engine
 member, 572 posts
Mon 5 Mar 2018
at 18:17
Story vs(?) combat
I just read someone talking about "the required ratio of story time to combat time" in games, and it prompted a question. It pertains mainly to games in which combat is expected and common with characters who can expect to hold their own. D&D is one such game.

What is the difference between "story" and "combat"?

In actual stories, good ones, any combat that happens is generally part of the story. If it's in a movie it might be flashy and cool and meant to show off special effects, but often (particularly in the stories I find I enjoy) moves the story forward, generates interesting choices and tension, and develops the characters, as much as anything else in the movie. If it didn't, a good writer would generally just leave it out.

So, insofar as we want our games (again, speaking of games with combat as a key part of them) to be like stories why is combat seen by some as not being part of the story? How could it be made more a part of the story

I expect the answer will mainly be: the mechanics distract from it. I would ask you to discount that as much as possible. If the mechanics were seamless or invisible, would that be enough to make combat the same as "story"?
Nintaku
 member, 582 posts
Mon 5 Mar 2018
at 21:57
Story vs(?) combat
Basically like you said. Combat should have stakes beyond just "the characters might die", because death is not really motivating or tense. In a game, if the characters die, then any story they've built up is cut short, any relationships are snipped, and while the other players could do a great set of scenes involving getting through their loss, I've only seen it happen once, when I was a player who would often make callbacks to dead teammates myself, since it was a thing happening surprisingly little. The player has to write up a new character and then awkwardly fit them into the story again, where everyone instantly forgets about their lost companion.

But if the heroes' deaths aren't really at stake, then you need something else there. Maybe something like their loved ones, or better yet, their goals. That can then become both personal and part of a larger story. Save the world is great, save the world and also the only person who can tell me where my father is? Even better.

In addition to stakes, a good way of working story into the combat is to have more conversation during it. Have characters talk about their motivations, their hopes and dreams, the reasons they fight, their friends, their fears and insecurities, what they think about their enemies and those motivations, what makes them different, what makes them similar, and what makes them have to fight in the first place. Basically turn every fight into shonen anime. Character exposition from PCs and NPCs, plot exposition from NPCs, make 'em chatty battles. Really make them as much a part of the narrative progression as any non-combat scene.
engine
 member, 573 posts
Mon 5 Mar 2018
at 22:06
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Good thoughts, Nintaku.

Nintaku:
In addition to stakes, a good way of working story into the combat is to have more conversation during it.

I think this is usually what people think of when they think of any kind of "roleplaying" in combat, because roleplaying is so often synonymous with talking. What you describe is not to my personal taste, but I'm all for that kind of stuff going on beneath the surface. "Show don't tell," is my preferred approach. Show things by how, where and whom one's character attacks, or doesn't attack, and how they deal with various stakes, as discussed above. Maybe the barbarian will save the townsfolk by taking down the ogre who is smashing everything. Maybe the cleric will save the townsfolk by shielding them from the carnage. Maybe the cleric will take the ogre out and the barbarian will shield the townsfolk. Either way, there's something there, whether or not it's actually spoken aloud.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1303 posts
Mon 5 Mar 2018
at 23:52
Re: Story vs(?) combat
The idea of story vs combat stems from many players not fully understanding what they really want enough to communicate it.

What I mean by that, is that folks can know they want something, and yet have only a vague understanding of it and thus can't put it into words properly.

For example, you might hear players complain about something being "unrealistic" yet theh accept wizards tossing fireballs as just fine. This is because realism isn't the problem, but they don't know a better way to communicate the problem.

Story vs Combat is a similar issue. It isn't so much a case of being literally about story and combat. There is a triangle spectrum between three traits, roleplay, narrative, and gaming, that players look for in their games. The difference between roleplay and narrative usually gets ignored (I believe because few understand the distinction), so the story vs combat is about where on this spectrum one desires to play.

Combat is the stand-in word for gaming, the desire to play with numbers and mechanics, the rules lawyers and optimizers and folks that think meta-strategically in combat rather than portraying their character. Narrative is those thinking about what would be cool and/or dramatic, that would make a great tale. Roleplay being when you learn only what the character learns and make choices purely as the character.

Naturally as this is a spectrum, folks can be somewhere in between. But with only a vague understanding, the simplest attempt to communicate about this, is story vs combat.
facemaker329
 member, 6995 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 6 Mar 2018
at 07:22
Re: Story vs(?) combat
engine:
I expect the answer will mainly be: the mechanics distract from it. I would ask you to discount that as much as possible. If the mechanics were seamless or invisible, would that be enough to make combat the same as "story"?


My experience has been EXACTLY this.  The 'story' part of the game cooks along, with people posting their character actions and interactions, until a combat situation arises.  At that point, it goes one of two ways, and it all depends on how the GM has decided to handle combat.

Some GMs simplify combat...they'll find ways to minimize the number of rolls necessary, streamline initiative rules, or just plain old go ahead and take care of dice rolls for the players so there's no mechanics involved (or simplify things down to one or two critical dice rolls, just to keep some random element of luck/chaos/fate/whatever in the mix).  They literally make combat run the same way as the rest of the game, as much as they can, and therefore, combat feels the same as the rest of the story.  That's a large part of the appeal of freeform games, from what I've seen...if there's combat, it truly is part of the story and there's no mechanics to detract from that (which can be a bit nightmarish if you've got players who can't accept losing on any level or who Mary Sue the hot dog buns out of their character and create impossible situations instead of just rolling with the game as it stands).  But I've been in freeform games, semi-freeform/homebrewed games, and 'system' games where the GM took over the mechanical aspects of combat situations, and all of them had no noticeable 'combat lag' problems, aside from the tendency of players to slow the passage of time in the game by posting very cinematic time-dilation descriptions of the actions they're taking (slow-mo action sequences).

Other GMs insist of playing out the combat scene according to the RAW...and a game that can have been clicking along smoothly for weeks can grind to a screeching halt in very short order if you have any sort of complex combat situation arise.  I've been through that several times, as well, and it takes me RIGHT OUT of any sense of 'story' in what I'm doing.  It's been the cause of death for several games I've been in, even a few tabletop games (like the time our GM decided to change from the SW:WEG D6 rules to the Saga Edition, in the middle of an adventure...a combat situation that we could have resolved in less than ten minutes with the D6 system brought the game to a screeching halt for an entire evening...and we never started playing that particular game again.  Totally took the wind out of it for everyone...not because the Saga Edition rules are bad, we just all knew and had been playing the D6 system for ages so people already knew what to roll, which rules were relevant to what our characters were doing, etc...SE had more reasons to roll dice, we had to look up the details on each one, etc...the game stopped being about the story that night, and that killed it.

So, yeah, in my experience, combat CAN be story...but you've got to find a way to prevent a shift in the mechanics of the game, so that it flows in the same fashion as the rest of the game, or faster.
Eggy
 member, 780 posts
Tue 6 Mar 2018
at 07:28
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Nintaku:
Combat should have stakes beyond just "the characters might die", because death is not really motivating or tense. In a game, if the characters die, then any story they've built up is cut short, any relationships are snipped...


I've been in games where character death alone was an excellent motivator. We weren't allowed much in the way of character backstory. As we played, we discovered our characters' histories and the links between them. Death meant losing information gathered to combat The Big Bad and losing the chance to find out where our fledglings came from and who they could have been.

This message was last edited by the user at 07:29, Tue 06 Mar.

engine
 member, 575 posts
Tue 6 Mar 2018
at 15:50
Re: Story vs(?) combat
facemaker329:
not because the Saga Edition rules are bad, we just all knew and had been playing the D6 system for ages so people already knew what to roll, which rules were relevant to what our characters were doing, etc...SE had more reasons to roll dice, we had to look up the details on each one, etc...the game stopped being about the story that night, and that killed it.[/q]
I think you're saying that it's not necessarily about having simple rules (though I seem to recall that WEG Star Wars was very simple) but about having a facility with the rules.

<quote facemaker329>So, yeah, in my experience, combat CAN be story...but you've got to find a way to prevent a shift in the mechanics of the game, so that it flows in the same fashion as the rest of the game, or faster.

Is it entirely about speed or does the level of engagement and interest matter?

You talk about players who can't accept losing. I tend to think that this has a big effect on the way "combat" cleaves away from "story." In the course of a story, there's not necessarily any way to lose. The characters are exploring, talking, and learning about stuff. Some people spend a lot of that time posturing and making sure that they're high status (or some tangential status like "untouchable loner") relative to the scene, but there's not much at stake.

Once combat starts and stakes are laid, I think it's hard for some people to drop the "must win" mindset. In addition to any slowness or crunchiness, this leads to players focused less on what the character's personality might be and more on what is tactically best. Some players struggle with playing the character vs. being "smart," but the existence of that struggle at all seems like a product of the stakes of combat.

Thanks for the thoughts.
V_V
 member, 697 posts
 You can call me V, just V
 Life; a journey made once
Tue 6 Mar 2018
at 17:06
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Time basically. I took an hbour to write this, and then read Facemaker's post. He said it more politely and diplomaticly did and would have. I like D&D, unlike Facemaker. I love it in fact.

I'm still "there" I enjoy D&D combat, but it's not story. It's a game at that point of extra footage. It's just enjoying the combat for all its minutiae. It's like watching a movie frame by frame to enjoy cinematography and errors. It's fun, but it's not the main story. It's like watching the Matrix on 1/16 rate. It's basically an all day event to have an coherency, then also all night, most of the next day thing, and the fight scenes take an hour to finish and not much happens when you take a potty break, or get some food.

It's a subsect of film, people do do this, and likewise with gaming.

To some though, like Eggy, you need to have the chance the book/screen will close in any significant juncture, and when it does that...that's it. You rolled too many ones. Sorry. You lose, or at least never will get back.... The relationships, the hope you could have survived.

It's statistics, play long enough you'll have STRINGS of bad or awesome rolls. This is just numbers and randomness. You should not only prepare for 5 1's, but expect it it eventually. This is great for punishemtn and reward! It's not good for a set story. Many GMs have one in mind too, many player like to be on a ride.

It's very good for sandbox though. As for the big baddy dying, no plan can prevent FUBAR. Eventually if you rely on dice, they will fail you, guaranteed. Find a power that makes you immune to dice, then sure, fine, but that's a different fare of combat in most dice games.

All this (like Eggy's experience can be positive. Especially if you like gambling. It can feel more earned, even though your actions had no effect on the die eventually spiking into consecutive 1's, or 20's. This is psychologically substantiated. We know humans enjoy rewards where they think they had an impact, but in reality it was just pure chance. Far beit to deny someone a good experience, especially if the bad ones don't deter them.

Time basically/It's time and the dilatation of the minutiae. It's time you never get back IRL. It's investment into character, and character's relationships. Some people view combat as you do playing house. They don't have time for it. Simple as that. J.R.R Tolkien sort of felt this way. It's why combat was far different than how the movies portrayed combat. I liked the movies personally, I found Tolkien a bit too pedantic. He was fine with that though. He fathered the creation of contemporary fantasy language.

To some, I think it's also like taking a microscope to person face to take a cell by cell photograph for portrait. I mean yes, the mechanics (if perfect) could be good, but they never WILL be perfect. There IS NO perfect. It's vanilla, chocolate and tripe. Ice cream could have been tripe flavored one upon a time, true story.

EDit: As for "what the character would do" vs "can't die" nope, basically the same. lol. Most adventurers don't want to die, and in D&D? pfffft. Look, this ain't a world without resurrection. I'm baffled at people who don't take the smoke/food break/vacation when their character dies in D&D. That's absurd. People do though, yeah, I've seen it. It's like that 10 years song, "Falling is Flying". Work through the death, the story isn't over if you still show up.


As for story, SURE, there ways to lose and win. Without combat or without dice. I've won and lost in sessions where no combat occurred. Takes can be more than violence, they can be natural disaster, illness, and just justice systems. You can also lose by means of other grievous assaults that emotionally scar your character's loved ones. In fact THOSE losses sting more than anything. Sure, I killed rapist, but that doesn't change the crime. If I had been clued in that the guard my sister had hired was off, I wouldn't have let it happen. The GM gave clues, I just didn't catch them. I was distracted by the "big baddy" my sister slipped into drug use. Yeah that was brutal. Very cathartic.

