How many relationship options are too overwhelming?

Since this first project is one I’m adapting into an interactive fiction, there are already determined NPC characters with personalities. Currently, I have 12 characters the player can form a friendship with, some of them are romanceable (just 4 of them), but they need to be met by the player to be shown in the stats screen and for them to have any notable scenes.

That number is expected to climb. I love creating new characters and I have one just itching to jump out already.

Should I limit, in each branching path, how many the player can meet? For example, I have three possible god characters (which will dictate, amongst some other choices, the why your character is where they are), but only one will be able to have a relationship stat being shown.

Though, I guess saying ‘relationship’ is kind of an overstatement; it’s more a…worship meter or maybe a loyalty meter?

Hopefully, if it all goes to plan, this first choice, amongst a few others right after, will matter quite a bit in the long run.

Should I separate them into categories on the stats screen to prevent clutter?

I don’t really want to remove the option of befriending all of them because there were be more opportunities for worldbuilding scenes (only Nathan could tell you about magic plants, or Tome’s knowledge of history and dark magic) and NPC character facts (like, what is Sebastian’s middle name? Only a close relationship with one of his sisters would get you that info).

Should I just not put all of them on the stats screen and instead have them as invisible? Or maybe remove them when they’re not in a scene?

Sorry, this was a ramble. Please forgive me if this has been answered before. I had searched before hand but couldn’t find an answer for this.


I can’t really speak to this from a author point of view, but I know many works I’ve seen have relationships on an entirely different page in the stats menu to help keep them sorted. I feel like it would probably be okay to have every relationship there, but separating them by category within that page could be helpful too (gods, ROs, other relationships, or something like that).

As for managing the relationships within the game…that’s definitely beyond the scope of what I can provide advice on. :sweat_smile: I personally would probably like it better if you were able to meet and befriend/romance everyone without having to make really specific choices, but it also depends on what naturally makes sense given what the different story branches entail, how severe they are, and how the PC and other chars would intersect given those things.


How many relationships have you found to be a reasonable number in the finished games that you have enjoyed?

The best way to answer this question, both in terms of what you think a reader will respond to, and what you believe is a reasonable amount to write, is to play and think about a lot of games, and be attentive to what you think works and what doesn’t work, and why.


What I was thinking of doing, which might very well change once I actually get there, is that certain choices ‘advance’ time within a day/scene.

For example, let’s say player character decides to stay in the body’s room like they’re told to do so. At the same time character A has decided to leave for Africa to be with their brother. You’d never have met, they wouldn’t have form an impression of you besides ‘person who stole friend’s body’, and you wouldn’t have been any wiser except for a few mentions of them by the characters who know them.

It’s a sloppy little thing so I hope you understand what I’m thinking of in general. I’m not quite sure it’s even possible to code with my lack of experience, but, dang it, I’m gonna at least try.

That’s great advice! I’m currently doing just that, and asking myself why/how something works in what I like and what doesn’t in what I don’t like. I’m keeping a close eye, also, on how some might design their stat screens.


Honestly, I think 12-15 characters who’s relationship you can track is plenty. 8 possible RO’s would be my absolute upper limit. Just my opinion, though based off personal experience.


That number is causing me panic just by looking at it…unfortunately, I just realized all the ROs are mostly men with one woman. I guess I could add Sebastian’s sisters? That would be three men and three women, but with no non-binary options.

I have one character I’m sort of playing with but I’ll have to see where they end up; I personally don’t like writing a set sexuality or gender identity for characters. I like seeing where they develop on their own.

Probably can get around this issue by making these characters gender-able?

Overall, I really need to sit down and set these characters straight…ish.

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Personally I like smaller casts.

It’s easier to keep track of names and what type of relationship my MC has with each of them.

As an author, I lean towards the ‘less is more’ philosophy just because more characters and more options implies a lot more coding work, especially if you add in relationship variables based on your decisions/interactions with said characters especially if you’re aiming for each of the NPCs to have their own personalities.

Such as if you have an NPC who’s a criminal and you agree to commit a crime with them or look the other way. Something happens, maybe you fail a stat check, and the other members find out. Some won’t care and others will. And the ones that do care can have a wide variety of reactions.

Wayhaven, Samurai of Hyuga, Choice of Deathless, Blood Money, 180 Files, Mask of the Plague Doctor all have a somewhat smaller cast of main NPCs that you get to know very well.

