The undead from Castle Redcliffe have begun the attack upon Redcliffe Village. The Warden and their companions stand with the village's defenders. This is an optional part of the Arl of Redcliffe quest (only available if A Village Under Siege was completed).
The quest consists of two phases:
1. Defense of the Windmill: The Warden's party starts at the windmill along with Ser Perth and his knights, plus Dwyn (with his pair of thugs) and/or Berwick, if you have recruited either of them. If the Warden suggested to Ser Perth that the oil barrels in the General Store might be useful, they will be added to the barricade and set on fire (if Zevran is in the party, he will issue a wise warning about this). The knights (and anyone else not managed appropriately) may run into the fire to attack the walking corpses. Though the fire doesn't harm defenders at Casual difficulty, it is not advised to let anyone (living) near it at higher settings.
2. Defense of the Chantry: After the undead at the windmill have been defeated, a militiaman will run up from the barricades in the centre of the village to report that more undead have crossed the lake and are attacking the Village Chantry's defenders. The Warden's party must hurry there and help fend off several more waves of attackers. Murdock, Tomas, and the rest of the militia will be there, plus Lloyd if he was recruited.
Note to XP opportunists and the malicious: All of the village's defenders can be slain by repeated applications of AOE spells (Shock, Fireball, Blizzard, etc.) and such deaths apparently yield XP. Also, if Owen was convinced to do the militia's repairs, every fallen militiaman will drop a full Studded Leather Armor Set. It is possible to earn up to 18 if done relatively late/at a very high level.
Strategy: Keeping Everyone Alive
Despite the daunting nature of the task, keeping everyone alive through the night has its benefits. If handled well, this can be an easy battle, regardless of difficulty. The following strategy was written from the perspective of a Level 10 party on Nightmare difficulty:
The only way to heal the NPCs on consoles is with health-regenerating aura effects, namely from Cleansing Aura (which requires the user being Level 14 to access). Heal and Group Heal cannot be used to target NPC allies, however they can still recover health if the enemy is eliminated quickly enough to trigger a "drop out of combat," which leads to a small reprieve to recover health and even save the game while waiting for the next force to advance.
On PC, however, it is possible to cast single-target spells on the militia, so keeping them alive is far easier through the use of Heal and Regeneration, along with Cleansing Aura and any spell that can augment their chances, such as Heroic Offense and Force Field. Group Heal still only applies to the active party, however, so it cannot be used to heal NPC's. In a pinch, Lifeward can make the difference between an NPC living or dying should the rest of your healing spells be recharging.
Additionally, the player can use Glyph of Paralysis and Glyph of Repulsion to keep the undead away from the militia as necessary, either by blocking off choke points like the fire and the gaps in the barricades, or by casting them directly on an NPC with low health or surrounded by attacking corpses. Paralysis Explosion, as with any other case, is a double-edged sword, as it will paralyze friend and foe alike.
Be aware that Revival does not work on NPC's. Once they're gone, they're gone for good.
Keeping everyone alive is entirely possible with Level 9-10 Alistair, Morrigan, and Wynne, even on Nightmare difficulty. In this battle, a good offense is the best defense. You'll face down close to 100 corpses total, and killing them as swiftly as possible will create breaks you can use to drop out of combat entirely, thus healing the militia as well.
- Completing Broken Circle not only gets you Wynne and her healing abilities (which suffice for the Warden's party, not to mention she will also have Stonefist for the occasional knockdown/Shatter), but also Templar Armor, which is ideal for Alistair at early stages of the game. Beyond this, she can't do much without burning up her mana, and it is recommended you give her lyrium potions manually. Have her use Rejuvenate on Alistair when his stamina gets below 25%, so he can use Taunt regularly.
- On that note, Alistair can learn several useful abilities between the Korcari Wilds and this point, namely Taunt, Shield Bash, Shield Pummel, and Overpower. Taunt is essential for managing threat. The activated talents provide knockdown, stun, and a critical hit respectively. Overpower is not entirely necessary, if you've invested in Shield Defense (which should be disabled since offense is much more important in this fight).
- Morrigan comes with Winter's Grasp, Horror, Frost Weapons, and, if she joins at Level 7, a single level up away from Cone of Cold. When aimed properly this can give the militia a chance to kill the corpse and regroup, not to mention talents with critical hits will trigger Shattering against normal-ranked corpses. Force Field becomes another useful option, though it will make a corpse immune to damage it will prevent them from fighting, allowing you to cleanup weaker numbers and regroup the militia. Vulnerability Hex, when used on the corpses with the highest health (i.e. Elites), will make them easier to destroy.
- Flaming Weapons will provide about an extra +9 damage per hit against enemies, +12 on Vulnerability Hex's victim (depending on Morrigan's spellpower), far outstripping Cold Iron runes. Dual-Wielders have twice the advantage by striking twice within the same time-frame as a two-hander or archer, and still faster than W&S. Even if you have to buy a Tome of Arcane Technique or two, this ability is indispensable when paired with Threaten. (If the Warden is a dual-wielder with Momentum, activate it once Lloyd is free of danger to quickly clean up and possibly force a drop out of combat. It's not necessary, but it can save some hair-pulling if the option is there.)
