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[SPOILERS] Giving or not giving Merrill the Arulin'Holm

Discussion in 'Dragon Age 2' started by chevalier, Oct 9, 2016.

  1. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Yeah, it matters little and you get the same Act 3 quests with just a little altered dialogue, and roleplaying is hardly DA2's forte in general, but I've given the game some rest for a while over this and played something else waiting for a decision to come naturally; it hasn't.

    Pros:
    – keeping the promise and not backing out on Merrill
    – the mirror may be clean already, as it isn't clear whether the blood magic is supposed to have merely contained the Taint or removed it altogether
    – Eluvians aren't bad in or of themselves
    – my Hawke is pro-elven
    – my Hawke has easy access to one powerful strongly anti-demon mage (Anders) and some access to one powerful Circle mage with serious resources (his sister is a senior enchanter or something)
    – my Hawke is a trained (if not official) Templar, with access to Thrask and Cullen's gratitude as well as sympathy of Emeric's friends
    – Hawke has leverage with Sebastian and with the Grand Cleric directly, and Chantry > Templars
    – Hawke also has leverage with the Viscount for what that's worth (despite the weakness of 'this office', it probably still amounts to something)
    – being a noble, an explorer and a mining operator he can probably get a pile of lyrium anyway, even from legit sources
    – he has some contacts as an ex-smuggler (in my case), and Varric has even better contacts
    – for all her naivete Merrill is actually quite careful, apparently more so than Anders
    – Hawke has a solid track record in physical dispute resolution, has already killed a varterral, as well as a bunch of other high-ranked opponents
    – Anders near the end of Act 2 is not quite the most reliable or stable
    – keeping Merrill away from blood magic and demons is obviously a must, but teaching her to conform and know her place and not flip out is not (it's a weak excuse)
    – [HEAVY SPOILER FOR ACT 3] the Keeper may already be influenced by the demon herself and motivated by pride, stubbornness or a contrarian attitude in her opinions

    Cons:
    – the mirror had the Taint before, and blood magic doesn't really purify things
    – there is a demon or at least a troubled spirit somewhere in the picture
    – experimenting with the mirror inside a full city of people could be quite reckless
    – the Keeper and others before/beside her may have a little too cautious and defeatist attitude, but they aren't stupid
    – neither is Anders, and he certainly isn't a timid, subdued person
    – the Keeper is the leader of her people and has specifically entrusted the artifact to Hawke's safekeeping, as well as having repeatedly entrusted Merrill
    – encouraging Merrill is enabling, whereas she needs to develop a sense of restraint
    – [HEAVY SPOILER FOR THE END GAME] refusing Merrill and incurring huge rivalry seems to be the only way for her to to change her ways in the end game, unless my information is wrong


    [HEAVY SPOILER FOR ACT 3] In terms of Act 3, I'm determined to either outright refuse Merrill or play it out (pretend) like Hawke is only following Merrill to keep her safe (can't just simply restrain her) or going there to just kill the demon — this would be weak on the roleplaying side, as it is pretty certain from her dialogue that she would not choose to go alone.
     
  2. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    The thing about Merrill is that she's a social idiot, and people take that to assume that she's prone to recklessness/handicapped in some way. I'm assuming you got just how biting her sarcasm/wit actually is and how careful/practical/frighteningly pragmatic her approach is to fixing the mirror shard so I'm just going to go straight to how she's basically a lonely eccentric with a cause.

    I'm going to give you the same answer I gave in the old DA2 boards - I support her in the sense that doing so allows her to grow better as a person (you learn as much from her continued interactions with you and the group) and
    ultimately makes her reconsider her actions. By the end she'll still want to fix the mirror, but she now realizes that she's not alone and that your friendship/romance with her and her new life away from her people is also worth fighting/risking her life for. I take this to mean that she's going to be a lot less self-sacrificing in her approach to fixing the mirror.

    First, the facts.

    Game lore:
    -Evidence suggests that blood magic is actually not inherently evil, it's just that the power you gain from using the technique is so great that few mages are able to use it responsibly. The Tevinter Imperium has been using it practically since mages there came into power for example (in secret of course, since they do have their own modified version of the Chantry) and for all its decadence/corrupt ideals the nation is not overrun with demons, remains responsible in a large part for defending the rest of Thedas against the Qunari and is still able to produce morally well-adjusted individuals like Dorian (from DA:Inquisition).
    Merrill may be using blood magic but the fact the she never uses it for personal gain (as far as we know, though consider how Varric/Isabella have been keeping a very close eye on her) is a testament to her willpower/strength of character. She only uses it to fight for you, defend herself or fix the mirror.
    -It has been established that the Dalish are proud and conservative to a fault. There's plenty of evidence of this from all three games (the Brecilian forest quests in DA:O, the Dalish elves' comments in DA:2, Solas' musings in Inquisition).
    -Anders is a zealot.
    -Merrill is a rebel by nature. You can see evidence of this everywhere. Rivaling her only fosters her rebellious nature (because that's going to turn out so well). In this particular respect Merrill is (by far) one of the most human Dragon Age NPCs I've ever encountered.
    It basically boils down to this: do you/does your character trust/respect her as a person enough that you are willing to put your faith into her and hope that between her strength of character/your support and guidance she'll ultimately do the right thing? Are you willing to deal with the consequences, either way?
    There are no guarantees, and as of this writing we still don't know her ultimate fate.

    Meta-game:
    -I think it's pretty obvious that Merrill and Anders are supposed to be a study in similarities (both are mages, both ultimately lose someone very close to them as a result of what they do, both are intent on "saving" their people) and contrasts (a blood mage and a spirit healer, a Dalish second and a Chantry devout, a socially retarded figure who isolates herself from other people in order to protect them and a charismatic figure who works closely with other people despite the danger he poses).
    Guess who ends up blowing up the world.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2016
  3. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Well. If the game was not limited in choices but acted like a human DM capable of reacting to choices from outside a closed list and providing additional information or clarifying that such information is not going to be available, I would solve it this way:

    • Unconditionally zero assistance with summoning a demon, let alone making any deals with one. For the record, you do lose M's approval for refusing to cut deals with demons.
    • Reluctant, limited support to talk to a non-demon spirit already in physical Thedas — just go and guard her from harm.
    • Support and trust her with the mirror if she would promise to stay clean of BM and if the mirror is or could be made clean with BM.

    But the game only has the option to give her the Arulin'Holm or not and subsequently go with her to talk to the demon (which Hawke can't be sure isn't just a spirit) or not, so I have only these two in-game decisions to work with. This leaves four possibilities:

    1. Give Arulin'Holm and explain away going to Pride's End (to avoid having to skip A New Path).
    2. Give Arulin'Holm but refuse to go.
    3. Refuse Arulin'Holm and refuse to go.
    4. Refuse Arulin'Holm but rationalize going.

    Which one seems the most reasonable in the circumstances?
     
  4. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    BTW, I forgot to mention that Merrill says at one point that according to her research/training demons are actually just spirits and that the Fade is much more complicated than the Chantry makes it out to be. You might want to remember that controversial little detail regardless of what happens.

    If I were playing the kind of PC you described I'd go to Pride's End regardless of whether I give her the Arulin'Holm or not, just to be thorough - what's actually happening is that she's bringing you along in the event of a worst case scenario.
    As I said, she has a frighteningly pragmatic approach to fixing the mirror shard.

    Whether you give the item to her or not depends on how you close your PC is to her. If you've been bringing her around a lot then you can rationalize that you've been listening to her theories and you think she might actually be on to something. If not, you simply don't trust her enough.
     
  5. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Yes, I'm aware of Merrill's opinion. What's slightly amusing is how, despite coming from an elf, it seems to be consistent with the Chantry's own real lore of the kind that gets shared with Circle mages rather than repeated simple citizens — any spirits are dangerous (as Merrill reminds Anders), 'demons' is a simplified name for those that end up being malignant, some spirits act that way simply due to momentary shock and not permanent disposition, etc.

    Hence, Hawke expects the 'spirit' to be a dead elf wizard trapped in some sort of phylactery but is well aware that a pride or desire demon could play the part. Hence he would reluctantly provide Merrill with protection during some questioning, dangerous as even that could be, but no deals or pacts or exchanges of any kind. I suppose the game is sketchy enough on this to leave room for such an interpretation when you go to Pride's End.

