Death and Memory

In a primitive society, a false negative can kill you.

You’re sitting around your fire at night, and you see something moving. It might be just a shadow, but it might also be a predator. Your brain says “Predator!”, puts you into fight-or-flight, and your eyes resolve the shadows into the shape of a panther or whatever. And you get up and grab your spear.

There are two possibilities. One is, it’s a panther, you stab it, you win, you get to pass along your genetic material because your brain saw “shadows” and made your eyes perceive “enemy.” Or it’s a shadow, but you saw it as a panther, so you’re awake but no skin off your nose.

But if your brain says “Shadows, never mind, going back to sleep,” and it’s really a predator…well, you’re fucked. And that’s why we hear voices in the wind, see monsters in closets, and Jesus in tortillas. We’re genetically designed by evolution to see patterns, specifically faces.

So when people tell you that They look human, just keep that in mind.

curse the darkness is a game with a high degree of character death. There are two types of Challenges, and one of them (Removal Challenges), always carries at least some risk of a character leaving the game. The creatures from the shadows are capable of lunging from nowhere and killing a person with no warning. It’s a deadly setting, and the characters’ actions make it ever deadlier because, in all probability, they’ll be the ones fighting the status quo.

What that means is that characters are quick and easy to make, and it’s up to the players to make them memorable. There’s a reward for doing so, though. When other characters remember the fallen, that can spur them on. The tangible, game-mechanic effect is Memory Points.

Memory points are tied to players, not characters. This means that if a player has five Memory points and his character dies, the player keeps the Memory points and can use them normally. Memory points can be used in the following ways:

  • Players can spend them during Removal Challenges to help a character survive.
  • Players can spend a Memory point to keep a card during a Character Challenge, rather than losing it.
  • Players can spend a Memory point to Refresh one Attribute when Exhausted (draw a number of cards from the appropriate deck equal to the Attribute rating, place the first one drawn face up as the active card).

Players gain Memory points in two ways. One is to define a Scope. Players can do this at any time, including during a Character or Removal Challenge, but each character can only have 5 Scopes. Once all five have been defined, they don’t change. When a player defines a Scope for a character, regardless of whether the GM required it or not, the player gains a Memory Point.

The other method of gaining Memory points is to remember characters that have left play (not necessarily died). This reminiscing must be done in character, though it is permissible for a character to remember in soliloquy, in which case the player describes to the other players what the character is thinking about and how he remembers the fallen character. Dialog, however, is a better method, since it enables the other players to assist and gain Memory.
A conversation generates one point of Memory for every salient point about the remembered character. The points raised must have some basis in the previous events of the story. That is, the surviving characters can’t just make up a whole backstory for a dead character and reap a pile of Memory points. The memories they have must have come from events in play (which means, again, it’s in everyone’s best interest for characters to be memorable).

Memory conversations can go on as long as they need to. The player who controlled the character being discussed should pay attention to make sure that the other players aren’t making up details that never came up in play.
Example: One of Jack’s compatriots, named Bob, dies attempting to jump across a gap in a broken bridge while running from some loyalists. My character (Jack), is sitting on a pile of debris, other surviving characters nearby. My character reaches into his pocket and pulls out a photo. “Bob’s kids,” Jack says. “He gave me this picture before he jumped. I guess I forgot to give it back in the confusion afterwards.”

Now, at this point, my GM gives me a Memory point.

Another player picks up the cue. “Did he mention their names?”

A third player says, “I know the older one is Andy. I can’t remember the little girl’s name, but I remember he said she was named after her aunt.”

That’s two more Memory points, and the player that asked the question (“what were their names?”) gets one, too, for setting it up.

It doesn’t always go this smoothly, though. Let’s assume that the third player, looking down at her Player Mat, sees that she’s only got a 3 in Humanity. She interprets that to mean that she doesn’t have the mindset for this kind of conversation — she’s hurt, she’s tired and she missed her own family. Speaking in character, she says, “Who gives a fuck? They’re dead anyway.”

What she has done is shut down the line of Memory. If it works — that is, if the conversation is derailed — I still get my Memory point for bringing up Bob and the photo of his kids, but that’s it. The player who shut the conversation down gets to swap out that 3 in hearts for the next card in the Humanity pile from the Player’s Deck, not for the next Humanity card in her own pile (which is ultimately better, since she doesn’t lose a card, and the card she gets is unlikely to be lower than a 3). Of course, if she’d continued the conversation, she’d get Memory that she could use for a Refresh, but that takes more work. And, as perverse as it might seem, by shutting this line of conversation down she’s provided a memorable moment of her own that other players could use if the time ever comes to have a Memory conversation about her character (nothing says you have remember a character fondly).

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9 responses to “Death and Memory

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