Luskan Loose Ends – 2015.01.25

Having effectively defanged the official channels by which the Luskans could oppose him, Shao left Neverwinter Castle triumphant. Not only has he eliminated a constant threat, but my Shadow Dragon Triad is now in the particular favor of Neverwinter’s ruler, Lord Nasher – which is a fantastic alternative to being on the city’s hit list for our extensive criminal actions.

Heh heh. Shao’s the new Don Falcone of the Sword Coast.

Also, I’m finally able to remove Sand and Bishop from my active group, which means No More Asshole Companions. And I’ve managed to still maintain Shao’s Lawful Neutral alignment, meaning that our patron deity will continue to allow access to continually more impressive divine abilities.

But wait, what’s this? A wee imp whose friends are being enslaved for experiments by the Neverwinter Mages’ Academy? Well, we’d best help them out!

You have moved 10 points toward Chaotic. Your alignment has changed.


Okay, Shao can still cast spells for now. Fuck, that could have been worse. Might not be able to get any more levels of cleric though, which will suck goblin ass. DAMMIT.

Better do some more lawfully/goodly sort of things then and try to balance this potential shitstorm out. Fortunately, there’s always side quests, like this little girl with the older sister who keeps sneaking off into the city crypts – apparently to get smoochies from the fellas that naturally hang around those sorts of places. Is this the D&D version of Grease or something?

Yes. Yes it is. Except instead of leather jackets and cars it’s more of hooded robes and necromancy. What did you expect? They’re in a fucking crypt.

And my Turn Undead isn’t working very well. Apparently those multiclass Warpriest levels haven’t been advancing my anti-ghoul powers very much. Don’t worry, Shao. I’m sure it’s a very common problem; happens to a lot of guys; not a big deal.

But we did manage to hack through and steal a bunch of interred treasure and kick the shadowy crap out of this underground cult. Suckas. Even stole their grimoire and took it back to Nasher. He’ll “look into it”, which is bureaucratic lingo for “we didn’t program the next step of this quest into the game.”

And then Aldanon gets kidnapped. He’s the dotty old geezer who told us what these silver shards were about in the first place. No one’s sure who took him or where yet, but Shao got a lead on yet another silver shard – apparently the victim(s) of the murders that shut down the Blackgate district in the first place were former caretakers of this artifact. Nasher sends my Shadow Dragons to guard Tavorick, the current holder. Tavorick is apparently just as senile as every other octogenarian in town, and the demons attack that night. Evil extraplanar characters are kind of Shao’s forte by now, though, so a lively curbstomping follows.

So the shard’s safe now, right?

Not on your auntie’s frilly corset bustle, pal.

See, Tavorick was just playacting at the senility gig. He’s actually quite intelligent. So very intelligent, in fact, that instead of keeping the shard on his person, surrounded by eight of Neverwinter’s finest as well as the most kickass street-cleaning organized crime syndicate in recent history, Tavorick decided to pass the shard off to his fake hooker/mistress and let her swan off with it into the dark alleys of the city by herself.

Which is why Shao wasn’t terribly torn up when Grandpa Tavorick the Stupid died of his wounds after the fight with the demons. Instead, the Shadow Dragon Triad tore off toward the brothel in a desperate attempt to get to the shard before the demons discovered the switcheroo. In true dramatic fashion, Shao arrived just too late. Some psycho crystal-bedecked warlock, apparently the demonic commander of the assault, killed Tavorick’s strumpet and teleported away, taunting the gang as he left.

 Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?
 I do bite my thumb, sir, particularly
 at you, sir, and also, to a slightly lesser
 extent, at thy companions, sir, and
 indeed, somewhat, to all of Neverwinter
 in general, sir!

What an asshat. Gee, I wish Aldanon was still around so that he could tell us what to do next. Oh, what’s that you say, Nasher? You’ve figured out that some rogue Luskan wizard kidnapped the old man? And that this “Black Garius” is the one who’s been trying to set Shao up all this time? And that he’s taken up residence in a fortress to the south? I just bet you want me to be the one to do something about this, right?

