We look to series like Dragon Age and Pirates of the Caribbean see how adding a third neutral party can help you tell more engaging stories
It’s typical storytelling to follow the protagonist versus the antagonist. But what if there was a third party introduced to the mix? One that got in the way of both others. One with their own agenda. How would that change a story? We’ll use Dragon Age and Pirates of the Caribbean as examples of how you can use a third party to develop your story.
The next Dragon Age game may be a ways off but the stories and characters of Thedas span more than just video games. There are several novels and comic books you can sink into until the fourth game’s release. The most recent comic being Dragon Age: Dark Fortress.
SPOILER WARNING: Content may spoil events from the games. You have been warned. We will avoid major spoilers.
Dark Fortress follows fan-favorite character Fenris as he hunts down the son of his former master Danarius. Throughout the three-issue run, we learn that Tevinter mages are creating another powerful warrior like Fenris. It’s something the Qunari aren’t huge fans of either so they show up to put an end to it. Fenris teams up with characters from previous comics and they work together to track down the mages.
Towards the end of the run, events collide and the three groups end up facing off against one another. It’s a story that is familiar to the Dragon Age series and plays out many times throughout. Yet it never feels overused: Quanri vs
Things are going rather well for the protagonist when all of the sudden, the Qunari arrive and they have to rethink their strategy.
How You Can Adapt it
It’s an example that can be used in any TTRPG or novel for that matter. It is a great way to increase tension and build lore in your world as well. Your characters may think they are the only ones hunting down a specific enemy, item, or person but what if they weren’t? Perhaps a third party shows up at inconvenient moments to get in their way. Plots like this are a great way to develop your story and add suspense and action to the mix.
Just when the characters think they’ve got the upper hand, the third party comes in and trips them up. This third group can be evil, good, or neutral. Their motivations can vary from stopping the other two parties, stopping one party, or just adding a little chaos.
Take the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie for example. On Stranger Tides follows Spanish and English soldiers as they search for the Fountain of Youth. The third party consists of Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The climax sees English troops fighting the pirates over control of the fountain before Spanish soldiers arrive and destroy it. After their task is done, they just walk away without fighting anyone.
Introducing a third party to the story can change the flow of the narrative. It’s interesting, adds detail to your world, and gives your payers a reason to think of new ways to handle situations. Although, don’t overdo it.
So, give it a shot the next time your characters are after the BBEG or magical artifact. You never know how it will change your story and keep everyone on their toes.