So, I’ve been playing the original Guild Wars for nostalgia purposes while I wait on SWTOR 1.3, and so I can brush up on the storyline before GW2. Just now, I re-stumbled onto this armor set — the early-game Charr Hide armor. I remember, back in the day, I used to get so excited about this armor, because it looks pretty awesome and made me feel like YEAH BAD ASS CHARR SLAYER YEAH.
Only, when GW1 first came out, it was before they established Charr as a people. Back then, I just thought they were generic feral psuedo-animals, because that’s how the game portrays them except in a few cases. Nbd. Now that I’ve played GW2 and seen that Charr are a sentient people with their own culture and society and history, this armor suddenly becomes… very disturbing. You’re going around wearing the skin of what used to be a person, however bestial — and then attacking other Charr while wearing their dead brother. Jesus christ.
Amazing how perspective can change one’s view of things. Basically GW1 has a very human-skewed portrayal of Charr that’s not accurate at all. That’s some damn good storytelling, even if I’m not sure it was intentional. Thankfully this armor will be hidden under a costume, or I’d have to headcanon this dude as a rampaging psychopath.
I caught on, though. I mean, okay, so we’re told by Barradin and co that the charr are merciless slayers, feral beasts, and yet they kept a number of human prisoners alive and in good health. Something didn’t click, there. I knew there was something wrong with the story in Prophecies, and it wasn’t until Eye of the North that I finally understood what it was.
They’d been planning this all along, as a bomb to drop, a paradigm shift. Something that would make you sit back and look at your human characters and whether they were really ‘heroes.’ The truth ultimately is is that the Ascalonian heroes were truly bloodthirsty psychopaths who’d believe any lie their leaders told them, and would even wear the pelts of a sentient species without even bothering to discover whether they were setient or not.
We understand now that the Ascalonians were complete monsters.
I have a feeling that Balthazar had a lot to do with this, and it’s long been my belief that Balthazar pretty much brainwashes every human leader to be a fanatical warmonger. This is why, according to the lore, even before the charr invaded the three human nations were warring with each other. And guess what? If the charr hadn’t invaded, they would likely have warred each other to extinction. They were on the brink of that when the charr invaded.
And this puts the gods (Balthazar at least) in a very questionable light, because it makes you wonder just how much influence they swung over humanity as a whole. When the humans first came to Tyria, brought to Tyria from another world by the human gods, the first thing they did was set out killing charr.
Why? The gods thought it was a good idea to plonk them down in the middle of charr territory, so that they might war with the charr. Again, why? Because the gods couldn’t control the charr, they wanted them wiped out. I’ll give you a little backstory in a moment that I’ve covered before, but yeah, the humans became uanimously convinced (brainwashing!) that the charr were all mindless beasts that deserved death.
This is why your character believed it, as you mentioned. Because it’s all you were ever told, you were forced into that perception. The game literally forced you to see things through the eyes of an Ascalonian. It was propaganda at its best. You too had become a brainwashed soldier of the Ascalonian horde, killing for your masters. Blood for the blood god and all that. You were no better than an automaton, because you followed orders unquestioningly.
Now, before the humans came to Tyria, the gods sent the Forgotten (snake men). The Forgotten were tyrants that tried to convince every culture on Tyria to worship the gods. They were basically missionaries. And their role was to use strength, fear, and domination in order to get the other races to kow-tow. Apparently, at that time, the gods couldn’t control the non-humans so easily. So…
Anyway, the charr were having none of that. The snake men warred with them over this, to try and dominate them, and ultimately lost and were forced out of charr territory. The defeat the charr gave them was crippling, they were a shadow of their former selves, and soon they became Forgotten.
The interesting thing here is that each instance of god magic has involved domination and brainwashing, because this is intrinsically something that the gods seem to do, and the fight against that is a part of Tyria’s history. Let me run it down…
- Human Gods: Tried to brainwash everyone with the Forgotten.
- Human Gods: Successfully had humanity brainwashed.
- Flame Legion: Used the magic of Abaddon (a corrupt human god) to brainwaash and control the charr.
- King Adelbern: Used the Foefire to ultimatley kill, rise, and enslave to his wll the entire Ascalonian military.
- Kralkatorrik: Brands people with his magic, binding them to his will.
- Jormag: Bound the Sons of Svanir to his will.
- Palawa Joko: Killed and raised people as zombies to enslave them.
- Zhaitan: Does what Palawa Joko does.
- Abaddon: Tried to rewrite the entirety of reality to his liking, thus bending it to his will.
I know there are many other examples, too, but I could sit here listing them all day. This is why I’m uneasy about the magicks in the Guild Wars 2 Universe, as they seem to corrupt the people who use them into believing themselves to be superior, it whispers to them of power and control. And ultimately they go on a brainwashing spree.
Now, the asura already think they’re better than everyone else. I’ll be keeping a close eye on that race.
Ultimately though, a key factor in Guild Wars is the fight against magic, and the corruption, control, and domination of magic. That’s ultimately part of the story, because all of the problems throughout the history of Guild Wars have stemmed from this. And I think that it’s the tip of the iceberg. This is probably spoilers as I’ve likely figured out what ArenaNet doesn’t want you to know about Guild Wars 2. (I’m kind of good at that, sorry.)
But ultimately, what I’m saying is that I think that the Ascalonians were victims. The gods pitted the charr and humans against each other as pawns, on the human side you had Balthazar, on the charr side you had Abaddon. It’s all one big game to them.
The interesting thing though is that despite the gods having left (I think Kormir kicked some sense into them), the cycle of domination and resistance continues. Except instead of the gods, you have the dragons. And interestingly, there are just as many dragons as gods.
What’s the link the dragons have with the gods?
But speculation and rambling aside, yes, the humans were victims. They were the puppets of Balthazar, forced to dance for his pleasure. Balth was a giant jerk. So if that seems horrific to you, now, then yeah, it was. But you didn’t know it then becasue you were looking at things through the view of a human who’d been exposed to the most ultimate form of propaganda conceivable.
And that gives the story of Guild Wars crazy amounts of depth.
Me reading this post:
Good reads here, people!!!
The more I read all this, the angrier I get. We, as player characters, have been led around by the nose by these poseurs and fakers (whom in another post several weeks ago I called, using a popular term in the alternate-history community, Alien Space Bats) for years and years. It’s probably a good piece of design that we only had to fight the Charr in the first four missions of Prophecies, because if we’d had to battle them beyond that, the truth about what was REALLY going on would have inevitably leaked out. “Murder will out.” -Chaucer.
And we’d have been sickened beyond measure.
As it is, I am beginning to think Rurik should have launched a coup d’etat against that lunatic father of his, done what was needful to secure authority over the Ascalonian state by force of arms, and then negotiated a peace with the Charr, even if the price was withdrawal to Kryta. (Note this: the Charr never, NEVER, NEVER troubled the Ascalonian remnant once they withdrew over the Shiverpeaks and took sanctuary in Kryta. Which begs, or rather, invites, the question of why the Ebon Vanguard went back into the northern Shiverpeaks in the first place and took over the Eye of the North, using it as a base for their terrorist raids into Charr territory.
Yes, I said it. Terrorist raids. Stipulating that the Flame Legion’s dictatorship badly needed overthrowing, and that the player characters had an indispensable hand in starting that ball rolling by freeing Pyre Fierceshot, the actions of the Ascalonians based at the Eye are just…insupportable…in light of what we now know.
Unfortunately, we can’t give back our Hall of Monuments rewards - rewards presumably awarded by the Ebon Vanguard - so yeah, I’m going to take them. But, as Jackson Browne said in a song thirty years ago, “the freedom I found was not quite so sweet when the truth was known.”)
Okay. Tomorrow, look into jump cuts. I just want to do a few quick blogs now before heading to bed.
Yes, exactly! You’re completely right. The thing of it is is that that’s the glory of the Guild Wars storyline. And it took some cojones, really cojones, to stand by that. Now, if this had been something like Warcraft or a more pop-culture MMORPG, they would have stuck with the black & white approach, because that’s easier. You know, some stuff is pure good, and some are pure evil.
