, available on Android/iOS or at fallenlondon.com, is a free text-based comedy/horror choose-your-own-adventure/RPG by Failbetter Games, set in the same world as their Sunless Sea. One night in the 1860s, London was stolen by bats - yes, bats - and transported miles belowground to the Neath, a vast subterranean cavern with its own ecosystem, continents, saltwater ocean...and monsters. Now it is 1894 and life goes on much as it always has, with a few small changes. Death is less permanent. Hell is next door, and smiling devils ride through the streets of London in brass carriages. Poets and bohemians slip into the fog of a new drug that lets them literally escape into dreams. Vast shadowy powers - the Palace, the Parliament, the Church, the Anarchists, the nations of the Surface, and other, stranger things - wage clandestine wars for control of the city.
Into this steps a nameless, faceless stranger. SPOILER ALERT IT'S YOU
You choose your name, cameo picture, gender (or no gender), preferred title of address (Sir, Madam, my Lord, my Lady, Citizen, etc) and decide whether you are more sneaky, fighty, intelligent, or persuasive. Then the game turns you loose on the city of London and says good luck.
What do you do? Well, at first, you just try to survive and make your way in the world. As you play, you'll uncover, and make choices about, your character's backstory, their motivations, and their goals for the future. Some characters might want to achieve artistic success, becoming the most well-regarded poet or playwright of the day. Others might want to go into the Church, or politics. You can become a professor, a policeman, a champion prize fighter, or a private eye. You'll probably end up being a couple of those things anyway. And as you advance in whatever your chosen field is, you'll begin learning the hidden truths of the setting, about what's really going on, and decide what you're going to do about it.
The game is 99% text, and there's a lot of it - something like 2 million words - and it's terrific, atmospheric stuff. A few sentences at a time, it paints an evocative picture of a strange, beautiful, terrifying world that lives on in the memory as vividly as if you'd experienced it in 4K max graphics.
Oh! And you don't have to do it all alone. You can interact with other players through notes and cards, enlisting their help in tough problems, sending gifts, tending to each other's wounds, or just sitting down to a nice game of chess. If you play, let me know, and I'll add you to the list!
A Kobold's Kobold - akoboldskobold
amateurhour - amateurhour
Arch - Dr_Bugs
BeNarwhal - BeNarwhal
Blameless Cleric - Blameless Cleric
Bogart - Daemonomania
BSOB - Bsob
Casual Eddy - casualeddy
cB557 - cB557
Darkewolfe - Konenut
Delmain - Delmain
desc - desc
Elki - Elki
Elldren - Elldren
firewaterword - firewaterword
Fuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud - fuzzycumulonimbo
Gooey - gooeygooeygooey
Hahnsoo1 - Hahnsoo
Haphazard - Haphazard79
Havelock2. 0 - Havelock the Gentleman Thief
kedinik - kedinik
knitdan - Joe Cusick
Jacobkosh - Jacobkosh
Ludious - Ludious
Mayabird - Mayabird
Mazzyx - Mazzyxpa
milski - Garcher
Mortious - Mortious
MrMister - Mr^2
Oats - Phos
OnTheLastCastle - OnTheLastCastle
Orphane - Orphane
P10 - Peeten
PantsB - PantsB
Podly - frank_reynolds
Ringo - Iri Hayes
ronya - Lady Roayn
SniperGuy - SniperGuy210
So It Goes - Sigmund, Esquire
visiblehowl - vh
YamiNoSenshi - YamiNoSenshi
Zampanov - Zampanov
Kid Presentable - ???
syndalis - ???
Honk - ????
Lastly, some notes on the game mechanics:
- There are 4 starting areas, each corresponding to one of the skills and featuring jobs that focus on that skill. Veilgarden is for Persuasive people, where you learn to talk and socialize and hang out with poets and artists and maybe do a bunch of drugs, bone ladies and dudes, and write your masterpiece. Watchmaker's Hill is for Dangerous people and is a swampy marsh full of monsters that you can get paid money to hunt, and between jobs you can do prize fighting at the tavern. Ladybones Road is for Watchful people and is where Moloch Street Station, the subway to Hell, is located, and is consequently full of spies, secret agents, detectives, and mystery type stuff. Spite is for Shadowy people and is the wrong side of the tracks and where you hang out with street urchins and pickpockets while trying to climb the ranks of the criminal underworld. Each of these areas eventually leads you to another, higher-level area of that skill (so Ladybones Road takes you to the Forgotten Quarter, while Watchmaker's Hill leads to the Wolfstack Docks, etc).
- You can succeed at the game by focusing on one or all of these. Like, I'm not playing my dude as a criminal, so I don't spend much time in Spite except to make friends with orphan gangs, but I like being Watchful and Persuasive so my dude has ended up as a detective and writer and bon vivant high society party dude. Obviously spreading yourself out more gives you more opportunities to earn important items that can help you in the game but of course you'll progress that much more slowly. It's all a tradeoff. Just do what you want.
- Most of your items can be left-clicked to be used and that often opens options to upconvert them, a few at a time or in bulk, to the next best item of that type (so you can take a bunch of Whispered Hints and turn them into a few Cryptic Clues, for instance). Other items open up entire new stories: you might get a business card from a detective as a reward for a mission and then you click on it and it opens options to help her solve a bunch of mysteries.
- Every area is packed with repeatable things you can do to earn money/equipment and/or grind skills, though the specific menu of things will change gradually as you level up. If you're trying to make money, look for tasks that give out rewards close to 1 Echo (£1) - that's about the most lucrative a job for non-high-level characters gets, so if you find one that gives like £0.88 worth of Jade or Rostygold or something, it's worth banging that out for a while and maybe using the profits to buy yourself better gear.
- But eventually, you won't want to do the repeatable tasks; you'll want to do something meaty, or advance your story in an area. Bigger stories are usually designated by a gold border around the picture - an example of this are the various mysteries you can solve in Ladybones Road, which take many actions to complete and yield big rewards. Certain stories are marked with Making Your Name, and those are the big "main plot" missions that have big risks and rewards and often shoot your stats up 2 or 3 points at a time upon completion.
- The other way to get stories and things to do is from Opportunity Cards. You have 10 cards in the deck and they get refreshed once every ten minutes. A lot of opportunities are just little one-off tests or events that give you a modest reward or stat boost. Others open the door to HUGE STORIES. Sometimes a story will begin in a location, like Ladybones Road, and then it will tell you that you need to wait to make your next move. What that means is that the continuation of the story is a card that has been shuffled into your Opportunity Deck. (This often happens when there's some kind of in-story reason that your character can't continue right away - like if you're waiting for a certain event to happen, the passage of time is represented by putting the next stage of the story in the Deck, where it may take you one or two real days to find and draw the card.)
- The composition of your Opportunity Deck constantly changes. It changes based on your stats, your various social situations (if you've dealt with devils, they may turn up as opportunities, for instance), what kind of pets you have (my low-level lizard occasionally needs feeding, and my Alluring Accomplice might sometimes try to betray me, or become a nun), what kind of lodgings you have, and even where you are currently located and drawing cards (eg, cards to do with Watchmaker's Hill are more likely to turn up if you're there right now). Sometimes familiar cards will have new story options appear on them because you fulfilled a hidden condition, like having a certain item.
- There are four different kinds of Menaces - penalties for failing checks. You get Wounds for losing fights/being poisoned/etc (usually from failing Dangerous tests), Nightmares from being exposed to things man was not meant to know or just seeing horrific shit like a serial killer's dungeon (usually from failed Watchful checks), Suspicion represents how aware the constables are of your presence (usually from failing Shadowy tests), and Scandal is how much everyone gossips about you and your affairs and crazy opinions (usually from failing Persuasive tests). NONE OF THESE ARE GAME-ENDERS. With each of them, if it gets to level 8, you are transported to a new zone - back to New Newgate prison if your suspicion is out of control, for instance, or exiled from London to the Tomb Colonies to wait around until people stop gossiping about you when your Scandal has gotten too high. (The Wounds and Nightmares options take you to...more interesting places.) Getting out of these new locations takes a bit of time and work but they can sometimes be very worthwhile trips depending on your specific situation - so generally try to keep your Menaces down but don't be afraid to take a chance if it's really important.
- Every week, all players get a visit from Time The Healer, which lowers your wounds/nightmares/etc (and also your Making Waves, which represents how much impact you are having on society this week), and dispenses your paycheck from your character's job.
