Last week we talked about the basic premise of my game’s plot, so now this week I want to talk about worldbuilding and characters. As one last reminder–while I won’t be spoiling the big stuff, this blog will be getting into more spoiler-y territory than elsewhere. If you’re looking to be more surprised by the plot as it progresses, follow this instead.

Oh, and another reminder: I’m discussing plans and the design process. The final version of anything I show may differ, I can only share what I have today. Names, maps, character details, plot points–any of these can change, even if I feel relatively secure about them today.

The Kingdom of Reyel

The current map of Reyel

Reyel is small kingdom situated on a rugged northern island, cut off from the world by an endless ring of storms known as The Stormwall. Due to the storms, those living on the island have no knowledge of the outside world.

The island itself is split to the north and south by a great mountainous tundra, which can hardly support human life. The southern forests and prairies are split again by the river Telles, which neatly separates the wealthy and developed western side from the eastern expanses of farms and mines worked by poor families. Connecting the two are mercantile operations, moving cargo downriver and around the island on barges and small boats. Few merchants dare venture further out though, as none who’ve tried to cross The Stormwall have ever returned.

For over a thousand years, life went on as it always did: Guided by the careful hand of the Crown and the watchful eye of the Solar Church. But when monsters began to appear and magic was discovered, the balance of power began to shift.

The threat of the Witches, farmers who practiced the arts in secret, led to the establishment of the Royal Academy of Magic. Those in power hoped that an institutionalized form of magic would be easier to control, but it only served to accelerate change. Today the lives of everyone in Reyel are affected by the Academy’s Magi in one way or another, and the factions within the kingdom each see them as a powerful new tool–or an existential threat.

As you can imagine… Having become so engrained in daily life and being backed–or opposed–by many powerful groups, magic disappearing is A Big Deal.

Why the Stormwall?

You might find the idea of a perfect wall of atrocious weather of a little strange or convenient… Sadly, while there is a simple explanation as to where it came from it’s a major spoiler that won’t be revealed until much later in the game so my lips are sealed!

However, I can write about its use as a tool within the writing process. For all their flaws, there are some things I really love about the Golden Sun games. One of those things is the concept of relatively ‘blind’ characters setting out across a large and diverse world, meeting and learning about the cultures that inhabit it as they go. I wanted to capture that feeling, and The Stormwall is a pretty good way to do it. The party doesn’t know about the rest of the world because they can’t, they’re from a tiny isolated society.

More importantly, it also blocks any return trip until much later in the game. I’m not a fan of points-of-no-return in RPGs, but I decided that putting one early in the game would do a lot of good for the narrative. The Stormwall is good for this, because it’s blatantly obvious at what point the player can’t turn back, and it allows the inciting problem (the disappearance of magic) to progress at an unknown rate.

Neither the player nor the characters know what’s happening in Reyel, so when they finally have the means to return it’ll hopefully create a sense of suspense. Is magic completely gone? Partially? And what does this mean for the social/political factions on the island? These are questions I want the player to wonder about as they turn back.

Our Heroes

Last time I mentioned that I wanted to introduce some of the cast, so I’ll be doing a bit of that before calling it here. I’m currently planning a party of 8, with 4 joining in the first ‘act’ for obvious gameplay reasons. That means I can share four people living in Reyel at the time the plot begins!

Sadly, I don’t have concept art for them yet. It’ll come eventually, but I’ve been busy with other art lately.

Alvern Herreon

“A clever and headstrong young magus–perhaps too clever for his own good”

Heir to one of the wealthy merchant families of Telles Ford, Alvern recently became the youngest graduate of the Royal Academy. Having learned at a startling pace, his early success has given him a big head and a belief that he can do anything he sets his mind to on his own.

He has a natural curiosity that drives him to continue his studies after becoming a Magus, and aspires to become a well-known and respected figure in the magical world.

In many ways, you can think of Alvern as a fresh college grad–he’s got the whole world figured out and he can do anything, because he hasn’t had a chance to fail yet. I think this should be an interesting pick since magic is explicitly not always available in this setting, and he’s going to run into that wall instantly. I haven’t fully hashed-out his arc, but I think it will focus on learning teamwork and becoming a bit more humble.

In many ways, this guy and his arc resemble where I came from and where I am today… It wasn’t really deliberate but much of the growth and maturing that I want him to undergo resembles what I’ve gone through over the past 5 or so years. Maybe because it’s easier to write a lead you can relate to personally?

Lina Akkerit

“A weary and distant priestess hiding a dark past”

A seemingly unremarkable farm girl who was taken in by the Solar Church in the hopes of rising the ranks to help her family. Discovering that the Church favors rich and well-connected recruits over those from poor backgrounds, she’s found herself left alone at Royal Academy’s remote Northern Research Station. As the acting nurse and religious representative of the fort, her path within the faith is at a dreary dead-end… until disaster strikes, and her life is turned upside-down.

Unfortunately, much of the interesting parts of Lina’s story won’t appear until a later point so I can’t discuss them. I’ve got a pretty clear picture of what I want, but there’s some fairly [Content Warning] aspects to her backstory that I’m wrestling with.

One of the downsides of long-lived story ideas is that sometimes you grow past some concepts and need to find ways to change, re-frame, or remove them. Lina’s in a similar spot today, and while I don’t think she needs to be changed I think I’ll need to tread carefully with how I write her… There’s a handful of elements like this that are making me consider getting a professional to look over the script as I write it, but we’ll see what my budget allows.

Geirand Brandis

“A soldier from a disgraced family looking for something to fight for”

The youngest son of the former noble house of Brandis, Geirand grew up in the countryside being urged to make something of himself and restore the family name. However, despite traveling to the capital to join the King’s Guard he’s been left with the guard’s worst jobs, and mocked as a traitor for his grandfather’s ties to the Witches.

Regardless of the treatment he keeps on smiling and tries his best, desperately wanting to become a hero–but he’s still not sure what a hero really is.

To go into a little more depth here, I didn’t go into too much detail above but there was a pretty bloody conflict between the Crown & Church and the Witches in the recent past. Before that point magic was explicitly banned, so the Witches turned what should’ve been a fairly one-sided suppression of revolts into a civil war that the Crown wasn’t fully able to win. Brandis was historically one of the main families that the Crown used as a weapon, but Geirand’s grandfather secretly helped the Witches after having a crisis of conscience. And naturally, he and his men were executed as a result.

With that background in place, Geirand’s father has lost everything and sees Geirand’s compliance with the Crown as a way to regain that. On the other hand, Geirand has spent much of his life in the east where his grandfather is often seen in a positive light–and this forms the core of his inner conflict. Is it better to do what will help the state, and stability? Or is it better to risk yourself to help the people who need the most help? I want much of his arc to be centered around that question.

Koplin Ohrman

“A fast-talking old merchant with an unusually strong interest in magic”

A wizened old merchant with significant ties to the Royal Academy. By jumping on the market when it first emerged, Koplin made small fortune on the trade of the magical metal known as Oneirite. Using his newfound wealth, he has invested heavily into magical research. He claims to be doing so out of a desire to help the common man, having once been poor… But no-one of his caliber makes investments of such a scale without an ulterior motive.

Koplin’s another character that I can’t discuss in too much detail yet. He may seem like an odd pick for a party that’s grappling with issues, and indeed he is. Part of that is a result of him being much older than the rest, most likely he’s had a lot of ‘character development’ in the past, though I’ll note this plot will still cause him to change his tune somewhat. It’ll just be a little less dramatic.

Of the 8 party members I have planned, Koplin’s also the first who’s not necessarily a good person. He’s not a villain either though, but figuring out how best to portray a more “gray” character is still going to be a challenge.

Beyond Reyel

One thing you might notice is that Reyel is very…western european? I wanted to give it something similar to the classic medieval fantasy feel, although the rest of the world is going to be quite different. One upside of this is that it makes the initial parts of the story easier to deal with, since I’m starting in more familiar territory. From the second act and on things are going to be a lot tougher to design and write, from both a language and cultural standpoint. I’m going to do my best though, I really want this game’s world to feel more alive and diverse than most old RPG worlds were.

One exception to this is dialogue though. For the sake of my (and the player’s) sanity, I’m probably going to limit language changes to proper nouns and otherwise let everyone speak English. You could build an entire game around language barriers and that’s not really what I had in mind for this… It’s the one place that I plan to really break from believability for the sake of convenience.

← Back to Blog