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Lucky Number 2 - RPG Codex Editorial on Matters Most Pressing

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Lucky Number 2 - RPG Codex Editorial on Matters Most Pressing

Editorial - posted by Darth Roxor on Wed 6 March 2024, 21:33:02

Tags: Deus Ex; Divinity: Original Sin 2; ELEX; Fallout 2; Fallout 4; Prey (Arkane Studios); Shadows over Loathing; South Park: The Fractured But Whole; South Park: The Stick of Truth; Space Wreck; Streets of Rogue; The Witcher 3; West of Loathing

[Editorial by lukaszek]



Lucky Number 2 in RPGs

Dice rolls are a crucial element of most RPGs. They serve as a visual representation of chaos, implemented by means of RNG algorithms.

But the severity of the RNG varies and it’s not uniform. While most checks will feature some sort of threshold for success, 1s and 20s are special due to DnD influence. Now, whenever dice are involved, it’s expected that there’s always a chance (5%) for success or failure, regardless of the circumstances/stats/phase of the moon.

Rolling 19 feels bad – so close to critical success! This is probably the reason behind the introduction of weapons with critical ranges. Pick the right one and you’ll be graced with big numbers more often.

On the other side of the spectrum is number 2. I guess players are more relieved that they didn’t roll 1 – it’s so close after all. And while that’s true for several RNG implementations, it’s not how physical dice work: 7, 19 and 13 are where the close calls are at.

Still, it never received the treatment that 19 did, and I felt that it was time to appreciate it a bit more.

Obviously, I’m talking about functional toilets in RPGs, and through these pages we’ll be plunging into the depths of restroom interactions and hygiene.

Deuce Ex

I’d expect this case to be the Codex favorite, and I guess technically still part of the game’s tutorial? To teach players about choice and consequence, the ladies’ restroom is left unlocked. To make sure you get the message, there’s a male NPC commenting on it, but who even reads random NPC lines?


Step inside and Shannon will start playing office politics to soil JCD’s name. Very rude.

ELEX

One cannot rely on Darth Roxor’s editorial and emotional support without mentioning ELEX. The only game that features two kinds of toilet paper – coarse (regular) and soft. Is it important from the perspective of the mechanics? No. Is soft paper important enough to place it inside a safe? Oh yes.

In the post-apocalyptic world of ELEX, you don’t need to wonder where people go out for business.


I do, however, wonder how such large quantities of toilet paper could have survived. If anything, the recent COVID phase did teach us that it’s one of the products that will be gone from the shelves first, although Piranha Bytes didn’t have that knowledge at the time. Why didn’t newspapers make the cut in here? No idea.

Given the lack of quests related to them, toilets exist purely for world building/comic relief, and one can only guess whether this wasn’t inspired by Fallout 4, which came out two years earlier.


In F4, each toilet appears to contain a scene like above. I suppose it was hailed as the king of environmental storytelling for a reason. Not sure about that, as one quickly stops paying attention. Like with the raiders hanging corpses on display everywhere they move in. Must be feng shui.

Shadows over Loathing/West of Loathing

The Loathing franchise is no stranger to quality time in the restroom that goes beyond Disco Elysium’s approach to finding your clothes and face:


Talking to yourself, selecting your class, making faces in mirrors and much more! Knocking on the lavatory door is an important part of exploration when there are secrets to be found. A key? A toilet gun? Trash? You’ll never know unless you make the effort of getting your hands dirty, with plenty of text to explain the grimy details of your character’s experience. Though it’s nothing surprising in a game that would have you check out spittoons.

Shadows over Loathing took it a step further by providing you with a fishing rod that can be used on every toilet to check it for treasure.


Not sure what I expected when I used it for the first time, but the plumbing snake experience wasn’t it.

Space wreck

Toilets are an important part of the exploration here. If you’ve ever wondered about the workings of a toilet in space, there are plenty of helpful manuals in the game. But make sure that your FOCUS is higher than 1 or you’ll read most screens as BLA BLA.

Anyway, toilets can be taken apart and you can even recover biomass inside. To the completionists out there who must absolutely check every container in the game, I would say – good luck. Still, those who made it through Shadows over Loathing have nothing to be afraid of.

In the screenshot below, you can see the woes of eating questionable food while going for a spacewalk. Did you know that dill is an important part of the space diet? It helps to keep gases under control. One of the space pirates didn’t read the memo and is vulnerable to good old uniform borrowing while being hit by explosive diarrhea.


Luckily, his space suit is clean, so it allows you to infiltrate the pirates’ space vessel.

