Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Champions of Krynn: We'll Keep on Fighting 'Til the End

This feels pretty epic for a first game in a series.

The city of Sanction ended up comprising three full map areas with multiple sub-areas. It was quite plot heavy and provided more magical treasure than the entire game so far.

Sanction had been fully taken over by Myrtani's forces, and the streets were crawling with mercenaries and minotaurs. A notice posted near the entrance advertised openings for "soldiers to wage the battle against the Solamnic usurpers of Krynnn" (this should have been the title of the game). I tangled with numerous minotaurs--they were hardy but not deadly; the battles were long rather than dangerous--before I learned I could get them to go away by parlaying "nice."

They seemed to arrange themselves perfectly for "Fireball."

The city had a training hall, a general store, and a magic shop that sold Wands of Magic Missile for 14,000 gold pieces. I liquidated some gems and jewels to buy a couple for my rear characters so that they'd have guaranteed-hit missile weapons. I've declined to complain about the horribly inflated economy in this game--it would just be redundant after my comments in Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds--but it says something that I happily paid the price instead of taking five minutes to go to Jelek and get them for less than 50% of what Sanction was charging. I wish the damned magic shops in this game would sell Wands of Fireball or Ice Storm (or, for that matter, Girdles of Giant Strength) instead. Those would be worth grinding for, though I guess they would probably unbalance the game.

I caught a couple of thieves trying to pick my pocket, and from them I learned that the evil troops were headquartered in the southwest corner. The headquarters was easy to find. When I arrived, the game told me that the party consisted of a "Dark Elf surrounded by fighters." I didn't realize that Dark Elves were part of the Dragonlance universe.

I hope that's not supposed to be the Dark Elf.

This was the first hint that I had somehow been playing into Myrtani's hands. Later journal entries suggested that Myrtani deliberately led the party on a wild goose chase after the Dragonlance so that they'd ignore Sir Lebaum's building of an undead army. That trope annoys me. Just once, I want to play a game where every time I defeat the evil villain's forces, he screams his rage at the sky and curses his luck that such an adept group of adventurers have decided to oppose him. I want his underlings to tell me that thanks to my ultra-effective questing, he's had to change all his plans and scale back his ambitions.

Anyway, after I defeated the evil troops, I chased the sounds of screams and found minotaurs dragging a woman into their barracks. I defeated all of them and learned from her that someone named "Laurana" sent her to check out the evil growing in Sanction. She said that dead bodies were being taken en masse to the nearby Temple of Duerghast and said I'd need to go through the tunnels of the Shadowpeople to get there.


(That one paragraph had me on the Dragonlance Wiki for a while, sorting out all of the related lore. Laurana turnes out to be Laurana Kanan, a Qualinesti elf, Hero of the Lance, and wife of Tanis Half-Elven. "Shadowpeople" are another name for the Shilo-Thahn, telepathic apelike creatures who live below Sanction and tried to stop the corruption of dragon eggs during the War of the Lance.)

She gave me a magic amulet that led me through a portal to the Temple of Huerzyd, a crumbling, dusty ruin beneath the city. Cutting through a few Draconian patrols, I made my way to some caverns, where a conclave of Shadowpeople contacted me mentally and told me that I could find the Dragonlance in the Temple of Duerghast, at the far end of the caves.

The mobats were pretty easy.

It was from the Shadowpeople that I first heard the term "death knight" and realized that's what Sir Lebaum was. I've been using phrases like "some kind of undead fallen knight" to describe him. I guess I should have put two and two together earlier, given that the second game is called Death Knights of Krynn.


The Temple of Duerghast was fun. First, I got the Dragonlance after a surprisingly easy battle against a handful of Draconians.

After all the trouble I went through on the last map, I figured the battle for the lance would involve more than eight Draconians.

Then, Skyla from Jelek showed up again, and I got to kill him.

He wasn't so smug a few minutes later.

Then I got to use my new Dragonlance on a couple of blue dragons guarding a cache of copper dragon eggs. To dragons, the lance does as much damage as the current hit points of the wielder, so I gave it to my first knight, Midsummer, who has 80 of them.

I was just complaining in the last post about the dragons being too small. They got bigger just in time for me to get a weapon that kills them in one hit.

The culmination of the map was my confrontation with Sir Lebaum, the death knight. He was no pushover, capable of casting a fireball in a way that wasn't a "spell," so it couldn't be disrupted ahead of time. He gated in other undead and terrified everyone around him. Nonetheless, the fear didn't seem to affect me much, and his summoned undead fell easily to my clerics' turning. After all the build-up, I thought the battle with him was fairly abrupt and short.

You'd think that being an evil undead death knight would strip him of the "Sir" honorific.
 
The good armies showed up right after the battle, and gold dragons engaged red dragons in the sky. I had to fight a couple on the ground, too. At the end, the red dragons went buzzing back to their home base at Kernen, and the gold dragons asked me to jump aboard their backs and ride in pursuit. As we sped towards the enemy, we were joined by yet another Hero of the Lance, Tasslehoff Burrfoot.


When we reached the enemy base, it turned out to be a series of "flying citadels." The dragons landed on one of them long enough to let me off.


It feels like this is the end game area, especially since all of my characters are just one level from their maximums. I have to go on a long trip starting on Thursday, so I'm hoping to wrap this up before then. We'll see.

50 comments:

  1. "I didn't realize that Dark Elves were part of the Dragonlance universe."

    Yes, there are Dark Elves in Krynn, but they are not like the Drow of the Forgotten Relams, but rather like the original Dark Elf - Eol in Silmarillion - individual elves that have turned evil. And they are almost as rare as they were in Tolkien's world, which is why the abundance of evil elves annoyed me so much in Champions of Krynn.

    Fortunately the next two Krynn games are more faithful to the "lore" and overall better games, so you have something to look forward to.

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    1. I should add that Dark Elves in The Silmarillion also could refer to those elves that never reached The Blessed Realm and never saw the Light of the Two Trees. So they were "dark" in the sense of "living in darkness".
      But for Eol "dark" meant "evil", same as the dark elves of Krynn.

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    2. I never got the impression that Eol was particularly evil -- like Thingol he just represented a different world view. Although my memory is a bit vague at this point, I got the distinct impression when reading the Silmarillion that Eol and Thingol represented the pagan Norse (likely Denmark) under the dual-incursion of Christianized Germans (mostly Saxon.. the Nolder et al) and the Slavs (Morogoth et al, and yes yes, I know he repudiated that interpretation, that doesn't change what I read)... Eol I'd guess was inspired by the mystery maker(s) of the Ulfberht swords (aside: there's a very cool PBS documentary about them).

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  2. Regarding Dark Elves, you're right. There are no "Dark" Elves on Krynn.

    "Dark" Elves in the Dragonlance context are basically outcasts that are not accepted by all the other elven conclaves (Qualinesti, Silvanesti, Kagonesti, Dargonesti and Dirminesti).

    Dalamar is one of such "Dark" Elves. Basically, Dark Elves are the only elves who can see the Black Moon of Nuitari

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    1. Wait, I thought they could see it because they were black robed wizards, not because they are dark elves.

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    2. Nah. All evil creatures of Krynn are able to see the Black Moon. Why? I don't know. Sort of MacGuffin, I guess.

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    3. Nope sorry, Nuitari cannot be detected, except by the Wizards of the Black Robes, unless it eclipses other stars and moons.

      http://www.forgottenlance.com/gods/nuitari.htm

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  3. Oh man, I skipped to the comments solely to make that same dumb point about dark elves that everyone else was evidently fixating on as well. I'M SO GREAT!

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    1. Apparently, we're not the only ones.

      An active fan with the love of both Dragonlance AND Forgotten Realms setting (like a Trekkie who also loves Star Wars) have taken upon himself to make an actual Drow race on Krynn...

      http://www.dlnexus.com/fan/rules/22745.aspx

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  4. One mildly interesting note.

    The artwork for dragons in Dragonlance was changed from the traditional AD+D artwork to give them a more distinctive look. However, this game continued to use the old looking dragons. That's why the gold dragons still have the long, snaky Asian dragon appearance which is a bit incongruous with the setting.

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    1. The artwork in Dragonlance was really awesome, and much more heroic then most D&D art of the time; I think later bits of D&D borrowed a lot from it, actually.

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    2. I thought the art for Eberron was more awesome, what with having a Jaeger-like giant Mecha covered in glowing runes punching an Ancient Red Dragon in the face while it was still breathing fire.

