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Critiquing The EEs: A Pure Story Perspective 1/6

shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
Since so much has been written about BG2:EE's poor technical state (almost 400 confirmed bugs at last count), I'd like to shift the focus away from that and look at Beamdog's contribution to the games purely on the creative level, figure out what works and what doesn't, and maybe generate some discussion about that.

To do that, I'd like to talk about Rasaad yn Bashir, Neera, Dorn il-Khan, Baeloth Barrityll, Hexxat and Wilson as characters, as storylines, and try to highlight problem spots that - much like gameplay bugs - could potentially be smoothed over and patched.

For this particular installment, we'll be talking about:

Dorn il-Khan

Of the four main additions to the cast (Baeloth and Wilson are, after all, easter eggs), Dorn is, at a glance, the simplest to understand.

What we need to recall, prior to his introduction, is that BG has a very curious approach to representing alignment in-game. On the one hand, the player is almost always penalized for choosing Evil actions over Good: you'll get less XP, less gold, less rewards. This would seem to suggest that the game is not-so-subtly steering you away from actually RPing an Evil character... except that the Evil NPCs are (with some exceptions) among the most powerful ones you'll find. No arcane caster, not even the PC, can match Edwin's Red Wizard bonuses; no cleric has Viconia's high dexterity and innate magic resistance; Shar-Teel can be automatically dual-classed into a very dangerous thief; Korgan's physical strength is exceeded only by Sarevok in ToB.

But while you have more than enough characters for a full party in BG1, BG2 reduces you to three characters in SoA and one more in ToB. And then we have Dorn. Mechanically, it's clear that he's meant to serve as a champion in the mold of Ajantis, Keldorn and Minsc; and, in keeping with the BG tradition, he's far more powerful than his Good counterparts: he can poison greatswords, debuff enemies, drain health... all that and the 19 STR of a half-orc to boot, plus the immunities of the new blackguard kit.

Dorn's introduction in BG1 is a clever bit of misdirection, because your first assumption is that he's just like any other NPC: you find him, you talk to him, you recruit him. But Dorn is in the middle of his own quest, and won't give you the time of day. (He's also voiced by Gord Marriott, who, it must be said, does an absolutely flawless job.)

Now, players may certainly be stumped at this point, since the game doesn't actually provide any hint as to what's meant to happen: a random encounter near Nashkel will reintroduce Dorn properly, and allow you to recruit him. This encounter also sets up Dorn's questline, hunting down a quartet of former companions who left him to die in Luskan.

Here's where we find our first major problem: this encounter allows Dorn to cross two names off his list, cutting his storyline in half before it even begins. Unlike Rasaad and Neera, Dorn's quest doesn't come with any new locations at all: you'll find Kryll in the Gibberling Mountains, and ringleader Simmeon just outside Baldur's Gate. By taking out both Senjak and Dorothea in that first initial encounter, you can't help feeling like the plotline's being fast-tracked.

This sense of "moving too quickly" recurs with the romance subplot - all EE characters can initiate a "prelude" romance that's meant to build into the second game (despite the fact that, at the time of writing, BG2:EE doesn't seem to recognize romance variables set in BG:EE). We should, at this point, recall that a major point of contention with Dorn at the time the character debuted was that he could romance both male and female characters - and while this has spawned long and often-torturous discussions both on this forum and elsewhere, suffice to say that I give Beamdog much credit for taking quite possibly the least-expected - and therefore least-explored - route.

The discrepancy between Dorn, Neera and Rasaad comes up again here, as Dorn's romance concludes on such an abrupt and vague note that many players were left uncertain as to whether they'd actually seen it through to the end. One can, of course, make the argument that Dorn's characterization and the details of his storyline do (and should) set him apart from the conventional approach to romance... but that's probably something that could have been clarified in-game.

Still, for the character that Dorn is designed to be - the one who revels in Evil-with-a-capital-E - it's fair enough to say that he doesn't need pathos or moral ambivalence. Neither does Korgan, after all.

In BG2:EE, after being ordered by his demon patron Ur-Gothoz to pursue more and more dangerous missions, Dorn is approached by a mystery woman named Azothet, who claims she can help him escape his master's chains. One of the nice things about the set-up to this scenario is the player's ability to influence how Dorn carries out Ur-Gothoz's missions: there are several options, meant to conform to the player's own idea of what constitutes Evil. Do you slaughter an entire wedding party, or just take out your target? Do you trick a priest into helping you, or cut him apart? Dorn skirts the edge of being difficult to control, and unlike any other NPC, you can sometimes feel that you have to be careful what you say to him, because the wrong word could cause him to mutiny. Which is, again, perfectly in line with who he is.

Those small choices also play out during the new location assigned to Dorn's quest: Resurrection Gorge. Do you sacrifice a party member to complete a ritual? Do you raise a druid only to cut him down yet again? And then, of course, we get the reveal, and a classic roleplaying choice: do you encourage Dorn to drop his tanar'ri master Ur-Gothoz for the baatezu Azothet, who promises to be a more considerate patron? Do you stick with the demon you know? Or do you take out both would-be patrons, and cause Dorn to lose his blackguard powers altogether?

Unfortunately, the build-up to this choice is a bit flawed. While the player is able to openly distrust Azothet at every opportunity, the reality is that you have very little reason to turn on her until she reveals her true form. Even if she is lying about some or all of what she's told Dorn, Ur-Gothoz is comparatively worse in every way.

Fun bit of trivia: the cambions who emerge to aid Simmeon in BG:EE are named "Thralls of Azothet". In other words, Ur-Gothoz's rival was responsible for empowering Dorn's mortal enemy. This feels like information the player (and Dorn) should have been given before reaching the final area of Resurrection Gorge: when you face that choice of binding either Ur-Gothoz or Azothet, you should know that you're choosing between a demon that openly dislikes you and a mystery woman who has, in the very recent past, directly worked against you. Does that affect your choice? It should.

(As an aside: it's very strange that Dorn receives an item reward only if he sides with Ur-Gothoz against Azothet, and yet his default state in ToB is being Azothet's blackguard - surely she would have given him a different item to compensate?)

Dorn's BG2:EE romance may be abbreviated in comparison to, say, Viconia, but it manages to do a few interesting things that are unique even when taken in the context of BioWare's present-day efforts. There's a whole separate discussion to be had regarding the awful way BG2 originally handled the female love interests - you have to refuse intimacy with Aerie when the subject first comes up in order to continue the romance, and she'll get pregnant the first time you do it; Viconia is on the other end of the spectrum, with some very awkward faux-dominatrix nonsense (and you can, of course, reach such heights of sexual gratification that her alignment changes).

Dorn follows a much less complicated route: he likes sex, and given the life he leads, he'll take his kicks where he can get them. This leads to an amusingly twisted take on Aerie's romance, with an impromptu wedding ceremony that involves bloodletting and promises of divine power. Again, it's not deep, but it's as crazy and over the top as an Evil romance should be.

The wheels come off in ToB, though, for two reasons. While Dorn's quest in Lunia is indeed epic, and again gives the player some interesting choices when it comes to the Scroll of Retribution, a problem emerges with the blackguard-exclusive sidequest to corrupt the Holy Tree. Namely, it contradicts the conclusion of the Resurrection Gorge quest. No matter which patron you choose, that patron will claim that Dorn is too valuable an agent to throw away on pointless suicide missions. And yet both Ur-Gothoz and Azothet will order Dorn to defile a tree in Lunia itself, surrounded by planetars and silver dragons and whatnot, for absolutely no reason. There's no explanation, there's no profit or gain, it's back to where the character began with "Do this thing because I told you to".

The second - and arguably most problematic - issue for Dorn in ToB is his epilogues. Both the default and romanced endings are perfectly logical extrapolations of his characterization: on his own, he pays the price for his many, many crimes; a romance may start out with the PC and Dorn as partners-in-crime, but it's an inherently unstable pairing that inevitably ends badly. So far, so good, despite the fact that Mercy Whitedove should have been introduced at some point in Dorn's storyline, if only to foreshadow where they're heading. The name will mean absolutely nothing to anyone who doesn't play the Black Pits.

The trouble is this: ToB is designed in such a way that if a character chooses to become a god at the very end, the epilogue for their love interest defaults to the non-romanced epilogue. So if you have a child with Aerie, and then choose ascension, her ending won't mention the baby at all. And if you romance Dorn, and explicitly promise to share power with him... he still ends up with the default ending. I don't know if this is a technical limitation, but it's a false choice in which the player is led to believe they're selecting a specific course of action, when in fact all roads lead to one outcome. And this won't be the first time that particular mistake comes up with the EEs.

The same becomes retrospectively true of Dorn's SoA quest: he gets the same ending whether he's a blackguard or free of his patrons. Why, then, would players choose to free him at all, given that it amounts to a net loss (Dorn loses his blackguard powers, the Tree sidequest and any blackguard-specific equipment that may be lying around)? What's the point of offering us a choice if nothing we choose makes a difference? It's baffling that this is the case, given how many smaller choices are woven into Dorn's storyline from the word go, all the different things you can do to complete his objectives.

Still, while the unsatisfying conclusion detracts from Dorn's appeal on the whole, the character still has a lot going for him: a dynamic storyline, top-notch voice acting, an impressive array of abilities, and some very entertaining exchanges with original and EE characters (Dorn, Sarevok and Korgan vowing to lay waste to the next tavern they visit is the sort of thing that makes Baldur's Gate great).

