Official Codex Discord Server

  1. Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.
    Dismiss Notice

Completed Let's Solo Icewind Dale EE on Insane + Heart of Fury + Ironman!

Discussion in 'Codex Playground' started by Kayerts, Jan 16, 2015.

  1. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    What's this LP?

    Icewind Dale is a game with cool atmosphere, but it is way too easy when played with anything resembling reasonable settings. The plan here is to LP it with a variety of unreasonable settings to make it more interesting.

    Ironman? Isn't this game kinda long, and aren't there a lot of instadeath effects in the Infinity Engine games?
    Show Spoiler

    Yes. There are even more instadeath effects for a solo player; e.g., charm and feeblemind effects end the game, and most paralysis effects are also effectively lethal due to their duration.


    How will you handle deaths?
    Show Spoiler

    Angrily.


    What are you doing to make the game harder?
    Show Spoiler

    I'm using what I think are the hardest possible settings:

    Insane difficulty: All incoming damage is doubled, characters get 2x XP from killing enemies(no, I can't change that). Despite the added XP, this does make the game considerably more difficult.

    Heart of Fury: All enemies get 80 + 3x HP, -11 AC, -5 THAC0, -5 to all saving throws, +1 attack per round, and give 4x + 2000 XP (still can't do anything about that). Again, despite the added XP, it makes the game much more difficult.

    Ironman: If I die, I restart from the beginning. No reloading!

    Solo: Only one character. Improves character progression speed at the cost of power. Arguably not a challenge in view of the other constraints, since ironman gaming is usually more about limiting your vulnerabilities than killing things faster.

    Playing straightforwardly, this would reliably get me killed while barely scratching the first monster I'd fight, so this isn't going to be a very straightforward run-through.

    If there's anything I'm missing (mods or otherwise), let me know!


    Things I might do to make the game easier:
    Show Spoiler

    I'm told Enhanced Edition adds a Bag of Holding; I might make it bottomless. It's not needed, but I don't think inventory management is an interesting difficulty layer in this game.


    What tactics are too cheap for you to use?
    Show Spoiler

    None of them! Although I try to steer clear of things that are clearly engine abuse. E.g., using tricks to duplicate consumables is not something I'll do, but stacking buffs in unanticipated ways or doing things that the AI can't deal with are fine by me. If you want me to avoid a specific tactic, temporarily or otherwise, say so.


    How will this LP work?

    Show Spoiler

    The first two-thirds of the game are hellaciously linear, and as such, don't allow for a lot of high-level decision-making. This makes audience participation hard, so, feel free to shout additional challenges at me. I'll ignore them if they're overly unreasonable! "Don't use equipment while fighting in Lower Dorn's Deep!" or "Start Trials of the Luremaster at level 6!" will probably be rejected. "Don't use spells S-P / items I-K / tactics T-V for the next update" or "kill the next named enemy with your bare hands!" have a better chance of being accepted.

    This is the first choice I'm going to have you make, but it's also the most important one: which class should my one character be?

    I probably prefer a triple class because it stretches out the interesting portion of a solo run, but if anyone wants to argue for another option, I'm listening.

    A. Fighter/Mage/Thief (early game will be guerilla warfare and detail my cunning plots to assassinate the terrifying juggernaut menacing Easthaven: Generic Goblin #7)
    B. Fighter/Mage/Cleric (early game will be The Adventures of Skeletons and Zombies, with a special cameo from our character! probably my preference)
    C. Other (specify, and make an argument for why this is interesting and not merely sadistic)


    UPDATES:

    THE PATH OF SUFFERING:

    I. PROPHET OF SUFFERING
    II. GENERAL OF THE UNDERWORLD
    III. STEALER OF SECRETS
    IV. SUFFER NOT
    V. O, THE WILD CHARGE HE MADE!

    Interlude: Strange Aeons

    THE PATH OF SHADOWS:
    Catchup updates:
    VI. BRINGER OF SHADOWS
    VII. DEEPER SHADOWS
    New territory:
    VIII. TRIAL BY ORDEAL
    IX. THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES
    X. A TALE OF TWO SUFFERERS
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
    • Brofist Brofist x 9
    ^ Top  
  2. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2011
    Messages:
    5,296
    Location:
    The Desert Wasteland
    May God have mercy upon your soul. :salute:
     
    ^ Top  
  3. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    10,655
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Godspeed.

    My own Ironman attempt ended up with about 4 deaths, but it is certainly doable.

    Item management is hell, though, go for that Bag of Holding if only to spare yourself the trips back and forth between the dungeons and merchants.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2015
    ^ Top  
  4. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2004
    Messages:
    7,807
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    This cannot end well..
     
    ^ Top  
  5. Ulminati Kamelåså! Patron

    Self-Ejected
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    Messages:
    20,233
    Location:
    DiNMRK
    I'd suggest dumping ironman. I'd rather see a completed let's play than retreading the first parts a dozen times followed by abandonment.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  6. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    10,655
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    I imagine if he can get through Dragon's Eye (chapter 3), he can get through anything else the game can throw at him at these levels.

    And that's not that too far away.
     
    ^ Top  
  7. MotherMachinae Arcane

    MotherMachinae
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,866,332
    Location:
    In the court of Atomic Rooster
    Yey, now I can see all these item exclusive for HoF.
    If you survive...
    Show Spoiler
    which won't happen. Srsy, ironman is not compatible with HoF.


    IB4 abandnoned on 1st page.
     
    ^ Top  
  8. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    Fear not, friends, I have a cunning plan. I don't know if it's viable, but it certainly is cunning.

    You're thinking of IWD2, which adds enhanced/new items in HoF. IWD OG doesn't have any of that.

    Since no one's voting, I'll go ahead and select an F/M/C. I hope my memory of the nonlethality of IWD traps turns out to be correct! :D
     
    ^ Top  
  9. Ulminati Kamelåså! Patron

    Self-Ejected
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    Messages:
    20,233
    Location:
    DiNMRK
    If you want people to vote, you should make a poll in the OP.

    In lieu of a poll, I hereby vote for C: Bard :smug:
     
    ^ Top  
  10. MotherMachinae Arcane

    MotherMachinae
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,866,332
    Location:
    In the court of Atomic Rooster
    Didn't played for long, long time so my ideas may be laughable for someone, who know 2ed and 3ed in little finger.
    Can you combine Druid with any fighter? Then do so. Other than that - Monk+deep gnome.
     
    ^ Top  
  11. Nevill Arcane

    Nevill
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    10,655
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    I didn't think it was a poll, but yeah, a F/M/C is a decent choice.

    I remember having fun in the original with a Cleric/Ranger, mostly because the latter can get an additional attack if they have the other hand free, and trying to kill hordes of mooks with 1.5-2 attacks per round was an excercise in tedium. 3 ApR made it bearable.

    But since IWD:EE intoduces Tru Dual Wieldan, I guess that combination lost a bit of its appeal.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  12. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    It's not really a poll because I'm not basing it on votes but on what suggestions seem fun.


    Also, I gonna try providing some narration for this LP, at least for a while. I'm less likely to take stupid risks if I'm invested in the character, so the sheer act of burning time by talking about him may save time overall. Psychology is some weird shit.

    Have the first update!

    I. THE PROPHET OF SUFFERING

    Show Spoiler


    Meet the Sufferer.

    [​IMG]

    You'll note that our PC is absurd. 18s in all physical stats and in intellect, and unusally high exceptional strength (probably irrelevant, but it emphasizes how ridiculous this dude is). He's only moderately wise for a cleric, which means he misses a few largely unimportant bonus priest spells and which might affect his use of the Enhanced Edition's Wish scroll, if he survives long enough to find it. He's also incredibly unlikeable, which will end up mattering exactly once, for about five seconds. My plan was to spend no more than 5 minutes rolling up a character, but then I got this fucker on the fourth roll, and he's a few points better than what I'd expect to get in this time. In view of the ironman thing, I'm inclined to take what advantages fall into my lap. I spec him in flails and maces, mourn for IWD's inane proficiency restrictions on multiclass characters, teach him Find Familiar and Shield, and send him off into the wide world.

    The Sufferer is a lawful good F/M/C: a holy knight of Ilmater, the God of Suffering, seeking to uphold the untarnished good name that his priesthood has already attained in Icewind Dale. "There is literally nothing bad to be said about the Ilmater bros" is an example of the sort of statement an Icewind Dale resident might spontaneously say. Given how consistently moral the Ilmaterites act, I feel like our PC is going to have little room for character development over the course of this story. Oh well, there will at least be fighting. He has come to Easthaven after hearing strange rumors of a land where wolves are as fierce as dragons.

    [​IMG]

    Immediately after arriving, he's set upon by the local warlord, who threatens him before leaving. Presumably this is in case he wasn't scared at the prospect of single-handedly slaughtering an entire town, but was scared by the bluster of a middle-aged warrior. It's clear to the Sufferer that combating this sort of xenophobia must be why Ilmater called him to Icewind Dale. It's clear to him that his new mission should be to build a relationship with this warlord over the coming years and teach him that outsiders can be trusted.

    He summons his familiar into existence. This gives him 6 permanent hit points and a lifelong companion who he will never talk to again. He then checks out the local ladies and demonstrates insensitivity to the fact that dwarf gender is a social construct:

    [​IMG]

    He stone-facedly trudges off to the bartender, hoping to erase the memory of what he has seen with liquor and murder. "I'm here to murder beetles and drink whiskey," he growls. Sadly, she's all out of whiskey, so she sends him off to the cellar to end a beetle infestation in it.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This is the first fight in the game, and it's intended as a tutorial. The beetles will attack you if you get in range, and they could definitely one shot the Sufferer, but they don't actually move. The starting weapon you get as an F/M/C is a staff, which has extended reach, so I just stood back and beat them to death from out of range.

    [​IMG]

    I have no proficiency in staves, and HoF buffs enemy armor, so I only hit 10-15% of the time. I left the Sufferer largely alone and did something else for the ~5 minutes it took him to kill the beetles, returning only to switch targets.

    [​IMG]

    These are worth something like 15 per pop in the base game, but in HoF, all enemies are worth 4x + 2000 their base XP. Quest XP is doubled due to playing on Nightmare, so killing all four beetles and turning in the quest gets me 10k XP, bringing me to levels 2/2/3. Mage spells are going to be irrelevant until I find some better scrolls, but priest spells aren't; I learn Draw Upon Holy Might, which is going to be one of the best buffs in the game. I also learn level 1 spells Protection from Evil, Bless, and Sanctuary. The Sufferer leaves the inn, a bit puzzled about why a beetle in this town can take more punishment than an ogre chieftain back in Baldur's Gate.

    [​IMG]

    Next I go shopping. The shopkeeper next door is a little rude, so the ever-gracious Sufferer responds by leaning on all of his insecurities about status and insulting him, then attempting to do business with him. For some reason, this works, and I pick up some basic equipment: a flail, a helmet, a shield, some splint mail, and a few containers. Then I go upstairs and rob the shopkeeper for some scrolls and gems. The Sufferer reasons that the poverty this will cause the shopkeeper will bring him into greater empathy with people who aren't like him. "Praise Ilmater!", he says while shoving a bunch of scrolls down his pants.

    [​IMG]

    On our way out, we buy a bottle of wine, which we give to a local alcoholic for another 2400 XP. "This will teach him greater awareness of his suffering or something," he says lawfully and goodly. "I am the best holy knight of Ilmater ever."

    Pumped about his recent missionary work, he goes off to talk theology at the local temple. He meets a lower cleric outside, who expresses her views on conflict:

    [​IMG]

    "Yes!" says the Sufferer with uncomfortable eagerness. "It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be."

    "That's an interesting persp--" begins the priest.

    "War is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god."

    "I'm not sure we--" she continues.

    "SILENCE, WOMANSLUT," the Sufferer says, his patience tried by her nattering. He decides she's a lost cause and moves forward to discuss faith with the temple head, Everard.

    [​IMG]

    In the course of two minutes, Everard manages to express his utter contempt for his temple's patron, a dude who threw himself into a portal to Hell to seal it shut. Said portal is actually right beneath the temple. The Sufferer scratches his head at the irrelevant trivia, surmising that he can safely forget this quaint local legend. He does dig Everard's attitude, though, so he responds by yelling, "Blood for the Blood God," brofists the priest, and is on his way.

    [​IMG]

    He then finds a fisherman who has woken from uneasy dreams. As an Ilmaterite, the Sufferer gently tells the young man he should accept his inevitable transformation into a cockroach and leaves, not thinking much more of it until he runs into a mermaid.

    [​IMG]

    Cool story, lady. This Icasaroo . . . Icosahedron . . well, whatever her name is, she sounds like a neat bit of local folklore! Too bad this is the last we'll ever hear of her. For delivering the sword to Jhonen and returning for a reward, the Sufferer gets almost 5k XP. This is a good reward for the consequence-free action of aiding the removal of the enchanted sword from the heart of the dragon queen! I bet Ilmater is smiling on us now!

    [​IMG]

    This is all the free XP I'm going to get in Easthaven, so it's time to head to the local inn and prepare for glory. On the way there, some guy begs us to save his warehouse from a wolf that got in.

