Bishop and Casavir: The Most Interesting Love Triangle That Never Was
In 2006, Neverwinter Nights 2 graced the world with its presence. It’d been rushed to release by Obsidian executives, so it had a lot of filler, bugs, and dangling plot threads.
But some good nuggets existed under the rough, and one was the planned love triangle between a female player character, and two of her male human companions Bishop and Casavir.
NWN2 is an examination of the Standard Hero’s Journey, and as such the player experiences every standard fantasy cliche: You’re an orphan from a small farming village, which is attacked by evil forces. You’re forced to go on the road, pick up several quirky companions, and stop some ancient evil from engulfing the world in darkness. You also have to collect all the pieces of a shattered magical sword and reforge it because it’s the only weapon that can stop him, and so on.
Most of your companions are all standard Dungeons & Dragons fantasy archetypes: a beer-guzzling, battle-happy dwarf; an impulsive tiefling thief; a grumpy elven druidess who lectures you about living in harmony with nature; an arrogant sorceress who just wants to torch everything; a spoony bard and gadgeteering gnome; a haughty elven wizard; etc.
The only two companions who stray from their traditional archetypes are…
Casavir: A Lawful Good Paladin of Justice who selflessly dedicates his life to fighting evil to protect innocents. The only way he really strays from the archetype is:
a) He’s obviously much older and world-weary. With grey hair streaks, crow’s feet, and a somber demeanor, it’s clear Casavir has been fighting evil for so long that the burden of constant do-gooding has left him world-weary… Especially since he lives in a cruel world. While not quite cynical, he’s become bitterly aware of Neverwinter “politics,” or The Establishment’s unwillingness to put its clean ideals before its own interests.
b) He’s something of a lady’s man. Cut content revealed that despite Casavir’s Paladin Vows (*cough* Chastity Vows), he had a secret affair with a popular courtesan. Somehow a jealous noble rival found out, and when their affair became public, Casavir fled Neverwinter in disgrace to fight orcs in the mountains. Despite his years of service and high standing with Lord Nasher and the Neverwinter Nine, Casavir is too ashamed to ask for help or return.
While not the most original concept for a fantasy character, it is made more interesting by how it contrasts to the other third of the love triangle:
Bishop is a Chaotic Evil Ranger. Far from the noble protector of the woods like Aragorn, he has a ruthless “predator or prey” outlook. Bishop spent his whole life hunting, tracking, and killing things in the wilds to survive. From catching his own food as a starving child, to smuggling and escorting humans through the woods for coin. He values freedom above all else, and believes society is a complete sham. He’s convinced that everyone, deep down, (including him) is out for themselves and nothing else.
Bishop is also boyishly handsome, with juuust enough scuffle to evoke the “rugged good looks” image… Though Bishop fan art often plays up the grizzled manly part.
Bishop also has one of the best voices put to video game. It’s a shame that his voice actor, Asa Seigel, never did anything else because he was REALLY good.
As Lt. Danger of the Neverwinter Nights 2 Let’s Play Archive pointed out:
There’s a lot of people who really like Bishop, usually for the wrong reasons. Yeah, maybe he’s boyishly handsome, with messy hair and long lashes, but he’s not a nice person.
Which is an understatement. Bishop is evil to the core and expects you to be. He’s also insanely popular (over fourteen years later). Artists still produce fan art of him, and one modder created a Bishop Skyrim Romance mod. One that includes Casavir! And with an enduring fandom that still churns out fandom and hatedom content to this day! (Heck, I learned about this mod from a girl who’s never even heard of Neverwinter Nights 2, but loved Skyrim Bishop.)
So, why is Bishop still well-remembered? Aside from being a handsome bad boy for girls to swoon over? I’d argue it’s because Bishop is an interesting character; good looks, black heart, and all.
As Lt. Danger points out: Bishop straddles all kinds of lines.
Nature’s important to the fantasy genre. Hell, it’s important to society as a whole, since it basically helps define what is and isn’t society… humans don’t like ambiguity. Stuff that blurs the line between two discrete categories. Cyborgs, mutants, mixed-race families if you go back a generation or two…
…or man and nature. That’s a biggie.
(Again, Bishop is a human ranger who hunts, tracks, and kills things.)
