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Generated: Apr 23, 2021 1:40 AM
Post last updated: Apr 23, 2021 2:13 AM
batch of fresh fake meta-knowledge
Bella is an otome villainess
Permalink Mark Unread

The space is bright purple and stretches on for what seems like forever. The only other thing in it that can be perceived is a rounded woman with a bright face and glowing feathery wings. 

"Congratulations! You have been selected by the ineffable Will of the Multiverse to reincarnate as the villainess of an otome game. Kind of weird, but it's become a huge thing over ten or so of your years in at least a dozen universal branes adjacent to yours. I think one of the Will's avatars read a light novel in your world, honestly. Now, you won't be reincarnating into an actual otome game from your world," the angel says. 

She taps her chin. "I don't get it, but according to my guidelines it's actually more in genre for us to create a custom otome-style world for you? It seems weird to me, but the universe molding crews love it, so we get lots of brownie points at inter-department parties. In any case, you'll be reincarnating into the soon-to-be-created Kingdom of Villarosa, setting of the non-existent smash hit otome game, manga, anime, and Broadway musical Roses of Villarosa!" She throws her arms out enthusiastically. 

"You'll be becoming the much-hated villainess of the story, fated to be sentenced to a horrible bad ending for the crime of being the gorgeous and charismatic heroine's rival in love and for generally being an awful person. I'm sure you can picture how the story goes already," she adds sympathetically. "You're definitely going to be a woman in your next life, and you'll also be attracted to men, though you may choose whether you want to be attracted to women also in your new life or be strictly into the cute boys."

"If you object, all I can say is that management apologizes for the inconvenience, but the Will's... well, will is final. On the upside, though, the reincarnation process will ensure you don't suffer any severe body or gender dysphoria, as well as preventing too much homesickness for your old life. Those safeties are there to prevent any depressing suicides. I'm sure you'll be relieved to know that you won't have to relive being a baby or toddler, you'll recover your old identity and memories when you're a teenager, a few days or weeks before the start of 'canon.' Another benefit is that because we haven't actually sent the specification for Villarosa to the universe molders, we have a chance to tweak things to make sure that your otome villainess reincarnation is to your taste. Just pick what you like best, and when we're done the molders get to work, I download a batch of fresh fake meta-knowledge about Roses of Villarosa to your soul, and you get reincarnated."

"So let's get started, okay?"

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"What is an otome," says Bella, who, last thing she remembers, was getting hit by a van.

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The angel blinks at her. 

"An otome is a genre of game from your and similar universes. It's a kind of visual novel where, possibly in addition to some more momentous main plot, the female protagonist's goal is to romance one--or more, depending on the game--male characters."

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"And you are proposing to, prompted by my - death - create an entire universe and slot me in as the villain of a plot that does not in fact otherwise already exist, which you expect to work - how?"

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"Well, I'm not on the universe creation team, I'm in customer service," she chirps. "Creating the plot of the game is what we're here for! Or you could just abdicate all the choices, but that seems strictly worse."

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"No, no, I'm not abdicating anything, just - asking on - backround - I was recently killed, you see, I would like to get oriented to, uh, this. Do you do this a lot?"

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"Well, the otome thing specifically is new."

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"But creating entire universes, that you do all the time. Are many people in these universes pulled from deaths in others?"

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"Well, in a general reincarnation sense, yes, but most of them aren't offered their memories back."

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"Why do I get my memories?"

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"The Will finds it entertaining to design universes around a central, well, plotline. And for the plotline to be interesting compared to just reading a book, there has to be someone who knows what's going on and can try to avoid or embrace their fate on purpose."

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"Yeah, but am I special, or is this random? After it's all over do I get reincarnated again? Have I been reincarnated before?"

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"You in particular..." she turns her head as though to examine something Bella can't see. "Have not been reincarnated before. You're special in the sense that you have certain meta-metaphysical qualities that suggest you would make a particularly entertaining protagonist. After you die you will obey whatever rules apply to dead people in the universe in question, which if the answer is 'none' may result in your being scooped up again for reincarnation although it's highly unlikely you'll be offered your memories back a second time in a row."

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"- is what happens to dead people in the universe in question a choice I get to make?"

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"Well, it's not one of the core options to choose between, but each option has a certain amount of freeform customization potential beyond simply the discrete choices. In order to get any kind of afterlife you're definitely going to have to choose a magic level of low, medium, or high." 

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"That's not a lot of - granularity, are all the choices like that? What process fills in the details?"

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"Any details you don't choose to fill in will be handled by the universe design team."

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"But I can choose however much? - am I working with a time limit here?"

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"Oh, no, we're in dilated time here, and I'm psychologically incapable of getting bored!" the angel assures her brightly. "There are some things you could try to decide where I would have to tell you 'no, that's not allowed' or 'that's only allowed if you make thus and such a choice among the discrete options,' but yes, arbitrary levels of detail!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...with that much control over the situation how am I going to be induced to serve a villain role?"

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"Well, you can't choose options that completely preclude it, but you can in fact choose not to behave villainously, that's a feature, not a bug."

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"So it's not going to be, like, a situation where the society is guaranteed to be so fucked up that they only think people are heroes if they commit genocide, or something?"

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"No, no. That wouldn't be a good otome game at all."

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"What kind of conversation would we be having if I were a lesbian and strenuously objected to having that changed?"

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"Well...you'd be less likely to have been chosen if you were a lesbian who would object strenuously, but...the Will's decisions are final."

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"Can I decide that what happens to dead people in my universe is that they get to go give the Will a swift kick?"

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She smothers a giggle. "No, that's not an option, sorry."

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"What kinds of constraints am I working with besides that I cannot prohibit myself from being a 'villain' and cannot send ghosts to kick your boss."

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"We have a list of discrete options that you have to pick between, and everything has to be compatible with the options you pick or some other set of options if you want to change your mind about something. The country you're reincarnated into is going to be called Villarosa, and it's going to be a monarchy. The world has to contain genders recognizable to your society as male and female. Every feature of the world has to run on at least one of logic or genre-appropriate tropes; you can decide that people sometimes break out into spontaneous musical numbers in contravention of apparent practicality, but you can't dictate the precise workings of Villarosa's economy if economies don't actually work the way you want it to. Although, I myself am not an economist, so if you give me economics instructions that objectively make no sense, I'll smile and nod and when I give the specs to the universe fabrication team they will just ignore them."

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"Am I allowed to talk to the universe fabrication team?"

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"No, the universe fabrication team isn't time-dilated."

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"Do they have... a Frequently Asked Questions document or anything."

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"Um...nobody's ever asked me that before." She does the looking-at-something-Bella-can't-see thing again. "--Not exactly, but they have some...I think the term is 'For Dummies' primers on relevant worldbuilding aspects." She tilts her head slightly. "And recommendations for historical fiction."

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"Well, you can't get bored and I'm not in a hurry, so lay it on me."

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She pulls out of nowhere a stack of books about politics and economics and agriculture and transit. None of them has a fancy cover, just plain white paper with topics stamped on them. (Also, once she cracks them open, written by people more interested in yelling at people they consider idiots and less interested in selling their books than textbook authors tend to be.)

She places the stack in mid-air in front of Bella, then pulls out a much larger stack of more conventional books (albeit ones with a disproportionate quantity of four-digit numbers in their titles). 

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Bella settles in to read.

Halfway through the second chapter she says, "Uh, how long is my list of basic required choices, I should maybe look them over to have an idea of what to be giving particular attention to. Also I would like notebooks and a writing implement."

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She provides these. 

"Hm. Well, I don't actually have it written down...It would take less than an hour to say all of it out loud without stopping to actually get any answers, I think, I haven't actually timed it or anything though..."

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"Perhaps you could write it down," Bella suggests.

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She wrinkles her nose. "If it's important to you. I don't exactly have it as a script, though, I just know things, I'm worried I'll forget something important if I just try to put everything down at once without any context."

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"...okay, you can tell me and I'll write it down, though please don't interpret anything I say as my final decision."

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"Of course!" she assures her earnestly. "Until you leave this place to go off to your new life, you can change anything you want, and I wouldn't send you off without making extra super sure you really meant it."

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"What would you do if I wanted to spend eternity hanging out here reading about combine harvesters and writing novels for an audience of myself?"

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"...You're human, humans aren't psychologically built for that. If you went totally uncommunicative or unintelligible for long enough I would take your last stated preferences as final and send you off, but I promise, I'm built to outwait you over any period of time that would leave you sane. If you wanted to hang out here for a million years I would be mildly inconvenienced."

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"Okay. - how good will the memory fidelity transfer be?"

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"If you do decide to wait for a million years and go crazy, I'm going to cut off your memories around when your last vaguely coherent communications were. Aside from that, by the time you have all your memories back you'll remember everything at least as well as you do now."

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"Cool. Are there limits to what I can request from here - notebooks apparently kosher, what about like a computer -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can get you anything that existed in your world, is relevant to the process of making your decisions, and isn't private. A computer with word processors and calculator apps yes, someone's diary or classified documents no."

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"My diary?"

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"You'll have to specify the nature of your diary--I can't target 'Isabella Swan's Diary,' unless you specifically and deliberately titled it that, but if you describe its characteristics and location I can grab it for you." 

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"Does that involve you inspecting its contents or anyone else doing so?"

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"Not unless the characteristics you use to specify it include its contents. If you say 'the sparkly pink notebook on my bedside table' then I can just look for the sparkly pink exterior, but if you say 'the notebook with the elaborate diagram on page forty-three,' I'm going to have to look at page forty-three of a lot of notebooks."

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"Can I just have the entire contents of my bedroom, make this place a little homier for research?"

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She considers questioning whether every single thing in Bella's bedroom is relevant to the decision-making process and decides that Bella is already picky enough that making her argue about everything she wants is probably not going to be productive in causing her to engage with the process, and summons the entire contents of Bella's bedroom. 

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"Cool, thanks. Saves me the trouble of remembering where I left everything." She gathers up her reading material and notebooks and flops on her bed. "Okay, you were going to run through the choice structure for me?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right!" She considers starting with hair, decides that from what she's seen of Bella's personality so far that's not the wisest idea, and goes with, "So, there are two axes on which to make discrete choices about the world. Tech level, and magic level! The tech level options are Faux Medieval, basically a typical sword and sorcery setting or a subdued version of the SCA, Actual Pre-Modern, more historically accurate and not as nice. It requires magic level none or low, and you get a free perk for picking it but it's probably not worth it. Early Modern, basically renaissance up to the locomotive, plus some more modern extra conveniences if you want, like with Faux Medieval. Industrial--you can still add a few conveniences but they're starting to get a bit redundant. Steampunk! Entirely outside your own tech tree, and does not come with any mandatory Victorian social mores, I promise. Contemporary--I don't think I need to describe this too much, you grew up with this tech level, by definition. Cyberpunk--exactly what it sounds like--and Space Opera!" 

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"- when a universe is created, does it have the entire implied history?"

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"--It has an entire simulated history. If you specify that a genocide occurred fifty years ago then there's a historical record of a genocide, but the people who died in it never actually lived. But if you specify an afterlife, then there will be spirits in it who remember being genocided."

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"And if I don't specify an afterlife then everybody who had a relative who survived the genocide would love and miss people who never existed. I mean, I don't see a reason to imply a genocide, but - do you mean the entire simulated history, evolution and all, is it a moral imperative to specify that life in my universe didn't evolve -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I don't know that I would say moral imperative, since you could also stipulate the existence of resurrection. And you could say that life evolved but people didn't. If the latter doesn't suffice for your morals then I strongly recommend that you specify that people are herbivorous." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I can specify that people are herbivorous, gosh, that didn't even occur to me. Maybe I should as long as that happens to be convenient, since probably it is also convenient to make, uh, coconuts that taste like chicken, or something. Okay, maybe life can have evolved but people came to exist as a result of a well specified historical event of some kind not too long ago. Can... I just make everybody immortal?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You can make it so that people don't die of old age, you can specify an afterlife and/or resurrection spells, I do not recommend specifying that everyone is biologically incapable of death. That one tends to go badly unless you've exquisitely well-specified the unpleasant edge cases, and the number of people who think they've done so is a lot higher than the number who actually do so."

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"Well, can I crib from the people who have successfully pulled it off?"

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Genuinely regretful headshake. "Firstly and most importantly, I can only access materials from your world or that have been published by my own organization, and we don't have a dedicated immortality team like we do a world fabrication one. Secondly, I don't know what your standards are for 'genuinely pulled it off'; I know that there are cases where nothing has gone wrong yet, but not many and not how long they've been going." She grimaces. "If you want, I can get you a compilation of ways people have failed, if you don't mind the schadenfreudian tone."

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"I will tolerate a schadenfreudian tone. Okay, so I can pick a tech level anywhere from peasant misery to star trek with some detour options ending in 'punk', and I can pick a magic level, and I can go fairly nuts on the details of both, yeah?"

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"Right! You'll need to pick the High Magic setting for the kind of robust immortality systems you're looking at."

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"Yeah, is there actually any reason not to go for the high magic option, like, are there tradeoffs or pitfalls of some kind there?"

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"Being a magic user is a much bigger advantage in a low or medium magic setting. Also, if you go for a no-magic world you get any free perk, but I wouldn't recommend it anyway. Oh, and the High Magic setting means you get the magic user perk for free."

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"...advantage at what?"

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"Approximately everything. I know it seems petty, but to be fair to them, we do scoop people up right after they've literally died, usually not of natural causes, and most people are more rattled and concerned with their own personal safety than you in the wake of such an experience." Pause. "Especially when it wasn't quick."

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"Are you implying that if other people are magical at a high rate I am at a particularly elevated risk of being murdered?"

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"You're not at particularly elevated risk of random murder, but we are sending you into a plot of which you are technically the designated villainess. One of the choices you'll be asked to make is between different bad ends for your character to 'canonically' suffer and for you to have to try to avoid."

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"Can you elaborate on what 'canonically' here means since you did say the game et al don't exist."

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"They're going to counterfactually exist, and you'll remember them. Events will have a tendency to follow their 'canonical' paths, unless you choose the perk 'Off the Rails.'"

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"I'll remember them? Broadway musical and all? Does the plot include the part where I design the universe?"

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"No--" she pauses and tilts her head. "Well, I suppose if you wanted the plot to involve a mythology where a creator goddess with approximately your personality negotiates with extradimensional powers for the formation of the world, there's nothing that says that can't happen. But by default no. From the point at which you 'wake up' in Villarosa, you will essentially have three merging histories: your life in Villarosa, the life you actually led on Earth plus this," she waves a hand indicating their surroundings, particularly the stacks of historical fiction and worldbuilding guides," "and a counterfactual alternate past in a counterfactual universe where the Villarosa game etcetera existed."

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"That's not the kind of game I play, though, I play civ-builders and puzzles. What, in the third of those histories, is causing me to do so?"

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"Well, maybe it's a civ-builder visual novel with a romance aspect, I've seen weirder."

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"...huh, okay. Do I get to do game design as well as universe design or does the former just fall out of the latter?"

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"Designing the mechanics of the game is non-standard but allowed. Designing the events of the game is actually more core to the choices offered to you than designing the universe, I just offered you the universe options first because you seemed likely to prefer that I not start out by quizzing you on preferred hair options."

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"Do the hair options matter, or is it just that the character avatar creator is usually the first part - wait, no, I'm not even the protagonist so that can't be it, can it?"

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"The hair options matter."

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"Wow, okay, thanks for not leading with that, I guess. Does picking a high tech level require that everyone involved start with a remembered history including a whole tech tree or can I - I don't know, start people among the ostensible ruins of an alien civilization that they co-opt no problem and have them zipping around faster than light the following week."

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"You can start people among the ostensible ruins of an alien civilization, that makes narrative sense."

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"Okay. Working assumption that I go high tech high magic, then. I suppose I will have to find out what my hair does sooner or later."

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"There are three hairstyle options--'Drill hair;' classic unrealistic ringlets; this option gives you the perk 'Ohohoho!' for free. Given who you are as a person I don't think you're likely to choose that one. 'Hime cut,' a more practical and serious long hair and straight bangs combination. Choosing this option gives you the perk 'Silk Hiding Steel' for free. And the option most versatile in execution: 'Elaborate' hair. Artfully arranged up-dos, hair so long it reaches your knees, even the most absurd and impractical of Marie Antoinette's coiffures. Anything that looks like it takes more time than you can spare to maintain. Which is why if you pick this, you may take an extra Maid minion for free."

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"Does really long hair actually take that long to deal with if you just, like, bun it? - didn't Marie Antoinette wear a lot of wigs."

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Her eyes unfocus. "--Yes. But you can get the same effect without wigs if you really want. If you just bun it then it doesn't look like it takes that long to maintain either and it doesn't count as an Elaborate hairstyle."

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"How much time are we talking, here, and, like, by what mechanism am I going to be prevented from having my maid do my hair one time and then telling her she can have the morning off while I just bun it thereafter."

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"If you suddenly start going around with less attractive hair there will be social consequences at least." She's just not going to mention the 'it just wouldn't occur to you to change your hair' thing; Bella really doesn't seem like the kind of person to whom such things just don't occur even with light Fate pressure. "It says it has to look hard to maintain, not that it has to actually be hard to maintain." She does the looking-at-something thing again. "How about...this."

 

"It would be easier with a maid, but it still wouldn't take more than a few minutes, and the flower pattern fits in with 'Roses' of Villarosa splendidly."

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"I guess I can like, have her do it while I check my email or something. Is it just me or does that mean, uh, Roses of Roseville."

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"You're not wrong, no."

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"Do they default speak Italian there or something?"

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"The language aesthetic tends to default to a sort of French-Italian blend with maybe some German thrown in."

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"I assume I get fluency for free."

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"You grow up there, preventing you from being fluent would take some doing."

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"About that, you said I don't, like, actually experience that childhood, I just wind up with - blended memories suddenly as a teenager. According to whom is my childhood arc specified?"

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"...You do experience your childhood, you just don't remember your life on Earth while you do it."

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"I thought you said I wouldn't relive it."

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"You won't experience it as reliving anything because you won't remember doing it before."

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"How much control do I get over my childhood circumstances, parents, etcetera."

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"Well, we're not done with the hair options but we can skip over to your role section if you like."

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"- okay, what other hair options are there."

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"The other hair variable is color, and then there's species to consider. The hair color options are blonde--not likely to have any impact, it has narrative implications of 'rich and pretty,' which you would be by default anyway. Redhead--more of a protagonist hair color, but that's not an absolute. Red hair will come with stronger emotions and greater physical strength. Silver--not the dull gray of the elderly, a proper striking silver. Silver hair will leave you a bit physically weaker, but somewhat smarter, and with higher magical potential. 'Brunette'--brown or black, actually--a more down to earth hair color. It will give you something of a relatability advantage, but leave you just a little bit less proactive. And 'rainbow,' which means going whole hog on anime hair colors and making the world more influenced by anime tropes." 

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"- how are these, uh, personality influences, handled. Also I haven't seen any anime besides like fifteen minutes of Pokémon at the dentist's waiting room and three episodes of Sailor Moon at somebody's house, can you like give me a TV and some representative DVDs or something."

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She appears a TV with DVD player and a stack of anime DVDs. 

"The personality influences are implemented as tweaks to your baseline neurochemistry. They aren't hard and fast rules any more than antidepressants are."

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"And the one that makes me smarter does - what more specifically?"

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"You'll just be smarter. All the smart that you already have now but everything's a bit boosted across the board. If you were unusually non-book-smart," she glances at the contents of Bella's room as if to say, which doesn't apply to you, obviously, "it would be focused mostly there."

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"Are you not allowed to tell me what theory of intelligence this implies."

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"...I don't know anything about theory of intelligence as practiced in your world."

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"Will being smarter make me better at - music, or is that separate. Will it make me less clumsy due to neurological knock-on effects. - will I still be clumsy in the first place. Will it make me better at remembering things, and will that be retroactive or only going forward."

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"It will make you better at music in some ways but it won't by itself give you better pitch. It won't make you less clumsy on its own but being clumsy for no reason is very much a heroine trait, narratively speaking, and will not be present. It will make you better at remembering things and that will apply somewhat retroactively--it will make you better at recalling things at appropriate moments but it won't retroactively cache any data presently lost."

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"Uh-huh. Is it cool if I spend a few years here giving myself an education on stuff."

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"As I said, we're time-dilated and I can't get bored."

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"Fun. Okay. What is a 'relatability advantage'."

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"The romance-focused part of the plot is the part where you're a villainess. If people find you more relatable this will give you an advantage in social maneuvering."

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"Okay, so given that I don't care about the romance plot at all -

- uh, am I going to be maneuvered into caring during my uninformed childhood, somehow -"

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"Not necessarily. But the plot starts with your character in a political arranged engagement, and you seem like you care about politics."

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"I assume I can't make it politically irrelevant or easily substituted somehow."

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"You can't make it politically irrelevant. You can't just say 'make it easily substitutable' and have us handle all the details for you, but there are ways to make it happen within the options available."

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"Okay, so I can be like 'you take that one and I will make do with the runner-up' as long as I have invented a social system that produces appropriate runners-up?"

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"Yes, approximately. But you will most likely have to do some finagling not to lose any face when another girl steals your original fiance. Or just not care about losing any face, but I recommend caring at least some if you do want to be a major political figure."

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"Suppose that makes sense. Is that all the hair options or do I also have mechanically significant dandruff decisions to make."

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"That's all the hair options. You can also decide whether you want to be a 'human' or an 'elf,' where 'human' is the baseline sapient in that universe, not necessarily recognizably human, and 'elf' is essentially that but with extra sprinkles. Smarter, prettier, more magical, longer-lived if you haven't made that moot. You know, elfy. It's unambiguously better--that's the whole point--but you also have to take an extra flaw." 

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"Is there a compelling reason to have this sort of species inequality in my universe in the first place instead of just jazzing up my baseline sapients?"

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"Since we have established that you don't find positional advantages a compelling reason, no."

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"I am creating an entire universe, I'm not going to fuck over any substantial fraction of it to win at a stupid romance plot!"

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"Most people don't put it in quite those terms."

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"I just bet they don't! Okay, so I'm going monospecies here, they will be super jazzy. Next?"

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"The game Roses of Villarosa has three different romantic paths to choose from; each one has a love interest and a 'villainess' who is engaged to him. You get to pick which villainess you are and which love interest you start out engaged to. The villainess options are the Royal Princess, the Duke's Daughter, and the Rich Heiress."

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"Do those have weird side effects or are they pretty much what they sound like?"

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"They don't have weird side effects and are pretty much what they sound like."

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"Does it get easier to mitigate my marital political complications if I'm not a princess or is that pretty much the same any which way?"

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"If you're the Duke's Daughter then your engagement is important to your father's political plans and you can call on his resources to defend it, to a certain point. If you're the Rich Heiress, you don't have a noble title or the political power of the other options, but you have much more money at your disposal."

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"Is having a father negotiable as long as I don't put 'daughter' in my role's name? That's a whole can of worms what with my already having parents."

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She considers it. 

"I can't, off the top of my head, think of a way to make not having parents work, narratively speaking, but if you come up with an idea then I can see if it works."

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"What do you mean narratively speaking?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean that being a princess or an heiress presupposes there being someone to inherit something from. And no, you cannot make Villarosa a Principality instead of a Kingdom, with the royal princess as its monarch. If you weren't so set on full retroactive immortality for everyone who counterfactually existed you could have dead parents, but."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Inconvenient. Can I be a princess assigned to take over for the preexisting monarch by a prophecy or something like that if I think of a satisfactory way to bring up my, uh, parallel self, without parents."

Permalink Mark Unread

She considers this. "I...suppose you could have prophecy-based succession instead of lineage-based, but if when and to whom the monarch abdicates is determined by prophecy, then there would be nothing stopping prophecies about your abdication occurring."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I suppose. Can we put me and my universe on pause for a bit, let my homeworld run, reincarnate my actual parents? They're fine, I just don't wanna creepily duplicate them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh! Well, it's unconventional, but sure, I can put in a hold and a reincarnation requisition."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool, okay. I guess I have to assign one of them to be my royal parent - or does it have to be my dad, you sort of implied it has to be my dad -"

