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Pillars of Eternity races, and what they add to the game

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I've been thinking about this, and it actually makes perfect sense that the PoE races aren't mentally very different to each other. In PoE the "kith" races all draw from the same pool of souls! This is particularly apparent for an awakened soul, like the PC, who would have memories of being each race, and hence would tend to loose any strong cultural identity.

 

It's apparent that "beasts" draw upon a separate pool of souls, which explains why attaching one to a kith body always results in a monster. It also explains why dragons are beasts - that's the kind of soul they have, regardless of how intelligent they may be.

 

Based on the functioning of "slaying" weapons one can hypothesise that there are also separate pools of souls for Primordials and Wilders. Vessels and Spirits are defined by the state of the soul, rather than which family it belongs too.

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Everyone knows Science Fiction is really cool. You know what PoE really needs? Spaceships! There isn't any game that wouldn't be improved by a space combat minigame. Adding one to PoE would send sales skyrocketing, and ensure the game was remembered for all time!!!!!

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I like PoE's approach towards races and cultures, because it opens way to much larger variation of cultures and societies, than the classical fantasy style to tying race and culture together, as now we can see multitude of different cultures that have different approach and customs to handle their mixed race populations. Where PoE lacks in this aspect is that it sets only in Dyrwood area, which is newish colonial frontier area that really lets us to see two different cultures, even if one is mix of multiple different cultures that are evolved to new culture. Although game offers us climpses to other cultures in the wolrd, but those climpses come really through singular sources, which means that we really don't get to know those cultures that well. Which is why I hope to see sequel to PoE that set in some other area/s with different culture/s so that we can see differently build mixed race societies.

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Fardragon has a point that should be seriously considered.  Ogres are intelligent but are wilders not kith.     As for culture, Sagani explains that her culture differs from the known other cultures in that the females are the hunters and adventurers.   The Aedyr Empire is dominated by humans and elves and are ruled by a human emperor and an eleven  Mecwyn.  "The Free Palatinate of Dyrwood and the Penitential Regency of Readceras are its former colonies in the Eastern Reach." Quote from the PoE Wiki.  In 2623 Aedyr found the first permanent settlement in Dyrwood.  In 2668 Dyrwood declared independence from the Aedyr Empire and began the War of Defiance which lasted five years.  Kana gives us some information about the Aumaua and the cthe country of Rauatai.

 

Although listed as a race(s) the godlike are not a true race or races.  They are mutants of the other races.  There are occasional references to  them mostly in my experience from children asking about their looks.

 

There is quite a bit of information to be found in-game about the races and cultures if you look for it.

 

Edit:  For me a good part of the charm of PoE is that it is the first game in the series (hopefully) and its lore is evolving.
 

Edited by Nakia

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But there's no necessity to make them all human.Why they're in the game, I think: First, it's tradition. Different races including Elves and Dwarves are a staple of classical fantasy. People would complain if there weren't several races, regardless of how small their differences are.And second, it provides opportunities for some diversity in abilities. If they're more based on physical attributes (like Moon Godlike's healing powers), it's easier to explain them by being racial instead of cultural. The developers get more freedom with abilities that way.

Then they could all be elves, or dwarves etc and so forth. I pick human because in appearance humans predominate (by far), but either way they function as a single species not many, they don't have different inherent natures in areas or approaches to things (they function, live, socialize, have families, houses and craft and think and have the same beliefs and traditions) as the predominate humans in game. They have no to little discernible ancestral differences with the humans. There is nothing which marks them out as a seperate species, they functionally aren't, there is just pkayer race species with tge sub-class in the orlans. And with even a single race/species I woukd hope there woukd be diversity in beliefs and worldviews but with the aopereance if different species it becomes more noticeable. Everyone has and shares the same essential worldview (with just shades of variation within that).

