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Easing Into the Adventure
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes; there are those who Jump at the Call and those who Refuse the Call. Whether reluctant or adventurous, stories with these heroes can start Easing Into The Adventure by introducing the hero well before they get their wooden sword and very first Fetch Quest in their peaceful hometown; with a young Bob doing chores, playing with friends, having a heart to heart promise with Alice, fighting and losing to the Jerk Jock who teases them. The usual.

This helps us see the hero "before" and better appreciate Character Development, provide exposition, and generally build up slowly rather than quickly to the story's actions. In video games, it can Justify The Tutorial. It also makes their motivations for adventuring, returning home, and fear of losing (or pain at having lost) their hometown all the more poignant.

It does raise the danger of losing fans who would like the actual story and attracting (briefly) fans who will not, because the opening is not indicative of the story.

Notably, if the peaceful hometown survives the hero's Call, there will be a Jerk Jock that the hero will return to face and handily beat, as well as a girl he wanted to woo who he now either marries, or spurns in favor of the girl he met on the voyage.

This is so common in RPGs, be they Western or Eastern, that they might as well patent it — the "faffing about" part makes for great tutorial material.

While we've seen it frequently already, it's still a classic.

See also Good Morning, Crono. Contrast In Medias Res.

Examples

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     Film  

  • Happened in Stardust with Tristan in the town of Wall.
  • Happens in Willow, with Our Hero very reluctantly answering the call.
  • Alien opens with the heroes awaking from hypersleep, making coffee, tending to the cat and so forth. Eventually, of course, it goes horribly, horribly awry.
  • In Star Wars: A New Hope, while the first scenes after the opening crawl are of stormtroopers and Darth Vader storming the Tantive IV, taking Leia prisoner, the droids jettisoning and wandering and being caught by Jawas, Luke's first scenes are of him complaining, then shutting up and obediently doing his chores, being kind to the droids and seeing the hologram of Leia, establishing his desire to go to the Academy but only when his uncle allows it, and staring at the binary sunset while beautiful music swells. Only then does he get the Call and go in search of the runaway R2 and also Old Ben. Deleted but apparently still-canon scenes set during the Tantive IV events show him trying to show his friends at Tosche Station the space battle and being mocked, and meeting an old friend who'd gone to the Academy and is planning on joining the Rebel Alliance (Biggs, who's actually in the final film, and a bit more in the special edition, hence why Luke is so sad when Biggs dies).
  • Shaun of the Dead begins with the title character going through the motions of his dull, directionless life, with only tiny, sporadic hints of the coming Zombie Apocalypse; passing a "crazy hobo" on the streets who's actually one of the first zombies, trying to change the channel on a TV without noticing that they're all showing coverage of the zombie outbreak, etc.

     Literature  

  • Older Than Radio: In Kidnapped (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, the hero is kidnapped from his home.
    • Most of McKinley's novels follow the same template, so one way or another, the misfit heroine gets dragged into the magical world against her will.
  • Harry Potter examples are interesting because he visibly partakes in verbal abuse in them, and has no comfortable life.
  • Taken from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, where Bilbo and later Frodo and company are just chilling out in Hobbit Land, and Bilbo's party happens, and all in all it's a few hundred pages of the book and a half hour for the movie to actually start them on their journey.
  • Robert Jordan admitted to writing an homage to Tolkien as the beginning of the first book of The Wheel of Time series.
  • The Belgariad opens with Garion growing up, and things begin to cascade after he gets into his teenage years. Humorously, part of the catalyst is Polgara insisting on getting him out before he ends up in a "necessary" marriage.

     Live Action TV  

  • The first minute or two of "Rose" in Doctor Who is like this, but the other post-2005 companion introduction episodes more or less involve the Doctor straight away.

     Video Games  

  • Chrono Trigger begins with Crono's mother waking him up in the morning so he can go to the fair and meet his friend. It even starts off with a lovely little tune called "Town Life."
  • In Half-Life 1, you start with a pleasant monorail ride into work and a few chats with your workmates, before things Go Horribly Wrong.
  • The first few levels of Psychonauts are normal (for the camp) lessons in basic psychic techniques, with the only abnormality being Raz's stellar natural talent. Then Dogan's brain goes missing and things start to get serious.
  • Every Pokémon game ever made does this. Notably in Pokémon Gold and Silver, you're on an errand and initially have a Pokémon as protection rather than To Be a Master.
  • Kingdom Hearts I starts on the Destiny Islands, with Sora waking up from a confusing dream to find everything seemingly normal...apart from a run-in with a creepy hooded figure who says his world has been 'connected'.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind starts with the player getting off a prison ship and talking to various people in an Census office in a small swamp town. Even after the player is released into the Wide Open Sandbox, the main quest begins with lots of talking, reading, and fetch quests.
  • A few Zelda games have done stuff like this, most notably The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which started out by making you close up the barn and help out a few villagers.
  • Dragon Quest VII starts off with the hero and his two best friends trying to unravel the mystery of the ruins nearby his hometown. After about two and a half hours of exploring and puzzle solving, you finally fight your first enemy. It's a slime.
  • In Little Big Adventure 2, you could potter around your hometown indefinitely (if you were easily amused). It was only once you'd completed the first mission and found something for the Weather Wizard so he could dispel the storm that aliens would land and the plot started.
  • Most of the Mega Man Battle Network games start out with Lan and Mega Man either a) performing an errand on the net or b) just playing there. This helps you get use to the way the net is set up.
  • The first Guild Wars campaign begins as "the last day dawns over the kingdom of Ascalon." Players have found ways of getting to the maximum level without leaving this special area. This is even encouraged, within reason, by the existence of the "Legendary Defender of Ascalon" title.
  • Fable I starts with the protagonist doing some good (or bad) deeds in his peaceful village of Oakvale in order to get something for his sister's birthday.
    • Likewise Fable II starts with the street urchin protagonist helping his/her sister do good/bad deeds in Bowerstone's Old Town to earn money to buy a magic music box. Unlike the original game, however, actions taken here actually have consequences later in the game. Don't get used to it.
    • In Fable III, you start by exploring your castle, talking to people, sparring with your mentor, escaping the castle through a secret passage which contains nothing more dangerous than bats (and not the goddamned kind). After that, you have to gain the support of the Dwellers by completing a series of tasks that teach the player about the remaining game play mechanics.
  • The first Grandia game plays it completely straight, right down to the childhood friend and the Jerk Jock.
    • In Grandia II, the main character, Ryudo, has already left home and has the life of a Geo-Hound (read: mercenary). The lead female, Elena, however, has this experience before going off to save the world. Funnily enough, though, Ryudo does return to his village, filling us in on in motivations and shutting up the local Jerk Jock.
  • Fallout 3 goes above and beyond here: it starts with your BIRTH.
    • And then with you being able to CHOOSE YOUR OWN FACE (and sex and race).
    • And it does not stop there, then you skip ahead.... 1 year. Yes you walk around as a 1 year old, where you decide your SPECIAL stats. Then you skip ahead....9 more years to 10 years old. There you start deciding your personality and learn to use your first weapon. Then you skip ahead to 16 years old where you decide your skills. FINALLY you skip ahead to a Good Morning Crono moment and THEN the game goes through you escaping the vault, which gives you one final chance to change everything you just made up. Fallout 3 is one of the few games where people may end up saving a couple of times before they even finish making their character.
    • Even then, the Wasteland Survival Guide quest line is largely there to teach you a few more game mechanics you might have missed and point the way to the Noob Cave before you start on your quest proper. This is optional, however.
    • The trope is notably "optional" in Fallout: New Vegas - The entire town of Goodsprings basically exists to be the stage for the combat tutorial, to give a few quests to discretely introduce various gameplay aspects (speech checks, reputation, karma, etc) and to build up your character's level. However, the quests and tutorial are optional, and players can basically go anywhere and do anything from the moment the game hands control over to you.
  • In Xenogears, Fei is told to run around and help with a close friend's wedding, during which he'll talk to villagers that will instruct him in game mechanics (up to and including Lucca Ashtear from Chrono Trigger.) The reason he leaves Lahan and goes up the mountain in the first place is because he was sent up to Citan's house to borrow his camera.
  • After a brief prologue showing a battle between the homs and Mechon in the past, Xenoblade goes into this, focusing on the daily lives of Shulk, Reyn, and Fiora before things get ugly. There's a surprisingly large amount of exploration and sidequests available to do before the game's plot kicks off proper, some of which does involve roughing up the local wildlife, though.
  • Baldur's Gate does let you walk around your hometown a bit (and killing rats, ordinary rats)
  • Neverwinter Nights begins with the player waking up in an academy for RPG adventurers, and eventually graduating the same day, until the place is suddenly attacked by assassins.
    • Likewise The Neverwinter Nights 2 tutorial starts you out in the harvest festival. It is, however, skippable, and you'll even get the two levels that you would get by playing the the tutorial anyway. You do miss out on a couple of not-bad items if you skip, though.
  • In a way, Portal is like this. When it first starts everything seems like some normal series of puzzles you have to complete with no real story behind it.
  • Suikoden games tend to do this, letting the player get acquainted with (and attached to) the cast and experiencing their normal lives before they start getting caught up in the plot. In particular, Suikoden V spends its first few hours developing the Prince, the rest of the royal family, their loyal servants, the noble families, other important people they meet... with a few brief periods of action/combat before getting into the real meat of the plot. And it works.
  • Completely averted in The Legend of Dragoon. After a brief exposition, we meet our main character. Being chased by a Dragon (In a world where there are only 7). After that, you find your hometown is burned to the ground and your childhood friend kidnapped. Then you break into an imperial prison.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, Ezio's adventure starts with him getting in a minor scuffle with his family's rivals, doing errands for his parents, racing his older brother around Florence, finding eagle feathers, and having sex with a girl he fancies.
    • Carrying the box of paintings for your mother is a Chekhov's Skill that doesn't come up again until near the end of the game.
    • While just before that Desmond was escaping a giant building and bashing security guards in an overall atmosphere of panic and haste. Assassin's Creed is complicated.
    • Actually you start by seeing Ezio's birth, and then his first kicks and movements introduce you to the interface, well sorta...yeah, really freaking complicated.
  • The Origin stories in Dragon Age: Origins. Of course things get worse pretty quickly in each of them, leading your PC to be recruited into the Grey Wardens. Subverted in the Mage Origin story. The first thing you have to do in the game is survive The Harrowing; the final test to determine whether an apprentice has the discipline to be a true mage. Failure usually leads to Demonic Possession followed by Death By Templar. The demon your PC faces also happens to be one of the most powerful demons of the Fade, a Pride Demon. Fortunately it doesn't try to possess you by force. Apparently he was in on the whole "test" thing.
  • The tutorial for Heavy Rain involves guiding Ethan Mars through his morning routine.
  • Gothic: Get kicked into the colony, faff around looking at the lovely scenery, try not to get eaten by wild beasts, maybe talk to people and get a good standing with the various groups. It takes a good, long while before anything critical starts to happen.
  • Mother 3 gives you a feel for your family, all the civilians, and the peaceful, wonderful community... making it far more dramatic and emotional when the plot kicks in
    • Well, to some degree. By the time you meet most of the townspeople, the village is engulfed in flames and you have to start fighting enemies.
  • Discworld MUD has Pumpkin Town, the newbie area for players to get used to the interface and commands in the game and to learn to listen to signs.
  • Averted in Final Fantasy III, where you start out in a dungeon, and can't even save until you defeat the boss. The remake makes things harder, because you only have 1 party member instead of 4. When you finally kill the boss and leave the dungeon, you're still easing into the adventure (you don't start the adventure proper until you recruit three more characters, defeat the Djinn and unlock the job system, which takes about an hour or so). In the original however, it's 4 characters from the start, and no easing.
  • In almost every Shin Megami Tensei game, you usually get a bit of gameplay where you can just walk through the city, talk to friends and characters and just generally have a good time. Except that even that hints up on being a Crapsaccharine World, and then things go bad.
  • Tales of Phantasia begins with Cress and Chester wandering around Toltus, helping people and then going to a forest to hunt a boar. Things go downhill from there.
  • Vandal Hearts 2 starts, after a horrific scene of Rape, Pillage, and Burn done by a Black Knight squad, by introducing your main character trying to catch a butterfly for his sister. The intro continues into what is essentially a childhood's game of adventure (even if they do wield real weapons), until you had to kill the possessed remains of your Love Interest's grandfather. After that, it skips several years where everything has gone twenty shades of wrong.

     Western Animation  


Early-Bird CameoBeginning TropesEstablishing Character Moment
Dungeon MaintenanceRole-Playing GameAn Economy Is You

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