Thursday, 13 March 2014

What The Movie "Legend" Teaches Us About Storytelling and Good vs. Evil

By Matthew Ipock ("torilen")

Legend deals with the struggle between good and evil. The young hero strikes out with the help of a small band of misfit fairies to fight the red-skinned, black-horned stand-in for the Devil, hoping to rid the world of Darkness and usher in an era of Light and Happiness for all.

While this classic offers little in the way of adventure design or monster choice, it can teach you just a bit about story and plot design, and perhaps a little about the choices to offer players and their characters.

1. Innocent Desire Causes a Big Problem
The stories are ancient and numerous: Eve bites into the apple because she wants knowledge. Pandora opens the box to satisfy her curiosity. Romeo and Juliet love each other and just want to be together.
Sometimes the innocent desire of a simple heart causes no problems at all. But sometimes that innocent desire causes such horrible disaster it threatens to engulf the entire world in eternal darkness.

Legend offers such a story. Jack, a simple boy who lives in nature, loves Lily and has the innocent desire to show her something special and beautiful. Lily is overcome with joy at her special surprise, and the innocent desire to touch the rare unicorn is too strong for her to resist. Little did these two lovebirds know that the evil goblins were waiting nearby, waiting for their chance to take down the unicorns and remove their horns, thereby removing their power.

Step 1: Choose Your Desire
The first trick is to decide what innocent desire you want to play off in your game.

  • Innocent love for another
  • Innocent desire to see something or someplace, perhaps because they have never seen anything like that before
  • Innocent desire to travel by a certain means (boat/horse/hot air balloon)
  • Innocent desire to help someone or some creature
  • Innocent desire to have a certain item, perhaps because they have been poor most of their lives, and owning it would not, from their current point of view, cause any harm to anyone

Step 2: Pick The Innocent
The second trick is to decide whose innocent desire causes the big problem.

If it is a local commoner or a friend of the PCs, then the characters would be drawn in because they are of heroic stock and want to be helpful. Better yet, try to work it so it is one of the characters who causes the big problem. Then not only do they want to be helpful, but you add in the feeling of guilt and the moral obligation to fix the problem. Now you have a hook on your hands.

Step 3: Create The Big Problem
The third trick is to make the decision on what big problem the innocent desire will cause.

You will want to decide how extensive the problem will be - will it be a problem only locally, or will it be a problem for an entire region, entire continent, or even the entire world?

Step 4: Choose What's At Risk
The fourth trick is to decide the stakes.

  • Will someone die?
  • Will an important place be destroyed?
  • Will a special object be destroyed or lost?
  • Will a special power fall into the hands of evil?
  • Will a great evil be unleashed upon the good people of the world?

2. Even Simple Folk Can Do Great Things
One of the most clichéd plots is the "common person does something great" plot. You find it even in the simplest of stories, like fairy tales.

Just look at Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack gets his hands on some magic beans, climbs a magic beanstalk, takes out a giant, and brings back a goose that lays golden eggs. Cliché is not always a bad thing, though. As the line goes, there is nothing new under the sun.

And tis true of Legend. Jack (they even use the cliche simple-folk name) is a simple, common woodland dweller. He knows nothing of fighting, of swords and armor, and nothing of good and evil and magic. Lily, Jack's true love, is a princess, but is a commoner-at-heart. She even states this. She would much rather live as a simple person in the woods than be a princess.

One of the greatest things to take away from Legend is simple, common folk can defeat the ultimate horrible evil. There are ways to arrange this is your game.

For example, you can start PCs at low level, making sure they know their characters are common folk from the start. Then they slowly climb up to god-like stature. Another example is to create a foe outside the rules of the game who can only be defeated by using some skill or trait available to the innocent, such as love, community or the strength of family bonds. Perhaps the villain is immune to magic and normal game-style attacks, but grows weaker when a community prays for him. Or maybe the enemy is invisible to everyone but children.

Remember that role playing game rules are guidelines. You should change things if you need to suit your story. There is no reason a dragon must have magical breath attacks. Demons and devils do not have to have magical defenses. The devil-character in Legend did not appear to have magical defenses. There is nothing to indicate the sword used to attack him was magical.

Also remember, when in doubt, there is nothing new under the sun. Go with cliché if you want. Go with real-world, typical myth and legend, if you like. Holy water can be used against undead. Salt can be used against fairies. Sunlight can be used against great evil (as shown in Legend).

3. Help Is (Or Should Be) Always Welcome
Offer plenty of good and innocent NPCs to help the characters. In Legend, Jack found himself in an enchanted forest filled with happy, helpful dwarves and faerie creatures.

And offer situations where the PCs need to ask these for NPC help, even if it means it might put the NPCs in danger. This connects the characters to your world and makes players feel like they're part of something bigger than just their party. It'll also make your group feel more responsible and connected to your NPCs.

There are readily available NPCs in surrounding settlements and the characters just need to find them (plenty of reason for role-playing here)
Certain sorts of NPCs (e.g., magic-users and healers) can be found in only certain regions and the characters need to travel to those regions to find help (plenty of reason to move and travel here)
Introduce a traveling adventurer who seeks to help the poor and downtrodden.
Ensure any help offered to the characters is actually helpful. And in innocent stories, make the help without strings attached - helpful NPCs should be selfless.

* * *
Summary by Johnn Four of
Try to add more innocence and humanity to your games. Kicking in the door and taking the loot is fun, but often disconnects players after a while from the core of storytelling, which is to explore what makes us human and what's truly important in life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Crawling in the other dungeons...