Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

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    Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by prophetteonit on Tue Apr 23, 2013 9:26 am

    When looking for the stereotypical "bad guy" in common literature and culture, there is normally a thick black line separating good and evil, making it easy for those of us looking to find the villain. What I've noticed about Dark Souls is that, for the most part, there are no true villains--simply misguided heroes or unfortunate victims. Following is a quick rundown of the enemies (important characters) in-game and why they're not so bad.


    Now, we know that demon and dragon-based characters have it in for humans as established in Demon's Souls, so I'm assuming "evil" by default on the following bosses: Asylum/Taurus/Capra/Stray demon, Demon Firesage, Centipede demon, Moonlight butterfly, Undead dragon, Gaping dragon, Hellkite dragon, etc. Also, it's important to note that the Iron Golem isn't sentient (I believe...), it is merely a machine with a soul that allows it to be animated. Please correct me if you feel any of the above information is wrong.

    Gods/Humans, etc.:
    Havel the Rock: We know he was a friend of Gwyn's and an apostle to Gwyn's uncle, Allfather Lloyd. He was a bishop of the Way of the White (same as Petrus of Thorolund and the like, if my memory serves me right). And we know that, at some point, he turned hostile towards Gwyn and was foiled in his attempt to destabilize him (this is evident by the occult club with his equipment in Anor Londo--since occult weapons are considered "god killers", it is safe to presume a coup. I assume his rage resulted from Gwyn's allegiance with Seath the Scaleless, as Havel hated magic, so Seath would be a physical manifestation of his hatred and Havel would feel betrayed by their friendship). His failed attempt on Gwyn's life resulted in him becoming hollow and being locked away in the basement watch tower "by an old friend" (there is some speculation that this is Gwyn; others disagree, and still others doubt that the figure in the watchtower is Havel, though I believe he is). As far as Havel being good or evil: bottom line, he had his political allegiance, and it was shaken. Regardless of events leading up to his imprisonment, he attacks the player, leading some to believe he is an "evil" character; however, a) he is hollow, so he cannot be held accountable, and b) it is safe to assume that, had Havel not been hollow, he would have gladly helped you in your endeavors to kill Gwyn and Seath (assuming you found him after you talked to Frampt or Kaathe).

    Gwyn: In the ancient lore, Gwyn fought the greatest threat to the newly-born life: the dragons. This action would make him a paragon figure, in my mind. Furthermore, he sacrificed himself and his soul to keep the First Flame burning in order to preserve what he though was the best course of action in order to maintain life (at least, that's how I see it). Based on this position, I find it difficult to see Gwyn as the antagonist. He was an ideologist, and he stuck to his beliefs--which were far less extreme than your average run-of-the-mill dictator. It seemed that he was reasonably removed from the lives of his people (which I see as a good thing, since too much influence from the gods would be detrimental to human growth)--though this could just be a result of his hollowing. When he attacks you in the Kiln, it is simply because he is hollowed from putting his life into the kindling of the First Flame--quite a heroic gesture, I'd say--so, like Havel, he cannot be held accountable as he is no longer in control. Furthermore, however, were he to be in standard form, it is likely that he would attack you anyway, assuming you were sent to succeed him--but this is only a natural response. He is most assuredly an enemy, but I just don't get the "evil" vibe off of Gwyn.

    Ornstein/Smough/Dark Sun Gwyndolin: I feel like these three belong together in a "misguided" trio. For argument's sake, I will assume that we all think that the main character (that is, you) is the best guided--that is, most correct--figure in the game. Given that standpoint, assume the following about the above characters: 1) Their loyalty guides their actions (and they are loyal to Gwyn, and by proxy, Gwynevere); therefore, they are honorbound to protect the daughter of Gwyn, and 2) They are misguided, but not "evil".
    My rationale is as follows: Dark Sun Gwyndolin projects the illusion of his sister with Anor Londo's best interests at heart. This illusion leads Ornstein (as one of Gwyn's four knights) to protect her with his life, as he is sworn to do so (by contract when he started working with Gwyn--such a covenant would be consistent with knighthood through the ages). Smough is, unfortunately, a sociopath who enjoyed killing too much and was thus unable to become a knight of Gwyn (speaking volumes for Gwyn's judgement and morals)--he is the exception the the "misguided but not evil" rule, as he can be written off as a generally murderous bastard with no moral value. He follows Ornstein because Ornstein keeps him in check and guides him, but the second Ornstein is out of the way (providing the player chooses that path), Smough goes rampant. Ornstein, being honorbound, is simply serving Gwynevere and, by extension, Gwyn, in his mind--but it's all an elaborate ruse by DSG, who thinks he's doing the right thing, etc., etc., etc. Basically, you have a bunch of people acting out of love--not hatred--who stand between you and your target. I'd say that Ornstein and Dark Sun Gwyndolin fall under the "good" category. Screw Smough.

