Video Game: Always Sometimes Monsters

"Choice is an evaluation of cost and benefit... Circumstance dictates the evaluation... Consequence takes care of the rest... In this system there can be no right or wrong."

Vagabond Dog's Always Sometimes Monsters puts you in the shoes of a protagonist of your own choosing. A year ago, the host of a fancy party you were attending with your significant other picked you out of the crowd and gave you the chance to launch your dream career.

Just one year later, your life's on the verge of complete collapse. Your landlord's ready to kick you out for missing too many payments, your career's in the toilet, your life in shambles... and the love of your life? They're about to marry somebody else.

But maybe... maybe you can fix this. With only thirty days to turn your life around, every decision you make can take you one step closer to salvaging things... or dig you even deeper. Then there's the fallout others might suffer for your choices...

So... How far are you willing to go? What are you willing to sacrifice, and who are you willing to hurt in the process?

Always Sometimes Monsters is on Steam on May 21st, 2014. It can also be purchased over here.


This Role-Playing Game contains examples of:

  • A Date with Rosie Palms: You can opt for this while taking a shower.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Averted! The only time your character changes clothes are for work (coveralls), which you don't get to keep, and formal attire, which you have to buy if you want it. Also a notable aversion in that, since it's your clothing, your male protagonist can wear a dress and your female protagonist can wear a suit if they want.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After accusing you of coming all this way not just to participate in the wedding, but to try crashing it and making off with your ex, Casey asks you to consider what would make your former lover happiest. Can you really say they'd be better off with you?
  • Asshole Victim: Played With; you can potentially screw over some real Jerkasses, but circumstances are rarely black and white. Not to mention YOU can be this in somebody else's eyes.
    • Regardless of your actions, Sam always sees you this way.
  • The Atoner: Markansas used to be quite the troublemaker before finding faith, and has since become a preacher at the local church.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: For all that he complains about his wife, Larry really does love Belinda. Enough that he's choosing to stay with her despite their growing financial difficulties.
    • However, it's also Deconstructed: Larry's determination to stay with Belinda meant that he deliberately didn't let her know about said problems until it was absolutely impossible to avoid telling her. Needless to say, she wasn't happy, and has been wanting a divorce ever since, which he refuses to give her. In some endings, he finally grants her request.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word:
    • One character would prefer you call his offered bribe a 'gift basket' instead.
    • Your protagonist can opt to blackmail the doctor if you find good enough dirt on them, but skirts around actually calling it blackmail during the confrontation.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Early builds and demos would blatantly let you know when the demo was over, or you'd attempted to make a choice that wasn't ready yet. For instance, trying to take a certain path in Beaton would have the character currently accompanying you state, "No, sorry, you're too fat. You go in the vents until we figure out how the guard gameplay works."
    • The game development team is represented as Those Two Guys, regularly discussing their plans for making the game.
  • But Thou Must: During the prerelease's opening sequence, your choices are to run away, listen to the Mysterious Stranger, or shoot them. Only one lets you continue the game.
    • No matter how hard you try to avoid "stealing" Sam's chance with the Ex, you still end up crashing their date.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : No matter how decent you try to be, Casey will still call you out for the bad things you write about doing, even if the game doesn't give you the option to refuse, or if the option exists, but might literally kill you. For instance, you might get called out for taking the janitor job at the strip club rather than going to church, but there's no mention of the fact that there are no opportunities for making money in Salt City except that one, and as kind and generous as Mark is, he doesn't give you food, and dumpster-diving for your dinner depends on your luck. If you didn't have the foresight to get the fishing rod and get a good sized stock of fish to carry with you (as there are no fishing spots in Salt City), taking that job can easily be the difference between finishing the game and starving to death.
  • Central Theme: The importance of choices and their consequences.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: In the opening sequence of prerelease builds, the hired hitman's dialogue is colored red, the woman with him has pink text, and the Mysterious Stranger has green.
  • Cool Shades: Darkeff and Viper both wear shades, and still keep them while in bed.
  • Cranky Landlord: He isn't too happy that your protag is a month behind on the rent, and is primed to throw you out if you don't pay up ASAP.
  • Crapsack World: The path the protagonist takes from Dubstown to the wedding has them couch-surfing in some miserably poverty-stricken areas. Vagrancy and homelessness are so rampant in Dubstown, the city has "street mattresses", and in Beaton, the homeless are rounded up like stray animals and detained in a charitable organization's soup kitchen/dormitory so they don't ugly up the public property, while those that are in a position to refuse a bed and food under a solid roof are left alone as long as they stay under the bridge. The only places free of obvious class and poverty issues are San Verdano and Los Vargas, both of which are utterly devoid of anyone but the very wealthy.
  • Determinator: The protagonist. Their moral fiber might be questionable and they might be willing to sink pretty low to get the job done, but they will not be stopped.
  • Developer's Room: Vagabond Dog Studios, next door to the protagonist's apartment building. You can even open their safe and steal their $50 game development budget. Doing so resets the game. The developers themselves are always hanging out at the local coffee shop(s).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Your main character can be pretty snippy and snarktastic about their situation.
  • Death Seeker: The Mysterious Stranger is heavily implied to be one, given how they ultimately leave their life in Chekhov's hands.
  • Did Not Get The Love Interest: Either Sam or the protagonist is put in this position by the end (depending on your choices). Or both of them should you opt to have Sam killed for being unable to pay her gambling debt. Whoever is placed in this position becomes the Mysterious Stranger.
  • Dr. Jerk: Doctor Bearenstein takes the attitude that people who can't pay for their treatment aren't worth saving anyway. He hasn't found success by working for free.
  • Drink Order: During Larry's party, each of the potentially playable guests offers him a different type of drink. For instance, one average-looking guy wants to share a beer, while others offer white or red wine or gin.
  • Driving Question: How far would you go to fix your mistakes and get what you want out of life?
  • Driven by Envy: Old Sam turns out to be a bit of a Green-Eyed Monster when it comes to your hero and everything they had.
  • Driven to Suicide: A couple characters can have this fate.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • Darkeff is trying to kick the habit for good, but his ex-girlfriend Viper doesn't think much of his efforts, and may bring him a baggie full of heroin before his latest show.
    • Hailey's so desperate to get some 'Happy Pills' that she'll point your protag towards her dealer if you agree to help. Find the dealer, and he'll drive home that he's bad news by offering you a deal for cheaper pills made from 'Eco-Friendly' Toxins.
  • Ending Tropes:
    • Downer Ending: All of the endings turn out this way. Whether you did your best to avoid hurting others or willingly screwed over everyone who crossed your path, ultimately you're just another monster who gets what you deserve.
      • Bittersweet Ending: Arguably, the ending in which you manage to pay off Sam's debt directly instead of giving them the journal - while the protagonist loses their ex, they still get the credit (and success) for the manuscript, and things might get better for them in the future.
    • Multiple Endings: Based off of your actions, most prominently whether you give Sam the manuscript, let them die, or pay off their debt with the money you earned at the casino.
    • Gainax Ending: After the Downer Ending sequence, even if you were shot, either you or Sam (depending on who got credit for the journal at the end) appears alive and well at a book signing where you get your book optioned as a video game for a million dollars by the developers. And then you go back to Casey's house and find a game system and a weird server room in his garden shed, no matter what ending you get.
      • Based on what your ex says in the ending where Sam dies, it's implied that either the sequence at Casey's house is a flashback, or the Framing Device wasn't actually true.
    • Earn Your Happy Ending: If the protagonist pays off Sam's gambling debt with $10,000 then the protagonist keeps the journal and gets the credit for it, also, the protagonist can win the love interest back by objecting at the wedding. This gives the protagonist either an ending they've truly earned by being a good person. Or this can make the protagonist into a Karma Houdini if they've been a bad person. Also, if you didn't like Sam (see False Friend, Plagiarism, It'sAllAboutMe, Drivenby Envy, and Irrational Hatred) then Sam becomes the Mysterious Stranger and is either shot by Checkhov or left to live out the rest of their miserable existence as a hobo.
  • Empathic Environment: If you leave Sam to die, it will rain at the wedding. Otherwise, it's sunny out.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When the landlord's berating your character for being a deadbeat, he throws in some kind of racist and/or sexist slur just for the hell of it, such as making some off-color suggestion on how you could earn the money.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The very first exchange in prerelease builds of the game is between a man who appears to be a hitman and the woman who hired him, who's having second thoughts. The man bluntly informs her that she already made her choice the moment she paid him and can't go back now.
