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Reload the Canons!

This series of articles is an attempt to play through The Canon of videogames: your Metroids, your Marios, your Zeldas, your Pokemons, that kind of thing.

Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Shade World: A Player's Guide (Preview 1)

Storming the Ivory Tower presents Shade World: A Player's Guide, a parafictional choose your own adventure experience, by Sam Keeper and Juniper Theory.




Shade World. You know it, you've seen it, you know its reputation. The hot new game of the millennium. The Dark Souls of MMORPG/Walking Sim Crossover Experiments. The game you'd really like to get into, if only it wasn't so weird and inaccessible; if only someone would show you how.

Dear readers, this is the guide you've been begging for. There are many "Game FAQs" for Shade World, and they are no doubt all special in their own way. This guide is better. This is the guide that cuts through the nonsense and steers you clear of the multitude of dangers in Shade World. Surely that is the goal of any guide, you might muse to yourself. Other guides will of course help you avoid fatal combat encounters, but death amounts to little in Shade World.

Shade World's real dangers threaten not your life but your very spirit.

And in Shade World, your Spirit is ultimately all you've got.

I. Character Creation and Opening Tutorial


The game of Shade World opens, for you, on Moon Snail Island.

You are dead.

Don't let that stop you from settling back for a minute to soak in the ambiance of your new environment, though. Moon Snail Island is a relatively small location in the current version of Shade World, at least compared to large urban areas like Dis and Leviathan. It does host a small village, but that's on the other side of the isle, and not a priority in the opening minutes of the game.
Instead, you first manifest on a barren and pebbly beach. The coarse sand rises up toward what at first appear to be round, rocky boulders. On closer inspection they turn out to be humongous snail shells. The water laps peacefully on the shore where you corporate, but you can see that further out it gets strangely choppy and turbulent, almost as though a storm were raging beneath the water. The water is an odd green, illuminated by a light issuing from high above what we'll call the "northern" part of the island. Between the bleached shells, dry colorless grasses wave, occasionally interrupted by some sort of red, twiggy, almost cactus-like thorn plant.

A furry, demonic looking entity with bat-like ears and enormous glowing eyes squats nearby, holding a net and staring into a small but deep lagoon. Don't worry, he's friendly, and very worth talking to before you move on.


>>NPC: Fisherking


"Eh, eh? Newly washed up on the shores of this dead land, are you? Welcome, welcome to Shade World! Let us get to know each other as well as we can. No, you don't have to tell me a name just yet, but I am Fisherking. A Demon? You humans have such funny ideas, eh. I am just another lost soul. A LEMURE in fact! No, with an 'e'! I'm happy to tell you whatever you'd like to know, but I'll be a little distracted. There! You see, eh? Things lurk in the pool, and I wish to catch them!"
Fisherking is a good source of infodumps at this stage of the game. You can ask him a number of questions and then initiate, when you're ready, the character creation module. Weirdly, this module doesn't seem to be a requirement of the game: you'll simply remain nameless and retain a generic appearance throughout, if you don't go through character creation. We're not going to be doing that, though.

Fisherking can be used to get the basic scoop on the world. The facts are this:

You are, as we've already noted, dead; Shade World is the afterlife. Fisherking breaks the news to you fairly casually, all things considered. You are, he tells you, a kind of ghost made of ECTOPLASM that doesn't need to eat and can't die. However, you can be damaged and ultimately BANISHED for a time, reincorporating again at a place your ghost is tied to. Ghost memories are foggy, which is probably a mercy, considering the whole "being dead" thing. Occasionally bolder memories of the previous world come through. Some of those are memories of trauma or fear, and those feed into your SHADE--a visual coloring of your grey ectoplasm. Strong memories, both positive and negative, also affect a number of game mechanics, but Fisherking doesn't explain those here, and neither will I just yet.

You can also learn a bit from Fisherking about Moon Snail Island, which is divided from the rest of Shade World by a wide, roiling channel with currents powerful enough to rip ghosts apart. The giant snails that live upstream and form shells from the minerals there often fall in and are torn apart only to wash up here. The same is sometimes true of ghosts. Fisherking hastens to add that the snails are not permanently destroyed, being made of ectoplasm, but instead eventually regenerate. Their shells, however, get left behind. Why there are ectoplasm snails in the afterlife is beyond Fisherking's knowledge, as is the mystery of the river's strange currents. It is rumored that some GREATER BEAST might be responsible... whatever that means.

You can ask Fisherking why he's fishing if he doesn't need to eat, and he points out that eating is still fun... but also that he never said he was fishing for food. That's all you'll get from him at this stage of the game.

With your questions completely answered to everyone's satisfaction, it's time to do some character creation, then traverse the island to your next major location.

