What's In Character?

This springs from a post I made recently and since the thread went a different way, I'd like to continue it here. My question was originally to @killemall and I'd still like him to respond because I think his input would be worth reading, but it's also just a general question that pertains to battles on CV as a whole. I don't really feel like writing more so I'll just start with the relevant bit of the original post:

Getting off on a tangent though, during Infinity, did Thanos use a force field, telepathy, telekinesis, independent teleportation, or matter manipulation at any point? How about in his recent origin story? I think there was something in Avengers Assemble with telepathy, but what was the extent and context of that and what about the others? When was the last time he used these abilities? Sometimes I wonder what goes into people's considerations for which behaviors are "in character" and which aren't. If a character used to do something "a lot" but doesn't anymore, could their character be said to have changed? Would that be an outlandish concept since we're pretending these characters are real people anyway? Or do people prefer to hold a static concept of these characters in mind even though their use through time and portrayals under many writers would almost require something far more fluid? If this fight should so happen to start, don't worry, I'll get out of your hair, but I felt like rummaging through some thoughts.

Thanos was being used in the original thread and I am curious about the answers to the questions I posted about that character specifically as well as the general topic. He might be a good character to use as an example of what's being discussed but I'm sure there are others too.

26 Comments
26 Comments
Posted by IheartZombies92

I'd say that "in character" is what a character has in his arsenal, as well as does often - the clear distinction being between what he can do, potentially, or what he does do.

For example, if Batman felt like it he could snap someone's neck in the opening seconds of a fight, but "in character" he'd use knockout gas or darts or whatever.

Or, Silver Surfer could create a huge rock and pummel his foe with it, but his go-to is an energy blast.

If we go on to talk about how much a character uses it, then we could look at what kind of foe he was facing with which move - for example, if Thanos tends to face a city-buster with his infamous pimp smack, then it's probable that in a fight with a city-level character, that's what he'd do. But if in fights with more cosmic beings, e.g. Silver Surfer, he uses telepathy, then in a fight against another cosmic being - TP is what he'd use.

Think about yourself. If a small kid attacked you, you wouldn't go berserk and beat them to death with the nearest chair - in character, you'd do something appropriate, like try and restrain them, despite the fact that you have the potential for doing something more severe, and in an encounter with a more powerful opponent, that's what you'd do.

Posted by buttersdaman000

I always took 'in character' to mean what the character is known for doing/consistently does. For example, speed blitzing is a big thing for Superman and Flash so it's safe to assume that they will pull it off in an 'in character battle'. However, while we can assume that Captain Marvel is capable of a speed blitz since he does have Superman level super speed, he's not known for doing it and he doesn't do it consistently. So, a speed blitz would only be applicable to him if it was a 'no moral/out of character' battle. Even if he does speed blitz sometimes, it has to be consistent. Basically, if you can't bring up 4-5 recent(ish) comics to back your position, it's not consistent....IMO.

Regarding this point, I think there should be an official distinction between Classic and Modern Marvel characters. As is pointed out many times on the battle forums, Marvel never had a crisis so their characters are the same as they were 50 years ago. But are they really? At least in the battle forums? I don't think so. I mean just look at the span of history you get in a Thor/Hulk vs battle. You get comics from the 60's, 70's, and 80's to support some one-off/no longer used power or feat to support arguments. It's obviously not 'in character' so why use them??

Edited by Wolverine08

I consider "in character" to be the actions and powers a character would usually use/take when in a fight situation. In character does not mean a character would do the same exact thing in every situation, but it is a safe bet.

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Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

People seem to think characters are completely stagnant and never change and if they do it's only after some world shattering event but that isn't true for real pepole so why should it be true for characters? Some pepole just change. It's also annoying when people complain when a character does something that doesn't make sense or is illogical, pepole do stupid stuff everyday of there lives so why should characters be some perfect template that make 100% rational decisions 24/7.

Edited by Skit

I've always considered in character to apply to the amount of force or what power's a character would use against another depending who it is. Somebody like Superman isn't going to go and use heat vision and his strongest punches against a group of thugs. This also takes in consideration use of powers. Super Skrull for example never really uses his powers to the fullest extent that really could. Finally there's stuff like cockyness and willingness to kill. The things can change obviously as some character's have done that they normally would never do like kill, but these are usually connected to plot and generally doesn't apply to battles.

