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Video Game / Graveyard Keeper

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Ready to bury some bodies, Sard?
The most inaccurate graveyard management simulator of the year.
Lazy Bear Games, the Developers

Imagine that one rainy, miserable night in the city, you go off to the grocery store to buy some daily necessities and a gift for your loved one. Just as you exit the store and begin to cross the street, your sweetheart calls you, and so distracted by answering, you don't notice the car barreling towards you until you hear the frantic squeal of brakes and a blinding flash before everything suddenly goes dark.

You wake up in a mysterious, foggy plain, talking to a shadowy, ghostly figure who tells you you're now to become a Graveyard Keeper, and unfortunately, all your many questions about what happened, who (or what) he is, and how you're supposed to get home are to be answered by a man called "Gerry." You suddenly find yourself in simple hemp clothes in a cozy cabin, and after digging up Gerry (who turns out to be a talking skull with amnesia) and a misunderstanding with the local bishop, you find yourself thrown deep into the dark business of dealing with the dead while trying to find a way home.


Graveyard Keeper is a management simulation game, essentially Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon with much more corpses and a far darker, grimmer, and comedic take on the Medieval country life. The game has you doing many of the staples of the genre such as gathering resources, growing crops, and gradually expanding to more complex and profitable ventures— like, say, carving off flesh from dead bodies and selling it to the local innkeeper, helping a zealous inquisitor find witches and make their burnings much more appealing to the masses via advertising flyers and free food and drink, or entertaining the whimsies of a lovely singer named Ms. Charm.

The game was released on August 15, 2018 by developer Lazy Bear Games, the creators of Punch Club, with tinyBuild once again acting as the publisher. Four DLCs have been released: Breaking Dead, Stranger Sins, Game of Crone, and Better Save Soul.


This work provides examples of:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Money can be absurdly hard to come by in the early game.
    • For example, after you go through the trouble of opening up the church and improving your graveyard from its abysmal negative score, the Donkey starts to charge you oil for his wheels, and a recurring fee of 10 carrots every two bodies delivered (with Pride Day off), cutting you off from your most basic form of income: selling Burial Certificates. And even then, the Inn Keeper Horadric and every other merchant only has a limited amount of money that they can give you, and will only buy specific goods, with the exception of firewood...
    • An even worse, mid-game frustration that has many players vocally protesting is the Big Church upgrade, which costs 20 silver. Immediately after that, and without warning, you have to pony up 1 gold (100 silver, five times as much as the church upgrade) to have sermons again, which oftentimes serves as a player's constant source of income and the only way to get valuable Faith. A patch (which so far has only been released on PC) lowered this cost to "only" another 20 silver. It still comes out of nowhere with absolutely no warning. If you know this, however, you can use the church to make the money you need prior to the upgrade, then complete the request instantly and move on, but that information is a bit of a "Guide Dang It!".
    • Selling money and goods to vendors follows a semi-realistic model of Supply and Demand. Certain vendors will only buy certain goods that they need or trade in themselves, they will only have a limited amount of money to give you (until you improve the church, and thus, foot traffic to the area), and the more you sell the same commodity, the smaller its value will get as you make it less and less valuable, rarity-wise. This has lead to MANY players stuck with investments they are unable to turn a profit on until the markets restock, alongside the general lack of decent, constant means to get funds.
  • The Alcoholic: Gerry. His quests ALWAYS involve you getting him alcohol, and he keeps complaining about not having a drink all the time in his dialog.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: "Breaking Dead," the Halloween update, added a few:
    • The Zombie Workforce is a big one, removing tedium from most tasks such as mining for ore, chopping logs, Farming, and most importantly, shipping crates, which constitute your biggest income and time sink.
    • The new dedicated slots for your tools, sword, and armor free up seven spaces, where your inventory size never grows past the initial twenty. Needless to say, this is a MAJOR convenience. "Game of Crone" further increases your inventory with backpacks that can store dedicated items.
  • Bathos: While the Inquisitor's hunting down, torturing, and burning witches is never played for laughs, his getting you to make flyers for the event and sell beer and hamburgers during it certainly is. Bonus points if you made the meat using corpse flesh.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: During the game's ending the Graveyard Keeper expresses a desire to be reunited with his love. The portal he created then brings her into the world instead of sending him home. The fact that the Graveyard Keeper was brought into the world after supposedly dying in a car crash leaves players wondering if she was also killed moments before arriving.
  • Black Comedy: Plenty of moments, but by far the most prominent example is the game proudly advertising harvesting organs and human flesh from dead bodies for resources as "being efficient."
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution:
    • If there are too many red skulls on corpses in your graveyard, a lightning storm will come and damage several of the grave decorations.
    • The gravekeeper will be struck by lightning out of nowhere when he tries to walk to the Town.
  • Broken Bridge: While there's only one literal example in the game, cutting you off from the western half of the map and the Swamp, there are numerous obstacles that keep you from accessing parts of the game like the dungeon beneath the church, and especially higher tier resources. Amusingly, there's another literal broken bridge east of town, but you don't have the opportunity to fix that one.
  • Burn the Witch!: The Holy Inquisitor's favorite part of his job. One of the in-game questlines involves trying to get people to come to them after they lose interest, such as providing free food and drink.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Clotho mentions at one point that witches are theoretically immortal, but every spell they cast brings their death ever so slightly closer. Her sister Bella, the farmer's wife, ended up killing herself through a combination of casting too many healing spells on others, and the stress of birthing her children.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Horadric the innkeeper, of all people. He used to be a soldier who helped open the Ancient Portal, in order to lead a rebellion against the Ancient God so he could be with his lover, the priestess Chain. They successfully summon the science-focused Master, but eventually, the Ancient God punishes his followers by sending drought and famine. Things get worse when the other soldiers murder the Master and install themselves as the head of a new religious order and break the Eternal Bridge. Without a place to go, the dead start to walk, anarchy reigns, and it's only until they sign an Ancient Contract that renders them immortal keepers of the Ancient God's whims do they find some semblance of peace—and after all that, Chain feels she can no longer be with Horadric after all the suffering and destruction she's unintentionally instigated.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Tanner tells the story that her son, a royal guard, lost his job, his possessions, and received an enormous fine that selling her business couldn't repay, all because he sneezed during a solemn official event.
  • Dramatic Irony: The first time you meet the Dairy Farmer, the Keeper asks if they sell beef. She expresses horror at the thought, saying the cows are friends, and they are not like the people of The Town below. She even says she believes they eat human flesh, which is especially funny and ironic if you've actually been selling Horadric the Inn Keeper human flesh for money.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Several items necessary for quests can simply be purchased instead of crafted. Most notably (and literally), you can buy the Golden Apple for Snake from Clotho rather than trudging through fifteen floors of murderous dungeon monsters. The DLC adds a couple more alternate solutions—for example, you can also make a bunch of curtains and roof tiles for the woodcutter to get a Golden Apple.
    • However, as noted above, money can sometimes be difficult to come by, so this usually only "easier" in the late game.
  • Dungeon Crawling: There is a truly elaborate dungeon spanning 15 floors underneath the church/graveyard, which you explore at the behest of Snake for his dark rituals. Your character only really agrees as it could help him get home.
  • Early Game Hell: In spite of the fact that Gerry explicitly advises you to sell off the flesh of your first autopsied corpse for money, you aren't able to actually get a Royal Meat Stamp and the paper necessary to make it a package until mid-to-late game, either by exploring the dungeons, or by paying up several silvers more than you can earn at that time, which is also gated by having to open the church by repairing and improving the graveyard with your limited resources and means. This is only exacerbated by the lack of other means to make money aside from burying corpses (and even then, Horadric only has so much money to give), the poor quality of your tools which break all the time, and how many areas and conveniences are blocked off with materials from higher tech trees.
  • Erudite Stoner: Dig is a strange, philosophical old man who lives in an overturned jar on the east end of the Village and grows and sells hemp, hemp seeds, and seed oil. Though we don't actually see him partake of his crop, the implications are there.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Your character, the Graveyard Keeper, is only referred to as such by everyone. Some other NPCs are also given this treatment, such as the Old Astrologer, the Holy Inquisitor, and the Lighthouse Keeper. Even locations get this treatment: your village is the Village, adjacent to the Town, and part of the Kingdom.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Gerry has Magic Talking Skull Amnesia. He remembers very little about his life beyond his love of alcohol, though bits and pieces often come back to him as you chat about the world around you. What he does remember implies that he's been dead for quite some time, as he calls the now-elderly Astrologer a "clever young man."
    • Turns out to be a major plot point in "Stranger Sins" Garry was originally Jove, first king of the land, after he successfully manipulated Horadric and Krezvold into summoning the master to overthrow the Ancient God. After he betrayed, murdered and manipulated everyone, the ancient curse rolled over, raising the dead and basically ruining everyone's lives. He was beheaded by his own son, cursed with undeath and forbidden from his own memories by the Ancient God. His Karma Houdini Warranty ran out centuries ago.
  • Guide Dang It!: Certain parts of the game are intentionally left obfuscated (such as the late-game "Cultist" perk for autopsies), require trial and error (alchemy reagents), or are explained at inconvenient times, such as WHY exactly it's a bad idea to bury corpses with numerous red skulls in your graveyard (the hit to your quality score aside, the dead are not happy with the prospect of eternal rest beside such mangled bodies, and summon lightning to destroy your precious grave decorations).
  • Happily Ever After: By the end of the game, after activating the portal and helping the rest of the cast overcome their personal dramas and failings, the Graveyard Keeper is finally reunited with his lover, if by her getting transported into this world instead.
  • Human Resources: A key gameplay mechanic. Numerous useful items and important quests are gated until you can extract certain body parts from corpses, along with them being a useful source of materials for consumables like candles.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: You can turn the whole village into this by knowingly selling them human meat. You can also become this yourself by baking the flesh and eating it. Funnily enough, both human flesh and frog meat produce the exact same product, with no functional or aesthetic difference between the two, nor any sort of downsides, except maybe to your humanity and your right to call yourself a moral individual. Especially poignant with the Holy Inquisitor's questline, where you sell burgers and beer at witch burnings to make them more popular. Sure, you could fish for it, or buy frogs from Clotho the Swamp Witch to make the meat, but a lot of your corpses are still pretty fresh, and it's not like anyone will know...
    • Ironically, according to the dairy farmer, these people seem to be horrified at the thought of eating beef, since "The cows are our friends!"
  • It's All About Me: The Bishop's main character flaw. Everything he tasks you to do is motivated by selfishness, narcissism, or improving his own standing within the church.
  • Low Fantasy: There is magic, but very few people seem to be able to use it. Your character happens to be one of those few, able to use a teleport stone and command the undead and spirits through necromancy.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Ms. Charm is the Astrologer's estranged daughter, and Snake is the Inquisitor's son, believed to have been killed in the Great Blast.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: On top of doing a lot of things for a lot of people you are by the end of the game- a graveyard keeper, a prior, a farmer, a vinter, a necromancer-of-sorts (and Better Save Soul practically removes the 'of sorts' part), head of a large scale mining/quarry/lumber operation, and, if you bought the DLCs, a tavern owner and a refugee camp manager.
  • Monkeys on a Typewriter: This is the "Random Text Generator" station you can build for zombie workers. Give them some paper and they ...eventually... write a Story or a skill book for you. The type of skill book and quality of the story are random (but weighted towards what you'd get normally, so heavy on the red and green skill points, etc.) The point of this is to help make up for the fact that zombie workers working on tasks like cutting wood will cut into your skill point generation.
  • Monochrome Apparition: Yorick is of the blue variety, though his exact hue varies depending on his demeanor.
  • Mundane Utility: The "Breaking Dead" update gives you the ability to bring the dead back to life! ... in order to do your chores.
  • Mushroom Samba: Vagner the poet requests a bottle of toadstool-infused booze so he can expand his consciousness and write a truly epic poem.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Snake", a cultist and all-around seedy individual.
  • Necromancer: You can become one, in order to have your creations do your repetitive tasks for you.
  • Noodle Incident: Royal Meat Stamps are required to sell meat in the village, after a long-ago incident with some... "inappropriate meat" according to Inn Keeper Horadric.
  • Obvious Beta: The game's full release has been plagued by numerous bugs, several of them game-breaking. One which seems to have been fixed in patches prevented the player from completing the Bishop's first quest, rendering the entire game Unintentionally Unwinnable.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: The Astrologer has a number of science-related skills including book restoration, drawing up calculations to assist in a windmill repair (which the graveyard keeper hand waves by saying he must be "good with angles"), and archaeology. Ironically, astrology is one of the few skills he never displays during the game.
  • Oracular Head: Gerry, who met some unfortunate, mysterious fate, has been reduced to a talking skull.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Snake implies that he grew up in one of these, telling the graveyard keeper that he wants them to decorate a ritual site to make it "as terrifying as the orphanage."
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Actual vampires make an appearance in the Game of Crone DLC. According to the Scholar, vampires can only drink Type "O" blood; other blood types make them ill.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Gerry tends to say "sard" a lot (while "sard" was a real medieval swear word, it is very obscure nowadays).
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The only thing the Astrologer does to justify his title is stand next to a telescope every time you speak to him.
    • There's also a literal example of this trope name. There is a colorful pirate at the Dead Horse, constantly rolling dice. Such a character usually would be featured in a quest or storyline (or a gambling mini-game), but not here. He doesn't figure into the game or story at all.
  • Punny Name: Cory and Tress, the building supply merchants. Cory deals with stone dug from quarries, Tress deals with wood cut from trees.
  • Really 700 Years Old: As you play through the "Stranger Sins" DLC, you'll learn that a few townsfolk are more than they seem.
  • The Reveal: Several NPC relations aren't immediately obvious, such as The Snake being the Holy Inquisitor's son, the Bishop and Merchant being estranged brothers, the Astrologer being Ms. Charm's father, and the innkeeper's wife being the Witch Clotho's sister.
  • Sequel Hook: If you complete the DLC quests and then the main quests, you'll get to see a bit more of what happened immediately after you "died" at the beginning of the game: the red-eyed figure split you into two copies, and sent one to The Town, for an unknown purpose ...
