Tag Archives: Interactive Fiction

Someone Who Is Good at the Economy Please Help Me, My Kingdom is Dying: The Budget Crisis in Lords of Infinity

Today I’d like to talk about one of the central elements of Lords of Infinity‘s plot: the Budget Crisis.

As the war with Antar ends and the Unified Kingdom of Tierra becomes reacquainted with a peace it hasn’t seen in more than a decade, the crown finds itself in an exceedingly precarious financial situation. Historically, the Rendower monarchs (with the exception of Edmund II) have been very thrifty rulers and their governments have followed suit, maintaining a carefully hoarded surplus to ensure that there is always cash on hand in the case of an emergency. This was the case in 601, when the League of Antar declared war. Unfortunately, three factors meant that this accumulated reserve quickly disappeared.

First of all, there was the fact that Tierra has trouble feeding itself, even at the best of times. This meant that traditionally, Tierra imported grain from Antar. Since this was no longer an option, grain had to be imported from Kian and Takaran merchants, who took advantage by raising their prices. To keep the population fed, the crown issued grain subsidies to keep the cost of bread affordable, which rapidly became a major expense.

Secondly, there was the simple fact that the war was ruinously expensive (as wars tend to be). Weapons, uniforms, supplies, and those needed to make, transport, and fight with them were all paid for at the expense of the crown. Every battle meant enormous sums of money had to be spent to replace lost equipment and fighting men. While individual soldiers of the King’s army could get rich off plundering Southern Antar, the King’s government got nothing.

Lastly, there was the matter of the debt that Tierra began to accumulate when its currency reserves ran out. To keep the war going, Tierra needed to borrow. A lot of this money came from Tierran banks, but a vast portion of it came from overseas. Only Kian and Takaran banks could lend the amount of money the crown needed, and neither the Kian nor the Takarans had any confidence that Tierra would survive a war with its larger, more populous neighbour. That meant the interest rates these overseas banking houses offered were far higher than normal, under the expectation that Unified Kingdom might not even exist to pay them before long. While this prediction was proven wrong, the debt, and the need to service it, remains.

With the war over, one of those expenses is gone: the King’s army has been reduced to its peacetime strength, with officers placed on half-pay and houseguard regiments being released from royal service. However, the crown still has to bear the cost of servicing the war debt and the grain subsidies (Antar isn’t going to be exporting much grain to Tierra any time soon), something which it can only really do with the help of war taxes which are only growing more and more unpopular by the day, especially now that the war they were purportedly paying for is over.

The upshot of this is that the Crown is in between a rock and a hard place. To service the debt and keep the people fed, the Exchequer needs to keep enough money coming in by maintaining war taxes. However, maintaining these taxes will invariably increase discontent, drive more Tierrans into poverty or personal bankruptcy, and possibly damage the Unified Kingdom’s economy in the long run. Alternatively, if the Crown scraps the war taxes, Tierra will be forced to declare state bankruptcy, not only destabilising the Tierran economy, but also giving the Kian and Takarans very good reasons to intervene diplomatically, economically, or militarily.

Next month, I’ll be talking about the political factions currently dominating the Cortes, and what (if anything) they plan to do to dig Tierra out of the hole it’s gotten itself into.

This month’s installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are now up. These worldbuilding articles are funded by my Patreon, so If you’d like to see more of this sort of content, then please feel free to contribute. Backers also get benefits like early access, and the ability to vote on the topics of future articles.

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Gone Clubbing: Politicking in Lords of Infinity

Spoilers follow for Sabres of Infinity and Guns of Infinity. If you haven’t played them yet, go do that.

Today, I’d like to talk about what happens in Lords of Infinity if you choose to set your Dragoon Officer up in Aetoria, the political and cultural capital city of the Unified Kingdom. More precisely, I’d like to talk about how to take advantage of that proximity to power and social prestige, and the primary method of turning that proximity to power into genuine power and influence in its own right.

As a Lord of the Cortes, the Dragoon Officer already possesses a measure of political power tied to their birth and noble title, along with whatever his accumulated wealth and military repucation can get him. However, he is still a very small fish in a very large pond. There are nearly six hundred seats in the Cortes, and no matter what happens, the Dragoon Officer can only personally sit in one of them. If the Dragoon Officer wishes to acquire real political power, then he must find ways to influence others to follow his lead, so that he can not only control his single vote, but others as well. To do that, the Dragoon Officer must have access to his fellow Lords of the Cortes, not just physically, but socially as well. To amass and exert influence over others, he needs to make himself seen not just as one more face in a very large crowd, but as an individual player, one known to others as a figure worth trusting and working with.

