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.

The Seven Serpents

Previously in this Adventure

“Oh right, the bird has a better invisibility spell than I do.”

The Seven Serpents by Steve Jackson

Covers: John Blanche, Mel Grant

Illustrations: John Blanche

Sun Serpent secret spoiler!

Mel Grant puts the band back together.

Now it gets interesting, because I only owned the first two books when I was young – the second hand bookstore I got Fighting Fantasy books from sold the last two before I got copies – and thus I have only read this one once before. Oh well, let’s have a try anyway.

The plot is not just for me to cross a dangerous wilderness, but the Archmage’s seven magical flying serpents are also out there for me to take down before they warn him I’m coming. The fourth book has extra options if you kill them all, letting you avoid any trouble from the fortress inhabitants. Er, I mean avoid extra trouble.

People keep making a joke about this book but I refuse to perpetuate such terrible puns. I have terrible puns of my own!

Statistics

Skill: 8
Stamina: 18
Luck: 13

Equipment: Sword, Extra Large Backpack, 5 Provisions, 22 Gold, Bag of Miscellaneous Teeth, Silver Key no. 111, Borrinskin Boots, Bomba Fruit, Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery, Gauntlets of Weaponry, Gold Locket (without picture), Lucky Talisman, Enchanted Compass (now useless), Bow, Silver Arrows (8), Tinderbox, Snake Bite Antidote, Silver Serpent Ring.

Spell Components: Flute, Goblin Teeth (4), Giant Teeth (1), Beeswax (infinite), Bone Bracelet, Green Wig, Gold-Backed Mirror.

Special: I can call on Libra again, who is apparently bound by some kind of rules about geography. I also have the power, thanks to my silver serpent ring, to command information from any Serpents (well, only those seven) I happen to meet.

Onward to Adventure!

I trudge across the Baklands. First up in this no-man’s land is the Baddu-Bak Plains, which is nothing more than a dry, desolate waste devoid of anything remotely interesting. The most dangerous feature is probably the mind-crushing boredom that awaits all who set foot in this land. But wait, a cry! What could it be? It’s some angry birds.

At least it's not harpies this time!

At least it’s not harpies this time!

The boredom has driven all knowledge of useful spells from my mind, so instead I draw my sword. I am incredibly lucky to only take one wound from the avian offensive before a magical eagle appears and mauls them. It’s carrying a message from home. The message says I have to find and kill seven magical serpents if I want to stand a chance, for they will tell the Archmage of Mampang I’m coming. Apparently a fortress of evil has no defences ready unless they know trouble is coming – though I’m not complaining! The note also says to find someone called Shadrack the Hermit, who apparently knows everything that’s going on in the Baklands. Given that he lives in this desolate and tedious place I’m guessing that’s not too hard.

The goldcrest eagle has turned invisible and left, so I’m on my own. I set off, and take some lunch under a dead tree. The tree forms a face out of its branches tells me to go east to meet Shadrack. What a helpful dead tree. I set off to Fishtail Rock and meet the old hermit, who gives me some of his food and tells me all about the Seven Serpents. Apparently they were magically created from the heads of a hydra slain by the Archmage and given the powers of the seven gods he worships. One for each element, one for the sun and moon, and of course a time serpent. Oh goody. Shadrack knows that the air serpent can leave its body for a few minutes as a cloud of gas, but the body is still vulnerable. The serpents apparently keep their own weaknesses as their closest secrets (who wouldn’t?), but my serpent ring might help me there.

The next morning I set off back to the main trail. Shadrack gives me a galehorn before I go, which might prove handy for casting spells. On the trail I encounter some centaurs…

They're kinda metal. Or punk, since this was written in the early 80's.

They’re kinda metal. Or punk, since this was written in the early 80’s.

I cut a deal with them: I’ll cast a luck spell on them if they drop me off somewhere helpful. I can’t actually cast that spell, because I’m lacking one vital spell component: it actually existing in the first place. But they don’t know that. They suggest I could visit a caravan heading to Kharé, or Manata the Snake Charmer. The latter sounds like he might have some good advice for dealing with magical serpents, so I get them to take me there. It turns out Manta lives in a pit and has quite a few scaly friends. The one thing he wants is my borrinskin boots, which is no big deal since I found them at the bottom of a mineshaft. He trades me knowledge of the whereabouts of one of the Seven Serpents, which his sisters – the snakes – have found out.

I trek across the wastes, keeping an eye out for ophidian opponents. Instead a skeletal figure materialises. It’s a deathwraith. Except this doesn’t seem like suitably deathwraithy place for it to be hanging out, so I try to dispell it. Bingo! There’s an illusionist behind it. He’s more than relieved that I offer him a chance at not being killed, and gives me all his gold, a chakram, and some yellow powder to snort for one of my spells. I ask him if he knows anything about the Seven Serpents and he says he does, then screams out in fright at something he sees over my shoulder and keels over, dead. Gosh, I wonder what he saw behind me?

That's no moon!

That’s no moon!

Yeah, it’s the Moon Serpent.

It snuffs out all the light and tries to attack me. First I compel it to tell me some information – four guards are at the gate to the Mampang Fortress – and then I waste it with a fireball. Sucker. It dies and shrivels up into a ball, leaving behind a crystal orb, which I pocket. With nothing left to do here, I set off to the northwest, and find a caravan of dark elves who fire a few arrows at me just for effect. I tell them I’m a trader and they let me peruse their crowded shop.

Best shop in Fighting Fantasy EVER! Well, other than Yaztromo's Emporium Of Single Use Magic Items.

Best shop in Fighting Fantasy EVER! Well, other than Yaztromo’s Emporium Of Single Use Magic Items.

So much to choose from, so little gold. I grab a brass pendulum, some chain mail, and some more provisions. Then I decide to leave, since I’m not keen to spend the night in a trade caravan that fires arrows at every lone traveller they meet.