Long after the big baddy was dead, heck even to this day (since the game is STILL going) that character is haunted. At this point my character is Emperor, of an entire world with many adoring counselors and loyal generals. I could spend five motes (basically spell points) and instantly slay someone I look at. I can't go back in time though. And I out lived my sister. THAT was a loss. It didn't end the story, but all the better! So yeah, combat is nerve easily accessible to strike success of failure, it's by no means the only nerve to strike, and certainly not the most effective.

I could give other examples, but just ask yourself about super heroes who tell their families about their idenities and those that don't. The ones that are honest but put their family at risk, ands those that live a lie. That's great storytelling IMO. Win fo lose the fight with the arch nemesis, is my family safe, do they even know me? Those are bigger goals than a fight.
engine
 member, 577 posts
Tue 6 Mar 2018
at 18:57
Re: Story vs(?) combat
V_V:
EDit: As for "what the character would do" vs "can't die" nope, basically the same. lol. Most adventurers don't want to die

Most adventurers have things they would die for, otherwise they wouldn't be adventurers, they'd be stay at homes.

You're playing a dwarf who, for days, has gone on about how much he hates goblins. Then a goblin shows up and, apart from just being a goblin, gives the dwarf some other reasons to want it dead. But, maybe it's not tactically sound to attack that goblin. Maybe the goblin is weak and the dwarf does a ton of damage that's better applied elsewhere. Maybe the dwarf is weak and this goblin would skewer him easily. Whatever the situation, the fact that it's pretty plausible for this dwarf to try to take out this goblin should be part of the player's consideration. Maybe he can do it and still be tactical, say with a cleave attack that still puts his damage to good use, or maybe with a feint to draw the goblin's attacks from his allies. He goes forward with renewed hatred, or maybe grudging respect, or just a story to go with his boasts. Maybe he can do it and have some revelation about how maybe he doesn't hate goblins as much as he thought, or carries forward the shame of not having engaged/killed this one.

That's all story, the stuff about how that dwarf feels. I can see how "combat" could mess with that, but also how, if the table puts thought into it, it can enhance the game going forward.
facemaker329
 member, 6996 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 6 Mar 2018
at 19:03
Re: Story vs(?) combat
In reply to engine (msg # 7):

I think it's largely about engagement, because I've been in games where combat has bern very lengthy and slow, but everyone is still invested in the game.  However, the more the combat departs from the story and ties up in the mechanics, the easier it is to become detached from the game.  The same kind of thing has happened in overly large tabletop games I've been in...it ends up taking so long for action to come back around to any single player that, often, attention drifts, interest wanes, and players just end up not having as much fun (that was the big problem in my example with the changeover to the Saga Edition rules...people started out with a clear vision of what their characters would do over the course of the fight, but because each turn took so much longer than any ofus were used to, those ideas got muddled, which made things worse...it was a self-feeding cycle.  And these were characters that most of us had been playing for years...we were heavily invested in the characters, but the process was so cumbersome that it was a struggle to stay tuned in to the game.)

I'm in a game in here right now where the combat has been ongoing for close to a month, now, but the GM is doing a good job of balancing between the minutiae of the moment and keeping overall events moving forward, so the story isn't totally bogged down in whether or not Team A succeeds in infiltrating the research facility, or Team B manages to somehow neutralize the enemy agent they've been sent after.  I've been in other games where everything in the story hinged on the resolution of a combat moment that would have taken maybe thirty seconds, if it were a real-life confrontation, but the GM got so caught up in the intricacies of the mechanics that it took two weeks to resolve on here...and half the cast had left the game by then.

I know some people really enjoy detailed mechanics, and I agree that there's a time for them.  One of my favorite memories of the group I played with in high school was the night everything came to a screeching halt as we calculated how long it would take for a huge stone to fall from the top of a tower and how much reaction time characters at the base had...went WAY beyond the mechanics of the system.  But it was kind of like the 'bullet-time' effect in The Matrix...the moment warranted that kind of attention, and everyone wanted to know just how much time their characters had to avoid being turned into paste on the tower floor.  But just like how The Matrix picked and chose which scenes got bullet-timed, we didn't rely on that level of grit for every confrontation.  Most movies don't turn to slow motion for the duration of every stunt scene...it's used as an accent, to heighten the sense of drama.  My favorite novels don't treat every point of conflict with the same level of attention...they linger on a few select moments.  That's the way I like my combat handled...when the occasion calls for it, yes, let's dig out the dice and really figure this out.  But not every occasion needs to determine hit location and whether or not the bad guy was run through or dismembered or just given a concussion that left him apparently dead on the floor.  That gets in the way of the story, because the combat stops being about the story and becomes about your luck with the dice...and while luck does enter into any combat, combat shouldn't ever be all about luck.

As for the issue of whether or not 'must win' players shift gears in some way for combat...maybe, I guess?  I've had the good fortune of not having had to deal with very many of them, and most of the GMs I play with have very little patience for that sort of thing, even in the freeform games I've been in.
truemane
 member, 2116 posts
 Firing magic missles at
 the darkness!
Wed 21 Mar 2018
at 14:30
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Like everything else, in role-playing and in life, a lot depends on the particular mix of people involved. So when you talk about what 'should' or 'shouldn't' be the case, remember these are entirely relative things that only have meaning when applied to the people actually involved.

Some people like combat for its own sake. That's what they play for. The talking is just the way you find out where the next fight is, and the fighting is the actual experience that they signed up for. Whether because they enjoy tactical maneuvering or the loot or the counting experience or whatever. For those kinds of people, any emotional investment you can lay on top of the fighting is just a bonus. For some people, the fighting is the thing.

Just like some people enjoy meaningless spectacle in their cinema. So long as things blow up or people fight in nifty ways, they don't much care whether or not there are any stakes involved.

And some people the opposite. And most people somewhere in between.

I like some fighting in my role-playing. How much fighting? Some. And I don't mind fighting just for the sake of doing it. How often? Sometimes. If the combats are fun and interesting, I'll enjoy more of them. Otherwise, less so. I don't think there's any magical number or ideal formula. It's a series of weights and balances.
engine
 member, 581 posts
Fri 23 Mar 2018
at 15:01
Re: Story vs(?) combat
truemane:
Just like some people enjoy meaningless spectacle in their cinema. So long as things blow up or people fight in nifty ways, they don't much care whether or not there are any stakes involved.

Good point, so let me try this angle:

What's an example of a fight in a movie that is "meaningless spectacle"?

What's an example of a fight in a movie that "has stakes involved" or is otherwise not "meaningless spectacle"?
Mr_Qwerty
 member, 43 posts
 Tagmar, D&D, oWoD
 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fri 23 Mar 2018
at 17:34
Re: Story vs(?) combat
engine:
What's an example of a fight in a movie that is "meaningless spectacle"?

The opening of any James Bond movie. It's there because every other James Bond movie has them; it's tradition. It rarely has anything to do with the plot of the movie.

engine:
What's an example of a fight in a movie that "has stakes involved" or is otherwise not "meaningless spectacle"?

Any fight that could not reasonably be avoided in-character, such as (usually) the fight at the climax of any James Bond movie. Gotta catch that bad guy, and he's not going to be a good sport about it.
facemaker329
 member, 7002 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Fri 23 Mar 2018
at 18:05
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Meaningless spectacle--The big mano-a-mano fight at the end of the first Lethal Weapon.  The only reason Gary Busey's character wasn't just hauled away was a two-part plot contrivance to show off more of Martin Riggs' fighting prowess, and a MASSIVE plot contrivance to show us that Riggs had mellowed enough to move, at least momentarily, away from his 'kill all the bad guys' mindset.  Had almost nothing whatsoever to do with the overall plot, aside from giving Mel Gibson a moment to prove that Riggs really was a good guy.

Meaningful fight--The whole sequence prior to that, where Riggs manages to kill his torturer, break free, release Murtaugh and his daughter, and flush out the head bad-guys from their night-club-cover.  Critical to the whole plot and well-motivated.

This message was last edited by the user at 05:12, Sat 24 Mar.

icosahedron152
 member, 856 posts
Fri 23 Mar 2018
at 19:46
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Meaningless spectacle - any one of hundreds of macho BS scenes where the the good guy puts his weapons down and engages in a fist fight with the bad guy's minder, instead of just shooting the jerk in the head and getting on with the mission.

It's like there's some GM in the background saying "Hey guys, we haven't playtested the brawling rules yet - let's try 'em out in this scene..."
Annoys me every time it happens.

OTOH, loved that scene in Raiders, where he just shoots the sword guy.

High stakes - Gandalf on the bridge facing the balrog, buying the lives of his companions with his own.
engine
 member, 583 posts
Fri 23 Mar 2018
at 21:16
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Interesting responses, thanks. I'll have to think about them.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1315 posts
Sat 24 Mar 2018
at 10:07
Re: Story vs(?) combat
engine:
truemane:
Just like some people enjoy meaningless spectacle in their cinema. So long as things blow up or people fight in nifty ways, they don't much care whether or not there are any stakes involved.

Good point, so let me try this angle:

What's an example of a fight in a movie that is "meaningless spectacle"?

What's an example of a fight in a movie that "has stakes involved" or is otherwise not "meaningless spectacle"?


I'll also answer, but further, I'll expand on this, as it is a piece of a larger concept.

Meaningless spectacle is a fight done for the "Wow" factor. Swinging on chandeliers for example.

Meaningful is the parts that are relevant to the story.

Really, this is all part of Drama vs Details.

Drama is the stuff that has emotional impact, and is the core of what makes us care.

Drama doesn't require details, it doesn't need to make sense.

Mostly, that is because Drama is like Food.

Some food, like cotton candy, is tasty but not filling. Likewise, some drama lacks substance, and therefore, we go "oh cool!" at first, but then lose interest once the shiny newness wears off.

Details is what makes drama filling. It is what makes the drama something we come back to again and again. This is why so many old movies are classics but few recent ones. In the old days, spectacle was difficult and a movie built on spectacle wasn't enough to recoup costs. Modern films however can be mostly spectacle, recoup costs and make a tidy profit, then get forgotten in the bargain bin.

The same thing is why so many mmos came out, got a bunch of players singing praises, then withered. Because theg were built on spectacle.

It should be moted that details come in two forms, the first is engaging details, the details that allow us to connect to something which then affects our emotions, but do not need to make sense. The second type are immersion details, these are about maintaining consistency and immersion. Not everyone needs the second type to enjoy a film/game, but many lose emtional impact when things don't make sense, but even those that don't need immersion details to enjoy a story usually still benefit from them.
dlantoub
 member, 246 posts
 Anime Fan
 Virtually all genres
Sun 25 Mar 2018
at 22:47
Re: Story vs(?) combat
Nearly all of my "memorable character moments" took place outside of combat. Once i asked the players " i know what my character would do..? And they said for heavens sake do it" and once i begged the gm permission to fudge a roll to save an npc, he gave it. Both were in l5r games maybe i get too distracted by mechanics.
praguepride
 member, 1243 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Mon 26 Mar 2018
at 03:02
Re: Story vs(?) combat
In my experience, it doesn't have to be Story vs. Combat as some players and GMs can make both flow pretty well.

As mentioned  you see this especially in freeform where you don't have to rely on rules and dice to make decisions, you can craft a scene and go with it.

For tactical games like D&D the issue is that players/GMs have two mindsets and that is the switching of gears. You play a fun loving wacky comical character but then in-game you instantly turn into a mastermind tactician.

It is difficult for players to knowingly make suboptimal moves in combat, even if their characters should be. On the flipside you have Spartan soldiers making dumb combat moves because the players don't understand the game mechanics.

Next for more complicated characters there is a time constraint. I can either write up a 2 paragraph post OR look up all the relevant rules and make the appropriate dice rolls and throw a two sentence descriptor on top of that.

FINALLY there is the "level 1 whiffing" that occurs a lot. As mentioned it is difficult for people to put as much attention into failing as it is succeeding so I myself am guilty of doing things where when I land a critical hit I will describe this epic 2 paragraph scene but if I whiff it's just a sentence.




That being said I have a barbarian who primarily roleplays through combat. She is quiet and uninterested in social situations but in combat I really try to take the time to have her showcase how much she desires to be in battle, how each miss is like a personal affront to her and her master's training while every hit is a glorifying testament to her strength and skill in service to her god. (Go Gorum!).

I didn't necessarily intend for it to be that way but it is funny because in combat the talky characters take a back seat to the stabby characters and it's something I would like to explore more :)