This is a guide for complete beginners to Fallen London. It won't tell you everything about the game; rather, it is intended to remove the fear of jumping into a new game by setting you on the right foot and informing you of the basics.
Do not worry about being a completionist! Anything that's possible to be missed is never essential, and some things are even better off ignored. And there are plenty of Guides like this one to help you with particular activities and stories.
Gameplay in Fallen London takes place on opportunity cards and in storylets. You’ll spend actions to make choices, which will affect how your story unfolds and what rewards you find. Some choices you attempt will be more challenging than others, depending on your Attributes — measurements of your abilities, which increase as you succeed (and fail). As you play, you’ll unlock more Locations with new stories to experience and characters to interact with. You can also buy and sell items at the Bazaar for Echoes ( ), the main currency of Fallen London.
Your ability to do certain things depends on the levels of your four main Attributes: Watchful, Shadowy, Dangerous, and Persuasive. When you’re considering a choice on a card or in a storylet, you may see the icon for one of these Attributes on that choice, with a message telling you how challenging it will be. The likelihood of succeeding at that action depends on the level of the associated Attribute.
Generally, challenges that involve an Attribute also award Change Points (CP) for that Attribute. Change Points are used to increase the level of Attributes. When you accumulate enough CP toward an Attribute, it goes up a level. Higher-level Attributes let you attempt more challenges and give you better odds of success.
|Challenge||%||Change Points on|
Don’t be afraid to take actions that are difficult for you. You’ll earn CP for failing challenges as well — sometimes, failing a harder challenge gives you more CP than succeeding at an easy one!
Cards and storylets
There are two places to find things to do in Fallen London: in your opportunity deck, and on storylets.
- Your deck is located at the top of the page on the Story tab, and it (mostly) stays the same no matter where you are in London.
- Storylets appear below the deck, and which ones appear (mostly) depends on your current location in the city.
Both involve bits of story with choices about what to do, and as you progress through the game, more cards and storylets become available.
Making choices on cards and in storylets costs actions. The candle to the left of your deck (or the bottom of the screen on mobile) indicates how many actions you currently have to spend.
Actions replenish at a rate of 1 every 10 minutes, whether or not you’re playing, up to the maximum of 20 (or 40 for subscribers; read about Exceptional Friendship in Fallen London help for more information).
Most choices cost 1 action, though some cost more. If the button next to a choice has a number in parentheses, it costs a different number of actions — for example, if it says GO (3), that choice costs 3 actions.
Your deck includes a face-down pile of cards to draw, and next to it, slots for face-up cards to go in. The face-down pile has a maximum of 6 cards (10 for subscribers) at any one time, and a new card is added to the pile every 10 minutes up to the maximum. You start out with one face-up slot to draw cards into; this increases once you find Lodgings.
Clicking the face-down pile draws cards to fill the available slots next to your deck. You can then click on the face-up cards to view them.
Many of the cards that appear in your opportunity deck can appear no matter where you are in Fallen London. Other cards only appear when you’re in certain locations.
Some areas and activities in the game—such as A boat trip and On a Heist—have their own, separate deck, which will temporarily replace your normal opportunity deck. When you leave these areas or activities, your deck will be restored—you won't lose the cards you had face-up.
Below your deck is a list of storylets. Like cards, storylets contain bits of story and possible actions you can take. Generally, the storylets available at any given time depend on the location you’re in.
At the start of the game, each of the main locations mostly contains storylets related to a particular main Attribute: Watchful in Ladybones Road, Shadowy in Spite, Dangerous in Watchmaker's Hill, and Persuasive in Veilgarden. Each of these locations also contains a special set of Making Your Name stories, which are particularly helpful for getting to know Fallen London as well as building up your Attributes. At the start of the game, these will give you by far the most return on action investment (both in terms of quickly leveling up and acquiring items) and are thus highly recommended.
Card and storylet colours
Colours on storylets and cards are often used to convey their significance. White borders are your everyday story snippets, and other colours are a little more special.
- White borders imply ordinary cards or storylets. They often test your main stats and usually give rewards (either favours, items, or a mix).
- Bronze borders mark unusual things. This is deliberately a broad category; about the only thing we can safely say about bronze cards in general is that they're interesting.
- Silver borders stand for larger stories. These are some of the most important decisions you take. Some are "Ambitions" — epic stories which last throughout the entire game.
- Gold borders indicate major storylines and important decisions. A lot of these are first opened in the middle game when you become A Person of Some Importance. Otherwise, this is a colour the developers use to show you should pay extra attention to the content. Some of these are Fate-locked as well. See Gold Cards and Gold Storylets for lists.
- Red cards are auto-fire cards. These are played as you click them with no chance to back out. This is common for Dreams, but also for other cards. You can even play these without actions! There aren't any red storylets.
- Purple cards are rare cards which provide a positive effect.
- Living Green borders are linked to certain World Qualities, representing worldwide events and happenings.
- Black borders indicate cards in or leading to a certain horrifying storyline. Be very, very careful with these, and heed their warnings.
- Additional colours will be found later in the game, especially at Zee. Refer to Cards for these.
For more information on Menaces and how to reduce (or raise) them, see Menaces (Guide).
Sometimes, when failing challenges (and sometimes even when succeeding!) you get qualities called Menaces. The higher a Menace gets, the more unpleasant things start happening.
Menaces tend to be associated with certain Attributes — for example, you're more likely to get Nightmares from doing Watchful things.
If a Menace reaches level 8, the consequences send you to a special location, where you'll have to reduce that Menace in order to escape.
In general, you want to keep your Menaces as low as possible. But there may also be times when you'll need to raise a Menace on purpose. Don't worry — it (probably) won't be permanent. (The one exception is Suspicion - raising this gives you A Criminal Record quality which is exceedingly difficult to remove and can cause problems for you, so Suspicion is sometimes regarded as the worst menace).
Locations and travel
Travel throughout Fallen London primarily uses the map, which you can open by clicking the TRAVEL button to the right of your deck (on mobile, the compass icon in the top right corner of the screen). Click on a location to visit it. Occasionally, certain actions will automatically take you to a new location.
Some locations are accessible from the moment you arrive, while others must be unlocked. Playing through the Making Your Name stories in the starting locations will unlock many of the others.
At the bottom of your map are three icons. The house icon takes you to Your Lodgings, the bee to Your Activities, and the calendar to Your Social Engagements. Each of these contains opportunities to do things like interact with other players, raise your Attributes, and reduce your Menaces.
Do not be in a hurry to advance. Most storylets have both a minimum stat level before they appear, and a maximum level at which they are no longer available. The game is designed to take you through the storylines and locations in a logical progression, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
Where to start?
You can start playing any cards or storylets that look interesting to you. Part of the fun is in exploration, and again, there is very little you can do to "mess up" your game, especially early on. (If you are worried, see the end of this guide for a spoiler-free discussion of permanent choices).
If you aren't sure where you want to start, try drawing cards to play the "neighbor" storylines in the starting areas:
- Ladybones Road - Advising the Loquacious Vicar
- Spite - Befriending a Rooftop Urchin
- Veilgarden - A Friendship with a Bohemian Sculptress
- Watchmaker's Hill - Collecting Clues for the Clay Coalman
Beginners may also want to draw cards in Watchmaker's Hill to become acquainted with a Regretful Soldier, as meeting him is RNG-locked and can take a while. You should also start working on Making Your Name by playing through the bronze stories in the starting areas.
Each of these stories reveals to you more of what's going on in Fallen London while giving you a chance to work on your main Attributes (if you are failing more checks than you'd like, do note that progressing in these storylines will give one-time boosts that increase attributes far more quickly than anything else in the game). However, if you focus exclusively on Making Your Name, you may not keep up and checks will become progressively more difficult for you; this is especially noticeable when you unlock the new areas specific to each MYN story, and may be a good time to level your stats if you find you are failing more checks than you would like.
Learn more about Attributes and leveling in the Leveling guide.
You'll do a lot of leveling up your main Attributes by playing through the stories in the starting locations, and by spending time in each of the introductory Professions (see the section below on Professions). It is worth noting that social actions are by far the most efficient way of increasing attributes, but give little to no other benefit. While there are social actions for Shadowy (Loitering) and Persuasive (Coffee), the actions for Dangerous and Watchful were removed in 2021 and may or may not be replaced. Other social engagements, like seeking out a patron and exchanging correspondence can be very rewarding as well.
The CP needed to raise any Attribute a single level is typically the same as the level it's reaching. To go from level 1 to 2 requires 2 CP, and going from level 2 to 3 requires 3 more CP. For main Attributes, once you reach level 70, every level thereafter also requires 70 CP. (For other attributes and qualities, such as Menaces, Dreams, and Renown, this cap is 50 and successive levels require 50 CP.)
As you level up an Attribute, you'll find that the activities in the associated starting location become easier for you to do. At some point, you'll have advanced so far that you're not learning as much from those activities. To continue leveling up, you'll need to move on to new areas and try more challenging things. These new locations will be unlocked as you progress through Making Your Name in the starting locations.
|60-90||The Forgotten Quarter|
|60-90||The Shuttered Palace|
|90-110||The Empress' Court|
|100-120||The Labyrinth of Tigers|
Refer to Professions (Guide) for a full rundown on Professions.
The introductory Professions — Enquirer, Pickpocket, Tough, and Minor Poet — each award a 250 CP bonus in their associated Attribute every week as part of A Professional Reward. Once the associated Attribute reaches level 70, you won't get any more bonus CP from that Profession; that's when it's time to choose another.
You may choose a new starting Profession earlier if you feel that another Attribute needs to be exercised. Switching starting Professions is easy and has no penalties. You can abandon your current Profession by sending a message to a contact in Your Social Engagements. Once you are without a Profession, all starting Professions will be available to you from your lodgings.
When you've finished with the starting Professions, you can choose a more advanced one, which brings better rewards.
Person of Some Importance
For more a more thorough explanation, read A Person of Some Importance (Guide).
One of the biggest hurdles early in the game is attaining the A Person of Some Importance (PoSI) status, and acquiring its associated gadgets and affiliations.
The journey starts when one of your main Atrributes reaches 100. A card appears which results in your being recognized as A Person of Some Little Consequence. The Ambitious Barrister shows up and asks you to do a series of tasks across the city. Eventually you'll need level 100 of each main Attribute (although not necessarily simultaneously) as well as an assortment of different items or qualities.
For an in-depth guide, consult: Ambitions (Guide).
Ambitions are massive stories spanning from the beginning to the end of the game. Do not expect to finish them in an afternoon; they will likely take you years of playing to complete. There are four different Ambitions in Fallen London, each with their own kind of story. Choose carefully, because once you choose an Ambition, you're stuck with it (unless you pay FATE to change it). The stories are:
- Ambition: Bag a Legend! A story about hunting the Vake (a gigantic Bat-like thing that prowls the city… where have I heard that before?) on whose head is a bounty of 4 million Echoes. It mainly involves you tracking it, finding out what it is, and finding a way to kill it.
- Ambition: Heart's Desire! The search for a mysterious card game in which you can gamble everything you own for a chance to get your Heart's Desire. And while you may not actually get your Heart's Desire, there are five different endings, at least one of which will probably fit your character.
- Ambition: Light Fingers! Starts out as a lighthearted story to steal a diamond the size of a cow turns and turns into a horror story. It handles several really dark themes, and should only be done if you're sure you can stand it. For this reason, it's the only Ambition that gives you the option at a certain point to quit the story and choose a different Ambition.
- Ambition: Nemesis Another Ambition with dark undertones, which involves you trying to track down the murderer of a loved one and exact vengeance. An epic story of murder, betrayal and revenge.
|Light Fingers!||Heart's Desire!||Nemesis!||Bag a Legend!|
Fallen London players all have their own strategies and preferences for playing the game, and no two players agree on everything. But if you're looking for more tips as a beginning player, here are a few more from the community — along with some contrasting points of view.
