"I find your lack of faith disturbing."
Darth Vader is the being that came to be when former Jedi Knight and Chosen One Anakin Skywalker fell to the Dark Side and became a Sith Lord under Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine. His main function is to act as the Emperor’s enforcer, perfectly willing and capable of crushing all those that oppose the Empire.
But let’s start at the beginning…
Born on the desert planet Tatooine and into a life of slavery, Darth Vader’s life began as Anakin Skywalker, son of Shmi Skywalker, who claimed that there had never been a father to the boy. This, in turn, lead to the assumption that Anakin had been conceived by the Force itself and that he is, indeed, the Chosen One who is destined to bring balance to the Force.
Ironically, the Jedi Order initially refused to accept and train the boy after his discovery by Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. After the Battle of Naboo and Qui-Gon’s death, however, Obi-Wan took Anakin as his Apprentice to train him to be a Jedi.
As a Jedi, Anakin was a skilled student, but as a young man he tended to be reckless and arrogant. He would often disagree with his master and even the council, question their decisions and even go against the rules of the Order and marry the woman he loved in secret.
It was all this frustration with the Order that had Anakin befriend Chancellor Palpatine.
When he began having visions of his wife, Padmé, dying in childbirth, Anakin began to fear for her life, seeing that not too long ago he had similar visions regarding his mother, whom he ultimately was unable to rescue. Slowly growing desperate to find a way to save Padmé while at the same time growing even more frustrated with the Order and his own inability to help the one he loved, Anakin eventually turned to Palpatine, who made himself known as a Sith and tempted the young Jedi with the Dark Side.
Anakin brought those news to the Jedi council, who decided to act quick and dispose of the threat.
Three of the four Jedi Masters that went to confront Darth Sidious were killed by him before the Sith Lord was defeated by Windu. The Jedi was determined to kill his enemy, but Anakin pleaded with him that this wasn’t the Jedi way and that he should to spare his life so that Sidious could stand trial. Windu insisted that Sidious was too dangerous and moved to kill him after all, which was when Anakin stepped in with his own blade and cut off Windu’s hand, creating an opening for Sidious to also kill the last of the Jedi opposing him.
It was this incident that had Anakin turn to the Dark Side, and become Sidious’ new apprentice. Sidious also was the one who gave Anakin the name Darth Vader before giving him his first assignment as a new Sith.
Vader was sent to the Jedi temple of Coruscant to kill any Jedi that remained. Even the children. While Vader went to fullfill his new master’s bidding - and by doing so submitting himself fully to the Dark Side - Sidious executed Order 66, a secret protocol implanted in the members of the Republic’s army of Clone Troopers to turn them against the Jedi.
This resulted in a galaxy-wide slaughter that only very few Jedi survived.
While Palpatine turned the Republic into an Empire and declared himself Emperor while claiming that the Jedi tried to overthrow the former Republic, Vader was sent to Mustafar where he inevitably would complete his fall to the Dark Side.
Vader’s mission had been to eliminate the Separatist Council on Mustafar, but he had been followed by Padmé, who was worried for how he had changed. Upon noticing that Obi-Wan had followed him alongside Padmé, Vader believes that she had betrayed him. In his anger he almost chokes her to death with the Force. In the following duell with his master he is defeated by Obi-Wan, who uses one of Vader’s reckless attacks to cut off his remaining natural limbs.
Obi-Wan watches as Vader catches fire at the nearby lava river, but then leaves his former apprentice to die. The only reason he survives is that Sidious himself arrives on Mustafar shortly after, finds what is left of Vader and takes him back to Coruscant to rebuild him.
With new cybernetic limbs and being forced to spend the rest of his life in an armor that would double as a life support system, Darth Vader was ready for his role as the Emperor's fist and dark, looming shadow. Sidious informed him that Padmé died due to his actions, ensuring that his student had nothing left that might distract him.
For the next years Vader would enforce the laws of the new Empire upon the galaxy, hunt down Jedi survivors, crush resistances and learn the ways of the Sith. While he was generally loyal to his master, Vader would occasionally be conflicted about Sidious’ plans and decisions and even contemplate killing his master, as that was part of the rules of the Sith. Equally he had to prove himself against potential replacements every once in awhile. But considering that the Dark Side draws on emotions like anger and hate it probably makes sense in a way.
In the end Vader remained by Sidious’ side for about two decades.
The plans of the dreaded Death Star being stolen by a group of rebels was the initial event that would later lead to the Empire’s downfall. The battle for said Death Star introduced a young starfighter pilot to the conflict that Vader quickly took personal interest in. He grew a little obsessed with capturing the young Luke Skywalker after learning that he had a son.
A son that was strong with the Force and would make a powerful ally and student to help him kill his own master at last. If only he could be lured to the Dark Side.
Unfortunately Vader had to find out that his son wasn’t easily tempted. Though just as Vader tried to lure Luke to the Dark Side, Luke would attempt to bring his father back to the Light. Attempts that wouldn’t leave the Sith lord unaffected.
In the end Vader did indeed turn back to the Light. When his master was about to kill his son via Force Lightning, Vader found himself in a similar position as he had been back when Windu was about to kill Sidious. And again he chose to step in - only for better reasons this time. He seized his master and threw him into the reactor of the Death Star II, getting hit by Sidious’ Force Lightning himself in the process. The attack damaged his armor and life support in addition to injuring him, which would soon after lead to his death.
Though by that time he was Darth Vader no more, but Anakin Skywalker again. Redeemed and back with the Light he was able to make peace with his son before passing away and becoming one with the Force.
Terrifying. That’s the word that is most commonly used by people when they try to describe Darth Vader. His mere presence terrifies people, even if he doesn’t even say a single word. They simply fear him - And that’s perfectly fine with the Sith Lord. Because fear is something he can and will use to meet his own goals.
What’s definitely part of his terrifying presence, is that he appears calm and controlled on the outside, but at the same time has that habit of ruthlessly killing people on a whim for minor mistakes. He doesn’t discriminate between men and women or adults and children either. He also doesn’t shy away from killing those who are in good standing with him once he considers them useless. There’s only ‘what benefits the Empire and that which doesn’t’. And the latter is required to be purged from existence. He isn't afraid to phrase his opinion and his decisions are final.
Vader doesn’t tolerate failure. Not from his troops, but neither from himself. This doesn’t prevent him from making mistakes, however. Ironically. Vader is prone to getting carried away in his work and obsessing over certain assignments in an eagerness for success. Especially when Jedi are involved or he actually takes personal interest in a matter. He takes avoidable risks despite getting warned and doesn’t care whether or not he’s throwing away the lives of his men in the process. This recklessness is something he still shares with his former self.
Though just as he is quick to punish others for their mistakes and expects them to accept their fate, Vader accepts any punishment he receives from his master for his own lack of foresight.
As a Sith, Vader connects to the Dark Side via negative emotions like fear, anger and hate. While fear and anger were the ones that initially drove him there, he has come to grow and maintain a distinct state of anger and hate over the years. A carefully harnessed fury directed especially at the Jedi and himself that he focuses on to sharpen his edge and strengthen his connection to the Dark Side of the Force.
While he’s pretty much always angry, Vader doesn’t truly snap or throws a fit or anything like that. Instead, he remains eerily calm and focuses his rage into precise and usually deadly blows. Verbally as well as physically. Preferably physically, however.
His reason for hating himself as much as he does are his own past failures. Vader hates being reminded of the past, yet he often broods about it, unable to just put it behind himself. Especially his failure to save Padmé and even being responsible for her death despite having vowed to her that he wouldn’t fail her after already having lost his mother still haunts him. The Jedi he hates because he feels betrayed by them. For the secrets they kept from him, for refusing to truly acknowledging him and especially for - as he claims - going against their own principles.
What is really hard to miss about Vader is his extraordinary loyalty towards his master. The relationship between a Sith Master and his apprentice isn’t always a peaceful one, but in a way it’s symbiotic. While the master will display power and knowledge for the student to pursue, the student will offer loyalty. At least until the student is tempted to dispose of his master and take his place, which is perfectly normal Sith behavior. Vader finds himself pondering such thoughts every once in awhile. Playing with the idea of killing his master and ruling the galaxy in his stead. He usually shakes himself out of those thoughts and his inner conflict, much to his master’s amusement. Both of them are aware that at some point one of them will strike the other down, but until then Vader will obediently follow his master’s very bidding. He doesn’t even falter in the knowledge of his master seeking to replace him. Because he’s loyal to him.
…just as he’s loyal to the Empire.
Vader actually believes that the Empire is the right thing for the galaxy. That forced peace and order are necessary. That the strong are meant to rule over the weak and show them their place. If necessary by force. Or with the Force. Now comes the tricky part: While he genuinely wants the Empire to be the perfect - if brutal - solution, it does certain things that simply rub him the wrong way. Such as the matter of Slaves.
Due to growing up as a slave himself, the entire topic doesn’t sit well with the Dark Lord of the Sith. As a child he had always wished to put an end to it so that everyone could live freely. This is what he wanted to accomplish by becoming a Jedi. And somehow he still craves for that goal to come true one day. Yet the Empire keeps putting slaves to work and even sells prisoners from newly conquered planets as slaves. This leaves a big, nasty stain on that ideal solution that Vader puts so much effort and work into forcing upon others. And stains like that make him uncomfortable. Because he can’t do anything about them.
Vader depends heavily on his armor in order to survive. He can neither eat nor breathe normally anymore and requires the armor’s inbuilt life support system to handle these and other bodily functions. Even the helmet and faceplate he cannot remove unless he’s inside one of his pressurized meditation chambers that are specifically designed to fit his particular needs. Now it may be understandable that Vader loathed the armor and being trapped within it at first. Over the years he came to accept it and eventually considered it to be a part of him. What he appreciates most is how it separates him from the rest of the galaxy and allows him his solitude even when he’s not entirely alone. He spends a lot of this solitude to brood over matters that bother him or require his attention. But he can also get lost in thought or memories he would rather know forgotten.
Darth Vader possesses a wide range of abilities - But an almost wider range of disabilities. What is left of his organic body is a wreck that wouldn’t survive without the suit he’s encapsulated in. Now that armor doesn’t just keep the Sith Lord alive and takes care of most of his bodily functions and needs. It’s also designed to make him much more durable and stronger and basically turn him into the Emperor's most fearsome weapon by supporting and empowering the abilities Vader possessed before nearly burning to death.
Vader is incredibly skilled with the lightsaber. With both of his arms and legs being cybernetics and bound to his suit his fighting style is less agile and acrobatic as it used to be before, but he found ways to adjust to the changes and develop a new style that works for himself. Raw power and precision make up for lost speed and flexibility. Any strike with his blade is a strike meant and able to kill. He alternates between using his weapon in just one and both hands and even throws his ignited lightsaber at his opponent and steers it using the Force, even and calling it back into his hand when lost or dropped. Often he uses his blade to deflect blaster shots, sending them right back at the one who’s shooting at him when possible. And while his lightsaber remains his preferred weapon of choice, Vader is still adept at firing blasters just as precisely.
Ever since he was a child, Vader has been an unmatched pilot. All by himself he can take out entire squadrons of enemy vessels. In fact, the only way the Rebel army was able to prevent him from entirely annihilating their entire fleet was to have a pilot (who happened to be none other than Luke Skywalker) steer his own ship right into that of the Sith Lord, forcing them both down to the planet below. Unfortunately, even this didn’t kill Vader, however, and the following slaughter still cost the Rebels direly.
The Dark Lord is near impossible to take down, even when outmatched extremely.
The true secret behind all this lies in his connection to the Force. When he fights impossible odds or flies against a flock of enemies, he does so by feel, letting himself be guided by the Force. From dodging enemy fire to instinctively predetermining an enemy’s movements to adjust his shots accordingly. It’s something he doesn’t think about, but simply does. And that’s what makes Darth Vader a dangerous foe for any army to face.
Now, just as any force-sensitive being, he is also able to use the Force in other ways. Vader can use it to augment his movement speed or to make leaps no human should be capable of. He uses it to move objects, people, entire aircrafts, even. Taking hold of a freighter and slamming it into the ground? Sure thing. Calling his lightsaber to return to his hand? Jupp. Blasting his way through enemy forces with a forceful push? Totally. Calling upon the Force to heal his severely damaged airways and lungs? Ah….. Well. He possibly tried.
Darth Vader uses the Force. Almost the entire time. And not solely for combat, but also to make up for his many disabilities. It allows him to feel his surrounding when his helmet is limiting his actual field of vision greatly. He can sense emotions like fear in people around him or what is going on in another room. He uses it to activate the machinery of his meditation chamber when helmet and faceplate are removed and his organic body is lacking its connection to the suit and his cybernetics. Big things and little things. Not many others may be using the Force as much and as freely as he does.
Having been trained as a Jedi as well as a Sith, Vader knows to use skills typical for either side of the Force. Though since he despises the idea of being seen as a Jedi, he usually refrains from using skills like the Jedi Mind Trick (imposing his will upon a person or being with a weak mind) unless he is being forced to. Which doesn’t exactly happen often. He also doesn’t make use of the for the Sith typical Force Lightning (shooting powerful lightning from the fingertips) - presumably because it could short-circuit his suit and subsequently kill him. But he quite favors the Force Choke, especially for executions. He reaches out with the Force and slowly crushes his victim’s trachea. Technically he can do that with any other organ as well. He still prefers choking. Probably due to his own inability to breath normally…
Back when he was still Anakin he also would have visions of the future, haunting him as nightmares. He foresaw the death of both, his mother and his wife. Though with no one left to truly care about, he probably lost the ability. It's sufficient that his master foresees what is to happen in the future.
A much more mundane ability Vader possesses is his engineering skill. He build C3-P0 when he was just a child and never lost that talent, even though he hardly uses it anymore as an adult. When he has something to tinker with, however, it has a mediating effect on the Sith Lord and helps him to free his mind.
Important relationships and connections.