Approaching the end of the Railway, and what comes next

By Bruno Dias, May 25, 2021 · Fallen London

Whitsun has ended – I hope you all had an eggcellent time hatching perfectly adorable friend-shaped creatures.

We are closing in on the end of the Railway storyline, and with it, a story that has taken over a year to play out, from conception to completion. This is an opportune time to talk about its culmination and the stories that will follow, including a few surprises.

Marigold Station

The next and final station on the Great Hellbound Railway: Marigold Station, where you will visit the Very Walls of Hell, and meet the story conclusion for Fallen London: Railway.

The Railway has been an ambitious experiment, a learning experience for the entire Fallen London team, and in most respects a huge success. For the following cycle of Fallen London updates, we are going to be doing some things differently; but one thing we’ll be keeping is the periodic addition of new locales for you to visit.

It was also very gratifying seeing you all become invested in the story of Furnace, Mr Fires, the Creditor, Cornelius, the GHR, and the Tracklayer’s Union. As we bring that story arc to a close, we hope you enjoy the conclusion.

I won’t go into a great deal of detail about what awaits you at Marigold, but it’s unlike anywhere else in the Neath. Expect to be able to start laying track towards Marigold Station next week.

After Marigold launches, we’ll also be doing a balance pass of the Upper River, now that the entire thing will be in your hands. Mostly this will be about bringing different activities closer together in terms of rewards and difficulty, with an eye to getting everything into a place where we’re happy with the overall balance as we add even more things to do and places to go. This will also be about making sure the impact of certain updates to the Bone Market is relevant, but not broken. But before I talk about those updates, let me go over the next two months of major Fallen London events.

New and improved Zee voyages

Ever since we made the new map of the Unterzee we’ve wanted to fill in the blank spots on the map and expand on zee voyages, but we’ve been reluctant to do that immediately because we know the current zee voyage experience isn’t overly popular.

Partly this is because it feels like too much of an action tax to visit places by ship; partly it’s because the experience of zee travel isn’t very rich in itself. So, before we added new islands and ports, we wanted to overhaul the voyage experience entirely.

I won’t reveal yet all that’s in this system, but here’s what you can expect:

  • Chart a course to your destination: Fallen London loves to abstract time and causality, but we’ve found that the way the Zee works felt like going too far with that. Unterzee voyages now begin with choosing a destination on the map.
  • Zail the zeven zees: The Unterzee is now split into seven regions, each with its own wonders and deadly dangers. You’ve already seen the waters near London and the Sea of Voices, but new surprises await in the southern waters of Shepherd’s Wash and the northern reaches of Stormbones – not to mention the two yet-uncharted areas on the eastern edge of the Unterzee, and the pirate-infested gyre in the centre.
  • Consequently, long voyages are long and short voyages are short. It takes more actions to get to Polythreme than to take a quick trip over to Mutton Island. New destinations that are very far from London will have certain rewards for reaching them that will make it worth your actions to zail all the way there. Overall, expect zee voyages to take up fewer actions than they did before.
  • No, you won’t lose all your progress qualities simply by getting on your ship.
  • Become a master zailor, and uncover the mysteries of the Zee: The new advanced skill, Zeefaring, will be available to all characters who have a ship and can zail. We’ll keep adding more mystery and more strangeness to the Zee over time – but when the new unterzee experience launches, there will be certain events at zee that will be able to follow you ashore into London…

The new zee voyage experience will launch with the start of Zeefarer, in the last week of June. What is Zeefarer, you ask? Well…

Fallen London: Zeefarer

A poster for Fallen London: Zeefarer, showing a ship sailing towards the Khanate.

Zeefarer is the next cycle of Fallen London updates; it’s not a story sequel to the Railway, but it’s our follow up to that. It will contain several new ports that you will be able to visit with your ship, each with their own stories and activities. While this is a theme that we’re hanging new locations on like we did with the Railway, it’s substantially different in structure.

Like we did with the Railway stations, we will interweave new zee ports with festivals and new activities and stories in London proper. But expect a bit more emphasis on London and on locations and activities that are relevant for midgame players. We want to balance continuing to expand the setting and letting you visit new, weirder parts of it with not pulling the focus too much away from London.

Also, we are slowing down the volume of new content (specifically in terms of word count, or number of branches). Partly this is because we know some of you are still catching up or have felt overwhelmed by the pace of new releases. Partly it’s because we ourselves have struggled to keep pace with just how much stuff was added to the game. By our own accounting, as much as 30% of Fallen London was written in 2020. But this is not going to be a drought, or a return to the slowest pace of updates in Fallen London; we are going to keep adding to the game regularly, but at a more sustainable volume. So expect a similar pace of updates, but some updates will be smaller.

I’ll get into more detail about our future plans for Fallen London updates in another blog post, towards the end of summer.

We’re excited to go back to the unterzee and explore those places from a different perspective; exploring the Unterzee in Fallen London lets us tell stories that we couldn’t have told in Sunless Sea.

Fallen London allows a greater diversity of tones, features a very different kind of protagonist, and delves into some deeper secrets of the Neath that weren’t featured in Sunless Sea. And of course, in the Neath, there are always questions that remain unanswered. So while we may return to some familiar places, they will contain very different stories – and there will be new secrets to uncover, too.

The first destination in Zeefarer will be the Khanate. The Khanate you will meet is a little different from what you may remember in Sunless Sea – it’s been a few years.

The Khanate is a city that rivals London in beauty, power, and wonder. It’s a place where the deep shadows are banished by electric light – most of the time. It’s a jewel that all the powers of the Neath grasp at, but can’t quite hold. Like London, it is one of the battlegrounds of the Great Game. And if you want to visit, you will have to wager something and sit down at the table.

The Khanate is a port meant to give endgame players a new reason to go to zee; it is most interesting to anyone with access to Balmoral. But expect us to mix in more midgame content alongside new endgame locations in the future; for now, even if you don’t have an advanced railway you will be able to enjoy the new zailing experience. And the Unterzee is a sea, not a rail line – expect to be able to visit the new zee ports more or less in any order.

Zeefarer kicks off with the Khanate on the 24th of June, alongside the zee voyage update.

A New Festival (and an end to elections)

Around this time of year, you’ll all be anticipating the Election for 2021. But the Masters have decided they’re not so fond of this whole ‘electoral system’ thing.

More to the point, we’ve felt like elections have not been as rewarding for you all as we’d like an event to be. They are hard to design and run, and have often left the community more disappointed or puzzled than engaged. The results of each election changed our plans for updates and events in London; but that took a long time to be visible to all of you, which often felt disappointing.

The election event relies on an all-new story each year. And that means it’s hard to sustain if we’re not, ourselves, excited about writing a new iteration of the election story. And the truth is, we’re not; as a group, we’ve been doing it for a very long time, and a lot of the creative space has been mined out.

And while we love the community mobilization that comes with an election, we also know that it has a higher-than-normal potential for unhappiness and hurt feelings. Even though we aren’t deliberately writing election candidates to resemble real-world political figures or movements, there are always going to be parallels and subtext that bubble to the surface. This, combined with the adversarial structure of the event, has tended to turn usually good-natured discussions in the community sour – something that we really don’t want.

We don’t want to run away from writing about real-world issues in Fallen London, even if we do it humorously, metaphorically, and in the context of a city within which walk people with the faces of squid – squid! But this particular combination of subtext, theme, and mechanics has created too much tension.

However, we’re still going to have a late summer event in the same time frame, and we want it to be another event that mobilizes the community in a similar way to the election – but more collaboratively and less adversarially. Expect to see this new festival around mid-July. (And fear not: it’ll “inherit” old Election items and make them available in a similar way to how the other festivals make items from past years available.)

And one last thing: Palaeontology Updates and the Living World

This is a small update, but it portends big things.

It adds three new qualities to the game:

  • Zoological Fads will make certain skeleton bodies more rewarding than usual
  • Fluctuations of the Bone Market will make certain skeleton “flavors” (antiquity, menace, amalgamy) more rewarding from buyers who seek those out
  • Occasional Buyers will unlock a special buyer with very particular needs. Some of those you have already seen – the Enterprising Boot Salesman and the Zailor with a Propensity For Skulls – though they have been substantially uptuned to be competitive with normal buyers. But there are also three entirely new buyers that you will gradually come to know…

All three of these qualities will shift randomly between possible values – every Tuesday, at 11AM UTC. Conditions in the Bone Market will change week to week, suggesting a type of skeleton that’ll be more rewarding and offering a unique buyer. Oh, and they’ll be the same for all players.

This new mechanic, World Qualities, is an important part of the future of Fallen London; it opens up new design space and new possibilities for us. It will help grow the game’s community-driven aspect, and it will make Fallen London feel like more of a living world that gives you new reasons to keep coming back each week even if we’re not launching something new that week.