In fact, there are instances where the writers have tried to reinforce this despite shades of grey having crept into their work. Citing World of Warcraft again, one of the things that was said, by Metzen, about Cataclysm is that he wanted to reaffirm the idea that the Alliance were the unshakable, perfect good guys, and that the horde were these people who’d do terrible, unethical things, essentially the bad guys. This was an image he really wantd to push, hence Sylvanas and the plague.
The only problem with this is that it doesn’t make sense any more. Because he pushed this black & white, binary (1 and 0) perception of things, you have elements that don’t fit. What about the tauren? If the plague had really been used, they would have stormed out of the Alliance, and yet it was, and they didn’t. They would have demanded Garrosh do something, and upon Garrosh refusing (which he would have), they would have just left. Never to return.
So the tauren make no sense now in regards to WoW lore, because Metzen.
The reason he wrote things that way is because black & white is easier than shades of grey. In fact, taking something that’s black & white and turning it upon its head so that you discover the dirty dealings of what you had believed to be perfection is a powerful thing. I remember in one really interesting series of Captain America comics that he basically ended up having a nervous brekdown after discovering just how corrupt the American government had become.
In the past, he was pretty much trained to believe that the American government represented the good guys, and freedom for all people, everywhere. He was supposed to be the symbol of that freedom, doing what the Vigil do - fighting so that others who can’t fight can remain free. That was his credo, his philosophy, his raison d’etre. But then he discovers that it isn’t all as rosy as he’d thought, and that corruption was a part of the American government as it is any other government the world over.
He snapped, he basically had a mental breakdown, because the world he was in now was so amazingly different to the one he’d left behind. Back then, in the past, he felt like there could be no questioning of the American government, because he believed with heart and soul that they were doing the right thing in fighting the Marvel equivalent of the nazis. And, of course, they were. But Captain America had boiled it down to binary thinking. Good versus evil, us versus them, zero versus 1.
What happened to the Guild Wars fanbase was basically that, the same thing.
As the truth slowly came into focus, it became evident that the charr weren’t this unassailable evil, and that the Ascalonian peoples (especially Adelbern) weren’t exactly these shining examples of good and purity. Ascalon’s halo became tarnished by the truth. And the charr became vindicated by it. And what do we learn? We learn the most startling thing that any fantasy game has ever dared tell us.
They’re all just people. No heroes or villains, here, just regular people, with the motivations and instinctual drives of regular people. All of them wanting to survive, and all of them with their ideas as to how that could be done.
The Ascalonians were just people, not saints.
The charr were just people, not monsters.
And people, in general, regardless of race/species can and are ultimately flawed. We’re not perfect, no one is. And the charr and the Ascalonians weren’t examples of perfetion, either. To the contrary, they were examples of what most people do when they think their life and livelihood are at risk - they fall in line. The Ascalonians fell in line with Adelbern, and the charr fell in line with the Flame Legion. And I posit that the Ascalonians who remained behind were more scared of Adelbern than the charr.
Just as the charr were terrified of the Flame Legion.
It took genuinely exceptional people to actually step up and change things. Throughout our history we’ve had examples of that. People like Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King who’ve really made strides to change things. These are exceptional people. Not exceptional through perception, but from having the bravery to say aloud what everyone was always thinking: “This is wrong.”
And that’s all it takes. One person, charismatic and powerful enough to stand up and risk everything to say those words.
Rurik spoke them to Adelbern, and Pyre spoke them to the shamans.
And it’s these parallels with our own world that make the Guild Wars history so enthralling, so thrilling. That people aren’t perfect, that there are no true heroes, and that ultimately people are people, and they can be flawed, but they can also be exceptional. A perfect person can’t ever be exceptional, because there are no personal limitations for them to overcome, and their victories are mere inevitabilities. What they do is fait, pre-written, they’re just acting out the lines.
This is the problem I had with the Dovahkiin in Skyrim. No matter what choice you made, it was the perfect one. You couldn’t make an imperfect choice in Skyrim, and aside from broken game mechanics, you weren’t allowed to be an imperfect character. This is because Bethesda wanted to enforce the good vs. evil trope, and play it safe. They didn’t want to alienate people and take them outside of their comfort zone by portraying the Dovahkiin as an ultimately flawed character.
Steal from everyone? Put the Imperials/Stormcloaks in power? Kill Paarthurnax? These were all perfect choices. Even if you do kill Paarthurnax, for example, there are no real repercussions. You don’t have the Greybeards throw an emotional fit and try to end you for it, forcing you to kill them. You don’t have people whispering about the rumour that you killed the only benign dragon just so you could gain status with the Blades. Nope. None of that. Everyone loves the Dovahkiin.
The thing is is that the moment you try to portray something that people are invested in as less than perfect, you incite restlessness and anger, you take people outside of their nurture, their comfort zone, you expose them to an alien concept that they might not want out of their entertainment. You make them think.
In that rebuttal I wrote to travelsintyria, I don’t blame that person for their reaction. It’s ultimately the Captain America reaction. They were invested in something and they absolutely cannot believe that the Ascalonians are just people, not saints. They cannot believe that the Ascalonians could do wrong. The Ascalonians were originally presented as the Dovahkiin, but then their dirty laundry was aired.
And I know they did that on purpose!
Bless them for it, really, because it’s good writing. It’s a paradigm shift. It makes a person sit down and re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about a story. Once you understand what was going on with the Ascalonians, you start asking some very uncomfortable questions. Questions like: How do I know when they weren’t lying to me? Were they grooming me for war from the beginning, and only being nice because they knew I’d make a perfect robot soldier (never questioning)? How many of them knew the truth? How could they live with themselves?
And that’s what war does. It makes people ugly. Attrocities can be committed on either side, and they were. I know myself that both the humans and the charr were responsible for their fair share. Why? They weren’t exceptional, they were afraid, and it’s easy to take the easy choice.
That’s true of writing, too. It’s easy to take the easy choice.
It’s easy to write something as black & white, and it’s easy to fall into the mindset of black & white. Binary thinking is easy, we love classifying things like that because ultimately we can all be very lazy. It’s comfortable to think that we understand everything, and that we can classify everything into neat, little boxes. We need to feel we can do that. And when that’s taken away from us, especially in huge magnitudes, it shakes the foundations of what we know. And the best writers have done that.
But likewise, it was easy for Ascalonians and charr alike to fall in with these perceptions because they were not exceptional, they were afraid. Both sides of that war were afraid, and that fear ruled them. It was easier to obey orders and to make another kill than it was to stand up and say “This is wrong.”
Ask yourself this: How many fantasy games have had figures like Rurik and Pyre? I’ve played a lot of fantasy and to my mind? In the realm of games, barely any.
They both did their part to save people and expose the deceit and lies that the foundations of tradition and life in general had been built upon. It’s not easy to basically take everything you think you knew and put it into question, realising that most of it might in fact be lies. No, it’s not easy. But if there is a truth that I can share here from my years, it’s that nothing worthwhile ever is easy.
And I’m sure that Guild Wars couldn’t have been easy for ArenaNet.
Kudos to them for not only having the vision, but the tenacity to see their vision through without ever backing down.
I appreciate a good story, and Guild Wars is a good story.
I loved Skyrim more for the roleplaying/headcanon possibilities than the storyline because truthfully the main quest is not that great and I still don’t see Alduin as the ultimately evil, to be quite honest, both Dovahkiin and Alduin were trying to fulfil their destinies, in a way both sought power over “fate”, now who was wrong and who was right is still unclear as far the story goes. But the main quest was too linear, I agree with that. Usually I don’t even play as Dovahkiin hahah I just use mods to make OCs 8—-)
But aside that I agree that the Guild Wars lore is simply incredible, I JUST love it. Love, love, love it so much. And everything stated in these reblogs is basically most of what I think.
Dang can I marry this community already? Yeah im doing it.