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An imageboard-based RPG styled as a text adventure, created and DM'ed by Lagotrope on Questden. Currently ongoing.

A formless, quasi-sapient blob wakes up with nine others of its kind, on a platform floating in a void. The blob enters a portal, leading it into a Deadly Game where it must compete with hundreds of other contestants while under Tactical RPG-like game rules. The blob gives itself the form of a naga and adopts the name "Alison". She soon becomes interested in the game's workings, picking it apart in the hopes of saving as many contestants as possible. Friendships are made, battles are fought, and the contest is soon revealed to be far more complex than any of the contestants could possibly have anticipated.

Read it here — although, this being Questden, beware of NSFW things. The quest itself is tame, but fanart is less so.

Unnatural Selection is, according to Word of God, set in the same Verse as AsteroidQuest, one of the author's longest-running and most famous quests. Its connection to AsteroidQuest has been confirmed early in Polo Quest thread 6. At the end of UnSe Thread 17, it fully connects with the AsteroidQuest Intermission.

Has no character page, but an extensive (and spoilerrific) character list was compiled. Again, it's rather full of spoilers.

See also its parent quest AsteroidQuest, and Fen Quest, a fantasy quest by the same author.

Examples of tropes appearing in Unnatural Selection:

  • All-Loving Hero:
    • Alison. She wants to save everyone, no matter what, and quickly gains a reputation for being incredibly idealistic, trusting, and compassionate.
    • Similarly, the Savior is very friendly and also seeks to save those who do not wish to participate in the contest. Subverted in that he's actually an embedded part of the system and is only operating on his programming, with a heavy dose of Blue-and-Orange Morality. He's also very capable of being spiteful.
  • And I Must Scream: Due to a system glitch, Glitcher spends the better part of ten thousand years in a blank void, with only the voices of the dead for company. It's unclear if he even had the option of suicide.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different:
    • In thread 10 — after Alison's death, Chief takes over as the viewpoint character. There is a pronounced difference in their narration styles, emphasizing the nature of their Foil relationship.
    • In thread 11, the POV switches to Glitcher after Alison dies again.
    • Thread 12 follows Radmin (chosen by popular vote), right as he's killed by Glitcher and enters the dead administrators' contest. Interestingly, this comes with a change to second-person narration, the first time Lagotrope experimented with such a style.
    • Thread 13 follows Glitcher again as he investigates the workings of the system.
    • Thread 14 follows Rulekeeper and Radmin following Glitcher's death.
    • Thread 15 starts with Likol in a flashback.
    • Thread 16 stars Sweatermouse and Chief.
    • Thread 17 goes back to Likol.
  • Anticlimax Boss: The stage 5 admin, built up to be a major, powerful antagonist, dies very quickly. He actually threw the fight as part of his Thanatos Gambit. invoked
  • Anyone Can Die: Though Death is Cheap.
    • Alison herself dies at the end of the belenosian interlude due to 'losing' the CAI battle, though of course, Death is Cheap. The viewpoint character does change to Chief for a time afterwards, however.
  • Arbitrary Weapon Range: Determined by a character's Range skill. Without it, all projectiles disappear when they leave melee range.
  • Art Shift:
    • The belenosian interlude contains a minor one. Though characters are still drawn in flat black-and-white, backgrounds are much more detailed and contain a wider variety of colors.
    • A few panels are also formatted like screens from a video game, complete with Idle Animations, like this. This technique carried over into the beginning of the next contest thread, as well.
  • Badass Adorable: Alison. A powerful combatant commanding an immense and loyal army, eventually becomes a rebel leader... and insists on hugging everyone.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Likol visits a back-alley therapist after he develops mental problems. Dr Renson tells him the entire reason he's not "official" is that he doesn't keep any records.
  • Back from the Dead: The Resurrection ability. Ghost Talk is a lesser form of this, as it effectively resurrects people in safe zones. After Resurrection is deleted, resurrection is relegated to a limited-use reward for completing a stage.
  • Backhanded Apology: In the pro wrestling arc, after Radmin starts a fight in a bar and "distracts" referee Sweatermouse for some heel moves, he's ordered to apologize to his opponents Tilebreaker and Doorstop:
    Radmin: Very well. I apologise that we completely thrashed you in front of billions, and sorry that we made it look so one sided. That was just so terrible. Awful. Pathetic. Really path-
  • Big Brother Is Watching: EIN in the belenosian interlude. It doesn't do much in the harvest simulation, but in the "real" world it has direct access to the mind of every jetal and robot (which it can mind-control on demand), and everything biologicals see thanks to an implant in their eye (in addition to its own surveillance equipment). Then one emperor's Dead Man's Switch turns it into Friend Computer, and the next one turns it into Skynet...
