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 ]]