Thursday, September 5, 2013

Champions of Krynn: Won!

When I wrapped up last time, I didn't realize I was as close to the end as I was. There were only three small maps and about half a dozen fixed battles.

Gold dragons had just delivered me to one of two skykeeps being operated by the forces of Myrtani. I battled my way through the first one, up a tower, and into a control room, where Tasslehoff took over the controls.

After a fight against some red dragons and Draconians, he crashed the skykeep into its sister.

We ended up in the courtyard of the other keep. The combined keeps were falling out of the sky, and our top priority was to get out of them. We worked our way downward and came upon a party of evil humans bickering about who was going to get off the keep first. We slaughtered them all and stole their uniforms. The game made a point of noting that since the enemy didn't have Kender among them, Tasslehoff and Coral would have to pretend to be prisoners.

When we reached the exit, a group of red dragons, noting our uniforms, gave us a ride down to the city of Kernen, where Myrtani had his headquarters.

I later read in a walkthrough that if I'd declined to put on the uniforms, I would have had to ride the skykeep down to the ground, suffering 30-180 hit points of damage per character (with no temple to raise anyone who died from this damage).

Wandering Kernen was fun. The main objective was to get through a gate into Myrtani's fortress, and I could do this by just charging the gate and fighting a horde of Draconians, or by slyly siphoning some of them away first. The game offered several opportunities to do this, including hooking up with my ogre allies...

...starting fires in Draconian barracks so that they'd be occupied fighting the fire...

...convincing a group of humans disillusioned with Myrtani's leadership to rebel...

I wonder what would have happened if I'd "warned the Draconians."

...and fooling an aged, senile red dragon into attacking the keep.

By the time I reached the gates, the guards had been reduced to a paltry group of one red dragon, one Sivak Draconian, and two Bozak Draconians.

There were a handful of other encounters in town in which my disguise fooled various human and Draconian parties, and I was awarded small amounts of experience for each successful deceit. Fortunately, one of the buildings in town contained a training barracks, or all the experience I'd been gaining since the Temple of Duerghast would have gone to waste.

One thing became clear as I explored the city, read the journal entries, and heard about the humans' (doomed) plot to overthrow Myrtani: Myrtani was a Draconian. I suppose this was obvious to everyone but me already. I don't know if I missed a key piece of intelligence earlier in the game, but I never heard it explicitly stated, and all of the screenshots that supposedly featured Myrtani also featured a bunch of other creatures so it wasn't possible to determine which one was him. For some reason, I had this idea that he was a human mage.

Once inside the keep, the battles increased in difficulty thanks to the appearance of Aurak Draconians. These bastards require a special strategy. If you don't damage them every round, they cast "Fire Shield" as their first spell. "Fire Shield" shrouds the caster in fire, and every attack against him returns double to the attacker. Since Auraks have permanent invisibility on them and thus cannot be targeted at range, once the fire shield goes up, the party either has to suck it up and take the damage (often resulting in death) or wait it out while the Aurak casts energy bolts and fireballs and uses self-immolation to damage everyone around him.

Once the Aurak dies the first time, he resurrects with 20 hit points and continues to use special attacks and melee attacks. When he's slain for the second time, he resurrects again, but this time invulnerable to all attacks for three rounds, at which point he explodes in a fireball. Fortunately, for most of the keep I had ogre allies with me, and they could take the brunt of the damage while my party members cleared out.

Sorry, Mr. Ogre. I'd warn you if the game gave me a mechanism to do that.

Thus, fighting Auraks is a process of killing their first two lives as quickly as possible, then trying to finish off their allies in the next three rounds so you can get away before they explode. I realized belatedly that "Detect Invisibility" probably would have allowed me to target them at range.

Myrtani's chambers had a trifling puzzle. To get by a "guardian" blocking the door to his inner chambers, I had to assemble a protective salve, first by finding a key in his bedroom, then using it to unlock a tome with the salve's recipe, then mixing the salve in an alchemy chamber. It didn't take long.

I lost my ogre allies when I broke into Myrtani's treasure vault and they began arguing over the treasure. It consisted of thousands of platinum, bronze, steel, and copper pieces that I would have had to be crazy to load myself up with. (Treasure weighs you down and reduces movement speed in combat.)

I feel like this is to make things more difficult for idiot players.

There were three difficult battles before the end. The first was with Myrtani's "Dragon Master," leading five red dragons. They wiped me out the first time, but after a re-load, I knew enough to cast "resist fire" on everyone before the battle. A hastened, blessed, high-level Dragonlance wielder is vital in this kind of battle, since he can theoretically kill four dragons in a single round.

The last two battles were back-to-back, first against Myrtani (an Aurak) and his Draconian allies, and second against three huge red dragons preparing to decimate the good armies. I lost both of these before I learned the proper combination of buffing spells and remembered I had a "Protection from Dragon Breath" scroll.

Buffed for the final battle.

Myrtani was as smug and obnoxious as all his underlings, pretending that my bringing the good armies to his doorstep was exactly what he wanted all along.

He had taken Maya prisoner after she foolishly attacked his base by herself, and he taunted me with her before attacking with three Sivaks (tough melee fighters), four Bozaks (spellcasters who explode for minor damage when slain), and five Baaz (pawns who turn to stone upon death and may trap your weapons). They seemed more immune to magic than the typical Draconian force, and my "Fireball" and "Ice Storm" spells didn't have the effect I'd hoped. But my buffed and hastened party was able to take everyone down with melee attacks and individual spell attacks eventually.

Afterwards, despite the fact that I saw him explode in the middle of the combat, Myrtani still had a smug death speech, indicating that the "messengers will still fly." The "messengers" were three large red dragons, whom I engaged before they could leave the base.

I don't really understand this plot point, but whatever.

I realized belatedly that since my leader, Midsummer, had the Dragonlance and the Scroll of Protection from Dragon's Breath active, she probably could have taken on all three dragons by herself while the rest of the party huddled in a corner. But it wasn't a big deal anyway. With "Resist Fire" active, all my characters could last at least one round, and I killed all three dragons with a combination of melee attacks, magic missiles, and lightning bolts.

They lined up just perfectly.

The endgame began with the least exciting message ever...

Not even an exclamation point?

...but then preceded to a more interesting group of screens and text, which in total, read:

The Solamnic knights arrive on dragon back. They land and bow before you. "You have prevented the destruction of our armies. Your valiant fighting and great wisdom are inspirations to us all."

"With the threat of evil abated in these lands, you can pass your responsibilities on to others. You may take a well deserved rest. You have given us the tools needed for the fight elsewhere."

You give your major items to the knights, to aid them in other battles.

Wait. What?
"Thank you again for your dedication to duty. You must accept these medallions. You are now members of the Special Solamnic Order of the Champions of Krynn. You will be honored in song and legend forever."

Maya is helped forward. She smiles. "I wanted to thank you personally for your heroism. You have honored the memory of Sir Karl. You are truly heroes."

In the distance beyond the cheering crowd is a single glowering figure. A whisper comes on the wind. "I am impressed. But do not think that this will help against me." Lord Soth turns and leaves. The knights fly you back to the outpost.

I guess the appearance of "Lord Soth" was supposed to be a bit of a shocking twist for Dragonlance fans, just like Thanos's cameo at the end of The Avengers was to Marvel fans. It was lost on me until I looked it up in the wiki and discovered that he's the epitome of the death knight, enemy of the Heroes of the Lance in the novels, who though evil is possessed with a sense of honor from his days as a Knight of Solamnia. He was so popular he apparently crossed into the Ravenloft setting for a time. I look forward to meeting him in Death Knights of Krynn.

I like that these knights aren't a bunch of stiff teetotalers like the paladins of the Forgotten Realms.

The game let me continue playing at this point, and I used the time to see if I was due any new levels (I wasn't), check out what equipment the game made me hand over to the knights (the Dragonlance, my Girdle of Giant Strength, both Gauntlets of Ogre Power, the Necklace of Missiles, several other things), identify the stuff I'd gathered in the keep, and I guess wander around and fight random encounters. I ended the game with all my characters one level below their maximums, which is good. I hate when I hit experience caps and feel like I'm fighting for nothing.

What I also like is that in the post-game wandering, the world acknowledges your victory and the changes you wrought on the landscape. There are parties in bars in the outposts, the commandants' offices have victory messages instead of quest logs, and if you take the time to haul your party all the way across the map to Kernen, the knights cleaning up the mess throw an impromptu celebration.

Note that there's no point to half the map.

As usual, I had fun reading the "false" journal entries at the end of the game. There were a lot of them that simply didn't make any sense; that suggested a context that never arose in the game, such as the party contemplating murdering the "odious minister" to a knight named Sir Era, and a whole series of them involving a vampire. There were a few meant to suggest that Maya was evil and had ensorcelled Sir Karl, and one that had the party "dooming" the outpost by killing the commandant. My favorite was this one, which would have led the player to make some horrible choices in Neraka:

As you work to free the slaves, their shackles seem to come off too easily. Before you can react, they whip out weapons and prepare to attack. One laughs, "The one you saw die before you was not Sir Karl, it was a Sivak. There are no slaves here. It was only a story to lure you to your doom. They begin to close in.

In general, there was a lot more disinformation in the fake entries than in the previous games, and any place in which the game offered a serious role-playing choice, there was a fake entry to mislead the player.

A few final notes before we wrap up:

  • Towards the end of the game, in contrast to my post a few days ago, my knights suddenly became a lot more effective. When they hit seventh level, they got two attacks per round, and both equipment and leveling upgrades put their THAC0s around 7 or 8. I think it would be a lot of fun--and a significant challenge--to replay the game with an all-knight party mowing through the enemies.
  • I think I said this in Curse of the Azure Bonds, too, but "Fix" and "Rest" clearly operate under different rules. In theory, "Fix" should just be a keyboard shortcut for memorizing all the "Cure [Whatever] Wounds" spells available, casting them, and re-memorizing the original spells. In practice, "Fix" usually works without any interruptions by enemy combats, even in the busiest places, when memorizing spells isn't otherwise remotely possible.
  • After I had won the game, I wanted to test the differences in the difficulty levels. The manual says that the level affects both the enemy's hit points and the experience you get for each battle, but in the few trials I attempted, it only affected hit points. Quite significantly, I should add: Myrtani had 27 hit points at "Novice" and 82 at "Champion." Anyway, the more interesting thing is that I apparently played the entire game on "Adept," the second-highest, despite the default supposedly being "Veteran," in the middle. I'm not sure how that happened.
  • Having two thieves was fantastic. I loved putting them opposite the same enemy; this virtually guaranteed a backstab each round.
  • I'm going to have an awfully cleric-heavy party going into the next game. Five of my six characters are capable of casting some level of clerical spells.

GIMLET time!


  1. Do the Goldbox games actually have a mechanic for dying due to old age from too many haste spells? A % chance of dying when an age threshold is reached? Does it increase with age? I know elves and dwarves have significantly longer lifespans than other races. When does the game roll to see if an elderly character dies? How does it work, exactly?

    1. I don't know if it works this way in Gold Box, but in AD&D each character has a secret maximum age known only to the GM, which is determined by rolling dice and adding them to a certain minimum (i.e. a human won't drop dead from natural causes when they're 25, the minimum is something like 50). Half-elves, dwarves, and especially full-blooded elves do indeed have an advantage in that their lifespans are up to five times longer than that of regular humans.

    2. Not sure about the rest, but the Gold-Box games definitely have a mechanic for dying of old age. Cast too many Haste spells on yourself and find out.

    3. A good thing I'm not "abusing" the spell, then. And it makes Elixirs of Youth useful if you do use Haste too much.
      It's a bigger problem in FRUA, though, since your guys for some reason start out 10 years older than in the Gold Box games.

    4. Haste increases your age, and there are 5 level of age for each race, with stat changes at each age level (some positive wis, some negative str). I don't recall death as a result from aging in the code though...

    5. Are you sure about that? Sounds like a later version of D&D. As far as I know Goldbox stats are set in stone regarding aging. What do you know about the code?

    6. I just ran a test. My human knight was 23 years old and one of my Silvanesti Elves was 351 years old. I recorded all their stats, then cast 103 "Haste" spells in a row so that their ages were 126 and 454 respectively. None of their stats decreased and no one died. I left the outpost, adventured around a bit, fought some battles to see if it took some external events to trigger, but nothing happened. It appears that in this game, at least, there's no consequence to aging.

    7. Huh. Go figure. I suppose it was deprecated in this game? I remember in one of the goldbox games it said something like "if you get too old your character might die". I also remember ghosts as enemies that would age you if they hit. Oh well, yet another gameplay mechanic that's in the manual but has no effect on the game.

    8. I wonder if it was a technical limitation? It would be another variable for each character, just a short int, but back then I hear you had to be super careful in every single line of code. It is odd to see stuff taken out of games, but it could be this was based on an older version of the code: For example, compare the Doom source versions that exist: Later games were still based on old Doom code, rather then the latest Doom II code.

    9. In FRUA you can alter HASTE for equal to the rules, check it the krynn modules.

  2. Congratulations! Another triumph well done. I am afraid I am one of those tee-todalers, but have a gimlet on my account!

    I had forgotten about the difficulty level. I usually just played on veteran level.

    Auraks are a major pain and they get upgraded or "enhanced" or "enchanted "in Dark Queen of Krynn. You would think that the metallic dragons would be doing more to save their eggs.

    Death Knights is probably the most undead heavy of the gold box games; clerics are advised, but do not neglect your infantry. You will need solid hitters.

