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Author Topic: More Writing-Based Ramblings. Oh, Good, Just What You Wanted?  (Read 23363 times)
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« on: January 11, 2011, 12:52:28 AM »

Getting very over-excited today about that lead writing position, and inspired by zenzbitz' thread about a world getting steadily colder, I began to splurge ideas at work. This irritating puppy-like enthusiasm led to quite a hefty plot proposal, complete with horribly premature sample quotes which did, at least, I thought, give a sense of the tone I was going for. I've cut most of it out, including small setting suggestions and sidequest/character ideas.

Anyway...it's not an actual proposal so much as a collection of random thoughts and bad ideas. May be useful to someone in the future, though, and I thought I should maybe just try to clarify my very muddled attempts at explaining some of it to barra back in IRC.

Ideas, Suggestions and Themes in Short:
-a story in which the PC's true goal is escape from the rapidly freezing, increasingly inhospitable Scandanavian wilds, and, through escape, a chance to go on living.
- in which the antagonist's goal is roughly the same - he's not a villain after world domination, just a man whose fear of death has led him to do some exceptionally ruthless things.
-A story about escape (whether from life, reality, or responsibility), about the problems of 'hope', 'faith' and positivist thinking in a world that's suffered a horrendous catastrophe and that is now dying, slowly and painfully, and about individual man's purpose once mankind's mission has, collectively speaking, failed.

Also - PC's written as 'he' for clarity.


"I just can't believe it turned out to be nuclear, y'know? Nuclear had had its day, and now it was all about global warming, global epidemics, supervolcanoes, Malthusian decline. Nuclear holocausts were so passe...so dead. That's irony for you, I suppose."
"World shoulda ended outright when the bombs went off. No sense clinging on like this, watching the snow pile up heavier every winter, waiting out the years for our concrete to crumble away into dust. If it'd had any sense, the world would've died easy, instead of struggling on."
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men
"Unlucky is the man with a double-barrelled shotgun and nothing whatever to do with himself."


“How long do you intend to remain idle? I’m serious, boy - don’t give me that look. Nineteen months since, rest her bones, Helena Laine blew her brains out in the stairwell. And we sit here, we score money off the whores and the drunks, we play whist…a man’s got to have a purpose. Life isn’t all about the games we play. And every year, boy, it gets colder.”
Matti - example opening lines.

The player is sitting in the back room of Last Orders, his seedy bar, playing cards with his old friend, part-owner Matti. Once the introductory conversation is complete, he strolls out into his bar, and completes a few small dialogue-based quests with the characters inside. He can also encounter an amiable traveller, Moller, dressed in black.

 The player then has free reign to explore the town of Webber’s Post – before stepping out into the woods beyond on a minor errand to check the fuel station. Inside, bleeding and hypothermia-ridden, is a dying man. With his final breath, he hisses something to the player about the existence of a paradise - ‘Bifrost’, a refuge against the encroaching snow with an inexhaustible power supply - and that only one person will be allowed to enter. He presses, bloodily, a golden scrap of paper into the player’s hand. A ticket. He warns the player that a man called Moller shot him and was hunting him for the ticket.

“Moller…that bastard Moller…one bullet in my thigh and another through my chest…listen. The paradise is real and it can be yours. Yours…alone. Bifrost. Its golden halls…refuge. Out of the cold…out of the cold! Only one may enter…take it! Take the ticket! Don’t tell…out of the cold…and into the warmth…”
The Dying Man

The story opens out.
From here the story is one of initiative on the player’s part; he can hang around Webber’s Post, kicking their heels near-indefinitely…but sooner or later he will be driven to ask around about Bifrost, which appears to be gathering popularity as a legend amongst travellers from the north. The most-told version is that it’s a hidden city where scientists have found a way to hold back the cold, with immense power reserves and prosperity – the final refuge against the snow. And, it’s said, occasionally tickets are handed out secretly to lucky people who are chosen as being of benefit to society, who are then given leave to enter.

Some of the cynical folk say it’s a lie told to stop the children from giving up hope. But there are those who claim to know people who’ve gone there, and never returned.

Main Plot Bulk

"Reminds me of a funny story. I hunted a man once. He'd stolen something of great value to me, and as he ran, I shot him once in the leg and once in the chest. Would've stopped an elk. But he stumbled, then got up once again, and kept running. There was something in him - something he had, that was driving him on, - that gave him strength. Three days later, I found his body in a fuel station a hundred miles to the west, just outside a town called Webber's Post. But the thing this man had stolen, this precious treasure...it'd been stolen from him as well."

The player explores openly, his path being very gently suggested to be north, further into the wilds, getting colder all of the time. Gradually, the player is led to two major factions who, he is told, might know the location of Bifrost. He can side with one or the other – I had some ideas for these factions, but let’s simply say here, for the sake of clarity, that they’re diametrically opposed, one idealistic and one practical.

In exploring, the player is likely to encounter Moller at least once – usually in a way in which the relationship between the two can be cemented, the character can be explored…without making him appear weak or useless as an antagonist. One thought – meeting him at a ‘governor’s ball’ or similar public event in which he cannot attack you openly, so instead trades words.

The player may also (if possible) recruit party members. Much can be made of the value of this ticket – this chance for one person to escape inevitable death. Should the player tell them about it? If so, will they try and kill him and take it for themselves?


“Of course I don’t blame you.  You want to get out of here just as much as I do, and you’ve played me well for the privilege. But this is the endgame…and only one of us is getting on that boat. Give. Me. The. Ticket.”

If the player sides with the idealists, he will be told what the idealist leader truly believes…that there is a city called Bifrost, far to the east, which is an escape from the snow. A place of salvation.

If the player sides with the pragmatists, he will be told that, according to their information, there are two Bifrosts. One is a ‘dead city’ to be avoided at all costs. The other is a boat that arrives once a year to take ‘special’ citizens away to an unknown country near the Equator that’s still relatively untouched by the snow.

In the first ending, the player travels to the given location…and finds the ruins of a city, eerily deserted. At its heart – skeletal remains dumped out in the snow all around – he finds a power station. Inside is a great abandoned furnace; and he discovers that the machine is, essentially, a mass euthanasia device, powered by the very bodies that are fed into it. The only escape is death. Moller confronts him here, but is horrified to realise the true nature of his ‘paradise’. A fight (or climactic dialogue) ensues, after which, despairing, the player can step into the device, or step back out to face the inevitability of the growing cold…

In the second ending, the player reaches the cove where the boat is supposed to pick up its single passenger, and lights the beacon. A confrontation with Moller, after which the player can escape onto the boat and away, or, perhaps, give the ticket to a party member and choose to stay.


Whew! If you read through all of that, you have every right to make insightful yet devastating comments about how it just isn't a very good idea.
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2011, 10:49:29 PM »

I like this; it needs tweaking but overall the style seems to fit.  Maybe we could expand the choices to one or two more than idealism vs. pragmatism.  I don't know how much of the "existing" material you read, but you do seem to "get it".

One thing we have to talk about is the "antagonist".  I don't (for this game) like the idea of having a single nemesis (person) that works at odds to the player.  Although this is practically "standard" in fiction.  It just seems a little too artificial for what I am thinking about - the "relationship" between protagonist and antagonist has to be hard coded early and I don't like that approach in a more free-form game.

I was thinking that perhaps one way to do this "naturally" would be to set up the game such that in order to progress "further" (more south?) the PC has to make some tough choices - and end up favoring one faction over another (faction in the totally generic sense).  He can try to balance his actions, or play one side against another, but eventually the game is set up such that he MUST screw over someone ... and that someone (or someones) morphs into his nemesis.

There should be  a way to "balance" this along another axis, in terms of a player who wants to be Lone Wolf type or Psychopath, or whatever.

We are not denying them an ending...
We are denying them a DISNEY ending - Icelus
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2011, 12:34:57 AM »

  I don't know how much of the "existing" material you read.

A fair bit!

In terms of multiple nemeses, co-ordinating to the various factions - yeah, I think that would definitely fit! And the whole 'ticket everybody's after' concept would work quite well with it.
Say, if a certain party member is told your true purpose, they might betray you at the climax. Another party member might be able to figure out the significance of the scrap of paper in your pocket by themselves.
Or even, once you've proceeded far enough with one faction, its leader - your chosen *ally* - may start to get suspicious about these questions about 'Bifrost' or what-have-you. Having the guy you pick as your buddy, under certain circumstances, become your enemy would work great...simply because you've got to know him the best out of any of the faction leaders.

I did have at least three factions planned, as two would be, I agree, a bit too simple, especially if they're opposed philosophically like that. But as it turned out, it was too much to expect to get three slightly interesting and individual groups planned out in a day's worth of scribbling, so I cut it down...I am quite proud with one of them, though.

Of course, the kicker with having that interactivity is that you're going to have to write *several* compelling antagonists instead of just one, and they all have to feel unique...and feel like proper 'nemeses' without being as hard-coded into the game as the example above.  A challenge!

For the 'Psychopath' path...hmm...so we're thinking, Fallout-style, about a game it's possible to complete even with killing almost *anybody*, right?
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2011, 05:33:49 PM »

The cold is like a leech, you see. It bites you, but you don't really
feel much. More numb than painful. And then it starts to suck the life
out of you. Slowly, drop by drop. You start feeling weak and hopeless,
and then your toes fall off, and then you can't bother anymore.

"Hey, old-timer, you coming or you gonna just sit there and freeze to

"You watch who you call old-timer, sonny!"

Actually, just sitting here and freezing to death doesn't seem too bad
an idea.

When I was younger, I read this story, see, about a family that lived
in the future, after the atmosphere had frozen. And I thought, yeah,
that's us, that's humanity, we don't quit, we can survive anything. We
are like cockroaches, we'll just shrug off the nukes and start from
scratch. But it didn't work out that way. Turns out the cockroaches
can't stand the cold, and neither can we. We're going extinct.
Everything's going extinct.

It doesn't bother me much anymore. If I can survive another year,
that'd be pretty good. Another two years would be a major victory.
Probably won't happen, though.

"You coming, or what?"

"I'm coming, I tell you."

So, I stand up, and my joints creak like ice floes. And I take one
step, and then another. Easy as pie. Easy as pie.
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2011, 12:42:10 AM »


Fallout was all about how societies attempted to rebuild themselves after a nuclear holocaust – and how, often, they founded themselves on the cultural ruins all around them, taking on the 50s aesthetic, old notions of morality and behaviour, etc.

