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hamskii

Cut content: Durance and Grieving Mother

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NOTE: POTENTIAL SPOILERS ITT. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

So I was reading through the CE strategy guide after I finished my playthrough, and I noticed there were a couple of things in Durance and GM's stories that I hadn't encountered, or even seen hinted at. Like, at all. One of them was pretty major, namely the reason that Grieving Mother is called as such (iirc it is implied in-game that she has forgotten herself, and not explored further). It's possible that I just somehow managed to pick the wrong conversation options or otherwise somehow not satisfied the requirements to get these stories, but being as I hadn't seen any hint of them at all, I thought I'd post here.

 

The guide has this to say about Durance's character, and his internal conflict:

Durance was a priest of Magran who helped build the bomb that destroyed St. Waidwen. The others who worked on it were killed, but Durance survived. He is an anti-authoritarian wanderer, who has particular dislike of the Aedyr Empire (and Readceras). He despises Eothas and anyone who worships him. Durance spent many years following the Saint's War, rooting out Eothas sympathizers; then not long after, rooting out those he believed responsible for the Hollowborn crisis. This led him to torture and ruin the soul of the Grieving Mother (in defense, she was forced to wound his soul to make him stop). Neither one of them recognizes the other when and if they meet.

Durance does not know why his Magranic colleagues died or why he was spared, but he assumes he did wrong by his god. Over time he comes to learn that the gods are not unlike the authority figures he so often finds himself at odds with, and that he and the assassinated Magranic clergy were nothing but pieces in the gods' games. The Grieving Mother and Durance may come to odds or reconciliation over the course of the game.

Similarly, for the Grieving Mother:

The "Grieving Mother" (GM) is a cipher who acted as a midwife in a local community. She was blamed for the births of other Hollowborn children in her community and, specifically, she was punished viciously and unjustly by Durance who saw her as part of the Hollowborn crisis.

 

The Grieving Mother's powerful cipher abilities cause awareness and perceptions to slide off of her, and she is difficult to recognize. Many simply see her as an unremarkable peasant woman who travels with the party and is not worth addressing.

 

She sees others through their souls, not their physical appearance. She does not communicate with people in the environment; although she may counsel the player on a course of action she feels strongly about and will warn the player of danger whenever possible. She is strongly motivated to end the Hollowborn crisis (even if it causes other problems), and she believes the Watcher is necessary for this to happen.

 

She does not blame Durance for the violations that were done to her soul and her body. She does not recognize him when he is in the party, as his soul is different from when they first met. The damage she did to him, arguably in self-defense, was considerable and far outweighed what was done to her. She is not an anguished figure. In many respects, she is quite serene and calm, even when inflicting harm on another (and she would kill without hesitation to protect her primary goals: ending the crisis and protecting the player). She often prefers to speak through visions rather than words.

GM is in a state of deep mourning. Her substantial desire to see her children resurrected may lead her down a dark path.

These characters' stories seem to have substantially changed between the time that the guide was written, and release (so, potentially fairly late in development). Here is a list of the things that I have found to be inconsistent with the story I experienced in my playthrough:

  • In my playthrough, GM never made a comment about Durance, or vice-versa (although it would make sense that Durance would not initially address GM).
  • In-game, Durance does not seem to initially be aware that his colleagues were killed. This is a revelation to him relatively near the end of the game.
  • Grieving Mother is not blamed for the birth of Hollowborn children, but fears that she will be blamed, and her story is based around the steps she took to ensure that she would not be blamed.
  • There are hints of ending the Hollowborn crisis causing "other problems", which was not implied in the final game.
  • The fact that Durance's soul is damaged (and he is therefore undetectable to Magran) in-game would be totally explained by the fact that it was damaged by the GM. In the release version, Durance does not seem to be aware that his soul is damaged. I think it is explained by Durance saying that while the rest of his colleagues were killed by the Godhammer, he survived and his soul was only partially destroyed.
  • There are no mention of GM's children in the game. This is the big one!
Interestingly, I managed to dig up this interview with Chris Avellone before release. It's quite a long interview, so I'll quote the relevant part:

A few, I suppose. At a high level, this may be shooting myself in the foot, but I've become increasingly interested in narratives without words, especially after New Vegas (where prop placement told better stories, imo).

 

At a specific level, in Eternity, the original premise of the companions I wrote (Durance and the Grieving Mother) was unpeeling the layers and discovering what they were at the core – unpeeling these layers involved slipping stealthily into their unconscious, a dungeon made out of their memories. There, the player could go through an adventure game-like series of interactions, exploring their memories using psychological items important to both your character and to them as emotional keys to thread your way through the memories – but carefully, without revealing your presence. The memory dungeon was to uncover their shared history, how it impacted you, and the core of who they were as people.

 

And their core was pretty unpleasant. Both of them were very bad, very weak people, committing not only violations on each other, but on the player as well. When faced with the discovery that your allies, even if they fiercely support you and fight for a larger cause, have some pretty horrid faults, what do you do? Do you pass sentence? Do you forgive? Do you assist them to reach an understanding? And what I found more interesting with the spiritual physics in the Eternity world is that a death sentence isn't a sentence – killing someone actually sets a soul free to move on to the next generation. So if you intend to punish someone in a world like that, either out of revenge or to correct their behavior, how do you do it when execution is not an answer?

 

The elements above got stripped out of the companions in the end, so I'm happy to share it here (and I may re-examine it in the future). Overall, I thought they raised interesting questions for the player to chew on, and it was interesting to explore those themes, as most game narratives and franchises wouldn't allow for such examinations – still, Eternity was intended to be a more personal project for Obsidian where we can stretch our narrative legs more, both in structure and themes.

Edited by hamskii
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That is interesting. Indeed, I never got any conversation option that implies those two knew each other before you bring them together.

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Referneces to 'her children' are about children she helped birth, not GM's biological children.

 

The memory dungeon aspect also explains how Durance and GM ended up pretty loredumpy. Because a memory dungeon 'minigame' would have been too resource intensive, what we get instead is exposition that was meant to be stretched out over that dungeon squeezed into a few chats.

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That was interesting. I still like how the characters turned out, at any rate. I wonder if GM was originally supposed to have biological children, or whether her "children" just refers to the fact that she used her powers to maintain a bond with each of the children she birthed until they grew older.

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I think most of that was cut due to time constraints in the end.  But yeah none of that came up.  On the aside Durance knows the others are dead, he just doesn't believe it was because Magran intended them to die he thought it was an accident.

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That's a pretty interesting hook, but it almost feels contrived to have Durance and GM know each other before joining your party. I mean, what are the odds of that?

 

I like the bit about how GM sees people by their souls. It's a neat bit of mysticism and helps explain why she acts the way she does. Seeing newborn souls enter the world must be a real experience.

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In all honesty, based on those summaries, I think I actually prefer their arcs in the final game. It's a bit disappointing we didn't get to explore the companions' pasts and personalities through more interesting gameplay means (a mental dungeon sounds really cool and would be one of the few gameplay levels that actually leverages the premise of the story), but if it means that the Grieving Mother and Durance's story arcs are leaner, more coherent and more self-contained, I'll take the loss.

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Some content is cut just because it's bad. I don't like the zeal with which fans dig through the trash heap that is discarded ideas. Many times, unpublished works are simply not as polished. It's either the author that chose not to publish it, or the editor. Even if it was because of time constraints, they very rarely cut the best content. They try to cut what would be missed the least.

Edited by b0rsuk
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That's a pretty interesting hook, but it almost feels contrived to have Durance and GM know each other before joining your party. I mean, what are the odds of that?

 

I think the implication (and it's a very Avellone-esque implication) is that the Watcher doesn't chance upon these people who know each other, but rather that people who have been hurt in specific ways are drawn to the Watcher (like how Nameless One's companions were all tormented, or how the Exile's companions all had negative relationships with the Force). It's a deterministic thing, rather than a question of odds.

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If I'm typing in red, it means I'm being sarcastic. But not this time.

Dark green, on the other hand, is for jokes and irony in general.

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There's also this:

 

 


Chris Avellone: "To be clear, and to give credit where credit is due on content contributions (I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder), I wrote the first iterations of two companions (Durance and the Grieving Mother, who have been scaled down to about ¼ of what they were originally, and the Grieving Mother’s mental dungeon was excised as well, which was essentially a stealth adventure game inside her memories).

The final versions that are in the game are the province of other narrative designers, and I would be uncomfortable taking credit for the final implementation of the two characters. "​

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That's a pretty interesting hook, but it almost feels contrived to have Durance and GM know each other before joining your party. I mean, what are the odds of that?

 

[...]

What are the odds that Sagani is standing in that very crossing at that exact time, and what are the odds that Durance would be sent in a vision to find you?

 

Odds do not apply to the rule of cool.

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t50aJUd.jpg

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That's a pretty interesting hook, but it almost feels contrived to have Durance and GM know each other before joining your party. I mean, what are the odds of that?

 

[...]

What are the odds that Sagani is standing in that very crossing at that exact time, and what are the odds that Durance would be sent in a vision to find you?

 

Odds do not apply to the rule of cool.

 

Also, in this game, you play a magical spirit-shaper with an ancient soul and a habit of talking to the gods. At times, you perform casual mind control. You have the option to eat an entire neighborhood's worth of spiritual power. Presumably, "attracts odd people," comes with the territory.

 

So there's that.

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If I'm typing in red, it means I'm being sarcastic. But not this time.

Dark green, on the other hand, is for jokes and irony in general.

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Another possibility is that they cut this on purpose, to leave more loose ends ! To make it more mysterious and leave more room for speculation. There are precedents. "2001 Space Odyssey" initially had a more specific ending. It was also more specific about HAL 9000, and what went wrong with it. That was changed later for no other reason than to make the movie more open-ended.

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you play a magical spirit-shaper with an ancient soul and a habit of talking to the gods. At times, you perform casual mind control. You have the option to eat an entire neighborhood's worth of spiritual power. Presumably, "attracts odd people," comes with the territory.

 

This is the best and most terrifying description of Watchers.

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Durance isn't shy about admitting his disdain for Watchers and admits to torturing them in the past.

 

GM admits that she...allowed others to refer to her as a Watcher ("Cipher" was too hard to explain to the yokels, and they were already comfortable with the concept of Watchers, so...).

 

I suppose they left enough in that you could piece parts of this together.


"Art and song are creations but so are weapons and lies"

"Our worst enemies are inventions of the mind. Pleasure. Fear. When we see them for what they are, we become unstoppable."

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Wow, really cool piece of character backstory!  It clearly demonstrates how strong GM is. :)  I vividly remember the dialogue with Durance where he talks about how he learned to, presumably through horrible torture, damage a soul itself rather than just take a life.  After that, I saw Durance in a whole different light, one where even my own Bleak Walker paladin was sleeping with one eye open! 

 

Durance and GM were both very high profile characters back in their day and were bound to meet again eventually... Durance waits around for years specifically to meet the watcher he saw in his visions, and GM just sits around being completely ignored to anyone that isn't a watcher.  I also find it interesting that both Durance and GM, upon meeting them, were able to read details about the protagonist's past (the sickness, caravan attack, soul storm, awakening, etc.). 

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This thread is awesome.

 

I definitely want more Avellone content for the expansion. I hope we will see mind dungeons in expansion or sequel content. Or at least for the "read soul" situations to use the scripted intermission events with the neat drawings.

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Could explain why Durance's questline involves stuff that we would have no knowledge of, be interesting to know what was supposed to be revealed in that Mind-Dungeon (while GM does some questionable things I'm not sure I would say she has a unpleasant core, she seemed to just make mistakes that lead to more mistakes, so it implies that we may have found out more about them, unless I am underestimating just how much mind control she did to people). 

 

As to it being contrived for two companions to know each before meeting you, surely it would be written in that the reasons why they joined you was because of their shared history?  Durance seeks you out because of some vision (that never gets explained actually) while GM is recruited when you see through her illusions due to being a Watcher, so whatever they did to each other arguably causes them to be link together still and drawn to the same place (you).  Also, if they screwed each other's souls up that badly then it could be that you were intended to find them wandering around the same area where they blew each other up, not realising that the person that did it to them is just on the other side of that bridge...


"That rabbit's dynamite!" - King Arthur, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

"Space is big, really big." - Douglas Adams

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With regards to the connection, it also bears noting that the Grieving Mother mind controlled the people in her village to shelter their Hollowborn and Durance specifically went out of his way to seek out and destroy hollowborn in his attempts to appease Magran. That seems like a decently plausible way for the two to encounter each other or at the very least impact each others' lives in a significant way and if they have left such a deep mark in each other, the way souls work in this setting would dictate that the two would subconsciously feel the pull to find each other in an attempt to repair whatever damage was inflicted on them. They definitely still have plenty of unpleasant aspects to their personalities in spite of the cuts though. The grieving mother literally mind controlled a woman to the point of working her to death and ruined an entire town, and then attempts to use the same power again to make you 'fix' the problem for her ('I'll be your strength' indeed) and Durance is a self-admitted hollowborn-slaughterer and purger of Eothasians who believes in not just physically killing his victims but in breaking their spirit and turning their life into a living hell because killing is too merciful for some people.

 

Yeah, not exactly stand-up individuals here.

 

That being said, cool as this all sounds in theory, it's easy for a lot of things to sound cool on paper but not work out that smoothly in practice. Durance's and Grieving Mother's quests are already the two most tricky ones to complete as is, so adding in the clause that the two stories are interdependent (and thus presumably require progress on both sides to advance) would be a serious headache for anyone who isn't already committed to consistently keeping both of them in the party.

 

The mental dungeons, on the other hand, are a concept I'd definitely be interested in seeing implemented later down the line. Not only would it add more weight to your status as a watcher, but it'd also create a way for you to learn more about your companions without resorting to the RPG standard compulsion for party members to divulge their deepest, darkest secrets to some stranger they've tagged along with for a couple of weeks. Plus, rooting around in someone else's soul uninvited like that is a pretty morally dubious thing to do, so there's room for some interesting conflict there when you confront a person about things you discovered in their dungeon.

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Regarding the mind dungeons, it would be cool (as in: "really ****ing amazingly cool") if that would involve some inception-type of plot, where you can basicly try to manipulate the soul of someone to do whatever you feel is right, without the person you "invaded" noticing any external manipulation.

 

There's so many possibilities with that idea alone... I really wonder why they discarded this idea and I really, really hope we will see this in the sequel or expansion.

Edited by Zwiebelchen
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I think we should be glad that it got changed. If Avellone fully wrote the characters, he would've turned them into irritating mouth pieces that are always right and you can't argue with (Kreia, anyone?).

 

The idea of a mind dungeon, however, is really cool and I wish it can be implemented later.

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Regarding the mind dungeons, it would be cool (as in: "really ****ing amazingly cool") if that would involve some inception-type of plot, where you can basicly try to manipulate the soul of someone to do whatever you feel is right, without the person you "invaded" noticing any external manipulation.

 

There's so many possibilities with that idea alone... I really wonder why they discarded this idea and I really, really hope we will see this in the sequel or expansion.

You already do that, they never "discarded" that idea. When you meet Grieving Mother she doesn't even know or notice that you're looking at her soul, and the narrative text states that you could manipulate or violate her soul in any way you pleased and she'd never know the difference. Also when dealing with Icantha in Heritage Hill, you can destroy her pride directly through the soul and she's none the wiser.

 

Besides, what you're talking about is exactly what Grieving Mother did to an unknown number of people, she manipulated or destroyed parts of mothers' souls if there was some element that would cause them not to love their children.

Edited by AGX-17
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