Games Design - [Dark Days]My core concept is dumb, please help.

Posted by: George Cotronis On: Nov 27th 2009 edited

Dark Days is the game I'm working on. I'll explain it the way I came up with it, so that it makes sense.
Dark Days is a game about people with supernatural powers, that investigate and battle horrors in a world filled with the occult and the supernatural.

Are they magicians? No. They're people that died and then came back from the dead imbued with powers. Where do the powers come from? Darkness.

Darkness is a non-sentient force, one that affects our lives and pools where bad things happen. It's like a disease that spreads out as series of events unfold

A guy is an alcoholic and drives drunk. He hits you wife and she dies. You get depressed and kill yourself. It all starts with one guy but spreads out. That's a mundane example. A supernatural example is when a guy kills five people in a house and you move in. This ends up making you crazy and you chop up your family. Both are valid.

This is where the problem comes in. Up to now, the idea was that the Darkness, even as a non-sentient force, strikes a ''deal'' with the characters. They become a vessel for Darkness and they get to come back to life to pursue their goals (revenge, a different life, whatever). The powers are just perks. The more the Darkness takes a hold on your soul, the more powerful you become.
The problem is that it doesn't make much sense. It implies that Darkness wants a chance to spread out misery by using you as a vessel, but you have so much control over it that it's really a bad dead for the Darkness. It's also not very non-sentient thing to do.

I have three alternative ideas:
1. The characters gain an understanding of the Darkness. By looking into it, they accept a part of it into them. The whole ''When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you'' thing. I like it more, I think, but I don't know how to explain it well.

2. The characters are slowly corrupted by Darkness, as it offers them a way to do something they can't do on their own. Like exact revenge on a big time mob boss. This way the characters starts on the path of Darkness on his own and he accepts it into his heart in order to gain the power needed to finish what he started.

3. The characters never die per se. They make a deal before they die (along the lines of #2) that costs them dearly, in order to both survive and continue the path they chose.

---Spoilers for Punisher Born follow------

As an example, in Punisher Born, Frank Castle is a soldier in vietnam. He loves war and he loves killing. He hears a voice in his mind that offers him the chance of an eternal war. All he has to do is agree. In the end, while the camp is being overrun, everyone is dead except Castle and he's been shot 4-5 times. The voice offers him the chance to both survive, and get his wish, to eternally wage war, if he agrees to pay the price.
He agrees and survives, returns to the US. Later his family dies of course.

This example covers alternatives 2 and 3 more or less.

I'm looking for both general feedback on the concepts and your ''vote'' for one of them. Any feedback is welcome.

Posted by: George Cotronis On: Nov 27th 2009

Had a bit of a revelation:

This was the problem.

When you come back, you come back with an Obsession. An Avenger has to avenge, himself or others that have been wronged. It's almost a compulsion (or a curse, fittingly).

The game drives this with Tenebrae. In order to keep your dead body working, you need Tenebrae. Tenebrae is liquid Darkness. It fuels your body, your powers and you can use it to heal your wounds.
How do you get Tenebrae? You get it by following your Obsession. Depending on the act, you gain different amounts.

An example from my playtest: The avenger guy has one scotch too many and is pissed off about something, so he walks around the neighborhood hoping to find some asshole in order to kick his ass. I provide him with the chance to beat up a pimp he finds on the street. He's in the process of beating some young kid for unexplained reasons. So the Avenger opens a can of wup ass and ends up killing him. He gets a measure of Tenebrae for that (and some madness notches).

Now this is a bad example. In an actual game, he would actually walk the path of vengeance in meaningful ways (well, as meaningful vengeance can be), but you get the idea. I think it works, no?

The problem is that some types of characters have more altruistic obsessions. Redeemers and Wraiths for example. Redeemers want to help others to redemption and Wraiths see horrible future events and try to stop them. I removed the Redeemers completely from the game because I don't think they fit so well. I like the Wraiths though so I'd like to keep them.

