Non-grand/epic storyline

TheoAllen

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My problem is more or less like how do you come up with story.

But, I'm asking in different perspective. Usually, a (good) RPG story line involve a grand scale, either it's about saving the world (destroy evil castle, a demon is being resurrected, etc) or involving kingdom/nations (rebel, politics, princess being kidnapped, corrupted nation, etc), or basically affect the thing in large scale. Because the large scale makes a thing epic, and maybe you can feel how important is the role of the characters.

But is it really need to be that way? Can a story be a simple (in term of scale, minor / small scale) yet still interesting without escalated into a world scale? What will be the strong point of such story without being too grand? A character interactions, or else? Can a minor scale story suit with a RPG gameplay? Any example of the story, or do you have one? Last, do you interested in non-grand story line?

I tried to write a small scale story, but it always escalated into a larger scale, open up a questions and plot holes that I'm unable to cover it in the end. So I'm thinking of maybe stick with small story instead.
 

The Mighty Palm

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Think of the plot-lines that happened before the fate of the world rested on the shoulders of a team of teenagers with attitude. Something like "My cat was kidnapped by my sister and I want revenge" or "I'm trying to find out where my dad went when he left to get cigarettes and milk 10 years ago" or "A dragon stole our gold and the king is real peeved over it so we gotta steal it back."

Basically, you need to take what would be a normal quest and make it the "main quest". Focus less on the fate of the world/country/anything grand and instead tell the story of an individual and the tribulations they face.

Personally I'm all for it. It's silly how a bunch of kids half my age keep killing all these evil gods. Makes me feel inferior.
 

Andreyla

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I actually prefer focusing down on a small concept and exploring everything there is surrounding it. I'm currently working on a game about a neglected baby's search for food. The expansion on that being why is it neglected in the first place.
I think this sort of thing is beginning to be popular too as it's the same sort of thing done with the likes of To The Moon and Bird Story.
Funnily enough I find it easier to write.
 

richter_h

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Figured out you put a lot of questions in a paragraph, so...

Usually, a (good) RPG storyline involve a grand scale.
This is true literally and ironically. The bigger the scale, the greater the impact it would be felt by the audience. However, it's not always about the world itself; it's more about the character. Think about Earthbound, Titan Souls (I know this is not RPG but the storyline is as simple as a sentence), or maybe the first arc of Fallout 1 (where the only thing you have to do is to find that chip).

But is it really need to be that way? Can a story be a simple (in term of scale, minor/small scale) yet still interesting without escalated into a world scale?
First of all, nah, you don't have to follow the stereotype. You can go with the simplest of story you have in your mind. Like I said some time ago, if you can describe the whole story in a single sentence, you're good to go. Keep the scope small and limit yourself around the boundary; put any questions that might appear when you're working on the storyline into "Maybe Later" bin. Works everytime for me.

I tried to write a small-scale story, but it always escalated into a larger scale.
That's where you... wait, no, most of us did it wrong, mate. You have an urge to make everything sensible and explainable, might be ended up writing all the trivia that irrelevant to the real deal that's the story itself.

What will be the strong point of such story without being too grand? Character interactions, or else? Can a minor scale story suit with a RPG gameplay? Any example of the story, or do you have one? Last, do you interested in non-grand story line?
This is highly subjective, depending on what tendencies your potential audiences have. Some might only like the characters, while others have to figure out what the twist the story has to offer, or a little bit of everything. A story that takes a small part of something big is still a story--thus, still can be enjoyed. If I were you, I'd stick with what I love the most to work on no matter how people will say. Let's have a go at it.

Example of the simple story but impactful nonetheless is Titan Souls and Hyper Light Drifter. The latter has no texts shown whatsoever; the scenery shown does the heavy work of storytelling, yet it's highly enjoyable.
Or if you have time to read the story of Bioshock's first installment (not the sequels), read it. I think it'll help you a lot in writing a small-scale-with-big-impact story.

For the last question, I'd like to have one but it won't be as impactful and memorable as a tale of a single man fighting a lion or something like Epic of Gilgamesh. Still, if the outcome of such journey changes the man either physically or mentally, it's still counted as an epic no matter how grand the scale--which I'll recommend the Hero's Journey pattern for you to take a gander at.
 

Kes

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I've played some enjoyable games which have nothing to do with saving the world, or fighting the ultimate demon. One I remember was about trying to deliver a letter through various difficult locations/situations. Not important to the rest of the world, but important to those in the story. And perhaps that's the key to a lot of this. I think you need something which justifies e.g. having battles, so it requires a motivation strong enough to do that. It's at that point that people reach for the epic. But the motivation could be almost anything.
 

KayZaman

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I made a game which not saving the hero’s own world but saving his another parallel world.
 

TheoAllen

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Basically, you need to take what would be a normal quest and make it the "main quest". Focus less on the fate of the world/country/anything grand and instead tell the story of an individual and the tribulations they face.
The problem with normal quest being a "main quest" is that the overall gameplay would be too short for the game to last long. Unlike the grand scale story where you need to bring a McGuffin here and there to "extend" the playtime. For a small scale story, it might either too simple and let the gameplay extend the story (like dungeon crawler) and thus a story is just there for a complement or justification of the game, which might be easily forgettable.

I actually prefer focusing down on a small concept and exploring everything there is surrounding it.
THIS was my start, I started from a point of view of a character, writing on everything they see, which later escalated into a larger scale later on.

I think this sort of thing is beginning to be popular too as it's the same sort of thing done with the likes of To The Moon and Bird Story.
Hmm... I have TTM on my Steam library, but haven't touch it yet. Want to start, but I always forget that I have one. But KanGao's story telling is just too OP to follow lol.

You have an urge to make everything sensible and explainable, might be ended up writing all the trivia that irrelevant to the real deal that's the story itself.
There is always a slight worry to deliver a story where you're worrying about the reader doesn't get your story, as for why it needs to be this way and that way. You know, there are some people being critical about story, and I don't want to disappoint them, thus from a simple sentence, it was escalated into a big world building explains everything there (You know what I'm talking about, though I have no regret)

This is highly subjective, depending on what tendencies your potential audiences have. Some might only like the characters, while others have to figure out what the twist the story has to offer, or a little bit of everything. A story that takes a small part of something big is still a story--thus, still can be enjoyed. If I were you, I'd stick with what I love the most to work on no matter how people will say. Let's have a go at it.
I'm switching into character based development right now (personality and interaction) which hopefully will grow some fruits rather than start from concepting a large scale story. I know I like to RP as a character, but I hate to think the whole plot lol

Also hearing you said I'd stick on the one I love regardless what ppl say, is... well, not really you.

One I remember was about trying to deliver a letter through various difficult locations/situations. Not important to the rest of the world, but important to those in the story. And perhaps that's the key to a lot of this
Ah, a courier story. The premise looks simple, yet I'm intrigued to learn about the story, because I'm somewhat expecting an unexpected. It's a good example

I made a game which not saving the hero’s own world but saving his another parallel world.
Idk, but I feel like it can be potentially turns into a large scale as well.
 

bgillisp

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My current game isn't at the world level, but the kingdom level in the end. And it actually starts as the MC tries to figure out what happened to his girlfriend. Sure, it does eventually lead to the party having to break up a war between two kingdoms, but that is as grand as it gets.

I also made a little dungeon crawler in MV where the entire goal was to escape the dungeon, as you've been thrown into it and must band together with the others and find a way out. Haven't released it yet as it was only to test my battle system and it is very rough in places, but maybe I'll polish it up someday and post it here?

I actually had a plan for a game where the entire plot revolved around the villain desiring revenge on someone and going to any lengths to get it. There's no grand war here, just you need to stop someone who is out to get revenge for a perceived wrong 20 or so years ago. Maybe I'll tackle it sometime soon?
 

Tai_MT

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The problem you're likely running into, and that most run into when they first start any kind of writing job, is that you erroneously believe that something is only interesting on a large scale. So, in an effort to make a scene more interesting, you scale up. In an effort to make a character's decisions hold more weight, you scale up.

Resist the urge to "scale up".

Okay, so how do you do that? You need to get into the heads of your characters, that's how. Stop thinking about the situation from the perspective of "I know everything that's going on in the world". Approach it from the perspective of, "This is what my character knows, this is what they care about, what kind of obstacles could I put in their way that they'd care about or that would hinder their goals?" If your answer is, "A kingdom wants them dead", you're probably scaling up too much.

