Current Characters: At the moment none. I just dropped Rei Hino.
Canon: Final Fantasy XII
Canon Point: Post FFXII, shortly before Revenant Wings.
First and foremost Penelo is the kind of person who will always speak up for what she thinks is right. It doesn't matter who she's speaking with, friend or foe, orphan street urchin or lord of an invading nation, she never hesitates to voice her opinion about what she considers moral and right. She's shown throughout the course of the game acting as the party's conscience and acting as a humanizing element for the heroic figures that make up the rest of the party. She's rather keenly aware that compared to the people she's traveling with, she's fairly ordinary. She doesn't dream of a kingdom restored, she doesn't have honor to reclaim, and she's not out to become a sky pirate and travel the world (even if that does eventually happen), instead having much simpler aspirations. Because of this, she's in a rather unique position, since she can (and does) remind her fellow adventurers that they have a responsibility to worry about the ordinary. She calls out her friend Vaan for being pigheaded and rude, and she argues against her princess's desires to turn what's effectively a magical nuclear warhead on an enemy nation, using the same tone for both of them. She's self-aware, and even comments to Larsa that while she's not sure she really should be traveling with Ashe's group, she knows that they need her help, and not just as a fighter.
Penelo is, without a doubt, the most upbeat member of Ashe's entourage through the game. She almost always has something positive to say, whether it's to try and lighten the mood or to simply reassure herself that things are going to be alright. It's how she gets by, and how she's so able to manage being ostensibly a normal young woman caught up in events that are much, much greater than herself. It's as much a defense mechanism to protect her sanity and her emotional well being as it is genuine optimism for the sake of the group, and that's made very clear to us early on when she points out to her childhood friend Vaan that while they're orphans they're much better off than a lot of others. “We have a place to sleep, a roof over our heads, and steady work. It's not much, but I don't want to think about what would happen if we didn't have it” she says, and she means it. Keeping on the sunny side is just as important as having resolve, and she's always there to lighten the mood even if she's not personally feeling completely sure of herself.
Her worldview, however, isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Penelo's someone who's seen the ugly side of life, and she has been affected by the horrors of war as profoundly as anyone she travels with. She lost everything when the Archadian Empire attacked her home of Dalmasca, her parents killed in the aftermath of the war, and her brothers (knights in service to the Dalmascan army) slain in battle, and this is something that deeply affected her. She tells Basch a little about sleepless nights, and of her fear of the Empire, and confides that she struggles with how to deal with her fears. She takes solace in her sunny outlook, though, knowing that through the actions of her and her companions peace is certainly a possibility. It's a driving force for her, yet another reason she doesn't just run away from the adventure when it comes knocking.
Penelo's kindness is something worth going over, because it's an aspect of her personality that is both important and understated. She's not Mother Theresa, certainly no saint, and she's not above hurting people or manipulating them if it's absolutely necessary, but she is someone who shows a great deal of empathy for her friends. She's almost always the first character to come to another person's aid, such as when Fran is exposed to too much Mist or Vaan gets himself into a spot of trouble. She's not always as vocal about this though, and a particular example that stands out to me is shortly before the end of the game the characters have defeated Vayne with the help of his 12 year old brother Larsa. Larsa collapses in despair at having helped kill his last remaining family member and the only person who really even seems to notice this is Penelo. She quietly rushes to his side and stays with him until he's able to move forward. It's not an easy thing for her to see suffering and even in the heat of battle it's striking that she'd take the time to be there for a friend in need. She knows she doesn't have to be vocal, she just has to be there, and that shows an empathetic understanding of people that's easy to overlook, but is no less important than any of her other traits.
Penelo's next major trait is her common sense. She's a practical, pragmatic person who doesn't let anything go to waste, keeps her head out of the clouds, and has little patience for her friend Vaan's reckless antics. Growing up with a fairly large but poor family, that adopted Vaan when his parents were killed instilled in Penelo an almost instinctive understanding of resource management. She knows how to make everything count, because it always had to. Basically, she's street smart. She can pick up on trouble, she knows when to leave before a tavern gets too rough, she's a pretty good pickpocket and thief when she needs to be, and she's got an almost uncanny knack for surviving difficult situations. She knows when to bow and scrape to the powerful, and when to voice her opinion. She never pushes the envelope too far, placing survival above personal satisfaction especially when she's kidnapped early on be a group of bounty hunters looking for Vaan and Balthier, and because of that she manages to survive.
She's very much the voice of reason for the protagonist, constantly reminding Vaan of how his thievery and troublemaking could get him into trouble and thus have unintended consequences for every orphan who relies on him. It's a point of contention between the two throughout the game as she tries hard to be the common sense that he lacks, and grows exasperated with him and others when they show a lack of foresight. It isn't that Penelo herself can't see why he does these things, just that she's often baffled as to why he has no notion of how not to go about things in the worst possible way.
