For Whom The Bell Tolls: Death in Pantheon
Whether it be by old age, illness, or untimely end, the myriad peoples of Terminus are no strangers to death or the sorrow of loss. Yet for those who possess the means and fortitude to brave the wilds and bind their souls to ancient stones, forgotten magics capable of reconstituting soul and body means death may come many times over; a frequent lesson for those who venture forth ill-prepared or without the company of allies.
Still, those possessed of a sturdier constitution – or who bring friends to distract their foes – may find themselves wholly able to escape death’s icy grip…though not without a near-death experience.
A Near Death Experience
Among the tenets that govern Pantheon’s design philosophy, we strive to reward risk-taking and group play. With features such as Dispositions, Traits, and enemy Combat Awareness keeping players on their toes, it’s important for us to provide players with the means to test their limits, without unduly punishing them for individual failures even if their group prevails.
Part of our approach to achieving this is the introduction of a ‘Near-Death’ state. Preceding full Death, players will first enter Near-Death when reduced to 0 health, rendering them prone on the ground and unable to perform most actions. While in this state, players will have a smaller health pool that can still be reduced through further attacks to push them into full Death, and will otherwise bleed out slowly over time unless healed. Additionally, players in this state can crawl at a vastly reduced speed to attempt to escape danger, though doing so will cause them to bleed out faster.
One of the key features of Near-Death is how it interacts with enemy threat. When a player first enters Near-Death, they will immediately drop to the bottom of their enemies’ threat lists. While this means that solo combatants will still be at the mercy of their foes, groups will find that they are afforded additional opportunities to recover from danger as enemies turn their attention to players that are still actively engaging them.
Even if only one member of the group survives, clinching a victory will allow that group to recover and avoid the penalties associated with Death, provided that the remaining member can aid their friends in time. Tanks rejoice, as your group may be able to help you avoid being the chief recipient of death penalties and corpse runs solely due to your role!
Players can be rescued from the Near-Death state by being healed, though healers should be wary that enemies will be less likely to overlook a recently-restored combatant should they fall again. In addition, when both the rescuer and near-dead player are safely out-of-combat, any player regardless of role may lend aid to a near-dead player to slowly tend to their wounds. The more players that lend this aid, the faster the near-dead player will recover, though any further incoming damage will disrupt the attempt, and rescuing multiple players in a heavily-patrolled area is a dicey proposition.
Of course, not all Near-Death experiences remain near, and full Death is still a very real outcome. What happens then, to the intrepid adventurer who falls in battle?
On Penalty of Death
A truly challenging game is truly rewarding, but for challenge to be truly rewarding there must be low-points against which the highs can be experienced and celebrated. While it isn’t our goal to make Death an overly-steep obstacle in which players lose hours of effort in a single moment, it is important that we ensure Death has enough of a sting to cause players to think twice about the consequences of their choices.
Upon Death, players will lose a portion of experience earned – with the possibility of leveling down if enough experience is lost – as well as suffer a durability loss to equipped gear. Players who release from their body will find themselves returned to the location where they’ve bound their souls, retaining all equipped gear and, save for those rare enchantments which skirt the rules of life and death alike, leaving their unequipped inventory behind in the presence of a Remnance which lingers on their residual, decaying physical form at the place where they died.
Those who venture back into danger to recover their Remnance – or who employ the services of others willing to drag their fading forms from the depths – will find themselves rewarded not only with the recovery of their lost inventory, but will also have their lost experience returned to the recesses of their Soul Memory: a reservoir of faded and forgotten deeds lost in the trauma of death yet not wholly forgotten. In standing resolute despite their deaths and continuing their adventures, players can slowly recall these memories in the form of small bonuses to later experience gains, until there are no faded memories left to recover.
Be warned however: the ability of the Soul to recall its fragmented experiences is not infinite, and too many deaths in quick succession will ultimately exceed its limits and forfeit the experience lost altogether.
Remnances – or fully intact souls yet-unreleased from their physical bodies – may also be the targets of resurrection spells cast by healers, which will immediately restore a portion of lost experience and return the remaining portion to the resurrected player’s Soul Memory. In the event a player has already retrieved and stored experience within their Soul Memory by interacting with their Remnance, the resurrection spell will attempt to directly restore the appropriate amount of experience from their Soul Memory instead.
Remnances will eventually dissipate as they are inclined to do, making their timely retrieval a prudent choice. For those who are unable or unwilling to retrieve their Remnances prior to their decay however, they will be able to seek out a representative of The Eternum – an enigmatic faction which has commodified the laws of death and resurrection on Terminus – who are known to scour the lands for faded Remnances, offering to return recovered inventories and even the vestigial sparks of fragmented souls…for a price.
As for those adventurers in a hurry, certain representatives of The Eternum may even be willing to summon their yet-unfaded decaying vestigial forms, though retrieving physical possessions in this manner will subsume the lingering Remnance and the lost experience therein, to say nothing of the increased cost or the risk that some objects may be lost in translocation.
As always, our goal is to provide players with agency and choices in how they approach their adventures in Pantheon, and Death is no exception. While Death comes with a penalty, players are empowered to make choices about how severe and compounding those penalties may be. And of course, let us not forget what role the dreaded Necromancer might have to play in all of this…but that’s for another time.
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