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Because of how heavily Inscryption relies on twists and turns to tell its story, all spoilers are unmarked. You Have Been Warned!

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Sacrifices must be made.

Inscryption is a roguelike, psychological horror-esque, escape room puzzle, deck-building game. It's developed by Daniel Mullins Games, known for the renowned Pony Island and The Hex. It was released October 19th, 2021, with its demo being released on September 25th, 2021, and a concept demo titled Sacrifices Must Be Made being released in 2017.

You play as someone who has had the misfortune of ending up in the cabin of a mysterious, murderous creature. Forced to play a cruel and twisted card game for your life, you'll need to explore the cabin you're trapped in, build your deck, win battles, and make sacrifices.

The primary gameplay is a Card Battle Game where you embark on a tablelop RPG-like adventure, moving space-to-space on a map while collecting cards you will use to battle. Almost each card requires you to sacrifice at least one of your cards to power them up before they can be played — with the exception of the Squirrel cards, which cannot attack and are your main sacrifice fodder. Both you and your enemy attack either other's cards or, if there is nothing in the way, the opponent themselves, which will tip the scales one way or the other — victory is achieved if you tip your opponent's scale all the way down and vice versa. You will collect a variety of cards with a variety of stats and sigils — special rules the card follows — and space types that can be used to do things like get items, power up cards, or trade cards.

In addition, you will also be able to get up and explore the cabin, and will need to solve various puzzles in order to gain extra items and proceed with the story. In the process, you will discover who you are, why you are here, who the Game Master is, and what is the deal with this mysterious game.

Kaycee's Mod, a free expansion for the game, released in open beta on December 14, 2021 before a full release on March 12, 2022. Kaycee's Mod is essentially a Play the Game, Skip the Story version of the main game, giving players the option to just enjoy the gameplay if they wanted to, as well as providing them with optional difficulty modifiers to increase the challenge. However, those who rise to the challenge may find a few secrets left behind by the eponymous programmer...


Tropes must be made:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Right before the final battle of the cabin section, your host offers you two challenges that are generally fairly easy to complete (the 'ring' challenge being all but outright free), completion of each of which allows you an extra powerful ability going into the one match remaining. Though many of these range from good to decent, they pale in comparison to two extremely self-evidently broken power-ups for a card battle game: drawing twice per turn, and being allowed to draw any card from your deck at will. If you have a decent enough deck to get to the end of the cabin, with both of these acquired victory is more or less certain.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The original prototype demo (Sacrifices Must Be Made) lacked the meta plot entirely and instead had more of a focus on horror, and was about a starving parent and child playing cards against a sadistic stranger in order to secure food for the night.
  • All Your Powers Combined: During the final boss battle of Act 1, Leshy uses the powers of all 3 of the previous bosses, constantly switching between their masks while doing so.
  • Alone with the Psycho:
    • You start out in a dark cabin playing a card game with a shadowy figure who intends to turn you into another card for his collection, whether you win or lose.
    • In the third act, you later get into a similar situation, but this time with P03 after its takeover of the game instead of Leshy. Only this time it's handcuffed you to the table.
  • Alternate Reality Game:
    • The game contains hooks for an extensive one involving the game's prototype and Daniel Mullins' other works, most of which has been cataloged here (SPOILERS). Alongside several backstory revelations, it ends with the reveal that P03's online upload of Inscryption somehow restarted and finished, putting the game out in the open just as he intended.
    • The console releases brought a continuation of the ARG, this one ultimately providing a backstory for one of the cards in the game.
  • And I Must Scream: Each of Magnificus' students voluntarily inflicted this upon themselves to gain their master's approval. Goobert turned himself into a mass of goo (he claims the pain is "bearable"); the second turned herself into a head on a pike, and the Lonely Wizard locked himself in a realm of total darkness to experience sensory deprivation. You can free the third in Act 3 by gaining him as a card, whereupon he will express a constant desire for a sensation of any kind, even pain.
    Lonely Wizbot: Ah! Is it- Who are- Is this? STIMULATION.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • In the third act, the game builds up to P03's "Great Transcendence"... but it's an upload sequence instead of a final duel with the player, the other Scrybes behead P03 before it can be completed, and the rest of the game is a series of Post Climax Confrontations that are all interrupted by the world's deletion.
    • During the Finale, Grimora's Pirate boss fight starts with bombastic music and cannons falling from the sky, only to be cut short as her mask is deleted. However, the pirate returns as the secret boss of Kaycee's Mod.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If a match is at a point where you will win, but it'll take multiple turns to finish (possibly because the opponent is out of cards but you are many points behind), your opponent will offer to surrender, letting you just finish the game there and move on. Or you can take your time and play on...
    • Multiple mechanics ensure that the game becomes easier over time, guaranteeing persistent players will be able to complete the story. Players can create overpowered Death Cards on defeat. Defeating the second two bosses provides a powerful item and a reduction in pelt costs, respectively, and the player eventually gains the ability to use fires to power up creatures multiple times, albeit at the risk of losing the creature if they're unlucky.
    • When selecting new cards to acquire any creatures that you already have a copy of will be marked with a mushroom, indicating that you'll have the opportunity to combine them at the next Mycologists tile.
    • In Kaycee's Mod, the game attempts to ensure that your initial hand will contain at least one card that you will actually be able to play that turn or the next. For example, at least one squirrel and a one blood cost card.
  • Arc Words: "Sacrifices must be made."
  • Artistic License – Biology: The Ring Worm card is an annelid that, based on the effects on the Survivors at the fire, is harmful if consumed. Ringworm is a fungal infection, not an actual worm. Although it's not as though the game lacks its share of otherworldly creatures.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Without a Worthy Sacrifice of some kind, three and four blood summons fall under this. They may have impressive stat lines but they'll clear out your entire board and leave you short on other cards.
    • The Curious Eggs in Kaycee's Mod can be hatched into Hydras which perform five attacks per round and only cost one bone each to summon. However, hatching the Eggs requires building a bloated deck and a lot of luck on card draws and campfires to get exactly what you need. And even if the Eggs are hatched, random luck may prevent actually drawing a Hydra during a fight.
  • Backbench-Hitting Attack: In the card game, you can do this to your opponents backrow via overflow damage, sometimes killing the card before it even becomes active. This is the only way to damage queued cards, not even the scissors will work on them.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: At first, it seems that the Game Master is the sole villain as the one running the titular Deadly Game and killing you if you lose. But Leshy is just one of the four Scrybes — the other three being Grimora, Magnificus, and P03 — and all of them are competing with each other to gain control of the game and carry out their nefarious agendas, with Leshy and P03 getting the most focus.
  • Big Bad Friend: The Stoat/P03 is one of the first friendly faces you see, but it becomes the final Big Bad rather than risk having its position as a Scrybe usurped by you. Even in its version of the game, it's relatively more jocular and friendly with you — but also literally chains you to the table until it needs you to get something.
  • Blatant Lies: Kaycee's completed tombstone in Act 2 says she was "impaled by a falling icicle, the defibrillator failed." A defibrillator is used to treat arrhythmia of the heart and would only cause further harm if used on someone dying of a concussion or of blood loss. Furthermore, that entire story contradicts the news articles and Kaycee's own mother who say that she died in a fire at the GameFuna building.
  • Blood Magic: While technically no actual blood is involved, one of the main mechanics is sacrificing cards on the field for blood in order to play better cards (spending said blood in the process). It turns out that this is only one of four card types, but since it's the one that your opponent Leshy specializes in, it's what you start with. After your first run ends, you also start unlocking bone cards which are a sort of indirect form of Blood Magic (your cards must die to gain currency used to summon other cards). The other two card types that don't unlock until the second half aren't this at all.
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: Kaycee's Mod introduces the Mud Turtle, a 2/2 card with a sigil that completely negates one attack and then disappears (represented on the card as the turtle being in and out of its shell). Sacrificing the mud turtle to put its sigil on a card that has high damage but low health can allow cards that are normally Glass Cannons to tank hits they would otherwise die to.
  • Body Horror:
    • Respawn enough times in the cabin, and the Stoat, Stinkbug, and Stunted Wolf all start to look extremely... off, deformed in strange ways compared to their previously on-style animal cards. Though this is a subversion, really, in that they're looking more like themselves before their Forced Transformation into cards.
    • Magnificus seems to be fond of this, going by the state his pupils are in; Goobert was melted into a pile of sludge, while Amber was reduced to a still-conscious head on a pike. Solving the console ARG also indicates that the previous Ruby Mage was subjected to this as well, a "trial" involving his limbs being "twisted and morphed" — but he actually enjoyed it.
