dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I was thinking of posting this a few days ago, but I'm glad I waited because something else came up.

The Saturday before last was the 20th anniversary of Fallout, as I was reminded of by this RPS article. I heard of it the way I heard of most new computer games, through PC Gamer and its demo discs. After playing the demo, set in a town called Scrapheap and dealing with conflict between warring gangs, I was hooked. I got the game not long after it came out and played it three or four times before the sequel came out, which I played another half-dozen times. Both of these would foreshadow the thousand hours I spent in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.

I remember poring over the character creation screen, picking the Gifted perk because of the bonus to stats, and tagging Speech, Science, and Energy Weapons, thus setting the template of being playing a cerebral sniper/wizard in basically every RPG I ever played. The early part of the game was brutal, but I persevered, found a laser gun, talked my way into people's good graces, and eventually made my way into the cathedral where I engaged the final boss in a duel of wits, demonstrated to him the impossibility of his plan, and in his despair, he set off the self-destruct sequence. I beat a boss without firing a shot.

That stuck with me, though mostly nowadays in how rarely games allow it.

I have a half-finished Fallout game on my PC now, where I tried to go through with an unarmed build but gave up because I couldn't find any unarmed weapons. Maybe I should go back to it and try to finish it off. I still remember everything.

Last week Monday was the American release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which I was reminded about by this Retronauts article. When it came out I had no idea it existed--the most recent Castlevania game I had played in 1997 was Dracula's Curse--but [ profile] uriany bought it and we played it together. He already knew how to access the inverted castle, and where everything was, so he guided me through the game.

Symphony of the Night is my favorite platformer ever because of the sheer degree of options and the chaos they unleash. It's not hard, but who cares? There are boots that "discretely increases height" that make Alucard's sprite one pixel taller. There's "Alucart" knock-off gear that increases his luck. There's armor that turns Alucard into an Axelord. There's an accessory that shoots lightning. And we killed Dracula with all of them. Balance is worthwhile, but it's not always the most important part of a game and it's possible to have fun without it. The fun in Symphony of the Night is in the variety of possibilities and the sense of discovery.

There's a dodo that drops a sword that spells out VERBOTEN when Alucard swings it. What more do you want? Emoji La

And yesterday was the original release of The Orange Box (RPS link), quite possibly the most dollar value I've ever gotten from a gaming product since Master of Magic. 2007 was when I was heavily into World of Warcraft and my gaming was mostly $15 a month plus the occasional other game--from summer 2007 to summer 2008 is the year I played Xenogears and Ōkami for the first time too--and then the Orange Box came out with Half-Life 2 plus Episodes 1+2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal.

It's funny to think that Half-Life 2 is probably the least consequential of those games, because at the time it felt monumental. That's before Valve stopped making games and before we understood how amazing Portal was. Team Fortress 2 may have since descended into a military-themed haberdashery, but as someone who played a ton of original HL Team Fortress at university, I got hundreds of hours out of it. It was especially fun playing while I was living in Japan. There were two servers I would habitually join. One downloaded roughly 200 sound clips when I first joined and the game was a aural assault of anime quotes spammed by people typing in text commands. The other was silent, organized, and everyone typed "otu" (otu -> お疲れ -> "thanks for your hard work") at the end of every match. It's Japan in microcosm, right in those two servers.

Portal memes were annoying, but the game deserved every bit of mind-share it got in popular culture. It was a complete experience in three hours, funny and charming and a little poignant all at once. I still have the companion cube plushy that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd snagged during one of its rare periods of availability. I remember friends being envious of it.

Portal II was too long, but Portal is nearly a perfect game.

("Gaming Made Me" comes from a similar feature that RPS does. Links here)
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Before Kingdom Hearts, there was another time that Square created a strange hybrid RPG with action elements!

