From VNDev Wiki

Branching is the process by which a visual novel's story might proceed in one of several directions. The player's actions determine which branch or path the story takes. These decisions can take the form of explicit options presented to the player (even if it's not totally clear which option will lead to which path), but they may also be the result of multiple decisions over time, or even other methods such as the player's performance in a minigame. Branching can lead to many possible endings in a visual novel.


A route is a distinct story in a branching narrative that is from a significantly different perspective or contains significantly different content than other branches. A route focused on a character(s) is a character route and is referred to by the name of the character(s) they’re revolving around. A route that is considered the canon route that is taken forward in sequels or other media is known as the True route. A section of a story before any major branches is called the Common Route. A route that is cut short or ends unfavorably for the protagonist and supporting characters is often called a bad end or bad route.

Common route

Character route

Bad route

True route


Early Branching

A narrative with a relatively short common route that diverts into narratively distinct branches is said to have early branching. Since routes have little overlap, each playthrough can feel quite unique.

Late Branching

As opposed to an early branching plot, late branching occurs after a long common route section. This gives all routes the same context to start with and can help solidify the core elements and events of the story. Since the branching occurs very late, players will often skip or jump past the common route section if possible to reach the next route.

Ladder Structure

Rather than branching at the end of a common route, a ladder structure splits off during it. The common route can be visualized as a ladder, and the reader "steps off" the ladder at different points.

Unlockable routes

A route may be locked behind certain conditions and only available to the reader once those conditions have been met.

Enforced route order

A developer may want the player to experience routes in a predetermined order. This enforced order can be extremely strict, resulting in the plot essentially becoming linear, or looser so that a number of routes may be accessible at any one time. Any game with an unlockable true route has an enforced order.


Branches and routes can be accessed through the player's choice or some other form of gameplay. In order to track these events, a VN will use variables. These may be locked to a save and only affect the current playthrough to decide which route to go on. The variables may also be global and lead to new routes and choices being unlocked in future runs.


A flag is variable that marks a noteworthy condition or action taken by a player. Flags (often in multiples) are used to determine the various outcomes of events based on prior actions taken, and may have 2 or more states.

A flag that, once triggered, eventually and inevitably leads to the player character or supporting character’s death is called a death flag. Telltale’s famous "Clementine will remember this." notifications are an example of a tripped flag being overtly stated to a player.


A game may require a player to accumulate points and different outcomes will occur at some threshold for these points. Points may start with a value of zero or some pre-defined value and are modified by the player's decisions. Points may be used to track things like:

  • Character affection (each character's affection toward the main character)
  • Stats (eg. strength, stress, etc)


A flowchart is (in general terms) a graphical representation of a workflow or process using symbols and arrows or connecting lines to depict the sequence of events. In the terms of a visual novel, a flowchart is an illustration of the choices a player makes to get to a game ending. Many devs use flowcharts to plot out their game before starting on the script, which helps the team calculate the project’s scope. Some VNs will offer an in-game flowchart to keep track of which routes the player has explored. Alternately, a flowchart may be offered on their website, in an artbook/fanbook, or created by a game’s fans.