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Article - 'Angroth's Collection 3' by Guest

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 19, 2004

Blurb

A collection of articles which address the topic of storylines.

Body

RPGs
This article mainly discusses how we can define an rpg and what might make a good one.

Roleplay games have been around for a long time and can be found on many consoles and handheld computers. Rpgs can vary in many ways and always offer different features. The most popular rpgs are most definitely the Final Fantasy series. But I believe that it was FF7 that picked up many non-rpg and non-final fantasy fans along the way. This was no doubt good for the company because it meant people would purchase both previous and future products of the same name and also look to different games of the company (Square).
As new rpgs develop new ideas, newer rpgs clone the ideas (if they were successful). Well, this generally seems to be the case anyway but I think this is not necessarily a bad thing as the cloned games are usually of a drastically low quality and noticable copied. However it is annoying.
And due to this is the reason why so many games are stuck in a Final Fantasy styled rpg dump. Whereby it became successful and all following rpgs have many resembling features especially the combat in which new rpgs seem to be trying to change (with not much success).

I used to use emulators to play many games I never had. Some of which included the Final Fantasy’s of the older era. The Final Fantasy legend games (gameboy) were of awsome quality. Although in black and white, they were a very unique style and fresh change from modern stuff and I really enjoyed them. In graphical comparison they were really bad to what you might see in Breath of Fire III yet I found it had much more to offer.
I’m not sure if it’s me just being a roleplay fan but I never grow tired of rpgs unless they are obviously re-hashed cloned & cheaply fastly produced arse! What gives them such a good lastability?
I believe it is their total uniqueness that gives them their brilliance. The fact that they weren’t popular as they are now – back then meant that nobody copied any ideas from it and so they were very original. I also noticed that compared to saving the world stuff of now, they were also very original in their stories and they seemed slightly like a Might and Magic hybrid.
Linking on to above, Might and Magic (the first game, on the Megadrive) was still in the era of original rpgs. This was very noticeable as it had FP viewing like in Dungeons and Dragons cave sections; only all the way through. Its combat was different and it had many variants of enemies with a very different style of play (less focus on the story).
And so you have it, two very successful games yet against eachother they are both very different. They do have similarities but most games do, so you cant really escape it. With this in mind, doesn’t the gaming industry realise that very original and lots of effort are what creates good rpgs?
The industry is only out to make money and will find something that sells and send their own quick version of it out (that’s how it generally works anyway!).

Carrying on from that, what actually makes a good rpg? I’ve talked about this many times before so I will spare you the details. But suffice to say, longevity and story and some of the most important matters. Graphics tend to give good recognision but are never a lasting feature.
Length in rpgs can vary quite considerably however I have noticed a few things about the rm2k games. Other than the oddities such as Rm2k Checkers, Fantasy Battle, Santa’s Sled Racing (1&2) and Racer etc, the games tend to be relitively short.
I even downloaded one 23mb game which was very short indeed (so beware!). All decent Rm2k games I have played last a good couple of hours (about 5 at max). Which is all and well but I merely sit down with a snack and drink and play right through the thing before dinner. I must say, this is all well and good but Breath of Fire IV took me over 20 hours (cant remember exact time unfortunately L).
I feel that it would be very awsome if games could be made just a bit longer and where the game could carry on into a sequal that it is, only within the first game itself. Making a game long can be very difficult and the longer the game the more memory it takes up but I definitely feel a super long yet highly enjoyable game is needed. Maybe there are a few but I have yet to play them, Im not sure.
Its just that it would be very nice to have a rpg that spanned over a good couple of days. And and there are a few ways to make a game more lastable. Things such as multiple endings (but not in the mundane sense). Whereby the story adapts to what you do and by half way through the game you could be doing something completely different to what you might on a second play. This is good as it is more appealing than playing exactly the same thing only with slight alterations at the end.
While on this topic I would also like to mention that this is exactly what rpgs are about and a game where you make no decisions (Maranda) are amusaning but not very long lasting or as fun to actually play (but I did kinda enjoy Maranda).

