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The Untouchable

A Fantasy RPG Character Concept

By Neal LitherlandPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Top Story - January 2022

She moved silently through the shadows of the city, unseen by all. Her breath was ragged beneath her stained, green cloak, and the burden over her shoulder strained her muscles. It wasn't the largest she'd carried on her duties, but it had been some time since she'd had to take one this large on her own. Finally she came to the blue lantern atop the low bridge... the one that marked the Blackwater Crossing.

She rested for a time, catching her breath as she leaned against the ancient stones. The stink of the polluted river wafted up her nose, but she refused to let it choke her. Once her heart had regained its normal rhythm she slung the sack she'd been carrying, along with its contents, into the water. She watched as it splashed into the river, disappearing from sight.

The return journey was easier. She didn't have to slink or hide, and with no burden over her shoulder there was nothing to draw the suspicion of those above her status. Most who laid eyes on her promptly looked away, as if she was of no more interest than a dead dog in the gutter. Even if there was clearly blood on her clothes, no one was willing to acknowledge her, lest some of her stain wipe off on them.

Lights blazed from the manor when she slunk back through the postern entrance. She had to use her rusted key, as even the gate guard wouldn't open it for her. Entering the house on cat feet, she came in through the hidden servant's entrance to her mistress's chamber, and carefully knelt on the rag rug placed there for those like her to ensure they touched nothing else in the room. Her mistress sat at her evening table, patiently waiting while her handmaiden Merinda brushed out her thick, ebony mane. Her mistress never so much as raised her eyes, but her nostrils flared before she spoke.

"Merinda," she asked. "Has my knife returned?"

"Yes, ma'am," she said without ceasing her strokes.

"Good," she said. She didn't ask if the task had been completed. If it hadn't been, the girl in green would never have returned. "Clean it up, and hone it. With the way things are at present, I may need it now more than ever."

Merinda made a shooing gesture toward her, and the girl in green backed out the way she'd come. There was no sound to mark her passage. She retreated through the inner walls, seeking the chambers where the servants were kept. It was only there that she had a name, and people who would look her in the eye when they spoke it. Only there where she could take off her mask, and let out all the tears. But even there, among the mistress's cutlery as they were called, she couldn't tell them what she'd done. If too many knew, and word got out, she would be the next one to go into the river in a sack. A fresh knife would take her place... one that knew to keep its mouth shut.

The Untouchable

Untouchables tend to be found at the bottom of caste-based societies. Often they are the ones who are tasked with performing the most distasteful of duties, ranging from cleaning up garbage, to digging through sewers, to carrying off the dead. While Untouchables may be born into a caste that shackles them to their place in the social hierarchy, it's possible that committing certain acts (such as murder and other crimes) will place one into this category as well.

Applying the idea of the Untouchable to a character in a fantasy setting is a fascinating concept, because it makes you ask what qualities a creature could have that would have it exiled to this station in life? What traits could a person possess, or what actions could they commit, that would have society treat them this way? And perhaps just as importantly, what is their reaction to their place in the pecking order?

As a for instance, Bastards of Golarion has a whole section discussing half-elves, half-orcs, and other character types as Untouchables. One could make the same argument for tieflings and aasimar, who are kept outside of the core of society and only allowed to fulfill certain roles, or perform certain functions. Not only that, but you could also apply this label to any class in the game with a little bit of thought.

For example, are barbarians considered Untouchable because of their unpredictable nature and deadly rage, even though they are still kept close enough to call on in times when blood needs to be shed? Are sorcerers considered tainted, but their powers too useful to be simply cast aside? Do some Untouchables become rogues who use poison and deadly daggers to carry out murder, a task those higher up in the social order would never stoop to? Are bards considered little more than pets, but never treated as real people by higher-ups?

There are all sorts of directions you can go with this.

In addition to the broad strokes of why a character was considered Untouchable, though, ask about details. Did they have to wear certain kinds of clothing, or bear particular marks, such as those found in 100 Fantasy Tattoos (And The Meaning Behind Them)? Were they kept as servants, or relegated to slums to be called on only when their services were needed? Were they allowed to have names? Did certain rules and laws of society simply not apply to them, as a kind of back-handed benefit of their status?

Lastly (and perhaps most importantly) ask how this status affects your character, and their mindset. Do they accept this as the natural order of things, and maintain long-standing social habits even when not among their own people? Do they take steps to hide what they are, trying to shed the stigma and live a new life somewhere else? Are they merely looking for an escape, or do they want to upend the social order when they realize society will crumble if all the Untouchables simply refuse to fulfill the tasks the upper classes demand of them because no one else has the ability or willingness to do what they do?

There's all sorts of directions you can go with this one, so take a moment and really think on it if you want to try it out for your next character!

Looking For Even More Content?

That's all for this installment of my Unusual Character Concepts series! Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a game master.

For even more of my work, check out my full Vocal archive. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my alley cat noir novel Marked Territory, its sequel Painted Cats, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, or my most recent collection of short stories The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

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About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.

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Comments (1)

  • Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛7 months ago

    Excellent story

Neal LitherlandWritten by Neal Litherland

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