Kid Origami.9108 Posted April 29, 2019 Share Posted April 29, 2019 [WARNING: The following is an absolutely massive read for most forum posts. At last check it clocks in at just over 3700 words. I include a TL;DR at the bottom, but it really doesn’t do the full post justice, so I encourage you to read the full suggestion in all of its meandering, mad glory and would love to read your feedback below. I am under no illusion that the developers of the game probably have their own plans for how they are going to handle the various issues I bring up below, but as a community member, I have always felt that it is important to carefully elaborate my own opinions on the direction that I would be most interested in seeing the game head, in the hopes that others who have had similar thoughts but were unable to communicate them as well as I might could come and post their agreement.Finally I’d like to thank Weindrasi.3805 for making the suggestion that I turn this into a full post. I’m sure she didn’t know the lengths I would go to in making such a post, but such is the nature of inspiring a mad 90’s era forumite. You can thank/ blame her for this post’s existence. Thanks, Weindrasi! And thank you all for reading! -The Kid]Conflict and Tension are two of the grandest hallmarks of good storytelling, foundations for plot and audience retention. Without conflict there can be no story, only a rote series of events. Without tension, there is no interest even in the conflict, for that conflict is proven fake, lacking teeth and dimension, like an old west shootout in an amusement park’s façade. No one can genuinely say that conflict is lacking within the narrative of Guild Wars 2, there are so many mutually exclusive motivations and beliefs bumping into each other all the time. However, tension is something which the story only barely flirts with on occasion.Perhaps the blame for this lays upon the developer philosophies which have led to the current avoidance of punishment, loss, or failure within GW2. The game never places the player character into any real danger by taking anything of value to the player away from them. Armor does not break permanently, and repairing it is entirely free. Waypointing is a death tax that most players can happily ignore due to constant gold inflation. Much could be said about the state of gameplay due to the lack of negative feedback and “busywork” in the game and indeed, this writer fully intends to say much about these issues in future posts. However, these developer philosophies are unlikely to change any time soon and so any suggestions made to fix this lack of tension must keep these limitations in mind.These realities leave only a few avenues to generate tension within GW2’s storyline. The primary remaining method for tension generation lies with the endangerment of what the writers can make the players care about through narrative conceit and clever trope use. This recent business with the loss of our good friend and surrogate child in the recent Living World stories shows how powerfully this can affect players. However, the loss of many less remarkable characters, such as the many brave Norn ladies fridged in the core story, demonstrates that this technique has limits and is a tricky knife to balance on. It is clear at this point that things other than allies must be put into mortal danger, otherwise the story will finally lose all of its remaining tension as each new character becomes just another name in the dead pool and the player base becomes numb to even the most well executed losses of close allies, such as those we just suffered.This brings us to the suggestion at hand. In a post many weeks ago, this writer suggested that the best next step for the story would be call the sanity of the PC, the player character and Pact Commander, into question. This was initially done in a joking manner, written in such a way as to shock the emotions and fill our fellow forumites with a sense of dread. But a few readers took the passage to heart and posted afterward that they felt, as the children are wont to say these days, “shook.” Their response led to the serious consideration of this concept as a narrative method to shake up the status quo and bring the generally assumed ending of the story (our inevitable defeat of the 6 Elder Dragons) into question, and thus increase tension in the story.The following is a proposal for a Living World Story step whose purpose would be to call the central themes of the story into question and explore the very real and dangerous repercussions of the many forms of stress the Commander’s choices have had on her own psyche and the world at large. We will lay out the bare plot and the motivations of the largest factions and actors within that series of events. We will also consider some mechanical flourishes as we go along which could be used to sell the events of the story. Finally, we will discuss why such a plot and its attendant difficulties are not just good for the story overall, but absolutely necessary for the Living World story to continue operating in good faith with the larger player base.We open our tale with a mood setting series of letters from our dear friends from throughout the story.Logan Thackery, Marshall of the Pact and technically our boss as Commander, informs us that a large summit is being called by the leaders of the major races in Tyria to discuss the position of the Pact as a political entity and that we are requested to attend.At the same time, Rytlock Brimstone informs us that some of his old friends within the Black Citadel have passed on worrying information regarding the Blood Legion’s current outlook on the Charr’s various warfronts. With Kralkatorric largely dealt with, the Black Citadel’s ghost problems made manageable, and their own offences against whatever creatures the Blood Citadel is most often held up by experiencing a similar breakthrough, the Blood Citadel’s leadership is looking to finally resolve an ancient problem: Humanity. Meanwhile, from Zojia or perhaps Taimi, we learn that the Arcane Counsel has noticed that Queensdale’s leadership and the Black Citadel’s Imperator are beginning to slack in their support of the Pact. The Asura, Norn, and Sylvari still stand united to fight the Elder Dragons for their largest worries, the oppressive invader Jormag and the world rending Primordius, remain huge threats. The Arcane Counsel is beginning to question whether the other races will stand by them in their hour of need now that the other dragons are taken care of.Braham or another Norn contact also sends a message, relaying that many in Hoelbrak are organizing a massive final offensive against Jormag. The movement he started at the death of Eir has taken a life of its own and he cannot stop the new leadership who have uncovered part of the secret of how to that great Norn hero broke Jormag’s tooth and how Braham enchanted his mother’s longbow to do the same. There is also the matter of a mysterious new Kodan sanctuary which has appeared from the far Shiverpeaks filled with unusually aggressive Kodan.All of these letters come at the same time, overwhelming the Commander. They indicate 4 separate instances which can be tackled in any order. The only changes which occur based on the order the player chooses to engage them is some dialogue at the start of each instance which thanks the Commander for their prompt response in the first instance and turns to complaining and frustration at the time it took for the Commander to respond in each additional instance. This frustration increases each time but is begrudgingly put aside to deal with the instance’s content. The last instance the player chooses to engage could potentially be tuned up to be harder for the player by the introduction of one or more additional mechanics to represent that they are being crunched by too many separate obligations.The Pact instance involves the Commander appearing with Logan in a small private meeting before leaders from each of the races in Lionsarch. These leaders specifically lead movements within each government who are fearful of the Pact’s political and military power and are worried about its purpose once the threat of the Elder Dragons has passed. There is no combat in this instance, but it lays out the main actors in the fifth instance later who are allied against the Pact and indicates that a deeper plot is underway. The mood should be one of intrigue and discomfort, and the officials gain more than they reveal, leaving Logan and the Commander suspicious but unable to take any real actions until they are called before the public meeting later on.The Asuran instance involves the Commander appearing in Rata Sum’s lower reaches to speak with their Asuran contact when a great earthquake rocks the base of the city threatening to throw off its balance and send the entire city plummeting to the ground, or something of similar cataclysmic possibility. The Commander and their contact attempt to put things right, but are interrupted by representatives from the Arcane Eye who delay their attempts just long enough that some terrible thing happens. In a best-case scenario this could cause some delightful havoc with the Rata Sum home instance which all characters could go to. Perhaps a small adventure could then be based there with a small daily reward. The political fallout of this instance is that the Commander is blamed by the Eye for their interference which they falsely claim lead to the disaster. It is unclear if this was a set-up, a ramification of Primordius’ reawakening, or some other new threat.The Norn instance depicts the Commander meeting with their Norn contact, likely Braham, to speak with the leadership of the new Norn movement, the Wrath of Bear. They intend to march north and use a new power they have harnessed to kill Jormag. Commander and company find that the leadership is partnering with a new Kodan organization called the Koda’s Will which recently arrived on a new sanctuary in the Far Shiverpeaks (a great Current Events opportunity). This sanctuary is filled with black marked Kodan fanatics whose Voice has taken a military bent and decided that they must unite all the lost Kodan under one sanctuary, Claw, and Voice in order to bring about world balance. Further they believe that the Norn are lost Kodan who must be brought under the Kodan beliefs or else be destroyed. Those Norn who will not submit to the Koda’s Will- and be forced into their bear form permanently- will be destroyed when the Koda enrage Jormag into attacking Hoelbrak. The Commander and Braham attempt to interrupt this meeting with their preferred strategy of “punch people we don’t agree with until they stop being bad.” However, the Claw of the new sanctuary is present and proves that whatever magic these new Kodan have brought with them is, it is certainly powerful.This combat instance should be structured to end as players enter down state. The Claw could have a stomp ability as a skill which she reserves for when a player is downed. Her damage might scale as she reaches lower and lower health thresholds. If she ever reaches 5% health she might begin regenerating and gain a buff which could increase her damage massively. The instance should be designed to be basically unbeatable, with multiple achievements earned by getting her to certain damage thresholds, including an impossible achievement for killing her. I suggest this as a developer challenge to the community. The dev team could actually design the mob to be undefeatable but without using the Determined mechanic on the Claw. Then, if she is ever killed, a unique scene could play which ends the instance in a special way. Easter eggs can abound in such a rarely seen state, and a special title might be given with no other rewards.The Charr instance takes us to the Black Citadel where the stress between Iron and Blood Legions has erupted into a full-on riot. Rytlock, the Commander, and Imperator Smodur himself take to the streets to personally subdue the rioting soldiers and reestablish the peace. Dialogue noting that the Pact is once again interfering with Charr politics abound and many groups of rioters, both Iron and Blood, do not give up the fight easily. Imperator Smodur notes that the time may have come for one of the Imperators to become the Khan Ur.Once these four instances are completed a fifth unlocks. This final instance is a dialogue heavy moment depicting a public gathering of many racial leaders and representatives. An accord has been drafted which would severely limit the freedom of the Pact, but make it immune to certain diplomatic realities which it has been ignoring up to this point. The Marshall of the Pact would be forced to submit his will to the will of an interracial counsel in Lionsarch. The Pact would be allowed to continue essentially owning and controlling the lands Orr but would need to submit individual requests for all of its other operations in lands controlled by other political entities. In exchange, the Pact would be granted immunity for its past “unregulated conquest,” and “unrequested military expansion” into the sovereign territories of other races. Exciting stuff I know.The Commander asks what happens if they do not agree to the terms of the accord. The leader of the Counsel (which could be any of the irritating antagonistic leaders of the races) makes it clear that refusing to sign the document is a declaration that all the Pact’s previous military engagements were a staging process for the eventual conquest of all Tyria. The Pact would be branded an invading force led by an out of control zealot and the five races would unite to dismantle the Pact, its technology, and all of its infrastructure, piece by piece.Logan tries to have a level headed discussion, but this is the final straw for the Commander. We get treated to the most stinging, angry, irate, and genuinely wrathful reaction the Commander voice actors and actresses can possibly convey. The Commander eviscerates the very idea that this could happen. She demands that they think of the losses the Pact has suffered on behalf of Tyria. Trahearne, the Firstborn, didn’t die for their political expediency, he died to save Tyria itself from total annihilation. The Commander herself killed a bloody god to save the world. She sacrificed friends, watched comrades in arms be ripped apart by vines and Risen, and held allies bleeding out in her hands in the process of destroying the dragons. She has seen things these political pukes couldn’t imagine, horrors beyond horrors that should have driven her mad. She, the Commander, died and clawed her way back from the Domain of the Lost to stop Tyria’s destruction. She will hear none of this insanity.Logan has to make the hard call and order the Commander to stand down and vacate the premises. Begrudgingly the Commander leaves the area and the instance ends there.From here, the adventure can go in a variety of directions, but the most important plot points for this story are:-The Commander is stripped of their title. This could be temporary, or perhaps a permanent turn of events. The hero is forced to go back to either their starting racial title (Valiant, Hero, Centurian, etc) or their personal order title (Lightbringer, Magister, Warmaster). This demonstrates how they have fallen out of favor in the world. They can still act in the world on their personal will, but they are no longer backed up by the authority of the Pact. This could be demonstrated mechanically by removing their ability to interact with Pact supply agents during this story step, though more realistically, the Pact supply agents could simply be written to note that Logan gave commands to allow the former Commander to continue using them. Perhaps Logan himself sends a letter to let the player know that while he has stripped them of their authority, whatever aid he can provide them in this trying time will still be rendered.-Marshal Thackery signs the Accords, but a group within the Pact, perhaps led by another hardened veteran such as Laranthir of the Wild, rebels against the signing and creates another faction using Pact technology and seeks to kill the remaining dragons with or without the permission of the rest of the world. They set their sights on taking down Primordius.-The Commander, struggles with a sort of mental break from all the stress she has suffered up to this point. She sees visions and suffers nightmares in the middle of other instances which causes even Dragon’s Watch members to question her sanity. They suggest that she slow down and stop throwing herself into danger. As we the players would have no desire to do so, the Commander will not be deterred either.-The treaty between humans and charr is put into danger and the high legions themselves fall into a near civil war. The Flame Legion and Ascolonian humans both begin putting pressure on the High Legions.-The Ascolonian humans begin rebelling against the control of Queen Jennah and open the door to Elona seeking both help and trade with the people of that land.