When it came to deciding our cast for Mask of the Rose, we knew we wanted to include a range of characters both old and new from our long-running browser game, Fallen London.
We wanted our cast to offer a variety of perspectives and experiences on the events of Mask of the Rose, while keeping to our goal of a tightly focused and scoped game. Returning characters had to both add something unique to our cast while offering room for exploration and mysteries unfamiliar to players both familiar and unfamiliar with Fallen London. We therefore had to be parsimonious with our roster of characters and strict with ourselves when it came to including too many iconic characters from Fallen London, which features a cast of hundreds.
We offered a range of characters we were excited to explore further, in their pre Fallen London days, as offerings at our highest backer tier. The character selection answered our above criteria, and we were delighted thinking of the possibilities each could add to the game. In the end, two were chosen by our generous backers at the Minister Tier: the Tentacled Entrepreneur, and the subject of this blog, the Bishop of Southwark.
The Bishop has long been a favourite of ours at Failbetter and we were extremely pleased to learn he was going to be joining our roster of characters in Mask of the Rose. The thunderous, rambunctious Bishop of Southwark is a fiery, complicated character, both humorous and tragic. The Bishop, or Reginald, as he's known in Mask, is a long-time fan favourite in Fallen London. He blusters, he shouts, he's a champion pugilist and he plans to make war on Hell. The Bishop of Southwark is a pillar of the community and a force to be reckoned with, a shouting stentorian subversion of what we imagine a Victorian vicar to be. Over the years we've enjoyed exploring the story of this fan-favourite and complicating the narrative of this seemingly severe churchman.
We've delved into his backstory in Fallen London before, but we realised we didn't know much about Reginald's origins: where did he come from? Why did he join the Church to begin with? What motivated him to undergo such a drastic journey to reach the position he's in by the time Fallen London rolls around? We quickly realised we had a lot of story we wanted to tell with Reginald and many questions we'd yet to answer.
From there it was a case of working out where he fits into the narrative as a whole - we wanted to fit him seamlessly into the world when he appears in the second act. This meant understanding which characters he was likely to meet and which events he was likely to be present for. This also involved imagining his reactions to everything that has happened prior to his first appearance and everything that occurs from there in the game. Ultimately we wanted to ensure players who wished to spend time with our good friend Reggie would be rewarded for their investment in him.
We also wanted to use him as a point of contrast with our other, more established churchman, Theophilus. Theophilus is, initially, a steadier figure ensconced in St Alban's, where Reginald finds himself seconded as a young canon. The two quickly establish the dynamic of their relationship, grounded in their contrasting views on just about everything. The player will have plenty of opportunities to get involved in the conflict, as both men are invariably tangled up in each other's plots. We wanted to use this contrast to explore differing perspectives within the Church on the events of the Fall, and subsequent approaches to life in the Neath. Reginald's inclusion add another lens on our exploration of characters of various faiths responding to the calamity and opportunity of the Fall, to go alongside Theophilus, Harjit and the events at the Tentergrounds Synagogue.
Reginald is our vehicle to both delve into the origins of an iconic Fallen London character and show him in a whole new light while also providing a fresh angle on the people and circumstances of Mask of the Rose - including, of course, the player character. While we can't promise a fully fledged romance with Reginald (if nothing else he's not really at a stage in his life where such a thing would be anything other than disastrous), we can certainly say this hotblooded priest is full of surprises. And, of course, we can finally reveal the origin of Reginald's love of resolving disputes with wrestling…