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The game is based around them, with the six days of the week being named after them (sans Greed), and one plot-important NPC representing each, as symbolized by a memento or beloved item they have.
    • Envy - Represented by Snake, who envies the townsfolk for their peaceful, happy lives, after he lost his idyllic life at the Vineyard with his parents, one of whom is the Holy Inquisitor, and wishes to destroy them all with dark rituals.
    • Gluttony - Represented by The Merchant, who seeks to gain great riches and fame in the Royal Courts, primarily by partnering up with you to sell vegetables, and eventually ingredients for the royal's lavish meals.
    • Lust - Represented by Ms. Charm, who uses her beauty and wiles to coax people into doing her bidding for her entertainment and personal gain.
    • Pride - Represented by The Bishop, who is absolutely obsessed with his personal appearance, as evidenced by the mirror he carries underneath his hat, and how he appears to the Church, tasking you with beautifying your graveyard and your church for his benefit and to make himself look good.
    • Sloth - Represented by the Old Astrologer, who has lost his job and position at the University, and now spends most of his days hanging out with the Lighthouse Keeper and watching the stars, devoid of purpose, devoid of passion, and devoid of any motivation to do much anything else.
    • Wrath - Represented by the Holy Inquisitor, who after losing his wife, his son, and his peaceful life as a winemaker to The Great Blast dedicated the rest of his life to hunting down the witches he believes responsible, thinking of nothing more than the next one he will root out, torture, and burn at the stake... even if the women he has his soldiers find are not witches at all.
    • Greed - You, the Graveyard Keeper, as you inevitably will succumb to the pursuit of owning everything in your playthrough, driven to find more and more ways to make a profit. The numerous less than ethical means you can use to make money, even things as extreme as raising the dead or selling dead human flesh for consumption, for your own selfish reasons, no matter how sympathetic getting home to your lover is.
  • Simulation Game: It's all about trying to make a profitable and beautiful graveyard, church, and other businesses, to try to find some way to get back home.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Donkey is allegedly from a "left-leaning stable" and has communist views, such as a marked disdain for your character being a "capitalist" and profiting off the dead bodies he delivers to you without compensation. He wouldn't be out of place in George Orwell's Animal Farm.
    • The ghost who advises you about the state of your graveyard is named "Yorick". Ironically, you never find his skull, nor hold it as you lament his demise. You do however lampshade that the character who is a skull is named Gerry.
    • Speaking of Gerry, his characterization as a talking skull who loves booze may be a reference to the nameless skull from The Last Unicorn.
    • Dig, the strange old man who lives in an overturned jar, may be a nod to the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope.
    • The vampire hunter who shows up during Snake's questline bears a strong resemblance to the way Geralt of Rivia is portrayed in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
    • A sidequest in the Game of Crone DLC has the Donkey requesting you aid his fellow animal revolutionaries by making a cookbook for their leader, a rat who wants to be a chef.
    • The icon for the Spiritualism tech tree from Better Save Soul is a Pac-Man ghost.
    • During the final quest from Better Save Soul, Horadric tells you "In and out, twenty-minute repair job" to fix what's been broken around the Village.
  • Talking Animal: The Donkey who delivers you your corpses. He uses his gift of speech to rail against you, a "capitalist," and constantly spouts off the communist views he got from the "left-leaning stable" he was born in. Notably, you are the only person capable of communicating with him.
  • Tech Tree: Upgrades, new buildings, and permanent perks are unlocked in this manner. It can be a little confusing and frustrating as certain upgrades are interdependent on one another, but you don't see them locked off as they're in an entirely different page altogether. An example of this is Armour (in the Smithing category), which is made in the Carpenter's Workbench (in the Building category). There is also the fact that you can buy blueprints before you have access to the station that crafts them...
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Necronomicon, which you have to retrieve for Snake during his questline. In keeping in line with the game's tone, you retrieve it from the Lighthouse Keeper who said he enjoyed it for the pretty pictures, as he's illiterate.
  • Trapped in Another World: Your character, the Graveyard Keeper. The entire game's ultimate goal is trying to find a way home.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In one quest, the farmer challenges the graveyard keeper to bring him a carrot the size of a log, and you must enlist the help of Clotho the witch. When she hears the graveyard keeper's request to "enlarge my carrot", her immediate response is "That's a strange name for it..."
  • Verbal Tic
    Gerry: Sard!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After completing the Stranger Sins plot line, you learn what happened to one of the two significant characters introduced in it: Jove suffers the punishment of the truly guilty and is assassinated by his son, but his head lives on as Gerry. Lucius's fate is completely ignored, though it may be inferred that he suffered the same punishment.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: Doing pretty much anything except walking, talking, or eating requires an appropriate technology. Among these are things like gathering sand on a beach, chopping logs into firewood, and catching butterflies.