Sunday, January 2, 2011

Monsters and the World


These days, I am finding myself looking at many of the opposing forces within classic RPG design. Secrets of Steel, an upcoming Trese Brothers Fantasy RPG, will be a classic tactical RPG. As a long-term gamer, an avid pencil and paper story teller, and now a game designer--these topics easily fascinate.

And, most importantly, the decisions we make should cater to the way that gamers want to interact with the game world. That continues to make this blog, and your comments, one of the better ways to get feedback from our gaming community and followers!

So, the question of the day--how believable do you want the world and the enemies (so often simply called "monsters") to be? Many RPGs gloss over the mass variety of monsters stalking the world, giving no explanation or waving a hand at it and calling it a "sudden wave of evil monsters" that have inundated the realm. On one hand, the player wants to encounter a wide variety of creatures, in powers, look and appearance. This keeps the game interesting, moving, and help in may cases to define different areas of the world as being unique. On the other hand, that mass variety of monsters is unexplained and often lacks a consistent feel, reason, or connection to the world.

For Secrets of Steel, we desire to both tie the enemies to the world, to differentiate the monster base, and to make the different regions and environments feel unique. Placing monsters by region and environment is a big step in the right direction. Certain types of snakes are always found in jungle or swamp territories (swamp asp), while others (rock snake) are found in the mountains and even others (sand rattler) are found in desert or dry highland territories. Another step in the right direction is to recognize and include the humanoid type monsters (ogres, goblins, trolls, etc) that are in the world and make them more a part of it. Doing this cannot be as simple as letting you fight them. The cities and villages around which they live must be aware of them, talk about them, warn you where and how to avoid them, and often hire you in quests against them. Depending on the enemy type, and the location, they may have a language of their own, or speak the language of the villagers, and may have their own crude or sophisticated living areas and villages.

From my point of view, the important part is to recognize that there are monsters in the world, and try to bring those varieties into the storyline, dialog, and quests of the rest of the game, so that they do not feel disconnected from it all. Some games do this very well, while others isolate the monster community completely. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

[[ Attached is some recent concept art of different types of monsters that may be included in Secrets of Steel RPG ]]


2 comments:

  1. I would like to see a a variety of mundane lower level creatures around civilized areas as a means of getting the player used to the fighting system and as an initial revenue system (selling cougar pelts for fun and profit). The real world has a huge variety of dangerous animals with adaptations dependent on locale. The villagers may be very knowledgeable about the mundane creatures and provide lore and background information to the player.

    More unusual creatures appearing during the storyline would frighten the villagers, thus giving the heroes a call to action.

    When the heroes find other humanoids, their environment may have variations on the mundane creatures also, just modified for the region and possibly tougher.

    Dangerous wildlife could also be used to cordon off areas you don't want the heroes to go until it is time.

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  2. Kelvin,

    I like the differentiation you make between mundane animals, of which the villagers may be able to provide information vs. the larger, magical or mythical beasts that roam the world and appear in quests or in more dangerous conflicts.

    Also, where my thinking had strayed more to the villages being able to provide information, history and background about mythical or more powerful creatures stalking the area, the point that they are likely to be more afraid than naught, and scream for the heroes to step in is a good one.

    All of this leans toward my original design goal, which was to make the enemies feel as part of the world and the society in which the characters are entangled.

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