The Reconstruction Part 14 (Guest Review)

Onwards to chapter 2! Time to see if Nal lives up to its reputation.
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Zargos is the guild’s tour guide. As an ambassador, he’s well-traveled and is able to give us an overview of future areas. He describes Nal as less a city, an’ more of a bunch of little blocks all run up together. So…it’s a city, then? Presumably he means something more like a lack of order or government, but they must have some form of government if they have a guard force.

He also talks about the Nalian Officers (I have no idea if the capitalization is correct; are they a private company literally called “The Officers”?) we’ve heard about. Apparently they’re led by a man named Captain Asarik. A stern bunch, they are. Nasty. But, when yer tryin’ to keep order in a place like Nal, I guess ya gotta be. I think this is the only time we ever hear someone say positive things about the officers. They sure do get a bad rap – pretty much every time they come up, everyone goes on about how corrupt and evil they are, but I feel there’s a show-don’t-tell problem going on. The officers are pretty rude and irrelevant (and apparently charge you through the nose), but we don’t actually see them doing a whole lot of nasty stuff. I mean, presumably they’re brutalizing lots of shra in the background, but apparently everyone does that. I expected to see stuff like them betraying clients or being paid off by crime lords, but…nothing like that ever happens. They seem to be legitimately effective, just impolite about it. And even Asarik’s a pretty decent guy when we meet him!

An’, Dehl, ye best be keepin’ yer wits about ya if you travel alone. You especially.

I keep rereading this line and it sounds really awkward. It feels like Zargos should be telling everyone to be careful, then singling out Dehl, instead of singling Dehl out twice in a row. Was it rewritten at one point?

This is because Dehl’s a shra, and Nal is Slavery Central. The slavers will capture and sell any free shra they can get their hands on. Dehl is not terribly concerned about this.

Dehl: “I’ve escaped one life of imprisonment. Surely I can do it again.”
Zargos: “Ehh heheh…ehhh… you ain’t kiddin’, are ya.”
Dehl: “No.”

Oh, Dehl, you are ever a safe island in this sea of quirky witticisms. This…doesn’t make much sense, though. Does he consider his childhood to be “imprisonment”? He can’t be referring to his time in Wadassia, since he’s made it very clear he’s a Stockholmed bundle of issues on that front. It really does look like the story was shaping up for him to be an escaped slave.

Qualstio suddenly notices that Tehgonan’s still with them. “Waitaminute. Why’s the kid comin’? How’d you get away with THAT with your folks?” So…he was thrilled that the kid wanted to ditch his parents and dive into mortal danger, but going out of the city is serious business? I guess it makes some sense if they didn’t think Tehgonan would really stick around, but…

Tehgonan: “Told ’em it’s a field trip. Trust me, they want ME outta the house just as bad as I do.”

That’s…really worrying, if he’s telling the truth. Do they have child protection services or is that a modern social element that didn’t make it into the anachronism stew? Because it sounds like the guild should be calling them right about now.

Ques: “Young Magus Clapian, are you certain such was a wise decision? We could be away from Wadassia for many months. Perhaps you should…”

Once again, the only thing that the characters see as objectionable here is the separation from his parents, not the fact that they regularly go into deadly combat. It seems weird that no one’s addressing this elephant in the room, even with Ques acting as the voice of reason here.

Tehgonan: “Perhaps YOU should shut your face hole! I don’t gotta leave, DO I, boss-lizard?”
Dehl: “He may stay. I shall look after him.”

Especially because that isn’t really the issue. His family sounds pretty messed up. Dehl and the guild probably are being better surrogate parents if it’s just a matter of looking after him. It’s just, eleven-year-old kid, mortal danger, these things should not mix.

Tehgonan: “Hey, I’M gonna be lookin’ after YOU. You’re the only one that’s gonna stick out.”
Dehl: “…”
Lani: “How about we all look after each other. That’s fair, don’t ya think?”

Lani <3 After her initial “hysterics” she does become much better.

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I get a save prompt telling me that chapter 2 is about to start, and we fade to black.

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Oh hey, it’s these guys again. The text changes to The city of Nal, outside the Nal-Guard head office

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All of a sudden, now he’s being referred to as “Taru”, no doubt confusing players who didn’t catch his name before. I don’t see why his name couldn’t at least have been mentioned outside of his status page before this.

Anyway, this is set at the inception of the officers, before they cemented their power base. Vasra describes them as privatized, so I guess they are like mercenaries or something? How are they a “peacekeeping force” if they just follow the money, then? Weirdly, Vasra has a higher opinion of them than the Nal-guard, who she curses as “sell-outs”. I really, really don’t see how replacing public law enforcement with a private mercenary company would fix that.

The reason they’re here is that they’ve fallen on hard times. They need to pay to get the Vigil’s engine fixed so it is powered by an engine! After all the coyness in the prologue it’s weird that they just straight-up say it here.

Taru: “You think he can do it? They seem kind of…stingy, around here.”
Vasra: “The Captain is an excellent negotiator. I think we’ll be out of here in no time.”

As if on cue, they see Rehm get thrown out of a window and falls between them.

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Is it just me, or is it hard to tell he’s supposed to be lying down? These sprites don’t have much depth to them.

Taru is worried, but Vasra just makes a quip. Rehm blinks.

Captain S: “Ahhhh… Owwwww.”

And for some reason he’s still being referred to as “Captain S” even though Taru’s getting referred to by his real name. I have no idea what’s up with that.

He gets up and says he’s fine, but the talks didn’t go well. Then his sprite spins around a bit. It looks like he’s fidgeting nervously. He realizes he’s lost his “papers”. Papers that say I’m free, and ain’t a slave to anyone. Need ’em, since I’ve a brand on me wait what, he does? When did that happen? Was he enslaved once? I don’t think this ever comes up again.

They nervously discuss how they’re going to get them back. The front door is obviously not an option, but Rehm remembers there’s a side door that’s currently unguarded. Taru offers to go in with him, but Rehm politely reminds him that stealth works better with fewer people.

Vasra: “Good luck. Me and Clapian will go pick out a suitable flower arrangement for your grave.”

Ergh, that’s painful to read on a replay.

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Let’s see what happens. Time to move on ahead. The Lord’s office is on the second floor toward the center of the building.
Captain S: “Nobody’s gotta get hurt. Just in, and out.”

Still a pacifist even after falling on hard times. Why is he so invested in this when he’s not a real Sikohlon? Was the game plan originally for him to be a runaway Sikohlon who disagreed with the teachings and turned to violence or something?

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A couple of humans are talking in the hall. Looks like you can’t go that way. You might get seen if you try to pass by, too.

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Here you see the general format of how this section plays out. Generally, there is one option that won’t do anything, one option that will work, and one joke option that will get you caught. I don’t think anything bad actually happens if you do get caught, though. Circumstances tend to contrive to get Rehm to safety anyway. For now, I’ll listen to these guys. One of them’s arguing about needing a shipment of new slaves right away, and the other says they’re sold out. The customer eventually convinces the other guy to walk out back and check the pens.

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They walk on past. Even if Rehm is doing his best to be unobtrusive here, I do think it’s a bit weird that they don’t notice there’s a shra in the building when they walk right by him. But whatever, willing suspension of disbelief…

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I have to do this twice – the first time, there’s just a pause and Rehm notes that nothing’s happened. But the second time, an officer walks out of a nearby room. Somehow, they don’t notice him even though they pass really close by him and seem like they should be looking right at him. Regardless, they distract the front desk, allowing Rehm to pass.

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This guy comes rushing up to Rehm. Turns out he’s the guy who was supposed to be guarding the side door, but he’s a germophobe so he took long break to wash himself. He eventually realizes that Rehm is kind of suspicious and asks for an entry pass.

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Captain S: “Say, you know, there’s a funny story ’bout that, mate. See, it all started when…”
Distressed Human: “You have it or not? I need to get back to my post!”

Looks like that’s not going to work.

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Cunning or incredibly stupid but nonetheless hilarious? I’ll pick the smart option because I’m boring. (Although given that he’s a germophobe, hugs would probably get rid of him in a hurry without any further issues.) Rehm says it’s in the room to his left, and enters…

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Our adventures in Incredibly Obvious Sneaking continue. The door makes a really loud noise, too, you’d think the guy would notice.

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Captain S: “Almost there…”

(Look for anyone)
(Listen for anyone)
(Sniff for anyone)

Scent seems like the smartest move. Humans probably aren’t as good at masking their scent as they are at confounding sight and sound. It doesn’t matter which one you pick, though – he always gives the same message about not sensing anyone ahead.

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Yay. I don’t believe this affects anything, but it’s nice.

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He walks forward, and a group of guards suddenly appear to meet him. Whoops! Guess all the sneaking was a waste of time.

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Rehm takes the cautious route and professes that he’s unarmed, he just needs to get something he left behind. The guard lord knows exactly what he’s talking about, though.

Captain S: “My papers! Where are they, I need them! You’ve no right to withhold them.”
Guard Lord Witz: “Oh, of course! As soon as the weather vane turns in *our* favor, you’re at your knees!”

Yeah, showing vulnerability to the people who hate you is a really dumb move. For all Vasra says about him being a “skilled negotiator”, he seems pretty terrible at this. Fortunately for him, though, the guy has an attack of generosity and says he can have the papers.

Captain S: “D-do you mean it? But…Why?”
Guard Lord Witz: “Some of the beings in this hallway are not criminals, Captain. Nor do they seek to pounce upon the mistakes of another.”
Captain S: “It wasn’t extortion I was claiming, nor did I mean it as such. I just wanted you to see.”
Guard Lord Witz: “So you come to me, begging for money, then feel to inform me of corruption in my ranks? Men, take a good long look at this. A Shra trying to tell a man how to do his job. Go get your papers, then begone. Unless you prefer the company of the Officers.”

So he’s just doing this so he can claim the moral high ground, then. I guess they really are scum if this is how they handle allegations of corruption.

Well, that was an instance of mood whiplash if I ever saw one.

Cut to Rehm back on the streets.

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Unfortunately, they’re still broke. Taru wonders what they can do.

Captain S: “Well, I can dress down an’ play dumb, and sell myself on the auction block.”
Taru: “What???”
Captain S: “S’no problem, mate. You’ll get the money, I’ll escape the slaver an’ meet with ya later. I’d think a handsome creature like myself would fetch a decent price, ya know?”

That’s actually a decent plan, if the captain’s confident he can escape. And he probably could – if he has a brand on him, then he must have escaped slavery before. Even if he can’t get any weapons, he has magic powers, which I doubt slavers would be expecting. They’d have to skip town immediately afterward, but they weren’t planning on staying long anyway.

Taru: “Why don’t we just take a few honest jobs like we should have done in the first place?”

Or they could take the boring but sensible option, that works too.

Captain S: “Honest? In this place? You can try, mate. But, if you’re willing t’stay a while longer…”
Vasra: “I don’t think we have much choice, Captian. Let’s get started.”
Captain S: “No sweeping. I hate sweeping.”

And that concludes our interlude. I think it works much better than the prologue – it’s shorter, simpler, and works better as a preview, since it’s set in the place players are going to next instead of the middle of nowhere. We get to see what Nal was like 50 years ago, allowing us to see what, if anything, has changed since then. I also think it’s a nice take on the swashbuckling action adventure theme of the prologue by showing how that kind of lifestyle doesn’t last forever – eventually, people are going to fall on hard times and will have to resort to less glamorous work.

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Nal, West Gate, Housing District

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We cut to an inn. The group enters.

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Ques informs them that it will be their base of operations, as the guild hall was in Wadassia. Santes spins around in horror.

Santes: “HERE?! We have to sleep here? But, it’s…”

Uh, wasn’t she a combat medic? You’d think she’d be used to poor living conditions.

Qualstio and Tehgonan express similar grievances, but Ques says it’s the best he could find. He mentions that if they want to take jobs, their first order of business should be gaining the trust of the Nal-guard. Fero acts as the Watson and asks who they are. It…sounds like it should be pretty self-explanatory? Zargos explains that they have a history of greed and corruption, so I don’t see what makes them significantly different than the officers? Dehl asks if they can be trusted. Ques says they don’t really have a choice.

Ques: “If you feel uneasy, we can leave Nal for—”
Dehl: “Absolutely not. We stay until we change some lives, whether we face danger or not.”

Hm, he actually cut someone off. Poor guy, he’s already building himself up for failure.

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