Broken Horizons – Vol 5, Outerlude

Tessa: What the heck is an “Outerlude”?

Beth: It’s basically a chapter outside of the normal narrative. The usual rules don’t apply here since this isn’t, technically, part of the story.

Tessa: And you would be?

Beth: A traveler. Technically a “World Walker”, which at this point you are too. Also the main character of Hidden Pages, which dealt with this kind of “hidden out of view of the story” thing as its central theme.

Tessa: Huh, that’s neat how you spoke in a hyperlink. It sounded kinda funky. Is that like how when we’re saying things like the [Broken Kingdoms] it sounds weird too?

Beth: Same idea. The callout there is to things which might have help text links associated with them.

Tessa: Why are they just in brackets then? Shouldn’t there be an actual link there?

Beth: It’s more of a conceptual link. I think we’re just supposed to imagine that there are wiki pages relating to a lot of this stuff, or some other kind of documentation behind it.

Tessa: You’d think that would get explained somewhere.

Beth: Eh, it’s not that important and the narrative doesn’t support someone turning to the reader and going “hey, you, here’s what this means”.

Tessa: It’d sure be nice if it did sometimes though. I mean there’s enough plot threads going at the moment that I need a scorecard some days. I don’t even get how they’re all going to come together.

Beth: Maybe they won’t? Your thread is pretty central, but the other ones are there in part to flesh out the world.

Tessa: Is that why we’ve got place names for locations that have never appeared?

Beth: Yeah, in a long running MMO, you should have tons of active locations, and if you add on the idea that even old areas will still have their NPCs as living, breathing people then the world gets a lot more crowded.

Tessa: We stayed in [Sky’s Edge] for a long time though. It seemed like that was a pretty central spot until it got nuked off the map.

Beth: I was kind of surprised by that too. I would have liked to see a side thread to build that place up a bit more. It had some interesting characters in it.

Tessa: I suppose the characters are all in the caves now, so no loss there necessarily.

Beth: Speaking of the caves, was there a spark of romance there between you and Lisa?

Tessa: What? I mean…I…I can’t talk about that. Spoilers and all that.

Beth: Really? You think that’s supposed to be a secret at this point?

Tessa: No. But. I mean.

Beth: Ah, you’re still at that stage of the relationship. Gotcha.

Tessa: What stage? We’re not at a stage. She’s got a girl already. And I’d like to point out that I’m trapped out here in sleepy hyperspace or wherever this is.

Beth: That’s not all that likely to be permanent though is it?

Tessa: I don’t know. I was out of most of the last volume. Or all of it? I don’t even remember anymore. Time has no meaning and everything’s terrible.

Beth: Hey. It’ll be okay. These things tend to happen for a reason. You’re offstage now, but that’s to give other characters time to grow. 

Tessa: It was kind of neat to see Pillowcase trying to deal with things on her own.

Beth: Plus the loss of you gave her some unusual new abilities.

Tessa: Not that we’ve seen how those will play out.

Beth: Give it time.

Tessa: Is that really all it’s going to take though. Obby stuck a moratorium on using the [Primal Devouring] skill and the others look like they’re both passive and exotic.

Beth: Those could be the most powerful ones you have though. Situationally useful abilities can be like silver bullets when the narrative throws weird problems at you.

Tessa: Speaking of bullets, I had a question there: if we’re in a ‘more real’ version of the [Fallen Kingdoms] and the [Consortium of Pain] comes from outside this reality, why aren’t they using things like guns and bombs?

Beth: From what we’ve seen so far, it seems like despite being technomagically advanced, they’re still stuck with fitting into the overall fantasy aesthetic of [Broken Horizons]. I’m sure in the narrative there’s some explanation for guns and bombs not working based on the [Arcanospheres] idea, but it’s one of those things that hasn’t come up explicitly yet, so the final answer is a bit nebulous.

Tessa: You know there have to be some Earthlings who are trying to invent them in the [Fallen Kingdoms] though right? People are so convinced that modern military munitions are the be-all-end-all of warfare.

Beth: Can you blame them? It’s what they’re familiar with and it’s what movies and TV have preached from the beginning. The gun is mighty. Fear the gun. Love the gun.

Tessa: I wonder what the stats for a gun in the [Fallen Kingdoms] would even be?

Beth: It’s ultimately just something that accelerates a tiny mass to a high speed. They’re not that complicated. And they can be used by level 1 nobodies.

Tessa: Oh wow, and they don’t even insta-kill level 1 nobodies, outside of critical hits.

Beth: Right. You’re primarily looking at the equivalent of multi-round bleed damage which actually scores the kill. 

Tessa: And since they can be equipped by level 1s, their stats would probably be pitiful. Minor damage, and a minor DOT is all it takes to kill a lowbie who doesn’t have access to magical healing.

Beth: So that is probably why the Consortium isn’t using guns. Bombs are likely in the same category but they can do structural damage, so they’d have to have better stats than a gun.

Tessa: I know Glimmerglass got blasted through a six foot thick wall of stone in one of the old cutscenes, and we started that fight off at nearly full health, so maybe even a city wrecking bomb is something an adventurer could shake off?

Beth: I’m not going to suggest that you step in front of one to find out, but if you can live up to the things your characters have done in the game then, yeah, you’re probably more superhuman than usually gets made apparent.

Tessa: Except for all the times we get knocked out.

Beth: As narrative crutched go, I’ve always found that to be an annoying one.

Tessa: So, do you think we’ll ever get back to Earth? Or is that going to be something that just slips away as a goal as the plot rolls on?

Beth: I did read ahead a bit, so I know where some of this is going, but that’s something I am not going to spoiler.

Tessa: Oh come on! There’ve been all these chapters set on Earth. There’s got to be something going on there.

Beth: Oh, it’s not spoilery at all to say that there’ll be more event on Earth. I mean Hailey left in this chapter – and didn’t that take forever to get too! I thought she was going to hop over back a long time ago – but you’ve still got Marcus there, and several other characters.

Tessa: Yeah, including Brendan, Mellisandra’s player. What’s up with him and Pete?

Beth: They’re meant to reflect how a lot of players will have characters of a different gender and how it’s nothing particularly remarkable.

Tessa: Then you’ve got player’s like Pete’s sister though right?

Beth: Yeah Feralfang, or Melissa. I’m kind of hoping the story gets to her sometime soon. Pete’s mentioned, sort of obliquely, that Melissa’s trans and that falling into Feralfang’s body was something she took to like a fish to water. So that perspective is an interesting one, especially in contrast to her brother, who’s character, Starchild, does not match his own gender. Beyond that though, Melissa is one of the few crafters that we’ve heard of so far, so that’s another perspective we haven’t really seen yet.

Tessa: It’s interesting that there’s such a generally positive reception to discovering yourself in a foreign body, even when the genders match, but more so when dysmorphia is a real thing that’s even been mentioned in the story.

Beth: Yeah, we’ve seen a little exploration of that in Pete and Starchild’s chapters where they seem to still be very separate people. On the other hand, your chapters with Pillowcase have stressed repeatedly how you and Pillowcase are really just aspect of the same person.

Tessa: Then there’s Lisa who thought there wasn’t a Lost Alice at all, only it turns out Lost Alice was, what, sleeping?

Beth: Not exactly sleeping, more like Lisa wasn’t trying to connect with her. She was still thinking of Lost Alice as just an icon or a pawn she moved around the board. Once she started to connect though, she found that their relationship was a lot like yours and Pillowcases. In fact talking to you was probably what made her subconsciously start reach out like that.

Tessa: I’m glad she did. I know it’s weird, but I like having Pillowcase in my head.

Beth: I don’t think that’s weird at all. You made Pillowcase as someone you’d like and so the real version of her is likable. I think it’d be weirder if you didn’t like your character on some level at least.

Tessa: Is that what happened with those [Disjoined] guys? Did they have some kind of violent, negative reaction between the player and the character?

Beth: That was the hypothesis, and until more data emerges it seems reasonable. Picture the most toxic, over-entitled player you know and then imagine how their character relates to the people in the world. There’s kindness and humility built into the game version of [Broken Horizons] characters that some of the real people behind them would find abhorrent.

Tessa: I’m glad I hooked up with the party that I did then.

Beth: I think that’s meant to reflect that there are a lot of good people out there, and that if you’re not an abusive ass you’ll kind of be drawn together.

Tessa: Which I’d like to point out is why I’m not hitting on Lisa. The last thing I want to do is try to mess up the relationship she’s already in.

Beth: But you saw in this volume that she’s really kind of broken up already.

Tessa: I know! Wasn’t that wonderful! Oh, wait, damn, I’m a horrible person. I should not be cheering for her misery.  Plus, I’m not going to remember any of this if I ever get back to her am I?

Beth: This chapter? Nope. Not a word of it. What happens outside of time and space, doesn’t really happen in any meaningful sense.

Tessa: Huh. So you don’t really have to worry about spoilers then do you?

Beth: Not for you, but they’re still dangerous.

Tessa: Give me a little one at least. What’s up with Rose and Jamal?

Beth: Really nothing to spoil there. Rose is asexual, and loves Jamal, just not romantically. Jamal is not asexual, and loves Rose, also without an eye towards romance because he knows Rose just isn’t into that. 

Tessa: Yeah, but where’s their story going? Tell me nothing bad is going to happen to them. I’ve got to know at least that. If the kids are going to get killed or worse then I’ll just burn this place to the ground right now.

Beth: Woah, woah, woah. Ok, spoiler territory here then: <spoiler> Rose and Jamal are going to be fine. Their story does not end in misery or horror. They’ll have to fight for their happy ending, and it may not look like a typical happy ending for a girl and a boy, but they’ll get there. </spoiler> 

Tessa: And me and Lisa? How about us? Do we wind up together? Or at least get to kiss!

Beth: Now for that you’re just going to have to keep reading won’t you?

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