It was the day of the Great Hunt. The refrigeration chamber of Corpse Town, usually stocked with fresh meat, was empty. So all ten residents of the town got up and went to the plains where deer and boar roamed in huge numbers. There they killed as many of the animals as possible. Until the deer, furious at their mistreatment, rose up against their masters in a vast rebellion and began goring everyone to death with their hooves and antlers. And then the pirate attacked. But the town would still eat tonight.
RimWorld is a colony management sim that puts you in charge of a handful of reprobates marooned on a planet and laughs as you slowly fail to keep them from eating raw meat and vomiting on each other. While the vanilla mode sees you drop onto a planet with three random people, there is a powerful scenario editor that lets you piece together your own story right from the start. This is what I used to create the cannibal clan of Corpse Town.
My scenario is called All Hail the Spider Lord. Ten acolytes of a cannibalistic spider god—a terrifying alien creature called 'Jack'—crash land on the planet and have to abide by their lord's commandments. Scenarios like this let you roleplay and put limits on your own people. For instance, the founders of Corpse Town cannot dig graves or build sarcophogi. On the editor, these buildings are marked 'disabled'. As the player, however, this translates as a tribe's tradition. They simply don't understand the custom of burying the dead. It would be a waste of ingredients.
It was also the custom of Corpse Town that those who died during the Great Hunt (or at any moment) were themselves stripped, butchered and consumed. The Spider Lord demanded it. But since everyone in this scenario begins with the "cannibal" trait, they don't feel bad about this. When Stephen, the mohawk-sporting clansman responsible for mining operations, died fighting pirates on the auspicious Day of Great Events, and was subsequently cut up, fried, and packaged into a ready-made meal, nobody in corpse town wept. It was just their way of life.
Setting your people limits and characteristics like this poses a challenge on top of the game's already nasty AI storytellers (you can set these to an easier 'base building' setting—but you'd be missing out on all the best drama). For example, the Spider Lord forbids the clan from using ranged weapons—a cowardly form of warfare. To simulate this, I simply gave the colonists a boost to melee damage and a penalty when using guns or ranged weapons.
Of course, you can't make things too hard for yourself. You have to find the right balance, like any game designer would. The cannibals land as a group of ten not to make the game easier (although more hands do make light work of construction) but simply because no food is included in the cargo pods when they first land, unlike a 'normal' colony. The idea is that—worst comes to worst—the weakest among them can be transformed into breakfast at any moment. Like Stephen. Poor, delicious Stephen.
All this just adds to RimWorld's characterful story-making. One of Corpse Town's residents—a giant idiot called Zen—was incapable of violence. This made him a complete anomaly to all the other warrior-citizens, who continually insulted him at the dinner table. When he tried to flirt with one of the women—a 59-year-old criminal surgeon called Toni, who had already taken a partner—Zen was rebuffed multiple times. When a pair of innocent visitors arrived in the town looking to trade, the entire clan descended upon the merchants with steel knives, like Caesar's assassins. Everyone except Zen, who just stood by in the pouring rain and watched, saddened by the deaths of these strangers.
When the clan walked away from this crime, leaving the tradesfolk for dead, I noticed that one of them was still alive. I ordered Zen to kill him, but he could not—would not—do it. He was just a dumb gentle giant. Hanna, the hardest, meanest, cannibal among them, walked past Zen and stuck a knife into the twitching victim multiple times over, eventually killing him. Zen spent the rest of the day sulking and hammering at a wall.
I pondered having Zen butchered and put in the fridge. But as time went on even he proved himself. When the Great Hunt went wrong, angering the deer population into their populist uprising and resulting in the incapacitation of four colonists, Zen had been cooking at home. What was left of the hunting party limped back through the gates and went straight to the medical dungeon. Only Hanna came back unscathed. That's when the pirates struck (and the alphabeavers came) (and the heatwave hit).
Together, Zen and Hanna put aside their differences in character and worked in shifts to build two turrets. They lured both the rampaging herd of deer and the pirates into the centre of the village, where the turrets distracted the pirates long enough for them to be harassed by the ungrateful mob of angry bucks. It bought time for the the wounded colonists to recover slightly, and when they slumped out of bed and attacked only Scrumptious Stephen died in the chaos.
After the fighting, as Zen helped stitch up his clansmates' wounds in the medical ward, he saw how ugly the walls where and how dirty the floor was and he finally snapped. He took out a club and went berserk. It took three bruised and bloodied clansfolk to restrain him. Everyone was very proud of him that day. The citizens of Corpse Town lined up to visit his hospital bed, cheering him up and talking to him without insults. The Spider Lord, Jack, rested easy in his chamber.
Stories like this in RimWorld sometimes take a while to get cooking. But when everything goes wrong and the game reaches boiling point, all the facets of your own scenario fall into place, giving everyone more character. If you too want to play under the gaze of the Spider Lord, feel free to download it here (opens in new tab). But more than that I recommend creating your own scenario—be it peaceful hippies or murderous Viking warriors. In RimWorld, it pays to be creative.