How to Save the World

Part Three


Victory... Sort Of


To pick up where we left off, the hero has just defeated the first dungeon, which you have just finished designing for him (or her). Now, the hero has completed his greatest task yet… but his work is incomplete. If you remember from part two in my RPG, Lewis Dominick’s objective was two-part (it always is in a role playing game). His first mission was to find the Flying Emerald. But after he finds it, he must bring it back to King Aetre at the Diamond Castle.


*This two-part nature of the assignment is key. Either the hero must have a person to whom he must report after defeating the first dungeon, or the item that the hero finds at the end of dungeon 1 must be only partial. This idea first showed up in video games way back in the very first Super Mario Bros. game, wherein whenever Mario or Luigi defeated a dungeon, there was always someone waiting to tell them the sad news that the princess was in another castle. It’s a concept still used in games today; but it’s not in Lewis Dominick’s adventure, so I just thought I’d make you aware of it before I go on and never mention it again.


So Lewis Dominick struts happily through the Northern Woodland, proud that he has just defeated his first dungeon, and thinking this errand-for-the-king business is a snap. But when he arrives at Diamond Castle <gasp> something is terribly wrong! Bombs are flying at the castle from the west. The guards are all making way for the king to step into a carriage to flee to safety. Before Lewis can see all that is going on, he is taken aside (and just in time, too, because a bomb explodes right where Lewis was standing) by a familiar face in a jester’s outfit. It’s Alexandra Chi, and she’s warning you to get out of there. Now! Once aside, she and Lewis have the following one-sided conversation.


Ky: Lewis! Am I glad to see you! Look, I was just sitting quietly in the castle, talking with King Aetre when all these bombs started falling on the castle. You went to the Clubland Temple? You got the Emerald? Good. Let’s get to the king’s caravan and get outta here!


You follow her to the wagon, and the king invites you two inside before the horses speed off along the East Road. Then the king talks to the two of you.


King Aetre: Hey, Lewis, glad you could make it. Look, Dastard decided to attack the castle, and while I’m thinking we might win the battle, Dastard himself didn’t show up. So, I’m getting out while I can and supporting an all-out offensive from the south, where I have my troops in the Heartlands. Just wait, you’ll see. My army will trample theirs from the south.


Ky: So, you’re not staying to lead your troops?


Aetre: No, I’m going to be with my troops, but only when I can lead the majority of them in attack.


Ky: Pardon my asking, but I’ve heard about the Heartlands before, and, well, aren’t they, well, not part of Aetre’s Island?


The screen shifts to that of a movie setup, as Aetre tells the story.


Aetre: That was until two years ago, when a good fellow named Hector, then king of the land, died heirless and left the country to my control, uniting our people. This was a huge disappointment, of course, to Reginald Dastard, top general of Hector’s army, who for years had been seeking the throne for himself. So Dastard attacked my Island, hoping to gain the Heartlands. But when he discovered Hector’s arsenal of long-range bombing devices, he got even greedier and tried to take over my whole Island. My army and his were deadlocked until recently in Obliteration Field. But even I saw Dastard’s one weakness before long: Dastard could fight and win if he used purely long-range materials. But he couldn’t defend against an attack that happened right under his nose. So I attacked the Heartlands, and my troops arose the victors. Dastard Fled to Spade Mountain, a more impenetrable location, and returned to his long-range victory in Club Town. Why he wanted so badly to destroy your town, I honestly don’t know. But he’s trying it again with my castle. Little does he know his troops are in for a big surprise! See? Look for yourselves.


The two of you look out the carriage window to see hundreds of the king’s troops ready and at arms. King Aetre gets out of the caravan and onto his stallion. He turns back to you and asks if you got the Flying Emerald. Respond “yes” and he’ll tell you that he could win this war in an instant if only he had the Four Jacks on his side.


Aetre: The Flying Emerald is one of the Four. Bring to me the other three. I don’t know exactly where they are, but here’s the legend: “One lies in the Forest Halls, one in Hector’s hands. One is kept in the safest of vaults, one in the darkest of lands.” I trust you two to find me the three remaining Jacks. Can you do it?


You say yes. So Aetre goes on to lead his army in a charge against the enemy. By morning, they have pushed Dastard’s soldiers back into stalemate in Obliteration Field. The only real damage done was that to the castle, but you don’t know that yet. You are standing by the South Road in front of Obliteration Field with no way to get back to Diamond Castle or anywhere else without being blown to bits by cannons and arrows on the battlefield. However, you can (and must) turn to the South Road and take it straight into the Heartlands.


*Note: A multi-part task is a trademark of an RPG. It is pretty standard for a role playing game to have its overall mission be a quest to collect a series of items, which eventually lead the character to the boss battle at the end.


Out Exploring


One of the great parts of playing an RPG is the freedom that comes with it. While certain tasks (mainly dungeons) must be completed in a specific order, the hero is free to wander about the land for pretty much however long he pleases wherever he pleases, with some notable limitations. These limitations become smaller and smaller as the game progresses, until at last the hero has access to every place in the little created universe.


It is also common practice for the second dungeon to have a special or hidden opening, only accessible after the hero has obtained a special item. With this in mind, Lewis and Alexandra cannot immediately go to the Broken Heartlands, the next dungeon; they must first go exploring Heartlandtown, a busy township, actually a desert town by a river.


