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Lets Play / Steelhold

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''Seriously, this place makes Boatmurdered look like the house of a perfectly organized person who also bleeds and vomits a lot."
Fallen Angel

In the year 250, Queen Brasswords of the Gloves of Admiring declared that, in order to combat the overcrowding in their prisons, inmates would be sent to a penal colony in the desert. It seemed the ideal way to combat crime and increase the riches of the nation at the same time, with a small population of guards keeping the miscreants in check, but it could not last. Indeed, Jackal and his fellow soldiers could only maintain control of the newly founded Steelhold for a single year before the prisoners took over and things pretty much went downhill from there. Perhaps unaware of this, Queen Brasswords arrived at the fortress in 260 and was immediately imprisoned herself. The fortress fell in the year 262 after the second-to-last Overseer burned most of the fortress alive, which, combined with several other negative factors, caused a lethal tantrum spiral. Though the fortress has fallen, you can find the history of its antics here: [1]


Steelhold is unusual among succession games for the high participation of the players even when not taking a turn as overseer, weaving plots and gambit pileups as befits their criminal nature. Participants also have to request a new dwarf should their current avatar die, with a new name, backstory and personality. It has a sequel in the same style, currently ongoing, which can be found here: [2]

Steelhold provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Modi was one of the most feared warriors of Steelhold while she was alive. She was also one of the four called back from the afterlife to kill Oku.
  • All Deaths Final: Even more so than a normal game of dwarf fortress, as when avatars of players are killed, the player has to create an entirely new character and backstory rather than just getting a new dwarf. Exception when Emdief comes back from the dead multiple times, warping him considerably in the process.
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  • Anti-Magic: Emdief seems to be immune to most forms of magic for a variety of mysterious reasons.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Steelhold’s militias seem to last just long enough to become reasonable fighters, then get killed to a man regardless. This happened roughly 4 times.
  • Badass: Rhaken, being an old warrior who died battling hell's demons. He even survived for more than a year after running the fortress, which is very unusual.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Vampires are apparently not allowed into the dwarven afterlife, though Uristador is cleansed of the curse as a reward for fighting Oku.
  • Big Bad: Arguably Corley. While Shank, Asmoth and Oku are undeniably horrible people, Corley destroys the fortress so that he can launch a genocidal campaign against the elves, when the others are content with smaller goals.
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  • Bizarrchitecture: Fractal’s adamantine portal/giant windmill platform, which stabilised the universe and fixed the graphics. It was also the only use of adamantine in the fortress for four years after its discovery, and dwarfed all other structures in scale despite serving no real function.
  • Casting a Shadow: The Masked Dwarf’s magic seems to rely on either this or necromancy most of the time.
  • Came Back Wrong: Emdief was resurrected as a woman.
  • Dark Messiah: The Masked Dwarf claimed to be an emissary of the True Gods, whose nature was never revealed although they were suspected of being demons. Asmoth also gets some aspects of this in the finale, what with wandering in a desert and offering eternal life.
  • Dark Action Girl: Oku was perhaps the strongest fighter in Steelhold. Unusually, she and Modi never had a one on one fight.
  • Deadly Doctor: Although Asmoth had no combat experience, she was capable of disabling one of Corley’s vampires using her medical knowledge.
  • Distant Finale: After Steelhold’s fall, the next account in the world of the living comes almost a hundred years later, recounting Asmoth, Corley and Shank teaming up to create the bloodkin.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Steelhold ended up as a sprawling, incomprehensible labyrinth, with most of it used for only one year or not at all due to the Overseers having vastly different plans for the fortress.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: There are mentions of a war between the elves and dwarves in the past, and most of the dwarves in Steelhold hate elves.
  • Enemy Mine: The Masked Dwarf and Asmoth teamed up to reanimate Modi so they could stop Lenehan turning the entire fortress into dwarf-elf hybrids.
  • Enfant Terrible: The vampire baby mentioned in the page quote.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Asmoth is very attached to her daughter, Thikut and Shank and the queen become the rulers of Steelhold in the finale.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Certainly true for anyone remaining in Steelhold when it was sealed, as Corley’s spell made them nearly invincible, but all their injuries scar.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Asmoth and Corley fight just before abandoning Steelhold.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Asmoth offers to ally with Corley when she finds out he is augmenting the vampires she created, claiming she wanted to witness the survival of the fittest in action.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Shank, who had previously appeared non-villainous before the finale, even if he wasn't particularly heroic, captures five mortal dwarves to use as livestock for him and the queen.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Nearly everyone in Steelhold got fangs as a result of Project Immortality, which wouldn’t have been evil if they hadn’t then drained everyone they could of blood.
