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AlterReal is a prospective dungeon-crawling RPG set in the distant future in the space colony, Sigma Station. It is inspired by the Etrian Odyssey series of RPGs by Atlus, and its high concept is a first-person dungeon crawler with a light/dark-world mechanic.


It is the eve of the year 99. Sigma Station, the setting of our story, is a place where you can see and do just about anything. People wander around neon-lit, steel-plated corridors full of bright signs, holographic mascots, and information available literally at a glance. The Lotus Corporation, owner of the station, is about to celebrate its first century of operation on Sigma Station and the Hero plans to celebrate with his three friends. Shortly before the festivities are about to begin, the power goes out and the world around the Hero and his friends turns into an apocalyptic, ruined place. They take shelter until everything suddenly reverts back to its metal-plated, brightly-lit glory.

In the days that follow, nobody is quite sure what happened. People refer to it as a nightmare, denying that it happened - but who can deny something when everybody saw it happen? When such transitions become commonplace, happening at a frequency of almost twice a day, the Hero and his friends are summoned by the Lotus Corporation. They are told, in simple terms, that something is wrong at Central. The four, plus a Watchman, are ordered to go to Central to figure out if there's anything they can do to stop the nightmares.

In reality, the apocalypse is the "real" world, and the neon lights, metal plates, and holographic mascots are the result of the overly elaborate AR system. The Lotus Corporation, rather than working to repair walls and structural damage from the planet's constant tectonic activity, opt to save money and resources by covering up the damage with holographic images. The only thing that is good about this is that the holograms also help repel the planet's native wildlife, which the citizens of Sigma Station would ordinarily never encounter. "Central" is actually the location of the network server that contains all of the holographic data, meaning that when the connection of Central is lost, the holograms disappear until the connection is reestablished. The quest, therefore, is to fix the network connection with the help of the Watchman.

The party

  • Raff - Geeky, sociable, and a bit gullible. He is our main character and probably is the most knowledgeable among the party in regards to figuring out how to deal with the Nightmare. His job, prior to the Nightmare, is to perform maintenance and upkeep on a series of companion androids for a fancy nightclub.
  • Zaina - Raff's older sister, never really had much patience to learn the inner workings of the technology around Sigma, and gives most people a cold reception. She only really seems to care about Raff's well being. She maintains a storefront at High Street Echo, selling junk sculptures and other curios. When the Nightmare happens, Zaina realizes that a lot of her "junk" is more useful than she thinks.
  • Portia - Raff's primary love interest, is a prodigy at beating the hell out of things and is probably the least expected to be the "tank" character. She doesn't seem to get along with Zaina. Works as a bouncer at the same nightclub that employs Raff, and very much excels at doing things with her fists and feet.
  • Garth - Portia's older brother, slightly older than Zaina and has the hots for her, though Zaina constantly rejects him. Has a history of alcohol abuse and is the only party member to have grown a beard. Garth is unemployed, which has helped him get off of the alcohol due to lack of money, and he holds an irrational hatred of the Lotus Corporation.
  • Krauss - A Watchman for the Lotus Corporation, accompanies the four to Central to identify the cause of the Nightmare. Krauss is initially reluctant to get personally invested in the rest of the party, but slowly grows to trust them and eventually reveals his life story, and the hideous inner details of what it means to be an employee of Lotus.

Sigma Station

Run by the Lotus Corporation, Sigma Station is a bustling colony located on the surface of Planet V7T43, part of humanity's latest effort at expanding their horizons. It houses approximately 50,000 people.

IRC log

[21:47:05] <TheGunheart> (5:24:01 PM) wildweasel: I wanted to do something with a futuristic civilization who doesn't realize how reliant they are on their augmented-reality city.
[21:47:09] <TheGunheart> (5:24:30 PM) wildweasel: It does take place in "meat-space," there's no VR involved. But their entire city is filled with holographic mascots, automatic storefronts, things like that.
[21:47:14] <TheGunheart> (5:25:34 PM) wildweasel: I'll describe the setting later then - but what I really wanted this to turn into was my take on an Etrian Odyssey/classic SMT-style dungeon crawler
[21:47:14] <TheGunheart> (5:26:15 PM) wildweasel: I even kinda defined the default "five man band" party, though I didn't flesh them out as characters at all
[21:47:35] <TheGunheart> (5:47:35 PM) wildweasel: "It is the eve of the year 99. Sigma Station, the setting of our story, is a place where you can see and do just about anything. People wander around neon-lit, steel-plated corridors full of bright signs, holographic mascots, and information available literally at a glance."
[21:47:38] <TheGunheart> (5:48:33 PM) wildweasel: Just as the station owner, the Lotus Corporation, is preparing festivities to celebrate their hundredth year of running an off-Earth colony, the power goes out.
[21:47:43] <TheGunheart> (5:50:32 PM) wildweasel: Turns out: it's more than just the signs and mascots that were holograms. Most of the nice, well-kept corridors and steel walls? Most of them are broken. The only reason the local wildlife hasn't gotten in is because they're scared of the holograms.
[21:47:44] <NamelessFragger> Holographic mascots?
[21:47:46] <TheGunheart> (5:51:28 PM) wildweasel: So now, with all that gone, Sigma Station's full of creatures that don't take kindly to the colonists, and it's up to our five-man band to make their way to Diagnostics to figure out what killed the power.
[21:47:50] <TheGunheart> (5:52:53 PM) wildweasel: Suffice to say, with the walls having only been "patched" by the holographic projections, the layout of Sigma Station is pretty different between when power is on and off.
[21:49:21] <TheGunheart> Actually, I have a question, wildweasel; anything like, I dunno, AR gear the heroes have that allow some limited access to the city's AR functions?
[21:49:37] <wildweasel> ah! i'm back!
[21:50:15] <wildweasel> I'd think so yeah, maybe smartphones or wrist things
[21:50:46] <TheGunheart> To be honest, I just realized...
[21:51:00] <TheGunheart> It sounds like a really nifty way of having a "light world/dark world" mechanic.
[21:51:13] <wildweasel> i admit this really didn't get too far past the base concept, i didn't write more than a couple paragraphs of vague banter between them
[21:51:19] <wildweasel> er, the characters
[21:51:37] <wildweasel> because the concept with the cast is just to thwart the typical personality/class roles
[21:51:39] <TheGunheart> Still, it sounds cool.
[21:52:25] <wildweasel> your party consists of Raff, the hero, who is kind of nerdy but tends to miss the forest for the trees - he's the maintenance guy, so he's the one that has to go look at the power core.
[21:53:11] <wildweasel> Raff's older sister, Zaina, who is kind of a cold-hearted bitch most of the time but she really just wants to look out for her little brother
[21:53:37] <wildweasel> and she ran Sigma High Street's only non-AR shop, selling junk and curios that wind up not being so useless post-incident
[21:55:49] <wildweasel> Raff's girlfriend, Portia, is the really clingy soft-spoken type, she's barely five feet but somehow she's a bouncer at a nightclub and winds up being the party tank
[21:56:46] <wildweasel> Portia's brother, Garth, is the self-assured tough guy loudmouth, alcoholic, and has the hots for Zaina, who rebuffs him at every occasion.
[21:57:57] <wildweasel> and lastly Krauss, who initially has no connection at all to the initial four; he's a Watchman for the Lotus Corporation that is sent to escort them to Central, and while he wants to not be involved with them, eventually he decides that Lotus doesn't have everyone's best interests in mind and turns on them.
[22:04:16] <Ryusui> I love this premise.
[22:04:30] <Ryusui> I need to actually get some experience hammering RPGs into existence.
[22:04:47] <Ryusui> Can I make a silly suggestion?
[22:05:25] <Ryusui> It's not just that the AR stuff masks dangers, but also that the protagonists are physically reliant on it to an extent.
[22:05:46] <Ryusui> So they can only explore the "dark" (i.e. real) world for so long before needing to switch on the AR systems.
[22:06:59] <Ryusui> Maybe not necessarily a "drug withdrawal"-type effect, but maybe something more like we see briefly in Sword Art Online II, where the characters are cozied up in a virtual cabin with a fire going.
[22:07:21] <Ryusui> Wherever they are IRL, they still feel the warmth of the fire while in the virtual world.
[22:07:39] <Ryusui> So maybe the AR also "blocks out" some kind of harmful, omnipresent stimuli.
[22:07:40] <Ryusui> OOH
[22:07:47] <Ryusui> That could be an interesting mechanic for puzzles.
[22:08:17] <Ryusui> Like, there are places where it's dangerous to go in the real world while you have the AR off, but switching it on makes those areas safe, because the danger is perceptual?
[22:09:03] <Ryusui> And just as the holograms and AR might wall off locations in the real world, the real world might wall off locations until you find some way to restore AR access.
[22:09:49] <NamelessFragger> wildweasel: I admit, I already want to play this.
[22:11:06] <wildweasel> My document originally said that the cause of the AR stuff disappearing is not just power failure, but that all the AR data is stored on a server at Central, and that connection has become intermittent
[22:12:35] <Ryusui> So part of your progress is tied to your ability to restore AR access.
[22:12:37] <wildweasel> I'm remembering a similar thing in ever17: Sora, the tour guide and central administrator of LeMu, is a hologram - but the only way other people can tell where she is, is because of the ear-inserts everyone had to put in when they submerged.
[22:13:32] <wildweasel> Because there aren't any holo "projectors," per se, but every room has sensors that detect the earpieces, and use that to beam the image of Sora into everybody's eyes.
[22:13:43] <Ryusui> Clever. :3
[22:13:45] <Ryusui> So I gotta ask.
[22:13:53] <wildweasel> i.e. it detects where the earpieces are - which means if you take the earpieces out, you can't see OR hear Sora.
[22:14:15] <Ryusui> When we say "holograms," do we mean the purely illusory kind, or the Star Trek kind with mass and volume?
[22:15:18] <NamelessFragger> I'm guessing HoloLens-style pure AR, but only Weasel knows for sure.
[22:15:19] <wildweasel> Purely illusory. "Hard light" is only available in very, very specific circumstances, like touch displays. It isn't advanced enough to be used in a very high volume
[22:15:58] <wildweasel> and even the name, "hard light," is a bit of a misnomer, as it basically amounts to the mid-air equivalent of a phone's touchscreen vibrating when you tap buttons
[22:16:07] <wildweasel> it vibrates the air around your finger when you touch a button
[22:16:30] <NamelessFragger> Besides, while we can do sorta "physical" holograms with laser projector tech, it still consumes a lot of power and basically works by turning spots of air into plasma.
[22:18:53] <wildweasel> the whole idea is that, while the native wildlife could basically barge in at any moment, they tend to be frightened of the holographic "walls", so only on very rare occasions has any animal life managed to get far enough into Sigma Station for a person to notice. And then, the Watchmen tend to deal with it.
[22:18:57] <NamelessFragger> And the big breakthrough was getting the lasers to fire in shorter bursts so touching the hologram doesn't burn you!
[22:20:46] <wildweasel> The reason why the Lotus don't actually patch up the deteriorating walls is a simple lack of money and resources. It's far, far cheaper, and requires less shipping and construction, to just draw holo-walls over the holes.
[22:21:47] <wildweasel> I suppose what I was trying to show there is that while the Lotus Corporation assures everyone that there aren't any problems, they're really suffering themselves trying to keep their population from suspecting anything's up.
[22:22:46] <TheGunheart> So...playing Dangan Ronpa, thinking about Five Nights at Freddy's and talking about Gregory Horror show recently gave me the most bizarre idea; a sorta visual novel/survival horror where the idea is everyone who's not the protagonist turns mindlessly murderous at night...
[22:23:14] <TheGunheart> But with the twist that during the day, they are unaware of this transformation, and the rules of your situation require that you KEEP it that way.
[22:23:18] <wildweasel> I'm thinking that the Lotus got lucky when they chose the location for their colony - for some reason, they cannot get in contact with Corporate, or any other authority, whether because of a communication breakdown (either literal or figurative) or even something like outright disaster elsewhere, or even civil war
[22:23:40] <wildweasel> Oooh, I think I like that
[22:24:13] <TheGunheart> And here's the thing; you'd have the option of either running and hiding through the night, OR finding a way to fight back.
[22:24:17] <wildweasel> that'd certainly need some sort of supernatural bent to it though, IMO
[22:24:37] <wildweasel> perhaps a curse on the protagonist, or a curse on everybody that the protagonist somehow escaped
[22:24:38] <TheGunheart> I was partly thinking androids/AI and you're the only human.
[22:25:09] <TheGunheart> Kinda based around an older version of what became my Toy Box setting.
[22:25:24] <wildweasel> I'm envisioning the player deliberately trying to break said rule to a person they don't like
[22:25:40] <TheGunheart> At any rate, though, fighting back would probably result in the worst ending.
[22:25:51] <wildweasel> "THIS QUESTION IS FALSE. don't think about it don't think about it don't think about it..."
[22:25:59] <TheGunheart> Since the best ending would probably require everyone surviving.
[22:26:20] <TheGunheart> And like Dangan Ronpa, you're stuck in a closed enviroment.
[22:26:32] <wildweasel> "Um, true. I'll go with true. There, that was easy. To be honest, I might have heard that one before."
[22:26:45] <Ryusui> I wanna suggest that at the very least they have some basic "forcefield"-type walls in place behind some of the holograms.
[22:26:59] <Ryusui> Like, they can't make any complex structures or shapes or devices out of them.
[22:27:08] <TheGunheart> So during the day you're building relations, jumping through whatever hoops the one running the show puts you through, and possibly setting up precuations on the side.
[22:27:13] <Ryusui> But there's actually some kind of physical barrier that's up while the holograms are running.
[22:27:20] <wildweasel> Ryusui, sure, but maybe only in vital areas, like the very outer walls, or surrounding essential control boxes
[22:27:29] <TheGunheart> Also, yet another of the best moments in Portal 2, a game full of many of them.
[22:27:34] <Ryusui> Yeah. The explanation still applies, at any rate.
[22:27:50] <Ryusui> "Lotus has energy resources to spare but not the materials for proper upkeep."
[22:28:11] <TheGunheart> Heh, I like that. Feels like a reversal of the norm.
[22:28:28] <Ryusui> Oh god. That's leading my mind down some interesting rabbit holes.
[22:28:28] <TheGunheart> I mean, isn't it normally that you've got lots of materials for building things but no energy to power them?
[22:28:53] <Ryusui> Like a conspiracy to deliberately "decommission" parts of the station by letting the wildlife have at the inhabitants.
[22:29:08] <Ryusui> So that they can reclaim the materials and use them to shore up the internal parts.
[22:30:49] <Ryusui> Hell, given the implications of the company's name, I'm having thoughts that Sigma Station might be permanently cut off from the rest of civilization (perhaps to an ongoing apocalypse?)...
[22:31:11] <Ryusui> ...and they've been putting what resources they have to maintaining order by keeping up the illusion that there's still a world out there to get in touch with. XD
[22:31:26] <TheGunheart> Actually, I just realized something about the robot angle I like.
[22:31:44] <TheGunheart> It'd be ALL too easy for the player to say screw it and try to kill everyone when things go south.
[22:32:08] <TheGunheart> After all, they're just machines that turn on you for no reason, right? ;)
[22:32:59] <TheGunheart> And as each day passes, it becomes clearer that these a fully thinking and feeling sentient beings and you've got to do your damndest to save them, too.
[22:35:51] <Ryusui> ...even Lotus itself has split into factions, and knowledge of the situation may vary wildly among their ranks.
[22:37:01] <Ryusui> The "salvage" plan was launched by Lotus, but it's gone out of the company's control (i.e. they have no ability to simply turn the lights back on wholesale), and not everyone in there is in on the plot.
[22:37:05] <wildweasel> Yep - which would certainly account for Krauss, initially a Lotus lapdog that eventually sympathizes with the people he's been told to escort
[22:37:15] <Ryusui> So there's some serious left-hand/right-hand crap goin' down.
[22:38:07] <wildweasel> you know how in RPGs, there's always that one guy or voice that tells you NOT to go a certain direction? That's Krauss, whose job it is to make sure that Raff and company never venture off the "beaten path"
[22:38:38] <wildweasel> because while Raff's party already knows that there's bad shit going down with the system, they aren't allowed to see just how deep it runs
[22:42:45] <Ryusui> about the Big Secret is that Sigma Station has been caught up inside a black hole or some other space anomaly. The reason they're cut off is due to time dilation.
[22:42:51] <Ryusui> And - perhaps this is DELIBERATE.
[22:43:11] <Ryusui> The people in charge had some kind of plan, or at least an intention, to get them out of some disastrous situation...
[22:43:26] <Ryusui> ...but they needed much more time than they actually had to develop it/execute it.
[22:44:32] <Ryusui> I know I'm just spewing random thoughts. XD
[22:47:05] <Ryusui> But I'm liking the idea that Sigma Station is being subjected to some sort of temporospatial wedgie to buy its masterminds time to...I dunno, save the universe, or some similarly lofty goal? Except the grand plan is falling victim to simple logistics, setting off the events of the story proper.
[22:47:32] <Ryusui> (even a selfish goal would make sense, come to think of it XD)
[22:48:59] <Ryusui> (and as for why things are failing, Sigma Station's mission wasn't expected to last as long as it ended up being - they vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take to achieve their goals, or some unexpected snag ended up dragging out the timetable. Like sabotage, perhaps?)
[22:50:08] <wildweasel> I'm thinking more that they settled way too far from their original goal, and wound up completely missing the fact that Lotus HQ ceased to exist soon afterwards