Monday, September 22, 2014

Secret of the Silver Blades: Enemy Mines

The session ended with the unceremonious appointment of my party as Silver Blades. Does that mean we have to go to war with the Companions?

The entirety of my gameplay since the last post has been spent in the nine levels of the Verdigris mines, attempting to recover the eight pieces of Oswulf's Staff. Even though I was correct that I didn't have to map them (simply following the left or right wall took me to all important areas), it took a good six hours to fully explore the levels, fighting a ton of random and fixed combats along the way.

Most of the levels were indistinguishable from each other. They all had twisting corridors, dead-ends where I could dig and collect gems, random battles every 20 or so steps with minotaurs, giant slugs, gargoyles, margoyles, giant spiders, displacer beasts, umber hulks, mongbats, wyverns, and (in the lowest levels) basilisks and medusas. Most of the levels had rooms with fixed encounters that produced a selection of magic items at the end; one of these fixed encounters on each level held the piece of Oswulf's Staff.

The point of the canary sold in the New Verdigris shop became all too clear as I started to encounter pockets of gas. If I had a live canary, it would die, giving me one move to escape backwards. On the other hand, there were generally nice hauls of gems on the other side of the gas pockets (I don't need money, but they came with a nice dollop of experience points, too), so I suffered through the damage. I stopped buying the birds after a couple of them died. It seemed needlessly cruel since I was going to ignore the warning anyway.

Poor thing.  You'd think we'd have some magic way to detect the presence of noxious fumes.

Things became a little different on Level 6, where a portion of the mine was occupied by some lizard men. The poor, misguided creatures had no idea that their hit point totals were far below the damage done by my "Fireballs" and "Ice Storms," even if they made their saving throws. A series of battles against javelin-throwing lizard warriors culminated in a battle against dozens of the things and their king.

A huge pack of lizard men that lasted one round.

After I'd cleared them out, I found a strange shimmering wall which shattered when I approached, damaging my party and expelling Vala, a lawful good human fighter who had been one of the original Silver Blades, magically imprisoned for the last 300 years. She was happy to join my party and continue the fight against the Dreadlord. She's been a solid addition so far, though I'm not sure how long she'll stay.

Go ahead. Tell me some nonsense about how there's a magic force field between those plates.

Level 8 had Oswulf's tomb, meaning I was wrong about it being in the ruins. Since Derf had told me that Oswulf was buried "above" the temple, I can only assume I was ascending rather than descending as I went into the mines. I'm not sure how that makes any sense. Anyway, I got the final piece from him. Level 9 was only accessible through a broken teleporter on Level 8, and it just had a bunch of gems and battles with gargoyles. A final level labeled "B" moved me forward to another section of the ruins. The game is pretty linear at this point, and I'm not sure if it will open up again.

Again, we must note that it would occasionally be nice if the Gold Box games showed rather than told.

When I had all eight pieces, I journeyed back to Derf in the temple, who united the staff pieces into one and said I'd need the staff to get past Oswulf's ghost, guarding the passage to the Dreadlord at some point.

That seems awfully short-sighted of him.

Throughout the mines, I received incremental upgrades to equipment. My best weapons at this point are a Trident +3, wielded by my paladin, and a Long Sword vs. Giants, wielded by my ranger. Vala also came with a Silver Longsword +3. No one has any weapon worse than +2. On the armor side, my paladin is in Banded Mail +5, my thief in Leather +5, and my ranger and cleric in Plate Mail +3. My two mages have both found Bracers AC3.

I have a lot of accessories: several Rings of Protection +2, a Ring of Fire Resistance, a Ring of Invisibility, a bunch of potions, Boots of Speed, three Cloaks of Displacement, a Girdle of Giant Strength, Gauntlets of Ogre Power, and a couple things I don't understand. These include a Stone of Good Luck and a Periapt of Health, both of which are equippable but not usable. I'm not sure what effects they have. Something called Eyes of Charming apparently casts either "Charm Person" or "Charm Monster"; I've never seen this magic item in a game before.

At least one of my characters can counteract "Haste" spells.

My mages have amassed enough wands, scrolls, and necklaces to destroy a mountain, and late in the session I forced myself to start burning them whether I technically needed them or not. Eventually, I just started dumping scrolls that I knew I would never use.

I did a scan of my levels before posting this, and I was surprised to see I still have quite a way to go. My paladin is Level 12/15, my thief 13/18, my ranger 13/15. My two mages are Levels 13 and 14 out of 15. Only my cleric, at 14/15 and only about 20,000 points away from the final level, is likely to max out any time soon. If I'm about halfway through the game (which I suspect only based on the number of journal entries I've circled), that means the pacing isn't too bad. As we know, I hate running into level caps long before the end of the game.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I'm all for some miscellaneous flavor text in the dungeons, but sometimes it feels like the developers weren't really trying:

We had to pause for that?

  • Early in this session, I switched the difficulty to "Veteran" (one step up from the default) because I was finding combats too easy. The change didn't make a huge difference, since it primarily affects enemies' hit points. It doesn't do anything to their AI.

Altering the difficulty of the game in camp.

  • Through some bug that I didn't catch when it happened, my dwarf fighter/thief has 99 charisma. Since charisma doesn't really seem to be used in the game, I don't think it's giving me an unfair advantage.
  • This is perhaps the dumbest role-playing choice I've ever encountered:

  • When I found gems in the mines, the game was careful to note that my dwarf found them. I'm not sure if that means I wouldn't have found them without a dwarf in the party.
  • Displacer beasts are just the weirdest creatures. They have too many things. A lion with sharp tentacles would have been enough on its own, you know? Why did they have to add this weird illusion thing to them? And why doesn't any other creature have this particular trait? Also weird: phase spiders.

"You have too many things! You get one thing!"

  • I mostly relied on luck and speed to get past the basilisks and medusas. I have one mirror in my party, and no guarantee that the gazers will target that one character. Vala, who came with silver plate mail, automatically reflects gazes. For everyone else, I relied on saving throws and my ability to blast the creatures with "Fireball" and "Ice Storm" before they could gaze. This resulted in a few trips back to town to get "Stone to Flesh" cast.

Eventually, I realized I could cast "Invisibility 10' Radius" on everyone else, let Vala charge ahead, and let the medusas and basilisks kill themselves on her armor for a few rounds.

  • One of my mages just got Level 7 spells, which includes "Delayed Blast Fireball." I confess I don't really get it. When you cast it, you can specify a delay of 1 to 50, which seems to be the number of character actions (not rounds) before it goes off. I have trouble understanding when I'd cast it with any delay at all. You'd have to be pretty sure that the enemy was going to assemble in a particular formation--and that none of your own characters were going to be in the area--for the delay to make sense. I suspect I'll just end up using it like a regular "Fireball" almost all the time, setting the delay at 1.

Why delay the destruction of these creatures at all?

  • I'd like to have switched to "Quick" mode for a lot of the random combats, but I didn't think I could trust the AI. It wastes spells and magic items. Late in the session, I bothered to re-check the manual and found out that ALT-M toggles on and off magic use for characters under computer control. That would have been nice to know six hours ago.

I don't like being called a "fool."

As I leave you, I've entered a new area where an apparition just appeared and called us "fools." I still like the game, but the random encounters are getting excessive (especially where I don't need the experience), and I wish it didn't take so long to clear small areas. I'll probably intersperse some Silver Blades playing with Dragon Sword to keep both games from getting too monotonous.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Secret of the Silver Blades: Revealed

I finally learn the titular secret.

Secret of the Silver Blades shaping up to be a passable game if not a great one. For the last post, I spent so much time mapping featureless corridors that went nowhere, I began to worry that the rest of the game would be something like that. But in this last session, it took a u-turn and transformed into a fairly linear experience with a lot of plot exposition.

As I closed last time, I was about to storm the residence of "Marcus," the Black Circle representative living in New Verdigris. Each time I'd visited before, his doorman had offered to sell me magic items and told me to leave when I was done browsing them. But the game offered an option to "stay," presumably against the wishes of everyone in the mansion. I took it.

This led to a battle with half a dozen "Black Circle Lords," a strong fighter-type that is nonetheless pleasingly susceptible to "Hold Monster." Within moments, I had brushed past them and had barged into Marcus's inner sanctum. He gave me a warning, laughed, disappeared, and left me to fight some medusas and other beasts. They went down quickly with my one "Fireball," so I didn't have to use my mirror.

Nice hat.

In another room, a group of Fire Knife assassins was "sharpening their weapons and perusing a map of the mayor's house." I guess Marcus's mansion was the source of all the Fire Knives I'd been encountering when I tried to rest in the mayor's house. I figured they were seeking revenge for my actions in Curse of the Azure Bonds, but it looks more like Marcus had hired them to kill me.

