Baldur's Gate 2; Thoughts on Solafein, Mary Sues and Victims of Bad Writing

In anticipation of Dragon Age Origins; I have been dutifully playing through Obsidian, Black Isle and other CRPG big jobs; chewing my way through the forerunner titles. Of course, I have been doing it /backwards/ playing NWN2, NWN1, and now, running around in Baldur's Gate 2 absolutely astounded by how amazing this game is. The hours of gameplay, the interactivity; the fact that this game has three times more content than NWN2 and /they actually ran out of time and didn't manage to finish everything/.

Of course, BG2 had the special luck to be built on an engine already firmly developed; it was the same engine as BG1, just looks better (and it looks /really/ good). Perhaps the villain of NWN2 was the gaming engine they used; too much time was spent developing it and ironing out the bugs in the system that they ran out of time to actually... well, write a story.

I have big hopes for Dragon Age; but that goes hand in hand with my fear that it, too, will fall victim to the dreaded deadline. It's not even set in Faerun. So I worry. Will it be any good? Fingers crossed.

But this rant is not about that. It's about mods and Why Developers Should Not Try Writing.

You see, this is actually my second play through of BG2. My first play run, I was so impressed by the actual content that I went looking for the alleged 'misplaced' content.

I found some great stuff. If anyone asks, get all the extra banter packs; the fan made shit because they are so damn well written, if I took off my headset I could not tell the Official Chats apart from the Fan Made ones. It is /wonderful/.

Get Unfinished Business, because that completes the game in one extra step that makes it awesome fun. Plus it's really well written.

Other things like the flirt packs, Gibberling's Romantic Encounters are just addons I got for the extra character development - RE is a bit weird, the adult content had me go WTF; but they are all very well written............ and I just started laughing in my chair because of the thought of a particular paladin and his amazing stamina. If you can handle the occasional adult content in a mature manner, you'll appreciate the delicate writing that prevailed in this mod. I was very impressed, the times I wasn't thinking what a slut my character was. If /anything/, install the Love Song of Logan and be prepared for one of the most amazing works of literary art in that encounter. And the best part? It's not about getting laid because you don't; it's about enjoying a great piece of writing, full of thoughtful precision, like the touch of a master artist daubing finishing touches on his canvas.

I'll put the links here for opportunist google trawlers:
Pocket Plane Banter Pack
SpellHold Banter Pack
Pocket Plane Unfinished Business
SpellHold Yoshimo Friendship (the journal 'reward' is absolutely gold - it just expands his storyline a bit so the betrayal doesn't come as a left swing outta nowhere.)
Gibberlings Romantic Encounters (seriously if you play a female character, get this mod for the Love Song of Logan... You can pick what to install and what to ignore; I didn't install some of the components cause I was like.. WTFNOx_x;)

I'm sure any of these groups have incredibly high writing standards so I'd place my trust in any of their other mods. Now, let's move on to the topic at hand.


You see... I have this thing about drow.

I fucking hate them.

Because every goddamn drow is a goddamn Mary Sue in Disguise: outcast, good rising up against their inherently evil society, 'interesting,' free thinker, attractive, kicks arse, is SO SMRT.

I hate them so much that I stood by and watched an angry mob burn Viconia at the stake, to the gentle rebuke of Minsc and Jaheira. I tell you, they really try to make you feel super guilty about it; her corpse never decays but lies there as a reminder of the evils of inactivity every time I run through the Government district. I try to run over it a few times when I can.

Then I had to go to the Underdark (again... thanks NWN1!) and I met Solafein and Phaere.

I actually don't mind drow in their element, because then they /aren't/ unique special little butterflies; they're just another face in a sea of angry drow. I slaughter my way through packs of them, cackling ruthlessly (or I would... if I didn't play a mage and every damn drow has like 80% magic resistance. Bastards.)

So I was quite happy watching Solafein squirm around his ex, and developed a soft spot for him when he called her, daughter of the Matron Mother (of that particular city), a Bitch, to her face, in public, in broad... day... light. Except it seemed to me that he was a bit suicidal, even if he had spunk. Plus, I don't like Phaere. I had to kiss her arse so many times, it was surprising my lips weren't stuck to it. The poor girl isn't too bright. If I ever ask someone for proof of a murder done, I wouldn't ask for an article of clothing... I'd tell them to bring back their head, still recognisable.

Anyway, in telling Solafein you ain't gonna kill him for Phaere, your character offers him the Ultimate Chance of a Lifetime; you offer him a spot in your Party.

He looks at you funny, because he thinks you're a drow and showing compassion is like a man using a brick for a floater. But thankfully, Solafein isn't stupid and automatically links the dots that you are, in fact, Not a drow and that when you say: 'join us and leave this place' you really mean 'Dude, let's blow this joint cause it sucks wang. Also I think you are totally hot and if I wasn't boning Anomen, I'd totally bone you.' Last sentence optional.

But despite your offer, he chooses to flee on his own, because he'd put you all in danger if he stuck around. Good man, that. Also he pops up later to give you some fake dragon eggs that he had procured... we didn't ask how, but presumably there's a vendor for these things.

