On the RPG Maker Central forums many years ago I wrote a outline/sketch/design document for a tactical RPG set (partially) in the community-created virtual LEGO town of Datsville. I have been updating it over the past few days, and will continue to do so over the next several weeks. I’m not sure how far I will progress with this, but here is what I have so far:
Working Title: “Datsville Through Time” maybe? Currently, it’s “Datsville RPG” which sucks.
Abstract: Datsville RPG is a story-heavy TRPG that begins in the community LEGO town project of the same name (begun c. 1999). There is a Facebook page which talks about Datsville. The party later travels to a number of exotic locations, meeting lots of strange people and doing many exciting and interesting things along the way. See “Story / Setting / Premise” for a better description.
Releases: My progress so far has mainly been in getting the graphics and combat scripts working. The source 3D models needed to be converted to POV-Ray format, rendered into images, then cropped and imported into RPG Maker. Several tech “demos” for RPG Maker VX Ace and MV are hosted on GitHub. The version of Datsville I’m working with has its own GitHub repository as well. There are no “releases” yet. You’ll need to download/clone the whole repository. You can find a high-res isometric render of the town here. There are only a few characters in the “demos” at this time, mainly to help me figure out how to script events.
Genre / Features: The game “demo(s)” currently feature a true-to-scale overworld map, with separate combat encounter maps, and one simple scripted side-quest. Combat is going to be TRPG-style, like Shining Force or Fire Emblem. Incorporating d20 rules somehow and making the role-playing system more complex would be nice but is not mandatory. (I have already worked with d20 in a programming context in the past, and could re-use a lot of the code.)
Note: the latest RMMV “demos” for the project only include a single scripted combat encounter. The older VX Ace “demo” is the one that includes the overworld map and side-quest. The LeTBS “demo” for RMMV is not working correctly. There is some kind of issue involving parallax backgrounds that I was never able to resolve. The newer SRPG Engine MV “demo” seems to be working okay.
Game Progression: Linear, no branching narrative. Maybe some traveling back and forth between locations in vehicles (van and spaceship).
Recruitment: I have no solid/fixed ideas for an overarching story as of this time. If someone were to join the project and contribute some story beats that would be awesome!
Story / Setting / Premise: I don’t have much as of now. I haven’t written a story since High School! However, I want the RPG to start out in a contemporary residential or small town setting. Sci-fi and fantasy/occult elements will appear later on. I’m not sure yet how much combat there will be in the game. Probably a lot, but I don’t want the combat to be the sole focus. Thematically, I am aiming for something between between Earthbound (video game), Farscape (TV show), Alien Resurrection (movie), X-COM (video game), Independence War 2 (video game) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (novel series). Sort of a semi-whimsical story involving aliens, deities, government agencies and possibly time travel, that focuses on a rag-tag band of misfits who find themselves on the wrong side of local/global/galactic law and are seeking to clear their names after being (unjustly) accused of some horrible crime. I would like it to be a “PG-13” or “Teen”-rated game. Likely a few mild or cloaked drug and sex references. I would like to incorporate some of the original Datsville model designers as NPC “Easter eggs” in the game, with their permission. (There are already two such named NPCs in the game, currently.) I’m not sure when this game will be set, though. Late 20th century? Early 21st? The present day? Does the entire group travel through time at some point prior to or during the story? Dunno. If I don’t feel confident in my thinking, I will just keep adding layers. Eventually a new structure/form will emerge by itself.
Character Bios: Here are the characters I’ve come up with so far.
(From left to right, and top to bottom.)
- Owen: American, teenager or young adult, hero, maybe a typical stoical Cowboy Western or anime-inspired “do-gooder” blank slate-type character, or a less narcissistic Bart Simpson/Zach Morris. I’m not really satisfied with him and may change him to something with a more elaborate and complicated backstory, for instance maybe he’s a wimpy nerd/bookworm/orphan with glasses and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, who has a powerful hidden arch-nemesis (okay, I haven’t actually thought of anything interesting on my own, yet). I don’t want the character to be too one-dimensional though.
- Gabriel: Latin-American, small time thug/criminal, thief & barter & gambling, passionate and romantic, ties to criminal underground, in search of his lost significant other, melee & small guns & shotguns & knives
- Terell: African-American, hero’s childhood friend, martial artist, strong & athletic, physically adept, blunt melee & unarmed, musician/bard, gamer, kind of sarcastic/a jerk, nerd about something (what?)
