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PersuaderGames

Plot beats needed for Whodunnit

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Hello everyone!

I am working on developing a prototype on a classic adventure game at the moment. Most of my focus was so far on the game mechanics and performance.

However, now that I am going deeper into the project I am starting to think about the actual story. I want to combine the Adventure genre with a Whodunnit story.

Here is the gist I have so far: 8 strangers meet at a remote chalet in the Swiss Alpes. During a snowstorm the group is isolated from the outside. Slowly the group notices that they are not alone, but someone else is present. And that dreadful feeling becomes a certainty when one of the group is found, murdered.

 

Unfortunately, I have hit a creative roadblock. I did not come up with any ideas characters, character development and overarching themes. Does anyone have any tips for me where to find inspiration?

Thank you so much for your help =]

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24 minutes ago, PersuaderGames said:

Does anyone have any tips for me where to find inspiration?

Read Agatha Christie, "And Then There Were None." Just read it.

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Actually, that is exactly where my inspiration comes from. I am a huge Agatha Christie fan since forever =]

Case Closed (Detective Conan) also has some episode inspired by this book.

I am trying to come up with a similar plot line, but I need a scenario that is updated and for I just cant come up with any good characters... Any idea?

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1 hour ago, PersuaderGames said:

a remote chalet in the Swiss Alpes

Think about why your characters are all there. Think about who they are. Come up with backstories for them all.

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What do you advise me to focus on: The personality of the character or their background? Some games focus heavily on the background, while others have rich personalities without any.

I feel like personality (appearance, language used) is more easily accessible for players, since you can convey a lot visually or acoustically. But I am not sure about preferences in general.

Thank you so much for your help!

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Personality makes for a better experience of that character. The most interesting background in the world won't matter if they're as dull as a butter knife.

But the backstory for a character matters a great deal, even if you're the only one who's ever going to see it. Spend some time writing out a character bio for each of them, and if you're really up for it a basic timeline of important events in their life. It'll help you get a more solid idea of who they are in your head, and more importantly give you some sense of their motives and desires. A character without any motivations is a plot device, not a character. Again, their specific motivations don't need to be related to the game, or why they're in the chalet.

A guy who has a family, who is motivated to give his daughter a better life than his, is going to be extremely concerned with getting home to his family. Compare that with a second character who's business just went under, and blames the first character for it and who's primary goal in life is to get even. The second guy might try and frame the family figure for the murder, or kill him in addition to the murder in the hopes of getting away with it. Is the daughter at the chalet? Will the father be willing to commit morally heinous acts to protect her, or avenge her if she's hurt?

Is the third character a former detective, who was forced to retire after they failed to solve a case? Has that failure haunted them? Could they see this as a way to redeem themselves, and to what extent will they go to do so? Does saving people from the murderer matter more to them than catching the killer?

Whenever I write a story, I tend to develop my characters like this first. Then when I stick them in a situation (the chalet) and throw a problem their way (the murder), I have some idea of what might happen next for each of them. Your players need not ever encounter or find out about the vast majority of your character's lives if it never becomes relevant to their experience of the game. But it can really help you in making fleshed out people for your story - more than just walking plot devices.

If you're looking for inspiration to get started, there's a ton of random character generators available online. Pick one and see what it comes up with. Do any catch your eye as being interesting, or something you can morph into a person in your story? Use these random characters (or even people you know) as a blueprint for your characters that you can mould into something that works. But don't just copy-paste them from the generator into your game - there's no guarantee they'll fit with what you want.

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On 11/2/2018 at 4:23 PM, ViolentSleep said:

Personality makes for a better experience of that character. The most interesting background in the world won't matter if they're as dull as a butter knife.

But the backstory for a character matters a great deal, even if you're the only one who's ever going to see it. Spend some time writing out a character bio for each of them, and if you're really up for it a basic timeline of important events in their life. It'll help you get a more solid idea of who they are in your head, and more importantly give you some sense of their motives and desires. A character without any motivations is a plot device, not a character. Again, their specific motivations don't need to be related to the game, or why they're in the chalet.

A guy who has a family, who is motivated to give his daughter a better life than his, is going to be extremely concerned with getting home to his family. Compare that with a second character who's business just went under, and blames the first character for it and who's primary goal in life is to get even. The second guy might try and frame the family figure for the murder, or kill him in addition to the murder in the hopes of getting away with it. Is the daughter at the chalet? Will the father be willing to commit morally heinous acts to protect her, or avenge her if she's hurt?

Is the third character a former detective, who was forced to retire after they failed to solve a case? Has that failure haunted them? Could they see this as a way to redeem themselves, and to what extent will they go to do so? Does saving people from the murderer matter more to them than catching the killer?

Whenever I write a story, I tend to develop my characters like this first. Then when I stick them in a situation (the chalet) and throw a problem their way (the murder), I have some idea of what might happen next for each of them. Your players need not ever encounter or find out about the vast majority of your character's lives if it never becomes relevant to their experience of the game. But it can really help you in making fleshed out people for your story - more than just walking plot devices.

If you're looking for inspiration to get started, there's a ton of random character generators available online. Pick one and see what it comes up with. Do any catch your eye as being interesting, or something you can morph into a person in your story? Use these random characters (or even people you know) as a blueprint for your characters that you can mould into something that works. But don't just copy-paste them from the generator into your game - there's no guarantee they'll fit with what you want.

Damn... That is some of the best advise for narration and story building I have ever seen. Approaching a story through the characters is quite interesting. Of course I already have an good idea who my main characters are from a personality point of view, but I am struggeling with creating interesting side characters.

I know this might sound a bit... strange, but do you have a tip on how many characters a good, dense narrative needs? Giving some technical and genre related constraints, I know I cannot go for more than 2 main + 8 side characters. However, I was wondering how low I can go and still have enough "meat". Do you think players would accept 4 side characters + 2 main characters for a story driven game or is that just too low?

Really cool idea for the character generator as inspiration! Did you have anything specific in mind?

Thanks for your help!!

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I find that the rather aptly named Character Generator is pretty good. It has multiple generators depending on how detailed you want to get. Seventh Sanctum also has a few good ones listed for use.

As for how many characters you need, that's way too broad a question. The honest answer (even if it sounds like a cop out) is "as many as you need". I'm fortunate, whenever I write - whether short stories or for games - I have rather small casts. The stories I write don't need large lists of people. In a murder mystery type deal, however, you need a fair few to act as potential murder victims and suspects.

Four side characters in addition to the two main characters is still six people you need to invent, but that's probably the number I would start with based on a broad outline of one 'friend', one 'suspicious individual' and then two neutrals. Start there and if you notice any gaps in your world building for the game (say you realise Person 3 doesn't really have anyone else to play against, and kind of just agrees with everyone. Bring in another character to act as a foil to them to increase tension), or you notice that you have a character who floats around without contributing to the story, then add or remove characters as you feel necessary.

Start small. Build a solid core cast, then expand on that as needed.

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34 minutes ago, ViolentSleep said:

I find that the rather aptly named Character Generator is pretty good. It has multiple generators depending on how detailed you want to get. Seventh Sanctum also has a few good ones listed for use.

As for how many characters you need, that's way too broad a question. The honest answer (even if it sounds like a cop out) is "as many as you need". I'm fortunate, whenever I write - whether short stories or for games - I have rather small casts. The stories I write don't need large lists of people. In a murder mystery type deal, however, you need a fair few to act as potential murder victims and suspects.

Four side characters in addition to the two main characters is still six people you need to invent, but that's probably the number I would start with based on a broad outline of one 'friend', one 'suspicious individual' and then two neutrals. Start there and if you notice any gaps in your world building for the game (say you realise Person 3 doesn't really have anyone else to play against, and kind of just agrees with everyone. Bring in another character to act as a foil to them to increase tension), or you notice that you have a character who floats around without contributing to the story, then add or remove characters as you feel necessary.

Start small. Build a solid core cast, then expand on that as needed.

You gave me some food for thought here for sure. For now I have only thought about how the side characters act and behave towards the main character, but not about their relationship among each other.

Very interesting to think of them as pairs or clusters, agonizing or sympathising with each other. Especially in the context of my project this could lead to a lot more depth.

I already have a specific game mechanic implemented for sympathies towards the main character, expanding this for all characters will be interesting.

Thanks for the help!

@ViolentSleepBtw, I would really like to check out your work. Could you point me towards a website or something where I can check it out?

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