So, I suck at RimWorld. Steam tells me I’ve played just over 100 hours now, and I’m personally responsible for the immolation of at least 25 human beings.
What they’re not particularly good at is getting along. You might start with a computer programmer, a drug-addicted, genetically engineered soldier, and a depressed pyromaniac. Some them might even fall in love, but other times, feelings get hurt, the drugs run out, and you didn’t consider the implications of pyromania and a wooden shelter.
There’s allegedly a way to win by building a shuttle to escape the forsaken rock, but most players keeping coming back after repeated losses because few other games weave such a beautifully tragic narrative. It’s the sci-fi sitcom you’ve always wanted, only with a little more cannibalism and a lot more hilarity.
So, I suck at RimWorld. Steam tells me I’ve played just over 100 hours now, and I’m personally responsible for the immolation of at least 25 human beings. And these weren’t my enemies; that would be something to write Viking songs about. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade and aren’t familiar with Amon Amarth or the Swedish death metal scene, here’s a sample:
See the fire rise
Flames are raging high
Soon all will burn and die
Burn for honor, glory, death in fire
Well…not so much for “honor” or “glory,” but at least for entertainment, because my most memorable RimWorld experiences aren’t stories about I built my hydroponics farm just in time to survive drought or how I discovered how I could harvest and sell organs for profit (though those are good). The best stories are how a electrical short-circuit in that perfect, symmetrical farm ignited everything, even the steel housing the farm and the four fools fighting it.
The best stories are also sometimes sad, such as when my last survivor spent her final moments comforting Lola, her mortally wounded Labrador Retriever, until they were both ash. Depressing? Sure. But you can’t beat the narrative.
I have yet to play a game that doesn’t end looking something like this:
And so, with a queer mixture of apprehension and mirth, I now present
Death in Fire: A RimWorld
Let it not be said I am anything but optimistic.
More Floors by Telkir, for aesthetic options
Hospitality by Orion, so visitors to my settlement do more than just “lurk;” they use beds and other amenities, and — if you impress them — they tip you and sometimes buy stuff
RT Fuse by Ratys, to potentially prevent explosive wiring shorts by adding circuit breakers; these must be researched, built, and attached to batteries, then replaced when blown
(all mods for version A15)
After grabbing some mods, it’s time to pick the storyteller. There’s three. Cassandra Classic is the popular choice. She slowly and steadily escalates the difficulty along a moderate learning curve. Phoebe Chillax is as close as the game gets to a pure “builder mode.” Finally, Randy Random “doesn’t follow rules” and is the “wildcard AI.”
I usually roll with Cassandra on the “Rough” difficulty, but what the hell. I’m feeling optimistic, so we’re jumping into bed with Randy Random, and we’re bumping it up to “Intense.” At higher settings, colonists (“pawns,” as the community calls them) are grumpier, goods cost more, disease is more rampant, and the natives scale from spear and loincloth to mortar and force-field more quickly.
And Permadeath Mode is a no brainer; we never crash land on a secluded barren hostile planet without it. No reloads, no save-scumming, no diaper-baby do-overs. One save file, and the game saves only on exit.
But heeey, it’s random! It can go either way! We can crash in the land of fruit and honey and joyful joyness! It certainly won’t be a sadistic tale of starvation and murder told by an unstoppable six-foot-four Russian killing machine. To maintain the random theme, I pick a random site on the planet, three random colonists, and jump right into the waters of freedom and liberty.
Landfall… and at first, it’s promising. The average temperature in this area is 55°F (that’s around 12°C), which is good for long growing seasons and mild winters, but the terrain doesn’t exactly unleash the optimist in me.
Tetsuya: Male, 20, a medieval lordling in his youth, grew up to be a mathematician. Incapable of “dumb labor,” but a great research score, and also a social butterfly. This will be useful for negotiations. Can’t shoot for shit, but can swing a club and has some skill in most areas.
Ko: Male, 18, a story-writer turned herbalist, has the optimist trait, just like yours truly (AHEM —Steerpike). Great at gardening, medicine, and handling animals. Psychically Sensitive, which usually means more grumpy. Also my “best” shooter, with a 3 on a 1-15 scale. It’s not “herbalist” in the greenery sense. If it was, he’d have an addiction, which is a thing,
Doyle: Female, 34, once a sickly child, now a deep space miner. Also an optimist despite the troubled past. Another doctor, and another melee specialist. They don’t mess around when they train you in space; she has a Mining skill of 8, which is great to start. Also my best builder, though Tetsuya is no slouch, either.
Dulce, a male cat, 6. Useless and neurotic. Those aren’t game traits, those are just traits inherent to all cats.
The good news is that we have beachfront property. Maybe that will come in handy with the Hospitality mod when we build the all-expenses-included resort. Until then, we have sand and rocks. Mostly sand, which is far less enticing than its hot sister, fertile soil. Crops don’t like sand and trees are in short supply; the plentiful and cheap building material known as wood will be harder to find. On the plus side, it may force me into a less flammable shelter earlier than normal.
To be fair, Randy Random has been kind so far. I have no drug addicts, cannibals, or psychopaths in my group, and this region has balmy beach weather. As for the collective skill set of my intrepid colonists, I have some notable but manageable weaknesses:
- Ko, the herbalist, is best with a gun, with score of 3. According to the Wiki, this rates as “basic familiarity,” which is below “amateur” at 4.
- I have two psychically sensitive optimists. In game terms, the optimism makes them less likely to break, but they are more vulnerable to mood-depressing psychic events. These tend to target by gender, which is good because Ko and Doyle are on opposite ends.
- Dysentery and vomit are in my future on account of Cryosleep Sickness and bad chef skills. My best cook is Doyle, an amateur at 4.
So the first task is to raid the crash site and gather up a rifle, a pistol, some scattered medicine, survival rations, and steel before we all die from exposure. Then we have to pick where we’ll settle more permanently. I narrow it down to two possible sites.
Site A was my original choice because I figured the lake creates a natural barrier against attackers. We spend about half of Day 1 moving our scattered belongings to Site A before I remember that RimWorld’s lakes don’t behave that way. They slow pawns, but aren’t impassible and don’t provide much of a reliable barrier. Site B it is then, and it’s closer to the farmland and ore anyway.
So we spend the bulk of the remaining daylight gathering up our junk, cutting down trees, and hauling the lumber. And by “we,” I mean Ko and Doyle because Tetsuya is “incapable of dumb labor.” And poor Ko is already suffering from Cryosleep Sickness, puking up his herbs even as he chops and hauls wood for our walls and beds. Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, I also discover that Dulce that cat has already bonded to Tetsuya. And, like Tetsuya, he’s as useless as the sand surrounding my shelter.
Night is approaching. I get sick of watching Tetsuya literally cloud-gaze while Doyle sweats through her shirt and Ko vomits all over himself. While Ko and Doyle start making four walls, a roof, and some beds, I “punish” Tetsuya by making him begin Operation Forestation to the south of our camp. With so few trees nearby, a field of birch will come in handy in case we still want a flammable base down the road. I choose birch because they take only 10 “days” to mature (one season equals 15 days in RimWorld, which is perhaps why pawns can build walls, a ceiling, and three beds in an evening).
Day 1 finally closes with three dry, well-fed, and amicable colonists, warm in their beds.
The objective for Day 2 is a power source and to work Tetsuya’s hands raw in the birch farm. WORK, Tetsuya, and bring your stupid cat with you.
For electricity, I’ve in recent games developed an appreciation for wood-fueled generators. It’s the “Ol’ Reliable” of power sources. Wind turbines and solar panels don’t require fuel, but they do require the cooperation of the elements. If wood is plentiful, the generators run long and true. If.
