A Modded Sword Coast Travelogue #3 Impressions on NPC Project

 In my first Travelogue I noted that I had the NPC Project mod installed which adds new romances and numerous banters in the style of Baldur's Gate 2 to the numerous Sword Coast NPCs. I'd like to take the time to discuss these and give an in-depth impression of what I've witnessed so far.

To recap, my party of adventurers has been:

  • Nikola (charname, my protagonist) - Shapeshifter druid
  • Imoen - thief dual-classed to mage
  • Ajantis - paladin
  • Kivan - ranger
  • Branwen - Battleguard of Tempus (cleric)
  • Coran - fighter/thief (multi-class)
I would like to provide some impressions of what the Baldur's Gate NPC Project mod has done to provide further character content for my party members through banters. This is not necessarily a review of the content but sort of a brief glimpse into what you'll experience by recruiting the following characters with the NPC Project mod installed.
 
Ajantis -
 At times Ajantis doubts his ability to make a lasting difference for the greater good.
The original game did very little to elaborate upon Ajantis' fiction.  All we knew, essentially, is that he is a Squire in the order of Helm.  With the mod, we see his ruminations as a young man working towards a greater goal.  Ajantis is an idealist as per his catchphrase: "My life is my honor." But we do see him doubt his own viewpoints on justice.  Conversations with Ajantis lead us to understand that he is practically the most "normal" of any individual within the Baldur's Gate legacy.  He's not a secret agent with the harpers, he is not driven mentally insane by the gods, doesn't carry a space hamster with him, or any other such eccentricities.  He is a noble man from a proper upbringing in Waterdeep, yet he never seems snobbish (although you are provided plenty of opportunities to call him the "rich kid").  He has an awkwardly traditional approach towards courting women: offering to help carry travel gear, preparing a proper campsite, and the occasional comment that seems to make him boyishly uncomfortable.  The NPC mod makes Ajantis into an excellent companion, now all he needs is a better dexterity score.  I'd highly recommend him with the NPC mod for a good party.

Kivan - A wandering ranger who anguishes over the death of his dear wife.  Kivan is the traditional ranger that everyone loves.  He has that thirst for justice like Ajantis and has keen insights into the world around him.  He'll make comments along your journey that let you know he's well-traveled.  Some might think that Kivan is somewhat whiny, dealing with the death of his wife, and he even recounts the deaths of his brothers.  The player has plenty of dialogue options to call Kivan a whiner but to also listen to him and help him cope as a friend.  With him you'll learn more about his home city, sea elves, and other such goodies.  His banter song is a very nice "Native American" style piece. He's a strong and reliable companion to have at your side.  I'd highly recommend him with the NPC mod for a good party.
 
Coran -
 Coran, give it a rest!
I recuited Coran because I had never utilized him before and I thought his bow arm would be a strong addition.  He also has a new (adult-content) romance for female characters as well as romance conflicts with Ajantis and Xan.  Coran is that roguish womanizer that never gives up.  Never.  His pursuits are likely to drive some to murderous ends (I mean he is pursuing a child of Bhaal after all). Quite often Coran will stop the party just to make quips and witty remarks about how your eyes are gems and how he is staring at your breasts.  He'll stop to talk to you before and after sleep, tell you how he dreamed about you during it, and always want to make advances towards you.  It's like this guy has no other life than to get it on with the ladies.  Unfortunately it's just annoying.  He only really mocks Ajantis, who is mostly the quiet romantic, and not in very interesting ways.  I don't think my comments are on the quality of the mod per se, but on Coran's poor character.  Not every character can be as likeable as Minsc or as admirable as Ajantis, but Coran is flat out a pain in the butt.  Once Imoen was regained her thieving abilities (Level 5 Mage/Level 4 Thief) I left Coran in Beregost never to be seen from or flirted with again.  Females beware.
 
