Ascension

Current maintainer for this version: DavidW

Version 2.0
Languages: Chinese, Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish
Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X

Overview

Ascension is a collection of changes to Throne of Bhaal, aimed at providing a richer story and more tactically interesting gameplay. Its largest component completely rewrites the finale (chapter 10) of Throne of Bhaal, adding new enemies and new allies; other components enhance the tactical challenge of many of the key battles in Throne of Bhaal, improve plot-central dialogues and player abilities, and more.

Ascension dates back to the dawn of Baldur's Gate modding: the designers were Cuveronious, Quitch, Xyx, Spork, Vulgar Zildrah, and Kensai Ryu, and the project team leader was David Gaider, one of the writers on Throne of Bhaal itself (and later lead writer for the Dragon Age series). It has gone through many updates and many maintainers since then - Westley Weimer (original author of WEIDU); and Miloch; White Agnus and JediMindTrix; AlienQuake, and more - with contributions from many other modders.

This version is coded by DavidW (author of Sword Coast Stratagems and Wheels of Prophecy). It is a fairly systematic, ground-up rewrite of Ascension using modern coding techniques and taking advantage of Enhanced Edition functionality (while remaining backward-compatible with non-enhanced versions of Throne of Bhaal). In the rewrite, the component structure of Ascension was modified, breaking the main component into several sub-components (this was not possible in the original Ascension because of the very limited modding methods of the time), a very large number of small bugs were fixed, and some minor changes in implementation were made, reflecting modern coding methods and resources. I have tried to remain extremely faithful to the original Ascension. (Still, purists might want to look at the customisation section for how to get a completely faithful experience.)

This is probably redundant eighteen years after Ascension's release, but I have hidden the name of the final villain of Throne of Bhaal through the main part of this readme; I refer to her by her first initial, A.

Compatibility

Ascension is compatible with both the original and Enhanced-Edition versions of Throne of Bhaal, as well as the Baldur's Gate Trilogy and Enhanced Edition Trilogy. On non-Enhanced versions of the game, it requires the BG2 fixpack, available at Gibberlings Three, to be installed first.

Ascension is probably best installed fairly early in a multi-mod installation order (though of course after the fixpack) and in particular it should be installed before any tactical mods like Sword Coast Stratagems. (Because Ascension has been an iconic mod right through the modding era, many mods are likely to be aware of it and respond to it, but that requires Ascension to be installed first.)

Installation

Windows
Ascension is distributed as a self-extracting archive and includes a WeiDU installer. To install, simply double-click the archive and follow the instructions on screen.

Alternatively, the files can be extracted into your game directory using 7zip or WinRAR. When properly extracted, your game directory will contain setup-ascension.exe and the folder ascension. To install, double-click setup-ascension.exe and follow the instructions on screen.

You can run setup-ascension.exe in your game folder to reinstall, uninstall or otherwise change components.

Mac OS X
Ascension for Mac OS X is distributed as a compressed tarball and includes a WeiDU installer.

First, extract the files from the tarball into your game directory. When properly extracted, your game directory will contain setup-ascension, setup-ascension.command, and the folder ascension. To install, double-click setup-ascension.command and follow the instructions on screen.

You can run setup-ascension.command in your game folder to reinstall, uninstall or otherwise change components.

Linux
Ascension for Linux is distributed as a compressed tarball and does not include a WeiDU installer.

Extract the contents of the mod to the folder of the game you wish to modify.

Download the latest version of WeiDU for Linux from WeiDU.org and copy WeiDU and WeInstall to /usr/bin. Following that, open a terminal, cd to your game installation directory, run tolower and answer Y to both queries. You can avoid running the second option (linux.ini) if you've already ran it once in the same directory. To save time, the archive is already tolowered, so there's no need to run the first option (lowercasing file names) either if you've extracted only this mod since the last time you lowercased file names. If you're unsure, running tolower and choosing both options is the safe bet.

To install, run WeInstall ascension in your game folder. Then run wine BGMain.exe and start playing.

Note for Complete Uninstallation
In addition to the methods above for removing individual components, you can completely uninstall the mod using setup-ascension --uninstall at the command line to remove all components without wading through prompts. .

Contents

This is a fairly spoiler-free, minimal list of contents. In many places I have included a quote from the original Ascension readmes (usually from David Gaider) to explain the contents. Much more detailed (and spoiler-y) descriptions of many parts of Ascension can be found in the additional content notes (see also the specific links below to the additional content notes).

The Ascension

Some people like the ending to Throne of Bhaal well enough, I guess. I liked it well enough (I did a lot of the work on it, after all), but I remember wishing that we had had the time to tinker with it more. At Bioware we never seemed to have enough time to tinker with the Infinity Engine scripting language as much as I might have liked. With better AI and some leisurely time spent considering various options, the ending might have been more fully realized. That's a game designer's fantasy, obviously, especially when you're working within the time-frame of an expansion (which must come out while the game's still on peoples' HARD-drives)...but seeing as a mod like this can be done in one's spare time, it doesn't have to be. Consider this my offering of what might have been. You might not necessarily like it better...heck, you might not even like it at all...but I think it shows off what the Infinity Engine can do when stretched to its limit and offers a bit more bite to Throne of Bhaal's climax for those who think that's not a bad idea.

