Die of the Dead Designer Diary 6: Deep Dive into the Caskets (2)

Before we finish our deep dive into the casket mechanics (which won’t make sense if you didn’t read the last post here: https://radical8games.com/die-of-the-dead/die-of-the-dead-designer-diary-5-deep-dive-into-the-first-caskets/) I just want to show off a photo of the game by Ross from moregamesplease. It’s an absolute stunner, and really helps highlight the beauty of the game:

Photo by Ross Connell (moregamesplease)

Now, on with the blog…

In the last blog post I spoke about how all the caskets had to offer a genuine choice, reward the current player, and offer something to keep the other players invested. I also mentioned that the first two caskets were about getting dice, representing the souls traveling back to the land of the living, into the caskets to begin their journey. The last two caskets still offer a genuine choice, and still reward the current player whilst keeping all other players engaged. But now the theme has changed to one of overcoming and finishing a journey, and so the mechanics do all they can to support that.

The final casket was actually one of the first ones we came up with. This casket is the final one, and player’s souls leave this casket to ascend towards the land of the living. The primary action here actually depends upon the roll of the dice in the casket, with the best roll having two of their souls ascended. The current player can also ascend one of their souls, so even if the dice beat them, they still get something. If they chose this casket without having any souls in it, they can take a power soul instead. This incentivises players to choose this casket as a guarantee of ascending a soul, and even has the possibility of ascending three! It’s not too harsh if players choose it when they shouldn’t, but it needs to be chosen in order to win. Finally there is also the option to move the caskets as well, putting this casket back to the first position. This is entirely down to the player, and gives them some control who can ascend next.

That left the third casket. This proved to be the most difficult to design for. Initial designs had variants on the 4th casket, with souls ascending, but it felt unthematic to stop the journey ¾ of the way through. After a number of different tests we came up with the idea of the journey being difficult, the obsidian cliffs of the journey to the land of the dead. This also solved a problem we were having with players overloading caskets with their dice to almost guarantee a winning roll at the end. Casket 3 would remove dice from the casket, forcing those souls to restart the journey over again. Any player’s dice which are a double (or triple etc) are removed from the casket, leaving at least one dice from that player. This only punishes players who get to greedy, and can still be mitigated by clever play, but prevents players from dumping dice into caskets. Again, some of the biggest laughs can come from a player choosing this casket and removing loads of dice from the other players (and sometimes themselves!). In gameplay this casket has acted exactly as that obstacle to be overcome, with players holding their breath when they have a load of souls on this space. Of course, we still need the current player to be rewarded, even if no souls leave, so they get to take either a Candle, Incense, Marigold or Bread. Powerful tokens which can be used to change the state of the game.

So those are the 4 caskets. One for beginning, preparation, disruption and ascension. Each one rewards the current player, but offers something to keep all other players invested. Each is distinct and unique, making the choice purposeful. And each of them is stunning to look at and fun to hold.

About mark

Small games designer into small games publisher.
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