July 9, 2014
The Trahearne Issue
I have been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2 with some friends and my roommate lately. Too much, I admit. I just recently cranked a character from level 12 to 35 in two days of playing — which might not be a big deal for some of your hard-core MMO players out there, but for me that was intense — just because I really wanted to wear an armor set I got. Anyway, I bring this up because I noticed something while playing that really caught my attention from a storytelling mind-set. You see, there is a character you will meet in Guild Wars 2, early if you are playing as a Sylvari, named Trahearne. Trahearne is one of the “First Born” of the Sylvari, he is an expert on all things undead, the main enemy of the game, he is the favored son of the Mother Tree (the creator of the Sylvari) and gets to use a powerful artifact sword crafted from one of her thorns, and he is the one eventually chosen to lead the alliance of against the evils of the dragons.
I cannot stand Trahearne.
Seriously, this character was a huge part of why I stopped playing for a while. The further you get into Guild Wars 2, which is a surprisingly story-heavy MMO, the more you come to realize that your own character is not even the main character of your own story. Trahearne is. You become a commander of the alliance under him, basically is second-in-command, which only causes further frustration as once that happens all of your successes are attributed to him. Let me tell you, it only takes one or two time for someone to give praise to Trahearne for something you did before you are ready to light that particular nuisance on fire with your brain. What makes it all even worse is that this is a character that really does not need to exist. There is no reason why you could not have been given all that he has in the story, but no. Trahearne gets to be the special little snowflake here.
Gamemasters everywhere, learn from this. See where this has gone wrong. Talk to friends who play the game with any interest in its narrative and see the ire that Trahearne’s name will bring. Avoid this in your games. Avoid it at all costs. Now, understandably, we all have our favorite NPCs that we want to bring into the story. I have talked about that before, its fine. NPCs can do a wonderful job at fleshing out the world you are creating for your game, but you have to remember that they are not the stars of the show. That honor belongs to the player characters. NPCs can have a lot of importance in your world, fine, but never so much that your players start resenting them — unless that is your plan so that when they turns traitor it will be all the more satisfying. If that is the case, then by all means keep doing what you are doing. I understand that writing a story around an NPC that you control is easier than writing one for a player character. You control that NPC, and thus are able to anticipate their actions with 100 percent certainty but while that may be the easier way it also takes away from the enjoyment of the players, who have come to you to play in a game. Not listen to you tell stories about your own awesome characters.
What Trahearne represents to me is an attempt to keep a handle on the vast variety of characters that are possible in an MMO like Guild Wars 2. By having this one character remains constant, they are able to more accurately direct the story, but in my opinion this was not worth it. Due to his “more special than special” status, Trahearne detracted from my enjoyment of the game just as favored NPCs can for player.
Remember to keep the focus of your games where it belongs: on the players. That is how you can best work towards a fun and enjoyable game for everyone.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good, and Trahearne-free, gaming.