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13 February 2016 @ 11:07 am
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XVI: Mind = Flayed  
Back in the room where the air elemental came up with the bucket, I head through the south door. Yoshimo unlocks and I enter, finding another door and a side cavern where a hobgoblin, a troll, and a human are arguing over who will clean the master's golems:
Human: "Fools! The Master will brook no incompetence! You are to clean his favorite golems and you do work too poorly! The Master is furious! He values his golems more than a hundred of you!!"
Hobgoblin: "We do best, animal! Gerg did not sign on to be smacked about by filthy dog."
Troll: "Please don't hits me, doggie! It hurts! It hurts!"
Human: "You have it wrong, scum! The dog is the one who grovels and that shall surely be you!"
After a moment, the "human" transforms into a werewolf and the group runs off without being hostile. Since the golems and the master are both dead, I let them go.

Through the door past that is a man named Grancor, who cries out in joy when he sees Chiyo:
Grancor: "You! You will please help? We are lost in this place, adventurers like you! We have been trapped here for days upon days, and need a healer's touch most immediately! Come! Come this way!"
Chiyo: "Why have you been left alone? If you have wounded, would not the orcs just kill you?"
Grancor: "Err... ah... we have made a deal with them. Yes, that is it. They have let us leave and we... ah... do not bother them. It is a good deal, I think."
Chiyo: "And they let you keep your wounded around here indefinitely?"
Grancor: "Ah, yes, you see, it is a very good deal. No more talk. You just walk in to help the wounded. Yes."
Chiyo: "You make deals with orcs? What kind of adventurers are you?"
Grancor: "We...ah....deals? We..."
Chiyo: "I'm waiting..."
Grancor: "Ah... You wait no longer! Ambush stupid when you are already in the lair! Firkraag be damned, I kill you for food!"
Not the most subtle of machinations, there. He and his friend transform into greater wolfweres, which were a nightmare when I fought them in the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion for Baldur's Gate but are just a pushover now, and I loot the plate armor their human forms were wearing and continue through the door. The next room has the "wounded"--a.k.a., more wolfweres--and the room past that has some gold, a few spell scrolls, and a horn of blasting that I give to Chiyo.

I head back to Samia, where there are several doors I haven't tried.

I start with the door at the far end of the corridor, which...is trapped and launches a fireball into the middle of the party.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif The two doors next to it prove to be trapped as well once I actually think to have Yoshimo check, and so I head through the only door that actually goes anywhere after chugging a few healing potions.

Six Guardians for Six Mask Pieces
The door to the left leads to a mostly-empty room with some junk littered around, two doors out, and a table with a copy of the Book of King Strohm III, describing the tomb, the six guardians within, and that they guard the pieces of a mask that will allow the one who wears it entrance to Strohm's tomb. It does not describe what the guardians are or how to beat them, so I dump it on the ground and keep going. Opening one of the door leads to a djinn, and when Chiyo talks to him:
Guardian: "I am the gatekeeper. Here is the fallen king, laid low by his enemies as The Year of the Burning Sky fell to The Year of the Harvest of Scales. My eyes see all to guard as I should. You are not of the scale, but you are also not of the family. You have passed the door, but shall not go further. Down, down to the ground in reverence for the dead."
I'll give him credit for his oratory skills. He has a fire shield and throws off a few fireballs, but after the first fireball I pull everyone back and Jaheira solos him, because she has resist fire from her armor and extra elemental resistance from her helmet. She almost dies, but the djinn dies first and I take the first part of the helm.

The other door in the guardian's room is trapped and leads nowhere, so I head to the other door in the book room and find another hallway filled with doors. Behind the first door is a beholder, who doesn't bother with any of these conversational niceties and just opens up with an ice storm. I run the party out into the hallway outside the radius, cast entangle behind me and free action on Chiyo, and then send her in. She gets it down to half health and then has to run back to have Aerie and Jaheira heal her, so I just wait until the entangle runs out and then send all my melee characters in. It casts ice storm again, but it's not enough, and after it dies I rest and heal up.

Since the tomb is increasingly mazelike:

You are in a mazy of twisty little passages, all alike except for the occasional fireball trap.

...I'm not going to bother to describe exact door and room relations anymore, but I go through a couple more doors and find another guardian, who says:
Guardian: "I am a guardian. Pulled was the Scale and deep fled the foe, but mourned did a people for their fallen king. Victory's cost was the end of a rule. Flames did take the leader, because others could not see what he did. If only they had the eyes of a King.
Jaheira soaks the initial fireball and then she, Chiyo, and Minsc pile on to the djinn, killing him before he can get off too many spells. It works well enough, and the guardian drops another piece of the mask.

Around three corners, in a small room tucked into the middle of several passages, is another djinn. When my melee busts through the door into his room, he says:
Guardian: "Grr...I am a guardian. Many the Drow did fall in the cleansing, but red came a Wing to their call and their aid. Burn did the sky with rage and fire, until plucked from the air by the hand of a King. He saw the weak and scarred underbelly, he saw the path to the source of the fire. The path past the fire leads to rest well deserved, the path past the fire is clear to his eyes."
I was all set to attack him as soon as he finished speaking, but he cast invisbility and slipped away. He then fireballs Xan, which does nothing because Xan has a high spell save and his moonblade gives him 50% resistance to fire. As soon as the djinn becomes visible, Xan hits him with a Melf's Acid Arrow, foiling his next spell, then the melee piles in. It's all over a moment later and I get another mask piece.

I'm a bit confused that the drow are involved here. I would have thought that a red dragon would be too arrogant to work with lesser beings like dark elves, and the drow themselves would be too scheming and treacherous to work with a red dragon. Then again, the drow never made any sense. We're talking about a chaotic evil society of constantly-scheming backstabbers who have a rigid caste system in which there is no social mobility. The only reason they have all killed each other is because of Lolth's constant intervention.

The hallway to the north has a repeating fireball trap and a door at the far end that simply won't open--obviously where I have to go after I assemble the mask. So I go looking for more guardians elsewhere. Just south of the hallway I find another guardian, who says:
Guardian: "Come! Come and listen to my damnable speech. Hear what I must say due to terms of service. Then you shall die out of duty and out of hate. I am a guardian of the King that has fallen. Here lies he that cleared the air, that pulled the scale with his life and limb. Here lies he that saw the fire, and here lies ye that would disturb his rest!"
There's a bit of Yakety Sax as I run Minsc around after he does enormous damage to himself hitting the djinn's fire shield, but another Melf's Acid Arrow tips it over the edge into death, and then I rest and heal up and keep going.

There's two rooms left, and I enter one and find another guardian, who says:
Guardian: "I am a guardian; I rot with the bones of a King. His rule pulled the Scale, for he alone saw the coming fire. He gave his life to the fire, to weaken the Scale and triumph in death. None shall follow, save those that see as far and as clear as he."
I was smart this time and had Jaheira cast true seeing, so its invisibility spell fails and the melee piles on. After healing up, I open the last door, which does have the final guardian, who says:
Guardian: "I am...a guardian. Dead...dead was the King and covered was he, that the scars of victory night frighten the living. Death must have beauty for the hero that falls; death must have beauty so others continue. Death...has a mask that lets others see. Death...."
Cheery! I kill him, pick up the last piece of the mask, and reassemble the death mask of King Strohm:

Jaheira puts it on and confidently strolls into the repeating fireball hallway, where she finds a previously-invisible fire elemental waiting for her. Of course, I attack. It dies without much trouble, and I go through into King Strohm's tomb and find a shield and long sword. As soon as I pick them up, though, Samia appears in the midst of my group and reveals that--of course--Mr. Johnson has betrayed me now that I've taken the risks, and she attacks:
Samia: "You have done well. I had my doubts about this plan, but it worked. Get some fool to take the risks and then we take the treasure and bury them in the tomb!"
Xan: "Now, if I have no Emotion spells left, we are in deep trouble indeed..."
Samia: "Sorry to crush any illusions you had about this academic adventure, but I'm more concerned with how much I can sell these little trinkets for."
Since I knew this was coming (thank you, reload button.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif), I'm appropriately buffed up and meet her and her party in combat. They all file one-by-one into the trap I've set for them and die pretty quickly...except the wizard, who I have to chase all over the maze-tomb, wait for his buffs to expire, and literally run out of spells before I can kill him. But he dies without any of my party dying after I chop my way through three ogres, an earth elemental, an ogre mage, and six hobgoblins that he's summoned, and I collect the loot. The shield in the grave is a dragon scale shield, and the sword is...the Dragonslayer. It's not as impressive as it sounds, but it's good enough, and it goes on Chiyo to replace Adjatha the Drinker. The other enemy party members dropped some generic magic items and potions good for selling, so I pick it all up and, laden with magical loot, I leave Firkraag's lair. On the way out, I hear a couple more roars, proving that it was sadly part of the soundtrack and not something timed for progress in the dungeon.

