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Avoid being distasteful

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Sperber
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I've been thinking about a game in which players take on the role of the Grim Reaper. Death, black robe with a scythe. But how can one make such a theme and not be disturbing or unrespectful? I believe that this game should be about harvesting souls which means you would kill people of all kinds: old ones, young ones, sick and seemingly healthy, family fathers and single mothers. I find it pretty difficult to do that when you keep in mind that everybody has lost a loved one. Forget about special events like a train accident or a building collapsing.

On the other hand we have Gloom. A perfect example of a game with a morbid theme that is still fun and entertaining. So basically, it should be possible.

The only two solutions I came up with are changing the role to an Angel of Death, which would still present some problems but would at least take away the dark image, or borrow from japanese anime/manga Bleach so that players would be shinigamis (death gods) and instead of killing people, they would protect the souls of already deceased people against demons.

Both ways however are not what I originally imagined. So here's my question:

Do you have any ideas how to use the theme of death in a game, especially if players are the Grim Reaper, without it being distasteful?

NASG
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So the reason such a game

So the reason such a game might be considered distasteful is because it deals with people, we're all people, all of us have lost friends, relatives, colleagues etc..

Unless there's a thematic reason to have a Grim Reaper of human souls, why not just change this to a Grim Reaper of "Insert unoffensive fantasy race here" souls..

E.g. Graknok, the Grim Reaping Goblin of the Afterworld? etc..

Just change people - to an imaginary race and no one can get offended.

jbmoyer
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Interesting idea...

... I think this is actually an interesting idea, most games are you are the "good guy" killing the bad guys. thought about trying to build a similar game where you play the bad guy. Do for sure agree on the morbid and dark theme, I think what would turn ppl off the most is that you are killing "people".

Its funny how killing hordes of goblins or zombies is ok, but when you relate it to ppl, there is that sting. I think your ideas on a different name to the "death" creature will help lesson the sting, I also think not as a OR but as an "add" creatures that protect souls, that will help with the sting of the overall theme and give a good balance, then ppl can play either side?!?. The special events piece makes it sound interesting, with all that you said, which is mostly nothing I am interested to see more of the rules and game play.

I think all games probably offend people in different ways, by you being cognizant of it, it will surely help not make it so kill kill kill. Roll up some rules and see where it goes, if it goes too dark or negative, stop, but I would pursue it a bit.

JustActCasual
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.

Well, the Shepherd concept does make it an easier theme: think Death from Discworld or Sandman. We also see more purely comical representations like Grimm from Grimm & Evil. The theme can definitely work.

Why do you think your game is offensive? Honestly, the fact that you feel uncomfortable about your game is the biggest red flag. If you don't feel comfortable with your theme, why not just change it? What makes you want to do this theme in the first place?

Traz
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different view

Why not something completely unexpected?

Redraw the Grim Reaper in white instead of in black, and instead of a skeleton - make it a beautiful woman [the pose, the scythe and the robe will tell the story]. Easy to back this up with 'life-affirming' characters like Paladins, unicorns, etc. that give a fantasy theme, but still interact with the death theme [trying to guide the hapless towards happiness instead of despair].

Even though GLOOM attempts to 'lessen the sting' of its theme [death], it fails because the blatant, in-your-face glorification of death is embedded in the thematic artwork which reminds you of the theme in everything it displays. It attempts to side-step the dark theme by making the drawings humorous, but all that does is desensitize at best.

Instead of making everything dark, make everything light. If the game system is more important than the theme, then you will be able to make it work. If the theme of death is more important than the game system - then that is exactly what it is, and the game system doesn't have to work well, just good enough to display the theme.

Regardless of the point of the endgame [as in GLOOM where the goal is to get the most people the 'best rest'], if all of the gameplay/components invite the player to enjoy the game for the trappings and the opposite 'feel' of the endgame point, then they aren't cohesive and the endgame point is exposed as a ruse or a part of the 'joke'. Neither very satisfying in my book.