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    3. Oh, I do like the art for Eberron, but Draonlance just feels so classic to me. Larry Elmore and co doing the oil partings and such, there is something very special about that art to me. The other favourite set of art is the oil paintings from the 2nd edition books, mostly the one of them standing around the dead small dragon with the box of treasure.

      Eberron, which I love, has good art, but not much that really speaks to me. The Warforged are cool, and it has a nice theme, but the style isn't really my thing. Same with Pathfinder. Both I can see the quality and excellence of, but not personally my cup of tea; I preferred the "Dungeonpunk" style of 3rd edition, and the geometric style of 4th much more then either, even if I like the games less.

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  5. The Battle with Sir Lebaum is as follows:

    If he casts fireball first, then your are toast.
    Otherwise you kill him in the first round and win.

    I have never fully understood the sanction part: So there is a group of draconians and some more guarding the temple entrance, but the rest? Mniotaurs and mercenaries? Are they myrtanis forces really?

    And yes, the end is near.

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    1. I think I actually survived one fireball from him, but the dynamic you describe is actually present throughout the game, and I'm going to comment on it at the end. Most combats feel like a Wild West showdown in which you have to draw your "Hold Persons" or "Fireballs" before your opponent, or the battle is basically over.

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    2. Yes, this is also how the paper and pencil RPG felt at the time. Though with much crueler stakes, as there was no reloading after a total party kill. The mechanical robustness of ad&d leaves a lot to be desired, really, at least as a game of tactics. The higher the pc/enemy level, the worse the reliance on saving throw RNG feels.

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  6. Hurray! You nailed Skyla - he is a pompus twat.

    Dark Elf and Drow are sometimes synonymous and sometimes not. It confused me too. According to the original monster manual an evil elf was considered very rare. Tactically, it means another spell caster to counter.


    Ghouls and a death knight! - I remember what you said about ghouls. As with dragons, you just have to cut them down as soon as possible. I forget if death knights resisted bladed weapons like skeletons.

    All in all good post. You seem to be blowing through the gold box games.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that Dragonlance is Drow-free. They're such an over-used plot device in FR games that I'll be perfectly happy never to see one outside them.

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    2. Oh and elves can't grow beards in Dragonlance, and half-elves are very, VERY rare.

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    3. I thought beardless elves are a norm in almost all fantasy settings?

      The only elves that grow beards are the Athasian Elves from Dark Sun, weren't they?

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    4. They aren't shown with them in most, though I think I've read about one or two in the Forgotten Realms, but I don't recall ever seen an explicit mention of them not being able to grow them in any other book.

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  7. It took me way too long to figure out you've been paraphrasing Queen :-/

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    1. You must have thought those were some weird post titles, then.

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    2. I did manage to realize that some of the Ogre Battle series of console RPGs take their titles from Queen songs.

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    3. They do?!

      Anyway, it's totally understandable that you're only using lyrics from "We are the Champions" - seeing as the game is caleld "Champions Of Krynn", Chet.

      But you'd get greater creative freedon with "Dark QUEEN of Krynn" next time. XD

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    4. I managed to avoid hearing "We Are the Champions" until after I'd been exposed to Champions of Krynn (even as a kid, I favored pre-Rock & Roll era standards), so the first time I heard it, I thought they were actually singing "We are the Champions of Krynn / We'll keep on fighting 'til the end" until I realized that probably no one wrote a power ballad for an RPG.

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    5. I also thought Apollo 440's "Can't Stop the Rock" was about the wrestler The Rock until my wife set me straight.

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    6. Closest I know to a power ballad for an RPG is the Lord of the Rings song by Blind Guardian (actually they had a whole album or two, if not more).

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    7. There actually are a number of Dragonlance-themed metal songs. I don't remember their titles except for "Raistlin and the Rose" by Lake of Tears.

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    8. Yes, all the Ogre Battle games are named after Queen lyrics.

      Zenic: You don't listen to enough power metal then. Pretty much any Hammerfall song could be an RPG song, and as I recall they've got a few ballads out.

      More specifically: Swords in the Wind by Manowar is a very CRPG power ballad. Also: I Believe is another good one.

      If you want to hear a pure metal, non-romantic, non-sexual, love song (possibly the only one): Blood Brothers, also by Manowar.

