(The following post contains moderate story spoilers)
So after some time making sure our artists had enough reference and direction to keep going for a while, it's back to writing for me.
Recently, I've turned my attention to the party’s visit to Thebes in level 5 of our story. Problem 47,382 of creating a branching storyline is that unless you want an exponential increase in the amount of writing at each level, different story paths need to tie back into each other. However, since one of our goals is that whatever path the player takes should proceed as naturally as "the path" in most RPGs, we devote a lot of energy to eliminating any noticeable seams or narrative jerks that can happen when paths recombine (in addition to our perpetual efforts to modify dialogue based on the specific path the player has taken).
Level 5 Thebes has proved a tricky case for this, because while the previous social hubs feature the same sort of [introduction -> adventure] plot point (expounded on here), they accomplish this tone shift in very different ways, necessitating some extra custom writing to help steer them towards Thebes.
In one path, the party finds itself overwhelmed as the Spartan rebels use mystical powers to grievously wound Diona. They are rescued by the arrival of the mysterious swordsman, Scylax, who takes them to the island home of the sorceress Circe to recover. There they learn about the mystical nature of the foe they face.
How we get to Thebes:
Scylax wasn't the only one interested in the movements of the party. A skulking figure has followed the party since they left Sparta. IF the player chooses to investigate who it is (again, the player has three choices where their story will go from here), they'll find it's Nyx, a member of a Theban spy organization known as the Shadows. The party's foray into Sparta has gotten the Shadows’ attention, so Nyx invites them to Thebes, promising her master will answer their questions...
In the other path, an assassination has plunged Athens into political chaos. A luddite demagogue has seized control of the city, rallying mobs against steam technology and preparing for wars against cities that embrace it.
How we get to Thebes:
Even though Plato doesn't think highly of Thebes, ("Thebes isn’t a city as much as an assembly line, they wouldn’t douse our fires unless it helped them build their railroad."), it's the closest city-state and the player can decide to seek help there. IF she does, the party will find the citizens mostly as unhelpful as Plato feared, but a mysterious woman named Nyx thinks her master will be very interested in their story…
What happens next? And who is Nyx's mysterious master? Guess you'll have to play Hellenica to find out!