    • In the game proper, the roles are reversed: the hitman's trying to walk away from an aggressive client who wants to hire him to kill other people. Now it's the client who gives the "You already committed to this" speech.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Mechanic Stan isn't exactly nice to you, but it turns out he has kids.
  • False Friend: Sam was stealing the protagonist's work throughout college, planned to steal the protagonist's manuscript (probably twice), and won over the protagonist's love interest just so s/he could invite him/her to their wedding and rub their faces in it.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Averted. Your character's gender, appearance and orientation all have an effect on how others treat you. Options that are available to one protagonist may be barred to another simply because somebody doesn't like something about your looks.
  • Foil: Sam, to the protagonist, of the "exactly alike but for one crucial difference" variety. The major difference is that where the protagonist is forced into no-win situations by others and then blamed for getting themselves into trouble, Sam consciously throws the protagonist under the bus to get ahead, and it blows up in his/her face.
  • Foreshadowing: In one of the flashback sequences, the protagonist's professor accuses them of plagiarism, as their paper is remarkably similar to their roommate's. As it turns out, it's quite possible the roommate stole from them, and later in the game they may take credit for the protagonist's journal.
  • Forgot to Pay the Bill: You start out owing $500 to your landlord. Given you have only $13 in your account, this may be more along the lines of couldn't pay the bill.
  • Full-Body Disguise:
    • The stranger in the alleyway is bundled up in thick winter wear, and what little of their face might be visible is instead cast in shadow. The hitman initially mistakes them for a bum.
    • Your protagonist automatically uses this if they agree to search the doctor's home, as they anticipate the presence of security cameras and fear being caught.
  • Functional Addict: Darkeff is recovering from drug addiction, which you can help him with... or hinder.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Used for a form of Schrödinger's Gun at times:
    • Your old writing partner, Sam, may turn out to be male or female.
    • Similarly, depending on the identity of your significant other, their parent Casey could be their mother or their father.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The "Indie Heroz" action figures, figurines of various indie game characters found ewerywhere in the game world. Usually they're just hidden into boxes, vases etc. but you can purchase some of them or even steal them from a child's backpack.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: People can be utter Jerkasses to your protagonist, but often have some reason for behaving that way. Whether or not those reasons are valid depends on your point of view. And of course, your protag may not be a prize themselves.
  • Happily Adopted: The Ex is Casey's adopted son or daughter.
  • Hello, Insert Name Here: Here, it's presented as you and your significant other signing a gift card.
    • It's worth noting that all of the possible protagonists and at least three quarters of the potential love interests have default names, but you can only learn a protag/LI's name by talking to them after you've already picked someone else, or by running into them again later in the game.
  • Henpecked Husband: Larry Hunter sees himself as this, complaining about his nagging wife Belinda. When your protag wants to introduce him to their significant other, he responds "Always happy to meet the ball and chain!"
  • Hidden Eyes: The only part of the stranger's body that isn't covered up is around their eyes. Instead, it's covered by black shadows.
  • His Name Really Is Barkeep: It seems that the name of the fishing kid in Beaton actually is Fishing Kid, according to the initials he leaves to mark the fishing spots.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Many of the bad things you can do will come back to haunt you in exactly the right way to ruin your progress. This is also most of what happens to Sam, pretty much from the get-go, especially if s/he loses the love interest at the wedding or dies. All the bad things that happen to them are a direct consequence of them trying to humiliate or take advantage of the protagonist in some way. Even the big date with the love interest would have gone on un-interrupted if s/he didn't plagiarize the protagonist's work.
  • Hourglass Plot:
    • Darkeff views his relationship with Viper like this, and describes it as such if she OD's:
    Darkeff: We're opposite ends of a see-saw and if one doesn't go down then the other can never go up. Today she pays, and tomorrow I will because that's the way it goes.
    • The relationship between Sam and your protag functions this way, as it seems as though it's impossible for both to be happy at the same time.
  • How We Got Here:
  • Hypocrite:
    • Liberte is receiving campaign donations from several amoral corporations, including the very same MicroShaft corporation that's bankrolling Bob Hoard.
