Metempsychosis, or Meeting Your End

By Failbetter, October 19, 2020 · Fallen London

 This year we’ve completed the Ambition storylines in Fallen London, each of which represents a high point of your character’s journey in the Neath; the reason they came in the first place. For the players who’ve reached that resolution, what comes next?

One of the answers here, of course, is “build a railway.” That’s the route we’ve created for players who want to have a broad-ranging effect on life in London, and see their actions reshape the Neath. The Railway content focuses on the kind of effect the player can have when they reach a position of leadership – when their individual power is extended through communities, businesses, institutions and movements. While it’s possible to start a Railway without finishing an ambition, the content is tuned for advanced players, and many ambition outcomes help make Railway work easier.

But what about players who wanted a more personal conclusion to their arc?

In Fallen London, you’ve only ever been able to achieve an ending for your character, and an irreparably final one at that, through seeking Mr Eaten’s name. (Around 700 characters have reached the final endpoint of that story, of the many, many thousands in regular play.)

Completing the Ambition stories, while a vast task in itself, also led us to thinking more about endings. When it became possible to end your character via Seeking, we received feedback that people wanted other ways to retire their characters that weren’t so destructive; they didn’t want to say a firm and final goodbye to the game and the community, and destroy characters in whom they’ve invested lots of role-playing energy, time, and sometimes real-world money. 

So we wanted to offer a conclusion mechanic that would

  • Allow players other ways to write their character’s final chapter
  • Tell a few stories of major change or transformation that wouldn’t fit elsewhere in Fallen London
  • Explore possibilities that are already implied in existing content – things the player logically ought to be able to try, but that we’ve never made possible because the consequences would be so extreme
  • Provide a fresh experience for veteran players who want to start a new character
  • Allow players to pass on a legacy to that character, and even to develop the story of an entire sequence of related characters
  • Let players who worked on four sequential characters experience all four Ambitions and gather reward items and companions from them
  • Account for a few fun and interesting combinations (what would the Esurient Smith have to say about forging the Jaguar Blade?) that might result

We also had a few anti-goals. We wanted to make sure we did not

  • Devalue the character who is being retired. We want this to be a chance for the player to do some final roleplaying and give a character a meaningful end
  • Equate all endings with death
  • Close off the possibility of other endings for a character besides the ones we’re writing now. Destinies are another way for players to put an ending on their character’s stories
  • Make Metempsychosis so much stronger than the alternatives that it feels like the only option for serious players. (There’s more to say about this, so we’ll expand on it below)
  • Excessively frustrate players who would like both to retain their current main character and see the new content associated with Metempsychosis.

What is Metempsychosis?

In short, Metempsychosis refers to the transmigration of the soul from one body to another at the point of death. It is an ending, and a beginning.

In Fallen London, it will be a way to tell a character story that has a definite conclusion. It’s also a way to replay the early game more efficiently than you could if starting from scratch, and to enjoy some additional lore and experiences depending on how your previous character ended up.

Finally, it’s a way to string together all four Ambitions into one, joined-up storyline. We can’t see a reasonable way  to let a single character do all four Ambitions without restarting: the results would be both mechanically overpowered and fictionally very hard to support. But we can tell a story where all those Ambitions are completed by members of a single dynasty or legacy line.

A Little about the Mechanics

We have made the requirements for starting Metempsychosis lighter than they might have been – in particular, we don’t require players to have finished an Ambition first. The idea is that if someone wants to start a fresh character just for a Metempsychosis run, that should require some investment of time, but be reasonably doable.

Players who undergo Metempsychosis will have legacy items from their previous character, as well as some features that will allow them to move through the early game faster — meaning that they can get back to endgame status more quickly than another type of character would be able to.

However, we’re aiming to make the ultimate mechanical advantages roughly equivalent for players who invest in building up a new character with a legacy, or for players who spend the same amount of time earning rewards and stat gains for an existing endgame character. 

Some players may find that they want a change from endgame content and would have more fun revisiting the early game; some players may prefer to stay at the level they’re at.

Other Futures for Your Character

All the Metempsychosis stories are inward-focused and personal, stories of individual change. We don’t often get to tell that kind of story about the player character. Many of our most personal narratives are about non-player characters, especially the ones at the focus of Exceptional Stories. The Nemesis Ambition is arguably the biggest exception in current content, and a number of players have told us they enjoyed it for exactly that reason.

We’re excited to write those – and we know they’re not a fit for every character. Some players are more interested in the effect they have on London as a whole, or the changes they can bring to the lives around them.

Taken all together, all of these elements –  from Metempsychosis to the Railway – make more room for us to tell stories about change, and to let us continue adding to Fallen London sustainably in years to come.

 What We Can Share Now

We’re not looking to introduce Metempsychosis before 2021. That is a bit later than we had initially expected, but we’re slowing things down to respond to changed development conditions this year.

There are quite a few things we’re still settling, including technical implementation details. But we expect the following to mostly hold true, with the possibility of some changes and additions as work continues and we hone in on the exact experience we’re looking to give:

  • You will be clearly warned of what you will lose or retain before undergoing any of the Metempsychosis transformations
  • Even if you start a Metempsychosis storyline, you will have a chance to back out any time before the very end of the process
  • You’ll have the chance to create a conclusion for your current character, make some final role-playing decisions for them, and retain their final profile. Their story will be completed, not erased
  • You’ll define a legacy for the character you play next. Your new character may need to do some work in game to access their legacy
  • That legacy will include Ambition reward items and any permanently acquired Laboratory characters. We are still investigating exactly what other possessions it should be possible to pass on
  • Any Exceptional Friend stories will be reset so that the new character can replay each of them once for free. This is a chance to reread old favourites you may not have seen for years, or to pick different endings and rewards that might be more suited to the new character you’re now playing
  • Regarding Fate purchases: You will be able to inherit equippable Fate-locked items where these were the key element of the purchase – for instance, companions from the Feast of the Rose and the Christmas Incarnadine Robe items. You won’t inherit equipment received in the course of playing a premium story such as Flint, or purchases that only have a nominal Fate cost. We have something else in mind for items like the Heptagoat, for example
  • You will uncover new early-game content that exists only for players who already know Fallen London well
  • However, Metempsychosis players won’t be able to become extremely wealthy or overpowered through undergoing it multiple times

All of these elements are part of the ongoing improvements and additions to the game. Our ambition as a business is to have two projects running alongside Fallen London (more on the next of our projects in the coming months!). She’s a beautiful, strange old beast, and we have no plans to wind her down.

If you have any thoughts on Metempsychosis, particularly regarding what will happen to edge case items or qualities we haven’t specifically mentioned here, please send them to


Leave a reply

Oracular Jan 18, 8:08pm

The biggest thing I'd want to make sure carries over in my legacy are the seasonal companions and items that are no longer available by any means. I'd hate to lose my Moot forever, for example. Other than that, I'd be happy to give up just about everything I have, including my 1000+ echo items, and I think it's totally reasonable to make the legacy hard to access.

Li Dec 31, 9:25pm

I just started playing a little while ago, and ran into this post while looking up if it was possible to do all of the Ambitions. I think it's a great idea to allow people to carry things over so that you can experience all four storylines with a little less grinding, because they all sound interesting. The reason I was even trying to look up if doing all of them was possible was because so far it's impossible to choose which one to work towards! So I think this is awesome, and I look forward to it being added some time next year.

Keanu Oct 26, 2:11pm

You will need to be very particular about which items and qualities are passed on and which are not. Players who spend months or even years grinding for a single purpose (Breath of the Void, Seven-Fold Knock, etc.) will likely require ALL of these extreme long-term rewards to be passed on in order to even consider using Metempsychosis, especially since re-grinding for those items will offer no new experiences or lore for the player - only another X months/years lost to grinding for the same purpose again. That kind of commitment ultimately has only one true reward: the fact that the result of the player's extreme efforts can never be taken away by anyone. One possible solution to this problem is to separately calculate how much approximate time it takes to achieve each goal in the game, then set a threshold for how large the time investment must be in order to carry over a resulting reward. That way, anything short of a monumental investment will be reset, while those high time-loss rewards are saved and passed on - kind of like your intention to reset small Fate investments, but save large ones.

Soulfog Oct 23, 9:44pm

My concern about Metapsychosis is the fact that you're able to keep your Ambition's final items. Those are some of the most powerful in the game. So wouldn't people who choose to go through Metapsychosis and go through amibitons repeatedly, only to then get a boost back to the endgame content, be significantly overpowered compared to players who prefer to stick to their one character and not go through Metapsychosis? It seems like so.