See, you need to think about people you admire in person. Okay, sounds off-topic, but bear with me. Who is your favorite person in the world? A personal hero? Someone you just admire? Athlete? Musician? Artist? Scientist? Political Figure? Favorite family member? Start there. Do they often engage in "world changing events" or are their lives interesting just because of the stuff they dealt with on a personal level? The personal challenges they've overcome?

Even look at the original Star Wars trilogy (episodes 4-6). The story isn't really about the Empire fighting the Rebels. I mean, that's the backdrop for the events. The story is about our ragtag heroes overcoming their own flaws and becoming forces for good in the galaxy. Even look at Luke Skywalker. His entire arc is about him learning to temper his "dark side" and coming to grips with what it means to be a Jedi. He even outright refuses to kill his father and believes he can be turned. That's his arc. He's not really out to destroy the Empire and bring it to its knees. He's just out there, doing what he thinks is right. He doesn't believe for an instant that turning his father from the Dark Side will end the war. But, he gets himself captured and put in great peril to do it anyway.

That's how you temper your 'scale' problem. Tackle it from the perspective of your characters instead of the perspective of an audience or the one pulling the strings.
 

Fladian

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One of my major stories is in a fantasy setting about a... girl that's being kidnapped, who you have to save.

The odds aren't all that epic. The world will keep spinning whether or not she's saved, no one but the people involved are affected. In fact, the bad guy in the story is the one who tries not to make a big deal about it and specifically tries not to involve too many parties.
The story is being shown from the perspective of the main character - he doesn't care about what's going on in the world, whether there being a major conflict or not, he just wants to live his life. There's a lot happening in the world, but none of those events affect him. Maybe interesting for an other game, but not for this one, as it doesn't involve any of the characters. (EDIT: Pretty much what Tai_MT said too)

Because the story and the setting isn't about a grand scale, it makes it a lot easier to sympathize with the bad guy. The intention is to let the MC and the player question whether they are doing the right thing or not. Which is a lot easier to achieve when the bad guy isn't aiming for world domination or a big war.
 

richter_h

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Yeah nah, I learned a trick to avoid something to escalate quickly by narrowing down the story development flow into one or two viewpoints and avoiding the introduction of something that may unnecessarily add the weigh of the whole story like the concept of magic, the lore of how dragons came to the realm, how the kingdom was established, you name it; you can fill the blanks later after you've finished the main story and delivered it to people.
Wonder why I tend to be burnt out so often? That's because I have way too much information and stuff to be explained, lest people won't get what I'm trying to deliver to them.

And @Tai_MT pointed out the most important thing to keep things in check and not expanding uncontrollably. Put yourself on the main character's shoes, learn what would the character see in their perspective, and what the decisions the character would make in certain scenarios--which in this case, the story you're about to write. Don't mind what happened in the world; make it the backdrop of the story. While you're technically the god of your world, sometimes you have to descent into your creation yourself.

This also answers why I made a character that seems like a self-insert of myself, with a twist of that character has no control upon the realm he lives on. He's still one of my subjects, I'd say.

One I remember was about trying to deliver a letter through various difficult locations/situations. Not important to the rest of the world, but important to those in the story.
Ah, a courier story. The premise looks simple, yet I'm intrigued to learn about the story, because I'm somewhat expecting an unexpected. It's a good example
This is quite interesting, yes, but once you insert a macguffin... you might have something like New Vegas! Ah, just kidding...
 

JamesdomusGames

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My problem is more or less like how do you come up with story.

But, I'm asking in different perspective. Usually, a (good) RPG story line involve a grand scale, either it's about saving the world (destroy evil castle, a demon is being resurrected, etc) or involving kingdom/nations (rebel, politics, princess being kidnapped, corrupted nation, etc), or basically affect the thing in large scale. Because the large scale makes a thing epic, and maybe you can feel how important is the role of the characters.

But is it really need to be that way? Can a story be a simple (in term of scale, minor / small scale) yet still interesting without escalated into a world scale? What will be the strong point of such story without being too grand? A character interactions, or else? Can a minor scale story suit with a RPG gameplay? Any example of the story, or do you have one? Last, do you interested in non-grand story line?

I tried to write a small scale story, but it always escalated into a larger scale, open up a questions and plot holes that I'm unable to cover it in the end. So I'm thinking of maybe stick with small story instead.

