Hello, my name is Darth Carnifex, Dark Lord of the Sith. I have set about to compile all of the guides written by my good friend Tirdarius on how to write a Sith character on Chaos. None of these were written by myself, they're all just repostings of what Tirdarius had already written years ago. I'll be including a link to the original threads at the bottom of each section.
I hope you all enjoy the compiled guides on how to write a Sith.
So, you want to be a Sith, do you? Wield a red lightsaber, blast someone with Force Lightning and generally be evil? We've got a lot of work to do.
Anyway, decided I'd write a few things about the Sith, offer a different perspective to the one you'll find more commonly floating around, and therefore offer a way of RPing Sith that, well, makes sense (I hope). Please note that this isn't intended to be comprehensive (that would take me far too long to write, and I'd no doubt miss something or generate some debate!). Anyway, here we go: The Purpose of the Sith
The origin of the Sith stems from a considerable divergence in belief about how the Force should be used: those who follow the 'Light' believe that their powers should only be used for peaceful ends, and thus to support the people of the Galaxy by offering passive guidance and protection, leaving them to choose their own rulers. Those who follow the 'Dark' believed that the gift of the Force was one that should be used more directly: those with the power to rule should do so, using that power to create a system of autocracy or oligarchy: government led by either one powerful individual, or by several such beings, using the Force to guide them.
The Sith see this as natural: the strong rule, the weak serve, and thus is an ordered system maintained. Peace is enforced rather than hoped for, with any resistance to the rule of law being dealt with in the harshest possible fashion. This becomes possible because those in power have power, and thus are capable of squashing threats to the ordered society they seek to maintain. Piracy, disorder, rebellion: all of these are contrary to the natural order, and are eliminated accordingly unless the 'Emperor' or 'Council' wishes it otherwise.
Thus, to a Sith, the ultimate goal of their training and endeavor is to ascend to the pinnacle of power: to lead the Sith and, by extension, to rule the Galaxy, using their powers and insight to guide the Galaxy accordingly. A writer seeking to portray a Sith should therefore understand that they are the recipient of a unique gift and that this gives them 'right to rule': they are, in some respects, ordained to rule, much in the same way that the ancient kings of Europe believed that the had 'divine authority' to rule, granted to them by God. The Sith believe much the same: their power and ability to wield to the Force is a clear indication that they should wield that power in more ways than one, and most particularly over others who do not.
I'll talk about that more later, but next up: Sith Training and Ideology
This is the part that a lot of writers struggle with, particularly since they tend to go off the 'cooler' elements of being a Sith: wearing dark clothing, hiding in shadows, wielding red lightsabers, and so on. Those are, ultimately, affectations: you need not do any of them to be a Sith. You can if you wish to, but those things aren't essential. Here are a few key points:
The Sith are avid practitioners of the concept of "survival of the fittest": to them, strength is not only the ability to wield the Force but also the ability to adapt to adverse conditions. In their mind, those fit to rule must be capable of dealing with whatever is thrown at them. For this reason, suffering is a natural state to the Sith, and they perceive those who allow themselves to be crippled by it to be weak. Training is designed to weed out those incapable of coping with these adverse conditions: whether physical or psychological.
Power comes only through sacrifice: the harsh nature of their training is designed to teach them that they will only gain strength from struggle, and this naturally demands sacrifice. Whether in the form of deprivation over time, physical or psychological injury, or simply being faced with obstacle after obstacle, a Sith learns from pain, from loss, from suffering. They do not hide from this: rather, they are required to face it, embrace it and make it a part of themselves. Only then can they gain strength from the experience.
Force use among the Sith is derived primarily from their emotions: rather than letting go of the self, as Jedi are trained to do, the Sith believe in using their emotions to 'force the Force', to draw upon it in a more visceral fashion. This invariably means that many of their powers are initially stronger than those of a Jedi, and are easier to draw upon, since emotion is never in short supply: thus, Sith are not necessarily expected to be trained with the same level of emotional discipline. That noted, this method has considerable drawbacks insofar as it is more physically taxing on the user, and those who wield the Force this way over long periods of time have been known to suffer ill health effects.
With regards to emotional discipline, although the Sith are indeed expected to be open with their emotions (viewing them as a positive, and often viewing the Jedi with disdain for restraining them), they are nonetheless expected to wield them carefully: a Sith flying into a murderous rage is unlikely to be capable of making effective decisions, and those actions can have very negative consequences. A Sith is expected to exercise patience and cunning, knowing when to use their emotions and when not to. This requires a high level of self-awareness, and much of a Sith's initial training is designed to make them understand themselves: what their triggers are, what provokes them, what their weaknesses are, and to make them recognize both their vulnerable sides and draw out their strengths.
The Sith are trained to disregard the choices of those weaker than themselves: they believe that every individual must seize their destiny with their own hands, rather than being handed it on a plate, and thus they see many as being effectively 'blind' to their own fates: sheep, in need of a shepherd. The purpose of a Sith, therefore, is to provide both governance and guidance to those they rule, but also to create an atmosphere that forces those beneath them to rise up and face their own purpose. It is for this reason that many Sith rulers have ultimately become oppressive: exercising their power cruelly to force people to rise up to the challenges presented, or be crushed beneath them.
A Sith must naturally be as ruthless with those around them as they are with themselves: the Sith are ultimately pragmatists, who see a goal and a purpose and pursue this with dangerous efficiency. Those who stand in the way of this are merely obstacles, challenges that must be overcome, and that will make the Sith stronger for doing so. Although Sith do not revere life as the Jedi do, they often see killing as wasteful (all beings are resources that can be called into service!), but they do not hesitate to kill if they must: they see this as culling the herd, removing the weak so that only the strong remain. This is oftentimes warped into a justification for murder on a larger scale, but this is often only among those who have misunderstood Sith philosophy, or have simply gone too far into madness to see reason.
Although many believe that a Sith must be all pent-up with rage and hatred, this is only one form of Sith, and usually the least disciplined and capable of those among the Sith. Though their powers are invariably impressive, their abilities tend towards the more destructive, and they are far less capable than their brethren of using those skills which require greater emotional/mental discipline, or that require more thought and preparation. A Sith's choice of emotional focus can be anything: sorrow, joy, love, anger, jealousy, hatred, contempt, disdain, and so on. Negative emotions are easier to draw upon because they tend to generate more natural emotional energy, but it is not impossible to wield Sith abilities using positive emotions: particularly because a Sith tends to be very self-aware and certain of the righteousness of their cause, even if they hold few illusions about the means they use to pursue it.
The Sith believe that they are enacting the Will of the Force by playing out the dichotomy between Light and Dark: they are servants of the Dark Side, and thus must always be opposed to those of the Light. The Sith see themselves as being on the correct path because they are enacting the will of the Dark Side. Because the dichotomy exists within the Force, it is good and appropriate that it exists within society as well, and the Sith thus see themselves as servants of the Dark, as well as seeking to master it.
The Role of the Force
The Force is a fairly complex entity among the Sith: there are some who see it as merely a tool, or a weapon, and others who perceive it in a similar vein to the Jedi, as a companion and ally. The truth of Sith philosophy is something that recognizes the Force as all four of these things: slave, ally, weapon, tool, and yet something more. Their focus on the 'Dark Side' espoused by a dualistic view of the Force derives primarily from their willingness to use power through emotion, and because the Dark tempts them to explore greater depths of power. Ultimately, to a Sith, the Dark Side is not something to be feared, but to be challenged, harnessed, and used: much as one would break in a horse in order to ride it, so must a Sith learn to use the Force, bending it to their will.
That said, the notion of the Force as the slave of the Sith is also a misguided one: a Sith's power derives from the Force, and they cannot entirely disregard the 'Will of the Force', as the Jedi refer to it. For a Sith, they represent the opposing force to the Jedi: while the Jedi try to maintain peace by encouraging ennui, the Sith seek to create it through force, removing obstacles to an ordered galaxy ruled by the strongest. Their system demands chaos even as it seeks to establish order: strength is never something permanently maintained, and so leadership among the upper hierarchy of the Sith will shift constantly as individuals vie for supremacy.
A Sith must come to rely on the Force, trusting it, but also understanding that it is as much an enemy as a friend: the corrupting power of the Dark Side is something that must be harnessed, but also fought against, since that same taint ultimately will push an individual's sanity to the very limits, and beyond if the individual is not mentally disciplined or strong enough to resist it. As such, many Sith ultimately 'fall' even beyond the expectations of the Jedi: they turn their will for power into a lust for it, and destroy anything and everything that gets in their way. Any opposition or restraint becomes an enemy, and they ultimately slide into a level of psychosis that even the Sith understands to be excessive. Is it oftentimes these beings that are put to use by the Sith as weapons: a destructive force turned towards their enemies but ultimately to be sacrificed, with no part in the grand plan other than to die for it. Those who enact their destructive intent upon the Sith themselves will be slain out of hand.
Powers and Abilities
Because the Sith tap into the Dark Side of the Force, many of their powers are designed to be damaging or subversive: they lack the same moral restrictions as the Jedi and do not see it as wrong to use the Force in a harmful way. Tapping into the Force through the use of their emotions invariably creates some impressive displays: bolts of lightning or waves of telekinetic energy bursting forth when an individual is angry or enraged, for example. I daresay this is fairly familiar to all of us!
That noted, these aren't the only powers available to a Sith: in addition to the neutral skills used by both Jedi and Sith, the Sith are capable of wielding Sith Sorcery, arts that require a very disciplined frame of mind to achieve, as well as pursuing the arts of Sith Alchemy, a very dangerous branch of Force ability, but one with many useful byproducts.
In lightsaber combat, a Sith will be expected to use their emotions productively, to fuel their attacks, but also wield strong mental discipline and subjugate their opponents - death, ultimately, is less of an achievement than forcing submission. is often used to great effect in their regard, either to unhinge an opponent or, among the very best practitioners, push their enemy to the edge and seek conversion to the will of the Sith. They are also capable of practicing more lethal forms of lightsaber combat than their Jedi counterparts, employing Juyo for those with better-than-average skill, though few have sufficient mental discipline to truly achieve this, and instead find themselves subverted powerfully by the Dark Side when using this approach, ultimately becoming violent in the extreme.
Finally, they may also pursue skills from disciplines not of their own Order, in particular, the arts of the Dathomiri Nightsisters and those of the Sorcerers of Tund, among many others.
The Jedi Order
The enmity established between the Sith and Jedi is a very long-standing one: since the Force Wars on Tython, the two groups have opposed each other, partially as a consequence of their choices with respects to the Force (one uses the Light, the other, the Dark), but also as a result of their political ideology: the Jedi believe their duty is to serve, the Sith believe their duty is to rule. This inherently draws the two into conflict and places them as natural enemies.
In dealing with a Jedi, the Sith will see one of two things: a misguided Force User who might be converted to the 'true path', or an obstacle to be overcome. You might seek to talk to a Jedi, make them see the error of their ways, or you might simply try to kill them. A more circumspect Sith might simply avoid them, or use trickery to lead them down the wrong path - this, however, tends to be difficult to do, since most writers will invariably 'know' that this is happening to them!
It's worth noting that Jedi are often thought of as misguided by the Sith: slaves to a doctrine established to shackle their true powers and their own inner natures, suppressing their emotions and denying themselves full access to their powers and own destiny. A Sith who feels this strongly (particularly if they find commonality with the Jedi) will therefore focus their efforts on drawing the Jedi's attention to this, trying to shake their faith and push them towards a fall. Combat can be used to this end, too: should the Jedi suffer a defeat, this will serve to reinforce Sith superiority and be used effectively to nudge the Jedi into realizing that they have devoted themselves to a lie. Standard Sith training can thereafter commence, with particular emphasis on unlearning Jedi conditioning.
Alright, so you've decided you wish to join one of the most dynamic factional groups on the board. Welcome to the insanity!
This one's going to focus on how to build an effective Sith character. Many of the writers joining us will be doing so at the Acolyte level - we do get the occasional transfer dropping by, but this guide isn't for them! I'm talking to those who want to create a brand shiny new Sith, preparing to enter training and do battle with Jedi, Mandalorians, and, of course, each other.
First off, just some straight-up advice for those starting out. Character Name
I wasn't going to do this, but here it is; big pet peeve #1. You are NOT Darth Something The Amazing when you first start out. The board has an excellent name change feature for when you hit that point, but if you call yourself Darth Whatever when you sign up as an Acolyte, prepare to linger in purgatory, because you've already shoved off a truckload of potential development. To be granted a Darth title is an important thing: you might be given one by your Master when he apprentices you (think Vader), or it may well be something you earn as a Knight or Sith Lord (since it is often used as a title marking respect for deeds accomplished). A newbie character that's done nothing other than talk about how awesome they are is not a Darth. And probably won't be, unless they do what they started out with, which is giving it to themselves.
Trust me, I won't take you seriously. A lot of others won't, either. Have an assumed name, something to hide your real identity behind. That's fine. But if it's Darth Something-Or-Other...just no!
Strengths and Weaknesses
Do all your biographical basics first: species, eye and hair color, height, weight. Force Sensitivity should definitely be 'Yes', otherwise you won't be with us very long! Where things get interesting will be the other areas of your profile. Let's start with Strengths and Weaknesses.
The temptation among many new writers is to provide yourself with lots of skills and competencies that you shouldn't have yet - seen plenty who have decided that they are a master swordsman/woman, competent with Force Lightning and Illusions, capable of doing all sorts of cool stuff that they, well, can't. Here's the thing, people: your characters are new to the Sith. Even if you write your character as having already begun training and shaved off a few IC months, you won't know half the stuff you're writing in your profile there. If your character even knows that Form I is referred to as Shii-Cho...you probably already know more than you should!
The part I would really recommend you flesh out more should be the 'Weaknesses' section. I know that sounds contrary to the way a lot of people like to write (who likes their characters to be weak?), but trust me, this will help. Part of good Sith training is exposing weaknesses and working through them, to turn them into strengths. Volatile and whimsical? No problem, we can use that. Doesn't like physical contact? Cool, we'll torture you until you scream, and learn to cope with it. Hate insects? Excellent. Ever been dipped into a vat filled with Bloodflies? Trust me, we can arrange it.
One of the big things you'll notice about all good Sith characters is that have some sort of weakness attached to them. Vader was conflicted, Palpatine was arrogant as all heck, Bane was a self-righteous zealot, and so on. All of that comes from somewhere: you grow into your weaknesses, as much as you do your strengths. Don't view them as a negative, but as a natural part of your character. We all have dark sides to ourselves (pun intended!), and a good writer will explore these.
My first warning here is to avoid cliche as much as possible: to be quite frank, we've got far too many orphaned Sith running around, those that either did not know their parents or, worse, killed them in a fit of homicidal rage and went forth to join people just as evil as they were. It's so cliche that writing such into your biography is practically a rite of passage...
The first thing I'd want to know, aside from the usual where you were born, what your family was, is this: how did you figure out you were Force Sensitive? A lot of writers go the cliche route of murdering their family or being provoked in a moment of anger, and unleashing a power they didn't know they have - that's all well and good, but the reality of someone exposing something like Telekinesis or Lightning without any training whatsoever... they're going to be pretty small.
