Quest: Blackpowder Promise
Location: Dead Man’s Pass, The Wounded Coast
Start: Javaris Tintop
Previous: Long Way Home
Next: Shepherding Wolves
Appearances: Dragon Age II
Blackpowder Promise is an Act 1 main quest in Dragon Age II.
Dead Man’s Pass
This quest starts after completing Long Way Home and traveling outside the city again, with an ambush at Dead Man’s Pass outside Kirkwall. Rescue Javaris Tintop and his guards from five Normal-ranked giant spiders. Javaris asks Hawke to kill a band of Tal-Vashoth to win favor with the Qunari Arishok, securing trading rights to a recipe for a powder that explodes without magic or lyrium. He says that it should be profitable for all.
“I’m in if the coin is good.”
Aveline: rivalry (+5)
Isabela: friendship (+5)
“Your plan seems a little weak.”
Carver: rivalry (+5)
“I’d do it to hunt outlaws.”
Aveline: friendship (+5)
Isabela: friendship (+5).
Hawke will automatically receive Codex entry: Tal-Vashoth upon completion of the conversation (does not always notify the player).
The Wounded Coast
Once Hawke leaves Dead Man’s Pass, the party may travel to the Wounded Coast. The northern road travels west through a great deal of enemy territory and bends south, whereas the south road has a single encounter with four Tal-Vashoth, who are immune to fire and lightning damage on Nightmare difficulty but vulnerable to cold damage.
At the westernmost fork of the map, near the exit, Hawke encounters a Tal-Vashoth outcast, who warns the group the other Tal-Vashoth ahead have set up an ambush for travelers. This Tal-Vashoth explains that he and his fellows left the Qun, dissatisfied with their roles but refusing to “sell their swords” (and thus their honor), so they have taken to murder and theft. He, however, is disgusted by this and seeks to become a sellsword, though under the Qun’s philosophy he is “worse” than his brethren for doing so.
An Aggressive Hawke has a special option to convince the Tal-Vashoth warrior to fight with them, stating that “the last man standing has the final say what is right and wrong.” Doing so earns ≈34 xp, and his help can be quite valuable on higher difficulties, but by no means necessary; he will only assist in the very last battle against the Tal-Vashoth leader, leaving you to fight the majority of the Tal-Vashoth alone regardless.
Hawke with a diplomatic or sarcastic personality will be unable to convince him to join. The bribe option does not work, as the Tal-Vashoth refuses to turn his blade against his former brethren for coin.
One of Hawke’s companions will have a catch phrase (e.g. Isabela “Here we go again”) regarding enemies ahead when hearing the Tal-Vashoth’s ambient warning, before the cutscene, and that same companion will say a phrase after the cutscene.
Start up the hill to be ambushed by four Tal-Vashoth. After finishing them, Hawke will find another half-dozen up the hill, along with a standard chest. Allow the party to recover before moving further up the hill, instigating a battle with yet another group of Tal-Vashoth. Continuing up the hill, Hawke will find the last group of Tal-Vashoth. As soon as this battle starts, four more will come up the hill behind, and several more will appear from behind some bushes. There’s a chest back there if it hasn’t been already been found on a previous visit. Enter the Tal-Vashoth Cavern.
Inside, the map has a similar layout to the Sundermount Caverns. Loot the rubble and search for a door, then head downstairs to a small campsite and another door. This door opens into a circular grassy area with several stalagmites reducing lines of sight. There are four Tal-Vashoth, one at the foot of the stairs, three up top. Going up some stairs, some minor loot can be found in a crate. A door takes the party to the next section, which resembles a mining facility. Go down the stairs and turn right to the dead-end tunnel to find a chest and a body to loot and a Simple-ranked trap to disarm. In the opposite direction deeper in the chamber, five Tal-Vashoth will attack, followed by four reinforcements and a Tal-Vashoth Officer. The Officer fights like a “commander” type enemy, complete with health-regenerating aura, but rather than tossing an unlimited supply of tar bombs at the party, he favors a short-range AoE roar to stun. Luring the first wave back into the grassy room before defeating them will allow the party to recover before engaging the second wave, making them easier to defeat.
Note: All traps in the Tal-Vashoth Cavern are Simple-rank, meaning any rogue should be able to detect and disarm them regardless of Cunning score.
After the fight, go up some steps to find a vein of Silverite. Follow the mine adits (horizontal passages) to check for loot, but return to the door to proceed further into the mine. In the downward passage, there is a raw lyrium deposit and a chest.
Proceeding through the door from this area reveals steps going up to another door at the top to the final chamber. In here, the Tal-Vashoth Leader is situated at the top of the center mesa, the only staircase on the other side of the facility, initially with four Tal-Vashoth soldiers assisting him. Several reinforcements will show up later, among them a Tal-Vashoth Saarebas, a dangerous mage who unleashes an area-of-effect lightning spell. The Leader fights exactly like the Officer, but if he cannot be slain before the reinforcements join in, the Saarebas becomes the top priority. Fortunately as a mage he has poor fortitude, making him easy to knock around with forceful attacks despite his Elite rank, even on higher difficulties, while high damage single-target attacks with sufficiently powerful weapons (such as Twin Fangs) will wipe his health bar.
Some strategies for dealing with the enemies include holding position in the wooden shanty near the door where you entered, then slowly inching forward to trigger combat without drawing the lesser ranks. Ranged attacks will be able to snipe the Tal-Vashoth Leader from here, but neither he nor the lesser ranks will advance, allowing him to be slowly whittled down and defeated without triggering reinforcements or the Saarebas to spawn. If this doesn’t work, you’ll likely end up killing the lesser ranks before putting too much of a dent in the Leader. When the Saarebas spawns, he can quickly launch any number of lightning attacks and wipe out the entire party on Nightmare difficulty. A Rune of Lightning Warding inserted into companions’ armor should reduce this damage to be negligible, but in Act 1 only Varric has armor upgrades that confer additional rune slots, so it is best to avoid his spells altogether. The most convenient way to do so is to march the party out of the room, all the way back to the grassy chamber with stalagmites where you first encountered enemies (smaller circular room won the map path). This should file the enemies into a single line during their pursuit with the doorways impeding those who bunch up, allowing them to be killed one at a time as they trickle through the choke points. The Saarebas tends to warp back to his original spawn point once he gets far enough away from it, thus protecting the party from his electric wrath. Dropping out of combat allows the party to heal between every few killings, but saving and reloading is ill-advised, as this tends to cause all of the remaining reinforcements to spawn and line up in the wooden shanties, with the Saarebas safely nestled in the back and ready to cast a Tempest-like attack on your party, bunched up in the stairwell and unable to retreat. With enough enemies slain, it is easy to keep pressure on the Saarebas to quickly dispatch him before he can unleash too many spells, then focus on the Leader if he is still alive. All in all, the long, narrow adits and straightaways favor ranged companions over melee, with the wide-area attacks of warriors not as useful as more damaging attacks with narrower scopes.
Having the deserter along certainly helps in this battle (also changing the ambient dialogue of the Tal-Vashoth both outside and inside), but he has a tendency to attack the Leader rather than actively help clean up the lesser ranks or the Saarebas, so getting the most use out of him may require the party helping him out in dispatching the Leader first, regardless of enemy presence. His help is by no means necessary to win, even on Nightmare difficulty.
After the battle, Hawke will find Formula: Combustion Grenade on the Leader’s corpse, along with Red Grace, a decent two-handed weapon, in a chest in a bioluminescent chamber behind the Leader’s starting position.
Following the fight, leave via the south door.
Note: You access the world map instead of just returning to The Wounded Coast.
Go to the Docks during the day to meet with Javaris. Enter the compound and report to the Arishok that the Tal-Vashoth were dealt with. The Arishok says that Javaris misunderstood and there was no deal to buy the powder’s formula. Javaris will then leave the compound without paying Hawke, pay 3 gold for choosing “He still owes me” or 4 gold for choosing “I was promised future profits.” Hawke receives his gold, if applicable, 400 XP, and Codex entry: The Qun upon completion of the conversation and the quest. Hawke will also gain a point toward the Arishok’s respect if this choice was selected.
Note: Fenris will greet the Qunari in their language with the Arishok making bemused comments about the elf’s cultural knowledge. Also, an additional dialogue option opens up referring to Fenris’s understanding of the situation, though this does not change the outcome of the quest. This also allows Hawke to earn a respect point from the Arishok that counts towards A Worthy Rival achievement/trophy.
Note: Isabela claims she has something she needs to do upon trying to enter the compound. You can force Isabela to remain in the party during the meeting by choosing “Then I will not enter right now” when she becomes evasive at the gate, then quickly opening the gate and dashing (weapon drawn) into the meeting with Javaris and the Arishok. As this is not an intended possible outcome, there are no dialog options and no one acknowledges her presence. This will only work on the console version of Dragon Age II, since there is no “action button” for the PC version.
400 XP if Hawke chose “I was promised future profits” or “He still owes me” when speaking with the Arishok.
Up to two points toward the Arishok’s respect:
If Fenris was brought when speaking to the Arishok
If Hawke said “I was promised future profits”
4 gold 0 silver 0 copper if Hawke said “I was promised future profits” or 3 gold 0 silver 0 copper if Hawke said “He still owes me”
Lyrium from the Tal-Vashoth Cavern
Silverite from the Tal-Vashoth Cavern
Embrium from Dead Man’s Pass
Codex entry: Tal-Vashoth
Codex entry: The Qun
This quest is one of the most expedient means of unlocking access to the Wounded Coast, as it only requires completing Long Way Home (available as soon as Varric joins in Hightown), followed by a single, mostly-painless ambush fight against five Normal-ranked giant spiders that triggers upon clicking any map location outside Kirkwall. Other quests require significant advancement before travel to the Wounded Coast is required to advance them further. The only route faster than this is to accept the notice from Sebastian Vael on the Chantry Board, which requires purchasing and installing the Exiled Prince downloadable content.
There are two “sets” of Tal-Vashoth groups that spawn at the Wounded Coast: a “default” set of four at the southeastern bend, two more groups to the west, and a full complement with a Tal-Vashoth Officer in the main camp (path groups are 200 XP each, camp group ≈311 XP for a total of 911 XP); and a “Blackpowder” set that only spawns during Blackpowder Promise and consists of the enemies fought in the Walkthrough. The Blackpowder set supercedes the default set if Blackpowder Promise is an active quest, which will happen as soon as you complete the ambush after Long Way Home. The default set can still be fought by completing Blackpowder Promise (all the way through speaking to the Arishok) and returning to the Wounded Coast later, or by unlocking the Wounded Coast via an alternative route first. Note that if you complete Blackpowder Promise without eliminating the Blackpowder set’s group at the southeastern bend (possible by taking the northern path around that encounter), it will spawn alongside the group from the default set when the Wounded Coast resets, thus you’ll have to fight both groups at once.
If Maraas joins the fight, he will use a spear for a melee weapon but hit the other Tal-Vashoth with the handle end. This is likely a graphical bug and nothing more.
After Javaris leaves, the player can proceed up the stairs and ask some questions of the Arishok. His words depend on the dialogue choices made before Javaris left.
If this quest is completed before Shepherding Wolves, Hawke will have an extra dialogue choice in Sister Petrice’s hideout, stating you can speak to the Arishok as Hawke has had dealings with him before.
While trying to put together money for the Deep Roads expedition, keep in mind that Javaris will try to back out of his deal. He will only pay the player if the Arishok forces him to.
If Bethany is in the party when first approaching the Compound she will say “That beast in Lothering killed one of my best friends – I hate Qunari”, referring to Sten from Dragon Age: Origins.
If Hawke has no companions when talking with Javaris for the first time at Dead Man’s Pass, he will comment on the effects of the blackpowder (before the 2 option “it sounds like magic” and “they offered this to you?”).
If Hawke has companions, one of them will comment about it instead (Varric will also make a comment regarding Javaris attempting to “court the Qunari.”)
Maraas’ logic is confusing to some of the party members, particularly Isabela, but taken with what Sten says in Dragon Age: Origins, it sheds light on some of the Qun’s reasoning: In The Sword of the Beresaad, Sten essentially states that Asala, his missing sword, is his “soul,” forged for his hand alone to carry out his purpose under the Qun, which in his case (and likely in the case of Maraas and the Tal-Vashoth prior to defecting) was to serve in the Qunari military and follow the Arishok’s orders. A Qunari warrior wielding their blade for mercenary purposes would be to take it away from its original purpose, the Qun’s equivalent of literally selling one’s soul. Thus, murder and banditry would not only be preferable for these Tal-Vashoth, they would retain more of their “honor” than they would selling their sword arms for other peoples’ petty causes, a point Maraas espouses upon when meeting him again in Act 3. Here, Maraas taking money and killing his brothers would be to sell what’s left of his soul, but killing them for his own sake, as an aggressive Hawke suggests, does not.