The Chosen One: Playing One / Gming One Advice


Advice


So, this is a trope you see in a lot of media, from The Last Airbender to Kung Fu Panda, and even in some of Paizo's APs. One person is "the chosen one", whether that means they are a lost heir to a kingdom, the bridge between this world and the next, or the last of a bloodline of powerful people.

So the question is, when you have a player who wants to do this, and you want to encourage it with the group's blessing, what are some good ways to go about it without invalidating and overshadowing the other players?

And for players who are interested in playing this trope, what is some good advice for doing this?

Any and all advice is appreciated :D


I stopped doing this a long time ago. What usually ends up happening is that the character who is the chosen one for whatever reason leaves the game and the whole campaign falls apart. Sometimes the chosen one gets killed, other times the player leaves the game, when this happens it really kills the game.

If you really want to do something like this than the best way is to keep it vague. Make the prophecy general enough that it could apply to any of the players. This way if one character is no longer available the game can continue.


1. Think what happens when that guy dies. If that guy has no possibility of death, then you are playing a game that is not Pathfinder.

2. Once you are done giving a thought to 1, you've probably come to this conclusion: being "the one" is something that needs to be achieved, not something that can be gifted. If that player does get to live up to his name, then he's the one. If not, then he was just some dude.

So, two examples: player wants to play "the one" who unites ehh Elves Orcs, and Dwarves. He plays a Half-Orc Swashbuckler with good Disguise and Diplomacy skills, passes for Human when dealing with Elves and Dwarves while showing his full Orcdom towards Orcs, using his high charisma and combat prowess to gain the respect and trust of all sides and brings them together... then yeah, he is the one.

If, otherwise, the player wants to play "the one" who can restore a fallen nation, but plays a Wizard with no ability for Diplomacy, full evocation spell list, and stuff like that, then that player might not be "the one".


I use it as a form of inherited will. If the "chosen" one falls, someone else can claim that "specialness" or whatever for their own. Usually a friend or child.


I have yet to run but have always been tempted to do the sidekick campaign. That is, the DMPC is some higher level guy and the players are his entourage who need to stop the reinforcements, take out the minions, stop the macguffin, whatever. The game still focuses on the players, and the key is that the "chosen one" is actually a DMPC so none of the players feel like they're being left out and you don't have to worry about them leaving/interest changing. And by establishing it that way from the start players aren't super annoyed that they came expecting to be heroes and ended up as sidekicks to someone more powerful (I'm looking at you Forgotten Realms).

I have been in a game with a "chosen one" player (specifically a girl the GM wanted to hook up with) and as a player it sucks. Hard. It's all the fun of an escort mission, playing on hard mode, and having no control of your character all rolled into one. It might be possible to run a version of this where the other players don't feel like they're subservient to whoever decided to make themself the "chosen one" but I'm not sure how. They couldn't be safe from dying (which introduces its own problems), they couldn't be significantly more powerful, and they couldn't force other characters to do stuff (without the usual methods). Which begs the question, what makes them the "chosen one"?

I have actually been in a game with a "chosen one" that didn't completely suck. Specifically, the character was prophesied to defeat some specific villain. This meant it didn't come up except for adventures focusing on that, the prophecy was left specifically vague so they only had to be the one who instigated that person's defeat (which means it could just be the adventuring group they were with continuing on after they die), and it didn't actually convey any new powers. So... less so chosen one and more so prophesied hero.


If I were in a game with a "Chosen one" I'd be half inclined to kill them on principle. Sort of a "Screw Destiny" thing.

That said, if you wanted you could have a PC be the chosen one for the bad guys and prophesied to bring the end of the world or whatever, then have them go "Screw that!"
This leaves the lingering thoughts of "What if what I'm doing will cause the bad guys to win?" and undoubtedly weighs on his allies too, who go "Bob's a nice guy and he would never end the world intentionally, but that old man we met in scene 24 said he would cause darkness to prevail. What if we killed him for the greater good to make sure that didn't happen? I mean, he is a good guy but still..."
Great roleplaying potential there.


Those are all good points, especially the character death. In a game with hero points, I could see it being less of an issue.

I suppose I'm thinking less of a "prophesized hero" or power boost and more of like, say, a title or such. Like, for example, you are the last in a bloodline of kings and queens in a wartorn nation and the campaign is about bring that nation back together. That way, there isn't a direct power boost from the "chose one" hero.

Still, death would be an issue, one that can't really be dealt with without making the game easy mode or fudging rolls. I have an idea for a "TPK" afterlife adventure, but that's probably for another thread.

Perhaps the campaign could be less tied to the "chosen one". Like, the chosen hero has a title that may have some miniarcs revolve around their status, but the overall campaign won't be heavily revolving around their status?

Also remember, this is all dependent on all of the players being okay with this and the PC chosen hero being mature enough to not make the other players seem like slaves. Think Avatar the Last Airbender/Legend of Korra, style relationships.

Grand Lodge

The chosen one/side kick game has to have the right people to pull it all off.

I have run a game (actually have run it twice) where after the first adventure, one of the players becomes "the chosen." By that, I mean they touch the relic they are trying to retrieve and it merges with them. From that point on, they are the Eye Bearer (to those who know what the relic is) and must guide the party to retrieve the other 4 items they need for plot.

Eventually, all 5 of the players get a relic merged with their body and some set of powers. Thus, the chosen one becomes the chosen ones, making the party special(er) instead of just one.

Oh, and if someone dies, the relic pops back out of the body. If the player does not show up again, they show up again at the final battle, having been captured by BBEG.

I will say, even this way it is not very balanced overall. You really need the right person to be the chosen. My games, the 2 who picked up the relic played the guide roll very very well.


Korra was not at all mature, and she was very much a jerk about being the Avatar.

Source: Mako's shattered ego


DominusMegadeus wrote:

Korra was not at all mature, and she was very much a jerk about being the Avatar.

Source: Mako's shattered ego

I guess I mean the players are mature enough to handle this sort of game, rather than the characters themselves.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Tough call, best used if a chosen one is a Mcguffin character (a non-combat NPC, perhaps a "golden child" the group must protect), or the entire group is "chosen".

The group may initially not see it as a problem to have only one character as a chosen one, yet it would get old if it is for more than two or three sessions that I was playing in.


Of course, the easiest way to do this would be to have a sorcerer/bloodrager/arcanist with the Destined bloodline. Perfect fit.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Usually it becomes The Chosen Ones.


I am going to draw from something I came up with in a thread discussing a subversion of the 'chosen one' trope- The idea I suggested was that a trickster type ended up ruining the destiny of the actual chosen one (for example, stealing his +5 Sword of Awesome right before the hero has to fight the Demon King). The actual Chosen one dies, and the united forces falls apart...and our trickster feels responsible.

So, in order to fix things, he tries to make a fake chosen one in order to rally the people into a united force again.

And this is where the trickster part fills in- he must fake prophecies. He pick some random farm boy or idiot noble (lets say Blonde Hair+Blue eyes= striking enough to be mentioned in prophecy, but common enough that he can find patsies and vague enough that the 'chosen' player can make what he wants with only a minor cosmetic restriction). He gives the +5 Sword of Awesome to the guy, and sends him off to kill the local Goblins. He then sneaks in later to get the sword back after the foll gets himself killed. Wash Rinse, repeat until someone surprises him.

Thus, he then has to use bluff, performance, and illusions in order to make the kid out to be the chosen one. Summon the demons he bravely defeats to save the king. Still the holy grail and plant in it in the local thieves' guild. Polymorph a cat into a dragon and tie a sleeping princess next to it. Lie, cheat, and steal your way into fulfilling destiny. Also, obviously, this is better suited for bards, wizards, and sorcerers since they can more easily fake fantastical events.

Overall, this gives an interesting premise, and leaves wiggle room for when things fall apart. The 'chosen one' dies (or his player leaves)? Then make a new chosen one by grabbing another blonde hair/blue eyed brat. The trickster dies? Then maybe play the trope a bit more straight (or have other party members take on the director role in this farce; easy to have brothers, sons, or apprentices take up the mantle). By having a fake destiny, everyone becomes interchangeable enough that things can go smoothly.


