Part Six: Redcliffe


 

The three travel north to Lothering, and a mabari hound Valorien aided manages to find them and bonds with the elf. He is named Tarroth, an elvish word for ferocious attack. Morrigan and Alistair hardly stop sniping at each other, you’d think they were dating. Alistair goes on about how she is unsupervised by the Circle of Mages which is penalized by death if the Templars ever catch up to her. She gets on his case for being a wuss and subordinating himself to a new recruit. Valorien manages to get along with both, somehow. He explains to Alistair (out of Morrigan’s hearing) that she only acts tough and abrasive because of her lack of confidence. This doesn’t help much.

They also pick up Leliana, a novice of the Chantry (ie a nun) with an apparently checkered history as a former…? spy? assassin? thief? And currently a bard, who feels a divine calling to fight the Blight.

After resupplying at Lothering, Alistair suggests that the Arl of Redcliff, Eamon, might be a willing ally. He also reluctantly explains that he is the illegitimate child of the former King Maric and a servant of the Arl, who had been raised by Eamon here in Redcliff. And, though he has absolutely zero aspiration to the throne, the nobility of Ferelden might have other plans for him.

Unfortunately, the Arl is deathly ill, the castle is sealed, and the village is under siege by undead fiends that attack by night. Valorien does his best to try to rally the demoralized militia, but his interpersonal skills…. leave a lot to be desired. He can’t get the dwarf and his bullyboys to come out of their hidey-hole, he can’t get the blacksmith to even talk to them let alone repair any weapons, and he can’t even get the priestess to give her blessing to the militia.

Nevertheless, he assures the captain of the militia that the Grey Wardens’ ragtag band will be there at sundown to aid the troops. Morrigan pipes up, “Oh yes, we can throw away our lives here, like the rest of these hopeless fools who don’t have the sense to leave.”

 

Valorien ignored this comment, at least until they got out of the chantry. He turned to her on the steps. “Morrigan, do you wish to leave our company?”

“No, I don’t feel any pressing need to leave you. Yet.”

“Then you will hold your tongue.”

“What? I’m not allowed to have an opinion?” she huffed.

“Your opinion is valid, but once I have made a decision, you will not mock my orders. Especially not when our allies’ morale is this low.” He fixed her with his steely gaze a moment, but he didn’t waste time asking her if she understood, nor waiting for an apology. “Go send for Leliana. I have a job for her.” He turned and moved to observe the militia’s archery practice.

For once, Morrigan didn’t seem to have a witty comeback. Without a word she went off.

Alistair looked down at Tarroth. “Ow,” he said to the dog, quietly so no one else could hear. “Sent back to camp like a naughty child.” He tsked and shook his head.

 

Valorien had Leliana break into the smithy so they could confront the drunken blacksmith. He was too absorbed in his grief over his missing daughter who served in the castle, but with the Grey Warden’s assurance they would investigate into her whereabouts, as well as a little pep talk, he was soon busy repairing and improving the militia’s armament.

 

At dusk, a ghostly force issued from the castle. The defenders were hard-pressed, and the captain killed, but the town withstood and the townspeople were safe in the chantry. Dawn came, and they spoke to Eamon’s younger brother, one of his knights, about investigating the castle. Then to everyone’s surprise, the Arlessa Isolde herself came to them with one of her footmen. She begged the knight to return with her, but would not explain exactly what force was holding her and her family in the castle. She forbade anyone else to return with them, but the knight gave the Grey Wardens a key to a secret passage to the castle grounds.

They managed to work their way into the castle, where they discovered the awful truth. The Arl was not sick, but poisoned by an apostate — a renegade blood mage — and his son was possessed by a demon. The blood mage appeared to be repentant, and offered a solution to freeing the child’s spirit from the Fade, but this solution would require intense magical power. Power that could only be summoned by a full circle of mages, or by one blood mage if he used the lifeblood from one person. Or, they could kill the child; that would break the demon’s ties with the real world.

The Arlessa agreed to give her life to save her son. Morrigan agreed to seek the child’s spirit within the Fade. And so the boy was saved at the cost of his mother’s life. The Arl was beyond recovery of poultice or magic, however. Except one nearly mythical cure — the ashes of Andraste, a holy martyr. If the Wardens want the Arl’s aid in reuniting the conflicting factions, they would need to find this… and hope it works its miracle.