So what’s the key difference in the PARPG setting? Quite simply, cold. This is a landscape in which a civilisation could only function to modern levels with sufficient sustainable electric power – which it no longer possesses. When you step outside, who knows if you’ll fall down in the snow and freeze to death before you reach your destination? Every winter, the cold gets worse. Most areas simply cannot use their frost-bitten ground for effective arable farming. Tinned long-life foodstuffs are increasingly rare and unreliable. Firewood is essential for heat but this means the remaining forests close to any civilisation are being hacked down. A great deal of every ordinary person’s day becomes about staying alive – piling the snow off the top of their roofs to ensure that their shacks don’t cave in under the weight, finding food, travelling great and dangerous distances to find wood…

This is a world that’s dying, slowly and painfully. This is a bleak place – bleaker than Fallout, where mankind’s violence towards mankind has started off a natural process…and nature’s revenge upon humanity is long, and hard. So what becomes of great importance to us is the question – how would people react, under these circumstances, with a sentence of death over their heads?

Some of them might give in to despair and wish for death – the existence of a town euthanasiast could be a strong possibility in some settlements.
Some of them, more positively, might find joy and meaning in the personal experiences of the day-to-day.
Some of them might become deeply cynical and amoral, surviving just one more day by exploiting those around them.
Some of them might steep themselves in every kind of pleasurable, extreme sensation.
Some of them might kid themselves that everything’s going to be all right and try to rebuild civilisation all the same, or talk endlessly about a ‘solution’, through science or religion, that will turn back the snow.
Some of them might lie, very deliberately, to others about mankind’s chances of survival…either to prevent them from giving up hope or, perhaps, to exploit them.
Some of them might just try not to think about it.
Some of them might try their hand at escapism, day-dreaming off into a better place.
Some of them might obsess over personal matters – power games amongst a household, for example, love affairs, or even pet projects – delivering a package, for example, or finding a murderer.
Some of them might try and ‘skip’ the horrors all around them – by freezing themselves, for example, in a crude kind of cryogenesis.
Some of them, with the understanding that *they* might just be able to accumulate enough electric power, fuel or food to survive a little longer, might form into factions and become very ruthless about taking these things from others…


“They told me, yes, your baby’s a prince. Going to save the world some day, going to unite all the people. He’ll cast out the cold, the snow will fall back, he’ll know what to do. He won’t falter. Don’t let them snatch him from you. Keep Baby safe, no matter what you do.”


In an abandoned building, far to the north, you stumble upon a savage-looking man struggling with a screaming woman. She’s crying out that he’s trying to hurt her baby – and in her arms, she cradles something swathed in blankets. The player can creep away, unseen, or intervene. If they save Elsa, they can choose to take her along with them.


(Before you stands a pale, raggedly-dressed woman. She carries a shotgun on her back, and in her arms, in a loose sling, hangs a cracked, broken plastic doll. Her sad, wide eyes constantly drift down to it, and she strokes it, like a mother caring for her child - the most important thing to her in the entire world)

Elsa will not tell you how far north she's walked in search of the "airfields", where, she claims, a zeppelin "like out of the old films" is waiting to take her and 'Baby' far south, to safety and the "old meeting of nations." But any fool can see that the old, broken plastic doll she carries around with the utmost care is no real child.

Elsa's only concern is for her Baby. She goes hungry so that she can press scraps of food into its ever-open mouth. She removes her own precious items of clothing to swaddle it in warmth, and she whispers to it that it will be a great hero; that it will turn back the cold. Sometimes, in passing, a name will seem to slip out -  Joel - suggesting that, perhaps, she lost her own child some years ago in the wilds, and never recovered her sanity since. She can even speak of 'the hospital' where it all went wrong. Her in-depth knowledge of medicine, delivered quite rationally and sanely, implies that she was once a doctor.


A genuinely tragic, heartbreaking character. One whose delusions keep her alive - belief that her doll is a real child gives her purpose, and holds back her loneliness. She finds purpose in being a mother - in safeguarding the 'future'. There is no easy answer to her problem, no switch to flip back on - it would kill her to admit that her Baby is not real. Essentially, we want all the players who thought Minsc with Boo was hilarious in BG to collapse in on themselves in little sobbing heaps.

Furthermore, Elsa's idea of 'Baby', as, essentially, the PC character of most RPGs - saving the world, uniting the nations, defeating the great evil - can be explored to great effect.

The trick will be to make her moving rather than irritating (frustrating at times, perhaps, but in an engaging way); she cannot be a one-note 'mad' character. Baby is, indeed, her one purpose, but she can also talk apparently rationally and calmly about medicine, classic cinema...essentially, she's an innocent. A genuinely good character who shields herself from the horrors all around her by giving herself something to care for.


At any time, the player may try and talk Elsa out of it or even, horribly, snatch Baby from her and shatter it on the ground (the consequences of this will be devastating). The player can also take her to a mental hospital and check her in there (but she will, the player may learn later, escape into the snow in nothing but a bathrobe, still searching for her 'airfields', never to be seen again). The player may take her to an airfield and convince a couple of locals to 'act out' a scene in which, as envoys from another land, they take Baby to safety. She will be happy at first, and seem a little saner - though she will occasionally show melancholy and reminicise about Baby. (And, the player may later learn, the locals simply threw Baby away into the trash). If the player pushes Elsa too hard in trying to 'break her out' of her madness, she will seem to regain her sanity...and then, the next time the player speaks to her, she'll have reverted back to her old delusions.



