Choice of Rebels: Stormwright (XoR2 WIP)

More of a personal take from me, as I really like the concept of an alliance between a peaceful, constructive rebellion and a violent, destructive rebellion, but I’d rather my compassionate protagonists be the destroyer of worlds, not the redeemers — it’s spicy, capturing an inner struggle and contradiction (the human heart in conflict with itself, to quote Faulkner popularised by some bearded old man), and arguably pragmatic: if there exists a pacifist rebellion that’s palatable enough in the world it wants to build.

The choice of rebels is “what to preserve, and what to tear down”, and the authority of being the destructive force is in choosing when to stop. It’s possible to be consumed by one’s own creations, to fail to halt the forward momentum of the bloody warpath. But we can always trust ourselves to lay down the sword.

Tbh I somewhat question the viability of puppet leaders in ΧoR’s setting at this homegrown local level (though it’s a whole different story the grander in scale we get). The heart of puppet leadership is legitimacy, where the front takes on symbols of legitimacy that are otherwise not in the possession or unavailable to those in the shadows — but legitimacy in the Hegemony has fundamentally derived from the Order of the Thaumatarch, the very institutions that must be overthrown. Those who rule do so because the powers that be allow it. There exist some external founts of legitimacy: the ancient Shayardene monarchy is perhaps the most discussed of these. But it may not be the case that this option is available everywhere. Without an existing basis for legitimacy, at some point it’s simpler to just seize power.

Ironically, this line of thinking suggests that it may be easier to have puppet leaders at a grand scale rather than a small. The authority of the “Thaumatarch” has been the law of the continent for centuries. Shayard ruled by a de Syrnon evokes its romantic past. But who would we appoint as puppet over the Outer Rim? Intuitively, I think this makes sense.

(The exception to this is conquest, of course — there it just makes sense to appoint local collaborators to positions of power)

All this is just speculation, of course.

The Leaguers strike me as more of a precarious balance shaped by the need to throw off the chains of Empire and the present non-existence of the koinon. In practice, I’d think even in the world They envision, nationalism threatens the koinon from both flanks. Right now, there’s a belief that Shayard will be able to work as a first among equals in the koinon, a leader. Suppose that’s not true: would the soft nationalists still support the status quo of the koinon? Now suppose that it is true: how long until the Nyrs or the Wiends start getting separatist thoughts? Or, perhaps, nationalists and opportunists in Shayard itself calling for Shexit, believing the koinon is holding them back despite their influence and special privileges as a leading and founding member? These are all potential threats to the stability of a koinon that would need to be kept in careful balance.

Or, to put it another way, without nationalism, and if all members held deep cosmopolitan convictions in the shared experience of a koinon, it would have less to worry about.

It’s more that the Laconniers would insist that these are definitely old Shayardene traditions that they’ve reclaimed, not imported Erezziana ones. If you’ve got these people from Erezza who’ve been doing these things longer than the Laconniers have, and who might have records suggesting that Shayard had nothing to do with the development of these traditions — well, that’s a threat to the aesthetic myth. It could be a point of common ground if they went, we think these aspects of your culture are amazing and we’re truly inspired by them. But that’s a little more… cosmopolitan.

Not to mention that the Erezziana have a long and proud cultural tradition of their own. “Our poets are the envy of the world,” Cerlota says.

On that note:

This is Horion’s quote on the matter:

“In truth, they’ve confected a mess of rituals and bywords and costumes that have no roots in the histories. Despite claiming to purge Shayard of foreign influence, they’ve borrowed half their farrago from the Wiends or Erezziano—loyalty oaths, hooded capes, elaborate greetings.”

Idk what they’d necessarily think, or whether this even has to be much of an issue, but if I were putting myself in the perspective of a Laconnier, I’d probably ask why are we casting aside centuries of tradition — tradition that even the Hegemony kept alive — just to appease some foreigners and pretend like our rightful territory is also owned by them? King Oster built Grand Shayard. Samena’s conquests emanated from Grand Shayard. It’s the city our country is named for. It’s where the de Syrnon monarchs have ruled since the beginning. I say we rule from Shayard, as we always have, and we keep Aveche, as it was meant to be, and those people of Errets who’d break their bonds with us over that weren’t our friends anyway.

Also, judging by the de Tomans, a lot of leading Laconniers have probably spent a lot of time — maybe most of their lives — in Grand Shayard. Moving halfway across the continent isn’t necessarily an appealing idea.


@idonotlikeusernames what did your character do in chapters 1-5?