Character creation lets you shape your basic form a bit, though the ghost models are a little abstract. You can also finally tell Fisherking your name, and give yourself pronouns, though those can be reset at any time in the menu. Most important is a series of dialogue options with Fisherking where you take a short survey about your memories, which will choose your Shade. This guide recommends you adopt a YELLOW SHADE, which is a Light and DPS build. Just select options that obviously deal with HEAT and FIRE and you'll be fine.

Once that's done, Fisherking will recommend you travel across the island to the small settlement of Shelltown, where you can get a little more information and possibly get passage to the mainland if you wish--though not for free. You're on the western shore of the island; the town's on the eastern shore. Keep the sun to your left and you should be basically fine. Don't go too far south, or you'll hit the hunting grounds of some nasty monsters. Don't go too far north, or you'll hit the Star's Geyser. And that, for now, is all Fisherking has to say to you.


You got an item!
>>ITEM: Blanche herb


A rare plant that temporarily suppresses ones shade. Unfortunately it also, predictably, suppresses the powers that come from shade mastery. It can still be useful for getting into areas suffused with your shade's energy.



>>LOCATION: Star's Geyser


If you have not yet seen the sun fall over the island, don't read this section yet; it's better to experience it first.

If you have, wow that sure is a sight isn't it?

Your first indication that the heavens of Shade World aren't like the world of the living is the color of the sky. It is oddly dark, for all that there appears to be a bright sun. Everything is illuminated just fine, but there's not as much ambient light as you would expect, and the shadows seem strangely stark. The journey from Fisherking's perch to Shelltown can take four hours or more. If you take long enough getting from one side of the island to the other, you might witness a Moon Snail Island sunset, which will emphasize the deep strangeness of your new home.

On a somewhat erratic schedule, but usually every 14 hours or so in game time, the large light source that hovers far above the north end of the island abruptly plummets down from the sky and into a hole on the island like a fiery comet. From a distance it looks like a liquid mass of white hot molten metal dropping to earth and sinking into the depths. If you visit the northern end of the island, you will see it is scorched and much of the sand there has been reduced to glass by the heat of this small sun-like entity's passage. If you are close enough, you can watch tongues of multicolored flame shoot out in a halo of light as the luminous plasma pours back into the depths. You will also probably die immediately to the immense heat, but a small price to pay for such a sight, no?

The "sun" remains there for a few hours, leaving only smaller sources of light. (PROTIP: daylillies and glowpods are easier to spot in this darkness, so this is a fine time to harvest). In the dark, you'll discover that the ectoplasm of your body gives off just enough of a glow to illuminate a small, faint circle of space around you! If hang around the Geyser long enough, you can also watch cool, dim blobs emerge from the crater. These blobs float upward and coalesce into the bright "sun" overhead, and become steadily more bright and hot as the hours pass. Upon even closer inspection you can see a strange shimmer trailing from the blobs that looks something like a heat haze in the air, but also looks almost like barely-visible ghostly dangling slime trails.

This, along with the ripping tides, is the major force driving Moon Snail Island's alien ecology.
There aren't any NPCs regularly stationed here, for obvious firey death reasons, though you can sometimes see islanders collecting salt or glass. This area is worth exploring if you want to see the light show, but otherwise should be avoided due to the risk of sudden incineration. It is not currently possible (as far as anyone knows) to learn much more about the Geyser; the sides of the deep crater are too smooth and often still too hot to effectively climb down and discover what might lie at the bottom. Like so many things in Shade World, the Star Geyser remains a mystery.


You got an item!
>>ITEM: Salt


Can be used to create salt circles, which act as respawn points in case of some sort of banishment. Spread the salt on the ground in a circle around you and it will automatically burn something of your essence into the area.

It's not advisable that you use Salt on Moon Snail Island, as your respawn point on the beach is fairly close to everything and therefore unnecessary. If you have extra and want to make the Sifting Marshes quest a bit easier, though, you might make a circle at Jerri's house.

Salt can be acquired at the north end of the island in shallow depressions on the outskirts of the burning zone. Try to get there before there's too much water filling up the pools. Also try not to get incinerated by the falling star.


You got an item!
>>ITEM: Melted gold clod


This item is kind of useless at the moment, though it might be worth holding onto for later. You might think it's useful as currency. You'd think wrong. If you take this to the Ferryman, for example he will laugh in your spooky face and explain that gold and silver are incredibly common in much of the underworld. They're relatively rare on Moon Snail Island, but there's plenty in other nearby areas. It's just not worth very much at all.

Later you can use clods like this, which can be panned from around the Star's Geyser, to make some cool gear, but gold is not the currency of Hell, it turns out.


>>TOWN: Shelltown


Shelltown is the first settlement you'll encounter in the Shade World, the only town on Moon Snail Island. It isn't too hard to find, as there is a tall lighthouse on the shore that acts as a marker to boats, though only one boat ever docks there.  It's a small and sleepy place of what at first appear to be bleached concrete houses with fairly limited amenities. A couple of houses stand out, however, as being made from the same gigantic snail shells you found on the beach! In fact, on closer inspection many of the other houses use these titanic shells as an architectural foundation. They’re beautifully colored, although they seem rather unstable. One in the back even seems to be moving a bit, but a couple of townsfolk will stop you from heading to that part of town if you try.

You can knock on doors to talk to some of the townsfolk, but mostly they'll be confused about why you're bothering them. I mean, who the heck are you? Some rando going door to door in search of dialogue options? Weird.

Not everyone responds that way though. There are a few people with short questlines who either will be happy to introduce you to aspects of your new post-life or at the very least give you some things to do.

You can also get to know some people by working one of the jobs around town that make up what we'll very generously call Moon Snail Island's "industries". The island is a pretty sleepy place, but people here do like to get goods from the mainland periodically, and that requires access to the fancy paper money currencies of the neighboring city-states. Typically, when inclined to get something new, townsfolk will either gather local flora (glowpods and daylillies), comb the shore for trinkets, or fish for rare organisms on the coasts. Whatever they gather is sold through HARBORMASTER XE, and transported to the mainland by the FERRYMAN. Both have essentially monopoly power over their respective duties, as no one else can navigate the waters besides the Ferryman, and Xe has the currency that Ferryman demands up front for his transportation fee.

If you want to make friends quickly, complaining about this state of affairs while working alongside townsfolk is one way to do that. We aren't here to make friends, though. We can't spend forever on one little island, after all.  We need a way off.


You got an item!
>>ITEM: Lottery Ticket


No player can resist a free opportunity to gamble, so of course you went into the house with the MOON SNAIL LOTTERY sign out front.  Yes, it’s true: you could be the next owner of a massive snail-shell house!  Only a few snails actually ever make it through the harsh currents of the river to the island alive, and the life cycle of a moon snail before reincarnation is roughly 300 years, so you’re quite lucky to have made it right near the end of a snail’s life cycle.  As soon as the snail passes on and reforms at… somewhere upriver, the townsfolk will give away its shell to a lucky member of the Moon Snail Island community, and that includes you!

Unfortunately, the way to make sure the shell is as fancy and large as possible is by making sure the snail is well taken care up until the moment it dies from its wounds; and thus it still has anywhere from 3 to 15 months to live.  Leaving moon snail island will void your ticket entirely, and you can’t stick around all that time.  While it might be nice to live here in your own special house, there’s work to be done and with our help you’re going to do it.  Give the ticket away, if you wish.  


You got an item!
>>ITEM: Scroll


Who amongst mortals would dare to ken the wyrding tongues of the dead, their inscrutable shared congress? For a mortal to speak such haunted syllables would surely lead to corruption or madness.

You don't gotta worry about that though because you're already a ghost and can speak the wyrding tongues of the dead just fine and dandy.


(Tie broken by Juniper in favor of the Harbormaster)



"Oh, a new spirit. Let's get this over with. No, you can't get off the island without money. Yes, I can give you a job, and give you tools, which you can pay off at a very reasonable installment rate. No, I can't help you otherwise, this isn't a charity operation. Think of these like quests, if it helps.

They're just jobs, though."

Harbormaster Xe is a huge female human with a green and purple shade. She is definitely human, just, I really can't stress enough that she's real tall and has impressive muscles, especially for a ghost. She uses those impressive muscles to move goods on and off of Ferryman's boat, and to haul around the similarly massive book of accounts chained to her belt. She's basically your main quest giver on Moon Snail Island, and has kind of a monopoly on actual cash around these parts, at least the amount of cash needed to get off the island.

Xe has effectively set up a deal with Ferryman where she buys up goods from the other villagers and transports those goods to the mainland. Both get a cut of the profits, but some money does come back to the islanders... though often Xe actually just buys goods directly on their behalf on the mainland and transports them back. She tracks all this in her remarkable accounts book, which she'll happily show anyone upon request. The book is written in extremely small script, encompasses at least a century's worth of accounts, and sprawls in a complex web of interrelated figures, but, you know, you can try to make sense of it if you like.

Xe is your way off the island, but currently she and the Ferryman are in a dispute, which you'll have to resolve if you want to move forward...

...To learn more about Harbormaster Xe, continue reading, and help choose how the story progresses, check out the Storming the Ivory Tower Patreon, where Shade World's story will continue with new updates each day for the rest of the month. Each entry comes with a poll dictating where the story should go next, and just $1 lets you read each day's posts and vote on what to see next.

90 people are following this story and my other experiments on Patreon. Will you join them?


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