We talk a lot about overused tropes—enemies to lovers, the chosen one, love triangles, etc—but what about the lesser known ones?
Or at least a twist in the old formula.
One of my personal favs is a character that has a tragic backstory but is a good person.
Perfect example is Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas & Ferb. Despite having like the most tragic backstory ever, he’s a great dad. He doesn’t go “I will make everyone suffer as I did”—instead, he gives Vanessa everything he never had. Also, he’s not exactly evil per se. Even reformed in the end too!
Also, to add to that, he also has a healthy relationship with his ex wife. Usually divorced couples are potrayed having a grudge against each other which affects their kids. But Vanessa is obviously loved and cared for by the both of them and she loves just as much.
Honestly, one of the reasons I love Phineas & Ferb so much is cause of this: what most media would potray badly (i.e half-siblings, step-parents, divorced parents, etc), this cartoon show that they don’t necessarily have to be bad. They can be healthy and good.
So Teahouse of the Gods sort of did this but like, I love reincarnation where one party is immortal and the other isn’t so it sort of becomes a love across lifetimes. The moment of “do you love me, or who I used to be” is so ahhhhh the angst is so good.
EDIT: Doesn’t even have to be reincarnation, just the angst of expectations vs reality or the MC trying to live up to an unreasonable expectation and the question of whether the RO loves them or the idea of them. Yes, Ortega from Fallen Hero destroyed me, why do you ask.
All the characters I write contain elements that I love encountering in games when I play, so playing my games is, in some ways, a tour of character archetypes I like, haha! I’ve probably said some of these before, but:
Characters who are ambitious but hapless
Con artists, spies, deceit; uncovering layers beneath an external facade
Characters who are glamorous and indolent - maybe they have some inner pain going on or maybe not
Someone with an intense live-fast-die-young attitude (though without, well, actual death - though maybe the risk of it!)
Something where two NPCs are bound together for whatever reason (magic, unusual upbringing, debt, intense friendship etc). Each romanceable individually, but the other one is still prominent in the romanceable one’s life. (This is probably so specific that I will do it myself at some point.)
Characters who are parents or caretakers, especially if they’re romanceable
Characters who are committed to a cause, work, or person to the detriment of other aspects of their life (if the cause is a not-great one that they can be persuaded from or leaned into as a power couple, that’s cool too)
Characters who are lying to themselves about something but don’t realise it
a relationship, romantic or otherwise, where an NPC and PC can be equal parts of a team, whether that’s being a kickass power duo, mutually having each other’s backs in an emotionally supportive way, or some other dynamic
less of an archetype, more something on the wishlist, but characters who have gone through some life or work changes before the game starts, so there is a strong sense of their previous life (this could mean characters in their mid 20s or older, or might just mean a younger character who’s gone through something notable)
I want this one so bad I may have to write it myself.
Other things I’d like to see:
An IF that works more like the “separate path” otomes, too, where you have a common intro, pick your path, and then the stories are all different from there. It might be more difficult to implement in IF than VN, and would require a friend/aro/ace path for those who aren’t into the romance, but it’d be fun.
ROs making the first move–let the MC be a tsundere or an ice queen/king for a change, and let the ROs thaw them. It’s a ton of fun to write, and would be even more fun to play.
Isekai. It would be a good way to bring in an older MC and force them to “start over”, so to speak, while still allowing them to be more grounded and experienced than a tween or someone in their early 20s.
Romances that aren’t so childish and stupid. Let adults be adults and get on with things, instead of dragging it out through the entire game or across a series.
I think isn’t exactly underused, but my absolute favorite romance trope is sunshine and grumpy. I’m not talking about mean characters. It’s more like, for example, a RO that is always sulking but when they see or think about the MC they get a little smile on their face. It’s so cute.
Talking about ROs, I really would like to see more:
Gentle Giant - looks like could kill you but is actually a cinnamon roll and wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Himbos - make the RO very beautiful but a little dumb, even if they are trying their best
Eyepatch - I don’t remember if there is any CoG/HG/HC with any RO that uses an eyepatch but… yeah, I like it a lot.
Would be nice to discover little things that could make the characters more human. I would like to discover that the seasoned warrior is actually afraid of spiders and that the most intelligent specialist in this government Agency is terrified of talking in public.
About the story, some tropes I like:
The RO unintentionally hurts the MC - like losing control or being mind-controlled. I don’t usually like angst, but this kind of angst is so good. The regret, the fear of losing control again. Yeah.
MC going feral to protect an RO or another character.
Two characters start a healthy relationship early in the game and face a lot of tribulations together
MC and RO tending each others wounds
There are visual novels where you can choose a character early in the story, play their specific arc without romancing them. You play the game in one universe, each time focusing in a character specific plot. In the end, you have the full view of the story. I would like to see something like that in CoG/HG too.
This was my plan with the WIP I made for Halloween Jam, years ago.
A third through the game, you’d chose who to go to a party with (as date or friend, and going alone would also be an option), and then the last two thirds of the game would be completely different, depending on who you chose.
It’s not really difficult at all to implement, it just takes a lot more writing, when you can’t reuse scenes.
Exactly. I don’t get why it’s okay to do what is supposedly harassing someone else, but it’s not okay the other way around. And if showing interest is harassment… I just don’t get it. The worst part is the ROs in these games are always so damned resistant, that it really does end up feeling like you’re a damned stalker or something. It’s really creepy to have to constantly RP that kind of thing.
I’ve tended to leave it more in the PC’s hands in other games, but in Noblesse Oblige and Honor Bound have been really enjoying having characters be flirty towards the PC where it feels right for them (even if the PC hasn’t flirted with them previously). In HB the PC responses range from overt flirting back to “I’m not into this”, with a bunch of in-between stuff like casual touches, pointed looks, shy glances, etc. It feels like more of a varied back-and-forth to write and hopefully doesn’t feel intrusive. The jury is out on how the early romance with the most reserved NPC feels; it will likely go through a few iterations because I really want to avoid it feeling like the PC is wearing them down until they agree to a romance. I’m trying not to overdo poking at those interactions too much now as I know they’ll likely change a bunch
Not necessarily battle, though that’s fun too, but definitely having each other’s backs. My favourite romances in these games are where the PC and NPC can be a team in their relationship (whether a literal team or a metaphorical one). That cheesy saying about looking into each other’s eyes vs being in the same boat and looking in the same direction together, or whatnot. I don’t know if it counts as underused, because I’ve played a bunch like that, but they’ve been great experiences.
I know a number of cases I’ve seen in traditional, story based video games, where the forwardness isn’t overly aggressive, dislike for overly forward ROs tends to be rooted in homophobia. Like, there seems to be much more resistance against male ROs being overly forward than female ROs, especially in games where all or many ROs are playersexual.
Like, if you look at romance discussions on Baldur’s Gate 3, I’ve noticed a lot more dislike for Gale (even separate from the bugs) for making romantic overtures (after the player makes a subtle choice implying they’re interested) than say, Lae’zel who is very forward in regards to her sexual interest or Karlach who shows up at your tend in the middle of the night.
I would also say, theres sort of a line that has to be drawn between “overly forward” and “sexually aggressive” (for the lack of a better term) and that line varies depending on the reader who may find it triggering if the RO goes too far. Like, Jun/ko by some could be considered as being the one making advances, but they’re a sort of extreme so many people react poorly to it. And since they’re the one of the most prominent examples of the RO initiating in Choicescript, they’ve sort of become the model of initiating ROs. I’ve sort of noticed it a lot in Choicescript games that either the MC has to initiate or the RO can, but they take it way too far, without a middle ground, which may have affected perceptions of initiating ROs in IF at least.