Yes, it's the penultimate installment of RIFT project recaps, and it's been an interesting week. This one has been mostly focused around broadening the scope, adding in some new characters to the mix and seeing how they've played off the quartet already in play. In short, it's been good... but it highlighted a weakness that neither Ms. Lady nor I was really conscious of until we sat down and articulated it.
Of course, if you've been reading steadily, you may have already guessed at the problem, but that's all the more reason to catch up on the events. There's a higher than usual dose of unmitigated crazy this week, too. So what happened on a week when we should really have been bringing things toward a conclusion? Anything but.
Anencletus (Guardian, Mathosian, Warrior): A lot of things can happen before you're willing to take your own life. It takes a certain kind of misery, a set of unhappy circumstances that leads to a despair you're not getting away from. It was exactly where Anencletus wound up, and that would have been the end of it if the Vigil hadn't brought him back. He received a cosmic free pass for all of his mistakes, one that's left him with an almost unthinking giddiness -- until he starts to think about the ramifications of what happened or why he decided that living wasn't worth it any longer.
Kawena (Defiant, Bahmi, Mage): The mechanics of a Defiant Ascension are not perfect. It's a mechanical approximation of a divine process, and that means that certain things go slightly awry. Kawena is a case in point. She had always been close to the element of fire, but she had been a healer, someone who focused on the nurturing aspect. After her Ascension, something... came back inside her. She's still close to fire and still wants to heal others, but these days she seems to think burning away the sickness is the best way.
Acineth (Guardian, Dwarf, Mage): It's easy to ignore Acineth. It always has been. That's how she likes it. Other people can be heroes or villains, but she's much happier staying on the sidelines, observing minutiae and silently understanding. Then she Ascended, and suddenly she found that she could do more than simply observe -- that if she ever felt lacking, she could simply take what she felt she needed, be that looks, brains, might, anything. The one thing she can't take, unfortunately for her, is a desire for the spotlight.
Sturg (Defiant, Bahmi, Cleric): Some men just want to watch the world burn. Some men will give anything to save the world. And some men just really like smashing stuff with a big hammer. It's not that Sturg is dumb, exactly. He is, but he's mostly just a man of simple and straightforward tastes, and he's going to stand up less for what he believes in (which is smashing things) and more for what people he trusts say he should be doing (which is also usually smashing things).
This week didn't just feature the leveling of our new characters, but the existing dynamics remained largely in place. The big changes came about because of the new players entering the arena and especially because of Kawena.
I haven't really identified which characters are mine and which ones are not, but let me start off by saying that Kawena is not mine. Let me go on to say that she is absolutely awesome. She's not overtly inimical, but she conveys a very subtle menace in her interactions with others. Yet it's something that other characters haven't really picked up on. Sturg is more or less completely in bed with her simply because she asked politely and he's not really able to pick up on subtexts. And Rielene... well, Kawena sees that Rielene is someone in a lot of pain, someone who needs her help and her healing.
It's just that her healing might involve a lot of really horrible stuff along the way.
Beyond that, personalities clashed and played. Kawena just completely stole the show this week, as more villainous sorts often do, and so she's the most interesting character to write about.
Kawena is strong partly because of the people she has to play off of in immediate proximity. The interplay between the Defiant characters is very fascinating: They're all damaged in some very palpable way, but none of them comes off as having Big Problems. These don't feel like problems to be fixed; these feel like people just getting by, man.
Beyond that, having new characters to play against one another is a good thing simply to ensure that the interactions don't get stale. Outside influences are good, and the nature of this project meant that we didn't start looking for outside influences in the form of other players, so we needed to shake up character direction through other means. I'm really glad to see how all of the personalities have come together, and I'm even happier to see that we've both strayed so far from our usual lineup.
What's not working
I had been kind of afraid to say it, but the other night I looked at Ms. Lady and said, "You know, I kind of have more fun with our Defiants than our Guardians."
She looked back at me and said, "You too?"
Part of the problem is one of classes, but I think the core issue is that the cast on the Defiant side is just a more interesting collection of people. Sturg is the only somewhat bland one, and he's specifically meant to play off of other interesting personalities by being more straightforward. Over with the Guardians, there are far fewer driving conflicts and moral ambiguities. I think we just didn't wind up creating as solid a cast over on the other side.
The other issue is... well, this is not a falling action. This is not the end of a story; this is still the beginning. And that's worth considering when I look at the project as a whole next week.
To the end of the plan
Yes, next week is the wrap-up, the conclusion, and the post-mortem for this project that's quietly been occupying Faeblight. Comments are welcome below as always, and you can also mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you guess next week's conclusion this week, you win a prize.
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.