"19th of June, 1988. As the missiles hit Northern Europe, David Bowie performs to a concert of thousands in Stockholm. The city is struck by the outer wave of impact of the bomb that lands on the Agbar military facility. Much of the population is killed by falling masonry, collapsing buildings - and more are wiped out more slowly by the radiation poisoning. But David Bowie's body is never found."
"Nine years later, a woman who passed out drunk in the ice-fields to the north of the city reported being picked up and carried to safety by a man in a strange costume to referred to himself as 'The Thin White Duke'. Another two years after that, a gang of tribals who'd been preying on a local village were found massacred in their shack. The word 'ZIGGY' was written on the wall in blood."
"David Bowie is still out there, man. And he's kickin' ass."
Conspiracy Theorist
At some point in his wanderings, the PC can encounter a small collective of heavily-armed, aging nerds, trying to get an old power station going so they can start up their very small-scale, very primitive internet system. They also have a passion for conspiracy theories, arguing that the nuclear holocaust only occurred because the governments of the world had far, far more devastating atomic weapons than they ever let on, and that scientists to the north have figured out how to turn back the worsening climate. One of them, mocked by his fellows, believes that David Bowie is still alive and in Scandanavia, doing good as a kind of gun-toting vigilante.
The player can, in a location far away, contact 'Bowie' through a cryptic message - or, if the player is particularly virtuous or particularly villainous, 'Bowie' will come to them. In the former case, he may join them - in the latter, he may attempt to kill them.
(You see before you an emaciated man. His torn, twisted face is partly coated by strange white make-up featuring a purple lightning-bolt. He is ferally dressed in furs, with animal tails and even what seems horribly like human hair hanging from his belt. At his hip he carries a hefty knife.)
'Bowie' was one of those in attendance, barely older than an adolescent, at the Stockholm stadium when the missiles struck. Horribly disfigured by the blast, he spent years in the wild, shunned by communities. Finally, painting his face with the colours of his hero, he elected to hunt down wrongdoers across Scandanavia. One can only be, he argues, through doing. One only finds meaning in personal activity - in his case, by ridding the world of murderers and thieves, one by one.
Years of vigilantism have made Bowie understandably grim and humourless about his peculiar occupation. He doesn't care that the world is coming to an end - so long as there are criminals alive, he can be a hero for just one more day...and take another scalp for his collection. Sometimes, quietly, he will speak of his father, who attended the concert along with him - and his life before the apocalypse. A life, he claims, without purpose. But he seems to remember it with fondness, all the same.
"The music shut off. And someone came running onstage to whisper in His ear. He turned to us, his crowd, his people, and said in English, "There's missiles falling all over Europe and apparently we don't have long. Many of you may want to flee. But if someone hands me a joint, I'd quite like to play Major Tom with all of you." Maybe a hundred left. He hopped down off the stage and began to sing."
"Round about the second verse, we heard a whistling sound. We kept singing along to Major Tom. Dad lifted me onto his shoulders. And just as the third verse began, the impact struck the side of the stadium. After that, it's all...it was strange. Surreal. Bodies bouncing off into the air."
"I crawled across to Him. Part of the gantry had collapsed onto His legs and His make-up was torn. His face was slipping away but you could still see his eyes and his mouth. I knew my face was the same...I could feel my face creeping down my cheeks."
"He said, 'Will I be remembered?'. And I said, 'By whom?'"
A more colourful, funnier character concept - but a character who is  rooted in realistic possibility, not a one-note caricature - and a 'funny' character with a darker, bleaker side. This is a lonely wanderer who scalps those he sees as being 'wrongdoers' - the fact that he paints his face in David Bowie's style doesn't make that any less true.

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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2011, 03:03:34 AM »

I have to say I really like your take on the genre and the characters in the last post are powerfully real for me.
Your writing has the same kind of vibe the writing in Planescape: Torment had - there's this surreal-ness about it, as if it is all taking place in a very alien, foreign place, and it happens to be just that - a post-apocalyptic world, which should be alien to us, the fat well-fed peace-time kids.

EDIT: damn, I'd like to sit down and start drawing : D too bad I have an exam in 6 hours
« Last Edit: January 18, 2011, 03:05:17 AM by Gaspard » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2011, 03:30:36 AM »

I find these characters great. They fit well in a psychotic twist i would like to see in the game, they show how the apocalypse devastated humanity on mental level.
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« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2011, 11:02:33 AM »

Just a snippet:
If you wished to further explore the "oven scenario", there's an island near St Petersburg, the Kotlin Island, on it is the town of Kronshtadt (right now separated from St. Petersburg (Leningrad in the 80s) by a great long bridge), that has a giant blackened fort, I believe it is called the Northert Fort, which used to house giant ovens where they burned horses.

Here's the English Wikipedia link, the Russian page has more pictures and more text, though:

Here's a few more images:

Also, recently it housed a Night Club, but even more recently was closed down, because drunk people would jump off the walls of the monstrosity of a building and fall to their deaths in the cold waters below õ_õ

* KR_fort.jpeg (22.57 KB, 400x267 - viewed 386 times.)
« Last Edit: January 18, 2011, 11:04:07 AM by Gaspard » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2011, 11:09:33 AM »

That's some good stuff BobBobson

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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2011, 01:45:59 PM »

Cheers, everyone! The design for those little character sheets - quotes an' all - was pretty much ripped-off from PS:T's design document, hence the similarity.

Gaspard - whether or not anyone would want to use the oven plot-bit, that iron horse-furnace place looks fantastically bleak! It'd make a great location, all out on the ice, rusted and forgotten...

EDIT: Good luck with your exam, incidentally.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2011, 02:07:30 PM by BobBobson » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2011, 07:44:08 PM »

Some more of Bob’s bits and, uh, bobs.

*Stockholm* (Location)
The snow comes and goes in Stockholm, but the frost endures. In amongst the broken avenues and tin-roofs of the ruined city, ice coats the concrete pavements, and strangles the the barren allotment gardens. Nobody has managed to unite the townships and collectives scattered about the islands of the city - those who've tried are dead or gone, despairing of the greed and poverty that causes so many of the tiny settlements to send out savage raiding parties out to steal food or fuel from one another. Only the children run freely from township to township, ducking under washing-lines and wire fences, ignoring the stubborn enmities and all-too temporary alliances of the adults.
To the weary eyes of a northerner, having travelled hundreds of miles south through pelting snow and ice, Stockholm might as well be a paradise. Buying up as much cheap alcohol as they can afford, they'll try and find a local girl - or boy - and sing themselves stupid in some grimy bar or abandoned theatre. Often, letting their drunkenness get the better of them, they'll cause a scene in the streets and face punishment by the locals - many a hungover northerner has found himself dumped outside the gates of a township at dawn, bruised, naked and ashamed, and a few more have been tossed over the side of a bridge into the freezing water below.
The wealthiest townships, such as Black Crown Lane, tend to exist on the southernmost islands of the city, their buildings relatively intact and with easier access to the waterfront, whereas the poorer collectives are forced out onto the northern side where there is mainly rubble. Sometimes, however, these more desperate groups will band together and bring down a rich township entirely with violence, taking the inhabitants as slaves and gorging themselves hungrily on the much-needed food and fuel (as happened with the ill-fated township The Wolf's Pride just six months ago). As a result, they face castigation from the wealthier settlements - which, however, rarely do anything to actively stop the violence - but the spokesmen for the poorest townships insist that they're only doing what's necessary to survive, and that there wouldn't be any need for violence if the wealthy townships gave out more food.
Only one place is avoided outright - the enormous, shattered Dagens Nyheter skyscraper, where the most dangerous man in the city lives - Illvatte, the walker in darkness. It is not known whether he has any purpose beyond malicious mischief - but he seems to amuse himself by taking pot-shots at locals who venture too close by with a high-powered rifle. Sometimes a man or a woman taking a short-cut too close to the tower will die in an explosion of blood - sometimes, when Illvatte is apparently in a better mood, a bullet will smack into the wall centimetres from their head. Only the children are allowed to pass by, every time they scamper through the ruins, unharmed. After an attempt by the Packhousers to flush him out ended in bloody defeat, the townships mostly stay clear of the Dagens Nyheter.
*The Dagens Nyheter*
"Ah-ha, ah-ha, so you can stand still. But can you run? Shall we find out together?"
As the player approaches the ruins of the Dagens Nyheter, he hears someone speaking to him through the square's loudspeakers, telling him to stand very still. (Through dialogue) a bullet hits the ground right next to the player's ear. A second bullet slips past the player's ear, bloodying them. The third bullet must be actively dodged with a dexterity attempt.
Should the player pass Illvatte's little test, he can enter the building safely and take the elevator up to the top floor. There, surrounded by newspapers, Illvate squats, his sniper rifle trained out of the window.
Illvatte is a man with too much power, too much boredom and no moral compass. Remember that scene in The Third Man with Harry Lime, on the ferris wheel? All that talk about not caring if any of the dots below were snuffed out? Illvatte is living that dream, amusing himself by playing God and snuffing out those tiny dots below. An overweight man, who barely moves from his perch except for necessities. Illvatte is becoming a little frustrated, as adults rarely venture into his range any more...he is beginning to fear that he will have to kill a child. And killing children is Illvatte's one ethical scruple. So he wants the player to lure interesting people into his rifle range on the street. "Priests, scientists, great visionaries! Bring me someone I haven't killed before!"
And from this we can create 'evil' quests that are the good, non 'Chaotic stupid' sort of evil. The player has an NPC who's causing him problems...so he ruthlessly lures him out as prey for Illvatte. This could easily tie into an evil alternate ending for the 'uniting/dividing the townships' quest idea.
*Black Crown Lane*
"If you'd asked me before whether a man who knows he's going to die wants to hear Shakespeare, or Ibsen, or Tennessee Williams, I'd have said 'Of course he does' - and with pride, too. But he doesn't, as it turns out. He wants to see tits."
Bitter Out-Of-Work Actor

Black Crown Lane survives well-enough through the traders and travellers who come to visit the old Black Crown Theatre, formerly a  Shakespearean performance platform, that now serves as a grimy burlesque bar and de-facto brothel. Father Natanael, former priest and bar owner, serves as the unofficial head of the township as a result - and the dozen or so mothers of Black Crown Lane spend all of their efforts trying to ensure their daughters grow up beautiful enough to work in the Black Crown and provide for their family. As a result, the young men of the settlement are frustrated and often directionless, drinking in the bar and picking fights with the foreigners. In the corner, an old Shakespearean actor sits, shaking his head sadly and drinking himself to death. Outside, in Rat's Alley, the traders from various climes peddle their wares too each other, ignoring the penniless locals. This is the place you'd come to if you wanted to hear gossip of the condition of foreign lands - even of the survival of settlements, far to the south, where the earth is still warm enough to grow crops year after year, to survive...
The defence force of Black Crown Lane is smaller than the other townships - it avoids being swallowed by its neighbours mostly due to the two strapping, fearsome Nylander Brothers, and by relying upon the many travellers who can be called upon to protect their own interests should a raid occur. One of the Brothers is generally stationed at the entrance to the Theatre, checking guests for weapons, and the other waits at the alley entrance. Meanwhile, although many traders are still coming seeking barter, fewer are bringing sufficient goods to sell, and Father Natanael is looking for diplomatic solutions to his problems, as he faces anger both from the merchants from the inhabitants who feel that he is spending all of their resources on keeping his bar stocked-up for foreigners.
*The Packhouse*