    • After getting your journal, Larry will usually claim that he never lost faith in you... no matter how he treated you ahead of time.
      • Larry does a lot of this. He constantly blames the protagonist for not yielding a book and ruining both their reputations, but he's the one who cut Sam out of the publishing deal, knowing they wrote as a team.
    • Then there's how your old pal treats you, and how they can berate you for wasting your chance to make something of yourself... while facing their potential death over a gambling debt.
    • The Ex gets a little of this, too. If you ask them for their opinion about the writing contract, they advise you to sign it because your only responsibility is to yourself knowing that Sam is getting screwed on the deal, and if asked about Sam in the flashbacks, they'll say he or she is creepy...and then they end up getting engaged to Sam less than a year after breaking up with the protagonist.
  • Irrational Hatred: Sam hates the protagonist for being greedy and self-absorbed... because the protagonist "stole" their opportunities by being more talented and more attractive.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Invoked: One of the conditions your agent establishes when offering to help your protag is that, at the end of the month, they want you to turn over your personal journal. Regardless of what happens, they think they can turn what you've written about your experiences into a good story.
  • Important Haircut: Belinda considers getting one during a round of Retail Therapy, and may ask for your input on how to change it.
  • Informed Attribute: Your Ex is perfect, a real one-in-a-million catch! Everyone says so! But depending on how you play it, they may have broken up with the Protagonist for pretty cruel reasons (one of them being that the protagonist's self esteem is too low) and no matter what ending you get, the Ex is just as happy with either the Protagonist or Sam, despite being aware of their history.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Can come up if you happen to be playing with a couple who's the same gender. In one flashback, your friend Sam may worry that the person they're crushing on doesn't swing the same way.
  • Ironic Echo: If Larry kicks you out of his house for walking out on the warehouse job, the protagonist will despondently repeat the toast they gave at the party. Particularly poignant if you chose "To Great Partners".
  • Irony:
    • Larry advises the protag to ditch their writing partner, Sam, in order to take a solo deal. Eventually, you learn that he's since taken Sam on as a client.
    • The Reveal that Sam constantly stole your work casts a much harsher light on certain things in retrospect.
  • It's All About Me:
    • You can play the protagonist this way, if you so choose.
    • Larry is more concerned about how supporting you has impacted his own career, and doesn't particularly care to spare your feelings about this. Belinda is even more blatant about this.
    • Turns out Sam is probably the most shining example of this mentality.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The protagonist can play this straight at the wedding if Sam doesn't die at the casino by choosing to remain silent when given the option to object.
    • The lack of usage of this trope from Sam, shows just what kind of person they are. To be more specific, they chose not to back off when the love interest showed interest in the protagonist instead of them, and, when the love interest tells Sam not to send a wedding invitation to the protagonist because it would be awkward, Sam does it anyways, just to rub it in the protagonist's face. Lastly, at the wedding should the protagonist object and win back their ex, Sam is a Sore Loser about it.
  • Karma Houdini: At the end of the game this trope can be played straight or subverted with Sam or the protagonist depending on your choices. If you played the protagonist with making evil choices throughout the game then this trope can be played straight if the protagonist let's Sam live, objects at the wedding, and wins the love interest back. This can be subverted if Sam dies or if the protagonist fails to win the love interest back. Also, Sam doesn't prove themselves to be the greatest person ever, (see False Friend, Plagiarism, Drivenby Envy, Irrational Hatred, and It'sAllAboutMe.) so allowing them to have the happy ending by giving them the journal and letting them marry the love interest will play this trope straight for them
  • Lady Macbeth: One possible interpretation of your Ex, albeit slightly more benevolent than more traditional examples. Depending on how the breakup plays out, the Ex eagerly encourages their significant other to be successful even if that means screwing their friend over, whether that friend is you or Sam.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • If you make the wrong choice during the But Thou Must moment in the opening sequence, the disguised stranger's response appears to be Addressing the Player directly.
    • Vagabond Dog has a studio in Dubstown, and you can overhear some of their workers discussing a game they're working on. For instance, in one conversation, one is trying to convince the other that adding a tutorial would undermine the reality of their setting.
