Soullessness: palpably stigmatized

Has it been established how Summerset personnel (or that guy at the palace) are able to determine, on sight, who is without their soul (and thus deter their approach if necessary)? Text seems to indicate that, yes, the person beside you could be short a soul without you knowing, but also that people are routinely treated differently because they haven’t got theirs. Soulless students getting expelled? Could be a scenario where they take action if the situation comes to light. But to bar people from participating in end-of-term festivities and haul them off premises? Doesn’t sound like paperwork’s involved. Is there some secret explained in the Soul Trade storyline, or is there some clue I missed?

I had a thought that maybe someone’s gotten lists of names from the Brass Embassy, but that sounds highly implausible and not feasible at all. Should it be assumed that these bigots (for lack of a better word) are simply uncannily accurate when eyeballing persons for symptoms of soullessness? Or at least above fifty percent accurate, and we just never get to see someone’s righteous indignation at being subject to their disapproving scrutiny.

Not that I’m affected. None of my characters are currently lacking that bit of themselves.

I’ve gotten the impression that soulless people are a bit listless and detached, so while it might be difficult to immediately determine the status of a stranger’s soul, it might be equally difficult to hide such a thing over an entire term at the University. And once they know, they’d surely remember who’s got their soul and who doesn’t. That’s the most feasible explanation I can come up with.

Also a more horrible, disturbing possibility: chances are good they don’t know who has or has not, and just tend to group people following a set list of stereotypes as &quotprobably soulless.&quot

Other horrible, disturbing possibility: Devils straight-up tell them for a laugh. Given the player is paid attention to a lot, knowledge of this seems likely to spread.
edited by ZackOak on 6/27/2014

Two ideas: either they base it on rumours and gossip, or someone high up in the College has an infernal contact who passes on such information for reasons of their own. Or both!

Well, we know that for a fact!

And then what? Sends out a memo? Here are personae non gratae as listed, shun them at all social events? Oh, but nevermind about that individual. They’ve recovered and mended their ways, so we may graciously accept them at our parties now.

If Summerset were less finicky, I’d more readily assume they have a devil or two on staff to help ostracize the wrong sort of humans. Devils can tell quite casually right? A cursory glance? Maybe in-depth examination is required to discern further qualities like stains or such, although irrelevant as far as segregationists are concerned.

I don’t know. I think it’d be cool to encounter a storylet about bluffing past interrogation over not having a soul. Doesn’t have to be the player character…

A moment of silence for all the party-crashing npcs hauled out on their ear every Feast. May they learn how to time their entry better.

Somewhat relevant option from the wiki: So I think we can be certain that devils know souls without checking too much.

I’ve always interpreted it that soullnessness was a visible quality – perhaps a certain blankness in the eyes, perhaps a certain kind of disheveled appearance. Maybe not something you could identify at a single glance, but something that would be obvious on close inspection. There seem to be a number of cards and events where you as a player immediately recognize that someone is soulless.
edited by Dr. Hieronymous Alloy on 7/10/2014

I often observed my landlord at my former rooms, the ones above the book shop, quietly weeping. This is what made me suspect he is one of the soulless.

Yep, he also has an option unlocked with the Soul Trade =) (link)

Seems like soulless people behave erratically. I think dissociation is definitely a common trait, but how the lack of joy manifests seems to be different. Some may be restless, others depressed, still others aggressive. And I think I also read they have bad posture. So if they are unmoved by beauty or don’t seem to care about much of anything, maybe those are signs. But how does one know if those traits are soullessness or mental illness?

It’s Victorian England, where mental health disciplines are in their infancy, so there are likely many false diagnoses (both false positive and false negative) and horribly inept cures everywhere. I would not be shocked if somewhere there is a particularly subtle devil masquerading as a therapist, for that matter.

Yes! I wish to encounter storylets with false positives! That is, someone read negative for a soul. Possibly by a quack trying to sell braces, or a rival with a motive.

I’m going to assume that the opposite case, soulless incognito, has simply slipped by notice.

Hey, since bad posture is a mark of soullessness, what if parents encourage their offspring to bad posture as protection against spirifage? Since spirifers have been known to all sorts of unscrupulous activity in pursuit of the goods. I’d say they probably only kidnap orphans, except the orphans around here are resourceful and capable and frequently threaten adults. (I feel you, Marred Mercer. I accidentally challenged some brats in their territory and they knocked me into the gutter and made off with my stuff.)

