Part 66: Act Three Chapter Two - A Fortress Of SteelThings at Crossroad Keep have become a little... confused. This is due to savegame fuckery on my part.
Do not be alarmed if what you see and hear does not fully obey the laws of physics. Everything is under control.
* * *
Act 3 changes the world map considerably. Act 2 shared most of the same areas as Act One, but that's been drastically reduced.
For example, Neverwinter is being evacuated north, away from the King of Shadows, so the Docks and Blacklake are no longer accessible.
However, a lot of new opportunities have opened up, including new recruitables and upgrades for our castle.
More on that in a second. First we have to deal with this creep.
Ah, a timely intervention by Sand. Excellent.
We need to speak to Aldanon viz a vis the Claimed Lands situation.
: Well, yes, I do have news... you see, I've made some progress on finding a way to breach the Claimed Lands and enter the Vale of Merdelain... one of three challenges solved, really.
: Tell me about your breakthrough.
: Well, you see, you won't turn into zombies once you enter the Vale of Merdelain, which I think is quite a good omen.
: Omens aren't good by definition, Aldanon.
: Oh, of course they are. Especially with a little milk and duskwood jam.
This is strange. No, I don't mean Aldanon... that's normal. But we sent Daerred and his troupe on a mission into the Claimed Lands, and they barely avoided being turned into undead.
: So while you couldn't walk there, if we could "hop" over the wall so to speak, then that would give you your best chance at striking at the King of Shadows.
: Why would that be?
: I am not sure, only that it is true - the King of Shadows' hunger is less at the Vale and stronger near the border of the Claimed Lands.
: It may be because he's already drained the life from the Vale outwards. More life's around the edges, so maybe that's where the effect is concentrated... kind of like the delicious icing on a foul dark cake.
In pen and paper there are rules for hirelings: specialist NPCs that can perform tasks that players cannot... for the right amount of gold. One kind of hireling is the Sage, who can research the most esoteric topics and answer the most baffling questions.
I don't think we actually pay Aldanon for anything and yet I can't shake the feeling that we got a bad deal somehow.
: So you mentioned that was the first challenge?
: And how we would do both of those things?
: What do you need to create a portal that's large enough?
: Well, when Garius invited me to this Keep...
: Yes, yes. When Garius invited me, one of the tomes he had me translate was a fascinating work called the Tome of Iltkazar.
Garius' theft of the Tome of Iltkazar is the cause of the current war between Luskan and Ruathym.
: Garius has the Tome?
: Yes, he was using it to transport legions of blade golems to and from the Vale of Merdelain.
: There's no reason we couldn't use the Tome to create the same portal... and use it to "hop" into Merdelain, as if we were golems.
Ah. So we have to find a way to kill Shadow Reavers before we can even think about getting into the Claimed Lands.
Only we still have no idea how to kill Shadow Reavers and no idea where to start.
: Brother Maxil and I have had some fine adventures since then. We're hoping you have another quest for us.
: Don't forget Juen and Candril.
: Of course, of course, and them too.
: So do you have any jobs for us?
: Can you honestly handle adventures now?
: We're not as able as you and your companions, Knight Captain - but after all the quests we've done in your service, we can handle adventure.
: Of course we can, Brother Maxil. We can handle - oh I don't know - dragons, demons, or whatever and whatnot you need dealt with.
My precious little band of adventurers have all grown up!
Daerred's voice actor is fantastic
: You really should let the Captain fin-
: Candril, Juen - prepare the horses. We ride immediately!
: Don't you think we should ask-
: We've tarried here enough, Brother Maxil!
: Yes, Daerred. Sorry again about this.
We've kept Daerred and co. alive by being honest. Lying to them gets them killed - and they reappear later in the game as vengeful undead.
We have several options with the war levy - half of it goes to Nasher, but half of it goes to us.
We don't really need money at this point but there's no sense in turning down free gold.
If you've recruited Guyven, occasionally a little message pops up saying something like "Guyven would be interested in hearing about this place." Usually you see it when exploring some cool, isolated area that no one's ever seen before.
There are four such locations in the game, and we've got two so far: Ammon Jerro's Haven and Neverneath.
Guyven'll give you a little lecture for each one.
