Cliches epitomize laziness by the game master. Rather than expend energy and create something original, the GM falls back on characters or situations so familiar every player instantly knows what will happen. It is more than just back role-playing, it is bad storytelling, which is the entire point of a role-playing game. As a public service, I put together this short list of situations that everyone will recognize and no one will miss. Consign them to the depths of time and never use them again.
5. Rescuing the Princess from a Dragon
The ultimate gaming cliche and still one of the lamest. The dragon eats everything in sight, destroys entire cities and then decides to kidnap a princess. Why? Do princesses taste better after aging for a few days in a damp cave? Do not even start with the “hold for ransom” argument either. A dragon wields power equal to an army and if it wants money all it need do is threaten to attack. Babysitting a spoiled princess is not necessary.
4. The Fedex Mission
“Take this magic macguffin to Lord PlotPoint in his far away kingdom.” Mighty heroes, warriors of legend…deliverymen? If it is that important, send an army with the box, not a group of adventurers. Stealing said item from Lord PlotPoint, now that sounds like fun!
3. Prophecies that are Always Accurate
“Only he born with two middle fingers and one left toe may slay the evil overlord!” Who says? I really hate these because they smack of plot railroading and at the end of the story, the prophecy comes true. Usually by some ridiculous, convoluted deus ex machina to make the letter of the prophecy come to pass. Remember that prophecies are a function of faith as well as magic. Just because everyone believes something does not make it accurate. In fact, an entire campaign trying to find the “chosen one” and then discovering that anyone can do the job sounds incredibly entertaining. Just remember the body armor when the players discover they did not need all 22 pieces of the magic sword to kill the evil overlord. In fact, any sword would do the job. Expect some blowback on this one.
2.The NPC with the Party is Critical to the Plot
Just because you found an orphan on a mountain trail does not make him the long-lost heir to the empire. Sometimes he is just an orphan. I see this as a distant relative of Checkhov’s Gun. Introducing a new NPC does not require they matter to the plot. Sometimes they are just window dressing. I watched one party in an Arcanis game start acting like a Secret Service detail when they found an orphan on the street, instantly assuming he was important because he had, gasp, a name! Only important NPC orphans get names, or so the party thought.
I laughed for days about that one.
1. Tavern Brawl
A tavern brawl is a pointless filler combat, usually started by an obnoxious, drunk NPC. Said drunk comes upon an adventuring group and decides he “does not like their looks” and decides to “show them who is the boss.”
Picture this, local drunk goes up to Aragorn from “Lord of the Rings” and picks a fight. There is no human alive capable of drinking enough ale to find Aragorn an “easy” target and stay conscious. The man’s stare stuns small animals at 50 feet. Even the average group of adventurers packs roughly enough muscle, weaponry and magic to level a small city. Pass on the pointless fight and actually make the combat part of the plot, not a time filler or a lame excuse to have the local constable dislike the party.
So ends my list of cliches, feel free to add your own in the comments. Perhaps a young player might learn from our long experience and we can end the cycle of cliche.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer