Monday, August 24, 2015

Death Knights of Krynn: Won!

Nice title-drop.
 
This probably should have been two postings, maybe three, but I had to take a long break for some work last week, so rather than prolong things, I figured I'd best push through to the end.

When I last wrote, I had left the High Clerist's Tower, having failed to stop Soth's forces from stealing several corpses of knights, including Sturm Brightblade [this sentence originally said "Sturm Majere," but as per the comments, I was getting my Sturms mixed up]. I was on my way back to Vingaard to consult with Sebas Astmoor, an ex-follower of Soth who had "seen the light" and was holding back some secret about how to defeat him. Alas...


I apparently had one more hoop to jump through. Sebas told me to go to the Dragon Pit, in the mountains to the northwest. He really didn't give me any clue as to why. The Pit turned out to be the same "musty cave" I'd previously explored, but this time Sebas gave me a map showing a secret door. 

On the way, I got hijacked by another side-adventure when I came upon a group of Kuo-Toans rounding up peasants and forcing them on a slave ship. The game didn't even give me the opportunity to decide whether I wanted to save them. 

The game cleverly elides how I was able to disguise all my weapons, armor, wands, potions, dragonlance, etc.

Kuo-Toans are fish-men. I always get them mixed up with Sahuagins. I was wondering what mythology they come from, but apparently Gary Gygax created them from scratch. I thought they lived under water; I didn't realize they had ships.

In this depiction, they look more like frog men.

Anyway, the ship turned out to be a fairly linear map in which I freed a bunch of slaves, stopped the beasts from sacrificing a slave to their god, set the ship on fire, and jumped off as it burned. I got a bunch of experience and another mace +4 for the effort.

Squirrel, who just got Level 6 spells, tries "Disintegrate" on one of the leaders.

As I arrived at the Dragon Pit, I was joined by Maya, Sir Karl's silver dragon lover from Champions, who'd been absent since the beginning of the game. She indicated Karl was nearby and flew off after a brief chat.


Given the name of the dungeon, I expected to find lots of dragons. What I found instead were lots of undead dragons, mostly in random encounters. These guys don't have a breath attack, but they hit hard in melee combat. There were lots of other undead in the area, including some recent knight-to-wight converts.

Durfey's special dialogue indicated that his staying with my party wasn't a bug.

The Dread Wolf showed up and taunted me, saying that Maya had been killed. As I pressed through the dungeon, I ran into Sir Karl a couple of times, always heading off in some other direction, claiming he was too "busy" to deal with me. Eventually, he ordered the wolf to stop me. The Dread Wolf attacked with a party of wights and skeleton warriors.


He was capable of what seemed like 13 melee attacks in a single round, but he didn't have any special attacks or defenses, and I was able to kill him and his horde without losing anyone. As he died, he claimed that "Takhisis will return [him] when she walks upon Krynn." It was an anticlimactic end to the beast that had been taunting me since the beginning of the game. I thought he was going to turn out to be a bigger deal. I still don't really understand what his story was.

In a courtyard, Maya landed next to my party and warned me about a Death Dragon ahead. Karl appeared. In a scripted cut scene, Karl attacked Maya with a dragonlance, wounding her, and she flew off with the lance still embedded in her, and Karl still clutching the lance.


The Death Dragon appeared and attacked. In the first round, he "breathed death" and killed Atmos at once. Again not willing to lose my elf cleric/mage, I reloaded and tried again. The second time, the dragon chose melee attacks during the first round, and I was able to kill him in just a couple of rounds. At the end of the combat, the dragonlance suddenly came crashing down into the courtyard, without any suggestion of what had happened to Karl and Maya. But my lead knight has a dragonlance again!

This couldn't have happened before I got attacked by the Death Dragon?

And that was the end of the dungeon. As I exited, I encountered an obelisk that said: "For Maya and Sir Karl Gaardsen, the war is over. They have found the peace that was denied them for so long." Huh? Who had time to erect that? And what actually happened? Is Karl dead? Is Maya? Maybe we'll find out in Dark Queen of Krynn, but they never showed up again here.

Back I went to Vingaard and Sebas, only to find him missing, with signs of a struggle in his house. One piece of evidence was left: an earring that the game assured me belonged to Ariela.


I had to look through my previous posts and screenshots to remind myself who Ariela was. She was the "consort and advisor" to Daine, the knight commander in Kalaman. I returned to Kalaman and presented the earring to the knights. Instead of arguing that "hey, lots of earrings look like that," Ariela freaked out, killed Daine ("Curse you. I was almost fond of him."), and ordered her aides to attack. Naturally, they turned out to be Sivak Draconians (a plot device that is getting kind of old), and she turned out to be a red dragon. Fortunately, I had a dragonlance, which does as much damage as the wielder's current hit points.

Do any of the Knights of Solamnia date normal women?

When she was dead, Ariela dropped a key that read "Denissa" on it.

Before she had attacked, she had ordered some aides to "take our captive at once to our mistress Kitiara... Do not let Soth's warriors take him alive." I hadn't encountered this name before, but a quick Google search revealed that Kitiara is a major character in the Dragonlance books. The beautiful human daughter of a Solamnic Knight, Kitiara was a lover of both Sturm Brightblade and the hero Tanis Half-Elven despite stepping mostly on the "evil" side of the line. From the summary I read, during the War of the Lance, she was an uncomfortable ally of Lord Soth, "who had become obsessed with her and planned to bind her soul to him for eternity." When she was killed near the end of the war, her "soul vanished before the death knight could bind it."

These events then indicate some other faction operating in Krynn, antagonistic to my purposes but also to Soth's. I was curious how this was going to play out.

The captive turned out not to be Sebas but a random knight who had been imprisoned with Sebas. He related a message: "the key to Soth's doom is the Rod of Omniscience. This fellow found it and hid it in a place called Voice Wood." Voice Wood could be accessed through the city of Dulcimer.  Dulcimer, you may recall, was the city I had liberated from a lich early in my adventure.

I returned and entered the Voice Wood, a large tangle of vines and shrubbery where it wasn't always clear which direction you could go. Sprites alerted me to the presence of evil mages.

In a game that doesn't allow evil alignments, you can script things like this.

Long story short, the area took a long time to map, and there were several battles with parties of black mages. Ultimately, I reached a clearing where the "Spirit of the Voice Woods" gave me the Rod of Omniscience after I promised to use it only against Soth. The spirit indicated that the password to Soth's keep, Dargaard, was the word "Denissa" that appeared on Ariela's key.

Once again, I wish I'd saved and reloaded just to find out what would happen if I said "No."

Three things happened before I assaulted Dargaard.

1. I returned to Gargath Outpost for training, item identification, and resting. I think there are only two places you can train in the game, at Gargath and Kalaman, which is a little inconvenient. Gargath is also the only place that has a bank. Anyway, the keep was besieged again by Sivaks, and I had to fight several battles to clear them out. When I was done, a message told me to see the commander of the outpost, and he told me that "our foes have left" and awarded me a bunch more experience. It occurred to me that I was probably supposed to stick around at the beginning of the game and keep fighting until all the attacking parties were killed. Instead, I fought one battle and headed out into the world.

2. It occurred to me that the plot had never taken me to the city of Cerberus or its graveyard. I revisited and found that the mayor had recently been slain. The two maps took me a couple of hours, but in interests of time, I'll summarize quickly: a mage in town had conspired with Soth's forces to kill the mayor, kidnap the city's cleric, and raise the dead in the graveyard. To stop them, I had to kill a bunch of undead, rescue the cleric, find a buried cache of wards, and set them up all over the graveyard. This ended the threat.

A satisfying side-area.

3. On the word of commenter Kirben, I returned to Cekos to see if there really was a magic shop. There was. It sold exactly two items: 10 arrows +2 for 15,000 steel pieces and Darts of the Hornet's Nest for 5,000 steel pieces. I sold all the gems and jewelry in my possession, which came out to 194,517 steel pieces. A couple of scrolls I didn't need rounded that out to 195,000. This bought me 130 arrows +2.

That seems a little steep for 10 arrows.

The graveyard in Cerebus turned out to contain a hidden passage to Dargaard, but I don't think going that way made a huge difference. The keep was three levels, full of undead, but also a reasonable number of places to rest. Turning in the keep didn't seem to work very well, and I had to take care of even low-level undead with "Fireballs" and melee attacks.

Four or five times, I got drained by vampires, specters, or wights. Unless I missed something, there isn't a single "Restoration" scroll in the game, and thanks to my multi-classing, my clerics hadn't reached seventh-level spells. After the second time I dragged my party all the way back to Kalaman's temple to restore levels to a drained character, I adopted a reload policy for draining. As often, I reflected that it would be nice if these undead had a chance of draining you on a successful melee attack, rather than an inevitability.
     
Dammit, here comes another reload.
     
Early in the first level, I was joined by a woman calling herself "Lenore." She said that Soth's minions had killed her husband, and she was looking for valuables to steal so her children could eat. She wanted to come with my party and scavenge bodies in my wake.


Thanks to my previous research, which included images, I suspected this woman was in fact Kitiara, but I decided to let her stay to see how it played out.

On the first level, I freed a bunch of servants by destroying a gem and killing all the patrols. As I approached the second level, Lenore insisted that she had to leave to check on her children, and Durfey--without even checking with us--left to "escort her safely home." I knew that wasn't going to end well.

Durf, we're in the final dungeon here.

On the second level, I found Sebas, moments away from death, who confirmed that the Rod of Omniscience was his secret. He warned me that Kitiara wanted it "for her own purposes." Later in the level, some mages had turned some peasants into rats, but I killed the mages and found a reversal spell. The level culminated with a battle against priests trying to turn Sturm Brightblade into a death knight. 

This is my policy when people call me "Fools."

There was a death knight in their party, but I think it was supposed to be someone other than Sturm. I soon found out that death knights are able to cast "Fireball" even when they've been damaged already in the round. But he died in a couple of rounds. Once they were all dead, grateful clerics took Sturm's body back to the High Clerist's Tower and I continued on.

The last level was very linear. There were a couple of sections where I had to choose among three doors, and a voice taunted me that two of the choices led to death. Indeed, one of the three choices led to an (easy) battle with were-tigers or were-boars, and one damaged me when I tried to open it. There was no logic to the choices, so I just figured out the path through trial and error.

It would be nice if this was an actual, you know, puzzle.

I soon came across "Lenore," who claimed that she and Durfey had been attacked by death knights on the road and Durfey had been killed. Sure, and you escaped and for some reason decided to come all the way back here.

They really do think we're a bunch of "fools."

Durfey, somehow already converted to a death knight, was the penultimate confrontation of the level. He attacked me with specters and a couple of iron golems. It wasn't a hard battle--"Fireball" took care of the specters and "Lightning Bolt" slowed the golems. When I killed Durfey, the game noted that in his final moments, "you recognize the Durfey you knew and befriended."

The final encounter.
     
I've often complained that the Gold Box games give you no intelligence about impending battles despite the fact that your characters should logically be able to see a horde of death knights and iron golems 10 feet in front of them. For that reason, when I finally stumbled upon Soth and the final battle, I didn't have any compunction reloading and casting some buffing spells before facing him. At my levels, we have a pretty good selection of them. "Bless" and "Prayer," of course. I cast "Protection from Evil, 10' Radius" on a couple of characters. "Enlarge" goes to my first four. Everyone gets "Resist Fire" now that I know death knights cast "Fireball." "Fire Touch" is a neat sixth-level mage spell that causes melee characters to deal extra fire damage. The two mages get "Fire Shield." And for the final battle of the game, I was willing to spend a year of my life on "Haste."

Earlier, I had found that either "Invisibility" doesn't work or death knights can see right through it. It didn't do anything in previous battles.

The battle commenced and I recorded it. Watch it here:
  



Soth dies in literally the first action--a series of "Haste" and "Fire Touch"-fueled melee attacks from Midsummer, wielding the dragonlance. One of his four associated death knights dies soon after. At 01:05, Squirrel fries the entire line of iron golems with a "Lightning Bolt" before they can act, slowing them down for a few turns.

At 01:16, something happens that proves to be the only real problem in the battle: one of my knights gets "terrified" by a death knight. This is something they can do. Fortunately, 4 of my 6 characters have the ability to cast "Dispel Magic," but I'm worried that he'll flee off the map before I can cast it on him. When he does flee at 01:22, fortunately it's to the west where he can't get away, and I still have a chance to undo the damage.

A death knight makes with one of several "Fireballs" at 01:19, but "Resist Fire" mitigates the damage. At 01:47, after yet another character has been terrified, I discover another advantage of being a death knight: you can reflect "Magic Missile" spells.

Fortunately, in the next few rounds, I get everyone "Dispelled" and take out the death knights, leaving only the iron golems. My mage/thief, equipped with a long sword +3 and Gauntlets of Ogre Power, ends up being surprisingly crucial to this process.

Everyone's in reasonably good shape at the end. Overall, I found the battle a little easy, although it would have been a very different story if I hadn't buffed first, so you can decide for yourself whether I cheated.

At the end of the combat, Soth started to "regenerate," so I struck him with the Rod of Omniscience. For some reason, this caused him to get sucked into a whirling vortex.


Lenore revealed herself as Kitiara and tried to grab the Rod. After a struggle, she messed around with it and caused an explosion. The party got sucked one way into a portal, she another, and we wound up in the High Clerist's Tower. There, the knight commander expressed his belief that Kitiara and Soth had been sucked into alternate dimensions and "there is no leader for the evil forces to rally around."

Thoughts on the end:

  • I didn't really like the entire plot. Soth's goals are unclear, the step-by-step progress is a little nonsensical, and too much depends on knowledge of characters outside the game itself.
  • I don't know why a Rod of "Omniscience" is something that you strike people with, or why it defeats Soth.
  • No dragons in the final battle! In fact, only one dragon after getting the dragonlance! What the hell?!

The game let me keep playing, so I slinked back to the Gargath outpost to level up and identify some of the items I'd found in the keep. Despite hitting almost all the side-areas I could find, my characters are all 2-4 levels below their maximums for this game, which is a refreshing change for a Gold Box title. My spellcasters are all one level below their maximum spell levels, even. Thus, before we wrap this up, I may have to do some grinding so I can properly document "Otto's Irresistible Dance." Plus, there's something called "Dave's Challenge" that a commenter just wrote about...

Time so far: 20 hours
Reload count: 17

53 comments:

  1. Nice ending post. Just noticed that you seem to have your Sturms mixed up. Sturm Majere and Sturm Brightblade are two different characters, at least in the Dragonlance novels. The latter being the lover of Kitiara and probably the knight referred to here (it even says so in one of your Dragaard screenshots). Sturm Majere on the other hand is the son of Kitiara's half brother Caramon Majere and only appeared in books after Kitiara was already dead.

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    1. Yes, be careful not to cross the Sturms.

      Sturm Brightblade is the hero who was killed in the first trilogy of novels and reanimated here.

      Sturm Majere is...
      1. Kitiara's nephew.
      2. At the time this game takes place, not even born yet.

      Kitiara and Sturm Majere being lovers would be way too creepy, even by Solamnic Knight standards.

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    2. Thanks. I made corrections above.

      But I'm not sure how he's not even born yet. I thought the game took place after all the establishing novels.

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    3. I think they happen concurrently. You're basically the sideshow to the main plot line from the books.

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    4. I think while the game takes place after the original main six novels (Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Winter Night, Spring Dawning and the three Twins books), there are plenty of novels that follow, starting with Summer Flame.

      The later books are kind of like Dragonlance: The Next Generation with alien dragons that get retconned out in even later books. While the original books are quite good, the later books leave a lot to be desired.

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    5. Knowing what happens to Lord Soth and Kitiara in the books, there's no way this game is concurrent to them. Alternative timeline, at best.

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    6. Yeah, when I played this game in the 1990s I could never figure out how it was supposed to fit into the novel timeline, mainly because Kitiara is apparently alive in the game (she died during the original six novels). I suppose she could be a vampire, the only classic AD&D undead creature that could possibly pass for a living human.

      I'm not sure if the later Dragonlance novels are actually objectively worse than the early ones or if we simply outgrew them. I tried to reread the original trilogy a few years back and couldn't get through it. Oh, to be 14 again.

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    7. I think that this is supposed to take place during and just after the Legends trilogy. Canonically, Soth lost Kitara's corpse and was sucked into Ravenloft shortly after those events and returned just before the War Of Souls, in which he was killed.

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    8. EDIT: If the game took place after ALL the novels, virtually none of the characters and setting details would exist.

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    9. The novel that started all the drastic changes to the setting, Dragons of Summer Flame, was published in 1995, several years after this game.

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    10. The Dragonlance Gold Box games take place some months after the Legends trilogy. This is explained in the letter at the beginning of the Champions of Krynn adventurer's journal, which recounts the events of the original six novels.

      In Test of the Twins, Dalamar kills Kitiara with a wand of lightning bolt, then Soth takes her body and soul to be his undead love slave. Death Knights of Krynn extrapolates from that, having Kit in a power struggle to be free of Soth.

      However, Knight of the Black Rose, published shortly after this game, backs away from the Test of the Twins ending and has Soth not gain possession of Kit's soul. This leaves Kitiara with two incongruous versions of her fate.

      Sturm Majere, incidentally, is born a couple of years after Test of the Twins, and therefore after the Gold Box games. He existed in publication at the time they were made, but the novella introducing him is set decades later.

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  2. The impression I'm getting from Chet's writeup of this game is that, even if I'm interested in the gold box games (now being sold at gog.com even!), this one is definitely not worth the time. Like the first Dragonlance game, it's designed primarily for people who have read the books and seems to expect you to already be very familiar with the plot and lore, except this one doesn't handle its fan-service well at all. Soth and the Dreadwolves ought not to be dying like chumps, and the entire plot is a case of villains acting for the sake of villainy rather than having goals.

    Ah, well. Shadowkeep is coming up, which if I recall correctly was one of the first video games to get novelized. Maybe the plot there will make up for SSI's failings.

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    1. Kind of. I think it has the weakest plot of any GB game so far, but the mechanics still work very well, and my understanding is that it's sandwiched between two much better plots.

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  3. "Kuo-Toans ... apparently Gary Gygax created them from scratch."

    Or scratched the serial numbers from HP Lovecraft's Deep Ones.

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    1. A lot of Gygax's "original" creatures came from generic cheap plastic monster toys, didn't they?

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    2. Gary Gygax definitely had a...let's say "creative" definition of "original creation."

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    3. Monster illustrations at least were taken from a set of children's plastic toys which is why a rust monster has a propeller on it's tail.

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    4. If you Google "rust monster toy", the first thing that comes up is a page where someone's tracked down those original toys. I do love investigating the history of some of the weirder D&D beasties.

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    5. D&D has two different kinds of ersatz Deep Ones: Sahuagin, who live deep undersea, and Kuo-Toa, who live deep underground. The latter, being a later invention, have much more interesting combat abilities in classic AD&D--sahuagin might as well be aquatic orcs.

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    6. Didn't the Kuo Toa appear in Eye of the Beholder in the 2nd/3rd level, too? Those green funny looking guys throwing lightning bolts at you...

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    7. Heh! I owned a lot of those plastic thingies when I was a kid! Didn't even know they had anything to do with D&D until now!

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    8. Kuo-toans don't interbreed with humans, and they do worship an evil god, but then so does every humanoid race in D&D.

      The illithid *was* inspired by the cover of a book with Brian Lumley's Cthonian, though.

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  4. While I agree that the plot leaves a lot to be desired, I still like DKoK best of all the GB games I played (Pool, Champions, Gateway, Treasures... not too many, but still). I find it hits the nail on the head where the challenge level is concerned. No other GB game I played struck the balance quite right like Death Knights did. Also, I like the free map travels and the sidequests. Pool had that, too, but I find a lot of the larger battles in Pool pure grindfests, and I don't like the limitations on engine and rules implementation found there.

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  5. Anyone ever figure out what was going on with that alternate faction in Kalaman? I never figured out what their goals were.

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    1. Poor story-telling, at least as far as this game goes. My readings of the backgrounds of the characters suggest that while Soth and Kitiara both ultimately worked for Takhisis, they didn't always work in unison. It was clear that Kitiara wanted the Rod of Omniscience for her own purposes and was trying to get it ahead of Soth. Other than that, no idea.

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    2. Ehh, "good" heroes will end up fighting both lawful evil and chaotic evil enemies.

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  6. For some reason, this caused him to get sucked into a whirling vortex.

    So YOU'RE the ones who sent him to Ravenloft!

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    1. I was just about to mention this! Darn it, Rowan!

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    2. By the way, if you guys have any appreciation of animes or undeads being sent to another world to conquer it like Lord Soth, check out Overlord. It's a pretty fun show to watch.

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    3. To clarify this for Chet: TSR had a campaign setting called Ravenloft, which was based on Gothic horror in general, and Dracula in specific. It started as one adventure, and was expanded into a full setting.

      Anyway, that world was divided up between various powerful undead lords. Someone decided that Soth would fit well here (and hopefully bring over some Dragonlance fans), so they had some contrived story about his kingdom getting fused into the demiplane of dread.

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  7. Dave's challenge only opens up after you have completed the game, a prisoner appears in the stocks in Dulcimer to give a clue about it. I will rot13 the exact location, if it is still unclear where it is (I can't remember what the prisoner actually says)
    Vg'f va gur irel abegujrfg pbeare bs gur jbeyq znc

    One? of the other gold boxes had a dave's challenge as well, although I never went to that one.

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    1. It would be a good idea for Chet to do Dave's challenge (although it is sometimes pretty hard), since he didn't reach level caps yet. He should gain at least 1+2 levels from doing it.
      He will also encounter a new monster there which he didn't so far (ROT13'd):
      Fcrpgeny Qentba

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    2. Pools of Darkness also had a Dave's challenge. I never realized DKoK had one first. I don't know if any of the other games between these two had it as well.

      I think it's named after David Shelley who was one of the game designers at SSI.

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    3. Already taken care of. You'll hear about it tomorrow.

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  8. Regarding being energy draining without having Restoration spell, one could just visit the temple instead of reloading? If I remember correctly, Kalaman and Gargath outpost had one.
    Another thing I realized is that the AI in combat seems to be different a bit compared to the german Amiga version which I played long time ago. In the video of the final battle the Death knights throw fireballs to a location which is not occupied by a character. In the Amiga version instead, they always threw them directly at characters and were not calculating the best location of a fireball in order to maximize damage.
    Question: Does this happen with other spell casters or dragon breath in the PC version of the game, too?

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    1. Yes, you can go back to Kalaman or Gargath for restoration, but:

      1. As I indicated, I got sick of having to traipse all the way back to Kalaman from Dargaard.

      2. As I discussed in previous postings, restoration only gets you to the minimum number of experience points for your old level. You lose all your progress to the next level.

      The enemy AI for "Fireball" is indeed pretty wicked. It clearly figures out the optimal point to center the spell to catch as many party members as possible and no allies. I don't remember seeing the same dynamic for other spells or attacks. "Lightning Bolt" (including lightning breath), for instance, always starts on an individual character.

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    2. A possibility to avoid energy drain is to move as far as away from them und use ranged combat and spells. This way, you might get one or other round before they finally come close enough to attack.
      If you are in a small passage, you can cast "Cloud Kill" or "Stinking Cloud" to block against the undead, if AI isn't stupid enough to run into them anyway.
      Whenever an enemy spell caster casts "Fireball", is the AI acting different from that of a Death knight's "Fireball" (which is a special ability, like Sir Lebaum in COK, not a spell in a technical sense)?

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    3. Just a question, do you had a Ranger in the party? Just wonder why you didn't mention anything about the Druid spells.

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    4. What do you want me to say about them? They're pretty useless. I mean, it's nice to have a "Detect Magic" so that my mages don't have to waste a slot on it, and a couple of extra "Cure Light Wounds" are nice enough, but I can't imagine wasting a combat round on "Faerie Fire" or "Invisibility to Animals" or "Entangle."

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    5. I forgot that third level spells aren't available in DKK.
      Because "Protection from Fire" can be very useful. So I wondered...
      "Entangle" would be very useful, if it would not work only in outdoor areas.

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  9. Wow, really glad to see you get to the end of this one. I do find it funny that your impressions now, in 2015, are so strikingly similar to the ones I had when the game was released back in 1991.

    I bought this on release, after having played through Champions, Pool, Curse and Secret several times, and was very excited for a new Gold Box game.

    I had bought Champions new right after release, then backfilled Pool and Curse. I got SSB from a friend right after that came out. Like many others I enjoyed it but disliked the lack of side quests, lack of an overworld, etc.

    As a result I was incredibly excited to see a 'new' Gold Box release, especially when I discovered via pre-release screen shots that it would have an overland map.

    Then I played it. Bought it on a Friday night, went through the entire game, minus one or two sidequests I somehow missed, by Sunday evening. I even played and potentially beat, Dave's Challenge (honestly can't remember clearly, I feel like I beat it, but it's been 24 years ;-))

    It went right back to the store that Monday and was exchanged for something else I had my eye on.

    Just like Chet I found it to lack the unique 'Dragonlance' flavor that came through in Champions so clearly. It took place in that world, with those characters, but it didn't have the unique feel. Its plot was boring and unfocused. Most of the locations and enemies were not very “Dragonlance” but were instead rather Ravenloft-y, to be honest. It was a weak follow up to a great game.

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    1. I really like it when my experiences in 2015 match up to original recollections. It means (I hope) that my reactions aren't overly tinted by a modern lens.

      If anything, I'm probably more forgiving about the nonsensical elements of the story today, since I can look up stuff about Sturm, Soth, and Kitiara online. I think I would have been turned off by the amount of "book knowledge" required by the game in 1991.

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    2. This is definitely a case where playing these games in chronological order helps keep your perspective "authentic" so to speak.

      My personal recollection was that, just prior do DKK, your average Gold Box fan felt that Pools was the best game, but was not the most polished. Champions was the most polished game in the series, and had a great plot, but lacked the open ended approach that made Pools so great.

      As a result everyone hoped DKK would be the best of both worlds. It succeeded to an extent, but never matched the freedom of Pools or the flavor or polish of Champions.

      Definitely a case where, IMO at least, history just reinforces everyone's initial impressions.

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  10. Had to split my comment up due to character limitations:

    Had a few thoughts that came up in the course of this that I wanted to convey:
    1) Economy - IMO this is one of the first Gold Box games where they actually get the economy somewhat right.

    Those +2 arrows are 1,500 gp a piece. 500-750 in reserve for the next game would provide a tactical boon that would be hard to match with any other source. That'd be 750k-1.125m gold which you'd actually have to grind for. I stopped tossing away money about 20% of the way through, and started collecting bracers for sale around then. With just Cerebus, the Whispering Forest and Dargaard left I only have about 300 arrows. I will not hit 500.

    In almost every other Gold Box game before this the economy is completely broken as SSI chose not to implement most of the rules in AD&D that a good DM will use for “money sinks” AND ignored most of Gygax’s written advice about treasure placement in favor of the actual printed treasure distribution charts.

    Henchmen, player owned castles/towers/churches/thieves guilds, sages, followers, spell and magic item creation and just basic life stuff are all ignored in the Gold Box series. In a *good* 1E game those are THE money drains, and SSI ignored them all entirely. I have a tentative blog post breaking it all down that I’ll likely post in the comments here, when I get off my duff and finish it.

    Going forward, they do keep this model a bit IIRC. They never sell Girdles of Giant Strength or +5 Swords, but items like +2 Arrows, at 1,500 gp a piece, become a more common money-sink.

    2) Sir Karl/Maya – Per your comments Chet it appears that you were not clear on a couple of points following the Maya/Karl scene in the Dragon Pit. As someone that had read the primary Dragonlance books that were released before this game, when it was new, that scene seemed much clearer to me.


    Karl killed Maya: Maya crashed to the ground and crushed his Death Knight form, killing him as well. Paladine created the obelisk outside the Dragon Pit as a tribute to them, hence it’s instant appearance, he’s a god, snaps fingers, bam; monument.

    On the following text box, after the monument description we get “Beyond a distant ridge you note a streak of silver and one of gold rise into the clouds.” THAT is a bit vague to be honest. It’s hard to tell if that’s supposed to be Karl transformed into a Gold dragon (by Paladine) and a resurrected Maya (also courtesy of Paladine) OR their spirits ascending. It’s either/or though, imo.

