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.

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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!

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…

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