  • Big Good: The Corruptor, who has their own faction of rebels trying to take down the system. He appears to be Evil All Along after thread 5, where he turns against her and successfully assassinates her by interfering with the CAI battle. However, this is actually a Double Subversion: it is later revealed that he was deceived by bad information, and rejoins her side in thread 14. Of course, by that point, he's lost much of his influence, and Alison is effectively the new Big Good.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • In contest battles. Averted in freeroam sections, which is why they so feared by the contestants.
    • Also notably averted after the safe zone rules are lifted in the corrupted sanctuary, turning it into a freeroam section.
  • Boss Battle:
    • Chief at the end of stage 3. He has far greater stats than anyone Alison faced previously and is also a Climax Boss, as he was introduced as a rival antagonist earlier.
    • The Enforcer in thread 3, and later, the Wolfpack Boss battle against multiple ones.
    • Alison remarks on this while fighting the Sapphire Emperor at the end of the belenosian interlude.
    • Averted with Sevener, who is never fought in a proper battle. Instead, Alison competes with her in a practice CAI battle, which Alison loses thanks to Corruptor's interference. Afterwards, Sevener pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Breather Episode:
    • After the ending of thread 13, the adventure takes a break from the drama to resume Radmin's wrestling antics.
    • After the drama of thread 15, the adventure switches to Sweatermouse's wrestling antics, followed by Chief's mafia antics.
  • Buried Alive: Certain individuals suffer this fate in Stage 7 Area 3 in order to drive them to suicide, often spending decades under the dirt.
  • Catapult to Glory: The railgun built and used in the belenosian interlude to escape the besieged Harvest building.
    Alison: [Build me a] railgun.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe:
    • The harvest simulation partially works on this, in order to recreate what its occupants (including its own AIs) think is the real world. It won't spawn anyone who's officially dead, but it can recreate a "missing" person (and restore their mind from backup, if any) just because a few people are convinced they have found a lead on them.
    • Loviro uses it to "import" an item he hid in the "real" world, finding it at the same place in the simulation.
  • Cliffhanger: The end of the belenosian interlude. Alison dies due to losing the CAI battle. When she regains consciousness in the dream city, Sevener is suddenly a lot more friendly and apologetic and says that they need to discuss the contents of Arbiter's logs. The next thread picks up chronologically before the events of the interlude, leaving readers hanging.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: When he shows up to his appointment with Dr Renson, Likol introduces Okei as this, but struggles to find the words and regretfully settles for "service animal". The doctor's assistants/bodyguards pick up what he actually means through neumono empathy, but seem equally at loss for words.
  • Deader than Dead:
    • The enforcers' "Rend Ghost" ability, which prevents affected contestants from being resurrected or even talked to in the dream landscape. It's reversible, though.
    • Also seems to happen during the belenosian interlude, when a hijacked jetal core is destroyed with some of Alison's team inside, and are completely unreachable for the rest of the CAI battle.
    • In retaliation for the attack on stage 7 system brackets, the administrators remove the dream afterlife, thus making regular death Deader than Dead in comparison to the original model.
  • Dead Man's Switch: The emperors in the belenosian interlude have these. One just sends assassins after the other emperors, but two involve catastrophic hacking of EIN.
  • Death is Cheap:
    • In spirit if not in letter — after the revelation that absorbed individuals persist as ghosts, Alison discovers that, far from being permanently removed from the story, any individuals she's absorbed can be talked to in her dreams.
    • Played entirely straight with Resurrection, which allows absorbed individuals to be resurrected at will (albeit for a CU cost).
    • Averted after the system reboot. Absorb or an equivalent has not reappeared so far, and the dream landscape "afterlife" has been deleted. Dead people are really dead, and can only be revived through highly limited end-stage resurrections.
    • Possibly played straight again after Glitcher manufactures the "dream radio", allowing dead individuals to communicate with the living world and each other.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Characters and foreground objects are completely black-and-white (not even grayscale), while backgrounds typically contain only one or two colors.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The Savior is always smiling, cheerful, and friendly, even when discussing the horrors of the Deadly Game. This is likely due to his status as a system construct; he is probably hard-coded to act this way.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Exploited by the Savior and the Corruptor, who purposefully give themselves attributes contestants cannot mimic. The Savior has a bright aura, while the Corruptor is much larger than contestants are normally allowed to be.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Glitcher in thread 5, after discovering the existence of the cycles, and his own status as an aberrant entity. Doesn't stick.