The whole thing started on Black Isle's BG2 message boards. A friend of mine, Kevin Dorner ... had expressed a bit of disappointment at the fact that he had had no choice but to fight the strongest member of the Five, Balthazar. Balthazar was a Lawful Good monk, after all, and wouldn't a charismatic and heroic Lawful Good character be able to maybe talk some sense into him? He suggested that it would have been better to offer a non-fighting alternative or, hey, how about getting Balthazar to fight with you in the final battle?

Another poster (alas, I forget who exactly) offered another idea that it would have been a great idea if the Five had been resurrected in the final battle...that it would be cool to face them all at once. And I agreed...that was a very interesting idea.

So the Ascension was born. At first it was just a bit of extra dialogue for Balthazar and some work on the final battle, itself...but it's turned into a lot more than was expected.

David Gaider

These components collectively make up the original 'Ascension' mod. They all relate to the core story of the player's conflict with his/her essence and the others who seek it.

Rewritten final chapter

The highlights of the Ascension, itself, are: ...

  • Irenicus & Bodhi: ... [F]or those of you who wouldn't think of pairing up with a goody two-shoes pansy like Balthazar, there's another opportunity for an ally in the final battle here, as well.

  • a totally redone final battle: the battle at the Throne of Bhaal has been completely redone, from start to finish. Gone are the Elemental Princes and the multiple battles with A. and her Slayer Shadows. A. has been completely re-done, and the allies she brings to bear against you make this a whole new fight. ...

  • better AI: a lot of work has gone into the AI of the opponents you'll face. You can often disrupt their spells, but they'll work at preventing you from being able to. They are still immune to stuff that's appropriate, but the stuff they aren't immune to they will try and deal with when you use it on them. They'll target appropriate opponents with the appropriate attacks and generally use their abilities wisely. A. is still a power-house...but she's practically a demigod...the fight against her this time is much more tactical and you've got to figure out how to weaken her before you can take her down.

  • David Gaider

This component entirely replaces Chapter 10 of Throne of Bhaal, substantially affecting both the story and the tactical gameplay. A detailed walkthrough, with spoilers, is here, so I'll say little about the contents beyond Gaider's comments above. But anyone new to Ascension should know two things. Firstly, it is highly responsive to the difficulty slider (even more so in this version than in previous versions). And secondly, it is much more difficult than the baseline game. If you are used to playing Baldur's Gate on Core difficulty and without difficulty mods, I recommend trying Ascension on the Easy, or at most the Normal, difficulty setting. 'Core' difficulty is probably about equivalent to the lower end of the Sword Coast Stratagems mod. For veterans of Ascension, 'Hard' fairly accurately reproduces the 'Core" experience of previous versions of Ascension; 'Core' is slightly easier than previously.

In the original Readme, Gaider laments that he can't disable the automatic increased/decreased damage on different difficulty settings; modern tools allow this on either the Enhanced Edition or on Windows versions of original Throne of Bhaal, and this version of Ascension implements Gaider's wishes. See under customisation for how to disable this (though in the Enhanced Edition, you can just do so on the Gameplay page).

Redeemable Balthazar

Balthazar has a lot more to discuss with you when you meet him in his stronghold. He's a Lawful Good monk determined to destroy Bhaal and his evil essence forever, even in himself...but, depending on your own nature, you may be able to talk him into forgoing a battle or even fighting A. at your side. This is, however, not an easy thing to do.

David Gaider

This implementation of Balthazar separates the possibility of redeeming him as an ally both from the general rewrite of Chapter 10 and from the 'tougher Balthazar' tactical improvement (now a separate component). This means in particular that you can get Balthazar's help against A. even if you decide to go for the non-Ascension version of chapter 10. (This is code by DavidW, adapted from the Wheels of Prophecy mod.) If you want some hints on how Balthazar can be redeemed, see here.

Version 2.0 also makes Balthazar's powers fully usable by the player (this required some minor tweaks in the powers themselves, and some icons borrowed, with thanks, from the ones CamDawg designed for Kish's Oversight mod). For full details of Balthazar's powers, see here.

You can toggle Balthazar's AI on and off with the 'E' hotkey.

Improved Sarevok-Player interactions

Imoen and Sarevok have some dialogues with the PC in ToB that are fairly important. For Imoen, it involves her growing taint and she gets some Bhaalspawn abilities. For Sarevok, it involves the chance of him changing alignment. In ToB these were completely random...but since their stories come up in the Ascension, I thought it was important that these be seen.

