Our Total War: Rome II competition was a little bit different. We've done Haikus, we've done video and art, but I thought it might be fun to do something that focused on short stories. Thanks to you guys and girls, it was a roaring success.
It was an idea that could really only have worked with Rome II. The team had been releasing these massive, massive screenshots. I looked at all the video game characters in those screenshots and thought, 'I wonder what this guy's history is? Why is he here?'
Then it hit me: who better to write the backstories for all these digital humans than the Kotaku community. And of course you delivered. Thanks to everyone who entered the competition but sadly there can only be ten winners.
And here they are...
Gaius Licinius Magnus was having a terrible day.
It was bad enough that he’d been posted to this gods-forsaken tiny Roman outpost in the middle of the Alps, surrounded by barbarians, but now he was actually expected to talk to them? They couldn’t even speak like a proper Roman, and even the ones who had learned his language had accents so thick they gave him a headache. He’d protested loudly to his commander that morning – what could the Senate want with savages who thought running around dressed in wolf skins was a good idea? – but apparently spreading the glory of the Republic and impressing those peoples not blessed with the wonders of civilisation actually meant speaking with them.
Such indignity. He’d served four campaigns against the Gauls and now Rome was making nice with them. Sending centurions to handle trade negotiations, as if he even knew the right way to hold a quill. It was preposterous, and Gaius guessed some fat-cat Senators in the capital who owned half the country were simpering about “profits” and congratulating themselves on how clever they were. Exchanging good Roman products for some rubbish barbarian trinkets - he had half a mind to tell the delegation just where they could shove their treaty.
The location wasn’t improving his mood. The northernmost parts of Roman influence were drab, cold and undeveloped – the soldiers under his command were constantly moaning about losing feet to frostbite, the wimps – and when they weren’t signing trade agreements with obscure self-important tribes that nobody would ever care about, they were dying of boredom. The place didn’t even have an arena for some satisfying murderous bloodsport; his legionnaires lazed around all day ‘cavorting’ with the locals and fathering illegitimate children. There wasn’t even a cask of good wine for a hundred miles, and he’d kill for a bathhouse or six.
At the end of a 25-year voluntary service, this wasn’t how he’d imagined the twilight of his career. Gaius had been sent up and down Roman territory, dealing with rebellions, foreign invasions, slave revolts and one particularly moronic Senator who kept carping on about destroying Carthage. The motivations of his rulers were sometimes mystifying but he’d followed orders without question – they were the ones paying him, and a lifetime in the legion meant a nice parcel of money and farmland when it came to retire.
Thinking of the future didn’t make his day any better, though. Future land and grandchildren were nice ideas, but they wouldn’t finish a trade deal or get him out of this northern wasteland any quicker. He could only stand on the shoreline looking down at distant Italia – with all its riches and glory – and get back to carrying out his orders. Rome demanded it.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - A new notification appeared on the campaign map. Trade agreement reached: Gauls (+473 denarii per turn) END TURN
Wilbur Garrius - Unwilling Gardener “Mow the lawns, Wilbur! The garden’s looking overgrown, Wilbur!” Of course the garden’s bloody overgrown, devil woman! Look at all these trees you’ve put in here! Germanic Ironbark?? Are you TRYING to kill me? If it was up to me I’d concrete the whole damn lot of it, like the Constanzas over in Athens! Now THAT’S landscaping! But no, you wanted to live in the middle of bloody nowhere, didn’t you? I can’t believe I let you talk me into it. You and that bloody mother of yours, always on about the joys of living off the land. What sort of madman trades plumbing for shitting in the woods? Gods, I miss the days of being able to take a dump without first checking for bears. You want to know why I’m so highly strung? I can’t even remember the last time I was able to de-clench!
“But it’s so beautiful and peaceful, Wilbur! So serene!” That’s all well and good until you’ve got to cut down half a bloody forest without so much as an axe! What even is this thing? What sort of luddite town doesn’t have a Bunnings, or even a Mitre 10? How can anyone be expected to get any work done around the yard when there’s nowhere to buy any tools? Peaceful nothing! You want serenity? Here’s your damn serenity! HOW’S THE SERENITY, WOMAN?? *flails wildly at the undergrowth*
Rob - The Dentist Cosplayer
This is Rob, he's a dentist so we can't show you his face in Total War: Rome II. On his days off, Rob cosplays as a medieval warrior! Rob brushes his teeth regularly. With the blood of his enemies. He uses their bones as his toothbrush handle, the hair off their scalp as his bristles. Robs possibly a little too much into his cosplaying.
