Winter Soldier > Man of Steel

Captain America:  Winter Soldier has been out for a few weeks now, so a review of it now would be unnecessary.  What we can talk about is how it compares to other movies, namely another superhero action blockbuster that starred an all-American idealist hero.  Winter Soldier and Man of Steel were released within a year of each other and tackled the same heroic archetype in two contrasting manners.  We’re going to see that Man of Steel absolutely sucks compared to Winter Soldier.

The things Man of Steel did wrong could be a rant in and of itself but the main sin is that the movie destroyed Superman’s character.  Man of Steel Superman is plagued with self-doubt and insecurity.  How can he be accepted into the world as a human when he has all these superhuman abilities?  Every other Superman medium deals with this conflict by bothering to distinguish between Clark Kent and Superman.  Clark Kent is the identity used to blend in with humanity while he becomes Superman to save them.  In Man of Steel, Superman has to travel around the world and level all of Metropolis before he comes to this conclusion.

Man of Steel Superman has his head and intentions in the right place but does not use his powers in the right way. Despite having the power to survive in space, he fights Zod and the other Kryptonians in highly populated areas.  Superman makes no effort to minimize civilian casualties or draw the Kryptonians out in to lesser populated areas.  We watch him suppress his powers when his foster father is in danger, all because he was told to.  Maybe DC figured a more “realistic” Superman who struggled to do the right thing would make for a better film.

If Man of Steel‘s mixed reception didn’t question that decision, Captain America:  Winter Soldier certainly should.  Marvel had all the reasons necessary to make Captain America more gritty.  Adjusting to 21st century America could have caused Captain to lose his idealism.  Instead of altering his character, Marvel reinforced Captain’s identity in Winter Soldier without making him a jingoistic parody.  By staying true to who Captain America is, Winter Soldier ended up being positively received.

Throughout Winter Soldier, we see Captain America as someone who’s not loyal to SHIELD.  He has some moral qualms over how secretive they are, the ends they attempt to reach and the means they’ll go through to justify them.  When he finds out HYDRA has infiltrated SHIELD and used them for their own ends, he doesn’t abandon his idealism.  Instead, he soldiers on and even rallies some of SHIELD to his cause in the climax after an inspiring speech.  Captain America also tries to limit how much property damage and civilian casualties his fights cause despite having nowhere near the power Superman does.

Man of Steel decided not to bother with the heroic archetype.  “We have to make Superman more gritty, more palatable to today’s modern movie audience” was, presumably, the DC executive thought process.  “We have to make him angsty, more like Batman.”  Marvel decided not to change Captain America’s identity.  Their ideology was “we’re going to use the modern era to reinforce the characteristics of our all-American hero.”  Considering the state of Marvel’s cinematic universe compared to DC’s, Marvel made the right call.

D&D Classics Campaign: Scourge of the Slave Lords Part III

Continued from Scourge of the Slave Lords Part II…  Our players for this session are Nick (Alarik, Human Crusader 8) and Steve (Steve, Human Swordsage 8).  GM PCs include Mornrandir (Human Wizard 8) and Laurin (Human Cleric 8).  While more in-depth entries (such as the previous one) are more evocative and informative, this one will be more of a bullet-point highlight reel detailing events of interest.  The change of format is necessary so the session can be accounted for before the events of it escape my mind.

***

* The party skipped the majority of the wilderness encounters, thanks to the use of alter self and Alarik’s diplomacy.  Steve disguised himself as Dustin, whose death had no yet reached those slavers in the interior.  The only encounter they were required to do was the trek through the cave network to Suderham.

* The cave network itself was fairly challenging.  Among the opposition the party faced was a storoper (which turns whoever it hits to stone for a round before the victim reverts and attacks its companions), an illusionist and a rust monster.  Laurin was slain by the party after he was hit by the storoper and started attacking his comrades.  Alarik went a little overzealous with his divine surge strike and Laruin’s remains were cremated in an acid trap room.

* The party gained entry to Suderham after they assumed new disguises/identities.  A week passed with our protagonists taking advantage of the city’s resources.  Steve used his new identity as a city guard to memorize patrols and gain entry into the city treasury.  Mornrandir joined the wizard’s guild.  Alarik took to the bars and taverns, learning what he could about the Slave Lords.

* Alarik eventually found a secret entrance to the Slave Lord stronghold after cozying up with the right people.  The party then took this path after they raided the treasury vault and made off with a haul of over 200,000 gold.  The above raid was nearly spoiled when the wife of the guard Steve was posing as turned up, asking his co-workers where her husband had.

Steve successfully bluffed her into believing that “he” had been hard at work and taken up drinking to cope.  She was unaware that her real husband had been dumped in the city sewer system after receiving multiple stab wounds.  While Alarik understood Steve couldn’t tell her the truth, he was pretty appalled by the lies Steve concocted.  This woman would not know her husband’s true fate for some time, if she ever would.

* Parts II and III of this account were actually one session total and it lasted about seven hours total.  That said, the Slave Lord stronghold was supposed to be longer and involve a lot more traps.  As it happened, I misread the map and led the party down a passage they shouldn’t have encountered that led them straight to the Slave Lords.

* The Slave Lord encounter was interesting in that they tempted Steve and Alarik with money, hoping to use them against the wizard.  The leader offered Steve a million gold and a position as leader if he turned on his friends, which I thought Steve was close to accepting.  It turns out that Steve was only bluffing his acceptance, as he was just trying to get into a position to hit the Slave Lords with a flame strike (which he killed five of them outright with).

Combat-wise, the fight with the Slave Lords was a mess.  The Slave Lords themselves were overconfident and hadn’t planned for a fight lasting more than three rounds…and what little they had planned was rendered useless after Steve killed half of them with one attack.  Alarik was feared away from the battle and didn’t do much until the end (when Mornrandir got a chance to dispel it).  After an assassin’s poisoned sneak attack nearly killed Steve, he was put in a resilient sphere by Mornrandir.  This made him immune to attacks but meant he couldn’t attack in turn.  The remaining Slave Lords were grappled by black tentacles while Mornrandir went to dispel Alarik’s fear.

The Slave Lord fight would have been a lot tougher had they been converted to 3.5.  Because the session was nearing the seven hour mark, I just used the AD&D stat block that was in front of me.  With 3.5, Steve’s flame attack would have been less damaging and the encounter would have been the real beat-down the module intended it to be.  As it went, Tome of Battle and two 4th level spells (Black Tentacles and Resilient Sphere) gave the players a huge advantage.

* The death of the last Slave Lord triggered a volcanic eruption.  Suderham being at the foot of this volcano and in the middle of the lake, this prompted a bit of a panic for the party.  They made a mad dash for the docks.  Their arrival at the docks was the climax of the adventure…as they decided to take the ship with purple sails.  The same ship that had raided Dame Gold’s castle and taken the citizens there into captivity.

* The party wasn’t the only one with this idea, as Caerwyn had found Dame Gold and her guests in the city jail.  He had led her and those with her to this boat in hopes of taking the presumed reward for her rescue for himself.  The crew of the ship he had arrived in the city with (the one with yellow sails) was also at his command.  In the confusion that had ensued from the volcano’s eruption, Caerwyn and his crew were in the process of seizing the boat from the slavers.  Caerwyn still had an assassination contract to carry out and (correctly) assumed that any Slave Lords would make their way to this boat.

In addition the people already present here (Dame Gold, her subjects, Caerwyn, his crew, the slavers)…the leader of the Slave Lords was also here.  He had teleported here after barely surviving Steve’s flame attack…and only persuaded Caerwyn to spare him momentarily after telling him those who had framed him as “the arsonist of Highport” were also here.  From previous experience, Caerwyn had enough trouble fighting Steve and so accepted the leader’s proposal.  With cleric buffs and a slaver crew at his disposal, Caerwyn figured the odds were in his favor.

* Despite all that, the party survived the surprise round and Steve won initiative to start the next turn.  He short-range teleported next to Caerwyn and threw him into the water.  Mornrandir then cast ray of enfeeblement and ray of exhaustion on Caerwyn, plummeting his strength score to 0.  With armor, armor check penalties and the tumultuous waters shaken up by the volcano’s eruption, Caerwyn’s lungs filled with water as he sank like a stone.  While his death was most painful, he knew this was not the end…as the Spider Queen had assured him he would get his vengeance.

