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Every Spiderweb Character Ranked: Top 10 Most Disputed Characters


Men are from Slars

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Every Spiderweb Character Ranked

Part 1: The Most Disputed Characters

 

More than 200 of the most important and most memorable characters from Spiderweb games were rated, as characters, on a scale of 0-10 by anyone in the community who wished to. Ratings were averaged together to make a list. However, before we reveal the Best and Worst characters, we're going to begin with a different list: the characters whose ratings are most hotly disputed.

 

Some people see something to love and admire in these characters -- and others see something to hate in them.

 

To assemble this list, I combined three metrics.

 

 

1. The average deviation of the ratings for each character. (On average, how far each rating is from the mean rating for that character.)

2. The total range of ratings (i.e., how far apart the lowest and highest rating were).

3. Finally, I eliminated characters that had high numbers above, but whose ratings displayed some pattern other than wide disagreement amongst the community. In particular, if there were numerous very similar ratings with one distant outlier, that doesn't really suggest a broad dispute, but it will make the above metrics shoot up like crazy.

 

 

 

I'll be posting the characters one (or a few) at a time along with in-game quotes and a short write-up. The math is what the math is, but comments, discussion, and debate are encouraged! Tell us what you agree or disagree with and why.

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10. Solberg

Final Rating: 6.1

Range of Scores: 4 to 9

Average Deviation: 1.22

 

"This tower is where I must stay. There is a simple reason. If I leave, I will very likely be assassinated... Don't think I am being paranoid. Hordes of demons orbit this tower, day and night, waiting for me to leave the safety of my wards so that they may devour me."

-- Solberg

 

Solberg is a fitting character to begin with. He's the most consistently prominent character in the Avernum series, appearing in all six games, and with a relatively important role in most of those. In fact, he's appeared in more Spiderweb games than any other regular character.

 

On the plus side, Solberg is a character who changes. On the minus side, Solberg is a character who changes. He appears in different turns fearful and powerful, interconnected and reclusive, rational and crazy. Depending on how you look at him, these aspects may be stitched together into a coherent, paranoid whole -- or they may not be. His character really revolves around his paranoia, for better or for worse, and his behavior has taken several right turns to serve the needs of each game -- particularly in A2, where his area of expertise experienced a severe retcon; in A5, where he serves as a quasi-hostile impediment to progress; and in A6, where he is involved in the last act of the series in a surprising way.

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9. Cheeseball

Final Rating: 7.1

Range of Scores: 5 to 10

Average Deviation: 1.33

 

A large calico cat is patrolling the tower in a somewhat dispirited manner. It's a very old cat. When you get close, it looks up at you. "My name is..." It hacks editorially. "Cheeseball. ...Familiar. Wizard term. It means Magical Slave Who Hates His Life... Solberg. He talks to me all the time. And I do mean, all the time. Even when I want to be alone. I'm sick of it..." It hisses. "The best years of my life, spent here. No catnip! Nobody ever in heat! Pfaugh! ...Don't you think you should scratch me?" It purrs contentedly. It doesn't thank you. It looks very irritated when you pull your hand away.

 

And who better to follow Solberg, than his familiar? Or line of familiars, as Cheeseball seems to have multiple incarnations, much like the Simpson family cat.

 

Snowball is a comic relief character whose animal indignation is the perfect counterpoint to Solberg's detached anxiety. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of raters gave the pair very different ratings. Some love Cheeseball's spirit and humor. Others don't like cat jokes, especially when they stick around for as long as Cheeseball does.

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8. Sss-Thsss

Final Rating: 4.4

Range of Scores: 3 to 7

Average Deviation: 1.51

 

This must be the infamous lord of the evil Slithzerikai, Sss-Thsss. As you gawk at him, he raises his spear and says, "Ahhh! Humansssss, here in my lair. I have been waiting for you, and now you comessss... Now we fightssss, and I avenge the death of my brothersss and sistersss. We duel, and I get the honor of your deathsss." He lowers his spear, and he and his royal guard attack.

 

Next on the list is another character from the original Exile: Sss-Thsss, the leader of the hostile Slithzerikai. As Big Bads go, Sss-Thsss is awfully generic and vanilla, especially at first, but he does offer some nuances if you want to go hunting for them. There's his attacks on and enslavement of other Slithzerikai; his demon-worshipping; and perhaps his ties both with Avernum's backstory (via Sss-Thoss) and its future (with the Horde). Notably, although Grah-Hoth didn't make the "most disputed" list, ratings for Sss-Thsss mostly correlate well with ratings for Grah-Hoth.

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7. Alwan

Final Rating: 6.1

Range of Scores: 3 to 10

Average Deviation: 1.52

 

As she turns to go, Alwan snorts. "I knew it. I knew you were too weak to help the Shapers. I knew you didn't have the courage to do what needed to be done."

-- Alwan, to Greta

 

"I am scared. I am not afraid of admitting it... It is taking all my strength and concentration to fight our enemies and try to find out what is happening. I do not have the energy to weigh my moral code at the same time... Guardians do not make laws. We enforce them. I wish I had a commander telling me what to do. But, this position is where I ended up. I will deal with it as best I can."

-- Alwan, to the G3 PC

 

Alwan and Greta have probably the most screen time of anyone in the Geneforge series. Greta follows the standard Spiderweb formula of a young magic-user who doesn't like being pushed around and wants to fight to improve things for her fellows. Alwan is a little more complicated, and hence provokes a greater array of reactions.

 

Initially, Alwan combines a derisive attitude towards outsiders with total confidence. Both of these characteristics are softened as time moves on, but they remain core parts of his personality. Although he's never quite an ideological absolutist, he's often on the verge of it.

 

In his growth from someone who only wants to follow orders, to someone who thinks for himself and makes world-changing choices, Alwan reminds me of FF9's Adelbert Steiner. Steiner, however, was a comic relief character in a lighter-hearted series, who was given the chance for happy moral growth. Alwan lives in a crueler world, as his ultimate fate demonstrates. For Alwan, moral victory means being strong and resolute.

 

Opinions vary on whether this longstanding moral imperative makes Alwan interesting in itself, or if it makes him a frustrating one-note record. It may be that he made it onto this list for the opposite reason Solberg did.

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6. Ghaldring

Final Rating: 4.6

Range of Scores: 1 to 7

Average Deviation: 1.56

 

The drakons are a new race, young and without tradition. When Ghaldring took control and began to weave the rebellion, he realized that they would need structure and rules. So he made them. And he dealt with any who disagreed.

 

Like Sss-Thsss, Ghaldring is a powerful overlord who is hostile to the dominant power, and who is often characterized in vanilla "powerful overlord" ways. Unlike Sss-Thsss, he has two or three games of foreshadowing and buildup before you actually meet him. Also unlike Sss-Thsss, you can join him and see a little more of the inner workings of his sect. At times the better viewing window allows Ghaldring significant nuance and cunning: for example, in his competition with Salassar, during which he comes off rather like a drakon Gowron. At other times, it makes him and his cause look extra boring. He's injured, perhaps, by the fact that his appearances come so late; it's hard to live up to the superlative-filled expectation that was created for him.

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5. Nathalie

Final Rating: 5.4

Range of Scores: 2 to 9

Average Deviation: 1.67

 

"I came to Avadon because I knew I was destined for greatness. This place was to be the fulcrum from which I could move the world... I am tired of concealing it! It was clear from the time I could walk. My mastery of magic is deep within me. I was the youngest student in the history of the Academy. At times, I even taught my teacher... My innate talent is clear! Everyone recognizes it but Avadon!"

-- Nathalie

 

Enter Nathalie, first of the truly polarizing characters. Nathalie is certainly one of the more memorable PCs from Avadon 1, given her combination of youth, prodigy, conceitedness, racism, idealism, and ability to blunder stupidly into deadly situations without proper preparation. I think that says it all, really. For some people, that's a recipe for entertainment; for others, it leads only to frustration.

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Enter Nathalie, first of the truly polarizing characters. Nathalie is certainly one of the more memorable PCs from Avadon 1, given her combination of youth, prodigy, conceitedness, racism, idealism, and ability to blunder stupidly into deadly situations without proper preparation. I think that says it all, really. For some people, that's a recipe for entertainment; for others, it leads only to frustration.

Wait a minute. She's racist? I am 100% not willing to replay the game to confirm. Can you get me the texts or something if you would.

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Nathalie inserts an unfavorable comment about the Holklandans especially, but sometimes other people, into pretty much every other sentence. It's clearly part of how she thinks. For example,

 

"Vile little humanoids. Dumb and hungry."

"Understand, I claim to hate none of my mates in the Pact. Not even the Holklandans."

"The librarian. Eye Leira. Even though she is Holklandan, she is very kind..."

"Back in Kellemderiel, even our privies are better made. And better smelling, as well."

"You came directly from Kellemderiel to this place? How dreadful."

"Holklandan politics. Like in Kellemderiel... But far more crude."

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"Vile little humanoids. Dumb and hungry."

"Understand, I claim to hate none of my mates in the Pact. Not even the Holklandans."

"The librarian. Eye Leira. Even though she is Holklandan, she is very kind..."

"Back in Kellemderiel, even our privies are better made. And better smelling, as well."

"You came directly from Kellemderiel to this place? How dreadful."

"Holklandan politics. Like in Kellemderiel... But far more crude."

I don't think "racist" is the right word for most of these, because "Holklandan" is a nationality, not a race. So she's culturally biased and nationalist (and a bit homesick), probably, although it seemed to me that practically everyone else was, too, so it wasn't really a distinguishing feature.

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I would agree with Kel - those comments read to me more as nationalist than outright racist (nationalism can very much be linked to racism, but there is a difference). It's an unpleasant feature of the character, but not, I think, a very unique behavior amid the many international rivalries that come up in Avadon.

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Xenophobia or elitism and patriotic chauvinism maybe. Still bad of course. In any case there is some consensus on kelem food architechture clothing etc... being rich and remarkable which make some statements to be while rude probably true. I.e. privy one. I do remember animosity between her and jennel but it was mutual and fueled by divergent priorities. But then again i very rarelly was ever faced with racism so i wouldnt know it from a jackalope. But i know elitism when i see it

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I think racism is a pretty fair label for it myself, given how foreign the Pact nations seem to each other. I mean, the dispute over the Beraza Woods (Kellem/Holklandan) feels a lot more like the Israel-Palestine conflict than, say, the nationalist wars between European nations like France and Germany.

 

But whatever it's called, she definitely displays it, and constantly. It's certainly not unique to her, but she does display significantly more of it than the average NPC, or even the average PC, to be fair about screen time. I only had to open a couple of location files to pull all those quotes; there are plenty more for the taking.

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I mean, the dispute over the Beraza Woods (Kellem/Holklandan) feels a lot more like the Israel-Palestine conflict than, say, the nationalist wars between European nations like France and Germany.

 

It's funny you would say that, because the Franco-German conflict over Alsace-Lorraine was exactly what the Beraza Woods dispute reminded me of. LOL.

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4. Lankan

Final Rating: 3.1

Range of Scores: 1 to 7

Average Deviation: 1.68

 

You come face to face with Lankan. He seems to have been completely changed by the canister. His eyes and skin glow. He radiates heat. He seems to have been charged with power, as if the canister Shaped him to be a magical being... His face is strangely blank. His voice is emotionless.

 

Lankan is one of the most discussed minor characters of G3. Initially, his character is precariously perched between being reasonable and unreasonable. His desires seem reasonable enough, but his impatience is confusing. He's pitted against an opponent, Diwaniya, who is similarly middle-of-the-road. Against this backdrop Lankan shows himself to be a bit stubborn, unwilling to compromise or apologize. Importantly, he has the potential to become cold and fierce if you let him use the special canister.

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Only "a bit stubborn?" He refuses to go back when you bring an offer of conciliation and minimal punishment. He refuses to go back when a Shaper (the PC) has done exactly what he wanted and destroyed the source of the rogues on the island. He refuses to go back when you reveal how Litalia had manipulated him and she was behind the rogue problem. By the end, he's a rebel without cause (and a "rebel without a clue" as well), hanging out in the swamps, and selfishly keeping his homesick followers out there, for absolutely no reason except that he's too proud and stubborn to admit he made a mistake.

 

Disclaimer: I may have given Lankan a poor rating. ;)

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3. Shadow Tarkus (The Wayfarer)

Final Rating: 5.1

Range of Scores: 4 to 9

Average Deviation: 1.92

 

"A truly valuable prisoner. A skilled infiltrator and spy, who will do anything for a price. But he only works for the Farlands and against Avadon. Quite an eccentric. We were learning valuable things from his mind."

-- Hand Callan

 

I think the range of scores here reflects the fact that Shadow Tarkus is pure trope. You can almost hear the western whistle and the strum of a guitar chord every time he shows up. Most NPCs in Spiderweb games have a surprisingly detailed background and personality, but they stay in one place. Tarkus is the opposite: he's interwoven throughout the entire plot progression of the game (sometimes in cliche ways, other times in interesting ones), yet despite numerous conversations, it never really feels like you get to know his personality.

