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Pentil is an emotionally heavy place


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I've finally fought my way through eight million vlishes and reached Pentil, and I'm finding it a difficult place to be, emotionally.  The librarian has spent her entire life copying useless records because they belonged to my people.  The military leader has killed people because they disobeyed shapers who weren't even there anymore.  And just in case I missed the message that these were living, thinking, feeling people, Jeff has given us a sage who's figured out how to tame fyora and a farmer who's sad because her husband died.

 

I find the entire town emotionally difficult to be in; the whole place makes me embarrassed to be a shaper.

 

In the real world, my country abolished slavery 150 years ago.  I've often thought about how horrible slavery was for the slaves, but this game is making me think about what a horrible effect slavery would also have had on the psyches of the slave owners.

 

Geeze, Jeff, rip out my heart and stomp on it, why don't you?

 

So, am I a crazy person who takes games way too seriously (okay, yes, I am; I know that), or did anybody else find this an emotionally difficult game?

 

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Jeff's games do make you think at times, it isn't all hack & slash/kill everything that moves.

 

(specifically thinking about the decision on the strategic value of wiping out a large batch of future slith warriors ... vs ... the tactical situation of 'you' wiping out a bunch of defenseless toddlers)

 

Sometimes (in game situations) you gotta do what you gotta do ... in your case, telling the librarian she's done a good job, telling the farmer what she wants to hear, etc.  To do otherwise risks having the town tear you apart for being a heretic (I wish those were some of the responses available to you - lying but telling them what they want to hear - give you a neutral or very slight reputation adjustment vs the larger adjustment with the given responses)

 

In the end though I think the games are better for it as those situations do add to the background color/game immersiveness

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7 hours ago, Corylea said:

I've finally fought my way through eight million vlishes and reached Pentil, and I'm finding it a difficult place to be, emotionally.  The librarian has spent her entire life copying useless records because they belonged to my people.  The military leader has killed people because they disobeyed shapers who weren't even there anymore.  And just in case I missed the message that these were living, thinking, feeling people, Jeff has given us a sage who's figured out how to tame fyora and a farmer who's sad because her husband died.

 

I find the entire town emotionally difficult to be in; the whole place makes me embarrassed to be a shaper.

 

 

 

 

I had the same thoughts about how horrible the Shapers have been. The words of The Pentil boss in his journal were another punch to the gut. He has killed his followers, manipulated them or had them tortured (you can see all those bloody logs, shackles and whips) for not being loyal enough to the group of people that abandoned them to die 100 years ago. And what is his deepest desire? His guilty thoughts? 
He finds himself at time wishing that a Shaper would tell him he did well. 
THAT is what this person desires and he feels guilty about wanting something from the Shapers. All the leader of the larger group of Serviles, that has blood on his hands, wants is for a Shaper to pet him on the head like a dog and tell him "good boy". 
Rydell's loyalty is admirable but he's loyal to the wrong people. He's a brainwashed creature and a huge waste of potential. The Obeyers make me feel unclean.  They make me feel uneasy in their place. They disgust me.  Not because they are themselves disgusting but because of the disgusting things that have happened to them in order to condition thinking creatures to behave like the beat-up Fyoras the Obeyers have tamed. 

But worry not. There is a solution... 

Down with the Shaper Tyranny! 
Burn Shapers in their ivory towers! You may like or dislike the Canisters and down the line the guys on the Rebellion side are not perfect but they are much better towards the serviles and the thinking creations than the Shapers. You are absolutely correct that being a Shaper is shameful. The Shapers are looking down on the outsider people and lock them out of the knowledge. They are hoarding power pretending they are the only ones wise enough to use it, when the world is littered with the disasters of their making. 
The Shaper Tyranny must end. 

 

Welcome to the Rebellion. We will remake the world to a better place.

I am hovering between Awakened and takers at this point. I didn't think the Takers could have much except "Unlimited Poweeeer!" to convince me but their absolute dedication to die free, knowing how their fight will end but still wanting to fight for it regardless is earning them points in my favor. Yes, they are fanatics. But they strive for freedom at all costs. According to the Taker beliefs they prefer to die standing up than live on their knees.  

Edited by alhoon
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Sadly the Rebellion end up being just as bad if not worse than the Shapers later on. At least one of the most admirable quality the shapers have as a whole is that they understand the concept of when great power comes great responsibility.

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1 minute ago, ultra112 said:

Sadly the Rebellion end up being just as bad if not worse than the Shapers later on. At least one of the most admirable quality the shapers have as a whole is that they understand the concept of when great power comes great responsibility.

 

I haven't played the later games in this series and am hoping not to have spoilers for them!  And since Jeff is re-working this series, the Rebellion could be different, this time around.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Corylea said:

 

I haven't played the later games in this series and am hoping not to have spoilers for them!  And since Jeff is re-working this series, the Rebellion could be different, this time around.

 

Don't worry. What @ultra112 says represents his opinion. The games are really not black and white. I strongly disagree with the assessment that the Rebellion was worse. They were (IMO) a significant improvement not just for the Serviles, but for everyone. Sure, to get there a bloody war was needed. But the next day if the Rebels win (the player decides that...) is better than the status quo pro-Rebellion. Or so I think and many disagree with me. 
There are different ways to win GF5 BTW. Different endings + variations for each ending. Your ending may (will probably be) different than my ending. 

 

My opinion, without spoilers is: The Rebellion at its worst was better than the Shapers at their Worst. The Rebellion on its best was much better than the Shapers on their best.  True, the Rebellion at its worst was worse than the Shapers at their best. But that is not a fair comparison. 

 

I think most people that are aligned with the Shapers do so because the first games you play a Shaper. You learn the world from a Shaper's purview with the good and the bad, but you're a Shaper. 

I started the games at GF4 - the Rebellion. So I didn't have the rose-tinted glasses of the 3-games-as-a-Shaper. 
The only game that really made me iffy about the Rebellion is GF3. But I won't give spoilers. 

 

No Spoilers suggestion

 

I honestly suggest you play GF3-GF5 as they won't be ready for several years. And that's where the Rebellion actually starts. Again, in my opinion, GF1-2 are "prequels" to the story, GF3-5 are the main story. GF3-5 form a closer narrative with many major NPCs from GF3 staying around through GF5. 
GF1 -3 are located in small areas, while GF4-5 you play in a laaarge part of the continent and cross many realms.

GF4-5 have a more cohesive system and better graphics. 

In GF3 you start to see Shapers ruling over large groups of people, although to get to an actual city instead of backwards small settlements you have to play for some time. 

In GF1 you see Serviles ruling significant settlements of Serviles and you learn how things were for them when they lived in semi-peace for a century. 

 

I honestly doubt those things would change in the future relaunches. What I believe will happen is better consistency between the games and perhaps extra endings or ending variations. 

 

Edited by alhoon
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4 hours ago, alhoon said:

[...]

My opinion, without spoilers is: The Rebellion at its worst was better than the Shapers at their Worst. The Rebellion on its best was much better than the Shapers on their best.  True, the Rebellion at its worst was worse than the Shapers at their best. But that is not a fair comparison. 

[...]

 

Yours sounds like an observant and nuanced view, and I appreciate your sharing it.  It also sounds so much like the sort of thing I say about other games. :-)  Well, you've already heard me on the Scoia'tael vs. the Order...

 

 

4 hours ago, alhoon said:

[...]

I honestly suggest you play GF3-GF5 as they won't be ready for several years. And that's where the Rebellion actually starts. Again, in my opinion, GF1-2 are "prequels" to the story, GF3-5 are the main story. GF3-5 form a closer narrative with many major NPCs from GF3 staying around through GF5. 

[...]

 

I'm still working my way through the current game.  I have a chronic illness that steals many of my days, so I can't do anything quickly, unfortunately.  But when I'm done with this one, I'll certainly check those out.  Or perhaps Jeff will have published Queen's Wish 2 by the time I manage to finish Mutagens. 😄

 

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, alhoon said:

I think most people that are aligned with the Shapers do so because the first games you play a Shaper. You learn the world from a Shaper's purview with the good and the bad, but you're a Shaper. 

I also started with Geneforge 4, and it's actually what turned me against the rebellion.

 

Won't go into detail why because spoilers, but the first time playing as a rebel (as the default) I just got more and more uncomfortable with it all and ultimately just stopped playing. Later restarted with a character who started listening to the Shapers instead and had a lot less of a problem. I still remember with great fondness how we crushed the rebellion at the end.

 

Geneforge 1, on the other hand... well, I completely share OP's sentiment regarding the Obeyers. Considering they're the pro-shaper faction... they actually did a lot to turn me against the Shapers compared to the rebellion stuff in 4-5. (I played the games in sequence 4, 5, 1, 2, 3)

 

(My shaper character rationalised it as "they're just confused, they've been without guidance so long they've started developing all these weird ideas." But I doubt he's actually convincing himself.)

Edited by Iguana-on-a-stick
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8 minutes ago, Iguana-on-a-stick said:

I also started with Geneforge 4, and it's actually what turned me against the rebellion.

 

Won't go into detail why because spoilers, but the first time playing as a rebel (as the default) I just got more and more uncomfortable with it all and ultimately just stopped playing. Later restarted with a character who started listening to the Shapers instead and had a lot less of a problem. I still remember with great fondness how we crushed the rebellion at the end.

 

Interesting!  You know Jeff has done a good job when people's real emotions and real ethical values are engaged when they play.

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Posted (edited)

No spoilers clarification
Some of the assumptions I have been discussing under in this thread, have just been proven (Mine Core zone) to be partially wrong. 

@CoryleaTake what I said here with a grain of salt and wait to explore more of the island. As a note, my opinion doesn't change but there were things I have not taken into account. 

 

Some old timers that we discuss with in  the past few years would probably be tempted to say "This is a common occurrence". Well, what can I say? The going-to explanation I have for things I see is based around "The Shapers are irresponsible, authoritarian knowledge-hoarders." So unless I see evidence there's a different reason for something instead of just Shapers acting as irresponsible, authoritarian power-hoarders I go under this assumption. 

Edited by alhoon
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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, alhoon said:

No spoilers clarification
Some of the assumptions I have been discussing under in this thread, have just been proven (Mine Core zone) to be partially wrong. 