Well there you have it. Rpgs should be telling a nice long story from beginning to end without skipping small parts. They also need to seem believable (unless a total comedy) otherwise they can become very tacky and silly (but not in a good sense).
Character interaction is the key to this and you must make characters talk and react just as a human would to thing (try to think of people you know and place them into a character, that’s the most simple way).


The World of a Game
This article features ideas which the story will be heavily influenced by.

When making a game, great effort should be used to create the world. Most rpgs these days (most I will remind you) have very intricate details of the history, locations and very deep cultural stuff. Personally I thought Final Fantasy X was the best for this (from what I've played, with the Al Behds speaking different language and wearing very mechanical looking clothes). How can we cut down the scale of this to fit a smaller rpg? Making a decent world in which a game revolves will certainly make it easier when making and much more fun to experience for other people who play the game.

Idea's to think of:

Language & writing
Language is inevitably an obvious one some might say, yet I haven't seen many if any rpg maker games with different languages. Languages should be different from country to country or continent to continent. Some races might rely on languages which others might not. Another more less obvious thing is the writing of certain areas. Once again, if languages vary, so does the writing. Books, signs and anything with text should be different for each language. But there is liable to be a certain style in your game of text and language. Despite everything else time periods could well have significant effects in your game. Some languages might have developed from older ones. Also, the general font in the game (if using some pictures) might depict a certain form due to its time period and setting. With much straighter writing likely to be older more primitive writing and big curly swirly writing from a time where poets and plays exist etc. But fonts and languages vary on players opinions of them, of course!

Any religions
Religion is always a good one to put in your game. Lots of non-rpg maker games have different religions and they can usually have a significant impact on the story. Religion is a good thing to use and play on. If you want to make certain statements about religion this is the place to put it too! But make sure the religion fits in with the rest of the game and doesn't contradict itself in any way.

The context
Keep everything in context. Don't place illogical things around. Unless there's good reason you shouldn't be having magical swords and bows in a futuristic game and cars and planes in a medieval sword slashing rampage. Its obvious but worth noting. yet once again, this can be played on as can everything else. the final fantasy's have always been ones to try and include swords and mechanical objects with good reason, as does Breath of Fire games. Whereas games like Vagrant Story take a much more traditional medieval role.

Story
Story should incorporate all of the above. You'll need good historical background for a game. Wars, alliances, discoveries and inventions are what makes for good history. Even implementing simplistic history ideas can benefit very well. It is especially handy if there is some large openings for debates upon the mini topics mentioned. If you have a great library it gives even more excuse to have more history; its a decent chance to express the past, maybe it could clarify certain things in the game if someone did read from the library, who knows?

The environment
Environment is a major factor in a game. The settings and locations of every area. This will help distinguish between what you might consider, modern, futuristic, medieval, sci-fi or anything imbetween. Maybe certain areas are ruins from past wars between different countries. That will certainly spice things up and make them less happy. The environment in which you play can be manipulated for some good effects by using the languages, religions, context and background. As the only main physical aspect from the article, this section will be the main one to draw the links between all of the above together. Use it well.

In the world of a game, there are many things which some of I have mentioned. Many things to think of which will make it much more of a world than a random place. Professional game makers spend much time and effort into the likes of a world. A decent world will create a decent foundation for making your game.



Avoiding Clichés
A generally discussion of what you should try to avoid in an rpg due to lack of originality.

Clichés surround our modern world. In films they have grown large as have they in gaming industry. They usually come from a spectacular plot which everyone else clones and eventually gets overused.
Below I will go through stories which are best not used because they are clichéd and hopefully make some suggestions that will help you for your story.

Firstly the man, who is usually a prince must save the princess from the tower. Obviously the more you change this the better. You could use it as a basis but you would have to change it and add some nice twists. For example, maybe the saviour is a woman and maybe the princess is the persons brother or sister.
This can be a good story but be careful how you alter to do so.

