The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2

by Lt. Danger

Part 63: Act Two Chapter Twenty-Eight - Ammon Jerro


Shandra's dead. Ammon Jerro, her grandfather, is alive. Defeated, we've brought him back to Crossroad Keep to interrogate him.

The companions are gathered together in the Phoenix Tail Inn, watching with interest.

: So what now? We imprison him? Throw him to the Watch?
: Tell me you're joking. He'll send the entire District to the Abyss and then he'll come after us.

: I say we get what we need from him, then take care of him. No one needs to know.
: He murdered Shandra Jerro, and he must answer for it. But we will not answer murder with murder.

: I say we let our leader handle Ammon... something tells me she'll straighten him out.

* * *

: I could care less what happens to him, but I need to know what he knows.
: Know that Ammon is the enemy of the githyanki, and all he has done, he has done to fight the King of Shadows.
: It would be well for us to share words with him. If his knowing becomes ours, our strength increases.

I don't think he's going to be very chatty.

See what I mean?

: You were supposed to be dead. We needed your research on the silver swords to fight the King of Shadows.
: I have only recently escaped my imprisonment in the Lower Planes... and since then, I have fought to re-establish my stronghold and gather my forces - which you have ruined with your carelessness.
: And the King of Shadows... he has won a victory against us this day without striking a blow.

: I have made... pacts... I have studied him, tried to learn his weaknesses and the extent of his power. And always, it has been a war with few victories.
: Surely you know of the Ritual of Purification... you should know that I have performed part of the Ritual myself already.

: The King of Shadows was once a defender of the Illefarn empire - while now evil and corrupt, it still holds true to its original purpose... to destroy all that threatens Illefarn.
: But the Illefarn empire fell long ago.
: That is irrelevant - the threat to Illefarn still exists.
: Their once-ancient enemies, the Netheril, still live on in the City of Shade here in Faerun, and traces of Netherese magic can still be found running in the veins of many wizards and sorcerers within the Realms.

Although we knew the King of Shadows was "bad," it's good to know exactly what kind of threat he poses to the Realms.

: The destruction of the City of Shade doesn't concern me.
: Of course it doesn't. It is what it will do trying to reach there that should concern you.
: Its journey will turn leagues of teeming land into a lifeless road to its destination. Even worse, it will feed on everything around it to gain strength to destroy the city.

: How do we hurt him?
: The King of Shadows is no mortal creature - he is not human, more a force than anything else.

: Once the King of Shadows was driven back by githyanki warriors wielding hundreds... maybe thousands of those blades.
: But the sword of Gith is more than a simple silver sword... it can wound the King of Shadows, like it did, once, long ago.

: And whether you like it or not, you are now that weapon. The more shards you gather, the stronger that weapon becomes.
: Together, we can stop the King of Shadows, and we must.

: Because you have no choice. And because if you know anything about me, you know that all I have done has been to fight the King of Shadows and to protect Faerun from him.
: I have completed part of the Ritual of Purification. If you kill me, the battle is lost as soon as my heart stops beating. Without me, you cannot win.
: Whatever punishments you think I deserve, I will suffer a thousand-fold - well beyond anything your small mind can imagine.

It is now, too late, that we discover the true nature of Ammon Jerro. Far from an obscure absent-minded scholar, Ammon was a warrior and archmage, the hero who fought against the King of Shadows twenty years ago and saved Neverwinter at the cost of his own reputation.

: I don't like it, but I need your help.
: Then we must gather our forces against the King of Shadows.
: Even now, his presence is extending from the Mere of Dead Men. The High Road has become impassable.
: My scouts - now vanished - reported legions of shadows and undead stirring within the mere, and a sphere of darkness expanding from the heart of the swamp, killing all life it touches.

* * *

Ammon Jerro is voiced by Murphy Guyer (Listen here)


Where to begin?

Ammon Jerro is the final companion in our party. He's also the second (and last) Evil companion to join.

We don't have a lot of game left, but what little is left features both Ammon and Zhjaeve heavily. We'll be hearing a lot from these two in future updates.

Still, we have met Ammon several times before and I think you've probably got a handle on his character already. He has one goal, one purpose in life: the destruction of the King of Shadows. He's willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the pursuit of that goal. He's Evil not because he's cruel or vicious, but simply because he's callous to all other needs.


I like Ammon. I like his voice actor, I like his character, I like his design. He's wilful and selfish in the extreme, but for good reason - which is more than you can say for Neeshka or Qara.

A lot of people dislike him because, well, he's a Bad Guy. Yes, he's on our team now, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a villain. He did, after all, get into the party via dead granddaughter's shoes. But I think the reason Ammon makes many people uncomfortable is because he's the inverse of Shandra, in a way; if Shandra highlighted the funny side of adventuring as carousing through the countryside, getting into scrapes and disrupting the equilibrium, then Ammon is the dark side of that - when plans go wrong and people end up dying. How many bandits did we kill on the way here? How many idiot teenage cultists, how many City Watchmen? All for the sake of our Hero's Journey?

(The thread liked Ammon as a character, though not so much as an actual person - Ed.)

Ammon's a Warlock - sort of. Fluff-wise he's obviously also a skilled Wizard and arcanist, but for the purpose of game mechanics and party balance he's represented as a single-class Warlock - a spellcaster who draws power from fey, fiendish or otherwise otherworldly sources.

Warlocks are the bullet-point class for NWN2 - the shiny new D&D 3.5 Edition class introduced for the first time in NWN2. Warlocks are Sorcerers done right - an arcane spellcaster that has very limited options, but can cast an infinite number of spells a day (not that that's very useful in NWN2, what with penalty-free resting). There are but four levels of Warlocks spells, or 'invocations', and a Warlock will receive maybe a dozen of these in the course of reaching Level 20.

There are essentially two kinds of invocation - spell-likes and Eldritch Blasts. Spell-likes are not all that different from arcane spells: invisibility spells, dispel magic spells, stat buff spells, area effect spells, and so on. The invocations are different from their arcane equivalents to make up for the infinite castings, but also to account for the Warlock's unique party role: Retributive Invisibility, for example, turns the Warlock invisible but also deals damage to whoever eventually dispels that invisibility.

Eldritch Blasts are the Warlock's main means of dealing direct damage. The Eldritch Blast ability increases in damage as the Warlock levels up and can be altered through the use of special Eldritch Blast Shape invocations - these allow the Eldritch Blast to strike multiple enemies in a line, in a chain, in a large area... or to deal additional acid damage, fire damage, cause Blindness, cause Slow, etc.

Warlocks are Charisma-casters but it's important to have good all-round stats as well. Warlocks are better in melee combat than Wizards and Sorcerers - they can wield more weapons and wear light or medium armour without suffering spell failure. The skill Use Magic Device also allows them to use items and weapons they cannot normally wield by 'tricking' the item into thinking the Warlock meets the requirements. For example, we've got a Mystran Belt of Priestly Might which adds +4 Strength but is only usable by Good characters... but Use Magic Device allows Ammon to use it despite his Neutral Evil alignment!

Warlocks are like Monks (and spell-casting classes) in that they benefit more from single-classing. A lot of the Warlock's power comes from level-dependent feats - new invocations, resistances, damage reduction, bonuses and so on. Compare to classes like the Fighter and the Rogue, where most benefits are acquired at Level 1 or can be gotten at any level (e.g. skill points, bonus feats).

* * *

Okay, let's pause for a moment and reflect. Some heavy stuff going down these last couple of updates.

Our protégée, squire, sister/daughter-figure, whatever - is dead, killed as part of a surprise twist by her grandfather, Ammon Jerro.

Shandra's exact relationship to Ammon is a little fuzzy, due to how demihuman PCs would be much older than human PCs, meaning the Ammon Jerro/King of Shadows fight would've occurred longer ago and Shandra would be several more generations removed from her ancestor.

And she's dead now. Forever. Even though Zhjaeve and Elanee can cast Resurrection spells, there's no bringing Shandra back, for whatever reason. She's gone for good.

There's some nice script directions in the conversation file for Shandra's death that didn't end up appearing in the final cutscene. I'll transcribe it here:


: {Shandra falls to her knees in front of Mephasm}
: {Recognition, almost matter-of-fact, but slight trace of compassion} What you have done is brave, but foolish, Shandra Jerro.
: {Ammon Jerro suddenly appears in a flash at the teleporter. He sees Shandra and is pissed.}
: {Ammon Jerro rushes over to where Shandra is kneeling. Cold, angry, not giving his granddaughter time to explain, doesn't know who she is except an insect that has caused him harm} You, girl. You did this.
: {Quietly} My friends... are they-
: {Here's where I need Ammon to get violent - he strikes down Shandra with every statement, hurting her more and more out of rage. Contemptuous, furious} Your friends live. But you will not.
: {Blasts her back, player should wince at seeing an already wounded Shandra suffer} You destroyed my summoning circles.
: {Some kind of circular spell effect, pain. Shandra screams, being crushed}
: {Blasts her again, player should wince at seeing an already wounded Shandra suffer} You set the deadliest creatures in the Lower Realms free.
: {Flames burst up to mimic the "hellfire," pain. Shandra screams, being burned}
: {Blasts her again. Angry, then low and deadly at the end, like a judge pronouncing a death sentence} You have weakened me... and in so doing, you have earned death.
: {Quietly, hurt, even dying, she still shows sympathy and apologizes} I know... grandfather... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry... {fades out at end}

It's a shame we didn't get to see Ammon getting more physically violent with Shandra.

I mean, not that I particularly like to see people being beaten to death... but that's the point, isn't it? We'll never develop an appropriate revulsion for violence if all the images we're exposed to are cartoonish animations and Hollywood blood-squibs.

But that isn't what I wanted to talk about. The question I wanted to ask is: was it a surprise twist? What was Obsidian trying to accomplish here?

The Shock

It's at this point that I admit I've been running an experiment with the audience as test subjects. Now, the integrity of the thread audience may have been compromised due to... various... reasons, so if you're reading this from the LP archive: congratulations! You're my control group.

Judging from the contents of the thread itself, it seems like the reveal that the Warlock wasn't the King of Shadows was supposed to be a big deal. Go back and read some of the updates from Act 1; look at what stories NPCs told us about the King of Shadows - a human, a warlock, a summoner of fiends. Remember, too, what the fiends told us in Ammon Jerro's Haven: how, through suggestion and innuendo, they convinced us that we were about to face the King of Shadows. Obsidian seems to want us to confuse the Warlock and his mortal enemy.

And then there's this:

This is a shot from the intro movie to NWN2. Similar shots adorn the game launcher, the back of the DVD case, various promotional materials... (Youtube or download from NWN2 Official Site)

Not enough? How about a short story from the manual?


The Hells had come to the village of West Harbor. Ash drifted on the breeze like a black snow, born from fires that licked the moonlit sky above. The sounds of battle - steel on steel, the screams and pleadings of the wounded and dying, the roaring of magic unleashed - rang out around the wizard, a deafening cacophony that tore at his mind, threatening the concentration he required to work his Art. The shadow creatures had come in force and unexpectedly, but their tactics were not those of an occupying army, nor of bandit raiders. The creatures were searching for something, and the wizard would be damned if he would let them have it.

There was a sudden lull in the fighting; the shadows broke away from the wizard, swirling to the edges of the town square like leaves on autumn wind. They were waiting for something. The wizard steeled himself and invoked potent spells of protection. Shadows thrown by burning farmsteads danced madly across the green, slowing coming together and merging into an inky black pool. The pool of shadow rose up, resolving into a gaunt, humanoid figure taller than the houses of West Harbor. An air of icy malevolence, the charnel stink of an open grave on a winter morning, hung about the creature as it turned its burning eyes to the wizard. There was no sound as the creature struck - no roar of challenge, no hiss of breath, not even the crunch of feet on grass. Blades of pure, black shadow melted from the giant's hands, formed out of the nothingness of the Plane of Shadow. That blade arced toward the wizard's head in a strike swifter than a snakebite, only to strike hard and rebound from a sword of glittering silver. The wizard's blade shone like moonlight and rippled as though it were made from liquid mercury. The shadows shrieked and recoiled from its light.

Even the shadowy giant seemed taken aback by the blade, and the wizard took advantage of the opportunity to launch a vicious counterattack. Violet sparks flashed where the blades connected, and the battle began in earnest, dancing silver clashing with shifting black. Arcane fire seared the night, only to be absorbed by the absolute emptiness of the shadow giant's form. Wizard and creature duelled across the breadth of the charred remains of the village, neither able to gain the advantage.

As the tide of battle carried them toward the western edge of the green, a single sound rose out of the din of battle: a high, reedy noise, the unmistakable cry of an infant. For just a heartbeat's time, the wizard's eyes broke away from his opponent, darting across the chaos of the battlefield to find the source of the cry. There - a mother and her child, crouched behind the half-smashed rubble of what had once been the village headman's home. The mother's eyes, wide and bright with terrified grief, met the wizard's in a silent plea for help. It was only a moment, a brief instant of human contact in the midst of a duel to the death. But it was too long.

The shadow giant's blade struck so swiftly it scarcely seemed to cross the intervening space. The wizard desperately brought the silver sword up in a parry, but his focus had been shaken. Bereft of the focusing power of the mage's will, the silver sword began to crack, jagged lines of light spider-webbing across its surface. The wizard desperately poured his arcane power into the blade, but to no avail. The shadow giant's eyes glowed with triumph as the silver sword shattered into a dozen pieces, its pure, clear light winking out like a snuffed candle. In the silence that followed, the child wailed.


All that, before you've even started the game up.

It doesn't spoil the game exactly, it's not explicit enough... but it makes it hella easy to predict. Daeghun sends us to the swamp ruins to retrieve a silver shard? The wizard's silver sword! A terrible warlock ravaged the land with an army of demons? He was fighting the true villain, the King of Shadows and his army of undead! Weird old guy with glowing tattoos murdering people in Blacklake? Hey, maybe it's Ammon Jerro, wouldn't that be a twist-and-a-half?

Add to that the Arvahn ruins, in which we spoke to survivors of Illefarn and learned that the King of Shadows was a magical undead construct that had welded itself to the Shadow Weave to survive, and not a human male who admittedly looks a bit freaky but is still decidedly alive... and the 'big twist' of Act 2 is suddenly a lot more straightforward than it seems.

Maybe that was the point, though?

The Dread

It's a tricky gap to bridge. The advantage of games (as opposed to films, books, theatre, etc.) is that the audience is a participant - as such, the author can immerse the audience in a role so completely that a character's emotions feel like their own. It's a strength and one many games use, even if in a fumbling manner.

But sometimes perspective is good too. The function of a tragedy is, in a way, to separate audience from character, to grant perspective on the decline and fall of some grand personage. We sympathise with the main character, yes, but we also understand why bad things are happening to him - the mistakes he makes, the crimes he commits, the forces arrayed against him. If we identified too closely with the main character, then the tragedy would appear to be simply a series of unfortunate, unfair events. Imagine a production of Othello in which Iago remained completely silent until the end. How baffling would that be?

Is this what Obsidian was trying to accomplish? To separate player- and character-knowledge? For us to know that Ammon Jerro is the hero of the War of Shadows, but for Calliope to remain ignorant of that fact - and for us to profit from the tension caused by knowing the two characters will soon collide, with fatal consequences, but for Calliope and company to suffer from it?

I think I'm projecting. It's more likely that Obsidian fumbled the ball here, underestimated the audience's ability to connect the dots. Or maybe I'm too clever for my own good and everyone else successfully bought it.

* * *

: And only you - your companions are to wait here.

Kana warned us about this. Nasher's got something in mind for us and he's sent Nevalle to ensure his orders are carried out.

: Lord Nasher's request cannot wait, and you will make haste to Castle Never. If not, this Keep will have a new Knight Captain before twilight.
: That'd best not be a threat.

: Do what you will, but I respectfully suggest you heed Nasher and see him at once.

Khralver Irlingstar, aide to the ambassador of Luskan. I don't know what the little toad wants but now is not the time. We'll deal with him later.

Won't we all.

Roll on Act 3.