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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:41 pm 
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So I was reading the spoiler for Ornithopter in future set speculation, and came across a comment by Barinellos complaining that the flavor text doesn't work because the rebels just don't come across as sympathetic. I'd gotten the same feeling from reading the story bits, and I began to think about why I don't find them sympathetic.

Disclaimer: I have not read an of the aether revolt story material, but I have read all of the original Kaldesh stories.

The problem, I think, is an inconsistency in tone. They could have made the rebellion a lighthearted Disney type deal where the characters are rebelling for creative and artistic freedom and self-expression, and made the rebellion consist of symbolic acts of disobedience and expressions of freedom. Or, they could have told a story of class struggle where the ruling class uses their power to enrich themselves while keeping the rest of the population in destitute poverty, and the people use justified violence to overthrow them. Either one of these would have been fine.

Instead, they chose to give the rebels the artistic self-expression motive, but give them the violent, bloody revolution. At first, I thought the artistic freedom was just a metaphor for a serious struggle against a ruling class that used its control over natural resources to enrich itself while keeping its people in poverty, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Kaladesh seems to be on the whole quite prosperous, aether-powered technology is available to everyone. They refused to give the renegades access to aether to experiment with, but that was because they didn't approve of how they made use of it, not because they wanted to keep it all to themselves. They killed Chandra's dad, but that doesn't retroactively justify the rebellion, which had started long before the consulate killed anyone, and it seems out of character for a government primarily concerned with lab safety practices to start killing its own people. I don't think the government regularly uses summary execution to punish non-violent offenses, because there wouldn't be a thriving underground battlebots scene if people thought they were risking their lives by participating. It feels like a cheap kick the dog moment to make us hate the consulate more than another instance in a long line of consulate atrocities.

The means of the rebellion, however, are dead serious. It's a violent revolution where they're killing people, as demonstrated by cards like Narnam Renegade and Fatal Push. This is real, actual, large-scale murder.

So to sum things up, we have a group of people motivated solely by their creative freedom being suppressed by the government not giving them the aether they need to pursue their creative projects. And because of this, they kill lots and lots of people. Disproportionate reaction doesn't even begin to describe it. The level of pettiness and narcissism required to believe that your creative freedom is more important than human life is staggering.

That's not to say that the ideas of creative freedom and artistic expression are always bad. The lego movie, for example, told a story about a similar premise. But the son didn't kick his father off a building, he talked it out with him, they discussed their feelings, and they came to a mutual understanding. Because that's the mature thing to do.

I don't know if everyone else felt the same way I did, or if this constitutes a legitimate criticism of the story, but I think I did a satisfactory job of putting my finger on and expressing exactly why the Kaladesh story bugged me so much.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:02 am 
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This set up sounds like the perfect antagonistic force for a Gatewatch of Tezzeret, Sarkhan, Liliana, Vraska and Ramaz.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:07 am 
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Basically they justify it as "Tezzeret is a monster doing monstrous things" as to the exact why of the revolution kicking off now, but that doesn't really excuse the other side of the coin where they've been actively undermining the law for over a decade just because they don't like the safety regulations telling them they can't do things.

Sure, there were corrupt individuals in the consulate, which is likely how Tezzeret gained his position, but this never seemed to impact the VAST majority of people on Kaladesh. It's like a reverse Occupy movement where the 1% decided they didn't like the other 1% and started largescale riots and militia action, half holding the other 98% hostage to get their way.

Because legitimately, ask yourself, who are the Resistance? They're the damned criminal elements. The pirates, ganglords, street racers, violent offenders, and smugglers. They might be nice people, but until literally the Gatewatch got involved, things were peaceful. Even WITH Tezzeret in his position.

All the deaths in this block are on Chandra's head. That makes it HARD to sympathize with our supposed protagonists.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:40 am 
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I don't really know what happened with Tezzeret, because, as I said, I only read the stories from the first half of the block, and after reading them, I don't really want to read anymore.

Ultimately, I'm my biggest concern wasn't that the things the rebels wanted to do were "bad". Underground robot fighting and refusal to follow laboratory procedure are illegal for a reason, but they're nonviolent offenses, and it's possible that consulate safety laws really are unnecessarily stringent and dogmatic. My objection isn't that their motivations are evil, or even that they're meaningless, it's that they're a little petty for a setting like magic's storyline where problems are solved by "killing the bad guys".

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:31 am 
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Maybe neither government or rebels were brutal in first place, but escalation of vengeance, overconfidence in ideals of freedom/order and selfish motives/machinations of some members of both sides turned what could be a peaceful protest and reformation into slaughter ? One story focusing on this could explain it, right ?
Fun fact: at least one "Disney-style" (relatively) revolt happened in real life. Red May in France.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:21 pm 
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They're not called the RENEGADES for nothing.

Or at least they'd be if they weren't clearly the clean good guys.

At least the artbook implies Pia might be open to a civil discussion and cooperate with the consuls. But then again the artbooks have been wrong before...

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:54 pm 
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OP sounds pretty accurate to me, even as someone who has read neither Kaladesh nor Aether Revolt. And I think you could basically express the same criticism by saying the setting doesn't match the story. I'll just quote what I wrote about it recently so I don't have to explain what I mean a second time:

Spoiler

So, because they want Kaladesh to be a utopia, the most outrageous things they could come up with for the rebels to rebel against will be little more than petty almost by default. It's like trying to tell a gothic horror story on Lorwyn.


I think at this point we can probably all agree that not just sticking to the version of the story that was set up in The Purifying Fire was a really bad move, right? :paranoid:

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:39 pm 
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So, because they want Kaladesh to be a utopia, the most outrageous things they could come up with for the rebels to rebel against will be little more than petty almost by default. It's like trying to tell a gothic horror story on Lorwyn.


... dammit now I want a gothic horror story set on Lorwyn.

(OP's analysis of the Kaladesh storyline is super on-point, and it's nice to have a clear explanation of where the disconnect is)


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:14 pm 
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I think the problem was caused by trying to force it into gatewatch-era magic canon. Look at Lorwyn for example: they had pie-thieves, goatnappers, and fairies, so not every story is going to fit there, but they could tell a fairy tale. In gatewatch-era magic stories, however, you aren't allowed to tell that kind of story. The gatewatch are audience surrogates, so every story about them has to be written in a certain way to preserve this audience surrogacy.

In order to do so, every gatewatch story must fulfill these criteria:
1: The characters must do what the audience themselves would do. If the character does something that someone in the audience wouldn't themselves do, then they might not relate to the character anymore, and that would be bad. Which feeds into

2: The characters always have to be unquestionably, perfectly, morally right. If you put a difficult moral issue in, some of your audience will choose one side, and some of the audience will choose the other side. Regardless, half your audience will end up disagreeing with your character, and won't be able to relate to them anymore. And in order to maintain this, it's necessary that

3: All antagonists are plain, simple, wrong: If the antagonists are right about anything, then the protagonists aren't always right, and that's not allowed. There are some audience surrogate stories where the protagonists show the antagonists the error of their ways, and everything is resolved peacefully. But this is mtg and these are planeswalkers, characters whose distinguishing feature is their magical capacity for violence. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Which means that

4: Every antagonist must be pure evil that can justifiably be dealt with, and can only justifiably be dealt with, by killing it: Let's look at the start of the gatewatch hitlist: eldrazi, then more eldrazi. They're very obviously a bad thing, that any sane person would be opposed to, and really the only way to deal with them is to kill them. There's no question of whether they should be siding with Zendikar or the eldrazi, there's no bringing them to the negotiating table, and no complex ethical question about whether to kill them or bring them in to face a fair trial by a jury of their peers because killing them would make you the REAL monster.

The Kaladesh setting was fine. The Kaladesh antagonist was also fine: a conservative regime that restricts creative freedom out of misguided dogmatism, and it actually fit very well with the upbeat steampunk setting they were trying to create; a lighthearted antagonist for a lighthearted setting. But this is a gatewatch story, so the antagonist can't be that. They have to be evil, and they have to be killed. They have to be human eldrazi. And they weren't.

So, how could they have written a better Kaladesh story?

The most obvious way is to not make it a gatewatch vs eldrazi story. Take out the dead daddy, and make it a civil conflict between ideologies about artistic freedom vs dogmatism, a "footloose" adaptation. The problem with this is that magic is a battle-themed game, so it's hard to make cards for a story that isn't resolved with violence.

Another way would be to make the antagonist an eldrazi-style non-human force that's oppressing creative freedom. Maybe a giant legendary gremlin that's eating all the aether and shutting down the plane's creativity. Maybe make it a natural disaster, like time spiral block, that the planeswalkers need to fight. But it might be hard to tell a good story without a human antagonist.

