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Empty Characters


Ok guys, have you ever heard of an ASCII game called Dwarf Fortress? Probably not, so i'll try to explain the game before telling my story. The game is actually called Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress, but normally everyone just shortens it down to Dwarf Fortress, well, the small communtiy that actually plays it shortens the name. Basically you take control of a bunch of dwarves and attempt to build a successful subterranean fortress. sounds simple right? Well believe me when i say it but this game is at least sixty times more difficult than any Xbox 360 / PS3 game out there. Your little dwarf group will pretty much be killed by everything and anything. You don't have enough water to help the wounded? Dwarf dies. The weather outside sucks? Your mines flood and, you guessed it, the fucking dwarves die. Goblins, Humans, Elves, Zombies, Wildlife in general, the weather, other Dwarves, rocks and even you yourself are all threats to your army of dwarves. Oh and by the way there is no way to beat the game, no little 'You win!' message, no cleverly designed easter egg. You play until something fucks your fortress up and all your dwarves die. Then you restart and go through the entire process again. Anyway, this story doesn't contain demons killing people, nor does it contain any naked scenes, i mean who the hell would want ascii boobs? This is literally just about why i stopped playing the game.

I own an Xbox 360 and love games like Halo and Gears of War. I used to get engrossed in the story and the protagonist him/herself, going as far as to enjoying battering the marines in the Halo campaigns and pretty much treating them like the empty storyless characters they were, killing them didn't have any bad impact on the game and even made it more fun when they shot back at you. No, these empty characters don't beat me up or jump scare me into a heart attack. About a month ago, my Xbox 360 had a huge hissy fit and decided that it wouldn't work, so i took it in to a computer repair shop to be repaired. Now i had no Xbox to kill things on, whether they were team mates or not. I used my laptop to search for emulators, having heard you can download games and play them, but i just generally sucked at getting them to work and gave up. I was looking at week and a half of no more gaming, so i took to reading online, one of my favourite sites being '1d4chan.org'. It rants on about the tabletop games like warhammer and was where i found out about Dwarf Fortress. It sounded like it would be a game i could play while i waited and if it was a load of crap i could just delete it. So that's how i got hooked. I swiftly got into the game and although my first few attempts ended pretty quickly i was starting to get the hang of it. I started a fortress which i called 'Arlyandel', pronounced ar-lee-and-el, and got so far into it that i was forgetting that the real world existed. I enjoyed flinging the dwarfs into suicide missions, exploring unsafe caves and even forcing a couple of dwarves to be eaten by zombies so the rest could escape. Sounds sick but it meant that the fortress was pretty successful so who cares? Anyway, like all things on Dwarf Fortress, Arlyandel got fucked over after some pretty unlucky events, a storm and a zombie incursion. It pissed me off so i closed the game with the typical gamer rage quit, abandoning some mines which still had living dwarves inside, only to play it the next day. I created my new fortress name Lyandel, hoping it would be as successful as its predecessor. I started slow and found a cave with a few zombies in it. So me being a total dick used a few dwarves to act as sacrifices and explorers at the same time. After a while of 'zombie-eats-dwarf' incidents, i found some items, a couple of barrels of alcohol, bits of gold but what made the items notable was a damaged book. Intrigued i read it, leaving the rest of the dwarves to die as i had never seen a book in the game before. it read..

Day 1

The nobles of our fortress have decided that one person must keep a diary of their mining group and keep it up to date. I think it's odd that they would want the miners to keep a diary especially when the majority cannot read, let alone write. Dave says that it is just some bullshit way for them to keep a check on who is not doing their job. Whatever the reasons, i have to do it. The group has been worried by the reports of the heavy rain up on the surface, the rain itself isn't the main concern though, all everyone can bicker on about is whether or not the dam will hold. I think it'll hold to be honest but 'IF' it did break then we would have to pull out and probably get stuck on repair detail. Simon, the guy who got in charge by dating some rich guys daughter, keeps talking about some elusive silver vein and how it should be close. No accidents so far though so i can't complain.

Day 2

It is still raining. Apparantly, according to daves buddy, the dam was inspected the other day and they discovered a breach. They patched it but now i'm getting skeptical of my previous thoughts on it holding. We had a major accident, one of the supports wasn't secure and collapsed in a small earthquake, leading to three poor buggers being crushed. Simon says that it was no ones fault and we will be getting some replacement miners to help with removing the rubble. These accidents are terrible but not unavoidable, so we just have to keep going. After our shift is over i'm going to head to the medical office and see if i can get something to help with this headache i keep having. Anyway still nothing major to report but due to the accident we are going to have a full inspection.

Day 3

Well apparently i have the flu, so i couldn't go down into the mines today. Dave came and visited with his lovely wife Gabby, mainly to let me know of everything that has gone off today but also so he could attempt to smuggle me some whiskey, which he got caught doing. Apparently the new miners who have been sent down are real 'oddballs'. According to Dave, they look really ill and they don't really talk much. Oh and Simon apparently found the silver vein and is planning to send an advance group. He says that whoever volunteers will get a bonus to their original pay, which Dave is really enthusiastic about. After Dave and Gabby left, i saw the medical officers bring in four beds. On each bed was a body which was covered in a sheet and when i asked about it, the officers told me that it was just an accident and these poor souls died in it. They wouldn't give me anymore information on it, so i can't really say what has happened. Tomorrow i should be well enough to go back into the mine.

