Friday, April 8, 2016

Gateway to the Savage Frontier: Won!

  
When we last closed, my party was in possession of three statues but had no idea where to go for the fourth. I looked at the map and reasoned that it was probably in Sundabar, the only named city I hadn't visited. It was located convenient to Ascore, where I assumed the final battle would take place, so it seemed a decent guess.

But Sundabar was weird. It was a regular 16 x 16 town with all the services and amenities, but hardly any special encounters. It had lots of places where it looked like a special encounter should be, so I figured the game was waiting for me to have accomplished other things before visiting. I had experienced the same kind of feeling when I visited many of the Death Knights of Krynn cities out of order.

This was one exception. The game's love affair with harpies began here, and I would encounter hordes of them on subsequent maps. They're not even that hard. Yes, they occasionally cause "Charm Person" upon a successful attack, but this is easily dispelled and they're otherwise very easy to hit and kill.
     
So I returned to Secomber and Amanitas, who directed me to the Star Mounts in the middle of the High Forest.

As I reached the base of the mountain, I encountered a giant snake crushing a giant bird. The game asked whether I wanted to help. Nature sucks, you know, and snakes aren't necessarily less deserving of food than birds. I'm sure a druid would encourage me not to get involved. But I sighed and did what the game clearly wanted me to do and helped the bird. I hadn't saved in a while before this encounter, so I never found out what happened if you choose "Leave Alone." I'm actually quite curious.

Isn't this scene on some country's flag?

Helping the bird meant fighting several giant snakes and two shambling mounds. This wasn't my first combat against shambling mounds in the Gold Box series--there were scores of them in Curse of the Azure Bonds--but I think they're tougher here. I don't remember the Curse mounds being immune to "Fireball" and "Lightning Bolt," taking half-damage from physical attacks, having a -4 armor class, and killing characters with suffocation attacks after 4 rounds. Fighting them was brutal, and I had to reload twice after watching attack after attack hopelessly go "swish" while some hapless character suffocated to death.
 

As difficult as the shamblers were, I don't think they were so difficult that I deserved the reward they carried. Each had a set of +3 plate mail, a +1 shield, a +2 composite long bow, a Cloak of Displacement, and an Ioun Stone that increased my wisdom by 1. Every shambling mound in the game had all of these items, and there were lots more, so I suspect this was a bug somewhere.
 
My fighter/thief's inventory at this point.
    
In any event, the bird turned out to be a Aarakocra--basically a species of bird-men whose name exemplifies onomatopoeia. They told me of a human woman who has established a lair on the top of the Star Mounts and flies around on black dragons. They offered to take me to the place, and I accepted.

Doesn't he look just a little like Sam Eagle?

The woman in question turned out to be a sorceress named Ceptienne. Her introduction was rather clumsy and I still don't quite understand what her "deal" is. She is manifestly the character on the box cover and title screen of the game. (I know that image previously appeared on the cover of 1984's Book of Marvelous Magic, but I still think that Ceptienne was created to be that woman.) Her apparition greeted me shortly after I entered her fortress--basically a huge 16 x 16 maze with lots of one-way doors--and called us "worthy adversaries."

I'm torn between mocking that armor and wondering where I can buy a set for Irene.

As I explored her fortress, found secret doors, and killed a slew of harpies, ogres, hellhounds, and medusas, here proclamations became more desperate:

Ceptienne's threats had the opposite effect than intended on the male party members.

Her fortress held two battles with two black dragons each, and I was reminded how much I hate black dragons for having a breath attack--acid--that nothing counteracts. You just have to hope that they don't target the same character twice in a row. I had one reload, but I was packing pretty decent +2 and +3 gear by this point, and dragons never have as many hit points as I expect they will. It never seems right that I can fight them with Level 6 characters.


Eventually, I found my way to Ceptienne's sanctuary, and she attacked, all pretenses of civility gone by this point. I forgot to get a screenshot with her party, but I think it had harpies and a couple of medusas. I got lucky with the initiative rolls and was able to "Fireball" and "Ice Storm" her (using the last charge in the wand) during the first round, which killed all the harpies and the medusas. I think it was just a couple of physical attacks after that. She was dead and the fourth statue was in my hands. I can't help but think the creators shortchanged her story.
 
"Visionless" hints at a greater depth to her story.

We headed back to Sundbar, and things were a lot different. Zhent patrols, desperate to reclaim my statues, were patrolling the streets and shaking down townsfolk. As I made my way through the city and the far exit, Vaalgamon tried to stop me first with an illusion...

I was very disappointed that this wasn't a real fight.

