Part 14: Act One Chapter Eleven - I Also Enjoy Such Games As 'Neverwinter At Night'
It's decided - we're siding with the Shadow Thieves.
Caleb's our contact in the gang. He's just a low-level enforcer - after this, we'll be meeting with the real leaders.
: I tell you, Caleb... we own this place. The Watch are either cowards - or greedy cowards, willing to run at the drop of a coin.
: You looking for trouble? Maybe you better walk out of here before we break your legs.
: I was told you could get me into the Blacklake District.
Uh oh. This isn't going well. Although I'm not sure how intimidated I'm supposed to feel by a man who looks disarmingly like Santa Claus.
: I'm losing my patience with you. I can't help you into Blacklake, and that's that.
: Do you at least have any work for me?
: Well, I am feeling a bit lazy today. Yeah, sure - I've got work for you.
: He's being difficult. He's refusing to pay the money he owes me for this week.
: You want me to persuade him to pay up.
: What I want is for you to break his arms. He needs the lesson - and he'll still be able to pay even with his arms snapped like twigs.
: I'll do it.
* * *
There's a lot of cut content in the game, but I'm never sure how interesting it'd be for those of you reading. Partly because I can only ever speculate as to why something was cut.
For example, there's a model in the game called 'NPC_Ctann'. It was probably intended for Commander Tann, who we helped back at Fort Locke. But why does he have a custom model? Was he supposed to be more important?
Or Marshal Cormick, our fellow Harborman. He was originally called Marshal Faulk. Is that interesting? I mean, it's trivia; I find it interesting, because I really like NWN2. But do you? I don't know.
Again: there's a creature blueprint for the Neverwinter Docks module called 'Lord Mathis Anton', which was maybe intended to be a follow-up to Lieutenant Vallis Anton, also back at Fort Locke. The Lieutenant did say he was the son of a powerful noble family... but two problems: a) Vallis Anton was previously known as Lieutenant Brill, not Lieutenant Anton, and b) Lord Mathis Anton is a gnome.
Sometimes, of course, stuff is just moved around. We helped a guy called Par deal with some burglars in Highcliff - that was supposed to happen here in Neverwinter. GetWellGamers has kindly spilled the beans on the Mozah sidequest - first set back in the swamp, it was moved up to Highcliff to lead more smoothly into the Shadow Priest subplot.
And then there's the Hollows.
If you've played NWN2, or read some of the threads or previews about it, you'll know that later in the game we get a stronghold. Land management was always a big part of D&D, even back in 1st Edition. At high levels, adventurers become almost impossible to kill, so DMs were encouraged to embroil their players in politics and wargames - to give players challenges they couldn't hack'n'slash their way out of with their +5 vorpal holy avenger.
NWN2 has a stronghold as well (although it doesn't let up on the hacking and slashing at all), and it's probably the best part of the game. It's a lot of fun and it's obvious Obsidian put a ton of effort into making it work, which is why it's surprising to read in interviews that it almost never made it in at all. Sometimes it was working, sometimes it wasn't... sometimes it looked like this, and sometimes it looked like that.
We won't get the stronghold until Act 2, so I won't say too much, but I can tell you about one of the earlier iterations: the Hollows.
Basically, after a few quests with either the Watch or the Thieves, the situation in the Docks would go nuclear and the district would become overrun with crime. Your superiors would authorise you to set up a new outpost in the Docks and start enforcing your brand of order however you can. The Hollows was to be your central command - as you can see, a burned-out, ruined building, which you'd rebuild and turn into a hybrid barracks/merchant conglomerate.
It's still in the game, next door to the Sunken Flagon, but just as a big old ugly ruin. A lot of the quests and mechanics involved in running it are the same as the ones you will see later in the Act 2 stronghold. You'd recruit a number of characters to help you run the Hollows and give your soldiers special bonuses: Katriona, Edario, Jacoby, Uncus... they're all still in the game, actually, and I'll introduce you to them later.
Only two characters were cut: Aramin and Kana. Aramin was just some potty old alchemist who made potions for his patron (that's you). Kana's actually still in the game, but missing background and dialogue. She was a soldier who fought in the Luskan-Neverwinter war of NWN1, then followed her sergeant into mercenary work with the Westgate Night Masks. Then her sergeant died and she's become a washed-up old drunk, constantly badgered by adventurers, mercenaries and the Night Masks for her weapons expertise. You'd beat off the competition (by bashing their skulls in) and she'd swear her loyalty to you.
