Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quest for Glory II: The Thief of Araby

I was surprised to see how little grinding I had done with Chester the thief in Hero's Quest.

Let's quickly recap what has to happen during the "Shapeir" portion of Quest for Glory II, which takes up about two-thirds of the game. Each character must:

  • Change his gold Spielburg coins for gold dinars at the moneychanger's.
  • Buy a map and a compass from Alichica before Day 4, when his stall burns down.
  • Any time after Day 2, purchase a saurus from Ali Fakir at the stables.
  • Defeat the Fire Elemental when it shows up on Day 5 and before it destroys the city on Day 7.
  • Defeat the Air Elemental when it shows up on Day 8 and before it destroys the city on Day 11.
  • Defeat the Earth Elemental when it shows up on Day 12 and before it destroys the city on Day 14.
  • Defeat the Water Elemental when it shows up on Day 14 and before it destroys the city on Day 15.
  • Join the caravan to Raseir on Day 17.

In between these events, each character must engage in a variety of character-building exercises such as fighting enemies in the desert, practicing with Uhura, and casting spells. He must purchase or otherwise acquire all of the things necessary to defeat the elementals (e.g., incense, an extra waterskin, a lamp, a cloth bag, the bellows), talk to various NPCs about the game world, their tips on defeating the elementals, and their own pasts, and otherwise explore the city and learn about the main quest--though the full story doesn't become apparent until the Raseir portion of the game.

Each class has several side-quests they can engage during this time. The mage can buy a full complement of spells from Keapon Laffin and then join the Wizard's Institute of Technocracy. The thief has two burglary jobs (see below). On the last days before leaving for Raseir, the fighter can join the Eternal Order of Fighters. Throughout these days, each class can attempt to build "Honor" points through various small ways (giving flowers to ladies, always saying THANK YOU to NPCs, giving money to the beggar) and a couple of major quest-dependent ways, such as returning the poet Omar's lost purse to him.

There are a couple of major side-quests and optional encounters common to all the classes. I don't think any of these are technically necessary to win the game, though some must be accomplished to get a full score:

  • Visiting the astrologer to have your fortune told
  • Watching the Katta Shema dance at the inn
  • Listening to the poet Omar's recitations-cum-prophecies at the inn
  • Obtaining ghouls' claws and scorpions' tails to sell to the apothecary

I think I forgot to mention it in previous postings, but he only buys a few before cutting you off.

  • Obtaining a bit of the Dervish's beard to sell to Keapon Laffin
  • After defeating the Earth Elemental, freeing the spirit of Julanar from the tree
  • After getting the Fruit of Compassion from the Julanar-tree, having the apothecary brew up a "Dispel" potion and using it to restore Ad Avis's former apprentice to human form
  • On the last night before leaving for Raseir, visiting the enchantress Aziza with your saurus and finding out that he's really the transmogrified Emir of Raseir

Which sort-of explains his odd behavior throughout the game.

There really is plenty of time to accomplish everything during the 17 days in Shapeir, even if playing the game blind, and my first two characters spent a good portion of their time sleeping so they could advance the next plot point.

For my third Quest for Glory II character, I imported my second winning Hero's Quest character, a thief to whom I'd given every skill, though I apparently hadn't done much grinding on any of them. I played him as "evil" as you can play in the Quest for Glory series (in which even a thief is, ultimately, a hero), lying to everyone when possible, refusing to give money to the beggar, never saying THANK YOU, and of course trying to steal everything I could.

I enjoyed needling Aziza.
And who is that griffin to think he can just sleep peacefully?

The differences between the other classes started when I visited the moneychanger, Dinarzad, and made the thief's sign. She called me a "jackal among goats" and asked me to return the following night if I was interested in doing her a favor for "our mutual benefit."

I don't know what kind of job she's got for me, but either way, I like it.

I did the usual side-quest solving, item-purchasing, and grinding for the first couple of days. Among other things, I found that you can win the tightrope challenge only three times before the challenger refuses to bet with you any more. Winning the challenge at least once is necessary for the thief's score.

Dinarzad's job turned out to be the burglary of a house for a tea service. She gave me explicit directions to the place.

Getting into the house was a simple matter of picking the lock. Things became satisfyingly complicated inside. Stealing the tea service was easy enough--it was right on a shelf.

I knew from previous Quest for Glory experience that there must be more to it. I intuited the need to MOVE RUG right away, but while I had it partially rolled up, one of the homeowner's sons came home drunk. Fortunately, he was too drunk to notice me and went wandering into the back rooms.

I just need to stand VERY still.