-Koda's Will and Wrath of Bear begin a conquest of the Norn and attempt to reawaken Jormag in order to summon it to Hoelbrak. The summoning fails but the dragon does awaken again.The emotional payoff of all this can go a few ways. The instinctive reaction to all of this change might be to make things go back to the philosophical status quo at the end of the story, but this writer proposes that this story could be used as a way to bring the Commander and her actions back down to earth; to weaken her and remove her resources so that future exploits can be more personal and well earned. While she may well regain her rightful title as the Commander at the end of the episode, the title should come with fewer resources and less authority than before. The Commander has been diminished and will need to earn her power once again through hard work and determination, and through proving her merit as a great leader and a hero.Many readers may be wondering why the writer feels that we should go to such great lengths to seemingly punish and abuse the Commander, who has only ever acted in accordanence with her own conscience and done everything in the interest of saving the world. Why should we attack her and call out her actions as those of a potential tyrant? Because they are. The Commander, in the eyes of most of the world, has acted without limit on her authority ever since the death of Zhaitan. She has crossed political and cultural borders with impunity and acted decisively in arenas she had no right to enter without asking anyone’s permission. While her actions have saved many, they have destroyed many others and never has the story really taken the time to call her out for her attitude that the world must unite or else die.This central theme, that the collective is stronger than the individual, is not a theme that can be criticized for being false, but it can be questioned for how it makes other philosophies seem true by association. The Strength of the Pack philosophy has, throughout the story, often been used as a justification for Democratic Morality, the idea that the majority collective has the right to force moral and political correctness on the individual, and is often just as unquestioned as the Strength of the Pack. While this philosophy may or may not be wrong, it has never been properly questioned and framing it in the ambiguous and confusing realm of the Commander’s own psychological and emotional instability may give the questioning the credit it deserves.Secondly, while the story has on occasion paid lip service to the mental and emotional stress that the Commander has undergone throughout her time with the Pact, it has only ever flirted with the true horror that the player character has been tormented by in the world. This has, to many on the forum, created a sense of disconnectedness with Tyria which may well be rectified by finally giving the Commander’s mental state a thorough examination. Only one who was already mentally ill might be able to suffer the many, many, many indignities, tortures, losses, and exertions that the Commander has undergone without being further damaged by them. While Guild Wars 2 probably should not engage in a Darkest Dungeon campaign of pure horror, taking the time to acknowledge and deal with the Commander’s compromised state, perhaps creating story beats where she could acknowledge her injuries and take time to heal from them, would give some validity to the Commander’s ongoing struggle, and even make that struggle more engaging to the players by bringing the Commander back down to a human level. It’s important to remember that all stories which humans engage with are about humans, even if those humans are hulking, 6-foot tall cats or magical, sentient salads.Finally, and most importantly, this entire concept has been crafted with the idea of ratcheting up the tension of the fight against the Elder Dragons by decreasing the resources the players have to fight against them. The players of GW2 are beginning to think that Tyria is safe from the Elder Dragon just as the dragons become more powerful than ever. The story has made it clear that one thing which can kill an Elder Dragon, their true weakness beyond their blood, their minions, or their mind, is cooperation and there is no sign at present of that cooperation failing. Threatening the cooperation of the races and orders is the only way to tell the players that the threat has become real again. Making the dragons more and more powerful has failed to impress on players the magnitude of defecation heading to the air ventilator. Therefore, the best way to impress on players how badly the situation has become is to knock them down a peg.Thank you for reading this massive block of text. I hope you enjoyed the read and I look forward to engaging with your opinions on my suggestions below. This is the first of a series of massive blocks of text I intend to publish to the forums for the close and brutal examination of the forum and subreddit communities. TL;DR· The story doesn’t have any room to generate more tension without changing its current tact.· I propose we put the Pact in danger of being dissolved, put the races at each other throats, and explore the mental and emotional damage the Commander should be suffering after all of the horrible things she has experienced.· Highlight Reel: New enemy Kodan faction who is super fanatical about enslaving the Norn and uniting all other Kodan under their vision; the Commander gets to be incredibly angry at characters we don’t like for good reason; the Commander gets bumped down a pay grade and is called by their racial title for a bit. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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