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Ok, this is epic. (Potential GF5 Protagonist Reveal?)


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Jeff Vogel on the latest geneforge September update: 

 

" Over the next few months, as game systems get tested and finalized, we'll start talking about how Geneforge 1 - Mutagen will work. There are many changes between the original series and the remaster, and it will be fun to finally reveal some secrets. "

 

The second line is what caught my attention. I know its an EXTREEMLY general statement but considering the identity of the GF5 protagonist is one of, if not the most, highly debated mystery in the series we were never given an official answer too, it would make a lot of sense if he would be including an answer to this in his reveals. Pity we'll still have to wait another half decade+ before GF5 remaster is released 🤣

 

 

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I kinda don't like how the protagonist is some kind of mystic super important dude that most people despise. My favorite protag is Genforge 3's protagonist. You're a Shaper in training - you aren't a myserious warped person like in 5, nor a warped rebel like in 4, you're just an ordinary shaper in training and the next choice is yours. You choose to be who you want and people will eventually treat you different based on what they heard about you. I wish more Geneforge games had this sort of "blank slate" protagonist who's story and actions you, the player were responsible for, not a forced backstory that follows the player around the entire game despite what you believe you would've done in past scenarios. 

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Why the heck would Jeff reveal a "secret" (more of a deliberate mystery, I'd say) about Geneforge 5... in an announcement about Geneforge 1?

 

Unless the G5 protagonistis actually someone who was on Sucia during G1, that makes no sense whatsoever.  It doesn't even make sense then -- and it would take some real plot twists for it to be such a person.

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Yeah, doesn't seem like a high-probability outcome. Wasn't GF1 a couple hundred years before GF5? Or at least I thought that GF5 was sufficiently long after GF1 that people from GF1 were generally not still alive. So it'd be pretty hard to make this kind of reveal work.

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21 minutes ago, Kelandon said:

 Wasn't GF1 a couple hundred years before GF5? Or at least I thought that GF5 was sufficiently long after GF1 that people from GF1 were generally not still alive.

 

Greta & Alwan were in GF3 (& 4 & 5), so probably no more than 30-40 years between 3-5 if we accept that they both were in their 20s in GF3 & perhaps at most early 60s in GF5 (going with 'normal' human lifespans - perhaps being a Shaper lets you control the aging process somewhat?).  Assumption being that with Alwan's body breaking down he won't make it much past GF5 & Greta's getting a little long in the tooth to be out tramping the roads/fighting the Unbound.

 

Now we really can't extrapolate backwards from that, but if Jeff was keeping things more or less on the same time frame then going from GF3 back to GF1 would also be 30-40 years.  Sitting here thinking about it & vaguely remembering assorted descriptions about 'x' being the effect of decades of shaping (such as acid sprayers changing the surrounding land into a desert), or 'y' worshiping 'z' as a Shaper deity (no examples spring to mind but serviles in the employee of 'z'), perhaps we do need to explore the idea of Shapers having some control over the aging process (shaping nanobots to clean the plaque out of your arteries?) so as to give a timeline for the GF universe room to have all the assorted background things going on without causing a massive braincramp trying to figure out how everything can be shoehorned into less than a century's timespan.

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Zakary and Barzahl were on Sucia shortly after the events of G1.  I don't remember if exact timeframes were mentioned in G2, but based on their descriptions, it doesn't seem like more than 2 or maybe 3 decades could have passed.  I agree with Greta and Alwan re G3/4/5, so that just leaves the time between 2 and 3.  This could probably be derived from some of the minor NPCs who show up in all of G1/2/3.  There are minor NPCs overlapping throughout the series, and extensive aging is limited, even for randos who don't have access to shaping.  So all told, I'd guess the timespan from 1 to 5 is probably in the range of 60-90 years.

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It looks like there are a few characters in GF4 who were on Sucia Island. They are described as very old. Delna in Southforge Citadel is over 100 years old. Amena Blade in Derenton Freehold is also very old. On a quick skim, I don't think either one clearly says that they were on Sucia at the time of GF1, but I think Sucia was wiped out not long after, so I think their age gives us at least a vague approximation of the time between GF1 and GF4. (And yes, before someone nitpicks, it also doesn't say how old they were when they left Sucia, so conceivably the time between GF1 and GF4 could be significantly less than 100 years.) In Penta in GF5, there's some discussion of the events of GF1, but I don't see anything to give a clear indication of time.

 

Either way, it's quite a long time between GF1 and GF5, enough that it would be pretty surprising for any reveal in GF1 to relate to the people in GF5, except perhaps by ancestry (e.g., you meet a grandfather of someone in GF5).

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Amena Blade was definitely in G1.  I don't think anything was said about his age then, but he was a lieutenant in Kazg, so presumably not a child.  It looks like he was old enough in G3 for his eyesight to be failing, and also over 100 in G4.  According to a fandom site, he's the only character to have appeared in 4 games, so he may be the best evidence here.  I guess his age suggests that G1 to G4 could be anywhere from 60 to 90 years, so perhaps the series timespan is slightly longer than I suggested above.  G2 to G3 is definitely a plausible place for some extra years to show up.

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21 hours ago, TriRodent said:

Greta & Alwan were in GF3 (& 4 & 5), so probably no more than 30-40 years between 3-5 if we accept that they both were in their 20s in GF3 & perhaps at most early 60s in GF5 (going with 'normal' human lifespans - perhaps being a Shaper lets you control the aging process somewhat?).

Geneforge 5 establishes explicitly that ten years have elapsed since the start of the rebellion (in 3), with 4 happening at some point in between (the dates on the loading screen creation datafiles in 4 and 5 imply that 4 happens five years before 5, and thus five years after 3; "Year 4128" is the latest date on the loading screens in 4, and then "Year 4133" appears on every creation loading screen in 5).

 

I don't think there are any other firm dates given, except that Sucia was abandoned and Barred about 100 years prior to 1. Character aging is not entirely consistent... Amena ages at a more or less plausible rate, and serviles are established as being able to live to well over 100 years old. But Isss-Ta, a recently-created drayk in 2, is, by 4, approaching decrepitude despite drayks being established as being able to live for centuries. (Then an "Isss-Ta" appears as one of Ghaldring's associate drakons at the end of 5, IIRC, in what is probably a mistake or oversight.)

 

Also on topic: I really don't think anything in the remasters is going to shed any light on the "real identity" of the protagonist of 5. I don't think that there is a solution to the mystery- a correct answer that Jeff had in mind while writing the game and has just neglected to ever reveal. In the context of the game, the mystery of the protagonist's identity basically just serves a structural function- it's there to make the early parts of the story more engaging (before the more cerebral ideological faction stuff comes up), it's there to make siding with Rawal somewhat less unappealing ("maybe he'll eventually tell me who I really am!"), it's there to add some mystique to what's otherwise a pretty straightforward story. There are several more-or-less plausible candidates, but it doesn't really matter which one it is, if any, and making one or the other of them the official canon identity of 5's protagonist would be pointless and alienate as many people as it satisfied.

Edited by googoogjoob
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Geneforge had plenty of secrets. Who were the people that were on Sucia before the shapers. Who made the standing stones. Who are the Sholai and why weren’t they aware of the centuries old world-spanning shapers empire.

 

The game has plenty of loose ends to pull on.

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2 hours ago, marnick said:

Geneforge had plenty of secrets. Who were the people that were on Sucia before the shapers. Who made the standing stones. Who are the Sholai and why weren’t they aware of the centuries old world-spanning shapers empire.

 

The game has plenty of loose ends to pull on.

The first two of these questions are basically answered in Geneforge 1, in the super-secret area. The last isn't a mystery at all: the Sholai are just the inhabitants of a different continent than the one the Shapers are based on, and marine navigation isn't particularly advanced in the world of Geneforge, so the Sholai and Shapers hadn't made contact prior to the first game. (Also, the Shaper empire has only existed for about three centuries at the time of the games, dating from when the Shapers began expanding eastward from their main provinces across Terrestia; and it's never expanded beyond Terrestia to be "world-spanning.")

 

Also, to be a boring Doylist: I think the way Spiderweb games' worldbuilding is done, worldbuilding elements are usually made up as-needed in order to enable the story as it happens. As a result of this, while it'd absolutely be possible to spin out further stories from unclear or unexplicated bits of the games' lore, I don't think there are any real "mysteries" in any Spiderweb games- where "mystery" means "Jeff Vogel has in-universe knowledge that he deliberately didn't put in the game, and has withheld." Any place there's something mysterious or unexplained in a Spiderweb game, as a rule, it's mysterious or unexplained specifically for the effect on the player that something mysterious or unexplained has, or to serve a narrative purpose. Who was the protagonist of Geneforge 5 before the events of the game, and how did they lose their memory? Where did Monarch come from? Why does Limoncelli move so uncannily fast? How did the Corruption really start? I don't think there are, or need to be, "real" (as in, Word of God canon from Vogel) answers to these questions. They're unresolved mysteries because sometimes it is fun to have a mystery in a story, and sometimes there's a distinct, narratively salutory effect to simply have something uncanny or incomprehensible in a story, and sometimes baiting players with clues to a mystery makes them more engaged and invested in the story.

Edited by googoogjoob
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Limoncelli isn't that much of a mystery.  There are multiple descriptions, both in narrative text and NPC dialogue, that refer to haste spells, e.g.

It's as if time is warped around him ...
he moves as if he has received many haste spells, one on top of the other.

I guess there's the question of whether this was done with Empire magic or Vahnatai magic obtained from Gaddika.  We never really see any Vahnatai altered in this way, though.  My money's on Garzahd, since his expertise in permanent warding was extensive, and his own self-enchantments imbue speed as well.  Elderan is also plausible -- he is also on the short list of warding specialists, and he was a fellow commander to Limoncelli and stationed quite close by.

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20 hours ago, googoogjoob said:

They're unresolved mysteries because sometimes it is fun to have a mystery in a story, and sometimes there's a distinct, narratively salutory effect to simply have something uncanny or incomprehensible in a story, and sometimes baiting players with clues to a mystery makes them more engaged and invested in the story.

 

I’m pleased you brought this up, googoogjoob, since this was one of my principal reactions on thinking about some of the posts in this thread!

 

In narrative, mystery is sometimes present for its own sake and, when used well, can enhance a work merely by its presence. Yes, mystery can be used when the author has a definite answer in mind – detective fiction often thrives on the resolution of mystery like this, after all. And mystery can also serve a distinct specific narrative function, too. Think of the barriers at the beginning of Avernum 2, for example. The party initially knows nothing of why these barriers appear, and this mystery gives the player a reason to start exploring Avernum, leading them to the discovery that introduces the primary plot of the game.

 

But mystery can also be an extremely powerful tool when there is no solution provided, or even intended. Such mystery can enhance the atmosphere of a work. It can encourage the reader to think more about what they’re reading, to engage with it beyond the words written on the page. And it can sometimes provide realism – after all, out in the real world, there are very many situations where we simply don’t have all the facts handed to us.

 

For a typical example of this sort of mystery, think of Blade Runner. This is a film about androids that are (almost) indistinguishable from humans. The question arises as to whether the main protagonist is one of these androids or not. In the film, it’s never answered; the evidence points both ways. This ambiguity only serves to enhance the narrative – prompting discussions about this mystery to the present day. It’s almost a defining characteristic of the film these days.

 

 Or, for other examples, think of the timeline and mechanism for the events that take place in Donnie Darko. Or the film A Matter of Life and Death, in which it is never revealed whether the main character is actually experiencing scenes of the afterlife, or hallucinating after an accident. These ambiguities only serve to enhance these works, I think.

 

The identity of the protagonist in Geneforge 5 is another example of this. Evidence in the game is sparse and at times contradictory, and it supports a bunch of possible solutions. I’m sure that’s intentional! As you can see, this mystery enhances the player’s interaction with the game – so that people are still talking about this mystery over a decade after the game’s release!

 

19 hours ago, "Nothing Left" said:

Limoncelli isn't that much of a mystery.

 

I’m afraid you might not entirely be doing justice to Limoncelli, here. The quotation you’ve provided is rather shaky ground, at least to my mind, and I’m not sure it says as much as you claim it does.

 

To put this in context, that second line is stated by the party when they first see Limoncelli. The key phrase here is ‘as if’, I think. To my reading, that just means that the party is making an analogy – nothing more. To their first impression, it simply looks to the party like Limoncelli might have received multiple haste spells. But they certainly don’t know that to be the case. The cause could still, arguably, be anything.

 

I mean, one could easily have used a similar turn of phrase to describe something that obviously isn’t true:

 

“He moves as if he’s just drunk an ocean of espresso!”

 

You mentioned multiple mentions of haste. In the original source material, Exile II, there are in fact only two, at least that I could find. You’ve mentioned one. Here’s the other one, taken from Captain Schnitzius in Fort Emerald:

 

“He moves faster than a hasted person, and is that way all the time!”

 

This seems to imply something rather different from your interpretation, I think. For it says that Limoncelli’s speed cannot arise from simple Haste spells. Limoncelli is simply too fast for that. Could his speed arise from some sort of staking of Haste spells and wards? Perhaps, but the game doesn’t seem to say anything concrete on that point. Nor does the game give any examples of situations where Haste can stack, or of people using wards to increase their speed beyond that of conventional Haste – at least in Exile, at any rate.

 

So, I think there is a mystery about Limoncelli’s speed. By my reading, I don’t think the game has much to say about it.

 

We can extrapolate to our heart’s content, of course, but then that simply leads to one interpretation among many. And that’s hardly a solid position to take, is it? :)

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I agree with everything Ess-Eschas has said above about mysteries in stories.

 

I think that in-universe, the source of Limoncelli's speed is genuinely somewhat mysterious, but also it's not something that's particularly important. The real-world reason for his speed, of course, is a) to make him a more memorable boss fight than just "generic Empire general," and b) to enable a particularly memorably gruesome death scene for him. Avernum has a bunch of this sort of mystery... Who built all these clearly-pre-human-cave-discovery forts and crypts and such, and why? Why is the Mertis Spiral so lastingly accursed and why can't it ever be cleansed? Why do all Avernite attempts to tunnel to the surface seem to be cursed to end in failure, even after peace with the Empire? And the real-world answer of course is always because these enable fun adventure stuff to happen, and there aren't remotely enough clues given in-universe to conclusively solve any of these mysteries.

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5 hours ago, Ess-Eschas said:

So, I think there is a mystery about Limoncelli’s speed. By my reading, I don’t think the game has much to say about it.

 

We can extrapolate to our heart’s content, of course, but then that simply leads to one interpretation among many. And that’s hardly a solid position to take, is it? :)

 

I think you and I have some kind of fundamental difference in how we determine when a theory has nothing to do with the text and is pure invention, versus when it is -- while still a theory and absolutely bearing the potential to be incorrect -- literally the only thing the text even flinches towards on the subject.

 

In this case, in Exile II, there are only two references to Limoncelli's speed that say anything beyond "fast" -- both in your post above.  Both reference haste spells.  Both compare the effect to haste spells.  One says that the effect is stronger than what a haste spell generates from a haste spell, the other has the game narration using a simile to compare it to multiple stacking haste spells.  These comparisons do clearly establish that it cannot be caused by a typical haste spell.  They also establish that the effects are like a haste spell in quality, but not in quantity.

 

And I mean, in game mechanics terms, Limoncelli gets a metric crapton of AP... and increasing AP is exactly what haste spells do.  This is not a leap.

 

Theorizing about the source of the effect is definitely extrapolation, which is why I described it as a question.

 

Avernum II, as it turns out, does have more to say.  Where E2 just said (a touch humorously) that his body even fell to the ground quickly, A2 adds this:

 

"When you strike the mortal blow, Limoncelli does not slow down. Exactly the opposite. His body speeds up an incredible, almost comical amount, as the magic that sustains him falls out of balance.Even though you are seasoned adventurers, you can't help but feel ill seeing what you do. Limoncelli's body violently tears itself apart. As he falls to the ground, the chamber is filled with the snapping, rhythmic echo of all of his bones breaking."

 

While the captain expands his words very slightly:

 

"But he's... he's magical. He's fast! He moves faster than a hasted person, and he's that way all the time!"

 

These are two places where that game flat out says his speed is some kind of magical effect.  Everything seems to suggest that it's a permanent effect, particularly the captain's words.  And the description of his death seems to strongly suggest that it is tied to his body, as opposed to being the effect of some kind of magic item.


So no, it's not a foregone conclusion that his speed comes from a magical effect placed on him, but what little the game says does gesture in that direction, and it doesn't gesture in any others.  I think that's enough to shift this from "unsolved mystery" to "yeah it's not specified but it's not very mysterious."

 

--

 

I'm departing from game-based evidence here (and explictly noting that fact, lest you chastise me again), but I actually think there is a piece of information outside the game that would fit with some kinda of mega-haste spell in particular.  The games that influenced Jeff included, as he's mentioned many times, both D&D and a whole bunch of early CRPG's that themselves influenced by D&D.  It was a common convention, in these games, that the speed of haste spells came at a cost: the recipient is magically aged.  In 2nd edition, this was pretty extreme: "Additionally, this spell ages the recipient by one year, because of sped-up metabolic processes."  Anyway, a lot of the spell list in Exile looks like common spells from D&D, often with similar mechanics and at the same spell level.  Fireball is classically a level 3 spell; so's Haste, just as they were in Exile.

 

Anyway, this isn't evidence, but a body "violently tearing itself apart" sure seems fitting for the extinguishing of an incredibly powerful version of an effect that speeds up metabolic processes.

 

--

 

Do I think Limoncelli had a haste spell applied, specifically?  Maybe, who knows.  Do I think he had a magical effect that is at least similar to a haste spell applied?  Yes.  That's not a wacky interpretation.  It's not conclusive, but it is the only answer the game flinches towards.  This is not a great example of a real mystery.

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On 10/20/2020 at 7:43 PM, "Nothing Left" said:

Why the heck would Jeff reveal a "secret" (more of a deliberate mystery, I'd say) about Geneforge 5... in an announcement about Geneforge 1?

 

Unless the G5 protagonistis actually someone who was on Sucia during G1, that makes no sense whatsoever.  It doesn't even make sense then -- and it would take some real plot twists for it to be such a person.

 

Or Retcons. Can't say I like the GF5 protagonist = GF1 protagonist. And what happens if you play a servile in GF5? 

 

  

On 10/20/2020 at 10:15 PM, "Nothing Left" said:

Zakary and Barzahl were on Sucia shortly after the events of G1.  I don't remember if exact timeframes were mentioned in G2, but based on their descriptions, it doesn't seem like more than 2 or maybe 3 decades could have passed.  I agree with Greta and Alwan re G3/4/5, so that just leaves the time between 2 and 3.  This could probably be derived from some of the minor NPCs who show up in all of G1/2/3.  There are minor NPCs overlapping throughout the series, and extensive aging is limited, even for randos who don't have access to shaping.  So all told, I'd guess the timespan from 1 to 5 is probably in the range of 60-90 years.

 

There are IIRC 10 years from Genefore 3 to Geneforge 5. 
Geneforge 4 intro says it's 6-7 into the rebellion and Geneforge 5 says something like it's 3-4 years since the Unbound. 

From Geneforge 1 to 2 I would say... not that much. Of course we can't trust Zakary the Deceiver but the other NPCs make it seem like 12-15 years or so. There's a 15-years-or-so servile in GF2 that has been born in Sucia IIRC. 

 

Edited by alhoon
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