Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Aielund Saga: Act Two - Part V


Stoneguard Mountains

Continuing our search for the Scepter of Transcendence, the trio now travel back to the South Road and then hike steeply up towards the Dwarven city of Stoneguard.


We arrive in Stoneguard village just in time to witness three Dwarves being overwhelmed by several Frost Giants (+88 EXP ea). Having clearly saved their asses, the Dwarven Captain wonders if we might extend our aid to removing the threat entirely by taking out the formidable Frost Giant King - an offer a Paladin can't refuse.


Skip this paragraph to continue with the adventure.

You might be wondering why my experience point yield is clearly lower now despite my progress in the module. Aren't Frost Giants supposed to be tough? Why are they yielding the same combat EXP as an ogre from Act One? The answer has to do with NWN's experience point system and the open design and optional questing of Act Two. Simply put, EXP yield is based on party level relative to enemy level (as per Challenge Rating). Our level relative to the Frost Giants' level is quite high because we've done all other available quests to this point (ie, we're "over-leveled"), but if we came here when we first disembarked at Fairloch, we would be much lower level, the Frost Giants would be a real challenge, and in defeating them EXP yield would be massive. But this all balances out in the end, more or less. Note that combat EXP yield is also based on number of party members (incl. summons) alive at the time of the kill (quest EXP is static no matter the level and party size). Anyway, I thought all this deserved a little explanation, at least.

Back to the adventure...

Before taking on a whole heap of Frost Giants, the trio decide to visit Stoneguard proper in search of wares on which to drain their overflowing coffers (about 200,000 GP, with at least another 200,000 GP worth of items crammed into our inventories and lugged along for possible use later...). I'll comment later about wealth when/if it reaches truly obscene proportions - I don't want to take too much steam out of this update.


The top level of Stoneguard consists of Barracks, Tavern, Armory, Apothecary and various storage rooms and bedrooms containing trivial loot. As we explore I glare at Ronan each time he auto-unlocks one of these rooms. Exploring these large areas perma-Hasted is soooo good (Gladiator Armor, ftw).

From the Armory and Apothecary we splash out on the Stone Mantle cloak (DR 10/+3) and two Bags of Holding to relieve our inventories and encumbrance somewhat (-34,000 GP).


A staircase in the southwest leads to the Undercity - which we'll explore later.

I don't like this. I miss the sky overhead! - Maggie.

We head now back to the village, then south into the Stoneguard Mountains.

Here more Dwarves - led by Thaddeus MacTavish - are courageously fighting off like nine Frost Giants. It seems the author designed these encounters with a lower player level in mind because the Dwarves were utterly decimated by NWN's native scaling of spawns...


We venture deeper into the mountains where our eyes widen to take in a large multi-leveled area with many winding tracks through the snow.

I hear the wildlife around here can get a little dangerous. Be careful. - Maggie.

The fur of several mountain bears is not thick enough to withstand Maggie's Ice Storm or the sharp tips of our blades (+80 EXP ea).


Haste enables me to narrowly escape falling rocks, then we speedily slay several more mountain bears with the aid of Ronan's sneak attacks.


According to the map Auberon gave me, the hidden cave is somewhere in this area. - PC. (ie, the treasure hunting subquest we received in Amalis.)

Winding our way up, around and down the other side of the mountain, it becomes clear that several stealthy Snow Leopards and a few Winter Wolves should never have emerged from their dens (+8 EXP ea).

At the risk of sounding like a graphics whore, I have to say the animals look N64-ish - you can literally counts their polygons. Doesn't CEP have remodels/reskins for them like all the rest? Project Q animals are vastly superior to this garbage...

Anyway...

I think I've found the hidden cave. It's behind that boulder! - PC.


That was a bit of a tight squeeze, but I'm in. - PC.

We're presented with a tiny, bat-ridden area where we beat up on a Greater Water Elemental (+396 EXP).

Treasure on the ground: Ring of Clear Thought +3, +864 GP, Panther Figurine (summons Astral Panther familiar).


"Guenhwyvar's" stats:


Winding our way westward, more Snow Leopards and then another pack of giants rear their ugly heads (+7 EXP ea). A boulder-hurling giant (+220 EXP) stands outside a tunnel entrance to the Frost Giant "City."


Having fought off four packs of giants, we're confronted by a fifth led by the Warmaster (+836 EXP).

Thieves! Spies! You will be obliterated! - Warmaster.

This lumbering giant wielded the Massive Club +2 (Mass crits 2d12). Amusingly, the diminutive Maggie can also wield it. Both are pictured below for a size comparison.


Having steamrolled the giants we now raid the Lair.

And I thought it was cold back there... - Ronan.

We buff up and then wind our way through an icy passageway...

Interlopers! You will be CRUSHED! - Frost Giant King.

Allies of the Dwarven thieves! Eliminate them, by thunder! - Shaman.

This faceroll encounter consists of four beefed up boulder-hurlers, one female Shaman with a manly voice (+220 EXP), and the greatsword-wielding King (+968 EXP). 




The gigantic Shaman wielded the Winter Chill magical staff (Ice Storm/Cone of Cold charges); the King the Cold Fire +3 greatsword (1d6 cold).

Their warchest contained: Luck Bow +3 (Saves +2, Mighty +2), Boots of Hardiness +2 (+2 AC dodg, +2 CON) and +15,300 GP.

We saw off the Frost Giant King's enormous head, then take turns dragging it along the snow back to Stoneguard Undercity where we're granted immediate entry to the Throne Room by the door guard.

Impressed with our delivery King Sulinus MacTavish rewards us with +1000 EXP and +1500 GP, then the King tasks us with investigating disappearances within the mines below in exchange for possible info on the scepter's location.
 

Level Up to 16!

Lilura: Champion of Torm (5) / Paladin (7)/ Fighter (4)
Ronan: Rogue (16) Improved Evasion
Maggie: Druid (16)

Apart from the opulent Throne Room the Undercity boasts of training rooms, noble quarters, a gaol and a large mining ironworks with three master smiths. We now pass through the noisy ironworks for access to the mines below.
 

The Foreman on the first level hands us the key to a locked gate. Just before the gate is Legnar, a Dwarf who lost a Halfling precious metal scout through a small crack in the rocks. Clicking on the crack we receive this DM message:

The small crack in the wall here is too small for you to enter. A Halfling, Gnome, or even a Pixie could probably make it though. - DM.

Maggie doesn't volunteer and I have no means to polymorph to Pixie, so this quest (and I presume the area on the opposite side of the subterranean lake) is unavailable to us.


We round a bend and descend deeper into the mines where we're ambushed by four Duergar Warriors, four Rogues (+35 EXP ea) and one spikey-haired Berserker with an eye-patch (+88 EXP, Greataxe +1, Gray Dwarf Armor). Ronan's sneak attacks shine here as I tank the aggro. Loot is mostly +1 stuff which we cram into our Bags of Holding to sell off later. 

These look like natural tunnels, not worked like the rest of them. - Ronan.


Here I lure two Duergar packs together for tanking as Maggie burns n zaps 'em with AoEs. With all the corpses that result, I'm thankful for Aielund's/Tony K's Henchman auto-loot system  - no more pixel hunting.





Delving deeper down to level 3 of the mines...

 

The uncouth Duergar Captain (+220 EXP) initially casts Invisibility and summons a Succubus even as a contingent of five raging Berserkers and two wretched Sappers charge around the corner to back him up.

I'll spill yer guts! - five Berserkers in unison.

Duergar Captain's corpse: Thunderhead +2 Dwarven Waraxe (on-hit Chain Lightning [1]), Handaxe +3, Midnight Armor +2 (Regen +2, Dwarf only), Belt of Hill Giant Strength (+3 STR), +50 GP, Potion of Heal, Duergar leader's journal. Yet another head is chopped off to be cashed in.


The Duergar were extremely butthurt by the MacTavish clan, as is evidenced by the Duergar leader's journal.


In the northwest is a portal with one last hostile encounter: Greater Earth Elemental (+396 EXP), Duergar Cleric (+7 EXP) and five more Berserkers.

This strange portal appears to have been recently created, obviously by the Duergar. - DM.



Having removed the Duergar assassination threat we enter the portal and are unsurprised to find ourselves teleported directly into King Sulinus MacTavish's Throne Room.

The head is presented to the blown-away King (+1000 EXP, +2000 GP) who rewards us with the Belt of Dwarvenkind (+2 CON, -2 CHA, +1 AC def, Darkvision, Bonus Feat: Stonecunning, Poison saves +2), which Maggie gladly wears.

Regretfully, it seems the King's sages possessed no knowledge of the scepter's location.

All +1 and other loot from our raids in the mines is sold off now for about +70,000 GP.



Valley of Silence


Taking our leave of the Undercity, the heroic trio now head back to Stoneguard village and then westward to the Valley of Silence. There is a blocked bridge here with a sign reading:

Due to the hazardous conditions ahead (huge dragon), this gate has been sealed by the Order of the Transcendent Path. Have a nice day. - DM.

Presumably, this can be crossed at a later date.


Nestled high in the mountains is the Order's Monastery and herein the Grandmaster requests we venture into a cave system in search of an insidious presence. He hands us the Orb of Anti-Magic and the Key to the Cavern of Life.



Ok, this dungeon crawl is infested with Slaadi, the frog-like Outsiders we encountered briefly in the Feybourne ethereal plane. The Deaths (+396 EXP ea) and Grays (+70 EXP ea) basically start off hidden, summon their trashmob meleeing Reds (0 EXP!), then start making nuisances of themselves with Magical Circle Against Good, Darkness and Hammer of the Gods (which can cause the annoying Daze effect Nellise was so good for...). There are four encounters of one Death and three Grays each in this dungeon.

These guys need to see a beautician. - Ronan.


 

Awaiting us in the southeast is a mere Green Slaad and two more Grays.

Forces of order! Crush them! - Green Slaad.

These Slaadi are coming through that portal. I need to dispel it to stop this invasion. - PC.

More Greens periodically emerge from the portal so I use the Orb of Anti-Magic on the portal to dispel it (+750 EXP).

This encounter would have been better bolstered by a White Slaad sub-boss if you're higher level, instead of just relying on NWN's native spawn number scaling...



Using the Grandmaster's key we enter the Cavern of Life behind the portal where we delicately pluck a Leaf from the Tree of Life.

The entire cavern bursts with life and energy. - DM.

Who would have thought such beauty could exist in this cave! Amazing... - Maggie.


We inform the Grandmaster that the "Battletoads" are no longer a threat (+1000 EXP) and from the leaf he concocts a Potion of Heal for us. We take our leave.


On a moonlit night the journey begins back to Fairloch.


Stat Update! Character Level 16.

Self-buffed with Eagle's Splendor, Divine Might, Divine Wrath and Divine Shield and Expertise activated. Note that some other Feats listed here may also be bestowed by items (for example, Ronan's otherwise impossible Weapon Specialization.)




We turn our attention now to the dreaded Isle of the Dead, the final possible location of this elusive Scepter of Transcendence. Things pick up on the Isle, and then we have a conclusion of Act Two in sight!

Next Up: Act Two - Part VI

The Isle of the Dead
  

17 comments:

  1. "It seems the author designed these encounters with a lower player level in mind because the Dwarves were utterly decimated by NWN's native scaling of spawns..."

    Well...it was expected that you'd start Act 2 at level 8 and start Act 3 at level 16.

    And you're kind of 16 already.

    So yeah. The "downside" of doing every quest and clearing every zone fully.

    "This encounter would have been better bolstered by a White Slaad sub-boss if you're higher level, instead of just relying on NWN's native spawn number scaling..."

    See above >.>

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    Replies
    1. If I ever make a module it will come with the disclaimer: "Note that if you don't do most of the quests I worked so hard to make, then you'll probably find the combat difficult or impossible!'

      Mmm, I guess that wouldn't go down too well...

      Delete
    2. It actually probably wouldn't be as bad as you think -- the combat would be slightly harder but mobs would give more experience when killed due to you being lower level.

      But yeah, it's an interesting question of "What is an OPTIONAL quest?" If you expect people to do all the sidequests and such then they're effectively mandatory in a sense.

      Delete
    3. I'd expect them to scour my areas for all quests, yeah. Sort of how the author of Aielund expected us to do those initial Act One quests, else combat would be quite brutal. Providing you don't implemented enemy respawns (timed or on-rest), you could then maintain constant difficulty challenge in combat - well, more or less: it would depend on the build the player chose and how good they were at optimizing it. But I'd try and tailor encounters to solid build knowledge and wise item use, too.

      Delete
    4. To be fair, you only needed to do enough in Act 1 initially to be level 2 before leaving down. Which is more a problem of DnD low level rules.

      But yeah, I admit I've never understood the idea of ignoring side quests but apparently that's a thing. You see it in most/all RPGs.

      And catering to bad build knowledge and terrible item use is also common to see.

