Neverwinter Nights Part 6: Sidequestorama

Previously on Neverwinter Nights…

So there’s this cult and they’re really bad. They want everyone dead for crazy reasons, and so all the most important and powerful adventurers in the northern Sword Coast are… sitting at home with their feet up while a gnome illusionist goes out to look for answers. The priorities of the rulers of Neverwinter are pretty screwed up, let me tell you. But at least this time all I have to do is walk down a road.

Onward to Adventure!

The South Road is called this for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a road. Second, it heads south. The road passes through rather desolate territory, but there’s plenty to be seen if you look. For example, gnomes hiding in tree stumps. Hello, gnome!

Oh come on, they're defenceless babies. You don't even get XP for them.

Oh come on, they’re defenceless babies. You don’t even get XP for them.

Stirge is one of those convicts I’ve heard about. This clown was in prison for killing babies, apparently. I think that means he’s a bit of a jerk. Stirge proposes a sort of riddle contest, and I agree. The game is that he says something and I have to name something that defeats it but is not the opposite. For example, he names candle, and I name crossbow bolt to the head.

Cha-ching!

Next, it’s off to Wanev’s Tower to “ask” him for the other jewel Eliath Sillyhair wants. This proves difficult because there’s a lot of trolls and ogres outside. I don’t quite know where this rates on the Minion Based Wizard Evilness Scale but I’m not too fussed.

Obligatory Troll Bridge

Obligatory Troll Bridge

His tower is certainly impressive…

Either that's an invisible tower, or there's something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

Either that’s an invisible tower, or there’s something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

Inside I run into the butler. The butler does not care because I am carrying a magical wardstone I looted from Wanev’s cottage in Port Llast. Of course, the butler is a flesh golem, so that moves Wanev several points up the Minion Based Wizard Evilness Scale.

Pretty far up the scale when you consider what's involved in making these.

Pretty far up the scale when you consider what’s involved in making these.

I wander around the tower, finding a rare mystical tome that I’m going to turn in to the local wizard library book drive, and then eventually find my way into Wanev’s study. Where he attacks me. Or tries to, it really doesn’t work too well for him.

Stoneskin is really only useful against non-casters. Why wizards always fire it up as soon as they see another wizard I will never know (spoiler: only one combat script).

Stoneskin is really only useful against non-casters. Why wizards always fire it up as soon as they see another wizard I will never know (spoiler: only one combat script).

After surrendering, Wanev is most apologetic for trying to kill me. As he should be. Who the hell tries to defend their home from intruders, anyway? Wanev says I can have the gem for Eliath Sillyhair if I go and banish an imp from his summoning room. How hard can this be? Its only summoned… fifty… other… demons…

Wait a minute! He’s got a small army of monsters and golems, why can’t they do it? That’s what minions are for! That’s certainly what mine are for.

Eventually I find the imp, kill it, and chuck its heart into the portal, which causes a large explosion.

Portals to Baator and the Abyss are rather unstable, and thus make excellent tools for mining or clearing rocks from farmland.

Portals to Baator and the Abyss are rather unstable, and thus make excellent tools for mining, or clearing rocks from farmland.

Wanev gives me some gold and the gem I need to tick off my to-do list, and I get out of there. On my way to Charwood I find a cave, go in, and find a lot of wolves. Which I kill. I also manage to cure another of those kids who got turned into a werewolf. This one is a pretty easy quest because I just have to hit them until they agree to put on the magic pendant that will turn them back to normal. Well… Grimgnaw does the hitting. I just make sure there’s fancy coloured lights blinking in the air while he’s doing it.

It's okay, it was a proper fight, not just a psycho monk beating up an innocent wolf man.

It’s okay, it was a proper fight, not just a psycho monk beating up an innocent wolf man.

Further south I go, finding a pair of farms. At Plant Farm I find a surly teenage boy, who has managed to let the teenage girl living at the other farm steal the locket of his dead mother, the only thing his father has to remember the long-deceased woman by. I subtly point out to him that there’s probably easier approaches to his hormonal urges…

“Kid, you do know the whores in Port Llast are cheaper and less likely to get you thrashed by your father, right?”

“But she’s so hot!”

I stare incredulously at him for a second, before remembering that young human men are basically incapable of reason and logic when attractive young women are involved. Or plain young women. Or basically any young woman, or old women, or cows, or dogs, or shrubs with a wig on top and a note attached that says “I am a woman, not a shrub”. I decide that I might as well go and see what all the fuss is about. Um, I mean go and get that locket back.

I go over to Cow Farm and first have a chat to the farmer. There’s some crazy wolf killing his cows. Hmmm. Two quests. One is to kill some wolves, probably for a reward. The other is to recover a locket from some girl, probably for a reward. Now, given my past experiences working as an agent of Neverwinter, I know exactly what to do when I need to get a valuable item back from someone. It means killing everyone in the entire region. But if I kill the farmer, I can’t get a reward for the wolf killing. Maybe I’ll do the wolves first? Yeah, that will work.

This cow was pushed TOO FAR and is OUT FOR REVENGE. But cannot CLIMB HILLS.

This cow was pushed TOO FAR and is OUT FOR REVENGE. But cannot CLIMB HILLS.

Into the wolf cave we go, killing every wolf we see. Then I meet a talking wolf. It’s some rangers animal companion who has gone rogue and is out to kill all the cows in the region. This is too weird, so I kill it. Problem solved! The farmer gives me some gold, which I then use to buy back the locket from his own bratty daughter after she spins a sob story about how she was going to sell it to buy replacement cows.

Locket returned, it’s off to Charwood. Now, I don’t know about you, but normally when I hear that there’s a forest full of mystery and shadows, I go the other damn way. They’re always filled with orcs, zombies, devil spiders, necromancers, mysterious tinkers… and this forest doesn’t even have a wizard tower outside where you can buy single-use magic items. But I do get paid well for finding evidence of the cult so we can figure out it’s location. Which is probably Luskan. Maybe I should forge a letter or a diary or something? No, damn it, the Paladin can detect lies.

Oh damn it, NOW I develop a conscience!

Oh damn it, NOW I develop a conscience!

Well, into Charwood it is.

This is much more serene, tranquil, and not-evil than I expected.

This is much more serene, tranquil, and not-evil than I expected.

Charwood is actually kind of nice. It’s well lit, not too full of undead, and generally a nice little break from the tiresome farmland. In fact it’s probably a nice spot to camp out after clearing a campsite of rocks, branches, and skeletons waving rusty swords. Peaceful, quiet, and…

Okay: rain is only tranquil and serene when I'm not trying to sleep outside in it.

Okay: rain is only tranquil and serene when I’m not trying to sleep outside in it.

Typical! Even the corpses staked out for the crows have better sleeping arrangements.

Hammock of Death! Hmmm, that sounds like a Fighting Fantasy book...

Hammock of Death! Hmmm, that sounds like a Fighting Fantasy book…

In the morning I am feeling well rested after a relaxing night in sleeping in a freezing torrential downpour in a forest full of skeletons, I roam around some more. Eventually I find one of the myriad dead archaeologists whose bodies litter the lands of the Faerun. Between you and me, I think an archaeologist is an adventurer who doesn’t just loot tombs for forgotten wealth, but expects to get tenure afterwards. Like all archaeologists this one died with his journal nearby and curiously unaffected by the dampness and mouldering decay that inhabits all forests. It mentions that a nearby pillar is some kind of magic key to a treasure trove. After locating the pillar I decide that nothing could possibly go wrong here and push the buttons.

"Oh an eldritch pillar, this will be fine!"

“Oh an eldritch pillar, this will be fine!”

Oh no, not again.

Oh no, not again.

I’m teleported to an outcrop of rock with a portal leading down into the ground. Inside are the…

Inevitable Skeletons!

Inevitable Skeletons!

Hordes of zombies!

Hordes of zombies!

Mummy battle! Note: Not about cleaning my room.

Mummy battle! Note: Not about cleaning my room.

…and I get an axe. Or something. I hate fighting undead so much, thanks to their immunity to illusions, that very little is worth the trouble.

Anyway, I need to explore more of this forest to find secret evil cult information about secret evil cult schemes, so it’s off to the village of Charwood…

This does not look foreboding at all!

This does not look foreboding at all!

I am sure there is a perfectly good explanation for all these impaled bodies.

I am sure there is a perfectly good explanation for all these impaled bodies.

…But let’s be honest, they’re probably demon worshipping cannibals.

Charwood Village is, well… the people are wandering around in a daze and don’t seem to know what’s going on. Either they’re all hung over or they’re about to flip out at attack me. I head to the inn to see what’s going on, where I find a crazy person who attacks me. After killing him in self defence – no, really – it turns out he’s another one of those secretive cultists who doesn’t know to burn his orders and not keep a journal of his evil cult expedition. Hooray.

I decide to see what the problem is in Charwood, and it turns out that the town is probably trapped in some weird time vortex. Oh well, I better go check out the castle and fix it. Mainly because there might be loot.

Castle Jhareg. Or Cave Jhareg. Or maybe Castlecave Jhareg. Whatever.

Castle Jhareg. Or Cave Jhareg. Or maybe Castlecave Jhareg. Whatever.

I am sure this will be simple.

Skyrim Part 1 – Dragonwhat?

Hey there adventurers, it is time for a NEW ADVENTURE because I lost my Neverwinter Nights save and Dragon Age is so tiresomely long, and also hey here’s a new adventure to post about. I figure, why not try this first person malarkey on my blog? Okay, to be honest it will probably look awful because I can’t just hit pause and arrange the camera angle for a screenshot. But tough. You’ll read your Skyrim post and like it. There’s starving orphans who don’t get a Skyrim post!

This is Skyrim: Legendary Edition which means in addition to killing some dragons and saving the world, I have Dawnguard. Where you kill some vampires and save the world. Also there’s Dragonborn. Which is about killing some ancient dude and saving the world. Oh, and there’s Hearthfire, which is vicarious home ownership for those of us who will never afford a real house.

My Skyrim is modded up. I’m running SkyUI, which is some awesome interface business that also has the added feature of letting players properly bind dual wielding.

Probably the best Skyrim mod.

Probably the best Skyrim mod.

It requires the Skyrim Script Extender but whatever, that’s cool. It’s on Steam now so there’s no effort required. Also running here is the Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Edition Patch, because this is a Bethesda game and we wouldn’t buy their games if we didn’t love patching the bugs out, would we?

Oh and there’s also Run For Your Lives, which gives the deranged and stupid NPCs an ounce of brains so they know to run inside and hide from dragons. This prevents broken quests when the local shopkeeper or tavern wench comes running outside to try and punch a dragon in the face. There is also When Vampires Attack which does the same thing for when vampires turn up.

SkyUI: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/3863/

Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Edition Patch: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/71214/

Run For Your Lives: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/23906/

When Vampires Attack: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/28235/

Onward to Adventure! Or at least a lot of walking…

Ow, my head. Where am I?

Oh right, I'm in Skyrim. Thanks, hallucinatory placename!

Oh right, I’m in Skyrim. Thanks, hallucinatory placename!

So I was trying to get into Skyrim, and what happened? I got caught up in some band of ruffians being arrested. Now I’m in a cart and being taken off to some town for some reason. I’m sure this is all just a misunderstanding. I don’t know what all this “Stormcloak” business the other prisoners are going on about is, but I’m sure that the Imperials will let me go once they figure out their mistake.

This is certainly a quaint little town. I am certain this will all be cleared up soon. The horse thief caught up in his own misunderstanding is a little distressed and tries to run away, but the guards catch him…

A very pointed response from the guards.

A very pointed response from the guards.

…with arrows. Well, I’ll not run away then. We can clear this up right… oh they want to execute some people. Well you all shouldn’t have been illegal criminal types then.

He's not the Dragonborn! He's a very naughty boy!

He’s not the Dragonborn! He’s a very naughty boy!

