Monday, September 22, 2014

Secret of the Silver Blades: Enemy Mines

The session ended with the unceremonious appointment of my party as Silver Blades. Does that mean we have to go to war with the Companions?

The entirety of my gameplay since the last post has been spent in the nine levels of the Verdigris mines, attempting to recover the eight pieces of Oswulf's Staff. Even though I was correct that I didn't have to map them (simply following the left or right wall took me to all important areas), it took a good six hours to fully explore the levels, fighting a ton of random and fixed combats along the way.

Most of the levels were indistinguishable from each other. They all had twisting corridors, dead-ends where I could dig and collect gems, random battles every 20 or so steps with minotaurs, giant slugs, gargoyles, margoyles, giant spiders, displacer beasts, umber hulks, mongbats, wyverns, and (in the lowest levels) basilisks and medusas. Most of the levels had rooms with fixed encounters that produced a selection of magic items at the end; one of these fixed encounters on each level held the piece of Oswulf's Staff.


The point of the canary sold in the New Verdigris shop became all too clear as I started to encounter pockets of gas. If I had a live canary, it would die, giving me one move to escape backwards. On the other hand, there were generally nice hauls of gems on the other side of the gas pockets (I don't need money, but they came with a nice dollop of experience points, too), so I suffered through the damage. I stopped buying the birds after a couple of them died. It seemed needlessly cruel since I was going to ignore the warning anyway.

Poor thing.  You'd think we'd have some magic way to detect the presence of noxious fumes.

Things became a little different on Level 6, where a portion of the mine was occupied by some lizard men. The poor, misguided creatures had no idea that their hit point totals were far below the damage done by my "Fireballs" and "Ice Storms," even if they made their saving throws. A series of battles against javelin-throwing lizard warriors culminated in a battle against dozens of the things and their king.

A huge pack of lizard men that lasted one round.

After I'd cleared them out, I found a strange shimmering wall which shattered when I approached, damaging my party and expelling Vala, a lawful good human fighter who had been one of the original Silver Blades, magically imprisoned for the last 300 years. She was happy to join my party and continue the fight against the Dreadlord. She's been a solid addition so far, though I'm not sure how long she'll stay.

Go ahead. Tell me some nonsense about how there's a magic force field between those plates.

Level 8 had Oswulf's tomb, meaning I was wrong about it being in the ruins. Since Derf had told me that Oswulf was buried "above" the temple, I can only assume I was ascending rather than descending as I went into the mines. I'm not sure how that makes any sense. Anyway, I got the final piece from him. Level 9 was only accessible through a broken teleporter on Level 8, and it just had a bunch of gems and battles with gargoyles. A final level labeled "B" moved me forward to another section of the ruins. The game is pretty linear at this point, and I'm not sure if it will open up again.

Again, we must note that it would occasionally be nice if the Gold Box games showed rather than told.

When I had all eight pieces, I journeyed back to Derf in the temple, who united the staff pieces into one and said I'd need the staff to get past Oswulf's ghost, guarding the passage to the Dreadlord at some point.

That seems awfully short-sighted of him.

Throughout the mines, I received incremental upgrades to equipment. My best weapons at this point are a Trident +3, wielded by my paladin, and a Long Sword vs. Giants, wielded by my ranger. Vala also came with a Silver Longsword +3. No one has any weapon worse than +2. On the armor side, my paladin is in Banded Mail +5, my thief in Leather +5, and my ranger and cleric in Plate Mail +3. My two mages have both found Bracers AC3.

I have a lot of accessories: several Rings of Protection +2, a Ring of Fire Resistance, a Ring of Invisibility, a bunch of potions, Boots of Speed, three Cloaks of Displacement, a Girdle of Giant Strength, Gauntlets of Ogre Power, and a couple things I don't understand. These include a Stone of Good Luck and a Periapt of Health, both of which are equippable but not usable. I'm not sure what effects they have. Something called Eyes of Charming apparently casts either "Charm Person" or "Charm Monster"; I've never seen this magic item in a game before.

At least one of my characters can counteract "Haste" spells.

My mages have amassed enough wands, scrolls, and necklaces to destroy a mountain, and late in the session I forced myself to start burning them whether I technically needed them or not. Eventually, I just started dumping scrolls that I knew I would never use.

I did a scan of my levels before posting this, and I was surprised to see I still have quite a way to go. My paladin is Level 12/15, my thief 13/18, my ranger 13/15. My two mages are Levels 13 and 14 out of 15. Only my cleric, at 14/15 and only about 20,000 points away from the final level, is likely to max out any time soon. If I'm about halfway through the game (which I suspect only based on the number of journal entries I've circled), that means the pacing isn't too bad. As we know, I hate running into level caps long before the end of the game.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I'm all for some miscellaneous flavor text in the dungeons, but sometimes it feels like the developers weren't really trying:

We had to pause for that?

  • Early in this session, I switched the difficulty to "Veteran" (one step up from the default) because I was finding combats too easy. The change didn't make a huge difference, since it primarily affects enemies' hit points. It doesn't do anything to their AI.

Altering the difficulty of the game in camp.

  • Through some bug that I didn't catch when it happened, my dwarf fighter/thief has 99 charisma. Since charisma doesn't really seem to be used in the game, I don't think it's giving me an unfair advantage.
  • This is perhaps the dumbest role-playing choice I've ever encountered:


  • When I found gems in the mines, the game was careful to note that my dwarf found them. I'm not sure if that means I wouldn't have found them without a dwarf in the party.
  • Displacer beasts are just the weirdest creatures. They have too many things. A lion with sharp tentacles would have been enough on its own, you know? Why did they have to add this weird illusion thing to them? And why doesn't any other creature have this particular trait? Also weird: phase spiders.

"You have too many things! You get one thing!"

  • I mostly relied on luck and speed to get past the basilisks and medusas. I have one mirror in my party, and no guarantee that the gazers will target that one character. Vala, who came with silver plate mail, automatically reflects gazes. For everyone else, I relied on saving throws and my ability to blast the creatures with "Fireball" and "Ice Storm" before they could gaze. This resulted in a few trips back to town to get "Stone to Flesh" cast.

Eventually, I realized I could cast "Invisibility 10' Radius" on everyone else, let Vala charge ahead, and let the medusas and basilisks kill themselves on her armor for a few rounds.

  • One of my mages just got Level 7 spells, which includes "Delayed Blast Fireball." I confess I don't really get it. When you cast it, you can specify a delay of 1 to 50, which seems to be the number of character actions (not rounds) before it goes off. I have trouble understanding when I'd cast it with any delay at all. You'd have to be pretty sure that the enemy was going to assemble in a particular formation--and that none of your own characters were going to be in the area--for the delay to make sense. I suspect I'll just end up using it like a regular "Fireball" almost all the time, setting the delay at 1.

Why delay the destruction of these creatures at all?

  • I'd like to have switched to "Quick" mode for a lot of the random combats, but I didn't think I could trust the AI. It wastes spells and magic items. Late in the session, I bothered to re-check the manual and found out that ALT-M toggles on and off magic use for characters under computer control. That would have been nice to know six hours ago.

I don't like being called a "fool."

As I leave you, I've entered a new area where an apparition just appeared and called us "fools." I still like the game, but the random encounters are getting excessive (especially where I don't need the experience), and I wish it didn't take so long to clear small areas. I'll probably intersperse some Silver Blades playing with Dragon Sword to keep both games from getting too monotonous.

