Part 11: Update 009 Nephar FortUpdate 009 Nephar Fort
"I think I know where this is going, but is everyone ready?"
"I suspect she does that deliberately."
"I suspect she is simply not a 'morning' person."
"Well, we follow the river north. And work from there."
"That's almost... picturesque."
"I have to agree. But now I wonder does the water come from above, draining out of some body of water on the surface, or is is raised from some underground aquifer through geothermal convection."
"An astute question. If it's the former, it may be possible to force ones way up through the water. But such an undertaking would be quite resource intensive; not to mention the possibility of the reservoir of water above us not being directly connected to the surface."
"You walking about the Verne Explorations?"
"I thought they used dead volcanoes? And they came no where near these caves, that some later expedition found them?"
"Maybe. The Verne Expedition did report large sections of underground ecology based around large bodies of water."
"They also said they discovered flying lizards and giant mushrooms and everything else. You know, I think they were just making stuff up to appease their sponsors."
"You doubt the validity of their statements? They were honoured professionals."
"Do you get any of this?"
"It keeps them from complaining about stupid things, and this is constructive banter."
"There are NO DRAGONS!"
"I'm not saying that they were. Just because they used the terms does not discount the possibility that they were in error, and what they saw at a distance appeared to be flying lizards."
"I got to agree here. Dragons were hunted to extinction due to how dangerous they were. One of the few policies of the Empire that everyone actually agreed with. If the Verne Expedition had encountered such creatures and lived to tell the tale, then the Empire would have mounted a proper army to kill the damned things. Hell, Garzahd himself would have led it."
"Can you please not mention him? Freak makes me shiver, and not in a good way."
"Could be worse. I've actually seen Hawthrone face to face."
"Which one? Second or third?"
"I don't believe you."
"What, you thought that crowd of his adoring populace was there because they wanted to be?"
"Do I really want to know?"
"Yet explain that doesn't explain the loss of the First Expedition!"
"They were sent in a time when the Empire was at peace! There was no context for their actions!"
"But have you heard the rumours about what they brought down here with them?"
"They brought an army with them! You can't just hide that sort of deployment."
"So maybe they did find a Dragon!"
"Um, were we supposed to circle around here like this?"
"I hear something..."
"As do I."
"You are our magic users. You tell us."
"There's something back here...."
"I find out who vandalized this, there will be BLOOD."
"Hey, explanation for those of us without magic?"
"See those broken crystals?"
"Some idiot came here, broke them without knowing what was going on, and now this entire place.... It isn't... isn't... It's.... come on, help me out here guys!"
"It is not whole."
"It's a festering wound, full of maggots and bile. We need to get out of here before I get sick."
"A nexus of magical energy, enough to upset half our party through its damage? Would it be possible to repair it?"
"Not without the pieces that have been broken off."
"You think finding them would be a good idea?"
"And here we are. Remember people, apparently sneaking in the front door is bad. So let's go look for side passages, OK?"
"And it's dark. Of course it would be dark. Why would the Nephil need bright torches when they can apparently see in the dark?"
"That sounded almost sarcastic."
"You mean the part where everyone can see us coming?"
"All the better to aim with!"
"Secret side passages please?"
"You know, it's actually very quiet back here. You think they're preparing to spring a trap on us?"
"Probably. I mean, unless they knew it was you coming, in which case they may let us have the honour."
* snerk *
"Give it a rest you two. Although I have to wonder what's up with Nephil forts and side passages? You'd think they'd seal them off or something."
"You really think that of all reasons we could have, the fire code is applicable?"
"Just throwing something out."
"What do you think our luck is like, that all the prisoners are in there?"
* knock * "Hey! Anyone in there?"
"Can anyone translate that? Duncan? Peregrine?"
"Something tells me we shouldn't open that."
"You mean that feeling of utter dread? I concur."
This door refused every attempt I made to open it. My notes don't go ahead far enough at this time to indicate if this is a plot-door or not, so I'm just going to leave it lay for now. If anyone in the thread cracked it open without a plot device, just say so and I'll come back here during cleanup.
"Let's just leave it. If it's important, we know we can sneak our way back in."
"Back entrance. They do know about these caverns, but they have chosen not to expand into them, or secure them or otherwise seal them off?"
"I'm thinking escape route now."
"I agree. We may be able to use this if we can sneak the Prisoners out the back way."
"I agree with that."
"We may have to have a fighting retreat though. I doubt the kitties will be nice at all."
"One problem guys."
"Once you've done realizing the obvious, how about we keep poking around to see of there's another hidden entrance, or something."
"Holy Gods, what the hells?"
"Calm down. We're human."
You see a thin man in ratty clothes. He lowers his sword when he gets a closer look at you.
"No offence, but I think Peregrine could take you in a slap fight. What's your name?"
"I'm Gordon. It's good to see you."
"While I would normally do something unspeakable to you for insinuating I would ever get involved in a physical confrontation, I have to agree with the assessment in general." He turned to look at Gordon. "You don't look like a soldier."
"I was a soldier in the Cotra militia. Then a bunch of us got captured. I got away, and've been trying to figure out how to rescue the others before the kitties finish them off."
"What have you learned in your plans for a rescue then?"
"The kitties won't keep them around for long. I know where they are, but there's that stupid portcullis, and the guards too."
"We saw the portcullis."
"You did, huh? I thought you may have come up my side of the fort, not the far side. Means you went past the crypt. Alright, the others are being held in the building just across from the gate." He pauses to think. "Just get those gates open, and we can make our escape."
"What about the guards?"
"Lots of 'em. Mostly around the front gate, a few in the big open area, not many around the prisoners. The problem is getting to them. I found a hidden tunnel, but..." He sighs. "They're always watching. It's near here, but they usually keep a guard stationed near there, on the other side. It'd be great if there was another, but if there is I haven't found it yet. Oh, be careful around that crypt."
"You've mentioned it before. You mean the place with the malachite writing on it? That's the crypt?"
"Yeah. I don't know what's in there, but the kitties seem afraid of it. I get a bad feeling about it, if you catch my drift."
"Understood. We'll see about making that rescue now."
"Let's finish off the survey of the caves around the fort before we try to get in."
"Oh no you're not..."
"Why must we investigate every trash pit we come across?"
"You have no idea how much stuff of value gets thrown out, do you?"
Meet Vapour Rats. They breathe on you to curse you, but otherwise aren't that dangerous. Except in packs. Then they'll do mean and nasty things to you.
"This appears to be that passage Gordon was talking about. Shall we?"
"No guards yet. Good start."
"Better check everything out. Don't want surprises leaping up at us."
Yet another example of hiding monsters behind a locked door. Thankfully, they don't respawn. And I'm tough enough to handle them for the most part. And then I walk around the corner into the main part of the Fort, and walk into THIS.
The Nephar fort is a major step up in difficulty, not only because of the quality of the enemies, but also because of the quantity. If you look at the log carefully, you'll see that Art has already killed one Shaman, but there are still two on the screen. In addition, they are capable of casting Level four spells (Group Slow) and other mean and nasty things.
They are also quite capable of friendly fire if it means dealing damage to the party.
But while there are a great many foes, the real problem is the spawn rate. This dungeon has an absurdly high rate of enemy spawns, and as will spawn anything up to and including Shamans randomly. You can't let your guard down at all, ever.
"I don't see any more!"
"That was most unpleasant."
"Well, I think this is where the Shaman's came from. Let's see here...."
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT TOUCH THIS. Taking that goblet summons forth a Haakai. What's one of those, you ask? It's the name the game uses for top-tier, boss-scale demonic enemies. I don't even want to think about taking one on by itself before I'm level 30. A Haakai Lord? Level 40 at least.
I'm level 7/6 at this point.
So naturally, I touched it.
It then, before I had a chance to enter combat mode, Flame Striked twice, wiping the party.
I had to go back to my last save. Back in Cotra at the start of the update.
Remember people save often!
"Nah. I can feel the evil coming off this thing."
"Art! We will need you, there is a second wave massing to attack. I think this one has the leader of the fort as well. If the size of the Nephar is any indication."
Building a defending a choke point is a vital skill in this game. It will allow you to control the flow of combat by limiting the number of enemies that can see you at any time, as well as protecting the weaker members of your party.
In this screen shot, you see me in my setup dealing with about 15 more enemies. Art and Karmas are beside the door which cannot be seen through, preventing archers and shamans from attacking through, and they can only come in one enemy at a time.
Art and Karmas are blessed - and hasted when they can, and set to make attacks of opportunity for when someone walks through the door. Rook is a backup melee, but he'll be shooting arrows into foes. Peregrine and Ember offer support spells and direct damage against more powerful foes like this Nephar Chieftain. Duncan is useless. He's been collecting Darts as they drop, but can't hit anything. Eventually, the enemies stop pouring in and I can move on to actually freeing the prisoners.
"You lot keep an eye out while I work my way down this trap-filled corridor."
Be careful. These traps are multi-hit, and affect the entire party. If you get a bad result, several party members are dead.
"Doesn't look magical. Maybe ceremonial? But it's too big, so it may have been off one of the soldiers? Keep it for now. Let's see what's in that chest."
"Not much. Scroll is nice. Give that to Peregrine. Poison I'll keep onto until we get it properly identified."
"Clear. Not much in the way of a haul. Now, I thin we're pretty close to that back gate. Perhaps we should see if there's a switch nearby?"
"This looks promising."
"I wanna pull it!"
* pull *
"I heard those gate open. As long as the Nephar don't reset the level, we should be able to evacuate everyone."
"Then let us secure the prisoners."
"Gordon said they were being held in the building just across from the gate. I see a door over there..."
"Never took these Kitties to be the kind to do paperwork."
"Damn! There's nothing in here!"
"Let's get those prisoners first. We can scour the Fort later."
"Duncan is correct. We must help the soldiers first, and can investigate at our leisure later."
"Is she ever going to stop?"
"This looks like it. Duncan? Door."
"We have a choice here."
"We can either stay here and provide a distraction as Gordon and his fellows escape, or we could follow them, and escort them back to the safety of Cotra.
"I think we should head back. Rest up, come back later. And avoid being caught in the same trap that we inflicted on the kitties?"
"It is our moral obligation to make sure our rescuees stay rescued."
Not shown: Wading through a small army of random spawns. I thought it would make for an interesting narrative having the party fight a desperate rear-action out of the dungeon, but I just couldn't make it work. I'll make it work eventually!
In the meantime, have a map of the Nephar Fort.
"You rescued them!"
"You sound surprised."
"But there's only six of you! I never expected anything to come of it! Worse, that I thought you would head off to your deaths!" He reaches into his desk and pulls out a bag, which he tosses at Peregrine. "Here is your promised reward! I must go attend to things personally for a while. Thank you again, you have the gratitude of all Cotra!" He leaves.
"What's in here?"
"500 GOLD? That's IT? NOTHING OF VALUE?!?!"
"Our reward was more moral than material, I think."
"Hey, Pere? Before you light everything on fire, just remember that Mayor Steele left you alone in his office. With all the books, and records and everything. There's a difference between official and unofficial rewards, you know."
"Leave me. I will be... busy for some time."