Hey wait, why do they want to execute me? I’m not some dirty horse thief or whatever these other people are! I haven’t done anything illegal! At least, not in Skyrim! I am too young and pointy-eared to die!

No really it's bad luck to chop an Elf's head off! Like, seven years of bad luck times walking under a ladder and... what the hell is that?!

No really it’s bad luck to chop an Elf’s head off! Like, seven years of bad luck times walking under a ladder and… what the hell is that?!

"YOU IN TROUBLE NOW, KIDS!"

“YOU IN TROUBLE NOW, KIDS!”

Well, this day is going splendidly well.

Cart Dude thinks I should follow him and I’m not about to argue. I run into a tower and Ulfric Stormcloak, who thinks he’s the king but isn’t, suggests going up the stairs. Of the tower not connected to any other structure. I go up anyway since maybe I can hide up there

"NO HIDING FOR YOU!"

“NO HIDING FOR YOU!”

...and I don't even have any marshmallows!

…and I don’t even have any marshmallows!

Okay jump to the ruined inn and then out and… oh that imperial guard. Plus an old guy and some kid who apparently doesn’t seem to understand the whole deadly fire-breathing death lizard thing. Whatever, the dragon is gone. I follow Guard Dude, no dragon in sight. Everything is fine now.

No it is not fine now!

No it is not fine now!

Okay, dragon is gone to breathe fiery death on other, more deserving, people. Time to flee into the keep and probably escape through some tunnels. I rush around getting some equipment and other vitally essential items.

All right, if you insist!

All right, if you insist!

I tried to take this but it was nailed to the wall, leaving me without a vital piece of equipment.

I tried to take this but it was nailed to the wall, leaving me without a vital piece of equipment.

After finding some spare armour I follow Guard Dude and we meet some of the Stormcloaks, who I still know nothing about. They try to attack us, but I have a pointy metal stick.

Either that or the game gives you loads of critical hits in the tutorial to make it look cooler.

Either that or the game gives you loads of critical hits in the tutorial to make it look cooler.

Thusly armed I flee through the cellars, through the inevitable torture chamber. Guard Dude says he wishes they didn’t need torture chambers, though he doesn’t sound like he has a huge problem with the concept of torturing people.

Further on there’s some more Stormcloaks, who for some reason are standing in a puddle of oil. Hey, funny story: I have fire magic.

You Stormcloaks really need to lighten up.

You Stormcloaks really need to lighten up.

Well, that was certainly enlightening.

You could say they were out of the frying pan, into the fire.

It was as though there was um… some elf chick who er… set them on fire?

Okay enough puns, I have a castle to escape from. Run down some tunnels, over some water, kill some spiders, shoot a bear full of arrows, and finally…

Unlike the rest of Tamriel, Skyrim's caves have not been fitted with doors.

Unlike the rest of Tamriel, Skyrim’s caves have not been fitted with doors.

The dragon has finished setting Helgen on fire, and for added drama flies away as I leave the cave. What’s-his-name suggests going to Riverwood and getting from free equipment from his uncle who is surprisingly relaxed about strangers taking things. Sounds good. Along the way I get a tour of the local sights.

Well that's foreboding, but I certainly can't imagine I'll be going there any time soon.

Well that’s foreboding, but I certainly can’t imagine I’ll be going there any time soon.


Apparently these days people can pick their star sign if they're willing to wander around and find the magic rocks. Thankfully the rocks in question are not in space.

Apparently these days people can pick their star sign if they’re willing to wander around and find the magic rocks. Thankfully the rocks in question are not in space.

Eventually we reach the town of Riverwood, which is a collection of houses next to a river and amongst some trees. This is definitely an imaginative way to name a town. After a quick chat about how dragons are totally real now and probably going to kill us all I agree that maybe I’ll go and tell some Jarl about it in exchange for some equipment. Such is the adventurer’s life, I suppose. But first I need to upgrade my bow. For that I apparently need some wood. I wander off to chop some.

Adventure!

Adventure!

Excitement!

Excitement!

Really wild things!

Really wild things!

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment of Skyrim, where I post some letters and pick up some milk from the shops.

Dragon Age: Origins: Part 1

For a bit of a change on the computer game front I thought I’d play through Dragon Age: Origins again, what with a new one coming out and also the fact that a woman cannot live on Neverwinter Nights alone.

Oh look a collage. Better throw some cleavage in there to sell the game!

Oh look a collage. Better throw some cleavage in there to sell the game!

Something that really motivated me was that I never played the game with a wizard. Oh okay, “mage” because “wizard” is such a cliché. This is certainly not a game that leaves you suffering choice paralysis at character creation. You get a choice of rogue (thief but socially acceptable), warrior (snore), or mage. Then you pick a couple of things from the short lists of skills and powers and get dropped into the action.

According to Wikipedia “BioWare describes Dragon Age: Origins as a ‘dark heroic fantasy set in a unique world,'” – this obviously means unique in the sense that it’s got it’s own place names, and dark in that some women get raped. Or implied to be raped because only implying it helps deflect criticism. Let me tell you: There’s nothing else in here that can be called “dark” to a Fighting Fantasy reader. Demons, human sacrifice, blood everywhere, you name it, we’ve seen it all before. Or in many cases, done it.

Why is it called Dragon Age: Origins and not Dragon Age: Big Fight With Darkspawn? Because there’s multiple character backgrounds with their own intro to the story. Well… There’s two for dwarves (who can’t be mages in this “unique fantasy world”) and two for non-wizard elves. All mages get the same story, and humans who are a rogue or warrior get the same one. So it’s Dragon Age: Some Origins.

But I can’t really complain. Other than the persistent belief that gritty and dark fantasy has to involve misogyny, it’s a good game and a lot of fun. Or at least it was when I played it with a thief. Er, rogue. It should be even more fun when I can be a wizard, right? Oh stop looking at me like that. Wizard, mage, what’s the difference?

Onward to Adventure!

I’m a wizard, which means I am at risk of being possessed by a demon, turning into a monster, and being hunted down and killed by the Templars. On the other hand, I’m an elf, so therefore being locked in a tower which has actual beds and proper food is preferable to being a slave in all but name. So I live in the Circle of Magi which is part guild, part prison, part school, and part home. It’s in the middle of a lake, because of course no wizard can swim or row a boat. Templars are not very clever people.

This tower is sodding enormous!

This tower is sodding enormous!

I’m also about to graduate from Apprentice Mage to Actual Mage and thus I have to do something called a “harrowing” which is probably not a euphemism. I’m woken up in the middle of the night and taken up to the top of the tower, where the head of the Circle, Irving, and Head Dick to Mages, Greagoir, are waiting.

Even bigger on the inside. Like some kind of thing that's bigger on the inside than the outside. Um.

Even bigger on the inside. Like some kind of thing that’s bigger on the inside than the outside. Um.

Greagoir rattles off some tired old anti-mage Chantry propaganda and then tells me I have to drink some lyrium.

You want me to WHAT?

You want me to WHAT?

I don’t really have a choice – it’s this or lobotomy – and so I drink down some of this glowing blue liquid. It’s probably Orlaisian drain cleaner and this is all some kind of joke.

Uhhhhh... okay...

Uhhhhh… okay…

Naturally I’m surprised to see the fade, despite seeing it every night anyway due to my consciousness residing there when I dream being one of the side effects of being a wizard. I wander off, and meet a floating ball of light. Which tries to electrocute me. I shoot it with magic, because my magic works here. I’m loaded up with the ability to drain life out of people and turn them into blood-splattering bombs, which is apparently okay with the Templars, which goes to show that rebelling against authority is harder than I expected. Then I meet a talking mouse.

No prize for guessing where this is going...

No prize for guessing where this is going…

He’s apparently a failed wizard who had his head lopped off by the Templars for being crap at harrowings, and somehow has survived all this time pretending to be a mouse. I don’t believe this, but all he wants is to tag along and be useless, so I figure that’s okay for now. I wander further into the fade, bypassing a burning area which is probably bad news, and then get a nice view of the Black City.

God damn it, Tevinter Imperium!

God damn it, Tevinter Imperium!

Let’s just say that a certain empire did something really stupid and leave it at that. I also meet a benign fade spirit called Valour. It’s not well documented that there’s nice spirits here. All we hear about are the big five types of demon and all the minor evil things. I ask Valour for one of his imaginary weapons and he offers to duel me for it. So he’s not a nice spirit, he’s more a lawful neutral spirit (if I knew what “lawful neutral” even meant). I wander on, killing spirit wolves and then find a devil bear. Which is really a Sloth demon.

Too damn lazy to have their own form, apparently. Yeah, the demon is the lazy one. Suuuuure.

Too damn lazy to have their own form, apparently. Yeah, the demon is the lazy one. Suuuuure.

Mr. McLazydemon wants to get on with his nap, but I persuade him to teach Mouse how to take on bear form. I have to answer some fairly easy riddles, and then we head off to meet the demon I have to face in the fade.

These guys are so angry they don't have the patience to think up thesaurus-based names.

These guys are so angry they don’t have the patience to think up thesaurus-based names.

Demons of rage are essentially things in the form of living lava blobs. Thankfully they’re usually too stupid to use fire magic. So I blow it up. Not a problem. Then “mouse” turns out to be a demon. What a big surprise. So surprised. Didn’t see it coming. Never in a million years. Nope.

Since I didn’t get suckered I’m allowed back into the real world. I wake up back in the dorms with a really bad headache and creepy Jowan standing nearby. Jowan persistently assumes we’re friends, seriously cramping my style when it comes to picking up cute mage chicks.

No I will not relax, you insufferably creepy arsehole! Go away!

No I will not relax, you insufferably creepy arsehole! Go away!

He then pesters me about the harrowing, which I’m not allowed to tell him about in case apprentice mages go into the fade and are all “dude you’re a demon, this totally isn’t gonna fool me” – you know, that’s probably so the Templars have more people to execute. While that’s a bit immoral, there’s more chance of annoying git Jowan being executed if he doesn’t know. So tough shit, not telling. That’s what he gets for wrecking my game. Jowan tells me the head enchanter wants to see me, so I tell him to piss off and then head away. Oh hey some of the women are talking about me and my harrowing…

"Hey, I'd be happy to tell you both all about it, just come and sit with me on my bunk... hey, I'm right here. Hello!" - See what I mean about Jowan ruining my chances with the ladies?

“Hey, I’d be happy to tell you both all about it, just come and sit with me on my bunk… hey, I’m right here. Hello!” – See what I mean about Jowan ruining my chances with the ladies?

So off I go. I promptly get lost and find some giant doors. I ask what is behind them. Like this:

“So hey, what’s through the doors?”

I bet everyone asks what's through the door.

I bet everyone asks what’s through the door.

It turns out they’re the big doors I came through when I was brought here. Hey, if we never get outside in the sun, why don’t we all have rickets? Anyway, I travel up the tower. Past the comically bad wizarding lessons, to the library. Where I greet another elven mage with the utterly stupid line “I just wanted to greet another of my kind”. As he talks I wonder if I left part of my brain on the harrowing chamber floor. Who even talks like that? Oh, wait, he’s asking me where I’m from…

No, this does nothing, it's utterly pointless.

No, this does nothing, it’s utterly pointless.

I then wander on. I’ll give the circle of magi this: They sure know how to stock a library. Further ahead I meet some wizards arguing about the various philosophical factions and their views on magic. Niall, for example, is an isolationist who thinks mages should just all stop arguing and not have strong opinions about anything. I bet that won’t have any ironic consequences for him later.

This guy? Totally dead.

This guy? Totally dead.

Other people I know of in the tower are Cullen the Creep…

Totally creepy that a prison guard, who is allowed to kill the prisoners, has the hots for a prisoner. Thanks, Bioware.

Totally creepy that a prison guard, who is allowed to kill the prisoners, has the hots for a prisoner. Thanks, Bioware.

…and Whatshername, the mage who is worried she’s inherently evil and has turne to the religion that says she’s evil to get solace.