Next time, I'll tackle undoubtedly the most controversial character in the Enhanced Editions: the vampire thief Hexxat.

Post edited by shawne on
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Comments

  • DazzuDazzu Member Posts: 946
    You can have multiple epilogues.

    Some mod NPCs have more than 2. I think Saerileth has different epilogues where the only thing changed is the number of children she pops out... and their genders.

  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
    Dazzu said:

    You can have multiple epilogues.

    Some mod NPCs have more than 2. I think Saerileth has different epilogues where the only thing changed is the number of children she pops out... and their genders.

    I'd rather leave mods out of the discussion, but if that's possible, then nowhere would it have been more appropriate than for Dorn, given that he can end the game in one of four possible states: blackguard, fallen blackguard, romance, romance + ascension.

  • LiamEslerLiamEsler Member Posts: 1,859
    Thank you. More of this, please lovely forumites!

    elminsterlolienchickenhed
  • Glam_VrockGlam_Vrock Member Posts: 277
    BALDUR'S GATE - I think the dialogue's looping.
    image

    BG2:SOA - Haven't we had this conversation?
    image

    BG2:TOB - I knew it!
    image

    SethDavisbooinyoureyesCrevsDaakElrandir
  • JaceJace Member Posts: 193
    I really love your analysis on Dorn.

    I'd like to say that I absolutely love Dorn's implementation in BG:EE. I was personally never bothered by the fact that, as you say, half of his story is cut short the moment you recruit. I liked how some conversations with him can go the wrong way. I really appreciated the fact that he doesn't monopolize any new areas, like Neera and Rasaad do. Instead, his little quest simply moves on as you explore areas that you would explore anyway even if you didn't have him in party. Plus, he is a very strong NPC. His class and stat allocation offer a very compelling reason to recruit him.

    In BG2:EE, his romance was a bit weird, but what was really disappointing for me personally in BG2:EE was what I'd like to call "The Resurrection Gorge fiasco". I went there, excited with the notion of having a patron-free Dorn, since all my main characters value freedom over anything else. However, if you even dare make him patron-free, you'll feel the stupidity of your action every time you notice that you have no permanent immunities to fear and level drain, no cleric spells, no poisoning weapons, no nothing except a lousy sword that is not necessarily better than other weapons you can find. You sacrifice so many benefits yet the game NEVER makes it up with some extra side-benefits for championing his freedom. I like roleplay decisions where you may not get a good reward, or any reward whatsoever, but this roleplay decision where you lose substantial irreplaceable benefits was simply a big fat FAIL.

    shawne
  • JaceJace Member Posts: 193
    @LiamEsler I didn't imply that the loss of blackguard powers should come with the acquisition of equally good side benefits, but it is absurd that a power-loving Dorn doesn't try to pursue some other fighting talents to offset the glaring deficiency in power post-freedom. (Why can't he, as you suggested, try to hone his skills to match that of a fighter's, thus allowing him for example to invest more than 2 points in a weapon proficiency?) Dorn, to my mind, isn't someone who would forever be content to be a sub-par fighter in all aspects.

    Your idea of freedom having consequences is good, but in this case, I doubt many people appreciated it the way it was handled.

    shawne
  • recklessheartrecklessheart Member Posts: 692
    @LiamEsler I think, if you value the RPing perspective over the mechanical perspective, there need be no mechanical compensation for what is ultimately the liberation of a character from the chains that bind them: there is a very real consequence to liberation for Dorn, which is a divesting of the powers that make him super-powerful. The fast-track to power, which he chose, binds him in shackles, and to break those shackles will also mean a loss of that power. It's fine: it works for me, and I'm sure for many other players. I, personally, do not like the coddling approach that is taken towards players.

    Some choices are better than others; this is how it is in life, and how I like it in games. For example: romance Viconia, enjoy the RP and the experience and the excellency of the writing, but ultimately by romancing her she will die. I like this: there is no coddling of the player's emotions. Similarly, Dorn's romance ending is great, because he is irreconcilable with anybody who is more powerful than he is who is unwilling to submit their strength to his cause. This. Is. Good!

    Contrarily, something like Mass Effect 3's Genophage questline is truly unsatisfying in a lot of ways: you really -must- cure the Genophage, or so it would seem. If you take the politically manoeuvering route of trying to deceive one side to insinuate yourself with a powerful would-be ally (a legitimate war-time strategy), is it not enough to sacrifice one of your previous companions, Mordin? Nope. At the end-stages of the game you are forced also to kill Wrex, who deus ex machina's your move by finding out what you have done without any real or reproachable explanation, and you lose a ton of war assets that clever immorality suggests you ought to have retained. In this way, you are forced into making a moral or somehow more righteous decision despite the practicality of taking the morally subversive path, because the game 'levels you off' with the other paths: no, there isn't a 'better' option - not at all! If you choose the Salarians, you can't have the Korgan as well, because then the players who didn't choose the Salarians have been somehow wronged. This is something I dislike, because it shows a coddling of some players at the expense of the experience for those of us who enjoys the mistakes and the less-travelled paths as much as the victories and the big heroic moments.

    To conclude my verboseness: don't give the players a happy ending at the expense of showing them a variety of conclusions that reverberate with themselves - and the world - in a suitable way.

    To @shawne I will say that I really really enjoyed this post. It is interesting, engaging, and shows that you infer your own ideas from the given dialogue that enrich your understanding of the dialogue given, just as I like to do with RPGs. It's great. I am very eager to see what you do with Hexxat in your next post (but only because I have the capacity to be just as malicious as Dorn). ^^

    (Apologies if this post seems in any sense self-righteous or lecturing: I have had some Malbec and plenty of Vodka tonics!)

    elminstershawne
  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
    edited September 2014
    @Jace: I tend to agree with @recklessheart and @LiamEsler in that the whole point of the Gorge scenario is to weigh power versus freedom - Dorn should be substantially weaker as a result of losing both his potential patrons, and you should be reminded of the consequences of that exchange frequently. (Besides, there are more than enough magic items by late SoA/ToB to compensate, at least to some extent.)

    In my opinion, the most gratifying reward a player could receive for freeing Dorn is simply this: he should survive in his epilogue, where a blackguard Dorn dies. That's the prize you would earn for taking a depowered Dorn through the end of ToB, essentially proving that freedom is more important than power.

    @recklessheart: Regarding the genophage scenario, I should point out that screwing the krogan over actually becomes a much more appealing option if Wrex died on Virmire, because then you have to deal with Urdnot Wreav, who really isn't the sort of person you'd want to empower any further. More to the point, you actually can fool Wreav and get both krogan and salarian support, and save Mordin in the process; the reason that doesn't work with Wrex is simply because Wrex is smarter.

    Post edited by shawne on
    elminsterSophiaEmpyrial
  • JaceJace Member Posts: 193
    I value roleplay and mechanical perspective equally, so it bothers me a lot.

    Dorn should be substantially weaker than before, but he should not in my opinion stand there and be like "Oh, I'm noticeably weaker than pretty much any acceptable warrior we can recruit, but that's just fine, who cares?". That's simply not how I visualize him. Perhaps with a lot of effort from his part he can become some sort of bastardized fighter class who can only invest in up to 3 pips or something. Still not as good as a real fighter, but it's something that would make sense to me.

    @shawne The potential for him to survive in his epilogue is of no interest to me because I can't actively play his epilogue. Reading it has a lot less emotional attachment than living it.

    However, what could work is that if you keep him as a blackguard, you are constantly besieged by events that threaten his life. Those events become increasingly difficult to handle, to the point keeping him alive is a race against the odds, so big chances are that, eventually, he will be killed permanently. But, if you liberate him, you don't have to deal with those dangerous events, so his survival is guaranteed. Perhaps a liberated Dorn can also experience an event that makes him more appreciative of his freedom. As a result, you get to play and live the consequences, instead of reading them in an epilogue and feeling good/bad/indifferent about it.

    Ardanis
  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
    @Jace: You can't really say you value roleplay and mechanical perspective equally, and then dismiss epilogues because you can't actively play them. Your objection here is gameplay-based, and that's fine - just call it what it is.

    The problem I have with the scenario you're proposing is that you're basically describing Dorn's status quo at the start of his storyline - Ur-Gothoz is sending him on suicide missions, Dorn wants them to stop, Azothet offers him a way out. The only reason Dorn is still willing to entertain the possibility of keeping one or the other as a patron at the Gorge is because they both promise to take better care of him in the future (and Azothet, at least, is bound by her word as a baatezu - she couldn't break that promise even if she wanted to). Why go through all that if Dorn just ends up looping back to his initial circumstances?

    elminsterjackjack
  • JaceJace Member Posts: 193
    @shawne Perhaps the loop back to initial circumstances is not due to his patrons sending him back to suicide missions, but due to other conditions outside the incentives or intrigues of his patrons. Perhaps... he is hunted simply for what he is. I know, it's very vague and generic because I can't think if anything extremely creative. (This could be an opportunity to introduce into gameplay this mentioned-out-of-nowhere Mercy Whitedove for people who didn't play the Black Pits.)

  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
    edited September 2014
    Jace said:

    @shawne Perhaps the loop back to initial circumstances is not due to his patrons sending him back to suicide missions, but due to other conditions outside the incentives or intrigues of his patrons. Perhaps... he is hunted simply for what he is. I know, it's very vague and generic because I can't think if anything extremely creative. (This could be an opportunity to introduce into gameplay this mentioned-out-of-nowhere Mercy Whitedove for people who didn't play the Black Pits.)

