As I work on fleshing out the first act of my RPG, I’ve been thinking about how to discuss the way ideas for it materialized and grew over time… then I realized that I haven’t said what it’s even about yet! I’m killing two birds with one stone today–join me as we watch some of the game’s premise grow into its current state.
A Note On Spoilers…
Before we start, I wanted to talk about spoilers. As a long narrative-driven game, this project is going to force a certain level of secrecy out of me. I don’t want to ruin twists or reveals that I have planned, but I also want to share my process and design work. To balance that, I’m taking the following stance: There will be spoilers for the whatever chapter I’m working on here, but you won’t see me talking about anything planned for the chapters after it.
Outside of this blog, particularly in the Itch.io devlog for this game, you can expect to see less of the stuff behind the curtain. If you want to catch releases and teaser content without discussion of the ongoing writing and design, that’s the place to go. Here you can expect a more in-depth look, but some of the magic might be lost.
When I first started working on an RPG, I actually didn’t have any plot in mind at all. In early Freshman year I ran into a discussion about the idea of game characters that get weaker over time, rather than stronger. I’m not sure exactly what kicked off the discussion (Tellah from FFIV maybe?) or where it happened, but the idea wormed its way into my head for a while. At first I imagined a game where the player would lose power every time they completed a fight, forcing them to avoid combat. But over time, I got worried about how players would react–it’s already hard to convince people to use consumables for fear of running out… in the end, I felt (and still do) that it would render combat into an entirely useless system.
I kept thinking, and ran into another idea: Why not have a character start with high capabilities in certain stats, then lose them in favor of others? In other words, having a character “lose” the ability to play their role in a fight and gradually change to another. This idea stuck with me, and gave me the first grain of a concept:
“A wizard is losing the ability to use magic, and needs to deal with that as part of their arc”
I liked this idea, but decided that it no longer made sense to tie something like this to levels. Once the concept was fully integrated into the story it quickly evolved again:
“A wizard in a world where magic is becoming weaker / disappearing”
I have no idea what compelled me to go for that particular angle, but this general concept stuck around to the present.
We’re not done yet though, because I didn’t stop there. One of the things I’ve discovered over time is that I vastly prefer job systems and similar customization in turn-based RPGs over characters with fully-fixed party roles. That doesn’t mesh well with a world where magic gradually stops working, but I found a solution.
Instead of vanishing in a uniform fashion, “holes” without magic are opening up. This not only allows spellcasting jobs to remain useful, it gives the player a reason to re-spec from time to time. And that’s roughly the shape of my game today–it’s a far cry from where it started with the idea of losing power completely gone, but the progression feels pretty natural. So if I had to sum up my plot’s hook today, it would read a little like this:
“When magic begins to disappear from their kingdom, a young wizard and his companions set out on a quest to bring it back.”
Who’s this wizard and who are his companions? What’s their kingdom like? And why does magic’s disappearance matter? I know the answers to these questions of course, and I’d like to discuss them soon. Stay tuned.