Monday, December 13, 2010

Baldur's Gate, part 5

Finally, the promised fifth part of my Baldur's Gate saga. In the time since my last one, GOG has fortuitously enough released Baldur's Gate 2, along with many of the other RPGs that I've been talking about, including in the post about games similar to Baldur's Gate.

As it turns out, when I said in my last post that I was still in Chapter 3 of Baldur's Gate 1, I was actually just a few steps away from Chapter 4, which begins once you face the boss of the Bandit Camp. Officer Vai tells you to go there pretty much as soon as Chapter 3 begins, and it would have been a shame if I had done so immediately, as it would have made a very short chapter. Chapter 4 was short enough on its own, and I'm now in Chapter 5.

As mentioned before, I'm using Dudleyville's guide, because I want to avoid progressing through the chapters until I've done all the side quests that are available for those chapters. Some people do that just for the XP, but for me it's primarily so I can experience all the story and meet all the characters I can. Not that I couldn't do those quests after progressing, of course, but the game does relegate any quests aquired in a previous chapter to a secondary quest log, even if you haven't finished them yet.

A few of the side-quests have been rather emotional and moving to me in the way they were written. There was a side quest that you first hear about in Nashkel, about a former captain of the guard named Brage who has a bounty on his head for going on a murderous rampage that included killing his own family. Seems like "Rage" would have been a better name than "Brage". But by the time I found him, I had actually forgotten about that quest, and didn't remember the name. All I knew was that his cousin Laryssa was begging me to try to help him, and so I did.

He was remorseful, and his actions were apparantly due to a curse. My dialogue options included summary execution, but Ajantis agreed with my personal inclination toward mercy, suggesting bringing him to the temple at Nashkel for treatment. As you may know, I have no love for paladins, but frequently they do what I also consider the right thing, and I thought it was best to forfeit the reward bounty and take him to the temple, since temples in this game's setting are the equivalent of hospitals, where actual healing takes place, and not just places to pray. The temple took him in, and tried to comfort his despair. Afterward, I saw that the sword he had been carrying was, in fact, cursed. It had very high enchantment benefits, but the curse was that the wielder would be stuck in a berserk state, and kill indiscriminately.

There probably should have been a dialogue option to explain this information to Brage after I identified the sword, so that he would know that the deaths on his hands were out of his control. But aside from that, it was a very satisfying quest.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of Baldur's Gate went very quickly, as the only new area to explore was the forest of Cloakwood, the site of the only working iron mine in the game's area (as far as I know). Here, there were druids, large numbers of spiders and ettercaps, and three new possible NPCs to recruit as party members: Coran, Eldroth, and Yeslick. Oh, and some crazy druid named Faldorn, so make that 4. It was also here that the random encounters started including wyverns and better-outfitted humanoids.

The spiders and ettercaps offered a challenge thanks to their poison and their web traps that can sometimes kill off several of my helpless party members. I have one free action item, and several spells and potions, but of course, you can't drink a potion if you're already ensnared, nor cast a spell. I may have to look into strategies for dealing with that sort of thing, but perhaps I'm already past it, since I've already reached chapter 5. The strange thing is that the spiders don't seem to have any ensnaring abilities on their own. Instead, the webs are triggered only as traps, which are set up in advance and can be detected and disarmed.

Eldoth was the first of the new NPCs that I met, and he seems the most interesting, even though I haven't found much use for a bard as a party member. Unlike the idealistic chaotic neutral bard Garrick, Eldoth is a neutral evil, pompous but smooth-talking freeloader who drifts to any new lover that can keep his coin purse full. Since he says he wants help getting his girlfriend Skie away from her father in Baldur's Gate, I'm thinking this is another inseparable pair of party members, since I know she's a thief. I hope not, because I really think there were already too many "buy one get one free" specials in this game. I sent him to wait at an inn, since the city of Baldur's Gate wasn't open to me yet, but I do want to bring him along later, when I head up there, so I can see his side plot.

I almost forgot to mention Shar-teel, another joinable NPC that I met back in Chapter 3. She's a chaotic evil barbarian fighter, and even the Happy Patch couldn't keep her happy. On my way to sell off some loot at the Friendly Arm, she complained about my party's high reputation. I told her that this is the way of most profit, since loot seemed to be her main concern, and she said words to the effect of "Fine, we'll see," but just as we arrived at the Friendly Arm she complained that this so-called "profit" hadn't arrived, and she left the group. Well, good riddance to her, anyway. Her personality was very unpleasant. She's also apparantly of the "evil is stupid" variety, equating random murder of innocent peasants as "profit", and ignoring the 30 thousand gold pieces I was carrying around and all the loot we were about to sell off. (It's up to 70K at the end of chapter 4.)

