Die Hardest: Perma-Perma-death in The Castle Doctrine

Death becomes him

I’ve not had a chance to go back to Jason Rohrer’s fascinatingly bleak, tricksy home invasion MMOette The Castle Doctrine since launch, but it’s now on update 8 and has seen a number of changes. Most headline-making (as you can see) of those is the concept of perma-perma-death.

It was always the case that getting your character killed while trying to steal from another player’s house (or ineptly navigating your own lethal home defences) meant that character was dead forever and ever, amen, but now, optionally, you can not even have an option of starting a new character on your server. As in, everyone playing on that server knows they can’t come back (at least not without buying another account, presumably) if they get it wrong, so in theory the cold war aspect mounts as extreme caution – and extreme defence – is employed.

Perma-perma-death servers exist alongside, rather than instead of, plain old permadeath servers, so no-one’s forced to participate in this experiment of ultimate brutality. But you probably should, just to see how it feels. The fear, the terrible fear.

Also added since launch (back in version 6) are blueprints, which allow you to get some sense of a layout of a house before invading it. That’s actually quite a huge change, as it essentially means security setups are that based on the The idea is that it stops people from relying on The Lady, Or The Tiger? guessing games for their security setups. In other words, proper puzzles, not enforced gambles, are the order of the day.

The Castle Doctrine sounds as though it’s very much a project still in motion – hopefully I’ll get the chance to revisit it a few months more down the line and see how much it’s evolved.


  1. MadeAnAccountJustForThis says:


    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      The comment threads are extended gutters and the gutters are full of spam and when the spam filters finally clog up, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all your “First!” and “My auntie’s dog bought a car” will foam up about your waist and all the spambots and meme-pushers will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll whisper “I think not, old chap.”

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Is this a verbatim quote from Taxi Driver?

        Oh wait, no, it’s from Watchmen right?

      • frosty216 says:

        Lord Custerdface has a great point Janet but did you see the income my neighbor makes wroking from home? She just bought a brand new Ford Prius with a weekly paycheck of $7395.35!!!

      • Geen says:

        M’lord, I salute you.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Demonstrating perma-perma-death on RPS?

    • colossalstrikepackage says:

      In poshest voice: “Orf with hiz head!”

    • frightlever says:

      Meh. Probably not the worst comment the thread will see.

  2. jrod says:


  3. Lanfranc says:

    “Perma-perma-death”? It’s like we’re creating a whole new language here.

    • darkChozo says:

      I’m sorry, but you’ve activated RPS’s perma-perma-perma-death feature. Don’t worry, it will be quick and horrifically painful.

    • Trif says:

      Castle Doctrine is the first roguelike-like to feature perma-perma-death.

      • S Jay says:

        It is not rogue-like.

        • golem09 says:

          You are right.

          It’s a rogue-like-like with perma-perma-death.

          • kalirion says:

            I’m not very familiar with the game, but if the “levels” are designed by the players to the smallest detail, how is there anything of “rogue-like” in this game aside from the perma-(perma-)-death?

          • The Random One says:

            Once upon a time there was a game called Rogue. It had procedurally generated levels, permadeath (i.e. death means your character is dead in the game word and you can’t play as them any more), turn-based gameplay and unindentified items.

            Later there were games that were similar to Rogue but with some difference, prime of these being NetHack. These games had procedurally generated levels, permadeath, turn-based gameplay and unindentified items. They were called Roguelike because they were like Rogue.

            A lot later there were games that had two of the essential characteristics of roguelike games – procedurally generated levels and permadeath – but not the others – turn-based gameplay and unindentified items. Prime amongst these were Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac. These were initially referred to as roguelikes, but as the word was used towards games that had all features of Rogue, some people took issue with that usage. Some people then started calling them roguelike-likes, as a joke, since they were like roguelikes. The term stuck, even if only as a joke, especially as the nebulously defined genre has grown a lot of recent times.

            Now, notice that the word roguelike-like is meant to be funny because it repeats a suffix in other to dillute the root word’s meaning. Notice also how the word perma-perma-death, used in the article title, is also meant to be funny because it repeats a prefix to reinforce the root word’s meaning. Notice also that perma-death is one of the defining characteristics of roguelike.

            Q: How is a game without procedurally generated content a roguelike?
            A: It isn’t, but if we say it is we can call it a roguelike-like with perma-perma-death, a construction that can be considered funny, often referred to as a joke.

            This post has been written for the benefit of future readers who do not know what roguelike and permadeath mean.

          • belgand says:

            You have just won the meta-metagame. As reward please accept this official affix.

    • Knufinke says:

      Sounds a bit like Orwells Newspeak.

      • Josh W says:

        Actually the opposite; prefixes by their nature can be applied recursively, allowing people to apply ideas to themselves, creating reflective concepts or expanding on existing relationships. It’s a relatively easy way for words to expand rather than contract the feild of thought.

        Consider how awful it’d be for the party of that setting, if people started talking about “a big-brother to big-brother”.

  4. Lamb Chop says:

    That poor sentence has lost its tail.

  5. stahlwerk says:

    Yay! You fixed your mobile CSS to auto adjust to the screen width, greatly appreciated. You might want to check this comment entry field, though.

  6. KDR_11k says:

    Permadeath always sounded like a weird idea for this game since it decreases the likelyhood of someone getting really wealthy and thus a worthy target. Hell, it probably even prevents most players from getting past a very basic level of security.

  7. Medo says:

    How is this different from dying on a Hardcore Minecraft server?

    • Kelron says:

      Because it’s preventing the player from coming back to the same server and using knowledge from previous characters. In Minecraft, they wouldn’t be able to come back and know where to find dropped items or know their way around the world. In the Castle Doctrine, that means being unable to blunder or brute-force your way through someone’s house with a succession of new characters.

    • DrollRemark says:

      It’s a top-down game designed around breaking into other players’ homes and stealing their money, whilst simultaneously stopping them from doing the same to you.

      Minecraft is a 3d, blocky-looking game about digging up rocks and building things with them.

      I can see how you would get confused between the two.

      • TariqOne says:

        This comment would be less awkward if he wasn’t merely comparing the permadeath features of this game to the permadeath features of a Minecraft hardcore server. But since he was, yeah.

  8. DXN says:

    Might want to check the penultimate paragraph; one of the sentences seems to have been lopped.

    • Foosnark says:

      It was perma-perma-omitted and can no longer appear on RPS servers.

  9. Aaax says:


  10. jonbro says:

    I am really glad the blueprint change was made, that was the reason I left the game. Although it was changed in the exact opposite way that I was expecting, by giving every single person the cheat that some people were using, rather than fixing the cheat itself by doing the map reveals server side. It also fixes the way that I was building all my houses, which was becoming boring I guess.

  11. Bfox says:

    I would buy a copy, but being killed while testing my house design is madness.

  12. Josh W says:

    I love how this game is leaning on “game theory” in the more traditional sense, that whole cold-war paranoia strategy-adjustment side of things. It’s quite fascinating to watch the insightful solutions that he comes up with in order to balance it “as a game”, and the implications they make about the subject matter.