I *think* I understand your dilemma. You've come up with a theme - death - but you don't want a dark theme [or components] to overwhelm the game mechanics. I hope what I've offered helps your game move along. Good luck!

larienna
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Playing evil is sometimes

Playing evil is sometimes cool. If you are an anime fan, take a look at "Black Butler", there are a few reaper in there (one of them use a chain saw).

In theory, grim Reaper collect soul of the people shat should die. It does not kill people. So you could make a game where people die and the goal is to reap the most soul. But grim reaper has some information that will allow him to predict who is going to die. Being able to do so will allow him to find the optimal path to reap the most souls in a turn.

Sperber
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Great input

NASG wrote:
Unless there's a thematic reason to have a Grim Reaper of human souls, why not just change this to a Grim Reaper of "Insert unoffensive fantasy race here" souls.

Well, there is no thematic reason besides the reason that this is the theme I would like to have. As I said I didn't like to use the image of an Angel of Death since this isn't what I wanted in the first place, so changing it to a fantasy race version of death kind of does the same.

However taking your suggestion as a guide might in fact help me tone it down a bit. I could easily place the theme in another time. If I avoid the present then there would be no danger in putting in events like a train accident, Fukushima or hurricane Catherine. This way I could avoid that I suddenly have a player at the table who lost someone in these horrible catastrophes.
I guess noone today gets offended by a game in which people get killed in the crusades.

Thanks for that inspiration.

jbmoyer wrote:
Its funny how killing hordes of goblins or zombies is ok, but when you relate it to ppl, there is that sting.

You can see this phenomenon in all kinds of media especially in video games. Living in Germany we had really strange developments because of that. One of the most famous ones was Command&Conquer Red Alert in which they actually changed the troopers to robots and when they got killed there was no blood but a black puddle of oil. :D

jbmoyer wrote:
[...]

with all that you said, which is mostly nothing I am interested to see more of the rules and game play.

JustActCasual wrote:
Why do you think your game is offensive? Honestly, the fact that you feel uncomfortable about your game is the biggest red flag. If you don't feel comfortable with your theme, why not just change it? What makes you want to do this theme in the first place?

There is no game yet. I have just the idea of a game with the theme of playing Death. That's why I put this thread in the Theme Design section. I hope to get enough inspiration to someday turn this theme into a game that I am comfortable with.

That also means I am not uncomfortable with the game. I was just thinking that if I use this theme there might be cards or events or spaces on the board that would show a sickly six-year old girl and it is your duty as Death to harvest her soul. Of course I could easily refrain from using such images but that kind of felt like cheating. I don't want to go into a theological discussion, but for the arguments sake let's say that there is indeed an entity Death. This entity needs to be impartial and must do his job without hesitation whether it faces a king or a baby. An entity like that must be heartless and can't feel any remorse to what it's doing.

I though that if I was to make a game about Death then I would need to go down the same path and presumably force players to act just like that if they want to win the game. And that's not okay with me. So to answer your question, JAC (may I call you that?) : I do want to change the theme but I lacked imagination how. That's why I made this thread. To get some inspiration and find a way to do this.

JustActCasual wrote:
Well, the Shepherd concept does make it an easier theme: think Death from Discworld or Sandman. We also see more purely comical representations like Grimm from Grimm & Evil. The theme can definitely work.

It's actually pretty amazing that Death is one of my favourite characters in the novells and it was always a delight when he showed up. Discworld's Death shows the attributes that I just described: impartial and without hesitation. But for some reason he is still a very likeable character and noone seems to be offended by his actions.

I am unfamiliar with Grimm & Evil. Might look into that one too.

Traz wrote:
Redraw the Grim Reaper in white instead of in black, and instead of a skeleton - make it a beautiful woman [the pose, the scythe and the robe will tell the story].

I love this idea. Totally in love with it. Thank you!

Traz wrote:
I *think* I understand your dilemma. You've come up with a theme - death - but you don't want a dark theme [or components] to overwhelm the game mechanics. I hope what I've offered helps your game move along. Good luck!

Not really. A dark tone would be all right with me. I just need some ways to avoid a distasteful theme that might offend people. Dark is good, even though you just showed me that dark is not the only option. I will definitively think about both ways. But whether the game is dark or light there are still some boundaries and I try to figure out how far I can go and how to avoid some.

