Mask of the Plague Doctor - WIP [Chapter Eight added]

#94

I’ve only just started playing with the demo, but I gotta say, “I’m too pretty to die” (lightly paraphrased) is one of my favorite choices for determining stats, ever.

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#95

Hello everyone. It’s been a while, so I thought I’d stop by with a bit of an update on how things are progressing with MotPD.

What’s likely to be of most interest to you lovely readers and testers is that you’ll be getting new versions of the game, chapter-by-chapter. Once Chapter Five is edited, I’ll add it to the ongoing beta. When Chapter Six is done, likewise … and so on (haven’t entirely decided if/when that process will come to a halt - but for now you’ll get fresh text every month-ish).

In addition! I’ve been messing with Chapters 1-4, so you’ll see some changes there when the version with Chapter Five is released. Summary text for stat descriptions will no longer disappear, for example. And I’ve added an (optional, WiP) ‘codex’ type page with some world background on the stats page for people who’d be interested in that. I’ll do some patch notes when the time comes.

Right now, Chapter Five is in the hands of @Mary_Duffy and Chapter Six has just this evening crossed the 10k words barrier (which, at a guess, is about halfway). In total, that’s pushing up close to the big 100k.

Earlier (much earlier!) in the thread, I mentioned that I’d do a post about the books I’ve been using as reference material and inspiration. So here we go (links to Goodreads pages included).

The Plague - Albert Camus: Not exactly ‘reference’ material (since it’s set in the 1940s), but one of my favourite books and definitely an inspiration for writing a ‘populace trapped inside a plague town’ piece of my own. There’s a bit of Dr Rieux’s spirit in some of the dialogue/choice options in MotPD. I have the Robin Buss translation (Penguin) rather than the one linked here. Not really sure how they might compare.

Medieval Medicine - Toni Mount: I’m 99% sure that ‘Dragon’s Blood and Willow Bark’ (linked here) is the same book that I’ve been using, just a different edition or something. It’s a solid overview of medieval medical practices for a pretty mainstream audience (no criticism intended there, that’s exactly what I was wanting!) Lots of useful information about methods of diagnosis, treatments from roughly 12th-16th Century periods. Major figures in medicine (Paracelsus, Hildegard of Bingen, much earlier foundational figures like Galen, etc). Plus some marvellous images like a surgical guide ‘wound man’ and urine charts. Easy to read, fascinating and horrifying in equal measure.

Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs - multiple authors: More of an encyclopedic text, it has entries on all manner of topics (from ‘stories with a vengeful queen’ to ‘animal transformation’, that kind of thing). I dipped in and out of this for help and reference when constructing my own in-world deities and customs, to make sure they seemed broadly appropriate for the time period (with an extra dash of strange supernatural elements). Bit less mainstream than the Toni Mount book, it’s more of an academic reference tome I think.

In addition to the above, when writing certain scenes (like the tannery part) I’d do some online research to make sure what I’m describing is at least somewhat accurate. With a fair bit of artistic license, of course.

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#96

That happened sooner than expected … Chapter Five is now playable :slightly_smiling_face:

Some partial patch notes for Chapters One through Four:

Stats Page

  • Summary text for Talents now remains indefinitely.
  • Summary text for Personality added (also remains indefinitely).
  • Name, Gender, and Mask type should all be capitalised now.
  • There’s a whole separate ‘Codex and Aide Memoire’ page with some backstory/primer text.

Chapter 3

  • Players should no longer magically know that Duncan and Malle are named Duncan and Malle.

Chapter 4

  • You can now try (and I must stress try) to wear your mask at the Mayor’s dinner.
  • There’s now a more non-committal option when being asked to look the other way about Mayoral rumours.

Misc

  • Various typos/formatting errors pointed out above have been fixed.
  • Consistency in chapter numbering (no more Chapter 1, Chapter Two, Chapter 3).

That’s not to say Ch 1-4 will stay untouched from now on. I still have plans to add a couple more noncommittal/stoic/creepy options in places.

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#97

Found a tiny coding error concerning our chosen mask down below early in Chapter Five.

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#98

@PParrish Welp, Here’s another game I’ll have to buy.