I camp out on the plains and eat cheese sandwiches. In the morning I head off to the northeast and meet a tiny little dwarf thing that zooms about very quickly. As I wonder to myself if it’s friend or foe, it tells me that’s up to me! Oh good, a mind-reading gnome. It demands a gift, so I offer it some of my bottomless supply of beeswax. The gnome turns out to be a sorceress in disguise. Diatainta, aka The Sham, is overjoyed by my gift of what amounts to industrial cement made by bees, and tells me how to take out the nearby Earth Serpent (which is no surprise because it’s obvious it’s going to be more powerful on the ground than in the air), gives me a vial of vapour to take on something called The Sleepless Ram, and gives me her serpent staff, which is made of oak and therefore a Staff of Oak Sapling. Then she turns back into a gnome and speeds off over the horizon. I can’t say I am not relieved though. Gnomes are trouble, and they’re always out there. Waiting…

Gnomes: The hidden killer.

Gnomes: The hidden killer.

I travel north and scout ahead from the top of a hill. On the way down a chunk of rock that I knocked loose comes rolling back up and hits my ankle. Um, okay, not what I expected. The top of the hill exploding is something I expected even less. I create a magical shield and hold it over my head as I run…. right into a pit that opens before me. Then a rock rises from the ground and starts to heat up. What the hell?! I jump up to get out and something bites my hand. I have a feeling I know what that was! I try again, and get bitten again, but this time I make it out of the pit.

On the surface, the ground starts to split open around the pit. A boulder up the hill is wobbling, getting ready to roll down and crush me. On top of that, a tiny little snake is coiled about my leg and is about to bite me. I think I’ll got for the tiny snake. Or not so tiny – it splits open and giant brown serpent with wings emerges. Right, then. Time to put this galehorn to use: I cast the Huf spell, which blows it into the air where it turns into a tiny green snake again. I catch it and break its neck. Job completed, I set off again.

I trek onward towards the Forest of Snatta, and camp for the night on the outskirts of this mysterious forest. Apparently there are things called snattacats living here. I don’t know much about them other than their name. What could they be? In the morning I set off, eyes peeled for these cats, gathering all kinds of things in the forest. Stone dust, sand, pebbles, yellow feathers, nuts and berries, leaves…

Now I have UNLIMITED POWER!

Now I have UNLIMITED POWER!

It’s a good thing I brought that large backpack back in Khare. Further along the trail a red snake slithers across the path. I decide to follow it, on the basis that it’s probably evil and needs to be killed with extreme prejudice. In the undergrowth I find it climbing a tree. Then it bursts into flames.

Only you can prevent forest Fire Serpents!

Only you can prevent forest Fire Serpents!

Right, it’s the fire serpent. I climb into the tree to fight it, like an idiot, and it drops to the ground. I follow (which is totally not code for “fall down”, no, absolutely not), and when it bursts into flames I chuck a handful of sand over it to put the fire out, and then kill the serpent.

This serpent killing has been pretty easy so far.

I set off further into the forest and stop for a rest on a fallen tree. It’s quite peaceful here. Except for that odd noise I just heard. What could it be? It could be the invisible thing that just bit me. I make like a tree and get out of there, and come across a door in a small hill. I know what you’re thinking: I have an important mission and shouldn’t get side tracked by underground lairs. Unfortunately, it’s too late for that, because I’ve already gone inside!

At the end of the corridor I find an elven woman staring intently at a crystal ball. I’ve had a pretty even run with witches, enchantresses, and magically inclined women on this adventure so I see no reason to not be reasonable here. I step into the room and say hello.

Sevent Serpents: Puffin Edition

Fenestra does me a huge favour since who knows how bad the Sun Serpent would have been to fight?

The occupant of this cave is Fenestra, a sorceress who is pleased to meet someone else who knows magic. I trade her a pile of teeth for a pearl ring I may find useful later for turning invisible related purposes. She then slyly tells me she’s trapped the Sun Serpent as bait for the Water Serpent, who she wants to kill in revenge for murdering her father. She even has a large supply of oil which will break its watery form up, and gives me some just on the off chance I meet it. I then demand information from the Sun Serpent and it tells me to beware the breath of the mucalytics. Um, okay, I’ll watch out for them, whatever they are. Fenestra also tells me that she gave some marsh goblins a scroll with a magic chant that can deal with the Time Serpent, and I’ll have to find them to get it. She also offers to sell me a whistle that will summon the ferryman at Lake Ilklala. Then she gives me a potion that cures disease. Then I get given the kitchen sink too.

As I set off again I consider that I might actually make it through this after all. I set off into the woods, following a stream. Then I trip over something I can’t see. Then I can see it, and so I finally get to find out what a snattacat is. Here’s what it is: A tiger that turns invisible. Damn, I didn’t see that coming!

The invisible tiger, pictured in its natural habitat.

The invisible tiger, pictured in its natural habitat.

Thankfully I have some magic that will fix the Snattacat problem. I produce my crystal ball and cast a spell that will let me see them, and thus can avoid them with ease – they’re obviously not used to having their edge neutralized. I wander out of the forest and camp out near the shore of the lake.

In the morning I use the Magic Whistle of Ferryman Summoning and he wanders out of the undergrowth. It’s hard to tell though because he’s so grubby it looks like part of the undergrowth came with him. I pay the four gold pieces required to get across and he goes off to get his boat. He’s a lot more surly when he comes back, even expecting me to row the damn thing. I’m not taking that, he’s the ferryman not the boat hire man. I tell him to get stuffed. Then it turns out he was – by the Air Serpent!

