Part 8: Act One Chapter Five - NeeshkaCalliope and her new friend Khelgar are still on their way to Neverwinter. So far we've reached Fort Locke, a military outpost that's having a few problems with bandits, lizardlings and a missing commander.
You can't see it due to the
Someone's made camp in the gully here. Hey, it's Galen and Co.! They're always good for a barrel of laughs!
: You shouldn't have been so open about the profits you made in West Harbor, Galen. My brother and I think we deserve a little something extra for our work.
: It looks like your guards have turned on you, Galen.
: Ah, a nasty bit of business here. My bodyguards have taken leave of their senses and decided to rob me.
: Are you sure you want to do this, Kalas? You do remember how capable our friend here is, do you not?
: I'm afraid I can't let you do that. No witnesses. After all, we wouldn't want the authorities involved, would we? Brother! Attack!
Little cut content for you here. What we're missing is an alternative track that let you side with the brothers to kill Galen, then split the proceeds between yourselves (with option to kill the other two and take everything).
So far we haven't really done anything evil. There was slitting the injured dwarf's throat in West Harbor, but that's it. 'Suggesting' a nice reward from all those victims in the inn attack was merely Chaotic at most, not Evil.
So we're mugging Galen.
I was going to say 'Ugh, it really sucks having to act like a lunatic just to get evil points' but holy shit look at all that gold. 1600gp is enough to buy a whole suit of full plate and pretty much doubles our treasury.
Okay, so when I said there was a little cut content here, I lied. There's two whole areas and a whole other encounter with Galen, presumably coming before Fort Locke but after the Weeping Willow Inn. There's a lizardling lair in the swamp, still in the toolset but not in the game, in which you would find Galen and his guards fighting off a lizardling ambush. You'd save the day and Khelgar would boast about it to the guards, almost starting a fight and giving you an opportunity to gain or lose influence. It was cut because the swamp sequence is long enough as is and because we've got an almost identical area coming up later in Act 1.
If you're still feeling bad about us killing Galen, there was also a journal entry that says he knew a secret shortcut through the swamp but refused to let us use it because he didn't want to risk his profit margin. Now we can pretend this is a revenge killing instead.
Continuing on our way to Fort Locke, we fight about a million wolves; the area is infested with them.
Oh God, a band of thugs are threatening some poor helpless nobody. Let's not get involved.
: Well, now Commander Vallis will be happy to hear that. It means his work here's all done, he can just give up the fort and go home.
: A-course, you could tell us where your camp is - Vallis will pay more for that, he will, and we won't even have to butcher the lot of you.
: Stupid? Here we were, thinking about letting you live, now you've gone and changed our minds.
Goddamnit why do people keep saying that? I don't know this person!
: By killing her? What did she take?
: Nothing yet, but her crew's been hounding these parts. They been raiding merchants, caravans - maybe even killed the old commander!
: Shut your lying mouth, demon, you'll get the blade soon enough!
This looks to be an orderly, and entirely lawful, trial-by-lynching. We'll just be moving along.
Aw, c'mon. I gave you an out. I tried to give you an out.
Now look what you've done. I can't stop the dwarf once he gets started, you know.
This is the female-player version of this line. If you're playing a male, Neeshka suddenly becomes a lot more grateful - and flirtatious. "Oh, thank you for rescuing me! Who are you? What's that, a handsome adventurer you say?"
In fact, there's a whole assortment of lines - for Neeshka, and Khelgar, and each of the thugs harassing the two of them - that account for your race and subrace. It's almost excessive.
Ahahaha, just our little joke.
: I mean, once folks catch sight of me - usually it's the horns - they run in the other direction. And all those tales about tieflings being cursed don't help much, either.
: Of course, they never would've caught me in the first place if that "invisibility" potion I bought hadn't been watered down. If I ever see that merchant again...
If that merchant's name was Galen, well, I've got some good news...
: I thought that potion I bought would help - you see, once the local garrison sees me, they tend to want to throw me in a cell or attack me on sight.
: Of course, the potion wears off right as I cross paths with those thugs from Fort Locke. They were looking for easy bounties, and I showed up right on time.
: But that's no reason for them to want to kill you - or us.
: It's just banditry of a different sort - they rob the travelers, and then get the bounty, too. The roads are even less safe now than they were before.
Hey, that sounds like a pretty good thing they've got going here. Maybe we can sign on with Fort Locke and get free license to harrass and rob merchants on the road!
: Do you...do you think I could join you? Just for now! I won't get in the way, I promise.
: It's just that I don't know how long I can survive on my own, and... well... I do owe you one.
: That's enough... both of you!
: He started it!
: Bah. Leave her here. She'll be food for the other beasts on the road soon enough.
: Look, I'm sorry I got mad at your friend - even if he is short and smells really bad.
: But please - let me come with you. I owe you for saving me - and those soldiers will just try to kill me again if they catch me out here on my own.
* * *
Neeshka is voiced by Robyn Kramer (Listen here).
We're picking up party members in order of low-level utility. Khelgar was our first companion because weak spellcasting classes need a meatshield to take hits. Neeshka is our second companion because she's a Rogue, and only Rogue characters have the skill points and selection that lets them pick locks and disarm traps.
- likes stealing, looting and making money
- likes people who are kind to her
- dislikes laws and the concept of property
- dislikes mean people who bully her
- dislikes certain bossy she-elves we meet later on
Do we approve or disapprove? She's not Evil, but she's 'Evil-friendly'; she doesn't balk at taking bribes or demanding payment for stuff, and in fact even encourages it. On the other hand, she's a Rogue just like us, which makes her slightly redundant.
(Reaction to Neeshka was fairly ambiguous - some found her endearing, others irritating - Ed.)
Her character sheet. She's a level behind us due to her race, which (as you may have gathered from the horns, the tail, the spots and the eyes) is Tiefling.
Tieflings are originally from Planescape, a highly-imaginative and unorthodox campaign setting from 2nd Edition. Tieflings (and their celestial counterpart, Aasimar) are the mongrel descendants of mortals and planar creatures - in this case, one of the fiends. They were incorporated into mainstream D&D in 3rd Edition, along with new classes and the like.
Tieflings get a number of statistic bonuses and other perks - elemental resistance and spell-like abilities - so they also receive an experience penalty. To be honest, the Tiefling bonuses aren't really worth the penalty, although there are other races out there with even worse level adjustment. Deep gnomes (svirfneblin) are stuck four levels behind everyone else, which is ridiculous.
There's a couple of ways Rogues can be developed. Rogues are primarily reliant on Dexterity, for Armour Class and Rogue skill bonuses, but they can also take high Intelligence (like Calliope and Neeshka have) to get lots of skill points to spread around elsewhere. This is better for Calliope because of all the dialogue skills we can use; Neeshka is a companion and cannot use skills in dialogue, and so is less useful.
If she had high Strength we could turn her into more of a sneaky-thug-type. Whenever they flank someone or attack from stealth, Rogues trigger a Sneak Attack that multiplies their normal damage by a massive amount. This build generally requires more Strength, since you're often attacking up close. It's not quite so useful in the later game, when you face lots of powerful undead and elementals which are immune to Sneak Attack, but at low levels it's lethal.
* * *
Here we are: Fort Locke.
It's not strictly lying, per se, though we do have the option of feigning complete ignorance.
: No, he hasn't. But if you're here, then perhaps he'll turn up soon as well.
: I hope he's safe. Galen's a good friend, and I'm worried that he didn't bring along enough guards for his latest trip to West Harbor.
: Harbormen are hard to miss once you've met one, and I've met plenty being from West Harbor myself.
Georg briefly mentioned Cormick during the West Harbor tutorial. He's also one of the first few encounters that tells us Harbormen have an identity outside of the village.
That soldier who called us 'dirty' was the other one.
: Ha! I don't know about famous. West Harbor's a small village though, so I'm not surprised you know of me.
: Wait a moment... I recognize you. Daeghun's foster child.
: That we did. We were quite a pair in our youth. The death of his wife hit him hard, though. He was never quite the same afterwards.
Is he saying what I think he's saying? Daeghun used to be an adventurer?
: Why are you here?
Stop guilt-tripping us, damnit.
: I'd also heard rumors that the garrison here had stopped its patrols. Figured I'd look into it while I was down here.
: And, of course, it turns out the rumors were true. No patrols, meaning the roads are crawling with bandits and worse now.
: Why did the patrols stop?
: One or more patrols have gone missing, from what I gather. If it were me, I'd gather a large force and investigate. Not Vallis, though...
: I tried to explain to him that Neverwinter doesn't have any troops to spare - not after that business with Luskan - but he's sticking to the rules. No initiative in that man, I tell you.
: I'll see what I can do.
So we go talk to Vallis, the guy in charge.
: I am. And let me tell you, with Fort Locke being the way it is nowadays, it's a good thing.
: These "soldiers" need military discipline, and by the gods, that's what they'll get.
There are hints here and there that Obsidian may have intended for more or all conversations to be in the cinematic KOTOR style - voice-acted close-ups, lots of opportunity for detailed facial expressions and body animations. By this dialogue node I found remains of a sequence in which a soldier ('Hawkeye') returns from patrol and is bawled out by Vallis for improper appearance.
: Do you have any work for me?
Shit. There goes our plan.
: We've lost a number of patrols recently, including one led by Commander Tann.
: I'm not about to send good men chasing after dead ones... not until I can replace those that we've lost.
: So you're just filling in for the commander?
: Filling in? That fool Tann allowed this place to fall apart. I've spent every waking moment bringing order back to the garrison.
: He's been missing too long anyhow, probably met the same fate as the other patrols we've lost.
: True. I hadn't thought about that. But I can't spare the men for an investigation.
: Three patrols already lost. Refugees trickling in. And with discipline in a shambles, we'd be hard pressed to hold this fort with what we have.
: What if I were to handle this for you?
: You, a civilian, helping a military garrison with an investigation? Why?
: I want you to resume the patrols.
: [Success] Fine, fine. I'll resume the patrols...
: ...contingent upon completion of your investigation. I want to know what happened out there.
Yeah, I know. But we could do with the reward money - and if we help Vallis, he'll be able to restart the patrols, making the road to Highcliff safer.
Actually, that's a lie, restarting the patrols does nothing to help us. Gosh, I'm just full of lies today!
: Where should I begin looking?
: There's really nothing there except for the plains - and an old graveyard. Of course, it is at the edge of the Mere, so anything could have wandered in from the swamp.
Oh, a graveyard? Yeah, probably nothing to do with it at all.
: Anything else I should know?
Well, then. No sense standing about. We've got a Quest to complete!