I found this to be an interesting story and premise. Thus far my only complaint is that, through 5 chapters, there’s been very little time devoted to the plague. Not once have we talked to someone with the Waking Death and learned what is being done to help them. There’s one scene where I find information about techniques that could help, but nowhere is it implemented.

I realize that some of the distractions (the mayor, for example), are meant to show how many complications there are preventing you from getting at it, but I feel less like a plague doctor trying to work amidst intrigue and more like a politician dabbling in medicine.

I don’t think it would take much to restore balance, just one or two quick scenes with plague-stricken. Maybe even, on the times I’m allowed to choose what my character does, have an option to just work with the ill. Sure, it would mean learning less about the goings-on, but it would feel a bit more honest.

Also, I’m not crazy about the “class” options up front and would rather just choose strengths directly.

Again, though, I would buy this as-is.

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#99

Interesting, because:

I specifically remember a “Walking Dead” person on a ledge in the monastery with who we interact

and

we get a chance to talk to the monks of that same monastery who are daily helping those same individuals.

Perhaps things have changed since I last ran a session.

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#100

I had that scene as well, but the moment he was off the ledge the interaction ended with no discussion on treatment. The scene was solely focused on getting a guy down from the ledge. It had nothing to do with the disease or medicine. Also, like I said, it’s the first scene when you arrive, quickly buried by intrigue.

Also, happy birthday.

@PParrish That gives me another idea. Maybe have a bit of the intrigue revealed on the way to town, before you are available to do anything. It would feel more natural that way.

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#101

Juggling the pure medical focus with the intrigue is definitely something that’s occupying my mind, @kckolbe - and prior feedback has noted similar things. I’ve actually just penciled in a mandatory scene at the start of Chapter Seven, because I realized that the PC themselves haven’t checked in on the Sanctuary hall in a while.

I will say there is a limit to how many scenes I can do in which the PC tries to ‘treat’ the plague, because, well, you’re basically unable to for a large portion of the game. There could be a scene where you try to use some herbs to aid sleep and it shows them doing nothing, I suppose. I think I have the Abbot state that the usual apothecary options have been tried but I’d have to check to see how explicit I am about that.

But I do take your point about the balance between medical treatment and intrigue. I am trying to keep them roughly equivalent (in terms of branching options). However, they are inseparable in the plot in some ways, so I think in the end opinions will be split on whether I got that balance ‘right’. And that’s inevitable, but I’ll try to keep as many people happy as possible!

There is a short scene at the beginning of Chapter Four where you interact directly with somebody else who has the Waking Death, but it’s only available as a branch if you failed to gain access to the tannery. It could be that I need an option for everybody to ‘check in’ with the patients at that point. Hmm!

Here’s a break-down of every point where you interact with the plague, or undertake activities to prevent the spread of infection/related activities so far (which I consider part of your PC’s best efforts to tackle an unknown disease). Spoilers through Chapter Five, obviously :slight_smile:

Chapter Two: As mentioned, you encounter the man on the ledge. Whether he lives or dies, you can try to speak with him later (but he’s too far gone), or conduct an examination of his body (where you may learn something if you pass a stat check). If you choose not to do either of those, you interact with others in the Sanctuary hall (some are in early stages and much more lucid than others, even though they all have the Waking Death).

Chapter Three: Everybody goes to the tannery. If you get inside, you can confirm that it’s probably not your plague source (and maybe learn some other things). If you don’t get inside, it provides an option for the Chapter Four interaction with Dyota I mentioned above.

Chapter Four: You can either try to forego Sanctuary policy and start burning bodies, or investigate fake market-stall ‘cures’. These are actions you and your team believe should stem the spread of infection, so they’re pretty important.

Chapter Five: After returning from the Mayor, you get one of three crisis points determined by your stats. One of those sends you to the Sanctuary hall again (it’s a side affliction, but you’re dealing with plague patients) and the one with the silent monks has Waking Death implications.

So, if you miss out on the Chapter Four interaction (and many will, I intend for most to see inside the tannery to be honest), and then don’t get a Waking Death related event firing in Chapter Five … yeah, that does leave you a bit light on those. That’s useful to know.

