Storytelling thoughts: Signature ability

Even though characters might have a wide array of abilities in their arsenal, in the key moments, some might ten to use something they know well, even more if it helped them out of sticky situations in a while. It can also say more about their characters as bad guys usually tend to use ‘instakill’ attacks, showing no emotion or remorse when using them (hello, Voldemort!).

For the good guys, the choice can be telling more about them, especially if they are forced to fight someone they don’t want to kill for any reason. Here, I could even mention the reprogrammed T-800 from Terminator 2 movie who, after being commanded to not kill anyone, was shooting people in the leg to cause non-lethal injury that would reliably prevent pursuit. Of course, this case is heavily seasoned with the cold approach of computers and finding the most efficient solution.

Now, I’ll move to my own experience. These days, it’s around 15 years since my first ideas and as it was not until 2015 I started to put the pieces together, the story went through several iterations in the early concept phases. The main hero and everything about him – skill set, personality, role, friends and family – went through at least four stages before I started writing, each having their own pluses and minuses.

In the early stages, the main hero – who still lacked even placeholder name, fact made easier by the fact I looked at the story through his eyes – was a warrior that somehow learned a few magic tricks, which allowed him to surprise his opponents and enemies. How many and how powerful these skills were changed a lot over time.

Due to his lower age, I wanted to show both the willing to risk by toying with magic (something very rare for a warrior) and unwillingness to kill. The risk element was even more in the fast that his signature move at that time was lightning strike that he learned to use on power that would stun or knock out the enemy, but without fatal damage.

It was much later when I decided to take slightly different approach to his skills (I guess maybe around 2012) and turned him into a paladin instead. Since then to maybe some late 2016, I was solidifying what I wanted his approach and skills to be.

In one of the iterations, he had a skill I later gave working name ‘final judgement’. The effect was that the victim was frozen in time for a split second during which he was judged by higher powers. If he was found evil, his soul was sent straight to hell and the body died while on (mostly) innocent person the effect was only short-term confusion. The reason I eventually scrapped that idea was that with powerful spells like that, it kills variety. When you have something that can destroy demon with a single incantation, why know more?

I’ll still not mention all his skills, but for now only one. It is my take on the iconic World of Warcraft skill, Hammer of Justice/Fist of Justice. The spell creates a spectral fist that he aims for the chest, the result being that the person’s breath is knocked out, leaving him temporarily unable to fight, which is great tool for capturing targets.

If the victim needs to die? Well, paladin is still a warrior, even if empowered by divine power, and he can still use his sword to lethal damage. As time passes, he learns more abilities for both offense and defense, but it’s not the time to mention them yet.

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