Wisdom of Nym: The little-explained lore bits in Final Fantasy XIV

    
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Obviously silly dances are already universal.

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.

Thus, as we continue to await more information on the game’s next patch, let’s pick a bit at some of the subtle elements of worldbuilding that are hidden in the game. All of these things are there in the game (although some of them are more alluded to in the game and made more explicit in the lore books), but most of them don’t get shoved down your throat… so let’s highlight them. It’s kind of a dog’s breakfast, you know.

Diagesis!

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?

This is not your house. This is a plaza. Get a house.

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.

I've got a lot of problems with you people!

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 eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week? Hopefully we’ll have some new information to chew on, but if not… well, let’s talk about guns and Gunbreakers.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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Bereman
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Bereman

Doma: Doma is a pure hereditary monarchy overseen by Lord Hien. Yeah, we took out one dictator to install another one.

Kind of highlights how blurry the line is between a king/lord of a land/country, and a dictator, doesn’t it? At least in a nation where the king/lord has full control over the government, which is how Doma seems to work (versus Hingashi, which is clearly based on Feudal Japan, with the real power spread out among wealthy lords/land owners that support the current head of state).

Both have total control…with the real difference being that one comes into power via an established system, and the other is generally a case of the individual taking that power by overthrowing a previously established system.

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.

While looking for another quote in my collection of screenshots (I take way too many…just shy of 18,000 at last count) I came across an interesting couple of sentences that I had missed before from the Omega raid storyline that, depending on how you interpret the sentence, reveals an interesting wrinkle to Midgardsormr’s situation on this planet.

The following quote is as such:

Midgardormr – Dost thou yet believe me the mighty wyrm I was in life? That incarnation perished long ago. My fate was sealed the moment I delivered my spawn unto this far-flung star. That they might be suffered to remain, I did offer up my life unto Hydaelyn, abiding henceforth in spectral form – a servant to be summoned in Her hour of need.

To which Omega very curiously replies:

Your account correlates with my records. It explains why I arrived on this planet only to find that my journey’s purpose was lost. Of necessity, my priority shifted to repairs even as I searched for a new target of sufficient strength.

Is it just me…or does that very much read like Midgardsormr has actually been dead for thousands of years as part of his covenant with Hydaelyn, rather than having died at the Battle of Silvertear Skies like I’m sure many of us assumed (and would make the form that appeared then simply a physical manifestation of his spirit)? Kind of blew my mind when I came across it, and adds an interesting wrinkle to his story.

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Eamil

Both have total control…with the real difference being that one comes into power via an established system, and the other is generally a case of the individual taking that power by overthrowing a previously established system.

Eh… the Japanese shogunates were hereditary too, at least until someone decided to overthrow the current line. The Tokugawa shogunate lasted around 250 years, the one before it almost as long, and the one before that for around 140 years. It was apparently common for a shogun to formally abdicate to his heir, but still remain the effective ruler until his death.

Bereman
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Bereman

Not sure what you’re trying to point out.

Mainly since Doma in FFXIV doesn’t exactly use a fantasy version of the Japanese shogunates – that would be Hingashi, the island nation (that is mostly isolationist, and upon which we can only visit the port city of Kugane at present). Doma itself is a weird amalgamation of Japanese and Chinese elements, but a Shogun (or Shogun-like leader, who ostensibly would answer to an Emperor but would be the true power) isn’t their particular power structure.

Also, the comparison was between leaders of nations that come into power in a system that is already established (which can be hereditary or not) versus the traditional understanding of dictator, which is one who seizes power by overthrowing the previous system of government and installing their own (interestingly, the original meaning of dictator and its history as it stems from the Roman Republic more closely resembles how Solus zos Galvus took power and transformed the Garlean Republic into the Garlean Empire).

So when I said

with the real difference being that one comes into power via an established system,

that included all of the systems where those who came into power did so through an established system (even if they are replacing another hereditary line in the case of the shogunate, they are doing so within the established system of the shogunate).

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Eamil

I thought it was obvious that I was referencing the shogunates as a parallel to Hinhashi. To clarify, you seemed to be comparing Doma’s monarchy to Kugane’s shogunate, so in that context saying that either one takes power “by overthrowing a previously established system” makes no sense to me. As a military dictatorship, the shogunates still had a hereditary line of succession.