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Chapters 2 & 3: Fun Things To Do In Athkatla


When you leave the Athkatla promenade, there's only one place you can go--the slums. On your way there you meet someone who offers to help you find Imoen, but you have to follow him to his house to hear his offer. Enroute, you get a cutscene about Imoen and what happened to her, and then chapter Two starts.

The bottom really drops out of the story here. This chapter will end when you raise Immie's ransom, but in both this chapter and the next one you can travel freely around the city, so I'm just going to break things down by area. The first area has to be the slums, but after that you're on your own. I suggest you take your time here, as it won't change Imoen's fate and rushing around just makes the game frustrating.

You're also going to have more free-form character interactions, either as you march merrily along or after sleeping. At some point you're going to start having creepy dreams, too. The dreams are central to the plot and you couldn't avoid them if you tried. The character subplots really depend on who's in your party (see the Baldur's Gate 2 Character Guide for details).

You'll also get a few interactions with thugs as you cross from area to area. Primarily, these interactions consist of "give us your money or we'll kill you" or just "here we are to kill you." You will walk in on at least one or two nighttime conflicts between Shadow Thieves and women who look exactly like the vampire you fought earlier. Gee, wonder what that could mean? Finally, you'll get one fight with brigands which will yield the Poisoned Man quest, which will take you down to the docks.

Athkatla Slums District

This is the area you start Chapter Two in, so you might as well explore it. As usual, you can talk to the unnamed people on the street a few times to get different, occasionally funny, usually mundane comments. There's usually someone around who'll comment on Boo, someone who'll be frightened by Viconia, and a surprising number of people seem to think Aerie is a prostitute for some reason. A few of the commoners here had heard of Haerdalis' play, and one of the kids in the slums here remarked that he heard elves had the clap, confusing Jaheira, who actually didn't know what he was talking about. (Sheltered upbringing there or what?)

Specifics:

1) There are some thugs on the street who get in your face and start shoving you around. Their mistake, they're pretty wimpy.

2) In Gaelan's house, where you start out, there's a fence upstairs. Neither of them comments on it when you unlock their chests and steal their stuff, right in front of their faces. (You can do this in just about every house in the city, actually. Less realistic, but just as well--it was a huge pain in the last game trying to figure what was fair game to pick up and what would bring the guards storming in.) Outside, Gaelan's nephew Brus will run up to you and give you a pointer towards one of the many quests in the city where you could earn some gold; which one he points you to depends on your character class.

3) There's an eccentric gnome family, the Jansens, living in town here. Talk to them for some oddball comments and a referral to Jan, an NPC you can later get to join you.

4) The Copper Coronet is by far the most important building in this area. For one thing, it's got three new NPCs in it: Nalia, Anomen, and Korgan. Korgan and Nalia each have quests they will offer you, Korgan's Book and Save De'Arnise Keep. Don't talk to Korgan unless you want him in the party right away, because otherwise he'll either attack you or charge you a pile of money to join up with you later. Killing him is useless bloodshed--NPCs who can join your party yield no XP and they don't have any stuff you couldn't get by joining them.

There are also some mooks who hurl insults at you trying to get you to fight their leader in the pit. If you don't, Minsc gets offended and attacks them anyway, so you might as well accept the duel. You can also stage a dogfight in the pit by talking to Surly, though there's no real point to it and Jaheira and Minsc pitch a fit if you do. (Funny how they notice it's cruel to kill pit bulls, but don't care if you climb into the pit yourself and slaughter a man.) By the bar is a lounge lizard named Salvanas--talk to him with each of your female characters and get a different sleazy pass. Even Aerie winds up threatening this guy with violence. The bartender, as well as offering bar/inn/shop services, knows Jaheira and will occasionally have side conversations with her. Then there's a nobleman, Lord Jierdan, who offers you $10,000 to do his Windspear Hills quest for him. (Yoshimo, Jaheira, and Nalia are of different minds about this quest.) There's also a crabby lady in there looking for her unfaithful husband. Help her find him, and by all means follow her to see the fireworks.

The back room is full of hookers, but Jaheira shooes the madam away before you can hire one, so if you want a hooker you'll need to send a male character up there by himself--once Jaheira rebuffs the madam she won't talk to any of you again. (If your main character is female she can actually get a male prostitute if she wants, but the female NPCs just get offered girls and get embarrassed about it.) Actually sleeping with the whore will tank any romances you might have wanted to have in your party and is just an ordinary rest screen anyway, but if you talk to her instead it's a nice lead-in to the Copper Coronet quest. Alternatively, you could go downstairs and watch the gladiators, which gives you a similar lead-in. (Several characters will remark on the gladiators if you go that way, most entertainingly Haerdalis, though you have to be pretty determined to do the quest to get him in your party before doing the Copper Coronet one. Anyway, whether you explore the brothel or arena first or not, going through the door the guards tell you not to will cause you to stumble right into the Spartacus quest, which is a particularly satisfying one as it makes permanent changes to the inn if you succeed at it.

There are some other individuals in the Copper Coronet whose importance will not become apparent until later. You'll be referred to Unger Hilldeep later, and don't need to worry about him until then. The retired thief Yarin is not important to any quests, though he will have interesting conversations with Yoshimo and Nalia (though Nalia's responses made me want to slap her). In the upstairs bedroom is a guy named Llynis who is being haunted by a ghost. You can meet that ghost in the graveyard district, and come back here to do the ghost's quest for him. You don't actually have to kill Llynis--if you make the right conversational choices he'll give you what you're looking for--but once you've learned what a blackheart he is, you may want to anyway. Go for it. What, you think your buddy Hendak is going to turn you in?

Finally, there's a little dungeon down here in the basement. The main purpose of this dungeon is to lead you to the Kack The Slavers quest at #5. However, there's also a little puzzle quest down here, The Very Stupid Sword. It's easy to solve, but very confusing, at least to me--it was never explained who the hell the ghosts, mysterious voices, and possessing entities were or what they had to do with anything. Do their bidding, though, and you'll get a nice XP bonus and a sword which talks (though it was once the village idiot and its comments are accordingly dumb). There's also a strange little room down here which looks like a garden and has myconids in it attacking a dying minotaur. I was unable to save the minotaur no matter how I tried, and neither was I able to discern any reason for this room at all. If you have, then please enlighten me.

5) If you complete the Spartacus quest at the inn, part two of that quest-- Kack The Slavers--is in the ship in the northeast part of town. You can either get there through the Copper Coronet basement or break in the front door, depending on your style and when you attempt the quest. (You're not going to be able to get through the door in your earlier levels.) There is a cat on top of this building who has a name, Missy. I was unable to do anything interesting with this cat at all--I suspect she's just a reference to a programmer's pet.

6) If you go by the Copper Coronet with Mazzy after finishing the quest about her sister, a mini-quest, The Ogre Bully, will arise there. This is basically just a combat--let Mazzy fight the ogre in the pit--but you do have another option of sabotaging the ogre to help Mazzy win. Talk to the other people in the Copper Coronet to find out how. Frankly, that's rather insulting to Mazzy, who can win this fight anyway.

7) Hanging around outside the big black ball are a few residents who will tell you about it: a homeless woman whose home was squashed by the sphere, a historian trying to study it, an irked landlord whose apartment building was destroyed, and a scam artist who will try to sell the sphere to various members of your party (I saw this happen to Jaheira and Yoshimo, both of whose responses were highly amusing. When you have Valygar with you, be sure to talk to this guy again.) The ball itself holds the Planar Sphere quest, but you'll need Valygar the ranger in your party to get in. Once you finish this dungeon, if your character is a mage, it will become your Stronghold, and you will get some future subplots related to it.

