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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Baldur's Gate 2 Retrospective Walkthrough: Chapter One - Part I

Baldur's Gate 2 Retrospective Walkthrough


   B A L D U R ' S  G A T E  I I  
   S h a d o w s  o f  A m n    &    T h r o n e   o f  B h a a l   
   W a l k t h r o u g h P a r t  I   

• Announcement — Parameters of Play & WeiDU log • Part I — Chapter One: Prologue, Chateau Irenicus - Lower Dungeon (Imoen, Jaheira & Minsc) • Part II — Chateau Irenicus - Upper Dungeon (Yoshimo) • Part III (this write-up to be reprised soon!) — Athkatla - Waukeen's Promenade (Aerie)
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Hi there, and welcome to my Baldur's Gate 2 Retrospective Walkthrough! The following posts will cover BioWare's Shadows of Amn (2000) & Throne of Bhaal (2001) campaigns in their entirety and as I have played them: on Core rules difficulty, heavily modded, and rolling with a Kensai-Thief dual-class character. Thank you to those who voted on the poll: 20 votes in favor of the Kensai and 26 in favor of the Kensai-Thief.

After some deliberation I have eschewed Beamdog's BG2: Enhanced Edition in favor of the original BioWare release version (v2.5.26498) thugged out with the following mods: Ascension (1.4.24), Rogue Rebalancing (v4.80), Sword Coast Stratagems (v30), BG2 Fixpack (v10), BG2 Tweak Pack (v16), Ding0's Tweak Pack (v22), aTweaks (v4.42) & One Pixel Productions (v4.1.0). For component selections please consult the WeiDU log posted at the end of my announcement post.
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   A b o u t  t h i s  W a l k t h r o u g h   

Navigation of the walkthrough. The contents section at the top of each post contains links that allow you to jump to each Part of the walkthrough. There are links at the end of each post, too. You can also find the Blog Archive on the sidebar. I know, basic stuff. But it needs to be made clear.

—You may search the posts for keywords using Ctrl +F in your browser. You may also use my Looking for something? search bar (top-right) to search multiple posts; indeed, the whole blog.

—My posts include lots of pics to illustrate coverage, including annotated maps of the areas. The pics have been edited and upscaled to improve viewability on current gen displays. If your add-on/extension does not block the script, clicking a pic will enter Light Box mode, allowing you to mouse-wheel through them, at your leisure.

Dialogue is TORRENTIAL in BG2. Exposition, banters, interjections, environmental descriptions... it goes and on on. Therefore, the body of the posts will contain just snippets, but with an accompanying link that takes the reader to the full dialogue. This is to prevent walls of text interfering with the flow of the walkthrough.

—The text is color-coded and varied in size for readability and clarity.

Feel free to post comments at the end of each post, preferably with some kind of identifier but posting anonymously is also welcome. Just don't expect me to get to know you as Anonymous or Unknown, because there are lots of those. I welcome newbies, veterans and devs alike to chip in with any insights, additions and clarifications: this blog is moderated and comments are reviewed prior to their posting in order to ensure a friendly, mature environment. Trolls stand no chance. 

—Generous people might like to +1 my posts and even Follow Me and/or my blog. It amazes me how many people don't bother their ass to click the +1 icon.  
Do they think someone will send them a bill in the mail?  
Is it like giving up a portion of one's soul
I dunno, but blogging is truly a thankless task at times...

Affiliation: None. I am in no way affiliated with BioWare, Black Isle Studios, Wizards of the Coast or the Prime Evil known as Hasbro. This is an independent effort by someone who has been a fan of the Infinity Engine RPGs since their inception.

   C o p y r i g h t  N o t i c e   : Don't copy my work. All contents of this blog - from my distinctive write-ups to the edited images - are my own work, so don't be foolish and try to pass them off as your own. Want this content on YOUR shitty site? Do the work yourself; don't plagiarize mine.

   C a m p a i g n — O v e r v i e w  
   + R u l e s  C h a n g e s  &  A d d i t i o n s   

This is a campaign of sweeping, epic scope. BioWare's representation of the city of Athkatla, the country of Amn, and the exotic locales that stretch out beyond the bounds of civilization (and beneath it!), is perhaps without peer. The sprawling Shadows of Amn world map speaks for itself!

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—By the way, several wonderful Neverwinter Nights campaigns have sought to recreate the scope of Shadows of Amn with varying degrees of success; namely, BioWare's Hordes of the Underdark, Rogueknight's Swordflight Series, Savant's Aielund Saga, Alazander's Crimson Tides of Tethyr and Ossian's Darkness Over Daggerford. I heartily recommend ALL of the above campaigns to Baldur's Gate fans, but Swordflight the most.

An undeniable highlight of the campaign is how its second and third chapters offer non-linear exploration of a quest-dense urban hub (Athkatla), but the Prologue (aka "Chateau Irenicus), Chapter One, and Chapters Four to Seven are comparatively linear affairs, as is the Throne of Bhaal expansion campaign.

Below: Four of the seven major districts of Athkatla: Waukeen's Promenade, Slums, Bridge and Docks.


Races, Classes & Kits. One new Race (Half-orc), three new Classes (Sorcerer, Barbarian & Monk), one new Specialist Mage (Wild Mage) and 21 Kits (aka Prestige Classes) have been added in the sequel (Fighter: Berserker, Wizard Slayer, Kensai. Ranger: Archer, Stalker, Beastmaster. Paladin: Cavalier, Inquisitor, Undead Hunter, Cleric: Priest of Talos, of Helm, of Lathander. Druid: Totemic Druid, Shapeshifter, Avenger. Thief: Assassin, Bounty Hunter, Swashbuckler. Bard: Blade, Jester, Skald). Some of these kits possess powerful passive and activated modal abilities; f.e, Barbarian damage reduction and Kensai Kai.

The experience point cap (XP cap) has been increased from 161,000 (BG:TotSC) to 2,950,000 for Shadows of Amn, taking the party to 17th-23rd level (depending on their class). However, the Throne of Bhaal expansion further increases the XP cap to a whopping 8,000,000! This means that Fighters, Barbarians, Clerics, Monks, Thieves and Bards can expect to reach 40th level, Paladins & Rangers 34th, and Mages, Sorcerers and Druids 31st. Essentially, Godhood.

The companion pool has been reduced from 25 to 17.. however, the companions are more fleshed out and offer more in the way of banters, interjections and personal quests. In a few cases romance is an option, too.
For more info refer to the Party Composition & Companions section in Part III of my in-depth retrospective. 

Summoning Cap. Remember how in BG you could summon armies of skeletons, animals & monsters? Well, summons are now capped at just five units. To make up for that a couple of summon spells scale with caster level (f.e, Animate Dead & Spider Spawn). Plus, you can gate in demons and summon powerful minions such as mordswords, invisible stalkers, elemental princes and celestials...

Find Familiar. This first circle arcane spell allows (Charname-only) Mages & Sorcerers to summon an alignment-flavored familiar with a few tricks up its sleeve (scouting, utility skills etc.) Best of all its master receives a one-off and permanent HP bonus equal to 50% of the familiar's HPs! A Pseudo Dragon, for example, will grant you +12 HPs if summoned in SoA (and +24 HPs if summoned in ToB). I advise keeping the familiar tucked away in your backpack because your spellcaster incurs a permanent one-point penalty to Constitution if it dies.
—Sorcerers should cast Find Familiar from a scroll rather than wasting a choice on it.

The spell range has increased from 46 divine & 72 arcane spells to 126 divine & 200 arcane spells. To top it off, you now have access to Contingencies, Triggers & Sequencers. Arcane spells already scribed to your spellbook are also eraseable; that is, if you have reached your "spells per lvl limit" you may erase one of your (less useful) spells and memorize another, more useful one, in its place.
For more info on the basics of Arcane & Divine spellcasting, please refer to their respective sections in Part II and IV of my in-depth retrospective.
Mirror Image no longer protects against all damage until every illusion has been dispersed. Now, there is a chance you will be hit.

Rest Until Healed (optional). Rest to have your HP pool fully replenished AND be cured of poison and disease (which is absurd).

Max HPs on level up & 100% spell-scribing success (optional). Simply reduce the difficulty to below Core.

Dual-classing to and from Specialists is banned. Remember how you could dual-class Imoen to a Conjurer, or Xzar to a Cleric (assuming you gave him the Tome of Understanding)? Well, you can't do that anymore.

Inventory management has been made easier with the addition of containers; namely, Scroll Cases, Gem Bags, quivers, and even a Bag of Holding. Calling up Inventory mode pauses the game by default, though this may be toggled in baldur.ini.

Archery is not all-powerful. Acid Arrows have been nerfed (down to 1d2 from 2d6!) and Detonation Arrows and Arrows of Dispelling are rare. Quivers for arrows and bolts are double-capacity.
Refer to the Archery section in Part II of my in-depth retrospective for the many reasons why archery was OP in Baldur's Gate.
—Budding archers are going to want to choose the Archer kit and get their hands on the Tuigan bow as quickly as possible.
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Strongholds. Each base class has access to a stronghold upon completion of a certain quest, each of which offer a series of quests that are unrelated to the MQ. These are ok for shits n gigs and a bit of extra cash flow, but not much else.

Crafting. Be on the lookout for components, for these may be forged into extremely powerful items by Cromwell (Shadows) & Cespenar (Throne).

Utility Experience Points. As if quest & kill experience point rewards were not enough, experience points are now also dished out for opening locks, disabling traps and scribing spells to your spell book. This can REALLY add up and tilt the balance in your favor in the early game. Spell-scribing is also open to abuse: find stacks of spell scrolls and Memorize, Erase, Rinse repeat.

Weapon Proficiencies. General proficiencies have been removed and replaced with specific entries; f.e, there is no longer a Large Sword proficiency. Instead, Large Sword is broken up into Longsword, Bastard Sword, Katana, Scimitar & Two-handed Sword. Weapon Styles have also been added, the most powerful of which is Two Weapon Style (aka dual-wielding). Also, the proficiency table has been nerfed.

High Level Abilities (HLAs). In epic levels (usually around 3,000,000 total XP) each base class has their own HLA pool to make selections from during the level-up process. Some of these abilities are obscenely OP, others are of questionable utility, and others yet are utterly uninspiring and indeed useless.

Extra Thief Skills. Stealth has been separated into Hide in Shadows & Move Silently skills. In addition two very powerful skills have been added: Detect Illusion & Set Traps.
For a rundown on the basics please refer to the Stealth & Theft section in Part II of my in-depth retrospective.

Epic foes. Tired of gibberlings, xvarts, tasloi and kobolds? Well, you will be excited to learn that the sequel introduces goblins & orcs! Hah! (You will also be pitted against dragons, demons, devils, giants, golems, illithid, beholders, drow, vamps, high level mages and liches...)

Extremely powerful items. Keep an eye out for items that confer blanket immunities; that is, when equipped they bestow (f.e) mind shield or freedom status. Also be on the lookout for weapons with on-hit elemental damage (to bypass Stoneskin) and on-hit negative status effects. The Flail of Ages & Celestial Fury are great examples: their respective Slow & Stun effects bypass MR and disallow a saving throw.

The pathing routine has been greatly improved. While still not perfect it's a damn sight better than what it was in Baldur's Gate. All units benefit from a movement speed increase, too.

User Interface. The numerous changes and additions to the UI have been already been covered in Part I of my User Interface Evolution series of posts. Enjoy the read!