    [​IMG]

    Cue the Sufferer checking out the warehouse, calling upon the might of his god to give him the strength to slay the 90-pound beast. Cue him emerging from the warehouse ten seconds later, covered in blood. "This is a foe beyond any of us," he gasps. "FLY, YOU FOOLS!" He then hastily retreats to the local inn to take a nap. The wolf chases him halfway there, the entire town scattering before its fury, but the Sufferer's brilliant "running like a little bitch" strategy proves too much for it.

    (Apparently enemies in IWD are able to pursue you across area boundaries. Was this present in the original? I don't remember it.)

    We make it to the inn, where the Sufferer barges into another patron's room and demonstrates his social graces:

    [​IMG]

    He's totally bluffing, by the way; he hasn't done any of that. The Great Beetle Battle was the closest he came to a real fight.

    Anyway, let's tak e stock. Right now, we've got 40 base HP. We have two casts of Draw Upon Holy Might (DUHM), which is by far our best buff: it only gives +1 to str/dex/con at this point, but that puts each of them into superhuman territory, where the bonuses are particularly strong. Protection from Evil improves our effective armor class against evil creatures by 2. Our base armor class with our splint mail on is -1. That prevents mage casting, but since our mage spells aren't particulary great at the moment, we have no reason not to wear it.

    We walk across the bridge and run into a screaming child who tells us that goblins have taken his fishbone. The Sufferer attempts to negotiate with the boy, because he has been reading Faerunian Ayn Rand and believes that equitable exchange is the lifeblood of a free society. Subjugating his reason to the boy's needs without due compensation is an act of violence, violence which compromises the entire integrity of the goblin-slaying economy. The boy starts crying, so we agree to get it back anyway, because we're into murder. Oh, also, Lawful Good, that's also a reason.

    [​IMG]

    So before our first actual fight, a fairly obvious framework for ironmanning a game like this: you want to retreat before your hit points drop below the maximum damage you can sustain while disengaging and fleeing. In a straight fight against a single melee enemy with no ability to debuff, who moves more slowly than you and only has one attack per round, it's just the maximum damage he can inflict per hit. We have a helmet, which protects us from critical hits. (IE is kinda inane about the crit mechanic; a universally accessible 12gp item is the difference between getting hurt and getting one-shot.) If there were multiple such enemies attacking out of sync with each other, and we're confident our reaction times are good enough, we could keep the same threshold; if we lack that confidence, we have to back off sooner. I'm playing at 60 fps (max rate, and twice what you could set it at in IWD OG without editing config files), so I'm not 100% confident of my reaction times.

    Anyway, the Sufferer slowly walks forward. A single goblin sees him, shouts a warcry, and runs toward him. The half dozen other goblins standing clutered around him are too far away to see him and continue to do whatever they were doing, presumably jerkin' it. The Sufferer holds his flail low and stands in the full favor of his god, Ilmater's strength filling his limbs with fury as the tiny green man bears down on him.

    [​IMG]

    Tiny green man kicks his ass. The most I've ever seen an IWD goblin do is base 9 damage (18 in Nightmare), so right now, I'm killable. I get the hell out of Dodge. The inn is the only place I can currently rest. The unstoppable axe-wielding juggernaut sees the wooden door slam shut and says, "Damn, he's outwitted me!" and resumes its position down the road. The Sufferer is left to sleep in peace, bitterly asking Ilmater why he has forsaken him.

    In the morning, we buff up and sally forth again. Fully buffed, we're a decent bit stronger than a HoF goblin, and can dispatch one in a straight duel about 60% of the time before the kill threshold forces us to withdraw. I kill my enemy from the previous day, rest, aggro another goblin, and repeat. The Sufferer prays fervently in his long hours of recuperation, demanding of Ilmater why he must face such trials--what strange force has made even the weakest of enemies in this land so strong. One night, Ilmater grants him a vision: if he perseveres, one day--one day soon--he shall become a mighty General of the Underworld. Reassured by Ilmater's plan, the Sufferer returns to battle.

    [​IMG]

    The gobbers are clustered pretty close together, so I occasionally mess up and aggro a few of them at once. THREE GOBLINS AT A TIME! Has there ever been such a ferocious battle in the history of the world? I submit that there has not! Anyway, we lose and have to run away. We did have a slight chance of managing to at least kill one (which would've been neat, since enemies heal to full health if you sleep more than 8 hours), but no dice. Still, the next day we manage to kill the Elite Goblin, who's a little tougher.

    He's the one holding the kid's fish, so we can turn that in, giving us even more XP.

    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer attempts to negotiate a fair market value for the fish, but the kid just cries. Clearly he is too weak-minded to accept the harsh realities that power the 13th century labor economy. Disgusted, the Sufferer gives him his fish, knowing that by accepting it he is also accepting the shame and worthlessness that he has chosen for his life.

    War rages on until:

    [​IMG]

    This, the closing battle of the Glorious Six Goblin War.

    [​IMG]

    ...Okay, turns out it was the almost-closing battle of the war. We rest and finish them off in the morning

    [​IMG]

    Goblins give around 2k XP per pop, so this has brought us to just ~2k XP short of cleric level 5. We need to be level 5 before we can proceed with the caravan investigation. So, for our next step, we must do the unthinkable. We must slay the Great Wolf.

    [​IMG]

    We return to the warehouse and buff up.

    [​IMG]

    Wolves are quite a bit scarier than goblins! Even with -1 AC, this one hits at least every other round. We must withdraw.

    On the morrow, I return to fight the Great Wolf . . .

    [​IMG]

    Which goes about as well as it did last time. FLEE!

    [​IMG]

    Third time's the charm! A lucky crit gives us the edge we need against the wolf. The Sufferer's probably a weaker combatant than it is, even when he's fully buffed, but in this fight, we can keep backing off until we get a lucky break. (No, I am nowhere near patient enough to do this for the entire LP.)

    [​IMG]

    Fortunately, I don't have to. The wolf drops, and the completion of the quest give us 4K XP, which gets us cleric level 5. Cleric level 5 gets us level 3 priest spells, which get us:

    [​IMG]

    the ability to summon undying minions to spread the gospel of suffering. The Sufferer looks to the east, where there are rumored to be savage orcs. He raises his flail. Tomorrow, he marches there with an undying legion. You know, like lawful do-gooders do.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
    • Brofist Brofist x 11
    ^ Top  
  13. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    So I'd sorta started before the class suggestions came in, but:

    Bards, and particularly blades, are doable, but there's not a lot of reason to do them, given that I don't hate myself. Subraces don't exist in IWD OG, so not doable. Monks are an option in EE, but are probably even more annoying than bards. Bards and monks both suffer from the single class problem; viz., I'll max out my character levels quite early on. A fighter/druid would probably have been my third or fourth pick, honestly, in part because EE adds ironskins. (Like stoneskin, but you aren't bounded by lack of scrolls until the Severed Hand.)

    I kinda wanted a fighter because HoF combat takes a lot of whacking to actually kill anything, and a mage because EE apparently adds some new mage scrolls that are rumored to make high-level mage spell slots non-worthless, and I want to see how that goes. Cleric vs. thief is less important. Clerics get fantastic buffs (and much earlier than mages, due to scroll issues), which helps with risk mitigation in an ironman runthrough. Still, the thief's stealth ability can be a get out of jail free card and allows for fun ninja tactics. There's one particular tactic that EE enabled for F/M/Ts that, now that I think about it, would've probably been game-breaking, so F/M/C is probably the best bet.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2015
    ^ Top  
  14. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    II. GENERAL OF THE UNDERWORLD

    This update is pretty boring, insofar as it mostly centers around a single tactic (summoning undead) that low-level enemies can't counter that well. It's mostly setting the stage for my Cunning Plan.

    Show Spoiler

    Our current mission is to find a caravan, last seen on the road to the east. We need to do this because we're railroaded into joining the local warlord's expedition to Kuldahar, and due to magical plot logistics, the expedition will never leave until you find the caravan.

    We also just got animate dead, the earliest summoning spell we can get. Summons are an amazing weapon in Heart of Fury, because the HoF megabuffs affect them, too. They don't get the double damage effects that enemy creatures get at max difficulty, but other than that, they're just as ridiculous as everyone else. Animate Dead lets us summon skeletons and zombies, i.e. the weakest undead there are. They don't do a ton of damage--right now, all six of them wailing on a single target will do only slightly more than the fully buffed Sufferer will--but they can tank a LOT better than he can. Plus, we don't care if they die.

    This is a massive power jump for us; we're now able to handle some entire encounters without resting. Off we go!

    [​IMG]

    We immediately run into three wolves! Shit! I consider running, but instead decide to try out the gifts of the Lord Ilmater. COME TO YOUR MASTER, LEGIONS OF THE UNDERWORLD.

    [​IMG]

    The undead make short work of foes that terrified us yesterday. They tank, the Sufferer spanks; it's not strategically exciting, but it gets the job done.

    [​IMG]

    With this natural antechamber cleared, we rest, buff, and commence our assault on the cave when we wake. Orcs greet us when we enter. I summon some undead and manage to clear the entryway.

    [​IMG]

    WAAAAAAGH!

    [​IMG]

    There are two large groups of boyz in this cave. We've run into the first.

    [​IMG]

    Our righteous servants are being cut down by the orc. The battle is turning against us. We'd like to withdraw before we get stuck in.

    We're doing a lot of retreating in this LP, so it's worth articulating IWD's kinda weird AI mechanics for this:

    1) Enemies can be aggroed by either coming within sight of them or by hearing another aggroed enemy "shout." (Notifies all enemies within a certain group to become active.)

    2) Once aggroed, enemies become relentless bloodhounds. You can try to run, but they will pursue you until you leave the area. If they are near an area exit when you leave, they can sometimes follow you, depending on the area. Key point: if you ever reenter an area where you have left aggroed enemies, they will still be aggroed. If it's been long enough (24 hours, I think?) they will reset to their original position on the map, but they will know when you reenter and will immediately start moving toward you.

    3) The player can't rest if he is either targeted by an enemy, or if an enemy is in his sight. (His sight, not the enemy's sight, I believe. If you're blinded, the radius is much smaller. This is definitely the case for thieves and rangers' stealth abilities.)

    Anyway, I fall back. The enemy continues fighting the last remnant of my soldiers. I rest outside, rebuff, and enter. The enemy immediately starts charging toward my position, but I raise new servitors before they can arrive:

    [​IMG]

    And so they attack them rather than me. As you can see, I got lucky here and raised 6 undead with a single cast; this allows me to purge the remnants of the orcish horde.

    I move into the cave, loot a protection from petrification scroll from the chest, and immediately copy it. Oddly enough, this is an essential step for my cunning plan.

    [​IMG]

    I mop all remaining orcs in the cave prior to the second major group. With the undead to tank for me, it's very straightforward. I manage to pick up a meh-tier crappy ring here. (It gives -2 to spell saves; failing a save will usually mean death in this playthrough, so anything that helps is welcome, but there was a chance for a ring of protection to spawn here. Oh well!)

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Pictured here is me fucking up and almost dying! I accidentally made myself a target, and the undead behind me kept me from retreating. I did manage to escape, but, two valuable lessons here: first, even when applying a relatively brain dead strat against brain dead opponents, the tankiness of your opponents is so high, and the margin for error is so small, that it's still easy to fuck up. Second, and more specifically, IWD generally believes that open spaces are for jerks, and some parts of the map that look like they should be passable aren't. It is EXTREMELY possible to be swarmed and surrounded if you aren't careful, as would have happened to me here if there had been more orcs. This is usually Bad News; at higher levels and better armor classes, it's possible to survive, but it's usually better to avoid that situation. (Or, if impossible, have a Dimension Door spell prepared so that you can blink out.

    Anyway, I rest and prepare for the mighty battle to come. Then I send a lone skeleton forward to aggro the remaining orcs in the cave.

    [​IMG]

    This is the last battlegroup. There are around ten orcs and four ogres. The ogres are the biggest problem; these guys hit HARD. They can take off about 30 HP with one swing. They're also pretty accurate versus our -1 AC. What this means is that if the Sufferer gets hit once, he should probably consider the battle lost, which in turn means that I should probably not try to fight if the ogre attacks me at all.

    Anyway, I focus on the orcs first, since the ogres are tankier; this was probably not a smart move, since the ogres can mow through my undead legion pretty quickly!

    [​IMG]

    The first skirmish is lost, so I fall back, leaving a few brave soldiers to sacrifice themselves for my retreat. They will forever be remembered as the Sufferer's fines--wait, no, this is a guy who forgets spells literally seconds after casting them. They'll be remembered for about two minutes.

    [​IMG]

    I rest and re-raise my army.

    [​IMG]

    The second skirmish isn't going well here. I was thinking that having my minions fight at a choke point was a good idea, but unlucky rolls meant that we didn't make much headway before two of their ogres found their way around. I'll need to fall back again soon or risk getting surrounded. I try to down one of the ogres before his bros move in from the north, but it's no use.

    [​IMG]

    I retreat to the mouth of the cave and try again. This time, an ogre wanders in alone to fight me. It's easy to focus him down before the rest of the boyz show up.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, an ogre decides to run past my minions and attack me, showing more intelligence than I'd counted on. I'm in the danger zone and need to GTFO. Farewell, my loyal servants. You've had some practice: die well.

    [​IMG]

    I rest, rebuff, reraise, and return. This time I manage to get a few pick-offs, and the battle is mine. The cave is clear; one of the ogres had a contract on a body, so we can bring the bad news to his friend back in Easthaven for some XP. Turns out that this guy is the father of the communist kid on the bridge, so the Sufferer lectures him on the importance of leashing one's children while he's there.

    [​IMG]

    We then go to tell local warlord Hrothgar that the caravan has been found. While we're in his house, politely cleaning his belongings (specifically, cleaning them of the wretched taint of his ownership), we notice this:

    [​IMG]

    Turns out this guy hates fun. The Sufferer sees him in a new light, not just as a xenophobic dick, but as a kindred spirit. He looks forward to the strong friendship that they will undoubtedly develop together while collaborating over the next few months!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Anyway, Hrothgar is the gatekeeper for the main plot. He asks us to find the caravan; we tell him already did; he responds by telling us we can now leave on his expedition--you know, the one we never agreed to join. But, railroading. Anyway, we deliver a final note to Pomab the shopkeeper, which provides further supporting evidence to the notion that both he and Hrothgar are kind of assholes; we rest (this is important!), and then we're off.

    [​IMG]

    Pictured: the end of the expedition. I couldn't screenshot it, but there was a cutscene explaining that giants rolled down boulders and caused an avalanche while we were going through the mountain pass to Kuldahar. Everyone but the Sufferer died horribly. The Sufferer is understandably very upset about the deaths of his two best friends, Hrothgar the Sassy Note-Leaver and Hildreth the Dwarf He Insulted That One Time. He demands of Ilmater how he could allow this cruelty to come to pass, which, let's face it, is a pretty dumb question to ask of a God of Suffering. Wisdom 14 leaves a lot to be desired, I guess. Wwhile we are weeping and declaring the death of god, a hermit comes out to exposit at us:

    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer's such a fucking pessimist. I've always been more of a "half the damn mountain DIDN't just fall on top of our expedition" kind of guy, myself.

    Anyway, take a close look at this screen. Before I started this LP, I was thinking of just DOING an ironman run; this is what convinced me I needed the pressure of failing before an audience to actually make it through. This is where the Sufferer's predecessor met his end. See, the moment you spawn here, you hear the characteristic goblin battlecry. There are 7-8 of them immediately to the east of your current position. There's an avalanche to your west, the bridge is a narrow choke point, and the west side of the bridge is less passable than it looks. Remember how I said that getting swarmed was both very possible and bad news? Getting swarmed was bad news. I had foolishly assumed that my original PC would have slept at some point during his long journey to Kuldahar and rememorized spells, but apparently not.

    The Sufferer's going to be more cautious.

    [​IMG]

    When he crosses the bridge, he does so with an army. It takes most of their strength to beat the goblins.

    [​IMG]

    So, interesting mechanic in IWD EE that I don't think was in IWD: there's a level 1 Priest spell called Sanctuary, which is intended to make it impossible for all but the most powerful enemies to attack you. IWD had a weird bug whereby enemies could not attack a sanctuaried PC, but could follow him around. (So that he'd be surrounded when the spell ran out.) Also, the scripts of spellcasters or enemies with special abilities did not respect sanctuary, so they could cast those anyway.

    [​IMG]

    It looks like IWD EE actually fixed this. I'm cautious of relying on this when the Sufferer starts to run into spellcasters, but this is encouraging news. Anyway, this means I make it to Kuldahar without incident.

    Kuldahar's going to be our base for the rest of the game, barring HoW content. It's big and annoying. The entire town is built around an impossibly huge tree, which is a nice idea, but it makes getting around overly tedious. I'm not going to show everything I did here. The first thing I do is head to Orrick the Grey, the local magic shopkeeper. He's a horrible dick who would literally rather hang out in his tower (of indeterminate ivoriness) while the world around him burns, but he does have some cool items. I was going to buy a bag of holding from him, but he wants 12K for it, and that seems steep.

    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer discovers that there's a guy named Arundel here who walks around in brown robe, lives in a weird treelike building, at the foot of an enormous tree that is clearly tended to by some sort of magical guardian, who the townspeople have seen talking to birds. They think that's not a druid, though, they think that's just some guy.

    Wipe this wretched earth clean of these idiots. The Sufferer blinks. Where did that thought come from?

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer does manage to find the time to discuss how Ilmater, much like ironman LPers, is a willing sufferer. His faith is shaken, but hey, that's no reason not to resell it to idiots.

    Anyway, he goes off to talk to the druid, who explains there are a lot of disturbances in Kulhadar, and that the Vale of Shadows is a good place to start looking for them. "But isn't the evidence for that as the root of our problem rather specious?" the Sufferer asks. "Aren't you just sending me off to a grindy and treasureless hellhole with very little information that indicates this is a good idea?"

    "Not sure what you're getting at," comments Arundel.

    "Isn't this a series of annoying filler dungeons, designed to pad out the main quest? Which will probably ensure that I'm something like a level 15 mage before I ever encounter an actual third level mage spell scroll?"

    "You seem upset," the Archdruid says. "Perhaps you should pray to Ilmater for guidance."

    "I hope you get eviscerated by a shapeshifting demon," the Sufferer says.

    "That's weirdly specific!" the Archdruid replies cheerfully.

    The Sufferer leaves. Later, we run across two yetis chasing some guy into town. Yetis are pretty tough and strong, but I had the foresight to be walking around with five of my Deathless Guards, so it's no problem.

    [​IMG]

    Immediately after the battle, the Sufferer turns to the man the yetis had been chasing. He is concerned, for he realizes that he has helped a man without demanding compensation, and this is detrimental to society. He quickly rights this wrong!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Also in Kuldahar, he runs into this weird barbarian named Hjollder, talking about how the chieftain of his tribe has risen from his tomb and now leads the barbarians to attack the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale. Supposedly, he is possessed by the spirit of Jerrod, the guy who Everard dissed for sacrificing himself and stopping the forces of Hell from overrunning Icewind Dale. Brollder tells us he's had visions indicating that something's wrong, and someone should try to stop the war. The Sufferer listens to his story and tells him he really hopes some heroes show up to do that, then checks out to go get drunk in the local tavern.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    He starts to hit on this barmaid who's totally into him and has this totally innocuous conversation. Immediately afterward, he stands up, stretches, says "Too bad there's nothing weird about what you just said!" and jaunts out of the tavern.

    Later on he blackmails an inkeeper into letting him stay at his hotel for free:

    [​IMG]

    It is a success of the free market that we are able to so freely exchange information security for lodging, without the oversight of any oppressive entities who might impose a mutually unfavorable tax on this transaction, the Sufferer muses. (Also, he convinces the guy to confess that he's squatting in exchange for XP.)

    While resting at the inn, the Sufferer hears the whisper in his head again, grown to a steady voice:

    You were left alone. You were left in a frozen wilderness, your friends struck down hours from their goal. Left alone against armies of unassuming beasts given hideous strength. You were given to carve a path through endless hordes of terrible foes at the behest of tiresome men, hoping to slowly grind out an advantage over them, despite your pathetic tools and meager magicks. You were given to hope that this would teach you, give you some insight to slowly gain an advantage over them. If this is your god's will, he is no god at all.

    There is another way, a better way. Go to a black place, a dead place. I will show you the one. Welcome the darkness there into your soul and you will be able to carry it out with you. Light will fade from your footsteps, leaving only a golden path that will lead you to a place higher than your weakling god can reach.


    "Who are you?" The Sufferer asks.

    I am you. I am a you that never was and now never will be, forsaken by a craven god. I was sold on suffering's promise, and paid its price, and reapt its reward, and found it empty. I would be avenged. More, I would be redeemed.

    The next day, the Sufferer wakes. He feels a strange pull from the center of his forehead, pointing east, and whenever he closes his eyes, the blackness inside his eyelids is haunted by the sight of a strange tomb. Restless, he determines that one way or another, he needs to visit the Vale of Shadows. He sets forth to seek his destiny:

    [​IMG]

    And immediately gets owned by a Yeti. Whoops. This is the last time I try to solo one of those bad boys until I'm much stronger. The Sufferer runs back to Kuldahar, rests, returns, and summons his Deathless Guards. With them at his side, he is as unstoppable as ever, carving a path south and east, until at last he stands before the tomb that haunts his mind.

    He enters. A talking Skeleton is there, warning him that this place belongs to Myrkul, Lord of the Dead. "Then his reign is as impotent as Ilmater's," the Sufferer says, surprised at the words as they leave his lips, then raising his arm to revoke Myrkul's claim to this place.

    [​IMG]

    There are a shitload of undead in here. Most of them are skeletons; note that enemy skeletons are strictly better than my skeletons, since the former do twice as much damage. I've got to work quickly to make up the difference. Also, there are a few ghouls and ghasts in here, which are scary enemies for a solo because they paralyze on failed saves. When you're paralyzed, enemy attacks autohit, which means if the effect lasts for any length of time (it usually does), getting paralyzed means you're dead.

    [​IMG]

    Anyway, the Sufferer is priest level 7 right now, so I actually can cast free action to give myself immunity to paralysis. I do, but I also am wary of it running out at critical times, so I still mostly rely on letting my Deathless Guards tank for me. It's a little slower, but a little surer.

    In time, the tomb is silent again. The Sufferer picks up a strange key, wondering why the pull in his forehead is even more insistent, not less, for it. He is about to leave when he notices a shelf on the north wall. His hands feel drawn into the darkness, and he pulls out a scroll of invisibility.

    He is certain this is what he has been seeking, but not why. Puzzled, he commits it to memory and returns to Kuldahar.

    Well-done, says the voice from earlier. Now the gods will know fear.

    [​IMG]

    * * *

    So at this point, I'm barely done with the prologue, and I imagine that the bros who said that HoF solo ironman was unfeasible are still skeptical. The next update may change a few minds!
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2015
    • Brofist Brofist x 8
    ^ Top  
  15. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2004
    Messages:
    7,807
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Codex 2012
    :avatard:
     
    ^ Top  
  16. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    3,129
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    Good stuff!
     
    ^ Top  
  17. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    III. STEALER OF SECRETS

    Soundtrack

    Show Spoiler


    1. Deus Vult
    Show Spoiler

    The Sufferer feels doubt in his heart. Is he truly ready to turn his back on God? The only temple is Kuldahar is a Temple to Ilmater; he feels obligated to seek it out before starting down the lonely path he has planned.

    [​IMG]

    We ask to speak to the head of the temple, only to find it headless.

    [​IMG]

    The high priestess has been kidnapped while holding a vigil for those kidnapped. The Sufferer had looked for a sign of Ilmater's power, and to his sorrow, he's found one.

    The Sufferer renounces Ilmater, and all his works, and all his pomps. "The Broken God is no Bro of mine," he swears bitterly. Henceforth he shall rededicate himself to the only part of the faith that ever mattered to him: to striving against the overwhelming and surviving, to the patience and wisdom to so strive and endure, and to struggle that either gives meaning to suffering or ends it. The Sufferer would be no god-server but a god himself. There is nothing left for him to do but seek out the means: to look into the mundane world around him and in it find divinity, wisdom, and inspiration.

    [​IMG]

    (Pity that this Revered Brother Poquelin character left town, though; he sounds like a model priest, one who could surely have brought the Sufferer back to the true faith.)

    Anyway, let's do this. The Sufferer will not be returning to the Vale of Shadows now. He is destined for better things. He heads to Hjollder's house and tells the shaman he is accepting the quest to stop the barbarian invasion. Hjollder promptly teleports him away to Lonelywood, the town base for Heart of Winter content.



    2. Hic Sunt Dracones

    Show Spoiler


    The structure of Icewind Dale expansions is pretty weird. Once you complete the main quest of Heart of Winter, all expansion content is permanently inaccessible. Notably, Trials of the Luremaster (a sort of devmod / second expansion, which is by far the deadliest part of the game) can only be accessed from within Heart of Winter. My victory condition for this LP is to complete the main quests of IWD, HoW, and TotL without dying, so at some point, I'm going to have to complete TotL, then HoW, then IWD.

    The other restriction of HoW, which is interesting rather than just annoying, is that once you go to Lonelywood, you have limited opportunities to return to the main game. You have to complete a long and difficult quest to get back to Kuldahar, and if you decline that opportunity, you have to complete ANOTHER quest before you'll have another. The good news is that after the second quest, the route between IWD and HoW stays open until you complete HoW, so that's our target endpoint for this update.

    HoW's loot and enemies seem calibrated for endgame or post-endgame content, generally, but there are a few nods at making it accessible to parties who wander in earlier. Which is weird, and which the Sufferer intends to exploit. There are truly absurd rewards here. If I can survive long enough to grab them and escape, the remaining updates in this LP won't have to center around glorious struggles like The Time I Killed Half A Trash Mob or The Siege of Antechamber #3. On the downside, it means that mistakes are likely to be fatal. Also, everything here wants to kill me and in fact can easily kill me.

    Death or glory!