  • Fantastic Racism: So much so that Lenehan is initially disliked simply for liking elves. Modi had a particularly strong hatred for them.
  • For Science!: Asmoth turned most of the fortress into vampires using this as justification.
  • Four Is Death: Steelhold’s finale involved four villains: Asmoth, Corley, Oku and Shank. The combination of their plans killed almost the entire fortress, and buried the survivors in obsidian. It also took four heroes to slay Oku: Emdief, Jackal, Modi and Rhaken.
  • Gambit Pileup: In story, Steelhold fell due to the machinations of Corley, Shank, Asmoth, Uristador and the Masked Dwarf combining catastrophically.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Asmoth briefly uses the queen’s severed arm as a weapon.
  • Healing Factor: Corley's spell gives everyone in Steelhold this power (including the dead), but they still scar from their wounds.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Masked Dwarf killed her cultists in order to fuel her spell to leave Steelhold, and the resurrection spell she used on Modi required a sacrifice.
  • Hypocrite: Asmoth seems remarkably put out when Karius kills most of the remaining vampires in the fortress, considering she inflicted the highest death toll in the fort’s history up to that point.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Fire Crazy’s last moments, up until he was doused in seawater.
  • Irony: Queen Brasswords founded Steelhold as a prison for the scum of dwarven civilisation and was imprisoned in the fortress herself after being convicted of over seventy murders there.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: The fall of Steelhold leads to the destruction of all dwarven civilization in the known world, excepting those who flee to the land that Demongate eventually gets founded on.
  • Kangaroo Court: Asmoth convicted Queen Brasswords of every murder committed by Steelhold’s vampires as revenge for imprisoning her before sending her to Steelhold, resulting in a jail sentence of over forty two years. Later, animals accidentally being convicted for murder helped doomed the fortress.
  • Kill It with Fire: Used on the Day of Reckoning to purge Steelhold of Lenehan’s transformative gas. It was also Karius’ method of dealing with Steelhold’s vampire problem.
  • Kiss of the Vampire: Inverted. Shank describes the act of drinking water contaminated by vampire blood as extremely pleasurable.
  • Last Stand: Rhaken against the invading demons in order to buy time for his soldiers to escape. They didn't.
  • The Legions of Hell: Played straight, then subverted. When hell was first breached, the demons brought the fortress to its knees with the demons only held off because of Rhaken's sacrifice. Corley later allows several demons into the fortress, but they’re under his control and he sacrifices them to create the forerunners of the bloodkin.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Oku’s death caused Steelhold to collapse and be consumed in magma
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Asmoth claims that seventy of Steelhold’s two hundred dwarves dying during Project Immortality is well within acceptable losses for the project.
  • Moral Myopia: The vampires of Steelhold spent several months totally miserable because other vampires were draining their mortal friends and relatives of blood, while happily draining the blood of other mortals.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Asmoth declared Project Immortality a success, stepping down as the fortress’ leader to observe the results. Kairus was able to step into the power vacuum and incinerate most of the resulting vampires before they tried to infiltrate dwarven society, which Asmoth had told them was the next stage of the plan.
  • Necromancer: The Masked Dwarf was able to raise Modi from the dead, but her decaying organs had to be replaced first. Corley later appears to become on, raising most of Steelhold's dead as crazed, regenerating vampire-monsters.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Kairus’s response to finding vampires in the fortress was killing them with magma, which would have been a good idea if not for the fact that vampires made up 90% of the fortress’ population at that point, leading the survivors to be very unhappy.
  • No Cure for Evil: Averted. By the end of the fortress’ life, Asmoth was the only doctor in Steelhold.
  • Power-Upgrading Deformation: Corley's spell made the residents of Steelhold nearly immortal, but gives them massive scars where they heal and huge fangs.
  • Religion of Evil: The Masked Dwarf’s demon cult. Asmoth also suggests that Thikut start a cult of the vampire baby when she gets to another fortress.
  • Taking You with Me: Emdief’s final moment is spent killing Oku.
  • The Evil Genius: Lenehan created a gas that would make the dwarves of Steelhold into elf-dwarf hybrids, but would kill anyone incompatible with it.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Nearly every overseer is either insane or sadistic, so this happens nearly every year. Those who aren't have to take extreme measures to rectify the mistakes of their predecessors... resulting in this happening most other years too.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The ruins of Steelhold become the can for Shank, the queen and any surviving vampires.
  • Sequel Hook: Several. Corley gets out of Steelhold alive, Asmoth and Thikut travel to a new fortress with the intention of restarting Project Immortality, Shank and the queen were in a room that neither water or magma could get into, so they’re still alive and while both Emdief and Oku died, Emdief came back from the dead twice already and Oku has at least some skill in necromancy.
  • Start of Darkness: Steelhold is the start of darkness for Shank and Queen Brasswords.
  • Vader Breath: Asmoth gains this in the future as a result of being stabbed through the chest by Corley, damaging one of her lungs.

Demongate provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Thane is currently the only player character example, joining the military after creating the hammer Ob Kat.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Thane falls for Vladamir Uristovitch the mercenary in the first year of the fortress. It's currently the only relationship out of the founding seven dwarves.
  • An Ax To Grind: Vladamir uses his axe for fighting, making threats and cutting down trees.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Emdief from the last game has gradually lost his sense of identity due to inhabiting the minds of so many others. He's now a gender-ambiguous, undiagnosibly insane murderghost who erases people from existence on the whims of the Blood God.
  • Anti-Magic: Thane can drain magical energy from an area, though she does have to use it up in some way.
  • Arrow Gram: How Fallen Angel got Thane to meet with him at his tomb.
  • Big Bad: Corley is still around, manipulating everyone for reasons unknown.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Fallen Angel is implied to be this to Risen Demon.
  • Back from the Dead: Fallen Angel accomplishes this through body surfing, and Dantheman did the same once. A more straight example would be Fallen Angel bringing his brother (Risen Demon) back from the spirit world.
  • Badass Bookworm: Tarmid is quite handy with a crossbow for someone who spends most of his time researching ancient history.
  • Bastard Bastard: Vlad apparently comes from a long line of bastards, according to a note his father left before he was born.
  • Body Surf: Fallen Angel does this regularly, and Dantheman accomplished it at the end of his turn.
  • Came Back Wrong: Dan turned out to have possessed a woman in his reincarnation.
  • The Chessmaster: Rhaken manipulates the events of the fortress from the spirit world, trying to prevent the world falling entirely to the bloodkin.
  • Continuity Nod: Many characters refer to Steelhold and the various factions and legends that sprang from its demise.
  • Cool Sword: Fallen Angel can create these out of magic.
  • Handicapped Badass: Thane got shot in the leg, leaving her needing a crutch to walk, though she quickly got over this.
  • Demonic Possession: How Flame enters the fortress. May also apply to Fallen Angel, considering his name.
  • Drop the Hammer: Thane wields Ob Kat, the bronze hammer she forged herself.
  • Fantastic Racism: Nearly everyone towards elves, but especially Gnora.
  • Functional Magic: Many characters have some form of this, typically Inherent Gift or Device Magic.
  • Gender-Bender Friendship: Thane arrives at Demongate disguised as a male dwarf and befriends Vladamir on the journey to the fortress. They later wind up romantically involved after a night which Thane implies involved copious amounts of alcohol.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Fallen Angel has one; it may cross over with Tome of Eldritch Lore and Spell Book at times.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Vladamir manages to pull one without changing his character at all. In his introduction, he was an amoral mercenary with no sense of decency. Skip forwards a few years and he's pretty much the same, but with the insanity of the rest of the fortress going Up to Eleven, he's actually one of the saner and nicer people in Demongate.
  • Heroic BSoD: Thane, after finding that one of her squad members had been killed by a hydra they were fighting. She later has another after Vladamir's death.
  • Just for Pun: If the title of a link in the compilation post isn't a Shout-Out or a quotation, it's a pun.
  • Laughing Mad: Thane, after beating a troglodyte to death. To her, the laughter is her way of getting over the depression caused by seeing one of her squad mates die. To others, it seems more sinister.
  • Offered the Crown: Vladamir becomes Baron of Demongate because of popularity rather than political manoeuvring or inheritance.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Fallen Angel turns him self into one, to hide in a coffin. It doesn't work out like he planned.
    • The Bloodkin are vampires augmented by magic, capable of regenerating nearly any wounds.
  • People Farm: The Bloodkin farm dwarves and other races solely so they can drain them of blood.
  • Put on a Bus: Asmoth has made two appearances over the course of the story, both in the form of journal entries from hundreds of years before Demongate was founded. Justified by her losing interest in the bloodkin's doings and getting bored when Thikut is sent on a mission.
  • Powerful Pick: Sir Brenzen carries a pickaxe into battle. Since he trained up to legendary skill with it by mining out most of Demongate beforehand, this makes him an incredibly skilled fighter.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Vladamir and Thane get one in the first winter of Demongate.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Vladamir was the Duke of Demongate and a member of its militia as well. He was the militia commander until he was removed from the military due to uniforms and it was discovered that he couldn't be reappointed as commander due to being a noble.
  • Rule of Cool: It appears that most of the things that Fallen Angel does are influenced by this.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Corley was trapped in a coffin for centuries through unknown methods, though he was released soon after arriving at Demongate.
  • Secret Test of Character: Brenzen asks that one of the dwarves sacrifice themselves for the good of the fortress. When Olin steps forward, he knights her.
  • Shout-Out: The compilation post of Overseer entries is full of them.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Dantheman follows Thane and Tarmid around Demongate because he suspects them of performing black magic.
  • Stopped Caring: After the chaos of Steelhold, the Fractal Entity seems utterly apathetic about everything, at least when he first arrives in Demongate.
    • It also appears that her experiences in the militia has caused this in Thane, though it's implied that this is only an act to help her deal with what she goes through, like sentencing a friend to death for murder.
  • Squick: An engraving in the fortress features a picture of Tarmid "embracing" a horse. Later, Vlad bites a horse's tongue out.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Thane disguises herself as a man in order to lead Demongate. Later leads to Sweet on Polly Oliver with Vlad.
  • The Illuminati: The Evening Prayer Group controls most of the fortress behind the scenes. And they do it during binge drinking.
  • Walking Spoiler: Risen Demon, Fallen Angel's brother who was transferred from the spirit world.
  • What's Up, King Dude?: Vladamir is happy to talk to anyone who has a problem in Demongate as long as it doesn't interrupt his training or 'Evening Prayers'.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Fallen Angel pulls one of these. Whether he knew that every plausible option would benefit him is up for debate.

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