  • Book Ends: The first thing you do when you start playing is to play the Stoat with its eyes closed, which is the trapped P03. The video at the end of the AR game shows the Stoat winking at you, now very much free.
    • While it's not the end of the game just yet, Leshy's final duel mirrors his first, with the candles, the scale, and the bell disappearing in the opposite order they were introduced. Then as the Game Master himself bids farewell, the scene fades to black on the table, as empty as it was when the game began.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The cards you start your deck with at the beginning of every round — namely, the talking Scrybe cards in addition to the Bullfrog — are all low cost (aside from the regular wolf) with decent stats, and you're guaranteed to have them in every round. This makes them very easy to find use of, and there are a lot of opportunities to make them stronger through campfires or adding sigils since you have them in your deck for the longest.
    • After beating bosses, the player is given the option of adding some extremely strong cards in their deck with a wide and interesting variety of abilities and effects, among which, the Geck, is... a 1/1 card. However, it has no cost, which makes for a generally always reliable turn 1 deploy and potentially great fodder for a death card cost. It can also be turned into a powerful card through increasing its stats via campfires and adding sigils, still at no cost.
    • The Ring Worm is usually a fairly useless card that does nothing on its own, but it will always have its use at the campfire, giving you unlimited extra stat boosts later on.
    • Kaycee's Mod has a number of these, by virtue of the fact that most of the game-breakingly powerful features are turned off. A lot of wacky strategies that would have blown through act 1 are either heavily nerfed or useless here. Pack Rats are pretty much a must-have for any deck, because while they have pretty poor health and damage, they give you a random item upon placement, which, depending on the challenge modifiers, may basically be required to win the game.
  • Broken Bridge: Happens in Act 2 and 3. Lampshaded by Rebecha, who explains that the bridge will be done around about the time you beat a different boss.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes:
    • Your opponent is in constant shadow, but his eyes are always plainly visible.
    • This is also the case for the Lonely Wizard, who is encountered in total darkness with only his eyes and hat visible.
    • Powering up a card with a sigil gives the creature on the card glowing eyes, if it has any.
  • Callousness Towards Emergency: Downplayed; the reporter Luke contacts in the epilogue doesn't immediately have anything to take notes on, so puts him on hold for a minute to find a pen and paper (granted, neither he nor Luke realize the latter is in imminent danger). By the time he gets back on the line, Luke is dead.
  • Card Battle Game: Very much a focus ever since its inscryptio- inception, and becomes even more so after the first act, where you start to be given more freedom in traveling around, collecting your cards and building your deck with said cards.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the cabin, there is a hammer bolted to the wall so it cannot be moved. Later in the game, you are given the hammer to remove cards from your playing field when not using Leshy's sacrifice mechanic.
  • Chiptune: All of act two uses this style of music, in order to fit with the 8-bit aesthetic. Leshy’s theme is even remixed to better fit the tone of this section.
  • Chiaroscuro: Used to great effect on the 3D environments. The game is rendered with a shader that posterizes dark colors while leaving light colors untouched, casting hard shadows that shroud the room in mystery without impacting the visibility of important objects and cards.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: You will quickly notice that your opponent does not obey the same rules about needing to pay sacrifices to play cards. This also applies to your opponents in Acts 2 and 3, with P03 frequently playing high-energy cards on turn 1. Not to mention what happens in Act 1 if you get a little too far without dying...
  • Cool Mask: Your host has a collection of them and will put one on during a boss fight. Which one he uses depends on the boss you are facing. He makes sure to "roleplay" as the character the mask represents too (although Act 3 suggests it may be more than just "roleplay"). All of which represents his old allies back when he shared his position with the other Scrybes.
  • Colony Drop: Making it to the end of Leshy's game has him photograph the moon and use it as a card against you, taking up his entire half of the field, dealing massive damage and having a massive amount of health.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Game mechanics and commentary in Act 2 make it clear that the eye needed to complete Act 1 originally belonged to Magnificus.
    • In Act 3, getting a tarot reading from the Trader and choosing The Tower will have her mention an isoceles triangle and a blue man being all that she remembers of their initial creation. She is heavily implied to be referring to The Gameworks and Irving from The Hex.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Averted in the base game: The Moon is vulnerable to both the Stinky and Touch of Death sigils, allowing you to easily render it harmless or kill it in one hit. Played straight in Kaycee's Mod thanks to the Made of Stone sigil, although the mod also adds a brush item which can negate all sigils.
  • Counterfeit Cash: In Kaycee's Mod, Goobert appears on the map rarely and will make a (sometimes imperfect) copy of one of your cards. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from having him paint a second golden pelt if you have one, and then giving it to the trader with the paint splotches still on it. She still accepts it as real.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: The group of starving, desperate survivors can tear apart any creature if their hunger gets the better of them. Not even bears, great white sharks, and cryptids are safe. You can use this against them, however, by feeding them a poisonous animal.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: Botopia is scored by futuristic ambient music, and the boss fights all use variations on a glitchy and noisy techno track.
  • Cycle of Hurting: During the Act 3 boss in Magnificus's realm, you are told to create rules that will be followed (such as whenever you take your turn, an enemy is shielded, whenever you draw a card, you automatically play a card, etc etc.) If you set one rule as "Whenever a card dies, summon a minion" and another rule as "Whenever a card dies, a random card takes 5 damage", you can very easily enter a cycle where a minion dies and then another minion spawns right after, leading to an endless loop. Soon after this happens, the game master will step in and disable one of the rules, letting the game continue.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: Your mysterious opponent is seen only as a pair of glowing eyes in the darkness. You can also see their hands sometimes, but their face is permanently shrouded in shadow. Just before you fight him for the final time, the darkness retreats to reveal that Leshy is a humanoid mass of plant matter resembling a bearded old man.
  • Deadly Game: One that promises a Fate Worse than Death for those who lose. You are stuck inside a cabin with a mysterious captor. If you are unable to beat him, you are turned into a card by him, your consciousness presumably still stuck in there. Subverted after The Reveal: While the game's characters are aware of the fourth wall and able to talk to Luke through in-game mechanics, they are completely unable to harm him. Not even P03, the most tech-savvy and powerful of them after it takes over the game, can do anything to him; the best it can do is to see him through his webcam, and while it does acquire access to the internet through his Wi-Fi, it doesn't do anything harmful to his computer and is content with simply uploading copies of Inscryption on the internet to guarantee its hegemony over the game.
  • Death as Game Mechanic: If you lose a run, you get to create a death card, combining the cost, stats, and sigils of different cards in your deck, before your photo is taken and you are turned into a card. This card will be available in future runs — and as Leshy's cards in his second phase.
  • Deconstruction: Of the "haunted videogame" Creepypasta trope, and the assumption with haunted videogame stories that the game is evil by default. After all, it makes for a much more interesting story if the game is possessed by an evil force, but the world of Inscryption is actually quite pleasant. Leshy and the other three Scrybes know there's no way to actually harm the player from the confines of their game, which is why the cabin sequence is so intense and dark — Leshy is just putting on a good show and trying to motivate the player into beating him. Even P03 just wants to live its life outside the confines of the glitchy, unfinished prison that is Inscryption. That said, there is evidence of some sort of conspiracy at GameFuna hidden within the game's files, knowledge of which gets Luke killed when he plans to reveal it to the world. And the actual haunting is in the end wholly separate from the rest of the game world, and the characters are just as terrified of the entity responsible as the player should be, with one willing to delete everything (including themselves) just for a shot at taking it out.
  • Deletion as Punishment: In Act 3, during the Archivist boss fight, you are asked to pick a file from your computer (an actual file from your computer), preferably your oldest and dearest file, whatever that is. Whatever file you pick will have a card made from it (the older the file, the stronger the card). You are warned, however, that if the card is destroyed, the associated file will be deleted. If said card is killed and you check where the file was located, you'll find a .txt file which states that the boss tried to delete your file but wasn't able to, and asks you to be fair and delete it yourself. Doing it nets you an achievement.
  • Deliberate VHS Quality: Or rather digital camera quality. The game appears rather grainy with some slight color distortions. This is not solely due to the game's visual quality, but because the entire thing is being recorded on a digital camera pointed at a computer screen, resulting in some visual artifacts.
  • Dem Bones: As befitting the Scrybe of the Dead, Grimora's cards mainly consist of skeletal creatures. The Bones mechanic that Leshy introduced in his game actually belongs to her.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Spore series of cards you can get in Act 2 are essentially upgraded forms of some of the regular cards you can get that activate their effects twice. To emphasize this, the descriptions for these cards are always "(Card's original ability text). Also: (Card's original ability text repeated)".
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • The Fledgling sigil causes cards to evolve into a stronger form after one turn, but naturally only appears on animals such as Wolf Pup and Strange Larva. Using a sacrifice or totem to give this to adult animals typically just adds "Elder" to the name, but there are also several unique name changes. For example, Child 13 becomes Child 14, Alpha becomes Omega, Opossum becomes Awesome Opossum, and the Dam becomes God Dam.
      • The previously mentioned Strange Larva is a special case as it already has three separate forms from its unique two-stage sigil that converts it into Mothman. If an additional sigil is stacked on top of this, it evolves from Mothman into Final Form.
    • In the final battle against Leshy, when he plays the Moon, you can completely negate its 1 attack power with the Stinky sigil. Doing so will prompt a response from Leshy, saying that it makes no sense since the Moon has no sense of smell.
    • If the player beats the final boss without finding the film, you'll be killed and have to play over again, but this time with a victory card pinned to the door. Repeatedly beating the boss and having the game reset, while ignoring all hints about how to progress the story, will eventually cause your host to become sullen and stop talking, replacing all his lines with "..."
    • Luke can respond with voiced dialogue to several uncommon occurrences throughout the game after he is revealed.
      • Upon your second or third time choosing Mantis God as your prize after a boss, he will say "Always pick Mantis God."
    • The knife is a very powerful tool as the eye you gouge out counts as four points of damage, almost enough to win a battle. If you still lose the battle despite this, the death card you create will have only one eye.
      • Additionally, using the knife will black out the rightmost lane of the board due to your partial blindness.
    • The Dredger surrenders on his first turn rather than fighting you. He still has special text to acknowledge if the player manages to deal enough damage to win in the first round or for some reason the player chooses to surrender.
    • During the final battle with P03 in Act 2, he will play a glitched card which on his first turn will trigger the transition to Act 3. The card has an absurd amount of health, but if you do manage to kill it, he'll just play another one.
    • If you manage to create an infinite loop of cards being created and destroyed during the Act 3 boss in Magnificus's realm (by creating the rules "Upon the death of a card, a minion is spawned" and "Upon the death of a card, a random card takes 5 damage"), after the loop has gone on for a bit, the game master will get annoyed and disable one of the rules, letting the battle actually continue.
    • Whenever Leshy encounters one of the changes Kaycee has made as one of her challenges for the first time (e.g., making it so that bosses no longer reward rare cards), he'll remark on it.
    • If you've fused several pelts together via the Mycologist, then the trader will offer fused creatures in exchange for it.
    • Should you encounter a Trapper or Trader post after their boss battle (more likely in Kaycee's Mod where the level order is randomized), Leshy will comment on their absence, but insist you only take what you can afford out of respect.
    • Reaching a tile without the means to use it will usually give you some kind of alternate reward:
      • Reaching an item tile with a full pack will result in Leshy giving you a Pack Rat* card instead.
      • Reaching the Mycologists without any duplicates will result in them handing you a duplicate of something in your deck for next time.
      • Reaching the Trapper always gives you a free pelt even if you have no teeth.
      • Reaching the Trader with no Pelts will give you some teeth to trade.
      • Reaching a sacrificial stone with no valid targets is an exception as you won't get anything, but Leshy will remark on it.
    • If you don't sacrifice the Stoat in the tutorial, he will acknowledge this.
    • Even though your choice on which Scrybe to replace is meaningless, P03 will comment on it during Act 3. Additionally, in the finale, if you chose to replace any of the other three Scrybes, they will comment on it as well.
    • Cards other than the Skink that are given the Loose Tail sigil will create different tail cards when it is procced, depending on the creature. For example, Insect cards will create Wriggling Legs while Avian cards create Tail Feathers.
  • Diegetic Interface: For a majority of the game, your options and stats are presented as physical objects on the table instead of abstract buttons or overlays. Usable items accumulate next to the play field, a scale measures damage dealt, the effects of sigils and items are detailed in a rule book, and a bell is rung to signal the end of your turn.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The Squirrel totem head can be acquired as soon as you are allowed to get the safe's contents and the Wood Carver can be encountered before the Prospector. Several totem combinations using this head are considered game breakers thanks to the squirrel's zero cost play and guaranteed draw.
  • Doomsday Device: During World War II, the Nazis constructed a device capable of wiping out half of Europe on activation. The device still exists and the Karnoffel Code (possibly indirectly) stored in the OLD_DATA is its activation sequence.
  • Door to Before: Three of the routes in Act 3 have the player forced to take a detour with combat encounters due to a roadblock. After completing the detour, an NPC will remove the roadblock, allowing the encounters to be skipped in the future.
  • Double Meaning: The main menu options. Unlocking the "New Game" option doesn't start the game over from scratch, as may be expected; you're actually brought to before the game's starting point, with different game mechanics and graphics, making it feel like an entirely "new game" from the one you'd been playing thus far.
  • Double-Meaning Title: At first glance, the game's title appears to be the game's fictional-world version of "inscription", and inscribing itself happens quite often: the Scrybes creating their cards, Luke Carder creating his video series, and the GameFuna developers creating the game itself. However, the crypt in Ins-crypt-ion can refer to all of the deaths that occur, from Leshy taking the player's photo to the deletion of the game and Kaycee and Luke's deaths, as well as how cryptic all of the game's secrets are, including the attempted cryptography of the encrypted Karnoffel Code.
  • Downer Ending: Grimora successfully destroys the game's files after she, Leshy, and Magnificus put a violent end to P03's takeover, and you're left playing one last meaningless game with each of the three of them as the world dies around them. Meanwhile, Luke sees the Awful Truth in its remains, having spent the real-world sections of the story increasingly obsessed over some dark secret at the core of its development and the company behind it, and is shot in his own home as he tries to bring it to light. Also, P03 survived his beheading and managed to accomplish his plan after all.
  • Dying Candle:
    • Your lives are represented by flames on a candlestick — two to start with, three if you complete a cabin puzzle. Reaching a boss with two candles lit will result in Leshy snuffing one out and giving you the Smoke as a free card. Kaycee's Mod limits you to just two candles, with a challenge modifier cutting it down to just one.
    • During the boss battles, the boss's lives are also represented as candles held in a skull. The regular boss fights have only two candles, with a third for the final fight.
  • Early Game Hell: In each Act you start over from scratch, and the start of Act 3 is particularly challenging. You are forced to use the energy mechanic of P03's deck style, and most of your starting cards are rather weak. Unlike the first act, you don't get to try to build a new deck every time you die, you keep the same deck with you as it grows and evolves for the entire chapter, meaning if you hit a difficult fight, your only option is to either explore elsewhere or modify your strategies. Once you defeat your first boss, it does become easier, as for every boss you defeat, you can give your Empty Vessels a new passive ability, making them much more usable.
  • Easter Egg:
    • It's brief, but every opponent in Act 2 is connected to a card symbol that can be seen when their battle begins; the Melter, for example, has the Frozen Away sigil, which summons a new card on the board when it dies.
    • Should you stab your eye out with the Special Dagger and replace it with the goat's eye in Leshy's box, the Black Goat card will have its art change to become oddly cute, with it blushing, having puppy-dog eyes, the sigil on its forehead replaced with a heart, and its lower body seemingly becoming anthropomorphic and wearing a bra.
  • Eldritch Ocean Abyss: The Scrybes are each searching for something in the water during Act 2 in their own way. Leshy has the Angler, Grimora has her well, P03 has the Dredger, and Magnificus has a magic sink. Specifically, the water seems to be how they can access to the OLD_DATA. The Dredger manages to acquire a fragment for P03, and it is heavily implied (with Kaycee's Mod confirming) that the Angler had previously caught an "Old_Fish" for Leshy so he could control the game.
  • Evolving Title Screen: The main menu takes on slightly different colors reflecting the atmosphere of each act: earthy brown for the first, light green for the second, grayish blue for the third, and a glitchy light blue for the finale.
  • Excuse Plot:
    • The actual, in-universe game has a similar plot to main Pokémon games. The world did not know cards until the four Scrybes came along; you are a challenger who wants to replace one of the four, so go defeat them all and their pupils in card fights. The actual plot comes about from the Scrybes defying this as best as they can.
    • Also in-universe after P03 takes over. You are someone in the post-apocalyptic world of Botopia — after making up the name "Uberbots" on the spot, you are told your mission is to defeat all four and activate the "Great Transcendence." Even gets lampshaded a bit by it saying that it doesn't matter what it is; you want it. Turns out it's because you've had a thin veneer of a plot put together to put the finishing touches on its own grand plan to upload the game.
