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Avoid being distasteful

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Sperber's picture
Joined: 03/22/2011
Thanks and a word about fighting

Traz wrote:
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.

Thank you. But I feel like I have still a long way ahead of me since I still can't see clearly where to take this game. At least it is a very interesting experience and I have a lot of fun talking with you guys about it.

grogger wrote:
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.

I feel honored that this little idea brought you to write your first reply on this forum. I hope you keep going and you shouldn't really bother that you have "nothing insightful to offer". As I see it a community isn't all about being productive but to talk and to share. That's the whole fun in it.

Izraphael wrote:
It reminds me of Bleach and Soul Eater...

Thank you. Your comment leads me to a very important point. You are right that in its basic theme the game resembles Bleach and Soul Eater. But I hope that when I am finished or even earlier than that, you can't say that anymomre since I don't plan on inlcuding the key element of Bleach and Soul Eater. Both of them are fighting shounen manga/anime. It is all about wielding your weapon and having supernatural duels with high paced action and lots of special effects and powers.

I don't want that in this game. If I would make fighting a key element too then the game would be nothing else than a slightly different themed dungeon crawler: you walk around the board and collect treasures (souls) and fight monsters (lost souls). I would say that this would be a lost opportunity and wasted potential since this theme has a lot more to offer. At the very least I hope it does.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with dungeon crawlers and I get why they are so succesful and why a lot of people enjoy them. Personally, I don't really like them even though from time to time I bring Mansions of Madness or Mice&Mystiques to the table. But since this is a genre that I am not paticular fond of I don't believe I will ever design one of my own.

These are the main two reasons why I don't want to approach this idea that way. Your comment made me realize that, so I will thank you again.

Joined: 06/27/2012
I would like to point you to

I would like to point you to the book series "Incarnations of Immortality" by Piers Anthony. The first book is called "On a Pale Horse" and is about the Incarnation of Death.

The main character basically becomes Death and must learn the job as he does it. His job revolves around weighing the souls of those recently departed, focusing on those souls so close to the line that they can neither float to heaven or sink to hell without his judgement. In rare cases, souls too neutral for Heaven or Hell would go with Death to Purgatory.

Much of the book involves Death's interaction with the other Incarnations(War, Fate, Time, etc), sometimes helpful, sometimes not, as he learns his new vocation.

Joined: 06/07/2012
For some reason this thread

For some reason this thread only just popped up on my screen, which is a shame because it’s a very interesting theme.

I think a lot of people take offense at certain things because of the disassociation modern life imparts to the practical realities that underline it. And the nature of Death is one of the most obvious amongst them.

People tend to have a slightly warped idea of Death and what it might or might not imply. People tend to be horrified at the suffering of another person and yet the horror of an animal suffering is considered shocking, but less disturbing. It might be due to something as simple as a common association.

When we see another person suffering it’s easier for us to put ourselves in their place and presume to identify with that suffering. Or, alternatively, the scenario makes us realise the tenuous nature of our own mortal coils. In turn this leads to the facing a fear that people would rather ignore, to the point of hiding it from them selves.

Disregarding the fact that Death is, at this moment in time, inevitable for everyone. It’s really just a matter of time, not if, but when.

The secondary aspect is the loss of those close to use and the memories, happy and sad, that the final curtain call bequeaths us. Other, after the event, situations can lead to a return to those memories and the feelings associated with them.

More importantly, for game designers, is the fact that people bring these notions to the gaming table with them. That being the case they can play an important part in a persons’ experience of a game.

In relation to this theme it might be an idea to consider alternate takes on the idea of Death. In the TAROT people sometimes flip out at seeing the Death card, assuming it to mean the most obvious association. In fact it actually refers to a moment of profound change, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.

In a similar vein, the common view of Death is of a shady entity, when in fact the entity merely exists to guide souls from one area of being to another – in something that might be considered a helpful manner. A mythological association could also be draw with Charon the Ferryman who transports the dead across the river Styx in return for payment.

And as others have already mentioned, the game could be more like the Pratchett take on the matter, with each creature having its own figure for Death, like the Death of Rats character. Linking the idea to another life form might be enough to distance people from the idea of their own conceptions about the entity and its lore.

Once again, agreeing with other posters, if you haven’t read the Sandman novels you’ve missed out. And Neils’ characterisation of Death is ‘Peachy Keen’.

Moving along, the mechanics of a game associated with this notion could take many forms.

It could be a simple reaping trick taking game.

It could be a themed abstract relating to the journey of souls along the various rivers of Hades, in return for payments of different types.

It could be that Death is a helper, bringing peace to bewildered souls, showing them the way forward by giving counsel in relation to the matters or events that chain them to the mortal world – like the spirits did in Scrooge, but with a guidance counselor with a wider outlook.

Death doesn’t decide it simply lays out the facts in a manner that helps people come to terms with them, and with the benefit of clarity decide the direction they wish to take.

It’s a process that doesn’t require Death to have a personal and subjective input and why should it. Arguing for a set path is pretty pointless when you can simply wait for someone to change their mind or heart, and Death has all the time in eternity to wait.

This take on things could lead to multiple different mechanics. Set forming card play, free roaming social interchange to sooth disturbed souls and persuade them to move on, add in minions (or replace allies and monsters with resolutions and events) for a deck builder, play to the logistics and design around Death managing all those souls for a worker placement.

You could even tie the theme to the TAROT and have character cards working in relation to the events that deck describes, possibly using the various layouts within the game. Instead of a reading for a real person the cards would be used to guide the lives of in game characters. Although some gamers might find this particular take a little too esoteric and problematic in relation to their own belief systems.

All told, the possibilities for associating mechanics with the theme are pretty endless.

Joined: 05/22/2013
How about you are the grim

How about you are the grim reaper harvesting the souls of sheep? Lemmings?

Shoe's picture
Joined: 12/21/2012
Sperber wrote:I've been

Sperber wrote:
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?

For a far less "grim" version of the reaper, check out On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony (part of the incarnations of immortality) Death doesn't KILL the people in that novel, he releases them from comas, and near-death-agony. You may not want it quite THAT benevolent, but I'm sure death can be seen as a release instead of murder by a skeleton-guy with scary weapon/farming tool.


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