How To Save the World
In Part One it was pointed out that the general plot starts with an initiating event, and then one thing leads to another, leads to another, etc. I hate to sound repetitive, but that is really the important concept to understand when making an RPG. I have used my game as an example for a plot, and now I will develop it further, Once again, this is only one example. Your RPG will, as it should, be much different from mine.
We left off with Dominick and Ky arriving at the Diamond Castle Grounds. Dominick is carrying a message he must deliver to the King. When they come up to the front of the castle, two very large guards greet them and prevent them from entering until they see Lewis’s message. Guard 1 then reads the message. Seeing the good general’s handwriting, he summons a steward to come forward and take the letter straight to the king. He still will not let you into the castle.
Despite this minor setback, you can easily go around back and climb the gate into the courtyard. Ky stays behind to distract the guards. Once you are in the courtyard, a figure comes out of the castle door, yelling at people behind him that he wants to be alone.
He is a young man, some time into his twenties. In one hand he has the message you brought, and in the other hand he holds a golden crown. Try and guess who this guy is. Yeah, he’s King Aetre, and he’s a little tired of all the people coming to him lately asking for help and advice. When he sees you, he introduces himself and asks who the heck you think you are coming into castle grounds with a bow staff and all while not having permission. He asks if you are a friend or foe. Answer “foe,” and he doesn’t believe you, since you haven’t attacked him yet. So try again and answer “friend.”
Then he asks you where you’re from. Once again, he’s not letting you out of this conversation without getting the answer he wants. At length, King Aetre knows about what happened in Club Town now, thanks to your letter, and he’s sorry. He tells you he’s actually making good progress in the war, and his army has had some good victories lately, like that in a place he calls the Heartland. And he promises he will retake Club Town… as a point of honor, since there’s nobody left in the area to fill it.
In the mean time, the King says, you look like a person who knows the northern regions of Aetre’s Island pretty well. So he asks you to do him a favor and partake on a mission to get something called the Flying Emerald. He doesn’t know exactly where it is, but it’s in some place called the Clubland Temple (take-off on Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Forest Temple) in the Northern Woodlands. And keep it a secret from everyone that you are searching on behalf of the King. Why? There are two equally ranked head knights in the King’s court, and they fight continuously over which of them is more qualified for every single mission King Aetre gives them. Aetre would rather not involve them in this assignment. And it would only make both knights angry if they knew such an important mission had been given to an inferior officer or civilian instead. To keep the peace, he prefers to keep this a secret for now.
Aetre shows you out the front of the castle, where Ky is currently juggling fifteen balls in front of about twenty castle guards, all thoroughly distracted. The King instantly hires her as court jester. Now both of you have full access to the castle at any time you like. The King gives you each a medal that will act as your passport into the castle.
Ky does not want to go to the Clubland Temple with you, but she tells you where she thinks she saw a trail back in the woods where the ninja camp was. While you are in the dungeon, Ky will remain at the castle fitting into her he job as jester. It’s time to tackle the dungeon.
*As long as it took for my game to get to its first dungeon, many games take considerably longer to get there, especially if there aren’t that many dungeons in the game. As in most cases, my hero enters the dungeon because he is in search of something. Other possibilities include the hero trying to help a friend in need, kill a specific enemy, discover a secret, or lift a curse.
The Clubland Temple sits in the Northern Woodland down the exact trail Ky pointed out earlier. It starts with a rope ladder that leads into what seems to be a treehouse. Once up the ladder, you see that you are really in a sequence of treehouses joined to each other by rope bridges. Step forward into the giant treehouse beyond the entryway you started in.
I will now refrain from discussing my game, and instead I will go over the instructions on how to make a good first dungeon. First, you should open with a mediocre dungeon setting. Remember, you want to save your scariest, most complex, and best designs for later. This, of course, does not mean you should make this dungeon suck terribly. Put in some good theme music, preferably something mysterious.
Second, the layout of a dungeon is similar to the plot; one room leads to another, opens the door to another, leads to another. And ever room must have a purpose; either it must be the central room, or it must contain a puzzle or enemy of some sort. Use all of the space in the dungeon and you won’t waste valuable time programming the game.