- The Doctor: former Eastern Bloc/USSR, science/chemist/medicine, academic, heals stuff, somewhat of an intellectual elitist/snob, implied or openly gay
- Ingrid/Ursula: German, Technomancer, all things technical & computing, possibly connected at all times to a cyborg hivemind, pansexual/polyamorous including machine intelligences, two separate personality “programs”, high mechanical/physical strength, hacking and “cyber mage”
- (Sir) Sanford: British, late 19th/early 20th century big game hunter/officer/explorer, unwillingly transported through time, lots of anachronisms, “Fish Out of Temporal Water”, military officer training, tactician, highly adaptable, optimistic & affable, but sometimes callous, tracking & long guns & explosives
- (need to come up with a name, going by “Zaphod” currently): celebrity “rock star”, vaguely “British” with links to Ancient Egypt & antiquity & pre-history, possible alien life form and/or minor deity, think Zaphod Beeblebrox or Spinal Tap, “bard”, can summon undead, a mystic for whom “anything goes”
- Esmée: British/French/Scandinavian?, ninja and spy/secret agent, access to government funds, gadgets, knives & small swords & small silenced guns, thief & rogue
- Skelly: not much is known about this guy, he was summoned by “Zaphod” and simply never left the group, maybe that makes him a “groupie”, the only character other than “Zaphod” who may have non-technological “special powers”, also who was he when he was alive?
- … n. Need to keep brainstorming.
- Jeff Stembel is the mayor of Datsville. He always wears a bow tie and top hat. Kind of a dunce. Offers some dumb quests.
- Brian Sauls owns and runs the apartment complex at the northwest end of town. He is looking for tenants. Is he a good landlord or a shifty landlord? Dunno yet.
Story Beats / Themes: Lots of tropes.
- Falsely accused/mistaken identity: The group has been falsely accused of doing something they didn’t do. Don’t know what yet. Maybe they were mistaken for someone else.
- On the run: The group is on the run from a variety of members of authority. Local/global/intergalactic authorities. The whole shebang. One group of “enforcers” you battle with will be pretty similar to what you see in X-COM, including a possible cameo by some aliens.
- False motives/divided loyalties: Are the members of your group really who they seem to be? What are their real motives? Are they loyal to the group/hero or to another faction? Are members of other factions manipulating things from behind the scenes? Esmée’s professional loyalties. Esmée’s boss is also her father. Sanford’s loyalty to a once-great but now-diminished empire, and what it stood for. What are Ingrid/Ursula’s hivemind’s views on things? The Doctor is kind and generous, but also an ideologue. Terell is fiercely loyal, but also kind of an ideologue.
- Time travel/cultural anachronism: 1. Sanford likes to trophy hunt, but hunting is not considered fashionable today. He holds what we would consider to be antiquated views on a variety of other subjects, as well. Yet, he remains upbeat and positive, and is well-liked by the rest of the group. 2. Skelly has been dead for God-knows-how-long. But he remembers virtually nothing from before he was summoned. Who was he, and what sort of life did he live before he died (the first time)? 3. “Zaphod” is an ancient being, and possibly immortal. What sort of experiences and wisdom does he bring with him from eons past? What are his actual motives? 4. Esmée and The Doctor seem like (and possibly literally are!) refugees/holdovers from the Cold War. Are they resurrecting/perpetuating old conflicts and fears into the present day and future for their own gain? 5. Ingrid/Ursula comes from a very “futuristic” society and culture. She brings with her ideas and mores that many of us would find radical and shocking. Does she represent mankind’s ultimate evolutionary terminus? Or, is our future not (yet, or at all) determined? The game will hopefully touch upon the subject of what it means to be a “fish” out of the “water” of time, including a trip or two through time together as a group. There won’t be any “causality loops” a la Back to the Future, though. Just possibly a couple of visits to alternate time periods while on the run.
- Lost/unrequited love: Gabriel is searching for his lost girlfriend/fiancée. Sanford left his wife behind in the past in England. Esmée loves another spy in secret. Did Skelly have a family when he was alive?
- Sanity in jeopardy: Ingrid/Ursula has two personalities and issues/conflict with hivemind. Unrequited love is also causing some group members issues.
- Mystery: What are “Zaphod’s” motives? What are Esmée’s faction’s motives and involvement in [plot]?
- Tragedy: Not sure yet. Gabriel’s SO is missing, for one.
