December 2nd, 2001
Mudslinger Writer's Guide - Part VIII- By Excrucior
The Final Frontier
Death is an interesting problem facing the budding author. Not in real
life, of course, but in the game. How do you deal with it within the
confines of believability and keeping the reader's tension? This could
have been lumped together with the differences between player and
character terminology in the last section, but there's a lot more within
this aspect than is first apparent.
Simply put, the death system in Medievia doesn't lend itself well to a
successful author. You've spent thirty paragraphs building up to the
grand climax where your hero enters a duel with the main enemy of your
piece. "I know," you think, "I'll have the bad guy kill him and I get
another final confrontation!" This is an extreme example, but it serves
the purpose for this demonstration.
Think about the above situation logically. If the hero dies, how can
you rationalize that he goes to the altar, has a ten minute coffee break,
and then comes back to life? Firstly, it's a game system element so
it shouldn't be used. Secondly, you can't really justify it as it
destroys any tension you may have built up for the reader. Sure, he gets
another crack at the bad guy, but if he fails next time - so what? He can
have another go, and another go, and another go until he wins. Life
should be treated as precious and not something that can be regained
easily. Something that a character obtains easily is not valued as highly by
Logic also rears its nasty head when you turn the card over - why
doesn't the character's foe pop off to the altar for a quick resurrection as
well? After all, if you have a system where death isn't final then
you're going to have to explain away why it's only for certain people. To
come up with some sort of convincing justification there would take a
lot longer than the text we'd like you to come up with.
It's a similar story for resurrection. I've had many a tale where the
party meet a nasty beast, or even the final beast of the adventure, and
one or more of them fall before it. The survivors finish off the enemy
and they just whip out their trusty Gems of Souls and... Hey Presto we
have a full form again! Again, it dilutes the impact of when someone
actually dies. How should you deal with this? One solution would be
not to kill someone - have them gravely wounded but just hanging on until
a cleric arrives. Too corny? Have them properly die, if you prefer.
A little pathos never hurt anyone at the end of a tale - it can
contrast nicely with the joy felt by the victors.
Then consider the aspects of LPK, NPK and CPK. How can you define
these areas to the reader in terms that are believable? I've seen terms
such as "Where the god's writ does not run" for CPK - trust me when I say that a god's
writ runs everywhere. This is a prime example of just explaining things
away by invoking the gods at every opportunity. Avoid it.
Can you justify not being able to kill someone in Castle Square but
having them as a prime target in the Xezadha Cathedral? I couldn't do it
convincingly. How could you explain away the fact that when someone
gets killed in a NPK area they appear outside it extremely wounded?
Compare that to killing someone in CPK and having them dead on the ground
instead. Can you justify this to the readers? I couldn't. I take a
step or two down the corridor and suddenly someone can kill when they
couldn't where I was before? Not likely.
How could you deal with this convincingly? The simple answer is to
ignore it. Don't try and define an area as anything. Just don't have
people attacking or threatening it in known lawful areas - or even having
them attacking. Why not? People are cheerfully walking around with
swords and axes and brimming with magic - why can they not attack? If
you handle the tale correctly you should not need to worry about such
aspects - just ignore it. Don't write yourself into a situation where you have to work around it.
You could mention things like the town of Riverton being busy so you
couldn't attack fellow player X there, but underground in the mines it's
a different story - dark and few people around. Of course you could
wait till nightfall and attack them in the town - but then player X would
be safely ensconced in a tavern and watched over by an observant innkeeper.
This does get a touch lame, however, because people will know what you
are trying to do - at this point they'll be thinking on the lines you
don't want them to and all can be lost.
We've dealt with one of the final endings, next issue we'll look at the
beginnings. Introductions and how to do them.
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