stories, fallen london

Seeking the Name

Spoilers abound for Fallen London's "Seeking the Name of Mr. Eaten" - feel free to skip this one if you're working on it!

Thirty years ago, London was stolen. Now it rests on the shore of the Unterzee, that old dark ocean under the world. Hell is close, immortality is cheap, and the screaming has largely stopped…

I'm a huge fan of Failbetter Games' Fallen London universe, currently comprised of the titular Fallen London, Sunless Sea, and the soon-to-be-Kickstarted Sunless Skies. The universe is bizarre, mysterious, funny, and smart, and there are enough stories to keep you busy for months. I'm such a huge fan that I have the Dawn Machine tattooed on my left arm as lovely reminder of what happens when you let hubris and pride rule your heart.

But that's not what I want to talk about today -- I want to talk about an absurd, horrible journey that I'm currently engaged in with Fallen London. A questline called Seeking Mr. Eaten's Name. Something so terrible that when you start it, you receive an item called A Bad End that allows you to opt-out (without undoing any of the damage you've done to yourself) and have to accept the following disclaimer:

Seeking Mr Eaten's Name is a story of misery, obsession and self-destruction. It doesn't play by the same rules as the rest of Fallen London. It is capricious, difficult and very unfair. And there will be no happy ending, unless you abandon the quest. Don't begin the story unless you are prepared to regret it.

And there is no happy ending here. Reaching the end of this trail of misery renders your character unplayable. Here's just a taste of some of the things I've had to do putting the pieces of this tragic tale together:

  • Die seven times. It is brutally, brutally difficult for me to come back from A slow boat passing a dark beach on a silent river now.
  • Be imprisoned seven times ("memories of chains")
  • Get seven "stains on my soul" -- it's left...unclear...what that means, though the devils leave me alone now.
  • Betray seven friends (SEVEN IS THE NUMBER)
  • Spend an atrocious amount of Echoes (the in-game currency)
  • Given up almost all of my in-game possessions
  • Shove my neathy-adopted daughter off of a cliff inside of a cave that consumes memories

That last bullet really got me thinking. I told my wife Katt what I did and she said "Wow, Kyle. That's...really dark. And absolutely not like you!" I know it's just roleplaying...and part of the fun of roleplaying, in video games or in tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, is to become something you're not. But this feels different to me, like a line has been crossed. That even though I'm making these decisions inside of a "safe" place (a game), I'm turning my character in to some bizarre, dark reflection of myself. Maybe its because of how much time and effort I've put in to this. It's not like making a snap judgement in Star Wars a-la Emperor Palpatine and throwing Force Lightning around.

"A reckoning," you shriek, "will not be postponed indefinitely!"

Perhaps that's the point of a story like this. Especially one that's so candid up front: "a story of misery, obsession and self-destruction." It forces us to ask ourselves...what lengths are we willing to go to for knowledge? Or for vengeance, to right a wrong?

In any case, I'm interested to hear what you have to say! Leave a message in the comments!

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About Kyle Bedell

Kyle's been writing about tech, ludology, and storytelling since 2004. When not soldering, playing board games, or geeking out over hardware, he can be found reading a good sci-fi or fantasy novel.
  • Massachusetts, United States