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He Who Fights Monsters / Tabletop Games

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  • Happens more than a few times in the course of BattleTech. The most ironic example is probably Major Cullen Craig. He abandoned the mercenary regiment he was born into, the Northwind Highlanders, because they accepted a former Death Commando, Loren Jaffray, into their ranks due to a combination of his blood heritage descending from a renowned Highlander family and his actions that saved the regiment. Insisting that Jaffray's past as a Death Commando (widely considered the most ruthless and fanatical state-sponsored special operations group in the Inner Sphere) and a member of a Highlander family branch that did not return with the Highlanders to their native world, he did maintained that accepting Jaffray was a mistake and would lead to the unit's downfall. He joined Swann's Cavaliers to hopefully one day oppose the Highlanders and drive Jaffray out. So driven is he in his goal that he does not voice dissent when the Cavaliers then proceeded to join the Word of Blake, murder droves of civilians using their Battlemech companies in a massacre and in doing so earn massive bounties on all of their heads, and bring the fury of the entire elite 17th Recon Regiment onto them, who are now out for blood after the deaths of civilians on their home worlds. In a final fit of irony, the Highlanders never dismiss Jaffray, survive the bloody Word of Blake Jihad mostly intact, and make it out into the so called Dark Age setting as a highly respected, major faction unto themselves. On the other hand, Craig and Swann's Cavaliers, all wanted men marked for death, are never heard from again.
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • One of the subtler risks in Changeling: The Lost, for many reasons sometimes considered the bleakest of the New World of Darkness games. As a Changeling's Wyrd (power meter, roughly akin to, say, Blood Potency) goes up, they remember their time in Arcadia more and more clearly. This is, in and of itself, frightening, but not dangerous. If their Clarity hits zero, though... they lose their grip on reality entirely and proceed to adopt the same Blue and Orange Morality as the True Fae, which is quickly followed by losing all traces of humanity and possibly becoming a new member of The Fair Folk. This probably isn't what the short-sighted, selfish Others have in mind when taking slaves (it's not the only method they have of reproduction-how a Name for one of the Keepers comes into being varies), but still.
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    • Hunter: The Vigil has this as an explicit risk of taking up the Vigil. Too many hunters have broken in the face of the world's supernatural threats and gone insane, becoming either maniacal killers or, worse, Slashers. The fiction for Slasher makes this explicit, as one story focuses on a hunter who started tracking down and killing mages because one of them killed his buddy; by the time he's working his way down to the relatives of mages, however, another group of hunters tracks him down and kills him.
      • Similarly, in Hunter: The Reckoning, Hunters with very high Virtue ratings may become obsessed with that Virtue. Zealots (including Avengers, Defenders, and Judges) are particularly likely to become Ax-Crazy and tolerant of collateral damage.
    • Mage: The Ascension:
  • In Deadlands, the validity of Pay Evil unto Evil allows for the existence of a fair number of "Gray Hats". Harrowed {revenants timesharing their bodies with a demon that can potentially take them over at any moment) are a character type available in all settings, whilst the classic game has several practitioners of Blood Magic (including a good-hearted rogue member of the resident clan of inbred Evil Sorcerers) and the Hell on Earth game has prophets of radiation and mutation. That said, there are some characters considered so dark that it's inevitable that they will become monstrous NPCs in the end, with it being a question of how much good the player can do before that happens.
    • The classic Weird West game has the Vampire character type, who are somehow more evil and inherently corrupt than the Harrowed.
    • Hell on Earth has the Anti-Templars, who draw upon the power of the Reckoners and are invariably corrupted into Servitors as a result. They're mainly fit as player characters because most of them, at least initially, only start taking the Reckoners' power so they can be strong enough to protect others, and that's only because they disagree with the restrictive, oft-brutal code expected of the Templars.
  • The trope appears regularly in Dungeons & Dragons, generally forming the backstory for antagonists, but sometimes providing players various forms of Anti-Hero to play.
    • Forgotten Realms has an elven god, Shevarash, dedicated to nothing more than hatred and vengeance to Lolth and drow (though he readily beats anything Always Chaotic Evil in the absence of drow targets). Aside of other traits "endearing" to Seldarine and other "good guys", he's a little too close to the main, local, dark deity who makes Lolth look like a nice and caring mom by contrast. Elves who aren't immediately endangered and don't desire vengeance aren't too enthusiastic about his followers either. "The holy symbol of the faith is a broken arrowshaft that has been dipped in drow blood and blessed by a priest of Shevarash." (Demihuman Deities)
      • Another aspect is that while Shevarash himself considers other Underdark threats and theoreticaly is at peace with Eilistraee, his followers, obviously, seek vengeance for personal reasons — and they swear to "never smile until the last drow is dead" without getting into more specifics. There even was a short story Necessary Sacrifices (in Realms of the Elves) about these fine People going over the top even in the eyes of a fresh convert.
    • In the prologue of the rulebook Fiendish Codex II, this is how Asmodeus transformed from a powerful angel to the ruler of all the devils. He started by fighting off the demon hordes, and began to willingly take on the traits of demons to better fight them. Although it could be argued that he was always evil from the start and the changes may have been solely physical in nature.
    • The githyanki are so driven to exterminate their former slavemasters, the illithids, and prevent anyone else from gaining power over them, that they have become brutal conquerors. The other races are actually more afraid of the githyanki than they are of the illithids, since the illithids's power base is fairly limited. The githyanki even employ similar Psychic Powers. The gith who realized that this path would lead to He Who Fights Monsters broke away from the others long ago and became the more philosophical githzerai: they, too, regularly send 'pilgrimages' of killers to attack the illithids, but they have not fallen into utter bastardry.
    • The Heroes of Horror rulebook has the Corrupt Avenger prestige class, who is based on this trope, though their hatred is only for one group of monsters/creatures or organizations. Having abilities based upon taint further drives them to evil acts as they learn to fight their sworn foes.
    • The Book of Vile Darkness sourebook mentions an Evil Counterpart Race of halflings called the Jerren. They were once an ordinary halfling community that was driven to the edge of extinction by goblinoid raids. In desperation, their clan leaders tapped into some source of dark knowledge that let the Jerren go on the offensive with poisons and magical plagues, and when that wasn't enough they went Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and committed atrocities that sickened the goblins. Now the goblins are long dead and the Jerren are feared as a tribe of Absolute Xenophobes that capture, ritually sacrifice and cannibalize anyone who enters their stretch of prairie.
    • Third-party settingbook Shadows over Vathak has a feat called Dark Knowledge which grants the character the ability to prepare evil spells as bonus spells, but at the cost of taking health and Charisma damage when casting them. Its feat description states:
      While the powers of the Old Ones bring death and decay, sometimes it is necessary to use the weapons of evil to defeat evil.
    • Inverted with Dr. Rudolph van Richten of Ravenloft, who started out his monster-hunting career determined to avenge his wife and son by any means necessary, but came to recognize the wrongness of this after he'd sicced some zombies on a Vistani band and watched them be torn to bits. Of course, given these were the Vistani who kidnapped his only son and sold him to a vampire to become the vampire's "bride" (a special form of spawn), and all because his efforts to treat one of their own wounded tribe members had failed and the badly injured Vistani had died, some could argue that they had it coming. Still, that he is willing to realise that this is going too far is why he canonically has a Good-based Character Alignment.
      • The heroes of Ravenloft always run the risk of becoming what they had set out to destroy because every act of evil committed in the Demiplanes of Dread has a chance of drawing the attention of the Dark Powers. The more horrific the act of evil, the greater the chance that the Dark Powers will take notice.
  • The GURPS supplement/setting book The Madness Dossier has this effect built into the mechanics. The heroic “Sandmen” are fighting the utterly inhuman and monstrous Anunnaki, but can only hope to win if they not only maintain absolute secrecy, memory-wiping and brainwashing any bystanders who blunder into their operations, but also study and employ Anunnaki powers (such as brainwashing). But it’s inherently impossible to use Anunnaki powers without thinking like them. The best that the Sandman psychologists can do is divert callousness and cruelty into fanaticism for the Sandman cause.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, the Kuni Witch Hunters are the people who hunt down people who have become tainted by oni/the Shadowlands. In search of these people and in search of how to destroy the Shadowlands, they frequently become tainted and summon Oni.