*cracks knuckles*



Law and Disorder – 2015.01.20

So it turns out that Bishop-the-Human-Ranger has competition for biggest a-hole of the Sword Coast. Shao’s court-appointed defense attorney is an elf wizard named Sand who adheres to every stereotype of the more-intellectual-than-thou trope. And he refuses to stay behind while Shao goes out to collect evidence for his defense. Nope, Sand is smart-assing his way over hill and dale to Port Llast and beyond. I’m sure his ruthlessness and lack of sympathy will come in handy in the courtroom, but if I hear one more time about my plebeian dull-wittedness, Shao is going to introduce him to the Longsword of the Gods.

But having survived the assassins that interrupted Shao’s Squire’s Vigil, it was off to find out why the Luskans thought they could convict everyone’s favorite criminal cleric for murders that he hadn’t actually committed.

(Shao has murdered a metric ton of people, but not the ones in Ember.)

The Shadow Dragon Triad is now Shadow Dragon Private Investigators – with a client list of one. Basic intel-gathering techniques include a healthy dose of Neverwinter street diplomacy, which is like regular diplomacy except with more beating the shit out of people who don’t respond to polite questions. The menagerie of contacts reads like a zoo list from Abeir-Toril: a village girl, a vengeful dryad, two gnome werewolves, a tavern drunk, a solemn boy with creepy ESP, a tribe of underground goblins, and a magic spider. Well, the magic spider was more of a side-questy thing, but he’s hella cool.

But after acquiring a solid collection of conflicting testimony, Sand deigned to acquiesce that we’d gathered a decent defense and Shao trundled back to Neverwinter for the trial.

Cue railroading.

So the Luskans start their prosecution. Sand has a few choice dialogue comments – and it’s nice to see someone else as the focus of his excoriations – and Shao uses his influence to tip the scales and rip the Luskan arguments a new one. It looks like acquittal is in sight. Lord Nasher’s judgement is fair and true. Shao did not murder the people of Ember.

So the Luskans get all pissed off. And then they call for a rite of trial by combat – regardless of the fact that Shao has been found innocent.


Now we have to go mano a mano with a hulking barbarian shithead named Lorne. He’s apparently a Harborman like Shao and a rival of some paragon who came from the swamp-town too. This is a connection that was only tenuously expressed in the plot thus far, although maybe if Shao’d thrown in with the Neverwinter Watch instead of the criminal element it would have been more noted.

A bunch of the Shadow Dragon Triad volunteers to fight on Shao’s behalf, but he is a professional and decides not to step down. The masses gather. Will the Luskans triumph, weakening Neverwinter’s political position on the Sword Coast? Or will justice finally be served on the tip of a flaming, acidic longsword?

(Oh yeah, we figured out how to enchant weapons. +1d6 fire and +1d6 acid damage on hit. Eheheheheh.)

Battle commences. A few spells land and Lorne is hurting. He hits his Berserker Rage Button, though, and he’s immune to death until it wears off. Cue a massive human roaring and running full-tilt around the arena, swinging a two-handed falchion after a cackling dwarf. But then rage ends and Shao shoves two feet of dwarven steel through the asshat’s face.


And that’s justice, Neverwinter style.

Chasing githyanki — 2015.01.15

So that “free access” to the lockdown regions was not exactly as advertised. Less of a “have the run of this place and poke around until you find everything you want” and more of a “here’s an armed battalion of men who will take you to exactly two places and then boot you out on your ass.” Of course, the places they took Shao were the house of a mentally-deranged scholar who immediately identified these crazy silver shards as bits of some awesomely powerful githyanki sword, and then a library where said githyanki were merrily – well, they’re githyanki, so not merrily, let’s try – with barely restrained homicidal psychosis slaughtering the shit out of an entire cadre of librarians.

The needed lore (to find a long-dead warlock’s fortress/hideout) was held in the library vault, so Shao obviously needed to pass a written test – mostly short answer, a few multiple choice, one essay – to get his hands on the goods. Turns out the warlock’s one living descendant is a lass named Shandra that Shao had met once before, while saving a village from lizardmen on his way out of the swamp. So the gang trotted off to her farm just in time to see the githyanki burning it to the ground.

No way!” said Shao, “That’s not the right way to burn down a farm – you do it like THIS!”

A fantasy world would be a terrible place for a normal person. But Stockholm Syndrome being what it is, the warlock’s last living descendant decided to come back to Neverwinter with Shao and see if she could help finding the lost Sanctum. After all, I’d saved her from the githyanki, right?

Bit premature, that.

Literally the very next night, githyanki storm Shao’s foster uncle’s inn and cart Shandra off somewhere. A rescue is immediately called for, and apparently Shao’s adventuring group (now consisting of Shao, another dwarf fighter, the rogue, an elf druid, a human sorceress, a human paladin, and a surprisingly irritating gnome bard) isn’t crowded enough. Therefore, the game’s currently biggest douche, a ranger named Bishop, was forced upon us as a “guide” or some shit by our beloved innkeeper.

Thanks a billion, foster uncle.

If this was a musical, the ranger’s intro number would have been titled “Everyone Is Weak And Useless (Let’s Just Kill Them All)” and as the Shadow Dragon Triad wandered into a tiny village named Ember (well, THAT’S not an ominous name) he would have finished off the scene by putting an acid-tipped crossbow bolt between the eyes of a puppy.

Shao did, however, rescue Shandra and kill the githyanki leader, learning some nifty stuff in the meantime. The githyanki were hunting down the shards to reforge the blade because it’s the only weapon that can kill the King of Shadows. This King of Shadows is apparently behind the zombie-raising Shadow Priests and their leader from Luskan, Black Garius. Garius wants to either free the King of Shadows or absorb all his power (bit fuzzy on that angle). Oh, and there’s been another one of the shards STUCK IN SHAO’S FUCKING CHEST CAVITY THIS WHOLE TIME.

Fortunately, our dwarf-led cutthroat band managed to hack the githyanki and their leader into tiny bits (yay!) and haul Shandra back to Neverwinter, where she decides to pick up a sword and join our crime-riddled escapades.

Cue a time-honored TV tradition. It goes like this:


HEAVY BOOTSTEPS are heard outside as SHAO and his friends
finish discussing their latest plans. Suddenly, the door
SPLINTERS inward, and Neverwinter GUARDSMEN flood the
room, led by SIR NEVALLE (white human male, mid 30s, tight-ass).

Shao Xiawei, you're under arrest for
the genocidal slaughter and destruction
of the Luskan town of Ember and all
its citizens. You will come with us for
interrogation and trial if necessary.



I mean, whaaaaaaaaat?

Holy shit. Shao, who are all these angry,
confused people with you that happen
to be armed to the teeth?

Um, my friends?

Right, well, honestly, all of Neverwinter (me included)
thinks the Luskans are total a-holes, so whether or not you
murdered an entire village of "innocents" is somewhat
beside the point.


However, our classist society has nothing
in place to protect common citizens from
false accusations, extradition, and
execution by a neighboring city. So we'll
need a PLAN.

Right, well I -

Also, I'm either entirely unaware or have
completely forgotten that you are currently
a high-ranking member of the Neverwinter
Mafia, so instead of using that as a
relevant element in this, we're simply going to
make you a squire to one of the local knights!

... what.

Yeah, that means you won't be a commoner
anymore and the Luskans can't just
take you off the street! Genius, innit?

This place is so fucked up.


Into the city and out again — 2015.01.09

So, kids, little Shao was on a BIG ADVENTURE. Turns out that Neverwinter is a huge metropolis with a great many dark secrets. It’s the perfect place for a dwarf cleric to make his mark. Of course, first Shao had to meet his scruffy deadbeat “uncle” – no blood relation – and then determine how to get access to a restricted neighborhood and talk to a wizard professor about these silver shards that are causing so much trouble.

So Shao joined the ranks of organized crime!

Step 1: Rough up a shopkeeper. Pow!
Step 2: Corrupt local law enforcement. Cha-ching!
Step 3: Burn down a guard barracks. Toasty!
Step 4: Smuggle weapons across town. Booyah!

Shao’s Neutral alignment is swinging wildly toward the Chaotic end of the spectrum by this point. It doesn’t tip completely across the line yet, though. Alignment is borderlined functionless for a great many people in the D&D universe, but not for clerics. See, Shao gets his powers from his deity, and is he’s not following his god(dess)’s rules, it could possibly cause some problems down the line.

At least, that’s what Shao thinks could happen. But before the existential crisis gets too overwhelming, Shao’s crime boss sends the band of miscreants out into the wilderness. The wilderness, if you recall, is where random shit gets totally fucked up so that adventurers can get out of the city and give the citizens some much-needed breathing room.

This time a political emissary from … somewhere … had apparently taken a wrong turning on his roadtrip and would up in orc territory. Probably because orcs are notoriously negligent about marking their property lines. What a bunch of bastards.

Therefore, with falsified letters of introduction from the Neverwinter Ruling Council in hand (courtesy of our friendly criminal element), Shao & Co. charge headlong into frontier warfare, mowing down orcs by the bushel. The Neverwinter Frontier Guardsmen – heretofore referred to as “Greycloaks”, since that’s their actual name which I just now was able to remember – are also led by a dwarf (ye gods, we’re everywhere! Like rats or some shit) named Callum who eventually got us the necessary intel to rescue the lost politico.

By which I mean he more or less pointed at a cave full of orcs and said, “Yeah, those assholes might have the ambassador, and if they don’t you can probably get them to tell you who does if you kill them hard enough.”

Callum’s theories on frontier political negotiation proved correct, and Sir Incompetent Diplomat MacGuffin was ceremoniously escorted back to Neverwinter atop a palanquin of re-purposed orcish anatomy.

And how did the grateful city thank the Shadow Dragon Triad for avoiding a potentially catastrophic foreign policy gaffe? By allowing Shao access to the restricted district, of course.

I think I was just given the D&D version of the key to the city.

Starting out from the swamp — 2015.01.02

Neverwinter Nights 2 opens and the internal dialogue begins.

I started with the beginning official campaign and jumped right in to character creation. Since the point of D&D is to be something other than oneself, I immediately grab my favorite fantasy race and go straight for the healer class, because being dead sucks. Therefore I give you Shao Xiawei, Dwarf Cleric of Some Underground Deity.

(I have this thing where most of the dwarves I’ve created recently have a vaguely Asian flair to them. Shao is fairly diplomatic and likes the idea of a stable society, but his darker side will drive him to beat the absolute shit out of someone who picks a fight with him.)

… Whoa whoa whoa. This is an older D&D game. This is 3.5 edition rules. Paradigm recalibration needed. Hang on.


Okay. We’re back. Skip the tutorial?


I can figure this crap out by myself. Holy fuck, we’re just diving right into combat. 3.5 clerics are totally crap at combat. This is coming back to me now. Good thing I have two buddies to bring the hurt. I’ll stand back here and heal –

Fuck. Healing is touch range only. At least I have decent armor. We’re being swarmed by evil dwarves, though. Am I the only decent dwarf in this game? What if I come from an entire race of assholes? Are all the NPCs going to think I’m a scummy cave-dweller?

Heh. I might be okay with that, honestly.

We’ve liberated my house – or the house that my (foster?) dad owns. Out into the dirty swamp village, also being attacked by dwarves from the Asshole Clan. Thus far all my dialogue choices fall into the categories of Pleasant, Diplomatic Neutral, or I’m a Dick/You’re a Moron. I mostly gravitate toward the latter.


Holy balls, is that a githyanki? Well, whoever my DM is, she’s not burying the lead. “Hi, you’re level 1, also here’s a hugely overpowered astral mage/monk thingy that’s going to incinerate your town.”


Okay, my DM’s not a feminist. My wizard girl just got mowed down without any hope of saving, apparently to demonstrate that This Shit Is Real Life™. I’m a cleric, dammit. I should be able to rez her. NOPE. I’m too busy being lousy at hitting things with a stick. Jesus.

Sorry, I meant Kelemvor.

Now we get our first side quests – wherein our heroes pause an invasion to grab loot from other people’s houses. And some of these boxes are locked. I knew cleric was the wrong choice. I should have gone rogue. ALWAYS start with a rogue.

Ooo, I can smash the locked boxes open.

Aaaaaaand break the shiny stuff inside into useless junk now. DAMN IT. Fuckers.

Invasion halted! Yay! We’re safe!


Wait, THIS chump is my foster father? He’s a wood elf. An ASSHOLE wood elf. It’s like if Thranduil lived in a bullshit swamp town. Oh my god, they’re not even trying to hide how much of a shit parent this guy has been. And his name is phonetically identical to an Elder Thingy from the Cthulu mythos.


Oh, this won’t EVER come back to bite my hairy dwarven ass.

No, no, I’d be HAPPY to wander off into the lizard-infested swamp with Muscles-for-Brains here to find the OBVIOUSLY EVIL artifact you hid in the ruins YEARS AGO.


Oh look, ruins and lizards and bugs and MORE LOCKED BOXES where I get about three dollars and destroyed magical things that I might have been able to use but now are simply Insult Sprinkles on my Injury Casserole. Shao is fast becoming a cynic.

Yes, dad, I found your shiny shard. Yes, dad, I’ll totally take a dangerous journey to Neverwinter alone. Yes, dad, I’ll go meet my foster uncle who’s probably just as much of a shithead as you are.

First stop is the only inn outside of town. Oh heyyyyyy – it’s another dwarf. Picking a fight and getting hammered. Dwarves like you are the reason for the stereotypes. Khelgar swings a mean axe, though. He’s the first official member of my merry band. Maybe we can start a crime syndicate. The Shadow Dragon Triad, maybe?

Heh heh heh.

Hey, the Subterranean Asshole Clan is back! Khelgar, pound these fuckers into the floorboards. Atta boy. SHIT.

Okay, that was a few more fuckers than we’d anticipated. First total party wipe. Fortunately, I’ve been trigger-happy with the save button. We’ll sweep this inn clean. Oh, and save some civilians … who are willing to pay for the rescue?

Yes PLEASE. Better start practicing my extortionist grin.

Onward to a fort! A stockade, if you will. A fastness, an outpost, a safe haven for wanderers and merchants of all types!

Except tieflings, it seems. But she’s a female, and therefore the bearded patriarchy must adhere to traditional gender duties and save her ass. For great vengeance and misogyny!


Now we just need a caster and the Holy Quartet of RPGs will be complete.

So this fort is – under new management? Or something? Yeah, I’ll do some freelance investigation. First stop is the nearby graveyard.

Skeletons and zombies. Oooooh fuck yes. Let’s see how Turn Undead does against these punks.


As an aside, diseases suck. My rogue is now fumbling around and can’t disarm a trap to save her soul and our AC is way in the toilet. Back to the fort. We need potions.

Shit, shadow mages? Conversing astrally with the Big Bad? He’s going down. And we found the actual fort commander fellow. Huzzah! Promotions for everyone!

Of course, currently-in-command doesn’t want to step down. It’s a coup! Destabilize the regime! Reinstate the rightful authority! Down with the incumbent!

Dwarven politics at their finest. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Intro — 2015.01.01

This marks the first entry into my new Alt+F4 Playthrough Series. It’s been a dead year here on the blog, due to life circumstances and a slew of other shit. When I add that the fact that reblogging news is no’ as much fun as I hoped ‘twould be, it’s apparent I need a bit of a change. Therefore, I’m heading back to the roots of my experiences in video gaming.

Namely, actually PLAYING them.

I’ve probably referenced the fact that my gaming hardware is – shall we say – less than cutting edge. Several years less, to be frank. So instead of trying to get access to the latest MMO beta test or dashing off to drop upwards of fifty smackers on a new FPS, I’m going to be dialing the clock backward.

Pretty far back, most likely.

My vaguely-retro library holds a few PC titles that this crappy desktop can handle, so we’ll be dipping into the archives for our first entry. Most of the games are RPG-heavy, and the current winner is no exception. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the misadventures and mayhem to follow

Without further fanfare, we are happy to present: