The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2

by Lt. Danger

Part 17: Act One Chapter Fourteen - For Structures Made Of Ivory, These Towers Are Surprisingly Red

I know I said we were going to see Axle, but something came up. We're back at the Flagon for now.

: "Goat-girl." I've never heard that one before - Stumpy.
: Bah. You're not trying. That's a nickname, not an insult. We Ironfists call our own children 'stumpy', you... skinny... bull.

We haven't seen much of Qara so far, and what we have seen hasn't been pretty. She nearly started a fight outside our home, then acted rudely when we attempted to extract reparations for the damages. She hasn't made a good impression.

: "Amateurs?" Why, the spoiled princess thinks she's better than us, Khelgar.
: A bold claim from an Academy dropout, seems to me.

This is an opportunity to meet her again, when she's not directing that fiery temper at us.

: Well then, why don't you show us how it's done, firehair?
: Firehair - imaginative and biting, with just the slightest hint of wit. Is that really the best your demon blood can squeeze out, tail for brains?

: So, what, are they right next to it? If so, might want to loosen the back of your pants a notch, because even with the hole, they're obviously not getting enough air.

: Well, she said your brains are next to your tail... which would imply that your brains are in your rear end. And that you breathe through your...
: Okay, okay, I get it, all right? Little witch.

: What, since your mother lost her job?
: Eh? Now, don't be bringing my mother into this! You'd best be careful, you simpering little father's girl, or you'll learn a thing or two about Ironfist honor and manhood!

She's actually quite funny. Chris Avellone (the man who handled the dialogue for the companions) is obviously having a lot of fun writing these various arguments.

: Wh-what? I'll have you know plenty of women know about Ironfist manhood! Plenty! They just all live up... around Waterdeep... or they'd tell you!
: Khelgar, calm down.
: Calm down?! I won't take those words from some twig of a girl who doesn't know enough to choose the right tavern to fight in!

It's an interesting point, actually. Adventuring is a dangerous, high-risk/high-reward profession. Whatever Wizards of the Coast say about gender, I imagine it would chiefly attract testosterone-fuelled ambitious young men, creating a very masculine, "blokey" atmosphere of aggressive banter - and by those same merits discourage more traditionally feminine 'empathetic' responses. Sort of like the military or the police.

Or Something Awful.

: Now if you're done matching wits with me and coming up short, why don't you trundle back to your highchair, and drink up your honor until it comes out the other end? Maybe later on, I'll come by to put you in your cradle.

Not that fantasy really concerns itself with gender issues, of course, which is almost missing the point of the entire genre.

: Shut up, tail for brains.
: Ha! And here I thought mages had nothing to offer the world. Duncan, another round!

Anyway, you very nearly didn't see this cutscene at all. Somebody at Obsidian screwed up and commented out an important line in Caleb's script that set a global variable that told the game what cutscenes to play each time Calliope entered The Sunken Flagon. At least, I'm fairly certain that's what happened; there's four hundred or so global variables and the Debug menu won't let me check them all.

: Been wondering when you'd give in and grant me free reign over your kegs. Anyone else want anything?
: Some dwarves should never be allowed to walk the surface... little freeloaders...

So I went back to an older save and sided with the City Watch, setting the variable correctly and nabbing me this cutscene - which, through the magic of Let's Play, has been seamlessly spliced into my Shadow Thief playthrough. Marvellous!

Magic, in fact, is the theme of today's update.

* * *

: Why? Like you care. If I didn't almost burn down your Uncle's dumb establishment, I wouldn't even be here.
: What is your problem?
: My problem is people keep telling me what to do, and I don't need to hear it anymore.

: I hear you haven't been doing well in the Academy.
: Well, it's not hard to guess which side of the classroom you heard that from.
: Those instructors... they don't know what they're talking about. And if I had to page through one more dusty tome, forget it.

Influence with Qara is very easy. Agreeing or disagreeing with her through normal conversation will give/lose you three points a pop, which is very good. Most characters only give one or two points at a time.

: Better? For what? The service of Neverwinter? Please.

How seriously have you been taking your studies recently?

: Why were you fighting those Academy students at the Flagon?
: Why not? They're always talking about me behind my back at the Academy, and I decided I wasn't going to take anymore.
: I know more than they ever will about magic - they're simpering little girls who can't even levitate a fork if they wanted to.
: They talk behind your back? About what?

Anyone else getting strong Carrie vibes?