Separated from the other islands by a stretch of water, the bridges of Lidingo collapsed when the missiles struck. Now, lurking in an old meat-packing factory, the Packhousers keep watch. Thought of by the others as a bunch of ferals, the Packhousers encourage this view, dressing in scraps of rat-fur and very deliberately taking on animal tendencies, naming their leaders after wolves and bears and howling ferociously as they attack, even letting the myth spread that they consume their victims. The image is, at least partly, a sham - in their isolation, the Packhousers simply don't have the strength or the resources to be genuinely aggressive. Their usual tactic, in the middle of the night, is to paddle across the water in their one-man coracles, and raid the sleeping townships for good. While they preach a return to the simplicity of nature and a rejection of the old capitalist ways, in reality, Packhousers like to show off publicly with shiny trinkets and gewgwaws, and their society is as based on materialism as any in the city.
Ursa and Lupus, the husband-and-wife leaders of the Packhousers, are beginning to divide in their views on the situation of Stockholm. Ursa wishes to expand, opening up new opportunities for growth, by conquering a township across the water and occupying it; Lupus believes that they will be safer remaining on the island. Slowly, the marriage is starting to fall apart in public as well as in private, creating a divide within the faction as the two take on lovers.
*Salem's Boys*
"You know what's frightening about manipulating a bunch of idiots? The day you realise they're too stupid to be manipulated by you any longer."
Mr. Sandstrom
Unlike some of the townships close to the waterfront, Salem has never recovered its wealth fully - or established its society properly. Its rough gangs accumulated together slowly through petty violence, only forming a whole in order to raid other settlements. Six months ago, Salem's Boys, predominantly made up of tough young men, spearheaded the attack on the Lion's Pride township, where many of their gang members still take up residence, squatting in the ransacked buildings. Since the invasion, Salem's Boys have lived in relative luxury, eating well and taking on airs as they order about their captured slaves. But, as time's gone, the food's begun to run out - and their prisoners have become just another mouth to feed. The majority of the young toughs are now clamouring for another raid, but the Boys' smart, capable leader, Mr. Sandstrom, knows better - a great many of them were killed in the last attack, and another raid could weaken them beyond the point of no return. The problem is convincing his swaggering, war-like lieutenants that violence won't help, and ensuring that he isn't overthrown. He was the one who successfully managed to form the gangs into a coherent collective, with backstabbing, Machiavellian politics and street-smarts...but now, he fears, even he may not be able to hold them together and prevent them from charging onwards to their own destruction.
Not the 'evil' faction by any means; acts of kindness and brotherhood are common. But their intense poverty, their hunger, and indeed, their fraternal spirit has set them to violence against the rest of Stockholm - and the pressure to be tougher and more manly than those around you has led to acts of uncommon cruelty against outsiders.
*The Riksgard* (Not completely happy with this one)
In the great, classical Rikstag ruins, the Riksgard keep watch with a monkish devotion, refusing to associate too openly with the other settlements, keeping their doors locked and hoarding their government supplies. The military men and women who once ran the township, protecting the building's archives until the Prime Minister was found or replaced, have mostly grown old and died. Their positions have been usurped by volunteers - some kind-hearted, patriotic souls, but also obsessives, petty-minded bureaucrats, and fanatical nationalists who award themselves army ranks and titles. The Riksgard, under the command of the pompous, devious Field Marshal Wiik, have become self-important, issuing decrees, announcing the Nobel Prize winners every year, and logging the 'crimes' of the city, that its citizens might be punished once law returns to Stockholm. Within the boundaries of the Rikstag, they claim, is all of Sweden - outside is only wilderness.
Some of the remaining soldiers, under Captain Johannesen, plot to fix up the hull of the abandoned tanker in the water outside the parliament, but they have to be careful - under Wiik's regime, abandoning your country and your government counts as treason.
...and more, if possible. Probably 1 or 2 smaller ones. It'd be nice to have at least 4, maybe 5 factions planned for a major 'hub' city - and if needs be, we could cut one of them out.

