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Character Development: An Arbiter's Tale
Posted By: Hawaiian PigDate: 9/29/10 5:31 p.m.

This is in response to scarab's fine post here. He brings up a point about the Arbiter that I see get raised fairly often; that he's static, that he doesn't emote or demonstrate his feelings... that we don't "know" whats going on in his head.

I wrote up a response that's supported with a lot of specifics from Halo 2, and didn't want it to get swept away in the mess of stuff on the forums. I think it's an interesting look at character development.

I think you discount his ability to show his feelings a bit too much because he doesn't explicitly state them. Now I know that one of my gripes about others' treatment of Noble team is that they seem to be inferring what I don't see is there, but I've yet see a demonstration of character that strongly draws from their representation in game. A few posts up, I took Lobster's characterization of Kat, and broke it down to what ended up being a heck of a lot inferred from analyzing a Datapad and one or two snippy retorts to Carter.

In your response above, you have good points about ambiguity in the character, yes.

Like many of you do with Kat (and whomever else in Noble you see great depth), with the Arbiter inferences are made.

The difference is that I feel these inferences are well supported given narrative context.

Look, I can quote mine too! :P


The human who killed the Prophet of Regret . . . who was it?


Who do you think?


The Demon is here?


(snorts) Why? Looking for a little payback?


(clenches a Carbine tightly in his hands)

Retrieving the Icon is my only concern.

Show. Don't tell.

Here you can see that he clearly harbours disdain for the Demon, and you also get a sense for how devout he is in his convictions to do the will of the Prophets. This inference is not a stretch by any means... Tartarus practically does the speaking for him, and there's no reason they would write that line with any other intent.

Moving forward...


At the center of this zone is the Sacred Icon critical for the Great Journey. I must find it.

This is telling you straight up: he cares about the Great Journey a whole lot.

Next, we've got a biggie. This whole scene does some wonderful contrasting of the Chief and Arbiter and demonstrates his headstrong convictions; showing he clings to his faith in the Great Journey:


Relax. I'd rather not piss this thing off.



Gravemind gestures to the Master Chief.


This one is machine and nerve and has its mind concluded.

Gravemind switches his attention to the Arbiter.


This one is but flesh and faith, and is the more deluded.


Kill me or release me, parasite, but do not waste my time with talk.


There is much talk, and I have listened, through rock and metal and time. Now I shall talk, and you shall listen.

Gravemind brings in 2401 Penitent Tangent and the reanimated corpse of Regret.


Greetings! I am 2401 Penitent Tangent. I am the monitor of installation 05.


And I am the Prophet of Regret, Councillor most high, Heirarch of the Covenant!


A Reclaimer? Here? At last. We have much to do. This facility must be activated if we are to control this outbreak.


Stay where you are! Nothing can be done until my sermon is complete!


Not true. This installation has a successful utilization record of 1.2 trillion simulated and one actual. It is ready to fire on demand.

REGRET (to Arbiter):

Of all the objects our lords left behind, there are none so worthless as these oracles! They know nothing of the Great Journey!


And you know nothing about containment. You have demonstrated complete disregard for even the most basic protocols.


This one's containment...

Gravemind gestures to 2401 Penitent Tangent


...and this one's Great Journey...

Gravemind gestures to Regret


...are the same.

Gravemind removes 2401 Penitent Tangent and Regret.

REGRET (offscreen):



Your Prophets have promised you freedom from a doomed existence, but you will find no salvation on this ring. Those who built this place knew what they wrought; do not mistake their intent or all will perish as they did before.


This thing is right. Halo is a weapon. Your Prophets are making a big mistake.


Your ignorance already destroyed one of the sacred rings, demon. It shall not harm another.

I love Audrey in that one...

When confronted with a direct "Look man, your beliefs are wrong," he calls the Chief ignorant and swears to stop him from desecrating this ring. Definitely still a devout follower of his faith.

Moving forward still! We come to your quote:


By the rings. Arbiter? The Councillors, are they...


Murdered. By the Brutes.


Vile disloyal beasts! The prophets were fools to trust them.

Woah! What happened to that faith? Well, a lot.

If you follow the transcripts along on the Halo Story Page (which you seem to have), it seems like a pretty jerky jump.

This scene, however, comes after a heck of a lot.

As a result of this jump, you say:

"Now T may have been lying but the Arbiter doesn't even seem to care about discussing this with HJ."

Let's give this scene some context.

This level, Uprising, actually has about the least dialogue in the game... but it shows quite a bit.

Like the atmospheric sections of Reach (I've got Exodus and New Alexandria in mind), the whole level is spent witnessing the split of the Covenant. The Elites band together, and faith is lost in the prophets. The Arbiter doesn't say "God damn! Curse you vile Prophets!" Instead, we witness the schism first hand, and our Seperatist comrades do much of the talking.

A little selection of various dialogue snippets:


They have shed our brothers' blood... and for that, they must die!


Make haste! There are more Brutes to kill!

Ha ha! Long have I waited for this


Not all dead? Raise the alarms!


Please ... no hurt! Me like Elites! Brutes stinky bad-bad! Me stay here, make sure no Brutes come behind mighty Arbiter!" (Chuckles nervously)

As 'Vadam and the allies enter a hallway with dead Elites, Grunts, and weapons scattered about.

SPEC OPS ELITE (praying to dead Grunts and Elites)

Start the journey... be at peace.

Finally the level climaxes and culminates in a meeting with Half Jaw...

HJ asks about the Councilors, and fearing the worst his sentence trails off.

And the Arbiter sorrowfully deadpans, "Murdered... by the Brutes."

