Hello fellow storytellers. I’m Antti, and I’ve been working at Resistance Games as a narrative designer and writer for the past 3 years or so. I was asked if I’d like to write a little something for World Storytelling Day, so I seized the opportunity to do something most companies never do. I’m going to give you an excerpt of an actual Story Document from our game Company of Crime.
There are a few reasons why I’m doing this.
Firstly, it’s beneficial for other game developers to see how other companies do things. Game companies have a tendency to keep these kinds of documents sealed up in a vault, like they’re actual trade secrets. The result of this is that every company has their own way of making these documents, and new people coming into the industry have no clue how a Story Document should look like. Even veterans could have an increased tendency for impostor syndrome, since they can’t compare their work to the work of others.
Secondly, I want to show that whatever you see in any finished game, is really just a tip of an iceberg, when compared to the amount of work that led to it.
I’ll let you read the excerpt in a little bit, but first I’ll give you a little context for it.
When the development of Company of Crime started, I was tasked with creating a storyline for it. The premise (or rules, so to speak) was:
“Company of Crime is a tactical strategy game, much like XCOM, but with a focus on melee combat instead of gunplay. It takes place in 1960s London. You can play as a criminal – rising from the poverty of the East End to the kingpin of the criminal underworld. You can also choose to play as the commander of the Flying Squad (an elite task force of Scotland Yard), and rid London of organised crime. Both sides are tied together by a 3rd party – a mysterious organisation called ‘The Occult’, determined to overthrow the British Monarchy. The player needs to defeat the Occult at the end, and feel like a hero, but the Occult still has to “win” behind the scenes.”
Seems clear enough. 1960s London, it already exists, so is there any worldbuilding to be done? Well yes, a ton of it.
One of the very first questions I had to answer were:
- How is the premise delivered to the player?
- Is the story implied or explicit?
- Does the game have a main character or an alter ego of the player?
The final question was the most important one. Strategy games in general rarely have main characters in them. By that I mean characters that have their own personalities, characteristics, motivations, desires etc. Even the most successful franchise in this genre, XCOM, has a so-called ‘silent protagonist’; a character called “The Commander”, a philosophical zombie for the player to experience the game through.
I thought about the pros and cons for a long time, and decided that Company of Crime needs actual characters. My main reasoning was that while saving the world from alien invasion in XCOM has the player “ready to rumble” from the get-go, building or tearing down a criminal empire needs a bit more convincing than just an end goal. “There’s an external threat, go fight it” VS “I am the external threat, why am I doing this”
Phew, almost there, bear with me just a little longer.
So now I knew I had to have actual characters, with their own character arcs and motivations, and a storyline that had to include a secret society of some sorts, that has to both lose and win. At first it sounded like an impossible task, but I figured I’d start with the secret society, since it crossed paths with both criminal and police storylines.
An easy way to create a secret society would have been an “evil for the sake of evil” approach, much like The Spectre is in the James Bond franchise. Honestly, I think I would have gotten away with it. However, I wanted to create something a bit more cunning. A secret organisation that actually has some reason to do the things they do. I finally got an idea of an Illuminati-style organisation that does evil things, yes, but their objectives and motivations are actually benevolent.
Hence The Order was born.
When everything was done, I ran into a new problem. My secret organisation was so perfect, that it didn’t make sense for it to make stupid mistakes or even be discovered in the first place. Well, you win some, you lose some, but that’s a story for another time.
Enjoy the history of The Order.
(The images in the document have been replaced with hyperlinks to their sources, since we do not own the rights to them).
2. The Order Storyline
“We are the strand from the horse’s tail, that holds the sword of Damocles”
The Order maxim
IMAGE HERE: https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-6337989
Image text: A renaissance painting, believed to represent the Autori
In the late 15h Century, the Republic of Venice was the cradle of culture and commerce. The Black Plague had ravished Europe in the 14th Century and the Ottoman empire conquered Constantinople. The muslim knowledge and ideologies flowed to the West once more, and the World was entering a new era.
A group of wealthy artesans in the Republic of Venice formed a group of freethinkers that set out to change the World. They called themselves Autori, roughly meaning ‘The Creators’ or ‘The Originators’.
The Autori believed that countries should be governed in a secular fashion, and following the principles of the Hellenistic philosophy – logic, reason & empiricism over authority, tradition, revelation & dogma.
The Autori admired Plato’s ideal of a Philosopher King – a ruler who has a higher understanding of the World, and governs without the need for greed or power or other vices humans fall into. They also believed in stoicism and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, where human beings should excerpt the utmost self-discipline, and rise themselves above morals, thoughts and critique of others.