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    9. Also A Miracle of Sound has done songs based on a lot of RPGs:

      Nameless (Planescape: Torment)
      Breaking Down The Borders (Borderlands 2)
      Calamity (Bastion)
      Hengsha (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
      Kalros!! (Mass Effect 3)
      Silver and Steel (The Witcher 2)
      Crucible (Mass Effect 3)
      Legends of the Frost featuring Malukah (Very good, Skyrim)
      Khajiit Like To Sneak (Skyrim)
      You Died (Dark Souls)
      Nord Mead (Skyrim)
      Beauty Bleak (Fallout)
      Sovngarde Song (Skyrim)
      The New Black Gold (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) (Another favourite of mine)
      Trip To Vegas (Fallout: New Vegas)
      Normandy (Mass Effect 2, one of my favourites)
      Wasteland Soul (Fallout 3)
      Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)
      Age of the Dragon (Dragon Age 2 Song)

      All are at www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/miracle-of-sound or his youtube account.

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    10. Raistlin got more than that.

      "The Soulforged" and "Wishmaster" were also about him.

      I also heard that the Russians, those crazy and adorable Ruskies, made an entire musical about the Majere Twins.

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    11. I seem to remember in an April issue of Dragon magazine, many, many years ago, they had an article on songs rewritten with role-playing lyrics. One of those was the Dragonlance characters in Bohemian Rhapsody. All I can remember is "Caramon - we do not think he's dumb...", which won't make much sense to anybody. I'll see if I can find them online... Ah, good old internet. Apologies for the long post, but it's too good not to share:

      TANIS:
      Is this my real life?
      Is this just fantasy?
      Where do the stars hide?
      Why does evil close in on me?

      RAISTLIN:
      Hourglass eyes
      Look up to the skies and see.
      I'm not a weak mage,
      I know the truth, you see.
      There will be Dragons Blue, Dragons White,
      Dragons Good rise to fight.
      Any way the War goes
      Doesn't really matter to me- to me.

      TAS:
      Tanis, just look at me!
      Found a purse all full of gold!
      Oh, it's yours? Well then I'll hold--
      Tanis- please let go of me!
      I swear I thought you'd thrown it all away!

      STURM:
      Tanis ... hey, let him go.
      He didn't mean to take your cash.
      We must be off to find the Lance tomorrow.
      Caramon, Caramon:
      Where is Kitiara?

      KITIARA:
      I'm late, to meet my friends.
      Sent men to the front line
      Greatest power will be mine.
      Good-bye, everybody, I've got to go,
      Gonna leave you all behind and lead my troops.
      Tanis (ooo-ooo), you deserve to die.
      Behind my back you've fallen for Laurana...

      LAURANA:
      I see a little Qualinesti in your soul,
      Tanthalas, Tanthalas, can I be your companion?
      The memories you're fighting -
      That human woman's fright'ning me!

      TANIS:
      Kitiara (Kitiara), Kitiara (Kitiara)
      Kitiara Uth Matar -
      A Dragonlord !

      FLINT:
      I'm just an old dwarf, everybody bugs me.
      All:
      He's just an old dwarf, but he's still family.
      He'll give his life so that we can be free.

      CARAMON:
      Easy go, easy come. Everybody thinks I'm dumb.
      All:
      Car-a-mon, we do not think you're dumb.
      CARAMON:
      I'm not dumb?
      All:
      Car-a-mon, we do not think you're dumb.
      CARAMON:
      I'm not dumb!
      All:
      We do not think you're dumb.
      CARAMON:
      I'm not dumb, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum!

      Oh, brother Raistlin, brother Raistlin,
      Brother Raistlin, where'd you go?

      RAISTLIN:
      To Takhisis, she's a black robe set aside for me
      For me...
      For me!

      [musical interlude, headbanging, etc.]

      STURM:
      So you think evil dragons can beat the good guys?
      So you think you can stab me and leave me to die?
      Oh, Lady- you might do this to me, Lady
      But you'll never win out,
      You'll never defeat Good and Right!

      TANIS:
      Paladine has triumphed
      Check the skies and see.
      Evil has no place here-
      We're free.

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    12. There is also a dark ambient band named after a tower in dragonlance that you will visit in death knights of krynn, Dargaard. Takhisis gets a mention in the title of one song, Raistlin doesn't but I think at least one song is about him.

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    13. I think Raistlin and perhaps secondarily Lord Soth (major Death Knight of the setting) are the most popular topics for Dragonlance music.

      Some more Dragonlance-themed music, I should say I'm not really familiar with the music or artists, so no comment on quality:
      "Rise and Fall" by Dargaard (and "Takhisis Dance", but that one's instrumental so I don't know if it really counts).

      "Netherlife (Black Roses Die)" and "The Legend of Huma" by Dungeon.

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    14. On this topic (kinda, I hope you don't mind Chet) Video Games Live has a new Kickstarter out. For something like $35 you can get 4 albums of game music done by a full orchestra, including several CRPGs:

      CPRGS on the new album: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger/Cross, Skyrim, Journey, Pokemon, Mass Effect, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and a few more.

      I'll not give a link, I'm sure you all can use Google, as I know this isn't EXACTLY on topic, but we have been talking about quite a few of those games lately, and we are having a discussion about game music....

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    15. What, no Planescape and Dragonlance? Blash-pemy!

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    16. No, though neither were known for their music. Which Dragonlance game would you make music out of?

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    17. Gasp! Planescape not known for its music?! Have you not heard of Deionarra's Theme?! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZOuy4YM0AI
      Tell me that alone doesn't kick the entire soundtrack of Skyrim in the nuts!

      As for Dragonlance... well... okay... not the game but the Animated Film of "Dragons Of Autumn Twilight" isn't bad.

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    18. Actually I found it a bit bland. Not bad for game music, but not as distinctive as Skyrim or Arcanum (The entire soundtrack was done with a string quartet), or as good as Baten Kaitos (My all time favourite game music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfrpuI2Ld3g&list=PL3F10E339EF7EBACF )

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  8. If you've made it to the flying citadels, then the end is definitely near. It's really too bad you aren't going straight into "Death Knights of Krynn" after this, since the two games play thematically off each other, but hopefully you will remember most of what has happened by the time you get back to it.

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    1. Well, he always has these posts to read over if he forgets, or 10 - 20 commenters to fill in the gaps.

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    2. I should have kept playing. I only had about 90 minutes to go.

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  9. There are other oddities, too, departing from the books. Many of the black mages did not follow Takhisis, their order was split over the issue, and the Tower of High Sorcery stood against her. The manuals state that many of the wizards arrayed against you are opposed to the tower and did not fall under the White Robe, Red Robe, or Black Robe orders. But renegade mages were also supposedly rare, as the three orders encouraged their members to attack them on sight. So a bunch of evil clerics opposing the party makes sense in the books, but the evil mages allied with Takhisis forces would have been much rarer.

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    1. Thanks for the context. I've been in touch with one of the developers, and he had some interesting things to say about building the story in a way that fit with established canon. I'll work it in to the final posting.

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    2. Speaking of mages - have you found any noticable difference on effectiveness of magic during different states of moons on the top of screen or are they just cosmetic.

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    3. Good question. The moons are supposed to affect the number of bonus spells the mage receives, his saving throws (+1 on full moons, -1 on new moons), and his "effective level" (+1 on full moons, -1 on new moons). This means that fireballs cast by a Level 6 mage on a full moon should do damage as if he was Level 7.

      Since things like spell effectiveness and saving throws are variable anyway, I can't say I've really noticed the difference. The number of bonus spells available is, of course, very noticable, and made a huge difference mid-game. Once I was able to memorize more than one Level 3 spell naturally, it was less of a consideration.

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    4. @Deuce - You're right about that. Even in the books, all the other gods (evil ones, like Nuitari, included) are dead set against stepping foot on Krynn for the sole purpose of subjugating it personally and directly.

      The only magi who do show full support would be the renegades, as you pointed out. But it seems that, when the Dark Queen approaches (and seduces) some of the stronger magi from each color, she was able to turn quite a few of them into renegades to serve her instead of the "Moon Brothers", excluding all the other magic-users in hiding from the Towers just because they share different ideals and beliefs from the Magi of colored robes.

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  10. Regarding the broken economy, there is actually a useful money sink in the game, those +1 arrows I believe can be carried forward to DKK, where they are not very useful, but then they can be carried to DQK, and believe it or not you can't have enough magical arrows, dumping every penny you got into them might actually be useful. 1000 of them would not be overkill. (The lack of magical arrows in the magic shops in DQK is annoying.)

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