Edited by OmgOmgWtfWtf

In-character sometimes can be very difficult to ascertain because depending on who is writing the comic book, characters may act differently.

Usually in-character, to me, is defined by how the character acts and uses their powers in conjunction to their habits and personality.

For example, I dislike when people on the forum always say Iceman would flash freeze someone or pull the moisture from their body. While he can do that, it is not in his mindset to do so, while in-character. From what we see him do in the comics, he tends to joke around and half-ass many things, unless told to do something important. This is no means to downplay him as a powerhouse, but sometimes people tend to over exaggerate what characters will do (I have done this before as well).

In my opinion, a great way to argue for that particular's action, while in-character, would be to provide scenarios and events that coincide with what they have done in the comics. For example, lets say that Scarlet Witch is fighting versus a powerhouse that she cannot physically beat in a fight. An argument can be made for BFR, if the arguer has shown instances of that character employing such methods, while in character. The arguer would then put forth, as evidence, her using BFR on Thor when he was mind controlled.

I would also like to add that the more often this occurs, then the more sound the reasoning behind it. For example, if one could show multiple instances of Scarlet Witch BFR'ing a character, it can only help improve your argument. Another thing I want to mention is that I consider more recent feats more applicable than older feats, mostly because the character's mannerism and actions can change over the course of many years, as writers evolve or develop the character further.

Posted by Wolverine08

In-character sometimes can be very difficult to ascertain because depending on who is writing the comic book, characters may act differently.

Usually in-character, to me, is defined by how the character acts and uses their powers in conjunction to their habits and personality.

For example, I dislike when people on the forum always say Iceman would flash freeze someone or pull the moisture from their body. While he can do that, it is not in his mindset to do so, while in-character. From what we see him do in the comics, he tends to joke around and half-ass many things, unless told to do something important. This is no means to downplay him as a powerhouse, but sometimes people tend to over exaggerate what characters will do (I have done this before as well).

In my opinion, a great way to argue for that particular's action, while in-character, would be to provide scenarios and events that coincide with what they have done in the comics. For example, lets say that Scarlet Witch is fighting versus a powerhouse that she cannot physically beat in a fight. An argument can be made for BFR, if the arguer has shown instances of that character employing such methods, while in character. The arguer would then put forth, as evidence, her using BFR on Thor when he was mind controlled.

I would also like to add that the more often this occurs, then the more sound the reasoning behind it. For example, if one could show multiple instances of Scarlet Witch BFR'ing a character, it can only help improve your argument. Another thing I want to mention is that I consider more recent feats more applicable than older feats, mostly because the character's mannerism and actions can change over the course of many years, as writers evolve or develop the character further.

Batman approves.

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Edited by Pokergeist

I have a question, what is in character for characters who have only 20 or less comics?

This is a major debate I have with people all the time for characters like Alucard, Ryu, Miles, and others in comics who have less than 20-25 comics to give a accurate in character view?

How about characters like Spawn who uses a new power in almost every fight thanks to his Reality Warping Magic he has? What is and is not in character for him?

Posted by GhostRavage

@ancient_0f_days I think this thread's topic resembles our little argumentation.

Posted by OmgOmgWtfWtf

@wolverine08:

Ah, thanks. Here's a sandwich for your compliments. Made from none other, than Wolverine!

Posted by Auction_Sniper

Depending on the character, wouldn't it be the same thing as morals off?

Posted by Chaos Prime

People seem to think characters are completely stagnant and never change and if they do it's only after some world shattering event but that isn't true for real pepole so why should it be true for characters? Some pepole just change. It's also annoying when people complain when a character does something that doesn't make sense or is illogical, pepole do stupid stuff everyday of there lives so why should characters be some perfect template that make 100% rational decisions 24/7.

Agree 100%

Posted by patrat18

@omgomgwtfwtf said:

In-character sometimes can be very difficult to ascertain because depending on who is writing the comic book, characters may act differently.

Usually in-character, to me, is defined by how the character acts and uses their powers in conjunction to their habits and personality.