As I cleared out the mansion, I had a pang of regret that I'd no longer be able to spend my ridiculous boatloads of cash on Marcus's overpriced wands and scrolls. It turns out that this isn't the case: the townsfolk simply took over his shop.

Wait...aren't I entitled to all those items for defeating him?

The entire time, I had thought I was doing something original and unexpected by storming Marcus's place, but I guess the player is pretty much expected to do that, since it seems to be the only way to stop the constant Fire Knife attacks.

The only places I had to go next were the mines and the "Administration Building" in the ruins. I chose the latter just because the mines seemed more like the next step on the main quest, and I generally try to clear up side-areas before proceeding through the main ones. The admin building turned out to be the headquarters of the Black Circle, and it brought multiple battles with fighters and mages. It was here that my policy of "only one of each type of spell" started to hurt, as it would have been very convenient just to clear out the mages with "Fireball," "Ice Storm," and other mass-damage spells. I resorted to using my Wands of Fireball and Ice Storm and Necklaces of Missiles to prevent the mages from casting while I carved through the fighters in the front ranks.

A typical Black Circle squad.

The base was mostly linear and provided the satisfying sense of a party relentlessly pressing forward while the occupants tried all kinds of desperate tricks to keep me at bay. Usually, games make it seem like no matter how much damage you're doing, you're really "walking into a trap." I like it when a game does the opposite.

The Black Circle futilely tries to block my progress.

Back in the ruins, I had found a note indicating that the Black Circle was somehow connected to Phlan, and the clerk from Pool of Radiance had been sent to work with them. Sure enough, I soon encountered her in the base, furiously shredding documents.

Is it just me, or has she gotten cuter since Pool of Radiance?

As she fled, she left a letter behind that I'll reprint in its entirety:

My dear Sasha,

I'm sorry to hear that you have concerns about the Black Circle. However, their continued good will is essential. Their control of the Verdigris Mine gives us the gems we need at a reasonable price. As long as these shipments continue, we will not investigate them too closely.

You may tell them that my negotiations with the Red Wizards proceed very well. Some may be on their way even now. Should this turn out well as I hope, you can count on a position as my personal scribe.

With my strongest felicitations,

Gragnak Ulfrim
Councilor of New Phlan

Lots of revelations in this little letter, starting with the fact that the clerk's name is "Sasha." More important, what the hell is going on in Phlan since I left? I liberated that city, and now they're working with the Black Circle and the Red Wizards?! And who the hell is this "Gragnak Ulfrim"?! What happened to Ulrich Eberhard?

The worst part was confirmed a few rooms later, when I ran into Sasha again. She was clearly working with the Black Circle under duress. It hurt when she spoke about "the many heroes who freed the city" of Phlan but didn't seem to recognize us as those very heroes. Anyway, before she ran off, she indicated that all the gems she'd been paying us back in Pool of Radiance had come from these mines and the Black Circle connection. My party basically made its fortunes on blood diamonds.

The map culminated in the "inner sanctum," which was surrounded by a moat writhing with red dragon hatchlings. Every step I took, I had to fight between 4 and 8 of them.

Before the doors of the inner sanctum, it was clear that a major battle was ahead, so I loaded up with protection spells:

The battle was with about half a dozen fighters and half a dozen mages. Fortunately, I'd saved one "Fireball" just for the occasion:

I love it when they arrange themselves just so.

Like most of the battles in the game, it wasn't very hard, and soon I had a bunch of new magic items and a journal entry indicating the Black Circle's plans, which hinted at the "Castle of Twins," the "Dreadlord," "Oswulf's Confession," and the "Silver Blades."

The allusions didn't become fully clear until I entered the mines and explored the first level, a temple dedicated to Tyr. The large 16 x 16 area had few encounters, but the key one was with an old dwarf named Derf Strongarm, the temple's caretaker.

Between Derf's tale and the Black Circle's plans, I got the full back story. 300 years ago, two brothers ruled the valley in the Castle of Twins. Oswulf was a paladin and Eldamar was a mage, and both worshiped Tyr. But as Eldamar grew old, he became obsessed with immortality and eventually rejected his god to become a lich.

