A Tale Most Queer – Echo Bazaar and the Narrativist Role Playing Game

At the tabletop and at the television, the rise of narrativist gaming has brought me much joy. I remember sitting in my parent’s basement playing Final Fantasy II on my SNES, the bowdlerized translation of an epic saga about redemption and cruelty and moon people. Other games had stories or cut scenes but this game had tears and guts for that younger me.

Flash forward two decades past Dragon Age replacing Baldur’s Gate and Sorcerer replacing Shadowrun. I’m playing Echo Bazaar. Obsessively. Let’s take a closer look at my hidden self prowling Fallen London as shown through my Echo Bazaar profile. I feel this may tell you all you need to know about this internet wonder. Here’s my story:

My name is thousandheads, an observant and ferocious gentleman. A profile cameo reveals a man with a magnifying glass living in someone’s spare bedroom. If only it’d stayed that innocent.

I don’t wear gloves. I wear brass knuckles from Gortchett & Sons with the trademark slogan “for the disposal of life’s little problems.

I have a skyglass knife, a relic found in the ruins, supposedly from the Third City, whatever that is. It’s useless as cutlery but handy for murder.

It matches my bloodstained suit, stained from too many nights spent at the Medusa’s Head on Watchmaker’s Hill. Sometimes, when the need is for more thought and less cruelty, I wear a maid’s dress and say “Yes’m.” The knife still matches well and no one seems to judge.

My closest friend is a weasel. A lucky weasel. He doesn’t bring me luck, things just work out for the little fellow. I’ve nicknamed the Pluckiest Lucky Weasel of Them All. My love for the little guy is in no way diminished for his failure to find success in the old time sport of weasel fighting.

I have a mantelpiece. I display my treasures. It used to prominantly hold a counterfeit head of John the Baptist but that was confiscated by the police (yesterday). Now it displays three appalling secrets. When I look at them, I ask myself if I’m quite sure I want to know these things.

I have a scrapbook. Lately it displays memntoes of my intimate relationship with a number of Devils, denizens of the Brass Embassy with whom I am on dangerously familiar terms. Devils and devilesses send me tokens of affection. They write me love letters. They send me flowers. I write brazen notes back and flirt with them- for laughs, for gain, for companionship, I’m unsure.

It used to display the fruits of my search for my nemesis, who slew my beloved spouse and disappeared into the underground. When I arrived I pursued him singlemindedly but my investigation slowed to a halt days ago. My informants tell me the best way to pick up his trail is to keep busting heads. When I began my search my symbol was a magnifying glass, searching for knowledge, but I have degraded to a skyglass knife, searching for revenge.

My journal is far too accessible. On February third, you find me convincing men made of clay to pursue higher education while simultaneously taking advantage of what they learned. It started out as an idealistic fight to defend a demeaned minority. Sometimes it still is.

The day before, I took my Counterfeit Head of John the Baptist and pursued a series of practical jokes which amused no one. This was when the Constable took my head, breaking my heart even though I have a thousand heads, leaving me with only nostalgic bloodstains.

Later that day, I dug up a fake grave hiding a smuggler’s treasure trove in a graveyard. It was ridiculously easy to find. The supposedly deceased was named Eliza Trove. Here lies a trove. Idiocy. But it paid for my dinner.

I spent the rest of the afternoon quietly, watching the world through my window. It’s peaceful in the Fallen London.

The day before, back when I was in possession of my head and had not yet championed the education of clay men, I had attended a wonderful dance with a devil at the Brass Embassy. This wasn’t the start of my downfall, but the highlight of it, the greatest reward.

I spared no expense, gave her a rose that glowed even in the red light of the Embassy ballroom and dressed myself in scarlet and gold. The Deviless danced only with me and as the room grew insufferably hot, she lead me to the cool quiet gardens of the Brass embassy, lit by cages of luminscent beetls and dancing fireflies. We danced alone together in the garden, her head resting on my shoulder. I found her earrings in my pocket today, still warm from her skin.

I take her to a symphony. We do not talk. We listen to the music and communicate silently, our preferences clear. I’m losing my way, my quest for vengeance and truth down here, but between the music (Schubert’s rarely-performed Tenth) and the refreshing glow of her presence, the evening is most relaxing. She leaves me with her dazzling smiel and the single word ‘delicious’.

The night before, I sit alone, asking myself many questions- good questions, but not wise ones. “If you find the answer to these,” something tells me, “you’ll wish you didn’t know.”

Three decades ago, London was stolen by bats. Dragged deep into the earth by the Echo Bazaar. The sun is gone. All we have is the gas-light of Mr. Fires. But Londoners can get used to anything. And it’s quiet down here with the devils and the darkness and the mushroom wine. Peaceful. But then I arrived.

I’ve never met a game with this much narrative freedom and variance. My alternate character spends their days writing poetry and seducing artist models while monks try to manipulate their dreams. Their ambition is to find a card game where one can win their heart’s desire, but the pleasures of the Veilgarden are too distracting. One day, I suspect the scandal will catch up with them.

I’d like to invite you to join me in the underground. Sure you could always click the link from my profile. But if you message me on twitter I’ll be happy send you a business proposition involving smuggling in sunshine or body parts and you can pursue your own tale of descent with Echo Bazaar. Find me here:

http://echobazaar.failbettergames.com/Profile/thousandheads

Having shared this taste of my Echo Bazaar experience, expect a bit of discussion what I find as valuable takeaways from this delicious and dark little game.

Note: In the interest of accurately conveying the flavor, some text excerpts from the game have been incorporated into this post where they are parts of my character’s profile.

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