Secret Wizard wrote:
1. Think what happens when that guy dies. If that guy has no possibility of death, then you are playing a game that is not Pathfinder.

Was there an errata that I missed? I don't recall constant threat of death as being a base mechanic of Pathfinder.

In all seriousness though, there's almost never a good reason to use that line. It says more about you than it does anyone else's game.


I like the chosen one trope, although I more often have it as the chosen ones.

Make the entire party seem like they could be the bringers of prophecy, or the great hope of a land in darkness. In my experiences, it helps them feel invested in the world and the outcome of their actions.

Keeping it a bit vague can be helpful though, not only in case you lose a player, or a character dies or is retired, but also because that can open up plots like a group of pretenders claiming to be the real chosen ones/agents of prophecy. Might even be amusing to have it turn out that the prophecy was mistranslated or misinterpreted, and theparty have really been heroes by choice all along.

I wouldn't suggest the single player chosen one approach unless it's a single player game. Otherwise the rest of the party will eventually feel left out, or less significant.


Best way I can imagine it is if the 'Chosen One' is an NPC.

And let's keep in mind that it doesn't necessarily have to be uber in combat. In fact, it might be even better if its just the opposite.

Another option is for the PC's to know that one of them is the Chosen One, due to prophecy or some such, but none of them have any idea which one it is - clues and red herrings can be left throughout the campaign until its finally revealed in the climax.


Petty Alchemy wrote:
Usually it becomes The Chosen Ones.

Even if only one of the party is a chosen one, this seems like the best approach.

Have something like 'the children of light' who all have some birthmark or something. The prophecy just says they will fight the darkness and drive it back, but never gets specific enough to say which one drives the nail into the Demon King's coffin. So SOMEONE has to do it, and that one player fits the bill well enough.

But if he kicks it, then someone else has to do it, and you just get someone else that fits the bill. Maybe another adventurer, who had been fighting the darkness on their own in other areas until now. And if one of the other players feels left out, then they can make a Child of light themselves that decides to do a team up.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I liked how it was handled in Babylon 5. "The one" changed through time, with different people becoming the role, each having a moment of greatness thrust upon them. Having the instrument of destiny shift -- that was masterful and interesting.

Hmm


Hmm wrote:

I liked how it was handled in Babylon 5. "The one" changed through time, with different people becoming the role, each having a moment of greatness thrust upon them. Having the instrument of destiny shift -- that was masterful and interesting.

Hmm

A show truly before its time.

Sovereign Court

It might be entertaining to run a "The Sham One" campaign, where the true Chosen One is already dead or was just a big disappointment, and the PCs are pretending to be the Chosen One to give the people some hope.

So you get PCs with no additional superpowers, pretending they do have them. And you have to worry about being exposed and all. Or what if the current Chosen One snuffs it; someone has to take his place, and you have to make up a convincing story about how that works, because you don't want to tell people Santa's not real.


Ascalaphus wrote:

It might be entertaining to run a "The Sham One" campaign, where the true Chosen One is already dead or was just a big disappointment, and the PCs are pretending to be the Chosen One to give the people some hope.

So you get PCs with no additional superpowers, pretending they do have them. And you have to worry about being exposed and all. Or what if the current Chosen One snuffs it; someone has to take his place, and you have to make up a convincing story about how that works, because you don't want to tell people Santa's not real.

Take it a step further, what if the entire framework (the prophecy or vision foretelling the chosen one) was a lie? Suppose a nation is waging a seemingly endless war, and national hope is dwindling. Then, the religious authorities announce a miracle: the reincarnation of the ancient hero has returned to lead the nation to victory! The prophecy was handed down in secret from each leader of the faith to their successor. Now it has come to pass.

Except it's really all a propaganda move to bolster flagging support for the nation/ruler/faith. This plot could play quite differently depending on if the players are in on the scam. Imagine a jobber who is only playing the hero, but comes to identify with the character so much that they actually become the hero.


This is kind of, in my opinion, the ideal behind Mythic Tiers, and they should be played carefully, not just as a way to 'play the game on 11'.

Dark Archive

For the chosen one it's pretty easy even if the character dies, have the other characters be like "Whelp, our chosen one is dead, let's try to find a different solution to the problem" and they continue playing, and the chosen one's player rolls a new character. Just because someone is the chosen one, doesn't mean they have to fulfill their chosen role. Also the way I run it is that the chosen one gets a large amount of circumstantial good and bad things happen to them(I.E. They have more influence on the world around them indirectly) It's also good if you make it so the chosen one's abilities are unique in some way. An example being the chosen one caster bringing back an ancient form of magic(wordcasting) or creating a secret fighting technique(monkey style+Longbows).

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Dying is just another adventure. Check out Kratos in God of War 2 and 3.


Helcack wrote:
For the chosen one it's pretty easy even if the character dies, have the other characters be like "Whelp, our chosen one is dead, let's try to find a different solution to the problem" and they continue playing, and the chosen one's player rolls a new character. Just because someone is the chosen one, doesn't mean they have to fulfill their chosen role. Also the way I run it is that the chosen one gets a large amount of circumstantial good and bad things happen to them(I.E. They have more influence on the world around them indirectly) It's also good if you make it so the chosen one's abilities are unique in some way. An example being the chosen one caster bringing back an ancient form of magic(wordcasting) or creating a secret fighting technique(monkey style+Longbows).

This does make sense and would be how I do it if I did do it. I was originally inspired by the Occultist class in 13th Age, where the default is that only one person in the world is an Occultist. So I was thinking how to run something like that.

Perhaps chosen one or prophecized hero is the wrong term for it. What about someone who is a scion of something? Like Helcack mentioned, the last word caster or the last Qinggong monk, or whatnot.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

last of a bloodline or an order? Yeah , that works. Kind of remind me of Neverwinter Night 2, where you are accompanied by a npc who happens to be the descendant of a great warlock and opens a temple you wouldn't normally have access to. It was fun and simple without an extreme build up to it.


Eltacolibre wrote:
Dying is just another adventure. Check out Kratos in God of War 2 and 3.

It's funny, I've actually been musing an adventure where the plot hook is that everyone is an adventurer that died in a TPK and they have to bargain with death to come back to life.


I've seen this done in games I've been in. I've seen it done well exactly one time. Ramble and personal anecdote below, relevant stuff to the debate is in the TL;DR.

It's in an alternate universe star wars campaign. We the pcs, are low-life scum. The Chosen One has been on the run from the jedi untill the fall of the republic, and now, years later, he goes and gets himself on the bad side of Palpatine, who's been funding him. Long story short, it's heavily hinted that he's trying to bring balance to the force, and he basically makes us his slaves. We do what he tells us to because he could kill us very easily if he wanted to; he lets us live because we're sort of useful. The campaign works in part because he had some deficiencies around technology, which he needed us for, and undercover or clandestine work, which he seems to be too impatient to get right. Also, he's such a douchebag, it isn't even funny. A lot of missions go like this; I need X and am too lazy to pick it up. Go collect it for me, will you?

The campaign consists of two distinct parts

A) Attempting frantically to achieve the results Darth D-bag demands. His expectations are of course, extremely unreasonable, and prone to get us very nearly killed all the time. Still, better survival expectancy than telling him 'no, we're not going to do that.'
B) Coming up with plans to kill the guy. Currently, we're wavering between enough explosives, and getting to level 10 or so and just pile on him 'till he dies.

I guess what I'm saying is that one way to make it work is to have the Chosen One be a terribly powerfull being who needs the party to do stuff he can't be bothered with, doesn't give a rats ass about party survival rate, and threathens the party to get them to work for her.

TL;DR
You want to play up the degree to which the 'Chosen One' scheme is annoying, instead of playing it down. That's working against tension; having your story contraptions work for the reaction you want is always better than trying to curb a player reaction.

For example, if you want horror, the monsters can't be pushovers. It detracts from the horror. You could make a horror game with easy encounters, but you'd be working against tension. Likewise, you could make a 'Chosen One' figure prominently in a game with the intension of the PCs not hating his guts or wondering why he didn't do everything himself, but it'd take extremely careful management and no small degree of skill not to fail.