I’m not entirely intimidated by an animated wisp of air, because I know it must have stowed its body here somewhere. It’s in the deflated ferryman’s disgusting and rat-dropping filled pocket. The Air Serpent freaks out and tries to cut a deal. I don’t accept that, and shred the snakeskin, killing it. Of course, now I have to row the damn boat myself. I set off on my lake crossing, resolving that if I get back to Analand I’ll be creating some kind of flying spell, or teleporting spell, or rowboat-auto-rowing spell. Anything to avoid this irritating task. Look at me, powerful sorceress, quest to save the world from the armies or evil, and I’m having to row my own damn boat.

As I row I notice there’s bubbling water up ahead. Goodness me, I wonder what could be causing that? I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing that and sigh as I head towards it. The thing, whatever could it be, tries to capsize my boat but fails to tip me into the water. Suddenly up from the lake rises – big surprise – the water serpent. I’m not very impressed and compel it to give me some advice. Then I throw some oil over it, breaking the watery form of the creature up into thousands of droplets. No problem. Time to get off this lake.

Eventually I reach the Vischlami Swamp. It’s a swamp, you know? Full of mud and slime and water. Also marsh goblins running away from what I find out, thanks to wearing a ridiculous green wig to cast the spell that lets me speak any language, is a magical serpent. They show me the magical scroll they were given and I memorize the chant and promise to take care of the winged serpent troubling them.

Wait a minute, there's no spell of Read Magic in my spellbook!

Wait a minute, there’s no spell of Read Magic in my spellbook!

As I head off in the direction they came from I hope like hell this works. The Serpent of Time is probably bad news. I run into it and find out it’s terrible news, since it can slow me down to a crawl. I compel it to advise me while I mutter the chant under my breath. The serpent slows down in mid air, its own powers turned against it! I kill it easily and then trudge out of the swamps and into the foothills of Low Xamen. I can see the Mampang Fortress on the skyline as the sun sets. Well, this last stage of my quest should be fun…

Wrapup

Well it’s a lot better than I remembered, though I question why the author even bothered putting a possible score of zero serpents at the end of the book since you have to kill at least two to make it through to the end (whatever justifications you hear for this, the real one is the obvious PEOPLE MIGHT SEE IT IN ADVANCE). The book is very linear, though there’s a nice touch in that for readers who chose to use magic there’s more than one way to approach dealing with the serpents.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: What kind of rowboat lets the rower see what is in front of them?

Ridiculous Battle: There are so many hard fights for the unprepared adventurer!

Moon Serpent: Skill 13 Stamina 10 (7/6 with fire)
Earth Serpent: sk 12 st 14
Fire Serpent: Sk 13 St 12
Air Serpent Sk 11 St 14 (You have to hit it twice in succession and that only deals 3 damage. The serpent only deals 1 damage, but for every successive round it wins the damage is doubled)
Water Serpent Sk10 St 11

Of course all of them can either be severely reduced in power or outright killed with no effort.

Victory: All stats restored, permanent bonus to maximum Skill of 2, permanent bonus to maximum Luck of 1, and a special stealth ability in the next book. Pretty good, that. Of course that’s for the perfect victory of all seven.

What Was I Thinking? If you tell some goblin jokes to the trade caravan everything becomes half price. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to buy everything I wanted anyway since that option requires dropping some gold on a meal first.

You can see a summary of the running totals here.

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!

Fighting Fantasy Christmas Gift Ideas

So, it’s the season of buying gifts for people. What to buy? What does one get the adventurer who has everything? More importantly, what do you get the adventurer who had everything but blew it all on a week-long binge in Port Blacksand and now has to go off and find a wizard to kill and rob so they can pay their tavern bill? Well fear not, for I have some excellent gift ideas for this holiday season, straight from the pages of the Allansian Adventurer Catalogue!

Bird Hat

A bird hat is a stunning item, part accessory, part headgear. It’s stylish, it’s intriguing, it’s a bird on your head that won’t shit all over your hair and down your back. Just look at how great it looks:

Woman with fangs and bird hat. Looks angry. Possibly because someone made fun of her hat

“I got resurrected for THIS?”

They’re not just for the ladies, and not just birds!

At this point it's a Luck test to nail him with the silver arrow. That's why I took that potion at the start.

I’d come back from the dead, – um, I mean redead – for that hat too.

As you can see, our model is wearing the classic bat hat, which is suave and sophisticated and very slimming. There are hats made from flappy airborne things available for everyone’s tastes and everyone’s head, even Zanbar Bone!

Zanbar Bone appears out of nowhere to scythe you up!

Muahahahahahaha!

Your loved one will be the talk of the Allansian Bird Hat Society for months after they show up wearing one of these!

Garlic Wreath

All adventurers know that when you see garlic, there’s a vampire somewhere near. Why not save the adventurer in your life the trouble of having to search through every storeroom and visit every market stall by buying them this inexpensive yet festive garland of garlic? They’ll be ready for any number of insidious blood-sucking freaks, and the best thing is, it doesn’t matter how old the garlic is, it’s just gotta be garlic! It’s so essential that if you were an adventurer yourself you’d have bought this already. This year there’ll be no more excuses about how it’s too dangerous to go on holiday to Mauristatia!

Fire Sword

The Lizard King is a total badass and it's best not to try and sell him Amway.

No-one can ever have enough fire swords.

Nothing says hot stuff like a fire sword! It’s not just good for killing enemies; it’s also handy for clearing a snowed-in driveway, and it radiates enough heat that the wielder won’t even need clothes to walk their pet lion! On top of that, when barbecue season rolls around it won’t just cut the steak, it grills it too! It’s also handy for dealing with those pesky gonchongs that make summer vacations a drag.

SPECIAL OFFER: Buy a Fire Sword from this catalogue and we’ll throw in a theft proofing illusion that makes this valuable flaming sword look like a rusty knife. That’s an illusion worth 30gp for FREE! Just make sure no-one forgets the rusty knife on the sideboard is really a flaming blade of fiery death!