But it’s not, so we’re going green this game. Super-green, what with our planting of trees and renewable energy. While we’re at it, we might as well install some sandbags for the inevitable raids. Randy alone knows what’s coming, but it won’t be pretty, that’s for sure.
Tetsuya finally steps up after finishing the birch planting and starts building. I feel something alien for him, something like…appreciation. But then I realize my beautiful birch farm now consumes about 40 percent of my local suitable farmland. Oops. Bark burgers for everyone.
And holy elephants. Three herds now, ranging in size from four to eight. There’s no reason to risk testing Ko’s “basic familiarity” with firearms. As entertaining as that would be, Ko’s too good of a doctor and gardener to experience death-by-enraged-pachyderm.
We don’t want to go to bed without starting to put our new green power sources to good use, so Tetsuya and Doyle go to town on a new electric stove, freezer, and a battery to store our excess power. Ko could build, but with a 1, he’ll just waste material, so I let him go for a walk and find some joy. Not sure if he finds it, but whatever.
As Day 2 closes, Ko decides our little settlement needs a name. It’s not much currently, just a freezer and a kitchen-bedroom studio with an earth floor, so I opt for something warm and inviting: “Black Mesa.” Maybe people will think we’re dangerous. That was a joke, Haha, FAT CHANCE.
I also notice poor Dulce the Cat doesn’t have a pet bed yet. I wake up Tetsuya to build him, only to have the construction disturb the sleep of Ko and Doyle. I blame Tetsuya.
Wake up, Ko! Time to try hunting. He brings down an emu in an effort I rank somewhere between “clean kill” and “clumsy bludgeoning.” Putting the thing out of its misery takes about four reloads.
It’s now the 4th of Spring, and seasons last 15 days. I need crops, and I need more rooms because my colonists like their “alone time.” So much for simple down-home country livin’, I guess.
We focus on edibles over cotton for now, as I figured we have plenty of time to create parkas and jackets before the mild winter kicks in. I like to hoard food in my games, abundant agave notwithstanding.
We spend almost the entire day planting crops and don’t finish by bedtime. My diva colonists go to bed with plans for their luxurious three-bedroom shanty dancing in their heads.
In the wee morning hours, our first traders show up, and open negotiations by parading their camels through our living room.
I send Tetsuya to greet our rude night owl guests and peruse their inventory. I’m usually pretty stingy, preferring to trade my clutter for life essentials like medicine, components, medicine, and sometimes medicine. They have none of that and I don’t have much to sell anyway (want some agave?). Instead, here are some highlights of their offerings:
- Luciferium: Hyper-addictive stat booster; withdrawal produces psychosis and death
- Triple rocket launcher: Even with the elephants, too expensive and probably not a good choice for Ko, my least awful shooter
- A human kidney and liver: Best not to ask where they found these
- AI persona core: Sadly, neither GlaDOS nor SHODAN, so I pass
However, they are interested in Dulce the cat for $100, which would nicely supplement my current silver reserve of $800. I know some misguided cat-lovers (otherwise known as hostages) might not approve, but cats are pretty much just walking mouths in this game. Yes, they “snuzzle” my colonists from time to time and make them happy, but so do dogs, foxes, and wolves, and we can train them to hunt, haul, and kill. I’m pretty sure even turkeys can be trained to attack in this game, so Black Mesa Cat Policy will remain “Hopefully an elephant will solve this problem for us.”
But, alas, Dulce and Tetsuya are bonded, and I’m sure selling his cat to the organ harvesters might dampen his mood. I’m sure Dulce promptly pees on Tetsuya’s pillow as a token of his feline gratitude.
Construction continues on the mansion. Oops, my people might like a table and chairs. And maybe a research table so we can teach ourselves about colored lights and beer-making. Or maybe something practical like stone cutting, which will allow us to make bricks for non-flammable walls. Hmm, I have no steel left, so I tear down some sandbags for their steel. No, I don’t know why sandbags use steel, but it’s not like I’m going to need those silly things anyway!
Oh, and Dulce is suddenly bleeding. I didn’t see the fight, but judging from his wounds, he attempted to eat a squirrel, which is sadly packs less significantly less wallop than an elephant. At least he’s trying to feed himself, I suppose. I opt for treating Dulce because I’m not totally dead inside (debatable —Steerpike), but that Euthanize button is awfully big and shiny and candy-like…
RAID! We’re under attack! By Juli the Scavenger of…some primitive tribe. She has a pistol. Even though some shortsighted jerk has yet to replace my sandbags, I’m not too worried. She bum-rushes the complex, possibly hoping to make it to the cover of some nearby rubble, but Ko and Doyle drop her almost immediately. Amateurs, indeed.
The gunfire has perforated her liver and kidney, but she remains alive. Killing carries weight in RimWorld. Most colonists find it, at best, distasteful, and too much blood on their hands leads to depression. Watching people die, seeing bodies, burying them…they take a toll on colonists who lack the Bloodthirsty or Psychotic traits. Apparently, my Optimists aren’t included in that bunch, those wusses.
Hey, how about a little sunshine? Maybe “Juli was clearly desperate and starving, she’ll be better off in the next life anyway?” Look on the goddamn bright side. Also, Juli has a freaking peg leg. She bum-rushed my colony while sprinting on a peg leg.
I have this disease I like to call “My Conscience,” (debatable —Steerpike) so we capture Juli the Peg-Legged Scavenger alive. She needs a bed, and I volunteer Ko to give up his. He sulks and sleeps in the rain.
RAID! My colonists scramble from their beds in the early morning. Two this time, of the Gray Cliff People. Armaments are pila (throwing spear) and bow, but we rebuilt the sandbags after yesterday’s attack. Their tribal weaponry encounters my firearms with predictable results, and Ko kills one outright. The other fool flees, and Doyle takes gravedigger duty again, buying the corpse in a prominent grave to demoralize future attackers. I doubt it ever will actually have that effect, but it just feels right somehow.
See, Randy? You ain’t so tough. BRING IT. COME FORTH TO YOUR DOOM.
Juli has survived the night and appears to be on the mend. I’d love to recruit her because she has useful combat and medical skills, but she’s a hard sell and will likely just consume three squares a day from my dwindling food stores while telling Tetsuya to piss off after every meal.
My colonists turn in for the night, and Randy Random punishes my hubris with a heat wave. I know from experience it can get up to 120°F, and heat stroke is a real possibility.
Dawn breaks and the temperature is already 102°F. Time to build some air-conditioning, and now my expansion starts to hurt because I’ll also need vents at a time when steel is in woefully short supply. Sure, I can mine it, but it takes time and heat stroke will take a terrible toll.
RAID! My cooling problems will have to wait because the Gray Cliff People are back for a rematch. They number three, carry club, pila, and bow, and they brought Val the Chief with them. I’m not sure if Val is literally the Chief of the GCP or if it’s just a nickname, but someone’s calling the shots because they stop in the distance to “prepare their attack.”
Then, a complication. An escape pod crash lands nearby, leaving one survivor.
Emmie the Sex Slave has presumable escaped from her captors. Judging from her bruising and stab wounds, it wasn’t a clean escape. She’s out there, exposed, in the heat wave, and the attack is imminent.
I can’t leave her out here. I send Tetsuya because he’s practically worthless in a fight. He makes it to the pod and throws her on his shoulder, but then the GCP beeline for my colony. Ko and Doyle duck behind the sandbags and hope their meager firearm skills can offset their superior numbers.
The battle is quick but fierce, leaving two dead. Thankfully, both are the enemy and include Val the Chief. Val also has a good cloth parka, so we strip him before burying them in the sweltering heat. Rotting bodies tend to stress out colonists, and I like to think Doyle says something like “Hey, thanks for the parka, CHIEF” when she buries him. The other dead attacker has “rat leather tribalwear.” Tempting, but we let him keep his clothes for his next cesspool life..
Meanwhile, Tetsuya has returned with Emmie, creating an immediate space issue. I have 4 beds and rooms for 3 colonists and 2 prisoners. Prisoners need their own cell, and prisoners also prefer to eat like they’re human or something. I have only 16 meals remaining for 5 people, and Juli’s primitive anger makes her a poor recruitment candidate, so we harvest her remaining kidney and feed the rest of her tender vittles to Dulce.
No, no, no, I’m kidding.. We release her, and we even let her keep her organs and peg leg. She shambles off into the wilderness, presumably to tell her scavenger friends to stay away from us dangerous folk. Or to come back with reinforcements. Rick Grimes would not approve of our mercy, but it does curry a little favor with her backwards tribe. Also, colonists cry when I make them murder helpless prisoners, even if I try to take the high road of “grossly negligent jail-keeping,” also known as “starvation therapy.”
But back to Emmie, who has known nothing but misery her whole life. If you missed it before, Emmie was genetically engineered to be a slavegirl, grown in a vat, then sold as a sex slave without ever knowing that things like families and WiFi and Twinkies. Now, she managed to escape (or was helped?) onto a barren crap-stained world on the edge of the galaxy, and it’s the best life she’s ever known.
Then, of course, adulthood:
For perhaps the first time in her life, Emmie catches a break and recovers quickly under the medical care of Ko. Skillwise, she’s physically fragile with “minor asthma” in both lungs, but has three solid skills by virtue of her unfortunate career path: Social, Cooking, and Crafting. She won’t research or write a novel anytime soon, but we do need a cook and Emmie deserves some happiness, so I send Tetsuya to discuss her future with our colony.
Meanwhile, more visitors arrive. With the Hospitality mod in play, I’m supposed to provide basic shelter, amenities, and relief from brutal heat outside. What I have is Juli’s former prison cell. Tetsuya throws some beds together in record time, and I can only imagine the exchange:
And here…is our guest cell-I-mean-room! Don’t mind the sand floor. Or the cinderblock walls. Or the shallow hole in the ground that certainly wasn’t a prison toilet.
We buy some meds from the visitors, but, oddly enough, they end up “disappointed by their stay” and leave quickly. One of them leaves three components as a tip, I presume it’s out of pity. I convert the guest cell-I-mean-room into a half-assed medbay, which I will presumably need once Randy gets tired of playing around.
Meanwhile, thanks to Doyle, my Construction Queen, our cooling units are done. Outside temperature still 102°F; inside a balmy 75°F.
Night falls, but Emmie has decided to take her chances with Black Mesa and a life of cooking, sculpting, and butchering an animal or twelve.
Given her life before, that sounds like a vacation, but her traits of Beautiful and Nervous might be problematic once my colonists start making romantic advances toward her. And they will, I have no doubts about that. If I was literally bred for a life of rape and slavery, I might not appreciate male attention after I’d finally managed to escape either. Colonists don’t like rejection, and pawns aren’t above jealousy, in-fighting, and the occasional psychotic mental break + murder combo.
All told, Week 1 and Randy treated us pretty well. Perhaps too well, considering that “water always finds its level.” We need stone to replace our wooden walls and the mysteries of stone cutting are still unknown to us. Food stores at 30 meals and climbing. Crops coming along. Birch at 18% growth, though I’ll likely only use it for art and furniture. We have three bedrooms, a medbay, and a common area spread throughout two buildings, which should, at least theoretically, help contain the inevitable forthcoming conflagration.
Three raids and one heatwave later, we’re still alive on this 10th day of Spring, and I’m feeling optimistic about our chances in Week 2, which should see the light of day around this time next week. Until then…may all your deaths be glorious.
Email the author of this post at JasonDobry@Tap-Repeatedly.com.