One of the great things about being Sith is that you're going to have to spend a lot of time playing with the Dark Side, which means some pretty creepy stuff going on. Maybe it starts out by you hearing whispers of voices inside your head, incoherent, but there. Maybe you start picking up on people's feelings without meaning to. Maybe you go the Voldemort route and start discovering that you can manipulate those feelings easily, without trying to. Plenty of weak-minded people around you, after all!
The other common approach is to go Jedi: discovered at a young age by the Order, initiated into their ranks, then something happens later to draw you to the Sith. Maybe you were captured, maybe you were injured/near-killed, maybe you were present at some disaster or incident that shook your faith in the Jedi, and drew you to question their teachings. Could be anything, really.
Here's the best part: you don't have to be a child to start training with the Sith. We honestly hate that: the best Sith start out as adults, with major chips on their shoulders, something to prove, frustrations and anxieties and desires that we can exploit the hell out of in order to turn you into what we want you to be: something that can advance our cause.
The second thing we want to know: how did you find us? Sure, we've got Orders and Empires and secret cabals and cults, but we don't exactly put out advertisement banners saying "Join the Sith! We have cookies (which we will eat while you watch, on day four of your future starvation diet to toughen you up)". We have our fortress worlds, but many of them may or may not be occupied by the Sith at any one time: sometimes the Jedi set up shop on Korriban and there's not a damn thing we can do other than glare at them, and prepare to take it back. Sith happens.
Learning the Sith Way
Strap in, because this can be a wild ride. Bad writers, the type I often complain about, they become 'Sith' right away, full of anger, hatred, anti-Jedi sentiment, and a love of lightsabers and casual genocide. They're the type I kill on sight, quite honestly, because they give Sith a really bad name. Please don't be those guys.
If you want to write a Sith properly, there's a journey attached to it. First, get yourself initiated into our dark pathways: arrive among us, seek out a Sith, let them bring you into the fold, and expose you to the horrors, atrocities, deprivations, and pain you're going to suffer through the course of your training. Let them unleash you, expose everything that you are, and go nuts on your psyche. They have to break you down in order to build you back up again - if you're already 'there', you've missed out on a LOT of good character development.
It's a bit of a pet peeve, but it's amusing when you see people writing about the harshness of their training when...they didn't write that. They jumped from Acolyte 101 straight into 'I can take on a Jedi in the field, with my teeth!'. Ugh. If I haven't stabbed you yet, drop me a reminder, and I'll put it on my to-do list. Good Sith writing has a background to it: you want your character walking around with a limp for the rest of their days which really puts them in a constant bad mood? Show us how you got it. Learned to jump and run with the Force, having to stave off wild Tu'kata in the wastelands of Korriban? Lemme see it!
Here's the thing: it's really, really easy to skip ahead, but no good story ever starts in the middle, not unless the background is there somewhere. I can't tell you the number of Acolytes that walk up and tell us how good they are at x, y, and z, and yet when asked to provide evidence, they just say "cuz I'm Sith!". We ask the transfers to show us evidence that they've been given their rank: why is it wrong to ask you to show me how you learned lightning or practiced your Form techniques with a Master? It generates background, creates a story, and, most importantly, lets you build connections with your fellow writers.
Anyway, the first thing I want you to do is to connect with your fellow Sith, whether independently or as part of a Faction. Go hunt for a Master - and please, don't post multiple threads in multiple places. There are usually threads on the Faction boards for that sort of thing - and even for the independents. Post your biography where we can find it, and listen to what everyone has to say when it comes to improving it. You'll gain more friends among your fellow writers if you're willing to give and take, and finding a teacher shouldn't be too difficult with the right mindset. Let's be honest: if you're reading this, then you're being thoughtful and giving your character creation some consideration. You won't have any trouble finding someone that'll train your character!
Equipment and Possessions
I wanted to mention this specifically because a lot of Acolyte writers start with robes, a lightsaber, a ship to help them get around, and lots of other little goodies, in addition to a plentiful supply of credits. I sure as heck didn't give those to you, so where'd you get them? I honestly don't mind you having bits and pieces - bring a whole arsenal, if you wish. Just let me say this: be prepared to have them taken off you!
The start of Sith training is all about taking away your old identity and giving you a new one. Not necessarily in the 'You are now Darth Whatshisname' way (though some do that - I always feel best to wait until Knighthood/Mastery for that part, by the way!), but in the sense of your old life is over - now you belong to us! Pre-Sith, you're nothing, really. Nothing special (even if you are a Princess of some important planet), nothing remarkable. NOTHING.
The Sith way is there to break you into tiny little pieces. We'll break you in ways you didn't even know existed, and then we'll stomp up and down on those pieces and make even smaller ones. Sometimes just for fun, but also because we find out if you're made of sterner stuff. Then we build you back up into something we can use: a warrior, a weapon, a strategist, an engineer, anything we need and you want to be. Survive, and you're worthy to press on. Die, and you're just another voice added to the cacophony of them that echo around our Temples. Either way, you get a new career out of it.
Bring the lightsaber you stole off a Jedi or the one you inherited from your grandfather. By all means, wear your Mandalorian armor, impenetrable to our weapons. Fly that beautiful ship that costs a few hundred thousand credits by all means. I always wanted one of those.
At the start of your training, remember: you're going to learn humility, you're going to learn obedience, you're going to learn the meaning of pain and suffering, and only then will we really start to hurt you. Bring your expensive stuff, sure, but don't expect to keep it. We've got Temples for a reason, you know: it's mostly to store your stuff when you're out in the wild or in the field being shot at, etc.
If you survive, if you do well, you can have it back after that. And then we'll move on to thinking about the kind of Sith you want to be.
Alright, now we've looked at crafting your character, I want us to examine the different pathways available to a Sith character. These are all a little cliche, and specific to a particular role - and many characters prefer to find a blend all of their own, which is perfectly natural. It's worth noting, though, that nobody can master everything - I've been writing my Sith Lord character for over a decade, and even that doesn't entitle me to have mastered all that there is. Let's be honest: you yourself may have many varied interests and dabble in lots of things, but you'll only be truly good at one or two. This should be the same for your character!
Now a lot of new arrivals have been drawn here because they want to express their creativity in writing, but many will have read the books and many more will have played SWTOR, which is populated by remarkable characters above and beyond the average - and that's what they expect to play here. Get it right, ladies and gentlemen: there are plenty of ordinary Sith that spend their entire lives striving for power but that ultimately end up in the service of someone stronger than they are. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd implore you to remember this during your character crafting process!
Anyway, let's talk about pathways. I could describe each and every potential 'Sith Something' pathway that exists, but as with the Jedi, you can easily compile a couple of dozen of those, and that's both tedious and limiting, so I'm not going to do it. Instead, I want to talk about the particular disciplines that these 'specializations' are part of. Yes, they're mine by design, but hopefully, you'll see the sense in them.
The Pathway of Shadow
Although I'm going with this one first, this is actually the second-most common (and cliche) pathway that the Sith tends to follow: that of the Shadow. The Sith that walk this pathway are the ones who believe in using their power to enforce the will of the Sith with extreme violence but also considerable subtlety. They are manipulators, but also killers. Spies, saboteurs, assassins all fall into this category: these are the ones who operate best when they are left unseen.
It's one of the ironies of this archetype that they tend to be among the most violent of the Sith, and yet one of the most carefully controlled: I like to think of them as the type that builds a slow grudge, and often serves as the zealots of the Order, striking out at specific targets because they have dared to stand against or even betray the Sith. These are the silent enforcers of Sith will: they are the stalkers, the hunters, the ones likely to track a target and instill fear in that target as they know that, at any moment, death might strike out at them from the direction they least expect.
Characters who want to invest themselves in this pathway need to be versatile, but skill-specific. Learning lightning and telekinesis are a low priority for these characters - too showy, and not nearly subtle enough. Although gross violence is part of their mandate (can you imagine sending a 'message' with murder being anything less than extreme?), it is controlled and carefully directed. This Sith will train to infiltrate, bypass security, trick personnel, perhaps pass themselves off as something they are not, but when revealed, will direct their powers towards nothing short of utter annihilation. If one of these guys is tracking you, you're a dead man. This is your Darth Maul archetype - though you certainly don't have to write it as one!
Skills to focus on, ideally, will be slicing and data retrieval skills (decryption would be a plus), acrobatics and lightsaber skills, stealth and cloaking abilities (which includes the concealment of your own presence within the Force), mind tricks, and mental domination, and of course, assassination techniques. Covert surveillance of a target, whether for spying or murder, is absolutely essential: this role isn't suited to an impatient Sith. These aren't the weapons of mass destruction - they're the surgical scalpel that takes out an individual target locked in a facility guarded by well-trained Mandalorians, and manages to take out the target without being seen, the evidence only the corpse of their victim left behind.
You would also expect this archetype to have a lot of different tools available to them: heavy armor is definitely not required, so robes would be pretty normal attire. A decent ship is always useful (think Maul's stealth-equipped vessel as an example), but you would also expect them to have access to probe droids, sabotage units, computer spikes, throwing knives, etc. Think sneaky. Think deadly.
The Pathway of the Saber
The conquest of known space and the rise of the Sith to sit atop the galactic pinnacle requires fleets and armies to enforce their will and push opposition aside, and thus requires warriors, individuals that have mastered the ways of combat and are capable of inflicting heavy damage upon any adversary that steps across their path. This is the way of the Marauder, the Juggernaut, the Darth Vaders of the Galaxy. They are a weapon, pure and simple, designed to be directed at an enemy and left to do what they do best with clinical efficiency and maximum levels of force.
Yes, this is the main cliche often adopted by new arrivals to the Sith ranks: these are the ones who wish to master the lightsaber and slaughter Jedi by the hundreds because they can. Impulsive, reckless, utterly destructive, or so the cliche goes. The truth is actually far from it: although these individuals will house considerable emotional power, they learn to contain it and unleash it at the right moment. Think of Palpatine as we observed him during Episode III: up until that moment Mace Windu walked up into his office with a few other Jedi Councillors, we'd seen little more than a cool, collected, controlled individual. At that moment, he revealed the inner rage that seethed within and unleashed it all upon the Jedi. I don't count him as part of this pathway: he's just an exemplar of this particular point!
These Sith are the ones you expect to find in the field more often than the others: they are the type to confront and dominate, their will bent entirely to the submission of their enemy. This does not require death, for reference: these are the type who understands that their superiority is unquestionable and seek to see it demonstrated at every point. They wish to instill fear in those around them, and to their enemies, they wish to force them to submit to their powers, whether by killing them with a lightsaber or pushing them into formal submission and converting them. For that latter reason, I've often felt that this variety of Sith must have more subtlety than they are often portrayed: you don't see a Jedi and want them dead. You see a target, but how that target ends up when you're finished with them is up to you.
Training is fairly obvious: we're looking at the mastery of at least one form of Lightsaber Combat, though it's not uncommon to go for two or three. The less experienced writers will aim for all seven, although you hope you eventually realize how dumb that is: it can take a decade or more to become an expert in a single martial art. Imagine having to master seven of them! You'd never find time to do anything else.
Beyond that, an Acolyte of this pathway should focus on the skills which will aid them in combat: Telekinesis, Tutaminis, certainly Dun Moch (which I would say is even more critical than lightsaber arts), crushing the will of their adversary in any way they can. Some of the more subtle ones might direct their focus at the mentalist powers: Memory Walk/Torture by Chagrin, Alter Mind, even some esoteric skills like Corruption. They should learn battlefield tactics, spend a considerable amount of time in the armory, develop leadership skills to command troops into battle, and so on.
You might see this character in heavy armor, or none at all: it's an incredibly varied sphere that allows for a lot of different archetypes to emerge. The Dark Paladin, the Berserker, the Juggernaut, and so on: it has a ton of scope for a lot of different play. Be subtle and patient, be strong and deadly, be volatile and destructive: whatever you wish. Just remember that you live by Sith ideals!
It's also worth noting that your character does not need to be the one embroiled in combat themselves: plenty of battle commanders have been crafted through this pathway
The Pathway of the Inquisitor
This one is the pathway that is focused on those more esoteric roles within the Sith ranks: not merely that of the eponymous Sith Inquisitor, but also to those roles which move away from utility and focus on the 'big picture'. These are the planners among the Sith: the strategists, the tacticians, the 'politicians', the teachers: these are the Sith that look beyond the more immediate needs of the moment and spend their time focusing on the faction as a whole. The other two roles serve vital functions within the Order, but these are the ones that enable those to do their duties.
The role of the Inquisitor archetype is to be a Sith who spends considerable time in study. They are philosophical, contemplative, likely possessed of a strong mind that they wish to use above and beyond their powers and abilities: for them, the Force is a mystery to be pieced together, and the Sith something to be raised to an art form, not merely a path to follow. The Inquisitor role is therefore one of the hardest to write well: they can function both as a support, but also as leaders, depending on how you choose to write them.
One of the most overt things you'll often notice about this pathway is that practitioners of it tend not to care much about the war between Jedi or Sith, or even give a damn about the wars that the Sith are engaging in: their focus is on advancing the knowledge of the Sith, and ensuring that the Sith survive. These are the ones who will be looking at the long-term: the battles themselves are the providence of others, but the consequences of those battles are the realm of the Inquisitor. They are the ones best suited to govern, to rule, to developing a broader game plan for the Sith to apply thereafter. Field duty is for the other archetypes: if they take to the field, it is to make sure that everything is going to plan.
You'll find these within the Temples, conducting dark experiments with Sith Alchemy or Sith Sorcery, teaching students and inflicting pain and suffering upon them in a coldly objective fashion to see which ones snap and which ones should be passed onto more advanced tutors. You'll find them in the Senate, manipulating individuals and entire planetary governments to advance the Sith. You'll find them subverting enemies of the Sith through patient, subtle pressures. These are the Palpatine, the Silencia, even the Darth Carnifex (though he's what I tend to think of as the 'Monster' archetype).
Patience is foremost among the skills of the Inquisitor: their duty is to dissemble, to teach, to experiment and study, to manipulate, and to undermine. They are often the glue that keeps the Sith together, though not always the one on top: more often can they be found beneath whoever rules, offering patient guidance and advice, planning and plotting, undermining and paving the way for Sith domination to go forth.
Skills are varied, but it is expected that they won't often have time for lightsaber arts: these Sith focus primarily on experimenting with their powers within the Force. They are the ones who cast lightning at their foes, wield the magical energies of Sith Sorcery, or create terrifying monsters to protect themselves with Sith Alchemy. They are subtle and cunning, master planners who will focus their time on the long game, rather than the short-term advantages they might obtain. They don't care about converting one Jedi: they plan the conversion or destruction of the entire Order. They may focus on the mentalist powers, or be masters of Telekinesis. They must be skilled in conversation and persuasion, they must know how to push and pressure without forcing someone to snap.
Having explored the pathways, I wanted to look at some of the archetypes often seen around here, and discuss how they fit in and work with Sith ideology: what their role is, which pathway they likely fit into, and how you can adapt such an archetype for your own use if you're so inclined. Worth noting: this isn't a comprehensive list, and there are probably a truckload more archetypes. If anyone wants to suggest some, send them my way!