Permalink Mark Unread

She waves a hand. "No, no, king is the default but it can be either one. Unless you take the Patriarchy flaw, of course, but I can't imagine you doing that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It does not sound overwhelmingly appealing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's a flaw, they're not supposed to be appealing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You're going to make me pick some, aren't you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are options that make you take flaws, like elf, and you can take flaws in order to get more perks, but if want zero flaws more than you want any of the things you can get by taking flaws you don't have to take any."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool. I will probably go with being a princess. Next?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Next is your choice of fiance. The options are the Prince Charming, the Dark Rival, and the Noble Prodigy. The Prince Charming is the standard fairy-tale prince archetype he sounds like. If you choose the Princess Royal option, we can make him the brother of the Duke's Daughter, or ordinarily he could be a distant royal cousin still within the line of succession but far enough removed not to be incestuous. Or we can make incest socially acceptable. The Dark Rival is the rival of the Prince Charming, less optimistic and sincere the cynical rival who starts out stronger than the hero but is ultimately bested by him." She gestures at the pile of DVDs. "I don't know if you're familiar with the trope now but you will be if you watch all of these. In this case, the Dark Rival is by default the Prince Charming's brother, the Duke's Daughter's, or both. The Noble Prodigy is a member of the lowest rank of the nobility, but has already made a name for himself--by default as a warrior and commander, but I imagine your setting choices are going to obviate that. The oldest fiance option, he has already graduated from the Royal Academy where this romantic maneuvering takes place."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How about something like, noble prodigy who discovered a nice planet and gets to rule it, I want to marry him to keep the planet generally in my monarchic influence and also get some practice in ruling things before I get the whole shebang, but the protagonist will do fine with the place when he'd rather marry her?"

Permalink Mark Unread

She makes a note. "That works." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool, I'm glad that's workable. Next?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Next you pick the heroine! The options are the Extraordinary Commoner--the most competent and underdog option, the Poor Princess--neglected child of an unpopular previous queen or the last scion of a fallen dynasty or something like that, something that leaves her still a princess but without the advantages of the Princess Royal--and the Hero's Daughter. Ah, hm, I think that one isn't really an option, it requires that the heroic parent be dead. Given who you are as a person I assume you're going to choose the Extraordinary Commoner."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably, yeah, the others imply tragic backstories, is there any reason not to go with the extraordinary commoner?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"She's the most competent one, which given your planetary viceroy plans for her and your erstwhile fiance is probably a bonus in your case but is undoubtedly a complication for anyone who plans to scheme against the heroine. Also, in many settings you lose more face losing your fiance to a commoner than to another princess." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Convenient I'm not going with one of the higher status dudes, then."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The extraordinary commoner and the noble prodigy do make something of an appropriate match."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I wish them the best. - are these preexisting people you're reincarnating or new people created to spec? What about like, everyone else in the setting, I want to know if I should go for a small population or a gargantuan one. - also was my universe created in a way at all like this or, uh, is it as naturalistic as it looks."

Permalink Mark Unread

"As far as we can tell it's natural but it's not impossible that somebody else made it and it's just so well-made that we can't tell. For the most part these are new people but if you want to specify that the event that caused people to begin to exist nabbed existing souls from other universes we can do that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What would by default happen to such souls otherwise?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, it would be a pain to steal souls that anything else was going to happen to."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, huge population, got it. Can they get their memories back or have the option to in my afterlife?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Um...I can put in a request for that, but I can't promise the request will be honored."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I imagine the prospects are no better for them to regain their memories while alive in my universe? For example it might be convenient if I could import fully grown adults with life experience for my species genesis event instead of figuring out how to have them raised by relic AIs without giving anybody psychological damage."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, people starting as adults with procedural but not episodic memory is more common than you'd think," she assures her. "There are no exceptional risks of brain damage."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...and they raise children fine and stuff?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Procedural memory can get you pretty far!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I guess. What's next?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Your canonical counterpart's bad ending. The options are death--which gets you a free perk--a nunnery or equivalent, servitude to the heroine, impoverishment, 'exile' which also apparently includes forced marriage to a less glamorous nobleman than any of the fiance options, and 'disgrace' which means you lose a little face but don't suffer any serious or permanent consequences. If you pick disgrace you have to take an extra flaw."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If I go with death can I just get resurrected the next day?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...That isn't specifically disallowed, but I think my boss would be mad at me if I still gave you the free perk for it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You've been, uh, very helpful within your constraints as I understand them, but should I in fact care if your boss is mad at you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, not for my sake, but anything where someone who isn't me has to make a call probably wouldn't go well. Like the people getting their memories back thing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And I guess I can't appeal to those people directly."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, sorry."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, tabling that for now till I see what the perks and flaws are like."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fair. Next thing is minions. You get a free maid minion from your current hairstyle pick, and you get to pick two other free minions of your choice. The maid minion is highly competent and loyal to you personally, beyond what could be expected of an ordinary maid. Each maid minion also has a special skill beyond traditional maid work; the default is bodyguard or spy, but you get to pick. The other minions are 'Classmates,' 'Admirer,' 'Animal Companion,' 'AI,' and 'Butler.' A Classmates minion is actually two people, classmates of yours who are loyal to you and will do what you ask them to within reason and usually act as a unit. The Admirer option is a boy who has a crush on you, and has no expectation of reciprocation but will mostly do what you want anyway just because he likes you that much. You can take a flaw to promote the Admirer by making him one of the fiance options you didn't choose; this is what I recommend if you want to switch to a runner-up after your fiance runs off with the heroine. The animal companion can be a familiar or otherwise magically bound to you in high-magic settings, and can be a person in high-magic or high-technology settings; otherwise it is merely a very well-trained beast. The AI is a human-level-intelligence AI who is personally loyal to you and much more advanced than most AI in the setting if AI are common. The AI minion requires a tech level of Contemporary or above. The Butler minion is not your personal servant but an older and wiser friend, by default a servant of your parents but this isn't mandatory. The Butler minion will not do anything you tell them; their primary value is as a source of moral support and really good advice."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What process guarantees all this loyalty and friendship flying around?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Personality compatibility selection. There's no mind control and you can alienate them if you try hard and believe in yourself."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's very reassuring, thank you. Can my maid be good at personnel management."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure, that's extremely narratively appropriate."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Marvelous. How good is the personality compatibility thing? I notice that didn't come up with my fiancé, but it'll apply if I get an admirer?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You can take a perk that will make the compatibility apply with your fiance but by default you are correct in all particulars."

Permalink Mark Unread

"But promoting him has to take a flaw, not spend a perk?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right. I do recommend looking at the flaws before ruling out taking any; they aren't all of equal disutility."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, whaddaya got."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you want me to list all of them, or just the ones I think you might actually take?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You may skip obviously immoral and mindcontrolly choices."