- Sten with a two-hander setup described below and a decent set of armor will also suffice, although the other three require much less dressing up for the battle.
- Leliana is not as useful in this battle, since she is likely undeveloped as a rogue early on, and there are plenty of archers in the militia itself. Although Song of Valor will help with stamina regeneration, this is of no use to the militia. With Captivating Song learned (requires Level 12 and all four Bard talents learned), she can easily stun most of the corpses and keep them locked down. She will not be able to fight herself, but at Level 12 an active team of three fighters should be equivalent to four at Level 9-10.
- Shale's utility is debatable. With Small Fire Crystals set in the arms, the golem can easily deal the most damage, but Stone Aura might be more useful. On ps3 at least, there is nothing to suggest it actually heals the militia (health bars remain at present value), although they do appear far more resilient within the aura than without.
Sustainables, with the exception of Rapid Shot, Momentum, and upgraded Powerful Swings, should be avoided, as they eat up too much stamina, and even these should be used only after the talents are used. Learn the talents through Arrow of Slaying for archers, Punisher for dual-wielders, Two-Handed Sweep or Critical Strike for two-handers (preferably both but not half-and-half), and Overpower for weapon-and-shield users, as they can cause stun, knockdown, and critical hits (and therefore Shattering when combined with Cone of Cold). At least one should learn Taunt and apply that at the top of the Tactics list.
The following tips can supplement the defensive strategy, but most of them are only useful to sufficiently-developed parties. They are by no means required but should make the task marginally if not immensely easier.
- Mild Lure traps can be useful for getting attackers away from where they aren't wanted (drawing knights into fire, mobbing Lloyd when he charges out into the open, etc.); a reasonable supplemental effort if there aren't enough characters with Taunt. However, setting them will require a Skill point invested in Trap-Making, two to build them from scratch as well as the Mild Lure Plans purchased.
- Soulrot Coating can provide additional spirit damage to melee weapons, but will require skill investment in Poison-Making just to apply, Expert Poison-Making to craft.
- pc Try to have one mage in the group with Heal, preferably two. Pause combat every so often to monitor everyone's health levels or keep Tab held down frequently). Use poultices to keep the Warden and companions up so the spell can be saved for NPCs. Don't forget the Tactics slot "Self: Health < X% = Use: X Poultice" if avoiding micromanagement.
- Healing NPCs is not possible on PS3 or Xbox 360 with Heal or Group Heal, you may only target your party members. Refer to the first note about keeping everyone's health up.
- Cleansing Aura affects all of the militia, on all platforms. This offers arguably the best chance of preventing fatalities, even at Nightmare difficulty. However, if the Warden is not a Spirit Healer, this will require Wynne reaching the level requirement of 14 (and therefore the Warden reaching 15, very likely), which will take a considerable portion of the game. If one desires to complete Redcliffe early, it is wholly unnecessary in the battle.
- Lowering the Difficulty setting before or during the battle will help trivialize the issues with the militia, but players looking for the maximum challenge may take issue with this tactic, however brief it would be.
- To better see whether or not any soldiers have fallen, look at the remains; if a corpse has blood, then it is a fallen soldier (from the militia), indicating you to reload without having to finish the battle. If the maximum amount of preparation is done, there will be eight NPC's up at the windmill: Ser Perth and three Knights, Berwick and Dwyn with two Thugs. At the Chantry, there will be eleven NPCs: Tomas, Murdock, five Militia, three Militiamen, and Lloyd if pressed into service. Look for blue circles to better count them off.
- Reloading the auto-save that generates halfway down to the Chantry will reset the militia, refilling their health and arrangement (very useful for buying time to save Lloyd, although it won't stop him from charging off to take on two at once). However, this seems to be tied to the transition of the first phase to the second, and reloads as such. You may get a setup with the corpses just pressing their attack, or with both Elite-ranks entrenched and just finished hacking at Lloyd, with no way to rescue him.
- "Cold-loading" the auto save (loading it from the main menu) seems to be totally disadvantageous, leading to consistently placing the entire first wave of corpses, including the Elites, within the militia's perimeter. Continuing beyond this seems to force the replacements to spawn one at a time relentlessly. If you must leave the game, it is recommended to reload a save from before the quest even begins (preferably made before talking to Murdock to begin the defense), to ensure their safety.
- If a mage in the party has Earthquake, it can be used to plug up the onslaught at the Windmill. This is especially advantageous if the oil barrels were employed. Make sure not to completely overlap the flaming slick with the Earthquake area, so the zombies are unable to get stable footing on the quivering ground while inside the inferno. Be advised that this will also exacerbate the friendly fire problems that the oil slick entails. Earthquake can also be used to detain the zombies in front of the Chantry, outside the barricade cordon. This enables the militiamen archers to bombard the undead attackers quite thoroughly before they close to melee range.