I first played this with my sister and another kid who lived across the street, and we got almost to the end. If I remember right, we nearly stalled out in the volcano and then couldn't beat the Smith Gang when we went on to the final boss, which strikes me as almost unbelievable now that I'm replaying through. Was I ever that bad at video games? Is my memory just bad and we actually won?

Well, I won this time.

Shine get.

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dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
This is the first thing I ever kickstarted, back in the heady days of 2012 when Double Fine Adventure blew up on kickstarter and revealed the wonders of crowdfunding. I had only ever played the original Wasteland for maybe an hour, but I had read multiple let's plays of it and, more importantly, I'm a huge fan of the Fallout games which were its spiritual successors. So I kicked in for a physical copy of the game (with cloth map!) and waited. And then when it came out, I heard there were some bugs so I waited for them to be fixed. And then I heard there would be a director's cut with new mechanics, so I waited for that. And then I was playing other games. But now, five years later, I finally sat down and decided that this would be the next game I would play so I could taste the fruit of that kickstarter long ago.

It's okay.

All in a day's work.

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dorchadas: (Slime)
I was one of the Final Fantasy fans that failed to make Dragon Quest popular in the West. I borrowed a friend's copy of Final Fantasy and played it to death, even beating it after weeks of work, but I saw someone playing Dragon Warrior and I just wasn't that interested. Simplistic sprites? Shakespearean English? Dying to magicians when he tried to head out to Garinham to buy stronger weapons and armor? No thank you. It wasn't until I went to university that I tried playing Dragon Warrior again, and I thought it was fun enough, persisted to the end, and then left the series behind.

Until I saw that some of the Dragon Quest games had been ported to iOS and I had a two-week-long trip to Japan coming up. I had vague memories of seeing Dragon Warrior IV in Nintendo Power and I'd heard good things about it, so I bought it, downloaded it, and loaded it up during the flight. And while I didn't beat it during the trip--I decided that writing thirty thousand words in daily blogging about it was a better use of my time--I've beaten it now! And it was pretty good!

The operative word here is "try."

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dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I suppose I should technically put "Hero Quest I" in the title, but I'll get to that.

I grew up on Sierra adventures, your Kings' Quest and Spaces' Quest. But those actually came later. The first Sierra adventure game I ever played was this one, at a friend's house when we were playing around on his parents' computer. I really took to its weird combination of genre styles and, ignoring the message at the beginning of the game about piracy, I borrowed the disks from him and copied the game to my computer, where I proceeded to play it obsessively. This was around when Quest for Glory III: Wages of War came out, so I bought that and imported my character--which blew my mind, by the way--and continued his adventures, and that began a love affair that lasted to this day.

I'm not the only one. I played Heroine's Quest last year, a game that was clearly and obviously inspired by the Quest for Glory games. But I haven't played the original in over a decade, and now that I'm on vacation, and since I still remember the solutions to all the puzzles, why not?

You called?

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dorchadas: (For the Horde!)
I am not a member of the Pokemon generation.

Like I've mentioned before, I got out of consoles after the NES, so my first introduction to Pokemon as something more than that thing people talked about that I didn't know anything about at all was in Smash Brothers, so I thought of pokemon as basically natural disasters. Sometimes they were avoidable, sometimes not, and sometimes you could control them and really annoy your friends by spamming lightning bolts. But nothing about the context around them. And then while we were on the road to Chiyoda, Pokemon Go came out in Japan and I finally managed to create an account and play the game. And for whatever reason, I find it really fun and still play basically every day. Mass Transit makes it easy.

Then year is the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, and so I thought now is definitely the time. And after consulting my friends, and then ignoring most of their advice, and loaded up a copy of Pokemon Fire Red--in Japanese, for the practice--and set out on my journey to ポケモンゲットだぜ! (pokemon getto da ze!, uh, something like, "Pokemon, I'm gonna get them!")

I love how overconfident my rival was, since he lost literally every battle with me.

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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
That was a wild ride. And in some ways, I don't have much to say because I said it all already.