David Gaider

This component ensures that Sarevok's key interactions with the player definitely happen, instead of being random. Sarevok will have these discussions with the player (unless they happen to come up randomly) the first time you rest after (i) he joins; (ii) Gromnir is defeated; (iii) the first of Sendai and Abazigal is defeated.

In addition, this component adds conversation, and a weapon upgrade, if you return to Sarevok his old sword, which you probably picked up in Irenicus's dungeon.

Improved Imoen-Player interactions

This component ensures that the key interactions with Imoen, likewise, actually happen; they trigger (if not before) on resting after: (i) you start Throne of Bhaal; (ii) Yaga-Shura is defeated; (iii) Balthazar is first encountered.

Restored Bhaalspawn Powers

Throne of Bhaal contains unimplemented content granting the player some new Bhaalspawn powers; this component restores them. Powers are awarded after each of the Pocket Plane challenges (except the fourth), with a good or evil flavor according to the attitude you express in your conversations with the Solar.

(This implementation also has code by DavidW restoring your original Bhaalspawn powers (since it doesn't make much sense that you gain new powers but never get those back even once your soul is restored). See under customisation for how to turn it off if you don't want it.

Detailed information on the powers can be found here; they are also documented in-game, by right-clicking on the power in Enhanced Edition, or as a journal entry in original BG2.

Improved Slayer Transformation

The Slayer form that the player picks up in Spellhold all the way back in BG2 now upgrades. It does so when you exceed 2 million, 4 million and 6 million XP. The upgrades get considerably stronger and deadlier, and one big change you will notice is that occasionally you will lose control over yourself. The Slayer can sometimes go berserk and will attack the nearest target...this can last one round or go on for several...although there will always be a respite in the very last round before you take too much damage. The last upgrade gives the player the option to become the Ravager...the ultimate incarnation of murder...which is incredibly powerful but also the most difficult form to control.

David Gaider

Detailed information on the Slayer form can be found here and is also documented in-game, by right-clicking on the Slayer Change power in Enhanced Edition, or as a journal entry in original BG2. It is possible to customise several features of the slayer, including the XP thresholds at which the form changes and the level of reputation loss; see under customisation for details.

Expanded Epilogues

[N]ot all of the epilogues have changed, but some of them have been lengthened to what they had been originally written as. A couple have changed completely, and a few new ones have been added.

David Gaider

This component expands and modifies the epilogues (the text played just before the credits) for several of the Bioware NPCs: Aerie, Anomen, Cernd, Haer'Dalis, Imoen, Jaheira, Mazzy, Nalia, Sarevok, Valygar, and Viconia. (There are no changes to Edwin, Jan, Keldorn, Korgan, or Minsc (or to the NPCs added by the Enhanced Edition, i.e. Dorn, Hexxat, Neera, Rasaad, and Wilson). Viconia receives a new epilogue if her alignment changes to non-evil; Sarevok receives a new epilogue if he remains evil.

As of about 2015 (~version 1.6 of Ascension) an alternative set of epilogues written by Shawne was added (including extended epilogues for the Bioware NPCs not extended by original Ascension) and is available as an alternative. It's a matter of taste whose writing style you prefer: Gaider's or Shawne's. (If you want a preview, you can see the raw (English-language) text of Gaider's versions as a text file here, and Shawne's alternatives here.

Tougher Enemies

These components leave the story essentially unchanged, but significantly enhance the difficulty of some of the key fights in Throne of Bhaal. All the battles with powerful Bhaalspawn, except for Sendai, are modified; so is the confrontation with Demogorgon. None of these components respond much to the difficulty slider. All are written by David Gaider (the 'tougher Balthazar' component was part of the original Ascension component and had some input from other members of the Ascension team).

Detailed information on the Bhaalspawn's abilities can be found here .

Tougher Abazigal

Some of the posters [on 2001-vintage discussion forums] were recommending a multiple-dragon battle, so I added in some smaller drakes and a purple dragon into the Abazigal fight. The AI has been tweaked heavily as well, blending in the mobility of Draconis (whom many thought was tougher than his father). It's quite the fight, now...NOT for the faint of heart...but I'm told it's quite fun.

David Gaider

A note about this version: the modding tools available when this component was originally written made it extremely difficult to add new names for creatures, so the drakes added use rather strange names re-used from minor peasants and shopkeepers in the original Baldur's Gate (and are not identified in game as drakes at all). I (DavidW) took the opportunity to give them more evocative and meaningful names: Earth Drake, Fire Drake, Ice Drake, Shadow Drake. (If you prefer the originals, you can disable this; see under customisation.) Technically this is also true for the purple dragon, 'Tamah': she is named for an incredibly minor character in BG1. But Tamah has rather better name recognition, so I've left this alone.

This version also adds to 'tougher Abazigal' one change to Ascension Abazigal's gear: his sword does magical and electrical damage, and slightly heals Abazigal with each hit. Again, see under customisation for how to turn it off.