Gravity Bomb

“But what about the space-faring adventurer in the family,” you ask? Fear not, you can always get them a gravity bomb! This little beauty creates a small, localised black hole. It sucks in everything it touches and then fizzles out of existence, so there’s no chance the kids will fall into it and be crushed like an incompetent starship captain. If you don’t know any intrepid Space Assassins who may need one of these, then there’s always the option of using it to clean up the wrapping paper after the gifts have been opened!

Black hole comes in any colour you want as long as it’s black. No refunds. Gravity bomb not for human consumption.

Single-Use Magic Item Gift Basket

Every adventurer knows that having the right item on hand can be the difference between a gentle walk in the forest or a deadly struggle with a deadly monster. Well, with this gift basket of Yaztromotm brand single-use magic items your favourite adventurer will have everything they need to trek through the most wild and dangerous wilderness! The gift basket includes nose plugs, glove of missile dexterity, armband of strength, fire seeds, holy water, potion of plant control, potion of anti-poison, headband of concentration, boots of leaping, and of course everyone’s favourite; a y-shaped stick!

Kharé – Cityport of Traps

Previously on this Adventure

“Coming up: one trip to a sewer…”

Kharé: Cityport of Traps by Steve Jackson

Covers: John Blanche, Mel Grant.

Illustrations: John Blanche

Will I meet the dreaded slime-eater? Find out in this post!

Will I meet the dreaded slime-eater? Find out in this post!

Kharé is some kind of evil city which happens to be built over the only crossing of the Jabaji River, so I have to go up and try to find my way through to the mysterious Baklands. Oh goody. Kharé is so full of criminals and lawless scum that it’s littered with traps and deadfalls to catch out unwary thieves and adventurers (there is a difference, but it’s a bit academic at this point). Why do I have to bother with this? I have to cross the city to recover the Crown of Kings, of course.

Oh and all my stats and items carry over from the first book so I have a lot of stuff. Also bonuses and things like that.

Statistics

Skill: 8
Stamina: 18
Luck: 13 (Yeah, really. I got a bonus at the end of the last book)

Equipment: Sword, Backpack, 13 Gold Bag of Miscellaneous Teeth, Silver Key no. 111, Borrinskin Boots, Bomba Fruit, Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery, Spare Sword, Kharé Gate Key no. 12.

Spell Components: Flute, Goblin Teeth (4), Giant Teeth (1), Beeswax (1).

Special: I can call on Libra again. I didn’t do it in the first book, but it doesn’t accumulate like other items. Dammit. I also have the ability to name-drop some guy called Vik in some situations in the city. Oh and I might bump into someone who is grateful I didn’t kill him…

Onward to Adventure!

So picturesque! Until you realise those birds flying overhead are vultures.

This is going to be so awesome!

Well, there’s Kharé down the hill. A dirty nasty dump full of evil people who would kill me for my bootlaces. Well, good thing I don’t have to… wait, I do have to go in there. Dammit. At least I have the key to the city. I unlock the door and head on in. No-one is around so I stride ahead, and promptly get grabbed and thrown in the jail cell by the gate. That was fast. Most adventurers get thrown into jail after a few hours in a city. In the cell there’s a one-handed sorcerer, who tells me that I will need a spell to get out of the North Gate into the Baklands.

Why am I always being thrown into jail in these books?

Awesomeness so far: -200

“Do you know this spell?” I ask.

“No, only the First Noble of Khare knows the entire spell. But worry not, brave adventurer, for I can tell you that lines of the spell are four in number and-”

“Are each known by a prominent citizen of Khare and thus I may be able to find the spell after all though it will be a difficult task to find them in this dangerous city?” I finish for him.

“How did you guess?”

“Just a feeling.” I say as I turn to the cell door and magic it open.

Outside the old man strides away up the road to the right, while I’m left trying to decide where to go. I decide to opt for left, and carry on up the road. Unfortunately there’s some guards coming the other way so I duck into the nearest hut. It’s an opium den. I try in vain to get some information out of the elves inside but all they can do is vaguely motion me further along the road. Okay, whatever. I carry on past a fountain and a horse and find myself in midget town, where I visit the local store. I buy some gauntlets, a vial of dust, and a honeycomb with enough beeswax to last me for the whole trip to Mampang. The gauntlets are magical combat aids, and the vial actually contains sand which might come in handy later if I need to conjure up some quicksand.

Further up the road I find a grotesque statue wearing a gold locket outside a hut. The hut looks interesting, so I check inside. It’s full of bones. Probably human bones. Oh, okay, this is turning out great. I search around and turn up 15 gold pieces and a bracelet of knucklebones, which I take. As I leave I notice the statue has turned around and it’s looking at me. That’s odd. I cast a spell that lets me control creatures, and order it to give me the golden locket it’s wearing. Inside is a sun jewel, which is handy for spell casting. If this is the best this city can throw at me I’m not too worried.

As I wander the streets looking for a sign that says “NORTH GATE SPELL LINE HOLDER THIS WAY” I come across the local fairground. It’s rather noisy, full of all kind of ne’er-do-wells. For example, that assassin who tried to kill me in the Shamutanti Hills. He happens to know where someone with one of the lines for the spell lives, and takes me there before disappearing into the crowds to no doubt shank someone and take their gold. Whatever. I knock on the door of the house and am greeted by Lortag the Elder, sage, schoolteacher, and spell-line-knower. He will tell me the line if I can decipher some runes for him. It’s a trivial task. I am rewarded with the spell line and a green wig, which is rather dusty but will do for spell casting.

Further up the road I stop to look at the magical fires created by someone calling himself the Firemaster. They are boring, but he suggests I take a look at the “special” fire inside his hut. It’s a fire with no heat and also it’s totally not burning the chest in the flames. The Firemaster is outside so I cast a spell that negates magic and steal the contents of the chest and then get out of there with a quick “well it’s very nice, but I already have so many magical fires at home…”

I wander the streets. It’s very odd how everyone happens to have spell components in their houses. Maybe they are bait for spellcasters? If they are, then the traps probably shouldn’t be ones circumvented by simple magic. Maybe they’re bait for people who want to sell spell components to spellcasters? As I ponder such conundrums, I find myself back at the fair. I try out a bizarre cabinet which has random prizes and luckily win a talisman that makes me even more lucky. Score.

Cabinet of STUFF!

The booby prize is a minimite.

A few turns in the road and I’m outside a chapel. I wander in and find I’m in the chapel of the god of malice, who probably lives in an evil chasm somewhere.

This religion's golden rule says something about burning people's houses down for fun.

This religion’s golden rule says something about burning people’s houses down for fun.

Slangg’s high priest will ask anyone a question and if they can answer it correctly then they are granted one wish. By the god of malice. Okay that’s certainly shady. But simple maths puzzles are no problem, and if the malicious one wants more followers then maybe he should set calculus problems instead. I get a line of the north gate spell for my feats of amazing mathematical skill and head out into the mean streets. Outside the temple it’s getting dark, so I ask for directions to the nearest inn. When I arrive at the Wayfarer’s Rest it turns out to be a rowdy tavern and inn on the waterfront.

The innkeeper subscribes to the "pile of drunkards" school of tavern organising.

The innkeeper subscribes to the “pile of drunkards” school of tavern organising.

Inside I bump in to the assassin Flanker as he’s on his way out the door with some other shady types. He’s won big at the gambling halls and he gives me some of the winnings. Clearly he’s also drunk, but free gold is free gold and I’ll not argue when the prices here are exorbitant. Four gold for a meal? With no vegetarian option? It better be good. I give it a try… It isn’t actually too bad, come to think about it. The meat is certainly tasty. I finish up, get good and drunk, and then pay for a room for the night, which sets me back another four gold pieces.

I wake up to this:

Obvious trick number 372: When it's pull or release, pull is obviously the one people will choose.

Of all the women to wake up in bed with after a night of hard drinking, Madame Guillotine is one of the least attractive options.

The innkeeper has rigged up a deathtrap while I slept. This really is ridiculous.

“So uh, you guillotine the guests and cook them?”

“Muahahaha! Yes!”

“So I ate human flesh last night?”

“Muahahaha! Yes!”

“It wasn’t that bad, actually.”

“Muahahaha! Yes!”

“Are the exorbitant prices are because you don’t get a lot of repeat customers?”

“Muahahaha! Ye- wait a minute, don’t be a smartarse.”

I quickly assess the pulley system and release the rope, which makes the guillotine blade rise up.

“Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just cut people’s throats while they sleep?”

“Muahahaha, yes,” says the innkeeper dejectedly as he wanders off, leaving me free to untie myself and get the hell out of there.

On the other side of the Jabaji river I find myself in a little community full of spindly people with their eyes closed. This is probably extremely magical stuff, so I’m keen to avoid an approaching gang of surly youths. I weave through some side streets and duck into a hut. It’s full of miscellaneous stuff, and occupied by a gnome who offers to barter with me. I figure that I can offload some of my junk for some new junk, and take a seat and start rummaging in my backpack. In fact, as I rummage around I cast a spell on my spare sword to make it look like a pile of gold, and offer to exchange it for two of his items. I take a large backpack which will let me hoard more spell components with ease, and also an Enchanted Compass of North Gate Spell Line Holder Finding, which seems like it might be kind of handy if I miss the last person with the line.

Back out on the mean streets I find a fork in the road. The right way leads a short distance to the Gambling Halls of Vlada, and the left seems to lead out of town. In the middle of the road is a large bronze statue with a bucket of gold coins at its feet. Hmmm. What’s the bet that if I take the gold it will come to life?

This is one of those obvious traps that people simply cannot resist because hey, fighting a giant bronze statue! Who doesn't want to do that?

This is one of those obvious traps that people simply cannot resist because hey, fighting a giant bronze statue! Who doesn’t want to do that?

Pretty good odds, as it turns out. I’m not taking any crap from a giant statue, and throw my vial of sand at its feet and turn the ground to mud. I decide to waste a gold coin in the gambling halls and then head back outside to find a market being set up. While I have immense self control over gambling, I have none when it comes to shops selling weapons and equipment, and I walk away with a bow and silver-tipped arrows, tinderbox, some anti venom, and a pile of provisions.

Further along the road I find a cemetery. There’s a crypt which apparently holds the remains of the Fifth Noble of Kharé. Maybe there’s a spell line scribed on the wall or something. However, in front of the door is a shimmering black circle on the ground. I’ve seen a few of these, and wonder what the hell it is. I cast the handy dandy threat assessment spell and it tells me to not risk jumping over the circle, and to make sure I’ve got some gear ready before going inside. Gosh, I wonder if I’ll need this bow and arrows I bought earlier in a crypt?

Inside I head downstairs and witness a ghostly white ghost rise up from the sarcophagus.

I'm like this with Jehovah's Witnesses.

I’m like this with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Despite my cynicism I’m too scared to cast a spell, and instead resort to shooting arrows at the deathwraith. It goes down like a thing that falls down easily, and then another ghost comes out of the coffin. It’s the now un-cursed Fifth Noble of Kharé, and he gives me the third line of the spell and tells me to look for someone called The Sham in the Baklands. I thank him and head back up to daylight. I wander past a wishing well that babbles couplets at anyone passing, and give a gold piece to a blind old beggar. Immediately a pair of harpies fly down to attack him.

"If I had a gold piece for every time those harpies stole a gold piece from me then I'd... still have no gold? Um..."

“If I had a gold piece for every time those harpies stole a gold piece from me then I’d… still have no gold? Um…”

I use some magic to turn a coin into a shield and get stuck in with my sword. The beggar actually gets a lucky shot in on one of the monsters, and eventually we win. The blind man turns out to be the former Seventh Noble of Kharé, and he knows the last line I need. Or most of it. All he can remember is By Courga’s grace and someone’s pride” which is not really helpful. I can maybe find out who the missing person mentioned in the line is in the temple of Courga down the road. He gives me a silver ring that looks like a serpent to make up for not knowing the spell line.

