Mask of the Plague Doctor - WIP


#64

@James_Marsh Mybe will should this pm to not get this off topic


#65

Sounds good I’m going to try it now


#66

A exquisite cliffhanger also i don’t know much about the choices being good for the peole or not so maybe something about the people health bar? Thanks


#67

There’s a mechanic in Pathologic that maybe this game could use too, if @PParrish finds it helpful.

At the end of every game day in Pathologic, the game presents the player with a statistics screen that shows:

  • How many people are infected
  • How many people have died
  • How many days remain (remain to what, exactly? The game leaves that for the player to find out)

When the game actually tallies up the death toll and presents it to you (therefore ensuring there’s actually no way you can ignore the growing pile of rotting corpses), it tends to instil a feeling of dread like no other.


#68

I’d suggest using that concept, but just track known deaths and infections. Pathologic has a countdown because each character has a fixed plot where either they succeed at things or fail at things; one of the thing that really makes it work is that when you’re playing as the Bachelor the Devotress/Impostress (I’m told the official translation of her route is very poor and important double meanings are lost, but the LP I saw was a fan translation) is actually following the same plot as if you were playing the Devotress/Impostress and you just literally failed at everything that won’t kill you outright.

When the theme isn’t about the slow march of inevitability I think it’d be better to leave the player as much in the dark as their character, and if you don’t pay attention to the poor quarters because you’re busy focusing on the wealthy then you get to star in a low-budget reproduction of the Masque of the Red Death and terror and silence and the Waking Death will reign unchallenged among the rotting corpses littering the mayoral palace. Because, well, I got to the part where I was told to take off my mask because it wasn’t suitable for this sparkling clean palace where the plague wouldn’t reach and I thought “I want to say ‘I wear no mask’ but I guess my character probably hasn’t read Edger Alan Poe”.

If Edger Alan Poe does exist in the setting, put in an option right there that’s just “I wear no mask”. I will click it literally every time and then the other plague doctors will sigh and nod and no one else will get the reference.

Oh, separately I thought about maybe insisting on wearing my plague doctor mask the whole duration of the visit and when eating I’d need to take it off so I’d put it right down in the middle of the table to make the point to the mayor that the Waking Death doesn’t care how wealthy you are. Certainly the only reason my character wouldn’t do that is the risk that the mayor might just get offended and I’d miss out on getting even slight help.

I would absolutely recommend at the very least having the option to respond to being told to remove it by flatly stating that the mask belongs anywhere plague can strike so it belongs here and everywhere. Maybe that message doesn’t take and the character ends up having to take the mask off or not go in at all, but it’s basically what I want to tell every single character who tells me I can’t go anywhere. My general preferred character archetype is one who is unfailingly polite and formal but also won’t ever back down when challenged on something that’s important.


#69

Very good.story is good.character feels real.story is new to me.


#70

This is by far my favourite WIP I’ve read on the forums. The prose is wonderfully evocative. Each character, including my own, feels like a genuine part of their environment. The worldbuilding is natural and makes sense from the context of the characters’ limited collective understanding. The little vignettes like the huntress and the suicidal man are fascinating and well composed. My favourite part is how quickly it defines the main character and their personal goal, and how the main character has a specific role within the world already established for them.

There’s a small typo I noticed with the paragraph breaks, which I assume is a coding error:

And that’s the only typo I found!

EDIT: I love how much of this game is already here, and the chapter ended on words that made me excited for the future of the game. My character at the end:

Dr. Fulke, scholar and diplomat, Mask of the Magpie, loyal servant to the Crown. :smiley:


#71

@will Thank you for sharing the stats screen, that’s really handy for showing me where a character can be at the end of Chapter 4 (my ‘balancing’ for some of the stat tests is pretty WIP).

Also, that paragraph break is now fixed!


#72

“Gender is so tiresome, no?” is now one of my favorite lines ever.

I know some people don’t like the mix of old-timey and modern phrases, but I think it kind of helps to read it, if that makes any sense. I’ve never found that kind of thing jarring, especially since you do it consistantly. I also really like that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of penalty for trying to be nice all the time.


#73

I just assumed modern translation. It would be unreadable if they all spoke in Shakespearean English.


#74

Exactly! Like I can read Shakespearean, but I would rather not if given the option.


