We fight. Fighting spellcasters in BG is tricky: they are as squishy as your average fantasy mage, but you have to gang up on them the moment you see them, because if you let them cast a single spell, your entire party immediately becomes incapacitated - petrified/terrified/encased in webs/etc - and you basically lose the fight, so you might as well just load the latest save. It's kind of like flipping a coin - if melee fighters (and, later on, archers) connect a blow to the squishy's carcass then his spell fails, he loses a round and gets killed. If not, well... that's why the save/load was invented. It gets easier later on, when your party mages get half-decent ranged attack spells, but for now, Xzar the Necromancer and his two crappy life drains per day is the best I've got.
As you may have guessed by the previous paragraph, I get my ass kicked. Several times. It's only when some NPC guards happen to walk by am I able to circumvent the stubborn mage. He has some money and healing potions on him, and a letter explaining his attack.
He is a bounty hunter hired by "forces of evil". The phrasing reminds me of Fallout 3 with that whole stupid Regulator/Littlehorn situation, which is not good. Its certainly not the last bounty hunter I will come across. This interruption aside, I finally get to meet the mysterious and powerful organization known only as "friends". I walk the party into the Inn proper, already wondering how much starting money they are going to give me, and talk to some shifty characters - probably the informants.
Unfortunately this is it. The whole "organization" was a product of my imagination. Those are just late Gorion's buddies who agree to join my party - Khalid and his wife Jaheira. They are both half elves and fighters, Jaheira multiclassed into Druidship as well, and they are badly equipped and piss poor. I accept them, because clearly my party can use some more fighters. They also say that we need to go to Nashkel to investigate the iron shortage everyone is talking about, because... it's going to help shed some light on that whole "dark forces killing Gorion" situation, somehow? Look, do you want a dungeon crawl or not? Just do what the hell the main quest tells you to do, it's not like your party of 6 adventurers can contribute anything else to society. If the primary goal and the overall plot seem somewhat murky at this point, it's because they are. Neither of my new companions tells me anything at all about Gorion, how they came to know him or their view of the situation (and you can't actually initiate dialogue with your party members), aside from "go to Nashkel, maybe there's some good loot there!".
After some mandatory resting, restocking of spells, selling trophies, buying equipment (apparently arms dealing is a popular hobby of local Innkeepers) and looking for sidequests, we set out to Nashkel.
It's ways to the south from Friendly Arm, with the town of Beregost between the two. We fight some wildlife in some woods until we reach Beregost and, after some confused fumbling around (sometimes the game can't quite decide if it's top-down or isometric), get acquainted with the town and chat up the local populace for more sidequests.
We come across a man named Garrick, who proposes us a bodyguard gig for 300 gold, for an actress named Silke. It looks like easy money, so I agree. Needless to say, things get complicated pretty fast.
Apparently Silke was planning a (very flimsy) set up for some of her friends, involving pretending to be attacked by them and having someone else dispose of them. She attacks (it's another spellcaster fight), we kill her after a few tries and get some sweet loot. Jaheira gets a +1 Quarterstaff (she is specialised in staffs...staves? Whatever.) and we get some potions as thanks from the "thugs" we were hired to kill, which, coupled with 400 gold from Silke's corpse, brings much more value than the sum we were promised for the job. And they say being good doesn't pay!
Garrick offers little comment, but agrees to join the party, seeing how he is fresh out of shady characters to serve. Unfortunately, while I would be glad to take him instead of one of the four (!) fighters I have, I can't do it because they come "in pairs". You see, if I kick Khalid out, Jaheira automatically leaves with him (and vice versa), but I need her because, unlike her husband, she doesn't suck at combat, has decent health, stats and armor class AND she is a druid who can cast healing spells - a must for any self respecting adventurer. Same goes for Montarion and Xzar, the strange pair of travelers I've met and accepted into my party on the way to Friendly Arm. If I dismiss Monty, Xzar leaves with him, and he is the only mage I've got. Thus I have to leave the jobless bard behind.
I decide to check out the Red Sheaf Inn, outside of which I fought Silke, and stumble into another bounty hunter.
We fight (again). He's a tough nut to crack, an armored melee fighter who does 9 damage to my character in the very first round. With the help of a magic wand we manage to take him down, but he takes half my party with him (time to pay for ressurection). The patrons seem... unimpressed.
|This is nothing compared to what happened during the Free Pretzel Week|
My search for sidequests continues. A dwarf tells me a sad story about a cloak he lost in Cloakwood. I would gladly look for it if I knew where Cloakwood actually is. A halfling steals 25 gold from me and somehow, at the same time, manages to give me a quest to find his walking boots a gang of Hobgoblins "borrowed" from him. An awful lot of people seem to miss items of clothing in Beregost, I half expect an Ogre to walk up and ask me if I can find his crusty trousers he lost on a bet.
One proposal that does seem to be worth my time comes up. Inside The Jovial Juggler Inn, which seems like an appropriate name for a particularly twisted gay porn series (and that's how you know I've spent too much time on the internet), a paladin licking his wounds tells me about a gang of Half-Ogres trying to "fortify in the mountaints" south, south-west from the town. This sounds like a job for a group of adventurers, so I set out to find the gang and bring it to justice. It doesn't work out quite as well as I imagined.