The shrine of Courga is possibly the most ostentatious building in the history of gaudy architecture, but Courga is the god of pride, I suppose. I look around inside and notice a black circle woven into the carpet that seems to be a portal of some sort. I avoid it and then go up to the idol. It’s got some instructions for some kind of ritual involving kissing the statue. Ew. There’s probably no end to the germs on that thing, but I have no choice. I go through the ritual and ask the idol what the name of the god of pride is, get told it’s Fourga, and then I skip out to the North Gate. I trick the guard by speaking in their native tongue – they apparently think I’m from wherever that is and don’t realise I was casting a spell when I shoved the green wig on my head and babbled some magic words – and they let me up to the gate. All I have to do now is put the spell in the right order.

Oh, for pity’s sake. What the hell is the right order?

I figure the line with no numbers is last and put the rest in in the order I got them, and hope like hell I’m right as I say the spell. The gate opens! I give a quick prayer to Libra to heal me, and then set off into the Baklands…

Let's blow this popsicle stand!

Let’s blow this popsicle stand!

Wrapup

And so conclude my adventures in Khare, the only city in the world where the population heard about Port Blacksand and thought “We can do better than that!”

This is a lot easier than I remember, but then I kept getting shoved into a sewer when I was young. I always thought it was necessary for some reason. Ha ha, no sewer trip for me! This is a pretty good book for exploring a city, possibly better than City of Thieves for the non-linear nature and the multiple ways to backtrack. Kharé is perhaps better as a setting than Port Blacksand because there’s some slight background for the lawlessness and wicked ways of the citizenry, but Port Blacksand wins on style points, having more varied shops and some really crazy encounters. Kharé is more of a run-down dump though, without any real law and order so it feels like a chaotic city where everyone is out for themselves and struggling to get ahead. I think it’s great that there’s two settings that are on the surface the same but ultimately come across as so different. For both books the illustrations and writing work together to convey it.

Woe is me, I never got to show off the Vik “spell” – which goes to show that it’s more of a special option for warrior-types to get out of a jam that a wizard would cope with easily. I do mean easily: The spells are at their most useful in an environment where there’s locks and traps everywhere. There’s a lot of use for utility spells in this one, possibly more so than the first book. Well, I suppose I’ll be seeing how things go in the next adventure.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: Why do they have guards on the north gate in the first place? It’s a magically sealed gate with a ghost made out of sulphur trapped inside to attack anyone who tries to open it.

Ridiculous Battle: Nothing ridiculous in terms of sheer overpowered opponents, but more in fairness. It’s a toss up between two scenarios. The deathwraith is ridiculously dangerous: You either have to win a couple of attack rounds to get the option to pray to Libra to kill the monster, or you have to have the bow and silver arrows, which involved winning an attack round and then testing your skill each time to see if you can hit with an arrow. Cruel! It’s only Skill 9 and Stamina 8, but imagine being a wizard in that fight. I used luck in that particular battle, since a luck of 13 makes me guaranteed to get four damage on the first two hits. Remember that wizards have an initial Skill score between 5 and 10, so basically this is game over if you don’t have some good bonuses.

On the other hand, the beggar only gives you the line if you give him some gold and then kill the harpies before they kill him. This means that once again a wizard is in deep trouble, unless you’ve got a super-high luck score: casting the Dum spell is the best bet, it takes out one of the harpies and then you can decide the other doesn’t attack him. But it requires a luck test! If he dies, no north gate spell for you… unless you backtrack and let him magically come back to life through the miracle of gamebooks not dealing with loops very well.

Victory: You get to feel smugly satisfied that you didn’t get killed by a Sulphur Ghost. And then realise you’re only halfway through the books and you’re going to have to take out seven super-powered opponents before you’re at the fortress.

What Was I Thinking? Getting that compass from the gnome. It’s mostly for people who don’t know what to do to get to the end of the book safely. As in, if you get to the gate guards without the last line of the spell you just turn to the right page and there you go.

If you want you can read the running tally of ADVENTURE.

The adventure continues in The Seven Serpents.

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!

The Shamutanti Hills

“What do you mean, go and save the gi- huh? Kill the cave demo- Wait, what’s that ho- oh shi-“

The Shamutanti Hills by Steve Jackson

Covers: John Blanche, Mel Grant.

Illustrations: John Blanche

Now that is a fantasy landscape. Get out of the way, Manticore, you're blocking the view!

Now that is a fantasy landscape. Get out of the way, Manticore, you’re blocking the view!

This is the first book in the epic saga by Steve Jackson which makes for a serious and hardcore adventure. The goal is to recover a magic crown that gives people who wear it leadership powers. The evil Archmage of Mampang is going to use it to unite the lawless land of Kakhabad and invade all the other kingdoms, who will be powerless to defeat an army of evil from the Verminpit at Earth End. This is a bit of an embarrassment for the people of Analand, whose ruler had the Crown of Kings at the time. The other good nations of the Old World were a bit pissed that the artefact they’d been passing around was stolen. Well, I guess someone better trek across Kakhabad and get it back…

Wait, hang on, there’s a gimmick isn’t there? Yes, in this one there is: Magic. None of that Citadel of Chaos stuff where there’s a bunch of spells and you use them up and it’s mostly an exercise in having the right one. Here, if you choose to play a wizard, you get to cast spells from a list and often there’s more than one right answer. They cost stamina so it’s easy to overreach and die later because you tripped on a rock or something. This is supposed to be the “advanced” game but I think the warrior option – standard Fighting Fantasy rules – is a lot harder since as a wizard you only need to fight a couple of opponents. Oh I guess if you roll low for Skill you’re dead meat: Wizards only get 1d6+4 so it is apparently possible to roll so low that you have to take a narrow path picking up combat aid items for the few times you have to fight.

All right, enough mucking about. Time to trek across an entire country, save the world, and get some neat souvenirs!

Statistics

Skill: 8 (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!)
Stamina: 18 (AAAAAAAAAAAAH!)
Luck: 12 (That’s more like it!)

Equipment: Sword, leather armour, backpack, 2 provisions, 20 gold.

Special: I can call on Libra, the goddess of justice, for aid. She can restore all my stats, cure curses and diseases, or help me escape from deadly peril. But I can only do so once between Analand and Kharé.

Oh, and if I don’t eat and sleep each day I suffer penalties. This is a serious adventure, people!

Onward to Adventure!

I stay up late the night before my journey, studying my spellbook. I’m not going to be allowed to take it, so of course I’m paranoid I’ll forget all the spells about thirty seconds after stepping through the Great Wall of Analand and into the Shamutanti Hills. I tried to convince the local wizards to give up their spell components for the cause but they refused, the selfish gits. “Sorry, we don’t have any goblin teeth to spare,” said one, trying to prevent me seeing past him into the room where I could hear a groaning goblin. I think he was hiding some pliers behind his back, too. Oh well. I eventually go to bed, but have nightmares about my magical powers being drained away and having to survive by the sword. In the morning I think that was a foolish dream. I’ll be fine, really. I pack my supplies and get ready to head out. On this mission I have got the backing of all of Analand. That means two cheese sandwiches, and 20 gold pieces. It’s sort of like they think I’m going on a field trip. In a way I am going on a field trip…. TO CERTAIN DOOM!

My, what big eyes you ha- Yeah, okay, that's a tired joke.

My, what big eyes you ha- Yeah, okay, that’s a tired joke.

The guards at the wall – they have magical vision, which seems kind of handy – tells me that the whole region I’m going into is a lawless and evil place, which seems a bit redundant. But he does manage to tell me that there’s three routes from the nearest village to Kharé, and from the city I get to travel across the Baklands, which is a place where the lawlessness of the land even extends to the cycle of day and night.

This is going to be awesome.

I set off, still wondering why no-one would give me more than a couple of meal’s worth of provisions, a measly 20 gold, and no armour. The populace of Analand must really trust in my skills. I wish I could. I soon come to the village of Cantopani, where someone asks me my business there. I tell him I’m a trader and I get pointed towards the local merchant. There’s some interesting stuff there. I buy a bag of teeth, a musical pipe, and a battle axe. The bag of teeth has some goblin and giant teeth, and with the musical pipe I’m kitted out for some handy spells now. The axe used to belong to someone called Glandragor and has a number carved into it, so maybe I’ll find him and give it back. What are the odds of that, though? Next to nothing, I’ll bet.

On my way out of the village some bandits attack me. Or they try to. I just whip out my new flute and pied piper them back to the village with a spell and then carry on my merry way until I reach the fork in the road outside the village. As I stand there dithering I realise there an old man in a tree, apparently placed there by some Elvins. I help him down and am given a page from a spellbook for my trouble. As he hobbles off I notice there’s a beehive in the tree. I’m feeling brave, so I climb up and grab it. The bees somehow fail to sting me, and I make off uphill with some honey and the beeswax. It’s a lovely walk in the hills, not nearly so dangerous as I expected. As the sun sets I make camp and go to sleep…

Night Creatures: Creatures of the Night.

Here come the niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight creaaaaaaaaaaaaaatures!

…and am rudely woken by a werewolf which I see off with a costly spell. Clearly Night Creatures are going to be an ongoing problem when camping out in the Shamutanti Hills. In the morning I trek onward only to find a crossroads with a lot of heads on poles, and a big X on a tree. There’s a path downhill to the left or uphill to the right. I suppose uphill is better since if I have to flee it will be easier to do so running downhill. This is called tactics. I travel upwards only to find a clearing full of goblins, who are hauling rocks out of a cave. I sneak into the mine to see what can be found. What can be found is an angry goblin. Who doesn’t respond well to lightning. I grab a silver key from the goblin and head onwards through another door, only to have the roof cave in. I run ahead and fall into a pit, but my magic saves me from hitting the ground. At the bottom of the pit I find some boots, which are always handy. There’s also a way out.

I wander down the hillside and eventually find a small village called Kristatanti. The local alehouse seems like a good stop after my adventures in the mines.

Trick question coming up!

Trick question coming up!

I buy a drink and the barkeep asks me where I’m from.

“I’m from Analand,” I reply.

“And what?” he says with a smirk, and everyone in the tavern laughs. I hate my country sometimes.

I do manage to get some information from a local about the way onward, as well as a magic fruit. Then I head off to the inn, which is exorbitantly expensive for an establishment in the hills of almost certain doom, but certainly provides a good night’s rest. The next day I have to pick my way onwards, and I head westward, eventually coming to a junction which will take me straight on to Dhumpus, or west to Alianna. I heard about her, and think paying a visit might be interesting.

Her cottage is very picturesque. I knock on the door and get no reply, so I go in and find she’s locked in a cage. Apparently the Elvins did this. I don’t really think too hard about why she had the cage in the first place, but magic the door open for her. She offers me a choice of magical items or an aid in combat. I opt for the latter and get something called Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery, which might come in handy if I ever have to get into a proper battle. Unfortunately Alianna is bonkers, and she turns a chair into a wood golem to attack me.

I see you wish to play musical chairs! I will oblige you! Ha ha!

I see you wish to play musical chairs! I will oblige you! Ha ha!

