Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hordes of the Underdark Walkthrough - Part VII



We step through the Planar Gate and come full circle back into Waterdeep, where Meph fails in his attempts to turn Aribeth and Deekin against me (I needed to invoke Aribeth's True Name a second time, and the ultra-loyal Deekin simply defies Meph, outright).

The fight begins and we immediately fire our pointy projectiles into Meph's hulking, 20/- damage soak frame as the Sleeping Man drops down from the sky, then casts Improved Invisibility on himself. Meph casts Meteor Swarm, but I have epic fire soak (and cold, btw). At Barely Injured, Meph takes off leaving us to fight Ice Beasts.

He then returns with a vengeance in melee, inflicting epic physical, cold and fire: slaying the Sleeping Man, Deekin and Aribeth - and almost taking me out as well. I run, quaff a full heal potion and do enough damage for him to hit Injured status; after which, he takes off again.

I manage to resurrect Aribeth and Deekin and tell them both to buff just before the Lava Beasts are summoned. We fight them off, and Meph returns a second time to kill off both companions, twice more, with me resurrecting them each time and firing from behind my "sacrifices".

During this segment I manage to reduce Meph to Badly Wounded, at which point I just decide to run around kiting him to death, though he occasionally uses a sort of "force-pull" and emits a fiery AoE, so it's risky and requires decent timing. Meph then surrenders and I lay the smackdown. And that, as they say, is that.

I wasn't able to use acid arrows because you can't replace a ranged weapon's +5 infinite upgrade quiver with them. But still, with 1d8+18 damage and +5 piercing ammo, +2 magic from Battle Tide and +3 bludgeoning from Bard Song I was able to inflict respectable damage. Cold and especially fire resistance is obviously paramount against an infernal power such as Meph. Bard Song, being a multi-purpose insta-buff, is also extremely valuable here, as it is throughout the campaign. What really annoyed me was that companion buffs don't seem to carry over in the module transition between the Gatehouse and Waterdeep, rendering Deekin and co. even less effective against Meph than they already are (they could hit the Beasts, though).

Overall, the lead-up to the fight and the fight itself bored me somewhat (but then, this is like my forth time through the game since it came out, in 2003). There just isn't much room for tactics, and there's minimal variety (Ice and Lava Beasts? Please...) It's just gear-up, buff-up and then stand and deliver. Again, boring. New players fighting Meph for the first time will probably enjoy it and want to play Hordes again, but not for this (seemingly rushed) final encounter.

IMO, the best parts of Hordes are Undermountain Level One (explorative), Level Three (Drow are fun to fight) and most of Chapter 2 (the freedom, the Valsharess, that music!). Chapter 3 has its moments and inventive mechanics (Puzzle Ring, Demonic Grappling Hand, some actual role-playing, some good writing and characters) but the dungeon and encounter design, for me, just isn't as interesting overall as the previous two chapters. Anyway, I don't consider this run a waste of time - it was fun enough.


(Characters Buffed For Meph Fight)

Lilura: Fighter (7) / Bard (3) / Arcane Archer (16)

DEX: 34
(Rapid Shot) Attack: 57/57/52/47/42
Damage: 1-8 +18, +2 magical, +3 bludgeoning, +5 piercing (crit 19-20 x3), on-hit DC 16 IoM.
AC: 51
HPs: 318
Reflex: 31
Tumble (32), Spellcraft (30), Appraise (30)
Best clicky: Rapid Shot, Imbue Arrow

The -20% EXP penalty resulted only in -1 level from my Weapon Master run (I should have taken Wizard, not Bard), my gear was not meta-gamed to the max, my build not optimal. To no surprise the overall dungeon/encounter design of HotU does not favor archery and archery misses out on five Rizolvir mods and doesn't get on-hit Strength drain from the Black Pearl. On the upside I almost never needed healing items unlike my extreme DPS Weapon Master. Having Spellcraft makes NWN more interesting to play, too.

Aribeth de Tylmarande: Paladin of Tyr (20) / Blackguard (6)

CHA: 35
Attack: 39/34/29/24
Damage: 1-8 +4, +3 bludgeoning, +1-6 cold, +12 divine (crit 20 x3)
AC: 46
HPs: 569
Fortitude: 55
Discipline (44), Intimidate (32)
Best clicky: Divine Might, Divine Shield

I forgot to give her Nathyrra's Taralash, she also has no ranged related feats (all weapon feats for longsword). She has Smite and Sneak Attack from Blackguard levels, but the AI rarely lets her use the former. Aribeth is an unstoppable companion and a great and loveable character. 

Deekin: Bard (21) / Red Dragon Disciple (1)

Not level 26 (ie, missing 3 lvls) due to dumping him for almost all of Chapter 3.