Alexandra’s first item of business is to buy a new set of clothes. She just cannot stand being in the sweltering heat in the wool jester’s uniform any longer. You’ll find new clothes at the Deuce’s Shop for Clothing and Supplies. Ky will go into the girls’ section of the store, so while she’s there you can take a look at what’s selling for men. The shopkeeper tells you he has nothing in your size except a red suit similar to the one you are wearing now. This red suit differs from you blue one, though; it allows you more flexibility, so a young person like yourself can perform certain advanced moves, like the triple aerial twister kick (a combo move). Since you don’t have any money, the salesman tells you he’d be willing to trade you the red suit for the blue one. Accept, and you are given the flexibility needed to perform the combo moves of the game.


Also found in Heartlandtown is the Elixir Bros. Pharmacy, where you can buy a better health meter for yourself, complete with extra health elixir, kept in a refillable flask. But you need money to buy this; where do you get the cash?


Well, in most RPG’s, money can be found almost anywhere—under rocks, in a hole you dig, etc. In my game, money comes in that form I am sure all of us would like it to be in: it grows on the trees! All Dominick has to do is climb the right tree and he can grab up to twenty Alligons at a time. So have fun.


Other sites in the town include the Town Hall, the grocer, the Heartbreak Hotel, the Dust Bowl Stadium, and the several houses of Heartlandtown residents, each with its own little secrets and playing tips to be found within. So go ahead and explore. Get rich, although you can only hold up to a hundred Alligons at once, and buy whatever you think will come in handy along the way. Ky will finish her clothes shopping at the first nightfall after you enter the shop. She’ll wait patiently for you outside the store until you come to pick her up. Then she’ll follow you around like always.


*Exploration is a huge part of all role-playing games. In all, the exploring should make up half of the potential playing time. While most of it remains extracurricular, some of it must be crucial to the plot. In other words, require some exploration of the gamer and the hero. That way, you add to the effort it takes to beat the game, as well as the suspense; the hero should always be on a continual hunt for something, however big or small, whether it’s a flying emerald or a missing shoe.


*Here are some of the basic items that most RPG’s put the hero on the lookout for:

  1. Energy: Any recuperation device that allows the player to maintain or regain maximum strength for battle.
  2. Subquest items: The subquest may start in or around the first dungeon, but it must be continued into the normal gameplay and never take a break, even when the hero appears to be doing little.
  3. Money.
  4. A map or general overview of the area.
  5. Advice and counsel from the locals: This comes into play when you want to find out what problems specifically are plaguing an area. Also, tying this in to #4, one of the best ways to get directions is to ask somebody nearby.
  6. Ammunition: This applies to any weapons the character has that require refills of ammo, like Dominick’s crossbow or flying stars.
  7. Miniquest items: That's right. In addition to the subquest are several miniquests. These are quests that require some time for the hero to complete, but in the end reward the hero with a very helpful item, like a weapon upgrade or a seriously helpful gaming clue. The largest miniquests of the game are sometimes referred to as “miniature dungeons” or “sub-dungeons.” These are small tastes of things to come for the hero. Often when a miniature dungeon precedes a larger dungeon, the miniature is designed to resemble the big one in appearance and difficulty. These miniatures are especially handy when an item is needed to enter a dungeon, and the hero is currently seeking that item…


Now I will describe the layout of the town further, specifically the other subquests / miniquests of the game. In the Heartbreak Hotel are several people that badly need professional help. One man, Carlos, is afraid that mob bosses Alfredo and Giovanni will come for him soon if he does not pay off his debt, which he cannot yet do. In another room is a fighting couple, arguing whether or not her mother from Club Town can come down to live with them. Of course, it’s your business to tell them the sad news about Club Town’s current shape, but how can you even get them to listen to you? In another room, the one right above Carlos’s, is Don Alfredo, who is waiting for Giovanni to show up so he can make the “business deal” with Carlos. Come here later after you have learned the “Courtesy Builder” in your codebook.


The town Grocer sells the local newspaper, but also plenty of pack-and-go food items that could come in handy if you needed extra energy in battle. In the newspaper stand you will conveniently find a paper with headlines of the bombing of Club Town.


In another major site of the town, the Dust Bowl Stadium, several people pair up for a two-person obstacle course to compete with other pairs for a Championship Trophy (which could be useful later when you visit other places). You and Ky can enter the event just by signing up at the door. The competition takes place once every three days, so you might have to wait a little. If you want some preparatory notes on the obstacle course, you can always buy tickets to sit in the stands during the event… but what’s the fun in that?


Actually, there are a few hidden treasures to be found among the stadium seats, like the Jack’s Feathers, my game’s special subquest, so everything in the game has a purpose.


Okay, now I’m ready to go on. Keep in mind, gamer, you can return to these events at any time, and there is no reason for you to have to complete all of them this instant. In fact, as with Carlos in the hotel, you can’t complete all of them now.


When you and Ky have explored the town to your satisfaction, you next search for the serious parts of the game (you have to if you want to reach the end). So you go down the road a ways and you will see Hector’s Castle, the miniature dungeon in the Heartlands.


In the Town Hall, several of the King’s troops are discussing how they should go about attacking Hector’s Castle, the last enemy stronghold in the Heartlands. Go to this place to find hints as to how you might enter the castle. After you have defeated the castle, you can return here to get hints as to how you should access the real dungeon of the land.


*You should always design your RPG so that there is some place out there where the hero can go and get game hints in case the player is stumped. This is just good ethical practice in video games, but it also means anyone who should lose when playing your game cannot make a good claim that you made the RPG unfairly difficult. The hardest games to beat in the world can still be some of the best, so don’t get me wrong; I’m just saying, a game can only be good if the player has a fighting chance of winning without the aid of a strategy guide.


Until next time, ciao. I’m sorry I couldn’t end this section on a note with more action, but it’s all coming up. Trust me. Next, Part 4: The Perpendicular Universe.