Support the GITP forums on Patreon
Help support GITP's forums (and ongoing server maintenance) via Patreon
Page 1 of 9 123456789 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 249
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped! [Finished]

    (Note: If images are currently broken, Imgur is throwing another temper tantrum. It happens every few months. If you currently can't see images, consider following this guide. Sorry!)

    Bhaal must be stopped! Someone is sabotaging the iron mines of the Sword Coast, pushing powerful realms toward a bloody war, and a young mercenary toward an unimaginable secret. Evil gods, giant spiders, murderous doppelgangers, flesh-eating ghouls, and wicked Zhentarim come to life in the action-packed novelization of the Baldur's Gate computer game from BioWare and Interplay.

    Spoiler: Table of Contents
    Show

    • Chapter 1: Introduction and prologue
    • Chapter 2: Meet the villains
    • Chapter 3: 'andy in a pinch
    • Chapter 4: The purple-eyed strangers (also screw Tarnesh)
    • Chapter 5: Road trip to Nashkel
    • Chapter 6: Friendly fire
    • Chapter 7: Hi Mulahey, bye Mulahey! (Wow, these kobolds suck.)
    • Chapter 8: Jaheira is allegedly a spellcaster.
    • Chapter 9: Korak is in this book for some reason.
    • Chapter 10: What's worse than a Bioware romance?
    • Chapter 11: Morning came damp and gray to the slowly dying town of Nashkel. Also, our first resurrection magic plot hole.
    • Chapter 12: Apparently, cheating on your husband with your adopted son is good parenting.
    • Chapter 13: A painful, desperate, horrified, purely female sound
    • Chapter 14: In which Xan solos the bandit camp
    • Chapter 15: Abdel has a plan(!) that works(!) and is actually pretty funny(!!). Also, spider striptease.
    • Chapter 16: Spider hell? Spider hell.
    • Chapter 17: In which the Cloakwood mines are barely more than a speed bump
    • Chapter 18: We enter Baldur's Gate, and it's like stepping into a completely different novel
    • Chapter 19: No, nevermind, Team Abdel is still horribly incompetent
    • Chapter 20: In which NPCs from a buddy cop movie save the day
    • Chapter 21: No idea what Sarevok's plan was, but it didn't work (also the Book Iron Throne is really dumb)
    • Chapter 22: Filler and bathing. Also Abdel can read(!)
    • Chapter 23: It's Rashomon but with Candlekeep. (Admire my learnedness.)
    • Chapter 24: Spoiler alert - Abdel is a Bhaalspawn
    • Chapter 25: The Candlekeep catacombs - one hell of a trip
    • Chapter 26: I'm not sure I understand the Flaming Fist's motivations
    • Chapter 27: Good thing you saved Eltan
    • Chapter 28: Seriously, what the hell was Sarevok's plan
    • Chapter 29: Stab stab stab
    • Bonus







    So! Baldur's Gate. For those who don't know the games, it's a series of excellent AD&D-based WRPGs from the late 1990s and early 2000s. There is also a significantly more obscure and significantly more awful series of novels based on the games.

    There's no way around it - the novels are really bad. The writing isn't great, the plot is threadbare and the characters barely resemble their counterparts from the videogames. There have been a few attempts at a Let's Read of the books, including some on this very forum, but the attempts tend to peter out around the halfway point because... well, there are only so many ways you can write "this is so much worse than the games." But I feel the novels are deserving of a long-form dissection. Partially because they are, technically, canon.

    So I'm going to try something different: I'll do a Let's Read of the novels combined with a Let's Play of the games. I'll be following the decisions made by the book's protagonist as closely as possible, comparing and contasting the plot of the books with that of the games. For clarity's sake, I'll refer to the Bhaalspawn from the books as "Abdel" (his given name) and the Bhaalspawn from the games as "CHARNAME" (fanon). Being familiar with the games is a bonus but not a requirement.

    In this post, I'll be covering the prologue - the first six pages of the book or the first twenty minutes of the game. I won't be going over everything with quite this much level of depth, but the opening really sets the tone for what is to come. Believe me, it deserves the scrutiny.

    Spoiler: The book
    Show


    We open in media res, joining Abdel in the middle of a combat encounter.

    The blades came together so hard they threw out a blue-white spark bright enough to burn its gentle arc into Abdel’s vision. The impact sent a shudder through the heavy blade of his broadsword, but he ignored it and pushed back in the direction of the attack. Abdel was strong enough and tall enough to seriously unbalance his opponent.
    As far as opening lines go, this is... inoffensive, but not great. The first sentence is thrown off-balance by the word 'gentle' - it really takes the force out of it. The writing is clunky, and I'm wondering if swords can actually do that, especially with the iron crisis supposedly affecting the Sword Coast. Either way, Abdel’s a swordfighter who fights with swords.

    Athans is clearly going for a rather visceral approach with his action scenes. I won't bother to give a blow-by-blow retelling of each combat encounter, because it does get repetitive, but here's what they're like:

    Blood was everywhere, and there was a hint of the yellow-gray of entrails. The expression on the man’s face was nearly comical: surprised, pale, and somehow disappointed. The look of it made Abdel’s heart leap, and he couldn’t tell if it was from the horror or the pleasure of the sight.
    The prose here is a mix of overly-elaborate (blood and entrails) and overly-concise ("horror and pleasure"). In between blows, we learn that Abdel's fighting against four "hired guards and thugs," two of whom (Kamon and Eagus) he recognises from past mercenary work in Athkatla. The fifth is sparring with his foster father Gorion.

    “Abdel,” Kamon said. “Sorry about your father.” It was an old trick, older even than Gorion, who sometimes seemed to Abdel to be the oldest man ever to walk the streets and trails of Faerun.
    This is probably the least smooth transition I've ever seen. I mean, this is just comically bad. "Old trick -> old man" doesn't work as a segue to begin with, but the completely superfluous "and trails" is really what sells it. What, was Athans afraid of complaints that not all of Faerun is paved?

    Anyway, Gorion, who is Abdel's foster father (and super old you guys) is fighting against another bandit. The two exchange some banter - the bandit explains that they're after Abdel, not Gorion, and Gorion says well, too bad.

    Abdel stabs both Eagus and Kamon to death, taking a crossbow bolt to the side in the process. If he feels conflicted about killing his sometime comrades-in-arms, the narrative doesn't say, but it does take pains to point out how much he enjoys murder. If you go in unspoiled it just makes him look like a psycho; if you know Abdel is a Bhaalspawn, it'll make you roll your eyes because of how blatant it is. Writing!

    Abdel smiled at the sight, though he knew Gorion wouldn’t approve. That’s when he realized Gorion was still fighting and there was—

    The crossbowman stepped out, dark eyes slitted against the midmorning sun, padded leather vest creaking with every movement. His long red hair fluttering greasily in the breeze. He aimed carefully at Gorion. Abdel screamed out, “Fa—“
    The crossbow released, and the heavy steel bolt shot through the air with a hiss.
    “—th—“
    Embedding itself deeply into Gorion’s eye.
    “—err!”
    Abdel knew, before Gorion’s twitching body hit the gravel road, that the only father he had ever known was dead.
    Gorion’s death is rather anticlimactic in this version. Abdel flies into a rage, stabs the crossbowman to death with a dagger - "butchering him into a mount of bleeding meat" in fact - then collapses.

    Finally spent, the foster son of Gorion of Candlekeep collapsed onto a pile of leather, gore, and crossbow parts, and he wept.
    A little overwrought, but not the worst way to end our first scene. We get a brief flashback, explaining Abdel's background. He grew up in Candlekeep under the tutelage of Gorion, "a kind but stern monk" serving Torm. Abdel never took well to the scholastic life and left Candlekeep years ago, becoming a sellsword. A short while ago Abdel returned to Candlekeep on Gorion’s invitation. The two enjoy an "oddly emotional" reunion, and Gorion asks Abdel to accompany him to the Friendly Arm Inn to meet someone. On their third day of travel (without further conversation?), they are ambushed by a small group of five bandits, and the rest is history.

    Gorion turns out to be alive but dying. Abdel tries to take him back to Candlekeep, but Gorion tells him there's no time. (Seriously, the narrative just said it's like three days of travel, Abdel. Pay attention.) He casts a healing spell on Abdel, then asks Abdel to "stop the war" as he dies.

    “Your father—“ then another cough. A single tear dropped from the only eye that Gorion had left to cry with, and he managed to say, “Khalid,” and, “Jahi—“ before his last breath hissed away and his eye turned skyward. Abdel cried over his father until Gorion’s right hand stopped twitching. The sellsword’s hand brushed the parchment, and without thinking he took it in his grip. He sat there for a long time on the road, surrounded by the dead and the call of crows, until he could finally stand and begin to prepare his father’s grave.


    Spoiler: The game
    Show


    We open with a finely-crafted exposition dump.


    Screenshot

    Screenshot

    Baldur's Gate immediately gets points for not giving the main character amnesia, and CHARNAME having grown up in a secluded place still lets them act as an inexperienced audience surrogate. I do like the midpoint transition. Four paragraphs in, we have a sense where and who we are, and our first plot hook.

    But first, character creation! I'll be using the stats given for Abdel in Dragon Magazine #262, including the portrait.


    Screenshot

    Here's the closest I could get CHARNAME's stats to the 'canon' character profile without using a savegame editor. I'll pick up the Strength manual off-screen and that should get us up to an even 19. For some reason, the small profile picture refused to import properly, and also corrupted my savegame, but it worked just fine with the large one. Marvel at our fully canon mug.

    (Full disclosure: I cheated a little by exporting and re-importing the character to effectively double my starting gold. Your quest rewards scale based on Reaction, which depend on Charisma and Reputation, which in turn depends on your alignment. Reputation also governs starting gold. Abdel is CN and has a CHA penalty, so he's getting shortchanged, which makes the early game needlessly awful.)


    Screenshot

    Fun fact: Baldur's Gate gives each character class a different backstory, unlike the sequel. Fighter!CHARNAME is a blacksmith's apprentice and wannabe hero who read too many fantasy novels.

    Anyway! We start out right outside the Candlekeep Inn, maintained by our old friend Winthrop.


    Screenshot

    CHARNAME has a snarky streak a mile wide, and I won't get to show that off a whole lot because Abdel's personality is a little... dirct. But the non-snarky options are just mean and humorless, and I can't do that to Winthrop.


    Screenshot

    We pick up some basic equipment, including Abdel's signature chainmail armor. Fighting styles sadly don't exist (yet), so I'll hang on to the shield for the first level or two. I also gave Abdel some swanky blue clothes to fit the portrait, and picked up some crossbow bolts for later.

    Thus outfitted, we're ready to explore Candlekeep. The prologue is really an extended tutorial, so it's mostly fetch quests with some tasty exposition mixed in here and there.


    Screenshot

    Speaking of fetch quests: Also staying in Candlekeep Inn is our erudite friend Firebead Elvenhair, who asks us to pick up a scroll from one of the local monks.


    Screenshot

    Tethtoril is the First Reader of Candlekeep and a friend of Gorion's, so we should probably check in with him before leaving anyway. It's the polite thing to do. He gives us the scroll (which we deliver to Firebead for some XP) and reminds us to talk to Gorion.


    Screenshot

    On the way there, we stop by Phlydia, a rather absent-minded scholar. She asks us to pick up a book she probably misplaced near Dreppin the farmer.


    Screenshot

    Dreppin in turn sends us off to fetch some medicine for a sick cow from Hull the guard ...


    Screenshot

    ... who has us pick up his sword from the barracks ...


    Screenshot

    ... where we sell our crossbow bolts to Fuller. I swear, without me to run its endless errands, this keep would crumble into the very dust from which it sprang.

    Also, there's probably little actual call for guard work, which explains the lax discipline and weekday drinking. Worldbuilding!

    We turn in the various items to our various quest-givers, collecting our paltry rewards. We're insufficiently charismatic, so Phlydia doesn't actually remember she gave us a quest. Oh well, we still get the XP.


    Screenshot

    We also nab a free healing potion from a local priest. It's easy to miss during your first playthrough - the building he's in is tucked away in a corner of the map, and the entrace faces away from you-the-viewer.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    And yes, there's a quest to kill rats, since this is an RPG. This one's worth doing for the journal entry alone.

    Now, there are two interesting encounters here. There are two buildings on the map that aren't tied to any tutorial quests, and if you enter them, you're immediately attacked.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    The encounters aren't particularly dangerous, especially to a fighter. What's more interesting is CHARNAME's reaction. You can try to play it cool, but it's clear that CHARNAME is rather shaken by the encounters. It makes sense - Gorion warned CHARNAME that Candlekeep isn't safe anymore, but it's easy to blow these warnings off. Even with martial training, CHARNAME probably never had to fight for their life before.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Regardless of what you say, your old teachers remind you that Candlekeep isn't safe anymore. Once you've tied up all the loose ends, there's nothing left to do but talk to Gorion, who is waiting outside the library.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    He's cryptic as usual, but assures you that going away right now is the most important thing, and that he'll explain everything as soon as it is time. Once you agree to leave, the game goes into cutscene mode. Gorion tosses a Cure Light Wounds your way, and emphasizes that if you ever become separated from him, meet up at the Friendly Arm Inn. Two trustworthy friends of Gorion are waiting there, Khalid and Jaheira.

    Night soon falls. As in the book, we walk into an ambush. Unlike the book, it's not a bunch of random bandits.


    Screenshot

    Rather, it's a group of heavily-armed mercenaries with magic backup, which is a much more credible threat. Gorion shouts at us to run away while he'll hold them back.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Gorion brings the thunder, taking out most of the ambush party with lightning bolts, acid arrows and magic missile spam...


    Screenshot

    ... but is ultimately cut down by the armored figure.

    We spend a very uncomfortable night cowering in a ditch and fearing for our lives.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    And thus the prologue ends and the game proper starts.


    Spoiler: Comparison and commentary
    Show


    The book and the game immediately strike a very different tone. The plot points are somewhat similar - Abdel/CHARNAME and Gorion travel from Candlekeep, are ambushed on the road and Gorion dies - but the context is wholly different. I'll be giving the first book a lot of leeway since it was written on an impossible schedule and based on an early version of the game's script - more on that later - but I will still compare the two plots to see what works better where. (I'll take a moment to grumble about Gorion being a monk rather than a mid-level mage, though.)

    So, first of all, the stakes in the book are lower. In the game, the journey is a desperate, ill-prepared scramble. You're a scared kid on the run, chased out of the only place you ever knew. Your mentor and protector was killed by a gigantic armored stranger while you just barely got away with your life - and the stranger made it clear his goal was to kill you, specifically.
    In the book, Gorion and Abdel's travel is an extended social call. Gorion gets killed by a random bandit through a lucky crit. Yes, the bandits hint that there's some shady employer after Abdel’s life, but it's not like they're an actual threat to him. He can take on four at once and not suffer any meaningful injuries. Presumably, there'll be more attempts on his life, but the would-be assassins need to step up their game. Also, Abdel wasn't relying on Gorion for advice and protection. If anything, the opposite was the case - Gorion was a frail old man, Abdel is a seasoned mercenary.

    Since there's no time pressure involved, Gorion not explaining about the whole war situation is less forgivable. In the game, Gorion was reluctant to explain, but he promised he'd do so once there was time. He was stalling, he also got unexpectedly sworded to death a few hours into the journey. In the book, Abdel and Gorion would have had several days to talk. It's weird how incurious Abdel is about the whole affair. That's going to be a pattern with him (spoilers).

    Abdel, so far, is a surprisingly shallow character, defined mostly by being a) direct and b) very brutal. CHARNAME isn't much more complex, mind. In the game, you get the two paragraphs in your biography if you think to check, you can read the journal entries to see what CHARNAME's mental dialogue is like, and you get some impression of your daily routine through your interactions with the residents of Candlekeep. But CHARNAME is supposed to be a mostly blank slate for the player to project a character onto, while Abdel is a fully-fledged literary protagonist. Still, it's very early in the book, so maybe that's the point. We'll see how Abdel develops.

    ... the constant references to Abdel's brutality are a bit over-the-top, though. Yes, it makes sense, he's a Bhaalspawn, but come on.


    And that's the prologue over with! I'd be curious to hear your thoughts, both about the content of the review and about its form. Too detailed or not detailed enough? Too much snark or too little? This is the first long-form review I've done, so I'm always glad for tips and pointers. I'll be aiming for 1-2 weeks between updates, since these are quite a lot of work to write.

    Spoiler: Wait, aren't you forgetting something?
    Show



    Screenshot

    Oh right. Imoen.

    Imoen is the main character's kid sister. They're not biologically related (as far as they know), but they grew up together and have a sibling dynamic going. She finds you after Gorion's death, having secretly followed you out of Candlekeep, and drags you out of your ditch. Later she also turns out to be a Bhaalspawn (if one who didn't get as much of the taint as you did). Irenicus abducts both of you, and trying to rescue her drives the plot of BG II's first half.

    She also doesn't appear in this book at all.

    Athans, here, was royally screwed over by a combination of factors. Imoen was added to the game at the last minute, to give early game parties a non-Montaron option for a rogue. There's no way an early version of the game's script contained her character. She proved unexpectedly popular, and thus her role was expanded in the sequel. And thus, a popular and important character simply doesn't exist.

    Of course, she does appear in later novels. We'll cross that bridge when we get there. But it also means she won't appear in this 100% canon playthrough of Baldur's Gate 1.
    Last edited by Khay; 2019-04-13 at 12:04 PM. Reason: adding table of contents

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    danzibr's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Back forty.
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Nice read!

    Man, I had no idea there was a book, nor that Imoen was added last minute. Interesting.
    My one and only handbook: My Totemist Handbook
    My one and only homebrew: Book of Flux
    Spoiler
    Show
    A comment on tiers, by Prime32
    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    As a DM, I deal with character death by cheering and giving a fist pump, or maybe a V-for-victory sign. I would also pat myself on the back, but I can't really reach around like that.
      /l、
    ゙(゚、 。 7
     l、゙ ~ヽ
     じしf_, )ノ

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Australia

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by danzibr View Post
    Nice read!

    Man, I had no idea there was a book, nor that Imoen was added last minute. Interesting.
    Spoiler: It Was His Sled
    Show

    She was also meant to die in Spellhold in Shadow's of Amn, but again, proved very popular, so she was "allowed" to be rescued (originally on a timer I believe, which was then dropped altogether), which also explains why she doesn't have much dialouge as the other "main" characters from the original (read: Minsc and Jahiera) considering how important she can be to the entire series.


    Nice work Khay, I've heard about how terrible the novels are and how off character many of the staples of the games are (eg. Khalid) but I haven't wanted to make myself sad by reading them, so I heartily approve of the summarised book vs game section.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by danzibr View Post
    Man, I had no idea there was a book
    The games are modern classics. The books are... not. There's a reason everyone tries to forget they ever happened.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drasius View Post
    Nice work Khay, I've heard about how terrible the novels are and how off character many of the staples of the games are (eg. Khalid) but I haven't wanted to make myself sad by reading them, so I heartily approve of the summarised book vs game section.
    Thanks! We'll be meeting Khalid and Jaheira either next update or the one after that. That's where it really starts going downhill.



    For today, I have a slightly smaller update. We ended chapter one with Abdel burying Gorion. We'll be rejoining him soon, but for chapter two, we're checking in with Team Evil. (This book has very short chapters.)

    Spoiler: The book
    Show

    Our main non-Abdel viewpoint character in this book is a professional killer named Tamoko.

    Tamoko could not see what her lover saw when he stared into the empty frame. There might have been a picture in there once, perhaps a mirror of silvered glass, but now it was just a frame, hanging by small brass chains from the ceiling of Sarevok’s private chamber.
    Tamoko is currently trying to meditate while her boss/lover, a man named Sarevok, gets his scry on.

    The smooth silk of Tamoko’s black pajamas hissed against the silk of the bed and sent a chill of goosebumps up her thin, strong arms. She was a small woman, not even five feet tall, with the smooth skin of a pampered lady and the strength of a berserker. A life of constant training made her what she was: a killer, in every sense of the word.
    You could wring an entire essay regarding the interplay of sex and violence in fiction out of the way Tamoko is treated by the narrative. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the novel never shuts up about Tamoko's sexy murder ways as long as she's on-screen.

    Anyway, she continues meditating in Sarevok’s damp, candlelit private sanctum, waiting for him to speak.

    “My brother,” Sarevok said suddenly, so suddenly a lesser trained assassin might have flinched, but not Tamoko, “is on the path.”
    “Your brother?” she asked, too quickly, and Sarevok took a long, unsettling time to turn around.
    “I have at least this one brother, yes,” Sarevok told her in that voice she often thought was — not seductive — maybe seductive...

    A cold chill ran down her spine, making her angry with herself. There was something about Sarevok, to be sure, that she knew she should be on her guard about.
    Sarevok's writing here is interesting - the narrative is trying really hard to talk him up. If you want to make a newly introduced character seem big and strong, a good way to do that is to show them intimidating a character which the audience already knows is tough. But it's not like we've seen Tamoko do anything badass either, so having her be afraid of Sarevok doesn't work.

    Sarevok wanted power—power and something else. As afraid as Tamoko sometimes felt in his presence, she couldn’t help but admire him. (...) He was in control, always. “The nature of his death?” she asked, meaning two things: that she knew she was here to kill for him, and that she was loyal enough not to ask why.
    Sarevok laughs and tells Tamoko that, no, Abdel doesn't need to be killed yet. The two almost make out, but Sarevok turns away at the last second because he's such a tease.

    “The two Zhentarim,” he told her, “will live for a time as well, but only for a time. I will bring them here from Nashkel. (...) They have the ability to fail me—especially the little one.”
    Tamoko mentions that they'll die quickly because they work for Sarevok, but Sarevok says, well, let's not be too hasty. In case you couldn't tell yet: This book isn't particularly subtle.


    Spoiler: The game
    Show

    The game doesn't really have an equivalent scene. We're introduced to Sarevok (and technically Tamoko) during Gorion's last stand, and Baldur's Gate 1 doesn't have these fun little "here's what Team Evil is up to" scenes. (They won't start showing up until Shadows of Amn.) So I'll just link to the game's opening cinematic, and do most of the talking in the Novel and Commentary sections.

    https://youtu.be/bYoRmGHIxA4?t=60


    Spoiler: Comparison and commentary
    Show

    So the novels are famous for removing or sidelining many characters from the games, but it's almost more interesting to look at the ones it expands on. Tamoko, in the game, was at best a tertiary character. She does participate in the ambush that kills Gorion (although you likely won't even notice her unless you think to scroll up and read the combat log, but then vanishes, only returning towards the very end of the game to deliver some exposition and a quest hook. The book elevates her to a viewpoint character - the only viewpoint character other than Abdel who gets more than one chapter to herself. (Scar and Angelo each get about half a chapter.)

    For what it's worth, I don't think it's a bad idea to occasionally cut to Team Evil. The novel's narrative structure is very different from that of the game - for a significant chunk of the game, you don't actually know the identity of the main antagonist, other than "dude with a deep voice and a big honking sword." A good deal of time is dedicated to figuring out who the villain is. Of course, if you've played the game before reading the novel, then you already know the answer. The novel doesn't even pretend you might not know that Sarevok and Abdel are half-brothers and Bhaalspawn. (I still think the autor probably could have waited until after page seven to inform the reader. I guess it might still be mildly intriguing if you haven't played the game - you know that the protagonist and presumed main villain are related but you won't know why it's relevant.)

    I find the contrast between Sarevok's introduction in the novel and Sarevok’s introduction in the game to be rather interesting as well. The game doesn't really tell us anything about him, other than the fact he can pick up a dude and slam him through an iron fence with one arm. We know he's huge and intimidating, but we have no idea who he is or what he wants. The novel shows us more of Sarevok’s calculating, planning side, which I guess does make him seem like a more competent villain. Sarevok being smart was mildly subversive in the first game - he looks and acts like he's all brawn, so you don't expect him to also be the brains of the operation - but the novel is very upfront about it.

    Something interesting to note: In the game, Tamoko is a cleric in Full Plate Mail +1 who throws Flame Arrow spells around like nobody's business. In the novel, she's a graceful silk-clad assassin who slices people to death with a katana. Just like Gorion, she was changed from a magic user (Cleric) to a non-magic class (Ninja Shadow Warrior, according to Dragon Magazine). This will be something of a pattern going forward - for some reason, the novels are low fantasy compares to the games' high fantasy.

    Anyway, Tamoko the first woman to appear, and she's a textbook example of a Strong Female Character. Keep that in mind for later.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Kish's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2004

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Anyway, Tamoko is our first female actor, and she's a textbook example of a Strong Female Character. Keep that in mind for later.
    Well that doesn't sound ominous at all.
    Spoiler
    Show
    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    Well that doesn't sound ominous at all.
    I have such sights to show you.

    Not just yet, though. Turns out I misremembered - Khalid and Jaheira will be in the next update. This chapter, we're meeting Xzar and Montaron instead. Looking back, I think this is actually the high point of the novel - nobody is horribly off-character and Abdel doesn't do anything stupid and inexplicable. Enjoy it while it lasts, it's all downhill form here on out.

    Spoiler: The book
    Show

    We rejoin Abdel as he's looting Gorion's corpse. He's hoping for a personal message, maybe a letter left by his absentee mother, and is disappointed to find a bit of prophecy instead.

    During the days of the Avatars, the Black Lord will spawn a score of mortal progeny. These offspring will be aligned good and evil, but chaos will flow through them all. When the Murderer’s bastard children come of age, they will bring havoc to the lands of the Sword Coast. One of these children must rise above the rest and claim their father’s legacy. This inheritor will shape the history of the Sword Coast for centuries to come.

    Nonsense.

    (...)

    [I]t was just nothing, a scrap of words that formed a bit of some prophecy, that may or may not come true, but wouldn’t, Abdel was sure, have anything to do with him.
    This still isn't the most blatant bit of foreshadowing in the book. Hard to believe, I know, but somehow this still isn't the worst Athans has to offer.

    I can't help but feel this passage is rather telling about Abdel's character - when confronted with a puzzle, something whose meaning isn't immediately obvious, his reaction is to scoff and discard it without a second thought. This, too, will turn out to be something of a pattern.

    Abdel finishes burying Gorion, trying and failing to come up with something appropriate to say. I'm going to say something positive here: The passage actually works fairly well. Abdel would be the sort of person who struggles to process any emotion other than anger, so he's lost for words. In the end, he just quietly swears vengeance and stomps off.

    He hung on the wet wood the tiny silver gauntlet that his father had worn on a thin gold chain around his neck, knowing some anonymous traveler would be along soon enough to steal it. “I’ll be back for you,” he said, then turned his back and walked away.
    I'll have some more to say about this in the Commentary section. For now, Abdel leaves Gorion's body behind and the section ends. I don't really why the chapters end where they do, because we skip to a completely unrelated scene without the chapter ending.

    It was impossible to tell what made the horrific sound that snatched Abdel out of a restless sleep, or how far away the source of it was, but he was on his feet in an instant. (...) It was like a chorus of angry dogs competing for attention with a thousand bards whose tongues had been cut out so all they could do was wail and mutter, grunt and shout. The sound made Abdel afraid, and that was a rare thing. (...) Abdel began to realize he was going to die that night.
    Gibberlings are in this book! This almost makes up for all the deviations from the games. No Xvarts, though. Anyway, Abdel is rushed by hundreds of gibberlings. He fights them off for a while, his back to the stone way-marker, but is quickly overwhelmed. At the last second, Abdel is saved by a sudden flash of magical light that blinds him and drives the gibberlings to flee.

    Exhausted and relieved, Abdel slid down to his knees, the stone scraping through his thin chemise. He was panting, almost gasping for air, and his sword seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. (...) Footsteps came around the stone marker, two sets, and Abdel did manage to stand to meet them,
    though his chest still heaved.
    Abdel makes a spirited attempt to threaten his rescuers, but one of them (described as a halfling with a Waterdeep accent and a reedy, gruff voice) laughs it off and tells him they're not there to kill him. He introduces himself as Montaron and his "travellin' companion" as Xzar.

    Abdel studied these two unlikely rescuers. The halfling was odd for his kind, though he was as short, stocky, and fair of complexion as most of his race. He had a devilish quality to him, though[.] (...) The one called Xzar was tall, thin, and twitchy. His face kept moving like there were worms under his skin, and his mouth worked as if he were talking to himself silently all the time.
    So yeah, it's Xzar and Montaron, and they're... actually portrayed fairly well. I'm just happy Xzar manages to actually be a twitchy mage with an aversion to touching rather than, I don't know, a happy-go-lucky rogue or something. Montaron is a lot less overtly threatening than he is in the games, and Xzar has a different verbal tic ("Gibberlings, are not quite at all— fond of light... at all."), but it's probably better that way. I don't think transcribing Montaron's accent was a good idea, though. It's hard to take him seriously when he says Xzar's "casties" make him "'andy in a pinch."

    Montaron suggests they travel together. Abdel states that he's bound for the Friendly Arms while Montaron points out that there's "work fer the taking in Nashkel" - a tenday in the opposite direction. Abdel dithers for a while, but ultimately decides that he probably should go talk to Khalid as his foster father told him with his dying breath.

    “So the roadhouse first, then?” Xzar asked matter-of-factly, and in the darkness Abdel couldn’t tell if the mage was talking to him or to the halfling. Montaron solved the problem by answering, “Aye, the Friendly Arms first, then Nashkel. I could use a night’s sleep in a real bed anyway.


    Spoiler: The game
    Show

    The playthrough needs to stay as close to the novels as possible, so we say our goodbyes to Imoen (after emptying her inventory) and make our way to Gorion's corpse. There's a few wolves on the map, and they will ruin your day if you run into them, but we get lucky.


    Screenshot

    Gorion carries a dagger, some gold and a letter (which Imoen tells you she read, if she's still with you).


    Screenshot

    Screenshot

    Screenshot

    It's relatively cryptic and signed only with an "- E" but reaffirms that you're in danger and need to get your ass to the Inn as soon as possible.

    There's no option to bury Gorion - or if there is, I missed it. I seem to remember being able to bury his body, but this might've been added by Tales of the Sword Coast/BGTutu/the Enhanced Edition. So we'll be leaving his corpse out in the open. Sorry, Gorion.

    We make our way back towards the road. There are a few NPCs around you can talk to, but they don't really have anything important to say. This area is still something of an extended tutorial, and the NPCs are mainly there to point you in the right direction.


    Screenshot

    This one is kind of interesting, though. The two strangers he's talking about are, of course, Xzar and Montaron, everyone's favourite evil two-man comedy act.


    Screenshot

    For some reason, they're being really hostile here. Choosing any option but the first causes them to walk out of the game forever. I think this is due to Abdel's horrible Reaction score again (and the fact that I'm playing the oldest version of the game I could find.) If you have slightly better Charisma (and/or are playing one of the overhauls), Xzar and Montaron at least give you a healing potion and offer to travel with you for your own protection, so it makes some degree of in-world sense to let them tag along.

    Oh well. Welcome to the group, you two.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Montaron is an ultraviolent comedy sociopath. As a fighter/thief, he has good phsyical stats but not much else going on. His multi-class combination makes him a decent frontline fighter now and will allow him to be an effective backstabber or ranged damage-dealer later on. He'll never be the most efficient character, but he's pretty good for now.

    The main thing to note about him is that he's a direct inversion of the jolly happy halfling stereotype. The Belkster may talk a big game, but Montaron is the original sexy shoeless god of death.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Xzar is much more interesting. He's a specialist wizard, a Necromancer, which means additional spell slots at the cost of an inability to cast Illusion-school spells. Losing Invisibility and Mirror Image sucks, but he still gets access to all the important spells (most notably the almighty Sleep).

    In terms of personality, he's... pretty incoherent. His voiceover swings back and forth between "calm and hyper-verbose" and "panicked shrieking about not touching him." Note that he somehow has better Wisdom and better Charisma than the supposedly street-smart Montaron. I guess Xzar just takes a massive circumstance penalty, or something.


    Screenshot

    For verisimilitude I pick a fight with some gibberlings near the waymarker. Xzar and Monty actually pull their weight fairly well, which is nice. Low-level combat is an interesting mix of clumsy and deadly. Due to the way armor works in AD&D, you'll struggle to get a hit in, but any hit you do land is almost immediately lethal.


    Screenshot

    We venture forth with our newly gathered party. The first Baldur's Gate has a few of these unlabelled 'in-between' areas you need to pass through at least once each. Once you've done that, you can fast travel directly. I actually kind of like it. Makes the game world seem larger.

    Contrary to the wishes of our new party members, we'll be going north first to pick up Khalid and Jaheira. They do complain and eventually leave the party if you don't go to Nashkel, but we have a lot of time left before that starts to happen.

    Nothing of consequence happens along the way.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Nothing at all.


    Spoiler: Comparison and commentary
    Show

    So, we need to talk about Gorion. When it comes to violent death in D&D-based fiction, there's a problem: You can revive the dead. Unless elaborate measures are taken, death isn't final. You have three basic ways to adress this. You can treat death flippantly (which only really works in comedic works and/or deconstructions); you can try to integrate resurrection magic into the plot (e. g. by having the evil guy destroy the body); or you can ignore the issue and pretend that Raise Dead isn't a spell (which is what the games do when NPC death is concerned).

    In this section, it looks like the book is going for option three. That would be fair enough, but the book won't stick with that - Abdel will later (try to) go back to take Gorion to Candlekeep and have him revived. The problem with that is that there's really no reason he wouldn't do it here. It obviously can't happen for plot reasons, but you actually need to give a reason why it doesn't happen. Waiting is an actively terrible idea - bodies have a tendency to rot over time, and Raise Dead requires an intact corpse. If you're going to have someone raised, you need to do it as soon as possible. Abdel is in no hurry since his life isn't in immediate danger, and he's probably strong enough to carry the corpse on his own. The novel will revisit Gorion's grave later, in chapter 11, but there's no real justification then or now. ("With Gorion gone, Abdel wasn’t even sure he’d be allowed back into Candlekeep" doesn't count, just push his corpse through the mail slot or something.) You can't just try to wallpaper over these issues later, there needed to be a reason and it needed to be given here. I guess there wasn't enough time to properly edit the novel either.

    To be fair, this isn't adressed in the base game either. Raising Gorion simply never comes up. (The Enhanced Edition at least vaguely nods in the direction of gameplay/plot integration by having Gorion die to a Deathbringer Assault.) The fact that resurrection magic is a service available at literally every temple in the game is likely meant to be a gameplay abstraction - I should note that Raise Dead is a 5th-rank spell in this adaptation of AD&D and thus requires the caster to be 9th level or higher. But the novel doesn't have gameplay, which means it doesn't get to fall back on these abstractions.

    I get that not every D&D novel needs to be about how life would be different if death wasn't the end. But what's the point of writing a novel about a different world if you're not going to explore the ways in which that world is different from ours?

    That said, this section affords something of a glance of a better book. Watching Abdel work through his grief, a problem he can't just sword to death, would've made for an interesting character arc. The fact that Abdel/CHARNAME is a demigod of murder raised in a serene library-fortress offers a prime opportunity for a nature-vs.-nurture debate contained in a character study, especially once you start to contrast him against Sarevok. These are all very natural themes for D&D-based fiction, and the novelisation would've offered a great opportunity to engage them.

    Alas.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    danzibr's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Back forty.
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Abdel sounds like an awful protagonist. But I dunno, maybe it's fitting, given his lineage and all.
    My one and only handbook: My Totemist Handbook
    My one and only homebrew: Book of Flux
    Spoiler
    Show
    A comment on tiers, by Prime32
    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    As a DM, I deal with character death by cheering and giving a fist pump, or maybe a V-for-victory sign. I would also pat myself on the back, but I can't really reach around like that.
      /l、
    ゙(゚、 。 7
     l、゙ ~ヽ
     じしf_, )ノ

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ZeltArruin's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Virginia
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Very interesting read. I think I have the book somewhere, but never gave it a read.
    ~ZA

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by danzibr View Post
    Abdel sounds like an awful protagonist. But I dunno, maybe it's fitting, given his lineage and all.
    Abdel gets worse as the series continues. Somehow he starts out with a standard-issue gruff mercenary personality and goes downhill from there. He won't hit his nadir 'til the next book, but... well, you'll see.

    Today's update covers the fourth chapter, up to page 33 in the mass market paperback (I finally found a used copy). Settle in, we've got plenty of ground to cover.

    Spoiler: The book
    Show

    We drop in on Abdel and company just as they approach the Friendly Arm Inn. Abdel, for his part, decides he likes Montaron (despite the gruff halfling's aversion to light) but not Xzar (who twitches literally all the time and has an irritating way of speaking). Athans frequently does this thing where he jumps ahead three days, then goes back two days to fill us in on what happened in the meantime. The result is a lot of telling and not too much showing, but hey - it's exposition. I'll let it slide.

    What I won't let slide is this:

    “I know,” Xzar told him, “who your father — your father is.” Abdel sat up straight and Montaron, who had been chuckling happily in the darkness went suddenly bone still. (...)
    “Enough!” Montaron said sharply, and the mage spun to lock eyes with him. “Can’t ye see the boy’s a mite sensitive 'bout that?” (...)
    “He should be happy,” Xzar said to no one in particular, “he should be happy to be the son of a god — of a god.” Abdel sighed. The man was insane. (...)
    “Shut your...” Xzar scolded, ”... your... your — he’s the son of Bhaal.”
    Abdel sighed again and lay down to go to sleep. Xzar muttered to himself for a little while, his voice eventually fading into the sound of the crickets. “I buried my father,” Abdel said, more for himself than for the delusional mage or the halfling[.]
    I have no idea which purpose this section serves. To be fair, Athans is facing a difficult problem here. The average reader of this book is going to be a fan of the game or have at least heard about it, so the average reader is going to know that Abdel is a Bhaalspawn. This isn't an obscure bit of trivia either - this is like Vader being Luke's father. You can't really build it up as a plot twist - you can't play who-is-the-Bhaalspawn - so the question is going to be more about how Abdel will find out and how he'll react. We know that this is true, so playing coy like this risks making Abdel seem a bit thick.

    Anyway, Abdel dismisses Xzar's claims. The fortress that is now the Friendly Arms Inn was previously used by Bhaal worshippers, and that, he reasons, was probably what triggered Xzar's delusion. I guess that's plausible, and Abdel isn't introspective enough to pause and wonder about why he gets off on killing as much as he does.

    Anyway, we get a lovely character moment when Montaron asks Abdel what he'd do if he did have the power of a god.

    “I’d wish myself a thousand times a thousand pieces of gold, for one,” Abdel answered. This made Montaron laugh. “I’d drop the Sword Coast into the sea just to see it sink and make zombies of everyone who ever spoke ill of me.”
    Our protagonist, everyone.

    Abdel and companions approach the Friendly Arms, described (quite nicely) as "a little village as much as a fortress" with a decorative moat and a wooden drawbridge. Abdel smiles at the gnome guards, who mistake it for friendliness (he's actually making fun of them in his head). The group steps right into the middle of a bar brawl.

    Abdel stood behind the gnomes as one of them opened the door, and he was hit with the blast of sound from inside just a fraction of a second before the chair hit him in the face. Down the big sellsword went, never seeing the three little gnomes wade into the crowd. The guards’ fists were small, but when they brought them into play at their own eye level, taller men dropped like sacks of flour. (...) They were dragging the dirty, vile-smelling commoner more than carrying him, and the big man made a small sound every time his head bounced against the rough wooden planks of the floor. (...) Abdel stood stock still and tried to let the anger pass, but it wouldn’t. He wanted to kill someone. Montaron was looking at him curiously. “See?” Xzar stage-whispered.
    In the game, it's an assassination attempt by a fairly dangerous mage; in the novel, it's a chair flung by a "dirty, vile-smelling commoner." It's kind of odd that the novels appear to be bending over backwards to make things easier on Abdel.

