This column, in part, is in honor of a random party member who had never realized that the currency you’re picking up in dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV were called “tomestones.” He’d been typing “tombstones” for so long that he thought that was what they were, when in fact they were never called that. But then, that ties into the fact that the game sort of tucks away an explanation of what tomestones actually are and why you’re collecting them in the first place, so a lot of people aren’t aware there is an explanation.
What are tomestones and why do we care?
A tomestone is a small, hard object that gives off a very faint light along a few patterns on the surface. However, when used with various Allagan devices, tomestones are revealed to contain a wealth of information, and while only small bits of it may be comprehensible, the scraplets of valuable information are worth a huge amount to collectors.
In short, tomestones are Allagan USB drives. (Yes, there’s a reason why there was a Poetics USB included with one year of the fan festival swag pack.)
In-universe, this is why Rowena has such a racket going. She forces adventurers to trade tomestones to her in exchange for commissioned high-end equipment, then she in turn resells those tomestones to much wealthier parties that ultimately put her well in the black. You buying things with tomes is helping her to maintain her market dominance. In practical terms, of course, this means absolutely nothing other than creating the flimsiest of diagetic rationales for why this special currency exists.
This is also why every basic tomestone type has a label indicating what sort of information they contain: poetics, mythology, philosophy, mendacity (meaning it’s a USB full of lies), goetia (implying demonic conjuration), and so on. It’s also why we literally see physical tomestones in various places, like plugged into the Scholar and Summoner books in the Scaevan set.
So rather than just being a game mechanic with no in-universe explanation like being able to re-run dungeons, the explanation… well, it’s actually still pretty much just an arbitrary game mechanic that doesn’t have a real rationale behind it, but it at least pretends at having one! That’s got to be worth something, right?
How are the various nations governed?
This one is one of those things that’s detailed, but never explained in much depth. And now that we have another nation with new government, it’s time to go over what the systems of government actually are!
Gridania: In theory, Gridania is a theocratic state under the dominance of the Seedseers, but in practice it actually functions more like a commune, with a decided paucity of actual edicts handed down by Kan-E-Senna to the populace. While there are definite laws that the Seedseers establish, the majority of business is conducted by consensus, with the Seedseers mostly intervening to make sure that the Wood Wailers are pursuing threats to the wood. (The net result is that community approval runs so much that certain nasty attitudes toward Duskwights and Keepers are pervasive.)
Ul’dah: Again, in theory, this is a monarchy with religious overtones, with the state religion affording for a council of the richest members of society. (Remember, Ul’dah’s state religion says that the money you make is a sign of your righteousness.) In practice, though, the council of the richest citizens in the Syndicate have most of the power. When your whole country runs on money, it’s remarkably easy to buy your way past checks and balances. So it’s kind of a kelptocratic nightmare with a decayed royal house still struggling to pull things together.
Limsa Lominsa: The game is fond of calling this particular state a thalassocracy, which really just refers to a maritime power using its navy to hold itself together. However, Limsa Lominsa doesn’t have a single navy; what it has is an alliance of navies overseen by Merlwyb, who is basically holding things together through a combination of duels, owed favors, and profiteering promises. If she ever died, the whole thing would start to collapse pretty quickly; laws may be on the book, but the government chiefly functions by powerful pirates agreeing that not fighting makes them a unified nation.
Ishgard: At this point, Ishgard is functionally a British-style parliament without a monarchy in the background. The parliament consists of a common house (elected by popular vote) and a noble house (assigned by inheritance), with Aymeric serving as the prime minister.
Ala Mhigo: There’s still no single formal government of Ala Mhigo, but the provisional government appears to consist of a direct representative council with no central leadership; Lyse Hext serves as the representative of the former Resistance and current Ala Mhigan military, for example, while the major towns also have representatives, the M tribe is represented, and so forth. It’s likely to transition into a similar structure within the next few years.
Doma: Doma is a pure hereditary monarchy overseen by Lord Hien. Yeah, we took out one dictator to install another one.
The Crystarium: The government of the Crystarium was basically formed into a council akin to Ala Mhigo more out of necessity than design, but the Crystal Exarch is treated as de facto head of state. This is not due to his own insistence, but he does benefit from it.
Eulmore: Following the MSQ, Eulmore is reforming along similar lines to the Crystarium… but with the added wrinkle that it’s actually a bit more like a corporate structure, with a CEO overseeing and overseen by a board of directors.
What is the First Brood and why are dragons special?
There are no dragons on the First. That’s because dragons aren’t native to Hydaelyn in the first place; Midgardsormr is the father of all dragons, and he has stated on multiple occasions that he traveled to Hydaelyn from his native star with seven eggs. This was part of a long-running battle against Omega, although the background and rationale behind this is somewhat vague.
Once arriving on the planet, Midgardsormr reached an agreement with Hydaelyn and ultimately brought the last seven eggs of his kind to hatch, making him the father of Bahamut, Tiamat, Hraesvelgr, Ratatoskr, Nidhogg, Vrtra, and Azdaja. From these seven dragons came all the later dragons that would populate the planet, and thus they are known as the First Brood.
At this point in the story, we know that three of the First Brood are dead; Bahamut died during the war with the Allagan Empire, leading to the summoning of the primal Bahamut who was subsequently entombed within Dalamud, while Ratatoskr was betrayed by the founding houses of Ishgard and killed for her power and Nidhogg ultimately perished in battle against the Warrior of Light. Hraesvelgr is still alive, and Tiamat is alive but imprisoned within Azys Lla (although by her own admission she is capable of freeing herself). The whereabouts and disposition of Azdaja and Vrtra are unknown at this time.
Hopefully you enjoyed this smattering of tidbits about the game; I admit there wasn’t much thematic throughline, so feel free to yell about that in the comments or by mail to email@example.com. Next week? Hopefully we’ll have some new information to chew on, but if not… well, let’s talk about guns and Gunbreakers.