Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Aielund Saga: Act Three - Part II

The Pass & the Eastern Highway

Winding our way upward, across the top and down the other side of the snowy pass and eventually to the road, here we confront the blue dragon Azurefang (+1496 EXP) with her ass obnoxiously planted in the middle of it. To Robert's dismay the PC wasn't known for bluffing, failed her persuasion checks and was just too much of a tight-ass to buy off the dragon; therefore we were repeatedly zapped and clawed at, but victory against electro-breath was made somewhat easier with Robert wielding the dragon-slayer alongside me.

We're now on the Eastern highway which gradually descends to the bridge where we fought the Black Cavalier (Robert). Halfway to the bridge a silvery young dragon flutters down to land on the road.

Spartan can be recruited for a fee of 10,000 GP. He can't be equipped with armor, weapon or shield; all else is fine, though.

Before the bridge four Hill Giant Marauders (+136 EXP) and two Mountain Giants (+10 EXP) realised too late that loitering around Culdeny is a capital offence.

Level Up to 19!

Lilura: Champion of Torm (5) / Paladin (10)/ Fighter (4)
Criosa: Rogue (10) / Wizard (9) Spell Focus: Conjuration.
Robert: Fighter (19)

At the Culdeny bridge Robert begins a flavor convo, beginning with: Well... here it is. This is pretty much where you killed me.

The militia officer here refers us to Commander Ariel in Culdeny barracks.

 Culdeny Revisited

Damn, look at this place. Who would have thought they could rebuild so quickly. - Robert.

Dwarven stone masons have been working overtime to reverse the destruction wrought by the dragon attack.

The old Culdeny wall as it stood in Act One...

... and the all new and improved, fortified wall! Let's see a badger hurdle that!

The town layout is almost exactly the same and, from what I can see, no other structures have been upgraded. Many of the buildings cannot be entered, their doors are simply jammed fast. The brewery door opens and it looks like you can enter, but then nothing happens when you try...

We enter the Culdeny Church to speak with my old Aasimar friend, the beautiful Bastila Shan Nellise Sanneman.

Now I happily ditch Robert Black in favor of Nellise (Cleric [17] / Paladin [2]), mainly because she's simply more useful to me. Robert is good for DPS but his survivability is questionable due to dual-wielding and just being a plain old fighter (no spellcasting, no versatility). Even if I geared him for sword n shield for +AC, I really just don't need another warrior.

(Dante, Robert, Sir William, Valennia and Spartan are all warriors and therefore boring in combat... I'll take Maggie or Nellise and rogues Ronan or Criosa over them, anyday - combat-wise.)

Nellise's default equipment for Act Three: Nellise's Armored Robes (Bonus spells Cleric 4/5/6, Piercing res 5/-), Mighty Crossbow +5 (Mass crits 1d10, Mighty +4), Mace +3, Ring of Protection +3, Amulet of Natural Armor +4, Blessed Bolts (+1d6 divine [396]).

Nellise's divine buffing spells: Spell Resistance, Freedom of Movement, Endurance, Bull's Strength, Aid, Bless, Regenerate, Clarity. (On top of that, Criosa can further buff me with Cat's Grace, Mage Armor, Protection From Evil, Endure Elements and Improved Invisibility.) Nice!

We couldn't find much else in the shops here to fit ourselves out with, so just:

Culdeny House of Exotics: Bag of Holding (2) (eight in total now...)
Master Chaplain's Smithy: Shield of Endurance (AB +5, CON +4) 

Total outlay =  86,000 GP.

I now equip Nellise with the "best" gear available to her:

Nellise's Armored Robes (Bonus spells Cleric 4/5/6, Piercing res 5/-), Ring of Protection +3, Amulet of Natural Armor +4, Ring of Resistance 3, Boots of Astounding Grip, Belt of Dwarvenkind (+2 CON, -2 CHA, +1 AC def, Darkvision, Bonus Feat: Stonecunning, Poison saves +2), Sir Godfrey's Cloak (+2 AC def, +2 CON, +2 Saves), Gauntlets of Ogre Power (STR +2), Mace +3, Shield of Endurance (AB +5, CON +4).

Nellise can also be geared as a ranged attacker, what with her Zen Archery and heavy crossbow weapon feats. In fact, I'll adjust her to that weapon as she's clearly specced for it.

It's amazing how the town has changed in the past few months. It was truly something to behold. - Nellise.

Skipping across the street we bump into Ragnar the dwarf who has some unwelcome guests in his new aqueducts. We step down behind him into the waterworks and slay two Elder Water Elementals (+340 EXP ea); then return to Ragnar for +1000 GP and +1000 EXP.

Standing in front of the Ocean Voyager is Dockmaster Killian who complains about the dock workers being underpaid by the North Shore Trading Company. We offer to negotiate more suitable terms on the workers' behalf.

However, the owners of the company - one of them Evelyn Bartlett - refuse to increase their pay despite admitting to an increased cash flow, citing their ongoing ship and building repairs as weak excuses.

Returning to Killian, we hatch a plan to pass off the cargo as contaminated and then use my wealth to purchase the company at a steal. 

Now I persuade the Count to block the port, so this all seems legit (+500 EXP).

Evelyn now reluctantly sells the company to me for a paltry 50,000 GP, then falls to her knees in defeat.

We return to Killian to inform him of our success (+2500 EXP). With everything now ship-shape, we take our leave of the Docks.

The south gate is locked so we stroll over to the barracks to receive a permission slip from Commander Ariel. She informs us of a mass exodus of monsters from the southwest of Highmarch, currently marauding in the region just to the south, including Bracksworth. No actual quest is given at this stage, but the course we must take is clear.

In here we also meet up with our old friend, Dante (now Commander of the Rangers [!] in Wise's absence), who assigns us two quests: first up, slay a flight of black dragons in the Calespur ranges; second, find Mona.


Our affairs in Culdeny concluded for the moment, we exit the town by the south gate and find ourselves back on the highway that leads south to Bracksworth.

