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Sabriel - Inspired Co-op

This is a pretty early idea, my first game to progress past a simple theme or concept, so please feel free to offer hard criticism, I'm here to learn.

The concept is based off the young adult book Sabriel by Garth Nix. Super quick summary of relevant plot if you don't know it: fantasy world where there's good Chater Magic and bad Free magic, there's tons of untrained necromancers who are bad raising dead and trying to gain power, and also dead creatures accruing power. There's also one good necromancer who uses charter magic to put the dead back down. In the series Death is represented by an endlessly wide river which flows away from life and toward the 'final gate.' Within death there are 9 "precincts' and 9 'gates' dividing them, the final of which leads to true death. gates can only be passed by free magic, if you fall through one you will likely be stunned and carried all the way to final death.


In this game you play as a recently dead creature who is trying to gather power and servants so it can return to life and wreak havoc. Upon dying you were carried by the river all the way to the brink of the 8th gate (the ninth precinct and gate are the final ones so the dead DON'T want to go there) and begin with low stats, varying between severable playable dead.

At the beginning of the game, the 1-3(?) dead characters have low stats, and must gain servants and knowledge so they can fight the influence of the river, pass each gate, and either enter life or defeat an ultimate enemy. In the latter case, flavor text would indicate that the players have accrued enough power as a result of their victory to reenter life. These ultimate enemies are powerful forces such as the Abhorsen (good necromancer) or an ancient power (like one of the spirits which created charter magic)

A little bit like the Arkham Horror method, close the portal or kill the old one.

In the main body of the game players move about a precinct, subjugate or run from other dead, deal with events such as lesser necromancers or river influence, and gain knowledge and power to pass a gate. Passing a gate moves players to the next section of the board. Each precinct has special characteristics, and they become more challenging and more rewarding as the players move on.

Player stats:
Will, Influence, and Corruption are the three scales which determine actions the player can take and reactions the game will have.

- Will: allows you to dominate lesser dead but makes the river try to trick you into falling back toward true death (increase your mobility and power while increasing frequency of river events)

- Influence: draws lesser dead and information but attracts powerful, unpredictable forces (more opportunities for gaining AP and spells to pass gates, but more likely that an endgame power comes to fight you)

- Corruption: Makes opening gates easier as you are more in tune with free magic, but charter magic becomes impossible to bear and lesser dead will attempt to flee (makes lesser servants harder to get to and closes off one kind of magic)

Currently I think the game board will have a small number of areas per precinct, perhaps 5-6 major locations for each precinct, and only one of these will connect to adjacent gates. I am working through the rest of play, how will turn structure occur, how will players move, will lesser dead be on the map or in the form of a card drafting pool, etc.

I would love reactions/suggestions/questions!!

I will post again once I have a fuller structure for the game.




Some brief observations I offer for you to consider...

I can almost see this game as a re-themed Talisman. Still high-fantasy, loads of monsters and weird events, and gobs of cards to empower characters. Each stage of escaping Death would have its own challenges to overcome, but also its own ways for each player to gain strength(s).

Other cool things about Talisman is the fact that there can be only one winner, and everyone is out to not only make it to the end, but to beat their opponents. It will add a measure of player interaction you may want to explore.

Finally, as you admit that this is your first game that's made it beyond the conceptual phase, it may be helpful for you to model or re-theme your game off what has come before, solely for the experience of it.

As mentioned earlier, this concept seems a bit low on interaction, at least from how you describe it here. You may want to consider some "take that" activities that players can use against one another to move further ahead. Another option is shared successes/cooperation between players, though I don't think this seems fitting to the theme.

One issue that many have to criticize Talisman is that when someone is ahead, they usually stay that way, and when someone is behind, they NEVER EVER EVER have a chance to catch up and win. You may want to consider how to keep all players involved in the race to the end of the game, and consider that they must feel like they always have at least a small chance of pulling off a win if they play intelligently (and that luck is with them). Additionally, there can be creative ways to slow down the obvious leader, or make it harder for them to push ahead as a runaway leader. Maybe each stage is easier to escape the more active undead there are?


Never read the series you're talking about, but I hope you have fun with this project! The balance between the two types of magic powers active in this world is something you can play up and incorporate into the mechanics in some interesting ways.


Thanks let-off, great advice. I was certainly looking for ways to make player interaction more meaningful. I've been waffling between co-op shared victory because I like those kinds of games and a take that game because it fits the theme much better and I really love the theme.

I will look into Talisman, a model to borrow from would be immensely helpful.

As for rubber banding, I was considering either that if one player enters a higher precinct than another they bear the brunt of event consequences alone, making it harder to progress until other players enter the space. Either that, or make it so the gates are too powerful to be passed alone and must be passed as a group, potentially with some mechanic where one or two players can encourage/force others to pass with them. That way, even though all characters want to be the first to enter life, they cannot make it all the way alone. I love a game where you must work together and then betray one another at the last moment, makes for some deeper roleplay.

Again, thanks for your input, and I will keep working away!


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