Or, make the antagonist something that's actually evil, instead of a government that doesn't sponsor free expression. You can even keep the artistic freedom and self-expression element by making them an allegory for the government's more tangible forms of oppression. Do a real steampunk dystopia. Of course, you'd have to ditch the happy, optimistic aetherpunk environment.

So there you have it: you do happy, optimistic setting, you can do human antagonist, or you can do justified use of force. In fact, you can do any 2 of them. But you can't do all 3.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:08 am 
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Wow, Cato...
I don't know what's the proper name of those guidelines, but "Machiavellian Writing" is what comes to mind.
Seriously, Star Wars, that were often accused of being simplistic weren't that black and white.
I think it is very possible to relate to a morally ambiguous protagonist - even to VERY questionable - like Dexter or Pulp Fiction gangsters or Assassin's Creed heroes.
You cannot make a revolution story absolutely black and white, for obvious reasons.
You cannot make protagonists always right without them feeling cheap, for obvious reasons.
You cannot have protagonists that are supermages, unique dimensional travelers, that have no relationship problems, are always doing the right thing no matter what, and always succeeding. I mean, you can, but they may be rightfully called Mary Sues, then.

Lowryn had a "Seer's Parables" story - close enough to gothic horror, right ?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 5:25 am 
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While the Gatewatch and the Renegades are close to be ideally good, the story did make an effort to make Dovin Baan sincerely well intentioned. It's just a shame that the other two Consulate villains, Baral and Kambal, are hilariously bastardly.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 9:24 am 
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Lowryn had a "Seer's Parables" story - close enough to gothic horror, right ?
That was Shadowmoor, though.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 1:04 pm 
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Cato wrote:
So there you have it: you do happy, optimistic setting, you can do human antagonist, or you can do justified use of force. In fact, you can do any 2 of them. But you can't do all 3.

The best resolution would be a clear "gilded age" scenario -- with a setting that visually looks happy and optimistic, but is really a load darker. There's nothing to say that a thought-control police state can't present itself as the "golden age of innovation". It would just all come from government workers like Sram. All the filegree, in approved patterns only, serving to mask that if a kid tries to assemble a nonstandard servo it will be repossessed. If someone paints an unsanctioned portrait, they can go to jail. Mathematical perfection is very pleasing to the eye but the brutality needed to maintain it... not so nice. And it would, arguably, make the Inventor's Fair even more special, not as an outpouring of art and creativity but as a chance for normals to join that government elite that's allowed to express and determine what kind of expression is ok.

And you could have nuance -- perhaps there's a reason the government decided to ban individual expression. Maybe (gifted) Aetherborn can become ludicrously dangerous, but only in psychic environments full of the kind of feels the consulate wants to render illegal. Or perhaps Kaladesh 30 years ago was like canon Kaladesh now, but the Consulate discovered that overuse of Aether could have some disastrously dangerous side-effect and this started as an attempt to eliminate 'frivolous' waste that went too far when some a-holes in power got drunk with that kind of authority. That kind of lurking threat would challenge the Renegades to do more than just what we've seen done a million times, while also still having good reason to oust the consulate

The problem, I fear, may be that doing that sort of thing takes some serious care with where you show the mask slipping, and I'm not sure the M:tG Story Team can do it... not because of their skills, but because of the medium they're working with, on cards. There's no good way to "pace" the reveal so that the player, like a non-Chandra member of the Gatewatch, would take a first look at Kaladesh and call it a utopia, only to then take a second look, a closer look, and see that that's all a lie. The problem being that the darkest cards could easily be the first ones opened.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:45 pm 
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I never said it couldn't outwardly look like a creative utopia while doing those other things, just that it couldn't actually BE one.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 3:30 am 
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I was in the shower and another problem climbed into my head that is very relevant to this block. It's the exact same issue we've seen before.

There are no stakes.

Nobody important to the renegades is going to die in this story. Same as in the Zendikar 2 block. It's hard to find sympathy in the first place, but there's not even a way to find tension since we know the named characters aren't going to get hit. Faceless armies aren't convincing casualties and honestly, I'm more worried about the consulate stormtroopers just doing their job rather than the edgelords like Shadowblayde.

And all this is making me worried about Amonkhet, because the Gatewatch need to be defeated in the worst possible way if we're going to maintain ANY semblance of credibility for them. But I'm worried and it's all the big cat's fault.

I can very easily see them spinning Ajani's actions in Alara as a means to beat Bolas when they should, by rights, get absolutely destroyed by attacking the dragon in his stronghold. The gatewatch need a loss in the worst possible way. If someone is going to do it, it almost HAS to be Bolas.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 8:55 am 
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Bolas: "It was fun for a while, little monkeys, but now I'm going to drench the desert sand in your blood. You brought this upon yoursel- [gurgle]"

*Gideon jumps out from behind a dune*

Gideon: "INDESTRUCTIBLE!"

*flails sural across Bolas's throat*

Bolas: "What the f-"

*dies*

Chandra: "Wow, to think we almost listened to the big kitty and chickened out. Also, it's hot. I want ice cream now."

Gideon: "INDESTRUC-"

Chandra: "It's all right Gids, here, take a banana."

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 10:39 am 
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Barinellos wrote:
I was in the shower and another problem climbed into my head that is very relevant to this block. It's the exact same issue we've seen before.

There are no stakes.

Nobody important to the renegades is going to die in this story. Same as in the Zendikar 2 block. It's hard to find sympathy in the first place, but there's not even a way to find tension since we know the named characters aren't going to get hit. Faceless armies aren't convincing casualties and honestly, I'm more worried about the consulate stormtroopers just doing their job rather than the edgelords like Shadowblayde.

And all this is making me worried about Amonkhet, because the Gatewatch need to be defeated in the worst possible way if we're going to maintain ANY semblance of credibility for them. But I'm worried and it's all the big cat's fault.

I can very easily see them spinning Ajani's actions in Alara as a means to beat Bolas when they should, by rights, get absolutely destroyed by attacking the dragon in his stronghold. The gatewatch need a loss in the worst possible way. If someone is going to do it, it almost HAS to be Bolas.

I mostly agree, but I have one differing note. I'd take a push on Amonkhet, where the Gatewatch doesn't really stop bolas but doesn't get destroyed either, to get a loss somewhere like Ravnica where the Gatewatch is on the defensive. For the sake of stakes, I don't just want to see the Gatewatch die. Heck, you could say that I don't really want to see them die: I think it could be more powerful if at least most of them live to see the villain's triumph. I imagine the circumstance where they go into Amonkhet guns blazing and get reduced to pasty smears by Bolas, but then I imagine the scenario where they survive that and return to Ravnica, only for Vraska to get her shot in at Jace and whether by his death or not destroy the Living Guildpact. Only for ruin, madness, sorrow, and destruction to be brought to the people the Gatewatch was supposed to be taking care of from the get-go, for them to suffer an utter defeat on their 'home' plane. I want to see how they feel, knowing their efforts have failed. Watching powerless to stand before the oncoming storm as Bolas and his pawns operating in Ravnica don't even have to brute force the matter, just give it a little nudge and the guilds themselves will ensure that all the Gatewatch stood for will be torn down, the fate of their people set along the road to destruction. And in the darkest hour, when the Guild War rages all around them, the Gateless, the little people like all those others the Gatewatch has purported to stand for, look up and they don't see oh big bad Vraska and bigger bad Bolas. They see the Gatewatch who brought this wrath down upon them, the impotent anger of the dying rounding upon the fools who dreamed themselves the saviors of worlds. And as for the Last of the Elder Dragons, the god-emperor of Madara? If he shows up, and flexes his muscle -- when he devours Niv-Mizzet and breaks Rakdos the Defiler to his will, when he claps his wings over the battlefield and the belligerents cease their conflict to gaze in terrified awe upon what has come before them? Who do you think Ravnica shall bow in prostration to now?

Of course, as I said, most of the Gatewatch members survive this scenario. Perhaps they even reform (With new "Get Bolas First" Tenets and/or maybe under Liliana's leadership on Dominaria), but they'll have that loss on their record forever, not because they bit off more than they could chew, not because there was an "accident", or a mistake and they 'walked into a situation unprepared'; not because some "tragedy" happened, or an unavoidable enemy action while they were away... no, they'll have lost because they fought their hardest, pushing themselves to the limits... and it wasn't good enough.

A good villain will manage a win where the heroes are weak and they are strong. A great villain -- someone playing on the level of, say, Princess Azula, or the level Bolas ought, can really distinct themselves by claiming a win where they ought to be weak, and the heroes strong, not just managing to foil being foiled and maintain the status quo, but really taking something away from the good guys that they can't really get back.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 11:11 am 
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Azula... isn't she from Avatar cartoon ?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 11:29 am 
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Azula... isn't she from Avatar cartoon ?

Exactly.
Spoiler

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