Permalink Mark Unread

"'Abhorrent Admirer.'  This is essentially the opposite of the Admirer minion. He's guaranteed to be unattractive to you and have no useful talents. He won't cross any lines, but he won't be put off, and there will be some social or political impetus to tolerate his flirting politely instead of just telling him off outright. 'Anything you can do...' I'm sure you can finish the sentence. Anything you're good at,  the heroine will be better at. 'Dark secret'--you or your family would have some secret that would be socially and politically catastrophic if it came out but essentially harmless as long as it stayed hidden. It doesn't have to be an unethical secret. 'Ditz'--reduces your patience for reading and intellectual pursuits." She frowns slightly. "I have...no idea what would happen if you tried to take that flaw, honestly, since it would be a neurochemistry alteration and not actual mind control. 'Equal Enemy'--one of the villainess options you didn't pick dislikes you on sight. Personality antiselection like the Abhorrent Admirer. 'Late Start'--instead of getting your memories back at the approximate beginning of the plot, you get them back only afterwards when it's too late to mitigate any of the damage. 'Magicless'--requires a high-magic setting; you are essentially magically disabled; you can't use magic despite its ubiquity. Incompatible with the magic-user perk. 'Not a Fan'--you won't receive extra meta-knowledge of the 'plot' of Roses of Villarosa beyond what you personally determine here and now. 'Sickly'--you personally will be frail and of generally poor health. 'There's Two of Them'--one of the heroine options you didn't pick exists as a companion to the primary heroine. 'Unattractive'--you, personally, will be plain at best and ugly at worst. This won't do anything to cool the ardor of the Admirer or the Abhorrent Admirer, but frankly, pretty people have an advantage; consider how many of your own world's Presidents had nicer hair than their opponents. 'Unprepared'--you won't remember anything between dying and being reincarnated." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, throwing in a bonus heroine seems reasonably harmless assuming anything is harmless at all since my plan for harmlessness involves not getting into a stupid fight with her. Is there a way around the tragic backstory issue with the other heroines? I'm not sure where to get a disadvantaged princess from here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not either, but it does seem harmless if it can be managed. Hmm..." her eyes go distant, but not in the looking-at-invisible-things way.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Like, I'm implying a dead civilization but I don't want any people from it around, don't want to have to build neighboring civilizations, don't want to character-assassinate my dad... is it 'poor' enough if she's like my second cousin via some non-inheriting sibling or something -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"A second cousin could work. It would require grandparents and great-grandparents."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm undecided on precisely how many generations I want to accommodate here. Hero's daughter strictly has to have dead parents who died and continue to be dead?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hero's daughter has to have at least one parent who died and continues to be dead. It doesn't have to be permanent, but it does have to be long enough to affect her upbringing, which is its own problem." Thoughtful pause. "From a practical standpoint, there's a limit to the size of a single coherent star kingdom you can found starting from everyone wakes up in alien ruins. Having multiple polities would increase the plausible reincarnated starting population."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah... might wind up having to build multiple civilizations while I hang out here and study up on whatnot."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So the poor princess could be the visiting princess of a smaller, less powerful kingdom, for example."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, all right, a little polity whose alien ruins were on a cute li'l moon, she's a foreign exchange student, she hits it off with my heroine. I guess I could even switch it up and make her the protagonist and then she can, like, marry my fiancé to cement an alliance with her cute moon, and I can outgrow my comparatively petty motives and hook up with my well-chosen admirer."

Permalink Mark Unread

She applauds lightly. "Marvelous. Which of the remaining fiances would you like?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you have more detail on the effects of the archetypes?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"If the Prince Charming and the Dark Rival are brothers, the Prince Charming will be the elder; the heir, if the heir is not instead their sister. Aside from that, the difference is largely temperamental. Beyond that, the specifics are malleable."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And temperamentally...?"

Permalink Mark Unread

She taps her chin. "The Prince Charming is more outwardly nice. Indiscriminately so, in a way. The Dark Rival is...slyer. Snarkier. He can be mean, in the wrong circumstances, but they tend to be genuinely good people underneath, and they're...choosier about  who they open up to."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hrm. Do you have any advance data on how good a fit you can dig up for me under each?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Let me see..." looking-at-invisible-thing. "...This says...hm. Either provides viable options but a higher proportion of the Prince Charming options are..." her eyebrows draw together. "Outside this service area? I don't even know what I'm looking at."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...you don't even know what you're looking at??"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't, I have never seen this error message before and don't know what it means."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, well, I guess I don't want to wind up with somebody filling it in at random because appropriate souls were outside this service area! We can promote my admirer to dark rival."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, that's probably for the best, invoking obscure error messages is rarely wise." She still looks genuinely disturbed. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"So that's the flaw for the promotion, you'd have to have some incredible perks up your sleeve to get me to hold my nose and take more."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fair enough. The perks...'Bad for Her, Good for You.' It adds the ability for the player of the counterfactual game to lose, thus giving a script for how to beat the heroine. 'Double Route' opens the possibility for the heroine to pursue one of the other possible routes from the game instead of only your fiance. 'Early Start,' you get your memories back early, about four years before the 'plot' starts. 'Equal Friend' causes compatibility selection for one of the other villainess options. 'Extra Minion' is exactly what it sounds like."

"'Feminine Wiles' will ensure that you gain seductive skills far beyond anything you might have had in this life. 'Goddess of Beauty' ensures that however pretty the baseline is, you will be much much much prettier than that. 'Good Ending' introduces an alternate secret ending to the game in which the heroine and the villainess reconcile. 'Yuri Heroine' makes the heroine bisexual. 'In Love' applies personal compatibility selection to your fiance. It won't prevent him from also falling in love with the heroine, but combining it with 'Yuri Heroine' and 'Good Ending' sets up the foundation for a stable triad. It's been done. 'Lady of Battle' is exactly what it sounds like."

"'Magic-User' is exactly what it sounds like and you get it for free from Magic Level: High. 'Magical Prodigy' ensures that not only will you be able to do magic, you will be really, really good at it. 'Off the Rails' eliminates the majority of fate pressures and ensures that the story will go very differently from 'canon.' I recommend not combining that one with any of the ones that add material to the counterfactual game. 'Ohohoho!' gives you the classic anime villainess laugh and makes you more intimidating. 'Scientific Revolution' makes it easier to start one in a Faux Medieval or Early Modern tech level setting."

