I did a playthrough with Evandra (romance track) & wanted to say a hearty “thank you” to Rhaella for creating a well-written, balanced, & engaging NPC. I’m probably somewhat biased because I’ve a soft spot for the Dragonlance universe having read Weis & Hickman's Chronicles & Legends novels & played some of the SSI Gold Box Dragonlance games growing up. So I jumped at the chance of encountering more Krynnspace characters in the BG universe. I played with a CG elf cleric/ranger protagonist. I’ll try to avoid spoilers while highlighting some memorable details.
First, the romance developed at a good, steady pace. At one pivotal point the protagonist muses that Evandra is “not quite a lover but more than a friend,” which aptly sums up Evandra’s hesitant & evasive expressions of affection to that point. But then just one specific word, which Evandra uses to address the protagonist, reveals the depth of her feelings she’s kept closely guarded due to circumstances she reveals in earlier talks. A similarly intimate & vulnerable moment occurs in ToB: what appears at first to be an idle chat about the moon in the night sky sheds light on the magnitude of Evandra’s personal, religious, & magical loss at being displaced to Faerun. I was a bit puzzled by her rather calm interjections after the protagonist beats Amelyssan & must make That Fateful Decision. But upon reflection it’s in keeping with her character, which isn’t prone to extremes (whether moral or emotional). In one early dialogue Evandra explains that on Krynn the Red Robed wizards have no use for the “stupidity” of strictly choosing between good and evil. That, plus her being an illusionist who’s in the habit of dissembling her true feelings & state of mind, helps explain her detachment at the end.
The side quests related to Evandra were simple enough to accomplish without railroading the party to specific locations or imposing strict time limits; they felt organic to the main storyline’s development. I wonder if Reyna’s (leader of the Solamnic Knights) grudging respect but healthy suspicion towards Evandra because she wears red (“they are not always to be trusted”) is a nod to another famous Dragonlance Red Robe wizard who switches to a darker shade? The Underdark encounter & its aftermath with the Solamnic Knights was a great exercise in character development that set Evandra’s yearning to return home in tension with her growing fondness for the protagonist & her fascination with this new world.
For some reason Evandra didn’t have as many banters with my party NPCs as I thought she would over the normal course of play. For the most part I had Mazzy, Valygar, Haer’Dalis, Neera, & later Sarevok in ToB. I wonder if this was because my protagonist was romancing Evandra & the romance might have affected banter triggers? After completing the game I went back to my saves & forced banters using CTRL-i because I wanted to experience them. The Haer’Dalis-Evandra “mockingbird” chats were delightful -- kudos again to Rhaella for capturing the idiosyncrasies of HD’s ornate speech. I was also struck by Evandra’s coldness towards Neera because of her “volatile” wild magic & personality; Neera would definitely be ruthlessly persecuted as a rogue mage in Ansalon.
Speaking of Neera, here’s where I was wondering if a bit more content might be added. Given the hostility Neera has for Thayan Red Wizards, it seems odd that she doesn’t at least comment on Evandra’s Red Robes. I think their first banter does mention the Orders of High Sorcery; might that be a good place for Neera to challenge Evandra about her allegiances? & given the Qualinesti elves' dim view of half-elves (I’m thinking of Tanis from the Dragonlance novels), perhaps Evandra’s cool reactions to Neera might also take on a sharper, personal note? (A dark/outcast elf holding dearly to her identity as Wizard of High Sorcery being challenged by a volatile & wild half-elf of a rogue mage? My, what impudence!)
On the question of magic, I wondered if Evandra has any banters or interjections about how magic works in Faerun versus Krynn, i.e. Weave-based versus Moon-based magic? Maybe these chats happen with Imoen or Nalia or Aerie? (Neera is of course hardly the right person to ask!) It also seemed odd that Evandra has no interjections during Neera’s ToB quest in Thay, a place full of wizards (at least, I didn’t experience any during play) or in response to Elminster’s appearance in ToB. I definitely understand that NPCs who comment about every little thing can be a nuisance, but given how much magic means to Evandra it’s possible she would have something to say either about Thay or Elminster.
In closing, I’m not a gamer who’s keen on combat strategies so I can’t speak to Evandra’s effectiveness as a spellcaster compared to, say, Edwin or Imoen (I sometimes switch to Easy difficulty to get through tough fights). I’m more interested in what the NPC adds to the protagonist’s storyline & the game’s general atmosphere, & Evandra contributed lots to both. I did flag a few bugs over in that dedicated thread but they didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of this NPC mod. I’ll definitely do another playthrough at a later date on Evandra’s friendship track & to experience her banters with other NPCs. Thanks again to Rhaella for creating such an enjoyable NPC!