    3) Soth/Kitiara/Faction Stuff – I feel this is something else where context from the books is helpful. Basically, just prior to the game, Soth and Kitiara had a falling out because, TL;DR Soth became obsessed with Kitiara and was plotting to turn her into an undead servant/consort. Kitiara found out while her army was invading and attempting to take over Palanthus.


    Soth was supposed to assist her during that invasion, but instead basically tried to kill her. As a result her army lost and she found out about his plot. This game occurs right after the novel in which that happens (the last “*BLAH* of the Twins” book.)

    She would, logically, be looking to mess with any of his plans out of sheer spite. He kept her from winning a major victory and she lost most of her army due to his lack of support. In that case the motivation is much clearer, but the game completely neglects to communicate any of this.

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    1. I appreciate your clarifications, although it annoys me that the game essentially requires this knowledge. I might dock it a point in the final score for that reason.

      I disagree about the economy. Arrows +2 are not so manifestly excellent items that the ability to sink all of your money into them makes for a good economy, especially since the desire to do so comes from knowledge of the next game, not anything to do with this game. The inclusion of a "money sink" helps redeem the economy a LITTLE, but it doesn't make for a good economy.

      It's funny that the Elder Scrolls games, with their houses and upgrades, exemplify the tabletop D&D tradition more than D&D games. Those houses and upgrades needed to cost more even in the TES settings, though.

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    2. Yeah, this is a really odd situation. Dragonlance was fairly niche when this came out, so I'd have to assume that SSI/TSR were ok with the concept that "only Dragonlance fans will buy this game". I have to agree with your arguments though. A few journal entries would have cleared that all up without confusion.

      That caveat re: the arrows and the economy, I can definitely concede that point. My argument is still "they at least give you *something* you can use that costs money" but that does not fix an utterly broken economy. It's more of a "money can give you a slight boost here and there" instead of "you NEED money" type of economy. IMO that's better than the older Gold Box games where money was simply useless, but it does pale in comparison to Skyrim.

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    3. Looking at the amount of Dragonlance scholars we have here, I don't know if it's really THAT niche. XD

      In any case, I think the flow of the entire story from world creation till the new generations is a lot more sensible & easily digestible than Forgotten Realms' lore.

      As for the broken economy, I think it's in line with the Dragonlance setting. The Heroes Of The Lance (Tanis, Flint, Sturm, Riverwind, Goldmoon, Raistlin, Caramon & Tasslehoff) all had their fair share of dragon hoards after taking out Paladine knows how many of those reptilian behemoths.

      And what do those who live long enough (Tanis, Riverwind, Goldmoon, Raistlin, Caramon & Tasslehoff) to handle those insane and obscene amount of money?

      Marry a princess, revitalize an entire dying tribe, ascend to godhood, retire happily ever after and universe-hopping. With the exception of Raistlin (who merged with Fistandantilus) who had a Class Level of 20, all the other characters have levels barely out of the tens.

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  11. I suspect that, if you actually got to roleplay the first Lenore encounter, you'd probably just give her a giant sack of steel pieces and tell her to take care of her kids with that.

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    1. No kidding. "Here's a pair of Bracers AC6. Sell them and buy your kids a castle."

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  12. Hmm, I've always though of Kuo-toa as frogmen rather than fishmen, because I think that's how they've been depicted in recent editions. I just looked them up on wikipedia though, and the image/description there are definitely more fish than frog. Maybe someone at WotC figured out that they overlapped with sahuagins and made the shift?

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  13. Random Dragonlance side note.. Kitiara is Caramon and Raistlin Majere's half-sister too. And what a bitch of a half-sister to have. Her and Tanis were lovebirds, but he denied her cause she joined the darkside and ended up getting knocked up by Sturm Brightblade before she killed him in the War of the Lance. Seeing your run throughs of these made me remember how awesome those stories were when I read them in high school in the 90s, but the comments of folks revisiting them and how bad they are now are kinda scaring me from going back and re-reading em hehe. I had to bust out DOSBox and make characters to start Champions though. I never got to play any of the Gold Box games when they were new except for at a friends that had Pool and Curse. I ended up buying copies those 2 a couple years ago when I started em so I could have the codewheels and journals handy without switching windows and feel like I was legit playing em in an emulator haha. Ill probably have to get these now to add alongside my Ultima and Wizardry collection as well.

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