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Article - 'People Places & Things II' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Nov 11, 2004

Blurb

Sogon Cires writes the sequel to his original People Places & Things article.

Body

People Places & Things II
By Sogon Cires

When you’re making an RPG the story is comprised of only three things, Your people, your places, and your things. If one of these is sub par, your game will be ruined. It takes quite a lot of work to create all these in your game, but maybe with my help you can figure out a way to go about making on of the best games ever created (at GW anyways).

People
Yeah, people are hard to understand sometimes. We act with out rhyme or reason, we make mistakes and cover them up, we have so many different facets that those who can sift through them make fortunes off our insecurities. No one can tell you how to make your characters in your game, there are way to many types of people for any rule of thumb to work 100% of the time. But, seeing as how your reading and I’m writing, I’ll give you some examples of people that I use.

Mother: This doesn’t have to be an actual mother, any one who feels the need to care for another person would fit into the archetype. A priest running an orphanage or a gruff hero caring for the child of the man he killed in combat are both examples of this. Feeling responsible for another’s well-being is what puts a person in this category.

War Monger: Have you ever been so angry or upset that you wanted to take over the world and make those who wronged you suffer? I bet you would have if you had the ability…well; here is a guy who has the potential to do just that. Anger is almost always the root of this dudes malfunction.

Power Freak: I hate these people the most. They can be a power-corrupted dictator, or a lowly moderator that bans people out of a forum for saying ‘nudie flick.’ (I’m still kind of sore about a particular run-in with a mod recently on another board). These are the people who get a taste of power, and they like it. A power freak is usually very hard to deal with, because they have the ability to destroy you (which is why it’s hard to talk to some moderators) rather than deal with you.

anti-government: these are the law-abiding people of society who loath those who have power. People who fit into this category could range from some one who just wants to be able to get a license with out having to pay $300 bucks for a pile of paper to a whacko sitting in his basement with hundreds of artillery shells and toilet paper. These people actually make up a large percent of the population of any culture. Consider making this a large part of your characters persona.

Follower: The exact opposite of an anti-government type person. He believes that if he follows orders and does what his leaders tell him to do he’ll live happily ever after (or at least not be tortured for his dark lord’s sadistic pleasures). There are many types of followers, and I don’t feel I have to provide examples

The Lost: a person who doesn’t know which way he’s going, he doesn’t know why he does the things he does…he just does them. This is pretty much always a part of a characters persona. Can you think of a time when you didn’t know what to do? When you felt you needed to do something but you don’t know why. Like the imp of perversion is whispering in your ear. Have you ever been on top of a tall building and something deep inside says ‘jump’? That’s a common feeling, you know it’s not good for you, but you know you feel it. Sometimes it’s best to ignore the feeling, but sometimes, something inside you tells you that this is not something to brush off (sometimes the feeling is right, and sometimes wrong).

These are just a few types of people, and very rarely are people 100% of just one type. Mix and match, and come up with your own…there are more types of personalities than I can list a million years.

Places
Whether it’s form or function, every building has a purpose. Whether or not it was designed to look beautiful or provide protection against the elements it still exist because it was needed. When designing buildings in your game I think it’s best to keep in mind the reason it’s there. Why would a fortress be in a secluded forest away from borders or civilization? It wouldn’t, unless there was another reason for it being there, like it protects the entrance to hell or keeps the mines in the forest from being raided.
Having a building fitting in with it’s surroundings is important. In a kingdom where Christianity is the main religion, don’t have a dinky little catholic church in the same city as a huge satanic temple. In a small town with only a few people, don’t make a grand hotel foaming with people, make a sweet little B&B where people come for the scenery, but don’t make a B&B in a huge metropolis.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played RPGs where you have to go to secluded and secret locations to find regular stores. In real life these stores would be closed in a matter of days. It’s all about location, location, location. I think it’s best to make all your pubs, inns and stores near the main street or entrance to your town, and put all your residential houses in more obscure areas, but it’s your choice. People don’t like their houses to be in heavy traffic areas, but they want their business to have people coming in and out all day. One example of this in a game is Lunar Legend. In one of cities rows of shops were on the biggest center road, but as you went on the lesser roads you saw more and more houses and less and less stores.
Have you ever seen a walled city and you wonder what they do when the city gets to big for the walls? Well that’s pretty interesting, because eventually people start building huts and hobbles outside the walls, usually the poor folk. Then eventually the area outside the walls become like a second city. Then another wall is put up and the process starts over. So you can kind of see how old a city is by looking at its ‘rings’ in a way. If your city is relatively young, then you might want to keep it all inside the walls, but if it’s an older city try putting buildings outside the walls or making another layer of walls. Of course, if your city is really young it isn’t a good idea to give it a wall at all. But there’s an exception to every rule.
People are jerks. If every one in a neighborhood agrees to paint their roof red, one of them will paint it green. If every one else plants petunias, one will plant Venus Fly Traps. Try to add a little bit of variety and humor by making a neighborhood ass. It’s your choice, but I like to add one in every town. Sometimes I let one guys yard go to hell, brown spots everywhere, weeds poking up from the ground, the works. Then have some one standing outside on the sidewalk saying something like “Ol’ Ted is bringing down the value of my property!” This works in fantasy genre games just as well as modern ones.

Things
How often have you collected crystals in a RPG? I bet that if you have to get one more legendary sword you’re going to go nuts, right? Collecting items to complete the game isn’t always bad. Stopping a villain from getting an item that will give him the power of a god is actually a very good and effective place to start your story, but sometimes the item just seems so generic because you’ve encountered them so often before.
In one of the games I made, your character must go around the world to find six magic souls hidden within the bodies of seemingly normal people before the villain does, but the only way to get the soul is to kill them and take their heart. I think this is a great idea, because collecting human hearts is not something I’ve seen in any game. And another reason I felt that it was a great idea was that for each heart you take, you gain a power that can be used at any point after that (unless you lose the heart). I hate when you get ‘The Legendary Magic Medallion of Ice’ that does absolutely nothing. But, as I said before, it’s really just how you want to do things.
Collecting items is a valid way to make an easy to follow linear or non-linear story. People understand items. You can make a game where the only idea is to stop the villain no mater what, but it’s likely that people lose sight of the end goal, and they lose interest. Look at Zelda, you know that the next thing you need to do is go to the next dungeon and collect the next crystal shard or Triforce piece, and Zelda is one of the most celebrated series in the world! Just remember, it’s okay if you want to go with the time-tested collect the keys type quest, it’s a perfectly acceptable style…but please, for the love of all things Nintendo, no more ‘Legendary Dragon Blades!’ I’ve seen so many Ancient Helms that you should be able to buy them for a dime a dozen at your local adventurer’s mart.