Revival Lake Oct 20, 9:27pm

I appreciate all the information and how specific and concise it is for what you've worked out. I really support you writing and developing the game as you need to, and you will continue having my support. I feel like this will appeal to new end game players, for sure. This is absolutely going to be a fun experience for them. I acknowledge that you've tried to include us keeping as much as possible without giving us too much in the new game. I don't understand why, though. This isn't a competitive game. Us coming in with the exact same items we had before starting doesn't affect a single other player in a negative way right now. I appreciate that it would be seen as being too impactful and easy a second time through to some folks, and it's more fun to earn it back to a degree. Others of us who sat at end-game grinding qualities for a long time are going to be far less enthusiastic about this. Some of us lose 6, 7, 10 years of quality creep with a NG+ if that isn't saved. You've mentioned there have been thousands of player accounts, but some of us lose the uniqueness of having the top (amongst those we know) number in a ridiculous statistic or the like. Taking ordinary character development to the extreme has always been part of the fun of Fallen London, for many of us. I think this is a good, cool way to get a lot of people to spend more time in an amazing game, and I love the idea. It is not designed for longer-time players as stated here, but I get we're not really the majority and accept that. Rather than losing a couple thousand days worth of play, which isn't an exaggeration for some, we will likely rush alt characters to see the new content instead of experiencing it on our long-time characters. I am not sure how to feel about this, other than my desire to continue supporting such a fantastic game.

Mark Oct 20, 7:40am

Please consider making ALL non-storylines-related possessions inheritable, and preferably also all the grindable qualities. the metempsychosis is mostly targeted towards end-game players who have grinded most of the tier items, goats, cider, companions, etc..., qualities like renowns, sotc, poet laureate, etc... and finally some rare and now unobtainable qualities, from participants of the election 18xx to stuff like "we'll always have [city]". if the main incentive is to replay the early game + the ambition, then people could simply make an alt, no need to lose everything gained so far. if the incentives are the ambition items only (stuff like inheritable lab assistants is laughable tbh) then it still would be an awful exchange, losing all your hard earned stuff for a dozen of not even best-in-slots items. finally, if the incentive is to read the new metempsychosis related storylets, then again, i could do a new character and rush those, since you said it would be available in mid-game please seriously consider this issue. i (and a lot of other endgame players, who are the one that pay for EF and supports the game) have a character who has done pretty much everything except ambitions, and while i would really like to play ng+ to read all the stories/unlock all locations/etc again, so far a see 0% chance of me doing the metempsychosis thingy, based on this blog post if you need i could literally make a list of what should be reset and what not in order to avoid triggering end-game players

Greg Oct 19, 9:53pm

This sounds exceptionally well thought-out and balanced. I'm looking forward to seeing the possibilities! (At least a 50% chance I tackle Metempsychosis, as I would love to play out the Ambitions I haven't tackled yet.)

Jaspurrs Oct 19, 8:01pm

Oh, also-- what if someone's got super high notability? What about the extremely rare companions like the Salt Weasel or the Haunted-Looking Dog, or items you can no longer obtain 'cause they're no longer available in standard play, like stuff from promotional events/twitter codes? And all the time I spent building up Renown to 40+, for that matter? o:

Jaspurrs Oct 19, 7:08pm

I think what makes me most nervous is losing qualities I'm really proud of having accrued-- my character's whole arc was about becoming the best thief in the Neath and I felt pretty accomplished in that by grinding up 43 Master Thief. I'd REALLY miss losing stuff like that, even if I could take or leave most other things, and I feel like losing items like the Hesperidean Cider or the GOAT would really deter against all the grinding people do to obtain it. I hope these are accounted for! They're major hang-ups that might stop me from wanting to enjoy this content to its fullest on my mains, when it's reading out to be so so neat.

Opportunity Oct 19, 5:37pm

very poggers

Almost Too Gullible Oct 19, 3:47pm

Reminds me a bit of Ascension as in Kingdom of Loathing. I expect great things!

Alexander Wang Oct 19, 3:34pm

I would be all for this, and I especially love the anti-goals you've stressed.

Plurnes Oct 19, 1:41pm

Very interesting! I'm sure it'll be an exciting update, even if my character isn't likely to Meet His End anytime soon.

Archbishop Nero Keller Oct 19, 1:34pm

Lovely. Reminiscent of the Sunless duo's inheritance feature.