Even with all of this, a degree of luck is required. The Knights' AI may refuse to cooperate and send them into the fire anyway. At the Chantry, corpses may shrug off the Taunts or resist a crowd-control spell, or they may continue to spawn with no break in combat, forcing you to fight all 40 some odd corpses while keeping the militia's constantly dwindling health from reaching zero. Also, your companions may get wedged in a mob of 5-6 militia and corpses and be unable to get positioned for an attack.
Assuming the oil is used, the most important thing to do is set Behavior to either Default, Defensive, Ranged, or Cautious, which will prevent them from chasing enemies into a harmful area of effect (AoE), like the fire trap. As for the other allies, the best thing to do is to kill the corpses as quickly as possible, to prevent them incensing the knights into taking up the front line.
If the oil barrels are used to set the hill on fire:
- Order the party to hold position, and move Alistair to the very edge of the fire trap. He won't walk into it if his Behavior is set properly, and he should draw the most threat. Set spellcasters back by the rear guard, and bring your other warrior (hopefully the Warden) to supplement Alistair. Let the fire do most of the work, and the corpses will not aggro your allies into chasing them too far south (towards the village exit/fire trap). Manually command Alistair to engage enemies once they are through the trap, or he will just stand there and let the flaming undead go by. When softened, they shouldn't be a match for the knights, but it's best not to take chances.
- Make good use of ranged stun and knockdown abilities (Horror, Winter's Grasp, Stonefist) while the corpses are in the flames to keep them in there long enough to burn to death. If you wish, move Morrigan to the edge of the trap and use Cone of Cold.
- Earthquake, set on and behind the barricade as each wave of undead approaches. This works even better if the Warden's entire party keeps ranged attack options, and especially well if the oil barrels are used.
If not, it's simply a matter of grinding the dozens of corpses as they come down the hill. Without health-regenerating auras, the combat veterans assembled on the hill may very well be worn down and die, so maintain the Warden's party's position as the first line of defense. Be warned that the longer you spend up here may deprive you of time better spent at the Chantry. Try to sneak in a save before the Militia summons you below.
The real difficulty of the second phase is in getting down here fast enough, and securing Lloyd if he was pressed into the defense. He has no armor, a single dagger, and a tendency to run off into the night, away from the safety of the militia. Force Field and Winter's Grasp may be useful in stopping any corpses engaging him, and Taunt may very well get their attention away from him. (On PC, it may be a better idea to use Force Field on him, this will cocoon him and keep him from being reckless, but this option is not available on console). If he manages to aggro three of them, it's probably better to reload and pray for two, or one. Beyond this, the best way to complete the phase is to defend the opening in the barricades that the militia have clustered around. Take manual control of Morrigan and use her built-in crowd controllers (Winter's Grasp and Horror), and use Drain Life and Lightning to deal damage.
- Use Cone of Cold or Flame Blast manually, and keep militia and party members out of the AoE. This is by no means easy when the corpses get embedded, so Morrigan should use the cone abilities on incoming waves, as opposed to entrenched waves.
- The biggest problem is the two Elite-rank corpses. If they are entrenched together, it is probably better to reload and hope for a better setup. They can deal the most damage and resist your crowd control measures, so Morrigan should apply Force Field on one and Vulnerability Hex on the other. Getting their attention away from the militia is the next countermeasure, before they can do any more damage than they've already done. Finally, spam your warriors' abilities against the hexed Elite and kill it before it can do any more damage.
- Like with the first phase, it is very important to have the Behavior of companions set to Default, Defensive, or Cautious, or manage their targets closely. Otherwise your forces may scatter, preventing an organized elimination of the walking dead. The militia are at their strongest when the 8-9 of them can gang up on corpses wandering into their kill-zone, and each of the Warden's party members can handle a corpse or two on their own.
- Direct crowd-control measures at corpses fighting a militia member 2 (or 3)-on-1, and focus the warrior's talents on those closest to them, working their way across the field.
Lastly, keep trying. Keep trying until you create enough of a gap in the spawns that you get a drop out of combat. It's easier when all four companions are within the perimeter, and when the militia starts sheathing weapons, count heads, and save the instant you can do so yourself. From here, take the corpses as they come, and all 9 will see the sunrise.
pc Note: The console command runscript zz_arl_debug can be used to skip the battle in the event that either of the following bugs make it impossible to complete.
A cutscene shows the village offering thanks to the Warden, plus remembering those who died (if any). Then Bann Teagan asks you to meet him at the mill to discuss how to get into the castle.
There is a Doomsayer after the village has been defended successfully. You can intimidate him, kill him, or leave him alone. However, there appears to be no XP. He will reappear, and this time you can also persuade him to shut up.
If the Warden is male you can ask Bella for a kiss as a hero's welcome.
If you promised Bella before the battle that you would help her leave:
- Offer her 500
- Offer her 100. She rejects your offer and stays at the tavern.
If Bella leaves, you convinced Lloyd to join the battle, and Lloyd is still alive, then he acts as a merchant again.
- 1250 XP for saving the village
(if Lloyd is recruited and survives.)