Children of the Neath: Possible Marriage Content

With the gameplay mechanics and in-game effects of player marriage finally being tweaked and refined, marriage so far has had its content barrier end with the ceremony’s finale for player marriages and the actual act of union as well as possible related cards for nonplayer marriages. Would you agree that children could be the next possible step in terms of relationship-related story? There would be initial issues with this, considering the varying possibilities for a partner and one’s ability to have children in the differing relationships of the Neath. Many players do not have a set sex as far as the story is concerned and players with a non-human lover may not even be able to reproduce considering we aren’t sure if Snuffers and Rubbery Men can bare hybrids with humans (what would come of that? living human candles and lovecraftian humanoids?). Failbetter could simply avoid this issue by going along the lines of what Skyrim did by having adoption as the only option for offspring as to avoid the issue of cross-species relationships with the inability for hybrids and to not exclude relationships other than male-female relationships from having an entirely separate option to have kiddies. Having solely one option as adoption would certainly make things easier for the team to develop the content and to include all players equally. On the other hand, considering that the current system doesn’t exactly determine players as a set sex, a system similar to Sunless Sea’s scion mechanic could be put into place where the method of receiving the child is to the choice of the player, not to mention that such restrictions are a real-life factor for many LGBT couples and would only be considered mechanic-wise should the player choose so. Players with inhuman lovers could even be rewarded with new lore by learning if such hybrids could exist via either having a not-so-human offspring or being required to adopt. Adoption could even be a viable option for those who wish to become a parent but wish to avoid the bonds of marriage or have simply not yet had the chance to enter them.

As to go about how such a thing would be done is another question entirely. Should such a thing be a process like how playerXplayer marriages are or would an instantaneous choice with an immediate result be more appropriate? I feel as though requiring a lengthy process would be the more enjoyable option for extra lore and the feeling of accomplishing a new experience in the game, as well as having including in the potential humor of gaining nightmares from dealing with food cravings or from the legal hell that is the adoption process. Don’t even pretend that Failbetter couldn’t strike a comedy goldmine with that material, they most certain could and definitely would given the chance. How to track such a progress or to properly judge what the costs for it should be are uncertain to me, but I’m sure people far intelligent and experienced than myself could certainly fill in these blanks. Also, just a suggestion, but perhaps an option could be available for those who which to remain without an heir. Perhaps they could choose an option to receive an item or quality such as &quotAbsence of an Heir 1&quot or something similar to that effect. That way, players that would not or couldn’t have one with their preferred means would still have something to gain from the new content.

Where this would lead to is uncertain. This could possibly be the end for such content, or perhaps a card would be opened to spend time with the family and bond as such, providing a new source of content and story for roleplayers and items, connection gains, and quality increases/decreases for those with more practical goals and ends in mind.

I’d like to hear what you all think of this and what you believe would be best to implement in such new content as well as how the subject should be approached and what would be best appropriate.

[quote=Robin Mask]I agree it could be a great mechanic, not too keen on how you’d personally implement it . . . in regards to how children come about and whether they’re adopted/biological.

I say this as I think it’s a bit too complex and time-consuming for the FBG team (bearing in mind they also have other projects, games, and monthly content), but also because . . . well . . . it’s a bit prblematic.
Example, if X character is a man and married to Y male character, from what I’m getting above, they should adopt, right? But that could very transphobic. What if X used to be female or still has female parts? What if they want to use (or role-play as using) a surrogate? What about modern technologies that - if they were not currently illegal - allow for two men to have a biological child? Where the heck do we draw the line? It’s impossible not to offend someone. I’m a bit offended, and I don’t intend for my character to have kids (as characters they might consider it with aren’t yet available).

It’s a bit the same with inter-species relationships; unless FBG makes it clear in game, you’ll always have people with headcanons about what is/isn’t going to work, but - I’ll add - we have some insane hybrids in game. I mean, I half remember a certain mountain being the love-child of a star and a crab? I think the rules above don’t apply to the rules below. Anyway, you say &quoteveryone is now adopted&quot and people will also be alienated . . . some people don’t want to adopt, are against adoption, won’t feel adoption suits them . . .

