The Dead Keep Dev Diary #2: Is the Keep DOOMED?

1. What is the most unique gameplay mechanic present in TDK?

The Dead Keep comes with several unique gameplay mechanics. If I had to choose only one, it could be Doom.

In this game, players impersonate adventurers, and each scenario is called a quest. At the end of each quest, adventurers face a final monster of epic proportion, simply called the boss, either defined by the quest or chosen at random.

The boss’ power is not set in stone: it builds all along the game, using Doom tokens. The boss earns Doom tokens when adventurers open a door, when they get really unlucky, and when there are too many enemies on the board. Doom sources are both predefined and random. Random is fun!

Each time the Doom reserve reaches 5 tokens, a stage card is drawn and given to the boss. The stage card triggers a special game effect upon drawing, spawning more enemies. It also has another game effect at the quest’s climax, acting as an extra life for the boss (and triggering another game effect when spent this way).

Doom tokens deserve their name, representing both the player’s bad luck and overall performance. The more they wait, the more enemies there are, and the more unlucky they can get, the more Doom they gather, and the stronger the boss will be!

Doom is one of many distinctive game mechanics featured in The Dead Keep. The others immediately coming to my mind are Mist, the magical fog shrouding the fortress, Mana, the resource borne from the Mist and fuelling powerful game effects, or Talismans, artifacts the adventurers can earn and keep from a game to the next, building their strength and character… Among others. Listing and explaining all of them here would take too much space. To know more on the subject, I would suggest checking the campaign’s page, videos, and rule book. There is a LOT to discover.


2. How did you differentiate this from your other works?

The Dead Keep use some core mechanics from previous works, namely Zombicide, and pushed them farther. So much farther, indeed, that they are basically not compatible with each other. This is a huge project, set in Paul Bonner’s graphical universe. We wanted it all, cool minis in all shapes and sizes, the mechanics, the campaign, the story, replayability, and character variety, all in one big, generous box. To achieve this vision and goal, we pushed the limits set in previous works.

The amount of art, dedication (love?), and work put in The Dead Keep make it a special project, in every aspect.


3. What was the vision when you were designing the flow of gameplay?

The vision was quite simple. We wanted to put in words and numbers the common link between all Paul Bonner’s artworks for this project. The gameplay had to be easy to learn, yet as immersive as possible.


4. Was there any inspiration when designing TDK?

It’s a funny question! I don’t remember our team talking about common inspirations, as we usually do for other projects. I would say action and adventure universes, those we could find in Indiana Jones, The Mummy, Labyrinth, or the King Kong movies, for example. Going in exotic places, facing savage stuff, and coming back home with golden memories.

But first and foremost, we had Paul Bonner’s concepts. The more you look at them, the more you delve into a parallel dimension. Give it a try, you’ll see!


5. Is there any consistent philosophy present in the design of TDK?

Yes, but that’s the secret ingredient in our love recipe.

Ok, you want a spoiler? It involves risk, reward, the element of surprise, having fun, and offering something to everyone, every time.


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