As I continued to roll up the carpet and uncovered a secret chest, another son came home and started fumbling for his keys outside the door. Unfortunately, he wasn't nearly as drunk. After a couple of deaths, I figured I needed to replace the carpet, oil the hinges on the cabinet door, open the cabinet door, and hide within while he passed by. Then, I could come out, re-roll the carpet, and pick the lock on the chest, in which I found a bunch of dinars.

I discovered later that I missed a couple things owing to my failure to use the SEARCH command on the cabinet and the chest. That kept me from achieving a full thief score.

I returned to Dinarzad and sold the tea service. At that point, she told me of another good burglary target: the weapon seller, Issur, who apparently keeps a safe beneath his anvil. I spent the next day grinding, and I purchased a magic rope from Keapon Laffin, which does for the thief what the "Levitate" spell does for the magic user.

I have a feeling I'll need those bellows.

The burglary of the weaponer's shop was easy: just a matter of picking the door, moving the anvil, and picking the lock on the strongbox. I spent a lot of time in the place, thinking there must be something else to steal, but I wasn't able to find anything.

Not that this wasn't enough.

The rest of the puzzles proceeded much as with the fighter and the mage. The only major difference was with the Earth Elemental, with whom I had the option to get some "Powder of Burning" from the apothecary, since the thief can neither use Rakeesh's flaming sword nor cast "Flame Dart." Chester, being a magic-enabled thief, could have done the latter, but I went the normal thief route anyway.

I was a bit disappointed that there weren't other burglary missions. I had a vague recollection of using the magic rope to climb in windows when I played the game almost 20 years ago, but I couldn't get that to work in Shapeir. (It turns out I was thinking of one specific window in Raseir.) It's also too bad the thief can't do much more than commit burglary; he has no option to pick pockets, for instance, or shoplift. On the other hand, the economy is so overbalanced to the player in the first place that these options wouldn't have added very much.

Grinding on random doors.

I spent much more time grinding Chester the thief than the other two characters. Since I knew how to solve all the puzzles and exactly where to go at what times (although my cockiness did cost me; see below), I had innumerable hours to spend in the desert fighting foes and casting spells. I didn't get everything up to 200, but I came very close, and I did hit 200 with all of my attributes. Weirdly, at some point my experience total rolled over into the negatives, and I never got it back to 0 before the end of the game. I don't think this statistic does anything anyway.

I never found any place to grind "climbing."
This Chester is a better spellcaster than my actual mage.

Even with spell skills well above 100, though, I never found that casting spells was a viable strategy for combat. "Dazzle" or "Calm" might just stop an an enemy short of me; more often, even when it worked, he got close enough that I just entered melee combat anyway. If I was lucky enough to stop him before that happened, I might have time for one "Flame Dart," "Force Bolt," or dagger-throw before he'd keep advancing and attack. In combat, spells did far less damage than melee attacks and always had a chance of being interrupted.

Being a spellcaster, this Chester was able to also join the WIT. This time, knowing the name of the swarthy man in the portrait, I chose AD AVIS as my sponsor. His response was:

So, a Want-to-Be Wizard seeks me for a master? I am not interested in half-trained novices. However, should you actually become a Wizard, you might be of use to me. There is much I can teach you. Until that time, find someone else to paper-train you.

I suspect that the blacked-out portrait is the "Dark Master" that Ad Avis later alludes to serving, but I haven't heard a name yet, and DARK MASTER produced no results in the WIT.

On the appointed day, Chester left for Raseir in the caravan just like his compatriots. I realized after I left that I forgot to respond to Aziza's summons on the last night, where she would have revealed the true nature of my saurus. I guess that means I rode the Emir all the way to his home city.

Next up: the first of two endgame postings starting in Raseir.


  1. I always found the thief-specific side quests really thrilling but oddly tacked-on: exciting in that they introduced one or two screens you otherwise wouldn't encounter at all, but 'thin' in that they don't really impact much else that happens and really are totally optional unless you want to max out your score. WIT, on the other hand, is essential for the mage and involves multiple additional screens (though the WIT test seems reasonably similar to the thief's mission here in terms of having to solve several tasks in a single sequence). At root, of course, there's a conceptual problem with the thief-as-hero... a problem not unique to QFG, of course. I wonder if at any point they wished they could start over with a different third character type, similarly playing to agility and dexterity over brawn and magic - basically, an Acrobat or the more generic Rogue.

    That said, I like the atmosphere of the "thieves' guilds" and all that stuff - it adds depth to the game world to know that there are these things going on below the surface even with "functional" NPCs like the moneychanger, which only one character type will actually encounter. I honestly can't remember how much thieves get to do in 3 and 4 - played those almost exclusively as Magic User or my imported Paladin.

