The Let's Play Archive

Torment: Tides of Numenera

by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 12: One Weird Trick To Solve Any Moral Dilemma! Ethicists hate her!

One Weird Trick To Solve Any Moral Dilemma! Ethicists hate her!

When we last left our heroes they had defeated Satan and then convinced a bunch of psychics to fight in a pointless neverending war about nothing.

I remember her being able to fix complex machinery and selling technology, so I hit her up to see if she has anything interesting to say about the resonance chamber and if she can hook us up with a gat. Unfortunately her ADHD is too bad (really) but she ran into Matkina. If you'll remember, Matkina is the other castoff the cult told us to look for - an albino assassin lady who supposedly knows how to advance the main plot. Don't worry if you've forgotten, I've been deep in Sidequest Land to grind for XP and loot because I do not want to go to the next area at tier 1.

No, today we're going to the slave mart. Seriously, this entire town is full of inept corrupt assholes. The Changing God should have just let the Tabaht win, seriously.

: Why do you think I'm the Changing God? this humor? Can we play along?

: Certainly, my child. What can I offer?

Tol Maguur: You're just an ordinary castoff. Right now, you're wondering, how do I know you're a castoff?

: She rakes her fingers through her hair, obscuring her vision more. "It's the tattoo. Plus, I'm betting you don't know about the surge."

: She studies your face carefully as she speaks those last words, and she crows in delight. "As I thought."

: What kind of information?

Tol Maguur: You think you'll get it from me that easily? I don't think so. I know your type. You castoffs... not a one of you can be trusted. I give you this information, you're gone before I can collect my price. So you'll forgive me if I decline to say outright what secrets I hold.

It's like our very own version of the Fugitive Slave Act!

: Answer a few other questions for me first.

: I have some questions about slavery in Sagus Cliffs.

: Can you tell me about yourself?

: Farewell.

Look, we've gotten enough background info. She's pretty clear the cultists are idiots, and I don't actually care what she thinks about Sagus Cliffs and the Order of Truth.

TheGreatEvilKing dialog summary posted:

: Hey look, it's the Changing God! Look at this dumb motherfucker claiming to be the Changing God!

: How do you know I'm the Changing God?

: It's literally tattooed on your face! Also those stupid cultists told everyone! The real Changing God wouldn't tell anybody, because he has enemies who want to kill him! Anyway, want some info? I bet you don't know about Tidal Surges!

: Tidal what now?

: Ha! You stupid moron! I'm not telling you anything until you capture a little girl and bring her back into slavery! She's showing clear signs of abuse, too!

: Wait, slavery is legal here? Who are you?

: I'm a slaver, and it's OK! Slaves are just criminals who work off their debt to society by dying! You better not cross me!

: Uh, OK, bye.

Anyway, we've implicitly agreed to help capture a little girl so she can be re-enslaved and presumably abused again! We are heroes!

There were comments in the thread about how the Last Castoff has no personality, but I really think that they're being deliberately characterized as a dumb moron. We've agreed to enslave this kid because of...some information this woman may or may not be making up. We drank all the pink jenkem in one go after being warned it's hazardous. We get dialogue options to out ourselves as the Falling Star to thugs who are obviously out to capture us. I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating.

We also have an intelligence stat higher than Callistege, a woman whose understanding of physics is so advanced she can visit alternate dimensions.

Anyway we need to kick out a party member to make room for the kid. It might be temporary.

There is actually an event where Erritis is so stupid he gets the entire party killed on the spot. Really.

: I don't like where this is going.

: Boring?

Yea, I'm not subjecting myself to more Erritis right now than I have to.

: Let's split up for now.

Whatever. Bye. Time to go back to Cliff's Edge and check out the ruined house.

: Hello?

: Dig deeper into the rubble.

So I'm going to spoil things right now, the kid is a party member. This could easily have been a cutaway screen to a drawing or something. Bonus points for describing that her hair is dark and curly, when the game will actually give her a portrait.

: Come on out. I won't hurt you.

: She shakes her head vigorously, trying to shoo you away.

: You hear a voice behind you. "I told you patience would pay off, lads."

These guys walk onto the screen...

...and in case we can't figure it out from the black-clad figures literally walking to us, the game tells us some thugs walked over.

It's been kind of clear that the writing department and the rest of the game haven't been coordinating at all through what we've seen of the game, and I think I know why.

George Ziet's tumblr posted:

Anonymous asked: On TTON I understand that several designers/writers worked remotely. How did that affect development/communication?

It was a mix of good and bad.

The good:

The writers who worked offsite were able to focus better than they could in studio. Open office plans aren’t great for creative writing – too many distractions, noise, etc. (When I needed to write large dialogues for TTON, I often spent a day or two working from home and usually got twice as much done.)
We were able to work with people who otherwise wouldn’t have been available. Adam Heine is the best example – in addition to freelance writing, he runs a small orphanage in Thailand, so there was no chance of him moving to CA for a job.
Tons of options for remote collaboration.

The bad:

Time zones. Some remote designers were able to adjust their schedules to match the CA timezone, but others (e.g., Adam in Thailand) could only do so much, since they were on the other side of the planet. So we only had access to Adam at certain times of day, which made communication more difficult and hampered decision making at times.
Disconnect between remote leads and onsite team. TTON had an unusual structure where the design visionaries (Colin and Adam) were remote, while the development team was onsite. I think things would have worked better if the leads - esp. the primary visionaries - were onsite with the team. For non-lead writers (e.g., Gavin and Nathan), having them offsite was not at all disruptive IMO, except when they were first learning the writing tool or experienced technical problems.

George Ziets was the Area Design Lead for Tides. In fact, getting him on the team was part of the Numenera kickstarter (he worked on Planescape, you see). Now, I'm going to be speculating here but based on my experiences with remote teams...coordination does not happen as well as putting everyone in the same office. However, because this had to be made by the same people who made the original Torment, we ended up with shit where the design "visionaries" never visited the people in the office making this shit and that's why we have this awkward, awful disconnect here.

Moving on.

: "Don't fret it, Bega." The thug looks you up and down, then calls out in the direction of the rubble. "Come on, little bird. Doesn't matter how good you are at hiding. You had to come out sometime."

: The girl huddles behind you, keeping you between her and the thugs. Even so, it's obvious she's not sure about you either.

: Why don't you want to go with them?

: To the girl. "Is that true?"

: "No." She grabs your wrist. "They're... bad men. They want to steal me."

: "Kidnappers? Now that's just crude." The man crosses his arms. "We're delivery men, that's all. The means and motivations of our employers ain't none of our business."

: "You can't take me." Her grip on your wrist tightens. "She found me. She has the discover's right."

: Was your 'bounty' put up by Tol Maguur? She asked me to find the girl.

This is what you're going with. You're trying to make it so these guys, who are hunting a small child to try to re-enslave her are faced with the terrible choice between this and starvation. Whatever. Let's go for the comedy option persuasion there,

: [Persuasion] It doesn't matter if it's legal. Slavery is evil, and you're a part of it.

Tybir has a 100% chance of convincing these "thugs", who routinely take up jobs that involve hunting down children, that they are bad men who need to not do that.

Ah yes, the worldbuilding swear. Callistege talking about sex: OK. A man saying "fuck" in the far future: corrupting our children!

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: I am hiding!

: Hey, there she is! We've been looking for her to take her back to slavery! Come with us, girl!

: No! I don't want to!

: Why not?

: They will take me back to my evil slave master! Don't let them do it!

: We are bad men who work for slave masters, and we are going to take this small, abused child back to a life of slavery!

: I got here first, and the slave master sent me!

: We gotta eat. Also, we are men of violence who are going to fight you!

: Slavery is bad, and you are morally bankrupt.

: Oh, poopy! I hate being morally bankrupt! Let's go home!

: For a moment it looks like she might hug you. But at the last moment she seems to think better of it and pulls up short a half-dozen steps away. She collects herself, standing straight with her shoulders back. Then she nods, the gesture so polite it's almost formal.

Two things. "so polite it's almost formal" is some cringey phrasing (just say formal) and this is the companion written by Patrick Rothfuss. A 10 year old child slave.

...yup, that's Rothfuss alright.

: How long were you hiding in that building?

: This is your home?

: Where are you from?

: You were saying something about trees?