Eventually the Luskans would come looking to take you out and try to burn down the Hollows (again). You'd strike back and wipe out their base in Neverwinter - but, again, this is similar to an actual quest later in the game.
While we're still on the subject of cut content: those bladelings that were after us? Yeah, they're showing up here in Neverwinter as well. So much for the city walls protecting us.
I mention this because it's a good example of how it doesn't matter how many games you've written, or how many fancy English Lit degrees you have - sometimes even the best of us are defeated by the smallest things. Here's a barebones conversation Obsidian superstar Chris Avellone wrote for the companions to have after a bladeling attack:
|DO NOT LOCALIZE ANY OF THIS DIALOG!|
|CHRIS AVELLONE: Neeshka says "WTF?!" Thought the party had shaken the duergar and bladelings. Accuses the people of Highcliff of having a big mouth|
|CHRIS AVELLONE: Elanee is concerned. Doesn't think the village had anything to do with it. Thinks that since the bad guys are always coming out from some hiding spot, they've got some way of tracking the player... maybe through the shard|
|CHRIS AVELLONE: Neeshka says get rid of the stupid shard then. It's not like it's worth anything|
|CHRIS AVELLONE: Khelgar scoffs at Neeshka's cowardice. Says bring them on.|
PC: I could just drop the shard into the ocean.
|CHRIS AVELLONE: Neeshka says bury it somewhere deeper|
|CHRIS AVELLONE: Elanee says something to convince everyone that keeping the shard is the smart thing to do|
|CHRIS AVELLONE: I don't know where to go from here|
* * *
On with the show. This here's Hagen's Imports.
: That would be my father. Might I ask what you wish to speak with him about? I may be able to help instead.
: I need to speak with Hagen. He's late with his payment.
Caleb sent you, didn't he? I should have guessed it. Your kind can't appreciate fine craftsmanship.
The flipside of this quest (if you side with the Watch) is to help Hagen stand up to Caleb's thugs. Hagen's the only merchant in the Docks willing to stand up for what's right, and Marshal Cormick wants to make sure nobody cuts him down instead.
: No trouble at all. Tell Caleb that the answer is still 'no'. You'd best leave before I call for the City Watch.
: Yes... every piece that I have here is of the finest craftsmanship. I even count some nobility amongst my regular customers.
We're doing this the clever way, so it's Diplomacy for us. A bit of a shame, since the mean option is to start breaking things. "What a nice vayse yoose got heres... oops, dere's me acsiden'ly slippin' and breakin' it all ovva da floor dere! Wot a shame" etc. etc.
: [Success] Yes, I understand. This is about principles, though. I've worked hard for everything you see here, and I'm not about to let some brute make a living on my back.
: [Diplomacy] It's just a few coins. If your business is doing so well, surely you'd like to protect it from accidents.
It's a shame that none of these dialogue options can actually fail; they all automatically succeed. Unfortunately it means we miss out on a super-evil option to threaten his daughter with an 'unfortunate accident.'
: I hate to admit it, but you make a great deal of sense. Very well...
: What?! You can't give in to these bullies, father. You are right to stand up to them.
: Don't listen to her. You're doing the smart thing, Hagen.
Sorted. Back to Caleb.
: I told you to break his arms, not become his best friend. Still, you got the job done.
: Glad you liked it. Now it's your turn to help me.
: All in good time. You've got to start off slow... build up some trust. Here... your share of Hagen's money.
: It is so strange to hear that not directed at me.
: Give it time, shouldn't be too long before they're blaming us, too.
: So you found yourself a new lapdog to do your dirty work for you, Caleb. Looks like I've got you this time. I even have a witness.
: Heh. Nice try. I wasn't there and you know it.
Again, this is the reverse of what'd happen if we sided with the Watch. It'd be us there, trying to arrest Caleb with what amounts to nothing more than circumstantial evidence, y'honour.
: Hagen can say whatever he wants. I wasn't there.
: [Diplomacy/Bribe] Hagen must be mistaken, Watchman. Here... will 25 gold compensate you for the time you've wasted on this?