"Interesting" is in each person's point of view. Yes, a more personal story to just a few characters can be very interesting, if you set up the story right and bring readers/players into the story. If you can capture their imagination and bring them into the small world you've created, then a small story can be as interesting (if not MORE interesting) than a large scale catastrophe.

It's more about presentation, really, than story. A terrible presentation can make a great story feel lame, and a great presentation can make an average story seem much more interesting.

I hope that helps.
 

Wavelength

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"Small stories" have a higher potential than epic stories for emotional and intellectual impact, I think, because they tend to be more believable and more relatable to their audience - not to mention less cliched.

Some people say that telling small stories is tough, but I don't think it's any harder than telling epic ones - all you need to do is either focus on smaller details, adjust the direction and tone (so that little things SEEM big to the characters and player), or figure out ways to force the protagonists to go to the ends of the earth to fulfill a relatable personal goal. Often the key is in the source of the conflict - instead of a megalomaniacal villain bent on destroying the world, it could be someone targeting the protagonist in particular (a stalker, murderer, or rival), or it could be a local force of nature, a personal obligation, or a dark side of the protagonist herself.

If you're having trouble coming up with plot seeds for small stories, I recommend checking out "cute" games. For some reason, these are a lot more likely to deal with smaller issues and more personal plot hooks.

Here is a random list of games I can think of that tell "small stories" the protagonist's goal doesn't concern large numbers of people, and the ensuing action doesn't shatter worlds or lives. Starting from the most trivial goals, and working up to dramatic but personal ones:
  • Fortune Summoners (make new friends)
  • PaRappa the Rapper (win over your crush)
  • Bully (become king of the playground)
  • To The Moon (make a dying man happy)
  • Tony Hawk's Underground (get revenge on your sellout "friend")
  • Phantom Brave (pay off the mortgage on your home)
  • Recettear (again, pay off the mortgage on your home)
  • Pokemon (earn recognition of the "master" of your trade)
  • Banjo-Kazooie (save your sister from a witch trying to steal her beauty)
  • Jade Cocoon (remove a curse from your body)
  • Azure Dreams (find your lost father)
  • Eternal Senia (rescue your adopted sister)
  • Shadow of the Colossus (save your girlfriend from dying)
 

Soul Tech

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I have been analyzing the topic of narrating a small story for a while instead of going for something on a large scale. This one of simple stories is being seen a lot in the indie scene and seems to be successful.
One as a developer is more likely to finish the project, for the simple fact (I think) that there is much less work to do as it is a short story (unless it involves lot of custom assets).
I agree with some opinions above about creating a character as charismatic and unique as possible and go exploring their environment to expand the story.
 

trouble time

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There are lots of great non-grand scale games in addition to the grand scale ones, most of the smaller scale games I actually remember are moe games or old ones. For example, I really liked Criminal Girls and its just about saving your party from hell, Arcana Heart 3 Love Max's story (labeled after story in the menu) which is about a very slight development in the ongoing plot development from the first game to make Fiona human again, and it also had its Card of Glory story lines for each character, for one example Konoha just competed in a scavenger hunt (and konoha's kinda terrible at it). I think the key to making a smaller scale story work is the characters and their expirences.
 

Milennin

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My first game has a (very loose) story focused on the main character collecting 4 magical artefacts to power an airship with, which in turn is split up in a bunch of smaller side-quests that are confined to a single town area.

Even my 2nd game, even though it ends up with the main characters confronting the King of Darkness at the very end, it never is about them wanting to save the world... It's actually kick-started by the villain destroying a statue of the main character, after the MC accidentally... damages their property in the first part of the game. So, it basically becomes a story about revenge for very petty reasons.

It's much easier to keep your story small when you put the focus on your characters and their motivations (avoiding making their motivation to simply save the world).
 
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Countyoungblood

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some of my favorite memories of final fantasy 9 didnt have anything to do with the saving the world quest. the characters were tied together by that ultimate goal but they could of just as well been tied together by being friends or siblings or neighbors. I always loved the peaceful portions of those games. the cut scenes that didnt really do much besides develop the personalities of the characters involved.

i loved going places for the first time for the initial cutscenes and i loved how much the characters could say without ever speaking a word.
 

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