I think this is a smart concise dissection of the genre. Insightful is a good word for it. But I think two things are left out that are very common to the genre.
1) I have noticed in Lovecraftian fiction that there is often a strong emotional detachment in the tone pieces. The works are often use an academic or clinical dissection of the events. The most obvious case of this is the afore mentioned Mountains of Madness, but also The Lurking Fear, The Dunwhich Horror and even Rats in the Walls all sort of have strong emotional detachment. Consider in Rats in the Walls when the protagonist discusses his invalid son with an almost off hand matter of fact tone. In modern Lovecraftian fiction there is a clinical tone to it. Consider reading the "The Ugly Chickens" by Howard Waldrop and see if this does not strike you as having a Lovecraftian tone.
However, this tone may not be Lovecraftian and something more about the puritanical English approach to horror. Certainly true in Bram Stoker's Dracula (the book) was that Western Europeans could use reason, discipline and a scientific method to describe and thus defeat the vampire. In something like the Exorcist it is the failure of reasoning that is scary. I think that this scientific view or psuedo-scientific view that I believe runs through Lovecraftian fiction adds strongly to the next point.
2) I feel that the second essential part of Lovecraftian fiction is the corruption. Somebody may claim this is what was meant by total party kill or secrete societies but they would miss the point of this. Total Party Kill is a sad ending and secrete societies are part of that horror in our own backyard theme. Corruption is the idea that horror and destruction are contagious. Take the story "The Lurking Fear" for example here you have the corruption of the Dutch settlers as the primary conclusion of the piece and the realization of which disturbs the narrator. In Event Horizon or In the Mouth of Madness you have the "turning" of the reasonable hero. The Color Out of Space the farm is corrupted, Rats in the Walls the Virginian is corrupted, and in Shadow Over Innsmouth of course you have the *spoiler* the narrator finding out that he is part of that gold mining fish cult-so kind of corrupted.
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Thanks for driving this discussion.
This is really great, I kept asking questions about the history, the war and technology as I went and kept getting answers. This really well done (I have never played Bioshock) and has a lot of great ideas in it. This could be used as an Alien world, an alternate reality or just adapted for society in which everyone is told the surface is poisoned by the oppressive oligarchy. Yet this deserves more.
1) Visuals I would wager most readers picture a somewhat Victorian or Edwardian aesthetic in the place. However, that is never discussed. We don't get a clear visual of the people in this place and I loathe to use preconceived notions in such a fantastical setting. I would also wager that at least 25% (by word count not by topic) of all steam punk fiction is dedicated to fashion, so that seems missing from this, and it could be a fun addition.
2) Culture We also get an incomplete picture of the culture and day to day life. There are a lot of strong hints at an oligarchy of rich hereditary industrialists and an oppressed and tormented but educated underclass subjected to strict social planning. I think a government and economics section could be interesting and expansive. But perhaps you don't want to state the social economic relationship specifically, and that is fine, and I get it. But some more hints would give us a better feel for this place. What kind of people do these dome dwellers chose to celebrate? What sort of media (as extrapolation of the stage play musicals) do they consume? Are there population control issues? Do they smoke? I feel like this piece and this world would be better benefited by a direct discussion of these items or few more hints and details. (I like the hints at culture myself)
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I have thought about this more...the list is pretty good as a list of NPCs at a breaking point, and they break for different reasons. You could take this same list and use it as a list of souls to buy. Your PCs could get a job as out sourced headhunters, they get a list of people that have been ID'd as high risk or high value targets. They then have to go to work getting them sign away their souls.
I think the format of the 30 actually hurts this one considerably as it relates to the Illuminate angle. . Why did you do this as a 30? Look at your entry for the general, it is more about the history than the man. Seriously why a 30? The fun of reading conspiracy theory stuff is unraveling the elaborate conspiracy.