I respond by producing my flute and casting the Jig spell, making the golem dance to my tune instead of Alianna’s. With the chair monster occupied, I back out the door and head for the town of Dhumpus. Thanks to my buying everything I found on the way into the hills I’m too poor to stay at the inn, so I camp outside the village and then make my way onward at dawn. The next town is… well… they have a crow tied to an overhang and everyone looks like they’re about to drop dead. I think this place might not be the best to hang out in, so I hurry onward. Further on, in the late afternoon, I come across a large village. Plus some pixie thing which wants to have a chat. The creature is a minimite called Jann, who thinks I’m going to be pleased with his company.

For pity's sake, put some pants on.

For pity’s sake, put some pants on.

The village is called Birritanti, and is in the throes of one of those irritating festivals where the underdogs get to behave like idiots for a day. In this case it’s the local children. I decide to go and have a drink at… Glandragor’s Tavern. Hey, what are the odds of that? He’s rather pleased to get his old axe back, and gives me a free pass for the local attraction, the Crystal Waterfall. I also get a spare sword, a free mug of ale, and told to look up someone called Vik in Kharé, who is apparently an old friend of the Glangrador’s and has some influence in the city. Though from what I’ve heard how anyone can have influence in a city like Kharé is beyond me.

The waterfall is sort of like the local therapeutic spring, which doesn’t do me much good since I’m not in need of healing but at least I am getting to take my mind off the mission. Then I camp down outside the town, and in the morning move on westward. I’m immediately attacked by an assassin looking to practice his swordplay. Well, that’s fine, I want to practice my magic…

It's not really assassinating someone to kill random travellers and take their money, is it?!?!

It’s not really assassinating someone to kill random travellers and take their money, is it?!?!

…but it doesn’t work. Jann yells at me that minimites are protected by an aura of anti-magic. THE HELL? He didn’t mention that before now? I draw my sword for the first time on this journey and get to it. The black clad bandit assassin psychopath puts up a good fight but I get in a couple of blows and then he surrenders. He’s called Flanker and is a bit embarrassed by all this, and says that he will remain a friend to me when I get to Kharé. I suppose the more allies I have in that city, the better. Flanker disappears into the undergrowth and I carry on, asking Jann if all minimites are bastards or if he’s just special like that.

Further up the trail an old woman sitting outside her cottage calls me over. Now, I don’t know about you but this seems slightly suspicious to me. An old woman, living in the dangerous and lawless Shamutanti Hills, happens to live on the trail and wants to have a chat to any passing sword-wielding ne’er-do-well? Probably a witch or sorceress or enchantress or something like that. Which means she’s got magic stuff! She claims she’s lonely living in the hills and offers me some tea.

I totally don't see a problem here...

I totally don’t see a problem here…

She bustles back to the kitchen for the teapot and I glance down at the cups. If she’s a shady character she’s drugged my tea, but would also expect me to be suspicious and give me the safe cup because a shady person would assume everyone else is like them. But what if she’s expecting this and it’s the other way around? Argh, ouch, my brain hurts… Whatever, I’ll just drink the tea. It’s pretty good. Hers seems to be kind of bad because she’s shaking and becoming sleepy. Haha, hahahaha. HAH. She bustles off to the kitchen and drinks the antidote, and then asks if I’ve met an old man with a spellbook page. I have, in fact, and offer it to her. She’s ecstatic, and offers to cast the spell. It’s a pest removal spell and even works on minimites. Oh, yes bloody please! Goodbye, annoying little sprite, hello magic powers! Gaza Moon is a nice enough old bat when you get to know her, and when she’s not trying to poison you.

I carry on, free of the annoying Jann, and finally reach Torrepani, which is a village of orc people called the Svinn. They’re a bit gloomy due to some kind of ancient curse that says if the chieftain’s line ever ends their village will be destroyed, and the only heir has been taken away and chucked in a cave with a manticore. Which I’d heard from Glandragor, but it’s always good to get the news from the source. Then they realise I’m a badass adventurer and throw me in a locked hut. The next day they tell me I’m being thrown down a cave to rescue the comely lass who was kidnapped. I am so surprised by this I will probably die from being surprised and the doctors of Analand will have to make up a new listing in the Big Book of Ways Adventurers Can Die.

Once in the cave I go left and left again, and find the Svinn woman who was kidnapped. Okay, so far so simple. The hard part is the manticore just showed up.

"Can you add more gore, and a dismembered torso?" "I thought you'd never ask!"

“Can you add more gore, and a dismembered torso?” “I thought you’d never ask!”

I immediately cast a spell to slow it down to a more manageable pace, and then hurl a fireball at it. It’s not very happy, so I summon a magical wall and run out of there (so heroic!) dragging the girl with me. Back at Torrepani everyone is happy and I get given some gold and a key to the city of Kharé. I also get magically healed and sent on my way the next day with the feeling that I’ve probably had it easy so far…

Usually I get given gold for killing orcs.

Usually I get given gold for killing orcs.

Wrapup

Summary!

The trick in this book isn’t really a trick for the book so much as an accumulation of bonuses for the next book (and others if you’re kind of lucky). It’s a good read though, and the lightweight adventuring means it’s a walk in the park for the experienced reader, but it’s a whole lot fairer than some of the later books. The truth is I love this book for the way it’s just an exploration exercise. Sort of like an Elder Scrolls game but with that Fighting Fantasy style which seems quite unique these days.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: In a world of magic, why haven’t the wizards gone and stomped all the minimites into a smear on the pavement yet?

Ridiculous Battle: The manticore is Skill 12 Stamina 18, but of course only a warrior has to fight it (and can potentially have a pretty good set of bonuses to make this fair). A wizard can totally mess it up with magic… providing she’s got enough stamina to survive casting the spells.

Victory: Fully healed and cured of curses and diseases, 10 gold, a key to the city of Khare, and a one-point increase to the initial luck score. Oh, and if you still have Jann he gets banished. I hate minimites.

What Was I Thinking? FLAWLESS VICTORY! Well, almost. There’s an item that makes one of the later books a lot easier that I didn’t get. I suppose we’ll see how that turns out later…

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.

%d bloggers like this: