Part 9: Act One Chapter Six - Believe It Or Not, The Graveyard Is HauntedCalliope, Khelgar (our buddy) and Neeshka (who we're not too fussed on) are off to investigate the disappearance of the commander of Fort Locke. His last known location was at a graveyard east of here.
Along the way we're interrupted by a gang of young toughs. They threaten us with weapons and demand our money...
...but we ask them to go away and they fold like that. Khelgar whines a bit but we flatter his ego for an influence point.
Crummy bandits even forgot to take their hard-earned loot with them. What a disappointment.
The Fort Locke Graveyard is a spooky place. Perpetually shrouded in fog and under the cover of an eternal night, it's also got a ton of zombies hanging around.
Luckily we have a new +1 Morningstar of Fire Damage with which to kill them.
Okay, so apparently I might have accidentally possibly made a mistake in the last update by saying the Swamp Cave area was cut, when in fact it wasn't. Visiting the Weeping Willow Inn will unlock a new area in the swamp, where you have another encounter with Galen and can kill some lizardlings for some decent magical items - including our new toy, the Bone Phoenix.
A lot of people (myself included, as well as the walkthroughs I've been double-checking) miss it entirely, confusing it for the 'Swamp Ruins' we visited earlier, which are completely different.
My lawyer informs me that I am regretful that such an error could have been made in this LP, and I would like to be deeply apologetic for any harm or misfortune that might have resulted indirectly from the consequences of an update that I may or may not have written.
I've given up on making an informative LP. Next update I'll be starting over with a Chaotic Neutral wild mage named Johnny Penishands.
(Thanks to those posters who noticed my mistake.)
There are two crypts here that we've got to flush out. One is pretty small: only a few rooms with some minor treasures.
The centrepiece is this larger chamber; run inside and...
...zombies arise out of the sarcophagi on the sides.
NWN2 is a package game, including a toolset for users to create their own modules and campaign. Of course, the toolset has to be simple enough for your average gamer to use it, meaning all the indoor tiles are modular - which means everything has to fit a tile grid and corridors double up as small rooms.
Let's say we're playing D&D on the tabletop. I'm the DM, you're the players, and your party is spelunking in some dungeon somewhere. Say you're walking down a narrow corridor only a few feet wide, so you're all in single file, with your fighters up front and wizard safely in the rear.
You hear shouts and screams in Orcish coming down the corridor... from behind you. What do you do?
We'll never find out, because all corridors in NWN2 have room for five burly men to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. You could drive a car down some of these hallways.
Spellcasters have access to spells that can alter the field of battle - spells to hold enemies in place, turn areas into whirling blades of death or clouds of agonising flame. But for our Fighter and two Rogues, the only way to deal with hordes of zombies and skeletons is to camp out by a doorway and take them two-at-a-time.
The other crypt in the graveyard is much bigger and much deadlier.
For one, it's full of traps. Here both Calliope and Neeshka attempt to disarm an acid blob trap... Calliope fails, but Neeshka completely messes up by rolling low for her skill check and sets it off.
It's not a problem because all of the traps in NWN2 are rubbish. They barely do any damage at all, and most of the time we simply dodge the effects anyway - Calliope has high Reflex saves (her ability to dodge spikes, bolts, fireballs...) and special Rogue feats that let us take half-damage at best.
Really, the only threat traps pose is when Khelgar spots some enemies lurking on the other side of a trap and decides that he simply must run over there immediately to hit them with his axe.
We're actually finding it a little harder than normal to disarm all of these traps. Zombies have the unfortunate ability to infect us with Disease.
Diseases don't do any straight-up hit point damage per se, instead temporarily lowering our statistics to make us easier to kill. This particular Disease lowers our Dexterity (reducing our ability to dodge attacks and use Rogue skills) and Constitution (lowering total hit points).
The worst thing is that you have to make a Fortitude save to resist Disease damage. Fortitude is linked to your Constitution statistic... making it harder to resist Disease once you've already got it.
Zombies are also annoying because of their intrinsic damage resistance. Normal weapons do either piercing, slashing or blunt damage. Certain creatures are resistant to one or more of those kinds of damage, and so ignore the first five, ten, twenty points of damage they take from that source. Zombies and skeletons are resistant to piercing damage, which is why we've swapped Calliope's bow (piercing) for a morningstar (blunt). Our morningstar also does additional fire damage, which is even better.
There are other ways to beat damage resistance: Khelgar, with his high Strength and Power Attack, can overcome basic 5/whatever DR just by doing a lot of damage with each attack. It's more elegant, though, to use the right weapon for the right monster.
A large room with a strange blue glow and a robed figure dressed all in black. It must be the commander!
Oh, the commander is the prisoner in the corner. The robed figure is a spooky necromancer!
We ignore the zombies to concentrate on the Shadow Priest, who is a more pressing target. His spells can easily disable one or more of our party members, especially at low levels and especially with lowered statistics.
After he's gone it's just like any other encounter in this dungeon.
Some nice loot for us - some cleric spell scrolls we can't use and a shield for Khelgar.
Also some potions and a mysterious scrap of parchment in the chest.
"...at the edge of the Mere. The site has been lightly traveled for many decades, visited regularly only by patrols from a nearby garrison. Enough material exists for a small army. It will serve our purposes for now."
And in the corner we find the good commander.
: Yes, yes I am. Did Lieutenant Vallis send you to find me? He must be gloating right now. He warned me not to send another patrol until we received reinforcements from Neverwinter.
: Lieutenant Vallis sent me to find out what happened to the patrols.
: It's a good thing that he did. I have much to report, and the men need to be prepared to deal with this new threat.
: New threat?
: He must have been planning to attack using the undead he was raising.
: He had enough to defeat the garrison?
: You've fought through most of his forces to reach me. You know as well as I do he didn't have the numbers to bring down the fort.
Actually, we fought through quite a lot of zombies and skeletons to get here. Commander Tann doesn't know jack squat.
Yeah, and there's no second necromancer lurking around Highcliff, is there?
Sometimes I think the NPCs in this game know exactly what's going on and just pretend not to know anything so we have to do all the legwork.
: Even then, he would have needed to surprise the fort, which would be unlikely. News of Highcliff falling would spread like wildfire. Fort Locke would be ready.
: Was the necromancer working alone?
: That Shadow Priest tossed me around for a bit, but it wasn't anything serious. I can travel.
: I was separated from my men as we fought our way in. Some may still be down here. If they're still alive, I won't feel right leaving here. But, I also need to return to the fort.
I don't particularly fancy coming back here again, so we'll look for his men now.
: I had three men with me when we entered this crypt. I hope they're all still alive.
: We should get moving. The longer we wait, the less likely we are to find any of them alive.
And Commander Tann joins the party. He's not a proper companion (he's only with us for the duration of this quest) and we can't control him directly, but it's always good to have an extra Level 3 Fighter.
Pulling the lever next to Tann opens two doors that were locked earlier, which lead to the rest of the crypt. It stops us from finding Tann's men early and breaking the quest sequence.
This is one. Two more to find.
We find the corpse of the second in the midst of a pack of skeletons. A pack of skeletons? Is that the collective noun? How about a thriller of zombies?
I like how defensive our character is. No, Calliope, we only just found him. How could it have been your fault?
NWN2 is full of these moments. It leads to a lot of headaches amongst personable kinds who want to be buddies with all their party members; unfortunately NWN2 is not that kind of game.
The third soldier is hiding at the end of a hall of traps. Mission accomplished! We can finally get out of here.
There's a convenient door to the surface close by, so we don't have to traipse through the entire dungeon again.
Finally, back in the sunshine. We no longer have to strain our eyes. And Vallis is here to welcome us!
: That I will, Lieutenant. We have much to discuss. Assemble the officers. I'll be with them shortly.
: You will report directly to me, and I shall brief the officers. I'm relieving you of duty.
: What's gotten into you? I've given you your orders. Now carry them out.
Subtle, Calliope, subtle.
Actually, it's rare that the player character in an RPG displays any other emotion than determined curiousity. "Who are you? What is this place? Where is the king? Do you have any quests that need doing?"
: I am not a murderer. However, I am not about to watch you return the garrison to its undisciplined and shoddy state, Tann.
: The loss of three patrols was a direct result of your failure to prepare the men properly. You are unfit for command.
: The men were as prepared as they could possibly be, Lieutenant. If you have an issue, you can bring it up with my superiors. This is not the way to handle it.
Oh god, this is awkward. What do you do when a couple you know gets into an argument?
Threaten to beat the shit out of them, of course.
Sadly there's no option to side with the Lieutenant; as mercenaries we're complicit in Tann's sloppy leadership.
: Are you a fool, Vallis? If maybe all you were facing was the Commander, the odds might be even.
: But you're dealing with a Harborman soldier, a battle-hardened dwarf of the Ironfist clan, and a demon... with a shorter temper than most.
: And a longer, more attractive tail than most.
: So before you do something foolish and attack us, I just want you to know it won't be long before we're burying your corpses in the graveyard we just left.
: You're the fool! These men would die for me, and gladly!
This sounds like a dumb thing to mention, but I like this little moment (and not for the dialogue). In other games we're used to seeing "Persuade: [Success]" whenever we make skill checks in dialogue - and it's just a little number-crunching thing to let us know that, yes, we passed the skill check.
Here Obsidian uses the... 'language of gaming' to convey initial failure, then a sudden turnaround success. In other words, Obsidian is not just communicating the meaning and tone of the encounter through the words Vallis and Calliope use, but also in the gaming paraphenalia that surround it.
I just think it's 'neat'. We're going to see a bit more of it later, too.
: You've much to learn about command, Vallis. Training the men is one thing. Leading them is something entirely different.
: Guards, arrest the Lieutenant. We'll deal with this back at the fort.
This is how Commander Tann deals with traitors:
Yeah, that's Vallis up there all right.
It's the attention to detail that makes the game.
Tann promises to restart the patrols immediately, which is great news for us.
: What can you tell me about the King of Shadows?
: The story goes that Neverwinter finally cornered him at West Harbor and killed him, along with most of the village. The surviving demons fled north to this fort and tried to take it.
: The garrison held, and the demons were hunted down. Glad I wasn't there for that. The lore makes it sound like a bloodbath.
: Do you have any work for me?
: You can talk to the refugees if you want to know what those bandits have been up to. Wish I could help them, but we don't even know where to start looking for the bandits.
: I'll see what I can do about the bandits.
: You know, I think I know where these bandits might me... I passed an encampment on the way to Fort Locke, but didn't stop to check it out.
: Going after bandits would be worth our time... and good practice too.
Which reminds me... Marshal Cormick owes us some money.
: The Watch is always ready to reward those who aid us. I don't have much gold on me, but you're welcome to what I do have.
: You seem to have a knack for solving problems. I could use someone like you.
: Stop by the city guard barracks if you find yourself looking for work in Neverwinter. As for me, I'd best get moving. I've already spent too much time here.
You may come to regret those words, Cormick. Believe you me.