It seems I’ve conflated orphans with urchins. Not gonna get into the Orphanage (whose staff induce certain dependencies in what were once healthy people and most of whom are full grown). How about that other institution slash inn - the Royal Beth? Uncanny how they know to grab people and when to let them go. Not that I would expect the proportion of soulless to be any different than in the general populace. With Menaces, which may have been discussed, the main area under question is going down the River? What was the consensus on that? Would be interesting if it were possible to observe someone coming back from the dead and know from that the whereabouts of their soul. Not that I am suggesting a method of proving such a thing in the Neath. No one would be so reckless as to so disregard death, right…
edited by Golden Caramel Freedom Fries on 7/17/2014

I think there’s a trinity in Fallen London - the body, the mind, and the soul. If this is the case killing someone probably wouldn’t be an effective way to determine where their soul is.

There is an action with a special lens where you can kill yourself and watch the process unfold. Likewise, there’s a opportunity card or tw where you can wait and watch until someone returns from death.

If people are still alive without their souls, I have to assume it’s tied to positive emotions somehow. Since soulless people can apparently still feel negative ones versus nothing at all, which is more of what I’d expect. That is, I’d have thought soullessness would be great if you’re always sad. At least then, you’d go numb.

My question is how spirifers get souls. You’d think there’d be a shortage eventually. Or do they take them from animals and plants? I remember reading that those who are nearly dead have less hold on their souls, but what happens if you make deals with devils? Presumably, you’re very much alive when you sign the contract.

The thing with the lens sounds really morbid, and yet fascinating, too. Hmmm. May have to try it one day.

There is an opportunity card that lets those who have willingly parted with their souls reflect on the loss (and even attempt to claim back these souls of theirs, although I would not imagine what it takes to be so carelessly self repugnant in such sensitive matters).

As the plurality of options on that card suggests, there is more than one way to come through the losing of one’s soul. Not every soulless will find in their heart so much as the slightest sign of regret, let alone grief or melancholy. Some are, indeed, quite content with their current state. And the mere technicality of being deprived of their soul (what is this ‘soul’, I ask you?) does not bar them from enjoying all manners of life’s little things.

I am, therefore, of the opinion that soullessness cannot be identified solely by the peculiarities of one’s behaviour. It’s all in the personality (which, contrarily to a common misconception, is not lost in parting with the soul).

If I were to find out a soulless, I would employ, perhaps, a more practical approach. The way most devils seem to be, surely they would keep at least some record of their dealings. And if that is not an option (which for Summerset it is, I doubt not), some hints could be picked up from one’s modus vivendi. Unusual intimacy with devils? Sudden affluence? Plethora of Nevercold brass? While not unchallengeable, these are clues as good as any.

On the whole business with the lens, it seems to pose more questions than it provides answers. You’d think surely a willful act of suicide in the name of knowledge would be more, ah, scientifically rewarding. Alas, it is not. For all practical purposes, it is but a shortcut to a game of chess with a worthy opponent, should you find yourself in a desperate lack of one.

That, and some delightfully beautiful flavour text.

edited by Jacob Stone on 7/17/2014
edited by Jacob Stone on 7/17/2014

Hmmm. So maybe the question would be: What kinds of personalities would do okay without their souls or even find it an improvement? Or is it all in how one has lost it? Because if someone is willing to gamble it away, doesn’t that show a certain lack of concern in the first place? Though I suppose one could willingly sign the paperwork and then come to regret the choice.

&quotAll those emotions are so much less troublesome now. Love, guilt, joy, misery, inconvenient things like that.&quot

I’d say a personality that doesn’t value emotions (positive or negative) would be the one that would do okay without a soul. And given the stigmatisation, I guess a personality that also isn’t too concerned with what people might think.

What if that’s actively being researched? Probably without success, but doubtlessly there’d be interest in knowing ahead what the probable results are. Tentatively interested souls could figure out their &quotpersonality&quot profile. Or have the calipers pulled out and their dimensions calculated. With or without the disclaimer that it’s strictly in good fun and not at all for prediction. Wouldn’t want people heading into Abstraction thinking they’ll end up however the calculation says.

The way studies are conducted in Fallen London are certainly…something. I remember wanting to try the lens analysis but not yet being ruthless enough. And, well, what does the pc really know anyway? Sometimes they’re oblivious and sometimes they’re perceptive; depends on the specific passage. A lot of options available early on continue to persist through the later stages of the game, and the text will, understandably, indicate no greater awareness than it had before. The results read like hints not yet fully grasped, even if the character has encountered whatever is alluded. Or maybe the character never realized it, and it’s all meta knowledge.