 

No problem!  One of the great things about a well-written game -- which it looks as if this is -- is that everyone speaks from their own point of view, but that point of view may be based on faulty or incomplete information.

 

Have you played Planescape: Torment?  The main character has amnesia at the start of the game, and he gathers information about who he has been in the past slowly, over the course of the entire game.  The slowly dawning realization of just who you have been in the past is chilling.  Even after more than twenty years, P:T is widely considered to have one of the best stories, ever, in gaming.  It's one of my favorite games, specifically for that gradual realization of what the truth is.

 

So I'm happy to see the truth gradually revealed. :-)

 

Edited by Corylea
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Posted (edited)

Corylea, what you're describing is a literary device known as the "unreliable narrator" and it's one of my favorites. It's differentiated from the "omniscient narrator" who knows everything about the situation and describes it accurately, or at least accurate to what the author wants to instill in the audience. With the unreliable narrator, either the story's narrator, or a character narrating their own perspective within the story, has a flaw in their telling, which should give the audience pause as to whether to rely on them. They may be crazy, they may be a liar, they may be brainwashed, or they may even just be misinformed. I love this story mechanism because it's true to life. Believing everything people tell you - gullibility - will lead a person to disaster.

Edited by The Almighty Doer of Stuff
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2 minutes ago, The Almighty Doer of Stuff said:

Corylea, what you're describing is a literary device known as the "unreliable narrator" and it's one of my favorites. It's differentiated from the "omniscient narrator" who knows everything about the situation and describes it accurately, or at least accurate to what the author wants to instill in the audience. With the unreliable narrator, either the story's narrator, or a character narrating their own perspective within the story, has a flaw in their telling, which should give the audience pause as to whether to rely on them. They may be crazy, they may be a liar, they may be brainwashed, or they may even just be misinformed. I love this story mechanism because it's true to life. Believing everything people tell you - gullibility - will lead a person to disaster.

 

I'm familiar with the term but didn't use it because I wasn't sure if everyone else was. :-)  And yes, that can provide a compelling story.  There's an Agatha Christie novel where the story is told from the point of view of the murderer, but he doesn't tell you until the very end that he IS the murderer.  Since the sort of old-school classic mysteries that Christie told were usually narrated in a straightforward way, it was a surprising plot twist to have her suddenly giving us an unreliable narrator.

 

We've learned in the real world -- to our sorrow -- that people tend to interpret new events so that those events will fit into their existing worldview.  When game characters do that, it makes the world a richer and more conflictual place.  Having the real world be conflictual is kind of a drag, but drama thrives on conflict, so story-heavy games only benefit from it.

 

I tried to get the Obeyer spy who was in Taker custody to escape, but his worldview was unshakable, and he seemed happy to die for his beliefs.  Do I chalk his death up to the Takers, to the Shapers, or to the Obeyers?  It seems as if there's enough culpability to go around for everyone to have some. 😞

 

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Posted (edited)

 

4 hours ago, Corylea said:

Do I chalk his death up to the Takers, to the Shapers, or to the Obeyers? 

To the Shapers. The man prefers to die free than submit. That's his choice. Fanaticism, but his choice and there's something respectable to staying true to your beliefs.

The Obeyers on the other hand are justified to kill a spy and saboteur. He wasn't there to make friends. 

 

The Shapers now. They abandoned, for whatever reason, the Serviles on Sucia all alone after instilling into them a culture of obedience and making them dependent on the Shapers for direction, to "do the thinking". Lack of critical thinking would often lead to fanaticism. The Obeyers fanatically worship the Shapers because they were conditioned to. The Takers fanatically oppose the Shapers because they feel betrayed and, after the rose-tinted glasses were removed, they realized they have been treated horribly.

The two different ideologies are both tied back to the Shapers. Both sides of the coin, Blind hate and blind reverence, are there because of the way the Shapers made and conditioned serviles (Obeyers) / treated the serviles and abandoned the serviles (Takers). 

 

If the Shapers were not complete and utter buttholes, that Servile would not have to die. All Serviles would be closer to the awakened, diverging on one side or the other but not to those extremes we see. 

Edited by alhoon
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There's a reason G1 looms so large over the rest of the series. Sucia is the central great failure of the Shapers, from which the other four games of misery and war spring. But it's easy to criticize, and harder to improve. The only way to really improve Sucia's aftermath would be to eradicate every creation on the island. You can't rehome the creations of Sucia like dogs. The ambitious will hunt them down and piece it all back together, in secret. Later games show that. You can't just wipe out the research and repurpose the place - the entire island is devoted to it, it's everywhere, and a lot of it's not easy to remove. Scraps would survive to be found. Why didn't the Shapers just harden their hearts and burn Sucia and every living thing on it into ash?

 

Shapers don't generally like wiping out their creations - they are consistently shown as arrogant, absolute, and dominating, but not sadistic or wicked or callous beyond measure. It's not quite on the level that humans don't like eradicating entire populations of their own people, but it's there. They are also persistently dedicated to the advancement of their science. If they weren't, they'd be all Guardians and Agents - it's the entire raison d'être for the Shaper branch of their order. I hope these traits are recognized as virtues, however paltry, and not flaws! The Shapers abandon and Bar Sucia rather than utterly purge it because they don't want to massacre their loyal creations, and they don't want to obliterate progress. Someday they might come back for the Geneforge, someday they might use what they learned here in a better way, but they're not ready for it yet. What apex-predator human organizations do you know of capable of executing the same choice?

 

It's to be noted that the serviles of Sucia, despite their ideological divisions and rocky beginnings, existed in peace and progress before the unforeseeable Sholai came. There was trade and peace between the villages, the rogues were under control, and things went about as well as they can go in a primitive agrarian society without magic. Is it good that the Shapers left them this way? No, but what were the other options, really? The universe where the unchallenged world-ruling wizard cabal spontaneously frees their (obedient, loyal!) inhuman slaves and welcomes them into the project of governance doesn't exist. Sucia managed, in their absence. The Sholai, their breaking of the Bar, and their grasping for power are what spoils all this.

 

Sucia highlights the contradictory drives of the Shapers. Humanity, security, and progress. You can plausibly change the outcome of Sucia, but only by further sacrificing one or more of them.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Sudanna said:

There's a reason G1 looms so large over the rest of the series. Sucia is the central great failure of the Shapers, from which the other four games of misery and war spring. But it's easy to criticize, and harder to improve.

I agree on that. However, they are pretending to be the all-wise many-fail-safes guys. It is hard to improve, but they are supposed to be the best and if that's the best they could come up with, they are buttholes. 

For all the good things you put forward of the Shapers, there is the other side of the coin and different, much more selfish motivations. From what I have seen from the Servant Minds, there were a few shapers that were mostly motivated by sympathy/mercy and a lot of Shapers that were against-purge mostly so they could continue their work. If the Shapers knew they won't return when they barred the island, instead of hoping they would "be back soon", I have no doubt they would have purged most of what made Sucia so attractive: The canisters and the geneforge. (Not the creations)

 

You're asking me how they could improve: Simply by eradicating the canisters, records and the geneforge would be enough. Few would have reasons to go back there.
Doing everything mostly from the beginning would be impossible too. The Servant minds didn't know enough to be useful without the records. The Serviles didn't know anything.
To make sure that this impossible task is not undertaken in secret, a contingent of 7-8 Guardians placed on the island would be enough to dissuade rogue researchers from trying to slowly put the research back together, with 2-3 agents showing up every 2-3 years to make sure none of those Guardians do anything naughty. 

The biggest mistake of the Shapers was that in their arrogance, they thought they would return to researching godhood, because that's what this is about. 

 

(Mistake, not crime. Their biggest crime was leaving the Serviles IMO. Even without the Geneforge and the Sholai, the serviles suffered needlessly.) 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: I have not yet encountered any sizeable population of Drayks to address the other big crime of the Shapers IMO: the "woops, you are too smart and too hard to control for me to allow you to exist. I have to kill you because you may one day decide you want to be free." 
That reminds me of Ghaldring's words to one Cryodrayk he shaped "I apologize for making a faulty creation like you" before re-absorbing it or something. The Shapers didn't even feel guilt towards that.  

 

NOTE2: I am talking from GF1 narrative only. I would prefer to not discuss in this thread what happens in future games and how the Shapers mishandle the Sucia situation in the worse way. 
Except of course, in the following spoiler! 

Warning: Spoilers for future games and part of this between-games lore may change in the remakes - or when I find more about what happened in GF1

 


In GF2 we learn that the Shapers returned, started studying what happened and purged the creations, even most of the Obeyers. I.e. not only they didn't show mercy to the creations, they also started poking on what was left. The worst case scenario. 

 

Aaaall this could have been prevented if Shapers have purged the records and the canisters and sent guardians (not Shapers) for 5-year rotations with a few agents checking they don't do anything bad. 
 

Edited by alhoon
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Posted (edited)

Spoilers for later games, mostly G2, throughout.

 

  

Quote

I agree on that. However, they are pretending to be the all-wise many-fail-safes guys.

 

Shaper arrogance is their most visible flaw. Projecting omnipotence to outsiders and creations is one thing; Shapers rule, and don't owe their subjects humility. The danger is when they pretend to themselves. To each other, but moreso internally. Some Shapers are very weak in this regard, and others less so.

 

I must point out, though, that they have unmatched, unprecedented, unaccountable power, and their track record with it is really very good, on the whole. Better than anybody else who ever gets it. A real-world parallel is nuclear power: it's a complex technology with great and necessary potential, but it has risks. And there's no nullifying all risk. If you use nuclear power, there will be some accidents, someday. The correct response is not to avoid it: everything has costs, including non-nuclear power generation. Accidents can be predicted, managed, contained, minimized. The rebels, with their Unbound and their shredbugs, are Soviet Chernobyl. The Shapers are Japanese Fukushima(which did really very little damage and was effectively responded to).

 

Quote

For all the good things you put forward of the Shapers, there is the other side of the coin and different, much more selfish motivations. From what I have seen from the Servant Minds, there were a few shapers that were mostly motivated by sympathy/mercy and a lot of Shapers that were against-purge mostly so they could continue their work. If the Shapers knew they won't return when they barred the island, instead of hoping they would "be back soon", I have no doubt they would have purged most of what made Sucia so attractive: The canisters and the geneforge. (Not the creations)

 

Nothing's stopping the Shapers from coming back! It's not that long of a boat ride. They can afford it. If they wanted to purge the place, they would have done it a century ago. The notes left by researchers on the island talk about clearing up this whole "The Council Barred us" business and resuming their work. There is, notably, no real discussion of destroying the creations. It wasn't proposed, it wasn't on the table, it wasn't something people were talking about. It's not something they were worried about because it's not something they generally like to do, and not something they expected to happen! With the addition of the entire concept of the "inutile" in this game, the Shapers of the period seem to do very little in the way of massacre.

 

The Shapers are not much motivated by compassion. They're an elite class with absolute power: most of them experience compassion as a niggling little doubt, a sick little feeling inside, rather than as a passionate drive. But they do mostly have that, and it seems to help a lot! They don't undergo terraforming projects for fun, or for personal need. They could extract everything they wanted from a much more desperate populace, if they wanted. They are humans, and are motivated, in flawed human ways, to do some good. They hold the power of life and death over all of their creations, and they aren't very hasty in exercising either, at least until they're in a war for their very survival.

 

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You're asking me how they could improve: Simply by eradicating the canisters, records and the geneforge would be enough.

 

Why? They are valuable beyond measure. I don't know about you, but I would very much like to become a god! If someone found a way to do it that had significant drawbacks, I would not want it destroyed, I would want to fix it! Forget that: if someone in our real world found a way to effectively modify a living adult human's genome in discrete, beneficial, and flexible ways, I would want that technology pursued at all costs! The potential is enormous. Beyond the human(or creation) cost of anything to do with Sucia. I would count it greater than the cost of all five games combined!

 

Quote

I have not yet encountered any sizeable population of Drayks to address the other big crime of the Shapers IMO: the "woops, you are too smart and too hard to control for me to allow you to exist. I have to kill you because you may one day decide you want to be free." 

 

Much like being insufficiently genocidal re: Sucia, this is actually an instance of the Shapers not going far enough. It sounds like Drayks were, mostly, not slaughtered when they became Barred. They just stopped making them. Those remaining were left to live out their lives: you meet several on Sucia who tell you as much. Which is another instance of Shaper soft-heartedness coming back to almost kill everything! Who are the most evil, unstable, dangerous, tyrannical players on the stage, at the end of the series? The Drakons! The self-modified Drayks! If only we'd killed them all right away!

 

Quote

The Shapers didn't even feel guilt towards that.

 

Says who? All the Shapers who were there for it are dead. And, again: it seems like they just stopped making them.

 

Quote

In GF2 we learn that the Shapers returned, started studying what happened and purged the creations, even most of the Obeyers. I.e. not only they didn't show mercy to the creations, they also started poking on what was left. The worst case scenario.

 

Ah, but not all of them! Not even most! Zakary and Barzahl preserved as many of the creations as they could, enough to populate the whole dang Drypeak Valley with three full non-Shaper factions, because those creations would be instrumental in their study of Sucia's secrets. That Zakary and Barzahl did this at all puts the lie to your earlier assertion that the creations of Sucia knew nothing and were safe to keep around. The Awakened in G2 have the most extensive magic/Shaping infrastructure and are in the midst of making a giant army of flying Drakons! The Takers have built a second Geneforge and are effectively fighting Barzahl, perhaps the most dangerous faction in G2! In this remake, we even find (I think this next part might be spoilers for you, have you met at least two of the Ascended? Sessina and the next guy?)

Spoiler

Serviles that have used the Geneforge!

It's not, fundamentally, their fault, but the creations of Sucia are a real risk. They have been since they touched the Sucia project. Some of the Minds were privy to much, and held greater power than you seem to recognize. The Mind in the Shaper school early in G1 Shapes you! It has the power to deploy the effects of a canister just with its own internal knowledge and magic, like only very powerful characters do later in the series. Serviles operated and fixed machinery, kept records and libraries, and above all else saw things. Just telling a Shaper that genes exist to be looked for is momentous, let alone some specifics of the machinery used! Understand what it means that the Shapers were unwilling to destroy them. It is arrogance, in part, an unwillingness to admit that creations can be a threat. But it's more than that, too. That the Shapers have laws that do in fact recognize creations as threats says as much.

 

The (failed) purge of Sucia is the reaction of a Shaper Council that has just learned about the events of G1. What? Previously unknown outsiders came across the ocean, stole many of our secret powers that we use to rule the world, almost claimed godhood, and intended to destroy us all? They allied with an entire faction of serviles dedicated to ritually hating and overthrowing us? Those serviles learned to use magic? Both a master Shaper and a neophyte apprentice washed up on the island and promptly used canisters to Shape themselves into very powerful and dangerous beings, possibly intending to use the Geneforge to overthrow us themselves? If I were them, I would sink that island into the sea, if I could. That it happens to be Zakary and Barzahl doing the cleanup, probably the most irresponsible Shapers in the entire series, is either really awful luck or a sign of a terrible flaw in the Shaper order, but I'm not sure exactly what that flaw would be, except that it's still possible for there to be bad Shapers.

 

"The Shapers" as an organization intended to destroy Sucia, creations and research both. Zakary and Barzahl are criminals that willfully neglected to do either. They went against the wishes of their order to pursue forbidden knowledge. Barzahl may have intended to become a traitor from the start, or he might have been lost to canister madness later on, but Zakary just wanted to be a cooler Shaper. I would make a larger critique of the Shapers from this, except we see almost nothing like it in the rest of the series. I am inclined to think it's just very bad luck that lean and hungry Barzahl got the job, and that Zakary was weak enough to be dragged along(weakness is as terrible a sin as Barzahl's megalomania).

 

It can be argued that the creations were a greater risk than the research. After all, it's not the Barzites who stick around and fight a whole dang war, it's the Takers.

 

 

I do need to be clear, here: The Shapers are not good. I am attempting to defend them on the points that I think it is fair to do so, without losing sight of the fact that they're an elitist society of technocratic slaver overlords. In a dialectical sense, the war and the Rebels were inevitable and necessary: what comes out the other side has the potential(via Greta or Astoria; I prefer Astoria) to be better than what came in, in a way that was never going to happen otherwise. All the suffering therein is fundamentally the product of their sins, and they deserve that suffering in a way that even their worst creations don't, so much. But much of what the Shapers are is necessary, or even commendable in their circumstance; rare is the Shaper that is actually, truly evil, even in extremis. Even Rawal, perhaps the worst of them all. One cannot say the same of the Drakons. The Shapers rule with a light hand, use their power competently, and monitor themselves strictly.

 

G1 is maybe the game where the Takers are most defensible, most sympathetic. For all that the game reiterates their motive of hate, it's easier to support their war when it's confined to an ending slideshow, before you come to see what it really means in the later games. Their cause is necessary and just, in a way that I can't and don't argue. Don't let that blind you to their flaws or the Shaper's virtues.

Edited by Sudanna
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Posted (edited)

How do you convince a good, upstanding, moral person to willingly commit an atrocity?

 

Spoiler

Make any alternative even more atrocious, bearing in mind mortal non-omniscience.

 

Many conflicts, real and fictional, can be better understood this way. I wonder if anyone has thought about Geneforge through this lens. Much of this discussion is leading me to wonder how the participants would consider this statement. It seems to be leading indirectly but clearly into this territory.

Edited by The Almighty Doer of Stuff
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  • 2 months later...

I’ve been a lurker on these boards for over a decade, but this is finally the thread that has managed to lure me into actually engaging in the conversation. Sorry for reviving the conversation a few weeks late, but this has been on my mind for a while. Sorry in advance for the length, but I’d love to engage with anyone’s thoughts on the matter.

 

I’ve always been a sucker for the philosophical threads regarding the moral quandaries presented in Jeff’s games, but the Geneforge series in particular intrigues me for its ability to deal with questions of a cosmological (on some scale) and teleological nature, rather than simply “is this moral?” The first Geneforge game notably confronts this in a manner that none of the later installments in the series manage to, at least in my opinion. 

 

In preface, I apologize in advance for bringing up religion on a board that isn’t intended for religious conversation; however, I think it is an indisputably necessary element to a comprehensive discussion of the Obeyer sect (and, really, of any of the servile sects on Sucia Island). Please don’t mistake my intentions on the matter.

 

That said, on the topic of Pentil being an emotionally heavy place… is it truly any heavier than either of the other cities? Is the Taker worldview less emotionally exhausting simply because their suffering has lead to hatred instead of doubt? Or is the Awakened worldview somehow more valid because they haven’t had the suffering to lead them to either extreme? (From my line of sight, the Awakened worldview is only attainable from a place of privilege; only those who hadn’t had to experience the worst that the island had to offer, who were geographically protected from extremes in suffering, had the capacity for such an unrealistic dream as equality and acceptance. I’m willing to defend this with the in-game lore, but I’m also open to other ideas on the matter.) 

 

Each of the cities is a microcosmic reflection of a creation’s relationship to its (absent) creator, and I think the real-world relevance of that idea is unmistakably intended in Jeff’s writing here. Only, in this instance, we are given the benefit of being able to take for granted that the Shapers do indeed exist. Each sect is dealing with what they think they know about their creator(s), acting in faith that what they have been told by the previous generation is true, and hoping that their actions will result in the best outcome for them. 

 

The Awakened worldview is uniquely built on the premise that a creator isn’t inherently superior to his creation by merit of being the creator alone. (You could argue that the Taker worldview is built on the same foundation, but I think there is support for the notion that the Takers actually accept a differential status to their creators.) As servile beliefs pertain to real-world religion, it is worthwhile to mention that the idea of a created being having independent rights apart from its creator is a very modern idea (and frankly, originates more from the prevalence of a worldview in which there is no creator). Regardless, this premise of equality makes an intriguing philosophical argument to sustain… but that isn’t the purpose of this thread. Instead, this thread is devoted to the Obeyer worldview and its foundations.

