Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Siege of Shadowdale Walkthrough - Part I


After a brief period of relative peace, the Dalelands once again face a number of terrible threats. Always, the dark presence of the Zhentarim broods in the north. An unsuspected enemy has just arrived to create the Empire of Shadows in the wastes of the great desert Anauroch, north-west of the Dalelands. And, in the great forest of Cormanthor itself, the retreat of the elves to Evermeet far to the west has left the door open to the return of another great foe, one long banished from the region in ages past. - DM Alazander. 

Like a tide of darkness they came, butchering the folk of the Dale with wanton glee. Many are the foes I have battled in my long life, but were it not for the actions of one brave adventurer I fear even I would have been undone that fateful day... - Elminster of Shadowdale, 1372 DR. 

AL1: Siege of Shadowdale (SoS) is a Forgotten Realms classic - I believe Alazander's first module, authored back in 2002. Many years ago I merely dabbled in it before jumping straight into his subsequent larger-scale module, Crimson Tides of Tethyr (AL2), an epic I remember very fondly. I may have briefly played AL3: Tyrants of the Moonsea, but I can't recall with certainty. Depending on how this recounting goes, I'd like to also revisit at least CToT in the future (perhaps importing my character from SoS).

For this run I've decided to infuse SoS with Project Q and NWNCQ for improved visuals, as they give a welcome facelift to "drabby" older modules which generally didn't implement haks, perhaps because the community was in infancy and not many assets had been created yet.. Whatever the reason, SoS looks better than ever with these additions, imho.

Note that I'm physically incapable of playing NWN on anything less than D&D Hardcore rules.

Siege of Shadowdale's resting rules are very liberal: there are no restrictions on location or frequency. However, I only rest when resources have run out and progress becomes too difficult or impossible. I try my best not to "rest spam" - that is, rest after every fight to heal, or, in the case of a spellcaster, empty my spellbook to destroy the world, rest, repeat.

Much of the loot from receptacles is randomized as is common in NWN and its modules. Just sayin', what you find might be different to what I find.

I've slightly changed the format of my "recountings" (walk-through thing-a-mees). In my Aielund Saga recounting I found it quite exhausting to condense Savant's large dialogue blocks into something that can be quickly read to understand the gist of things. What I should have done from the get-go is just copy-paste the journal entries along with the screenshot of dialogue, since the module authors are invariably better writers and can convey the emerging state of affairs better than myself. So that's what I'm doing now. The journal entry will be italicized along with the related screenshot, and in addition I'll make my various comments and detail loot/EXP etc. along the way as best I can.

Readers are encouraged to comment and criticize - please, don't be shy. I don't mind being corrected if I missed something, or the point of something. I freely admit to being a total NWN noob compared to some people out there.. I only ask that you don't post massive spoilers!

For this adventure I've decided to "role-play" a Human Female Wizard(1) of Chaotic Good alignment. I imagine the early game will be potentially tough due to limited spell slots and being squishy, but I'll wield a ranged weapon and have a Familiar accompanying me (a Pseudodragon named Aera) which should give me some breathing space.

So without further ado, let's begin this adventure!

Central Shadowdale 

Amusingly, I find myself smack dab in the middle of the town of Shadowdale without even a journal entry or at least a bit of text to let me broadly know who I am or what's going on. I'm just dropped in and left to my devices... which is fine by me, I guess - I wasn't really expecting the DM to hold my hand...

Left: Bird's eye view of Shadowdale Right: The Temple of Chauntea

My pockets jingle with 75 GP, so I guess I'm no pauper. I'm also in possession of a Wizard's Robe, Woodman Outfit, Light Crossbow, Bolt (99), Dagger, Torch, Potion of Cure Light Wounds (3), scrolls of Magic Missile, Sleep, Protection From Alignment and Summon Creature I. Sweet, no need to beg, borrow and steal either!

Talking to the Dalesfolk in town "fills in" my map and marks down points of interest, in addition to giving me some job-hunting leads: I should ask around at the tavern, and also visit the troubled farmlands to the south.

The Dalesfolk regard me as a stranger to Shadowdale, and perceive me as an adventuring sort. Good to know I don't owe anyone money, and no one around town's likely to mess with me!

Shadowdale consists of seventeen buildings, but only five of those can be initially entered: The Old Skull Inn, The House of Plenty - Temple of Chauntea, Jamble the Eye - Merchant, Bronn Selgard - Smithy, Hoareb Nimblefingers - Healer. Five other areas branch off from the town: Elminster's Tower and the Twisted Tower of Ashaba to the west, The Sinkhole and fertile Southern Farms to the south, and thickly-wooded Outer Cormanthor to the east. I'm free to visit these places in any order, but my first port of call will be the Old Skull Inn to scope out sidequests - besides, the Forest Warden guarding the gate to Outer Cormanthor did hint that I seem to lack "experience". 

Old Skull Inn

Here I accept my first optional quest from the owner-innkeep, Jhaele: [Jhaele's Waitress]. How do I know it's optional? It's prefixed with [Opt] in the journal.

Jhaele has asked me to obtain a cure for Kella, one of her waitresses at the Old Skull Inn. I am to visit the local midwife and healer, Hoareb Nimblefingers, and receive the cure which I am then to deliver to Kella at her home in the south-east of town. - DM Alazander.

I stroll on over to the healer's house.

Hoareb Nimblefingers - Healer

Odd. The old healer has informed me that Kella came to her requesting a cure for her sickness a few days ago, and that she was looking forward to returning to work. Hoareb has given me a spare key to Kella's house, and I suspect it would be a good idea to investigate further.

I use the key to enter Kella's house. 

Kella's House 

A worried dog paws at the door leading upstairs, to which a blood trail leads. This doesn't look good...

Kella's House - First Floor

The trail leads to Kella's bedroom...

Kella, waitress at the Old Skull Inn, has been found dead in her home, murdered. 

Murthered! And not just murthered, but bruthally murthered - "her head caved in with a large blunt object".  Omg.. this is heavy stuff for a first quest..

I guardedly loot 25 GP from an armoire, and Kella's Journal from her desk.

Her journal details a recent relationship with a man described only as N, and mentions that he was renting a room at the Old Skull Inn. Perhaps he can aid me in my investigations...

I wander back to the inn and head upstairs. 

Old Skull Inn - First Floor

There are five rooms on the first floor, the southwestern one containing a locked chest in which I find a Ring of Protection +1 (DC-18). 
I now confront Narvel in the southeastern room.

I found Narvel skulking around in his room at the inn. Upon confronting him, he admitted to murdering Kella, claiming he had caught her cheating on him. In a fit of rage, he murdered her. Narvel attacked me, and I was left with no option but to defend myself.

My pseudodragon, Aera, tanks Narvel (a Rogue) as I snipe with the crossbow (+40 EXP, Dagger, Topaz).

I had better inform Jhaele of the events that have transpired. 

Old Skull Inn - Ground Floor 

Jhaele was heartbroken upon hearing of Kella's demise. Her steely exterior obviously hides a woman of great character and compassion. It transpires that Kella's secret male visitor was in fact her brother on a visit from Archendale. At least I managed to obtain a small measure of vengeance for her. Jhaele also gave me a considerably larger reward than promised. 

+1,000 EXP, +250 GP

Completion of  the [Jhaele's Waitress] quest bumped me up to second level. So far so good! Since that first quest was a little depressing, we'll end on a lighter note by briefly visiting Elminster's Tower.

A signpost reads:

This ancient path is cracked and paved,

With visitors who could not behave!

Another signpost:

Rumors of spike-filled pits along this path,

are almost entirely false. Thank you for your caution.

And yet another signpost:

No trespassing. Violators should warn next of kin!

Have a pleasant day!

A placard at the tower reads:

Gone gathering spell components. - Elminster.

By the looks of it, this post has been here for years. - DM.


The door to Elminster's tower is magically locked and reinforced. There is nothing to do here yet, so I head back to Central Shadowdale to prepare for the Southern Farms and The Sinkhole (which will be the module's first dungeon crawl).

Southern Farms & The Sinkhole!


  1. Note: when I played this "series" (I'd honestly say it's not worth your time to play SoS and it doesn't even relate to CToT -- play CToT and then TotM, both are much better, if you want but none are connected anyway) I played as a lawful good sorcerer, so caster issues/benefits will be similar, I think.

    "AL1: Siege of Shadowdale (SoS) is a Forgotten Realms classic"

    I would definitely not call this a classic. That's the author trying to hype himself up and it annoyed me as soon as I read it. Pretty sure I'd prefer playing even Caereena - Krakona Rising (yes, I had to look the spelling up) over SoS and you'd have to pay me to play that again (not in the sense that it was absolutely horrible but in the sense that I'd much rather do other things).

    "My pseudodragon, Aera, tanks Narvel (a Rogue) as I snipe with the crossbow (+40 EXP, Dagger, Topaz)."

    If I recall correctly, I really disliked that as well because it basically forces you into melee combat where he can instantly crit and kill you. You can manage to avoid it (the average player won't) but it's still a terrible design decision for low level casters.

    Also, something important you should know:

    At some point in the module you'll be informed that there is an EMERGENCY and you NEED to go to a place RIGHT NOW because it's URGENT. Ignore that. If you did something reasonable like, say, going to take care of that rather than turning in a completed side quest, you will NOT be able to turn in the side quest later. Delay the EMERGENCY IMPORTANT stuff until you're done with the side quests.

    1. On calling SoS "a classic":

      Did Alazander call his own module "a classic"? I wasn't aware... I called it a classic cuz I remember this module has LOTS of accurate FR lore integrated into the dialogue. The start of the module is quite average (it was his first module), but it does pick up. You just need to give it a chance..

      On early difficulty:

      Level 1 arcane spellcasters are just weak as kittens no matter what, though. I knew what I was in for. Other than my familiar, Sleep followed up by coup de grâce works wonders on orcs/goblins etc, and in the first dungeon I found a Wand of Sleep with FIFTY charges.

      By the way, I'm gonna be recounting another adventure module CONCURRENTLY with this one - I just need to work out some technical issues with the other mod (Project Q's tlk is overwriting the portraits so they just come up as white rectangles, gah!). Why concurrently? To mix things up, so I don't get bored and things don't get stale.

    2. Here's the description of CToT:

      "From the author of the classic module "Siege of Shadowdale" comes a new single player adventure of epic proportions!"

      Yeah, he called his own module a classic. Wasn't quoting someone else who said it was a classic, just flat out called it a classic.

      "I called it a classic cuz I remember this module has LOTS of accurate FR lore integrated into the dialogue."

      Perhaps, but the last half of the module or so just felt like it was basically "OH LOOK HERE'S MORE FR CHARACTERS LOOK AT THEM WOO HOO!" Seemed like he was trying to cram in famous characters for the sake of doing so because he thought people would think it was totally cool and rad and stuff...or something. Leeching off their fame to get people to play.

      "You just need to give it a chance."

      I did, I played it the whole way through, which is how I know about that really stupid quest design that I mentioned. I actually thought the first part was better -- nothing amazing but at least decent...and I really disliked the revolving door of FR characters during the last half.

      "Level 1 arcane spellcasters are just weak as kittens no matter what, though"

      Sure, but you also shouldn't force them to talk to someone who then immediately tries to melee them! The tactic as a caster is to stay AWAY from melee at that level.

      "By the way, I'm gonna be recounting another adventure module"

      Oh? I wait in suspense. Hoping it's a good one like Swordflight, Sanctum of the Archmage, Hex Coda, or even a mini-module like Snickersnack or Snow Hunt.

    3. Oh, I hope he includes Drizzt too! :P

      You can't blame an amateur module author (who is no doubt a fan of FR and knows the lore well) for including famous characters, can you? I mean even BioWare did that in their Baldur's Gate series (which I think he was also a fan of - CToT has Baldur's Gate 2 locations/chars)...

      As for the Narvel encounter, physically weak classes have time to run away, no one's forcing you into melee. I'm not saying you don't have a point, though. Anyway, that is nothing compared to what I face in the next update. Note also that you fight the drow at low lvl with ALLIES in Outer Cormanthor (you can even draw the hostile wildlife to the elves). Sure, a Wizard won't get many kills, but the kill EXP is trivial compared to quest EXP, anyway.

      I was gonna recount SotA, but not right now. It's quite exhausting to recount even at the beginning, A LOT happens. I will definitely recount it at a later date, though.

    4. I honestly wouldn't care if he included Drizzt. It's not THAT he included famous characters, it's that he included so many and the manner of which he included them.

      They come in, often make you look pathetic/useless, and leave (I definitely recall that happening at least twice, possibly more -- the ending was the worst). It felt like a revolving door of "Look how awesome they are!"

      In other words: if I ran into Drizzt and he wanted help with something because he was taking care of something else, great. If I run into Drizzt where he saved me from certain death...and then I run into Wulfgar where he kills everything while I watch...and then I run into Bruenor...you get the idea.

      Maybe the best way to describe it is that I felt less like I was playing a game as a protagonist and more like I was watching a movie of FR characters doing stuff. The whole module left a sour taste in my mouth -- but I'll point out that despite that I liked CToT far more, so it's not like I suddenly concluded Al was a terrible author. CToT > TotM >>>> SoS.

      "As for the Narvel encounter, physically weak classes have time to run away, no one's forcing you into melee."

      I'm 99% sure that when I played the module he got an AoO and crit me when I tried to run, instant death. Sure, I could have moved farther away from him while in combat and/or buffed up with Mage Armor/Shield prior to talking to him...but that's pretty silly to have to do. And yeah, your pseudodragon with really good (18) AC tanked it...but that's also costing you 20% experience which is annoying.

      "Note also that you fight the drow at low lvl with ALLIES in Outer Cormanthor (you can even draw the hostile wildlife to the elves)."

      I don't remember them being so bad, honestly, not like some other things in that module (the final boss was really aggravating -- in a bad way).

      "A LOT happens."

      That pretty much summarizes 90% of SotA :P Definitely a very rich module in terms non-combat stuff.

    5. "And yeah, your pseudodragon with really good (18) AC tanked it...but that's also costing you 20% experience which is annoying."

      I don't see why, low lvl enemies only yield tiny EXP in this module, anyway.. you need 1000 EXP to reach lvl2 and completing that "murder mystery" quest gives you +1000 EXP, another +500, yet another +500 - all in the first 30 mins, and that's not affected by percentage reduction from a large party. I also proved in my HotU run where I had 20% EXP penalty that over 25 lvls it resulted only in -1 lvl.

    6. "I don't see why, low lvl enemies only yield tiny EXP in this module, anyway"

      Which you only know after the fact. And I find it annoying because that is not the case in many modules (lot of times kill XP is very significant) and basically just mages have to eat the XP penalty. Everyone else has more HP, better weapons, and/or better AC.

      "I also proved in my HotU run where I had 20% EXP penalty that over 25 lvls it resulted only in -1 lvl."

      It resulted in -1 levels over 10 levels -- the XP penalty wasn't a factor in going from 1 to 15 because you received the XP all at the start. I also often finished HotU at level 28 which would be -2 levels.

      More importantly, though, those first early levels matter so much more to a caster, particularly when you hit a new spell level. Getting stuff like Ghostly Visage is massive defensively or getting Fireball/Flame Weapon for offense/buffing -- and in something like Aielund Act 1 you could imagine the difference of trying to fight the wolves at level 1 vs level 2 or the bandits at level 2 vs level 3 and so on (because you're some XP short due to the XP penalty).

    7. "It resulted in -1 levels over 10 levels -- the XP penalty wasn't a factor in going from 1 to 15 because you received the XP all at the start. I also often finished HotU at level 28 which would be -2 levels."

      Gah, I forgot about that.. I've never reached lvl28 in my runs of HotU, though.

      In lvl1-2 Aielund I'd say the quest EXP and "playing to alignment EXP" is there to buffet a 20% kill EXP penalty somewhat, unless you don't explore and then just rush onto the highway to be ravaged by wolves.. but even then, you've got companions to help you through.

      My point is, I summoned a pseudodragon for -10 EXP yield on Narvel in a quest that rewards +1000 EXP on completion, it just doesn't annoy me. :P

      I can see how it could become an issue, but I've never really felt it as one.. maybe I will later in SoS, we'll see I guess. ;)

    8. "My point is, I summoned a pseudodragon for -10 EXP yield on Narvel in a quest that rewards +1000 EXP on completion, it just doesn't annoy me. :P"

      The point I'm trying to make is that most NWN modules, including the official campaigns, have kill XP with more far impact. Thus mages typically try to avoid summoning a familiar or summon -- hell, that one familiar eats up as much XP as a full fledged companion/henchman. That's basically ingrained into you unless you're max level.

      If SoS has most of the XP from quests then yes, it might make far less of a difference and obviously if a mod is easy enough then it doesn't even matter. But it still goes against every instinct in an XP limited campaign.

      Hence why I said it was annoying. Not gamebreaking or supremely frustrating, just annoying.

    9. Update: I still reached Level 7 by modules end, despite having a Familiar _and_ Summon. So it doesn't matter for SoS.

    10. You being level 7 means you had level 4 spells for the final boss you actually fight. As a sorcerer I don't have level 4 spells until level 8. Out of curiosity, how close were you to level 8?

    11. I had only just reached level 7, so way off.

    12. How far into 7? Now I'm wondering if I even hit it! Though you seem to be using NPCs to kill stuff a lot more than I did, I wanted the XP.

      I do remember the final boss that you actually fight being really stupid and like impossible to damage for me, think he had higher DR or something? Don't recall now.

    13. Only a couple hundred EXP over 7.. and yeah, I gladly let the NPCs kill most of the crap cuz I realized early on that QEXP >>> KEXP. You may not have done the optional Sylune quest for +2000 EXP..

    14. I want to say I actually went back and did the Sylune quest once I was using debug mode to turn the quest in at the end anyway. I really hate "optional side quests" that you're supposed to do while the game is also trying to tell you "Hurry hurry crisis going on!"


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