear the cleric’s response. However, nothing could have prepared the orc for what Imhotep was about to say.
“It was never about seeking your redemption my friend, nor did I ever save you out of pity. I helped you in part because you were a comrade in arms, but mostly I did it because it was the right thing to do. So again, I thank you for fighting beside me, and I am glad to see that both of us managed to make it to the end.”
With a gentle smile, Imhotep extended his hand and offered it to the orc, yet rather than acknowledging the friendly gesture, Grimjaw simply stared down at him for several long seconds….before turning on his heels and slowly walking away.
Several days later, Grimjaw returned to his temple fortress where his legion of cultists awaited him, and upon seeing the return of their mighty leader, many of his followers howled out in joy, for they knew that the day of reckoning had finally arrived. At long last, they would be able to unleash Rovagug’s fury and bring glorious carnage upon the world of men. However, when Grimjaw finally addressed the masses, many of them were shocked to hear that there had been a slight change to their leader’s masterful plan.
Rather than unleashing his army upon the surface world, Grimjaw stated that he would lead a grand crusade into the Underdark and slaughter the wretched beasts that dwelled within the earth. Drow, duergar, morlocks, and troglodytes: all of these evil races would suffer at his hands, for the time of their destruction was long overdue.
“But boss,” one of the half-orcs called out. “What about bringing ruin to the surface world as well?”
In response to that question, Grimjaw merely sneered before turning his gaze towards the horizon and remembering a certain cleric who had selflessly saved his life.
“They’re not worth killing,” Grimjaw stated softly, as his lips gently curled up into a barely noticeable smile.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a humble and heroic pacifist thwarted my evil plans.