The Planar Sphere itself is a visually stunning but fairly straightforward dungeon. There are some trapped knights hanging around in one of the rooms; once you've finished the dungeon, you can try to find their home for them (this Lost Dragonlancers quest doesn't appear on your quest list, but is possible to solve.) There is one puzzle in the middle of the dungeon--activate four runes in the "right order"--which I could not find any way to solve other than trial and error. Another gamer, Werner Arend, suggested in email that the runes looked a little like the Arabic numerals 1, 2, 3, and 4. I don't see too much similarity myself, but it's the closest I've heard to a clue yet, so I'll take it. There is one door in the sphere which will not open, claiming to lead to a boring empty room that you don't really want to see anyway. I suspect this is part of the Mage Stronghold or one of its subquests, so if you're not a mage, don't give it much thought. Finally, when the dying man asks you to do something before he dies, this subquest is actually timed--he will die if you leave him there too long, cheating you out of a busload of XP and a cooler ending to the story. I think you have 24 hours. It's plenty of time--just don't rest six times as you scour the surface for every imp you could slay.

8) One of the beggars around here, Habib, is clearly on the mentally disturbed side. He gives the characters minor injuries by flinging gold coins at them and other odd behavior. You can learn a little more about him inside the Church of Ilmater, but I haven't found anything you can do with him. The other beggars just ask you for money. Nalia gets all snarky at you whether you oblige them or not, the pretentious twerp.

9) A halfling black marketeer hangs out on the rooftops at night. He has a few good magic items, and also knows a little more about the Shadow Thieves than other people you've talked to so far.

10) There are other people who will appear on this map when you've gotten to the right place in the quests they figure in. They won't if you haven't, so don't worry about their empty houses.

Athkatla Graveyard District

A tip: visit this district both during the day and during the night. There are different people (okay, beings... come on, this is a graveyard in a D&D world, don't tell me you weren't expecting at least some undead on this map) roaming the cemetary depending on the time of day.

1) The ghost of a little boy, Wellyn, is here by night, and he will give you the Littleman quest to lay his soul at rest.

2) Wellyn's parents are sometimes by his grave by day, too. I didn't meet them until after I'd already put Wellyn to rest, for which they were grateful, but I assume that if you meet them before you meet the ghost, they will tell you what actually happened to him and ask you to talk to him and do his quest.

3) A man named Nevin is being chased around by the zombie of his dead uncle Lester. You can save him by whacking the uncle, or, if you find the nephew too irritating, let the uncle kill him. You'll get a little XP bonus the first way.

4) You can loot the tombs, if you like (and it's a CRPG, so who doesn't?) There are undead defenders, of course, and some traps and treasure. Going down the stairs will lead you to the crypts, where the monsters are significantly worse. I did this as one of my very first quests, so it's possible, but man, was it tough.

Besides the crypts, which are basically traps, monsters, more traps, and the fate of Korgan's book, there are two other areas down here. One looks like a big web, and in the center is a nest where a drow priestess and a lot of little spiders are hanging out. I have not found a plot purpose for her yet. She turned red and tried to kill me, so I just slew her and took her stuff. The other is a chamber with a door that has been enchanted to make you too afraid to pass through it. This door will become important later in the game.

5) If you stroll through the cemetery--I mean, like, across the actual graves--you will start hearing creepy noises. If you investigate you will get a little detective mystery, The Scarlet Scrap. Follow the trail of clues to apprehend a band of dark and devious criminals. Anomen was rather irritated by the mundanity of this, but I really liked these investigation subplots, myself. I think this particular one may have had more than one ending. One of the kidnappers tries to escape, and you actually have to chase him and kill him or he'll get away. I don't know what happens if he successfully escapes. It is also possible to collect the ransom for the victim yourself (click here for details).

6) There are various mourners who occasionally appear on this map. Most of them--a widow mourning her husband, an adventurer mourning her friends, a couple of noblemen mourning their butler--will just give you a few remarks like any other anonymous map character; two are Wellyn's parents (see #2); the last one is a paladin whose adoptive son has been killed by robbers, named Kamir. If you talk to this last mourner compassionately enough you can get the Depressed Paladin quest--it is possible to help this poor guy feel a little better, you just have to look around the map a bit to figure out how. If he isn't there, don't worry--the mourners come and go in shifts. Come back another hour and he'll probably be there. As a point of reference, I noticed Kamir there at hour 14 but not at hour 16.

7) I ran into a grave robber named Stein one night around here. I don't think this encounter has to end in violence, but several of the NPCs will express disgust and outrage over the grave robbery for some reason (seeing as how the plot practically depends on your own group breaking into at least a few tombs, I don't see that they have a leg to stand on,) forcing a fight. I don't know what, if anything, Stein has to say if you're alone or with only evil people or something.

Athkatla Temple District

Conveniently, the temples of the three gods your PC is allowed to worship are here in the same place. It is possible to rip off the temples by opening all their chests. However, doing this yields quest items for Cleric Stronghold quests which you will never get sent on (even a cleric can only complete a quest for one temple,) and they will just sit around taking up space in your inventory (quest items are unsellable), so I recommend against this. Talking with the priests outside each temple will tell you a little bit about each god--you can get Keldorn and Jan to insult Talos, and Anomen and Edwin to insult Lathander.

1) There is a cult leader, Gaal, out here having a revival meeting. The Church of Helm takes exception to his message that the gods are frauds and asks you to come in and accept the Unseeing Eye quest to deal with the cultists. (This quest is also the Cleric Stronghold quest--if your main character is a cleric, a priest of your faith will come to you rather than the priest of Helm, and you will receive a position in that temple once you have finished it, and get occasional subplots.) Viconia objects to this quest and Jaheira approves of it, regardless of which temple you work for; Anomen and Nalia have more alignment-based objections.

Once you have accepted this task, in the name of any temple, you can also get a second quest, Art For The Temple, from one of the other priests (you do not need to have finished the Unseeing Eye). Art For The Temple has two completely different endings depending which route you take to complete it. If you humor the primadonna artist's demands, you will earn less money, earn substantially more XP, and get a subplot with an old enemy from Baldur's Gate. If you endrun around him, you will get an entertainingly different ending and get to keep the illithium, which I've been told you can use to improve the Mace of Disruption to +2. Either way will eventually work out for you, as with most of these quests, so see how much the artist irritates you and then make up your own mind. (-: When you're all done with that, the helpful priest of Helm will direct you to the Temple of Lathander for a new quest. (I assume that if you are yourself a cleric of Talos, you will get a slight variation of this quest so as to recover the ring for Talos, not Lathander.) Anomen is a worshipper of Helm, and will chit-chat with the priest in here if you bring him in.

2) In the Temple of Lathander, the priest will offer you the Dawn Ring quest, if you have finished Art For The Temple. You can also get Stronghold quests here, if you are a good cleric.

3) In the Temple of Talos, I did not find any quest at all. There may be one which is alignment-restricted or it may be possible to defect and bring the Dawn Ring here instead of to the Temple of Lathander. I'll explore these possibilities a little more in the next game. You'll need to come here in the course of one of the Thieves' Guild quests, at any rate, to pickpocket the priestess (if you succeed, she will make pissy comments about having been robbed next time you talk to her), and the various Cleric Stronghold quests will bring you in and out of here, so it's not a wasted area regardless.

4) Near the temple of Talos is a woman trying to extort child support money out of one of the priests. Listen to the exchange, and talk to the woman and her kid with male and female characters for some amusing dialogue.

5) You can enter the sewers here, and because this is a D&D-based game, there is plenty going on down there. The NPC Keldorn is down here hunting cultists and will join your party if you like. There's a fence named Roger who lives down here and has a mini-quest for you to kill a troll that's been bothering him. There's a party of evil adventurers who will try to extort you for cash (a word to the wise, look out for these guys if you're early in the game--they're quite tough). There's the secret laboratory of an evil wizard (get assigned this quest, The Captured Actor, in the Five Flagons in the Bridge District), and the entrance to the Unseeing Eye cult (get assigned this quest in the Temple of Helm). And, of course, there are monsters. Some of the monsters are very tough and dangerous, and the rest are 4-hp kobolds. It's a very strange mixture.