    * * *

    [​IMG]

    First deadly or glorious act: talking with a little girl. It turns out that this chick is lying and her brother did not, in fact, fall down a well; she's just hungry for attention because her dad's depressed and hates his job, and her mom spends all day drinking and slutting it up in the tavern. The Sufferer is a socially inept leper and lacks the charm to solve their problems, but he can convince her father to take the family to a better place after the barbarians leave. Doing this and befriending the girl is worth something like 100k XP, because quest XP is Heart of Winter is completely ridiculous.

    Now, there's a ton of overpowered loot and spells to be bought in this town, but inasmuch as the Sufferer is poor and no one in town accepts payment in zombie dollars, the Sufferer needs to secure some capital. Where should he go for that? Obviously the answer is the temple of Waukeen, Goddess of Trade.

    [​IMG]

    The inner sanctum here has a chest which contains some gems and a +5 sling, the latter of which will sell for ~30k gold. The chest is locked and trapped, but I happen to know that the trap's a petrification spell. Drawing Upon Holy Might raises our strength to the superhuman levels needed to bash the lock open, and that Protection from Petrification scroll we found in the orc cave saves us from the trap itself. The Sufferer takes a dump in the chest before leaving--Waukeen is, after all, the goddess of trade.

    [​IMG]

    We do a little more looking around town; we discover the local tavernkeeper's a mage who deserted the Hosttower in Luskan. The bard in his tavern has a quest to find a rose made out of ice, and is beginning his search by checking the bottom of every wine bottle in Lonelywood. There's a very rude halfling here, who the Sufferer finds altogether too unfriendly-looking to talk to at present. And there's a dwarf that tells him where the barbarian camp is. Let's check it out!



    3. Tempus Demands Blood
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]

    We tell the gatekeeper we're an emissary from the Ten Towns so that he'll grant us an audience with the warchief; he doesn't believe us, but he lets us in anyway because he's terrible at his job.

    [​IMG]

    There follows a lengthy dialogue with the chief, who points out that we have nothing to offer him that he cannot just as easily take, and that based on the amount of armor and weapons we're carrying we obviously aren't a real emissary from the Ten Towns. Holy shit, we've met someone who isn't incompetent! The Sufferer likes this guy!

    Wylfdene then makes the logical deduction that, since we're both lying about who we are and carrying weapons into his presence, we're probably an assassin. This is a fair guess, especially given that the last emissary sent to his camp was one, too. He's about to execute us, when BROllder shows up:

    [​IMG]

    And tells Wylfdene he had a vision that the Sufferer would help the tribe, and begs that he not be killed. Wylfdene agrees, then asks Hjollder about his vision. Hjollder says "lol idk," whereupon Wylfdene pretty reasonably observes that he's a shitty shaman and exiles him to the Burial Isle.

    [​IMG]

    We're escorted outside the encampment, whereupon the gatekeeper sics six barbarians on us, since Hjollder's plea for our life no longer carries any weight. These guys are tanky as all fuck, can take me out in about four hits, and would spell the end of the Sufferer's quest if not for his brilliant battle plan:

    [​IMG]

    Battle plan: flee like a little girl. Seriously, guys, fleeing's the best. Don't listen to the haters who love to hate fleeing.

    (It's really easy to get surrounded and die here. Don't do that!)

    The observant may notice that I have 11 more hit points in this pic than the last; that's because talking to Wylfdene got me 168k XP three times, then I got another 84k for talking to the gatekeeper. I went up a few levels. Dialogue rewards are INSANE.

    [​IMG]

    However, this completely pales before the 840k XP I get for talking to the town mayor about the assassination attempt, and getting him to admit that maybe botching an attempt on a powerful foreign leader's life was a boo-boo. Let's take a look at the Sufferer:

    [​IMG]

    Since my arrival in HoW, I've fought a total of 0 battles and run away from 1. This heroic feat has earned me around 1.5m of my total 1.8m XP. Fair compensation!


    4. The Grave Is No Bar To My Call
    Show Spoiler

    We sell the +5 sling, buy some scrolls from Kieran, and head to the Burial Isle. Our goal is to find Hjollder. (Probably for the purpose of getting him to agree that he was wrong and take us home to Kuldahar, since this Wylfdene seems to be the single most competent person we've met in Icewind Dale. Leaving the tribes with him is leaving them in good hands!)


    A young fisherman takes us to the Burial Isle. The Burial Isle is a bad place, full of bad guys who want to do bad things to the Sufferer. There are barrow wights who run fast and hit like trucks, drowned dead who move very slowly but hit like even larger trucks, and undead shamans with deadly spells. Worst of all, there are the Wailing Virgins: banshees who can kill us outright or inflict a variety of status ailments, such as the dreaded Curse of Celibacy.

    All of these are completely neutered by a level one priest spell. Sanctuary provides complete protection from everything on the isle, and moreover lets you loot containers without being broken. Sanctuary didn't fully work in the original Icewind Dale due to bugs, but apparently they fixed it here; I ended up using Invisibility because I wasn't sure if Sanctuary worked at this point, though.

    [​IMG]

    I go invisible and head over to a tower on the western part of the island. There's a dying necromancer inside who sells magic scrolls and items. The gold from selling the sling pays for quite a few scrolls, including haste, blur, mirror image, improved haste, mislead, mantle, Protection from Cold, Protection from Acid, spell shield, and hope. There are a number of other nice ones (notably, contingency, simulacrum, and shapechange) that I'll return to when I have the gold.

    [​IMG]

    With that out of the way, the task before us: there's a giant complex of barrows beneath the isle. There are a variety of treasures that I want to grab, surrounded by a variety of monsters who can probably kill me in one round, and a variety of traps that can hurt me but probably not kill me. The plan is to sneak in, grab the goods, immediately recast invisibility, sneak out, rest, and do the same thing again when I wake up. Casting invisibility requires me to stand still without being damaged for a few seconds, so to decrease the odds that a Wailing Virgin kills me or causes me to lose control of my character (which is equivalent to killing me), I need to cast Death Ward and Chaotic Commands. The virgins also have a ranged magical attack, so having Mirror Image up is also a good idea. Finally, being hasted might give me a chance to run away if I get interrupted while trying to hide.

    [​IMG]

    The first thing I find is a demon given form in a suit of armor. The Sufferer chuckles. Is it not fitting that he command demons, if he is to challenge God? He conjures a spirit of the dead to tell him the demon's true name and binds it to his service:

    [​IMG]

    We retreat and delve into the barrows again the next day.

    [​IMG]

    This is awkward. The greatest concentration of banshees in the barrow are all around the tomb of Wylfdene, weeping for some great offense. Unfortunately, their leader can see through invisibility, and once she goes hostile, all the other banshees do, too. I need something inside that tomb.

    [​IMG]

    Fortunately, it works out. I grab a strange amulet from the tomb and manage to recast Invisibility immediately; the lead banshee gets a spell off, but I'm protected against it. I run back to the surface and the necromancer's tower to rest. While I do, I inspect my prize:

    [​IMG]

    This looks curious. Why would the risen Wylfdene allow his tribal symbol to be desecrated? I should find Hjollder and show him, and HOLY SHIT

    [​IMG]

    Five of the banshees followed me outside. They aren't scripted to attack invisible targets in this version, which is probably as intended, but they surprised me. Anyway, we wander through the barrows and eventually surface on an island:

    [​IMG]

    Where we find Hjollder. Finding him nets us ~500k XP, and giving him the defaced insignia as proof that Wylfdene is not what he seems nets us another 840k. Fair compensation! Hjollder's reaction to news of Wylfdene's desecration is, again, "lol idk," and he sends us off to find a shaman who isn't completely useless. Apparently there's one who lives in the Gloomfrost, a frozen hell even further north.

    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer is starting to be a legitimate badass. He'd still last ~10 seconds in a straight fight on any encounter on the isle, but he just got access to level 6 priest spells, one of which (Entropy Shield) gives -6 AC, +2 saves, and fire/cold resistance. He served the god of suffering and was weak; now suffering serves him, and he is strong.

    [​IMG]

    He's not yet strong enough, though. He loots a few more tombs before leaving the isle, since there are a few more +3-5 weapons to dig up. We aren't going to use any of them, but they sell for tens of thousands of gold each, and there are several very expensive things we want to buy. After that, we head back to Lonelywood.

    There is a dumb subquest I forgot to screenshot here. It's a murder mystery. Two brothers have been savaged by a wolf in the night. There are a few suspects: the ranger who hated the two brothers and was recently bitten by a strange-looking wolf and dreams of turning into a rampaging wolf and . . . I guess there's that little girl we found at the well? Twist: it turns out the ranger guy did it! For cracking this incredibly difficult case, we are given 840k XP, and for halting his curse (by leaving his home, walking twenty feet, asking the one wizard in town if he knows about a way to halt curses, and then walking back to deliver a treatment), we get another 840k XP.

    Just for perspective, arguably the toughest enemy in the Baldur's Gate series is a dude named Demogorgon. He's the greatest of all demon princes, rules over his own layer of the Abyss, and in lore is either considered to be the next level down from godhood, or actually a low-level god. He gives 72k XP if you kill him. We just got 23 times that for solving this mind-bending mystery. Fair compensation!


    5. What Can Change The Nature of An LP Challenge?
    Show Spoiler

    I'm feeling confident. I buy all the scrolls I can afford, including some powerful elemental summons, drink a Potion of Mind-Focusing I brought with me from Kuldahar to raise my chance of scribing them to 97%, and copy them all into my spellbook. All of them succeed! I've now got overpowered spells like Mislead and Improved Haste, I can buff myself to 25 STR with divine magic, and my fully buffed AC is in the negative teens. It's time to go to the Gloomfrost!

    [​IMG]

    I almost immediately get wrecked. My plan here was to cast Sanctuary and then waltz through the long, long path to the Gloomfrost caverns. Unfortunately, there are frost salamanders here, and it looks like frost salamanders are one of the few enemies who are still scripted to follow a character around if he's under Sanctuary, even in Enhanced Edition. This is especially bad because they have a freezing aura that does around 10 points of cold damage per round, per salamander. Even worse, this area is a series of very narrow passages; in plenty of places, it's possible to be cornered by just two of the salamanders.

    Anyway, we're forced to fight. No big deal. I'm sure we can deal with some overgrown amphibians. I summon up my two earth elementals to tank and stand back.

    [​IMG]

    Shit! Three of them cut me off from the rear. I try to fight them, but I didn't buff beforehand because I wasn't expecting a fight. This probably would have been The End Of Suffering if I hadn't prepared two dimension door spells. I port out and run for it. With their auras, the frosties don't even have to hit me to kill me; I just need to get back.

    [​IMG]

    There isn't a safe space to rest on the map, so I grit my teeth and set off for the nearest safe haven there is. Which is Lonelywood, 80 hours away. I head to the inn there and return three days later.

    [​IMG]

    I try fighting with full buffs this time. It goes better, especially since I can neutralize the freezing aura. Without summons, I maange to kill one of the salamanders before the rest show up; as you can see here, I'm at half health and have to pull back. Doing this this way is slow going, but as long as I'm scoring kills in each iteration, I'll eventually triumph.

    [​IMG]

    Course, that's not guaranteed. On my next trip back, they force a withdrawal before I can kill even one. Maybe I need a new plan.

    [​IMG]

    The new plan: run ahead to put some space between them and me, then summon chaff to distract them, then try to fight with full buffs. Animate Dead seems to work better here than summoning elementals, just because it takes so long to kill all of them if you manage to summon a full 6. Anyway, this fight's a close call, but it works pretty well! I back off, rest, and finish the last of them here:

    [​IMG]

    The rest isn't so bad. I sneak through narrow mountain paths, finding a weird shield along the way, and eventually make it to the Gloomfrost Caverns.

    [​IMG]

    I have memories of this place being hard, so I prebuff and proceed with caution.

    [​IMG]

    I summon an Earth Elemental to take point. Take a minute to notice how completely gorgeous this area is! I'll talk a little about atmosphere in a bit, but the Gloomfrost is one of my favorite areas in the game, and I've been looking forward to doing it since I started this LP. It's weird, but in a game with so many frozen backgrounds, these ice caves are still excitingly beautiful. There are also weird ghostly animations that periodically flash on screen; it's really well-done.

    [​IMG]

    Meet the sole inhabitants of this level: the remorhaz. At 42k XP per pop, they are the second most highly-rated generic enemies in the game. That's overrated, but they're scary. They've got 530HP, -2 AC, -1 THACO, 75% magic resistance, and attack twice per round for 26-86 crushing damage per hit. Each hit also has a 5% chance to do a bonus 2-200 fire damage. What this means is that they're very hard to kill, and it's pretty easy for them to kill the Sufferer. Without fire resistance, they can one-shot him. With it, he probably should try to disengage if he gets hit once.

    Still, I've got my earth elemental to tank for me. I manage to kill this guy without too much trouble. I march on . . .

    [​IMG]

    And run into a swarm. This is the problem with this level: individual remorhazim can be taken down pretty easily, but they gather in groups, and in scripted places, reinforcements appear through the tunnels. Given their enormous size, it's very easy for them to trap you.

