Having looked at how Player Choice is used in games, we can draw the following conclusions on how best to include it in our game.
When it comes to Gameplay Choice, we have some minimal flexibility, unless we consider doing extra work or additional scripting. The default gameplay is that of the Japanese Roleplaying Game or JRPG, which tends to feature a turn-based combat system that is abstracted from the main isometric view used for exploration.
Given the work often required for significant gameplay changes, it may be worthwhile simply to stick with these gameplay limitations for now, and use it to define the genre, as opposed to trying to create a whole new style. New gameplay options can always be added and integrated at a later time.
In terms of character choice, the selected scope of our game – that of a single adventure – is a bit short to include any significant sort of diversity. However, in the longer-term, we can focus on character development by offering different adventures. In fact, we could use this as the premise of our entire campaign – following the growth of a character as they set out to become an adventurer. This is a relatively standard plot, and works well with the idea of character growth defined by the genre of the JRPG and CRPGs in general.
With both Gameplay and Character choices largely rules out, this leaves us with Story Choices to pick up the slack of Player Choice within our game. Having looked at the different types of Story Choices available, it appears that the best approach for our short game may be the “Different methods, Different Outcomes” option that gives us a solid middle ground between a completely linear storyline, and a complex web of decisions.
So, if we pull all this together, we’ve basically got an Adventure-sized Medieval Fantasy game, in which we see a character attempt to become an adventurer. This makes for an adequate, if not necessarily original, premise for our storyline, and provides the core feature for our Different Methods, Different Outcomes story choice.
So, what we are left with now is answering a few more specific questions about the basic storyline, from which we can actually begin creating the game itself.
How Does a Character Become an Adventurer?
This question is vitally important, because it is essentially asking how we complete the adventure successfully. That is, it makes a somewhat intangible premise into a concrete goal for the player.
The question of what creates an Adventurer is a subject of intense debate and many different answers, because the true answer is that Adventurers are Adventurers because they dedicate themselves to having adventures. Since adventures can be anything from heroic quests to help the public, to exploring the unmapped wilderness, this leaves a wide scope for the definition of an Adventurer that has little or no impact on our planning.
However, another, more useful definition for an Adventurer is normally based upon the actual genre of the game itself. In the modern era, Adventurers are often sponsored by an organization or Agency to do things, whether it is by a state or some other group. In the Superhero genre, Adventurers are more often considered Superheroes by some sort of unique traits or origin in their character background. In the Space Opera genre, simply being a space traveller or mercenary makes you an Adventurer. In the survival horror genre, people rarely choose to become Adventurers, but often have adventures forced upon them by circumstance.
In the medieval fantasy genre, though, one can often sign up to be an Adventurer by joining an Adventurers’ Guild. The medieval era was a time when many trades and professions closely guarded their secrets, as the merchant and service classes started becoming prominent between the ruling nobility, and the feudal peasantry in their rural villages. Often known as the Dark Ages, this era represents a time when, following the collapse of one or more advanced classical empires, the population that survived were often left to fend for themselves, and relearn the secrets of civilisation. Without such luxuries as a police force or standing army, there was room for independent mercenaries and Adventurers to seek fame and fortune. These could be peasants searching for a new life, desperados whose only other choice was often crime or execution, or sometimes even distant nobility seeking to earn their spurs in a time of Chivalry. All of this leads up to the creation of the Adventurers’ Guild, where such people could trade secrets and find work in a dangerous world.
Thus, one answer is that our character seeks to join an Adventurers’ Guild to become an Adventurer. This is the main objective, and the goal for completion of the adventure, and thus the game. However, it does allow for easy expansion, as follow up stories of the character as an Adventurer are always possible.
What is Stopping Our Character From Becoming an Adventurer?
Having an objective, we must now ask ourselves what obstacles the character will face in becoming an Adventurer at the Adventurers’ Guild. After all, if the character can simply sign up to become an Adventurer by joining the Adventurers’ Guild, there isn’t really much of an adventure there, unless you like signing paperwork.
Let’s consider some of the obstacles that may have prevented people from becoming an Adventurer, and see how they could be used for our storyline. These specific obstacles will help us define plot points, where we can decide what decisions and methods the player can make to complete the adventure.
One of the biggest considerations is that of distance. In many cases, people only really travelled further than their own village. Some people might have travelled to a nearby market town, or even towards the big city. However, these big trips were often adventures in their own right, as they were typically undertaken on fut or using slow-moving transport that was vulnerable to banditry and wild animal attacks. Most transport was either by river, or by using either what remained of the roads of the ancient classical empire, or rough paths between major settlements. A trip from a typical farming village to a nearby town could take up to a day to complete, while trips to the big cities could see you on the road for as long as a week. Neighbouring lands could take a month or more to reach, and very few ever made such trips – which meant that travellers were important for long-distance trade and communications between states, and most people remained ignorant of the world outside their own experiences.
Therefore, a simple obstacle could simply be that of distance – our character has to travel to the nearest Adventurers’ Guild in the “Big City”. This means that they have to deal with the issues of a long, perilous journey – often with little idea of what lies ahead. This is better if our character is naive about the outside world, with almost no experience outside of their own village.
Another obstacle is that there was a fairly strict class system in place during the medieval era, which was very hard to progress through. In most cases, people did what their parents did. This was because of a mixture of the limited nature of their experience, and that often young children were required to work to help their families survive. Thus, the children of farmers and peasants typically because they were required to help tend the land, while children of the merchant and trade classes often became merchants and tradespeople themselves, because they were often restricted to learning that trade from their parents, and likewise sometimes required to assist their parents with their work. Noble children often spent most of their time learning to be noble and chivalrous so that they could continue to run their parents affairs and continue the family legacy.
As such, our character would probably be restricted to performing whatever duties their parents did, and as such be prevented from becoming an Adventurer as much as possible. Only extreme circumstances would change this – as leaving their parents will probably result in financial ruin for the family. Of course, if the character succeeds in becoming a successful Adventurer, then they could often provide for their family, with the possibility of some upward social mobility as a result. However, such waywardness was normally frowned upon unless the family member is part of a large family, and thus unlikely to inherit their families estates. In such situations, the children unlikely to inherit their parents estates were often sent away to various institutions for the opportunity to better their lives and the lives of their descendants. Traditionally, the second eldest child would be sent off to military service, the third would be sent off to join the clergy, and other children would be sent off to learn an upcoming noble trade. Of course, such dispatches required money, so this practice was largely restricted to the nobility and the merchant classes, with very few of the peasantry even having this option.
Thus, the obstacle here is an antagonsitic family environment. If we make the character the only son of their parents, then they would be burdened with the duty of taking over their parents’ heritage, and helping the family in their own struggle for survival and advancement. As a result, the family is unlikely to agree with the character’s wishes to become an Adventurer, and may even place obstacles to prevent their wayward child from heading towards an Adventurers’ Guild. The character may therefore be forced to either confront their parents, or attempt to run away on their adventure.
These two obstacles provide a reasonable framework for our adventure. If we have the PC as the eldest child of an Innkeeper in a remote village, then we have the PC burdened with the duty of helping to run the Inn. To make things even more dire, we could have the family consist of only their father. This takes away the opportunity for any more siblings to be born, and thus puts extra emphasis on the PC to succeed once they have decided to leave to become an Adventurer, lest their family face complete ruin.
The PC’s father could be antagonistic in several ways. Primarily, they might fill the PC’s day up with chores to keep them busy. In addition, as a child in a small village, they might be prevented from simply walking out of the village, requiring them to find another route should they seek to escape. Only once they have left the village, can they then make their journey to the Big City and join the Adventurers’ Guild.