How to Write a Good RPG Storyline

What is an RPG?

In short, a Role Playing Game is a game that allows you to make your own choices, and the player generally plays as a character who can explicitly interact with the world much like real life. The PC can make choices and chose his or her own path.

The problem, then, is to make a plot line for an RPG. How can you make an RPG if the character can practically do “whatever he or she wants?”

Here’s the trick: in an RPG, the player feels like he has control and he has choices-but he doesn’t. What you, as the Game Master (GM), have to do is to make options but leave no loose ends, and generally all the choices end up in the same direction. Remember that every choice doesn’t have to be important, but most do, otherwise the PC’s don’t feel like they’re doing anything but following a script (which they are anyway!).

As a note, remember to test out your game. Glitches and malfunctions are normal, but can easily be fixed in the end. As a recommendation for RPG Playground, test out the outcome right after you make a choice, as to not forget about it. We’ve all had many a token that didn’t work the first time…

A good RPG has choices. A bad RPG still has choices, but they are meaningless or don’t feel game-changing.

A meaningful, “game-changing” RPG choice resembles “Do I want to become a Sorcerer or a Ninja?” or “Do I listen to the advice of the crazy old guru or not?” or “I have prisoners, and the war is over. However, these prisoners are angry and are bad people. Do I free them and let the roam the Earth, or keep them in their dirty cells for the rest of eternity?”

A poor RPG choice might resemble “Do I buy the sword, or the axe?” or “Do I fight the monster now, or backtrack and return later?” or even “Do I rush to Dral-Vol, or take my time?” These choices are okay if you also have good choices in there too. Life is full of choices big and small.

A bad RPG in-game choice would be “What should I wear to the ball?” or “Should I read this book, or let the young lad read it to me?” or “Do you say hi to the Royal baby, or not?” Mind you, all these choices can become important with emphasis on different points. For example: “What should I wear to the ball if the Norwegian dress insults the Belgium Ambassador and the Belgium dress infuriates the Norwegian Ambassador? And wearing normal clothes will insult both!” or “Should I pretend to be illiterate, and let the lad read it to me to see if he is trustworthy enough to be my spy in the castle?” or “Shall I play with the Royal Baby if it pleases the King, but angers the Queen?”

Which way would you take?

Another important part of RPG’s is the plot. A good plot has challenges, arising choices, mystery, gold, fame and fortune. You travel to the far ends of the world, or you could just stay in one dungeon. But the most memorable part of the plot is always the end. A good plot generally ends with all the problems being solved, and typically a big bad boss is beat up. A big treasury with heaping rewards is for the PC. A bad plot…doesn’t have that stuff.

Bosses should be recommended for most RPG’s. There is nothing so much as satisfying as defeating the dragon with a critical hit, and only having 1 HP left. It also helps that the PC spent ages trying to get to this moment. However, keep in mind that your boss should not be over-powering, and at the same time it can’t be too easy. A too hard boss is frustrating, and a too easy one is boring. When in doubt, go with harder, and after play testing, fix it.

While most RPG’s have bosses, remember that every RPG is different, and therefore you can make one without a boss. I would not recommend it as it leaves for an unsatisfying ending, but if it suits your needs, go for it! Remember that in order for that to work, you need to have a very satisfying ending with all the answers being explicitly explained and examined, as well as a happy, or sad ending. (If you had an ending with little emotion, like the hero walks into the sunset with his friend, it is not satisfying. What happens then?)

Remember that if your RPG is good, people will want more. Another Final Fantasy or a new Zelda game. If you are expecting this, I recommend that you leave a question unanswered in the original, and answer it (while raising new questions or problems) in the next adventure. This backdoor does not have to be obvious. For example, it could be that the Wizard never found his wand and then dies. No more questions asked until-surprise!-an evil villain found the wand is reeking havoc on the planet.

Ah…but what happens to your child???

RPG’s have a lot of stuff in them, but if you can remember to make choices, have a good plot, and leave a backdoor for yourself, you should be fine! Nothing is more satisfying, then, once you are all done with years of coding and your fans finish the game in a day and ask for more.

Which reminds me…

I got a couple more hours of scripting to do myself!

 

TIPS FOR VERSION 0.19.0

Tokens are a great way of making choices. Will the character go through this door, or not? Make friends or enemies? Follow the rules, or not? Tokens right now, are the only way for you to get your choices into the game-for now!

6 thoughts on “How to Write a Good RPG Storyline

  1. Umm… Hi I was wondering if you cab teach me how to use the door characters… This would really help me out in creating my games!

  2. I don’t get the token function to work. I’ve tried using the help in the forums, but they don’t help me. Can you do a youtube video on them?

    • Yeah – try this video first, but then try the “Help” tab on the upper right side of the screen!

      If you need more help, I can make a video. However, it is Koen who owns rights!

  3. Hey, I was wondering if we are able to add options like with a select screen? For example asking if you would go on and extra quest or something, and a screen pops up and says “yes” or “no” or something.

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