 

While different abilities is nice that can be achieved with a single race/species from different lands (for example Elder Scrolls ganes different types of human or different types if elves have quite different bonus abilities). It doesn't require other species, just different areas and cultures in fantasy world, which again leaves me feeling the races are just purely cosmetic there for the player creator, and because they are in tge IE games but not even having the admittedly at times superficial reality and substance they even had there. They are just like masks thown on a few humans in the game to keep the masquerade going but have no reality (even superficial) in the world that there really is largely one player species with sub-species in the orlans.

 

It just seems so pointless and a waste when if you wanted just cultures of a single species you coukd focused on that and made that more in depth, diverse and interesting, or developed interesting races, as it is I just see the races as meaningless with no substances who are there for the creator creator.

Edited by NightRevan

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But there's no necessity to make them all human.Why they're in the game, I think: First, it's tradition. Different races including Elves and Dwarves are a staple of classical fantasy. People would complain if there weren't several races, regardless of how small their differences are.And second, it provides opportunities for some diversity in abilities. If they're more based on physical attributes (like Moon Godlike's healing powers), it's easier to explain them by being racial instead of cultural. The developers get more freedom with abilities that way.

Then they could all be elves, or dwarves etc and so forth. I pick human because in appearance humans predominate (by far), but either way they function as a single species not many, they don't have different inherent natures in areas or approaches to things (they function, live, socialize, have families, houses and craft and think and have the same beliefs and traditions) as the predominate humans in game. They have no to little discernible ancestral differences with the humans. There is nothing which marks them out as a seperate species, they functionally aren't, there is just pkayer race species with tge sub-class in the orlans. And with even a single race/species I woukd hope there woukd be diversity in beliefs and worldviews but with the aopereance if different species it becomes more noticeable. Everyone has and shares the same essential worldview (with just shades of variation within that).

 

While different abilities is nice that can be achieved with a single race/species from different lands (for example Elder Scrolls ganes different types of human or different types if elves have quite different bonus abilities). It doesn't require other species, just different areas and cultures in fantasy world, which again leaves me feeling the races are just purely cosmetic there for the player creator, and because they are in tge IE games but not even having the admittedly at times superficial reality and substance they even had there. They are just like masks thown on a few humans in the game to keep the masquerade going but have no reality (even superficial) in the world that there really is largely one player species with sub-species in the orlans.

 

It just seems so pointless and a waste when if you wanted just cultures of a single species you coukd focused on that and made that more in depth, diverse and interesting, or developed interesting races, as it is I just see the races as meaningless with no substances who are there for the creator creator.

 

What you describe is cultural assimilation (people who live generations together will eventually merge their cultures to one new culture), but if you actually read PoE's lore you will find that every race has different ancentsty (actually multiple different ancestries as races in different regions don't actually share that much same ancestry). And there are quite lot of things that points that races come from different species, like for example fact that they can't reproduce with other races, and if you look you will see that this fact has impact in how societies in Eora work. Also different cultures have different beliefs and in different cultures different races are the predominant race.Freepalantine of Dyrwood area where most of the game happens is predominantly populated by humans and second elves, because it is mainly populated by settlers from Aedyran Empire, which is mainly nation of meadow folk and wood elves. Second area where player gets in the game is Eir Glanfath territory where wood elves are predominat population seconded by wild orlans and thrided by heart orlans. Vallian Republics would be south from Free Palentine, but PC path never goes there, but it would be society where predominant race is ocean folk seconded by mountain dwarves. The Great Kingdom of Rauatai for example is described to be quite different of any of societies that you find in Dyrwood area, and their predominant race is coastal aumaua. And  every single one of previously mentioned cultures have different dynamic between races (although only cultures in Dyrwood area are fleshed out fully, where other cultures have only general description how they work).

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Which unfortunately has me thinking again what is the point of the player (the non-player a much better in this regard) races at all apart from character creator? They are non-existent past the surface, they are all human essentially without anything hinting at the lives of different species or of a mass culture formed off them. The cultures are essentially human outside (to an extent) orlans with nothing distinguishing elf, dwarf etc from humans around them at any level.

The points of the elves, dwarves and aumaua is to create a fantasy world in which different species have conjointly created different civilizations, instead of having each non-human species with a few ancestral homes and a diaspora amongst the rest of the land, predominantly dominated by humans. The point of the Orlans is to have the popular fantasy former slave race, still discriminated against and put down by the rest of the kith.

 

I guess I don't see the point, why are they there at all when they really aren't if you see what I mean, since the cultures are essentially human why not just be all human then having some of the human cultures looking non-human but it being purely cosmetic and meaningless, non-existent beyond the surface, they are functionally human, in every way like the humans around them besides appearance. It seems just a waste and pointless.

The different kith species of Eora can't breed with each other, that alone makes a huge difference. There is also the different lifespans.

 

If that is the idea, just make them different human cultures, which they are essentially anyway.

But then you lose the cool elements for the character creator, like the blue-skinned shark people, the hairy cat-people, the short and broad humans, etc.

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I think what some people are missing is what Obsidian tried to do which was get away from fantasy tropes.   Instead of conflict because of racial differences we have religious conflict actually a very real life problem among humans.  Eder and Durance are both from Dyrwood and Meadowland humans but they worship opposing gods.  Culture is more important in PoE than race which is also true of real life humans.

 

It just may be too subtle for some to comprehend or accept.

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 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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In all media, each race is built around a myth. These myths are reinforced each time race comes into play, seemingly arbitrary, e.g. when an elf chastises a dwarf for being willfully ignorant of the former's high culture, a dwarf scoffs at the elves' arrogance or a small hairy humanoid just wants to be left in peace puffing a pipe in front of their rural little home. Doesn't matter if it's LotR or DnD.

 

PoE's attempt at breaking with tradition by putting culture first after centuries of assimilation is very refreshing. Hiravias gets expelled for his spiritshift, not for being an orlan. Aloth is not prone to frolicking, and he prides himself for having become a wizard, not for being an elf.

 

Too many cases in point have used the concept of race as a means to create conflict. Glad to see PoE taking a different route.

Edited by macadam
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I think what some people are missing is what Obsidian tried to do which was get away from fantasy tropes.   Instead of conflict because of racial differences we have religious conflict actually a very real life problem among humans.  Eder and Durance are both from Dyrwood and Meadowland humans but they worship opposing gods.  Culture is more important in PoE than race which is also true of real life humans.

 

It just may be too subtle for some to comprehend or accept.

 

One does not exclude the other.


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I think what some people are missing is what Obsidian tried to do which was get away from fantasy tropes.   Instead of conflict because of racial differences we have religious conflict actually a very real life problem among humans.  Eder and Durance are both from Dyrwood and Meadowland humans but they worship opposing gods.  Culture is more important in PoE than race which is also true of real life humans.

 

It just may be too subtle for some to comprehend or accept.

 

One does not exclude the other.

 

I was trying to be polite, Luckmann. :)


 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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But there's no necessity to make them all human.Why they're in the game, I think: First, it's tradition. Different races including Elves and Dwarves are a staple of classical fantasy. People would complain if there weren't several races, regardless of how small their differences are.And second, it provides opportunities for some diversity in abilities. If they're more based on physical attributes (like Moon Godlike's healing powers), it's easier to explain them by being racial instead of cultural. The developers get more freedom with abilities that way.

Then they could all be elves, or dwarves etc and so forth. I pick human because in appearance humans predominate (by far), but either way they function as a single species not many, they don't have different inherent natures in areas or approaches to things (they function, live, socialize, have families, houses and craft and think and have the same beliefs and traditions) as the predominate humans in game. They have no to little discernible ancestral differences with the humans. There is nothing which marks them out as a seperate species, they functionally aren't, there is just pkayer race species with tge sub-class in the orlans. And with even a single race/species I woukd hope there woukd be diversity in beliefs and worldviews but with the aopereance if different species it becomes more noticeable. Everyone has and shares the same essential worldview (with just shades of variation within that).

 

While different abilities is nice that can be achieved with a single race/species from different lands (for example Elder Scrolls ganes different types of human or different types if elves have quite different bonus abilities). It doesn't require other species, just different areas and cultures in fantasy world, which again leaves me feeling the races are just purely cosmetic there for the player creator, and because they are in tge IE games but not even having the admittedly at times superficial reality and substance they even had there. They are just like masks thown on a few humans in the game to keep the masquerade going but have no reality (even superficial) in the world that there really is largely one player species with sub-species in the orlans.

 

It just seems so pointless and a waste when if you wanted just cultures of a single species you coukd focused on that and made that more in depth, diverse and interesting, or developed interesting races, as it is I just see the races as meaningless with no substances who are there for the creator creator.

 

What you describe is cultural assimilation (people who live generations together will eventually merge their cultures to one new culture), but if you actually read PoE's lore you will find that every race has different ancentsty (actually multiple different ancestries as races in different regions don't actually share that much same ancestry). And there are quite lot of things that points that races come from different species, like for example fact that they can't reproduce with other races, and if you look you will see that this fact has impact in how societies in Eora work. Also different cultures have different beliefs and in different cultures different races are the predominant race.Freepalantine of Dyrwood area where most of the game happens is predominantly populated by humans and second elves, because it is mainly populated by settlers from Aedyran Empire, which is mainly nation of meadow folk and wood elves. Second area where player gets in the game is Eir Glanfath territory where wood elves are predominat population seconded by wild orlans and thrided by heart orlans. Vallian Republics would be south from Free Palentine, but PC path never goes there, but it would be society where predominant race is ocean folk seconded by mountain dwarves. The Great Kingdom of Rauatai for example is described to be quite different of any of societies that you find in Dyrwood area, and their predominant race is coastal aumaua. And  every single one of previously mentioned cultures have different dynamic between races (although only cultures in Dyrwood area are fleshed out fully, where other cultures have only general description how they work).

 

 

It's been a day or two and I have a few points to respond to it seems.  My problem is I don't actually see any indication of this impact, as you say the races are truly in a key way different species, they can't breed together, something that should help keep even in the most degree of assimilation of different species (not just people from different lands, whole other species, which come I assume distinct and different origins and different foundation histories, with actual species' distinctions which should create different fundamental mindsets, possibly biology and mental frameworks, social perceptions etc, very different belief and worldview structures) still be apparent in the different families and groups.  Distinct aspects of each species ideas should have survived and flourished within the cultural assimilation (and would all species go with this down the centuries, would there be tensions, there are tensions just within one species, ours, from all sorts or quarters, from different cultures, worldviews, etc, once you through the kind of difference that a different species with a whole potential different and non-human mindset and outlook could bring, that becomes far more exaggerated and more interesting, but that isn't here).  

 

There should be some hints within the larger cultures of aspects belonging to each race both distinct and as part of the larger cultures but I don't see it, nothing the variations with the nature of each species effecting the societies as a whole, and no hint of different life, social and family dynamics or unique cultural patterns pertaining to a particularly race operating with different races within the larger society (even though as you say they can't interbreed, a biological distinction that keeps races distinct and limits family and kin groups to operating largely within each race despite the larger nations.  That to me should have an aspect and impact on the world you could encounter, say even in a small scale, in a dwarven or elven family, something unique to their outlook, a unique mindset belonging that species and their life dynamics as opposed to another race.  But they don't, there isn't anything I'm coming across, they think, function and operate just like the wider human population, they don't think differently, they don't function differently, there is nothing distinctive about them as species, they are humans essentially, just like everyone else.  Even the differences in lifespans and not interbreeding which should cause distinctions in a living dynamic cultures doesn't have any actually feel of impact or reality in the setting for me.  They have no substance in reality, they are just cosmetic here, replace each elf, dwarf etc with a human and nothing changes, at all.  Make it one species, one race,and nothing changes at all.  They are not functionally a different species, they are functionally human, and to me that being the case way not make them so, or bring what they have done a little with non-player races to bear into the player races and with either option expand on that rather than the path they did go done.