Back in Athkatla I head first to the Adventurer's Mart to sell off my loot and then to Cromwell. I have enough gold to get the red dragon scales forged into armor and enough to turn Xan's robe into an enhanced robe, and after a moment's thought, I decide on the latter. That's nominally the reason I went off to the Windspear hills in the first place, after all, and I think Chiyo would want only the best protection for her bondmate. For 20,000 gold, and scrolls of contingency and spirit armor, Cromwell turns the Robe of the Neutral Archmagi into an enhanced version, which has a -2 bonus to AC, double the magic resistance and saving throw bonus, and lets Xan memorize an extra spell of 1st through 4th level. Pretty handy.

Mostly out of money--I'm down to ~2,200 gold--I head back to my Planar Sphere, where those apprentices have had almost three weeks to accomplish what they told Chiyo would take them a few days. Outside the sphere, Yoshimo engages Xan in a question of joy:
Yoshimo: "Can you find no joy in being alive?"
Xan: "Do I have the right?"
Yoshimo: "Every man has. Or do you prefer to be sour and dour on a night like this?"
Xan: "I do. We were doomed before we were even born, Chiyo most of all. I see no point in spending my last days in joy."
Yoshimo: "My fabulous master of minds, look around! The treasure is in every pore of this city, waiting to be grasped like an eager maiden! Our waterskins bulge with the finest wine! Fortune smiles upon us, says I!"
Xan: "Yes, upon you, it does. You escaped Irenicus marvelously: unscarred, unbroken, untainted. Well, look at your companions! They did not! Now repeat that this life is worth living!"
Yoshimo: "It is, my inquisitive friend. They will confirm my words. But why should we argue? Let me pour you some of our best brew, and it will speak for me, yes?"
I'm a bit skeptical of Yoshimo's characterization here. This is obviously added by the Xan mod, and in the base game he's seemed a bit more cautious and not quite so carefree. This seems like it would go much better with Kivan from the original Baldur's Gate, who was all about the wine, the women, and the song, rather than the guy who has barks of "You are right behind me, right?" and "Be doubly careful. I'm sure all manner of stupid mousetraps await our toes in the dark." Overall I'm a big fan of the writing in the Xan mod, but this misses the mark.

After dropping off enormous loads of loot that I can't use and which I don't have the money or all the components necessary for Cromwell to reforge into something better and sleeping--for some reason, Baldur's Gate II assumes you travel straight through when counting travel times, so it took a day to get back to Athkatla and the party didn't sleep the whole time--I go talk to Morul, who has the dagger I asked for. He suggests that they immediately start the next task, and asks Chiyo what scroll they should write: mislead, Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting, or meteor swarm? Figuring it's best to play it safe, Chiyo asks them to make a scroll of mislead,

Then, it's off to the sewers with this handy key I found.

As soon as I open the secret door, I know I'm in for some fun:

As Chiyo walks down the hallway, something assaults her mind, leaving her standing dumbly and blinking in confusion. But there is no further effect, and the party follows her to the end of the corridor and ascends the stairs. At the top is a circular room dominated by purple stone with alien, spiraling architectural themes. A single door leads west, and I have Yoshimo sneak his way down the corridor and look into the adjacent room. In the next room is a group of humans standing with drawn weapons, who exclaim that they must stop the intruders and that they cannot stop themselves, and behind the humans is...a mind flayer.  photo Emoticon.gif

They haven't seen Yoshimo yet, so I have Xan cast improved invisibility on Chiyo and send them in. Unfortunately--and probably unsurprisingly--the mind flayer spots them and mind blasts Chiyo, stunning her, and when Yoshimo tries to backstab it, the mind controlled thralls set upon him. Time for another tactic. This time, Xan casts improved invisibility on himself and throws a chaos in the center of the room, which Jaheira follows up by dumping an ice storm on. The thralls set on each other, but an assassin sneaks into the other room and, as soon as I notice him, drinks a potion of invisibility. Then an umber hulk and the mind flayer follow. While I'm trying to kill the umber hulk and prevent the assassin from murdering Xan and Aerie, the mind flayer stuns Jaheira, calmly walks over to her, and rips out her brain. Reload.

Try three. I start the same, but this time Jaheira casts true seeing and we wait for the assassin. When he's dead, she casts ice storm. Unfortunately, Xan gets spotted and his chaos spell fails, but for some reason, the mind flayer and its umber hulk pet don't come down the corridor, so I kill off most of the thralls, retreat down the stairs, and rest. When I come back, I fight the mage, who in the traditional manner of Sword Coast Stratagems has multiple contingency spells set to recast stoneskin on himself--now I understand why Dragon magazine had so many "WTF stoneskin!?" letters--but I get him and his multiple summoned wraiths down. That leaves only the mind flayer and the umber hulk.

I managed to draw the umber hulk into an entangle spell cast by Jaheira and blast it down with Xan's flame arrow spell and Aerie's magic missile, but the mind flayer still isn't coming out. I finally end up luring him out by summoning a bunch of gnolls and having them run into the room and pounding him with ranged attacks, which takes him down. Left out of this are a few more tries where something went wrong, like the mind flayer eating more brains or when I let the mage get out of control and next thing I knew, there were wraiths everywhere.

After all that, the next room has three mind flayers:

This is an unsuccessful attempt.

I end up beating this by loading Chiyo up with as many buffs as I can stuff on her, having her drink a potion of cloud giant strength, summoning some ghasts, and then having summons block the doorway while Chiyo kills the mind flayers. I was going to have Yoshimo and Minsc (finally, a use for that Elven Court Bow!) attack with arrows, but they both got stunned early on and spent the whole fight staring off into space. Still, I killed all the mind flayers, so.  photo emot-kamina.gif After they're dead, I check the room, but it's empty except for another door, which leads to another door full of mind flayers.

My initial idea was to send Aerie up invisible and with non-detection on to cast cloudkill, but the mindflayers see her instantly because blah blah stupid bullshit. Thus, I start off pulling everyone except Yoshimo back to the entrance, having him open the door, and running. The mind flayers don't follow, so I wait a bit and head back.

I open the door and flood the room with entangle, web, ice storm, and cloud kill spells. But mind flayers have magic resistance, and they come roaring out of the magical death zone to attack. I manage to wall them off using summoned monsters, but they paralyze everyone who doesn't have chaotic commands cast on them, which is everyone except Aerie and Jaheira, leaving only the two of them to face six mind flayers.

And they win! Through judicious spell use and summoned undead who are immune to stunning, they kill off four mind flayers and severely injure the last two before they run out of spell. Jaheira hurls sling bullets until those run out, and as the gnoll summon wears off and the mind flayers attack, Jaheira leaps to battle as the stun wears off Yoshimo and he lends his bow to the fight. One hit from having her brain eaten, the last mind flayer breaks and runs, and Yoshimo shoots it in the back as it flees.  photo emot-black101.gif

I'm not an idiot, though. I wait for stun to wear off and rest up before I go into the room, and it turns out to be a good idea because there's an alhoon in there! I summon some undead into the room, and the alhoon's chain contingency immediately goes off. I notice one of the spells it triggers is spell immunity: abjuration, which is the school that all dispels and buff-removal spells are part of...so I run. When I get the combat log message that the magic sword the alhoon summoned is gone, I go back and summon some gnolls into its room, triggering another round of buffs from it and another retreat from me. This time it summons a glabrezu, which murders most of my party, so I reload. And again. And again.

When I end up resting and coming back and seeing that the alhoon has set up its buffs again, I try something a bit different--I steal the loot and run. Aerie summons some ghasts to distract it while Chiyo hits the pool in the center of the room, picking up a wand of wonder and the Hammer of Thunderbolts:

Hey, I killed a dragon. I have nothing to prove. I'll come back and kill it later.

I immediately save, log out, open up ShadowKeeper, and change Minsc's mace proficiency to warhammer proficiency and then give the hammer to him. Finally he has a +3 weapon and won't be useless in these kind of situations anymore. Now, there's one more thing I want to do.

The House of Bondage
There's a building in the southeast part of the temple district, north of the Hall of the Radiant Heart, that I want to check out. From reading out-of-game sources, I know it was supposed to be part of a quest involving the underground slave trade, one outpost of which I dealt with in the slums, but the quest was never implemented even though the setting was. When I enter, two people named Sion and Ketta demand to know what I'm doing there:
Sion: "Look who's come barging in! I should check the wards on the door, Ketta. I do believe that they've weakened enough to allow the riffraff in."
Ketta: "It would appear so. An Ice Storm trap next time?"
Sion: "Quite. Now, as for you. This is private property, friend. You are not welcome here."
Chiyo: "What is this place?"
Sion: "What is it? Private property! That's what it is! Now, are you going to leave or do I have to teach you a lesson?"
Chiyo: "Why don't we try the lesson?"
Sion: "Ho, ho! How bold! Ketta, shall we?"
They teleport away and summon in some monsters, which I kill pretty easily--ogres aren't a threat now that Minsc can instantly kill them.

Upstairs is...a mess:

I do this battle in stages. I buff, run up and throw off as many spell as I can, like Xan's chaos and Jaheira's insect plague, and then kill a couple, retreat downstairs, and try again. On the first round, I manage to lure one of them downstairs with me--I didn't realize NPCs could cross zone boundaries, which makes me feel better about doing so myself--and he drops Celestial Fury, which I immediately give to Chiyo in place of that dragonslayer. She's now dual-wielding katanas and is the coolest thing the 90s ever produced. The second trip up I lay down my debuffs and it totally cripples the enemy party. The mage and cleric wander around, panicking as insects bite them, while Chiyo, Minsc, and Jaheira chop them to bits one by one. When they're all dead, I take the potions of extra healing and magical armor and weapons--just generic items, nothing special--and search the rooms.

It turns out one of the enemy was smarter than I thought. Explaining part of why the battle was easier this attempt, the rogue is hiding in one of the side rooms, but she stabs Yoshimo and doesn't kill him. As Yoshimo runs with 5 hp left, I lay down a web spell that catches her in its clutches. Then Xan and Aerie blast her down from outside the web's range. She has magical leather armor and nine potions of invisibility, which I think goes back to how utterly terrible thieves are in AD&D Second Edition that this game had to give them bandoliers of invisibility potions so they can actually do their jobs.

The rest of the compound has some generic magic weapons and armor, a few wands, and two level doors behind secret entrances that don't actually go anywhere: I just get a message telling me the alcove leads nowhere when I try. It's clear that this area is unfinished and I did everything I could here, so I head downstairs with my massive pile of loot and go off to see the merchants, where I sell off all the generic +2 weapons and armor. Then I head to Cromwell. He says he can reforge the Celestial Fury:
Cromwell: "Celestial Fury? I'm nay from Kara-Tur, and enchanting a Katana is no easy task, but with a Demon Heart and a Wand of Lightning I could just about do it. I'd charge you 20,000 for me sweat. Interested?"
I have a wand of lightning and a demon heart but not 20,000 gold, so I have him turn the ankheg shell into ankheg plate mail and the red dragon scales into red dragon scale armor. The former goes to Minsc and the latter goes to Chiyo, and then I leave Cromwell's smithy. I have 20,000 gold to earn. Again.

Game time elapsed: 65 days, 8 hours.
Shadow Thief Tasks Completed: 0/3

One thing that's eternally a problem in RPGs is providing a space for resolution of conflict that isn't "one side is completely wiped out." This is especially true in CRPGs, where there often isn't any kind of mechanism for resolution of conflicts without violence and we grognards fondly look back on games like Fallout for letting you debate the boss to death. Baldur's Gate II is a game of tactical D&D combat, so I realize that most of the interactions are going to come down to 1) conversation trees or 2) BUTT-KICKING FOR GOODNESS! Still, it was pretty nice that I could steal the alhoon's treasure and run. I'll go back to fight him. Maybe later, when I have that enhanced Celestial Fury.

Mind flayers are one of my favorite D&D enemies. Not just for the obvious Lovecraftian connections, but also because they're explicitly set up to be the mastermind behind a web of mind controlled pawns and dupes. The mind flayer lair here having more illithids than thralls is really unusual, but I guess it's not surprising for a computer game that needs to provide more challenging monsters. I wish they had included some kind of quest relating to the alhoon, though.

Speaking of which, I'm running out of quests to do! Other than the Shadow Thieves tasks that I haven't even started and a couple odds and ends, I don't know of any way to get that 20,000 gold for the new sword. And I'd like a couple more of Cromwell's items too, but they're a minimum of 10,000 gold each, plus various reagents like gems that I could use to make even more gold if I didn't have to put them back into enhancing my gear. I might end up just going around and knocking on various doors in Athkatla looking for plot, in that time-honored murderhobo tradition. This is from the era of games where they'd hide stuff in nooks and crannies with no indication at all that anything was there, after all. There's also a bunch of tombs in the graveyard that I haven't looked into as well, as I can check them. And Watcher's Keep, the dungeon added by Throne of Bhaal. I might not be able to clear it out, but I can get started on it. I'll get that money somehow!

Next: Part XVII: You Spoony Bards!
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