Neverwinter Nights

I was bemoaning the dwindling supply of FF books that I can actually get hold of to a friend, and wondered if I should do more computer games. She suggested, with much enthusiasm and her usual winning smile, that I do Neverwinter Nights. Well, here we are, Pismo Bea- I mean, Neverwinter Nights.

Creepy eye logo! Creepy eye logo!

Hey, wait a minute! Since when is Neverwinter Nights inside a cave?

This is a game by Bioware, though let’s be honest, it’s not just by Bioware because it’s also by all the people at TSR, and later Wizards of the Coast, who have contributed to the Forgotten Realms setting over the years and made it into a gloriously deep and broad fictional world. This is the beauty of a well-made D&D themed RPG: They can take the setting and run with it. The downside is they can never run very far because the setting has to cleave closely to the rules laid out by the parent company. But while that means an epic sprawling adventure where you get to roam the world isn’t going to be containing a lot of interesting character developments and shocking surprise deaths, I wouldn’t be playing a Forgotten Realms based game if I didn’t want to just go on a quick tour of a region and see the sights.

This game is based on 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons, which is the edition that did away with things like reasonable attempts to model reality in the core rules, and turned the game into a colossal powergaming exercise… and then 4th edition happened and that 3rd Edition power creep all looked rather trivial. But 3rd Edition is a good system for a computer game and more importantly, this is not just a game where you run around and resolve the plot and that’s it. It’s more of a showcase for an application to play D&D over the internet in real-time. Apparently it’s not too shabby for that. The game also comes with the toolset to make modules with and a lot of people have done excatly that, so if you really want to you can raid the Neverwinter Nights Vault for some extra campaigns (or make your own, I guess). Or just grab some mods for the game. I’m using the coloured spell icons one I got here because it livens things up a little.

So I’m in this for the single-player plot that shipped with the game. Single player is, uh… well, there’s a plague ravaging the city of Neverwinter, and there’s a bunch of heroes being trained in the local Adventurer School, because the best way to deal with a plague is to stab it and steal its stuff. Oh and apparently there’s some kind of plan for a cure cooked up by Khelben Arunsun, who is the least cool wizard living in Waterdeep. And me? I am the star pupil at this school. Gosh, I wonder what fate has in store for me? As if I don’t know. Let’s see, is there a class I haven’t played in this game before? Why yes, the Cleric. Sod that. I’ll make a character far more useful…

Onward to Killing Thousands of Orcs! Genocide? What is That?

I put on my robe and wizard hat.

That is a really cool hat. I bet you are all jealous of my wizard hat.

I’m Gladda Gildensnoot, Illusionist Gnome. I came to Neverwinter as soon as I got out of wizard school because there was some kind of call for bold adventurers, but instead of giving me a quest to go down a dungeon and find a magic ring or magic wand or magic skull or magic spoon, I got sent to this adventurer academy. It seems that they want to make sure everyone queuing up to save the town from some kind of evil plague knows how to stow a seemingly endless supply of things inside invisible backpacks, know never to put a bag of holding inside a portable hole, and write in our handy adventurer journal. Of course I’m an illusionist and thus already knew how to write, so I get to graduate early. All I have to do is haul myself out of bed, get past Pavel the Annoying and his brother, and wander on down to the Wizard Training Room and… blow up a statue. But hang on, I don’t have magic that’s actually useful. I can create intricate and interesting images out of thin air, not blast things with magical power. Oh, but they’re giving me some scrolls of Magic Missile. Statue destroyed, I get given a rod that shoots Ray of Frost endlessly, making all these cantrips I memorised useless, and get sent off to the graduation ceremony with all the other people who know how to use a compass. Apparently I get to meet Aribeth, who is some kind of big-shot Elf everyone is obsessed with.

She has two swords here, but this cheesy display is not in the game.

AAAAAAAAAAAAANGST.

Okay so she is kind of good looking, but that is some silly armour – and I’m a Gnome. If I think something is silly then it’s pretty damn silly. Then just as I’m about to get my Adventurer School diploma, some evil wizards bust in and start to slaughter everyone but me because I’m an illusionist and present no threat to anyone. Meanwhile, Aribeth is clearly some kind of high-level Paladin with fancy magic gear, since she takes no damage from their feeble spells. She then sends me to protect “The Waterdhavian Creatures” which is not the name of the latest travelling minstrel troupe from Cormyr, but four critters the local do-gooders want to dice up to make a plague cure. Or stir-fry. I don’t know, no-one tells me anything. I set off into the back rooms of the Adventurer Academy, summoned badger in tow, and fight my way past goblins. Well, really the badger fights while I wave a crossbow around ineffectually. Eventually, with my badger, faerie sidekick familiar, and that annoying prat Pavel in tow, I reach some old geezer who says there’s some hideous monsters ahead and I have to “level up.” This is some kind of weird thing which I don’t really understand, but whatever. I’m a Gnome and have a band of woodland friends to protect me! Oh, and that prat Pavel, who somehow hasn’t died.

It's not a party without a badger.

“Just don’t look at him and maybe he will go away.”

Eventually we come to the stables, which is a funny place to house a Dryad, a snake woman, a Cockatrice, and an evil brain with legs. I kill the goblins, but oh no the creatures got away. Who would have thought? The priests we meet seem a bit put out, but really, what do they expect when they stand there casting spells on themselves instead of laying out the monsters? Why do they even carry big lumps of metal on a stick if they’re not going to hit anyone with them? Pavel finally leaves, and I get drafted into trying to round up the critters by some Elf called Fenthick. This incredibly urgent task is apparently to be started next week, instead of right now.

A week later I turn up at the Temple of Tyr and get given my hugely important and urgent mission that could wait an entire week by Aribeth. As I skip out the door, trying to avoid eye contact with a shifty-looking Halfling, she suggests I go and hire someone to help me out from the local mercenary guild. Which turns out to be just a shed with some people standing inside trying to act tough. They just happen to have a good discount deal going on adventurers, though the selection is a bit thin on the ground. There’s a bard and cleric, but they are not going to be the greatest at keeping the ruffians away from my frail and feeble wizard self. There’s a barbarian, who has one of those ridiculous double axes that I cannot take seriously, and a Gnome who is also an illusionist. A sorcerer-illusionist. Pfffhahahahahahaha! Even more pathetic than an actual illusioni- wait, hang on…

Okay, so I decide to hire the Dwarf, who is a member of the Order of the Long Death, a bunch of monks who worship the abstract concept of death, probably because the actual god of death is really boring, and spread the good word by clobbering people into a meditative trance they call “being dead”. After that it’s off to the peninsula district, which is where the prison is located. It seems that all the prisoners have escaped and are trashing the place for no good reason. After wandering around for a bit I find the local troubleshooter, Sedos Sebile.

Spiky corset armour over see-through blouse. Uh. 'Kay then.

I think she might be a ranger. Just a feeling.

She wants me and Psycho Dwarf, along with my forest strike force, to go and raid the prison and Sort This Shit Out(tm). There will be some gold in it for us, but Grimgnaw is just happy to get a chance to kill hundreds of rioting prisoners, the creepy bastard. Seriously, he’s really creepy. He’s worse than the necromancers at Wizard School. Of course, before we can get on with killing prisoners, we first have to go through a secret underground tunnel that houses a ginormous chess board, because apparently nothing is simple around here.

It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity to be looking at the board not looking at the city.

One town’s very like another when your sent down under some prison tunnel.

Inside the prison it’s one long slog where we have to kill dozens of ritoting pisoners. I was feeling a bit glum about this until I realised that judging from the fact that they’ve all decided to cut loose and loot the district instead of just high tailing it out of there might suggest that they’re not just pickpockets. Especially since the number of people prone to random murder and fireballing people’s houses for fun is significantly higher in these parts (i.e. the entire planet). So we proceed through the prison, killing prisoners, rescuing guards, and looting the place. Eventually we reach the lowest point in the whole mess and find the Head Gaoler, who, surprise surprise, has been taken over by the Intellect Devourer.

A brain on legs, the scariest thing since a flying brain with tentacles.

I always feel so bad about this. The evil and hideous monster whimpers like a puppy whenever it gets hit.

Prison break resolved, intellect devourer brain delivered, attacked by assassins, and copious amounts of gold received, it’s time to check out one of the other districts and see what I can do to help. There are four in total., how convenient, I bet one of the critters lives in each. Helping out the poor folk in the Beggar’s Nest might be good. Except it’s overrun with zombies, which is a bit of a problem: I’m an illusionist, and undead are immune to illusions. All I can do is puke rainbows at people!

Every single one failed their saving throw.

For my next trick, I will totally fail to have any useful spells to kill everyone before they wake up.

Tavern Break

Well that was kind of fun, since being the worst type of wizard imaginable (hey, diviners have an excuse for using other spells, illusionists have to tough it out) made the game more challenging. Though really, once you figure out some of the dirty tricks with the spells an illusionist is nowhere near as hopeless as I thought. I guess it would be tougher playing one in Baldur’s Gate. In fact, the whole summoned creature thing is just eating into my XP gain without providing a tangible benefit. Oh, yeah, I do have the crazy-murderous monk, I guess that’s why it seems so easy.

Well, I might have to come back to this to see how illusionists fare against zombies. I’m guessing it will be more of the same, except with burning hands instead of colour spray.

Onward to part 2…

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3 Responses to Neverwinter Nights

  1. Pingback: Neverwinter Nights Part 2: Zombie Snorepocalypse | Seven Fourteen Seven

  2. couillon says:

    Love your story, found this as I’m thinking about doing my own nostalgia piece on this title that I played back in the day. Haven’t decided on a class yet but I rolled Druid back when it came out.

    • Thanks! Druids are incredibly overpowered in this game. That’s good in Hordes of the Underdark though. You can kill that dracolich with Mass Heal, which doesn’t require an attack roll to hit undead.

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