    [​IMG]

    I try to pick off one more before I'm forced to retreat, but it's no use. I flee back to the entrance. Perhaps I can whittle down their numbers with forays into the cave.

    [​IMG]

    Oh. Right. EE monsters can follow you across areas and spawn all around you. Well, shit.

    [​IMG]

    I used one dimension door spell while fleeing the initial mob, but I still have one left, so I can blink to safety. I rest and am thankfully uninterrupted.

    [​IMG]

    The narrowness of the ledge is actually working in my favor now; the worms can only engage one at a time. Face me, beastie.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, I faced the beastie. It didn't go well, so I sent in an earth elemental to finish the job. He manages to pull it off, then is immediately killed by the waiting remorhazim behind him.

    [​IMG]

    Still, here's the thing: I can heal and reinforce until I get a favorable setup for this battle, and they can't. There are only a few of them, and the terrain makes it impossible for them to swarm me. They should've stayed in the cave, honestly.

    I finish them off. The remorhaz I was fighting were only from the very first stretch of the caverns; the Sufferer has sufficiently proved his manliness by slaying the five or so here, so I feel pretty good about stealthing through the rest of the cave. There are deadly traps here, so I buff beforehand.

    [​IMG]

    Pictured here is me walking right past the place where I'm supposed to go. It's been a long time since I last played IWD; not really the ideal circumstances for ironmanning.

    [​IMG]

    Backtracking to the passage there, I find a tiny enclave of light and warmth in the ice. A blind dwarven smith is there, hammering away in the darkness. Apparently, the seer I seek stabbed his eyes out, so that he could not guide intruders to her lair. He doesn't bear her any ill will for this, but he's also incredibly bored down here, so he's totally willing to help us in a variety of ways at no charge. First, he gives us a mirror of black ice, telling us that the seer's behind a door whose workings only allow it to be opened if beheld in said mirror's reflection. Sure, why not. Then he makes the ice rose for the bard back in Lonelywood. Then he repairs the shield we found outside, making it ridiculously good. Then he makes us a +4 mace with some cool bonuses, which replaces the Sufferer's unenchanted flail from the beginning of the game.

    [​IMG]

    We leave before he asks the Sufferer to "guide his hands" onto his dick. I'm not complaining, but this guy is the only character in the game who gives us useful things for free, and it's kind of weird how MUCH he just hands over. Anyway, we finish up.

    [​IMG]

    Pictured here: a problem. Two problems, actually. I apparently had aggroed two remorhazim, and while the Sufferer was hanging out with the dwarf, they decided to block the exit.

    [​IMG]

    I initially try to engage with Mantle on. Mantle protects against everything short of highly enchanted weapons (+3 weapons), but apparently remorhaz claws can pierce it. Fortunately, at this point I've got Greater Shield of Lathander (complete immunity to magic and physical damage for 3 rounds), which gives me what I need to take out the first one. Summons can keep the other distracted while I wail on him. I rest and proceed to the final level of the Gloomfrost.

    It's beautiful but not that interesting. I walk through a bunch of ice tunnels while sanctuaried. Ice golems stare at me but do nothing. Remember how I said that remorhazes were the second highest rated generic enemy? Ice golems are the highest. They give 58k XP per pop. (Not to keep bringing up Baldur's Gate, but the demilich who's one step down from godhood and can imprison at will is worth 55k . . . ) Anyway, ice golems. They have -4 AC, 25% magic resistance, -5 THAC0, and attack 3 times per round for 20-38 damage. You may note that most of that's less scary than remorhazim. Why do they give more XP? Because each hit has a 10% chance to stun you. In the original Icewind Dale, free action effects didn't reliably protect against stunning. In Enhanced Edition, I'm told they do. I suspect that's probably true, but fighting an army of crushingly strong tanks with an army of giant centipedes blocking my retreat doesn't seem like a good idea, even if they don't have undocumented advantages! Anyway, I sneak past the last of them, use the mirror, and meet the seer.

    [​IMG]

    She says many things! The gist is that she's scared of the Sufferer because she's foreseen that he brings her death with him. She also tells us that a female spirit has possessed Wylfdene, but showing this spirit the mirror will cause it to see its true self, and thus undermine it.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The seer also has a pretty cool monologue about female NPCs in Icewind Dale. Personally, I think this is the best writing Chris Avellone did for this game. Not his best writing in any game--

    [​IMG]

    --but I'd say this seer puzzles well.

    And she's told us how to defeat Wylfdene. She offers to teleport us to the surface, but the Sufferer instead asks to be taken to Tiernon.

    [​IMG]

    Whereupon we point out that it doesn't make a ton of sense for a blind dwarf to have given us a tool that helps us see hidden things in its reflection. He admits he was fucking with us and turns the mirror into a powerful, wearable amulet for our trouble.

    But that's not the amulet we want right now. There's one last thing we have to do in the Gloomfrost:

    [​IMG]

    On the lowest level, there's the Queen Remorhaz holding court in a pit, surrounded by her ice golem guards. She's got something I want. I'm going to assassinate her.

    [​IMG]

    The only way into the pit is to Dimension Door in, so I cast my buffs and jump down. Greater Shield of Lathander and Protection from Fire means that she can't touch me for three rounds. Dual-wielding with improved haste, draw upon holy might, and righteous magic on, I get something like 8 attacks per round, each of which does the maximum 27 damage. The queen never stood a chance. After she falls, I notice, braided into her fangs, a strange amulet that reduces my spell casting time, which makes it a strong contender for best amulet in the game. A good find! I blink out and escape the level without incident.

    [​IMG]


    Figuring that I'm done, I get careless. My sanctuary expires around some remorhazim. I decide to use my last dimension door spell to just blink out, judging that recasting sanctuary is more dangerous than just running out. After all, I'm not planning to come back.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, I run into some more remorhaz before I can get a cast off, and they block my escape. I believe that's 7 of them. I don't think I can beat a path through them before they kill me. This is bad. Fortunately, I manage to get off Greater Shield of Lathander, which gives me three rounds to make something happen before I die. I cast animate dead on the far side of the mass of remorazim, then cast sanctuary. With me unassailable, all of the remorhazim switch aggro to the summons, clearing out enough space around me for me to flee.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The remorazz are still aggroed, so some of them follow me out:

    [​IMG]

    But since I have no further need to be in the cave, I'm fine with just leaving them there. I came a little too close to death a few too many times here. I wasn't lucky, but I could've been more unlucky, and if I stay around long enough, I eventually will be. We're leaving, but before we do, let's discuss the atmosphere here!

    I said before that the Gloomfrost was a great area. This isn't to say the ones we've seen so far are bad. The Vale of Shadows is pretty good on the first playthrough, with the strange fiery tombs hidden in the ice, guarded by gloomy ghosts and priests of the underworld. I think the lack of interesting loot and general low mechanical variety in encounters make it a drag on later playthroughs, and the fact that you eventually learn it's irrelevant to the main plot makes it feel like filler. So, some cool atmosphere, but it's crippled by the fact that it's a mechanically bland intro level.

    The Burial Isle was also a good area this time around, in part because there was some consonance between me as a player ironmanning it and what the story said it should be: the Sufferer was sneaking around dangerous tombs that held ridiculously powerful treasure, surrounded by terrifying creatures he didn't fully understand, scared out of his mind by the knowledge that one wrong move would end him. I, the player, was sneaking around a dangerous area that held unreasonably good rewards, trying to remember the layout, and feeling tense because one wrong click (or failure to remember a particular effect, or to prepare accordingly) could force a restart.

    But the Gloomfrost is great. The first level sets it up, with this weird menagerie of suddenly easier monsters and endless winding paths. The ice cavern levels might have the most beautiful background art in any Infinity Engine game. The enemies inside are enormous and overwhelming, and it's very easy to find yourself surrounded and facing more of them than you bargained for. Having a single monster type on each level enhances the feeling that you've stumbled upon something weird and hidden beneath the ice, something that's been there for a long time and has its own order. People can only mold themselves around that order; the Sufferer tries to fight it at first but eventually has to skulk around monsters greater than himself. The blind smith and the unstable seer both underscore the notion that intelligent life can't stay here without being warped by it, and losing something in the process. For me, leaving so many live enemies behind me, with limited resources to get in and get out, felt claustrophobic. It was like the Sufferer had snuck into a giant's home, and had to be very careful lest they wake and crush him for his insolence. Also, stealthing past hordes of silent, unmoving Ice Sentries to finally meet the seer was charmingly apprehensive.

    Good work, Black Isle! Anyway, that's all the nice things I'm going to say about them this update.


    6. Kill for the Living! Kill for the Dead!
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]

    Back in Lonelywood, I receive a totally measured and logical 1.26m XP reward for carrying a small chunk of ice back to a dude. Fair compensation!

    After that, I am off to the barbarian camp, and the first mandatory fight in Heart of Winter.

    [​IMG]

    The six guys who the gatekeeper told to kill me are still chilling outside the camp, waiting for me to come back. It's been a few weeks; the Sufferer admires their dedication. However, he prefers to admire it with his mace.

    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer's become powerful enough to beat them down easily now, even without summoning help.

    [​IMG]

    Afterward, the Sufferer walks up to the gatekeeper and demand an audience with Wylfdene, on the grounds that these followers of battle have made battle against him and been shown lacking. Perhaps they should allow a worthier warrior to stand among them.

    Our request for an audience is granted, and we show Wylfdene the mirror . . .

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Remember that nice water spirit Elisia? The one we met back in Easthaven? The one who gave us a FedEx quest to take a shattered sword over to her dead lover's descendant?

    [​IMG]

    Icasaracht, like a smart ironmanner, had contingency plans for unexpected misfortunes. In particular, she had a way to effect her resurrection in the event of her death. That magical sword in her heart was the one thing that was keeping her spirit trapped; when it was removed, she sought out a new body, with which to pursue her vengeance against the men of the Ten Towns. Elisia nearly destroyed Icewind Dale trying to deliver an heirloom, and the Sufferer helped her for 2k XP because it was easier than killing another wolf.

    After Icasaracht reveals herself, the seer teleports in and yells at her. "You have forgotten your place, HALF man!" she yells. "Humility is in order!"

    [​IMG]

    Icasaracht one-shots her for her trouble, then flees the camp in spirit dragon form.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    "At least . . . we now know . . . the answer," the seer gasps. "It is inflated quest experience that can change the nature of a man." She then croaks and drops the best cloak in the game.

    A battle begins between those warriors still loyal to Icasaracht (the Wyrm Tribe, who fight us) and those who are pretty pissed at at "Wylfdene's" treachery (the Bear and Elk Tribes, who sometimes help us and sometimes stare curiously at us while we frantically try to stay alive.)

    Soundtrack

    The bro to the upper left is one of the most promising warriors of the Elks. "It's really cool how that guy is swinging his weapon at that other guy," he muses. "I think one day, I might want to do something like that myself!"

    [​IMG]

    One thing I forgot about this fight is the gates lock shut when it starts, and you can't leave or rest until you've won or died. This is actually stretching the Sufferer's resources a bit, so I try something underhanded. Enhanced Edition adds Mislead, a sixth level mage spell from Baldur's Gate 2. Mislead creates an illusory decoy of your character. As long as that illusion exists (i.e., has not expired or been killed), your character is invisible and remains invisible, even if he attacks. So, I cast Mislead, then cast invisibility on my illusion. This lets me beat on the barbarians with impunity for a while.

    (If I'd been an F/M/T instead of F/M/C, I'd be getting 5x damage bonuses from backstabs, too. That, with improved haste, are *probably* enough to let me breeze through everything the game has to offer. So for the sake of keeping things interesting, it's good that I'm a F/M/C, eh?)

    [​IMG]

    Victory is declared, although there are still quite a few hostile Wyrmlings alive.

    [​IMG]

    My illusion expires, and I'm getting dangerously low on health.

    [​IMG]

    I actually fall back on animating some dead to tank against the last few barbarians.

    [​IMG]

    And that's that. The Sufferer is now truly powerful, almost able to cast 9th level mage spells. His combat stats here are actually misleadingly low, since for any significant fight, he'll be under the effects of DUHM, which at his level gives him 25 in all physical stats.


    7. The Wages of Sin
    Show Spoiler

    Hjollder is willing to take us home. We take his offer, sleep at the inn in Kuldahar, and come back. The next step of the HoW main quest marks the point of no return for the endgame, which we aren't going to tackle yet. But there are a few loose ends we can tie up in Lonelywood. Here's the most significant one:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The innkeeper's old Luskan associates from the Hosttower have caught up to him. You'll note from the two earth elementals already present during this dialogue that I wasn't entirely unprepared for this. He warps in few friends for a party of six.

    This is a pretty balanced encounter: 2 mages, 1 priest, 1 thief, and 2 warriors. The mages are stoneskinned. I'm protected against status debuffs, but they still have enough direct damage spells to kill me a few times over. I'm going to have to divide and conquer.

    [​IMG]

    I take out one mage quickly and then run south; the thief and one fighter are the only ones fast enough to keep up. I melee them down, then return and pull the other fighter off from the main group:

    [​IMG]

    Who manages to beat me in a duel. I heal:

    [​IMG]

    And get my ass kicked again. Time to summon some help:

    [​IMG]

    This is a late expansion encounter, and Animate Dead is still useful. I finish him off, but I'm out of healing spells and still have the cleric and the high mage left.

    [​IMG]

    So I send in the undead. I cast two cloudkills to try to support my troops, but the real goal is to get the enemy casters to exhaust their spells on my minions.

    [​IMG]

    Which they do. The archmage runs out first; I can hit fast enough to cause spell failures in anyone who doesn't have stoneskin, so I move in and beat the cleric to death while the archmage tries to punch out my one remaining skeleton into submission. Will he finish in time?

    [​IMG]

    No.

    This may be the most rewarding encounter in the whole expansion, even moreso than the final boss fight. The enemies are loaded with amazing loot, most of which I can't use due to being a good-aligned cleric/magic. I still get a shitload: a ring of free action, a ring of protection +2, a +2 fast flail (+1 attack per round), and the best +dmg gauntlets in the game. There's also what's probably the best plate armor in the game and the best sword. The loot I don't want sells for over 100k gold.

    [​IMG]

    And Kieran gives me 1.26m XP for not selling him out to the hit squad. Fair compensation!

    [​IMG]

    I then head off to the mayor's house. There's a high-level assassin here who killed the mayor and his wife, for the somewhat implausible reason that we stopped Wylfdene before he could, and it'd be bad for his reputation if people know that he's been upstaged. This seems like questionable reasoning; he could easily claim to have recruited the Sufferer as an asset for his mission and collect both his reward and a huge boost to his rep. Also, I'm not really sure what his plan versus the Sufferer was:

    "Hey dude. Dude who just not only wrecked the target I couldn't get close to after weeks of trying, but killed his entire tribe around him in the process. Dude who has just demonstrated that he is an army unto himself, which I evidently know, because I'm aware of what happened in the camp. Dude, what's up."

    ". . . Not much?"

    "Cool. Wanna fight? I bet I can take you."

    Anyway, this goes about as well for him as you'd expect. High level thieves are scary, especially since we don't have stoneskin; this one can backstab for 5x * 2x due to difficulty settings = 10x damage, which might actually be enough to one-shot the Sufferer if he picks the right image. However, thieves are only scary for their decloaking burst damage, which means that summons completely counter them:

    [​IMG]

    He goes down quickly.

    The route between Lonelywood and Kuldahar is now open and will stay that way until I start the final HoW quest, so I run back. With my gold from looting these last two fights, I pick up a bag of holding and a nice mage robe from Orrick, then buy two items at the Lonelywood store:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    These are probably the best shield and mace in the game. The shield's armor is solid, and +2 saves is absurdly good. The mace has a 20% chance to outright kill any undead and 5% chance to kill any extraplanar creature, neither with any saves. Icewind Dale has a truly ridiculous number of undead and a fair number of demons, all of which have hundreds of HP in HoF, so this is great. Together, the bag, the robe, the shield, and the mace cost me over 130k gold. I spend the rest on the last few useful spells.

    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer returns to Kuldahar having mastered the ways of suffering. It is time to teach others its truths.




    Fair Compensation
    Show Spoiler


    I collected around 11m XP over the course of 2-3 hours in Heart of Winter. What's up with that?

    First, there's the fact that playing on insane (2x XP) and having one character instead of 6 (6x XP) gave me 12 times the base experience. But even 1m would have been a lot for what I did. Heart of Fury meant I got much more experience from the enemies I killed than I normally would have, but I also avoided a lot of fighting; that probably only accounts for a 1m XP difference at most. So, what was Black Isle thinking?

    I think the designers may have been trying to ensure that players starting a new game for Heart of Winter only would get to use the new spells they added. This is a reasonable goal, but (a) Heart of Winter is a pretty short campaign; I managed to get two thirds of the way through it without any required fights, and (b) characters start a HoW-only game with 500k XP, and it adds level 9 mage spells. A single-class wizard would need another 2.5m XP to see the full content.

    My guess is that Black Isle was indecisive about what to do with this expansion. Enemies and loot are endgame or post-endgame tier, but you can access the expansion starting in chapter 1. It also locks you in once you start. It's possible that Black Isle wanted to balance things so that Heart of Winter would be feasible regardless. But there just isn't a good way to do that without an expected high tactical skill floor. (For an example of such a floor, check out the Improved Ilyich mod for Baldur's Gate 2! It adds a priest who can summon a fallen angel in the tutorial. 5/5 stars, I never play without it.) The solution employed in HoW was to give inflated XP rewards for everything, which works, because it pushes everyone past the bulge of the progression curve. (Since, past a certain level, high level parties in IE games have more options than the AI can counter.)

    The good news for this LP is that even absurd XP rewards won't trivialize the rest of the game for the Sufferer. I am now somewhat higher-leveled than the expected Chapter 1 Heart of Fury party, but not by that much, and there's only one Sufferer. I don't need to prepare quite as hard for each fight in the base game as I did in the first two updates, but Chapter 2+ content is still no joke. What it does accomplish is that I don't have to spend 5-10 minutes on every trash mob, which I'm inclined to call incline.

    See you next time!

     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
    • Brofist Brofist x 9
    ^ Top  
  18. laclongquan Arcane

    laclongquan
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2007
    Messages:
    1,866,964
    Location:
    Searching for my kidnapped sister
  19. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    Shame is for the shameful! :D I'm not convinced this constitutes XP farming, though. I mean, it's plotting out the journey to prioritize high XP rewards, so if that's how you define it, then sure!

    I think the real issue here is that IWD's development involved a lot of interesting ideas coming together in ways that weren't totally thought through. Which is probably understandable, given that it had a development timeline of about two hours, but it has some weird implications on gameplay. Stealth is a major example; they decided to include it as a tactic for players and opponents, but they didn't give their AI the ability to deal with it. I don't think there's a single enemy who's scripted to cast True Sight in the entire game, though there are a few who can see through invisibility. On the other hand, without the ability to stealth, thieves are strictly inferior to fighters in combat. Combat buffs are a more general case: some enemies are scripted to cast dispel magic once, which is much more powerful than in the BG games (because it always successfully dispels)--but that one shot is all they get.

    I don't think this is the devs' fault, exactly--it's more that they introduced enough weird abilities and dimensions of gameplay that writing intelligent AI for it became very, very hard. Maybe it would have been more tactically balanced to scale back the game and only include abilities they could intelligently script to counter, but there's a direct tension between that and most players' notion of fun; most players like having options in their gameplay.
     
    ^ Top  
  20. Cadmus Arcane

    Cadmus
    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2013
    Messages:
    4,001
    This is so cool, I couldn't imagine something like this was possible. Go on, I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the Sufferer Saga!
     
    ^ Top  
  21. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,283
    Nice Kafka reference :salute:
     
    ^ Top  
  22. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    IV. SUFFER NOT

    Show Spoiler

    1. Purge The Unclean
    Show Spoiler

    The Sufferer returns to the Vale of Shadows exalted. Foes he once held in dread now barely register in his contempt. The beasts of the frozen north crumble beneath his blows as he smashes his way to the tombs.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Once there, he faces the undying guardians. Standing before them as a self-made champion who worships his own creator, he speaks the words of his new god: "Suffer not the abomination to live." His rebuke strikes them with such contempt that they are blasted from existence. He takes it as proof of his righteousness: he served a god and his prayers went unanswered; he now serves his principles, and the wicked tremble.

    (We're cleric level 24, which is actually high enough to destroy lesser undead with the priest's turning ability! This is effectively an I-win button for the Vale, especially since turning does not break Sanctuary.)

    He marches into the greatest tomb to bring final peace to its residents:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    An undead priest greets him and attempts to placate him, only to find he is implacable.

    I didn't take a lot of screenshots here, because the majority of combat literally consisted of me standing around with sanctuary on and turning undead until they die. Occasionally the Sufferer ran into a mummy and had to lower himself to actually beat it to death, but for the most part, he just cleansed the Vale with sheer, blazing indignation.

    I do have my first permanent setback in the game: there's a scroll of Knock here. Knock is how mages open locked doors and containers. I try to scribe the scroll without a potion and fail. Apparently, this was the only scroll of Knock in the game. I've got a buffed strength of 25 and can still bash most things open, but there are a few containers that won't work on. Also, occasionally the game locks escape routes during significant encounters, and this denies me that option. Oh well, I don't think it's a barrier to winning.

    (A note on scrolls: being a solo mage in Icewind Dale is a pretty raw deal. Even with 18 intelligence, you still have only an 85% chance to learn spells. There are no randomized spell scrolls in the game, the fixed scrolls you get are extremely limited for the first half of the campaign, a lot of spells only have a single scroll in the entire game, and most of the higher level spells in the original game just sucked. EE "fixes" the latter problem by seeding the world with BG2 scrolls. "Fixes" is in quotes because mages in BG2 were the gods of the battlefield, and it's really just breaking the game the other way. Have I mentioned what Improved Haste does? It doubles the number of attacks you get. The Sufferer gets off 7 attacks per round; if he dual wields, it's 9.)

    Eventually I meet a powerful spirit at the bottom of the tomb:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It's Kresselack, the spirit of an old warrior king who used to rule here. He built this tomb and sacrificed his followers in the process, all in an attempt to gain a sort of immortality. For this offering, Myrkul rewarded him with eternal damnation, alone in this wretched place. Anyway, Kresslack claims he isn't responsible for Kuldahar's troubles but will tell us who is, if we kill a priestess of Auril for him.

    Also, check it out here if you're interested: Kresselack's voice is the best voice in any video game, because it's Tony Jay's. (Tony Jay also voiced a lot of villains in animated film, including Shere Khan, Claude Frollo, the asylum director in Beauty and the Beast, and Megabyte in Reboot. In games, he did The Transcendent One in Planescape: Torment, and the Elder God in the Legacy of Kain games. You may notice some typecasting; that's because no one has ever done serene disdain so well.)



    2. Burn The Witch
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Anyway, we head back to the Vale and find a yeti cave. This b is inside. She reveals her plans; the Sufferer reveals that plans aren't so relevant when the skull they reside in has been split open. Since she's a priestess of the evil ice goddess, he makes sure to cast flame strike on her corpse. Part of this is to piss her off in the afterlife. The other part is that the Sufferer, as a would-be god of experience and war and defiance, shall take pains to overthrow the works of the Faerunian gods and their monstrous indifference to the fate of mortals. Wheresoever he sees signs of their power, he shall act to show that power empty and without conviction. Suffer not the witch to live!

    He carries her roasted and mangled head back to Kresselack and asks about the evil stalking Kuldahar.

    [​IMG]

    Kresselack says "lol idk." It is a credit to the sheer majesty of Tony Jay's voice that he says "Knowing where your enemy is not is as vital as knowing where he is. Think on that," and it actually sounds thoughtful and clever before you think about the words and realize how stupid it is. The Sufferer glares at him.

    "What are you going to do about it?" Kresselack snorts. "Kill me? With your mace or something? I can't die, remember?"

    "Knowing where your head is *not* bashed in is just as vital as knowing where it *is,*" says the Sufferer.

    "Now you're getting it!" Kresselack says. He tries to high five the Sufferer, but our boy's already storming off, heading back to Lonelywood. Enhanced Edition added something there that is very helpful in situations like these. The Sufferer forks over 13k gold and gets the implement by which he will make mock of Myrkul's curse, and show the Lord of the Dead's reign less than absolute, and his claim to the inexorability of his will mere vanity.

    [​IMG]

    Shapechange is a 9th level mage spell. It's mostly a novelty. The monsters it allows you to turn into--an iron golem, a greater werewolf, a mind flayer, a troll--are powerful and scary. They're not weak; they're just not as hideously strong as mage who can cast 9th-level spells. Shapechange does have one unique use, though!

    Enemies in the Infinity Engine games who the devs don't want you to be able to kill because they're supposed to be too powerful are rendered unkillable by means of a special, undroppable piece of equipment. It works by protecting them from all instadeath effects and setting their minimum HP to 1. This protects them completely, except for one cause of death they didn't account for, because the relevant effect didn't exist when the Immortality Item was created: if stats or levels are somehow drained into the negatives--even temporarily--they still die.

    And one of the monsters that Shapechange lets you turn into is a mind flayer, which drains intellect on hit.

    [​IMG]

    "Knowing where your brain is not is just as vital as knowing where it is," the Sufferer says.

    That's it for the Vale.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We run back to Kuldahar and persuade the priestess's boss to give us her effects. Then we head to Arundel:

    [​IMG]

    And ask him what to do next, since his last plan ("go investigate the Vale") failed completely, and the Sufferer believes in the gambler's fallacy. (Wisdom 14, guys.) Arundel tells us there's a weird cult nearby with a powerful artifact of divination, the Heartstone Gem, and with it, he might actually be able to tell us something useful. (Spoiler: he never ends up telling us anything useful.) Anyway, we're off to try to rob them of it.


    3. Kill The Heretic
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We try that. It's not interesting. The verbeeg are pretty strong and sometimes manage to hit us even through our buffs, and then we have to back off. The clerics occasionally cast static charge, and then we have to back off or cast Protection from Electricity. Mostly, we breeze through the temple, only to discover the inner sanctum full of bodies and one central pedestal is empty. Someone's nabbed the Heartstone gem! We do find the body of a Talonite priest nearby with a vial of poison:

    [​IMG]

    We take it back to Arundel. He tells us that the only place a priest like that could've come from is Dragon's Eye. We go there!