Who says fantasy RPGs can't have real world commentary?

Who says fantasy RPGs can’t have real world commentary?

This place is totally fucked up.

Finally I find Irving, who is arguing with Greagoir, Head Dick to Mages, about something. I interrupt their little spat, which they’re having in front of some visitor. Who needs malefacarum to make us look bad to the general population? We have those two old prats. I am given my Magic Staff of Being a Real Mage Now and Ring of +1 Against Nothing and then introduced to the visitor, Duncan, who is a bit surprised by the whole vial of blood thing.

Duncan seems a little unimpressed by the Chantry's messed up scheming.

Duncan seems a little unimpressed by the Chantry’s messed up scheming.

He’s one of the legendary Grey Wardens. They’re so legendary I have to ask all about them. It’s okay though, because my first duty as an official circle mage is to show the visitor to his room. Jerkass head enchanter. So I get the rundown on everything, including the darkspawn, which are also the number one cautionary tale about magic being bad, yet somehow I missed that in Magic 101: Introduction to Why You’re a Vile Blasphemy on the World.

After that little interlude Jowan pesters me some more. This time he’s got a girlfriend, who turns out to be a Chantry sister. They want to elope. Jowan wants his phylactery smashed so he can’t be tracked down. I figure that if I help them Jowan will be gone and no longer around to cramp my style, so I go along with it. First off, convincing the senior enchanter in charge of the storeroom that I’m an all right kind of woman. By killing spiders.

I always assume they're poisonous! Because they always are! It's a bit redundant!

I always assume they’re poisonous! Because they always are! It’s a bit redundant!

I should probably tell someone about this. I hope it's no-one I cared about.

I should probably tell someone about this. I hope it’s no-one I cared about.

I walk out of the storage cave – the storage cave on the second floor of a bloody tower – wondering what spiders do with all the money they carry. Is there a shop somewhere? Arachne’s Spider Stuff Emporium? Anyway, now I’m finished I ask Owain for a rod of fire. He wants to know why I need it…

It's like this in real life too. "I need this funding for my research into burning things" "But you're a computer scientist!" "...and?"

It’s like this in real life too. “I need this funding for my research into burning things” “But you’re a computer scientist!” “…and?”

And then gives me some forms to get signed by a senior enchanter. Happily one is entebted to me for killing some spiders. Rod of fire secured, it’s off to rob the circle treasure vault! Er, I mean, off to find Jowan’s phylactery so he’ll get the hell out of here! The first step is to try and open the third set of ominous doors I’ve been standing around in front of today. Lily just insults me first.

I'll curse you, wench! I'll curse you so hard!

I’ll curse you, wench! I’ll curse you so hard!

Naturally the door is magicproof. So now we have to go the long way around.

Well at least in this game the animated armour isn't immune to mind spells.

Well at least in this game the animated armour isn’t immune to mind spells.

What in the hell?!?! I should have just killed Jowan instead of this convoluted plan full of horror lizards!

What in the hell?!?! I should have just killed Jowan instead of this convoluted plan full of horror lizards!

After going through all that crap we find the secret store room which contains eerie objects with no real explanation of what they are. They should be labelled or something. There is a talking statue, though.

I wonder if I could take it's head off and carry it around as a talking PDA?

I wonder if I could take it’s head off and carry it around as a talking PDA?

“Hi there, talking statue,” I say. “What are you up to?”

“Just standing around.”

“Been up to anything interesting lately?” I say, while taking a step to the side.

“Just standing around…”

“Got any plans for the weekend?” I ask, stepping back.

“Just. Standing. Around.”

“You should get out more,” I suggest, taking another step.

The statue starts swearing a lot while I double up in laughter. Unfortunately the devout and slightly boring Chantry sister doesn’t want me to mess with the statue any more. I silently resolve to release some pigeons in here at the first opportunity. Nagged by the ever annoying Jowan I blast a hole in the wall and we go into the cold store where the vials are kept. Jowan finds his and smashes it.

Smashing things is always the answer in games.

Smashing things is always the answer in games.

Right, that’s done, now I can just shove Jowan and his girlfriend out the door when no-one is looking. Actually I should have shoved them out the window earlier, but I suppose the problem with that is there are no windows. Anyway, off to the front do-

YOU IN TROUBLE NOW, KIDS!

YOU IN TROUBLE NOW, KIDS!

So somehow Irving knew what was going down (hint: MAGIC), and he told Gregoir, Head Dick to Mages, and now we’re all in trouble. But they’re accusing Jowan of being a blood mage? This seems a bit…

Don't stab yourself, idiot! Stab them!

Don’t stab yourself, idiot! Stab them!

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

Jowan then proceeds to explain how he’s totally not addicted to blood magic:

Hahahahaha, SURE. More like he's going to keep her on hand for a sacrifice.

Hahahahaha, SURE. More like he’s going to keep her on hand for a sacrifice.

…and then he runs away while everyone is dazed. You know, I should have just beaten him to death with a footstool ages ago. What a colossal wanker. His girlfriend is, of course, blamed for all this because she’s a woman and therefore the Chantry thinks she’s even more of an accursed blight on the earth than mages. She’s going to be sent off to the scary drive-you-crazy prison for mages. Greagoir, Head Dick to Mages, is a bit pissed because of the broken phylactery.

“How will we track him now?”

“Geee I dunno, there’s all this fucking BLOOD everywhere!”

I am feeling kind of pleased overall, since now Jowan is gone I’ll be able to chat up the hot mage chicks without interfering whiny prats pestering me. Yes, it’s going to be great now here in the… wait, they want to send me off to be a Grey Warden? Hey, wait, I finally got rid of Jowan and now I have to LEAVE? What the hell?!

To be continued…

Neverwinter Nights Part 5: One Llast Thing

Previously on Neverwinter Nights…

The plague is gone, but the population of Neverwinter is uneasy with the ineffective nature of their rulers. So the people in charge think maybe killing this secretive evil cult might be a good idea to reinforce that things are okay. Do they send out a band of elite adventurers to seek them out wherever they might hide? No. Do they send out an army to scour every inch of the countryside? No. Do they send out a gnome illusionist who has no idea what she’s doing? Of course they do!

Onward to Adventure!

So, with the plague dealt with, Desther burned alive – tee hee – and everything sorted, I get some much needed rest and relaxation. Oh wait, Aribeth says I have to go up coast to the frontier town of Port Llast and look for information on the evil cult. I figure I can stretch this out to be a nice long holiday in the countryside, and go to bed in my luxurious suite in Port Llast confident that there will be no surprises on this job. Then in the morning I wake up to…

So you stood there all night but didn't think to have breakfast ready? Bad wench! Bad!

So you stood there all night but didn’t think to have breakfast ready? Bad wench! Bad!

A woman who has been standing there watching me sleep all night. Creepy. Apparently the mission to find the cult is starting before breakfast.

Aribeth fills me in on some of the plan and then passes me off to the Neverwinter Spymaster, Arin Gend. Who tells me to check out some goblin caves, or the creepy forest of Charwood, or the Neverwinter Wood.

“What about Luskan? Luskan is a city of evil and everyone who is anyone there wants to wreck Neverwinter,” I point out.

“Oh no,” says Gend, “you should definitely check out these three locations and find evidence before we go after the most likely hiding place.”

Riiiiight.

Meanwhile, the local mayor wants me to waste some escaped convicts, the local priest wants me to not waste some werewolves, a ranger wants me to check out the problem with berserk animals in the local Nice Forest without wasting the animals if I can help it, and the head of the wizard’s guild wants me to loot some magic books.

Winner of the Most Evil Guildhall Award at the Sword Coast Evil Architecture Awards

Winner of the Most Evil Guildhall Award at the Sword Coast Evil Architecture Awards

So I figure I can prioritise these far more profitable quests and maybe turn up some cult related information on the side. I go off to the tavern to talk to Anders, the young lad who survived the werewolf attack. I don’t make it to him before I’m sidetracked by Eliath Craulnober, master of stupid hairstyles. He wants some special gems for making some thing for some reason, I didn’t really listen past the bit where he would pay me to find them. I think it’s something to do with not being allowed back in Evermeet because he used up the entire elven nation’s supply of hair gel.

I hope that hair style isn't a requirement for any prestige class I want to take.

I hope that hair style isn’t a requirement for any prestige class I want to take.

On top of that diversion, there’s also some dwarf who wants to share info on cult hunting, and a halfling who thinks I’m cool. I don’t blame him. Finally I make it across the tiny taproom and find Ander. He’s talking to some guy who sells anti-werewolf supplies called Alhelor.

“Hi Ander,” I say. “I’m looking into the we-”

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“-rewolves and wondered if you could te-

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“-ll me anything about the incident?”

“Well…” begins Ander before he’s interrupted again.

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“My friends and I thought it would be cool to-”

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“-go out and help that werewolf hunting knight b-”

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“-ut then we all got attacked and I ran away. But th-”

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“-e others might have gone off to their favourite hangouts around here. Try the Ne-”

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“-verwinter Woods, Charwood, and um, I dunno, I guess you should ask U-”

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

“-rth’s parents where he might be.”

“Thanks, Ander,” I say. “I’ll try to save them from the cu-”

I hope you like repetitive dialog!

“Don’t worry young Ander, everything ha-” “For pity’s sake, shut up Alhelor! You’ve said that ten times since I walked in thirty seconds ago! What have you got to say for yourself?” “Don’t worry, young Ander, this will work out yet. Everything happens for a reason, it does.”

I leave before I am reduced to a gibbering wreck by Alhelor’s ability to repeat the same thing over and over. Outside I am accosted by some kid who thinks I can help rescue his mother. For pity’s sake, there’s a whole building full of adventurers over there and he’s bothering me? Fine, whatever, I was going that way.

Port Llast’s main industry seems to be quests.

So I set off up the road, and run into Solomon the Creepy Halfling, who tries to murder me because I’m investigating the local evil plague cult. I guess the cult figured they only needed to send a band of psychopathic munchkins after me because I’m a gnome, but it’s going to take more than that to slow my investigation down. Further up the road, I make contact with Gerrol, who despite having a +2 scythe of murder doesn’t seem to be down with cutting the grass around here.

He tells me that I should head up the road, find some caves full of monsters and then rescue his wife, Leah. She’s been kidnapped by the ogre mage, which is not an ogre with a job description, but more a subspecies of ogre with innate magical powers.

It better not be a nuclear armed cyborg tank that can do magic.

It better not be a nuclear armed cyborg tank that can do magic.

So I head up the road and down the caves, wherein I negotiate with the goblins for passage deeper into the cave network.

Negotiations broke down rapidly when Grimgnaw screamed "The Silent Lord take you!" and starting kicking goblins in the head. I think he was overcome with joy at having targets whose heads he could actually reach.

Negotiations broke down rapidly when Grimgnaw screamed “The Silent Lord take you!” and starting kicking goblins in the head. I think he was overcome with joy at having targets whose heads he could actually reach.

Further into the caves I met the local orc chieftain. I don’t bother negotiating with him, since orcs are more prone to violence than my henchman. Unfortunately, these orcs turn out to be quite tough. But that’s okay, I came prepared for this.

When the going gets tough, the gnome casts cloudkill! Then she hopes it actually kills someone.

When the going gets tough, the gnome casts cloudkill! Then she hopes it actually kills someone.

Then it’s off to loot the orc leader’s treasure room… er… treasure ledge by the underground lake. But even treasure ledges by underground lakes have doors. I guess I was due for some ridiculous doors eventually.

What would a fantasy tale be without ridiculous doors? It's a good thing no-one in Neverwinter Nights can swim...

What would a fantasy tale be without ridiculous doors? It’s a good thing no-one in Neverwinter Nights can swim…

So, that’s two species of barely-civilized jerks encountered. Who is next? Oh, damn. Bugbears. Bugbears are one of the worst monsters because they’re so confusing for new adventurers. You get the folks who think they’re a kind of insect, the people who think they’re a kind of bear, and the people who think they’re a kind of bear/insect hybrid – but I suppose anyone who sets out to take on bugbears with with that expectation is going to be expecting a far worse battle than what they’ll get, so it’s okay. Thankfully I’m a well-educated gnome (is there any other kind?) and know they’re just big stupid gits.

I trek further into the caves, killing the elite monsters and finally reach the home of whoever is in charge here. That turns out to be Derigab, the ogre mage. Who knows fireball. That’s okay, though. I know Evard’s Black Tentacles.

Actually getting the tentacles in the right place is harder than it looks.

Actually getting the tentacles in the right place is harder than it looks.

After the battle I’ve wiped out all the evil races living in these caves, killed the evil cultist and ogre mage running the show, and thus have saved the region from them. At least I hope so. I’m wondering if it might have been a goblinoid literacy program.

I hope it's just a goblinoid literacy program. The alternative is I just wiped out a kindergarten.

I hope it’s just a goblinoid literacy program. The alternative is I just wiped out a kindergarten.

But that’s a problem for another day. I loot the treasure, and get out of there. One ogre mage head delivered to a farmer later, I decide to celebrate by heading to the Green Griffon Inn. There’s a lot of retired adventurers hanging around, and quite a few actual adventurers too. I ask someone what’s going on.

"Answer my questions or I'll crossbow you to death!"

“Answer my questions or I’ll crossbow you to death!”

Oh, really? One of those Deathtrap Dungeon type deals? I’m up for that! The rules for this contest are 1: You can take henchmen; 2: You can take all your gear. There’s nothing about not being allowed to take magic teleportation stones. Hahahahaha, suckers. I head on down to begin my journey to triumph. This can’t be so bad. I mean the dungeon only has every illusionist’s least favourite creature: spiders.

There really is a spider in this picture.

There really is a spider in this picture.

…and…

Immune to illusions and they can cast spells?! What is this, the dungeon of making fun of illusionists?

Immune to illusions and they can cast spells?! What is this, the dungeon of making fun of illusionists?

But then I run into…

Saving throw bonuses and an axe, AND spike traps?!

Saving throw bonuses and an axe, AND spike traps?!

But that’s okay, there’s just one more challenge…

OH, COME ON!

OH, COME ON!

Finally I reach the end, where I have to hand over a crystal carved into the answer to a riddle. Thankfully I’m aware of this sort of final twist in trials of champions, and so I have been looking for gewgaws. No problem, dungeon won, I get… some armour. Oh, that’s handy, since I’m an illusionist and my henchman is a monk. We can’t even use it to bludgeon enemies to death!

I’m so annoyed by this I decide to rob the inn. This turns out to be a good thing, since one of those gems Eliath Craulnober wanted is upstairs. So is its owner but that’s not a problem. I also find one of those escaped convicts, who we kill after drinking a lot of potions.

No, I don't know where I'm carrying all that stuff either.

No, I don’t know where I’m carrying all that stuff either.

After that it’s a jaunt over the road to a graveyard to find one of those books. Naturally the graveyard I crawling with undead, so I just let Grimgnaw have fun with that while I sulk. Then it’s back to town where I drop off all the stuff I’m carrying. I decide to drop in at a local farmstead and see if I can learn anything about where the werewolves might be, and find the people who live there acting very suspiciously. Naturally I kick in the door to the upstairs and barge on in to find a werewolf. He’s a crap werewolf though, because I just have to cast a few acid arrows at him and he surrenders and takes one of those de-lycanthroping charms that cures him.

Werewolves? Pah! I laugh at werewolves. Wait, what’s that noise…

WERECHICKEN ATTACK!

WERECHICKEN ATTACK!

Tune in next post for the exciting next episode!

Neverwinter Nights Part 4: I am the Law

Previously on Neverwinter Nights…

The quest to find ingredients for a potion is nearly over, but can the lone illusionist win enough drinking games to find out where the last part is? More importantly, what happens when she gets it? Will she win fame, fortune, and the keys to the city, or will she instead get pitted against an army of undead?

Yeah, you know how that’s going to end. But let’s see what happens on the way…

Onward to Adventure!

So the first thing to understand about the docks is that it’s full of criminals. They’re absolutely berserk, having gone from shaking people down to cutting them up into little pieces to sell to the local pie vendors. I think – and this is just a guess – they want some money for something. Maybe this auction that’s taking place later. I found the flyer on the body of someone who tried to turn me into pie filling. I suppose I’m going to have to act as a guard first and adventurer second. I’m not sure what the difference is but I suppose it means waiting for people to attack me.

The funny thing is, most of the other people standing around outside aren’t being attacked. In the case of the strangely translucent nobleman it might be because he gave away everything of value to someone called Calik who claimed to be able to get him out of the quarantine.

This one guy has never been fully visible and I've played this like TEN TIMES.

This one guy has never been fully visible and I’ve played this like TEN TIMES.

Hmmm. I wonder if that’s worth investigating? No, not really. There’s perps to bust. I also have a hilarious new way to take out hordes of enemies.

Tentacle surprise!

Tentacle surprise!

What’s odd is that the criminal scum are all carrying these things called smuggler’s coins.

"That, sir, is as good as money!"

“That, sir, is as good as money!”

Smuggler’s Coins? What the hell use is a coin that has the backing of a bunch of cutthroat ne’er-do-wells? “Sorry, we’re not honouring your coins. Because we’d rather kill you and take your stuff!” It’s like adventurers founded a nation. It’s kind of alarming to think that anyone would be so stupid as to place value in some bits of coloured glass, especially when the actual currency around here is this stuff called gold.

But the debate about the relevance of an imaginary currency that’s only used for nefarious ends can wait. I’ve got to teleport back to the temple so I can nip out to the wizards’ guild and finish the membership test. This involves me, alone, fighting a giant metal minotaur. Except I get given some single-use magic items which when used in the right order kill it. For my trouble I get a magic cloak that is quite good and then I zip back to the docks to mete out some more justice.

If I run around for long enough will it eventually wind down?

If I run around for long enough will it eventually wind down?

Actually I go back to the docks to hit up a tavern and celebrate the fact that I’m now a proper, official, guild-approved spell caster. All the people in the tavern just give me crap about it though so stuff them, I’ll go to a better tavern.

Alas, I do not have a fireball scroll handy.

Alas, I do not have a fireball scroll handy.

Unfortunately the only other tavern in the docks won’t let me in because I’m not one of the local pirate band, the Bloodsailors. I wonder if I can join up and head over to their ship to find out. Along the way I kill just about everyone else walking the streets because they seem to have it in their heads that I’m going to be rich. Though given the fact that they all have that imaginary money they probably have funny idea about what constitutes personal wealth. Finally I get to the ship I’m looking for and ask about joining up.

"So hey I'm a wizard who works for the watch, and I really would like one of those uniforms. Can I have one?"

“So hey I’m a wizard who works for the watch, and I really would like one of those uniforms. Can I have one?”

Unfortunately they just say no. No-one respects me now I’ve got one of these many-starred cloaks. I think it’s because now I really do look like a children’s entertainer. So I kill the pirates and take their stuff. There’s just one problem

Ahahahahaha. Oh dear.

Ahahahahaha. Oh dear.

But thankfully I have a magic spell that turns anything into wizard robes

Much better.

Much better.

Then I head up to the door to the Seedy Tavern, where they recognise the uniform despite the massive magical alterations to it, and I head on in. There’s some other pirates there, so I head over.

“Hi there, are you a new recruit?” one of the pirates asks.

“Yarr!” I reply. For some reason the pirate who greeted me backs away slowly. The other one challenges me to a drinking game. I drop a potion of endurance in the mug and proceed to win, though I’m not sure what that last drink actually was No-one will tell me, either.

Victory! I'm glad I'm not cleaning up the puddle of puke.

Victory! I’m glad I’m not cleaning up the puddle of puke.

The other pirate turns out to be another secret agent or spy or adventurer or something. Knowing my luck every single one of these pirates is an undercover spy for someone and I’ve been killing off half the intelligence networks of the Sword Coast. I get some info about what’s going on – Vengaul Bloodsail was planning to show off with the auction but he’s not here – and then I head over to the local black marketeer. He accepts smuggler’s coins, so I hand over some of my imaginary money in exchange for incredibly valuable magical items that I can sell for a shitload of real money.

Then it’s off upstairs where a dwarf in a sauna tells me the password for the downstairs. I go to the basement and find a lot of Bloodsailors who seem murderously angry despite the fact I’m wearing one of their uniforms. I guess they’re sticklers for regulations and can’t stand to see the sight of a magically converted uniform.

In a cupboard I find a woman being menaced by some thugs and she tells me what’s going on. Apparently Vengaul’s lieutenant Calik is tired of flashy swashbuckling and wants to start doing things like actually making money. So he’s run off to kill Vengaul while the rest of the district gets burned down because everyone thinks the old rogue has a cure for the plague. Oh, brilliant. Apparently the way to find them both is to duck through the old Silver Sails trading company and romp through the sewers. That sounds easy, but there’s just one problem…

Whose idea was it to store a million giant insects in here?!

Whose idea was it to store a million giant insects in here?!

The whole building is infested with beetles and arachnids! And not just any kind of spiders, no. These are wraith spiders. You know how undead are immune to illusions, and spiders are also immune to illusions? WELL COMBINING UNDEAD AND SPIDERS DOES NOT CANCEL THAT OUT. Instead it’s a giant spider that can drain my life force. Hey you know what would really help right now? A paladin.

I despise wraith spiders. I might just take some ranger levels to emphasise how much I despise them.

I despise wraith spiders. I might just take some ranger levels to emphasise how much I despise them.

Anyway I make it into the sewers, and find the last of the lost tombs which is naturally full of undead. I then catch a boat downriver from the sewer guide. Apparently he’s not too pleased with having to hang around here all day long pretending the place is of some kind of architectural and cultural significance. I would be annoyed too, given the tendency of every sewer in Faerun to fill up with slime monsters and beholders as well as the stinking effluent of several hundred thousand people.

Worst job on all Toril.

Worst job on all Toril.

So finally we meet the nefarious scoundrels making so much trouble. I turn up to apprehend the criminals, but what does Vengaul Bloodsail do? He pretends I’m his backup. What a bastard. Thankfully I’ve been dabbling in necromancy lately.

"I've got you dead to rights!" - isn't it great how many awful puns this game lets me make? :D

“I’ve got you dead to rights!” – isn’t it great how many awful puns this game lets me make? :D

The leader of the local pirate band is apologetic about his schemes causing so much trouble. I don’t know whether to be annoyed or not, because at the end of the day wiping out all the criminals in this part of the city was a lot easier than a prison break, undead horde, and house full of hellhounds. On reflection, it’s not worth making a fuss about, so I let him go.

On reflection, he's flagged as unkillable anyway. Grrrr.

On reflection, he’s flagged as unkillable anyway. Grrrr.

Then it’s back to the temple, but not before I stealthily sneak into another fortified home to carefully steal a trinket to sell.

This is why I'm not in the thieves guild.

This is why I’m not in the thieves guild.

The best part is it’s another opportunity to conjure up writhing tentacles!

This never gets old. Tentacles for everyone!

This never gets old. Tentacles for everyone!

They’re much more useful in combat than conjuring pigeons out of a hat, that’s for sure.

After I turn over the last of the magical reagents (cockatrice feathers, and since it somehow lost its powers on death I won’t be flailing the carcass at foes any time soon) to Aribeth she tells me I’m welcome to come to the castle and watch the magical ritual that will create a small vial of plague cure.

“A small vial? For a whole city?”

“Well we can just magically duplicate it.”

“Can you duplicate some magic items for me?”I ask Aribeth eagerly. She doesn’t seem interested in helping out, muttering something about service as its own reward as she walks away. At the castle I get to talk to a bunch of people I already know, like boring Fenthick and probably-evil Desther, and also meet Lord Nasher, who is apparently not able to move from his chair. Then I get to watch the big, showy ritual.

This ritual needs more tentacles!

This ritual needs more tentacles!

Then once the excessively gaudy ritual is done, Desther grabs the vial of plague cure and leaps through a portal. Apparently Fenthick is the only one surprised by this.

"Oh come on now, Fenthick, everyone knew this was going to happen. Stop crying. Aribeth will buy you some icecream."

“Oh come on now, Fenthick, everyone knew this was going to happen. Stop crying. Aribeth will buy you some icecream.”

Fenthick jumps through the portal, apparently so distressed by the completely unexpected betrayal that he’s got to go and check that Desther’s cackling and stealing the cure isn’t just all just a misunderstanding. Aribeth tells me she will keep it open long enough for me to follow through the power of her faith in Tyr, but I have to be quick. So I have a chat with Lord Nasher, rest for a bit to make sure all my spells are ready, reorganise my backpack, and then idly stroll through with an offhand “thanks, Aribeth”. On the other side I find some dwarf who apparently just tore down a bridge at Desther’s request. I ask him what the hell is going on with the bridge destruction and find out I’m near Helm’s Hold, so I mosey on down the road. There I meet some kind of hooded figure who hisses a lot and is apparently an illusion or projection or sending. But she’s definitely annoying.

The "because we can" school of grass placement in games. Less is more, folks!

The “because we can” school of grass placement in games. Less is more, folks!

So she tells me the Hold is full of undead now – OH JOYOUS DAY! MORE UNDEAD! I CAVORT WITH GLEE! – and there’s some kind of ritual of Desther’s I probably want to stop him doing. I’m sure there’s no rush. Inside the main courtyard there’s some shadow demons or something or other. They’re angry, which is pretty normal. Oh and they’re immune to illusions. Thankfully they’re not immune to Evard’s Black Tentacles.

"This is what I say to your immunity to mind spells! Hey wait, you're supposed to stay in the middle of the tentacles! NOOOOO!"

“This is what I say to your immunity to mind spells! Hey wait, you’re supposed to stay in the middle of the tentacles! NOOOOO!”

I also score a magic gem from a corpse. Inside the main keep I get to use it to activate some animated armour which will, hopefully, go and kill the evil people in the fortress.

"Okay, no deciding all beings of flesh are weak and inferior and trying to wipe us out, okay? Or at least, don't include me in that."

“Okay, no deciding all beings of flesh are weak and inferior and trying to wipe us out, okay? Or at least, don’t include me in that.”

So with some automatons teleporting around and a psychopathic dwarf things are looking pretty good. So good that exploring the basement seems like a hunky-dory plan. Except in the basement I find some kid who apparently has been hiding out in the storeroom.

Being flagged as unkillable is clearly handy when villains invade your home.

Being flagged as unkillable is clearly handy when villains invade your home.

This small and annoying child sells me some gear but otherwise has no useful information. I can’t persuade him to act as a human shield despite his invulnerability, so I explore further. Through the next door I find that the Helmites had a ready stocked torture chamber for just in case some villains took over Helm’s Hold and needed to torment the leader of the order.

"Well if you didn't keep a torture chamber here Desther couldn't have tortured you, could he?"

“Well if you didn’t keep a torture chamber here Desther couldn’t have tortured you, could he?”

Dumas, leader and now sole member of the local order of Helm, is not very useful. So it’s back to the main floor to explore. It’s all well and good until I find someone… er, something, called Caohinon of the Void.

I think this thing might just be bad news...

I think this thing might just be bad news…

It appears the fiend – not demon, they’re different for some vague reason known only to them – was summoned to get rid of the guardian spirit of the hold and now wants to be set free. If I find the book that will do it I will be rewarded. Hey, it’s in that room over there anyway…

Good? Evil? Or just whatever gets me the best reward?

Good? Evil? Or just whatever gets me the best reward?

I decide that perhaps it might be a bit risky letting a monstrous otherwordly evil free, no matter how cool the stuff it can give me is… or how much hilarity will ensue. I banish it as it screams of revenge, and then summon the nice and wholesome guardian of the keep… who gives me a magic ring and then disappears again. Oh well, the ring is pretty good.

From there it’s a merry trip upstairs where I find Desther has an army of undead and also some kind of useless flesh golems that keep him alive unless they’re killed first. But that’s not a problem, I have a new friend to help out…

Holy crap! Where did he come from?!?! (Don't you dare say "the demiplane of shadow")

Holy crap! Where did he come from?!?! (Don’t you dare say “the demiplane of shadow”)

So with Desther knocked about a bit we drag him off to be burned at the stake. Fenthick, who didn’t make himself useful with anything like turning the undead, gets hanged, and Aribeth is a bit sad about it for some reason. Me? I decide to get away from this city and all the intrigues. I decide to go on holiday to the sleepy frontier town of Port Llast.

"Wait, how do I even get to Port Llast?"

“Wait, how do I even get to Port Llast?”

Tavern Break

Well, that’s the end of act one of Neverwinter Nights. It’s an entirely rudimentary plot involving chasing some items of plot related reasons, offering an opportunity to see multiple environments and try out various things. I think everyone class gets to do something specific to their focus, though this usually means bashing the hell out of people for half of the classes.

Were you wondering where the picture of the final battle with the most unsubtle hidden villain ever was? It’s too chaotic and tricky to take a good picture, so instead you get the shadow mastiff. Tough. But wow, that shadow conjuration business gets pretty good, doesn’t it?

Of course, since a wizard levels up faster (threat rating difference or something like that) the opponents get really powerful. Just out of shot in the last picture is a ghoul lord, which is grossly unfair. I didn’t even try summoning anything until I realised I’d have no way of winning without the biggest creature I could call up. Oh well, I know what to do in the future.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: How is it Aribeth never thought to detect evil on Desther? How is it no-one cast a massive divination spell to find out who was attacking the city and got pointed at him? How did they not know? HOW DID THEY NOT KNOW?

Department of Missed Opportunities: Freeing Caohinon of the Void doesn’t let you meet him later in the game, which would have been really great. He’s one of my favourite characters in the game, because he reminds me of a Skeksis.

Tune in next post for the next exciting episode!

Torchlight

Torchlight is a hack and slash RPG by Runic Entertainment. The plot is: there’s this mining town and there’s some bad stuff going on and someone has to go down the mines, and then the crypts, and the caves, and the lava world, and the dwarf fortress, and so on, and kill Satan. Yes it’s the plot to Diablo, but this time with cartoony graphics and overall more fun. Plus it was made in 2009 so it’s not exactly like it has clunky graphics, walking everywhere, and an interface that is a bit limiting. Actually, the interface is limiting but the game is too much fun to complain about that for more than one sentence.

This game lets you play as a Space Marine…

The most boring character, seriously.

“Grrrr! I will kill all the chaos space marines! In the grim future of mankind there is only war! etc etc etc.”

…an “Alchemist” who is really more of a steampunk wizard…

Like all spellcasters in these games he is hopelessly overpowered.

“I got a stick and I’m not afraid to use it!”

…or a Vanquisher, who apparently is some kind of gun-toting trap-slinging assassin troubleshooter badass woman…

Why would anyone play a character who doesn't shoot the hell out of things?

That’s her canonical name from the second game. The other two don’t have names. Because they are boring.

Tough choice, there. Oh wait, I get a pet. PETS! WHAT ARE THEY? Dog, boring. Cat, boring. Ferret! Ferrets are illegal in my country so naturally I find them cute and wonderful and fascinating.

Onward to Adventure!

Well, here I am, apparently having forgotten to pack anything remotely looking like real clothing. Oh hey what is going on in this dirty little town? Just a drunken brawl, I think.

The other main export from this town is status popups

If you’re going to be like that, you’re on your own!

Oh, that was actually some monsters being evil and attacking the town. I shoot some arrows around, not really caring much and them some woman with a pointy stick tells me to go and help her friend out. Uh, okay. I guess.

Syl surivives to the intro of Torchlight 2 and then gets splattered

“Yeah Syl, I know. They look like proper clothes, and then we put them on and suddenly half the fabric is gone.”

So I run around the mines finding clothes and weapons and also lots of little rat people with pick axes. Awww, so cute! Especially how they explode when I hit them hard enough.

I'm glad I don't have to clean the mess in this mine up.

The rat goes splat just like that… The Vanquisher will squish ‘yer… I’ll do another clever rhyme some other time.

Eventually I have too much stuff to carry and have to come back up to the surface via magic teleporty scroll. There I find out that the town’s shops are all open for business. Including the town bard.

A robot bard is a lot easier to move around than a jukebox.

Why are all Trillbot 4000’s songs about me killing people?

Oh yeah, and there’s this pervert…

The unidentifed random item seller is a staple we can do without.

That’s disgusting! Those are clearly knock-off magic weapons!

Torchlight is a thriving town and has many tourist activities. Like fishing…

This is really boring in town but it gives you something to do in the dungeons while waiting for your pet.

Also known as the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet

But in reality splattering things in the mine is much more interesting. It’s also the best way to find important things like proper clothes and also eventually track down Syl’s friend Brink.

Some adventurer he turned out to be.

Oh sure thing Brink, I’m here to help.

Gotta feed the ferret.

Keep it down! You’ll frighten the fish!

I later get my comeuppance when a box tries to eat me.

It doesn't have hundreds of little legs.

This is some kind of irony or something, right?

I carry on into the dungeon… Um, mine… Looking for monsters to kill and loot to grab. Vanquishers, despite our role as professional monster slayers for the empire, are self-financing which means we have an incentive to kill evildoers and foul beasts. I’m sure the rampant murders of innocent people are just an accident.

Eventually we find Alric, some wizard guy who taught Syl magic or something. He’s apparently gone evil. Guess how I can tell…

Inevitable plot point number three hundred and seventy six.

Now killing him his justifiable! Muahahahaha!

After explaining to Syl that the only way to save Brink was to destroy him, I carry on down into the dank and dark… catacombs? Finally! They’re full of skeletons and zombies, of course.

Skeletons: You can't have an adventure without them.

It’s about time you lot showed up.

The thing about buried crypts is that they are a window into a bygone age, yet the undead within protect them from all but the most hardy adventurers. We bold and brave types who venture into the crypts to see what lies beneath are the only ones to…

Clearly the best person to send on a mission like this is a travelling merchant.

What is he doing here?

…get attacked by the monsters, apparently. Don’t get me wrong, it’s handy to be able to offload stuff in the dungeon since my ferret can’t possibly get upstairs and back in time for me to not get killed. I need all the furry, cute as a button help I can get down here. My one edge is that the hordes of undead are prime fodder for my ability to make shots pass through monsters, and bounce off walls into other enemies. Which I totally do on purpose. Every single time. Yes. In fact, it’s such a good ability I barely use anything else. This is partly because rifles are so overpowered it’s like I’m carrying a miniaturised howitzer.

Eventually I am attacked by three giant ghostly cat girls, which is a slight improvement over all the other undead.

A bit too heavy on the translucency there.

I’m just here for the evil wizard, okay?

Unfortunately they are evil wizard groupies and so I have to kill them. Re-kill them. Whatever. Then I meet the evil wizard they hang out with. His name is The Overseer; possibly a reference to his height, which lets him see over everyone else in the room.

And so ends the obligatory undead section.

Don’t look at me like that, it’s true.

After re-deadening the Overseer I travel deeper into the mountain and find some Estherian ruins. Syl says she has to open a teleporter with some runestones, which of course I have to go and get.

Jungley ruins buried underground makes no sense but I do not care.

It’s a very pretty environment and over too soon.

For once I don’t mind because it’s quite relaxing down here, with all the plants and water and psycho spear wielding pygmies. I assume these are goblin pygmies under the masks, or something like that, right? I don’t find it too bad when the hordes of spiders attack either, since I have machine-gun pyramid things…

Machinegun pyramids are the best pyramids.

I don’t actually have to do much actual work any more.

…and the ability to fire explosive shells.

Louder than it needs to be, too.

All style, little substance: Ricochet is still better.

It’s a pity that all the explosions and gunfire make my attempt to be a ninja useless.

Yes, it is a bit silly.

I can’t seem to sneak up on anyone at all!

After I’m done with the Estherian ruins I move on into some caves. These caves are… well… They’re quite cavernous. I don’t see how the mountain can stay up at all considering it’s mostly a hollow shell.

How does it even stay up?

This is ridiculous.

It looks kind of deserted. I guess there’s nothing much to worry about here.

Oh joy, skull totems.

Guess again!

Oh look it’s a pristine society of lizard people, hiding out down here in the mountain. Their culture has survived the harsh and cruel intrusion of the humans. Or at least, it had…

Getting kind of embarrassing.

Oooops. Sorry.

What I don’t understand is how these ledges have forcefields. I can’t run off the edge, and whenever I shake an armour stand or weapon rack (and don’t ask me how they got here) the stuff never falls off into the chasm.

Every damn time, nothing falls down.

This is also ridiculous.

Eventually I meet the giant rock monster that’s trying to smash the pillars holding the cavern up. Apparently the Tu’atra are okay with this for some reason. I guess rock monsters crushing their village under tons of mountain is better than me walking through it.

Um, okay, so his plan was to smash the mountain he's stuck under? Riiiight.

Um, okay, so his plan was to smash the mountain he’s stuck under? Riiiight.

After disposing of the golem or colossus or titan or something I travel deeper into the mountain only to find a sea of lava.

This is not going to be pleasant.

This is not going to be pleasant.

It wouldn’t be so bad except the only way through this ruined prison is over the most rickety bridges since the Rickety Bridge Company was forced to rebrand after the Grand Suspension Bridge Incident (definitely not a collapse and certainly not a disaster, according to their lawyers at least).

This is definitely not pleasant.

This is definitely not pleasant.

After trekking through the lava pits I’ve come to expect on every mission I kill a horde of goblins and a giant mutant goblin troll thing and then descend to the next floor. Oh, okay, this shouldn’t b too hard. It’s a Dwarf Fortress. Unfortunately, like all parallel universe Dwarves here got screwed by fate and are extinct. Unlike other universes they’re extinct but hanging around as wights.

Well undead dwarves are kind of original I suppose. Or at least, unusual.

Well undead dwarves are kind of original I suppose. Or at least, unusual.

But it’s not too bad. I mean, it’s not like they have walking mechanical battle platforms.

Oh right, they do have walking mechanical battle platforms!

Oh right, they do have walking mechanical battle platforms!

Eventually I find the magical Ember Forge and Syl turns up via portal to cure me of the magical corruption that had been threatening to turn me from ambiguously violent towards convenient targets to actually evil. Then she gets kidnapped by a corporeal catgirl and I have to save her from some kind of fortress of evil buried under the Dwarven ruins.

What a cheery staircase. I am definitely feeling optimistic about going down here!

What a cheery staircase. I am definitely feeling optimistic about going down here!

Unfortunately this evil fortress of evil has plenty of evil minons of evil who are, frankly, evil. There’s catgirls who summon ultra-skeletons, there’s catguys who are annoying jerks, and oh yeah: dragon people.

I did not sign up for this shit.

I did not sign up for this shit.

Thankfully I can always teleport to town and rest. Trillbot still has interesting and exciting quests for me to go on. He’s also asked me to come back with the heads of monsters.

What the hell do you mean "metaphorically"? Don't tell me I carried this thing all the way up here for nothing!

What the hell do you mean “metaphorically”? Don’t tell me I carried this thing all the way up here for nothing!

Robots are suppose to always be literal! I read it somewhere!

Back to the murder mines I go, killing all sorts of monsters and eventually I find Syl in some kind of not very exciting imprisonment. She tells me to go and kill Alric, which seems like a good idea. Apparently someone imprisoned below called Ordrak is responsible for corrupting all the ember in this mountain and turning everything who comes into contact with it evil. So I go find Aldric and shoot him a couple of times. He runs away and sacrifices himself to free Ordrak. Whatever. How bad can this be?

Pretty bad!

Pretty bad!

Fortunately for me, running around and throwing machinegun turrets everywhere saves my hide and I live to fight another day. I’ve saved the world from an angry monster and all his angry monster minions. Hmmm. What now? Hmmm, there’s some kind of crypt in the graveyard in the town… What’s that you say, non-evil catgirl?

Oh okay I can kill some more people. It is all I am good for, after all.

Oh okay I can kill some more people. It is all I am good for, after all.

Oh hey, there’s someone else here with a mission…

Oh for crying out loud.

Oh for crying out loud.

Conclusion

It’s pretty good on top of being just pretty. All the cartoony graphics and smashing enemies is great. The problem is, it’s just not polished enough with features to streamline the gameplay. Torchlight 2 covers that well, and sort of turns out to be better – but then it is the sequel. This game does have the problem of being unable to rebind the controls without editing the config file and using ascii to do it so um… that’s bad. Also, most of the skills seem redundant. But it’s still a good game, even with the clunky bits. But unlike some games (Fallout springs to mind, ugh why did we put up with that even back then?) it’s not unplayable in that regard: If it wasn’t good I’d not have kept going.

I think there’s something to be said for the fantasy steampunk setting. It’s kept relatively low-key in this game, with just a couple of robots and mechs, and some guns. If I have a complaint about the style it would be that there’s yet another lava level. Lava is tired and old now, and also everyone would die from the fumes and heat.

I do like the NPCs. Trillbot 4000 is my favourite character in the game, what with the demented insistence on being a bard and continual reassurances that he’s got the hard job what with the writing and singing and the terrors of the stage. He makes a comeback tour of sorts in the second game, too.

Neverwinter Nights Part 3: Share the Wealth or Else

Previously on Neverwinter Nights…

Plague ravages the city, exotic creatures need to be found to make a cure, the zoo needs to have a dose of animal activism applied to it, there’s some sort of conspiracy going on, and oh yes… I intend to ignore all that for the far more important task: A local wizard has a huge supply of grain, everyone lives in fear of him, and an attractive half-elven woman has asked me to waste him for a reward.

Priorities, people! I’m an adventurer! If I don’t do this I’ll get kicked out of the guild.

Onward to Adventure!

Off we went. Some would call it exterminating the competition, some would say I was out to prove my school of magic is superior, but the reality is much more mundane… and worrying.

But wait, if we’re liberating ill-gotten riches from unworthy nobles, then I think redistributing some of the wealth of the other lazy rich folks is in order. Redistribution to me! Thankfully there’s some worthy contributors here, and also there’s some loot that the local madame wants for some nefarious scheme or other. Thankfully the guards on the front door of the houses I’m after are lazy gits who have been roped in from their usual job working in the stables, or butlering, or some other job that really, really doesn’t include tangling with armed gnomes in the job description. So they let me walk right in.

Most houses aren't even locked.

The jokes on him: He doesn’t know I’m an illusionist.

Inside we find some glowing red sections of floor which seem scary but my fairy companion does some magic and makes them disappear. Red floor problems are nothing, and neither are the hordes of guards, who are vanquished by the simple and expedient method of killing them really dead. We make good time through the mansion and then steal the worthless junk that’s been shoved in a drawer. I don’t know, if I wanted to make some kind of daring power play as a part of a personal vendetta I’d probably burn their house down or something equally vindictive. Having someone steal a metal pitcher and a bad painting seems a bit pointless.

After that little “adventure” it’s off to the zoo, to liberate the animals from the cruel imprisonment they were languishing under. Also to get some cool souvenirs. Unfortunately the zookeepers have other ideas. I tell them to talk to my secretary, the bald dwarf with a tendency to kick people in the head. How he does it, I have no idea, since most human heads are out of kicking range for a dwarf.

It's a Monty Python reference.

Fuck off! We’re the animal liberation front of Neverwinter!

After killing everyone who works in the zoo for the crime of working in the zoo, all I have to do is shove the animals into a magical portal that happened to be a tree a few seconds ago. That’s a pretty handy power, and might almost be worth becoming a druid for except that also means giving up things like civilization, baths, and proper grooming. I also don’t fancy eating acorns for the rest of my life.

After that bit of murderous animal activism, I talk to the local cleaning lady and she tells me that when she was younger she used to have access to Meldanen’s house though a secret portal – and not for speedy commuting to a cleaning job. So, off to Meldanen’s house we go, via magic portal. Not a moment too soon, since I think she was about to start reminiscing about her younger days of shacking up with all the wizards in the city.

Uh-oh, where does this go?

At least it’s not a blue oval, right?

Meldanen’s house is not so bad. It’s just your average vast and cavernous mansion. Full of imps and… acid-spewing giant beetles?!

Acid-spewing beetles. Just the thing to liven up a dungeon.

I am NOT running away to hide behind that pillar! It’s a tactical manoeuvre, OKAY?

This is ridiculous! How does anyone live in this mess? Why not just get some trolls in here? They’re disgusting and nasty and dangerous too, and would make a perfect fit. I suppose there’s some kind of law about importing trolls into the city. I continue through the mansion, killing oversized bugs and wondering how I can trick Meldanen into paying me for the pest control work before I assassinate him. Then we meet the butler.

Sadly very few characters have amusing descriptions in the query thing.

Any hanky in an emergency.

He’s a nice enough chap who seems to be a bit out of his depth working in a mansion for a morally-questionable wizard. I give him some of the patented gnome double talk and saunter on by. The whole place is one big mess of stupid wizard clichés. Apprentices ready to die for their master, alchemists working on potions, imps, hell hounds, enormous books… you know the drill.

Someone took the AD&D rulebooks a little too literally.

Oh, come on.

It’s embarrassing! This is exactly the kind of stereotypical behaviour that leads the rest of society to claim we’re all obsessive shut-ins with no life, our only interest amassing more and more books with funny words and odd pictures in them. This is what leads people to claim my stylish hat is just some wizard thing instead of the deeply meaningful personal choice that truly reflects my individuality and also I thought it looked cool on all the other wizards, okay?

Still grumbling, I head for the stairs down, horde of minions in tow, and freeing some guard who got caught on my way past the jail. Then after winding through some cellars I find some kind of mysterious chamber with a circle of runes on the floor. Gosh, I wonder if that’s important?

The important thing is, it's not just plain tiles.

Ho hum. Another circle of sorcerous scribblings on the floor.

It turns out that Meldanen appears there when I go and talk to the dryad locked in a cell. He immediately goes berserk and starts throwing around spells. I respond with some cunningly crafted illusions of um, stuff. The battle is on!

If this was Titan someone would have run through here years ago to stab him and take that cupboard against the wall.

Engage operation: kill the wizard!

He tries to surrender but I’m not taking that crap. Abducting hot tree women and locking them up in a cell seems kind of like he’s a bad person. Plus he’s wise to the fact that Formosa sent me in here to kill him and remove some of his more valuable teeth, so I can’t possibly let him go now. But the fight turns ugly as he opts for some kind of partial invisibility jazz that I should probably know about, being a mistress of the arts of magical deception. Whatever. I just fire crossbow bolts where he was standing instead, and he dies. I quickly loot his body, turning up a really cool looking but utterly useless staff and then go and free the dryad, who seems to be kind of grateful. I refrain from tearing her heart out, since that might get me in trouble, and instead let her give me a lock of her hair. Gosh, how fancy.

Hang on, she's got a knife. She could have escaped.

The dryad model, being clothing-challenged, is unbelievably creepy.

Oh and in case you’re wondering: it was probably a good thing I killed Meldanen, since his fireplace is full of not logs, not coals, but skulls. See? I was right to break into his home and kill him.

They're not very convincing skulls.

Unless they’re some kind of artificial skulls. But how sad would that be? People would find out and it’s minus a hundred badass points right away.

So after that little romp, we returned to Occupy Blacklake and gave her the key and silver tooth she asked for. For my troubles I was given a periapt of wisdom, which is a magic thing on a chain that makes me more wise. I put it on and briefly consider that maybe it would make more sense to recruit some more people to help me on this mission, like a healer and a few more bodyguards. I take it off again and look at it closely. That was a very strange experience, to think ahead like that and plan for eventualities other than my glorious victory. Hmmm. I should put it back on and benefit from the added insight it provides… But hey, it’s shiny, I bet I can get some gold for it!

Then it’s back to the temple of Tyr to hand in the dryad’s hair and also give this note about some evil cult to Fenthick, who is apparently rooting out the people who attacked the academy. Or rather, standing around while I do all the bloody work. But at least I’m getting paid. His friend Desther is a bit of a dick about it though.

They could move into the main temple, but noooo.

Why Desther, what a generically evil-sounding voice you have.

Then I give the hair to Aribeth, who asks me some very unfair questions about how I got it, and then I set off to check out the last of the four districts in Neverwinter: The docks. Apparently there’s some rioting or something, and general lawlessness is the order of the day. I, being a watch conscript, presumably will have to lay down the law. By making glowing lights appear, and producing pigeons from my sleeves. Yes, that will definitely work.

To be continued…

Neverwinter Nights Part 2: Zombie Snorepocalypse

Previously on Neverwinter Nights…

So, for those who came in late: Plague ravages Neverwinter, a lone gnome is all that stands between this nefarious attack and total conquest of the city. But she’s an illusionist, and therefore is only slightly more effective than a half-orc paladin. Can her powers of illusion deal with the walking dead?

Well, the answer to that question is no. But here’s how it went down…

Onward to Adventure!

Okay, so this slum district? It’s probably a lot better-smelling when it’s not full of shambling zombies. The problem here seems to be that the plague victims spring up as soon as they hit the ground and start wandering about. Also there’s a missing guard, and some bald dwarf running around screaming at everything. Only the latter is my henchman, so I suppose that’s okay. According to the group of watchmen keeping the wandering zombies away from the gates to the city core, there’s some do-gooders at the local tavern, and we should head over there. Except there’s one problem…

Sorry, I can't think of something witty for the alt text.

For the last time: I do not want to donate money to your charitable organisation!

It’s really crowded in here. In fact, it’s zombie city in here. Neverwinter probably shouldn’t have massive graveyard inside the city, or remotely near the city, what with the hordes of necromancers running around the north who who can animate armies of walking dead. Far better to burn all corpses. Assuming they don’t kill you first. Now, a competent wizard would cast fireball and say something cool like “Back, foul hordes of the dead!” but I don’t have useful spells, so I just run around in circles screaming with the zombies shambling after me. Which is an okay plan until you lap the zombies and end up in the middle of them all.

Anyway, we eventually end up at the Shining Serpent where we get told to talk to an undead hunter who is hanging around in a back room. I don’t know about you, but shouldn’t an undead hunter be out there in the streets re-deadening the zombies? What a slacker. Anyway, Drake: The Laziest Undead Hunter says I should go and find some former gang member and then some guy hiding in a house. So basically I am to do in-home care for the local poor folk. It’s a life of adventure, that’s for sure. On the way past the local temple I duck inside, find someone looking for his wizard brother who has wandered off into the streets to kill zombies. Ten to one he’s dead, too.

First stop, dodging my way past zombies to Krestal’s house. He’s a dwarf, and is scared shitless because his former gang want to gank him for some reason. They’re apparently some kind of monsters now. Whatever, that’s pretty normal around these parts. Then it’s off to find this local prat called Jermaine, who is concerned his brother has fallen in with a bad crowd. You know what? Stuff this. I’m in the middle of the biggest zombie horde in EVER and I’m having to fill in for the Neverwinter Social Services. I instead decide to go to the graveyard and fuck some zombies’ shit right up. By which I mean, run around in circles some more. Of course when I get there the gates are locked and there’s a bunch of zombies doing a dance routine outside.

It's some walking corpses milling about. SNORE.

Well this certainly never gets boring.

After disposing of them, I notice a dead wizard. I decide to take his gear back to the temple and turn it over to the grieving brother, on the basis that people tend to hand over money for deeds such as this. I am not disappointed. Of course, rescuing a retainer from the wheelwright’s store doesn’t net me anything other than the feeling of doing a good deed. The halflings who he worked for seem to be rather blasé about the whole undead horde thing, I suppose because human zombies only seem to go after humans and adventurers.

What gets me is, the wagon is supposed to be missing a wheel but it clearly isn't.

Midget Patrol vs. The Zombie Horde.

Okay so I have no leads other than kicking in the door of a local snake cult, or paying a visit to the local gang related warehouse. I opt for the latter, and find it’s full of zombies. Some of them are super zombies. This is totally not fair, considering I’m an illusionist. As my henchdwarf and fairy ally take out the zombies, I grab a chair and sit on it in a sulk. As the battle moves further into the building I pick up the chair every so often and move it, and the sit there contemplating a career change. Of course I’m an illusionist and thus have no practical skills, except possibly as a children’s entertainer. But then how is doing kid’s birthday parties any different to fighting a zombie horde?

Eventually the head evil zombie is killed but not before he hits me a few times with a big metal stick.

The warehouse is full of green mist, too.

Disarm always works for the villains, never for me.

This is why I got into the illusionist business, really. It’s just so great being powerless to stop zombies hitting me with a lamp post. Then I release an incredibly over-dramatic city guard from captivity, and decide that maybe I should go and beat up some snake cultists. At least my powers of illusion will work on them.

Any more effective and the government will have to regulate it.

Fear my powers of illusion! Aaaahahahahaha! Oh stop looking at me like that, how often do I get to say that sort of thing?

Unfortunately the snake cult “estate” is more an average-sized house, and so I’m going to have to trek through some underground tunnels. Gosh, I wonder if there will be more annoyingly illusion-immune undead. Haha, of course not. This time there are giant spiders.

I died repeatedly before finally giving in and summoning a wolf.

THE FUCKING SPIDERS ARE IMMUNE TO ILLUSIONS TOO.

I don’t care what Detect Alignment says, spiders are evil. One near-death experience later I emerge into the graveyard, band of murderous animals and dwarves in tow, and find a horde of zombies waiting. I sort of saw that coming, but am still really annoyed by it. After dealing with these zombies, it’s off into a crypt to find… could it be? Is it possible? More undead?! Hey you know what would have been great? If the paladin sending me out to play fetch had decided to put some bloody effort in herself.

Too many empty graves.

Something missing from this game was comedy headstones. I can’t say I’m actually disappointed by that, though.

As we traverse the crypts I come across someone locked in a cell. He’s a priest of Cyric, who is to gods what stark raving lunatics are to everyone else. This guy locked up by the Yuan-Ti I’m searching for is a little pissed, and is ranting about how he will totally mess her up for stealing his magic zombie making rock. I bet I can piss him off even more.

“So,” I ask, “What’s it like being priest of a god whose only major artefact is associated with the word ‘fiasco’?”

A stream of abuse comes out of the cell. It’s so easy to wind up priests of Cyric. I shoot him in the head with a spell called Crossbow Bolt at Point Blank Range. I love that spell. After some more wandering around and grabbing of whatever was left lying about in this crypt – why people do this I’ll never know – I find the Yuan-Ti. Her name is Gulnan and she’s very, very angry. But I think that’s normal for her people. So I kill her. Or rather, Grimgnaw kills her and I cast some illusions that don’t accomplish anything.

Floating runes, the sure sign of a spell invented by an ostentatious wizard.

I bet that spell would be easier to cast if it didn’t include the floating runes.

One trip back to the city core with a spell component and I’m paid for my troubles.

“Here you go, Aribeth!” I say, handing over a bloody heart torn from the chest of my foe.

“Well thank you,” she says with gritted teeth. “You certainly went all out for this! After all, I did say ‘just one scale from the Yuan-Ti’ but I suppose a bloody heart is fine.”

I blink up at her, as I stand there in my blood-soaked robes. A droplet forms on the cuff of my sleeve, and then falls down to the exquisite carpet in the temple of Tyr, and joins its friends in the spreading stain.

“So, uh, I don’t need to carve out interesting parts?” I ask innocently.

“No, just a tiny piece of any easily and non-lethally removed part of the creatures will do just fine.”

“So are you going to pay me? That’s the deal, right? I mean, you are lawful, right?”

“Here is a bag with some gold in it,” she says, while trying to maintain an encouraging smile. “Now perhaps you might want to go and find the next two creatures.”

“Okay. Hey, it’s lucky I didn’t go find the Dryad first, isn’t it?”

Aribeth smiles, but I think it’s not a proper, Paladinly smile. I leave the temple and head off to the next place that sounds interesting. Blacklake, home of the monied tossers who think they’re better than everyone else. Except there’s a problem. Between the central district and Blacklake is a typically nice enough area where all the put upon servants live. Apparently they’ve gone mad with the plague, but I suspect they’re just taking a chance to cut loose and make a mess. As I enter someone standing around by the gate who isn’t mad with plague – see? – tells me there’s some evil criminal in here who has killed his family. Whatever.

I trek through the burning neighbourhood, casting illusions and generally cleaning up the rioting thugs, until we find a tower. Towers, for those who don’t know, are usually home to wizards, but since this one is a bit damaged it might be home to a dead wizard and some loot lying around. In we go…

…oh right Loxar the Nasty is in there. Well, he’s not immune to illusions either. I decide that people tend to reward me for delivering pieces of troublemakers, so I saw his head off and take it back to the peasant moping by the gates. He’s quite pleased to have it, but gives me no reward. The bastard. Anyway, off to Blacklake! But not before Grimgnaw gives me a reward for finding some trinket he’d been looking for. That’s nice, an amulet of a gruesome skull. Now I can fit in with the necromancers.

In Blacklake we wander about, and eventually find the local tavern brawling club called the Gauntlet, which I win easily. Er, okay actually Grimgnaw wins easily while I watch. I win the tavern for my troubles.

Of course this fight club closes down if you win.

Given that I had a henchman, a familiar, a summoned wolf, and a crossbow, this was grossly unfair.

Next I blunder into a secret passage behind a bookcase in someone’s home – look, I work for the city, I’m allowed to be in there – and find some horrible magic swords. Which are also immune to illusions. You know, its really not fair, is it? Well fuck fair, that’s why I’ve been carrying all these potions of Make People Immune to Stab around.

Four frantically flailing flying falchions! Ah ah ah!

Why yes, I did bravely stand to one side and do nothing.

You know what? Despite the horrible flying swords, Blacklake really is more fun than the other suburbs. This becomes apparent while I’m wandering around and find an Elven woman asking for someone to step up and take down a person called Meldanen.

Quite why she's wearing necromancer robes, I do not know.

How conservative. I suppose she thinks gnomes and half-elves getting it on is unnatural too. Sigh.

“Who’s that, then?”

“Why he’s a fantastically wealthy wiz-”

“Kill a wizard and take his stuff? I’m in!”

To be continued…

Look, it’s time we had a little chat about something: illusions are rubbish in computer games. The entire principle of these spells is that they’re the most open-ended of all the magic in D&D. There’s guides for adjudicating the damn things, for pity’s sake. This is presumably why an illusionist is a fun character to play. But in a computer game where the effects are limited by the game engine there’s not much utility there. Okay so Shadow Conjuration has some pre-set effects that simulate some useful spells, but there’s not a lot you can do with everything else. Admittedly, having a spell that makes you immune to normal weapons is tremendous. But this is why my gnome is now resorting to conjuration, which seems like the natural go-to since conjuring things out of a hat is another entertainment skill set. It’s a shame there isn’t a children’s birthday party performer feat.

Oh and a largeish section full of undead seems to be mandatory in every act. I assume because this means the players who run Clerics would sulk otherwise. Well, tough for them! There’s no fun in it when it’s crowbarred in everywhere. If you think being an illusionist is miserable when doing a compulsory undead section, imagine being a necromancer. Never again.

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…

Dungeon Master

I will eventually run out of Fighting Fantasy books to read since the majority are out of print. So, when I do run out you’ll all have to nag Wizard Books to republish all the out of print ones. But I thought, hey, I can always post about computer RPGs to stave off the inevitable endpoint. So first off…

There are no candelabras in the game, but there's one here.

This party is mentioned in part of the backstory. They die, and get trapped in mirrors.

Dungeon Master is probably the shining dawn of the modern RPG. Or at least part of it, because there’s all sorts of things we value in modern games, like the ability to customise characters, actual characterisation, plots that aren’t just contained in the manual, and plots that aren’t about saving the world from the forces of evil… Hah, just kidding about that last one. There’s so few RPGs that aren’t about killing some evil wizard/demon/whatever that I’m struggling to think of a title other than Ultima IV.

But anyway, this is a first person, real-time, survival-oriented dungeon crawl. Those were novel things that Dungeon Master did so well people still adore it today. The plot is that there’s this guy called the Grey Lord and he’s split himself into two beings. One is Lord Librasulus (a jerk who represents order), and Lord Chaos (a jerk who represents some other abstract concept that you will have to guess). The “good” one wants to waste the “evil” one so he’s been sending adventurers into his former dungeon home to try and recover something called the Firestaff. Except they all die and get trapped in mirrors. But now the ghost of his apprentice, Theron, is going to go in there and free four of these heroes and guide them to success. Or not, because recovering the Firestaff is a bad idea, albeit one cut from the final game. The real goal: Fuse the two law and chaos dickheads back together and thus save the world from both of them.

Yes, you are Theron, a named and gendered protagonist. Who doesn’t actually have an once of characterisation dialogue or even existence in the game world outside the background story, which thus means Theron served no other purpose than to say, “we’re assuming the only men play these games, hah!” That is rather insulting, so we’ll pretend that didn’t happen.

Yes, now you know why I love Fighting Fantasy so damn much – those books have yet to tell me I’m not actually the person reading them. So, for the purposes of this review I’m not “Theron”, I am Me. I’m a ghost and I’m being sent into the dungeon to find and resurrect (they come back to life, hardened and skilled adventurers) or reincarnate (they come back to life but with their class levels turned into higher stats) four bloodthirsty lunatics to wage war on the forces of Chaos, unravel sinister traps, and probably end up hopelessly dead.

Onward to Dying When I Run Out of Food Too Far From a Spawn Room!

It’s a good thing I’m a ghost because the ceiling is really low in here. Also, it’s a good thing the top floor of the dungeon with the Hall of Champions is built out of glowing rock. Right, let’s find four idiots trapped in mirrors and drag them the hell out of there to do my bidding and fulfil my every perverted whim.

Don't hold your breath, it's just an RPG inventory and stats screen.

Syra would prove to be the most useless member of the party outside of being a drinks dispenser.

Thankfully my magic ghost powers let me see their statistics, the rank they have in the various skills, and also the exact amount of weight they can carry. Being a ghost has some perks.

Another stat screen. The excitement never ends!

That amulet boosts mana by three, meaning the mana-less front line fighters can be trained up to be wizards early on.

Unfortunately I can’t actually tell how much damage a weapon does, or what the magical items actually do, unless they change people’s stats. So this entire expedition to save the world from chaos and destruction is going to be one long and tedious exercise in guesswork.

Yet another stats screen. Don't worry, only one more to go.

I don’t know, I just get the feeling she’s not entirely original. Who cares though? A badass woman with sword is just who we need. We’ll find some proper armour as soon as possible.

The other thing I realise as I poke around the mirrors is that either these people threw all their good gear away, or they came in here woefully unprepared. No-one has 50 feet of rope and a ten-foot pole. Or in many cases, proper clothing. Or weapons.

Honestly, all these stats are meaningless to me.

The Ninja class is their only attempt to veil the D&D inspired nature of RPGs. It’s called Dungeon Master, for fuck’s sake, we know it’s based on D&D.

Right, four women plucked from their existence in a limbo world contained inside a mirror, and ready to follow my orders. One of my first utterly insane demands is that the women I choose to venture into certain doom stand close together in a square formation at all times. They may only move together as a group. The best part of this is that if one of them walks into a wall, they all walk into a wall. If one of them falls down a hole, all of them fall down a hole. This would probably be funnier if I could see them, but once I’ve resurrected my first adventurer I’m forced to only view the world through the eyes of one person at a time. Being a ghost sucks.

Right, now that I’ve resurrected four women with various abilities that don’t entirely suck I can descend into the dungeon proper and start killing things. Unfortunately this is a really dingy dungeon so torches, or magical spells that produce light, are essential.

Now it's just a black screen.

This is one of the more creepy aspects of the game until you’re high level.

I naturally picked two hardcore violent women who have a mana pool somewhere near zero to be my front line, and subsequently will be grumbling about their inability to cast spells for some time. Thankfully the decidedly combat-average women in the back row have wizard skills and can, in theory, throw fireballs. In practice they will probably throw a lot of rocks during the endless waves of combat. Assuming I can be bothered making someone pick all the rocks, arrows, shuriken, and drumsticks up over and over again.

I'm not going to explain what a mummy looks like.

This is the first monster. The traditional early game creature, Rattus Fuckallexperiencus, is found much later. Then your party dies.

I have to tell each member of my party – or rather, tell the party leader who then tells them – to attack, and how to attack, what runes to cast to form spells, what to eat and when to eat it, when to drink, and basically I’m doing more micromanaging than would be implied by some kind of metaphor comparing me to the head ant at a fresh carcass. Thankfully the first proper dungeon floor is mainly an easy walk from the start to the finish, with some low-grade puzzles, as if Lord Chaos had to warm up before making all the really lethal traps. Throw lever to close pit, find keys, kill shouty mushroom… you know the drill.

Relatively harmless but still creeps me out.

No really this is totally not like the D&D one because um… it… is… green?

In fact, thanks to my picking a ninja and actually letting her stick to ninjaing (i.e. stabbing things with pointy things), the party is soon swimming in unwanted and unneeded heavy weapons. The dungeon is awash with falchions and clubs, presumably left behind by the other hapless adventurers who were turned into mummies and screamers and other fun things. But all in all it’s a cakewalk. You’d almost think I’d done this before.

It’s the third floor where things heat up as a wall tells me to Choose Your Door, Choose Your Fate. There’s a series of portcullises between the party and the stairs down and presumably some keys in here somewhere. I decide to try and find a door that does not involve rock monsters.

It looks like a pile of rocks.

Too late, Rock Monsters.

What ensues is the by now standard Dungeon Master fight scene: Four women leaping forwards in formation to strike and then backwards in formation to get away before the pile of rocks can poison us. Yes, it’s a poisonous monster that looks like a pile of rocks. They’re extremely deadly. Also very hard to kill, so this involves a lot of hopping around and slowly retreating as the inexorable advance of a pile of rubble threatens to send my front line to poisontown. Thankfully poison bolts can be fired through portcullises and gaping pits are effective deterrents. Eventually all the monsters in the various challenge rooms are dead and the party has gained more completely useless gear than anyone could ever need. They’re also well on their way to stealing all of Lord Chaos’ cheese.

CHEESE.

We’re coming for all the fucking cheese under this fucking mountain!

And so didst the bold adventurers descend into the actual hard part of the dungeon, a floor filled with purple worms. Let me tell you about purple worms. They are huge, hard to kill, poisonous (are you noticing a theme?), and also don’t actually give you anything worthwhile when they die, just some barely nutritious worm rounds. You know what? I hate purple worms. It takes ten minutes to kill one, and if Sonja isn’t getting poisoned Leyla is nearly dying from being chewed on. The best part is that worms appear if you stand on certain tiles. The triggers for the wormotrons are invisible, and often involve the extremely unfair trick of having them in corridors. This means the tactic of slowly retreating is doomed to failure since the merry band of idiots will inevitably trip the wormotron trigger as they back away from the first pair of worms. But in the end they triumph, and proceed down to the next floor, which promptly drops the party through a pit in a room of ever-moving holes.

The wall is laughing at me!

Actually, I climbed down with the rope to take this screenshot because I’m too skilled and experienced to fall in. Then later I fell in. Over, and over, and over again.

But it’s okay, all that’s needed is some patience and care to trip the holes in the right way to get through. We can take our time, it’s not like there’s any flying snakes.

You just know that when we can genetically engineer wings onto things some idiot will put them on poisonous snakes.

ACTUALLY IT IS EXACTLY LIKE THERE ARE FLYING SNAKES.

Yes, it’s poisonous too.

But not to worry, after the last floor everything down here is trivially easy to take out. It could also be the case that the party is now so loaded with weapons and armour that they no longer need to worry about being killed. Of course even that’s not an issue, since there’s altars of rebirth that conveniently resurrect dead adventurers, provided their bones are thrown onto the altar… and assuming the survivors can trek all the way back to the last altar without being taken out by the eternally spawning worms.

Fully loaded out adventurers are happy adventurers.

Armed and dangerous and on a mission to steal all Lord Chaos’ cheese.

Overconfidence naturally proves to be the downfall of this expedition, as a particularly vicious flying snake takes out the two who can actually fight, leaving the slightly hopeless spellcasters to lug their corpses back through the dungeon. But the slime throwing slime monsters that have appeared between them and the staircase have other ideas.

Wrapup

Is it a good game? Yes, I think so. It’s still a good game. It should tell you something that decades after I first played it I still get drawn in to rampaging through the dungeon and trying to finally deal with Lord Chaos. It’s bloody hard but I think the fun is more in getting there rather than winning. Though I would say that, since I haven’t ever finished it.

There’s an expansion called Chaos Strikes Back which I refuse to try again just now, because I don’t think there’s ever been a game so absolutely, incredibly fucking evil. You start in the dark, with no items, and if you don’t immediately execute a set of manoeuvres you get cornered by some ultra-powerful purple worms. If you stay put, you get surrounded by the worms. Oh, and the party starts on a wormotron switch. The official sequel, Dungeon Master 2, is not as enjoyable as the original and Chaos Strikes Back. Or at least, I can never get into it.

One of the things that makes Dungeon Master more difficult that other RPGs is that there’s absolutely no clue in the game what the skills do, or how good the armour is. Thanks to the obsessed fans, this information is all readily available these days so I spent some time learning how the attack skills work and wow, is it ever easier to play with that information. If I was playing this for serious and not just to goof around to get some screenshots, I’d have opted to reincarnate the characters instead of bringing them back with class levels. A little bit of extra work at the start of the game makes for a better party long term (nb: don’t do this in Chaos Strikes Back, you will die).

Something that stands out today is how quiet the dungeon is. There’s almost no noises apart from the occasional clicks of switches and clattering of doors (they’re all sliding double doors or vertical drop doors), monsters saying “raaah!”, spells going off, and the attacks. It’s a bit strange, actually, but shows how lucky we all are to have fancy things like full sound effects and more than two frames of animation for everything. It’s still great though, so I suppose those are luxuries and not necessities for an immersive game.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: It seemed normal way back when, but having to pick the spells up piecemeal in the dungeon makes no sense.

Ridiculous Battle: The rock monster that chased me back to a pit that had re-opened, which I had to climb down into to escape, and then I spent and hour – an actual, real-world hour – trying to heal the party up and stay alive killing it. Then I met another.

Victory: How would I know? I still can’t finish the bloody game!

What Was I Thinking? Not thinking up new categories for the wrap-up. There’s a limit to how far this stretches to computer games. Oh okay, something to do with the game: I determined via the wonders of the internet where a wormotron switch was and then still went backwards over it, remembering just afterwards that I couldn’t run away on that floor.

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