This old Vsauce video got me thinking about the relevance of qualia for theurgy. I think this would be especially interesting to explore with Yebben as his qualia for theurgevison will probably be distinct from the MC. I wonder how the Hegemony has overcome this feature of the human mind when teaching theurgy. Do they train certain type of theurgevison as the correct one? Is that something our our more freewheeling rebel theurgy can exploit?


I have an error


Popping up for a quick ADAT: ten years ago, I rolled out a big update with the arrogant aristo path and the tax collector winter raid (or 40,000+ words of it). Bleys the Telone and his family have been around for a decade now.

Wish I had a big update to send your way today – but Ch 2 continues to be slow going, so I’m going to continue to stay mostly off the forums until it’s done.

Meanwhile, I realized I missed an ADAT shout-out for @Protagonist back in November, for when he first joined the WIP thread. He’d go on to ask a lot of good questions, make a lot of good suggestions, and generally be an encouraging and perceptive reader. ADAT was his second post to the thread. :slight_smile: Thanks to him and to all of you who’ve made the game better with your feedback!


I do remember my shamelessly youthful self watching this video when it first came out and being absolutely shattered (in a good sense?) by the concept of qualia and p-zombies. Much later have I learnt that while philosophically interesting, the concept is wrong (but only fundamentally, as in - it’s not fundamentally unknowable). There is a theoretical possibility of measuring what neurones firing how exactly make red red in my brain and what atom combination makes red seem the way it does for me and cross referencing it with how it seems for someone else. Sure it’s very sci-fi, but it’s theoretically possible, which is enough to disprove the unknowability claim (was that claim even part of qualia or am I adding something and arguing against my imagination?).


Popping in because I was literally just reading a writer who claims that qualia are quantifiable, having spent December reading a book that argues that they’re not. On the whole I come down on Hart’s side – the reductionist model of consciousness that limits it to neuronal firing is, I suspect, writing a lot of checks it will never cash, and not just because of tech limitations – but that’s certainly not the only possible take on the problem of qualia.


Certainly. The concept of qualia is nuanced enough to have many different takes on it and some of them both mutually exclusive and presently unfalsifiable. I was talking from the pov of physical reality. Discussing consciousness in physical reality and discussing consciousness are sort of like flea market and flea or extensionality and extensionality axiom. Similar names, completely different things.

But the point about “unknowable” qualia kind of stands regardless. You only need theoretical possibility that N may sometimes be untrue to disprovea statement that N is always true. While it doesn’t disprove the whole concept of qualia nor (even less) non-materialist concept of consciousness, it does usefully narrow down the scope of discussion.


But that theoretical possibility needs to be a pretty firmly grounded possibility, right? We’d all need to agree that it’s theoretically possible to have a consensus that it’s sufficient for disproof.

When I was in college, it was widely believed that the human genome project would give us sufficient information to be able to (at least “theoretically”) explain most phenotypical variation plus things like disease propensity on the basis of genes alone. Today we know that genes alone don’t code, even in theory, for that level of precise detail.

It still seems pretty plausible to me that neuronal firing patterns will similarly fall short when it comes to explaining our thought patterns – even theoretically.


Yeah, that’s a good point actually. Whether “counting atoms in a brain” is theoretically possible or not (and whether it will yield enough answers about consciousness) is debatable and can be readjusted with new proof.

The genetics point is a good illustration of that, if not a well translating one (I think people by default still believe that all our physical features (at least the ones we are born with) are coded in genes).


That may be, but at this point it’s pretty clear they’re mistaken. And because epigenetics involves vastly more factors than a 4-letter code, it’s not clear that we’ll ever attain to the degree of elegant explanatory power that we’d hoped for back in the Genome Project glory days. (Alas! I’m not so wedded to mystery in the world that I wouldn’t have appreciated a really robust capacity to write cancer-proneness out of the human genome.)

Meanwhile, the neuron-consciousness relationship is scientifically and philosophically a lot messier than the gene-phenotype one. There are very clever people (like the qualia formalist I linked to earlier) who are sure that science will eventually find “mathematical objects that are isomorphic to all qualia,” and they might well be right! But on current trends, I’m betting against them. :slight_smile:


Do qualia even exist? This concept seems like an illusion to me. However, I am not certain that it is an illusion.


Depends on what you think of Descartes’s “I think, therefore I am.” Qualia are the stuff we most immediately experience; our beliefs about external reality are extrapolations from our subjective qualia. It’s certainly possible to end up judging that they’re illusory, but that has something of the queasy self-undermining quality of an argument that all our reasoning is a product of irrational causes.