* The leader of the Slave Lords was dealt with by Alarik’s divine surge.  With the leader and Caerwyn dying in a most graphic fashion before their eyes, the remaining slavers and Caerwyn’s own crew surrendered.  Only enough to sail the ship were spared, the rest executed by Alarik and Steve.

* As the volcano’s eruption consumed the city of Suderham and the surrounding island, the party found a trinket amongst the slaver’s storage:  the vial containing the cure for Dame Gold’s brother.  While Dame Gold relieved the party of performing the task (due to the events with the Slave Lords taking precedence and the ship not being fast enough to reach his last known location), Mornrandir assured the lady there was still hope…and he would cure her brother’s illness once he had rested up.

The adventure ends with the party going their separate ways upon returning to Safeton.  Mornrandir leaves to cure Dame Gold’s brother of his illness while Steve and Alarik ponder their next move.  The party would not reunite for another two years…when they will return in Against the Giants!

D&D Classics Campaign: Scourge of the Slave Lords Part II

Continued from Scourge of the Slave Lords Part I…  Our players for this session are Nick (Alarik, Human Crusader 8) and Steve (Steve, Human Swordsage 8).  GM PCs include Mornrandir (Human Wizard 8) and Laurin (Human Cleric 8).

***

Amidst the candles and braziers, knelt a cleric in prayer.  The incense burned as he muttered his words, beseeching his god for the means to repay those who wronged him.  Only half a year ago, he had been cast into this realm to rid it of great evil…only to have been sold into the servitude of said evil instead.  By those who had been sent in with him no less!  Revenge burned inside him like a bonfire but that was fine.  After all, his god was the one of the sun.

So focused on prayer was he that he did not hear the steps of the Slave Lord entering.  Instead of interrupting, the Slave Lord merely listened as the cleric spit the words of hate towards his former comrades.  When he had found that this so-called “Dustin the Good”, who had helped destroy the Temple of Elemental Evil, was a slave on his market…well, he had to know more about those who had discarded him.  And how he could use them for his own purposes.

So, the two of them talked all through the winter, each using the other unknowingly to further their own machinations.  The Slave Lord had heard Dustin’s tale, how the crime the cleric had been sentenced for was not one he committed.  Relying on this thirst for revenge, the Slave Lord stationed Dustin in Highport and waited for the party to move on from the village of Hommlett.  He soon heard of their invitation to Safeton and the manor of Dame Gold, engineering the raid there.  From Dustin’s intel regarding their lust for wealth, he counted on them rescuing the lady…if only for the bounty.

The sequence of events had been manipulated to lead the party to Highport, one way or the other.  While the slaver’s plan had not gone exactly as it should have (mainly the party’s escape once reaching Highport), their time in captivity upon the galley should not have endeared them to the Slave Lords.  They will find this temple, the crux of the slave trade in Highport, sooner or later.

Waiting for them will be their former cleric, Dustin.  He will have the resources of the temple at his disposal, which should be enough to overcome a party deprived of their magical items (or any scrounged up during their time in Highport, provided they find a dealer willing to sell).  Once the party is dealt with and when he had finished using Dustin to purge the Slave Lord hierarchy of a traitor, the cleric will easily be discarded.  The slave trade would resume unabated with the deaths of those who conquered the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Dustin was not going to be a mere pawn, however, as he had ambitions of his own.  While he had no love for the other party members, only the wizard had sold him into slavery.  He figured his former comrades were more selfish than evil…and if they were nefarious, he could use that to get them to turn on one of their own.  He had gleaned much about the Slave Lord’s operations that he could share with the party, provided they hand the wizard over.

Even if the scenario did not play out as predicted, Dustin was confident that evil would be cleansed from the world.  For his god had shown him visions of evil men being cut down by a blade of flame and a great volcanic eruption consuming their stronghold.  His god had interpreted the vision for Dustin, telling him the meaning and significance of each nightly dream.  Dustin had it on divine authority that all this would come to pass.  He had already won.  It was now only a matter of time waiting for everyone else to catch up and realize it.

***

Once a crown jewel amidst the local jungle, Highport was the center of trade along the sea.  Commerce from all places flowed into the city and the wealth was evident by grandeur of the buildings.  While the money and goods that flowed into Highport made the citizens there rich, it also attracted the attention of barbaric hordes.  A conglomeration of orcs, gnolls, goblins and other humanoids sacked the city after six attempts.

Curiously, the head of the horde did not keep Highport for himself.  Instead, he merely occupied the city and allowed humans to resettle it…only the humans who were allowed to return were none of the original settlers.  Instead, a more evil stock was sought.

As the party recuperates in Highport, the city is little more than a ruin with enough of a touch up to make it look presentable.  Its inhabitants are divided amongst their own ambitions, united only by their fear of the Slave Lords.  The Slave Lords only care that their profitable trade is conducted in Highport, with enough pretense of a government concocted to keep that establishment in tact.  Outside of slaves, Highport is a town where the only law is whoever has the strongest sword arm.

To the surprise of no one, the party fits in with the evil around them.  For 6 days, Steve sets fire to any ships in the harbor and manages to evade detection.  As can be expected, he racks up a considerable bounty (27,000 gold).  Ser Nicholas adopts the alias “Alarik” and uses his suave charm to influence those in the slave trade.  Caerwyn tries to work his way through the slave organization as well but does not manage as well as Alarik.  Mornrandir uses his leadership abilities to organize an underground resistance movement for free (i.e. escaped) slaves…who also help retrieve the party’s belongings from the bottom of the ocean.

On the sixth day since their arrival, Mornrandir meets with Alarik and Steve to plot their foray into the Temple of Highport.  Alarik has learned that all slaves are taken there, as it is a processing center of sorts.  People dealing in the slave trade enter and leave via the temple’s main gate.  Some of the slaves recently processed match the description of Dame Gold and her guests.  Although there is a secret entrance to the temple, Alarik has convinced those in the city he’s a prospective trader and would like to see the stock…a request that has been granted.

To continue the tradition of framing other party members for crimes they have committed in order to secure a bounty, Steve suggests incriminating Caerwyn as “The Arsonist.”  All present sign off on the plan, for the public commotion regarding The Arsonist’s arrest would likely draw some attention away from the Temple of Highport.  And thus, Caerwyn was knocked out, silenced and hauled off in the middle of the night before being turned over to the authorities.  When they checked his hideout, they found all kinds of materials used to make alchemical fire.  The authorities declared the arsonist case closed after paying the party the bounty’s reward.

The next day, with Highport authorities and (some) citizens trumpeting the capture of the dreaded arsonist, the rest of the party (plus Laurin, a recruited cleric) made their way to the temple.  Steve uses Caerwyn’s magical hat of alter self to disguise himself as a buff specimen.  Mornrandir uses magic to achieve a similar effect.  Alarik is able to pass off Laurin as a friend.

The party enters the Temple of Highport, with access to its interior easily granted.  Alarik knows the location of two slave pens, one on the temple level proper and the other in its depths.  He leads his “slaves” through the temple’s courtyard into the garden but soon loses control of them.  For in the garden are a group of harpies, the mortal enemy of Steve.  Steve blows the party’s cover by attacking the harpies, downing two of them before the others fly off to warn their masters of intruders!

The four soon come to the slave pen on the temple’s top level…but find it’s not much of a slave pen at all!  As the party moves to free them, the “slaves” turn out to be half-orcs!  Armed with short swords concealed within their raggedy robes, the half-orcs attempt to slay the party on behalf of the Slave Lords.  One fear spell later and the humanoids are cowering within the corners of the room.  Alarik, Steve and Laurin slay a few of them before leaving the room, with Mornrandir placing an arcane lock on the door.

