We’re often asked why we chose a scary and uncomfortable theme of torture and executions for our first independent game? Today we’ll paint you a picture that inspired us to tell the story of the Royal Executioner.
Whose idea was it to torture people?
Every place and culture had its own array of painful and humiliating ways to punish criminals. Those who disobeyed the law of the land were either exiled to keep them away from honest folk or castigated in accordance with the severity of their crimes.
In late medieval Europe society was moving away from a social contract where the criminal would simply paid wergeld to his victim’s family, and those sentenced to execution were either made short work of by the mob (stoned, for example) or dealt with by a person specifically selected for the job. But the government started to get more and more involved with such things. No prudent ruler was interested in seeing summary executions or massacres within their realm, so those in power began defining their own set of penalties for various types crimes.
The advent of executioners
Thus was created a special rank of people who served the realm and were responsible with carrying out sentence in accordance with the law.
In the modern age Europe the executioner’s trade was a well-established institution with its own peculiarities depending on the region, like England, France and Germany — but many similar characteristics as well.
As a part of judicial machinery an executioner had his privileges and could count on the government’s protection, but given the specifics of his work he stood on the same level as people of other unclean professions — whores, nightmen, undertakers and flayers. In other words he was considered a fringe element (as opposed to good, “honest” people).
There were whose dynasties of executioners, the trade being passed from fathers to sons of to husbands of their daughters. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Who would want to get involved with such an unclean profession other than the relatives of those already tainted?
Apart from their basic responsibilities executions were often ordered with other tasks that decent people would loath: cleaning sewage, catching stray dogs, grave digging, quackery and even performing exorcisms. Even though the government has officiated their profession, making the executioners craftsmen of sorts, gradually they acquired an almost mystical aura. Dealing with death on a daily basis will do that to a person. A grim, terrifying spectre of a man who cuts the life’s thread of anyone who defies the law quickens people’s imagination but at the same time makes the executioners shunned as agents of doom.
How to work with such a character
In “The Executioner” you meet this reality first hand. Theodor Grim is an outcast, feared by the townsfolk, who after his father’s death has not a single soul close to his heart. He has to continue his father’s work not just because he can’t let go of the past and find a different calling, but also because he’s been taught to torture and execute people his whole life. He has no other skills to speak of.
The few people he has contact with when his job demands it despise him. City fold cross the road when they see him. To look the executioner in the eyes brings disease. His touch is a harbinger of death. His talent to expose lies is useful but doesn’t bring him an inch closer to a genuine human connection.
Theodor’s old assistant is the only person who shares his long work hours in a damp dungeon of the Royal prison, but this vicious degenerate deserved to be shunned himself and the executioner has no pity for him.
Turns out the closest people in Theodor Grim’s life are his victims. They open up before him, exposed and raw and honest in the face of pain and fear and the inevitability of death. But those poor people are doomed to meet their life’s end on the gallows, leaving our hero alone and abandoned once more.
Playing the Executioner
Theodor Grim is lonely, feared and misunderstood. Which path does he choose? He wants to understand his victims, to get to the bottom of their lives and crimes, but what is his motive? Is it a step towards people, a belated attempt to relate? Or is it a way to justify his actions and reject this soulless world, learning to be completely self-sufficient.
Both paths are open. Both lead to their own consequences for the executioner and the world around him.
Try to immerse yourself in a character whose everyday routine is to hurt others. Lokk at the world with his eyes. When will violence become a habitual and even natural way of communication for you, a person of the non-violent XXI century? What price will you be willing to pay to break the isolation and feel human again?