137 comments:

  1. I think delayed blast fireball makes more sense from a role-playing perspective. Drop one in a hallway to take out something that's following you or plant one in a building, flee, and it burns to the ground when you're out of sight. (If you're a wizard assassin, I guess.) And of course everything in the paper RPG was faithfully included in the computer games. Delayed blast has the benefit of being bigger or more powerful, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the key benefit of delayed blast fireball is that it is FASTER than "Fireball". Fireball takes a few rounds to finish casting, during which time the mage can get sacked with an arrow to the knee or something. "Delayed Blast Fireball" is like "Magic Missile" where the casting is instant.

      This is especially important when dealing with groups of mages as it's an effective way of preventing a bunch of them from spellcasting at once. There are some combats later in the game where a good portion of the strategy is to keep mages from casting at all costs. (At least for my characters who could not just wade through taking the damage from spell after spell.)

      Delete
    2. The PnP version of which I am aware acts as a mine as well as having a timer. Cast it on a door and run and it'll nail the next person who opens it inside the timeout.

      Delete
  2. A few of the things that confused you are standard D&D items that the developers probably assumed the target audience would know, or look up in sourcebook. I'm ROT13ing the explanations, in case you consider that cheating.

    Stone of Good Luck
    Guvf vgrz vapernfrf lbhe punapr ng fhpprrqvat n fnivat guebj gb evfx nqirefr rssrpgf fhpu nf fgbavat be cbvfbavat.

    Periapt of Health
    Qvfrnfr vzzhavgl

    Delayed Blast Fireball
    Bgure guna hfr nf n qrynlrq genc, guvf fcryy hfrf n qvssrerag (naq zber cbjreshy) qnzntr sbezhyn. Va yngre rqvgvbaf, gur qvssrerapr jnf gung QOS qbrfa'g unir gur qnzntr pnc gung Sveronyy unf, V pna'g erzrzore vs vg jnf gur fnzr va gur rneyl barf guvf tnzr jnf onfrq ba.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also IIRC you can ready the stone of good luck/periapt of health, enter camp mode and do Display -> Effects (or was it Magic -> Effects?) to see what spells/enchantments are affecting your characters.

      Pretty sure the effect of the Periapt of Health is shown (can't recall if Stone of Good Luck shows up too).

      Delete
    2. Stone = +1 to saves

      Periapt =Immune to disease (is there any in the game?)

      DB Fireball = It is instant, like magic missile. In the books, which the game is intended to be faithful to, it does d6+1/lvl, rather than just d6/lvl. Hard to tell unless you record all the damage totals.

      Delete
    3. Thanks for reminding me about the "Display" option, AAY. It definitely shows disease immunity for the periapt--which is bit odd, as I don't think there are any disease-causing creatures or encounters in this game. The stone simply produces the effect "Carrying magical stone."

      Delete
  3. Ah, the Metamagiced "Silent Invisible Delayed Blast Fireball".
    100% sure to make enemy guards go "I don't know what that was or where it came from but it certainly hurt!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (...A side note for the pedantic: I'm aware it almost certainly wasn't legal under the rules, but it certainly cracked up everyone at the high school lunch table, and that was enough to be allowed in a D&D game when we were playing.)

      Delete
  4. don't think you need bracers ac6 equipped with a guy with leather armor +5, they won't do anything except take up space.
    i'm also pretty sure that rings of protection don't help ac with magic armor, but i think they still improve saving throws.
    dbf has +1 per die, ie lvl 15 casting would do 15d6+15 damage, unless it's capped at 10d
    displacer beasts, like your cloaks, make it harder to hit you, and phase spiders phase dimensions so you can't hit them. have some neutralize poison spells handy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those bracers allow your rogues etc to wear robes, if there are any decent ones available (better than other bracers/gloves).

      In the 3rd edition, rogues get use magic device as skill, which allows them to wear any caster robe you should find.

      Delete
    2. No, those bracers were definitely superfluous. I had Karnov wearing them back when he had only leather +1 and I forgot to remove them when he got better armor.

      Delete
    3. Still not sure if that's the same in AD&D, but 3rd edition has some different kind of AC bonuses. Inside one category, only the highest bonus counts, everything else stacks.

      Armor: what body armor and bracers give, also the Mage Armor spell
      Shield: a physical shield as well as the spell of the same name
      Deflection: Items of protection, various spells like Shield of Faith
      Natural Armor: aka tough skin, innate monster class bonuses (also prestige classes may offer that, like the Dragon Disciple), also spells like Barkskin (which actually stacks with natural armor bonus since it increases it) or items of natural armor

      Dodge: even stacks with other dodge bonuses, but I think you mainly get it from monk boots.

      Next to that, there's also your Dex bonus (limited by armor type) and a size bonus for halflings etc.

      All of those different types of armor may work or not against touch attacks or when being knocked down or caught flat-footed. But even if those types are in AD&D, I'm not sure if and how the game communicates that (I never played too much gold box games or BG with AD&D, mainly both NWN titles set in 3rd edition).

      Using AC bracers and a robe instead of a leather armor doesn't limit your dex bonus. That can be a good choice or not, depending on your available items and your dex of course.

      That system may sound complicated, but I prefer it over putting an item with your main attribute on every slot (like Diablo etc. did).

      Delete
    4. AD&D 1st edition, which these games are based on, doesn't have as cleanly codified of a system.

      Essentially you can use magic armor OR use non-armor AC boosting devices like Bracers, Rings, Cloaks and Robes.

      Cloaks of displacement break this rule, as do Boots of Speed, but really anything that isn't armor, that provides a bonus to AC, doesn't stack with armor.

      Shields can be used with either setup, so a guy with Bracers AC2; Cloak +3, Ring of prot +3 can use a Shield +2, just like a guy wearing Plate Mail +3.

      Rings and Cloaks of protection do still provide saving throw bonuses for characters in armor, but they do not provide magical protection.

      3rd Edition rules were made as a reaction to the codification problems inherent in these earlier versions of the game.

      AD&D 1st edition is really a messy hodgepodge of unbalanced, non-playtested rules. Most of the rules in that edition were either OG D&D rules with minor modes, revisions of stuff published in Dragon, and content rapidly produced to meet a deadline.

      This armor/magic protection question is just another example of that.

      Granted I love the ruleset, but as any devotee knows you can't even start combat without breaking or fudging some rules since both the surprise and initiative rules do not work in 1st ed as written. Any rules for those items that do work are contradicted by the Gygax written example of combat.....

      Delete
    5. it's based on 2nd edition

      Delete
    6. And in 2nd Ed. AD&D, you can have one (and only one) magical bonus to your AC, so a ring of protection's +1 bonus to AC does not stack with your +1 leather armor's magical bonus. The ring should still give you a bonus to your saving throws, however, so it can still be worth wearing.

      Delete
    7. Really? The game is clearly labeled as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It lacks 2nd edition characteristics like 30 different kinds of bards.

      Delete
    8. Apparently, I was wrong about this, but in my defense the game lacks features of 1st ed. and includes some features that are more explicitly 2nd ed. For example, the assassin and monk character classes are removed and there are no attack matrices. Instead the game uses THAC0 (apparently in use before 2nd ed., but certainly more systematically applied in 2nd ed. than in 1st). This game also came out 2 years after 2nd ed. and is set in the 2nd ed. flagship setting (Forgotten Realms). The first game in the series would have been in development around the same time as 2nd ed. and with how closely SSI worked with TSR during the development of PoR, it makes sense to expect that the games would be based on the product TSR was going to be selling, rather than the one they were going to be discontinuing.

      The 30 kinds of bards that you mention weren't added to 2nd ed. until near the end of its print run as part of what many people call 2.5 ed. They anticipate the addition of prestige classes in third edition.

      Likewise, I think it can be argued that the implementation of AD&D in the Gold Box engine is something of a 1.5 system rather than fully 1st or fully 2nd.