Next is the save the world from a god like being. Usually this involves the bad guy summoning an omni-powerful force, like in Final Fantasy VII. However in Final Fantasy it differed in that the god like creature was a meteor. Nevertheless this is a very common story and is worth avoiding as a whole. I have seen it used many times and a similar story was going to be used for the incomplete Action Game.
Generally there isn’t much you can do with this story to make it more original. And the player might get bored when chasing the summoner if the game isn’t very good. Therefore if you are going to use it which I hope you don’t, then you will have to thrown in some cool twists along the way. Possibly the guy who is going to summon the being is a family member or friend. You could also make it so that the summoner requires some fresh blood of a four different types to do the summoning. Which would hopefully add a different element and the chance to find out who the guy will steal blood from next, so you race to stop him / her.

One clichéd story line that is used would have to be the abduction. Many people might not feel this way but I have just seen it used so many times. Like in the film Ransom. And it is always a father and a daughter.
This plot for a story, is however very good if modified well. Obviously the father will be the hero, or will it? Maybe you accidently stole something from the bad guy and engraged them! Perhaps the daughter is an object. It would be bad if you changed the daughter for a loved one (like a wife) because that makes it just as bad. Nevertheless with this story there will always be an abductor, abducted and a guardian.
If you play on this story, I’m sure you’ll find a great finishing plot.

Going on a quest to return a horde of gold and / or some form of priceless relic or object is also slightly clichéd. It would be even worse if you made the hero’s pirates. Here’s two films that use this to make you think a bit:
Conan the Destroyer,
Cutthroat Island,
Fifth Element, (done well)
This generally isn’t too bad for a plot and even if left simple is still quite good. Another shoddy story is the two Lovers and an Obstacle. The obstacle can even be a person. Like the film First Knight. Sean Connery and his wife are in love yet Richard Gere as Lancelot loves her so much he can’t help it. This film uses the plot well with a slight twist at the end. Nevertheless I believe a silly love triangle cannot provide a whole story and is better blended with something else.

Now your probably wondering ‘Well, what story CAN I use!?’
Fear not, Loren J. Miller made an article long ago on stories and plots. Whether you have forgotten or not I have put them below.
Remember this is Loren’s work and not my own, I claim not to have made this myself, so place thanks to where they are correctly due.

*Supplication - Persecutor, Suppliant, a Power in Authority
* Deliverance - Unfortunates, Threatener, Rescuer
* Revenge - Avenger, Criminal
* Vengeance by Family upon Family - Avenging Kinsman, Guilty Kinsman, Relative
* Pursuit - Fugitive from Punishment, Pursuer
* Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune - Unfortunates, Master or Unlucky Person
* Disaster - Vanquished Power, Victorious Power or Messenger
* Revolt - Tyrant, Conspirator(s)
* Daring Enterprise - Bold Leader, Goal, Adversary
* Abduction - Abductor, Abducted, Guardian
* Enigma - Interrogator, Seeker, Problem
* Obtaining - Two or more Opposing Parties, Object, maybe an Arbitrator
* Familial Hatred - Two Family Members who hate each other
* Familial Rivalry - Preferred Kinsman, Rejected Kinsman, Object
* Murderous Adultery - Two Adulterers, the Betrayed
* Madness - Madman, Victim
* Fatal Imprudence - Imprudent person, Victim or lost object
* Involuntary Crimes of Love - Lover, Beloved, Revealer
* Kinsman Kills Unrecognised Kinsman - Killer, Unrecognised Victim, Revealer
* Self Sacrifice for an Ideal - Hero, Ideal, Person or Thing Sacrificed
* Self Sacrifice for Kindred - Hero, Kinsman, Person or Thing Sacrificed
* All Sacrificed for Passion - Lover, Object of Passion, Person or Thing Sacrificed
* Sacrifice of Loved Ones - Hero, Beloved Victim, Need for Sacrifice
* Rivalry Between Superior and Inferior - Superior, Inferior, Object
* Adultery - Deceived Spouse, Two Adulterers
* Crimes of Love - Lover, Beloved, theme of Dissolution
* Discovery of Dishonor of a Loved One - Discoverer, Guilty One
* Obstacles to Love - Two Lovers, Obstacle
* An Enemy Loved - Beloved Enemy, Lover, Hater
* Ambition - An Ambitious Person, Coveted Thing, Adversary
* Conflict with a God - Mortal, Immortal
* Mistaken Jealousy - Jealous One, Object of Jealousy, Supposed Accomplice, Author of Mistake
* Faulty Judgement - Mistaken One, Victim of Mistake, Author of Mistake, Guilty Person
* Remorse - Culprit, Victim, Interrogator
* Recovery of a Lost One - Seeker, One Found
* Loss of Loved Ones - Kinsman Slain, Kinsman Witness, Executioner

But don’t forget, clichés don’t only come in the form of stories!