Tougher Balthazar

This component enhances Balthazar and his monks when you encounter them late in Chapter 9, and improves their AI. It is extracted from the original 'Ascension' component (it is not the original, ancient 'tougher Balthazar' which Gaider wrote before Ascension).

Tougher Demogorgon

[These changes] have been provided by BioWare Senior Designer David Gaider as a supplement to the Throne Of Bhaal expansion. They increase the difficulty of the Demogorgon battle, as it was originally planned before it was "toned down" for game balance reasons.

From the original component's readme

This implementation of 'Tougher Demogorgon' makes some cosmetic improvements to Demogorgon's Gate spells (the gate animation plays properly before the demons appear, rather than being overlaid on already-summoned demons) and also implements a change made around v1.5 of Ascension, where the 'Summon the Infernal Host' spell is renamed to 'Summon the Abyssal Host' for lore reasons. (As usual you can disable both: see under customisation.)

Tougher Gromnir

It's just a little spruce-up to a fight that I thought was a little boring...it makes Gromnir a bit more formidable and gives both him and the other Bhaalspawn with him some extra abilities and better scripting. I'm told it's of moderate difficulty but quite fun.

David Gaider

This version of 'Tougher Gromnir' reads back to the original Gromnir the standard suite of protections that Throne of Bhaal's Bhaalspawn get in Ascension. It also provides new names for two added creatures: as with the 'Tougher Abazigal' component, additional creatures have re-used names, in this case taken from a Beregost shopkeeper and from one of Sendai's allies. I rename them 'Minotaur Battle-Priest' and 'Il-Khan Medusa'. As usual, see under customisation for how to disable these tweaks.

Tougher Illasera

It is not very high difficulty...as a battle right at the beginning of the game shouldn't be...but it does make Illasera a credible opponent and member of the Five. She's a ranger/archer now, which was her original concept before we were forced to make the battle much, much easier (since people could potentially meet her with a single, newly-created sorcerer...and since the fight was unavoidable, those who couldn't get past it would be quite frustrated).

David Gaider

Despite what Gaider is saying, the Tougher Illasera battle is widely regarded as insanely difficult (although certain tactics, like the shield of reflection, physical mirror or a mordy jail can make it too simple). It's much HARDer than the Yaga-Shura or Gromnir fights.

Westley Weimer

Although I (DavidW) haven't tested it on the original game, at least in Enhanced-Edition BG2 an engine glitch means that Illasera's powerful magical arrows deliver their payload twice per hit, which would certainly enhance the difficulty! This is fixed in this version. (It's obviously a bug, so I haven't offered a way to disable it.)

Tougher Yaga-Shura

This mod makes the last fight with Yaga-Shura a bit more of a tussle... the army spawns have been increased in number and given better AI (as well as had some low-level mages and clerics thrown into the mix). Yaga-Shura himself has been given some better powers and AI, including his lieutenants...and his invulnerability slowly wears off during the course of the battle with him, making this fight a bit trickier.

David Gaider

Note that this version (and indeed the last several releases) fixes a notorious crash bug in this component, present at least up to v1.4 of Ascension. This version also names Yaga-Shura's army clerics in line with the way all other army members are named, i.e. just as 'Yaga-Shura Cleric'. (As with other components, original Ascension could not introduce new strings, and so had to re-use an existing name - in this case, 'Cleric of Talos'. As usual, see under customisation for how to disable this.)

Additional content

These components were written after the release of the original Ascension, and are not part of the content produced by David Gaider (though one of them is by one of Gaider's co-writers.) The first three were included in Ascension releases around version 1.6; the fourth and fifth are new in version 2.0.

Full-body portrait for Bodhi

This component (whose author I don't know) uses the full-body illustration of Bodhi (used in the game's promotional material, and used by Ascension for Bodhi's epilogue) as her in-game illustration, used in her dialogue. You can see the portrait here

Alternate Balthazar portrait, by Cuv

This component introduces a new portrait for Balthazar, used for his dialogs and for his epilogue if you recruit him. You can see the portrait here. The artist is Lorne Ledger, aka 'Cuv' or 'Cuveronius', who worked on the original Ascension and wrote Balthazar's epilogue (and who also coded parts of the first conversion of Ascension to the Enhanced Edition).

Extended Epilogues for additional Beamdog NPCs by shawne (Enhanced Edition only)

This component extends and modifies the epilogues for all of the new Beamdog NPCs (Dorn, Hexxat, Neera, Rasaad, Wilson); it also adds two new epilogues for Dorn (one applies if he is romancing a player who ascends; the other applies if Dorn loses his blackguard status). You can get a preview of the new epilogues by using a text editor to open ascension/lang/english/shawnesepilogues_eenpc.tra.

Sharpened portraits of Abazigal and Gromnir, by DavidW (Enhanced Edition only)

The portraits for most NPCs in BG2 are upscaled in the Enhanced Edition, but for some reason Abazigal, Balthazar and Gromnir were omitted. The engine automatically scales the portraits, but they end up quite blurry as a result. In the case of Balthazar, Ascension automatically supplies a sharp, higher-resolution image; this component makes some attempt to do the same for Abazigal and Gromnir, using Photoshop's sharpening algorithm. You can see the effect if you compare old and new versions of Gromnir - it's not dramatic, but it's a noticeable improvement.

Slightly improved Bhaalspawncutscenes, by DavidW

This minor component slightly tightens the implementation of the cutscenes just before encountering Yaga-Shura and Gromnir. In the former, the soldiers you run into don't sometimes randomly give the same line three times. In the latter, the party arrive in Gromnir's throne room just after Melissan is taken away, rather than standing around passively and watching while this happens.

Customisation options (contains spoilers)

As of version 2.0, Ascension permits a significant amount of "fine tuning" over and above your install choices, using the file "ascension.ini", found in the ascension directory. To do this, just edit the file in Notepad or another text editor. Each line consists of a configuration option, then '=', then a value (almost always a number). The only thing you should edit is the value. Note that the .ini file is read during installation of Ascension; changing it after you have finished installing will have no effect.

The current options are listed below, by section. I list the default value in parentheses after the setting.

Regeneration

There was a systematic bug in all pre-2.0 versions of Ascension, which meant that the (many) creatures who were given the ability to regenerate did not actually receive it. Originally I intended just to fix this - but some of the rates are quite fast, and I'm worried about unbalancing the game (after all, Ascension's playtesting was with the bug present). I toyed with setting it up so that regeneration only happened at or above a certain difficulty: 'HARD', by default. But in the end I decided to deactivate it. These settings let you reactivate it, and tweak it.

  • skip_regeneration_fix(1) - set to 0 to enable the fixes to regeneration.
  • regeneration_difficulty_minimum(4) - this determines the minimum difficulty setting when regeneration occurs, on a scale where 1=Easy, 2=Normal, 3=Core, 4=Hard, 5=Insane. (Of course, this is moot unless regeneration is enabled.)
  • yaga_shura_regenerates(0) - Yaga-Shura has a regeneration rate of 7 hit points per second, and in combination with his very high resistances I worry this will be especially unbalanced; so by default, it's disabled. Set this to 1 to enable it.
Demons

These variables control tweaks I made to a few of the demons in Chapter 10. (For more details, see the comments in the file 'ascension_demons.tpa', in ascension/ascensionmain.

  • restore_original_babau_weapon(0) - Babaus have a weapon clearly inspired (as with most of Ascension's demons) by second edition D&D's demons: in that source material, Babaus are covered in slime which causes weapons to corrode. But the implementation is weird, and uses the unpopular 'drop weapons in panic' opcode. I replace it with a thematically similar effect - a 5-round, -2 to melee damage, -2 to melee attack, penalty, with a 20% chance of being applied with each hit, no save. Set this to 1 to restore the original weapon.
  • restore_original_glabrezu_weapon(0) - Similarly, Glabrezu have a D&D-inspired grab ability, which has some odd implementation glitches. I redo this, fairly minimally - but set this variable to 1 if you want the original weapon.
Slayer form

These make tweaks to the player's Slayer form, including the upgraded versions introduced by Ascension.

  • slayer_enhancement_threshold_1 (2000000) - this is the XP required to gain the first slayer upgrade. I don't actually change this (2,000,000 is Gaider's original choice), it's just externalised for players who want to customise it.
  • slayer_enhancement_threshold_2 (4000000) - the XP threshold required to gain the second slayer upgrade.
  • slayer_enhancement_threshold_3 (6000000) - the XP threshold required to gain the final slayer upgrade.
  • slayer_reputation_penalty_1 (1) - the Reputation penalty incurred each time you use the Slayer. This is actually unchanged from the original version in Ascension; again, it's just externalised for players' convenience. (Note that in-game documentation is not adjusted if you change this value.)
  • slayer_reputation_penalty_2 (1) - the Reputation penalty incurred when you use the upgraded form of the Slayer you get at 2 million XP.
  • slayer_reputation_penalty_3 (2) - the Reputation penalty incurred when you use the still-further-upgraded form of the Slayer you get at 4 million XP.
  • slayer_reputation_penalty_4 (3) - the Reputation penalty incurred when you change into the Ravager.
  • slayer_2_regeneration (2) - the per-second regeneration rate of the upgraded Slayer form. This is a v2.0 tweak (part of a slight rebalancing / systematising of the Slayer form, and based on Imoen's slayer form); the original Ascension value for this and other regeneration rates is zero. Tweaks to this value (and the two that follow) are reflected in in-game documentation on the Enhanced Edition.
  • slayer_3_regeneration (3) - the per-second regeneration rate of the second upgraded Slayer form. (Again, the original Ascension value is zero.)
  • ravager_regeneration (5) - the per-second regeneration rate of the Ravager form. (The original Ascension value is zero; this matches the actual Ravager.)
  • slayer_mr_reduction (10) - the Magic Resistance reduction caused by the slayer's hits when a Dispel Magic is triggered (which happens 10% of the time for the second upgraded Slayer form). This is a slight tweak on the original Ascension value, which is 5%.
  • ravager_knockback (0) - the Ravager form in original Ascension has an automatic knockback on a small fraction of hits. My experience of knockbacks is that they are bug-prone (creatures get knocked into inaccessible areas) and so are probably best avoided, given that the Ravager power can be used anywhere and might not be under the player's control. But you can set this value to 1 to re-enable it.
  • additive_slayer_hitpoints(1) - Ascension documentation is a bit unclear as to whether the slayer form is supposed to get a fixed *number* of hit points, or a fixed *bonus* to hit points. To be honest it's probably the former, but as a matter of balance the latter works better (the slayer form can actually be a hit point downgrade for fighters). By default, Ascension makes it additive; set this to zero to make it a fixed hit point level.
Player powers

These affect the various powers acquired by the player (except the Slayer form).

  • no_restored_bg1_powers (1) - set this to 0 if you don't want the original Bhaalspawn powers (taken from you in Spellhold) to be regained at the start of Throne of Bhaal (or have already installed/plan to install a component of another mod that does it).
  • demon_control_battle_duration (3) - this determines the length, in seconds, of the mental battle that the player fights with demons in the final chapter. In original Ascension it's 6 seconds, with a 50% chance of success, but removing the player from play for a full round in exchange for a 50% chance of controlling a demon seems underpowered (and much weaker than Melissan's comparable ability). So I've tweaked the default values to make it a bit more effective, matching Melissan's.
  • demon_control_success_probability (75) - this is the percentage probability of the player's demon control power works. (The original Ascension default, as noted above, is 50%.)
  • unleash_dice_number (20) - this is the number of d12 rolled to determine the damage of the player's 'unleash' power, with a save for half. In original Ascension it's 10d12, but I think that's underpowered for this ability (especially given its disadvantages) so I've tweaked it up by default.
  • replace_duhm (1) - one of the good-aligned Bhaalspawn powers is 'Draw Upon Holy Might', repeating one of the original BG1 powers. This seems a bit unexciting (all the other powers are new) so I replace it with a thematically-similar, slightly-more-powerful ability, 'Divine Gift' (see here for the details). Set this to 0 to restore the original Draw Upon Holy Might.
  • dimdoor_classic(0) - the teleport power that the player is granted in chapter 10 is, by default, the standard Dimension Door power. Version 2.0 of Ascension tweaks it to something a bit more visually new; but set this to 1 to restore the original.
The Five

These affect the Five Bhaalspawn and their minions.

  • gromnir_immunities (1): by default, Gromnir gets the same suite of immunities that all Bhaalspawn get. This wasn't the case in original Ascension; I think this was probably an oversight or error, but in any case set this to 0 to restore original behavior.
  • gromnir_ally_renames (1): if this is 1, then Gromnir's minotaur and medusa allies get new names; if it is zero, they continue to use recycled names from elsewhere in BG and BG2.
  • abazigal_drake_renames (1): similarly, set this to 0 to get Abazigal's drakes to revert to using names borrowed from elsewhere in BG and BG2, rather than new names of their own.
  • yagashura_cleric_rename (1): if this is 1, then the army clerics in Yaga-Shura's army are named as 'Yaga-Shura Cleric', along the lines of the rest of his army. If it is zero, they continue to use a recycled name from elsewhere in BG2 ('Cleric of Talos').
  • tougher_abazigal_uses_sword (1): set it to 0 if you don't want Abazigal (when originally encountered) to use the undroppable variant on his sword that he carries in the Final-Five battle.
  • lava_bomb_tweak (1): v2.0 of Ascension tweaks Lava Bomb's knockback to be more in line with similar effects elsewhere, so that it knocks its targets unconscious for 3 seconds if they fail to save at -10, rather than for 18 seconds if they fail to save at -2. Set this to 0 to revert to the classic behavior.
Miscellaneous settings

These change other features of the mod.

  • no_ee_sarevok_sword_use_restriction (0): Sarevok gets to upgrade his Sword of Chaos; in original Ascension, that upgrade comes with a penalty applied to anyone except Sarevok. Since that penalty is too extreme for anyone in their right mind to tolerate it, I assume this is simply a way of restricting the weapon to Sarevok, which can't be done directly in original Baldur's Gate. Since it can be done on the Enhanced Edition, I implement it directly on BG2EE and EET installs; set this to 1 to revert to the original even in EE games.
  • abyssal_host (1): Set this to 0 to prevent Demogorgon's lore-inaccurate 'summon the infernal host' power being rewritten as 'summon the abyssal host'.
  • demogorgon_gate_aesthetics (1): set this to 0 to revert my cosmetic changes to Demogorgon's summoning power. (I've coded an override here because those cosmetic changes do slightly delay the demons' arrival, so there is a (very minor) tactical consequence.)
  • enable_difficulty_based_damage_changes (0): set this to 1 to revert Ascension 2.0's default behavior (following Gaider's preference) of disabling the hardcoded damage changes caused by the difficulty slider.
  • balthazar_hotkey(E): set this to whatever key you want to use to toggle Balthazar's AI on and off.
  • ignore_sarevok_edge_case(0): it is possible for Sarevok to become good-aligned but not be in the party when you confront Melissan. In this situation, in vanilla Ascension Sarevok always opposes you. Perhaps this represents his backsliding towards evil if you're not around, but I think it's much more likely just to be an edge case the original writers didn't notice or didn't have time to sort. In any case, Ascension v2.0 allows a redeemed-but-not-in-party Sarevok to end up rejecting Melissan's blandishments and joining you. Set this parameter to 1 if you want to revert to the original behavior.
  • sarevok_hotkey(E): set this to whatever key you want to use to toggle Sarevok's AI on and off, in case he joins you in the final fight in the edge-case scenario above.
Internal/Debug

Don't touch these: they're for testing and internal use.

Credits

Original Mod Design
  • Lead designer: David Gaider
  • Designers: Cuveronious, Quitch, Xyx, Spork, Vulgar Zildrah, Kensai Ryu
WEIDU version (v1.4)
  • Original design: Westley Weimer
  • Subsequent contributions: Kish, Quitch, Jason Compton
Enhanced-edition version (v 1.5-1.7)
  • Lead designers: JediMindTrix, WhiteAgnus
  • Coding: Turumbar, Cuv, Miloch
  • Subsequent maintainers: Aedan, Edvin, AlIen, Quitch, agb1, badungu, CamDawg
  • New epilogues: Shawne
Ascension 2.0
  • Designer: DavidW
  • Balthazar's spell icons: Kish and CamDawg

This list may be incomplete (Ascension has had many maintainers over the years). Contact DavidW at the Gibberlings Three forums for any emendations or additions.

Acknowledgements

For David Gaider's and Westley Weimer's acknowledgements, see the v1.4 readme.

For JediMindTrix's acknowledgements, see the v1.7 readme.

DavidW's acknowledgements:

First and foremost, thanks to David Gaider and his original team. Ascension has stood the test of time as one of the all-time great mods; it's been a privilege to work on it.

Secondly, huge thanks to those heroes - especially WhiteAgnus and JediMindTrix - who did the heavy lifting required to drag Ascension into the modern-coding, Enhanced-Edition era. Ascension 2.0 is built on the bones of their work and couldn't have existed without it.

Thirdly, thanks to those who created the tools that made the modern Infinity Engine modding scene possible: in particular, Westley Weimer, for the original WEIDU; TheBigg and Wisp for developing it into the remarkable tool it now is; CamDawg, for building many of the function libraries on which Ascension is constructed and for leading the 'Fixpack' project which Ascension 2.0 relies on; Ascension64, for finally realising David Gaider's goal of a more finely controllable difficulty setting.

The icons for Balthazar's abilities are borrowed from the Oversight mod; thanks to its creator, Kish, for permission, and to CamDawg for actually creating the icons (at least according to the readme; he doesn't actually remember doing so :) ).

Last but not least, thanks to the original Bioware team for Throne of Bhaal, and to Beamdog - and the many modders and ex-modders who work with them - for reinventing the Infinity Engine.

Copyright Information

The original content of Ascension is ©2001, David Gaider.

Ascension is not released under any formal license (they are not really enforceable in the modding world, in any case). Its authors and maintainers have generally worked with the consent of their predecessors, and with a respect for what has been done before. If you borrow code or content from Ascension, please give full credit in your own mod when you do so.

Version History

This is split into two parts: a detailed changelog for v2.0 and later, and a more abbreviated description of the major .

Version 2.0 changelog

April 2019: original 2.0 release

Previous versions

(This account is incomplete; I (DavidW) would be interested in more details if anyone knows them.)

Version 1.1 (David Gaider, c.2001)
  • Original release (as a non-WEIDU mod, with files and .tlk just dropped in)
  • Released at about the same time as (but I think not bundled with) Gaider's various 'tougher' mods
  • Readmes for Ascension and the 'tougher' mods can be found in 'ascension/doc/original readmes'
Versions 1.2-1.3 (David Gaider, c.2001)
  • Subsequent non-WEIDU releases
  • No recorded changelog
Version 1.4 (Westley Weimer, c.2002)
  • First release as a WEIDU mod (indeed, as one of the first WEIDU mods)
  • Although the mod uses WEIDU, most files are simply overwrites
  • Versions up to 1.4.41 released, though later ones mostly just update translations.
  • Hosted at weidu.org (and still up there, as of 2019) with discussion forum at forums.pocketplane.net
  • The Readme for Ascension-WEIDU can be found in 'ascension/doc/v 1.4 readme'
Version 1.5 (WhiteAgnus/JediMindTrix, January 2016)
  • Systematic rewriting to use more modern WEIDU tricks and to be compatible with the Enhanced Edition
  • Based on earlier code by Cuv, Turumbar, and Miloch
  • Hosted on WhiteAgnus's GitHub page.
  • No formal discussion forum.
  • Various contributions from other writers
  • The Readme for the 1.5-era Ascension can be found in 'ascension/doc/v 1.5-1.7 readme'
Version 1.6 (AlIenQuake, September 2016)
  • In September 2016 Ascension moves to the Big World System (BWS) Github pages.
  • The version numbering has broken down; I'm using '1.6' to refer to Ascension once it's moved to BWS, but releases in this period just carry dates.
  • Updates are localised bugfixes and translations; many contributors.
Version 1.7 (multiple authors, November 2018)
  • In November 2018, Roxanne collects together various fixes into a new release, and reinstates a versioning system, starting at 1.7.0
  • This version of Ascension is still an incremental development of 1.5, and remains hosted at the BWS Github page.
Version 2.0 (DavidW, June 2019)

This was quite a large project and I may well have missed some small changes, but these are the main changes:

  • The main component of Ascension has been split into 8 subcomponents: rewritten chapter 10; redeemable Balthazar; restored Bhaalspawn powers; improved Sarevok/player dialog; improved Imoen/player dialog; improved Slayer transformation; extended epilogues; tougher Balthazar. (Ascension is so old that when it shipped, it was necessary to bundle as much as possible into one place because you could only add dialog lines once.)
  • The components have been reorganized into three groups to make the mod's structure more transparent: the Ascension (the various bits of the main component, less Tougher Balthazar); Tougher Enemies; Additional Content (added to Ascension well after its release).
  • Dozens of small (mostly cosmetic) bugs were fixed, and the logic of the final chapter has been tightened to correct a few persistent reported bugs
  • Tightened up the cosmetic features of some cutscenes and abilities (the line between this and bugfixes is a little blurry.)
  • The code for the pool powers fairly clearly allows that Imoen should be able to receive them instead of the player, but for technical reasons that wasn't working; I've restored it.
  • Added additional code (though no additional dialog) to permit a redeemed Balthazar to help you even if you're using the original (non-Ascension) version of the final chapter
  • If Balthazar is allied with you, you should get much finer control of him (the previous AI is quite willful) and can use any of his powers from the innate bar
  • Lots of small changes to allow for better compatibility with the Enhanced Edition (e.g., the save-for-half flag is implemented; new innate powers have in-game descriptions instead of being described in journal entries)
  • David Gaider's original Readme laments the fact that the hardcoded bits of the difficulty slider can't be disabled. Since they can be disabled in modern BG (either on the Enhanced Edition or on ToBex) I've disabled them, and taken the opportunity to spread the difficulty settings a bit more evenly. 'Insane' is still just as hard as ever, but on the lower difficulty settings the mod's combats are slightly less brutal than previously. (This is all documented in some detail.)
  • Slightly tweaked the implementation of certain abilities to make use of modern tools and techniques (again, see the documentation.)
  • In the original Ascension there is a (pretty edge-case) scenario where Sarevok is redeemed but then leaves the party only to be summoned by Melissan. I've allowed for this in Sarevok's dialog: he gets the 'redeemed' dialog option even if he has left the party, and can fight for you.
  • The original mod's documentation suggests that there is a route through Balthazar's redemption for a high-wisdom Evil character. That wasn't actually the case in the distributed version so far as I can tell (and I checked the logic pretty thoroughly); I have tweaked the parameters of the conversation very slightly so that a narrow route now exists.
  • Added a very small component of my own that fixes an anomaly on the cutscenes with Yaga-Shura and Gromnir (it could have lived in SCS but it seemed a more natural fit to Ascension).
  • Added another small component of my own (for EE only) that sharpens the portraits for Gromnir and Abazigal (for some reason, BG2EE sharpens all the other portraits, but not those ones).
  • The cutscene in 'tougher Abazigal' is a bit of a mess; I've rebuilt it.
  • Restored the original Bhaalspawn powers as part of 'Restored Bhaalspawn powers': it doesn't seem logical that you get new powers and Imoen gets old-style powers but you never get the original ones.
  • Ascension now has an ini file that allows power-users fine control over some features of the install. For instance, most of my tweaks that aren't straight bugfixes can be disabled there, and I've externalized some other features, e.g. the XP thresholds to upgrade the Slayer.
  • Very thoroughly documented the whole mod, including detailed information (behind a spoiler link) on the effect of the difficulty slider.
  • Under the hood: complete recoding of Ascension