If you’re an old school nerd, this question is one you have probably pondered for ages: Who would win in a fight, X or Y? Nerds can go on for hours about why their candidate–be it comic book character, Starship captain or Operating Syste–is the most bad ass example of awesome ever conceived. In short, individual’s assign an Absolute Badass Value–that is, the magnitude that a specific person (or object) is from the value of Suck– to shit they like. With few notable exceptions (see the previous links), there is nothing universal about ABV. Hence the epic arguments and navel gazing that this concept can inspire: Who is truly the most Badass?
ABV is a major confound for RP. If we, as RPers and collaborative Storytellers, do not take into account some degree of ABVs, we ruin stories. For instance, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, if the writers wanted to demonstrate how physically powerful a new character/race/guest star was, they would have the newbie kick Worf’s ass. Why? Worf’s a Klingon. He has an Absolute Badass Value of at least 7. Therefore, the new character was at least a 7.1 on the ABV scale. But this trick got old. Instead of demonstrating how bad ass the new thing was, it reduced the ABV of Worf (until DS9 at least). Likewise, if you design an RP event to show case how SUPER AWESOMEBADASS your new character is, you have not empowered your players to do something. You’ve hampered their own development to boost your own. That is not acceptable.
When developing an RP event, story or fic, the storyteller needs to avoid an using ABV in a fashion that nerfs a characters. Competition between characters that forces them to develop is one thing. To be clear: Two characters going head to head over an objective is fine. When a group of characters meet, because the Antagonist kidnapped some children after her biological clock (because of the plague), the ensuing actions and activities should show off the relative strengths and weaknesses [The ABV] of the characters. The outcome of the story should depend on the players on the field. What if, instead of letting the story unfold as directed by the characters, the Storyteller introduces a Shining Knight who disarms the Antagonist and saves the children? No matter what the ABV of the original group is, the Shining Knight’s actions have diminished the groups ABV. The Shining Knight cheapens the characters and the story.
But Bricu, you ask, what about that wonderful trope of “The Calvary arriving to save the day.” Dear reader, I respond, the Heroes call the calvary. The Calvary shouldn’t just show up, pwn newbs and move on.
When we think about ABV, we have to consider that Badass is a variable term. For instance, take Fells of the Wildfire Riders. She is not a person of consequence. She can sneak, sure, but she’s not a silent as your average SI7 agent (or Kitty Druid). She certainly isn’t dumb, but she isn’t he brightest Rider. Her choice in Husband–One Laurus Drachmas–left much to be desired.
But Fells will kick your ass.
No one else can inspire so much loyalty. Few characters make an effort to know others and to share their opinions. Few characters can make the mundane tasks of running a household and make it sound truly epic. Even before one can dig deeper into her past, and realize what she had to do for her family, there is something extremely special about Fells. While Fells may be accustomed to the Arcane, due to her husband’s acumen, she is doesn’t take new and scary things for granted. Sure, Fells may not be able to take you in a stand up fight–but that’s why she pals around with others. They do the fighting for her.
Fells redefine Badass.
ABV isn’t just about how much ass your character can kick. It involves how developed the character is, how the character forms relationships with other characters AND how well that character can participate in any given story arc. We need to consider these factors–and a lot more–when we discuss ABV.
We’ve discussed Badassery before. We’ll probably discuss it again.