A Tale
My own list and examples of storylines you could mix and match for your own rpg.

Every tale is produced from a good (or not so good) story. I’ve heard a lot of different plots within my time (no I’m not that old yet!) and some of them seem a little confusing. For some clarification and help I’m offering a bunch of simple plot foundations which you should be abel to take, combine, develop and get some character & location names and then end up with an entire game itself.
Personally I don’t know how many of you never plan your game’s story, I know I for one never used to but after seeing how some of my games were turning out I began to at least plan the bulk of what I was about to make. Some advantages to this would include being able to make future references before things happen.

So, here would be basic ideas for a story and an example to help you know exactly what it is:
-:CLASSICAL HEROIC TALES:-
Conflict with the Supernal:
Mortal has a conflict with an immortal or tremendous force. Example - Clash of the Titans.
Rescue:
Rescue will need one or more unfortunate people who are being threatened by someone or something but will be rescued by other people or person. Example – X-Men.
Quest:
A quest story will be about a great hero(ine), a goal and the obstacles or adversary that hinder progress. Example – Star Trek.
Abduction:
This takes someone who is abducted, the abductor and the person whom is trying to retrieve the abducted (saviour). Example – Ransom.
Ambition:
All this requires is an enthusiastic person with an ambition. The person strives to achieve something but there is always an adversary or thing hindering the person. Example – A Knights Tale.
Obtaining:
This entails two or more factions who are striving to obtain an object. They will be things which blocks both from obtaining the object as well as themselves. Example – Lord of the Rings.
Recovering a Lost One:
A seeker or seekers find a lost person who could be unknown or from their family or a rival family. Example – A Knights Tale.
Pursuit:
This involves two key people. Someone who is pursuing some one or something and the thing which is being persued. This is a very good and open plot for a story. Example – The Fugitive.

-:SACRIFICES:-
Self Sacrifice:
This requires a hero or heroine who sacrifices themselves for something which they believe or someone they love. Example – X-Men 2.
Sacrifice of the Loved:
A hero sacrifices a beloved victim for a certain need or belief. Example – Highlander III (only Lambert doesn’t kill the old guy).
Sacrificed for Passion:
This will involve a lover and an object of passion which can also be another lover. These will both sacrifice themselves. Example – Macbeth.


-:FAMILY CONFLICTS:-
Family vs Family:
This uses an avenging kinsman and guilty kinsman. They can be guilty for many reasons. Example – Romeo & Juliet.
Familial Rivalry:
There is a preferred kinsman, a rejected kinsman and an object. The object can be a persona also and can sometimes be the one prefering and rejecting. Example – Wild Things.
Family Hatred:
All this needs is two family members who hate each other. Example – Twin Dragons.
Famliy Accidently Kills Family:
There should be a killer and an unrecognised victim. There is liable to be a discoverer of the revelation. Example – Wild Things.

-:SKULLDUGGERY:-
Supply and Demand:
A supplier supplies an item to the demander which happens to be illegal. There will be an arbitrator or someone who finds this out. Example – Eraser.
Revolt:
A revolt requires the original upholder of what is being revolted against and the people which are revolting. Example – Blade.
Mistaken Jealousy:
Someone is assumed of jealousy, there is someone who is assuming that someone is jealous and there is an object in which the person is apparently jealous. Example – Double Impact.
Murderous Adultery:
Two adulterers commit adultery and one of whom is betrayed. Example – The Mask of Zorro (to an extent).

-:LOVE:-
Involuntary Crimes of Love:
A lover and the beloved make crimes of love but are discovered by a revealer who almost definitely wants the opposite and is furious. Example – First Knight.
Superior and Inferior Conflict:
There will be a conflict between a superior and their inferior. The reason for the rivalry can be due to an object, person or belief. Example – The Matrix.
Adultery:
A spouse is deceived by two or more adulterers. Example - Excaliber.
Crimes of Love:
Once again there is a lover, a beloved and there will be a reason(s) for the two to be broken apart. Example – Braveheart.
Dishonour of a Loved One:
There will be someone guilty of dishonour and someone who discovers this who is the person who has been dishonoured. Example – First Knight.
Obstacles to Love:
The age old love story which involves (usually) two people who seek love but are kept away by an obstacle. Example – Romeo & Juliet.
An Enemy Loved:
An enemy loved can cause complex story lines. It usually uses a loved enemy, the person who loves the enemy / rival and someone who comes between them or despises the love. Example – Willow.

-:TOUGH LUCK:-
Revenge:
This takes an avenger and someone or something which has caused this person or people to act in such a way. Example – The Matrix.
Mistaken:
There will be someone who is mistaken, someone or many people who suffer from the mistake and something or someone who caused the mistake. Example – Lord of the Rings.
Regret:
Regret can be caused by many reasons, it requires a victim of the remorse, a culprit and possibly an interrogator who uncovers the regret. Example – Terminator 2.
Loss of Loved Ones:
A great yet maybe overused in places plot. There must be a kinsman or kindred slain, a witness and a person or peoples in which they were killed. Example – Conan the Barbarian.
Misfortunate:
This will require someone who is the victim of misfortune or cruelty and a master who is the cause. Example – Roots.
Insanity:
Insanity comes in two forms. One can be a madman who wreaks havoc upon their victim and the other can be someone who turns mad. Example – A Perfect Mind.
Disaster:
A natural or planned disaster will vanquish another power or area. Usually there will be a victorious power or person from the after effect. Example – Mortal Kombat.
Fatal Imprudence:
It takes a very imprudent person who inevitable leads to the victim or lost object. Example – Rambo II.
Enigma:
An enigma requires a strange problem, a seeker of the answer and someone behind the problem who is the deceiver. Example – The Matrix.

Finally I would like to finish by saying that I have been heavily inspired to write this article by Loren J. Miller’s 35 Plots to Great Games article. I got rid of a few plots and added a few of my own suprisingly end up with the same amount of plots. If this has been helpful then I am grateful because I think a storyline in a game can be very important, I did some plot stuff before but this pretty much sums it all up (as if the last one didn’t!). Please read it if you’re going to make an rpg or game that requires a story. Thankyou!


Interesting Plots
An old article which sums up why a plot might be interesting.

My article Avoiding Clichés talked more on this subject.
This was really just a little extended piece that I thought you might find helpful.

The most vital key for an interesting plot suprisingly enough is the character that accompanies you with it.
If the main character is a boring person who the player can’t relate to then it won’t make the story a nice experience. The only reason FF7 worked was because it delved into Cloud’s past and you learnt so much about him, and the story was an unbeatable epic adventure!

So, what makes a plot interesting? Something humorous can do the job. But usually something unique and deep but not as deep as the atlantic ocean. If it’s too complex then it will only work against you.
However a relitively simple story is sufficient. It should have its twists which will most likely turn the heading of the story in a different direction.
If a story is merely about some silly little quarrels it can usually be bland. Maybe if it were only to start off like this then that’s okay, but if the plot only affects a handful of people it isn’t often interesting.
It doesn’t need a grand epic quest whereby the universe must be saved, but if your hero was seiging a castle for the death of his brother then you might be more interested than if a little girl lost her doll to her evil step sister.
It’s hard to get a story everyone likes because everyone is different and it may appeal to many people but there will always be a few people that think your idea sucks.
If you could gather some other opinions and idea’s on what’s interesting in a story then, you could do a chart and see what is most popular then use it for your own game.
However not even I would do something like that, but I should because I would most likely end up with a really interesting game!

Generally it’s not too difficult to get a good story. Writing out your story and re-drafting it comes in handy, because with the story complete you can make future references.
Whereas if you were making the story as you go it might not be consistant and you might contredict yourself.
I know it seems boring and half the time I can never be bothered to write out stories either but it doesn’t have to be a novel or anything.
And by the time you have written some lines you get into the swing of it quickly and go into a writing mode.