SIDE A: Everything yours is Mine
Hey guys, it's me, Duckfeed's original bad boy Gary Butterfield. I'm sorry about the skip week. I was wrapping up summer classes. You know how that is. Hanging down at the ball game, enjoying snow cones, studying hard, supporting state school mascots of all kinds. But I'm back, baby.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Kivan
Before we jump into the mines proper, there is some goofy business outside to deal with. See, honey, we've got to talk about Kivan. After deciding that this specific pup had found his "forever home" in my party, I did a little research and, uh oh, this puppy's puppyquest is bugged. You see, Kivan's family was slaughtered by some bandits and that's the real reason he joined up. And you have a time limit to go exact arrowy justice. The issue is, those bandits are my next major target and are much higher level than I am. Kivan's not going to wait around for me to get to it. So I had a bit of a conundrum.
Luckily, right outside the mines, there's a little warehouse I blundered into, having not saved in a while, and wouldn't you know it, it's full of blood thirsty war dogs who immediacy tear Kivan apart. It'd been so long since I saved that I didn't want to load, so I trekked back to town to resurrect him. And according to my friend and yours, the internet, doing so should eliminate the time limit. Apparently, upon resurrection, he no longer remembers his family. It's like cloning. Are we our experiences or just a bunch of cells that think they had experiences? What is memory? Would you like to do drugs and play Baldur's Gate with me?
Anyway, the area outside the mines also contains Prism. Oubelek from Nashkel hired us to go track him down because he stole some emeralds to use for his "master work," a face he's carving into a cliff side. I love this quest for many reasons. First, there's the tiny detail that Prism has been using potions of speed to complete his art faster, a parable that applies to modern creative types and various amphetamines. Further, it's strange to see artistic passion presented as something worthwhile in a game, especially one with old school DnD morality. Here, you can collect the bounty or respect Prism's artistic vision and protect him from another bounty hunter while he completes his work, which is obviously what I decided to do. A thug shows up and I kill him and Prism thanks me. And then, having completed his work, drops dead a few feet from the sculpture. HA!
So, I step into Baldur's Gate's first dungeon and man, it's a good one! The mines are broken up into four levels, each with a distinguishing characteristic.
LEVEL 1: This is just a mine, more or less. The miners are telling me about the "yipping demons" and there are guards everywhere and you can get attacked by a rando kobold, but it's mostly to set the stage. I can't believe these guys don't know what a kobold is. Don't you think that there would be Monster Ed classes in Faerun?
LEVEL 2: Things are starting to degrade even further. Fewer miners, fewer guards, way more kobolds. We're introduced to kobold parties here. I think Baldur's Gate gets a short shrift when it comes to its battles, tactics wise, as they're a lot more complex than they look initially. Kobolds, for instance, set ambushes around corners, have snipers cover their melee fighters and position themselves at choke points. They use a lot of archers, which is more or less my strategy too, and that's because it works.
LEVEL 3: This is straight up Kobold Town USA, population: Kobolds. The mine area is just full of increasingly hearty kobold parties but the mine transitions into a natural cavern complete with giant spiders. Here, the kobolds are setting traps for us, a table top mechanic that I don't think translates that well into video game form. I might do a B Side about traps in the future at some point, but briefly: a good DM might give you a visual indication of an upcoming trap. Or, at least, the effects of the trap will be interesting and avoidable. In Baldur's Gate, they're simply glowing rectangles on the ground that your thief may or may not detect. And if they don't, you're likely to get slammed with a spell. It mostly necessitates having a thief in the party and that's about it. Yes, the cleric spell "Detect Traps" will work, but it won't disarm them. So, Immoen is earning her keep here.
LEVEL 4: Here's the boss battle in a tiny cave on an underground lake. The boss in question is Mulahey, a half orc cleric, and all around son of a bitch. There are a few neat factors inherent to this fight and the way my specific version played out is pretty neat. Mulahey believes that we've been sent by his bosses to wipe him out, and you can go along with this for a short time. After the jig is up, he summons kobolds and skeletons and probably wipes you out if you're not prepared. He can cast Hold Person, further solidifying that turning or removing an opponent is the G.O.A.T. tactic in BG1.
