Sunday, May 15, 2011

Planescape: Torment, part 2

Perhaps if I did more of these entries in a stream of consciousness way, rather than attempting some form of structure, I wouldn't have 5 partially written posts as yet unposted. I'll just get my impressions of the characters out of the way here, and move on to my Planescape experiences.


Hey! Chattering's my best trait!

Morte is a loyal, obsequious follower, who seems like a true-blue friend. I thought it might be annoying to have a yes-man following me around calling me "chief" and "boss", but in truth I find Morte to be quite likeable. There was a time that I started to distrust him, when I found out he had deliberately omitted reading part of the tattoo on my back, which warned me not to trust him, but all that was swept away when I recovered memories of the former self that had pressed him into service in the first place. It's a shame there was no option to try to make amends for that, nor any way to even acknowledge that I remember it.

Considering how many times I've been on this quest, judging from certain people who remember my earlier attempts (such as Pharod), Morte is conspicuously silent about things. Surely he should know some of the things and people I'm trying to find, and where to find them, since he's been accompanying me for years. I'm going to attribute it to fear and dread on his part, though. Having seen some of the things that have happened on previous attempts, and having weathered certain stormier "inspirations" of mine, it's understandable that he would be loath to help me lead us right back into that mess.


Ach! Never have I seen something so ugly, I've not...

Annah's first action in the game is to casually send you off to an alley that could get you killed. That, and her insults, foul mouth, and ill temper, did not endear her to me. I kind of like the way her rat tail calls attention to her buttocks by constantly whipping around, though.

Once I jumped through all the hoops necessary to get her to join the party, I found that Annah makes a good thief, finding and disarming traps, unlocking chests and doors, and backstabbing from the shadows. I've even been able to kill some enemies with her alone, backstabbing them, then running around a corner to hide in the shadows again, then backstabbing them again while they stand there wondering where she went. I'm not a big fan of the fact that her "daggers" are actually "punch daggers", though, which makes her feel more like a brawler than a rogue in fights.


Endure. In enduring, grow strong.

Dak'kon strikes me as the archetype of the wise kung fu master, except that he uses a sword. He's supposed to be elderly according to the dialogue, but I really can't tell with the badly lit 3D portrait of him, and at any rate he's a perfectly competent warrior/mage. I've enjoyed taking his little tests to unlock new spells from his Circle of Zerthimon, though in general I prefer the normal spells. There are generally normal spells with identical effects as his, but the normal ones have icons that you can identify at a glance, whereas all of his spells are circle icons which are identical aside from slight colour differences.

In personality, he seems pretty benign. Not very interesting to have around aside from the Circle tests, but with no particular bad habits, unless you count his constant emphasis on the word know.


You are all tallow for my flames.

Ignus is criminally insane pyromaniac, made especially dangerous by being a mage with a direct connection to the elemental plane of fire. I have not yet met another character in the game who is more pathologically evil than Ignus. He burns both personal and public property and living human beings for fun, looks forward to killing us all (and constantly informs us of this plan), and even gleefully incinerated his girlfriend who had been waiting for him to be freed. Perversely, he's listed as "chaotic neutral" with the justification that he's insane. Not a good enough reason. Garrick the bard and Quayle the gnome from Baldur's Gate were chaotic neutral, and they were miles away from homicidal maniacs!

But, I understand there are few D&D topics that inspire more arguments than the alignment system. For instance, do we classify characters by their intents, or by their actions, or both? A character like Dexter (from the eponymous TV series) I would classify as lawful evil, because he is a homicidal psychopath with no empathy, and the sole reason he restricts himself to only killing other killers is because he is bound to the laws handed down to him by his father. But this is open to much debate, since even though he slavishly follows a set of rules or laws, he is not following the laws of the land, and even if his actions result in fewer serial killers in the world, which is a form of justice and protection of the innocent, it is also vigilantism, and I don't think it would be wise to trust a homicidal psychopath's judgement in life or death matters.

So, I would certainly classify Ignus as chaotic evil, not neutral, based on his homicidal desires, his destructive actions, and the pleasure he takes in it all. He's like a tanar'ri.

One last thing about Ignus: I don't know if this was an error on the part of the developers, or if they intentionally spelled it that way, but it should be "Ignis" (Latin for "fire"), not "Ignus".


A lady must have her secrets.

I don't know much about how the romances are supposed to play out for this game, but I thought at first that I would be romancing Fall-From-Grace. She was the one who comforted me as I was in tears after regaining my memory of betraying Deionarra. She's a Sensate and a succubus (which both spell "sensual" to me), and a nice person, whereas Annah is foul-mouthed and angry all the time. But there never seemed to be any romance starting with Grace. The closest it ever got was when I was able to say I imagined kissing her when I was kissing Ravel, and she brushed it off by saying that it's a good thing I didn't, since a succubus' kiss will kill a man. Er...okay, but there are other things one can do in a romance besides kissing (things which I've been led to believe that succubi are good at), and there is of course the fact that death is not permanent for me. So what's the problem? It seems pretty short-sighted that there is no response available for her statement other than changing the subject, with the option of seeming flustered when I do it (and being flustered at such an idea seems entirely inappropriate for my character).

The rest of the time, all I can do is try to ask her how she feels about me, and she only says "A lady must have her secrets." Alas, Grace is proving far too prim and proper and hard-to-get, and Annah recently burst out her formerly bottled-up tsundere crush on me, which painted her in a whole new light. So, Annah is my romance, against my initial expectations, though it remains to be seen if anything will come of it beyond a singular impassioned kiss and some biting.

Sigil's Hive

Jumping back a bit in time from some of the events I mentioned in the character descriptions, it was a relief to get out of the Mortuary and into the Hive, despite its name and ugliness. Here, I was free to explore and talk to people without having to sneak around. The first person I met there was, strangely enough, someone who could get me back into the Mortuary if I so wished, either by me playing dead, or by actually letting him kill me. I declined the offer, and really couldn't see any reason I'd want to get back in there. Additionally, since I had just woken up from death with no memories and no possessions, I was wary of dying again, thinking I would lose experience points, stats, or even quests! I also took to heart the warning tattooed on my back that said:

And whatever you do, do not tell anyone who you are or what happens to you, or they'll put you on a quick pilgrimage to the crematorium.

The little cutscene that played after I left the Mortuary, showing my slab being surrounded by shadowy wraiths, also indicated that someone powerful was looking for me, and so it was always a surprise when I would see dialogue options that would allow me to reveal my secrets. It also didn't make sense to just keep walking around the city dressed in nothing but the loincloth I was wearing on the mortuary slab if I wanted to remain incognito, but since I'm unable to actually wear anything outside the Mortuary (the Dustman robes I picked up in there were helpfully auto-dropped on the doorstep by the game, so as not to tempt me, I guess), I just have to hope that no one takes much notice of a near-nude grey-skinned hulk of a man, covered with scars, being followed by a floating skull.


The Hive seemed to be full of Dustmen, though that may be due to the location of the Mortuary. The Gathering Dust Bar is probably meant to serve as their hangout after working hours. After my experience in the Mortuary, I tend to see the Dustmen as enemies, or at least dangerous, and their philosophy is pretty repugnant as well. Obsessed with the alleged futility of life, and embracing death, these people wouldn't be so bad if they just followed their reasoning to its conclusion and killed themselves, but apparently misery loves company, because they're also compelled to spread their childish philosophy like a disease to infect as many as possible before they go out.

At least there was one in there that might break free of their hold, since he was right there on that precipice of wanting to die, but being unable to commit suicide. When he hired me to do it, I made as if to do it, then released him when he struggled, with a wry "Changed your mind?" I was pleased to see that the game even let me deliver a stern lecture to him afterwards, and leaving him to think "Hmm, actually, I do rather enjoy being alive. Maybe this doctrine is wrong."

Another offense of the Dustmen is their selling of Dead Contracts, where they offer to pay a pitiful amount of money in exchange for the rights to raise the contractee's corpse as a zombie slave worker in their mortuary, which is described as a kind of living hell. And this being the Hive, where life is cheap, signing such a contract seems like a way to quickly meet with an "accident". Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to help a citizen who had made that mistake, since I couldn't pickpocket or negotiate with the contract owner for it (or I didn't think I could, anyway), and I wasn't inclined to homicide.

It's possible to join this faction, but I saw no reason to do so at the time. Now I realise that I missed out on some quests which one of them would have given me as a prerequisite for joining.

World-building info

I solicited information from a professional "tout", one of several who wander around these areas. Every time I see it, I read it as the French word "tout" (pronounced "too", meaning "everything"), though it's probably supposed to be pronounced to rhyme with "out", and is just a shortened form of the English word "touter". At any rate, they offer general information about Sigil and the planes for those "clueless" who may have never seen planes of existence beyond the Prime Material before.

Morte had some things to say about Sigil as well, such as it being a crossroads connecting all other planes, and that the city of Sigil is located at the top of an infinitely tall spire. He expresses confusion on how there can be a top to something infinitely tall, but I think he fails to take into account that when you're talking about infinity, both directions are infinite. Thus, if we take Sigil as the origin point, and the spire is a ray projecting in one direction from that origin, the spire can reach infinitely far in the "downward" direction, where "down" is relative to the city of Sigil. In an infinite space such as this plane, it would be equally valid to say that Sigil is at the bottom of an infinitely tall spire, but since gravity seems to be pulling from below the city (which would be logical considering how much mass is below them), "at the top" is a better description, even if it makes the infinite spire more confusing.

Anyway, the touts provide some good background information for people like me who are unfamiliar with the Planescape setting, though it was very unclear how much of that information actually applies to this particular game implementation.

For being such a small map, this first section of the Hive is pretty densely packed with quests, so I think I'll save the rest of it for another post and end here.

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