    That's precisely what triggers the ToB quest, though; he's targeted by the Lunia Planetar regardless of his patron's will. The difference is that Azothet/Ur-Gothoz will make additional demands of their blackguard while you're there, whereas the freed Dorn doesn't have to take that additional risk for no reward.

    I do agree with you, though, that Mercy Whitedove absolutely needs to be introduced in the main game - her role in deciding Dorn's fate comes across as completely random otherwise.

    In fact, I'd go as far as suggesting that she should be present either at the wedding or at Terpfen's Helmite Camp, and turn up again with the Planetar in ToB. Non-BP players need to see her, and know who she is, for the epilogue to really sink in. @LiamEsler, to your attention. :)

  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
    @bengoshi: I'm not going to debate the necessity of criticism with you, but I will ask for you not to derail this thread with irrelevant comments. If you want to express blind support rather than engage in critical discussion, kindly find another thread (or start one of your own) for that.

    elminster
  • elminsterelminster Member, Developer Posts: 16,162
    bengoshi said:

    It's quite telling that while there're 14 reactions to the OP, there's no agree...yet.

    I don't want to criticize Beamdog. And everytime a critical post emerges, I try to find some words of support for the Devs.

    They've released 2 games that have revived the overall attention to BG and made them available for tablets. This is the main thing.

    All the bugs will be fixed in time. And one day these games will be fluent. If comparing 2 situations:
    A) No BGEE is released and old fans play the vanilla game with mods
    B) BGEE is released and has bugs
    - I would wholeheartedly choose the second. The interest to the series, to the IE games in general BGEE has brought, to me, more than makes up for any bugs in BGEE no matter how long it takes to fix them.

    Graphics, UI, kits, tablet-compability - these things and in this order are the heavyweights for me from the EEs. And new NPCs come only afterwards.

    The fact that he has no agrees doesn't mean that people don't at least agree with some of what he has written. Anyways, I don't really see how mentioning this is in any way is helpful to the conversation either way.

    The thread is about the new NPC's (Dorn in this case) on a creative level. Lets leave the discussion for bugs/other features/the benefits of the EE for another thread (because there are many of those to choose from).

    lolien
  • trinittrinit Member Posts: 683
    edited September 2014
    good analysis. i ranted here before but i will repeat i miss more content, interjections and talks with dorn, especially in the TOB, which was almost insubstantial.

    while i don't necessarily agree dorn needs to be mechanically compensated for the loss of his blackguard powers (although @Jace makes some fair points), i think @shawne has it right- from a RP perspective, epilogue survival as a reward for free Dorn would be appropriate and in character, since in the current state the whole resurrection gorge choice seems a bit inconsequential in the long run. after all, you endure gimped a massive chunk of the game and gameplay to be rewarded with a few lines of text in the end, tradition fit for roleplaying and infinity engine tradition.
    not to mention the inexplicable absence of power-sharing epilogue if you choose that route, and more than 2 epilogues are not impossibility, rassad certainly has them.

    btw, here is one of my favourite parts of TOB, showing that dorn is learning from example, can bend a (tiny) bit, and what could have been flavour difference between free and blackguard dorn. also maybe relevant to the screenshots above...

    image


    edit: and yes please, at least make a reference to mercy whitedove in tob or soa. until reading this thread i had no clue she is in the game and just thought she is some random/whatever paladin. not all of us play black pits.

    shawne
  • Glam_VrockGlam_Vrock Member Posts: 277
    I don't think it's praiseworthy when a character only considers growing a second dimension halfway into the final chapter.

    They also spelled "loath" wrong.

  • EmpyrialEmpyrial Member Posts: 107
    I've said it before in other threads, but I felt like BG1 Dorn was executed better than BG2 Dorn. I never felt like BG1 Dorn's quest was rushed and I liked how his targets were popped into existing areas instead of having their own zones.

    It always struck me as weird that Charname can fail to steal a pocketful of change and have an entire tavern out for his blood, but Dorn can just stand there in the city. I would've imagined his other suicide missions would have left him with a worse off reputation to the point that standing near the Radiant Heart's HQ would be a bad idea.

    One thing I'm torn on about the Resurrection Gorge quest is that everything there can be simplified with murder. Murder Yarrow, murder the nymph, murder the fairy dragon, murder the demon - everything's faster and easier when you just stab it to death. I think, in some ways, this is a good reflection of Dorn's mentality but there's next to no incentive to do anything but mindlessly stab your way through.

    shawne
  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
    edited September 2014
    @Empyrial: I'd argue that the "murder everything" option in the Gorge is simply an extension of the way the player's relationship with Dorn can develop: both the wedding and the Helmite Camp missions are designed with possible solutions that either curb or indulge Dorn's violent tendencies, depending on how the player interprets their own Evil roleplay. Sure, you can purge the Gorge of every living thing, but you can also use some finesse and fast-talking to highlight different styles of Evil.

    EmpyrialAyiekie
  • PeccaPecca Member Posts: 1,989
    My problem with Dorn is that he is pretty exclusive to evil parties. I never play evil parties, mostly neutral, where I can pick any original evil NPC, which works with my neutral approach just fine. But not Dorn. So the whole lot of new content is just locked out from me.

    shawne
  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239
    @Pecca: I can understand that perspective, though to be frank, Evil parties got the short end of the stick for fifteen years - I can't begrudge a single NPC designed exclusively for that purpose. :)

  • JaceJace Member Posts: 193
    Empyrial said:

    I've said it before in other threads, but I felt like BG1 Dorn was executed better than BG2 Dorn. I never felt like BG1 Dorn's quest was rushed and I liked how his targets were popped into existing areas instead of having their own zones.

    I can't stress this enough. BG1 Dorn blends very well. If he was less talkative and didn't have a different style portrait, you would almost think he was an original NPC from vanilla.

  • PeccaPecca Member Posts: 1,989
    Well, there are two of them, although Hexxat isn't to such an extent for me. Still, I would appreciate them to be more universal.

  • EmpyrialEmpyrial Member Posts: 107
    @shawne‌ Oh I know you can deal with the problems a variety of ways, I just mean that "murder everything" is the simplest method in that place. Most of the enemies are fairly weak, so why bother trying to trick the crazy nymph when you can just cut her down quickly. I would've liked to see the fast talking provide some sort of better incentive.

    shawne
  • GallowglassGallowglass Member Posts: 3,356
    Interesting analysis, @shawne. I even agree with most of it.

    Like some others above, I thought Dorn's quest in BG1ee was woven in pretty seamlessly, but he seemed to me less credible in BG2ee, and this got worse as the questline progressed. There's definitely a huge creative hole when we get the choice at the end of Resurrection Gorge - there needs to be some point to Dorn's "freedom", it should mean either that he becomes free to do something which he was prevented from doing as a Blackguard, or that he becomes free from something undesirable which would otherwise happen to him, but the game doesn't currently show us any such practical meaning to his "freedom": the consequences of this freedom are nothing but negative, so we're left wondering why he wants it and what it's supposed to mean to him.

    One very logical solution to the problem would have been a scenario in which a "freed" Dorn could re-think his alignment, which would have given his freedom a purpose. Unfortunately, of course, we've already got two other Evil characters who can be redeemed, so I'm sure that the devs thought (correctly!) "Oh no, we can't do that again!", even though it might actually have made more sense in Dorn's circumstances than in the pre-existing cases.

    Another way to give some practical purpose to the "freedom" option would be an additional section of quest which is only accessible if Dorn has given up his Blackguard status. Since we meet Bollard Firejaw again in Lunia during Dorn's ToB quest (i.e the guy who was Dorn's assassination target in his first BG2ee quest episode back in SoA), and since that encounter doesn't currently seem to serve any purpose in the Lunia quest, that'd be a handy branching-point at which something different could happen if Dorn is no longer a Blackguard by this second meeting.

    A more radical way of showing a practical change from Dorn's freedom would be a change of class, starting a new career instead of remaining a "Fallen Blackguard". It's already been suggested above that maybe the freed Dorn could become more like a Fighter (and @LiamEsler‌ seemed to confirm that the devs are considering something of that sort), but how about this instead: after Dorn comments that he has lost his special powers, he could say "Hrmm. My vengeance upon my betrayers was completed back in Baldur's Gate, and now my pact with Ur-Gothoz is also ended. Suddenly I am without a purpose, but there is much in my recent ... experiences ... which could be instructive for others. What say you, [Charname]: should I now ... teach what I have learned?". [Charname]'s reply options would then include a one-off option to convert Dorn to a Fighter/Cleric (and to re-assign his proficiencies, since he'd now be restricted to blunt weapons). His stats are already viable for a F/C. The XP of a level 13 Blackguard (which is what he was at the end of Resurrection Gorge when I last took him along) would convert to a level 11/11 F/C, which seems fine to me. And this would add interesting new possibilities to the available choices when building an Evil party.

    FinneousPJ
  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239

    One very logical solution to the problem would have been a scenario in which a "freed" Dorn could re-think his alignment, which would have given his freedom a purpose. Unfortunately, of course, we've already got two other Evil characters who can be redeemed, so I'm sure that the devs thought (correctly!) "Oh no, we can't do that again!", even though it might actually have made more sense in Dorn's circumstances than in the pre-existing cases.

    Dorn's alignment has nothing to do with his class, though. The events at Barrow happened before he became a blackguard; likewise, his pursuit of freedom is motivated by nothing more than self-preservation. There's no cause for the kind of introspection that would precede an alignment shift.

    Another way to give some practical purpose to the "freedom" option would be an additional section of quest which is only accessible if Dorn has given up his Blackguard status. Since we meet Bollard Firejaw again in Lunia during Dorn's ToB quest (i.e the guy who was Dorn's assassination target in his first BG2ee quest episode back in SoA), and since that encounter doesn't currently seem to serve any purpose in the Lunia quest, that'd be a handy branching-point at which something different could happen if Dorn is no longer a Blackguard by this second meeting.

    The thing about Lunia which I didn't really go into is that it doesn't have much to do with Dorn's current status, but rather his past actions. The quest makes sense even if Dorn isn't a blackguard anymore, because all those people he murdered are still dead. So I can't think of a scenario that would only suit a free Dorn in that context... but some acknowledgement of his freedom probably would be appropriate.

    A more radical way of showing a practical change from Dorn's freedom would be a change of class, starting a new career instead of remaining a "Fallen Blackguard". It's already been suggested above that maybe the freed Dorn could become more like a Fighter (and @LiamEsler‌ seemed to confirm that the devs are considering something of that sort), but how about this instead: after Dorn comments that he has lost his special powers, he could say "Hrmm. My vengeance upon my betrayers was completed back in Baldur's Gate, and now my pact with Ur-Gothoz is also ended. Suddenly I am without a purpose, but there is much in my recent ... experiences ... which could be instructive for others. What say you, [Charname]: should I now ... teach what I have learned?". [Charname]'s reply options would then include a one-off option to convert Dorn to a Fighter/Cleric (and to re-assign his proficiencies, since he'd now be restricted to blunt weapons). His stats are already viable for a F/C. The XP of a level 13 Blackguard (which is what he was at the end of Resurrection Gorge when I last took him along) would convert to a level 11/11 F/C, which seems fine to me. And this would add interesting new possibilities to the available choices when building an Evil party.

    And here's where we completely disagree. :)

    As I said before, I absolutely accept LiamEsler's and recklessheart's position that choosing freedom over power means exactly that: Dorn is forfeiting the very things that make him such an impressive party member, for no other reason than to save his own skin. So remaking a free Dorn in such a way that he has new classes/skills seems, to me, to miss the entire thematic thrust of his storyline: the loss of power is a penalty, not an opportunity to advance in a different direction. (Besides, it's not like there aren't enough magic items in the game to at least compensate for the lost blackguard immunities, and Dorn still gets paladin HLAs - he's not totally useless if he's freed.)

    This is a decision you would make only for story/RP reasons, as a powergamer would never give up power. So the reward must also be story/RP, not gameplay-related.

  • GallowglassGallowglass Member Posts: 3,356
    edited September 2014
    shawne said:

    Dorn's alignment has nothing to do with his class, though. The events at Barrow happened before he became a blackguard; likewise, his pursuit of freedom is motivated by nothing more than self-preservation. There's no cause for the kind of introspection that would precede an alignment shift.

    I disagree, I think the loss of his patron and powers could have been presented as a credible reason for Dorn to stop and think "This is where my Evil path has led, and I don't like the outcome ... maybe there's a better way". There's more to work with, in terms of writing a credible scenario for such introspection, than there was in the case of Viconia's alignment shift, yet the latter was included. It'd be somewhat analogous to Anomen's alignment shift, who either succeeds or fails in his life's major goal (i.e. being accepted into the Order) and adjusts his alignment to suit the new path his subsequent life will consequently take ... if Dorn has just "failed" as a Blackguard, being which had been the defining feature of his recent life, he knows things will now be different (and indeed he wanted something different), so he might well ask himself "Where shall I go from here?"

    Nevertheless, although I think it could make sense in isolation, I don't think there's room for yet another Evil-character-redeemed storyline when we've already got that option for Viconia and Sarevok.

    (Tangentially, I reckon the new NPC whose storyline most strongly cries out for an alignment-change option is Rasaad, and we don't already have a Good-character-turned-Neutral story, so there'd be room for it ... but your critique hasn't got to Rasaad yet, so we can discuss that later.)
    shawne said:

    The thing about Lunia which I didn't really go into is that it doesn't have much to do with Dorn's current status, but rather his past actions. The quest makes sense even if Dorn isn't a blackguard anymore, because all those people he murdered are still dead. So I can't think of a scenario that would only suit a free Dorn in that context... but some acknowledgement of his freedom probably would be appropriate.

