Welcome to Amazing Gaming Productions. My name is Mark.
I am the game developer of Tales from Trinity City, a dark sci-fi tabletop RPG. You can download the materials here.
The topic of this blog is the themes of Negative Character Arcs.
There are three types of Negative Character Arcs (NCAs).
Fall Arc – the MC is already suffering from lies they believe, and they plunge into the abyss through even deeper lies. The Max White story in Webtastic Stories is a fall arc.
Disillusionment Arc – the MC is suffering from the lies they believe and realizes a dark truth that helps them suffer less but brings great suffering to them and the world. The Joker Movie is a great example.
Corruption Arc – the MC sees the truth all around them but rejects it for a great lie. The Corruption arc could have been the Ghost of Tsushima, but Anakin’s story in the Star Wars prequel trilogy would fall in here.
As you can probably guess, the truths and lies are personal, making an NCA the flip of the Positive Character Arcs. But there are environmental aspects to this as well. Think of it this way. In a society that stigmatizes mental health, you can have some very unhappy clowns who blow the heads off of talk show hosts.
For this blog series, I will look at the renegade run of Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect Trilogy. Shepard has ample opportunity to see the truth of the Mass Effect story but constantly rejects it.
Changes for the Story
For this series, I will change a couple of details of the Mass Effect story to give it a more consistent theme than the one BioWare thrust on us in the end.
Mass Effect is a classic because it was all about the relationships between Shepard and their companions. You could say the theme should be all about character.
As a fan, I think the Mass Effect story is all about character and building relationships because we are stronger together. The more Shepard can rally the races against the Reapers, the greater chance the galaxy will survive the invasion.
It is important to note that some galactic military assets are only possible if you are mostly paragon every single game. In Renegade, there is ample opportunity to mess up the galaxy and lose massive resources by the end of the game.
And a pure renegade run is ultimately about the advanced races dominating the weaker races. Looking at the first Mass Effect, this theme would have been consistent from start to finish.
Instead of the Leviathan being the creators of the AI, they were the cause. Some of the Keeper race created the AI because they realized how their race and other races always sided with the Leviathan.
Since the Leviathans could not affect artificial intelligence because they could only take control of organic minds, the Keepers created a computer system to figure out this problem. The Keepers created the AI to protect and preserve their race and any race, to liberate them from the Leviathans. The AI decided that a synthetic solution was the best way to deal with the Leviathan, so it started to create solutions that helped negate the Levithan mind control.
They created ships to liberate the other worlds and to fight the Levithan. With each world, they preserved the race and the genetics of the Leviathans. Since the anti-mind control technology the AI created did not completely protect against the Leviathans, the AI used the genetic materials of their enemy to its advantage, bringing the next step towards the Reapers.
The ships, now capable of altering organic brains like the Levithan, was more effective against their enemy. The liberation accelerated, and the war was almost over. The Levithan hid in a secret world that none of their servant races knew about and waited and plotted their revenge.
After this, the galaxy enjoyed peace. But the Keepers became a problem – they started to exploit the other races as the Leviathan once did. The AI saw the cycle of violence in the galaxy – the more powerful races would always dominate the less powerful – so it repeated its programming. It went out to liberate the other species by harvesting the Keepers.
The cycle continued as the AI realized all Organic life dominates the lesser life forms for their uses. The AI and the Reapers saw this cycle’s races were no different. The Salarians uplifted the Krogan to fight the Rachni, the Salarians and Turians using the Genophage to almost sterilize the Krogan, and the Quarians creating the Geth, only to try to destroy them during the Morning War.
If you play Shepard to unite the races, they are the first to do so in thousands of cycles. Shepard shows, united we stand, divided we fall.
Why this theme?
If you play a renegade playthrough, Shepard never helps the other races because they do not trust them. After Mindoir and Torfan, Shepard sees the other species as threats, not as allies. They are an alliance officer, looking out for humanity, and screw all the other races.
Even in the third game, Javic tells Shepard that the Protheans subjugated all the other races under their rule, and had their final plan worked, they would have done the same with this cycle.
As Shepard screws the other races through all three games, they doom Earth. The Crucible will destroy the Earth, and the galaxy will descend into a dark age.
Remember, in a Negative Character Arc, not only is there something wrong with the MC, but there is also something wrong with the world. The combination drives them into deep despair, and they act out irrationally!
As we can see from the Mass Effect Series, the themes of an NCA is all about contrasting liberating truths vs devastating lies.
Commander Shepard has every opportunity to build relationships with their companions and the galaxy. Their mistrust of the council and other species ends up costing the Earth.
When you create a Negative Character Arc, remember the theme is always truth vs lies. Show how bad things end if you keep acting out on the lies.
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Have a great day, guys!