Afterwards, you never see him again. Which I felt, on my first play through, was very sad. Because if you did take him up to the surface with you, there'd be all this potential for drama. SO MUCH DRAMA. SO MUCH... ISSUES! He would be a bubbling fountain of issues. He could make Aerie look like she had installed Norton, AVG and Kaspersky simultaneously.

I did, however, find some other enterprising person thought the same as I did and made a mod for him. They explained it as an experiment in testing the limits of the infinity engine and boy, that is true, cause it sure as hell ain't testing the limits of literature. It's goddamn awful. Solafein turned into Mary Sue; he was a goddamn METAGAMING Mary Sue. Disgusting.

I was despairing because the mod actually made me hate the character when I shouldn't have. But here's a thing; if you, the writer, have to /tell/ people how awesome a character is? YOU'RE FUCKING DOING IT WRONG. If you, the author, have to /force/ a character down our throats at every opportunity? YOU'RE FUCKING DOING IT WRONG. I don't mind the poetry, I don't mind the bookishness and the philosophical take on things. I agree slightly with these interpretations, but all things in moderation. A real person is NEVER one extreme; that's a stereotype. If you can describe a character solidly in two words YOU'RE FUCKING DOING IT WRONG.

It was so bad that I kept wanting to ditch him and when I killed him at Bodhi, I didn't bother ressing him. His body is stuffed in a chest in my stronghold. I felt guilty about doing it to Solafein, but not to this monster that wore his name.

So much so that I was seriously wondering how much effort would it be to rewrite him. Solafein had so much potential to be fascinating but it was spoiled by someone who didn't know how to /write/ and instead wanted to code as much cool doodads in as possible. You got this boorish, uninteresting idiot who pipes up at odd moments to steal the limelight from your PC, like the guy in the background yelling 'RHUBARB RHUBARB' at the top of his lungs when the main character is trying to talk.

Let me piece together my thoughts on how I would write it.

There is the whole bad break up with Phaere you could mention; although I feel Solafein has had time to establish Phaere was a nutcase on a downhill roll. He should probably be burnt slightly by that whole experience to be wary about getting romantically involved with a female. As in, he's more interested in being your friend... but that bring us to the more important point of:

He's from a dysfunctional society with absolutely no values in friendship, honesty, 'goodness' and of course, love. You have taken him from a world he understands, if disproves of, into a world he wants so badly to be a part of, but has no understanding, experience or even acceptance from. Viconia was minding her own business, got discovered and then BURNED AT THE STAKE (cackle) for the mere fact that she was a drow. Solafein is no better.

I've always thought that when faced with such abject hostility, people tend to retreat into themselves. The main point of this whole endeavour is that Solafein is frightened, scratch that, terrified, but he's too much the drow to admit it to anyone. He'd have no friends to turn to (drow aren't big on friends) and he's not even sure where he stands with you. After all, he only knew you as Veldrin and that turned out to be one big arse lie.

So on one hand, he's sort of clinging to you as a life line, but he's also trying not to because Solafein knows he's got to Harden the Fuck Up (to paraphrase the entire drow culture)

I've always thought that the Solafein that follows you to the surface becomes very quiet, not because he doesn't have things to say but because he doesn't know if he should say it. Most of the banters should not be initiated by him; it should be the PC making the effort to get him to emerge from his shell and teach him about the shit he needs to know. Like, for example, those big puffy white things in the sky are called clouds; not every man you meet wants to kill you; no, you should not make that face at beggars; yes, sunsets are quite beautiful aren't they, shall I close your jaw for you; yes, you should probably keep your hood up while we are in Athkala; if a woman smiles at you, she is unlikely to be plotting your demise; what do you mean you have sunburn etc etc.

I also feel that he should be rather alarmed if the PC flirts with him. First because drow females tend to take, not ask, and secondly because he's not ready for it; his secret fear is to be alone in a Scary Surfacer World and Solafein has learnt that love burnsssssssssssss. It doesn't matter anyway, because he'll always see you, the PC, as the person who rescued him from the Underdark, and regardless of what you say to him, he'll fall for you anyway - even if you're all mean n shit to him, he'll still like you. Hey, he's a drow. Taking the shit is what males are for. It's probably reassuring to him; reminds him of home and the whippings mother used to give. And you'll always be better than Phaere.

Which makes for some awesome shit with Anomen/SignificantOther because if you ignore Solafein or drag him on, he'll hang around feeling really shit about himself, and you, the PC, should feel some sort of obligation to him, cause it's like you adopted a puppy. Tell him to go and he'll get burned at the stake (cackle) within the fortnight. Dump SO for Solafein and they'll get all pissed and leave or duel him... or something in accordance to their character. No middle ground!

In other words, there's no way to turn this 'romance' off, unless you remove him from party to prevent it from firing. You can just keep him around and ignore him for Anomen/SO, and he'll get progressively more depressed and disillusioned by the whole surfacer thing - he won't leave, however.

I don't think he should get a happy ending either. People need to learn sometimes there are no happy endings. Like Kaelyn in NWN2:MotB.

Let me come back to this, when it's not so late. I have some idea for script.