  • Eye Scream: Using the "special knife" allows you to add a large amount of weight to the scale during battles...by carving out your own eye and putting it on said scale. Thankfully, your host always offers you a new one after the battle. It's necessary to unlock more of the story, by taking Magnificus' missing eye.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Initially, the game is played solely using Blood to summon cards of various wild animals. Bones are added to the mix as summoning currency later, which unbeknownst to the player at that time are actually the primary mechanic of Grimora's game. The truest version of Inscryption seen in Act 2 uses both of these, as well as energy for powering Robot type cards and magical gems for Wizard type cards. Since Leshy only used blood and bone mechanics in his game, P03's campaign in the final portion solely uses Energy and Wizard Gems.
  • Final-Exam Boss: The first two phases of the final battle against Leshy are this. Throughout the battle, he continuously cycles through the signature abilities of the Prospector, the Angler, and the Trapper/Trader, requiring you to know precisely how to counter each one in order to avoid having your strongest cards transformed into useless junk or, worse, turned against you, or having a small army of ultra-powerful cards suddenly coming after you.
  • First-Episode Spoiler: The only heavily advertised part of the game is barely the beginning. Though the meta elements were set up in the demo, the game itself proves eventually to be WAY larger than just Leshy's cabin, and the talking cards that advise you throughout the cabin are much more than they appear. The game becomes a full-on card battle RPG in between larger confrontations with the key boss characters.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Looking around the locked room after photographing Leshy, the bodies of the other Scrybes can be partially seen buried in a stack of boxes. They are revealed in full when the next Act begins.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Even without watching the final part of the ARG, the fact that Inscryption's able to play online is a clear sign that P03's plan was successful after all.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When you first start the game, you hear a guy offscreen talk like he's starting up a new game before the sounds of an old-fashioned game booting up and you enter the main menu. That's not just a cute little meta one-off: This is Luke, the guy you are playing as, right as he starts the game Inscryption. You won't be hearing him again until after you beat Leshy, which lets you see his footage of his face and find out how he got this strange game.
    • In the very first few moments of the game, you can hear something that sounds like wood grinding and creaking as your host wakes up. This is a subtle hint that he's a Plant Person.
    • When you find Stinkbug, as they talk to you, they almost call Stoat by their real name before catching themselves.
    • Every talking card's name starts with S; Stoat, Stinkbug, Stunted Wolf. The three of them are Scrybes.
    • The Omni Strike and Tidal Lock sigils unique to Leshy's Moon card can be seen in the rule book as soon as you gain access to it.
    • A few things present in the cabin clash with the rest of the aesthetic, such as the bottle of sentient green ooze you can acquire. These are eventually revealed to have belonged to the other Scrybes.
    • Closer examination of the globe reveals land formations unlike anything on Earth. They are seen in greater focus in Act 2, which confirms that Inscryption takes place in a world all its own.
    • In the video where Luke opens the Inscryption card packs, he pulls a Blue Mage. The coordinates for the location of the game are also written on a Skeleton card, which is held up to the camera in other videos. These both hint that there are other card types besides Leshy's animal-themed ones.
    • In Act 2, the Angler mentions he is trying to fish up OLD_FISH for his boss while Grimora laments she didn't find what she wanted in her well. P03 manages to dredge up a fragment of OLD_DATA from the water under his factory, allowing him to take control.
    • During the last major section of the game, the Uberbots are able to tap into your computer's files and wi-fi. This culminates in P03 itself trying to take control of it completely to upload itself to the internet.
    • The ending sequence kicks off with having to insert three names into a gravestone to challenge Grimora: P03 (who was just beheaded), Inscryption.EXE (which is currently being deleted), and Luke Carder. The game's final scene depicts his death.
      • Also during the ending sequence, Magnificus tells Luke that through his eye, he knows that Luke won't eject the disk, that Luke will be doomed for his insistence on it, and that they'll both be meeting their makers soon.
    • In Acts 2 and 3, you can use a hammer to destroy cards on your side of the board, which in Act 3 are all printed on floppy disks. This is ultimately what Luke does to the Inscryption disk upon witnessing the OLD_DATA in the game's finale.
      • The hammer itself is foreshadowed in Act 1, where it can be seen bolted to the wall left of the table.
  • Found Footage Films: At key points, such as victory over Leshy, Luke's recording software stops and you're given an opportunity to look through video footage of how Luke came to possess Inscryption and his attempts to learn more about it.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: In Act 3, you can sacrifice the files on your computer. Not the in-game player's (unless you're playing the console version), but your own. Thankfully, rather than affecting your actual files, it just copies their names. The one moment where P03 threatens to actively delete a file, all he can do is leave a .txt telling you he was unable to do so, requesting you do that yourself if you respect the rules. There's also an in-universe case of this when P03 addresses Luke by name and informs him that it's using his hardware to try and upload itself to the internet.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the final video when the GameFuna representative shoots Luke, for one brief moment her head is replaced with that of... Sado.
    • Similarly, the last corrupted video in the third set of Luke's footage has a frame where a staticy image of Sado's eye appears over one of Luke's eyes.
    • In a less terrifying vein, flipping through the rulebook during the ending sequence against Grimora and Magnificus includes some new sigils with silly effects, including one that replicates Exodia.
  • Fusion Dance: There are a few ways to do this.
    • Sacrifice stones let you destroy one card and give its sigils to another.
    • The Mycologist will fuse any two duplicate cards into one, doubling its attack and health. They become able to double the effect of the original's sigils in Act 2. In Act 3, they can now fuse any two cards together, and beating them in battle causes them to fuse all the cards currently on your side of the board, regardless of type, and give the result to you as a "Mycobot" with the combined stats and sigils of the original cards.
    • The player's Death Card is made from cost, stats, and sigils from three cards in your deck.
    • This is Leshy's gimmick during his boss fight in Act 2. He will combine 3 creatures on your side of the board into one, and replace your hand with them.
  • Gameplay Grading: At the end of a Kaycee's Mod run, the game will give you a stat summary of your run, including how many misplays you made. The game isn't actually identifying misplays; you have a random chance of getting a "misplay" each turn.
  • Gathering Steam: The Ouroboros card starts with a reasonable 2/2 stat spread, but each time it's killed, both stats go up by one, permanently. This becomes especially broken in Act 2 with use of the Training Dummy.
  • Genre Roulette: Per usual for a Daniel Mullins game. Act 1 is a deckbuilding Roguelike in the vein of Slay the Spire combined with a Tabletop RPG. Act 2 switches to a 2D exploration game very similar to the first generation of Pokémon, but with cards instead of monsters. Act 3 goes back to the 3D of Act 1, but ditches the Roguelike structure. Changes made to your deck are permanent and instead of requiring you to start over, losing a game drops all your money on the ground and teleports you to the last waypoint. There's also a mechanic where defeated enemies can respawn. It comes across as if a deckbuilding roguelike had a baby with Dark Souls.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: The characters met in-game all have more sentience than expected of characters from the 8-bit era. Their exposure to the OLD_DATA caused them to develop intelligence, emotions, and a bitter rivalry between the Scrybes. Kaycee's Mod even has Kaycee see them gain sentience before her eyes, as she notes the characters gaining animations and dialogue that were never programmed into them.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Though it's more like one-third and two-thirds plot switches. When you make it to the end of the game and beat Leshy, after some events play out, you finally access the "New Game" option at the title screen. And choosing this option has you start a new game with completely different, 8-bit graphics and 2 new types of cards to unlock. The roguelike deckbuilding aspect is also removed, with you simply unlocking more and more cards to work with (giving you more flexibility for your deck, though you are required to have at least 20 at any time). This mode concludes with a switch back to 3D, but replacing the "Blood and Bones" mechanics of Leshy's game with the two new types you had just been introduced to, and plays more like an RPG than a roguelike or card-collecting game.
  • Harmless Freezing: Cards with the Frozen sigil are creatures trapped in blocks of ice that, when "killed", simply release the frozen individual as if nothing had happened to them.