Also, these are written mostly from my own perspective (as is everything in the guides I've written so far). Take them with a pinch of salt, if you wish.
The Politician is almost always of the Inquisitor pathway: these are the Sith who actually spend as little time as themselves as possible, presenting a very different face to the Galaxy, using this identity to spread chaos, dissension, and undermining those that might oppose the final elevation of the Sith. They can, of course, even be seen to act against the interests of the Sith, but this is usually done in the short term: the support Palpatine had for the Jedi Order during the early days of the Clone Wars was an exquisite example, positioning them so as to be so critical to the Republic that they were decimated by being on the front lines. He'd not overtly acted against them, but placed them in such a way that he ensured their destruction all the same. This is very much a Politician role.
Palpatine is your exemplar from the Star Wars canon: a consummate Sith who lies in wait, biding his time but not inactive. These Sith play chess on a galactic scale - it doesn't matter if a battle is lost or a planet reclaimed by the opposition. Those are pawns to be sacrificed. A Politician Sith plays the long game, and will often spend decades planning and preparing for their move.
Playing as a politician is a particularly difficult role to maintain on our board, particularly with shifting allegiances and constantly-fluctuating factions. You'd expect a politician Sith to inveigle themselves with the Galactic Alliance, joining their governmental branches and steering things that way. They might be part of the First Order's upper echelons, pushing forward the Supreme Leader's agenda. They might even be joined with the Mandalorians, or a major corporation, quietly playing them to the advantage of the Sith.
If it's something you want to do, you're primarily looking at the Inquisitor pathway, but more than that, you need to be developing a character that is comfortable with being two different people, perhaps many more than that: their Sith identity is the core of the onion, but nowhere near the surface, something they can expose when the time is right. Their training must be done in secret, and chances are they will often spend time among other Sith covertly, though never abandoning their post at the wrong moment, when doing so might expose them. It's a tricky one to write, but I daresay you'll have fun!
The 'Monster' is a Sith that is utterly devoid of a moral center: they are domineering, ruthless, merciless, easily pushed towards violence, and yet consummate Sith. They believe in the superiority of the Sith and in their right to rule above all things, and therefore see all living beings as game pieces: pawns to be moved around and used as they will. The Monster has little respect for life, seeing it as cheap and expendable (except for their own, of course, since they will often also seek Immortality to maintain their power). They will kill without hesitation, but not without some sense of flair: if they can murder a being while using them as an example to others that might challenge them, all the better.
This kind of character is one that a lot of people attempt: this is the 'evil' Sith, the kind that will see their will done no matter what, and has little compunction about exterminating planets or population centers if they feel they must. The problem is that so few have the actual background to pull this one off: many Acolytes mistakenly start out trying to be The Monster, but it isn't something that just happens. Most of this archetype starts out as something else entirely.
That's the key to this archetype: they have a reputation, and develop this over time through ruthless actions, the strength of rule, utter conviction both in themselves and in the truth of the Sith way (even if they have a different view of that than the one I've presented to you - which is often the case). They may start out as a team player, but they don't end up as one: they have more faith in themselves than in the others among the Sith, whom they will often view as half-measures, or weak.
You'll note that many of the Galaxy's most powerful Sith Lords became the 'Monster': Marka Ragnos, Darth Andeddu, Darth Nihilus, and so on. These are beings that bathe unrestrained in the powers of the Dark Side and become very powerful but also dangerously corrupted. They're as close to madness as you can come, but that's what makes them interesting!
This one's always struck me as a blend of Inquisitor and Shadow, the kind of character who is capable of doing many strange, dangerous, and exotic things, and that might come from any angle. Like the Politician, the face they present to you may not be the one that they really wear in private, but their aims are less about the grand scheme of things than about their own agenda. They're the Loki of the Star Wars Universe, content with sewing chaos and uncertainty.
Because they tend to be more of a field operative rather than a back-room planner, their schemes tend to be grand but directly executed: using an underling is only effective if it is step one of twelve. These are the sorts of Sith character that grandstands (in a hugely entertaining way!): everything is big, bad and beautiful. If what is going on seems wildly outside the box, chances are it is because you are in the presence of The Trickster.
Skills vary wildly: Sith Sorcery and Alchemy are excellent choices, but even mundane skills applied in weird and wacky ways work, too: the key is always to be surprising, to do one more thing that confuses, surprises, and scares the hell out of everyone. Playing such a character requires you to be imaginative, creative, and willing to push the boundaries (but stay within the rules, or you'll get stamped on pretty damn hard).
These Sith start out as the slightly unhinged ones: I've often felt that they're the Shadows that go a little nuts because of their work in the field, from being on edge just a little too long. Even the name of 'Sith' is oftentimes just an affectation for them: their agenda is their own, and they're not usually interested in advancing the Sith themselves, so much as using that title for their own ends. Dangerous, reckless, incredibly entertaining to write with, but very difficult for anyone to write. If you're interested in this kind of Sith, I really suggest you bounce it off someone!
A pretty straightforward Darth Vader archetype: this is the battlefield commander, the guy in the front lines, and everything in-between. If there's a problem, it can be resolved with a lightsaber (or even two). This is the Marauder, the Juggernaut, the epitome of the Pathway of the Saber: the one who sees a threat to the Sith and goes forth to take them down.
I will note, though, that this role often applies as much to Sith as to everyone else: a very effective way to play the Warrior is as the 'Zealot': a true believer in the superiority of the Sith, one that will seek to crush any that subvert this in any way. They are just as willing to murder Sith as they are Jedi, and really anyone else that seeks to question Sith superiority. They're very good at killing subordinates that step out of line, but they're also willing to punch above their weight, too.
Put simply, this character is fearless, determined, and violent. Not all the time, of course, but they are the sort of Sith who is indoctrinated with a sense of their own superiority. Think Bane, think Maul, think Sion: these are all Warrior archetypes at the beginning (regardless of what they may have turned into later). They don't have to be drawn from the Saber pathway, either: there are plenty who walk the Shadow pathway, too.
Playing this kind of character is pretty simple: your job is to be a weapon for the Sith. That can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it, and I know a lot of talented writers have often crafted this archetype just to blow off a little steam and go forth and slaughter in a Dominion or two. These characters don't lack intelligence or subtlety (most of the time), but they're an easy archetype to write, though difficult to write well (note the distinction, please!). Thus, we find a lot of these on the site: not a bad thing, though. Every war needs warriors, and that's these guys.
Focus is on training in combat and lightsaber skills, the domination of the opponent, and oftentimes, moving very close to the next archetype.
I'll be blunt: I despise these particular kinds of Sith. Their sole focus in life is on the destruction of the Jedi Order. They're the ones who have inherited thousands of years of grudge directed at our counterparts and want them gone, whatever it takes. Palpatine ended up this way after a while, as did Maul, as did Bane: the notion that the Jedi might survive and thrive is just anathema to them.
That said, they're a complex archetype that can be played in many, many different ways: the Politician can be an Anti-Jedi, as can the Monster. Characters from any of the pathways I mentioned in Part Three can be from this archetype: the assassin that specializes in hunting down and killing Force Users; the Inquisitor who focuses on the destruction of the Jedi Order as a long-term goal; the Saber who seeks to dominate, convert or kill any she can get her hands on - and more besides.
I expect to find these characters at the forefront of any invasion force or dominion where Jedi might come into play. They regularly offer challenges to the Jedi, and oftentimes see them both as an enemy and a means to grow a reputation among their own kind: they are a Slayer of Jedi and will style themselves accordingly. Versatile, but very focused on their particular objective: Jedi, expect to see lots of these characters.
