Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dragonflight: Struggling for Sundries

Opening a chest in a dungeon corridor.

It's been a long time since I played an RPG in which I had to constantly worry about things like torches and food, but such is a primary dynamic of at least the early game of Dragonflight. In the first few hours of gameplay, I've spent almost all of my amassed wealth keeping from starving. I yearn for a handy fish & chips place with lax security.

At the beginning of the game, the only clue I got about the main quest was a suggestion to see Dambrano's friend, Benglur, in the town of Brindil-Bun. I don't know if the original game came with a map, but I have no idea where to find Brindil-Bun. The only clue I have as to my place in the world is an in-game map piece that shows my party in a upper-middle sector on the west side of the world. Apparently, there are 11 more map pieces to find, and Benglur has one.

Not getting very far in a dungeon.

I started exploring tentatively from Pegana, and fairly soon I ran into a couple of dungeons. One, to the north, starts at a door that asks me for a password--something to do with who built the dungeon. I didn't get any clues to that in Pegana. A second dungeon, to the west, is where I spent most of my time since the first post, trying to amass gold and experience. 

Approaching a dungeon in the mountains.

Dungeon exploration in Dragonflight is essentially the same as Ultima IV and Ultima V. You wander through first-person corridors punctuated by third-person rooms. The rooms, which have less interesting geography than the Ultima titles, might contain enemies, chests, or both. Occasionally, you find chests in the hallways, but in this dungeon, anyway, I didn't encounter any enemies roaming the halls between rooms.

Dungeon-delving brings up a different series of commands on the interface, with options for casting a spell, taking something, listening at a door, opening a door, unlocking a door, opening a chest, and looking. Listening at a door might give you a preview of what's to come in the next room. I believe the only other RPGs in which we've seen this ability are Tunnels of Doom and The Dark Heart of Uukrul.

It was indeed 4 snakes.

Combat in dungeon rooms is identical to combat outdoors except for the textures. Since the first post, I've confirmed that there's no way to face sideways, so only characters directly in front of or behind an enemy can engage him. Until I get a bow for my archer and better spells for my mage, that means awkwardly trying to maneuver two characters behind the enemies while the other two attack from the front.

The party tries to get into position to fight four snakes. I don't know if those are horns or ears.

So far, enemies have included skeletons, snakes, orcs, trolls, and gnolls. None of them have had any special attacks, but the snakes and trolls have been the hardest when it comes to the damage they do in combat.

The execution of a combat round.

Gnolls in this game are small, fat, tailed creatures that jump at you.

After combat, characters can easily move to any chests in the room and open them, then use one of the room's available exits (there can be up to 4). So far, chests have contained gold, gems (which can be sold for money; I don't know if there's any other purpose to them), scrolls, and equipment. In one chest in this random dungeon, I found another of the 12 map pieces.

The world slowly takes shape.

Characters get individual experience from combat based on the monsters they slay, which naturally means my fighter and dwarf are leading the pack. Everyone has experienced small increases in hit points and magic, although the game doesn't tell you when it happens, so I don't know if it's been incremental or if it happens in stages.

Torches are vital to dungeon exploration. The dungeons start pitch dark, and each torch lasts for maybe 30 minutes in real time, after which it slowly dims and ultimately disappears. The characters only started with 4 torches, and though I've heard of a place somewhere northwest of Pegana that sells more, I haven't found it yet. A "light" spell removes this need, but I'd rather spend the magic points on other spells.

How is the light "gloomy"?

Dungeon rooms remain cleared when you leave them, and dungeons don't seem to respawn when you exit and re-enter. I don't know if they re-spawn over time. There's no way to rest and heal while in dungeons, so you have to be careful with your hit points as you explore, although the lack of random encounters and re-spawning means that it's fairly easy to get from any point back to the surface just as long as everything doesn't go dark.

The first dungeon also gave me my first taste of magic. I found several scrolls in various chests that, when read by characters, granted them spells. It appears that certain spells can only be learned by certain characters, and if another one tries to learn it, you waste the scroll. I managed to get "dispel undead," "dazzle," " speed," "light," and "fire-ball" for my mage; "glowing stone" and "stone hardening" for my dwarf; and "wood hardening" for my archer (yes, yes: ha, ha). I don't know if Bladus the fighter can learn anything, but he does have a small number of spell points. I haven't had a chance to test out more than a few of them, and the manual doesn't really give any indication of what they do.

Learning a spell from a scroll. I guess I need to keep track of what numbers everyone has already learned.

Back at Pegana University, Dambrano is waiting for me to show up and turn in scrolls, so I rather hope there are duplicates of each scroll, and I can learn one and give him the others.

There's also an odd dynamic with potions. Each has a rune associated with it, and through experimentation you can determine what each one does. But there's also an option to mix potions in ways that strengthen or alter them. I think this is the first time we've seen such a dynamic in an RPG. Unfortunately, every time I try, I just get sludge, so clearly more experimentation is in order.

This mixture produced nothing.

I had a tight moment towards the end of this session, when I failed to keep an eye on rations and ran out of food on Level 5 of the dungeon. This causes "hunger!" to flash on the screen every 9 moves, and everyone loses a hit point. With the two healing potions I'd found, I managed to just keep everyone alive long enough to escape the dungeon and return to Pegana, where I immediately spent almost all the gold I had acquired on more food.
I like the game's approach to health as it relates to difficulty, at least in this stage.  I haven't found any healing spells yet, and health potions have been scarce. Health regenerates slowly as you move--maybe 1 point every 40 steps. You can speed this up by resting, but that only heals 1-15 points out of a maximum of between 60 and 150 depending on the character. Visiting the healer in the town restores more, but at a relatively significant cost, and even she doesn't heal to the maximum. The cumulative effect of this approach is that you will eventually restore all of your health, with patience, but when you're dungeon-delving, you can't take it for granted. In this, the game achieves a nice balance between Wizardry, where you never regenerated anything unless you returned to the surface, and Might & Magic, where you could regenerate everything just by resting. 
Resting helps a little bit.
I used the dungeon for experience and treasure, but I'll need to return to it when I'm stronger to finish exploring it. I didn't quite finish the level I was on when I started starving, and I don't know if there were any levels below that. There was also some mysterious portal to another dungeon that I declined to take. There were also a couple of locked doors for which I never found keys.

Or maybe a different floor in the same dungeon. I need to map it next time.

Here are a few questions for those of you who have played this game before. The manual doesn't make any of this clear:

  • If I face a wall in the dungeon and hit "look," it gives me a closer view of the wall. Why? Is there anything I'm supposed to do here? Are there secret doors to find with this dynamic?
  • What is the "take" option for in dungeons? I haven't found anything just sitting in the open in the corridors.
  • Are the skeletons and foliage just there for flavor, or is there some way I can search them and get stuff from them?

The lack of an indefinite article and the exclamation point lead me to believe that this is quite a fortunate find.

So far, playing Dragonflight has been a pleasant experience. Not joyous or exciting, but pleasant. The difficulty seems pitched very well, and it has a reasonably strong approach to inventory and economy. If anything is going to sink the experience, it's probably going to be the combat, which is already proving somewhat boring and repetitive, although I hope this might change as I start making greater use of offensive spells. I'm going to stake off in a new direction and see if I can get a bead on the main quest.


  1. Good post! Can you holdup in the countryside to rest or do you need to find and inn? I like this approach too to economy and health. As I am playing Ultima 4 right now, I appreciate the need to balance your economy between food, reagents, equipment and such. Games like this remind me less of medieval fantasy than the expeditions of the early explorers in the Americas. I don't suppose Seven Cities of Gold was a CRPG?

    1. No, there are no inns where you can sleep (at least, not that I've found). You can onlly cap in the countryside.

  2. Dungeons refill, both in terms of monsters and items, after a couple of hours realtime.
    You can indeed "look" for secret doors, to that end mapping the dungeons helps to identify likely spots.
    There are some items just scattered around a dungeon which you acn "take".
    There are two ways to reach Brindil-Bun, a hard one and an easy one - you've stumbled upon the beginning of the latter, but lack information that can be obtained in Pegana.

    1. You mean, someone in Pegana knows who built the dungeon? I thought I'd talked to every NPC twice, but I'll give it another round.

      Thanks for the other info. When I "look" and find a secret door, is it pretty obvious? There are a lot of walls with little blemishes and such, and I can't tell if I'm supposed to do something with them.

    2. If you need further help on the NPC, some ROT13: purpx ubhfr ahzore rvtugrra.

      Regarding secret doors, they do look a little different upon closer inspection. I don't recall if this is the case for all hidden passages and/or all tilesets, but most of them should be discernible that way.

      Pretty sure the blemishes you're referring to are just flavor, much like the mentioned bones and foliage.

    3. You *look* and get a close-up. Then, after a few seconds, the space between the bricks starts to glow red if there is a secret door. (At least that's what I remember the Amiga version to do.)

      Specifically, there is a secret passage pretty soon after the entrance in one of the first two dungeons, if I remember correctly. From the entrance, walk straight ahead, and where the passage turns right, there's a secret door straight ahead, with a couple of chests behind it. If I remember correctly...

    4. You find from conversation with NPC in Pegana,that Andoverin is owed 30 gold pieces,if you give him money he tell you name builder.

    5. In the house #18, little man (thief?) tells you that Andoverin has owed 30 gold pieces. If you meet the Andoverin in house #51 and give him 30g, he tell you the name...

    6. Some people are not always home. You might have to go around and knock on same doors multiple times to meet all NPCs...

    7. Thankfully, I solved the problem using trudodyr's ROT-13 hint before reading the others. The knocking-multiple-times thing is very annoying. I can't possibly see what it adds to the gameplay. Even knowing this, it appears there are some houses where no one is ever home.

    8. Is anyone other than me peeved that commenters spoiled the solution?

    9. Very peeved. Please cease it.

    10. We had a problem like this over at The Adventure Gamer. Trickster solved it by adding a note on a spoiler policy to the bottom of the first post about each game.

  3. I just remembered I had this game for my Amiga. I got stuck on one of the first dungeons because I didnt have the answer to a riddle.

  4. I don't know anything about this game, but is it possible that taking a scroll back to the university would lead to Dambrano telling you which character can learn the spell that's on it (and then letting you do so)? Do we actually know if he takes them away from you?

    1. Yes, I did give him one just to see what happened, and he simply removed it from my inventory. I'm not sure if I got anything (experience, etc.) from it. Next time I find a scroll, I'll test it a little more thoroughly.

  5. All characters can learn magic, but some are better at it than others.

    Rinakles is almost guaranteed to learn anything on the first try, while scrolls are usually wasted on Bladus unless you save-scum. Andariel can learn archery- and nature-related spells easily, etc. Also note that the spells are divided into light and dark magic. If a character keeps using dark magic, it'll become easier to learn(?) and cast, but light magic will be harder. And vice versa.

    1. Okay, the black/white thing is something I don't understand yet. I guess that's what the "w" and "b" after each spell type are, but the way they divide doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I'll try to write about that later when I understand it better.

    2. The convention I'm familiar with is that black magic is offensive and white magic is defensive, but this is picked up from Final Fantasy games. I have no idea how common it is in western RPGs (especially in the era before Final Fantasy VII happened along and made JRPGs a big deal in the west).

    3. The black/white magic distinction in games originates in D&D's Arcane/Divine split, with jRPGs gaining it by way of Wizardry, of which the first Final Fantasy game is very close to a top-down clone. It's not a coincidence that the FF Black Mage wears a cloak and pointy hat, while the the White Mage wears priestly robes (in some translations, the classes were actually called Wizard and Priest.)

      The actual terms "black" and "white" derive from various traditional witchcraft traditions, in which "black" magic was demonic in origin, and the latter natural (relating to various nature-worshipping groups). In modern occult and neopagan tradition, which was gaining considerable traction in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "Black" magic refers to negative, offensive magic with "White" magic positive defensive and protective magic.

    4. Actually, the term originates from the Middle Ages, when the word "necromantia" (i.e. necromancy, which at the time meant communicating with the spirits of the dead, nothing to do with zombies ;)) got misspelled as "nigromantia" - which literally means "black magic". "White magic" came some time later (don't know the details here), when magic was no longer considered to be entirely evil.

    5. Based on Wikipedia, both terms entered common usage in the Renaissance. I would not be surprised if you had researched the subject in greater depth than I have, however.

    6. VK -- are you certain about this? I ask simply because neither of the two words you quote are Latin (which I would have expected) given their apparant Middle Ages origin and I can't find any reference on Google other than to heavy metal bands. This makes me suspicious that (all repect to yourself) that these are suprious terms.

      As to "necromantia" being misspelled as "nigromantia". Mmm, really?

      Do you have a source for them being medieval?

    7. When I meant I didn't yet understand the black/white convention or how they divide, I meant in this game, of course. Obviously, I've heard the term "black magic" before. Anyway, whatever the historical case, this particular game makes it clear that "black" isn't necessarily "bad." The spells also don't divide in an offensive/defensive or an arcane/divine way. There are, in fact, white and black versions of the same spells.

    8. Spell Name: ClearSkin
      Black Version: Clears Pimples.
      White Version: Removes Blackheads.

    9. @Red_Cardinal: here's a relevant paragraph from Merriam-Webster:

      Origin of NECROMANCY
      alteration of Middle English nigromancie, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin nigromantia, by folk etymology from Late Latin necromantia, from Late Greek nekromanteia, from Greek nekr- + -manteia -mancy
      First Known Use: 15th century

    10. And "misspelled" was a figure of speech, obviously ;)

    11. OED disagrees on how it evolved: "lassical Latin necromantīa evocation of the dead, a name for the part of the Odyssey (Book 11) describing Odysseus' visit to Hades (recorded as a variant of necyomantea necyomancy n. in some MSS. of Pliny), in post-classical Latin also the art of predicting the future by supposed communication with the dead (3rd cent.) < Hellenistic Greek νεκρομαντεία the art of predicting the future by supposed communication with the dead (first in Origen, 3rd cent. a.d.) < ancient Greek νεκρο- necro- comb. form + μαντεία -mancy comb. form.
      In forms nicro-, nycro-, after the earlier nigromancy n.; forms with -e- are found from the mid 16th cent. Compare Middle French, French nécromancie (mid 16th cent.)."

      With the entry on nigromancy, n.:
      Anglo-Norman nigremancie, nigromancie (end of the 13th cent.) and Middle French nigromancie, nygromancie (1378), négromancie (1572), alteration (with substitution of suffix -ie -y suffix3) of nigromance nigromance n., probably after post-classical Latin nigromantia (see nigromance n.). Compare Old Occitan nigromansia (13th cent.), Spanish nigromancia (c1250; also negromancia (1495)), Italian negromanzia (late 13th cent.), †nigromanzia (14th cent.), Portuguese nigromancia (14th cent.). Compare also Middle Dutch nigromantie, nigramantie, ingromantie, Middle Low German nigromancīe, nigromantīe, Middle High German nigromanzīe, nigromanzī."

  6. Is there some reason you can't just use your map to navigate in the dark? You wouldn't be able to progress, but you could work your way back to the exit.

    I'm disappointed you didn't find 00001 keys.

    1. If I'd made a map, I certainly could. There's no automap in the game, though, and I didn't think I needed to draw one because the levels were so small.

    2. The levels are going to be larger and the dungeons deeper later on.

  7. "It's been a long time since I played an RPG in which I had to constantly worry about things like torches and food..."

    This becomes a lot more rare for US games as time goes on and remains pretty common for European games. Why? I have no idea.

    The Eye of the Beholder series (and cousins) may be the last major release of a US RPG that requires food and you I think there was a Create Food spell available anyway.

    1. I always felt that the way food and torches in CRPGs were either too unrealistic or too useless to even include in the game.

      If it was realistic, you won't be able to find torches that are burning since the dungeon was created mounted on the wall but snuffs out a few hours later when you remove it and hold it in your hand.

      If it was realistic, you won't be able to find locked chests and monster corpses loaded with food that are fit for human consumption.

      The alternative would be having to carry loads of food, water & torches and set up a small camp outside the dungeon with a pack mule & squire/servant.

    2. If you like loading up mules with food and water and making a small camp outside a dungeon, you're really going to like FallThru! :-D

    3. Heh one of my bugbears is --- torches. Prevalant in loads of rpgs and movies. Usually depicted using some amazing smokeless fuel that doesn't actually consume the torch.

      In reality, torches were largely not used by ancient or medieval cultures simply because of the absence of a magical fuel that doesn't smoke horrendously, drop burning material on the floor and go out after 10 minutes of burning.

      Lamps using a wick in oil, various candles and lanterns (candle and oil) were used.

    4. @X - I don't like it, actually. So... I guess FallThru wouldn't cut it for me. XD

  8. BTW: Are you playing the recently (well, like 10 years ago) patched version of the game? I think even the ST version had a potentially game-breaking bug towards the end, at least when used with Steem.
    In case you need a link:

    1. No, I never even heard of this. Ugh. I hope it accepts the same saved games.

  9. I think you might want to look into this, Chet. Your party is extremely hungry all the time - and they're obscenely happy to have found 'Weed!'..

  10. Hi Chet,
    this could be a good time to go back to my "player's Diary & guide" I wrote two years ago ;-)

    I'm also trying to create worldmap (WIP) by combining in-game screenshots and maps of the dungeons too...

    Some answers for you:
    - closer view on the wall is useful for search the "secret" and "trapped" passages determined by the yellow/red dashed-lines
    - skeletons and foliage are only decorations
    - I think dungeons (and all monsters/loot/stuff) are not randomly generated...

    ...and I have also a number of questions about the gameplay...

    1. I was curious about whether dungeons were randomly generated or whether they respawn the same way each time. I took careful notes on the next one so I could compare. Thanks for linking the material.

    2. Those "decorations" are useful as map markers. Especially in larger dungeons.


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