I probably feel it should be more:

&quotCongratulations, you’re a parent! Just don’t ask how, okay? No, seriously. Don’t ask. It’s a bit rude to ask, isn’t it? Just watch out for the tentacles when it comes to changing . . . don’t say we didn’t warn you!&quot

Like, you’d never ask someone in real-life whether their kid was biological or not, right? Like, it’s biologically possible for a women to be pregnant with two children from two different fathers. It’s biologically possible for a black couple to have a white child. A lot can be biologically possible . . . us trying to say what is or is not will only lead to a lot of trouble.

So . . . yeah . . . if it is put into place, I think it should be simplified, universal, and - most importantly of all - no questions asked.[/quote]
Fair point. I don’t necessarily agree that just because someone is offended should mean that something shouldn’t be implemented, but I do see where you’re coming from. Making it anything more complicated than &quothere’s a kid, enjoy!&quot is bound to alienate someone regardless of how it’s done, and even that alone could make someone feel weird because they think that they’re missing out on content but either don’t want a kid from a roleplaying stance or see there character as not able to have a child, biologically or otherwise. Apologies if this offended you, that wasn’t the intent. I was merely trying to say that people could make specific how they obtained their child (adoption, biologically, surrogate, so on). I feel that a line would need to be placed somewhere, since there are a variety of options that would be a strain on the Failbetter staff. Personally speaking, I don’t quite see how it would be transphobic; the maleXmale couple you described could, theoretically, have a child biologically if one was trans. However, for many, this would be too uncomfortable for them for obvious reasons, which is why adoption would always be an option. These limitations are a real-life restrictions for such couples, unfortunately, but acknowledging these limitations and giving them the option of having a kid biologically, adopting, having the game say &quothere, have a kid. don’t ask. seriously. don’t.&quot, or another option on the list of options seems like a realistic and nonobjective stance on it. Keep in mind that this isn’t even a rough draft of an actual implication of such content and just an improvised list of possible suggestions, so this is far from complete or functionable. I do think that you have a point with leaving the process of obtaining a child as an option to be ambiguous, which could in work in junction with the Sunless Sea system of children: offer them the chance to determine where their kid came from (from yourself or your lover), adopted, or leave it unknown. It would probably be the easiest option on the team, but I suppose it’s their decision in the end how they wish to implement it if they would want to at all. Again, sorry if this is uncomfortable for you. I myself consider my gender ambiguous at best and had no intention of making someone in a similar position feel off-put. I simply wanted to offer a few possible ideas on how players could have a kid, but just because players would have the option to make the manner of the child’s existence known or not doesn’t quite seem malicious. Regardless, I hope I didn’t offend you. Like I said, that was far from what I had intended.
edited by Sir Joseph Marlen on 4/10/2016

Just adding that, if they did this, there’s no reason it would have to be exclusive to married characters if you catch my drift… ;)

The easier way will be to have a very very generic companion as an acknowledgment of having a heir ala SS Scion, independent of being married or not. You can make it sweeter for married players by letting them do a social action to get a heir for both side at a discount or some such. Make it PoSI only.

Offer some differently flavored channel from &quotFormally adopt someone from your orphanage&quot to &quotboink a tiger&quot that is of no further consequences if you want to appease the personalization crowd.

I don’t see them going beyond vases, though, given the blurry nature of time in FL compared to SS. These kids are probably not gonna grow up meaningfully.

[quote=Robin Mask]Ah, my apologies!

‘Offended’ might have been too harsh a word to use; I wasn’t offended by you personally, but more what felt like the implied idea that biological unions should be limited, which - as someone that doesn’t play Sunless Sea - I wasn’t aware an ‘other’ option existed. Your just mentioned idea of having something like ‘biological’, ‘adopted’, ‘unknown’ is an interesting one. It could be a way of including everyone that way, without over-complicating matters by needing to explain ‘how’.

It’s not that I think something shouldn’t be implemented due to potential offence, as - like you say - someone is always bound to be offended by something, but I do think we’re living in an ever-changing society and we need to be sure to include as many people as possible . . . in the previous example, it felt some people were being excluded, but - as you explained - this doesn’t need to be the case at all, in which case I think the majority of people would be quite on board.

In terms of ‘missing out on content’ . . .

It could be implemented as a ‘better’ version of the Long-Lost Daughter . . . every now and again, there could be stories that require you to choose who you bring along, but - unlike this month’s story - have personalised snippets or the odd unique action/choice (even if it ultimately leads to the same place). I half have an idea of ‘adopting’ other player characters, which could open up options like you have for your special someone, but - oddly - not for your spouse. You could also make the child able to be equipped, as a companion, or give them their own slot (although the latter would be a point of contention, as then childless players would lose out on a stat, but the former could work).

In regards to real-life limitations . . . this isn’t real-life XD I think there are some fantastical elements in play; it reminds me of the popularity of mpreg in fanfiction, or the modern technologies that make traditional conception almost an alien concept by potential future standards, and I think both are something to consider. The whole game sort of builds itself around ‘other’, so I do think a same-sex couple must be allowed the same options as a opposite-sex/other couple (even if it seems improbably to have ‘biological’ child as an option).

My concern, though, is also what happens should players divorce . . .

Are we going to have to add ‘custody battle’ onto our NPC or PC divorces? Do both parents keep the kid in the companion slot, and we just let role-play determine what happened to the kid and the couple? What if a player remarries, do we have specific text to include the child, so it doesn’t feel like they’re just being ignored? I’m wondering if there’s more involved than it seems, actually.

Sorry, again! You didn’t make me feel put-off at all, it’s simply that I had no idea how the Sunless Sea option worked/works, which meant I took the post at face-value and didn’t realise that other options existed in-game to accommodate for other types of players.

I honestly do love the idea, but I do think this kind of discussion is important, as how it’s implemented will be most important :)

Edit: Also, what if someone no longer wants a child? Do we have options like &quotJoey ran off to the surface, but at least he will no longer look so pale&quot or &quotBetty broke curfew again, but luckily that tale of the Vake you told her came true, but - sadly - she won’t be breaking curfew again in future&quot . . . like, will you be stuck with children for life? XD
edited by RobinMask on 4/10/2016[/quote]
Oh, that’s quite alright! Apologies if I came on too strong in my defense, and I’m glad you weren’t personally offended by the idea :). I do like the idea you suggested about having the lines blurred to make things as ambiguous as possible, at least then players get the chance to not define their character outright by a particular sex while still having creative breathing room for how their child came to be. You bring up some good points, really. I do agree that it would be, um, &quotmuddy&quot in planning out how to deal with a child after a marriage or if someone didn’t want theirs anymore. Back to the drawing board, I suppose. Also, perhaps the lawlessness of the Neath, the Red Science that the Rubberies use to change, and other possible avenues could be a valid option for couples to have children where they normally wouldn’t be able to (in place of situations of MaleXMale, FemaleXFemale, characters who are thought to be sterile or have a complication of some sort, and so on).

I’m all up for players getting children regardless of marriage status! This is the Neath where men with the faces of squid walk and death is but an annoyance. Surely society can get off its high horse and accept the mundane fact that some of us wish to be a parent before we’ve obtained the bond of marriage, if such a thing was even a want of ours in the first place or not at all.

I believe &quotboink a tiger&quot is the best thing I’ve heard all week, thank you for that. They would probably serve best as a companion rather than an entirely new slot so that those who don’t wish for a child don’t lose out on potential stat boosts. What would probably serve to differ them from any other companion is the possibility for new opportunities opened in storylets and possibly a card to play out the family life. Sunless Sea’s method so far seems to be the best thing we have as a template, although there’s still a lot to edit to bring it over to Fallen London. Marriage would probably best serve as a bit of extra flavor text or something along those lines. Still, there’s a lot more room for correction and improvement in this, since a lot is still uncertain in terms of practicality.
edited by Sir Joseph Marlen on 4/10/2016

I have an idea to make everyone happy.

First, make it a subtopic of the Matters of Heart. Not necessarily restricted to POSI or married couples, but requiring a high enough Persuasive (you will need it to deal with the miniature monster you want to raise). Once clicked, this option will take you to actions to raise a “Having a child…” quality. These actions could be things like “Having sex (well, duh)”, “Visiting orphanages”, “Courting urchins (for those with enough Connected: Urchins)”, “Filling paperwork oh God why”, etc. etc. Those things either require items to be successful, or they have low chances of success, to make it challenging. There could be options locked only to POSI, to couples and, of course, fate-locked.

The “Having a child…” quality would unlock options like Adoption (for lower levels of the quality), Having a Baby The Traditional Way (for higher levels) or Having a Baby Anyway I Don’t Care if My Partner Isn’t Human (for non-human partners, requiring astronomically high levels of Having a Child…).

Depending on the option picked, you can select a child/baby of either gender (or non-gender), which will be a companion (not a constant companion, so you can decide in your head-canon if the child live with you or only visits). This companion can be “upgraded” in opportunity cards, like the Raven Advisor. This way, the child won’t become a static character. You can “educate” your offspring however you see fit. When the child becomes an adult, it’s still a companion (and maybe an acquitance), and, again, you decide if he/she lives with you or only aids you from time to time.

What Maisie Knew could end up being total understatement compared to some of the characters in Fallen London. Much of the charm of Fallen London’s writing comes from it’s irreverence and outright hypocrisy. Many, if not most, storylets derive their humor from the callousness and selfishness of the character. Headcanon may contradict this, and there’s plenty of room for &quotbroad-stokes-headcanon,&quot but the words-as-written possess a strong, coherent voice. The voice may be weak and capricious, but that’s neither here nor there.

Lust is omnipresent in Fallen London. Passion is everywhere. Love is rare. Rare and precious, beyond secrets and dreams. The story of the Regretful Soldier is so powerful because real love is so rare in the game.

Having a child, or at least one you deeply love, is thematically incoherent with the way the game is written. And having one you care nothing for is probably beyond the pale, even for a game company as uncompromising as FBG.

Mechanically, you run into the same problem. Do you/How do you tie the child into the rest of the game? Is it at home? On the streets? A toddler? A teen? Do you get a standard frequency card for having one? The same problems.

Leaving such things as headcanon may be the best solution.
edited by MrBurnside on 4/11/2016

I have my doubts about the theme thing, because:

  1. You can court and marry people, and as far as I see it, it’s pretty open to your interpretation which feelings your character has about this. As far as I’ve seen, there are no sarcastic snippets implying that you didn’t marry out of love. It’s open to your head-canon, and this is the beauty of this game, too: so many things are only implied and not imposed that we get spoiled.
  2. I “failed” (i.e., got the end which was worse for my character’s pride) in all seduction missions I went in exactly because my character didn’t have the heart to dump lovers as they are disposable, and the narration did imply heartbroke on my part. So, as selfish as my character may be, she HAS feelings and is capable to care for others.
  3. “In the deepest matters of the Bazaar, always look to love. Always.”: In light of these words, having someone that your character loves is, actually, a very serious thing in Fallen London. Love is rare and precious, and EXACTLY for that reason, a player should be able to pursue it. I mean, you can pursue big jewels, immortality, man-eating bats, goats, but not love? When love makes the Bazaar go round?

Mechanically speaking, I see no problems. As I suggested up there, they can use the already existent mechanics of the Raven Advisor, an upgradable pet. The child is a companion, you decide where he/she/they are at any given moment, just like you decide when each of your companions is at any given time (for instance, the game never says if the companions from the Feast of the Exceptional Rose live with you or not, it’s up to your headcanon to decide that).

Actually, I would like to add that there is another possibility for a child, in that it opens a really high-risking story in which you can lose your child if you fail, exactly to put your love to test. Making you invested in raising a character only to risk losing everything due to Neath business is exactly the kind of drama that would make the Bazaar salivate.

I’d like to split this up, because you make a lot of good points and I want to give them the thought they deserve (and make it clear what I’m responding to).

[quote=Professor Strix]I have my doubts about the theme thing, because:

  1. You can court and marry people, and as far as I see it, it’s pretty open to your interpretation which feelings your character has about this. As far as I’ve seen, there are no sarcastic snippets implying that you didn’t marry out of love. It’s open to your head-canon, and this is the beauty of this game, too: so many things are only implied and not imposed that we get spoiled.
  2. I &quotfailed&quot (i.e., got the end which was worse for my character’s pride) in all seduction missions I went in exactly because my character didn’t have the heart to dump lovers as they are disposable, and the narration did imply heartbroke on my part. So, as selfish as my character may be, she HAS feelings and is capable to care for others.[/quote]
    The first part of point 1 is absolutely true and spot on. Let’s get that right out of the way. It’s the second part I’m iffy on.

This may be more my bias, then anything else, but: when I look at the themes and mood of any fiction, I focus on the themes with greatest commonality first, then explore the nuance provided by those of least commonality. When playing through (and exploring options through alts), point 1.5 seems to rely on deliberately misunderstanding the text and point 2 deliberately going against the themes of the game.

Any time you focus on deliberately ignoring what someone means, an argument is on shaky ground.

Now, I love me some alternate character interpretation. I mentioned Henry James in my above post and he was a king of that kind of ambiguity. If you asked him which possible interpretation of Felix Young he intended, he would have replied &quotYes.&quot But the ambiguity of intention and of character were major themes in both it and The American. I don’t want to imply that FBG have written a straightforward or simplistic text, but most of that ambiguity is focused (if you will forgive the phrasing) outward. The main character providing a simple set of motivations that allow the player to explore from. Acting as a centering point from which all secrets and mysteries can be explored in relation to. In this respect Morrowind and Fallen London have a lot in common.

This is a good point too. I suppose my conflict is that the sacrifices, obsession and self destruction that come from the Ambitions (or Eaten) are difficult to square with the love of a child. Not that people don’t make sacrifices for their children, but It’s pretty looked down upon to sacrifice the good of your children to cannibalistic, immortal bat synthesis.

Exposing another weak point in my post is point 3. I chose the word mechanically poorly. I didn’t mean from a programming or balance perspective (which you rightfully point out would be easily resolved with the Raven Advisor template), but more from an inclusion in the game perspective. Is a child no more then a companion? Having a child (I am told, not having first-hand experience) is a bit of a chore. If the chores are offloaded to headcanon, what was the point of inclusion?

I mentioned What Maisie Knew upthread. This was deliberate. It’s (among other things) a rather pointed commentary on the historical practice at the time of having a child and then handing it off to nannies and governesses for the next 15 years. This isn’t something that could be added to the game without addressing in the game. It’s too true to life and too true to the times. Even in the recent EF story The Recently Deceased, the parents seemed more-or-less involved.

Now this I love. Really. It could be like the end of the Velocipede squad, in the sense of it being behind a paywall and only very optional. If they do decide to provide for children (beyond Long Lost Daughter) I hope they add this.

Edited because I couldn’t get the spoilers to work.
edited by MrBurnside on 4/11/2016

[quote=MrBurnside]What Maisie Knew could end up being total understatement compared to some of the characters in Fallen London. Much of the charm of Fallen London’s writing comes from it’s irreverence and outright hypocrisy. Many, if not most, storylets derive their humor from the callousness and selfishness of the character. Headcanon may contradict this, and there’s plenty of room for &quotbroad-stokes-headcanon,&quot but the words-as-written possess a strong, coherent voice. The voice may be weak and capricious, but that’s neither here nor there.

Lust is omnipresent in Fallen London. Passion is everywhere. Love is rare. Rare and precious, beyond secrets and dreams. The story of the Regretful Soldier is so powerful because real love is so rare in the game.

Having a child, or at least one you deeply love, is thematically incoherent with the way the game is written. And having one you care nothing for is probably beyond the pale, even for a game company as uncompromising as FBG.

Mechanically, you run into the same problem. Do you/How do you tie the child into the rest of the game? Is it at home? On the streets? A toddler? A teen? Do you get a standard frequency card for having one? The same problems.

Leaving such things as headcanon may be the best solution.
edited by MrBurnside on 4/11/2016[/quote]
While lust is a common thing in Fallen London, and perhaps it is more common than its foil (although I hesitate to make such a definite statement), love itself is widely distributed throughout the game. Friendships, lovers, spouses, parents and children, siblings, nemesises and companions, so on and so on. They’re all displayed throughout the game as examples of love. The reason that the Regretful Soldier’s story hits so close to our hearts is because it is such a pure example of love, not just one of the few cases, but rather a long enduring one that we have been shown privy to by a friend that we’ve grown accustomed to throughout our exploits.

My main issue with this, though, is the argument on love and cruelty being limited to the player. Marriage, like many other actions and relations in the game, is left to the player’s personal opinion and interpretation as to how they should be viewed and treated. I’ve seen countless players discuss their purposes for marriage, ranging from the bondage of two good friends to a matter of convenience for stats to even real-life lovers consummating their loves in our fictitious little world. Not once (that I can recall) does the game force the player into a specific reason for marriage to the point of encouraging the ambiguity of their motives. And that’s the beauty of FL: its mixture of headcanon and word-of-god canon. Yes, the game does have its own stories with defined characters and an overall plot and story for each of them, but the writers purposely leave cracks and gaps of text for the reader to fill in their own spaces so that they may immerse their character further by making their own motives and story along with the official game. Fallen London is written in such a manner that neither the concrete writing from the creators nor the interpretations and headcanons of the players (within reason of course) are strictly invalid or cancel the other out but rather coexist to both stand on their own and improve the other for the player’s overall experience with the game.

Now, for the cruelty-themed part of this. Personally, I disagree that Failbetter staff wouldn’t let you interpret your child as unloved or even flat out give you the opportunity to prove it. The entire game is littered with acts of maliciousness and indifference, both on the player’s part and from the NPCs of the world. Fallen London and Sunless Sea are by no means short of its examples of borderline pure evil when it comes to choices at hand. I’ll list a few in a spoiler box due to spoilers and that I don’t feel quite comfortable relaying on an uncensored thread: These range from ripping a blind man’s eye out after stabbing him in the back (metaphorically), cannibalism, inciting wars between impovershed street orphan gangs that lead to children dying in horrific if not creative detail (although I believe most of which were meant to be interpreted as Neath-death, but still, that’s pretty morbid), selling people to have their minds slowly eaten away until they are empty shells, the genocide of a sentient species escaping their servitude simply because of their indecency, literally bashing a man’s skull in after narrowly escaping death at sea just so that you can loot the wreckage, stealing human souls for profit, having a man’s wife and child forced to watch him be torn limb from limb by devils as he sobs for mercy, supporting a figure who in one instance destroyed a woman’s mental stability so that she would willingly accept being impregnated by a non-human being for the sake of experimentation and the furthering of potential love stories (lord, Light Fingers really got dark around then), burning people alive, and so on.From what I can gather, letting players decide if they really love their child or not isn’t much of a stretch from what else they’ve done. Cruelty and ruthlessness are no stranger to the game when considering just how much of a prick the game lets you be within its mechanics and story, not to mention the headcanon take on this and how you can interpret the actions and roleplay of your character from there.

I do, however, agree that some level of clarity may need to be implemented to differ the child from just another companion. Perhaps an opportunity card, an option or two for a specific storylet here or there, and so on. Not impossible to manage, but needed of resolving nonetheless. I do like how Professor Strix suggests present mechanics in the game to adapt the concept of a child to the game. Bravo, delicious friend, well done. The idea of a child companion coming from this process/grind wouldn’t be unheard of to begin with, considering that the Daughter in the Shadows is a present example of a child obtained from the game. From what I understood of it, her entire relationship with the player is left to personal choice whether or not she is treated as an adopted daughter, a spy under your hire, something else entirely, or a mixture of the previously stated. I don’t think it couldn’t be done, it just might take a bit of tinkering with before being put in.
edited by Sir Joseph Marlen on 4/11/2016