I think it is especially likely that they that they are unquantifiable because qualia are our conscious impressions of our mental computation like color rather than something that exists in a measurable physical sense outside of ourselves. It’s our individual impression of a hallucination. The only reason we can even discuss qualia is because our consciousness inputs are so similar. Thus the example of the man who was born blind having basically no frame of reference for color at all.


Augustine’s :wink:

Edit: apologies, I so very rarely get to make that joke



Is this what it’s like on the front against the Imperium?


I don’t think this is a particularly self-destructive argument. I believe that even without qualia, as long as free will exists, the essence of humanity will not be lost.

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The first Akrite captain I ever served under here in Shayard told me about this grand muster they’d done at the Ward, a few years before I joined up. Over two days, they caught scores of Xaos-lovers trying to cross back into Shayard—more than we’ve ever seen in all my time on the border. The captain said they dragged them all to Brecksands for Harrowing.

(Core gameworld map found here)

One technique I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in ΧoR to date has been the seeding of details across the story that might bloom in the future (or point towards deeper extant worldbuilding that isn’t strictly necessary for the plot), so today I’ll be briefly covering one such seed that I haven’t seen much discussion of past cascat’s initial observations, prior to the Stormwright demo. To date, there hasn’t been a clean way to sneak this into any of my posts, so it’s getting its own dedicated one here.

Brecksands is most likely a Wardhouse: “fortifications somewhere along the inside of each Ward, where the blood is spent to sustain the Change.” In the text alone, the presence of a Harrower in a place, as far as we know, otherwise unsuited for dense human habitation — and the implied Theurgic presence to use it on short notice — points towards this possibility. But ever since Cerlota described Dry Wells as a Wardhouse, it’s seemed abundantly clear that the other places of interest marked with the same symbol ( 』) are the same.

Mlazyc Vale, Snowblights, the Bonewatch, Wreckers’ Point, Sescia Crag: they’re all found along the Wards. Okhsai has a slightly different shape (resembling more of a mountain to me), but under this framework would likely be fuel for the Floating Palace in Aekos. Consequently, these locations likely hold secrets about Wardwork and mountain-flying that our prospective rebels — along with the Halassurq Empire, watching from a distance — would be interested in discovering (not to mention the perks of denying the Thaumatarchy access, even for just a brief moment, while securing its resources for revolution).

And Brecksands in particular is significant for being in our backyard, so to speak, as the place our influence is inadvertently tracing an arc around, from Sojourn to Irduin to Grand Shayard. We’re unlikely to see Brecksands this game: we would’ve crossed back over the Ward well north of it, but an outpost of the Thaumatarchy in the heart of that barren, desolate, depopulated land seems uniquely suited to suffer from whatever chaos erupts in the Southriding after we get there.

Supply, after all, seems like the ideal way to threaten Brecksands: its isolation is a double-edged blade.

Finally, there’s an open question of how much Cerlota knows or suspects. She merely said that “The precise Wardhouse locations are not known to many”: this does not mean that the precise Wardhouse locations are not known to her.

Now, something completely different, albeit late:

In between the various conversations we can have upon first settling down in Sojourn for the winter (sojchatchoice), we return to the conversation hub each time with a “Next, you spend time getting to know:” — while this works fine as a narrative tool, it would be neat if each was prefaced by a brief anecdote (just one or two sentences, probably) about something ordinary happening on the training grounds with the Sojourners. Four or so in total, one per tick.

This could spice up the hub text while further communicating the passage of time after each conversation. They would be palate cleansers after each conversation, reorienting the reader to the training grounds and smoothing the transition between the end of one talk and the beginning of another. It’s also an opportunity to get a taste of what everyday Sojourners are like and to add a macabre weight to their story. These are the people who’ll be on the front lines — these are the people likely to die when the Theurges come, no matter if it’s Herne or Jerrin leading them.

It’s a little thing, one that doesn’t have any mechanical impact or alter the grand story in any way: but I think it’d be well worth it in enhancing the feel of the story.


Great suggestion, thanks! And interesting extrapolations. :slight_smile: The first of the mentioned squiggles you visit will be Okhsai, and on current plans you’ll have the chance to visit Brecksands at some point in G4.

ADAT, at @stsword’s advice, I decided to add the Secret Theurge path to XoR1.

Right, logging out for a while again to boost productivity!


I have a question that’s probably been answered before. Will it be possible to switch the companion we took to the Xaoslands with someone else we left behind? If it will be, would it be before coming to Irduin or after leaving for Grand Shayard?