He does this by joining a club.

Private clubs are a longtime and prominent fixture of Aetorian society. Located in private and well-furnished premises, they allow like-minded individuals of means (usually banebloods) to interact in a casual milieu. In the Cortes, the Dragoon Officer is one voice among hundreds, but in the sound-proofed rooms of a private club, he is able to speak privately and candidly with other club members, in places where they are almost certain not to be overheard. The outcomes of Cortes votes are often determined by backroom dealings, and private clubs are the backrooms.

The clubs themselves are well aware of this, of course, and most are very selective about who they allow as members. The more prestigious a club’s membership is, the more exclusive it becomes, as the great and the good take pains to ensure that they cannot be inconvenienced by the presence of their “lessers”. If the player intends for their Dragoon Officer to wield real political power, then they’ll have to find a way to meet, or sidestep the often-stringent requirements for membership in one of these private clubs. If they succeed, the Dragoon Officer could be rewarded with a level of access and influence among the major players of Cortes politics vastly disproportionate to his relatively humble standing within the Tierran aristocracy.

Likewise, the player will have to be careful of which club to pursue: the Dragoon Officer can only join one, and each club has its own requirements and advantages to membership. For example, the extremely exclusive Rendower Club will only accept members with royal blood, which means an Aetorian Dragoon Officer (with a distant, but certifiable link to the House of Rendower) would be able to get in far more easily than a Wulframite or Cunarian Dragoon. However, getting in means getting to interact on familiar terms with closer relations of the royal family, including major players within the Cortes.

Players preferring to amass wealth instead of political influence might find it a better idea to try and get themselves into the somewhat less-prestigious Shipowners Club, one of the few private clubs in Aetoria which allows membership to the baneless. A rather less hidebound organisation than the Rendower, the Shipowners are primarily business-oriented, and count among their members the heads of shipping companies, banking houses, and some of the foremost captains of Tierra’s naiscent industrial economy.

Of course, these are not the only choices. There is also the prestigious Admiralty Club, the firebrand Reform Club, and the newly-formed Overseas Club, the latter founded to allow veterans of the War in Antar to keep in touch. What club the Dragoon Officer chooses to join will determine the political players, factions, and ideas he is exposed to. It will make certain paths easier, and others much more difficult. It is a choice which will determine just how much the player will be able to access and influence the political leaders of the realm. As Tierra grapples with the repercussions of their long war with Antar and the very soul of a kingdom is debated and voted upon on the Cortes floor, it may become a choice which will determine whether the kingdom emerges from its postwar crisis better off, worse…

Or at all.

New installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are up. As usual, these worldbuilding articles are funded by my backers on Patreon. If you’d like to see more of this sort of content, or get perks like early access and the ability to vote on future articles, then please chip in if you can.


Out Now: Choice of Broadsides: HMS Foraker

Choice of Broadsides: HMS Foraker is now out for iOS, Android, and PC. It’s a free, ad-supported title on mobile, and an ad-free version is available for $3.41 CAD on Steam.. HMS Foraker is a short naval adventure set in the world of Choice of Broadsides. Command an Albionian frigate in an alternate history version of the War of 1812, patrol the coast of the New World, train your crew in the art and science of war at sea, and face down a powerful enemy warship in a battle which might decide the fate of the war.

I hope you enjoy this little side project of mine. I’ve had a lot of fun writing it.


Landed Gentry Simulator OIE 614: Estate Management in Lords of Infinity

Spoilers follow for Sabres of Infinity and Lords of Infinity. If you haven’t played them yet, go do that.

Today, I’ll be going into a bit more detail about one half of the first arc of Lords of Infinity; specifically, the “estate” branch. At the end of Chapter 1, after your Dragoon Officer returns to his estate and becomes reacquainted with the life he left behind him, he has the choice of returning to Aetoria to make his name in politics, high finance, or influence-peddling, or to remain home and tend to the estate he’s inherited from his father. While there is a definite high level plot weaving its way through this part of the story, a lot of the Dragoon Officer’s time will be spent managing his barony.

In the Unified Kingdom of Tierra, an estate is more than just a country house surrounded by a few hundred hectares of empty land. For a member of the baneblooded aristocracy, the estate is the primary source of income. The noble families of Tierra sustain themselves by subletting out their land to tenants, who in turn use that land to earn an income (usually through farming) and use that income to pay their rents. This means that the Dragoon Officer’s main means of earning money is through the labour and prosperity of other people. If the tenants can’t make money, they can’t pay rent. If the Dragoon Officer doesn’t receive sufficient income from his rents, he can’t pay interest on his debts. If the Dragoon Officer goes bankrupt…

The Dragoon Officer does not want to go bankrupt.

What this all means is that the Dragoon Officer has a vested interest in keeping the money flowing, and to increase the flow of that money. Whether that is to be through improving the profitability of the land, attracting more tenants, or outright extortion is up to the player. These disparate approaches to estate management are reflected by the new stat system which will be introduced in Lords of Infinity.

With the war over and the Royal Dragoons reduced to peacetime strength, the Dragoon Officer will begin the game on half-pay, a sort of reserve status which leaves him without a command. The unit stats (Discipline/Morale/Loyalty/Strength) will be replaced by a fresh set of Estate Stats:

Tenants and Income are self-explanatory enough. One reflects the number of households currently paying rents, and the other denotes the amount of money the estate brings the Dragoon Officer every year.

Next is Respectability, which serves as a reputation stat for your estate. It reflects how your estate is seen from the outside, especially by your Dragoon Officer’s social peers and superiors, which means Respectability also influences the Dragoon Officer’s personal reputation.

Prosperity reflects the financial well-being of the estate’s tenants. Low Prosperity means that they may be on the edge of starvation, whereas high Prosperity tenants might even commit their own resources if you decide to improve the infrastructure of the estate, pitching in with a public subscription to raise money for renovating the water mill or building a new road.

Contentment reflects how happy and loyal the Dragoon Officer’s tenants are. Tenants on an estate with high Contentment will rally around their lord enthusiastically in times of crisis or hardship, while tenants on an estate with low Contentment are one bad day away from rebellion.

These attributes are all influenced by the player’s choices in random events, by outside influence, and by each other. For example, Respectability, Prosperity, and Contentment are all needed to attract new Tenants to the Dragoon Officer’s estate, which in turn leads to more Income. Naturally, any player planning to increase their Dragoon Officer’s income would have to manage all three of the former stats to increase the latter two.

The main way to actually do this is by commissioning upgrades to the estate. Upgrades come in two classes. Minor upgrades are relatively straightforward. They require an initial investment in cash and a few specific prerequisites, provide a one-time boost to the estate’s stats, and can be completed in a season (a management “turn”, if you will). Major upgrades are subplots in their own right, endeavours which will require vast investment in time, money, and effort, but may entirely change the character of the Dragoon Officer’s fief. A successfully completed major upgrade may turn a parcel of sleepy hamlets to a bustling market town, a local industrial centre, or a disreputable (but highly profitable) hub of illicit activity. However, major upgrades bring their own challenges. The local weavers might not like seeing a new mill take their jobs, your tenants certainly won’t be pleased if you decide to enclose the commons, and the Intendancy is likely to take an interest if you end up dealing with the wrong people.

All of this, of course, serves as only one plate out of the many you’ll be spinning as the Dragoon Officer. There’s also the issue of marrying and producing an heir, of keeping up with local and Cortes politics, and of of dealing with your neighbouring landed aristocrats. As Tierra deals with political instability, diplomatic uncertainty, and the looming prospect of economic ruin, the Dragoon Officer would be well advised to prepare for a coming storm in whatever way he can.

His life may well depend on it.

As usual, new installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are up. In addition, HMS Foraker now has its own page, in anticipation for its release later in the year.


HMS Foraker: An Update

I’ve been talking to the folks at Choice of Games over the past few weeks, and it looks like they’re in favour of releasing HMS Foraker as an ad-supported title on their main catalogue.

What does this mean? First of all, it means HMS Foraker will be getting a general release as a free-to-play title (with in-app purchases to remove ads). More importantly to me this also means that the little side-project that I’d more or less started on a whim will be an official part of the world, and “Choice of Broadsides canon”, which is something I’m pretty proud of. Choice of Broadsides was the first CoG IF I ever played way back in 2011, and it’s what got me thinking about the potential of interactive fiction in the first place, so to have my own writing considered good enough to add to its continuity is a bit of an honour.

I’m looking forward to seeing this one released. Even though it’s only a fraction of the size of some of my other titles, it’s still got a few new and interesting mechanics I’ve been wanting to test out, along with some of my most polished writing and design work yet.

In other news, new installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are up. As usual, my worldbuilding articles are funded by my Patreon supporters. If you want to see more of this sort of stuff, you can donate to my Patreon here.


Subplots and Schemes: Laying Out the First Half of Lords of Infinity

As some of you may know, I’ve been spending much of my time these past few weeks planning out the basic structure of Lords of Infinity. At this point, the basic shape of the first half of the story has more or less solidified. Today I’d like to share with you how this part of Lords of Infinity might play out.

Lords of Infinity starts with the Dragoon Officer, your main character, being inducted into his status as a peer of the Unified Kingdom. Before the King and the Cortes, he puts his hand on Pactmaker (the royal sword of state) repeats the oath of fealty to the King, and is officially acknowledged as the rightful holder of the title he inherited from his father at the end of Guns of Infinity. This carries with it two major implications:

The Dragoon Officer is now a Lord of the Cortes.

As a peer of the realm, the Dragoon Officer now serves as a member of the Cortes, the legislative body of the Unified Kingdom’s royal government. As such, he now holds a significant amount of influence over the way the Unified Kingdom deals with the political fallout of the Dozen Years’ War, and how it makes sense of its new position in the Infinite Sea.

The Dragoon Officer is now a Landed Aristocrat.

As a Baron of the Unified Kingdom, the Dragoon Officer now has his own fief to maintain, grounds to upkeep, and tenants to placate or antagonise. While the Barony provides an income, its infrastructure is decrepit, and the family manor itself is in a state of extreme disrepair. The plundered wealth that the Dragoon Officer might have brought back from Antar might be enough to restore the Barony to level of profitability and improve the lives of those who live upon it, if spent wisely.

These two developments have a lot of common themes. Both deal with the aftermath of the Dozen Years’ War on a personal and a national level. Both delve deeper into the structures and relationships which underpin Tierran society, and they both examine the responsibilities and powers of a member of the Tierran aristocracy. However, the focal points of these two different plot threads are far separate from each other, both in senses of tone and geography. As a result, I’ve made the decision to split the first half of Lords of Infinity into two separate plot threads. After the prologue (when the Dragoon Officer is introduced to his duties as a Lord of the Cortes) and the first chapter (when he returns to his ancestral estate for the first time in over a decade), the player will have a choice to remain on the estate, or to establish himself in Aetoria, the Tierran capital.

In the former case, the player will have a lot more opportunity to develop the Dragoon Officer’s personal holdings, and build a relationship with the tenants living on his land. In the latter case, a presence in the Capital means more opportunities to get involved not only with Cortes politics, but to wield influence in the circles of power, making influential friends and enemies within the various factions quietly struggling over the soul of a Unified Kingdom on the brink of momentous change. Both options will have their advantages and disadvantages. Some characters will be easier to find and interact with in the city than in the country, and vice-versa. A Dragoon Officer who remains on his estate would be able to build relationships with his neighbours and tenants, refurbish his manor, or work to make his fief more economically viable, leading to increased revenue and more influence on a local scale. Meanwhile, a Dragoon Officer who chooses the Capital could ally themselves with powerful figures like the Duke of Wulfram and Princess Isobel (the King’s younger sister), or make their experiences at war heard by joining a commission to reform the King’s Army.

In either case, the decision which the player chooses at the end of chapter one can’t be undone, but it can be walked back from. At certain points, a player can choose to have the Dragoon Officer “switch paths”, either heading to the Capital with an intent to become a political player, or going home and writing off a political career as a lost cause. Doing so is a viable decision, but this too, comes with a price. As for what that price is, and what it entails, well… you’ll see.

As usual, this month’s installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are now up and openly accessible.


March Updates, HMS Foraker

First an announcement.

HMS Foraker is a small side-project I’ve been writing in ChoiceScript based on Choice of Games’ own Choice of Broadsides. Currently about 80% done and clocking in at 65k words, HMS Foraker places you in command of a frigate and its crew in the alternate-universe equivalent of the War of 1812. Ordered to pursue a superior opponent, Foraker‘s captain must leverage the strengths of their experienced crew, veteran crew, and all the skills at their disposal if they mean to secure victory.

HMS Foraker is, for all accounts and purposes, fanfiction, which means it probably won’t get a commercial release (though I am seeing if there’s a way to get some kind of widespread release in future). I’m mostly writing it in my off-time to get myself back in the right mindset for Lords of Infinity after working for so long on Cryptkeepers of Hallowford and Burden of Command. It’s also giving me some space to experiment with a few new gameplay mechanics which might make an appearance in certain sections of Lords of Infinity.

Here’s a link to the discussion thread on the CoG forums, for anyone who wants to know more.

As usual, new installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea, and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are now also up.