Posted by: Jess Riley | August 26, 2008

Dude, You Kick Ass: Revisited

Now, Sean made a point of defending himself against me in his post, which goes to show that he knows me far too well. In response, however, I thought I’d make a few suggestions about how to get around some of the pitfalls that he mentioned.

His first point, and the one I want to talk about, was Dude, You Kick Ass.

Now, Sean says that somehow you need to handwave or explain every character that you create in terms of their combat ability. There are some exceptions to this – if you never roleplay your character in combat, either by doing all leveling out of character or by sitting your Level 1 in a capital city and searching for roleplay there, there’s no need to explain your combat ability at all because there’s nothing to say that it exists. (Sean might put this under the wider heading of handwave; I would say that the spirit of handwaving is to say ‘It Just Is’, whereas this is a new category, possibly ‘Combat Discontinuity’ or similar.) However, he’s generally speaking pretty right. You do need to explain, in some fashion, how they can fight like that.

I don’t, however, think this has to be difficult. When I saw his example of the gnomish rogue, a wealth of explanations popped into my head. Did she learn how to wield a knife in Gnomeregan through trial and error, when she was under attack? Did her parents put her through a brief training program, knowing that war would soon be upon them? After she escaped from the onslaught of troggs, did she go through a series of sparring lessons with a positively dreamy gnome who taught her how to defend herself, should she ever need to do so again?

As for Ligradi, were his delusions of being in the Navy sparked in part by faint memories of being drafted years ago, when he was alive? Perhaps he never saw battle, but did go through the training program as a younger man, and he carries some vague muscle memory of wielding a sword from what he learned back then.

To avoid picking on Sean too much, I’ll note that I have a tendency to do much the same thing, ignoring the possible reasons why my characters would have any skill with a weapon. However, when I give some thought to them, I realise there are several possible explanations for it. I play an Undead Mage who was, in life, a schoolteacher. Now, there’s no way I can possibly justify her having thrown fire from her hands in life, but that’s not to say that she didn’t have the latent ability to do so, which she learned how to utilize to her advantage when she became Forsaken. There is some time unaccounted for in her story, between waking up and her first roleplay session, and I never did explain how long that was, or what happened within it. Was this when she learned how to use magic?

Sure, maybe the ideas I’ve listed above aren’t compatible with the backstory you have in mind, or maybe you just want to get to the roleplay without worrying about all this in the meantime. That’s absolutely fine as well, the point here isn’t to say that you can’t just handwave the combat and get to the play. My point here simply is that it doesn’t have to be all that difficult to come up with a good reason for being moderately skilled with a weapon. Keep in mind that war has been upon Azeroth for many years, and if you’re lacking a good reason but want to find one, “I learned because I had to.” will almost always work.


  1. I will have to side with Sean on this one and say that, yeah sure you could come up with an explanation to justify why your character has combat ability, but you shouldn’t have to. The game should not force your creativity down a particular path of thought.

    I can hear the hornets being released with that comment 🙂

  2. Well, you have alternatives. You could go hang out in cities and never go into combat, or you could level OOCly and only roleplay non-combat things. The game doesn’t ever force you to go questing or to do instances or battlegrounds, so in theory there’s nothing stopping you from hightailing your level one self to a roleplay hub and sitting there. If you’re going to roleplay killing things, though, you really should explain how you’re able to do that.

  3. touche!

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