Specifically, by giving an example of what I could have added to it today, but had the restraint not to. (I took pictures on my phone instead.) What do you get when you mix two hairpins (one black, one goldish-brown), one large paperclip, two small colored paperclips (one white, one yellow), one normal (albeit thinnish) paperclip, and five identical ridged paperclips?
...Why, a superhero team of adventuring gladiators/extreme sports athletes, of course!
Yes. Really! That is how my mind weaves things together. It started with two of the ridged paperclips. (I found the other three later.) See, paperclips have this pre-built association in my mind, as a combination of a surfboard (singular), skis (plural), a shield (on the arm), and yet also an offensive weapon, blasting energy in a matter nearly identical to Chad from Bleach's El Directo. Sometimes it can also act as a blade, penetrating and/or slicing, too, though not always; the above are the essentials.
So, I built a character using those two (and then, three, and then, four, and then, five) paperclips. I built another one at nearly the same time, but you'll see him below; I'll focus on one at a time. This character started as nothing significant, as far as surfers are known. His signature attack, 'Tornado Strike', spins hyper-focused energy/wind in a tornado, emanating from the tip of his board/shield while it's on his arm, and letting out a jet of energy from behind to propel the attack forward.
Very powerful, but nothing unique. Then, he gained a second board. With this, he could double his attack, naming it the 'Twin Dragon Fangs'. Aside from attacking with a slight curve, from two different directions, it's not just a double of the tornado strike; it adds something in: both vortexes now spin on TWO axes rather than just one, and given that they collide with each other on the opponent, this destructive force rips at them when the two collide.
Where he truly became unique is when he gained a third board, something that--while I've had other characters do before--in the setting I developed, was something never done before, earning him the name 'The Juggler'. Surfers already have the ability to switch their board from their feet (where they use it to surf through the air), to their hands (as a shield), to a weapon, but usually it's only one or two boards for good reason: the amount of coordination needed to handle switching three at a time is immense.
If he times it right, he can use all three to attack in the same moment (despite attacking usually requiring at least one hand on the board) and this version is called 'Three-pronged hurricane'. What this also adds is a third axis of rotation to each of the three strikes. With this triple rotation, over three points of attack, all at the same instant, basically, there's no way to defend against it all at the same exact time for basically any opponent, since blocking one tornado--while not impossible--usually requires one hand, and they have three they must defend against.
This ability is further evolved when a fourth board is added: 'Spin Cycle' continues with adding a fourth direction enveloping from all sides, but doesn't keep it there. After a set amount of time, all of the attacks reverse direction, effectively doubling the bombardment against the foe and further catching them off-balance.
So what is gained by a fifth board? Keep in mind, this is where juggling truly comes in, because between two feet and two hands, obviously, you've only got four places for a board to be. Well, the fifth ability, simply named 'Five Pointed Star', allows for this ability to continuously function. A limit of his previous strikes is that they all have a set limit on how much "fuel" they have, so to speak. The attack comes, burns out, and slowly dissipates, meaning that if the opponent survives the initial assault, Juggler is left extra-vulnerable to counter-attack because he just spent a lot of energy on a focused strike.
...With Five Pointed Star, as one part begins to burn out, another comes in. It staggers the attacks slightly, such that as one begins the assault, another is recharging, effectively allowing for a technique that is both good offense, and when used properly, the perfect defense.
(Sunday note: Today, two days after creating him, I added a sixth, seventh, and eighth layer: 'Sever Slash' rips open a hole in spacetime such that by the time you see the attack you have already been hit by it, 'Seven Sins' forces the target to relive all the pain and suffering they've ever endured plus all the pain and suffering they've ever inflicted on others, directly and indirectly, and 'Eight Elements', the ultimate attack, is a continuous barrage not just of wind and energy, but of everything all at once.)
His original opponent, and later Lancer, is someone who was known as The Black Rider, champion of the ring. He was possessed by a demonic blade. In this case, you know that bifurcated dual-tip blade I associate with energy so much? The one serrated on one side and smooth the other? The fact that I mentioned hairpins (especially a black one!) should have been a giveaway for this. While this ability is rare in any of my universes, it's not unheard of for the ends (the part that normally shoots two small bolts of lightning, one combined bolt of lightning, or a ball of lightning) to act as a "thruster", propelling the target forward.
This does mean the actual pointy end is facing backwards (the reverse of what you, normally, would want as a fighter), but the black rider had adapted to this and utilized it to run circles around all surfers, when surfers are generally considered the masters of the air. (It's true. Even things like circular shields--you know, the kind you can get from imagining pennies, dimes, etc. as if they were in the air--are second to the surfers speed, because the same blast which propels them forward to deliver their signature strike also happens to propel them forward, with great speed and agility, in the air.)
He fought Juggler before Juggler was Juggler, and won, but for the first time, was soft enough to let Juggler live, albeit barely. (Juggler had to be beaten to an inch of his life and thrown out of the arena in order to be disqualified, since even in that state, he wasn't gonna give up.) When Juggler returned the next year, the only reason he still won is because he had also been training.
In his third fight, he lost, and recognized Juggler as strong, but asked for a rematch next year. The next year, his final fight, he was renamed 'Twin Rider', because he had gained a second, holy, blade, which counteracted and removed the curse from his original blade. He still wanted a good fight, though, and fought Juggler. With just the addition of Spin Cycle, Juggler stood no chance, but when Twin Rider was shown Five Pointed Star, he was happy to lose, conceding defeat once he survived an assault.
Eventually, they encounter a really big surfer, with a freakin huge board, who openly challenges them both. While large, he proved just as fast as Juggler and Twin Rider (who are about the same speed: really, really fast), just as mobile, just as agile, just as aerodynamic, just as acrobatic, basically, an equal in all areas in maneuverability and dexterity...with one key difference: he's got a freakin huge board.
So what does that mean when he uses a basic blast? His basic blast, one which is unpowered and can be fired off repeatedly, time and time again, is enough to just barely get through Twin Rider's defenses, but not enough to actually land a blow. One shot. Repeated shots, on the other hand, prove a bit more problematic, again because he's just as fast, but so much significantly stronger than them.
This, all before he reveals his signature attack: Behemoth Blast, a charged blast. One which he can charge to any strength, drawing in energy from all around him. An attack of potentially infinite strength, which he can very quickly begin gathering energy for, simply by waiting a few seconds between attacks. Ultimately, he ends up unable to puncture through Juggler's defenses, and joins the group, quite obviously, as The Big Guy.
The next uses a seemingly harmless thin surfboard. The danger comes in when it's revealed he can absorb attacks. Attacks he absorbs then gain power inside his body, always there on the surface. In short, if he was struck by metal, he could turn his body metal; if struck by wind, he could turn his body into a whirlwind of destructive force. This absorbed power remains, gathering strength. In fact, if he lets it remain inside his body for long enough, he can become such a master of the technique as to surpass the original owner.
...And equally as strong? He can unleash what he absorbed, using up all that built-up power, in a fine point. Most surfers use a blast which is equivalent to being punched really, really, REALLY hard: blunt force, pushing the target back while inflicting some area of effect damage. His technique is a piercing technique, specifically designed to deliver all that power onto a single, thin 'bullet' of sorts, compacting all the strength into a single shot.
This was enough for Juggler to, on the spot, admit, "Yeah, I can't beat ya." But his power has two inherent weaknesses. One, once released, it's one-shot, meaning if his opponent survives, he has to start over from scratch on gathering up absorbed energy and releasing it. (Though, if he's already absorbed that power before, obviously, he's familiar with it enough that any time spent mastering it won't be lost.)
And two, he can only absorb one power at a time. When faced with Twin Rider, he absorbs the (weaker dark) blast just fine, but is then defeated when Twin Rider delivers the (stronger light) blast, instantly overcoming his defenses and shocking the kid. The final member of the group?
An assassin, who can turn invisible and teleport, with two boards that are specially designed to cut. And his special blast power? Focuses all on a burst of speed to close distance on the target, because his boards contain various poisons (and antidotes) he can inject into the target. I forget how he was defeated, but the latter three basically come with Juggler because Juggler gets them out of trouble with the law. (Twin Rider was the one who offered to travel with Juggler in the first place, after his second defeat.)
Now, how long do you think it took me to make all of this?
That world, I built up there, a full team of characters, some of their personality, how they meet, what they do, and all that good stuff.
...Believe it or not? I made all of that, literally ALL of that worldbuilding, in two, separate, half-hour breaks. Without once thinking of them while on the guard stand (so, not an hour and a half). And during those half-hour breaks, I was multitasking, and when I was doing those multitasking things (job stuff, mostly), I wasn't thinking of the above. The only time I was? When I was just sitting in the back with nothing better to do.
