I was going to make a long comment over on the Arcana TV tropes page and decided to make it into its own post.
Anyways, Haruko is my Arcana character. I do rather like her, but she never quite found her niche in the party. There's a few contradictions at work in her character that keep her from fully clicking. This post is my analysis in why that is.
Tropes that work:
- Wrench Wench
- Bottle Fairy
Odd friendship (Katie; see Staff Chick)
- Class Cat Burglar (borderline/wannabe)
- Plucky girl (Good catch Rowyn)
These are all fairly straightforward. The Wrench Wench was their from the start and the Bottle Fairy
I think she almost pulls off a minimal level of the class cat burglar bit. But she's not quite effective as a thief and it's often not that useful in Arcana-verse. If she was more competent overall I don't think it would be a problem.
Annoying Tropes or badly implemented/setting inappropriate tropes:
- Technical Pacifist
- Genre Savvy (wannabe)
- The Empath
- Genius Ditz (mechanically oriented; effectively a more concentrated version of Wrench Wench)
Her technical pacifism was always a bit too technical. The defect locked this in a bit, I think it would have worked best without the defect as either I'd have dropped it or worked out a logical basis. Also we've had that conversation too dang many times. As for genre savvy, I can pull it off elsewhere but it's too hard in Arcana (pentagrams aside). Similarly, mechanical skill isn't that useful in Arcana. It could have worked if I really invested in her driving, but I was too low on CP because I spread her powers too thin.
The empath thing never worked because people in Arcana are really screwed up and she's way too confident and assertive. I think I may have been able to pull off the technical aspects of being an empath, but it would have met a much quieter character that didn't try to take the lead regularly. While some may prefer this, that's not my style.
Staff Chick (other blunt objects count)
- Genius Ditz (again)
- Healing Hands (this is trivially true, so I won't discuss it)
- The Empath (again)
These are all a bit problematic from a feminist perspective. Anyways, in past discussions with Nic and ardweden we decided that Haruko is my anima. Essentially she has most of my stereotypically female traits, magnified. As a result, she's got a lot of problematic classic girl trops. Anyways, on the ditz front, I definitely recognize a trope discussed in Pandagon: Most of her humor tends to be at her expense, for example by being clumsy or ditzy. Being a healer, into emotions, and a would be empath (albeit a bad one) are all fairly classical lame supporting powers. All of them work together to create a classical supporting character rather than a main character. But classically who wants to be or to play a supporting character? I know it's not my thing. So, I tried to have her transcend them. However, at least half the time I failed and she ended up being annoying and bossy rather than cool and confident (or shark like).
I'd tried to transcend these traits by making her self-confident, popular within a certain social circle, fairly sexually aggressive, and with a certain never say die cheeriness. The confidence and popularity don't really work because she hasn't earned them on screen. Her failure as an empath actively undermine both. Her genius often isn't useful so she's more ditz than genius. Haruko can work as a bossy egoist, but that's falling into another classical female character rut, not transcending it. Being sexually aggressive actually does work out alright, but the selection of Arcana men is incredibly lame and I'm doing my best to avoid having her be bi and fall into another cliche.
The one aspect of Haruko that really transcends and is earned is her never say die attitude. She can also be a tad fatalistic but I think that can actually work with never-say-die. She may be dead, but she won't be broken dang it. It's actually perfectly captured in a short ardweden did ages ago. If Arcana doesn't end, that's the ending I'll use in my mind. It's her Day after Tomorrow fic called the End.
I think the class cat burglar take is sufficiently different from the default trope that it isn't problematic. Haruko is aggressive but not a femme fatale by any means. However, it's not quite good enough or useful enough to really make her into a competent character.
So how would I rebuild Haruko?
Mechanically: Prune her peripheral water powers. Switch her liquid form to being powered by magic, possibly with some ritual elements to make it cheaper. Then drop some of the defects that just got in the way. Downplay the fire stuff, start it out at level 1, she doesn't really need PTSD on top of everything else. Put remainder ability points into better driving and thieving. As much as I love the rain power I may end up having to drop that or keep it to a minimum. Also, give her a useful non-violent attack, maybe an energy drain.
Personality: Drop the empathy aspect [mostly]. Drop the technical pacifist and just go with not liking violence. Drop her popularity/fan boys. She should do alright but find that most of these are really shallow if pressed. That can be a surprise to her. [Essentially she'd still try and be bad at some of the empath and understanding stuff. But she'd be willing to give up battles but not the war. That should skip some boring bits and make her less annoying] Keep confidence but limit it to the areas where she is really good. Keep the ditziness but give her more self-deprecating and genre aware humor. She'd still in some ways be an awkward fit for Arcana-verse, but then, who isn't? Arcana-verse is not healthy for children and other living things.
Maybe I'll try her for my DnD 4th edition character.
[Update: Rewrote to fix impact of prior to publications rewrites]
[Update 2: Added link and made bulleted lists]
[Update 3: Some typos fixed, some list items struck, and a few additions.