Creating an Imaginary World
To start with, there are three main categories of RPG’s. First, there are those that take place in the future. Most of the gameplay in these adventures involves laser weapons, electric attacks, psychic powers, space travel, etc. Next, there are the ones that take place in the present era. These are just about the same, except that there’s less supernatural and more gunplay involved. First-person shooter games are a variation of this type. And lastly, there are the games that take place in a more traditional Medieval setting. Gameplay here involves swords, magical spells, and either fairies, wizards, or some sort of mythical being.
For my RPG, I choose the medieval setting (this is the most common category anyway). Now that this is decided, I must choose a plot.
The idea of all role-playing games is that it is up to a hero, played by you, the gamer, to save the world from impending doom. Usually, but not always, this means there must be a supervillain working against you. I say “not always” because sometimes that villain is time, and the game is played in a continual race against the clock. But even then, there has to be some evil force fighting against the protagonist. There are three ways to present this situation:
1. The game takes place in a country divided. On one side of the civil war are the good forces, and on the other side are the evil ones. The hero must then complete a series of tasks to thwart the evil troops and save the day, usually by defeating their leader in close-range combat at the end. Then the hero gets a medal of honor, the princess’s hand in marriage, or, if nobody else is in charge, he can simply take over the place. So many possibilities, so little time.
2. The hero / heroine sets out on a quest for a mythical object, like an orb that grants its owner control of the universe or something. Often in this case the villain is searching for—or already has—the orb in question, thus complicating the situation quite a bit.
3. The third option is to combine these two ideas and have the good side of the battle protecting its “orb” from the evil side.
To keep things simple, I am going to stick with the first plot for my game. Hence, the adventure will take place in a medieval nation in the midst of civil war. I’ll call this place Aetre’s Island (I think that has a nice ring to it). I will call the main battle ground Obliteration Field, and it will be right in the center of the world. And all day and all night there will be fighting on Obliteration Field, the good forces mostly to the east, and the evil ones to the west side of the field. And no matter how long they fight with their cannons and arrows (no guns allowed), it will always come to a standstill.
*Note: It is generally a good idea to have some sort of open space in the middle of the created universe, so there is always a large central point of reference.
North of the field will be Club Town, where our story starts. This town is filled with people who just want to stay away from the horrors of war and get on with their lives. However, many of the young boys of the town have enlisted in the good army so they can see some real action. In the township there is one boy, Lewis Dominick (the hero), who at age 14 is too young to enlist in the army, but too old to have any fun with the younger kids of the town. Despite his aunt’s orders not to, he decides to escape one night and head out into the battlefield where the action is. Between the battlefield and Club Town is the North Road. While he is on this road, there is an explosion behind him. He looks back to see several objects resembling shooting stars fly from the southwest and strike Club Town. The whole place is soon ablaze, people running and screaming helplessly. All Lewis can do is watch as the town is destroyed.
When the bombing stops and the night rain has put out the fires, Lewis goes back to find a town with no survivors. He goes to the smoldering ruins of his home, and sobs quietly under the remains of a tree in his front yard.
Then the enemy army, led by General Dastard, shows up. Dastard sees Lewis sitting under his tree, head in arms. The villain chuckles softly, and gives you that smug grin villains are famous for. It’s as if whenever you see this guy, he’s always wearing that same old confident smirk. So Dastard greets Lewis, tells him to get up and quit crying. He then comments on Lewis’s clothes, saying that dressing in the style of a king’s loyalist citizen is no way to gain Dastard’s favor. Lewis is wearing clothes similar to a blue karate suit with a black belt.
Dastard is about to force Lewis to join his army when the good army shows up. During the ensuing battle, an officer from the good side tells Lewis to escape into the Northern Woodland, just east of Club Town and to safety. But, since the Northern Woodland conveniently leads to Diamond Castle to the east of Obliteration Field, the officer wants Lewis to carry a message with him to be sent to the king. The officer warns you previous messengers that have tried to go through the woodlands have not come out alive, so Dominick should take care.
*All RPG’s start with an event that causes a sense of urgency. An important message must be sent, a lost item must be found, an enemy has attacked, the good king has died, the cat got out again, we’re out of ketchup… the possibilities are endless. And it is strongly recommended that you design the RPG to involve a series of events where one thing leads to another, leads to another, etc.
Now that the sense of urgency has been presented to our hero, Player 1 (the gamer) takes over as Lewis Dominick. Whenever Lewis is controlled by the player, I will refer to the hero as “you.” At this time you choose to follow the officer’s advice and head into the Northern Woodland. You have no weapon as of yet, and your only item is the message. A ways into the forest, two masked ninja characters suddenly jump out at you. One has a bow staff, and one carries some throwing stars. They see your clothes and the envelope in your hand and attack you. The first to approach you is the one carrying the bow. He is slow, and you can dodge his attacks pretty easily.
On the sidelines is a man in a scaffold who yells for you to come over to him. When you do, he explains that he is the last messenger to come through these parts. He says that while he was no match for these ninjas, a fast young person like yourself might be able to beat them. He gives you instructions for what buttons to press to perform some basic kicks and hand movements.
*Remember, throughout the game, the hero will learn more advanced techniques for hand-to-hand combat and weaponry. Don’t start your game by giving the hero access to the best moves immediately! Save the best stuff for last.
With his advice, you tuck the envelope in your pocket and start fighting. You hit the first ninja, and he drops his bow. You pick it up and the messenger yells once more to you, this time giving you commands for basic bow technique. While he’s at it, he tells you how to use throwing stars as well. Once you hit the first ninja a few times, the second curses the messenger for helping you and kills him. Now the two ninjas attack you at once. Hit them each three times and you kill them. And after the one with the throwing stars is down, his weapons are yours for the taking. When the battle is won, you hear a voice calling from the ninjas’ tent. Inside is a girl your age (that is, Lewis’s age) tied to a chair.
*A good RPG rule of thumb is that any character the hero helps out will later help the hero.
Now you’ve met the girl, and you untie the rope behind the chair. She introduces herself as Alexandra Chi. You can call her Ky for short. She tells you that she was the messenger’s daughter, and yes, she heard what just happened outside. Now she wants revenge, and she hopes that you, oh ninja slayer that you are, can help her. She begs for you to take her along on your adventure. And she won’t take no for an answer. So you let her come with you to deliver the message to the castle.
*Now we get to the rules for a sidekick. A sidekick does not have to be, as she is in my game, the same creature as the hero; it can be a fairy, a little bug that follows you and gives advice, a little alien creature you have just saved from certain death, be creative. Also, a typical sidekick has a general knowledge greater than the hero’s, but lacks the hero’s physical ability and / or weaponry. The idea is that the sidekick should possess mainly the abilities that make up for the flaws of the hero. In my case, I picked Ky because she was traveling with a messenger. Therefore, she has experience from being many different places, which makes up for Lewis Dominick’s (and the gamer’s) inexperience with the world outside Club Town. Perhaps that may come into play later on…
Once the two of you reach the end of the woodland, you come to Diamond Castle, where you talk to the good King Aetre (a.k.a. yours truly), he gives you orders to find something that is missing, and one thing leads to another, etc. The entire strategy guide to the game is not necessary at this point. The important thing is that Aetre’s Island has been created, the plot has been established, and we are now ready to address our plans for the hero, Lewis Dominick, specifically, his fighting abilities.
Lewis Dominick at a Glance:
Hand techniques (from most basic to most advanced; keep in mind he cannot do all of these yet): Block, high block, low block, chop, elbow, choke grip, judo slam.
Foot techniques: Round kick, spinning hook kick, double aerial twister, triple aerial twister, charged lightning kick.
Jumps: Basic jump, high jump, forward flip, backward flip, hovering.
Bow staff maneuvers: Block, strike, double strike, spin, circular trip, charged helicopter attack.
Other weapons: Throwing stars, crossbow, cherry bombs, lightning bombs, arrows for crossbow, lighter for lightning bomb.
Spells: Lewis can use a codebook he finds in the second dungeon to conjure up certain effects. When he gets the codebook, though, it’s missing its pages. Lewis must find them while on his adventure.
*All RPG’s have some sort of mythical aspect to them that allows the hero / heroine to perform supernatural feats. Keep this in mind when you go to create the villain and other enemies, who by definition must succumb to certain attacks and repel others, respond to some magical spells and not to others.
The stage is set. I am now ready to create the levels, the challenges, the side characters, and everything else, one by one as they come into play. This is the setup for my role playing game. Next, Part 2: The Introductory Dungeon.