"'Marvelous Talent' gives you great aptitude for one skill of your choice. That skill will then be considered eminently suitable for someone of your gender and social station etcetera. 'Silk Hiding Steel' will gain you a core of inner strength and determination that ensures you don't lose your cool in stressful situations...I really don't know that that wouldn't be redundant for you, honestly. 'Surprisingly Useful Skill' means that some skill you possessed in your past life will turn out to be incredibly useful in the new. And 'Unearthly Insight' gives you, depending on the setting, some combination of deductive skills, actual premonitions, or simply uncanny hunches. In other words, it improves your ability to take the information you have and apply it usefully."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, so Good Ending is a must-have although I guess I could swap it for the off the rails one. - how many of these do I get?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Four, plus the free Magic-User, plus we've tabled discussion of 'death.'"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't think I'm desperate for enough of these to provoke anyone with my death hack. So, Good Ending, and... three of magical prodigy, equal friend, early start, unearthly insight... do you have an opinion on the relative value of those? - also is another villainess going to be, uh, villainous."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No. She'll be motivated to keep hold of her fiance, but the heroine won't be going after her fiance."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right. I guess with early start I want to make really sure children's freedom of movement and whatnot's in good shape. I suppose that's worth doing anyway. How good is unearthly insight?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's supposed to be quite good. If I were you, I think I would go with Unearthly Insight and Magical Prodigy, I don't have a strong preference between the other two." 

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"I guess if I'm - passing a sieve through an incomprehensibly huge ocean of souls and definitely can't save them all -

- then it isn't silly to in a very weird pseudocausal way save the ones who'd be my friends. So I'll skip Early Start and trust my young self, I guess, and cope with my memory blending from a slightly more mature standpoint. And have an Equal Friend plus prodigy plus insight. And of course good end.

- actually you've been sort of ambiguous about whether only my first generation can be rescued souls?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Anyone who's a named character in Roses of Villarosa can be a rescued soul, even if they aren't first-generation. I can put in a requisition for as many reincarnations as possible, but that's not going to get you everyone who isn't in the first generation and isn't going to get you anyone born after the plot ends and the Fate effects go away and we stop actively influencing the universe." 

She hesitates, visibly unsure whether or not to say something. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can I have universe-native magic that grabs souls or - you okay?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm fine! It's just..." hesitate. "If I tell you something I'm not supposed to, will you tell anyone else I told you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...like who?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Like anyone else in Villarosa while the plot was running."

Permalink Mark Unread

"After the plot is running is fine? What event marks the end of the plot, formally breaking off my engagement?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"After the plot ends is fine. The plot can safely be considered over when all the major interpersonal drama generated during the plot is resolved. The heroine and your ex-fiance are married or at least formally betrothed and you've arranged things to your satisfaction with your admirer etcetera."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, I won't tell anyone while the plot is in progress."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So I said 'the Will of the Multiverse' when I introduced this concept to you but that's bullshit. It's the official party line but everyone knows it's bullshit. The multiverse isn't sentient and if it did it wouldn't care about romantic video games. The guy I work for is a really powerful person of mysterious origin and there isn't, strictly speaking, any reason you can't eventually become a multiversal power of similar magnitude and superior ethics."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I had been going to wonder in that direction when I was designing my afterlife."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah. I'll get in trouble if they find out I just came out and said it, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

Bella nods.

"So any joy on soul-rescuing magical installations? I was thinking along those lines for the explanation of the genesis event anyway - prior occupants decided to advance to a higher plane of existence, their soul collectors which double as resurrection devices caught some stray souls..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Ooh. Okay, yes, I can sell that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool, now we're cooking. Universe is recyclable, if all my people decide to ascend to a higher plane of existence too the soul-collectors can grab another batch."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I really, really like the way you think. Weird question, but did you ever live in Minnesota? My briefing says you moved to Washington recently but not where from."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Arizona, why?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm trying to guage the likelihood that you've heard of Gustavus Adolphus already, and if you were from Minnesota you definitely would have."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Doesn't ring a bell, what about him?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"He was a really epic Swedish king and I want to talk you into having one of your neighboring space kingdoms be a space Scandinavia ruled by a reincarnated Gustavus Adolphus."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...drop a book about him on the stack, I guess."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, he's already in a bunch of the historical fiction I already gave you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Then I will get back to you on that one, s'pose. I was not expecting you to be partial to specific Swedish kings."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They named a shitton of things after him in Minnesota. He was really cool."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, I will read the books. Do I have working decisions down on everything - high tech high magic, monospecific, princess, engaged to a heroic explorer dude, heroine's the moon princess with a commoner buddy - I didn't pick all my minions besides my promoted admirer, did I. Hmm...

- what-all does 'anything you can do' apply to, because, like, that's a little personally aggravating but not a huge deal given how I'm planning my approach -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It applies to approximately everything. I suppose there could be exceptions but I'm not thinking of any off the top of my head."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Like, in the degenerate case it starts applying to like - personality traits, doesn't it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think I see what you're saying...it definitely applies to any concrete skills, anything measurable...ask me if something counts and I think I can say yea or nay."

Permalink Mark Unread

"In approximate order of how likely I think I'll get a yea... general intelligence, moral reasoning, introspection, understanding me specifically..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, yes, yes, no."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If I teach myself, uh, econ, here, with Earth examples she doesn't have access to, in what sense will she manage to be better at econ than me?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That...um...I don't know."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can you like - talk to other people with the same job as you, get a sense of it - I might be unusually methodical here but if you folks do this a lot everybody's going to have facts and skills from their homeworld -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, usually your civilization isn't starting from scratch and she could just have learned better economics than you from somewhere even without the Earth examples."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...okay, but I can also beat Alpha Centauri, and she will not be playing specifically Alpha Centauri."

Permalink Mark Unread

"True, she won't be better than you at Alpha Centauri. I can say that as a general category, even, she won't be better than you at things that would never come up in this universe."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Why is my admirer reliably into me and not her if she's so great?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I...don't know. Maybe they have a history and she was less great when she was younger."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Arguably people's entire personalities are about what skills they can deploy and how reliably and effectively they can do it, am I going to be duplicating myself or - finding some oddly kindred spirit out there, or -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That is a good question and I don't know the answer to that one either. To be fair, it does sort of seem like your central skills are more personality-centric than most people's, it doesn't usually...come up." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can I, like, conditionally take flaw-perk pairs and then not take them according to some conditions."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Give me an example."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can't actually think of a situation where this would make sense but I might if it's a thing I should bother thinking about. Like, I take an extra minion and Anything You Can Do if and only if this will have the result that moon-princess uh, shares my values generally, or something."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think that would work but I can't promise in advance that this will definitely work for arbitrary perk-flaw pairs."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So I should be comfortable with the default, okay. I guess I will suck up the personal aggravation, take the flaw, get the extra personality-filtered minion. Bonus maid, promoted admirer, classmates, sort of torn between an AI and a magic cat or something."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Less strictly useful non-minion forms of the various minions are available," she remarks. "Not taking a maid minion wouldn't mean you didn't have any maids; not taking a Classmates minion wouldn't mean you couldn't befriend your classmates."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fair enough. I may or may not get a magic cat by some less narrative route. Maid admirer classmates AI. Plus Equal Friend who doesn't count as a minion."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right, Equal Friend and Extra Minion are completely separate perks." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. Do I have preliminary decisions in for everything, now, or is there more?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, that's everything."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. Guess it's time to study up.

Can I leave myself - Easter eggs?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Easter eggs? Uh, I think so, but expand on that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, there's gonna be fictitious precursors, with records, which could include, say, locked files that respond to my authorization even though if they were real there'd be no reason for them to do that. The game instance would be stuff in the software files that doesn't actually influence gameplay, or pops up as an extradiegetic 'making of' factoid. Who is going to be moved to make this game, anyway?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Ah. Hm...I can't do 'will recognize and respond to you,' but I can do 'happen to have passwords which you determine and therefor know."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That works, yeah." Deep breath. "How many universes are there?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh...a lot. There is a very real sense in which trying to count all of the universes that exist in all of reality everywhere would be a project akin to trying to count all the grains of sand on a planet Earth in scope and futility even to us."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh boy. How many does your boss have - remit over -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"To the best of my knowledge, the organization to which I belong has presided over the creation of several tens of thousands but less than a hundred thousand universes. My boss tends not to pay them much attention once they've played out as much story as he's interested in, though." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"And ones you guys can funnel from, like mine?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh. I think how it works is that we have a set number that we collect from and we have to manually add new ones to the list, but I can't swear to it because it's not my department and I haven't recently checked."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Add new ones to the list from - where?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, I know that one, actually--universes have this quality called adjacency, any two universes are either adjacent to each other or not, every universe has a finite number of universes they're adjacent to at any given time but some really high-level magics can change adjacencies. We add universes that are adjacent to ones that are already on the list, or ones that are adjacent to universes the Will is currently paying attention to, or," she shrugs. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. Okay. So I guess I should - cram as many people into my universe as I can, catch a lotta souls, do I run into trouble at some order of magnitude -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You won't be able to catch souls from worlds that aren't adjacent to you but it isn't a lot of trouble to make you adjacent to more worlds rather than less. If you run out of possible souls to catch anyway then if you ascend to a higher plane of existence the soul-catchers won't spawn a new batch of people until that isn't the case anymore."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Does adjacency have any other effects?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are a lot of effects that only work in universes adjacent to their source, and most forms of interdimensional travel only work between adjacent universes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can I pick who I'm adjacent to, if I decide I want interdimensional travel in my magic system?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Um...if you mean pick like outline some parameters for people you'd like to be adjacent to then yes probably, I can submit the request and I strongly but not absolutely predict the request will be filled. If you mean pick like I summon a list of all the universes we know about and you pick off the list then no, there isn't a master list and I don't have access to all the separate lists that there are from here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm thinking a soul-collector design that works for new children and starting with a social norm of using them by default for kids every time and if we had interdimensional tourism I could support more soul-collection than the local population can sustain."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you run out of souls to collect then the soul collectors would stop working." 

Pause. 

"To clarify, you can't have interdimensional travel right away. It would be...more variables than the story setup could track. But you can have the prerequisites to develop it fairly quickly after the 'plot' ends." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's fair enough. I might do that with a few things. Like, teleportation, say, I have no idea what that does to an extremely large interstellar civilization and might as well postpone finding out. Can you give me an upper end range on how many souls are likely to be available for collection if I'm adjacent to lots of universes?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, hang on, I have to do some math." She does the looking-at-an-invisible-thing thing again, this time with lots of poking at invisible buttons. "If we select for universes with particularly high populations...um, a couple hundred quadrillion. And change."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. I guess I'll start the place with a few quadrillion and hope that in a few generations I have something cool sorted out on -" she waves at the angel "- a higher plane of existence. Can my magic system do the adjacency changing thing?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe eventually? Magic theory isn't really my area but changing adjacencies except through a handful of hacks is like...several orders of magnitude bigger and harder than just interdimensional travel."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can workshop it while I'm designing the magic system, I guess."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, I'll see what I can dig up, the design people must have published something, nerds always do."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Where do you... and your co-workers and so on - come from? Did you use to be a regular person in some universe and then sign up for the dental plan or what?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, I was created directly by the Will to be a customer service person who doesn't get bored. Or offended. Or bitchy."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Are there lots of you, or do you handle it all because you have time dilation...?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, depends on the scale of lots? There are eighty-three of us in Customer Service at the moment. Sometimes the Will makes a new one on a whim."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is that, like, okay with you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am aware that my situation is objectively really concerning but I was created not to be concerned by it. If someone offered me a button that I could press to fix the situation I would press it but otherwise I'm a lot more concerned with helping the people who are going through the system get the most out of it than with trying to overthrow the system. The Will is...negligent rather than malicious when it comes to ethics, I would say, they don't see a problem with setting real people up to play out stories and with giving the stories the option to end tragically but they wouldn't lock someone into a mandatory tragic ending without their consent and when they make someone like me they like them to be suited to their work and not actively unhappy about their situation. It's not good per se, but I'm immortal and I'm not miserable so my problems are kind of not that urgent compared to, like, everyone I Customer Serve."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, I guess I will not be in a hurry about you specifically. - do you have a name."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Celeste."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's nice to meet you, Celeste. Circumstances and all, even." She stretches and boots her computer to start some project files. "This is gonna be fun."