 

While you do point out (which I have fully agreed with so far I think) that you have distinct cultures nothing in that relates to different species or seems to speak to them, they just different cultures with some slight adaptions in the cosmetic variations in those areas.  Nothing of them is founded in or based on a species with a distinctly different mindset, nature or race specific ideas and the effect that has on relations to other races, it simple a variation of what could just be a human culture which despite those variations still shares the same mindset, overall worldview and culture as anyone else.

 

The different beliefs suggested is something said by a few here but I'm afraid I don't get this point, perhaps as some suggest I am not subtle enough, well fair enough perhaps this game is just for such subtle of mind.  But there is no real difference in worldview I'm seeing, people choose different gods perhaps, or seek to understand the world without following them but all pretty much accept and have within Eora history accepted not only that a pantheon of specific gods exist, as a series of distinct beings alongside other beings in reality, they are all agree on the same ones (even if they debate they real nature and some are not following any specific ones) little question not just one gods existence but on one believes a different understanding of reality.  All believe in the same concept of souls, that there are souls, that souls or reincarnated, that all races share the same fate, and all share the same good, hold a view of overall values and the direction and intentionality of the direction of their lives that is identical.

 

An Eothas worshiper shares the same worldview and Margan worshiper, they simple choose to value different aspects and values in that shared worldview of the other worshipers and choice the god who exemplifies this, they both agree an all the big questions, give the same answers to what reality is, what is wrong, what is needed to fix it, where they are going.  They all share the same essential mindset and view of what reality is, the maintain no different is they social structures, how they lives function or what they value etc and so on.  Much as for example in Greek antiquity you have people venerating specific gods within the larger pantheon, and having home gods in their houses, and while this sketch is simplified and does no real justice the complexity that operated there, all shared the same worldview, the same theological, philosophical and metaphysical view on the world and on reality, all thought as echoed in Homer death as a thing to be feared, to become a gibbering once person, that shadowy Hades they had to look forward to (before some began to advocate other concepts, but this still remained the major popular view for a long time).  They shared the same values, the same basic reference points and so on.

 

So the same is here to me, and nothing in this situations speaks or show distinctions that come from particular and unique species, what is distinct of an Adyran elf from and Adyran human, what is unique to their family structures, life, belief and mindset, what do they add that is unique and non-human.  And what would change if they became human instead?  To me not much I'm afraid.  I also don't really either approach this world as an analogy for our own, for one thing, it really doesn't have anything like the massive differences in worldviews we have, and how those interact, adapt, discourse, conflict and live with and within a larger world.  So I'm afraid I don't see the exact similarities there either.

 

I'm not sure if I have managed to address each point, and I probably haven't responded that well or as well as I would have liked, as I'm slightly rushed :) .  I do understand that most of you here seem to see a difference, and I glad you can, but while reading your responses they haven't really to me changed my perception that races are really not even truly superficial but are just cosmetic and largely the player creator.  This will probably be my post since I feel I'm beginning to go around in circles, and I'm the only one here arguing from my end and trying to respond to everyone in one post is a bit frustrating.  Perhaps that is an indication it is largely just me, but that is how I see the setting.  Perhaps I am not subtle :) , but I'm glad that everyone else does see some distinction that just eludes me, but the above remains my personal conviction and view on this world as it stands.  Perhaps future games will give the depth I hope for.

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Its not just you.

 

Maybe it is just an issue with Watcher story told in this game and not PoE universe itself. But, based on what is shown i story (ignoring any design documents since those are not formally part of the game), truly all races can be replaced with humans (exempt orlans and godlike), and you would not notice anything missing.

 

My issue with this is that it creates token races, which are there just because they are expected and not because they are needed for the story.

 

In my oppinion good story and setting should not have superficial elements. Everything should have purpose.

 

Instead of lets have elves first there should be question why have elves? What they add to the setting etc...

Edited by player1
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Spell Fixes compilation for Neverwinter Nights 2, as well as my other submissions for this great game.

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If Pillars of Eternity was a novel, I might agree with you, but pillars of eternity is a game not a story.  The rule of eliminating extraneous information doesn't work here.  The different races give more options for character creation, which is an integral part of a roleplaying game.  Secondly, Obsidian likely had an eye toward establishing an IP which could be used for expansions and sequels which may tell different stories set in other parts of the game world. 

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That is a good point. Hopefully sequels and expansions will add more on parts that look lacking now, including this issue.


Spell Fixes compilation for Neverwinter Nights 2, as well as my other submissions for this great game.

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If Pillars of Eternity was a novel, I might agree with you, but pillars of eternity is a game not a story.  The rule of eliminating extraneous information doesn't work here.  The different races give more options for character creation, which is an integral part of a roleplaying game.  Secondly, Obsidian likely had an eye toward establishing an IP which could be used for expansions and sequels which may tell different stories set in other parts of the game world. 

 

The integral part of a roleplaying game you're alluding to is not to choose your race, but to choose your character, and if that choice does not matter beyond the statistics, if it is just a reskin of a human, narratively speaking, then it is a moot choice, roleplaying-wise. Race matters. But not just because it's just another mechanical choice, it matters in the narrative, or should matter, at least.

 

I appreciate much of what PoE tried to do, making distinct cultures, but in doing so, it seems to have purposefully largely ignored the racial or ethnic factors. I'm completely onboard with throwing the old "All elves are this, and they're exactly like this, and they're a culturally distinct and largely culturally homogeneous people that revolve around tropes A, B, and C." I get that. I like that.

 

But like I said earlier, one thing does not exclude the other. You can have both interesting and distinct races or species that interact in a variety of ways. What we have now feels more like exactly what I said before, except replace "Elves" with any of the major cultures, and randomly switch the races of character's around. Hyperbole, maybe; there are *some* situations where the issue of race does boil up (Orlans, when it's convenient, comes to mind). But by and large.

 

I do hope that both the races and cultures become increasingly distinct in future instalments, as time passes. The sheer degree of multiracialism exhibited by the various cultures is rather jarring, honestly. Or at least tends to be, at times. It's like some global hippie commune playing out in an otherwise grim world of relatively selfish groups seeing to their own interests in every way, except, for some reason, ethnically.

 

Even the long-standing issue of orlan slavery and them being considered lesser beings by many is somehow lost in all of this. On the Free Palatinate of Dyrwood has been said that "Although slavery is no longer legal in the Dyrwood, many Glanfathan orlans and a few elves still work/serve in a state that is little better than slavery.". This is a potential source of very real racial tension, and the Dyrwood only recently left the practice of slavery behind, yet this comes across.. not at all.

 

At least the Glanfathan tribes appears to be split up somewhat along racial lines, which is interesting, and makes sense, especially since races can't produce offspring. The northernmost Glanfathan tribes (or a Glanfathan tribe, I forget which) up towards White March supposedly consists of dwarves, and I think that the Fisher Crane tribe was mostly Orlans (but I can be mistaken). This makes sense, making the tribes migratory "nations" or states within a loose federation of sorts. That's interesting to me.

 

Hopefully we'll just see the races more fleshed out in the future, instead of being "human reskins", which is ultimately what I think was trying to be avoided; the trope of all dwarves being drunk scotsmen that enjoys holes in the ground. But I think they shyed away from racial characteristics on the personal/inner attributes level far too much. Their instincts or racial characteristics needs to be enhanced in the narrative, if not so much as to override the individual characters.


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Aedyr interests me because it seems like a culture where they're willing to explore it's multiracial nature, and the consequences of the differing lifespans, for example.

 

Though generally I feel that a big problem with making the cultures more interesting than the races is that the main two cultures in the game are pretty uninteresting.  Dyrwood is just bland, while the Glanfathans mostly just seem like your surly barbarian types.

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Aedyr is interesting as it is the colonizing nation of Eora.  Walk into an area wipe out or enslave the natives, rinse and repeat.  Dyrwood decided to rebel and kicked the top brass out.   :) Sound familiar to anyone?

Edited by Nakia

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