Part 41: Act Two Chapter Seven - The Trial I: This Is Our Perry Mason MomentWarning: update is long. Let's Play Health Advisory suggests getting up and going outside at twenty minute intervals. Thank you.
We've done all we can. The only thing left is to confront Torio and her charges in a court of law.
: All right, then. Let us take this to Nasher.
* * *
Those of you who haven't played NWN2 have probably heard about the trial before. It's widely regarded as being one of the best parts of the game: a massive effort-quest with exciting/funny dialogue and a ton of options for characters with social skills. So far the diplomat-build hasn't been given a chance to shine, but all that's about to change.
: Under Tyr's guidance shall the truth of this matter be revealed - and justice delivered. Is the accuser here?
I mean, we're barely two lines in and already this happens. The trial sequence rewards those who can pretend the part of the lawyer: arguing the truth, knowing when to push precedent and when to recede.
: The accused is correct, Ambassador - this trial has barely begun.
: Forgive me, Reverend Judge. I am afraid my conviction got the better of me.
: Any more slips of the tongue, Ambassador, and the court will not look favorably upon it.
: Of course, milord.
Our first point, and we haven't even started. A good thing I gave Calliope a ton of skill points in Diplomacy, Bluff and Intimidate, right?
: We are present, and eager to bring the truth of this matter into Tyr's sight, Reverend Judge.
: Very well. We now list the items presented by the accused in their defense, and they will be shown to the people of the court, Lord Nasher, and held aloft for the eye of Tyr to see. First off...
Now Sand here explains the rules of the trial (in a roundabout way, of course - even he cannot break character).
Some players may want to skip the trial entirely. This isn't necessarily a bad idea, since if you have zero social skills (i.e. you are a Fighter) then you will find it very difficult to accumulate points in the trial - more so if you fucked up the quests in Port Llast.
: Well, skipping the trial is not an option, but if you are determined to make this proceed as... quickly... as possible, you may either denounce this trial publicly, which will act in Torio's favor, or...
: ...you may simply keep silent and allow me to argue it for you. If you intend to make haste, I would prefer that you simply leave it to me.
I'll show you these later.
If you want to fight the trial (recommended) then this is what you must do:
: While evidence helps a case, she knows it is often the drama, the belief of everyone here as to who is guilty and who is not that will ultimately win the day.
: Do not forget, that the rabble are here today to see someone hang - unless you can convince them you have been wronged, and grievously so, it is an uphill battle you fight.
: So what strategy do you suggest?
: It is somewhat... unorthodox, but playing upon the animosity between Luskan and Neverwinter may help you...
: But? You don't sound convinced.
: ...but that will only go so far, and may even help Torio in convincing the court that your actions may have been an attempt to start another war, which no one in Neverwinter wants.
: And do not threaten her or try to bluff her unless you are equally certain - if you fail, you are bound for the gallows for certain.
: I'll heed your advice.
: Well, I'm glad someone does. I occasionally have a good idea, you know.
Those are the rules. To translate:
- All that evidence-gathering you did? Waste of time. Even if you do all sidequests and get a perfect clue score (seven out of seven), you only earn three points in the trial. You need five to be found innocent, but Torio is clever and you will lose points before the day is out.
- Arguments that are only tangentially related to the case are accepted by the court.
- Diplomacy, Bluff and Intimidate will gain you points if successfully used against Torio and witnesses. Failing those skill checks, however, will lose points. You don't have to use those skills (or other skills, like Perform, Taunt and Lore) but choosing normal dialogue options may end up destroying you.
It's a complicated situation. In a way, it's like one giant Influence sequence: we're trying to gain Influence with Nasher, who decides the verdict - but Nasher has to do what the crowd says to avoid a riot, so we have to get Influence with them too. Only Torio's there too, trying to get Influence with Nasher as well and undermining us in the process. And in the middle is Judge Oleff, who just wants to see justice and can be an ally or an enemy depending on the circumstances.
: But really, no thanks needed. I assure you, this is a labor of love, and I relish the thought of seeing Luskan lose face - and possibly Torio losing her head.
: Come, let us deliver some humiliations, one arrow at a time - it looks like they have finished dispensing the evidence.
I know Sand likes his put-downs and whatnot, but he seems to be enjoying this just a tad too much.
We got a perfect score for clues in Port Llast (come on, it wasn't that hard) so we get the full three points for our efforts. If we'd missed out on evidence, we'd only get one point, zero or even negative points for our efforts.
I'm not entirely sure what constitutes evidence for the trial. At a guess:
- The ring the goblins had
- Lyssa's alteration powder
- The quartermaster's logbook
- Blood sample from the poisoned corpse
- Marcus (if alive)
- Shutting up Elgun
- Helping Nya
I'm not so certain about some of those, but whatever. It may become more apparent later in the trial.