Traz wrote:
Regardless of the point of the endgame [as in GLOOM where the goal is to get the most people the 'best rest'], if all of the gameplay/components invite the player to enjoy the game for the trappings and the opposite 'feel' of the endgame point, then they aren't cohesive and the endgame point is exposed as a ruse or a part of the 'joke'. Neither very satisfying in my book.

That helps a lot. Thank you.

larienna wrote:
Playing evil is sometimes cool. If you are an anime fan, take a look at "Black Butler", there are a few reaper in there (one of them use a chain saw).

I had to google that now, because I am unfamiliar with the english titles. Kuroshitsuji. I've seen it and like it. It has been some time since I last saw this anime but I remember that one shinigami was runnig around with a chainsaw. I guess that would be a little over the top. But I will watch the show again for more inspiration. Thanks.

larienna wrote:
In theory, grim Reaper collect soul of the people shat should die. It does not kill people. So you could make a game where people die and the goal is to reap the most soul. But grim reaper has some information that will allow him to predict who is going to die. Being able to do so will allow him to find the optimal path to reap the most souls in a turn.

Nice thinking. I'll keep that in mind. When I get to the point when I figure out what the game should really be about I may come back to that.
But I guess with that kind of explanation for the players in an introductional text (like say on the back of the game box) it might take some pressure off the players. To realize that it is in fact not you who kills is the first step to enjoy a game about death, I think.

JustActCasual
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~

Have you thought about making this something closer to an RPG than a competitive game? It seems like you are interested in exploring the necessary but unpleasant implications and experiences of being the Death character. Maybe something like My Life with Master?

It seems like this would treat the material in a less offensive manner, as the attention is turned from a more crass interpretation (I reaped a thousand people! I win!) to a more mature investigation of an important subject. You have the potential here to create a very powerful game.

PS. If you haven't read Gaiman's Sandman I would strongly suggest it, his is the best version of 'pretty girl' Death I've seen.

Sperber
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No thoughts yet

JustActCasual wrote:
Have you thought about making this something closer to an RPG than a competitive game? It seems like you are interested in exploring the necessary but unpleasant implications and experiences of being the Death character. Maybe something like My Life with Master?

It seems like this would treat the material in a less offensive manner, as the attention is turned from a more crass interpretation (I reaped a thousand people! I win!) to a more mature investigation of an important subject. You have the potential here to create a very powerful game.

No, I haven't thought about anything yet. Besides the theme. I first want to figure out what kind of Death the players are portraying and then make a game out of it.

But I'd say that I lean towards what you just described. I don't want a simple 'have more souls than your opponents competitive' kind of game. Are you familiar with Splinter Cell: Double Agent or Mass Effects? Video games in which the player is presented with moral dilemmas and has to make a decision and this will influence the story and how the game progresses. Something like that would be nice even though I feel strongly about it that Death should not be an enitity that faces moral dilemmas. He has no choice or better: he doesn't have to decide what to do because the decision has already been made.

I guess that is why I am tiptoeing a little. I am not sure where to take the theme and what to make out of it. I don't want a solely educational purpose too. This should still be a game and not a walkthrough in which players do what they are told to but this seems like a contradiction:

How can you play game in which you have to make choices when you impersonate a being that by nature has no choice?

Turning this discussion into a philosophical study now, aren't I?

JustActCasual wrote:
PS. If you haven't read Gaiman's Sandman I would strongly suggest it, his is the best version of 'pretty girl' Death I've seen.

Seems like it's time to visit the local comic book store.

senorbaub
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In a sense the Grim Reaper

In a sense the Grim Reaper could be considered a hero because if souls are not collected they could become *lost*. Wherever the Grim Reaper brings collected souls allows them to rest while lost souls become restless and could cause hauntings and such. Mechanically hauntings could count against you or make it harder to collect souls.

Sperber
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Great idea

senorbaub wrote:
In a sense the Grim Reaper could be considered a hero because if souls are not collected they could become *lost*. Wherever the Grim Reaper brings collected souls allows them to rest while lost souls become restless and could cause hauntings and such. Mechanically hauntings could count against you or make it harder to collect souls.

That is a great idea.

As Death you have no choice but to collect the souls because if you don't bad things will happen.

This could easily serve as a background for a cooperative game.

Thank you.

Sperber
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Summary

The feedback has been great and I would like to make a little summary:

- The game is about taking on the roles of Death.
- The players have to collect souls.
- Souls that don't get collected will turn to something bad.
- It is a cooperative game in which the players have to work together.
- To lighten the mood the image of Death won't be a skeleton in black robes but e.g. a beautiful woman in white.
- There will be moral dilemmas.
- But instead of 'kill or don't kill' it's more like 'there are several souls to collect. We can't take all of them so some of them will turn bad. What do we do?'
- This is done to show that the job as Death isn't a pleasant one but necessary to avoid chaos and destruction.

This should serve as a golden thread. What do you think?

Traz
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Ah, so........

I see you are absolutely committed to The Dark Side - but I've got you hooked into the idea of a White Grim Reaper....

Why can't it be both?

Is this a 2 player game or more? You could make a Black Reaper [classic - perhaps avoid the skeleton, though] for Player A and the White Reaper [as I described earlier] for Player B [and a Grey Reaper for Player C in the expansion].

Just sayin'!

Sperber
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Number of players

I was thinking along the line of a 1 to 4 player game. So it would be a cooperative game with a set of solo rules. Ghost Stories would be a nice role model.

I am a big fan of individual palyer characters. I don't like it when the difference is only by colour like in Risk. Risk Legacy on the other hand...

So I would need to create four different Reapers and it would be best to match their apperance to their special abilities. That means: Yes, there is still the chance that a dark and black Reaper might appear in the final game.

Sperber
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Dilemma

larienna wrote:
In theory, grim Reaper collect soul of the people shat should die. It does not kill people. So you could make a game where people die and the goal is to reap the most soul. But grim reaper has some information that will allow him to predict who is going to die.

JustActCasual wrote:
It seems like you are interested in exploring the necessary but unpleasant implications and experiences of being the Death character.

Sperber wrote:
- There will be moral dilemmas.
- But instead of 'kill or don't kill' it's more like 'there are several souls to collect. We can't take all of them so some of them will turn bad. What do we do?'
- This is done to show that the job as Death isn't a pleasant one but necessary to avoid chaos and destruction.

I was thinking about these points and I think I found one solution (hopefully the first of many to come).

As larienna said the character of Death should know when people are going to die. Even more, he should know how they are going to die and even more important how they lived. We already know that if a soul doesn't get collected by Death it will turn to something bad (whether it be ghosts, poltergeists, demons, etc.) and it is Deaths job to prevent this from happening.

Let's say that there is a fundamental difference between souls: The souls of those who lived a good life either don't turn as easily or won't get that bad. On the other hand, the souls of sinful people can turn into something really disgusting and nasty - pure evil. The way how they died is also important since a violent death tends to 'corrupt' the soul more easily.

Death gets the following information:

Two people are about to die. One being an old man who will simply fall asleep and die of old age, the other one a bankrobber who gets shot by the police while he's taken some hostages. There isn't enough time to collect both souls before they turn bad. So Death (aka the player) has to make a choice.

The bankrobber is the most likely choice since it is better to take care of him before he turns into something really bad. But if he does that then the good soul of the lovely grandpa will suffer and he clearly didn't deserve that.

And there we have the moral dilemma: Prevent one soul from going really bad and let an innnocent soul suffer or give the innocent soul what it deserves (peace) but then you have to face something evil.

What this means in game terms I haven't figured out yet. But this could be the approach to get what JustActCasual wrote:

Exploring the necessary but unpleasant implications and experiences of being the Death character.

NASG
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Guiding the way..

This might be moving too far away from your initial idea, but how about the idea is for the players to get the souls to where they should be, which doesn't necessarily mean deciding where that is.

If a "soul" comes with a "destination" where it needs to get to - be that the Abyss, Purgatory, Heaven, Nirvana, or maybe even re-incarnation?

I don't think you're at all going for a "light-hearted" game, but it's worth checking out the Death character from Horrible Histories a kids TV programme they have here in the UK. He turns up in a segment called Stupid Deaths (complete with theme song) and various people who died of silly things turn up and get laughed at, check out: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=stupid+deaths+horrible+histo...

Whichever way you go, I think you're onto a very interesting game!
Good luck with it!
HTH

abdantas
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Hell

Have you thought about making this a game where each player plays death from a different religion, and you'll have different souls associated with different ethnicities, 1 player could be a Valkyrie another the angel of death, Nother the grim reaper and you're arguing over newly dead souls, each soul will have only certain belief systems that will take him, and its your job to point out why he deserves to come with you instead of someone else because of certain attributes, think a soul could be a dead soldier, therefore the military deities will have more pull, like the Greeks or the Norse, other players will be able to play as well but they'll be at a disadvantage. Where as a little girl or an old priest could be pulled easiest by a Christian entity. I think that's an interesting idea, if you want to pursue ths idea of death, he'll, if you don't use it I might. :0)

Traz
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go for it!

I think Abdantas is definitely on to something here, considering you don't want cookie cutter players. You can definitely have the classic Death fellow, the anti-death Reaper [the White Reaper], a Valkyrie sounds cool, Anubis would be sweet, etc. My main objection was including other possibilities to avoid the ALL DEATH ALL THE TIME label [it's sort of like how skulls are everywhere, or how black is the only fashion statement most kids know how to make], and then using the ALL DEATH ALL THE TIME art motif, regardless of everything else you might have in your game.

BTW - Don't discount the possibilities as you research these out - keep the word 'EXPANSIONS' in the back of your mind!

Sperber
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Thanks for more input

NASG wrote:
This might be moving too far away from your initial idea, but how about the idea is for the players to get the souls to where they should be, which doesn't necessarily mean deciding where that is.

If a "soul" comes with a "destination" where it needs to get to - be that the Abyss, Purgatory, Heaven, Nirvana, or maybe even re-incarnation?

As I said in my previous post I'd like to find more solutions to 'how can I get the players into a dilemma' and this might just work. As an adition to what I already have.

Again I don't need any details now so let's simply say the souls have to be carried to a gateway of some sort. Now let's repeat above situation in which the player has to decide whether he wants to save grandpa or the bankrobber., but now we include that he also has to carry the souls to a gateway. And let's say that there is some kind of time limit. Now the player not only has to make the choice which soul to save but must also decide how long he wants to hold ont to the souls he already has and prolong their journey through the gate. If he doesn't go now something bad might happen. So which is it, dear player?

Save grandpa or the bankrobber and take a risk for the souls you already have or let them move on and deal with the repercussions that you left the other two alone?

I think that makes a nice addition.

I watched several episodes of Stupid Deaths now and even though it is funny I don't think that it adds anything to my game. Thanks though for the laughs I got out of it. ;)

abdantas wrote:
Have you thought about making this a game where each player plays death from a different religion, [...] arguing over newly dead souls, and its your job to point out why he deserves to come with you instead of someone else [...]

No, I haven't hought about this. I am pretty much hooked on the idea of it being a cooperative game. I don't think that this would be a good match to what my game should be about. As I said earlier I want to emphasize on the aspect that impersonating Death is hard work and you have to make tough decissions. If I include a battle over souls then I would lose that focus again and I would be back to a competitive game that is all about 'I have more souls than you' and that is something I already excluded earlier in this thread.

Is anyone a fan of the tv-show Supernatural? I watched it once and take a look at it from time to time. But there is one wpisode that influenced me to take this theme and make game out of it. Deanm one of the main characters, must work for Death as one of his underlings and fullfil all of his duties. He meets a sickly girl in a hospital and decides to leave her alone and not kill her. As a result another person gets into an car accident and dies. You could say that the universe said 'Someone has to die. If it is not that girl then I take someone random from the street'. And Dean had to live with that it was because of his decision to spare the girl that another human being died.

Now, I already moved on from the notion that it is Death who decides who lives and dies but I still want to capture that sort of dilemma and a battle for souls doesn't even get close, does it?

That being said, it doesn't mean that such a game would not be any fun. It just that this is not the game I want to create.

abdantas wrote:
I think that's an interesting idea, if you want to pursue ths idea of death, he'll, if you don't use it I might. :0)

I don't know. Should I feel honored because that is actually the first time I ispired another designer to a game or should I be worried that in a future not so far ahead there will be two games presented to publishers that have the theme of impersonating Death and collecting souls? ;)

Traz wrote:
I think Abdantas is definitely on to something here, considering you don't want cookie cutter players.

Let's start here. I had to look up cookie cutter. It means average, doesn't it?

Care to explain, because I don't get it. What is an average player and how are they realted to Abdantas's idea? Would my game attract cookie cutter players? If so why?

Now to the point of including Valkyries and Anubis. In my first post I wrote that I was unsatisfied with the idea of using the images of Angel of Deaths or Shinigami and this still counts. So I won't use any of that. Sorry.

Another reason is that after carefully thinking about it I want to leave religion out of the game as much as possible. You could say that the image of a black robe and scythe is of christian origin. I guess it was created in medieval times as an iconography of the Black Death (pest), but nowadays I would say it is universal. Valkyries and Anubis however are still very specific. Time hasn't chnaged that.
And I don't like the idea of different religions arguing over souls. Even though it's not fighting it is still some kind of battle and we have that in real life and look what it has brought us. So pitting different religions against each other is definitively out of the question.

starflier
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Grim Fandango

Um, Grim Fandango? That sidestepped the gruesomeness of death a bit by making all of the characters already dead... In that, the Grim Reaper is portrayed as a travel agent, struggling to fill his quota of good souls.

zmobie
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Or Death in the disk world

Or Death in the disk world books. Or the TV show dead like me. Just make it fun, and have people mostly die in unlikely and somewhat more silly than gruesome ways.

Traz
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ahhhh... COOKIES!

Cookie cutter is a phrase used by Americans to mean 'same as all the others in the box'. It derives from the baker's tool [a cookie cutter] that makes each cookie exactly the same as every other cookie. If you've ever seen a housing development where all the houses look exactly alike, you now have a phrase to describe the phenomenon. It's meant as a derogatory - not a good thing.

We all want to be original - not all the same.

I understand your point about not wanting to include different religions - I get that. However, Valkyries and Anubis - nobody worships them anymore. They've been relegated to historic footnotes only seen in museums. Something to think about if all you can come up with is... wait for it...

Cookie Cutter Characters. ;-)

abdantas
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cooperative

So here's my question about the game play mechanics. If it's a cooperative game, how would you bring value to certain cards to really make the ethical question prevalent? Would a sickly little girl be worth more points? Would the bank robber have a better effect attached to it? Like, let's say someone gets a former soldier's soul (to keep going with my previous thought), how would that card be of benefit to you to the point that you would pick him over the sickly little girl? This is why I think that a cooperative game would be really hard to make out of this idea to be honest. The way I see it, what really will bring around the moral conundrum is this; the little girl is worth more VP, but her effect is terrible, it might even be harmful to whomever holds it, like a -1 modifier on all your cards when you're bidding, where as the soldier might be worth half of what the little girl is worth, but you may discard him (let him on to heaven[valhalla, egypt sky land?] and have him take any other soul already on the table.

My idea for the different religion is not based on what i think is right, it's not really even about religious affiliation (make up your own for all i care [MORGANIST THE TURKISH GOD OF DEATH AND WAR!!!] but it's about the fact that maybe all of these places exist (who are we to know) and maybe they have to advocate upon a soul's death to see where he deserves to go.

I'm not trying to make a case that my mechanics are better, I'm just really wary as to how you will make a game about collection souls into a cooperative game, specially when you want to really bring out the implications that death happens, and it's necessary. I'm pretty sure i understand what you want, but i'm very curious as to how do you plan on getting there.

Sperber
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Competitive cookies in buiseness suits

starflier wrote:
Um, Grim Fandango? That sidestepped the gruesomeness of death a bit by making all of the characters already dead... In that, the Grim Reaper is portrayed as a travel agent, struggling to fill his quota of good souls.

zmobie wrote:
Or Death in the disk world books. Or the TV show dead like me. Just make it fun, and have people mostly die in unlikely and somewhat more silly than gruesome ways.

