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Nan o’ War CH3: A Wimple Plan

By Rutskarn
on Tuesday Mar 14, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play


I know that the tone most videogames shoot for is “bombastic hyperslime,” but every now and again it’s nice to play games grounded in the sublime mundanity of everyday experiences. Let’s consider an example:

So I have to dress up as a nun and shoot a guy, and everything I said before was wrong, and let’s freaking do this.

Let me give the full recap:

There’s a pious merchant who’s got a crazy idea that somebody wants to kill him, which is going to make it really hard for me to kill him. My contact the Suspicious Man has reasonably suggested I dress up as a nun. Because if there’s one thing devout Catholics haven’t learned to instinctively fear, it’s nuns.

Once I’ve snuck up next to the mark, I’ll pull my pistol, pop his brains out, and abscond as adroitly as my peanut-brittle bones will carry me. It’s a plan as elegant as it is practical. It’s as practical as it is profitable. It’s not very profitable.

I accept, naturally. I get this narration. I’d like you to read it, please.

Got that? Great. So you’re my witnesses in “Rutskarn vs. Videogames,” and we’re moving on to Exhibit B, which is this screenshot from directly afterwards.

Unless my target is a fountainand I think they’d have discussed that–the preceding narration had a few errors.

For example, when it said “Soon enough, you spot (your target) standing about in the company of a few bodyguards,” it meant, “Soon enough, nothing at all happens.” And when it says “Clenching the handle of your concealed pistol you head towards your target, trying to look inconspicuous,” that should really be, “You stand there.”Also, I’m pretty sure you clench your hand, not the thing that’s being held in your hand. So for the record, I take issue with the SPECIFIC words they lied to me with.

I’ve got to go hunt him down, don’t I.

Aw, god dammit. Give me storms. Give me man o’ wars. Give me the brassy farting horns of judgment and a contract of indenturement from Hell’s box factory. Just do not ask me to run around a Mount and Blade town on foot.

Ho–the layman balks! “But Rutskarn,” he blithers, “I have played several games in the Skyrim Theft Auto franchise, and I love running around towns! It’s such a delight to skip merrily from banister to balustrade to bollard, knocking signs with my trusty weapon and patronizing the local businesses! Have you no appreciation for the simpler things in virtual life?”

Sit back down, layboy, and let me lay some ambulation wisdom on you.

In Mount and Blade, the majority of your moving-character-around-with-WASD time is spent in combat, where a small increase in speed makes a huge difference in effectiveness. This means the developers have elected to make your base movement speed depend on character build. Since Mount and Blade is supposed to be realistic, the max movement speed for a buff high-level character is still realistically achievable for a human being.

Which apparently means that the default movement speed, for new or unathletic characters, has to be a wheezing brittle-kneed hobble.

Aagh. It’s like cruising through the city with your car in neutral.

Look at that huge, wide-open courtyard. Look at those wee dudes in the middle distance. Imagine how long it’s going to take me to laboriously haul my ass over to them, huffing and swinging my arms like I’m coming in on the final stretch of a man-killing marathon. Now imagine that when I get there they will have nothing to say to me, and there will be nothing in the building behind them, and there’s nothing to do anywhere in the entire town except stuff I could have clicked on in a menu. Taking a walk in these games is all the worst parts of exercise without the exercise.

Compare it to an urban center in Sykrim:

See how everything in this picture is within easy reach? See how you don’t have to tromp endlessly to get to the next point of reference for reasons that make sense in civic planning and not in videogame design? That, my friend, is how you make a fake city for pretending to walk around. I’d appreciate it if the cities in Skyrim had more people and points of interest, but I’m perfectly happy with the density.

Well, I can complain all day, but it’s not going to get this gent nunwhacked. Upwards and onwards, I guess.

Okay, is that him? I don’t know. Why don’t I weigh down the walk key, put on cryo-sleep, and when I get there you can thaw me out?

Right. He’s…a guard, I guess. He looks sort of like a bodyguard. And there’s some armored dudes hanging around there. Is this the right place? If not, it will be literally on the opposite side of town, which feels like it’s approximately several towns away.

Maybe he’s in this alley the guard’s standing in front of? Let’s take a peek into…

Oh, god, there’s a blind spot. Hold on. Wait for it. Little further. Okay.