      Delete
    9. The Forgotten Realms gold box games are absolutely based on 1st edition rules. The thorough manuals (which themselves could be used as makeshift players handbooks in a pinch) have XP tables, spell progression charts, racial level caps etc. that all conform to 1st ed. standards.

      Other tell-tale signs include:
      High-level rangers get some minor access to magic-user spells
      Many spells don't have the damage caps introduced in 2nd ed
      1st ed calls spell casters magic-users while 2nd calls them mages.
      The D&D logo on the box art is the same as that on 1st ed products.
      Nowhere in the manual does it call the system 2nd ed, by contrast "Unlimited Adventures", the last of the gold box games, used 2nd ed and the manual damn sure wanted you to know it.

      I suspect their reasons for sticking w/ 1st edition may have something to do with the story line. Bane is the major antagonistic deity of the FR gold box series, he also dies during "The Time of Troubles", a major event in FR history about the gods being temporarily cast down to earth as mortals that was detailed in a series of novels and sees the death of a handful of gods. (Coincidentally, this is when the god-spawn protagonist of "Baldur's Gate" was conceived.)

      TSR used "The Time of Troubles" as the official turning point from 1st to 2nd edition the shake up in the pantheon being the excuse of why things suddenly work a little bit differently.

      Delete
    10. So if I understand correctly: Pool of Radiance and its three sequels seem to be based on 1st Edition AD+D. What about the Krynn and Savage Frontier games? The former use the word "mage" rather than "magic-user", for example.

      It seems that the Gold Box games are a unique system, since transferring any version of D+D to computer format involves trade offs. Pool Radiance gave me the feel of basic D+D, not AD+D. Curse, Secret and Pools feel more like AD+D.

      Delete
    11. All of them are based on 1st Edition AD&D rules, but they omit specific character classes that are in 1st Edition AD&D like the Monk, Druid, Assassin and Illusionist.

      There's a TON of confusion about this. Many websites report these are based on 2nd Edition AD&D which is simply false.

      One of the big "delimiters" between 1E and 2E are mage spell damage caps. In 2E all "Core" mage spells are limited at 10 dice of damage (e.g. 10d6 for a fireball, even if you're a 20th level mage.) 1E does not have those caps, so a 20th level mage casts a fireball that will do 20d6 damage.

      Gold box games do not have the 10 dice damage cap.

      Delete
    12. Thank you for your answer. I would have thought that the stringent level caps for demi-humans would have alerted anyone that this was pre-2nd edition.

      Delete
  5. Ack, comment eaten. Delayed Blast Fireball is useful in D&D because it has a much higher maximum damage than regular Fireball. It can also be used tactically (cast it, lure monsters onto it).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the damage cap only came about in 2nd ed. where it was 15d6 as opposed to 10d6 IIRC

      Delete
    2. It just can't be used tactically that way in the Gold Box engine. At least, not in any way that I can see. MAYBE if you had monsters that started out in a line and you could, by arranging your own characters, force them into more of a clump, it could help. But in that case, it would make more sense to simply delay the mage's turn until the end of the round rather than delay the fireball itself.

      Delete
    3. Yes, the main uses of DBF delay never arise in the Gold Box games. If memory serves, they eliminate the delay prompt in future games and always have the spell go off immediately.

      Delete
    4. It might work in a game where there is no separate combat screens (like Ultima 6 or NetHack). Else, a timed trap is pretty weird.

      Delete
    5. On one of the wiki's they point out though that since the DBF is shot as a BEAD from your fingertip that explodes either at the end of the delay or if it hits anything other than the target. Because of this you can shoot the DBF through holes in walls, through pipes, etc. Zap some guards on the other side of the wall by sending a BEAD through some tiny gap and then FWOOSH in the other room- safely check out that delicious send of roast long pig afterward.

      Delete
    6. Yeah, unless it's scripted, I don't see it happening in CRPGs.

      Delete
    7. I know that "a simple matter of coding" are famous last words, but a daemon really could handle that kind of thing pretty easily. Decrement a timer, and if it hits zero OR somebody steps on the thing, then it goes off. If the devs have the vision and the will, they can write it in.

      Delete
    8. Like I said before, if the game does not have a separate combat screen, it doesn't work.

      I mean, how would it work in, say, Wizardry games? Or Might and Magic?

      Delete
  6. I think this game was a pretty lazy effort. Reused engine, reused art assets, No balance pass on spells/items/classes (because everything has to be straight D&D), comparatively scarce set encounters, little in the way of subplots or characters. It was nothing more than using a level editor + a few new drawings. I'm sure people made better modules with FRUA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah that's the impression I got, I remember there being an extremely long corridor that I didn't get to the end of.

      Delete
    2. MattChat has a VERY good interview series with David Shelley and his wife about Gold Box games and SSI (3 episodes IIRC, it's all on YouTube.)

      David actually mentions this game a few times.

      1) It was the first game he lead
      2) It sounds like this was the first SSI Gold Box game that TSR did not help with. TSR co-wrote Pool of Radiance, Curse and even Champions (IIRC) before this. Secrets was all SSI.
      3) SSI's marketing department had made a statement to the effect of "if they just want dungeons, why are we doing all this extra world building work, and story work. Just give them a ton of dungeons." This game apparently was the result of that strategy.
      4) Said strategy apparently didn't work, as per Shelley "their distributors quickly informed marketing that the strategy wasn't working". If I had to guess this is why the Gold Box games that followed it all had a stronger plot, world map, etc.

      Definitely worth watching imo, and honestly, Chet, if you can get ahold of David S, he may really be able to provide us with additional insight. With the TSI thing going on it sounds like he's eager to spread the word.

      Delete
  7. "The Dwarf notices a suspicious trapdoor in the floor".

    I presume the developers/writer actually meant some sort of trap on the floor at this point? A trapdoor is simply a door on the floor...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nonsuspicious trapdoor: I wonder where this leads!

      Suspicious trapdoor: I have a funny feeling that this leads to spikes.

      Delete
    2. If "open it" had been an option, I would have taken it. But between "avoid it" and "step on it," the solution is pretty clear. Later, there's another trap attached to a rope that says "don't pull this." Your options are to pull the rope or leave. Pulling the rope triggers the trap. Did the developers really think they were offering meaningful choices here?

      Delete
    3. "Did the developers really think they were offering meaningful choices here?"

      The same accusation could be leveled at a lot of early modules. A big part of old-school Gygaxian dungeon design is the vertiginous "fun" of loony high-stakes rewards/punishments that are impossible to predict. It's sort of like Let's Make a Deal in its enforcement of imprudent choices: if you sit on the throne, will a god raise your atts, or will he disintegrate you, or is it just a fancy chair? You'll never know if you don't try! So here, you get a trapdoor which might lead to instant death, or a treasure trove, or fifty giant spiders. Who knows.

      In tabletop, the players would first do an Augury (maybe more than one, if the first wasn't helpful), whack the door with a ten-foot pole (a must-have item), open the door at a distance with rope or telekinesis, summon a cat and drop it in (maybe buffed with Feather Fall, to be humane), and then, if everything looked jake so far, they'd send in somebody to either Spider Climb down the walls or shimmy down with a Rope Trick (and he would prefer to be buffed with Jump too). You get the picture.

      Except that none of this was implementable on eighties computers. And yet the dungeoneers were going on autopilot here, coding a lame-ass "puzzle" encounter where they thought there should be one; thus your current "choice". In spite of the "suspicious" warning, many players' reaction would be to save, give it a shot, and reload if necessary, cuz, like, whatever, man.

      Delete
    4. I forgot to add that the tabletop party would also cast all sorts of Detect Evil/Magic/Bullshit, True Sight, etc.

      Delete
    5. @Gaguum

      Your description of a tabletop group investigating the pit is priceless. As a DM, I was nearly driven to madness by the level of caution my players would assume *every* *single* *time* they ran into a pit.

      Delete
    6. The designers were foreseeing the Douglas Fargo mentality, you know, "inappropriately pushed button 38 times". :p

      (yes, yes, geeky reference. Couldn't resist throwing that in)

      Delete
    7. @Daniel: Thank you. I was just screwing around, of course, and I left out a massive array of other solutions that minimize risk. Relatively foolproof options (using AD&D 1e plus Unearthed Arcana) would include, but are not limited to: Find Traps on the door, Levitate your way down, send down a Wizard Eye, learn what's down there using Stone Tell, Commune with your god and grill him for info, send down an Unseen or Aerial Servant or Invisible Stalker, or -- best of all -- just Wind Walk your way through the entire dungeon (it lasts seven hours or more, implicitly defies gravity, and presumably renders you immune to ordinary melee attacks).

      There are all sorts of crazier solutions, like casting Feign Death (or better yet, Tree) on a volunteer (or a Charmed non-volunteer), chucking him to the bottom, and waking him up; but these are marginal and dubious. The absolutely optimal strategy, I think, would be for a mage to get a screech owl as a familiar, cast Permanent Invisibility upon it, and send it into any pits or other dangerous-looking spaces so that it could look around and listen, and then report back. 99% of your problems are solved that way.

      All of the foregoing should go to show the utter stupidity of putting "puzzles" like this in a module, because they are trivially easy for players to cheese their way through. Even the Throne of Potential Disintegration can be handled in a cheap-ass way if you Charm a hireling and tell him to sit in it. If for some reason a puzzle can't be solved by thwarting the dungeoneer's intent and abusing the system, then you just shouldn't take the bait. Simple.

      A well-designed dungeon therefore wouldn't bother to contain any of this trifling garbage (most of which would be far more dangerous to the residents than any potential intruders). But unfortunately, the modules were what they were, so a whole generation of roleplayers (including your players) grew accustomed to taking crazy-prepared precautions everywhere. I suppose that what you should've done with your players was to throw in all sorts of utterly useless pseudo-traps with nothing good or bad inside, until the players realized that you just weren't that kind of DM. Frankly, filling the dungeon with "gazebos" and other non-traps (including stuff like Leomund's Trap) is a hilariously metagamist way to troll players who are stuck in that mode of "roleplaying".

      Delete
    8. You guys can't fault the player. The DMs can spawn as many creatures as they like. Players only have ONE character. Just ONE careless mistake could send that character packing. They cannot afford to make any mistake, just like NetHack. Especially with DMs like me.

      Delete
    9. @Kenny:

      I'm not exactly faulting the player here. My perspective is that, if I'm playing, I just don't mess with things that I can't deal with. If I can think of a way to deal with a trap, that's one thing, but unless I can foolproof it, forget it. The lure of shiny vorpalized pogey-bait potentially cached behind Door #3 doesn't work on me.

      On the other hand, I simply don't have the patience anymore to play in that mode, and I have no patience for any DM who's going to make me. If a DM acts like a cheap bastard and kills me in a ridiculous way that I consider personally unfair, then I won't play with that guy anymore. In fact, it's one of the reasons why I DON'T play the games, I only run them. And when I run, I'm not interested in setting up player-abusive dungeons that make no possible sense except as lunatic death-traps. I want to create worlds, and like I said before, the GM "wins" when he "loses" by the smallest margin.

      But try telling that to one of these players who turn turtle all the time, due to a bad history of Gygaxian abuses. They figure that anything you say about being humane is just another metagame ploy, and you're just lulling them into a false sense of security, preparatory to killing them, driving them mad, and drinking their tears. I run games in which consequential stuff happens, and futzing with purposeless traps is not in that category. But these guys don't believe this. So here I've gone to all this trouble setting up my compelling, immersive scenario, and they don't want to PLAY it. Rage ensues.

      That's when I do things like send them on a ninja-style mission to infiltrate a warlord's fortress for some purpose. If they waste all their time on traps that aren't really present because people have to, you know, live there, then the party runs out of time, probably gets caught, and maybe gets executed. Turtling doesn't work, and they're going to learn it one way or another. Such players must be forced to be free.

      Delete
    10. @Gaguum

      This is a fascinating discussion on the nature of role playing really. To its inventors, D&D was an extension of a miniatures war game, where rules were in place to model the very dangerous reality that adventuring would be and the fun comes from thinking tactically within the model that the rules create. Players 'win' when they survive a system that's plainly set up to kill them. DMs 'win' by default when the characters lose.

      But it seems that very quickly, a second type of play emerged wherein story and world building dominated mechanistic applications of rules. Players couldn't 'win' a game, they could only experience it.

      Roguelikes probably model that first system of play better than any other CRPG, but the second type of play gets a lot of love from designers as well - The Addict's two highest rated games so far (Ultimas V and VI) are definitely more "experience a world" type games.

      D&D games can go either way. Torment is obviously an experience type game, but Icewind Dale is more of a survive-the-dungeon type of game.

      I'm curious which type of game you think computers do better given the limitations of technology.

      Delete
    11. I think the Question is: How much of a Role can you Play in the Game?
      1) A CRPG has limitations, definitely. The amount of options, graphics, multi-sensory... er... sensations (?) and linearity will all become a factor. The Ultima series, Wasteland, TES series and a few more classic games have very open gameplay with multitude of options.
      2) Immersiveness of the game. How much does the game make you feel like the role you're playing. This is done with great plot, description, visuals and sounds. Torment excelled here where it failed at others.
      3) Extent/Time of Role you can Play is what I believe to be the last huge factor of an RPG. An unsatisfying RPG is one where it's too short or too limiting to let you feel any connection with the Role you have. Let's say you're playing an Action RPG as a god-like hero with 100s of abilities but the monsters move so fast and hits so hard that you end up dying within the 1st minute of the game. Exaggerating, of course, but some DMs I know (me, when I'm in a bad mood with a player I hate) will do that shit in a table-top RPG.

      So, rather than saying that there is a "second" type of gameplay, I think it's more of a natural evolution of RPGs. My ex-girlfriend had described it as a "grown-up's make-believe session". And that's why she's an ex, the bitch.

      Delete
    12. @Kenny,

      My point is more to Gaguum's comment: "So here I've gone to all this trouble setting up my compelling, immersive scenario, and they don't want to PLAY it. Rage ensues."

      The players were consumed by play of style 1, whereas Gaguum had invested a lot of time anticipating play of style 2. In a very real way, Gaguum's group is sitting around the same table, looking at the same books and maps, yet they're actually playing two very different games.

      I'm not sure that the latter is the evolution of the former. It seems to me that they're fundamentally different types of games.

      Kenny your point that the extent to which Role Playing is possible/encouraged is well taken, but isn't Role Playing equally possible in both types of games?

      Taking my previous example Torment (typically an 'experience' type of game), for example doesn't really allow much role playing. You are the Nameless One. You might have certain ideas about who the Nameless One is, but the game will quickly disabuse you of them. On the other hand, Icewind Dale (more of a survive-the-dungeon game) lets you define your party as you see fit and do as much Role Playing as you like (alone and by yourself, of course). I picked these games, because I think most people reading this blog will know them, but there are probably better examples that Chet has already covered.

      Delete
    13. @Daniel - I agree with you, actually. Probably why I pledged for both Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, what with both being totally different in spirit and style (evocative vs. invocative).

      Delete
    14. @Daniel: You are right in a sense that the people are playing different games. I've been writing a lot about this lately, but here's somebody else's relevant essays, with which i basically agree:

      oocities.org/sanlosinst/anorak/gen/genoverview.html
      oocities.org/sanlosinst/anorak/mech/mechrule4.html
      oocities.org/sanlosinst/anorak/gen/gengood.html

      I prefer storygames, of course. People playing with pawn characters think TRPGs are just battlesystems. They are that, yeah, but a lot more besides. The perfect TRPG, in my opinion, would be the perfect game. (Except that different people want different things out of them, and some of those things are flatly contradictory. That's why you can't have one system to rule them all, like D20 or GURPS or BRP.)

      Going back to CRPGs, I haven't yet played one that's newer than Darklands (!), unless you count NetHack; so I'm not in a position to answer that question. But I can say generally that my perfect CRPG would include, among other roleplay-ish things: extensive non-combat skill use as well as challenging combat, multiple possible solutions to situations, choices and consequences (including a sandbox-y lack of railroading, a branching endgame, and moral agency that's more complex than "these are the good guys, those are the bad guys"), and consistently plausible worldbuilding (including the ruleset). But the CRPG field often seems to be dominated by dungeon crawls and just-so stories on rails, both of which a computer can easily handle. And both are good if done properly, maybe great when you're in the right mood, but they're still sub-optimal. Any recommendations for more ambitious games?

      BTW, Daniel, you might want to look into GNS Theory and other models. They ARE only models (and poor ones at that; I'm working on one that'll hurl them all in the trash can), but at least they're good food for thought.

      By the other way, I no longer actually play with "turtles", who tend to be incorrigible. D&D and the like have mentally mutilated them beyond hope of regeneration. So I give any new players a sheet listing my expectations for the game's playstyle (e.g., realistic vs. cinematic, cunning vs. psychopathic, etc.). If it's not to their liking, they should save some trouble and opt not to play with me.

      @Kenny: You were right to kick her to the curb. All games are make-believe in some sense or another, even football and poker. All art that's worthy of the name is make-believe. Most people's "real lives" are full of make-believe. Bitch needs more perspective.

      Delete
    15. You guys are aware that there are other RPGs than D&D, right? Also, can we cut down on the misogyny? Not to mention it sounds like your ex kicks ass, as that is how I would describe RPGs too, despite (or because of) playing them. I also use "elfgame"

      Delete
    16. @Lugh:

      1) Of course we are aware that there are other RPGs, tabletop and computerized. D&D just happens to be on topic for this one. But just you wait until Chet plays MegaTraveller 1; I'll have lots more to say, because my love for Traveller is exceeded only by my hate for that game. Die in the pits of hell, Paragon/TakeTwo.

      2) I'm not a misogynist. I just got angry because it was a typically ignorant comment by a mundane anti-gamer.

      3) That only works for EDO games (which I don't play anymore). Ever played ElfQuest?

      Delete
    17. 1) Sometimes it seems otherwise.

      2) If you're not a misogynist, calling a woman a "bitch" for daring to have a different opinion than you is probably not a good way to show it. Also, haha "mundane"

      3) Elfgame is a generic descriptor for all RPGs.

      Delete
    18. 2) Misogynist is calling all women bitches, or "hoes".

      3) Lugh, can you cut down on the idiocy?

      Delete
    19. @Lugh:

      1) Things are not always as they seem. Talking about D&D in a post about a D&D game is to be expected. If somebody makes an Ars Magica CRPG, I'll talk about ArM.

      2) I disagree. Also, "mundane" is a facetious Lovecraft allusion.

      3) Play Traveller. The closest they have is Darrians.

      @Brutus:

      +1, man; or, as they say on RPGCodex, "incline".

      Delete
    20. I guess if you want to make this blog look like a den of idiotic assholes, that's your prerogative.

      Delete
    21. Chet handles those. And needless to say, nobody's forcing you to read these and respond.

      Delete
    22. Moving back to the earlier topic: Both styles have existed since day one. The first RPG is generally counted as Braunstein, which predates even D&D. That evolved into Blackmoor, the first D&D campaign, run by Dave Arneson the cocreator of D&D who didn't get much credit. Braunstein was very much in the story games style. At the same time as it was going on, Gygax was creating the dungeon crawl style and started the 2nd D&D campaign, Greyhawk (Yes, the second. As I understand it, for years Blackmoor was the longest running D&D game, as Arneson still ran sessions of it for his friends, and since it was also the first, it had to be the longest running.

      So both styles are legitimate, and fun provided everyone is on the same page. Plenty of people swap back and forth between them, so please don't resort to calling those of us who like a dungeon crawl from time to time brain damaged. If you must do that, there is a place for it known as The Forge, or used to be.

      Delete
    23. On another topic: The reason you see stuff like that Chet is that when players got too good at avoiding traps, Gygax needed a way to keep dungeons interesting. So he started putting treasure at the bottom of some traps, or made the pits fall all the way to the next level, or even further) providing a shortcut (Important as random encounters have poor treasure, and are a risk and resource drain. Remember; in early D&D most of your XP came from gold, not killing things. So the good players wanted to avoid combat and get treasure. Also, Gygax had multiple groups playing in the same dungeon, so if a player with a lot of magic died in a pit trap, and another party came along quickly enough, it might still be there. So you wanted to (carefully) check traps.

      That said, there was an arms race; You all talked about flying down them and such. That is great until you find the trap has no bottom, but teleports anything going down it to the top, and vis versa. Or is the lair of spiders or a purple worm. Or has toxic air at the bottom.

      Delete
  8. An ancient wizard cast a spell of permanent armor on Vala. This spell had an unfortunate side effect of raising her body temperature. Now she wears boobplate to dissipate the extra heat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Vala, who came with silver plate mail, automatically reflects gazes."

      She must get a hell of a lot of gazes, just walking down the street. I'm lovin' that EGA spray-tan, too.

      @Chunkations: So what happens if a hostile magic-user casts Heat Metal upon her silver plate bikini?

      Delete
    2. overheating is her only weakness, berserker rage ensues

      Delete
    3. Technically it's Vala's Silver Shield that's doing the reflecting; not her armor.

      You will eventually get at least one more Silver Shield in the game, which will reflect gaze attacks just like Vala's does.

      Delete
    4. @Chunkations: Let's just say I'd've expected Heat Metal to produce a different response.

      @old wow bastard: That may be, but it's a lot funnier to think that the bikini deals death to gazers. In a modern game, the enemies would be screaming, "Trap! Trap!"

      Delete
  9. How does the game determine the casting level of scrolls? Is it fixed? I can't seem to remember, maybe it varied from scroll to scroll.

    Trident +3, cool. Nice to see some love from Gold Box games towards the obscure polearms. Too often everyone just gets Longswords +3 because the designers didn't care.

    Yeah, Adept and Champion difficulty levels don't do anything for Gold Box's atrocious enemy movement routines. They just up the HP and saving throws of the monsters, and might cause more monsters in encounters IIRC.

    Using Quick combat with Magic on essentially turns your party into the computer. I used to find it interesting to face off against different opponents and see how my party fought. I even would optimize my characters by memorizing spells the computer liked to use. I'd also try loading up on weird spells like Reduce and Ray of Enfeeblement, just to see if and how the computer would use them. Cause Disease on you heathens! You're not going to be able to heal after this battle is over, mu ha ha ha! Even though you're not going to survive the battle. Slow is a greatly underrated spell.