 

Apart from this modern concept of independent rights… within those religions dealing with cosmology (especially those more prevalent within western culture) is the central tenet that an absolute creator has absolute rights over their creation. In this sense, teleology and cosmology are essentially intertwined where religion is involved: Creation may be a purposeful act, and if a creation fails to serve its designated purpose, the creator has the right to replace it. I’m not looking to make a moral defense of or attack on this, and I wouldn’t have anything worthwhile to add even if I wanted to. You can find an overabundance of pre-Naturalism philosophers (and many even who came after) who have written entire treatises on the subject if you are interested. My point is only this: that a case could be made that the overwhelming majority of world religions through history have functioned on the philosophical premises that (1) creation is a purposeful act and (2) the creator has the right to destroy any creation that deviates from that purpose. This is particularly apparent in the most common western religion in today’s society. There are potentially ideas in this paragraph that someone might want to argue with, but I’ll save you the trouble… Even IF you disagree with any of statements made, this is essentially the operational belief structure on which the Obeyers faith is built. (And what else is it, if not faith?)

 

Spoiler

Spoiler: And let’s be real. Honestly, the Obeyer ending is probably the best result you can get for serviles in Geneforge 1 without overthrowing the Shapers. And there are a host of other reasons why that is a bad idea.

 

Back to the topic, then, of the emotional toll that Pentil takes on some readers: I initially played this game a number of years ago, when I was still especially involved in a worldview fairly similar to the one described above. Pentil felt like coming home at the time. Even without the maturity to know why, it all felt so familiar. Hoping, praying, that the life you were living had a reason. That what you had been told was right was true. That your suffering had a purpose. That you would reach your end, and you would be told that your labor wasn’t in vain. Playing the role of the Shaper, it felt appropriate, good even, to be able to reward them for their fidelity. Perhaps it was emotionally heavy even then, but I didn’t feel it at the time.

 

Coming back to Pentil now, it felt different. 

 

That said, I still sided with them. There’s no hope for an Awakened reality (for the moment), and the Taker route can only ever lead to absolute catastrophe. Thank you, Sudanna, for a very succinct and well-expressed introduction to a defense of Shaper necessity. The Shapers don’t always make it easy to defend them, do they? But that's another thread for another time...

 

Anyway, for those who made it this far, thanks for your time! 
 

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While I honestly like your post, I disagree on it on a few points. 

For the easy and quick things: I don't see the Awakened as only possible because of "favorable position", as I don't think their area is inherently better. The inutile village that the Awaken protect is the 'privileged' area that is shielded from enemies. All three settlements are South of the deserts and badlands of the North and the rogues. 

 

Now, on your thesis above, I find one ... I wouldn't say 'flaw', I would say 'omission'. 
The Creator in most prevalent religions, may not be perfect like Abrahamic religions' God, but the Creator is inherently much much better than the creation, and different class of being. Spirit, intangible entity etc.  

The Shapers are not. Both Creator and Creation are flawed and they run with more or less the same flaws. They are mortals and they have mortal needs. The worldview of the individual shaper is limited by his or her experiences. The worldview of the collective Shaper Empire is also limited. The Shapers are not perfect, they are just more magically powerful than their Creations. 

 

Part of what you say, could apply to the Drakons when they Shape things, but Drakons, while genetically better than most creations are still... biological creatures that happen to be more powerful than their peers. Peers that they may have created themselves, but still peers. Even the Drakons realize that. Their approach on the issue of who commands and the "lesser species" is not the Shaper approach of "I created you, you owe me everything." It is an approach of "I am more powerful and (I believe I am) wiser so follow what I say." The human side of the Rebellion sees the Drakons as new reptilian Shapers but that goes because humans are not creations nor they were treated as creations by the Shapers. The Creations know the Drakons are different. Buttholes, but not Shapers - and as you said it's a whole different huge discussion of whether one should follow someone that is a butthole because it is convenient or 'the lesser evil'.  

 

To return to the Shapers, I think an example of what I am trying to say would be a tree that it has been modified to create a different type of plant with its seed. Would the different-trees be inherently lower than the original? No, I don't think so. Same with the Serviles. They are not as smart as Shapers and they are not magically gifted - because the Shapers forcefully cut out of them the ability to yield magic, until Tuldaric gave it back to them. Sure, Tuldaric was a Shaper, but that's not my point here. 
What I mean is that "More powerful" or "Smarter" or "with the magic abilities to make things" does not equate to "I deserve to be obeyed" neither means that such a better creature deserves worship.

The Drakons which are objectively very powerful creations, genetically better than humans (including the Shapers) and serviles, don't require the w+orship of anyone, creation or human. Shapers don't require the Worship of creations either, they want their service, not their faith. A creation that doesn't idolize a Shaper but follows orders is not considered a rogue. 

 

 

For me, Pentil was emotionally heavy too. I agree it had the feeling of 'coming home' that was very well built. I crawled into Pentil half dead from the $%#$ Vlish outside. Those very Vlish is part of the reason that I hover between Awakened and Takers instead of joining the Takers. It was described as "that's the serviles you're used to". It was nice and safe. 
But then, I saw Serviles spending considerable resources in maintaining old records that their main value was just the value assigned to them by the Serviles and their real value was just as curiosities and historical texts of "oh, so that's how much flour the locals needed through that hard winter 132 years ago..." 
I felt sorry for them. But they don't see it that way. 

They are reminding me of kids that were abandoned by their father, had to live a harsh life being raised by their single mother and that ... they practically worship their father. And there are such cases of people that even into adulthood, refuse to accept their father was a butthole. 

 

To end and gather the whole thing together: I don't see the Shapers as the equivalent, or even close to a Creator deity. They are biological, imperfect creatures with more or less the same needs and flaws of their creations. They are much more like parents of pre-industrial, agrarian societies that had kids in large part because they needed a cheap workforce. Being more powerful because you yield magic (or because you were Shaped as bigger, stronger, smarter, with fiery breath etc) doesn't mean you are not equal to those that are not as gifted. Having fathered/created a living thing under these conditions does not give you the rights to abuse it or demand obedience after 5 generations after leaving the ancestors of the creatures you made to die.

 

Last quick note: I agree with the Awakened in morality, but knowing the Shapers ... I believe the Takers are the way to go. 
I don't ally with sects because I don't want to kill anyone and I don't have the persuasion required to make them see it (i.e. I don't have leadership 10+ mechanically)   

Edited by alhoon
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Even though I consider the awakened to be better in a sense compare to the taker, but reality is that a violent confrontation is the only thing that could help free themselves from the shapers, but sadly the takers don't know when to stop and went over the edge.

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Hey Alhoon! It was a busier week than I was anticipating, so I apologize that it took longer to reply than I would have preferred. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I'll confess, I don't often agree with your posts on this board, at least in their conclusions, so we might occasionally bump heads on these issues; but I do always appreciate the vastly different perspective from my own that you bring to the table. There's a lot of value in seeing someone else's thoughts on these issues. My views in short, if you're curious: My first experience with Geneforge was actually the third installment, so that probably had a pretty significant influence on where I stand, but I generally tend toward utilitarianism and public safety in my own political preferences to begin with, so I broadly support the Shapers on most issues. I believe the social agendas of the rebellion (or parts of the rebellion, anyway) are both admirable and necessary, at least in regards to servile rights, but I have a very hard time justifying the devastation that would result from the complete dissolution of the Shaper body (and that's even before you consider the Rebellion's tactics). Regarding the strict control the Shapers maintain over both the power of Shaping and over magical learning, I'm honestly completely supportive. Despite my best efforts, I've never felt the slightest sympathy toward a large percentage of the human faction of the rebellion, especially where their primary complaint is "the Shapers hoard their magic, and that peeves me." And I wholly do not concede that an oligarchy acting a little pompous is justification enough for their complete annihilation. For me personally, if you remove the servile issue from the equation, I have a very easy time supporting Shaper rule. There is a LOT of nuance involved in all of the above statements, but I promised I'd keep this short.

 

Regarding your reply specifically, you bring up a lot of important distinctions... If my argument were either (1) that Shapers see themselves as deity or (2) that, in reality, Shapers are fundamentally superior to serviles. (The latter could be argued, at least as a devil's advocate, and would probably be a worthwhile discussion.) My argument, instead, is that, in order: the Obeyer doctrine functions on the same presuppositions as real-world deity-creator-based religions; because of this, faith in these doctrines may likely be interpreted as hopeful, rather than "emotionally heavy" to those who espouse these beliefs, i.e. the Obeyers; and, of the three "religions" founded on Sucia Island, the Obeyer faction reflects the best "wager" (think Pascal) between what the serviles presuppose about their creators and what is likely to be the best outcome for the individual should the Shapers return. In a more practical vein, as it concerns my play-through, I agree with the final deduction of the Obeyer philosophy, while not agreeing entirely with how they got there.

 

Regarding your assertion that the parallel between a Shaper and a deity-creator breaks down on the basis of substance, I have two problems. The first is that you seem to propose that the difference in substance between the creature and the creator is the basis of worship (any by extension, the onus of obedience). In my experience with doctrine, that's not entirely the case, or we would, theologically speaking, have a solid foundation for the worship of other spirit beings, be it any class of angels or demons. Worship (and, invariably, obedience) within a traditional christian theological framework, praises the creator for his traits (which include power, substance, and works), but ultimately originates from the act creation itself. I can't speak for the broad majority of other creator-centric religions, but I'd be willing to bet a fiver that they're pretty similar in that regard. I agree with your assertion on some level, because I have to admit that there is a difference, but I don't concede that it's significant enough to break down the parallel. 

The second problem, which is only a problem now if you still aren't convinced by my first point, is that there is a difference in substance between humanity and serviles... Serviles are held together by essence (whatever that really is). It's why discipline wands work in the original game on creations and not on humans. It's a small, but important point that has to be made; it could be argued much further, but I don't think it needs to be. I here also concede that the difference in substance between serviles and humans is not a fair parallel to the difference in substance between humans and [fill-in-the-blank], but there is a difference that cannot be ignored.

 

Then again, if we're basing everything on traditional religious (/cultural) texts, you might just arrive at the conclusion that slavery is totally okay... So, maybe a grain of salt is necessary. But from a philosophical perspective... you can see why there is an argument here. There are more shades of gray in Geneforge than either side likes to admit, and thank goodness for that.

 

Edited by JDubkins
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Well, I am no great philosopher. But speaking theologically (I am not theologist) I would say that most proto-religions and ancient religions were exactly like what you describe as the problem in my view: the worship of several entities that are different. 
On the second part of "Yeah buddy BUT... Creations are not biological, they are shaped Essence given form, even if that form is huge and breaths fire and you can break them down with spells that target that alone - which have been removed from this game for some reason and replaced with something that dazes creations". There you completely got me. I admit that.  
On that part, I don't know if it is coincidence or ingenious or even if I recall correctly who did it but the Awakened hiding the disruption wand (that used to destroy creations instead of daze) makes much more sense since seeing solid proof that the Shapers are X and you are What-X-made-from-Essence and "They can give and they can destroy" on top of the inborn obedience the Serviles are born with (and Takers fight against) would turn a lot of Awakened back to mild-obeyers. 

 

Now,  having established that Shapers are at least closer to deities of ancient religions when it comes to Creations... we get to my main point: 
Are they worth of worship and obedience? Or not? 

No, they are not. They are not deities, they just happen to be similar to deities, tick many of the boxes. Yes, they created the Creations and the Creations are inherently different than the Shapers. A person that clones other persons is not worth of their worship. A person that makes fully sapient robots is not worth their worship. (So I am against building fully sapient robots). The whole "I, Robot" books touch this. 

 

That said, on the other issues with the Shapers: 
If the Shapers were not buttholes with their power, I won't had problems with them.

 

Control of  Shaping:

I completely agree that such insane power as Shaping is should be closely controlled and regulated. The Shapers have a very good system to minimize the damage. Not a perfect one, but a good system. 
They have a horrible attitude towards this though and we never saw how one is chosen to be considered as a Shaper aside of "picked for loyalty". I am willing to bet, based on what I have seen from our world that nepotism and personal relationships play a large role on how "your successors" are chosen. Simply put, I have no trust in humans to keep up a meritocratic system for more than 3 generations. The uber-wise guys that set it up will make a mistake here and there in the 1st generation. Those not-so-perfect guys would dilute the system more in the 2nd generation and those OK-but-not-perfect guys would fill more slots with yesmen and lackeys in the 3rd generation than good ones. 
And then, 3-4 generations down the line there will be a push to go back to something wise and the situation will improve and the cycle will continue with the "pendulum" of crappy nepotism / objectively good will swing back and forth.
In modern societies (even not the most democratic) you see those swings between changes of government instead of generations. 

 

My point after all this drivel is: The Shapers are not bad at controlling the very powerful tool of Shaping. Yes, it is needed in moderation. There are certainly unwise Shapers and a lot of accidents but more often than not, the system doesn't suffer catastrophic failures. Sure, a pity for colony_813 that got hit by a disease that turned them blind because Shaper A was pissed with Shaper B or valey_21 that had its mines locked down when Shaper C miscalculated on the acid-producing fungi he was making to help them dig and they spread too much and they were also poisonous...  but such things are not too common. 
Sure, there's room for improvement. I am the first to say that. The Shapers are not as careful as they should be. BUT with all my love for the Rebellion, let's not pretend the Drakons or the Rebel humans would be more careful. And they don't have the multitude systems in place to react quickly and efficiently when bad things happen. 

 

Magic and Shaping Hoarding: 

Control of Shaping and magic is reasonable... but the Shapers go too far. They are more likely to reward loyalty than talent. 

Consider say electronics engineering or computer science. Both are able to create wonderful things, from the machines we play Geneforge on to simplified programming languages and software so that Jeff can make Geneforge. They can also make things like tools to make sophisticated bombs (or purify the materials you need) and megahacking software that can take down the electric grid of a whole country. 

How do you think our society would be, if the mentality was Shaper-wise of "Only the most loyal after a ton of screening, would ever learn to program or make electronics and this caste of electronic and software engineers would have absolute control of what devices and technology the Outsiders would ever use. " 

That's the Shapers. And it's wrong.

 

For starters, so far there has been no great megahacking and while electronic devices have been used in horrific ways, they are not the leading cause of death anywhere. And that's because most people are not psychos and because we have defenses for those that are psychos. Second, even without defenses the vast majority of people don't know how to make a sophisticated bomb out of electronics or create a program that would take a country back to the dark ages. 
 So... no. The Shapers are over-reacting. Shaping is damn hard. More people knowing Shaping means more people to keep an eye on what Shaping does and more people to fix the problems. 
There is also a difference between teaching people to make Battle Alphas and teaching people to Shape their flowers to be slightly more pink for the wedding. I don't know what software engineers and programmers are taught, but I would bet they are not taught how to bypass security systems. Sure, there are government agencies that teach that to a select few and some talented ones can find out on their own. But... our world still exists and frankly taking out the internet of a country at this point would be much more devastating than a handful of rogue Shapers going bananas. 

 

My point: Teaching people how to make weapons should be regulated; don't teach how to make battle alphas. Having huge schools with countless shapers focused on agriculture or medicine is not an issue. I don't see many doctors stealing a contagious disease when it shows up in the hospital and spreading it in acts of bioterrorism, not many agronomists spreading parasites to their neighbor's farm. 

The Shapers use as an excuse the need to regulate Shaping to hoard it so they can keep their power

 

How they treat the Creations
I see we agree that they treat serviles bad. Well, they treat drayks, gazers and inutile worse. 
These are creatures with sentience and feelings. "Our children" as the Shapers lie to each other for no reason. They are not machines that you break down for parts if they don't do what they are supposed to do anymore. And that's for "current" Shapers. I very recently found an Arena in Sucia Island where Shapers were having creations ("our children") beat each other to death for the laugh and giggles. In GF2, that Barzites also had that showing that you cannot trust Shaper society to not digress back to further barbarism. Not that you can trust Drakon society to not devolve to not keep farms of humans to eat, but you get my point. 
I am more than glad that in GF:M my creations still remain relevant, even if suboptimal, as they go up in levels. I keep a place open to get a Drayk when I get the cannister (I have searched half the map and I haven't found one) because I don't want to simply destroy one of my creations that served me loyally all this time just because I got "a better model". These are not cars to replace or break down for parts.  

 

 

 

Random grumbling about Shapers: 
The Essence pools. OMG, the Essence pools. An idiot Shaper with an essence pool can probably have enough essence to create 500 rogues. And these things are everywhere. If you have to regulate something, start with regulating essence pools and essence pods. This is the most horrible hole in the Shaper damage-mitigation protocols. That one Shaper that would fall through the cracks could do much much more damage with an essence pool. 

 

Edited by alhoon
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I think there's a degree of misunderstanding going on with at least one aspect of the discussion here. JDubkins is not saying that Shapers deserve to be treated as gods. JDubkins is saying that the serviles of Sucia, in three distinct ways that line up at least somewhat with typical human treatments of religion, treat them as gods. Either as benevolent absent creators, powerful equals to bargain with, or despicable arbitrary tyrants.

 

Something I think it's worthwhile to consider is how the serviles with immediately present creators function and differ even from the Obeyers. Even better-treated, more independent, more valuable serviles such as skilled gem-cutters or other specialized labor are markedly different from Obeyers, to say nothing of more expendable laborers. Do they have pseudo-theological ideas about their creators? Sometimes, sort of, but not nearly so intricate as the Sucians. Mostly, they don't have to, because immediate fear and obedience are quite sufficient.

 

Personally, I think it's self-evident that a freer knowledge of Shaping entails a greater risk of mishaps, criminality, and leaks. Electronics seem a poor comparison to Shaping, at least until we have nanomachine plagues and armies of killer robots. There's no evidence of nepotistic corruption among the Shapers, and plenty of indirect evidence that they are in fact as meritocratic in their selection of new pupils.

 

Quote

The Essence pools. OMG, the Essence pools. An idiot Shaper with an essence pool can probably have enough essence to create 500 rogues. And these things are everywhere. If you have to regulate something, start with regulating essence pools and essence pods. This is the most horrible hole in the Shaper damage-mitigation protocols. That one Shaper that would fall through the cracks could do much much more damage with an essence pool.

 

This isn't really how it works. I don't remember if it's ever specifically stated, but we the fans have typically interpreted things like this: A Shaper can produce creations quickly(or, with exceptional training, almost instantly) and without additional tools from the essence stored within their own body. These creations are easily controlled by mental commands, but cannot travel too far from their Shaper without going completely rogue. Furthermore, this essence is limited, and cannot be replenished while in use, placing a hard limit on the number of active creations that can be active at one time. Essence pools are a great convenience for this variety of Shaping, and can allow a Shaper to produce creations continuously, but only up to the limit of their essence. This is the only way the player Shapes things, the mechanics should be familiar. More formally-trained Shapers might be able to create more creations than the player, or control them from somewhat further away, but the principle remains the same.

 

Shapers can also, however, create more permanent and independent creations not tied to their personal essence by slowly growing them in vats, or something similar. This requires additional equipment, such as the vats themselves, tools for manipulating essence, power sources and conduits, Servant Minds to monitor things, and all the other stuff we find in Shaper facilities. These creations can be produced from "free" essence, essence not tied to any particular Shaper, and so there is no insurmountable limit on how many can be made, just limits on available equipment, growth rate and throughput, essence production, safety, and control ability. They are less susceptible(not immune) to immediate mental commands from Shapers, but can be readily imprinted and trained to function semi-independently or under the command of people other than their immediate creator. Essence pools are nothing more than a certain amount of essence for this variety of Shaping. This is a less convenient, but ultimately more powerful variety of Shaping, the sort that most of the Shaper's armies are made with.

Also, Shapers know how to make essence, it's just sort of boring and smelly alchemical work they prefer to leave to outsiders. Pods and pools are conveniences, not necessities.

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This is a quick reply, cause I have to go but I don't think that's how Shapers and essence work.

 

- Shapers can make essence but it takes a lot of time and materials etc. 

 

- Shapers can Shape creations and Shapers can Control/command creations and those two are not the same thing. We see that from the Unbound (uncontrollable), the Drayks (hard to control so they are considered rogue), Servant Minds that can control creations but not Shape them, Those trinkets the Takers love that allow people to bypass their creations and more. 
Another example is Litalia in GF3 that was spamming creations she didn't bother to control, or the Monarch in GF4 or Shapers and Rebels in GF5 in that valley between the Drakons and the Line that was full of rogues and soon-to-be-rogues. You are even told that Ghaldring's trinket will not protect you very well. 