2.1.2. The Venetian school of Arts
The Autori believed that if they could teach their views to others, the World would gradually and organically accept the rule of the new Philosopher Kings. Venice was already a Republic in the age of Kings and Emperors, so it wasn’t far-fetched to rise into power from humble beginnings. Just like Athens had been the cradle of culture and commerce in the age of Aristotle’s, they now saw Venice as the perfect place to spark the era of Freethinkers – the Philosopher Kings. They believed the true essence of beauty and art, poetry, theatre and literature, was the source of greater understanding.
Venetian schools of art had already secured their status as the home of most reputable painters, alongside Florence. The Autori founded their own school of art, but opposed the schools in Florence by accepting only artists who had no hereditary wealth or status beforehand. Another difference was that the schools in Florence mainly painted religious imagery, patronaged by the Catholic church. The Autori encouraged their artists to see the beauty of the secular world around them, and capture the essence of it on their canvases.
The Venetian schools of Art of The Autori were of course just a front for a larger set of teachings. The Autori taught their students to have self-discipline and self-reflection, to see the world without authorities or gods, to believe in unity and equality of men, to be sceptical and see the events around them on a larger scale than just the moment they live in. And above all they taught, that the world is ruled by ideas that move the masses, and the philosopher kings are the messengers of those ideas, not the appointed rulers.
Image text: One of Autori students painted a version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, with the intention to strip it from serenity, and instead represent it as it would have been – full of people, laughter and noise.
2.1.3. The heralds of Hedonism
The education of The Autori artist took 10 years, and the circle that founded it was eager to see the fruits of their labour, as their students returned to their societies. To their great disappointment, their students became the cream of high-class societies, and influencers, but none of them exercised their powers to become political rulers, philosophers or revolutionists. The students were heralds for the equality and freedom of expression of the common folk, but fell victim to vanity, popularity, wealth and social circles of artists they created around them. They carried the spirit of renaissance to the rest of the World, but became the new aristocracy of hedonism and parlour-games (in the end descending to bohemianism, centuries later).
The Autori understood that artistry was not the key to governing, but a network of people, masters in their own areas of expertise and influence over others. They also understood that the World could not be changed in one lifetime, and humans (themselves included) would always fall victim to their moral vices and desires. They had however seen how their pupils had managed to influence the World, although not in the direction they wanted.
2.1.4. The school of Kings
Relentless in their pursuit for the Philosopher King, they formulated a new plan, but for that plan they needed a lot of wealth and a legacy that would exceed their own lifetime. Being in the centre of commerce and connecting trade routes to Constantinople (now Istanbul), the Autori understood the value of art. Although the trends in art had a tendency to change, the value of art from past centuries always seemed to increase. The Autori bought modern art (especially from the east) and continued to school the future artist. The paintings that their pupils produced during training were kept by the Autori, in hopes that some of their students would become famous, and thus their former paintings would be valuable in decades or centuries. However, they ceased to teach the new students anything else than becoming master painters.
The Autori founded a new schooling institution, called ‘Scuola privata d’Alberello’, roughly translating to ‘The Academy of Saplings’. The school resembled a modern day boarding school in its structure. The pupils lived on the school property, and received clothing and food from the institution. The Autori scoured the orphanages of Italy, and searched for promising individuals to be educated in their philosophical views. The characteristics they looked for were altruism, scepticism, secularity and leadership, but also characteristics that could be considered as vices – ruthlessness, mentality of ‘end justifying the means’ and so on.
The education of these pupils was divided into two stages. All the pupils were schooled together to the age of 14. The Autori followed their development, and asked them about their desires in life. Those of the students, who showed aptitude and willingness to become politicians or soldiers or other important members of the ruling class, were encouraged to pursue their dreams there, and were sent to their relative paths of advancement, with expenses covered by the School until they were adults.
Those who didn’t have desires to become important members of the society, continued their training. These students were told about the plans of becoming the shepherds of the World throughout the foreseeable future – The dream of a legacy. Those students then became the educators of the new pupils, founders of similar institutions to other parts of the World, and influencers to those who left the school in the first stage.
Influencers were lifted up to high social statuses, and were tasked to befriend and aid the future 1st stage departures, thus casting the invisible web of Autori influence. Finally, the students most fit to follow the ideology of a Philosopher King – ruling the world to the objectively best course – became the apprentices of the Autori founders, carrying their mantles when they were ready.