    Abdel decides to ditch the plot and get drunk instead, but the plot comes back for him.

    Abdel didn’t do much thinking, he just sat there and drank. He wasn’t one for self-pity, but it had been Nine Hells of a tenday. (...) Gorion, with his dying breath, had sent him here to look for — and Abdel couldn’t remember the names. (...) “Well met, good sir,” a richly Amnian-accented voice next to him said.
    Abdel does his best to glare the plot away, but Khalid is not deterred.

    “You are Abdel,” he said, “Abdel Adrian.”
    “Gods,” Abdel breathed, was this the man Gorion had come to see?
    “You are,” the Amnian said. “Where is Gorion?”
    “Dead,” Abdel said simply, then his throat caught, but he didn’t cry. “Who is this Adrian?”
    “You are not Abdel Adrian?” the Amnian asked.
    “I am Abdel, son of Gorion, but I go by no other name.”
    The two of them bicker about this and about the identity of Jah[eira] for a while. In the meantime, we get a description of Khalid, which isn't too far off compared to the games. (A nervous half-elf in dented armor, who has bright violet eyes, dusky skin and a large nose.)

    “Come,” he said, “sit with us, and tell us what befell your father. He was a great man, a hero in his own way, and he will be missed.”
    “What do you know of it?” Abdel asked, bile suddenly rising to the back of his throat. His voice was full of menace. “What was he to you?”
    Khalid stared at Abdel as if the sellsword had suddenly transformed into a cobra. He was scared of Abdel, and he was not at all able to hide it.
    “He was a friend,” Khalid answered, “that is all. I mean no disrespect.”
    Abdel wanted to say something rude to the Amnian, but he couldn’t. Instead he fished in his pouch for money for a sixth pint of ale. He came out with only three coppers. “Bhaal!” he cursed loudly, stood, and threw the coppers into the crowd. (...) “Gods,” the Amnian said, “what did he tell you?”
    Yeahhhhhhh.

    Khalid finally convinces Abdel to move by promising him a(nother) drink. The two locate Jaheira, and of course the first three words used to describe her are "Jaheira was beautiful." The paragraph continues like that for a while, taking pains to note she's Abdel's type (full lips, bright eyes, thick copper-black hair, looks "oddly alike" Khalid, strong of build, etc.) See, I was totally willing to buy Abdel being sullen and confrontational because he's still trying to work through the grief from Gorion's death, but it's kind of impressive how quickly he jumps to lusting after Jaheira given half of an opportunity.

    Anyway, the conversation soon returns to Gorion and the mercenaries hired to kill him. Abdel thus goes back to being hostile.

    “There are . . . forces,” Jaheira said, her voice barely audible in the crowded room, “who want to bring war.”
    A comely servant girl set down two pints of ale. Abdel kept his eyes on Jaheira as he downed his, again in one swallow.
    “So what else is new?” he asked sarcastically. “I’ve made a living from one ‘force’ or another wanting war. It’s what people do.”
    Khalid and Jaheira are of course baffled by this response. They decide that the best way to explain that wars are still bad is to ensure that even readers who are currently in a medical coma will be able to see the plot twist coming.

    “This is different,” she said, her voice even quieter, and Abdel had to strain to hear her. “This is your bro—“ A glass bottle disintegrated against the back of Abdel’s head, and Jaheira had to flinch away from the shards of glass.
    One terribly exciting fight scene later, Abdel has killed the chair-thrower from earlier.

    Abdel’s blood rushed through his head at the heavy thunk of the wide silver blade burying itself in the drunk’s chest. (...) Abdel smiled and let the ecstasy of the kill wash away the anger and tunnel vision.
    The guards advance on Abdel to arrest him, since, wow, that's not a proportionate response. Abdel is bailed out by Montaron's quick thinking, however.

    Montaron was kneeling over the body of the drunk and producing one purse after another from the dead man’s pants.
    “He must have been picking pockets all ni—here’s mine!” Montaron said, his voice loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.
    “Fortunate for you,” Khalid whispered to a still uncaring Abdel. “It would have been murder otherwise.”
    Gooseflesh whispered up the backs of Abdel’s arms at the sound of that word: murder.
    One day, I'll tire of calling out all the silly overwrought foreshadowing. That day is not today.

    Either way, our dysfunctional gang of misfits is assembled and Abdel reluctantly agrees to follow the plot. Just like that we're off!

    The sellsword was only barely sober enough to realize he wouldn’t find work here now, even if the drunk was a thief, and he’d thrown his last three coppers to the crowd.
    “Nashkel?” Abdel asked.
    “Yes,” Khalid said, his voice edged with incredulity, “yes, Nashkel. Gorion knew that was where we were planning to go?” (...)
    [Abdel] smiled, though he wanted to cry. For his sins, he would let himself be pulled and pushed all the way to Nashkel.


    Spoiler: The game
    Show
    After our encounter with ElminsI mean a completely random and unimportant NPC, we make our way to the Friendly Arms without further interruptions. There are a few random encounters with gibberlings and thinly-disguised tutorial NPCs, but I'll be snipping those out unless something interesting happens (it doesn't).



    Screenshot

    Note that previously visited areas black although we're not adjacent to them, showing that fast travel is enabled. The Friendly Arm Inn is blue, since it's a previously-unvisited area, and Beregost is grey since we haven't been there before and thus cannot fast travel. I still think this is a good compromise.

    Anyway, Friendly Arm Inn.


    Screenshot

    Screenshot

    Most places have these little pre-rendered custscenes to introduce them when you visit for the first time. I'm sure these were terribly impressive back in the day. In the late 2010s, they look a bit quaint. Don't get me wrong, it's still a lovely camera pan, but the lifeless plastic models haven't aged super well.


    Screenshot

    We have a quick chat with a guard, then are reluctantly allowed inside. There are only two really meaningful buildings inside the courtyard - a small temple and the inn-fortress itself.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    As we approach the entrance of the Inn, a man named Tarnesh accosts us. It doesn't really matter what you say here - Tarnesh attacks you anyway - but I figure Abdel wouldn't be the sort of person to learn from experience.


    Screenshot

    Tarnesh is the first encounter where you need to actually pay attention. He's a mage and he opens combat by casting Mirror Image, then an AoE fear spell. If you're unprepared - and especially if you didn't group up with Xzar and Montaron - it's entirely possible that you won't get a hit in before the fear spell hits. Most of your party will probably fail their saving throws and Tarnesh is free to pick them off with damage spells. If you get especially unlucky (and are playing a low-HP CHARNAME) you can get wiped out here.


    Screenshot

    Of course, we are prepared, interrupt the Mirror Image and kill Tarnesh before he gets off the fear spell. You can also lure Tarnesh out in the courtyard and have the NPC guards kill him for you - that's what I used to do when I first played this game as a kid. I guess you can also lure him out, slip by him, group up with Khalid and Jaheira and fight him with a larger group. But this is faster.

    Tarnesh carries a few scrolls, some gold, and a bounty notice.


    Screenshot

    Well, that isn't great for us. For most of the game, we'll be facing a long and increasingly improbable parade of assassins who are trying to collect the gradually-increasing bounty - and they'll usually show up after boss fights and at inns, so right when we really don't want to face another fight. Assassins are jerks.

    We continue, now that the path is clear.


    Screenshot

    Almost clear. Jopi here stops us for some mandatory exposition, just in case we haven't heard about the Iron Crisis yet. The Sword Coast is in a bad place right now.

    Khalid and Jaheira are waiting for us by the bar.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    So. Some aspects of Baldur's Gate are very... let's say basic, and in some places it's showing its age. For instance: You don't really have a conversation with Khalid and Jaheira. You don't get to ask them about how they knew Gorion, or why a gigantic dude in very evil armour would be trying to kill you. They provide a little bit of exposition, some fairly thin characterisation, and a plot hook and that's it for now. You do have to remember that Baldur's Gate was released in 1998, during a time when the western RPG was essentially dead, and that it almost single-handedly ended that drought period. There really wasn't anything else to measure Baldur's Gate against.

    (Of course, Planescape Torment was released in 1999 and Deus Ex in 2000. The "fair for its day" argument only goes so far.)

    Anyway, Khalid and Jaheira have joined the party!


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Jaheira will be our main source of divine magic for the remainder of the series. Back in AD&D, druids absolutely had to be True Neutral, but she essentially acts like she's Neutral Good. Her stats are solid, though 14 WIS is low for a divine spellcaster and 15 STR isn't ideal for a frontline fighter. That 17 CON is very nice, though, and she has a good class combination.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Let none say that Athans is the only one to drop extremely obvious hints. At least the biographies are a little out of the way.

    Khalid is a dirty coward but a decent fighter, with a slightly odd stat distribution. He has excellent CON and DEX but very low STR for a frontline fighter, and he has a hidden morale debuff too (meaning he's likely to panic). Ah well, that's what magic items are for. Low CHA and WIS are to be expected, though 12 INT is a tad wasted on a single-class fighter.

    Also, it should be noted that Khalid and Jaheira are part of BG1's canon party (as established in BG2). Athans includes the two of them but not Imoen, Minsc or Dynaheir for a round score of 40%.


    Screenshot

    We do a little shopping and get completely drunk. Next stop: Nashkel!


    Spoiler: Comparison and commentary
    Show

    So, here's something I noticed: In the novels, the narrative bends over backwards to make things easier for Abdel. Compare the two scenes at the Inn. CHARNAME arrives having just barely gotteb away with their life. The Friendly Arms represents safety, shelter perhaps, but just as you get inside, you're ambushed again, by a much more competent assassin than before. You overcome him, but he's carrying a note that establishes your mysterious enemy is being very serious about killing you. There is no shelter - you have no option but to continue running because a moving target is harder to hit.

    Abdel, on the other hand, would have been free to get drunk in peace. Yeah, he gets caught up in a bar brawl twice, but the guards would've taken care of it for him. The "dirty, vile-smelling commoner" is clearly no threat to him. Escalating the violence for no real reason was Abdel's choice. Xzar and Montaron work for Sarevok but they're clearly not out to harm Abdel (yet.) While he was attacked as well, the assassins are more of a nebulous background problem for Abdel, while they are an immediate and urgent threat for CHARNAME.

    And then there's the foreshadowing. I mean... there are reasons to not believe book!Xzar here. The mage is making an extraordinary claim without presenting any evidence, and while he's mostly lucid, he acts rather disturbed (and disturbing). Even with the coincidence of Gorion also carrying some prophecy about Bhaal, and the further coincidences of both Montaron and Khalid reacting very strongly to the name, it's somewhat plausible to dismiss the claims.

    I just still don't know what the point of this is. Abdel never revisits this moment. Abdel never thinks back, musing that he needs to pay more attention. The scene will get a very brief nod later, when Abdel finally has to accept the whole demigod thing, but that's it. Of course, as I noted above, it's difficult to write around the plot twist. The readers know something that Abdel doesn't, something that Abdel can't learn for a while because of plot reasons, and bringing it up in a way that doesn't make Abdel look stupid is hard.*

    So how do you handle this? Well, how about just not bringing it up in the first place? The game, it should be noted, does not do this. There's some incidental mentioning of Bhaal mythology - the singers in Candlekeep, for example - but it's never quite as on-the-nose as this. The novels constantly note that Abdel loves killing, and a ton of characters react strangely to mentions of Bhaal, but nothing ever comes of it. This is why I find Abdel such a frustrating character. I feel he would be much more interesting if he was a little more introspective, had a little more initiative of his own, but as it is, he's just being dragged around by the plot.

    * A common way to handle this is to mislead the audience - Abdel would turn out to be a fake protagonist, while the actual CHARNAME stand-in would turn out to be someone else (e. g. Imoen). I would've loved that, but I guess it's probably a little too high-concept for this kind of fiction.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Australia

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Many a party-wipe has been had at the hands of Tarnesh. Imoen plugging him with an arrow, or Xzar putting a spell into him, to disrupt mirror image and again to nullify horror are the only methods I ever found remotely reliable at surviving that mess.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Drasius View Post
    Many a party-wipe has been had at the hands of Tarnesh. Imoen plugging him with an arrow, or Xzar putting a spell into him, to disrupt mirror image and again to nullify horror are the only methods I ever found remotely reliable at surviving that mess.
    See that Wand of Magic Missiles Imoen gets?

    Ever wonder why?

    Tarnesh is why.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Australia

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    See that Wand of Magic Missiles Imoen gets?

    Ever wonder why?

    Tarnesh is why.
    Like I said, Xzar putting a spell into him. You're SOL if you don't have a mage (I run a PC Mage more often than not so I'm usually fine), but then Imoen has her bow and that's good enough fairly often.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Kish's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2004

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    The Wand of Magic Missiles isn't class-restricted (I'm surprised you didn't notice the lack of red highlighting when it's in Imoen's inventory). It does have an Intelligence requirement--I don't think Montaron could use it, for example--but Imoen can use it and unlike a bow, she can't miss with it.
    Spoiler
    Show
    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Drasius View Post
    Like I said, Xzar putting a spell into him. You're SOL if you don't have a mage (I run a PC Mage more often than not so I'm usually fine), but then Imoen has her bow and that's good enough fairly often.
    Equip the entire party with darts. 12 APR with 4 characters, even without proficiency, is more than enough to blow through his mirror image and interrupt his horror spell due to him having no AC.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Australia

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    The Wand of Magic Missiles isn't class-restricted (I'm surprised you didn't notice the lack of red highlighting when it's in Imoen's inventory). It does have an Intelligence requirement--I don't think Montaron could use it, for example--but Imoen can use it and unlike a bow, she can't miss with it.
    Well there you go. Shows how long it's been since I've played anything but a mage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Inarius View Post
    Equip the entire party with darts. 12 APR with 4 characters, even without proficiency, is more than enough to blow through his mirror image and interrupt his horror spell due to him having no AC.
    That's a great idea! I'll keep that in mind if I ever run a non-mage through again.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Inarius View Post
    Equip the entire party with darts. 12 APR with 4 characters, even without proficiency, is more than enough to blow through his mirror image and interrupt his horror spell due to him having no AC.
    I always want to try out darts and never do. This seems like a good (and rather hilarious) use for them.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Spore's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Waitwaitwaitwait, they took Sarevok's assassination OUT of the book? The MAIN and BEST reason for Abdel to find the murderer of his father and get revenge? Rather than that they insert a nameless mook and then have the audacity to make Gorion a cleric but not heal himself but his ward? I mean it makes poetical sense but jeez old man. Wouldn't it be more worthwhile for you to survive another day to....yannow, protect his stupid naive and uncharismatic guy until he is at least with SOME reliable companionship?

    Then they take Tarnesh and remove him for some ruffian? I mean they could have waited for Jaheira and Khalid to join and THEN tear the place to shreds. Ugh. Funnily enough I enjoy the idea of Xzar, Montaron, Khalid AND Jaheira sitting together on a fire. Just because Khalid and Xzar are such characters. :D
    Until further notice 21st of October, please DM me for important stuff, and let the game master control my characters

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Not exactly playing devil's advocate, but sort of:

    In my opinion, Abdel being a (sort-of) anti-hero with an unethical attitude and a murder fetish isn't in itself a bad decision. It's the writing which makes it look bad.

    Similarly, scoffing off a mad wizard who's saying you're the child of the God of Murder is a pretty normal response. Shouldn't be an issue if the execution wasn't bad.

    Also, the heavy handed allusions to Bhaal could work if the reveal is made not too far into the book. You can't just say that you're writing the book for the game's fans only. Many Forgotten Realms fans who haven't tried the game could have read it. Or plain normal fantasy fans too, if the book had been a success.

    The missed murder attempts are a pretty big loss, though.
    Last edited by Cespenar; 2017-02-20 at 06:00 AM.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    Waitwaitwaitwait, they took Sarevok's assassination OUT of the book?
    Yeah... like I said, the books bend over backwards to make things easier for Abdel. Sarevok, for some reason, is a very hands-off kind of villain in this book. You might think that Athans is playing up his smart and calculating side, but... well, you'll see.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cespenar View Post
    In my opinion, Abdel being a (sort-of) anti-hero with an unethical attitude and a murder fetish isn't in itself a bad decision. It's the writing which makes it look bad.
    Absolutely. My issue is with the execution, not the concept as such. Abdel as an ultraviolent good-is-not-nice type, Abdel as an amoral fighter who does what needs to be done, Abdel as an selfish mercenary who looks out for #1 and saves the world only to save himself... there are many potentially interesting options in this space. Abdel as a cosmic chewtoy with a wooden personality... yeah, I'm not a fan.

    Same for the heavy-handed allusions to Bhaal - the game also has these, but they're never that heavy-handed. For the record, in the book, the revelation occurs in chapter 22 out of 29, so there's plenty of time for it to become grating.

    ---

    So! Today's update. This one ran into some trouble; I apologise for the low quality of the screenshots in this one. If someone can recommend me something that's better than Camstudio or ActivePresenter, I'd be grateful. (Camstudio didn't work at all, ActivePresenter somehow managed to get two mouse cursors into about a third of the screenshots.)

    The book's fifth chapter is pretty short again, covering Team Abdel's journey to Nashkel and not much else. Although not much happens, this is one of the sections I actually like, all things considered. The game section is much longer than the book section this time, mostly because Athans skips everything not related to the main plot - including pretty much all of Beregost. The commentary section is mostly Deep Thoughts regarding videogames vs. novels; I'd love to hear your take on the issue.

    Spoiler: The book
    Show

    “We won’t be the only ones trying to help,” Jaheira told Abdel as they walked the seemingly endless miles to Nashkel.
    “I’d say not,” Montaron piped in.
    Jaheira spun on the stout halfling, obviously not appreciating this intrusion any more than she’d appreciated the numerous others from both Montaron and Xzar over the last seven and a half days.
    See, it'd be nice if we got to see tension building between Team Zhentarim and Team Harpers. On its own this is a bit limp. We'll see some more examples of intrusions soon, though, so it's not so bad.

    On Jaheira's next attempt to explain the plot, she gets as far as "an iron shortage might lead to war between my people and yours." Abdel interrupts her to as what she means by "your people" and clarifies he doesn't care about Baldur's Gate or Candlekeep too much. He continues talking to her because she's pretty, though.

    Abdel, Montaron, and Xzar were headed for Nashkel to seek work guarding the iron mines there. For Jaheira and Khalid, there seemed to be some more noble cause, and as much as the woman tried to turn Abdel’s heart to it, he just couldn’t understand her urgency.
    Jaheira continues to try (and fail) to convince Abdel to care while Montaron needles her.

    Jaheira spun on the halfling and spat, “What would you know of justice, thief?”
    Montaron’s eyes hardened for just a fraction of a second, and Jaheira took a step back. As if sensing the confrontation, Khalid stopped and turned but made no move to approach. Abdel kept his eyes on the halfling.
    “Easy, lass,” Montaron said, chuckling. “It’s all just business, ain’t it?”
    “And what business are you in, Montaron?” she asked.
    “If ye’re talkin’ about those purses at the Friendly Arms,” he said jovially, “maybe ye should thank me fer gettin’ the boy out o’ there.
    See, this sort of thing works so much better for showing intra-party conflict than just telling us that, oh yeah, there were confrontations.

    Xzar defuses the tension by shouting something about "sleep lightning" and everyone shrugs it off. The narrative skips Beregost outright (only noting the party enjoys sleeping in real beds for a change) and rejoins Abdel and company just outside Nashkel.

    Abdel didn’t know if it was good luck or bad that there seemed to be some kind of festival going on in a fallow field outside town. On their way south he’d heard nothing but bad news[.] (...) The image he’d formed of it in his mind had been one of desperate miners begging on the street, shops and other businesses closed, families loading carts to head for greener pastures, and the sort of morose drunkenness he’d seen in too many Sword Coast taverns. Instead the small town was alive with color.
    Abdel notes that there are Amnish soldiers in the street, but otherwise, there's little hint of trouble in town. Jaheira and Montaron continue setting each others' teeth on edge.

    “I know nothin’, girl,” Montaron told her, “less even than ye, if all this talk o’ war is true.”
    “Someone wants blood to spill in Baldur’s Gate and Amn,” Jaheira said, “that I know.”
    “An” what if it’s an Amnian wantin’ it, girl?” Montaron asked, a crafty look curling the side of his mouth. “Will ye be so dead set to stop it then?”
    Jaheira inhaled sharply and was about to say something when she stopped abruptly and turned on Abdel. He was trying not to laugh, and it showed.
    I think this is one of the places where the books offer a glance of a better plot. The gist of the conflict is that Montaron is actively gleeful about the opportunity to turn a profit: Abdel empathizes with the locals but is ultimately indifferent since war is just business; and Jaheira tries to make a moral argument. That's a perfectly plausible good-evil-neutral conflict and a great starting place for a theoretical Abdel’s character arc.

    This time, Khalid breaks in, suggesting they stay the night and head to the mines the next day. Abdel takes a moment to mull over situation and his companions for a while. Khalid (a "quiet serious type on a mission") and Montaron ("a crafty survivor"), he decides, are both a dime a dozen but Xzar is something of a puzzle ("mad and highly inteligent at the same time") and he's impressed with the way Jaheira moves.

    Abdel notes he really needs work, as he wants to earn his keep and isn't really comfortable with living on what Montaron can steal (and the fact that Montaron won't say whom he works for.) Abdel accepts the halfling's money all the same, though, and takes it to a potions merchant.

    He ends up buying two vials - a healing draught and some Netherese liquid fire. For once, what looks like foreshadowing actually is. We end the chapter on another decent note.

    Abdel laughed and came closer still. He asked about some of the other vials and heard tales no sane man would believe. There was something about this act of haggling with some over-cheerful merchant that settled Abdel. He’d been as taut of nerve the last tenday and a half as he’d ever been in his life. Everything had changed abruptly but still seemed to be moving so slowly.


    Spoiler: The game
    Show
    We're still hanging out at the Friendly Arm Inn for now. Why, you ask? Delicious sidequests, that's why! We're going south anyway, so we might as well pick these up.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Also, fun fact: The Friendly Arm Inn is run by a retired couple who both used to be adventurers, the Mirrorshades. The manual gives stats for them.


    Screenshot

    Bentley manages the Inn while Gellana here runs the local temple (dedicated to Garl Glittergold). Fun stuff. Anyway, we're done with the Inn for now, so we're off to the south.


    Screenshot

    The ogre with the belt fetish is hanging out in the unnamed map south of the Inn. He isn't super dangerous, but we're still first level. There's a real risk of him one-shotting an unlucky character, so I'm using a slightly cheesy strategy here: Have Jaheira cast Entangler and pick off the enemy with ranged weapons. Works like a charm.

    In case you're wondering, the ogre carries two unidentified magic belts. One is the quest item, the other is a Girdle of Feminity/Masculinity.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    On the way, we get some first-hand evidence of the bandits currently troubling the region. This, I should note, is something strangely absent in the books (up to this point at least).

    We make it to Beregost without further trouble. The city barely appears in the novels at all but screw it, I'm showing it off.


    Screenshot

    Our introduction is a little slice-of-life movie involving horrible CGI people. Look: It's the '90s.


    Screenshot

    Also, a friendly NPC tour guide! Beregost is the first real hub town we're encountering, much larger than the Inn, and BG 1 didn't have luxuries like map markers, so you should pay attention when you're given directions.


    Screenshot

    Night has fallen and we're thirsty from the road, so we head towards the affordable inn. On our way there, we're interrupted by another sidequest. As a matter of fact, we could use 300 gold, so we accept Garrick's request.


    Screenshot

    Silke, interestingly, has voice acting. This is something of a rarity in this game - most NPCs draw from a shared pool of generic voices. It usually means the character in question is important...


    Screenshot

    ... but Silke just turns out to be running a needlessly complicated robbery scheme. She's a mage, so, well, you know the drill: Interrupt her defensive spell, then do your best to kill her before she deals too much damage to your party. For now, the game is still nice enough to always have enemy mages start out next to your party without any backup.

    We get a gem and a potion from the merchants, but the real prize here is Silke's quarterstaff +1. Our first magic weapon!

    Garrick, for his part, is pretty okay with the death of his employer. (For the record, he's much less okay if you actually do side with Silke.)


    Screenshot


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    He's... I'll be honest, he's not great. 15 CHA on a bard is just sad, and the low CON means he's basically made out of tissue paper, so it's not like you can take advantage of the decent(ish) STR.

    Why am I bothering to show him off, then? Because Baldur's Gate, for whatever reason, has a lot of potential companions like this. They have mediocre stats and little to no plot relevance, which means nobody ever uses them. I think that's sad. Book!Abdel never comes close to having a full party, so I've decided I'll be showing off a roster of rotating "guest star" party members.

    Our first guest star in tow, we retired to the Red Sheaf Inn to-


    Screenshot

    - encounter another assassination attempt, it seems!

    After the world-ending Ironman-run-ruining roadblock that was Tarnesh, the difficulty of the assassins decreases to sane levels. They're stronger than the normal enemies you'd be encountering at this stage of the game, but manageable. Karlat in particular is just a fighter with nonmagical equipment (if a 5th-level fighter) and thus not a big problem.

    We rest until morning. Being adventurers, our next stop is the famous Thunder Hammer Smithy.


    Screenshot

    It has a bunch of merchants selling mundane items, as well as the confusingly Irish blacksmith Taerom Fuiruim.


    Screenshot

    Taerom and his smithy are pretty clear predecessors for Cromwell/Cespenar and the Adventurer Mart in the sequels: He has quite an inventory, including a +1 version of pretty much every weapon and shield around, which is notable because magic weapons can't break. He also carries some of the best (and most expensive) equipment in the game and can make a suit of Ankheg armour for you if you bring him the materials (and, again, a lot of gold).

    We can't really afford anything right now, but we'll certainly be back later. For now, we resume exploring.


    Screenshot

    Most of the buildings in Beregost are just random houses where the locals live. You can break in and steal small amounts of gold if that's your thing, but none of them are particularly interesting. With one exception.


    Screenshot

    Firebead Elvenhair lives in Beregost. Remember him? He sends us on a fetch quest for old time's sake. You can pick up the book for 2 GP at Feldepost's Inn (and some other places).


    Screenshot

    There's no monetary reward but the book he gives us in exchange is... interesting.


    Screenshot

    It's the History of the Dead Three, which is very, very long. It explains how Jergal (the Lawful Neutral ex-deity of strife, death and the dead) abdicated his position, which Bhaal, Bane and Myrkul then divided among themselves. See, this is a better type of foreshadowing: The circumstances clearly point to the book being important, but the game doesn't tell you why.


    Screenshot

    Also, CHARNAME gets a lovely character moment here. Aww, he's homesick.

    As a random aside: I actually remembered the encounter with Elvenhair a bit differently, with him asking about how CHARNAME is adapting to life outside Candlekeep and CHARNAME answering that it's kind of disturbingly large and rather short on books. It's possible this was added by one of the many later variants of Baldur's Gate - Tales of the Sword Coast, BGTutu, the Enhanced Edition or the German translation are all potential candidates. I might also be manufacturing the memory, though. BG's writing is very barebones in places, and it leaves a lot of work to your imagination. Does anyone else remember this or is this just me?

    ... anyway, there are a few more points of interest in Beregost. First up, Feldepost's Inn, the fancy hotel in town.


    Screenshot

    Once inside, a man named Marl tells us to get lost. Talking to him again causes him to become aggressive. You can just kill him ("pull an Abdel") but if you show some empathy, you can actually talk him down.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Poor guy. This does a good job driving home how dangerous a place the Sword Coast is becoming, though.


    Screenshot

    As for the Inn itself, it offers expensive rooms and also carries a few magic items we can't afford yet (but will come back for.) Keeping your ranged characters stocked up on magic ammo is kind of a pain and definitely beyond our budget for now.


    Screenshot

    Also, there's a merchant named Algernon on the upper floor. He's the owner of a magic cloak which gives you +2 CHA and gives you the ability to cast a Charm spell. It's supposed to be a once-a-day thing but, thanks to a coding error, is essentially usable at-will. It's technically part of a late-game sidequest, but if you know it's there, there's nothing keeping you from stealing it halfway through Chapter 1 and breaking the game clean in half. Ahh, Baldur's Gate. (I do take it, but only for the CHA boost.)

    Next up is clearing out the spider house.


    Screenshot

    You can recognise it by the fence. The first time I played this game, I somehow missed the quest and randomly wandered into a group of murder death spides while exploring. Ahh, Baldur’s Gate.


    Screenshot

    These... yeah, these are pretty big. I think this encounter scales with your level - at least it does in some versions of the game. Even the 'easiest' fight involves four giant spiders, though. They're fast, they hit like a truck, they have a decent amount of HP. They'll poison you if you fail your saving throw, and we don't have access to the Slow Poison spell yet (we also don't get antidotes from Landrin becaues our Reaction score sucks). They also start out too close to the entrance for the Entangler trick to work. We could leave this quest for later and pick up a crowd control spell first, which would probably be smart.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Frequently running outside to toss Cure Light Wounds at people also works, though.


    Screenshot

    We take the spider body as well as the boots and the bottle of wine back to Landrin. We get some gold, as well as delicious XP.


    Screenshot

    Unshey's reward is extremely not worth it. The Girdle of Piercing is actually kind of useful to have in the Nashkel mines, and it sells for more than Unshey pays you. But hey, XP.

    There's more to be done at the Inn, but we'll leave that for later. For now, we should probably continue the main quest and finally actually go to Nashkel.


    Screenshot

    There are a few more random encounters on the way, including a pair of ogrillons. They're pretty dangerous at this point in the game (just look at poor Khalid) but the Entangler trick makes short work of them. One of the ogrillons carries a letter.


    Screenshot

    Poor halfling. This is actually part of another sidequest in Beregost (Mirianne's Husband), which we'll turn in later when we're going back north.

    Eventually, we make it to Nashkel. Like Beregost, we get a fairly cheerful introductory cutscene showing some rural village living. The camera then pans back a little, and the music turns sinister as the source of the local troubles is foreshadowed...


    Screenshot

    Well, not so much "foreshadowed" as "outright revealed as kobolds" but it never really was much of a secret. In this edition of AD&D, kobolds are technically supposed to be yappy little dog-lizards, but the ones in Baldur’s Gate already kinda look like today's yappy little dragon-lizards.


    Screenshot

    Having entered Nashkel, we are now officially in Chapter Two. The game calls itself out on a problem with the plot here - if you didn't join up with Xzar/Montaron or Jaheira/Khalid, there's relatively little narrative reason for CHARNAME to go to Nashkel. I'll talk about this in the comparison and commentary section below.

    Anyway, Nashkel is a tiny hamlet full of - and I mean full of - Amnish soldiers. One of them stops us as we cross the bridge into town to fill us in on local events.


    Screenshot

    Seems Nashkel isn't doing well. The mayor, Berrun Ghastkill, confirms as much. (This game has great names.)


    Screenshot

    Tainted iron, vanishing workers, bandit raids... I should note there are guards in the mines but they're spread too thin to really help. It makes perfect sense that Berrun would be putting out the call for mercenaries to see if they can do something.

    But that's for the next update. First, we have a carnival to check out! We'll just catch some shut-eye first so we're nice and rested before-


    Screenshot

    - oh come on you cannot be serious.


    Screenshot

    Neira is our next assassin. She's more dangerous than Karlat, being a cleric with access to annoying spells like Hold Person, but she's no Tarnesh. The bounty notice she carries does note that our bounty has been bumped up to 680 pieces of gold. Yay(?)

    Okay, second attempt: We'll just catch some shut-eye and then visit the carnival, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

    And what a carnival it is.


    Screenshot

    Nashkel has clowns!


    Screenshot

    Nashkel has gambling!


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Nashkel has hostage-takers!


    Screenshot

    Nashkel has scam artists! (Though the red and violet potions are actually kind of cool in concept and you can sell them for profit once identified.)


    Screenshot

    Nashkel has exploding ogres!


    Screenshot

    Nashkel has... a victim of a flesh-to-stone spell on display, as well as a guy who sells extremely overpriced stone-to-flesh scrolls. Not cool, Nashkel. Luckily, we came prepared.


    Screenshot

    Branwen here is going to replace Garrick in the guest star slot. (It's okay, he doesn't mind.)


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    In terms of stats she's pretty middle-of-the-road, but an additional divine spellcaster will be very useful in the mines. Also, she gets to cast Spiritual Hammer as a special ability, which is nice to have. Her involvement with a mage named Tranzig means she's slightly plot-relevant, too.

    Anyway, back to the carnival.


    Screenshot

    Nashkel has drugs!


    Spoiler: Comparison and commentary
    Show

    So I kind of struggled to find something to talk about in the Commentary section because the game and the book cover very different material, and nothing plot-critical happens in either. Having given the issue some thought, though, I feel like that's worth discussing in itself. There are some challenges inherent in trying to translate a work from one medium into another, and it kind of shows in this chapter.

    Baldur’s Gate, as a game, isn't wholly linear. There's a main plot, a series of mandatory quests you have to do in order for the story to progress. However, everything that's not part of the critical path can be done in any order you like - or, if you prefer, it can be ignored. Optional bits of content often provide interesting plot details or character-building moments, though, and whether you engage them or ignore them can change the whole experience. You can play through the BG series without ever adding a companion to your party or doing a sidequest, but the result is a much poorer experience since you miss all the fun worldbuilding and party interaction bits.

    So what does this mean for the novel adaptation? Barring some weird experimental fiction and corner cases like choose-your-own-adventure stories, books are inherently linear and feature no audience participation. When you re-read a novel, the same events are always going to unfold every time. Novels also rarely contain "optional" sections. Subtle worldbuilding (or the inclusion of non-plot-relevant details) is still possible in novels, of course, but it looks very different.

    On the other hand, due to the linearity of the medium, novels generally have much better pacing (and often more complex stories in general). Running around finding boots for gnomes is fun and all, but it completely kills the plot's momentum. You also don't have to work around the player. In a game like Baldur's Gate, you have to at least sort of support a spectrum of plausible motivations if you don't want the player to feel railroaded; as the author of a novel, you decide what motivates the characters and you can ensure their actions fit their motivations.

    For example, the game acknowledges that there's no reason to suspect the trouble in the mines is related to your own trouble, but hey, might as well, right? This is probably the weakest part of the plot. If you added Xzar/Montaron or Jaheira/Khalid to your party, well, they have a motive to go to Nashkel and they'll drag you there if need be, but you are completely free to ignore them. You'll eventually have to go to Nashkel because you-the-player run out of other things to do, but that's not an in-universe motivation.

    Of course, you can still get videogames with excellent pacing and badly-written novels with railroad plots. But it's important to acknowledge that going from a game to a novel is an act of translation.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Apologies for the double post. I want to keep each update in its own post.

    I'm still fighting with my IT equipment, which - unfortunately - means the screenshots in this update and the next will also be rather low-res. Still looking for a free recording program that actually works. Also, I gave up trying to make the custom canon portrait work. Marvel at the production values on display here.

    The book's sixth chapter (out of 29) finally brings us to the Nashkel mines, and I'm starting to think the chapter-by-chapter approach might not be the best way to handle things since I often find myself wanting to discuss things but having to push them off into a future update. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts (assuming anyone is still reading the thread ).

    Spoiler: The game
    Show

    Since we're officially in the second chapter now, we have a strange dream the next time we go to sleep.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Spoiler alert: This is our Bhaal essence awakening. There is a 'good' and an 'evil' version of each dream, which respectively have you resist or give in to your darker impulses. I think they're based on Reputation; ours is just barely positive so we receive the good version of the first dream. (If you haven't seen them yet, by the way, be sure to take a moment and check out the evil dreams. They're really interesting to compare to the good versions.)

    At the end of each dream, we receive a minor power - in this case, Cure Light Wounds or Larloch's Minor Drain. Both are useful (especially as the casting time is 0), but evil characters get kinda shafted, because CLW is better.

    Once we wake up again, it's time to make our way to the mines. Well, the map, anyway, we still have a little more faffing about to do.


    Screenshot

    There's a house on top of the map that's full of war dogs. Yeah, I don't know either.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    They're slightly dangerous, since we're still low-level and I neglected to pick up any crowd control spells other than Entangler, but our party makes short work of them. There's a little bit of gold in there, and a healing potion hidden in a barrel. Score! Our party was injured in the process, but it's nothing a quick eight-hour rest can't fix.


    Screenshot

    More importantly, there is a sidequest waiting for us tucked away in the lower left corner of the map.


    Screenshot

    Prism here is a local sculptor who went a little, ah, unhinged after returning from his recent travels. There's a bounty on his head because he stole some emeralds, which we're nominally here to collect...


    Screenshot

    ... but the branch where you instead to agree to defend him is much more interesting.


    Screenshot

    Greywolf here also gets some voice acting of his own. Specifically, the line "None cross Greywolf and live!"

    I'm getting the impression the developers had a lot of fun with this character.

    Greywolf is something of a bonus boss, since this is a rather out-of-the-way encounter. As a 7th level figher, he's pretty dangerous, especially for this stage of the game. He doesn't do anything too special, having no potions, ranged weapons or backup, but he hits like a truck, has a lot of health and starts out right next to your party.


    Screenshot

    After four or five attempts, though, he fails his saving throw against Entangler without quite one-shot-killing a party member first.


    Screenshot

    We don't quite manage to kill him before Entangler wears off, but he's wounded badly enough that we can finish him off.


    Screenshot

    Prism finishes his sculpture, then collapses of exhaustion. He still has the emeralds on his corpse (which we can take back to Nashkel for a small reeward), so... they weren't actually necessary? Or is the implication you pried them out of the statue, thereby ruining it? I don't know. Either way, we get +1 Reputation for letting Prism finish his work.


    Screenshot

    The real prize here is Greywolf's weapon, a +2 longsword. It's the best weapon we have so far, and CHARNAME will be using it for the rest of the game. I'd say it's a little bit weird to find equipment this powerful so early in the game, but really, this is nothing compared to the Ring of Wizardry hidden on the Friendly Arm Inn map. Baldur's Gate has powerful magic items in the most random places.

    Alright, now it's time to head for the mines. Step one is talking to the mine boss, who is waiting near the bottom of that pit.


    Screenshot

    Emerson reluctantly gives us permission. (As CHARNAME speculates in their journal, nothing happens if you take longer than one day. Emerson is just trying to discourage us.)


    Screenshot

    There are a few miners milling about outside. They don't really tell us anything we don't know yet, just complaining that the mines aren't safe and the iron seems tainted. As an aside: I never understood why all miners in this game use the beggar sprite. It's weird. Is Emerson in charge because he's the only one who owns a shirt?


    Screenshot

    Yeah, that's encouraging, thanks. Well, let's see what's going on inside.


    Screenshot

    Little demons, huh?


    Screenshot

    I walked into that one, didn't I.


    Screenshot

    At least we pick up a sidequest elsewhere. Oh glorious day!

    Anyway, the miners (and guards) on this level aren't particularly helpful.


    Screenshot

    The upper level of the mines is relatively safe, but everyone seems scared of going deeper. Of course, because everyone is just hiding up here and jumping at shadows, nobody has any idea what's actually going on below.


    Screenshot

    The tension appears to be taking its toll on the locals.


    Screenshot

    Just listen to this poor guy. Dogs with swords, pff, right.


    Screenshot

    We do learn that there are two main problems: The ore is bad, and miners keep vanishing.


    Screenshot

    Digging through one of the mining carts, we can at least confirm the former.


    Screenshot

    The ore is coated with... something... it isn't supposed to be coated in. Detective work! Anyway, since the mine carts are coming up from the deeper parts of the mine, we'll have to continue our investigation there.


    Screenshot

    The mines are rather labyrinthine, but you'll find the tunnel eventually. The Nashkel mines are one of the places where Baldur's Gate's bad pathfinding really becomes annoying since the tunnels are so narrow. You'll have to experiment to make sure your characters don't block each other off. I like using the T formation for this section.

    ... I am so sorry about the compression here. The game doesn't look quite this bad, I swear.


    Screenshot

    I'll cut things off here so CHARNAME doesn't end up running too far ahead of Abdel, but things are about to get exciting. Let's see if we can get to the bottom of this mystery.


    Spoiler: The book
    Show

    Abdel and company are currently camping near what Montaron claims is a shortcut, and are drinking what he claims is lucky ale.

    “Oh, please, girl,” Montaron whined, “I ain’t gonna poison ye, fer Urogalan’s sake.” Jaheira only grunted in response, but Khalid reached for the wineskin the halfling was offering.
    Urogalan is apparently the halfling god of death. Fitting, I suppose.

    Xzar and Abdel drink up, and so do Khalid and Jaheira (after waiting to see if any of the first two drop dead.) After a short walk, the group comes to a field of odd black flowers.

    Abdel never noticed things like flowers, there was something about these that struck him as strange. They were all so alike, and there were so many of them, and there was something about them that just seemed out of place. (...) “Follow me very carefully, all,” Montaron said, his voice low and serious. (...) He was leading them through the field of flowers in a twisting, nonsensical path.
    The flowers, of course, turn out to be poisonous. The party finds a once-pretty ruin of a farmhouse in the center of the field, as well as a dead soldier. This whole section is a relatively subtle allusion to Abdel's true nature and one I actually really like. Having a supernatural sense for dangerous things makes perfect sense as a minor Bhaalspawn power.

    (Also, Montaron steals a keyring from the dead soldier and Abdel steals it from Montaron.)

    There's another mid-chapter cut as the narrative jumps ahead to the mines, then backtracks to explain how we got here. I'm starting to form the impression that Athans just isn't comfortable doing scene transitions. At least we finally get an impression of the troubles affecting Nashkel:

    The miners gave them only a passing glance, and Abdel’s odd little party made their way against a flow of dirty, obviously unhappy men to the edge of the pit. (...) When they had first arrived at the pit, Emerson, the mine boss, had reached into an ore cart and produced a fist-size lump of gray-brown rock. He squeezed it, and it crumbled to dust.
    See, this is what people mean when they say to show rather than tell. This is definitely a step in the right direct-

    The miners who had been standing around the cart looked no happier than their foreman, but their faces were also tainted by the unmistakable look of panic. That dust was once their sole livelihood.
    -oh. As you were, then.

    Is panic really the appropriate emotion here? This isn't a recent development, and you can't really keep panic up over a long period of time. Emerson's mixture of disgust and resignation feels about right, though.

    Back in the present, Montaron and Jaheira squabble over the issue of payment. Jaheira argues that the mine means life to Nashkel, and that that's more important than getting paid. Montaron responds that, yes, exactly, the mine means life to Nashkel; that's why they'll pay a lot for the investigation. The argument doesn't really go anywhere. Xzar charges ahead and starts demanding they go down a specific path in a really suspeicious way.

    “This way,” Xzar said, louder than Abdel had ever heard him say anything. “This way, yes? This way.” (...)
    “How do you know these tunnels?” Khalid asked, taking a threatening step forward.
    Abdel looked at Montaron, curious to hear the answer. “My friend ‘ere is a mage,” the halfling offered, “an’ as such is... sensitive to this kind o’ thing, eh?”
    “What kind of thing?” asked Jaheira. “Poisoning iron mines?”
    “Poisoning iron?” Abdel had to ask. “How could such a silly thing be done?”
    “Ask your little friend here,” Khalid accused.
    Don’t be afraid to use said; lovely word, won’t bite, usually more fitting than whatever trendy verb you’re using in its place. You may have heard to avoid said because it’s so bland and boring, but that’s actually its greatest strength. Nonstandard speech verbs stick out; they’re used for emphasis, when how something is said is important to the story and you want the reader to stop and take notice. If you use that emphasis for every single line, the reader will become oversaturated, lessening the impact when you actually do want emphasis on- ahem.

    Khalid accuses Montaron, and Montaron in turn accuses Jaheira and Khalid of being Amnian agents. Xzar, apparently not interested in the argument, just casts a light spell and runs down the tunnel.

    The flash of reflected light drew Abdel’s attention to a small silver vial on the tunnel floor. Xzar took it between thumb and index
    finger and picked it up slowly, gingerly, as if he were lifting a dead mouse from a trap. “Amnian,” Xzar said, holding the vial out to Abdel, “yes?” (...) “Amnian treachery,” Montaron spat, and even Abdel could see the hafling was over selling the point. “Ye saw the vial, Abdel, just like the one ye bought from the vendor in Nash—“ and the halfling stopped abruptly and looked at Abdel. “What vial I bought in Nashkel?” Abdel asked, his fingers tightening on the hilt of his sword.
    "Even Abdel." Tee hee. Note that this confirms that Abdel is supposed to be pretty dull. Doesn't make him more bearable as a protagonist, but at least it means his whole thing intentional.

    Everyone draws their weapons. Xzar readies a spell, and Khalid rushes him.

    Khalid was coming in with his sword, and just by instinct Abdel batted the blade away and sliced back. He felt his blade sink into the Amnian’s midsection.
    Khalid drops to the floor, heavily wounded. Xzar blinds everyone with a flash of light, causing Abdel and Montaron to also fall down. Abdel loses his dagger in the process. Jaheira makes her saving throw and runs away, with Montaron and Abdel giving chase once they recover.

    As the footsteps of the halfling and the big sellsword faded into the echoing distance of the dark mine, Xzar bent and retrieved the heavy silver dagger. (...) “Yes,” the mage muttered to himself, “yes, so far, yes.”


    Spoiler: Comparison and commentary
    Show

    Oh boy. This chapter.

    This is usually the first example of canon defilement people point to when discussing the novels. In the novels, Jaheira is... well, I hate to link to TVTropes twice within the same paragraph, but her faux action girl traits are on full display here. The narrative tries to talk up her warrior traits, now and then, when it remembers to, but she never actually does anything. She doesn't try to intervene, she doesn't try to defend herself or Khalid, she just runs away.

    There's a lot to unpack here, including a few things that reflect on Abdel's own inconsistent characterisation. This'll all come to a head in the next two chapters, though, so I'll be going into more detail there. Something I'll note, though, is that the narrative again bends over backwards to make sure Abdel doesn't have to do any actual work investigating the mines (Xzar literally shoves the answer to the mine's plight in his face).

    As a little aside, "kobolds poisoning iron ore" is an actual mythological trope! European mythology distinguished between several different types of kobold, running the spectrum from helpful (heinzelmännchen) to benevolent-but-severe (klabautermann) to useful-but-mischievous (domestic kobolds) to outright malevolent (Old Nick). Mine kobolds, in particular, were always evil and always jerks. In addition to stealing tools and causing cave-ins, they'd lead miners towards what would look like rich veins of iron or silver, but the metal would turn out brittle, worthless and give off toxic fumes when smelted. That's actually why cobalt is called that - it was originally thought by superstitious miners to be ore poisoned by kobolds. When it was discovered to actually be its own element, rather than silver spat on by kobolds, it was given a name referencing those legends.

    This was a widespread belief, too. In fact, Georg Bauer, one of the authorities on mining, geography and mineralogy, also wrote a book entitled "De animantibus subterraneis liber: On the basilisk and the dragon."

    I've always wondered if the Nashkel mines were a knowing reference or not.

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Kish's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2004

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Entangle, btw. Not Entangler.
    Spoiler
    Show
    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Orc in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Cloud cuckoo land
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Worry not, your readers do exist! I'm guessing you got tired of Abdel's portrait being uncooperative, since you swapped for one of the defaults.
    I am a Neutral Good Elf Druid/Wizard

    : "Disintegrate. Gust of wind. Now can we please resume saving the world?"
    : "Your approval fills me with shame."
    Never, EVER pick up a duck in a dungeon!

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    Entangle, btw. Not Entangler.
    Oops, you're right. I think it's Verstricker in the German version which I played growing up... or maybe I misread it back then too. Entirely possible. Apologies!

    Quote Originally Posted by Syldar View Post
    Worry not, your readers do exist! I'm guessing you got tired of Abdel's portrait being uncooperative, since you swapped for one of the defaults.
    Heh, good to hear there's some interest. I was a bit worried I'm shouting into the void, since we're currently in the dreary average part of the novels before it gets really good (read: bad). And yeah, I couldn't get the portrait to work. Either it wouldn't import, or it would import but be off-center, or it would import and look alright but corrupt my savegame. I finally gave up.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Not collecting the free Ankheg armour this playthrough then?

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Troll in the Playground
     
    JadedDM's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Washington, USA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Reading this kind of makes me want to play the game again. Which is probably a bad idea, because my backlog is so big right now.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Spore's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Yes I continue to read your journal and have decided to replay the game - though in the Enhanced Edition. So I got to make a CN Half-Orc Berserker that I made into a combat monster while staying very charismatic (what good is a divine heritage when you lack even demihuman power?).

    I follow the game's canonical group a bit closer (but I have switched Minsc and Dynaheir with Kivan and Neera) and pick up the options one would pick if you were an evil spirit brought up by a good man. So we thwarted Silke, met with Elvenhair in Beregost and picked up a few jobs to become stinking rich after clearing out the Nashkel Mines and decreasing the urgency. Daelan has a love/hate relationsship with arcane casters. In nightmares flashing before his eyes, Neera regularly almost kills the party (*sigh* reload) and enemy wizards are among the most difficult enemies. Dual wielding hammers is a dangerous hobby.

    I never remembered that the Cloakwood Mines is pretty much just a murder-spree of bandit NPCs. Fittingly Daelan never showed mercy and even mowed down bandits who plead for forgiveness. Davaeorn was a pretty trolly battle - and the first instance where I thought to myself that a solo run could have been easier. Disabling the traps with Imoen and then running as the only guy into Fireballs made his dimension dooring pretty trolly instead of an insanely smart tactics.
    Until further notice 21st of October, please DM me for important stuff, and let the game master control my characters

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    CozJa's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Italy
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Khay View Post
    Heh, good to hear there's some interest. I was a bit worried I'm shouting into the void, since we're currently in the dreary average part of the novels before it gets really good (read: bad). And yeah, I couldn't get the portrait to work. Either it wouldn't import, or it would import but be off-center, or it would import and look alright but corrupt my savegame. I finally gave up.
    Reading all your posts with interest! I never got to read the novels, and I'm happy to see how lucky I've been
    Does this poster have a sign?

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Starbuck_II's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Enterprise, Alabama
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Khay View Post
    I always want to try out darts and never do. This seems like a good (and rather hilarious) use for them.
    Only trouble is they use all that space in your inventory/weight. But they are cheap and quick weapons.
    Even when they added in Expanded version of game, there is no infinite dart item (no modders made it either).

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Khay's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Not collecting the free Ankheg armour this playthrough then?
    Ehh, maybe. I'm not picking up most of the hidden "free" items since that always felt a little cheesy. I haven't yet decided how closely I'll follow the books in terms of party choice, but if I do end up replicating the book-canon party, I'll... probably need some cheese.

    Quote Originally Posted by JadedDM View Post
    Reading this kind of makes me want to play the game again. Which is probably a bad idea, because my backlog is so big right now.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    Yes I continue to read your journal and have decided to replay the game - though in the Enhanced Edition. So I got to make a CN Half-Orc Berserker that I made into a combat monster while staying very charismatic (what good is a divine heritage when you lack even demihuman power?).
    Haha, Baldur's Gate is one of those games people keep going back to. The first one especially has so much hidden weirdness going on, there's always something new to discover. (I'd recommend the Enhanced Edition, though, since BG I is really showing its age.)

    Quote Originally Posted by CozJa View Post
    Reading all your posts with interest! I never got to read the novels, and I'm happy to see how lucky I've been
    Oh, the worst parts are still ahead of us, trust me. The book rapidly goes downhill around the halfway point... and given where it started out, that's really saying something.

    -----

    On to today's update! This one really makes me wonder if Abdel might secretly be the son of the god of luck rather than murder.

    Spoiler: The book
    Show

    Jaheira has run off into the depths of the mine, unbothered by the darkness thanks to her keen (half-)elven senses. Abdel and Montaron are trying to chase her, becoming hopelessly lost in the process. They stop to catch their breath, and Abdel smells something halfway between wet dog and wet leather. That can only mean one thing:

    Montaron looked up, nodded, and peered into the darkness. (...) “Kobolds,” the halfling whispered.
    Kobolds are always good for some comic relief in D&D novels, and Athans delivers.

    One was obviously standing guard but wasn’t the first to see Abdel come around the corner. Abdel made eye contact with the one who was standing next to a small iron cart. The third kobold was standing on this one’s shoulders and was pouring something over the load of ore stacked in a jumble in the cart. The kobold on the bottom yelped — a rich, city-woman’s small dog’s yelp — and its knees buckled a little in fright or in the beginning of an attempt to run. The guard spun but not at Abdel. Instead the fool looked at its partner, who yelped again when Abdel cut the guard’s head off. (...) “Filthy beasts, eh kid?” Montaron commented, kicking the severed kobold head lightly[.] (...) Kobolds were tiny, doglike humanoids with proportionally huge, long-fingered hands, long, curved, pointed ears like a bat’s, and short, pointed horns like a lizard’s. Their wrinkled skin seemed orange in the torchlight but was probably brown.
    Abdel kills Larry and Curly but lets Moe get away. Montaron finds a broken bottle by the freshly contaminated ore and concludes that, well, maybe it was kobolds. Abdel considers it unlikely that the kobolds would be doing something like this on their own initiative, speculating that someone's probably paying them to do this. Montaron suggests Amn, and Abdel counters that it might be Baldur's Gate.

