October 25, 2020
If I Designed It: A Persona-Inspired RPG

Indie games are a blessing. Even if it means risking failure, many indie developers aren’t afraid to explore new ideas, storytelling techniques, and characters. But I’ve also been waiting for a game studio — a big game studio — to step out of the established ‘comfort zone’ of popular tropes for a very long time and can’t really think of an example that satisfies me.

In this day and age, a lot of people still feel underrepresented in various forms of media; there are plenty of diverse supporting characters, but few protagonists that stray from cookie cutter “hot” Caucasian people. So, as I finished up Persona 5 recently, I found myself super inspired to come up with a similar concept of my own, inspired by the teenagers fighting the injustices of the world sort of vibe.

The concept below takes heavy inspiration from Persona 5 and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, although I would make significant tweaks if I were to work on the project for real. I also want to note that I’m advocating to include a bunch of different stories that I have near zero experience with as a straight, white-passing, heterosexual cisgender. If this game were to be made into something legit, I’d basically loop in people who could speak to those experiences for accuracy’s sake. This is just an outline of a plot, as well as characters, that I’d love to see in a Persona-esque sort of game one day.

Also a disclaimer: I do not own any of the art used in the below. They’re just references for concepts. All clear? Wonderful. Onto the fun stuff!

The Premise

Our Protagonist (default name Imani Kuroda) has recently moved in with her Aunt while her house undergoes major renovations a couple of towns away. She enrolls in her new school a few weeks into the beginning of her senior year and aims to make the best of this strange new situation, although she is wary of her surroundings.

After a near-death experience she finds herself with a mysterious Man and his Assistant, who promises to return her to life so long as she agrees to help him with a very serious problem: someone is planting ‘Seeds Of Sin’ throughout the city, which absorb the negative thoughts and feelings of the mortals around it until its roots drain them altogether. 

Our Protagonist and her companions must enter the Gardens that sprout forth from the Seeds, as well as determine who is responsible for sewing them in the first place and put an end to their scheme.

Main Cast

Protagonist/Imani Kuroda. 18. Our mostly voiceless Protagonist. Has an affinity for magical girl manga, according to the decor in her bedroom.

Her family is very wealthy, but contrary to what people expect, she isn’t a spoiled brat and understands the value of hard work. She attends Cypress High. Her Persona Bloom is a Red Rose. She represents the Fool Tarot.

Nadine Peters. 17. A young trans woman who only recently started hormone therapy at the start of the school year, so she still physically is perceived as male. She has stopped coming to school since the start of her transition to avoid ridicule and was put strictly on online classes. The Protagonist is first introduced to her when asked to drop off project-related materials at her house.

Her parents recently divorced due to her mother’s inability to accept her “son’s problem”, but her father Bernie stands by his decision to support his daughter. She aspires to draw comic books for a living one day one day. She is dateable and attends Cypress High. Her Persona Bloom is a Sunflower. She represents the Death Tarot.

Sofia Perez. 16. She attends Oakwood High and is on the school’s dance team. She never hesitates to speak her mind and is always ready to jump in and fight for what she believes in, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues.

She is constantly at odds with her foster parents, who wish their daughter would keep her head down more and not cause such a scene. She wants to be a pro cheerleader one day. She is dateable. Her Persona Bloom is a Dahlia. She represents the Lovers Tarot.

Minh Phan. 17. They attend Cypress High and are the grandchild of Miss Phan, the old woman who owns the game’s Item Shop.

Although biologically male, they identify as nonbinary and are struggling to come out/explain this to their conservative Grandmother.

They love trashy reality TV and ASMR. Dateable. Their Persona Bloom is a Lotus. They represent the Empress Tarot.

Lawrence “Lore” Weber. 18. A young man who attends Cypress High and fully embraces the Goth aesthetic.

He has a crush on his childhood best friend, Preston, who’s on the school football team and is in a whole other social circle.

He has a flair for the dramatic and loves Dungeons and Dragons. His Persona Bloom is a Tulip. He represents the Magician Tarot.

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Deion Wilson. 18. He attends Oakwood High and is a popular, model student. He wants to be a journalist that reports on disasters and is super witty, but internally he is struggling.

One year prior to the game’s start, Deion snuck into a college party and got super drunk. No one knew he was underage; they thought he was just a cool freshman and let him hang out. But a few sorority girls lured him upstairs while he was intoxicated and sexually assaulted him, taking photos and video of the entire ordeal.

Deion could have gone to the police, but he decided not to. One, he knew he would get in trouble for trespassing and underage drinking. Two, he didn’t think that he would be believed, and if not, was afraid the girls would turn the situation around on him.

So he tried to put it out of his mind and pretend like it didn’t happen, but he hasn’t dated anyone since and is really touchy about people getting too physically close to him. His Persona Bloom is a Lily. He represents the Emperor Tarot.

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Iris. A faerie-type creature that speaks through a necklace provided to the Protagonist and their crew. She is their Support character/Navigator who is able to sense the Seeds of Sin.

Iris has an innocent, child-like personality and is always asking questions about humans and their lives.

A lot of things tend to go over her head, but once they are explained to her, she reacts quite strongly. She represents the Sun Tarot.

Supporting Cast

Kamirah Jones. 45. The Protagonist’s Aunt, younger sister to Protagonist’s Mother. She is a hardworking, no-nonsense woman who has faced a lot of discrimination in her lifetime. She has held a grudge against her sister for marrying a wealthy man, and therefore “never having to work a day after her wedding.”

She wrongly believes that the Protagonist is going to be a spoiled brat, and initially dismisses her as someone who can take care of herself and therefore doesn’t need any familial coddling. She works two part-time jobs and usually wants to be left alone when she’s home. If the Protagonist maxes out Nadine’s storyline, Kamirah and Nadine’s father will begin a relationship. She represents the Priestess Tarot.

Kale Walsh. 16. A punk/emo-looking boy who hangs around the skate park, often sporting a lazy smile and smoking a cigarette.

He talks a lot about philosophy and higher concepts you wouldn’t expect from a high school sophomore.

He is trying to quit smoking, but his anxieties get the better of him and he usually falls back on bad habits. He represents the Hierophant Tarot. He is dateable.

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Van Bigsby: 8. A troublesome little boy that lives in the Protagonist’s building. His mother frequently reaches out to see if she can babysit for her.

He is a scrappy, hot-headed brat but he really acts out in hopes of getting more attention from his family.

He represents the Chariot Tarot.

Jacinth. He appears to be in his early twenties, but his age is unknown. He is the Assistant to Igor and primarily resides in the Velvet room.

Although initially stoic and distant, he harbors a deep interest in humanity and ends up becoming particularly interested in the Internet.

He becomes obsessed with Social Media and memes. He represents the Hanged Man Tarot. He is dateable.

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Anita Perez. 25. Sofia’s older sister who is working through med school. Her relationship with Sofia is strained, as she is viewed as the “perfect” daughter in comparison because she keeps her head down and does her work.

However, she is secretly working as a cam girl to pay for her bills. She represents the Hermit Tarot. She is dateble.

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TBD. Fortune Tarot.

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Henrietta “Retta” Phillips. A young woman who attends Cypress High. She recently lost a portion of her right leg from the right knee down and has a prosthetic leg.

She used to be a star volleyball player, but has recently returned to school from rehab and is being treated like glass by her friends and teachers. She represents the Strength Tarot. She is dateable.

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Justice Tarot.

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Zein Kattan. 20. The extremely attractive young teacher’s aid/tutor at Cypress High that all the girls gossip about. He is very passionate about teaching and will often take over a class in his excitement.

He ends up neglecting his health due to being a workaholic, though. He is living out his mother’s dream of being a teacher for her, as she died shortly after obtaining her degree. He represents the Temperance Tarot. He is dateable, but makes it clear the relationship will only start after she graduates.

Devil Tarot.

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Lionel Wagner: 19. Lionel works at the local cafe as a barista. He was recently the top student at Cypress and was envisioned he would go really far — but he panicked upon entering university and dropped out after only a few months.

He is ashamed of how he ended up and tries to avoid talking to anyone that knew him.

He struggles with alcohol abuse as a result of his depression. He represents the Tower Tarot. He is dateable.

Mahalia “Blessica” Duran. 17. A student of Oakwood high. Blessica is her “stage name.” She is an upbeat, optimistic young woman who sings at the local karaoke bar every Saturday. She isn’t good at singing at all, but she wants to be a pop star!

Our Protagonist will learn that Mahalia is struggling in her relationship with her boyfriend. Through getting to know her, it’s clear there’s abusive/toxic behavior going on. Mahalia is on the chubby side and is afraid that she won’t be able to find another guy like the one she has, so she is reluctant to leave him.

However, through persistence and progression of her storyline, the Protagonist can support her to the point that she decides to leave her abusive ex. She represents the Star Tarot.

Courtney Tremblay. 16. A student at Cypress High. She, too, has a strong interest in magical girls and notices a keychain on the Protagonist’s bag from her favorite show.

She is desperate to get people to like her, which can lead her to forcing herself to fit a mold and forgetting who she is. She ends up developing a bit of a codependency on the Protagonist. She represents the Moon Tarot. She is dateable.

Game Mechanics and Other Notes

  •  In order to awaken their Persona, users are faced with a life or death situation and must choose to fight. In doing so, a flower sprouts from their hearts and they must rip it out, thorns and all. By accepting both beauty and pain, they make their Pact with the Persona that represents their True Selves.
  • The Protagonist will level up 5 attributes throughout the game by completing certain tasks: Charisma, Empathy, Knowledge, Dexterity, and Willpower. Leveling these up will open up more quests, items, and in-game options.
  • Players and their party members will explore dungeons known as Gardens Of Sin, using their Personas to battle the Shadows within them until they find the Final Boss, which takes the shape of the Desires of the original person the Seed was planted in.
  • Players will socialize and develop relationships with Confidants, who unlock more powerful Personas and combat abilities as their personal stories progress.
  • Romantic relationships with your Confidants, both party members and not, will be possible. You will also be able to progress the relationships between Confidants by encouraging and/or pairing them up for certain tasks. These relationships will level up the Confidants abilities and grant them new ones based on the combinations.

The Gardens

  • The Garden Of Envy: The seed is born in the heart of Aunt Kamirah, whose jealousy of her sister has festered and destroyed their relationship. The Garden is located in the grocery store where Kamirah works.
  • The Garden Of Lust: The seed is born in the heart of a businessman who blackmails/targets women of color, forcing them into sex trafficking. The Garden is located in a seedy strip club called Bounce House, but extends beyond the building to affect the entire street. Sofia’s older sister is affected and her Persona awakens.
  • The Garden Of Avarice: The seed is born in the heart of a local celebrity who falsely accused her costar of rape, which destroyed his career and led to his suicide. The Garden is located on a roped-off movie set nearby. Deion’s Persona awakens.
  • The Garden Of Pride: The seed is born in the heart of a Karen who — TBD
  • The Garden Of Sloth: TBD
  • The Garden Of Wrath: TBD
  • The Garden Of Gluttony: TBD
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