Before venturing back into the courtyard, Mornrandir and Steve alter themselves to look like half-orcs.  They take Alarik and Laurin as their “prisoners” and plan to use them to catch the guards unawares.  Upon entering the courtyard, they notice the area is on full battle alert.  Orcs have pushed over tables and are taking cover behind them while some half-orcs have a primitive flame-throwing device aimed at the door to the garden.  Luckily, the humanoids are not too trigger-happy and are pleased to know that some of their own managed to catch the intruders!

This allows Steve to use the same technique he set so many ships in the harbor ablaze with on the flame-throwing device!  The half-orcs are immediately incinerated while some of the orcs are cut down by Alarik as they flee the temple into the city!  The rest escape, raving about how the arsonist lives as they do so.  The party does not give chase, figuring that the authorities would believe Caerwyn was the real arsonist.

Exiting the courtyard, the four open the main doors to the Temple of Highport.  They bypass the trapped corridor lined with gargoyles by simply flying over it (and carrying those who can’t).  Listening in at the door, Steve hears the moaning of a few slaves amidst the grunting of some half-orcs…and a murmured prayer uttered by a familiar voice.  He does not know why Dustin is here but figures he won’t be too happy to see Mornrandir.

A minute later, the door to the alter swings open with Steve and Alarik dragging Mornrandir towards Dustin.  They force the wizard to kneel down in front of Dustin, with Steve asking why the hell Dustin’s here.  Dustin tells Steve he’ll tell him everything but only after he’s exacted the revenge he’s waited so long for.  Dustin casts divine power but Steve and Alarik help Mornrandir to his feet.

Then all hell breaks loose!  A troll suddenly appears from a poor box, suddenly growing from a small stone miniature!  Alarik faces the troll alone while Laurin deals with the half-orcs.  Steve grabs Dustin and they both teleport to the top of the room.  Steve manages to keep Dustin in his grasp while fixed on the ceiling, thanks to his spider-climbing magic gear and an increased strength buff.  Dustin’s divine power buff is then dispelled by Mornrandir.

Dustin’s last thoughts are of confusion and fear.  Why did Steve not betray the wizard?  He struggles to free himself of Steve but it is in vain.  Dustin’s thoughts are interrupted when Steve comet throws him into the ground, the impact upon the stone floor paralyzing him.  Steve then helps Laurin deal with the half-orcs before facing the troll with Alarik.  Mornrandir’s attention is fixed on Dustin.

Alarik reminds the party that Dustin is needed alive but Mornrandir dismisses that.  After hitting Dustin with rays of enfeeblement and exhaustion, the wizard poly-morphs into a mind flayer.  Powerless to stop him, Dustin’s brain is soon extracted by the mind flayer.  With Dustin’s knowledge now in possession, the party frees the slaves.  The slaves are grateful for freedom but fear for their lives after seeing the brain extraction.  After descending down a trap door, the party rests for 8 hours in an extra-dimensional space created by an extended rope trick.

[ The above encounter with Dustin was supposed to be with another cleric…until Gabe suggested it would be pretty hilarious if the party ever ran into Dustin again.  This was the best place to fit that encounter. ]

The next day consisted of a rampage through the lower levels of the temple.  Slaves were freed, brains were extracted from hosts and the party recovered some intel regarding a slaver caravan.  Said caravan is believed to be the one transporting Dame Gold and the other kidnapped villagers.  They also found a map and directions to the Slave Lord capital, the city of Suderham.  The party wasted no time in pursuing the caravan, hoping to catch up with the caravan…either in the wilds or in Suderham.

***

As the party ventures into the jungle wilds, a drow priestess makes her way to Highport’s dungeons.  Any questions from guards immediately cease when she shows her ID, revealing her to be one of the Slave Lords.  She had received a most disturbing message from the spider goddess:  That she would soon be framed for a plot to usurp control of the Slave Lords.  The evidence “incriminating” her would be manufactured by the head of the Slave Lords himself, hoping to purge the ranks of those undesirable.

The spider goddess, Lolth, had told the priestess this news, as well as to seek aid from one of her own.  The only other surface drow around was in this very prison.  He would be grateful for his release and stay of execution.  He would prove useful in eliminating the Slave Lord leader…and be grateful for the chance to get revenge on those who had wronged him.

She opened the cell of Caerwyn Tyr and together, boarded a ship with yellow sails.  During the trip to Suderham, they discussed the terms of his contract…  Caerwyn was now an assassin, all he had to do now was kill someone.

***

Next Time:  The players skip most of the content by using the alter self spell!  The party rampages through Suderham, making off with a considerable bounty of gold!  The Slave Lords are dealt with!  And one of the party members dies!

Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories

Spoilers:  The bane of all entertainment discussion.  Whenever a jaw-dropping event happens (like King Joffrey’s death on Game of Thrones), people have to be mindful of “spoiling” it for those who haven’t seen the event yet.  This is rather silly and when people cry foul about spoilers, they’re missing a major point that needs to be drilled into the heads of everyone…  The lesson being that spoilers don’t spoil stories.

If spoilers ruined stories, no one would re-read a book.  No one would buy a DVD of a movie they saw in a theater.  Titanic wouldn’t have been the highest grossing movie of all time for a decade plus!  Yet, despite “spoilers”, all these things exist and people continue to put money towards them.  Because how something ends is not the point of entertainment.  We watch, read and engage in something to see how it’s built up, how it’s resolved, what it can teach to help better ourselves, to support whoever created the story and other reasons that vary to the individual.

Knowing that Joffrey dies in the episode isn’t a spoiler that ruins Game of Thrones forever.  It’s a gateway to further enjoyment of the show.  Rather than complain about being spoiled, the person should ask themselves questions like “How does he die?”  If that can be answered ” isn’t his death still worth seeing?  Not to sound too sadistic but seeing a picture of Joffrey’s postmortem face differs vastly from watching the fucker choke to death.  The latter image is more likely to stick in the mind and leave a lasting impression, as opposed to the picture.

Other questions one should ask include, “Was Joffrey’s death worth the wait?”  It is something the audience has been expecting since the first season.  Did you feel that justice had been served?  Do you feel disappointed, especially when compared to how gruesome Robb Stark’s death was?

“Where does the show go from here?”  Tommen Baratheon is now King, so Cersei is Queen Regent again.  Tommen seems a good kid but he is a bastard of incest who could become another Joffrey.  Since Margerey was officially married to Joffrey, the Lannister-Tyrell arrangement is no longer linked by matrimony.  How will that alliance be renegotiated, if it even will be?  Who killed Joffrey and why was now the right moment?

Even if one gleans the answers from reading the books or has the upcoming events spoiled for them, they are still watching for other reasons.  Fans of the books still want to see these characters be brought to life by the actors who portray them.  They want to see the locations built by the production crew.  They want to see how the book translates to television.  Plot is filler, merely the structure by which the story can progress.

Spoilers don’t spoil stories.  Other issues like bad writing, poor acting and production failures are what ruin stories.  If knowing how something happens ruins the story, one should do some soul-searching and figure out what else is ruining their enjoyment…because it’ll go deeper than “aw man, I know what happens next now…”

Now Playing KOTOR: Search for Bastilla II

Last time, we ran into the classic convoluted RPG quest line in order to find Bastilla.  She was captured by a lower city Tarisian gang known as the Black Vulkars, who are offering her up as a ransom prisoner prize at the next swoop race.  In order to participate in that race on behalf of a rival gang, we need to break into the Vulkar base by infiltrating through the sewers and reacquire the prototype accelerator they stole…so we can win the swoop race.

We continue towards the under city by heading towards the elevator…

…to see some lower city gang politics at work.

This scene exists for a few reasons:  (1) To establish Davik at the top of the food chain when it comes to lower city gang politics.  (2) It shows the ambitions of the Black Vulkar gang are not limited to Brejik himself (and may possibly be an extension of his influence on them).  (3) We get an early look at Canderous Ordo as “guy who is not to be fucked with”.

We’re not bothering with the rakghouls and the related quest regarding the serum for reasons that they are not relevant to the main plot.  Also, the choice of who to give the cure (selfless doctor who creates easily accessible cure for the masses vs. evil crime lord who sells it for profit) is rendered irrelevant by the Sith bombardment of the planet.  The rakghoul disease is only a threat to NPCs (and low health player characters), as all it does to the party is provoke a fortitude save when they’re hit by a rakghoul.  Fail the save and a poison debuff is applied, one that’s easily cured with an antidote item (but the same can’t be used to manufacture a cure…why?  Gameplay/story segregation).

Wookiepedia says rakghouls were the result of a Sith bio-engineering process from an old Sith Lord but I can’t recall that ever coming up in the game.

The quest itself (that of people being taken over by some mysterious disease and the player being in charge of curing them) is a Bioware staple.  It shows up here, in Jade Empire (the creatures near the inn in the forest near Tien’s Landing, where you find Henpecked Hou), Mass Effect (The Thorian) and Dragon Age (the werewolves in the Dalish Forest).

We head down the elevator…

I guess they didn’t try this scam on Sith patrols.

Five credits is small change, so we’ll pay the toll.

I guess being able to see the sun, sky and stars would be nice if you lived in a closed environment where the only light you had was electrical.

Shaleena will direct us to a couple of other NPCs in case we wanted more information but we know we’re looking for Mission and Zaalbar.  A Wookie and a Twi’lek shouldn’t be that hard to find.

Shaleena is also the hook for The Promised Land quest.  She doesn’t start the quest but she does direct you to the guy who does…

The Promised Land quest involves finding a bunch of journals from Rukil’s “disciples” that can be found all around the under city and sewers.  Find all these journals and Rukil will lead the village to find the “Promised Land” (literally, all the village NPCs vanish).  Essentially, the promised land is a self-sufficient fallout shelter with droid servants.  The fate of the outcasts is revealed in The Old Republic.  The Sith bombardment knocks out the power and also results in a toxic radiation leak that slowly contaminates the inhabitants over the centuries until they all die out.  The rakghoul serum helps them survive for a bit but the supply runs out and the survivors realize babies can’t be born with the immunity.

Old Republic really sucks like that.

We head outside the village following an encounter with the rakghouls…

Lucky for us, we don’t have to spend an update (or two) looking for Mission.

Instead, we’re going to have to find Zaalbar (which isn’t too hard).

I realize this is to make Zaalbar look formidible but gameplay-wise, it doesn’t make much sense.  Wookies can’t wear armor and Zaalbar’s dexterity and AC scores are subpar.  Even if he has a +6 on his fortitude save, if the rakghouls hit him enough, he’s going to get hit.  Wookie biology probably works differently than a human’s (perhaps they could handle the rakghoul disease better?) but still, even Zaalbar should have thought twice before going around the under city.

Gamorreans are the ugly boar-looking creatures that served as palace guards for Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.

Not very light side to ask “favor for a favor” in a situation like this…but it is very practical.

Mission’s not really in a position to say “no”, after all.

The sewers have two entrances, one is very close to the village and accessing that one is the fastest way to find Zaalbar.  Before we head down there, though…

I suppose one would be rather distant if their best friend was kidnapped and about to be sold into slavery.

We asked this question before at Javyaar’s Cantina and got a vague non-answer.  Mission will be a lot more forthcoming about how she met Zaalbar here…

Note how she says Zaalbar is her family here and remember it at the end of the conversation.

I like the dismissive third option.  Why ask someone about a personal life story if you’re not all that interested, unless you’re trying way too hard to be a dick.  A better way to handle it would have been when you notice that Mission seems rather distant, there’s a dialogue option to either coldly ignore her to tell her to focus on the task at hand.

Mission gets really defensive here but I thought it was a legit question.  If Zaalbar is her family and she’s 14 now (and was much younger when she met him), was she really surviving on her own until then?

We decide to drop the conversation before her teenage mood swings again.

We can infer that something happened between Mission and her brother, something so severe she no longer thinks of him as family.

We head down into the sewers from the entrance near the village and find Zaalbar after exploring, like, two rooms…

Good to know that Mission is good for something other than teenage sass.

Carth mentioned we knew a remarkable amount of alien languages but this is another indicator of something strange with our player character.

The game engine usually centers the conversation on whoever is speaking.  Some places (like the sewers here) occasionally don’t do this.  So, what we get is situations like this where Zaalbar is talking but the camera is focused on Mission (who’s giving an excellent “are you sure about this?” expression here).

Zaalbar has a thing against slavery, which will crop up again when we go visit Kashyyyk later.

I like how the game captures the feel of the original Star Wars and all but some references feel shoe-horned in, like the “walking carpet” dialogue here.

This isn’t entirely true.  If you go dark side all the way through, you’ll find even a Wookie life debt has limits.

While we appreciate the gesture, our main focus is still to find Bastilla and escape Taris.  It’ll be hard enough trying to escape with just Carth, Bastilla and ourselves…add another two to the mix?

One of my favorite dialogue options in the game.

Mission’s required for the trip to the Vulkar base, at least up to the force field.  She’s pretty useful in infiltrating the base as well if your character doesn’t have skill ranks in stealth.  We can also only have two party members with us at a given time, so we’ll send Carth back to the apartment and journey with people who have actually been in the sewer system before.

A rancor is the creature Luke Skywalker fights in Jabba the Hutt’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, after he’s fallen through the trap door after failing to assassinate Jabba.

Mission obviously doesn’t exactly know the location because just a few lines ago, she said it was in the north-east.

After fighting through Gamorrean patrols and rakghouls, we come to the force field…

After deactivating the force field and heading down the subsequent sewer passages…

With Mission in the party, we can make her invisible (she comes with a stealth field belt)…

…place a grenade and synthetic odor (the former we have plenty of from looting, the latter from a dead body conveniently found outside the rancor’s lair) in the corpse pile…

…and wait for the rancor to eat a grenade.

Past the rancor lies the entrance to the Black Vulkar base…

We kill all the people in the base (save an innocent serving wench).  The base is two levels deep, so this should really cripple the Vulkar’s gang operations for the foreseeable future.

Finally, we come to the room with the prototype accelerator, guarded by one of Brejik’s lieutenants.

I didn’t kill an entire base of gang members to negotiate!

You can listen to his offer, which is to kill all the people in the Bek base.  It’s the dark side option and offers more XP…but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Again, we just shot/hacked our way through an entire base of Black Vulkars…why would we join them now?

After eradicating the last of the Black Vulkars…

…we finally acquire the prototype swoop accelerator!

“Plus, you’re the main character and thus, have plot armor.”

Gadon doesn’t really have all his bases covered.  He already noted we wouldn’t stand a chance at winning without the prototype accelerator, so presumably his other racers won’t win either.  Really, we’re his only hope since he’s unwilling to risk the lives of his gang members.

The race isn’t on a fixed time table so the player can go faff about with side quests before returning to Gadon to begin the race.

But we’re ready now so…

“It won’t be a problem – I hope” is always something I want to hear from a mechanic.

The swoop bike tutorial explanation is pretty lengthy because it’s something you can do for fun and credits on other planets.  Taris is the only time we have to race.

Swoop racing is really similar to drag racing.  It’s not like pod racing where people race on a circular track for a number of laps having to worry about other contestants.  Instead, we race by ourselves and try to reach the finish line as fast as possible.

You can ask him how the swoop accelerator is holding up after each heat.  Really, as long as you don’t hit every obstacle on the track (of which there isn’t that many anyway), you’ll only need two heats.

We can see Bastilla in the cage but can’t interact with her.

Good to know the announcer is on our side.

38 seconds is really easy to beat.  Of course, after you beat it the first time, you have to beat a second time (which is around 27 seconds).  It’s not hard to surpass either.  Do that and you don’t have to race anymore.  Out of five attempts total, the swoop race shouldn’t be hard to win.

So, Brejik, leader of the Black Vulkars, is going to present the prize to a guy racing on behalf of a rival gang?  I’m sure no hijinks will ensue…

There are no rules regarding prototype accelerators (that we know of, anyway) and Brejik was going to use the damn thing himself.

We did sorta kill off an entire base full of his gang so he won’t have the manpower to pull this off.

She then roundhouse kicks the guy with the double-bladed sword…

Bastilla immediately blurts out that she’s a Jedi.  She’s a bit impulsive, arrogant and overly confident…as we’ll see on plenty of occasions.