    My inclination to take the rivalry path with her comes from how only rivalry is capable of making Merrill realize she was out of bounds and resolve to change her methods. However, by that time you end up having supported her and rationalizing it to a point where the whole thing seems a little self-defeating or contradictory for Hawke (as having supported and actively implemented Merrill's choices despite disagreeing with them, like some sort of spineless nice guy with messed-up priorities). On the friendship path, though, it looks like you basically agree with her on everything, which isn't any better.
     
  6. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    She basically says that all demons are just spirits, and you can gather from the sum of her dialogue that she believes all spirits are dangerous because they can become demonic when exposed to the corruptive influence of beings who live in the "real" world (Thedas), just as "good" spirits are what they are because they have been influenced by positive values. This is actually consistent with DA:O lore where the Fade was theorized as being a sort of primordial source of things, and its natural denizens (the spirits) are living templates waiting for something to give them form/substance/personality/etc.
    This is a not a Dalish view though. Unless the devs decide to -insert sudden appearance of mentor here- Merrill came about it on her own.

    What this implies is that spirits/demons can change and gain/lose power depending on who they are actively associating with. It can be used to explain how some abominations/possessions are stronger than others (the more similar the host and the spirit, the stronger the connection and the more powerful the result), why some spirits won't/can't possess just any humanoid, why approaching a spirit while fostering an emotion like doubt/hesitation/mistrust can backfire spectacularly, etc.
    Such a radical theory basically goes against a lot of what has been said about the Fade and demons/spirits in both games (even the less conservative lore in DA:O seems more speculative than anything).
    With these quests it's not so much about agreeing with her as trusting her.

    As far as general friendship goes, despite becoming a pariah because of her views Merrill still craves friendship and the approval of her peers.
    Your goal is try and support her while protecting her from the worst of what her beliefs entail, for at least a little while as she grows as a person.
    She's even willing to die for her people just for a chance to fix the mirror. This fatalism is what makes her vulnerable as she's usually very careful.
    It can definitely get complicated.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2016
  7. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Yeah, she just seems to have a deeper, calmer, no-hype understanding of the world that's more or less consistent with mature Chantry/Templar/Circle/whatever figures if not palatable to your run-of-the-mill Joe Zealot.

    What she's getting wrong — and diverging from both the Chantry view and (IMHO) also from reality — is that she seems to altogether ignore 'alignment' in spirits, which is not true and is disproved by in-game experience. As in look at what happened to Justice, but back in Kristoff's body and just before Justice would have found it abominable to possess anyone really. Then corruption happened and Justice wasn't immune, and he subsequently corrupted Anders in return, but spirits aren't amoral/true neutral/anything like that, they have good and evil, law and chaos etc. Merrill seems to ignore this — or place herself above.

    Re: her sacrifices and consequences of her beliefs my Hawke would allow her to make sacrifices per se such as simply risk her life for others — Hawke does that all the time and faces not only plain physical damage but worse stuff then that. Still, blood magic draws a line, as does making deals with demons. Merrill's approval chars deliver a clear message that she has her priorities wrong, which goes beyond pragmatic and maybe more like naive or seriously misguided or whatever. Which is why she needs some restraints put on her. Also putting innocents at risk (she keeps her eluvian and does her work in a crowded urban district, not in a secluded lab). Plus, the approval sheets (at DA Wikia) make it clear she has issues with pride, naivete, impatience and some more, and encouraging her goes too far toward an amoral sort of stance.

    Anyway, I'm leaning toward giving her the eluvian and justifying it with the idea of some sort of supervision by Hawke and the rest of the party behind the scenes between Act 2 and Act 3 or at least some form of making sure work on the eluvian isn't playing with fire. Then I would defer further decisions to Act 3. This sounds like a reasonable solution but prevents me from being able to make her change her approach, which is only possible through rivalry. This is giving me a pause still.
     
  8. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I think it's important to distinguish between what the game is telling you and what you actually experience, especially the non-combat experiences (combat usually defies established lore because the devs are going for flashy animations/fun game mechanics).

    I also had trouble figuring out how I should approach Pride's End. In the end I decided to go with my gut feeling about Merrill and whomever the quest title was actually referring to.
     
  9. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Meanwhile I've found and read this, and while I can't say I'm none the wiser, I certainly am none the closer to making a decision.

    I think the game's presenting you with a choice to make based on very limited information. But, it could be argued that you receive sufficient information to be either extremely wary of Merrill or dismissive of the Keeper and the Clan's fears depending on what your opinions are and where your sympathies lie in general. In other words, just enough to trigger your usual inclination and either (A) deem Merrill to be reckless and oblivious to the dangers and moral implications of her choices, or (B) deem the Keeper and the Clan to be prejudiced etc.

    It's probably intentional that both the Keeper and the First make a convincing presentation and use powerful moral arguments, though I'm not sure if the devs wanted to give us a balanced choice, or grey choice, or anything of the sort, or just make Merrill very teary and guilt-tripping about being denied. Her negative (rivalry) reaction to diplomatic choices in dialogues after returning to Kirkwall can be seen as a giveaway that she's intentionally designed as being quite deranged or at least emotional in the situation.

    Right at this moment I'm not sure if my hesitation isn't resulting from trying to both do the right thing and be nice to Merrill, simply because of personal sympathy for her, so basically being in denial. And perhaps partially because of what is learned about the Keeper from Act 3 quests and non-DA2 lore, hence metagaming.

    To be honest, I really dislike the way the game is getting out of its way to make choices ambiguous, which I dislike when information is limited.
     
  10. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Heads up, you're getting dangerously close to fishing for DA:Inquisition lore/plot elements, which while incredibly enlightening would be a major spoiler in your case.

    The way I see it both DA:O and DA:2 force you to the see the world in the eyes of someone who grew up with the Chant. It doesn't really matter whether you believe in the Chant or not, your world view is colored by its biases. The only non-Chantry biased information regarding magic/the Fade/spirits you're likely ever going to get is from the ancient elves and the Tevinters, and the former is extinct while the latter's works are colored by years of politicking and power struggles. And definitely not welcome in Ferelden/Orlais/Kirkwall.
    The game never explicitly makes it known that it's doing this, but if you're someone who grew up in a household with a strong religious background (like myself) the signs are there. My own choices regarding Merrill were very subjective and the realization of what was happening definitely played a major part in influencing my decisions. A lot of the ambiguity goes away if you look at the situation form a different perspective.

    BTW, since we're already discussing it I'm pretty sure Pride's End meant Marethari. The only way the demon could have possessed her so completely was if she had become blinded by her pride - her belief that she knew what was best for Merrill. In contrast, Merrill brought Hawke and co. along in what is essentially an act of selflessness - surrendering any pride she had. She knew what she was doing.
    That only makes the aftermath that much more tragic.
     
  11. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    I think Merrrill is both selfless and selfish. Yes, she takes precautions, but that doesn't actually change the fact that her very need for precautions stems from arguably reckless, careless decisions in which she is selfish by turning against the wishes and advice of her people, her clan leader and mother figure, deprives her clan of a First, accepts excessive risks, turns to immoral methods etc. Plus, she's not even sure that those precautions work, e.g. she doesn't sound sure that purifying the shard with blood magic has worked or at least she sounds doubtful about the acceptability of the method.

    She certainly gives the impression of being innocent, but some of it may after all be act. Rather than a sign of childish ignorance, some of it could be interpreted as a sign of taking Hawke for a ride, playing the girl trick, using Elven Tears™ etc. — or just being one-sided enough to only think about her own feelings or needs, to a point where not getting her way results in a sincerely felt subjective experience of enormous injustice. She does seem to have a tendency to blame anybody but herself.

    In Rivalry, she's supposed to open up and tell you not to try to save her from herself — which looks like one of those people who insist on making stupid choices because they have a self-chosen mission and they think it's so noble and tragic and epic and dramatic (and raising their self-esteem?) to fulfil that mission to the last drop. Kind of like women who marry the wrong men despite knowing better (attractive dark and handsome reoffending convicts with huge debts and lots of enemies) because it fits whatever tale they're spinning.

    From what I've seen about Rivalry, she's more open about already recognizing that her dark choices lead to disastrous results but still stubbornly pushing forward. Friendship doesn't give you full information.

    From what I've seen about romance, she refuses to move the eluvian to Hawke's mansion because she claims it's too dangerous, which contradicts her assurances about her precautions and being sure about what she's doing.

    These may well be signs of not Merrill's disingenuity but BioWare's writing/consistency problems. ;)

    If you recall first meeting her, she's casual about using BM to open the barrier — this is where she says 'the spirit' and you can correct her with 'the demon, you mean'. She's event blatantly open about how she made a deal with the demon rather than learning BM accidentally, as Anders was hoping. It's only later that she starts seeing the need to give excuses for her actions — and lame excuses at that — didn't have resources, didn't have help, saw no other way etc. This also shows her as probably being obsessed and suffering from a blame-attribution problem, which may be a sign of demonic influence already (and prelude to/beginning of possession by a pride or desire demon). Plus, the game isn't explicit as to what the deal with Audacity was about, although it wouldn't be fair to presume something like giving up her soul (which is not really a DA concept).

    Re: Pride's End, I think it's intentionally ambiguous. I would say it's a classic master-vs-student trope where both are stubborn and neither will budge, leading to disastrous results. Just like with selflessness vs selfishness, Merrill has huge self-esteem problems in general, but she also has that sense of being right when everybody else is wrong and looking only to herself for judgment, information, authority etc., which is also pride, even though it comes without the usual loud boastfulness.

    Finally, I think the game is intentionally baiting us with huge green watery eyes, sad breaking voices etc. From a certain point of view you could argue the game is inviting you to look past Merrill's exterior and actually defy her — for her own good. And to look past her intelligence and brilliance and see her lack of wisdom, experience and judgement.

    The latter is not helped by the Keeper not looking very reasonable once you start analysing the merits of her views. Her dislike of eluvians, apart from Audacity's influence, may be caused by prejudice linking the mirrors to the fall of Arlathan (captured and used by the Tevinters) or subsequent clan warfare among the elves (I think the lore mentioned this somewhere). Neither of which is a good enough reason to ditch them altogether. And refusing to help Merrill purify the shard when she could was not really reasonable, although then it must have been before Audacity's influence, hence the Keeper was still being herself.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
  12. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Anyway, my options right now are thus:

    Mirror Image: (A) Deny her the Arulin'Holm or (B) give it to her, full stop; or (C) give it to her but fill the gaps with imagination.

    Act 3 (A New Path): (A) Not go with her to talk to Audacity at Sundermount/Pride's End or (B) go with her; or (C) go with her but fill the gaps, e.g. Hawke is only following her trail or only going to lure out and kill Audacity.

    Since I'm at about 90 Friendship, giving her the AH would lock me at 100% friendship. Refusing her, along with the dialogue back in Kirkwall, would lock me in 100% rivalry (after the reversal of friendship to rivalry the game does when you refuse her the AH).

    In the friendly ending she seems to have learned nothing, regret nothing etc., which is bad. But in the rivalry ending she seems to beat herself up excessively and taking the blame for other people's choices.

    From a gameplay perspective, I would favour a solution not forcing me to just skip quests themselves, quest XP, quest rewards (esp. companion upgrades), and later quests that are enabled only by completing previous quests.

    From a realism perspective, I think giving her the Arulin'Holm is debatable but in A New Path it could be better to deny her.

    I know I shouldn't have taken a sneak peek at Act 3 and the endings, but it's too late. I already have to sort it out somehow. What do you think would be the most in-character combination of choices for my Hawke, who is more open-minded than Marethari but not as much as Merrill? (Doesn't consider BM evil in itself but generally rejects its use. Rejects any dealing with demons. Supports the elves. Likes Merrill. Wants to help. Prefers not to lose Merrill but will allow her to simply risk her life or contracting the Taint, just not dealing with demons. Also, doesn't want to put Lowtown/Alienage at risk.)
     
  13. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    She's selfish in the sense that she doesn't back down from her ideals, yes. There's no pride there through, just a knowing. I think that's where the fatalism (and resulting drama) comes from, that in the end truth doesn't even matter and is at most a secondary goal.

    IMO

    Mirror Image: Choice A or C. Seems like a tossup for your Hawke.
    A New Path: Choice B: Go with her to Audacity (your Hawke seems to be very thorough, the alternative is reckless - there's a demon there and it needs to be dealt with) but given your Hawke's background admonish her regarding the aftermath (friendship lock, so you can be as as harsh as you wish to be) or be supportive while telling her "I told you so" (rivalry lock)
    Thanks to friendship lock you can be as harsh to her as possible after the events of Pride's End (destroying dark magical objects in her presence, attacking demons on sight, etc) or be as supportive as you can while she deals with the trauma (rivarly lock)
    The problem with the former is that it does cheapen her friendship ending, yeah. The friendship ending only really works if you put your faith in her.

    Actually, she heals the taint (one of the few beings who manages to do so) around the events of Act 1-2. Her focus shifts to fixing the eluvian after.

    You're all set for Inquisition at this point.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
  14. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    I think there is a sense of entitlement in there, or some sense of being exceptional and deserving different treatment than everybody else. This can be difficult to spot, let alone identify as wrong (or 'wrong'), especially if one grew up in a culture emphasizing individual responsibility and individual rights, but there may be more to it than just impatiently chafing under Marethari's rules and direction. I suspect the Dalish don't condemn blood magic and deals with demons as strongly as the Chantry does, but I'm pretty sure they do condemn them with some considerable strength. I can't be 100% sure Merrill simply thinks (or feels, more like) her goals justify the means; it strikes me that she can be seeing herself as playing by special rules, which would coincide well with some other traits she exhibits from time to time, such as uneven emotional development/maturity, strong and idiosyncratic emotional reactions, etc. Perhaps I'm trying too hard to come up with a single coherent holistic diagnosis of her issues. Or perhaps I'm annoyed that a kind, meek, mellow person would do something as inconsistent with this profile as relativizing morality (especially putting good and evil on a footing below expediency, interests or desire). I'm sure she must be reminding me of an ex or something, though I can't put my hand on it.

    Anyway, yeah, just simply giving her the magic knife doesn't feel like my Hawke.

    In A New Path, I guess there should be appropriate dialogue options to just go with her without expressing enthusiasm. You're right in pointing out that the spirit (or 'spirit') needs investigating and dealing with, and that's like top #1 concern. On the other hand, I don't think my Hawke would allow Merrill to perform a summoning in his presence. Well, perhaps a summoning for interrogation (which is most probably not inherently evil) but not a deal.

    Just to clarify, my Hawke puts faith in in Merrill as a mage, researcher, even keeper, even… person, just zero faith in the proposition that turning to demons (beyond interrogating) or blood magic (beyond using one's own HP for mana with zero demonic involvement) is acceptable.

    And yeah, I've already got Inquisition and am looking forward to playing it.
     
  15. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    The way I see it people generally tend to either be rebellious or conformists by nature (I'm speaking more of tendencies, since various idiosyncrasies would make it difficult to predict how someone would actually react in a case-by-case basis).
    Merrill definitely has rebellious tendencies (which is why rivalry keeps her going) but not to the point of being contrary. She is able to find joy and meaning in simple things like taking a walk (and ending up in some noble's flower garden) or hanging out with friends (Isabella and Varric). She is also a genuinely kind person (you can gain a lot of friendship points for her just by doing kind things). In a nutshell, she's a very anti-modern person in that she sees no need to advertise herself.

    The thing is she's extraordinarily smart and talented (not only in theoretical topics but practical ones, like coming up with contingency plans) and the Dalish expect her to live up to her talents. Mentally, I suppose, she has learned to accept this and has dedicated her life to serving her people but due to her rebellious nature her service comes with a caveat - she does it on her own terms. Meanwhile, thanks to her considerable skills/simple nature, I suppose she simply saw no need to develop her social skills. She's aware of social propriety and conversation concepts like sarcasm, but like how a child who learned their words through reading doesn't know the proper way to actually say these words, she doesn't know how to properly use these concepts.

    The problem is when Merrill's studies reveal that the Dalish (and the Chantry/Circle, in the case of Hawke and Anders) are wrong with theirs. As far as she's concerned she's in the right because of all the work she's done. She's gone through all the motions of testing/experimentation/etc. Result - caveat activated. To that end she sees magic/spirits/demons/blood magic/etc. as tools be used (and used wisely, you actually gain rivarly points from her if you try to downplay how dangerous magic can be) in her quest to remove the taint from the eluvian/fix it. Result - cue getting kicked out by her people.
    And that's when you meet her. Cast out by the people she has sworn to save, in a line of work where emotional instability can potentially get her killed (or worse, possessed), and relocated to an alien (haha) place. She's lonely and (perhaps most dangerously) she's desperate for approval among peers.

    It's up to Hawke to decide if he trusts in her capabilities/character enough to simply be there for her (and leave her out of a few quests) while helping her grow into a better person/if he decides that she's a good person but misguided/if she's a dangerous apostate/etc.
    On the surface it may seem like gaining friendship/rivalry points with her is just Hawk enabling her/forcing her to see how misguided she is, but it's much more complicated than that. Perhaps this is best seen if you check her Dalish Pariah specialization - Friendship gives you Solidarity, and the implication there is that you are helping her build her confidence/become more emotionally stable, and the result is that she becomes even more competent at what she does. Rivalry gives you Outcast, which is basically Hawke enforcing her rebellious nature (for good or ill).

    I can see how the lack of any option that sheds more light into her research would be extremely frustrating but there's a very good reason for that (revealed in due time). I can also see how it's frustrating that when dealing with Merrill you're not supposed to play hero but support character.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2016
  16. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Now that you've finished DA:2 and DA:I, I wonder if your thoughts regarding Merrill have changed. You now know that Merrill was right regarding demons and spirits, and that her self-cultivated insights about the fade, the blight and the eluvian were more or less correct - I'd even say that Merrill is neck-and-neck with Morrigan regarding several topics.
    You now have the insight you badly wanted when you were playing DA:2. How does it change things?

    Now that we can discuss the issue candidly without spoiling DA:I plotlines, I can also reveal my insight into Merrill's personality. The thing that really marks the character for me is how she is basically the textbook example of a second generation immigrant.
    In my middle-high school years my family traveled a lot so I attended the same school as a lot of people who were second generation immigrants. These were mostly middle class kids who were forced to conform to the tradition/cultures/standards of their parents while living in countries with completely different traditions/cultures/standards, so they were basically forced to live two different lives and cultivate two (usually conflicting) personalities/mindsets at once. I guess some people think these kids were living a charmed life, especially if their parents were refugees or came from poverty, but after living with that kind of psychological strain for a decade or so I'm sure many of the kids didn't see it that way.

    Some kids turned out OK, but the smart/rebellious (and like Merrill, I think genuinely honest) ones were prone to trouble. I think these kids craved acceptance because they need the self-confidence to one day be able to declare their independence from the expectations of their parents/society, and yet as a friend you couldn't just go around enabling everything they did (teenagers, after all). Vetoing everything they do doesn't help either because it just makes them even more rebellious, and based on personal experience that never ends well and something always ends up breaking.
    While it's true that their eagerness to please resembles arrogance or even a sense of entitlement, the thing is that these kids genuinely seemed happy just doing simple, broke kids-kind of stuff like hanging out at a friend's house or making a day out of wandering aimlessly with people they consider close friends. It's when they're surrounded by family/people they don't know that their attitude changes and they become more worldly or materialistic.

    Merrill is an elf who has never really felt at home among her people. She's smart, she's kind (even to outsiders, uncharacteristically so for a Dalish) and she asks too many questions. She's also seen her share of hardship, tragedy and loss. She knows more about Dalish histories than the most Dalish themselves given how she was once a Keeper's second, she was in Ferelden during the fifth blight (her clan was in the area), and she's even had firsthand experience with the taint (her friend is actually the Dalish Hero of Ferelden if you pick the Dalish background and a regular Grey Warden otherwise).
    And now she finds herself a pariah in a strange land.

    Now I could have just told you all of this before but you first needed to realize just how vehemently pro-Chantry Kirkwall actually was and I couldn't reveal just how much without spoiling DA2/Inquisition too much - how Meredith and her templars had a reputation for cruelty that was known even to Cassandra and the Seekers, how the Free Marchers have a reputation for devotion to the Chant/being stubbornly set in their own ways (Inquisition reveals just how much they resemble the Greek city-states all the way down to almost being anti-foreigner and uniting as a nation only when facing a common threat), how Kirkwall itself has an especially thin veil due to Ancient Tevinter meddling which explains why the city-state has an unnaturally high number of spirits/demons/blood mages, how xenophobic the Dalish actually are, how little even the Dalish themselves know about their own history (and how flawed that knowledge actually is) and finally just how flawed the Chantry actually is as an organization (regardless of the actual Chant), such that even a lot of Chantry-sanctioned research suffer from a distinct lack of objectivity.

    You also needed the insight and knowledge of Solas/Inquisition Morrigan/Cole to have a better understanding about the Fade and its denizens, the eluvians, and the truth about the Ancient Tevinter and Ancient Elven civilizations.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017

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