Sunday, May 29, 2011

Planescape: Torment, part 3

During this early part of the game in the Hive, many people asked my name during conversations. This stopped happening after the Hive, but while it was going on, amongst the options like "I don't remember" or "None of your business," I was often given the option to offer the name "Adahn". I don't know why that name in particular was a given option, but for all I know it could have been a subconscious memory of my actual name coming to the surface. Another possibility is that Adahn is simply one of the more common names in that setting, and would do as well as any other name in giving the person something to call me. I chose that option once or twice for the sake of not making people suspicious of me, as my earlier self had advised (recall "do not tell anyone who you are or what happens to you"), though other times I went ahead and tried seeing what the truth would get me (which was always more questions).

I read that giving the name Adahn is counted by the game as a chaotic act for the purpose of shifting my alignment, but I don't see why it should be. Even if all lies are considered chaotic acts (even if it would cause more chaos to tell someone that I don't remember my own name), the fact remains that I don't know whether the name came to mind because it's a faint memory or if it's a convenient grab, though the fact that it's the only name ever given in the options makes me favour the possibility of a memory, in which case it's not a lie. Not to mention that if you consistently identify yourself to people by a particular name, then that is your name in a real sense.

Highlights of the Hive

There was an elderly woman at the memorial in this section of town who delivered a rant against adventurers like us. There were a couple of similar adventurer-related speeches in Baldur's Gate as well, but this one would have better been left for a bit later in the game, because she refers specifically to a peculiarity of this game in particular. The player wouldn't necessarily have had time to notice that the standard opening line in conversation is "Greetings". If she'd been encountered in a different section of the Hive, it would have been better in that regard, though since the reason for her rant was the death of a loved one, I can see why they located her nearby the memorial outside the Mortuary.

More importantly, there were two NPCs at the memorial who are involved in quests. One of them was near the group of professional mourners (all of whom were male, though in the real world, professional mourners are usually female) called Death-Of-Names, who carves the names of the dead into the giant mass tombstone, and never makes a mistake. The dialogue seemed to imply that in a place like Sigil, where belief often makes things real, that if I were to have him scribe the name of a living person into the stone, it might kill them. I never attempted that, so I'm not sure if it was an intended implication. Perhaps it only meant that he can sense whether a person is dead or not.

Nearby, a woman mourned for her sisters, and gave a quest to kill some members of the gang who killed them, though she didn't seem to care if they were the exact same ones. The gangsters are part of the Chaosmen faction, though, and are called "Starved Dog Barking Thugs", so the world would probably be better off without any of them, anyway.

The Post is a nice, unique element in this part of town, standing in front of the bar. It's actually a zombie, being used as a kind of advertising post (and not as a parcel delivery service as I had originally thought) that has apparently been enchanted to point in the direction of any of the businesses who have attached their advertisements to its body, if a person speaks the name of the business. At first it seemed like a simple novelty with no real relevance to anything, but after I pulled a vandal's thrown cobblestone out of its head, I found a graffito of the name "Pharod" -- the man my back tattoos told me to look for. Speaking his name made the Post point in the direction I had to go, which was a welcome bit of information. It was already clear by this time that it was a fruitless endeavour to walk around town asking people if they'd seen a journal or knew where to find Pharod.

I'm not sure if the name was actually under the cobblestone I pried out, or if it was there to be read all along, but I believe it must have been under the cobblestone, because there doesn't seem to have been any other reason to pry it out of the zombie's head. Regardless, I was in no hurry to find Pharod and advance the main plot when there were still several other sections of the city to explore, especially since he was apparently located in a place called Ragpicker Square, which sounded worse that the other options. All the rags I've been finding have been dirty, used rags and handkerchiefs, and it's not like I could combine them with bottles of cheap liquor and make molotov cocktails or anything.

Across from The Post was Annah, standing around and calling out insults any time I passed by, noting my resemblance to a corpse. And she should know, too, since I found out later that she had brought my corpse to the Dustmen just prior to my waking up on their slab. Despite her abrasive personality, I still tried recruiting her, since I only had Morte in my party so far, but I couldn't find any way to get her to join up until later.

Annah (and many other NPCs) called Morte a "mimir", and Morte explained that it's a term for a "talking encyclopedia". I believe this is a reference to Mimir of Norse mythology, who owned a well whose waters bestowed wisdom (Odin himself exchanged one of his eyes for a drink from that well), and who had great knowledge and wisdom from drinking its waters himself. When Mimir was beheaded by the Vanir, Odin kept his head, which continued to issue wise counsel. No word on whether Mimir's head floated around of its own accord, though.

Dungeon crawl

The first dungeon experience of the game, if you don't count the Mortuary itself, is in this area, given by Norochj in the bar. He wanted me to find out why there were a lot of unexplained zombies in the nearby Mausoleum. The place didn't have a door, though, so it was only accessible via a portal to which he gave me the key.

It was a pretty short and simple dungeon. Just one level, and occasional undead. At the entrance a ghost spoke to me, and indicated that they were all restless because there was some other living person stirring things up in there, so I offered to investigate. The ghost agreed, but warned me that the other undead in the tomb would still attack me even though I was working for them. So, I made my way through the place, looting what minor treasure could be found there, and finally found a room where a wizard had set up shop.

Interestingly, it turned out that the wizard was only there because he needed some immortal's blood for alchemical or spellcasting reasons, and he'd been told by an oracle that he would find an immortal in the tomb. Not because there was any immortal in the tomb at the time, but because his presence there would ultimately lead to me investigating what was going on in there, in a situation reminiscent of Greek tragedies such as Oedipus Rex, wherein actions based on knowledge of a prophecy are the things that cause the prophesied events to occur. I also found the writing here to be particularly enjoyable, from the description of the handsome, immaculately coiffed necromancer, to the amusing difference in the dialogue options; self-righteous aggression vs. dry wit. I very much like it when a game doesn't require me to play dumb in order to squeeze a little more background information and interaction from the NPCs, though I do like having that option as well, for times when it might cause the adversary to underestimate me.

After this, there was a FedEx quest to deliver a message to someone in one of the other districts, given by a messenger who was apparently too confused to make it out of the small area he was pacing.

Thinking with portals?

A fetch quest with more flavour was given by a woman from the normal D&D dimension (Prime Material) named Ingress, who, true to her name, had found an "entrance" to Sigil, but didn't know how to summon the egress. Consequently, she has become a fulltime marathon runner, shunning any enclosure that might accidentally lead her into a much worse dimension after her first trial-and-error attempts left her scarred and mutilated.

Her story impressed upon me in this early part of the game that I should beware of portals, since they could be anywhere, and anything I carried, thought, spoke, or did might make me accidentally fall into one that I wouldn't be able to get out of. I had this in mind when I saw my first portal, on taking the Mausoleum quest from Norochj, and I wasn't sure if I should go in or not. This caution remained with me until it became clear that there would never be an accidental portal entry (they're all quite visible and audible), and that I would never automatically happen to have the key to a portal unless I was specifically told what it was. The one time there was a peril with portals was shortly after this, in Ragpicker Square, where there was a portal-related trap. I'll get to that later.


  1. I really like the story on this game from the pieces you post here. I might have to add this one later. Too many games to play!

  2. Wait until you see what I have to say about a couple of other games I've also been playing! Some to recommend highly, for certain. ^_^

  3. Really glad you've enjoyed Planescape Torment (and really sorry you couldn't complete it; the ending is wonderful, at least if you're playing a high-Wis, high-Int character).

    Regarding "Adahn" - walkthroughs that I've read suggest that if you tell enough people that's your name then you "believe" Adahn into existence!

  4. I've read that, too, but I didn't test it out.

    I do still have some PS:T journals to finish up from the parts I was able to play, so it's not over yet.