The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2

by Lt. Danger

Part 32: Act One Chapter Twenty-Nine - Someone Else's War

We've come a long way, baby. The githyanki are holed up in some caves in a mountain just north of Ember.

It's time to finish what they started in West Harbor.

We start at the very bottom of the mountain and must make our way to the summit.

Unfortunately several githyanki watchposts are scattered along the path to the top.

Still, this shouldn't pose a problem for us.

Ah. Perhaps not.

The firewall isn't that threatening, actually; it doesn't do much damage and we can ignore it anyway due to our Reflex saves.

What it is, however, is dramatic as fuck.

For the most part NWN2 uses the same soundtrack as NWN1, which wasn't very inspired. That said, there are a few new tracks which I think are fairly awesome.

This here's the Githyanki Theme and that's what's playing as we ascend the mountain. Epic, huh?

We meet Guyven of the Road again, here on the mountainside. This is the guy we met in the Sword Mountains that clued us in on the Ironfist stronghold.

: These githyanki are one of the strangest sights I've seen in my travels. I suppose the Luck of the Road brought you here to rescue me.
: I came here to see the Illefarn ruins that are rumored to be atop this mountain. Much to my surprise, the area was infested with githyanki.
: When they captured me, I think they intended to put an end to my travels altogether, but first they asked me what I was doing here.
: When I mentioned that I had some knowledge of the Illefarn ruins here, they kept me here instead.

: Long, long ago the Illefarn had reached the height of its power and, like most glorious empires throughout time, they slipped into... let's say, comfortable apathy.
: The Netheril, a rival empire, were considered mostly harmless by the Illefarn, until one night where the Netheril attacked the Illefarn at this very place.
: They used their powerful magic to utterly annihilate the Illefarn here. They left no man, woman or child alive. They did this in order to send a message to the Illefarn.

If you've played the NWN1 expansion pack Shadows of Undrentide (or know anything at all about the Forgotten Realms), you'll know of Netheril. The Netherese were human mages of extraordinary skill, capable of creating powerful artifacts and constructing flying cities. Eventually they overstepped their boundaries and destroyed all magic in the universe for a split-second, which was enough to Decline and Fall of the Ancient Magical Empires yadda yadda yadda.

They're sort of responsible for this whole 'silver sword' mess, in a roundabout kind of way.

: The Illefarn Empire got the message, and it propelled them into the creation of some sort of great Guardian.
: I'm not too well versed on the Illefarn Guardian, though. I hear it was created in another Illefarn city somewhere in the Sword Coast. I'd dearly love to find that place.
: Thanks for the story.

We'll be meeting Guyven of the Road again soon. In fact, this whole conversation was one big foreshadowing device - on several scales.

We fight our way past more githyanki guards.

If this seems too straightforward for our Rogue, that's because it is.


: Looks like we have quite a climb ahead of us.
{Dramatic music plays. Camera pans past the party, up the mountainside, ending with the cave at the top.}
: The main trail up the mountain is bound to be watched. I say we hunt for another route.

* * *

: {quiet, warning} Wait a moment. {Pointing at githyanki watch-station} Look up ahead.
{Camera shows the githyanki watch-station with githyanki watching the pass below.}
: They'll see us if we continue up the main path. We should find another way around.
: They're only watching the pass below, so we can probably silence them quickly if we approach from the sides or rear.

A stealthy minigame for Rogues and Rangers. We'd make use of an alternate route to slit the throats of all the guards and avoid alerting the main githyanki task force.

It doesn't matter - a heroic climb through fire and steel up to the villain's mountaintop lair is just as good.

Phew. We've climbed quite a way.

And here: the githyanki home base.

Him. That's the bastard who killed Amie!

Our friend.

From West Harbor.


: I enjoy knowing my prey, Kalach-Cha. I find it sweetens the taste of their death. Zeeaire allows me this luxury.

: Kalach-Cha is the brand given to one who not only steals a silver sword, but destroys the sword to hide the crime and then impudently carries its shards.

Aaah. So that explains it. We've been being called this... Kalach-Cha thing ever since the Weeping Willow. It turns out it's just a fancy name for a silver sword-thief.

I was worried it meant something like 'Chosen One'. Thank God for that!

