Fallen London, formerly titled Echo Bazaar, is a text-based Choose Your Own Adventure-style online role-playing game oriented around Lovecraftian themes and a Victorian Noir and steampunk aesthetic. Fallen London is produced by the Failbetter Games company, which also produces the games The Silver Tree and Sunless Sea, which are set in the same story universe as Fallen London. Fallen London is hosted on the StoryNexus website, which also allows users to generate their own Choose Your Own Adventure-style games using the same software as was used to develop Fallen London.
The premise of the Fallen London story universe is that throughout Earth's history, five major cities have been swallowed up into the bowels of the Earth, becoming part of the Bazaar. London was taken during the reign of Queen Victoria, and it has maintained its Victorian social norms and sensibilities in the time which has elapsed. Thanks to London's newfound proximity to Hell, the city is populated not only by humans, but also by demons, squid-like Rubbery Men, sapient rodents known as the Rattus faber, and the mysterious and alien Masters of the Bazaar. London also now sits at the borders of Death and Dreamland, so dying is not a permanent affliction, and dreams are real enough to be deadly. London is connected to all the other fallen cities by the Unterzee, a massive subterranean ocean filled with gargantuan monsters, such as crustaceans the size of a house.
Fallen London allows the user to play as a male, female, or nonbinary gender character, which makes the game especially popular among tumblr users, who generally favour transgender and gender-nonconforming representation in media. Rather than developing tabletop RPG stats like speed, dexterity, and strength, the Fallen London player develops useful personality traits and other qualities. The four major qualities are "Shadowy," referring to skill at criminal activity and stealth, "Persuasive," referring to social aptitude, "Dangerous," referring to physical prowess, and "Watchful," referring to intellect. Other lesser qualities are also available, such as Subtle, Forceful, Hedonistic, Magnanimous, Melancholy, Bizarre, and Dreaded. All of these qualities affect gameplay by making different story opportunities available to the player.
Players are able to interact within the game, assisting, betraying, or even marrying each other's characters. During the end of October, the "Feast of Hallowmas" allows players to make confessions to each other, and these confessions can later be used as currency or event triggers in the game. Gifts can be exchanged during the "Feast of the Exceptional Rose," and other holidays occur which have significant influence on an individual player's experience of the game. There are thousands of available "storylets" or "living stories," some of which are experimental art pieces by the developers rather than conventional components of the game. Players can, for example, pursue a storylet called "Seeking Mr. Eaten's Name," a task which can take months of dedicated play to complete, and which usually involves the player character dying, going insane, being exiled from London, and being held prisoner repeatedly before the final objective can be reached.
The Fallen London player base is very dedicated to avoiding spoilers for newer players, and they take extensive measures to make sure late-game content is not leaked onto public areas of the Internet. The fan base produces a great deal of fan art and fan-fiction which the developers themselves often review and incorporate into the canon of Fallen London.
The game is dynamic; the world-building is elaborate and skillful. The community is helpful and full of good-natured macabre humour. If you have the time, give it a look!
Iron Noder Challenge 2014, 5/30