Oct 22, 2021 5:05 AM
a grape grapples with tropes outside her literary canon
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"That's all the world stuff. The next thing is your role within the game, ie, which of three possible 'villain' characters you'll be filling in for. The options are the Royal Princess, the Duke's Daughter, and the Rich Heiress."

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"Well, that's an interesting assortment of titles. What are the practical differences between them?"

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"Pick the Royal Princess and you'll be the daughter of the King of Villarosa, the highest ranking and most desired bachelorette in the nation. This comes with all the obvious advantages, and will automatically make you the alpha female in any room. Yet abuse your royal privilege too much and you might find it less protection than you think... just like your counterfactual fictional counterpart. The Duke's Daughter is the only daughter of the highest ranking noble in the land - by default the Duke of Thorns, though the title will change based on the cultural influences you pick for Villarosa. This is a lot like being a princess, but less so. However, what you gain is that your engagement will be an important part of your father's political plans, so you can can call on his resources for aid in defending it. But that'll only last as long as the politics make sense... if things go wrong you will quickly find yourself disowned and left unprotected from your enemies. If you don't want to be nobility for some reason, the Rich Heiress is your pick. You'll be the daughter of the wealthiest merchant in the realm; not noble, but rich and prominent enough to freely move in those circles. You won't have the power of a noble title, but what you will have is money. All the money. And that's a power all of its own. But unless and until you marry the right boy, you're still technically a commoner, and your father's money won't be protection enough if you offend the wrong people."

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"Tough choices all round. But I think I like looking up at politics from below better than looking down at it from above. The Rich Heiress sounds more my speed." Note note. "Next question?"

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"The next question is which of the options for the hero of the story--the heroine's designated love interest, over which the two of you are destined to be rivals--you begin the story in an arranged betrothal to. The options are the Prince Charming, the Dark Rival, and the Noble Prodigy." 

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"Ooh, do tell me about them."

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"The Prince Charming is a royal prince, the heir to the throne if the Princess Royal isn't, and all around nice, heroic guy. The same age or slightly older than you, talented in everything he does, and romantic enough to make all the girls swoon - including you. You can't really go wrong with him... except for the fact that he's going to betray you and fall in love with the heroine. He's also the most likely to take strong offense to any bullying or nefarious tactics on your part."

The Dark Rival is essentially the dark mirror frenemy of the Prince Charming, usually close to the same age as him, and therefore you. At the start of the story, he's even more talented than Charming, but ultimately the good guy surpasses and befriends him. You know how the story goes. The consummate bad boy, he's liable make your knees weak and your heart beat fast. He can be mean, but never quite evil, and he's got a heart of gold deep inside just waiting for the right girl to unlock it."

The oldest of your choices, the Noble Prodigy has already graduated from the academy and made a name for himself. He is of lesser nobility, but by merit has ascended the heights of society. Your setting choices may alter his exact deeds, but by default he will have made a name for himself both as a warrior and a commander. To you he will be cold and formal at first - not cruel, not unwilling to be wed, but certainly the least emotional of your potential fiances. A tragic backstory has put walls around his heart, but he is vulnerable to having them felled by the power of True Love."

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"Where the right girl, in all cases, is not me, correct?"

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"Your fiance will fall in love with the heroine, that's definitely going to happen, but it's not out of the question that he'll love you too! If you can make it work. So...theoretically, and in most cases, but not absolutely."

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Note note. "Hmmmmm. All right, I'll think about that one. Anything else?"

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"Oh, for sure. The next thing is the heroine. When you choose your role and your fiance's, the other options will still exist, as alternate paths the heroine could have taken in the story, but by default there's only the one heroine. The heroine options are the Poor Princess, the Hero's Daughter, and the Extraordinary Commoner."

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"All right, and what are those all about?"

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"Despite being royalty, the Poor Princess is for some reason neglected and powerless. The most popular reason is for her to be the King's daughter with a previous, politically inconvenient Queen. She might instead be a legitimized bastard daughter, or a refugee from a destroyed kingdom. Regardless of the reason, she lacks most of the advantages of her station that the Royal Princess enjoys, and, while far from incompetent, is the least personally formidable of the potential heroines. What she does have is the a kind heart, a lovely face, and just enough social advantage from her royal blood to tie your hands somewhat."

The hero's daughter's heroic parent died accomplishing some great deed - defeating the Demon Lord, sealing an eldritch god, etcetera. This won a posthumous elevation to the ranks of the nobility. This gives his or her daughter legitimate noble status, but none of the experience or social mores expected of a noble young lady. She will be quite talented, but will lack the extreme genius of the self-made Extraordinary Commoner. What she will have is fame, the inherited gratitude of the country, and connections with her parent's influential and dangerous surviving companions. Your fiance's curiosity with her will soon turn to attraction, and the Hero's Daughter is not to be underestimated."

The Extraordinary Commoner is the 'default' option. Of humble background, without any social status, this accomplished young woman won admission into the exclusive Royal Academy on sheer merit. Given the stratified social structure of Villarosa, this is quite the achievement, but makes her the proverbial nail sticking out. That gives her an obvious weakness, but she is by far the most talented of the potential heroines. She will outshine her more pedigreed classmates and thereby attract the notice of your fiance." 

And no, we're not done yet," she smiles slightly.

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Note note note. "Well, all right, go on then..."

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"Just so you know what to expect--the remaining things to choose are your story-counterpart's ending, the minions you have at your command, and the perks and flaws available to you." 

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"What are my options for endings, anything exciting?"

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"Death, being sent off to a nunnery, being forced into servitude to your rival, being stripped of everything you have and left to eke out a living on the streets, being exiled to a foreign political marriage, and simply being dumped and humiliated. The first one gets you an extra perk and the last one costs you an extra flaw."

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"Perks, tell me about perks—actually no, go in order, minions next." Note note.

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"You get two choices from the minion category, and you are allowed to choose the same kind of minion twice. The minions are Maid, Classmates, Admirer, Animal Companion, AI, and Butler. AI is short for Artificial Intelligence and essentially refers to a person constructed out of either magic or thinking machines."

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"All right, let's hear the details. What's an Admirer exactly? How do Animal Companions work?"

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"'Maid' will give you a female personal servant, or a cross-dressing boy, if you like, although that would be quite scandalous in many settings. Unlike any "normal" maids you have, a Maid minion is guaranteed to be highly competent, almost unquestioningly loyal, and have some useful skill beyond housework. Most commonly, she might double as a bodyguard or a spy. And even if it makes no sense in your setting, she can come with a traditional maid outfit, if you want."

The Classmates minion is actually two people, but they will almost always act as a pair. Picking this gives you two female classmates your age of slightly lower social status, whose families are formally or informally in service to your own. These two are therefore predisposed to be your friends and follow your lead. The Classmates are probably the most independent and proactive minions, and therefore also a deniable asset. They can be counted on to give you insight into the Academy gossip and help subtly manipulate it; both of which are tasks your exalted status can make difficult to accomplish yourself."

The Admirer is the male counterpart of the Classmates, though he is only a single boy. He is a talented but not exceptional fellow student with an obvious crush on you. While he knows and accepts he has no chance with you, that doesn't mean a bat of your eyelashes doesn't twist him around your little finger. You may choose for him to be a rival or a friend of your fiance; either way he will prove a useful tool. You may optionally choose to spend an extra flaw to select one of the choices you have not already picked for Your Fiance to be your Admirer instead."

The Animal Companion minion is some domesticated or tamed animal that you have bonded with and trained. In technologically advanced or magical settings, it will have near human intelligence as a genetically engineered or magical companion; in more mundane settings it will simply be an implausibly well trained pet or steed. This can be anything from a pet cat to a pegasus mount. You can even have a dragon, but only if your Villarosa's dragons are the lesser kind that can be reasonably domesticated; not if they are monsters of vast power."

'AI' gives you a human-level artificial intelligence as a personal servant. Besides the obvious advantages of an ally that never tires or sleeps, the AI will be capable of trivially infiltrating and controlling most  lesser thinking machines. If Als are common in your Villarosa, the AI minion will still be more advanced than the commonly available kind. The AI minion requires a tech level of Marvelous or above." 

Unlike your other options, the Butler is not directly your servant, but is instead a much older person, usually employed by your father, who has taken a liking to you. This character is often a man, but can also be a woman. Their actual job title could be Majordomo or Head Maid, or they might even just be an old friend and ally instead of holding a formal role. They are extremely skilled, but they are unlikely to ever intervene directly in your struggles. However, they instead can be an important source of grounded and wise advice, if you are willing to listen."

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Note note note note. "I can see the appeal of a lot of these... is it possible to have an artificial intelligence as a personal servant without them being otherwise common? A one-of-a-kind creation?"

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"Yes, that is entirely possible." 

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"I like that idea. That and a maid, or maybe some classmates. All right, now tell me about perks."

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"Perks! In addition to any perks you earn through other choices, you get four free perks before you have to start buying them with flaws. The perks are 'Bad For Her, Good For You,' 'Double Route,' 'Early Start,' 'Equal Friend,' 'Extra Minion,' 'Feminine Wiles,' 'Goddess of Beauty,' 'Good Ending,' 'In Love,' 'Lady of Battle,' 'Magic User,' 'Magical Prodigy,' 'Marvelous Talent'--no connection to Tech Level: Marvelous--'Off the Rails,' 'Ohohoho!,' 'Scientific Revolution,' 'Silk Hiding Steel,' 'Surprisingly Useful Skill,' 'Unearthly Insight,' and 'Yuri Heroine.'"

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