—Whether or not many of these rule changes and additions are good or bad is, of course, up for extensive debate. It is not the purpose of this post to enter into one, however.

Mods will fix it! Please note that I have modded my campaign with various components that may render a couple of the above points redundant; f.e, I have True Grandmastery installed to un-nerf the proficiency table; the summon cap has been removed (for shits n gigs). Again, for details on the changes made I refer the reader to the WeiDU log posted at the end of my announcement post.

   C h a r g e n   

I was unsure of what class to take for this run. All I knew was, I wanted to hit things really, REALLY hard. That meant some sort of Kensai. At first I settled on pure Kensai (40)1) for the +13 dmg by 39th and 2) because I consider dual-classed Kensai to be just a lil' too powerful and cheesy (especially the mage). However, the poll I subsequently put up has spoken: I shall roll with a Kensai and dual-class to Thief upon reaching ninth level, taking Thief to 39th!

   C h a r n a m e — L i l u r a   
Neutral Good Human Kensai (7)

 Stat-line ("Tomes" consoled in): Strength 19 (+3 to-hit, +7 dmg) | Dexterity 19 (AC -4) | Constitution 19 | Intelligence 13 | Wisdom 13 | Charisma 19 (Reputation 11, Reaction +8) | THAC0 6 | ApR 3 | HPs 115 | Weapon Proficiencies: Katana (Grandmastery), Two Weapon Style (*) | Skills: Lore (7) | Special Abilities: Divine Might (at this character level: Str, Dex & Con +2), Kai (max dmg on weapon roll, so my katana's 1d10 becomes a 10). Note: aTweaks' "Revised Bhaalspawn Powers" component does not change the function of DUHM, only its name.

How did I decide on ninth level? Why not seventh or 13th? Well, I think ninth is the sweetspot because the downtime is still manageable (ten levels of Thief is only 160,000 XP), Warrior HD is maxed, and I receive a third one-point bonus to THAC0/dmg and a third instance of Kai for that ninth Kensai level. A 13th level Kensai is gonna be more accurate and damaging still - notably also receiving +1/2 ApR - but 880,000 downtime is DAUNTING (and therefore more suitable for small parties and solo play). Seventh level downtime is just 70,000 XP, but they just feel a lil' too soft for my liking. So yeah, I'm going middle-ground.

Ok, but why Katana Grandmastery? To match the portrait, ofc! But really, Celestial Fury is one of the best backstabbing weapons in Shadows of Amn. I've also found its no-save on-hit Stun to be a great perk for a warrior who cannot wear armor for the vast majority of the campaign. It means I can square up on tough guys and not have to flank all the time. The idea is to head to the guarded compound and take out its wielder with x5 backstabs charged with Kai. Then, in preparation for Throne of Bhaal, I shall work towards grandmastery in Quarterstaff in order to wield the Staff of the Ram. Anyway, that is a looooong way off. We haven't even watched the intro!

So, let's get started, shall we?
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   S h a d o w s  o f  A m n   I n t r o   
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You spent your youth in the library fortress of Candlekeep, under the kind tutelage of your foster father, Gorion. Imoen shared this home: a kindred spirit, her background was as mysterious as your own.


Gorion's murder brought answers to your questions but his killer, Sarevok, was revealed to be your brother. You and Sarevok were a product of the Time of Troubles, a chaotic period, when gods were made flesh and forced to walk the earth. One such deity foresaw his own death and walked the land before the Cataclysm. He left a score of mortal offspring intended to be the fuel for this rebirth. The god was Bhaal, Lord of Murder, and you are one of his children.

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Sarevok sought a war of sacrifice to prove his worth, believing he could become the new Lord of Murder. You killed your brother, sending his taint back to Bhaal. You were the hero of Baldur's Gate but some suspected you shared the same lineage as Sarevok. You departed soon after, under circumstances much darker than anyone would have believed.


They came as you rested, figures cloaked in mist that clouded your thoughts, blurring the lines between consciousness and dreaming.


There was no malice or hatred, no mention of an old score: only quick capture and the promise of grim deeds to come...

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  C H A P T E R  O N E  
  P R O L O G U E  C h a t e a u  I r e n i c u s   
    L o w e r   D u n g e o n  — A R 0 6 0 2   


The campaign kicks off with a scripted cutscene showing an unknown mage striding into a dungeon and then coolly performing arcane experiments on his captive: YOU. Suddenly, a golem minion stomps in to announce an intrusion to the complex. Now distracted, its supremely confident master "dimension doors" out of the dungeon to deal with the stealthy intruders, one of whom he casually "disintegrates" on his way out.


When the clamor of battle dies down and the coast is clear, Imoen sneaks into the dungeon to unlock your cell and free you. She has been tortured by the mage, too. Her plan is to team up, grab the weapons in the adjacent room, and flee the dungeon immediately. Sounds like a good plan to me!

   C o m p a n i o n — I m o e n   
Just like old times! Well, except for the torture and all...
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Imoen chuckles when you ask her about her past, assuming you are just trying to keep her mind on happier times and places. She indulges you, and certainly does cheer up when speaking of how you spent your youths together in Candlekeep. She arrived there the same as you, in the company of your foster father Gorion, but despite this similarity she grew up much more carefree than you did. Indeed, her lighthearted outlook has long kept her immune to the hardships of the world, though the dark confines and horrors of your current location have definitely taken their toll.

Our childhood friend from Candlekeep is once again the first prospective party member. Imoen is a great companion due to her interjections, thief skills, and newly acquired arcane spellcasting ability. But you are not forced to take her. If ditched at this point she simply makes her way to the surface by herself, and events play out as if you are together, anyway.

Neutral Good Human Thief (7) Mage (8) Dual-class

 Imoen's stat-line  Strength 9 | Dexterity 18 | Constitution 16 | Intelligence 17 | Wisdom 11 | Charisma 16
Imoen got the best chargen roll out of any companion, Saga-wide. But that does not mean she is the most powerful or versatile companion.
 Imoen's utility skills & abilities  Open Locks (100), Find Traps (95), Pick Pockets (35), Move Silently (30)Hide in Shadows (25), Detect Illusion (10), Set Traps (5), Backstab (x3), Lore (31).
Imoen's scores in OL & FT are high enough to allow her to negotiate any conventional lock or trap found in the starter dungeon.
 Imoen's Arcane Repertoire   
First Circle: Armor, Identify, Magic MissileChromatic Orb.
At this caster level Chromatic Orb disables with Stun.  
Second Circle: Web, Mirror Image, Melf's Acid Arrow 
Mirror Image is one of the most powerful illusions in the campaign. Web is an obscenely OP disabler, not even losing its utility in SCS Ascension. Just make sure your tanks have Free Action status for wading into the AoE with impunity.
Third Circle: Fireball, Haste, Remove Magic, Lightning Bolt.
Fourth Circle: Fireshield (Red), Fireshield (Blue), Stoneskin, Improved Invisibility.
Stoneskin is THE protective spell for trolling physical-based enemies. Improved Invisibility is a solid combat buff that doubles as a scouting aid.
Good low lvl spells that Imoen does NOT have: Mirror Image, Melf's Minute Meteors, Invisibility, Skull Trap, Slow, Spider Spawn.
 Imoen's Weapon Proficiencies  Short Sword (Proficient), Dagger (Proficient), Quarterstaff (Proficient), Shortbow (Proficient), Dart (Proficient).
 Imoen's Custom Equipment  Imoen's Belt is an immoveable plot device that prevents her untimely demise in this Prologue portion. What happens is, if she's about to die, a script kicks in that forces her to disband, escape on her own, and spawn on the surface for the scripted cutscene.
 Imoen's Perks  Imoen is integral to the plot and also appears in dream sequences. She gets lots of extra banters, grows taint and even receives Bhaalspawn powers thanks to Ascension. In short, she is worth it.

   J a i l k e e p  G o l e m   

Ok, your items have been taken from you. Forget about them: with a few trivial exceptions you won't be getting them back. Besides, you are going to find much better gear than what you had in Baldur's Gate.

Head to the adjacent storage room, speak to the golem, and pick the place clean of loot.
Chest: Helmet, Leather Armor, Studded Leather Armor, Small Shield, Splint Mail, Chan Mail Armor, Buckler.
Helmets are essential for negating the devastating double damage inflicted by critical hits. Yes, they look ugly! - make sure everyone who can wear one does so. TableJail Cell Key, Longsword, Short Sword, Quarterstaff, Mace, Axe, Spear, Halberd, Warhammer, Two-Handed Sword, Katana.  Stash in the wall (FT: 1,750 XP, OL: 400 XP): Golden Pantaloons, Dagger +1, Potion of Healing x3.
—The pantaloons only appear if you imported with them in your possession. I consoled mine in. Please note that I won't be recording other loot that appears as a result of importing, because I didn't import. It's trivial, anyway.
—The golem guards a door that opens to a passageway leading to a dead end (i.e, a magically-warded door). Slay the Smoke Mephit for 420 XP.
—Ignore the small room to the north. It is where multi-player characters appear. It is also unlikely that you will use this particular teleport portal to access the Upper Dungeon. Most people take the one in the north. Please refer to the map for portal locations.
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   T h e  C a n o n  P a r t y   


Use the key to free Jaheira from her cell. Now, enrage Minsc to have him break free of his adjacent cell. You will learn that Khalid is MIA and that Dynaheir is dead. As with Imoen you may ditch both companions in these initial dialogues, before they get to join. If so they will orchestrate their own escape: Minsc goes to the Copper Coronet (Slums) and Jaheira to the Galvarey Estate (Docks).

Quest: Find a way to release Jaheira from her cell (3,000 XP).
QuestFind a way to release Minsc from his cell (3,000 XP).

Read the dialogue in full: for Jaheira and for Minsc

   C o m p a n i o n — J a h e i r a  
Nature's servant awaits.
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When asked about her past, Jaheira glares as she speaks. She says that she was born in the Tethyr region to a loyalist of the King Alemander regime, unfortunately during the Tethyrian civil war. Her family was among the nobles targeted by the angry mobs of peasants, and she was only spared because a servant girl took her from their castle before it fell. An enclave of Druids in the forest of Tethyr was willing to grant shelter, and Jaheira grew up headstrong in their care. She believes the only way to protect nature is to have an active role in the world, but the cost of this dedication seems to weigh heavily on her mind these days.

Jaheira grows quiet when you ask about recent events, and while she gives the appearance of her normal, strong-willed self, there is a look of doubt in her eyes. It would seem that she has seen too many friends fall to remain unaffected. She does not like the subject, and lets it drop.

It is assumed Charname heeded Gorion's advice and sought out his old Harper friends (Jaheira & Khalid) at the Friendly Arm Inn. At Jaheira's behest the party then traveled south to Nashkel to investigate the troubles plaguing the Nashkel Mines. The rest is history. 

True Neutral Half-Elf Fighter (6) Druid (7) Multi-class

 Jaheira's stat-line  Strength 15 (no bonuses) | Dexterity 17 (AC -3) | Constitution 17 | Intelligence 10 | Wisdom 14 | Charisma 15 | THAC0 15 | ApR 1 | HPs 51
Don't let the subpar Strength stat fool you. Yes, Minsc is gonna hit harder during the Prologue but Jaheira is eventually gonna leave him in the dust as a physical-based damage dealer and conventional tank (Ironskins). Plus, she has full divine spell-casting ability (Insect Plague, etc.) Jaheira is easily one of the most powerful companions in the campaign. As you will learn, multi-classes rule.

  Jaheira's Weapon Proficiencies  Scimitar (Proficient), Club (Specialized), Quarterstaff (Proficient), Sling (Proficient), Sword & Shield Style (*). Chateau: Find her a club! Chapter Two: Assign Specialization in Scimitar ASAP and have her wield Gnasher on-hand & Belm off-hand.

 Jaheira's utility skills & abilities  Lore (7), Shapeshift: Bear, Wolf, Black Bear.
 Jaheira's Divine Repertoire 
First Circle: Bless, Armor of Faith, Sanctuary.
Second Circle: Barkskin, Chant.
Third Circle: Miscast Magic, Dispel Magic.
Dispel Magic is bread n butter: a must-have in order to bring negatively afflicted party members back into action, or back on-side.
Fourth Circle: Negative Plane Protection, Death Ward.
General note: At this point Jaheira's repertoire is underwhelming and she doesn't have many spell slots, but all that will change once she gains just a few levels...
 Jaheira's Perks  Jaheira is an awesome combat unit, and her romance and personal quest is one of the best on offer.

   C o m p a n i o n — M i n s c  
A den of stinking evil! Cover your nose, Boo! We will leave no crevice untouched! *Squeak! Squeak!*

When asked about his past, Minsc proclaims that he is a berserker warrior from the nation of Rashemen in the utter east, though his affinity for animals speaks to his skill as a ranger as well. He originally came to the Sword Coast on a dajemma, a ritual journey to manhood, as the bodyguard of a young Wychalarn of Rashemen named Dynaheir. To his shame, Dynaheir is now dead, and he fears that the doors of the honored Ice Dragon Berserker Lodge are forever closed to him. This personal tragedy has obviously not strengthened Minsc's hold on reality, as evidenced by his continued dependence on his animal companion 'Boo', a creature that he claims is a miniature giant space hamster. Apparently such things do exist somewhere in the Realms, but Minsc has surely taken too many blows to the head.

It is assumed Charname picked up the Rashemi Berserker in Nashkel and accepted his request to rescue Dynaheir from the Gnoll Stronghold (instead of accepting Edwin's request to hunt down Dynaheir and slay her).

Chaotic Good Human Ranger (7)

 Minsc's stat-line  Strength 18/93 (+2 to-hit, +5 dmg) | Dexterity 16 (AC -2) | Constitution 16 | Intelligence 8 | Wisdom 6 | Charisma 9 | THAC0 11 | ApR 2 | HPs 69
Minsc has solid physical stats. Still, from a purely power-gaming PoV it's difficult to justify having him onboard for Chapter Two onwards.
 Minsc's Weapon Proficiencies  Two-Handed Sword (Specialized), Mace (Specialized), Longbow (Specialized), Two Weapon Style (**). Chapter Two: Lilarcor is tailored for Minsc. I like him wielding IMoD against undead.
 Minsc's utility skills & abilities  Stealth (63), Lore (0), Berserk! Animal Empathy (x4), Racial Enemy: Vampire.
 Minsc's Perks  Boo! - and upbeat interjections, some of which I find quite amusing. First-time players should probably take Jan & Aerie for their amusing banters with Minsc.

   G e t t i n g  R e a d y !   

—At this point I suggest you ensure your party is equipped appropriately (armor, weapon) and that you have relevant spells memorized and ready to cast: AoE disablers and debuffers such as Web and Slow, direct damage AoEs such as Skull Trap and Fireball, single-target disablers like Chromatic Orb (at this cast level it Stuns the victim!), and stock-standard buffs and cures that keep you on your feet and fighting. Arcane spellcasters should self-buff with Mirror Image and Stoneskin to mitigate damage entirely. Check your Bhaalspawn special abilities and don't forget to use them.

—Remember, this is Sword Coast Stratagems with the "Make the starting dungeon slightly harder" component installed. Now, your first attempt to rest in the Prologue is treated as 'free'; that is, on-rest spawns are totally suppressed. This is your chance to memorize spells and trigger the three-way banter with Imoen, Jaheira & Charname (Read the banter in full). However, each attempt to rest thereafter spawns four hostile Duergar (grey dwarves) with 100% probability, yielding 420 XP each, 23-87 GP, and basic weapons, armor & ammo. In keeping with its Chateau encounters in general, the SCS spawn is nerfed compared with the Tactics mod (there are no mages); nevertheless, enforcing punishing on-rest ambushes is extremely rare and very welcome!
—Off-hand, the only other component I know of that restricts resting is "Prevent resting in the illithid city". 
—The Swordflight Series for Neverwinter Nights is the only RPG in existence that enforces resting restrictions and punishing on-rest ambushes, campaign-wide.

Scout ahead of the party using conventional stealth, Invisibility, Sanctuary and Wizard Eye so that you know what's coming; then, have your tanks attract and absorb the aggro so that your squishy party members are free to cast spells and fire projectiles from the back row. Veterans know the drill but newbies or rusty players may appreciate the pro-tips given out in Part II, III & IV of my in-depth retrospective; specifically, the sections on Archery, Arcane Spells, Divine Spells and Tanking & Melee Combat.

—Make sure your thief is disabling the traps & picking the locks. This results in 33,350 utility XP over the course of the Prologue (17 traps & 9 locks).

—You may like to refrain from having Imoen scribe any scrolls to her book. Why? Because she leaves the party for Chapters Two & Three. Save the scrolls for your post-Prologue casters. Besides, by the time you catch up with Imoen in Spellhold you should have scroll cases full of spells for her to scribe...

Scavenge for potions & oils. Potion of Healing (9 HPs), Potion of Extra Healing (27 HPs), Oil of Speed... with the resting restrictions imposed by SCS, such items suddenly become sought-after.

—Regularly tap the Tab key to highlight "interactable" objects on the playing field such as doors, containers, NPCs and items on the ground. Content is EZ to miss, otherwise.

—I recommend you turn on Auto-pause: On Enemy Sighted. It can be a lifesaver if you're a bit slow to hit the spacebar.

Ok! The object of the Prologue is to escape the dungeon by fighting through whatever stands in your way and negotiating an assortment of tricks & traps. Sounds EZ, right? Well, let's do this!

Take the jail's southern exit to find a passage littered with the corpses of would-be assassins. Yep, their mark got the better of them...


   T h e  B u g  Z a p p e r   

Standing in the center of the next chamber is a lightning contraption that is conjuring mephits and emitting electrical bolts at intervals. You will need to stand close to its control device, hover the cursor over it until it changes to the "manipulate" cursor, and then click the panel twice in order to shut it down (+2,000 Exp, 420 XP per Mephit).
—Objects may be "manipulated" while under the effects of stealth or invisibility. This means you could have a party member sneak into the chamber and shut down the machine, without drawing aggro.
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   D j i n n  A a t a q a h   

Make your way west and into the crystalline cavern, where Aataqah the genie will spawn and force-talk you.


Take your pick:

Fob the genie off. He will take his leave and you may carry on.
—Listen to the genie's hypothetical situation and choose to act nobly. The genie will cast Limited Wish to heal your party and then conjure a hostile ogre mage. In my modded game this elusive bastard fired a Minor Sequencer loaded with Melf's Acid Arrow straight at Imoen. Slay it and the genie will congratulate you (3,500 XP, 650 XP, 20 GP).
—As above, but choose the cowardly act. The genie will conjure a pack of morale-failed gibberlings for you to mop up, none of which yield experience points when killed (3,500 XP).
—Either way, the genie advises you to seek out Rielev. We'll be catching up with him soon.

Click on the pools to experience some flavor-based visions...


Ok, take the passage directly west and slay the duergar guarding its dead end (a second warded door). Next, backtrack and take the southwest passage, slaying more as you head west along it.
Duergar x7 (420 XP ea, 23-87 GP ea).
—That's right, the goblin spawns of the base-game have been replaced by tankier grey dwarves. Most of the time the spawn consists of two axe-wielders and two crossbowmen.

You will come to a junction of three doors - one leading south, one north and one farther west. Continue west, open the next door you see, and force-attack the two inactive golems standing in that chamber (it's better to deal with them now rather than later).
Lesser Clay Golem x2 (2,000 XP ea).

   R i e l e v   

Follow the passage north (slaying yet more duergar just around the corner) and open the door to find Rielev suspended in a life-support unit. Probe him for info about the master and then accept his request to remove the Energy Cells from his unit, thereby ending his suffering.
Quest: Free Rielev from his life-support (1,000 XP).


Loot the table in here for the all-important Activation Stone: a plot-critical item!
Barrel: Potion of Extra Healing x2.

With cells and stone in hand backtrack to the junction and take the southern door.

   P i c k l e d  P e o p l e   

A Mist Mephit greeted me by conjuring a wall of fog that inflicted blindness on those who happened to be in its AoE; then, it proceeded to flutter around the chamber like it was on crystal meth, forcing the party to chase it around like a bunch of idiots. So annoying! There is an Ice Mephit in here, too. Mephits just love to blind you. It's their schtick. And with aTweaks installed they have may even succeed in "gating" in others of their kind - which means you want to kill them QUICKLY.
Mist Mephit, Ice Mephit (420 XP ea).
Crate (FT: 1,750 XP, OL: 400 XP)Quarterstaff +1. Crate: Composite Longbow, Arrow x5, 1GP.
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You may use the cells on four of the life-support units to speak with the hapless servants floating within them. Only trivial info may be gleaned but Jaheira and Minsc each get an interjection. Since no experience points are awarded this is strictly flavor-based content.


   S e w a g e  G o l e m   

Enter the room on the other side of the passage, speak with the Sewage Golem, pretend to be its master, and give it the Activation Stone. The golem will run off to performs its duties, unlocking the doors that prevented you from accessing the central hub of the dungeon, aka the pit. Upon its return you may probe it about "the guardian", a creature of the pit that feeds on prisoners and guards the way to the master's private quarters. We shall encounter this loathsome beast in due time.

 
Radiant Mephit (420 XP). TableLongsword +1, Medium Shield, Warhammer, Scimitar. Chest (OL 400 XP): Scimitar, Dispel Magic scroll, Potion of Extra Healing x3, Spear. Desk: Arrow x4. Cabinet: Flame Arrow scroll, Potion of Healing.
—It would have been a nice if aTweaks gave this golem a green tinge (since it recolors some others).
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Head back towards Rielev and then north and east to the library, slaying a pack of duergar along the way.
Duergar (420 XP ea).
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   L i b r a r y  &  D u e r g a r  S m i t h y — I l y i c h     

Now, buff up! This is a tough encounter. Nothing like Tactics' "Improved Ilyich", but still tough. What happens is: at first you're just up against four duergar & three mephits... but then, duergar chief Ilyich marches into the library and orders three of his underlings to join the fray. It seems he is scripted to wander back and forth between the library and the smithy...

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Dust Mephit (420 XP), Smoke Mephit (420 XP), Magma Mephit (420 XP), Duergar x7 (420 XP ea).
Shelves: Agni Mani Necklace, Potion of Healing x5, Larloch's Minor Drain scroll, Know Alignment scroll, Oil of Speed, Potion of Extra Healing, lots of books.

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Be ready to take on a duergar mage if you chase Ilyich into the smithy. Ilyich will go BERSERK once you have him boxed in. He actually hits pretty hard, but not as hard as my Kensai charged with Kai (I inflict 50 dmg crits.) SCS ensures the mage is more than a handful.. it's their spells, how they use them, how they keep their distance, and how they just keep on casting right down to the last Magic Missile, that forces you to respect even low level scrubs like this. I admit to killing him cheaply: under the effects of invisibility I smacked him down with kai (before he could simulate the pre-buffing that grants him illusions and Haste). And yes, I got a giggle out of doing so.
—For those who don't know: in the unmodded game Ilyich and his underlings remain in the adjacent smithy, oblivious to the commotion in the library caused by your slaying of the goblins and mephits.
—Sneaking into the smithy with the object of backstabbing the mage requires good timing, since your target is constantly pacing back and forth.
Ilyich (520 XP): Chain Mail +2: Mail of the Dead (AC 3), Dryad's Magical Acorns, 87 GP, Bullet x40, Sling, Axe, Medium Shield.
Duergar Mage (620 XP), Duergar (420 XP).
Crate: Potion of Extra Healing x2. Tables: Helmet, Warhammer, Leather Armor, Small Shield, Quarterstaff, Flail, Sling, Bullet x40, Scimitar, Longsword, Bastard Sword, Short Sword, Composite Longbow, Arrow x5, Club, Flail, Morning Star, Potion of Extra Healing x2. Barrel: Throwing Dagger x20, Dart x30. Chest: Chain Mail, Helmet, Medium Shield, Grease scroll, Axe, Two-Handed Sword.
—Note how the resting restrictions make healing potions suddenly useful.

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Head north from the smithy, past the locked portal and east down the trapped passageway to arrive at a chamber with a strange apparatus at its center.
Proximity Trap (FT: 1,750 XP).
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   C a m b i o n   

Click the apparatus twice to release its prisoner, a fiend that buffs itself with powerful illusions and Haste. My kensai dueled it with ease.
Cambion (6,000 XP), Bastard Sword +1, 145 GP.


   T h e  P i t  — O t y u g h  G u a r d i a n  

Make your way back to the library and head east down to the pit. The guardian is an otyugh, a gruesome aberration that inflicts on-hit disease and slow. Slay it and loot its corpse for a wand key. Hold onto these keys: they can be used in the Upper Dungeon.
Otyugh: 650 XPWand of Frost Key, Chest (FT 1750): Potion of Healing x2, Shortbow, Light Crossbow, Bolt x10. Chest (OL 400 XP): Oil of Speed, Splint Mail, Potion of Healing x2. Chest (OL 400 XP): Potion of Healing x3, Helm of Infravision, Clairvoyance scroll.
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Head north along the passageway, slaying more duergar as you go. You will arrive in a part of the dungeon that actually seems comfortable, liveable.
Duergar x3 (420 XP ea).
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   M a s t e r ' s  L i v i n g  Q u a r t e r s   

Don't be fooled by the appearance of this elegant, elven-styled room - it's laced with traps! Have Imoen deftly disarm them and then loot the place for all its worth.
Proximity Trap (FT 1,750 XP). Cabinet (FT 1,750): Helm of Balduran (AC +1, THAC0 +1) Chromatic Orb scroll. Chest (OL 400 XP): Wand of Lightning Key, Burning Hands scroll. Cabinet (FT 1,750 XP): Metaspell Influence Amulet: The Amplifier (+1 first and second circle slots). Drawer: Air Elemental Statue.


Slay the duergar guarding the Teleport Portal just to the west. This portal leads to the Upper Dungeon but it can't be accessed without the key...
Duergar x4 (420 XP ea). Vase: Fireball scroll. Barrel: Armor scroll, Bullet x20.

   D r y a d  G r o v e   

Ok, head east to a beautiful subterranean grove, wherein dryads dwell. Inform Ulene, Elyme & Cania that you have already pried the acorns from Ilyich's cold, dead hands. They will be grateful and further request that you free them from their captivity by delivering the acorns to the Fairy Queen in Windspear Hills. Hold onto the acorns until such a time as we can travel there.
Quest: Helping Irenicus' Captive Dryads (9,500 XP).
—You may also slay the dryads for 974 XP ea, Antidote x3, Potion of Healing x3, Dagger x3. Don't expect Vaelasa to greet you warmly in Windspear, though.

Extensive dialogue reveals the name of the master and our captor: I r e n i c u s 


   S h r i n e  t o  A  L o s t  L o v e   

At the southern end of the grove you will discover an elegant, elven suite. Carefully step inside and an alarm will sound... it alerts the golems to your position if you didn't pre-emptively slay them, as I suggested earlier. Now, this place is deadly. Not only is the floor laced with proximity traps - almost every receptacle is trapped, too! Again, have Imoen go to work in here. You will find the Portal Key in the trunk at the foot of the bed. This unlocks the two portals that whisk you away to the Upper Dungeon.

Proximity Trap x4: (FT 1,750 XP ea). Cabinet (FT 1,750 XP): Bracers of Defense AC 8, Potion of Extra HealingPommel Jewel of the Equalizer. Chest (FT 1,750 XP): Portal Key. Desk (FT 1,750 XP): Dire Charm scroll. Bookshelf: Potion of Master Thievery, Monster Summoning I scroll.

But first, return to the OTHER locked portal now that you have the statue. This is the one just west of the Cambion's chamber. The door magically unlocks and the statue is destroyed...

   E l e m e n t a l  P l a n e  o f  A i r —  M a l a a q   

You will find yourself standing on an immense airship hovering within a dark, windy void. Head forward, take a left, and follow the path to the dead end.
Air Mephit x2, Mist Mephit, Smoke Mephit (420 XP ea). Receptacle: Conjure Air Elemental scroll.
Note: Attempting to rest spawns two mephits with 100% certainty.

Backtrack to the main path and make your way up the stairs to a large platform, slaying the annoying flock of mephits flitting about on it.
Steam Mephit x2, Air Mephit, Smoke Mephit x2 (420 XP ea).

