The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2

by Lt. Danger

Part 21: Act One Chapter Eighteen - Grobnar Gnomehands

We're off to Old Owl Well!

Okay, so in today's update I want to cover three things.

The third thing will be setting up the Old Owl Well questline. Old Owl Well (after the whole Docks thing) is the second big speedbump in the NWN2 OC. It's also where we'll eventually pick up our sixth companion.

The second thing will be 1400_Neverwinter_Wood.

The first thing is introducing our fifth companion, Grobnar Gnomehands.

* * *

: Wendersnaven. It doesn't roll off the tongue too easily, so don't worry. Don't say it too loudly if you're not sure, though, they may take offense.

: What are you talking about? This gnome's mad, not me.
: Wendersnaven? I don't think I've heard of a woodland animal by that name.

Grobnar's the comic relief character in NWN2. So far we've met people who are dour, serious, cynical or sarcastic. Grobnar's our requisite optimist.

: Oh, but I haven't even introduced myself. I'm Grobnar Gnomehands, probably guessing where that last name comes from, don't you, well, tends to confuse most people.
: Quite a collector - and maker - and teller of tales, I am, all the Gnomehands are, except the ones they hanged in Luskan. Working on quite a tale myself, you know, and the act of composing it is a tale in itself...

I like the note of disgust implied there.

* * *

Grobnar as a character is a homage to two of Bioware's characters: Jan Jansen, the longwinded and eccentric gnomish thief/mage from Baldur's Gate 2, and Deekin the kobold bard from NWN: Shadows of Undrentide. Both characters are played for laughs, both are relatively innocent/naive or good-humoured, both are small both in stature and in plot presence. As it happens, these all describe Grobnar as well.

I've got to admit, the first time through, I had a lot of difficulty liking Grobnar. I couldn't shake the feeling he was actually an incredibly cynical attempt to ape the aforementioned Bioware characters. I know, I know, favourably comparing Bioware's writing to Obsidian's is unusual, but that's how I felt.

: I say, all that discussion has really built up a hunger. Lost all track of time.

: Oh, you were listening so intently you closed your eyes and lay down for a bit. Made some funny laughing noises at the right times, too, almost thought you were snoring.
: No trouble, don't blame you - I barely notice the world around me once I conjure up a story, so if closing your eyes helps you concentrate, by all means! I knew this mage once who-
: Look, we're on our way to Old Owl Well - is it in this direction?

I'm being unfair to Grobnar. It's not his fault he's so similar to his predecessors. I also have pre-existing grudges that I really shouldn't be allowing to affect my judgement.

There are a lot of good reasons why you should ignore what I said before, and I will cover them in due course.

: I could always use someone as a pack mule.

* * *

Grobnar is voiced by Andrew Pang (Listen here)

Grobnar's model isn't nearly as nice as his concept art:

I think this is a more accurate representation of the character. Hair doesn't animate in the NWN2 engine, so it's difficult to convey the floatiness of Grobnar's frizzy 'do, but the solid hair-wedge we get in the game is really unattractive. Also the little wispy soul-patch is more obvious.

Now, I know we all bemoan how confrontational all of the companions are; if it's not Neeshka whining about stealing something, it's Qara begging to set something on fire, or Khelgar just looking for a scrap. Grobnar's very nearly the only companion who doesn't constantly demand your full attention - and the downside is it's very easy to overlook him completely. Getting influence with Grobnar can actually be quite hard!


That's it. The main way you gain influence with Grobnar is being supportive when he asks (asks, not demands like a spoilt child) for something; or you can lose it by being mean and calling him an idiot... but he never gets angry, or upset, or mad, he just takes it and it's actually quite depressing.

But regardless: what do you lot think? Friends or no?

(Like Neeshka, the thread could not come to a clear consensus on Grobnar - Ed.)

Bards are support characters that are a bit good at everything. They can cast a small number of spells, drawn from both the arcane and divine spell lists; they're pretty good at skills, especially the social ones; they can handle themselves in a fight, though nowhere near as well as a full Fighter.

Their main speciality is inspirations: songs they can sing or play that make the party tougher, stronger, harder to hit, or confuse the enemy, slow them, etc. etc. Bards aren't a great core party member because they'll never be as good as a straight Wizard, Rogue or Cleric - but they're great at filling in gaps (like if the Rogue put all his points into stealth and traps, or if your Wizard didn't take any summoning spells).

* * *

Grobnar just sort of pops up randomly as a special encounter on the way to Old Owl Well. It's a bit strange, considering that the other companions are introduced seamlessly as part of the main plot.

NWN2 is divided into Modules - collections of areas, scripts, conversations and so on. Modules are connected by an overarching Campaign which carries all of the global scripts, conversations etc. that the designer want to be available in all Modules. NWN1 didn't have the Campaign superstructure, so technically every Module was its own adventure - which led to a lot of hacky workarounds when trying to carry relationships and NPCs over from one Module to another.

Modules are designated with a four-number prefix, e.g. 1700_Merchant_Quarter. The first digit is the Act the Module appears in; the second its unique identifier. The last two numbers appear to be used internally for different areas.

I mention all this because the Modules folder in NWN2 looks a bit like this:

We're missing 1400 and 1500 - that is, two modules. I don't know what 1500 was supposed to be, but I'm fairly certain 1400 was Neverwinter Woods.

Remember how Axle's dialogue was all over the place? Talking about bandits on the High Road, then suddenly switching to talking about orcs and the Lords' Alliance emissary? And how he couldn't make up his mind whether or not Waterdeep was involved? Well, originally he was supposed to send us to Neverwinter Woods as well, in order to find out more about the bandit attacks.

I can't tell you much about Neverwinter Woods (because it's missing from the game, duh) but there's a few trailing ends Obsidian didn't clear up. There's the first few lines of a Journal entry for Axle's quest; a Ranger{Ambush} creature blueprint with a 1401 prefix; Grobnar's conversation file has a 14 prefix as well. At a guess, we'd bump into Grobnar in the Woods, teaching some halflings about Whitethistle (that's what he was originally supposed to be doing when we first met him - not singing to himself like a loon), and he'd help us out with our quest.

Now, I think it would turn out Luskans were behind the whole thing anyway, though I'm not sure of the details. There is this conversation I found, though:


: {Black Garius is confident that Torio has succeeded - voice thick with anticipation of a prize being delivered} Torio, I trust your mission was a success. Have you brought the Heart of the Wood?
: {Uneasy, she's not sure how to handle this for once} Milord, there were... difficulties.
: {Low voice, but he is furious} Difficulties? Even after all we have gone through to prepare this ritual? {Beat} You are brave to return, Torio.
: {King is said warily, knows he's risking his life here, and is angry at being inconvenienced} Your failure means I will have to beseech the King for another way to complete the ritual. And of course there will be a price...
: {Evil, suggestive - this is like a death sentence} Perhaps I should send you to him, Torio, and you can serve as messenger. You have such a way with words, after all.
: {Alarmed, desperate, trying to avoid a death sentence} Milord Garius, forgive me - it shall not happen again, I swear upon my life.
: In that, Torio, you are correct. {Walking away} Pray you do not disappoint me again.
: {Lorne approaches Torio, amused} A common villager out-manoeuvered you, Torio? {Taunting} So it seems I have lived to finally see you humbled.
: {Lashing tone - like a blade slashing through cardboard} Watch your tongue, Lorne. She won't stop me a second time.
: {Snorts} You forget your place, we are but Garius' tools.
: {He starts walking away in the second line, and fade out} And our master has no need for tools that serve no purpose.

This is old, and doesn't quite gel with the rest of the plot. Still, what is interesting is that there's also a second path in which Torio is successful - so there must have been an option for the player to lose, or at least not bother to stop the Luskans from achieving their objectives.

Oh well, no matter. Onwards to Old Owl Well.

* * *

Our Shadow Thief contact, Karina, intercepts us shortly after we arrive at the Well.

: Ah, so there is something between those ears. Good to know Axle sent someone who's not a complete fool this time.
: You'd have thought the last recruit they sent me was one of the Greycloaks... he actually thought he knew better than I did, so my dagger ended up between his shoulderblades.

: The Waterdeep emissary didn't make it to Neverwinter. Thing is, even we don't know what happened to him.
: Fortunately, the Council decided to send the Greycloaks to take Old Owl Well. Gave me the perfect cover.
: What's so important about the well here?

Ah. So the Greycloaks are here to condemn hundreds of orcs to death by dehydration by taking the only source of water for miles around.

That's actually a really good strategy. It's a lot more efficient than the usual method (paying adventurers thousands of gold pieces to hunt down each orc tribe and kill them in person). A pity NWN2 doesn't have a food/water mechanic.

: If the Greycloaks take it back from the orcs, the trade route between Neverwinter and Yartar would be open again - which serves our interests.
: But we're wasting time with all this talking. Let's get down to business.

: Forged isn't the right word. We have friends on the Council, and that's all one needs.
: Show these to Callum - that should be enough to give you his support and the freedom to move around without drawing suspicion.

This is Old Owl Well - that is, this is the military encampment that has sprung up around Old Owl Well.

Callum is the commander of these Greycloaks and one of the Neverwinter Nine - Nasher's elite bodyguards and servitors.

: Unless you'd like to report to Nasher that we're overrun because we couldn't find rocks, I suggest you drive some sense into your men and get that wall built.
: Yes, sir. I'll see to it, sir.

: I'm looking for the one in charge here.
: That would be me. Let me tell you, leading these farmers is a mixed blessing... they've got a ways to go.

: I'm here to escort the Waterdeep emissary to Neverwinter.
: Issani? He hasn't arrived yet, should have been here a tenday ago. I've sent a scout to look for him.
: Who are you anyhow? No one told me to expect more men, not that I'd be complaining.

fuck tha po-lice

: I assume you've got proof that you are who you say you are?
: You'll be hearing from them soon enough. They won't be pleased with how I've been treated.

It seems like we're being unnecessarily aggressive, but I'll tell you now we're actually distracting Callum from the truth. If we're too helpful and keen, he guesses we're fakes - after all, the bureaucratic Council could never get their act together to send a representative to Old Owl Well.

It doesn't make a difference in the long run - we're still doing this quest however we handle Callum. Of course, we wouldn't have to worry about any of this if we were here on the behalf of the City Watch.

: Still, as long as you're here to help, you won't hear me complaining. We need all the help we can get.
: The emissary had no idea he'd be entering a battlefield, did he?
: This assault has been planned for months. We weren't able to warn Issani ahead of time, though.
: We weren't expecting to be needing a new emissary, to be honest. Still, at least we'll be here to offer more protection.
: Why didn't you bring more men with you to help fight off the orcs?
: Well, that brings us back to the emissary, doesn't it? If the Lords' Alliance could communicate, you're right we'd have more men, but with the emissaries being lost...

: Things never do around here. Heh, if they did there wouldn't be any jobs for the rest of us, would there?

: Just wish I could make contact with whoever it is that's been distracting the orcs.
: Someone else is attacking the orcs?
: Yes - someone's out there attacking orc patrols, and it's giving us a chance to build up our defenses.
: So they're on your side.

: Why can't you make contact with him?
: He's not one for talking. Every time I send someone out to contact him, he and his men move their camp.

: That's not a name orcs give lightly - it's a name they give to warriors who lose themselves in battle.
: It is odd that even orc trackers couldn't find him. Or that he would risk stirring up so many tribes in this region.
: Maybe this "kettle-head" person simply lacks basic math skills. You see, if we were to face three hundred orcs, the odds... well, if you carry the two... might be...

Actually, with a few more levels, we probably could take on three hundred orcs and win. D&D monsters don't scale very well to the PCs' levels, although 3rd Edition introduced such nice things as Vampiric and Lich templates.

: Well, enough talk about him. I've got my hands full just keeping the men in fighting shape.

: Willem. Did you locate Emissary Issani?
: No, sir. But I came across his escorts - killed to the last man, but no sign of the emissary. Orcs, sir. They must have taken him.

I wish he was still talking to the Pathfinder, and we could sit back and relax while somebody else does the legwork... but no, we're the ones who have to find him.

: I'd start looking at Yaisog Bonegnasher's lair, northeast of here.
: Bonegnashers? They're still around? They're hard to kill.
: My, Bonegnasher is an interesting name. I wonder what he would have done to earn it?

: If the Bonegnashers are not the biggest tribe, who is?
: The Eyegouger tribe is the strongest, led by Logram Eyegouger. He keeps the other tribes in line, including the Bonegnashers - and he's the one leading the attacks.
: All the orcs in the Well fall under his banner. If we could get lucky and put an arrow through his skull...
: Our orders are to hunt down the emissary - if we run across Logram, we will deal with him.

: But from what I've heard, there's been reports that this unknown ally of ours... this Katalmach... is hitting Logram hard.
: Which means he must know where Logram can be found. But since I can't find this unknown ally of ours, Logram's out of our reach as well.

: Wish I could spare someone, but I need to keep my men together so they learn how to act as one. Besides, they'd only slow you down.


This is the set-up for the whole Old Owl module. The conversation with Callum is something like 70% of the dialogue for this section; after this, it's all about killing orcs.

Let's roll.