If you were a dentist though, with the money Rob had… a hot wife… a kickass car… a magic staff. Because Rob is not only a Dentist. Rob is a wizard. That’s no walking stick that’s for sure. A goddamn wizard. A dentist wizard. Who fights the goddamn romans. A roman fighting goddamn dentist wizard who cleans his teeth with the hair, blood and bones of his enemies.
Under that robe, Robs riding a tiny dinosaur. A tiny velociraptor. That’s right. Robs a tiny velociraptor riding, dentist-wizard who cleans his teeth with the hair, blood and bones of his enemies.
He’s also the most handsome bastard on the battlefield. You’d faint if you saw his face. Seriously. He’s so photogenic. The moment the enemy lay eyes on him, he numbs their hatred like novacaine numbs a sore tooth. He extracts their true feelings like dental pliers extracts a broken molar. He’s been known to convert the straightest of men, to swoon the most monogamous of women… he’s the literal gods gift to humanity. Chuck Norris is jealous of Robs looks. That’s just how handsome Rob is.
But we can’t show you Robs face. Because Rob is a dentist.
Screw you Australian Dental Association. You’ve robbed everyone here of the chance to fall in love on the battlefield. That one, true chance to find true… absolute love… until now… be happy with this blurred photo of Rob in all his robed, blurry glory.
Because Rob, is gods gift to men and women, Rob rides a tiny dinosaur under his robe, Rob cleans his teeth with the bones, blood and hair of his enemies, rob is a wizard and most important of all… Rob is a Dentist.
And goddamn it. That’s why we cannot show you his face…
This is Tom.
Tom was always a dreamer. When Village life, fishing anchovies on the Corsican coast became too much Tom left to join the service of the Roman Legion.
He rose quickly. The sword became an extension of his arm. His shield would move seemingly with a life of its own. In practice drills, Tom would reign time after time. But despite the glowing praise of his commanders, few were keen of sense enough to observe that despite his adept soldiering - that subtle gaze of distance was always there with him. Tom was not a a man at peace.
Years passed. Tom rose to front rank of its division. He qualified as a Centurion. He served under Golden Eagle Standard of Caesar himself . But Tom never found his peace. Something was not quite right.
One day, after commanding an ambush of a Tuscan Village under the enemy command - Tom begun to stare off into the distance - much the way he always had. He looked up at the sky. And that is when reality dawned on Tom.
For Tom realised it then. He was just a character in somebody else's video game. He had neither free will not agency over his own life. He did not arguably even have physical form. he was virtual. Nonexistant. Lifeless. Fake. He lived but to serve the designs of those that ran his source code.
And that is when, looking out over the vast expanses of pixels surrounding him, he realised he did have a voice. He did matter. For somewhere, far far off in a distant land, an individual named hayaku was writing his life story on the internet. Hayaku was bringing him to life. He did have a voice, he did have a soul. He was now a part of something much bigger - much greater. He was part of the life force of something that did matter. Hayaku had given him life, had given him substance.
And in return, Tom had something of his own to return to hayaku. It was all Tom really posessed - all Tom could truly say he owned. And that was his code. And thus, in return for giving Tom the gift of identity - for bringing Tom into being - Tom rewarded hayaku with the gift of a free copy of Rome: Total War II.
And Tom was at Peace.
Right in the middle of a battle, Gary just couldn't hold it any longer...
Aerreus had always wanted to be posted by the sea, but not like this. An experienced veteran of the Second Punic War, Aerreus had helped to defeat the monster Hannibal the Carthaginian and liberated the people of Iberia from his tyrannical occupation. Aerreus should have been lauded. Senators and Merchants should have lined up to thank him, and yet here he was, guarding a lonely promontory with a troop that was far from the Empire's finest.
Where had it all gone wrong, he'd been asked by a fellow soldier. Aerreus knew exactly where it had gone wrong. It was the joke. Aerreus had been presented before the consul, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, to be honored for his gallantry during the battle of Cannae. It had all gone well, until the Emperor had invited him to his table. Being a good Northern boy, Aerreus hadn't been brought up with the strong Southern vino so he'd had a few too many and started telling jokes. The one that undid him wasn't even that bad.
He'd said to the Consul:
"A man from Kyme was so ill that his doctor despaired of him. However, he recovered. But he kept avoiding the doctor. Finally, the Doctor managed to corner him and ask why. and he said, ' I'm embarrassed to be seen alive after you said I was going to die*!"
