Author's Note: As some of you may know, I authored (under the tag of Sister Vigilante) a "mod" (coded by Kulyok) that adds a new character to the game, Angelo. It can be found at the Gibberlings 3 site: gibberlings3 dot net. What follows are the notes I made for another, similar project, a joinable NPC named Sarine Nesteria. Now, creating a mod is a lot of work, and I have no idea when--if ever--this project will actually be finished. But in the event that it never is, I thought I would upload the text file so that people could at least read it. If you're familiar with Angelo, think that you would certainly play this and re-eally don't want to be spoiled, by all means, only read the intro ^_^ but I thought I would upload the whole thing just in case. And nearly the whole thing is written, with a few exceptions (other NPC interjections are sporadic; no banters with Sarevok; Sarine's interjections only cover about half the game&etc.). It may be a bit of a chore to read for those unfamiliar with the conventions of modding--a lot of it consists of branching dialogue trees--so be forewarned.

Cheers,

Incanto (Sister Vigilante)

SARINE NPC

"Now am I become Death

Destroyer of worlds.

Even without you

Every warrior in the enemy camp

Will cease to be."

Bhagavad Gita, 11:13

Sarine Nesteria

Human

Invoker

True Neutral

Age: 31

STR 9: spent fifteen years of life in lab, apprentices lifted heavy stuff

DEX 13: just enough to manipulate volatile substances

CON 16: sufficient to withstand the stress of dealing with magical energy

INT 19: genius

WIS 10: no longer a girl (not yet a woman?)

CHA 14: natural flair for dealing with people, balanced by relative lack of experience in dealing with people

Total: 83

BIO: Speaking in her usual matter-of-fact way, SARINE relates that she was born to an Athkatlan merchant family of average means. After an early aptitude for magical studies gained the attention of the Cowled Wizards, they offered to finance her further education - with an expected price. Drafted into their ranks, she was placed in their "Research Bureau" under a man of whom she speaks often, Dominus Blicero. Beyond this she grows silent, often protesting "classified information." Whether you will in time gain her trust, and if she herself can be trusted, remains to be seen.

Ideas For Banners

"Behind ever successful woman" "is a patient Bhaalspawn"

"The secrets of the Cowled Wizards" "REVEALED" "…not"

"She blinded me with" "magic?"

From the Readme

The Sarine NPC Mod introduces an original NPC into the world of Baldur's Gate, affiliated (at least at first) with a very familiar organization. Like many citizens of Athkatla, she at first finds herself in need of the PC's services. Whether your working relationship will develop into anything more is up to you. Along with herself she brings the following:

—Full voicing

—At least three banters with every Bioware NPC

—Interjections

—A quest on joining, an encounter in SoA, a later quest that provides (at least I felt, much-needed) closure to an aspect of the game, and an encounter in ToB

—The opportunity to handle an event in Spellhold a little differently

—Original items

—A new NPC merchant in ToB (and possibly two if you play your cards right)

About Sarine

Sarine is a Cowled Wizard, specifically a member of their Research Bureau (rather than one of the Enforcers who give you so much grief). She is True Neutral—more of the apathetic sort than the "champion of the balance" sort—but feels far more comfortable in a good party than an evil one.

FAQ

Q: Will I be able to talk to Sarine?

A: Unlike the last NPC I wrote, Angelo, Sarine does not have a force-talk option. Her interaction will take place in the conventional way, through timered dialogues.

In case anyone is wondering why (say, if you played Angelo and liked that system)—Angelo wasn't fond of talking to the PC of his own volition, making a "PC asks Angelo questions" force-talk menu a useful option. Sarine is more outgoing. On the other hand, Angelo also tended to be full of "advice" that seemed appropriate to access via force-talk, while Sarine doesn't know the first thing about adventuring and won't tend to shove her oar in except when it comes to her areas of expertise.

Q: Is Sarine romanceable?

A: Yes, by any human, half-elf or half-orc male. Pure elves, and the shorter folk, are sadly out of the running. Sarine has flexible standards of beauty, but is a human girl with down-to-earth ambitions, and will not go for someone who might outlive her by over a hundred years. The romance starts the way the Bioware romances do, automatically.

Q: That being the case, does she have a corresponding "friendship track?"

A: Not as such. The first several talks of the romance path will be available to all players. Eligible males will be able to carry the sequence further. There will still be plenty of content for either path, though, including talks linked to certain game events.

Q: If I don't romance her, will Sarine romance another NPC?

A: She will have a fling, yes. I won't say with whom, but it may not be too hard to guess.

Q: Any tips on playing the romance?

A: The romance can be broken by dialogue options throughout, most of which should be obvious. Overall, nothing should come as a big surprise—except for one event that will occur whether you "do it right" or not. Also, while I shouldn't really be telling you this, little things that tick Sarine off won't add up over time. She won't break the romance herself unless you are profoundly rude to her once.

There are two significant choices to make in the SoA romance that can break it. The wrong the choice the first time is the right choice the second time. There is a significant choice in the ToB romance that will not break it either way.

The romance also features a number of (I hope modest) ability checks. These rarely effect its course, but give you extra options to offer Sarine advice, or your take on what she says, which I doubt a barbarian for whom intelligence and wisdom are "dump stats" could effectively do. You can still play (and hopefully enjoy) the romance if you're dumb as a rock (Sarine certainly won't like you any less), but it will be a different experience. Most of the checks are wisdom, a few are intelligence and charisma, and at least one is strength.

Q: Assuming I don't break it, how do I know when the romance is "over" in SoA?

A: The last "official" lovetalk is a rather depressing speculation on the nature of the universe. After that, there's nothing until ToB.

Q: Can you be more specific? A few of these talks are pretty depressing.

A: Sarine has a strange dream about what is a mobius strip, although it isn't called as such. There is some speech-making.

Q: Will Sarine be kidnapped by Bodhi if I romance her?

A: No. Whether you romance her or not, she will be kidnapped by somebody else.

Q: Will Sarine have conflicts with other party members?

A: In general, Sarine is easygoing and curious about others, but it should spoil little to say that Valygar won't be thrilled about having a Cowled Wizard in the party. The conflict isn't necessarily fatal, though.

Important: You will not be able to pick up Valygar with Sarine in your party if you either a) do it before the conclusion of Sarine's first quest, which occurs on her joining and is fairly short and linear, or b) do not have a cleric or paladin (e.g. the PC, Aerie, Viconia, Anomen or Keldorn) in your party. Valygar will want them to detect truth/falsehood on Sarine to see if she can be trusted. You can always pick up Valygar first and Sarine second, or kick out Sarine and pick her right back up afterward; things will still kind of make sense, although it messes with the intended roleplay a bit.

Q: Any good picks for a party with Sarine?

A: Unlike Angelo, Sarine has at least three talks with each other NPC (including one in ToB). The result should be balanced, and as well, many NPCs contribute to the development of Sarine's character—there are things you won't find out about her, or thoughts she won't have, unless certain party members are present; rather than just a few one-off jokes.

Q: What's up with 19 intelligence?

A: Honestly, I agonized over this. I am aware that it's not only the highest raw intelligence of any character, but one of the highest raw stats, period (excepting only Korgan). It still seems right to me, given her history and in-game behavior.

Partly though, I admit, I wanted to set her apart from the other pure-class mage in the game. I didn't want to make her better than Edwin, though, and he still gets more spells per level, in addition to having a perhaps more useful selection of magic. Sarine gets some more-or-less insignificant advantages in other stats, plus a personal item.

Q: Anything else I should know?

A: Depending on how you handle a certain encounter in ToB, you may get access to a "secret store" of sorts with a few very powerful items. You only get one shot at it, so stock up.

Q: Her name isn't ripped off from Michael Poe's Errant Story, is it?

A: No. I used to read Errant Story back when it started, and the resemblance only occurred to me when I had nearly finished Sarine. It's possible there was a subconscious nudge, but the actual (rather silly) origin of the name follows (which I advise you not to read unless you truly must):

One of the earliest characters I used in original stories, back when I was in high school, was a mad scientist named Blicero (from Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, which I had read in 9th grade) and his two assistants, a girl named Sarin and a boy named U.C. Thompson. Sarin was named after the poisonous gas, while U.C.'s name was short for "Ultra Cola Thompson," a reference to the TV show Daria (in which a high school jock promised to name his firstborn son after the beverage that was sponsoring the school football team). I had these characters in mind and simply added an "e" to the end of Sarin's name to make it more plausible-sounding. U.C. Thompson became Leander, although there was no way to carry the name over.

Spoiler FAQ: Quests

Q: Where can I find Blicero?

A: He's in the Umar Hills, not far out of town. You can just wander around until you bump into him, although Vicenzo the inkeep will also point you to him.

Q: What about the Deaths-head? They said the promenade, but...

A: "In the shadow of the Promenade" means in that little area technically outside the Promenade, in the lower right-hand map corner.

Q: Can I ever get Sarine to give me the Delorium Cathax?

A: I might as well tell you, no, although you will eventually have the option to ask for it. A certain NPC might have more success than you do--albeit still limited.

Q: I was in Brynnlaw and saw some Lord Brecias, who Sarine warned me about. I've gotten past Spellhold and didn't run into him. What gives?

A: Lord Brecias--who is, incidentally, supposed to be the guy who says "they are deviants, let them rot in Spellhold"--fared as well against Irenicus as any of his compatriots. You can find his body in one of the crates outside Irenicus' lair. This mainly sets up a later story development.

Q: Sarine was kidnapped. How do I go about getting her back?

A: As your party members or journal hopefully pointed out, a logical place to start would be with the clerks in the government building...not that they did you much good the last time the Cowled Wizards took someone.

Q: What's the difference between Sarine's "solution" to the fight with the Counselors, and just killing them?

A: The Counselors are very tough and letting Sarine take care of it will spare you the fight. You do miss out on some treasure, though. Those being the practical concerns, you can decide how you want to roleplay it.

Q: Inspector Brega said he had "given orders to make my life easier." What was he talking about?

A: For what it's worth, you can now rest on the streets of Amn and the guards won't wake you up.

Q: How can I fix Adapol's stealth suit? It says the power source is exhausted.

A: Cespenar will do it. He should make it clear what you need, but just in case—you'll need to get Malla's Soulstone from the lich in Amkethran.

Q: What can I get out of Warpweft Vand besides killing him?

A: There is an option to try and convince him that you are an "agent of chaos," like himself. Not only will he leave you alone, he will even offer you access to his special store (if you ask if being an agent of chaos has any "perks"). Killing him only gets you one of his uber-times (arguably the least useful) but the store contains several more.

Spoiler FAQ: Romance

Q: The Romance isn't starting/continuing. What might be wrong?

A: If you are a member of a race that's at least half-human, and assuming it isn't a bug, you might have told her that you weren't interested. She takes this literally and you don't really have the opportunity to play "hard to get."

Also, you might have told a certain other NPC that he was welcome to her, which breaks her romance with you.

Q: I'm in ToB and Sarine is acting strange. Have I done something wrong?

A: Most likely not, this is how things are supposed to go.

Q: Okay, now I know why she was acting strange. Could I have prevented this?

A: No.

Q: Now she wants me to make a decision. Is there a "wrong" and a "right" choice here?

A: No. Things can work out no matter what you choose, although of course the results will be different.

Q: I took care of that, but Sarine is still...withholding her affections.

A: Give her time.

Content: Warning!

Sarine NPC doesn't contain much in the way of violence, language or sensuality you won't find in the vanilla game; but I should caution that it deals with issues some may find "realistic," to a distasteful extent. I can't say specifically what without giving anything away, but I mean issues that overlap with what you might find in a more real-world setting. I have, I hope, managed to make it all feel organic to the game's world (both in terms of atmosphere and of mechanics), but those who prefer their fantasy to be precisely that may not care for these elements.