    Sif: I chose Sif as the next character because he, similarly to Ornstein and Gwyndolin, falls under the category of acting out of love. I'll assume you are familiar with the story of Artorias and Sif, and the alternate scene you will see should you travel to the DLC area before visiting Sif--partially (mostly) because it's such a sad story and I'm all out of tissues. Sif is honorbound, like Ornstein, to protect something (in this case, the Covenant of Artorias). He acts not out of primal rage (like the demons), but out of love for his master, honoring his last wish. It can also be assumed that Artorias figured that anyone powerful enough to get past Sif would be worthy of wearing the covenant, but that's just speculation on my part.

    Priscilla: I only killed her to get the dagger and the lifehunt scythe. She's one of the few bosses in the game who will not attack you unless you attack them. Think of it this way: she is the unholy spawn of a dragon and a human (Seath may be her father; not sure though, can someone confirm?) exiled to a world where she could be free of prejudices and persecution. You waltz into her comfortable painted abode. She has every right to kill you simply for exhibiting such damn poor manners, yet she softly implores you to leave. After what she's been through, the fact that she isn't a homicidal maniac is a wonder. That's worth some serious "good" points right there.

    Seath the Scaleless: We know that Seath went absolutely bonkers over his obsession with finding mortality. I'm sure there's more to it than this, but I believe he attacks you because he's nuts and you're the enemy, nothing more. I don't see any ulterior motives, though some reference has been made to the valley of the drakes and the possibility that Seath, having attained a form of immortality, was creating a new army of dragons to take on the humans and gods again--but only a crazy old duke would attempt such a thing. Seath's willingness to assist humanity in its struggle against the dragons (or rather, godkind) speaks for his allegiances, and if he was allied with Gwyn, whom I consider to be a paragon figure, then it's also hard to see him as evil.

    Nito: I have very little on Nito. The fact that you can form a covenant with him suggests that his rationale for attacking you is purely situational--hell, if I was the first of the dead and some heavily armed bugger dropped down into my light-defying abode after hacking and slashing through a bunch of my skeleton pals, I might be a little put off too. Silliness aside though, if anyone has any other ideas on Nito, I'd greatly appreciate them.

    Four Kings/Quelaag: I literally have no idea. The 4 Kings are presented as a product of corruption by the Abyss, which is pure evil as far as I'm concerned, so they're no bueno--but I know nothing about them lore-wise. Same goes for Quelaag--she's half crag-spider-demon-lookin'-thing, so there's that, but I don't know why we're supposed to think she's evil, or if we are (her little smile before the fight indicates to me that she relishes the opportunity to attack the player; this could indicate a demonic bloodlust, or a personal vendetta--I'd need more info to know for sure).

    Bed of Chaos: My memory is failing me, but I seem to remember the witches of Izalith making some sort of royal screw-up, and now they're in this tree-demon-type-thing form and they have been so for the past 200/0 years (can't remember if it's hundred or thousand). Again, I know very little, but I never really took the bed of chaos seriously, to be honest. If the witches are embedded and suffering, I think it's wonderful that the player can go in and "set them free", but I really don't know too much--again, input would be greatly appreciated.

    Ceaseless: The other boss that doesn't attack you on sight, Ceaseless is a compendium of sadness and suffering. I'll assume your familiarity with the story, but basically, you (yes, you, they player, you cruel SOB) walk up to him and either steal his only source of comfort (thereby sending him into inconsolable rage) or shoot him in the face with an arrow (thereby sending him into inconsolable rage). He will not attack unless strongly provoked, suggesting empathy and remorse (which we know are key aspects to his story). You can't help but feel awful for Ceaseless. He's definitely not a bad guy, just a victim of unfortunate circumstances.

    Pinwheel: There's a lot of speculation and not a whole lot of evidence towards what/who Pinwheel is/was; basically, it all boils down to him being a victim of a tragedy involving the death of his family, somehow (extremely vague) overpowering Nito, bringing the family back but screwing up in the process and thus becoming the monstrosity that he/she/it currently is, and the rest of Pinwheel's life consists of extracting humanity to survive. Again, it's all extremely thin, but it would explain why Nito suddenly becomes hostile and active outside of his coffin (which is why I was confused earlier about Nito being your covenant master and then going cray-cray on you). Killing Pinwheel would give Nito his power back, presumably. Either way, Pinwheel is another misguided victim of harsh events leading to desperation, much like many characters in Dark Souls.

    So far, that's all I've got on character integrity--I didn't cover the DLC bosses because I haven't got around to playing the DLC area or snooping around any of those bosses (with the exception of Artorias, poor guy). Any feedback would be greatly appreciated--I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice that there isn't an overwhelming abundance of "bad guys" in Dark Souls (at least, not in the conventional sense).





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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by twilightwarwolf on Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:18 am

    To start i think you hit the nail on the head for pretty much everything and to yuo sir i say its very impressive and perhaps i can help on a few tidbits.

    For what you said on Ceasless id say read the Followers of Izalith for their broother follower thing. Note it may be a made up description but i feel it could be accurate.

    As for Qeulaag i dont think she's evil because if you listen to Enijy (not sure i spelled it right) he says she brought her sister up with her after the bed of chaos was produced (if im not mistaken) and then by talking to her sister you can tell Quelaag is trying to protect her amd help her by giving her humanity because she is weak and/or dying which if you go in the covenant you can see her movement get better and she will tell you that she is actually getting better. Now if im not mistaken she is partically demonic or something like that because seriously look at her bottom half. Which is why imo she may be smiling because she has gotten another person who (hopefully) has humanity on them so she can take it to help her sister.

    The Bed of Chaos is the sisters or maybe the leader sister? who tried to recreate the First flame and failed horriblely. And it is 1000 years old because Quellana told us this when she asks us to kill it and save her sisters. I feel like im forgetting something and if i remember it ill post it here.

    Now Gwyn and Gwyndolin i can't help but feel differenty but since i cant get my facts or opinions in my head straight we'll skip them so i may post later when i get my thoughts together.

    Nito (my fave boss) there isnt much said about him. We know he;s the first of the dead and that he is EXTREMELY powerful despite how much he GAVE willingly his of his power to death. I think he really is nuetral because to be honest after the war aginst the dragons hes just been in his tomb and been resting i imagine until pinwheel decieded to steal some of his power and when you waltz in to his tomb to kill him. Allowing you to join his cov also imo further shows this point and even what the cov does by cursing your world can be seen as a good thing because of the extra enemies to fight with extra souls given for killing them.

    And one question about the Golem. Even if it isnt in and of himself got its own soul doesnt giving it a soul allow him to be sentient? Now perhaps it doesnt have a goal beyond defending Anor but still i think if it so chose it could go do something else but thats just me.

    i hope this helps and again great job on the lore and run down on the godd/bad/neutral.


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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by MosquitoPower on Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:21 am

    Some comments,
    To me the Moonlight butterfly struck me as more of an animal. Like the giant rats, they are just sort of there doing their thing. It just so happens that the Moonlight butterfly in darkroot does not like knights stomping around its castle tower territory. As shown in how the crystal cave butterflies don’t bother you if you don’t hassle them.

    I second your great write up on Havel the Rock.
    I also share the option as well that he would totally be on your side if not for his hollow status.
    Solaire and Havel as final NPC summons against Gwin!

    Gwyn sure seems like he was a good guy at some point. Look at his city, judge a ruler on how he treats his subjects. That city is way clean and has nice buildings for everyone.
    Sure his castle is WAY big, but so are the other buildings. Maybe he had no idea Seth was up to some freaky stuff until it was too late.

