Part 10: Know Your FriendsPart 10 - Know Your Friends
We're back, and with a new party member and a bunch of mystery discs as souvenirs. We also get a juicy gift of +8 Karma for completing... well, finishing the mission.
We're also immediately greeted by this giant message. Crew advancement is a feature added in Director's Cut which allows us to pick various unique bonuses for each of our companions as the game progresses. This is yet another system which was carried practically unchanged into Hong Kong.
Here's an example of the crew advancement screen. As the game says, you always have to make a choice between two distinct options and the one you don't pick is lost forever. In the bottom left you can also see which attributes and skills have increased with this "level up". There are 6 levels in total and a new one is unlocked every couple of missions.
Time to make some choices, so let's take a look at what we have to choose from, starting from Eiger.
Sniper Specialist I: Eiger gains the sniper rifle ability "Steady Shot" that increases accuracy by 35% for one shot. Cost: 2 AP. Cooldown: 3.
Shotgun Specialist I: Eiger gains the shotgun ability "Scatter Shot" that imbalances targets, making them easier to hit on subsequent attacks. Cost: 1 AP. Cooldown: 2.
Scatter Shot inflicts the same Unbalanced debuff as flashbangs, increasing the target's chance to be hit by 6% for 2 turns. You can't really go super wrong with either of these. Scatter Shot no doubt sees more use but it's also real boring, so I prefer Steady Shot despite its 2 AP cost just for those situations where you want to absolutely make sure RNG doesn't screw you out of a finishing blow.
Next up is Dietrich:
Meltdown: Dietrich's Electro Core spell now strips 1 Armor from affected targets.
Blade Specialist I: Dietrich trains further with thrown weapons, increasing his accuracy with throwing knives.
At first glance this seems relatively clear-cut: -1 Armor on one specific spell isn't that much while better accuracy on throwing knives means more reliable flushing out of cover. But there's one problem: Direct stat boosts from crew advancement are bugged and don't actually apply the bonus they're supposed to. In other words Blade Specialist I which is supposed to increase Dietrich's Throwing Weapons skill does literally nothing, making Meltdown the winner here by default. Oops!
The upside is that Electro Core is (or rather will eventually be) a legitimately useful area spell which sees a decent amount of use and making it ever-so-slightly better doesn't hurt at all. But exciting it is not.
Glory is up last because Blitz starts from Level 2 and won't get an upgrade until Level 3:
Razor Specialist I: Glory gains the melee ability "Compound Attack", a razor slash followed up by a kick. Pierces up to 1 Armor. May do AP dmg. Cost: 1 AP. Cooldown: 2.
Pistol Specialist I: Glory gains the pistol ability "FirePower Round" which does an additional 2 DMG and pierces up to 2 Armor. Cost: 1 AP. Cooldown: 2.
Now maybe it's the humongous claws that make handling a gun a tad difficult, but whatever the reason there's no getting around the fact that Glory kind of sucks at hitting things with her pistol and a little extra damage on a 2-turn cooldown is not going to fix that.
Compound Attack isn't exactly game breaker material either, but at least it's an improvement on what she already does best and AP damage is always valuable. Plus kicking someone in the gut after clawing their eyes out is just rude in a way I can definitely appreciate.
As a side note Glory gets by far the biggest Karma boost on this level out of anyone, getting improvements on no less than 9 different stats and skills. Show-off.
With that out of the way, we can head back to the safe house. Many of Kreuzbasar's residents have new stuff to say and the merchants have improved their wares, but we'll leave that tour for another day. Today's focus is going to be on our crew members, both old and new.
Blitz's hangout is at the front of the store, alone in front of his computer like a true
Just checking in. You doing all right?
Great, chief. I'm doin' just great. It's real nice to be able to wind down and relax for a change. No more worrying about *this ganger* or *that ganger* sneakin' behind me and slippin' a knife between my ribs.
[He slaps the table with a grin.]
It's a good change, chief, I've gotta say.
No one is ever really safe... not when gangs are involved. Don't let your guard down.
Great. Any thoughts about that last run that you'd like to share, by the way?
This is a generic question we can ask everyone after completing a mission, and the answer often depends on how the mission was handled. Not everyone likes doing things the same way.
Um. Well, chief... I wasn't around for most of it. But you got me out of that hotel, and for that, you've got my eternal thanks.
Now that you're all settled in, I've got some questions for you.
[Blitz glances wistfully back at the terminal on the table, then turns back with a sigh of resignation.]
I suppose. But try to keep it short, okay, chief? I've got things to do.
How long were you in Drogenkippe?
You were a member of a drug gang. Why should I trust you?
Why wouldn't you, chief? I mean... just look at me!
[He does his best to give you a winning smile.]
I'm a trustworthy guy.
Prove it. Tell me about the gang that you ran with.
Well, I don't know all that much, chief... I wasn't a member of gang leadership or anything. I'm not really sure why you care, either.
Consider it a test. I need to know where your loyalties lie.
With all the "chief"s Blitz keeps throwing around it's hard not to hear his dialogue in the voice of Morte from Planescape: Torment. Maybe that's just me though.
Well. Where to begin? When I first arrived at Drogenkippe, I spent some time taking in the lay of the land. The Schwarze Herzen were still a pretty small gang, strictly street-level, but I could see they were going places. I did a little pro bono decking for their leader, a fat little dwarf named Dieter, and soon enough, I was a part of the family.
For a drug gang, the Schwarze Herzen were decent enough folks. I made a lot of money with them... helped them take the hotel in the first place. We had a lot of good years there. Then Dieter was killed in a firefight, and our happy little family fell apart.
Was that when the hotel got attacked?
The Schwarze Herzen maintained their hold on Drogenkippe, but the change of leadership was bad news for me. After Dieter kicked the bucket, his second in command took over. She was a real piece of work... called herself "Leoni Luster." She had a vicious streak a mile long, and she was none too fond of me.
To my surprise googling "Leoni Luster" does not bring up a porn star.
I can't imagine why not.
Some people really dislike Blitz. I suspect one's opinion on the man depends a whole lot on how seriously you take his constant yet largely baseless self-compliments.
The point is, she went after me. Vigorously. Within twenty-four hours of Dieter's death, I had a price on my head. And then the hotel got taken over.
[Blitz rocks back on his feet, his hands in his pockets.]
That's it. End of story. Anything else you wanna talk about?
If you're a real idiot then this really is the end of the story, but it definitely says something that it only takes Intelligence 2 to know better.
Wait a second. That isn't "it." There are some pretty big holes in that story.
C'mon, chief. This is all ancient history... wouldn't you rather talk about the future? The runs we're gonna go on, all the money we're gonna make...
Blitz. Tell me what happened between Luster putting the price on your head and the hotel getting attacked.
All right, chief. Fine. If that's what it'll take to make you happy.
The advantage of bein' a ganger is protection in numbers. When those numbers turn against you, you've gotta get creative if you wanna stay alive.
What did you do?
That's not an answer.
[He sighs.] You won't be satisfied until I spell it out, will you? Okay. Fine. I hacked into Luster's computer and sent all of her information to a rival organization. Remember Frank, from the hotel? He was my liaison.
So the whole mess at the hotel was all because of him, huh. We have the option to call him out as a disloyal traitor here which obviously pisses him off, but if we're being honest giving up your life out of gang loyalty probably wouldn't have been our choice either. Still, he can count his lucky stars Winters was killed by the mysterious Matrix monster instead of one of the gangers.
You did what you had to do. In your place, I'd probably have done the same.
[Blitz lets out a sigh of relief.]
Thanks, chief. I knew you'd understand.
There's something refreshingly ordinary about Blitz, he's just a guy who didn't get off to the best start in life and is trying to get by in a dog-eat-dog world using what means he can. He can sometimes come across as immature and even kind of shitty which means he'll never win popularity contests, but overall his flaws feel natural for someone who has gotten their life lessons from gangs and the streets.
Eiger's now seen the effects of whatever it is that's lurking in cyberspace with her own eyes, so let's see which way the wind is blowing today.
When Monika died, I was pissed. That probably doesn't come as a huge surprise. But I took that anger out on you, and I shouldn't have.
Monika was a good friend of mine. Her death hurt. I got carried away, and I said some things that I shouldn't have. I want to apologize for that.
[Her body relaxes. She begins to turn away.]
Anyway. That's all that I wanted to say.
There is something I want to say though.
[She stops, and turns back to face you. You can see the wariness behind her eyes.]
Go ahead. Nobodys stopping you.
I accept your apology. But if you ever insult me in front of the team again, youre going to regret it. Thats a promise.
This feels maybe a touch more aggressive than usual, but the other two choices are either telling her to stuff her apology completely or going way in the other direction with a syrupy sweet approach. More on the latter in a bit.
[She nods appreciatively.] Some backbone. Thats good to see. Dont worry, Rosa. I wont question your competence again not in front of the others, at least. But I wont lie. I still have concerns about you.
What kind of concerns?
Basic ones. I dont want to see history repeat itself.
And what history are you talking about?
Hmm. We've gotten off to such a late start with Eiger that we still don't have the slightest clue of who she actually is and why she's here.
[She turns away.] You should go, fearless leader. Ive got prep work to do for our next run, and youve got more important things to do than watch me pack my gear.
So, Eiger is a little interesting in that she pretty openly defies the usual RPG convention of "winning friendship points" by being super accepting and understanding to everyone at all times regardless of their actual personality. This is how the conversation goes if you get all mushy about her apology:
Youre a valued member of this team, Eiger. We need you now more than ever. Im glad that youre on my side.
I wasnt trying to flatter you, Eiger. I only wanted to tell you how--
How wonderful and valuable I am. Yeah, I got that part. And now that youve given me a pat on the head, I suppose that you expect me to fall in line like a good little soldier.
Meta commentary on the sociopathic nature of RPG protagonists who always pick the "right" things to say in order to please everyone, or just another example of Eiger's inflexible and suspicious nature making her read too much into a genuine (if misaimed) attempt at patching things up? Perhaps a bit of both.
Keeping with the same order as last time, we find Glory in her usual spot. No hard feelings over our unsolicited scrying from last time, hopefully.
Everything still okay with you?
You never need to worry about me, Rosa. I'm fine.
I'd still like to know more about that chrome you're sporting.
That's not a story that I'm interested in telling out of context.
You say that you'll give me answers when we talk about your past. So let's talk about it.
Why do you care, anyway?
[There is no hostility in her voice. If anything, she sounds suspicious.]
Because I'm the leader of this team, and I need to know as much as I can about the runners who are working with me.
This is a long story, Rosa. Long and ugly and cruel. Are you sure that you want to hear this?
All right. I'm going to start at the beginning. Not for you, for me. I guess that it might help me to say all of this out loud.
I don't really feel like my commentary's going to add anything worthwhile to Glory's tale, so you'll get a little time off from me here.
My mom was a good person. Once upon a time my father was a decent person as well. That's what Mom always told me. But I never knew him that way.
The Dad that I knew was an old, damaged Euro-War vet who turned to hard-line religion to make sense of the world. In Stuttgart, that meant either the Ritter Christi or their fascist cousins, the Kreuzritters. My father chose the latter path.
Then they'd go find some poor elf or dwarf, stomp the living shit out of him, and drown him in the Neckar. Meanwhile, I'd be holed up at home with Mom, who would commemorate the event by drinking a bottle of wine and crying herself to sleep.
Just elves and dwarves? I'd assume that a mage or an orc would make a more tempting target.
What, you mean pick on a victim who could fight back?
[Glory shakes her head.]
Anyway. Aside from the fact that my dad and his buddies were a bunch of murderous assholes, life was pretty normal. I went to school, made friends, hung out with my mom. Kid stuff. Then I turned fourteen, and everything went to shit.
Alright. You don't need to say anything that you don't want to, but if you ever want to talk, you know where to find me.
Mildly creepy alternative:
Keep going, Glory. This was just getting good.
Depending on who you ask, Glory's background can hit uncomfortably close to home, or maybe not at all. Either way it's pretty clear her story's not going to get much happier from here. One thing's for sure, after DMS' mostly paper-thin cast of characters Dragonfall sure feels like it was an expansion to some completely different game.
Now, what's our bald buddy cooking in the kitchen?
Any thoughts on that last run you'd like to share?
Well, we found Winters. That's something, I guess. This whole thing has me feeling uneasy, boss. But at least we have a direction to look in.
How're you holding up, anyway? You seemed to take Monika's death harder than the others did.
[He shrugs.] Me, I don't give a damn. I've spent too much of my life puttin' on a show for others already.
What do you mean by that?
Whenever we weren't playing, I was living up to our fans' expectations... spoutin' off, gettin' into fights, gettin' drunk, gettin' laid. Not a bad life, all things considered.
Wait a second. You can sing?
[He grins.] But I wasn't half bad at riling up a crowd.
insert here that Simpsons quote about how being tired of Weird Al equals being tired of life except it's about Dietrich
What was your band called? Maybe I've heard of it.
Oh, I doubt it, boss. We never really got any airplay.
And since when did airplay have anything to do with good music?
Messer, er, MESSERKAMPF! has fans further abroad than he might think, a fact which we'll learn later. And by "later" I mean in the next game.
We had a decent following in England, and we holed up in London from '31 to '36. Spent most of our time slummin' it around the East End, and picked up enough Cockney to irritate the folks back home.
[Dietrich shakes his head.]
Truth be told, that whole chapter of my life is a bit of a blur. We didn't do it for the fans, or the fame... and we sure as shit didn't care about money. All that mattered to us was stayin' young, and drunk, and angry.
One obvious reason Dietrich is so likeable is because he's easy to relate to pretty much no matter who you are. If not yet, then at least eventually. We all grow old and many of us start giving gradually fewer fucks about superficial things, especially other people's opinions about ourselves. And sooner or later the day comes when we realize that we have to start slowing things down, that our body just can't quite keep up the way it used to even if the mind was still willing. It's not all bad - we find other, different things to replace what we lose - but it's definitely a one-way street.
[He shakes himself from his reverie and looks back up at you. That familiar, easy grin returns to his face.]
Well, anyway, boss. Everything ends eventually, an' I washed my hands of all of this years ago. So let's change the subject, if you don't mind?
Hold on. How did you go from fronting a band to running the shadows?
Wasn't as big a leap as you'd think. I already had a healthy disrespect for authority, and I had the magic to back it up.
Tell me about the Dragonslayer.
Not much to tell. He chose me when I was just a kid... I could always feel Him in my heart, goadin' me to laugh louder, hit harder, and get rowdier than the rest. 'Course, my family didn't understand... but "the hell with 'em," I thought. I knew that I was destined for greater things.
That's definitely a system I can get behind. Though it does raise the question of "where will it end", skulls will stop getting bigger eventually after all. But perhaps that's a discussion for another day.
I'll bet. So long, Dietrich.
[He nods.] Take it easy, boss.
This has all been a lot to chew on but before we end this update, let's at least see if Paul can figure out our next step.
It wasn't a pretty sight.
[He nods gravely.] I know that you and Eiger have had your differences. I will tell you that she was badly shaken by the sight of Winters' body. She also mentioned that you found something in Winters' safe... a package full of very old discs. May I see them?
Of course, here.
This is a DVD/RW... a data storage medium from the mid-2000's. I'm amazed that Winters was able to find a device that could play it.
Mid-2000's? I'm surprised they even had electricity that long ago.
Do you know how we can read these things?
For now, let's concentrate on the undamaged disc. There is a little shop outside, the "Data Haven." Talk to the proprietor, Maliit Holyey... she might be able to help. Tell her to put the cost of the device on my account.
I'm on it.
Now before we finish, I'd like to show off an alternate conversation with Paul which happens if you started a gunfight on the Kesselhaus club floor by attacking Frank for his elevator key:
News travels fast, Rosa. It seems a small group of well-armed assailants entered Das Kesselhaus hotel earlier today and "cleaned house", so to speak.
If you believe the tale, the controlling gang was eliminated down to the last man, then the assailants strolled calmly out the front door. Leaving a rather interesting power vacuum for the residents of Drogenkippe in their wake.
[Amsel fixes you with a hard stare.]
You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?
Gang? What gang?
Yes, "what gang" indeed. I would recommend subtlety where possible. Mass bloodshed is not always the best means to an end. But enough of this. We have more pressing matters to discuss.
As one last thing, this conversation can be taken in a slightly different direction if you also have the Academic etiquette:
You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?
They had it coming. If our actions altered the balance of power in Drogenkippe, it was simply an example of the Flux in action.
An interesting theory. The Flux does seek to depose those who overstep the bounds of their power, it is true.
But I am not convinced that the elimination of an entire gang was the *only* way in which a more egalitarian state of affairs could be reached. Nor am I convinced that this will be an improvement for the people of Drogenkippe. Only time will tell.
It's actually possible for Paul to start disliking you, though I'm not entirely sure whether that's caused solely by being rude to him or if finishing missions in a questionable manner also plays into it.
Anyway, see you next time as we try to figure out what to do with these "DVD" thingamajigs and maybe go check how our colorful cast of neighbors are doing while we're at it.