Oh! Also, regarding choosing your own stats at the start rather than one of the “class” models - I think that’s something I can add. It works on a pretty rigid ‘you’re very good and quite good at a pair of talents, and very bad/quite bad at another pair’ system, so there could be a custom pick.

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#102

It might actually be a good idea to have some scenes where you attempt to treat the plague without knowing what you’re doing. Your ineffectual attempts at the beginning can be contrasted with how you treat the plague effectively at the end of the game once you’ve gained the knowledge and skills you need.

And so you’re not stuck being incompetent, maybe there could be some mention or display of the effectiveness of your techniques in the past, showing that they aren’t working in this particular case for some reason?

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#103

I think I’ll be slotting in an early(ish) scene along those lines, yes. Possibly after the tannery visit, or the opening of Chapter Four.

Update time: There is now an option to define your talents in a more granular way. In Chapter One, when asked about your background, go for “I obtained this mask with a very particular skill set. Let me be specific.” to choose your strengths/weaknesses! It’s probably not the most elegant piece of coding in the world, but it does the job.

In terms of progress… Chapter Six is drafted and in the editing process. I’ll be sure to let everybody know when that one is available to play (later this month). Chapter Seven is in my patented stage of “messing about with branches in Twine to see what sequence of events and choices works best.”

Total word count at the close of Chapter Six (including code) is at 115k. An average play-through (excluding code) sits at about 33k words.

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#104

Update time - Chapter Six is now included in the WiP!

This one features the first significant steps towards ~romance~ with Alice, Ioco, or Lucia. Let me know how you feel about the way these unfold - especially if it feels like you ‘accidentally’ find yourself heading towards a romance you didn’t really intend, or you think stuff is happening a bit too quickly/slowly (but also keep in mind this is just a starting point, there are still probably 5-6 chapters to come.)

And, as always, other feedback or questions are welcomed!

A couple of other changes/additions you may notice:

Chapter 1: As mentioned above, there is now an option to pick and choose which four skill stats to boost/lower.

Chapter 3: After the tannery trip and meeting Lucia for the first time, there is now a short scene back at the Sanctuary where you can make early efforts to treat the plague.

In addition, more players will receive Duncan’s letter, which means having the chance to speak with Dyota in Chapter 4.

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#105

I think this is my favorite chapter so far. I wasn’t too fond with the political angle in the beginning, and cared more about the plague and its cure, but I enjoyed the schemes and dynamics of the Baron and the Mayor in this chapter. I liked the contrast between the baron’s directness and the mayor’s deception, and each of their methods of dealing (or not dealing, as this case may be) with the plague. I also liked the conversation we can have with our colleagues, and how even they are starting to plot as well.

Most of all I really liked how even the doctor is beginning to think about desertion – even if was just a passing thought, or they really do begin to consider it in later chapters, I think that idea really underscores how deadly this plague is and how difficult wrangling the people together to find a cure can be.

A few typos

You locate him around the corner, just out of sight of the main doorway to the staircase, stood serene against the parapet, looking outwards.
Should “stood” be “standing”?

The monk shifts her weight around. “Does that mean you’ll come, or….” Their voice falters.
Since you use the “her” pronoun to start with, shouldn’t “their” be “her” so it coincides?

I noticed in some cases you used a dash where there should have been a hyphen, for example:
“Self—preservation is a powerful motive.”
and
The owner of the house stands with his arms crossed, in a loose, off—white tunic.

As for the romance: I decided to romance Ioco. As I mentioned, I liked the conversation on the rooftop, and I did like how the romance seems to be starting slowly… but to be honest, if you hadn’t said this was the first step towards romance I wouldn’t have suspected it. I can definitely see how someone may think the hug is simply being friendly or even just about being sympathetic during a terrible time, and can start something they didn’t intend.

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#106

Nice to hear, thanks!

Appreciate the note about the hyphens. It seems somewhere around the end of Chapter 5 I decided to internalise the idea that every single hyphen should be an em-dash, for … reasons, I guess? Think I’ve caught all of those now.

So, romance! I had an editorial note about signaling the points of “this is a romantic move you’re making” with more clarity. I’d made it clearer before sharing the chapter, but it sounds like with Ioco, at least, it still needs to be a bit more obvious. Good to know!

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#107

Found some time to play this again and I decided to pursue a romance with Alice to see where it’d take me. I liked the subtle building of the relationship (where she says she was worried about me), but I’m wondering about the future. On most playthroughs, I play as a physician, but I’m wondering would I still be able to be in a relationship if I was surgeon?

I imagine the answer is yes, but I’m still curious. :slight_smile:

In the later chapter (I forget which one), there’s a conversation with Alice about performing possible human experiments in order to make progress on finding a cure. I chose the neutral-sounding option and said that the Abbot would most likely throw us out if we did perform experiments.

What I’m ultimately curious about is if any of the relationships are entirely dependent on whether or not we agree to everything the characters say (albeit this is a gross oversimplification). Some IFs have it so that you have to agree with everything the RO says in order to successfully pursue a relationship with them. I don’t necessarily agree with this as successful relationships can allow for disagreements to come between to the two and sometimes I just don’t agree with what a RO will say or think.

Basically, I agree with Alice that our priority should be stopping the plague, but I don’t think that we should try to solve it on a sleep deprived suggestion. Like I said before, the option to say that the Baron would throw us out felt like the most neutral sounding one in that I neither agree nor disagree but I’m thinking of the consequences before we commit to such a suggestion. I recall that there was another option calling into the morality, but I was actually afraid of selecting it because I thought that that could’ve been perceived by Alice as an attack on her integrity as a physician.

I know that there was a third option where you could gently criticize her idea by saying that the doctors would have no idea whether or not the experiments would work and I feel that as a fellow physician that should have more merit. I didn’t choose that option this time, but I’m curious to see if Alice would dismiss your words (if you chose this option) if your expertise is a Surgeon rather than a Physician.

What are your plans for how these relationships will be played through? While it’s nice to engage in a relationship, I don’t think solving a plague is an appropriate for a romantic walk through the graveyard, so to speak. :wink:

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#108

That’s a Britishism. Not incorrect, exactly and not so much a Britishism that I’d necessarily flag it. Brits often phrase things in the past perfect rather than using a gerund: i.e. “I was sat there twenty minutes, just waiting,” where American-Canadian English would be “I was sitting there waiting for twenty minutes.” Or use it in ways unfamiliar to US-Canadian speakers, “I think you better had,” vs “I think you better [have done that thing].”

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#109

Ooh, good questions.

You are correct that your choice of background/profession will not affect your relationship chances. I do have them flagged though, so you’ve given me the idea of perhaps adding some extra snippets of dialogue (maybe the RO can mention not expecting to be attracted to a mystic, or similar.)

It’s definitely not necessary to agree with everything the RO says in order to ‘maintain’ the relationship. There are points in the game where (as you’ve noticed) your responses to their ideas and principles will nudge the relationship bar one way or the other. I think I have it set right now that you need to have had 3-4 positive interactions with a possible RO ahead of Chapter Six to express/respond to overtures. Chances are, if you’ve opted to spend time with them in prior chapters, you will have met that requirement.

That’s stat stuff which is subject to change, of course, but my philosophy with this is basically: give players the option to hang out with people they like (and, whenever possible, make sure they’re not having to choose between this and the ‘main quest’), when hanging out test whether your principles are roughly similar, and then if they do you can advance to romantic intentions.

However! There will be ‘deal breaker’ issues in later chapters. Certain actions will be beyond compromise or acceptance by your RO, because they’re so far outside their moral/ideological boundaries. I’ll obviously try to flag these up as clearly as possible, both through helping you get to know the person in prior chapters, and with “I will not respect you any more if you do this” type dialogue at the events themselves.

You actually can’t annoy Alice too much during the Chapter Six interaction (it mostly changes your own personality stats), but I’m using that sort of scene to let players know that your ideas and intentions may clash in a more serious way in future.

