Monday, February 18, 2019

General RPGs' Random Encounters' Strange Camaraderie

It has been said of both misery and politics that they make strange bedfellows, but I must contend that they are not alone: RPGs, too, join them.

I mean, honestly, does it strike anyone else as weird that you can, while walking around any given dungeon or outdoor environment in an RPG, encounter a skeleton, a bat, and a giant carnivorous plant all within 3 feet of one another, and that they have all formed an unspoken pact to work together as a single, cohesive battle unit to take out any random adventurers that happen to pass by? I mean, it’s not just that your party happened across a bunch of assorted wildlife/indigenous non-humanoids/robots/ghosts/etc at 1 location--it’s that they’re all cooperating specifically against you.

Why are these moles and this owl working together? Aren’t owls usually the natural predators of small mammals like moles? That bird should be concentrating on catching those moles as its dinner, not teaming up with them to assault random androids and aliens that happen to be close by. Furthermore, if the moles are, indeed, capable of working as a team with other non-moles, shouldn’t they choose, in this scenario, to ally with the adventurers, who, regardless of how threatening and unwelcome, are at least not a daily threat to the moles’ existence?

It may seem more normal for a bunch of the same kind of animal to work together, and I guess it is, but at the same time, when has a group of snakes ever come together to cooperate as a team toward a common goal? Snakes do not have thinky-thinky parts advanced enough to understand the concept of teamwork, let alone engage in it. The decision to defend their territory (and that really has to be the only reason they're on the attack, because I don't care how far their jaw unhinges, there's no way those things are gonna manage to eat Velvet and company) should make each of these serpents at least as antagonistic toward their fellows as towards the adventurers--more so, really, since the other snakes are the ones who would compete for the same resources.

And that’s just the oddity you can encounter with semi-normal animals. At least as often as you’ll encounter wolves, bears, eagles, rats, and unusually aggressive rabbits, you’ll get match-ups like this one:

Why is this jester out in the middle of the woods, and more pertinently, why is he working with animated, concentrated, floating spirits of fire? Even better, how is he working with them--how is said fire self-aware enough to determine that it wants to battle alongside this particular humanoid but not the other 4? Why do the fire and the jester want to murder these random explorers to begin with? Was this some sort of extremely private Tinder hookup, and they’re just pissed off at the heroes having caught them in the act? What does the giant fungus get from all this?

RPGs are weird, man.


  1. It may be some abstract representation of going on an adventure and being attacked from all sides by a variety of wild life and supernatural beings (an explanation that does not work so well when the enemies actually co-operate, using healing spells and buffs, etc., to kill the player). As far as abstraction goes, I can believe that of older games, although not so much for newer games on more powerful hardware. It works in a game like Earthbound where, sure, why not have weird creatures gang up on the player's party? It's not much stranger than anything else happening in Earthbound.

    Some games handle this oddity much better than others. I've never checked it out, but the Monster Hunter series, I believe, can feature various monsters fighting against each other. Then there are some open world series like Xenoblade, where monsters generally do not work together and only attack in retaliation against the player. And strategy RPGs, such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Front Mission, typically avoid this problem all together since they usually focus on people versus people combat and provide some sort of reason for the conflict.

  2. I've never understood the concept of fighting an entire ecosystem at the same time, though there's something to be said for consolidating random encounters to be more diverse to account for the time that passes between encounters compared to running into stuff in a game like Zelda. In both game styles, you should see most if not all of the enemies in a given area by the time you're done with it, and condensed encounters are an understandable consequence of having fewer, more laborious battles. You could create 50 formation packs to account for all the flora and fauna, but I'll be damned if I'm going to see all of them. Seriously, your rant is my first hearing of a Jestrex in FF5, and I've gone through docs on that game and played it three times.

    But I digress. It's not a stretch to perceive mixed encounters are represented more prolonged affairs where the threats came and went, with out-of-battle moments being completely safe respites, not a series of ultra-inclusive gangs roaming the lands.

    Games like Monster Hunter are less understandable, and some masterminds in that playerbase casually wave it off as the monsters naturally understanding that you're the most dangerous creature in the area. These preternaturally intelligent animals are also stupid enough to think they'll be the ones to take you down, as you wear the skin of the apex predator that eats the thing that eats these pissants. So you're fighting the flying wyvern plus some tiny raptors plus some animal that charges across the map to knock you on your ass. Every fucking time. The only things that will ever flee from you are (some) large herbivores.

    Which would be one thing if MH were some game you were never asked to think about this, but MH World really leaned on the concept of you being in a living ecosystem, when this mostly translates to no loading screens via running through the videogame terrain equivalent of loading screens. Still pulling universal aggro.