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Why Most RPGs Are "Generic and Cliched"

In his recent editorial, E-Chan mentioned that Lunar's story was "generic and cliched". Upon reading this, my first impulse was to go to this site's WD message board & flame him. After all, Lunar is my favorite RPG (heck, my favorite game) of all time, and the story is a major reason for this. That impulse lasted for about half a second. Then I thought about it, and realized that he wasn't really wrong about that. The basic plot was unoriginal. But at the same time, I realized that the same could be said about the vast majority of other RPGs as well. No, I'm not saying that all RPGs use the same basic plot, but if you think about it, you'll see that there are a handful of basic plotlines that are generally used in RPGs.

In the vast majority of RPGs, there is a single main character whose role the player assumes. This character is almost always male, and usually between 13 and 25 years in age. He will typically be [A] the great hero whose coming was foretold in an ancient legend/prophesy, [B] a member of a small band of rebels fighting an evil empire (or some equally large and powerful evil organization), or [C] an "ordinary" kid out for adventure (who for some odd reason is a skilled warrior despite his lack of training & experience). In the course of the game, he and his allies will [A] save the world from a powerful villain bent on destroying or conquering it, [B] overthrow the evil empire, [C] rescue a princess (or some equivalent figure), or [D] some combination of those three.

OK, how many RPGs have you played that you couldn't accurately (if incompletely) describe with the previous paragraph? I highly doubt there would be very many. My point is, very few RPGs have basic plotlines that could be considered particularly original. Most are cliched. But why is this? Well, a plot concept becomes cliched because it's used a lot. It gets used a lot because it works. That's why most RPGs use "generic and cliched" plot concepts; as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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