So there we have it, the working title of my monster hunting game. I’ve been gravitating towards “Valor” for some time but felt like the name needed a little so a subtitle was added. I actually got the idea because of what I wanted to touch on today: death.
Those first few tests saw my fair share of failure as I pushed deeper into the web of this game’s engine. Death in some of my favorite campaign games are quite fun as going unconscious on the battlefield doesn’t always mean a grisly end. The reality is that we see this kind of fate in many of our stories and so just because the hero fell, didn’t mean he actually died.
In campaign miniatures games, a lot of times it means they fell in combat or were otherwise incapacitated. This could mean unconsciousness, grievous injury, or simply feigning defeat to hopefully live to fight another day. I don’t think I want to ever take agency away from the player and force a hero to completely lose moral and leave/flee the field but maybe some are witty enough to fool a monster and get out of a bad situation.
An injury table is pretty common so at the end of each hunt, if you went unconscious, the scenario will let you know what the result was based on a d12 roll, the worse the roll, the worse the result. I’m still fiddling with it so it may be a general table that you always consult or each scenario has its own results. I like the latter best as it means you can have dumb enemies that could be duped into thinking your dead and leaving you be or you can have smart (or just hungry) enemies that don’t trust that you are actually dead and take extreme matters to insure you are done.
As you progress from hunt to hunt, your hero will gain in abilities, equipment, and resources as long as they survived. This will happen even if they fail the hunt but the nature of this game is that the monster is still out there and you need to defeat it. As you fail though, you also may gain injuries that cause negative effects to your prowess and eventually, death.
Bringing us full circle to the name Valor: Bloodlines, I want death to occur (and maybe occur a lot) as I want this campaign to feel epic in the narrative as well as in the game mechanics. I hit on an idea where progress could continue even with the death of the hero through the mechanism of the hero’s heir taking the deceased’s place as the next monster hunter. The heir gains access to all the equipment and resources of the previous hero and can take on some of the abilities and skills the previous hero had. The story being that this heir grew up knowing monster hunting is in the tradition of their family and in between hunts, the hero would help train the next in line.
I know this is nothing new, in fact after I thought of it, I was reminded of an old iOS game, Infinity Blade, where you died and came back as a new descendant of the previous protagonist. I believe they even called it a bloodline. No matter, my bloodline serves an actual narrative purpose and the heir changes based on how long the previous hero lived, how many successful hunts he went on, and even how he died.
While the player must defeat the current monster before moving to the next one and this cycle of death transcending to a new generation of monster hunters means there will be repetition, I don’t want this game to have a grind element. There should be a plausible path through most or all the hunts for one hero to take and never die. It will likely be rare given that dice are involved and I want the game to be challenging but I don’t want the player to feel like he has to just grind on this monster game after game to get enough abilities to win only to face a harder foe and have to grind again.
I’m ok with repetition if the player is learning how to defeat the monster but straight hunt >> defeat >> improve >> repeat is not the intent. There should be some entropy happening as the game progresses and the more hunts you fight, even when you win, takes a toll on the body and soul. The narrative side of things will illustrate why you are compelled to keep these hunts going even through your kin to help pull in the full story I’m trying to push and the one the player will ultimately tell.