"Forseeing the evil that a lich would produce, Oswulf left the castle and searched for 12 great heroes," a band that became known as the Silver Blades. When the Blades returned to the valley, Eldamar had become a lich known as the Dreadlord and had summoned hordes of monsters to the valley. The Silver Blades cleaved through them and drove the Dreadlord's forces back to the castle gates. There, instead of pressing on and killing his brother, Oswulf had his mages and clerics cast a spell to cover the valley in a glacier, freezing the Dreadlord and all his minions inside.

The Black Circle is the descendant of the Dreadlord's Dread Legion of Magic, and for centuries they have been looking for a way back to the castle to free their master. They tricked the New Verdigris miners into delving deep into the mines, where they freed fire-based creatures. The Circle has recruited the creatures to start systematically melting the glacier. They are also seeking the Amulet of Eldamar to pass into the Sanctum. I believe I found the Amulet on an "ancient bier" in the ruins, which judging by Derf's story was Oswulf's tomb.

Derf himself is the last surviving member of the Silver Blades, but he won't help my party unless we prove ourselves "worthy to become Silver Blades." To that end, we have to retrieve the eight pieces of Oswulf's Staff from eight different levels of the mines below.

This is going to take a while.

It's a nice back story, but I have three questions. First, there's the line I quoted above. It's great that Oswulf forged the Silver Blades and defeated the Dreadlord's legion and all, but it sounds like he could have saved himself a lot of trouble by just killing Eldamar at the outset, before he could complete the lich ritual. Both brothers spent years developing armies to oppose each other only to end up at the same place they started. Second, why does Oswulf, a paladin, have a magic staff? Third, doesn't this exact story--two brothers, one a paladin, one a mage, one turns evil, etc.--recur in some other D&D game? If so, which one? It's driving me nuts.

The mines bring back Pool of Radiance's encounter options.

I leave you to explore those questions as my party explores the mines. I have mapped the first level and recovered the first piece of the staff. The mines seem to offer more options during encounters with enemies, including "Bribe" and "Talk," though neither work on animal enemies, of course. If the other levels are like the first one, I won't have to map them all, as it consisted of four completely linear paths radiating from the central shaft. I can just follow the left or right wall and be sure that I'll encounter everything.

You even get experience for successfully talking them down.

Uncategorized bits:

  • The old man in town who had given me the Scroll of Protection from Dragon Breath also gave me a Cloak of Displacement on a later visit.
  • In addition to "Fireballs," the one thing that never gets old in the Gold Box combat engine is landing a successful backstab. I probably waste more hit points trying to maneuver Karnov into position than I save with the tactic.

  • The frequent copy protection is annoying. You have to answer a question from the adventurer's journal every time you start the game, and periodically it demands an answer from the rule book before you save.
  • Many of the journal entries offer maps, but I couldn't imagine relying on them exclusively. Something about the Gold Box titles impels me to visit every corner.
  • I found a Girdle of Giant Strength in the Black Circle's headquarters. The moment I had my paladin don it, my ranger lost the inflated strength that she had gained by importing into Secret while wearing the Girdle in Curse. Continuing to use that strength was cheating a bit, so I guess I don't mind.
  • Once I got the quest to find the pieces of the staff, the well suddenly had a lot of hints about where to find them, provided I fed it gems. These are nice, but I imagine I'll be exhaustively exploring each level of the mines anyway.
  • The economy, bad in Pool and worse in Curse, is just out of control here. I already have more than 100,000 platinum pieces. Even with the need to buy gems to get answers from the well, money basically serves no purpose. The game might as well have given me everything for free.

One down.

My party members have all achieved one level-up. I suppose its good that leveling is slow, since my imported characters can only make three levels in the entire game. As always, I'm reminded that it's far less fun to go from Level 10 to Level 14 than it is to go from Level 1 to Level 6. I miss having to use all my wits and resources to survive--miss having to load up on every possible advantage to beat, say, the troll battle in the Phlan ruins, or the sequence of three kobold battles. For this reason, it's hard to see any game outperforming Pool of Radiance for the satisfaction of both combat and character development, even if the later ones use the same engine.


In list news, I was prepared to give Dragonstrike a try for its D&D heritage. Even though it manifestly isn't an RPG, I thought I'd play it if I liked it. I tried it; I didn't like it; it's gone.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Secret of the Silver Blades: Here There Be (Weak) Dragons

The early game's major fixed encounter is to free the Well of Knowledge from this dragon.

I never played much tabletop D&D, but I did go through a period in which I liked to buy and read D&D modules. In retrospect, I suppose it was kind of sad--a lonely child poring over game instructions that he had neither the time nor friends to play. But to me, reading them was almost as good as playing.

