Last Rites, she said…

It’s always fun when a story generates another story. Regular readers will recall the Planescape retrospective I posted recently. The ever-lovely Slashdot picked up on it, and one of their commentators pointed everyone in the direction of the game’s actual Vision Statement over at RPGWatch, from when it was called “Last Rites” rather than “Planescape: Torment” and they weretrying to persuade management to greenlight the project.

Since I hadn’t read it, it’s likely that a lot of you haven’t either. It’s interesting to see what was planned that didn’t happen. And it’s interesting because it’s incredibly fucking interesting. It’s one of the best videogame documents I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s smart, driven, obsessed and actually really funny. For example, it has diagrams that look like this.


Clearly, you should read the whole thing. If you haven’t played the game, don’t go past page 25. It’s relatively spoiler free until then, before immediately revealing the biggest secrets in the game. And I’ll quote some random non-spoiler examples beneath the cut.

Okay, here’s those quotes. And worth remembering this is a vision document, designed on making people upstairs give the project a go…

On weapons:

No more using boring swords, daggers or bows to carve bloody swaths through opponents. Plunge scalpels into foes’ eyes, lace their food with poisonous embalming fluid, push them into man-eating pockets of ooze, sic them with sarcastic biting skulls, hurl them into razorvines, conjure burrowing rot grubs within a victim’s brain, cast spells that make them bleed from every orifice or change a person’s scent so they attract packs of hungry rats.

On Spells:

“Fireball” can go hide in the fucking corner when you unleash your arsenal.

On equipment generally:

Equip stuff that scares small children

On being a game, not a thirst simulator:

We want you to play the fucking game, not micro-manage it. It ain’t a flight sim. Because you’re effectively immortal, you don’t need to eat, sleep, excrete, nor do you need to worry about dying through any conventional means. There’s no thirst or hunger meters, encumbrance, mortality points or micro-management that gets in the way of you beating an opponent to death with his own severed arm or casting a spell that teleports an opponents’ scrotum into his stomach to get digested.

(Morte adds:

“The best part about Ultima 7 was that your guys were always hungry. There’s nothing like spoon-feeding your companions to make you feel like a hero. Hellloooo fun!”)

On the Planescape world:

Forget fragile elves, rock-humping dwarves, worthless hobbits and with them, the mind-numbing boredom of every RPG ever released.

On Ego Masturbation:

We gots Gold, Glory, Power and Hero Worship. Why save a world you nothing about and have absolutely no attachment to? Fuck that. We know what you really want to do – you want to run rampant in a world where you are a god.

On the player’s growing reputation:

Sure, you may be a fat dateless loser in real life, but in Last Rites you get the women and respect you’ve always craved.

On a similar note:

Tons of Total Babes: Tis game will have lots of babes that make the player go “wow”. There will be fiendish babes, human babes, angelic babes, asian babes and even undead babes. These babes will be present without nipple-age and will all regrettably behave within the TSR Code of Ethics”

And later:

Babes: Think babes. Then think more babes.

The first rule of the vision statement:

If you’ve seen it done before, do it better than you’ve ever seen or don’t do it. Better yet, try to think of a way to implement it that has never been tried before.

On fantasy:

This is not high fantasy. This is avant-garde fantasy. Everything you create or draw should reflect this.

On first instinct:

If you want to create something, don’t use your first instinct. Stop for a moment then put a spin on the idea. For example, don’t draw a “sailing ship” as a modern day person would recognise it. Replace the sails with cobwebs, the wooden hull with the ribcage from some demonic beat, give it the ability to travel underwater in an air-bubble, and so on.

It goes on. It’s 47 pages long, includes a lengthy synopsis of the entire plot and the three original endings. For Planescape devotees, it’s worth reading just to see how the final game differed… and how the particular beats they forgo would have changed the tone of the whole thing.

Also, many cartoons of Morte, which is always a bonus.


  1. Bet says:

    I…have to lie down for a while. Torment, the only non-FPS game I was obsessed with in 2000. Such fantastic beginnings! This is like a design document from some amazing alternate reality where Black Isle’s Fallout 3 wasn’t canceled.

    Must replay Torment. After laying down.

  2. Leth says:

    Thanks for pointing out this great doc! Oh how I miss Planescape…

  3. Robert Seddon says:

    ‘Equip stuff that scares small children’ is my quotation of the day.

    It’s nice to know Annah’s accent is meant to be Irish.

  4. Thelps says:

    Being the first design doc I’ve read, I’m pretty surprised at all the swearing and breast references. Pleasantly surprised. Kind of makes the management people look like a bunch of boozy, porn-addicted palm-dampeners, but hey, I guess it’s an internal document.

  5. Eduardo Ramirez says:

    Damnit. I have many many games that need playing. I have turrets that need protecting from spies. I’ve got the entire Orange Box preloaded in Steam. I just got to play Halo 3 online for the first time today. And now I need to go and reload Planecape: Torment for the fifth or six time and replay it.

  6. Darius K. says:

    Chris Avellone is, indeed, a genius. (I’m assuming the doc was written mostly by him.)

  7. John O'Kane says:

    Hmm, sounds like a great document simply because it leaves you wanting to read it. That can only be a good thing when all too often the design document is left unconsidered by the rest of the team. It also has to be said it could only be taken as a work in progress. I mean no-one is actually going to use that as a bible. You wouldn’t schedule too strongly around it (but then you shouldn’t schedule too strong around the plastic malleable design doc). Ultimately the purpose of the design document for developer management and the publisher is something that represents the I.P. for any legal arguments. More specifically for the publisher it’s one of the pieces of flesh demanded and weighed in hand as a measurement of progress. The heavier the better. The contents matter little as long as it’s the developers flesh. Not that the design document doesn’t have great use for the developer as a record of decisions made, but maybe not much use for those decisions to come.

    Finally it takes the right sort of atmosphere for a design document written in such a style to thrive. Often management at developers choke at such an approach for fear of reproach by potential buyers. Or worse, they see the humour as a sign of lack of professionalism or if the game is not intended to be “humorous” that it may confuse people somewhat. Or disastrously the design document is done by a committee of any and everyone involved. Still, a good read, good enough to encourage people that there’s fun in doing one of the damned things.

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    I didn’t link to this in the main story, but it’s worth reading the interviews along with the design doc where Avellone and Colin McComb talks a lot about How It Was Done.

    link to

    It seems that Planescape managed to keep a lot of its design vision, basically, but Avellone working his arse off to write the majority of the game like a complete lunatical.


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