Fairly unlikely to be a philosophical character, I might add: these ones don't spend a lot of time struggling with Light and Dark. They're dark to the core, despise the Jedi as weak or as half-measures, and will have an awful lot of pent-up rage directed at the Jedi in particular. They do pretty well with the Zealot subtype I mentioned earlier, I might add.
This one's a complicated kind of Sith: the type that contrasts the Sith as they are, and the Sith as they should be. They're the one that falls into line with the Sith and their doctrines but also sees them as less than they should be. Let's be honest: many that write the Sith write characters that are bland, boring, aggressive, and ruthless, lacking any moral edge or anything other than simply wanting to be evil. The Idealist is the kind of Sith that sees this and frankly despises it: whatever else they may believe, there's a considerable disdain for their own kind.
They are often a Politician or Warrior: a Sith who sees that the purity of the Sith has been diluted (a pretty common theme for those of the Sith race), watered down and corrupted by millennia of fighting, of different philosophies and focuses among those who call themselves Sith: to this person, many who call themselves Sith are merely Dark Jedi masquerading as Sith. It's often fair to say that the Idealist will kill more Sith than the Jedi: their duty is to cleanse the ranks of the Sith of the impure, restoring the sanctity of the Sith way, whatever they perceive that to be.
Playing an Idealist is not a simple task: expect to be hunted by everyone! Many of your fellow Sith will see you as an extremist to be shunned or stopped, and the Jedi will hate you just because you call yourself Sith. Your job is to have a very fixed view of what a Sith should be, and hold disdain (weak or strong) for those that step out of line.
You don't have to go with an aggressive line on this, though: you could easily be a highly-conservative Sith that simply dislikes the direction that many others take, but fly the flag all the same. You could become a Sith Killer, the type to root out heresy among the Sith, and purify the Order. You might simply be the kind that shuns the Sith, maintaining them as corrupted. Your call! The beauty of it all is that you don't need to have any particular characteristics other than that perspective.
I don't necessarily hold this archetype to be a true Scientist: they may have zero interest in science whatsoever. These are the Sith that feel inclined to play around and experiment, and thus are the type to hold many weird powers and esoteric abilities than others. These are the Sith Priests, the Alchemists, the Sorcerers: the ones who have delved into some deeper areas of study to master pathways that the majority of Sith will never touch.
They hold little fear of the Dark Side and see it as a tool to be played around with an experimented with. They're often drawn from the Inquisitor Pathway, and tend towards gross inventions, creating beast armies, developing techniques for imbuing objects with energy (and thus count as some of the finest crafters in the Sith ranks), and become capable of truly terrifying abilities and spells.
I've often thought them slightly unhinged: devoted to their craft, they often remain Sith by association and playing with the Dark Side rather than through allegiance to the doctrines of the Order. They're unlikely to be Idealists or Politicians: they'll hold little true loyalty to the Sith as a group, seeing them instead as a means to an end: offering access to many dark and forbidden arts that they wish to learn, develop and manipulate. You may get the occasional Scientist who remains true to the Sith, but most are utterly insane, devoid of morality or consideration for the grand plan: their job is to advance their craft, no matter the cost.
You'll often find this character leashed to the entourage of another Sith, a powerful being that will use the Scientist to advance their own ends. Provide me with technology, creations, wield your powers in my cause, and I will grant you access to Holocrons and Artifacts, research and test subjects, and so on. It's perfectly possible to establish a strong bond with other characters in this fashion, by both characters maintaining a dependent relationship with the other.
Plenty of areas that can hold your attention, of course: perhaps you're a droid manufacturer, hellbent on producing an army capable of taking down even the Sith. Perhaps you're an Alchemist that wants to unlock the ancient arts that have been lost down the millennia. Perhaps you're a Sorcerer obsessed with your own powers and will use them to destroy any that challenge your pursuits. The possibilities are quite endless.
In something of a departure from the past four parts of the Guide, I'm going to use this one to focus on what training a Sith should look like. This guide works for established writers as well as for new ones: those who have existing Sith can use it as a reference for how to train a new student (since I'm aware this isn't often taught ICly), and new students can use it to work out what they might expect from their instructor.
Do bear in mind, we all have our different approaches, so mine is just expressing my own thoughts here, and will probably differ from the approach others will take. I'm just offering some ideas that you can work with to build a new character from the ground up into the sort of Sith they want to be (or that they're willing to be shaped into!).
Also, this guide isn't really for people who are inclined to skip the initial training process: a lot of Sith writers jump into having been with the Sith for a few months already, so they wear the robes, carry a lightsaber, and generally act as though they've been given some nominal (or even significant) levels of training. This one's more for those who want to write their path out in full, and show their journey from non-entity to Sith.
First things first, you have to find the Sith. Get captured in battle, go find one of their planets (occupied or not, we seem to be there anyway), maybe just accidentally bump into one and really tick them off. Regardless, once you've found us, you need to prove that you're worth bothering with: the Sith don't train everybody. I don't mean flex your muscles and show that you've been trained in combat - that's boring, and we'd end up teaching you that anyway. A Sith looks for people who have the capability of becoming Sith themselves: the sort of people that are willing to endure whatever it takes to push their ideas along. And, trust me, we'll be testing that in due course.
If your character knows that they're Force Sensitive and can prove it, that's always a good start: they're a rare breed (or they're supposed to be - they're really a dime a dozen on Chaos!), so finding one with that capability is a prized thing among the Sith. Even Jedi qualify as conversion material, provided we can deal with the absurd teachings they've been indoctrinated with. We've got methods for that, too, don't worry. If not, at least give some fair reasoning about why you've dared to seek out the Sith. We'll make you pay for it either way, but if you plan on living, it's best to have good reasons!
Now, provided someone's agreed to train you, we move onto step one:
The Sith demand sacrifice: your entire life is ultimately a sacrifice to the Sith way, in some form or another. To devote yourself to their path means to be willing to throw yourself before armies, to give up everything you've ever wanted for yourself, and be prepared to push an agenda that doesn't necessarily have you in mind. You might be the next Dark Lord, or you might simply be cannon fodder: whatever the case, you have to be prepared to give up everything because the Sith will require nothing less than everything you've got, past, present, and future.
The first thing that has to be done with a new student is to break them down - what they are when they first start out is irrelevant, because they are not what they need to be. A Sith is a being capable of withstanding great trials and suffering - they have to be, realistically, because only then can they reach their potential. The Sith believe that all strength is derived from sacrifice: if you want to gain something, you have to be prepared to give up something, in the same way, a person trying to get fit has to sacrifice their time and experience a lot of inconvenience and pain to reach their goals. The stakes are far higher for a Sith, and so the risks are, too.
The rules are simple: the Master must first impress the seriousness of this upon their student, and demand nothing but unconditional obedience from them. This may well continue on even after the student has reached Knighthood - in some cases, this is a lifetime commitment, one that ends only when the Master or the Apprentice is dead (as was the design of the Rule of Two: obedience continued until the Apprentice surpassed the Master, and murdered them, or until the Apprentice failed and was replaced). The student must be willing to embrace the pain and suffering that will be coming their way: the Sith master will see to it!
The Breaking can take many different forms, from outright physical and emotional abuse to grueling tests and assessments of existing abilities. Seek out your student's weaknesses and exploit them. Push against their ambitions and see if they push back. Threaten them, hurt them, belittle them: turn them into nothing. That's the key to the process. In doing so, you'll draw out their emotions, see what they're willing to endure, truly test their commitment to becoming Sith. Should they succeed in this, they'll be ready for the next step. If not, kill them.
I like to use this as part of The Breaking, myself: putting the student through tests and torments designed to make them suffer. Deprive them of what they want or need, take everything they own from them, strip them of their very identity. Force them to endure trials that will require them to summon the strength to persevere: starve them, deprive them of heat, of light, of company, of safety. [member="Darth Carnifex"] suggested to send them to the moon of Dxun with clothing and a small dagger for a month to see if they survive - this is the exact nature of the 'toughening' process. It is all about testing endurance, stamina, mental fortitude, and more.
Use deprivation of natural environment to your advantage here: as Plagueis remarks, if your student comes from a desert world, take them to an ice planet. If they are an aquatic being, strand them in a desert. If they come from Hoth, take them to Mustafar. Force them to endure what they cannot, and in turn, you strengthen them and test their resourcefulness. Give them a few small things needed to survive, or leave them even without simple clothing, and demand that they satisfy your requirements for success.
This, in turn, will also begin to attune them to the Dark Side: their suffering will be close to the surface, their emotions becoming far more overt. They will hate you - they should hate you - for the suffering, you force them to endure. They will lust for warmth, safety, security, and receive none of it. They will feel anguish at the suffering they endure. As they do so, so will the Dark Side begin to claim them, for they are at their weakest, and thus can begin to recognize their flaws, their weaknesses, their potential to rise above it. This is what the second stage is designed to achieve.
Once the student has proven their dedication to the Sith, their true training may begin. They will be schooled in combat, in doctrine, in the use of the Force, and its use of them. They will learn politics, philosophy, gain an understanding of their path, and choose one for themselves. This should never allow for a let-up in the first two stages, however: a good teacher will continue to push their student, belittle them, force them to recognize where they are failing to meet standards and expectations, and then, when they reach it, move the goalposts and remind them that their progress is still insufficient.
Their lessons in combat should be demeaning but instructive: seek to push them over the edge. Manipulate their anger, rage, impatience, and let it all come out during the fight. They will let this spillover, of course, and most often will find themselves easily bested by a superior force: one with patience, discipline, perseverance. As they demonstrate a lack of these qualities, they must be punished, encouraged to develop them in themselves. The emotional energy they possess must be channeled, but never allowed to control them: they must master it, or be forever useless to the Sith.
As they begin to develop in their skills, they should be used in the field: your student is your servant for the duration of their training and should accompany you when you so desire it, but also be permitted to go forth without you, expected to endure and struggle and prove their mettle to the other Sith through their service. Throw them into fights they cannot win, battles they are not prepared to fight. Send them to retrieve objects both mundane and fantastical, to test their resourcefulness: and remind them not to return should they fail. A Sith student must be pushed over the edge, every day, made to recognize that their worth is only in what they achieve for the Sith. One who acts but achieves nothing is but a waste of time and training.
Remember to keep secrets, and tease them with these: a teacher who gives their student everything is as much a failure as a student who achieves nothing. With something to strive for, they will seek your approval, they will work harder to encourage you to give them that which they desire. In so controlling them, you mold them into the force you wish them to become. Only when they have finally met your every expectation for them should you consider offering them independence of a sort: Knighthood.
This is not the end of their training, nor of your relationship. Quite the opposite: Knighthood comes only when their usefulness to you and to the Sith has been proven beyond question when their service truly begins.
Your established servant may now begin training others at a lower level: encourage them to engage in the breaking process, actively engage them in the sadism you demonstrated during your own training. The suffering they themselves endured has encouraged them to recognize their superiority: only they could have survived what they were put through, and they will do the same for others, knowing that from such suffering comes beings capable of coping with what the Galaxy puts them through.
Knighthood is not the end of a Sith's training, however: now their services will be put to use by the Sith as a whole, with your own Master serving as their introduction, as their sponsor, as their end, should they fail. They have the skills to be useful in the field and should be let off the leash somewhat. Their Master remains responsible for them, however, and should oversee their continuing development: to my mind, only when an Apprentice reaches the rank of Sith Lord should their apprenticeship finally end, for it is only at that time that their potential has reached the point where their dreams of power have begun to bear fruit.
A Knight is worthy to teach lesser Acolytes and to engage the enemies of the Sith in the field. They are the durasteel first beneath the velvet glove: the largest population among the Sith, the weapon used by the Order to dominate, spread their influence, and reinforce the will of those who rule at the top. They will undermine, destroy, subvert, and bring others into line, forcing the will of the Sith onto the galaxy as a whole.
Their own lessons must continue, though: now they are acknowledged as useful, and it is at this point that their ego should be encouraged. They should be given reason to believe themselves useful, given to understand that they are servants, but masters also: superior to the lesser beings beneath them, but with the responsibility to those beings by virtue of it. They serve the Sith Empire (in whatever form it may take), and their place is as representatives of that authority. They will grow in power, and as they do, their power will take new forms and shapes, consolidated in some respects and developing in others. As this occurs, the Master will continue to let their student deeper into the mysteries of the Sith, teaching them new powers and bringing them further into broader plots and designs.
As the servant continues to grow in power, then will come the true challenge: proceeding to Mastery.
A Sith is granted the rank of Sith Lord/Lady when they have proven themselves effective servants of the Sith beyond all doubt, powerful, certainly, but also capable of putting the Sith agenda above their own. These will be the ones trusted to guide the Sith as a whole, the ones required to raise Acolytes towards Knighthood, the ones to whom the secrets of the Sith are entrusted. These are the ones who hold the fate of all Sith in their hands, and dispense justice and mercy accordingly, ruling as they see fit over those who would one day aspire to take their place.
Few Sith ever reach this level, faltering at some point, or perhaps simply being too useful as a tool or a weapon to elevate to the point of strategist, keeper of secrets, or ruler. Some are simply there to serve: only those able to rule will ascend to the top of the pyramid. Training here is through survival, as always: the Sith Lords vie between themselves for power, for authority, for rule. They will come together to protect the Sith as a whole, but will also seek to protect and preserve the Sith above any other consideration, including from within: a Sith who seeks to put themselves above the good of all Sith is one whose days are numbered.
Becoming a Sith when you start out as a Force User of a different faction is not simply a matter of exchanging tan robes for black ones and swapping out your name for something a little edgier: there seems to be a huge misconception floating around on this, mostly because the movies served to show but a tiny fraction of one person's conversion under remarkable circumstances. Surely to become a Sith merely means that you have sworn your allegiance, cast off your moral restraints, and simply let yourself feel something (or admit to it, at any rate!)? Perhaps all you need is someone (yourself, more than likely) to give you a 'Darth' name?
Nope, definitely not.
The first thing we need to note is this: a Jedi that has fallen from the Jedi ways is not a Sith by default. Wearing black robes and acting whimsically or psychopathically does not make you Sith - oftentimes, quite the opposite. A Jedi in such a position is a Dark Jedi at best, a fallen Rogue Jedi at worst, someone that has rejected one set of teachings to go their own way. To become a Sith thereafter, they must do far more than this. I did say mention all other Force Users, but the Jedi-to-Sith conversion is the most common cliche, so that's the one I'll focus on.
The Sith are all agents of the Dark Side, first and foremost. The most sociopathic and the most rational, the ambitious, the destructive, the malicious, the gluttonous: all must submit to the Dark Side. A Jedi might slide towards the Dark Side, but they are more often than not being manipulated by it, being drawn in as fodder, their emotions played upon and influenced so that their inner darkness might feed the greater one. These are victims of the Dark Side, beings that will slowly be consumed by it, and not of their own free will.
Moving back to Sith, these are beings that recognize the darkness, and choose to embrace it, for whatever reasons or motives they might choose. The darkness feeds on them, but it's a symbiotic relationship: they draw power from the darkness, accept the agonies of it for themselves, knowing that they are strengthened by it even as they are diminished by it. They are not entirely servants of the Dark Side, nor is it entirely at their service: it is a give-and-take relationship, a constant struggle between the two that a Sith accepts as a means to achieve their ends. It's a very Faustian bargain, ultimately: everything they are in exchange for the power to realize their dreams and ideals.
Conversion to the Sith path isn't a delicate switch, nor a fun experience - it's designed to be emotionally traumatic, physically jarring (if not outright deadly), a complete shock to the system. One Jedi in a thousand might make a successful Sith because Jedi oftentimes reject the feelings and pain that Jedi push aside in their quest for objectivity. A Sith cannot afford this: they must embrace their feelings, must embrace pain, must be willing to let the Dark Side swallow them whole, and that's a very dangerous path that you don't always walk away from.
Even the strongest of Jedi Masters remains a neophyte when it comes to the Sith path: the Jedi uses the Light Side as the source of their powers and must engage in serene focus, pushing aside their ego and becoming a vessel for the energies of the Force. A Sith cannot do this: they must allow themselves to revel in the feelings that are part of them, offer them up to the darkness in exchange for the strength they draw upon. Thus, any Jedi converting to the Sith path will effectively start out as a complete novice, much as a new Acolyte without training might. They may understand the techniques they have been taught (so they would know how to channel energy to levitate an object, for example), but they have zero understanding of how to tap into the Dark Side, and so would be effectively useless at it until they have been trained.
Much of a convert's training requires unlearning: they must see the flaws in their past training, be brought to an understanding of the weaknesses inherent in this, and the damage it has done to them. Such a thing will hurt, of course, and there should ever be resistance: imagine being told everything you believed was wrong, and that you must try a different (perhaps even wholly contrary) approach. All your principles, reservations, moral codes, psychological methodology...all of it must be challenged.
The bit that's difficult, of course, is actually truly becoming Dark: Jedi in particular have a tendency of seeking to avoid pain, by suppression techniques or by detaching themselves from the sources of it. Friends and family are often concepts avoided: Sith must open themselves up to these things. The pain must be felt, experienced, and endured, not simply shoved to one side. The training for a convert remains similar to that of any ordinary Acolyte: they must be pushed, subjected to horror and agony, forced to embrace it and press on regardless.
The TL;DR version is fairly straightforward: you might be a Jedi Master, but you're less than a neophyte among the Sith until broken down into tiny little pieces. You don't go from Jedi Master to Sith Lord: you go from Jedi Master to Sith Acolyte. You'll be challenged, pushed, prodded, forced to declare your allegiance to your enemy, and made to destroy everything they foolishly made you live by. You are nothing, but you have the potential to become something.
Or you might become nothing at all. That's ever an alternative.
Edited Notation (01/04/2017)
Also wanted to add, after having some conversations with [member="Satia"] that there's another pretty obvious reason you'd not go from Jedi Master straight to Sith Lord (or vice versa) following a conversion:
Conversions require that you turn your back on your own people and the principles that previously guided you, essentially turning you into a traitor. A Jedi becoming Sith has walked away from their objectivity-focused, morally self-righteous, humility-espousing philosophy, to essentially turn to the Dark Side, becoming a very different individual (eventually). Ask yourself, traitor, why we should trust you? Ask yourself why we would offer you power and responsibility, knowing that your service to the Sith is self-serving, and does not stem from true belief? Ask ourselves why we would allow you to walk the path of the Sith Lords, knowing your changeable, unstable, treacherous nature.
Let's be honest: a conversion would almost bar you from the upper levels of the Sith hierarchy: you can't be trusted. You may sound zealous, may wish to slay Jedi by the thousands, and claim hatred of democracy, peace, etc, but realistically, you don't serve the Sith or their Empire: you serve your own interests. You walked away for selfish reasons, and such will dictate your actions from that point forward. And your treachery serves as a foundation for what is to come: you have betrayed your Jedi family, so you will, in time, betray us also. But we're watching you...
OOCly, see yourself treated with suspicion and scorn. It's a good platform for the emotional breaking, to be something of an outcast, to be known as treacherous, a turncoat from the Light, one who has come late to the Dark. You shouldn't expect, ICly, to be welcomed: you might be treated with derision, antipathy, perhaps with a little sympathy (you were blind, but now you can see, and how terrifying that must be for you!). The road to becoming a Sith will be long and difficult, dangerous certainly, and you may never fully gain the trust of those above you, nor that of your peers. The work needed to prove yourself will be considerable, but the rewards may be worth it in time...
The post of Acolyte or Apprentice is a little different to that of the Jedi's 'Padawan', in that such individuals have a very clear place within the hierarchy of the Sith Order, and are expected to serve, rather than merely being prepared for such. Jedi Padawans are typically assigned to a single Master and are largely not separated from their teacher for the purposes of assignment - as Padawans, they are held as trainees, inexperienced and not yet at a level to operate on their own. Their Masters supervise them, continue their training, and also allow the student to benefit from their extensive experience. Acolytes among the Sith are dealt with in a very different fashion, and this needs to be clarified.
Students are initially identified as Force Sensitives and put through rigorous tests to see that they understand what it is to be Sith. This will demand competition among students, one which many do not survive, pushing them to their limits to see if they will hold to their service to the Empire in all circumstances. They must prove themselves physically and psychologically, often humiliated and harmed, expected to demonstrate obedience to their superiors, but also to show sufficient spirit to be able to survive and ascend through the hierarchy. The weak and easily-manipulated will fall quickly, such that only those with the greatest potential are left behind.
Acolytes that have moved through their initial training and issued with a lightsaber are expected to incorporate themselves into the hierarchy as field agents and operatives - they must essentially prove themselves as Sith before rising through the ranks. The ones who fail will ultimately die, whether at the hands of other Sith or merely as a result of their own incompetence. Apprenticeships work a little differently to those of a Jedi: an Apprentice among the Sith is expected to become part of their Master's power base and be a servant to their will, advancing their aims and working on their Master's behalf. It is a partnership of sorts: one offering training and opportunities for advancement, the other offering their service, and placing themselves at the behest of their teacher.
It is during this stage that a student's 'breaking' is likely to be conducted: the point at which the Master engages in the rigorous testing and deprivation that is required to turn the Acolyte from a being of potential into a truly useful servant, and then into one capable of breaking through those chains to become a Sith in their own right. The means by which this is accomplished can vary: the Master might opt for a direct breaking, with that being the intention, or they might simply throw the student into a series of assignments designed to test both their usefulness and to push their limits beyond breaking point. Should the student accomplish these successfully, they can have their resentment and anger channeled appropriately, and they may yet become Sith.
Advancement beyond the student ranks comes within this period of service: a student must form connections with others, both within the Sith hierarchy and outside of it; must demonstrate their allegiance to the Empire and those who rule it; must prove their willingness to stand against the enemies of the Empire, and fight bravely in the field. Elimination of one's Master would allow a Sith to take their place within the Sith hierarchy, but this has largely fallen into disuse as a means of advancement, now that the Rule of Two has been broken. Recognition of ability by one's superiors and peers is often sufficient, and battlefield promotion is common for those who stand out in the eyes of the Dark Lord.
Students should not be treated as students during their time in the Acolyte phase: they are your agents, your operatives, given room to spread their wings and prove themselves, but similarly tested with the potential to be broken, or even to fail. Those who cannot meet the requirements of their teachers should be killed as a danger to the Empire since such will either weaken the ranks or turn against their brethren - such would be put down as you would do a rabid Akk Hound. It is a mercy to do so. Those that survive the deadly trials of the Sith will be broken, but also reborn into something strong: true servants of the Empire.