 

Alistair approached Valorien at camp after they left Redcliff. “Now that we’re out of the castle, I’ll feel free to say this to you. How could you let Isolde be killed by that blood mage!”

The elf took a half step back at this uncharacteristic vehemence. His voice remained level, however. “It was her choice.”

“Of course she chose that– she felt guilty! That doesn’t mean she deserved to die! We could have found another way.”

“The only other way was to use a Circle of mages. I did not see a Circle there in the town, did you?”

“The Tower is not far north of here,” said Alistair. “We could have gone there for help.”

“That town would not have survived another night assault. The only other choice would have been to kill the child. Would you have preferred that?”

“No….” Alistair lowered his head. “But if Eamon awakes and finds out we let his wife die….”

Valorien regarded him narrowly. He recalled that the Arl had raised Alistair, and the Arl’s wife…. had not been kind to him. Wisely, he did not say anything about that, however. “The Arl will understand.”

“I hope you’re right.” With a mixture of sorrow and guilt, Alistair set about making the camp’s dinner.

 


Mod Work


 

i took a vacation or something from ‘doing stuff.’ i did muck around a little tiny bit more with the background npcs for the ‘get a room’ short. i really don’t want to have to animate them in the cutscene editor. i’m going to end up doing so, anyway. i should just do it.

today i worked on the tailor shop scripts. things are going fairly well. i got the book catalogue working, and the conversation starting. i got the npcs switching outfits and not interrupting the conversation (so’s you’d notice). tip: it works SOOOooooo much better when you put the condition check script in the conditional check script slot, not in the action script slot. :X

i couldn’t get them to use their own stages, but it’s not too hard to get them to use one stage and go back home afterwards. probably a tonne easier than getting the stages to appear on the correct spot on the fly.

the previous item script is acting wonky. it goes back to the previous item, then flips between that and the item you just viewed. i’m at a loss to explain that one; it’s the same script as the next item script, but with a — and a < 0 check to set it back to (max – 1). unless equipping an outfit changes the npc's inventory order, because i'm going through their inventory list. and reading the list each go-round. i don't think an object list/array can be stored anywhere.

maybe we'll just skip that part :X

i haven't even started the purchase from conversation script. it could be entirely possible that there is no way to get a value for an item from scripting. but i didn't really look. ah, what the heck, i'll make 'em all 3 coppers :X

should also add some store credit to the convo, since the default pc is broke.

 

after all this, then i'll have to figure out how to hook it into the main campaign. hopefully, it won't be all *that* hard.

 


Mod Work


 

remember the post where i mused about making a tailor shop for denerim? yeah, i’m working on that. in fact, i have a lovely little shop built, and some nice npcs ready to model clothing. i have an inkling how to incorporate it into dragon age via the prcsrc… or whatever initials it is. but first… i have to get the scripts working.

the conversation is done, and… uh, i think it’s using the stringIDs in my assigned range… so today i started on the scripts.

the first script i think i will have to scrap. i was going to have the merchant store load the npcs with the inventory. that way, to add any custom clothing you add to the game, you would just have to throw it into the merchant inventory and export that. but, although i can get a lovely list of all the objects in the merchant inventory… there doesn’t seem to be any way to actually hand them off to the npcs. gah.

doing the previous/next outfit swapping seems to be simple enough. (heh!) though i have read on the forums it might not be possible to swap equipment DURING a conversation. it might need to be done between conversation iterations… which i have planned for, but i’m trying the direct approach first.

alas, i couldn’t test it today, because the npcs’ conversations wouldnt start. i figure this has something to do with my script that replaces the creature_core. i DID tell it to run the creature_core after my script, but… the core script might not be able to find the conversation as i assigned it to the npcs. or something. but, i think i can fix that. i’ll just handle the conversation in my script. i might not even need creature_core. it’s not like these guys will be fighting or dying or anything involving AI.

 


Music Video: HeadGames


 

after putting together two game-footage music videos for bannon & zevran, and having tinkered with doing some short scenes in the toolset, i wanted to do a full custom music video for the pair. the first thing i needed, though, was a song that characterized them and their relationship. i started cruising the foreigner backlist, and several of their songs had the right flavor: “Urgent,” and “Tooth & Nail” got on the short list. i think “Headgames” was always on the top of the list, because although it’s quite easy to have sex with the guy, it’s like pulling teeth to get any sort of meaningful relationship out of him! of course, i love it. all my characters have issues, too.

i didn’t keep a proper log of the time spent on this machinima video. when i started my blog here in february, i see that i had already finished several scenes. so it did take me three months, although i took breaks in between to do the shrek mixed-up fairytale, and the zevran & rinna vignette.

