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Kahrk is nonsense.

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Years later, this encounter is so grotesquely out of line with everything around it that I had to register to voice my extreme displeasure.  He's either an in-joke that I'm only party to the rude end of, or gross design incompetence.  Either of these possibilities is a flaw in what is otherwise a gem, although the latter of which seems unlikely given how gentle and fair SCS tends to be when played at "tactical". 

So, surely you know what you're doing.  Ha ha, good one.  Nerf Karhk so that people don't think you're a knucklehead.

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This has long been a... reaction to Kahrk.  I think the encounter is justified to reflect what he is, an incredibly dangerous ogre mage that needed to be warehoused in a magic bottle for the good of all. I don't think it's bad to have this kind of challenge in the game. It's sort of like what the "defeat the drow city" is in BG2 - something you don't have to do, and aren't necessarily supposed to do, but it's there for you if you're the kind of player who wants to take on that kind of challenge.

For my money the problem with Kahrk is not himself, but rather the conditions that lead to him appearing:

  • The lady with the bottle homes in on you and forces conversation
  • This may happen when you are vastly underpowered for this encounter
  • If you decline to release Kahrk, she disappears, so you forever miss out on the chance to do this encounter when you are at a more appropriate level.

The only way to save this encounter for later is to use metagame knowledge to literally leave part of the area screen black where the lady is. That's super annoying. IMHO the best fix for this is to change the script for the woman: 1) don't have her force dialogue with the party; and/or 2) have her stay around if you don't release Kahrk, so you can come back and do it later.

Edited by subtledoctor
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I think the lady initiating dialogue is actually the correct design for this encounter.

She is borderline insane and she wouldn't just stay where she is waiting for someone to approach her.

From a level design point of view, I never really much bought the "since it's an optional challenge, everything goes" reasoning. Even the toughest challenge should, in my opinion, be internally consistent with the difficulty level chosen (if there is one to choose) by the player or, in lack of it, with the general game difficulty.

When it comes to metagaming (something I pretty much loathe in principle), I can much more easily accept it if it is something that is sort of required through the whole game rather than once or twice for "special"/"optional" encounters.

I agree with subtledoctor about Kahrk being justifiably a formidable opponent. But there should be some limits. If I want to play at a Core (or easier) difficulty level then it should be completely possible to defeat that enemy even if the party is not properly prepared for the battle.

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Just sayin’, when I see crazy people in the street they don’t generally run up to me and initiate an encounter. More often they hang around, maybe muttering to themselves, and it’s up to a good samaritan whether to make contact and see what’s going on. 

Also, even if you think the forced dialogue is more in keeping with the lady’s characterization (setting aside that she has none - consider that none of us remember her name), IMHO good game design trumps that. 

Further, this is a mod; the mod makes Kahrk much more more capable than his vanilla incarnation. So even if the forced dialogue is deemed better in the vanilla case, it is reasonable for a mod like this to change that part of the encounter since it is already changing other parts if the encounter. 

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31 minutes ago, InKal said:

The problem with Kark is actually Kahrk, not the poor woman, but fecking disgusting cheater Kark with permanent spell turning on him

I just checked the .CRE file in NI and I don't see any permanent Spell Turning.  And I'm fairly sure SCS doesn't add anything like that.  I do see that he gets an insta-cast MGOI and permanent Haste, which are probably supposed to simulate pre-buffing but will stack with SCS pre-buffing. The MGOI doesn't really bother me - it casts the real spell, and is easy enough to deal with it if you are appropriately leveled

The undispellable item-granted perma-haste is very bad,* and your mod removing those items is probably a good idea.  But!  None of that has anything to do with how SCS treats him, which IMHO is perfectly appropriate in setting him up as a powerful fighter/mage.

* (Although, it's nothing the PC can't do with the original BG1 Boots of Speed. But in the context of BGT/BGEE, it's pretty cheesy.)

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On 8/1/2021 at 4:41 PM, subtledoctor said:

The only way to save this encounter for later is to use metagame knowledge to literally leave part of the area screen black where the lady is. That's super annoying. IMHO the best fix for this is to change the script for the woman: 1) don't have her force dialogue with the party; and/or 2) have her stay around if you don't release Kahrk, so you can come back and do it later.

1) and/or 2) are great ideas, I hope DavidW take it into account !

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There are no problems with Kahrk. Except in the concept of stashing an ogre mage in a bottle. He is no a genie or any spirit, and for that matter ogre magi are not that powerful to bother with. They have something like 7 Hit Dice and a few spell-like abilities, no real memorization of any sort. Also they are an oriental type of creature, taken out of Japanese or Chinese folklore, hence the armor they wear. It was a poor pick from the Monstrous Manual to take something appropriate for Kara-Tur or Shou-Lung and drop not a few of them on the Sword Coast. Bioware must have wanted some kind of spell-casting non-human, and this was their choice. If we let this slide and pretend that ogre magi are native, then Kahrk may be a particularly powerful and dangerous one, as he himself says, who warranted trapping in a special vessel. How did it happen? Who knows. Elminster did it. Thankfully, the Forgotten Realms does not have a streamlined magic system with cookie-cut categories of what is possible and what is not. And thankfully, neither did Baldur's Gate the game. A large part of its charm, though also some annoyance, is that it was done off-handedly, imprecisely, by inspiration rather than careful plotting. Had Bioware fretted about balance the way Beamdog does (why do they share the first letter?), we would have SoD instead of BG...

Few people appreciate genuine, easy-going creativity, however, as this conversation illustrates. They have no notion of syncopating either, when in a smooth-flowing chain of interaction there is suddenly Noober, or Darryl and the others, or Kahrk. How else but by giving him some superpowers would he be marked as "the mightest of the ogre magi"? What would would mark him as special and make sense, in your opinion? +2 to saving throws? Oh, that would be so hot. This encounter would be a real design problem only if it absolutely ruined the game and killed the party. But you can run away from Kahrk and wait out his Globe, you can hide in the Firewine Dungeon, or drink a potion of absorption that will make his lightning bolts harmless. Maybe this encounter will prove deadly the first time around, but then what? You reload the game and try a new approach the next time. Baldur's Gate was not meant to be played in "iron man" mode nor solo. Stay sane and use the reload button when you must. There were deadly and difficult encounters in Fallout too, even random ones. What is your conclusion, that that game needs to be rewritten and the rifle barrels all bent to make every fight level-curving and manageable? The new Fallouts aim for that, and who the hell cares about them.

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1) He was not necessarily given superpowers to distinguish him; someone can correct me if I’m wrong but his perma-haste ring is no different from the original BG1’s Boots of Speed. Only since BG was moved to the BG2 engine with BGT/Tutu/BGEE, the Boots were nerfed while his ring was not. 

2) What would mark him as special and make sense would be just what SCS does: treat him as a fighter/mage, of higher level than most ogre mages, with proper spellcasting, instead of “a few spell-like abilities, no real memorization of any sort.” He is a named NPC after all, not just a creature named by their species. What Bioware intended is not very relevant; the question is, does SCS make him too capable, by its own or in combination with the legacy characteristics inherited from the original game. 

(Also note, due to that undispellable perma-haste, you probably cannot run away and wait out his spells, since you may well not have access to the Haste or Invisibility Sphere spells at the time you encounter him...)

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I remembered the lady's name starting with C... 😄 (Carsa is her name)

I still maintain that it's perfectly in character for a panicking person, driven half insane to make first contact. Even if SCS does alter encounters in order to make them more challenging, I wouldn't wish for it to make structural changes to developers' intent unless supported by very strong arguments. There are none here other than considering that in some cases insane people do tend to avoid interacting with other people.

You say that good game design trumps characterization. Well, I would argue that removing Carsa's initiative in approaching the party would be bad game design (characterization is part of game design, isn't it?). You'd sacrifice something that is not only more than acceptable but obviously what the game's developers wanted for that encounter only to make an already very challenging fight in the original game, made too hard within SCS, return to be "reasonably hard". I cannot buy the argument that "since SCS is already changing the difficulty for this encounter then it is perfectly fine for it to also alter other aspects of it because it is a mod, after all".

The right thing to do for SCS, if anything, is to just remove the permahaste effect from Kahrk. It'd not be the only case where David W removed some unjustified power from an NPC in order to make the fight fair.

I guess we'll agree to disagree on this one.

Edited by Salk
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12 hours ago, Salk said:

Well, I would argue that removing Carsa's initiative in approaching the party would be bad game design (characterization is part of game design, isn't it?)

Yeah but let’s be real, she doesn’t have any real characterization. Just a paper-thin excuse to force an encounter upon the PCs. It’s worth comparing other encounters:

- Aldeth’s fight with the druids is forced upon you, but the area is gated such that you won’t likely be out of your depth in the fight. 

- The Shadow Druid leader can be extremely dangerous, but the game gives you a chance to walk away and come back to fight later. 

- In BG2, Delon will find you and ask you to help the Umar Hills, but he doesn’t force you to travel there immediately. 

- Nalia forces dialogue, but you can tell her “I’ll talk to you later” with no repercussions. 

- The guy seeking help for Trademeet never talks to you, he just stands around in the City Gate area waiting for you to initiate dialogue with him.

- The Carnival guard and little boy will tell you there’s a problem there, but you can make the poor little boy stand there without his mom for a month if you want. 

Et cetera. Another way to look at it: the counterfactual. What if Carsa did not automatically start the encounter? What if Bioware had added a ‘keep your distance’ dialogue option that maintained the status quo - Kahrk doesn’t appear, but Carsa doesn’t disappear? Or what if the default ‘don’t start the fight’ reply simply didn’t force Carsa to disappear? And you could speak to her again later?

In that case, would we have seen you on some forum railing against Bioware's encounter design? Of course not. That encounter design would be fine. It would match several BG2 encounters, which themselves generally receive high praise.  So in a thread asking about how the encounter is and could be modified, it seems perfectly in bounds. 

Edited by subtledoctor
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What would really be worth having in that conversation is an option to help Carsa. Cast Remove Curse on her, which should let her give up on the jar. And some modder who is interested in role-playing - the naive fool who has no place here - may yet do that.

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How to cast the spell on her? Before the dialogue you have no reason to do this (that would be the same like avoiding the area). And after the dialogue it is too late... nice idea, but not realistic ;) 

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