The Lord of the Rings Online game offers a neat trick for elven characters, it uses their immortality to start the game a few centuries before the timeline of the main game.

This, combined with what someone told me of the Leverage mechanism of allowing retrospective flashbacks to explain why circumstances now are going to turn in a character's favour, got me to thinking about how immortal long lives could be used as a game mechanic. Particularly in the case where immortal and mortal characters are mixed together.

The simplest case is the use of flashback to provide detail on things that effect what is happening in the game now. For example if the characters arrive at a ruined tower a player can declare that their character visited the tower when in was in its heyday and flashback to what the tower was like.

Of course to be interesting all the characters should have the same immortality and be able to feature in the historic scenes. There should also be some consequences to the flashback, this shouldn't just be a chance to go back and rewrite the game history. While characters can obviously not die in flashback, recalling events that traumatised them should have some effect on them now. Something like Burning Wheel's Grief idea. There should also be the idea that memory is not infallible and the outcomes of flashbacks are subject to modification in terms of the character's incorrect or biased recall of how things happened.

Death is not the end

A lot of recent indie computer games use character death as a game mechanism. Either allowing you to interact with previous "lives" or witness previous failures, some of the more meta games allow you to actually use your previous lives and bodies as tools to complete puzzles. I have been wondering if something like this might be an interesting way of interacting with a traditional dungeon game, where the resurrected characters are sent back into the dungeon again and again until they solve the problem. In this case they are learning from their previous lives rather than interacting with them.

As a fictional justification something like being souls in the thrall of a god, demon or devil and pressed into service to correct some problem that the being cannot interfere with directly might be an interesting idea.