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April 4, 2012 / Wythe

Super powers vs. speculative function

Or, <<Fun, Jeu, Dionysus>> versus <<Story [which is emotion: pathos/agon], Logic, Apollo>>.

Meaning, should players be allowed to develop Super Characters (munchkins, ultra-wizards, 1000+ hp barbarian warlords) with logic-defying powers (“…Cool, did enough damage to kill him? I cleave a sixth badguy—oh, and what type of badguy are we fighting again?”)…? Or should some sort of “story logic” reign supreme? (I believe in story logic, but here place it under scrutiny via quotation marks.) Or is there a balance? Or is the question absurd? (The four corners of logic… Catuṣkoṭi.)

I generally encourage a World Logic which the characters are in some ways encouraged to break.

For example, no magic. But Veli (the green, Jedi-esque Malmain) can temporarily defy and even control gravity intuitively, after years of meditating (i.e., taking the Elocator prestige class). Why allow this? This is pure “magic;” it is super-powerful; it defies logic…

It’s also really fun for the player. And it doesn’t make his character any more immune to death rays, and only slightly more able to dodge titanic fungus-infected techno-dinosaurs. Sure, it breaks some of the verisimilitude of the postfuture, hard sci-fi setting. But this is balanced, overall, by the player’s commitment to other aspects of the setting, its physics, its politics, its technics, etc. He breaks gravity, but he wears beetle armor, eats jellyfish and algae, etc. I shrug at this trade. It doesn’t bother me.

Now, I can see why other GMs would not allow any particular super power, in order to preserve the logic of the story–world (it is one assemblage). I understand that part of the original idea of the “class” in DnD is to set forth a few archetypal speculative functions, clearly and succinctly.

Still, I let the world evolve and go weird-mode, in spots, in order to keep it interesting. Otherwise, the logic becomes constrictive. This isn’t a novel, to be read in a week or so and thought about and even perhaps re-read—but not played, not lived. This is a game, an infinite game… Infinite games are founded upon plasticity.

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