In the wizard's laboratory, you can either coax the wizard into freeing his captive by doing a quest for him, or kill him and free the captive yourself. The quest actually gets you more experience, whereas if you kill him you get to take his stuff. It's up to you. If you do fight with him, though, be warned: HE CHEATS. Neither hitting him as he casts nor successfully casting Silence on him will stop him from casting a Death Spell that slays your characters. It's a huge pain in the ass. So if you're going to kill him, pretend you're going to do his quest, then have all your magic-users throw damage spells at him while he's still blue. He'll be dead before he can do his unstoppable hoodoo. He cheats, I cheat.

You'll get a choice in the Unseeing Eye, too. You can infiltrate the cult, or wade right in and slay everyone. Again, it's really a matter of your playing style. There's one incongruous bit, though: if you slay the cult, you'll never be able to create Kangaxx the Lich, a subplot that exists, well, only for the kind of people who would wade in and slay everyone in the cult. So if the idea of creating a 98% invulnerable Lich Lord and then trying to kill him appeals to you, you'll have to infiltrate the cult instead of just killing them all. Inflitration also gets you access to some new areas and a rather spooky mood quest, The Trapped Guardians. If you're in the mood for it, this quest is very well-done, with riddles you actually have to figure out instead of just finding a scroll with the answers on it (and the correct answers do make sense, too), and a mysterious beast that you'll actually need to use hints the people on the board give you to slay. You'll need to do enough of the Trapped Guardians quest to grab the artifact, which you need for the Unseeing Eye, but you don't actually have to finish either quest to finish the other. Oh, and just in case you were thinking of ignoring the dire warnings and bringing the cursed artifact to the surface with you: well, it kills you, and it's not even very interesting. You get a paragraph of text saying "The curse kills you, just like it said it would, game over, moron." I'd been hoping for a cool effect as I died, at least, but hey, you can't win 'em all.

Finally, the secret door you can't get through at all has a key that you'll find later, in Windspear Hills. This door leads to a small area of tough fighting with some worthwhile treasure.

6) Pimlico, and his house, feature in one of the quests originating in another district; if you are not on that quest, there is nothing important to be learned there.

7) In the Order of the Radiant Heart, besides Anomen's eventual test for knighthood and a few characters who will recognize and chat with him, there is the head paladin, Sir Ryan, who has a quest for you: The Fallen Paladins. This is a simple enough quest, but a caveat--the Fallen Paladins are not inside a building. This is important because a building in their general vicinity contains a very dangerous lich who has nothing to do with the Fallen Paladins, and stumbling into him will be frustrating at best. Just wander around the northeast area of the map and you'll find 'em. It is not actually necessary to kill the second-in-command Reynald, who seems like a nice enough guy who was booted from paladinhood for an extramarital affair rather than evildoing. If you offer to join the Fallen Paladins Anarg will expose you and you'll have to kill them all. If you decline, Anarg will attack you for no reason and Reynald will get disillusioned and quit. The first way gives you an XP bonus, the second lets Reynald go free. It's up to you. If you have Keldorn with you, violence will ensue without giving you a choice in the matter.

If your main character is a paladin, Sir Ryan will admit you to the Order yourself once you've gotten Garren Windspear's endorsement. This is a very boring Stronghold, in my opinion, but it does come with a paladin-specific quest.

8) Outside the Order of the Radiant Heart is a little Cyrano de Bergerac routine going on between a female knight, the tongue-tied bard Garrick (an old friend from BG1), and an ugly gnome. It will eventually resolve happily (you'll have to come by here three separate times to see the whole story), but you can't affect the outcome at all--it's just for comic relief. The knights hanging around here will also have little conversations with Anomen.

9) The Guarded Compound here caused me something of a headache in that I was waiting for an explicit quest prompt to go in there and mix it up with the owners. There is no such quest. If you've finished the Nalia's Annoying Relatives quest, you'll have gotten evidence of a slave-trading ring in a guarded compound in the temple district. This would be the one. You may go in and kill them with impunity (well, impunity from the city guard, that is--the inhabitants won't go quietly).

Athkatla Bridge District

If Aerie is in your party you may be sent here by Quayle in search of the Captured Actor quest, but otherwise, you will probably wander in here on your own. There are two neat local plots here, and this is also a waystop in a few other quests, so you may notice a couple of empty houses and one noticeably NON-empty house whose importance is not immediately clear. You don't need to worry about them unless you already have instructions to, but entering early won't mess anything up, either.

1) As soon as you enter this area you'll be informed of some grisly serial murders in this area. Find the murderer and bring him to justice! Honestly, this Athkatla Ripper quest was much too easy a mystery (one glance at the automap and I knew whodunnit,) but it was still creepy and fun, and once you solve it, you get a new quest (Revenge Of The Ripper) with a word puzzle! (I'm such a sucker for word puzzles.) There are actually two, slightly different endings to Jack The Ripper, depending on whether you bring your evidence to the police or the murderer first. They are equivalent, so do whichever suits you.

2) There is a woman, Mrs. Cragmoon, selling potions from a cart here. She has a little subplot associated with her, if you talk to the urchin in the process of investigating the Jack the Ripper plot. There isn't much to it--basically, you can expose her secret or not.

3) In the Five Flagons bar are many individuals whose importance is currently unknown to me. (Some had interesting conversations with Aerie, Jaheira, Mazzy, and Yoshimo, and the pirate woman hit on Valygar.) The stairs lead down to the playhouse. There, you can get the Captured Actor quest to find the missing bard, Haerdalis. (The poor understudy made me want to give him a hug, even though I knew he was an injoke--Biff the Understudy is a "character" who appears to take the place of any important NPCs you've gone and kacked before s/he was supposed to give you important plot information. Stops the game from getting too ballsed up if you do something unexpected. Talk to him again once you come back with Haerdalis' gem to hear about Biff's happy ending. (-: ) Once you free Haerdalis, come back for a second quest, The Planar Prison (this is also the Bard Stronghold Quest, so once you finish it, your bard will get some future subplots. Be warned, this second quest is very hard for an early party. I did it early on, but I had to save and reload each fight 5-10 times.) You can have Haerdalis himself as an NPC after that. Be sure to talk to the barkeep here if Haerdalis is in your party. Once you've rescued Mazzy, talk to him again; they're friends, and he'll give you a reward for helping her.

4) In Delosar's Inn is a rude bunch of mercenaries, led by one Captain Dennis, who start shoving you around. You can get into a fight with them, but there is actually a secret quest in this inn. When you cast "limited wish," one of your options to wish for is an "adventure like you've never seen before." This gives you a clue that brings you to this inn. Bottom line: don't kill these guys if you want to do the Limited Wish Quest.

Frankly, this is a very dull quest, and several of your party members will protest over having to do it. Jan, predictably, seems to get a kick out of it. No matter. It would have been silly to waste a Limited Wish spell on a quest if you're not even going to see what it's about, so follow Vittorio into the inn and have a little chat with Dennis. Viconia and Keldorn get into a nasty argument in here. You can let Dennis kill Vittorio if you want (unless you have the paladins or rangers in your party, who will try to stop this on their own), otherwise you can run around on the snipe hunt they set out for you. It sure is a quest like none you've seen before. Whether that's good or not depends on your persepctive.

On the upper floor of Delosar's Inn is an upper-class couple stranded here after a robbery. I was unable to find anything to do with them. On the lower level, there is a bartender and a few bargoers. The bartender has a little exchange with Jan, and the barmaid was apparently an ex-girlfriend of Haerdalis' and was NOT happy to see him again. (-: An off-duty guard had an exchange with Yoshimo here, and another lady made a pass at Haerdalis.

5) There are some locals on the street gossiping about the gang war near the bodies of some dead Shadow Guild members, with a few additional clues about what's going on there.

6) It's worth a special trip out with Edwin to hear him put the annoying children in this district in their place. I usually side with little kids over psycho mages, but this particular exchange is really pretty funny.

