You might want to include companion deaths as possible answers on the poll so the blood pool-feeders, players who abided by their deaths in combat, and others among us can denote these outcomes.
My first Deadfire playthrough be with a character who, after killing Raedric VII and seeing the villagers huddling around the tree, grieving over the bodies they had strung up there as though they were victims of an atrocity rather than participants in it or at least passive enablers of it, decided that all them should be put the sword for their spinelessness and hypocrisy. The game would have let me recruit Eder after that like nothing happened, but I just couldn't think of a way in which that would make sense for his character so he had to die with them.
I did choose to feed the souls to Woedica one time out of curiosity in one game before reloading, but I have trouble seeing the motivation for a Watcher to actually do that. Sure, Skaen makes a pitch about getting Thaos' perks as part of the deal (and I couldn't help but think it was a huge missed opportunity not to be able to call out the god of defiance and violent rebellion on his apparent deference to Burned Queen), but considering how we've spent most of the game wrecking or interfering with her/Thaos' plans and so much has been made of her perfect memory and the inevitable retribution that awaits those who transgress against her rule, a last-minute change of heart to empower her seems as likely to leave her better positioned to lop your head off for your trouble as anything else. Especially without any assurances from the goddess herself that your crimes against her faith thus far would be overlooked.
As far as the other choices regarding the Engwithan machine are considered, I actually think returning the souls of the Hollowborn to their bodies seems far more thought-provoking and intriguing in its possibilities and implications than Wael's suggestion to randomly shuffle them off wherever. After all, if the Hollowborn make it back to their bodies, all sorts of questions arise:
- Were the souls conscious within the machine, and if so, how will the decades of bodiless imprisonment shape them? Will they ever be fully connected to their bodies afterward or might they henceforth be prone to drifting away from it at times?
- Will the Hollowborn inherit memories from their bodies as they settle back into them? If so, how many of them will even be able to develop into autonomous beings under the weight of years spent in a passive, unfeeling haze? Even for those who do, how might the experience interfere with their ability to truly understand others or for others to truly understand them?
- Were the souls able to retain identities/definition as individual beings or did they begin to "bleed into" each other as a consequence of being bound together for so long and at such an early stage in their existence? In the latter case, you might be inflicting some Village of the Damned type of scenario on the Dyrwood, where what returns is some creepy, emotionless collective of mind-linked children.
- How reliable is the process of returning the souls to their bodies - especially considering the apparent strain of using the machine and the fact that it's your first time using it this way (or your first time after dozens of lifetimes, I can't remember which)? Are there cases where the souls don't make it to their intended destinations, awkwardly cohabitating bodies with the souls of other Hollowborn, free floating in the air as they dissolve with nothing to anchor them to this world, or twisting into shades as they struggle to sustain themselves without flesh?
- What happens to the vessels which are roving around as Wichts? Do the animal souls, which have had the advantage of being housed in a living body over the course of their development, prove the stronger and devour the newly returned souls of the Hollowborn, do the Hollowborn prevail and subsume/banish the animal souls, do they come to coexist with each other, or is there a combination of all these outcomes overall, varying from individual to individual? All of these results beg all sorts of questions of their own.
And that's without even getting into how the various ways in which their return would impact other Dyrwoodans or to what extent your intentions would mitigate your culpability for any of these outcomes. By contrast, with Wael's option, I'd argue that too little is known to even ask questions aside from very general ones like "where are the souls?", "what are they doing?", and/or "what's happening to them?" It's hard to evaluate or even identify specific possibilities without more details to work with, after all. Furthermore, the number of people who would even know to ask these questions would be limited to you, companions for the final battle (and maybe not even them if they're unable to actually see or make sense of what you've done), and anyone you/your companions choose to tell who believes the story. For everyone else, there's basically no difference between Wael's suggestion, Berath's, or Rymrgand's in terms of the level of mystery involved since, for all they know, the souls of Hollowborn were bound back to the Wheel from day one. Ironically, this seems to be fairly at odds with what the game leads us to believe is his purpose, but I guess calling that into question would actually be considered a perk for him.
In the case of Galawain's proposition for the souls, it's arguably crueler than Rymrgand/Ondra's. In a very real way, what you're doing here is tearing the remains of these children to pieces and force-feeding them to their parents/guardians and siblings, in the case of those children or teenagers who managed to be born before the Legacy or during those brief periods where the Leaden Key lapsed in their operation of the machines long enough for newborn souls to slip through. And that's only when the tasty soul bits you're doling out don't find their way into the bellies of monsters and animals that may end up preying on these same families in turn. On top of that, the Dyrwoodans will likely be unwittingly celebrating your decision to mangle and scatter the souls of their Hollowborn offspring this way for generations to come.
I'd say that perhaps the greatest advantage of Berath's suggestion is that it allows for the possibility of the souls' return in some form without all the uncertainties or potential moral issues of the ones I've discussed above. Granted, there's still plenty of room to question whether it's morally acceptable to send them back to the Wheel without allowing them a chance to experience this life, but that seems like a much more tidy debate than one in which both sides consider the pros and cons of forcing families to cannibalize the souls of their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, or whatever else, for example (with no judgement or condemnation intended against fellow posters, of course). We also don't know what they'd be reborn as or how much of them would carry across from one life to the next, but that's ultimately inevitable in any case where there's enough of the souls left to consider their prospects for their next turn on the Wheel.
Edited by blotter, 27 September 2017 - 10:04 AM.