Thursday, May 2, 2013

LDS Game Design and Dr Grimdeath: Part 1

Recently, I got a facebook message from one of my old buddies from my high/school college days. He was one of our gamer crowd, and played a lot of D&D as well as other miniatures and role-playing games.

He’d developed a game, with a prototype, that he wanted me to playtest.  It was based on the old, corny B-grade horror flicks of the past.  The premise is a bunch of students spending the night in a mansion with a monster.  They have until midnight to 1) identify and kill the monster using weapons and items they find, 2) escape the island the mansion is on, or 3) die trying.

Our family tried it, and it was a hilarious and silly romp.  It’s a cooperative game, so we were all trying to win together.

Afterward,. by a few days, I got on the phone with him and we talked a lot of cool things about game design and our game efforts.  It was interesting to talk to him about Chapter and Verse, and about Dr Grimdeath, because he’s not LDS, and so that made it interesting to explain the concepts of the game.

I thought I’d share some highlights of our discussion, because it plays not only into LDS gaming, but also into game design in general.  I’ll touch on each one here, in the successive parts of this posting!

Feedback Loops

There are two kinds of feedback loops in game design.  A “Positive Feedback Loop” is a rule or a circumstance that encourages a situation to recur more and more frequently.  One broad example, it’s the way a Monopoly game is really won or lost in the first few turns.  The player that gets the best properties in the first few rounds ends up collecting more rent, and that grows into more re-investment, until he or she is unstoppable.  You have to watch for these in your games, or they can make the game balance run away from you.

A “Negative Feedback Loop” is a rule or situation that makes a situation LESS likely to recur.  In American Football, when you score a touchdown, you have to kick off to the opposing team, and it’s their turn to be on the offensive.

It’s important to note that the terms “Positive” and “Negative” don’t refer to any thougths about the outcome.  As a player a PFL can have a very bad impact on my strategies and my play of the game, and a NFL can keep my opponents in check.  Positive loops are things MORE likely to happen again, and negative loops are things LESS likely.

Early in the game, when a player closed up a book, he/she would draw blessing verses, and then continue on with their turn.  I soon discovered that players could use various drawing verses (like Prayer and Keyword) effects to just keep on playing and playing, closing book after book, and win in one turn without the other player being able to do anything.  A PFL was messing up the game balance.  I chose to fix it like the football game.  Once you close a book, your turn ends.

It’s interesting because in an LDS game, as in any game, you have to watch out for PFL’s because they can really mess up the balance of a game.  On the other hand, in LDS LIFE, it’s full of PFLs.  Like prayer, for example.  You say a prayer and you feel great.  You feel connected to God.  That makes you want to pray more.  Which makes you more connected...

Of course, temptation is also a PFL.  If you give in once, you’re more likely to do it again.

Next: Getting to Your Core Essence


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

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