|The party takes on a weird formation to get at this treasure chest.|
Lots of gameplay since the last session, mostly not amounting to much. I've almost entirely lost any thread of clues or connection to the plot, and instead I've just been exploring Gurtex somewhat systematically, looking for villages, dungeons, and clues as I come across them. I return to my home base in Telermain when I need to stock up.
In any game that features periodic returns to town, a player develops a comfortable routine. Mine is:
- Leave my mage to memorize spells in the wizard's lodge
- Get Perin back into the party long enough to take his cash
|Stealing a halfling's hard-earned wages.|
- Sell gems and extra weapons
- Buy needed mushrooms, food, and lockpicks
- Rest for a night to repair items and get everyone healed and at full energy
- Hit the road
When I last wrote, some plot developments had occurred, in particular the ransacking of Rebnard's throne room by the demon lord Zakhad and the kidnapping of Prince Jemil by the Elden Zidoni. I guess Zidoni is the Elden that escaped after all four were captured. Rebnard told me to ask Ziyx or Bhardagast about the prophecy, but neither of them had anything to offer on that keyword. Ziyx did have some comments on the white scroll I'd retrieved from the ghost, and he recommended I research CANDLE OF DESPAIR in the Telermain library.
When I did that, I didn't get any kind of informational article, but the game said I'd scribbled some things on the scroll. I guess that will have to be good enough.
|Okay, but what did the research say?|
At this point, the only clue I still had was to find the Elden stronghold at Wanasol and research the Orb of Light. Wanasol being about 2/3 of the way across Gurtex, I girded myself for a long expedition. I never actually made it, but I did stop at a lot of places along the way, starting with a return visit to Llendora, where I bought the "Vannex" spellbook.
I found a few Elden strongholds during my expedition. I thought they'd be full dungeons or villages or something, but they're just one-room houses, suitable for camping. I presume the one in Wanasol is going to be different, since it must have a library.
|The party finds a safe place to rest.|
Wrapping around a mountain range south of Llendora, I discovered an orc town called Glusaga. The game told me that I'd need to be disguised to enter, and fortunately the "Vannex" spellbook came with one called "Disguise." With my party looking like beasts, I entered the town expecting to find some kind of monster-infested hell-hole, and I was surprised to find a regular town with a weapon store, gem seller, gambling hall, and food store, plus lots of polite and friendly NPCs. Maybe this whole war is a misunderstanding.
|Preparing to enter the orc town.|
The orcs were all talking about the dwarves in Drakhelm, planning an upcoming invasion. They told me the location of the city and the password needed to enter. One of the orcs mentioned having buried a magic stone in a room in Shann, so I'll have to go back there if I want it.
|Orcs are fond of using "narfing" as a swear.|
The next town was a human port on the north coast, called Port Ussa. It had a selection of shops and a lot of NPC sailors. I had a longstanding note to visit Ahmed in this town and mention his brother Sefil, the beggar in Telermain. Ahmed gave me some clues on various cities and suggested that if I ever get to the mines of Dorak, I can deal with the monster Vankruh by just sheathing my weapons and talking to him politely (did the Fellowship even try that with the balrog?). Dorak is supposed to be in the Demonspine mountains, which I'd already passed. Other NPCs told me about barbarian tribes that roam the northern tundra and move their village with the seasons.
|I'm not sure how this human town is surviving on the Gurtex mainland.|
A guy in Ussa named Naendix was selling all the game's spellbooks, including "Emenad," which Ziyx told me he wouldn't finish until October. I really needed "Ishban," which has the "Heal" spell, so I bought it. I didn't realize until this session that spellbooks are physical objects that can be traded between characters. I thought they were more like skills, bestowed upon the character.
Eventually, I made my way to Drakhelm, used the password, and entered. It was an interesting combination between dungeon and town, with various NPCs and services on the upper level followed by three large, complex levels full of teleporters.
On the top level, I found Eflun, the mage who had been my companion in the first game. I started to swap him for Subia, but then I realized without Subia, I'd have no one with a "Charm" ability above 4 and no one with musical skills. Subia's also been coming along with her swordplay, too. Instead, I compared Eflun's stats with Rimfiztrik's and ol' Fiz definitely ended up wanting. I had Fiz transfer his goods to Eflun and sent him back to Oshcrun.
I bought Methreal armor for my characters who didn't already have it (or better) and collected a variety of notes from NPCs, including the magic words needed to get into Dorak. A number of NPCs recommended that I take a dwarf named Kruga into my party, but for whatever reason I didn't.
|Instructions for getting to Dorak.|
The three levels below the town took a lot of mapping effort, but in terms of monsters, it was easier than Shann. I didn't have to load up on mushrooms before every room, which is good since there were a lot of rooms--at least 50, I'd guess. They were full of chests with mushrooms, gems, and coins, or fountains with a variety of spells.
|A room with only four enemies.|
Several of the corridors required me to change party formations to get into tight areas. In one such area, after I'd cast "Repel" on a dozen spiders, I found a magic axe called Orcbane that I gave to Sakar.
After what seemed like forever navigating teleporters and chutes, I found a room with another ghost. After I cast "Soulspeak," he identified himself as Phokos, another of the guardians of the Magic Candle. He was a bit mad, having tortured himself for a decade for running and hiding while his companions were slaughtered (they eventually got him, too, of course). He clarified the makeup of the 44 guardians even further: they consisted of 4 Eldens, the "Wardens Eight," the "Wizards Twelve," and the "Warriors Twenty." With these couple of ghosts, I've mostly solved the mystery of what happened with the four-and-forty: they were attacked by forces from Gurtex, who killed everyone except the four Eldens. I don't suppose that's enough for a "win."
|This is getting to be a pattern.|
Casting "Restsoul" on the ghost put him at peace and revealed a pink scroll titled "The Candle of Anguish." Although Gia recommended we take it to Ziyx, he had nothing to say about it, and the library in Telermain didn't have it among their topics. Neither did the library at the castle.
When I was done with Drakhelm, I made my way back to Oshcrun via its teleportal chamber and went through my regular routine. (Teleportal chambers are found in every dungeon. NPCs give you the combinations of pyramids, spheres, and cubes that you need to get to various destinations.) The good news is that my financial woes seem to be over. Between the gems, coins, and extra weapons found in Drakhelm, I have well over 10,000 gold pieces.
|Gia takes the fast way home.|
- I've learned several new songs, but every time I ask Subia to play something, she just plays "The Happy Traveler." I assume this is because her skill isn't very high (25/75). I'm beginning to suspect the whole music system is a waste of time anyway.
|A lot of good this did me.|
- Instead of wasting my entire party's stock of energy crossing rivers, I learned to use the "Teleport" spell for that purpose.
|The "Teleport" spell allows you to move 2 squares in any direction.|
- I've found a few "fireglobes," so I experimented with them. They act like landmines, doing severe damage to enemies who walk over them. But they're only useful against enemies who attack you with melee weapons, which is a minority of the foes in the game. I'll probably just sell them in the future.
|Some trolls and zorlims fall victim to my fireglobes.|
- During my travels, I found a temple where the goddess Balene was sleeping, but I didn't have the magic words to wake her up.
- Weapons and armor can get damaged in combat, but repairing everything takes only about an hour in camp. It's more of an annoyance than a challenge.
If I have one complaint about the game, it's in the paucity of character development. The series has no "experience" or "levels," so the only reason to fight monsters--particularly wandering or random ones--is the slight increase you occasionally get in weapons skills or magic. Already, most of my characters are at or near the top of their ranges for their weapons. Gia is maxed at 99/99 for "Sword"; Eneri is at 94/99. Sakar is maxed at 99/99 in "Axe," Buzbazgut at 56/75 in "Sword"; Eflun at 40/40 in "Sword." Only Subia has a long way to go at 64/99 with the weapon.
|Subia is incrementally improving her weapon skills, but she's probably as good as she's going to get with everything else.|
Most skills don't increase with use; you have to pay someone to train them. This happens very slowly. I tried teaching Eneri in magic and Subia in music, and both times they only went up 3 points after paying around 200 gold pieces and taking a couple of days to train. Doing that with all of your skills, to any sort of proficiency, is just impossible.
This means that characters don't really get notably stronger as the game progresses. Even a character with 50/99 in a weapon hits hard and accurately enough to win most combats. Using mushrooms increases your power far more than the game's skill-based leveling. I suspect my characters could take on the endgame right now if they just knew where to go and had the right items.
In any event, it's time to get back into the fray. We'll see if I can make it to Wanasol next time.
Time so far: 22 hours