by Delos

Steal This Character: The Anti-hero

This is a tricky trope to pull off. The Anti-hero is a lot of fun to play, but it needs to be done right. I’ve played with and GMd for people who tried playing the anti-hero and it turned into a disaster, but first before we get into how we need to deal with what…

What is an Anti-hero?

One of the best examples I can think of for the anti-hero is the Punisher. The Punisher (for those of you living under a rock) is a man who was a cop, the mafia killed his family out of revenge, no one was put in prison for the murders, so he decided to deliver his own brand of justice. The kind that involves hot metal moving faster than the speed of sound and new holes in places in the human body that never was intended to possess. That means he shoots them. A lot. There is no mercy, no prisoners, and no courts.

The essence of the anti-hero is:

  1. A drive to go after bad guys (revenge, money, power)
  2. A disregard of morals (not necessarily all of them)

When playing an anti-hero, you can get away with murder. Well sort of. You most likely have an evil alignment (not a requirement, but you are definitely not running with a good alignment) and none of those pesky morals that get in the way with dealing with the BBEG. Other ways you can play up the anti-hero feel is by breaking laws and rules of society to achieve a greater good. You can run with the mantra of “Ends justify the means.” This can be a very fun dynamic to the inter-party roleplaying, but you need to be careful about this trope.

Shooting Yourself In the Foot

The Punisher is a loner. He doesn’t do team-ups often, and when he does, they are very short-lived. Most anti-heroes are going to be loners. This is due in part to the fact that most PCs are going to be heroes. They bring people to justice (capture and trial) and work to minimize collateral damage. Anti-heroes can ignore these things and get what they want in the most violent way possible. Follow these rules when playing the anti-hero:

  1. Talk to the group/GM beforehand about this. They should know what you are planning on doing. If you just dropped this onto the group you run the risk coming off like a dink and angering the group.
  2. Make your PC willing and wanting to work with others. This goes against the trope but it is more important to play with the group and not against them. If you demand that your PC is a loner, and yet want to play with a group, that makes you an idiot and an ass.
  3. Don’t push the anti-hero trope constantly. We get it. You’re a badass that doesn’t give a hoot. When dealing with the innkeeper you don’t need to purposely be a jerk just to remind the group that you are evil/anti-hero. It’s ok to be civil sometimes.

Part of talking to the group is asking what they are comfortable with when it comes to what level of infighting you are going to cause. Be willing to be flexible. If you start ruining the fun of others just so you can have fun then you’ve become a jerk and need to rethink your hobby. An anti-hero can bring a lot to the group. Heck I’ve played games where the group was all anti-heroes, but with any aspect of the hobby of RPGs you need to communicate.

Thanks for reading. Drop a comment about your favorite anti-hero moment.

New to Steal This…?

If you’re new to the Steal This… series, go to the Steal This… manifesto and archives to find out what it’s about or to see the other Steal This… articles.


  1. By Ingrid


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