  • In Pandemonio, this is part of the job description for Disciples — you need to be willing to kill a possessed person to get at what's possessing them or sacrifice innocents for a boost if that's what it takes, or else you won't be much good at killing angels and demons. Taking this too far can invoke a literal version, however. One of the ways to raise Decay is to harm innocents, with a pass given to magics that harm them as a side effect of their use, such as many of the exorcism spells, or Maledictions — the powerful magics necessary to fight some of the most powerful angels and have even a chance of winning, which are massively destructive by nature and often directly harm innocent bystanders as a side effect of use.
  • In the Pathfinder Adventure Path Second Darkness, the Elven noble Allevrah Azrinae hunted the Drow with such passion and hatred that she eventually turned into one (Pathfinder Elves do that).
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse villain Deadline's main motivation for attemtping to plunge the Earth into the dark ages via planet wide catastrophe is to save it from a cosmic event approaching the planet. He acknowledges that this is not an entirely heroic path.
    Deadline: The suffering I bring to your world is a mere fraction of what I seek to prevent.
    • Iron Legacy is also one. After Young Legacy dies in the Alternate Timeline, Legacy falls from grace and becomes one of the game's most powerful villains.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Imperium of Man itself can be this. It's a theocratic dystopia that goes against the secular, rationalist utopia that their Emperor envisioned (The Emperor's Imperial Truth that promotes science and reason is now condemned as heresy, in his name). Their Inquisition is apparently a power-hungry madhouse that is able to order the deaths of millions with a simple "just to be sure that there's no Chaos on the planet". Their armies are known for spreading death and destruction even to those they're helping, and will even fight amongst themselves if the situation calls for it. As a quote goes, "We used to pray for the Emperor to send us his angels. Now, we pray that he never does again."
    • Inquisitors must be sure that Exterminatus is the best and/or only option, as being baited by the Ruinous Powers into destroying your own worlds is, in fact, seen as just as bad as the world falling to Chaos. Indeed, there's at least one canon example of a Chaos worshipper arranging for an Exterminatus on purpose so that he could dedicate the death of the planet and everything on it to the Dark Gods, an act for which he was elevated to Daemonhood.
    • Any Inquisitor will eventually become this. There are two main sects of Inquisitors, the Puritans and Radicals. Puritans believe that they must only destroy Daemons, never consort with them or use their wares (even a bolter touched by a daemon is considered tainted and must be destroyed). Radicals believe that they are allowed to use daemons against other daemons, so long as the purpose is pure. These two sects often have clashes and many of the Ordos are divided between these sects. However, all Inquisitors start as Puritans, while almost all Inquisitors die Radicals. This is because the Wide-Eyed Idealist (and that's saying something, given the setting and how they are willing to behave) that goes into the organization slowly sees the futility of fighting alone, and slowly rationalizes using daemons and daemonic weaponry against them. Most Inquisitors are likewise more likely killed by their own peers than the daemons of the warp, usually by trial and execution at having found to harbor daemonic artifacts.
    • The Night Haunter's backstory is made of this trope. Since he's the grimdark version of Batman, what can you expect?
    • Also: Radical Inquisitors, Commander Farsight some of the time... 40K is the only game where even the monsters can succumb to this trope. When you gaze into the warp, the warp also gazes back into you...and laughs. "There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."
  • Likewise, Warhammer is a case study in what happens when the Holy Roman Empire circa 1555 is dropped into a world full of fantasy monsters. With daemon-worshipping vikings to the north, unholy undead in the east, hyper-violent greenskins to the south, insane goat-headed savages to the southwest, evil ratmen literally under their feet and insidious traitors and cultists sowing discord within, the Empire represents a flickering light of human civilization fighting every day to beat back the dark forces that constantly circle, waiting to snuff it out.


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