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Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby ActionKermit » Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:50 pm

After thinking about this a bit more, I'm leaning towards the position that Ariel's power is OP, but it makes sense. One-on-one duels in Drowtales are often curb-stomp battles because of how advantages tend to pile up over the centuries as a drow becomes more experienced, connected, trained and equipped. Ariel's genetics make her capable of pulling through in much tougher situations than a person her age is expected to be able to survive. Normally, this would be recognized by the clan and she'd be given duties that are up to the level that she's able to handle. However, she was taught by the Orthobbae masters to mistrust her ability and only use it as a last resort (examples here and here) and Mel taught her to keep it concealed to maintain the advantage of surprise (example here), so just about everyone except for her closest friends remains unaware of what she's capable of. It wouldn't surprise me if she even kept Quain in the dark, since talking it out in detail would veer towards the uncomfortable territory surrounding her relationship with Mel. Those powerful enough to crush her mostly dismiss her as a non-threat (for now), and her appearance of vulnerability invites attacks by enemies who haven't prepared themselves to fight her properly. It probably wouldn't occur to most opponents that she even would conceal a major advantage -- Drow in this setting tend to be hilariously bad at stealth, and showing off her power in flashy public displays would be a way to inflate her status, a very important consideration in a society as status-conscious as Chel's. Shinae demonstrated that Ariel can still get her ass handed to her by a single opponent her own age, if the opponent knows what she can do and is prepared to fight what she is instead of the image she projects. The fact that Ariel's been boxing under her weight probably isn't going to go down well when the rest of the Sarghress find out she's been keeping secrets from her own clan because she favors having underhanded cheap-shots as a part of her arsenal, rather than developing her power into a brute-force weapon for use in open, honest battle.

Something Ariel is going to have to confront is that although she's been going to Mel for advice since she's her mother, that has resulted in her partially adopting the perspective and methods of a high-ranking Nidraa'chal ally (in the Felde world-setting page, we see Mel participating in the conquest of Felde). And as Sil'lice pointed out, the Nidraa'chal rely too much on tricks.
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby Kaiser » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:43 am

I'd agree that it's too OP simply in the sense that Ariel losing her arm only to get a new one thirty pages later just felt like such a wasted opportunity. It would have been really fascinating to try and see her cope with just one arm but instead all we get is Ariel having a funny story to tell and feeling a bad sad over Shala dying. Nothing would have reinforced how colossal her mistakes were like losing a limb. I broke my arm this January and it's amazing how much everything changes when you only have one good limb and have to deal with that for the rest of your life. The incident opened up a whole bunch of creative possibilities only to not fulfill any of them.

This is part of the reason why my interest in the comic has waned: Kern is a great artist and an excellent idea guy, but he just isn't that great of a writer. I still read because I'm interested in seeing how everything ends up but a lot of his decisions just don't work from a storytelling perspective. The missed opportunity with Ariel's arm is part of the reason why I say this. It's almost like he wanted to go that direction but backed off at the last moment.

It should be said however, that his writing has vastly improved since 2002. I wasn't there at the time, but based on what I've heard, Ariel was a total Mary Sue back then and was still Sue-ish in many of the early chapters from the Retcon onwards.
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby ActionKermit » Mon Mar 30, 2015 1:27 am