These new qualities will not appear on your Myself tab; they are not attached to your character but to Fallen London as a whole. You won’t be hoping to get a good roll for your character; rather, everyone will be dealing with the same Bone Market, but it’ll be a slightly different Bone Market each week. A new storylet in the bone market will allow you to see what the state of the Bone Market is, and some new text in Assemble a Skeleton provides a reminder of what’s sought-after this week.

This small palaeontology update is an experiment; it’ll help us see how the feature works in a live game setting and how all of you react. That way, we’ll feel confident before we hang bigger and more complex events and stories on this new feature.  Very deliberately, we are attaching this to an activity that is already complex and already appeals to those of you who like to optimize! But there are other ways to use world qualities; I’m sure you can speculate on them. We hope you’ll be excited to see what we do with this feature in the coming months.

Expect to see the Palaeontologist Living World Update… now. I enabled it fifteen minutes ago.

A summary of everything we’re announcing or adding today:

  • Marigold Station, the next and final chapter of the Railway, comes in the first week of June.
  • In late June, we are launching Fallen London: Zeefarer, a new update cycle that follows up on the Railway, but is not a direct sequel. It will include new ports and zee destinations, as well as an all-new zailing experience.
  • In July, we will not be having an Election event. Instead, there will be a new seasonal event in its place.
  • Today, we are updating the Bone Market with new World Qualities that will change how it works from week to week. This is a new feature that we will use in many places in upcoming content.


Leave a reply

Michelle Jun 6, 10:12am

So glad about that Zeefarer update! Looking forward to the new locales of course but also simply the changed mechanics - because losing Progress qualities ist what has stopped me from going back to zee many, many times! I liked Elections well enough but I am okay with seeing them go. I'm only at the beginning of the Railway storyline on my main (as someone has mentioned before in the comments, it is rather a LOT of work...) - too bad I can't increase the Dangerous cap before getting further with the Railway. I wouldn't mind a way to just travel on the railway, like the other person said, maybe with limited access to the content there? But perhaps that's difficult to achieve game-mechanics-wise, idk... A big THANK YOU at any rate for all the content you've been putting out for the past year! I especially love Parabola, and looking forward to finishing my Ambitions (soon-ish). Also Whitsun is fun (I missed out on it last year). For some reason I can't fathom (except very *very* bad luck of the draw?) my second alt (POSI with 3rd tier profession) has not seen the starting card for beginning the Railway Venture again for like a YEAR (after drawing the card frequently a long time ago). Could that be a bug?

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Fallen London’s June update returns to the Sunless Sea setting – May 27, 8:00am

[…] Failbetter shared a little more information about what players can expect from Zeefarer in a news release: […]

Qube May 27, 6:28am

so if we're not having elections any more, where does that leave election-only equipment, home comforts, companions, etc? am I just SOL & JWF because I didn't have the foresight last year to buy a bunch of Fate all at once to get the other candidates' items?

Fallen London’s June update returns to the Sunless Sea setting - May 27, 6:25am

[…] Failbetter shared a little more information about what players can expect from Zeefarer in a news release: […]

Fallen London’s June update returns to the Sunless Sea setting - MyPartner May 27, 3:04am

[…] Failbetter shared a little more information about what players can expect from Zeefarer in a news release: […]

Jefferson Santos May 27, 2:58am

That sounds great! I love the Zee, but travelling will certainly become even more fun with a few updates@

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[…] Failbetter shared somewhat extra details about what gamers can anticipate from Zeefarer in a information launch: […]

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[…] Failbetter shared a little more information about what players can expect from Zeefarer in a news release: […]

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[…] Failbetter shared a little more information about what players can expect from Zeefarer in a news release: […]

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[…] Failbetter udostępnił trochę więcej informacji na temat tego, czego gracze mogą oczekiwać od Zeefarera w a Informacja prasowa: […]

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Matthew McGeehin May 26, 4:29am

I'll miss the election, but I personally hope that the election simply isn't "retired" but this first season has the Mayor step down and the ceremony introduced lorewise, rather than simply disappearing.

Greg Machlin May 25, 11:04pm

All of this strikes me as very good. I'll miss the election, but I'm pretty good at avoiding conflict around FL-related things, and I get that a lot of people aren't, so I think it's the right choices. You folk have knocked it out of the park with everything Railway, Parabola, and Ambition-Ending-related -- plus Whitsun. It was already a giant game, and then you ran it through the Highly Experimental Device! ("More… it makes things *more.* ")

GuesssWho May 25, 10:17pm

Was that a Watchmen reference?