It wasn't a dirty joke, that's not what undid him. No, it was the fact the the Consul's wife had found it amusing. Too Amusing. After a fit of giggles, she'd choked on a mouthful of Grapes and died, and Aerreus went from being the hero of the empire to the Consul's wife's killer.
Marcellus had wanted him thrown to the Lions, but his military record had allowed him to get away with only a demotion and this terrible posting. As he looked out onto the ocean, through the fog, Aerreus though to himself...
Eh, it was still funny. * Actual ancient Roman Joke
This is Gavin.
He's a straight flying sort of dude.
Some say he's a bit of a bird brain - but just because his head is in the clouds doesn't mean anything.
Maybe it's because he tends to move with the flock - but that's ok.
His favorite movie is Flying High. What a riot.
His favorite band is Flock of Seagulls. He's sensitive like that. He's pretty partial to The Eagles, though.
His favorite food is anchovies. He doesn't get all the hate. He'd eat them all day if he could.
He prefers the warmer climates of the world - the beach side life is for him - somewhere nice and warm. His rule of thumb tends to be "if you can fly there and it's warm, it's alll goood"
His life isn't complex. No sir. He normally glides from one job to the next. He has three kids. There once were four, but poor Timmy - he tragically fell from a tree. Some say hismum pushed him, but Gavin could never accept that. She is an angel. A real dove amongst pidgeons.
But Gavin doesn't have much time to think about that these days. The world around him is consumed by warfare.
So now starts the newest chapter in Gavin's life... And one this is for damn certain...
... He'll prove to everyone he's no damn chicken!
This is Carol. Carol used to enjoy long walks on the beach and date night with her non-committal life partner (he disliked the term ‘boyfriend’, or labels in general) Dwayne. She finished her Bachelor of Arts with a focus on international journalism with hopes and aspirations of travelling the world, and “Just really getting the truth out there you know?” while Dwayne followed his dream of, well, whatever Dwayne aspired to. Carol’s mother was just adamant that “No degree will get you want you want, where’s my grandchildren? Margery up the road has three and her daughter is 2 years younger than you!”
Carol used to work in a call centre, taking abusive phone call after abusive phone call. It paid the bills, and the exorbitant rent that she paid to live in a small box in the city, but offering people bundle packages and free local calls just ate away at the dream of the illustrious life she wanted. Coming home to another cancelled date night, because Dwayne’s current aspiration involved being out at ridiculous hour’s god knows where doing who know what with some bimbo, she took a phone call from her mother. After receiving an ear bashing about her ‘biological clock speeding up (she read it in an article in the readers digest), you’re nearly 30, who wants that, and don’t get me started on Dwayne,” she slowly put down the phone, her mother still ranting. She walked into her room, and donned the outfit she had wanted to wear for so long. Freeing her bunned red locks and picking up a spear, she walked out her room, her rough spun tunic and weird leather and rope footwear causing untold chafing and just general unpleasant feelings. She walked past the still nattering phone and out the door, onto her future.
So Carol finds herself here standing in a field surrounded by trees and nature. She’s has this ‘disc’ hovering about her head for a few days now and nothing she does gets rid of it which is really frustrating. She’s realized that she’s freakishly tall or everything is freakishly small and she’s not sure but she possibly wandered into a model village. She can’t find her way out and even if she wants to, she feels compelled to wait for someone else, some higher being to guide her. How’s that journalism degree helping now Carol?
Meet Wally (AKA Waldo). He was really good at hiding. In fact entire books were written later on documenting his adventures. In his later years he started wearing red and white clothing to stand out more, however this just created a trend in red and white clothing which in turn made him even harder to find. *Since his childhood sweet heart Wenda and identical sister Wilma both look and wear similar clothing to Wally it is not 100% certain the image above is Wally.
This is Bill...ius. Billius was born in the town you can see behind him. He is 45 years old. He was born Bill but when he joined the legions to, as he said, "Fight off the hordes of barbarians" they complained his name was "Not Roman enough" and said he had to put and -ius on the end of it. He's been in the legion for the last seven years and he's starting to think that protecting the city and putting down revolts is less interesting than actually fighting an important battle. He's always wondering about the revolts. Every time they get beaten but they just keep on coming. In fact, they have a good enough schedule that Billius can work a 9 to 5 job and have time for family. He has a son, Jimmius who only just joined the army with his dad, who doesn't know the whole job is about putting down revolts. He's pretty bored.