Thursday, April 20, 2017

Magic Candle II: In the Dark

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. 
Exploring Drakhelm.
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.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • 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


  1. Considering your weapon skills, end game is long overdue. Or you are expected to max much more than single weapon pet person?

    1. That's a possibility. I haven't been using bows very much, for instance.

  2. Personally, I think the "flattened" character progression suits the open-world structure of the game. Otherwise you'd have either a "fake" open world (because enemy power would dictate the order in which you tackle the areas), or level-scaling (which essentially flattens the progression, while introducing much more problems than an oginally-flattened scale would have). That said, having you characters reach maximum skills by mid-game (I'm assuming you're pretty far from the end) certainly sucks.

  3. Why is it impossible to train that way, do you not get enough money or is it just too time consuming to be worthwhile?

    1. It is not impossible, it just takes a long time. And Chet is probably right, with the right combination of spells (rfcrpvnyyl gur bapr cre pbzong fcryyf va Rzranq) and mushrooms he can probably take on most of the combats.

      This point in the game was where I would lose steam because there just aren't a lot of clues to follow as to what you have to do to progress on the main quest.

    2. As Sloth says, it just takes a lot of time. You might get a 3 or 5 point increase for a session that lasts 2-5 days. That's 2-5 days when the character is out of commission, so the other characters have to find something to do that doesn't involve him.

    3. Excuse me...but what kind of language is this: "rfcrpvnyyl gur bapr cre pbzong fcryyf va Rzranq"?
      I see it sometimes but I've never understood how to read it.
      However Chet you're great! I always read your blog and I love it! Keep on playing, thanks!

    4. @Anonymous: It's encoded with ROF13.
      Some folks here have spoiler-paranoia and somebody came up with this method of compensating for the lack of a spoiler tag.
      Just Google a random decoder and paste in the gibberish.

    5. Fort the record, I appreciate the consideration and don't consider it "paranoia." If you have any suggestions for how a "spoiler tag" could be implemented on Blogger comments, I'm all ears.

    6. Ah, thanks for the clarification Chester, I didn't know you endorsed the practice.
      I picked up what was happening in the discussion for one game where it was used particularly frequently.

      If you've never encountered it as a reader, it looks pretty jarring and there's no way to determine what's happening except asking - in that discussion I mentioned people at least had the courtesy to explicitly say "here's what you have to do in ROF13", so I managed to google a converter.
      It's still fairly annoying to switch back and fro to a converter.

      As for implementing a spoiler tag, googling "spoiler tag blogspot" brings quite a few results, but since I don't have a blog on blogspot I can't test any of the proposed solutions. Maybe someone else can vouch for one?

    7. It's "ROT13". As in "rotate 13".

    8. "As for implementing a spoiler tag, googling "spoiler tag blogspot" brings quite a few results." I've checked those out. Most of them rely on either a) linking to someone else's code, with no guarantee that it won't suddenly disappear; or b) typing way more code than it would be practical to expect commenters to use. More important, the results all have to do with hiding spoilers in the BODY of a post, with no guarantee that it will work for comments. Honestly, if anyone has any specific knowledge about how to implement spoiler tags for COMMENTS in Blogger, I'd be happy to do it, but telling me to "just Google it" doesn't really help.

      It would be a good idea if commenters who use ROT13 at least mention it in the comment. They don't have to explain the whole system, but a simple "rendered in ROT13" would be enough for users like our anonymous friend to figure it out with a quick search.

    9. @Damien: Brainfart. Thank's for pointing out my stupid mistake.

      @Addict: Yeah, I ended up getting the same impression you did, but nobody specifically spelled out whether or not it'd work in comments. And as I wrote, I have no blogspot or I'd just have tested it myself.
      I agree the simplest workaround would be for people using the encryption to give a short indication.
      Alternatively or additionally, you COULD add it to the FAQ ... but I'm not sure how many people actually read it, so ... yeah. ;)

    10. I did add a line to the comment rules/instructions.

    11. Every comment thread has a reply button. While this might be a stretch, could it even be viable to include a ROT13 toggle button somewhere near the reply button?

      Could it be implemented in such a way that the naive reader wouldn't get "stuck" in ROT13 without realizing (s)he could toggle right back out of it?

      It'd be like Karate Kid: ROT on, ROT off, ... ROT on, ROT off...

    12. The big advantage of ROT13 is it is plain text so it alyways works. Using a screen reader since you are blind? Works. Getting comments via email? Works. Have no script turned on? Works. Any script system Chet put in would only with on the blog itself, and could break in future when the page of archived, or he decides to move off blogger or whatever.

      Also I think I was the one to start using it.

  4. For your teleport spell, if it is like the first game a higher magic skill will give more range (ie more squares) to the teleport

  5. If i recall right the song played depends on the instrument used and yeah, I didn't find music to be very useful although I didn't experiment with it a whole lot. Transferring characters in this series pretty much leaves you with overpowered characters that max way too fast, I generally just worked secondary weapon skills or magic when a character would max something way before end of game.

    1. Also MC3 doesn't have as many crossover characters as MC2 does from 1 so the overpowered characters isn't as prevalent although your main character will still be a beast without much room for improvement.

  6. Yeah, improvement in this game was more related to getting more money for the best armor and weapons and spellbooks, and even that petered out at the halfway point.

    1. For example, eventually I bought a copy of every spellbook for every character that could cast spells. That is really a waste, since you can keep trading books are rotating which ones they memorize, but I did it to reduce the annoying micromanaging of the characters. Lots of your effort into the game goes into making it more convenient.

  7. Am I the only one who couldn't read more than halfway through this post because all the proper nouns made my eyes glaze over? It's like they used some fantasy name generator and rerolled a few times until they got the least Earth-like words they could.

    1. Overly complicated fantasy names have always peeved me too. If anything they ruin my immersion in a story and remind me (in the worst way) that I'm reading a fantasy story.

    2. At least it's not as bad as chinese.
      All those far too similar names in games like Romance of the Three Kingdoms... ;)

    3. The names in this one have put me off a bit which is a shame because it sounds like a decent game.

  8. Sloniker... Pavone... what will they think of next?

    1. Yeah. Totally random, right? But names in the real world tend to have actual meanings attached to them and are usually descriptive of something. The name Smith usually notes that the person came from a a family that did some kind of metal work. Sloniker seems to be from the Germany/Prussia/Poland region of Europe and the best translation I can come up with means Salon, so Mr. Saloniker's family may have worked in some sort of Salon back in the day. My family name literally translates, from Italian, to Peacock. I don't know why they chose it but they did.
      I've noticed names in fantasy seem to derive from two branches of naming theory. One says you slam a bunch of consonants together and force the reader to accept them. The other says you use descriptive words or at least names derived form ones in real life even if they are from other languages. Take Luke Skywalker, real first name and a descriptive surname that gives us a hint of what the character has in store for him. Didn't Tolkien use Gaelic words and names for the elves?
      The names come out familiar enough to make the story relatable but exotic enough so they don't sound too commonplace. It's easier to immerse yourself in that kind of story. When the names are so alien they do everything they can to shout out that you're reading a story. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

    2. The names aren't completely random. Anything to do with the Eldens starts with "Z", for instance--probably an oblique reference to The Rings of Zilfin, from the same developer, in which the Elden-like race was called Zilfins.

      Almost anything involving dwarves has a "k"--Sakar, Drakhelm, Dorak, Kruga. There are prefixes, like the island of Oshcrun in the sea of Oshmar, and suffixes, like the Elven forests of Trilliad and Selderad. I'm not saying they hired David Peterson, but they at least tried more than most RPGs.

  9. I've been trying to play along in this game myself but man the bugs. In addition to running into the ship bug that our hero did I also ran into a bug where the game wouldn't save my clothes purchases - every time I reloaded my characters had their Elvenspuns swapped out for their original outfits! Also I think my halfling's armor is multiplying somehow. Ugh.

  10. The "recent comments" widget doesn't work. I know you've been trying to increase the number of comments shown, so it may be related or it's just a temporary bug.

    1. Every time someone comments on a PAGE instead of a post, the feed gets cut off, presumably because the code doesn't know how to deal with it. Once I deleted a comment on my FAQ page (a really nice one, too), the recent ones all returned.

      I haven't been trying to increase the comments shown; I've been trying to get them to work on a separate dedicated page. It seems to be working:

    2. Thanks for all the hard work -- this comment system is brilliant! (*cringe* sorry I'm the idiot who's been breaking it)

      It's especially nice because I can read back to the last time I've read comments I've seen, even when I don't catch up with your blog every day.

      Thanks again!

    3. Not an idiot at all--there was no reason you would have known not to comment on the page. When I have more time, I'll re-do it and disable commenting. It's just too bad that people can't comment on the FAQ without breaking the chain.

  11. I'm pretty sure Kruga was in the previous game. If you had him in your last party, he'd be another force to be reckoned with as well.


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