Monday, April 4, 2011

Embracing The Cliche

As is its want, my brain has started to shift and stray when it comes to thinking about game. Sure, I love the two games that I am currently running (though one is on hiatus). I have lots of ideas still for both the L5R game and the Deathwatch game, but my brain also has other ideas. There are other games it wants to run, other things it wants to do. Amusingly, for a lot of them, I want to embrace the cliches of gaming and story telling...just to see what happens. What cliches you ask? Lets look at some.

Fantasy Game In A Tavern
That's right, this old thing. I haven't done it in over a decade. Heck, aside from Greymoore, which didn't even start with the group together, I haven't run a western swords and sorcery style game in a very long time. Still, there is something about this beginning that is just..well..natural. See, it is the trope for a reason. When you're looking for someone in ye olden times, odds are they were at the tavern. Why? Because where else were they going to be? If they were traveling, they're probably staying in the tavern. If they live in the area, they're probably going there. It isn't like there is a movie theater, or a home movies, or even a library in most of these towns. So it is a safe bet you can find them in the tavern.

Now, for this game, I also want to very blatantly start in a tavern. Like, I want the opening line of the game to be "You know an adventure is going to begin, because you're in a $*# #**@ tavern sitting with 4-6 people you don't recognize, who all look very capable." and then, well, stuff will happen and adventure will ensue!

The Old Save The World Gig
This is more for Super Heroes, but it can work in almost any game. Someone is always trying to take over the world, or destroy the world, or turn the world into a giant marble for their intergalactic game of..well...marbles. Point is, the world is in danger, and someone needs to save it. So why not sue it for the PCs?

This is another of those 'old as salt' plots, but it also works remarkably well. What better way to get people from different backgrounds to work together, then "if you don't, the world goes boom"? Now, the trick with this is to keep it bread and butter. No twists to break up the cliche, just simple, old fashioned, bad guy wants to destroy the world, you need to stop them. I think I should get bonus points, if this is what comes after the tavern.

For Every Task, A Fetch Quest
This one is less a trope for table top roleplaying games, and more one for video games. You can never seem to just get to the castle, open the door, and fight the bad guy. There are always other stupid things you have to do first. To get to the castle you need to open the draw bridge, which means you need a crank. To get the crank, you need to help Farmer John protect his cattle from aliens. Then you need to find someone who can operate the crank properly, which is another quest, and this time you have to go and buy mother maggie her chickens. Finally you get the draw bridge down, only to find that you now need a key. The locksmith will happily help you, provided you go stop his daughter from marrying that hooligan.

Now, part of the problem with this is that the PCs will have other methods to solve these issues. Things like "Give me the crank, or I'll burn your farm down, old man" and that needs to be addressed. I do think it'd be somewhat funny to put a group of TT adventurers through what Commander Shepard has to go through every time he so much as wants a cold beer.

So Much More
What other cliches have you seen in gaming that you want to embrace? Have you tried running a game entirely on cliches? Do you try to avoid them like the plague? They're good things to know, and to use on occasion, if only because they give a common starting ground. So sound off, and lets go over some more great cliches.


  1. The Duke/King/Baron/Captain of the Guard/High Priest/Mayor sends you on a quest. This is a personal favorite of mine. My players rarely go to the tavern anymore; they look for whoever is in charge of the town/village/city/metropolis.

  2. I don't know if this counts but our biggest cliche is that the city the PCs are adventuring in gets leveled. Either by fire, explosions, super-powers, doesn't matter. It's usually the response to me giving the players an obstacle they don't think they can figure out.

    What was that you wrote about Mr Consequence A.L.?

  3. Wait, they burn down the city because they can't figure out how to solve the problem? That is amusing. As for consequence? Have you seen Trigun? The group with the 60 billion double dollar bounty on their heads...

  4. Oh yes, that happens too. A while ago took a page from the 7 samurai trope and did 7 bounty hunters. Each one was more powerful than the last. They promised only to attack one at a time if the PCs promised to fight "honorably". In the end the leader of the PC group was sent to jail. Of course he and another notorious NPC broke out of jail (by leveling it) which lead to an army going after the PCs and two cities being leveled in the process.

    The absurd collateral damage of that campaign has lead it to be the favorite of our group.

  5. Sometimes that is all you can do. Embrace the carnage. Hmm...may be another post in that.