Animals that act like humans are unnerving — and the same goes for men that act like animals. Think of… The Most Dangerous Game, the man-hunter who preys on human beings, undermining our whole concept of the ‘natural order’ of things. Humans not being top dog is a worrying concept for us.
And that’s what Bishop represents. He’s the tracker-of-men, the race-traitor who’d betray his own species for a bag of gold — or maybe just for the hell of it. That’s what’s implied in Casavir’s and Malin’s warnings, what lurks in the darkness of Bishop’s viciously pragmatic philosophy.
But more than that, he’s also the inversion of the traditional archetypal Ranger, the Strider-character who walks with the animals and controls nature. I see no such control in Bishop; Bishop allows himself to be dominated by his primitive, animalistic urges. Civilisation is for dorks.
And that’s one of the main reasons I think Bishop is so well-liked and remembered. He doesn’t fit neatly into any little category. Not like most NWN2 base game companions. He transgresses all kinds of lines.
- On the most surface level: Bishop has almost andrydynous good looks, but he’s also grizzled and scruffy. (Gender queer.)
- He’s a complete asshole, but thanks to Asa Seigels’s amazing performance he has JUST enough charisma and redeemable moments that he’s also compelling, and comes across as redeemable. (More on that later.)
- He puts down every companion in the party, but also approves if you push back. (For instance, if the player apologizes for his behavior by saying, “It takes a dog to find dogs,” and he laughs, “That’s the truth!”)
- He believes strongly in the predator/prey dichotomy but, unlike most Social Darwinists, he isn’t arrogant enough to think he’s always the predator. He’s very aware that he could end up someone else’s prey.
- He likes riling people up when he happens to be around them (he’s always picking fights and starting shit with companions), but he also prefers to keep to himself and stay out of harm’s way. By and large, he’ll leave you alone if you leave him alone.
- He believes that everyone should stand up for themselves, and doesn’t get mad when they do. He makes lewd comments about every female party member at least once, particularly the female player character, and backs off after they tell him to.
Coming back to Bishop’s love of freedom and his embrace of his base instincts, this could be another reason he’s so popular and remembered.
As The Take discuss in their “The Bad Boy Trope, Explained” video essay, bad boys in fiction often represent freedom from society’s expectations, and a safe fictional outlet for woman to embrace her natural instincts.
If the Nice Guy is the socially acceptable guy that the girl is expected to fall for — a financially responsible man for her to marry, have kids, and settle down to boring everyday life with — then the fictional Bad Boy represents her indulging her less socially acceptable desires: sex, danger, parties, motorcycles, Bonnie-and-Clyde style robberies, and so on.
One of the most iconic examples is Heathcliff, Catherine, and Edgar in Wuthering Heights. Catherine loves Heathcliff because they have the same wild and selfish natures, but feels she ought to marry Edgar since they’re of the same social class. Her marrying Edgar symbolizes the woman suppressing her own desires and settling into the role society has chosen for her, while her enduring love of Heathcliff reveals her wild heart still beats under her refined dresses.
And that ties back to Bishop and Casavir’s love triangle. If Casavir is the pro-establishment love interest who seeks to uphold Neverwinter’s laws and walls, Bishop is the anti-establishment wild man who encourages her to ditch these losers and go out in the woods to live for herself.
Case and point: Bishop does offer to take her away from the rigged trial of a crime she was framed for, by suggesting they camp out in the woods for a year or two until things blow over. Whether or not she accepts, when her legal trial ends with her scheduled to fight in a (wildly unfair) Trial by Combat, Bishop visits her the night before and gruffly offers to fight her opponent for her.
Far from his usual, “Everyone out for themselves!” outlook.
Bishop and Casavir also embody different parts of the female Player Character’s backstory and Hero’s Journey:
Bishop is from a small swamp village just like hers, and he’s an emotionally damaged ranger who specializes in archery, hunting, and tracking like her (neglectful) foster father. He often mentions their shared background as swamp-dwellers. “For every West Harbor who creates someone like you, someone great, there’s a hundred who create someone like me, who went down the wrong path.”