…he’s not here. Great.

It’s been seven thousand years since I spawned into this zone, and I have explored one sixth of it. Okay–wait. There we go. That guy is definitely standing guard.

He absolutely reeks of guardsmanship. Look at his position relative to that door–that dude’s in the middle of some world-class safeguarding and won’t be flexed with by anybody. And he’s standing in front of a very important-looking arch, of the sort that might adorn a nobleman’s courtyard. Okay, then.

I hustle along as nonchalantly as possible. Look left, look right. He hasn’t turned towards me.

I duck through the door.

Okay, so that was the way out of town. So what just happened–by all accounts–is that I took a contract to assassinate a noble, dressed up as a nun, meandered towards the exit, and left. And then immediately afterwards, one of the dude’s bodyguards turned to the other and said, “You know something I just realized? Fuck nuns.

Let’s try that again. Good thing I saved right before this.

A word on saving and loading in Mount and Blade. Games made with this engine don’t seem to be able to “save” when you’re walking around in-character. The option to save or reload won’t even appear unless you’re back in the overworld with your character’s retinue displayed as a little icon.

So to try this mission again I have to head back out to the main game, exit to the menu, reload my save, reload the town, reload the tavern, talk to the questgiver, accept the quest, load the town…


And we’re back to square one for any professional killer: figuring out where your target is supposed to be. Let’s explore the eastern side this time, shall we?

Not in the market. Not behind the church. Not along the customs area. Not–is that him?

That has got to be him. Okay, play it cool. Just stand up against this wall and wait for him to wander over.

Almost ready. Don’t blow your cover just yet.

Don’t blow yokay they’re running straight for me

I’d like to point out that there is zero hesitation here. They seemed to see me while they were on the docks, and what I had optimistically assumed was just their general hustle to keep up with their charge was the churning leg-pumping throes of bloodthirst. And then they ran over to kill me like kindergarteners racing to the swingset. My disguise seemed to buy me negative sixty seconds of lead-in time.

I’m starting to wonder if the Suspicious Man’s intel is reliable.



[1] Also, I’m pretty sure you clench your hand, not the thing that’s being held in your hand. So for the record, I take issue with the SPECIFIC words they lied to me with.

Comments (76)

  1. Bryan Bridges says:

    You promised we would Frock and Roll. Instead I just see a lot of running and nunning.

    Love your Lets Plays Ruts!

  2. The Rocketeer says:

    This is the long-awaited, far-distant quasi-prequel to the BDSM nun hitsquad in Hitman: Absolution, isn’t it?

  3. Bropocalypse says:

    Hey, at least this is an urban setting with reasonable amounts of color. Which is to say, you’re not plodding about a brown, organically-geometered medieval village looking for a fellow wearing brown who may be standing anywhere from in front of oak barrels to beside a tree at the edge of town. If ever a game has come close to being a memetic sleep aide it’s tracking down the village elder/guildmaster/suspicious villager.

    • Miguk says:

      I imagine they had a meeting like this at Taleworlds.

      “Against all the odds, we actually made a really good game. But it’s lacking just one thing. It needs a really infuriating flaw that will drive players crazy, but not enough to stop playing. Is there a way we could really emphasize how ugly and clumsy our game engine is?”

    • silver Harloe says:

      what are you complaining about? this town has both light brown AND dark brown

  4. WWWebb says:

    Was that a younger, more athletic nun who ran up to and away from your target right before the bodyguards went nuts? I think you were ratted out.

    • Syal says:

      They knew she was a fake because she was resting behind a wall; the real nuns are all avid Parkour enthusiasts.

    • MrGuy says:

      It’s an MMO. Every Level 1 Brigand does this quest, and it’s not instanced.

      So every time this merchant steps into town, he’s immediately beset by a massive hoard of “nuns” trying to run up and kill him. Only the first nun to get to the merchant and steal the kill completes the quest, where the rest of the nuns have to stand around and wait for him to respawn.

      The guards, who are very far from being at their first rodeo at this point, have learned to attack nuns on sight to at least have a fighting chance.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      As any reader of Pratchett’s work will know: There’s always a reason to arrest anyone. They’ve probably done something and will run away, so you can get them for evading the police. Or they don’t run away, in which case they just afoul of the “being bloody stupid” act.