- Intellectualism: The Doctor and Terell are both very highly educated, but are also somewhat rigid/inflexible ideologues.
- Creativity: Terell and “Zaphod” are both musicians and performers. Terell started his own school of martial arts.
- Spiritualism: Minor theme: The universe is full of needless/scary complexity that acts to entrap people’s minds. The heart/love/simplicity are what matters. Or something like that. Other themes: ???
- Supernatural/occult: Need to create an occultism-related subplot for “Zaphod”.
- Friendship: Doubts and suspicions are voiced/raised at various points in the story, but everyone ends up being awesome buds.
- Romance: No, or only very limited “shipping” among the aforementioned characters, sorry. Gabriel will eventually find his lost love. Not sure if I will create a love interest for Owen, or who that will be.
- Fun: Terell and “Zaphod” are musicians. Terell and Owen like gaming. Sanford likes to hunt rare and wild animals for trophies (as opposed to sustenance/survival) but really shouldn’t.
- Training/discipline: Esmée, Terell and Sanford spend a lot of time in training/preparation. “Zaphod” never trains or prepares for anything. Owen is kind of a slacker.
- Redemption: Redemption should be another major theme in the story toward the end. Not sure how, yet, other than that the group is struggling to clear its name after being falsely accused. Other members of the group may have legal/other issues that get resolved.
- Comedy: A dumb idea for a running gag is that one or more of the party members is secretly a scholar of some silly and arcane subject matter (the mating habits of spotted leopard toads, for instance) that at first seems totally useless, but ends up being a crucial source of information when the group finds itself in a pinch. This begins with The Doctor, where you kind of expect the subject matter to be nerdy given his high level of education and scientific expertise. It (maybe) ends with “Zaphod”–the most outlandish and enigmatic member of the group–incongruously having a much more ordinary subject matter of interest, such as plumbing or auto repair. The joke gets dumber and sillier (in a “Dad joke” sort of a way) with each iteration. Skelly also serves as comedic relief, sometimes.
- Other: Complicated structure is scary. For instance, the tangled plot the group finds itself mired in.
- The town hall is in the center of town across from the James Jessiman memorial.
- There are a cricket stadium, reptile park and Buddhist temple in the northeast of town. A mosque lies to the southwest near the industrial area. I removed a chapel from the center of town because it is not a MOC and is therefore copyrighted by LEGO. I may re-add or replace it at some point in the future.
- Outer Space Command, radar telemetry, and a plutonium storage facility are located on the south side of town. Tore Eriksson indicated he had some story ideas for this area…
- A shopping center lies to the north.
- An office complex and apartment building lie in the northwest end of town.
- There are two schools: a grade school and a high school. There used to also be a university near the cricket stadium, but it was an official LEGO model and had to be removed. I hope to replace it as well.
- An industrial area and (military) airport are on the far west side of town.
- The town has a police station, fire station, hospital and construction yard. There is also a combination paramedic/fire brigade. Not really sure what it is.
- The town’s denizens are currently not very diverse. I hope to rectify this in the future. (Messing with characters and vehicles is tricky in the software I’m using.)
- Other locations, such as futuristic interior complexes, caves or wilderness, should be somewhat easier to design through the re-use of assets and procedural generation.
Credits: The following people have created LEGO models for Datsville:
Andersen, Jacob Sparre
Svensson (now Palmberg), Martin
JAYSTEPHER The Lego Nerd
Kevin M Bane
D M Garcia
A full list of creators and what specifically they contributed can be found in this table. New contributions are always welcome!
In RPG Maker, I am currently still using some Enterbrain resources, but am fazing them out. Third-party scripts I have used/am using at various times include the following:
"SRPG Engine MV" by Gakuto Mikagami and Doctor_Q
"Lecode Tactical Battle System" by Lecode
"Yanfly Engine Plugins" by Yanfly
"TDDP_BindPicturesToMap.js" by Tor Damian Design / Galenmereth
"SilvSkipTitle.js" by Silver
"Rhyme_MapSmoothScrolling.js" by SpeedDivider
"fullscreen.js" by Christian Schicho
"easystar.js" by Bryce Neal
"AS_InputSettings.js" by Astra Cat
"ARP_TitleCommandExit.js" by Atreyo Ray
Thanks to Eric Shumaker for donating a very nice audio track!
License: Probably Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 wherever possible. (Use of plugins and LEGO elements makes this problematic.)
Legal Disclaimer: LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this project.
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