Sovereign Court

I think if the Chosen One is going to be a PC, or indeed if any PC is going to be nominally the boss of the party, it's important that the other PCs have abilities and other things to contribute that the Chosen One can't.

That way, everyone becomes important to the final success of The Prophecy. Everyone gets a time to shine. And the Chosen One also has to take the opinions of the other PCs into account more, because he needs them.

---

A variation could also be the party where all of the PCs are Chosen Ones, but from different origins; one might be the Chosen of the Elves, destined to finally defeat the Drow; and the Chosen of the Gnomes might be the one destined to lead them back to the First World; and the Chosen of Sarenrae might be meant to defeat the Tarrasque; and so on.

And they're in the intriguing position where one PC's destiny-given powers come in very handy to help actually achieve the near-impossible goals of another one. These Chosen Ones stand a much better chance of each succeeding at their own goals if they work together.


Funny thing...if you're playing in Golarion, it's the Age of Lost Omens. Just because some musty old prophecy from before Aroden's demise SAYS someone is the Chosen One, it does not mean that in this age of broken prophecies and twisted fates that the person in question still is. Perhaps they still COULD be...under the right circumstances. And if they die...so be it. Many prophecies have been proven false already, what's one more? Of course, if they are raised...maybe that was on the next page of the prophecy?

Also, try this thought. My last cleric was chosen to one day lead the earth goddess into the afterlife (wherever THAT is). Fine. But until then, she spent her time getting stronger and learning all she could. Why? Because acolytes don't do that kind of stuff. High priests don't do that kind of stuff. Only people of indomitable will, stubbornness beyond compare, true dedication, and great vision do that sort of thing. So in the meantime, she followed her goddess' dictates, like any good devout cleric would. That led her to help the rest of the PCs put down a lich (because well, deities of life/death or nature tend to despise undead). Then when it looked like the church of the god of undeath was going to fill in the power vacuum left by the lich-king's death, well, her goddess didn't have to say much about that, off my cleric went. But all the while, she knew she was getting stronger so she could, one day, fulfill her role as designed by her goddess. In other words, she could adventure with others regarding shared goals but not be the one in charge. She was actually largely support.


Lathiira wrote:
Funny thing...if you're playing in Golarion, it's the Age of Lost Omens. Just because some musty old prophecy from before Aroden's demise SAYS someone is the Chosen One, it does not mean that in this age of broken prophecies and twisted fates that the person in question still is. Perhaps they still COULD be...under the right circumstances. And if they die...so be it. Many prophecies have been proven false already, what's one more? Of course, if they are raised...maybe that was on the next page of the prophecy?

At the same time, there are still reliable sources in the setting. Norns, a type of fey that usually comes in 3, still have the ability to give accurate prophecy even in the Age of Lost Omens. It usually comes with a test of wisdom though. So yeah... they are a plot hook and an out for when you still need prophecies.

Of course, I find the Harbringers more interesting. They are trying to reenact the prophecies of the Book of 1,000 Whispers...and they are getting desperate since their chances are dwindling and getting more and more far fetched.


Chosen Ones always work better as NPCs, as PCs they either die or disrupt the life cycle of your other players. I stuck my NPC "Prince" in as a recurring plot hook, but gave him his own minor guardians so he wasnt a hindrance to the PCs but had resources and influence enough to get them stronger.
PC Chosen always bugger up the game, there is no fear of death like others folks said. Unless you are clever enough to have your Chosen thrashed by the other Chosen in the world.
If you use hero points, having him "left for dead" all the time but wrecked physically would require great roleplaying, right? Cursed to survive when everyone else is dead around you? Classic fantasy literature material. "Yeah, hes Chosen, but he goes berserk and kills everybody, including his friends, once in a while..." (Logen Ninefingers in Joe Abercrombies novels)


Heimdall666 wrote:

Chosen Ones always work better as NPCs, as PCs they either die or disrupt the life cycle of your other players. I stuck my NPC "Prince" in as a recurring plot hook, but gave him his own minor guardians so he wasnt a hindrance to the PCs but had resources and influence enough to get them stronger.