 

Bannon & Zevran in HeadGames

 

Director’s Notes


the video starts out right off the bat with some “tent scene” action. i used the intro to do a shot of the moon and a pan down over the tents at night, to give the homophobes the idea that they should flee the theater right away.

but the story begins right there, and of course the morning after when bannon finds out zevran just picked him out and seduced him for his own amusement. (not that bannon can complain, what with his record with the ladies.) of course, bannon lies and says it doesn’t mean anything to him, either.

and so they go on, bannon trying to work out his feelings for zevran, and zevran… maybe he starts to have feelings too. but since they’re not really talking to each other honestly about it, well.

oh, then wynne has her two cents. bannon went to her for advice, lot of help *that* was. and of course, the animation that always makes me want to punch zevran in the face… him standing around camp, smugly looking at his nails. (or glove or whatever!) bannon has a good facefx studio shot (divided into two sequences). one thing lacking in that is bending the neck down. :/

then the video departs from the story canon — just for dramatic purposes, you know. bannon is steamed, so he decides get under the assassin’s skin by making time with the ladies. of course this works great, sparking an all-out argument so they can get it out of their system and make up.

i’m really happy with how the caress at the end turned out. i was worried about being able to pull off that shot. but hey, i didn’t even need facefx studio. thank the maker. animating bannon’s hand wasn’t that hard, either. mostly it is just a left-hand-pointing animation. i did add another l_arm animation to it, a sort of partial shrug, to get him to turn the hand over a bit. that, and i yanked him around and rotated him all over the place. the hardest part t all that, though, was making sure his head didn’t get in the camera view.

 

and poor alistair, all he gets in this video is a shot of the back of his shins. i’m really fond of that scene, though. it’s supposed to show the guys coming back to camp from a rough day of… um, actually i guess they were shopping, since zevran has a bag of stuff. oh no wait, i’m sure they were killing and looting. yeah, that’s it. anyway, they’re supposed to be tired and glad another day of battling darkspawn is over.

 


Cutscene Work


 

so i worked saturday and sunday mornings on the headgames video — things went well! mostly. i started doing scene R2 in a new cutscene, so i copied the last animations and keyframes from R1 into it. buuuuut…. bannon was using gad in one of his prior animations, so his positioning was off. come to think of it, zev’s position didn’t seem quite right, either. i nudged them into place, and then did this great move and camera circle-dolly just right.

and then i realized if i tried to splice this on the end of the R1 sequence, there was no way in heck it would match up properly. ::sigh:: so i copied the whole of the R2 sequence and pasted IT back into the end of R1. well. it was off again! due to the positioning with gad vs no gad. so i had to hammer it back into shape. and… i think it lost some quality during all that. :/

then i hammered out some more sequences on the end of R1. different camera positions, but i figured i had the guys there in the scene, i might as well leave them there and not have them jump around, possibly. whatever. then some closeups and two facefx files. you know how much i love working in face fx. blah!

i swear, zevran has some kinda facial muscle paralyzation or SOMEthing, because i slap a smile facefx on him, and his lips don’t move. cripes, i slap one on bannon and i have to run back to facefx and turn the sliders down, or else his lips start stretching out and migrating north or something. yes, all despite the fact i’m using the elf male preview face in face fx studio. AND… to top it all off, i bet it has even a third variation look when i play it in game.

but i AM happy because i finished the ‘very difficult shot’ sequence. AND, i’m even impressed with it. (this will degrade over the next week, though.) i didn’t want to ‘spoil’ it for anybody, but i’ll tell ya what it is… it’s a shot where bannon caresses zevran’s face with the back of one hand. along his tattoo, ya know? it’s very sweet. oh, and i didn’t use the facefx studio for it, either. i thought i’d have to, but i’ve got these built-in face and head animations down pretty well.

i just have the last 19 seconds of the song left to fill in. and i have an idea what i’m going to do! i’m excited to go to work on that. THIS WEEK, the sucker will be finished! and crud, i forgot to tally my hours of work on it again. uhm… 3 hours saturday and… 3 1/2 hour sunday.

 

in related news, TW is finishing up her zevran video! i can’t wait to see it!

