REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #48 - December 2007 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sat Feb 2 17:06:06 PST 2008

On Sat 2 Feb 2008 Tarq < mitchell_crouch at> wrote:
>> Meanwhile, Tarq muses in the end notes that he has a nagging 
>> feeling that there's something he's overlooking in Possum-Man's 
>> character.  I thought I'd have a look at this, so I went back 
>> through his appearances in  _Alt.stralian Yarns_ #3-6 and the 
>> _Possum Man_ issues so far and see> what descriptive summary I 
>> can make of the character.  Hmm.
> Yes -- to expand upon that point, I was worrying that perhaps 
> Pos was becoming a bit too competent a bit too quickly; as 
> though his endearing flatfootery (you know you love him for it, 
> really) was being replaced by mainstream buttkickery.

Thanks, that was the sort of clarification I was hoping for.  I can 
see where that *might* become a problem, but I think the outcome 
would depend on how you handle it.
I'll make the observation that in a comedy series there are various 
ways of pulling of 'teh funny', ranging from jokes in the descriptive 
text and jokes in the dialogue as the characters banter, through to 
people dealing with absurd situations.  In this case I think you may 
be referring to the main character feeling humorously stressed by 
an overwhelming situation that may or may not be humorously absurd 
situation.  One possibilty for handling that is: with Possum-Man's 
general lack of grasp of reality he may not be able to properly 
assess how his abilities compare.  Being a superhero he's probably 
going to be absurdly over-optimistic about his chances of handling 
a threat, but he might occasionalyy go the other way a become freaked 
out by a trivai matter, especially if a villain is deliberately 
trying to fake him out.  Whichever way his belief goes in a particular 
situation, a discrepency between what Possum-Man can do and what he 
thinks he can do may be a useful dodge.
Which brings us to the question of what Possum-Man's competency level 
actually is, and whether it's a fixed thing.  The problem is that we 
know that Possum-Man is not adverse to the idea of improving his 
wherewithall to fight crime.  This includes his skills and his 
equipment.  However, we also know that he is easily-distracted-by-
shiny-things and wants-to-look-kewl.  So:
Does Possum-Man actually have the ability to keep learning new 
crimefighting skills?  I dunno.  He's an obsessive wingnut, so I'm 
guessing not, but the 'obsessive' part may be enough for him to bring 
a thundering focus to bear and pull it off anyway.  Now, if he 
DOESN'T have the ability to learn any more/much more in the way of 
crimefighting skills, then you could have him complain that his 
abilities seemed to have reached a plataeu, and then milk it for 
either comedy, angst, or just characterisation as you feel fit.
On the other hand, perhaps he CAN keep learning new crimefighting 
skills.  In that case avoid like the plague the prosect of him 
learning (too much) *practical* stuff.  Fortunately, with his twisted 
sense of prioroties he's far more likely to learn more stuff about 
looking kewl than being practical for crime fighting.  Moreover, his 
skills of showmanship may become such that he gains a really great 
reputation among the public and the law enforcement authorites that 
when they get a problem they automatically call for Possum-Man, who 
of course would then be in waaay over his head.  Moreover, someone 
who's a clear thinker might see past his facade and become a sort of 
non-villainous archnemesis who goes around trying to point out to 
everyone else that Possum-Man really isn't as great as his reputation 
(and then getting frustrated because nobody belives them).
Or perhaps Possum-Man does go and learn a useful crimefighting skill.  
But in keeping with his personality he goes for a kewl skill, and it 
turns to be an esoteric skill that is highly useful in extremely 
uncommon circumstances, and pretty much useless most of the rest of 
the time.  And the villains mock him for this.  This option would 
need to be combined with the 'can only learn so much overall' 
limitation, otherwise he would have a wide range of such skills that 
in the agregate cover almost any situation, and you would end up with 
the omnicompetent Possum-Man that you've said you're trying to avoid.
Another possibility might be to do a semi-pardoy of the phenomenon of 
'to-do lists' in roleplaying games (without necssarily mentoning 
roleplaying games or the mechanics of how to-do lists work).  In such 
a situation Possum-Man might make a mental note to himself to learn 
such-and-such a skill, but can't do so right now because of time 
constraints or whatever (in RPG terms, he's waiting until he has enough 
experinece points).  Then he runs into a situation where he really 
needed something that was on his to-do list, and complains "I should 
have taken care of that earlier."  Or perhaps a running gag where he has 
a whole lot of things on his to-do list, but he keeps running into 
situations where he should have picked up that skill rather than this 
one, leading to complaints of "Argh! Why can't my villains schedule 
their nefarious schemes properly."  Possibly leading up to a situation 
where out of frustration Possum-Man tries to learn all his skills at 
once, and fails catastrophically with all of them.
Saxon Brenton
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