Saturday, September 20, 2014

Secret of the Silver Blades: Revealed

I finally learn the titular secret.

Secret of the Silver Blades shaping up to be a passable game if not a great one. For the last post, I spent so much time mapping featureless corridors that went nowhere, I began to worry that the rest of the game would be something like that. But in this last session, it took a u-turn and transformed into a fairly linear experience with a lot of plot exposition.

As I closed last time, I was about to storm the residence of "Marcus," the Black Circle representative living in New Verdigris. Each time I'd visited before, his doorman had offered to sell me magic items and told me to leave when I was done browsing them. But the game offered an option to "stay," presumably against the wishes of everyone in the mansion. I took it.


This led to a battle with half a dozen "Black Circle Lords," a strong fighter-type that is nonetheless pleasingly susceptible to "Hold Monster." Within moments, I had brushed past them and had barged into Marcus's inner sanctum. He gave me a warning, laughed, disappeared, and left me to fight some medusas and other beasts. They went down quickly with my one "Fireball," so I didn't have to use my mirror.

Nice hat.

In another room, a group of Fire Knife assassins was "sharpening their weapons and perusing a map of the mayor's house." I guess Marcus's mansion was the source of all the Fire Knives I'd been encountering when I tried to rest in the mayor's house. I figured they were seeking revenge for my actions in Curse of the Azure Bonds, but it looks more like Marcus had hired them to kill me.

As I cleared out the mansion, I had a pang of regret that I'd no longer be able to spend my ridiculous boatloads of cash on Marcus's overpriced wands and scrolls. It turns out that this isn't the case: the townsfolk simply took over his shop.

Wait...aren't I entitled to all those items for defeating him?

The entire time, I had thought I was doing something original and unexpected by storming Marcus's place, but I guess the player is pretty much expected to do that, since it seems to be the only way to stop the constant Fire Knife attacks.

The only places I had to go next were the mines and the "Administration Building" in the ruins. I chose the latter just because the mines seemed more like the next step on the main quest, and I generally try to clear up side-areas before proceeding through the main ones. The admin building turned out to be the headquarters of the Black Circle, and it brought multiple battles with fighters and mages. It was here that my policy of "only one of each type of spell" started to hurt, as it would have been very convenient just to clear out the mages with "Fireball," "Ice Storm," and other mass-damage spells. I resorted to using my Wands of Fireball and Ice Storm and Necklaces of Missiles to prevent the mages from casting while I carved through the fighters in the front ranks.

A typical Black Circle squad.

The base was mostly linear and provided the satisfying sense of a party relentlessly pressing forward while the occupants tried all kinds of desperate tricks to keep me at bay. Usually, games make it seem like no matter how much damage you're doing, you're really "walking into a trap." I like it when a game does the opposite.

The Black Circle futilely tries to block my progress.

Back in the ruins, I had found a note indicating that the Black Circle was somehow connected to Phlan, and the clerk from Pool of Radiance had been sent to work with them. Sure enough, I soon encountered her in the base, furiously shredding documents.

Is it just me, or has she gotten cuter since Pool of Radiance?

As she fled, she left a letter behind that I'll reprint in its entirety:

My dear Sasha,

I'm sorry to hear that you have concerns about the Black Circle. However, their continued good will is essential. Their control of the Verdigris Mine gives us the gems we need at a reasonable price. As long as these shipments continue, we will not investigate them too closely.

You may tell them that my negotiations with the Red Wizards proceed very well. Some may be on their way even now. Should this turn out well as I hope, you can count on a position as my personal scribe.

With my strongest felicitations,

Gragnak Ulfrim
Councilor of New Phlan

Lots of revelations in this little letter, starting with the fact that the clerk's name is "Sasha." More important, what the hell is going on in Phlan since I left? I liberated that city, and now they're working with the Black Circle and the Red Wizards?! And who the hell is this "Gragnak Ulfrim"?! What happened to Ulrich Eberhard?

The worst part was confirmed a few rooms later, when I ran into Sasha again. She was clearly working with the Black Circle under duress. It hurt when she spoke about "the many heroes who freed the city" of Phlan but didn't seem to recognize us as those very heroes. Anyway, before she ran off, she indicated that all the gems she'd been paying us back in Pool of Radiance had come from these mines and the Black Circle connection. My party basically made its fortunes on blood diamonds.

The map culminated in the "inner sanctum," which was surrounded by a moat writhing with red dragon hatchlings. Every step I took, I had to fight between 4 and 8 of them.


Before the doors of the inner sanctum, it was clear that a major battle was ahead, so I loaded up with protection spells:


The battle was with about half a dozen fighters and half a dozen mages. Fortunately, I'd saved one "Fireball" just for the occasion:

I love it when they arrange themselves just so.

Like most of the battles in the game, it wasn't very hard, and soon I had a bunch of new magic items and a journal entry indicating the Black Circle's plans, which hinted at the "Castle of Twins," the "Dreadlord," "Oswulf's Confession," and the "Silver Blades."

The allusions didn't become fully clear until I entered the mines and explored the first level, a temple dedicated to Tyr. The large 16 x 16 area had few encounters, but the key one was with an old dwarf named Derf Strongarm, the temple's caretaker.


Between Derf's tale and the Black Circle's plans, I got the full back story. 300 years ago, two brothers ruled the valley in the Castle of Twins. Oswulf was a paladin and Eldamar was a mage, and both worshiped Tyr. But as Eldamar grew old, he became obsessed with immortality and eventually rejected his god to become a lich.

"Forseeing the evil that a lich would produce, Oswulf left the castle and searched for 12 great heroes," a band that became known as the Silver Blades. When the Blades returned to the valley, Eldamar had become a lich known as the Dreadlord and had summoned hordes of monsters to the valley. The Silver Blades cleaved through them and drove the Dreadlord's forces back to the castle gates. There, instead of pressing on and killing his brother, Oswulf had his mages and clerics cast a spell to cover the valley in a glacier, freezing the Dreadlord and all his minions inside.


The Black Circle is the descendant of the Dreadlord's Dread Legion of Magic, and for centuries they have been looking for a way back to the castle to free their master. They tricked the New Verdigris miners into delving deep into the mines, where they freed fire-based creatures. The Circle has recruited the creatures to start systematically melting the glacier. They are also seeking the Amulet of Eldamar to pass into the Sanctum. I believe I found the Amulet on an "ancient bier" in the ruins, which judging by Derf's story was Oswulf's tomb.

Derf himself is the last surviving member of the Silver Blades, but he won't help my party unless we prove ourselves "worthy to become Silver Blades." To that end, we have to retrieve the eight pieces of Oswulf's Staff from eight different levels of the mines below.

This is going to take a while.

It's a nice back story, but I have three questions. First, there's the line I quoted above. It's great that Oswulf forged the Silver Blades and defeated the Dreadlord's legion and all, but it sounds like he could have saved himself a lot of trouble by just killing Eldamar at the outset, before he could complete the lich ritual. Both brothers spent years developing armies to oppose each other only to end up at the same place they started. Second, why does Oswulf, a paladin, have a magic staff? Third, doesn't this exact story--two brothers, one a paladin, one a mage, one turns evil, etc.--recur in some other D&D game? If so, which one? It's driving me nuts.

The mines bring back Pool of Radiance's encounter options.

I leave you to explore those questions as my party explores the mines. I have mapped the first level and recovered the first piece of the staff. The mines seem to offer more options during encounters with enemies, including "Bribe" and "Talk," though neither work on animal enemies, of course. If the other levels are like the first one, I won't have to map them all, as it consisted of four completely linear paths radiating from the central shaft. I can just follow the left or right wall and be sure that I'll encounter everything.

You even get experience for successfully talking them down.

Uncategorized bits:

  • The old man in town who had given me the Scroll of Protection from Dragon Breath also gave me a Cloak of Displacement on a later visit.
  • In addition to "Fireballs," the one thing that never gets old in the Gold Box combat engine is landing a successful backstab. I probably waste more hit points trying to maneuver Karnov into position than I save with the tactic.


  • The frequent copy protection is annoying. You have to answer a question from the adventurer's journal every time you start the game, and periodically it demands an answer from the rule book before you save.
  • Many of the journal entries offer maps, but I couldn't imagine relying on them exclusively. Something about the Gold Box titles impels me to visit every corner.
  • I found a Girdle of Giant Strength in the Black Circle's headquarters. The moment I had my paladin don it, my ranger lost the inflated strength that she had gained by importing into Secret while wearing the Girdle in Curse. Continuing to use that strength was cheating a bit, so I guess I don't mind.
  • Once I got the quest to find the pieces of the staff, the well suddenly had a lot of hints about where to find them, provided I fed it gems. These are nice, but I imagine I'll be exhaustively exploring each level of the mines anyway.
  • The economy, bad in Pool and worse in Curse, is just out of control here. I already have more than 100,000 platinum pieces. Even with the need to buy gems to get answers from the well, money basically serves no purpose. The game might as well have given me everything for free.

One down.

My party members have all achieved one level-up. I suppose its good that leveling is slow, since my imported characters can only make three levels in the entire game. As always, I'm reminded that it's far less fun to go from Level 10 to Level 14 than it is to go from Level 1 to Level 6. I miss having to use all my wits and resources to survive--miss having to load up on every possible advantage to beat, say, the troll battle in the Phlan ruins, or the sequence of three kobold battles. For this reason, it's hard to see any game outperforming Pool of Radiance for the satisfaction of both combat and character development, even if the later ones use the same engine.

****

In list news, I was prepared to give Dragonstrike a try for its D&D heritage. Even though it manifestly isn't an RPG, I thought I'd play it if I liked it. I tried it; I didn't like it; it's gone.

60 comments:

  1. "Third, doesn't this exact story--two brothers, one a paladin, one a mage, one turns evil, etc"

    You're probably thinking of Raistlin and Caramon from Dragonlance/Krynn, a great story. Caramon was a "fighter" not a paladin in D&D terms since he had no magical abilities...

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    1. Or the NWN OC, which had a similarly themed quest. Most of the details are different, but the general theme about 2 brothers, one a good guy and the other a mage/lich is there.

      Though I could swear this has popped up in half a dozen DnD CRPGs, and the oldest I've played is Baldur's Gate.

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    2. Yeah. The Raistlin/Caramon story would have been in everyone's head, since Secret of the Silver Blades came out shortly after the first few Dragonlance novels.

      Plus, every geeky tweenage boy who played D&D (but I repeat myself) wanted to be Raistlin. He's brilliant, all-powerful, and evil--he takes on the gods and wins, for crying out loud! Weis and Hickman were smart enough to give it this whole tragic aspect, keeping it from being just another comic-book wish-fulfillment bit, but I bet you a lot of us at that age would gladly have ruled over a destroyed world.

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    3. Well, tales of "one good brother and one evil brother, and the good one has to go and kill his brother" are as old as the hills. It wasn't exactly a huge creative effort on the part of Hickman and Weis to come up with something like this.

      "For me, "hobbyist" refers not esthetics so much as *origin*. That is, whence did game X or module Y come? Was it created to fill a slot in a production schedule or did it arise out of play? That's the big difference between, say, Gygax's Giants-Drow series and the Dragonlance modules. The former were professional write-ups of adventures based in actual play, whereas Dragonlance was conceived from start to finish as an effort to sell modules. Certainly Dragonlance borrowed elements from adventures and campaigns that were actually played (like Jeff Grubb's deities), but there was no such thing as a Dragonlance campaign prior to its being written up for sale, unlike nearly adventure Gary Gygax wrote during his time at TSR."
      -- James Maliszewski, Grognardia.blogspot.com

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    4. I'm pretty sure I was thinking of the Neverwinter Nights story, but I agree that the trope pops up a lot.

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    5. Null Null, I have to disagree with every tweenage boy wanting to be Raistlin. Caramon was strong, skilled, good, and got to marry Tika the busty and innocent red-headed barmaid. Ooo lala

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    6. I'm pretty sure every tweenage boy wanted to be Caramon - until he was rejected by his Tika - *then* he wanted to be Raistlin!

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    7. OK, you know, that's good. I like that.

      Heh heh. I guess they got adolescent power fantasies for everyone. They did sell a lot of books.

      I suppose in 'real life' Raistlin would get stuck with some chunky White Robe mage chick with fifteen familiars. I suppose the Christian aspect of the writers comes out in that we don't see him conjuring succubuses or anything--a lot of guys would do that way before they got around to destroying the world.

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    8. Well, Caramon did marry Tika in the end. And had 5 kids together. I believe the reasone why the Caramon/Raistlin saga resonates more strongly than all other stories with the Sibling Rivalry trope is that the two of them were very close.

      Readers bonded with them early on and were able to sympathize with the both of them as they grew further and further apart until a near-cataclysm brought them back together.

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    9. Man, those were SO not the best Dragonlance stories. The Draconican combat engineer series was the best, though a bit worse once it got to the novels.(Has any short-story series not taken a hit when they moved to novels?)

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  2. Dragonlance had the opposing brothers Raistlin and Caramon.

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  3. "The base was mostly linear and provided the satisfying sense of a party relentlessly pressing forward while the occupants tried all kinds of desperate tricks to keep me at bay. Usually, games make it seem like no matter how much damage you're doing, you're really "walking into a trap." I like it when a game does the opposite."

    The only other game I can think of (there's got to be others, but I can't recall any) that does this is an enemy group in Diablo III, who eventually start spouting lines like "He's slaughtering us like children!" It's an incredible thing to happen once in awhile.

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    1. It isn't an RPG, but the only game that ever left that kind of impression on me is Metroid Prime. In there, you have access to the logs and messages written by the Space Pirates whose research outpost you're storming, and the further in you get, the more desperate and panicked those messages become. It was immensely satisfying, seeing the effect your actions had on what would otherwise just be another set of creatures to shoot.

      In the sequel, Metroid Prime 2, there's a plot point where an evil clone of you is wandering around the same planet. The pirates eventually realize that there's now two of you. It's one of the funniest moments in video games, the moreso given that Metroid is very much more about atmosphere than plot.

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    2. One of the bosses in Throne of Bhaal proceeds like this. You get to watch her grow more and more desperate as you slaughter her minions and allies.

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  4. Strahd von Zarovich's story from Ravenloft is another brother tale. In his middle ages as lord of Barovia he became enamored with a woman named Tatyana. However, she chose Strahd's younger brother, Sergei, instead. Frustrated and thinking his age was the real factor, he "made a pact with blood" that turned him into a vampire. On the day of his brother's wedding with Tatyana, he murdered Sergei and Tatyana hurled herself from the castle walls.

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    1. Brother tales are one of the old forms, mostly because in real life, peasants needed kids to work the farm, and when they got old, well, you had multiple kids and one farm, so conflict was natural.

      The specific good-fighter and bad-mage version constantly popping up in D&D probably owes a lot to Dragonlance. Anybody who writes for D&D is almost certainly a huge D&D fan at this point, so they all grew up with the Dragonlance books.

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  5. You dropped Dragonsatrike because you didn't like it ? awwww : (

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    1. I loved Dragonstrike - but it really doesn't seem like the Addict's kind of game(even besides the fact that it isn't a CRPG)

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    2. Dragonstrike is the dragon "flight simulator" right? I loved that game, but as I recall the role-playing elements are limited to "do I upgrade to more powerful the silver dragon, or do I stay with the wimpy bronze dragon and not get to finish the campaign." And then later "do I upgrade to the more powerful gold dragon, or do I stay with the silver dragon and not get to finish the campaign." Otherwise it's more of an arcade game. Unique for it's time.

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    3. No, definitely not my kind of game, and not an RPG. If I'm going to make an exception to my definitions, it's only going to be for games that I like. That said, I could see why someone would have liked the game back in 1990.

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    4. Dragonstrike does technically fulfill your three criteria though. It has combat based partially on stats (specifically the stats of the dragons), the stats progress, and it has an inventory that's not for puzzle items (you gather magic items that help you in fights).

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    5. DragonStrike did not age well. A remake would be sweet though.

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    6. I remember Dragonstrike being someone's good idea that didn't work. A dragon flight simulator, what a cool idea!

      Unfortunately what I remember doing was windmilling all about the sky, trying to put the other dragons into a tiny gunsight ("dragonlance"). At least with guns you can shoot a distance - here, you had to get really really close to the enemy, which was very difficult to do without overshooting them.

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    7. What I remember is that the combat became very repetitive. The dragons' breath attacks took forever to recharge, and were highly unlikely to hit except at close range. A lot of the battles involved gold dragon (with fire breath and some poison gas) against red dragon (which was resistant to fire breath). So it was like, use the poison gas, then accelerate/turn to avoid the enemies' breath attack while waiting for the breath to recharge, then turn, use the poison gas again, etc. Occasionally get lucky and get a hit with the lance. But still I remember liking it.

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    8. Other game with similar approach to RPG, action and story telling would definitely be wings and I was kinda hoping these types would at least get an honorary mentioning.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL-qtxNgoHU

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    9. You didn't like it? Aw, shoot.

      I saw it on the list and knew it wasn't an RPG but I kept from mentioning that because, hey, dragon jousting. Far too often video games have us killing rats in a sewer or killing guys with a gun that shoots slow green blobs when we could be using the medium's potential.

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    10. The last time anybody saw a game that has the protagonist jabbing an angry red matriarch while dodging a barrage of projectiles was Custer's Revenge.

      I remember that I sucked at this game pretty much though - DragonStrike, not Custer's Revenge... well, okay, I sucked at that one too.

      It was really terrible to control. The CPU was either too slow to respond or too fast, registering your one short key-press as a long press-and-hold.

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  6. I think I stopped playing this when the staff almost completed.

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  7. In my playthrough, I did not take down Marcus until a bit later. The longer you wait, the more overt their actions are in town. It gets to the point where you cannot rest in town without getting attacked, and even walking through town to buy gear becomes a nightmare of medusa and black circle fights, and those Fire Knives can occasionally one-hit-kill. I was surviving by making the well my home base since you can always rest there.

    Eventually, I made the connection (I completely forgot about him, even though I mapped the town) and took down Marcus and the attacks go away. There was a bit of a sense of increasing desperation you missed by not failing to take the hint.

    Also, weren't there another 1983 game or two on the list? Adventure?

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    1. The only 'Adventure' game that comes to mind is the one for the Atari 2600, but console games aren't represented here, so that and the 'Adventure' D&D game for the Intellivision are both out and neither were published in 1983 anyway.

      'Castle Adventure' is the only "Adventure" game for the PC that I can find that was released around 1983, unless there was some text-based adaptation of the original game that was released around then.

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    2. Perhaps. But wasn't "Swords and Serpents" on the list as well? I might be hallucinating. Memorizing the upcoming games list is not my thing, but I have been checking them out in case there is one I want to play along with.

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    3. It's this one

      https://archive.org/details/zx_Adventure_1983_Micro_Gold

      but it looks it has disappeared off the list. Presumably not an RPG.

