Compelling Found Family dynamics

This came up elsewhere on the forum and I’d been thinking about it vaguely already, so I thought I’d branch out the discussion. I’m curious about what makes a successful found family dynamic in a game! I sometimes find it hard to gauge what makes it a found/chosen family rather than a strongly-bonded friendship group or a tight-knit shared small community (I guess the smaller scale is the answer to the latter). I’m also wondering about the process of an MC stepping into that dynamic, and how it can be made to feel good for the player/MC.

I’d love to hear examples where you think it’s been done well in CoGs/HGs/HCs or WIPs. Have you played games where your MC felt they’d been able to join or bring together a found/chosen family? Do romantic relationships become part of it - such as polycules, quasi-parental figures who are in a romantic relationship with each other, or separate couples all being part of the chosen-family? I have a sense of this dynamic in general in non-interactive media, but I’m less certain about how it becomes successful/compelling in IF.

I’ve played games of Asteroid Run where it felt like I’d formed a little community on my ship - I think part of why that worked well for me was that the community-feeling didn’t feel pushed on me, it was more like I was making it happen myself, and I was aware there were a lot of branches where you could very much go in the other direction. But I’m not sure I’ve encountered many others.

(I’m not in need of hearing about times where it hasn’t felt good - the discussion in the other thread feels like it’s covered that well - so for this thread, please keep it to examples that worked well for you!)


Weirdly enough, Samurai of Hyuga. Crew in there genuinely felt like people that have managed to come together and, while that haven’t sticked for good, their time together still was more beneficial for them than not. It felt like they genuinely valued each other and came to appreciate the quirks each one of them possessed.


The dynamic works best for me when the “found family” member(s) successfully substitute themselves into the “blood is thicker than water” trope in place of those that are truly biological or saddled to the protagonist starting out.

The more an author does to make the relationship between the protagonist and the found family member(s) on the “next level”, the more I feel they are truly found.

Romances and friendship never enter the “found family” dynamic, because there is a threshold, that once crossed changes them from the romance option/friend into “family”.

The upcoming “Forgotten One” game releasing in June has such a relationship dynamic … the MC’s older “friend” (whose name escapes me at the moment). The relationship between him and the MC is one of Father and child, and after everything is said and done, there is no going back on that dynamic … ymmv.


Games that I think have done it well: Belle-de-Nuit, A Crown of Sorcery and Steel, Dawnfall, The Soul Stone War. I’ve experienced it with Asteroid Run as well, although to a lesser extent than the four I’ve listed.

I’d say that the difference between found family and a group of friends is that friends generally need to have more in common than found family does. Found family can have wildly divergent backgrounds, interests, ages, even species, and there can even be a lot of friction among them as individuals, but they have each other’s backs the way members of a traditional family are supposed to: I can pick on my monumentally irritating little sister, but don’t you dare. Consider Eira and Roshan: you can’t really call them friends, and yet there’s very real loyalty and caring between them. Or Dylan and Roshan, for that matter: they have almost nothing in common, but Dylan needs a mother worthy of the name, Roshan is yearning for a son, and they find each other.


This maybe falls a bit into the don’t like but… “the crew” minus the mc in a lot of post Wayhaven works.

Unit Bravo minus the MC seems like a pretty good found family? Even though their personalities are vastly different, they all understand each other and are what the other person needs in every iteration of the RO and best friend interaction.

In Soul Stone War, as much as I’ve seen contention about the MC’s position in relation to them, the two gender pairs (Morkai/Straasa and Eldwen/Daelynn) do really feel like they’re decent found family. You really buy that within the pair they’ve got each others back.

I think in works like this, there’s a good found mily, the MC just isn’t part of it. The reason the MC doesn’t really feel like part of the found family is that the work isn’t long enough to really establish their relationship with everyone. Usually the MC only has the option to interact with one person each “rest” period and most people use that time to pursue romance with their chosen RO. It feels like over the course of the story, the MC is the new boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic partner of a member of the family, but the book cuts off before they’re really a part of it or they only interact with the one person they’re dating so to the family they’re X’s partner rather than a part of the group.

Instances where the MC does feel like they’re part of a found family:

  • Breach: Archangel Job - among the crew that you assemble (not the main trio). It probably helps that you have a degree of agency in picking your people, but to me it felt like a pretty decent group, assuming you don’t betray them
    *Samurai of Hyuuga - I also agree with what vera said about SoH. As toxic as relationships are in that game, it kind of works? It shows how you can make a family out of a bunch of desperate people, but also even if they become your family, sometimes your paths take you different directions.
    *Fallen Hero - Sidestep and Ortega (maybe Steel added depending on relationship). Another incredibly toxic relationship but its doesn’t feel like “family” is the reason behind the toxicity. You really feel like the MC is an integral part of that dynamic, that if they weren’t there, something would be missing.