    Proving that the smart decision noted above was a fluke, Abdel spots another kobold and runs after it.

    There was a poodle yelp, and the thing turned and ran. Abdel didn’t hesitate this time but was off like a shot. He tried to track the kobold by sound mostly and seemed to do well. (...) Abdel had to assume that Montaron had been able to keep up and was becoming worried that he wouldn’t be able to retrace his steps back to the mine cart without the halfling.
    Montaron is, of course, not keeping up.

    This is such an obviously horrible idea, I wonder how Abdel survived working as a mercenary until now. I mean, come on. You're chasing a kobold through a twisty maze of dark tunnels that is the kobold's home territory. Abdel runs into a richly deserved ambush, but it turns out alright.

    The kobolds came at him from all sides, bursting into the tight radius of his torchlight from the impenetrable darkness beyond. (...) Occasionally one would get in a lucky cut. (...) Abdel took maybe a dozen little wounds, none of any consequence, and killed as many kobolds before the few that still lived exhausted their meager supply of courage and slipped back out of Abdel’s torchlight.
    Just shoot or throw things at him, you idiots, he can't see anything beyond the radius of- oh for Kurtulmak's sake...

    The odds don't favour Abdel, but let's not get into that here. No, let's get into that in the commentary section below.

    Once the kobolds are gone, Abdel becomes aware of a voice in the distance. It's too faint for him to make out any words, but he recognises the voice as belonging to Jaheira. Abdel, who has no experience navigating tunnels, runs off in a direction that seems likely. Once again, the inevitable happens:

    He rushed to the side and screamed, “Jaheira!” so loudly that the echoes masked the sound of the half a dozen kobolds who rushed him from behind.
    The things were no bigger than three feet tall, well under half Abdel’s height, and he certainly outweighed each by five or six times, but the six of them together were enough to push him forward that fraction of an inch that made falling into the pit impossible to avoid.
    Using the same word twice in one sentence. I guess the editor didn't have the time (inclination? ability?) to do a proper job either. Anyway, The fall knocks the wind out of Abdel but fails to break his neck. He fumbles with his torch as the kobolds fail to take shots at him, and, once he gets it relit, discovers the pit to have been a dungeon skip.

    When the torch finally caught Abdel saw that he was in an even larger chamber than the one above, and he was not alone.
    The smell of the man hit him at the same moment Abdel saw him, and the sellsword nearly gagged. The man was rushing at him with a club fashioned from a heavy tree branch. The attacker’s face was not entirely human and had the tell tale snoutlike nose and the nubs of tusks of a half-orc.
    It's Mulahey! Abdel slashes at the half-orc, fully expecing that to end the fight, but Mulahey parries with his club.

    The look in his porcine eyes was one of mute terror. The sight of it made Abdel pause and ask, “Who are you?”
    “I’m who Tazok sent you to kill!” the half-orc blurted. “You found Mulahey all right!”
    The sound of the man’s voice made Abdel really want to kill him.
    Aaaand that's all the reason Abdel needs! Mulahey barks (literally) some orders at the kobolds and Abdel starts swording at him.

    Mulahey was speaking, but Abdel didn’t hear him. He was killing the half-orc and whatever the smelly, evil thug had to say just didn’t figure into it. Abdel did notice the sound and the smell of Mulahey wetting his roughspun trousers.
    Yes, this was neccessary. Anyway, Mulahey dies and the chapter ends.


    Spoiler: The game
    Show

    We enter level two of the mines and things get real.


    Screenshot

    Never fear!

    As soon as dialogue ends, a group of kobolds with bows spawns (regardless of what you say) and attacks poor Beldin.


    Screenshot

    Intrestingly, Beldin's death is not actually scripted. If the kobolds miss on their attack rolls and you attack them quickly enough, Beldin escapes. You never see him again, but saving his life is still a feel-good moment.


    Screenshot

    Sadly, not everyone was this lucky. For some reason, the corpses use the standard "villager" NPC model whereas the living miners all use the "beggar" one. I never understood this.


    Screenshot

    The kobolds are usually placed such that they get two or three shots in before our melee fighters can reach them. Even at a THAC0 of 20 there's a good chance they'll get a hit in, and low-level characters are essentially made of tissue paper. Often there's a second group just in sight of the first one so you end up with running battles. It's not too hard, but the difficulty is certainly sloping upwards.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    We return Kylee's dagger to him and learn a little more about the situation. Apparently things get worse the further down you go. CHARNAME notes this isn't usual kobold behavior. Hmm.

    It's a little odd that neither Emerson nor the mayor seem to know about the kobold problem - or at least they don't tell you. I don't think there's any reason for this.


    Screenshot

    As you can see, the mines are pretty maze-like. I somehow manage to go down every tunnel but the correct one in the bottom right.


    Screenshot

    Let's just rest up real quick before we go on.


    Screenshot

    That's Joseph's Greenstone Ring on the ground there, part of a quest we, err, kind of missed. Oops. Oh well.


    Screenshot

    The third level of the mine is the first time in the game we're really encountering traps, and they're not messing around. We're lucky Jaheira survived that one. Let's... scout ahead with Montaron, shall we.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Oops.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    There, that's better. I'm leaving in that particular bit of failure because it illustrates nicely what happens when you get careless in the mines. Kobolds are weak individually, but there's a lot of them.

    Anyway, the third level has essentially been given up, so it's mostly traps and combat.


    Screenshot

    This bridge splits the level in two parts. We enter from the north and are trying to make our way to the south. Not only are there two traps on the bridge, but there's also a mob of enemies with ranged weapons beyond. In at least some versions of the game, these are multi-trigger traps. On your first playthrough, you'll send your party to attack the kobolds, hear about fifty "trap triggered" sounds, panic, send them back, and hear another fifty "trap triggered" sounds.

    Kobolds are jerks.


    Screenshot

    The area south of the bridge looks more like a natural cave system than a mine. There are some non-kobold enemies lurking here, notably spiders and ghouls. Be careful around those, the paralysis attack can really ruin your day.


    Screenshot

    Pictured: Jaheira's day being ruined. (Don't worry, she got out okay.)


    Screenshot

    This is also where we first encounter kobold commandos. They're stronger and tougher than regular kobolds, and also carry arrows of fire, making them well capable of killing a level 2 character with one shot.


    Screenshot

    We make it through after taking some significant damage. Also, Xzar is in melee in some of these screenshots and I cannot for the life of me figure out the reason why. I think he ran out of sling ammo?


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Fun fact: due to the way these traps are set up, if you have your rogue approach from the side, the first trap will be triggered and deal enough damage to reduce them to chunky salsa.

    I think we were supposed to pick up a vial of ore weakener on this level of the mines, but somehow I didn't end up with one. In vanilla BG, they're essentially flavour items that, ironically, look like vials of antidote.

    This brings us to the fourth level. It's essentially just a big open chamber with a rock house in the middle. That makes it much smaller than the first three levels...


    Screenshot

    ... but no less horrible.


    Screenshot

    Once again: If you're doing an Ironman run, kobold commandos are horrible.

    We (somehow) make it past without casualties and enter the mini-cave.


    Screenshot

    Thankfully, the only kobolds inside are the regular 7 EXP kind. We clear these out without trouble.


    Screenshot

    As soon as you step into the lavish room in the bottom right, Mulahey initiates dialogue. Or rather, he walks towards you. You should use that time to get in position, either in the room above Mulahey's or in Mulahey's room.


    Screenshot


    Screenshot

    Mulahey isn't in the mood to talk. (I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually matter what you say here.)


    Screenshot

    Mulahey is somewhat dangerous (being a Cleric with access to things like Hold Person) but not too dangerous. The tough boss fights are yet to come.


    Screenshot

    His big thing is that he summons minions (skeletons and kobolds) but unless you stand in the throne room's entrance like a fool, they probably won't affect the fight. Here we are cleaning them up after defeating Mulahey himself.


    Screenshot

    All that's left to do is clean out his throne room, free any prisoners he may have taken and figure out who this "Tazok" is... but we'll leave that for the next update.


    Spoiler: Comparison and commentary
    Show
    So, I mentioned before that the narrative bends over backwards to make things easier on Abdel. This chapter provides an excellent example: Abdel does nothing but running down tunnels essentially at random as space and time warp to ensure he reaches his destination.

    Abdel, who can't see anything and has no experience navigating tunnels, tries to chase after Jaheira and stops only when he's completely out of breath... which, coincidentally, happens to be in exactly the right spot to catch a group of ore poisoners in the act (they somehow didn't hear him coming.) Somehow, their little slapstick comedy act gives Jaheira enough time to be captured, subdued, transported to Mulahey and start yelling for help. (Strong! Female! Character!)

    Our valiant hero (who has no experience navigating tunnels of any sort) chases a kobold through unknown territory, in the dark, while leaving the rest of his party behind, but the inevitable ambush somehow fails to wound him. Taking the lesson to heart, he does the exact same thing again, and that time the ambush just so happens to actually lead to a dungeon skip. During his fight with Mulahey, Abdel outright refuses to process anything the guy is saying, without even stopping to wonder who "Tazok" may be. If Mulahey didn't keep his letters around, the plot would just end then and there. This is much less forgivable than not keeping one of the mercenaries from Chapter 1 alive - Abdel has no reason to be emotionally upset and Mulahey is enough of a coward that he can probably be intimidated into surrendering.

    In short: Abdel discovers the kobold-based iron poisoning plot and blunders into the person in charge through no real effort of his own. It's all pure dumb luck. This isn't a big writing sin if it happens occasionally - a lot of stories rely on lucky happenstance to work. Mulahey keeping his letters around is something that happens in the game as well. The problem is more with the sheer density of contrived coincidences working out in Abdel's favour.

    This looks especially bad because the mines require a careful and methodical approach in the game. It's nothing but twisty passages full of traps and murder lizards. It's not the most difficult dungeon in the game, but let me just put it this way: If you're doing an Iron Man run (i. e. no reloading if a character dies), you want to do a few sidequests first.

    Also, just throwing it out there: The novel isn't constrained by a need for gameplay (i. e. combat encounters). One of the letters we'll see next chapter chews out Mulahey for letting the kobolds kill miners, as that's what caused Nashkel to bring in mercenaries. It might've been cool if the kobolds really had been kept to a strictly nonlethal approach in the novel, so there'd be no reason for anyone to suspect foul play... except of course for Gorion, Khalid/Jaheira and Xzar/Montaron, due to their respective secret agendas. Abdel's group would've had to do a real investigation, something that goes beyond just following a trail of bodies. Throw in something about Abdel having a sixth sense for poison and toxins thanks to his divine heritage and you've got a stew going. Alas.

    It's sections like this that make Abdel feel like a deconstruction of an RPG protagonist. Abdel pretty much just does whatever he wants, as if he knows he has plot armour. He doesn't listen to exposition since he know it'll be repeated later, and he kills without hesistation as though he can see whether NPCs are flagged as essential or not. Also, note that Abdel's enemies always happen to be ugly and stinky so we know it's okay for him to kill them.

    In fact, I keep feeling there's something of a meta-story here. Imagine this is a pen-and-paper campaign with a dysfunctional group of players. Think about it - it explains everything. The inconsistent characterisation is clearly because of inexperienced players. The narrative twists and shifts whenever Abdel blunders straight past a plot hook because the GM has to make things work somehow. Whenever a player leaves, their character is unceremoniously killed off (uh, spoiler alert), with the exception of Jaheira, who was kept as an NPC because the group would otherwise be without a healer. She never does anything because the GM doesn't want to overshadow their players. We're seeing things from the perspective of Abdel's player, and the only reason the plot seems to revolve around him is because he's tuning out the sweet side stories everyone else gets. See? Perfectly sensible.

    I've definitely met players like Abdel. Wannabe munchkins who are uninterested in anything except for combat but without much rules knowledge, so unless you feed the group a constant stream of easy encounters, they become upset and spoil the mood for everyone. They really add nothing to the group but you can't kick them out because they're friends with someone else.

    Yes, I'm still bitter about high school.

    Anyway, this'll conclude today's update. Next time, we'll meet Xan, who resembles his game counterpart so little I wonder what the point of even including him was.

    (Also, this is neither here nor there, but Mulahey is a cleric in the game but shows no signs of having access to divine magic here. So that's another data point for this weird pattern of depowering magic users.)

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    By Bellevue, WA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read and also Play Baldur's Gate: Bhaal must be stopped!

    I recall being surprised that Abdel was included in the murder in Baldur's gate game. I can recall reading the novel and finding it terrible. Why not just make someone up following the story? It would have worked better, and then could have made it interesting.

    Knowing who it is, means it is way more likely for players to be glad to watch the character perish.

    Is it possible to actually make it through the game, if you play as terribly stupid as Abdel is? (I think Abdel must have a serious penalty to intelligence, like having a 5 or 6 at most. Such a stupid guy.

    Enjoy what you are doing, and get why the book is considered so terrible. And not Canon
    Blog Read and Comment! I use green for joking and Blue for sarcasm.
    Published two Kindle Books on Amazon, both are 99 cents. Ask Me about them!
    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Wookiee. 2 E's. [I am obsessed with this]
    My First Let's Play -- Temporary Haitus (I plan to get back to it eventually)

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •