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Anybody else hate balefire?


Gamma Fiend

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It's a totally broken power. It just makes no sense. And I don't like it. It's the 'easy way out' in writing.

And not to mention half the inconsistencies of it being throughout the series. Did balefire annoy anybody else while reading Wheel of Time? I love the books. Love the story. The character, the complex worldbuilding. The magic uses. It's all great. But balefire just really irks me.

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I don't mind it, but I'm disappointed no one studied its properties in greater detail. Could you imagine building a ter'angreal which could nudge the wheel backwards slightly, unraveling the pattern at that point, and allowing it to be rewoven in a different way? Essentially it would let you turn back time by a slight amount, giving you a reset button if you screw something up. You'd of course need a way to shield yourself from the effects, as reversing time by two minutes is useless unless you know what has happened and can act differently (thereby changing what is woven).

 

Yes, I may have been inspired by the Omega 13 from Galaxy Quest...

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I didn't have any problem with it. I actually found the "retroactive death" thing interesting. But as much as I would have liked  for it to be studied more (like many other interesting things that the White Tower ignored because of tradition...), I'm really thankful that Jordan didn't introduce a freacking undo button. That would have been a sure way to cheapen the story.

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Most of the magic in WoT, and the consequences of it, was really poorly thought out, in my view. Balefire is just one example of it. This isn't to say I didn't enjoy channeling and the books.

 

Take Compulsion. Why did the Forsaken not have every single world leader under a compulsion within a day of their return, again? Answer: because then they might have been somewhat competent and that would have been terrible. The Forsaken were built up to be this great, terrifying force, but they ended up being highly ineffectual at everything they did. They could go invisible, hide their channeling, and teleport wherever they wanted to. There was no reason for them not to take over the world, particularly given how the Aes Sedai managed to be even more incompetent than the Forsaken.

 

Take Traveling. Did no one think to make two gates, both horizontal, and then drop a boulder in it, let it accelerate for a few minutes, then open another gate to your enemy?

 

These uses took 5 seconds for me to think up. I find it very, very hard to believe that everyone in the Wheel of Time series was just so... unimaginative. It's one of Brandon's strengths, I believe, that his characters tend to exploit their magic.

 

To answer your question, yes balefire is silly. So was a lot of other stuff. I still loved the WoT series.

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Oh I really liked balefire. I wanted more of it but in crazier ways. Maybe a portal stone world where balefire instead hits someone and makes it so their future actions have no effect. Something like that. I thought it would be a cool way for Rand to handle female Forsaken - by dragging or coercing them into another portal stone dimension, then blasting them and making them useless. Also wondered how terrible it would be if he shot some balefire into that... dome he made over shadar logoth and just vaporized.... stuff? Not even sure but it could have been magnified and directed at the True Source or whatever Shai Tan's power was and who knows. 

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I liked it a lot, personally. Retroactive erasure was pretty cool and carried an excellent explanation for why people didn't use it all that much while still allowing characters to sensibly employ it some of the time. It also allowed Forsaken resurrections while simultaneously letting them end up definitively dead. I would also argue its mere existence made channeling battles much more interesting; the presence of an unblockable attack helped with the distinctive high-mobility flavor of channeler fights. It is the "easy way out", but was only rarely used in that manner.

 

That said, one thing did bug me relating to it. It was out of place; it was uniquely unstoppable and manipulated time. I didn't mind it being an exception to the rules, what was weird was when it stopped being an exception. The one I have a particular grievance towards was the World Of Dreams fight with Perrin in the White Tower. He casually deflects it and remarks it's just another weave, but it isn't. During the big fight in Dream Caemlyn, it broke the rules in the World Of Dreams too; when representations of physical objects were destroyed they oscillated between being destroyed and reverting to match reality. Also, the Flame Of Tar'Valon weave was introduced a bit too suddenly for my tastes, although I guess the existence of the seals did imply damage to the pattern could be reversed.

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Most of the magic in WoT, and the consequences of it, was really poorly thought out, in my view. Balefire is just one example of it. This isn't to say I didn't enjoy channeling and the books.

 

Take Compulsion. Why did the Forsaken not have every single world leader under a compulsion within a day of their return, again? Answer: because then they might have been somewhat competent and that would have been terrible. The Forsaken were built up to be this great, terrifying force, but they ended up being highly ineffectual at everything they did. They could go invisible, hide their channeling, and teleport wherever they wanted to. There was no reason for them not to take over the world, particularly given how the Aes Sedai managed to be even more incompetent than the Forsaken.

 

Take Traveling. Did no one think to make two gates, both horizontal, and then drop a boulder in it, let it accelerate for a few minutes, then open another gate to your enemy?

 

These uses took 5 seconds for me to think up. I find it very, very hard to believe that everyone in the Wheel of Time series was just so... unimaginative. It's one of Brandon's strengths, I believe, that his characters tend to exploit their magic.

 

To answer your question, yes balefire is silly. So was a lot of other stuff. I still loved the WoT series.

 

But the Forsaken were incompetent. I thought it was actually a deliberate message expressed in particular when Cadsuane  interrogated Semihrage. Everyone had been brought up to consider the Forseken some sort of all-powerful booogiemen, and they considered themselves absolutely above the people of the new age, but they were actually just simple humans, and petty ones at that. They all had big character flaws that drove them to the shadow, in partular they were all ambitious and unwilling to cooperate, which was what the Dark One actually wanted.

 

That said, I have to agree with your general idea. A bit of creative use of the magic by anyone could have drastically changed the story. Some instances may actually be justified, if only by using the omnipresent "will of the Pattern", but many were not.

Edited by Topomouse
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On this idea of magic that seem like cop outs, does the whole Ta'veren thing bug you too? I mean, it's just a way for the plot to be forced forward. If it makes no sense for their character, or there is no way for them to get from point a to b, then they just ta'veren their way.

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I actually like the idea of Balefire. An unblockable attack with potentially terrible consequences if used can be a great tension increase. Still, there were times when it did the exact opposite, like when Be'lal was built up to be this massive threat before being unceremoniously balefired by Moiraine a couple sentences after he appeared on the page.

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Most of the magic in WoT, and the consequences of it, was really poorly thought out, in my view.

This. it is probably the biggest criticism I can make to the whole series. the magic in wot is extremely powerful and very ill applied. Some of that is justified by it being dangerous to experiment, but some applications are much more effective than what was done in the books and should have been tought out.

For example, for a single channeler against an army, why not make a shield of air all around yourself and tie it? leave it open on top (at a height of several meters, so that arrows cannot hit directly) to breath, then just rain death outside. You don't need fireballs. A thin thread of air takes very little of the power, is invisible to non channelers, and will slice up anyone who hit it. just tie a few of them around the battlefield and watch as the soldiers stumble helplessly wondering if every step will be their last. Asmodean used it once against rand, who saw and dodged them, and nothing more was done with it. The capability to tie a weave is incredibly powerful.

For gateways, on the problem of risking to hit someone: even without knowing horizontal ones, why not open a small gateway at a height of 3 meters and see if the area is clear, instead of losing days to travel on foot from the nearest wilderness to where you actually wanted to go? And why did the two ashaman with perrin get tired keeping gateways open, when they could have just tied them for as long as it took to pass?

 

So, yes, the channelers had NO IDEA what they could do with just some more creativity in applying the powers they already had. They seemed like noobs playing Magic and using the devastating wurm because hey, it's a 6/4! and ignoring all the ccombos you can make that will win your game with the 7 mana needed for it.

 

On the other hand, we are nerds and powergamers. We like to think about that kind of stuff. We see problems as games, and games as excercices to obtain the greater possible effectiveness. I'm still somewhat baffled when I spend time with some friends and see that when they play a game they aren't trying to win or to implement the best strategy but merely to spend some idle time. Brr, what a horrible tought :o

But then, people using the power in real life or death situations should have really taken the time to think a bit more about it. I especially love sanderson for exploring the ramifications of his magic systems and having the characters approach them in the systematical way of someone needing it to overcome obstacles.

 

But I have absolutely no problem with balefire. it's just another tool, and no more broken that basically anything else you could do with the power. To keep with the Magic example, a darksteel colossus is not overpowered because there are many more stronger things you can do with the same mana.

 

On this idea of magic that seem like cop outs, does the whole Ta'veren thing bug you too? I mean, it's just a way for the plot to be forced forward. If it makes no sense for their character, or there is no way for them to get from point a to b, then they just ta'veren their way.

 

No, I actually liked the way it was pulled out. If the wot was even slightly less well written, it would have seemed a deus ex machina. As it was, it was part of worldbuilding, and it never felt forced to me.

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To a certain extent, I sympathize with the problem Robert Jordan must have had with finding applications for channeling. Unless he'd come up with every single effect that was possible before beginning the series, it would have been difficult to completely think everything through that was used. And I don't think Jordan was the kind of writer to chart all that out beforehand. If you introduce a new effect in book 10, you have to explain why it wasn't used when it would have been useful in book 6. Remembering an old weave and coming up with a new use for it is no doubt a difficult thing.

 

And yet I wonder if it isn't more realistic this way. Sure, we're mostly powergamers and optimizers here, but think of all your friends and relatives who aren't. Can't you imagine them using a single weave the same way over and over again and not exploring it? I think I could. Remember, too, that Rand and pals are from a place where there are no video games or RPGs to teach us this stuff. I think we'd have an enormous advantage with any magical powers we found we had, just because of the time and culture we live in. The WoT crew didn't have that benefit.

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Remember, too, that Rand and pals are from a place where there are no video games or RPGs to teach us this stuff. I think we'd have an enormous advantage with any magical powers we found we had, just because of the time and culture we live in. The WoT crew didn't have that benefit.

I think if I ever gained superpowers in real life, I'd post their parameters on a forum as a "hypothetical". Make the internet work out all the cool things I could do with my powers for me. :)

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I think if I ever gained superpowers in real life, I'd post their parameters on a forum as a "hypothetical". Make the internet work out all the cool things I could do with my powers for me. :)

That's a cool idea! There is a problem though, if said power has some intrinsic exploitable weakness you can be sure someone is going to figure it out too.

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And yet I wonder if it isn't more realistic this way. Sure, we're mostly powergamers and optimizers here, but think of all your friends and relatives who aren't. Can't you imagine them using a single weave the same way over and over again and not exploring it? I think I could. Remember, too, that Rand and pals are from a place where there are no video games or RPGs to teach us this stuff. I think we'd have an enormous advantage with any magical powers we found we had, just because of the time and culture we live in. The WoT crew didn't have that benefit.

From rand I can expect it, but I would have hoped at least the aes sedai should have tought about something. Yet I admitted myself that it is partially justified by the fact that they (and the wise ones, and the windfinders) never fought. even the so-called battle ajah never really saw battle, as they assumed that sending a few aes sedai to reinforce the blightborder would be a waste of resources. insteatd they devoted to politics, which was an even greater waste since it didn't rquire any channeling ability. But then, aes sedai being closeminded and not nearly as competent as they assumed is a common theme of the series.

From that point of view, all the new strategies introduced by sanderson, those that came into being because sanderson is a powergamer and jordan was not, actually make sense in context: after 11 books of battles, they started t put some toughts on new ideas.

 

The only institution from whom I should really expect better is the seanchan military. Military leaders are chosen because they can come up with new tactics, and even if the damane themselves were too brainwashed to do anything but obey, some der'sul'dam should have wondered if they could do something more inventive than throwing fire and lightning. On the other hand, the seanchan army always did well with just fire and lightning, so that again could explain why they never felt the need to innovate until they found a foe that managed to stand to them.

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People can go for a surprisingly long time without figuring things out. A lot of basic military tactics and organizational philosophies have known dates of invention and first use. The channelers in general start innovating a lot once they're facing serious military threats. The Seanchan have been using channelers in war for a long time, but their structure significantly complicates coming up with new weaves and they are better at direct combat than most of the other groups; they seem to be the only female channelers with a weave that causes things to simply explode.

 

And a lot of the tactics you're suggesting are not so easy as you might think. Many types of weave fail rapidly when tied off. Making razor wire with Air is not necessarily easier than making a wall just because the area is smaller.

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This. it is probably the biggest criticism I can make to the whole series. the magic in wot is extremely powerful and very ill applied. Some of that is justified by it being dangerous to experiment, but some applications are much more effective than what was done in the books and should have been tought out.

For example, for a single channeler against an army, why not make a shield of air all around yourself and tie it? leave it open on top (at a height of several meters, so that arrows cannot hit directly) to breath, then just rain death outside. You don't need fireballs. A thin thread of air takes very little of the power, is invisible to non channelers, and will slice up anyone who hit it. just tie a few of them around the battlefield and watch as the soldiers stumble helplessly wondering if every step will be their last. Asmodean used it once against rand, who saw and dodged them, and nothing more was done with it. The capability to tie a weave is incredibly powerful.

For gateways, on the problem of risking to hit someone: even without knowing horizontal ones, why not open a small gateway at a height of 3 meters and see if the area is clear, instead of losing days to travel on foot from the nearest wilderness to where you actually wanted to go? And why did the two ashaman with perrin get tired keeping gateways open, when they could have just tied them for as long as it took to pass?

 

So, yes, the channelers had NO IDEA what they could do with just some more creativity in applying the powers they already had. They seemed like noobs playing Magic and using the devastating wurm because hey, it's a 6/4! and ignoring all the ccombos you can make that will win your game with the 7 mana needed for it.

 

On the other hand, we are nerds and powergamers. We like to think about that kind of stuff. We see problems as games, and games as excercices to obtain the greater possible effectiveness. I'm still somewhat baffled when I spend time with some friends and see that when they play a game they aren't trying to win or to implement the best strategy but merely to spend some idle time. Brr, what a horrible tought :o

But then, people using the power in real life or death situations should have really taken the time to think a bit more about it. I especially love sanderson for exploring the ramifications of his magic systems and having the characters approach them in the systematical way of someone needing it to overcome obstacles.

 

But I have absolutely no problem with balefire. it's just another tool, and no more broken that basically anything else you could do with the power. To keep with the Magic example, a darksteel colossus is not overpowered because there are many more stronger things you can do with the same mana.

 

 

No, I actually liked the way it was pulled out. If the wot was even slightly less well written, it would have seemed a deus ex machina. As it was, it was part of worldbuilding, and it never felt forced to me.

LoL I play around with a WoT D20 RPG, I love getting inventive with Channeling, particularly Air. It's such an under appreciated Power. I'll drop labyrinths on battlefield with one long weave, scoop earth with it into a barricade around me and send the Air weave into blasting out add a wall. Personal fav is make Swords of Fire, like 5 or 6, tie off and wield them with Air like a Jedi. Traveling is just mean in my game. Messenger Boy stole my idea though...I usually use water, but lava is good  to lol

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You have to remember that many of the weaves that became common place later in the series were only discovered a book or two earlier.  Many of the new AS powers came only after the kidnapping.  If not for that, they would still be lost.

 

Why didn't the Ashamen tie off the weaves?  They trained mostly for battle, and there was not really anyone around to train them to tie off weaves.  Sure, they might have an AS tell them it was possible, but how many times was it brought up that a female could not train a male to do something?  Also, remember what happened when Avi tried to untie the gateway?  It basically blew up a hillside.

 

The lack of innovative uses for brand new weaves can be easily attributed to the lack of time since discovery.  The entire series is set over what, two years or so?

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The lack of innovative uses for brand new weaves can be easily attributed to the lack of time since discovery.  The entire series is set over what, two years or so?

 

Two years is a huge time to grab all the low-hanging fruit of channeling, and doesn't explain why the Forsaken (who lived for thousands of years) didn't use Compulsion on every single world leader in an afternoon of Traveling while invisible. I have a hard time believing that the curiosity was beat out of each and every Aes Sedai, that there wasn't a single one who devoted themselves to abusing all the different weaves. (Credit to Jordan: Aes Sedai were leery of experimentation, but this had more to do with old artifacts being dangerous than applying weaves in clever ways.) Vin learned to exploit Allomancy on the side while the world was ending. I think the Aes Sedai could have managed something.

 

It strikes me as a quirk of Robert Jordan's writing. He didn't plan out all the different uses of the One Power (Moiraine uses a staff in the first book!) and the consequences of having Compulsion, invisibility, and the ability to hide one's channeling freely available simply did not occur to him. He fleshed things out as he went along.

Edited by Moogle
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I really doubt many people would consider risking your life to try untying a weave as a low hanging fruit.  The AS also had evidence that being an experimenter wasn't exactly the best idea in the world.  True, most of it came from the artifacts, but it was also possible to burn out through channeling.

 

I see your point about Compulsion, but the AS did know of it, and a world leader that suddenly starting acting weird would have attracted much of their attention.  Morgase was largely attributed to her just being a woman, at least that was the way I read it.

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Also, compulsion isn't actually that quick and easy. It cannot simply flip someone's loyalties without totally crippling their ability to think. The Forsaken did make extremely heavy use of it to seize a kingdom each, but had to stay around and micromanage. Only Graendal was skilled enough with it to completely overwrite someone's personality and get a result that could pass the Turing test, and even she couldn't get proper human intelligence from someone she did that to. And the people who are most valuable as mindless shock troops are channelers, who apparently have some limited degree of resistance to it by default.

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Also, compulsion isn't actually that quick and easy. It cannot simply flip someone's loyalties without totally crippling their ability to think.

 

Er, isn't that exactly what you want to do with the Compulsion? The idea is to get the world softened up for the invading armies of the Dark One. You want the world leaders to be crippled in their ability to think and respond. You would use Compulsion on the Borderlanders and force them to act far too aggressively, which would lead them to being killed en masse. There were a few kingdoms that weren't friendly, so you could use Compulsion to get them into a war over a year or so of slow buildup. And these are ideas I thought up in a few minutes. I'm sure the Forsaken could have thought of more clever uses.

 

I see your point about Compulsion, but the AS did know of it, and a world leader that suddenly starting acting weird would have attracted much of their attention.  Morgase was largely attributed to her just being a woman, at least that was the way I read it.

 

What are the Aes Sedai going to do about it? They can't heal Compulsion (Nynaeve had to learn how). Are the Aes Sedai going to take over that country? That's what the Forsaken would want to happen. If the Aes Sedai take over the country, the Black Ajah can exert their influence, and it will make the other countries attack the Aes Sedai. More war, more distrust, more infighting.

 

Say people realize their leaders are acting under a Compulsion. They start a civil war to overthrow the leader in question. Again, this is what the Forsaken want.

 

Compulsion should have been the Forsaken's number one tool, no matter how unskilled they were with it. It's a win even if they botch it.

Edited by Moogle
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I think Topomouse is right- part of the point was that, despite being built up as omnipotent boogymen, the Forsaken really weren't all that great at what they did. I think that's pretty clearly expressed in book 4 when Nynaeve bests one of them in a fight in the space of a few minutes. She's shocked that she was actually able to win, since she'd assumed from the stories they'd be so powerful.

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