Monday, June 1, 2015

Actions, Consequences, & Chrono Trigger

Image from Chrono Trigger for the SNES
Designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest), and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite video games of all time and it's easily my favorite JRPG. I love the art style, adore the characters (especially Frog), fondly remember the story, and greatly enjoy the game's mechanics.

While I could discuss different aspects of Chrono Trigger and why those aspects are awesome all day, I want to highlight a specific moment within the game to help illustrate a point I'd like to make, a point that Game Masters should keep in mind when running campaigns.

However, before I can actually talk about the scene in question, I need to talk about another scene that happens near the beginning of the game. One of the first things you do when you start up Chrono Trigger is visit the Millennial Fair. While there, you can do numerous different little things, like eating a stranger's lunch or trying to sell a pendent you just found.

Although these situations seem rather inconsequential at first and your normal JRPG activities to keep you busy until the game is ready for you to further the actual plot, they actually will affect one specific scene later in the game. You will be placed on trial and the things you do at the Millennial Fair actual are brought up during this scene. Depending on what you did, these actions will either help or hurt you.

That scene perfectly captures the point I want to make. Every action has a consequence, even if the action seems small and irrelevant. When running a campaign, you should always make sure you have the most logical consequences for your player's actions within the world, whether those consequences will help or hinder them.

The reason for this is because having each action have a understandable consequence helps the verisimilitude of the world and gives a serious weight to the player's actions. Because these actions now have weight to them, the players will think more about them and feel their effects upon the setting around them.

It's not something that should be difficult. This think about the most logical outcome for the player's actions and have that happen. Here's an example. Let's say your party of adventurers is traveling down a local road between two major city-states. A group of soldiers hailing from the city the adventurers are traveling to stop them and request they "donate" their belongings to the army and promise they'll be able to continue on their path if they do so. However, the adventurers decide to fight instead. They manage to kill three of the soldiers, but two escape. When the adventurers arrive in the city, they discover wanted posts depicting them because the soldiers reported they were attacked by murderous vagabonds. Now they have a price upon their heads and have to be very careful about how they move through the city.

Another example of something less drastic would be something like this. The players stumble upon a poor merchant being bullied by a group of thugs along the road and help him out. When they arrive in the town, the merchant they helped notices them and offers to pay for their rooms and meals at the inn for the night as a token of gratitude. He might also spread word of some local heroes, giving the adventurers more job opportunities in the future.

Both actions have logical consequences to them and I came up with both within seconds of writing the initial situations. Doing the same at the table isn't difficult. Just make sure you explain the reason why Choice A lead to Consequence B and make sure to remain as fair as possible.