Monday, August 23, 2021

Shadows of Darkness: Nuages (Part 1)

Honey, you got real ugly.

In the last session, I mapped out the boundaries of the world and put together a list of puzzles and mysteries. This session, I made multiple loops through this area, ultimately solving or at least advancing several of those puzzles while also identifying new ones. Since my movements were erratic, I thought I'd organize this entry thematically. In the comments, you can let me know what you like better: this approach or the more chronological narrative that I used last time.
This entry ended up being absurdly long, so I'm going to split it in two.
Small World
Despite his Boris Karloff-like intonation, Boris (the gatekeeper at Castle Borgov) is not undead. [Word's grammar check flagged "not undead" and suggested "dead" instead. I guess that has a certain logic.] He just ran away from his wife. Olga (the shopkeeper) dropped the "he was a good man" story once I told her that Boris was still in the area, essentially living next door. "Tell him he's a rotten no-goodnick!" she demanded.
This won't be the last time that a paladin acts as a marriage councilor. I remember a memorable quest from Icewind Dale II.
The next time I visited Boris, he complained that Olga was always nagging him. Olga retorted that he needed nagging, since he never did any work. He was always "carousing at the inn." Boris questioned what else he was supposed to do "in a shop with no customers." (This "conversation" is involving multiple trips back and forth between the spouses, you understand.) He resented Olga constantly giving him orders in an empty shop. Olga said, well, she wanted the shop to be neat and clean in case someone did come in. She resented that she had to do all the work in what was "HIS family's business, after all!"
Join the club, my friend.
Boris acknowledged that there's a lot of work to do in running a shop, but he doesn't see any purpose in keeping it open. Olga replied that her avocado-and-garlic sandwiches are selling like hotcakes. When I reminded Boris about his wife's cooking, he began to remember other fond things about her. He finally agreed to visit her. The next time I visited Olga, she said that Boris had been by and would return after work. I frankly thought I had been doing all of this to get Boris away from the castle gate, but he was already leaving the castle gate at night, so maybe I was just doing it for altruism. Paladin!
What Knockers
To get into Dr. Cranium's chambers, I needed the key to his door. Getting that had something to do with the antwerp maze in his foyer, but I needed to capture an antwerp first. The T.R.A.P. had indicated that antwerps can be baited with avocado, so I had been looking around for some avocado. It was Dmitri (the burgomeister) who reminded me that I already had some. The "trail rations" that Olga sells are avocado and garlic sandwiches. Those sound like the worst-tasting sandwiches I can imagine. I eat avocado grudgingly because it's hard to avoid it if you like sushi, but I don't like it.
I baited the trap with the sandwich (annoyingly, this used up all my sandwiches even though I'd bought like five of them), opened the door to release the antwerps, suffered their assault, and caught one of them. I then opened the door to the maze.
The maze brings up the special "puzzle" screen which is new to this game. We've seen it a couple of times already with the picture puzzle on Dr. Cranium's inner door and the bell puzzle on his outer one. In this case, it was a maze that I had to rotate to coax a bouncing antwerp first to a key and then to the maze's exit, all while avoiding holes. The antwerp naturally bounces up and down, but only so far, so if you want him to reach the top end of a current corridor, you have to rotate the puzzle twice so that top is now bottom, and he naturally falls to that point. If you want him to enter a corridor to his right, you have to rotate clockwise just as he's passing it, so that right is now down. I hope that makes sense. I found the puzzle frustrating at first, but eventually you figure out how to time the rotation and it's not so bad. 
It's like one of those handheld games with a steel ball, except with a bouncing thing instead.
With the key in hand, I just had to redo the picture puzzle on Dr. Cranium's laboratory door and then insert the key. This brought me to the inner lab.
Dr. Cranium is voiced by Jeff Bennett, who also does Igor. A classic "mad scientist," his current projects are reanimating the dead and brewing the perfect cup of tea. Cranium refuses to believe in anything magical, insisting that "magic is simply scientific phenomena that have not yet been properly investigated and catalogued." He loves pizza and classifies it as the fifth element, representing "the essence of well-roundedness and regaining strength." He goes on at length about pizza.
I don't like artichokes any more than avocados.
Cranium had created healing and anti-poison potions, but I had to "help him with the formulas" in an obvious copy protection exercise. He will provide new ones once per day. From conversation, it became clear that the primary thing I'm going to need from him is Rehydration Solution, for which he wants some "Grue Goo."
An experiment goes poorly for the doctor.
Dark Brotherhood
At some point, I returned to the monastery at the north end of town to see if I could find a way to enter without the octopus above the door killing me. Throwing things at the octopus didn't help. But when I clicked around with the eyeball, I noticed something I'd missed before: the front door has an indentation that matches the Cthulhu figurine I'd picked up on the arch outside the Dark One's cave. I ran up to the door, put the artifact in place, and was able to enter the monastery.
I couldn't find anything to do in the opening room. The fireplace had two log holders, one of which showed scratches beneath it. I realized that it was the key to opening a secret door. But trying that just got me killed by another octopus figurine above the door. I tried throwing rocks at it, and it seemed to be doing some good, but I could never actually kill it or knock it out.
Many of this game's interiors have wonderful graphics.
I got to the point where I was just trying everything in my pack on it, and garlic did the trick. He ate it, and it sated him so that he no longer was interested in attacking me. I operated the fixture and entered the secret door that swung open in the fireplace.
The freaky basement had a roll-top desk, an altar with a dark tome, a statue of a half-man, half-squid, a cask of liquor, and a painting on the wall with letters that spelled "Avoozl." I wonder if the name of the demon is, as Radiant suggested, really derived from Scorpia's "foozle." The book, titled the Necrophilicon, came to life and killed me every time I approached.
My body on the basement floor.
The roll-top desk wouldn't open on my first trip. But later, I came back looking for Igor (see below), and I guess I must have gotten stronger, as I had a "force drawer open" option this time that wasn't there before. Doing so set off a trap that poisoned me, although I might have still been poisoned from the last time the game poisoned me.
An option that wasn't there before.
The desk held the diary of the Mad Monk. It mentioned six rituals, placed in the following locations:
  • The Mad Monk's Tombstone, "there to be forever guarded by his followers."
  • In the Stone of Squids, "revealed only by the light of a dead child's soul." That's pretty grim.
  • In the Great Arch, under the Dark One's sign.
  • Given to Gregor for safekeeping. Gregor went missing in the forest.
  • In the hollow of the Hangman's Tree.
  • Concealed in the monastery, found by "he who willingly seeks dark visions."
The cask, of course, is the "Cask of Amon Tillado." Drinking liquor from it showed me a vision of Avoozl--a demonic dragon--erupting from a volcano and, presumably, setting out to destroy the world as we know it. Once the vision was over, I found the "Ritual of Blood" on the floor. So that was clearly the last one. I suspect finding the others is going to be a major part of the game, and that they'll be used back in the Dark One's cave where everything started.
So this is probably something to avoid.
Usually, when your attributes aren't high enough to perform an action, the game lets you try and fail. This is the first time that I think my options have been "gated" by my attributes. It's a good thing I came down here looking for Igor, because otherwise I might have assumed I had already completed this area.
I Had a Dream

Wandering near Erana's staff (in the town square) at night brought me face-to-face with the ghost of Paladin Piotyr (Dmitri's grandfather), who was involved in the last big conflict with Avoozl. After Erana died in the conflict, Piotyr brought her staff back to town and now haunts its location. On the first night I saw him, he recognized me as a fellow paladin and said I would "share his fate" unless I "ease the sorrows of this land." 
Piotyr got a different version of the Rusalka's story than I did.
On the second night, he said that his soul weeps for the Rusalka. He said the gypsies would know how to free her spirit, which was correct.

Meanwhile, resting in Erana's Garden produces a new nightmare every night. They all start out good, with the hero floating in the source of magic and feeling love and happiness, but they swiftly turn malevolent as the hero finds himself in darkness, a voice calling his name, an evil entity reaching for him.
This is unexpectedly moving.
In a Quaint Caravan
On the third or fourth day, I wandered by the burgomeister's office. The three losers from the inn were standing outside arguing with Dmitri. It transpired that Igor, the gravedigger, had gone missing. As the town set out to search for him, they encountered a gypsy hanging around outside of town, and they somehow concluded that the gypsy was a werewolf who had murdered and eaten Igor. 
The burgomeister was handling the situation honorably. He put the gypsy in jail--half for his own protection, I gather--while he tried to convince the bloodthirsty townsfolk to wait until the results of the investigation. "We don't even know if a crime has been committed," he kept telling them. During the conversation, there were some words exchanged about Tanya, the missing daughter of Yuri and Bella (the innkeepers), that would become important later. The inn patrons were suggesting that she also had been killed by werewolves, and Dmitri warned them never to say such things in front of her parents.
Dmitri proudly bears his grandfather's legacy.
Dmitri said he'd be glad for my help in determining what happened. I tried to speak to the gypsy, but he just sneered at me. I figured Igor would be found near his usual haunts, so I first searched the monastery near his stone-carving station. Igor wasn't there, but I finished the monastery puzzles as above. I then headed for the cemetery. There, I found Igor trapped in a grave on top of which a tombstone had fallen. I lifted it and he bounded out.
Back in town, Dmitri had already released the gypsy when I returned. He thanked me for proving the man's innocence and for saving Igor. Igor, for his part, gave me the key to the Borgov crypt.
I appreciate it, but I'm going to stick with "Chester."
I later visited the gypsy camp. Davy, the gypsy whose innocence I proved, had an entirely different attitude about me. He named me Gypsy Friend and took me to meet their leader, Magda. Davy is voiced by Cam Clarke, who also does Nikolai. Magda is the late Joan Gerber, except for one line of dialogue (the one where she says her name and calls the player "gorgio"), which seems to be a different actress trying to imitate Gerber. Magda had a lot to offer me, so I'll just bullet the key points:
  • She gave me  the "Aura" spell, which is supposed to protect me against undead. 
  • She confirmed that the gypsies are, in fact, werewolves, although they prefer the term "shapeshifter." They can change forms at will (the moon has nothing to do with it) and retain full capacity when they do.
But you're okay with "gypsy," right?
  • "Dreams are messages." I should keep sleeping in Erana's Garden and see what else I learn.
  • Baba Yaga lives in a hut to the south. Some kind of magic hides the pathway. "Her only weakness is her love of food."
  • She told me how to free the Rusalka (later).
The visit culminated with a long tarot reading. To summarize it, I am the Knight of Swords, with the qualities of a paladin. The five cards exerting the most influence over me currently are:
  • The High Priestess, inverted, a "woman of [my] past . . . a person of selfishness and passion." I'll need to satisfy her needs and vanity, and she'll help me as long as it requires no effort on her part. I'm 99% sure this is Baba Yaga.
  • The King of Coins, "an old and vicious man," who will do anything to satisfy his desires. But he has recently suffered a failure and is in bondage to someone else--someone who is preventing him from harming me yet. This has to be Ad Avis.
  • The Queen of Cups, a virtuous and wise woman, full of love, who is influencing my present. This is clearly Erana.
  • The Queen of Swords, lonely and suffering. A deceiver by nature, she is both victim and villainess. This is obviously Katrina.
  • The Void. This freaked Magda out and she wouldn't say anything more about it.
Katrina is a complicated character.
After meeting with Magda, I partied with the gypsies all night, danced with Davy's sister (who turned into a wolf in the middle of our dance), and woke up refreshed.
The rest of this entry tomorrow!


  1. I suppose Piotyr's version of the Rusalka's story might also be true, at least in a figurative sense. It would break my heart too, if my significant other drowned me for refusing sex.

    1. Yeah, I thought our relationship was strong enough that we could talk about it, but no...

  2. Not seeing anything about the Domovoi makes me worried; hopefully he'll make an appearance in the second part.

    1. Chet already wrote in the first entry that he realised the bug, maybe he has already done something about it?

    2. I'm on a trip this week, so I scheduled this entry and the next one some time ago. I had already written them when the first entry on QFG4 came out. Yes, I missed the Domovoi. I had to start over. Still, learning how to solve the other puzzles was a good use of time.

  3. One thing that the Coles are very good at, is creating these heartwarming moments of being decent. Like being nice to the canine meatseller in QfG3, the whole thing with the tree in Shapeir, the paladin quests here. There are probably many other that deserve a mention too, but those were the ones that came to mind.

    1. I really like the worldbuilding approach the QFG games have. The playable area is always quite small, but they always seem bigger than they are, mostly thanks to the vibrant characters that manage to evoke more than they tell.

    2. The interactions with Nikolai did this for me. The Rusalka, not so much, probably because her "true" form scared the hell out of me when I was a kid!

    3. Let's be clear that most of the heartwarming moments were written by Lori. I do the silly mood-breaking puns, and much of the boring, straight information text. Lori is much better at getting inside the characters and writing dialogue that expresses their nature.

  4. And you save a Paladin's marriage in Baldur's Gate 2.

  5. I don't even know what avocado tastes like (never had it), but artichokes are amazing, especially on pizza!

    1. The Coles were kinda prescient here, given the avocado toast craze of our times.

    2. Jarl, you talk about artichoke bottoms, which only make up around five percent of the vegetable; steamed artichoke leaves are partially eaten with a heavy sauce (like Béchamel) just to make them palatable.

      Not that avocados are any better, I only have them with shrimps and vinegar dressing, because they basically don't hold any particular flavour.

    3. In Italy artichoke are quite popular. From wikipedia:

      "In Italy, artichoke hearts in oil are the usual vegetable for the "spring" section of the "Four Seasons" pizza (alongside olives for summer, mushrooms for autumn, and prosciutto for winter).A recipe well known in Rome is Jewish-style artichokes, which are deep-fried whole. The softer parts of artichokes are also eaten raw, one leaf at the time dipped in vinegar and olive oil, or thinly sliced and dressed with lemon and olive oil."

      Avocado can be found in several salads mixtures.

    4. I love artichoke hearts in oil. They're the best part.

      Why eat the leaves when they're terrible? There's a lot of foods where you only eat a certain part of it. All the artichoke recipes I know only use the nice juicy part, not the leaves.

    5. For the record, artichoke leaves are by no means terrible. The heart is definitely the best part, but the leaves are fine in their own right.

      And I can only assume y'all are joking about avocado, which is clearly the world's most delicious fruit.

    6. There's a pizza joint near here that does deep fried artichoke hearts with a house made pesto sauce. Holy crap is it yummy.

    7. Are avocados all that available in Europe? I assume with the short shelf life they wouldn't really be a thing there. They don't taste like much, but the buttery texture is a wonderful vessel for spices.

    8. Yes, avocados are easily available in Europe. Why on earth wouldn't they be?

    9. Avocados on their own have a lot of fat in them, which some people love. The real reason why avocadoes were put here in this Earth is to make guacamole. God damn that's tasty. Some thin crisp tortilla chips with a bit of salt and a cold beer, and a big bowl of homemade guacamole: no finer snack food exists on the planet.

    10. In Russia, avocados are tasty to eat with what is called "black bread" (rye-flour bread with some part of wheat flour in it). Putting a slice of avocado on this rye bread and adding some salt can be wonderfully, stupidly tasty! With the whole lot of fat of it, avocado tastes a bit like nuts, only infinitely more soft and not in any way sweet (while nuts are sweet). In any case, for those who got to taste avocados after USSR crumbled - and believed it to be some kind of exotic fruit akin to all other fruits that appeared then - it was a bitter disappointment, making people hate avocado for life. But for those who were already in the know that it is NOT a fruit, they had the chance to taste it for what it is, to love it for what it is!

  6. The screenshot of the dragon erupting out of the volcano reminded me of "Night on Bald Mountain" in Disney's Fantasia.

    1. I always thought it was intentionally alluding to Night on Bald Mountain.

  7. I think you can also sleep in the towns square.

  8. It is very easy to avoid avocado if you like sushi.

    1. It's easy to avoid with nigiri and sashimi. Harder if you like rolls.

    2. Sadly it is hard to avoid wasabi when you want to eat sushi. I can't stand wasabi (or any other type of sharp radish).

    3. My fiance is deathly alleric to avocado and we just ask them to leave the avocado out of the rolls. We have not been refused yet... particularly when we start talking about anaphylaxis!

    4. Wasabi is a side condiment, so it should be easy to avoid if you don't want to eat it? Kind of like habanero sauce at a Mexican restaurant.

    5. What you get here is pretty much just green-colored radish anyway, unlikely to contain any actual wasabi. I still like it, though.

      Also, how did this post trigger three separate food discussions? :)

  9. "I got to the point where I was just trying everything in my pack on it"

    In my humble opinion, having to resort to this tactic has always been a fundamental flaw of the series and the entire sub-genre respectively.

    1. This series doesn’t bring you to that point often, in my opinion. Even here, I was just jumping the gun. I found at least two places later where there were explicit hints about how to solve this problem.

    2. Good to hear, there are certainly worse offenders...

    3. When it comes to Sierra adventures in particular, the puzzle design of QfG is very fair and usually logical. Compare it to the puzzles in the King's Quest series and there's a world of difference!

    4. Yeah only someone who's never played the QFG games would think that.

    5. If you use the TRAP again in Dr. Cranium's lab, it'll ask you increasingly-leading questions until it points you at the heaxpus (the thing above the monastery's fireplace); they mostly eat Heroes, but in a pinch, some garlic will do.

      (That is a verbatim quote from the game.)

    6. Au contraire, Sierra's Gabriel Knight 3 was famously used by Old Man Murray to explain who killed adventure games. The example given perfectly illustrates the eternal problem with them and is too long to reproduce here. Just click through and read it yourself. It's a classic. Even if you've read it before, now's a good time for a re-reading.

      "Dumb as your television enjoying ass probably is, you're smarter than the genius adventure gamers who, in a truly inappropriate display of autism-level concentration, willingly played the birdbrained events described in that passage. For those of you clever enough to have skipped the walkthru, permit me to summarize:

      * Gabriel Knight must disguise himself as a man called Mosley in order to fool a French moped rental clerk into renting him the shop's only motorcycle.

      * In order to construct the costume, Gabriel Knight must manufacture a fake moustache. Utilizing the style of logic adventure game creators share with morons, Knight must do this even though Moseley does not have a moustache.

      So in order to even begin formulating your strategy, you have to follow daredevil of logic Jane Jensen as she pilots Gabriel Knight 3 right over common sense, like Evel Knievel jumping Snake River Canyon. Maybe Jane Jensen was too busy reading difficult books by Pär Lagerkvist to catch what stupid Quake players learned from watching the A-Team: The first step in making a costume to fool people into thinking you're a man without a moustache, is not to construct a fake moustache."

      It just gets better from there.

  10. Most good sushi does not contain avocado. I lived in Japan for years, and avocado has absolutely no business being on or near sushi. It's absolutely not a thing in Japan.

    1. How would whether it's a "thing in Japan" have any bearing at all on my experience with sushi in the U.S.?

    2. Avocado on sushi is definitely a thing in Europe as well. But come on, pizza in most countries doesn't resemble Italian pizza either; according to Italians we'd have "absolutely no business" calling that pizza.

    3. I'm never persuaded that the country of origin gets to dictate what is and isn't good use of their food. I don't like avocados, but clearly millions of people do, or California rolls wouldn't be one of the most popular dishes in America.

      My last trip to a sushi place, one of the things I ordered was a "New Mexico roll." It is described thus: "Spicy lobster, mango, cucumber, avocado, salmon, kani, wrapped in soybean paper with spicy mayo." I suspect a Japanese sushi chef would burst into tears reading that, but it was DELICIOUS.

      So I'm very grateful to Japan for inventing sushi but, you know, we'll take it from here.

    4. Love how a crpg blog inspires culinary discussions somehow ;)

    5. Food is certainly not a dead language. If you want the original form, that can always be preserved at its point of origin, but otherwise reinvention and evolution of recipes seems more common than not. Many of the ingredients found in today's European and Asian delicacies are globalized and relatively recent; even at their origins, food traditions are adaptive and what a wonderful thing that they are!

    6. I love sushi... I'm sure what I can get in my area is very Americanized though. But... yum! Japan is on my list to visit one day!

    7. Try the avocado, egg, sausage, and avocado. That’s not got much avocado in it.

    8. I doubt Japanese chefs have a problem with avocado in sushi. It's just not very common.

    9. As someone who lives in New Mexico, this also made me burst into tears.

      But as someone who loves sushi, I will try pretty much any roll once even if it is extremely non-traditional.

  11. I like your opinions on avacado and sushi

  12. Jennifer Hale, Cam Clarke AND Jeff Bennet? This game is turning into a who's who of nostalgic gaming voices for me. Jeff Bennet played Kyle Katarn in a number of Star Wars games, Cam Clarke was Liquid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series, and Jennifer Hale has played a lot but I know her best as Naomi (also MGS) and the voice of a female Commander Shepard.

  13. The entire game has a Ravenloft feel about it. Not surprising because that setting was in its heyday in the early 1990s. The very name of the land, Mordavia, is an amalgam of Mordent and Barovia, two RL domains, while Magda, the gypsy (aka Vistani) leader and the use "giorgio" are direct lift-offs bordering on plagarism.

    1. Gorgio or Giorgio is simply a gypsy word representing non gypsies, right? What's it plagiarising?

    2. The other anon above should get some better evidence, otherwise it's a pretty big leap from "RL and QFG both contain certain horror tropes" to "OMG Plagiarism!!"

  14. "Paladin!"

    Audible laughter was produced. Did anyone else get a image of Chet throwing a fist into the air as well? It reappeared after the meeting with the ghost and gypsy party.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.