Let’s Play Planescape: Torment! Episode 4

by William Hohmeister

Last time on Planescape: Torment!

Breaking stuff leads to a level-up, and an encounter with a ghost leads to a vague prophecy!

In case you missed it, Nameless helpfully wrote down Deionarra’s prophecy:

I encountered the ghost of a woman named Deionarra, who prophesied that I would meet three enemies, but ‘none more dangerous that myself in my full glory’. They are shades of evil, of good, and of neutrality given life and twisted by the laws of the planes.

Ep4_Image1She said that I would come to a prison built of “regrets and sorrow,” where “the shadows themselves have gone mad.” Here, I will be asked to make a terrible sacrifice… for the matter to be laid to rest, I must “destroy that which keeps me alive, and be immortal no longer.”

Deionarra disappears, and Nameless discovers Morte can’t see her. So he’s a crazy amnesiac scar monster. Although maybe a skull isn’t the best barometer for reading Nameless’ mental weather. Hey, no one else has talked to him yet, maybe even Morte isn’t real…

MORTE PLEASE BE REAL.

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Let’s Play Planescape: Torment! Episode 2

by William Hohmeister

A shambling zombie escorts The Nameless One – “Nameless” from now on – into the Mortuary on a slab. Nameless remembers faces and events but he has no context to process them. After a while his back starts to hurt, so Nameless gets up from his slab with a groan.

A skull floats over to talk.

Will_Planescape_Ep2_Image1At the risk of being cliché, I am either too drunk or not drunk enough to be talking to you.”

It’s Morte Rictusgrin, the… floating skull. I really can’t emphasize that enough. I imagine Nameless spends some time checking for wires and pinching himself before finally responding:

Nameless: “Who are you?”

Morte: “Me?” The skull seems indignant. “How about *you* start, scabbie? Who are you?”

The body language at play must be incredibly subtle, since Morte has no body.

Nameless: “I asked you first, skull.”

We’re getting off to a bad start, but mom always told Nameless not to talk to strangers. Morte and Nameless eventually get through the introductions – or they would, if Nameless wasn’t… y’know. Name-less. Morte rolls with this, however, and offers to read the scars on Nameless’ back. Nameless has so many scars they can actually double as post-it notes.

Morte: “Say, you got a whole tattoo gallery on your back, berk. Spells out something…” “Looks like directions.” (Morte clears his throat)

HOW?

I know you feel like you’ve been drinking a few kegs of Styx wash, but you need to CENTER yourself. Among your posessions is a JOURNAL that’ll shed some light on the dark of the matter. PHAROD can fill you in on the rest of the chant, if he’s not in the dead-book already.

Don’t lose the journal or we’ll be up the Styx again. And whatever you do, DO NOT tell anyone WHO you are or WHAT happens to you, or they’ll put you on a quick pilgrimage to the crematorium. Do what I tell you: READ the journal, then FIND Pharod.”

Which seems like good advice, except Nameless doesn’t have a journal. He barely has a loincloth. Nameless and Morte agree to try to escape together, as both have qualities the other lacks: Morte knows the Mortuary and isn’t a walking scab with amnesia, and Nameless has hands so he can open doors. It’s a match made in a terrifying necropolis. And Morte is by far the superior fighter. He’s only got 20 HP, but his AC is 2. Compared to Nameless, Morte floats like the butterfly.

They quickly run into an obstacle: the door leading out is locked. Morte instructs Nameless to take a key from a nearby zombie by force. Despite his superior fighting ability, Morte is relunctant to join the fight.

Morte: “All right, you found the scalpel! Now, go get those corpses… and don’t worry, I’ll stay back and provide sound tactical advice.”

Nameless: “Maybe you could *help* me, Morte.”

Morte: “I will be helping you. Good advice is hard to come by.”

Morte: “Human resources can mean a lot of things. I need to know you’re loyal to this company.”

Nameless: “When I attack this corpse, you better be right there with me or you’ll be the next thing that I plunge this scalpel in.”

See? I’m already putting those Charisma points to work with some diplomacy.

The pair leap into action!

Will_Planescape_Ep2_Image2Uh, I know I asked for this, but… could you chew with your mouth closed, Morte?”

Fun fact! Morte’s weapon slot is his “bite.”

