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Article - 'Ten RPG Cliches and Remedies' by Fighter

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Fighter covers ten of the most notorious RPG cliches, as well as some able fix-ups for each of them.

Body

Well, this is another article that I felt could be useful. Have you ever played through a cliched mass of characters and storylines? Want something different for a possible change? Can't think of original ideas? Well, a possible way to avoid cliche is to add on to one basic element of cliche, and modify the many wrongs that exist today.

First, I will list a few RPG cliches and then post how to work off of them

1.The Hero is good, valiant, and never dies approach. This approach is infamous for creating boredom in an already tedious game. The Hero has no motives other than to randomly save the world as they would say "for the heck of it".

You could improve this notorious bugger by adding onto the idea or modifying it. Say, maybe the strong valiant hero isn't actually that strong and thinks too highly of himself, but when a fight comes he hides from the monsters. Also, you could make the hero have some sort of phobia, say over a timid creature. Of course, this is a humorous twist on the infamous "1".

2.The Hero finds love in the game just by saving the damsel in distress. The one who uses that element in their game should give up while they are at it, it needs much than a twist to save this criminal of cliched crap.

For the "2", try adding more suspense to it. For example, maybe the Hero tries to save the lady, but he fails. In that case, maybe the hero goes into a twisted state and maybe the game is no longer centered around him. Of course, the possiblities could be endless, like in the good ol' James Bond movies when Jimbo winds up flirting with an enemy unbeknownest to him. Most people don't take the secret agent approach leaving it an open spot for to make your game.

3.The friend betrayel is another common approach that people use. The Hero realizes that their best friend has betrayed him and went to another side. This is commonly portrayed in the notorious for cliche story, Final Fantasy Series.

This one is hard to fix, since it is already a twist. Possibly, the friend pretends to betray the hero, but is actually a spy for the other side. Thus, the hero would be the puppet attached to the strings. This could really change the game for the better and yet again you rarely see it.

4.The Hero is willing to follow the king's pointless orders, is another one that you should watch out for. It's two cliche's merged into one mass of crap; and a dangerous one I must say. Their is no story involved, no emotions, just a stale, boring game.

Well, this can be improved by taking a comedic approach, try making the hero all moody and argue with the king, or maybe the hero misses the vessel to do the king's order and so he must avoid the king for a few days. Also, you could make it so the king calls the wrong person, such as a weak little boy, to do the long job of slaying the dragon or whatever. Yet again, those a just a few ways to improve the so-called "plot".

5.The Hero destroys monsters for no reason is another odd approach, this is also known as the random battles approach, it is used so much that it's like trying to avoid grass in a huge endless plain.

Well, this one can be fixed in a more than one way luckily. First, try making touch encounters with the monsters instead of the annoying random battles. Also, you could make an ambush system where if you were at a low enough level, you would get ambushed by monsters that appear from no where. My favorite approach to this is make there only be mandatory fights, the way to gain experience could be through a sub system of minigames that help increase your strength, almost no one uses that approach and it's hot for the taking. Those are the best solutions for the monster of a cliche' "5".

6.The Black Mage-White Mage Approach is in essence, there are two members who are the only people who can cast magic. The rest of the people can only attack or defend, and the game can get very bland that way.

The obvious way to improve this is GIVE THE OTHER PEOPLE SKILLS; also, you could try making it through yet again a course of minigames that the selected person gains their skill, just avoid the Esper-like system from ff6. This criminal isn't to bad on the strike, and not too hard to improve.

7.The Four Heroes Approach is used way too often in simple makers like rm2k. Basically, the game is just centered around 4 heroes who go on a random quest and have a few problems here and there; yet again, it is obvious what the solution is.

For this one, try to make it center around two different parties of people, like switch between the two every once a while. A good game that shows an example of this is the Easy Mac Game by Erave, just try to not center the game on 4 people.

8.The Selfish Approach has been practiced oh so commonly these days in the "new age spikey dude rpgs", the hero is a selfish mercernary who will do anything for money. It is almost pitiful to see that in a game, and it is hard to fix it up as the solution is even more cliche', my advice for this one is DON'T DO IT.

9.The Hero Uses a Sword Approach is starting to scare game players worldwide. If you count how many games use this approach, you would realize that about 93% of the rpg's now and back then used this approach.

First, you could change the hero's weapon to something else, although this is also commonly used, it's a fine solution for now. The other one is, make up your own weapon type thing, that way there is no cliche at all when it comes to weapons. Yet again not too hard.

10.The Sideview Battle System Approach is the one you must keep your eyes on. This is used way too much in custom battle systems in rm2k, rm2k3, and game maker, rpgtk, sphere etc. This way approach is miles away from the word original. It's overrated as well, sorry if you are putting effort into a cbs, but make a system to go along with it.

You could improve this by changing the view, or add some elements, like characters that can and can't attack, a strategic approach, or even an above average tag team system(Although it is pushing cliche'). My tip of advice would be, if you can't make an original battle system for rm2k(3), just stick with the defaults. Originality and gameplay are the two musts of rm2k, or any other maker. They are also the key to avoiding the beast that we refer to as "cliche".

Well, I hope I could have helped again, with the ideas of your game. I would yet again like to thank all my friends, and fellow gw denizens for making this place like a home to me.

PM me, or MSN Fighter, if you have questions concerning cliche' or this article.