It's been years since I even looked at one, and I don't remember a lot of specific names. I know they varied a lot in quality. The ones I like best had mazes of lettered or numbered rooms. Each room had an accompanying descriptive paragraph (which the DM would read, I guess) and then a longer detailed explanation of the room's creatures, encounters, and items. You'd find out things that players would have to figure out on their own: that the orc party in the room is terrified of the undead in the nearby graveyard, and will flee at the nearest "boo"; that the djinni lies with everything he says; that the fountain is holy water rather than regular water; that the room is full of trap doors leading to spiked pits. I liked to imagine how I'd play out the encounters if I didn't know these things ahead of time.

I probably fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the modules I was reading. I tended to think of each area as a completely compartmentalized encounter. I suspect now that a good DM wouldn't play it that way; that the goblin squad in Room 13 wouldn't just sit there as they heard the party prying up floorboards in Room 12. A realistic dungeon is a living, interconnected dungeon. But I still liked the thought of the "dungeon" as a huge, sprawling edifice full of discrete, individual role-playing encounters.

Only a few computer RPGs have delivered this sort of experience. Most of them have dungeons that are relatively small, or bereft of meaningful encounters, or with only encounters that tie in to the main plot. Few offer the opportunity to "wander" and yet still find interesting things. The two Might & Magic games perhaps come closest in my chronology so far, but the dungeons are overly predictable in their rigid 16 x 16 structure, and the encounters, while extremely varied, don't have a lot of depth. Tunnels & Trolls has something of this dynamic, though again the dungeons are quite small and the encounters a little too scripted. Ultima Underworld is perhaps the best example that I can think of, though there are times when the Baldur's Gate games come close.

When I saw that Secret of the Silver Blades offered an extremely large, irregular set of ruins, I originally had high hopes that it would offer this kind of dungeon-crawling experience. I hoped that amid the long corridors leading to nowhere, there would be a handful of rooms in which I encountered original NPCs, tough fixed combats, puzzles, and treasures. My hopes were boosted when, early on, I ran into a dragon guarding a few magic items. It wasn't much of an encounter--not even much of a fight--but I thought it would be the first of many to offer some break in the monotony of the drab corridors.

"Attack" or "Flee." I marvel in the quality of this role-playing choice.

Alas, having mapped an area that goes up to an x coordinate of 83 and a y coordinate of 60 (less than half used, admittedly), I can now report that in this vast area, there are exactly three fixed encounters: the dragon above, an even larger dragon guarding better treasure, and an ancient bier with some magic items (looting it got me a battle with clerics of Bane). In between are a few bland descriptions and a ton of random encounters delivering absurd piles of platinum. Disappointing.

On the plus side, I did learn a new bit of vocabulary.

The twisting corridors lead ultimately to three important areas, two of which fit into the overall ruins map while featuring their own coordinate scheme. The first is the Well of Knowledge area, and clearing it seems to be the first quest, partly because the mayor's portal leads directly there and partly because none of the other teleporters will activate until it's cleared. The Well area is basically a nexus of teleporters connecting the game's major areas, preventing the player from having to navigate miles of corridors every time he wants to get back to New Verdigris.

The other two areas are a series of mines descending into the earth and something called the "administration building" that I haven't yet explored.

Since beginning the game, the only thing I've done in relation to the main plot is to clear the Well of Knowledge area. It was swarming with Black Circle mages and Priests of Bane, both engaged in a struggle to control the area despite neither (apparently) being good. Both attacked me with abandon throughout both the Well and the ruins.
One fun role-playing choice, as priests and mages of the Black Circle charged each other. I chose to "duck," at which point the priests defeated the mages and I was able to destroy the greatly-diminished band of priests.

I was prepared to give the Black Circle a chance despite their name, at least until they started attacking me without provocation. After I cleared the Well area, the Well of Knowledge itself told me that the aim of the Black Circle is the awakening of someone called the "Dreadlord" who "sleeps within his castle, trapped within the glacier." The miners thought the Circle was helping them, but the Circle was really just trying to get the miners to blast away bits of the glacier so that they could slowly tunnel their way into the castle. The monsters attacking New Verdigris are being slowly released from the melting ice. Still no word on the Dreadlord or how the glacier formed around his castle in the first place. For that matter, still no word on what the "Silver Blades" are.

