Chandler receives a lot of praise on here, which is thoroughly earned in every category. His impeccable prose that could carry stories on its own. His incredible grasp of Fallen London’s tone, everything that makes the game so appealing. His penchant for working in often-obscure items and qualities, tying each story to the larger world. His creative story ideas, merging low-stakes whimsy with central themes and lore. Right now, though, I’d like to touch on what makes Chandler’s work stand out most for me: an innovative use of Fallen London’s mechanics that make his work both story and game.
So many exceptional stories are like reading a book. A choose-your-own-adventure book, granted, but a book nonetheless. Start with the introduction and read until the end, deciding whether to read page 118 or 119. Decide how the story ends and flip to the appropriate epilogue. The writing is often excellent, the fiction is still interactive, but tacked-on item rewards does not a game make. The story occurs across time; we just choose whichever next scene appeals.
Chandler’s stories occur across both space and time. A storylet is not always a discrete point in time, but a location with depth beyond what the current scene requires, something that can change or be revisited with new context. The final area of The Rat-Catcher, descending and ascending through the same rooms; Cricket’s University campus to explore and solve; Kingdom alternating of location until we transcend the need for it; Por una Cabenza’s villa, ever-present as our understanding of the race changes; Paisley’s many settings with changing room; now Caveat Emptor’s foundation, if you will, in lodgings. Certainly we don’t watch our characters travel to Veilgarden to spend two actions, and if we need to build up progress, the journey matters just as much as the destination. We explore space alongside our characters.
(Admittedly, a few other ESes do use space to similar degrees, creating elaborate settings where we must take certain actions in order to progress. Unfortunately those tend to neglect time instead, creating static environments home to a glorified button puzzle. It’s an escape room where the reward of freedom is the next scene.)
Goodness, if only i had the time to discuss my other observations in such detail! So, some other decisions that stood out to me in brief. Cricket and Por una Cabenza’s approaches to a central mystery, allowing it to be unraveled from multiple angles. Kingdom’s method of choice by whittling down possibilities, and its expansion of story into QLDs, returning in Caveat Emptor. Por una Cabena playing with Fallen London’s reliance on luck-based challenge. Paisley giving narrative weight to the act of outfit selection, something normally treated as an extension of a character’s stats. Caveat Emptor hijacking the Lodgings system for narrative. And when I find time to replay all these, I expect to find even more!
It’s been a pleasure, Chandler, and I can’t wait for the next experience.