    Encounters are where Gold Box games, for all their greatness, really start pissing me off. There was so much they could have done even within the bounds of their limited engine, and they just didn't do it. Make searching mean something, have some interesting branching encounters, making ability scores relevant to the game SOMEHOW (I mean, come on, they kept the Friends spell in *every single game* despite the official D&D 1st level spell list having other spells that were not included in the game).

    I think delayed blast fireball was related to some sort of munchkinism or rules lawyering of 80s D&D players. It was somehow better according to the rules, so that's why it's in the game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the casting level of scrolls is the minimum level where you can cast the inscribed spell. Could be different before 3rd edition, though.

      Delete
    2. That holds up with my experience. Wands seem to work the same way. Thus, scrolls and wands of "Fireball" are useful for disrupting large groups of spellcasters, but they don't completely devastate the enemy like memorized "Fireball" spells do at higher levels.

      Delete
    3. Wizardry 6-8 have a horrible love for the French sounding polearms and armor. Often, I find myself armed with God-knows-what, hitting someone garbed in God-knows-what.

      Delete
    4. In this game wands and scrolls are probably all minimum level. In later games and the tabletop games they can be at varied levels with higher-level ones being more expensive.

      Delete
    5. if you didn't know, you can learn spells you don't have from scrolls, instead of casting them. also your thief can use mage scrolls at 10th level.

      Delete
    6. The +3 Trident is something that was lot as of 3rd edition. Before that, you found a +3 trident you fought with a trident now. However, as of Skills & Powers in 2nd edition, and 3rd edition there are huge, huge bonuses to specializing with a specific weapon, so either you see everyone fighting with common weapons (Longswords, greatswords), or with some odd, but mechanically great weapon (Earthbreaker, Spiked chain, glaive), and never with 'this cool spear I found' since you'd invested levels into one type of weapon and got more bonuses with it then magic would give.

      Delete
  10. I believe displacer beasts come from an old sci-fi novel that Gary Gygax liked. They possessed their menagerie of abilities in the novel, so Gary basically translated those directly into game mechanics.

    I think phase spiders also have a similar background. A lot of early D&D had sci-fi / pulp fiction influences. Psionics anyone?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The problem with phase spiders in Gold Box is that you cannot target them when they are phased-- that leads to strange things where if you walk into them and attack, you can hit them, but even if you stand one square away and target you cannot.

      Delete
    2. Good article, but it only describes the origin of a cat-with-tentacles, not the "displacement" part, which I still maintain is a bit out of left field since no other creature has this precise trait.

      Delete
    3. It's pretty much a critter with a cloak of displacement, that's all you need to know. The designers were thinking, "Hey, now you guys get to see what it's like fighting something that intrinsically possesses this ability that you take for granted because of your fancy gear! How d'ya like them apples?" (I dunno where they got the very badly named idea of "displacement" to begin with, but dollars-to-donuts says that it was some pulpy sci-fi.)

      A lot of D&D monsters aren't supposed to be anything beyond nightmare-fuel that would be interesting to fight ("It's a rust monster, he screws up your bitchin' armor, what more do you need to know?"). Once you realize that design principle, all becomes clear, and you stop worrying about the gritty realism of xorns and remorhazes and dragon-jousts and jetpack-monkeys. (Or else, you decide to play something else, naturally.)

      It's kind of like Apocalypse Now. When my dad and I first saw it, he kept complaining about how illogical and unsustainable everything was, until I told him that it was all a ham-handed allegory where Vietnam represented Batshitcrazyland. Then it made sense to him.

      Gygax and company knew what they were doing with their bestiary. It's just not what everyone thinks should be done with one.

      Delete
    4. In the story by van Vogt, it pretty much is a displacer beast. Very early D&D had the occasional scifi elements. There was even an early mod, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, where you find a crashed spaceship. They never made a game out of it, but you can find a FRUA conversion.

      Delete
  11. I believe that the comment about the tomb must have been a misunderstanding. You are definitely moving DOWN in the mine, which is important for understanding the geography of the next section. (Although there is an egregious spacial blunder later in the game which I will comment on when you get there.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess that makes sense. 10 levels down in the mine, then connect to the 10th (bottom) level of the castle dungeons.

      Is the part hat makes no sense the fact that the crevice from the castle to the frost giant village goes west-east, and then the crevice from the village back to the castle goes west-east again?

      Delete
    2. It makes perfect sense if the castle is far to the east of the dungeon...but of course it's right above it.

      Really I think the developers just wanted to make a 'bigger' dungeon and wound up using so many events on the teleporters they had none left over for interesting encounters and so on. This is actually something that's hard to grok as a player, but is obvious to anyone who's ever made a FRUA module. ;)

      Delete
    3. I think you have found it. The two castle entrances-- to the same castle-- are 353 squares apart east-west (and 11 north-south). In the castle interior, the two entrances are only *3* squares apart east-west (and up one level).

      I do not care what kind of world-building you do. I don't even care that there is a cave under Lord British's castle that takes you to Buccaneer's Den. When you build a world that is so based on fixed 10x10 squares and you throw away the logic by >300 squares, you have a problem. And all they would have needed to do to fix it is have the exit from the Frost Giant town loop back west.

      The things that get under your fingernails! :)

      Delete
    4. "This is actually something that's hard to grok as a player, but is obvious to anyone who's ever made a FRUA module. ;)"

      He is absolutely right about this. There is a limitation to how much stuff can be put into a single "level" of the game, due to memory constraints. Once you hit that limit, you really can't add much more content.

      Understanding that limit, you can be a bit more forgiving. Could they have done it a different way? Sure. But they probably wanted to create a large puzzle, and once they had done so, they had very few resources left.

      Delete
    5. At least they were consistent with the quantity over quality design philosophy of this game, right down to the the (by Gold Box standards) shitty encounter design.

      Delete
    6. "Understanding that limit, you can be a bit more forgiving." No, I don't think so. It's too bad that SSI painted themselves into a corner, but my job is to discuss the result, not praise them for how well they did under the circumstances.

      Delete
    7. Yeah this is just a huge gap; all they needed to do to fix it, imo, would have been to pull the stairs that connect the Dungeon to the Castle.

      TBH when I played this as a kid I never thought of the dungeons as the Castle dungeons.

      As you mention they literally are separated by a staircase, or by 300+ 10x10 squares...which is just dumb imo.

      They likely added the crevice section to lengthen the game, and didn't go back and resolve the dungeon/castle problem.

      I'm a fan and enjoy the game, but that is a really big gap and could have been fairly easily resolved.

      Delete
  12. I agree. Delayed Blast Fireball is only useful as it casts immediately. Actually delaying it is rare since you usually start up eyeball to eyeball with your opponents. In pools of Darkness, you lose the ability to time the spell.

    The dungeon should be a treat as I believe you like riddles. Maybe not. I found the walls excessively bland. It's funny. You are fighting your way against a Lich and there is not one other undead along the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do like riddles. I don't like the same riddles that we've all heard a billion times. If before I entered the dungeons, you asked me to make a list of the "10 most over-used riddles," I guarantee that at least 7 of them would have been the same as those in the dungeon.

      Delete
    2. The most over-used is probably, "What has 4 legs in the morning, 2 legs at noon and 3 legs in the evening?"

      Answer: A 4-legged creature using a crutch at night after an encounter with a PC using the Cripple feat twice in the afternoon after crawling out of bed in the morning.

      Delete
    3. I've always liked this version:

      http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=1308

      Delete
    4. Ha! I remember that one. The next most used is probably, "Whats as tall as a house, round as a cup but all the kings horses can't draw it up?"

      The bollocks of a Titan, of course.

