The incompetent, "chronically out of xir depth" protagonist

Nothing annoys me more than incompetent MC; even the Chosen One is less annoying for me. If it’s done in humorous way, the MC is a charmingly insufferable clueless in everyway, I can still enjoy the game. Someone like Rory in Tally Ho!, for example, I think I could have fun playing it. But if the setting is serious and we play as somewhat damsel in distress/Mary Sue who constantly needs to be saved, I’d never spend a dime for it.

I’m with Mara on this, I could never play as timid and shy character who is the least on everything compare to other characters around them, except in humorous setting (someone mentioned Tom Holt and I love his books and his silly protagonists who helplessly fall into adventures and how they are clueless and people pity them for that; but it’s funny so it’s okay).


Please don’t put words into my mouth I didn’t say. I’m not saying teamplayer = incompetence. Sure one can be a good at working with a team, but it’d be also nice sometimes to see them being successfull on their own.

Anyway to me it seems we both said our opinions and since I can’t come up with anything more I’d like to add, let me suggest not turning this thread into a CCH vs HR thread.


Didn’t say that you said it. Said that it can be read as such. I agree not to turn this thread into that, especially since the games have this different focus (though HR’s focus on solo vigilantes is part of the issue)

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AS I said before as books are really a good plotting device you are a viewer observing. In Interactive fiction you are a PLAYER and as that readers want AGENCY AND CHOICES. And to this plotting work as a interacting device you have to be a hell of programmer. I could give to old games examples Dark seed and In the space nobody can’t hear you scream. and both are graphical adventures where is barely choices as this plotting device has great problem to deal with agency as is based in negates agency


hum…I dont recall playing an MC like that…

its probably part of a trope I hate . So can’t say I have a game with an imbecile for a hero lol

Then again , I also see peoples who don’t like the ‘chosen one’ cose boring , or the '‘succeful at everything’ hero…

so where that leave the player ? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


I have problems with choosen one bad executed. When is well executed is a flawless experience. Is not the plot ddevice the problem is the execution


Exactly. Even as a viewer I still don’t like the character that constantly needs to be saved, let a long as a player in IF as it feels like we don’t have a choice but to be saved.

It all comes down to how you design your character; for example Wayhaven Chronicles. The MC is human and other important characters are vampires. MC is definitely weaker and there was a point where MC needs to be saved but there are choices in which the MC could affect how whether the bad guy can be dealt with or not with their ability; with deduction skill or other knowledge. What’s the point of playing IF if none of your choices matter?

I don’t really hate the Chosen One if it is done well; I don’t like The Chosen One if it is just an excuse to justify why the MC is MC (why they are the one who can save the world? Oh because they are the chosen one of course :roll_eyes:)

@E_RedMark that leaves us with realistic character :smiley: who has flaws and weakness but has strength and abilities as well. Not overpowered hero who can handle every fight/case/trouble with a flick of a hand, but also not a weak spineless creature that cannot move a meter without needing to be saved (I’m being dramatic here)


but I like those…:sweat_smile:

I don’t wanna play your average Joe…thats every day life…with limitation and tons of shit.

but I also don’t wanna be the helpess Bambi…not when @poison_mara is around…just screesh…and she come yelling and BANG! SUPER POWER ARISE! :rofl:


I have no fear super powers lol if i am angry i am like a Krogan. :wink:

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Haha, I guess we have different preferences. I do enjoy playing some very strong MC such as MC in Samurai of Hyuga, but it’s more because I can be the kind of MC I want (personalitu-wise) and also the fact that even if MC is super strong, they do have limitation and issues that make the story interesting for me.

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I like that too…

I just mean…I don’t like playing your normal human . well…I can play it and enjoy it like in wayhaven and all . But I don’t want that boring useless…oh wait…thats the topic! YAY! So no…I hate useless need to be saved…bring nothing to the table hero :stuck_out_tongue:

@poison_mara I know right ? you got some quads! :grin:


I would like to argue that the Detective isn’t an incompetent character, especially when you consider them in terms of their job. Like you pointed out, they are physically weaker because vampires, but that’s not because of a lack of skills on the MC’s part.

For instance, the player chooses that option during a dialogue with N (I think?) that talks about how they became a detective in the first place. One of the options is something like “I worked really hard for this position and that’s why I got promoted to detective,” which flies in the face of incompetence because otherwise, in that situation, the MC wouldn’t have been promoted if they didn’t have the necessary skills to be qualified as a detective.

So to break it down, as a whole the Detective from Wayhaven isn’t incompetent since that would ignore the player’s options regarding their career (aka how they became a detective). In comparison to the vampires’ physical abilities, the Detective is incompetent because they’re not a vampire and can never become a vampire (which is outside of their control).