: I didn't break the sword. I gathered these shards to find answers.
: You lie, Kalach-Cha. You gather the shards to use their power. I can feel the stink of your corruption mixed with the energy of the shards you possess.

Well, okay, that's true. Each of the silver shards gives us some kind of special bonus: Daeghun's shard gave us +10 hitpoints, Duncan's some elemental resistances... others give attack bonuses or even +1 to all stats, which is handy.

: I'd like to talk about something else.

We only get one opportunity to change the subject - then the Sword Stalker gets bored and attacks us.

: Zeeaire. I keep hearing that name. Who is Zeeaire?

: Who is the Lich Queen?
: Vlaakith the Lich Queen has been our leader for millenia. Her greatness is second only to Gith herself. I don't wish to speak of her further.

For good reason too.

It's pretty rough, being githyanki. You live in the hollowed-out space between dimensions; your entire culture is steeped in fear and hatred; every day of your life, you're fighting or raiding or hunting something dangerous; your mortal enemies are psychic octopus-headed brain-eaters from beyond space and time; whenever you're just cruising around the Astral Plane, there's a strong chance some PCs will warp in and chop you into bits.

And if you survive all that and make it to level 9, Vlaakith - the Lich Queen - throws you into one of the Lower Planes, to survive amongst fiends for several weeks, in a combination pilgrimage to Gith/final exam.

And if you survive that and make it to level 12, she pulls you out of the Astral Plane and consumes your life force for a light snack.

So they're all a bit touchy when it comes to their Lich Queen. One wrong word and it's entrees for them.

: Gith is our savior. It was by the strength of her conviction and the power of her sword that she freed our people from our enslavement to the illithids.

: You speak as though Gith is still alive.
: Gith lives. Of that, every githyanki is certain. But she is lost to us. Some say she is imprisoned in Baator.

Whoops. Now he's angry.

What, you mean aside from us?

And the githyanki all bum-rush us.

They're not especially difficult, but unfortunately they're also the least of our worries.

Hold up a second, though. Let's go back a bit, to just before the githyanki captain shows up:

What if we were male?


: {Irritated, getting frustrated} Guards, wolves, ambushes, now a dark cave filled with gith... {Dismissive} why are we wasting time over this farmgirl again?
: What if I had that attitude when you were in trouble?

Neeshka yells at us, that's what. This is one of the few surviving pieces of the Neeshka romance.


: {Jealous} Fine, I was just saying... this seems like an awful lot of effort over some peasant girl. I mean, that is all she is to you, right?
: What does that matter?
: {Challenging} Because I asked you? I mean, I've stuck with you this long without needing more than one rescue, and now we've had to save her... what, three times now?

On the other hand, Shandra hasn't lied to us yet.


: We placed Shandra in danger, and it's our duty to rescue her.
: {Angry} Well, then let's go in and get this pathetic rescue over with... since that's what you seem to do with everyone you meet, regardless of how you feel.

Taking responsibility for the fate of others loses us Influence with Neeshka... well, it would if we were male.

That's one possible conversation, which you get if you have high Influence with Neeshka. If you're stronger with Elanee, then you get this:


: We're going awfully deep into Luskan territory - hope this girl is worth it. {Beat, deciding to cause trouble} Seems to me the druidess is thinking the same thing.
: {Slightly snappish, Bishop is irritating her} No, I am not, Bishop. As with many things regarding women, you are wrong.
: {Smug, knows he's right} Of course I am. That's why you get that expression on your face with every step north of the Mere we take, eh? {Slight taunt, a little low} All for some peasant girl who keeps putting us all in danger.
: Leave Elanee alone, Bishop.
: {Tired, but trying to deflect the comment} I can take care of myself - this journey is proving longer than I thought, and I worry what we will find at the end.
: And Shandra is not some peasant girl, Bishop. She needs our help, as our leader said.
: {Taunt} What, do our leader and her have some history I'm not aware of? Because if it's love, then I can understand why we're on this fool's errand.
: {Slightly snappish} I seriously doubt that.
: This is our best chance to open the Haven, nothing more.
: {Slight disgust} The way you treat others...take note of our 'fearless leader,' Bishop... such acts come full circle.
: {Slight taunt} So you're saying if I act the same way, maybe I'll have a half-dressed druidess following me as well, hoping for a scrap of attention. Things could be worse.
: Shandra's well-being should be our focus right now.
: To you, maybe. But I have the answer I need, I think, and this errand's a lot less foolish in my eyes.

Oh, Bishop. Stirring the pot, as always.

That's all only if you're male, of course.

There's actually some cut content here which suggests that Obsidian originally wanted to portray the githyanki as a matriarchal society:


: Most of the githyanki I've encountered are female. Why is that?
: Githyanki men typically serve the Lich Queen from the Astral home.
: You travel with and lead male servants. Do you not find them too fickle and weak of mind for anything but simple tasks?
: She may be evil, but she is so right.
: Tell me about it.
: {offended} Well, I say we put that theory to the test... right now.
: Men have their uses.
: {interested} Yes, they do. I have been away from the Astral home for some time and I have not... {suggestive} indulged myself.
: {suggestive} Perhaps your human servant, the tall, dark one, would suffice. Give him over to me willingly and I can offer you a faster, painless death.
: {disgusted} You can't possibly pay me enough... and even if you could, I'd need a few kegs of Duncan's ale first.
: You're not taking Bishop.
: {Dissapointed} Oh.
: {Grim} Glad we understand each other. I'll never be that desperate. {Beat} And if I am, go ahead and kill me.

Probably for the best it was cut, I feel.

Moving on...

Aha. That must be our other 'problem.' Somehow, demons have crashed our party.

Succubi are one of the more annoying enemies you'll face. They can Charm creatures into fighting for them (as we see with the githyanki in the background). In fact, they have access to a number of irritating spell-like abilities.

They also have Damage Resistance. We're carrying +1 weapons, and these aren't enough to break through.

This is, I think, one of the problems with D&D combat: so much is determined before combat even begins. So much of your effectiveness is dependent on what weapons you have, what bonuses they've got, what spells you've memorised, what level you are, what your saves are... Here, our failure is a foregone conclusion, because we don't have strong enough weapons to penetrate the succubus' DR, not even with Sneak Attacks or Critical Hits.

We're fortunate in that this is 3rd Edition, because we can just brute-force through DR by doing enough damage. Casavir and Bishop have Power Attack, which increases damage at expense of chance-to-hit; Casavir also has Paladin abilities like Smite Evil to draw upon. In 2nd Edition, we'd all be dead - if your weapons weren't good enough to hit, you just couldn't do any damage.

Of course, DMs ease the issue somewhat. Maybe the party doesn't have good enough weapons to reliably damage the Iron Golem - but perhaps the Fighter can push over a support beam and collapse the roof on the Construct, defeating the enemy that way. We don't have that opportunity, though.

Succubi can also drain levels on touch (this is how they kill you by fucking you - they drain you dry). Level-draining has always irritated the living hell out of me - you lose attack bonus, skills, memorised spells, hitpoints etc. permanently, or until you receive a Restoration spell, a mid-level Divine spell that, surprise, Grobnar doesn't have! Cue me swapping Elanee in through the cheat menu several times throughout this update.

While I'm on the subject... it doesn't even make sense. Succubi (demons) and erinyes (devils) are supposed to be seductresses: persuading people into committing acts of evil.

What numbskull sent them to be footsoldiers in an attack on a githyanki base?

This guy. Remember him from nineteen updates ago? This is the man who killed Lord Gentry, and Lord Hawkes.

Well, this is the second time we've seen him. I'm sure that with his distinctive looks, he'll stick in our memories from now on.

so on so forth

He disappears into the shadows...

...leaving us to fight his minions. Those blue clouds are three succubi with Ghostly Images cast - a nasty low-level buff that makes them considerably harder to hit.

Down the corridor a way, we find an old friend.

: We should tear it apart, see if its limb twitch when cleaved from the body.

Edited out: unconvincing scenes of the succubi attacking the construct.

: Anything being torn apart by demons is an ally in my book.
: Why, he's the very same kind of blade golem construct that appeared in Neverwinter. But... it looks damaged - inert.


: Why would the githyanki want this?
: I have no idea.

Cheers, Grobnar.

: It certainly isn't an ally of the githyanki... which means there's at least one more player drawing the cart around this whole circle of ambushes and counter-ambushes. How perplexing.

Great. So, we've got... what? Us? Lord Nasher? Garius and the Luskans? Zeeaire and her githyanki? Demon-guy? The King of Shadows and his necromancers?

And Illefarn fits into this whole mess somehow, I just know it.


: Are you mad? I'm not hauling that thing back to the inn where it could massacre people.
: I'm not mad, I'm very calm. I mean, who wouldn't want a chance to examine it - and I'm relatively sure I could keep it under control. Relatively.
: Maybe I didn't make myself clear. We're not bringing this thing with us.
: Uh, I think leaving it here would be a bad idea. If I can fix it, the githyanki might be able to do the same. And then they might send it after us.

Aww. The one time Grobnar asks for anything, we shut him down. Well, he can blame his elder siblings Khelgar and Neeshka for his woes - whenever they've asked for something, it's always ended with me fighting for my life against a hundred bugbears.

Oh Bishop you asshole. I was making a legitimate player-choice and you just undermined me in front of the children!

It doesn't matter what answer you give Grobnar, actually... we'll be seeing the construct again sooner or later.

At the end of the caves we find the entrance to the Illefarn ruins. Almost done, now.

Ah... yes, this brings back memories of Bevil and the swamp. No lizardlings, though.

: Perhaps we can find a way to amuse him, to lessen his suffering.
: Or perhaps we could convince him to amuse us. What say you, devil? Are we not worthy of your attention?
: Sisters, it appears this handsome one is immune to our advances.

Fiends come in one of two flavours: demons (tanar'ri) and devils (baatezu). Demons are Chaotic Evil, devils are Lawful Evil. They do not get along - which is a good thing, because if they ever united they could bring the universe to destruction. It's also a bad thing, because they inevitably use mortals as catspaws in their infernal shenanigans.

Actually, there are loads of other kinds of fiends, but demons and devils are the only ones we need concern ourselves with.

: Such a shame... and to be turned away by such indifference - why, I am dreadfully hurt.
: But is he indifferent to pain? That, perhaps, is worthy to test.

We swapped Neeshka out for Grobnar just before we entered the ruins. Bishop had some +2 arrows on him when he joined the party - we give these to Neeshka and suddenly she can hurt succubi.

The devil is surprisingly grateful for the death of the succubi taunting him.

: Ah... it seems you have brought blood of the Lower Planes with you. Well met to you, tiefling.

There's generally not a lot of point bringing Neeshka anywhere on your adventures - even if you're not a Rogue, there's nothing she can do that a Knock spell and a tough enough Fighter can't do as well. Sneak Attack is nice, but remember that due to Tiefling level-adjustment, she's lagging a level behind the rest of the party.

However, it's worth bringing her along wherever you expect to meet fiends, since she'll almost always have some additional dialogue.

: Well, all right... but never trust anyone who's polite as he is. He gives me the holies.
: Such prejudices are not uncommon even in the lower realms... I meant no offense.

This encounter is a bad encounter.

: [Success] Well-spoken. I, too, have little patience for the... unpleasant nuances that usually mark such bargains offered by others of my kind.
: You see, I am not here by choice. I was bound to this circle by the githyanki... old enemies of yours, I believe.

(That would be the shimmering blue thing in the background.)

: This barrier is no simple thing of stone, metal or clever lock.
: Similar to the githyanki portals, this barrier exists outside this plane. It has been shaped into an extradimensional wall through which nothing may pass.
: It cannot be dispelled, but my presence here feeds it and allows it to maintain its shape.

It's a bad encounter because there's only one resolution: freeing the devil.

Broadly speaking, encounters ought to be open to resolution through several methods: fighting something, talking to something, or tricking something. Obviously it can be more complicated than that, but a good RPG should offer at least two of the three for any given encounter.

Of course, more often than not they don't: in NWN2 alone we've had to hack and slash our way past almost every enemy because there are only a few options to use dialogue skills to avoid combat and zero options to use stealth to evade problems entirely. Most RPGs are like this - Fallout and Planescape: Torment are the only ones I can think of that avoid this, and even then they're not perfect.

It's a little less obvious when it comes to combat, because at least you still have different tactical options. But this dialogue, though... only one way to end this, and that's by doing what the devil says.

: Perhaps you know little of my kind, but when a bargain is sealed, we are bound by it - just as I am bound to this circle.
: And by my offer of assistance, I am placing myself at your mercy... even trust has its uses.
: All right, so what's the catch?
: You can banish me by speaking my true name... and of course, I will need your promise that you will use it only to banish me.
: This agreement will be as binding as this circle. If you have any doubts, please know that I only wish free passage for us both.

: [Success] Of course. My kind is bound by laws as well, you know.

And the end result is that all of these Diplomacy checks are for naught, because you're always going to be able to free the devil.

Wordy son-of-a-bitch, isn't he?

I'll spare you all the dialogue - here're the highlights:


: ...between you and Zeeaire lies a tanar'ri, a demon called Zaxis. And he will do everything in his power to stop you.
: Wait... how did he pass by you if the barrier was up?
: Because the githyanki did not order the shaping of the barrier - Zaxis did.
: When Zaxis arrived, he devoured the soul of the githyanki who summoned me. In so doing, Zaxis gained control of me... and he forced me to seal the way ahead.

Hmm. I don't think demon-summoning works that way!


: Zaxis is a powerful but otherwise unremarkable hezrou tanar'ri. If you seek to pass through the inner chamber of the complex, you will have to face him.
: I saw the one who summoned Zaxis. Do you know who he is?
: I do not. But to command an army of demons requires considerable power - for a mortal.
: How could he have gotten that much power?
: There are many ways. Artifacts, pacts with extraplanar entities, or, though doubtful, long years of study.

We'll find out a lot more about our summoner friend in Act 2. For now, this is all we have to go on.


: How can I stop Zeeaire?
: Zeeaire is old, ancient by your measure, but her body has not aged because the Astral Plane is timeless. While she remains there, she will retain the strength of her youth.
: The key to defeating her is to lure her into the Material Plane, where her body will instantly age... perhaps to the point where she will be unable to defend herself.
: How do I lure her through the portal?
: You must either anger her enough to confront you, or you must find a way to collapse the portal... it is an extradimensional door, so doing so will not be easy.

This is our hint as to defeating Zeeaire - which we will do next update.

For now, we've got to dispel this barrier.

Mephasm's not stupid. He's worked the agreement so that we can only use his true name to banish him - not to make him do anything else. So there's no point asking him (and it gives us massive Chaotic points).

: I shall call it to me, so you might see... look, barely a pebble, and an obstruction no more. Here, keep it, it may be of use in the time between our next meeting.
: "Next meeting?" Not if we can help it.
: Ah, would that you were able, little one.
: We will meet again.

And he vanishes... for now. Like he said, we will meet him again.

I can understand why Obsidian railroaded us through this encounter - Mephasm introduces a few key concepts that we will need between now and the end of the game. True names, demon summoners, interdimensional spheres... they'll all crop up again, some sooner than others.

And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Zaxis. Unlike Mephasm, we have lots of options here.

: Uh-oh.
: A hezrou demon... keep your distance, they are said to be incredibly strong.
: All our bashing and rending have failed to open this door, but our claws will tear you easily.

Uh, no way are we fighting Zaxis. We had enough trouble with the succubi - hezrou are made for fighting.

: Seems smart to me... and he does look pretty dumb. He sure does have an odd smell, though.
: All right, we'll wait for now... but he makes a move, I'm letting arrows fly.

Like I said, lots of options.

: [Success] Yes... the door will not yield to Zaxis. The one within, the female gith, has sealed it.
: Won't your master be displeased if you fail him?
: Yes... his anger will be great. If Zaxis fails his task, he shall be cast down.
: It sounds like your master is great indeed.
: The master wields great magics... greater than any mortal Zaxis has ever faced. Many demons have been torn from the Lower Planes, now and in the past, to follow him.
: So he has summoned others of your kind in the past?

: He led Zaxis and his brethren to face an army of soldiers of the flesh-town Neverwinter.
: Along the way he could not stop the demons from playing, so many villages were consumed in the wake. Never before or since did Zaxis glut on so much mortal flesh.

Oh dear. What have we gotten ourselves into?

: Names mean nothing to Zaxis. They are of no matter - only power and strength are of worth.

Enough of talking to this simpleton. Let's end this.

: Wait... if your task was to breach the door, you've already failed your master, haven't you?

: [Success] No! Zaxis only needs more time, that is a-

And we've successfully convinced the demon to off himself. Behold the power of a successful Diplomacy check!

This is it, folks. No more guards, no more demons. Nothing left to hide behind.

Just us and Zeeaire.