      Delete
  13. Actually, if you re-read the text on the first screenshot you posted, you'll discover that you and your party aren't Silver Blades at all! Instead, you've become the much more annoying Sliver Blades, gaining the powerful ability to attack with Wooden Deck Boards which do additional damage to bare feet. Unfortunately, you've also gained weaknesses to tweezers and iodine. Hope it all works out for you in the end!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Delayed Blast Fireball also has more value in later Gold Box games, when enemies start buffing with (Lesser) Globe of Invulnerability. If the bad guys are immune to spells of level 5 and below, regular Fireball won't get the job done, but DBF will.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In later editions of D&D, there are other reasons you'd want DBF:
      - more difficult saving throw
      - combo with Time Stop. Time Stop lets you take extra turns, but you can't deal damage during the extra turns. Cast a bunch of DBF, all set to go off when normal time resumes. KABOOM

      Delete
    2. To be clear, does the "Time Stop" trick apply to COMPUTER versions of D&D? If so, which ones? I can't remember playing a CRPG that had both "Time Stop" and "Delayed Blast Fireball."

      Delete
    3. I want to see a CRPG where you can Summon Mount fifty feet over a foe's head, or Create Food inside a foe's lungs, or even just use Stone Tell to find out the number and frequency of guards on patrol.

      Delete
    4. Baldur's Gate II lets you do the Delayed Fireball-Time Stop trick.

      I remember doing some major tactical combos with Time Stop but I never tried that one in particular (the scroll for delayed blast fireball is only in Throne of Bhaal which I never tried).

      Delete
    5. No kidding? I don't even remember "Delayed Blast Fireball" IN Baldur's Gate II. That means this whole project is doing its job and I'm forgetting all the games I used to play over and over again. By the time I get to that game on my chronology, maybe I'll have forgotten it completely. That would be nice.

      Delete
    6. NWN has both. But if you're playing online, most servers have banned the Time Stop spell because it's GLOBAL- meaning other players would have to wait for the spell to fizzle before they can continue playing the game. Now imagine having 10 players online with this ability and spamming 6 of these EACH non-stop .

      Delete
    7. Gaguum, that kind of creative spell use is my Holy Grail of gaming. A couple have approached it - my college buddy reported to me that Two Worlds 2 had a really fun/diverse/flexible magic system. Morrowind allowed for some wild combinations as well. And I've read nice things said about the magic engine in Divinity: Original Sin.

      Delete
    8. Well, it DOES mimic the way it would work in the real world...

      Delete
    9. "NWN has both. But if you're playing online, most servers have banned the Time Stop spell because it's GLOBAL- meaning other players would have to wait for the spell to fizzle before they can continue playing the game."

      The server I've been running for over a decade may be one of the only NWN servers to conquer this problem. We overcame it by scripting Time Stop to only affect the area surrounding the caster instead of the entire module. Casters put it to good use all the time.

      Delete
    10. @TER - Which server was it? The one I was playing and DMing in was called Tekpub. Players can use their own local characters and everyone were all buffed up like overgods. My own warrior had a whole bag of magical orbs that could cast Time Stop 3 times per day EACH.

      Delete
    11. @Joseph: I can see why developers wouldn't want to permit exploitative crap like casting Destroy Water on biological organisms for an instadeath, or the other stuff that I described. But there are a lot of versatile uses for offbeat spells that could be foreseen and made use of.

      (You probably know this already, but ... ) FWIW, the text adventure game "The Meteor, The Stone And A Long Glass Of Sherbet" (Graham Nelson, 1996) featured a spell (azzev) that would tell you what happened in that location's past; it was implemented everywhere, and it served as a puzzle solution. There's no reason why some version of that (like AD&D's Stone Tell) couldn't be done in a modern game.

      @Chet: Yeah, it might be "realistic", but you don't want to go too far down that road in hack fantasy. You can get away with "horse bombing" in tabletop because it's hilarious, but if you really want to push "realistic magic" to its logical conclusions, you get stuff like the following:

      The king decides that he wants to live indefinitely, so he holes himself up in a magically fortified castle. In order to avoid poisoning, assassination, and natural death, he creates a camarilla consisting of the highest-level magic-users in the realm. These guys Resurrect him whenever they have to, in addition to doing other junk like Cure Disease, Neutralize Poison, Charming all his courtiers, etc. The king owes his mages big-time for all this, so he rewards them with all the desires of their hearts. (Use your imagination.)

      Anyway, since the King never shows his face among the people, he is little loved. What's worse, since he reigns for hundreds of years, policies never adapt to the changing times, things become stagnant, and discontent increases. So the king sets up a secret police who make brutal use of Charming, spying with palantirs, magical tortures, and -- whatever else they happen to feel like doing, since the King will pamper his secret police as well as any Roman emperor did his Praetorian guards. Corruption and misrule by the totalitarian oligarchy run rampant. Congratulations, your world is now a giant sack of crap!

      Delete
    12. Kill Bioware before the Gangrene SpreadsSeptember 23, 2014 at 11:44 PM

      Well, at least this game actually maintains the magic from previous games. I just finished a game that ended by sucking literally all the magic and fantasy out of the world: *spoiler* Professor Layton versus Phoenix Wright. I loved that game until the end, when it turned into Scooby Doo: There were no witches, and the storyteller was old man Campabella! He made up monsters and hypnotized everyone to protect his and his friend's crazy daughters from the deaths they caused! Scrappy Doo found the machinery behind it!

      Delete
    13. @Chet- Magic EXPLAINS everything (Deus Ex Magicka).

      Delete
    14. NWN, however, lets you cast direct-damage spells during time stop and they all just take effect when the spell ends. So you don't specifically need DBF to do it.

      Delete
    15. The comment about not being able to deal damage during Time Stop was specifically about 3.5E, I don't know whether it applied to older editions, or whether any games tried to implement it. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/timeStop.htm

      Delete
    16. In later editions of D&D they specifically ban a lot of those things: Creatures must be summoned into an environment that they can survive in (No horses in the air), and you can't summon things inside creatures (No telefragging with food or water).

      That said, I've found plenty of uses for Create Water (2 gallons a level!) in firefighting, washing, etc. Stone shape is one of the best spells around for reshapping battlefields to your liking, and creative problem solving.

      Delete
    17. Here's a comprehensive list of spells in 3.5 Edition.
      http://chet.kindredcircle.org/pdf/DnD3.5Index-Spell-Summaries-byClass.pdf
      Pity there's still no Bigby's Bird Flippin' Finger.

      Delete
  15. Chet, to go back to your comments from the last post about playing real D&D I think I had a similar experience. When I was younger I bought the AD&D 2nd edition player's guide and must've read through it a million times and thought how cool the world was, would create some characters, but never really had the chance to actually play it. All of my D&D experience was through the computer games. Then finally I went to an AD&D event at a bookstore and played with some people there but I didn't really find it to be that great.

    It was only when I got a good group of friends together in college that the game became fun, though it was mostly based on the chemistry me and my friends had rather than the game itself.

    I've played a few more times since then but unless you get a really good group of people that have good chemistry and like to role-play, I have found D&D to be mostly "roll-playing" through monty-haul scenarios, which I find to be boring and reproduced in a more satisfying way on the computer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never been able to find such a group of people, alas. I have trouble enough coordinating four people for a one-hour dinner. I can't imagine trying to mesh schedules for a multi-hour D&D session.

      Delete
    2. I've had the luxury of having the same gaming group for the last 12 years with some people coming and going but the 'core' has stayed the same through the years.

      Our trick is to use a closed group in FB and if a 4 + GM can show up we have a game which in general means every weekend.

      Delete
    3. Online games work very well for tabletop RPGs, particularly with the advent of "Virtual Table Top" software that provides a board to move things around on and a die roller. Scheduling is less of a problem because there's no need to travel, and set up is just the click of a mouse to load the saved game. You can even use skype or similar to provide voice chat, so the only real difference is that you don't have to buy so many snacks. I've been running a weekly game for years without too much trouble.

      Delete
    4. That really takes out of the fun of the session, though. Basically, if you missed out gaming before marriage, I don't think you could get it going ever. Unless your wife is also a gaming nut and/or you design games for a living.

      Delete
    5. Oh I read through my post again and I misused the term "Monty Haul." Apparently it means a game in which the DM hands out tons of powerful items/EXP/etc to the players (like a gameshow host) to make them really powerful really quick.

      What I meant is that most of the games I have played were just combat heavy, generic dungeon romps (always from a store-bought adventure), which again, I feel are done much better on the PC.

      Delete
    6. @Kenny McCormick

      How does that take the fun out of the situation? I'm not referring to something like Neverwinter nights or such to run the game, just a board+die roller+chat program. If anything, it makes the game more immersive, because all your NPCs don't sound like the same deep-voiced man, and the extra abstraction makes it easier to deal with the other characters as characters instead of bits of cardboard moved around by their players. You still have all the OOC chatter and in-jokes and such, just some of your players are on another continent.

      Delete
    7. Punching the player in the eye because you can and he's in reach?

      Delete
    8. @Kenny: That's what the computer-controlled nerf rocket launchers are for. ;)

      Delete
    9. @Noman: Does Virtual Tabletop enable secret rolls? Are the players aware that they're being made, or not, or is it toggle-able?

      Also, I agree with Kenny that the possibility of participants' hitting each other is a most necessary thing. It can be disciplinary, educational, and entertaining, all at once! Even baseball implicitly allows beaning for correctional purposes. Sometimes a smacking, or the possibility thereof, comes in very handy.

      Delete
    10. The details depend on the specific one you're using. In the one I use, it is trivial to simply send a roll to the GM, and nobody except the person who rolled it will ever be aware the roll was made. There's also a "whisper" system that allows secret communication.

      Delete
    11. Pay or free software? I need to find am online game but I dunno how. I have no friends. Didn't need them before- married, had kids. Now my wife is dead and I am living alone and I have NOTHING to do and NO ONE to do anything with. Sigh.

      Delete
    12. Free. I use Maptool, but Roll20 is also popular. Keep in mind that you'll still need to find a game in a forum or similar to join, these aren't matchmaking services.

      Delete
    13. @Noman,

      Thanks for the tip, I'll have to look into these.

      @William,

      Your fellow commenters might come in handy. I'm sure that somebody here would be willing to let you join an existing game, or possibly set one up for fellow Addict addicts who live far from other gamers.

      Delete
    14. Ok, I should really go explore Krakow more (I'm going to the Czatoryski Museum today), but I just wanted to say that Google+ works great with roll20, makes sharing character sheets quite easy and everything.

      Also, if you can't find time to play even that way, play-by-post and play-by-forum games are great. I've run a few, played in many more. They are slow as heck but tend to have a lot of roleplay as people can take the time to think about what their character would do and write up detailed descriptions.

      Delete
  16. Concerning the use of Time Stop and DBF in 1st and 2nd edition AD&D:

    Under 1e, Time Stop took nine segments to cast, and the duration lasted 1D8+CL (i.e. 18+) segments, or in other words, 1.9 to 4.4 rounds. Under AD&D 2e, it was the same, except in that it lasted 1D3 rounds regardless of caster level. Neither edition specifically banned the caster from taking offensive action during the time.

    Delayed Blast Fireball took seven segments to cast, as opposed to Fireball's three segments (this was true in both editions). The increase in damage was equal to the caster's level (i.e. 14+) in 1e, but capped at 10 in 2e; but it was otherwise the same. Wands of fireball dealt 6D6; staves, 8D6; scrolls, (4+1D6)D6 (which is a horrible statistical distribution, BTW).

    Anyway, DBF took more than twice as long to cast, you had fewer available slots for it, and its damage wasn't augmented that seriously over vanilla Fireball (the ratio was 1D6 vs. 1D6+1). So, if you were going to use Time Stop in order to put the other side in a world of hurt, it made the most sense in terms of "damage per second", so to speak, just to lob a bunch of regular Fireballs. The bursts of flame would presumably hit the boundary of the area of effect like an event horizon, freeze in place, and then shoot forth in normal time.

    Of course, most people just used Time Stop to cast something like Mass Invisibility or a Wish (such as party teleport).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The last party in my game had, during a Time Stop, made their warrior carry a lichlord in the midst of casting an Empowered Lightning Bolt to face the lichlord's own retinue of undead army in a straight line. And their resident cleric uncorking a few bottles of Heal Potion and standing behind the lichlord to pour over him after he finished off his own army.

      Pretty sick. But funny. So I let it happen.

      Delete
    2. This is the kind of insanity that makes tabletop gaming worth all the logistical headaches.

      Delete
    3. I think the "horrible statistical distribution" is intended to represent that scrolls may be scribed by magic-users of any level and finding a random scroll is unpredictable.

      Delete
    4. Correction: In 1e, the duration of Time Stop was 1D8+(CL/2) segments (note that it's half the caster level, not all); so the spread was 1.0 to 2.6 rounds (more toward the lower end). 2e was much less fiddly about this (imagine that!) by making it last for one to three full rounds.

      But I greatly preferred the Timestop spell in Bloodstone. It lasted only for the rest of the round (so it was best to cast it first thing), and you could cast it only once per battle. On the other hand, the entire party was automatically helped; there was no area of effect as such, so the party could do anything they wanted with the frozen foes during that time (hit without missing, shoot, cast, do things like @Kenny described, or whatever). This was critical during the late-game, when dealing with the overpowered flaming demonic skulls.

      @Daniel: Agreed.

      @Anon: That would be a good explanation, except that I don't recall any other scrolls having a randomized caster-level. (I really don't think that the level of the scrollwriter should enter into it at all.) I suspect that they were just trying to have a crazy spread (5-60 damage, mode=24) because those guys loved Russian-roulette-style gambles.

      For a look at (4+D6)D6's distro, see anydice.com/program/4722 . (Anydice is kickass in general, check 'em out.)

      Delete
    5. Yeah, random scoll level should be a thing. I'm sick of seeing all scrolls at minimum caster level.

      Delete
    6. I think it would make more sense if scrolls are cast as per the user level instead.

      If the scroll was used by a non-spellcaster or opposing school, it would then make sense to be at minimum caster level or not even usable at all.

      I remember rogues can use scrolls at (caster level = rogue level -2) in AD&D 2nd Ed. Not sure if I can recall correctly. Been years since I last touched a D&D CRPG; which was NWN2.

      Delete
    7. Sorry, in 3E and up scrolls use YOUR caster level. Wands and potions are what I was thinking of, which use the person who made them's power level. I hate how everyone makes them and buys them at minimum level, due to how the cost to create formula works. I want to see random levels, dammit.

      Delete
  17. @CRPG Addict

    Be careful if you plan on importing your party to Pools of Darkness, there's a bug with imported cloaks of displacement that will crash the game if you ever interact with them in the inventory screen. Best to ditch them in SSB before exporting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Cloaks of Displacement were bugged in the Amiga version of SSB, but in my experience there was no problems with them in the DOS versions of SSB and POD.

      Delete
    2. I encountered this bug while playing in DOSbox, perhaps I was using an older version of the game?

      Delete
    3. Either way, I'll experiment and figure it out when I get to POD.

      Delete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.