*Accelerated apocalypse – getting you the nuclear holocaust YOU want, fast* (Background suggestion)
I noticed that every historical timeline that’s been played with has set up years and years of alternate history leading up to a tyrant in Russia causing a nuclear holocaust. As another possibility, how do we feel about, rather than creating a strictly alternate historical background that goes back several years, we take one moment that went, from an anti-Soviet point of view, magnificently well...and make it go horribly wrong, fast?
I.e., 9 November 1989 - as East German protestors attempt, in their thousands, to break down the Berlin Wall, one soldier fires a shot. It remains unclear if he's given orders by his superiors, or if he simply panics; but the crowd goes wild, some attempting to flee back, others trying to reach the wall first, some trying to attack the soldiers in righteous fury. Some are trampled; the soldiers open fire on the crowd. As some East Germans scramble over the partly demolished wall into West Berlin, the guards fire after them into US Territory. An American captain is hit; his comrades return fire.
From there matters escalate quickly. Neither Bush nor Gorbachev want a full-on war, but in the chaos, nobody has any real idea what's happening. As US, French and British soldiers attempt to hold a watchtower on the wall to protect the civilians from East German fire, Gorbachev is told that American troops have invaded East Berlin. Rioting and violence breaks out amongst the youth in the remaining satellite states; disorder reigns. A false report reaches Bush that a nuclear missile has been sent into flight, heading for London. He orders the launch of US missiles against strategic positions in China and Russia. Gorbachev, pressurised by his aides and the Russian army, retaliates.
Essentially, an 'apocalypse' which is nobody's fault - which came about through chaos and miscommunication, and which takes place at an iconic moment in history. Ordinary people in the game, of course, will have no idea about any of this. All they know is that, just as things started going right, something went wrong.
The whole issue of 'were there really ever enough nuclear weapons to destroy all of society?' can be dealt with in-game. Our position could be that there were, in fact, a great many more missiles than any government left on. Characters could even then dispute the fact that they didn't think it could have really ever happened.
"Not a problem, lovie. I quite understand. You think there's hope - not for mankind, perhaps, but for you, because there's always been something special about you - and you want to go on living. I don't mind. But I can make you a guarantee. Six months from now, a year, ten years - you'll be freezing to death out in the snow, or you'll be lying on the dead earth with some savage's knife exploring your intestines as he takes your last hunk of bread from you, or you'll be twisting and turning on your cot as the TB makes you spit out blood...and you'll pray for Old Ma Death to come with her long-barrelled revolver and make it clean, and make it quick. And I'll come. But I'll take my time."
OLD MA DEATH (if the player refuses her services)
On the very edge of the player's starting town, unconsciously, quietly shunned by the rest of the people there, is the house of Old Ma Death. The house itself is quaintly decorated, in an old, chintzy style, hung with the photographs of long-gone family members. And, sitting in the corner in a matronly black funeral dress, is Old Ma Death. She'll offer her guests a cup of tea - and ask them if they're certain they want to die.
If her visitor agrees, Old Ma Death will let them finish their tea, and then quietly lead them into the parlour, sit them up in the chair facing the plastic sheeting pinned up on the wall, and shoot them in the head with her long-barrelled revolver. No patient of hers has ever been known to die anything other than immediately. Afterwards, she'll drag the body outside, break a hole in the ice of the frozen river at the back of her house, and shove the body under, letting the currents beneath the ice carry it away.
Old Ma Death remains cheerful about her occupation, reasoning that she is helping her patients out of a terrible place. Her only fear is that she may run out of the components for making her bullets before she has a chance to 'do herself'. Because that would mean she has to learn how to use the knife. Her services, she argues, are indispensable to the town...because if you kill yourself, how can you be certain you're going to do it cleanly?
A way to foreshadow to the player, from the very beginning, using character rather than exposition, the theme of mortality and the probability of his own death. And a way of doing it that's blackly funny, as well as bleak.
Could it be possible to give the player an option to *actually* let Old Ma Death take his life? Say he can come in, talk to her, explain why he wants to die...and he does, indeed, get shot and gets a game over screen?
« Last Edit: January 18, 2011, 08:04:54 PM by BobBobson » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2011, 01:29:16 PM »

Bob again writes far too much. Huzzah!