CHA: 28
Attack: 26/21/15
Damage: 1-8, +3 bludgeoning, +5 piercing (crit 17-20 x2)
AC: 39
HPs: 246
Will: 20
Lore (60), Perform (47), Spellcraft (47)
Best clicky: Bard Song

Deekin did not receive Lasting Inspiration (21), which is just a rip-off. Great Wyrm Gauntlets do not give +2d6 fire damage on ranged attacks. Can be effective in melee if going RDD (strong and resilient). The best and most entertaining companion in the NWN series.



  1. "The -20% EXP penalty resulted only in -1 level from my Weapon Master run"

    So you did figure it out, answers my question from part 1.

    Also, I admit I'm a bit curious about your desire to never use full heal potions -- in a world where clerics and druids can easily run around with 20+ full heals per day...

    I mean, if you want to complain about the dependence on potions and healing in general, feel free, but full healing is already prevalent in NWN except for custom worlds/campaigns.

    1. I just think it's a bit cheap to quaff a potion mid-battle that can FULLY heal you, and I'm not sure I saw any enemy quaff higher than Cure Critical (Grimgnaw, it mem serves). I ended up feeling ok with quaffing one or two, in the end. But I guess I was just wary that tank builds (High DRed/Res, high HPs, decent AC) can become almost invincible in Hordes with full heals, at least mine anyway. If the AI and difficulty takes into account player full healing and uses them itself, then I have zero qualms.

    2. Any build is basically invincible in HotU with an infinite supply of full heals. It's a common issue of many modules (Aielund is one of the few campaign modules that addresses the issue).

      But, when you think about that level (20+) a cleric can easily have 25+ full heal spells with half of those healing everyone nearby to full as well. A druid can easily manage 18+ as well.

      So unless you nerf the spell, then a cleric/druid can basically make a group invincible -- so there's usually a supply of full heal potions available so a cleric/druid isn't required.

      Which then leads to most modules being insanely easy because there's no real risk of dying at that point.

    3. I've just started Act Three of Aielund and have EIGHT Potions of Heal. Maggie was also able to cast Heal, and also Nellise (I think they have one or max two memorised, Maggie even got MASS Heal in Isle of the Dead).

      I suggest you remove Potions of Heal from vendors, entirely (maybe even drops, keeping the Tree of Life reward in tact, ofc) - there are TONS of Critical potions lootable from corpses. Healkits are in abundance at vendors and are pretty much OP in themselves with medium investment in the skill (plus Henchmen spam them when needed).

      You're right that Aielund address the issue somewhat (limiting purchases), but probably not enough.

    4. Possibly not enough, but keep in mind Potions of Heal in Aielund only heal for 110 HP, not full (about four times as much as a Cure Critical).

      The author also expected you to actually use them -- have you? I remember hearing about how Maggie died during the Deathmist fight, for example. Others may not run with Maggie at all -- they may be a sorcerer with Valennia and Ronan.

      Then in Act 3 you nearly died during the Lightbane fight as I recall -- did you use a Heal potion there or risk it?

      It's kind of funny -- Aielund is arguably one of the best balanced (and hardest campaigns)...but it's still on the easy side if you know what you're doing.

      And these issues compound -- if you manage to use three less heal potions per act then suddenly you're at the final showdown with 15 heal potions rather than 3-4.

    5. I didn't know they only healed 110 HPs, having not used them since I became a dmg sponge I assumed they worked as normal, and as per the spells... is there any original documentation for the modules, the readmes I have only have 8 lines of "thanks"?

    6. There was, the EMS documentation (which was mostly accurate) doesn't seem to be uploaded. Will check an old computer and see if it might be saved on that. A lot of the spells work differently (and mostly for the better) in Aielund.

      Lot of it is based on actual PnP and/or 3.5 implementation -- Heal and Harm do 10 HP/level, for example, cap of 15. Which I'd argue is still too much at low levels but that's another issue. Greater Restoration scales to 200 and Mass Heal to 250 (with 20 and 25 caster levels respectively as I recall).

    7. I would like those docs, please! Especially the original release docs by Savant, if you have them. And are the original Old Vault comments for Aielund Saga available somewhere? Couldn't find them on Wayback Machine.

    8. If they're not on the Wayback machine then sadly probably not. What original release documents are you referring to exactly? Going back a very long time now (and won't have that computer to access for a week or so).

    9. Basically just whatever docs Savant supplied users with when he initially released the modules/Saga.

  2. Sorry for necroing this :p. But I really enjoyedyour retellings of NWN, wish bioware would release NWN 3 already (I heard there is a NWN MMO but its not really that good)

    1. There's no such things as necroing on my blog: all comments are appreciated. I'm glad you enjoyed the recounting. There are many great mods for NWN that can tide you over until a proper NWN3 comes out, or an "enhanced edition". I have reviewed and recounted a few on my blog, and am about to start a new one soon.

    2. Sorry, but I can't help myself here...Much as I love your style - and content - and loath though I am to resurrect an old thread - I have to disagree at a fundamental level with your assessment of the time spent in Cania.

      I've just gone through HotU again in order to venture into Sands of Fate (which I think is the only SP module that will get you to level 40 with time to spare - not even the mighty Aielund can do that, so thought I should try it), and the time in Cania still really makes my skin crawl and itch.

      Now, given that it's a hell, annoying wouldn't seem out of place, but this seems like deliberately irritating the player. Chucking amulets, rings and grabbing hands on and off like popcorn merely detracts from the story, so I find myself simply angry with the whole malarkey by its denouement, and not caring about much other than leaving. My True Name should be Ebela'ar the Infinitely Frustrated. But it's not: it's Stagmeister from the ECB Guild.

      So yes, the mechanics are indeed inventive, as you say, but to the detriment of the over-all experience. It's more of a "look what we can do! See our mighty prowess and despair!".

      Oh, and just so you know, chapter 2 of HotU is probably my favourite of all the official campaigns - and would be just for the music in the Underdark in any case (thereby making chapter 3 even more of a disappointment).

      Sorry, rant over

    3. I see your point, and you probably did this, but I just put those items in the quickbar for easy switching between them, and it didn't bother me.

      But yeah, Aielund should have taken us all the way to 40. Well, it's possible
      Swordflight will take us there.

  3. A few words about the final "Boss" fight. There is a good reason to use Meph's real name, namely 4000xp (3000 for using the name and 1000 for commanding him to die), if you fight him (solo) you get the staggering amount of 40 experience points or 32xp if you have a party. For the FINAL boss? 40xp? I consider it an insult on bioware's part.
    Now 4000xp brings the character on the brink of level 29 (I missed it by 3000+ points)and as was mentioned in a post above, "Sands of Fate" (which sadly you didn't review)allows you to continue with your saved HotU character.

  4. I also must strongly disagree with you about Aribeth's worth as a companion, in all my runs through this game each and every time I recruited her I got to regret it, she's constantly ordered to "attack nearest enemy" (or sometimes "guard me")but does absolutely nothing, she can be surrounded by enemies (the minions of the last guardian of the pass) and will not attack or do anything until she's attacked by someone and then she'll defend herself and when her attacker is finished she resumes doing nothing, so infuriating that normally just to make her fight I will attract the enemies to her vicinity and then run and hide myself and even then it takes a very long time until she decides it's time to fight, every other companions I ever had surpasses her in every respect.Aribeth is definitely not recommended.(I must admit that I never gave her true sight but my thinking was that if true sight (in an item) doesn't work for the PC why will it work for a NPC? ).

    1. I don't remember any issues in my run (in which she was always attacking from range with a bow). Sometimes companions won't attack if they are under the effect of Improved Invisibility - a really annoying bug.

      That's a strange exploit you mention in the other post; I have never noticed it before. And yes, I dislike the way CR plays into the kill experience points, especially bosses; it's... deflating. The devs should have scripted it to give you a flat 10,000 or something.

    2. I've found Aribeth to be the best or second best companion (Valen is the contender). She literally cheats by having extra HP IIRC and her saves are sky high by getting DOUBLE charisma modifier to all saving throws. Give her decent equipment and I'm pretty sure she can solo all of Act 3 if needed...

      The Improved Invisibility part is a major bug, though -- when I had Nathyrra I had her manually cast it on *me* so she couldn't cast it on herself.

    3. I played this recently, also as an Archer, and had the same issues with Aribeth, though I was trying to use her as a melee tank. She would pretty much just stand around unless attacked, no matter what orders I gave her. Meanwhile Fearless Deekin was always quick to rush in. Bless is little kobold heart. I think something is messed up in Aribeths scripting. I would have ditched her, but I didn't recruit the others in previous chapter. It was just me and Deekin.

    4. StagmeisterJanuary 29, 2018

      Interestingly enough, this Aribeth not seeming terribly bothered business appears to be transferable. I recently had a run through Aribeth's Redemption, where not surprisingly you kind of need to have her along. She was a fine and very capable companion when there were only the two of us, but as soon as I recruited anyone else (again, pretty much unavoidable) she went all sulky and not prepared to play nicely with the rest of us. Massively annoying when trying to combat six dragons at once, for example. So maybe it's not a bug, it's just her being an awkward cuss.

  5. If you are referring to my post about Grimgnaw &Co. then I have deleted it since after posting I remembered a post by Balkoth in your Aielund walkthrough mentionig that there are times when there is more then one inventory page in a fallen enemy's loot (so I went back to the encounter and indeed all but Grimgnaw have 2 pages of inventory) but I'm not sure that you noticed it since you never mentioned the epic amulet of health or the dispelling bolts. BTW, I think the epic amulet of health is bugged, it's supposed to confer immunity to death magic but in my fight with the guardian before the knower of places I had to reload as he used just that against me and I failed the save (and I din't roll a 1, I rolled 4).

    1. Was it a giant swirling circle? If so, that's Implosion and it's NOT considered Death Magic, even if it is instant death.

  6. As always you are right,Balkoth,it was and I thank you for the clarification.


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