Impractical Applications (Skating on the Continuum)

One of the most interesting applications of the Awesome vs. Better Than You continuum for me has been the complicated slide back and forth across the scale I found myself playing with with my charming manipulator Jalil. The man just can’t hold still when it comes to the Awesome/Better Than You continuum; I’ve seen him occupy different points on it during the same conversation.

In the beginning, his location on the continuum was determined by his purpose. He wasn’t just a major antagonist, he was the primary antagonist, and I wanted the group to loathe him; as a result, I started him out as far on the Better Than You side as I could get him without making him a complete caricature. He talked down to them, he didn’t use their names, he functionally succeeded except for the time when they killed his host—in short, if there was a way I could get them enraged by his attitude of superiority, I did it. On the other hand, he wasn’t particularly dramatic about it, and when he wasn’t being someone else he had the skills to back up his words (which, themselves, were decently witty for a perpetual stream of put-downs).

As time continued, particularly after he was killed and came back as a remnant of himself, I slowly moved him towards the awesome side. Part of it was just the fact that he couldn’t afford to be Better Than You in the blatant ways he had before, his host being physically weaker than anyone in the group; another part was that he was slowly coming to respect them, and the more he respected people, the less condescendingly he’d treat them. (Particularly compared to other people; he was rather known for giving one member of the group a backhanded compliment at the expense of another member.) I tended to pull out all the stops on my wit when the group called him forth for discussions, making him as objectively clever and well-spoken as I could manage—he increased his Awesome by being an excellent source of information, and by having a pretty good idea what made the group tick and how to mess with them.

But making an ex-villain pure-Awesome just wouldn’t do the job: in fact, I tried to make absolutely sure that he was as close to the precise middle of the spectrum whenever possible. It gave him an infuriating quality that made him at least one player’s favorite not-completely-allied character. In addition, he tended to cultivate this quality deliberately—getting people to lose their cool was to him an excellent way of reminding them that there were still ways in which he was in control, and one of the ways he did that was by matching people who themselves displayed an aura of Better Than You with the same amount of his own.

In short, playing with the continuum was one of the things that made him one of my favorite antagonists.

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