To me, after what occurred, this seems like an expected and completely natural line for the occasion.

This is me inferring things here, but not without reason...

I'd imagine his solemn four word response is a result of his shock and disappointment; his disillusionment. I mean, up until this point, he has been utterly devout, doing the will of the Prophets. Suddenly, in a fairly rapid coup, the Brutes take over and slaughter his political leaders. There's turmoil and skirmishes among squads...

It's the Great Schism.

So he spends the whole level in visceral combat with those who were once his allies, and finally, in a lull, he meets HJ. After what just occurred, his delivery on this line seems in line with nature of the meeting. Sorrowful and bitter disdain. It didn't seem to me like a moment where he should have dropped to his knees and cursed the sky as you seem to imagine he should have.

We're starting to see the wool come off his eyes... and it's gradual not explosive.


ARBITER (referring to the control room):

What is that place?


Where the Councilors were meant to watch the consecration of the Icon - the start of the Great Journey.


There is still time to stop the key from turning.


I must get inside.

Although his world has come crashing down around him, part of his character stays true. He's determined. He's clearly compelled by his budding sense of revenge here, rather than a devout sense of faith.

Yeah, it's a one liner, but it's delivered with purpose.

Next, we've got the full elucidation of truth for the Arbiter in the game's climax:


Tartarus, stop!




Put down the Icon.


Put it down? And disobey the Hierarchs?


There are some things about Halo even the Hierarchs do not understand.


Take care, Arbiter. What you say is heresy.


Is it? Oracle! What is Halo's purpose?


Collectively, the seven-





The camera cuts to reveal Johnson standing behind the Arbiter, Beam Rifle at the ready.


Don't shake the light-bulb.


If you want to keep your brain inside your head, I'd tell those boys to chill.


Go ahead. Do your thing.

ARBITER (to the Monitor):

The sacred rings... what are they?


Weapons of last resort, built by the Forerunners to eliminate potential Flood hosts, thereby rendering the parasite harmless.


And those who made the rings? What happened to the Forerunners?


After exhausting every other strategic option, my creators activated the rings. They, and all additional sentient life in three radii of the galactic center, died planned.

The camera cuts to the Arbiter, a look of sadness on his face.

343 GUILTY SPARK (After a pause):

Would you like to see the relevant data?


Tartarus. The Prophets have betrayed us.


No, Arbiter! The Great Journey has begun! And the Brutes, not the Elites, shall be the Prophets' escort!

Now this scene comes after a brother-in-arms truce with the humans. And the Arbiter finally really hears what Halo is all about. Heck, he even tries to bring this truth to Tartarus with the intent to liberate him as well; he's met with the same headstrong blind faith that he once subscribed to... and is forced to fight.

Now that's just one game! I even skipped out the entire Heretic section, which too, helps characterize him.

A lot has happened, but if anything at all has changed, it's his faith in the Great Journey, in the Prophets, his perspective of the Covenant and by extension his very world itself.

We open his story with the oath of the Covenant, and conclude this game with his realization of truth.

To say nothing changed for this character is downright unfair.

This isn't inferring that someone is questioning authority because of a Datapad and some snippy retort... this is a well presented fall from faith.

The next game even shows growth in other aspects; we see the Arbiter take his tentative truce with the Humans from simply having a mutual enemy to harbouring great respect.

I don't feel like going through that whole game for you as well, but two scenes just about sum it up without description.

The Chief looks around, taking in his surroundings. Somewhere near him is a familiar sight... the heat-wave effect of a Covenant Active Camouflage. Johnson gives it a nod. An Elite decloaks, revealing itself to be the Arbiter, Thel 'Vadam. The Master Chief moves with fluid grace, brushing aside Johnson and another Marine next to 'Vadam, drawing Johnson's pistol from its holster.


Chief, wait!

The Master Chief jams the pistol between 'Vadam's mandibles.


The Arbiter's with us!

'Vadam glares at the Master Chief, showing no sign of discomfort or making any move to point the gun away from himself. The Chief hesitates to lower his gun.


Come on now.

Johnson grabs the Chief's shoulder.


We got enough to worry about without you two tryin' to kill each other!

The Spartan slowly lowers his gun. 'Vadam derisively clacks his mandibles together


Were it so easy.


I remember how this war started. What your kind did to mine. I can't forgive you. But...

Hood holds out his hand to the Elite.


You have my thanks. For standing by him to the end.

The Arbiter slowly shakes Admiral Hood's hand. After letting go, Hood's eyes are drawn to one part of the memorial in particular.


Hard to believe he's dead.

The Arbiter looks away, toward the Shadow of Intent, hovering silently in the sky.

ARBITER (quietly)

Were it so easy.

Message Index


Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleHawaiian Pig 9/29/10 5:31 p.m.
     Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleSamusaaron3 9/29/10 5:45 p.m.
     Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's Talepadraig08 9/29/10 7:49 p.m.
     Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's Talesithhead 9/29/10 8:23 p.m.
     Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleThe BS Police 9/30/10 12:25 a.m.
           Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleHawaiian Pig 9/30/10 12:39 a.m.
     Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's Talescarab 9/30/10 10:57 a.m.
           Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's Talekapowaz 9/30/10 3:24 p.m.
                 Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleGeneral Vagueness 9/30/10 4:26 p.m.
           Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleHawaiian Pig 9/30/10 4:16 p.m.
                 Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleGeneral Vagueness 9/30/10 5:07 p.m.
                       Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleSl'askia 9/30/10 5:30 p.m.
                 Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's Talescarab 10/1/10 4:01 p.m.
                       Re: Character Development: An Arbiter's TaleHawaiian Pig 10/1/10 7:06 p.m.

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