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Messier-31

Races of Eora: conclusions and speculations

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"Eternity's world contains some isolated races and ethnicities, but transoceanic exploration and cultural cohabitation have heavily mixed many racial and ethnic groups over time. This mixing is not always... peaceful. At times it has degenerated into genocide and long-standing prejudices are ingrained in many cultures."

 

Game Basics - Your Party, Your Characters, and Races, Update #3

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/obsidian/project-eternity/posts/310512

 

Howyadoin?

 

Been ponderin about this and here are some things I'd like to nudge:

  • are races of Eora meaningful, do they matter?
  • is there more than just racial bonuses while being of a different race?
  • story-wise couldn't all of Eora's people just be humans?

As you can see in the abovementioned quote from the Kickstarter update: races and cultures are heavily mixed in the setting, which is OK with the Eternity world itself. The next part of this quote says about prejudice and differences between as the outcome of such a process - but is it really what we see in-game?

 

At times I think all of those characters in the first game could've been just humans - all of them. These characters happen to be so interchangable that it makes no difference is the bloke you're talking to is a dwarf or a human. Let me give you some examples:

 

  1. Reyfald is the clerk of the local fishery in Stalwart. He can be found standing outside of The Gréf's Rest in Stalwart and gives you the quest "A Lovely Drop". Problem is, that he's a wood elf. Tell whatever you want, but his story and demeanor are of a typical hillbilly human havin a beer and puttin a steak on the barbie, not an elf. On a side note, it is strange to see elven woodcutters chopping wood in the neighbouring area.
  2. Sleafhota is a Glanfathan hunter. He can be found blocking the main entrance to the Clîaban Rilag ruins. Dunno bout you but I thought that Glanfathans are elves and orlans (with some dwarves at the side in a form of Ethik Nol). Why would a meadow folk would be one of the facepainters? Is there any foreignness left in these lands?
  3. Tuatanu is a smith who resides in Gilded Vale. He is the owner of Black Hammer Smithy and provides the player with the quest "The Smith's Shipment". This guy's an aumaua - whyyyyyyy? He could've easiby been a dwarf or an orlan and no-one would budge an eye. Or leave him an aumaua, but for crying out loud, his presence in GV is uncommon! Say something about it.
  4. Many backer created golden NPC's are godlikes. Yes, this is crazy-backer fault, not Obsidians, but why not give a few lines to the NPC's stating that it is unusual to see so many of them recently. Their presence goes completely unnoticed, and the only good thing about them is the fact that they are filling the empty city of Defiance Bay a little (which is another complaint for another topic).

You get the picture? My issue is that these characters might have been anybody (anyrace) and there would be no difference whatsoever.

 

Probably some of you might say that I'm talking stereotypes, or overreacting about these things, but tell me - why there would be so many different races if they are so easily interchangable? Just make all of them humans and you will barely see the difference. In my opinion races should differ more. I like the idea of mixing cultures (the uneasy human/elf relations in the Aedyr, the Heamneg is an interesting concept for this setting) but somehow they all seem to be a homogeneous society, which they aren't. There are some issues with orlans being frowned upon and slavers favourite race, but that's mostly it.

 

I would like to see this improved in the Deadfire, and we have a good opportunity: the Huana are mostly aumaua, so maybe this could be a foothold? Throw in some tension between aumaua and other kith inhabitanats or foreigners. They are tall, they have sharp teeth, make someone feel uncomfortable when talking to one such character.

 

Am not being a "racist" here, I just feel that this interesting fantasy world should be more vivid.

 

EDIT P.S. I was positively taken-aback to find out that the dwarves of the Durgan's Battery were only dwarves. Seeing what the developers did to the other regions of their world made me think that we would find humans or aumaua among them. Phew =)

Edited by Messier-31
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It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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As you can see in the abovementioned quote from the Kickstarter update: races and cultures are heavily mixed in the setting, which is OK with the Eternity world itself. The next part of this quote says about prejudice and differences between as the outcome of such a process - but is it really what we see in-game?

 

At times I think all of those characters in the first game could've been just humans - all of them. These characters happen to be so interchangable that it makes no difference is the bloke you're talking to is a dwarf or a human. Let me give you some examples:

 

  1. Reyfald is the clerk of the local fishery in Stalwart. He can be found standing outside of The Gréf's Rest in Stalwart and gives you the quest "A Lovely Drop". Problem is, that he's a wood elf. Tell whatever you want, but his story and demeanor are of a typical hillbilly human, not an elf. On a side note, it is strange to see elven woodcutters chopping wood in the neighbouring area.
  2. Sleafhota is a Glanfathan hunter. He can be found blocking the main entrance to the Clîaban Rilag ruins. Dunno bout you but I thought that Glanfathans are elves and orlans (with some dwarves at the side in a form of Ethik Nol). Why would a meadow folk would be one of the facepainters? Is there any foreignness left in these lands?
  3. Tuatanu is a smith who resides in Gilded Vale. He is the owner of Black Hammer Smithy and provides the player with the quest "The Smith's Shipment". This guy's an aumaua - whyyyyyyy? He could've easiby been a dwarf or an orlan and no-one would budge an eye. Or leave him an aumaua, but for crying out loud, his presence in GV is uncommon! Say something about it.
  4. Many backer created golden NPC's are godlikes. Yes, this is crazy-backer fault, not Obsidians, but why not give a few lines to the NPC's stating that it is unusual to see so many of them recently. Their presence goes completely unnoticed, and the only good thing about them is the fact that they are filling the empty city of Defiance Bay a little (which is another complaint for another topic).

 

A few things: Dyrwood has no shortage of wood elves within it (~30% of its population, actually, according to the guidebook), Glanfathan meadow folk are a minority but they do exist, and the early premise for coming to Gilded Vale in the first place was the invitation that lord Raedric sent out for outside settlers (and Tuatanu could be one himself), which may make it a bit more inured to unusual residents. I'm not even going to try to account for godlike backer characters, but yeah, maybe the game should have.

 

Within Pillars 1 and the setting details in the guidebook, the general emphasis is on national identities, divisions, and conflicts rather than racial ones, the details of Aedyran traditions of human-elf coexistence notwithstanding. The feuds and prejudices that they talk about in the update you quoted are actually rather prominent in the game, but they are directed towards cultures for the most part rather than races. This is intentional and explicitly referenced in the guidebook, which states:

 

Their separating characteristics are more apparent on a cultural level, with racial boundaries presenting neither roadblocks nor advantages in any given dealing between civilized men and women. An elf from one of the Glanfathan tribes, for example, would share more kinship with a dwarf of a neighboring tribe than with an elf from the Aedyran empire.

 

With that in mind, could they have just made all the races different types of humans without changing much regarding how things actually work in the game? For the most part, yes. Orlans could easily have been swapped for human tribes that were pressed into slavery. The Haemneg setup is explicitly based on the inability of humans and elves to interbreed, so that doesn't collapse into intrahuman relations quite so easily, and Pallegina's story wouldn't work at all if godlike weren't in the picture, but aside from that I don't think that much would have meaningfully changed if they had decided that only humans existed in Eora.

 

I don't necessarily think that focusing on cultural identity before racial identity is a bad way to go, and I can appreciate an interest in avoiding more cliched Elfland and Dwarfhome-type setups in terms of developing cultures for the setting. But at the same time, there are certain fundamental differences between races that would likely provoke envy, disgust, and/or hostility and would, therefore, seem worthy of being addressed. The fact that elves live 2-3 times as long as humans in Eora comes to mind, and who knows, maybe a less advertised implication of mountain dwarves' superior immune systems is that they risk spreading diseases that could potentially lay waste to less hardy races (which doesn't really seem to be the case at all, but I find it interesting to consider).