Since this paragraph got me into the trivia sharing mood: in 2015, the Ig Nobel Prize was awarded for ‘universal urination duration’. Turns out, all mammals over 3 kg take about 21 seconds to empty their bladder. Its mention here is quite relevant, because it’s close to Space Wreck’s loading times. If you need a quick bio break while playing – it might come in handy. Do remember to wash your hands, though – with the extra 20 seconds, you can sing happy birthday while doing so, and I’m happy to report that the game will wait for you.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Larian showcase an outhouse in Act 2 and its main hub. Following the highest of Swen’s standards, it comes with full voiceover, and while it doesn’t sell the idea of someone in pain too well, it does indeed sound like something recorded in a toilet. Bonus points for the outhouse looking proper, with a heart and everything.


Its inclusion is not just for comic relief, nor is the fact that there are two of them. It’s involved in the Aggressive Takeover quest and its usage is quite obscure. Without quest markers or a journal entry, by itself it offers only the recipe for tainted stew. It doesn’t give you the actual recipe, but you can prepare the stew through experimentation, after which it’ll be unlocked for you permanently.

The stew itself is nothing special – just another piece of poisoned food. However, if you follow the convoluted quest properly, you’ll encounter a choice of what to do with Garvan. Killing him per a ghost’s orders is hard considering how it turns the whole tavern hostile. But with the stew in your inventory, you can offer it to him.

Void-tainted fish will do the rest of the work for you and lead him straight to the other outhouse. In a hurry. There you can finally become the toilet assassin that you always wanted to be, without any repercussions.

Prey

Finding safe haven in this game can pose a challenge. Or rather, securing any area. The maps in Prey are fairly believable, and they include the proper number of restrooms that one would expect. Those of you who spent some time in any office at work will find themselves navigating naturally towards the kitchen and toilets. Meanwhile tourist-oriented places are marked with proper signs.

For some reason, most of the barricaded areas appear to be restrooms, and as you can see, it follows Bethesda’s principles of storytelling as included in Fallout.


There might be several ways of getting in, like lifting heavy objects/entering hidden vents/turning into a teapot, but in the end, it’s a lot of effort for minimal gain. Unless you just MUST know what’s behind the barricade/what that toilet looks like. And I get that.

Perhaps it’s the right moment to talk about a not-so-obvious set of skills one develops in an apocalyptic setting. In Zombieland, it’s a collection of rules like ‘check the backseat‘, ‘shake it off’ or ‘beware of bathrooms’. The same concept applies in Prey, where one needs to be sure that nothing in your vicinity is a mimic.

You’ll enter the area like a hurricane, hitting every object that seems suspicious or not. Break the mirrors, smack a cup twice to be sure (who brings a cup to the loo?). Destroy the cistern, you’re unlikely to use it again.

You won’t catch your moment of bliss, as most toilets do involve sneaky mimics lurking about. Did I bash that mop before sitting down? It might be the apocalypse and ironing is no longer necessary, but problems like ‘did I unplug before leaving?’ evolve to stay with us forever. Or perhaps friendly mimics are there just to help humanity in its moment of need? Constipation would not be an issue for sure.

South Park

What started as a small minigame in ‘The Stick of Truth’ became a big thing in ‘Fractured but Whole’ in the form of toilet mastery. You’ll seek an audience with Mr. Hanky regularly.


To ensure proper bowel movement, there are several burritos and other junk food about.

Following the Stick of Truth, you quickly learn that your title of king means shit, and that there’s no throne to reclaim anymore. The power of farts courses through both the games in the series, and in the second installment it was somewhat elevated, as there are even several achievements related to it:


Speaking of achievements, the Codex has them too:

Going Down the Toilet - You've contributed to the long spiral of decline by posting 50 messages.

Fallout 2

A league of its own when it comes to shit content; it was with a heavy heart that I had to limit the number of screenshots pasted here. After divining that the unspoken limit in a prestigious Codex article is two sentences per one screenshot, I didn’t want to push it.

The player will learn that the post-apocalyptic world smells as soon as he’s done with the Temple of Trials. You’ll discover the wonders of the two-headed brahmin, and that where cows can be found, there is dung to be had as well. A lot of it. And it’s omnipresent in the world building to someone paying attention.

Those in need of money, or perhaps just pressing “next” on every interaction in hope for XP, might earn the following perk in Broken Hills:


Hey, as our parents teach us, money and XP does not stink. Even if these are words that the citizens of Broken Hills might not live by, considering that obtaining it comes at a reputation loss.

While the above can be acquired by every character with 4+ INT, following the origins of Jet is a bit harder, as one needs to be granted an audience with Big Jesus Mordino in New Reno. There are quite a few approaches and the easiest for most might be the speech route. I’m happy to report that if you use some drugs, lower the difficulty (it comes with a skill boost) and put a single level-up into speech – you’ll be able to unlock the Mordino family quest chain. It’s quite a treat to find the future codexer archetype in the game and learn what New Reno is all about:


Brahmin dung aside, there are toilets to be found in a large variety, primitive outhouses included. Players quickly learn that they’re important points of interest, as one never knows what they can hold. Most are empty, some will have toilet paper in the form of a magazine or a skill book. Then in Modoc you can find my favorite, advertised as the cleanest toilet by its proud owner Cornelius. This senile individual will send you on a quest to find a pocket watch. I do wonder if this inspired Styg to create a similar quest in Underrail, where you have to find an NPC’s pocket watch inside a rathound, although before it has a chance to defecate.