Thanks, but I don't think I want parody and sarcasm in the game I think I'm heading towards a serious tone. I just didn't want it to be distasteful and I think that this is possible even if the game doesn't use humour.

Traz wrote:
We all want to be original - not all the same.

I understand your point about not wanting to include different religions - I get that. However, Valkyries and Anubis - nobody worships them anymore. They've been relegated to historic footnotes only seen in museums. Something to think about if all you can come up with is... wait for it...

Cookie Cutter Characters. ;-)

I understand. Well, I answered that earlier. Different player powers. I don't think it is necessary to use religious iconography for that. What I have so far is the classic black robe with scythe and the beautiful woman. Thanks to starflier there could be one character who dresses up in a business suit and wears sunglasses (a little upgrade and promotion for the travel agent).

So I guess we both mean the same thing.

Player 1 takes on the role of the bussines suit Death. This character has special ability A.
Player 1 takes on the role of Anubis. This character has special ability A.

The same ability. Only that I don't use Anubis as an image for him but something more neutral (if not original).

So if we break it down to the mechanics and ignore all theming and artwork then your Anubis and my Bussines Suit are the same. And your Valkyrie and my White Woman are the same. They would just differ once an artist has done its work. I guess with that my characters aren't cookie cutters too, aren't they?

abdantas wrote:
So here's my question about the game play mechanics. If it's a cooperative game, how would you bring value to certain cards to really make the ethical question prevalent?

Well, there is a reason why I started tis idea in the Design Theme section of the forum. I haven't put my head into any mechanics until now, just some basic ideas I got by reading the answers here. So what I am about to tell you is just preliminary and might not represent what I am actually going to do.

abdantas wrote:
Would a sickly little girl be worth more points? Would the bank robber have a better effect attached to it?

What I have imagined so far goes something like this:

There could be some kind of doom track in the game. Like in Arkham Horror. The progress of the doom track is dependant on how many evil things turn up and/or how evil these things are. That means each time a soul turns bad or "gets lost" the doom track progresses. Additionally a really evil soul will have some more bad impact on the gameplay so it is better to get rid of it even though the doom track has already progressed once.

As I said there might be a difference with the souls depending on how thy lived and how they died. We have the criminal who lived a live of sin and suffers a violent death. If his soul gets lost then he will become something really bad and the doom track takes one step towards losing the game. But collecting him doesn't get you any more benefits than stopping the doom track and making the game easier because the nasty thing he would do afterwards won't come into play.

The sickly girl is an innocent soul. If she gets lost then nothing much happens. She might turn into a will-o'-the-wisp and that's it. However if you collect the soul before she turns then you get a bonus as a reward. Could be that the doom track takes a step back or something else that makes the game easier for a turn or a set period of turns.

So the decision you have to make is:

- Save the criminal and stop the doom track from progressing.
- Save the girl and get a bonus that might help you in the long run.

Basically that means that the moral implications are mindgames. If you take a group of hardcore blood&gore fans who watch zombie movie marathons and don't care about any of that then the choice is pretty easy. However if you have just one single player that cares about thematic stuff like that then there might be really interesting discussion at the table:

"I don't want to abandon the girl."
"Yeah, but if we don't then the criminal will turn into a nasty apparition and wreak havoc."
" We have still more than half of the doom track ahead of us. We could save the girl and get the two free exorcisms as a reward for saving an innocent soul. That might help us more in the next few turns."
"But if we don't then..."
"I feel really bad about this!"
...

abdantas wrote:
The way I see it, what really will bring around the moral conundrum is this; the little girl is worth more VP, but her effect is terrible, it might even be harmful to whomever holds it, like a -1 modifier on all your cards when you're bidding

Somehow it seems wrong that you get punished for saving an innocent soul. I mean in my example you get punished too, but here the punishement comes from the little girl and that's not how it should work, imo.

abdantas wrote:
My idea for the different religion is not based on what i think is right

I didn't say that. I just wanted to explain why I don't want religion in my game, whether they be extinct or not. It is pretty much like JustActCasual wrote earlier in the thread: this would make me really uncomfortable and with that it doesn't make any sense to even go ahead and try it.

abdantas wrote:
I'm not trying to make a case that my mechanics are better, I'm just really wary as to how you will make a game about collection souls into a cooperative game, specially when you want to really bring out the implications that death happens, and it's necessary. I'm pretty sure i understand what you want, but i'm very curious as to how do you plan on getting there.