 

- Shapers can control creations they didn't make themselves and we see that in GF1:M, GF3, GF4 and GF5 if memory serves, with the player's shaper taking control of Shaila's Artila in GF4, or commanding not-rogue turrets to shut down or commanding a servant mind to die. 

 

- The "tied to my essence" creations is IMO the game mechanics way to limit you. Shapers and Lifecrafters in game talk about the danger to lose control if you try to control many creations -  except that one show-off guy that brags about controlling 41 creations in battle and remotely, by using those crystals and soothing one creation then moving to the next one etc. 
I think the current system of GF1:M reflects the actual strain of control much better. 

 

- There are even those pacification pylons for Shapers or the torture pylons for the Barzites to help Shapers / Barzites control larger numbers of rogues by keeping them docile. 
And there are those not-so-nice pillars that creations like serviles, thahds etc are tried and whipped to remain loyal. 

 

 

To return to my earlier point: Yes, essence pods and essence pools are conveniences and not necessities, but a Shaper can use them to do a LOT of damage. The Monarch and Litalia from memory are such Shapers that used tons of essence to spam creations and release them from their control.

 A shaper that didn't have access to such conveniences would need weeks \ months to make one if he knew how and had the materials. 
(It wouldn't stop the Monarch cause he had the time to make the pools and it wouldn't stop Litalia cause she had the mana reserves in her body) 

Edited by alhoon
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Thanks, Sudanna, for clarifying my post. It isn't about justifying the Shaper order, it's about validating the Obeyer belief system and pointing out that, ultimately, all three servile sects on Sucia Island are essentially different "religious" responses to the same information. One of my favorite small but poignant moments in the game is:

Spoiler

When you stumble on the tribal serviles in the woods east of the Kazg plains. They are depicted as primitive creatures with only hints of linguistic capabilities. The text reads something like, "Given enough time alone, these serviles would develop their own beliefs and worldviews, and your people would have no part in it."

 

And thank you Alhoon for giving me a lot to think about as well! On a few points:

 

19 hours ago, alhoon said:

Now,  having established that Shapers are at least closer to deities of ancient religions when it comes to Creations... we get to my main point: 
Are they worth of worship and obedience? Or not? 

There's a lot of room for argument here. There's plenty in this world that receives "worship" that probably doesn't deserve it, but how do you qualify what does and doesn't deserve veneration? Do celebrities? Politicians? I guess the cool thing about worship is that it is the worshipers who decide who or what deserves their praise. 

 

On who becomes a Shaper, is it loyalty or competence? And how do we get bad Shapers if the system is so good?

19 hours ago, alhoon said:

They have a horrible attitude towards this though and we never saw how one is chosen to be considered as a Shaper aside of "picked for loyalty". I am willing to bet, based on what I have seen from our world that nepotism and personal relationships play a large role on how "your successors" are chosen.

On the topic of what kind of people end up being Shapers: Any system is obviously going to have its flaws. Do we need a better system of making sure bullies and racists don't end up on a police force? Absolutely. It's tough to come up with a good solution, though, and tougher still to implement it. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try though. 

On nepotism: I actually don't see even a hint of this in the lore. In fact, on the contrary, the series indicates quite often that Shapers are chosen first for their aptitude, and then gradually filtered out based on their attitudes toward Shaper law. With the addition of the remake of G1, actually, we see that even familial nepotism doesn't have a place in the Shaper order.

 

Spoiler

Thrackerzod is from a highly influential family, and still couldn't manage to get sponsorship. I get the impression that, had Thrackerzod's father been capable of pulling strings for his son, he would have. In fact, all three of the Shapers you encounter at the southeast corner of the island are among the most zealous Shapers I've encountered in this series, but the Shapers cast them aside, because ultimately, you can't have incompetent Shapers involved in important, dangerous work.

 

On more moderate regulation of Shaping:

20 hours ago, alhoon said:

My point: Teaching people how to make weapons should be regulated; don't teach how to make battle alphas. Having huge schools with countless shapers focused on agriculture or medicine is not an issue. I don't see many doctors stealing a contagious disease when it shows up in the hospital and spreading it in acts of bioterrorism, not many agronomists spreading parasites to their neighbor's farm. 

The Shapers use as an excuse the need to regulate Shaping to hoard it so they can keep their power.

I agree that power leads to a measure of corruption, and the fear of losing one's power is a flaw of some of the Shapers. An ideal scenario in my mind is a world where the Shapers aren't the governing body, but that's also not plausible. If the Shapers wanted to take control of the governing body by force, the unquestioningly could.

I disagree, however, that even the slightest relaxation of Shaping could be beneficial. With the current system where only  the best and brightest become Shapers, you still end up with things like fatal burrowing mold (G3) or plants that choke out an ecosystem (Is that Geneforge 2?). I think we have entirely different understandings of just how dangerous Shaping is, even on the smallest scale.

Regarding a doctor stealing a contagious disease, sure, the scenario where a doctor purposefully lets loose Covid 2.0 is pretty unimaginable. But there are reasons there are extreme protocols for scientists working with infectious diseases. Let's say you prick yourself in the lab on accident, carry out the plague with you, and just like that, you've started the next pandemic. 

The Shaper order is less concerned about hostile Shapers than it is about careless ones. There's a reason they shut down Sucia Island so quickly.

 

One last comment on that quote: Shapers like power about as much as anyone else. But they also fear and respect it. Limitations on one's power, according to Shaper dogma, should be perceived as a good thing. They are just as concerned about controlling themselves as they are about controlling the outsiders.

 

On Shaper society backsliding:

20 hours ago, alhoon said:

I very recently found an Arena in Sucia Island where Shapers were having creations ("our children") beat each other to death for the laugh and giggles. In GF2, that Barzites also had that showing that you cannot trust Shaper society to not digress back to further barbarism.

I wouldn't take the canister-addled Barzites as an example of Shaper society, and the same could be said about most of what was happening on Sucia Island. From Geneforge 1 to Geneforge 5, as a whole, I see Shaper society gradually adjusting itself to a more modern world. Too slowly, probably, but it is happening. The war certainly helps speed this along.

 

 

It's always fun for me to see how different people play this game. I love watching let's plays on Youtube where people treat their creations so carefully, and even name them. I definitely play like a traditional Shaper. I actually really missed the option in the remake to create a horde of monsters and send them off across the map without me having to be with them the whole time. It's a shame in my book... it's perfectly appropriate with the lore.

 

I have some thoughts on the essence pool issue, but I'll have to come back later for that one. I think I'm more in agreement with you here, Alhoon, but with one major caveat...

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I don't think most of those points contradict anything I said about methods of Shaping. Yes, essence production is some kind of necessary labor. Yes, Shaping and controlling creations are not the same thing. Yes, Shapers can control creations they didn't make themselves. Yes, they can use specialized equipment to do so.

 

The guy who can control many creations at once is just an example of more formal training and using specialized equipment. I would say the instances where people are making a lot of creations very quickly mostly seem to be instances where they're being sent into battle(and killed) right away, so limits don't come up in the same way. It's clear that other Shapers aren't playing by the same mechanics as the PC when they Shape and control creations, but I think it's a mistake to completely ignore the way things work for the PC. We also need to justify all that big expensive Shaper machinery when they're sometimes shown Shaping without it. The dual-method interpretation of Shaping(which I didn't come up with, it's been on these forums for a while) does that.

 

We already have examples of something using essence from essence pools to make a lot of rogue creations. That's what a Spawner is. Spawners are very bad and dangerous, but clearly not insurmountable. Also, essence pools aren't infinite. They run out and dry up and die and need maintenance, just on a scale that doesn't show up from the player using them.

I don't think they're really ever said to be all that complicated to construct, either. They're in a lot of places. Most Shapers probably know how to make one, just because it's a very basic and useful tool. I would suspect that "controlling" them is kind of impossible just because they're so normal that any Shaper that's had any training at all can figure them out.

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  "  actually don't see even a hint of this in the lore. In fact, on the contrary, the series indicates quite often that Shapers are chosen first for their aptitude, and then gradually filtered out based on their attitudes toward Shaper law.  " 

Yes, the Shapers say that, but that's not what I have seen. They go by "Loyalty first" despite the flowery words they spew. There are talented mages throughout the series that are not made to Shapers because they are not considered loyal enough, when they fight and fight for the Shapers against the Rebels while the Rebels fill their ranks (especially in GF2) with Shapers that changed sides. 
As for how they pick people and nepotism, it is never said in the lore but I believe it happens because that's how people are. Even going by strong beliefs, it happens even in most religious hierarchies and most religious hierarchies frown upon bishops having children. 

 

"With the current system where only  the best and brightest become Shapers, you still end up with things like fatal burrowing mold (G3) or plants that choke out an ecosystem (Is that Geneforge 2?). 
And with electronics, biochemistry, medicine, computer engineering etc you end up with nukes, chemical attacks that kill hundreds, cyber attacks on banks and institutions and environmental disasters. And yet, nobody is talking about closing down universities allowing only a caste of select few going there.
Holding back technological advancement (or magical in the case of the Shapers) because of few people being admitted to study the required fields (either because they have to work in food production or because an evil magocracy denies them) was the reason technology was progressing at glacial speed in the past. 

Our system of unchecked scientific progress is not great either and there are a lot of disasters and misuse. And yet, here we are. Few advocate for a return to the 1900s. 

Random people can go to wikipedia and figure how to make massive amounts of dangerous things from things in their local supermarket. And yet, fertilizer bombs and home-made napalm don't destroy the world. Because the law enforcement stops most of them. Not all, most. A random nurse could grab saliva of 3-4 covid patients from her hospital and spread the disease in a nursery home or twelve. And yet, it hasn't happened because people are not psychos. 

A dedicated bioterrorist could go to place where the bubonic plague is endemic or grab water contaminated by Cholera from Yemen (that had a cholera outbreak) and go spread it in the Favelas of Brazil or the slums of Delhi. Either disease in such a place would flourish and it would cause a horrid outbreak with thousands of deaths by the time it is contained. And again, it hasn't happened because people are not psychos. 

But it would be contained because we have a lot of medical personnel. 

 

Especially the cholera/plague example, it would be more catastrophic than the two examples you mentioned... because healing either requires more than a Shaper waving his or her hand and curing people stopping the disease dead on its tracks. 
So... no. Our civilization gives the average Joe the chance to do a lot more harm than a pen-pusher not-brilliant Shaper*. And yet, travel to Southern Colorado where the plague is endemic is not regulated at all and while it certainly won't be easy to go to Yemen and get out with a bottle containing cholera-tainted water, it is not that hard either. And here we are. 
Do you support closing off all parks in Oregon and Southern Colorado for the off-chance that someone would catch the bubonic plague and accidentally (or maliciously) spreading it? Because that's what the Shapers do. And they can fix their mess easier than we can stop a cholera outbreak in Delhi. 


*without access to an essence pool

 

"But there are reasons there are extreme protocols for scientists working with infectious diseases. 
My point is that there are extreme protocols for scientists working with infectious diseases. Not extreme protocols to stop people from becoming scientists because they could end up working with infectious diseases. 

Again my solution is: Don't teach Shapers how to make diseases, have agents check what they do so they won't teach how to make diseases themselves, have a lot of Shapers ready to CURE diseases (which is very easy and even agents do it in those 'petition your shaper' meetings we see in... I think GF4 or GF5) and have extreme protocols for the Shapers that work on diseases. Or battle alphas. 

I.e. don't stop people from being shapers, regulate the Shapers themselves. Don't put extreme protocols on who becomes Shaper, put extreme protocols on the dangerous things Shaper do. Put a lot of effort to regulate how Shapers advance and supervise what they research. 

I mean, in GF2 it is 5 years that the colony in Drypeaks "struggles" before Shapers show up to check. There's that nice lady there in the woods that gives you the nice multi-tiered medalion, that nobody knows she is there and she explains she has fell through the cracks because nobody is looking for her. For all that's holy, they have made a horde of drakons and Gazers there, and started a battle-royal between four factions and the Shapers are not aware, because they sent ONE agent after 5 years. Had Shanti not brought you, her apprentice, with her, the Shapers would be none the wiser. Oh, and what Shanti does when you head out. "here's how to make monsters my apprentice." So, so, responsible.  

 

The Shaper solution of "we try to make only wise (and loyal) people Shapers and then we givethem a looooooooot of space" is deeply flawed. 

 

 

"Limitations on one's power, according to Shaper dogma, should be perceived as a good thing. " 

I agree. I completely agree. But:

"They are just as concerned about controlling themselves as they are about controlling the outsiders." 
No, they are not.
Evidently they are not. Look at what someone does, not what someone says. 
Kayden is there making diseases and gazers and nobody gives a crap except the rebels. Alwan is filling entire tunnels with spawners and has those Servant Minds and control nodes to Shape and control creations and they go gaga. Rawal is having a geneforge in his basement. 

Before you say "all those things were  only possible because of the Rebellion and the breakdown of the system" we're talking about three councilors here. The watchers that watch the watchers. 

In GF2 Bazral and Zachary do whatevs for 5 years and nobody cared to look deeply on what they did in Sucia. They didn't learn how to make cannisters from cannisters you know. They did digging and research there, probably for years. 

 

And of course: GF3. The entire Rebellion was possible, taking entire provinces in weeks, because the Shapers cared about controlling outsiders and not controlling themselves. 

 

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@Sudanna: 

Well, as I was saying in the previous post, the Shapers could have put a lot more effort to see what Shapers actually do. So, yes, many Shapers would know how to make and maintain an essence pool. I am pretty sure more pharmacists know how to make narcotics or poisons. But there are inspections and there are laws. If Shapers, Shapers not modern pharmacists are told "Don't make essence pools, they are dangerous. The one in your research facility would require special permission to use and would be guarded behind a locked door" they would do it. Shapers are mostly loyal and follow protocols or they don't become Shapers. That's the one thing the Shapers mostly do well: follow Shaper Law. And yet, there's no Shaper law to limit the essence pools. I often walk into Shaper labs and find the Shaper working in his office while the essence pool is in a different, unlocked room. I have found smiths working with essence pools. There are essence pools in all the schools I have seen in GF:M. 

 

Essence pools being finite: Well, all Essence in this pools require to "grow" is light and occasionally some goo. And it replenishes itself fast enough as you said, for Spawners to spawn forever. But... Spawners are illegal. So, I won't blame Shaper Law for that.  

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Bottom line, I just do not buy that essence pools are as bad or important as you say they are. There's no acknowledgement of that in-universe.

 

Especially the "put it behind a locked door and fill out these forms first" kind of criticism. Who are you afraid is going to get to the thing? If a hostile person capable of Shaping is in your lab, you already have bigger problems than their access to an essence pool. You are probably already being killed by a player character. If a hostile person capable of Shaping exists at all, you already have bigger problems than whether or not they have an essence pool.

 

I also don't think that creating a level of Shapers with even more power, specifically over other Shapers, is going to solve any problems. Then that just becomes the safe place for criminals, or provides a target for who to manipulate to get away with things. That's just gonna be the place that Rawal ends up in charge of, and then he's even worse. The flat, self-policing hierarchy of the Shaper order itself is, I think, one of its major virtues. As it stands, every Shaper has a communal duty to uphold their laws and traditions among their own kind, and they all seem to take it pretty seriously.

Edited by Sudanna
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Well, I don't disagree with your sentiment. But: 
There's already tiers of Shaper hierarchy, the Council is above the Lords, the lords are above the local lab-boss of Fort-boss and the local lab-boss is above the rank-and-file Shaper. Which brings exactly the issues you mentioned: Rawal is in the council and may come to dominate it in some endings of GF5. Alwan and Astoria (both criminals in the eyes of Shaper law) are products of the war so I won't touch them, but Kayden was already a butthole before the war according to everyone you talk with. 

 

As for Shapers taking their traditions and laws pretty seriously, in the good days they seemed to do. I give you that. But you had the tiered hierarchy back then. 

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He is pretty clear on how he got there and how he got his buddies all set up. Nepotism, favoritism and looking the other side when it suit him. I think Kayden and Alwan are the only councilors that got their positions meritocratically. Astoria and that old dude in Ghaldring's ending seem like people that rose up stepping on bodies and/or buddies. 

 

In GF2, Zacary put his cronies in positions and Barzal manipulated him to get half of them. 

Edited by alhoon
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So I think we all can agree that the lore isn't super specific regarding how essence pools work (among other things). My interpretation of events is somewhere between Sudanna's and alhoon's. There's obviously some difficulty distinguishing between lore and game mechanics, but my understanding of how it functions is something along the following lines:

-On the one hand, and in agreement with alhoon, a Shaper with a well-fed essence pool has nearly limitless potential for creating hordes of creations. At least in theory.

-In practice, however, there are natural limitations that have to be considered. The biggest one that comes to mind is a Shaper's mental aptitude for control, as pointed out by Sudanna. Alhoon pointed out that the "once you use your essence, it is tied up in your creation" mechanic isn't reflected in the lore, but the lore is still very insistent that a Shaper has strict limitations on how many creations he or she may control. Going off memory, the highest number of creations controlled by a single Shaper that I remember referenced in the series is somewhere around 40 (Geneforge 3, I think?), but my memory could be faulty. The number of creations the average competent Shaper can control seems much lower, but in either case, there is a static limit to how useful even a limitless source of essence may be.

-That all said, that limit only applies under the assumption that the individual who has access to an essence pool is concerned with controlling their creations. This was precisely the issue with Shaper Monarch, right? He had the essence to create them, but not the need to control them. Definitely problematic...

-On the other hand: one issue I haven't seen addressed is that shaping is portrayed to be an incredibly physically demanding act in the lore. We see very few instances of Shapers managing to perpetually create (really only in the final battles of G5), and under the circumstances it is always mentioned in-text to be remarkable. With this consideration, the potential damage is severely mitigated by the sheer exhaustion that a single Shaper would experience, even with an inexhaustible pool of essence. 

 

With all that said, I see both alhoon's and Sudanna's points of view.

 

I agree with Sudanna that the likelihood of a hostile creator getting access to a Shaper lab, where you have pools of essence, is negligible. I think ultimately, alhoon agrees with this too: "A random nurse could grab saliva of 3-4 covid patients from her hospital or could create and spread the disease in a nursery home or twelve. And yet, it hasn't happened because people are not psychos." Let me rephrase: "A random Shaper could create a disease in a lab and spread it through a town or twelve. And yet, it hasn't happened because people are not psychos." Shaper mantra isn't "people are nefarious, and we have to control our power because of it." It's more along the lines of "people are prone to mistakes, and we have to control our power because of it."

 

In agreement with alhoon, however: while I think that you exaggerate the dangers of essence pools, considering the Shapers' aversion to unnecessary risk (especially when considering access to their tools or knowledge), I have to agree, I'm surprised they don't keep access to essence pools far more limited.

 

Thanks for bringing up the issue, alhoon. It isn't something I'd considered before.

Edited by JDubkins
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"Going off memory, the highest number of creations controlled by a single Shaper that I remember referenced in the series is somewhere around 40 (Geneforge 3, I think?), but my memory could be faulty. 
That show-off was in GF5 and pretended it wasn't special, even though the PC's jaw dropped off. 
GF:M reflects control much better IMO. 

 

"This was precisely the issue with Shaper Monarch, right?" 
Using "Shaper" and "Monarch" in the same sentence gives me the creeps. That's like saying "Shaper Litalia" and frankly she was less insane and less mass-murderous. She was against working with the Monarch and fled. 

That said: Nope, that's not the issue just with the Monarch. As someone else said, that's precicely the issue with Spawners. They are connected to an essence pool and ... 4-5 of them took down an island defended by soldiers in GF3. Alwan's Spawners seem to be more in control in GF5, with Alwan having placed "triggers" when the spawners start spawning somehow. 

Also, in GF3, when the characters speak to the scout that followed Litalia, we are told she would stop once a while, spam  a horde of creations, send them far away and release them. 

" He had the essence to create them, but not the need to control them. Definitely problematic..." 
Pronblematic as in: He was fighting the Shapers and the Rebellion in a standstill. And slowly winning. Because he had essence pools, spawners and was completely bonkers and reckless. 

 

"I haven't seen addressed is that shaping is portrayed to be an incredibly physically demanding act in the lore."
Not really, no. In the first games it was a slower procedure that couldn't be done in combat but later it was retconned. We are given descriptions of rebels and Shapers spawning monsters with abandon in the midst of a battle. As mentioned before, Litalia in GF3 walks around with her creepy smile and spams creations. 
In the last battle in GF5 you mentioned, we're talking about a handful of Shapers that machine-gun out creations nearly as fast as the Drakons can make them, without issue. It is described as the "common" Shaper battle: Sending out hordes of creations till the other side crushes. 

I honestly don't recall anywhere in the lore Shaping to be considered physically demanding. 

 

 

And as for the remarkable: The Spawners do it. Monarch does it. Litalia does it. Several other Shapers do it in the battle with the forts. The "Taxing" part is controlling them according to the lore. 

We're not talking theory here: Spawners are from GF1 been mentioned as a great issue precisely because of the essence pools. 

 

 

"Shaper mantra isn't "people are nefarious, and we have to control our power because of it." It's more along the lines of "people are prone to mistakes, and we have to control our power because of it." 

I disagree. What you say is the excuse Shapers give. Shaper Mantra is "we control the keys to our civilization (like electronics in the late 20th century) and we are not sharing it because it gives us power." 

They are power-hoarding, not power-protecting. As I said, there are ways to spread Shaping knowledge without as many issues as the Shapers pretend they are. 

 

If you have 30 Shapers, 20 of which are Shapers doing research, 5 of them are Guardians fighting rogues and killing those that are naughty Shapers and 5 of them are Agents to point the finger towards naughty Shapers you are... in more or less the same place as if you have 

3000 Shapers, 2000 of which are Shapers, 500 of them are guardians and 500 of them are agents. 

 

Now, add 10000 pen-pushers, bureaucrats and security advisers that are not Shapers but make sure the Shapers behave, have the Servant minds record what is doing and Agents-in-charge checking that what goes on in the lab is legal and you have a frankly more secure system than  "OK, you have been cleared as a Shaper so now we uber-trust you. Do this job in that remote lab as you see fit and remember to keep in touch once per 5 years." <=== current system. 

I have told you in the past and I will say it again: Zachary was hoodwinking the council for more than 5 years. The Rebellion succeeded in GF3 because the Shapers were complacent and not checking what other Shapers are doing. Hoge was a rebel teacher out of four professors and nobody noticed (people don't change in a day). Litalia went from killing Serviles in Drypeak mountains to rebel and nobody noticed. That lady in the woods in GF2 that made the medallion that you fill in the labyrinth was "lost in the system".  Rawal made a Geneforge in his basement. Alwan filled the place with Spawners. Kayden was spamming Gazers and making the apocalypse-disease.  

My pointShapers are evidently very lax in policing other Shapers. 
Their approach is "once you're a Shaper we trust you." The hard part is to be trusted to become a Shaper. Once you crawl through the various tunnels and emerge a Shaper, oversight is minimal. Because Shapers care more about preserving their powers in the hands of the few than what those few do with their powers.

Shapers are hypocritical, tyrannical and evil. 

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I think you are mistaking my point, alhoon. I'm not trying to say that the Shapers are as good as they can be, or that they don't need reform. I whole-heartedly agree with your sentiments that Shapers need significantly more oversight even once they become Shapers, and I quite like many of the ideas you've put forth on that subject. My point of disagreement comes in making the standards for becoming a Shaper more lax. I think it's contradictory to the premise you need if you're going to justify the greater oversight that you are championing. They are truly two sides of the same coin, and a shortcoming on either side is equally problematic. Thus, the problems you see in the current Shaper regime.

 

While I agree with you on that point, my statement that Shapers are equally concerned with problematic Shapers as they are with problematic outsiders maintains its integrity. An outsider does not land himself on the Shapers' watchlist until an incident is reported; likewise, a problematic Shaper. And both are held to the same standards for activities that they are not legally authorized to do: death. (Yes, truly. Investigate the series. Gray areas that aren't discussed under shaper law or hadn't been encountered under shaper law may result in lighter punishment, but shapers who violate their laws are almost always put to death. Just like outsiders are almost always put to death.) Perhaps both outsiders and shapers need a heavier handed governance, eh?

 

I'm also not making the argument that Shapers don't exhibit traits of greed and fear of losing their power. In their fear of losing control of their magical power, I've already demonstrated that they are justified. (And you've inadvertently supported me in this in your passionate discussion reappraisal of the dangers of essence pools. Your inclusion of spawners as one of the primary examples of their danger negates the notion that they can be controlled, which renders your concerns moot, and necessitates control elsewhere, i.e. on those doing the shaping/on those accepted to learn how to shape in the first place.) Regarding their fear of losing their political power, of course they fear losing influence! Find me one scenario where those in power aren't afraid of losing it, and find me a solution to it. In the meantime, find me a solution to world hunger. (Oh wait, the Shapers actually do that one.)

In fact, if we are being fair in our assessment, the Shaper empire is far more judicious in their use of power than practically any governing body in history, apart from the obvious slavery issue and the strict regulations on magic. Outsiders in the Geneforge world consistently live far better lives than the vast majority of humans do, not just throughout human history, but in much of the current modern world as well. Shaper rule is very purposefully noted in-text to be extremely light on outsiders (unless those outsiders try unlawfully to utilize magic, or unless they engage in a rebellion), and their provisional care of their subjects is actually pretty noteworthy.

 

On Shapers being "buttholes" as you put it: Sudanna already mentioned it, but. In law and governance, the governing do not owe their subjects kindness or humility, so long as they act in a manner that is just, and care for and protect their subjects. I think most readers will agree with me that the Shapers have succeeded in this, although bias may interpret data to the contrary. I could say a lot on this subject, but Sudanna covered at least one facet of this discussion nicely already.

On 5/11/2021 at 10:47 PM, Sudanna said:

The Shapers are not much motivated by compassion. They're an elite class with absolute power: most of them experience compassion as a niggling little doubt, a sick little feeling inside, rather than as a passionate drive. But they do mostly have that, and it seems to help a lot! They don't undergo terraforming projects for fun, or for personal need. They could extract everything they wanted from a much more desperate populace, if they wanted. They are humans, and are motivated, in flawed human ways, to do some good. They hold the power of life and death over all of their creations, and they aren't very hasty in exercising either, at least until they're in a war for their very survival.

 

I like to be very careful that I give credit where it is due for valid arguments, and I like to think that my worldview shifts a small amount with each discussion. Until you can prove to me that there is a better alternative to Shaper rule, however, Shaper reform is the only logically sustainable route. My opinions on what should be considered part of that reform has undergone some beneficial changes in this discussion, though, so thank you for engaging with me on that.

 

I'd like to investigate the physical demands of Shaping on an individual when I have the chance now. I suspect it lies somewhere between both of our expectations...

Edited by JDubkins
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1 hour ago, JDubkins said:

Find me one scenario where those in power aren't afraid of losing it, and find me a solution to it.

A rebellion. 

 

Since they won't give it, we will take our free. We will die, but will die free.

 

This is not a knee-jerk reaction but... I am joining the Takers as the idea has matured in me, largely through these discussions. I am more fond of the Awakened, I would like a moderate end but they are too idealistic. They won't go far enough. When it is needed, they will not send the Unbound. 
I really, really don't want to kill any Serviles. They have been betrayed and mistreated. 

But the Takers, antagonists as they are, they appeal to me. I don't want to sabotage the other serviles, but you need to break eggs to make omelet. If the Awakened have to go, then they have to go. I hope I don't have to hit them very hard. 

 

 

 

Edited by alhoon
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I think you're both frustratingly ignoring important things, and that it makes the conversation ultimately futile. The single-method model for Shaping that you're both working with utterly fails to explain several very obvious questions of the world, like

 

"Why are they growing all these creations in vats instead of just making them?"

"What's all this machinery even for?"

"What exactly are we powering with these massive radioactive power crystals?"

"How can all these NPCs have so many more creations than me even when I'm objectively better than them at Shaping?"

"Why can other people train creations to act without direct Shaper control but I can't?"

"Why does my essence come back for free on resting but not while just hanging around?"

"Why can't I use essence that's not literally a part of my body to Shape things?"

"Why don't my drayks talk to me?"

"Why hasn't one senile Shaper just decided to continually Shape wingbolts forever and killed everybody?"

"Why do these Spawners not spend all of their time Shaping as fast as when I'm fighting them and kill everybody?"

and of course

"Why does nobody seem to care very much about essence pools as an important tool when they're so useful to me?"

 

These questions are important and have an answer available. Instead of viewing them as authorial oversights and so ignoring them, consider a solution that wraps them all up into one answer in-universe: there is more than one way of Shaping and controlling creations.

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Sudanna: You forgot one of the most glaring questions that plague me since I started playing GF games: 
"How many Shapers have prostate problems, since the labs have no bathrooms and to get out to do your business you have to walk several minutes and clear several sealed doors, deactivate traps etc."  

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As is typical of Spiderweb games, bathrooms are actually fairly common. What else do you think all those slimy bucket rooms are? ;)

 

Regardless, most of those are specifically brought up by the text, very intentionally brought in as parts of the world by Jeff. They're not inconvenient or uninteresting mundanities.

Edited by Sudanna
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To be honest, most of these questions have answers. And while there is the option to create a creature in a vat to make it more docile, better and imbue it with more essence through time OR to create it immediately,  the spawner creation, essence through rest, and non-speaking drayks are... because of game reasons. That's game mechanics. 

As for people can train creations to obey, it's the same reason people can train dogs to obey: they know how and they have time. 

If the PC was with a few fyoras for 3-4 months, he would get them to obey him. But that wouldn't reach the level of a Shaper direct mental control of a creation. 

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3 hours ago, Sudanna said:

It is best to find synchronicity between the game mechanics and the narrative, rather than deliberately separate them.

 

As Slarty has wisely said to me back when I made more or less the same argument, 

"The game mechanics in Geneforge very, very rarely do a good job of reflecting the nuances of the world.  If they did, let's face it, the Ashen Isles would have been overrun by Vlish..." 
(Shamelessly stolen from @Triumph's signature). 

 

GF1:M does a much better job with the Control of creations, but we're still a long way to go. 

Edited by alhoon
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