The low-level Black Vulkar guys are worth taking care of first.  After all the shit we went through to find the prototype accelerator, they’ll go down after one or two hits (especially true if you play soldier).  Then Bastilla and yourself can take down Brejik.

The resulting conversation takes place over Brejik’s corpse…

A long story, indeed.

Bastilla pauses when “You’re…you’re one of the soldiers with the Republic fleet.”  She has to remember that this former Sith Lord has a new identity.

Bastilla’s ego flares up again.

We can string out this conversation but in the interest of shaving a few pictures off this update, let’s pretend I highlighted the third option.

She admits here that we were, indeed, here to save her.  A far cry from what she was saying just a few moments ago.

At least she admits it.

Now that we’ve found Bastilla, we can focus on getting the hell off the tutorial planet!  Next time:  We infiltrate a Sith base and gain access to a crime lord’s estate!

Now Playing KOTOR: Search for Bastilla I

Last time, we survived the Sith attack on the Endar Spire and crash-landed on the planet of Taris.  We’re now looking for the Jedi Bastilla, who also crash-landed albeit in the planet’s under city.

We can deduce from Carth’s earlier scouting (and from the fact that the Republic escape pod we were in is within walking distance of the apartment) that that is the reason for the Sith inquiries.  Also, note the Sith leader’s field uniform and how similar it is the early 20th century German Army.  Star Wars has a rich tradition of using Nazi motifs to make the bad guys obviously evil and KOTOR is no different.

The comment about humans hiding out with aliens being an oddity is less a reflection on Sith prejudices and more an introduction a planet-wide theme.  We’ll see more of Taris’ alien prejudices throughout this update.

The evil dialogue options were always too blatant for my tastes.  Why would you pick option 3 unless you were going out of your way to be an asshole?  We’re doing the light side canon playthrough, although we will not pass up any opportunities to snark.

I do like this scene and think it establishes sympathy towards the aliens (and hatred towards the Sith) better than the original movie.  In Star Wars, we see Jawas (who are OK with ripping off moisture farmers by selling them droids with bad motivators) and the aliens of Mos Eisley (who pick fights and either ignore an old man sawing off a guy’s arm with a laser sword or tip off the Stormtroopers about Docking Bay 94) and none of them are endearing.  In fact, the only alien the audience cares for is Chewbacca, who is known to rip people’s arms off when he loses at recreational games.

Even if we count the later movies and add Yoda, Admiral Ackbar and the Sullistan co-pilot…we still have the Trandoshan bounty hunter (and other aliens The Empire hires…so much for discrimination), the Ugnaughts (who don’t do much of anything but power the equipment that carbon freezes Han Solo), the entirety of Jabba’s court and the Ewoks to counter-balance their positive influence.

In this sequence, however, we have aliens who are willing to help the party.  They sheltered them from the previous Sith raid and were going to do so again.  He even agrees to help hide the bodies (and does a good enough job to prevent any further Sith inquiries).  This scene had two goals:  Establish Sith villainy (as if we didn’t already know that) and empathize with the plight of Tarisian aliens…and it met those objectives.

The upper level of Taris in all its glory.  Taris is a city-wide planet like Coruscant or Nar Shaddaa and it has some elements of both in it.  Like Coruscant, the upper levels of Taris look clean and habitable (if you can stand the prejudice against the aliens).  It was once an intergalactic hub.  Unfortunately, new hyperspace routes have caused Taris to undergo severe urban decay.  The deeper you descent into Taris, the more the planet becomes like Nar Shaddaa.

To our immediate right is the Republic escape pod we crash-landed in…

Crash-landing on an urban planet didn’t leave Carth too many options of where to hide out, especially since he had to worry about our unconscious body.  But scouting about and returning to base on a mostly alien apartment definitely attracted the attention of the Sith.

Speaking of Carth, we don’t know too much about him.  KOTOR will give you these prompts every so often with party members if they have something to talk about, although they’re only scripted to occur at certain places I think (this spot before you enter the path to the cantina is one such location).

I feel it’s kind of random to ask to know a little more about someone with no lead-in, so we’ll see what Carth knows about Taris…

The game seems a little unclear about the duration of the Sith occupation.  We know the Sith only blockaded the planet a few days ago, in the aftermath of the attack on the Endar Spire.  Yet, Carth’s comment here implies the Sith have been in control for a lot longer than that.

The Mandalorian Wars started about a decade before this game and only ended 4 years ago.  It was immediately followed by the current Jedi Civil War.  If Carth’s birth year on Wookiepedia is correct, he would be 38 years old right now.

Carth’s home world is Telos IV, a planet the player will see more of in Knights of the Old Republic II.

Because the Sith who bombed Telos IV were also Jedi (or Republic soldiers) that Carth fought along with in the Mandalorian Wars, he has a lot of trust issues stemming from this event.  It’ll take a long while to find out all the exact reasons, however…such as his former teacher being the Sith admiral who gave the order to bomb Telos IV.

Carth suggested we get supplies and information…and we can acquire both by heading towards the cantina on the city’s upper level.  At the cantina, we can just talk to every named NPC who isn’t in the entry lobby (those guys are usually pazaak [i.e. card] players).

You can talk to every other patrolling Sith soldier and they tell you to “screw off” (essentially).  In contrast, Sarna is awfully forthcoming about who she is and what she does…a real chatterbox.

You don’t need Persuade to get through this dialogue successfully.

Most of the locals don’t even have names!

A party invitation from a Sith soldier who will probably leave her uniform unattended (and who is voiced by Grey DeLisle)?  How can we say no?

There’s other stuff to do in the cantina (dueling ring) but I’m focusing only on the main plot.  Otherwise, there’d be like 600 shots per update.

We head towards the other accessible upper city area…

…and get our first look at Davik’s crime syndicate.

Carth whispers a little too loudly because Davik’s two goons immediately spot us following this.

I was content to ignore this situation.  It’s not very light side to ignore a guy getting hassled by the space fantasy equivalent of the mafia…but then he probably should have known the risks before he borrowed money from the space fantasy equivalent of the mafia.  The “Davik doesn’t like witnesses” comment implies we’re going have to fight our way out of this so we might as well.

After dispatching the thugs…

We could offer to pay him back (at no loss, since you can loot the exact number of credits he owes off the two guys we just killed)…but since this whole planet is doomed and this guy never shows up again, we’ll just leave him be.

The other area of Taris’ upper city.  Across from us is the apartment where the humans stay at (and is the location for the Sith party).  Instead, we take a left and…

…get accosted by drunks!  Who don’t know the cantina is on the other side!

You can fight them but I figure it’ll attract unwanted attention.

Further down the way…

…We encounter a would-be prophet heralding the destruction of Taris.  He’s actually a huge bigot with some grudge against the aliens.

The only other areas of note are a droid shop (to the left of the above shot), the Sith military base (inaccessible at the moment) and the entrance to the Lower City…

…which is guarded by a lone Sith soldier.

“It’s obvious from the way you’re dressed…” hint hint

His comment about authorization papers is also something that will come up by the end of this update.

Yeah, thanks, Carth, I got it.

We head to the Sith party at the human apartments…

So much for “don’t be late”…

Tarisian ale (or, at least, the ability to brew it) will come up later as a side quest.

The next morning…

That yellow backpack is what we need to acquire…

…a Sith uniform!  I suppose the Tarisian ale would give the Sith here a major enough hangover to prevent them from remembering Revan’s exact description.

The Sith uniform opens up alternative dialogue options with just about everyone.  People will randomly call out anyone who goes around looting their belongings…unless you wear the Sith uniform.  Then they’re all intimidated and do anything to avoid trouble.

You can also talk to the patrolling Sith NPCs, although they still don’t have much to say.

“Patrolling this planet almost makes you wish for an orbital bombardment.”

And we can get by this asshole.

Upon entering the lower city…

…we’re introduced to the lower city gang wars.

You fight the Vulkars (who are scripted to win this cutscene fight), including the guy with the shock stick.  He’s a rather nasty wake-up call for certain builds.  A successful attack with the shock stick provokes a fortitude save that can be tough to meet.  Failing that save paralyzes the subject for a couple rounds while the other Vulkars are free to wail on you.

We dispatch the Vulkars and move on to the cantina…

The one rule seems sensible enough…

…too bad everyone seems to completely disregard it.

Poor guy doesn’t realize his only purpose in life is to establish how badass Calo Nord is.  Some players may have had trouble with the Vulkars upon entering the lower city…

…but Calo takes them down with a flashbang and three blaster shots in the ensuing confusion.

Calo leaves the cantina and we can try talking to him…but he’ll just count down until you leave him alone.  If you persist, he kills you (it’s scripted that way).

Instead, we’ll just leave him alone and find other named NPCs to talk to.

This “little girl” is 14 years old, so she’s in that “I’m not a kid but I’m not really an adult either” phase of life.

Indeed.

We talk to Mission and hope she doesn’t command Zaalbar to pull our arms out of our sockets.

Up until now, all of the aliens we have met have been speaking in their own language (the English subtitles show that we can understand them).  Still, this exchange comes off as a bit weird.  Since the game is based off d20 rules and galactic Basic is established as the galaxy’s trade language, it would make sense that everyone can speak/understand it.

Usually, the game engine centers itself on the person speaking…but this cantina is a bit awkward.  This is Carth talking, by the way.

We take Mission’s word about her street smarts and since she would have given us a tour (under non gang-war circumstances), we’ll ask her a few questions.

So, we know of a ship that might break the Sith blockade and the only way to get access to it is to join the local crime syndicate.  We won’t question that it’s a second-hand rumor.  In RPGs, everything rumored is true.

This comment and the subsequent dialogue establish the Hidden Beks to be the “good” gang and the Vulkars to be the “evil” option.

Gadon Thek seems to be the next person to meet.  We can’t speak to Brejik, the Vulkars attack random civilians and everyone else in the cantina works for Davik but can’t do anything to get us to meet him now.

The Hidden Beks is a horrible name for a gang.  The location for this “Hidden Bek base” is also bad, as it is within eyeshot and walking distance of the cantina.

We put up with some shenanigans from the bouncer before we’re finally let inside…

…only to put up with more obstructive bureaucratic security measures.

Thankfully, Gadon is not very fond of those obstructive security measures.  He prefers convoluted quest lines, such as the one he’s about to give us.

Good thing we’re not wearing the Sith uniform…

“You’ll never find her.”  If only because the area she’s being held isn’t accessible from the game world.

Of course, there’s always a catch…things can never be simple in a RPG.  No, you have to jump through a bunch of hoops to fulfill a sidequest for some guy so you can progress with the main plot.

From what we’ve seen, Mission’s street smarts directed us to Gadon…but she only appeared to be a source of information.  Also, she’s completely reliant on her Wookie companion.

We don’t have much choice.  Even if we get by the Sith guard ourselves, we still have to retrieve Bastilla from Brejik…and the only way to do that is to participate in the swoop race, apparently.

Next time:  We murder our way through an entire gang to acquire a prototype swoop accelerator so we can win a race to get our Jedi back!

Now Playing: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic

About a decade ago in the very same galaxy we inhabit…

KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC

The early 21st century was a dark time in the

galaxy.  ATTACK OF THE CLONES had been

released in theaters and was ill-received by

fans of Star Wars.

The MICROSOFT XBOX was in similar straits.

The killer app HALO was the only title worth

playing on the console for roughly 18 months

after its launch.

But there was hope amidst the despair.  For

game developer BIOWARE was developing

a title that would appease both audiences…

 

Poor imitations of the Star Wars opening title crawl (such as the above) are one reason why I’ll never write-up the Star Wars d20 campaign.

Anyway, Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic was a computer RPG developed by Bioware and released in 2003 (July for the Xbox, November for PC).  It was well-received for its writing (notably one of the most famous plot twists in any video game ever), faithful adaptation of d20 Star Wars rules for gameplay, multiple ways to approach a given way situation (brute force combat, Force powers, skill usage) and the amount of player choice one felt over their character and the story.  Most criticism was leveled at the combat, which would’ve felt clunky compared to a contemporary Star Wars game like Jedi Knight II:  Jedi Outcast/Jedi Academy and the repetitive alien voice-acting.  Regardless, the game was a smash hit and achieved widespread critical acclaim.

Unlike other Let’s Plays, I’m not going to focus on the gameplay.  Instead, we’re looking at the story, writing, references, CRPG tropes the game codified and things of that nature.  Because Knights of the Old Republic is over a decade old, the attitude regarding spoilers is going to be laissez-faire.  Indeed, I’m going to spoil the major plot twist right away by naming our character Revan.  Because FRAPS doesn’t record the video cutscenes in KOTOR (for some reason), I’m just going to have to get those screenshots from somewhere else…or just describe them in text.

KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC

Four thousand years before
the rise of the Galactic
Empire, the Republic verges
on collapse. DARTH MALAK,
last surviving apprentice of
the DARK LORD REVAN, has
unleashed an invincible
Sith armada upon an
unsuspecting galaxy.

Crushing all resistance,
Malak's war of conquest
has left the Jedi Order
scattered and vulnerable
as countless Knights fall in
battle, and many more
swear allegiance to the new
Sith Master.

In the skies above the Outer
Rim world of Taris, a Jedi
battle fleet engages the
forces of Darth Malak in a
desperate effort to halt the
Sith's galactic domination…

 

Interestingly enough, Bioware was given the option to do an Episode II game.  From a ComputerandVideoGames.com article on Wikipedia:  “LucasArts came to us and said that we could do an Episode II game,” BioWare CEO Raymond Muzyka said.  “Or LucasArts said we could go 4,000 years back, which is a period that’s hardly been covered before.”

While a Bioware-produced Episode II game would make an interesting what-if discussion (would it have averted the problem with licensed games like EA’s Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers did?), I much prefer them going with the “4,000 years before the prequels” setting.  One nitpick regarding Star Wars is that most of the Expanded Universe literature, despite having a considerable time frame to work with, has most of its stories set in the time of the original trilogy (give or take 20 years).  Compare the number of publications in the Rise of the Empire/Rebellion Eras to other times here…  It makes the Star Wars universe feel small and condensed rather than something impressive.

Both of these dialogue options seem kinda silly.  When in doubt, pick the most silly or serious option…  It’s a bit odd that Trask and Revan would work opposite shifts and not see each other.  It’s also strange that, if the Jedi Council were fearful that the former Dark Lord of the Sith would regain his memories/powers, they’d have a low level Republic soldier watching him.

Trask’s comments are based on what class you picked during character creation.  Pick soldier and he’ll comment on how your character is a badass recruit.  Pick scoundrel and he’ll mention that you’re a renowned smuggler of spice and illegal weapons.  All of them are cover stories concocted by the Jedi Council after they brainwashed Revan…although it makes one wonder who decided what and why.  “Hey, let’s make the former Dark Lord of the Sith’s new identity a spice smuggler!”

A brief change of clothes later…

Maybe it’s standard protocol for living quarters on a ship to be locked down during an attack but we also see that the next corridor is also locked down.  Perhaps it’s looking too deeply (i.e. trying to find meaning in something that isn’t there) but a room that’s double-locked in case of an attack?  Says something about how valuable the people who occupy that room are…

Trask’s comments are most likely not meant to be taken literally…but it does suggest that the crew of the Endar Spire is full of green, raw recruits.  According to Wookiepedia, the Endar Spire is a Hammerhead-class cruiser with an operating crew of 300.  It can carry another 400 passengers.  We later learn that the Jedi Council was hoping they could re-trigger Revan’s memories to find the Star Forge…  If so, it’s a bit odd they wouldn’t have a more experienced crew capable of handling a (weakened) Sith Lord…unless the Jedi saw them all as expendable and figured if Revan did somehow convert the crew to his Sith cause, he’d only have some low-level flunkies that the Republic could easily dispatch.

One of the renowned praises of Knights of the Old Republic was how well Bioware captured the feel of the original Star Wars.  The tutorial sequence is one of the best examples of that.  Compare these shots to the opening in the original movie (aka A New Hope).  The helmets of the Republic soldiers strongly resemble those of the Rebel soldiers.  Also, we can see the faces of the various Republic soldiers, knowing we can relate to them vs. the faceless mooks of the evil Sith.  Of course, the Sith here could be mere creations of the Star Forge and thus not really human at all.

I always wondered why this Jedi died here.  She’d have been a perfect choice to introduce players to Jedi gameplay mechanics rather than have them play for a few hours before finding Bastilla.  Perhaps they didn’t want to throw too much at the players at once.

Star Wars is more “space fantasy” than “science fiction” but I have to draw the line at “swords with a cortosis weave being able to withstand a lightsaber.”

The Dark Jedi is actually Darth Bandon, Darth Malak’s Sith apprentice.  He’s worth mentioning here because when you encounter him later in the game, you can bring up that he killed Trask and be quite upset about it…despite the fact that most players barely remember an NPC from the tutorial they played 20 hours ago.

The game tutorial isn’t unforgiving the way Baldur’s Gate 1 is…but it’s still a d20 based game and we’re playing as a low level character.  Dying is a strong possibility, especially if you’re frugal with medpacs or play as a scoundrel with a low constitution.

Carth is on the other side of the room, so it’s a bit of a dick move on his part to leave you to fight the Sith alone.  What I’d like to have done is reprogram the droid and coordinate a sneak attack with Carth…the droid and I could open the doors to attack and when the Sith focus on it, Carth could open his door and shoot them from behind.  The resulting crossfire would mow everyone down.  But I guess those communicators are a one-way transmitting device.

Both of these dialogue options are a bit silly.  The tutorial isn’t really the best example of the game’s writing.

Sure enough, we escape the Endar Spire just in time before Darth Malak’s Sith fleet blows it up.  Interestingly, this scene does foreshadow Taris’ fate.  Have the Sith found Bastilla yet?  No?  Well, they might as blow up the ship/planet she’s on!

I believe the bed used for the game’s dream sequences is on the Ebon Hawk.  I originally ran through the tutorial after cheating myself to be a Jedi.  It went pretty well until I got to this sequence, when the game booted me to an Ebon Hawk that had no party members and no way to use the galaxy map.  Perhaps it has something to do with the game’s scripting?  I’m not tech savvy enough to answer that.

Anyway, the dream Revan has is of a Jedi (Bastilla) dueling someone with a lightsaber.  We later find out this is shortly before Revan was captured on his ship by the Jedi.

I’d like to ask Carth, “What kind of worse spots?”

In Star Wars d20, the number of languages a character speaks is limited by their race and their intelligence bonus.  Thus, we can presume Revan is pretty smart.  That or he used the Force equivalent of Comprehend Languages.  After all, when we encounter the Rakata on the Unknown Planet later in the game, we learn that Revan learned the native language by ripping the language from the leader’s mind.  If he could do it to them, why not the various other species of the galaxy?

The million dollar question…

…that we need to ask twice in order to get a proper answer.

Battle Meditation shows up as a Force power in Knights of the Old Republic II.  It gives allies a bonus to attack, damage, will saves and health regeneration (everything you need to fight better) while enemies failing a will save receive a penalty.  Also, any Jedi party member can learn it although only the main player character can use it to influence a military outcome like Bastilla does.

Carth’s claim that the Sith won’t be looking for common soldiers is total horseshit, as we’ll find out at the start of the next chapter.

Also, while Bastilla’s public enemy number one, I’d question Carth’s claim of being able to move around easily.  Carth is a renowned Republic war hero whose former mentor (Saul Karath) is the commander of the Sith fleet currently orbiting Taris.  Keeping a low profile would help, as does the fact that every Sith we encounter on Taris ends up dead, but wandering around the Upper City of Taris would get him spotted by Sith surveillance.

Revan would get a pass because it’s been over a decade since anyone saw him outside of his iconic mask.

Carth being spotted by Sith surveillance is proven correct in the next entry, when we’re attacked by a patrol inquiring about Republic fugitives hiding out with aliens.

More foreshadowing regarding Revan.

Highlighting this to note Carth’s pause when he admits the Sith are looking for Bastilla, not a couple of grunts.  Carth feels a bit inadequate around Jedi, mainly because they are way more powerful than him and make his dual blaster build completely useless with their lightsaber laser bolt deflection.  He also harbors a bit of resentment towards Bastilla and the Jedi Council because they basically commandeered command of the Endar Spire for a mission he doesn’t know the full story behind.  Finally, Carth has a lot of trust issues stemming from most of his Mandalorian War buddies/comrades joining the Sith and then bombing Telos, his home planet.  Carth’s probably thinking that this entire situation, all the deaths of those Republic soldiers, wouldn’t have happened if the Jedi hadn’t taken charge.

Next part to be posted Tuesday, barring major catastrophes.  I intend to finish this game so I can give Gabe his copy of KOTOR back after holding on to it for much of the past year.

D&D Classics Campaign: Scourge of the Slave Lords Part I

Continued from Temple of Elemental Evil Part II

Having left one of their own back in the world of Greyhawk (via selling him into slavery) and replacing him with an inhabitant of that world, the mole-rat mad scientist was furious at the party!  So furious, in fact, she forcefully sends them back to reclaim their former comrade at the expense of their new friend.  Our party consists of Caerwyn Tyr (Gabe’s Drow Rogue 5), Ser Nicholas (Nick’s Human Crusader 7), Steve (Steve’s Human Swordsage 7) and Mornrandir (GM PC Human Wizard 7).

Our heroes return to the world of Greyhawk, materializing in the village of Hommlett.  Hommlett is the good counterpart to Nulb, the wicked village the PCs made their base in for Temple of Elemental Evil.  If we had played the past module straight (starting as level 3 characters), we’d have begun that adventure here.  In hindsight, we should started here because the players really enjoyed their time in Hommlett.  They spent the winter season here, establishing characterization and relationships with the townfolk.  Ser Nicholas helped out in the inn with his cooking while Steve established a reputation as the most fearsome barfighter in the land (or, at least, along that particular highway of traffic).  Caerwyn uses his newly acquired Hat of Alter Self to blend in with the various humanoids, posing as different travelers.

The party’s routine is interrupted with the arrival of a messenger representing the interests of Dame Gold.  The note she gives each PC reads…

“To Those Brave and Worthy,

May it never be said that the courageous undertake valor for the hope of reward nor the righteous seek purity, and thus may aspersions of evil never fall upon thy name.  But, as ye know too well, the rewards of virtue are painful and cold.

Our advisers, through wisdom and sagacity, have proclaimed thy actions good and virtuous, done for the wealth of the people of Hommlett.  Those so noble as yourselves will grace and ornament the presence of any gathering.  We beseech you to kindly honor us with your presence during the Feasts of Edoria at Windy Crag in the town of Safeton.

Dame Gold”

Caerwyn is suspicious of the invitation, although he soon gathers that Dame Gold is a benevolent soul with a genuine invitation.  If she has an ulterior motive, it won’t be nefarious.  The player’s invitation to Dame Gold’s festival is soon the talk of the town and the only thing stopping the party is the connection they’ve built with Hommlett over the past season.  The innkeeper is sad to see the best cook he’s ever had the pleasure of tasting food from leave and while he’s pretty happy property repairs will be down when Steve leaves, he knows a good business attraction when he sees one.  Caerwyn is more than ready to leave the village, though, as is Mornrandir but he is glad for other reasons…

As the party prepares the logistics of the journey to Windy Crag/Safeton, they are approached by a halfling who introduces himself as Revv Aair.  He is a tinker on the way to Safeton, his family once being in the employ of Dame Gold herself.  Revv only wishes for some company on the road ahead and suggests traveling with the PCs, since they’re heading the same way.  The entire party agrees to the suggestion, although Ser Nicholas suggests a grand cook-off between the halfling and himself (as the Iron Chef, who will be doing his cooking while wearing dragonbone plate armor made from the young adult red dragon the party anti-climatically slew in the Elemental Node of Fire).