Here a Hobgoblin Shaman (+108 EXP) and his band Elites (+10 EXP ea) yell obscenities at a pack of stealthy wolf-mounted Goblin Cavalry (+54 EXP ea). Having hung back for them to clump together in rage, Nellise now unleashes Earthquake followed by Word of Faith, meaning only a few pokes with the pointy end of my sword were needed to finish the wretches off.

Farther south a repeat of this comedy ensues, this time involving five Bugbear Heroes (+10 EXP ea) versus six Hill Giant Marauders (+108 EXP ea). I tank the giants while my Henchmen take out the trash on right of screen.

A few other packs dot the map including several Goblin Marauders (+10 EXP ea) and more giants, all of which seem to respawn at intervals (meaning if you're under-leveled you could probably farm EXP here quite efficiently).

The situation to the south must be dire indeed to cause all these loathsome creatures to flee. - Nellise.


Calespur Revisited

Venturing west into the Calespur ranges we find the ranger lodge abandoned and the area occupied by a flight of black dragons.

*Sigh* So much for the King's game reserve. We went to a lot of trouble to save this place! - Nellise.

With a ludicrously self-important voice I now announce to Nellise and Criosa that a buff-fest is to be held, after which we run around the map casually slaying the dragons: three Old Blacks (+476 EXP ea, Dragon Blood) and two Adult Blacks (+136 ea).

Fairchild's old Cabin in the far southwest of the map is now where we find Mona has taken refuge. She takes off after we tell her the coast is clear back to Culdeny.

Northwest lies the Calespur caverns where we first met Mona, and wherein we tackled the wyvern menace. Still buffed, we enter the cave and are set upon by a veritable breeding ground of vile acid-breathers, including an Adult (+108 EXP), two Young Adults (+54 EXP ea) and about a one-and-one-half dozen trashy dragonlings (+10 EXP ea).

An unmissable treasure pile here contains Fiendslayer +4 longbow (+8 vs. Outsiders, Mass crits 2d10, Mighty +5, Protection From Alignment 5/day), Arrow of Intense Cold (+1d6 cold, on-hit Freeze [99]), Arrow +5 (99), ~2000 GP.

Back outside the caverns...

Wretch! I will destroy you for what you've done! - Razorfang.

I was sort of expecting to be waylaid stepping out of the caverns, but I forgot to heal up beforehand. Luckily the trio was still mostly buffed and so this dragon was laid to rest without needing to reload (+1453 EXP).

Razorfang's Horn is snapped off and promptly delivered to Dante back at the Culdeny barracks for +1000 EXP (+1000 EXP for rescuing Mona).

In the next update we'll be heading south to Bracksworth, then east into the Southern Foothills and into the Cairnwood Forest.


  1. "A few other packs dot the map including several Goblin Marauders (+10 EXP ea) and more giants, all of which seem to respawn at intervals (meaning if you're under-leveled you could probably farm EXP here quite efficiently). "

    If you're curious, they respawn three times each if I recall correctly. So could farm them a few times if you wished but not indefinitely.

    1. Oh, and that quest chain with the dock workers and trading company is even more satisfying with Robert Black in the party!

    2. How hard would it be to increase party size in Aielund? Not that I'm suggesting you implement such a change for future players - just curious.

    3. That's a complicated question.

      1, it might be as simple as changing one line of code if it's properly set up.

      2, if not, probably isn't more difficult than looking at the hiring scripts and changing a 2 to a 3.


      1, this may cause dialogue issues. Presumably not because theoretically you could have any two party members, but something to consider.

      2, it will definitely cause balancing issues without making enemies more difficult.

      3, it may also feel harder to properly equip a group since the gold/gear amount is the same (unless changed). Arguably this could be another gold sink or make it harder to enchant every item with everything, but again something to consider.

      4, it may cause space issues -- fitting four people into spaces meant for three can get crowded.

      But that's the gist of it offhand.

    4. Why do you think the Saga was designed and balanced around only two Henchmen, why not three or four?

      Are modders concerned about peoples' PCs not being able to handle it?

    5. I don't think that's the issue at all. You might as well ask why Mass Effect was designed with a party of 3 total.

      There are a few possible reasons.

      1, the more NPC companions, the less critical your PC is in a fight. Can find up feeling like you're escorting around a small army rather than being the main hero. Usually games do something to make the main character substantially better than the NPCs as well -- Commander Shepard is far more powerful than his squadmates via skills/gear alone and then on harder difficulties the squadmates also get a damage decrease. In Dragon Age the Warden winds up having more skills/abilities than the companions. In the original NWN campaign you were always a level ahead of your (one) companion. Because the game is focused on *you.*

      2, fear of Monty Haul syndrome. The more characters you have the more gear you need to equip them which means more loot to find which means it can feel like loot is raining from the sky.

      3, simple space. Especially in close quarters, three take up a lot less space than four.

      4, you feel more powerful. Which is cooler "Yeah, my two friends and I slew the big dragon threatening the town" or "Yeah, my five friends and I slew the big dragon threatening the town?"

      Those are a few off the top of my head and I'm sure I could think of some more. This isn't an exact science here, a lot of it is what "feels" right to the player.

    6. Many RPGs allow for more than three, for e.g Baldur's Gate, Wizardy 8, Jagged Alliance 2, Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale 2, Fallout 2, Arcanum, Warband, Planescape: Torment, Temple of Elemental Evil, Storm of Zehir. Most of them are older than NWN. Having come off Baldur's Gate, I could never get over the "limit" of two companions in the official content and most mods, it seemed unnecessarily limiting of fun and tactics and just more going on.


      1) The PC is generally the most critical in a fight since the AI can never make optimal decisions, plus they're generally not min-maxed and triple-classed builds for pwning.

      2) You would balance for that, see the above mentioned games which did a decent job.

      3) well, you would conceivably have spellcasters and sharpshooters hanging back. And let's say we have five total meleers wading into the fray, so what?

      4) it would still feel like that if there were +2 henchmen, you just beef the dragon up.

      Anyway, I just never liked the Hordes limit many modules ran with... that's why I wonder if Bioware imposed a limit based on technology, when NWN was released many PCs needed to be upgraded for it, and back then not everyone was getting 60 fps at 1280*1024...

    7. Keep in mind that the lack of direct control of companions in NWN (which I actually do generally like) makes it a lot harder to do super complex tactics, especially as party size goes up. I did make a system to at least be able to easy assign targets to the group or to tell them to move to a specific location, which helps, but currently is only in my modules. May add it to Aielund.

      1, even a reasonably built pure fighter is fairly strong, and for rogue/fighter/archer types the optimal decision is basically "go attack" in most cases. AI spellcasters are bad, definitely. And I've often been in modules where as the PC caster it was most optimal to NOT be the most critical in the fight -- I buffed up the NPCs and turned them loose.

      2, it's still harder -- and you asked WHY the author might have balanced it for three, not whether more is technically possible (or superior in general)

      3, five meleers in hallways that don't really let more than 2-3 creatures fit in them doesn't work so well.

      4, you're missing the point. Let's expand it: Which is cooler -- "Yeah, my two friends and I slew the big dragon threatening the town" or "Yeah, my fifty friends and I slew the big dragon threatening the town?"

      I sincerely doubt it was due to technological limits. Dragon Age (2), where you can completely control every character, only has three extra -- and obviously technology could support a lot more at this point. ME (2/3) only has two extra.

    8. "I did make a system to at least be able to easy assign targets to the group or to tell them to move to a specific location, which helps, but currently is only in my modules. May add it to Aielund."

      This actually sounds quite cool, I'll have to check your modules out after I'm done with Aielund. This coupled with the ability to ask Henchmen to cast SPECIFIC spells in dialogue (as you can with Deekin and Nathyrra in HotU) would be very interesting to me.

    9. I only currently have one officially released module to the public -- I'm proud of what I did in it, mind you, but it's also only half done and I'm working on update it quite a bit while finishing the second half (was part of a month-long building challenge to do what you could in one month). It's also a solo module with no companions, you'll only use the tool as a ranger or druid for animal companions. It's also a very different type of module -- you start at level 40 and then primary focus is scripted boss combat.

      May be worth your while to wait until I finish the whole thing, but if not then keep in mind it is unfinished still (what was released is completely playable, though). If you're used to more...engaging...combat than NWN you might find it on the easy side, especially the first few bosses, but one of my goals was to make it beatable with any reasonable build as long as you did the fights properly. Which is tricky in a solo mod!

      I semi-released another module (long story) that's aimed at a level 1 warrior type and will take you to 6 so that tool is irrelevant there. And then I have some more testing ground modules for PW stuff that feature that system in some but I haven't publicly released them.

      Also, the system is literally as simple as...

      1. If you target an enemy with the tool, attack the enemy
      2. If you target a non-enemy, move to their location
      3. If you target a location, move to that location.

      Can't assign orders to just one companion and spellcasting companions will attempt to physically attack at the moment (at least for a round or two). Still an vast upgrade over the default, IMO.

    10. Well, I'll still check it out for that tactics system when I'm done with this. It would be great if you could add it to Aielund, I lurve mah tactics.

      What timeframe are you looking at for your overall Aielund Saga improvements, and what are your priorities to fix (other than removal of horses and boring stuff like typos/misspellings)?

      Lemme know if you need something play-tested or proof-read, I'd be happy to help out.

    11. I don't know on the timeframe, will likely be a few months. Have other things that I'm having to do first regarding RL and other video game responsibilities.

      Priorities are horses, major bugs, and improving Highmarch battle at the moment. This first post has a list of known issues but is not nearly up to date atm:

      Typos/misspelling are lower priority but still stuff I plan to do. Will definitely take you up on the playtesting/proofreading thing.

    12. I actually just got done with the Fort Highmarch finale, absolutely loved it! The massive AoE centered on the watchtower that emanates out over the whole fort and does rainbow dmg and knockdown, does it have a name?

      Loved how Carthach and Valennia are scripted to retreat into the Fort interior at Near Death status, but don't always make it. Hasrinaxx also kicked ass in this battle. The Siege Golem was BEAST, that Knockdown and stomp pwns (immunity to knockdown essential for melee builds!)

      What exactly triggers the arrival of Ternius and the King at the end?

      "Improve the battle at Fort Highmarch (can currently kill all golems in previous area and then just sit around for 10 minutes tanking the Ironlord)"

      Hmm... I thought the golems on the southern slope just kept respawning, indefinitely...?

    13. I admit I don't even know what AoE you're talking about, but that sounds like Hellball.

      Pure time triggers Terinus/King Seamus.

      No, there are exactly 100 golems max that will spawn. Like the captain says, each one you kill there means one less during the siege itself. The problem is it's not too difficult to wipe out all 100 (hold out indefinitely) and then you sit around doing nothing but tanking the Ironlord for 10 minutes because only like 5-10 spawn during the siege early on.

    14. Yep, Hellball.

      Yeah, in my game I sort of bottle-necked the Iron Legionnaires on that natural bridge, and could have just kept killin em long after the Captain orders the retreat. And while I thought about farming the EXP, I deemed it an exploit so just moved onto the Fort after killing half a dozen or so.

      Speaking of which, the initial dialogue with Captain Gerard Lane on the southern slopes failed to kick in for me (a sort of cutscene-like glitch/hang). I tried reloading a few times, but to no avail. I was then forced to reload to a point BEFORE entry to the southern slopes map to get the dialogue to trigger. I can't reproduce it, so no matter.

    15. Yeah, that whole section is something I'm going to improve. And technically you should get the XP regardless, either at the bridge or at the fort!

      Interesting. Well, not sure what to say, then!

    16. Technically, but not practically. I'm not gonna fight 100 golems, 20 would be my limit before I got bored.

    17. That's another issue, it gets a bit boring hacking through 100 golems :P

  2. I implemented additional henchmen at one point, but then noticed the spawn encounters don't account for henchmen when spawning in monsters. This meant you could be solo or have four henchmen, and the scripts wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It basically screws up the balance of the mod very easily. You also have to remember I wrote this particular mod before Hordes of the Underdark was even released. I don't know if modern nwn mods all have more than 2 henchmen allowed at once or not, but back then 2 was max.

    1. Technically the spawn encounters do scale, but the henchmen have to be within a certain radius or something -- so it's very easy to only spawn it for one person using Bioware's encounters.

    2. Pity..a four people party would have been perfect also for roleplay. Nellise + Robert + Criosa also seems a balanced party.
      Some parts of Aielund are actually played with a party of four (act 1, when you free the old barb boss) and I did not noticed problems or easier it's a pity

    3. I would have loved a four-person party throughout, yes. I'm currently playing rogueknight333's Swordflight Chapter 2, and his module allows for a party of four - at least when you exit Calimport's gates. I myself am a thug-like rogue (fighter 4/rogue 7) partied with a nerfed lich (Undead Wizard 15), a Dwarven warrior (fighter 7, dwarven defender 3) and a winged Aasimar (Rogue 8, Blackguard 2). The combat is challenging and highly enjoyable!

  3. Really? Then I'm going to play that soon. I prefer modules with multiple henchmen (The Prophet has a party of three like Aielund.. if I am correct also Citadel of Blood has more than one henchman).
    I used a rogue/fighter too for the ch1 so I'll probably take the same npcs. Seems a strong party to me!

    1. Never heard of Citadel of Blood? I was thinking of playing Blackguards and Lords of Darkness next, probably the former since LoD isn't very well written (but has lots of hack n slay).

      The evil crew in Swordflight 2 is strong, yeah. The lich has a permanent fear aura, which means several Hill Giants panic and then get sneak attacked by me and the Blackguard. Very satisfying. Unfortunately, the AI is such that the lich rarely casts the right spells at the right time, and sometimes he just refuses to attack, so it's somewhat annoying to die when he could have saved the day with an ILMS casting... I believe Aielund's AI was much better (Nellise was amazing and it seemed I had more control of her castings), but perhaps I'm doing something wrong? I guess I'll msg rogueknight333 to find out.

    2. I agree, play Blackguards because it's one of the two best evil campaigns of Nwn (the other one being "A hunt through darkness", a drow campaign), they told me it's fun and difficult. The only reason I did not started playing is because it's a restrictive mod (you HAVE to become a blackguard in order to progress) and I usually avoid class/sex/race specific mods.

      Citadel of Blood has some good ratings in the Neverwinter Vault (even not as much as the praised and unrelated Runes of Blood), mixes hack&slash and roleplay so I think it'll be a decent mod. Anyway I was wrong, you can have only one henchman. Pity.

      Never heard of Lords of Darkness at all.. strange. I know Shadowlords instead (part of a trilogy with Dreamcatcher and Demon Campaigns), I've started it and seems interesting so far (henchmen are well written and interesting, but not much hack n slay... anyway I just started it, so who knows).

      Swordflight 2 is hard! Well I've done some quests but I am still all alone so I hope to find some helper soon.
      I find the AI in geneal really bad for mages (as Criosa, or the other mage, the one of Crimson Tides of Tethyr, can't remember the name) but ok for other characters: Sir William in Aielund Act 2 saved my character with a well timed lay on hands while fighting the dragon.
      Curiously I had your same issue with Crimson Tides of Tethyr henchmen (standing still refusing to attack or to cast anything during a difficult combat...and then he zap a lone rat with a lightning bolt!)
      I notice that sometimes giving the same order (such as "attack nearest") a second/third time wakes them from the stasis.

    3. From the Blackguards readme:

      "This module is designed for evil aligned characters. Lawful evil characters and neutral evil characters are acceptable albeit your natural choice - as a servant of Talos - should be oriented towards a chaotic evil character.
      You can choose any class you wish - but you must become a blackguard to complete the module. You must become a blackguard to complete Chapter One and you must gain at least 5 levels as a blackguard to complete Chapter Two.
      To qualify as a blackguard your character must have: a base attack bonus +6 or more, at least 5 ranks in the Hide skill, and the Cleave feat."

      The series sounds interesting, and since the combat encounters would be tailored to Blackguard builds then I can possibly live with the strict restrictions (I think you said the combat was fairly challenging in another comment?)

      I did install Blackguards a while back, but I think I just wasn't in the mood for the writing - which I thought was a bit simple (not poor like in Lords of Darkness, though*) - and the first city I just didn't feel like exploring it. But it was just my mood, so I'll give it another whirl, maybe after Swordflight 2.

      Speaking of which, yes Swordflight combat is bloody tough. I won't spoil anything, but expect it to get even tougher when you leave the city gates - even though you'll have three companions along for the ride!

      As for the AI, I found Nellise fairly easy to manipulate - it was just a proximity thing that would get her to cast the AoE I needed from her. Not so in CToT or Swordflight, they stand around doing nothing more often than not... I've tried many times to nudge them into action, but it doesn't always work. And yeah, then after the battle's finished they cast IGMS on a mere rat.. grrr. Annoying!

    4. Well the mod is designed to be played hadcore, and yes a guy that completed the whole trilogy told it was pretty challenging (compared to the base game, I think).
      I played it and I don't see it being difficult but I admit that I'm still at the beginning (level 3) so things may change later. I agree with you, the beginning and city exploration is not as inspiring as Aielund or the Prophet... it's ok. I liked the henchmen choice and luckily you can access their inventory like in Aielund, too bad you have to take just one until chapter three (well some parts of chapter three).

      Shadowlords instead is so hard in the beginning. My 1st level monk has to face groups of 5-6 zombies (helped by a clone of Nellise..Anera, a female aasimar cleric). That's strange since it wasn't labeled "combat intensive" but maybe it's just matter of getting some levels.

      I'm still having problems in CToT but it's always the mage. The troll had a bit of problems due to its large size, but the rogue works fine... I hate spellcasters. I find easier managing fighters, you have just to point them towards the enemy.

    5. NWN-wise, I don't think anything will feel too difficult now that I've played Swordflight, unless we're dealing with "difficulty" caused by some kinda unbalanced, badly designed encounter.

      You can't access companion inventories in Swordflight! (and there's also no companion auto-loot system) - which sort of sucks; SF also lacks the dialogue option to change their spell-casting habits (for example, "save your spells for tough enemies", "don't hold back" etc.; on the positive side you can order companions exactly what SPECIFIC spells to buff you and themselves with before combat (couldn't do this in Aielund, you only had the general "long-term" or "short-term" - which was tedious at times, waiting to be buffed in ways you didn't really need.. ).

      So yeah, I guess no module that I've played so far has given me the level of control I like to have of my party. I realize SF may limit the control for reasons of refined balance, though...

      Shadowlords I haven't played. The only Adam Miller mod I got into was Dark Waters for NW2, but I lost interest in it (probably just my mood, not a fault of the module).

      I think it was a mistake for Alazander to give you just a troll and a negative nancy at the start. A character like Eleana should have come earlier (just my opinion, but the troll and Neremul were depressing to look at, let alone speak to.)

      My fave companion in all NWN has to be Grimgnaw for OC and Deekin overall. The former due to his speed, effectiveness and interesting backstory; the latter for his personality, loveability and effectiveness in combat thanks to the ever-improving Bard Song.

      Fighters and rogues are far easier to manage, yes. And I would assume to balance for..

    6. "NWN-wise, I don't think anything will feel too difficult now that I've played Swordflight, unless we're dealing with "difficulty" caused by some kinda unbalanced, badly designed encounter."

      I find that interesting for two reasons.

      One, neither Rogueknight nor I find Swordflight particularly difficult -- despite the fact I already deliberately chose the worst possible character to play as (which according to Rogueknight was a Druid/Shifter focusing as much as possible on Shifter - don't get good Druid spells and Shifter is rather weak in general in most cases. Wound up basically playing as a fighter (6 Druid/10 Shifter at the end) and meleeing everything despite having 3/4 BAB and only 14 strength total). From what I recall he specifically told me he designed it easier than he would have liked (especially in terms of the consumables available) since people were already complaining it was way too hard. That said, I would certainly agree that Swordflight has the most difficult combat of any campaign I've played that wasn't my own work.

      2, I find myself very much wondering what you'd make of the remaining Siege of the Heavens bosses, some multiplayer bosses in dungeons I had created, and some upcoming stuff. For example, the sixth boss in SotH (which is the first boss of the (unreleased) second half) was entirely beatable in her default state without even using the improved gear you're expected to have at that point...but I don't think most NWN players had a realistic hope of beating her even with the improved gear in that state -- at least not with most characters. I decided to preserve a copy of her original difficulty before nerfing her -- could send that testing module to you if you want a bit of a challenge. To quote Rogueknight (who was using the improved gear):

      "In other matters, I played the "full-strength" Queen Neya fight a bit. An enjoyable challenge (for me anyway), though I can see why you want to nerf it. My 29 Rog/1 Shd/10 COT character had a hard time with it, but was eventually able to beat it. I also tried a 34 Monk/6 COT (STR-based Half-Orc wielding a Scythe) who did not have too hard a time once I had figured out the mechanics."

      In general, the Siege of the Heavens bosses (and the A Peremptory Summons bosses) were designed to be lax on optimization requirements and strict on playing requirements -- your character doesn't have to be amazing and you don't have to worry about something requiring you to be able to do X amount of damage in a certain time window or something similar...but if you do the fights incorrectly you're going to simply die repeatedly.

      In other words, Swordflight's difficulty comes from intelligently approaching encounters, using consumables/items effectively, and creating an effective character...while SotH's difficulty comes from figuring out the bosses and then executing them correctly. Two different types of difficulty. Not sure which you value/enjoy more.

      The multiplayer bosses I made, on the flip side, were more focused on the mechanical checks and managing limited spells/healing per day (players had the ability to heal to full HP 10 times per day...but run out of those and I hope you have a Cleric/Druid with (more reasonably tuned) healing spells!)...but were simpler than SotH's/APS's bosses overall.

      "You can't access companion inventories in Swordflight!"

      This may be part of the problem! You can. Right click on them and you can access their inventory through the radial menu. I'd even consider that the "standard" way of access inventories rather than a dialogue option.

      "I realize SF may limit the control for reasons of refined balance, though..."

      Not to my knowledge.


    7. "I think it was a mistake for Alazander to give you just a troll and a negative nancy at the start."

      Funny story: when I played CToC, I only took the troll along. Completely ignored the wizard.

      "And I would assume to balance for."

      Primarily because of the control issue! You might give the AI an insanely effective set of spells and then have them bungle it completely (not only in terms of using the wrong spells at the wrong tactics wise but even in terms of doing stuff like Fireballing stuff immune to fire damage).

    8. P.S. "but were simpler than SotH's/APS's bosses overall."

      Which is because they were made before those modules, to be clear, as my first foray into trying to script some interesting and challenging boss fights.

    9. "You can't access companion inventories in Swordflight!"

      I've still to find a companion in chapter two (too much to play and few time) but in Swordflight Chapter 1 you could manage Zarala's inventory from the radial menu as Balkoth wrote. By the way I like this new approach to the henchmen control even if probably it has to be refined.

      Dark Waters for NWN2 did not interested me, too different from the classical fantasy dugeon crawls I like to play. About mods I only played the Conan Chronicles for NWN2 and liked them.
      Shadowlords is one of the first Miller's mods so isn't as good as the sequels Dreamcatcher and Demon, the second is regarded as one of the best, but I'll play the first, I do not like starting from chapter two.

      Beside being depressing Neremul is useless too. The Troll is powerful but he leaves you.

      "My fave companion in all NWN has to be Grimgnaw for OC and Deekin overall"

      Llarien from Baldecaran's mod Cave of Songs is my favourite so far. An elf archer rogue/cleric that can sneak, heal, and even resurrect your 1st level character (not always worked but at first surprised me) is a welcomed member of the party. Llarien has a main role in the Prophet trilogy but is nowhere as good as in the Cave of Songs, if you play solo.

      "In other words, Swordflight's difficulty comes from intelligently approaching encounters, using consumables/items effectively, and creating an effective character."

      This. I mean, this is what makes the mod stand out, I find some difficulty spikes or challenging parts in almost every mod, but this is almost always due to a particularly difficult fight (ex: Aielund chapter two final part), not because you have to organize your character and manage wisely the supplies.
      I agree that it's a different style. I admit I'm not used to that kind of challenge, but probably I've to practice more and improve.

    10. "My fave companion in all NWN has to be Grimgnaw for OC and Deekin overall"

      No love for Xanos? :)

    11. On companion inventories:

      I was talking about Swordflight 2, yes. I can't access them by way of dialogue or by right-clicking their portraits (the lich, the dwarf, the aasimar - my all evil crew). Yes I could of course access Zarala's inventory in the first chapter.

      On Swordflight "difficulty":

      The combat is the hardest of it's kind, yes. If you can point me to a module with harder combat that isn't a result of bad design or trolling the player (and not an MMO take on it, as in your modules), please do.

      On the Swordflight or APS/SotU approach to challenging combat:

      I could enjoy both approaches, but the reason I enjoy Swordflight more than APS/SotH is because I can feel my character and companions grow, involve myself in a story and immerse myself in a world to explore and it's lore to unravel; and I feel there's something at stake or to fight for. In APS there almost was no story; and in SotH I start off at fortieth level, a demi-god who has already torn through countless hordes, toppled thrones, moved mountains and swept away seas to get where she is. However, if you added a story for SotH like The Silmarillion, well, that would change things. ;)

      What did you think of the Aranea in the goblin fortress which has conjured SIXTEEN Water Elementals, all with fort DC-20 Drown ability? At the time I didn't know that potions of Death Ward could be bought from temple vendors, and I don't remember looting any up to that point, so I got killed quite a few times trying to draw them out. (I've also never seen that potion in any NWN campaign or mod, though I could be blind).

      I also found the the gaze of Basilisks as little daunting, and later the Gorgon gas (fort DC 15/17), both of which cause the petrification effect against which I'm not sure there's reliable protection (other than to buff saves, throw in a decoy and stuff of that nature, which is fine and does work).

      Trolls are formidable, the two first that you encounter. The first can barely be killed; the second beneath the slum sewers I was lucky my fighter/rogue could wield the Heavy Skeleton Smasher flail. Trolls work like in Baldur's Gate and the IE RPGs - it's obviously the inspiration in hardcoring things up (though it doesn't come close to approaching BG2, I'm just surprised to see this in NWN).

      Please note that far from complaining I embrace the tougher fights (ie, the two bugbear bosses, the darkshadow 'sins, ogre mages, the ambushes etc) and occasional threat of insta-kill from spells and the like..

      (see my newly added pics at the end of the Swordflight post for reminder - if you need it)

      The lich companions fear aura is proving to save the day, many's the time he scares off heavy hitters like ogres and giants - which means they're left open for the sneak attacks from the Blackguard and I. It's arguably OP once you get used to manipulating his positioning relative to a pack, and now also that we're all beefed up a bit (except the Lich, who remains at 15 - by design).

      And yeah, with consumables, once you know which ones you need there are perhaps too many to be found (potion packs) and bought (Infinite supply?) - which means you can buff to the heavens and the combat does get easier - I'm thirteenth level now, and things have shifted down a gear difficulty-wise, but may pick up again in the swamps, who knows, lets hope so (pls, no spoilers!) ;)

      Cave of Songs is a work of art; I remember Llarien being a big help in that module.

      "I love Xanos!" - Lilura on Bioware forums 02/28/15. Thanks for the comic link, Marco. From memory, Xanos will cast cantrips even if you have him level as barb, if you don't disable his spell-casting..

    12. Before I forget... speaking of difficulty this is a mod they told me is quite hard. Lots of combat, wise use of magic needed to win, and less roleplay, maybe you already know it.

      Had decent ratings, maybe the "adult" part wsn't necessary but well.. someday I'll try it just to see if it's true when they told that "it's more important your magic and how use it than your character"

      Ow pity I didn't expect that the inventory feature was removed in chapter two. Well probably henchmen are already better than Zerala so it's not necessary to improve them with more items.

      "The lich companions fear aura is proving to save the day"

      I believe that. Fear effects often works well even on strongest fighters/barbarians. In Nwn2 they were a big problem for my Halfling Barbarian: he fled from combat leaving the enemies butcher the party, then he came back to butcher theem. Quite hilarious!

    13. Thanks for the link to Citadel. I've updated my txt, so that I don't forget to check it out after Blackguards. The bugs worry me a bit, though.

      From a tactics and tinkering/experimenting point of view, it sort of sucks not to have access to their inventories; but from a role-playing PoV it makes sense that they have their own gear and auto-upgrade as the adventure proceeds. (I can't imagine the Lich allowing me to mess with his inventory, not only because he's a lich but just his egotistical personality in general).

      A few other things I've noticed with Swordflight 2 (these are only really mild spoilers, Marco): some merchants have limited cash reserves (maybe all of them do, and I just haven't yet exhausted them); contrary to the readme and the msg in the feedback, experience doesn't seem to scale up when you're partied? I'm still getting more Exp for soloing than if my party's alongside me (and summons leech your Exp too, which disincentivises their use somewhat, especially for some players..).