  • At this stage i couldn't believe it, i had found some dwarvern journal. i figured it would lead to some treasure, probably guarded by a ton of zombies. It continued...

Day 4

The group is terrified. We were all mining and chatting, getting on with the excavation of the silver vein when Gabby came charging into the mine. I didn't notice that she was here and was only alerted to her presence by Dave, who literally shouted and dropped his pickaxe at the sight of her. She was splattered in blood, it covering the front of her clothing and even caked into her hair, and she was crying hysterically. Once Dave had calmed her, she told us what had happened on the surface. Gabby told us how there was an accident in one of the other mines, how four dead bodies were brought out of there and the rest of that group had not returned to the bunkhouses. Apparently the four bodies were in various stages of being eaten, chunks torn out of their bodies. Gabby then told us that when the medical officers were performing an autopsy on one of the dead miners, it attacked them. By now the whole group was listening and nevously whispering about the undead, something more terrible than the goblin raids and the human seige engines. Gabby spoke of her escape from the medical offices as the undead miners attacked both officers and patients alike. She ran out towards the mineshaft, when the missing group charged out of the now closed mine and started slaughtering whoever they grabbed hold of. Dave literally flipped out and started to checking Gabby for any injuries, which much to the relief of everyone he couldn't find any. Once Gabby finished her tale, absolute pandemonium started. Everybody was panicking and trying to arm themselves with whatever they could find, from pickaxes to support bars. Simon and a few of the others decided to seal the mine behind us, so that we had some time before the undead found us. Simon has taken charge and has decided that we are to begin mining and engineering a way out of here. We are taking rapid shifts to mine on an upwards angle in the hopes of making it to the surface.

  • Ok so now at this stage i am literally staring at the monitor stupidly. I never thought the game would actually have a scripted section in it would vividly explain how zombies made it into the list of things that can seriously ruin your day. The diary continued...


Day 5

They ate her. The newcomers, they must have been infected. They must have been sent from that fucking mineshaft. They ate Gabby. Dave lost and tried to save her body, but Simon pulled him back and we retreated further up our escape mineshaft. We damaged the support beams further down the tunnel to seal the undead behind us. What we did in our blind panic might have just sealed our fate. While everyone had charged up the escape shaft we are trying to build, nobody thought to stop and grab any supplies. With no water or food we will become weaker and weaker and Simon knows this. He is pushing the remaining people of the group mine harder and for longer without rest, literally pushing us to make it to the surface. Dave won't speak to anyone, not even me. He just sits there, not crying or beating himself, doing absolutely nothing. Simon tried yelling at him, but Dave just looked through him. We can hear the undead clawing their way through the rubble we have left in our wake. Either we will break through to the surface or will they will catch us. I shudder to think about the pain we will endure before we die at the hands of those monsters.

Day 6

Dave is gone. The undead finally broke through behind us, but we were prepared this time. Simon had us prematurely damage the remianing support structures before they broke through so we could collapse the shaft on top of the bastards. It worked too, but Dave was still in there. The first of the undead to break through was a mockerey of the life it once possessed. It was Gabby, her face torn away from her skull in places, flesh clinging loosely to the skeletal remains. Dave didn't even run, he just sat there, staring at Gabby. That was the last thing i saw before my vision was blocked by a billow of dust and rubble filled the tunnel entrance. It was then that i realized that i, along with everyone else, is going to die in this mine, with nothing but these pages to possibly mark our existance in history. I decided to eat the rest of my supplies, enjoying them as much as a noble would've enjoyed a banquet.

Day 7

We can hear them again. They are going to make it through the rubble and there isn't enough space for is us to collapse the tunnel. Everybody looks exhausted, not due to the mining, but from the fear for their lives. A lot of us have given up hope, we don't even really want to run anymore, we just want them to come and end it. At least then we can rest. Arlyandel was supposed to be our heaven, a safe haven in this dangerous world. Instead it has become our tomb. I am going to stop writing this diary now. Funny how a week ago we were complaining about the rain.

  • I couldn't beleive it. The dwarf who wrote this diary was one of my mine. A part of my fortress. Now this didn't bother me in the slightest, what did was the understanding of how i could have changed the story for this unfortunate dwarf and it's companions. Dave, Gabby and even their leader Simon. As i said there is no demons out to get me, no monster text going 'you killed them' in hyper realistic blood. Just me, staring at the screen with the horrified understanding of how i left them to die. So, no, Dwarf Fortress isn't haunted, no demented ghosts and yes i am very much alive. It didn't stop me playing games, but everytime i play a game now, i treat the empty characters who have nothing to explain why they are there, no story to make them important or special, with a little respect. I suppose i treat them as though they are sentient, living beings...

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