Created By: pureWasted on May 6, 2011

The Party Members Do Nothing

RPG party members' only contribution after joining is combat and idle chatter

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Page Type:
Should We Have This One?, Needs More Examples

Will populate with article if this catches on. Party members in RP Gs pretty interesting characters... up until the point where you recruit them. Once that happens, they become mindless tag-alongs who are there only to fight at your side and provide colorful banter while you explore. It's not that they lose personality, but rather that they lose all self-identity. The Player Character is effectively a plot vacuum, and once other characters come across his path they are no longer capable of autonomous thought and independent contribution to the plot. They are interchangeable. Best case scenario, they'll get a Loyalty Mission later on that will briefly -- but completely episodically -- shift focus to them.

Imagine an alternate Lord of the Rings where the entire story revolves around Frodo. The epic confrontation between Arwen and the Ringwraiths? That was Frodo (alive and well), with some back-up healing from Arwen. The fight atop Weathertop? Frodo saved the day. The Heroic Sacrifice by Gandalf? Didn't happen, because you can't split up the party, and we all know he survived. Merry and Pippin didn't get kidnapped, the Three Hunters didn't run off across Rohan and Fangorn Forest tracking them, and... the entire adventure proceeds in a linear fashion revolving completely around its hero.

Telltale tropes of aversion include So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear.


  • I know Mass Effect plays with this trope slightly in that Ashley and Wrex do some stuff that's out of the player's control, but someone else should fill in the blanks on this one.
  • Mass Effect 2, however, plays the trope perfectly straight. Although party members eventually get their Day In The Spotlight loyalty quest, the outcome of said quest is completely within the player's control. Moreover, the loyalty quests are entirely stand-alone and do not influence the plot, or any other characters, in any way.
  • Played mostly straight in Dragon Age: Origins. Not done the game yet, will add more later.
  • Subverted hard in Final Fantasy VI, where the party constantly splits up into mini-parties (each of which is controllable) and certain characters leave the group due to plot related reasons (or their own decision to) on a frequent basis, only to come back at a time of their own choosing. Unfortunately, So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear usually results.

Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • May 6, 2011
    Combat isn't exactly nothing...
  • May 6, 2011
  • May 6, 2011
    The title was a play on "The Main Characters Do Everything." If you've got something better, I'll take it. ;) Characters can potentially add a lot to a game, be it through gameplay (interesting spells/mechanics), personality (fun to talk to/make for a more immersive gaming experience) or plot. This trope deals with the latter.
  • May 6, 2011
    If I'm interpreting your writeup correctly, I'm not sure if Dragon Age Origins is really an example. Most of what happens is on the Warden, but the party members do get involved in the plot to some extent in response to the Warden's choices -- eg. if Zevran's approval is too low, he will betray you, or Leliana will turn on you and force you to kill her if you destroy the Urn of Sacred Ashes, Alistair will protest and leave your party if you recruit the secret companion -- not to mention that either Alistair or the secret companion can be sacrificed facing the Archdemon and so on, in addition to their special personalized quests. I don't know if that's sufficient involvement, as most don't really directly affect the plot in any meaningful way, I guess (that's still on you for the most part), but I wouldn't call it "nothing", either.
  • May 6, 2011
    Chrono Cross has Loads And Loads Of Characters, and only a few of them get any meaningful role in the plot
  • May 6, 2011
    Offstage Waiting Room? That's the one linked under console RPG cliché #118.
  • May 6, 2011
    • In Guild Wars, the Devonna/Cynn/Mhenlo/Aidan groups is involved in a number of quests and bits of storyline, until they become henchmen.
  • May 6, 2011
    @Duckay, I forgot about the zero approval thing, that's definitely an aversion. As is what happens to Alistair. However, compared to "total aversions" like FFVI I'd say it's still pretty darn straight.

    Offstage Waiting Room is definitely a "compare with" trope, but the difference is that one is more like Fridge Logic whereas this is something that happens (or rather doesn't happen) continuously as you play.
  • May 6, 2011
    ME 2 is not true. Party members split off and form their own strike teams in the final mission (which is the one you are hiring them for) which one you pick for what task determines if there are any casualties

    One of the Party member even saves Shepard from falling off during the final cinematic.
  • May 6, 2011
    @Ghilz, although the suicide mission is a partial aversion (Plotline Deaths can and do happen), it's maybe 1% of the entire game? At best it would be fair to say that the trope is averted in that one particular mission, although, really, as you said it's the player who controls who lives and who dies so even that isn't a straight aversion.

    Another mild aversion worth noting is that certain characters (Miranda, Tali) will get angry over the completion of others' loyalty missions. But even here, it's not a big deal, because a high enough Paragon score will allow you to turn the entire argument into "idle chatter."
  • May 6, 2011
    should we count cases where combat and idle chatter are all there is? Because there are plenty of games like that.
  • May 6, 2011
    Hmm... I was going to say yes, but on second thought... I think part of the point with this trope is the stark contrast between the Player Character (calling all the shots, impacting the plot) and his party (just along for the ride). I imagine that the games you're talking about don't really have the Player Character doing anything notable either, he's effectively just as "along for the ride" as anyone else. But that's assuming there is virtually no plot besides Gotta Kill Them All.

    Open to suggestions, though.
  • May 7, 2011
    Although, in Mass Effect 2, the loyalty missions do affect the plot - not doing them can lead to people dying in the final mission. It's a bit up in the air, though, whether that's what you mean.

    I just remembered a couple more sequences from Dragon Age Origins that might count -- you can control other party members to rescue the Warden when he or she is in prison, and Alistair can take it upon himself to kill the archdemon, even if you instruct him not to, if you're romancing him and take him into the final battle. So I don't know, I'm still pretty torn on DA:O. Despite my arguing, I do see your point on Mass Effect / Mass Effect 2.
  • May 9, 2011
    Party Of Soulless Freeloaders or something like that? Combat is more than nothing after all, though I get what you mean.
  • May 16, 2011
    @ Duckay: What would you say to just listing every game that qualifies for the trope, and then noting aversions and subversions as appropriate? That way people could make up their own minds on whether the degree of aversion is "high enough" or not.

    @ peccantis: Well, to qualify for being a party member, doing combat stuff is pretty much a pre-requisite, right? It's like saying "The Main Characters Do Everything" isn't accurate because there's that one hot dog vendor who sold them a hot dog, so obviously they don't do everything. We can take a vote if you're unconvinced.