I am getting vague Auri flashbacks, and I am not happy. Auri was an autistic Zooey Deschanel friend/love interest of the protagonist in Kingkiller Chronicles. I don't mean autistic in the internet sense of the word or as an insult, I mean she was legitimately on the spectrum. Rothfuss wrote a spinoff novella about her which he stuffed full of incoherent metaphors about her being raped and trying to find a bunch of random shit to give to Kvothe (the Kingkiller protagonist). I don't think anything like that happened to poor little Rhin here...I think?

: She looks at you oddly. "What? No I wasn't..."

Yea, the slave master was probably physically abusing her, which is going to make the next part of the game real weird.

: What's a little girl doing all alone here?


: What happened to your head? it wasn't the slave dealer? Who was it? Thugs hired by the slave dealer who supposedly has a fearsome reputation and contacts in the city's law enforcement?

: What people were you running away from?

: Who stitched your head back together after you got hurt?

: Your story doesn't fit. Who fixed your wound and shaved your head? If you could hardly sit up, how did you keep running?

: I'm sorry, Rhin. I was just trying to help. It seems like you've had a rough couple days.

I can smell the Joss Whedon from here.

: Is there anything I can do to help?

: She shrugs nonchalantly. "I don't know. I'm pretty good here. Unless you happen to have any spare food you aren't using. Or water. Or... a blanket. Or a new bed or a house or... y'know...anything at all..."

: Rhin starts out talking with a playful smile on her face, but then her eyes well up. Her voice stays cheerful even as the tears are running down her cheeks. She wipes them away, embarrassed and angry, but her hands are shaking now, and there are more tears, and words continue to pour out of her...

: I'll take care of you. Come with me.

We are going to drag this kid into all kinds of dangerous places. We are the worst adoptive parents.

: Maybe we can find you a new home.

Kid, we have some kind of horrible tentacle monster with psychic powers after us. You are probably better off as a street hobo. Maybe that cyborg lab dude needs an apprentice.

She's not kidding. Rhin is absolutely fucking useless.

: Don't worry about that. I'll keep you out of trouble.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Thank you for not taking me back to slavery, oh half-bald woman!

: No problem. Who are you anyway?

: I'm Rhin. I got captured by slavers and than ran while passing out from a head wound.

: How did you escape from the slavers while passing out?

: Geez, you're not my REAL mom! Can I bum some food...fuck, I have nothing and I'm out on the street. Help? Please?

: Do you want to join our band of warriors on an incredibly dangerous quest with no clear end goal?

: Sounds fun! You know I can't fight, right?

: Eh, whatever. Come along.

Anyway, we then take Rhin back to the slave dealer for the quest reward. Yup.

I hate to say it, but so far Rhin here is the character who has acted the most like an actual human being, and not an exposition vomiter.

: What did she do to you?

: Don't worry. I'll figure out some way to solve this amicably.

In my nano playthrough, this went a bit differently. Specifically, I told Tol Maguur to fuck herself and exploded her and her evil minions with a big pile of relativistic damage.

So yes, resolving things amicably with the slave master gets us the gold tide, which is the compassion/"good" tide. This is gonna get dumber.

: We need to talk about this, Tol.

Oh no! The poor slave dealer at the actual slave market who hurt Rhin so bad she has an obvious head wound.

Number three starts a fight. However...

: No deal. We'll have to settle this some other way.

Tol Maguur: No. The time for talk is over.

So, uh, yup. The ethical dilemma is between selling a small child into slavery or letting some psychic bullshit happen to offscreen people who are probably other slave masters. Ok, they could be slaves. WHATDOESONELIFEMATTERWHATDOESONELIFEMATTERWHATDOESONELI-

: Did you...did you just use the Tides on me? Is that what you do to Rhin?

: Enslaving Rhin is destroying her life and her potential anyway. One way or another, you're killing her.

: [Persuasion] So how can you justify keeping Rhin in your custody? Release your claim.

Eat shit, bitch!

: All right, let's do it.

That's not a skill you can take at character creation!

: Farewell.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

:, don't sell me back into slavery! Please?

: It's ok. We can resolve this dispute using nonviolence.

: Uh, ok. Should I run for it? No, Rhin, you can't leave until you've figured out the secret of that haircut.

