This is Geneforge’s overland map screen. The game is divided up into areas that are themselves divided up into faction-controlled regions. The area we just left, Crumbling Docks, is marked as green, but the area we’re moving to, Abandoned Vale, is red. Green areas have been cleared and can be skipped over on the map screen. Red areas haven’t been cleared. Almost all areas can be cleared by completing an objective. Sometimes that is discovering one or more exits, killing a particular foe, or fulfilling a special condition. The map system does tend to funnel you along a level-appropriate path at first, but you’ll find options quickly open up and you can wind up in over your head very easily.
You look out over the sea. From here, there’s no sign of the ship that attacked you and sank your drayk craft.
You immediately recognize this large building for what it is. This was a shaping hall. You knew that there must be one of them on this island somewhere.
Here, the Shapers on this island did their work, using magic and force of will to make creations — both established and experimental designs. If there was a cataclysm, though, it didn’t take place here. This building is undamaged.
To the side, you can see energizing pools. Holes in the ceiling allow light to shine on them. Remarkably, despite their years of neglect, they have survived.
The goo inside a pool is a semi-living, plant-like form, capable of drawing energy from the air and the sun. If you stand near a pool, you will be able to replenish your health or essence, depending on which pool you use.
In the corners of the hall, you can see two glowing glass canisters. They wait there, ready to give you power.
You bask in the blue and green glows of the pools; finding this place has eased some of your tension. If the pools survived, then your situation might not be as dire as you fear. You spend some time exploring the shaping hall and peruse part of two books.
SECRETS 0F ESSENCE
Essence is represented by the blue bar under your character’s graphic in the roster (in the upper right corner of the screen). You use essence to make creations and cast some of the more powerful spells (like healing).
When you spend essence to cast spells, you get it back by returning to town or by approaching an essence pool (like the one nearby). However, making creations reduces the maximum amount of essence you can have.
If you have a total of 30 essence, for example, and you make one fyora which costs 10 essence, then your new maximum is 20. You can’t get the other 10 back until the fyora dies or you absorb it.
It is up to you whether to make a lot of weak creations, a few strong creations, save your essence for spells, or a mix of the three. Geneforge makes all of these options viable.
CREATIONS FOR THE BEGINNING SHAPER
To survive on Sucia Island, you will probably need to make creations to fight for you (especially if you are playing a Shaper). When you use the canister on the left, you will learn to create a fyora, a small, fire breathing lizard.
To make a fyora, you will need at least one level of Fire Shaping skill. If you don’t have this and want to make a fyora, you will need to train in this skill when you next gain a level.
To make a creation, press the Creation button to the lower left (it has a worm on it). You will then spend some of your essence to create a fyora and improve its skills.
The more essence you spend on one fyora’s skills, the less you will have left to create more of them. You can create up to 7 servants. You can’t get the essence you spend back until the creation dies or you reabsorb it.
Finally, it’s a good idea to buy at least two levels of intelligence for your creations. If you do, you will be able to control them in combat. Otherwise, they will act on their own, and they may not always do what you want. If you started out as an Agent, you might not have the ability to make a fyora. To get it, select Improve Abilities (in the inventory area) and buy one level of Fire Shaping skill.
We gain a point of skill in creating fyoras and the spell Heal from the canisters here.
This is the Creature Creation screen. It’s a simplified version of the Character Creation screen, with only four stats to choose from and no skills. Far from a “good idea,” putting two points into a creation’s intelligence is basically mandatory. Otherwise your creatures will never be under your control and will either flee combat or die uselessly. If you can’t afford to put two points into intelligence, you can’t afford the creation.
You shape your first creation — a fyora, one of the most common types after livestock and serviles. It’s a heady sensation. This knowledge would ordinarily be forbidden to you for years yet, but the canisters have allowed you to instantly access the secrets of shaping. You know this might put you in grave danger from the Shaper Council, yet how could anyone begrudge you for doing what is necessary to survive? You didn’t want to end up on a Barred island.
With little more than a thought on your part, your new creation follows you into the woods.
You find a sign that the evacuation of this island was not completely orderly. There is a body here. It’s barely more than a skeleton. It’s been here for a long time. Based on its garments, you think it was a Shaper.
The Shapers here made their supplies to last. It looks like some of the stuff on the corpse is still usable.
There is a fyora standing on the path ahead. It’s a very familiar sort of creation. Shapers have made them for centuries to serve as bodyguards, watchdogs, and even pets. You’ve been around hundreds of them.
This one, however, is different from any fyora you have ever seen. It doesn’t have the usual expression of servility and obedience. It doesn’t look at you as a master but… but… as food.
You have heard tales of creations which have turned on their creators and gone rogue, but it almost never actually happens. If it ever did, the rogue creation would be instantly destroyed.
This fyora has definitely shed any Shaper control. It bares its teeth at you, seemingly daring you to step forward.
Thus begins our first combat. There are multiple fyoras in this area and it’s totally possible to die here, even though it’s the tutorial. These initial rogues are quite weak. One fireball from our own fyora and one javelin fling and the rogue fyora is dead before it even gets a turn. I always keep a creation ahead of my Shaper to soak aggro. This won’t always work, but most enemies’ AI is simple and will target the nearest enemy. Because I’m building a Deadweight Shaper, I need to keep Solution out of harm’s way at all times. Her creations are there to take the blows for her.
As rare as rogues are, it’s every Shaper’s duty to put them down whenever they arise. These fyora must have survived whatever caused Sucia Island to be Barred. You steel yourself and order your fyora to attack, which it does gleefully. Your fyora isn’t quite strong enough to take the rogue out alone. Your javelin flies true and the rogue collapses in a pool of its own blood, having accomplished nothing more than growling.
There are more rogues among the ruins here. One by one, you flush them out and destroy them. It’s grim yet exciting work, and certainly nothing you’d be doing for a very long time if you hadn’t been shipwrecked here. Now if only you could find a boat and get the hell off Sucia Island…
You find a book in the ruins and read the foreword.
NOTES ON COMBAT
Each round, your character gets a base of eight action points. Moving and doing actions uses them up. Using an item costs 3 action points and attacking costs 5.
If you try to attack and you don’t have 5 action points left, your turn ends. Clicking on a character also ends that character’s turn.
Speed spells and some items increase your action points. Carrying too much weight, being stunned, or being slowed takes away action points.
The order by which characters act in combat is determined by their speed. The more Dexterity and Quick Action skill a character has, the faster it will act.
Very useful tip: to end a character’s turn prematurely, click on the character or hit the space bar.
You find another mostly intact structure. Fortunately, no rogues greet you inside.
This was a storage warehouse. Well, it still is. But now, instead of housing useful supplies, it holds moldering trash. The sacks of meal in the corner, for example, have not been treated well by their years here.
On the counter to the west, however, you see something which looks very useful. There are several thorn batons, one of which looks like it’s still alive.
Thorn batons are one of the Shapers’ most ingenious creations. They are a mix of living and inert matter, plants with a touch of animal around a frame of metal, capable of firing a small, sharp projectile at high velocity.
When unused, they go into hibernation and can live for a long time. Most of the batons abandoned in this room have died, but one managed to survive.
You load a full clip of thorns into the baton and breathe a sigh of relief. None of these rogues will stand a chance against even a standard baton. The little creature settles happily into your grip. It’s gone unused for a very long time, you sense, and though groggy from hibernation, the baton is glad to be used.
You test your baton out on a brace of rogues and they fall with gratifying swiftness, leaving you and your creation untouched. Weak rogues like this absolutely weren’t the cause of whatever befell Sucia Island. They’re only a consequence — or perhaps a symptom.
You pass between gigantic Shaper statues and into a large, tumbledown structure that controls access further east. At the north end of a huge room full of trash and rotted furniture is a log book.
People wishing to pass through quarantine originally signed in here before waiting for inspection. None of the names are legible anymore, and the pages crumble at your touch.
To the east is an automatic door. Unfortunately, it doesn’t open for you, and you can’t find a lever. Beyond, you hear the sounds of living creations — ornks lowing contentedly. There certainly can’t be rogues over there. If the quarantine didn’t fail, then, what caused the Barring?
This was the quarantine waiting hall. People wishing to enter or leave Sucia Island through this port waited here to be questioned and inspected by the servant mind.
And, sure enough, the mind is still here, resting to the north. You marvel at the skill of the Shapers who made these remarkable creatures. Their careful construction and ability to hibernate gave them remarkable lifespans. It is still alive.
A servant mind is a very specialized and useful sort of creature. Once grown, it never moves again. It spends its life in a stone crib made to fit it. Once there, it spends its entire life thinking, remembering, analyzing, and advising the Shapers.
As you approach, you can see the creature struggle to rouse itself from its slumber. It seems likely that it is eager for company after its years here.
You carefully approach the servant mind, unsure of how its time alone in these ruins has affected its faculties. Fortunately, its eyes are clear and bright, and its body appears whole. It has the massive skull characteristic of these strange creations.
“Welcome, Shaper. I am mind Tavit,” it says, reflexively reading from an internal script centuries old. “Do you wish to pass through quarantine?”
“Yes,” you say. “What do I have to do to pass through quarantine?”
“Allow me to inspect you carefully. If I judge that you have no threatening infections or concealed rogue creations, I will unseal the door to the north so that you may pass.”
As far as you know, you’re neither infected nor hiding any rogues, so you give your assent.
The creature looks at you carefully. It makes a low, soft humming noise. You don’t feel anything, but you suspect some sort of magical augmentation is allowing the creature to analyze you in minute detail.
Eventually, the noise stops. Tavit says, “I find no reason to impede your progress further. The exit door will open at your approach.”
This seems like a good opportunity to learn more about Sucia Island. “What happened to this island? Why was it Barred?”
“I am sorry. Shaper. I am limited in the scope of my knowledge. When I was left here, l was given no further information or instructions.”
That was frustrated but not entirely unexpected. As useful and trusted as servant minds are, they still aren’t provided any more knowledge than is necessary for their assigned functions. That’s how the Shapers are with everyone, creation or human.
“Are you all right? You have been here for a long time.” Usually a servant mind is tended by serviles and maintained by a Shaper. Tavit has been alone for… you can’t even imagine how long. “How long ago were you abandoned?”
“I do not know. I have spent all of that time in hibernation. The decay in my internal organs indicates that the time was well over a century. I am sorry that l cannot be more precise,” Tavit says, genuinely regretful that it cannot fully answer your questions. “I am functioning properly. I can still do what I was made to do.”
You shudder. It’s been over a hundred years since this servant mind was last in the presence of a Shaper. It’s a testament to the durability and temperament of Tavit’s design that the servant mind hasn’t died or gone mad from loneliness.
“You don’t mind waiting here for so long?” you ask despite your better judgment.
“I… I… am functioning properly. I can still do what I was made to do. I was not made to have other thoughts.”
At least the Shapers were merciful. Tavit probably didn’t have the capacity to really miss conversation or the company of other beings. Its simplicity had likely kept it safe from the rogues outside, too.
“How long has it been since someone came through here?”
“You are the first since I was abandoned.”
Perhaps you ought not have chosen “abandoned.” Tavit sounds a touch forlorn. “Why was Sucia Island abandoned?”
“I do not know. I know a little of its purpose, but nothing of why I was left here for so long.”
“What was the purpose of this island?”
“Research.” Not the most useful answer you could have hoped for. And, given Tavit’s limitations so far, the only one you can expect to receive. Further questioning yields no more answers; Tavit has nothing else useful to share with you, and the longer it’s awake, the more of its limited resources it consumes.
“That is all I need from you,” you say, ready to be on your way.
“I am eager to assist you further, Shaper. Do you wish to pass through quarantine?” That is what it asked before. This mind must have very limited programming.
“That’s all for now.”
“Thank you, Shaper. I will rest and conserve my energy now.”
Be that as it may, you wonder how much time Tavit has left. Without someone to top off its nutrient solution, its days are numbered. There’s nothing you can do to help, either. If there had been servant mind nutrient in the quarantine hall, well, it was destroyed long ago.
You pass through the automatic door, which slides open easily at your approach now.
On this side of the quarantine hall, you can see another flock of ornks. This group, however, is not alone. It is watched over by a servile.
Serviles are one of the greatest Shaper creations. They are the most common and valued servants of your people, intelligent, hardy, obedient, and featuring hands with opposable thumbs. They are also easily controlled.
If there are serviles here, this isle must be nowhere near as savage and uncontrolled as you had feared. Serviles are weak and easily cowed creatures. If there were any real threat here, they would have been quickly wiped out.
Your emergence from this hall is clearly the last thing this servile expected. He looks terrified at first, then curious. He leaves his flock behind to come and speak with you. He probably wants fresh orders.
The servile moves very close to you and inspects you carefully. It seems to be the same design of creation with which you’re completely familiar. Same hunched posture, number of limbs, and so on.
It looks very surprised to see you. However, it doesn’t have the attitude of immediate obedience you have come to expect. It seems more curious than anything. After a few awkward seconds of staring, it speaks.
“I don’t think I’m mad. It’s a Shaper! A Shaper has come at last! Oh, it has been years, years, since anyone has come through that door. A Shaper has come! This is so wonderful!
“Oh, but where are my manners. I am Timo. I am a shepherd. I graze my ornks here because nobody comes here. Oh. I must go to Vakkiri. I must tell the people there that a Shaper has come at last!”
You’ve never heard a servile speak like this in your life. A servant mind might have sophisticated speech, but serviles? Never. Overwhelmed, you find yourself talking to the creature like you might a human.
“Tell me about Vakkiri.”
“It is our humble village.” He points east. “It is that way, not far, not far; I should tell them a Shaper has come at last. It is humble and small, but, with no Shapers around, we did what we could.”
How could an island be Barred but still have serviles on it? Surely they would have been evacuated, you think.
“I have been stranded on this island. How can I get off of it?” If all else fails, perhaps the serviles can build you a boat. It can’t be that hard.
He looks worried. He clearly has no idea. “Oh. I… I… I am a humble villager. I do not know how to leave. But in Vakkiri, there are old and wise people. They can help you.” That is odd. Timo is referring to his fellow serviles as people. Creations are called creations, not people.
You ignore this oddity for now – you don’t know how to address it, and anyway, it’s not your main concern at the moment. “There are no other Shapers here?”
Timo looks even more nervous now. “I… I do not… No. You are the only one. You are the Shaper. You have returned, and we… we can serve.” He seemed somewhat reticent about saying that last word.
Though you may not be a Shaper but a Guardian or an Agent, all three sects are generally referred to by the outside world as Shapers.
Here comes our first dialogue choice. We can say “That’s right. You had better serve me, or you will be disciplined harshly,” which will tip our reputation towards demanding obedience, or we can be lenient…
“I do not require your total obedience,” you say. “I only need to leave this island.” You can report on the strange behavior of these serviles after you get off this Barred place and report to your new masters. Maybe this is why Sucia Island was Barred… Perhaps there’s something wrong here that makes serviles go mad.
Timo looks incredibly relieved.
“Of course, we serviles will be glad to help you in any way we can. It is our way. And we thank you, mighty Shaper, for your kindness.” Timo watches you nervously. He seems happy to be in the presence of a Shaper, and yet he is nervous, too. He well knows how much power his creators have.
“Do you know why this island was abandoned?” If the servant mind doesn’t, perhaps the serviles might have an idea. It’s a long shot, but worth trying.
“I have no idea,” Timo replies. “You should go to Vakkiri. There are many there wiser than me. I should go there now. They should know there is a Shaper among us.”
Sensing you’ve learned all you can from Timo, you wave him away. The servile scampers off among its ornk herd. Despite its words, it doesn’t immediately head towards Vakkiri. This isn’t a surprise, really. Serviles may be sophisticated creations, but they’re still simple-minded creatures who require strong governance. Without a Shaper around, it’s amazing that they’ve even managed to keep an ornk herd or scrape together enough lean-tos to be called a village. The path ahead is clear enough for you to travel alone. The road here is still in bad repair, but it has at least been kept clear of overgrowth even if the paving has been poorly tended.