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Taking Note - Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Taking Note is a series of adapting our favorite media to the TTRPG scene!


In this week's Taking Note we'll be looking at Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and things we can take and adapt to our Worldbuilding in TTRPGs. For the uninitiated, Legend of Zelda is a series of games focusing on the Hero known as Link taking on the Demon/Evil King Ganon/Ganondorf to save the Princess Zelda and the Kingdom of Hyrule. Tears of the Kingdom specifically features an open-world strategy with a world that has evolved from its predecessor Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. So what about this open-world RPG made me want to take notes for my TTRPGs?


The Lore

Legend of Zelda has been known for its convoluted timelines and story beats for quite some time. This string board of story elements has gifted it a world filled with lore and a foundation to fill a map with secrets and adventure. The best part about it being you don't have to dig deep to find the magic.


Without spoiling too much of Tears of the Kingdom, an ancient civilization founded Hyrule and now we have access to their old technology that surpasses the modern tech. Without scratching the surface we are faced with a few options for worldbuilding or adventure crafting. **Why did the technology resurface? What happened to the ancient civilization? How can we prevent losing these technological advances ourselves?** This is an example of starting big and digging inward towards these answers.


Another example might be the culture of the different races of Hyrule. There are 5 total, each with their own values and goals. They interact with one another, but tend to try and solve their problems in solitude until the Hero intervenes to aid them. No need for open hostility or hate towards another culture, they each can live and thrive in their own regions while visiting one another's respective areas. In *Tears of the Kingdom* my favorite example so far is a pair of Rito (the bird people) living in a Hylian village having found a mutual love of the sea rather than the sky. They've integrated with the Hylians by bringing their own strengths to the table when it comes to fishing and construction of buildings in the area.


Rumors

This is something that's available in a few TTRPGs already, but a good rumor table per location can go a long way to making a world feel alive. Whenever I'm lost or need to figure out my next side quest, I just visit the closest stable in Tears of the Kingdom to find several characters discussing local rumors. A shadowy beast here, a Great Fairy who grants favors over there, and plenty more. Have multiple quests you want to give to your players? Then just make a quick d4 or d6 table of rumors based on those quests and let the dice decide if you wish. You can even include landmarks or attractions the players might want to check out, like a tower that gives a scenic view of the area or a pattern of lines that were burned into the ground seemingly overnight. Describing these as though it was pushed through the telephone game a few times keep the rumors vague enough to intrigue your players and get them moving to the next quest or story arc.

d4

Rumor

1

A wanderer has been asking about our local goddess, Lady Avalla.

2

The local baker is looking for a special ingredient called "Lightning Oil."

3

A new shop has opened! The owner is selling magical wares.

4

The last known unicorn was spotted across the river in Craghammer Pass.

Secrets

Legend of Zelda, like many other RPGs, has its own list of secrets & mysteries for the players to find as they play. This can be as simple as secret doors to extra treasure to entirely storylines that can't be unearth unless you happen to have certain items on your person. Thinking about this for my own games, I had to split it into a few examples to show off what I mean.


Powerful Entities

Tears of the Kingdom features several "Great Fairies" and even a "Horse God" entity throughout Hyrule. These entities come with their own quests, motives, and rewards for assisting them. Want to give your players an avenue for a Warlock Patron they can interact with? Then a small deity in the woods could be the way to go! Otherwise these entities can provide minor benefits to items the players already have, like upgrading weapons or other equipment instead of handing out a new item.


Ancient Civilization & Technology

Also featured in Tears of the Kingdom are the Zonai, an ancient group who has advanced technology and weapons compared to modern day, including laser beams, shock emitters, and flame throwers. The Zonai are also the reason for several dungeons in the game. For your world, consider how dungeons came to be. Modern places left abandoned or taken in hostile action? Or is it that an ancient ancestry left behind relics and the world grew around them?


The Big Dang Quest

The majority of my notes from Tears of the Kingdom revolve around an open-world concept and may not be applicable to your game. So what about a game where the story comes first? Exploration can be hand waived, the player characters' backstories are at the forefront, and at the end of the day there is a big bad evil guy that needs to be taken down. Legend of Zelda has a tried and true formula for this flavor of TTRPG: Get the McGuffin and kill the BBEG with it. From here we can implement the previous points with a focus on this particular quest. The McGuffin is in an ancient tomb of a forgotten king. The Great Sage may know its location, but it'll cost you in some way, and of course this information comes through rumors and questioning NPCs at the local tavern.


My biggest takeaway is that the little details of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is what gives it a depth that I felt like was missing from my own TTRPGs. Secrets, rumors, and even valuing things a "normal" person might not is all the difference it can take to add a plethora of adventure options to your table and its story.

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