    • In the homeless shelter, the protagonist asks a cop how he can jump over the Insurmountable Waist High Fence. The cop tells him "maybe in the sequel".
    • If you go under the bridge in Beaton and agree to Fawkes' alternative to paying the $200 toll for a place to sleep, he'll remind the protagonist that unless there's someone controlling their every move, they only have themselves to blame for falling so low as to resort to prostitution.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded when the protag gets asked if they're really planning on wearing their usual clothes to the wedding.
    • At the very beginning of the game, if you examine the wardrobe, the protag says something like: "I've never changed clothes since college, why start now?".
  • Loser Protagonist: At the start of the game proper, your hero's completely down on their luck, alone, on the verge of losing their shabby apartment, and desperate to get one last check from your publisher. What's more, it's heavily implied from the get-go that this is a direct result of their own poor choices squandering all the promise they had.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The hitman is revealed to be named Chekhov.
    • Dr. Bearenstein's name seems rather punny if you learn about the whole thing with Teddy.
    • Beaton's mayor, Tom Hoard, is accused by his opponent of colluding with the local Mega Corp..
  • Minigame Zone: The Vagabond Dog office includes several arcade cabinets. You can also find arcade cabinets in some convenience stores and fast-food joints.
  • Moral Dilemma: Many of the choices you're faced with come down to this.
    • Friend or Idol Decision: Including situations where you can screw over somebody who's trying to help you in exchange for getting money or something else that might help you reach San Verdano faster.
    • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: And yes, that includes potentially killing people who might stand between you and your ex.
  • Motor Mouth: The pigtailed little girl at the daycare center completely fills the text boxes with her speeches.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Your landlord can pull this if you try negotiating with him after running off with your room key. If you offer to pay as much of your debt as you can in exchange for staying the night, he'll consider it, agree... but add that you also have to pay an extra $5000 security deposit to cover the cost of changing the locks.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Jack the ad exec has a nervous breakdown over their career choice and will commit suicide or murder if the protagonist doesn't intervene - and intervene correctly.
    • If you chose to sabotage Stan's car, Carla has this reaction when she sees Stan's kids encouraging him.
    • Let Sam get shot, and the protag has a panic attack afterwards, questioning whether or not that really happened.
  • Mysterious Stranger: Whoever the stranger bundled up in winter clothes in the alleyway is...
  • Never My Fault: The PC can take this viewpoint if you choose, and Larry constantly refuses to accept any responsibility for his part in the PC's downfall.
    • A shining example of Larry's hypocrisy about this comes when your protag calls him out over pressuring them to drop Sam, then later picking Sam up as a client. Larry blows this off and says he never forced you to do it.
    • Dear Sam really lets you have it if you refuse to help them out by handing over your journal, refusing to acknowledge that they wouldn't need it so badly if they hadn't made poor decisions themselves.
    • Accepting responsibility for your choices is one of the major themes, and practically every character who causes trouble for someone else is quick to blame that person for making the choices that lead them to meet in the first place, while conveniently ignoring that they could just choose to not be an asshole.
      • Almost everyone who meets the protagonist will find a way to make the situation his/her fault, no matter what it is. Special mention goes to the back-alley rapist who charges sexual favors for a safe place to sleep and won't let you back out once you agree. The only choice you get is whether to close your eyes, but it's still your fault for letting yourself become so desperate.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: In the pre-release builds, Belinda hired the hitman, though she was having second thoughts about whomever her target might be. In the game proper, it's somebody completely different. This was likely done to hide the fact that the hitman and his boss work for the casino.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • It's established early on that your protagonist's own poor decisions led to their current situation. Flashbacks eventually determine the details of what happened.
    • Event chains can intersect in unexpected ways; for instance, you can opt to deal with Dr. Bearenstein by smashing up his car. If you were planning to get out of Dubstown by riding with Jack, you may find your plans changing because he was going to borrow a car from his doctor friend...
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Can potentially happen in Beaton, if you get roped into helping rig the election and wind up blowing the whole thing wide open.
