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tomsoderlund

Unextraordinary: You are no one special – an RPG

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Most RPG's follows Campbell's monomyth: ordinary person in ordinary place becomes hero in a fantastical place. Old Man (Gandalf, Obi-Wan) comes to young boy and gives him a magical object (ring, wand, lightsaber).

Well, screw that. Let's say you (the player character) is just ordinary. There are heroes, sure, but you're not it. The Old Man won't ring on your doorbell. You're unlikely to get a lightsaber. You're likely to get a cold.

-----

What do you think about this as a premise for an RPG? What would you expect of the game?

All constructive feedback is welcome!

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For me the are two main questions:
- What is your goal?
- Why would it be fun to play?

Most questy games offer both right off the bat; you're trying to defeat the Sith and you get to chop people up with a lightsabre. Done and done. I'm not saying that a game that fulfils both under your criteria isn't possible, but you need to answer those questions.

PS - I know all games don't follow that formula, but it's a safe start. Without the first people often don't "get it" and/or can't explain it to their friends. Without the second... maybe it's an art game, maybe it's an addictive grind-fest. But it's a much harder sell.

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For a single-player RPG I'm slightly sceptical.

If you're talking about having a totally "normal" character who constantly plays second/third/fourth fiddle to everyone else and isn't at all important in the story then I can imagine it would be very hard to create a compelling reason for a person to keep playing. The player would end up as nothing more than an onlooker.

On the other hand if you going for more of real life simulator "your nothing special, but important in your own little world." then I don't don't see why it wouldn't work. Although you're not really changing much around, the player is still the protagonist and it still vital to the story, its just your talking about "staying alive on the street of Victorian London" instead of "Kill the dragon and save the known world". The problem here is that you would have to have a well crafted story, unlike most games you couldn't rest on the premise of the story to keep someone engaged.

Oblivion did something like this. For the main quest the prince played the protagonist instead of the player. Yes the player was important, but it was the prince who was the true hero at the end. It really didn't work that well from what I remember and is probably a good example of how to get it wrong.

For multiplayer RPGs (whatever their scale) it's a good idea. It gets around the whole "Why are there a load of other One True Saviour's Of The World and why am I having to rely on their help?".

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Recettear casts you as a shopkeeter in an RPG world. Heroes and adventurers frequent your store, and you make a living wage stocking and selling the various potions, weapons and items that they'll need to fight monsters, and also by bankrolling their quests as an investor in exchange for a share of any loot or gold they discover. It's actually pretty fun, since you wind up sending a guy out to clear a dungeon with a bag full of all the crappy potions and low-level food that you can't move that week, and sometimes he gets his butt kicked because you hosed him on a second-hand sword or wouldn't come down on the price for a magic helmet. Funny.

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In addition (or as an alternative to) the above, I could see this potentially working well as a funny game, which could be enjoyable if done properly.

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When you're writing a story, you choose the protagonist and the plot to go together because the protagonist is "uniquely able" (i.e. contextually special if not special in an absolute sense) to solve the plot's overall problem. Usually in games the protagonist is the playable character, or one of them, because playing is pretty much by definition "taking action to move towards a goal" which is what protagonists do. Even when there is a main character who is not a protagonist, the main character is chose because they have a unique emotional perspective and insight on the overall story problem. Even in a game with no written story, such as many adventure games, the player is special because they are the one solving the puzzles that the world implies no one else has solved/cares to solve/can solve, or anyone who solved them in the past "graduated" with some award recognizing their specialness. Added to this is the fact that gamers in general are motivated by the desire for an adventurous escapist experience which praises their cleverness and kickassness. We kind of all think we are heroes anyway; in writing theory it is a truism that every villain thinks he is the hero of his own story. Every person cleaning their house does noble battle against such forces of darkness as dust bunnies, hairballs, and mold. Every person cooking something new feels a little heroic and kickass if it turns out delicious and they didn't burn the kitchen down in the process.

