One of the things I love about my solo game is the element of someone else’s perspective: running my old timeline through the eyes of someone else entirely. The player’s been pretty compatible with the situation so far: fully aware of the existing-timeline nature of the situation, focused on character development rather than on making a really big splash, and asks lots and lots of questions. (We’ve had a few problems with the character’s impact on the storyline, but now that we’re not in a spot where Things Are Going On in the main timeline at top speed, and the timeline isn’t where she can get tangled in it quite as easily, we have room for her to make an effect. At least, assuming we can find a way to work around my new workweek.)
Over the last few weeks of this game, I’ve had to answer one of those “Where were you?” questions. Some of you may remember Olathe, mildly obsessive about her pet enemies and very concerned with the welfare of her subordinates. Back when I first began the game, and two people who later turned out to be working under her were getting in over their heads and in one case getting kidnapped, she didn’t exist, so there’s no reason why she would have shown up. But with Kiriko on site, and Olathe having been introduced early as the kind of person who would delegate or delay everything to help one of her people in time of need, I had to find another reason why she wasn’t moving heaven and earth to back up the people who clearly needed her help.
The only reason I couldn’t dismiss outright for her not assisting was that she didn’t know until it was too late. Why? Because as far as her own superiors were concerned, she couldn’t be spared; the enemies she was officially assigned to coming up with counters to were particularly active, and the person she did oversight work for when she wasn’t on her official assignment didn’t think he could afford for her to be out of touch. Compared to that, two youngsters on an assignment harder than it originally looked weren’t all that important. So when trouble struck and the complication to the assignment in the form of an absurdly powerful foe was reported, the leadership quietly took over oversight of her subordinates’ mission and put her on an information freeze on the subject, allowing her instead to focus on her work-group’s current problems.
In the very short term, it worked. Sort of. It got a bit problematic when the report answering one of the questions Olathe was supposed to be investigating was also the report that included the abduction of one of the two youngsters on the mission she was being frozen out of. (Neither fact was relayed to her.) The fact that she couldn’t be completely shielded from rumor didn’t help; she knew just enough to arrange Kiriko’s reassignment to something closer to the project so Kiriko would tell her more about what was going on so she could stop worrying. (That didn’t work out either, though Kiriko did slip Olathe information that gave her a source that would give her what she needed to know.)
Olathe soon found out, resulting in my writing one of my favorite not-quite-a-fight-scenes as she confronted her boss’s second-in-command on the subject. She made her point, but by this time even she had to admit that at least for now, her lost subordinate was nowhere that she’d be able to do anything about. (She also got a bit violent in the process, though the whole incident was swept under the rug; if/when the game starts up again, I’ll have to look into what results from that.)
But what made this really interesting wasn’t just writing that scene; it was also looking ahead. Far in the future, Olathe ends up going against her faction’s interests in a political contest rather than throwing her support behind the “official” faction candidate, the boss’s aforementioned second-in-command; the above incident certainly explained why she insisted on striking out on her own regardless of the repercussions.
As with most explanations, this whole thing just keeps snowballing. I ask one question, and it begets several more, and a whole complicated explanation. The more I try to justify it, and to anticipate my player’s questions, the more complicated it gets—and much, much more interesting.