For example, I dislike when people on the forum always say Iceman would flash freeze someone or pull the moisture from their body. While he can do that, it is not in his mindset to do so, while in-character. From what we see him do in the comics, he tends to joke around and half-ass many things, unless told to do something important. This is no means to downplay him as a powerhouse, but sometimes people tend to over exaggerate what characters will do (I have done this before as well).

In my opinion, a great way to argue for that particular's action, while in-character, would be to provide scenarios and events that coincide with what they have done in the comics. For example, lets say that Scarlet Witch is fighting versus a powerhouse that she cannot physically beat in a fight. An argument can be made for BFR, if the arguer has shown instances of that character employing such methods, while in character. The arguer would then put forth, as evidence, her using BFR on Thor when he was mind controlled.

I would also like to add that the more often this occurs, then the more sound the reasoning behind it. For example, if one could show multiple instances of Scarlet Witch BFR'ing a character, it can only help improve your argument. Another thing I want to mention is that I consider more recent feats more applicable than older feats, mostly because the character's mannerism and actions can change over the course of many years, as writers evolve or develop the character further.

Batman approves.

If Batman approves so do i.

Posted by TifaLockhart

Overconfidence, MO, forgetting to use powers effectively, creativity, morals, irrational actions - all factors that make up "in-character" IMO.

Posted by Wolverine08
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Posted by DeathHero61

in character means something someone usually does. For example, monkey d luffy tends to rush his opponents without analyzing in fights. if in one fight he justs stands there and strategically think out how to beat his opponent, that would be out of character for luffy, since luffy tends not to think much.

Edited by Buckshot

Some of these responses, or parts of them, are more in line with what I was getting at than others, and I'll highlight those to narrow the focus some, but this might be a good start.

in character means something someone usually does. For example, monkey d luffy tends to rush his opponents without analyzing in fights. if in one fight he justs stands there and strategically think out how to beat his opponent, that would be out of character for luffy, since luffy tends not to think much.

I think we have to decide how human these fictional characters are. If a person were known to behave rashly when confronted, but one day they decided to think things through, you could say it's out of character for them, but you couldn't say it's not something they would do, because obviously they've done it. If character is what someone most frequently does, then it tells us what to expect, but not everything that may happen. It is a quirk of fictional beings that they can only be said to do what they've already done, and that they must make sense in a way people do not. (Just like it's an aspect of fiction itself that it "ought to" make sense even though life rarely does to the person living it.) Johnny Anonymous puts it well with his post:

People seem to think characters are completely stagnant and never change and if they do it's only after some world shattering event but that isn't true for real pepole so why should it be true for characters? Some pepole just change. It's also annoying when people complain when a character does something that doesn't make sense or is illogical, pepole do stupid stuff everyday of there lives so why should characters be some perfect template that make 100% rational decisions 24/7.

I tend to agree with this view, if that's not apparent. But provided there is a character (the thing that one is wont to do, but not exclusively so) I think I'm most curious about how we deal with actions that are or seem to be exceptions to it, and the formulation of the norm from the perspective of the audience, especially when it comes to things like time.

If we go on to talk about how much a character uses it, then we could look at what kind of foe he was facing with which move - for example, if Thanos tends to face a city-buster with his infamous pimp smack, then it's probable that in a fight with a city-level character, that's what he'd do. But if in fights with more cosmic beings, e.g. Silver Surfer, he uses telepathy, then in a fight against another cosmic being - TP is what he'd use.

I think this is a good way to look at the idea of exceptions, though it may be obvious to some (because I know it's not obvious to all): The idea that context is just as important as the character of the being involved in determining what is most likely to happen. In the CAV that started this whole it was put forth that Thanos uses his shields more for his prep situations but typically does enjoy a physical brawl when he can get one or when one arises and he's not planned for it. I'm interested to see the response to that claim, but for now, let's look at it as is. If character were determined simply by frequency of events, Thanos using his force field is pretty well established. But to me it would seem to be more than just how often he uses it, but also in which situations, that would be useful in guessing when he'd use it again, and so, in establishing his character. Similarly with telepathy as presented in this example. Thanos certainly has telepathy, but if that's a thing he uses more on cosmic threats (that have telepathy of their own and with which battles involve a wide range of attacks all flying at once, from punches, to blasts, to mental assaults) then who he uses it on is just as significant as the existence of it or how frequently he uses it.