: The accuser, Ambassador Torio Claven of Luskan, may now call witnesses to the stand.
We're really quite good at this, aren't we? Torio's already getting flustered.
Let's drive the blade home with a Diplomacy skill use. We've got something like 17, 18 in the social skills - the hardest challenges only require a skill rank of 15, and others are much less.
This should be easy.
: [Diplomacy] Is it? You seemed quite certain of our guilt. Are you admitting that is also in question?
: [?] Of course not, and I aim to prove it.
Oh god, I don't know if this is working!
Again, Obsidian is being clever and playing with how the game communicates with us to mess with our expectations. It's no longer just a matter of mashing the [Diplomacy] option and getting sweet rewards - now there's an element of uncertainty, of risk.
Really, it's just the electronic equivalent of rolling dice behind the DM screen.
: [Diplomacy] Which is it, Ambassador? Are we guilty or not in your eyes? I am finding it difficult to find the truth in your wordplay.
In the end, we win out over Torio.
: My, she has a temper. Well done, I am impressed.
: I understand that you wish to stall the witnesses about to speak, but there is really nothing more your wordplay can do to prevent it.
: I don't know who's been casting aspraisins on my friend here, but I'll have no more of it! Seems to me this travesty of justice needs its curtains drawn, it does!
: And who is this?
I tell you, he's got silly hair and can't talk right.
: Is this one of your witnesses, Sand? You seem... confused.
: [Lie] I know this man, and I want him to speak.
Still, we picked up on Sand's hint. This only happens if you work for the Shadow Thieves - Axle sends someone into the trial to fuck with Torio, turn it into a farce.
: She was drinking with us in the Sunken Flagon all that time, I swear upon my life and every God I worship.
: So she was drinking with you this whole time? For several days.
: Have you ever seen her drink? Wouldn't be asking that question if you had.
: You should come out and down a tankard or two with us, by the way - Ambassador, is it? You look like you could be a little fun, you could.
: This man is a drunk, and an offensive one. I ask he be removed from the courtroom and allow the trial to proceed.
This skill check doesn't really matter. Even if you fail, Venton saves it for you - but you don't get a reward for it either way.
: [Success] Hear hear! Well said, my friend!
: Who remembers the war? I do! The Luskan War, the unprovoked assault? Now, they try to do the same with words!
: Down with the Luskan attackers, whatever weapons they use! Down, I say!
Venton's interruption is an opportunity for some freebie points. No matter what you do (whether you let him speak or get him thrown out) you get two points for it.
Just as well, because our shady past is coming back to haunt us very soon.
: Well, now that that outburst is done, perhaps we can get on with the real trial, shall we?
: Let us examine the accused's character, in a place closer to home.
See what I mean?
This is Reylene, the gnomish shopkeeper who knew a bit more about extortion than we did. She ended up getting the best of us in that exchange.
: Is there something I should know? She's not like Grobnar, is she?
I wish. Grobnar would be easy to manipulate.
: Yes - and you recognize her, you say?
: Why yes, as I explained to you.
: So the accused threatened you?
Torio's not listening. This is our chance.
Well, it was worth a sh
oh it's this trick again. Yep, we made the skill check after all.
: But the accused honored you by threatening you, correct?
: Oh, well, yes. Took me a while to figure it out, though. Still, I was more than pleased to pay the gold, meant more recognition, you know.
: I see. Extortion of one of Neverwinter's merchants? One who cannot even defend herself? I am not certain there is a truer test of one's character.
: No, you are done. Thank you, Reylene.
Check this out: we're stealing Torio's witness.
We are Shadow Thieves, you know.
: I have plenty of time to speak, what did you want to know?
: [Appraise] I was hoping I could ask you for an account of how much assistance I was in helping your profits for the season.
One of the few uses of the Appraise skill.
: My, you do know business. I'd say I take in a revenue of about thirty more gold a tenday, now, and that's no small sum.
: I hope you people of the court are paying attention - this person you're accusing? Knew exactly what to do to give business a good kick and help me out.
: I wish that everyone in Neverwinter... all merchants who have been hurt by the trade season... could be helped just like this, it would be good for the whole city!
: But again, thank you.
: [Success] Oh, yes! It worked quite well, indeed.
: I really can't thank you enough for intervening. It really made a difference.
: That is all I wished to know. Thank you, Reylene.
: Very well. Ambassador, do you have another witness?
: This can't be good.
Ah, crap. Alaine is Torio's prime witness, and for good reason. It's her testimony that got us charged with Ember's destruction in the first place.
: Now... please, tell the court what you saw.
: I... I saw the accused... there at Ember... she... killed them all...
This is the key to getting past Alaine without losing too many points. Pretty much anything you say to Alaine is going to lose you points, and only a handful of options will let you make them back up.
: This isn't good. We need to change the course of the river streaming from her eyes, or we're all going to hang.
We must be careful, precise and delicate. One wrong word could end the whole trial for us now.
But it works. Torio takes the bait.
: When Luskan's to blame for what happened and why we're all in this court, yes!
: Do either of you even care about what I have to say? What I have to say about Ember?
: This isn't about Luskan or Neverwinter or your foolish politics! It's about my village - a village that was wiped out, and its people killed!
Too late, the damage is done. Torio's lost sympathy with the crowd.
: But the accused slaughtered them all, did she not?
: Yes. I... I... saw it all. I took refuge in Port Llast... there was nowhere left for me to go.
: You are safe now, Alaine... and the accused cannot harm you here.
: I have some questions for her first.
Torio can't resist this final jab. It's also your final warning: choose carefully or face the consequences.
Trying to ask her about Ember is a fool's game, since every answer she gives makes you look worse and worse. Cleverer by far to appeal to her sense of character (so long as you have the Influence with Shandra).
: You know I do... you brought her to Port Llast.
: Can you speak to her character? Is she a good person? A friend?
: Yes... I know her well, as a matter of fact. She stopped in Ember during trade season, not once, but many times.
: And do you know that she has been traveling with me for some time?
: Reverend Judge, I fail to see where this line of questioning is going...
: Alaine, we weren't even at Ember when it happened - or anywhere near there. Are you sure you saw us?
: I... I think I did. Or... well, someone who looked very much like the accused.
Oh yeah. Torio's star witness has been nullified. Points retained.
: So let's choose someone who's not affect by Ember at all... someone the accused knows all too well.
: What? Why her?
This is only going to end badly.
: No... I am interested only in your interactions with the accused. You travel with her, do you not?
: I do.
: Let me ask you a question. Have you ever observed the accused causing... or near... any acts that compare to the destruction at Ember?
: I really don't think...
: Answer the question.
Ah god noooo
This isn't fair! Shandra's a Fighter, she only gets three skill points a level!
: Well... yes, but that was different, there were...
: And wasn't your home attacked twice? And is now burned to the ground?
: Well, yes, but that was after...
Torio's Bluffing and Intimidating Shandra and she's getting kicked all over the place. Figuratively speaking.
: Because you see - what I am most concerned about, Shandra, is what you think - what you really think of the accused.
: We know something of her activities in Neverwinter already - as well as the lands around. So think carefully before you answer.
But this is Torio's fatal misstep, on more than one level.
To get this response, you've got to have decent Influence with Shandra (like 5 or so) and be either Lawful or Good. Anyone who isn't is plum out of luck, as Shandra stutters and fails.
: To hear her slandered like this makes me angry at the... injustice of it.
: Angry enough to attack... to kill those who stand against the accused? I see.
: By the Gods, if you are accusing me of what happened at Ember...
: I make no such accusations.
Weak, Torio. Weak lies.
: Thank you for all your help, Shandra. I think this matter will soon be brought to a close.
: I hope you get what you deserve, Ambassador.
: My dear, all I want is justice.
I've had enough of being on the defensive. We need to start hitting back.
Uh, what? Can she do that?
And she opens with a leading question.
Wait a minute... that's not right!
We get a whole load of different possible responses - one, in fact, for almost every non-combat skill in the game.
We choose Diplomacy because it's served us so well in the past.
They're all more or less equally good - you'll get two points out of it for a successful skill use, but some of them are two separate skill checks with separate bonuses. As it happens, Diplomacy is going to set us back a point, but I don't care because it's pretty awesome and sure as hell beats singing about Ember.
Ah, not this again. She's trying to trap us into making an admission of "guilt."
: [Diplomacy] That does not make me a murderer, only a witness to what was left after the crime, as you well know.
: [?] It seems you're simply circling the issue... if you were at Ember, admit it, if you saw the dead, admit it, just tell the truth for the court, please, and we can move on.
: [Diplomacy] Ambassador, as I've said, I am innocent. I mourn the loss of people at Ember, and I am at a loss why anyone would do such a thing.
: [?] I believe that is why we are here, isn't it? Although, you can answer better than I.
: [Diplomacy] But I can't. It has no military value. It is not even a viable border target, nor was it worth robbing. So why was it targeted?
: [?] It seems slaughter was the only reason. An entire village... wiped from the map, gone.
Oops. The crowd didn't like that. Now we look like aggressors trying to start another war.
: Why is it the innocent must suffer for the aggression of others?
: [Diplomacy] I do not know, Ambassador. But in this case, I think it was actually more difficult to attack the intended target... me.
: [?] What?!
Truth will out.
I don't think Torio was expecting us to figure it out, for some reason.
Phew, that was a close one. I think we came out of that all right.
Unfortunately we're only halfway done. Time for the defense!