So, really it depends on how you define hero. The protagonist of a game doesn't have to be the last person of a special bloodline, or the child of prophecy who is as strong as 10 men and blessed by luck, or the only one in the world who can do magic. The hero doesn't even have to be a warrior if it's not a game about killing monsters, though usually RPGs are. But the Pokemon series is an example - you are a normal person like all the NPC trainers in the world, it's your commitment to your quest that makes you special.

Not all RPGs, but here are some of the non-traditional hero story roles I've played in games: Plant breeder trying to become the best in the world, cake baker trying to raise enough money by a deadline to save a foreclosed property, time traveler trying to locate and retrieve objects lost in time, archeologist who accidentally fell into an alien automated testing arena that they used to determine the nobility of their society, general of the vampire kingdom, trainee plant faerie trying to earn my rank of being a full faerie, farm boy who found a lost princess and got drafted to help her get home, zombie apocalypse survivor trying to defend my house and brains from zombies, person with amnesia in an insane asylum trying to figure out how I got there and what's real, person who accidentally fell into a magical world and must figure out how the world works to either go home or make a new home for myself in a magical world, spaceship pilot who stumbled upon an alien relic ship...

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Awesome feedback everyone!


- What is your goal?
- Why would it be fun to play?


1. The idea behind the premise is just to do something contrary to the norm, and see how it turns out.
2. Can't answer that yet, too early to tell. Will crunch the feedback in this thread and get back to you!


On the other hand if you going for more of real life simulator "your nothing special, but important in your own little world." then I don't don't see why it wouldn't work.



So, really it depends on how you define hero. The protagonist of a game doesn't have to be the last person of a special bloodline, or the child of prophecy who is as strong as 10 men and blessed by luck, or the only one in the world who can do magic.


I think this is the watershed design decision: 1) a game where you play the "hero in their own little world", or 2) a game where you are not a hero in any sense, maybe even an anti-hero.


Recettear casts you as a shopkeeter in an RPG world. Heroes and adventurers frequent your store, and you make a living wage stocking and selling the various potions, weapons and items that they'll need to fight monsters, and also by bankrolling their quests as an investor in exchange for a share of any loot or gold they discover.


Nice! Will check Recettear out. Sounds a bit like Little King's Story for Nintendo Wii.


archeologist who accidentally fell into an alien automated testing arena that they used to determine the nobility of their society


This sounds awesome, which game is this? Edited by tomsoderlund

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This sounds awesome, which game is this?

Old Win/Mac adventure game Jewels of the Oracle. Good luck getting it to run unless you have a legacy game box or possibly a legacy virtual machine. It doesn't really explain the story clearly, so that's sort of my interpretation of the minimal amount that's there - in the little intro movie you (in first person view) are exploring some ruins, and some kind of machinery recognizes you and lets you in, leaving you trapped in a room with a checklist of puzzles, you must complete them all to get out. Throughout the game you are talked to by (presumably an alien ghost or AI) person that looks like an upside down pyramid. The instructions, clues, and praises when you solve a puzzle are all given in kind of poem/riddle language which gives the impression it expects you to be a candidate for some sort of important position in the culture that built it, and expects you to be either an ancient egyptian or an alien, and doesn't understand that world it's training you for is long dead. There was a sequel, not as interesting but it at least made the archeology part more clear. Alien archeology was a popular topic for novels and movies for a few years there - Fifth Element, The Dig, and Stargate are all related to the subject if you find it interesting. I think alien archeology would still be an interesting topic to write a story about, game or otherwise. Edited by sunandshadow

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What about being the old man? Find and protect the young ordinary person, give him your magic staff and help him in the background without him knowing it and then when hes fighting the boss and is losing you come speak some random wisdoms and give him more magic items.

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Old Win/Mac adventure game Jewels of the Oracle. Good luck getting it to run unless you have a legacy game box or possibly a legacy virtual machine.


Thanks! I found some videos on YouTube at least.


What about being the old man? Find and protect the young ordinary person, give him your magic staff and help him in the background without him knowing it and then when hes fighting the boss and is losing you come speak some random wisdoms and give him more magic items.


Awesome idea! Indirect control, a bit like Dungeon Keeper.

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