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    4. Now that I tried it (you can just play it straight off the website) it looks like it is just a port of the Crowther and Woods text adventure from the 1970s. If you're dying to see a playthrough I did one at my blog (click on 'All the Adventures').

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    5. I just replayed it again myself. Managed to map as much of the cave as I could, but am not sure that I got to the end of the "All Alike" maze. I still do not know where the pirate stores his treasure. But I managed to solve a few of the puzzles.

      The thing that gets me is that you need a lot of luck to play through in one go. I inevitably get killed by a dwarf, no matter how many of them I kill.

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    6. If you need a hint on the pirate stash (which is interesting, sort of a "hidden in plain sight" type puzzle):

      Juvyr zbfg bs gur nyy nyvxr znmr vaibyirf A/F/R/J qverpgvbaf, gurer vf bar fcbg jurer lbh pna tb va n AR/AJ/FR/FJ qverpgvba.

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    7. I've dumped a number of the RPGs that I added from World of Spectrum after further investigation by myself and readers (primarily Tristrom Cooke) have revealed them not to be RPGs under my definitions. The Adventure series fell to this axe.

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    8. "console games aren't represented here, so that and the 'Adventure' D&D game for the Intellivision are both out and neither were published in 1983 anyway."

      AD&D: Treasure of Tarmin came out in 1983. I don't know if it'll be added to the playlist -- it's not marked as rejected, at least -- but it's much more of a CRPG than the first AD&D game (which the Addict reviewed) and certainly deserves inclusion if consoles are being done at all. It's also on the Mattel Aquarius, which was a computer after all (albeit a pretty sorry one).

      Swords & Serpents is an easier omission, since it's more of a proto-Gauntlet and doesn't really meet the benchmark. Neat game, though.

      BTW I'm curious to see if Bokosuka Wars makes the cut, but I doubt it will -- it's closer to some kind of bizarre strategy game. Still, it's a very fast playthrough if you know what to do.

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  8. I've always liked the story in Secret of the Silver Blades, and I feel the game gets an undeserved reputation for having no real story. It's not a terrible game, it just isn't the best gold-box game. From what I remember, the ending is good (I won't spoil it here).

    The next game in the series, Pools of Darkness, is much better, and is one of my all time favorite games.

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  9. The lady selling Marcus' stash surely has an 80's hairstyle.

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    1. I find this is true of a lot of NPCs. It's the only way that the Gold Box games feel truly "dated" to me.

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    2. 80-hair http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EightiesHair

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    3. 80's hair is canon to the Forgotten Realms

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    4. Man, 80s had such cool style, leather jackets, chains, etc. Too bad about some of the poofy hair.

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  10. Regarding your last paragraph, about leveling:
    From what I remember, I think you might be pleasantly surprised about Pools of Darkness, then. :)

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    1. Just started replaying POD; are you referring specifically to this part of the statement:

      "For this reason, it's hard to see any game outperforming Pool of Radiance for the satisfaction of .... combat ......."

      Because, damn, yeah they really stepped up their game with PoD. I had kinda forgotten, but it's funny how almost every pack of enemies is set to spawn in small groups, separated by a fireball+ of distance.

      Don't get me started on the end Challenge thing....

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    2. I assumed dahauns was talking about how the characters have no level cap in PoD. But if the combat is better, that's good news, too. I look forward to it.

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    3. Definitely better, some of the harder set encounters were designed with the expectation that the player's party would be fully buffed and would contain at least 2 mages slotted with max Fireballs, DB-Fireballs, etc.

      He could have been referring to leveling though; there is a cap of 40 but that's nearly impossible to hit in a single play through, even with serious grinding.

      IIRC you gain 10+ levels in a single game just from required encounters and story xp though, so it's substantially faster to level in PoD than Secrets. Especially if you do all of the side quests, those seem to grant a lot of story xp.