#75

What I’m absolutely loving is that I was able to be nice to people when I told them that I needed to get into their tannery to investigate the source of the plague, and they refused, and they were rude to me and I was polite back, and when all was said and done I got to investigate the tannery and I found something that might be a cursed relic of a plague god or might be totally nonmagical but contaminated or at the very least might’ve been placed there by Patient Zero.

Because the flipside of me not wanting to take sides because the plague is important and no one else realizes that is that I imagine the tanners think they won that confrontation and I lost. And I think I was delayed five minutes and then got to do what I came to do here and I suceeded.

Because, you know, I don’t care about anything except curing the plague. So I don’t care the tanners are insulting me, because their concerns are presently beneath my notice and their insults are too. And I can’t tell you anything about how you could rewrite the dialogue when they were insulting me to make me care, because the second I realized I had not successfully talked my way in I skipped to the bit where I had an alternate way to get into the tannery. Because I cared about their petty concerns so little I didn’t even bother listening to them, basically.

The reason I react to seeing this plot pattern with instant wariness is that normally I expect at least a few choices where I can establish whether I like the rebels or I dislike the rebels and actually I don’t care about the rebels. So far the only choice where I felt like I had to take a position on the issue rather than just say whatever will cause these people to let me into the tannery and not piss off another interest group is that mayoral choice. I knew I wouldn’t have to keep my promises, but I don’t want to antagonize the mayor or the tanners because neither of them is important right now, and I don’t want to butter up the mayor because the mayor isn’t important right now. So I wanted to say something vaguely noncommital and the mayor realizes I haven’t promised anything but I also haven’t said I’ll turn her over to the Crown to face justice. And then she considers this and she decides that she could press this further but all she’ll get is another vague noncommital response and me being annoyed she’s pressing the issue, and she decides to just let the matter rest and hope I decide not to do anything. I wasn’t sure that plan would work if I tried it, but I felt like it was the best method of advancing my actual goal.

I kinda don’t want a “neutrality” stat because I want to be able to be actually neutral all the way through in my goals, but also when inevitably this goes to hell and the Waking Death is loose among the tanners guild who thought I’m just a piece in the power games and wanted me to switch sides because they didn’t understand I wasn’t actually on either side and among the mayoral palace where the mayor thought money can buy anything so the Waking Death is only a threat to the common people so I’m nothing more than another Crown investigator she needs to buy off and among the Deity worshippers who honestly I like because anyone who risks infection to help contain the spread of a plague is good in my books but don’t quite realize that this is a big enough crisis we need to impose quarantine and burn the bodies so badly I’m willing to actually attempt to invoke my theoretical authority to give any order relating to the plague and be obeyed without question, I want to then be able to go to any of the three faction leaders and say basically “I warned you,” and then say “Well it can’t be helped now and I’ve decided you get to be the faction that only loses 70% of its people while the others lose 95% of their people. If you want me to succeed I’m going to need your help.”

And if you’re thinking that’s pretty unlikely, well, the entire reason I don’t care about these people and their problems is that when a story starts with people ignoring the expert advice of plague control specialists because how bad could it be, 100% of the time that is how the story ends. If they jump to it and do exactly as they are told then probably most of the people who aren’t already infected will be fine unless it’s real bad and the Pale Rider is coming for you and Hell is following behind him because there’s a reason Pestlience is right up there with War, Conquest, and Famine as one of the three non-Death Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, and a reason every variation has Death as one of the Four. It is because plague is as big a deal as imperial conquests, as wars, and as famines.

And of every major group in the town I met so far, only the three plague doctors understand that. The caravans might too so I’m presently cautiously optimistic, but they’re not well-resourced and they have no local friends so I’m basically figuring if I’m lucky I get thirty nurses and a bunch of hygine supplies but that’s not going to be nearly enough if this is as bad as it seems.


#76

Oh, and if you want me to ever side with the mayor because I want a title and not because I the player have decided I want to see just how bad this goes if I deliberately screw up as much as possible, make the Mayor a noble.

The underlying thrust of my argument with @poison_mara is that for reasons I’m discussing in the Interest Check thread, actually the mayor’s opinion of you is just totally irrelevant. Sure, the mayor is rich, but the mayor isn’t a noble, so she’s “new money” and the nobles are “old money”; it’s possible she’s the fifth consecutive mayor for life from one family, but she doesn’t have a title so as far as the baron is concerned she’s a jumped-up commoner who thinks her money makes her matter. What you can get from the mayor is a position of authority over the poor people of the town. Which isn’t actually that useful if literally all of them are dead because the Waking Death has apparently a 100% case fatality rate and so far no specifically known limitations on transmission, and so if you keep only the mayor’s house alive and she gives you everything she can, you get a palace and the staff and a town that used to be a major trade hub but now it’s populated by rotting corpses.

So if you only care about nobles then the only character in the story who you care about is the baron and he tells you if you do real well on curing this plague he’ll maybe put you on the nobility track.


#77

Exactly my position Mayor is basically at all effects a damn commoner. It can’t give anything from that position. And if you are commoner money is not as useful as today. As a poor noble has more rights that the richest of commoners in fact theory a noble could in many cases get all their fortune from a simple commoner a villain most t of the time


#78

I concur with every part of your reasoning except that you think the Mayor is the Baron.

The baron does not care what the mayor thinks of you. The baron cares that the mayor… well, I don’t have an entire semester to cover the feudal system and I’m not a history professor specializing in church history so I can’t teach this particular subject. But anyways as far as the baron cares about the mayor it is because the mayor makes sure the town exports money and his serfs don’t run off into the town so they cease to be serfs and become townsfolk and then at some point the townspeople are happy and comfortable and wealthy and they start discussing why nobles get to be in charge.

And part of the reason all this is basically irrelevant outside the town walls is that the only answer that the nobles actually are worried about is if the mayor and the guildmasters are the people talking and they say “wait a second the entire premise of the feudal system is bullshit. Let’s take our money and buy a bunch of pikes and crossbows and hand them out and have everyone drill fighting in formation twice a week for the next decade. Then we tell the nobles if they want to be able to buy leather goods or timber or jewelry or good plate mail and swords they’re going to have to make some changes. Then if they mount up on their horses and charge at us we demonstrated why Alexander The Great used his cavalry to smash enemy pike formations by attacking their flanks while they were busy fighting his pike formations because the only technological advance that has affected relative power of heavy cavalry versus disciplined heavy infantry is that now we have crossbows so we can just shoot armored knights dead center and this will kill them”

So if you want to please a noble, ignore the town power blocs, as far as the nobles are concerned they’re all serfs with delusions of grandeur. The reason the Crown has forced the Baron to maintain quarantine and call in the plague doctors is that plagues in towns are bad for their tax revenue because that is literally the only thing the town is required to give them. Towns are exempt from the entire Feudal Contract concept. Their very purpose is to allow commoners to not have to worry about nobles; that is what the town charter is for.

So since you want to please the Baron, ignore people and whatever hierarchy they have because the Baron cares about them even less than I do. Ignore casualty figures and local politics and as long as the tanners guild is too distracted by the mayor to take stock and realize that the Feudal System was developed to deal with problems that stopped mattering four centuries ago and actually the Crown would murder every single noble and replace them with mayors in a second if that would succeed* the Baron doesn’t care if now the town is run by an elected legislature if it pays its taxes.

So what you do is you minimize the damage to the town’s core industries. Since the head guildmaster is the tanner’s guildmaster I guess that’s the tannery. If you’re wondering why that matters, search the forum for “Crafting Mafia”. The reason the guildmaster is talking to you is that she is Godmother of the local Crafting Mafia. Now she seems to be a very socially concious Godmother, but the reason she’s the mayor’s opposite number is that actually the Baron cares about the Crafting Mafia. And he’d be pretty happy if you can somehow arrange to replace her with someone less aggressive without diminishing the productivity of the Crafting Mafia.

So that is how you get to become a poor noble given that the mayor is not a noble. Theoretically maybe the Crown cares about the mayor’s opinion, but I think she’s the useless corrupt idiot the Crown would be plotting to murder and replace with someone competent.

*By the way I use this example because Crusader Kings 2 is a pretty good simulation given that the Feudal System technically never existed and when I am a king-tier or emperor-tier ruler my go-to internal political goal is to decide what Duke has pissed me off the most and then fabricate some bullshit excuse to steal his title and grab a random commoner and tell him he’s head of a Merchant Republic now; pay me taxes so I can maintain a standing army instead of depending on vassals because screw vassal lords they think they should be king. Merchant Republics are happy as long as they can make tons of money and they get some influence.