I always took 'in character' to mean what the character is known for doing/consistently does. For example, speed blitzing is a big thing for Superman and Flash so it's safe to assume that they will pull it off in an 'in character battle'. However, while we can assume that Captain Marvel is capable of a speed blitz since he does have Superman level super speed, he's not known for doing it and he doesn't do it consistently. So, a speed blitz would only be applicable to him if it was a 'no moral/out of character' battle. Even if he does speed blitz sometimes, it has to be consistent. Basically, if you can't bring up 4-5 recent(ish) comics to back your position, it's not consistent....IMO.

Regarding this point, I think there should be an official distinction between Classic and Modern Marvel characters. As is pointed out many times on the battle forums, Marvel never had a crisis so their characters are the same as they were 50 years ago. But are they really? At least in the battle forums? I don't think so. I mean just look at the span of history you get in a Thor/Hulk vs battle. You get comics from the 60's, 70's, and 80's to support some one-off/no longer used power or feat to support arguments. It's obviously not 'in character' so why use them??

Another thing I want to mention is that I consider more recent feats more applicable than older feats, mostly because the character's mannerism and actions can change over the course of many years, as writers evolve or develop the character further.

I left both paragraphs in the first of the two posts because the first brings up the morals/character connection. I know a lot of people use these terms interchangeably on the forum, but I personally am of the opinion they are two very different things. For these sorts of discussions I think of morals as the values beings hold concerning what is right and wrong. And using the definition I cobbled together earlier, character would be the thing one is likely to do, but not exclusively so. Obviously the two can be connected, a being that believes killing is the right punishment for criminal acts would have killing as part of their character, but it goes beyond just that. Spider-Man's has a preferred method of moving around the city, many would say webslinging is in his character, but his moral stance on theft has no impact on that at all. To my mind, morals are not the same as character.

Anyway, the other idea brought up here is one of those I was interested in: time. buttersdaman and omgomgwtfwtf are of the opinion that recent actions carry more weight than older actions, because it is the development of the character over time. So a fight including Spider-Man in his current state wouldn't only represent the current state of his body (how much he can lift, how fast he is, his spider sense) but also of his mind (he's not even Peter at the moment) as well as his character. And yes, I am making a distinction between the mind and the character here. The Octavius piloting Peter's body now is not the same man that he was when he first got into that body, his morality and practices have undergone change. So it would seem to make sense to use more recent showings, since the closer to the present the comic is, the closer to the present the representation of the character. But this has its own issues. If we're again treating characters like people, just because they don't do something for a while doesn't mean they won't, so recent displays can't be the only thing of value. Going back to context is likely the wise choice for sussing out the likelihood of actions whether in the present or the past. And here, frequency might again become useful as a measure of character. I mentioned it in my original post involving Thanos, when I questioned if his character could be said to have changed if something he once did a lot is less common now. Another issue that comes up is competing views, and therefor representations, of characters because of different writers. Time becomes a less reliable indicator when a character is being written by many people. If Batman were written by just one person then it would be easy to say that any changes in character are his development, but since he's written by many, often even at the same time, there is no clear progression from one point to another, just many views of the same character. But reconciling the many presentations of a character is just part of the mental gymnastics readers go through to pretend that these fictional beings are like real ones.

That was just a sort of refocusing of the discussion, but looking at it, a few measures stand out for determining character, those being frequency, context, and recency. I think part of what is interesting is that different people put different value on each of these three variables, as well as any others that they might personally find relevant. It's often not as cut and dried as "Character X did Y a bunch of times and so you can be they'll do it again here."

I have a question, what is in character for characters who have only 20 or less comics?

This is a major debate I have with people all the time for characters like Alucard, Ryu, Miles, and others in comics who have less than 20-25 comics to give a accurate in character view?

How about characters like Spawn who uses a new power in almost every fight thanks to his Reality Warping Magic he has? What is and is not in character for him?

I would think a smaller sample would make it easier to determine character since there'd be less competing view points. Obviously there'd be fewer situations for which to gauge possible reactions to various stimuli, but you really do just have to work with what's there. I think though, dealing with it in terms of situations may be more useful than a number of comics.

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Posted by Oy_the_Billy_Bumbler

@iheartzombies92: Think about yourself. If a small kid attacked you, you wouldn't go berserk and beat them to death with the nearest chair - in character, you'd do something appropriate, like try and restrain them, despite the fact that you have the potential for doing something more severe, and in an encounter with a more powerful opponent, that's what you'd do.

Agreed with your entire comment, except I always go straight for the chair when I'm getting attacked by children.

Edited by Oy_the_Billy_Bumbler

I have a question, what is in character for characters who have only 20 or less comics?

This is a major debate I have with people all the time for characters like Alucard, Ryu, Miles, and others in comics who have less than 20-25 comics to give a accurate in character view?

How about characters like Spawn who uses a new power in almost every fight thanks to his Reality Warping Magic he has? What is and is not in character for him?

I think the best answer for in character Spawn is "Spawn wins".

Posted by King Saturn

In Character is an Excuse that some Users made up after certain characters were being used in battle threads and getting easy wins with little to no debate left... In Truth, whatever a character really has shown is In Character as what is being conveyed by the writer or artist for the character to do is well within his skill set and possible for the character to do as it's shown on panel regardless of the character's state of mind.

Posted by Immortal777

@buckshot: So are you trying to start a Renaissance on Comicvine lol? I found the discussion very interesting.

Posted by i_like_swords

Dunno if I'm recycling what anyone has said before me (cause I can't be bothered reading it all), but for me, in character is what a character does consistently. How hard they punch on a regular basis, instead of their hardest planet busting punch of all time. How well they fight in general, instead of how they fought in their most challenging, pressuring fight that forced them to a whole new level. What a character does during a fight in order to win consistently opposed to the one off time they took a civilian hostage or fired off their super mega cannon.

So yeah. For me, it's what they do normally and consistently, and not necessarily at their absolute best. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that certain characters will do what they do at their absolute peak opposed to what they do normally.

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Posted by i_like_swords

When we're speaking in terms of out of character actions and time between actions, that's kind of complicated.

What I would say is this. If a character uses a sword consistently and has always done, then he's in character a sword user.

If one day he uses his fists instead and leaves his sword sheathed, then that's "out of character". Although, I'd maybe say that it was more of a "one off occurrence", since the character is still himself and has chosen to use his fists. For all we know he could maybe of wanted to practice his karate that day.

If that character then uses his fists alot, then his character would be changing. He wouldn't be using his swords all the time. It would then become in character for him to use his fists. And it would then be "out of character" for him to use his swords, since that part of him had faded away.

So yeah, in character for me is what a character consistently does in recent times. Not how much they lift under extreme pressure, not how they fought in he 60s, not what weapon they used that one time - what they do usually nowadays.

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Edited by OmgOmgWtfWtf

@buckshot

I left both paragraphs in the first of the two posts because the first brings up the morals/character connection. I know a lot of people use these terms interchangeably on the forum, but I personally am of the opinion they are two very different things. For these sorts of discussions I think of morals as the values beings hold concerning what is right and wrong. And using the definition I cobbled together earlier, character would be the thing one is likely to do, but not exclusively so. Obviously the two can be connected, a being that believes killing is the right punishment for criminal acts would have killing as part of their character, but it goes beyond just that. Spider-Man's has a preferred method of moving around the city, many would say webslinging is in his character, but his moral stance on theft has no impact on that at all. To my mind, morals are not the same as character.

Interesting points brought up. However, I feel like the distinction between the two and how much of an influence they play on each other (in-character and morals) is something of a loaded question. The issue with morality and mindset is that, depending on who you ask, there can be big differences on how they interact with each other. While you do go on to say that people have differing views on the subject, I feel that the difference between the two is not that large. (Of course, when I make battles, I do label morals and in-character as two separate things, but that's just for clarity's sake.) An argument can be made that while Spider-man's moral stance on theft has no effect on his webslinging, one could argue that his morals drive him away from using any other form of transportation, other than webslinging. From what we can see from Octavius, he prefers to use other forms of transportation, in conjunction with webslinging, like operating robots and whatnot. This could come from the fact that Octavius' moral perspective of things are different. Peter Parker is more humble and simple in his mindset, while Octavius is more arrogant and complex with his. However, I don't want to get off tangent because how morality affects the mind and the impact it has on the psyche are things that are still being discussed in psychology, and depending on which school of thought you ask (Freudian, Skinner, etc.), you are bound to receive varying answers.

