When my kid was a baby, a couple friends tipped me off to one of the funnest games online, The Kingdom of Loathing. It’s a text-based MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) consisting of stick drawings. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, and sometimes just plain silly, poking fun at various cult and pop culture offerings from the past few decades.
You start off as a stick figure in one of the six various classes (I prefer Seal Clubber or Disco Bandit), then complete fifteen main quests and numerous smaller ones, fighting off reanimated leftovers, drunk hobos, hippies and frat boys, pirates, and really just a bunch of random bad guys. You start each day with forty turns, but you can get more by eating food and drinking booze you find along the way. Gold buys you new skills,
Once you beat the Naughty Sorceress in the final quest and free King Ralph, you have two choices: keep playing (the Old Man by the Sea directs you to harder oceanic levels), or ascend to Valhalla.
Normally I choose to ascend. You pick who to be for your next run. In addition to gender, class, and skill to learn permanently, you can choose various options to make the game harder, like playing hardcore (can’t use anything from your previous life, including all your old stuff, or get help from friends) or going on a restricted diet. A harder run gets you special items when you finish.
I find this concept really interesting, to the point that it’s influenced the collection of short stories I’m currently working on, to be released hopefully around Christmas. What if when we die, we get a checklist of options to choose in our next life – ways to make it easier or harder, with more karma earned for a harder run? What if the choices we made in a previous life influence our future lives?
All the stories in this collection, tentatively titled Between Light and Dark, will focus around this idea, of two soulmates dealing with the repercussions of the choices they make not only in their lives, but in their afterlives. And making it even more complicated for them is that often they don’t even know what those choices were.
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