7) There are a couple of irritating, snooty nobles on this map waiting for a rendezvous with a commoner. I haven't figured out who or why yet, or if they're just comic relief.

8) There are two men fighting over a bimbo on this map. Those are definitely just comic relief. Nothing to do there but watch. (Another gamer emailed me to say that these two men were repeat characters from BGI, though I didn't recognize them at all.)

9) Down by the docks there is an abusive foreman threatening a couple of ogre workers. They eventually kill him and leave. I didn't interfere as I felt the foreman deserved what he got, but it is possible to slay the ogres for a reward and XP bonus from the foreman. You can also kill the foreman yourself; the ogres won't have anything to say to you, but you'll get the XP for killing him and no loss of reputation.

10) You'll have to come here investigating the Fallen Paladins. They don't have a house or base, something that frustrated me as I entered building after building and eventually got killed by the @%!@#!! lich. Just walk around the north part of the map and you'll run into some of them on the street. Personally, I had a lot of sympathy for some of these guys, but their leader is an unquestionably bad sort, so down they must go.

11) There are many unmarked houses on this map, speaking of which. Some of these have importance in other quests and you don't need to concern yourself about them. Others have stuff in them for you to do and are apparently unconnected to any quest. The fishmonger's house is full of traps and treasure. One house looks like a stable inside, and there is a hostile fighting party in there who attacks you without a word. One house has a sarcophagus in it which you can open at any time, though you may regret it; it yields a very difficult battle and a component for the Invincible Lich quest. Finally, one of the houses here is actually a gate to a pocket dimension in which the evil members of the Twisted Rune reside. There is no quest point at which you are directly asked to come deal with these guys, but the Revenge of the Ripper quest will ultimately give you the hint that these are the guys behind all the evildoing, so come on back here and take them to task for it whenever you feel up to it. You'll need a rogue stone to get in (there are several throughout the game, just refrain from selling one of them till you've done this).

12) There are a few hookers and one gnomish gigolo roaming the map, who will level amusing comments in the direction of Yoshimo and Anomen, Aerie, and any woman talking to the gigolo. (Jan and Mazzy have special conversations with this gigolo, as well.) If you have both Valygar and Viconia in your party, talking to one of these prostitutes will cause a very interesting argument between them. There are beggars with various sob stories around town--the one with the 'sick mother' is especially entertaining if Nalia is in your party. The rest of the citizens in this district had pretty much the usual things to say, though Aerie did manage to offend a fisherman down by the docks and one of the shopkeepers had a curious conversation with Haerdalis about fetching his "usual order" that made me suspect our sparrow was some kind of drug addict. I never heard anything further about this, though.

Athkatla Government District

If you arrive here at night, some suspicious guards stop you, fearing that you might belong to one of the warring thieves' guilds. Once it's obvious you don't, they let you go with an apology. Anomen's father lives in town here, and several of the people on this map know Anomen and have exchanges with him--including the fat woman, who turns out to be his old governess. (Yoshimo gets to tease Anomen a little more about this...)

1) Your old NPC buddy Viconia is here, in a bit of a spot. If you get her out of it, she'll join up with you (to Aerie's consternation, if she's around; Jaheira and Nalia approve, at least for now. Anomen was in favor of leaving her to her fate, but changes his mind in an Athkatla second once he gets a better look at her, the horndog male.)

2) There's a kid here, Delon, who asks you to solve the Evil of Umar Hills quest for him. (This is also the Ranger Stronghold quest.) If Minsc is in your party, Delon may leave the Government District and come looking for you instead.

3) Madeen, a guy hanging around outside the government building, asks you to come in and meet with a Cowled Wizard who wants your help. Inside the building is that wizard, Tolgerias, who offers to give you a reward and look into Imoen's disappearance if you'll accept a quest to track down a murderer. Even if you've already read the manual and can deduce that this Manhunt quest is not what it seems, you're safe accepting it--you won't ruin anything by agreeing. Corneil, the guy who sells magic licenses, is also in here. They're pricey, but unless you like reloading every time you get busted by the Wizards, you'll want one of these.

Other people in this building include Bylanna and Ewenn, who'll tell you a little more about the Cowled Wizards and the government of Amn; Corgeig Axehand, who you will need to find for a later quest; Inspector Brega, who plays the role of "the authorities" any time during another quest that you decide to take things to the authorities; a snooty tax assessor called Llarsh who can give you directions to Valygar's house if you show him his tax records; a nobleman who will offer Aerie a position as a concubine (!); an annoyed halfling waiting for some service; and a few clerks and bureaucrats, some of whom have amusing exchanges with Nalia, who has evidently already been through here looking for help. For a bit of entertainment, try bringing Neb's head, should you retrieve it, to Bylanna rather than to Inspector Brega. (-:

4) Jan Jansen is peddling his illegal goods around here. Help him evade the taxman, or turn him in. If you help him get away he'll join your group--even if you don't want him, you should let him in briefly just to look at his cool gadgets. If you turn him in, he'll be hauled off to jail, where you can retrieve him at your leisure if you change your mind about having him in your party.

5) You can enter the prison by day, but I have not found anything useful to do there. There is a brusque warden, a few guards, and two prisoners without names who it doesn't seem you can do anything for. There are a few secret doors in here, but they only lead between cell blocks and outside. I'm guessing that you might get imprisoned in this building if you are caught stealing and surrender somehow to guards, since escape from one of the cells seems to be suspiciously easy. I haven't yet found any way to surrender to any guards, however.

6) There is a beggar who will approach you and initiate a "please give me a gold piece" sequence, at which point the guard will try to arrest him for begging. I'm not sure what triggers this interaction, exactly, as I had already talked to this beggar once before he came looking for me. You can keep them from dragging him off, or you can let them--he will not appear in jail if you do, though. Interestingly, if Viconia is in your party, she will cover for the beggar, and have interesting conversations with some of the other party members about it.

7) Anomen's father's house is here. The man is a bitter old drunk who leaves you amazed Anomen isn't even more of a jerk than he is. You will have to come out here as part of the Anomen's Sister subplot. I don't know what happens if you try to visit before that.

8) Other odds and ends here: there are the estates of a few rich people around, which will not be useful unless you're involved in certain quests. (This makes this a rather boring district to first arrive in.) Out on the square you can find a nobleman and his toady who are waiting for the nobleman's date, Oriana; further south you can find Oriana, and hear what she has to say about the poor schlump. If Valygar is in your party she will make a pass at him, and if Valygar and Viconia are in your party, well, watch the fireworks fly! To the far west of the board are some union workers who are hanging around not doing any work, and I don't believe there's anything to be done with them either.

Athkatla Docks District

1) The building you need for the Poisoned Man is in the bottom left-hand corner. Xzar, an old friend from BGI (the mad necromancer of Nashkel, though he seems to have saned up a bit) will also appear and give you a quest to Find Montaron in that building. You don't have to take this quest, but it won't hurt anything--the Harpers are like that annoying NPC in your old pen-and-paper games who had once been a PC of the dungeonmaster and has now graduated to knowing everything and telling you only that all will be clear in time, and if they didn't mean for you to poke around their hideout and steal all their stuff, they wouldn't have left it there. Inside the building are three Harpers who will tell you pretty much nothing at all, although one of them will confirm the events of the cutscene showing what happened to Imoen and Irenicus. (I believe this is also the first time your character hears Irenicus' first name, although you the player will have seen it several times now.)

The Jaheira And The Harpers plot will start soon after you finish the Find Montaron one. One of the Harpers you met in there while casing it for Monty comes looking for her, says something ominous, and disappears with her. There is no way to get back into this building until she returns. Just sleep once and Jaheira will be back to tell you what you need to do next. (This is a game-induced departure, and will not reset Jaheira's AI nor damage your romance with her--in fact, it may be necessary to do this plot to win her, though I'm not sure of that.) This is an interesting plot, testing Jaheira's various loyalties, and in my opinion it's well worth having her in your party for. You do not need to be in a romance with Jaheira to do it, though it does make it more interesting and adds a few more twists to the plot. This isn't a quick-resolving story, instead spacing out over time the way the romances and Anomen's Knighthood do. It is, however, quite linear. The only variation I've been able to notice: when a Harper named Reviane comes looking for you, your options will depend on your reputation. If it's high enough and you play your cards right, she'll take your part, otherwise she'll fight with you. Disappointingly, this proves to be irrelevant as far as future events go--if Reviane sides with you, Jaheira still angsts about it exactly the same as if you'd killed her, and it does not change the amount of trouble Jaheira gets into later. (It is also possible, by choosing all the wrong options throughout this plot, to alienate Jaheira and make her leave; however, this ruins the remainder of the plot, so I don't recommend it.)

2) The Shadow Guild is here. If you go in, besides a mound of locked chests to loot (you'd think these guys would be more alert to this possibility, being thieves and all?) and another very stupid fence of stolen goods (if you want money, drink a potion of master thievery, sell her something expensive, pinch it back, and repeat until rich), you will find Renal Bloodscalp, commander (though not leader) of the Shadow Guild. He'll give you the Rival Guildmasters plot to go infiltrate a rebellious guildhouse for them. If Yoshimo is in your party they will have a lively conversation, including one exchange that caused me to stop calling him "Yoshi" for short, as I'd been doing. ;-) If you are a thief, you can get your Stronghold and some additional quests here. Conversely, if you ally with the vampires, I hear you can come in here and kill them all. (If you try this when you're not aligned with the vampires, an unkillable thief will appear and slay your main character. I suspect this is so you don't wind up with no one to align with and a game that cannot progress; there are a few other instances in the game in which characters are invulnerable for plot purposes.)

On the course of this Rival Guildmasters quest, the guildmaster of the splinter group, Mae'var, will assign you to perform a total of four tasks, two for him and two for Edwin the mage. One of Edwin's will be to go kill a Cowled Wizard. Aerie objects strenuously to this, and understandably so--it's a straight assassination. (Anomen and Yoshimo also have comments about this job, Jaheira and Minsc have interplay with Edwin, and Jaheira and Aerie have comments about Mae'var's final assignment.) The assassination is up to you; you may complete this quest or not. If you do not, you will never be able to bring Mae'var to justice, and he is one of the most evil characters in the game. You will also never get your stronghold if you're a thief. You will, however, still be able to align with the Shadow Thieves and finish the game with no problem. Personally, I had little sympathy for the jackbooted wizards who'd kidnapped Immie and given me the runaround about it. Your mileage may vary. On the fourth and final assignment, you are also asked to assassinate someone, but you don't actually have to kill him--there are at least three ways around it. (Keldorn and Anomen will quarrel over this, incidentally.) Once you've completed the task to steal a necklace, go around and talk to the other thieves in the building again, especially Zyntris and Anishai, for some amusing commentary. (-: Once you've finished all four quests you may ask Edwin into your party as an NPC if you like, and Renal will let you go wipe out the evil guild in a scene that reminded me of the end of The Godfather. It is possible to save one of Mae'var's prisoners (you don't get any XP for it, but it's a nice thing to do. I'd been hoping I might be able to save both, myself.) Once you've done that, if you are a thief, Renal will hand the guildhouse over to you, and you will get subsequent Stronghold quests out of this.

There is also a secret door in the Shadow Guild which you cannot get through. You will get access to this special level of the guild in Chapter Three.

3) Valygar's house is here, and you can learn where the ranger is hiding out by either interrogating the butler or searching the house, whichever is more to your playing style.

4) There are two unmarked houses on the other side of the Temple of Oghma from Valygar's house. The first seems to be empty. But wait--if you try to open the chest, someone sees you and calls the guard. What? Who? I thought this had to be some kind of bug or something, but then I looked closer. There was a cat in the house. "Impossible," I thought, but I reloaded and tried again killing the cat first. Yup. No alarm. The cat had called the guards. That is one damn well-trained cat! Of course, there's nothing worthwhile in the chest anyway, but I got a kick out of this. (-:

Next door, incidentally, is the guard barracks, and you can go in there and rob it blind right in front of all the guards. Maybe they should invest in a cat.

5) The tavern here is down a flight of stairs from another stairway landing, and it actually took me a while to notice it. Inside is a villain named Ployer with a grudge for Jaheira, and if she's in your party, you will get the Jaheira's Curse subplot. This subplot was very anti-climactic because the search for Ployer, clearly supposed to be a sleuthing job of several steps, was completely undercut by the fact that if you just wandered into his house earlier (and it's in the slums, the first area of Athkatla you pop up in, so you probably did,) you will have found a letter addressed to him, so you already know exactly where he lives. If you didn't, though, you can follow the little trail of clues around the slums district till you find him. The fighter-type in the corner of the bar, Dirth, will become important later in the game.

There is a secret door in this bar leading to a pirate hideout. Not part of any quest or anything, just a fun skirmish.

6) There is a priest of Cyric around here who wants you to convert. If you're snotty to him, he'll attack you; if you have a high wisdom you can talk your way out of a confrontation.

7) The dwarven smith Cromwell lives here, and he's your man for fixing broken artifacts and turning things into armor.

8) There's a merchant in the north part of town, Jahaboom, who will try to sell you a special locket for Jaheira if you're romancing her.

9) You can get the Invincible Lich quest in the basement of the trapped and locked house in the southern part of town (there are minotaurs hanging around on the ground floor). Basically, you can build an invincible lich, Kangaxx, and then kill him. Seeing as how he's invincible, this is quite a task. There are only three or four weapons in the entire game, I believe, which can damage him (Crom Faeyr and Carsomyr are two). Others have written veritable tomes on their strategies for success in killing him, and if you need to, you can consult them. This quest basically exists for the sole purpose of making a really tough fight for hardcore gamers to brag about having defeated, and it doesn't pretend otherwise, so if you like that kind of thing, strap on all the armor and spells you've got and duke it out, man.

10) There is an unmarked house upstairs from Cromwell in which lives an unnamed commoner who asks you to go away. I have found no use for this house whatsoever. There are a number of cabinets in here, each containing useless stuff like three gold pieces or a book; the lady of the house, though otherwise completely unremarkable, will actually notice you if you open one of them and call the guards. The Shadow Thieves should hire her--I opened every chest in their complex without any of them noticing.

11) Most of the people roaming town here have nothing special to say. There is one odd character, Crazy Celvin, who recites limericks about some of your characters (I saw ones for Jaheira, Anomen, and Aerie,) and one fisherman, down by the docks, had some small conversations with Anomen, Aerie, and Haerdalis. There are also a couple of characters who will appear here as called for in other plots--you won't see them until then, so don't worry about it. Finally, one of the harlots around town here has a sad story, and you can help her out if you're tender-hearted.

Athkatla Gate District

The biggest importance of this tiny district is that you have to pass through it to leave Athkatla, so if you want to do Nalia's keep quest (or go to Umar Hills or Trademeet,) you'll have to pass through here on your way out of the city.

1) A guy named Flydian is hanging around here and will give you the When Animals Attack quest in Trademeet. This is also the Druid Stronghold quest.

2) There is a tough trying to lean on a merchant for some money in this area. If you stick up for the merchant, he'll sell you some goods at a discount (after he does this he'll disappear, so buy anything you want in one go). The other two conversational choices (watching but not helping, and trying to egg the tough on to killing him) are interesting but have no result--the merchant will leave without selling you anything, and you won't be able to talk to either man again.

3) There's a Shadow Thief running drugs through the gate here. He pays the guards off with a sample of black lotus and leaves. I was unable to make anything happen with this scenario at all; I think it's just to show how corrupt some of the cops are. (Pickpocketing them does not yield the black lotus.)

4) There is one building here, the Crooked Crane inn. This very simple inn contains exactly two things: 1) a strange little plot about a couple of gangbangers in love, and 2) a secret door that leads to a fight with an extremely powerful lich. Don't go through #2 unless you're ready for a good hard fight. As for the kids, I get the feeling they are a reference to a movie I haven't seen. They're apparently a budding Bonnie-and-Clyde sort of duo who go around causing trouble together, everyone in town wants them to break up, but if you talk to them they'll renew their vows to live a life of crime together and trip merrily off. They may also be here as a bit of friendly self-mockery about all the "fix so-and-so's lovelife" quests in BG1&2, as they indulge in dialogue like "Wow, the total stranger is right! Let's change the direction of our lives completely!" and so on. As far as I can tell, though, there is nothing else of interest you can do with them, or with this area.

De'Arnise Keep

The Save De'Arnise Keep quest is completely straightforward: go in, kill the bad guys, and release the prisoners. Do talk to the Captain in the little fort near the secret entrance to the keep (it's not that secret, Nalia tells you exactly where it is as soon as you enter the map). You can do the quest with Nalia in your party or not--she'll wait in the palisade otherwise. If you bring her with, you'll get her running commentary on the keep and its contents, making it a slightly more interesting quest. However, she will need to be one of the first people an NPC sees in order for the fact that she's there to register, so if you (like me) kept her in the back, you may want to bump her up front for this quest. De'Arnise Keep is also the Fighter Stronghold quest, so if you finish it, your fighter will get some new plots later on.

There's an odd little bug inside the keep where a troll is attacking a servant--but if you kill the troll before the servant talks to you, when you try to talk to the servant you'll still get the dialogue where the troll kills him, even though the servant doesn't die and is still standing there. He won't talk to you, or recognize that you've saved him--he'll just keep giving you the "Help! Help!" line over and over again. I did this accidentally and was very confused. There's a second servant in the same area, though--Daleson--who will talk to you, and he has important information. The conversation with him is particularly illuminating vis-a-vis what a snotty and conceited bitch Nalia can be, but it's nothing worth letting her family die over. I just took it as a rationale for robbing her castle blind. Which you can do, incidentally, without her complaining at all. She's too busy talking about what a wonderful person she is. Ignore her and tromp on.

There is one character interaction worthy of notice within the keep itself, and that is Nalia's Aunt Delcia. This domineering matron will heap upper-class invective on you, and you unfortunately will not have any satisfying choices for responses. (You get offered a wealth of chilly, condescending, and cruel responses to your own friends, and the one time you really want to tell someone off, the best you can do is "Whatever, milady." :P ) The basic route is to ignore her obnoxious behavior and rescue her anyway. However, you do have two other options: if Nalia is not with you, you can kill her (losing the attendant reputation points), or if Nalia is with you, you can threaten to kill her (she and Nalia will get the snotty last word, and they will both leave without giving you the option of making good on the threat--even less satisfying than smiling and nodding, im-hoe). I do not have any idea how either of the kill-the-aunt scenarios affects the rest of the quest. Will you get credit for saving the keep? Will Nalia talk to you at all later, much less offer you your stronghold? Your guess is as good as mine--I didn't have enough interest in killing the old bat to play through the keep that way and see what happened. If you did, let me know.

Most of this keep is just a rollicking hack-n-slash, but a few things worth mentioning: it is possible to save the deranged guard Glaicus' life (though Nalia may need to be present). It is possible to get the goodies from the golem room (I did this by killing the golems, myself, but I did these quests in a very strange order and had already bested the Planar Prison, so it was less hard for me. It is possible to rob this room without such a display of brute strength.) It is, in fact, possible to use the dog meat from the courtyard on the umber hulks, as Daleson said you could in the very beginning. (I'd be amazed if anyone learned this before it was too late--it is not usually a valuable tactic to charge past a bunch of opponents, down the hall, and start opening doors and looking in containers while they gnaw on you. I know I certainly discovered the food bowl after already slaying all the irritating umber hulks. If you'd like to avoid slogging through the long, boring battle constantly waiting for your characters to become un-confused, though, you can scoot an invisible, hidden, or very fast character past with the dog food.)

Finally, by the time you have finished this quest, you will probably already have figured out who orchestrated this troll attack and why. To no avail, as you will not have the option of investigating this or suggesting it to Nalia. If you are a fighter you may eventually get some resolution to this--otherwise, you will have to content yourself with absconding with Nalia and refusing to let the bad guys take her back (which you will get some resolution out of).

Trademeet and the Druid Grove

You get a quest to come to Trademeet and clear up their When Animals Attack problem from a guy in the Gate District. When you first arrive, the people are suspicious of strangers and won't talk to you very much. Get to work solving their quest, and that will all change. This is the most ego-stroking area in the whole game. Solve their problems and watch the locals shower you with reputation points, rewards, and praise, and see the town change for the better right before your very eyes.

1) The main quest here is When Animals Attack. Talk to the mayor, Logan, and then go find out what the heck is wrong out here. Faldorn, incidentally, is an old friend from BG1, if you remember back that far--the Shadow Druid who clashed with Jaheira. She did not seem to remember me, though. This is also the Druid Stronghold quest. You won't be able to claim your stronghold till you're 14th level (though if you solve this quest before then, it is possible to go back and claim the grove later).

Solving the When Animals Attack quest is straightforward, but if you are evil, a second option will arise: an evil little halfling will come over and offer you some money to poison the druid grove and kill everyone, instead. There is really nothing to gain from doing this, but it certainly is evil, so if you're playing a priest of Talos or just trying to do everything in the game you haven't yet, then sure, go for it. It's a much more boring plot (the evil ones always are, somehow), but if you do use the poison, all your druids and rangers and some of the good NPCs (Aerie, at least) will leave the party and/or start attacking you over it, and Logan the mayor will hate you and refuse to give you future quests. It's also possible to agree, get the poison, and then just ignore the halfling and solve the quest the usual way. You never know when a big free flask of deadly poison might come in useful, after all.

2) Talking to the merchants around town and the Guildmistress will clue you into the Trade Embargo quest. Follow their instructions for a simple quest which will change the town into a better place to shop.

3) Once you've solved When Animals Attack, you'll get a lead on the Bride Of Ripper quest, if you've already solved the Jack The Ripper quest. When the serial murderer escaped, guess where he went? This quest was very, very easy to solve, but it was also engaging and highly satisfying, im-hoe.

4) Finally, once you've solved both When Animals Attack and Trade Embargo, there's one more service you can do for the grateful town--end the Family Feud between the Lurruxols and the Alibakkars. Meeting with one family pisses the other off, but they're looking for the exact same thing, so it doesn't matter which route you take. Give the requested item to one of the families and get sucked into the inevitable violence, or give it to Logan and avoid the violence. The former route will get you more money as well as Lord Alibakkar's cool armor; the latter will get you more XP and a reputation point.

5) Mazzy lives here with her family. You can chat them up--they're relatively polite about strangers barging into their house--and once you've saved her in Umar Hills, she'll return here if you're looking for her again.

6) There is a family of Gypsies outside the gate (not generic gypsies, either; Eastern European Rom. What they're doing in Amn I don't know...) The teenager will ask you for advice about traveling to the big city or staying with his parents; answer as you see fit, it has no real ramifications. The younger boy will have funny conversations with a few of your NPCs. But the interesting one is the woman, who tells fortunes. She will tell the fortune of each character who talks to her, though yours understandably freaks her out a little, and her fortunes are interesting and foreshadow ToB as well as SoA, so I definitely recommend talking to her with each of your NPCs first.

7) Other tidbits around Trademeet: It's fun to talk to everyone in town before and after you save it--their attitudes change remarkably, even though some of them don't like you any better than when you started! One of the little girls around here has a name, Lise, but I wasn't able to do anything special with her. There is a thief who comes out at night, near the graveyard--if you have hot goods you can sell them to him. (In fact, he is so dumb, you can sell him an item, steal it back from him, and sell it to him again!) In the bar there is a very odd man who will appear to immolate when you approach. If you send one of the NPC's into the bar alone the first time and chat him up a bit, you will learn that he's not immolating but being struck by lightning. Apparently this fellow is an in-joke of someone's, the "Human Lightning Rod" who attracts powerful people/items/beings like a magnet. Some seem to think he may have importance in Throne of Bhaal; we'll just have to wait and see. You'll probably see a few Lurruxols and Alibakkars dueling in here until you solve their feud, and there is also a lady waiting for her date to show up. Talk to her with your various male characters to expose her fickleness. (-: Neeber, a minor character from BG1, makes a cameo here. If you listen to every last one of his annoying comments, you will, as in the last game, get an XP bonus and a little present. Finally, out by the open-air markets, there are a pair of philosophers who will have a short conversation before one of them gets mad and kills the other. Let him, or stop him; either way the victor will make an irritating comment and leave. Haerdalis puts in his philosophic two cents if he is there, but no one tries to kill him for it.

8) There is very little in the Druid Grove beyond the quest solutions and a few trolls to kill. However, near the rakshasa's house there is a ruined tower whose importance initially eluded me. There is actually a door hidden in the darkness, and you can enter. Inside are some cows, bales of hay, and a hidden sword. Happy birthday.

Umar Hills

The Evil of Umar Hills quest, gotten from the panicky kid in the Government district of Athkatla, brings you out here. This is the Ranger Stronghold quest, so if you complete it, you will get your stronghold and some nifty side quests later in the game. Umar Hills is also a waystop in a couple of other quests you'll have picked up in the city. You'll have gotten good instructions from the previous steps in those quests.

1) The main quest here is the Evil of Umar Hills. Find out who or what is behind the mysterious slayings in Imnesville. Talk to all the townsfolk to hear their theories and postulations (the bartender's is especially funny if you've ever seen "Blair Witch Project"), and then start investigatin'. There are three locales the villagers point you towards: Umar Cave, a camp of ogres, and the cabin of Merella the Ranger. Once you've explored these three options sufficiently to know where the evil is lurking, the lair will appear on your map. Go forth and conquer!

The evil forest itself is unfortunately so dark it gave me eyestrain trying to pick anything out on the map, and I missed one area completely: the Wolf Cave, on the western side of the map. If you go in this little cave before going into the dungeon, you will meet a character who will give you some information and assist you in your assault on the forces of shadow, if you let her. Inside the dungeon you will meet another potential ally, Mazzy the halfling, who can join your group as an NPC. You don't have to take her with, but she has some comments as you pass through this place, a confrontation with the villain who killed her friends, and an interesting conversation with you at the end, so the dungeon really is more fun if she's along. You can leave someone waiting in the dungeon foyer, since you'll have to come back out this way anyway; or you can kill two birds with one stone by by sending someone back to the Copper Coronet, trading Mazzy for Valygar once her friends have been avenged, and then trading Valygar for the NPC you started with once you've brought him back to town. Or you can just keep Mazzy. She's a nice girl, and good with a bow. (Though if Valygar is also in your party, she'll get inexplicably arrogant and start ordering him to shine her shoes and such). As for the dungeon itself, a couple of the fights are difficult (the hardest one is avoidable with a small amount of stealth--but it's also winnable in Chapter Two if you're adequately beefed up and prepared), but everything else is quite linear. There's a multiple-choice quiz near the entrance which you can go around the dungeon collecting the answers for or, like me, just guess and take the damage each time you're wrong. If you were good at the SAT's you won't take enough damage to kill a fighter on this quiz. There is one item in this dungeon which will make no sense: half of a journal entry telling the location of some treasure. You won't be able to find it now--this journal is part of one of the Ranger Stronghold quests. If you're a ranger you'll be able to use this later, otherwise don't worry about it.

Finally, there is a statue down here which has a prominent place to put something but you have nothing to put there. Scratch your head over that and go on; you won't need this till much later in the game, and when you do, you'll know what it is.

2) If you solve the Evil of Umar Hills and are a ranger, the mayor will offer you the murdered woman's cabin, from which he has nicely cleaned up the bloody body and left some potions and other presents for you. From this point on, you will periodically get Ranger Stronghold Quests to help townsfolk and nature spirits and so on. They occur in a set order, every couple of days. The first one will only happen when you visit Umar Hills again on your own; for subsequent ones Delon will come and find you. For each quest you can talk to the mayor and the guardsman about it, and sometimes the townsfolk in the bar as well. (The mayor is kind of cute in his fretfulness--particularly if you pick any of the violent reactions to people threatening the town, when he'll start worrying you'll get in trouble and become a Fallen Ranger. (: )

The townsfolk will also have some different comments for you now that you're their ranger-protector, not all of which are butt-kissing. You can ask them how things are going, and they'll talk to you about the ogres, the town history, and recent events. It really kind of felt like it was my little town, actually. Don't worry about the people who seem to have disappeared--the only missing ones are the farmers, and they've gone back to their farms, now that it's safe to. Though the merchants claim they have more in stock now, unlike Trademeet, there are no new items you can actually buy there. (Well, except for things you've sold them from the dungeon you just looted. So come to think of it, their stock has increased, hasn't it?)

3) There's a small side quest here, the Golem Chaperone. A Cowled Wizard with a very bad attitude is trying to build a stone golem to keep his daughter Colette chaste, and he'll ask you to find a missing ingredient for him. If you follow this quest through and play your cards right, you will be able to effect a change of attitude in the old curmudgeon. (A side note: it is possible for the wizard to die during this quest, though I had to, uh, help it along a little by healing the golem. If this happens, Colette gets some different lines and you get less XP, but the young couple will still live happily ever after.)

4) There are some teenagers in town who want you to buy them beer and swords. I don't think there's much point to this mini-quest; do it and watch them get drunk and stupid, or don't and watch them sulk. Ahhhh, teenagers. (-: You can find their parents around town and listen to them complain about it; if you buy the kids beer but not swords or vice versa, the complaints will be a little different. You can find them and their keg inside the Umar Cave later, but you'll have to wait a day or two before they appear there, so be patient.

5) There's an even smaller mini-quest in town--if you're polite to Jeb, the crotchety farmer, he'll sell you some information about the chicken farmers and you can buy a special gem from them. This gem is an ingredient in upgrading one of the magic items, or you can sell it for a profit.

6) Valygar the ranger will give you a quest to enter the Planar Sphere in the Slums District and thwart his lich ancestor, who Valygar suspects wants to feed on him somehow. You can't do this quest without bringing Valygar with you. This will also be the Mage Stronghold quest, so if you have a mage, then by all means be sure to take Valygar up on this quest--you will get a cool stronghold, apprentices, and some future subplots for your trouble.

7) There may eventually be a use for the rare books merchant in the back of the Imnesvale Inn (the one who always says he has nothing in inventory,) but only if you are pursuing one of the romance plotlines and a few specific conditions come to pass--and even if that happens, you don't actually need this fellow to complete your romance plot.

Windspear Hills

This is a schizophrenic area. Most of the monster opposition here ranges from easy to pathetically easy. A few of the combats, however, are holy-shit hard. You could do 80% of this quest fresh out of Irenicus' dungeon and the other 20% was dubious going as my last stop before Spellhold. Then there's one battle that is incredibly difficult even near the end of the game. Luckily, you can opt out of that one (probably after trying it once and getting your ass kicked, like I did). By the time you're ready for that combat, the rest of this adventure would be well-nigh useless to you, so you might as well finish the rest of the map first and come back for the hard fight later.

Anyway, as soon as you enter the map you will fall into Jierdan's trap and get shanghai'd into the main quest of the area, Save Garren's Child. I'm not going to ruin it for you by telling you what the devious bastard is up to--there are numerous hints as you go along, so you'll probably be able to figure it out before it's revealed, and it's more fun that way. If Keldorn or Anomen is with you when you first enter this area, incidentally, you will learn the fate of Ajantis from BGI.

1) In Garren's house, his child will be a daughter, Iltha, if you are male, and a son, Taar, if you are female. If you are also a paladin, he or she will develop a big crush on you and offer to be your betrothed, but nothing will come of this no matter what conversational options you choose--it's just a kid with a crush, nothing more.

2) In the center of the map is a bunch of fighters and gnolls having a battle. The fighters' banter is rather amusing, and the battle had better be a breeze for you (otherwise get off this map right now, as you won't have a chance at the hard fights), so you might as well go over and stick your nose into it.

3) On the first floor of the dungeon, there's a mage called Ruhk the Transmuter. His creations are interesting, to say the least, but the Transmuter himself sucks, because he, like the evil wizard in the sewers, CHEATS. I absolutely hate wizards who, because they are bad guys and controlled by the computer, get to ignore spellcasting rules. I hit this guy three times while he was in the process of casting and it didn't stop him from billowing an annoying Death Fog out at me. Then I had to go wait around until it dissipated. If there was one thing I could have changed about this game, cheating villains would be it. :P Anyway, consider yourself warned.

4) There are a few monsters you can talk to on the second floor: a couple of orcs who want to surrender and will give you some information/hints if you let them live, and a rather weird troll chef who you can chat up for a while before fighting.

5) There is an optional subquest on the second floor of the dungeon, The Death Mask. You'll get it from a female adventurer named Samia who is roaming this level trying to get at the treasures of an entombed king. Only a descendant of the king can easily enter the tomb, and unfortunately none of your NPCs seem to qualify, so you'll have to find another way in. (Choosing the right conversational options with Samia will elicit a comment about "bosomy tomb raiders" clearly a tip of the hat at Lara Croft, by the way.)

6) On the second floor you will witness a werewolf fighting with an orc and a runty troll. If the troll is the last man standing, he will escape from the keep. I didn't interfere in this battle because I liked the troll better than the other two anyway, but there may be more to this little scenario if you do.

7) There is a secret room down here, in which there is an adamantite golem to fight with. I did not find this room on my first time through this game; it really takes some looking for. Send your thief cruising along the north wall slowly and you should find it no problem.

8) Finally, there are a few fighters down here who will try to get you to heal their wounded comrades. Talk things over with them and decide if you want to or not.

9) The difficult fight, I mean the really difficult one, which you will know as soon as you see it, will win you major brownie points at the Order of the Radiant Heart, so if you are a paladin, you'd do especially well to hold off on it till you've talked to them about it.

10) If you are evil, you can get a special evil quest from Lord Jierdan: Assassinate Garren. This is a very boring quest--kill the poor guy and bring back the proof, bang, XP. Frankly all the evil quests in the game were much more boring than the good ones, but that just goes to show you crime doesn't pay, right?

Chapter Three

Once you've raised $15,000 (not $20,000!), as soon as you enter any Athkatla city map you'll be approached by a member of the secret guild who offers to beat the Shadow Guild's offer... if, that is, you meet them in the graveyard at midnight. Unless your head is made of cottage cheese, you have by now figured out that this guild and the vampires you've seen wandering the streets at night slaying Shadow Thieves are one and the same. Even so, you may ally with either one you choose. I have not yet tried allying with the vampires. It seems a strange move to me, since the vampires were, if you recall, allies of Irenicus'. However, I've been told you can finish the game just as well with them (though the paladin-types will leave your party if you do.)

No matter which you choose, you will get a cutscene of Irenicus escaping from his cell and wasting some Cowled Wizards (who'd been giving my little sister the eye, so I didn't mourn their loss much), and then Chapter Three begins.

If you've allied with the Shadow Thieves, you will get a few encounters with pissy vampires in random places at night. Don't worry about their escaping gas clouds; at this point in the game there's nothing you can do to kill them in that form. Just kill their bodies, take the XP, thumb your nose at the gas and move on.

All of the areas available in Chapter Two are still available now, so you can still finish anything you were in the middle of. This will not be the case for quite a while once you leave Athkatla to rescue Imoen, so get yourself to a good stopping point and have the mix of characters you want to stick with for a while when you leave. A word to the wise: Spellhold is very hard to get out of, and most of your characters will not be able to return to Athkatla if you dismiss them there. The only ones I've found who can leave your party here without your stranding them in Spellhold forever are Imoen herself, Jaheira (though this may kill your romance with her), and Yoshimo. If you can't envision yourself rescuing Imoen only to tell her to find her own damn way home, be sure to bring either Jaheira or Yoshimo with the party so you can make room for her! (I really recommend bringing Yoshimo with you anyway--he has an interesting subplot in Spellhold, and it will bring you a huge chunk of XP to boot.)

New Athkatla Areas To Explore In Chapter Three:

1) The Shadow Guild cellars, through the unopenable locked door, can be opened by the key Gaelan gives you, and you can go through to meet with Aran Linvail. He is the only source of quests down here, but the level is large and full of ambience. It is best explored with one finger twitchily on the Q key, wondering how much you can explore and how much you can push these thieves without the whole guild assailing you (and this is not an idle threat, as they have an assassin who can kill your main character with one blow to effectively end your game). The Shadow Thieves on this level seem to have many more remarks available than most map characters, so spend some time chatting them up if you're in the right mood for this area--they have some interesting stories to tell. Personalities down here include Aran's rather boring moll, two friendly thieves who converse with each other as well as with you (the paladin-types get pretty pissy with these guys, leading me to fear violence was about to break out, but it didn't), some prisoners with interesting stories to tell (Aerie, Anomen, and Haerdalis have reactions), a torturer and his green apprentice (Jaheira and Anomen react to them), a coat-check girl who I found improbably funny (she's even better when Minsc and/or Viconia are around), a would-be traitor to the guild, and a passel of trainee thieves and their teachers. The traitor's mini-story and those of the trainees (one pair practicing combat, an archer receiving training, a kid being tested in the hall of traps, and a pair playing some sort of hunter-seeker game) give you brief but nifty glimpses into the world of the guild, though as far as I could tell you can't affect them in any way. Soak up the ambience, and move on.

You can, by the way, pickpocket Aran and Renal, but you need a pickpocket score of more than *200%* (I succeeded by giving Haerdalis potions of power, master thievery, and dexterity, and the gloves of pickpocketing)--and neither of these guys is carrying anything worthwhile in their pickpocketable inventory. As one final, odd note: on one of my trips through here, I killed the tortured prisoner. If you're aligned with the Shadow Thieves, it is impossible to kill the torturer, and I couldn't find any way to rescue this poor guy, so since he was being slowly tortured to death anyway, I thought I'd put him out of his misery when the torturer wasn't looking. Neither the torturer nor any of the Shadow Thieves reacted to this in any way, but I lost 8 reputation points and got 1200 XP! I have no idea why this should have been, but I suspect that if you come in here as an ally of the vampires, this prisoner may turn out to be more than he seems somehow. I'll have to try allying with the vamps next time...

As for Aran's Quests, there are three of them and they go quickly. The last involves destroying the vampire guild. Though Aran gives you four wooden stakes for this purpose and there are several others you can find in the game, only three coffins can actually be staked at Bodhi's for the time being. Stake all three and return to Aran for an exposition at long last (Yoshimo and Jaheira will contribute to it) and the transport you will need to Spellhold.

2) Bodhi the vampire's place is through the unopenable scary doors in the lower crypt. A friend of Aran's will open it for you once you've finished his other tasks and are ready to wipe them out; alternatively, I'm told that you can do these quests in reverse, with Bodhi letting you in to her hideout and giving you the means to go wipe out the Shadow Thieves. (I'm really at a loss as to why anyone with an intelligence above three would ever do this, given that the vampires have been clearly established as being on Irenicus' side, but I'm curious enough to try it out when next I get the chance.) If you've joined her guild, these vampires may have interesting things to say, but if you're there to wipe them out, the only interesting conversation in the place will be with Bodhi (who will escape no matter what you do, incidentally, so don't fret over her getting away).

Once you've secured passage to the Asylum (whichever route you took), it's on to Chapter Four!

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