*Webber's Post* (Idea for a starting location)
"This was a town once. A real town, not twisted concrete and a few dull-eyed souls too cowardly or too stubborn to flee. A society, not a history exhibit encased in snow."
Webber's Post Citizen
There are no more than a few dozen regular citizens left in Webber's Post. Most gave up and headed south years ago, as the winters became colder and agriculture became a near-impossibility. More died of the fevers that came with the first great chills. Some continue to die every year, cutting wood from the forest six miles out of town and selling it on to travellers, protecting it from bandits, or simply walking into Old Ma Death's chintzy house on the edge of town and paying her to shoot them dead.
The player, after years of wandering, has settled in this ghost town, running the dim, grimy little bar by the name of Last Orders with their partner, Matthias. There's not much made from it, only the food and fuel bartered by wanderers hoping to escape from reality with a drink or five - but just enough to survive. The player is going nowhere, with no prospects, no future - but for the moment, they're surviving. They make their own vodka from potato scraps - PLAYERLASTNAME Vodka's even become rather famous amongst the nomads for having a truly disgusting taste but getting you blotto faster than anything else. The local men spent their days cutting wood from the forests and making the dangerous, slow journey home with it. In the evenings, they come to Last Orders and drink.
Some of the local girls hang out at Last Orders. Occasionally they sleep with a wanderer for a little bread in one of the back rooms, and it helps them stay alive a little longer.  Sometimes a local father will find his daughter working there, drag her away and beat her; sometimes he will acknowledge her with a sad, grateful nod. It's just the way it goes.
There is no official leader in Webber's Post; no real communal aim. Every family looks after themselves - but some folk will always show a little charity to others who aren't doing so well. All of the settlement's energies are focused on getting through another day. Some look to the player for guidance, others to Moe, the old, fat doctor who hoards the medicine and vaccinations and barters them out at frequently harsh prices. Occasionally, a young couple will get together, and marry, without a fuss - the town will play out the wedding ritual, rolling out the vodka from Last Orders and having Matthias conduct the ceremony...but most often now, it's not love that drives the union, but necessity. There are less and less young people in Webber's Post. And as Moe gets older, more paranoid and inept, more and more women are dying in childbirth.
*Last Orders*
Candle-lit, grimy and dim, this is a place where tired and broken men come to forget where they are and who they are. You sleep in the back, playing cards with Matthias in the day, recording your thoughts in your diary, and in the evenings you drink with your customers, exchanging gossip, even flirting, as the local girls try to charm the occasional traveller or barterer. It's repellent, and it stinks, and the rats scurry about the floor and the walls...but it's home.
Quest/NPC ideas-
Solving a heated discussion between a father and his daughter about her, er, trade, through persuasion or by threats, or simply by punching the man out.
Matthias' idea to build a water-tower for the town in the spring; just a character-establishing choice where the player could agree delightedly, show cynicism about either the future of the town or the usefulness of trying to help the community as a whole for free...
The issue of the girls as a whole - does the PC try to take, essentially, 'pimp' money from them, or let them be?
A young lad's been out all day with the woodcutters, working furiously hard - his adult friends claim that today he's a 'real man', and insist that he gets a real man's drink. Serve him alcohol, or refuse to?
Bartering with the merchants in exchange for your alcohol - a neat way for the player to pick up a small assortment of starting-level goods.
Breaking up a potential fight between the locals and the travellers.
*Moe's Shack*
The increasingly-hostile doctor locks himself inside most days, burying himself in his memoirs which, you suspect, contain a savage indictment of pretty much everyone in Webber's Post. Medicine he hands out now at near-extortionate rates, apart from to those he favours. When he is called out for a birth, he often comes too late, or is too sloppy. Occasionally, however, he will come through, but his growing belief that everyone in town is against him, (a suspicion which is becoming partly true)
Quest/NPC ideas-
The player could schmooze Moe for medical supplies, threaten him (is there some way this could result in Moe taking revenge by drugging the player's supplies?) or break in secretly. Killing Moe would, of course, mean that there was no doctor at all in Webber's Post.
A birth is taking place - the player can, if they wish, attempt to bring Moe out to help through bartering-negotiation, threats, persuasion...or, perhaps, attempt to deliver the baby themselves.
*Old Ma's House*
Old Ma Death, as she's come to be known - a nickname which, you suspect, she doesn't mind - sits out in her pretty little house by the ice-river on the edge of town, where she's lived for over half a century. Occasionally someone will come to her with some food, fuel, or an expensive trinket, and explain to her why they want to die. Old Ma will lead them out to the living room, sit them down on the chair in front of the plastic sheeting, and shoot them in the head with a long-barrelled revolver. Then, breaking the ice on the surface of the water, this frail old lady will dump the body below, letting the deeper currents carry it out to sea.
Quest/NPC ideas-
A young man outside, known to the PC, who's considering going in and asking Old Ma to make an end of it all...
*The Logging Collective*
The old building where the cut wood is stored every night, and dried out as much as possible to make it serviceable as fuel. Every household stores their wood there, under the watchful eye of old Andersson, who ensures that nothing is stolen.
*Tessa's Watch*
About a mile out of town, in a lonely camouflaged tin shack on the slope of the hill, Tessa watches for bandits, wild animals or travellers on the road. In return, each household pays her a small dividend of fuel or food. Tessa doesn't mind being alone; in fact, she relishes the quiet.
Quest/NPC ideas-
Just a chance for a chat, really, a 'safe' area for the PC as they enter the wilderness, and a chance to point out nearby quests without doing so in the awkward 'Hey, I heard there were some bandits on the road' NPC way. I.e., Tessa saw a bright light about two miles to the north a little while ago...she lit up her own beacon but nobody responded. She hasn't had a chance to investigate yet.
*Aims of the location as a whole*
An introduction to the setting, most obviously. I'd argue that 'themes' should be treated in much the same way as an author would treat them in a novel - they're introduced right at the beginning. So this is a chance to bring in the themes of the game that will be explored in detail later, as well as establishing the tone.
Secondly, this would be a simple way to have a player easily placed in the world without a) doing an 'amnesia' thing (Grr) or b) having not simply multiple origins at character creation, but multiple origins in-game (which would be great, of course...but a serious amount of pressure on the size of the game. If players have those multiple origins in-game, they're going to want them referenced throughout, and they're going to want to see the consequences of their actions in those origins. Fantastic to do, again, but such an intimidating prospect that it's worth seriously considering if it'd take too much time and draw too much writing-effort away from the bulk of the game.
In this sort of 'eking out a living in a very small settlement' start, the PC can have a past, which gets referenced...but it's in the past. And they can be dropped straight into the world as a character without the player feeling overwhelmed, because aside from gossip from travellers (which the player can pick up at the bar) neither the PC nor the NPCs around them really know a great deal about the larger picture. Enough isolation from the more complex elements of the setting to enable easy starting-immersion on the player's part, is my point. I'd actually love to start the player off in a city.
Thirdly - cliche though it may be, there's a reason it's a cliche. A smaller starting environment just works better for a controlled prologue - a way for the player to settle and the story to have a strong foundation before the scope widens out.
You avoid the cliche by giving that small town its own individual character.
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2011, 10:30:04 PM »

By the way, if you wish to keep the setting realistic, then there's no water except below extremely thick ice. 20 years of winter is enough to freeze the entire Baltic Sea. The Gulf of Finland alone freezes every winter and icebreakers are needed to keep the ship lines open.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2011, 10:34:38 PM by dracre » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2011, 08:31:19 PM »

Oh. Ah. Er.

Good point. Completely failed to consider that.
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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2011, 10:20:16 PM »

Do You think our starting location ideas can be merged?
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