Fear and Gaming: Frequently Asked Existential and Snack-Food Related Questions in “The Witcher 2″

Parvulus Clamans (Jonathan Gourlay), a pitiable little man, pretends to be someone he is not and (of course!) fails.

The Witcher 2

This FAQ is by Parvulus Clamans.

PLEASE NOTE: Do not post this FAQ without my permission.


Version -0.1

Version 0

  • I am born, bloody and screaming. Just like every other asshole.
  • I was unconcerned about the billions of years of death that preceded me and the billions that stretch out ahead of me beyond this short gasp of troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

Version 0.1

  • I tried to punch Robbie in the gut during gym class. He laughed at me. My punch is ineffectual.
  • I thought, maybe, Suzanne would like a poem but it just made her cry because she does not like me in that way.

Version 0.2

  • I wrote this FAQ after I played The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, but before I died alone in a snow bank holding a summer dandelion, onto the stem of which I had meticulously etched the secret words.

About This FAQ

This FAQ provides information on troubling existential and snack-food related questions raised in Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (W2:AOK). This FAQ does NOT cover any information that might help you play W2:AOK. I do not know what a mutagen is. I do not know how to make a bridge troll stop drinking vodka.

1.1 Character Creation

Q: I followed a dwarf to the secret hideout of a group of elf-rebels called the Scoi’atael. As the dwarf approaches he yells out “Kierk-e-gaard!” The elves creep out of the forest and give the proper password in return, “Heidegger.” Why did the writers break the fourth wall to name-drop existential philosophers?

A: Someday writers may find a way to break the fifth wall which is when they bust into your bedroom at night and tickle you.

But just think: How do they get potato chips to taste like pizza? And what kind of flavor is “loaded potato”? It sounds either like a weapon or the result of weeks of constipation. Just like these potato chips masquerade as real food, so do the characters in W2:AOK occasionally put on airs. Also you sometimes pretend to be coated in a chemical that makes you a teacher or a husband or a father. Your actual substance hidden behind a salty veneer, a husband-flavored dust… So what’s the difference between you and a gussied up potato chip?

Possible reasons for a dwarf-elf exchange that includes Heidegger and Kierkegaard:

  1. The names just sound funny, like Alyosius Snuffleupagus, Mr. Bultitude, and John Darnielle.
  2. The writers wish us to believe that off-screen there is an Elf/Dwarf rebel book club where they sit awkwardly on cheap couches, eat chips and salsa, and puzzle over thick Heideggerian pronouncements like The interiority of the world’s inner space unbars the Open for us.
  3. W2:AOK was produced in Poland by Poles based on a Polish book series. Heidegger had many good qualities, I’m sure, but not being a Nazi wasn’t one of them. So maybe this is some kind of pay back for the invasion of Poland?
  4. If Kierkegaard and Heidegger were alive today, they would be dedicated LARPers.
  5. Perhaps the writers are holding a mirror up to our Selves and in that mirror we see the Self in a thousand shards of empty light that misrepresent Us. Dread of death is the only power that can arrange the broken Self-image into a single, coherent whole, sailing the now like a billowy ghost-frigate upon a vast ocean.

As an aside: If you eat a tube of Pringle’s pizza-flavored chips, you will burp a kind of metallic substance that smells of car exhaust and you will shit a thin gelatinous gruel that has no smell.

Q: When I play W2:AOK am I supposed to be Geralt of Rivia? Should my choices reflect who I am or who I think he is? Geralt is nothing like me. For one thing, I am a woman and yet I have more hair on my chest than Geralt of Rivia.

A: Here’s a scene: Geralt of Rivia raises his silver sword coated in semi-toxic sparrow potion and slices a screeching harpy with a kick and a deadly thrust. Those harpies cry like little babies. Their baby screeches fill the headphones. Babies. Babies. Babies. I have been a baby, a pre-baby, a post-baby, a clump of jizzy cells, a decision someone made once for good or ill, and here I am, conscious of the world. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I am Geralt via mouse and keyboard and I am myself via blood, desire, and cheese-filled pretzel nuggets.

I am distracted.

The cell phone bla-chinks incessantly, reminding me when someone or somebot “mentions” me or “replies” or “retweets” or “responds” and it is a cliché to say that I am distracted from myself by such things, that we are all distracted – maybe not more but differently than we used to be. So what? Every time my phone blurts it is saying to me “you are going to die and here is a little chunk of your corpse, @yournamehere.” And then it’s on to the next distraction, the next mask, the next self.

In other words, you are as much Geralt of Rivia as you are anything else. Also, I don’t believe you are a woman.

Q: Geralt’s fancy mage pants feature a laced up penis-pouch for easy elf-whore access to his 4d4 GP tiger-eye turquoise family jewels. When not mercilessly slicing and spell-casting through monsters and henchmen, he is wooing the ladies and getting them into his preferred “doggie-style” position either with charm or money. I could never do anything like that because I have neither charm nor money nor fancy pants. There is an uncomfortable distance between his actions and those that I could actually take. How do I get over this?

A: I feel your confusion. How can I become some white-haired, horny, double-sword toting fantasy witcher? I can’t, even in a fantasy game, move beyond my essential, maddening niceness and overflow of unnecessary empathy, even for squawking baby harpies. A quick reality check brings me back to who I am: some floppy amalgam of Ralph Nader, Mr. Rogers, and Alan Alda. If there were a role-playing game about changing your sneakers, I could be the hero.

I like multiculturalism, 2% milk, tolerating different viewpoints, medium-spiced pad thai, giving people a fair chance, half-caf coffee, half-fat ice-cream, fat-free half and half, hyphens, the Principality of Liechtenstein, hippogriffs, manticores, and the slower, whinier songs of The Mountain Goats played at medium volume in a temperature controlled room.

My go-to fantasy character is a bisexual half-elf who treats everyone nicely. When I used to spin the icosahedric D&D dice as a young man my character’s name was Dag Hammarskjöld, after the Swedish economist and diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld. My motto was a quote from Dag, “If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.” Dag (the D&D character) didn’t do much but quietly steal pouches and run away.

As Hemingway once said: “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”

Hemingway also blew his noggin’ off. That’s one way to get away from yourself.

Q: What are the secret words you mentioned above?

A: Whooopeee! I shout randomly and for no reason. Can I get a whoop-whoop? No? Yes? Whatever.

There is a tension in every Frito, every Fun-yun, every Garden Salsa flavored Triscuit. It is a tension between the actual components of the snack and what it presents to the world. Like snack foods, human beings are mainly vessels for carrying salt and presenting false impressions to the outside world while not knowing the mystery of what they really are. In the end we are all, basically, Cool Ranch Doritos growing stale in the cupboard of existence.

Which is a long way of saying there are no fucking secret words.

1.2 My Failed Self

Q: You’re a big harpy-faced cry-baby! Cry-baby! Tell me the secret words, please?

A: I loved Suzanne and poured my heart into her poem: “The sun sets upon the landscape of your body / the moisty gloaming glares upon your pinkening flesh / love me, love me when your body turns to night / and I grope for you with blind fingertips.”

She cried and said, “Parvulus, Parvulus, this is beautiful but I just don’t like you.”

I was frustrated. Crushed.

I saw Robbie the next day and punched him in his big, gooey, fat, fucking dwarf-gut. But I had never punched anyone and didn’t know how. He laughed at me. He thought I was trying to tickle him.

I was never going to be that person. The one who made a dent in the world with wit or muscle. I am no Geralt of Rivia. I am Parvulus Clamans of Riverside, Illinois.

I became quiet. And waited. In February, the winds wooshed into the suburbs from the west, across the flat prairie. The sky was a February blankity-blank. It was hurtful cold. I lay down on a dirty snowdrift in the parking lot of the down-market mall. I pulled a dandelion I had saved from the summer of the possible – possible love, possible violence – from my pocket. I etched the secret words in the stem of the dandelion with the sharp tip of an antique diaper pin.

OK, the secret words were: “I ENVY YOU.”

A gust of wind blew the dandelion into the street where it was crushed by a 1987 Chevy Impala.

1.3 Legal / Contact / Thanks

This guide is Copyright (c) 2011 Parvulus Clamans

The following website has permission to host this guide:


All mistakes are intentional.
All communication with the author must be indirect communication.
Special thanks to CD Projekt Red for creating the world.

Jonathan Gourlay is an editor at The Bygone Bureau and author of the ebook Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years on a Micronesian Island. He lives in the quiet corner of Connecticut where he is a vicarious goat herder. Follow him on Twitter.