Chris Avellone (born September 27, 1972) is an American video game designer and writer, who started out with Interplay Entertainment, working on such titles as Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment and the Icewind Dale series. He left Interplay after the cancellation of Fallout: Van Buren and headed over to Obsidian Entertainment. His first work there was Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, followed by Neverwinter Nights 2 and action RPG Alpha Protocol. He then returned to the Fallout series with Fallout: New Vegas, for which he is a senior designer and was heavily involved in the development of the DLC campaigns. He also starred in Season 2 of the fan project called Fallout: Nuka Break, which contained numerous nods to the original two Fallouts.
He has then gone on to be involved in a number of Kickstarter games (even styling himself as a "professional stretch-goal"), including Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity, inXile Entertainment's Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera and even became "special guest writer" for FTL: Faster Than Light: Advanced Edition. He left Obsidian in June 2015 to work as a freelance game writer, due to radical disagreements with the higher-ups at the company. The next project he worked on was Divinity: Original Sin II. He would later return to the industry, working on Prey (2017). His writing also appears in Into the Breach.
In June 2020, Avellone was faced with several allegations of sexual harassment and assault, which caused quite a few of the game studios who had employed him as a freelance writer to officially distance themselves from him and even remove his writing from the projects he had been involved with. While not admitting to any criminal wrong-doing, Avellone himself stated that his behavior in the instances mentioned in many of the accusations had been wrong and issued a public apology. What impact this will have on his long term career is yet to be seen.
Avellone is noted for subverting trends in RPGs that he often finds particularly infuriating. In Planescape: Torment, he took his dislike of the Goomba tendencies of rats and utilized cranium rats, which are troublesome when encountered in large numbers. In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, he took his dislike of the way that the Force is often portrayed and used it to create a character that sought, for better or worse, to kill the Force entirely. He is also noted for making established game mechanics part of the story. In KotOR2, your player character was described as being able to gain power through the Force by killing others, involving the Experience Points system directly in the story. In Planescape: Torment, the Nameless One's immortality made death not a liability, but an advantage, allowing the player to circumvent some death traps by simply dying, and reviving later once they had been removed from the death trap. He is also known for having a very extreme aversion to traditional romances, preferring ones that are somewhat tragic or unrequited.
- Conquest of the New World (1996; designer)
- Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (1997; additional design)
- Descent to Undermountain (1997; lead designer)
- Fallout 2(1998; designer)
- Planescape: Torment (1999; lead designer and writer)
- Icewind Dale (2000; designer)
- Icewind Dale II (2002; designer)
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2002; lead designer and writer)
- Neverwinter Nights 2 (2006; designer)
- Alpha Protocol (2010; designer)
- Fallout: New Vegas (2010; writer, lead for the DLC add-ons)
- Wasteland 2 (2014; additional design)
- Pillars of Eternity (2015; narrative designer)
- Torment: Tides of Numenera (2017; additional writing)
- Prey (2017) (additional writing)
- Divinity: Original Sin II (2017; additional writing)
- Into the Breach (2018; additional writing)
- Pathfinder: Kingmaker (2018; additional writing)
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019; additional writing)
- Dying Light 2 (TBA; narrative designer)
- Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous (TBA; narrative designer)
Frequently used tropes:
- Arc Words:
- Author Appeal: He seems to have a thing for mute girls such as Christine Royce and Sis for the non-verbal communication factor. Ecco, one of Fall-From-Grace's students, from Planescape: Torment is also mute. Non-traditional communication in general is a great mainstay of his, particularly when he's allowed to run away with a primarily text-based game.
- Author Avatar: He has gone on record saying that he does characters like Kreia and Ulysses to convey his personal opinions on their settings. Interestingly, this doesn't stop him from claiming they are wrong.
- Berserk Button: If you value your health, do not show a picture of Darth Nihilus with a nose or any facial features to Chris Avellone. The Dark Lord is a wound in the Force and isn't even human.
- Character Filibuster: Kreia was the biggest culprit — the game would routinely create situations where she would be able to lecture and criticize the player's actions no matter what they said or did. In future games, he toned it down, and the player is able to tell a character like this that he or she is full of shit. He brought it back in full force with Ulysses - the result was, however, not entirely intentional, as he was cut as a companion. He will never acknowledge the flaws of his views, even if you convince him to stop his plan. And even if you manage to stop it, you end up proving his point.
- Interestingly, Avellone himself believes Kreia to be wrong and he wrote Ulysses as if he was wrong.
- Deadpan Snarker: After the successful funding of Torment: Tides of Numenera, Chris took to introducing himself as "writer, video game designer, and occasional Kickstarter stretch goal". His twitter is a gold mine of sarcasm.
- Deconstructor Fleet: As a side-effect of his obsessively detailed research, he learns virtually everything about a given universe that doesn't hold up under close scrutiny. And he will dig into the weakness and rip it to shreds.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: He is known to dislike writing traditional romance in his games, stating that he prefers romances that end poorly, or other forms of intra-personal relationships, because they hold more interest to him as an author. A joke stretch goal on one of Obsidian's Kickstarters was to prevent Avellone writing anything for the romantic sub-plots.
- He has pointed out that romances in video games usually are about two people rushing into a relationship in the middle of a crisis situation, which in his opinion is not a healthy basis for a relationship. Whether this is one source of his dislike or an after the fact justification is difficult to say.
- Obvious Beta: The sheer amount of effort he puts into games means that publishers tend to release them before he gets a chance to finish them. Unpolished games have even become one of Obsidian's trademarks.
- Old Shame:
- He regrets his involvement in the development of the now mostly forgotten Descent to Undermountain, which received immense backlash from gamers when released in 1997 due to its unfinished nature and is regarded as one of the worst games of its era.
- He's not entirely proud of how KOTOR 2 worked out in a few places, in particular how Kreia was written as his filibuster on the franchise.