Nameless takes the key from the ex-corpse, and the pair makes their way slowly through the Mortuary. Morte reveals he really has a taste for zombies:

Morte: “Pssst… Some advice, chief: I’d keep it quiet from here on – no need to put any more corpses in the dead book than necessary… especially the femmes. Plus, killing them might draw the caretakers here.”

Nameless: “Why do you care about the female corpses?”

Morte: “Wh – are you *serious*? Look, chief, these dead chits are the last chance for a couple of hardy bashers like us. We need to be *chilvarous*…”

Nameless: “Last chance? What are you *talking* about?”

Morte: “Chief, THEY’RE dead, WE’RE dead… see where I’m going? Eh? Eh?”

HOW WOULD THAT EVEN WORK FOR YOU, SKULL?!

Nameless has no interest in zombies, ladies or fellas, but he likes messing with Morte:

Morte: “Psssst. You see the way she was looking at me? Huh? You see that? The way she was following the curve of my occipital bone?”

Nameless: “You mean that blank-eyed beyond-the-grave stare?”

Morte: “Wha – are you BLIND?! She was scouting me out! It was shameless the way she WANTED me.”

Nameless: “Wanted you to go *away*, maybe. She was obviously too distracted by ME to pay attention to some stupid bobbing head with a big mouth.”

Eventually they find Dhall, an ancient, diseased Dustman penning names into a gargantuan book from his floating recliner.

Will_Planescape_Ep2_Image3Dhall tells Nameless more about the world. The Mortuary is located in Sigil, and is run by the Dustmen, the faction Dhall works for. Morte and Dhall both have different feelings about the Dustmen – Morte calls them addled death-worshippers – but both agree that, if the Dustmen knew about Nameless, they’d try to stop his regeneration. Probably by fire.

Dhall knows Nameless much better than Nameless himself. Nameless has treated the Mortuary almost as a second home, and many former companions now rest within. The most recent is a woman in the northwest memorial hall. Nameless decides to find her, and at least pay respects – and to see if her name triggers any memories.

Dhall permits Nameless to go, but warns him to be careful. Even if Nameless weren’t a walking blasphemy against Dustmen beliefs, he’s guilty of the most bizarre breaking and entering ever.

Next on PLANESCAPE: Bad medicine! Anarchy! Undead nightmares! And… Escape!

(-ed. – We haven’t decided when Episode 3 will run, nor on what day of the week we will settle into, but this series is greenlit. It will be back once we get a little further ahead with it. There will be an announcement. Our dear friend and not-so-silent partner Jeremy of the seven-month Batman run  returns next Wednesday. With a Batman post. Who woulda’ thought? Keep Blogging!)

Planescape: Torment, Episode 1

by William Hohmiester

Planescape: Torment is a PC role playing game based on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) tabletop rules. It came out in 1999, and it is played from an isometric (fancy for “top-down”) view. It is a point-and-click turn-based game set in a weird fantasy universe. I am writing a “Let’s Play” style series about Planescape: Torment from beginning to end.

I learned about it from Jeremy about ten years ago, when we found out we both liked the Baldur’s Gate series of PC games. I know Baldur’s Gate very well, but I’ve never played more than a few hours of Torment. So why not write about Baldur’s Gate?

Because there’s less room for surprise and exploration; because Jeremy once lent me his ancient, battered cd before digital downloads became common, which is a hell of a recommendation; and because of what Planescape: Torment is about.

It is about an immortal with amnesia and his best friend, a floating, talking skull. They have strange encounters with alien species, and the game encourages talking, exploration, and moral choices over fighting. It’s Doctor Who if Edward James Olmos played the Doctor. Which is how I’ll play the game as well, doing my best to make good moral decisions (tempered by a roleplayer’s greed) and choosing to help rather than to harm.

The game is available at gog.com (Good Old Games) for a few bucks, and there are several mods available for free. I’m using some of them to add missing content and to keep the game from looking its age:

  • The Ultimate WeiDU Fixpack – this fixes a number of bugs and helps prevent crashes.
  • Qwinn’s Unfinished Business – restores content to the game, including quests and dialogue, that was abandoned by the developers due to time or budget problems.
  • Bigg’s Widescreen Mod – allows me to adjust the resolution of the game so it won’t appear so pixelated. When I originally installed the game it displayed only a few feet around Nameless. With this mod I get a much broader look at the surrounding area, and a feel for the scope of the setting.
  • Ghostdog’s UI Mod – fixes all the bugs introduced by the widescreen mod and smooths out the user interface for an easier player experience.

Although it’s based on AD&D, Planescape: Torment is a weird game, so I’m going to add some explanation of how it’s played, what certain terms mean, and how I made my character. Thankfully, unlike Baldur’s Gate, the character creation system is simple and easy to understand.

First, here’s my guy:

planescape1_will You could grate a mountain on that mug. Surrounding him are his stats: Strength, Wisdom, Constitution, Charisma, Dexterity, and Intelligence. These are increased by using Character Points (in the lower left) and, depending on what I choose to improve, effect the Armor Class (AC – how hard Nameless is to hit) and Hit Points (HP – how many hits he can take).

I’ll let the manual explain the individual stats, because I miss the times when games came with manuals that added to the story or the world.

STATISTICS:

“There are six primary stats that determine what kind of person the Nameless One is – smart or stupid, strong or weak, agile or clumsy. I have 21 character points to increase them. Though some control his mental faculties, they do not affect his morality or alignment.

  1. Strength (STR) – This makes you a good fighter. If you want to be a real meat grinder of a warrior – raise your Strength score.
  2. Constitution (CON) – This stat makes you tough to kill, almost always a plus considering how many people are trying to off you. One other bonus of a high Constitution is that you’ll regenerate faster.
  3. Dexterity (DEX) – This stat determines how difficult you are to hit, as well as how fast your reactions are. If you want to get the drop on your foes before they raise the alarm, high Dexterity helps.
  4. Intelligence (INT) – The smarter you are the more witty things you can think of to say. Having a higher Intelligence stat gives you more dialog choices, access to more spells, and a better chance to regain memories.
  5. Charisma (CHR) – A high Charisma stat means that people are more likely to listen to you, and even believe what you say, you’re so convincing. A high Charisma allows you to successfully bluff people more frequently.
  6. Wisdom (WIS) – The ability to absorb lessons from what’s happened to you is largely a function of Wisdom. You’ll gain experience points faster if you’re wise enough to learn from what you’re doing. A high Wisdom also gives you a better chance to regain lost memories.”

Okay, but how do I know what to pick? The obvious solution is to be a beefy strongman, since Nameless always starts as a level 3 Fighter, but only a level 1 Mage and Thief. He also can’t use his Mage or Thief abilities until he finds a teacher. But the manual has a bit more to say about this world and how we can best get along in it.

CHARACTER AND GAMEPLAY

Nameless is not a typical role playing game hero. The manual has something to say as well:

“In Torment, you take on the role of a scarred, amnesiac immortal in search of his identity… death serves to advance the plot and is even a tool for solving seemingly impossible problems… your actions throughout the game define your character’s development and even have the power to shape the world around you. You will find yourself gaining skills, new classes, and special abilities depending on your style of play… gathering memories is just as important as gaining experience, talking to the dead can yield more than talking to the living, and the most dangerous of enemies may be the only ones you can trust.”

Okay, that clears things right up. Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, in that order, seem to be the most important stats. I need them to solve the puzzle of Nameless’ identity and purpose, and to get more people on my side and helping me. I also want Constitution since I’m otherwise a weakling.

All the actual mechanics of the game – from dice rolls to saving throws – occur off-screen, so I mostly don’t worry about them. Let’s take another look at Nameless, with his now-completed stats:

planescape2_willIf you can’t see them in the image, the stats are:

STR = 9 – easily bullied
WIS = 14 – not Yoda, but nice
CON = 12 – wears a cup
CHR = 14 – ugly, but friendly
DEX = 10 – falls prey to the family cat
INT = 16 – full-ride scholarship
AC = 10 – the broad side of the barn
HP = 26 – bleeds easily

I thought for a long time before deciding to sacrifice a higher wisdom for constitution. I’m almost helpless physically, and I don’t know where to find someone to train me to be a wizard. Until I do, expect a lot of running away or bargaining.

That’s all it takes to begin a game. Next time, I’ll recount Nameless’ first adventure. If you have any questions or comments put them in the comments below, and if you have any spoilers put them back in your head and keep them there. No spoilers, please.