So Shar-teel's denial in the face of evidence that one can be both rich and helpful makes me happy to be rid of her. The ideas of "good" and "evil" here are difficult to understand, but I think they got it right with Viconia and Edwin, who get along fine in the group aside from occasional bickering. I'm not evil myself, but I'm definitely not lawful good like Ajantis. I don't do what I do because it's my "duty". In fact, I look out for myself as a priority, and I do good deeds when I feel like it. It's just that I happen to feel like it most of the time, when I have the means. How much good does it do for a pauper to give a portion of his meagre income to charity, when if you instead first seek to secure your own affairs, you can give so much more and help many others? As they say: to love others, you must first love yourself.

This is one reason I like keeping Ajantis around despite his constant blathering about his god Helm -- because of his reactions, acting like I'm a model of paladin virtue despite my world-wise dialogue options and my lack of condemning people for being human. At the end of chapter 4, he told me (I imagine with sparkling eyes and a puppy-dog grin):

"Your actions are in the true spirit of honour and righteousness! I am exulted to be in this group, and to fight at your side!"

I'm not sure what I did to make him fall all over himself like that. Possibly it was because I offered some gold to make sure some slaves escaped the mine, and then I abided by the wishes of the rightful owner of the mine, by flooding it. Perhaps also because I showed mercy to the ones in the mine who threw down their weapons and surrendered (I allowed them to leave).

So, back to the new NPCs. Coran was the second one I met, a chaotic good fighter/thief, and he just wanted to kill a wyvern for some reason. Profit, I think. He said the priest at the temple next to Beregost would pay high prices for the head of a wyvern. Well, I already had a wyvern's head from a random encounter, but the priest wouldn't acknowledge it. So I had to add this strange elf to my group and leave poor Imoen waiting again, just to get the money. And he only bought one. I booted Coran as soon as possible (his stats looked like crap anyway, and his personality seemed annoying) and took Imoen back. I don't need any thief but Imoen.

Yeslick was the last one I met (I'll get to the druid in a second), a prisoner in the mines under Cloakwood. Yeslick is a lawful good fighter/cleric, which is an interesting combination. I temporarily said goodbye to Viconia and tried out Yeslick doing cleric duty for the rest of the dungeon. Not bad, but not as good as Viconia. Not enough spells to allow him to do full group support and heals like she can.

Being a prisoner when I found him, he was in need of some armour and weapons, and from the clearing of the rooms and from all of the random sleep-interrupting encounters (almost every time!), there was plenty of gear lying around, so I pulled some plate off of a dead body, wiped some of the blood off, and handed it to him. (Really, you'd think that if a group of guards came across a small band of adventurers trying to take a little snooze on top of a very large pile of dead guards, they might stop, close the door, and pretend they didn't see anything. This was what it looked like after being woken several times from trying to rest by groups of guards.)

I like Yeslick's personality. His interjections are pleasant and non-annoying, and the NPC Project adds some charming interactions between him and Imoen, where she takes him as a grandfather figure. However, I don't think I can keep him, because his multi-class would cripple my party's healing and buff abilities, and I don't think I need more tanking, since Minsc and Ajantis are doing the job well. I'll go pick up Viconia again before I head to BG City.

Shadow Druids: Terrorists of the Woods

The crazy druid girl Faldorn was the other recruitable NPC I met in this chapter. She's a member of this group of "Shadow Druids" in Cloakwood. Perhaps I shouldn't condemn all druids based on the example of her and her associates, but so far my impression of druids in Baldur's Gate has been rather negative, including normal druids such as Jaheira.

Now, I love the druids in WoW, who are also nature-based. My interaction with them and their culture during my time in Darnassus and Auberdine is a fond memory I'll long recall. By contrast, these arrogant, violent Shadow Druids seem to be what I would call "evil", despite their proclamations of devotion to the concepts of true neutrality and "balance".

And other druids like Jaheira are what I would call borderline psychopathic -- intentionally refraining from doing "too many" good deeds according to some nebulous quota, or abstaining from evil acts only because their rules told them not to, and not because they find such an act repugnant. Or, indeed, intentionally committing an evil act, not because it benefitted them, nor out of any heat of passion, but merely to serve this "balance". Jaheira made several statements expressing such a sentiment (though those lines may have been added by the NPC Project). Perhaps I can't call Jaheira's type "evil", but I can call them "dangerous".

Faldorn's portrait depicts her as a feral sort, her face twisted into a nasty scowl, her hands raised like gnarled claws. Her time in my party was brief -- only long enough to do her little side-plot with a man raising wyverns in a cave. It was mainly her associates that soured my experience with these druids. I met a man near a lodge who asked for help, fearing for his life. He was a snooty, egotistical sort, out in the woods on a hunting trip for sport, and he apparantly ran afoul of the local druids. They killed one of the hunter's old friends, and planned to come back to kill off the rest later.

Now, I found this hunter to be a bit of a jerk -- a pompous ass, you might say -- and I probably wouldn't care to work for him or associate with him in normal circumstances, but that's a far cry from saying he deserves to be murdered for hunting in the forest. I don't hunt, and I don't understand why anyone would want to, but I see little difference between their actions and what goes on in the forest as a matter of course. Especially in this forest, where the most common animals appear to be giant killer spiders, who snare victims in their hidden web traps, slinging painful, steadily killing poison. More than once I heard Imoen's pitiable wavery cry, "I feel so...cold..." after being attacked by these things -- here is Tennyson's "nature, red in tooth and claw." I have a hard time sympathising with the druids here.

So, right after Aldeth the hunter asked for my aid, along came Seniyad the druid and a gang of his fellow druid thugs, telling me to get out of the way so they can execute the guy like gangsters for dissing their hood. They also claimed that the hunters killed one of their gang during the same confrontation in which they killed a hunter, but it doesn't take much imagination to guess who shot first. There were only two dialogue options, and one of them was a flippant comment, expressing a lack of concern for human life, while the other one was more in line with my actual sentiments -- a kind of "Calm down and let's settle this peacefully".

Well, my impressions were pretty much confirmed when the druids took my plea for reasonable discourse as an excuse to murder the whole lot of us. Their subsequent deaths do not weigh heavy on my heart.

Faldorn didn't do anything extreme like that, and her dialogue was pretty mild by contrast, but I wasn't tempted to keep her in my party anyway.

Final thoughts about the mine:

The boss of the mine, Davaeorn, had a nice speech for my party when we stumbled into his room.

"Why have you come? Is it to steal my riches? Or perhaps you seek to righteously punish me for my affront to your morality. It matters little, for you will do neither."

After delivering those cool lines, he then proceeded to zip around the dungeon like Daffy Duck going "Hoo! Hoo-hoo-HOO! Hoo-HOO!" and wiped my party with a lightning bolt.

Attempt #2 went much better for me, and I was happy to find a present just for Edwin: The Robe of the Evil Archmagi! It's your birthday, Edwin! I've been wearing the Robe of the Good Archmagi that I bought from Thalantyr in High Hedge, but he didn't sell the evil variety. This one has an extremely high collar in the back, much like what Ming the Merciless wore in Flash Gordon, except angular where Ming's was rounded. I think it suits Edwin nicely.

This will probably be the last post illustrated with screenshots in 4:3 aspect ratio, as I've recently upgraded to a 16:9 monitor.


  1. The reason why Ajantis likes you so much is because you have a high reputation.

    And while I vageuly remember Shaar-teel, she couldn't have been a barbarian originally because that class was only added with BG2. I suspect that one of the mods changes her class and that makes her incopatible with the Happy Patch.

    As for your party, I think you pretty much already have your final composition. There's a few more recruitable characters but I don't think you'll like any of them enough to replace one of your standing party members.

  2. Yes, I know the technical reasons for Ajantis' fawning. :) I'm just having fun looking at it from a more story and real-world point of view.

    On Shar-teel, you're right. I just checked in-game, and she's a fighter, not a barbarian. I just saw the helmet and thought "barbarian". I'll correct the post. :)

    I've met the gnome mage now, and he has an interesting character, so I might give him a try as a replacement for Edwin.

    BTW, I looked into that Age of Decadence game you mentioned before, and it looks like a good thing in the making. Their forum also has some very interesting and in-depth posts about topics that I've been pondering and writing about lately. It'll take some time to go through them all.

    They need some non-brown screenshots, though.

  3. I fear most of their screenshots are going to be at least brownish due to the post-apocalytic nature of the game. But they do use other colors as well:,321.0.html

  4. That's terrible news.

    I think I'll write a brief post about the game, since it deserves its own spot to discuss it.