...then with temptation, as a stone fountain offered to reward me with fabulous wealth if I would throw the statues into the well.

Despite his protests, he collected his share of the gold.

I had to see what happened if I gave up the statues. The answer was I got 9,142 experience points and 63,818 gold pieces--far more than I could carry, but probably less than I already had, with nothing to spend it on. The game immediately ended and directed me to a journal entry that related Vaalgamon's conquest of the Savage Frontier and the party's subsequent imprisonment: "Our  riches have availed us nothing. We were hunted down, captured, and brought to this prison, where they keep us alive only out of a desire for revenge." I think this is the first time in the Gold Box series that the journal has been used to outline an alternate, "bad" ending.

Anyway, reloading, I did what I was supposed to do and refused the fountain. It turned into a giant stone golem and attacked me, but was no match for my Sword +3 of Stonecutting.

This reminds me of the Fred Saberhagen "Sword" series. Anyone else read that? That would have made a good RPG setting.

An illusion of a chasm and a combat with some fighters, harpies, and hellhounds blocked the remainder of the path, but I conquered both, exited the city to the west, and continued on to the final battles in Ascore.
 

Ascore was a ruin that showed signs of recent shoring-up by Vaalgamon's forces. As I wandered the hallways (the ruins took up only about half a standard game map), most of the battles were with skeletons and mummies, very easy to turn, making exploration a non-issue. One of the mummies did survive a turning long enough to hit Ghost and disease him, leading me to cast "Cure Disease" for what I think is the first time ever in a Gold Box game.

The map culminated at a door where Vaalgamon's voice taunted me and then, inexplicably, gave me a lot of detail about the encounters to come:


The voice wasn't kidding: the final area was unusual. It was basically a maze, but I had to navigate it while in the combat screen rather than in the usual exploration interface. Each section of the maze offered a combat, some very difficult, some laughably easy, but when the combats were over, the party didn't exit the combat screen. Instead, at least one character had to find his way to one of the combat screen exits (as if he was fleeing from battle), where we'd immediately be taken to another combat screen. You actually don't even need to win the combats, I discovered--you can just have a character immediately run for one of the exits, and your whole party follows, leaving the monsters behind.
 
The party receives some instructions from the game, post-combat.

There must have been about 10 separate maze segment/combat screens in all, though you don't need to hit all of them to make it to the exit. They started off quite easy with a horde of goblins who were incapable of even hitting me and only had 4 hit points each. I resisted the urge to waste spells on them and killed them all in melee combat.

Must...not....Fireball...
     
Others alternated between easy (one had a single goblin, but I think that was just Vaalgamon smack-talking me) and quite hard (trolls, ettins, shambling mounds). Vaalgamon appeared in between each screen to taunt me.

This man has played some Wizardry.

Some maps I had found in Ascore purported to help with the maze, but after some bumbling around, I found that all I needed to do was follow the rightmost wall. This took me through 5 combats before depositing me in a room occupied by Vaalgamon himself--along with a bunch of wizards and 10 shambling mounds.


I would have died in this battle if the game hadn't slapped me in the face with the fact that I could just walk off the screen via a northern passageway instead of bothering to fight. It wasn't at all subtle. First, Vaalgamon himself accused me of trying to sneak out the "back gate," as if I was doing anything but finding my way there randomly.
 

Then, as we entered combat, the game gave me a nudge-nudge wink-wink with, "To the north, light pours through an opening to the outside." My party was in decent shape health-wise, but we had almost no spells by this point, so after a hard look at all the shambling mounds, I directed my party into the north hallway and out the door.
 
My party does the sensible thing.

Especially given the endgame narrative, the game doesn't seem to be designed for the party to win this final battle. Vaalgamon is pretty hard by himself: he's a mage, but he has some kind of protection against magic, so his spells can't be disrupted with "Fireball" or whatnot. He regenerates hit points every round and is somehow capable of casting multiple spells per round. But the bigger problem is the 10 shambling mounds, whose difficulties I described above. Fighting groups of 2 or 3 was hard enough. By this time, I had gotten a Wand of Defoliation somewhere, and it certainly helped, but it only affected one mound per round, and for only half his hit points or less.

Still, I'm sure that winning the battle is possible. I have this idea that the Wand of Ice Storm might affect the mounds, if the party keeps it long enough. I was out of Potions of Speed by the time I got here, but they'd certainly assist, along with Potions of Invisibility to keep the mages from targeting you during the first round. A couple of "Fireballs," maybe coupled with the Necklace of Missiles, would take care of all the mages except Vaalgamon himself. "Stinking Cloud" might work against the shamblers (I'm always under-valuing that spell). The problem is that you have to save before entering the maze, so every attempt at the final battle means first slogging through the half a dozen rooms/combats before him. I tried it a couple of times (after winning) but failed both times. Just as I was contemplating trudging all the way back to Silverymoon to get more magic items, I accidentally saved over my pre-maze save with a post-game save. My most recent save before that was back in Sundbar, so I don't know if I want to go through the trouble. If you've won the battle against Vaalgamon, I'd be happy to hear how you did it, as well as how it affected the post-game text below.

The ending was narrated in a long series of text screens. Having won the "coward's" way, I ran out the exit and into an ancient plaza, "surrounded by great pyramids." Vaalgamon and his allies rushed out behind me but were grabbed from beneath the ground by the hands of undead and dragged screaming to their dooms.


My party celebrated for a moment and then happened to notice that armies were approaching from all directions. "From the north, twin columns of orcs seem to stretch to the horizon." Trolls amassed to the west, and a "great mass" of mercenaries to the south. From the east, "a broad column of soldiers in full armor, black horses marching in perfect order across the forbidden sands."


My NPC Kervish chose this moment to straighten up, whip off his glasses, shed his dorky persona, and announce himself as an agent of the Lords' Alliance, a partnership of cities that includes Waterdeep, Neverwinter, and Silverymoon.


Under his instruction, Broadside ran to the top of a pyramid and placed the four statuettes on an altar. A fifth statue arose from a hiding place, "and the entire structure begins to glow!"


Blinding flashes of light "lance through the ancient stones in all directions." Apparently, the light served as a beacon to a bunch of ferocious monsters--the game is unspecific but an image shows dragons and worms--who rose up behind the invading armies and slaughtered them.


The game ended with my party's triumphant return to Yartar, where I was allowed to keep playing. I rested, re-memorized spells, identified and sold some equipment, and saved the game for the sequel. I also apparently used the story of my victory to chat up women in bars.

"Oh, yeah, I totally killed Vaalgamon."

I don't know if I exactly like what the game did in the final area, but it was at least original. Overall, I feel like Gateway distinguished itself best in the final third, with some memorably difficult combats, an interesting use of the combat engine for maze exploration (in no previous game has the configuration of the wall patterns mattered slightly in combat), and the longest, most verbose set of victory screens that we've seen so far.

I hate to make you wait three days for the GIMLET, but this post is already getting pretty long and we have a few things to talk about, particularly if I'm able to win that final battle for real.

****

Let's talk about some items on the upcoming list:

1. Shadow Keep (1991). I got a Mac emulator--Basilisk II--downloaded and working with some effort, but it appears that just about any game offered for download, including Shadow Keep, is in ".sit" format, which requires something called StuffIt Extractor to unpack. I've downloaded two versions, and all they do is crash the moment I start them up after screwing up my file associations. If someone has the software and wants to unpack the game for me, I'll play it; otherwise, I've had it up to here with sites that force me to download whatever archiving program the creator happens to favor for some nobody-cares mega-dork reason. [Edit: readers contributed several solutions to this one. Thank you!]

2. Dungeon Quest (1985). I don't know why it's listed as Dungeon Quest everywhere, because the title screen calls it The Dungeon Masters Assistant (that isn't a typo; the game's name has no apostrophe). The "game" is some kid's programming lark, has no story or main quest, and while it technically meets my definitions of an RPG, it simply isn't worth spending time on. Since it also freezes and crashes at just about everything, I'm listing it as "NP" on technical grounds. In a strict sense, I could probably suffer its glitches long enough to get some kind of posting out, but it wouldn't enrich anyone's life for me to do so.

67 comments:

  1. In Curse I think the Wand of Defoliation could affect more than one plant creature if used in the right way. I never figured out the exact rules though.

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    1. It has range three I believe, and it hits everything between the user and the target square. You should be able to hit three plants per invocation.

      That's if it's implemented the same way.

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    2. Yeah, I just fired up Curse and tried it out. I had success firing it across the Mounds by targetting one in the back. I could damage more than one per shot

      Also, in Curse they have AC 0 and 65 HP.

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    3. And yeah, the Mounds in Curse also seem to be fire/lightning immune, and it seems like damage may be halved as well. They also engulf, but I'm not sure if characters will suffocate.

      Magic Missle does reliable damage though, and Stinking Cloud works on them as well.

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  2. Regarding shambling mounds I believe that each of:

    Fire resistance
    Lightning heal
    Half damage from weapons
    Engulfing

    Are shared with their counterparts in Curse.

    The Armor Class is different though. I think it was 2. Even then, and even with higher level characters, they were rather irritating, and the wand(s) were a blessing.

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    1. I guess you're right. They must have seemed easier because my characters were 2-3 levels higher by then. That second attack per round really makes a huge difference.

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  3. The final battle is far from unwinnable, even if the victory screen assumes you didn't kill Vaalgamon.
    As for the Shambling Mounds, Slow and Haste helps. If you have any Wands of Ice Storm (not sure if there are any in the game), now is the time to use them. I recall a fight against a large group of Mounds in FRUA module that I only won thanks to all my characters having Wands of Ice Storm.

    I've written a long post about Gateway to the Savage Frontier, but Blogger deleted it, so I'll try again, with no link.

    Just finished replaying this Gateway to the Savage Frontier and though I'd jot down some impressions, since I can't find much discussion on this game on the Codex or elsewhere, depsite it apparantly selling very well back in 1991.

    Overall it was a decline compared to the other Gold Box games.

    I've mentioned the encounter design a few times, but it wasn't quite as bad as I remembered it from playing it the first time 20 years ago.
    The main problem with the game is that the random encounters lack variety - there are usually only one type of encounter on each map or overland terrain type.
    Most areas thankfully have a finite amount of random encounters. The official clue book was a nice guide in this game, and the first thing I did when entering a new area was to consult the clue book and see what it said about random encounters. On maps with a finite amount (usually about 5) I explored normally, on maps where they constantly spawn untill killing a boss I went straight for the boss, and on maps where they constantly spawn no matter what I just headed for the objective ASAP and then got out ASAP.
    On the overland map traveling on roads and rivers have a much less chance of encounter than in the wilderness. In the wilderness it's a D6 chance of encounters and despite the large and attractive looking overland map there is nothing interesting whatsoever to discover. No lairs, ruins or scripted encounters; just the same encounter every 6th step or so.
    On plains you encounter either Hobgoblins or Wild Boars on the road or Ankhegs if on a river, in forests Ettins or Giant Snakes, in marshes Trolls and in hills Hill Giants. IOW, not very exciting. But thankfully the tedium can be kept to a minimum by staying on roads and rivers.
    So knowing this the game became more fun than a chore.

    Another problem is that the game's only mildly challenging battle is the final sequence of battles, but even that can be avoided and you can win by running, or walking if invisible, from one combat map to the next untill you reach the plaza where you need to place the statues.
    Hell, the game even assumes that you didn't kill Vaalgamon!
    Vaalgamon is a mean mofo of a Fighter/Mage with -8 AC, 150 HP and a +5 Sword, who regenerates HP between each round. But my Hasted and Enlarged Fighter/Thief killed him with four backstabs.

    I had actually hoped for a large battle in Sundabar against an army of Orcs and Trolls, but the army turned out to be just an illusion. :(
    So the only battles in which I had to use buffs, potions and wands were the final three battles. First a large group of Trolls and Ettins. One well placed Stinking Cloud did wonders in this battle.
    The next one was against a large group of Shambling Mounds and some mages and Zhentil commanders. A combo of Charming the Zhentil commanders, and the Wand of Defoliation and Stinking Cloud against the Mounds (not as effective as against the Trolls and Ettins, though) did the trick here.
    The Slow spell did wonders in the final battle, against the Shambing Mounds and Vaalgamon. It was the only spell that had any effect of Vaalgamon.

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    1. My blogging is behind my playing on this one. I did win the final battle, in a way that was kind of "fun" but also perhaps kind of lame. You'll see in a couple of days.

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    2. I seem to recall getting horribly killed in the fight, then going through again counting screens, then going through a third time using minimal resources and casting all my preps before stepping into the final fight. AoE the wizards, Stinking Cloud the mounds. Ice Storm was particularly useful in ensuring Vaalgamon couldn't cast spells, as the only way to avoid damage from it is Globe of Invulnerability. Looking forward to seeing your solution.

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    3. PetrusOctavianusApril 9, 2016 at 2:34 AM

      Looks like my message disappeared again. Grrr.

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  4. There was a bug with the Shambling Mounds, though. When killed they dropped som insane loot, like magic bow, Plate Mail +3, Cloak of Displacement and an Ioun Stone. The weird thing is that these items can't be found anywhere else in the game. The Shambling Mounds also had an AC of -4 while in other GB games they have AC 0.
    I tried googling this but couldn't find any useful information.

    The Giant Snakes were bugged to, I think. They dropped lots of Leather Armours when killed, and their attacks paralyzed instead of poisoning characters.

    Another bug (I think) was with the Ascorean Mummies. If they hit you there is a chance of being infliced with Disease, which weakens you character. My Ranger, who was the only one with exceptional strength, went from 18(50) to 17 STR. No matter of Cure Disease, Dispel Magic or resting brought it back. I assumed this permanent STR loss was a bug, so I just quit and reloaded if it happened again.

    Another thing that kind of worried me was that often a monster would move, but instead of attacking and getting a message that it missed the game instead made the same animation as if getting no attack due to a Slow spell.
    OTOH, some "bosses" got two actions in a round, like first casting a spell and then moving and attacking.

    Another possible bug was in Ascore. There is a trapped chest that my Thief had no chance of disarming, but my Paladin succeeded. And each time the disarm failed the trap would go off. Not sure it this was bug or the game trolling me.

    And I was annoyed that Sweeping goblins didn't work. :mad:

    The clue book doesn't mention any of these possible bugs.
    I was playing DOS version 1.2 of the game, BTW. No copy protection, so I think it was a cracked version.


    There were some improvements compared to the older GB games:

    In battle spells effects would be shown on characters and monsters. So you could see which monsters were affected by a Slow spell, for example.

    Monster AI felt slightly more random and less predictable.

    The game never felt like a Monty Haul campaign and there were useful things to spend money on, like training, healing and magic items. In the Krynn games training and healing were free, for example.

    When encamping the game lists all the special non-inventory items you've found.

    Some events happened at special times, either a certain time after the party entering the area, or at a certain day in the week. Shops were still open in the middle of night, though.

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    1. "If they hit you there is a chance of being infliced with Disease, which weakens you character."

      I expect that Cure Disease ends the disease, but Restoration is required to regain the attributes. Which doesn't help much, as I think it was a level 7 spell in AD&D.

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    2. Do you actually read the articles before posting comments?

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    3. The theory about Cure Disease vs Restoration makes sense in a pencil & paper RPG, but if the only in-game effect of the disease is to lower strength then Cure Disease should remove the penalty.

      Otherwise, what's the point of having the Cure spell in the first place?

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    4. I ran into most of those bugs. There was also a combat with spiders that mysteriously produced leather armor and swords at the end of it. I thought I mentioned that somewhere, but I can't find it.

      I just realized that the loss-of-strength issue affected my fighter/thief. I didn't notice it at the time, but sure enough, "Cure Disease" didn't restore that point. "Restore" doesn't exist at the temple. This might be a case where it's acceptable to me to hex-edit.

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    5. Anonymous, who are you responding to and what are you talking about?

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    6. PetrusOctavianusApril 8, 2016 at 1:27 PM

      In case it's me anon is talking about, my comments may seem a bit misplaced, but that's because Blogger ate my message with the link in it, so I decided to post my old message from The Codex without much editing.

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    7. The Gold Box games always had a variety of bugs around ability scores. Any temporary changes had a tendency to end up permanent, but unless you obsessively checked your character sheets you would never really know when it happened.

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    8. Tristan Restoration was made to restore lost character levels really more than anything else.

      Don't seem to ever recall running into an attribute loss in AD&D 1E that wasn't cure-able with the "Heal" spell, which is a level lower than Restoration.

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    9. "Another thing that kind of worried me was that often a monster would move, but instead of attacking and getting a message that it missed the game instead made the same animation as if getting no attack due to a Slow spell."

      Just noticed this too. Seeing it only on Stirges and Skelton Warriors so far.

      For the Stirges it *could* make sense. Round 1 they start their attack, round 2 they actually suck blood from you and do damage. That's how they seemed to work at least.

      No idea why the skeleton warriors were doing that, unless maybe they're only supposed to attack every other round...or it's just a bug.

      I don't recall seeing this when I played this when it was new, but it's been a while and there's a good chance I just don't remember.

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    10. The "slow" attack bug is easy to explain once you've looked at the FRUA editor. Because the game duplicates the 1st edition fighter attack sequence (with a progression from 1/1 to 3/2 attacks per round), the monster editor asks you to input number of attacks per 2 rounds, not number of attacks per round.

      It is very easy to slip up and tell the game that a monster gets 1 attack every 2 rounds, which produces the "slow" spell animation on the odd attack round. Those monsters were miscoded and never fixed.

      I would wager the Mounds got equipment that was supposed to be assigned to another foe. I would also wager that they are wearing this equipment, which accounts for the lower AC.

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    11. @OWB ahh yup. You're right, resto didn't have a generalised effect until later editions, Heal is the spell that would have been most likely to restore ability damage (or Wish). Cure Disease is supposed to restore the ability scores after a week or so, except in the case of certain diseases which are left untreated for months (eg Mummy Rot).

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    12. I've always found that when enemies are able to inflict stat penalties/drains on my characters that persist beyond the end of combat for any reason in any RPG/roguelike, it's just not a fun or interesting mechanic.

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  5. I'm not sure there's a good way to get you an unstuffed copy of Shadow Keep, since due to the way the original Mac OS handled resource forks, there's a high probability of losing all its useful data with any file manipulation on Windows, Linux, or OS X.

    However, I do have a disk image for Basilisk II that has a working copy of Stuffit Expander on it. If you select it as a disk for Basilisk II (either the boot disk or otherwise; it has a System Folder on it for System 7.5.3, but will work fine as a secondary disk, too), you should be able to just drag the .sit file onto Stuffit Expander within Basilisk II and expand it safely there.

    If you're interested, you can download the disk image at http://topazgryphon.org/basilisk.img

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    1. Great. Between your solution an Atantuo's below, I'm sure I can get it to work. Thanks for offering that disk image.

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  6. Yes, first edition dragon hitpoints are a joke, they really improved dragons with the second edition and made them much more worthy opponents.

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  7. I read Saberhagen's Book of Swords a long time ago. I loved the concept, but the implementation/writing didn't do much for me.

    I have this vague memory that the IP was licensed for an RPG or movie at one point but then never went anywhere. Google is not turning up any details though, so maybe I'm just making that up.

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    1. I read it when I was an undiscriminating kid, so I probably should avoid reading the series again. I just remember that one of the swords was called "Stonecutter" and did what the name suggests.

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    2. I read them when I was in my mid-to-late twenties, so I personally had become more discerning in my taste for prose from my teens. For example, I loved the early Forgotten Realms books when I was young... now not so much.

      As far the Book of Swords, I remember a few others like Coinspinner, Farslayer, and the creatively named Mindsword. IIRC, there was kind of a rock,paper,scissors dynamic between the different swords and different characters kept trying to switch which swords they had to try and one-up their opponents. Like I said, it was definitely a cool idea.

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    3. I read the Saberhagen series, too. I think I felt like the premise captured the imagination very well, but the execution was maybe a little lacking. I remember very little about the entire thing, other than the way the closing sentence/scene mirrored the starting sentence/scene. (On a tangent, I noticed this in another book soon after, and it became a compulsive habit, when finishing a book, to flip to the first page and check how it starts. It's surprising how often there's a subtle connection that only makes sense on second read. I highly recommend this habit.)

      A few years ago I looked up the Saberhagen novels while trying to figure out how to invent some artifact weapons for a game, and was kind of surprised that the high-level description made the swords and stories sound more like logic puzzles than anything else: strengths and weaknesses, strategies, etc. As Vonotar notes, making use of the swords sounded more like a chess game than a story.

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    4. I read some of them as a kid and liked them but could never find all of them. I've been r reading his Berserker series lately and quite enjoying it.

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  8. After some fiddling around with those .sit files (unsuccessfully), I decided to look for another version of the game instead and found one here: http://doperoms.com/roms/mac/Shadow+Keep.zip/658209/Shadow%20Keep.html
    Using the guide at http://emaculation.com/doku.php/executor_setup I was able to get the emulator to run without much trouble (Win7 64bit), and the extractor that came with it was able to decompress the .sit file from inside the .zip into a folder with the game's executable (the other, more common "ShadowKeep.img_.sit" wouldn't decompress no matter what I tried). It booted up just fine, except it was running ridiculously fast.

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    1. Thanks, Atantuo. I'll give it a try.

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  9. I "unstuffed" the file, and sent you a link. Don't know if it will work right, but it is there. Good luck

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  10. I seem to remember that I had to download the Mac version of Stuffit and run it from inside Basilisk, but it was a loooong time ago, I might be misremembering.

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  11. I know it's pathetic to even care, but I can't decide if Ceptienne is topless in those images or not. On the one hand, it looks like she's just showing a lot of...forgive the term..."underboob" (with incredible staying power), but on the other hand, there are some pixels that definitely could be a nipple.

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    1. PetrusOctavianusApril 8, 2016 at 2:34 PM

      I hate to break it to you, but they are fake (made of pixels).

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    2. Despite being a gay male, I too was fascinated by the artwork in that picture. The only way I could reconcile it with the metal panties was that she is wearing a skin-hugging material beneath them that stretches up over her breasts.

      Of course, doesn't offer much protection, so perhaps it's just an elaborate glamer. (She was a sorceress, after all.)

      Getting flashbacks to the late 80s, early 90s from the woman's hairstyle in the tavern. Looks like the same haircut from the cover of Curse of the Azure Bonds, borne by a woman wearing a chainmail halter top. Interesting times.

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    3. I interpreted it as being a regrettably-classic piece of bikini-armor, but with the glare from whatever is shedding light in front of her making it hard to make out the bottom edge of the armor-bikini-top.

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    4. I played this a lot as a 13-14 year old. Never interpreted that as anything but Bikini Armor.

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    5. I thought it was a female version of the muscle cuirass:

      here

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    6. Y'all are nuts. Zoom in a little bit. It's 100% clear that she's topless. There are very obvious nipples on both sides.

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    7. Those appear to be nipple features on the armor (Maybe it is skin-tight as previously suggested). Her skin is blue, and so are the tops of her breasts. Maybe it's just artwork that wasn't well thought out?

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    8. Looks like all the reflective surfaces in the image are reflecting the glow of the magic she's conjuring. Pretty sure she's wearing a plain steel muscle cuirass and I don't think it features batnipples.

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    9. https://www.blogger.com/profile/15221297712822999741

      That's a common trope known as 80's-hair and exists everywhere in pop culture.

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EightiesHair

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    10. It looks like the female counterpart of the "muscle cuirass" which were the ancient greeks famous for

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    11. @Anonymous - I'm not sure who's nuts but I guess zooming in to a heavily pixelated low-res caricature of a female hominid just to check out if there are any anomalous protrusions on barely depicted mammaries would actually be a dangerously close contender.

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    12. Good zinger, Kenny, although the question of whether a major commercial release from 1991 featured nudity is at least worth debating.

      For what it's worth, I would agree with anonymous's interpretation if the character didn't have blue skin in the first place. Taken in isolation, the piece of armor could be seen as skin with at least one nipple on the left side. But since her skin is blue, it's clear that the top of her torso is bare and the mid-section and abs are a sculpted piece of armor.

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    13. I think it's similar to the muscle shirt worn by Bono

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    14. Standard muscle cuirass, unless you think she's got rings over the breasts going straight into the skin, which would be a weird thing to think. The real bronze muscle cuirasses had nipples and abs, just like some of the bat suits. So it's not like the nips are a gratuitous addition for the lady version.

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  12. What... no option to help the snake? ;P

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  13. A few random thoughts about the final stanza of this game:

    1. As you pointed out, you get no acknowledgement for killing Vaalgamon, and the game assumes that you didn't kill him. Boo. Lazy programming - the game manages a contingency if Krevish is dead or absent (Amantis appears and gives the same speech instead), so surely it could have managed this.
    2. Speaking of Krevish, are you kidding me? Let's look at this logically, shall we? He willingly let your party be used to kill the Banite and get dragged into the plot, pretended to be weak and foolhardy the whole time... to what end? He couldn't use his knowledge to help earlier? He used his priceless ring of wishes as a low level healing device instead of teleporting the party to the plaza or turning Vaalgamon into a radish or thwarting the Zhentarim plot to begin with? When it comes down to it, Krevish is either an utterly inept secret agent, or this is a pointless plot twist for the sake of a plot twist.
    3. The final battle is original, but probably shouldn't have made it through play testing. Having a birdseye view of the maze all the time means you never get the impression of being in a maze.
    4. Why wasn't Vaalgamon standing in front of the entrance to the plaza? "Yeah, we'll just set up over there to the right. That should be cool. I mean, when did they ever try to get an advantage by going around me? Apart from the last time?"
    5. The bit in the end sequence about "the tale of your escape would take an entire afternoon?" Come on. If it's a heroic story, let me act it out. Isn't that the point of a game? It doesn't have to end when you kill the Big Bad.
    6. One little aside: I love the fact that you actually have a consequence from picking the stupid option at the statue in Secomber. That said, why don't you have the same result if you go to Llorkh after getting all the other statuettes?

    OK, that's quite a rant. I like this game (the dungeon design is consistently solid), but I think the role playing options - unlike the other Gold Box games - are just daft. The characters don't act like actual people in a fantasy world, they act like people that do what the plot requires of them at that point.

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    1. For number 6, I meant Sundabar, not Secomber, obviously.

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    2. For item 3...did you actually play the game...without a FAQ or maps? That section always seemed the *most* maze like of any section of any GB game.

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    3. I've played all the games to death. :) To me, it's like comparing a maze area with the Area view on. It makes it too easy to navigate. Compare that to some of the claustrophobic and confusing mazes in Dark Queen of Krynn. Maybe it's the fact that I've played it so often and know it so well. I suppose it might have felt more maze like if the combats weren't a straightforward 4x2 rectangle.

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    4. I've played all the games to death. :) To me, it's like comparing a maze area with the Area view on. It makes it too easy to navigate. Compare that to some of the claustrophobic and confusing mazes in Dark Queen of Krynn. Maybe it's the fact that I've played it so often and know it so well. I suppose it might have felt more maze like if the combats weren't a straightforward 4x2 rectangle. If you had to go say up once then right twice then up again, it might have had more of a maze feel.

      I think it was a clever idea, but it didn't quite come off.

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    5. It was a complex maze, but easily solvable by just following one wall.

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  14. Hm. This was somewhat hard to follow as far as the game's story is concerned. It just didn't seem to have well done narrative elements like "rising action" and "climax". Left me pretty cold. Still seems to have been a good game. It just didn't have much to say.

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one who lost the gist of the game. Places were visited, foes were slain, but I'd have to go back to the previous posts and take notes to determine what the narrative was.

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    2. I think the story got messed up somewhere during the development process.

      1) The statuettes were created long ago and combined to be a giant monster repellent.

      2) The monsters are preventing lucrative travel from the Moonsea region to the Savage Frontier.

      3) The Zhentarim want to make the journey safe again, so they can bring an army through the desert and establish themselves in the Savage Frontier.

      4) Amanitas gives the party a ring that will reverse the monster repelling power of the statuettes and make them attract monsters.

      5) This is where the story goes awry - At the climax, three armies are descending on Ascore simultaneously, the monster attracting beacon is activated, and monsters destroy the armies.

      Where did these armies come from, and why did they all appear at the same time? An army of trolls? Since when did trolls organise? How the heck did an army of Zhentarim cross the desert when the entire plot revolved around them needing the statuettes to do precisely that? How did Amanitas know that turning the statuettes into a monster beacon would be useful? How did the monsters immediately arrive en masse to Ascore? Would't Toril benefit from a trade route between the Frontier and the Moonsea region?

      The ending was a narrative clusterf....

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    3. Further questions:

      Why did the party take the statuettes to Ascore aka exactly where Vaalgamon wanted them?

      What was Vaalgamon doing at Ascore?

      Would the undead have killed Vaalgamon anyway if the party hadn't shown up?

      If the party hadn't shown up, would the armies of orcs, trolls and Zhentarim have met at Ascore and had high tea with the mummies while planning world domination?

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    4. For anyone who wishes to attempt to answer these burning questions, the clue book (which contains the narrative structure as GB cluebooks always do) and the adventurer's Journal are at replacementdocs.

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    5. You identified more plot holes than I did, but in general your questions echo my feelings about the story.

      It's funny how the first two comments in this thread say exactly the same thing that I said in my final review. I didn't read these until after I'd written the review.

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  15. As a minor point, the game's 'love affair' with various monsters likely is an artifact of it being carried forward from heavily limited computer hardware; if you look at the files with tools like Gold Box Explorer you'll see that the game is still divided into 'disks' with numbers, as a carryover from games like Pool and Curse when this was actually meant to be played on games without hard drives! This is why you can't see character portraits outside New Phlan in Pool--they were stored on disk 3! I actually played Pool on an Apple II, and can still tell you what disks each dungeon is on--all of Valjevo Castle is on disk 5, for example. For Curse, each major part of the game has its own disk; I forget how things work with Gateway but suspect it is similar. So the 'love affair' monsters are the few ones they crammed on the 180K disk!

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  16. The Dungeonmasters Assistant does not come with a plot because it is actually a program performing its titular task, that is, assisting the Dungeon Master.

    It basically handles all the encounter/treasure tables, NPC information, monster background and all the stuff that we can download as an app for our smartphones nowadays.

    The actual approach to implementing this program is to have a few people sit down, roll up a character each (except the DM) and save it into the program, the DM then narrates to the players and let the program do the logistics of calculation and die-rolling.

    It's useful if you do not have a huge gaming table, not enough dice, pencils, character sheets and whatnots. Else, it is, at best, a novelty product.

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    1. Okay, but I think you might be thinking of the official D&D product of 1988 rather than the shareware game I was describing.

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  17. Not that it helps open it, but Stuffit was pretty much the default file compression format on Mac up until OS X or so (possibly slightly earlier than that). Certainly in the OS 7 or 8 days. So anything from that era of Mac will probably be found in .sit format.

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