A Samwise Gamgee Game


#21

I think Sam both willingly stayed the sidekick AND became the true hero of the story, or at least became recognized enough to be known as a Ring-bearer and allow entry into the Undying Lands. In fact, I would argue that Sam became the true hero in part because he willingly stayed the sidekick.

Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I would say that in a stereotypical fantasy story, all the Hobbits are “side/minor character” sorts compared to Aragorn, who leads the free peoples of Middle-earth in the fight against Sauron and then becomes King. So Sam would not just be a sidekick, but a sidekick’s sidekick.

Escapist power fantasies are fun, but if that’s all choice games were then even those fantasies would become dull and boring. So I say we need more Samwise Gamgees and other POV characters like that!


#22

Not necessarily. You could actually write a Sam type game where the “hero” of the story fails if you don’t assist them in the right way. I’d argue there’s a good chance Frodo would have failed if not for having Sam along. Sometimes you’re only as good as the team behind you, regardless of how important the leader might be.


#23

Frodo is not an example of a classic epic hero who “can pretty much take care of most things they need to face without you if it comes down to it” at all though. Frodo might (read: definitely does) need Sam along, but Hercules probably wouldn’t.

So yeah, it definitely depends on the story - not all “heroes” are equally suited to be the one for this.

I’m not saying this makes this a bad concept - just that it would heavily influence my enjoyment of the story to have the right kind of hero to be working with.

Tally Ho! is definitely a lot of fun, but Around the World in Eighty Days from Passepartout’s perspective might be a lot harder to get into even if you had “stuff Fogg asks you to do”.


#24

That’s actually a favourite game of mine :slight_smile: I’d love one like that where you’re trying to keep the journey on track while your employer is making split decisions that are either not ideal or that he doesn’t know how to organise and throws the details to you. There’s also the option of lots of little side quests and events you could get into with a story like that. I guess it comes down to personal preference.


#25

Ditto! A “Gamgee” done very well.


#26

Just for the sake of clarification:
I think a game like Around the World in Eighty Days could work - I don’t know if I’d have thought of it but I like what you’re suggesting - but Fogg as written in the original book just isn’t dependent enough on Passpartout’s competence, IMO.

But yeah, it’s definitely going to be some degree of personal taste as well. What degree of moral support vs. “doing the details” say is going to vary for example, and I don’t want to say that my preference on the balance between the two is anything other than a personal taste factor.


#27

I never really thought of 80 Days being a “Gamgee” game, but you and @Havenstone are right. Especially during the Polar Expedition – it’s like surviving Mt. Doom, but with more ice.

It also shows that even in a Gamgee game where you are the sidekick, you not only have the choice of becoming the hero or being the sidekick, but going your own way entirely without being the villain or having to oppose the hero, since you are no longer part of that particular story. More than once my Passepartout has left Fogg’s side in the middle of the journey and it was a perfectly good ending to have.


#28

Honestly I wouldn’t mind being the sidekick of a hero. Or even be the incompetent henchmen of a deadly villian that will rule the world, or a villian that cannot even order the right parts for their death gun/ray.


#29

I feel like to some degree this is true of the two MCs in Nuclear Powered Toaster. And I’ve had a few reviews mention it in a negative capacity. There’s a character in the story who is able to run as fast as a car and punch holes in concrete, but you don’t play as him. You’re either a totally normal smuggler or a superpowered government agent who has it repeatedly pointed out to her how subpar her powers are compared to those around her. And some readers have taken umbrage with feeling underpowered.


#30

I am up for this game, having enjoyed Loren The Amazon Princess.

What I’d caution is that the reason people love the “wild escapist power fantasies” is basically because when the MC is that powerful their choices matter by default. But that’s separate from power; it’s generally called agency.

Samwise Gamgee is no one special from a power perspective, but he has agency. He is an ordinary person, but the theme of his story is that you don’t need to be special to do something important. Remember, Sam directly saved Middle Earth. Frodo was carrying the Ring to Mount Doom, was captured, and lost the Ring. Sam picked up the Ring, rescued Frodo, and gave it back so Frodo could carry it to Mount Doom. And that’s why Samwise is a viewpoint character and all the great princes and kings and honorable warriors who die in the Siege Of Gondor aren’t; they’re Aragon’s supporting cast.

But you could make a story out of any of the little bits mentioned in the description of the Siege Of Gondor, it’s just that it’d be limited in scope to leading a unit of Riders Of Rohan from the opening charge through battling the Easterlings and Haradrim and keeping your men (optionally including Shieldmaidens of Rohan; it is implied Eowyn is not the only one) from being on the recieving end of a Nazgul airstrike until Eowyn and Merry can kill the Witch King. I’d also play that game; it’s akin to Chronicles Of The Black Company, where the protagonists (note: not heroes) are a mercenary company in service to The Lady and they spend their time fighting rebels and trying not to get caught in the middle of feuds between her powerful wizard councilors The Ten Who Were Taken. Over the course of the initial series they end up being involved in the presumed deaths of most of the Taken, but usually another Taken or one of the rebel’s powerful wizard generals significantly assist, because the reason I say presumed deaths is that it’s a known fact in the setting that wizards on the level of The Taken do not die when you kill them. It’s also a massive inspiration for the old Bungie Myth games, where the protagonists are a military unit aiding the mighty wizard Alaric in defending agains the ancient evil wizard Balor and his dread generals Soulblighter, Shiver, and the Deciever. So when Shiver dies it’s just narrated as “Alaric defeated Shiver in a spectacular Dream Duel” because this isn’t a story about Alaric killing Shiver.

Also technically the main character of Chronicles Of The Black Company isn’t even the commander of the Black Company, but that’s because the framing device is that he’s the Annalist and it’s his job to maintain and add to the Black Company’s historical account and tradition requires him to read a selection from them to the men every night when practical. So pretty early in each story you get “In those days the Company was in service to the Syndics of Beryl…” or “In those days the Company was in service to The Lady of Charm(that’s the name of her wizard tower)”. For a Choicescript game I’d think it’d be better to play the Captain; the Annalist has moderate agency but is often on the recieving end of “Captain’s orders.”


#31

I feel like it’s probably an unpopular opinion but I really dislike playing as sidekicks or underpowered characters. It really limits your options because a weak person can’t really do as much and I play games for the escapism. I mean in real life we’re all probably weak sidekicks so it’s nice to be powerful for once.


#32

The escapism of Samwise Gamgee is that in real life most people are weak sidekick who can’t really do much. Samwise Gamgee is a weak sidekick just like the reader, and he saves Middle Earth.

What I can’t stand is a game where I can’t really do much; I ended up dropping Diabolical and never going back because I hit several plot beats in a row where I launched a plan and then I got beat up and had to run away. I never have actually checked, but the point where I dropped it was when this happened often enough I started to suspect that it wasn’t that I had made choices that didn’t work out the way I expected, it was that none of the choices mattered because no matter what I did or how much power I exerted I could not accomplish anything meaningful.

That can be a basis for a comedy, but it’s a comedy where we laugh because bad things are happening to other people.


#33

I appreciate the honesty, as I suspect it’s a more popular opinion than you realize but others who hold it are not so forthcoming.

I love the idea of doing stories about the mediocre. Especially when juxtaposed with the exceptional. Like, what do you call the person who is a Jedi, but one of the weakest, crappiest Jedi around? A wizard who can barely conjure up a strong wind where others can summon hurricanes, yet he lives in a world where most people have no magical aptitude at all? This is incredibly fascinating to me, but at the same time it’s not going to provide much escapism, especially in a choice story format where power fantasy trips sell about 10x as well as almost all non-power fantasy stories.

As you say, we spend a lot of our lives watching others do things we can never do, or at least doing them better than we can ever do them. It’s valid to say that a lot of readers will find it off-putting to encounter that same feeling in their entertainment as well when they were specifically trying to get away from it and just enjoy towering over everyone in a fictional world for a bit the way they likely never will in the real one.


#34

Well, I don’t know how statistically popular it is, but Rogue One did satisfy me and it’s about not being a Jedi in Star Wars. It is just the story of how Leia got the Death Star plans. But that mattered.


#35

Rogue One is still a bit divisive in overall opinion, but honestly I think the lack of a true Jedi as a protagonist is not really a reason for that. It’s because pretty much every Star Wars movie since Empire has been divisive in one way or another.


#36

I am literally in a lengthy argument about The Last Jedi again on another forum so I most definitely agree with that. What I meant is really just I don’t know how its box office numbers compare to TFA. I think the box office numbers are what will tell you how many people are interested in a story about someone in Star Wars who is not a Jedi.


#37

Well, it’s a lot less than TFA, I think. But it’s a spinoff so there’s a lot of forces at play here. I would also argue that if a character is not a Jedi but is still thrown out there as someone with amazing and far above-average abilities like a lot of the characters in Rogue One, they don’t really fit this Samwise kind of role. He was literally just a dude. He wasn’t a skilled sniper or engineer or Force-sensitive blind guy. He was just a hairy short guy who did some cool stuff in spite of his lack of any natural ability that would allow him to pull it off.


#38

I had just remember Model Citizen Unmasked by @RenaB is also another good example, where the MC is a reporter who trires to expose or help the heroes/villains in the city :slight_smile:


#39

Yeah, there are a lot of factors in play, but spinoffs can overshadow the original if the premise is more popular. So the reason Disney made it a spinoff instead of the original is because they thought its premise would be less popular so they didn’t want to stake the main series on it so the box office is a lot less than TFA and yet the board of directors does not demand someone’s head for this.

As for their skills, well, it’s all relative. Sam is better with a knife than I am by quite a bit and he wins fights with goblins where I have enough fencing background I probably wouldn’t stab myself by accident when failing to beat a goblin. The point is that if Jinn had been in The Empire Strikes Back she’d be one of the extras in the trenches losing to an AT-AT. And Rogue One is the story of those extras; if Rogue One were in the Battle Of Hoth then the cast would be the person operating the ion canon, some transport pilots, and the person who says “The first transport is away.” Those people are skilled but compared to Luke they’re nothing special, but they do accomplish something worthwhile.

The people in the trenches are as skilled as those people but you don’t make a movie about them because their story is that they shot at an AT-AT and they didn’t inflict any damage and then the AT-AT shot them and they died. And people don’t want that story.


#40

Correction: most people don’t want that story.

One of my favorite Extended Universe stories from Star Wars was in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. It was about the Jawa you see onscreen in New Hope ordering at the bar, and told about how he was planning on attacking some stormtroopers with a blaster bought off some shady dealer in order to avenge his clan being killed off during the raid where they were searching for Artoo and Threepio. Only problem is, the blaster was a bust, and the Jawa gets cut down for his failed assassination attempt. Sometimes futility is just fascinating. But keeping in mind we’re also talking about this phenomenon from the standpoint of a Choice game, so narratives like this or even Rogue One could be highly dissatisfying in a format where failure is not popular and weakness even less so.