Meanwhile, in the Second Act the player is made a squire of Neverwinter in Act 2 to avoid a rigged trial, then is eventually named Knight-Captain of Crossroad Keep under the service of Lord Nasher. You are put in charge of protecting Neverwinter from the return of The King of Shadows. That’s as pro-status quo as it gets! And Casavir is a Paladin serving Neverwinter and Lord Nasher too!
Whether you enjoy getting your own castle and expectation to protect ordinary people, or you resent all these new responsibilities and want to run away, depends on how you play your character, and whether your character is drawn to Casavir or Bishop.
And that feeling is mutual. Casavir and Bishop come to view the PC as an inspiration of sorts. If you have higher Influence with Casavir, he mentions a few times that he was losing faith in Neverwinter institutions, but your goodness has restored his faith in everyday people, and their ability to make a difference.
Meanwhile, regardless of your standing with Bishop, he mentions a few times that he’s bitterly aware of how screwed up he is, and how you remind him of what he could have been. In one cut conversation, he outright says, “For every West Harbor [your home village] that spawns a hero, there’s one that makes a hundred brigands, killers, and cowards. And then there’s me. Who knows what I could have been? Not me. But I’ve got you to show me what could have been.”
Because that’s another compelling aspect of the Love Triangle: Your character can bring out the best in these two men. World-weary Casavir finds renewed faith that he can make a difference thanks to your example, while self-loathing Bishop sees what he could have been, and (had it not been cut for time) could have come to see that it’s not too late for him.
I’ve mentioned before that I adore Asa Seigel’s voice work, and part of that is how much more natural and nuanced Bishop’s developing relationship with the player character is.
He starts off aggressive toward her, snarling rebukes every time she tries to get to know him. Over their first adventure together, he comes to enjoy their banter and the fun her dangerous lifestyle brings him, and invites himself to join her party. From there, while he’s still a bit hostile and abrasive, he’s also a little more open and cooperative. He knows she’s in charge and is willing to obey, as long as she doesn’t bark orders or act too nice to other companions.
Even if she’s a do-gooder, it’s clear from Bishop’s changing tone that he’s starting to find her intriguing, if not endearing… no matter his protests to the contrary. His tone toward her becomes a little more “jerk with a heart of gold,” and he starts to volunteer to help her despite his Social Darwinist worldivew.
Again, after her rigged trial results in her being scheduled to fight in a Trial by Combat against a man who’s built like a mountain, if her Influence is higher with Bishop than Casavir, then Bishop will offer some advice and fight for her, in his own gruff way.
When infiltrating a wizard’s haven, if the female player fails a Charisma check while talking to an Erinyes (succubus) bound by a summoning circle, the female player gets insulted for it… and Bishop (of all people!) stands up for her! He condemns the erinyes for “trying to crawl out of her gutter by throwing slime on someone else,” and the erinyes immediately turns his words back on him. Able to read one’s deepest fears, she taunts him:
How long has it been since you defended a woman as you have now? Shown a kindness? Or has life been servitude, always trapped in one circle within another, ever narrowing?
If the player tries to defend Bishop, he tells her “Look… I appreciate it.” Hold up! Gratitude from Bishop? Well, I never! “But I can handle her. Don’t protect me, you’re just… playing her game by trying to be a hero.”
To which the erinyes responds:
Ah, “heroes”… such disdain on your voice. For every hero, ranger, a thousand fall. For every one born of West Harbor, there are a thousand weaker, driven from their homes in shame. But what makes my life so sweet… is those that stab back when such things wound them, and for whom every kindness shown them lashes them like a whip.
This exchange shows more insight into Bishop’s character: why he’s cruel, abrasive, and disdains kindness. It hurts when someone shows him kindness because he doesn’t feel worthy of it, and people showing kindness reminds him that his cruel past didn’t have to happen. It’s easy to rationalize that his experiences made him “strong” as long as he believes people are awful. And it’s easy to live with his self-loathing as long as he believes that neither he nor other people can be better.
The player having a similar background to him shows what he could have been, and falling in love with a good-aligned female player character could have helps him realize that it’s not too late; that he can still be the man he knows he could have been.
But, unfortunately, his romance was cut for time, as well as his shot at redemption. In the end, Bishop betrays you no matter what.
I’ve heard some say that it’s more realistic this way. That assholes like Bishop are evil to the core and don’t want to change;not waiting for the love of the right woman to redeem him.
But I’d argue that his romance makes redemption believable: He hates himself deep down. He’s bitterly aware of how far he’s fallen, and what he might have been. But he doubles down, believing it’s too late for him and he is what he is.
Falling for a good-aligned female character had the potential to help Bishop go from being aware of what he could have been but feeling it’s too late to change, to realizing it’s not too late and he can be better if he wants to. And he finally has a reason to be better: to be with her.
For a lot of players, Bishop’s budding relationship with the female character feels more natural and nuanced than her relationship with Casavir, regardless of her alignment.
For Casavir, many players can’t imagine him going for anyone but dedicated champion of justice like himself. Pretty much all of his conversations involve telling her what an aspirationally good person she is, and how he would love to dedicate the rest of their lives to fighting evil together. If she’s an amoral person who’s shot down his every suggestion, insulted him at every turn, and committed evil acts in front of him (as this comic demonstrates), then many players wonder, “Have you MET her?”
With Bishop, it feels a little more authentic for him to fall for a nicer woman.
If she’s “mean and sharp-tongued,” then they’re birds of a feather joined in Unholy Matrimony. If she’s good-aligned, then she slowly brings out the best in him (much like she does for her foster father), and helps him realize that it’s not too late to be the man he knows he might have been. That there’s room in his heart for love and kindness; not just dirt and walls.
And his romance being cut for time is tragic in one last way:
It robs Bishop and Casavir a bit more of character examination.
I’ve said before that Bishop and Casavir’s Love Triangle with the female PC highlights different aspects of her background, alignment, Hero’s Journey. Also how her presence brings out the best in them.
It would also hightlight their flaws, and how they’re Not So Different.
Fortunately, there is still a great exchange between Casavir and Bishop.
If the female PC’s Influence is higher with Bishop, Cassavir confronts him about his “intentions” for her. Bishop turns his words back around on him, retorting that the female PC can defend her own honor and make her own decisions. (Going back to Bishop transgressing social norms, it’s interesting how the “Good” Casavir embodies society’s attitude that women are weak and need to be protected, while “Evil” Bishop transgresses society’s attitudes by treating her like a strong woman who can make her own choices.)
Bishop also accuses Casavir of being jealous of their growing relationship, and of using Chivalry of “protecting her honor” as a front for his lust and jealousy. That he’s trying to scare away a romantic rival under the pretext of keeping her all to himself.
Because here’s the thing: Casavir does struggle with lust and jealousy behind his holy vows. I mentioned before his past with Ophala, how it led to disgrace. It’s implied that he killed a romantic rival, though I haven’t been able to find as many words on it.
When you meet Casavir in Old Owl Well, the orcs call him Katal-mach, or “one who loses himself in battle.” In the above exchange, Bishop accuses Casavir of being so confused by his feelings for women that it‘s why he’s “such trouble on the battlefield. All that pent-up frustration, when all you need to admit is that you need a drink from a wench’s cups just like the rest of us.”
:0 I say!
No wonder the orcs called him Katal-mach!
And it’s such a shame that Bishop’s romance got cut for time, because it had so much potential for drama, character exploration, and themes.
Since Lt. Danger said it best, I’ll just type it here:
See, thing is… Bishop and Casavir are a little more similar than they’d like. Both of them would prefer to be somewhere else, but they just can’t stop themselves from following us around. And at the same time, neither of them can bring themselves to come out and admit it, for different reasons. Love, eh?
This is (partly) why the female romance option is better than the male romance — there’s a crazy love triangle going on, with massive potential for drama…
It’d be a bit more convincing if they weren’t such polar opposites. I mean, that’s part of the drama, but… in order to gain Influence with Bishop, we basically have to act like massive assholes all the time — so what does Casavir see in us? And what would Bishop see in a Sister Maria figure? (Apart from the obvious, ohohohoho.)
Perhaps if they didn’t adhere so strongly to their alignments. Perhaps if Casavir was a bit more of a dick on occasion, or if Bishop wasn’t so goddamn aggressive at every moment, it’d be a bit more believable that they could be attracted to the same woman: a bit of rough for the Paladin, a blushing virgin for the Ranger. If wishes were horses, eh?
If wishes were horses, then every day I ride.