It seems that lately our biggest adventure in NWN online is overcoming technical difficulties. Sunday’s session was another, and for awhile, things did look bad.

First, Bioware announced they were taking down the entire online network, including the master NWN server, which authenticates players (i.e. they have a legit copy of the game). Everything would be out 5 am – 5 pm MT Sunday.

Eeek! However, Gamespy, through which we all connect, would be running normally. Then, very fortunately, Kira and Grace (Dell and captaincrisis, respectively) got to work and discovered it was possible to log in anyway. WHEW!

Only when the DM brought up the module, it crashed on area transition. The same mod we were in last week. Right now, we don’t know why. The two differences were: (a) the DM had installed LOTR online, and (b) the master server was down. We ought to have a good idea next Sunday which it might have been.

As it turned out, only one area crashed, and that could be avoided. We voted unanimously, of course, to go on with the session. And you know, except for Nel and me each losing (dialup) connection once, everything ran smoothly (so to speak) right to the end.

So there we were in the Laughing Dragon, discussing Nel’s problem, when he walks in with a stranger who called himself “Tarthas The Mighty”. A wizard, of course.

He was met with no little hostility and suspicion. Kit asked him “mighty what?”, and Stony figured he could add “blowhard” (but didn’t say so). Most of the conversation was with Nel, and how he was feeling, because he didn’t seem to be quite himself.

Finally we got around to the wizard, who was an annoying person: haughty and longwinded. Kit and Stony were the most outspoken in their comments to and about Tarthas, and the rest were slightly more polite.

Except Sevia, who, being a wizard herself, seemed to almost drool over Tarthas, much to the disgust of the others. And Nel, who was already regarding Tarthas as a friend, somewhat to the party’s dismay.

Over the course of a lengthy interrogation/exposition, we learned that Nel had not returned whole from the shadow realm. Part of his soul was still trapped there.

Kit in particular was almost dancing with impatience as Tarthas took his time explaining it all. Even Kira seemed close to losing her temper. Finally Tarthas got around to telling us he’d done a ritual to keep Nel going for awhile longer, but needed an “artifact of power”, the Stone of the Eth’barat, to reunite Nel’s soul with the rest of him.

Tarthas was doing this all out of altruism, he said. Stony didn’t believe a word of it, nor did Kit, and I suspect others were a bit dubious, too. Especially when Tarthas said he could portal us to where the artifact was, but couldn’t come himself because he suffered from “portal sickness”. Suuure.

But we had no choice; this looked to be Nel’s only chance for survival. So we bought some supplies. Then Tarthas asked if someone might make a map of the ruins (or whatever). Grace (our best bargainer when Nel’s not himself) managed to talk Tarthas into a fee of 1500 gold – each! – in return for a good map (gotta love them bards). Half up front, and half on the return.

So we equipped a bit more, and then all of us, including Nel, went through the portal and ended up in a valley somewhere. With no idea of which way to go, we chugged north and ran into a bunch of Gnolls.

Stony was happy. Finally, normal opponents! No undead, no shadow critters..whee! Everyone was doing well against them. We fought our way through scattered bunches to a cave entrance.

Just as we debated whether to enter, more Gnolls came out from the cave. When that fight was over, Nel seemed to be missing. He hadn’t waited, he just walked in.

There was nothing we could do but follow, and there were a lot more Gnolls in there. They almost seemed to be coming out of the walls. This turned out to be quite a fierce and lengthy combat, and everyone was panting by the time it was over. Bleeding, too.

The exertion seemed too much for Nel. He walked a short distance from the party and collapsed. After awhile, he managed to regain his feet, but we were all concerned about his condition.

Stony was wondering if Tarthas had really done anything for Nel, but kept his thoughts to himself. Meanwhile, Kit had found a couple of minor items stashed in an altar: a cloak and some spells. She kept the cloak. Sevia took at least one of the spell scrolls.

The cave was cleaned out and not what we were looking for, so we left it and continued searching the area. We walked right into a nest of nasty bugs. Stony hates these things; from the very beginning, he’s had more trouble from them than most anything else (anything hitable, that is).

