Mod of the Week: A Clash of Kings, for Mount & Blade Warband
Since Rich seems to be having fun with a Game of Thrones mod in Crusader Kings II, I thought I might try a GoT mod as well, but with a different game: Mount & Blade: Warband. Adding sea travel, naval battles, over a thousand new items, props, and textures, plus a massive map of Westeros and tons of characters based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Clash of Kings mod lets gamers step into a world ravaged by war as a handful of wealthy, entitled men violently quibble over who gets to sit on a big fancy chair.
While Rich's playthrough is focused on politics, intrigue, and poop-based assassination, I'm taking a slightly different approach with this mod (created by modder Cozur and a host of contributors). I want the experience that the Game of Thrones books and television show don't portray very often: the perspective of the commoners who are swept up in the drama, and moved around on the gaming board like so many checkers at the whim of would-be monarchs. Since George R. R. Martin often gives his characters slightly changed familiar names (Robb, Eddard, Tommen, Petyr, etc.) I went the same route. Meet my character, Keewristoffertt. As the son of a merchant and former street urchin, commoners don't come more common than Keewris.
I begin the game in the city of Storm's End, with the world of Westeros already heading into the War of the Five Kings (which is the start of the second book, or the second season of the show). I'm eager to join up with a king, though even as a commoner, I'd like to do a little homework to decide which is the best king to align with. Unlike our own world, where we form our political opinions by listening to the paranoid rantings of spittle-spewing radio and television hosts, in Mount & Blade I can just walk right up to any old king and talk to him.
I talk to King Renly Baratheon, who is polite and seems worth pledging my undying devotion to, then ride toward Lannisport to personally talk to Tywin Lannister, who is not technically a king but might as well be. Along the way, I'm intercepted by Ser Gregor Clegane, a Lannister knight. While trying to ask him where Tywin Lannister is, I accidentally click on a more threatening line of dialogue, which leads a rude reply from Clegane, which leads to a battle between me and 42 of Clegane's men, which leads to me getting slightly filled with arrows.
Okay! I think joining the Lannisters is out of the question. After I escape from Clegane, I ride back to Storm's End to pledge my sword to King Renly. Unfortunately, when I arrive, I'm told Renly has been imprisoned by his own brother, Stannis Baratheon, king of Dragonstone. Well, since Stannis is also at war with the Lannisters, I figure I might as well just join him. I head over to the island of Dragonstone (by boat!) and pledge my sword to King Stannis.
As a conscript of Stannis, I follow him wherever he goes, and he's quite an active king. We ride patrols around his kingdom, fighting Forest Bandits, and patrol the seas, fighting, uh, Forest Bandits. Who are on boats. Okay. Naval combat is a lot like regular combat, only there are no horses and it takes place on boats connected by narrow planks, which can lead to a bit of a bottleneck. It takes me several minutes to even get off our boat, clogged as is with Dragonstone soldiers, and get into the fight, which promptly ends before I can even kill anyone.
Even land battles tend to leave me out of the action. Since I don't have a horse, I get left behind during the attacks, and often the battles are over before I reach an enemy. Stannis, gracious king that he is, still sees my devotion and promotes me. After a few more weeks, King Stannis assembles a massive force of hundreds of men outside Driftmark, and we ride to Duskendale, a city under Lannister control. It's time for a siege! It's exciting as hell, though again, I'm stuck at the rear for most of the skirmish.
Follwing the seige of Duskendale, we move on to the city of Antlers (seat of House Buckwell in the Crownlands, according to the ASOIAF wiki). A little tired of being at the back of the crowd and only getting leftovers, I charge the ramp, bravely enter the city first, and yeah that was a terrible idea.
We lose the battle, and worse, King Stannis is captured and imprisoned. With Stannis imprisoned by the Lannisters and Renly imprisoned by Stannis, I seem to have run out of Baratheons to follow around. What's a commoner to do? Find a new king, I guess. I head to a likely sounding location.
I join up with Ser Addam Marbrand, who despite following the Lannisters seems like a nice enough guy. Unfortunately, he may be too nice: he never leaves King's Landing. After doing nothing for a few weeks, I decide to desert Marbrand and look for a king who is a little more proactive. I even convince two other soldiers to come along with me, and we head for Highgarden, hoping to join up with Lord Mace Tyrell. Before we even get there we're taken captive by some of Tyrell's soldiers from The Reach, who view us as enemies. Apparently, word of my desertion has spread. Damn ravens! Stop delivering tiny scraps of paper that describe what disloyal soldier I am!
I finally escape, abandoning the two companions I had with me. Sorry, guys! Enjoy prison for the remainder of the war. I head to Sunspear, capital city of Dorne, but they won't let me in, and I get captured by another Lord who also drags me around as a prisoner for a while. Eventually, I wind back up at Storm's End, where I run into King Renly, who has apparently escaped from prison (or perhaps was ransomed by Davos Seaworth). He doesn't trust me enough to let me serve in his army, but asks a favor: could I please spring his brother Stannis, my past king, from prison in the Westerlands? That seems unusual. First, why trust me, a guy you don't trust, with this task? Second, why free Stannis when he's the one who has kept you imprisoned all this time?
Still, the opportunity of freeing Stannis, my chosen king, is too good to pass up. I head to the city of Hornvale (seat of House Brax), disguise myself as a peasant (it's not hard since I essentially am a peasant), and slip into the courtyard. There I approach the lone prison guard and ask him who he's got in jail. He confirms it's Stannis, so I cleverly beat him to death with a big stick (politics!). I free Stannis, along with Ellery Vance and Lord Clement Piper, who are also being held captive, and we storm the courtyard, taking down a handful of guards and escaping. So much for just being a simple soldier, I guess: I've just had a major impact on the power structure of the world.
After reuniting with Stannis at Dragonstone, we spend a few days in the castle and then ride out en masse, immediately clashing with... King Renly. It's the guy who asked me to free Stannis, and we're going to war with him again. Weird. Several minutes into the battle, I actually spot Renly slashing his way through Dragonstone soldiers. I hit him with my sword, and he collapses. I should point out that these two events are unrelated: the game log tells me I hit but did no damage and that it was some Elite Dragonstone Swordsman who actually felled the king. On the other hand, after we win the battle, I'm still pretty stoked to see I had better numbers than Renly.
See, this is why I just wanted to be a common soldier. Politics are weird and baffling. I just rescued a king for another king and then defeated the king while fighting for the king the king wanted rescued. I'm just confused. I guess I don't understand politics, and I definitely don't understand brothers.
Installation: It's not hard! Download the latest version of the mod. Find the Modules folder in your M&B Warband folder, and drop the downloaded file in there. Start the game, choose the mod from the drop-down, and get your Ice & Fire on.