    1. The thief-as-hero is no long as the thief steals from outsiders and foreigners. It's the old "it's OK when we do it" mentality so common in older times.

    2. When writing a good hero-thief you just need to turn to literature: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are both thieves, and their early stories are quite well written. (Latter ones get odd, fetishistic and creepy, also they stop being thieves at one point).

      A more modern good one is the Chronicles of Siala by Alexy Pehov. The books are long (Which I'm told is a trait of Russian writing), but show how a very self-interested character can get tied up in things larger them themselves and act heroically despite the self-interest.

    3. Aren't ALL CRPG protagonists thieves?

  2. You can grind climbing by using the magic rope, but it is fairly boring. :)

    Can't wait for the thrilling conclusion (and gimlet). I am not sure if this will finish higher than the first one, but I personally enjoy it more.

  3. Given the number of times I played this game when I was younger, I'm ashamed that I never found these thief sub-quests back then! I may also be mis-remembering, but I think I got my climbing up at the griffin in the desert.

    Excellent blog by the way!

  4. I have played this game numerous times and done different things, but I always play as a theif with all skills. That way I can play the mage, fighter and/or thief quests and see all sorts of different things than one specific hero type. Plus, there are 3 ways to do something, usually, and I can pick which one I want to do.

    I suppose I should try and a straight mage or fighter someday. I played through the first game recently so maybe it's time to try something new with this second game.

    Love the posts, can't stop looking up old games and reading about your adventures with them. I like that a current game is one I know very well.

  5. I was continuing going through worldofspectrums gamelist yesterday (got to M), when I noticed that you already added a bunch of games from there as well. There are two games on my list that you haven't added though:
    - Masters of Serebal (1984)
    Part of a trilogy, though the other games aren't RPGs.
    - Moria (1983)
    Looks like it's a different one from that already on your list.

    1. It might be that I only play a couple of these additional Spectrum games before I institute some modification to my rules. I would have rather continued living in the bliss of ignorance than add dozens of minor, independent efforts to my play list. I appreciate the enthusiasm that led you to look at the WoS list in the first place, but please, I beg you, stop.

    2. There's nothing that says you can't just stick those games at the end of your list and never get to them. Probably best to keep going forward on the current 1980's "backtracking" list for a few years yet. On the plus side, early 80's games make great filler for the blog overall, even if they are a pain to play.

    3. "I appreciate the enthusiasm that led you to look at the WoS list in the first place, but please, I beg you, stop."

      Haha, alright, alright. Since your list is already filled with japanese and chinese games you're proably never going to play, I figured your approach was to add every RPG ever to it and then figure out which ones to actually play. At least Kingdom of Krell looks fairly interesting, I think...

    4. No, you're right. I did want a comprehensive list. But I didn't factor in all of the independent junk that the 1980s produced for sub-par platforms, and under my existing rules, I don't have an excuse not to take them.

      I want to know about games that truly are RPGs. I just don't want to bulk up my list with dozens of games from questionable sources. Thus, I regard Wikipedia and MobyGames as the primary sources, and everything else I ask for some specific confirmation that it is an RPG.

    5. Hehe, I knew that if one really wanted to cover every single CRPG, it would never end. Though I thought that obscure titles in foreign languages on the Amiga and other Commodore platforms would do it. I didn't know that the Spectrum had so many RPGs. Well.. I guess the Amiga was a bit like a console and so you got more "console" games - arcade games, shooters, sidescrollers etc... The Spectrum as a more "serious" platform created more RPGs. (Although now that I checked World of Spectrum, I see that RPGs really are a small minority)

  6. I've often wondered why they decided to put 500 centimes in Issur's stash. It sounds like a lot, but really it only improves the haul by 5 dinars!

    1. Imagine if you were a thief breaking into someones house and you found $100 in notes and a jar containing 500 pennies. Would you take that jar?

  7. Ha! Lori's skill in writing double entendres is in no way lesser than Al Lowe's.

  8. Your subtitle is driving me crazy. I could have sworn it was the title of a book or poem, but googling it only produces a bad song on YouTube and a bunch of references to this post. Where does it come from?

    1. I was alluding to the song, "Sheik of Araby," a New Orleans jazz standard. I was in New Orleans when I wrote this and had the song in my head.

    2. "Any time after Day 2, purchase a saurus from Ali Fakir at the stables."

      - I waited too long to buy a a saurus. Essentially the seller said he tried to warn me, and so I died.


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