Reprise: Impractical Applications (Keeping Track of a Battle)

Originally posted August 14, 2010.

I talked a while ago about a fight I’d run in my solo game, where the sole (and rather noncombatant) PC Kiriko was witness to a fight between her two allies, three enemies, and, at the very end, a third NPC. It was a formless, initiativeless, and pretty much unscripted fight, involving a whole lot of magical effects and improvised corresponding tactile imagery, and would have been very easy to lose track of had I not been using every trick I know to make sure that none of the NPCs vanished, or that one of the sub-battles didn’t take up the entire scene.

First, I took advantage of the attack-response flow of combat as a whole; not only did each character defend when attacked, but they often used the attacks as stepping-off points. One particular flurry essentially went attack, counter, use defense against counter to set up next attack.

Second, I narrative-linked the members of each side to each other. If Kes made a first move, Kiara would likely go as soon as Kes’s chain of actions and reactions was resolved; if one of the enemies made a move, the others would as often as not follow. And while the enemies didn’t tend to jump between their battles (aside from one sub-battle’s beginning being cued by a line from the exchange of battle-banter between the people involved in the other sub-group), Kes and Kiara did, if indirectly; Kes took advantage of one of the magical effects Kiara had set up on one of the enemies, and there was one point in which Kiara actively defended for her partner because Kes was too busy lining up her most dangerous technique.

Third, I utilized the magic descriptions themselves. Comparing and contrasting the feelings that the various effects created, particularly where everyone was doing everything at once and it was hard to tell what was coming from whom (particularly in the parts where one person’s magic was acting in another person’s vicinity) allowed me to tie back one character’s work to another’s, in essence reminding me that yes, this person was in this fight, now what’s he/she doing right now?

In the end, none of the NPCs was lost, the battle stayed nifty, and the PC had fun. And that’s what’s important.

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