Part 46: Act Two Chapter Eleven - Breaking Into Blacklake II: Home Invasion
It's about time we went to see Aldanon. Oh, but wait, there's some guardsmen outside?
You actually saw these guys in shot last update, when Shandra got her painting done.
Ooh-er. It's a hostage situation!
: Marshal Cormick! How badly are you hurt, sir?
And Marshal Cormick is the hostage!
Unfortunately the scripting's flipped somewhere because Marshal Cormick is supposed to be lying face-down on the ground, bleeding his guts out all over the place.
: Shot at me... point blank... and still couldn't hit a thing. Just rush 'em, Sergeant... they're out of charges, anyway!
: Best not listen to him, Sergeant. Us poor imbeciles got plenty o' charges left on this here wand, so keep your stinkin' distance!
: Great. Why isn't anything ever easy?
Just what I was about to say.
: Gods be good, but I think our luck has turned, boys. Calliope! We're in a spot of trouble, here.
: It's a botched robbery, near as I can tell. The thieves were inside the house when Cormick knocked. Must have noticed that the old sage's wards were down, and went to have a look.
: Poor fellow never stood a chance. They shot him with that wand of theirs and left him in the yard.
We could just charge in. We'd end up killing everyone if we did that - including Cormick, most likely.
Safer by far to negotiate. It's not as if we particularly want the Watch to catch criminals, is it? Also, Cormick still owes us money from Act 1.
: Look here, I've no ego to bruise. I can walk a beat, catch a thief, or rescue a kitten from a tree, but when it comes to negotiations, I'm hardly any use.
: Hey! You at the house! There's somebody here who'd like to have a word with you.
: Calliope, that really you? Ha! You thugs are in for it, now!
Oh yeah. Now that's what I'm talking about.
So few RPGs have your reputation develop and impact others appropriately. Most of the time people will treat you as some Level 1 scrub, even though you've slain demons and conquered armies. So it's nice when a pair of thugs wet themselves when they hear your name.
: [Success] All right, we're listenin', Calliope, but we got demands. We give ourselves up, you got to promise to let us go free. Them hounds got to give their word, too.
: Not going to happen. They come out, they get to keep their lives, and that's all. We don't let criminals walk, not in this district.
: [Bluff] The Shadow Thieves own this city's prisons. Arrest those men, and they'll walk free by tomorrow.
: [Success] Twenty honest years on the watch, and what was it all for? Fine, set them free. If I see them on my streets again, I'll administer justice myself.
There was a chance you might not have been able to convince Brockenburn to let them go (or you could just lie to the thieves and pretend you'd let them walk) - in which case, he'd arrest them. You wouldn't be able to question them about their boss... unless you picked the locks on their cuffs and gave them a chance of slipping away.
Pretty nice for a five-minute one-shot encounter, eh?
: There was a little over twenty-five, countin' Gulver and me. So that's fifteen or so in the house, and a few more in the basement, with Old Scab hisself.
: Most of 'em's in the back, or in the basement, on account of all them traps Old Scab has set. That's bad luck for Scab, though, 'cause they won't have seen us leave our posts.
: Where are Aldanon and his household?
: Aye, he's a vicious old rat, Scab. Soon as he sees you, he'll cut their throats, so you'd best deal with him quick.
: What can you tell me about your leader?
: There's all sorts o' thieves, see... lock-pickers, second-story men, muggers, sneaky monkeys...
: Old Scab's a trap man. Got himself a foul little burrow in the slums, with half a hundred traps 'tween him and daylight. Hardly ever comes out, neither.
: Aye, but when he does, he brings his traps with him. Longer he stays someplace, the more it starts lookin' like his own burrow, full o' snares and alarms.
If you're reading this there's a good chance you've played an RPG before. Traps in RPGs used to be brutal. Anyone remember Durlag's Tower? The corridor with undetectable undisarmable Fireball/Cloudkill traps? Or those instant-death crushing-wall traps?
And that's pre-school stuff. Original plans for Durlag's Tower had twice as many traps, and even that doesn't compare to the horrors of 1st Edition AD&D.
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So it's good to know we have absolutely nothing to worry about.
I've said it before (but I'll say it again): traps are worthless in NWN2. Hitpoint damage can be shrugged off simply by resting - and in many cases, you don't even suffer any damage at all thanks to high Reflex saves.
Although it undermines the Rogue class (since disarming traps is one of their major roles) it makes playing the game less of a headache. We don't have to worry too much about crappy party AI setting off the traps because it won't have any serious effect anyway. Also, players who didn't make Rogues don't have to drag Neeshka along to every dungeon just in case they come across a trap.
The other upside is that you don't have to worry about justifying having traps in a dungeon. Tombs? Yes. Vaults? Okay. But are the orcs of Blacktooth Hold really going to remember what tiles not to tread on when rushing out the main door? Or are you going to get a humanoid barbeque every time the chieftain decides to go raiding?
It's the opposite of puzzles, really. What kind of idiot wizard builds magical riddles into a dungeon designed to protect his most precious trinkets? "All who dare trespass in my Tower of Insanity are doomed... unless they can answer these riddles I found in the back of a jokebook, then they can take whatever they want."
