The Magic Candle cheats at gambling. I worked it out tonight. I'm not much of a gambler, but my business is numbers, and I've had the chance to apply them to gambling several times lately. At Harrah's in New Orleans earlier this year, I won enough money at blackjack to pay for the trip and an iPad for my wife. In Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, I encountered a casino where they apparently didn't want to pay for croupiers any more, and all of the blackjack tables were run by virtual dealers. Theoretically, it used regular casino blackjack rules, but there were all kinds of bonus bets and whatnot, and in the process of trying to analyze the whole thing, I lost over $500.
|I was also, admittedly, a little distracted.|
So this was on my mind when I returned home this week and started playing The Magic Candle. It features a basic dice game where the player with the highest roll wins. You would think the odds would thus be 50/50 (after eliminating ties, which exchange no money), and indeed on first pass, I thought they were. But I decided to analyze it more closely and I found a curious pattern. Check out my ratios at different betting levels over 30 trials each:
Betting 1 Gold Piece:
13 wins (43.3%)
13 losses (43.3%)
4 ties (13.3%)
Betting 10 Gold Pieces:
14 wins (46.7%)
11 losses (36.7%)
5 ties (16.7%)
Betting 50 Gold Pieces:
7 wins (23.3%)
19 losses (63.3%)
4 ties (13.3%)
The first two results are well within the realm of random probability--in fact, the first is suspiciously exact--but the third should only happen 1/20 times on the basis of random chance. I want to try it with more betting levels, but you know how I feel about save-scumming: I was betting real money here, and I lost most of it. I won't be able to continue the experiment until I make some back, but if any of you want to go at it and let me know the results, I'd appreciate it. I'd like to know exactly where the cutoff is where the game starts cheating, plus what happens at higher amounts (the maximum is 99).
You want more evidence? I also recorded the actual rolls. In a random game, there should be no significant correlation between the amount bet and the resulting roll. However, the statistics show a 0.20 correlation between the amount bet and my opponent's roll, and a -0.12 correlation between the amount bet and my roll. Another way to look at it is with averages. The average roll for both of us should be around 7, but here are the actual averages at the three levels, with the opponent's given first:
1: 7.5 - 7.6
10: 6.6 - 7.1
50: 8.2 - 6.8
My conclusion: something about a higher bet influences the opponent's roll upwards but leaves the player's roll unchanged. I'll report back when I have more gold. Now, in real life, I'd report this to the NGC, but who do I report it to in Deruvia? On the other hand, maybe I'll keep it secret. If there's an amount that influences the casino to win, there's probably an amount that influences the player to win, and I want to find it.
|Because gambling for money is so much more civilized than this.|
If you're wondering why I'm so obsessed about money all of a sudden, it's because I need it. Badly. As I started exploring the areas around Keof and Bondell, combat got a lot harder, and I need better armor, a good supply of mushrooms, new spellbooks, healing potions, and training in my combat and magic skills. But after my visit to Bondell (where I dumped a lot into increasing charisma), I barely had enough to buy passage back to the mainland. Battles produce cash, of course, but it doesn't appear to me that there are many random encounters in the game. Thus, I find myself in the common CRPG paradox of needing improvements to win battles but needing battles to afford improvements.
|Two of these sessions cost the last of my gold.|
Thus, after returning to the mainland, I went back to the Royal Castle and dumped the 4 characters I had who didn't have a trade and enlisted two gemcutters, a metalsmith, and a carpenter (my existing character, Min, was already a tailor). I took them to Port Avur and put them to work at their respective trades, earning between 5 and 7 gold pieces per hour--24 hours a day.
|Oh, yes. I'm sure you'll be a great...uh...adventurer.|
Giauz, meanwhile, lacking a trade, kept adventuring while his colleagues slaved away in their sweatshops.
After three days, I had about 2,500 coins, which I figured was enough for a decent stash of 'shrooms and gear. I returned to the castle, sent the manual laborers packing, rejoined with my real party, and bought a bunch of stuff at the Port Avur general store. This was facilitated by the higher charisma Min had achieved by studying with the halfling version of Dale Carnegie in Bondell.
|"How to win friends and influence shopkeepers."|
Concerning the main quest, between my visits to Port Avur, Soldain, Keof, and Bondell, this is what I've been able to discover:
- To restore the Magic Candle, I need to find what it says in the Zirvanad.
- The Zirvanad is stored in a vault in the caverns below Lymeric.
- To get into the vault, I need a star-shaped key carried by a White Wolf.
- To summon the White Wolf, I need hoyam essence.
- The dwarves in Soldain have hoyam essence.
- The dwarves will only give it to me if I return the Hammer of Thorin.
- The Hammer of Thorin was stolen by orcs so that their chief, Chambur, could be buried with it.
- Chief Chambur is buried in Vocha, an orc town/dungeon on the Isles of Ice.
- To raise the gates of Vocha, I need three words: HOKDE, KAFLTH, POKANDAJO.
- A dwarf suggested I visit the uninhabited island of Kuskunn before going to Vocha.
|Stumblilng on Dermagud.|
So it appears that my next quest-related step was to take a boat to Kuskunn and then head out to Vocha. However, I decided to engage in some character development first by finding and exploring the dungeon of Dermagud. I finally found it, but I haven't been able to get very far.
|This is where a pick comes in handy.|
The rooms have tough creatures, there are a lot of traps--including an annoying "time" trap that burns about half a day--and there's a section of corridor blocked by snakes. You might imagine that I could slash through them, but according to the manual, the "repel" spell "is the only way to resolve conflicts with the poisonous snakes that infest some dungeon corridors."
|These are some tough snakes.|
There were several times that I was glad I learned dwarven:
|"Two steps south, four steps west, six steps south, dig." There were three diamonds there.|
A few stray notes:
- The counter is freaking me out a bit. Yes, I still have over 950 days, but it's a constant reminder that I can't dither around and waste time. I don't think there will be any more manual labor sessions.
- In an amusing and slightly annoying way, you often encounter the same NPC multiple times on the road.You'll speak to him, exit the conversation, take a step, and there he is again. Since you don't find out the NPC's name until you "greet" him, and because so many bits of lore and quest-related material are dependent on talking to NPCs, I feel like I need to stop and check every time, just to be sure.
|I know. We've met 17 times already on this same stretch of road.|
- My dwarf apparently doesn't like traveling the waves. This prevents him from sleeping, repairing, or doing anything useful during boat trips.
- I learned the hard way to set a watch while sleeping outdoors. You get ambushed otherwise.
- In past postings, I've noted that like in Ultima V, NPCs keep schedules and are sometimes not available, but unlike in Ultima V, the NPCs do not move; they simply disappear when they're not around. However, the game compensates for this a bit by having multiple NPCs tell you basically the same things and give you the same clues. Thus, missing an NPC isn't as critical in this game as in both Ultima IV and Ultima V.
|This is the second person to tell me this.|
- I keep forgetting to "repair" my weapons while camping, which means they have a chance of breaking in combats.
- Based on your comments and the evidence in the game, there appear to be no more weapons than what you can simply buy at the shop. No magic weapons, no special artifacts. Since better weapons require more strength, I need to find a way to increase strength before I can improve this aspect of my characters.
|It's a rare CRPG in which my greatest aspiration is to wield a "great axe."|
- I had a good laugh at this pair of encounters in Keof:
I have just enough for the Sabano spellbook I need for the "repel" spell, so I'm going back to Soldain to buy it. Then we'll see if I can finish clearing out Dermagud.