Sunday, November 6, 2016

Grieving Mother

"Lies lies lies you love those lies
You tell them straight, straight to my face
They feel so right, they keep you safe
And you're so - good! - at it
Oh, it comes automatic

And you're so sly about it, oh it comes automatic
Yeah you're so good at it, a systematic habit"

Garbage - Automatic Systematic Habit

As is customary for Baldur's Gate inspired RPGs, much of Pillars of Eternity's roleplaying is relegated to its roster of NPC companions, and unfolding their various side-stories eats up much of your dialoguing throughout your adventures. Some of these are pretty cheesy, weak characters at their core (Maneha) while others are underdeveloped (from Aloth to Zahua) while others are a mixed bag. The Devil of Caroc could've been a true powerhouse but stops short of her rightful mythopoietic ascendance to self-justifying anti-villainess status. Hiravias had some half-decent writing to work with but was just so awkwardly voiced as to completely put me off dragging him along more than absolutely necessary despite my penchant for druids.

The two best companions by far though in terms of dialogue were the ones directly written by Chris Avellone: Durance and Grieving Mother. I'd run across Avellone's name many times in the past but as I generally take little notice of individuals within companies never paid it much attention. I have to say though, his leaving for Larian now makes me slightly more interested in D:OS2 than anything Obsidian's putting out. Kinda sorry I pre-ordered Tyranny.

Durance and Grieving Mother were the only ones who didn't toe the politically correct line at every step. With Durance this is rather obvious from the first time he calls his goddess "whore" to... well, the 1347th time he calls her a whore. Taking a character with such a blatantly grating central trait and building him into someone you can be proud to have at your side in the final battle took true ingenuity and talent. Most others along Durance's lines are always relegated to comic relief status and moralistic punching bags (see Oghren in DA:Origins.) Not that I needed much convincing to stand in Durance's corner after I found him speaking my words in his introductory dialogue.

The transgressive side of GM's dialogues is less blatant but equally biting.
Largely it's because Grieving Mother's crime is so fundamentally, so intrinsically... feminine. I don't mean just the midwife background, though I'll get back to that in a second. I mean the attitude so many human beings possess of treating truth as merely the social convenience of the moment, to be ignored or cherry-picked for personal gain. Everyone does it, but the impulse toward "little white lies" finds decidedly more fertile ground in the feminine social manipulation mindset than in the masculine social dominance mindset. Yet we are forbidden in modern society to address any of the flaws, abuses and toxicity of femininity.

I was utterly shocked at even being given the opportunity to tell Grieving Mother to her face that y'know what, no... reality is not fucking optional! More so that this was treated as a valid method of interacting with the character instead of having truth thrown back in my face in favor of self-serving facetious "niceness" and being beaten over the head with postmodernist moral relativism as I would've been in most games. You can stand your ground and make GM face her own crimes and she comes out all the stronger for it, a villainess turned antiheroine.

All the more crucial that those crimes were perpetrated in the name of childbirth. We deify motherhood. The mere notion that someone self-identifying with that most sacred taboo should be called out on crimes perpetrated in the name of her holy calling is so delightfully subversive (intentionally or not) as to make me immediately minimize my game client and google who the hell wrote this gem! By the time Durance underwent his great discovery I was mentally prepared to discover the same writer responsible for both.

Lovely work, monsieur Avellone.

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