Sometimes it's just some tips on living away from civilisation.
For our first location, we receive the Pathstalker epithet feat, which doesn't do anything but looks nice on our stats screen.
For others, it's a story.
: According to one legend - not sure how true it is - Halueth Never and those that followed him fled Neverwinter Wood, which was then called something unpronounceable by my tongue.
: Their ancestral home had been sacked by the orcs, goblins and the barbarian hordes that dominated the Sword Coast in that day.
: After a long, bloody journey to the mouth of the river leading from the woods, Halueth planted his sword in the ground and called this the winter of their journey.
: Lord Halueth assumed that this would be a graveyard for his people, and mark the end of his line of elves. In despair his people dubbed this land, "Never's Winter."
: Then a group of human castoffs from the south came along and the two peoples formed an uneasy union, and built ramshackle defenses.
: When the ravaging hordes came for them, the humans and elves stood together, and against all expectations they prevailed.
This is one origin story I've heard for Neverwinter.
The other is fire elementals that live under Neverwinter river, keeping the land in a perpetual spring.
Anyway, Guyven tells us a secret about Crossroad Keep - a loot cache the previous commander hid before he died and the Keep fell into ruin. A nice 20k gold to be had from that crossbow - not bad at all.
We also check in with Uncus. He starts to come into his own in Act Three.
: You're so important to them it don't matter. I bet Axle, though, is furious.
: We worked years on getting someone on the inside - Sir Edmund - on our side. And now you're better placed than anyone.
: Do you think Axle will do anything about it?
: You better believe he will. It won't be quick - he's got to think through the angles.
: His thugs don't have a single brain between them - but you've got talent, smarts, and now you're a noble to boot. There's no way that'll escape his notice.
We're gonna get some closure on the whole Axle/Moire thing very soon but I'm gonna need some advice on this one.
What do you guys want to do? We can:
- Buddy up to Axle. Axle did us a huge favour twice-over: getting us into Blacklake and getting us a squireship. Now, we've paid for Blacklake full stop, but we kinda owe him still for saving our skin from Torio and Lorne. Besides, with his hobnobbing knowhow and my castle full of fanatical soldiers, we could make a real go of a political alliance. Axle and Calliope: partners in organised crime?
- Side with Moire. The two thieves have been squaring up to a match ever since Act 1. Moire's pretty psycho but she knows better than to mess with us. We can give her the Docks and handle our own shit out here in Crossroad Keep. That way, we won't have to deal with the Shadow Thieves pestering us for 'favours'. Axle'll have to die, of course...
- Pay our debts and forget about it. Our entanglement with the Shadow Thieves was a necessary mistake. We've outgrown their petty gang wars and tussles with the Watch. Our sights are set on grander goals - but the last thing we need is some crappy criminal connection popping up just when we're running for President of Neverwinter. We pay our debts to Axle and friends in any way possible, then go our separate ways.
- Comedy murder option. Everyone dies for wasting my time.
Up to you.
Regardless, we probably shouldn't discuss strategy in front of this Shadow Thief messenger. One of Axle's boys, in fact.
: Axle sent me. He says you're doing real good.
: About time you send some gold back home - for the cause, you know?
: You better watch your tongue, dock rat. The Captain is a noble and you-
: That don't matter - she reports to Axle and that puts us at the same footing. Axle wants his coin - ten thousand of them.
We blow off the messenger with a big fat lie. Hopefully by the time Axle starts making enquiries, the King of Shadows will be on Neverwinter's doorstep and we'll all be doomed.
Uh, well... not hopefully as such.
Veedle has two new structures for us to build: the tower and the church.
We can turn the old church into a new church (for Ivarr the Blessed, priest of Tyr) or a monastery for the Order of the Sun Soul.
Neither are particularly useful for us. Clerics and Paladins will want the church for a special quest involving a dragon later in the game. Monks will want the monastery for some special element-themed trials and cool Monk-only magic items.
We choose the monastery because Tyr's a Good god and we're Lawful Evil.
The tower's more interesting, though.
Fighters and melee types will want to build the Guard Tower for Nevalle. Nevalle normally hangs around outside as liaison to Nasher, but if you build him a tower, he goes inside and you can spar with him for +1 to your Base Attack Bonus - which would have been pretty handy.
But Nevalle's Lawful Good and we're Lawful Evil. It just wouldn't work out in the long term.
So we get Startear instead.
My word. What a charmer.
: Pardon me, but that name escapes me. Where did you study?
: I have heard of this one. He comes from the Outlands city of Sigil.
: The name Startear is known to our people. He is not one to trust nor one to put faith in.
Anyway, Startear asks that we build him a Wizard's Tower. He'll sell us spell scrolls and magical trinkets. If we were a Wizard he'd give us some high-level scrolls to memorise as well.
For a Rogue he's pretty useless, but we have to get him instead of Nevalle - we have no choice in the matter.
Outside, Pentin's having second thoughts. The forces of evil are on the march... a hero's keep is no place for a selfish half-orc and his merry miners.
We won't mention that he was talking like this back in Act 2.
Anyway, we Intimidate him into staying at Crossroad Keep. It wouldn't have been a great loss - we can still mine with just Calindra present - but we wouldn't get free ore samples for finding ore nodes. Also losing a recruit would be bad for morale, especially when we strung their corpse up on the gates as a warning to other potential deserters.
Playing ahead a little... we use some of the new ore nodes that appear in Act 3 to upgrade our Greycloaks' equipment. Jacoby forges Mastercraft swords while Edario gets us scale mail, then later full chainmail.
Our dudes look pretty sweet, no?
Act 3's got special provisions written in just in case the player is an idiot and doesn't recruit anyone during Act 2. Since Fort Locke and Old Owl Well disappear off the world map in Act 3, Kana will automatically recruit Jacoby and Pentin at the start of the act, while Edario is moved from Highcliff to Port Llast. That way, you can't screw yourself out of upgrading Greycloaks and thus totally boning the Keep.
Speaking of recruitables, Act 3 introduces a couple of new sergeants to us.
Our old friend Bevil's shown up at last. He's too low-level to go adventuring with us again, but he can serve as a sergeant in our army.
Of course, West Harbor was destroyed at the end of Act 2, wasn't it? Now it's deep within the Claimed Lands.
Bevil doesn't appear if you don't go back to West Harbor and ask about him. He just vanishes, along with the rest of the village.
We saw a lot of bodies in West Harbor. Georg, Brother Merring, Ma Starling...
: I'm not sure about any other survivors. Tarmas, maybe. He came to my mother one night, very late, and said he had some arcane "way out" of town. I guess he was offering to take us with him, but he didn't know where we'd end up.
: Mom said he was crazy and tossed him out of the house. I didn't see him around town after that.
And Tarmas survived too. In fact, he returns in the Storm of Zehir expansion pack.
So... I suppose the one person from the tutorial that I vaguely liked is okay. That's nice.
Bevil's still a bit wet behind the ears. He's not really a 'proper' sergeant at all.
Firstly, you can only assign him one task - that's it, no switching. Once you give him a task, that's all he'll do until the end of the game. He's good at patrols and recruitment, but not so good at other stuff. We'll put him on recruitment since our men don't need any help patrolling.
Secondly, he needs help. He lacks confidence and that affects his leadership skills. He'll ask us a lot of questions about responsibility and duty and war, and we can answer however we like. We can be nice and Lawful/Good to him and make him feel better, or crush him utterly with Chaotic/Evil advice.
The other sergeant we can recruit is Light of Heavens.
: Will you be the sun that sends the shadow into hiding, the tree that stands still and is swallowed, or the dark cloud that hastens the night?
: I seek to destroy the King of Shadows, if that's what you mean.
: Your resolve is strong to the ears, but my eyes see one untested.
Light of Heavens is a crazed Aasimar (quarter-angel) Paladin with a crusading bent. She's willing to join with us to fight the King of Shadows (though no doubt she'll turn on us once the greater threat is defeated).
Unfortunately she won't join until we've proved ourselves by fighting her - three times. Great.
She's a right pain for several reasons. See, it's a duel, so we've got to fight her one-on-one. Also, she's a Paladin, with lots of uses of Smite Evil and nice saves. Plus she's got a lot of hitpoints, good armour and a big sword.
It's not too bad as a Fighter or Cleric but a Lawful Evil Rogue has severe problems. Feinting is our best bet but it's not surefire and it doesn't stop her Critical Hit Smite Evils from carving our health away.
A good option is to buff up before the fight - strictly speaking not within the rules of the duel, but then again not against them either. Besides, Rogues are designed to hide behind the party, not take hits up front.
We fight her again at Port Llast...
...and finally outside Crossroad Keep.
Each time she gets stronger and tougher. It's definitely not a fair fight for support classes like Rogues (or Bards, or Wizards, or Sorcerers).
She's worth it, though. She's the best sergeant in the game - she's great at anything you assign her to and she's the best way to break the 600 Greycloak cap legitimately.
That said, I technically haven't recruited her yet. I'll explain later.
Back in Neverwinter, we find Joy dancing in the streets.
Joy's an Aasimar, like Light of Heavens. In fact, they're sisters.
We can invite her to come to Crossroad Keep to dance at the inn there. She'll boost custom and make the place seem a bit livelier (people see Bishop lurking inside the door with a big sword and tend to go elsewhere).
She's simple but not stupid. However, she's not so clever that we can't Bluff her into coming to Crossroad Keep anyway.
I'm not sure what the rationale for this is; like, she'd come to Crossroad Keep, see that we lied, then decide to stay anyway?
Anyway, again she hasn't actually joined the Keep yet either. It'll become apparent why with the next Keep update.
Daerred sends us a final note and a reward - a Ring of Positive Thinking. 15 points of Negative Energy Resistance and +1 Intelligence for -1 Wisdom. Hrm.
To the KNIGHT Captain of Crossroad Keep!
I am absolutely thrilled to report our latest findings. After our last trip into the Mere of Dead Men, we were not eager to return. Maxil had a brilliant suggestion for once. He said that when you lose something, such as your lucky stockings (more on that later), the best way to find it is to NOT look for it, and eventually it will come to you. So to execute Maxil's strategem, we set off to Port Llast in order to NOT find information about the Guardian.
In Port Llast, we encountered a strange pair of scholars who told us of the Wendersnaven, a race of omniscient beings who, as near as we could tell, either live in floating trees in Neverwinter Wood, or float on living trees in Neverwinter River. We set out to find these beings, figuring that if they were truly omniscient, they would know all about the Guardian.
Unfortunately we ended up getting lost following the directions of the scholars from Port Llast. We ended up in the mountains, where we encountered the rather surly spirit of a dead dragon who offered us some treaure if we would help him. We took his treasure, fully intending to help, but suddenly we were chased away by a black dragon!
While fleeing for our lives, my lucky stockings fell from my pack and became caught on a massive claw of the dragon's. After we escaped, I must admit I forgot all about learning about the Guardian and was instead obsessed with reclaiming my lucky stockings from the black dragon. We trailed after the dragon, which led to some ruins that Juen told me was once an Illefarn temple. Suddenly, remembering our mission, I said a silent goobye to my lucky stockings and set us to exploring the ruins.
After an exhausting search we uncovered a tidbit of information about the Guardian that I hope will be valuable to you: THE GUARDIAN WAS A VEGETARIAN!
With this new knowledge I was able to theorize, and the others agreed, that if one were to face the King of Shadows, he would not actually devour you, as the old wives' tales would have you believe. Now that you are armed with this information you may plan your strategy accordingly for when you at last face the King of Shadows.
Along with this letter I have sent a package containing a trinket that I have been carrying around since the beginning of my adventuring days. I figure you will need it more than I in the dark days to come, and all my ring fingers are now full from all the treasure we have found on our journeys.
Daerred & Company
One of Axle's minions comes crawling to us with a problem. He was smuggling contraband through our territory and got caught by the Greycloaks. Axle wants his shit back at any cost.
But I'd rather not get involved.
: We'll draw too much heat if we get involved.
: Sorry, you're on your own.
: I u-understand. Thank you, Captain.
: Axle's not going to be pleased. But I'm not going to dive on that sword.
That's it for now - there's another block in the Keep minigame that won't be lifted until we accomplish some of our Act 3 objectives.
So let's get to it, then.