    • This is the core mechanic of Stage 7 Area 3. Only one surviving contestant can advance, but the only way death can occur is through suicide.
  • Dude in Distress: Iso, though far from helpless, often lags behind Alison in combat capability. Much of the early story revolves around her getting him to safety throughout the stages.
  • Dystopia: The Belenos homeworld nine millennia ago. An all-powerful oligarchy using a nigh-omnipotent Big Brother AI, who imprison some indesirables in a simulation of their world after extracting their brain...
  • Enemy Mine: After the Corruptor hacks the practice CAI battle to make Alison lose, Sevener teams up with her to find a way to escape the simulation.
  • Everyone Calls Him Shopkeep: Most "named" characters outside of the belenosian interlude are named only after their function or strengths. Exceptions include Alison (aka The Snake Queen), Iso, Mako (better known as Duelist) and Clarence.
  • Experience Points: CU. It soon becomes a Global Currency as well.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Savior describes being imprisoned with no possibility of influencing the world around him as being this. It becomes his fate after he decides to play Spiteful A.I. on Glitcher.
  • Filler:
    • The last part of thread 6, supposedly a practice CAI battle, actually turns out to be random junk levels with no relevance to anything. (It is possible they could be Foreshadowing for later stages, however.)
    • Thread 6 is then followed by the actual CAI battle, which spans 3 threads in an incredibly convoluted subplot with only tangential relevance to the main plotline. It's not even all that useful for expanded Verse knowledge, as it's a simulation with possible inaccuracies.
  • First-Episode Twist:
    • Many of the game mechanics, especially the absorption and resurrection mechanics, are spoilers for new readers but quickly become the basis of the plot, making it difficult to talk about anything past the first thread or so.
    • The very existence of a character called "the Corruptor".
  • Foil:
    • Chief to Alison. His pragmatism, selfishness, and cynicism contrast with Alison's idealism, but they are both intelligent leaders and have big plans for the contest. This relationship likely contributes to Chief's Heel–Face Turn.
    • Duelist, whose incredible similarity to Alison accentuates their differences.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Likol's flashback: Readers of the AsteroidQuest intermission know his hive's woes are only just starting. It comes to a head in thread 17, catching up with the events of the intermission.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: The belenosian interlude. Though there are a lot of parallels to the main story thematically, the plot has only tangential relevance to the main story, it takes place in a very different location, and the "gameplay mechanics" are totally different.
  • Game-Breaker: Discussed In-Universe, and Alison's modus operandi. She and her allies are constantly finding ways to break and imbalance the game, in the hopes of saving as many people as possible.
    • Specifically, due to the way resurrection costs and absorption benefits are calculated, characters can continually kill and absorb each other to farm infinite CU. The admins eventually catch on and delete Resurrection as a mean-spirited Obvious Rule Patch.
  • Game Changer: The system reset, which radically alters the rules of the contest, generally making things much harder for Alison — stages are more puzzle- or social-based than combat-oriented, exits can no longer be overloaded, and there is no longer an afterlife, giving death some meaning again.
  • G-Rated Sex:
    • Glitcher and Rulekeeper's mutual examination has overtones of this. In fact, it's probably more intimate than actual sex, since they saw what each other's entire data (simulated body and mind alike) was made of, and how it was connected to the world around them, etc.
    • Gets much weirder in thread 13 with a hilariously innuendo-laden scene in which they combine to create a strange matter that can survive contact with a glitcher core. Corruptor is weirded out and asks if they want privacy.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In the pro wrestling arc, Radmin blinds referee Sweatermouse, grabs her hand and spins her to kick Tilebreaker in the face.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The contest itself. This is the 3119th iteration. And this loop is nested within a bigger loop. This is the 9th "archcycle".
  • Group Hug: Alison performs these at every available opportunity. She eventually modifies her snake tail to be longer just so she can include more people in group hugs.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Chief is an antagonist to Alison in the early stages, forming a rival alliance that plans to defeat her; however, after some later diplomacy, they become diehard loyalists to Alison's cause.
  • A notable example is Sevener, who acts as a major antagonist for multiple chapters before turning to Alison's side.
  • The Hero Dies: Temporarily, at the end of the belenosian interlude. The perspective shifts to Chief in the next thread.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Duelist is prone to these. Fortunately, Death is Cheap.
  • I Gave My Word: Alison dies rather than break a promise she just made. There was a bit of pragmatism in it though, as a majority of suggesters judged her messianic aura as more important to her cause than her life.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Encouraged by the system: Damage is determined solely by the user's Weapon stat, while usability as a tool depends on the type of weapon; this makes wielding a tool as weapon a valid choice.