    People could write term papers on what Gwyndolin may have been trying to do, so ill just pass that one by….

    Ornstein stands there for a moment and then sadly absorbs the power of Smough.....
    Smough smashes Ornstein FLAT as soon as he hits the dirt.
    I think those actions speak volumes on their personal characters.

    Sif, I can’t remember who said it, but it was on this forums:
    “If someone was about to dig up the grave of your best friend, the friend that sacrificed his own life to save yours… would you let them?
    Sif’s story always brings a tear to my eye.

    Priscilla’s area is the mirror of Gyin. One big hell hole!
    So its one of two things, she is either bad to the bone and likes to “spike” humans…, or the painted world is manifesting her own sadness onto the surroundings. So she may just be a prisoner to her own mind. It’s a tough call.

    Now I do see Seath the Scaleless as super bad and power mad! His prison is one of the most disturbing zones in the game. What the heck did he do to those crystal people, what the heck did he do to those poor squid girls! Shuddder…

    I second your thoughts on Nito, he is just doing his own thing. Living in that hole that no sane person would ever visit.

    Four Kings: Mindless shells, operating on a primal level perhaps.

    Quelaag: I have no idea what is in her mind.

    Ceaseless: Much like Sif he is such a tragic character…
    He is just standing there looking at what is apparently one of his sisters or perhaps his mother. Then, like you say in your post, the player just walks up and steals her clothes.
    I can see how that would make Ceaseless want to kill the player.

    Nice post on Pinwheel, I had never even thought of him as a character. Good stuff.


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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by Zephryl on Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:31 am

    A lovely post~ A couple notes:

    Queelag is either A) Protecting her sick sister, B) Harvesting Humanity from the people that come to help heal her sick Sister or C) All of the above.

    Pinwheel... I personally like to believe he's Nito's heir. Given a slice of power from Nito, he lost control and his wife and child were killed and now he spends all his time trying to bring them back to life. Despairing at his Son's situation, Nito granted him the Rite of Kindling, a secret entrusted to him by Gwyn, in the hopes it would allow him to bring his family back. Nito then retreated to the Tomb of Giants to allow his son the space he needed to work.

    Four Kings: They were tricked into accepting the power of Life Drain, and the power that it brought corrupted them, they sent out their Darkwraiths to find Humanity (I -think- this is so Kaathe can try and recreate the Dark Soul). When New Londo was flooded they retreated to the Abyss to save themselves.


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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by prophetteonit on Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:03 am

    Hey everybody, thanks for all the feedback! This has been really insightful, big pat on the back to all of you!

    Now that you mention it, I seem to remember EpicNameBro saying something about Quelaag farming humanity for her sister, which would definitely put her in the "good" category in my opinion as well (at least good-hearted, with the player on the wrong side of that conflict--now I feel some sort of obligation to help Quelaana). Really appreciate that insight though, guys, thanks a bunch!

    As for Pinwheel--I'd just like to note than I didn't come up with this by myself, but I've been doing a little research: the music in the background during his boss fight sounds like someone is saying "I'm so sorry" over and over again, which, it seems, a lot of people took as confirmation that he was responsible for the demise of his family, etc. (basically what I wrote up there). I think you could definitely make a case for him being Nito's heir, but I think you'd have to assume that either he was self-appointed, or Nito was using him to achieve an ends to his own private means. I agree with the sentiment that Nito is neutral now that I think about it, as well. Wouldn't mind getting to know the guy over a few drinks--I bet he's the life of the party (pun intended).

    And I can totally see Seath as being a power-hungry, manipulative, scheming (even "seething") character upon reflection.

    Guys, I really appreciate all the input on here--I definitely put a fair amount of time into this post and it's nice to be able to finally discuss this stuff with some people who are as interested in it as I am!

    Stay frosty!


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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by MosquitoPower on Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:12 am

    Zephryl wrote:...Queelag is either A) Protecting her sick sister, B) Harvesting Humanity from the people that come to help heal her sick Sister or C) All of the above.