: Is reading books so bad?
: You tell me - is it better to experience something or read about it? If I have to explain that to you, then you're a lost cause.
: I mean, I know what power feels like rushing through me - they've barely sipped from the stream.
: And what does power feel like?

: And you feel that warmth get hot, so much so you think you can burn anything in your path, yet you'll only be brushed by it.
: I... I can't even explain it. But trust me, I know.

This is the party roster. Returning to the Flagon allows us to swap in and out various companions.

We're going to get Qara equipped. Sand's got a magic shop next door - we can start there. Since they're both arcane casters, I'm sure Sand and Qara will have plenty to talk about!

Ruh-roh. Looks like some of Qara's classmates were waiting for her.

: Defending? You attacked me first!
: Everybody stop!
: Save your words. We heard you threatened our sister, Glina, at the Sunken Flagon. Our house's honor is at stake... and this will only be settled with blood.

Qara's spell selection. Sorcerers are best served by lots of offensive spells, since these are the ones that you'll use the most throughout the day. Here Qara is casting Fireball, a staple arcane spell from the earliest editions of D&D.


: They're from a rival house at the Academy, some of their students were punished when they decided to attack me.
: Attack you?

: They had it coming - eventually their master, Johcris, stopped me, but if he hadn't, I would have taken the battle right to all of them.
: Of course, now they're trying to ambush me in the streets now that I'm outside of Academy protection.
: What did they do, exactly?
: Talking behind my back, ridiculing me for my "studies", saying I was temperamental, and that I lacked any sort of discipline.

The thing is, it's hard to like Qara because she's so on edge. I recognise it's hard being "different", but Qara's got nothing on the demon, the dwarf, the tree-worshipper and the swamp farmer. We're the original West Harbor State Circus.

: So you did strike first?
: No, they were attacking me first - gossip, slander. I won't abide insults from those tome-readers.

There's lots of different kinds of magic in D&D. Originally there were just two: arcane and divine. Wizards used the offensive arcane magic, while Clerics used defensive divine magic.

Then things got more complicated. There were Illusionists, first a specific sub-class of the Magic-User, (Wizard), then one of eight different arcane schools of magic. Wizards could specialise in one school to the detriment of being unable to cast spells of an opposing school. Clerics, meanwhile, spawned the Druid sub-class, with spells oriented towards wilderness adventures and causing more magical mayhem.

Wizards, Clerics and Druids all use the same basic spell system: a spellbooks with a large selection of spells, which they use to fill up a small number of spell slots. Spells must be memorised to be cast, then re-memorised to be cast again. It's very similar to Jack Vance's Dying Earth books.

: Studies too strenuous? Well then, it's good it was your choice, others have not been so fortunate as being extended the offer.
: "Studies too strenuous?" I didn't need to study, I already knew how to do magic.
: Ah, yes, you are a sorceress. A natural.

Sorcerers are different: they have a small selection of available spells but can cast them multiple times a day. Spell slots become charges; they can cast five Level 3 spells a day, for example, but it's any five, any combination of Level 3 spells that the Sorcerer knows. Wizards, on the other hand, can only cast the exact spells they've memorised.

Wizards and Sorcerers are two different sides of the same magical coin: a strict, varied-yet-inflexible scholarly system, and a wild, unpredictable, explosive system. Even the fluff reflects this; Wizards are old bearded men uncovering the secrets of the multiverse (i.e. magic as technology, the traditional view of magic), while Sorcerers are 'naturals', spellcasters who don't necessarily understand what or how they're casting these spells (magic as intuition/the impulsive wish, a more modern construction). Sorcerers are also better in combat than Wizards.

Actually, that's a lie, Sorcerers are terrible in combat - but they're better than Wizards. Still, Wizards of the Coast realised they undershot in this respect and proceeded to create the Warlock class, which is reasonable in combat and can cast an infinite number of very weak spells every day.

Sand: [Bluff]


: Ah. Then perhaps you may wish to hold your threats until you do. Now, how can I help you all today?

Sand and Qara do not get along. A lot of it is fairly abstract - Qara is the impetuous teenager, eager to do things for herself, while Sand is hundreds of years old and prefers to learn through books and lectures. Old versus young, Law against Chaos.

The other half of it is that they're basically the same. Both are arcane casters, both are arrogant and self-righteous, both are clever and acerbic in equal measure. A clash of personalities was almost inevitable.

Look, Sorcerers don't need spell scrolls or magic robes or all that paraphernalia. We should probably get out of here before Qara actually does set fire to the shop.

: It wouldn't be the first time. All I know is he shouldn't have been talking like that to me if he knew what was good for him.
: By the Gods... that smug arrogance. I would have liked to have burned it off his self-righteous face, asking me about the Academy, my studies... how dare he.

: Well, did you hear him?
: He was being rude, but his words still made some sense.
: That'd be the day. He's got nothing to tell me that I can't find out on my own.

We'll see about that. Come on, let's go. We've still got to meet Axle.

This was actually foreshadowed in a cut cutscene. A number of students would gather together in the Moonstone Mask, plotting how best to take Qara (and us) down.


: Did you see what happened?
: Yes, she's given up on the Academy - and now she's traveling with that Harborman. Now there's a step down in the world.
: I wished she'd gotten expelled straight out like we did. So what do we do now?
: We stick with our plan and teach little Qara a lesson - without the Academy mages to break up the fighting, she should be an easy target.
: But what about her friends? And their leader? I don't want to be messing with that one - Harbormen live in the Mere, you know. Scary.
: They even have a demon with them - did you see her horns? I wonder if Qara conjured her.
: I wouldn't mind tackling that wood elf. Gods, she's beautiful.
: All of you, be silent. I didn't count on Qara making friends.
: We'll need to take them out first - when we've dealt with them, then we can strike at her.
: It might be a tough fight, even with them divided.
: We'll see. Qara made a lot more enemies than friends.
{Camera turns to show about 20+ students, gathered behind the three - this is the punchline that should make the player go, "oh crap."}
: And I seriously doubt Qara can defeat half of the Academy.

These fights with the Academy students trigger whenever you leave the Flagon with Qara in the party. As you can guess from the above dialogue, there originally were plans for them to attack regardless of whether Qara was in the party - and for there to be a third group of students as well, I believe.

: ...not that there will be a next time, I think.

It's very important to always control Qara in any kind of close-quarter fighting. Her spells tend towards the large and explosive; allowing the AI to target Qara's Fireballs is just asking for your party to be wiped out.

The recent patch is actually smarter about this, and Calliope and Neeshka's Reflex saves are high enough to avoid the Fireballs' damage, but when you're playing on Hardcore it's better to be safe than sorry. Of course, on Normal or Easy friendly-fire is off and Qara has nothing to worry about.

: I am not surprised to see you here, Qara. It took us some time to track you down.

Ridiculous. Those other students seemed to have no trouble finding us at all.

: You're Magister Johcris... Glina's father. How did you find me?
: Oh, your power burns so brightly, it is not hard when one puts their mind to it.
: And it seems wherever there is trouble and violence... there you are, in the middle of it.
: They started it.
: Of course. They always do. They will be disciplined. But you...

This dialogue (and all the others referencing Glina) is slightly different if you didn't resolve the initial encounter with Qara and the students peacefully. In that instance, Glina is dead... and Johcris is pissed.

: It is curious that even with all the Academy tried to teach you, you have turned into such a monster.
: It is my hope that I will live to see you brought to heel. But it will not be this day, I think.

What students? They're all dead.

Enh, no matter. Qara's little subplot is now completely resolved. We can finally meet Axle and get on with the plot.

* * *

The Hosttower is the other name for the Arcane Brotherhood, a cabal of mages who rule the city of Luskan. Since 'Luskans' are generally assumed to be amoral selfish scum, it's safe to say that the Arcane Brotherhood are the worst of the lot - and this one's no exception.

: We even heard a rumor that she is fighting the rest of your students on the streets of Neverwinter. A terrible state of affairs.

: But this girl Qara... she insulted my daughter and threatened to kill her - tried to provoke her into some filthy tavern brawl in the Neverwinter Docks.
: And that I will not abide.

: The Nine have their hands full with politics and troubles at the Docks, they will not help... and especially with my house out of favor with Nasher.
: This is something I wish to handle myself.
: Yourself? ...and yet you have contacted the Hosttower about this matter.
: It is strange you would summon us - we are not welcome in Neverwinter, and never in the Academy grounds.

It's a good thing we're seeing this. I was about to start empathising with the Academy students against Qara. These two, however, are obviously Evil.

I mean bad Evil. Not awesome Evil, like us.

: And what is it you wish done?
: I wish to hear Qara scream, to feel what it means to be burned by her own power.
: I want Qara to suffer.