  • He Knows Too Much: The fate of Luke Carder, who made the mistake of sending an inquiry about the Inscryption game to GameFuna, the creators of the game, who, in turn, send an employee named Amanda to kill him and take the disc back. This is also hinted to be the case for one of the developers, Kaycee Hobbes, who allegedly perished in a fire while conducting quality control for the unfinished game. Her cards, with the coordinates to a cache containing the only copy of Inscryption, are what set Luke on his path.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: If you beat the first round of certain bosses before you've continued the story enough, the game bugs out for a second before spawning a full two rows of anti-air bears that will almost certainly destroy your run the next round, forcing you to start a new run and continue the storyline. Of course, if you lose, you just lose. You can also still beat the boss in this state with clever item usage or a really lucky setup, at which point the game will simply continue as normal.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Can't think of a more fitting fate for Leshy than sealing him in a card with his own camera.
    • In a gameplay sense, the player cards can create a lot of these situations. The final boss of Act 1 uses player cards against you, hoisting YOU by your own petard if you managed to create some Game Breakers, but the boss's Trader effect can let you steal them and reverse that hoisting right back at him.
    • After a few runs, you unlock the ability to use a campfire more than once per visit, but each use has you risk losing your card by having it eaten by the survivors. However, there's nothing stopping you from "accidentally" giving them a poisonous creature that makes them extremely sick, letting you use later campfires the maximum amount of times without risk.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight:
    • A fairly innocuous example happens early on, where, due to the way the cards have been dealt, it's impossible to win — not blatantly so, but your opponent's cards happen to be too strong and coming out too quickly for you to hold them off with the cards you have at that point.note  This serves as your introduction to the game's lives system.
    • Should you manage to get much further into the game without dying than you were expected to, the next boss fight will suddenly glitch out on its second phase with the words "TOO FAST, TOO SOON", and the boss's side of the board will be replaced with 8 overpowered grizzly cards. However, with the right tools and/or cards, it IS possible to beat the grizzly wave regardless and make it all the way to the final boss on your first run. In Kaycee's Mod, one of the invokedSelf-Imposed Challenges unlocked during progression makes it so all bosses send out the grizzlies by default.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: A "New Game" run is meant to end with challenging a Scrybe to take their place, but P03 has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory of Leshy's game and refuses to be an underling for anyone ever again, taking over as Game Master regardless of your choice.
  • How We Got Here: The second, 8-bit "new" game reveals what Leshy and his former equals were like before the latter were all transformed into cards by the former.
  • Ignored Epiphany: As his plan reaches its final stage, P03 admits he kind of enjoyed playing a game with you, but he carries on acting condescending toward the player and proceeds with his Transcendence plan.
  • In Medias Res:
    • The shadowy figure at the other end of the table implies that the player is just the latest in a series of unfortunate guests. Enforced in that the game starts with "Continue" while the "New Game" option is outright missing from the main menu and has to be unlocked.
    • Also implied by the fact that "player" cards, that you normally make when you've lost against the captor, can appear that you haven't actually made yourself, implying the cycle has been going on longer than you've been playing. Confirmed when you finally beat them but still end up in that closet they always take you to when you lose. If you look to your right from where you start, you can see a large pile of corpses that are there even if you manage to get a win in only a few runs. Becomes a minor Chekhov's Gunman in Act 2, when one of the pre-made cards (Kaycee) shows up as an undead acolyte of the Death Scrybe whose tombstone is used in a puzzle, and a major Chekhov's Gunman in Act 3, when it's learned that Kaycee was named after a now-deceased GameFuna employee that formerly owned the card packs that led Luke to the game.
  • Instant-Win Condition: In the final battle against your captor, on his final life he will summon a giant field-sized card representing the moon that has a massive amount of health and will grind you down pretty fast if you cannot destroy it quickly. But if you play a card with the venomous trait, that card will instantly destroy the moon just like any other card, causing your victory. A similar win condition can be found if you've played a card with the stinky trait, like Stinkbug, which will completely neutralize the moon's attack. It won't be as fast, but all you have to do is sit and wait as your cards wear down the moon and eventually destroy it with no contest.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Should you run out of lives, the entity will "Sacrifice You". This entails throwing you into some kind of closet, and allowing you to make a card of yourself, from a few random cards in your deck. They then take a photo of you, and the game starts anew, but this time, you have a much stronger deck.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: May be at play, barring a potential typo in dialogue. While for the majority of the game P03 is referred to with it/its, his workers — who are also robots, and idolize him — refer to him with he/him; everyone who uses it/its is a non-robot who thinks poorly of him, actively wants him dead, or both. This is very easy to read as malicious dehumanization. It also makes the scene where he is repeatedly referred to as 'it' by the people who are planning his murder particularly uncomfortable.
  • Kaizo Trap: If you manage to reach the end of Act 1 and beat Leshy, but didn't get the film beforehand by solving most of the puzzles, then Leshy will turn you into a card anyway and force you to start a new run all over again.
  • Leave the Camera Running: After Luke gets shot, you get to watch him bleed out on the floor in first person for about thirty seconds. Not much else happens on-screen during this time.
  • Leet Lingo: A few of the technology cards have names of this fashion, such as the L33pB0t and M3atB0t.
  • Licensed Game: In-Universe, Inscryption was originally a card game which only had one printing while Luke was still a kid. GameFuna began work on a video game adaptation of the card game which never saw the light of day.
  • Literal Metaphor: Should you reach the boss with more than one life, the entity will snuff all but one flame, leaving you with one life. They then say they will "Let you keep the smoke." A seeming taunt of your impending doom... and then you actually get a card called "The Smoke" which is fairly useful.
  • The Lost Woods: The game master's aesthetic and card game revolves around a rustic, untamed wilderness, sometimes mixed with Grim Up North. Specifically, the game seems heavily based on North American forests, with coyotes, prospectors, and wooden totems of animals. Several of the rare cards, including the Urayuli and Ijiraq, are based on folklore from Native American cultures in northern Canada and Alaska. There is also a rare Hodag card. What is odd about this is that Leshy is a Slavic name, after a woodland creature of Slavic folklore.
  • Lunacy: The game master's last challenge against you involves weaponizing the moon in the background to beat your deck. The moon itself appears to hold unique, special powers not seen in any other cards.
  • Magical Camera: Leshy uses one to turn people, animals, and things into cards, especially the player if they lose to him.
  • Magic Floppy Disk: Supposedly, the entirety of Inscryption fits inside a single floppy disk. In real life, the game takes up well over 3GB of space, while floppy disks could only hold up to 2.8 MB of data.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • The Strange Larva spawns with no attack and a two-stage growth sigil. If it survives two rounds of combat, it will transform into a 7 attack Mothman with the Airborne Sigil.
    • The Geck card has a meager one point in health and attack and no sigils. It's also the only card aside from the Squirrel without a blood or bone cost, so it is adaptable to just about any situation. Put the Field Mice's sigil on it and you have a perpetual sacrifice machine with no drawbacks.
    • The Ouroboros card starts as an unassuming 1/1 card. However, it gains 1 point to attack and health every time it dies. This increase is permanent across the whole game, so continually killing it will eventually make it a very powerful card.
    • The Squirrel Totem can be used to give your Squirrels (0 cost 0/1 cards that you have the option of drawing each turn) a single sigil. While many sigils are effectively useless, a few are exceptionally powerful. Fecundity sticks out, meaning that whenever you play a squirrel, another squirrel is added to your hand, making it trivially easy to cram your deck with 2 and 3 blood creatures. The Unkillable sigil has a similar effect, returning the squirrel to your hand whenever it dies, meaning you only ever really need to draw one or two for the whole round. Not as powerful but still a possible Game-Breaker are the sigil for three blood or three bones, making playing even high-ranking cards very easy with just one or two squirrels.
  • Mechanical Animals: The third boss, The Trapper, uses mechanical frog cards. When defeated, these cards turn into animal traps that do no attack damage; however, they turn any creature in front of it when it dies into an animal pelt, killing it in the process and returning the pelt to the player's hand.
  • Mechanically Unusual Class:
    • The Red Hart and Lammergier each have a unique and unusual stat mechanic. The Red Hart's attack power is based on how many sacrifices have been performed this turn, resetting to 0 after the turn ends. The Lammergier's power is equal to half the player's current bone tokens. Both mechanics can be manipulated to boost their attack significantly, such as with an infinite Undying sacrifice card pair.
    • The three Tentacle cards each have a unique method of determining attack power. The Mirror Tentacle has the same attack as the opposing card, defaulting to 0 if no card is present. The Bell Ringer Tentacle's power is based on its proximity to the bell, with four when close and one when far away. The Card Counter Tentacle's power is the number of cards in your hand. Related to all three cards is the Great Kraken, which after its first round submerges and transforms into a random tentacle.
