Lamplight City Narrative Commentary, Part 6: The history of slavery in New Bretagne
This is a series of spoiler-free (or -lite) transcripts from my portion of the Lamplight City developer commentary, which includes behind-the-scenes insights and anecdotes about the story writing and editing process. Start with Part 1.
Early drafts of the script made a bigger deal of the status of slavery and former slaves in the world of New Bretagne, which for various reasons we dialed back in revisions.
We established in the worldbuilding that the emancipation of slaves had happened quite recently in the history of this country. However, it happened much earlier than in the real world. No Revolution, and no Civil War, either. The idea was that the abolitionist movement didn’t gain political traction until automated steam tech became available as a substitute source of labor.
In Case 1 as originally written, the cruelly abusive Madame DuPree was notable among her peers for offering paid employment to her former slaves, which was regarded as an especially compassionate and merciful act.
But we got feedback from testers saying that the heavy themes of slavery and racism were distracting and disturbing, and not relevant enough to the narrative to justify including.
So we listened, and changed the focus of the case to remove references to slavery. Instead of the domestic servants being former slaves, the unusual thing about the grande dame’s household was her decision to keep employing people when others were replacing them with “steam tech” machines.
This sidestepped an unnecessarily confronting topic and brought the themes of the case more in line with those of the larger game, like class struggle, workers displaced by automation, and anxieties about mechanization and social upheaval in a rising “AEtheric Revolution.”