Spellbound: A Ghost Story (WIP) [Updated June 20, 2020; now includes in-game appendix]

hey, his attitude and bullying to mah sweet cute Valérie, warrant that and more lol :kissing_closed_eyes: hurt mah girl, and I tear your world asunder lol The appeal of revenge, isn’t to serve it but how to serve it. You gotta know how to hurt your ennemy, before you strike . :wink:

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:roll_eyes::neutral_face::smirk_cat:

Hey, so, I 100% do not mind people hating any of my characters or even wishing ill of them, but I’m gonna politely request that we collectively cool it just a little with the revenge/torture fantasies and such. I realize that the story itself is pretty visceral and dark, and I’m genuinely really happy that people feel passionate about what happens, but the discourse is getting a little more rancorous than I’m entirely comfortable with.

To be clear, it’s not my goal to silence anybody here, and I am completely okay with people expressing contempt or desiring comeuppance for certain characters—anger is absolutely a valid thing to feel about a lot of things that happen in the story!—but I’d just ask that we ratchet things down a notch or two. Spellbound is a dark story, but it’s also—I hope—ultimately a story about growth (or at least the potential thereof), and while anger and outrage are often a necessary part of that journey, I don’t want them to overwhelm the tone of the dialogue surrounding it.

Thanks.

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Heh. Well, at least you know your writing is striking a cord with people.

@CorvusWitchcraft If MC doesn’t have the opportunity to say that, this game is not worth it kdjakdjakjsaks

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Joke’s on you guys, the MC is already dead :upside_down_face:

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It’s been a while, but I’ve finally read the rest of the demo. I really enjoyed the memoriam section and the past characters. I wasn’t expecting Charlotte to be my favorite, but I liked how she isn’t just a two-dimensional antagonist for the MC. I liked the juxtaposition of the fun of the Blood Festival, and its tournaments and performances, with the MC and player’s knowledge that at the end Ashbarrow with burn. I also liked the suspense once the festival ends, and how you take time to show the struggles of the MC trying to survive what’s happening.

I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of the present sections – compared to the past, where the worldbuilding is revealed through the details and characterization, the present feels very exposition heavy. To give an example, in the past we learn that there’s a church in Ashbarrow and about the religion worshiped there through the player’s choice and Adeline trying to comfort other characters, but in the present a lot of the worldbuilding is just Valerie directly explaining things, or the MC reading books. I was also a bit disappointed that we couldn’t actively attempt to use more ghostly powers in chapter two, as even in the first memory there’s use of the combat/tactics stats which make them seem more integrated into the story.

There were parts where it seems like the MC is forced into a certain characterization, whether through the narrative (such as when Cortez stops the MC from interfering and the MC becomes irritated and tries to talk, even if the player has chosen to not get involved in any other argument before) or through other characters’ reactions (such as Cortez’s answer to the option of him getting along with Valerie after the MC told him to let her speak despite all the different motives for why the MC would argue for that.) There’s also times where the MC seems to be forced into being a static character – such as being unable to pray/not pray after choosing to be devout or agnostic, or the MC being unable to lie/change their mind about Valerie being their friend due to low fondness despite there being other choices where you can lie about it.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the new characters and the interactions between them in both the past and present sections. I liked the investigation aspect, and how we can fail in questioning Jacqueline. I also like the in-game appendix and found it pretty useful.

Looking forward to seeing the second part of chapter two. :relaxed:

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Weird, I like Cortez a LOT more than Callum. Cortez at least has logic behind his assholery. (For example, not telling us certain things makes sense and Valerie IS idealizing the whole scenario and being a little ridiculous. For all his dickishness, he IS right.) Callum is just irritating, and I don’t find him to be that compelling of a character, personally. At least not where the demo is currently.

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So uh… you probably won’t answer this but I have to ask… are we ever getting our body back? Or at least A body? The thought of romance as a ghost ultimately seems so… meaningless, Idk…

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Lol not to be an a’hole, but from what you say, love (or romance) is only a physical thing for you?!?

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@expectedoperator Thanks for all the feedback! (And sorry in advance for my terribly long-winded responses.)

Summary

I’m of two minds on this.