Here's how this fight worked for me. I managed to kill him but he confused Kagain, who ran offscreen. After Kagain recovered, I brought him back to take his stuff and dismiss him. I like Kagain, but he's getting grumpy about my high reputation and keeps saying, "You altruistic moron!" I also wanted to take Xan with me for a short time. So, I dismiss Kagain, who takes off calling us a bunch of "lumps" and move to find that, in his confusion, he killed Xan! I didn't want to do the fight again and I liked this little turn of events so I went with it.
It's a shame though because I like Xan a lot. He's a manic depressive mage who was captured by Mulahey while investigating the mines as well. He's a real bummer but funnily so, and despite not being much of a "bomber" type mage, he's great at buffs and debuffs. But he died without me meeting him. Oh well!
Oh, and Mulahey attempts to surrender during the fight. I had a pretty good mad-on and declined. I'll get his info from his stuff. It turns out, he was sent simply to poison the mines and the "haunting" was purely accidental. In fact, his bosses are furious with him about letting kobolds kill miners. This was supposed to be a covert operation but a low level flunky fucked it up. I also learn that he has a contact in Bereghost, which is where I'm going next.
It's a shitty time to be down one party member, however, because I exit the back way from the mines and run into the toughest assassination attempt yet, a fully fledged party led by an evil cleric. I'm barely victorious, only by the grace of my Nymph's Cloak which I stole from a fat dude named Algernon a while back. The item is seriously OP but it saved my bacon.
Oh, and I've been having dreams! I keep having symbolic, atmospheric dreams and when I wake up, I can cure light wounds. This is all foreshadowing of my character's true origins and pays off in a ridiculously awesome way at the end of Baldur's Gate 2. For now, I'm just happy to have another healer. Between Branwen, Adjantis and myself, we have that dialed.
Next time we'll be dealing with some more miscellaneous around the south, specifically the Gnoll Stronghold. I want Minsc but I don't want his witch... hmmm, what's a good aligned character to do?
SIDE B: MONSTER SPOTLIGHT - XVARTS AND KOBOLDS
I originally planned to have the B sides of this blog be a little more informative about the world of Baldur's Gate but I'm quickly realizing that it would amount to little more than me regurgitating wiki material. So, rather than spend some time talking about the importance of ore in the world of Faerun, I'm going to talk about a couple monsters that featured heavily in this play session. First off, XVARTS!
In addition to rhyming with farts, Xvarts date back to the late 70s actually and were created by someone named, I kid you not, Cricky Hitchcock. They're just blue goblins. Seriously, there is almost nothing else to them. For some reason, early D and D felt the need to have no less than a dozen bestial warrior races. We have kobolds, xvarts, goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, gnolls and lizard men off the top of my head. I'm sure there are a bunch more too. It's fucking dumb.
Xvarts never caught on, not really. In 4th edition there is some lip service paid to explaining these little shits. They're posited as gnomes who were experimented upon by giant deformed behemoths and are blue to better blend into the darkness of the Plane of Shadows. All these gymnastics just to drag a dumb 70s monster design kicking and screaming into plausibility.
In Baldur's Gate, they serve a purpose as another step on the difficulty ladder, given that you start out so under powered. Before I went to the mines, I slaughtered an entire village of these things. The leader says something like, "Why are you doing this? We haven't done anything to you!" before summoning a cave bear. I promptly charmed the cave bear and it helped me clear the village out. But I can't help but feel a little bad. These guys didn't do anything other than be born evil. Each one gave me a paltry 15 experience and maybe 10 bucks. Remember what I said about alignment contextualizing play?
Kobolds are dog goblins and don't let anyone tell you different. They're smaller, more cowardly, they're free to cast in Magic the Gathering and they yip a lot.
Somewhere along the line, someone saw a picture of a kobold that had scales and thought, "Oh, I know, dragon!" and decided to make these guys related to the big boys of the genre. So now, Kobolds are related to dragons, speak the language, often end up serving them and sometimes get dragon like powers.
This seems silly to me. I'm all in favor of differentiating between all of the various gremlins, nobbers and hobbits in the D and D world, but this is too far in the other direction. I'm not even against having Kobold player characters but it feels really fan fictiony to me. I dunno.
I guess if there is a larger point to this B side, it's about the follies of messing with these simple little guys. I think that if you want to have a cannon fodder race that serves dragons, you'd be better off coming up with something new rather than retrofitting a classic.
Next time, I think I might review the Dungeons and Dragon movie. Forgive me in advance.