Branwen - Honestly, Branwen has not had very many interjections.  She did stop me to talk about how she doubted her abilities as a warrior.  Once she discovered that I was full of doubts about everything she quickly recounted and felt reassured.  Branwen has not been very open but on occasion has stopped to talk to Ajantis about bedtime "relaxations" which he nervously rebuffed.  Branwen is supposed to have a male romance with the NPC Project but since I'm female I'll have to experience it another time.  Her added "banter song" is excellent with a very Conan-like drum beat and female chanting.
 
Imoen -
 A poignant moment as you bury your foster father.
mostly what I know of Imoen is what happens to her in the second game.  The poor girl is kidnapped and magically tortured in the dungeons of Joneleth Irenicus.  The second game is a dark chapter for Imoen which makes the return to the first game seem very strange and almost out of place.  When Imoen joins up with you she is just a tag-along roguish kid.  A teenager I suppose.  She makes goofy quips and oddball remarks that the player may either criticize, reluctantly embrace, or simply ignore.  She is a very light-hearted soul that wants to grow as an adventurer and really wants to be a part of your team.  It would be nice if she would chatter with the other NPCs more often.  All of this somewhat silly interactions with Imoen made me realize that what lay in wait for her (in Baldur's Gate 2) would be all the more horrific since I had spent so much time with the fun-loving Imoen who hadn't yet had her "soul raped" by Irenicus.  I always include her in my BG2 party and if you plan to on your next BG2 run I would suggest spending some time with the "young" Imoen before she's damaged goods.
 
Until next time, happy adventuring!
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A Modded Sword Coast Travelogue #2 Party Assemblage and Assassins

 

A Gathering of Heroes (a long and annoying gathering)

In the Icewind Dale series you have the luxury of having your party with you right from the start.  But Baldur's Gate has never taken this approach.  You'll leave Candlekeep with Imoen in tow and might quickly take Montaron and Xzar with you but how the heck are you supposed to assemble a competent party of adventurers with an ill-equipped duo of level 1s?  This was one of my biggest challenges in my newly modded game that features lots of new tactical challenges.  I didn't just want to squeeze by with a party of two or three.  I wanted to get my whole party together and get to gaming!
 

Party selection criteria?

1. Play with characters that you've not spent time with before
  • I have spent a ton of time playing BG2 and am pretty much sick of Jaheira, Minsc, Edwin, Viconia,
  • I am playing as a good character so I'd like to have a moderately good to neutral party
  • I would like to assemble free-standing characters and not break up any duos such as Khalid from Jaheira or Dynaheir from Minsc
2. Recruit members that utilize the newly installed mods
  • Characters like Ajantis, Coran, and Xan would try to romance my female protagonist
  • Other characters such as Branwen have new kits that more closely match their true character.
 

So who did I pick?

  1.  Imoen's new lines make her come off as the childish tag-along.  But when you think about what eventually will happen with her torturing by Irenicus in the sequel it all seems more horrific.
    Imoen - "Hey, wait a second!  You play with Imoen all of the time."  It's true, Imoen is an integral part of the story-line from Baldur's Gate 2 and I usually pick her up once she is available.  Because she is so integral to the story line and joins with you immediately, I decided to recruit her.  My plan is to dual class her to a mage later since there is a poor selection of mages in the game.
  2. Ajantis - This paladin is available not long after you arrive at the Friendly Arms Inn.  He's a good fighter and of good alignment and maybe he'll romance my protagonist and make for some nice RPG interactions.  Will my druid fall for this goody goody? Only time will tell.
  3. Kivan - This ranger can be recruited relatively safely early on and has a mean bow-arm!  The BG NPC project adds numerous lines of dialogue for him in which he ruminates on his experiences with Tazok and the death of Deherianna as well as his siblings.
  4. Branwen - I needed some more magical support and Branwen seemed like the safest bet.  Her new Cleric of Tempus kit doesn't allow her to specialize in ranged weaponry which is somewhat a bitch but she seems like a strong addition with some nice bits of dialogue.
  5. Coran - This roguish elf will create some romantic conflict with Ajantis that should spice up the NPC interactions in my party.  His skill with a bow and dagger should be a welcome addition.
 
 My entire party is put to sleep by a kobold shaman.
Part of the problems that I dealt with in recruiting your party is that they are spread out everywhere.  Sure it's nice to have a random encounter where you discover a new person that can join your entourage but when you're playing the game for the umpteenth run-through it can be tedious. It's hard to try out new party builds when the only ones are available are the ones you always play with. 
 
Baldur's Gate also has some less than recommendable NPC choices also.  There are no vanilla mages. Dynaheir is an Invoker and leashed to Minsc (although the mods let you get rid of either should you choose), Xan is a pathetically weak Enchanter with poor spell selection, Edwin is an annoyingly evil Conjurer, Xzar is a mentally insane necromancer and all of the other mage like characters are questionable multi-classes.  The game's priests are Jaheira a fighter/druid, Branwen a petrified cleric, and Viconia an evil drow priestess.  There are a slew of characters that I doubt anyone would ever recruit for any reason whatsoever such as:
Tiax - A bonkers cleric/thief with a measley 12 wisdom  score
Quayle- An annoying cleric/wizard with a 10 wisdom score
Alora - The game is almost over by the time you find her.

New Challenges Await You on the Sword Coast

 
When I first played Baldur's Gate after it's release over ten years ago, I had to learn the lesson and learn it hard.  This game wants to kill me.  It wants to ambush me with unsuspecting bounty hunters Stun my party members with carrion crawlers.  Poison them with spider bites.  Finish them off with hidden traps.  And completely obliterate them beyond resurrection with a lucky critical hit that sends Minsc into flying giblets.  And all of that, surprisingly, was wonderfully fun and still is thanks to these mods I've installed and described in my first post.  A veteran of Baldur's Gate knows many of the tricks of the trade that will get them the adventure with little to no trouble but what if you're enemies have a few new tricks and unexpected reinforcements?  Sword Coast Stratagems has really tested my mettle.  Let me elaborate.
 
Case Study:  The ambushing mage bounty hunter!
 
 My party fends off an assassin.
After a long trudge through the Nashkel mines I stumbled my way back to the village in hopes of some long deserved rest.  I should've known better because there was a small ambush waiting for me. My party of 6 (levels 2-4) met a mage bounty hunter who immediately cast mirror image and minor orb of invulnerability and set upon attacking my unprepared party.  My poor positioning was no one's fault but my own but I set about settling this encounter without loading a previous game.
 Huzzah, watch your step ya pansy-footed mage!
The mage put Imoen to sleep, flinged meteor missiles at Branwen, dropped a fireball on top of his invulnerable self that seared Ajantis half to death (killing two Amnish guard in the process), and did all of this while evading my squad's flurry of projectiles.  Eventually, we whittled his mirror images down and scored some hits but right as we were about to slay the bugger his spell sequencer activated and poof, the sucker went invisible.  With no ways to sight him or dispel this ability we waited helplessly as he quaffed healing potions from an unknown location.  I ran over my possible strategies in my head and I figured if he was going to use tricks from Shadows of Amn I would too.  I had Coran drop a trap (which historically for me always fails to set because I never invest in traps).  Low and behold the mage wandered over it and 20 damage points later, the sucker is dead.
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A Modded Sword Coast Travelogue #1 Recommended Mods for BG1

Take a trip back in time with me to my most favorite game of all time (second only to its sequel), Baldur's Gate.  In this blog I will be detailing the mods I have installed for this run through Bioware's first and arguably best RPGs ever.  I've played through a modded Baldur's Gate 2 (check out my blog post) plenty of times but I have yet to try out the numerous user-created additions for the first game so buckle up and enjoy the ride!
 

Mods used:

 Always wanted to play Baldur's Gate with a BG2 class/kit? Now you can.
Baldur's Gate TUTU :  A grand achievement of monumental scale.  The crew over at Pocketplane as adapted the original Baldur's Gate to the Baldur's Gate II engine!  Astounding.  I have played 6-8 hours and it seems to be working wonderfully.  The original game plays very slowly and this mod really speeds things up by updating the core mechanics.  The only hitch is that there is a very strange bug surrounding the town of Beregost which tends to corrupt saves.  Luckily Beregost is pretty boring so I have mostly avoided it.  There are a few work arounds just check out the readme. 

 I wasn't able to plow through the kobolds so I had to flee and level up elsewhere.  Strategy abound!
Sword Coast Stratagems:  This bad boy makes Baldur's Gate into the true tactical game that it was meant to be.  Human enemies drink potions.  Enemy mages are devilishly more clever.  And those pesky kobolds have a few tricks up their sleeves.  The game has a huge list of available options and each one is customizable.  I recommend you check out the full readme.
 
 You'll learn more about your NPCs as they banter with you in the NPC Project.
Baldur's Gate NPC Project:  One of the best additions to BG2 was the party banter between your entourage.  Sure, sometimes they'd stop you to talk about dreams of adventure or woes of their past just moments after you'd killed a dragon but these tidbits of dialogue really added depth to the BG characters.  This mod attempts to bring that extra spice to the original game.  Kivan will tell you about his past and heartaches.  Branwen will pester Ajantis about "relaxing" more often.  And Imoen will really seem like that pesky little tag along that she really is.  The mod adds numerous new romances with plenty of options for female protagonists.  I am currently taking advantage of this with Ajantis and Coran in my party (the mod creates inter-romance conflicts and bickering between them, and even Xan).  Several characters have NPC banter music that plays when they stop to speak with you and I really enjoy Kivan's, Ajantis', and Branwen's alot.  Great content here.
 
 Sweet ass new druid spells? Sign me up!
Divine Remix: This mod adds a slew of new cleric kits and adds some fixes for druids and rangers also.  There are more appropriate spells and a whole new system of divine spell schools that are really interesting.  I had to get this mod to accompany my druid class (I originally had planned to play through as a Cleric. Also, it's universally viewed that shapeshifting has been broken and useless in the Baldur's Gate series and this mod fixes it by creating a "magical paw" that allows you to switch forms instantly.  But you still can't cast spells while as a werewolf, nor equip armor.

My Protagonist and Why I Chose Her

 Teen-wolf meets Baldur's gate.
Baldur's Gate is an epic game.  In my time with the game since it's original release I have played and restarted dozens upon dozens of times, spending numerous hours staring at the character creation screen.  For this game I decided to play something I never have and a class/protagonist that compliments the mods I have installed.  Everyone plays a fighter for BG1 and I've beaten BG2TOB as a Kensai/Mage and as a Berserker/Cleric.  I almost wanted to play as a vanilla Cleric due to the Divine Remix mod but I decided to go an even different route and choose a Druid shapeshifter since the Divine Remix mod fixes shapeshifting and werewolves are sweet as hell.  I thought the class might be a little overpowered since you can switch forms instantly but trust me.  I've been killed plenty of times in my adventure thusfar.  I chose a female protagonist because the NPC project mod adds new romances and even a 3-way romance conflict between Xan, Coran, and Ajantis who might all be flirting with you at once.  I've only got Coran and Ajantis in my party (just a few moments ago) and these two are already bickering and toying with one another.  Fun times.
 

Next time on the Travelogues...

 
I'll go over how difficult it's been to assemble a party, my flight from the Nashkel mines, and even a slight detour into a minor mod that involves the Sirines along the sword coast.  Toodles!
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Baldur's Gate II: A few of the best Mods.

 With the Tactics mod, dragons won't let you cast all of your buffs while you loiter near them.  So come prepared!

Baldur's Gate II stands as the reigning king of epic fantasy roleplaying games. Not even heavyweights such as Oblivion will ever be able to measure up to its level of character detail and grand adventure. But for some of we have nearly exhausted that well of wonderful gameplay and a simple new roll of the dice at the character creation screen just won't cut it. However, even though the Bioware designers never intended it, a small community of dedicated Baldur's Gate fans have created numerous mods of various types. I've done some tinkering and experimenting with these surprisingly easy to use mods and I have created a small breakdown of the cream of the crop, for me at least.

You're welcome to explore on your own for other mods. The three pioneering websites are:

Pocketplane (a still thriving community that releases regular updates including foreign translations of their mods)

Gibberlings3 (another community that I have not spent as much time with but has numerous unique NPCs, kit packs, and more).

Weidu (the guy that designed the installer that nearly all of these mods used. He hosts the famous Tactics mod and his famous Solaufein dark-elf NPC)


Tactics mod:

If all you're looking for is a deeper challenge. Look no further. The Tactics mod's goal is to increase the difficulty of the game by adding new layers of challenge that should create a more rewarding experience. I have completed an entire BGII run with the Tactics mod and I am never going back. It's the ultimate DnD combat experience. The creator has done their best in order to eliminate the usage of cheap player tactics such as cloudkill spell from off screen or casting buffs right next to a dragon before you attack him.

For instance: TorGal, the troll that has captured the De'Arnisse keep is even stronger now with a new Yuan-ti mage squad. He hits harder, his trolls aren't instantly slain by cloud kill, and he also holds the Flail Head of Cold. So if you want the Flail of Ages, you'll have to contend with him. He is a doozy. You will also see improvements to Bodhi, Irenicus, improved Undead and Golems, even more sinister Mind Flayers, as well as smarter Vampires and Liches.

The best part about the Tactics mod is that it is completely compartmentalized meaning that you only install the pieces that you want. So if you're interested I suggest you check out the Read Me info to find the specific changes. This mod is a great overhaul to many of Bioware's wonderful combat encounters.

 Ascension is an 'unofficial' Throne of Bhaal director's cut created by David Gaider himself.

Ascension

David Gaider, the design director for Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, was left a bit dissatisfied with the final battle in ToB. This was mostly due to time constraints since the expansion needed to be released in a relative hurry. There were also scripting and story sequences he felt would've been great to include. This is by no means what Gaider would consider the ultimate cut, but it is a nice alternate director's view.

The PC's Slayer form will upgrade at various experience points, Imoen and Sarevok have new dialogue events, Melissan's AI is upgraded and to quote Gaider: “she's practically a demigod”. The Demigorgon at the core of Watcher's Keep is now beefed up. He was ultimately toned down for the expansions retail release.

The changes are numerous and interesting and the readme has several quotes from Gaider. I suggest you check it out if at all interested. It adds a new layer of depth to all of Bioware's excellent combat encounters.

Keto & Kelsey:

 Kelsey is a spectacular addition to the game's roster.

At Pocketplane you'll find two excellent NPCs that I will vouch for having included them in my party for a complete playthrough of Shadows of Amn. Kelsey and Keto are two superb NPCs that were purposefully designed so that you would not be able to distinguish them from the official characters. They feature numerous lines of a dialogue and inter-party banter. Some lines are fully voiced and Keto the bard even has unique music. Kelsey is a romanceable male that was created partly as an alternative to that asshole Anomen for female protagonists. He even has some pretty grueling arguments with the priest. He's a sorcerer with a mercantile background who will chime in with his own perspectives on new places that you visit and actions that you've taken. Keto is a light-hearted bard. She's not romanceable but a great addition to her party. You might even be able to help her take part in a bard's competition if you stick with her. I hands down recommend these two characters if you've exhausted all of the other NPCs in the game. Sometimes Mazzy just won't cut it, you know?

 If you've been dying for a bard to join your entourage, Keto is your gal.

Dungeon-be-Gone

Dungeon-be-Gone is a humorous mod that allows veteran players to skip the tutorial dungeon that Irenicus has imprisoned you into. It's silly and a little “out of character” but a trans-dimensional bard will definitely be able to help you get outta there quickly if you so choose. He'll even give you all of the nifty crap you'd have found along the way if you'd actually done the dungeon.
 
Hopefully my selections have piqued your curiosity and you're thinking about another run through Baldur's Gate II.  Trust me, these mods are all top product.  Using the Weidu installation process they are very easy to get up and running you just need to know your installation path for Baldur's Gate II.  I suggest you read the READ ME's included with each mod and the notes on the respective websites because the designers often give solid information as to why they chose their design changes and their ultimate goals for their mods.  Happy adventuring!
 
 

Additional Mods (added 6/23/10)

Widescreen mod

User Vermy81 recommends this install: "My personal favorite is the widescreen mod which will bring BG1,BG2, Planescape and the Icewind dales up to widescreen resolutions so I can play BG2 on my 1080p widescreen display and not have it stretched out all kinds of ways."  Many gamers choose this as their only mod install at all for Infinity Engine games.
 

Looking for mods for the original Baldur's Gate?

Check out my S word Coast Travelogues as I play through the first game using the TUTU mod which converts the entire game's engine to that of Baldur's Gate II! Wow-wee!
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Fallout Mods: Weirdest of the Wasteland (now featuring: Batman)

Here we go guys.  I've got some of the weirdest mods out there for Fallout 3 that I have discovered, let me know what you think.

 

Let me sing you a song about the weirdest mods of the wasteland.

 
 
Let's get rolling with some phat beats to start us off.  All you mutants raise ya hands and say, 'Yeah!'  (I love how the guy with the eye patch is so not into it at all).  Watch out though, old man Walter has some swing in his step.  This is just a whacky example of animation gone...bonkers.  More videos here.
 
 
 
 
 
Cube Experimental (story mod):
The dearth of high quality quest mods for Oblivion and Fallout 3 is a really disheartening thing.  But when you find something like Cube Experimental you know there are some real badasses in the modding community.  This story mod takes you to a hidden location where a secret underground cube facility is filled with strange and devious traps that make the experiments in the Vaults seem like child's play.  It seems very reminiscent of the Cube films and if you have any experience with those you know they. are. wicked.  This mod is complete. There are walkthrough videos if you just want to see what it contains.  Otherwise, why not try it out for yourself?
 
 
 
Classic Fallout Weapons:  
 Kickin' it old school.
Everyone has their favorite, mine was the alien blaster that got a helluva lot of crits.  Which was yours?
 
Batman:
Of course you've dreamed of it! The Wasteland is the ultimate No Man's Land!  Grab your gun, Batman, and take out those criminals...wait a second.  Oh my god, there's a Catwoman too?  And you thought Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was weird.
 
What's your Brand?: Because in the Wasteland...you've got to have your smokes.
 
 Do not look at the mushroom cloud.  Especially while you're tripping balls.
Better Living Through Chems: In all of the Fallout games practically all of the chems are underpowered, overpowered, or just plain useless.  In Fallout 2 you could assassinate the president silently by sticking him with over 20 Stimpacks and he'd just die!  In Fallout 3 I probably dosed up at least a million times over the course of my Wasteland wanderings.  This mod attempts to add some "realism" to drug use within the game.  You can retrieve empty syringes after you use a stimpack and fill them with a chemical of choice.  You can take these chems yourself or STAB some poor raider and dope his ass up.  Man that is messed up.  On top of all of these weird "features" the mod adds some seriously trippy graphic effects.  You'll never think of Mentats in the same away again.
 
 
Ultimate Perk Pack: Perks in the Fallout franchise have always been weird.  Especially that one about shoveling brahmin shit.  But with mods you get even more insanity.  With mods you can be racist against ghouls! Awesome? 
 
Remember that horse armor from Oblivion? Remember how notoriously dumb that seemed to be?  Things get worse in the wasteland...
 Dog armor...seriously?

 

 
So hopefully you've enjoyed my perusings of the strange and odd within the Fallout 3 modding community.  I barely scratched the surface but digging through mods and trying to make them work was oddly similar to digging for secret ammo caches within the game.  Of course I didn't mention the numerous Warhammer 40K armor dressings, Desert Eagle mods, or sunglasses packs simply because they are just too mundane when compared to the rest.  If you've found any weird mods please feel free to share them in the comments.  That would be awesome.  In the meantime don't play your fiddle too loudly while in the Vault!
 
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