I agree that the present-day sections can feel exposition-heavy, but there’s also just more to learn in them. Explaining the entire system of magic to the player organically simply would not have been possible. It’s also not even necessary to understand how magic works to understand the story. That’s why the book, and significant portions of the Valerie conversation in Chapter I-2, are optional. I personally feel comfortable with how this particular facet of worldbuilding is handled.

With regards to the rest of the exposition, I do feel like the difference in worldbuilding is unavoidable, to some extent. The MC is already pretty familiar with Ashbarrow and Regalda in general; the same is not true of the world of magic introduced in the present day, where they’re very much a fish out of water. In the former, the worldbuilding can be revealed without anyone having to explain it directly to the MC, but there’s a lot that does, in fact, need to be explained to the MC in the latter.

However, I am very much aware that the exposition in the present-day sections can feel dense, even if you accept or ignore the optional info dumps. There’s definitely a lot that just…gets said. This is something I can definitely try to work on in the future, though for the above reasons, I’m afraid I can’t make it go away completely. Hopefully it will start to taper off at some point, and the worldbuilding will start to feel more organic.

Well, keep in mind that Chapter II isn’t done yet. There will be opportunities to use ghost powers in the later parts of the chapter, but almost every chapter—including a number of the flashback chapters—contains at least one section where there just isn’t enough action to justify use of the stats. Chapter II-1 is one such subchapter.

Summary

Hm. So, my original thought during this part was that the MC would have something to say about the situation, even if it wasn’t necessarily in defense of Valerie. There are certain qualities that are inherent to every MC, and while I’m doing my best to implement a characterization that is apathetic in theory (wanting to just fade away and die), being a totally passive bystander isn’t a playstyle I can really facilitate (nor would I want to, TBH). I feel comfortable dictating that the MC have some kind of reaction.

With that being established, my assumption was that the MC would be irritated at being silenced and restrained, even if they weren’t necessarily trying to actually interfere. (Maybe even more so, in that case.) I also think that would be true of most people, regardless of how they actually felt about Cortez’s treatment of Valerie.

However, I can definitely see your point about it feeling like characterization is being forced on the player. I’m not completely sure what to do about that, to be honest—I’m very much of the mind that interrupting the scene to allow the player to define the MC’s thoughts would dampen the intensity of said scene. I’ll see if there’s some way to tidy up the narration so the MC’s reaction feels more open-ended and less like an inherent desire to interfere, but it’s very possible that you’ll have to wait until the next update (when you get to discuss what happened with Cortez) to define how your MC was actually feeling during that scene. I’m also open to suggestions on how else to better handle this.

I’m actually not exactly sure what you’re referring to here. Can you elaborate on this?

I do want it to be possible for MCs to change over time. My feeling at the time was that allowing the MC to immediately backtrack on their decision of how religious to be would feel a little odd—my plan was to introduce choices in later chapters where the MC’s faith might have changed in some way—but given the gravity of the first Memoriam’s events, I’m open to the possibility of allowing an MC to question their beliefs right then and there. I’ll look into it.

Edit: I went ahead and added some options for a religious MC to doubt the purpose of praying or a non-religious MC to seek guidance despite not normally being inclined to (also slightly altered some of the restrictions for some of the existing options). Right now this won’t officially alter the “religion” variable, but in later chapters you will be able to explicitly determine exactly how the Ashbarrow Massacre changed your MC’s faith, if at all.

Summary

Hmm :thinking: I assume you’re talking about the silencing conversation with Cortez? My thought at the time was that there were so many other (arguably more rational) responses and justifications for why the MC might want him to un-silence Valerie that I struggled to justify why a player would even want to lie about being friends with her. (This is in contrast to the scene with Regina, where the attacks are more personal and inherently about the quality of Valerie’s character, and lying for the sake of standing up to a bully makes sense to me.)

I mean, I’m open to the possibility of unlocking that response for people that haven’t been friendly with Valerie, but I’m curious in what scenario you feel anybody would actually pick it. If a player wanted to change their minds about Valerie (which is possible to do, and IMO facilitated by the options available), my feeling is that there a lot of opportunities to do that organically just by being nicer to her—getting her fondness stat above 15 is actually pretty easy to do.