Perlino the Thief May 25, 7:38pm

My Big Question, now that the Railway is finishing: will we ever be able to just take the train to visit the new locales, or go on paleontological digs, without having to be involved in building it? Track-laying, producing materials for tracklaying, Board meetings and inter-board politicking all sound like work: boring work, not fun. I have never had any interest in that storyline and am hoping to avoid it. Other points: 1) You guys are amazing. I don't know how to thank you, till I have the income to spend more FATE (and I will). 2) So excited about Zeefarer! Especially the possibility of exploring the Khanate! 3) Not too disappointed about having missed Elections all together, and I know the content replacing it will be great.

MagicAndWires May 25, 7:31pm

I have always liked the way Zailing completely isolated you from everything when between destinations, and how that worked to make you feel like you really were undertaking some grand and dangerous journey, but I am happy to hear that it'll be a little less punishing to start that journey. I'll a bit sad to see elections go though, as I did like the communal spirit of the event, even the slightly adversarial aspect of it. Personally, I've always experienced that as a playful rivalry, but I am aware that the connection to real-life politics and perhaps unfortunate timing can hit a little too close to home. I do hope the new event still manages to incorporate some version of factions and team spirit though as that is otherwise rare to come by in this game. Maybe just make the various ship societies canon ;)? (yacht gang yacht gang yacht gang)

Joe McReynolds May 25, 6:53pm

Bruno, this is very exciting! One big question -- during the 2020 election, my understanding was that since the Viscountess won, Parabolan War content would be prioritized first, but that the Gebrant and Rubbery content would also come at a later date. Is that still the plan? Or are those possibilities lost to the winds forever?

Z May 25, 6:24pm

This is so exciting! I love the zee, and I'd love more content that doesn't need base 200 stats. :')

Feldon Smithe May 25, 5:06pm

Dear Bruno, thank you and all of the staff working on Fallen London for all of the exhaustive work you have put in and for the great content that you have created. What you have accomplished this past year is truly wonderful and beautiful. It seems like your communication with the audience has also gotten so much better and that your team's writing and creativity are at an all-time high. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy your amazing creation.

Juliet Hammersmyth May 25, 4:52pm

So, so excited for all of this!! Fallen London has been so GOOD ever since the 10th anniv stuff and the ambition conclusions and I feel so fortunate the good stuff keeps coming, and one day when I'm caught up on other stuff (or need a break) I already know I'll be one of the people on there building the skeleton (or whatever other activity) of the week every time. MMOs have taught me this much about myself. I've never been this excited for or engaged with FL and I just can't get enough, super psyched for everything to come!

Eliza Cromlech May 25, 4:44pm

Yessss, new Zee content! I really liked all the existing Zee destinations (particularly Hunter's Keep and Polythreme), but I never felt particularly motivated to go back to those places after I'd been there once or twice--and yes, part of that was because it took so long to get there. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what new adventures will, ah, bubble to the surface. :3

James Sinclair May 25, 4:28pm

This is exciting news -- thanks for the very lucid update. I'm thrilled to read about the new Zeefarer storyline and am really looking forward to exploring mysterious destinations across the Neath (Irem, please!). As for the election, I'm a bit sorry to see it go, although the truth is that it had become much less social over the past couple of years due to mechanical changes, so I hope whatever new event replaces it includes some more social aspects to really energize the community the way the Feast of the Exceptional Rose does.

The Often Overlooked Plenipotentiary May 25, 4:08pm

The Masters Of The Bazaar ending centuries worth of democracy in the capital of the United Kingdom be like: I was expecting people to be madder oh wow.

AM May 25, 3:51pm

Very exciting! I’ll be looking forward to all of these changes, particularly the Zee and Khanate content! While it’s always a little sad to lose something like elections, all the prior changes have been so thoughtfully done that I’m sure I won’t miss it. And I very much enjoy the idea of having world qualities that make FLondon feel more like a living city.

Unclad May 25, 3:31pm

A fantastic bout of updates, some really world changing stuff! Very much glad to see these bursts of new life coming into the game, and the fact they seem to be well-received and something you're continuing into the future is absolutely wonderful! And it seems any defence of the old ways of Mayoral elections is being quickly undermined in this comment section, most likely by the very same type of people for whom this change was tailored, so as to deny them the opportunity to spew venom. For your own creative sake, and for that of the community, I understand their sacrifice (even if it did feel like an interesting way to sway development with community feedback), and hope the new event brings a similar but singularly Fallen London feeling.