Regular RPG as opposed to an IF game, but I’ve been playing through Persona 5 lately and I feel like feel like the band of misfit teenagers that are the Phantom Thieves work for this.

The recent release Blood Moon has a pretty good one with the pack. Sure, I don’t like all the members of it but none of them are just straight up toxic, and I can acknowledge that they play an important role in the group and that they’re important to other members.

The Noble Gases from Jolly Good Cakes and Ale are another group that I think works pretty well in that whole “collection of misfits banding together” way.

I don’t think polycules work well in these kinds of things at all. The core cast of these games tends to be relatively small, just by the nature of these games. Add in too many people and there’s not enough time to develop them out to the point where you get a family-esque bond with them. I think that putting some of that core into a polycule makes it very easy to wind up with “polycule and a few of their friends” as opposed to “group of close friends” and that’s a huge change to group dynamics.


i do love a found family! the thing the separates this trope out from any other group dynamic is that it models the desirable aspects of family while deliberately removing itself from what makes the traditional family a hegemonic institution – which is to say, a good found family is defined by unconditional love and support, offered without expectation or expiration dates, and should not have the same structural (patriarchal) elements of traditional families. this recognizes the possibility (probability) of romantic and sexual relationships forming within the group, since the relationship dynamics are not familial in the blood-related, possessive way that would make those relationships inherently unhealthy.

as much as i love the asteroid run crew and the club from jolly good, both group dynamics do have an inherent hierarchy as well as a fair number of conditions placed on members where they could find themselves without love or support if those conditions are violated. but even these could still function like a found family – a captain in asteroid run who is willing to give up their authority entirely for a real relationship between equals, or a possible future club president MC in jolly good who tries to restructure the club in a way that cedes their personal authority would take these examples from ‘interesting/heart-warming/possible’ to ‘true’ found family. i do think my personal definition is a little more particular than general applications of the trope, though!

as far as good examples from COGs, i think that the friend group from the fog knows your name, the party in a crown of sorcery and steel, the party in heroes of myth, and the relationship between tal&MC in choice of magics all have the potential to be played as good found family dynamics!


Well, here I go in the complete opposite direction from the post above me. :smile: A group of friends is never going to start feeling like family to me unless there is a hierarchy - unless there are parent-like as well as sibling-like relationships. It’s easiest for me to fall into these when the MC has been forcibly deprived of their family in the recent past. BioWare is was good at this, both the BG series and DAO draw me into dynamics which really feel like family rather than a bunch of adventuring companions. KotOR almost gets there too.


I think there are a lot of discrete elements to the found family trope that come together to make it work, and makes it different from just being friends or part of a community or an elite team. So let me go over each of them and talk about how they reinforce each other.

Diversity of Characters. I think AletheiaKnights had it right here. A friend group can come together easily when they all have shared interests and backgrounds, but those become the foundation of those friendships, and those bonds are rarely tested in interesting ways. It’s much more difficult to have a bunch of people with seemingly nothing in common come together, but I think it’s a critical element of the found family. Unique backgrounds, personalities, perspectives. These differences naturally lead to conflict.

Shared Experiences. This is the easiest thing to do with a found family in interactive fiction, and isn’t all that different from other media. The group needs to share intense and challenging experiences that bring them together. The plot of most games is usually enough for this, as you are generally going on an adventure together or working together whether you want to or not, either is fine.

Emotional Depth. This is core to a found family, and separates them from just being an elite team. Elite teams work together to get the job done, pooling their talents and their different backgrounds and perspectives to accomplish goals, but they don’t need to care about eachother as individuals or even have relationships outside of work. A found family must individually care about eachother and explore those personal connections that involve a lot of care and vulnerability.

Growth and evolution. Another critical element of found families. Lots of character have their own arcs, starting as one sort of person and changing over the course of the story, while others are basically the same throughout the journey. Both can work in a found family, but the former is a lot more suited to the concept than the latter. The members of a found family should grow and evolve, individually and as a group.

Sacrifice. Another key difference between fair-weather-friends and found family. The members of a found family should demonstrate their commitment to each other through acts of sacrifice. These sacrifices can range from small acts of kindness to life-altering decisions.