    • Inviting you to the wedding may completely blow up in your old friend's face, as it gives your protag a chance to fix everything... or at least expose them for what they are.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Belinda demonstrates the Inverted version if you accompany her during her Retail Therapy; she's horrible to the hairdressers at her favorite salon. If she doesn't like what they do to her hair, she even tries to get them fired, refusing to acknowledge the instructions she gave them.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A few here and there; the mayor of Beaton, Bob Hoard, bears a resemblance to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and the theater press conference includes representatives from Polyhedron Online (Polygon), Escapism Quarterly (The Escapist), and Joys n' Stiqs dot com (Joystiq).
    • Escapism Quarterly's representative is a clear stand in for Jim Sterling.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Zig-zagged. In gameplay terms doing good deeds can drain you of limited cash but often provides alternative, possibly better rewards such as rare items or a place to sleep. But - selflessly bailing out Sam with your manuscript ends with him/her gloating in your face.
    • Not necessarily. What Sam does depends on your choices. Saying you helped Sam for his/her sake and demanding nothing in return ends up with him/her being genuinely grateful.
  • No Sympathy: Larry can come off as particularly insensitive to your plight, due to how he refuses to acknowledge the role he played in it. For instance, he doesn't care how you might be hurt that the job opportunity he's got in mind for you is disposing of materials that might be related to your former book deal. It also adds a layer of hypocrisy to his attitude. You wouldn't be disposing of your failed books if you hadn't produced any; it implies that the protagonist did get at least one book published, it just didn't sell as well as the publishers wanted. Considering it's only been one year since signing the contract, there's been a lot of pressure on the protagonist.
  • Not So Different: Depending on your actions, your protag can do some seriously questionable or outright horrid things to get to San Verdano in time. During the climax, you can learn that your old friend's done some terrible things to get ahead in life too.
  • One True Love: Deconstructed. What happens when someone is your One True Love, but you aren't theirs?
  • The Peeping Tom: Your protag can spy on others through keyholes.
  • Plagiarism: Sam's entire career is so based on stealing your work, something that's hinted at in most playthroughs, that his/her first instinct when he needs a manuscript is to rummage through the protagonist's luggage.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Exploring this is one of the game's themes. What are you willing to do to try and secure a happy ending for your hero? What lines are you willing to cross? Who are you willing to screw over?
  • Race for Your Love: Your protagonist wants to make it across the country to San Verdano in time to stop their Love Interest from getting married to somebody else.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • As part of their book deal, your protag was supposed to deliver a book on the publisher's schedule. They didn't deliver, and so their contract is falling apart.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Larry repeatedly reminds your protag that they lost their contract because they failed to deliver a proper book to them in time. He refuses to acknowledge any part he might have played in this.
    • Mechanic Stan gives Markansas one deriding and insulting his faith, harping on how his past problems keep coming back to haunt him.
    • Casey gives one to your protagonist after reading their journal, specifically asking why they really came all the way to San Verdano.
    • If the Mexican Standoff ends with Chekhov killing the stranger after hearing the main story, he then turns around and gives one to his former boss, making it clear that he won't be doing his dirty work any longer. Alternatively, if he lets the stranger live, then they deliver a very similar one when the boss proves unable to do the deed himself.
  • Recursive Canon: Vagabond Studios exists in-game, and you can see a couple members of the development team talking about making the game. At the end, they purchase the rights to the book based on the protagonist's journal; thus, in-universe, the game is based on the book, and shows the process of the book's first draft being written and the game being made.
  • The Resenter: Oh, Sam... They just can't stand that you were poised to obtain everything they thought they should have had.
  • Retail Therapy: Belinda has been coping with the death of her mother this way.
  • Sadistic Choice: As you'd expect, given the Central Theme.
    • A particularly nasty one crops up during the climax. Do you give Sam your journal, knowing what you're sacrificing in the process...? Or do you refuse, and watch your old friend get executed right in front of you?
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Averted; the other party guests who you didn't select as your protagonist still appear, all with their own roles to play.
  • Schrödinger's Question: The choices you make at the beginning determine who your character is as well as their orientation.
  • Secret Diary: Your protagonist keeps a journal that you can opt to write in every evening before turning in for the night. Larry wants you to keep it up as part of his fee for helping you.
  • Series Continuity Error: In the Ex's wedding vows, s/he says s/he loved the bride/groom from the moment they first saw them. Sam was the Ex's creepy stalker when the Ex first saw them.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Your crankly landlord loves to rub in your protag's face how their life's gone down the tubes. If you spend a night out on the streets, expect him to be waiting by the mailboxes the next morning to taunt you about that.
    • Dr. Bearenstein comes off like one when insulting one of his own patients.
  • Spoiled Sweet: The Ex comes from an obviously wealthy home, is loved by just about everyone, and always encourages everyone to do their best. They also have no problem dumping whoever they're with for someone more successful, even if that success comes from them screwing over their friend to get ahead.
  • Stalker with a Crush: One of the Flashbacks reveals how your friend Sam was crushing on your eventual significant other and following them around. Awkward.
  • Story Branching: Uses braid-like branching; your long-term goal of reaching San Verdano remains the same, as do the towns you stop at along the way. However, your methods and experiences depend entirely on your choices.
  • Take a Third Option: In Beaton you can support the incumbent Republican or up and coming Democrat for mayor. The greatest reward comes from exposing them both as being in cahoots in a conspiracy.
    • In the casino, you can choose to simply pay off Sam's debt instead of making the Sadistic Choice, provided you have the ten thousand dollars
  • Take Your Time: Averted. You've got 30 days, no more. But if you make it there exactly in 30 days, you don't get there in time to go to Sam's bachelor(ette) party in Los Vargas. Without you there, Sam never racks up the gambling debt because your presence doesn't make him/her so insecure as to feel s/he needs a fairytale honeymoon to be happy with the Ex, and the casino owner and the gunman don't recognize the mysterious stranger in the ending.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Directed at Parker in the end, but could just as easily be directed at''the player'', accusing him of living in a fantasy by using other people to do your bidding without ever needing to step up and make those risky choices yourself.
  • This Loser Is You: If you manage to somehow not make it to San Verdano before the 30 days are up the gunman and the casino owner have no idea who you are, and demand to know why the hell you're telling them the story of some moron dicking around for a month.
  • Time Skip: The prologue showing your book deal takes place a year before the game proper. Once you reach Los Vargas, a second skip takes you to the day before the wedding.
  • Timed Mission: You have thirty days to get your life together. Good luck.
  • Toilet Humor: Some disgrunted workers in Beaton take revenge on the warehouse manager by turd-bombing his car. Under certain circumstances, you can opt to join in.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Can happen to your pal Sam, at which point it's naturally up to you to bail them out, or let them deal with the fallout.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: In Salt City, your protagonist may be approached with a plan to cut the brakes on Mechanic Stan's car.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: You can reach out to others, befriend a lonely old woman, help people get their lives together...
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: ...or screw them over for your own personal gain. Lie, cheat, steal, blackmail, betray, drive them to suicide... or worse. It all depends on your actions.
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment: If you sell Lady Bird to the Cookie Factory (one of the earliest choices that requires you to first befriend someone before you exploit them for money), later on you find out that the poster advertising championship training for dogs was telling the truth, and now she's Princess of the Big Dog boxing ring in Salt City. And if you can't beat her in time, you're not getting to San Verdano without killing a man.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Whenever a character vomits, you can expect to see the stains afterwards.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Your character automatically questions this after waking up in Los Vargas.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Given the game's Driving Question is how far you're willing to go and who you're willing to screw over, it's only natural these can come up.
    • When your protag tries to call out Larry for their paycheck not being as high as expected, Larry fires right back with one of these. As he points out, the contract hinged on your ability to deliver a book that never materialized.
    • Larry also isn't happy if you walked out on the warehouse job, and you get called out either by him or by Belinda.
    • Your protag's outraged when they discover Casey reading their diary. This then gets thrown right back in your face as Casey grills you about all the questionable decisions you've made so far.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • At the start, you're an up-and-coming writer hand-picked by an agent interested in their work. One year later, when the game proper begins, you're a month behind on your rent and about to be kicked out onto the street, your significant other broke up with you and is about to marry another person, and everything generally sucks pretty hard.
    • Your landlord Moving the Goalposts if you ticked him off. Instead of just flat-out telling you no, he makes a show of considering your offer, accepting it... and then tacking on the extra fee.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Although the game offers a great deal of choice, either the protagonist or Sam has to end up as a suicidal hobo.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Viper has dyed her hair light blue.