[This post has minor spoilers.]
It's been an eventful week.
My south Texas apartment’s air conditioner broke, rendering my work space's temperature somewhere between "oven" and "hell". It’s finally fixed, though I’m still not sure how much the heat addled my brain (or my writing), let's see what my editors say...
Anyway this week I was focused on the pirate haven of Crete.
Most social hubs in Hellenica have their own unique quirks and restrictions we need to keep in mind when writing them, and Crete’s no exception.
Unlike the choose your own adventure books of my youth, where your choices will retroactively force the world to assume a different reality, we made the decision to keep Hellenica cohesive. The characters, motivations, and hidden plots are consistent throughout all playthroughs. Separate playthroughs will have the player exploring and manipulating different narrative threads, but in the end all those threads tie back to the same world about to be destroyed by the same evil.
While we really like the cohesive and interlocking feel this sort of structure gives multiple playthroughs, it creates a very complicated web of restrictions as we struggle to keep things consistent.
In the case of level 5 Crete, finding the right NPCs to populate the hub was a problem.
Given its status as a pirate hub, there's already a limited number of characters who would have legitimate reasons to hang out there. In the level 3 version of Crete, we solved this by including characters whose personas involve wandering Greece.
However, each of their character arcs had now taken them elsewhere. Additionally, the one unsavory persona who more-or-less permanently inhabits Crete might (depending on playthrough path) have reason to want the party dead. The list of potential conversationalists was looking pretty slim, and we were hesitant to add new characters this late in the story.
Eventually we came up with ways to relocate other NPCs to Crete. The first is a member of a widespread secret organization, and has liberty to show up at will and help the players when needed (plot glue!). The second was an Athenian Aristocrat (whose identity will remain secret). Why would such a person be hanging out in a pirate hub, you ask? Well the player's party is curious too, and that question helps drive the story in the social hub. Between these NPCs (and a few related conversations with unnamed pirates), Crete is filling out nicely and should be in game within a matter of days.