: Yes gimme my property!

: This seems wrong. We need to talk about this.

: Yea? Well, I'm a castoff. We all have terrible mind control powers from something called "Tides". If I don't have Rhin I could lose control and hurt people, or even kill them. Unlike what I did to Rhin with that scar on her forehead and Rhin describing me as the cruelest person she's ever met! Taste my power!

: Holy shit! You do this to a little kid? What the fuck is wrong with you?

: I'm an evil slave master. What the fuck did you expect?

: You know you're being a dick to Rhin, right?

: For some reason I view this slave as a human being. Shit!

: 100% persuasion chance, you fat bitch!

: You win. I'll even teach you the mind control power I offered as a reward.

: Cool. So you just hit me with some kind of mental attack and said this can hurt or kill people. Can I use it in combat? This power is part of the game's title, after all.

: Fuck no, what did you think you were playing, a good game?

On the way to demonstrate the Tidal Affinity skill, Tybir wants to talk.

: So, was it like Ris said? You only freed him so you wouldn't be implicated?

: Do you think he will make good on his threats? Should we be watching our backs?

I heroically decide not to take a stand and end the conversation there.

Remember this pretentious fucker? Now that we have the cruel power of a slavemaster backing us up, we can just force him to answer.


This is a lot of pretentious bullshit to say that you have no idea what you're doing and are compensating for it by cloaking yourself in pretentious bullshit.

...holy crap, how did this get past the editors? I can't tell if this is a genius stab at the game, or if the writer for this character drank the kool-aid and really believed this was a deep and literary experience.

Then he disappears, never to spew bullshit at us again. Hooray!

I'm going to show off Rhin's stats shortly, but are you noticing the theme of these side quests? You should be, because I've been about as subtle as the writers. It's all some variant of the trolley problem. Do we sell Rhin to the abusive slaver to save the nameless people she'd hurt with her powers? Do we kill the squid for the guy to advance science? Do we risk destabilizing the city to save Ris? Do you get it? Do you get it yet? Do you? What does one life matter? Get it? GET IT?

(Sorry, that was a bit much).

Anyway, I want to point out that our Tides got a huge Gold boost. I'm going to go into Rhin and the Tides next update (this is wordy and pretentious enough), but gold is the tide associated with, per the wiki, "people whose primary goal is to help others, especially at a cost to themselves." Now if we go back to Colin McComb's little rant, the tides care about results not your intentions. Our intention was to help Rhin escape slavery. We had two ways to do this - peacefully, which could get us the information we know nothing about, and violently, which would remove the only slave trader in Sagus Cliffs permanently.

We chose the peaceful option knowing that it left the slaver free to continue dealing in human misery, as well as the explicit caveat that she is going to commit more murder and torture because she can't abuse Rhin. Our gain for leaving the slavemaster alive altruism boost.

Furthermore, we were literally taught how to forcibly control others by a slavemaster, a power which we then used...that gave us points in the Tide associated with gaining knowledge, not the egocentric one.

Don't worry. The Tides get dumber.

Anyway, here's Rhin! Representing that she's a literal child who is useless in combat, she gets the class "Lost Child" which combat abilities. She does get the healing spell at tier three, but her abilities enable her away and hide in combat. Why yes, she DOES take up a party slot and eat XP. She might get better later.

As I was about to close the game, I got a companion conversation between Callistege and Rhin.

: I'm not crying. This is disbelief.

: It's a shame to hear such venom from one so young, dear.

: But it's okay for old people? Like you?

So yea. Callistege kinda looks after Rhin as a surrogate mom along with another party member we have yet to meet. If you somehow get Rhin killed in combat, you get a line from Callistege: "Her death is on your hands, Castoff".

It's one of the little things that actually works in this game. Shame about the rest.

Decisions Lie Before Us

So I made the executive decision to keep Rhin in the party. That said, we have five possible companions and three slots. Vote for two of the following: Callistege, Tybir, Erritis. You all voted out Aligern, and there is no catchup XP mechanism.

Which sidequest should we do next? Hunt down a rogue alien thing, help a robo-daddy, fight some robots for money, or help the weird strangler ghost girl?

As always, choose wisely!