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Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago

As I'm finally done with the three mini arcs and prologue and have begun writing the last chapter and epilogue, I wanted a little bit more input and a second eye on the project for endmaster's contest.  

Summary of the story

A new continent named Foundland has been discovered by the country of Riverrock. Naturally, settlers and the like will flock to the land searching for a brand new life in the frontier. This has naturally led to a lot of friction between the native population consisting of lizard-like people who call themselves the Malehusians.The story is focused on a young mage running a potion shop near one of the military outposts and settlements. When her teacher decided to fuck off for the sake of pursuing his own adventure, she was left to her own devices. 

The world has a typical 19th century flair to it with guns and bayonets, but magic and other fantasy races also exist simultaneously. The magic is a bit different from the usual RPG standards. If you want to cast magic in this world, you need to use potions. The main ingredient that makes the magic happen is a dark liquid called magical ink which is harvested from ink trees. Drinking potions is a taboo and is considered to be a crime that warrants a death sentence. 

The greatest bulk of the story consists of small stories that can be picked up by the player as they explore the house. I have ten story ideas planned that are linked to each room though I know that with the time constraints, I may only complete a part of it in time. 

The actual fucking question

This post is mainly made to ask you all what kind of ideas you find the most interesting to pen down first. Sometimes I also need an extra set of eyes. To give you an idea what the tone of the first three arcs is:

  • Arc 1: The origin story of the mage herself. Overall tone is pretty dark, accidentally turned her mother into a monster.
  • Arc 2: A whole conflict between Malehusian warriors and a lone soldier. All endings will lead to either group getting slaughtered in a graphic way. Also accidental cannibalism.
  • Arc 3: The mage ends up taking a Malehusian child as a student. The main bulk is actually family-friendly, though two of the four endings will lead to the child being slaughtered in some way. Only one ending could be considered a happy one

What you do in the arcs, will broadly determine the ending of the story. Because I'm not that good at coding and scripting, I can only put in major changes.

The planned arcs:

Living room arc: Mainly set in the capital city of Riverrock, gives some extra characterization of the teacher and delves a bit deeper into the lore and manifest destiny stuff. It's mostly talking, not a lot of action. 

Kitchen arc: It starts out as a simple quest to find some edible food, but quickly turns into a conflict between a village of Malehusians and a platoon of soldiers. The main gist was that the army has been dumping potion leftovers into the water, causing many of their crops to die.

Entrance hall arc: Mostly a light-hearted story about a priest trying to convert as many people as possible and all of the antics that ensue. 

Laboratory arc: The colonel, one of the sides you can choose in the ending chapter, will shine here. He asks you whether you could make a more 'potent' potion, aka a magical nuke. There's also a discussion about the ethics of drinking potions.

Store arc: A few very poor settler came to your store to ask for your help. They wanted to settle to their assigned plot of land, but they were recently plagued by Malehusian attacks. It turned out that it was also the territory of the Malehusians. Their claim was backed by a treaty. Negotatiotions and a possible fight ensues. 

Back garden: A tiny reminder that slavery was also prevalent. You meet an escaped slave from Riverrock's western colonies. There's also an introduction to the slave market. The whole conflict is whether you want to return the slave to his master or help him escape Foundland.

Stalls: A huge beast comes wounded by arrows. You chose to nurse him and almost treated him like a pet. Things become very lonely out there, so you chose to take him in indefinitely. Then the Malehusians arrive. The beast is clearly scared of them, but they claim that he was stolen and that he was a holy one to be sacrificed. (mistranslation, holy beasts can regrow their tails, they meant to hack its tail off.) You can choose to keep the beast and ward them off or you can give the beast back back and apologize.

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago

You should just write the arcs that you are the most passionate about. I don't know what the mechanics of your story are and which arcs would fit best with them, if there are battles, military decisions, etc. or whatnot, but, from what I know about your story and my perspective, I would rank them: store, entrance hall, lab, kitchen, back garden, stalls, living room.

If you want to cast magic in this world, you need to use potions. The main ingredient that makes the magic happen is a dark liquid called magical ink which is harvested from ink trees. Drinking potions is a taboo and is considered to be a crime that warrants a death sentence.

Does everyone who casts magic in this world commit a crime? Is there any way to use potions without drinking them?

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago

Thanks for the feedback!

It's still very standard stuff. 

Mages normally use potion by dipping their wand into it. That wand could be any stick of wood, but the most efficient one is the wood of the ink tree. All potions will have a baseline effect. A flame potion will only produce flames no matter what. However, depending on your skill you can augment that effect a little. A flame can be very tall or very small for example. There's also the logic that more powerful effecfs will need more ink.

Augmenting the effect is usually done with spells. It can be done chantless, but the overall results will be less predictable and is seen as bad form. (For example, you want a icecube with magic, but then you end up with an icewall so high that it breaks your roof.)

The reason why drinking potions is illegal, is that it is the only way to change the nature of the human body. (Growing out more limbs, making people faster, giving them firebreath). Since magic can be so dangerous, any experimentation or practice of this field has been forbidden. You can only imagine what would happen if you made a tiny mistake in the measurements..

As a consequence of that ban, healing magic has never been developed. 

There are also other things that are forbidden for practical reasons like making gold or other precious metals etc. Can't have mages destroy the world economy.

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago
"This post is mainly made to ask you all what kind of ideas you find the most interesting to pen down first."

Pen down first? So you're going to write them all eventually? And in one story? So... we won't see anything first, you'll just write the whole story and you want us to tell you what to write first and second? That seems a little odd and pointless to me...

So there's three first arcs. Then there's others. So it this branch and bottleneck? So the reader gets through one of the first three arcs, then gets to pick one of the other 7 arcs? Do any of them connect to others of them? Are you just asking which of the seven we think are interesting?

I'm confused...

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago

Haha, I've not explained it this well then. I phrased it a bit awkwardly, haven't I? It indeed wouldn't have mattered if I wrote a bottleneck story or any other thing.

Because this will be my first finished storygame, I thought up a structure that would make sure that if I don't finish every single short story, that the whole story wouldn't entirely fall apart. (I really don't trust myself in finishing a project in time) 

I'm thinking of it as an open world structure, a bit how RPG quests are structured. You wander through the house and in every room there will be a link that will lead you to a short story that is associated to the room. Most of them are loosely linked to eachother with some recurring characters. Flavor text in some stories will also change based on what you chose in other stories. (I called these stories arcs for convenience sake.)

Thus, it is made that a player doesn't have to play these stories in a particular order.  

When you finish a certain amount of these stories (the amount will depend how many I managed to finish), a variable will trigger and cause you to go to the finale. Depending on your previous choices, some endings will be unlocked or locked.

I was just worried due to the deadline in September. At my current pace, I would probably not finish everything, so I was really struggling what I should definitely cover and what I should do when everything else is finished. 

After reading everyone's advice, I think that I should just trust my own instincts a little more. Thank you for taking your time!

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago
Ah, I see. So perhaps you're just asking which of the possible arcs I'd enjoy the most. In that case:

The planned arcs:

Living room arc: It's mostly talking, not a lot of action. -- I'm not a huge fan of just background information. I'm more interested in the story moving forward.

Kitchen arc: It starts out as a simple quest to find some edible food, but quickly turns into a conflict -- This could be fun, especially since it could end up more gray-vs-grey. The soldiers have to get rid of the poison, or someone else would die! It's also interesting in that it might appear to be a simple choice, but quickly gets complex.

Entrance hall arc: Mostly a light-hearted story about a priest -- who doesn't like comedy? I certainly do. But at the same time, if you're running out of time, if this one doesn't really fit with the rest, perhaps this is where you end up cutting.

