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Imoen’s Tale

It dawned on me today that I never made a proper post about Baldur’s Gate II and the Imoen Romance mod I finished back in January of this year. Let’s correct that oversight!

It's a mod. It has romance in it.

It’s a mod. It has romance in it.

It wasn’t an oversight, to be honest with you. I just had conflicted feelings about it and in the end apathy won. Now, looking back from a six month distance, I see no good reason not to tell you about it. Also no reason to fix that clunky double negative you just read.

The story behind the creation of the Imoen Romance modification is the story of my adult life, which is kinda on the long side so let’s not do that right now. Here is some context, skip the following two paragraphs if you know what Baldur’s Gate II is all about.

Baldur’s Gate II is a huge computer role playing game, where a thorough playthrough could easily take you a good sixty to eighty hours. It has two parts: the base game, Shadows of Amn, and its expansion, Throne of Bhaal. The game allowed you to modify its files to insert your own content, anything from new equipment to brand new questlines and characters, or expanding existing ones. A big modding community sprung around it and is alive to this day, continuing to expand or change the game’s content forever and ever.

Among the game’s characters is Imoen, the protagonist’s childhood friend. The game allowed your player character to romance his or her choice of love interest inside the game as a cool side-story. I might be wrong about this, but I believe this was the first instance ever of Bioware Romances. Unfortunately, Imoen wasn’t one of them, and in fact she barely had any in-game dialogue because her not dying mid-game was a last minute decision. She was my favorite character, and so I set out to give her a voice.

Imoen of Candlekeep

Imoen of Candlekeep

I wrote and coded the mod for the base game in about three months, almost fifteen years ago now. It was godawful beyond description, among other reasons because I was a teenage boy in Spain that was only starting to learn how to write English. Much like a lot of aspiring writers start with fan-fiction, the Imoen Romance mod is where I cut my teeth. Actually, that’s not entirely true: an even worse piece of Final Fantasy VIII fanfiction lies unfinished in the ether. I don’t have it anymore and that’s a good thing, else I might hurl at the sight of it, ha ha!

And yet, just like a lot of bad fan-fiction, it tickled the fancy of a precious few individuals. I could go on for pages about all the stuff that happened because of this mod, because it led to meeting my best friend whom I haven’t talked to in quite a while, and meeting my now-wife whose butt I slapped not one hour ago, and led to me moving to a different country and writing novels and building a completely different life that would have never happened otherwise. There was also an insane amount of drama around the mod’s budding community, rife with mistakes and “hilarious” misunderstandings—but I’m just talking about writing here, gaddammat! Stick to the talking points!

I worked on content for the expansion for years and years, but it was never finished because I was 1) misguidedly ambitious about it and 2) really terrible. I abandoned it to work on other ideas burning in my head, but it would continue to gnaw at my insides because leaving things unfinished kinda does that to you.

Mirrabbo's dug-up forum avatar

Mirrabbo’s dug-up forum avatar

In fact, the whole thing was so terrible and infamous within the little modding bubble that last year, when I decided to go back and finish the damn thing so it could be something to be proud of, I didn’t even mention I was the same guy that wrote it in the first place. The legitimate reason is that I didn’t want anyone to judge the work prematurely, because dammit, I put forth the best writing I could come up with and I didn’t want anyone biased against it. The real reason for changing screen names is that the original version of the mod was the equivalent to myspace teenage poetry in my mind, and I didn’t want this Prestigious Auteur persona with which I have so carefully fooled you to be sullied by the stigma. Ten years of feedback and writing every single day does wonders for the kind of words you can mush together, as exemplified by this positively flawless-some sentence you’re reading right here.

So with this silly roundabout way all I’m trying to tell you is that the Imoen Romance Mod is now finished and mostly bug-free. The content for Shadows of Amn was spruced up nicely, though it isn’t entirely mine because HERE IS THE STORY, and so I didn’t feel entitled to go back and rewrite everything—but the Throne of Bhaal stuff is my effort from the ground up and I’m pretty damn proud of it, even though I had to work within the confines of what was already established so it’s not entirely without contrivance…

Gaming's finest

Gaming’s finest

I’d encourage you to install it if you fancy some good ole Baldur’s Gate 2 adventuring. The game is a staple of PC gaming and an all-time classic and all sorts of other buzzwords, and playing Baldur’s Gate 1 isn’t required to know what’s going on. There’s an ENHANCED EDITION of the game available now and everything, and in fact I recommend you play that version, it’s way more stable and easy on the eyes. The mod itself deals with Imoen’s traumatic experiences in Amn and her struggle with being your fellow child of Bhaal (oops, spoilers!) among a ton of other serious / fluffy conversations that amount to a stupid amount of words, somewhere around 80,000. She’ll often remember a lot of the things you say and comment on a lot of the things you do, culminating in 46 different variations to her ending epilogue. Even if you don’t fancy her romantically, there is a lot of additional content that doesn’t depend on that kind of relationship. Give it a bash, I exhort you!

Even now I’m leery of posting this, as silly as it sounds. Lord Mirrabbo casts a long, mortifying shadow. Yet somehow I doubt I’m the only one out there shamed by their teenage years…

Oddly unconcerned,

– Israel