Death scenes

I was thinking about something when designing my WIP and I noticed that the majority of COG/HG games don’t have unique death screens (unless I’m blind which is very possible) regarding character deaths at different segments of the game. Most of them just default to a “you died” (or similar) screen with the play again and such options below it.

I was wondering if there’s a reason for this? If so, why?

To me, it just seems like we should really expand on this a lot more. While we don’t want to necessarily celebrate the defeat of the protagonist, leaving the ending of the story as ‘you died’ and telling nothing of what the character accomplished before they died seems… flat? Anti-climactic? In my opinion, of course.

Am I missing something regarding this sort of game design? Is there some secret I am not yet aware of?


I’m also unsure (this is more of a C-Script question but related to the above) why there needs to be a scene file called ‘death’ if you do want to touch on the subject. Why not just use *goto and then *label for a related scene (for example your character isn’t going to die the same way while cooking breakfast as they would driving a car) that expands upon failure?


To reply to this portion of your post, specifically… The good news is that there doesn’t have to be a “death.txt” scene if you don’t want to have one! All potential player character deaths in both of my games were written/are located in (as far as I can remember, lol) the ending scene I wrote/coded!


I’d love to see unique death scenes, in fact. I think Age of Decadence was particularly good at this - instead of simple death screen it had a variety of different scenes with a lot of text. That was unique and memorable.
I think I just didn’t see a lot of permadeath scenes in text games in general. It seems not a most popular option.

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Can’t answer your C-Script question, but as for the main topic, I didn’t see a lot of death in these games to begin with, since a lot of people are easily tired of dying and having to restart a game from the very beginning, considering these don’t have a save system when finished (at least most of them).
More often than not, you can have “bad endings” where the MC dies, but that’s literally an actual end. What you’re talking about seems to be more akin to a “game over”, and it seems to me this is pretty rare in IF.
I do like “narrated game overs” and bad endings, so I’m all in favor of that, though. But I agree that repeated dying and restarting a game from start IS annoying.
It may be that a some authors don’t put a lot of work into scenes people will actually want to avoid :thinking:
But really, I mostly notice the general lack of death.

If the games allowed to save, it would be much more popular in general, I think. So if you manage to somehow implement a checkpoint system or something, people will probably like it.


Yes, this is a good point.

Are you referring to various endings of a given story-game that just happen to end in the player character’s death? If you are, then to be honest I don’t particularly recall those being very scarce. A lot of stories have an “epilogue” of sorts that wraps everything up, and a lot of these also include: “MC lived a long, happy life and was buried next to their beloved Character X”. Or, are you talking about *choices that just grant instant death/game overs? Like a “rocks fall, everyone dies” button?


I am. Talking about various scenes that end in PC death that is. Or rather ones that can end in the PC death. It may be that I just play games that don’t need to incorporate scenes like this.

To answer @Konoi I am not necessarily talking about death (for example, in space if you lose your ship you are probably dead but not necessarily) though it does seem the most likely outcome for most scenarios ending in a game over screen.

@AAChmielewski Challenge accepted. I’ll butter the bread on this one or die trying.


Also how do you make a save file using C-Script? The only one I know is for the DashingDon website.


Yeah, but as you said, it leads to a game over screen. Obviously death is one of the most common game overs in games that have a tense or precarious enough situation to warrant game overs, but what I was saying is valid no matter if it’s death or not. Game overs are not popular in IF from what I’ve seen, since whatever happens, the adventure ends suddenly and prematurely and one has to replay the entire game to try and fix that.
With a bad ending, there is no really “fixing” - you reached an ending, it was a bad / sad / tragic one, but the story did actually end, and one can replay in a different way.
The perception of these two types of “bad outcomes” and/or death can be pretty distinct, depending on the player.

Can’t help you with that - I didn’t see games having actual save files, when finished, but some ask you if you want to save after certain chapters, like “A Study in Steampunk” that allows you to save each two chapters I believe, so when you restart you can load one of these checkpoints.


I just realized that IF is Interactive Fiction and now I’m wondering if I’m a functioning human being or a potato.

Would you say that a game over is off set by an ability to save the game even if it is only at distinct checkpoints? One per chapter or maybe one at the beginning of a scenario where permadeath is possible?

Personal tastes? I find it narratively boring when there’s nothing to lose. I know it’s not a popular opinion but if an author can make those stakes clear before any choices are made and then have said choices back up said stakes while being fair; I’ll be on the edge of my seat.


”No game-overs” doesn’t necessarily mean ”nothing to lose”, though.


