Celestial Fury

A long time ago, on the Baldur’s Gate 2 newsgroup, one Westley Weimer remarked about the weapon Celestial Fury something to the effect of:

If Demogorgon dropped Celestial Fury when he died, I’d pick it up and go ‘oh, that seems about right.

— My fuzzy memory, sometime around 2002

Demogorgon is one of the most powerful monsters in that game. Demogorgon is an optional boss optionally fought at the bottom of an optional dungeon which has two rewarding optional alternate defeats and gives you a huge pile of experience and no loot. Demogorgon is one of the hardest fights in the game, and he gives you, in return for that difficulty, dick nothing.

But if he’d given you Celestial Fury, that would be a pretty reasonable drop.

So what the heckadilly is Celestial Fury?

In Baldur’s Gate 2, Celestial Fury is a +3 katana. In the context of this game, without going in depth on it, weapons are rated from +1 to +5, with only a tiny number of weapons in the +4 and +5 category, and only two or three monsters in the entire game at release who needed a +4 to take damage. In addition to being ‘a good magic weapon,’ it deals an additional 1-20 (1d20) lightning damage to whoever you hit with it, it’s very fast so you can attack with it a lot in the game’s animation time, and on every single hit, it had a chance to stun your target.

The target had a chance to save against it, but because this happened every time you attacked, and a natural 1 always stuns, the more you attacked, eventually you stunned your opponent and then, because the stun lasted multiple rounds, they’d never get un-stunned. In one-on-one fights, Celestial Fury prevents all damage from your opponent after the first few attacks. If you can multitask, and swap targets quickly, when you notice one is stunned, you can keep up to six opponents completely stuck still.

That lightning damage isn’t nothing either: It’s not a component of the weapon, the way it’s coded means that the damage just a thing that happens, an event with no type, triggering after the attack hits. If your attack does no damage, the lightning still does. That damage spike bypasses enemy defenses, and hits every single spellcaster in the game in their stupid face, meaning that while they’re putting up magical shields like Stoneskin to protect themselves, you are bolting them in the pace, ruining their concentration and wasting their entire turn even if they’re immune to Celestial Fury.

It has other powers too – a negligible blind, a negligible lightning bolt – doesn’t matter, not important. What matters is this weapon does great damage, stops enemies even attacking you, wrecks the day of spellcasters, and oh it’s a katana too so you can backstab with it (which multiplies your damage by up to 5 times). This weapon is so strong that the best thing you can do to support Celestial Fury is to wield a second weapon just to get more attacks with Celestial Fury.

Which uh, okay, how does that work.

Now, because of the preposterous choice I’ve made, I have to try, basically, to explain how 2nd Edition D&D handled multiple attacks.

The answer is awkwardly.

You might be familiar with more recent versions of Dungeons & Dragons, where you, on your turn, get to attack things, and as you get better at attacking things, you get to attack them more often. In 3rd edition, just one edition after 2e, you had the idea of iterative attacks that followed your base attack bonus. If you have 6 points of base attack bonus, and you do a full attack action (like, stand and do nothing but attack) instead of one attack at +6, you get one attack at +6, and another attack at +1.

In 4th edition, individual powers tracked how many targets they hit. Low level powers were more likely to hit fewer enemies, and higher level ones were more likely to be used with other powers as well, to let you make more attacks in a single turn. The math also works a bit better in 4e.

In 2nd edition, we have this godless spawn that is the half attack.

As you get better at wielding weapons, you get more attacks, but they don’t increment up cleanly. Instead, you get an extra half attack based on a number of things, and then you check every other turn if you have a half left over. You may have 1.5 attacks a turn, which means in practice, you make 1 attack, then 2 attacks, then 1 attack, then 2 attacks.

You may look at that and think: isn’t that some arcane bullshit?

Yes.

What if you wield a second weapon? Oh, you get one extra attack, with that. Only one. Your main hand weapon gets faster and faster, your off hand stays at one attack.

If this sounds bonkers to you, don’t worry, enemies also had fractional attacks, all the time, so you’d see an enemy stat block with things like “5/2” and like, have fun remembering that in amongst all the other stuff they can do.

Oh hey, also, in Baldur’s Gate 2, the source material in question, there’s a weapon called Belm that gives you +1 attack. It gives it to your main hand. Therefore, the best thing you can do with Celestial Fury, is dual wield it, with Belm in the off hand, so Belm gives its extra attack to Celestial Fury.

Okay, this is a busted weapon.

How do you get it?

Back in 2002 when Westley made his quote about it being worthy of being dropped by the Prince of Hell when you successfully killed him, this weapon was available in an unremarkable, non-quest-important building called the ‘Guarded Compound’ in the temple district of the city. You walk in, you get told to get out, and if you keep pushing, you encounter a group of random weirdos, including a minotaur berserker, a kensei – imagine a person so into swords they refuse to use anything else, including armour – and a 18th level conjuror wizard with a bunch of traps and a high level cleric.

None of them have any of their gear equipped. The spellcasters do not have spells prepared. They are easily rolled as they run up to you and try to punch you, despite having specialised code that lets them drink potions to survive and escape, which they will use, but not the basic code that says ‘hey, use the sword you have in your pocket, dumbass.’

In the original version of this game, the most powerful katana of the game is in the back pocket of an katana expert, who has given up every advantage he has to be better at using the katana, and whose class features don’t work unless he wields a katana, and he doesn’t use it.

Anyway, back then we tried to argue that this wasn’t a bug and it was intentional as a reward for people who explored. Like the game was just meant to be okay for you to wander over to this location straight out of the first starter dungeon, juke the best sword in the game and obliterate your way through everything while wearing starter gear. Right?

Right?

This sword is extremely fucking cool and also, in the Enhanced Edition of Baldur’s Gate 2, it’s being used by someone who will actually hit you with it and my first attempt to retrieve it involved me needing to come back with a bucket to pick up the pieces of myself that were left.


What I found that amazed me was how this weapon didn’t have any art. Oh, there’s a sketch of the handle that doesn’t match the game icon, and if I went digging into the game files I could find art of it, but the sword art in this article is actually from the Magic: The Gathering card Tatsumasa, The Dragon’s Fang.

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