Laboratory arc: The colonel, one of the sides you can choose in the ending chapter, will shine here -- another option for a grey vs gray section with the ethics of the potions. Could be fun, but could be similar to the other grey vs gray (unless there's a different portion I'm not seeing).

Store arc: A few very poor settler came to your store to ask for your help. I like this one as it also starts out simple, but rapidly might get complex and difficult.

Back garden: A tiny reminder that slavery was also prevalent. This one sounds interesting as long as it doesn't get too preachy.

Stalls: A huge beast comes wounded by arrows. Sounds like fun, everyone likes animals!

Hope that helps, but it is just my opinion!

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago
I've worked with similar ideas before and this kind of thing is a little difficult to do if it relies on any prior knowledge you have to check if the player has seen, treating them like side quests with minor NPCs is a good compromise though.

If they're not able to have a lot of plot impact for this reason, then it's like Camelon said, tone and theme is important, you'll want them to enhance some other parts of the story or reveal something interesting (but optional) about the setting.

Anyway, at the rate you're writing, a month seems like plenty of time. Good luck with this, looking forward to it.

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago

It's a bit hard to give advice on 'what to write first,' as the person who knows your storygame best is you. If you mean that due to time constraints you have to prioritize, here are some general tips for  narrowing it down:

#1 What side stories augment the themes of the story?

If you are exploring a theme like, "bravery," or "destiny," then any side-story with that as a subtext would move up in priority. The converse also holds - if a story has very little to do with the underlying themes you are exploring, it can safely be moved towards the bottom of the list.

#2 What stories will be the quickest to write? 

When deadlines are a concern, just how fast a certain section can be churned out becomes important. This doesn't just include how long the main story part takes, but how many branches it will create, and how many death/end game pages you will have to do as well. Consider how fast each will be to write, and - with consideration to their thematic weight - move the faster sections up in priority. As a corollary to this, which one is the fasted to write *while allowing ample space to explore it.* You don't want to end up with lots of rushed summaries. 

#3 Which are you the most passionate about?

Here, again, give weight to the stories you most want to tell yourself, while moving the ones that seem more of a slog down the list.

#4 Which do you think will be the most rewarding for the reader?

This is a little harder to parse, but you can take some educated guesses. If the game is full of action, than an introspective piece may bore the reader. If the game uses bits of lore as a reward for the player, then a story that furthers the lore or answers background questions will be welcome.  If there is an interesting side character that wasn't able to be developed in the main plot, then expounding on him or her in a side plot can be nice. Try to boil down the expectations you have set up for the player, and what might feel like a reward to them.

#5 Which stories fit the overall tone and genre best?

This is not as essential as the other points, as good writing can vary in tone (such as any drama taking moments to be lighthearted and others to face raw grief, or how Gower's "Private Game for Natilie" has moments of romantic comedy in the midst of it's deepening psychological horror.) But, if an arc clashes with the overall tone of the storygame, it should be much lower on the list. For example, If the game overall has a grimdark, gritty vibe, the player probably isn't going to be hoping for a happy side story with a different tone - unless this is done ironically, perhaps.
 

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago

Thank for this advice! These are actually great points; I just feel a bit unsure at times with making such decisions. Sometimes it feels a bit scary to have full creative freedom. I knew that this was inevitable and bound to happen, but I noticed that I wasted so much time thinking about it and mulling it in my head. You know, the usual doom scenarios. 

You made a good point about tone, genre and player expectations. People expect gritty, dark bloody messes. It would be unusual to not deliver that. I think that I know what to do now.

Okay, trust myself a little!  

 

Choosing the last mini-arcs

4 months ago
I'd say just figure out which of those that are most interesting to you are also the quickest to wrap up. (Not that time should be a real issue at the speed you've been working at.)

But it's difficult for anyone else to give advice, really just depends on what you, the writer, feel most like writing. All of this seems like it could be interesting and fun, although I tried not to do more than skim, don't want too many spoilers.