Hmm honestly, I’m a visual novel person before being an IF person, and in most visual novels you can save anytime, so to me the ability to save is normal and I don’t think it lessens the impact of a game over nor does it affect the tension I feel when playing.
The only difference it makes is that when I play a visual novel, I explore all the paths and actually aim to get all of the game overs and bad endings, and then I finish the game with the good ending, so I feel the inmense satisfaction of having seen all of the bad outcomes first. Knowing what was actually avoided when getting the good ending makes the satistaction all that stronger when reaching said ending.
In IF, I simply avoid bad ending and game overs at all cost, and I end up reading less content. Or if I’m curious, I just go and read them in the code. And if the game is really hard and I’m annoyed at restarting, I just read the code to avoid game overs so eh… Keep in mind I hate guides usually, but in IF I sometimes check the code instead of playing the intended way because of the lack of saves.

It depends on the person really.


Well, yes. Though I can’t say that managing to get through every challenge while bumbling about aimlessly is a narratively immersive either. I haven’t quite seen anything like this is COG/HG (maybe some but I likely didn’t play them that long) but I think the point is clear enough on what I am intending to convey, hopefully™.

I look at IF from the perspective of someone playing D&D. Best DMs I’ve ever had were… fair but hard? If you made a really dumb decision, your character would pay for it. If you made smart ones, you’d reap the benefits. If you make okay decisions you’d get where you were going but you were at the will of the dice.

Maybe I’m just old though.

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That was not adressed to me, but as a long time player AND DM of tabletop RP, I would say that I tend to like hard games, but with leniency, so I’m not so different with RP and videogames. I never had any pleasure in playing very punishing RP games, as to me it’s all about the wonder and the journey and being able to experience a great story, not about avoiding traps and overcoming life-threatening challenges at each step, or having my fate in the “hands” of a dice. I find it boring and disheartening. Some of our RP campaigns are games that don’t even use dice (no randomness at all, basically), and are all about choices.
One of these IS the harshest game I’m DM’ing, sure, but I would never kill off my players’ characters, for example. Unless they royally screw the ending climax of the story, but that would be a bad ending for the character, with no reroll.

IF are very similar to RP to me, basically - I like the same things. I like IF so much because it’s a cross between visual novels and RP to me.

That’s the spirit, good luck!

We have different approaches to D&D then. I’m completely fine with a character’s death (mine or someone else’s if I am DMing) so long as it makes sense and isn’t narratively boring (looking at you Power Word Kill spell).

For example, you’re not going to die in one of my games from tripping over a log or something trivial (I’m bad at coming up with examples on the spot) but if you did something like try to jump a 30ft gap unassisted without a running start over a boiling pit of lava… you’re probably not going to make it out of there.

Rule of Cool is hit or miss with me. Really depends on the tone of the story.


Yes, that is true for both tabletop RP and IF, in my opinion.
I am less lenient in some games than others, when I’m DM’ing, and it doesn’t depend on the complexity of the system nor if the game has dice or not.
I think it’s important in IF too. Depending on the setting, players will be more or less upset at game overs. One can’t complain if the entire tone makes obvious it’ll be easy to die - you just know you’re getting into something like that.
I would probably still look at the code since I wouldn’t want to restart too many times, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy it.

I mean, unless it’s a game where players have dragons and angels and other magical creatures like that as characters, even I’m not that lenient :rofl:
But that would be dumb of them to do that and expect to survive so yeah.

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I had one DM (horror story) that killed off three PCs by tripping down a flight of stairs… twice each save for one of them. His logic was ‘you’re running down the stairs in the middle of combat’ which while this makes logical sense it’s very boring narratively.

But I’ve also had an amazing DM that made an entire campaign out of a character’s death. The short version is we all started at level 1 and things were going very far south in a kobold den. So one player stayed back and held the line while the others fled or dragged their KOed teammates away. This one was a combination of some dumb decisions (although some were hilarious) made by a new player at the table (bless their heart) and just really, really bad dice rolls.

DM in that story of course, since the PCs went back to the tavern and told the story (as well as tried to get some guards to help) and in short the dead player ended up immortalized in the campaign setting’s history as a hero. Sad for the player that didn’t get to play that particular character (he’d written a pretty good backstory with a bunch of plothooks the DM used later) but he made a second which even he agreed he probably had more fun with since he didn’t know all the ways the plot was going to go.

Naturally, there’s a number of times the DM messed up (we’re all human) but… that’s definitely one of the best campaigns I’ve ever been in. Kept us on a knife’s edge the entire time and level capped us at 6 (8?). Death was always right around the corner and we knew the stakes were high.


Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a mc. I think that a mistake will be worst if it’s another who payed the price. A friend, family, lover, town… And build the guilt from there. Death isn’t the most interesting punishment for a mc. Like in the Lost Heir trilogy.

As for death itself… Well, it’s abrupt because it is death. I think that most of the time, it’s best to keep simple with a mc death scene, unless it’s a story part (villains win, mc’s sacrifice…) Keep it for the important or spectacular death with a lot of stake.

If it’s just because the toaster explode … Well…

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Depends on the reader. There’s a number of players out there that would gladly sacrifice an NPC for their PC. And vice versa, of course.

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I’ve written various death scenes in both seasons on UnNatural after all a vampire won’t kill you the same way as a werewolf would.


Did you use *ending for these or *label with some variables?