The game is a little unclear how a tube full of water is communicating with me.

I did find a letter "blowing in the wind" in the ruins (until then, I thought they were supposed to be indoors) in which another Black Circle member wrote to Marcus. The letter indicates that a "contact in Phlan" is acting as a "middleman" for their efforts and that "he has sent a clerk to take care of communications. She has no knowledge of our real intent." Can it be that I'll again see my beloved, the clerk of New Phlan?

I'm not sure where the Priests of Bane come into all of this, but they apparently held the Well of Knowledge before the Black Circle showed up. Although the Circle initially drove the priests from the Well, Bane sent an ancient red dragon to even the score. To clear the well, I ultimately had to defeat the red dragon. This was assisted greatly by a Scroll of Protection from Dragon's Breath, which an old man in town gave me after I listened to three of his stories.

So far, I've faced three fixed-encounter dragons of varying power and a bunch of small red dragons with packs of other monsters in the ruins. I continue to be disappointed in how fast the dragons die, especially now that my characters have enough hit points to easily survive one round. Even the mightiest dragons never last more than two.

These are just the cutest things. I felt bad killing them.
The bigger ones are impressive in size, but they still don't have enough hit points to be truly dangerous.

Killing the dragon "freed" the mine, and I was able to get the information about the Dreadlord in exchange for a sacrifice of gems. I thought the well would keep asking for more gems for more information, but after the one journal entry, I just get a message that the Well has nothing more to say.

How rude.

Freeing the Well also now allows me to use the teleporters scattered throughout. Apparently, I have to visit both ends first before I can use them. So far, I've found the portal back to town and two portals to areas of the ruins I have no reason to revisit.

Some miscellaneous notes:

  • Within the ruins, many wall patterns repeat themselves. For instance, the pattern below appears in three separate places.

  • I didn't find a single secret door in the ruins. Granted, I didn't test every wall. The "Search" command seemed to have no use, either. In Pool of Radiance, you needed to use it or "Look" to find special treasures in certain rooms. I don't remember it doing much in Curse of the Azure Bonds except wasting time, and that seems to be its primary function here.
  • I forgot to mention this in my first post, but the manual begins with a letter from "Rolf" to "Fafnir" indicating that Rolf has been following the party from place to place, always one step behind. You may recall that Rolf was the harbormaster's assistant who greeted the party on the docks of Phlan and gave us a little tour. I'm not sure if I'll ever see him or if the letter is just some flavor text.
  • An old man in town and the tavern have different journal entries every time you visit, but you have to completely leave New Verdigris and return for the new ones to activate.

My third visit with the old man got me a Scroll of Protection from Dragon Breath.

  • My plan to diversify my spells has been working out reasonably well. I'm getting a chance to try out some spells that I wouldn't normally bother to memorize. The only problem is that so far, the combats have been easy enough that magic hasn't really been necessary.

Where I would have tried casting "Hold" on this cleric in previous games, I'm going to try to erase his mind instead.

  • So far, my favorite combo of spells I otherwise wouldn't use is to have the mage cast "Mirror Image," then "Dimension Door" behind enemy lines and attack the back ranks with contact spells like "Burning Hands," "Shocking Grasp," and "Bestow Curse." This combo does nothing compared to a single "Magic Missile," but it's still fun.
  • Only a couple of my characters have received a level-up so far.
  • I seem to remember that in Curse, my fighter/thief could still backstab even if he was wearing heavy armor. In Secret, he can't. I was planning to leave him in leather for role-playing reasons anyway, but the rule keeps me honest. Because I had him running around in leather when the other lead characters had plate mail +2, he kept getting knocked unconscious--until I found some leather +5 and some other protective items.

I guess the bracers are superfluous now.

  • As you explore the ruins, you periodically encounter a "party of townsmen" who offer to escort you back to town. It's a good way to instantly return to safety, but how are these townsmen surviving all the minotaurs, hill giants, and gryphons?

I suspect that you really want me to escort you to town.

  • Every time I rest in the mayor's house in town, I get attacked once by Fire Knives trying to assassinate me. After I defeat them once, I can rest safely until the next time I leave New Verdigris and return. I don't really know what they're doing here. Revenge?

I guess it's time to choose the next area to explore: the mines or the "administration building." But perhaps the next thing to do for role-playing reasons is to force entry into the home of Marcus, the Black Circle mage who lives in town, and demand some answers.