One aspect of Ariel's character I really like is the tension that arises from being a transient ambush predator in a clan full of territorial pack hunters. She's learned how to work within the Sarghress framework, but when all the cards are down she tends to behave very differently from a stereotypical Sargh (compare Tur'geis and Ariel in these scenes). She tends to hide herself by going through the motions of what's expected of her, using only a fraction of her true power until an opportunity presents itself to defeat the enemy with a quick decisive stroke. There's a level on which she engages in Khaless-like behavior (assassinating targets and moving among the enemy in disguise to recruit double-agents here, compare with Khaless' visit to recruit Kiel here), but I don't think she fully realizes the implications of her actions yet. It's like the scene in the dinner party, where Ariel never thought of herself as wearing Sharen colors until Snadhya pointed it out. It lays the groundwork for a very interesting series of interactions between Ariel and Khaless when she comes to visit the stronghold as Erelice. She'll have to take a hard look at what uses of her power are morally acceptable, and any changes she makes to the way she reconciles her actions with Sarghress philosophy could have far-reaching impacts on the clan's future history. Thematically, that ties back to Quain'tana's worries that the clan she worked so hard to build will drift away from her own ideals and intentions. If Ariel only had her air affinity, the challenge of being herself while remaining true to her ancestors' ideals would be easier to overcome, but I'm not sure if that would improve the story by making it more streamlined or detract from the story by giving less depth to that aspect.
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby Gunbird » Mon Mar 30, 2015 5:17 pm

Maybe "Over powered" is not the right saying for her.
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby ActionKermit » Mon Mar 30, 2015 8:42 pm

She certainly is an outlier on the high end of the innate power scale. On the other hand, so is Kiel. Since the time skip, we've seen Kiel demonstrate the following abilities through the assistance of her friend demons:

Otherworldly knowledge
Skill bonus to sealing
Mana shield (which is pretty close to Quain'tana's legendary ability all by itself)
Mana drain
Suggestion

At best, ordinary nether summoners only get the mana drain effect and the ability to infest their foes, with lots of potential for collateral damage. The demons they call are animalistic, nearly mindless, and won't carry out their mistress' will without being constantly dominated. Kiel's buddies are intelligent, self-directed, minimize collateral damage, use teamwork and actively support Kiel's agenda even when she's distracted or absent (like when we rescued Fame).
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby Kaiser » Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:42 am

Kiel is basically Kern's attempt to create his own version of Deadpool so I feel like comparing her forth-wall breaking powers to other characters is missing the point a bit to be frank.
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby Gunbird » Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:00 am

Kaiser wrote:Kiel is basically Kern's attempt to create his own version of Deadpool so I feel like comparing her forth-wall breaking powers to other characters is missing the point a bit to be frank.


And most of the time she not getting our points. *hmmm*
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby ActionKermit » Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:15 am

Kaiser wrote:Kiel is basically Kern's attempt to create his own version of Deadpool so I feel like comparing her forth-wall breaking powers to other characters is missing the point a bit to be frank.


A fair point. The idea I was getting at is that Kiel's abilities, while powerful, don't make her seem overpowered because there's no fundamental mismatch between her role and what her abilities enable her to do. In Ariel's case, there's a prominent mismatch. She was conscripted at birth to act as Quain'tana's heir because of her bloodline, but -- as the Sarghress are fond of telling anyone within earshot -- having a noble bloodline doesn't make someone fit to rule. She has a long way to go before she gets close to being a war leader of Quain'tana's caliber.

Some of her weaknesses off the top of my head:

She doesn't have a strong command presence.
She's easy to dismiss.
She doesn't consider herself fit to judge others.
She isn't confident in her own leadership skills.
Her reception among the troops is mixed at best.

Now, we compare this against some of her strengths:

She's innately terrifying to demons. (I interpret Syphile's dreams as her seed trying desperately to get her to run)
She makes the most of surprise and scare tactics.
She recovers quickly from minor injuries.
She has a freakish ability to recover from major injuries at her enemies' expense.
She's great at improvised acting.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Sarghress are territorial pack hunters. They live and die by their ability to outnumber enemies that are more individually powerful and bring them down with superior organization and tactics. They stick together and clear territory, making safe zones where they can rest and resupply. Ariel's strengths and life experiences are largely opposite to these principles. In her earliest childhood she grew up mostly alone except for Syphile (who hated her) and Kel'Noz (who was seldom there). There was no opportunity for her to learn a pack mentality from friends and family who would have supported her in a healthier environment. After that, she was immediately whisked off to an environment where she had to spend years pretending to be something she wasn't or be tormented (even killed) by her schoolmates. She was later trained by the Fallen Legion until she was old enough to join the ranks, but the Fallen tend to be loners or work on small teams, using stealth to move in and out of enemy territory with little external support. On top of all this, Ariel is never fully safe even amongst her own clan -- they don't trust her because she's a Val, and they'd probably exile or kill her outright if they knew she'd been harboring Diva under their noses for all these years. These factors conspire to make her a weak territorial pack hunter, but a strong transient ambush predator. She knows how to move in hostile territory by playing the game of masks, trusting no one, relying on a mix of guile and sheer personal power to overcome great challenges. That's about as close to the opposite of what a good Sarghress is supposed to do as you can get. Quain'tana has shown profound contempt for infiltrators, and Ariel is on the road to becoming one of the most skilled infiltrators in Chel. Quain might say that she would have done no differently than Ariel during the battle for First Landing, but that's conflating process with outcome. No way in hell would Quain have allowed herself to be captured and dragged away in chains by the Sharens on purpose. The mismatch between Ariel's role as Sarghress heir and her favored methods creates a tension that has to be resolved. From a certain perspective (which I will not elaborate on here because it's midnight and I need to sleep), the disastrous outcome of the scouting expedition to Felde results from a failure on Ariel's part to resolve this tension, as well as her continued attempts to ignore the significance of her Val title.
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby ActionKermit » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:42 pm

OK, I originally intended to go somewhere completely different with that post last night, and now I can only sort of remember what my point was. I think the gist of it was that, going forward, it's going to be social forces that wind up making Ariel's abilities more balanced. Even if she can recover from grievous injuries that nobody else but Khaless could survive without immediate access to the best in Jaal medical care, in the future that won't be enough to save her from getting killed by spike damage from enemy champions who want to take out the leader of the Sarghress. She's going to have to wear armor to survive, and that inherently limits what she can do with her shapeshifting because she isn't a metal specialist. Taking her enemies' faces in order to walk among them is a viable option when she's just a grunt, but the higher she goes in the Sargh hierarchy, the less that's going to be a viable option for the clan in terms of the risk/reward ratio. By the very nature of the office, the Ill'haress of a great clan is nearly always the center of attention. If she vanishes to do an infiltration op, lots of people are going to notice as soon as it happens, and it will involve cutting herself off from important business that she can't attend to while she's cut off from the clan behind enemy lines. And if she overuses her power, it won't take long before the enemy develops countermeasures. The Nids' nether summoning used to be an overwhelming advantage, but over the course of a few decades the art of sealing has spread to every clan, and now the advantage is moderate. Looking like someone else won't be much of a defense if the Sharen start carrying devices capable of spotting Ariel's aura signature, like the amulet Kel'noz gave her to help find Faen. Speaking of Faen, she's already demonstrated that empaths who know what to look for can spot Ariel no matter what her appearance is. With the Suls turning traitor on Ash'waren, it seems likely that empaths with those kinds of skills are going to wind up amongst Ariel's enemies in the near future. The discovery of powerful new tactics, techniques and technology and the subsequent development of countermeasures has always been a part of war, and in Ariel's case we're seeing the early part of her power's arc where nobody's had a reason to build up appropriate defenses before she came along.
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Re: Is Ariel's shapeshifting is OP?

Postby AnoP » Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:22 am

You know, since the overall theme of this thread was about regretful ideas, I'm surprised no one commented on my "Goblin Particle Accelerator" post.

*hmmm* Well , how was that meant to make them superior , and if so in what ways. The other would be where was the other intervening inventions between particle accelerators, and everything from the late renaissance/medieval era, and was there any reason given for the society still being medieval and having a particle accelerator (like if guns and explosives weren't invented, or were impossible in the setting, you might get a society looking medieval/renaissanceish for a while)
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