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Arcanum Characters: NPC Guide

The NPCs in Arcanum are a very mixed blessing. They will make combat with anything of equal or lesser power to you extremely easy, for they will automatically run over and smite the enemies and deal with their own combat management. This is convenient. Even more convenient, those with healing magic (like Virgil) will automatically use it when people (like you) get wounded, and those with skills (like lockpicking) will automatically jump in and take over for you if their skill is higher than yours.

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Most convenient of all, they carry your stuff. I can't even imagine the annoying backpack management and constant running to the store soloing this game would entail; a friendly Sogg Mead Mug lugging your baggage around the realms is a godsend. Unfortunately, the NPCs also make combat with anything of greater power a nightmare. It is impossible to engage in tactics with them around. You can't sneak up on things; they will charge as soon as they sight an enemy. You can't draw a monster away from a group; they will charge the group. You can't get wimpier NPCs to stand behind stronger ones; they will charge to the front line. You can't get them to retreat when they're hurt; they will whine that they are about to die, but they won't flee and there's no way to tell them to. You can't coordinate an attack in any way. If you summon something, they will usually attack it and turn it hostile. (NEVER use that gem the halflings give you, for instance.) If you give them a weapon to carry or they pick one up off the ground (some NPCs are scripted to pick anything they can find up off the ground, even if it's much too heavy for them and completely worthless, so be careful breaking open chests and always dispose of rubbish in a container), they will often put away their own weapon and equip it even if it's cursed or their strength is too low to wield it. Basically, there is no way to use your superior intelligence and tactical skills against the game's AI, for your NPCs will drag you down to its level whether you like it or not. Consider it 'parity', and don't attack anything unless your guys have a clear advantage on paper.

Unfortunately, these NPCs don't have much to add to the game. Many of them have interesting backstories and quests to get them into your party, but once there, they don't do anything exhibiting a personality except occasionally comment on your critical hits and misses. Only some of them have voices, oddly enough, so some of the NPCs will speak their comments and others will only type. With the exception of Virgil, there are no special quests or quest options available if you have any of them in your party (to the best of my knowledge). Virgil, Magnus, and Raven are the only ones who ever even seem to get the occasional extra bit of dialogue. I haven't found that it matters at all to the plot which characters you take, so you can pretty much make your choices based on the kind of party type you prefer.

Virgil is probably the most interesting Arcanum character, and the only one with an actual story arc. He also has a voice, and will have a little interplay with Magnus later, though it's never resolved. The downside here is that he will leave your party at one point and come back, and his fresh template will have lost all the equipment and work you'd put into developing him. Bah. But at least he has a plot. Virgil has white-necromancy spells and can also pick locks. He'll join you right away if you let him, and if you don't, the very early game makes a little less sense.

Sogg Mead Mug is an ogre without much personality at all, but he does kick butt in a fight. He has no voice. You can meet Sogg in the bar in Shrouded Hills. You have to have a decent charisma to get him to join, but you need a decent charisma to have two followers anyway.

Vollinger is an evil gnome you can pick up in the bar in Dernholm, if you tell him your story and are his level (15). Virgil will warn you that he seems too eager to join, for "reasons of his own," and indeed he does, but you won't learn why until much later in the game, and even if you do it's underdeveloped and anticlimactic. Click here if you want details. Vollinger has no voice. He can build guns and chemistry tech.

Jayna Stiles is a technological healer from Dernholm. She will come with you if you have a lot of tech aptitude (main character only). No story, no voice. Jayna can build herbology and therapeutics.

Dante is a cleric you can pick up in the bar in Black Root, if you are good-aligned and don't insult his king. He has white-necromancy spells, air spells, and force spells, but no voice. If you finish the Taxman quest, he will leave the party again.

Magnus is a dwarf you meet outside Schuyler's and Sons in Tarant. He has an intro story involving Schuyler's and Sons and also has a voice, making him one of the more interesting characters (unfortunately he has no insights into any of the dwarven plots in the game, though you can get a bit of resolution to his backstory in the Iron Clan if you have him and Loghaire together). Magnus won't join you if you're evil, but doesn't seem to require your 'good' score being ungodly high. He has a little interplay with Virgil which never goes anywhere, unfortunately. Magnus can build tech from the smithy and mechanical schools.

Gar is the self-proclaimed "World's Smartest Orc!", and you can have him in your party if you rescue him from H.T. Parnell's (this requires intelligence and persuasion, at least two ranks of the latter). After that, as far as I know, he never does anything interesting again. He does have a voice, at least.

Chukka is Gilbert Bates' loyal ogre guard. He'll join you if you've sided with Gilbert and investigated the Black Mountain Dwarves for him, and your alignment is good. No voice, nothing to say or do. He looks and acts exactly like Sogg.

Dog is probably the best NPC in the game combat-wise. It's a little puzzling that you have to rescue him at first, given that he's far stronger than you are. He has the drawback of not being able to carry any stuff for you, but he also doesn't count as a follower, so he doesn't block anyone who can haul stuff from being in your party as well. You won't be able to ride the train anymore if Dog is in your party, but once you've reached Dog, the train can't take you anywhere you haven't been before anyway, so Teleportation or just plain using the World Map works just as well.

Geoffrey Tarellond-Ashe is a necromancer you can meet in Ashbury. He is evil and won't join you if you're good. He does have a voice, though it's so annoying you may wish he didn't. Geoffrey has black-necromancy spells, fire spells, and force spells.

Torian Kel is an ancient warrior you can free in the Ancient Temple (learn its location in Ashbury). He's a rather interesting fellow and has some reactions to the endgame, but you can only have him if you're evil, and as far as I know you will never have the chance to rescue his fallen compatriots.

Waromon is one of the lizardmen in the Bedokaan village. He will join your party only if you're persuasive, do not attack the lizardmen, and talk the chieftain out of killing the human poachers.

Jormund is a dwarven mage in Qintarra who will join you once you solve the murder quest there. He learns fire and force spells, but he has dwarven spellcasting penalties.

Raven is an elven mage who will eventually join you in Qintarra. She learns white-necromancy and water spells. Raven also has a voice, and a very pleasant one at that. If you're male, good, not terribly stupid, and an appropriate race, Raven will get the hots for you; though this never develops into anything resembling an actual plot, it's more character interaction than you get from most of the Arcanum characters, so she's probably worth having along in that case.

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