Short answers may range from confusing genre with Theme, but can include:
- A powerful and destructive force to be reckoned with.
- The human effect on nature, fear of the unknown, and hubris.
- Struggle against a protagonist.
- Danger of excessive pride
- The risky relationship between humankind and developing technology
- The power of true love
- Fate, which sometimes tears lovers apart and then joins them together
As can be seen from these examples, themes can range widely from ideas, as large as love and war, to others as specific as the relationship between humankind and technology.
Types of ThemeJust as a life is not constantly immersed in love, the pursuit of knowledge, or the struggle of the individual versus society, themes are not always constantly present in a RPG story. Rather, they weave in and out, can disappear entirely, or appear surprisingly mid-game. This is because there are two types of themes: major and minor themes.
Major ThemesMajor themes are, just as they sound, the more important and enduring themes of the narrative. Major themes are the most significant themes of the RPG story, and often they are a part of the entire game.
Minor ThemesMinor themes are, on the other hand, less important and less enduring. They may appear for part of the narrative only to be replaced by another minor theme later in the narrative. They provide discussion points for a session or two, but do not colour the entire game.
The Importance of Using Theme
Themes are the ideas book clubs, poets, playwrights, literature students, film enthusiasts, movie-makers, and creative writers mull over in-depth. They are the meaning behind the entire story, the deeper reasons that the story has been written and shared.
Related TermsBecause themes encompass main ideas in a narrative, they have many similar elements which do similar things for a narrative. Here are a few examples:
Moral“And the moral of the story is…” As many fables and tales go, morals are a necessary element. They are the main message or lesson to be learned from reading a cautionary story. Although themes and morals are both major ideas in a story, they are different in that themes do not necessarily serve to teach a lesson, whereas morals always do. A theme is simply an idea to be examined, whereas a moral is a clear lesson to be learned.
MotifMotifs work in a story to emphasize the theme, and for this reason, is sometimes confused with the theme. Motifs are recurring images, objects, or ideas that highlight the theme.
A motif is a symbolic image or idea that appears frequently in a story. Motifs can be symbols, sounds, actions, ideas, or words. Motifs strengthen a story by adding images and ideas to the theme present throughout the narrative.
Some examples of how motif works with theme:
- Example 1
- Theme: Regret
- Motifs: A man is struggling with regret throughout a story. Motifs like dark dreams, repetitive thoughts, and dark lighting emphasize the mood and pervasiveness of the regret.
- Example 2
- Theme: Nature’s power over humans - Bad weather:
- Motifs: Throughout a story, there is surprisingly bad weather—snow, freezing rain, and even a tornado.
- Example 3
- Theme: Freedom
- Motifs: There is more than one kind of freedom, Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze. They seemed to be able to choose. We seemed to be able to choose
- Example 4
- Theme: Power
- Motifs: Remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.
- Example 5
- Theme: Greed
- Motifs: If a story’s main theme is greed, numerous motifs could highlight this. Imagine the story is about a greedy businesswoman who owns a restaurant.
- The protagonist is frequently seen counting money. She lowers her staff’s pay numerous times. Lastly, she frequently purchases new, shiny, showy things.
Whereas the theme is a larger idea, the motifs are smaller elements of a story which repeat in order to reflect that idea.
The Importance of MotifWhereas themes hover above a story as ideas, motifs dive into the depth with clear and repetitive images, ideas, and symbols throughout. In their repetition, motifs emphasize what is most important about a story.
Motifs provide compositions with a traceable pattern: if a red dress or the idea of guilt or a weather phenomenon continues appearing throughout a narrative, chances are, it means something. Motifs allow GMs to create a more structured narrative, cluing in players to symbols of larger ideas. Motifs are partners to themes, as repetitive images and symbols emphasize the overarching themes of the work.
When defining motif, other literary devices often come into play, such as symbols and themes. Here are a few devices similar and related to motif: