Part 3: Random Men On Street Break GameLast time we met Bertha she was getting scammed out of completing the game for 1000 cigs. In her defense I don't want to complete this game either.
So the Main Street save is just after we picked up the key.
I missed a screenshot here. This is the interior of the Essex hotel, which has been converted to a hideout for the Mafia in 1920s New England because every Lovecraft game is set in the 1920s. There's going to be a running theme of how nerds don't actually read Lovecraft or understand what he has to say, and this game is the perfect example of that.
Look, this is an adult mature game that explores mature themes.
This is such an important cutscene that we lose control of Bertha to watch two hookers walk into a room to fuck a man (presumably) for cigarettes. It raises the question of who the hell is growing tobacco in this wasteland, as people are still smoking them.
We can now do what we came here to do and loot the room. This being Stygian, it plays suggestive female giggling when we're on this floor. Unfortunately, while we can walk right past those two gangsters, we can't get up to the upper floor, which is a shame as there's some free shit up there that would be really useful for an occultist like us. Oh well.
There's a bunch of free stuff, including a derby hat, a pittance of Cigs, and a shiv. I'm selling the hat and shiv because they suck and we have some kind of sacrificial knife already.
We don't have any lockpicks. Let's buy some!
Meet Rathsack. If you're playing the game, it is kind enough to play a wheezing "Uncle Rathsack" on repeat over and over when you're near him.
: You call this a shop?
: But this stuff is all junk.
: Okay, let me see what you've got.
Fun fact, the little scale button is supposed to add Cigs to match. It's not smart enough to subtract your offered Cigs from the trade, so you get shit like this. It's kind of amazing, really. Let's go back to that box in the hotel and see if we can't open it.
This fucking game. The way skills work is they add your stat and your skill rank, so we needed a decent agility to do this in the first place. Unfortunately Bertha is old and her agility kind of sucks.
Eduardo accosts us on the street again, and we say yes because he doesn't take up a party slot and provides his own ammunition for his .45. Yea, we have to pay him 24 Cigs a day, oh well.
Let's go back to Isidore and advance the plot.
: Losing the key will put everything in jeopardy. You won't change my mind, sorry.
: Then you'll be missing a conversation chance with a fellow devotee of Kabbalah.
: "He that is uplifted and exalted, He that Dwells forever, created His world by three, Sefer, Sefor, and..." [Occult]
I don't know anything about the occult so I will take the game's word for it.
: I need to unveil the meaning behind the key. Help me, Mekubbal. Do not let me wander clueless.
A Mekubbal is a practitioner of Kabbalah.
Editing is hard.
: Where is the Bank of Arkham?
: We are indeed in a prison. Thank you. I'll check the place.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Sell me the key.
: I can't, or I'll lose the game.
: Then stop wasting my time, why should I help you?
: Are you sure? We could talk about Kabbalah.
: Don't you dare mock the Kabbalah.
: I am a wizard in a Lovecraft game, so I know all about the Kabbalah. Help me Isidore, you're my only hope.
: I will help you now for free, because I like Kabbalah. Go to the Bank of Arkham on main street, there is a safety deposit box there.
So the idea of using Kabbalah to talk about deeply held religious beliefs is not a bad one, despite this dialogue reading awfully due to punctuation errors. I want you to compare this with what we are about to see on our way to the Bank.
Did you think I was kidding when I said that half this game's plot advancement was done by seemingly random encounters in the street?
The angry mob keeps yelling at this fishy gentleman until one of them gets the bright idea to start throwing shit.
Another guy stabs him with a shank. It's very rude and Bertha isn't going to stand for that shit.
: Unleash the power I sense in you friend! (Shout to the outsider)[Occult]
: These peasants will tremble at the sight of true sorcery!
What the fuck? None of this is in any way like dialog someone of the 20s would say. "Peasants"? We also characterized occult earlier as being about actual mysticism instead of "Firebolt (2 mana points)".
: Yes! Let them witness the true power of the arcane!
This is some cringey shit right here.
It doesn't matter what you say here.
: No one should pay such a price simply for looking different.
Bertha knows from her career that looks aren't everything.
: I know how most of us must seem to you. I understand you.
I'll say, you had to be prodded into defending yourself.
: What man?
: I'm also looking for that man!
: Where did you last see the Dismal Man?
: How did you come to this purgatory?
I will have...words after this conversation is over.
: Perhaps we could look for the man together.
: May I ask your name?
: Whoever you are, it is a pleasure.
He stares at us silently and we leave.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: A demon! Let's kill it!
: You look like a wizard! You should cast fireball on these peasants!
: CAST FIREBALL!
: Run away! Run away!
: Why did you do that?
: It seemed kind of wrong to let you get discriminated against just based on your appearance.
: Well, as you know, I'm incapable of doing anything on my own, but I'm cursed to look for the Dismal Man.
: You too, huh? Who are you anyway?
: I used to live in a cool castle with a lot of books, but then I went outside! DAMN THE DAY I WENT OUTSIDE!
: You want to join my party so we can look for the Dismal Man together?
: Sure, why not.
So the Outsider here is supposed to be the protagonist of the HP Lovecraft short story of the same name.. I will save you a ton of ineffectual adjectives and summarize it here: Man lives in castle underground having no human contact but apparently raised and fed and taught to read by, um, this is never explained. He goes outside and whoa, the ground is so BIG, MANNNN! Then he runs into a party and everyone starts screaming and running away, and then he sees a very scary monster and it feels bad. The big twist is that when he saw the monster, he was looking into a mirror, and now he's a weirdo who lives underground with ghouls and shit because some drunk people weren't expecting an ugly dude to spring out of nowhere.
It's a recurring theme in Lovecraft's works that the outside is a very scary place and that instead of engaging with the real world you should shut yourself away like a nerd and read a book instead. It may not surprise readers of this thread to learn that Lovecraft was a weirdo who shut himself off from the world and had a general fear that he was genetically prone to mental illness that is reflected in all of his self-insert protagonists panicking at the drop of a tentacle. The greatest persecutions in Lovecraft's works are not the evil man-eating monsters. You can fight Cthulhu and make him return to sleep by hitting him with a cheap boat. The greatest persecution is that the world wants you to actually interact with it instead of being a dumb awkward nerd, and Lovecraft never really shows the life experience of anything besides being a dumb awkward nerd who has to interact with the real world and doesn't like it very much.
Anyway, back to the game. What does the Outsider do? He has claws for melee and is a sorcerer. Let's take a look at his spells, shall we?
The outsider starts with the same spells we do, but unlike us he actually gets an attack spell. For the curious, we still cannot get one. Despite being a Kabbalist Isidore does not sell spells. There is a magic shop that will open after we wander the streets of Arkham enough to fire a scripted event, which I'm pretty sure we can't fire until after we clear the first dungeon.
For bonus points, the Outsider has an occult skill higher than the max we are allowed to invest and has special perks that increase spell damage we can never, ever get. So yes, this random man we met on the street 10 minutes into the game is a better spellcaster than our old lady who has spent her entire life mastering magic. It's really dumb!
We still can't get to the bank either! Not content with having the quest NPC just sit in the corner and talk about his quest, the game takes away control so this random dingus can walk up to us with his quest.
: Tell me about it.
: So now you're stalking me?
: Very well, go on.
: (He grinds his teeth in chagrin before continuing) It was just another miserable day at the joint when I, partly encouraged by the devil's juice no doubt, finally spoke what had been on my mind for a long time.
: (Suddenly his anger takes precedence over his nervousness) I called him out, that tyrannical devil's seed called Wax Face! I denounced him as the False Shepherd he really is. Nobody said a thing of course...cowards.
These bad games never trust their dialogue on its own.
: All right, what do you want from me?
: Well, madam, all I'm asking is that you retrieve my heirloom pocket watch from the Old Eel attic. It's a valuable piece, from my late father. I stashed it there, having an inkling that I might need it in the dark days ahead.
: If it's worth the trouble, why not?
: I will take a look around when I get a chance to rest in the attic.
: Oh, thank you! (He casts one final, fretful glance at his surroundings.) Now I must go, before they come for me.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Excuse me, but I have an offer for you.
: Who are you, are you stalking me?
: Uh, no but yes, I thought you could help me with my problem. You see, I got really drunk and said some shit about how Jesus hates Wax Face in the bar Wax Face owns, and now the mafia has marked me for death! Can you go into the Old Eel Inn and get my watch I hid there like an idiot?
: Why not.
Cornelius here is the most recent man to accost Bertha on the street, but he won't be the last!
Upon finally reaching the damn bank we get a cutscene where this lunatic tries to escape and the mafia guy shoots him.
Merciful God, is there no end to these?
It's at this point I screwed up when I restarted the game after update 1 and gave Bertha Speechcraft instead of Science. If you have Science you can siphon this truck's fuel for your lantern, and you will need that later. Oh well. I'll give her a point next level up.
We can go through this door to find some Cigs, vendor trash, and a note.
Maybe this bank teller could help us?
: What are you talking about? This place is wiped out!
: Oh, you don't agree? But we are all free to express our opinions, right? That's what makes this country so, so...
: Uh, excuse me, sir?
Red text! He's gone mad!
: Uh...Does this suffice? (Show your Secret Society Medallion)
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Man, look at this wonderful town!
: What are you talking about? This place sucks!
: I AM INSANE NOW! Can I see your documents?
: Uh, I have a wizard medallion.
: OH, YOU'RE A WIZARD! PISSSSSS! PISSSS! YOU MUST DIE!
The loading screen spoils a character we have yet to meet. It's Lovecraft's IRL wife who couldn't stand to stay with him for more than 2 years.
Anyway, it's time for combat! Combat in Stygian is a miserable affair you want to avoid. (If you're noticing a theme in my LPs, let me assure you that's intentional). Initiative is rerolled every round, so good luck planning! Anyway, we have Bertha, Eduardo, and The Outsider here. Everyone except Eduardo is facing away from the enemy for some stupid reason, but the Outsider is up first.
Every character gets a pool of Action Points which they can use to move or make attacks or whatever. The Outsider is going to run up to that lunatic and hit him with his vicious claws.
Eduardo demonstrates his skills at clubbing mentally ill people to death. Those purple squares, incidentally, are the retreat squares, in case you need to run away and prepare for battle or avoid genociding a tribe of Native Americans. Really.
After we kill enough lunatics, the game opens these retreat hexes. This is the "progression escape" system, where you run the party to these and you win the combat for less loot and XP but also less ANGST.
At this point the game went to shit. I'd had Bertha cast Blood Circle so I could show it off, but that seems to be bugged in this fight. Normally your mages will go through a casting animation until their next turn for rituals like Blood Circle, but Bertha didn't do that. I canceled the ritual so I could have her attack the lunatic next to her, and the game refused to let me actually give her a command or end the turn. Past experimentation indicates that it's specifically Blood Circle that causes this. Rather than restart, I took this as the intervention of a merciful God giving me respite from playing Stygian.
Next time: We battle our way through the bank, and Stygian tries to address racial issues. Stay tuned!