- A good way to raise stats in a hurry is to have a high-level player mentor you. They can spend actions to send you stat boosts. This is a good way to raise a skill where you don't feel like roleplaying that kind of character (eg, if you want to have a higher Watchful but don't want to be a detective/spy).
- The Game of Knife-and-Candle, which you can begin at Watchmaker's Hill, is Fallen London's PvP. Stalk and kill other players! Death in the Neath is usually temporary so it's basically just an inconvenience but you can earn some fun rewards that way if you're so inclined.
- A subscription costs $7 a month and doubles your action bar and grants access to a new exclusive story every month. Previous months' exclusive stories can be unlocked with Fate, the game's microtransaction currency. These stories usually don't have difficult stat tests and give big rewards and insight into the lore, so if you enjoy the game and think you can get a month or two of fun out of it I'd say it's def worth it.
- Don't look for Mr. Eaten's name.
And a primer on the lore. No spoilers and no hidden truths, just the basic "facts" that your starting character will know:
- 30 years ago, London was stolen by bats. Overnight the entire city was transported to a giant cavern called the Neath, filled with a vast underground ocean the size of Europe (the Unterzee, aka the Sunless Sea). There are other cities and civilizations down here; not all of them are human.
- One of them, maybe the most important, is Hell, which is right next door. England tried invading Hell, because of course they did. It went badly. Now the devils have an embassy in London and walk openly on the streets, buying the souls of the homeless and desperate. They're very friendly, though.
- At the center of London sits the Bazaar, a giant spire full of shops. The Bazaar is magical; you can buy and sell anything there, including ideas, dreams, and memories.
- The Bazaar is owned and operated by the Masters of the Bazaar, who look like Ringwraiths. Each Master governs a different area of commerce: Mr. Fires handles coal and industry, while Mr. Pages handles books and knowledge, and Mr. Wines deals in intoxicants, and so forth. The Masters are the ones who took London or arranged for it to be taken, but nobody really knows how or why.
- The Masters run London, although Parliament still has some power. The Traitor Empress, aka Victoria, sits under house arrest in her Shuttered Palace, cut off from the world, but still lives a lavish and luxurious existence waited on by courtiers and social climbers. Under the Masters, London is haphazardly repressive, with weird, bizarre laws - almost any drug or vice is legal (prostitution, laudanum, the magical "prisoner's honey") but the Ministry of Public Decency goes around banning books and confiscates forbidden knowledge. There's a heavy fee to export stories of romantic love from the city, but importing them is okay. Owning a street sign or map of old London is a crime.
- London is called the Fifth City. There were four other cities kidnapped from the surface before it, over the last few thousand years. They were located where London is now; it sits atop their ruins. What were they? It's a mystery. The Fourth City is the one you can find the most evidence of, and it seems to have been from someplace obsessed with horses.
- Death is not permanent in the Neath, usually (unless - for some reason - you die at sea). Wounds heal, the dead wake back up. Eventually years of this takes its toll, though, and still-living people find it harder and harder to keep walking around with all these years of stab wounds and broken bones and etc, and they start bandaging themselves up like mummies and leave for the Tomb Colonies, distant cities where ancient bored mummies shuffle around and gossip and wait for their final death.
- The Neath is not cut off from the rest of the world. The Cumean Canal allows travel back and forth from the surface (specifically, from Italy near Naples). People from the Surface come down to Fallen London to find their fortune, but sometimes find it hard to leave; if you die in the Neath, you can never go back up to the surface, because whatever magic is down there will no longer protect you. Some people born in the Neath have adapted and can't handle the sun.
- London is plagued by social unrest. Workers are angry because Clay Men - sentient golems from the mysterious city of Polythreme across the sea - have come to London to work tirelessly for cheap. Anarchists and revolutionaries protest the rule of the Bazaar. Some of the anarchists want social justice and better working conditions; others are plants sent down from the nations of the Surface. Some of them work for Hell.
- A serial killer called Jack-of-Smiles (aka Jack the Ripper) has been murdering Londoners for years, but they keep getting back up again. He's mostly considered a tacky inconvenience.
- Everyone wants to know all about the secrets of something called The Correspondence, but almost nobody can even explain what it is or what it does, much less how to get it.
- All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.