Baldur's Gate II hasn't unseated Morrowind as my favorite game, but it came really close. Morrowind has its mythological exploration and interesting cultures, and Baldur's Gate II has the relationships between the PC and the other party members. This is where Bioware romances started, and while they were pretty basic in their original forms, with only four romanceable NPCs and only one for a female PC, the basic structure allowed a thousand mods to bloom. Some of them good, like Xan, some of them...less so.

I wish I had written down my time through Baldur's Gate as well, because that really would have provided a complete experience. That full zero-to-hero arc is part of what makes Baldur's Gate I and II so amazing to me. In the very beginning, 250 hours of gameplay ago , Chiyo was a sheltered orphan in Candlekeep and nearly died when an assassin set upon her in the stables of her home. Years later, she fought off a powerful elven wizard in hell for custody of her soul, and this isn't even the end of her story. The Throne of Bhaal awaits.

Eventually. I'm not diving into that quite yet.

In the end, I was mostly happy with my list of mods except for Sword Coast Stratagems. I had it set so that pre-buffing was only on NPCs that the designers thought would reasonably have buffed before engaging the PCs, but that was much more extensive than I would have expected. And there were egregious moments, like stripping all the party's buffs between phases in the final battle but still allowing Irenicus to autobuff. If I could go back, I'd keep the spell AI but turn off almost everything else, including the harder battles. Those are obviously designed for someone willing to use a lot of the exploits that I turned off, like allowing simulacrums and projected images to use quickslot items, or keeping Vhailor's Helm--which I modded out of the game--on the PC and then using simulacrum/time stop cheese to do a ton of damage to enemies during time stops. I said in my original post that I'm in favor of difficulty-increasing mods as long as it doesn't mean the AI cheats, and it fell down too much on the AI cheating for my taste. It was just annoying, reducing every battle to wizards stripping buffs from each other, as I mentioned in probably a dozen posts.

The stand-out mods for me were the banter pack, which increases the number of inter-party banters, and the Xan romance mod. I took so long in Chapters 2 and 3 that almost all of the non-Imoen banters were exhausted during the time, but without the banter mod I probably would have run out of banter in the first ten hours or so. And Xan's romance... Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif It's cheesy in places, but I installed it as a parody of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my relationship, with Chiyo as the eternally-chipper half and Xan as the doom and gloom half. I totally forgot the vampire dreams, which add a lot of context to Xan's eternal gloominess. It was mostly a well-written displace of understated emotion, with Xan's love coming out in little gestures unless Chiyo was under threat. The most memory part was probably when Chiyo picked a fight with a red dragon and Xan rushed over to her afterward.

If I could change anything, I'd go back and add more dialogue to the earlier sections. When I first started I would take notes while I played and do the write-ups later, so I had the gist of what was said rather than the specifics. Later on I would write the posts while I played, so I spent a lot of time transcribing dialogue. Some of that is because I was more interested in transcribing the text of plot-important dialogue rather than all the quests I was on, but part of it was wanting to more accurately preserve the experience. I might go back at some point and edit some earlier posts with the exact dialogue for more of the banter, since that's the best part.

The end of the game jumped right into Throne of Bhaal, but I'm not going to. I've been playing this game on and off for a year and a half, and the original reason I started, other than never having beaten it before, is I wanted to play the original before I played all the kickstarted isometric RPGs that were inspired by the old Infinity Engine games. And now I've done that, and I can go play Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity with a clean conscience. Probably Wasteland II first. I need a break from fantasy worlds.

Forgotten Realms as a setting seems almost overwhelming, but Baldur's Gate II presents it in a very digestible format. It really dials into the world, with the extended period in a drow city, the random githyanki that show up wanting their silver sword, the society of the elves and their gods, and Irenicus's plan.

Now I can see why Irenicus is so well-loved as a villain. Some of it is David Warner's voice acting, spoiled extensively here, but some of it is that I have a soft spot for "become a god" plots. Also, it's the way that he plans ahead. Insinuating Yoshimo into the party--when I first played the game, I took Yoshimo willingly and I would have been caught completely be surprise by his betrayal--setting up Spellhold as a trap, making common cause with the drow, starting the guild war in Athkatla...while it seems that he's distant and not paying attention for much of the game, in retrospect it's obvious that all the major plots that aren't quests to go get money, like the aforementioned quest to deal with a dragon, are the results of his plots. There are so many RPGs where the villain doesn't seem to be doing much during the game, or where the "true villain" suddenly reveals itself at the end despite never previously showing up at all *cough*FFIV*cough* that seeing one where he's so well-integrated is a joy. And most of the time, when he talked, I wouldn't skip past his dialogue because I wanted to hear the voice acting.

What a fantastic game. It took me almost 150 hours, but it was time well spent and I'm looking forward to Throne of Bhaal...eventually.
dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
This is it. The final battle and the end of the game. After more than a year of playing--my first post shows that I started this back in June of last year--I finally finished one of the greatest WRPGs ever created.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. This isn't my final thoughts, this is the story of how I stabbed Irenicus and everyone working for him right in the face. So let's get to that. Meanwhile, in hell...
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
I know I've said that I was out of other things to do several times before, but this time I really mean it. All that's left is to eliminate Irenicus's minions in Suldanessellar, free the elves, and take the fight to Irenicus. I have a high-level party, I have powerful weapons and armor, and I'm ready. Let's do this.

But first, Moon Prism Power Makeup!
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
It'd be nice if I would stop forgetting what I actually want to do in this game, but I think I've finally managed to check everything off the list. Barring a couple quests which I'm probably not going to finish, like the Jaheira quest with the Harpers, that requires a lot of randomly sleeping out in the wilderness and hoping it triggers. That's not to say I'm not going to try, but I won't feel so bad if I can't finish it off.

As part of my march to the endgame, I checked on area continuity and most of Shadows of Amn is inaccessible in Throne of Bhaal, including the Planar Sphere, where I stored all of my trophies. I could take it all to Watcher's Keep, but honestly, it's mostly pointless. With no way to display anything, there's no reason to save anything. Selling a giant chunk of magical weapons earns me almost 50,000 gold, and with that I head back to Cromwell. He combines the helm of charm protection and the helm of defense into the citadel helm, which goes on Minsc; mixes the staff of air, staff of earth, and staff of fire into the staff of elemental mastery, which I give to Aerie; and combines the golden girdle, the girdle of bluntness, and the girdle of piercing into the girdle of glory, which I give to Chiyo. And that spends almost all of my new money.
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
I've finished basically everything there is to do in the base game, unless there are some quests left added by mods that I don't know about. My quest log only has a few leftover bits from quests that weren't cleaned up because the triggers failed to fire or because I did things in the wrong order or because I jumped the gun and used the console to fix what I thought was broken and it turned out I was just in the wrong place, and only a couple of those. The next stop is Suldanessellar.

Except, well, since I have Throne of Bhaal installed, there's one place I can go first.
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
On this, the thirtieth post in of my playthrough of Baldur's Gate II, I'm glad I could provide you with such a wonderful title.

I went to talk to Ricar before I ended the last session, but when I load up I remember that the Adventurer's Mart in Waukeen's Promenade sells a girdle of hill giant strength that I never bought because Chiyo has 18/00 Strength, Minsc has 19 Strength, and Jaheira had the gauntlets of ogre power so it was pointless to get them. Well, I rended down the gauntlets to make Crom Faeyr and Jaheira only has 15 Strength without any buffs, so I went back, sold some items off, and stuck the new belt on her. With that and her new weapon, I think she'll be much more effective than she has been.

