What is your favorite cliche to use in game? Seriously. No, this isn't a full on discussion post, but our game stories are absolutely full of various cliche plots. I can't blame us either. I mean, general theory suggests that there is less than 50 unique plots in the world. That's right, in all the stories and all the centuries that humans have been telling stories, we have less than fifty unique plots. So, today, let's talk about some of our favorite cliches and when to use them.
Cliche #1 Saving The World
When To Use: Superhero RPG
I love Saving the World, and so do a lot of comic book writers. Saving the World is also an amazing gimmick to run in your own supers game. Why? Because in a lot of ways the Superhero mythos treats saving the world as sort of a rite of passage. This is how you determine the top level A-listers from all the supporting cast members. Sure, maybe the heroes then go back to doing neighborhood level stuff, but they still get to go "y'know, I saved the world once."
If you're doing a teen game then this makes an awesome closing arc. Where the Teens step forth and leave behind their childhood innocence to fully accept the mantle of responsibility being a super hero brings with it. This also lets you pull out all the stops and show the teen heroes coming into their own as the heroes normally looked to to save the day are taken out of action.
In non-teen games it still works quite as well, but doesn't necessarily work best as a end game. Here it just signifies a turning point in the game. The point where other heroes - and villains - will start to notice and take the heroes a lot more seriously, because - hey - they just saved the world.
Cliche #2 The Prophecy of Darkness
When To Use: Any "fantasy" or "magic" game
Prophecies are fun things. They can be very hard to do for your game, but that doesn't stop dozens of GMs from trying every time dice and paper collide in an RPG. My recommendation for a prophecy is to shake things up a bit. Don't necessarily put the world at stake, but it can help to imply that this may be the case. Aside from this, keep your prophecy vague. Leave room for interpretation. Let your PCs decide what it might mean and work with it.
Obviously, the best kinds of prophecy are the ones you can get your players to fulfill while they are trying to stop it, but that can take a level of GM-flexibility that many don't have. All that said though, the key to any good prophecy story is that in the end it should almost come true - and if it all the way comes true, well, maybe you can do the next one...
Cliche #3 Evil Already Won
When To Use: Whenever You Want
Honestly, this is one of my favorite plots to use. Sometimes I'm obvious about it, and sometimes I'm less so. The idea, either way, is simple. The grand battle between good and evil already happened, and evil won. The PCs are now in the world that is run by the villains. Maybe things are going great - many villains are in favor of order, after all - or maybe things are chaotic. Either way, it is up to the PCs - the heroes and often champions of good - to decide where they fit into this world and what they are going to do.
In more obvious games, this has worked with the PCs being members of a resistance. In less obvious games, you can even have the PCs on the villains' side and working to preserve the order that's been established. Either way, at some point the PCs get to see the truth behind things. That's when things get fun.
What about you? Do you have any favored cliche plots you like to throw at your players? What kind of setting do you use these in? Sound off in the comments.