Dani_x May 25, 2:48pm

Great update! - Thumbs up for the zeefarer. I was really hyped to build the ship and start voyages, but it didn't feel right when I accessed it and I haven't even completed everything (1 year returning player) - Excited about the living world, sounds right to see things shifting in London from time to time (already imagining two competing factions shifting the balance in their struggle from week to week) - Eager about the new festival. If there will be something like public quests in some mmorpgs - something like building a "wonder" class building in London or gathering resources for war against other cities in Great Game etc, it could be interesting community cooperation with milestones to be triggered, it could be great if it's well implemented

Asbestos May 25, 2:13pm

And there goes the second interesting FL activity (of which I'm aware of, at least) after Knife-and-Candle that I'll be missing. Just because I came too late there won't be any election years for me and fellow newcomers. I don't feel like it's appropriate to even complain about such complex matter but nevertheless - God, that's disappointing. Though the position of Lord-Mayor was seemingly more or less meaningless, the event itself was the most hyped-up thing in London's life throughout the year (IMHO). Yet, I want to express my gratitude to Failbetter team for working so hard on keeping this project alive. May this wonderful game last another decade in such wonderful state!

Soulfog May 25, 1:43pm

This is a tremendous amount of content and news that has me more excited than ever for the future of Fallen London. I been playing this game for about two years now and it's become a part of my daily rhythm. The fact that this game, as old as it is, can still bring so much excitement and joy with new content and the unknown of the future boasts greatly of it's dedication of its creators and its player base. I'm not sure if Fallen London is still growing in terms of player base or not (hopefully so), but this game is a gem through and through that deserves so much more attention.

ggscv May 25, 1:33pm

Incredible, Failbetter (and especially the people behind Fallen London) just keep knocking it out the park. Zero complaints and had a big grin on my face the whole time.

Ephraim May 25, 1:33pm

Seriously? Petty seasonal arguments over fictional mayoral candidates got too heated? What, did someone use allcaps at one point? That was pretty much the one and only in-game mechanic it was possible to have an actual disagreement over. Way to render the seasonal events entirely toothless.

Alice Graham May 25, 1:33pm

I can safely say that this is the most excited I've been for Fallen London since the Ambition endings (not to say everything up until now hasn't also been fantastic). Failbetter, you've really been knocking it out of the park! Keep up the amazing work.

Acer Pseudoplantatus May 25, 1:24pm

Tremendously excited for the future! I'm certain that all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. Loved the Railway storyline and mechanics throughout. But I have only one complaint, that being you having teased me with some gant for my mirrorcatch box and shortly thereafter allowing me to visit the Gant Pole without an option to fill it or return. Will the World quities be visible somewhere, though?

Mihau May 25, 1:23pm

Very excited for the zeefaring update! Not at all sad to see elections go. My only worry is, what about methempsychosis? It's running late, if I'm not mistaken, and there have been no updates or explanations that I've seen.

Pinstripeowl May 25, 1:14pm

This is all incredibly exciting! I am very eager to see new Zee content - and the one line that really got rid of all fears was the stripping away of the progress-wipe that it currently has (I'd forgotten about that and a recent trip to Heathstone House was more painful than the tiger claws found there).

somanyteacups May 25, 12:59pm

So much hard work already done. Adored the Discordance, most recently. Can’t wait to explore what comes next, but also glad you’ll be slowing the breakneck in hopes it’ll let you breathe a bit. Thanks always for this world, this flickering, constant light beyond the mirror (or the screen) - this fallen London.

Zeetor May 25, 12:36pm

And so I have discovered paragraphs do not exist in this comment system.

Zeetor May 25, 12:35pm

Interesting to see that even fictional elections in a fictional game about a fictional place generate tensions... sounds like, dare I say, human nature? Maybe you could consider keeping elections as a much smaller, passive event that happens automatically without player involvement? Just letting us know that the mayor has changed each year. Curiously I have just begun zailing the Zee and I actually had a positive reaction to it. Maybe if I was more late-game player that would have been different, but I found the mechanics much more intriguing than the usual FL clicker fare I encounter, and I think it's due to randomness - every voyage is slightly different and there are risks involved. That might be controversial to a more optimisation-minded players, but in a narrative game I prefer things to be unpredictable. I would even crank the risk up a bit. I'm curious how much of that aspect will be preserved in the future system. The whole optimisation / rewards mindset is kind of alien to me to be honest, I do not get attached to items in this text-driven narrative game without failure states, all they are to me is unlockers of narrative or flavour tidbits. I don't care if things are "balanced" and "rewarding", I will do them anyway just to see the words they contain, the words are everything to me, not numbers.