 

The towering, shark-toothed visages of the aumaua that you mention do seem like another such difference that could create conflict or tension, but it's also worth noting that the main factions in the game aside from the Huana consist of the rather cosmopolitan Vailian Trading Company, the Principi (who have been pillaging the Huana for generations and likely have more pressing reasons to hate and be hated by them), and the Royal Deadfire Company, which largely consists of Aumaua as well. With that in mind, conflict at the level of "Ew, Aumaua" might seem more tacked on in the context of this game than it would have in Pillars 1. Huana aversion to non-Aumaua would perhaps be more appropriately emphasized, but it would probably be less blatant for the most part since they don't really seem to be in a position to engage in much open resistance (aside from the die-hards in Prince Aruihi's camp, anyway).

Edited by blotter
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I don't necessarily think that focusing on cultural identity before racial identity is a bad way to go, and I can appreciate an interest in avoiding more cliched Elfland and Dwarfhome-type setups in terms of developing cultures for the setting. But at the same time, there are certain fundamental differences between races that would likely provoke envy, disgust, and/or hostility and would, therefore, seem worthy of being addressed. The fact that elves live 2-3 times as long as humans in Eora comes to mind, and who knows, maybe a less advertised implication of mountain dwarves' superior immune systems is that they risk spreading diseases that could potentially lay waste to less hardy races (which doesn't really seem to be the case at all, but I find it interesting to consider).

 

Why yes, that is one way to put it! There is Maerwith, the elven pirate captain of the Red Dream ("The Wailing Banshee" quest) and she is old enough to remember the War of the Defiance. You meet this woman and everything about her is so "meh". Their natural lifespan is typically 200-310 years, the elves that is, and 110-190 for the dwarves. This could be good enough reason to differentiate the storytelling more. While aumaua have considerably closer lifespans to humans, orlans live the shorterst so this also gives some opportunities.

 

Aptapo immunities are even more promising.

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It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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I think the Dyrwood has been in melting pot mode for some time, so that might be part of the answer. The other is probably that some of these aspects are hard to convey through npcs with only a handful of lines. Pushing it to the forefront might be too on the nose, and if there is anything I hate in rpgs it's one the nose writing.

 

Personally I found Aloth and Kana Rua to be pretty distinct. Non-companion npcs clearly have less time to expound upon themselves, their culture, their racial identity. They most get on with business and do their part for the story.

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Good to know stuff is happening, but this is not only about racism. More of my rambling:

 

Pale elves are in my opinion the best example of foreigness that PoE is lacking. Maybe it is because there are so few pales in the entire game - Freyol, Iqali, Lafda? And the ones in the Noonfrost (Vesgel, Glasvahl and some of their clan-members). And this bunch is more interesting than whole Glanfathan tribes. For me they were almost alien-like, because of their mysterious and kinda cryptic demeanor. Not much is known about them, the goals they try to achieve are strange to you, one has a lot of trouble trying to undestand their motives. Maybe playin as a pale elf yourself gives the player more knowledge (dunno, cos never did), but this encounter stuck in my head - it was unfamiliar and outlandish.

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It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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Culture matters more than race, and it's nice to see this reflected in Eora, considering most fantasy settings tend to view culture and race as the same thing, which is *deeply* problematic. (That's code for "super racist", btw).

 

As a CRPG, though, the racial diversity serves an important purpose here--it allows for greater freedom for role-playing, and also allows the developers to create more visual distinct characters--which is kind of necessary for a top-down party-based game. If everyone were human, it'd be much harder to differentiate Sagani from Eder, for example.

Edited by Arsene Lupin
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I've yet to see a setting where non human races aren't sterotyped and are really different from humans. Whole concept of different races and their stance to each other is seldom explored. One would think that ability to reproduce should be a major factor on shaping society and mono racial communities are logical (easier to find mate). From the other hand there could be a sense of unity in being a kith - an intelligent lifeform that speaks and embraces civilization.

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