Winter, After the Harvest

a Dark Fantasy by hetero_malk

Commended by EndMaster on 2/3/2021 12:17:09 AM

Player Rating6.75/8

"Too few ratings to be ranked"
based on 27 ratings since 01/31/2021
played 767 times (finished 39)

Story Difficulty6/8

"wandering through the desert"

Play Length6/8

"It'll be a while, better grab a SnickersĀ®"

Maturity Level7/8

"anything goes"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 18. If this were a movie, it would probably be R.

An entry to EndMaster's 2020-2021 Grimdark Challenge. 

Take the role of Lord Winter, an aspiring sorcerer and the scion of a noble line that has fallen into obscurity. 

Contains scenes of intense violence and sexual violence. 

Player Comments

First things first- loved the story. It was definitely one of the better ones that I have read on the platform. So very commendable.

Another aspect I quite enjoyed was the story set up. Quite simple, but effective. Either reject your destiny immediately or try to claim your inheritance? Yes please! Speaking of, that first choice really made it clear that the choices mattered and that is definitely a bonus. The variety that this story showed upon even a first play through- hell, even the first choice- is commendable.

However, there were some grammatical errors throughout the story (the one that stuck in my mind being the quotation mark instead of apostrophe on the page 'Listen to Tor Talk About His Gods'). Another item I would put into this category is the confusing player character response on the page 'I wish for me and my compatriots to be transported from this place...' which only context later provided an answer. This is because all the player character says is "a".

The lore itself is very well thought out and displayed. It is not shoved down the reader's throat and is instead given in little bits of optional exposition that make the world feel fleshed out and mysterious. Very well done. I would put Crowley's origin story among this critique, as it was buried in the lore and a nice little bit to find along the way to explain an otherwise very unexplainable and epic character.

The combat scenes are very well written and I never felt confused as to the placements of any of those involved. Thank you for making those very clear and concise.

The word choice was absolutely spectacular. I am glad the story had such a range of high-level vocabulary that fit the time period of the work. This led to the settings (like the city that trapped humans and.. fed off their souls, I think) and antagonists (such as the vampire) feel very original despite being done by others. In other words, very cool creative use of established monsters and concepts.

Just a note, I love the line: "It stumbles away in confusion, not realizing that it is already dead."

And I'll leave you with a question... is gargantuan your favorite word?
-- TrueParanormal on 2/10/2021 5:21:24 PM with a score of 0
Well, I can honestly say that I can see why this story-game won the contest that it was in. What I especially enjoyed is how unabashedly dark the story can get, and is. However if it was only just that going for this, I don't think I would have enjoyed it quite as much as I found myself to be enjoying it.

Malk's writing, but especially his dialogue in particular makes the characters interesting. The next choices are not ones that are slogs to get through, but things to look forward to on whether or not the journey may end in some way or another, but continue as well. I've already played through this more than thrice, but I don't see myself stopping with just these three current play-throughs.

I would recommend to anyone that has an interest in dark fantasy to read this, but I would also recommend this to anyone that enjoys stories that are as well-written, as they are interesting as well. This story has both of those mentioned things in spades.
-- TharaApples on 2/6/2021 8:05:07 PM with a score of 0
Interesting how candles are mentioned twice on the opening page. The MC burns through five, while elsewhere in the not too distant past, your Uncle lights one for your dead parents. One can't help but wonder if the wax seal on the letter was from the flame burned for your dead parents. Nice contrast with the name "Winter." Call to action, immersive opening, Winter starts off strong.

I think we all know whose narrator's voice is speaking with lines like this:

"In your dreams, you wander through impossible vistas in the shadowed days of antiquity."

I don't know if rejecting the letter was meant to be an entire branch, but that section did feel a little rushed. It went a lot longer than I imaged, though, which is why I mention it. I was honestly expecting a quick death and was pleasantly surprised to find more links to read through.

Since that choice, however, the path becomes very linear. There's an option for a quick death, but you're given single links for about four pages, maybe five if you don't count the quick death. It's not completely out of the setting as you're traveling towards a single destination. Maybe the solution is to combine one or two pages together. Or add more pages. The same can be applied to when you arrive at the crossroads.

I guess I was a little unaware of the ability of the MC to cast spells. When the party was first assembled, each member had their specific tasks or classes. There wasn't much background on the actual MC beforehand, but you discover abilities as you go. The option to cast a spell threw me off at first because of that. From the cast of characters, I'll say Stitcher stuck out. Not only because she was first introduced, but because her name is in obvious contrast to the woman herself. That sticks out and is how you make characters memorable. Nicely done. Frye and Tor were largely the same. John Boy wasn't as strong during my read. Crowley who?

As you journey, the MC grows more into an adventurer. More is shared, and you're learning to be skilled with a dagger. It adds to the immersion as progression is found, not only in story plot, but in the MC as well. Being at University, no wonder why you don't start off as a beard-growing, axe swinging BAMF. One doesn't become that without adventure and struggle.

With the Lich ending, I can't help but wonder if the story's come full circle. The estate itself doomed to lure adventurers in. The innocent MC starting out, fated to become undead evil. A dangerous place to approach, peril lying within. It's a fulfilling ending, neatly-wrapped with another letter (more symmetry) and leaves me wondering if the next story will involve the same world, an undead power to vanquish. A great addition to the newly-created category.
-- ninjapitka on 2/2/2021 11:06:03 PM with a score of 0
Given the limited constraints of this storygame's writing, there has to be leeway given for the contest this was written for. Limited allotment of time meant that this storygame could not fulfill EVERY possible outcome to their logical end, and though there is a clear inclination towards the longest path, the alternative paths are adequate.