PC Chosen always bugger up the game, there is no fear of death like others folks said. Unless you are clever enough to have your Chosen thrashed by the other Chosen in the world.
If you use hero points, having him "left for dead" all the time but wrecked physically would require great roleplaying, right? Cursed to survive when everyone else is dead around you? Classic fantasy literature material. "Yeah, hes Chosen, but he goes berserk and kills everybody, including his friends, once in a while..." (Logen Ninefingers in Joe Abercrombies novels)

Unless, of course, the players really believe that you're willing to let the chosen one die and the quest fail.

That happened in another campaign I was part of. It was actually great fun, once we got over the death of the paladin. The quest eventually succeeded, but it was extremely hard. As in, without the chosen one, fights are now APL+12. Have fun with that.


A while back I heard about an interesting idea from a friend.
Probably going to give it a try when my group gets back from their winter adventures.

you take the party and give one person a higher level character
for example lv 5
the rest of the party have one 3rd level character and 2 level 1 characters
this gives the low level characters greater action economy and versatility while the higher level player is out right more powerful. The idea is to create the feel of the main character while not actually taking away the usefulness of the other players.

from here you give out XP as if using the leadership feat so the lead receives xp and then the rest of the party receives xp that does not shoot them up levels but keeps them more in line with the advancement of the main character.

He used lv6 and made them take the leadership feat (this was for 3.5) placed the part members as two 1sts, and 1 3rd.

in pathfinder I would think to do this with 5th to start, just because 7th level you need for leadership starts the game at a very different tier of play.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Scythia wrote:
Secret Wizard wrote:
1. Think what happens when that guy dies. If that guy has no possibility of death, then you are playing a game that is not Pathfinder.

Was there an errata that I missed? I don't recall constant threat of death as being a base mechanic of Pathfinder.

In all seriousness though, there's almost never a good reason to use that line. It says more about you than it does anyone else's game.

Wizard is just pointing out that Pathfinder is a game where characters CAN kick the bucket at the most inconvenient of times. Or designated star players can themselve become permanently unavailable. And that GMs do need to take that into account when planning out big story arcs.

Liberty's Edge

Depends on what you mean by 'Chosen One'.

A Chosen One who is notably more powerful or effective than the other PCs is generally a bad idea, as is one who treats the other PCs badly or as somehow lesser (rather than just acting like they're the one in charge, which can be okay).

On the other hand the whole 'lost heir' thing, or some other arrangement where one PC is of higher status than the others and in charge of them, can work great if arranged properly.

I've actually played that character successfully [he was a Drow Bard nobleman, (not using the Drow Noble race, for the record) in an Evil game where the other players were his fiancee (a Tiefling) and their retinue]. It was actually quite a lot of fun, and just about everyone thought so...to the point where people still remember that game fondly to this day several years later. We wound up with an empire. :-)

Having done this, I feel like there are several things that really help make this kind of thing workable:

1. Don't try this with a new group who are unfamiliar with each other. This is not casual to pull off, you need a group used to working together to manage it.

2. Does your group have a player who's usually the leader? Make them the 'chosen one'. If everyone's already used to them being in charge to some degree, they won't be nearly as upset by the idea.

3. As the player of the 'Chosen One'...be a good boss. Make sure the other characters are receiving the things they desire, don't let NPCs talk down to them, generally support and be friendly with them.

4. Again, as the 'Chosen One', play a support character. This one's tricky, and perhaps not 100% necessary, but very useful. Play a character who's not the star of the show mechanically. Someone who heals and supports the other PCs rather than being an offensive spell-caster or primary damage dealer. You should probably be the party face, but you shouldn't generally take the spotlight aside from that. Bard and Oracle of Life leap immediately to mind as good classes to facilitate this.

5. Speaking of being the star of the show...the GM should, as always, make a real effort to divide the spotlight time equally between the players. This can be done, even with one being the 'lead character'...though that does make it a bit harder. Arrange specific subplots for the other players, tailor encounters to favor their abilities a bit more, all that kind of thing.

6. As others note, have a replacement ready in case of the death of the current person. Nobody's actually immortal in Pathfinder without a whole bunch of Mythic Tiers.


Escort mission. Everyone loves those.

(The chosen one is the NPC)

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