5) Overview - What is a character?

Now that the origins of the Arpeggio system have been laid out, I can indulge myself for a moment; you'd best go somewhere else while I do, because this will probably be the single most unnecessary set of explanations on the Ostinato website, and as you have probably already discovered, there is some stiff competition in that area.

The question I will now ask myself is this: "What is a character?" You know what a character is, but this will be sort of like the dictionary definition of the word "dictionary"—exploring the details of what it really means. In this case, I want to explain some of the implications of the number system that I've spent so much time describing.

All characters list values for HP, VP, and MP, as well as Attack Power, Magic Power, Defense Power, and Brain Power; however, some of these values are 0. Player characters will always have at least 1 for Attack, Magic, and Brain (unless they are insane, but you know how that works), and at least 5 for VP and MP, but some enemies have 0 VP and/or 0 MP, and some of them even have 0 Attack. At the time of writing, I can't actually recall any enemies to whom I have given 0 Magic Power, which is kind of funny, but in a way it illustrates the point I'm trying to make. The Arpeggio mechanics assume that all characters have the potential for a certain set of abilities—the ability to induce physical damage to opponents, the ability to channel magical power through a magical weapon in order to cause magical damage to opponents, and the ability to produce psychic attacks with their mind which will cause psychic damage to the minds of opponents. So even for characters who have a value of 0 in certain stats, the potential is technically there; player characters increasingly cash in on their potential by having adventures and earning XP, but enemy characters never have the chance to do this because you kill them.

This idea is reflected even more in the field stats, where the rule of ranging from 1 to 9 is never broken. Theoretically, field stats could be increased by training, but the notion there is that it is a longer and more difficult process, and not enough time passes throughout the course of the game for it to occur. It would also, theoretically, be difficult for a character to attain simultaneous perfection in all areas of his or her physical and mental fitness, so one would not expect all of the field stats to be maxed out. It might even make sense to suggest that when one stat increases, another would tend to decrease out of neglect.

The field stats, though, are mostly traits that would be very natural for a conscious, physical being to possess. If it can move, then it might have the power to move other things around (Strength) or to move itself onto an area of higher elevation (Platform), and it would have a certain amount of coordination in doing so (Hand-Eye). I described the being as conscious; if this is the case, then it might have the ability to learn (Knowledge) or to evaluate its environment (Clever). Charisma would come rather less naturally to a less-than-sentient being, but I consider it a fairly safe assumption that most player characters will be sentient.

This consciousness, or sentience, or sapience—whatever you want to call it—is the basis for a character's ability to perform psychic attacks. The fact that psychic attacks are fueled by VP, which is essentially a character's physical energy, implies that using the brain uses up physical energy in the form of the electrical impulses that trigger the release of neurotransmitters. This is an interesting point because psychic attacks are otherwise very separate from the physical world, having no effect on inanimate objects that lack a conscious mind. I also note repeatedly that robotic characters are still affected by, and capable of performing, psychic attacks, in which case their physical energy (VP) is, clearly, used up in the form of the electricity powering their processors.

MP, which I also refer to as magical aura, seems to be something entirely different than VP. A form of energy, to be sure, but one wholly apart from the character's physical stamina; when I imagine a character in Arpeggio, I imagine that a lack of VP leaves them winded but not dying, and a lack of HP leaves them in pain but fighting back, but a lack of MP has no visible effect on them. Similarly, their Magic Power, which determines the strength of the magical spells cast using their MP, has nothing to do with the size of their muscles or the extent of their intelligence. Despite these, when a magical spell is cast, it manipulates atoms in the physical world and has a physical impact on the target, so it works against their Defense Power just as a regular, physical attack based on Attack Power would.

All characters have the ability to die, but can fairly easily be brought back to life. This second part is a departure from the real world of which we are aware, but then so are psychic and magical abilities. If we define "living" as "having the ability to die," then a character is a living being with a mind and at least the potential to develop a magical aura. A character can use his or her physical body to perform actions; some characters can harness their psychic potential to perform special actions with their mind that only affect the minds of other characters and not the physical world, but nonetheless draw from the character's physical fighting energy (though not the character's life force, or HP, which regulates the character's aforementioned ability to die); and some characters can tap into their magical aura and, with the help of a magical weapon, channel their magical power into the form of special actions that do not use up their physical energy, but nonetheless affect the physical world.

With this outline in mind, we can create particularly interesting characters by removing some of these essential elements from them—a character who has neither organic nor artificial sentience, but still enough function to be able to perform physical attacks, would be immune to psychic attacks, as it would lack the "mind" defined above. A character with an undeveloped magical aura could have an MP pool of 0 and potentially even a Magic Power of 0, but would still be affected by opponents' magical attacks since they manipulate the same physical reality that both characters inhabit. Of course, the "mindless" character would have the disadvantage of not being smart enough to use battle strategies (or counter opponents' battle strategies) that it was not preprogrammed to deal with.

So as you can see, this turned out to be more about the differences between psychic attacks and magical attacks than the bigger question "What is a character?" Well, I told you not to read it.

0) Prehistory | 1) Why Paper Mario? | 2) Paper Dungeons and Origami Dragons | 3) So where does Fire Emblem come in? | 4) Odds, Ends, and Updates | 5) Overview - What is a character? | 6) Final Note | 7) Thoughts on Color Splash | 8) Bugs to the Rescue | 9) Ostinato 2.0