Snow, she decided, was incredibly boring to see already.
The cold wasn’t an issue–Steel Wolf was dressed for that, more or less. It was the snow. How it coated everything in her vision. How it sat on every surface. How it even floated across the very air. It was a relentless, oppressive blanket of boring, chilling white.
The immense Roegadyn woman shrugged in to her armor, the fur-lined collar pulling up closer around her neck and ears. The wind cut across her form like a series of magical blades. She had elected to keep her chocobo stabled at the fort that was behind her, the idea being that she would be able to more nimbly adjust to whatever danger the lands of Coerthas held. She was beginning to regret the decision.
Then, she heard a shriek of fright. Forms in the distance, one trying to pull away from the other two. Steel unhooked her massive battleaxe from the baldric lashed across her chest and broke in to a full run. Questions could be asked later.
Themepark MMO’s all have the same problem when it comes to characterization for me. The fact that you’re written as the ultimate savior of the world. While it is, from a video game perspective, kind of the point, I ultimately could care less about having my character be the penultimate symbol of heroism…even if the storytelling in the game is really good.
This is where roleplay fills that void for me. I get to write out my character’s true abilities and mold them to live within the world instead of rise up over it. Taking the original narrative and interpreting it to your own means is referred to as “death of the author”. It’s a very frequent crutch I lean upon.
As she cut through the fog of snowflakes, the forms took more distinct shape. Two men, dressed in official-looking armor. Similar to the guards she’d seen at the fort. A third–an Elezen woman. Lowborn, judging by the burlap dress she wore. She was being led by the wrist to the edge of a yawning cliff, though she fought every step towards the edge.
Steel roared out as she continued her charge. “Oi! What d’ye think you lot’re doin’?”
One of the guards, the one not leading the woman on, spun around to her. He swiftly withdrew his blade and stood defensively between Steel and his compatriot. “You’re meddling in an official affair of the knights of the Holy See, outsider. Move on.”
All she needed to hear.
Steel continued her charge, bringing her axe up behind her and leaping at the man, crashing her weapon down with all of her might in a ferocious overhead chop. He leapt backwards, crying out in shock. The second knight pushed the captive Elezen away and withdrew his own sword, closing in on Steel. She stepped forward, using the power of her nearly eight foot tall frame to lift her weapon up and swing it around in a circle at them. The charging knight reflexively brought up his weapon, sending him sprawling away from the strike in a clash of metal. The other knight rushed in, slicing at her and landing a blow that raked across her leather-covered arm.
She roared out as the edge of the weapon met her flesh, pushing herself in to the attacker and sending him sprawling. She lifted her axe in time to see the knight she had swatted away begin to swing. She parried the weapon with the haft of her axe, then sent the pommel upwards in a vicious uppercut. The blow sent him off of his feet, landing on the snowy ground with a muffled thud.
I tend to apply the same sort of principle when it comes to combat as well. In the case of Final Fantasy XIV, every single weapon swing involves some immense explosions of light. I can appreciate why, of course–combat has to be pretty dynamic and exciting in an MMO, since you’re pretty much picking fights with everything at every moment. Also, many of the slices and strikes are on display as demonstrative more than actual. Still, when it comes to writing out my character’s combat, it usually is less covered in magical explodey-ness.
…unless, of course, it’s not.
Steel spun around once more, watching the knight she shoved away close in once more, his sword coming down overhead. She met his strike, swinging downwards to parry the blade and send it crashing harmlessly in to the snow. The knight looked up, shocked eyes visible through the slit in his helmet as she brought the axe upwards, carving in to his chest in an upwards slice. He roared out like a terrified creature, his breath escaping him completely as he went flying on to his back.
Before she could turn her attention to the remaining guard, the tip of a blade buried itself in to her shoulder, finding the space between cuirass and pauldron. She yelled out in agony, then turned to face her attacker as the weapon was withdrawn. Her arms still held her weapon up, but not as ably as she would have wanted. The two circled before the guard made his rush, roaring out as he swung.