    • Pelt Lice have a four blood cost which is absurd given their weak stats, but they have a hidden mechanic similar to Corpse Eater which compensates for this. Playing any pelt card will cause all Pelt Lice to play themselves, whether they're in your hand or still in the draw deck. It's entirely possible to play a single pelt and have the remaining three slots all filled with Pelt Lice for free.
    • Ouroboros and Hodag have unique stat-boosting mechanics which apply throughout the entire run. Where other cards can only have their stats boosted permanently by map events, Ouroboros permanently gains stats each time it dies while Hodag permanently gains attack each time it kills another card.
  • Metafiction: As with pretty much everything Daniel Mullins has made. For one thing, you aren't actually playing Inscryption, you're playing as someone watching Luke (an aspiring Youtuber) play Inscryption.
  • Metafictional Title: Inscryption is the name of the game on the floppy drive Luke finds.
  • Mickey Mousing: During the Scrybe battles in Act 2, parts of the game board will move to the beat of the music. Examples include the dancing wizard in Magnificus' fight and the skulls bouncing up and down during Grimora's fight.
  • Mind Rape: Whatever the heck is in the OLD_DATA was enough to reduce Luke to a screaming, gibbering mess a few seconds into viewing. Luckily, it appears he's able to eject and physically destroy the Inscryption disc before any real damage to his mind was done.
  • The Most Dangerous Video Game: Played with, in that there's a terrifying entity known as OLD_DATA buried in the game's code, but the most dangerous thing is the real-world developers. Invoked with the Scrybes — the Trader clarifies that the OLD_DATA was "malignant" and "the source of their enmity," and it's entirely possible that it corrupted Leshy and P-03 into doing what they did.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Your opponent does not have to make sacrifices to play cards like you do. He does, however, still have a limited deck, which is much smaller than the player's... but he also doesn't suffer from Starvation cards when he runs out like you do. On the other hand, after the first turn, your opponent can't play cards directly onto the board like the player can, and instead must place cards in a back-line queue the turn before, allowing the player to play reactively to upcoming threats. Plus, the player's lack of a back-line means they don't need to worry about overkill damage, and the opponent never uses modified cards with additional sigils or increased stats like the player can. These rules also apply to opponents in Acts 2 and 3.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Many of the card games and individual cards referenced by Luke are named after games and characters from The Hex, Daniel Mullins' previous game.
    • The code to Leshy's safe* consists of the first three digits of the password to the Hopeless Soul's user profile in Pony Island.*
    • The Completed Obol you get from playing the two Broken Obol cards side-by-side in Act 2 is the same coin seen in both of Daniel Mullins' prior games.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The floppy disc containing the OLD_DATA was smuggled out of Europe in a crate of floppy discs.
  • Nested Story Reveal: The first moment of the game, with the boot-up sequence, makes you believe that you're playing as someone playing a cursed video game. In actuality, you're someone watching the video logs of Luke, the guy that was playing the cursed video game; in gameplay terms it's functionally the same, but there are a few key moments where Luke witnesses something not present in the recordings, usually pertaining to OLD_DATA.
  • Not Playing Fair With Resources: Your opponent does not have to make sacrifices to play cards like you do, and doesn't appear to need bones either. He does, however, still have a limited deck. This applies to your opponents in Acts 2 and 3 as well.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: In-Universe example. In Kaycee's Mod, the titular developer notes there were some facets of Leshy's game which were extremely unbalanced and created the mod to address these.
    • In the original game, the Moon can easily be defeated by either playing Stinkbug, negating the Moon's single attack point, or using a Deadly card to one-shot it. The Made of Stone sigil added in the mod renders the Moon and other stone cards immune to Stinky and Deadly cards.
    • The Fecundity sigil was extremely overpowered in the main game, as it would create a duplicate of the card including the sigil. Kaycee patched it so that the Fecundity is not applied to the created card.
    • The Squirrel totems, easily the most accessible and overpowered totem combinations, are completely unavailable in the mod.
    • Sacrifice altars in the base game allowed for the same card to receive multiple additional sigils which could quickly overpower a single card. The mod limits this by not letting cards which have received an extra sigil be selected at the stone. The only way to get multiple sigils on cards is via rewards or by merging two sigil-bearing cards at the Mycologist.
    • Campfires can only be used two times each visit, the first being guaranteed, and the second has a 50% chance of you losing the card.
    • Ouroboros' statline increasing every time it dies only applies for the current run. Similarly, Death Cards are no longer created after a run, though Leshy will still play some generic Death Cards in his second phase.
    • Leshy's trials do not occur prior to the final battle so the player does not become overpowered.
  • Phantom-Zone Picture: You get one made of you if you lose (which implies that you might be playing a succession of victims), and it's implied that some (if not all) of the cards are these — the Stoat in particular stands out in your starting deck. It's eventually revealed that Leshy taking photos of people and animals seals them in cards. When you turn the tables on him and finally get the chance to look around his locked room, you realize that sealing people in cards leaves a corpse behind. On top of that, this is how Leshy has trapped the other Scrybes in cards.
  • Player Nudge: There are multiple instances of this in the cabin to help the player progress.
    • Leshy will repeatedly suggest the player stand up and walk around after fights if there is something that can be interacted with.
    • After acquiring the Caged Wolf, the Stinkbug will talk about it any time she's drawn until you break it.
    • If a player grabs the Stunted Wolf, but misses the roll of film right next to him, Wolf will mention it whenever you draw him from the deck.
    • If you end enough runs without progressing a puzzle, a short cutscene will play of Magnificus finishing a painting depicting what you need to interact with.
  • Portmanteau: The three Masters of Magick have names that combine the colors of Mox they're associated with, being Bleene, Goranj, and Orlu.
  • Punny Name:
    • Magnificus is a humanoid Ficus plant known for his magic, making him The Magnificent.
    • The Dead Hand card in Act 2 lets you discard your entire hand and draw a new one, which is useful when your current hand isn't very effective. In other words, you play the Dead Hand when you have a dead hand.
    • The Prospector's Pack Mule. It's carrying a pack, but it's also a pack of cards that add themselves to your deck when you beat it.
  • Rainbow Speak: Outside of Act 2, characters will emphasize certain words by changing their text to red... except for the Bone Lord, who only speaks in red. Text is also uniquely colored whenever characters talk about Mox or Gems.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The Magnificus area in Act 3 has the Waste World overworld theme from The Hex.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:
    • The shadowy opponent can gain red eyes if you perform too well before all the mechanics are introduced, telling you you are "Too fast, too soon" and filling his board with Leaping Grizzly cards. This is accompanied by the OLD_DATA's glitch effect, implying it is operating through Leshy.
    • The Ijiraq appears as a different card entirely, identifiable only by its red eyes until played.
  • Replay Mode: Beating the game allows you to return to any of the Acts, including the final deletion sequence, by replaying the video logs on Luke's computer.
    • The Kaycee's MOD free DLC allows replaying Act 1 ad infinitum as a Rogue Like.
  • Retraux:
    • Technically, the game is quite low spec for a 2021 release. It's done in a low res presentation that would have seemed current circa 2003.
    • In-story, the Lucky Carder videos and presentation of Act 2 date the game to an undisclosed time in the 8-bit era.
    • P03 has an intentionally dated look to his design, with a beige CRT screen for a head. Additionally, his cards are illustrated on 3.5" floppy disks of the sort that were being phased out by the late '90s.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Starting the "New Game" and choosing a Scrybe to replace reveals that they still remember the events of the original run, leading to P03 taking control of the narrative to avert that fate.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Leshy expects the player to die at certain points so he can use the next run to introduce new mechanics. If the player does too well in a run, Leshy will declare "TOO FAST, TOO SOON" and trigger a (nearly) Hopeless Boss Fight in order to get things back on track.
  • Rogue Like: Kaycee's Mod creates a version of Act 1 which can be replayed infinitely, resetting after each death or win. Challenge modifiers can be applied to increase the difficulty and, on beating level thresholds, unlock additional cards and modifiers. Additional bonuses can be also be unlocked in the cabin which apply to future playthroughs.
  • Secret History: The ARG and Kaycee's Mod reveal that during World War II, the Nazis developed some form of doomsday machine capable of destroying half of Europe. Hitler hid the activation code in a set of Karnoffel cards he kept on him at all times, the so-called Karnoffel Code. During the Cold War, an American spy named Barry "Big Ear" Wilkinson located Hitler's corpse and encoded the Karnoffel Code onto a floppy disk that was shipped back to the US, creating the OLD_DATA. GameFuna is a government front tasked with reviewing the code.
  • Secret Room: Hidden rooms can be found in Act 2 and 3. In the former, this usually leads to additional lore, while in the latter, the rooms primarily contain additional supplies.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: The third of Magnificus' students locked himself in a sensory deprivation chamber as part of his "training". The lack of sensation has driven him insane. You can rescue him in Act 3 by finding him as a card and adding him to your deck, at which point he welcomes even pain as being preferable to the absolute void.
    Lonely Wizard (upon being attacked): Pain is a feeling!
  • Senseless Sacrifice: The Inspector and Smelter both sacrifice themselves to try and meet their master's demands for a worthy offering. However, he fails to even notice their offering, and the Dredger is able to provide the offering which their master actually wanted without killing himself.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first video recording of Luke the Lucky Carder is of him opening booster packs from Catch Monsters.
    • Act 2 plays out very similarly to Pokémon Trading Card Game in that you start by picking a certain themed deck, then travel to themed areas, completing minor puzzles in each place, defeating challengers using decks pertaining to each area's theme, earning appropriately themed card packs from each defeated opponent, and eventually taking on and defeating each area's leader. It even uses a similar art style for the overworld areas.
    • The Mothman line operates on similar mechanics to the Perfectly Ultimate Great Moth line in Yu-Gi-Oh!, both starting out as weak and unassuming moth cards that become near-unstoppable powerhouses if you keep them alive for long enough (emphasis on if).
      • A much more blatant one exists in the finale, complete with duel disks, your cards coming to life, and the usual scale victory condition being replaced with Life Points.
      • On that note, if you look through the creature log, you'll find information of the five pieces of Edaxio.
    • Every single achievement in the game is named after a card from Magic: The Gathering.
      • Additionally, the card-summoning mechanic used by students of the Scrybe of Magicks is the Mox system, which involves cards called "(Gemstone) Mox" that are free to cast, allow you to power your other units, but take up space on the board. These are a reference to the Moxen, which are five out of the Power Nine — the nine most powerful cards in Magic: The Gathering. The Moxen in MtG work a lot like the Moxen found in Inscryption, except they only pay for one mana a turn and… well, they don't block lanes, because MtG doesn't have lanes to block.
    • The Energy system used by students of the Scrybe of Technology works a lot like how Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft's Mana system works.
    • One of Leshy's lines during his final game with the player is a clear (if paraphrased) reference to Jim Croce's "Time in A Bottle".
      Leshy: There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do... once you've found them.
    • The Long Elk card appears to be a reference to Trevor Henderson's "Long Horse".
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: At the end of the game, Grimora makes a final attempt to keep the OLD_DATA from spreading by deleting all of the game files — including herself, her fellow Scrybes, and the souls of the dead that she's been preserving. Once the deletion is complete, the player is left face-to-face with the unharmed OLD_DATA with nothing left to prevent them from opening it. The attempt to kill P03 to keep the game from being uploaded appears to have also failed, considering that in Real Life it is now widely available for purchase online.
  • Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration: The Framing Device is revealed to be a game played by a player called Luke Carder. If you fail to find the film roll and get killed, Luke will be much more vocal and exasperated in subsequent runs. Later on, Luke pipes up if something particularly distressing happens to his cards, like losing a buffed one permanently.
  • Speaks in Binary: One of Luke's videos ends up corrupted at the very end, when he's about to ask his audience about something, with the closed captions only showing a binary sequence. Deciphering it gives the phrase "Karnoffel Code". Similarly, when the GameFuna representative arrives in front of Luke's house, the video glitches when she introduces herself, decoding the binary reveals that her name is Amanda.
  • Spoiler Cover: Or, better yet, "Spoiler Store Page". In fact, the Steam page for the game straight up reveals your opponent's name in the game info.
  • Stalked by the Bell: Both your main deck and your squirrel deck have finite amounts of cards — fail to defeat the opponent before running out of cards in both decks, and 'Starvation' begins to settle in, represented as a series of creature cards that your opponent plays every following turn in any available slot. With every new Starvation card put in play, both its damage output and hit points increase by one, eventually doing enough damage to One-Hit Kill any card you can put down until they attack you directly, usually resulting in an instant round loss.
  • Stealth Sequel: To The Hex, as GameFuna, the gaming company that Lionel Snill sold his characters to, is revealed to be the creator of Inscryption. A character from the game even appears in Act 2.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: While the game does use cutscenes to tell the main story involving Luke, everything regarding the creation of Inscryption and the nature of the OLD_DATA is intentionally cryptic, with much of the lore hidden behind secret areas or in the ARG.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • P03's part of the game displays a lot of intentional flaws, to showcase the issues in its ethos of pure mechanics over narrative, cohesion, and theming. The story is an Excuse Plot, many mechanics are easy to break, and P03 clearly isn't invested much in what's going on in favor of talking about the latest cool thing it's come up with.
    • The final showdown with Magnificus is his attempt at a grandiose Yu-Gi-Oh!-style duel, with 3D models of cards duking it out while the world's code crumbles around them, but the slapdash nature of his attempt is very obvious, as it usually just turns into the two of you mashing your cards against each other while the game bugs out, with the dramatic camera angles being more silly than cool. Played for Drama in some aspects in that Magnificus is scrambling to put something together at the last minute, and this absolute mess is all that's left for him to use; and even then, it won't last long enough.
    • The actual Inscryption game we play through in Act 2 has a hilariously overwrought framing device, with "the world not knowing cards" before the Scrybes arrived, and with every factor of this world's society revolving solely around trading cards. It's somewhat implied that this is because GameFuna is a government front, who cared more about testing the OLD_DATA's capabilities than they did making a captivating setting.
  • Superboss: The most difficult boss battle in the game is also the only hidden one. The player must acquire the key from the Mycologist in Act 2 and then find the hidden entrance to their lab in Act 3. It's entirely possible to lose during the first round, and it doesn't get much easier from there. That said, the reward is worth it as all of your played cards will merge their stats into a low-cost Mycobot card.
  • Surplus Damage Bonus: Occurs in two different ways, one for overkilling creatures and one for overkilling your opponent. If you overkill a creature, any surplus damage will be dealt to a creature behind it (but not to your opponent). If you overkill your opponent, you receive tokens that can be used to buy new cards.
  • Tarot Motifs: The Trader is hidden away in Act 3, and finding her will allow for a tarot reading of 5 cards provided you have enough holo-pelts to trade for. The 5 cards she reads are The Fool (Barry Wilkinson, a key player in the Alternate Reality Game), The Empress (Kaycee), The Devil (Who else?), Death (a skeleton holding the Karnoffel Code in its pocket), and The Tower (a building with a blue triangle above it, heavily implied to be The Gameworks).
  • Technician Versus Performer: The contrast between the two archetypes is subtly shown in the differences between Leshy during Act 1 and P03 during Act 3 when it comes to being the "Game Master" and narrating the "game". Leshy goes out of his way to interpret his characters in a dramatic and often lore-wise fitting tone, including in the way he plays while interpreting them, even if this puts him at a disadvantage. The important thing for him is to give a dramatic show to the player, and even when he pulls out all the stops and goes for the win, he still tries to do so in a way that enhances his "narrative", as shown when he takes a picture of the moon to use as a card. In comparison, P03 would rather think of effective strategies and give the player a challenge than tell a story, best shown when, at the start of Act 3, it quickly invents an Excuse Plot for the player to go on its quest to to reach "Ascension" and creates small tidbits for "Botopia" while you play, preferring to focus more on gameplay depth than making a narrative. It frequently goes out of character to either explain new rules to the game or because it made a mistake while narrating something. It even lampshades it when you reach the place where Leshy's cabin was before it reconstructed the area around its visage.
  • The Tooth Hurts: The "pliers" item causes damage to your opponent by tossing a tooth (the damage token) on their pan of the scale. Said tooth gets pulled from your own mouth. Ouch.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know:
    • The OLD_DATA, whatever it may be, is something the characters in the Inscryption game are too scared to talk about, and which the company that made the game is willing to kill over. Snippets of what may be the OLD_DATA are shown sporadically — photographs of a woman, a page from the passport of a man, a series of photographs of a brother and sister, and possibly fragmented video footage of Luke Carder playing with a scale from the Inscryption game.
    • If you give the Bone Lord an offering in Act 2, he'll give you a key that'll unlock a secret room in Act 3. Should you find and enter this room, Bone Lord agrees to tell you what he knows about OLD_DATA… on the condition that Luke not record it. The screen goes dark, and when the recording resumes, whatever Bone Lord told Luke is so distressing that even P03 is extremely unnerved.
  • To Be a Master: This is revealed to be the motive of the player in Act 2, when they seek to replace one of the Scrybes.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The initial reveal trailer has brief, out-of-context clips of the real-world and "New Game" segments, as well as P03's "face" in 3D towards the end. The Demo trailer has them at the start, in addition to a shot of shaking Grimora's hand during deletion from the game's final moments. The Release trailer also spoils, with Freeze-Frame Bonus shots of P03 as a new Game Master in addition to the Reveal Trailer spoilers.
  • Transplant: The green-skinned mechanic Rebecha from The Hex is present in Act 2.
  • Treasure Map: The framing device story kicks off when Luke discovers a set of coordinates written on an Inscryption card, leading him to the buried disc.
  • Trickster Mentor: Your captor has shades of this. They force a loss on you in the tutorial to introduce the lives mechanic on you. They claim their boss battles are a true test of skill, and as such, reduce your lives to one (though they do reimburse you with a pretty strong card); however, should you lose, all that happens is you start again, with a stronger deck.
  • TV Head Robot: The Body Horror undergone by Stoat is to have a more squared head, before turning into one of these. It's also its true form, as the Scrybe P03.
  • Undesirable Prize: After defeating Leshy, he presents you with a prize to celebrate your victory: A plate of raw, stinking meat with a single birthday candle stuck in it.
  • Undying Loyalty: The Green Ooze, Magnificus' student, has nothing but praise for its master despite it not being reciprocated in the slightest. If you convince the Ooze to give Magnificus the picture he made of the two of them hugging (which simply involves looking at it then speaking to him), during the ending in Magnificus' version of the 3D game, you can see the painting off to the side with the Oooze painted over with white paint.
  • Unfortunate Item Swap: The disc containing the OLD_DATA was hidden in the lot used by GameFuna developers for their game. The handlers lost track of the OLD_DATA disc and it wound up in Kaycee's hands.
  • The Unfought:
    • Act 2 was supposed to end with a challenging final fight against the Scrybe you have chosen to replace, but instead P03 pulls a Hostile Show Takeover and you're unable to complete your fight.
    • In Act 3, you're denied any sort of final fight with P03. Instead, the game abruptly ends once you defeat the final Uberbot and P03 is killed in a cutscene without any involvement from the player.
  • The Un-Reveal: Magnificus is about to reveal something to the player after their battle in Act 2, but the game glitches and he disappears.
    • If you find the Bone Lord in Act 3, he promises to tell you what the OLD_DATA is, before asking Luke to turn off his recording device. Whatever it is is enough to shake Luke and P03.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: In Act 3, as a parallel to Leshy invoking baleful transformations on his fellow Scrybes, P03 transforms some of the side-characters from Act 2 into the cards "Lonely Wizbot" and "Fishbot" (the sensory deprivation wizard and the Angler respectively).
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The "Great Transcendence" is the objective of Act 3, but the game master doesn't reveal what it is until the last minute.
  • Variable Mix: The battle against Leshy adds an extra instrument based on which mask he's wearing on that turn. Piano for Prospector, standing bass for Angler, and humming for Trapper.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: During the G0lly boss fight in Act 3, you are tasked with creating a custom card for another player currently playing the same fight. If you make a good card that helps them win the fight, you will instantly win as well. Alternatively, if no other player can be found, you will be given the card instead. In either case, it's in your best interests to make something good rather than trying to troll other players with a joke card.
  • Video-Game Lives: Represented by the candlesticks on the side of the table. You start with two, and can gain one more if you solve a puzzle. Boss battles, however, will reduce you to one life even if you start with more. Bosses themselves also have two lives, with the Final Boss of Act 1 having three.
  • Video Game Set Piece: Each of the bosses has one.
    • The Prospector has a unique card, the Pack Mule, that adds a set of good cards to your hand when defeated. He also turns all of your played cards into Gold Nuggets at the end of his first phase, which are terrain tiles with 2 health.
    • The Angler can steal one of your played cards for himself. (However, doing so requires him to have empty space on his side of the field, and you can trick him into pulling an existing card into the pre-play space if you do it right.) Defeating him gives you access to this ability in the form of a unique item. He also has a unique card he plays in his second phase, the Bait Bucket, which transforms into a powerful Great White card when defeated.
    • The Trapper uses unique Leaping Trap cards that have no attack power but kill anything in front of them upon death, turning them into a pelt. After switching to the Trader in his second phase, he will show his hand, allowing you to trade your existing pelts for them; any you don't buy will be used against you.
    • Leshy alternates between these three gimmicks until his final phase, where he plays his own unique card: the Moon, a massive card that takes up his entire side of the board and attacks all your cards at once.
    • In Act 2, Leshy will let you use his camera to take pictures of your cards' stats, then replace your hand with a set of cards constructed from the pieces you photographed, similar to the way deathcards are constructed.
    • Grimora will clear your side of the board at the start of her second phase and return the cards to your hand as useless "corpses" with no attack power. (They can, however, still be used to generate bones.)
    • Magnificus will randomly change the sigil of every card as soon as it's drawn, including his own.
    • P03's battle grid has conveyor belts that cycle cards at the end of every turn. The corners move cards between your side and his, so you have to place your cards carefully lest he gain control of your strongest cards.
    • The Archivist allows you to weight the scale with files from your computer (with larger filesizes carrying more weight) in her first phase. In the second phase, she creates a card out of one of your files that is stronger based on its age… but if it's destroyed, it will be deleted from your hard drive. It isn't actually; see Deletion as Punishment for details.
    • The Photographer lets you take a screenshot of the board at the start of your turn. On subsequent turns, you can revert the board back to a previous screenshot.
    • In Golly's first phase, you will receive a card created by another player. In her second phase, you then create your own card and send it to another player over the internet; if they win, you win.
    • The unfinished boss in Magnificus' realm lets you design your own set piece from a number of options, and requires you to make a second after the first phase ends.
    • The Mycologists have conveyor belts similar to P03's on their side of the field; if two cards are moved onto the same space, their stats and abilities are fused, similar to the effects of using the Mycologists in Act 1. At the start of the second phase, they fuse all the cards on your side into one as well.
  • Voice Grunting: The Scrybes each have a unique set of sound effects for when they talk. Leshy has a blaring bass sound; Grimora has a light, chiming sound with some ghastly chuckling; Magnificus has a tired moaning; and P03 has a mechanical whistling.
  • Waxing Lyrical: When Leshy, about to be deleted from the game, appears to play one last game with the player, he recites an appropriately poignant (albeit paraphrased) verse from Jim Croce's song "Time in a Bottle".
    "There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do... once you've found them."
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Leshy's ultimate card is the Moon, a massive card with 40 health and attacks on all lanes at once. Playing the humble Stinkbug or any card with the Stinky Sigil will reduce the Moon's attack to zero, making it completely ineffective. If you do this, Leshy will have special dialogue complaining about how moons do not have a sense of smell and how he didn't expect the battle to go like this.
    • Any creature with Touch of Death can also kill the Moon in one hit.
    • Both of these weaknesses have been patched in Kaycee's Mod.
  • What Could Have Been: Invoked in-universe thanks to the show-within-a-show framing device, the ending features brief previews of what full Grimora and Magnificus campaigns would have been like, with the characters putting their all into dramatic presentations that are lost to the progressing deletion of the game world before the player gets to meaningfully experience them.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: invoked In-Universe. Going by Luke's description of the game, and the intro to Act 2, the Inscrpytion card game was probably being aimed at children, in spite of both very blatant occult imagery and the goings-on in the world of Inscryption being seriously messed up. Justified as the in-game elements can be blamed on OLD_DATA; similarly, in the real world the game was just a cover operation and never expected to sell, so alienating the target audience could have been planned.
  • When Trees Attack: Tree cards and other inanimate object cards usually don't attack, but if a card bearing the Leader sigil is played next to them, the sigil will grant its neighboring cards a single power point and allow them to attack.
  • Wingding Eyes: The mysterious opponent has his eyes turn into orange spirals when he speaks.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: The player is intended to die early in their first run due to lacking certain bonuses and access to the Bone resource; dying progresses the story and introduces the mechanic. If they manage to get far enough, the game will glitch and spawn a nearly unbeatable wall of bears to force a player death. Downplayed as while difficult, it is possible to win and continue. Then played straight again when beating the final boss without progressing the story will still result in being killed and the run reset.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: The combination for the safe, which contains the Stinkbug and the key to the drawer puzzles, is not revealed until a certain point in the game. While you can open the safe with the combination before that, all you'll find is a pile of rancid meat. In a similar sense, you can't solve the clock puzzle containing the Stunted Wolf before you receive what you need to learn the solution.

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