It’s possible to eventually accomplish any (or in some cases, even multiple) of the goals you express to Valerie in Chapter I-2, including getting a body. There are also specific instances where you can adopt a more solid form despite still being a ghost. However, the romance arcs in general aren’t going to be very physical in nature, for obvious reasons.

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If/when there is a part where the PC gets a physical body, I’m looking forward to seeing a high “Spectral” PC walk into a door . . . or try to fly, and very quickly realize that they can’t.

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Well, yes. To me romance is mostly a physical thing, sure there are parts of it that are not, and I guess if very well done/written in a unique enough way, that alone could possibly make for a satisfying romance without any of the physicality, although I’ve yet to see it, I won’t say it’s not possible. But yes, yes I absolutely believe romance and affection is mostly a physical thing.
And uh, it didn’t come off as rude, np lol.

Thank you for the reply, romance aside, I’m glad that it’s an option, at least. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy it if that weren’t the case, I hope it didn’t come off that way.
I’m loving it so far, although I would have to agree that so far the world building and lore of life before our mc’s death is a bit more interesting, and better paced than that of the “current” time-line, if you will.

When the MC gets a more “solid” form will we look like what we did right before our death or, will we be an ideal form of ourselves?

Considering how violent the MC’s death was I assumed that we would be stuck looking like that. I think it would be interesting, especially for MC’s that hide their past from the present, get forced to reveal something because of their appearance.

But that would put a damper on the whole romance thing tho…Idk. I’m just really curious.

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You’ll have some say on your appearance. Matching your original look is an option, but yes, doing so will obviously make it harder to hide your past, if that’s something you have an interest in doing.

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Loving the demo, can’t wait for more but I am dying at how Cortez’ fondness stat raises.
MC: polite, reasonable, patient
Cortez: Ugh, boring, basic.
MC: blunt, calls him a jerk and an asshole
Cortez: What Are We?
I love this little asshole and my soft, cool and light MC is gonna rock his world.

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To be honest, right now that scene seems more intriguing from a characterization standpoint than intense – the narrative says outright that Cortez hasn’t hurt Valerie, and any tension of the MC being unable to speak or move forward is already lessened because the blank speaking options reveal it in advance. I do agree that stopping to define the MC’s feelings would slow the story, but perhaps there can still be interactivity for the player to define the MC’s actions – whether it’s trying to speak, or move away from the argument, etc. That could also allow the player to feel more connected to the MC, as they’d be experiencing Cortez’s magic stopping the option from happening just as it’s stopping the MC’s narrative action from happening. That’s just one suggestion, of course.

Here's what I mean

Under *label 3, there’s the option “I’m not telling you anything until you let Valerie talk.”, which leads the player to the next choice of explaining why they want Valerie to talk, from options like #“She’s my friend. I don’t want you treating her that way.” to #“Do I need a reason? Those are my terms.”

But then, later on, if you choose the option “I’m glad you’re around to rein her in. She’s a handful.”, Cortez’s answer (about the MC singing a different tune and wondering how Valerie would feel discovering how the MC really feels), only makes sense if the MC had chosen the options about Valerie being a friend, or them not liking those who silence others, etc. For a MC that had chosen the option about not needng a reason, or even the option about Cithers, the MC believing that Valerie is a handful or being glad that Cortez can rein in her doesn’t really oppose those previous feelings at all – and for the option about grown ups, considering Valerie a handful only reinforces the idea that the MC views everyone else as kids.

I personally feel like the scene is emotionally tense, even if there’s no actual threat of harm :woman_shrugging: But, obviously I’m super biased, haha. I suppose if you’re not really invested in Valerie’s character, it wouldn’t be that impactful, though.

I’ll see if there’s a way I can make this happen, but I actually do really like the blank speaking options, and I worry that having too many options of any kind will interrupt the flow of what’s going on. But I’ll definitely take a look, thanks for the suggestion.

Ohhh, yeah, you’re right, this is totally an oversight on my part. I’ll go back and make his response align more with the different dialogue options.

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Oh, a small one I noticed: if you choose to be honest when the head-honcho asks you what you were doing in that building where Cortez kicked everyone’s asses, and then keep being honest through the whole thing, before going away they tell you–in a very cocky way–that they can’t force you to tell them the truth or something like that so MC was being a big dum-dum for believing their lies. It didn’t make sense in my playthrough.

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