Now that I’ve briefly summarized each point, we can talk about how they all reinforce one another to create a found family.

The Shared Experience is the crucible through which the found family is forged. It provides the circumstances where a group of diverse characters can be forced to work together, even in moments where they might not want to, and opportunities for them to see other perspectives and for their values to clash. These situations help the characters learn to understand and appreciate their differences, work through conflicts, and build trust. It gives them moments of vulnerability they might not have allowed if ever left to their own devices, and allows other members of the found family to treat those moments with care, which helps to create emotional depth. The foundation of the found family becomes their concern for one another as individuals, rather than appreciation of their skills or shared interests. Along the way, they begin to make small sacrifices for one another, and if the bond is strong enough, those sacrifices can become more extreme.

I don’t think any of these things is all that different between interactive fiction or other media, but the major stumbling block is that it is difficult to create a cast of characters that a player can have agency interacting with that will always become a found family. It’s easier to make the rest of the cast a found family and have the player become connected to it, but that tends to cut down on a lot of the things people like about found family as a trope, which includes the journey to becoming one.

I think the Wayhaven Chronicles is one of the better examples of found family here in the CoG catalog.

Diversity of Characters:
Yes, 4 out of 5 members of this found family are Vampires, but they are a very diverse group of individuals even accounting for that. They’re pretty much forced into a team together and make the best of it, though 4/5 have been doing so for a while before the PC gets thrust upon them. While they have the hallmarks of an Elite Team, and two of the initial members of Unit Bravo can be considered friends, I think when you take all of the elements and put them together, they become a very good representation of a found family.
-Adam/Ava is stern, disciplined, and duty-oriented combat expert of the group. Lawful Good.
-Nate/Nat is the diplomat, kind-hearted, understanding, and a calming influence on the team. Lawful or Neutral Good.
-Felix/Farah is outgoing, flirtatious, and brings levity to the group. Chaotic Neutral.
-Mason/Morgan is the prickly and antisocial interrogations expert of the team. Lawful Neutral.
-You, the PC, not a vampire like the rest of the group, initially not part of the shadowy organization they work for, not clued-in like the rest of them. Your personality and skillset can be diverse through the choices you make, but you definitely bring another perspective to the group.

Shared Experiences:
The team comes together to investigate supernatural occurrences in the town of Wayhaven. Over the series, their shared experiences can cause them to butt heads in a number of ways as they work together and sometimes apart to overcome the challenges they’re facing.

Growth and Evolution:
Every member of the team, including the PC, have their own growth arc, which the other members of the team are heavily involved in as the PC comes to terms with the supernatural world’s reality. Their relationships with each other also evolve based on the choices the player makes. The injection of the PC into the group is the catalyst of much of these changes.

Emotional Depth:
It becomes more and more clear over time that the other members of this group are already a found family, and have deep emotional bonds with each other, despite their vast differences. They disagree, they fight, they bicker and challenge one another, but they never fail to come through for each other and the PC is able to glean insight in discussions with them that they understand and care about each other and their differences, they’re (usually) each good at seeing the others’ perspectives and taking them into account even where they disagree, and they make efforts not to hurt one another, though they do occasionally snipe at one another in ways only family can. A lot of the emotional depth comes from the romantic elements, which I will speak more on when we get to Sacrifice.

Depending on the choices of the PC, each member of the group proves time and again that they are ready and willing to sacrifice for each other. From things as minor as putting up with Mason/Morgan’s smoking habit (and understanding the root of it), to risking their lives for each other frequently, to a bunch of other spoilery things, but also crucially represented by the romance options the game presents and made more clear through repeat playthroughs where you explore the different paths the PC can take. Each member of the group can be interested in the PC, and aside from a very well done triangle between the PC, Adam/Ava, and Nate/Nat, they will quickly recognize when another member of the group is forging an emotional bond with the PC, and will immediately step aside and put their own feelings/desires out of mind so that the other can be happy. The Adam/Ava Nate/Nat triangle arises from missed cues and self-sacrifice, where they actually don’t initially recognize that there is something building between the PC and the other member of the triangle, and once Adam/Ava does recognize it, they start pushing the PC away so that Nate/Nat can be happy. The other members of the group check in with the PC as they see things developing more clearly, and it’s clear from those interactions that they worry about each member of the trio getting hurt.


This is all massively interesting, thank you everyone. I’m realising that, like with blood families, perspectives on found families also vary widely - which makes sense of course, considering it’s about people and their relationships. It’s given me a lot to think about!