On the flip side, characters know things that we meta-don’t. There’s a lot of detail the text omits that should be readily apparent to the character, especially after they’ve made achievements in their field. Spy? Scholar? Even the most dedicated player doesn’t have a working knowledge of, say, commonplace tattoos, hand signals, or Correspondence sigils, regardless of whatever their character’s done. Bits of information here and there, maddeningly sparse and enticing. (Fun fact: in Sunless Sea, you can literally end up with a tattoo of a buttered chess piece - I didn’t think that’s what it’d be but it is - and there’s an area branded with sigils on the rocks, where all the sigils are some of the symbols seen on T-shirt merchandise, et cetera, except one of them is flipped, not rotated, though that’s probably not important.)

Anyway, if it is possible for humans to detect the souls of others, it can’t be commonplace knowledge. The snippets of information from the sidebar are supposed to reflect a general understanding, right? Like with the false stars, and such. And so, most people have no idea whether strangers are soulless. I speculate that it’s also possible, albeit difficult, to conceal from friends and family as well. Losing one’s soul doesn’t have the same effect on everyone, it’s said, and it’s quite often mentioned that soullesness as a professional advantage has benefited some. The fifth labyrinth, anyone? Soullessness can result in sadness or numbness, and any dissociation might entirely be subtle. Possible placebo effect? I don’t like the idea, but it’d be interesting. And it’d fit with characterizing a pc however the player wants.

A lot of pcs are soulless, sure; that doesn’t necessarily reflect society at large. It’s suggested that, despite regular or rampant harvesting, the percentage of Fallen Londoners having misplaced a soul is still currently quite low. Or at least low enough for them to not yet run into the problem of lack of souls. So spirifers probably take an indiscriminate approach. One assumes that health is not an issue. Although spirifers aim for the ones that are loosely tethered, probably for ease of extraction, they’ll also go for desperate people, or children. Meanwhile devils work on getting specific people to relent to them specifically. As opposed to the devil next door. (Is that how devils one-up each other? You’ll earn yourself a strongly worded letter if you tease and then sell elsewhere, unless it’s to a friend who was introduced/made the introductions.) They mesmerize their (willing) victims and…Abstract? Seems their tools operate a bit differently than whatever it is the spirifers are issued to use. Then again, spirifers do aim for the low-hanging fruit. And no upfront payment, most likely. What if some enterprising soul, er, soulless person tries to sell to each of them in turn? Gotta have a fast getaway to dodge them after, natch, but it could happen.

That goes back to record-keeping. The Brass Embassy keeps good records (the bureaucracy is daunting) and plenty of people have access (or go there seeking asylum) but there’s still a bit of gap between what’s there and what people think is there. All those names and tallies. Contracts get misplaced, bartered, or stolen. I assume files update not infrequently. So, who keeps track of changes, and how many go-betweens would Summerset need to always have the right blacklist on hand? It’s not the Provost’s job to keep the riffraff out - well, it is, but not at the level of bouncing feast attendees. Or are we supposing that the (substantial) list just drops into their lap whenever an edit is made?

Easiest case scenario, I figure getting the revisions is as tight as getting revisions made. We know it is possible to pose as a devil and fool spirifers into surrendering the souls they’ve collected with the promise that the addition will be marked on their accounts. Spirifers, as a lot, I’d perceive to be are not particularly shrewd. They’re always getting poisoned or bopped on the head, too. Still, they’re a force to be reckoned, operating outside the law. Wonder how many people are afraid of dying primarily because they fear being vulnerable and falling prey to spirifage. And even people who are nonchalant about coming back from the dead…so what’s the deal with turning into a Tomb-Colonist? Soulled and soulless alike can all end up that way eventually, right? Or permanently die of old age, butchery, et cetera cetera. There’s only one Menace area for wounds. If there weren’t, it’d be fodder for comparison, but right now there’s not much to support the argument that it’s the soul, not the body, which makes the trip. As for the mind…I don’t like the suggestion that the mind can be severed so cleanly from the body. (What is consciousness?) And the alternative that some sort of transporting happens - actually, teleportation pops up with alarming frequency as the answer, come to think of it - sits even less well.

Just occurred to me:
Soullessness - Grounds for divorce? Annulment? Even if no fraud/deception were involved?