Victory, but at what Cost?

Right now I’m running a Dresden Files RPG game, continuing the story we wove when we Alpha tested the game back in 2008-9. I realized the other day that a stole a bit of the plot, and some of the planned ending from one of my favorite video games–Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals.

Victory, but at a high cost.

Lufia II is one of my favorite games and will probably remain so for a long time coming. I play games for the story. It came out on the SNES when I was twelve but I can’t remember when we bought it. I do remember we got stuck at one point during the game and it took us a long, long time to puzzle out how to get past it. This was long before the days of gamefaqs.

You start off as a monster hunter named Maxim (or whatever you decide to name him). You go off on an adventure, fighting monsters, meeting people who become your party members. You can only have four people in your group at a time, but unlike other games where you get to choose which four are with you, there are story reasons why certain people are with you and certain ones are not. The combat is turn-based and there are a great many puzzles in the dungeons; even getting around monsters becomes a puzzle. They only move when you move.

You find out about the big bad, Gades, and are helped by a mysterious woman named Iris. You go slay the big bad, and by all intensive purposes, Maxim is supposed to die at that point. He doesn’t because Iris saves him. Maxim gets married to one of the party members, Selan, and they have a son together. Everything is supposed to be all well and good.

Then their son gets kidnapped and after they rescue him they find out that not only Gades is alive, but the other three Big Bads (the Sinistrals) are around too because Maxim *didn’t* die. Because he had a son and left his legacy in the world. So, after leaving the wee babe in an Auntie’s care, they go out and confront the big bads. They find out Iris, who had been helping them throughout the story, is one of the Sinistrals and they have to defeat her.

They finally defeat all four Sinistrals, but Selan is gravely wounded. Her and Maxim are trapped where the other two party members (and by this point, very close friends) can’t reach them. They both end up dying, sacrificing their lives to save the world, save their friends, and save their son. They had won, they had defeated the Sinistrals, but the cost was their very lives.

It was the first video game that had ever made me cry. It still makes me tear up if I think about it too strongly. It was the first game I had ever played and beaten that told me “Not all endings are happy ones.” It is something that’s stuck with me as I grew up. I seem to revel in stories that reiterate that fact, that not all endings are happy ones. Moulin Rouge has it. Christian wins Satine from the duke, but she dies. Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog has it. Dr. Horrible kills someone to gain membership into the League of Evil, but it was the girl he loved.

And I am bound and determined to have my Dresden Files RPG have it. Victory, but at what cost?

Our last session had it, where one of the characters was so gravely wounded in his soul that he ‘died’ and his body is being animated by someone else for the time being (which a lot of that was the player wanted it too). They won that fight–they defeated the demon, the denarian, and the warlock they were facing–but they lost one of their companions for the time being.

That’s how I’m going to end the game. They will ultimately win, but the cost will be high, possibly more than they can bear. I also have an ‘Iris’ like character, someone who is helping but ends up being a big bad in the end. Possibly more than one.

I like happy endings from time to time, but there are too many of them out there. Give me pain. Give me suffering. Give me tragedy.

Give me Victory, but at a high cost.