It's all right. Sometimes a difference in opinion helps you to get a better picture of your own standing. And in this case it really makes me realize that I don't want to design a "compete over souls" competitive game.
Maybe you're right and it is not possible to turn this theme into a cooperative gameplay but then I've got to live with that and move on to another project. But at least i want to give it a try since I believe that this might lead to an unique experience and hopefully fun game. I don't want to appear stubborn, btw. I take every idea and input very seriously and consider it for my game.

senorbaub
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Some thoughts on mechanics

So here are some thoughts about potential mechanic:

Souls that haven't been collected and become corrupted could have varied abilities which hamper Death's ability to harvest other souls. Some ideas for this causing other souls to become corrupted sooner within a certain range (let's say within a 3x3 grid of tiles) or a corrupted soul (or two or three) could block death from reaching an area where a soul is waiting to be collected or a corrupted soul could move around the playing area and steal souls waiting to be collected.

But all might not be lost for the corrupted souls. If death collects enough souls with enough *innocence* he may be able to redeem a corrupted soul and collect it removing it's negative effect. There could also be a risk that a corrupted soul won't be redeemed so it's not a sure thing.

When trying to decide which soul to harvest between a choice of two the player may be able to look at the their innocence stat and some other sort of value stat (victory points for lack of a better term at the moment)and decide if they want to collect VPs or innocence which would assist Death in removing barriers and be able to collect more souls.

Death could also have the option to either redeem a lost soul or send it away (to hell?). Sending it away could be easier but Death wouldn't gain anything for it other than clearing a barrier. Death may have a limited number of times he can do this while the ability to redeem lost souls is earned by collecting enough innocence.

A lose condition can be if the board is overrun by corrupted souls.

Wow, that turned out to be a lot more detailed than I originally intended :)

Sperber
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These are great

These are really great ideas! Thank you very much!

I was thinking of going ahead and move the topic to the New Game Ideas section of the forums at the end of the week since I have gotten so much input here that really helped me to get a clear picture of the theme. So I guess it is almost time to move on and start creating some mechanisms.

I will definitively get back to you once the process starts.

abdantas
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This game

I really do like this idea, and I wasn't trying to implicate anything about you personally. Just trying to broaden your mind. I'm sure it'll be great, let me know when I can play test it for you

Sperber
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No worries

abdantas wrote:
I really do like this idea, and I wasn't trying to implicate anything about you personally

I didn't think you were. ;)

Traz
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Go, Sperber, go!

You got it, Buddy, and you're getting wonderful in-depth help on your project. Keep us updated on it's progress! Can't wait to see the prototype.

grogger
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I've never replied on these

I've never replied on these boards before and have nothing insightful to offer at all, but I for one am excited about someone approaching a unique theme in a different way. It gets frustrating to see people not push the envelope on game themes, and I am excited about seeing what comes ahead. Kudos.

Izraphael
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manga

Sperber wrote:
The feedback has been great and I would like to make a little summary:

- The game is about taking on the roles of Death.
- The players have to collect souls.
- Souls that don't get collected will turn to something bad.
- It is a cooperative game in which the players have to work together.
- To lighten the mood the image of Death won't be a skeleton in black robes but e.g. a beautiful woman in white.
- There will be moral dilemmas.
- But instead of 'kill or don't kill' it's more like 'there are several souls to collect. We can't take all of them so some of them will turn bad. What do we do?'
- This is done to show that the job as Death isn't a pleasant one but necessary to avoid chaos and destruction.

This should serve as a golden thread. What do you think?

It reminds me of Bleach and Soul Eater...

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