Penelo's bravery is the next thing that needs mentioning. She's not someone who's going to go charging headlong into a fight, but she does go out on an adventure into dangerous lands with a small group of friends. She demonstrates her bravery time and time again by standing up to the various monsters in the game (which range from angry tomato-people to dark demigods) and proves her valor is beyond reproach. Would she do it if she didn't have to? Absolutely not, she'd much rather be at home in a warm bed but Penelo's no coward. A major part of her arc throughout the course of the game is learning to let go of her fears and becoming a bold, confident young sky pirate. She just knows when not to pick a fight, unlike her friend.
On the flip side of that, though, Penelo's not fearless. Fear and valor go hand in hand, and Penelo certainly has fears. The Empire, as mentioned earlier, is one of her fears but her greatest fear is being alone. She has always had someone by her side, whether it be a parent, a brother, or Vaan, and the times that she is shown as being the most distressed are when she's been kidnapped by the lizardlike Ba'gamnan and his crew of bounty hunters. They treat her roughly, and she flinches every time they talk to her, clearly expecting the worst. She's terrified of being trapped, and it shows in how she acts during these events, pointing to a fear of restraint. She manages to overcome some of her fears, but restraint is one that clearly sticks with her.
Characters in Final Fantasy XII use a License system rather than the usual Class System. This means that they can effectively learn to use any skill, weapon type, or magick. Each character has unique stat growths, and Penelo's stats favor spellcraft and healing over physical strength. She's durable, able to walk for miles and miles without complaint, and fairly nimble and smart, but she's no front-line warrior like Basch. Ostensibly the game represents that through having a high Vitality, MP, and Magick Power growths. With that said, I play Penelo as having spent the entire game in a spellcasting role, following the Sage archetype with access to all sorts of Magick. She has a basic understanding of staff, dagger, and unarmed fighting thanks to growing up in a dangerous world with several older brothers, but generally she sticks to spells. She could learn any ability from her world, ranging from magical swordplay to creating elemental bullets for a gun if she took the appropriate license, but generally magick is her go to.
She has access to a wide array of magicks (spells), specifically of the classical Fire/Ice/Water/Thunder/Wind/Poison elemental group that come in single and multi-target varieties, as well as disabling spells like Blind/Poison/Silence/Slow/Sleep/Stop, and massive blasts of raw magical force like Flare and Scathe. Additionally, Penelo is a skilled White mage, capable of casting Cure spells of varying degrees, attacking with blasts of Holy power, resurrecting the recently deceased (This would be a player/mod permission only), dispelling hostile status effects, slowing or stopping them for periods of time, stripping enemies of their buffs, and empowering her allies with boosts to their defenses, speed, and offensive capabilities. She also has some more strange, esoteric spells that aren't combat related like invisibility, teleportation, and levitation that are more related to solving puzzles than anything.
Finally, Penelo has a collection of Ultimate attacks and summoned monsters. The ultimate attacks, called Quickenings, require time to build up magical energy and can be unleashed for massive amounts of damage in a wide area, effectively creating a huge single attack. Penelo's Quickenings all involve her dancing talents to invoke an effect. Two of them are simple Holy attacks, while the third, Resplendence, allows her to briefly conjure something like a snowglobe around her and a single foe, locks them in a Stop spell, and blast them with ice and time magick for more damage than the other two.
The summoned creatures are Espers, dark entities bound to the summoner's will, and only one Esper can be active at a time. The Espers are malignant spirits that rebelled against the gods of Ivalice, are bound in thrall to humans that defeat them and are held inside special brands on the character. When called out, they have a limited time they can remain manifested, or they can expend their energy in an ultimate attack. Summoning takes a great deal out of the caster (the same as a Quickening), and it should only be used under dire circumstances because there's always a danger that control might slip and the Esper goes on a rampage. Penelo has three Espers to command. First is Mateus the Corrupt, a humanoid Ice typed Esper with access to Ice spells and huge trident, his ultimate attack is a large Ice strike. Cuchulainn the Impure is her second, a grotesque monster capable of draining life energy away from foes and attacking them with poison, he attacks enemies with a poisonous strike as his ultimate. Finally, Penelo can summon Ultima the High Seraph. Ultima is the only Esper that isn't outwardly tainted in some way. It appears as a winged being attached to a pillar, and it attacks enemies with holy magic, the Flare spell, and can heal allies as well.
In addition to her combat skills, Penelo is an amazing dancer, a talented thief who can get in and out of places undetected, and an athlete of no small ability. She's agile, nimble, and skilled at surviving both in and out of the city thanks to her time with the party. She has a knack for working with machines and has received a a good bit of hands on training from Fran and Balthier in how to use/repair/manipulate advanced technology (Ivalice is remarkably high tech for a Final Fantasy game). She soaks up information like a sponge too. She has a handful of non-magick techniques that let her pick out traps, pickpocket, use a variety of weapons and elemental bullets and do other things like that.
Alignment: I am choosing Thras as Penelo's alignment. Fear and valor are two very important concepts that are central to her character and her character development throughout her adventures. She's defined a little by both sides of that particular emotional coin, and I think that Thras would be the Arehtei she'd align with most easily.
Bakerstreet Thread with Basch and Thread on the TDM with Robin
Emotion Sample: Thread on the TDM with Robin that has emotional effects throughout. Here is a specific example though