  • Instrument of Murder: Alison and Iso both purchase a musical talent, and fill several of their weapon slots with musical instruments, some of which have been used in combat.
  • Just Between You and Me: Savior gloats to Glitcher how he lured him into a trap, effectively warning him about how something is going to kill him instead of catching him completely by surprise.
  • Kudzu Plot: Keeping track of everything can become quite a hassle, though the wiki recap pages are helpful.
  • Knight Templar: According to logs of previous iterations, Alison tends to become this at the very end. She has a Heroic BSoD at the revelation that not everyone can be saved, and sabotages the Corruptor's plan, restarting the contest hoping to save more the next cycle.
  • Love Interest: Iso. Arbiter later becomes another contender, though by that point Alison has bigger matters to be concerned with, so the romance plotline is currently on hold.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Taken to extremes in the rigged poker game in thread 12, due to the crooked dealer lacking subtlety. After having been suspiciously lucky the first two turns, the viewpoint character is dealt a straight flush, but decides to fold rather than make the cheat that obvious. Several other players go all-in... And in the end reveal three other straight flushes and a four-of-a-kind. Cue Jaw Drop from the remaining player, who only had a full house.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Savior takes this to an extreme — he is a conglomeration of parts and traits from every major alien species in the Asteroidverse.
  • Nice Guy: The Corruptor is revealed to be this in the end. He only fought Alison because he was working off of inaccurate information, and genuinely cares for the contestants, especially Glitcher. After Glitcher dies he is practically incapacitated by grief, but he does his best to help everyone anyway.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-Universe; many characters are disturbed by "freeroam" sections due to the prevalence of horrific traps and an aversion of Bloodless Carnage — contestants operate on real physics and biology rather than game mechanics.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Alison's reaction to anyone is an urge to hug them. She spreads this meme to as many people as she possibly can.
    Alison: GROUP HUG.
  • Off the Rails:
    • Alison's goal. She manages to do so at least partially in thread 3, where she escapes the stages and discovers the Corruptor's sanctuary.
    • The Corruptor has this goal as well, creating a sanctuary free from the system's influence where he actively tries to dismantle the contest's code. He has yet to succeed in saving everyone, however.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Alison #1700 became known as "Mafia Alison" only from wild speculation sparked by an angry dying tweet. After her resurrection, she found it colored her every interaction, and decided to hide her cycle of origin.
  • 1-Up: Can be gotten by exploring safe areas. They become less important over time, however, especially with the prevalence of Resurrection, and the system reset removes them entirely.
  • Piano Drop: One of Alison's weapons is a grand piano, which has seen combat use to deadly effect.
  • Posthumous Character: The quest makes multiple references to Likol, who died heroically at the end of the AsteroidQuest intermission. According to thread 13, he created Savior to make sure Corruptor doesn't break the system too much, which would cause a hard reboot and start a new "archcycle" (which nobody wants, since it would completely start over without any of Corruptor's machinations, and blank logs).
  • Averted with the administrators themselves, who often have motivations and plans of their own.
  • Put on a Bus: Anyone who leaves for Savior's paradise. They become exempt from the contest, but can never return to the stages.
  • Really Dead Montage:
    • Glitcher in thread 5. They have a despondent monologue beforehand, talk about their memories and friendship with Alison, and finally commit suicide in a way that characters claim looks permanent. It's actually subvertedAlison absorbed him, so he reappears in her dream city soon after.
    • Exaggerated in thread 13, with Glitcher again. This time the montage is very long, spanning 8 panels, flashing back to all their memories of their friends and thanking them for everything as their consciousness is slowly destroyed.
  • Reset Button: A literal one in the harvest simulation. After someone has the bright idea to nuke a bunch of city blocks (and still missed the intended target), the powers that be put their foot down and rewind time.
  • The Reveal: Lots, usually coupled with a Wham Episode.
    • Specifically, in the first thread of the belenosian interlude: Alison is actually in a simulation within the simulation, and must break out into the "real" belenos homeworld to defeat the Sapphire Emperor.
    • Towards the end of the belenosian interlude: Arbiter is the Diamond Emperor, implying he was extracted from the simulation in a previous cycle. When Alison leaves the simulation, a system message reveals that Swordsbane and Healer were extracted AIs as well.
    • Thread 13 has a lot of these, but in particular, there's the reveal of what the Savior really is: a copied part of the main program that functions as a backup in case Corruptor corrupts everything — and if he fails to stop Corruptor, it risks a hard reset, which eliminates all logs, all previous data, everything. This is why he's so obsessed with fulfilling his purpose, and stopping the Corruptor at all costs.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Almost every antagonist genuinely believes that they are doing the right thing. Conflict arises from misunderstandings and disagreements about the outcome of the contest, but virtually everyone is basically a good person.
    • Even Chief, arguably the least sympathetic antagonist, gets a Heel–Face Turn and is later revealed to have a sympathetic backstory.
    • Even the CAI, arguably the Big Bad, turns out to just be trying to defend itself — if the contestants win and replace it, it will effectively die.
    • Minor characters can still be selfish, however. That, and those running the whole project; clues in thread 10 point to the salikai running the science hive in the AsteroidQuest intermission and Polo Quest, which is later confirmed in Polo Quest thread 6.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Stage 7 Area 3 is a prime insanity generator. The main characters experience time dilation, hallucinations, and thoughts of suicide towards the end, although those may have been artificially inserted by the system admins to speed things up. Fortunately, there's a personality reset afterwards to fix all the psychological damage, ultimately averting this.
    • Notably averted by Glitcher, who spent an incredibly long time in near-total isolation, yet is still sane afterwards. He was still able to hear the voices of ghosts, so presumably they kept him sane.
  • The Smart Guy: Mathematician, Engineer, and, later, Historian. All of them spend their time in the safe zones reading books, gaining useful knowledge.
  • Splash of Color: The picture in this book is drawn in full color, like in AsteroidQuest.
  • Stripperiffic: Alison's initial outfit, though she later gains a more modest one.
  • Succubi and Incubi: Subverted. Chief's second-in-command takes the form of a succubus, but personality-wise she's a totally normal contestant.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The stage 5 admin throws the fight against Alison, and in doing so, proves that she is a legitimate threat to the system. This shocks the other admins into action and makes life harder for her.
  • Unobtainium: Jetalium, a Lost Technology metal that decays when not in contact with a Jetal core. The Belenosian interlude shows an interpretation of how their society was back when it was commonplace.
  • Walking Spoiler: The Corruptor, as well as the existence of the corrupted sanctuary.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The appearance of the Corruptor.
    • Glitcher's analysis of Alison's note. He refuses to disclose the details, but he is so horrified by what he saw that he commits suicide in a Really Dead Montage. He calms down later.
    • Alison's logs. The contest is in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, and Alison has not discovered a way to save everyone in thousands of iterations. The logs also imply that later stages become incredibly horrific.
    • Arbiter's logs. Actually the Corruptor's logs, which reveal him as a virus injected to stop the contest and the CAI. The Savior is actually an antivirus structure embedded in the program, and Glitcher is born from his corruption — as such, he is not a permanent entity, and will be Killed Off for Real when the cycle ends. Alison also has a tendency to go Knight Templar and sabotage the Corruptor's plans at the very end of the contest.
    • The system reset isn't a shocking reveal, but it is a major game-changer going forward — all stats and abilities are purged, including Absorb, and the stages are heavily redone to prevent overloading of exits.
    • Thread 13, which consists of Glitcher examining the structure of the program itself and previous cycles is pretty much a non-stop train of reveals and major plot twists. In particular, the Corruptor returns after revealing that he was actually quarantined after the CAI battle and the antagonistic, secretive version seen previously was a fake; there is a separate set of cycles running in a cordoned-off area of the program, but it's falling apart from corruption; the Savior's origins and abilities are revealed before he is defeated by Glitcher and his powers subsumed by Rulekeeper; Alison is resurrected; and Glitcher is killed — seemingly permanently — by a mysterious entity that seems customized to destroy him; but not before Glitcher reveals the full structure of the program to the contestants.
    • Thread 15 is one big in-universe Wham Episode for the scientists perpetuating the experiment, who didn't know there was an entire sentient population in their neural network program.
  • Wham Line:
    • In thread 3, a character actually talks. With quotes and everything. This is a radical departure from the established style, which only summarized conversations in the style of MS Paint Adventures up to that point.
    • Thread 4:
      With her replacement of Ghost Talk, [Alison] does not believe it to just be her imagination when the silence is only broken by the Administrator's laughter in her mind.
    • Thread 5:
      Alison uses double offense!
      Alison deals MORTAL DAMAGE to Corrupted!
    • Belenosian interlude 3:
      Alison hears a voice in the lobby.
      Defeat! Cause of outcome: Enemy team successful.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Inevitable due to the nature of interactive media. The author has done an admirable job juggling the Kudzu Plot regardless, though snarls do occasionally arise.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Stage 7 area 3 lasts up to 10000 in-simulation years, but the entire cycle takes three days.