And now, back to the lab.
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
I wish that Baldur's Gate II had been able to do more with lighting, because that would have made the transition from the Underdark a lot more dramatic. And this point, Chiyo and her companions have spent days underground in total blackness. It'd be a moment like when the Lone Wanderer leaves Vault 101. Most of the party are elves or half-elves and can see in the dark--low-light vision for elves wasn't implemented until D&D 3.x's, so here they still have infravision--but Minsc and Imoen are not. Minsc probably would take everything in stride, but I'm surprised that there were no scenes of Imoen panicking. Captured by a vengeance-obsessed(?) archmage, imprisoned at the moment she thought she was freed, had her soul ripped out, and when she was rescued, dumped into a city of shark people and then into total blackness filled with what she knows are one of the most unpleasant cultures on Faerun? That's a lot to take in.

But no, I just get a chapter transition.
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
I go to the Temple of Lolth, where Matron Ardulace is ecstatic that I managed to find the proper blood and that everything will be ready:
Matron Ardulace: "Ahhh...the Spider Queen smiles upon us. Our gamble does not go unwasted, daughter. Your champion has brought us the blood that we need!!"
Phaere: "Praise Lolth! The ritual may finally be begun! Despana will rule Ust Natha without question as the pre-eminent House!"
Matron Ardulace: "Indeed. But we must be cautious, daughter, ever cautious. The ritual may be disturbed before it is completed. The silver one may get desperate."
Phaere: "You are going to seal the city, matron?"
Matron Ardulace: "Yes. We cannot be disturbed from the outside. I shall go, now, and begin the proper preparations. This shall be a glorious day, indeed! Veldrin. You have done House Despana the greatest of services. You will be a female without equal...riches and slaves shall be yours. I shall see to it as soon as the ritual has been completed. Now is the time for you to rest, strong one...there is nothing more for you to prove to me."
Phaere: "Well, I am not done with her just yet. Veldrin...come to my personal apartments. I expect you to meet me there within the hour...this is not a request."
Well, that doesn't leave me with much of a choice, then.
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
So Phaere wants me to meet her immediately after arguing with Solaufein, and in the Female Fighter's Society where he won't be able to enter. I think I know where this is going, but since she only gave me an hour, I don't have any choice but to go to meet her immediately. When I do, she confirms my suspicions--after offhandedly saying she was thinking of having Chiyo tortured, she says flat-out that she and Solaufein are not on the best of terms and that she's tired of his insolence and allowing it to continue would be risking her position in the priesthood, but she can't kill him herself without risking war between their Houses. So she has come to a solution!

Have Chiyo do it.
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
And so the party enters Ust Natha, stronghold of the dark elves.

Immediately on entering, I see a pair of githyanki standing around, a drow off to the side, and another drow berating a duergar slave for not properly working. When the duergar pleads for mercy, saying he hasn't eaten in a week, the drow beats him to death. Then a drow priestess walks up and asks what is happening, the drow says that the slave was misbehaving and was punished. The priestess snarls that the slave was her property, not his, and that the slave was well-trained and will be harder to replace than he will. Then she executes him, simply saying:
"I have other sons."
So that's the kind of society that Chiyo and the party has to infiltrate.
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dorchadas: (Default)
Other than Last Dream, I haven't played a JRPG in years. Not since I lived in Japan and finally played through the DS version of Final Fantasy IV, I think. Last Dream was fun, but it didn't entirely scratch my JRPG itch, maybe because it was so focused on recreating the experience of Final Fantasy I, before the idea of "JRPG" really took hold. The characters were only their classes and the story barely focused on them at all.

And then I started to notice articles about some RPG I'd never heard of called "Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky," like this one on US Gamer. And just recently, this one. And I heard friends mention it and how much they liked it. I put it on my wishlist about a week before Steam's summer sale hit and then it went on sale, and I bought it and booted it up to check it out. And then kept playing. And playing. And now, I have beaten it, and it was just as good as those articles led me to believe.

Let the troping begin.

