The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2

by Lt. Danger

Part 40: Act Two Chapter Six - Nc3? Bxc3

This is it, people: the dreaded Romance update.

Romances in CRPGs have been around since... well, actually, they've existed since near the beginning of all gaming history, when Mario set out to rescue his princess from the diabolical alien Tatanga. And in CRPGs in particular, they're sort of implicit in the whole fantasy setting - not only do most fantasy stories echo tales of virtuous knights and beautiful maidens, but their conservative imagery is straight out of the Romantics (different kind of romance, bub).

But they first appeared in their modern form in Baldur's Gate 2. It wasn't the first game to include romantic entanglement with NPCs, but it was the first to make it big. Think of any modern CRPG romance and I'll bet you can make out a faint resemblance between it and BG2. This goes doubly for NWN2, which apes BG2 in more ways than one.

The general gist of a romance goes as follows: the NPC (attractive, powerful) talks repeatedly with the PC over the course of the game. Flirtation occurs. At some point the NPC's fatal weakness (childhood trauma, dead husband, terrible secret) is revealed and the PC guides them through it. Together they become stronger and the NPC and PC confess their love for one another, followed by a chaste fade-to-black. Maybe you get some XP for your conquest (aha) or a cool unique magical item or whatever.

Ah. But that's only the beginning, isn't it?

* * *

What do we know about Casavir?

Well, his dialogue is sort of broken. Here he's talking about Old Owl Well as though the orcs were still attacking, even though we've completed that questline already (for the love of God, don't make me do it again).

Obsidian did actually think of writing a post-Well dialogue (and some of the voice files being called are correctly in the past tense, even if the subtitles are not) but for some reason they just copy-and-pasted most of the dialogue over from the original node.

: So you went there with those mercenaries?
: I did not come with them. Those are men and women who live in Old Owl Well, who were willing to lend me their swords.
: They have good hearts. Living there has made them tough, capable, and their knowledge of the mountain paths have made them invaluable as scouts.

: Yes, I thought perhaps by traveling there, my sword could make a difference, give the people living here some hope if Neverwinter itself could not protect them.

Hey, neither do we.

: I do not have faith in a city or a nation, but the people within it. The people of Old Owl Well - they know the truth of this.
: Neverwinter seems to have rallied their forces.
: It may seem such, but I felt that one man could make a difference.

You should be getting the idea by now that Casavir definitely tends more towards the 'Good' side of Lawful Good. As much as he loves Neverwinter and his lords, they're second compared to the lives of actual human beings. Perhaps this is why he's such a reasonable Paladin.

: I want to talk to you more about why you went to Old Owl Well.

Oh, there we go again, with our lousy logic and common sense!

: There was a need for action, the need to set an example. To move Neverwinter to act is something beyond my strength.

Oops. Wrong line, Casavir! This is what he should have said for a Shadow Thief:


: I am certain you noticed Neverwinter's reluctance to act. It is hard to ignore when one lives among them for long.

As Shadow Thieves, we weren't acting on the behalf of Neverwinter - hence, Casavir doesn't associate our intervention at Old Owl Well as Neverwinter's doing.

: I went alone, because I had to.
: Battling the tribes of the Old Owl Well is something that must be done. It is simple, a necessary act.

Uh, Casavir? You okay?

: There are battles that can be fought, and others that cannot. It is a difficult thing to speak of.
: I appreciate your words, and your intentions, but this is something that is difficult to share.
: Perhaps another time, when the words are easier to find.

Hey, we played therapist for Khelgar, we can do it for Casavir as well.

Well, maybe we can't. Since we're Not Liking Casavir in this LP, I can't access his Influence unlocks.

Not without cheating, that is.

DebugMode 1
rs kr_influence
(Increase Casavir Influence by 10)

There we go. Now Casavir sees us as an inspiration - as someone to admire, someone to look up to.

: You have even helped achieve resolution where before there were only doubts. And for that, I thank you.

Not really worth it, was it? In my first playthrough of the game, I didn't know where all the Influence gains were, so I ended up having to take Casavir in my party everywhere in Act 3, hoping that an Influence gain would kick in somewhere and give me enough to unlock this dialogue.

It was in Highcliff that I finally got enough Influence with Casavir to ask him about Old Owl Well. Suffice to say I was a mite upset with the result.

Well, there's one other matter to discuss.

Remember how Casavir was a bit cagey about meeting the Greycloaks in Old Owl Well, even though he's a Neverwinter Paladin and buddies with Callum?

: Can you tell me more about this?


That's pretty serious.

Earlier in the LP (much, much earlier) we discussed alignment as a game tool, i.e. balancing out the power of certain classes with behavioural restrictions. Paladins have to be Lawful Good and adhere to a knightly code of conduct - failure to do so results in them falling and becoming mere Fighters - or worse, Blackguards.

The class is a rich source of angst and tension, as the Paladin struggles between his divine duties and his baser, darker emotions. Which translates to every Paladin being on the brink of betraying his most beloved vows and murdering people in the streets. Paladins don't have normal emotional development, like healthy adults; it's always "I am angry or upset about something, and I can... feel myself... ever so slowly... FALLING INTO DARKNESS."

Narratively speaking, the Paladin only ever exists to teeter on the edge of complete mental collapse; to topple and fall into emotional obliteration, or to rock back into peaceful equilibrium. The class is one giant heroic archetype - the Honourbound Knight - which might explain why Paladin characters tend to fall flat or become irritating.

You're probably familiar with the Jedi of the Star Wars mythos: how, half the time, they appear only to fall to the Dark Side and become villains, or resist temptation and become heroes. I think more Dark Lords have begun their lives as Jedi Knights than as actual Sith apprentices. Atris from KOTOR2 is an accurate summation of the phenomenon.

: It was an impulsive decision, and not the correct one. There was no place in Neverwinter for me any longer.
: And the farther I traveled from Neverwinter's walls, the more I saw what harm was befalling people - such as those at Old Owl Well.
: What do you mean?

: I needed to travel to Old Owl Well to try and take direct action, to make a discernible difference in the lives of those who need it... and I feel there we may have succeeded.
: So for that, I thank you.

: Very well - then I shall speak no more about it.

We can also ask about Callum - in theory. Here's the excerpt from the dialogue file:


: Do you know Callum?
: {Firm, this isn't the actual reason, but it's what he tells himself} I know Callum, we were once friends. He is one of the Nine, and he serves Neverwinter loyally and well.
: Once friends?
: {A little quieter} Callum serves Neverwinter. And friendship cannot always survive such trials.
: There are few within Neverwinter who still consider me a friend, and even then, their service to Neverwinter comes first.
: He was willing to overlook your presence and protect you.
: {Firm, nodding} Yes, Callum is here with the Greycloaks. He is a good leader, supportive of his men, but driving them to be more when need be.
: {Cynical, but not harsh} But even the efforts here on behalf of Neverwinter have been spurred on only by the need to re-open the trade route to Yartar, not out of a sense of responsibility or a greater good.

Sounds like he had a disagreement with Neverwinter policy... a little too realpolitik for his taste. At least, that's what he tells us.

Oh, Casavir, Casavir my sweet, why do you lie?

Okay, he's not really lying, just omitting the truth. Hell, it's not even truth any more - it was cut.

This is Casavir's Cut ContentTM. Nothing remains in the dialogues: this is from the voiceacting folder.

On arrival in Neverwinter:


: Casavir! Ophala said you had returned, I did not believe it.
: I should never have left, Mordren. You had only my safety in mind, but there are greater things that I should face.
: Have your vows robbed you of your sense?
: You endanger not only your life, but Ophala as well! Do you care so little for her that you would see Lord Piervall's rage fall upon you both?
: I intend to answer for it. Ophala committed no crime, and I am the only one who shall suffer.
: I will go to Lord Piervall, tell him the truth, and let punishment fall upon me as it should have. I will have no more blood shed for me this day.
: Casavir... you were always the stubborn one.
: The gates to Blacklake are closed... Lord Piervall cannot meet with you yet. But let me see what I can do, to smooth things with him before you meet.
: I will try to convince him again what happened was an accident. Until then, keep your head down and say nothing of your return to anyone else.
: I fear for not only your safety, but Ophala's. I will contact you again when I hear more.
{Exit Mordren}
: Who's the mark? Smells of nobility.
: A friend, who has already risked much for my sake.
: Looks like he has more to lose, if his purse is any indication. Might be worthwhile to pay his home a visit.

Jesus Christ, Neeshka!

Anyway, some thugs attack.


: It seems Lord Piervall has struck quicker than I thought. That can only mean...
: Ophala! We must go to her at once. If they struck at me, they may have harmed her.
{Casavir and the party leave for Moonstone Mask (?)}
: Good, you have come. I am afraid the news is not good, my friend.
: {indicating party} Who are these others you have brought?
: They can be trusted, Mordren. I fought with them in Old Owl Well.
: Very well. {Beat} Casavir, I met with Lord Piervall. It did not go well. He may not listen to you.
: Then that is a risk I must take.
: I fear he may threaten Ophala, if-
{Some thugs appear}
: Who are you? What do you want?
: Nothing, your lordship. We're just looking to have a talk with your temple-fearing friend there.
: We have a message... but we'll let our daggers speak for us.

And more thugs attack. I don't know if this ever gets resolved properly, though.

This is all that remains of Casavir's cut subquest, apart from script comments referring to a cutscene of Casavir re-entering the city and another of Casavir and Ophala in the Sunken Flagon. It turns out all that nonsense about political differences was just a cover for Casavir getting caught boning Ophala. Ooh, matron!

It's serious stuff. Ophala's a prominent public figure and Casavir doesn't have the chops to be courting her officially, especially if she's involved with this 'Lord Piervall' - hence the sudden flight from Neverwinter. This is a story straight out of The Canterbury Tales, mind... well, apart from all the orcs and such.

In fact, Casavir's actually a bit of a ladies' man. He's the official female romance for NWN2.

* * *

According to Obsidian, there are two romances in the NWN2 OC: Elanee and Casavir. One for the boys, one for the girls. They're both good-aligned too, as most players on their first play-through will be going for the standard Lawful Good hero character.

Again, according to Obsidian, there were two romances that were cut from NWN2: Neeshka and Bishop. These were the 'bad boy/bad girl' romances, for evil PCs and those allergic to saccharine. After all, Bishop is outright Chaotic Evil, while Neeshka's blatantly borderline.

I don't agree with Obsidian; if Bishop's romance is cut, then so's Casavir's, since there's about the same amount of content remaining. Hell, we've just trundled through most of Casavir's total content in less than half an update!

Neeshka's, however, is pretty much all gone. There's some bitchiness towards Elanee and Shandra still in there, but you won't find any "I love you <CHARNAME>!"s in the dialogue files.

The NWN2 romances are fairly low-key in comparison to their predecessors. Companions don't initiate banters or romance dialogues, so it's all dependent on the player accumulating enough positive Influence with their chosen companion to make the romance scripts fire. And most of the companions' lines are voiceacted, so they don't have a lot to say in any case.

The upside is that although Bishop, Casavir and Elanee are all horribly-broken human beings in desperate need of therapy (in the best traditions of Aerie, Jaheira, et al), we don't get to give it to them.

It's easy to mock romances, so much so that it isn't really funny anymore. It sounds all right in theory - another way of interacting with characters - but oddly enough game designers don't tend to be very good at writing good characters and dialogue. The romance always ends up being about 'fixing' the character, addressing some over-the-top critical flaw that you (only you) can resolve. Real relationships aren't about that sort of thing... but you can't really write a fully-equal relationship (romantic, platonic, whatever) when the unknown player writes for one of the characters.

In this regard, NWN2 is a little better than the Bioware standard, but that doesn't really say much.

* * *

I'll be honest with you: the main reason I chose a female protagonist was because it makes Bishop and Casavir kinda interesting. They argue with each other and flirt with Calliope and play a role in the story; with a male PC, they just float around aimlessly, looking a bit lost.

: And you know what, there'd be a lot less misery in the world if everyone followed that simple rule. Either stand up and fight, or be prepared to suffer.
: That's a bleak outlook.

: What would have happened if you never fought for anything? Why, you wouldn't have come all this way.
: Seems to me there's a strength in that, something you can learn from - and so could those fool villagers in Ember.

Kreia's (and Nietzsche's) pragmatist philosophy, blown open and repackaged in three little lines.

There's a lot of people who really like Bishop, usually for the wrong reasons. Yeah, maybe he's boyishly handsome, with messy hair and long lashes, but he's not a nice person. By his standards, he was positively glowing about the people of Ember just then.

There's another dialogue with Bishop I wanted to show you, but it is... unavailable (Obsidian ). So here it is in text format.


: Are you sure there wasn't anything special about that knife you gave to Marcus?
: {Irritated} Actually, you gave it to him, not me. {Slightly confused} But it's just an old skinning knife. At least, I think so.
: It's not worth much, that I can tell. But I guess beggars will take anything they can get their hands on for a few coppers.
: If you're lying to me, you're going to make me angry.
: {Slightly mocking} Now there's a scary thought. {Thinking} As for the knife...
: {Skeptical} It is easily concealable, if the kid needed to carry it to defend himself... or if he was attacked by a pelt golem, I guess he could skin it.
: And it's not magical.
: I don't think so. I mean, maybe - but it's not likely. It's just... mine.
: Where did you get it?
: [Influence: Success] Well, I got it in my home village - from one of the trappers who helped be my... 'mentor.' Though that's a loose definition.
: He gave it to me one night while he was drunk and told me to defend myself with it - so I stabbed him in the leg and made a run for it. Took him three days to track me down, and after that... well, we reached an agreement.
: After that, I kept it and used it to help him skin items. Used to hunt bears, wolves, and even creatures along the Mere.
: Is that how you became a ranger?
: I mostly learned how to track and hunt just from going hungry most of the time... and trying to stay away from my home village as much as possible.
: Coming from West Harbor, maybe you can sympathize. Seems to me you bolted out of there as fast as you could.
: I could care less (sic) what happens to West Harbor, it just seemed like the thing to do.
: I had a little more... feeling... than that about it, but your heart's in the right place.
: Sounds to me like it was time to move on... the same feeling hit me one day, and then there was no going back, ever.
: You must have really hated your home.
: Something you should know... growing up in West Harbor was probably a dream compared to other backwater villagers that are scraping by for a living.
: And whatever you learned there made you tough enough to face the world outside... you should count yourself lucky.
: Because for every West Harbor that spawns a hero, there's one that makes a hundred brigands, killers, and cowards. And then there's me.
: {Slight mockery, but serious} Who knows what I would have been? Not me. But I've got you to show me what could have been.
: I'm done with this talk... was there something else you wanted, or can I go back to what I was doing?

Remember what he says at the end there, it's important to understanding his character.

Now, that nice young woman who helped us unravel Elgun's lies... she was a ranger, wasn't she? Bringing Bishop to meet her should elicit a reaction.

What did I tell you?

: Bishop. I was wondering when you'd drag your sorry carcass back to Port Llast.
: You waited for me... I'm touched. Then again, it's not like you could have tracked me down if you wanted to.
: If you have a problem with Bishop, I suggest you forget it while I'm here.
: Who's your new mistress, Bishop? I didn't think any woman could break you... but maybe you were lying about that, too.
: And maybe you just couldn't handle me. But enough about ancient history... I don't think I've properly introduced the two of you yet.

: That's the trouble when you're not fully an elf... and not fully a human. It's like you've always got something to prove.

Bishop says this even if you're also a half-elf.

: It's a good thing I have you instead of her.
: My thought exactly.

: Oh, this should be rich. Go on, Malin, tell all.

We can ask how Malin knows Bishop...

...but she chickens out on us. Or just refuses to be baited, I can't tell which.

We can ask her again when Bishop's not in the party - oh, but wait! It's a once-only line and you can never ask it again. Reload!

: First, I have a question for you - why is he with you? Loyalty isn't high on Bishop's list - and he doesn't help anyone.
: He helped us get through the Luskan border so we could rescue a friend.
: Ah... Luskans. Bishop hates them... it's the only genuine emotion I've ever seen from him.
: The things he's done to them at the border...

: You don't get it... by saying that, he's already got you. Until he's finished with you.
: Just be more careful than I was. Bishop doesn't serve anyone but himself, that's just who he is.

A chilling warning.

There's someone else with a warning for us, too.

: Why do you care?
: Because he is a predator. Watch yourself - he is manipulative and dangerous.

Part of me wonders where all this is coming from. Casavir and Malin seem to think Bishop is some kind of Svengali, manipulating us into committing acts of evil. Sorry, Casavir, but we're evil of our own volition! The only manipulation Bishop does is having a hissy fit whenever we decide to help someone.

: Very well. It is not my affair. I only felt... compelled to warn you. Forgive me.

See, thing is... Bishop and Casavir are a little more similar than they'd like. Both of them would prefer to be somewhere else, but they just can't stop themselves from following us around. And at the same time, neither of them can bring themselves to come out and admit it, for different reasons. Love, eh?

This is (partly) why the female romance option is better than the male romance - there's a crazy love triangle going on, with massive potential for drama. With a male PC, all you get is the slow, inevitable collision with Elanee's lunatic babysitter-crush.

(But we'll talk more on Elanee later.)

It'd be a bit more convincing if they weren't such polar opposites. I mean, that's part of the drama, but does Casavir truly think he has a shot with us? In order to gain Influence with Bishop, we basically have to act like massive assholes all the time - so what does Casavir see in us? And what would Bishop see in a Sister Maria figure? (Apart from the obvious, ohohohoho.)

Perhaps if they didn't adhere so strongly to their alignments. Perhaps if Casavir was a bit more of a dick on occasion, or if Bishop wasn't so goddamn aggressive at every moment, it'd be a bit more believable that they could be attracted to the same woman: a bit of rough for the Paladin, a blushing virgin for the Ranger. If wishes were horses, eh?

Back to Bishop and Malin.

: She's a scout who couldn't find her way north along the Sword Coast if she wanted to. And yeah, she's almost gotten me killed before.
: She said you've done some pretty horrible things.
: Why the sudden interest?

We knew Bishop didn't like Luskans (neither do we - they're the Generic Evil Goons of the Sword Coast) but torture is taking it a bit far, don't you think?

: Well then, forgive me if I don't engage in idle talk about my past, not my style.

Bishop's a good character. If Casavir is bland and boring, Bishop more than makes up for it.

It's not because he's emo (he isn't; the point of his character is that he's emotionally broken) and it's not because he's evil (there are better kinds of evil anyway).

He's got this kind of eye-rolling cynical sensibility to him, and he's the only one in the whole party who seems to get why this whole magical adventure is a crock of shit.

: And which are you?

You see, Bishop is a transgressive bi-sexed cannibal queer.


* * *

Okay, so that was a little post-grad. Whatever.

Nature's important to the fantasy genre. Hell, it's important to society as a whole, since it basically helps define what is and isn't society.

People are a bit strange when pattern-matching. To be honest, we're not very good at it. We have a tendency to insist on fitting a square peg into a circular hole at all costs, and even when we do get it right we're often putting it in sideways anyway.

A couple of years ago I read an interesting journal article (this is old news by now, by the way) about the Bible and the list of prohibited foodstuffs. The article suggested that in the original Hebrew, 'to abominate' something didn't mean to hate or revile a thing, but to simply shun or avoid it. When the scholars who wrote Leviticus compiled a list of animals to abominate, they weren't just making shit up, or somehow magically aware of food poisoning and vectors of disease transmission (which would only apply to a fraction of the animals listed anyway). No, what they were doing was warning against animals that were, well, weird.

Rabbits and camels and pigs chew the cud but don't have hooves. Eels and catfish swim in the sea, but don't have fins or scales quite like those of 'ordinary' fish. And shellfish - have you even seen them?!

This little anecdote is a very longwinded way of saying that humans don't like ambiguity. Stuff that blurs the line between two discrete categories. Cyborgs, mutants, mixed-race families if you go back a generation or two...

...or man and nature. That's a biggie.

The Island of Dr. Moreau. Werewolves and other lycanthropes. King Kong. The merging of man and animal loops into a long-standing insecurity mankind has about its place in the natural world. Animals that act like humans are unnerving - and the same goes for men that act like animals. Think of the caricature of the 'primitive savage,' the ooga-booga cannibal from darkest Africa. Or maybe think of The Most Dangerous Game, the man-hunter who preys on human beings, undermining our whole concept of the 'natural order' of things. Humans not being top dog is a worrying concept for us.

And that's what Bishop represents. He's the tracker-of-men, the race-traitor who'd betray his own species for a bag of gold - or maybe just for the hell of it. That's what's implied in Casavir's and Malin's warnings, what lurks in the darkness of Bishop's viciously pragmatic philosophy.

But more than that, he's also the inversion of the traditional archetypal Ranger, the Strider-character who walks with the animals and controls nature. I see no such control in Bishop; Bishop allows himself to be dominated by his primitive, animalistic urges. Civilisation is for dorks.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting Bishop is some kind of super-cool awesomely-written badass character, a Kreia for the Forgotten Realms. He's just playing to type, just like the rest of the main cast. I could've written a small essay on anyone else in the party, and how well they fit stereotype, but I don't think it would've been as interesting. We know who the Burly Brawler is, and the Teenager, and the Mystic, and the Honourbound Knight, and the Nerd, and the other Mystic... but the Shapechanger's always a little harder to find, right?

* * *

Huh? What?

Oh God, the trial. I had completely forgotten.

: Duncan does seem to talk a lot.
: Duncan sure does. Not a good one for keeping secrets, but he's always quick to call a debt when he wants.
: So what do you think we should do?

: Because it seems to me a law-abiding lady like yourself might just be asking for the sake of asking.
: And trust me, I'll respect you a lot more if you admit it now, then hear my advice and ignore it.

Here Bishop takes a look at our alignment, and alters dialogue accordingly. Lawful and Good characters get called out on their asking advice from the openly Chaotic Evil Ranger, and quite rightly too.

: [Success] Hmmm... true enough. I'm not one for following what everyone tells me, either.

For successfully convincing Bishop that we don't think his opinion truly matters, we gain an Influence point.

: I think you should skip this whole trial and just try to kill the ambassador. That'll send a nice message to them about what you think of justice.

Oh, I say.

I talk a lot about how Bishop and Casavir are both falling for the PC, and that's why they follow us, blah blah blah, but neither of them are very good at making that clear. This is about a close as we get to an actual proposition from either of them.

: I don't know, if it was an offer, what would you say?

A bit more forward than I would've written it - no sense in killing off our romantic tension this early. But...

Ouch. Poor Casavir.

: Ah, you warm my heart, you really do. I love that in a woman - mean and sharp-tongued.
: Ah, well, poor paladin - you win some, you lose some.

One step ahead of you, Bishop.

It's time to return to Neverwinter and lay matters to rest.