So I tracked down random objects. Using things that to any normal person would be discarded junk. And from them, I built a fairly typical team of mine. (I use hundreds of variants on this sort of thing all the time.) If I had to guess the actual time spent making the team, I'd say a total of 30-45 minutes, tops. All of this. Literally every. single. bit. I worked out in that timeframe. Because I could. Because I saw opportunity. Because I was bored, essentially. I made in that time, what it can easily be said to be better than the basis of most stories is. A fully realized idea, conceptualized in less than an hour.
...Is it any wonder that I'm a writer?
I do that literally every day on a smaller scale. That is why I have so many scattered toys, random twigs, sticks, pins, bottlecaps, loose change, tabs, hairpins, hairties both broken and unbroken, and whatnot, all around me. Every time, they were things I envisioned as being the objects of power (well, not necessarily supernatural; some are science-based or even just plain normal though magical is the norm) of a person, a combatant, and built it up from there.
...Incidentally, on a completely different subject but tied to the above thought processes, this was one reason why at the peak of my mafia-playing skills as mafia, I was so darn good. The buzzword they use is narrative weaving. Taking completely unrelated ideas, and tying them together, to make something coherent.
There was a reason I absolutely dominated my games as a mafiate; I was able to manipulate the flow of information as to naturally tell the stories convenient to me, and the best part is that I usually didn't have to actually spell it out for them; they would take the pieces I laid out for them and connect the dots as I had arranged them to be connected.
At some point, I lost this ability. I don't actually know why for sure, but I have my suspicions. Namely, I think it had to do largely with the feeling of being "at the top of the world", so to speak. I was at the point where if I put any serious effort into the game as mafia, I was going to win that game. I didn't have anywhere to go except down. I was frustrated, wondering "what do I do?", and basically, thinking that there was nowhere I could go, nothing I could do, to get better, and I think that influenced my mindset on the game.
Now, detractors will of course say, "I was there. You were never that good." But it doesn't matter what they say. It doesn't matter if it's true or not. Regardless of whether I was or wasn't that good, the simple fact remains undeniable that I believed I was that good, and the above holds true off of my BELIEF regardless, because emotional state is everything in a game like mafia.
So at some point, I had given up on games as mafia. I had stopped efforting, and I lost my ability to play that well. Since then, I've recovered my drive. I've gotten better. But my skills as mafia are still not what they used to be. I've weaved a narrative a grand total of one time. Only once have I returned to where I was before. (Everyone who knows where I play probably knows which game I consider this return. Doin' the impossible, that was my style.) Mostly now, it's mediocre. My play as mafia used to be defined by "controlling every aspect of the game"; now, it is defined by "surviving just long enough to maybe be of use to my team". Not a bad mafiate member, but not a good one, either.
And actually, this might seem surprising, but I'm okay with that. This isn't intentional sabotage on my part, after all. Maybe subconscious sabotage, but I would never willingly weaken my play as an alignment for any reason. I see it as room to improve. This can be frustrating at times: The feeling after being mafia a few games in a row and having not felt any growth in them? Incredibly agitating. "I didn't get better". "I used to be better than this". "I have fallen back into some bad habits, but haven't picked up the better ones". That feeling sucks.
But the challenge remains there. "I can do better." "I will do better." I think that, eventually, I'll be able to reach the point I want to be at in regards to playing mafia games: the point where I'm doing well as all alignments, but still have room to grow. Whether I regain and then begin to use narrative weaving, who knows? Only time can tell. I do predict that eventually, my writing skills will come back into my play, but in a very good way.
For instance, the scriptwriting I do every day (I've blogged about this before) is a very handy skill to have for dealing with "what ifs" in games, especially as town. "What if X-Y is a mafia-mafia pairing?" as a basic thought I can explore every angle of. I don't think I make full use of this ability. I do however think I use it, on a subconscious level, with no effort put in, because I've got good instincts for calculating that sort of thing apparently. That's just one example of what I'm talking about. I'm sure there are countless more.
I'll continue to play mafia in the foreseeable future. I don't think I'll ever reach a point where I've gotten as good as I can get. I don't think I'll ever stop improving. I think I can get better and better, never perfect, but closer each game and each experience. It's a very productive outlet for my creativity (who knew mafia games could be art? Well, in my head, every game is!), which allows me to grow as a person. And besides. I wouldn't be doing it still if I wasn't still enjoying myself!