    I had never thought of Queelag like that before.
    For some reason I had her in the same zone as "armor spider" from Demon Souls, just a crazy spider that wants to eat me.

    To round it out, I got to toss in Knight Kirk to the fray, it seems he is trying to help out sick sister also.
    (He may be a member of the darkwraths but he shows up right next to sick sister, so I have heard a lot of people speculate he is giving her the humanity he steals.)

    Edit:
    prophetteonit wrote:As for Pinwheel--I'd just like to note than I didn't come up with this by myself, but I've been doing a little research: the music in the background during his boss fight sounds like someone is saying "I'm so sorry" over and over again, which, it seems, a lot of people took as confirmation that he was responsible for the demise of his family, etc...

    Holy Smokes... they are saying "im sorry" in the backgroud music!
    Aaaaahhhhhggggg! :shock:
    http://youtu.be/sur4qN_4Oi8

    I could never hear it before because:
    1. All the water splashing sound effects from running around in that area.
    2. He was dead in like 4 hits and the music would quit.


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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by Zephryl on Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:21 am

    Yeah, the Kirk theory is also supported by the areas you fight him in.

    The Depths - On the way to BT, if you don't have the Master Key.
    Demon Ruins - Only accessible by getting past Queelag.
    Lost Izalith - Homeland of the Daughters of Chaos.

    Personally I think that Kirk hunts Humanity for the Daughters, and is actually on his way to try and kill the Bed of Chaos when he's cruelly cut down by the Chosen Undead.


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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by prophetteonit on Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:22 pm

    Zephryl wrote:Yeah, the Kirk theory is also supported by the areas you fight him in.

    The Depths - On the way to BT, if you don't have the Master Key.
    Demon Ruins - Only accessible by getting past Queelag.
    Lost Izalith - Homeland of the Daughters of Chaos.

    Personally I think that Kirk hunts Humanity for the Daughters, and is actually on his way to try and kill the Bed of Chaos when he's cruelly cut down by the Chosen Undead.

    And we are presented another sob story. Dammit, Dark Souls.

    This is interesting though; I never really considered Kirk a character, just like I never really thought about Mildred or Leeroy, or Jeremiah (or however it's spelled) for that matter. Poor Kirk, just trying to do the right thing. :(

    On that note though, does anyone else have further information about the phantoms? Now that you mention Kirk, I feel like there's a huge gaping whole in my original post.

    Thanks!


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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by ResIsBestStat on Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:41 pm

    Iron Golem is underrated character
    What backstory could be given to him?
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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by MosquitoPower on Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:43 pm

    ResIsBestStat wrote:Iron Golem is underrated character
    What backstory could be given to him?

    Right off the top of my head, this is what comes to mind:

    Iron Golem is could be one of these:
    1. A actual machine built by Gwin to guard the now destroyed stares/elevator to Londo.
    2. A Robot controlled by a human inside it.
    3. A suite of Armour that has been infused by a soul. (Fullmetal Alchemist style)
    4. A construct created by Gwindalin.
    5. A much older construct created by "someone" (Sen perhaps? the same one who build all those traps in his/her tower)to guard "something" (Like the Golem in Jewish folklore).







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    Re: Good/Bad/Neutral/Subjective--Character Integrity and Intentional Ambiguity

    Post by Dogwelder on Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:24 pm

    prophetteonit wrote:Pinwheel: There's a lot of speculation and not a whole lot of evidence towards what/who Pinwheel is/was; basically, it all boils down to him being a victim of a tragedy involving the death of his family, somehow (extremely vague) overpowering Nito, bringing the family back but screwing up in the process and thus becoming the monstrosity that he/she/it currently is, and the rest of Pinwheel's life consists of extracting humanity to survive. Again, it's all extremely thin, but it would explain why Nito suddenly becomes hostile and active outside of his coffin (which is why I was confused earlier about Nito being your covenant master and then going cray-cray on you). Killing Pinwheel would give Nito his power back, presumably. Either way, Pinwheel is another misguided victim of harsh events leading to desperation, much like many characters in Dark Souls.

    Thanks for this. I've often wondered about Pinwheel's possible character and motivation, mostly because there was so little to go on regarding him. A very interesting - and suitably bleak - theory.


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