Seanzilla

(A) Episode Two: One Ring To Rule Nothing At All

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"Well, I think you should pick someone from my party," Quarius suggested, stepping forwards in response to Korrelia's request. "That way, at least both parties are represented until we get to know one another better. I'd be willing to take up the role, if you want an advisor who can analyse situations well and provide sound tactical analysis. I am also very familiar with game mechanics, and can advise on where best to position each player during difficult battles."

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Aramachus nodded. "Fair enough that both parties bear representation, since this joint venture is attributable half to each group. We would have to defer to the other party, for them to choose who among them best represents them all, since we know them not."

 

"I think it also a wise idea to decide what exactly the purpose of the guild is. I for one would vouch for us to be a force of law and order, rallying the other human players together that we might all survive and escape this game. Surely the wandering groups are in need of guidance and community. A safe haven against player-killers and other, NPC dangers. A means of protection for those who aren't skilled enough to fight or defend themselves."

 

Aramachus had to stop for a moment to polish a smudge on his otherwise shining armour.

 

"Such a bastion of righteousness I would be glad to serve. I suggest an inviting guildhouse to suit, and a similarly uniting and inspiring name that will bring everyone together. Something like... Surreality United. A symbol of unity and friendship amidst players who are inherently incongruous to this fantastical world."

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Amroth nodded at Aramachus' speech, agreeing on every word. "I agree, I feel like we should band together to get through this nightmare as quickly and safely as possible. Every day this game exists is a day people die, either killed by monsters or PKs. Every day is another day where our parents and loved ones sit in uncertainty about our lives. Our guild must stand for the final goal of defeating whatever lay before us and finish this game and finding a way to free everyone." He felt a fire of determination burn inside himself as he spoke, he gripped his bow.

 

"For this cause I'd like to nominate myself as second-in-command of Surreality United." He liked the name, it felt serious and represented exactly what they stood.

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"'Surreality Danketsu.' It even sounds nice in Japanese, which is important because I'll bet there're tons of Japanese players trapped in this world too. I'll recommend our guild house have a strong motif of chopsticks, because nothing says unity like a whole handful of chopsticks. Ugh, I'm hungry already… I shall volunteer my culinary prowess in support of our noble goal. I cook a mean omelette. Cockatrice eggs, they're the best ingredients for that."

 

He lit up a small fire in his hands to underscore his determination, or maybe just his longing to get around to cooking.

 

"Our guild house had better have a decent kitchen."

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"Not to be rude or anything," Quarius questioned Amroth, "but what will you be able to contribute to the guild's leadership apart from self-righteousness and speeches filled with 'the right words'? I agree with Aramachus's suggestion as well, but lofty ideals will get us nowhere if we don't have a firm plan to achieve it. And I happen to be a realist. If I set my mind on something, I will develop reliable plans and strategies to make my dreams become reality. The same goes if I am to be part of Surreality United's leadership. I am able to offer a sound mind and keen judgment on situations as second-in-command. Will you be able to say the same, Amroth?"

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Amroth rubbed his eyes, he did not want to get into this argument because there would be no winners and probably only more angry faces, yet he could not let this go unsaid. "Quarius, I admire you as a member of our team, you are a great warrior, you seem to have figured out which stats to upgrade and which gear to use from now until the maximum level. You've got a firm grasp on the game mechanics and if I ever doubted about anything you'd probably be the first person I'd ask. Yet besides this, or maybe because of this I don't think of you as a leader. To lead is a different kind of skill than to be a good player, to lead is to make decisions based on the need of a team rather than what one person within that team needs or wants, and I think you are a great asset to the team, but I don't think you are a leader." He tried to be as gentle as possible, hoping that Quarius didn't take this the wrong way.

 

"The way I see it, the best leader in our group is Cha'ac, yet as long as he doesn't stand up and announce he wishes to lead, I won't force the decision on him. And sadly I can't say I know Nam well enough to know whether or not to she would be a good leader. Therefore I step forward to become the leader in this group, and it's not about the title of the guild, to be honest if it's possible I'd allow you and everyone in our team to invite players to our guild. But I feel like that it's important for us to have a clear leader, in case we ever stand before a hard question or situation on which the team is divided. In such a case we'd need someone to make the hard decision to keep us moving."

 

"Now please understand that this is in no way an assault on you as a player or even as a human being. I see leadership as being a skill to be learned rather than something you are or aren't, as some people seem to think. I'd like to see it as playing a piano, there are some to which it comes natural and who can learn and even some who would struggle with it, yet I don't value a piano player more than a guitar player. We each have our own set of skills and I feel like your lie rather with in-depth character development and maximization of your damage, rather than with leading."

 

"Know however that if I were to become a leader, I'd listen to your plans, and if they make sense I'd follow them, I'd discuss every move and rather little would change. I would only step in when a decision needed to be made or the team would be in danger. I don't care about a title and I don't care about being able to invite people into this guild, I just want to make sure that the leader of our group of 5 would be someone I'd feel like belonged in a position to lead, and to this end I can tell you that I will lead in service to our group of 5 and our guild, I'd place the team before myself and before any individual member of our team and I'd let any and all have their freedom until they threaten to damage either the team or one of its members."

 

Amroth nodded to himself, he hoped Quarius onderstood that although Amroth didn't see him as a leader, he was still a greatly valued asset to the team and that Amroth didn't want to be offensive or hurtful.

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Quarius narrowed his eyes.

"Hard decisions, you say? And you believe that following your heart will be a better judgement call than using logic to resolve the issue? Assume, then, that there is a situation where there are two groups of players, one with 10 players and another with 5. The group with 5 players are people from our guild, while the group with 10 players are strangers. Both groups are in mortal danger, and you only have enough time and resources to save one group.

Which group would you save?"

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"Is that a trick question? I don't see how questions of ethics can be solved by logic. The Trolley Problem has been around a long time, and the jury is still out on that one."

 

"Also, it would be political suicide to say you'll sacrifice us to save outsiders while you're campaigning. I know I would be opposed to anyone who picks the latter."

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"It would be political suicide, but it would also be hypocritical not to save the outsiders. Amroth's entire claim is that he wants to defend players from dying. This is why idealism has no place in leadership, because ultimately to remain in power in the first place you will be forced to make decisions which go against your ideals. Amroth says he can make hard decisions, and I gave him one. If he cannot answer truthfully, then his claim to leadership has already been invalidated.

Questions of ethics cannot be solved by logic, as you said. I made no claim to be a great ethical leader, but I did say that I will use my knowledge of MMOs and game mechanics to ensure that as many people get out of this alive as possible. On the other hand, Amroth's reasons to be leader are shaky, and I am using the Trolley Problem to demonstrate my point. He will need to have a better reason if he wants to convince me that I should concede the position to him."

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"When your campaign slogan is Logic, it's strange for you to demonstrate, with the Trolley Problem, that the important problems cannot be solved by Logic. Anyway, do I hear you correctly that you'll save the ten people over us?!"

 

"Also, I find it uninspiring to play by the rules of Logic. My diet of anime has taught me that to make a difference, you have to give Logic a Thunderwave to the face sometimes. Rather than save either the five or the ten, the right answer would have been to say, "Screw that! We're saving them all!" I mean, look at Naruto, Simon, Samurai Flamenco, Mankanshoku and the Four Devas, Ash Ketchum, Kirito, and Shiroe. None of them played by the rules!"

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Quarius's smile widened. "By the same concept, should we live our lives along the path of fairytales? That a prince will ride along on a white horse and swoop us into his hands before anyone dies? The world is more cruel than that, Bachydios. Going back to my question, have you considered the possibility that if you tried to save both parties, you commit insufficient resources to both sides and end up not only causing the deaths of all 15 people, but the deaths of the players you sent to help them as well? Who will take responsibility for that? Will you explain to their parents that you had their lives in your hands, and you just let them go to their deaths like that?

Let us not live like hypocrites!! Either say that we are creating this guild for the sake of preserving lives, or not commit to this goal at all. Do you value your life higher than the person next to you? Are the lives of 5 guild members of more importance than the lives of 10 innocents? Let's take this up another level. What if I told you that we could release every player from DMO right now, but it would cost the lives of all 10 of us standing here. Would you make the trade then? If yes, then do you not see the inconsistency in your value system? At what point do you decide to give your lives for the greater good? When it concerns thousands of lives, but not when it concerns tens of lives?

I believe in saving as many lives as possible. If you changed the situation, and said that I had to give my life in exchange for any of you, I would gladly do it. And I hope that I can say the same for the rest of you as well. That should act as the foundation of our guild: selfless sacrifice, not cowardly self-preservation! And I would dare to say that it is precisely because the 5 members are from our guild that we are able to make the hard decision to allow them to fight honorably to their deaths in order to save others: because each and every one of us have made the conscious decision to lay down our lives when we joined this guild. You cannot save anyone with half hearted conviction, like saying "I want to save everyone without sacrifices". As you said, Bachydios, this kind of thing only happens in anime.

Aramachus! You are a man of honor, surely you see where I am coming from. I speak from my impression that this is how we are envisioning our guild to be. If I am wrong, and you guys just wanted to hide behind the name of justice and chivalry without being willing to pay the necessary price to see it happen, then I will retract my words and remain silent. But I don't think that we should continue deceiving ourselves. Either decide that we will commit to saving lives, or not at all. Don't be wishy-washy and sit on the fence."

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All the posturing and speeches and philosophy were beginning to bore Dayereth. Since Korrelia had been elected guildmaster (of course. How could it be any other way?) and it didn't seem like the other team's bickering was going to stop anytime soon, he let himself slip into a trance. The argument dulled to a low rumbling in his ears as he rested, waiting for something to be resolved so they could go on and do whatever quest was next.

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Bachydios frowned.

 

"By the same concept, should we live out a dreary life decided by this world's numbers and rules? The world is more unknowable than that, Quarius. What if the rules of this game are rigged against the adventurers? Then the conclusion of any decision-making based on an assumption of utilitarian values will lead to our eventual defeat. By letting either the five or the ten lives die without trying your darnedest to save them, you'll never know the answer to "What if I had tried ?" Will you explain to their parents that you had their lives in their hands, and you let them go to their deaths like that? By reserving your efforts and redirecting it elsewhere?"

 

"This world is not reducible to merely time and resources. The chance element in every action we take tells us that. You need the heart to try though. We do not need princes to save us if we can become our own heroes. You think that courage is the stuff of fairy tales, but courage is very much what is needed in times like these."

 

He drew out his orb and watched as it floated in his hands.

 

"I'm not sure how a campaign to get elected became a discussion about the purpose of the guild. Surely that's set by the leader, or at the very least a separate issue from who should be vice-guild leader. Saying that we should either commit to a goal fully or abandon it is being too single-minded. The world is more complicated than that, Quarius. Not every situation we'll face will be as clear-cut as those you've just described."

 

"The charge of hypocrisy is unfounded. Everyone values their own lives. I have people out there waiting for my return, so I'm going to try my best to live and escape this game. The rest trapped in this world have people who care for them too, so I'm going to try to help them escape too. If things are ever so desperate that it requires me to sacrifice myself to save the world, I'll do that… I hope. I don't know if I'll truly be capable of that, to be honest. You'll never know unless you're tested, and we certainly won't find out while standing in this room rationalizing about it. There's certainly no point in trying to institutionalize self-sacrifice. Selfless sacrifice is born from heart, courage to overcome the fear of death, not from logic or some guild rule that tells you that you need to do so. I'm not sure why you're implying otherwise. It will either come to you at the time of dire circumstance, or it will not. It will not be born from a discussion that we have while in this stuffy room that we've yet to furnish."

 

Bachydios noticed that Dayereth was dozing off.

 

"Also, look at Dayereth. Do you think he cares what we decide our guild ethos to be at this point in time? Let's just keep this to a matter of who to elect as vice-guild leader, and leave the heavy stuff to Support Conversations."

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"On the contrary, the guild ethos is crucial to determining who the vice leader should be. Can you imagine what would happen to the guild if someone who had a completely different set of values as the ones we agreed upon took leadership? We would sooner collapse from in-fighting before anything got done at all.

I know the world is unknowable and complex, Bach. It is precisely because it is unknowable and complex that we need to make these commitments now instead of leaving them to later. Because when you are placed under pressure, that is when we make mistakes. Are you certain you can make a better decision when under a strict time limit and great pressure as compared to when you have plenty of time and no pressure such as now?

And to answer your earlier question: yes. If I do get out of this alive, I will go to each and every parent of those lives who have been lost at my hands, and apologise to them individually. It is the least that I can do. However, I expect that if I continue down the path that I deem to be true, then I will likely die before I escape from this death game. But it is a worthy death, fighting for the sake of others, instead of doing it on a deathbed when I am old and sickly. It is indeed the best use of death that I can think of.

Not every single member of the guild has to make the commitment to lay down their lives now. But if the guild leadership doesn't set their minds on it, we might as well not proclaim that we want to protect people at all. Because only psychopaths do not save others when they are presented with the option to do so without any cost to themselves. But what differentiates heroes from the ordinary masses is the ability to take it one step further, and put their own lives at the line for the sake at others.

Perhaps another view on the Trolley Problem would phrase my point better. Suppose five of us were adventuring, and we saw ten newbie players getting assaulted by a boss. We have the choice of diving in and saving them, but risk getting killed in the process, or simply walking away and keeping our lives. Which option do you think a true hero would take? Isn't this the same idea of self sacrifice that I am advocating?

But yes, I can see that certain members of the guild do not care about its moral direction. If the majority think the same way, I'll concede and let you guys do whatever you want. I simply think that it is a childish mentality to help others only at our convenience. It makes us no different to every other player out there, and puts us no closer to overcoming the game and getting everyone out of here than the others. We might as well not state it at all.

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Aramachus frowned, "I don't see such argumentative people upholding the idea of unity. I suggest the decision on second-in-charge be postponed, until it can be decided without such disagreement. At this point it is not urgent, since we are so small anyway. Perhaps a more agreeable candidate will arise from new recruitments."

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"Unity for the sake of unity isn't a value in itself. Even villainous organizations are united in evil. But if we are to postpone the decision of second-in-command, do permit me to ask our guildmaster one last question.

Korrelia, this is simply for the sake of my own curiosity. If you were adventuring with 4 other guild members, and you encountered 10 level 1 players being assaulted by a powerful creature, would you dive in to save them, knowing that you might be killed in the process?"

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Nam yawned rather loudly from her previously silent spot leaning against a wall with her arms folded. She adjusted the hipster glasses that she had to admit, she had grown rather fond of. "Well...this is boring." She confessed before pushing herself off of the wall. "To the newcomers I'm Nam. I'm a changeling, and a rogue. My most useful skills are deception and the art of stabbing people in the back. I have no place in a position of authority within this guild, nor am I interested. If you guys want to bicker over who gets to be a glorified recruitment agent then so be it."

Nam clapped her hands together and then pointed her thumbs over her shoulders, indicating behind her. "But I want to go out there and get more loot, and kill stuff. You guy's in?"

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Amroth sighed at Quarius' questions. He didn't want to get into this debate, he didn't want to get arguments within this group, yet it was all too late for that now. "We could stand here and discuss a million hypothetical situations and our hypothetical actions in such situations, but it brings us nothing. To answer your question, if I'd see low level players -I won't call them newbies- attacked by a boss I'm not sure what I'd do under that kind of stress, but I think I'd rush over to them and try to save them. I wouldn't ask you to do the same. I have been playing like this for a while now, I've always put the team before myself." Amroth nodded to emphasize what he had said.

 

"But let us stop this discussion and either choose a leader or continue, endless discussions will get us nowhere and will only get our new guildfriends pissed with us."

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"Well spoken!" Quarius clapped. "Now, that wasn't so hard, was it? Jumping in to save the level 1 players is functionally identical to choosing to sacrifice 5 guild members for the sake of 10 innocents, in my original analogy. But that is what I would have chosen as well. It is the "right" thing, the heroic thing to do, and it is the kind of choice I'd expect our guild leaders to make. The self-sacrificing nature is present in every person; I just wanted to ensure that our leaders were conscious of it and committed to upholding it, even in difficult situations.

It is your call, Korrelia. I've never been a social butterfly, but I can provide calm, sound advice in difficult situations and ensure that our guild remains on track of our ultimate goal to save as many people as we can from DMO. On the other hand, Amroth would be a better public figure, a person who can stand on stage and say all the nice things to get people to rally behind you. The Commissioner Gordon to my Batman, if you wish. But of course, I believe you can fulfill this role as well . It boils down to whether you want 2 public figures, or 1 public figure and 1 voice of reason.

Unless anyone has anything else to contribute, I believe it's your call now, Korrelia."

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"Can we go shake up some people for intel now? Politics bores me."

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Bachydios' eyes widened and he leaned in to his neighbor to whisper.

 

"So it seems that both of them would have jumped in to save people. Quarius has gone one full circle to come back to heroism, which was what Amroth was saying. So what was all that rhetoric about logic about?!"

 

His stomach grumbling, Bachydios took out some Journeybread and started sharing them around.

 

"Yes, let's have Korrelia choose her right hand so we can go questing soon. Hopefully, we'll still have time for that meal before we set out. Which reminds me - I believe it's just as imperative we decide what our guild-house -is-, since we can't complete the guild formation process without this step. Unless someone has a better idea, can I suggest we model it after the Alexander eidolon in Final Fantasy IX? The castle with the wings and all, so it's clear we're all about protection and good and all."

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(Not sure if Perception is the right skill to roll to hear the whisper in this situation)

 

Quarius turned his head at the sound of Bachydios's whisper. "Well, I don't think anyone else here has the patience to hear me continue explaining any further. To put it in Amroth's own words... 'come see me privately later' if you want me to elaborate on my point about logic and heroism." He winked.

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Something slightly more interesting slipped its way into Dayereth's ear, rousing him from his trance as he noticed a member of the other team that had been fairly silent until now. Smiling, he strode over to her. "Nam, is it? I'm with you. Let's head out and let these guys figure it out between them."

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The more the members of the guild debated over who was to be leader, the more self-conscious Korrelia felt, to the point where she felt that every word she uttered would be subject to close scrutiny. She must choose her words carefully.

 

"The point that all of you agree on," she said, "is that the right leaders for the guild is quite essential. I think that even though Quarius has won the logical argument, I think that I'd work better with Amroth. It seems quite likely Quarius and I are going to argue all the time, which doesn't make the guild very cohesive as a whole."

 

"In the meantime, for our guildhouse, I suggest something that's sturdy and presentable. We want to make a name for ourselves as a new guild, and from what I see the guild ethos is all about going out to help other people. If our goal is to revolve around all the players of the game, then we have to be trustworthy and approachable, and an imposing guildhouse will invite faith. We shall have a large building, painted white to represent serenity and stability, and a fence around it to deter intruders, but also a bell so that whoever wishes our services will need only but ring for us."

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"Fine," Quarius boomed, his voice unconsciously boosted by Ghost Sound as Prestidigitation caused a wave of wind to pulse from him. "The Guildmaster has spoken. I can't argue against that. Do what you guys want."

 

He regulated his breathing, turning away to look instead at the list of prices that had been tacked up on the stone wall next to the two parties. He scanned through the list, taking note that the price of constructing new rooms after the initial purchase seemed to be significantly more expensive than upgrading existing ones. He turned back to the group, pointing to the piece of parchment. "It seems that the price of building new rooms for our guildhouse in the future is 50% higher than enlarging rooms that we have already built. In my opinion, the most prudent course of action is to purchase enough rooms to accommodate our immediate plans first, and expand them in the future if necessary."

 

"I can see 15 possible facilities we might be interested in obtaining. That's 15 small rooms, which would come to roughly around 3750GP. If that is too high a figure, we could settle for 12 small rooms first, which would be 3000GP exactly, but expanding in the future will cost us much more."

 

He cast a glance towards Bachydios, and seemed to get a strange mental image of a toilet as he did. Perhaps it was a residual effect from the miniature potty duel the two of them had earlier on. "I think we will also need twice as many toilets," Quarius added, "for the sake of some of our guild members who might have bladder issues."

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