This was a desperate fight (the dice were not kind). The bugs had a lot of hitpoints and some of them hit hard. Kit was severely injured and came close to dying. Even Stony needed some healing potions to keep him on his feet (and that’s with his good saves against poison and disease).

After catching our breath, we went a short distance onward and found a new entrance. This one looked more like it, and indeed, was the place we wanted. The party entered cautiously, with Kit in the lead, as we’d already been warned by Tarthas the place was full of traps.

He was right. As we clustered around the entrance, Kit found and defused several traps. Progress was necessarily slow, and dangerous. As the party went along a hallway, Kit either missed or set off a trap. Oops. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt too much by it.

Then we came to a narrow bridge. In the middle were a pair of gates. Somehow, Stony and Nel were in the rear of the group. That was bad. Because as the others reached center, the gates came up, splitting the party, and then undead archers started shooting.

They were extremely difficult to see (at least for Stony). However, Kira, Grace, Sevia and Nel returned fire, while Stony gnashed his teeth and Kit worked on the second gate’s lock.

We were lucky; the archers were obviously graduates of ISSOM (Imperial Stormtrooper School Of Marksmanship), and missed most of the time. Then Nel gave up shooting and he and Stony bashed on the first gate while Kit got the other open.

Finally the first bunch got through and Kira turned undead to dispose of the last archers. Stony and Nel quickly joined them. I let my breath out there. Had the undead gotten better rolls, this could have been VERY nasty for us.

We went on, with Kit ahead doing the traps, and arrived in a large room with a raised center area and a lever. Just as Kit was asking if we should pull the lever, the room went dark and shadows attacked.

It would have to be shadows with their unmentionable 50% concealment. There weren’t many, but hitting them is difficult so it took awhile to get rid of them. After the fight, Kit found the lever couldn’t be moved, so we don’t know what its purpose might be, if any.

Once again, after the combat, Nel had a momentary collapse. We all felt frustrated and helpless; there was nothing we could do for him, just wait until he recovered.

After he was back up, we continued to a room with sign that warned us not to disturb the sleepers. Stony had a bad feeling about this, and wanted to keep going. Nel had other ideas.

Perhaps made desperate by his condition and hoping to find the artifact, he started opening the coffins. Naturally, undead popped out. Luckily, only one per coffin, so they were quick to kill.

We finally managed to prevail on Nel to stop before all coffins were desecrated. He found some ordinary items in one sarcophagus, but nothing of real value.

The next room had a black zombie and an altar. While the rest of the party attacked the zombie, Nel went after the altar and destroyed it, which also destroyed the zombie. However, Nel had taken damage from his attacks.

By this time, spells were low (or maybe even all used up), so we took a break to heal up and renew. Good thing we did, because some more dread archers and shadows were waiting near a stairway down.

There weren’t many, though, and we were able to clear them out fairly quickly, for a change. Then we went downstairs.

Two corridors branched away left and right, but both led to the same room. Another warning sign was present. And this was where things became very confused.

There was a pathway down the center, and a gargoyle statue on either side. From reading the sign (which I no longer recall and isn’t in the log), Stony figured the safe way was straight ahead. He hoped.

So he chugged through the center, setting off traps, but very minor ones, doing no more than a point or two of damage (and that’s with failed saves all the way). He made it in good shape to the other side, followed quickly by Kira.

He called out that the traps were trivial, but either the others paid no attention or didn’t notice. They started moving along the sides, activating the statues, which shot out powerful beams of cold and negative energies.

Sevia went down first, and was slowly dying. Kit managed to get back to the “safe” traps. Nel went down. Kira went back out to help someone, I’m not sure who. Grace, however, hadn’t moved, and, along with Stony, was safe for the moment.

Then everything became crazy. Kira dropped. Nel seemed to have died. Kit went to help him and she ended up dying. Stony ran out, down the center as far as possible, but reached Kit too late. He was taking damage, so got back on center and retreated again.

And then, somehow, (after Kit had managed to die twice…don’t ask) everyone was on the other side of the room, alive if not exactly well. Even the log for this portion is confusing.

Still, we’re ready to move on in our search for the artifact. And Stony’s wondering if more than just part of Nel’s soul is missing, and if Tarthas is only using them to get that rock, with no intention of helping Nel…