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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
As the party uses the magic infinitely-long rope to descend into the Underdark, I'm taken to another cutscene of Irenicus (spoilers after 18:25), this time talking to dark elves about a drow assault on the "temple of the false gods" before two surface elf prisoners who recognize Irenicus and address him as "Joneleth" are brought in. That's right, this whole thing is so he can get revenge on Suldanessellar. I'm not surprised that Irenicus would ally with the drow, since he's already allied with a vampire, but I am surprised the drow would ally with him, since he's a surface elf and a male at that. What is it that the Matron Mother is referring to that was so compelling?

After the cutscene, a new chapter begins:
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
The party comes to in an air pocket in the depths of the sea, in the city of the sahuagin.

Sahuagin are kind of odd. D&D has a bunch of underwater fish-like humanoids--the sahuagin, of course, but also the locathah, kuo-toa, skum (note K), and some underwater variants of dryland monsters like merrow (aquatic ogres) and scrags (aquatic trolls). But for some reason, it's the sahuagin that have taken most of the popular D&D consciousness. They got their own book for AD&D 2e, called The Sea Devils, and even showed up in the first Final Fantasy game as SAHAG. As a child I thought it stood for "Sea hag," but the Japanese is サハギン, so the source is pretty obvious. Looking at Wikipedia tells me the sahuagin originally date from Blackmoor, so maybe they get first billing simply by virtue of being the oldest.

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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
I walk up the stairs out of the maze and am immediately ambushed by kobolds with flaming arrows. This happened all the time in the first game and was probably the single larger source of my deaths in the first dozen hours of the game, but hasn't been much but an annoyance since then. Here, some of them are standing on pillars and should theoretically be inaccessible, but because Baldur's Gate II doesn't actually have a Z level Minsc and Chiyo are easily able to run over and splatter them. Aerie and Xan's spells take care of the rest, and as soon as they're all dead, a cloaked "apparition" appears and tells me that the Tests of Madness have begun:Read more... )
dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
Chiyo awakens in a glass tube in a laboratory, her companions missing, and Irenicus and Yoshimo standing outside. There are other tubes at the edge of the room, with other people standing in them.Read more... )
dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
Aran Linvail leads the party down to the docks and the waiting ship and introduces them to the captain, Saemon Havarian, and his ship the Galante:
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
I realize that I should have given that scroll of simulacrum to Chiyo. Now that she has elven chain mail, spawning another melee character who has permanent haste from boots, a +5 weapon with a chance of stunning and doing extra damage, and all the other spells that Chiyo already has memorized would have been great. Xan cloning himself is worthwhile, but I don't think it will help quite as much as another Chiyo will. Ah well--there will be more scrolls later!
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dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
Alright, so of the tasks I have before I'm going to help the Shadow Thieves, I of them last time. I killed Kangaxx. Time to get to the others.

My first stop is the Temple District sewers, where the workers who have the spider-killing weapon are. Jaeggar and Hurg are in the western end of the sewers behind a pipe, which is why I missed them on my first run-through of the sewers. Chiyo approaches them and they demand to know what she wants, though in dimwitted minion sort of way:
Jaeggar: "Here then, what do you want? Don't be bothering my concentration, I've lots of work to get done after my nap."
Hurg: "Wadda you want here? Ain't nothing here for public to see. We just take care of cleanin' the sewers and such."
Chiyo: "I hear you might have a sword I seek. It should have spider-like patterns on it."
Hurg: "I don't know nothing about weapons, really. Trained a bit in hammers, but I don't keep none myself. Not sure what you want."
Jaeggar: "No, no, she wants that blade we was given by ol' Gaden. The one that he said we should pack with us when we go after them spiders in the old ducts."
Hurg: "Ohhhh, I know the one. Yeah, scares 'em good for some reason. Sure wish I knew how to swing it proper. Always end up on me arse when I take a whack with it."
Chiyo: "I'll pay you 1000 gold, no questions asked."
Their response is somewhat surprising:
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