      The other nun was running, so, being proper lazy watchmen, they got the one who wasn’t

  5. Ivan says:

    Soo, it’s like starting out in Morrowind then? Or was that spiel indicating it’s worse?

    • Awetugiw says:

      I haven’t played this particular incarnation of Mount and Blade. But if it is anything like Warband, then it’s much worse than (most of) Morrowind.

      It’s not that your character moves slower than in Morrowind, but everything is just so large and empty. Imagine if you were playing Morrowind, but every town was as large and annoying to navigate as Vivec. That’s more or less what Mount and Blade towns feel like.

  6. Mr Compassionate says:

    Every time Mount and Blade asks me to search a town or even village for a lone NPC who looks completely identical to every other NPC in the city but with a different name-tag once you get within passionate lovemaking distance I resign myself to exactly what happened in this epsisode.

  7. Miguk says:

    there's nothing to do anywhere in the entire town except stuff I could have clicked on in a menu.

    One thing I love about Mount & Blade is that it actually gives me that menu. Bethesda makes me run around through a maze to find each little shop to sell off my crap. Every single time that happens I remember how easy it was to move around a city in Darklands using a menu in frickin’ 1992. Or how easy it was to just click on any shop in a city in Betrayal at Krondor in 1993. But then it got ruined. Right around the time we got 3D graphics, some genius decided that the kind of gameplay that players really love is spending 2 minutes running from the gates to Belethor, finding that he only has 1000 coins on him at a time, and running back to some other shop to sell the rest of their crap.

    We’ve got a million avante garde indie developers now. Why is there only one studio in Ankara that remembers the simple solutions to these problems that already existed 25 years ago?

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Your problem is that you didnt run mindlessly like that npc nun.

    Also,that opening narration wasnt erroneous,it was just predicting the future.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Which apparently means that the default movement speed, for new or unathletic characters, has to be a wheezing brittle-kneed hobble.

    I think it wouldve been better if the next picture was a small gif,showing your running speed as well as the vastness of the square.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Those guards took one look at you and decided they will have nun of your shenanigans.

  11. Eichengard says:

    While I don’t want to take on Ruts regarding word choice and usage, clench can totally be used to mean “to hold tightly”. Think of Nan swinging across to board a rival’s boat, cutlass clenched between her teeth.

    Assuming she had a boat. Or a cutlass. Or teeth.

    • Rutskarn says:

      I’m actually gonna double down on this one. In your example, the cutlass is “clenched between my teeth.” I’m not “clenching the cutlass between my teeth,” and I’d argue that sounds weird.

      That said, the internet does furnish definitions and examples that theoretically validate saying “clenching your pistol,” but in practice it doesn’t sound right to me at all.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Isnt that a sort of passive speech?Like how the fence can be jumped without indicating who is doing the jumping.

        • Rutskarn says:

          Oh, I don’t have a leg to stand on from a pure grammar sense if I accept “clenched between teeth.”

          My subjective argument based on experienced English usage is that “clenching” usually refers exclusively to the flexing of teeth or hands, and that “he clenched the pistol” sounds implacably incorrect. “He clutched the pistol” or even “he clenched the pistol in his fist” sound more appropriate to me.

  12. Viktor says:



    There’s 2 possible words they could have been going for there and they missed them both.

  13. John says:

    I am generally unsure what cities are for in Mount & Blade. They aren’t particularly interesting to wander around in. It’s quite hard to find anything or anyone that isn’t right near the entrance. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to the locations of relevant institutions or persons. For example, a city’s prison is often located near the entrance to its keep, but there are enough counter-examples that I wouldn’t bet on it. The Guild Master could be located pretty much anywhere. (Fortunately, there is very little reason to talk to him in vanilla Mount & Blade and no good reason to talk to him more than once in Warband.) I would say that the cities are supposed to be dramatic backdrops for siege battles, except that in siege battles almost all the fighting takes place near the city wall. It would be really cool to, say, chase retreating enemies through a city’s alleys as they retreat to the keep, but that never happens. Instead, enemy soldiers spawn in waves near the wall and the player’s army fights them there until enough of them are dead that the player can move on to the keep-storming phase of the siege. (Warband did add a feature where isolated and injured enemy soldiers will sometimes flee–which is to say run to the edge of the combat area and disappear–from normal battles, but I’ve never seen that happen in sieges.)

    I will say that Rutskarn’s screenshots make the cities in Caribbean! look quite a lot more open than those in the original game. That’s nice. It doesn’t seem to have helped Rutskarn though.

    • Miguk says:

      The wiki says that sometimes at the end of a siege you do have a fight in the streets, but I’ve never seen it happen. The villages are pretty interesting to fight in, so maybe the cities would be too. But wandering around in them outside of combat is just infuriating.

    • Jarlek says:

      But you DO get fighting in the city streets in M&B:Warband.

      I don’t know the specific requirements, but if you beat them at the wall and they still have troops left, you fight a small skirmish in the streets, and if successful, you fight another skirmish in the keep.

      Castles also got this, but only the keep fight.

      Found a video where its shown (start at 4:16, end of wall fight)

      Still is pretty poop to run around towns outside of fighting, though.

      • John says:

        You know, I forgot about that part. So, yes, you do get to fight like six guys in the city proper before moving on to the keep. In my defense, it’s pretty underwhelming. Nor is it particularly wide-ranging as fights go. The enemies won’t run away from you so unless you run away from them you won’t see much of the city.

        The list of things I forgot also includes the bandit attack that sometimes occurs when you enter a city late at night, which–except at very low levels–is even more underwhelming than the street-fight stage of the siege.

    • Disc says:

      The one slight and somewhat dubious benefit of wandering the town is being able to talk to townspeople and ask them for rumours. There’s a chance you’ll hear a tidbit regarding a profitable trade route (useful if you’re playing a trader character and didn’t know already) or the personality of a lord (only semi-useful if you care about the in-game politics at all).

  14. Genericide says:

    This is gonna be a good playthrough.

    “So what just happened”“by all accounts”“is that I took a contract to assassinate a noble, dressed up as a nun, meandered towards the exit, and left. And then immediately afterwards, one of the dude's bodyguards turned to the other and said, “You know something I just realized? Fuck nuns.” ”

    This is gonna be a great playthrough.

  15. MrGuy says:

    Which apparently means that the default movement speed, for new or unathletic characters, has to be a wheezing brittle-kneed hobble.

    Ignoring the engine foibles of searching for the target, or cheating guards seeing through your disguise, I wonder how this quest is even THEORETICALLY achievable.

    Because the goal isn’t to kill the target. It’s to kill the target and escape. Even if you could get to the target unsuspected, as soon as you pull the trigger the guards will chase you. You are outnumbered, and presumably they’re faster than you. How the blue heck is it possible to escape?

    If you’re strong enough to kill all the guards, then the disguise is unnecessary – just walk up and kill them all. If you’re not strong enough to fight them all, how could you possibly escape?

    Tune in next time, I guess.

  16. Andy_Panthro says:

    I’m actually playing this at the moment, and it’s better than I was expecting. There’s the rough idea of a very good game here, somewhere. At times it really does feel like Sid Meier’s Pirates! through a Mount & Blade lens.

    It does feel rather slow though, except for certain battles which can be over a little too quickly (guns ruin everything!).

  17. Benjamin Hilton says:

    The kicker here is that Rut’s character is actually more suited to pretending to be a nun than just about any other character a person would probably play in this game.

    • Tizzy says:

      Maybe that’s how the mission was designed: if the player’s character gets too close, the guards realize that “he” is clearly not a nun…

      Either that or Nan is too pretty to pass as a nun.

  18. Abnaxis says:

    Also, I'm pretty sure you clench your hand, not the thing that's being held in your hand. So for the record, I take issue with the SPECIFIC words they lied to me with.

    I would have thought “unconspicuous” would have been the word to really take issue with, but the error was unconspicuous enough that you missed it…

  19. CJGeringer says:

    Hey Ruts

    Why are you playing “Caribean”, since evryone who owns it, received the “Blood and gold” remake for free?

  20. WJS says:

    Eesh, yeah. Walking. The game is Mount and Blade*, and you really want to be mounted. Riding around the towns/villages can be fun. Walking around them just drags.

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