Impractical Applications (A Foolhardy Conclusion)

I talked this week about maneuvering otherwise intelligent characters into less than sensible actions through a combination of stakes, time pressure, and playing to mental state and self-image. While I’ve done this to my players a few times, I think the best example I’ve seen was when this was done to one of my characters. It was back in the first major arc of the game in which I played Tuyet, back when the backdrop was civil war and she was still getting things together as a hero. Through a mess of events, she’d chased a spy between two armies, gotten captured trying to keep her group out of harm’s way, reestablished contact with one of her own spies, and made an impressive and rather destructive exit, and the whole group was back in their allies’ encampment. That’s when she detected an oncoming strike team, ones who seemed to have found out her spy.

This would never do. If left unmeddled with, they’d split up, infiltrate, go after the leadership (Tuyet didn’t consider that she might be on their hit list as well; she still saw herself as an obnoxious target, not an important one)–and she respected the leadership in this camp, not an easy feat when you consider how much of a divide there seemed to be between the spies and the soldiers in this game. They, she figured, were more valuable than she was; her friends could do anything she’d done, but people who could lead large numbers of soldiers were rarer. That, and there weren’t that many people in the camp who were particularly good at striking at opponents en masse, particularly not at range. Her friends were working on one method. She already knew another, though it only worked in close quarters.

The situation played to her tendencies, tactics and history. She was used to seeing herself and her teammates as the only efficient people involved in the conflict, and calculated “stupid heroics”, as she called them, were a vital part of her strategy. More, she was used to her snap strategies ultimately being the right thing to do; why wouldn’t they be this time? Then too, the others were taking too long to decide, while she’d had an idea and was getting ready to execute it.

Even with all of these together, I’m not sure she would have gone for it if not for one more factor. There’d been a short offstage break, during which she’d settled down to talk to her aunt, an attempt to unwind from all the sources of angst and stress the game had piled on her, the latest incident not the least of them. It had even succeeded—at least, until Aunt Gisel managed to talk herself to the conclusion that the family Tuyet had spent every moment from the time she’d been shoved into adulthood trying to protect really was as bad as the rumors said they were. Tuyet never was much good at taking news like that. Take away the long-term goals, render the ones she had had unviable, and she’d snap back into an iced-over, fatalistic being of sheer expediency. The kind who would consider “go out there, slap the opposition with the best mass attack I’ve got and hope that serves as a targeting signal for my buddies back there” a valid strategy.

It was an interesting session.

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