69 — Planescape Torment

–Okay! So the puzzle I was stuck on: I needed a crowbar to repair the Alley of Lingering Sighs, which would have been easy if I hadn’t sold the crowbar. I couldn’t find another one–I scoured the world as much as I could, and couldn’t find a merchant who had one. I found a list online of which merchants sold what, but couldn’t find one I had access to who sold it.

This being the PC world, the natural thing to do was to find a save game editor–just slap in a crowbar, I figured, maybe even one or two of the side quest items I sold, and move on–play legitimately for the most part, just undo a small but significant series of mistakes in order to avoid replaying the first 10 hours of the game–because goddammit: I’ve played that Mortuary a half dozen goddamn times and I am not going to do that again.

The first program I found was more or less exactly what I wanted–you can look up your characters and add items to them from a list. Easy: Drop in a crowbar, add some prayer beads and Ulf’s knife, and call it a day. Problem: The particular trainer did not list the crowbar as a potential item, apparently because everyone was too busy adding magic swords and shit. The next two trainers didn’t even work on my computer–something about missing DLLs.

Finally, I found a program that listed every merchant I had talked to, and let me edit their inventory as far as prices and such. I found one who had a crowbar in his inventory–but this program didn’t let me edit my *characters’* inventory. And even moreso, while the merchant had a name in the save game editor, I got no hits from searching for the name online and found no clues for his location. So I went back to the original save game list, found the merchant the editor mentioned–I overlooked him the first time through–and finally was able to traipse over there, buy the damn thing, and move on.

Sometimes cheating is so much effort it’s not cheating at all.

–One of the more badass parts of the game is the NPCs. In many ways, Planescape’s main tale is a frame–while you’ve certainly got an interesting narrative going on, and your story does appear to touch a lot of crucial points in the world, you’re also not the only one who’s got a narrative. Planescape isn’t the only game to do this–but it does it remarkably well.

Many games do this as far as making their side quests interesting and connected to the world, but Planescape is, moreso than any other game I’ve played in a while, really concerned with giving even one-off NPCs a backstory. I just had a conversation with a guy–he’s a doorman/guide, and far as I can tell his entire role in the game is to provide directions for the building you’re in. And if you ask him about himself, you find out he’s the ruler of another dimension who’s spending a few centuries doing guard duty–he’s fascinated by the faction who owns the building and is studying their philosophy. Because of the nature of time in your dimensions, he explains, the centuries amount to a couple of months in his world, and so the Queen is ruling in his place while he essentially studies abroad. There are plenty of copy and paste NPCs running around, certainly, they’re just set dressing to make the city feel crowded, but you have enough characters on every screen with an unusual story or something to say that it gives the feeling of being among people who consider themselves to be their own story’s protagonist, and who have the right to.

–Favorite side quest: At the shop of a talkative, cheery coffin maker, noticing a sickly, quiet looking man hanging around. He just wandered in one day, the coffin maker explains, he’s become a regular–a particular hilarious term considering the business–and though he never buys anything, he’s great to talk to–even calls the man his best friend in a little scrap of chatter.

Talking to the man, you quickly realize he’s a zombie, who explains that the coffin maker is just *so* talkative that he’s starting to annoy everyone in the neighborhood. A magician came up with the solution to create a zombie to be the coffin maker’s friend and keep him from bothering everyone. Which would work fine…except at the point you meet the zombie, he’s grown absolutely sick of the coffin maker; your quest is to find a way to put him out of his misery.

–And nearby, a beggar woman, a member of the Githzerai, a people from the dimension of Limbo. You’ve got a Githzerai in your party, and he talks to her. She’s dying–the neighborhood is plagued by fumes from abyssal dimensions and she’s essentially got Hell Cancer–she’s lost her job, and she’s suffering on the street. By custom, he can kill her and relieve her of her pain. It’s your call–and it’s notable that one of the options is “kill her as painfully as possible”, which I couldn’t even begin to consider.

–And I suppose it’s significant that, in a game whose ultimate goal involves figuring a way to break free of your own inability to die, that there are more than a few quests centered around, meet a suffering person and help them die.


4 thoughts on “69 — Planescape Torment

  1. God damnit Richard. You’re supposed to give a new article a *new* title. It’s not like you’re the god-king’s son who’s pretending to be his dad to keep the treacherous viziers in check.

  2. I’m glad you finally got going with PT. It’s something that really has to be experienced, especially given your RPG leanings!

    Sadly the lacklustre combat becomes more of a thing as you pull into the lategame. Some of my friends (massive PT nerds who’ve played it over and over again) swear by Cloudkill as a way to cheese through a lot of tough combat. I don’t rate Cloudkill that much, but the principle of area effect spells that lock all character movement while the animation plays out is good. It’s certainly preferable to getting into those loops where you wait for THAC0 rolls to produce ludicrous hitpoint losses versus the tough mooks you encounter later on. Some of the boss fights are fun, though – at those points you don’t mind pulling everything out of the bag.

    The crowbar story is pretty funny. Glad you finally got that sorted in the end! It’s a long time since I used a character editor. The last time was probably FalChe for Fallout 2… I’m frankly surprised I remember the name of the editor software.

    Your final observation in this post – man, how did I not spot that when playing through earlier this year?!

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