The party’s last day in Hommlett was that cookoff, with Ser Nicholas winning pretty decisively.  Who knew the Iron Chef makes such great entrees, mouth-watering third courses and excellent dessert?  I only wish I had written down what all Nicholas cooked and that the hobbit had a better imagination (I’m a DM who cooks mainly from the microwave and orders out).  All I remember is that Nicholas essentially made Mountain Dew and got Steve addicted to it.

The trip to Safeton was the longest 5 days of Mornrandir’s life.  Notable events include Caerwyn attempting to cure Steve’s addiction to Mountain Dew by slipping him an alchemical cure, failing to do so, being spotted by Steve in the attempt and then being comet thrown for his troubles.  The road took the party through the Kron Hills, home to a sizeable population of gnomes.  Caerwyn Tyr is a result of Gabe really liking the plot hook to Kingdoms of Amalur, where the main character is brought back from the dead with no recollection of their past life by a gnome mad scientist.  As a result, gnomes are a morality pet of sorts to Caerwyn.  He inquires about his master here, although none of the gnomes have heard of him and Mornrandir reminds the drow that he’s technically from another plane of dimension…Gabe was so immersed in Greyhawk he forgot about that.

The party also caught a pair of thugs who had swindled an entire gnome village and delivered them to the proper authorities.  The decision was mainly made by Caerwyn (who likes gnomes) and Mornrandir (who knows about other worlds where gnomes can be just as evil as other playable humanoids).

Eventually, the players reach Safeton.  “USE NO MAGIC HERE!” reads the sign upon entry to the town, much to Mornrandir’s chagrin.  The party makes their way to Dame Gold’s without delay, who welcomes them as guests…and they are not the only guests.  Caerwyn is able to dig up information on each guest, although only a few encounter the party during the week of the festival.  They include “Burly” Katrina (a noble-born fighter who quickly loses a drinking contest between Steve and a dwarf…who is then taken home by Mornrandir and befriended by him), Jack Knob (the dwarf who manages to drink Steve under the table), Randallson the Neat (a wizard prone to sweet confectioneries and constantly runs afoul of Ser Nicholas and Steve), Black Kerr (an alchemist Caerwyn would have conversed with if Kerr hadn’t been so anti-social) and Arianrhod de Turiss (an elegant lady who is bemused, but nothing more, by Ser Nicholas’ incredibly forward pick-up lines that involve his dragonbone hilt).

A few days pass and Dame Gold approaches the players late in the evening.  She tells them to meet her in her private chambers just before dawn of the next day.  The party all agrees to attend.  Before Dame Gold relates her business, she makes the party swear a solemn vow of secrecy on behalf of their god.  Ser Nicholas is the only one to take the oath seriously.  Mornrandir swears but crosses his fingers behind his back.  Caerwyn is posing as a human, so he does not take the vow on behalf of Lolth.  Steve teleports out of sight upon being asked to swear (he actually sticks to the ceiling but no one sees him).

With all present agreeing to not tell another soul what she is about to say, Dame Gold relates her story:  Her adventurous elder brother, once thought dead after venturing to a distant land, has been found to be alive.  He wishes to return home but has contacted a disease similar to lycanthropy.  The brother is slowly losing his mind and turning into a ravenous beast but fortunately, Black Kerr has developed a potential cure.  Unfortunately, it is only potent for 40 days and it loses its potency if disrupted by magical means (teleporting the cure to the Brother Gold is not going to be an option…not that the party could teleport at this level anyway except for short distances).  Dame Gold agrees to pay the party 5,000 gold each for the delivery of this cure, a task she only trusts to brave and noble heroes such as they.  While she has no sailing ship to provide, she agrees to reimburse the party if they bring her the deed to the ship (or contract they sign).  Caerwyn agrees to hold on the cure, fearing Mornrandir’s magical energies will disrupt the cure’s potency.

Upon acquiring the cure, the party makes plans to charter a vessel to the distant jungles of Hepmonaland…the known location of the Brother Gold.  Before they leave, the manor of Dame Gold is attacked by a ship flying purple colors.  The party returns to the manor on the basis that if Dame Gold is dead, there’s no reward and thus no point in delivering the cure.  Among the ruins of the manor, the players find a journal on one of the people who sacked the place.  The journal is a diary of a raider working on behalf of an entity known as the “Slave Lords” and the man has listed the nearby areas where the ship he was on makes port.  The party decides to head for the port of Elredd, the closest area where the pirates will dock and hope to beat them there!  Ser Nicholas is able to convince a ship captain to take the party on as crew members for a voyage to reclaim those taken from the manor, for great justice and all that.

The trek to Elredd is uneventful, save for the captain trying to have a joke at the party’s expense (basically, making them acquire their sea legs by intentionally sailing into rough waters).  Steve responds by grabbing the captain and teleporting him to the top of the crow’s nest and back, which endears him to the captain and crew (who proclaim that “this guy gets it”).

The party reaches Elredd, which can be described as Mos Eisley as a sea port instead of a space port.  As the party leaves the ship looking for leads, one of the “sailors” approaches them and relates his story.  He too is after a ship flying purple sails that nabbed some of his folks from his home village.  He directs them to the innkeeper of the Broken Rudder, saying that guy would be a good source of information.  However, his speech is punctuated by a lot of “see” (“I gots the name o’ folks who don’t like the slavers, see.  The place’s writ on this paper here, see, this paper here”) so Mornrandir follows him under the guise of Alter Self while Caerwyn explores the town.  Steve and Nick head to various bars to rough things up.

All goes fairly well except for Steve, who ends up being knocked out while at the Broken Rudder.  Luckily, Nick’s diplomacy allows him to gain favor with the innkeeper to keep “his friend” safe.  Meanwhile, the rest of the party interrogates the “sailor” and finds out the Broken Rudder is a front for the slave lords.  Hilarious reaction from Caerwyn upon realizing Mornrandir had tortured the sailor:  “Oh Lolth, how many fingers does he have left?”  The encounter at the Broken Rudder goes well, save for one of the employees teleporting away.  The party finds a new lead among the inn’s bouncer’s room…the town of Highport.

The party reaches Highport but not on the vessel of their choosing.  The first night out of Elredd, Caerwyn notices the ship anchoring on a spit of land in the midst of the ocean fog.  Caerwyn spots a boarding party but before he can awaken the rest of the ship, he’s shot with one of his own drow poison arrows!  He succumbs to the paralyzing poison and finds himself, along with the rest of the players, on a slave galley!  All are shackled and separated while Mornrandir is gagged…leaving the party having to plan their own escape individuality.  This is further complicated by the slavers dumping the party’s goods overboard (although Steve and Mornrandir are able to use their respective knowledge skills to remember the location according to the alignment of the stars).  Those goods include magic items and tens of thousands of unspent gold from The Temple of Elemental Evil.

Caerwyn and Steve manage a way to work themselves free of their shackles, although they hold off the opportunity to do so for good until they reach a port.  When the slave ship holding the PCs reaches Highport, the party enacts their escape attempt.  Caerwyn and Steve slip loose of their shackles, with the drow pickpocketing a sword off a sleeping guard for Steve.  While Caerwyn frees the rest of the party and slaves from their restraints, Steve uses his swordsage abilities to set fire to the slave ship…allowing the party to escape amidst the rioting chaos that ensues.  Caerwyn acquires money by pickpocketing random citizens to procure room and board for a few nights and the party plans its next move…

All in all, 19 days have passed (5 to travel to Elredd, 1 day in the city, 1 night at sea before being shanghai’d into slavery, 6 nights as a slave on either a galley or The Ghoul, 6 days spent in Highport total thus far) since the players received the cure for Dame Gold’s brother…leaving them only 21 days to deliver the cure.  Unfortunately, that quest looks as if it might be put on indefinite hold as the party holds the slave lords as a graver threat.

And the above was only the first chapter in a nine chapter module (of which seven are required, the last two being optional)!

Next Time:  Covertly infiltrating the slave lord stronghold while establishing a resistance movement!  An arsonist evades the local authorities and destroys slave ships, acquiring a massive bounty…will history repeat itself and have Mornrandir sell a party member into slavery?  We only played a little bit into the second chapter (making preparations to storm the slave hold in Highport) so what happens next…as of this writing, I do not know.