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    5. Yeah, like not allowing for Heal potion quaffing. >_>

      See my comment here:

      http://lilura1.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/recounting-hordes-of-underdark-part-vii_19.html

      Delete
  2. I'd also like to point out the unbalanced nature of nwn's classes. The Champion of Torm is waaay overpowered by comparison to many others, and if I made the mod balanced for only the most powerful classes, everyone else would have ended up a smear on the pavement.

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    Replies
    1. CoT actually isn't that strong -- nothing compared to a WM or RDD in terms of meleers. More synergy with Paladin and a few extra saving throws are usually the only real benefit.

      Delete
    2. I guess I'll just keep on taking CoT levels after CoT(10)... this is a very strong build, average dmg-wise, saves and AC-wise. A WM has more DPR (dmg per round), but is also somewhat less resilient. So glad I went sword n shield, too. Most 2hander builds are gonna need a healbot to survive the Aielund difficulty spikes (there are a few battles, even early on, where I thought "no shield = death here"). Remember too, I play on D&D Hardcore rules.

      Delete
    3. You'd be better off taking more Fighter levels for feats or more Paladin levels for stronger spells (like a better Divine Favor/longer Prayer/etc).

      Except Divine Shield you don't have an AC advantage -- actually lose class skill tumble compared to a Fighter/Rogue/WM. Main advantage is better saves.

      2H weapons just get unbalanced compared to shields as shields keep getting better -- which they shouldn't. AC scales automatically, a shield giving +4 AC or whatever is always equally valuable, no reason it should go from +3 to +10. But that's beyond the scope of what I'm working on here.

      I figured most people played "Hardcore" rules...which really just means "Equal playing field." Nothing "hardcore" about that.

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    4. On taking pally vs. fighter vs. CoT - haven't really crunched it for comparison, but the CoT bonuses seem respectable enough for the several level-ups remaining...

      Assuming the readme's correct (that I'll reach clvl38 by Saga's end), that means I have 10 levels remaining (I'm clvl28 as I type this). So 10 more CoTs'll gimme +5 all saves, 3 bonus feats and +4 attack/dmg/save and 15/+3 DR from scaled Divine Wrath. Not to shabby.

      Most actual NWN gamers will play D&D Hardcore rules (though srsly, many don't and freely admit it - even these days!), but I've seen lots of general gamers on various forums over the years not bother to up the difficulty, and I hardly see that as a revelation to anyone...

      And I didn't say it was "Hardcore", that's merely what Bioware call it. :P

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    5. By going 22 CoT/fighter 4 rather than 10 CoT/16 fighter, you're giving up 3 feats in exchange for 6 saves. The 15/+3 DR is irrelevant, everything will be at least +3 weapons. The divine wrath is very temporary, I'd rather have a permanent +1 (or +2) AB/damage from more strength (which is what the fighter will have).

      Also, the saves counts against the +20 save cap (which includes spellcraft, item bonuses, and spell bonuses). Which is a very real problem in your case.

      I guess I've never considered Hardcode rules as upping the difficulty, I see it as the normal difficulty if anything. It's changing the rules of the game if anything, not difficulty. I mean, which is harder -- triggering an AoO while drinking a potion or having every mob have +5 AB/5 damage? Obviously the latter.

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    6. Oh no, three fewer feats and capped saves? Whatever shall I do in Aielund Saga, wherein combat is a faceroll! :P

      You technically ARE upping the difficulty because by default it isn't set to Hardcore, but yeah, I just wanted to make it clear I'm playing Hardcore. I'm not saying I'M hardcore for doing that, I'm making it clear I'm not playing the game as so many do (ie, as lamers).

      Delete
    7. To be fair, the early levels can be a bit difficult and you are technically overleveled slightly for where you are. But yeah, if you're smart about combat then Aielund's a bit faceroll. Of course, 95% of other modules are faceroll regardless if you're smart about combat!

      Meh. I'm just saying it doesn't seem like a difficulty change to me. The AI isn't smarter, mobs don't hit harder/have more health, there aren't more mobs, aren't less resources, etc. And some of the stuff is pretty stupid (like you can't get crit).

      Delete
  3. Huh. As a new NWN player I never thought to change the difficulty. Also I'm about a level behind Lilura, not because I skipped any quests but because I used my familiar in the beginning, not realizing it would leech EXP.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You also might like to go into nwnplayer.ini and change:

      Saving Throw Automatic Failure On 1=1
      to
      Saving Throw Automatic Failure On 1=0

      Delete

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