This isn't in the mod, but say for example, the Angelo NPC mod dealt more graphically with his drug addiction. If that wouldn't bother you in the least, then nothing here should.

Alternatively, if the game's introductory sequence didn't bother you, with its references to torture and unethical scientific experiments, nothing here should.

Acknowledgements

I don't have to apologize to nearly as many people this time. However:

-If Love Is A Red Dress was sung, and I presume written by, Maria McKee

-A line that Sarine quotes to Cernd is verbatim from Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin

-Dominus Blicero's full name I owe to Thomas Pynchon; other names are references but none quite so blatant

Philosophical Postscript

"Now we are all sons of bitches." —Kenneth Bainbridge

Soundset

Morale Break: This has been fascinating but I really must be going!

Reputation Happy: People are smiling at us. I can show my face without shame. What's going on here?

Reputation Unhappy: This is embarrassing. It's times like this I'm glad I have a cowl.

Reputation Mad: I don't mean to sound alarmist, but I'm fairly sure all decent people despise us.

Reputation Break: What can I say? I've had enough of this.

Leader: And the attire for male followers shall be: no trousers!

Tired: *yawn* As fondly as I might wish it, I'm not a machine.

Bored: Zzh...hnn...[in a British accent]Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto, you're beautiful...

Attacking 1: [maniacal laugh] Ha, ha, ha!

Attacking 2: Looks like someone's mounting a futile effort!

Attacking 3: Let me show you real power!

Attacking 4: This should be good practice!

Attacking 5: But wouldn't you rather I cast a spell?

Dying: I've always wondered...what happens next...

Badly Wounded: I'm an Invoker, gods damn it, not a cleric!

Wilderness: So this is nature! Huh. Odd.

City: *sigh* What say we put up our heels at the nearest inn?

Dungeon: This is not how I imagined I'd be spending my retirement. [a bit idiosyncratic if it happens to trigger before her first quest is over, but whatever—it's like Imoen's "except for the torture and all"]

Day: Strange, I don't remember the sun being this bright.

Night: If humans were cast in the mold of the gods, why can't we so much as see in the dark?

Select 1: Reporting! [with sort of a trill and a rising inflection, like re-por-TING!—but not too annoying, you'll be hearing this a lot]

Select 2: Present and accounted for.

Select 3: At your service.

Select 4: What, again?

Select 5: What seems to be the problem?

Select 6:Rely on me.

Order 1: If I can't, no one can.

Order 2: I'll consider it.

Order 3: It's just crazy enough to work. [I can't decide if this would be funnier done sarcastic or really sincere-sounding]

Order 4: I'll give it a try.

Order 5: You got any other ideas?

Order 6: And I was just getting comfortable.

Rare select: You made the right choice.

Rare order: Don't you think we ought to research this?

Critical Hit: Great success!

Critical Miss: Argh, why have you got me throwing rocks anyway?

Weapon Ineffective: Why not just give me a pointy stick!

Spell Failure: Gods damn, somebody cover me!

Overburdened: Too heavy. This is what apprentices are for.

Hierarchy of the Cowled Wizards (According to Sister Vigilante)

The Cowled Wizards are divided into four bureaus, all overseen nominally by a Grand Director or Grand Counselor elected by the bureau heads (who themselves rise to power through what might charitably be called "various" means). The Grand Counselor's authority is ceremonial, and he is largely the mouthpiece for directives issues by various councils and other high-ranking officials. Each bureau is chaired by a Counselor, who holds ultimate executive authority, while most day-to-day administration is overseen by an Undercounselor. The bureaus are further divided into sections or taskforces, each overseen by a Director. A further post of liason (one between each of the bureaus) is often given to those with a great deal of behind-the-scenes influence. As of the beginning of the game, the hierarchy is as follows:

Grand Counselor: Lord Ivan Clay

Bureau of Enforcement (policing, apprehending and processing magical deviants):

Counselor: Lord Brecias (first name unknown)

Undercounselor: Identity Suppressed (killed in line of duty while pursuing the fugitive Valygar Corthala)

Director of Deviant Processing: Lady Gracia Ironwood

Director of Quick Response Force: "Quickwand" Sorci (last name unknown)

Former Director of Quick Response Force: Identity Suppressed (killed in line of duty by the deviant mage "Irenicus" in Waukeen's promenade)

Bureau of Relations (liaisons with the Council of Six, the Order of the Radiant Heart and other magical orders):

Counselor: Lady Lyra Silvertongue

Undercounselor: Corneil Dowlan

Representative in Umar Hills region: Jermien (last name unknown)

Bureau of Research (research and development, both practical and theoretical):

Counselor: Lord Dominus Blicero

Undercounselor: Sarine Nesteria

Former Undercounselor: Leander Savat (retired)

Bureau of Affairs (nature and activities unknown):

Counselor: Identity Unknown

Undercounselor: Alistair Ghee

Director of Section D-10: Tolgerias (last name unknown)

Director of Section L-7: Perth "the Adept" (last name unknown)

Director of Section S-3: Identity Suppressed (killed in line of duty while pursuing the fugitive Valygar Corthala)

Other Officials

Liason Between Bureaus of Affairs and Relations: Teos (last name unknown)

Liason Between Enforcement and Research: Meylos Alhazar

Director of Spellhold Asylum: Wanev Valstratus

Other Known Information

-The Bureau of Affairs are known to keep their work secret even from fellow Cowls, although their closest relationship is with Enforcement.

-Officially the Cowled Wizards do not maintain relations with orders of mages known to be malevolent, such as hardline factions of Thay's Red Wizards—that is, the Relations bureau does not officially maintain relations with them. This may be related to the role of the Bureau of Affairs, although such speculation is perhaps ill-advised.

-Although maligned as over-funded and arrogant, the work of the Research Bureau is largely directed by high-ranking officials in the Bureaus of Affairs and Enforcement, and is perhaps the least autonomous faction of the Cowled Wizards.

-The Bureau of Research (and, it is said more discreetly, the Bureau of Affairs) is in the habit of accepting contract work from other organizations as a means of obtaining funds, and is not known to be particular in its choice of commission.

-An undated memorandum suggests a personal friendship between the current Grand Director, Lord Ivan Clay, and the Undercounselor of Affairs Alistair Ghee. Some effort seems to have been made, at the time of Lord Clay's election, to conceal the fact.

-Rumors that "deviant processing" is a euphemism for retributive torture practiced on those who endangered or killed Cowled operatives remain persistent but unconfirmed.

Finding Sarine, and SoA Quest

Sarine is standing in the Council building, spouting the usual "I have an offer for any who wish to hear it." If the PC approaches her, she asks them to meet her behind the Delryn estate to discuss business. She leaves and will wait in the shadowed alley leading to the district exit. The PC can press her about Imoen; she will not promise anything, or admit any knowledge, but hints that she may be able to help the PC if they help her.

If the PC follows her, she will lay out her proposition: a weapon has been stolen from the Cowled Wizards by a band of marauders (e.g. terrorists) coined the "Deaths-head," after distinctive masks they wear. She will of course not reveal the nature of the weapon, but will intimate that it was developed for use against Baldur's Gate during the threatened war, and—apparently no longer needed—was being transported out of the city for safekeeping when the transport was ambushed by the Deaths-head. If the Cowled Wizards themselves were to move, the existence of the weapon might become widely known and cause panic. Taking the PC for a common mercenary, she wants them to help her retrieve the weapon discreetly, for which they will be amply rewarded. The PC can attempt to blackmail her by blowing the lid off the scheme and she will suggest that they want to remain on the good side of the Cowled Wizards, leaving them no effective option to do so. If they agree, Sarine will join the party (she will withdraw her offer if the PC refuses to take her, insisting they need supervision) and reveal a little more about the situation.

The Deaths-head, presumably in the city or a nearby region, is demanding the exchange of the weapon for its principal creator, Lord Dominus Blicero. Unfortunately even if the Council were to give in, Lord Blicero recently disappeared. Sarine suggests visiting another of her former colleagues, Leander—now retired—known to be staying at the Copper Coronet after falling mysteriously on hard circumstances.

The PC finds Leander in a room in the Coronet, apparently dead at his own hand. A note on his body expresses remorse, that he was the one who gave the Deaths-head information on the transport's movements (although he does not say why), that he was mistaken "again" and that they must be stopped. It does not however contain information on their whereabouts. Of perhaps more interest is a letter from Dominus Blicero, warning Leander to keep his head low "as I intend to" until the weapon is safely out of the city. The letter does not say exactly where Blicero intended to flee to, but does mention his desire for "someplace quiet."

The Umar Hills seem to fit the description. The inkeep Vicenzo recalls a man of Blicero's description and says that he went flower-picking. Sarine remembers that Blicero was a great wildflower fancier. When they find him in the wilderness, he is dismayed but relieved that they are not the Deaths-head; he had been informed of the theft. Blicero is an intelligent but weak-willed and surprisingly hedonistic man. Just as the PC begins to reason with him, Sarine takes matters into her own hands and knocks him out with a "cocktail" of spells prepared by Cowled Wizard agents for subduing their own. The PC must then transport his unconscious body back to Athkatla.

On returning to the city, there are approached by one of Sarine's co-operatives, Meylos. Through their conversation you learn that the Cowled Wizards were given a sign to contact the Deaths-head: a sigil appearing in the sky that will summon one of their operatives to the Promenade at night. At Sarine's word, the sigil is fired.

The agent, a man named Ashuk (wearing, as the other Deaths-head do, a helmet with the same avatar tag as Vaihlor's helm) will appear near the south edge of the promenade map at night, if Sarine is in the party and they are carrying Blicero. After Ashuk taunts Sarine for a while, the other Deaths-head members appear in ambush: eleven in all, barbarians, fighters and clerics, led by a female fighter/mage named Vash. They are all half-orcs, as Sarine will remark.

Vash instructs Sarine to wake Blicero; the PC can insist it's a trap but she will do it anyway. Blicero is terrified and helpless. Vash demands that he explain to the PC, as a "witness," the nature and history of the weapon; and when he is unable to, she does so herself.

The weapon is a spell scroll called the Delorium Cathax. Originally commissioned six years ago by an unknown party through a series of intermediaries to the Cowled Wizard's Research Bureau, it harnesses the boundary between the positive and negative material planes to produce an instantaneous explosion with the power of "one thousand fireballs," followed by clouds of acidic smoke. The blast radius is such that the mage reading the scroll will be killed, its sole disadvantage; but as Vash points out, soldiers are proverbially expendable. The prototype Cathax was tested during a skirmish between the Amnian army and Orcish tribes, but unknown to the army (at least so Sarine insists) the target was a village of principally half-orc refugees with no stake in either side of the conflict. Given to an unwitting mage, the Cathax obliterated the village, killing thousands. The only survivors of the attack were goatherders who had taken their animals out to pasture—including Ashuk and Vash, brother and sister. Rushing to save their families, they and others were burned and disfigured by the smoke. They now wear the masks either to disguise the scarring, or in solidarity with those who do.

Vash began to study magic in hopes of one day harnessing similar power to take revenge.

During the buildup to Sarevok's war, a second, still more powerful Cathax was produced by Blicero's team, and Vash caught wind of it; but by the time her group had closed in on Athkatla the conflict was over, the Cathax already marked for transport. With Leander's information they were able to seize the scroll, but Vash's arcane skill was not yet sufficient to read it…

At this point in her rant, Ashuk breaks in: he evidently had a different understanding of the plan, thinking they would simply get revenge on Blicero, then destroy the scroll. Vash rather plans to use it to wipe out Athkatla, including her own group, which would no longer have any reason to exist. One of her clerics will dominate Blicero and force him to read it. When Ashuk protests, insisting such a weapon should never be used again, Vash kills him.