I think you hit the nail on the head with character design playing a role in how we perceive our MC’s incompetence! :slight_smile:


So…tricky question but would you put old games like Mario Bros where Mario gotta save the Princess and her endless entourage from Bowser or say…Link saving tha Princess in this kind of category?

I’m not a fan of watching my character bumble around for the length of the game without any clue what they are doing. That being said, there are examples of this done well. Very rare, they might be, it does exist. There does exist one such game series out there that forbids me from completely writing off the concept.


Monkey Island. Guybrush is…complicated. He goes through battles against pirates and the navy, saving the day with the intent to do it, while somehow still having that fact that the way he solves puzzles and problems almost borders on it being completely by accident. It’s not obfuscating stupidity. It’s not so much badassery on his part. It’s just kind of dumb luck and everybody knows it. I think that’s what the difference is compared to other games with the archetype. It goes into another trope I typically hate where the main characters is the butt monkey of the series and somehow combines the two things well.

Everyone is perfectly aware that Guybrush isn’t all that bright or even all that competent for that matter. They don’t treat him like the ultimate badass or a genius. Even after defeating LeChuck most people see him as…a guy. Just a guy. He’s not considered the greatest of generations or anything for making it through puzzles and while he does gain something of a reputation in later games, a good number of people still don’t treat him like he must be the greatest pirate who ever lived.

Normally, the butt monkey trope and the trope of a bumbling hero/this loser is you type of thing would drive me up the wall. In an odd way, there are instances where it can be executed well enough or at least making it more bearable by NOT giving the MC too much credit for the simplest of tasks.


@poison_mara Being out of your depth doesn’t necessarily mean you’re running scared. It could mean the opposite, too: suicidal overconfidence in the face of something you have no way of planning for, and probably have no way of stopping because you didn’t plan for it. Or just kinda shrugging and going about your business on autopilot, letting all the questions you have go unresolved until you aren’t in mortal peril.

@E_RedMark I wouldn’t necessarily put Mario in this category. From the outset he has all the tools he needs to take down or bypass enemies, it’s just a matter of the player using them effectively. Mario himself, if he’s confused by the world he inhabits, doesn’t show it.

Regarding Wayhaven chronicles, I don’t know if anyone else tried this, but in my first playthrough, I spontaneously started by skipping over the perspective shift portions of the story. So I saw the story solely from the detectives perspective.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that my character was a useless piece of meat for most of the game (regardless of how the game tries to tell me otherwise). Especially because xe barely does any actual impactful detecting (like figuring out what was going on before it was crashing into them to gulp down xir blood), regardless of your stats.

If it at first you think the story is about butting heads with arrogant, well resourced “federal” agents and calmly showing them up with your diamond in the rough, back to first principles, local police department detective skills . Nope.

This was exacerbated by the fact that you find out the group of “better than you’s” were actually there to protect you from your weakness. You’re a damsel in distress the whole time and you don’t know it. Even worse, your estranged mommy sent them to protect you.

One of them was constantly snickering in the background. The other was constantly undermining your authority. One was ignoring you like you’re some kind of ant, and the last one, while they may be sincere, pitied (or was embarrassed for) you for how you were being treated by their teammates , but wouldn’t tell you anything that might help you use your stats/skills to solve your problems or avoid danger until the danger was in your face.

And ofcourse every thing that makes you special is innate(its in your blood), situational (someone is after you or you were there when it happened) and relational (your mum/dad is the boss).

Or at least that’s how it feels if you skip the team bravo portions.

Now that we are past the introduction to the setting. I’m hoping the second installment has more detecting

Anyway I think there is a deeper principle here. Maybe its that the player must not feel like there are more interesting things happening elsewhere. Or at the least, I shouldn’t want to be following some other character in the story. Imagine playing a Fantastic beasts And Where to Find Them game, and the MC is Jacob Kowalski (the amusing, fool muggle).

The guy is just constantly reacting and barely knows whats going on at the end. You might like him, but why would you want to be him?


and if you do pay attention to the bravo team portions ? how does it change your perspective ?

didn’t the author stress that the game is a ROMANCE oriented game , so pretty much the detective stuff are fluff ?

Well my impression was already colored by my first play through, and I was glad for that. The shifting perspective portions felt like spoilers.

I’m not convinced that allowing the player to know things the PC does not know is good for IF. It may work in a movie to produce suspense (“He’s right behind you fool!”) but not in an IF.

When I replayed the game with the shifting perspectives it just confirmed what I already knew at the end of the previous play through.


I think we might be getting off topic here. I personally don’t mind my MC being “weaker” than other characters. I really like stories that ask the question, “how would an average person react to an extraordinary situation?” And that’s what I am trying to do with my WIP. Power fantasies get boring after a while, but I agree that it’s important for the support cast to also have flaws.

I really think this is an interesting question you bring up though! Maybe we should start a new topic to discuss it :slight_smile: