Talon City: Death from Above (totally rewritten from 2019)

Logline: You’re a self-absorbed and nearly friendless owl on the verge of losing everything you’ve struggled so hard to earn. With ruthless vulture creditors on your tail, you must track down a missing client whose case can save your career. But when your investigation takes a horrific turn, can you avoid becoming a deranged bird’s next victim?

The MC: You’re an owl lawyer (Caller) struggling at the bottom of Talon City’s legal community, ridiculed by eagles, hawks, and other more important lawyers (Champions). Your owl character is partially developed, and will always be a bit sassy and egotistical, so this is no ‘blank slate.’ But you will mold the MC’s appearance, strengths/weaknesses, relationships with others, and ultimately their motivations.

Setting: Welcome to Talon City, where nine Wards sprawl almost as far as a bird can see. Thousands of trees serve as homes to tens of thousands of citizens and almost as many nests, some serving as homes, others serving as places of commerce. Magnificent hickory trees, cottonwoods, oaks and spruces teem with life. And death.

Mechanics: Talon City is heavy on story, but it includes standard Establishing Choices to build your character and relationship/motivation bars. Testing Choices rely on die rolls, modified by your Primary Stats. Passing Testing Choices gains you Experience Points, which you can use to pass four different “Boss Scenes” in the story.

What I’ve posted thus far: This is just Act 1, about 21k words total. It focuses on world-building, MC-customization, and building up the narrative to launch into Act 2. No Testing Choices are included in Act 1, so you won’t encounter any die rolls yet.

Why I’m posting this: I won’t have time to add to this story right now, as I’m wrapping up Community College Hero 2.5 and then I have to spend the rest of the year to finish Part 3. But I’ve been sitting on this version of Talon City for quite a while, and honestly I just want to see how people react to it. Is it worth pursuing? Should this be the project I tackle after I’m done with the Community College Hero series. This is VERY different, with a non-human MC who starts off with a personality and a history, and there’s a lot of world-building I’ve yet to been able to write, so the lore would be pretty deep. But I realize many readers want romance, specifically human romance, and I’m concerned that they may not flock, pun so intended, to a more philosophical story about the nature of animal conflict.

How is this different than the previous versions I posted?: This is a total-rewrite. I realized that my previous versions were really the last part of the story; I wanted to start at the beginning showing the MC’s friendship with Ayvex and how the MC meets Concordia. I have a whole trilogy mapped out, but that was probably getting way ahead of myself.

What feedback is helpful?

  • I’m seeking ‘high level feedback.’ I don’t want people to report typos and simple stuff like that because if I don’t move forward with this project, that will just be wasting peoples’ time. So don’t report misspellings or missing periods or stuff like that, please.

  • “High level” feedback is stuff like narrative and mechanical structure, pacing, world-building, characterization, plot, conflict, the big meaty parts of the game. I’d love to hear your feedback on that type of stuff. Would you want to read more of this? Why or why not?

Here’s the link: https://dashingdon.com/play/ericmoser/talon-city-death-from-above/mygame/

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what’s the story about

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@DarkSaber If you read the outline, usually you can find a synopsis :grin:

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Oh, I remember this from a while ago! I liked it then, but I love it even more now! The setting and plot is set up very well. I especially love the strange nature of this city, where birds of prey live alongside their actual prey. And then occasionally, they’ll have a night where it’s basically the purge haha, where the predators are allowed to eat the prey. But what really sells me on this is that you can see this strange relationship on normal days as well. For example, how the Hunters are given first right in flying through the sky. How they often look down on the Feeders, and how some Feeders’ take thrill just in existing in the same space as the Hunters when they know they are safe from being hunted. This inequal relationship between these two groups perfectly serves its purpose to set up the dilemma our MC faces with their client, especially after we get to see the Balancing for ourselves. I can’t wait to see where it goes, especially if it’s going to show us even more of this strange, lively bird city.

Also, the hummingbird (Concordia, if I remember right?) is already very cute even if we just met her. <3

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Ahhh!!! YES! This story is back!!! Woooo!

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@ChibiKittens I’m glad you enjoyed it! Yes, I thought a LOT about what interactions between predators/prey might look like as they live side by side. It’s something I haven’t seen developed a lot in these sorts of stories (probably because it’s too gruesome for kiddos to deal with) but I think there’s a lot of tension to explore there! And yes, Concordia is supposed to be cute! :bird: (I swear I thought we used to have a humming bird emoji!) And she will be central to your MC’s development.

@Dragongodess lol it keeps coming back and coming back and coming back. I’ve been playing with this concept since like 2017 or so.

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Beautiful, I actually felt like an owl lawyer (caller) as I play through this demo.
Hoping to see more when the next Act comes out.
Good luck with Community College Hero 2.5 and Community College Hero 3.

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Welcome to the forums!

I’m glad you felt some immersion; that is one of my main goals, to pull the player into the mc and into the setting.

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I loved this story to be honest, I’m happy to see that it’s back.

SHAREit MX Player

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Thanks! And it is back…sort of. I hope I can carve out some time to push it forward sooner rather than later, but admittedly it’s the lowest on my list right now. A story like this won’t ever have the player base that superhero stories will generally have.

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Just checked the demo out, and it’s quite good! :slight_smile:
Here are my notes; I hope at least some of them are useful!

Choices

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t realize which stat this choice will affect. I knew it would involve Sincere-Disingenous binary, but I couldn’t tell that it was also determining the Routine-Variety one.

And this choice I expected to be determining my character’s Worldview, but it doesn’t affect anything (that I can see). Perhaps this could be a good opportunity for a Worldview choice?

I like the character-creation choices, but perhaps they could be intertwined into the narrative more? Like, maybe our character flies over a puddle on the ground and notices their appearance? Or maybe Galileo refers to us by name or pronoun, thus those choices follow?

Here’s another choice where I felt it wasn’t clear which stats it’s going to affect, I assumed it would be the Routine-Variety or Tidy-Disheveled binaries. It was the latter, but also Idealist-Cynical, which I didn’t see coming at all (but again, maybe it’s just me).

In hindsight, I get why this choice was about Routine-Variety and Idealistic-Cynical, but when I first saw it I assumed I was just being humble so I picked the cynical option unknowingly. Also, I expected this choice to affect Ayvex relationship stat, but it didn’t.

Wow, it got dark quick! O_o It’s a great choice to set up the tone of the story, and I wonder if perhaps this moment should appear earlier in the game, since this is a very good “hook” for the reader, I think. Would it be possible for it to be moved to chapter 1?
Also, I had to pick the talon option since it seemed the least… evil? But, considering I was going for a Beak build, perhaps it would be better to separate the skill choices from the choice of the victim?

Worldbuilding

I’m fine with a snarky MC, but I do feel like their attitude towards vultures, Feeders and some other characters might be going a bit too far? It seems quite bigoted. Maybe there could be a choice determining how they feel about them with varying degrees of contempt? Otherwise, it almost feels like the MC is being hijacked by the voice in their head.

I like the concept of Clumps and Bundles, but I wonder how the birds are able to carry those around? Especially Bundles, since one Bundle is a hundred twigs. Perhaps it could be explained in further detail?

I wonder; if a Caller or a Champion loses their client to the Balancing, do they get compensated for their death? Otherwise, why would anyone take a Feeder as their client, right? (sorry if it was already explained)

Story

I liked it, personally, but perhaps for some this might seem like a slow start? Compared to CCH, which begins with a flash-forward to a battle with supervillains, this story begins relatively slowly. (Not that I’m the one to talk, since my own games have fairly slow first chapters)

Overall, I really liked the demo and look forward to more of the game (whenever that will be :slight_smile: )

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Wow, thanks so much for all of that very thoughtful feedback.

Regarding the admittedly slow start, I’ve pondered having the vultures appear on the very page, where they “pump you up” for your hearing, making veiled threats in the process, basically putting huge pressure on you to win. Then they tell you that they’ll be back in the afternoon to collect some of what’s owed early. This could set a darker tone from the start, and could make the stakes more clear to the reader/player too, even at the hearing when it’s continued to the next week.

I’ll definitely give the establishing choices another look. I wanted to include different axises of attributes for the varying choices, but I find it hard to work in two different motivational factors for each choice while still keeping the choices fairly short, especially assuming the reader is reading on a phone. Perhaps I could be more artful, like I said I’ll give them a look.

And regarding the choice about who to kill on Balancing, in the context of Talon City, none of them would really be viewed as evil. All are lawful actions, and I thought choices 1, 2, and 4 all showed varying levels of mercy and restraint. I thought I was giving the reader a chance to make their owl rather noble.

I really appreciate all of your thoughts! On one hand I want the story to be just right (in my eyes) and on the other hand, I want to (eventually) publish it, so I need to keep my standards realistic and stop rewriting ad nauseum as I have been for the past few years.

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Thank you! :slight_smile:

That sounds like a great idea to me, especially since it might explain the MC’s dislike for vultures more, plus I think it would be a stronger start than the current, more light-hearted, first few pages (I like them, but they do set a more comedic tone for the story when in reality the story is quite dark).

That’s a good point. I tend to forget that many play these games on their phones (because I always play on my computer). I think the establishing choices are great so far, just some could use more clarity (at least from my experience, maybe other readers didn’t have that issue).

Fair enough, I meant to say that killing the snake seemed like the least murder-y of options to me since we haven’t seen snakes being sentient in the game yet (as in we haven’t seen a snake talk or anything like that). I do think that the skill choice and the victim choice should be separate, however.

Thanks! I think the most important part is to tell the story you want to tell. There’s nothing wrong with rewriting or taking your time with the project, so no pressure!

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Tonal inflection is easily the most obtuse thing in interactive fiction. Shy of using literal descriptors to mark what your choices affect, there’s no way to guarantee that readers will be able to interpret the meaning of the words in the choices offered with 100% accuracy. My own interpretation of various authors’ ways of wording things is about 4 times out of 10 correct for how I want to respond to the MC’s situation. Not bad, but not great either.

I’ve concluded this is just a weakness that IF will have to coexist with since there are no visual cues to precisely ID what was intended behind the words of each choice. :woman_shrugging:

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