      The lich's fear aura means I also don't have to be scared of resting in areas set to ambush with enemies that readily succumb to fear. I just rest, the enemies ambush, are horrified at the sight of a lich, and then are easy game and picked off with impunity. (I don't abuse this, but the Exp is good for bugbear berserkers and shaman) :P

    14. I just accidentally lost my reply to this as I was searching through conversations with Rogueknight. Just so I don't have to track this quote down again...

      "I think a few of these fights might have been particularly problematic for you because:

      1) You were playing a very sub-optimal character. If you were playing almost any class besides Shifter, there would have been a lot of ways to make most of those fights a lot easier. E.g, in the troll fight most casters should not have too much trouble, a trap-setter would find it downright easy, and a warrior-type with maxed out strength and a two-handed weapon could kill the troll without even using fire or acid (I did this once in testing though it is an unnecessarily difficult route to take)."

      Relevant to the troll comment you made. More later.

    15. “and not an MMO take on it, as in your modules”

      Why do you refer to an MMO take on it, out of curiosity? I’ve been doing those types of fights since Ocarina of Time and Half Life (and Donkey Kong 64 and Starfox 64 and…). Those types of fights have existed since before Everquest came out.

      “I can feel my character and companions grow, involve myself in a story and immerse myself in a world to explore and it's lore to unravel; and I feel there's something at stake or to fight for.”

      That has nothing to do with the combat, though. You could easily have a campaign with story/characters/lore that has SotH combat or a shorter max level module with Swordflight combat. If you want, think of it as being like the difference between Half Life (2) and Call of Duty. Both are FPSes but both have very different combat. You can have a good campaign/story/etc with either (or a bad campaign/story/etc with either).

      There’s not a right or wrong answer on which type of combat you prefer, different strokes for different folks, I was just curious about which you preferred to what degree.

      “What did you think of the Aranea in the goblin fortress which has conjured SIXTEEN Water Elementals, all with fort DC-20 Drown ability?”

      I don’t even remember it. I mean, in general I don’t like that Water Elemental ability and I know I spoke with Rogueknight about making the Death Ward potions more “visible” but I don’t remember that particular case. Guessing either I had pumped up my saves considerably at that point (I’m guessing I was something like 5 Druid/8 Shifter (or maybe 9 Shifter but that has no impact on Fort) – which meant I had 4 (Druid) + 6 (Shifter) + 2 (Con) = 12 base fortitude without feats, buffs, or items -- if I’m wildly off on my total level guess let me know) or I picked a high Fortitude companion and sent them in to “draw” the Drown abilities.

      I never respawned in the game, always reloaded (for at least two main reasons).

      And no, Death Ward potions (along with several other potions) were not “standard.”

      “both of which cause the petrification effect against which I'm not sure there's reliable protection”

      Out of curiosity, were you playing with Automatic Failure on 1 enabled or disabled? I guess your Fort might have just been very low?

      “Trolls are formidable, the two first that you encounter.”

      As I mentioned in the previous comment, they’re actually not meant to be that difficult. Even as a Druid/Shifter I could nearly just flat out melee it to death. A Barbarian/Fighter/Paladin/Ranger should be able to just beat it down if needed (or use a Flame Weapon scabbard). A Cleric has Darkfire. Druids have Flame Lash and Flame Strike. Rogues have traps. Wizard/Sorcs have things like Fireball, Firebrand, Burning Hands, Combust, or even just Flame Weapon on a summon/familiar. Which leaves Bards and Monks, I guess? Bards can UMD stuff, monks might have fire damage fists at that point.

      “And yeah, with consumables, once you know which ones you need there are perhaps too many to be found (potion packs) and bought (Infinite supply?) - which means you can buff to the heavens and the combat does get easier”

      Yeah, the combat is balanced assuming you ARE constantly using those potions and buffing to the heavens. Which is difficult for many people to adjust to at first, most people are just used to carrying around maybe 1-2 stacks of the strongest healing potions and that’s it.

      “pls, no spoilers!”

      Fine, I won’t tell you about the half-demon prince of Hell who is your true father or the fact the lich is really an angel in disguise.

    16. “Thanks for the link to Citadel.”

      I remember looking at it a year or two back and didn’t get very far. Even though you can turn the “flirting” off I think nearly all of the dialogue kept implying you were LGBT, at least near the start. I mean, I’ve played a “lesbian” Commander Shepard who romanced Liara (cue people saying “Well, she’s REALLY a mono-gendered species…”) and I’ve played ADWR, but I seem to recall finding it odd that I turned that stuff off and yet kept being told about it. Then I guess the start just wasn’t very interesting on top of that? I think the only campaigns I’ve started but not completed are Citadel, Shadowlords (think I just got completely bored like halfway through the campaign since it was so lackluster), Revenant (think I just got bored like halfway through the module and not really interested in it), and Prophet (did Chapter 1, think I lost interest partway into Chapter 2).

      I dunno, if you try it and find it interesting maybe I’ll give Citadel another shot. Would rather work on Aielund and SotH in the meantime!

  4. Finally I've enought time to answer to all:

    "the petrification effect against which I'm not sure there's reliable protection (other than to buff saves, throw in a decoy and stuff of that nature, which is fine and does work"

    I think that immunity to the spell "flesh to stone" would work, do not know if it can be found in the mod, anyway "stone to flesh" would be able to cancel the petrification effect.

    "merchants have limited cash reserves"

    The message "the merchant cannot afford this transaction" happened to me also in Aielund Ch1 and Prophet not know if the item was too expensive or probably there was a limited amount of cash there too. It depends how much.

    "I'm still getting more Exp for soloing than if my party's alongside me"

    Well it is a nice reward for players that like soloing. But I don't think I'll do that, I enjoy too much having a team of companions with me. Maybe the exp variation balances better the different player choices.

    "I can't imagine the Lich allowing me to mess with his inventory, not only because he's a lich but just his egotistical personality in general"

    I agree, especially in the case of non-human characters (such as the lich, the troll or dragon companions... you probably know which mods I'm referring to) but sometimes I need a loot carrier since in these situations I cannot upgrade their gear with the new findings and then there's too much to carry.
    But I understand the point of view: in Blackguard I was tempted to steal the henchman's (Gard) armor since it was better that anything on the market...

    "Thanks for the link to Citadel. I've updated my txt, so that I don't forget to check it out after Blackguards."

    Great, by the way I'll be waiting for the next blog entry. (Swordflight Series - Part II?)
    And yes, I noticed the new pics... looks terribly hard from these screenshots! :)

    1. I found an ointment of Stone to Flesh, but of course it's useless if the PC is petrified because the game ends and you have to reload, just like in the Infinity Engine RPGs. The ointment is just to de-petrify your companions, and specific NPCs you can save who are found already stoned, deep in some dungeon..

      In Aielund Saga vendors would pay a certain max for an item (increased as Saga progressed), and also have a certain cash reserve with which to buy items, yes (Hakim has infinite cash, from memory). I haven't kept tabs on the latter in Swordflight2, but from my experience the most any merchant will pay for a single item in Calimport is 25,000 GP (if they have the cash).

      I prefer having companions along, too. But I did some tests and it seems I gain more Exp if I keep companions outside of a certain proximity to where I make the kill. I was getting twice the Exp for a bugbear kill if I was the only one in proximity. And summons also still further reduce Exp gain, which can make some players not summon them even if it's more prudent to have a lolsummon to sacrifice instead of PC taking the risk.

      My preference would be at least let the player see what the companion is equipped with but just not take anything. I saw this implemented in a module, can't remember which one, you could access their inventory and examine the items but you couldn't transfer them to yourself.

      I'll probably post again on Swordflight2, perhaps when I'm done with it.

      The number and variety of enemies increases as you progress in the adventure (random ambushes seem level scaled to a degree). Can become challenging, even a little tedious at times.

      There are also horses to ride in Swordflight2, amusing to see a Lich mounted. ;)

    2. I wish the npcs could use the items placed in their inventory (such as Zarala in chapter 1 when I found bardic specific items), but it seems that they often forgot to use their potions. Too bad.
      Never found so far a mod with the feature you mentioned... it would be a nice middle ground.

      Unfortunately I'm absorbed by other modules (especially Aielund, the end of chapter three) since I only did a couple of quest for Zarala & father plus some side quests and I've yet to be involved in the storyline, but I'll sure progress some more...

      Hope you took a screenshot of the mounted lich! :D

    3. I too noticed Zarala didn't like to use things placed in her inventory.. ah well.

      Oh, I thought you had finished Aielund Saga, sorry if I spoiled anything in my comments around here :P

      And yes, Swordflight isn't as easy to get into as Aielund Saga, story-wise and in other ways (combat). I think rogueknight333 to me feels more like a DM, Savant more of a story-teller. Which is preferred, depends on taste. But both their works are worthy of the time taken to complete them, imo.

      I won't take a screenshot, to motivate you to play on to see for yourself. :P

    4. I'm not sure what I was doing wrong, but it seems now I _can_ access companion inventories, except for the Lich. Odd..

    5. I can't vouch for the Lich as I never took it along, but yeah, was very surprised with what you were saying about the rest. Glad you got it "fixed."

      "But both their works are worthy of the time taken to complete them, imo."


      "But I did some tests and it seems I gain more Exp if I keep companions outside of a certain proximity to where I make the kill."

      Because the system doesn't think you'll be trying to exploit it. It literally just ups the XP scale when new party members are added to counter the XP penalty.

      So say a mob gives 100 base. If you add a second member, it bumps up the XP scale so you get 130, which when multiplied by 0.8 is still 104.

      However...if the party member is super far away from you then you benefit from the increased XP scale but not the 80% penalty for the party member.

      "I found an ointment of Stone to Flesh, but of course it's useless if the PC is petrified because the game ends and you have to reload, just like in the Infinity Engine RPGs."

      Disable automatic fail on 1 and have enough Fortitude. No potions or anything, though.

    6. "now I _can_ access companion inventories, except for the Lich"

      Whoa! That's good news! Maybe this was unlocked after getting their trust? (I can't remember the name, but I played a module in three parts, and only in the last one you could access npc inventories, to simulate the trust gained after adventuring together).

      "I thought you had finished Aielund Saga, sorry if I spoiled anything in my comments around here"

      No spoilers so far. I'll avoid posts on the parts I've still to complete, by the way it's nice seeing that some parts played quite differently in my game (for example in chapter 3 I did not meet Terinus in Fort Highmarch, Hailstorm begged me to be spared, I convinced Alistair to become a vampire...)

      "I won't take a screenshot, to motivate you to play on to see for yourself. :P"

      XD challenge accepted! Pity that S2 is so big compared to the first chapter... it's not a problem of getting into, it's a problem of "so much to play, so little time"! I like them both, as much as I liked Baldecaran's work.

    7. "Maybe this was unlocked after getting their trust?"

      No, should be possible immediately.

  5. Hello again!

    Just entered the rebuilt Culdeny (hit level 19 exactly in the same spot, kudos to Savant for managing character progression oh so well).

    I went to the house of exotics as the first thing, I wanted to talk with Rubo Essen about that magic device of his (remembering he had no clue about it in act I, except it made customers more inclined to open their purses, and because we saw a wholelot huge room full of them in that Eldar ruin during Alain rescue in act II). Of course, I grabbed the Bag of Holdings before any other customer could get them *grins*. I counted, I have 12 of them (maybe you missed two of them in Act I, one from the Scribe in Bracksworth and one in Culdeny, and two in Amalin in Act II?).

    Anyway, let's see what's next!

    I read the section on your blog _after_ I complete it… but I wanted to comment: I love how the auther "hides" some rare nice items among shops that otherwise only have mundane ones. You have to really browse through and taking your time. It adds up to the enjoyment!


  6. I mean… that Shield of Endurance and that Dagger of the Planes (1d8 magical damage, Enhancement +2, +5 vs Outsider… just awwww)


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