|The financially-strapped party finally gets a break.|
I started this session frankly lukewarm about the game. I don't know why. If I was in the mood for any gaming at all--particularly after the bizarre Alien Fires--I was in the mood for something more traditional. Something of the "kill orcs, get experience, buy equipment, kill stronger orcs" variety. Nonetheless, I pressed ahead.
At the end of the last session, I had begun to explore the dungeon beneath Castle Oshcrun and I had cleared the first room. The Magic Candle games use an approach to dungeons similar to Ultima IV and V: somewhat bland corridors (top-down in The Magic Candle; first-person in Ultima) punctuated by rooms. The party moves together in the corridors, but characters can move individually in the rooms. Rooms usually have combats, sometimes chests, and often tell some little vignette with their arrangements.
Very soon, I ran into a wall of light that I needed "Pierce" to dispel. I checked my characters and found that none of them had it memorized, although Rimfiztrik had other spells from that book in his memory. Assuming this meant that he had the spellbook, I returned to the castle to sleep and memorize it. It was at this point that I realized that although Rimfiztrik had spells from 3 books memorized, he actually only possessed one spellbook. Gia, moreover, came with a bunch of memorized spells despite having no books at all. This was confusing for a while.
|Later, when she had the spell, Gia was able to cast her way through the lights.|
I gave up on dungeon exploration for the time being and decided to explore the island of Oshcrun instead. I started by returning to Telermain and talking with the NPCs who required 6 charm (Subia's level). I didn't learn much. A warrior in the weapons store advised me to hunt for food so I could sell it. A wizard in the wizard's lodge said that a new kind of mushroom called Turpin (it casts the next spell at maximum potency) grows in Gurtex. A resident named Bol Tannier recommended that I visit Min, buy a bunch of elvenspun outfits, and sell them in Gurtex. A gambler in the gambling hall just complained about losing. There were a few NPCs who required 7 or 8 charm and I still couldn't talk to them.
Preparing to explore the outdoors, I bought as much food and as many Sermin mushrooms as I could afford. Sermins restore stamina to 99, which is vital because it depletes very quickly as you walk outdoors: 2 to 4 stamina points per step, depending on terrain. (In town, by contrast, it depletes 3 every 10-12 steps.) Although there's no time limit in the game, frequent camping and resting is annoying, so it's much easier to have the entire party chew on a Sermin and get a drug-fueled boost.
|Subia offers a boost to morale.|
I also bought a musical instrument for Subia, who has the highest music skill. Some music supposedly has magical effects, but Subia only knows "The Happy Traveler" and "Long Live the King." Using the instrument causes each tune to play briefly but seems to have no particular effect. Later, I learned about a couple of other songs that do have effects.
The economy is already tight. I have nowhere near the optimal number of mushrooms, food, blankets, potions, and items for the teleportal chambers.
|These expensive items are going to be important later.|
Off we went to the rest of the island. Chewing Sermins every few minutes, I explored the island in a counter-clockwise manner. I found a garden of Gonshi mushrooms (which increase the number of actions in combat) near the northern tip. I picked a lot but remembered to leave some so the patch could grow back.
|I think we should get off the road.|
A temple to the god Marior was in the northwest corner, and reading the altar revealed his secret word as RANALAMMA.
|I'm pretty sure this is a lyric in "Who Put the Bomp?"|
There were no combats on the island, which I guess makes sense, given that the island was supposedly pacified by Rebnard's forces. I thus finished my explorations in the halfling village of Ketrop, which had an inn, a food store, a couple of trainers, and a number of NPCs.
|Exploring Ketrop. Tonton was the halfling who taught charisma in the last game.|
I found a lockpicking teacher and decided to train Gia, since she's broken every pick she's tried to use so far. Normally, when you want to train someone, you have the lead character talk to him or her and "assign" the NPC to stay at the location and train while the party moves on. But Gia can't talk to herself, so I couldn't find any way to get the rest of the party out of there during her session. I ended up having everyone wait for 2 days straight. At the end of the period, nothing happened, I got no message, and Gia's lockpicking ability hadn't improved. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but I decided to save more training for later.
A halfling named Faranim sold the Sabano and Demaro spellbooks. Demaro is what I needed for "Pierce." He also recommended that I sail to the adjacent island of Ziyx to talk about his new spellbook. Anyway, he wanted 1,800 coins for Demaro, which I didn't have.
|Sure, I'd like to.|
On a lark, I asked a halfling named Perin to join me. He came with 9 charm and 65/75 in metalsmithing. I decided to take him back to Telermain, talk to the rest of the NPCs, and then put him to work in the metal shop, earning a wage that I could later pilfer.
|The betrayed Perin looked at the rest of the party with sad eyes. He had wanted to be an adventurer. He had thought we had seen the potential in him. Sighing, he picked up a hammer and went to work.|
Among the final NPCs, Truk in the castle told me the teleportal combination for Oshcrun. A waitress named Misha in the Eastern Breeze tavern suggested I seek out her sister, Sheria, if I want to learn the song "Urg's Dream." Sheria went off looking for her father at the suggestion of the town beggar, Sefil. Sefil, in the meantime, had nothing to say in response to related keywords, so I'll just have to wait until I find her in the course of travel. I also heard about a song named "Mage's Joy" from one of the halflings; it supposedly charms slimes.
|Who knew slimes had ears?|
When I was done with the NPCs, I put Perin to work pounding metal at 65 gold pieces a day and tried to figure out what to do raise the money for a Demaro spellbook. I soon discovered two things. First, several of my party members had come with gems in their possession, and gems sell for quite a bit of money. Second, the "wizard's lodge" in Telermain allows spellcasters to "rent" spellbooks that they don't own and memorize the associated spells. I could have rented Demaro, but the gem sales were enough to get me what I needed back in Ketrop, so I schlepped back there and got the book. I gave it to Gia since the book contains primarily exploration spells that you cast outside of combat.
After memorizing a few instances of "Pierce," the party returned to the dungeon and continued its explorations. It was reasonably large but not so large I had to map it. A few places required my party to cast "Walkwater" to get past small puddles (which is ironic--see below), but that was in my new Demaro spellbook, and in any event I found a couple of fountains that gave me far more versions of the spell than I needed.
|This was convenient timing.|
I found the dungeon a lot of fun and more interesting than the dungeons in the previous game, although I'm probably mis-remembering that they were very different. I'll save combat for a later post when I have more experience, but I love that you can move, attack, and cast on the diagonal here. There are more pre-combat options, such as the ability to greet the monsters (and perhaps avoid combat) or rally your own troops with your "leadership" skill.
|These orcs just didn't want a fight.|
Combats overall weren't too hard. I had to resurrect Rimfiztrik once, but generally speaking I got through them with basic tactics, mushrooms, and a few "Heal" spells afterwards.
Ambushes are about as annoying as I remember, with the enemy parties getting a free round of attacks, although sometimes a party member senses them. Gonshi mushrooms are cheap enough that I started keeping a set active just in case, something I'll be able to do with Nifts (resist the next 3 physical attacks), Mirgets (increase strength), and Luffins (ensure accuracy) when I'm better funded. More on the mushroom economy later.
|The party practices caution.|
I found a sign that told the location of buried treasure later in the dungeon, which was fun. (The coordinates really help.) I also found the dungeon's teleportal chamber, where combinations of pyramids, spheres, and cubes will take me to other parts of the continent, once I learn the combinations.
|Fortunately, I already know the one that gets me back here.|
Halfway through, I ran across Sakar, the dwarf warrior who stayed with my party all the way through the first game. I invited him to join us. He came with an excellent 87/99 axe skill. My party is actually pretty well-balanced with this addition, with three spellcasters and three non-spellcasters, although two of my spellcasters, Gia and Eneri, are also the strongest fighters. Buzbazgut and Subia are the weakest links, and I might ultimately replace either of them with a second pure spellcaster. For now, they both have roleplaying purposes.
|"Weren't you a man last time?"|
Towards the end of the dungeon, we found the crypt of the god Marior, woke him up with the holy word obtained from his temple, and got a nice boost in statistics, mostly of the martial variety.
|A sleeping god bestows boons.|
After quite a few combats and rooms with gold and jewels, I came upon a locked door that promised to lead to a dungeon called "Deraum," but I couldn't get past the door so I made my way back up to Oschrun.
|I'm sure I'll find a key eventually.|
- Sometimes, it's really hard for colorblind me to find the NPC in the room.
|She blends in with the chair!|
- When your unwieldy party accidentally walks into something, or if you hit the wrong key for a menu command, the game punishes you with a shrill three-note error tone. It's enough to make you want to turn the sound off.
- Dialogue notes stay in the notepad even if you reload the game. To save Sermins, you could run around talking to every NPC in an area, then reload and rely on the text in the notepad. I didn't do that, but you could.
- A halfling in Ketrop taught the "tailor" skill. I'm wondering if there's any use for this skill other than to work as a tailor. I don't believe the first game had training options for purely vocational skills, although I could be wrong.
- Despite having to cast "Walkwater" in dungeons, apparently I can swim into the middle of the ocean with no issues, avoiding even having to charter a boat. Is this a bug?
|A little over our heads.|
- Fortunately, the game doesn't allow you to accidentally attack party members, or poor Buzbazgut would be dead. I kept mistaking him for enemy orcs.
- I'm not sure how the skill development system works. My weapons skills routinely increase during combat, but my "lockpicking" skill has never increased from opening a chest, nor my "trader" skill from buying and selling.
|Gia's sword skill, already high, increases as she lands a blow.|
- At the end of every combat, the game asks who wants to search for loot. I'm not sure if it matters who I choose--if some statistic is influencing the amount of treasure I find.
- NPCs are chatty during dungeon exploration, warning of potential dangers.
|Not likely, but I appreciate the warning.|
As I close this session, I'm preparing to sell my gems and get much better stocked with equipment and mushrooms, then see about heading to my next port of call. Soon, because of Subia's quest, I want to make my way to the Demonspine Mountains and see about the rumored elven village.
I end this session at 2:00 AM and I don't want to stop playing. That was a nice turnabout in my attitude.