Anyway, back to Aldanon's house.
: Please! I wasn't thinking! I'm sorry I tried to run!
: You should've stayed put like Old Scab said, then. Sorry - it's nothing personal.
: No! Have mercy!
Then we jump in and kill everybody.
All right, all right, so we failed to save the butler. Big deal. We're here for Aldanon.
Old Scab's brought quite a gang with him into Blacklake.
Hang on a second... remember back about fifteen updates ago, when Aldanon complained about people camping outside his house all night, trying to break in?
Those were supposed to be these guys, yeah? Aldanon was tragically wrong about them being nobility: they were professional criminals and he was in a lot more trouble than he thought.
According to toolset notes, it's been a few weeks since we rescued Shandra (hence her being trained up to Level 11) and apparently investigating Ember took about a month as well.
So that would mean all twenty-five of Scab's thugs have been hiding in Aldanon's manse for over six weeks. Until now, when they decided to strike and take Aldanon hostage mere moments before we arrived.
Twenty-five men. Six weeks.
Not to mention the whole district was under lockdown.
Anyway, we kill all the thugs upstairs without (too) much trouble. The only place left to go is down: into the cellar.
More traps await us.
Maybe it's like that episode of CSI where the killer was a creepy guy who lived in people's attics before murdering them? I dunno if pseudo-medieval mansions had crawlspaces and such but considering the size of the outside of Aldanon's house compared to the inside it's probably best not to think too hard about such things.
Rounding a corner, we spot Old Scab himself. No last minute dialogues, no stirring one-liners - just a fight.
We have to act fast. One of Scab's henchmen will try to kill the hostages. It's not necessary to keep them alive, but you get an XP bonus for doing so.
Uh... Calliope's looking none too healthy there. Where's our fire support?
Ah. Good pathfinding there, I see.
In the end, it's Khelgar who saves the day. Good for Khelgar!
Wait... where's Aldanon?
This is Harcourt, Aldanon's assistant.
: He - that is, we - had been researching the silver shards at the Archive. We found an old reference to a shard in Neverwinter, discovered shortly after the war with the King of Shadows.
: This shard was held by a fraternity of lords, wealthy men who dabbled in matters arcane. According to the tome, only four still lived... Lords Dalren, Brennick, Hawkes and Tavorick.
: Aren't those the men who've been turning up dead?
Yes, they are.
Except if you ask Sand about the murders back in Act 1, he'd start talking about somebody called Lord Gentry.
: If our guess is correct, then Lord Tavorick has the shard, and he is in considerable danger. Aldanon tried to send word to him, but the man is stubborn.
: He urged me to go away, and said that I shouldn't return until I was... "younger and female," were his words, I believe.
No problem for us, then!
Oh, so they didn't sneak in when we visited in Act 1; that never happened. Cut content strikes again!
: It was chaos after that. They gathered us together and herded us down here. Two others trundled the Master out of the house.
: They returned shortly after with a heavy pouch of gold, so I presume they traded the Master to whoever hired them in the first place.
: Do you have any idea who might have hired the thieves?
: If they were hired to kidnap Aldanon, why did the thieves stay in the house?
: Apparently "Old Scab" liked the look of the Master's treasure, so he stayed here a while longer than he should have. I don't believe that was part of the original plan.
What I'd like to know is why Old Scab took hostages when his first reaction to intrusion was to immediately slit all their throats?
Scab and his cronies have some nice loot on them. Aldanon's also got a few treasure chests down in his basement; we'll take those as well.
Ratcatcher's fee, don't you know.
There's a second flight of stairs conveniently placed by the hostages that takes us back to the main floor. Unfortunately it was barred from this side so we couldn't have used it to sneak up on Old Scab.
These options with Brockenburn are slightly different depending on whether you saved the hostages and/or Cormick. Oh Obsidian... you could check for this but wouldn't let us use an alternative route to sneak up on the end boss?
Anyway, we head back to Castle Never to inform Nasher.
: This is grave news. Aldanon may have... irritated some, but that is no reason to seize him, unless there was something larger at stake.
: My lord Nasher, we also bring word of the murdered nobles.
: All three of the murdered nobles - Dalren, Brennick and Hawkes - were in possession of a silver shard, that is now held by Lord Tavorick.
: Cyran? I will not allow him to suffer the same fate as the others.
Cool. One of my favourite sequences is coming up soon. Not next update, perhaps, but the one after that.
Oh, but I like the next update's quest as well. Act 2 is just too good!
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: Oh, forgive me... I wouldn't have raised my voice if I'd known someone was so close. This door seems to be stuck, really quite embarassing. Could you...?
: Garius is the Master of the Fifth Tower, and you are alive because he requires your assistance - as he once asked for mine.
: I'm sorry, I can't see you too well at this angle... whatever do you mean? I'm always willing to help anyone, you know.
: In this matter, you should choose death, for your sake and the sake of this plane.
: Garius seeks knowledge of an ancient Illefarn ritual that will grant him the power of the King of Shadows. But his understanding of the ritual... is narrow.
: I will say that this Garius fellow chose a poor place to do it - this hardly looks like it was part of the Illefarn empire at all.