Keeper of the Sun and Moon was a bit heavy with the characters and I tend to gravitate towards a select few of them that are memorable to me and forget the rest. Breach was an exception to the big cast fatigue IMO because you can pick a crew of four and not overwhelm yourself with NPC exposition.

Overall just write what you are comfortable with and remember that you can always go back and edit your draft. I’ve gone back and cut/added back in characters for my draft numerous times.


I’ll certainly keep that in mind. I’ve already cut out about four or five characters because they wouldn’t have had any purpose in being there. I might just remove a few more or, maybe, combine some of them into one entity.

I think what’s most frustrating about having bigger casts is not necessarily the large cast itself but instead how I’m stymied from getting to know all of them.

If an author offers the MC the chance for some ‘down time’ where they have the option of hanging out with X or Y or Z, I can only hang out with X and Y before the day ends. I find this frustrating at times. I wish more authors would offer the chance for having something like this instead.

Or maybe have the option to get to know two NPCs on a hangout at the same time and get to know how well they work together as a bonus.


You’re right. That annoys me as well.

This made me realize I’ve made a mistake. I was still thinking of this as my original idea, not how it’s since changed. Some characters are now dead. Or they’ve moved on to further their training. Instead, I’ve kept them as though no time had moved at all.

I have some characters to remove from the actual game. Thankfully I’m not too far in and I’m very slow at this.

Thank you!

No problem.

And I don’t think you made a mistake.

This is just the process of writing and rewriting a draft.

You realize that some things work and some things don’t and some of the things you thought were cool weren’t as cool as you thought they were.


Oh, I know. Most of my characters never end up the same way they began. That’s why I stopped putting so much effort into them when they’ve just been created; I have a basic idea of them, but they ‘tell’ me who they are in the end.

So far I have 8 out of the 12 characters remaining, and I’m thinking of making the cast smaller. I mean, if this goes well, I would have plenty of time to introduce the characters I don’t add now. I can still at least mention them.


I agree with @AChubbyBlackCat. And one of the problems with having so much relationship options is that it can be too much for (newer) writers—especially if it spans in multiple books and romance is one of the focus. It’s very ambitious and can lead to an overwhelming amount of work (coding and the writing itself).


Imo 6-7 Ros is plenty I’ve found in games with two many Ros that the author doesn’t “flesh out” the Ros but the better question is this when your playing a cyoa game how many Ros do you like in a story and let that guide you on how many Ros to add


This is one of my issues with a large cast–it takes multiple playthroughs to get a rudimentary idea of who all these characters are. It’d be nice if there could be introduction scenes for all of them… But, unfortunately, the cost of time and effort would be prohibitive. So it’s understandable why it doesn’t happen.

This would be a good way to counter the problem without coding endless individual scenes for each character–and that work relationship is an interesting angle.


Personally, it seems to be very overwhelming to me.
I tend to drop books with too many characters, especially when they are all introduced together, because it gets chaotic to remember them all and in CoG you can’t go back and re-read what has already happened. True, some authors put detailed descriptions on the stats page, but personally I want to read the book, not an “instruction page” for the book.


As a reader, if you could give me 10 different LIs, all of them have rhe same opportunity to shine in the story, they’re all equally interesting characters… Then yes, why not?
But realistically I know that the stories that offer more than 4/5 LIs give little choice, the romances usually are not good and there are clearly characters that are treated better than others.
So, honestly, especially if this is your first game, it’s better if you limit yourself with the number of LIs.


Personally, I would do something where if you haven’t met a character yet, they don’t appear on the stats page. As far as how many characters/RO‘s/? It’s up to you, I’ve seen some games with very good casts large casts, and some games with large cast that aren’t as good.
If you’re going to stay with a large cast, I would do something where the guard choice you choose someone influence is what character you meet, otherwise it might get a bit cluttered, though you could always do something where your relationship with one of the NPC’s, who isn’t Royal/whatever to the guard you pick, might have an influence on your relationship with both the NBC, and the other NBC. That’s just me though. There’s a lot of different ways to do this, everyone of them tend to be somewhat unique. That’s all I can say unfortunately.


I don’t think any number can be overwhelming as long as they are all well written and not bland archetype stereotypes to fill a trope quota, if that makes sense.

As for page ‘‘cluttering’’, well if there are thirty+ characters, I think that’s starting to be a bit much, but that should be yours to choose, if you feel it should be that way for your story. As long as they are well written, I think any number of characters can be good.