Part 13: Act One Chapter Ten - In Which Things Come To A Shuddering HaltAfter our home village was attacked by mysterious raiders, our foster father Daeghun sent us on a mission to Neverwinter. We were to bring a shard of silver to Daeghun's half-brother Duncan, with the intention of finding out more.
We've finally arrived in Neverwinter, along with three new friends we picked up along the way - Khelgar, Neeshka and Elanee.
Would you believe me if I said we were maybe a third of the way through Act 1? To be honest, I'd have called it a day and ended the act right here, because it's incredibly depressing that we've done so much and completed so little.
: Can't say I care for it, though. You want a proper city, you build down, not up.
: This place feels... unnatural, the wood and stone, it's as if they've been silenced.
: I wish you'd both be silent. The entire trip was just one long whine from the two of you.
I love this bit. Listen to Neeshka here.
: Not that I've got great memories of this place, but it's home. So - where are we going first, Calliope?
: I say lead the way. Besides, I'd welcome a stable bed after being trapped on that filthy excuse for a boat.
The Sunken Flagon, which is right on the edge of the Docks map.
: I'm looking for my Uncle Duncan.
Here's the lowdown on Uncle Duncan (since the last time we heard anything about him was nine updates ago):
He's the half-elven landlord of the Sunken Flagon, a disreputable tavern right in the middle of the Neverwinter Docks. He's Daeghun's half-brother (which makes sense, considering Daeghun is a full-blooded elf) and the two don't get on well - not that they're not friends, but Duncan's too relaxed and easygoing where Daeghun is uptight and serious. Also, both of them used to be adventurers, and as such Duncan reminds Daeghun of things he'd much rather forget.
: Daeghun sent me.
: Daeghun, eh? So the time's come, has it? Troubles chasing on your heels, and you barely know why...
: I can probably guess why you're here, but why don't you go ahead and tell me anyway.
: Yeah, your mother - Esmerelle, since you were asking about the shards. What, Daeghun still keeping that inside? It's a wonder he doesn't crack down the middle.
: Eh, but you know, I have no call to say that. I think that's why he buried that first shard - and gave the other one to me.
: He'll tell you when he's ready, I think - but it's best you hear it from him. Let's stick to the shards for now.
: Who's Sand?
Half-elves are the poor man of D&D (along with half-orcs... and gnomes, but that's for a later update). They don't get all the cool statistic bonuses and special resistances that elves do, but they don't get all the skill bonuses and generalist advantages that humans do. Instead they get a mediocre mix of the two.
Fortunately our Uncle Duncan is the closest we get to a half-elf NPC - all of our party companions are racially pure Uebermenschen.
: Got a dry wit, and he'll always rub you the wrong way, so his name's well-chosen. Still, I suppose I trust him enough, and having a wizard close by certainly tends to keep fools from causing too much trouble.
: Well, me and Daeghun took the shard to him, back when he lived in the Merchant Quarter. Before his run of bad luck.
: But he couldn't get much from it, just faint traces.
: Seemed unremarkable, but I find that sometimes time will tell. Had Sand examine it a long time ago, but he turned up nothing.
: Maybe with two of them, he might get a better reading from it.
It isn't really developed much further (thankfully) but Sand is supposed to have this 'smelling' schtick about him. You don't see it beyond this exchange and Sand's character description, though.
: Why, your guest here has the smell of a Harborman about them. Faint, but there.
: You have no appreciation for my talents - and after all I've done for you.
: To think you could survive a fortnight without my ale purgative - why, you would be buried in the tombs with the rest of the Neverwinter traitors - a betrayer of barkeepers everywhere.
: Besides, as I recall you said the piece of junk had sentimental value, which, upon viewing your establishment, is perfectly understandable.
: Besides, didn't your Uncle or Cousin or Brother or whatever make off with the other shard? I thought you only had one now.
There's a lot of physical comedy in NWN2, which is impressive considering the clunkiness of the engine. Between this, the lizardlings burning Shandra's barn, and the bad-guy-teaser cutscenes from last update, it's clear Obsidian have got quite the handle on the Electron engine.
: Are you sure these are the same shards? The power in them... why, it's definitely stronger than last time... much stronger.
: Oh, so now they're magical? I'm not paying you for two failed divinations, you charlatan.
: Taking them to any other wizard in town would be useless until we learn more about their past... you need a sage and you need them examined quickly, so...
Impressive feat for a non-wizard, Calliope.
: There could be something about you that causes them to resonate - but I have no idea why that would be.
: So who would know the shard's history?
Don't worry - Aldanon's the last guy we have to see about the shards before we finally find out what's going on.
But that would be too simple, wouldn't it, Obsidian? What's that, make things easy for the player? Oh no, we couldn't do that.
: As have I. Not only are the Watch not talking about it, but they even called in the Cloaktower mages to investigate... which means sorcery - or demons - were at work.
: But you say this... Aldanon might know more, Sand?
: Well, if you're not a member of the Watch... or know a secret route into Blacklake, then you're out of luck.
: Well, there's Marshal Cormick, he's currently at the City Watch Post, and I know he's in bad need of an extra swordarm down at the Docks.
: Cormick? From Fort Locke?
: Trust me, you don't know the half of it.
: He might be able to take you into the Watch, and from there, speaking to Aldanon shouldn't be too hard.
: Then you need to find another route into the Blacklake District, and that means dealing with other folks that try to control the Docks - Moire and her gang.
: Where can I find some of her men?
: Well, she's got thugs all over the docks... but finding one who can get you to her...
: That's pretty much how it stands.
: You can find Cormick in the Watchpost, near the Dolphin Bridge that leads to the Merchant Quarter. He needs help, so it shouldn't be much of a tough sell to join up.
: Caleb should be lounging around the corner, east along the main road - just follow the smell. If you want to join with him, he'll probably ask you to hurt or kill someone, so be warned.
That's pretty much how we've been doing things up until now.
: Should you need my expertise, simply ask... but just in case, bring a great deal of gold as well.
* * *
: The Docks is a place where someone of your stealthy talents should fit right in... whether for the law, or against it.
: But while you're here, feel free to make yourself at home.
: Also, any friend of yours is a friend of mine - your companions are welcome to stay here as well, even if you're off on some other journey like the one that sent you here.
This is the game basically telling us 'this is home base now'. There's crafting stations in the back (for making potions, traps, weapons etc.) and all extra party members will hang out here until we need them again. We've still only got three companions, so this doesn't change anything yet, but a fourth will join us very soon.
So we're now faced with a bit of a choice. This affects how the rest of Act 1 plays out - we'll be going to the same areas and doing much the same things, but our reasons and our enemies will be entirely different.
- We can join Cormick and the City Watch. Ever since the events of NWN1, the Docks have been a lawless urban wasteland, overrun with thugs, smugglers and worse. Cormick wants to take it back, with our help. This is essentially the Good Guy option.
- We can join Caleb and his gang. Caleb, of course, is just a middleman who works for the fearsome Moire... and she serves an even darker master: the Shadow Thieves of Amn, a global association of thieves and cutthroats all serving the interests of one of the world's most powerful organisations. For the Bad Guys, natch.
It's a bit more complicated than that, of course. Most games, if they offer a choice such as this, leave it at that. Good Choice, Bad Choice... no further nuance.
We, on the other hand, can choose how we approach each faction. We can join the City Watch as an upright, honest and true citizen to uphold the rule of law, or become pragmatic/corrupt and let things slide to keep things peaceful. As a Shadow Thief, we can dive right in to the thuggery and murder everyone in our way, or play it cool and charm our way into the criminal underworld.
The choice is yours, guys. There are advantages and disadvantages to either side:
- The Watch is probably a bit more straightforward in plotting later in the game
- The Watch makes you either Lawful Good or just plain Chaotic, which isn't good for our Lawful Evil alignment
- The Shadow Thieves gives us unique access to the Shadow Thief prestige class, which we cannot get if we side with the Watch
- Most people chose the Watch on their first playthrough
- There's a cool little quest involving the Shadow Thieves we get in Act 3 if we side with them that we won't get if we choose the Watch
I've got my preference, but I'm not making this decision for you. Choose.