Usually the layout is such that some rooms are opened and some rooms cannot be accessed. Either these doors have a lock on them, or as in my case, they are currently out of reach.
The hero must then go into one of the accessible rooms and navigate from one room to another by defeating enemies and solving puzzles. In the first dungeon, these will be fairly easy. At the end of a sequence of rooms is an item. It might be a map of the dungeon, a piece of a puzzle, a key to a door, or something else; be creative. In my dungeon, there are levers which, when pulled, release a section of a ladder in the central room. Once all of the levers are pressed down, the ladder will be complete and the upper rooms can be accessed. And in the upper rooms, I will have a sub-boss, a weapon (crossbow) as a reward for defeating the sub-boss, and several puzzles that require the use of the crossbow and which introduce the hero to basic items in the Temple, such as vines he can swing on. If there are any such items in your game that you plan on using in more than one dungeon and are fairly simple, you should introduce the hero to them in this first dungeon. The same goes for any basic enemies you plan on including later.
At long length you reach the boss chamber, and on defeating the boss, the hero receives an award, usually an item he cannot use, but something that proves he has defeated the dungeon (a medal, jewel, trophy, mushroom guy yelling “the princess is in another castle,” just to name a few possibilities).
Another important consideration is the game’s subquest, and if present, it always starts in or around the first dungeon. A subquest is the search for an item that shows up many times in the game, and when the hero collects a certain number of them, he receives an award for it. This is purely an extra, and not a necessary element, but it can add to the time spent and intensity of gameplay involved.
If you do not want a subquest, you have to increase the length of your dungeons to make up for the missing side element. Personally, I recommend you have a subquest, even if it is a small one.
With that out of the way, you can create your introductory dungeon. It can technically be as large you like, though your first should be the smallest in the game. Now we are ready to look at the dungeon villains. Here are some of mine:
Pea Shooter: Little figures in the corners of a room that shoot pebbles at you. You can easily strike them with your bow or throw a star at ones in the ceiling corners. Just watch out as you enter a room to make sure these creatures do not ambush you.
Shrubbish: Shrub that turns its leaves into spikes when you get too close. Then it spins at you in attack. It is vulnerable if you strike first, even when its leaves are spiked. But be careful! It is not long before the Shrubbish regrows its leaves and comes back to attack you. In this respect, this enemy can always recover and is therefore invincible.
Roacher: A giant cockroach that tries to run at you and bite. Simply hit it once with your bow.
Strider: Giant daddy long legs spider that shoots venom at you from across a room. It takes three hits to destroy this enemy.
Swarm: Large group of red ants that can overtake and destroy you. You cannot kill these ants; just stay out of their way, don’t make them angry, and remember, they cannot cross a body of water, so you are safe as long as you stay on your side of the lake, as it were.
Sub-boss: King Roacher. This animal is a giant Roacher, and he is easy to beat, but takes ten hits to go down. In that time, he calls on several other Roachers to come and help him. Try and avoid these other Roachers and only attack the king, since he is the only one that matters. It is a good idea during this battle to use your bow staff instead of your hand and foot movements, because the bow has more range to it. You could also use stars here, though they only inflict half the damage of the bow.
Boss: Giant Swarm. This swarm of bees works to form the shape of a fist, a gun, and a target, the three shapes alternating. Gee, guess which two you’re supposed to dodge, and which one of the shapes you’re supposed to shoot at with your crossbow. When you hit the target five times, the swarm scatters, and you are continually stung by the cloud of bees. The solution is to shoot the five target blocks on the far side of the room. Each one releases a cap on a giant aerosol can in the back of the room. When all are released, hit the red button on the wall (with your hand) and watch as the insects fall prey to insecticide foam. The foam is caustic to you, too, so stop the flow of the spray when all of the bees are dead. When they indeed are, you may step into the next room.
There you find a tiny green hummingbird, fluttering away in a birdcage. Congratulations, you have found the “Flying Emerald.”
Thus ends the first dungeon of my RPG.