 


Work


 

Part Five of Valorien’s story is up, here. Over on Winds, the original post has had another piece added to it. It seems I am about five or six posts away from ending that one. Which means onward to the huge monster that is Bannon & Zevran.

 

I told TW that I’d finish the Headgames video this weekend, if she’d do her Zevran video. Her calendar might actually be clear for doing that…!

After that, I should hammer on ‘Get a Room,’ and ‘Pain.’ The latter *will* be a pain, as it is all custom scenes. Maybe I will also work on my 300 Wardens trailer, since that at least can use some pre-made cutscenes.

Heh, and I can’t forget the music video I ‘need’ to do for Valorien’s story. I wonder if the camp area would suffice for that, or if I need to make a new area. Ugh.

 

And, hey, I thought of an add-on for Dragon Age Origins I can do! Yes, a tailor shop in Denerim! I was looking at some of the romance mods; someone had some nice togetherness scenes with Alistair. And they had him wearing clothes. You know, to relax in? Not heavily armored? And I was thinking… you know… Alistair doesn’t *have* clothes. In fact, does anybody? If you’re a City Elf, you’re in luck, because you get everyday clothes and fancy wedding clothes!

But seriously, if you want to dress up in some snazzy outfits that are in the game… you just can’t. Until I make my new mod, and you can buy them in Denerim! Now, if I could also figure out how to port over the NWN item stat transfer scripts….

 


Part Five – The Wilds


 

val survives and becomes a full fledged grey warden of course. a new battle approaches. loghain approves king cailen’s plan: part of the army will stand with the king below the bridge to ostagar while loghain keeps his troops in reserve. when the signal fire at the top of the old tower is lit, loghain’s forces will slam into the darkspawn flank.

duncan assigns alistair and valorien to activate the signal. when they get to the tower, though, it is crawling with darkspawn coming up from below. they fight their way through to the top and light the fire, but there is no way they are getting down again with the tower overrun. at the last moment, they are rescued by a giant bird (no really!)

the bird is flemeth an ancient witch of the wilds, and morrigan’s mother. morrigan is a nasty witch they met before. she tells valorien how her mother rescued them and brought them to the wilds. also, despite their heroic efforts to light the signal fire, loghain failed to engage his troops. thus, the darkspawn slaughtered everyone else, not the least of which were king cailen and duncan. and all the grey wardens. morrigan tells valorien that alistair is a total wreck over duncan’s death, so valorien goes to him to try to straighten him out.

 

 

Morrigan wasn’t exaggerating; Alistair’s face was haggard, his eyes red-rimmed. He looked up at Valorien’s approach. “Ah, you’re up at last. We thought we were going to lose you.”

“I will bear a scar, but I am hale. Are you well?”

Alistair nodded, then sagged and shook his head. “Everyone’s dead. Ser Jory, Tara, Estavan… all the Grey Wardens — gone. King Cailen is dead. Duncan… I can’t believe he’s gone.” He put his hand over his face. “Loghain just abandoned us to die.”

“Do you want to talk about Duncan?”

“Do I want to talk about Duncan? To you?” The intensity of his grief made his voice waver. “You hated Duncan! You’re probably glad he’s dead.”

“No. I am not.”

“But since he is, you don’t have your oath keeping you here any longer. You can leave any time you want; go back to your own people.”

“I did not swear my oath to Duncan. I swore it to the Keeper of my Clan. I will serve as Grey Warden, and until this Blight is ended, I cannot return.”

Alistair looked up at him. “You do realize that if it weren’t for Duncan, you’d be dead by now. Or worse. He had to do what he did.”

“Yes. I understand.” The elf’s voice did not soften one bit.

“Can’t you see it in your heart to forgive him?”

Valorien lowered his head. “Not today.”

“Not today? What does that bloody mean?”

“It means I know he did what was best for us all. But in my heart, there is still anger. In time, I shall forgive him. But not today. Elves do not let go of their grievances so easily. I will not lie to you, Alistair. Not even to spare your feelings.”

“Thanks for that,” he replied glibly. “Duncan was everything to me. He turned my life around, gave it real meaning. He was like a father to me, and a friend, a brother, a mentor. He was the first real family I ever had.”

“I have recently lost someone dear to me,” Valorien said quietly. “It is hard to go on, even when you know you must.”

