If there's anything worse than failure, it's a success you didn't want.
This week, the RIFT project slowed down a little bit. Oh, we didn't stop playing by any stretch of the imagination, but when you're also playing (and roleplaying) in two other games, you're going to find some time crunches, especially when the novelty of a game starts to wear off and gets replaced with the more mundane tasks of playing the game into the doldrum levels. And the middle levels are always the doldrum levels, no matter how elegantly they might be handled on a whole.

New characters were made and played, but as of yet, they haven't really interacted with the main group, so the focus remains on the same quartet as the first installment. As such, I'll be jumping right into a recounting of the week's events and an examination of where the project is going. And the splinter I mentioned in passing is still there, but I don't think that needs to be discussed this week, does it?

I think I might need to adjust the color of Rielene's hair a bit.  Not totally sure I like it.The events

The core of this week's events basically circled around the important distinction between Pranidhi and Rielene's dynamic versus Alonus and Qinu's dynamic. Let's focus on the latter first because it's an interesting one, with Alonus flat-out assaulting Qinu in the middle of Sanctum over a moneymaking scheme. Qinu had conceived of a plot to bilk the less-intelligent Ascended out of some money and then funnel that money back into the city, improving the coffers of the military in the process.

Alonus responded to this plan by punching Qinu in the gut until he couldn't speak. (It was actually a funnier scene than it sounds.) But the whole reason Qinu had come up with the plan was to try to appease Alonus, to do the "right thing" that the old soldier kept waxing poetic about.

Qinu managed to get his revenge of a sort when he got Alonus to discuss strategy in a tavern. That dovetailed nicely with Alonus' having a brief chat with another character outside of the project, at which point Alonus complained about Qinu's not having bothered to ask for Alonus' name. In other words, it was sniping and bickering, much of it for complete misunderstandings that could have been avoided if anyone had been acting like a mature adult.

Meanwhile, Rielene finally gave Pranidhi a glimpse behind the curtain and a look into why she's so determined to die: At some point, she was in love, and after many years, her partner contracted a disease that killed him. The puzzling part to Pranidhi was that Rielene doesn't seem to think it's the end of the world or that her lover's death invalidates anyone else's struggles. It's not a cause to die for; it's just a tragedy that still sticks in her mind like a splinter.

The long-term result, however, is that she just doesn't care. And as she and Pranidhi worked their way through the Iron Tomb, Pranidhi's own philosophy came to the forefront -- she believes in something. She believes in the Vigil, she believes in spirituality, and she's desperately afraid that she no longer has a place in the world as she understands it. She genuinely wants this harsh and abrasive woman to look out for herself, leading to a few instances when Pranidhi jumped in to try to save Rielene from various monsters even though she knew she'd be chastised for it.

The only way I could be happier with Alonus is if I could give him a couple of scars.What's working

As I said before, I'm really enjoying the interplay between the characters, especially by contrast. Pranidhi and Rielene are actually developing a genuine friendship: Rielene sees Pranidhi's idealism as something worth preserving, and Pranidhi sees someone who's clearly hurting but doesn't want to burden others with that pain. They're frequently caustic to one another, but it's based on a fundamental mismatch of philosophies rather than any genuine antagonism.

Qinu and Alonus, on the other hand, don't like one another. Qinu sees the incident with Alonus as proof that the other man doesn't really want any help that Qinu can offer, and Alonus is still too focused on very rigid ways of thinking that he can't see any merit to Qinu's arguments. But they want to like one another despite that fact, and so they just keep clashing because their goals are so different. It's a nice interplay between characters who are friends but don't seem to want that and the two who aren't friends but wish they were.

There have also been some neat opportunities for intersections between character and game mechanics, such as Pranidhi's embracing death a bit more when she respecced into the Reaver soul.

What's not working

Alonus is having some trouble finding his own character arc. I've played around with the idea that he's a soldier without an army for the time being, a man so devoted to service that he has no idea how to be a vanguard... but that's honestly not playing out too well. (Aimlessness rarely does.) Qinu is the mover, and Alonus is kind of reactionary, in contrast to Pranidhi and Rielene, who are both more active characters.

Also, Alonus (and Pranidhi to a lesser extent) is suffering from a general sense of not finding Warriors too exciting. Rielene's Riftstalker build is an absolute blast, but Alonus and Pranidhi have both struggled with finding builds that work quite right. It's quite possible that neither of them has gotten to the level where everything gets good just yet, and it's possible that our builds are just not that great, but it's still an issue.

Halfway in

The project is going to need some fresh voices, voices that I'm eager to introduce. So tune in next week for another installment of these recaps, and you can leave your feedback in the comments down below or send them to eliot@massively.com.

Every Friday, Eliot Lefebvre fills a column up with excellent advice on investing money, writing award-winning novels, and being elected to public office. Then he removes all of that, and you're left with Storyboard, which focuses on roleplaying in MMOs. It won't help you get elected, but it will help you pretend you did.

This article was originally published on Massively.