    Agreed, although the Lunia quest makes most sense if Dorn is still a Blackguard. I think it'd be ideal if the entire Lunia episode were replaced by something different if Dorn becomes free, but obviously that'd require an unfeasible amount of new development, which is why I suggest the more modest possibility of a branch-point at the reunion with Bollard. I agree that it's tricky to invent a wholly credible free-Dorn-only insertion at that stage ... but a starting point could be Bollard recognising that Dorn murdered him under compulsion and didn't particularly want to do it, so he could offer Dorn a redemptive task, as an alternative way to get himself (and the protagonist) removed from the Scroll of Retribution instead of the violent method in the current scenario.
    shawne said:

    As I said before, I absolutely accept LiamEsler's and recklessheart's position that choosing freedom over power means exactly that: Dorn is forfeiting the very things that make him such an impressive party member, for no other reason than to save his own skin. So remaking a free Dorn in such a way that he has new classes/skills seems, to me, to miss the entire thematic thrust of his storyline: the loss of power is a penalty, not an opportunity to advance in a different direction.

    This doesn't work in story terms because he isn't doing it "to save his own skin" - his skin is in no less (or more) danger whichever choice he makes, because the subsequent events are all the same regardless. Dorn has earlier dialogue expressing dissatisfaction with his recent missions for Ur-Gothoz, but by the time he gets the choice to "free" himself, he's already had to complete all those missions regardless, so the choice is too late to avoid whatever he doesn't like doing.

    Furthermore, I contend that it's a false dichotomy: Dorn's "freedom" doesn't currently mean anything, so he's merely choosing "keep power" or "give up power for ... er ... nothing", which is no real choice even from a purely roleplaying perspective. (Indeed, to the extent that having more power must give him more control over the outcomes in his life, since that's what "power" really means, it could therefore be argued that Dorn's "freedom" option currently makes him slightly less "free" than keeping his powers.) His freedom needs to have some actual consequences for the choice to become real.

    People seek freedom for practical reasons, not merely as a philosophical construct: they want freedom to do something or freedom from something, and the game isn't currently offering Dorn any such practical benefit of freedom. Freedom is valuable precisely because it offers manifold additional choices in the pursuit of happiness, but Dorn isn't currently getting any new choices at all by "freeing" himself, so in what sense can he really be said to have become "free"? As it stands, it's a wholly negative decision to rid himself of a patron, and there's no roleplaying reason (let alone a powergaming reason, obviously) for him to do it - accepting the current "freedom" option isn't playing a role, it's merely making a serious blunder.

    To give Dorn a roleplaying reason to seek his freedom, the game needs to give him some meaningful choice, some expression of his freedom, in return: "I want to be free of my patron because then I could ... " or "I want to be free of my patron to avoid ... ". "Freedom" which cannot be expressed in any practical manner is not really freedom at all. All of us can be free inside our own minds (which is why the pursuit of happiness is indeed inalienable, unlike life and liberty), but we only call it "freedom" when we're allowed to make practical decisions. Since party members are actually controlled by the player, the only way the devs can emulate Dorn's "freedom" is to implement a significant new choice (such as a different storyline or a different character development) which becomes available only after the player has chosen the "freedom" option.

    I'd agree that a significantly different storyline for a freed Dorn would be the ideal solution in creative terms, but that'd require a lot of development resources, so it's probably not feasible. Therefore a significantly different character development seems the more plausible suggestion, because that's much easier to implement. My suggestion about a class change option is merely one idea for a dramatic new choice which he could be offered, and avoids the dull solution of yet another alignment change option. Obviously there are other ways of giving his "freedom" some meaning ... but there has to be some such meaning or removing his patron will remain pointless.
    shawne said:

    This is a decision you would make only for story/RP reasons, as a powergamer would never give up power. So the reward must also be story/RP, not gameplay-related.

    Okay, I get that it's primarily a story/RP issue, but at the moment I don't think there's even a story/RP reason, because his "freedom" doesn't actually yield any practical freedom unless he's given some sort of consequent choice which will affect his future. However, I wouldn't agree that a story/RP reason must necessarily exclude any effect on gameplay, they don't have to be mutually exclusive: a class change (for example) would be a substantial story/RP consequence as well as changing the gameplay of the character.

    ArdanisJacechickenhed
  • shawneshawne Member Posts: 3,239

    This doesn't work in story terms because he isn't doing it "to save his own skin" - his skin is in no less (or more) danger whichever choice he makes, because the subsequent events are all the same regardless.

    On the contrary: the clear implication is that if Dorn does not go to the Gorge, Ur-Gothoz will continue sending him on increasingly dangerous missions until he is killed. That is the freedom Dorn seeks; the only reason Azothet seems like an acceptable alternative patron when she reveals herself is because she explicitly says she'll take better care of him. (Conversely, Ur-Gothoz will reassess Dorn's value as an agent if that agent defeats his longtime nemesis.)

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