Contrary to what you think about the required bookish knowledge, the leaders in the Witcher's world (who are chosen to be game characters) have been portrayed so excellently in the game series that we can all appraise pretty correctly their varied shades of grey . I will elaborate this further in my post.
First, concerning the qualities of rulers, I suppose as a history geek you must have read “The Prince” by Machiavelli. The Witcher's universe is the place the Florentine would have been proud to call as his inspiration had he lived there! In that world, it is frankly indispensable as a ruler to be despotic, deeply suspicious of everyone and merciless to his enemies and betrayers. But the difference between a good king (i.e. the survivable one) and a bad one is this: while both scare the crap out of everyone, the good one is clever enough to keep the unavoidable hatred at “a manageable level” and has enough balls to never ever
evokes contempt from others (Foltest and Radovid, for example, are well qualified for these).
Ironically, the one ruler you extol the most, Emperor Emhyr var Emreis manifests those mentioned traits you abhor even more emphatically than those “weak” northern kings. Just look at some of his actions: he plots, invades and kills without mercy, not only his opponents but even his most useful servants (Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen); he hunts Ciri pitilessly so he can impregnate her (his very own daughter) and beget a bloodline of world conquerors (okay, I digress from the game's characters but you first introduced him in the argument anyway). But those fine acts don't matter at all, he is still a very successful ruler of the greatest empire in the world. His 'bad' traits (“BAD” by modern means) are just great assets to him as the good ones.
Also as much as you praise a good leader to be rational, I am very curious at your charge that the rational-incarnate Radovid is ruled by emotions and prone to make stupid mistakes (now these are “BAD” at all times and all places!) In both the Witcher games, he has proven to be a shrewd negotiator and a tough, clever leader (while being a bastard just like everyone else!) Being duped by the Empire or simply too happy to have an excuse
, he rightly incapacitated Philippa Eilhart (as she was obviously and undeniably
his biggest adversary according to her plan). Just like your much vaunted emperor, it is absolutely rational to any king to either subjugate mages or get rid of them. His plans for Temeria (different scenario thanks to Geralt's meddling): getting it all by marrying Anais or divide it with Kaedweni to forestall the Empire were as good as his circumstances allowed. In short, let's check Geralt's journal to see what kind of king Radovid is:
“Unlike the proud and sometimes self-centered Foltest, or the fitful, coarse Henselt, the king of Redania was a reserved, calculating politician. Geralt learned that he was not the sort of man that would allow himself to be deceived or led astray by prevarication. The king could instantly sense falsehoods and was gifted at maneuvering his opponents into revealing whatever information he desired. “
Anyway, I am not surprised after you put down Radovid and other norther kings, you elevate the Sorceresses' Lodge more than they deserves (this so solidifies the point I made about personal agenda;)). Sure, they may be not as racist as the kings but the power in their hand will be just as absolute. Why could Eilhart just tell Saskia about her so 'noble' plan instead of having to drug and hypnotize the dragon as a tool? Surely Saskia would have loved the vision of “a country with a strong ruler and political integrity and equality for all races” to counter Nifgraad (She was trying exactly that already)? And why has Triss been ostracized from the Lodge? The answer is pretty glaring: the Lodge don't want to share power, they want to monopolize it and mould it exclusively in their way; all others in the new state, be they dragon, elves, dwarfs or humans, are just tools for the new oligarchy.
Nevertheless, as a little dirty morality is not the thing we much condemn in the world of the witcher, let's go the main point of contention: Is the Lodge's plan “the best for the sake of power balance” (a.k.a. the much loved 'lesser evil)? Here is outline of the plan :
-First phase: assassinate Damavend, creating a vacuum of power in the weakest kingdom, clearing the path for Saskia to be its leader.
-Second phase: manage to control Saskia, exploiting her charisma to draw the human plebs and the non-humans to unite the North, establishing a Northern empire with Saskia as a titular head but under the thumb of the Lodge to counter the Nifgaardians.
This sounds a reasonable enough plan on paper, but as we have already seen in the game, it even more bounded to failure than Radovid's and Henselt's plan to divide the north (and that is only an exigency plan). The sorceresses ignored the fact that all northern kings and nobles would desperately join together to oppose them (even more desperately than to oppose other invading kings) and they fatally over-estimated their power after ''acquiring' a dragon. If anything, the plan only made the North more divisive and ripe for the Imperial invasion. Radovid might be duped but at least he still got the best from his circumstances. The Lodge on the other hand willfully duped themselves to disaster. The power balance in the world, thanks to them, has actually become worse ever since the assassination of Demavend (even though this doesn't mean it had been good before his murder).
I understand and kind of agree with your view on morality in the Witcher and our - modern men - perception of it, but I somehow feel like there is a double standard. Like men are allowed to make even the worst crimes and plot the most evil conspirators, while women are all BAD BAD BAD. Almost every organization in Witcher has its own agenda. It's the world of politics after all.
Oh, pleeeease, you are pretty emotional here. It is already acknowledged that all men and women in the game's world just do what they must. Phillipa is no more a bitch than Radovid being a prick by our modern norm. And if there is any double standard within the game, it should be this: all the ''bad' female characters of the Witcher 2 are at least afforded a shade of grey by the developers while some of the main men are just unsalvageably despicable (Loredo, Dethmold anyone!) To conclude ,the world is shit and almost every one is covered in shit (Zoltan-speak) and in the end all our arguments just prove what I said ages ago:
whom you choose to like depends entirely on your "gut instinct" (the genteel equivalent of "a dick or a vagina you have")! That is precisely what makes the Witcher 2 so irresistible.
+Side note 1:
And what do you think Sile should have done? Just stand there and let herself be captured? Or said, "I have a deadly dragon by my side, but I cannot use her to not make gamers think I am the cruelest person & biggest b*tch ever, so no matter how much my life is in danger, I am going to waltz off to my lab after apologizing to all of you, g'bye!"?
She could perfectly teleport away harmlessly (suppose there had been no Letho's prank) but still she ordered the dragon to kill everyone, including her mage colleagues. And even when Geralt showed compassion to her, the dragon still flapped at his arse anyway! So yes, Sile is the biggest bitch ever (don't fret, that actually means she is nearly as good as the emperor!)
+Side note 2:
There are 7 sorceresses of the Lodge who appear in the game: Sile, Sabrina, Phillipa, Triss, Assir of Nifgaard and 2 unrecognizable others (who showed up during the Eternal Battle alongside the former three). 7/12 is majority. Yeah, I know, it is incredibly nit-picking but one has to be precise ;)
+Side note 3:
This Forum posting system is completely broken!