    I once ran an all elf party. I had two single classed fighters, but the rest were magic users, clerics and theives all multiclassed. The drawback was i could not command any NPC without a knight. On the other hand, I could cast fireball multple times in battle and I was never short of healing.


    1. Hey, JJ. What do you mean by "Command any NPC"?

    2. Might not exist in CoK. In DKK you can sometimes take control of NPCs at the start of combat. The text says ' leads '. I'm not sure if party-joining NPCs can be controlled this way, but random friendly solamnic knights/ogres certainly can.

      It happens fairly regularly in the very first battle. I don't know if it's ever meaningful.

  3. "In practice, "Fix" usually works without any interruptions by enemy combats, even in the busiest places, when memorizing spells isn't otherwise remotely possible."

    Which is why I only use the Fix command in places I know are 100% safe.

    Harland, I don't think there's any penalty to old age (unlike the Might&Magic games), so again it's up to the player. Personally I only use Haste sparingly.

    1. I'm having trouble parsing your logic. If you know "Fix" will work in almost any place you use it, why would you use it only in places that are 100% safe? As a kind of conduct?

    2. Because in other, unsafe places it feels like cheating.

  4. Gold box rpgs do age you when you cast haste, never actually saw if it did anything.
    A little hint for the start of DKK:
    Sbe gur fgneg (cer-svefg onggyr) va QXX V jbhyq gel naq unir lbhe pyrevpf zrzbevmr n jvqr inevrgl bs gurve phevat fcryyf vapyhqvat gur abeznyyl hfryrff barf yvxr pher qvfrnfr, lbh jvyy frr jul jura lbh ernpu gur grzcyr

    Hmm, when you finish DKK, try not to miss dave's challenge, it's nothing to do with the story but could be easy to miss

  5. "...and fooling an aged, senile red dragon into attacking the keep."

    That seems cruel, but no one likes Red Dragons anyway I guess. I faintly recall something similar happening in the Dragons of Autumn Twilight novel during a slave revolt.

  6. Another one bites the dust!

  7. Congratulations :)

  8. Congrat!
    Here is a video for the centipede one-hit kill:)

    1. I had no idea. I just waded into them and treated them like vermin. I got lucky.

    2. Even if centipedes hit, you still get a saving throw vs. poison, which is IIRC the easiest saving throw to make.

    3. Every time a "poisonous snake" bit me, the character got poisoned and died. I wonder if they overrode the saving throws.

  9. There's a whole sequence of adjectives for the difficulty of the gate fight depending on how many side quests to weaken it you've done: too many to fight, impossible, very difficult, very tough, tough, good. 'Good' is really easy. I actually beat it on 'too many to fight'; I had a knight, a kender cleric/thief, and 4 elf cleric/fighter/magic-users. If you use all your fireball wands, etc., you can do it.

  10. "We are the Champions... of the Woooorld!"

  11. I don't know if this is the right place to say this, but I'll say it anyway: I was happily playing through the Forgotten Realms Goldbox series (Pools of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, etc.), inspired by our resident Addict, only to fail utterly at the final battle(s) of the series, despite repeated tries. NO FAIR! Talk about BRUTAL. :(

    1. What's your party's composition and their stats. Having high Dex in order to get high Initiative is crucial is those fights.
      Do you buff your party with spells like Enlarge and Haste?

    2. I definitely remember doing my homework on the spells and trying various combinations. Here was my party:

      Human Lvl 24 Paladin
      Human Lvl 27 Ranger
      Dwarven Lvl 9 Fighter/Lvl 24 Thief
      Human Lvl 31 Cleric/Lvl 9 Fighter
      Human Lvl 25 Magic User/Lvl 9 Cleric
      Human Lvl 26 Magic User

      All my spellcasters have only 17 in their primary stats, unfortunately, denying me the highest-level spells.

      Their Dexterity scores are all 17s and 18s across the board.

    3. Rotgrub, you'll want to grind to get your characters close to max (level 40) before fighting the last battle in Pools of Darkness. Surviving involves making a lot of difficult saving throws, and a higher level party is almost a must.

    4. Your party should be able to pull it off. "On paper" it's slightly weaker than mine was. The Summon Monsters spell was moderately useful in those battles, but apart from that I don't think you missed much. The important thing is to get in two Delayed Blast Fireballs in the first round to kil off as many Pets and Minions as possible.
      Initiative is everything is these fights. I had to edit my characters' dexterity to 18 to get a reasonable chance of firing off two DBFs in the first fight before my spell casters were hit by lighting bolts. Also, Haste spells to counter the Beholders' Slow spells in the second fight is very useful.
      I recorded my victory and out it on Youtube. Follow this link if you wanna take a look (but mute the sound, since it's completely messed up):

      The Amiga version is easier. I remember the Ring of Lightning Immunity being very helpful first time I completed PoD 20 years ago, but in the DOS version the Ring is useless.

    5. I remember my brother exploiting a certain chest of jewels to get his 6 humans dual classed 39/40 in order to take out the final battle. Probably overkill.

    6. Thanks, PetrusOctavianus, though I'm guessing I tried those tactics, and even looked up walkthroughs and tried the tips I found there. I must have tried that first battle about 40 times before giving up. I can up my DEX to 18 but I'm thinking it had something to do with my characters' power level. Perhaps I needed 3 magic-users. I don't know...

      But for now, perusing this blog has inspired me to boot up Pools of Radiance, and I'm kind of hooked again! I'm happily starting from the beginning at the moment :)

  12. "You give your major items to the knights, to aid them in other battles."

    "Wait. What?"

    I laughed out loud at that. Fortunately, I wasn't drinking anything at the time. Your screenshots with captions are always fun to browse.

    Obviously it's an in-game justification for limiting the party's power level in the sequel, but... yeah. WTF indeed!

  13. Congratulations on winning this!

    I have always wondered what the trap of Myrtani actually was.

    If it was an army waiting for him to signal, would that not still be a threat because while the signal giver is gone, the army would still be there?

    1. Exactly. And if it was the dragons themselves, am I more powerful than an entire army?

    2. Maybe it was something to do with that book which was stolen in the first encounter? Or was it mentioned anywhere else?

    3. Oh, good point. I don't really know what that was; I assumed it had something to do with creating Draconinans.

  14. Do you suppose that the "Sir Era", whose evil minister they wished to destroy, is intentionally an anagram of "Sierra"? Although I don't know of any problems between SSI and Sierra during the period, nor who the "evil minister" might be.

    1. I don't think Sierra and SSI ever crossed paths. Their software genres were too different. Sierra Online only did war/strategy games towards the end of the nineties.

      They were pretty good though. I had a lot of fun with MissionForce: Cyberstorm and the Civil War RTS games.

    2. Still, "Sir Era" is such a goofy name, and it's such an obvious anagram of "Sierra," that I suspect Corey is on to something. One of the journal entries reads in full:

      "Watch out for the minister. They say that he has taken over the
      castle of Sir Era and now runs the old knight, as well as the kingdom.
      The people are being.. hush! he's here."

      Could this refer to something business-related going on with Sierra around 1990?

    3. IMHO, regardless of the genre differences, a game is a game. And if a kid is trying to convince his parent to buy an RPG AND an adventure game, said parent is going to make the kid choose only one. That, or it's fortunately a QFG game. XD

  15. I wonder what would have happened if I'd "warned the Draconians."

    If you encourage the plot, or reveal your mission and succeed in convincing them to change sides and help the good armies:

    1) The gate guards are weakened a step.
    2) All the random human patrols you run into from then on are automatically friendly.
    3) All the random draconian patrols you run into from then on attack on sight.

    If you sneak away and warn the draconians:
    1) The gate guards are weakened a step.
    2) All the random draconian patrols you run into from then on are automatically friendly.
    3) All the random human patrols you run into from then on attack on sight.

    Mechanically, the difference depends on which group you'd rather have fights with as you roam around Kernen.

  16. Because I’ve just finished playing CoK and I noticed this thread being partially reanimated, I dare to add three comments:

    1) „I later read in a walkthrough that if I'd declined to put on the uniforms, I would have had to ride the skykeep down to the ground, suffering 30-180 hit points of damage per character.“
    Not necessarily. I ignored bickering evil soldiers in uniforms and when I reached end of this level (where your party in disguise mounted red dragons), game gave me opportunity to attack troops mounting red dragons. They were subdued without fight and my party mounted red dragons with captured troops as hostages. We flew down to Kernen where troops scattered and my party had to fight our dragon mounts.

    2) I experienced death by poisonous centipede. Once.

    3) When traveling on the map, I experienced no encounter (except during camping). With one exception – four squares to the east from Gargath (across the mountain ridge) I met traveling armed caravan of merchants. They sell mage scrolls (and Wand of Magic Missiles, I think) for half prices compared to the cheapest shop in Jelek. Curiously, no walkthrough on internet mention this. Maybe there’re more similar hidden encounters, although I don’t believe so. On the other hand, I didn’t explore entire map square by square…

    Anyway, as a longtime reader I would like to thank you for your funny, witty, accurate and extremely informative blogging. Good job, sir!

    1. I appreciate the supplement! It's nice to know there was something in all that empty space after all.


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