Anyway, the other idea brought up here is one of those I was interested in: time. buttersdaman and omgomgwtfwtf are of the opinion that recent actions carry more weight than older actions, because it is the development of the character over time. So a fight including Spider-Man in his current state wouldn't only represent the current state of his body (how much he can lift, how fast he is, his spider sense) but also of his mind (he's not even Peter at the moment) as well as his character. And yes, I am making a distinction between the mind and the character here. The Octavius piloting Peter's body now is not the same man that he was when he first got into that body, his morality and practices have undergone change. So it would seem to make sense to use more recent showings, since the closer to the present the comic is, the closer to the present the representation of the character. But this has its own issues. If we're again treating characters like people, just because they don't do something for a while doesn't mean they won't, so recent displays can't be the only thing of value. Going back to context is likely the wise choice for sussing out the likelihood of actions whether in the present or the past. And here, frequency might again become useful as a measure of character. I mentioned it in my original post involving Thanos, when I questioned if his character could be said to have changed if something he once did a lot is less common now. Another issue that comes up is competing views, and therefor representations, of characters because of different writers. Time becomes a less reliable indicator when a character is being written by many people. If Batman were written by just one person then it would be easy to say that any changes in character are his development, but since he's written by many, often even at the same time, there is no clear progression from one point to another, just many views of the same character. But reconciling the many presentations of a character is just part of the mental gymnastics readers go through to pretend that these fictional beings are like real ones.

I agree with you on this. I forgot to mention context in my answer, which is something I feel strongly should always be used when bringing up scans, because context is a very important factor. With it, we can tell what mindset the character was in (whether or not he was mind controlled, angry, happy, etc.). I applaud you for bringing that up, because I agree with you 100% on that.

As for time being a less reliable indicator as more writers are added to a particular character, it's one of those catch-22 situations. In order to accept a general 'personality' for a character, we must then define those characters within a set perimeter. Eliminating any characterizations brought fourth by other writers as being incompatible with the characters 'set' personality. However, I feel once we do that, the characters become static, and less dynamic. The other problem is that, who actually decides what is considered 'in-character', it's not so cut and dry once you look at it. For example, if we look at the character Doctor Doom, depending on who's writing him, his personality differs. Stan Lee portrayed him as a meglomaniac, hell-bent on world domination, with an undying hatred of Reed. Then we have later writers who portray him as a tragic villain/anti-hero, who has some sense of decency. We also have contradicting showings on how he views Reed Richards. In some comics, Doom would never call Reed his intellectual superior, but, in others, he actually does.

That is what I both love and hate about American comics. There is a big sense of confusion and chaos sometimes with American comics, because of all differing writers, but at the same time, it's nice to see all these minds collaborating, because it makes the comics more rich, complex, deep, and dynamic.

I think the question really boils down to, "How do you, as a reader, view this character?" Because my characterization of a particular hero or villain, may not be what others would see.

That was just a sort of refocusing of the discussion, but looking at it, a few measures stand out for determining character, those being frequency, context, and recency. I think part of what is interesting is that different people put different value on each of these three variables, as well as any others that they might personally find relevant. It's often not as cut and dried as "Character X did Y a bunch of times and so you can be they'll do it again here."

I completely agree with you here. How people view those particular variables is what determines the effectiveness of said variables. Some people may put more weight into one variable, over the other, thus changing their definition of what 'morals' and 'in-character' truly represent.

In my opinion, all three need to be account for, but that can be a hard thing to do sometimes. Especially when certain events and scenes can be ambiguous, leading to differing views on what actually transpired.

Everything about comics is very subjective, from the art to the dialogue, and it changes depending on who's looking at it.

Posted by IheartZombies92

@iheartzombies92: Think about yourself. If a small kid attacked you, you wouldn't go berserk and beat them to death with the nearest chair - in character, you'd do something appropriate, like try and restrain them, despite the fact that you have the potential for doing something more severe, and in an encounter with a more powerful opponent, that's what you'd do.

Agreed with your entire comment, except I always go straight for the chair when I'm getting attacked by children.

I'm partial to the folding metal ones myself. Don't break as easily, y'know?

Edited by Ancient_0f_Days