: What?! That's the one who stole from me! I want them all arrested!
: Now, now, Hagen. I'm sure in all the confusion you just got some of your details mixed up - these people don't seem to be the type who would cause trouble like you described.
: Thank you. I hope you find the real criminals, Watchman.
: Moire won't like it, though. It means no money will be coming in.
: Moire? Who's that?
: My boss. She's a cold woman, and not someone you want to cross.
: Maybe. She can definitely do more for you than I can.
: I really appreciate this. Talk to Moire. Explain to her that this isn't my fault.
Urgh. Well, at least we're moving up the chain of command. Hopefully we can do one or two errands, then get into Blacklake. Sorted!
On the way there, though, we bump into some unpleasant-looking people.
: If you have an issue against my friend here, bring it up with the City Watch.
: Um, if you don't mind, I'd like to leave the Watch out of this.
: And I'm still waiting for an answer. You're too stupid to come here on your own, so who sent you?
: What's this all about? Who's Leldon?
: Heh, old partner of mine, blames me for everything. He's apparently still got plenty of gold to waste, too.
: So what'll it be then, Bennon? Run now, or let me remove that empty head from your neck.
: I didn't expect to get attacked as soon as we entered Neverwinter.
: I would like to know as well. It seems to happen a great deal, and I find it hard to believe it's all an accident.
: Eh, Leldon still can't admit that he's the second best thief in Neverwinter. He's taken things a little too personally, if you ask me.
: Taken what "things" too personally?
: Well... Leldon and I pulled a job about a year ago... big haul, too. You should have been there. I was brilliant.
: You thought you deserved more than he did.
: I'm the one who got us past the guards and past the trap at the vault. Leldon was just baggage.
: He claims he "planned" it all. Not much of a plan if you don't know the guard patrol routes, or that the vault is trapped. If it weren't for me, he woulda never gotten past the front door.
: So anyway, there's Leldon demanding a bigger share, and he's definitely planned this part out. He's hired Bennon and his boys as muscle to make sure I agree.
: What's worse is they didn't just take my share - they took everything I had, and I wasn't in much of a position to argue, you know?
: So they robbed you and now they want to kill you? That seems odd.
What gets me is that for a group of people who famously have no understanding of the concept of 'honour', these thieves take this 'best-thief/second-best-thief' stuff very seriously.
: So I broke back into his place, stole all the loot... every last copper, and left a note explaining to him how I got past each one of his traps.
: I didn't get everything they stole back - especially some of the more precious things - but Leldon probably sold them by now anyway. Too bad. Still, I got back way more than my share.
: And what happened to all the money?
: I've heard enough. Let's go.
Let's meet the enigmatic Moire.
: What, you want to join the nobility?
: You're out of luck. Blacklake's shut tight, and I'm not going to waste any time or men getting you in there.
: Perhaps an exchange of services? I help you, you help me?
Moire doesn't like us because we resolved the Caleb quest peacefully. If we butchered the Watchmen, she'd be all over us.
: You think preventing Caleb's arrest was a good thing? What kind of message did you send the Watch by padding around like a frightened cat?
: You should have shown them who was in charge. But you didn't.
: If you harm the Watch, they'll strike back - rather than look the other way.
: I think you underestimate the power of fear - and respect.
: It needs to be controlled. Neverwinter's got enemies who are waiting for us to show weakness... and the Watch and Greycloaks aren't going to stop them, they already failed us before.
Oh crap. Everyone try not to look like an adventurer!
: No one survived those times without losing something... or someone. And I'm not going to pray for outsiders to save us next time when I can do something about it now.
Moire's a grade-A psycho, but at least she's got reasons for why she acts like she does (and it's also a nice callback to NWN1). It definitely beats 'generic boss thug' in the writing stakes.
: Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you.
: Yeah - look, this talk's boring me. You want to prove yourself? Fine.
: We have a good grip on the Docks now, but unless we squeeze, that grip's as useless as an edict from Nasher.
: You're going to sweep the Docks for me. Hit each of the Watch guardposts. Turn those that can be turned, take care of those who can't.
: And other gangs and thieves... if you can get them to join us, do so. If not, send a message... we're running the Docks. You want to do business, you talk to us. Got it?
: I understand. I'll show them who's in charge.