The problem (in case it's not evident) is, why would you gain Tenebrae when you're trying to save some people from getting killed by a gas explosion? The Darkness doesn't want you to save them, so why would that action empower you?
I think the key to solving this is to define their Obsession as just that, an obsession. The Wraith has to attempt to stop the event, even if it means getting his friends killed or leaving his wife or killing 5000 other people in another part of town. This makes the character less altruistic and more obsessed. A bit like a burned out cop that will do anything to save a victim, even while he's killing dozens of others and ruining his marriage.

It's probably is a good idea to come up with a reason that you gain Tenebrae, or define where it comes from.

Posted by: James Mullen On: Nov 30th 2009

I can dig the idea of a non-sentient force for evil that might also be used to do good; instead of 'Darkness', try (as a thought experiment) thinking of 'guns'. A gun doesn't care who uses it or why; anyone can pick a gun up and use it; you can use a gun to get revenge, to defend the weak, even as a tool to persuade others to change their wicked ways; and, of course, if you've got a gun and are using it, other people will need guns of their own just to level the playing field.

Now go back to 'Darkness', which is basically a sort of uber-gun witn lots of gnarly powers; it is therefore also a lot more dangerous...

I can really see Option 1 working very well; picture the scene where the character's soul leaves their body and where angels (or demons) urge them on to their eternal reward. Then they notice all this Darkness hanging about and ask what it is... from there, its a short step back into the world of the living to clear up their unifinished business, but really thats just an excuse to keep on living, fuelled by the Obsessions they offered to the Darkness in order to be 'reborn'.

I'd even restore the Redeemer type, as I find that quite an exciting concept; the soul so determined to save the things he holds most dear that he will bring Darkness into everything else he touches... which of course means he is eternally separated from the thing he sold his soul for the sake of!

Posted by: Carl C. On: Nov 30th 2009

Here's another way of looking at it:

The character, on death, is obsessed with all the things s/he never got to do in life. This makes his/her soul very difficult for the Darkness to digest. While dead, they make a deal with the Darkness, whereby the Darkness allows them to use it to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish, and the more they use the darkness, the more the Darkness breaks down and absorbs them. thus, when they're done with their missions, they are done, period.

Posted by: George Cotronis On: Dec 2nd 2009 edited

I took your feedback and my own conclusions and I updated the text in the draft.
This is a short text taken from the character creation chapter, defining what the characters are.

Wayward/Revenants (I can't choose a name to call characters. I know it's a very WW-thing to do, but I get tired of saying ''those guys'' or ''the characters''). I'd love any ideas or feedback on these 2 names.

In Dark Days, you play the role of a Wayward.
You are one of the dead that came back. You wanted something so bad that not even death could keep you from returning to it.
You dragged your carcass back into the light but you brought something with you. It’s somewhere deep inside of you, a voice in your head that asks you to do terrible things. Sometimes you have to listen to it. The Darkness inside of you is constantly tormenting, baiting you, trying to make you do things that will push you deeper into Hell and allow it to take over your body, make you an instrument of entropy and destruction.

You used to be someone. A person with a life that resembled ‘’normal’’. You had a wife, maybe kids. You held down a job. You had ‘’hobbies’’ and ‘’acquaintances’’. Then things started to go wrong.
Your wife got sick. Cancer. Your son disappeared from the playground when you weren’t looking. Your dog, your only real friend got hit by a truck. Your house burned down and you lost your job. Whatever it was that befell you, your life went to hell, along with a part of you, the shallow, shitty part of you.
This part, we call Darkness. The entropy of bad luck. The disease in your loved one’s lungs, the black van that killed your son, the well dressed guy that seduced your girlfriend. The accident around the corner, waiting to leave you paralyzed.

This is Darkness at play. It touches you and turns everything to crap. It makes you one of its own.

Then you died. Funny how things can always get worse. You have no idea just how bad things can get. You didn’t go towards the light, no pitchforks were waiting for you, all you got was Darkness. You didn’t understand it, but you caught a glimpse of it when you crawled out of your grave, gasping for air, your heart pumping again, nerves on fire. What you saw in that dark place pushed you to return to the world of the living, it reminded you of things you left undone, things you needed to take care of. So you came back.
You’re something else now, you can do things taken from someone’s nightmares. You’re more resilient, you can make people do things, you look at a guy funny and he wets his pants. And you’re not alone.

A group of Wayward is called an Enclave, much like a group of Crows is called a murder.

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