With the distraction this provides, Sarine urges Blicero to follow Leander's example and take his own life. He is unable to do it—claiming that his motives were pure, he wished to create a weapon so terrible it would put an end to conflict between intelligent beings. Vash's clerics begins their casting of Mental Domination, but Sarine acts first and kills Blicero with Shocking Grasp.

Vash of course is not pleased with this development, and the Deaths-heads—surrounding the party on all sides—attack. While Vash is tough, the numbers and deployment principally should make the fight difficult (it is after all the only one in the quest). It should be tough but straightforward; the enemies don't have any unique abilities. When the dust has settled, Sarine "retrieves" the Cathax and dialogue initiates.

Suspicious party members brace themselves for a betrayal, but Sarine sets the Cathax scroll on fire. When asked by the PC if it was really the only one, she answers yes—and with Blicero and Leander dead, the odds of another ever being scribed are unlikely. Yet she hesitates.

Stating that she trusts the PC, she confesses the truth. Blicero chose her, both for her raw intelligence and as his then-lover, to memorize the spell; and it was from this knowledge that the second Cathax was reconstructed. At any time Sarine has the ability to incant the spell (killing herself and allies) or to scribe it—she is a "living bomb." What's more, the "operation" was a setup designed to get rid of Blicero and the Deaths-head; the scroll was a dummy. While she regrets what she's done, she states that she—like Blicero—does not have Leander's courage and intends to live on, the legacy of the Cathax ending with her life.

At this point an especially zealous player can try to kill her, and with a further statement of regret she teleports out. Otherwise, she will return to her superiors and tell the player to meet her again in one day, in the same place.

If the PC meets up with her again, she makes a surprising offer—to join the party. Her superiors might now view her as an embarrassment to be dealt with; and it would be still worse if they learned she possessed the Cathax. With the PC she should be safe, and she has begun to regard them as trustworthy. If the PC can say the same, they may accept her offer.

Further Developments

Sarine has five talks with either a male or female PC about the fallout from her quest, and of course the PC's Bhaal heritage. In the case of a male (there are no alignment or stat requirements but only humans or half-humans need apply) these will extend to a series of timered lovetalks: twenty-one in all, plus "floating" talks. Being older and having been jilted once (to say the least), Sarine's outlook on romance is cynical but pragmatic. Being in a similar situation to the PC's (possessing a vast power over which one has questionable control) she feels a connection, and talks suggest the PC has a romantic pull, regardless of his charisma score. At some point she will describe the sexual intrigue riddling the Cowled Wizards, supporting her view that intellectuals can be remarkably lusty, the atmosphere in which her views were formed—it was common to have a "lover" at all times. She will sleep with the PC long before talk of love enters into it on her side, but will not duck the suggestion of love, as Angelo does. The successful romance should be a process of physical need growing into affection, growing into something deeper.

Full-blown romance will be "Kelsey style"—a modest flirtpack, plus random flirts from Sarine, although less frequent than what I found in Kelsey.

The ToB romance consists of nine talks, plus the "standards" (fall of Saradush &etc). The timered talks, one of which will not trigger until Amkethran, center around an event that may be controversial—and a new minor NPC. I'll have to see if it flies or not.

As an ex-Cowled Wizard, Sarine of course does not have the wardstone allowing you to pass into Spellhold, but will direct you toward the same two paths everyone else does. She will however regale you with the history of the asylum, should you wish.

SoA Encounter

Some time after the conclusion of Sarine's quest, the player will be accosted by someone who appears to be a human child, but is in fact an agent of unknown powers. He only wants to talk, but gives you his name—Adapol—before departing.

In Spellhold

I'm hoping this can be pulled off without too much coding hassle.

Somewhere in Brynnlaw, you'll see an Cowl named Lord Brecias standing next to a Cowled Enforcer. They aren't facing you, and they both port out the moment you see them. Sarine will initiate dialogue and remark that Brecias is the Counselor of Enforcement—a fairly good man, by reports, but that you should none the less (of course) be careful.

Sarine will have a fair amount of interjection when you talk to the inmates.

After you escape, if you check the crates that contain Irenicus' journal, you can find Lord Brecias' dead body.

When the battle with Irenicus is finished, assuming you freed the prisoners, they will not all automatically die—something that annoyed me perhaps more than anything else in the original game (Dili!). Rather, the inmates who survive will be standing there, looking confused. If you talk to them, some of them will "escape" immediately, while others will sort of look to you for advice and you can decide their fates. Sarine will of course have things to say.

Second SoA Quest

Sarine's second quest takes place instead of a Bodhi abduction—the player's seen that before, and balancing its removal with the addition of this (which also involves a kidnapping) seems like a token gesture toward balancing Sarine's content with the existing NPCs. It will take place whether or not you romance her, but there will be extra dialogue if you are romancing.

I also find it justified because, like the Bodhi encounter, it connects to the main plot of the game and gives you a closure I found lacking in the original—namely that when you reach Spellhold, Irenicus has already whipped the Cowls single-handed, and you never get to confront any of them.

On hitting Athkatla after getting out of the Underdark, Cowled Enforcers will teleport in and arrest Sarine. The PC can of course complain about how this "seems familiar." Party members will suggest they go to the Council Building to petition the authorities, since the PC is now powerful and renown enough to pull some weight.

The clerk in the Council Building, surprisingly, seems to know nothing about this even if threatened; likewise the other officials; but on leaving, the party is approached by Sarine's accomplice from the Cathax mission, Meylos.

He explains that a power shift has taken place within the Cowls. The Cowls are governed by four Bureau heads—Research, Enforcement, Relations and Affairs—and the previous Counselor of Enforcement, Lord Brecias, was visiting Spellhold during Irenicus' massacre with predictable results. The current Grand Director of the order—whose name even Meylos does not know—used this as an excuse to consolidate power, bringing the other Bureau heads directly under his control. In the resulting chaos, all three remaining heads were demoted (and presumably killed) and replaced with candidates of the Grand Director's choosing. Until now, Meylos explains, the Grand Director's role had been mostly ceremonial.

Meylos managed to survive and currently holds a fairly high rank in Enforcement. Through this, he has been able to discover that the Grand Director himself was personally involved in the excavation of Irenicus' laboratory. He posit that Sarine is being held there and offers to help the player break in; although he does not dismiss the PC's speculations that he hopes to gain a higher place for himself in the order, should the corrupt Grand Director be removed.

Meylos will wait on the pile of rubble over the entrance to the lab, and "teleport" the party in when asked. The area is the second level of the dungeon, cleared of old enemies, bodies, and items, and the player spawns at the foot of the staircase in the sewers, near the exit.

Meylos will accompany them. He will fight, but enemies won't target him, and he has a "can't die" hack. He sticks close to the PC though, so you can't use him to fight your battles.

The first encounter takes place in what was previously the last room, where the PC fought the shadow thieves. The current head of enforcement, Lady Ironwood—who seems fairly honest but sides with the current director—speaks before attacking. She is a fighter/mage who uses Black Blade of Disaster (her default is a +3 quarterstaff), accompanied by a Cowled Enforcer, a mage named Sorci, two Mordy's Swords and a Hakeshar.

The corridors beyond contain a few Cowled Enforcers who will teleport away when they see you. The room with the mephit traps (to which you don't actually need to go) contains a Cowled Summoner with a small group of demons and elementals. The small lab with the Ellesime clone contains two Cowled Researchers who will plead for their lives before fleeing.

The room with the vampire now contains two bone golems. The smithy with the dwarves is empty. Sarine is being held in Frenidan's former cell; the area around her will be deserted for now.

When you release her, she rolls her eyes and informs you of course, it was a trap; Adapol and his sidekick teleport in behind you. Adapol is technically a Halfling fighter/thief with a few unusual abilities. First, his armor makes him nearly immune (95% resistance) to magic. Second he has the Use All Items HLA. Accordingly, he uses wands of fire and frost to set off fireballs and cones of cold without harming himself. He will also use potions—of speed and invisibility—to cloak and backstab, and later to heal himself. He has nondetection (from a cloak that won't appear on his corpse). His sidekick is just a regular mage who takes down protections, and casts Chaos and other disruption spells. Her starting contingency should have Protection from the Elements to avoid being hurt by Adapol's wands. When Adapol is dead, he can be looted for Sarine's cell key. A note on his body also suggests his true employer.

Before they move on, Sarine asks Meylos to wait near the cell.

When the PC goes out to the main hall (that had the wand traps), they're greeted by the current High Council—Lyra Silvertongue, a female mage, the current Counselor of Relations (public relations, e.g. propoganda); Alistair Ghee, a male mage/thief, the current Counselor of Affairs (what Sarine has intimated Tolgerias belonged to, essentially Black Ops)—and Lord Ivan Clay, the Grand Director.

Lord Ivan has mastered and improved on the power of the Shapeshift spell. The other council members also seem to have augmented their abilities with what they've discovered. Needless to say, they aren't about to let the player waltz out.

Lord Ivan explains that they want Sarine not so much for the Cathax she carries, as for her abilities, best put to use—in his view—as the new head of Research, a post currently standing vacant. He tempts her with the treasures of the laboratory, but of course she's been traveling with the PC for some time and refuses.

Sarine then draws her trump card: she threatens to set off the Cathax. Ivan says she's bluffing; Lady Silvertounge, aptly named, spins an arresting oratory about the fate of Tuk'she and Sarine's vow never to let the Cathax be used again—but they're all obviously spooked. Ivan then takes the form of an adamantine golem, assuming he will be safe even if the Cathax detonates. The PC, of course, can also protest for obvious reasons, but Sarine whispers to "trust me."

At this point it's up to what the player counsels Sarine. If they tell her to use the Cathax, she will, filling the room with fireballs. Knowing that Ivan would take his golem shape, she detonates it inside his body—which he bragged was "invulnerable"—containing the blast. This incinerates the High Council immediately, and damages the party slightly (hopefully no one is close to death): the room will be filled with an incendiary cloud, and the items on Silvertongue and Ghee are destroyed. If they tell her to keep her vow and not use it, a fight predictably results.

This is an uber-fight. The option to use the Cathax should be convenient for parties not caring for that (the fights against Lady Ironwood and Adapol are just medium-hard), although they have to live with the roleplaying consequences, and miss out on the items.

If the PC fights, Lord Ivan will use Time Stop in conjunction with his various Shapeshift forms (mind flayer, &etc) to attack the party. When low of health, he will return to the shape of a powerful human mage and throw up last-ditch contingencies. Lyra Silvertongue is a standard mage who will use summons and debuffs, including True Sight, and Abi-Dhalzim's. Alistair Ghee will cloak and backstab, draining levels with his unique quarterstaff (I believe you can backstab with quarterstaves), and likes to use illusions like Simulacrum. He (but not the others) is immune to Time Stop; presumably because of something odd he's done to himself. On top of that, four Cowled Enforcers will constantly teleport in, gradually replenishing their number when killed by the PC. They mainly cast low-level spells but can still be a threat.

The Cowled Enforcers will spawn near the exits, making it difficult to run. You can still attempt it; they're unlikely to follow you if you're hasted; but if you rest, the counsel party will be fully healed and their contingencies reset (one presumes they would have the brains to port in a few medics or something).

When Lord Ivan dies, there will be some animations and a death-scream suggesting his "unstable" form has simply collapsed, and he will leave no treasure. Alistair Ghee's corpse, however, will have his quite powerful weapon, and Lyra Silvertongue's a few interesting trinkets as well. The Cowled Enforcers of course just leave junk.

When the council is dead, Sarine will thank you for helping her keep her vow, then transition into the usual talk(s).

The PC can then go and talk to Meylos, who has a wrap-up dialogue with Sarine (the upshot of which is that his professional future looks bright, but Sarine won't be coming back) before transporting the party back out.

ToB Encounter

On entering the Watcher's Keep area in ToB (if you managed to clear the whole thing in SoA, you will never get this), the party is approached by a tiefling named Warpweft Vand and his entourage. He seeks "the delivery promised"—and it is revealed that he was the original commissioner of the Cathax. The PC is of course unlikely to hand Sarine over, and a fight results. All you have to do is kill him (he's quite tough), but he suggests—as do items on his body—that he is/was a member of an organization called the Circle of Rust and the Worm, dedicated to bringing about the end of the world.

ToB: D'yana Quickly, Cleric of Sune

You can find D'Yana on the streets of Amkethran, getting chewed out by a monk. He isn't very zealous about it though (he has better things to do) and you can talk him down easily. D'yana is a journeyman (or journeywoman) Suneite, young and more than a bit naïve, who rushed to "help" the people of Amkethran when she heard the town was being run by monks. She has a cleric store, with no unique items, but a Ring of Human Influence (you know, in case you lost yours) and a Nymph's Cloak. She will also "bless" your union if you are in a relationship, which doesn't do anything, or sell you "herbs."

ToB Romance: Hills Like White Oliphants

Most of the ToB romance talks center around an event I suspect will be controversial, and that some may dislike—but that I feel is central to the themes of the mod, and that I want to put in the game world. The rationale I'll offer later, if anyone complains, I'll rehearse here.

In lovetalk 3, Sarine, with all her usual tact, springs a little surprise on the PC—she's pregnant. And not a magical pregnancy that comes to term in a few game-days. She had been taking "precautions" (presumably magical in nature) but they seem to have failed.

Her attitude is matter-of-fact and she offers to "take care of it," if that's what you want. If you express a desire to keep the child, she will remind you that, while the pregnancy isn't far enough along to slow her down as it were, she will be effectively carrying the child into a war zone. It's obvious, though, that a part of her does want to keep it.

If you decide to take care of it, she suggests finding a Sunite—if such is possible. Of course, there is now conveniently a Sunite in Amkethran, D'yana Quickly.

D'yana is a little overwhelmed by the request, but has a scroll to the effect in her backroom stock. Given the circumstances, she'll give to you for free. The choice then remains—you can let Sarine read it, read it yourself, or ask D'yana to read it. The lattermost makes her very uncomfortable, although she'll do it, and will cause her to leave Amkethran afterwards.

This is all pure role-playing: no option you take will end the romance or have an effect on the game. They will, though, dictate the rest of the talks you have with Sarine. She's not entirely happy with either decision, but will not blame you or break down, and will talk candidly about her feelings.

The decision you made is reflected in the epilogue, both of which results should be equally "happy"—in their own way. Further dialogue options, regarding whether the PC ultimately wants a child, may also affect this.

I don't mean to inject a political issue, or even a moral one (and my impression is that for some, it isn't even a "moral" issue, which is the point)—although the moral subtext is certainly there for anyone who wants to see it. There should be no judgments of the PC or Sarine no matter what they do. I have every intention, though, of injecting something I feel strongly about: that other actions besides murder have significant consequence. The point isn't whether it's right or wrong, but simply what it realistically does to human lives, whatever choice is made.

I remember a post on the Romantic Encounters forums to the effect that, since there are random encounters with enemies in the game, perhaps there should be "random romantic encounters." Which is perfectly cool and all—but just as enemy encounters have the result of the PC, you know, probably killing somebody, it would be my expectation that romantic encounters have potential consequences as well.

(And finally, while it may be clear, I don't buy all this nonsense about infallible magical contraception under the auspices of Sune. Most arcane spells have a chance of failure—and if, as Jason Compton plausibly suggests, the Forgotten Realms setting reflects in part a "1980s liberal paradise," I have no qualms about taking the axe to that aspect of it.)

Items

On Sarine

Sarine's Work Robes

These plain cotton robes are reinforced with leather padding--and powerful enchantments. They provide minor protection against physical harm, and more considerable protection against the elements, such as might be encountered during experiments with magical energy. Clearly marked Property of Research Bureau, they should not be donned by anyone lacking the proper clearance and identification.

Physical Damage: 15% resistance

Fire, Lightning, Electricity: 40% resistance

Acid: 80% resistance

Wearable By: Sarine

(yes unlike Angelo's leathers they are removable)

On Vash

The Weeper (Mace +2)

This crude-looking weapon is a labor of love, and hatred. When the half-orc village of Tuk'she was wiped out by the Delorium Cathax, a powerful arcane spell developed by Amnian wizards, a lump of pig-iron--formed into spikes by the heat and force of the blast--was enchanted over the course of six years by a vengeful survivor. It provides the protection the people of Tuk'she lacked, and is a formidable offensive weapon in its own right; but wielders in the heat of battle may be surprised to find tears streaming involuntarily down their cheeks.

-%18 magic resistance

Note: On a custom icon all the spikes should be pointing the same way.

On Lady Ironwood

Mordenkainen's Floating Plate (plate mail, does not count as enchanted)

Coveted by spellcasters to an extent rivaled only by the most powerful artifacts, this suit of armor is said to be the creation of the archmage Mordenkainen himself--although perhaps equally powerful mages have since mastered the principles of his design. Consisting of great sheets of elaborately smithed adamantine, it hangs in the air about its "wearer," leaving their hands and body unencumbered for casting. Furthermore, the plates respond instantly both to attacks and to their wearer's movements, attempting to block incoming blows while allowing the best opportunity to counterattack. The strength of the magic enchanting the plates is such that when worn, they give off a faint but pervasive smell of burning aether. However, predictably, no single mage has been known to posses such a suit for long.

AC: 0

Allows arcane spellcasting with 5% failure rate

On Sorci

Spellbinder Greaves (Boots)

These rune-worked metal greaves were the pride of "Quickwand" Sorci, once famed in Athkatla as a duelist and magical renegade. Popular etchings of Sorci depict him smirking over a pair of steaming boots, all that remains of some unlucky opponent. A series of engagements with the Cowled Wizards came to a surprising end when he accepted a post in their Enforcement bureau. As the artifact suggests, while he relied on his speed of mind and hand, he was not above the odd bit of magical augmentation.

-Save vs. Spells +4

On Adapol

Adapol's Stealth Suit (Leather)

This strange suit once belonged to a strange creature, an assassin calling himself Adapol, who spoke as if centuries old but possessed the stunted body of a child. Though working with the Cowled Wizards of Athkatla in a coup attempt by Lord Ivan Clay, what deeper allegiances compelled him may forever be a mystery.

The suit itself is of unknown make, but clings immediately the skin when donned as if scalded on, required powerful magic to remove. Its surface is covered with weird metal fittings and tattoo-like designs. While it is skin-tight and of a dark, complex pattern - ideal for those who wish to conceal themselves - it is most notable for providing immense resistance to magic. It provides far less resistance against conventional means of attack.

However, a shallow aperture on the back of the breastplate holds a colorless gemstone, cold to the touch. One suspects this was its power source, now exhausted; and that if it could be somewhat recharged, it would become more powerful still.

AC: 8

Magic Resistance: 40%

Stealth: +15%

CURSED: Cannot be removed [except by remove curse, which is close enough]

[Note: This item can be upgraded by Cespenar in ToB. What follows is his dialogue about that.]

Cespenar: Youse gots stealth suit, huh? What happen, you crack under torture and let girlfriend die? A-anyway, you cans fix this up, but you not want to know what it take. Mm, okay, you son of God of Murder, you no cry. You needs human soul, Great One. I says you not start looking near any governments.

[If you bring Malla's Soulstone to him:]

Cespenar: You gots soul all right! You really are great big bastard. The Great One wants I fix this? Only ten thousand gold, Cespenar say it's a steal!

CHARNAME's Stealth Suit (upgraded)

[Same description as before, minus the last paragraph, plus...]

The suit had been re-powered by CHARNAME, spawn of Bhaal, by the installation of a trapped human soul.

-AC: 4

-Magic Resistance: 80%

-Electrical Resistance: +50%

-Stealth +25%

[It's still "cursed."]

On Alistair Ghee

Rod of Absolute Negation (Quarterstaff)

When taken up, this quarterstaff startlingly collapses into a point of dark energy in the palm. On a command word, it springs to full length again, becoming a bar seemingly of pure negative energy. Effortlessly passing through shields, armor, and flesh, it drains the vital energy of its opponents, and to some extent its wielder, with a potency equaled by few other weapons.

Recovered from Alistair Ghee, a member of the Cowled Wizards known to have meddled in the darkest of magics, it is unknown whether its like exists.

To hit: +5

To damage: (no bonus)

--1 (minus 1) Constitution

-On hit: drains two levels, save vs. death at +4 to avoid

Note: The rod hits as a +5 weapon

On Warpweft Vand

Ring of the Worm

Little is known of this item except that it carries ties to the Circle of Rust and the Worm, an enigmatic group whispered to be dedicated to bringing about the end of the world. Whether such a group could do more than the world seems to be doing for itself, or whether they are in fact responsible for a great deal of strife in the world, is a question for sages. The ring bears several powerful enchantments of radically different natures, suggesting a number of spellcasters, of the sort better avoided, collaborated in its forging.

HP: +8

Spell Immunity: Necromancy (protects from Abi Dhalzim's but also from healing spells)

Regeneration, 1 hp/2 sec.

In Vand's Store [all three should be bugger-all expensive]

Ring of the Worm [I suppose it might be possible to buy it, kill him just before he ports out, and get two]

Circlet of Rust (helmet, no avatar tag)

Seeming as if it will fall apart in your hands, this rusted circlet in fact proves quite sturdy. Doubtless forged countless ages ago, it has passed through the hands of the Circle of Rust and the Worm, an organization of unknown size and membership that claims the patronage of a number of evil gods. Their aims, it is said, are nothing less than the complete destruction of the known world. While this circlet may have assisted them to that end, it serves a good-aligned wearer quite as well.

-STR +1

-DEX +1

-INT +1

-CHA +1

The End of the World (dagger +6, should have a futuristic, swoopy-looking icon like most of the swords in BGII)

No mention exist in any known record of such a weapon. Its design, as well as its heavy enchantments, all seem one degree removed from the norm--as if it were designed by a creature of great intelligence, but only second-hand familiarity with its intended wielder. Most notably, its long hilt must be gripped with two hands.

Inscribed in a circular pattern on its hilt is the following verse:

"I must go on.

I can't go on.

I won't go on."

-+4 magic damage

-+4 cold damage

-hit blinds and deafens target (50% spell failure), no save

-On hit, 10%: target must save vs. death or be Imprisoned

Two-handed

Useable by: Tieflings

Note: This is the weapon Vand uses himself. It is absurdly powerful, but only useable by tieflings—e.g. Haer'dalis. Since daggers aren't his forte, the player will have to twist and turn a bit if they really want to use it, which should make it balanced in the end.

Created during dialogues

The Cathax Piccole (wand)

Developed through the concerted (if not always harmonious) efforts of Sarine Nesteria and Edwin Obessiron, this tiny wand is an attempt to apply, on a smaller scale, the magical discoveries behind the creation of a terrible weapon known as the Delorium Cathax.

You have been warned the device is still in its prototype phase, and how effectual it will be, and for how long, remain to be discovered.

Although it was designed as a spellcaster's weapon, one with an agile mind and hands may be able to master its use.

Use: Deals 36 points of damage to a single target, save vs. breath weapon for half

Number of Charges: Unknown

Useable by: Mage, Sorcerer, Bard, Thief

[It has exactly two charges. Damage is nonelemental and ignores any magic or spell resistances the target might have. The animation looks like Burning Hands.]