Anyway, besides giving some false leads, one MUST inspect Cornelius’s pride personally and drop the load. It’s a unique place as it offers you to remove the lid and check what’s underground. I guess it follows the logic of a player interacting with everything available. I know I love clicking on things. You’re also allowed to click on dynamite and clean the place up like Hercules in his fifth labor:

And you know you did the right thing when the town map is updated.

Streets of Rogue

Yes, procedurally generated cities can have toilets too! Their utility is limited to your class. Everyone can use them to puke and cure status effects.

It’s a bit more interesting for the Wrestler, who can pick up many objects out in the world and toss them around. Depending on the object, some extra effects might apply, and yes, the toilet is on that list. You can use your hulk strength to throw some porcelain around and inflict poison. However, its usefulness is limited, as toilets are quite rare, and you can inflict poison with trash cans too – and these are everywhere.

Finally, it leaves us with the Shapeshifter class. Their quests usually involve subterfuge and infiltrating secure compounds. Which is easy when one can jump into an NPC’s anus. Executing a well-timed knock-a-door run can get you into most places. However, characters of this class have one extra utility – their size allows them to flush themselves down the toilet.


This provides you with porcelain-to-porcelain teleportation. It can be quite clunky, as the levels are random and bathrooms tend to spawn without toilets. Perhaps the inhabitants are using bathtubs instead? It’s also within the generator’s capacity to spawn only a single toilet in the whole map.

Given that such sewage network is questionable as a means of transport, the Shapeshifter is one of the jobs that require a fair bit of exploration and planning. Nevertheless, once every few levels the stars do align, and flushing becomes a pure joy in that case.

The Witcher 3

While CDPR put a lot of care into believable world building: with vast fields, farm animals and general village structures, it can’t be said about the inclusion of outhouses. Considering how there are usually wolves/ghouls roaming about, I’d consider toilet outings to be the number 1 cause of death for a casual villager.

The few that you’ll find do allow conversations with their occupants, but none can be opened. Geralt left his lockpicks in another pair of trousers and Aard signs don't work against safe spots for meditation.

There is one special outhouse, and while it’s not a centerpiece, it shows attention to detail on the part of the developer. I’m talking about the Family Matters quest, the first one you receive when you reach the Baron.

The quest starts as usual – walk around with Witcher sense on and spam the activate button on everything. Eventually, you’ll have to head out and find the Pellar. Later you'll stumble upon the Baron’s henchmen seeking help for their friend – an unlucky guy who rolled 3 on the die in a random toilet event. This is not just colorful storytelling. You can find him in the hold grounds:


And he’ll die without help. However, to do so, you need to learn the true reason behind the henchmen’s visit to the Pellar. Meanwhile that is locked behind NOT killing anyone in the Inn at the Crossroads, the first location that you visit when you start this act. With all that done, you can tell them about the cure. Failing to accomplish this will result in the poor soul’s death.

Whether saving him is the right thing to do or not is debatable. Not only will he stay inside the outhouse forever (but he will talk through the planks in friendly NPC manner), but there might have been a reason for his curse (thanks to idioch for this reference):


Ending Thoughts

Don’t you find it weird how toilets appear to be omitted in RPG narratives? It’s one of the crucial human needs after all. Many titles add annoying survival mechanics like eating, drinking, sleeping, food preparation – yet emptying your bladder doesn't make the cut. One could argue that it’s an ugly and disgusting topic. Which is fair, but then there’s the common inclusion of horrific diseases that affect the player, diarrhea from eating raw meat included.

It can be such a powerful storytelling tool. Hollywood has no issue with using it, and here I thought that modern RPGs and games in general are to rival movies as a different narrative medium.

Obviously, you get comedy, like American Pie diarrhea in the ladies’ bathroom (almost there, Deuce Ex!), but there are great dialogs too, like the famous ‘Who does number 2 work for!’ in Austin Powers. Action movies have no issue with shootouts happening in bathrooms, nor stealthy kills being performed there. Stealth games often utilize those, yet RPGs don’t. Eavesdropping on a conversation while hidden inside the stall is a staple too. Let’s also not forget the mandatory jump scare with a horror-in-the-mirror flash. Although it could be argued that atmospheric horror is underutilized in our favorite genre to begin with.

One can only hope that in the near future you’ll be able to find a suitable place to vomit when the next romance is forced upon you.

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