That being said, this storygame didn't come off as especially dark in its contents. Maybe I had my expectations skewed because it was Endmaster hosting the contest, or maybe because the story came to an abrupt end after you choose to abandon your family's inheritance. When you DO pursue your family's inheritance to its end, however, the story still manages to cut off before you can end up feeling accomplished. If there's no buildup to make up for a quick end, then there's not much than a quick romp through hell and back to begin with.

While the writing isn't necessarily dense (which makes it easily palatable), much of it is dedicated towards events happening in quick succession. There's wordplay here and there, and what action scenes do exist are quick and to the point, but bland. Perfect, really. As stated before though, if there's not much buildup to a quick end, there isn't much meat to sink your teeth into.

That being said, in comparison to many of its rivalling storygames, this game is BETTER than its peers. The story itself isn't bad (I actually would have like to have read more of it), but I feel like there isn't enough writing in the epilogues to feel like a payoff. If that can be rectified, I certainly would give another attempt at this story a much higher rating.
-- Swiftstryker on 2/24/2021 10:35:26 PM with a score of 0
I really enjoyed this story as a whole. Both the path of adventure and that of the cult are interesting and feel well thought out and paced. Though my favorite is definitely adventuring with companions.

There is decent branching and lots of interesting endings to find throughout the story. The grammar is good, the storytelling itself is very good, and the characters feel individual and interesting to me. My only complaint is that I honestly wanted more twists and turns to explore. The world is interesting and so are the characters, I was kind of sad when it was all over.

7/8 Great job!
-- simplesabley on 2/24/2021 3:15:07 PM with a score of 0
It's obvious why this story won the contest, because it was awesome, start to finish. I didn't really know what to expect going in, but I ended up going through a wealth of events and a few endings to get what I presume is the true ending. This story is seriously worth reading!

Minor spoilers ahead:

First of all, the characterization was impeccable. I went down a path of hiring adventurers, and they were mostly very distinct and interesting. The only one that felt lacking was John Boy (also, John Boy is a pretty lame name). Stitcher was probably the best, she felt like a badass paladin, almost unworthy of the setting she exists in. Nonetheless, she is forced to baptize you with dirt and a half-assed agreement. Crowley is directly tied to your character, in a way that is quite interesting. He was basically the Doom Slayer, but with his own quirks.

The writing itself is damn near perfect for the setting, because gross analogies are used, and a gritty tone is created from the get-go (which is contrasted by the optimism of some of the adventurers and their tales). Despite generally not enjoying blood and guts for the sake of blood and guts, the blood and guts here are tasteful and just repulsive enough to keep you reading.

The lore is very interesting, and I kind of want a sequel for this purpose. Your character is a very knowledgeable scholar, and yet you as a reader do not get a lot of that knowledge. This might just be me, but I really love those optional lore pages, and this story could do with some. The Grim Harvest is especially interesting, because it's in the title, it seems important, and it sounds intriguing as all hell!

Full plot spoilers ahead:

I'll say that the lich ending is fucking awesome. It's like a story within itself that builds up to this epic and satisfying climax. You finally rise up out of obscurity as the most powerful, and evil, being to exist! This is definitely the true ending, because I branched out a bit from the main path to see some other endings, and none were as good as this one. It's a classic wrap-around to the beginning which feels perfect and as a bonus it offers up some additional lore.

To get this ending I took a path through the Far Realms, which was definitely disturbing. There were a couple of issues here, mainly that the people I rescue in hopes of using as meat shields just disappear between pages. Additionally, there's one page where "perenially" and "ponderous" are repeated several times within a few paragraphs, and this just reads really weird.

Overall, this path makes a lot of sense as the power source behind the prosperity of that one village, and while reading it I was actually kind of terrified for the character and his companions. The initial feeling of the character was the same as mine: "Oh shit, I'm dead". Except I actually managed to escape. This escapade through the outer reaches of existence was unexpected to me, and a sudden shift in the setting, but was actually really well done. I only wish I could let Crowley loose in this place, because I got some DOOM vibes with the whole "demons chilling and torturing innocents for eternity in this shattered city", and he seems like the perfect solution.

Once again, I highly recommend this story, it checks off all the boxes, with good writing, a good plot, and some good degeneracy!
-- WizzyCat on 2/9/2021 12:09:31 AM with a score of 0
This story had an interesting world with a lot of cool characters; this is one of those games where you really feel like you are there. I really liked the way Croly showed the main character his story, and you felt like you got to see his personality even though he couldn't talk. I also liked how there were a lot of choices that made significant differences. (Spoiler ahead), I also liked how well the implication was displayed that the man the main character met in the go to your inharatence, and then go with your group for the vampire mission path was probably from a different plane than the main character and his party. The only downsides were I wish there was just a little more branching in some places, and I wish this game could have included getting Croly back. For a future recommendation, I think it would be great to have a game where you could pick a race, stats, and skills in this world. In this game, I would also like to know if a character could have the religious skills such as baptizing and healing, and magic that is completely good at the same time. It would also be cool to throw in the strengths and weaknesses of the different weapons used by the party.
-- Future1 on 2/2/2021 2:43:22 AM with a score of 0
This was a solid story with great setting and atmosphere, which I kept thinking over and over throughout the story. I definitely got a sense for all the characters' personalities along the way. This story doesn't have a lot of inner thoughts and is more action focused, which works well here.

There is a main fork and a small side fork at the beginning of the story, then everything follows in roughly linear fashion up until you encounter the master of a small village, where there's a clear choice to be made. The story really ramps up interest there, and keeps it through the end. It could be a little less linear, but as I like normal books too, it doesn't bug me much. There were 3 fake choices in the mad city that I think were there to just make it less linear for the contest. It'd be cool to see a future update to this story that makes them meaningful.

I'd recommend reading this to anyone who likes the genre.
-- Nightwatch on 2/1/2021 5:45:39 AM with a score of 0
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