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The countdown is based on the average deviation, right? So, basically, the further we get in the countdown, the more starkly polarized or divided respondents were? For Tarkus, then, who is in the top 3, and has a range from 4 to 9, there are opposing camps that see him as either "meh" or really really fantastic. In contrast, for Lankan (1 to 7), Nathalie (2 to 9), Ghaldring (1 to 7), and Alwan (3 to 10), opinions are apparently less clearly grouped around two points on the scale, although the overall range of disagreement (with some feeling vehement dislike and others great fondness) is wider. Tarkus would seem to be viewed more like Solberg (4-9) and Cheeseball (5-10) as a figure who is merely average to some but beloved by others, just with people more consistently lining up as either "He's average" or "He's great!"

 

You know all this already, I'm sure. I only just noticed it though and found it interesting to ponder.

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I think I have greatly disliked all of these characters. Alwan has grown on me over time as he assumed a more prominent role and became (slightly) more tempered. The others though strike me as easy to despise characters. I definitely think Lankan is the most pathetic of the lot.

 

And Slarty, I think this is a brilliant way of analysing and breaking down the collected data. Great idea. Interested what other trends you discover.

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I like nearly all of these characters. Sss-Thsss was ultimately a little flat, because he doesn't really do anything or have any personality, but he is a lurking omnipresence at the beginning of A1. I don't remember Lankan at all. But Nathalie? The Wayfarer? Solberg and Cheeseball? All characters that I enjoyed.

 

But then, my favorite character in Avadon 2 was deemed not even a character for this exercise, so I'm not sure how much I can relate to any of this.

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2. Nicodemus

Final Rating: 4.1

Range of Scores: 2 to 7

Average Deviation: 2.08

 

"Of course, steel and fire are not the only weapons. The best weapons are those that help you to fully utilize your own cunning." Or, reading between the lines, he makes whatever he wants and you try to find a way to make it help you.

-- Craftmaster Nicodemus

 

If Tarkus was pure trope, Nicodemus is pure goofy items. It's hard to describe his personality, except that he is a little oblivious and a lot devoted to his specific cause. Among the most sharply rated characters, Nicodemus received multiple 2's as well as several 7's. Again, I think this is because he exists robustly in one particular dimension of characterization, and flatly to not at all in others.

 

I suspect that Nicodemus's ratings were injured by the fact that his interactions with the player are so formulaic. New quest in the main plotline, new gift or special material to find, rinse and repeat. But he does have some memorable bits, including with his wolves at the very beginning of Avadon.

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I've got a slightly different perspective on Alwan than that of most Spidweb forum denizens, because I've only played Geneforge 5. I found G5 Alwan to be an interesting character, as he's physically disabled and has to deal with chronic pain (which resonates with me because I have a neurological issue that causes chronic pain), yet is powerful, respected, and feared, both militarily and politically. He also is less ruthless than other G5 characters with similarly unyielding views on how the war needs to end. In most play-throughs, I have ended up supporting his side out of respect and admiration for the character.

 

I wish it were possible to know how I'd view him if I'd played through the series, and done so in order, before meeting the character in G5.

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1. X

Final Rating: 4.6

Range of Scores: 2 to 8

Average Deviation: 2.16

 

You meet X the enchanter, one of Avernum's most famed, mysterious figures. Impossibly old, extremely powerful, highly eccentric, probably mad. He looks like a bundle of bones, held together by a thin layer of skin and a heavy web of magic. His eyes are bright and distant. A tiny bit of his mind is concentrating on you. The rest is wandering realms unimaginable.

 

It seems fitting that this list begins with Solberg and ends with X, the two most enduring characters in the Avernum series, and colleagues for half of it.

 

Almost all of X's ratings were on the low end, or the high end. Unlike some of the other names on this list, X has an unmistakable persona. The question seems to be whether it's a unique portrait of an eccentric, or the pinnacle of cliche. I think the description above, which is from A4, shows how it can go either way.

 

Although X characteristically pays little attention to what is going on in the world around him, he was involved in a fair number of different projects over the years, from his trademark anvil, to the Xian items, and his modifications of flora and fauna. The last are particularly notable, as the only other wizards to show real facility with those sorts of transformations were Erika and Rentar-Ihrno. That puts him in powerful company.

 

Can you judge a man by the workings of his craft, or only by the content of his character? The votes were split.

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Also Notable

 

Although they didn't make this top 10, the following characters also featured a split in opinions across the board, albeit with a much more modest difference in ratings:

 

General Manifred Redmark, Litalia, Elspeth & Nance, Mehken, Danette, Jenell, Emperor Hawthorne

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