Those Kings were denied to have offspring or families, and they had to live humble lives. It was strictly forbidden for a King to be in a position of actual power, since the decision they had to make could not be rationalised to individuals or nations. The Autori as a whole had a lot of wealth, but the kings never had access to them. To keep the power from being corrupt, the Autori evolved to have a self-regulating power structure. Each King (or Queen) had an area of responsibility, and they used their influence autonomically for the betterment of the World. Each King knew only three other Kings. Two from their left, and one from their right. In the unlikely event of corruption, assassination of becoming revealed to the world, none of the individuals had the power or even the knowledge, to topple the whole structure.
2.1.5 After a few centuries
As time went by, the word Autori twisted into Authority, which in turn changed into The Order. Although an ironic change of name, the legacy of Philosopher Kings remained.
As the Order spread to less civilised and more corrupt countries, it extended its influence also to the criminal underworld. The end justifies the means, and those means can be anything, transcending the wellbeing of an individual, city or even a nation.
The Order spread their influence all over the world. The ‘Scuola privata d’Alberello’ became a world-wide philanthropic institution, which offered private education to gifted orphans.
Image text: ‘Scuola privata d’Alberello’, located in Oxfordshire, England
The order also slowly let outsiders into their upper circles. One example is James Christie. the founder of Christie’s auction house, after the French revolution. The Order keeps selling their centuries old art pieces through Christie’s to date.
2.2. The Order’s Hierarchy Structure
After nearly 500 years of development, The Order has reached a functioning and self-regulating power hierarchy. None of the members of The Order, not to mention outside forces, can bring it down. The Order works in 4 tiers of hierarchy: Kings, Whispers, Influencers & Teachers (collectively called “Swords”) and finally the Acting Power, (who may or may not even be aware of being members of a secret society).
At the very top of the hierarchy are the Kings (or Queens). The title is a relic of days gone past, but has stuck, out of honour to the original ideology.
In actuality the Kings and Queens that live around the world, have very humble lives. In fact it’s crucial for them to be able to fulfil their duties, to have occupations that have no ties to governing power, influence, wealth or in worst-case-scenarios leverage against them. Most of the Kings and Queens are automobile mechanics, librarians, shopkeepers, schoolteachers and so on.
None of the Kings have families or children, but each of them gets an apprentice to continue their lineage. The apprentices live similarly humble lives, in the same cities as the Kings. Although The Order has an insurmountable amount of wealth, none of the Kings or Queens have direct access to it, although they do have the power to allocate it, if need be.
Each of the Kings knows three other Kings. “Two from the left and one from the right” goes the saying among them, as if they were a circle. The founders of Autori (The original name of The Order) were clever to understand that individuals are weak, and power could corrupt anyone – even the Kings. The Kings keep in close contact with the other ones they know, and each of them have a region to rule. With the rule of three, none of the Kings know the exact same people as the others, but the network of Kings reaches them all. If something were to happen to one of them, the other would make sure to replace them. Very rarely, a message needs to be sent to the rules of other regions. The message is then passed to the King’s right, and personally delivered by the Kings, until it reaches its target recipient.
The Kings pass on all the knowledge and history of their King-line to their apprentices, to better prepare them for their future. Their actual work is to follow the events of the world and predict the future. If they deem that the World needs a nudge in the right direction, they take action.
They have patience, and make plans that might take decades or even surpass their own time as kings.
They act their rulings by sharing the orders and information they see fit, to the second tier of the hierarchy – The Whispers. Each King knows the identity of every single Whisper under their command.
Whispers are a buffer and messengers between the Kings and the rest of The Order. None of the Whispers know each other, but they know all the influencers under the King’s command.
Their duties are to relay the messages of the King to the Influencers and vice versa. They also contact the new apprentices to the King, if need be.
INFLUENCERS & TEACHERS
Teachers of The Order educate the youth in the various schooling institutions around the World. To become a teacher, one must pass through the second phase of the education, alongside the Influencers. All students of these institutions are gathered from orphanages, to dissolve the burden of family ties, corruption of wealth and “too many questions asked”.
The Influencers are former students of The Order schools. They are people, who are placed in socially influential positions, without actual power. Stock brokers, artists, celebrities etc. Their main duties are to use the influence they have, to pressure, threaten, bribe or coax the people in power. They hear the command of the King through Whispers, and fulfil the command to the best of their ability. The main source of people they have power over, come from the same school they attended, but who never made it to the 2nd stage.
The influencers also have control of The Order’s wealth. They need to be able to sustain their positions in high societies (as well as the criminal underworld), and also have the best means to move the wealth around. Many of them have paintings, sculptures and other art pieces in their possession. When a piece of art is roughly 200 years old it is sold in auctions to the highest bidder. Part of the money is then funnelled back to the schools as donations. The influencers also acquire a lot of modern art, to keep up the chain of future wealth.
Influencers are not explicitly told who the other influencers are, but it is not a secret The Order tries to keep from them. Quite contrary, the Influencers & Teachers are the only layer of the organisation with their own sigil. Each member of this tier (and their possible personal helping hands) gets a ring with a distinct sword on it. The sword represents the Sword of Damocles, that keeps the actions of tyrants in control. However, it’s suggested that if an Influencer spends a lot of time in the limelight, the ring should be kept hidden, to avoid the interest of the media.
Acting Power is whoever that can actually make a difference in the field of politics, military or anything else that the influencers can reach. In some cases the influencers themselves can make a difference, by for example donating money to future sciences, or bringing down corporations.
The main bulk of the acting power comes from the first stage of The Order’s schools. When the students are roughly 14 to 16 of age, the ones that are not eligible to be members of the higher tiers of the hierarchy, are tried to be converted into acting power.
In practice this means that those students are guided to follow their ambitions, and sent to the best schools (normal schools, not controlled by The Order) and countries of their respective fields. All of their expenses are paid, until they are of age. To the outside, this is the main mission of the philanthropic schools, and they are thus held in high honour around the world. Not all of the students have ambitions for power, but those students are nonetheless given the same benefits as the others.
When a student seems to follow a path where they could have acting power over anything meaningful, the influencers in their regions are informed. The influencers should try to befriend them or at least become part of their social circles.
2.3. Plans for the 1960s Britain
The World has been shaken by WW2, followed by the Cold War. The Order had been unable to prevent the Wars, but feared a 3rd one looming in the near future. The Order sees that there needs to be another world power between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Britain is seen as very much a pawn for the U.S., and with the Brits joining NATO and improving the relations with the Commonwealth, The Order has a number of concerns that need to be resolved as soon as possible.
If the U.S. were to plan an subterfuge attack on some of the more meaningful Commonwealth countries, Britain would be forced to retaliate or lose face. With the current World events as they are, the U.S. would move their forces to any NATO ally country they deem necessary, and spark foreign policy unrest in Europe. The Soviet Union doesn’t seem to be a real concern, since all they really want to do is maintain their current status as the owners of the Eastern bloc behind the Iron Curtain. The way the Order sees it, the Soviets do not need the feel to expand their territories, but rather maintain their front as a strong World power, although they have their hands full with maintaining the civil unrest within their own borders. In short, the situation in the USSR will settle itself, if they aren’t provoked.
The plan for the Order is to overthrow the British monarchy. Mainly by making Britain seem weak in the eyes of themselves and the Commonwealth countries. As more and more of the Commonwealth would claim independence, those countries would be free to develop under their own terms, rather than the umbrella of Britain. Britain in turn could not count on the U.S. to save them, and would in turn form a united Europe. To be more specific, to join the EEC. Similar plans are in motion in France and Germany, to prepare them for joining forces with Britain. With Britain involved, the rest of Europe would soon follow, and there would be a United Europe between the U.S. and the USSR.
To make this plan happen, the Order aims to instil chaos and the feeling of insecurity into the heart of Britain, London. They fund the IRA that is already causing havoc on the border of Northern Ireland. To fuel the IRAs anger, they also “cause” misfire casualties at the border of Northern Ireland.
The hippie movement is slowly gaining traction in Britain, and people are less ready to defend their nation by force. Criminal gangs are running the underworld of London, as politicians are in a disarray of how to heal the nation. The Order wants to spark a coup originating from the poor and the working class. Many wealthy industrial companies are persuaded to leave the United Kingdom, thus increasing the unemployment rate. Several other wealthy individuals make bank runs, whilst publicly claiming that Britain’s economic situation will be unbearable in the following years. Few well respected politicians, both from the labour party and the conservative party, debate over “worker rights and employment” vs “nationalisation of privately owned industries”. The conservative party also demands more funds to be directed towards national security.
As a final nudge towards anarchy, the Order also plans to plant bombs around London, in the name of the common folks, to increase the feeling of insecurity, and encourage others into a coup. As a cherry on top, they plan to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, and publicly drop them into the Atlantic Ocean, as a symbol of overthrowing the monarchy.