SMEN: an ending (no spoilers)

I just finished SMEN with one of my characters and felt the need to write this out somewhere. I had originally created Jack Ellis in order to play the Bag a Legend ambition, but after I reached the content wall at the time, I decided that Jack would be my Seeker so I could experience that story.

I put Seeking on hold when the ambitions were all completed in 2020 so that Jack could finish the BaL storyline, but as soon as it was completed, I went back to Seeking.

I knew going in that it was a punishing and grindy way to permanently brick your account, but I guess I had never realized just how weirdly disconnected and separate the Seeking road makes a character.

Jack went through all the steps, collecting all the candles. I felt like the process was very slow, and truth be told, it probably took a year of not-very-focused playing, start to finish (not counting the hiatus while finishing BaL). But after a certain point, probably after getting the first candle or two, I realized that Jack was becoming more and more disconnected and separate from Fallen London. I really just focused on Seeking, didn’t flip cards, didn’t play any other stories, didn’t play Mr Chimes’ Grand Clearing Out, didn’t participate in Whitsun or Mutton Island.

All that time at Winking Isle really does serve to separate yourself even more from the rest of Fallen London. And Winking Isle felt really right for this storyline. All those luck-based actions in a place where you can’t do anything else at all. It’s maddening, frustrating, empty, just like Seeking.

When Jack came back from Winking Isle, all his limited notability was gone, so I had to spend a couple of weeks grinding it back up (just to throw it away again, of course). And during that time, it felt like even with the social interactions to get Making Waves (sending invitations to Beatrice’s, Dante’s, etc), Jack was a dead man walking. I really have to hand it to the writer (A.K.) for somehow making this process, which is played exactly like all the other parts of this game, feel very different.

You’re in the Neath, but you’re not part of it anymore. At a certain point, I knew that I wasn’t going to Turn Back at the end because there was no place in London for Jack anymore. Jack was so changed as a result of this weird, self-destructive quest that it wouldn’t feel right to go back. I mean if you have gone through the process of scarring, chaining, and staining your very soul, followed by all the other changes that are a result of this quest (some are quite creepy too), I can’t imagine that you’d even want to be around normal people, whatever passes for normal in FL.

I said that the process of Seeking felt like it took forever, but somehow the last two candles went very fast, and suddenly, without really expecting it, I was there at the end. It happened quite abruptly. The choices were before me, and I went forward without stopping.

I hadn’t tried to spoil the ending for myself, so I chose the Salt ending, which I am both happy and unhappy about. I don’t fully understand it, but I found the text of the ending to be satisfyingly dissatisfying.