As for how the relationships will play out. You raise a very good point! There are not a whole lot of opportunities for, I guess, ‘traditional’ romantic activities during a horrific plague crisis. You’ll mostly be spending time with people as a consequence of your profession, but I do have some ideas for engineering some (relatively) calmer times, which I hope will still make sense in the narrative. Overall though, the connections you make in this game are as much about bonding through the shared trauma of your situation.

I’m planning on some epilogue segments too, which will of course differ depending on how matters in Thornback Hollow were resolved, and who is still alive…

Thanks for playing through again - and thank you to everybody who keeps revisiting this. I know playing through the first couple of chapters every single time can get a bit tiresome!

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#110

A few comments for first playthrough. I’m sorry if anything comes across as harsh/unreasonable, it’s certainly unintended.

Is there going to be a viable path for an impious MC? So far I have the feeling based on the restless sleep, the parapet etc. that the ‘solution’ to the plague is going to revolve heavily around the deities. Being very atheist irl, I find that hard to stomach even in a game. Would it be possible to have a ‘good’ ending whilst still refusing to get too drawn into religion?

And in case you’re thinking, “Well, don’t play a fantasy game if you can’t handle mysticism”, I actually do quite like the overall setting and premise. Manoeuvring through different ideas in medical practice and ethics, and working with medical colleagues on the three aspects through investigation and process of elimination is enjoyable. The politics could also be intriguing, though it seems to be coming together a bit slowly. The main supporting characters are also each interesting in their own way - so much so that not only do I not want my MC to romance any of them, but the idea of doing so is off-putting.

Elaborating on the politics aspect, I like how we’re given the option to remain neutral. I opted for those choices because I’d like to see more of all the sides before choosing one. But I do think it’s slow-paced and disjointed in that aspect. For example, the guild always pops up in the form of Alviva, who comes across as rather nagging and tiresome. What do the other inhabitants think of the guild? What is their attitude towards the tannery industry in their town? The political atmosphere doesn’t really seem to permeate that much into everyday life. When Alviva isn’t around to badger the MC, I quickly forget about the guild entirely.

Another example: if the mayor’s monopoly on the resources in the town is that bad, why aren’t there murmurs of discontent around? (If there are and I’m just oblivious, my apologies.) And the ‘popular support for Couvet’ stat: how is this calculated? He’s grown up elsewhere and returned to the town hidden among outsiders - do the people even know him? I feel like introducing him in chapter 5 is a bit late, and there could’ve been hints earlier. As it stands my MC has no idea who the hell he is or whether or not his claims are true, and finds him rather presumptuous.

Regarding backgrounds: I notice from the code that there’s no variable for being a foreigner, but wouldn’t it have a large impact on how the MC interacts with the society? The deities might be different. (Maybe an impious MC could be given more leeway? :thinking:) The technology might be different. The people might view them with more suspicion, be even prejudicial.

I also find it interesting that local = true when the MC is from elsewhere on the Crown lands or even from the capital. That’s assuming cultural homogeneity. It’s believable in the first case, but I doubt being from the capital classifies as “local”. The opportunities, technology, health infrastructure, education levels, SE status etc. that the MC’d be used to would all be very different. These differences have had impact throughout history (the Russian Revolution comes to mind), and it’s a major issue dealt with in medical schools. (Mine, at least.)

Some miscellaneous points/comments:

  1. “Check for yourself if you wish, but I doubt the boss will appreciate you wasting their time.” <-- If I were one of the guards I’d expect someone who’d met Alviva to know to use “she”. Otherwise it sounds stilted and would be a giveaway. Maybe this could be re-worded so the MC could avoid using a pronoun?
  2. From stacking the dishes and drawing water to stoking the fire in the mayor’s house and cleaning the MC’s thorn wound, Alice seems to be doing her fair share of chores. What a gem. Not sure if you did it consciously but it adds depth to her character.
  3. In terms of dynamics, though, I get the feeling that she’s the leader in the group. She’s often bringing up new ideas, and then there are minor things like the MC saying “very well” after looking at her when Duncan gives the parchment, or her saying “maybe our new acquaintance Lucia could help with that” and then staying at the sanctuary the next day so the task is essentially delegated to the MC. It’s a bit surprising given that she’s just out of school and the MC has, or can be chosen to have, some medical/surgical experience.
  4. Typo. He pauses to gage your reaction.
  5. Typo. “Not exactly what we hoped to learn,” Alice says, idling kicking a loose stone to the side of the track.
  6. Wrong tense. “The monks stored beer here,” Ioco says. “Quelm told me they used acorns. Wish I could’ve sampled some, but the barrels were either distributed in town or requisition by the Mayor weeks ago.”
  7. Is there any chance the MC could consider not living in the sanctuary? It’d be a good opportunity to get to know the local lifestyle if they rented or, uh, appropriated a residence that’s nearby so they’d still be near the lab.
  8. Is Tace going to put in another appearance? Kinda curious about her arm.
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#111

None of that comes across as harsh or unreasonable at all :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m probably not going to be able to respond to this properly until late Friday (at the earliest) - so I’ll come back and add more to this post at that later date.

One thing I can quickly reassure you of, though. Regarding the cure for the plague: deity aid and/or guidance will not necessarily be required. To be a bit more specific (and spoilery) - what I’d probably consider the ‘main’ path to the cure will be a medical solution.

[Edit - Adding more, as said…]

I think you raise some helpful points about getting more external perspectives on the factions (Guild, specifically). I’ve got quite a few interactions with militia NPCs, a lot of whom make it fairly clear they’re only doing it in return for food. I should add a few equivalents for the benefits (or otherwise) of the Guild.

By chance, I just finished up an (optional, admittedly) scene in Chapter 7 which features the Guild but from which Alviva is absent. Tace is also there (if alive), though I don’t really revisit her arm issues. I’m not too disheartened that Alviva comes across as tiresome. I may end up toning that down a bit, but it is intentional and it doesn’t necessarily make her incorrect.

There’s certainly discontent to be found, though it’s possible that if you follow(ed) certain branches you see less of that stuff. I’m certainly not adverse to adding more revolutionary fervor! At the same time, much of the population is either sick, or just busy trying to stay alive - they may despair of their circumstances, but are powerless to do anything about it.

I’m actually pretty delighted you say “As it stands my MC has no idea who the hell [Couvet] is or whether or not his claims are true, and finds him rather presumptuous.” That is exactly as intended! Now, whether I can get the pacing right from introducing him in Chapter 5 is going to be on me, but hopefully I can navigate that. His ‘Popular Support’ at the beginning is basically him, the mercs he brought along, and anybody who recalls the family name and is dissatisfied with the current Mayor (ie; not a whole lot of people - but the town may become willing to accept a new ruler with a tenuous claim if the alternatives are bad enough.)

I’m not discounting dropping an earlier hint or two about him though.

The local/not local flag … yeah, I must admit I haven’t been using that to its fullest potential. So far it’s just been deployed to give the MC a few alternative lines of dialogue here and there (it does work the other way too, if local is still “false” you get extras that way - just not many right now either way). You’re absolutely right to note that there’s no chance Thornback Hollow residents would consider someone from the capital a ‘local’. That’s definitely something in need of a rethink or rewording at the very least.

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#112

@PParrish I really hope there’s a way in which you can be an atheist, Science-Is-Everything doctor that can be…flexible.

Me(shouting): “Yea, behold the divine glow of this solution that I will have you sip from, for verily this is the Dew of the Deities which has been bestowed upon this humble prophet, and which blessings I hereby grant you. Receive this now with all due reverence!”

Alice: “…Is that really from the deities?

Me: “Nah, it’s just painkiller. Shush now.

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#113

That sounds like a solid physician/panache/blasphemy combo :wink:

Bit of a side note, but … sometimes writing options where the MC is lying can be tricky, I’ve found. Like, in your example above, should you have a high enough ‘pious’ stat to be able to bluff your way through? But what you’re doing is blasphemous … except that’s the opposing stat, so it can’t be both!

Panache has been a pretty dependable “you are trying to charm, sweet-talk, or fool somebody now” stat, but in other cases I’ve had to be careful about framing … uh, what ‘type’ of deception is happening, I suppose.

Basically I’m learning about the quirks of game design bumping into narrative.

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