Based on my college history courses I think literally every king hated their noble vassals and would murder every single one of them and replace them with commoners if they could. Because when you dig down into all the grand trends that reshaped Europe, the theme is that kings hate noble vassals so they’re going to have bishops and mayors instead if they can come up with some valid-sounding excuse. That is the story of Europe in the Medieval Period.

Also the reason kings hate noble vassals is that hereditary aristocracy is just a bad idea unless you’re the person inheriting. Bishops and mayors are elected or appointed so the king can pick someone who is competent and will do as they are told.


#79

If you’re wondering what I mean about the Feudal System not existing, basically it wasn’t a system. People just negotiated contracts a lot under similar conditions and while they ended up pretty generally similar your liege lord can also be your vassal and you can have any number of non liege lords. Like your liege lord you owe them a specific number/portion of troops you levy and they’re obligated to protect you and there’s a bunch of other complicated requirements that are just totally irrelevant because you’re commoners, you don’t make feudal contracts. Your relationship with your lord is Manorialism and instead of owing troops you owe forty days of labor and three chickens and ten pounds of grain and a mill tax and twenty copper coins a year. Why? Who the hell knows this was negotiated in 787 when Charlemange restructured his feudal system and this wasn’t a Church manor so no one could read or write. Maybe there was a good reason, maybe in 879 when someone wrote this down they were drunk and added the three chickens because it was funny. It’s 1354 and you don’t know and it doesn’t matter.

Yes, taking history in college has made me really, really cynical. Part of why I care so little is that as soon as I leave the town walls and complete my debrief none of this will matter to me personally unless I really piss off the Crafting Mafia Godmother and I get blacklisted and no commoner in the entire kingdom will sell me anything made out of leather. Which would worry me more if I thought I’d piss her off that badly and she won’t be dead in two months.

It’s funny, I just realized the underlying reason I picked a female manga character as my first MC is that I’m so into anime that my role models for proper behavior are all archetypical Proper Japanese Ladies. Suddenly I understand why I care so little about gender choice, and so much about getting to be polite without ever backing down. I’m self-inserting after all.


Why are there so many HGs genderlocked to male?
#80

One of the parts I loved was that in some situations my character being a pathologically loyal devotee of the Crown meant that in some situations it would be beneficial to him while in others he would be met with a brick wall.

I liked that I was playing a character with a very clear flaw, and I sincerely hope that the game rewards character development in the future! If this were a film rather than a game, for example, my character would almost certainly spend most of Act 2 slowly realising the limitations of their worldview and coming around to a more nuanced position. :slight_smile:


#83

That just reads like really detailed fan fiction, dude.


#89

I replayed the WiP through again.

Here are my ending stats, if you need them!


#93

@James_Marsh That’s a really in-depth analysis of how you responded (and wanted to respond) to the Mayor choice - thank you! From what you and others have said, I definitely want to lean more into options where your character is, I guess, ‘PR handling’ the various political factions, while actually pursuing the plague with as much rigour as possible.

The reason I’m pondering a separate stat for this is that, as I have it planned right now, players will eventually be pushed into the faction they’ve ‘sided’ with. What I want to avoid is a situation where somebody playing the way you wish has (say) 51% with the Tannery Guild and 49% with everybody else, and suddenly you’re taking part in a labour revolt and you’re wondering why on earth that happened when you haven’t really shown them any favour.

So, I think at the very least I need a pathway that looks at the faction stats at that point and says “well, they didn’t seem all that keen on anybody” and defaults to a “get on with plague stuff while the factions fight it out” stance.

Might be able to adopt the ‘Crown Favor’ stat to this. That’s basically tracking “are you addressing the plague to the satisfaction of The Crown?” so in circumstances where that winds up high and the factional ones don’t much move, it should be signaling a player who is trying to avoid too much local politics and putting medical concerns above all. Something I’ll keep thinking about, for sure.

I should add here that Chapter 5 will introduce a significant factional player (spoilers for that, obvs): Rocelin Couvet, the actual Mayor of the town by hereditary birth. They will recognize that if the plague persists, there will be no position to inherit. But they’ll still demand attention/time that could be better spent on medical matters…

Regarding the actual power of the Mayor. Yes, she has power insofar as she keeps the trade route open (when there isn’t a plague going on), collects taxation/other monies from the goods going through town, etc. When The Baron (enacting the Crown’s will) tells you at the start to keep her in power, it’s as much a message about her utility in the hierarchy as anything else. They’re much more interested in the status quo than in Sibyl Blake herself.