Alistair nodded. He ducked his head and rubbed his eyes. “You’re right. Duncan would want me to carry on, to do whatever it takes. Though with only two of us, I can’t imagine how we’re supposed to defeat an entire army of darkspawn.”

“We do not have to.”

“What do you mean?”

“To stop a Blight, the Archdemon must be killed. That is only one creature.”

“Yeah… one huge, angry, demon-possessed, pissed-off, half-mad DRAGON. Surrounded by an entire darkspawn army.” Alistair shrugged. “When you put it that way, it sounds easy.” He began to regain some of his blithe attitude, or at least the veneer of it. His eyes were still shadowed with grief.

“Can we not circumvent the army? Skirt the fringes until we discover the Archdemon’s lair?”

“No. You know that little trick the Warden’s have of sensing darkspawn?” Valorien nodded. “Well the thing is, they can sense us as well. There is no way we could be anywhere near them and they not know it.”

“Leaving us no chance, instead of a very slim one.”

“One we definitely wouldn’t survive, either way.”

“That is not important. Stopping the Blight is all that matters.”

Alistair looked into Valorien’s eyes, those steel blue, unflinching eyes. Clearly, he meant what he said. Alistair recalled what Duncan had told him, that Valorien wanted to do the right thing. He began to realize what the Chief Warden had meant, what Duncan saw in Valorien. He saw an honorable man, unflinching in the face of his enemies, unshakable in the heat of battle. A man who would do the right thing.

“Be that as it may, no Grey Wardens have ever been able to defeat a blight without an army at their backs.”

“Would these help?” Alistair jumped at the sound of Flemeth’s voice; even Valorien startled. She waved Alistair’s scrip at them.

“What are you doing with my papers?” he yelped.

“They were my papers longer than they were yours. Maybe I shouldn’t have let you take them, if I’d’ve known you would be so careless with them.”

“Of course! The treaties! I forgot I still had them with me.”

“Hmph! See what I mean.”

“Flemeth, you’re an angel!” He took the packet from her hand while she was still stunned at the unbridled compliment. “These promise aid to the Grey Wardens in times of Blight. Every nation is here, even the Circle of Magi.”

“Dwarves, Elves, Wizards, and men… sounds like an army to me,” mused Flemeth.

Morrigan came over. “Mother, the stewpot is on. Will we be having four at dinner, or only two?” Her emphasis indicated her preference for the latter.

“The Grey Wardens will be going north to Lothering.”

“Oh good.”

“And you will guide them there.”

“So sorry to see you g– what!?”

Alistair saw Valorien cover his mouth, as if to stifle a polite cough. Was the elf… laughing?? He was sure of it, though it was impossible to tell from Valorien’s stony expression.

“Gather your things, dears,” Flemeth told them. “You should leave before darkfall.”

 

While Morrigan said her goodbyes to her mother, Alistair drew Valorien aside. “Before things get awkward, I want to clear something up. You know I was made a Warden only a few weeks before you.”

“You are the senior Warden of rank. I understand. I will obey your command.”

“Um… actually, no. I’d really prefer if you took the lead, and I will follow.”

Valorien quirked a brow. “Why?”

“I’m really bad at making decisions.”

“There are no bad decisions,” the elf told him. “Only different outcomes.”

“Yeah… some of those outcomes are bad,” Alistair insisted. “Look, I just really, really hate making decisions. I’m no good at it. I’m a terrific follower, though.”

The elf regarded him a moment, his arms folded. Alistair braced for a scathing criticism. But instead, Valorian only said, “Our Hunters do not have a hierarchy like the humans do. All are equal, and we make decisions together.”

“Well, we have committees that try to do that… but how does that work when you don’t have time to discuss everything? Like in battle, or an emergency or something like that. What’s to keep everyone from running around in different directions?”

Valorien shrugged. “Each knows his skills and that of his companions, and how each would best be deployed.”

“All right, but since I’m only human and we don’t know each other all that well…. If something like that comes up, you give the orders. I’ve seen you lead; you are more than qualified.”

“As you wish.”

 

Morrigan joined them, looking more introspective than usual. Her manner was scathing as ever, though. “All right, Mother wants me to guide you, spirits know why. I can’t imagine why you need my help.”

“You could cook,” offered Alistair.

“Cook!?”

“You do not have to cook, Morrigan,” Valorien said placatingly.

“Well you lost your chance there,” Alistair told him. “I’m a terrible cook.”