Impractical Applications (Yardsticking with Kes and Kiara)

This week, I had an odd situation in my solo game. It’s still in the phase where it serves as a prequel of sorts to my primary game, run from the perspective of another character entirely—and yet there I was writing a scene where the two NPCs present, plot fixtures Kestrel and Kiara, had managed to get themselves into a rather nasty fight and were, despite it being several years before my original timeline and their not having all the skills they’d had even starting out, quite possibly about to be considerably scarier in this fight than they had been in any of the ones on-stage in the primary game. And since I analyze everything, that got me to one burning question: why? (Or at least, why in character?)

Characters as yardsticks struck me as one of the most important reasons. In my primary game, most of the group were combat-spec, at least at the beginning, so they were the source to be measured off of; Kiara is (or at least was in the beginning) by her associates’ lights a noncombatant, which meant that despite her having a lifespan or so of advantage over the PCs, getting across her noncombatancy meant that I had to portray her as at least slightly worse off in a fight than the PCs were; Kes was allowed to be scarier, since she was a combat-spec, but ended up coming across as about their equal (partly because she was trying to avoid the side effects of some of her nastier techniques). And of course, both of them had a tendency to end up in fights with entities far beyond their league, or to be ambushed (in Kes’s case) or have their other weaknesses exploited (Kiara got most of this) which tended to downgrade their perceived ability.

With Kiriko in the solo game, on the other hand, the perception was entirely different. Kiriko was quite possibly the most noncombatant PC I’ve ever seen in a game like that, including all of the PCs I’ve come up with, and on a lower power scale than either of the two aforementioned NPCs. And in the area in which she worked, it made sense to treat the two of them as something of a baseline; therefore, in writing this fight, I was demonstrating what average in this world should be, and the entities they were fighting were much closer to their level. So I actually took the time to bring out some of Kiara’s nastier techniques (not used onstage in the main game, I discovered, because they were far too likely to bring her into reach of her foes), and figure out what sort of skill synergy they’d been cultivating. If they can do this, I reasoned, then later, when they explain where they see themselves relative to other characters, this establishes “All right, in that scene, this character would have been able to do X, and this other one might have solved it with Y, and I think I don’t want to get on their bad sides.” The difficulty, then, becomes properly displaying their ability relative to each other.

Isn’t it amazing what a difference a slightly tweaked comparative measurement can make?


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  1. Impractical Applications (An Unexpected Success) | Exchange of Realities
  2. Impractical Applications (Keeping Track of a Battle) | Exchange of Realities

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