Suddenly, the flakes carried on the wind parted, and a piercing, deep blue ball of energy thudded in to him. It exploded in a rumbling low thump, engulfing him in tendrils of black and purple smoke. The man let out a strained cry as he fell to his knees, weapon dropping out of his hand.
Steel turned in the direction of where the energy was thrown. A third man approached, now. He was clad in a ferocious, dark plate mail, with a tattered cloth around his waist whipping in the wind. The armor crossed over his body in sharp, angular plates that resembled an almost insect-like chitin, his helmet devoid of any visible eye slit. His left hand was raised in front of him, the same sort of energy that hit the guard flying off of his fingers like black gossamer strands. His right brandished an impossibly large warsword.
The guard caught his voice long enough to let out a cry before the warsword was brought to bear, slicing across him in an x-shape pattern before removing his head.
The Elezen captive let out a terrified cry, and then all was silent. The woman struggled to her feet and ran, breathless cries of terror and relie and effort issuing from her as she made her way back to the fort Steel left behind.
Steel made to pursue her, but the armored one’s voice boomed out, resolute and powerful despite the plate that sat between his mouth and her ears. “Leave her. She will find refuge.”
Admittedly, magic is a harder thing for me to get my roleplaying mind around. Most of the time in MMO’s, magical power is tossed about without too much forethought of consequence, and so I usually end up writing in that same vein. It often, to me anyway, comes off a bit lazy.
But, eh, if it fits in the world…
Ultimately, I’d prefer if we the players were left to create our own epic quests and actually partake in them outside of says, emotes and personal blogs. But until such time as someone develops that game, I’ll write out my character the way I envision her. I’ll respect the world and lore laid out in the game, sure…but don’t expect me to honestly believe my character can best gods and demons.
Not without some help, anyway.
Steel kept her posture, despite the fervor of battle leaving her and the pain of her wound beginning to spread. The armored form spun his weapon, flecks of blood flying from the fuller of the sword and dotting the snow at his side.
“You attacked knights of the Holy See.”
Steel’s eyes narrowed. “I attacked two men what were harassin’ an innocent woman.”
“And who are you to determine the guilt or innocence of strangers you meet on the road?”
Steel pointed at the ravine behind him, eyes flaring with contempt. “Are ye tryin’ to tell me they was goin’ to set her on the side’a that cliff an’ perhaps have a lovely picnic?”
The man raised his hand, palm facing out in a show of comfort. “Be at ease, traveler. We fight the same foe. I merely wished to understand your motives…and confirm that we share them.”
Steel’s face eased from rage to confusion. “What’re ye on about, then?”
“These men…”, he indicated to the two slain guards. “They are not as they would lead you to believe. Tell me, did they state that they were on official business of the Holy See?”
She nodded. “Aye, they did….though I’ve only been here but a moon, I doubted how official their business was. These lot don’t seem t’do a single bloody thing without some small group’a people nearby.”
The man raised a finger, his voice carrying a smile. “Precisely. They abused their position to terrorize a woman who had previously refused their advances. She would have paid a price if not for the arrival of justice. Of us.”
“Us. Them, me…you. We are together in this cause. We seek to defend those too scared or too cowed to defend themselves. We watch those who wear piety as a cloak instead of a way of life. And you…you carry the same fires we do. We would see you join ours and spread those fires through this realm.”
Steel already was walking past and away from the man, calling out over her shoulder. “Piss off. I’m not here t’save yer kingdom. And I’ll be damned if I’ll be takin’ suggestions from someone what dresses like that.”
“You’ve been down that road, Roegadyn.”, he called out.
Steel stopped, looking at the horizon that spread before her as he continued. “You know what lies beyond. The road may turn or twist this way or that, but ultimately you know it will lead you to nothing. I offer a purpose. A means to channel yourself in to something beyond a wandering warrior. You fight with the tenacity of a dragon. With a darkness and a power that begs for reason. We can become that reason. We can show you how to channel yourself in to a true focus for change.”
Steel turned slowly around, the top points of her axe thumping in to the snow, a smirk playing on the corner of her mouth.
“I still get to hug people, though, right?”