Thus I decide to find the band of half-ogres to south-southwest and bring them to justice, which is to say slaughter them all in cold blood.
The following events require an explanation of the game's world exploration mechanic. The world map is divided into a loose grid of different locations, and, aside from the few select locations that are given to you by the main plot (mostly towns), they all have to be discovered. For example, there was a temple of Lathander to the east of Beregost, but I didn't know about it until, out of curiosity, I went to the eastern edge of Beregost, clicked the travel button on said edge and "discovered" the temple. Between the towns there are dozens of nondescript wilderness locations which don't even have a name, just a map icon. Looking for a specific location without it being marked on the world map (and even if it is marked you can't "fast-travel" to a location until you've been there at least once) is a tremendous pain in the ass, looking for a non-specific one is an even bigger pain.
The paladin told me the direction in which to look for a non-specific location which may or may not contain a gang of half-ogres somewhere in it. Unfortunately I lack the literary ability to describe the sheer, transcendent pain that was trying to find those goddamn monsters. I have ransacked every single location to the southwest of Beregost, repeatedly ran into groups of hobgoblins and ogres (not the halfassed ones I've been looking for, the actual real ogres) and got my ass kicked, checked every single cliff, mountain, hillock and boulder until I finally ran into a bridge guarded by three hobgoblin archers (with poisoned arrows, no less) and TWO ogres, one for each side of the bridge. The bridge was the only way across the river that divided the location in two halves and I just couldn't take two ogres when one knocked three fourths of my health out with a single successful strike. This was a crystallizing moment of revelation, the truth of the situation shined down upon me like a holy aura. I knew what I had to do next; engulfed in the shining light of combined wisdom of the universe, enlightened, I uttered the words which defined my destiny: fuck this shit, imma go kill some demons.
The trip wasn't a complete waste though, during my Crusade to the South-Southwest I come across a talking chicken.
|Awww, I was just looking forward for some chicken soup.|
After I dispose of the wolf trying to eat it, the chicken introduces itself...or, rather, himself - Melicamp. Now, as far as fantasy goes this is pretty standard stuff, so instead of acting like a moron I hear Mel out. Predictably, he is a mage apprentice who broke one too many laws of physics and ended up being polymorphed. He asks if I can Dispel him, but unfortunately my staff mage only has two spells (both of which are Drain Life), so we have to go talk to the unfortunate student's master Thalantyr, who lives in a mage tower west of Beregost. Thankfully the chicken spares me the punishment of partaking in the Ultimate Escort Quest (escort a chicken through a forest full of monsters that give the whole party a hard time) and just jumps into the inventory.
Thalantyr's tower is surrounded by undead, we mow trough the skeletons, have some trouble with zombies and even stumble into a werewolf, which proceeds to tear the group into a thousand tiny pieces. The difficulty in this game is all over the place, and nowhere is it more pronounced than in the first stages, before you get a chance to get some levels under your belt. Out in the wilderness you have an equal chance of finding a completely pathetic fight, a fair fight or an unavoidable slaughter, which can really get on your nerves, especially when the outcome of half of your encounters is decided by a couple of dice rolls on spells and saving throws, which make the difference between a flawless victory without losing a single hit point and the PC being taken out in the first round, making you reload over and over again. This mess makes Oblivion's autoleveling actually sound kinda reasonable.
After some close calls we finally find the tower, locate the entrance and barge inside with a trail of 6 skeletons following us.
|Although, calling this thing a tower is kind of pretentious, it's really more of a keep.|
The residing mage just sort of kicks back and enjoys the show, making no effort to help resolve the conflict that just stormed into his lobby, so I break away from the pursuing skeletons and go talk to him, hoping in vain that the undead are his handywork and he will call them off at some point before they chop my face off.
|Sorry, please don't mind us, just fightin' some skeletons...you know how annoying they get sometimes.|
He turns out to be cool with them killing people in his home, so we have to finish them the hard way. After a prolonged scuffle we take down the evil dead and I go talk to Thalantyr (again). Turns out he and Melicamp have a history, the kind of history where Mel tries to acquire power by stealing his master's magic doodads and randomly experimenting with them until he gets in trouble. This time he really outdid himself, using an unidentified artifact even his master couldn't figure out, landing himself in a position of a dangerously delicious farm animal. In other words this is no ordinary polymorph, but some nasty ancient curse, one which cannot be undone by a simple Dispel. He says there is a trick that can help him save his apprentice, but it might just kill him and it needs a rare ingredient. I'm okay with the former and brace myself for the latter, wondering if he is going to ask me to bring him a unicorn horn or something equally ridiculous. Turns out he just needs a dead skull, so I shift through the tasteful piles of bones that now decorate the floor of his tower and pick one up. He does his thing, I get a smattering of xp for the quest and the apprentice returns to his natural form of a reckless moron. I purchase some potions and magic scrolls, which are the only way for mages to learn new spells, from Thalantyr and, carefully, trying not to trip over the shattered bones, we take our leave.
Enough screwing around, next stop - Nashkel.