Lodgings and Travel
A room (or three) of one's own
Need tips on bringing in more Echoes? Refer to the Money-Making guide.
Try to avoid buying goods from the Bazaar. Barring the London Street Sign, Bright Brass Skull, Rookery Password, Diary of the Dead and Nodule of Pulsating Amber, all goods are commonly given out by various storylets or item crafting. Try to keep a small stockpile on hand in case you run into a delightful storylet that requires some.
...Or not to save
In contrast to the above tip, don't be a compulsive hoarder.
- If you need money and have quite a large stockpile of an item, there's an opportunity to earn some echoes.
- If the item can be used to make a higher tier item (it'll say "This will always get you X. There may be other effects."), do so. Succeeding the luck check will get you a nice income in extra items, and a rare success can give you extremely valuable items.
- If that's no longer profitable, you should use the bulk options which say "This will always gain you many X." on lower end items. (No rare successes, but it saves you time and still turns a small profit).
- If you have plenty of something and can't convert it higher, either because you lack the right connections, it's the end of the category line, or it's an item like Piece of Rostygold or Moon-Pearls that can't be traded up at all, simply sell some of your surplus.
Buying equipment at the Bazaar
Buy gear. Various pieces of equipment allow you to temporarily boost or damage your levels. Higher level storylets earn more money, so you'll earn back your investment over time. If it's an upgrade and it's affordable for you, get it; don't just hold out for the very best.
Having a variety of gear lets you manipulate your level. There are several areas where you may have a large gap between the difficulty of your current storylet and the difficulty of the next higher one. By adjusting your level, you can keep gaining a decent amount of experience from your storylet until you have enough of a level to put on your best gear and continue on with the next higher storylet. This allows you to maintain a flow of optimal CP, and it's another way that gear pays for itself.
Also, take very close note of the benefits each piece of gear provides; don't just buy something because it's more expensive. (Ex: While the 400 Tub of Gloam-Foam is the only really expensive item that offers a Shadowy benefit from Maywell's Hattery, it provides a lower Shadowy bonus than the Sneak-Thief's Mask, which is 28.80.)
Favours are your friends. They can be used for a lot of interesting things, even though you can't sell them directly. (Though for the record, most are worth about 4.20 per favour if you call them in). Try to earn them whenever possible without hurting your normal grinding, but don't be afraid to use them if a particularly profitable storylet or card calls for them.
- Don't forget that upper tier professions (available through Faction cards) give much better monetary rewards than starting professions (but they don't advance your attributes). Choosing such a profession often requires favours of its relevant faction and sometimes an additional quality.
- There are conflict cards where you are asked to pick between one of two factions, lowering your favours with one but receiving rewards from the other.
- Read the Raising Favours guide for the best ideas to gain a certain Faction's favours.
Fate is occasionally rewarded by storylets, but it's not really something you can grind by any means. Even if you get Fate for free, spend it like you paid for it.
Also, don't spend Fate to unlock areas. If you can't unlock it normally, you're likely not at the level where you can access its storylets and cards. Most areas have a secondary way you can access them through a bribe of some sort; if you must access them early, do so with that.
Take advantage of social actions. From Your Social Engagements, there are a number of storylets that let you earn "second chances" in the form of Confident Smiles, Hastily Scrawled Warning Notes, Hard-Earned Lessons, and Sudden Insights. These will let you re-attempt a challenge for your main stats when you fail, or you can cash 5 of them in for a stat boost.
Thankfully, you can also perform social actions in your lodgings to ask a player for help in reducing Menaces. Note that all of these need to be at least level 3 before you can send a request out (except Suspicion which only requires 2), and Wounds and Nightmares work backwards by having someone send you a request instead. All of these requests reduce a menace by varying amounts (but at least 4 CP), and half of them increase the other player's menace by 1 CP. So, be respectful, do your math, and don't send out more requests than you need to keep your menaces under control. For instance, if your menace is at level 5, that's 15 CP, so only send out 3 requests at most. You can "hoard" extra menace-reducing actions for later use, but that is best done with the agreement of your partner.
Important or Missable Storylines
Some players may want to look up the long-term effects of their choices, to be forewarned of stories with permanent or mechanically relevant effects (i.e., adding unremovable cards to your opportunity deck which lower the chances of drawing better cards you want).
However, doing so can spoil the player and reduce enjoyment of the game. Fallen London generally does a good job of warning you before any important choices, but to help players who want to enjoy a completely un-spoiled playthrough, the following is a list of the stories that are either permanently missable or have permanent mechanical effects.
- At the start of the game you will have the option to choose a gift from a Mysterious Benefactor. The Watchful gift is the only pair of Watchful-increasing boots available until much later in the game. Additionally, finishing the Mysterious Benefactor storyline will add a permanent card to your deck - however, the storyline can be reset with Fate (real money) if you wish to remove it. After choosing a gift the storyline can simply be ignored if you wish to avoid the card.
- In The Singing Mandrake, you will see options to seduce a Struggling Artist and/or a Struggling Artist's Model, giving the qualities An Admirer of Art and An Admirer of Beauty, respectively. These both add opportunity cards to your deck. They can both be temporarily removed from your deck again, but at a cost, and the qualities are permanent. These storylines will never go away, so it is worth waiting until later in the game to decide whether you are willing to entangle yourself with them.
- Occasionally Seen at Mr Wines' Revels is a permanent quality unlocked via a series of opportunity cards. You will stop drawing these cards once you raise A Name Signed with a Flourish by finishing the Persuasive Making Your Name storyline. Again, having this quality will permanently add some (not very good) cards to your opportunity deck, so it may be best to to hold off on playing them until later in the game when you can make an informed decision.
- A Nocturnal Visitor to the Palace Cellars is a permanent quality unlocked via opportunity card, that also adds an unremovable card to your deck. During the course of the story you will be presented with the opportunity to progress or permanently back out. It is worth considering whether you consider finishing the story to be worth the cost.
- Solving Cases around London is a permanent quality which adds a Frequent card to your deck at level 7. If you do not wish to pay FATE to remove this card, it may be worth ignoring the storylets in Spite that unlock it.
- Inconvenienced by Your Aunt is a quality relating to a partially Fate-locked storyline, played out via opportunity cards, which can add a variety of cards to your deck, ranging from very good to bad. The storyline can be reset via Fate if you so desire.
- Seeking the Meaning of the Plaster Face will unlock various options depending on your choices during the story. If you care strongly about mechanical benefits to your character and do not mind spoilers, it may be worth looking at the options on the wiki. There is also an opportunity to earn a small amount of free Fate in this story that can be missed.
- See Opportunity Items (Guide) for a list of all items which influence your opportunity deck.
Missable Stories As stated before, missable stories are never essential, but here is a list for the wary player.
- Intrigue: The Curate and His Sister is a minor story which requires A Name Signed with a Flourish exactly 3. When you progress it to 4, you will be unable to do this story.
- Once you reach A Name in Seven Secret Alphabets level 6, you will begin various storylines at The University and gain a new quality, Featuring in the Tales of the University. Increasing this quality will permanently lock you out of some stories and unlock new ones. When you finish this storyline, you will be permanently locked out of the majority of University content. The game will warn you about this, but be sure to make the most of any stories you wish to enjoy before increasing Tales of the University.
- Once you reach a certain point in the Investigating the Secrets of St Dunstan's story (level 4), you will draw an opportunity you only get one chance at. If you are invested, consider waiting until you can 100% the checks, as you will not get a second chance if you fail.
- Once you reach a certain point in the In Search of a Stiff Drink story (level 4), you will draw an opportunity you only get one chance at. If you are invested, consider waiting until you can 100% the checks, as you will not get a second chance if you fail.
Hopefully this guide has given you a better understanding of the basics of the game, and you're ready to immerse yourself in the world of Fallen London. Be sure to check the Guides page if you need more help, or search the Wiki. And once you get the hang of things, consider becoming a Wiki editor and sharing your newfound knowledge!