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  11. 'I won't help you unless you prove yourselves worthy'

    Beggars can't be choosers, jackass, do you see anyone else trying to stop the glacier melting? Also, in Forgotten Realms, apparently it's red dragons that cause climate change ;)

    Just imagine the inflation the poor town must be suffering as a result of all the wealth you're hauling to the surface.

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    1. "Beggars can't be choosers, jackass" was my initial reaction, too. I mean, I could see him testing us to make sure we weren't covertly working for the Black Circle or something, but I don't know how putting together the staff proves that.

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    2. I wonder if there's ever been a real-life example of a city or civilization in which "found" treasure sank the economy. I think it's a plot point of National Treasure.

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    3. Elizabethan England and Phillippan Spain both suffered massive inflation and economic problems from gold plundered from the Americas (or, in England's case, plundered from the Spanish who plundered it from the Americas). The same happened in the US during the Revolution, where the massive sums collected by the more successful privateers tanked several small town economies, and likely (not certain here) happened everywhere that housed privateers or pirates.

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    4. There you have it. Part of me wishes RPGs would model this--every 1,000 gold pieces you collect decreases the overall buying power of gold by 10%--and part of me is glad that they don't.

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    5. There's a reason why salt and spice were horribly over-priced back then... because almost everyone could afford it.

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    6. Makes sense he is asking you to prove yourselves. He has limited resources to give out, what if the people who showed up were mooks just out of training? First dragon they meet eats them, and then he is down all the help he gave them, or worse, they get him killed.

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    7. speaking of real life examples of tanking economies...
      if you read the wikipedia of Musa I of Mali, he brought so much gold with him to give away that he devalued gold for at least a decade!!

      basically he went on pilgrimage to mecca. his procession supposedly had 60,000 people, including 12,000 slaves each carrying 4 lbs of gold bars, the heralds had golden staffs, 80 camels with 50-300 lbs of gold dust. he gave lots of gold away, and bought tons of things.

      the wiki says gold was devalued for a decade, but i think i read somewhere else that in some places it did not return to its original value for several decades. either way, sounds like Musa I of Mali was a goldbox hero!! :P

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    8. That's a great example. I'll use that sometime.

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  12. According to wikipedia," The displacer beast was inspired by the coeurl, a feline-like creature from the 1939 science fiction story "Black Destroyer" by A. E. van Vogt,[1] later incorporated into the novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950)."
    Gary Gygax was often looking for new monsters to engage his players with. He took many directly from legends, myths and pulp fiction. The Coeur was one such beast.
    Gygax was also a believer in "dungeon ecology", the idea that dungeons should be populated with monsters that made sense contextually and in a complimentary way. The displacer beast always struck me as a monster that should be encountered with evil, extra-planar aliens or in some lost world type jungle. Some of the monsters used in the gold box games struck me as being thrown in just to make things difficult, not because they were related to the story somehow.

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    1. A somewhat amusing story exists as a footnote to this. Both TSR and Wizards of The Coast (the D&D publishers) have always been extremely aggressive about protecting their "unique" monsters such as the Beholder, Mind Flayer, and Rust Monster from being used by anyone else, which is why, despite being heavily inspired by D&D, neither Wizardy or its heirs used them. Allegedly, this is the reason why there's a recurring Final Fantasy monster called a coeurl, which bears more resemblance to a Displacer Beast than it does the Vogt monster. The story goes that the FF developers were rather annoyed by the heavy-handed legal threats and put in the Coeurl because they knew it's presence (which TSR considered as offensive as if they'd explicitly used Beholders) would be extremely irritating, but nothing could be done because they could legitimately claim to be parallel development from the same source. No idea how true it is, but it is very plausible, and in-character for all companies concerned.

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  13. Moria is back on the list! I can die happy.

    Preferably, not right away.

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    1. Alas, I will unlikely be able to post a "won!" posting. But I delayed it as long as I could. It's time to get out of 1983.

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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.