Take the bridge to the left and interact with the flask to have a genie appear out of it. Malaaq will request that you unbind him by fetching another flask. In exchange, he promises to give you some sort of weapon that contains a trace of your essence...
Quest: Freeing the Djinn.


Now, the other flask is in possession of the dryads. Return to them in their grove and, at your request, they will gladly hand over The Genie's Flask.

Return to the Plane of Air and deliver the flask to Malaaq for a generous 15,000 XP. Now unbound and free of Irenicus, he will gift you Sarevok's sword and disperse.
The Sword of Chaos +2 (two-handed sword, THAC0 +2, dmg +2, on-hit drain 1 HP from target and transfer to wielder). Minsc will gladly wield this until he gets Lilarcor.

***

So, the Lower Dungeon of Chateau Irenicus has been bested! But we are not out of the woods yet! And we need to find Jaheira's husband, Khalid.

Return to the teleport portal, step into it, and the party will be whisked away to the Upper Dungeon!

Next Up: The party explores the upper reaches of the Chateau, where they recruit another companion and make a grizzly discovery...

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***

Ok, some observations on the content presented in this first post! First of all, the tone of the Prologue is darker and edgier than Baldur's Gate: torture chambers and Imoen's morbidity, for example. Second, dialogue flows like a torrent and there are TONS of interjections and banters. I mean, seriously: just take a look at the full dialogue pics! That's a LOT of words.

Mod-wise, the tankier duergar are a welcome replacement to goblins that are not even worth swinging a sword at. The duergar crossbowmen are scripted to keep their distance, making it difficult for my kensai to GET THEM. And the duergar mage is the deadliest foe in the dungeon. Mephits are SO annoying with all their invisibility, gating, and spell-casting tricks: just the way they should be (aTweaks: PnP Mephits). And lastly, enforced rest restrictions are very welcome because they make potions useful and disallow the spamming of spells. In other words, they encourage a degree of resource management. (SCS: Make the starting dungeon slightly harder).

Itemization was mildly affected. The omission of goblin spawns meant that, at least before the pit, I could not find a shortbow for Imoen to wield. That also meant a lack of arrows: just fourteen found in the entire Lower Dungeon! There are lots of bolts and bullets, but you don't get the +1 ApR with basic crossbows and slings. In the base game it was also possible to loot higher level scrolls from goblin corpses - up to seventh circle. Now, you have a snowball's chance in hell.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the Prologue pans out. I don't foresee too many difficulties. What do readers think of this segment?

   EoP   

13 comments:

  1. Yay! It begins... with the much maligned Chateau Irenicus. Is there any particular reason why it is commonly referred to as 'Chateau' by the way?

    Nice to see that the mods you are using replace the goblins with Duegar. Overall I think that the start dungeon feels like a pretty random assortment of encounters (and puzzles), but the goblins were perhaps the most out-of-place of them all.

    I seem to remember that the Golems could be very tough. Did you use any trick against them?


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there, Damian! I have no idea of the origins of "chateau", but it goes way back. I guess it just sounds cool and sort of caught on.

      The force-attacking meant we got the jump on the golems. Plus they are only "lesser" types so the stand & deliver approach should work most of the time (Minsc tank, Kensai flank). I probably won't bother taking on anything above Stone until I get Celestial Fury (it stuns even Adamantites, which of course is cheese as it shouldn't).

      Delete
    2. Not sure about your mods, but in my recent EE playthroughs the golems in this dungeons seemed heavily nerfed compared to later golems. Like the devils at the end of Siege of Dragonspear, actually. They did some damage but a non-optimal party handled them without any need for special tactics.

      Great work on this entry, btw.

      Delete
    3. Yes, the two alarm golems are only lesser clay golems. REAL clay golems can be pretty scary if you are not equipped to handle them. According to the readme SCS: Improved Golems makes them immune to Lower Resistance and poison, and gives them a "cursed wound" weapon, though I'm not sure what that exactly does. I guess we'll find out in de'Arnise...

      Delete
    4. Cursed wound is extremely annoying, as it prevents any healing on the affected character until a remove curse spell is cast on him/her.

      Delete
    5. Thanks! Apparently it's a PnP change, so I can deal with that.

      Delete
  2. great work! keep them comming

    ReplyDelete
  3. Minsc... I think he was placed in the game mainly for laughs and because he was present in Bg1. He's surely useful for the first dungeon, they even cut out his personal quest (it was really simple, by the way)!
    Despite that, he's one of the most popular characters (unlike Edwin, for example).
    I used to have him in the party for the first part of the game, but I found all his shouting really annoying! :/

    I never understood why Valygar and Haerdalis aren't liked as much as him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess Minsc just has mass appeal: big heart, low intelligence and Boo! Whereas Valygar is a dark horse and maybe a bit too srs for some ppl.

      I'll try to have Minsc in the party for his best banters/interjections, and Valygar/Haer'Dalis will be in the party for Planar Sphere/Planar Prison.

      Delete
    2. I think the following clip explains much of the appeal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SND3v0i9uhE

      Minsc is clearly a disciple of the philosophy Donald O'Connor enunciates there.

      That aside, if you are not playing a warrior yourself, Minsc is arguably better than the alternatives for filling that role in the party, having the highest Strength of any of the NPC companions (pre-Sarevok anyway), and decent Dexterity and Constitution too.

      Delete
    3. Wow, that guy really has some talent. So much energy, too. Like Charlie Chaplin on crystal meth.

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    4. Valygar is unpopular partly as he had even more content cut than Minsc. His Suna Seni subquest was cut and he has less dialogue than the average NPC (see also Cernd, Nalia (and imoen unmodded) in TOB). The result is that his character isn't developed; its a shame, as I think he would have been fun. Minsc got his quest cut but he was clearly fully written otherwise.

      Delete

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