    4. If Thine Eye Offend Thee
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]

    We arrive, then immediately head back. Entering Dragon's Eye begins Chapter 2, and when the game enters chapter 2, Orrick in Kuldahar starts selling new items to you. Or at least, he should; apparently, this is bugged on some Enhanced Edition installs. Full disclosure: I fixed it through the cheat console, but I did reload a save made right before I left for Dragon's Eye to do that. It was to deal with a bug introduced by a glorified mod, because I didn't want to further mess up the game by fucking around with other variables; I'm pretty zen with that reload, and you should be, too! Anyway, Orrick restocks properly, and I buy both the Shimmering Sash (constant blur effect; +3 AC, +1 saves) and Spirit Armor. Spirit Armor's the best mage armor buff in the game; it gives the base AC of plate mail and drops saves vs. spells by -4. Worth drinking an intellect-boosting potion to scribe, even on its own.

    (I seem to mention saving throws a lot; this is because saves vs. death and spells are probably the two most important stats for any character in an Infinity Engine game solo ironman run. Status ailments are so deadly that most save-or-else situations are in fact save-or-die. This means that there isn't really a substitute for low saves; even a saving throw of 0 has a 5% chance of failing if the enemy casts an effect with a -2 modifier, or if he debuffs you, or if you're tired because your haste spell wore off, or really, any of a number of situations. And the game is long enough that if you keep playing the odds with a 5% chance, eventually you'll hit the jackpot. The death jackpot.)

    Anyway, off to Dragon's Eye!

    [​IMG]

    Dragon's Eye level 1 kinda sucks; I'm going to skip most of it. There are just a bunch of tiresome lizardmen.

    [​IMG]

    I do stop by their king long enough to murder him. Suffer not the xeno to live!

    [​IMG]

    Then I free some prisoners, and it's off to level 2. Pictured above is a fight that would almost certainly kill me in the vanilla game. See, the beetles there breathe toxic clouds, which damage you if you aren't immune to acid and have a chance to stun you. Free Action protects against that in EE, as it should, but did not in vanilla Icewind Dale. They were just too deadly to engage for a soloist. They show up in Trials of the Luremaster, too, the hardest part of the game--and I remember ignoring the endgame-level enemies next to them, because the little beetles were what I considered the scary part.

    As it is, I have to back off and rest, but it's doable.

    [​IMG]

    A fight with the Talonite priests. The Sufferer chooses to proselytize at the infidels as he engages: "Poison cannot save you. It can end some problems, but not this one. You will have redemption only through pain."

    [​IMG]

    He pours out a universal antitode potion onto the poison goddess's altar. A thunderclap shakes this place far below any sky. "It seems even the Lady of Venom can feel stung," the Sufferer chuckles.

    Speaking of suffering, we also rescue the lost priestess of the Kuldahar temple of Ilmater here, despite her being a loyalist wretch. She came here as an act of martyrdom; rushing in to save her and all her captives declares that sacrifice vain and without meaning. Still, the Sufferer cannot resist the urge to mock her: "Ilmater didn't come to save you," the Sufferer growls. "Only I did that."

    "You're implying that I should have expected the god of suffering to directly intervene to stop me from suffering?" she asks, puzzled. "Like . . . neither my particular religion nor theology in general works like that, you realize."

    "Then maybe you need a new religion!" the Sufferer says determinedly.

    She looks confused for a bit, then realization dawns. "You have a wisdom score of like 14 or something, don't you?" She pats him on the head condescendingly.

    The Sufferer frowns. I suppose I've been tuning my debate style for people I'm going to kill before they can respond, he muses. Perhaps I need to work on my rhetoric. Then he goes off and kills some more spiders.

    Side note: if the Sufferer had just bashed her head in here, he would have averted the births of the main antagonists of IWD2, prevented a war, and saved thousands of lives.

    * * *

    You may have noticed I've been skipping quickly through this section, and unlike HoW content, I'm not avoiding fights out of necessity; I'm avoiding them because I'm not interested. The first two levels of Dragon Eye are annoying filler. I'd say it highlights one problem in the base IWD game: for a game that's completely linear for its first half, it does a remarkably bad job of communicating the player's purpose to him, small-scale or large-scale. You start out in Easthaven and join Hrothgar's expedition for no clear reason. He sends you to your first dungeon, to investigate the caravan in the orc cave. You need to do this because . . . I don't remember, exactly, if it was ever articulated. There's a guy in town who sends for more supplies on news of the caravan's demise, but presumably, even without you, he'd have figured out that it wasn't coming.

    Then you leave on your expedition. It gets murdered, and you go on to Kuldahar, for lack of any other option. There, the local wise man tells you to help with local disturbances. It's not really clear what your motivation is for agreeing. There's one half-hearted dialogue option for evil parties to refuse, to which Arundel replies that you're stuck here, so the local problems are in fact your problems. But clearly you can cross the mountains to the south without incident--you do so later in the game, and it's not commented upon--so that doesn't really explain it. (You also have a guy who can teleport you to another town, if you have Heart of Winter installed.) If you're altruistic, you can try to help the townspeople for that reason. But if you're altruistic, you could also go literally anywhere else and help people there; this whole world is a hellhole full of rampaging evils, and there's nothing specifically tying you to Kuldahar.

    Anyway, for whatever reason, you agree to Arundel's request. He promptly sends you off to the Vale of Shadows, in case the source of the town's problems is there. It isn't. There isn't anything remotely threatening to Kuldahar there. There's a priestess of Auril who wants the great tree to die, but she doesn't have an actual plan for this, and Arundel the Archdruid would be totally capable of wiping the floor with her if she tried. So you were just wasting your time in the Vale. Okay.

    Next, Arundel backs up a step from trying to solve the first-order problem, and sends you to the cultists' temple, since they have an artifact that, if used correctly, will give us a clue as to what's going on. A second-order solution! Except the artifact isn't there, so the point of going there was actually to get a clue to the place where we can find the artifact that will give us a clue of what's going on, so, it's a third-order solution. Spoiler: when we finally find and use this artifact, it won't point us to the source of the evil in Icewind Dale. Instead, it'll point us to a place two chapters' worth of dungeons away from there. So this was actually a fourth-order solution.

    This is a lot of indirection, and at the start, you aren't given clear short-term goals to focus on. Chapter 1 was spent wandering around the Vale until, three levels into the fourth or fifth tomb you explored, someone asked you to do something.

    Now we're two levels deep in this Dragon's Eye place, and we know very little about what's going on here, who has the artifact, or why they want it. If there was any nonlinearity in the game at all, you'd have just as much reason to trudge to some sidequest zone as you would to be here. (Which I guess is what I did with Heart of Winter, so, this isn't hypothetical.) And the point at which you get options for what to do next is right around the point where you start to understand what's going on with the main quest. I wonder if this was by necessity?

    * * *

    [​IMG]

    Ahem. Back to the Dragon's Eye, we're about to start hitting the interesting part, levels 3-5.

    [​IMG]

    Level 3's very straightforward. There are a bunch of open spaces. Periodically you run into a giant mob of undead, led by a lieutenant who speaks with the voice of the necromancer who raised them.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    You can have an ongoing conversation with her.

    [​IMG]

    The Sufferer's taking these repeated attempts on his life pretty well. (Possibly because he's now leveled high enough that he can just blast mid-level undead away with turning.)

    [​IMG]

    Aw. The Necromancer and the Sufferer are starting to like each other. Could this be . . . love? Is this the hidden Icewind Dale romance?

    [​IMG]

    Yes.

    [​IMG]

    It is a love story between the Sufferer's flail and the necromancer's head. If anyone knows any reason why these two should not be joined, speak now!

    [​IMG]

    And that's that. The necromancer mentioned an ally; we'll probably find this person below. Note the glitter on the screen above; the area all around the necromancer has traps in it. Individually, they take out 20-30 HP at most. However, the next level is going to be the first serious danger we'll have been in since Heart of Winter. There are enemies there that can quickly take down our HP. I can probably survive them if I can fall back, but if I'm frantically fleeing and run into a few of these traps on my way out, I may find myself angrily staring at a grey screen. So I take care to trip the traps now, while I'm safe. Then I descend.

    [​IMG]

    Hm, there are a bunch of priests of a good god peacefully hanging out down here, on level 4 of Lizard/Cultist/Necromancer Hell. Nothing suspicious about that.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    That didn't take very long. Fighting through the exposed yuan-ti does take a while, though. They're skilled enough to actually hit us a fair amount. We delve deeper:

    [​IMG]

    I tried a low-reload playthrough of this game many years ago, my first time through; it was a large part of the inspiration of this iteration. Yuan-ti mages on this level killed me twice, back then; I can protect against their status effects, but they cast powerful acid spells that stack up pretty disgustingly on insane difficulty. They also prevent basically any spellcasting due to their damage over time effects. Remember how I mentioned having to fall back, then running into the traps on level 3? That happened, back then; I was annoyed. Anyway, this time, I'm doing no-reloads and am much more cautious. I actually have a Protection from Acid spell, which I don't cast, because I'm dumb, but I do engage the mages piecemeal, in which context I can take them out before they get too many spells off. I move on:

    [​IMG]

    We have a really cool dialogue with some midboss Yuan-ti priest:

    "I WILL KILL YOU!"
    "NO! I WILL KILL YOU!"

    --The greatest game writer of all time

    [​IMG]

    I believe this fight is the first time an enemy in base IWD casts dispel magic on us. Most every cleric-type enemy will continue to do this for the rest of the base game. It really fucks the Sufferer up! I've been playing him mostly as a fighter, with magic providing defensive and offensive buffs that make him unstoppable. Occasionally I summon something or dimension door, and very occasionally, I actually cast a spell on enemies. My point is, buffs make up over 95% of the spells I cast. Without buffs, the Sufferer's just a fighter. A fighter with no armor, set against enemies far tankier than he is. He kinda sucks, basically.

    In this case, I run away. Running: it remains a solid way to deal with the unexpected!

    [​IMG]

    Then I finish off the rest of the level. On to the deepest part of Dragon's Eye!


    5. Victory That Can Never Be
    Show Spoiler

    Soundtrack

    Well, we--

    [​IMG]

    Huh. We're going--

    [​IMG]

    We're going down this--

    [​IMG]

    We're going down this winding path, and this little girl:

    [​IMG]

    Keeps appearing to deliver circumlocutious warnings to go back. I remember thinking, on my first playthrough, "So the odds that she isn't the final boss of this level are 0, right?"

    Anyway, this level goes much as the previous one did. Yuan-ti are reasonably accurate enemies, and there are a ton of them here, so I frequently have to fall back to heal. Sometimes their priests debuff me. Sometimes, particularly in one archer fight, they force me to back off:

    [​IMG]

    And sometimes, against their champions, I get pretty banged up:

    [​IMG]

    But the key question for whether any of the enemies is a threat is, can they throw anything at me that I can't counter? Melee enemies are countered by being able to whittle them down, while maintaining sufficient mitigation (through arctic armor class and mirror images) that they can't do too much damage to me before I can disengage. Mages are countered by maintaining negative saving throws, protection from acid, and shield (a level 1 spell that protects against Magic Missile). Priests can dispel magic, which I can't yet counter, but as long as I play conservatively, they can't do enough damage to me during my retreat to take me down.

    Presently I come to the inner sanctum.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    holy shit, she IS the final boss! Who saw this coming? Aside from everyone?

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The Odd Little Girl then explains the plot of Icewind Dale.

    She is Yxunomei. She is a soldier.

    She might come off as pretentious; personally, I think she's the best-written character in the game, and I think MCA really outdid himself here. She's got too many good lines to screenshot, and it's impossible to see her whole dialogue tree in a single playthrough anyway, so have some text ripped from the game files. I'm going to attempt to reconstruct a dialogue that shows off most of the good stuff here; there'll be a summary at the end if you don't want to read it.

    Show Spoiler



    Summary: D&D cosmology is dumb. Devils (orderly evil spirits) fight with demons (chaotic evil spirits) in an endless, universe-wide conflict called the Blood War. (At least, prior to 4th edition, they did.) Yxunomei, as we're about to see, is a ranking marilith, one of the more powerful types of demons. She's fighting against someone she calls the Old Enemy, who seems to be responsible for most of the problems in Kuldahar that Yxunomei herself did not cause. She was planning to use the Heartstone Gem for intel on him and his forces. She didn't have much of a grudge against us before we showed up--hence her appearing earlier in the level and warning us rather than attacking us--but she's annoyed at how we slaughtered our way through 5 levels of her servants. Moreover, she doesn't want to give the gem up, and she's unaccustomed to regarding mortals as threats.

    [​IMG]

    The inevitable battle begins.

    Someone (possibly a script, possibly Yxunomei) hits the Sufferer with a Dispel Magic spell at the beginng of the fight, which sucks, especially since the game locked the door out at the moment Yxunomei went hostile. I don't get to use my favorite tactic this time. :( Instead, I run as far back as I can:

    [​IMG]

    , cast sanctuary, and start buffing again. It's a kind of awkward setup; there are multiple yuan-ti mages and priests around me, as well as a mass of fighters, so I need to be immune to any effects they use. They have only a small set of effects available, so this is feasible.

    [​IMG]

    Once that's accomplished, it's a straightforward beatdown. The Sufferer kills their queen first, so that her subjects will die knowing the enormity of their failure to their god, their people, and their ruler. The rest follow her as servants on her return to hell.

    The gem in hand, the Sufferer returns to Kuldahar.


    6. The Broken God Strikes Back
    Show Spoiler

    Kuldahar's under attack by weak monsters when we get back! And everyone here is too useless to do anything about it, so the Sufferer has to hunt them down for a while. Eventually, we're told to check in on Arundel.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    . . . spreading the gospel of suffering?!

    ?!?!?!?

    The Sufferer makes to send this lesser sufferer to explain his inferiority to Ilmater. Sadly, his rival vanishes before we get the chance.

    So, this guy is obviously the final boss. No one was unclear on that point, I hope. Let's think about that. Yxunomei seems to have been holding her own against him, even before she had the gem. She also had no intention of sticking around, once her foe was defeated. It's not totally clear that if we'd never come to Icewind Dale, this whole struggle wouldn't have just resolved itself. If we hadn't followed Arundel's useless leads for two chapters, maybe there'd be peace in our time!

    [​IMG]

    Speaking of that fucker, here he is, useless to the last. "Good work with the gem!" he says. "Too bad I'm giving you a long-winded speech instead of spending the three seconds it would take to use that damned thing. Since I'm not doing that, take it to this other guy who's multiple days away, surrounded by two armies of undead horrors! He's in a ruined elven fortress called the Severed Hand."

    "If I do that, will he finally reveal my arbitarily selected enemy?" the Sufferer asks.

    "Fuck no!" Arundel says. "Best you can hope for is that he points you somewhere on that's a cave complex and a glacier away from your actual enemy. If you were looking for something more precise, I know this deva who's a really reliable source of information. Let me mark Curst on your map."

    "Are you trying to squeeze in one last act of uselessness before you die?" the Sufferer asks.

    "Gurgle gurgle burgle," Arundel says, choking on his own blood.

    "Moreover, given that we know that the enemy has a literal giant army, wouldn't it have made a lot more sense to look for that, rather than running around, chasing divinatory tools of questionable usability or usefulness? I feel like supply lines alone for that army would leave an incredibly obvious trail we could follow, right?"

    "Good talk, bro!" Arundel says, then dies. We head to the Severed Hand.


    7. If Thine Hand Offend Thee

    Show Spoiler

    This tower is called the Severed Hand. Enemies here consist entirely of undead.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Guess how the fights here are going to go.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Good guess!

    I'm only going to describe one fight here, because all the rest consist of me obliterating ghosts who never had a prayer. Heart of Fury might as well be Story Mode. So, have some story:

    The backstory for the Severed Hand is that, long ago, there was an alliance between the elves of the Severed Hand and the dwarves of Dorn’s Deep against the local orcs. The alliance produced powerful weapons left in shared storage, which, much later, eventually showed up in the possession of invading orcs. The elves blamed the dwarves, the alliance was broken, and so isolated and deprived of their greatest weapons, the elves fell before the orcish horde. During the storming of their tower, their archmage Larrel attempted to activate a mythal, a powerful protective magic. But he got sloppy in his haste and botched the spell, thereby killing everyone in the tower and trapping them within, in spirit form. He himself was cursed by the head of the elven pantheon himself to eternity as a lich, denied the release of death as punishment for his negligence; in the centuries since, he’s become increasingly unstable. He appears twice in various cutscenes, flinging around destructive spells at nothing in particular, and ranting in annoying Yoda-esque inverted verb-subject syntax:

    [​IMG]

    But he's the only person who can use the Heartstone gem, for whatever reason, so we've got to deal with him.

    The upper levels are inhabited by elven ghosts, and that's kind of sad, because most of them don't realize they're dead.

    [​IMG]

    I mentioned that I'd narrate one fight:

    [​IMG]

    Something like 1% of the enemies you find in the Severed Hand aren't undead. These spiders are half of them. They almost killed me.

    See, they drain strength on hits. Ability score drain doesn't cost you hit points, and the visual indicator of it is tiny, so it can be easy to miss. They managed to get the Sufferer down to STR 9 before I remembered that they could do that. One of the dangers of ironman soloing: there's a point midgame when the difficulty drops off, and you can steamroll almost everyone. That leads to overconfidence, which leads to carelessness, which leads to sad times.

    The Sufferer is indulging in rampant blasphemy against the gods and likewise is full of a sense of superiority to all opponents. I wonder if his pride precedes a fall?

    Anyway, the scene where you finally meet Larrel is kind of cool:

    [​IMG]

    The tortured ghost of an ancient archmage, wringing his hands among the dysfunctional machinery of an astrolabe that acts as a metaphor for this whole area. Endlessly turning, endlessly misaligned, endlessly useless. The game mechanic to make sure that you actually explore the Severed Hand is that you have to collect four missing pieces of the astrolabe and bring them here; doing so restores Larrel to lucidity:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Well, semi-lucidity:

    [​IMG]

    See, after Larrel blamed the dwarves for betraying the alliance--over their strenuous denials--his daughter Evayne ventured out to meet them, convinced that there was more to the story and hoping to mend the rift. She left a journal here detailing her plans. She never came back, and that confirmed the elven leader's eternal hatred against the dwarves.

    The Sufferer listens to his story. It seems like he's missing something obvious. On reviewing Evayne's journal, he speculates about why Larrel was really cursed.

    He then finds himself looking at Larrel and then at Shapechange page of his spell book, and wondering if the pain in the man’s mind is so great that even mindlessness would be preferable. Even more, defying the elven pantheon's curse would give him another victory against the tyranny of the present divine order, another point in the favor of this would-be god of war and experience and defiance.

    Still. If he's right, and Larrel is wrong about Evayne and the dwarves, that would be too great a mercy for a man who destroyed two civilizations through sheer stupidity. No, indeed. His suffering must be made more severe. When he knows the truth about his daughter, then he’ll have the Sufferer’s permission to die.

    (Guys, his wisdom is 14. It's not his fault that he thinks in terms of Hollywood one-liners.)


    8. Know the Xeno, Kill the Xeno
    Show Spoiler

    We're heading to Upper Dorn's Deep. Before we do, there are a few things to take care of. First, we briefly touch the entrance on the world map to trigger the chapter 4 cutscene:

    [​IMG]

    This in turn triggers an upgrade in Orrick's stock, back in Kuldahar. We go there and turn in a book on mythal theory we found in the Severed Hand, for a nice reward. We also buy most of the 4th-level mage scrolls in the game, including Improved Invisibility. (-4 to all saves! It's ridiculous!)

    [​IMG]

    We also dart inside Upper Dorn's to the underground tower of a mage who lives there--he's got some spells he'll sell us.

    And then we take a look in the mirror:

    [​IMG]

    Cleric level 30 enables us to do something I've wanted to do for quite a while.

    [​IMG]

    Hello, Burial Isle. The Sufferer has such fond memories of skulking through your tunnels as a level 7 untermensch, terrified that one of your residents might see him and instantly obliterate him.

    How does that feel, by the way? Being instantly obliterated?

    [​IMG]

    I'm guessing it feels like nothing.

    [​IMG]

    Why not dive into a pool of holy water, Mebdinga? The time when we feared the wail of the banshee passed long ago.

    There do remain a few foes that even the mightiests of priests cannot turn:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    But alone, his servitors blasted from the earth, this shaman's God of Battle is too weak to save him from a true lord of the battlefield.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Oh, also, he beats a polar bear to death. A spirit too strong for the Sufferer's crushing contempt was too weak for his crushing blows.

    [​IMG]

    I finally bring the little girl by the well in Lonelywood home. (Probably should've done this 15 million experience points ago!) And I'm now rich enough that I can buy all the high-level scrolls from the Heart of Winter mages, just in case they might be useful.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Anyway, Upper Dorn's is beautiful but straightforward. Myconids can normally confuse or stun, but the Sufferer's immune to both effects, so they can really only die. Ettins are strong, and as you can see in the pic, they've managed to take off 100 hit points from the Sufferer. It's around this time that I remember that, while looting the Severed Hand, I found the scroll of stoneskin. Stoneskin's a contender for the best spell in the game; at our level, it gives 10 charges, each of which can block all physical damage in a blow meant for us. It also lasts for 12 hours.

    Onward!

    [​IMG]

    I venture down a level and run into a pretty well-designed defensive line. Tanky spellswords with stoneskin, with teleporting spiders, backed by archers and sorcerers on the far side of a narrow bridge. The Sufferer meets the eyes of the sorcerer in charge and speaks. "I come not to bring peace, but a sword."

    The drow leader looks him over and raises an eyebrow. "Curious choice of words. No priest of any god can wield a blade," he says hesitantly.

    "I am no priest," says the Sufferer. At the last word, all the shadows of this place detached from walls and corners and leap to his hand, condensing into an infinitely dark hole in the world, one he wields like a blade.

    (On my last trip to Lonelywood, I picked up Black Blade of Disaster. I should've gotten it sooner. I underestimated it due to my experience in Baldur's Gate 2, mostly due to two differences between the games: first, BG2 gives you access to better uses for 9th-level spell slots (Summon Planetar! Time Stop! Wish! Improved Alacrity! Dragon's Breath! Chain Contingency with 3x Horrid Wilting!), and second, BG2 is overflowing with weapons with incredibly powerful secondary effects (+50% magic resistance and dispel on hit! Save vs. spell or be stunned! Save vs. spell or be killed!), thus lessening the marginal utility of a summonable magic sword. But it turns out that the set of tactics weaker than Summon Planetar still includes a lot of insanely overpowered moves, and this is one of them. With Righteous Magic and Improved Haste, it does a ridiculous 50 damage per hit, 7 times per round. It can also drain levels, heal the caster, and just disintegrate enemies outright. It turns the Sufferer from a tank who wins his battles by sheer ability to outlast the enemy into a human blender.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The challenge level's rapidly ramping up; the game's feeling freer to throw massive armies at me.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I meet a future major antagonist in Icewind Dale 2! He tells me to kill a dude, which I'm into.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Politeness to enemies is the luxury of the truly powerful. The chief was carrying a note that explains our objective for most of the rest of the game:

    [​IMG]

    It's signed RBP, by the way. Try not to sprain your brain guessing who that might be. Anyway, RBP has six lieutenants and has given badges to each. We've gotta catch 'em all.

    We return to the previous level, where the dwarves have set up the world's most obvious puzzle:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It's also kind of buggy, so I still get a bit fried for my efforts. I persevere:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    And make it into the Hall of Heroes.



    9. Fueled with Justice and Hope
    Show Spoiler


    The Hall of Heroes is short but cool:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    So, the dwarves claim they had no involvement in the disappearance of the alliance's weapons, and in fact suspect a third party. This seems like the sort of thing a leader should probably consider as a possibility and investigate, before severing diplomatic ties with his closest allies in the face of a looming invasion. Oh well. Anyway, there's a lich currently haunting the tombs, commanding a legion of undead. I hope you're not tired of screenshots of exploding corpses:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This is supposed to be tricky, inasmuch as the lich respawns until you find his phylactery in the next level, but the distance is so short that it hardly matters.

    [​IMG]

    Hm. The dwarves built a statue to honor the tomb of Larrel's daughter Evayne. That . . . doesn't seem like something they'd do for someone they murdered.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Who didn't see that coming? I get that Larrel had a bad case of Plot Stupidity, but it's egregious enough that it kind of makes me hate the character.

    Anyway, we zap the lich's phylactery; it vanishes almost as soon as we pick it up (bug?):

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    And that's that. We proceed to the exit.


    Next steps
    Show Spoiler

    So, we've reached the first point in Icewind Dale where we actually have some choice as to where to go next! It only took us two-thirds of the game. This is also the point at which opponents start to feel more interesting. This has been a fairly passive LP, but if anyone's got a preference for where I should go next, let me know. Here are the options!

    A) Joril’s cave. Jotuns.
    B) Ilmadia’s enclave. Eldjotuns.
    C) The Frozen Aquarium. Slaves.
    D) Perdiem’s temple. Unholiness.
    E) Marketh’s domain. Wretches.
    F) Malavon’s Lair. A sorcerer.
    G) Trials of the Luremaster. Big, long, brutal series of dungeons. Hardest part of the game, for a lot of reasons. Might be rough, but I'm feeling lucky!

     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2015
    • Brofist Brofist x 5
    ^ Top  
  23. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,283
    It sounds like he could make the Sufferer quite an example of suffering.

    :lol:
    It was actually funny this time because they both use the word "suffer".
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2015
    ^ Top  
  24. Kayerts Arcane

    Kayerts
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    879
    I get the feeling that their levels of compassion are right around equal, and the Poquelin could show him a path of worship he would feel was truly divine. The Sufferer would embrace the Revered Brother as a True Bro.
     
    ^ Top  

(buying stuff via the above buttons helps us pay the hosting bills, thanks!)