Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Might and Magic III: Mowing and Myconids

Another "what kind of adventurer says 'no' to this?" hall of fame entry.
       
Few other games, even in the modern age, capture the joy of exploration as well as the Might and Magic series. From the first game forward, its maps are packed with messages, side-quests, encounters, and treasures. Every row or column is practically guaranteed to have something.

It amazes me how many games think that these special encounters aren't important--that players are perfectly happy to map 20 x 20 mazes with nothing but random combats. The early PLATO games are guilty of this, as are 1980s additions like Maze Master and The Standing Stones. I wish more games had taken lessons from Might and Magic: you can never offer too many things to annotate.

The tradition goes back to Wizardry, of course. On the first level of the first game, I marked six special encounters including a wizard who waved his hand and banished the party back to town, an altar of a hooded man that delivered repeat combats with Murphy's Ghosts, a sign that read "Area out of bounds!," and a couple of statues that produced keys. In an early Bard's Tale dungeon map, I recorded seven special encounters, including the mysterious "IRKM DESMET DAEM" message. Neither of these games was bad.
    
One of several dungeons in the opening two maps.
     
But they couldn't hold a candle to the first Might and Magic title, which had 13 special encounters on the first map, not including the shops. Random maps in the wilderness routinely served up 10 or more. In the first dungeon (Doom) on map A1, I got all the way to the letter Q in my annotations of messages, statues, and other encounters, and that didn't even include the level's many teleporters. This is a series designed to ensure that there's always something around the corner.

The encounters, granted, are not always sensible. It requires a certain suspension of disbelief to justify copious buried treasure, fountains that boost attributes, secrets scrawled openly on walls, and talking Moai heads that somehow teach you skills. On the other hand, realism is stretched perhaps less in Might and Magic than in other games, since almost every world in this series turns out to be an artificial construct of the Ancients, designed to put its inhabitants through various tests. When a universe is designed specifically to highlight Clarke's third law, you can hand-wave a lot of goofiness.
      
Your mouth doesn't even look like it would hold 5 gems.
     
In this session, I fully explored (except for some water squares) the exteriors of Areas A1 and B1 in the game world. On the map of the Isles of Terra, the largest grouping of islands (where the party starts) occupies Columns A and B, all the way down all four rows. (The overall world map has six columns and four rows, for 24 maps of 16 x 16 tiles.) To do this, I had to have two characters trained in the "Pathfinding" skill to walk through squares of dense forest and two characters with "Mountaineering" to walk across mountains. Much like Ultima VI, "mountains" are tiny little things in this game and give no sense of actually crossing mountains.

I keep forgetting that "Corak's Notes" are a thing. It wasn't until after I cleared the two areas that I remembered to check what he had to say. He warned about the orcs and goblins attacking travelers in A1 and suggested visiting the heads of granite in A2. I'll try to remember to check the notes as I arrive at each new map and reference them as I clear it.
     
Little did the developers know how funny this would turn out to...what's that? The TV show came out before the game? In 1989? 28 years ago?! Oh, God, I've wasted my whole life.
       
"Pathfinding" was easy--one of my characters already had it, and I got the second one when I enlisted the NPC Allan Bow in Fountain Head. I didn't know where to go for "Mountaineering," but I figured the game wouldn't let me stray too far from the opening maps (which had plenty of mountains) before giving me an opportunity to purchase it. I headed down the main road out of Fountain Head until I came across another town--Baywatch--in map A3. The town was full of tough undead, and I was there a bit prematurely, but sure enough I found a desk at which the "Mountaineering" skill was taught.
      
Most enemies seem to respond well to "Toxic Cloud"--my only mass-damage spell so far.
      
I bought "Swimming" for every character during the last session. This allows me to stray one square from land. To explore the open ocean, I have to wait for some higher-level spells like "Water Walk." It occurs to me that even if you had such a spell, it would be pretty difficult to walk across an ocean. You might not sink, but you'd still be heaved up and down by the waves. Water-walking in a storm would be like strolling through an 8.0 earthquake.
      
My party is perfectly capable of swimming across this serene pond.
      
It took almost all my gold to train two characters in it--so much that I couldn't pay my two NPCs and they ditched me. But it wasn't long before my fortunes had reversed and I was able to enlist the NPCs in Fountain Head again. From there, I began a more systematic journey through the opening maps. I started in Row 3 or 4 (ocean occupies earlier rows) and walked in east-west strips across both columns A and B, working my way south.

As with Might and Magic II and Tunnels & Trolls, the very nature of a tiled overworld encourages this kind of "lawnmowing." I agree that it seems a bit artificial, but there isn't really an alternative. You could try to explore more organically--heading in directions with marked paths or in which you see distant objects--or perhaps randomly, but either way you're just fooling yourself since you know you have to step on every square eventually. Particularly in this game, where there are no random encounters, there's no benefit to wasting time. You might as well do it systematically.
     
Mowing my way across the terrain.
    
True to the traditions of the series, I rarely reached the end of a row without hitting some kind of special encounter. These included:
       
  • Buried treasure in random squares, which may include gold, gems, items, or all three. 
                 
A nice haul of treasure in the wilderness.
               
  • A pool that did serious damage to any character who drank from it, but which delivered several valuable items.
  • Various fountains that temporarily increased my attributes, resistances, levels, hit points, and armor class. 
                
Aw, man. Highlander II sucked.
            
  • A golden scale that invited me to put $5,000 in one of the cups in exchange for the "Merchant" skill.
             
How long is it going to take the new master merchant to make this back?
             
  • A wagon where a peddler sold temporary "Might" potions.
  • A gypsy wagon where a fortuneteller foretold a different destiny for each character class.
              
At least it isn't the Hand. I'm thoroughly sick of those guys.
          
  • Various "spawn points" that, when destroyed, end the menace of particular monster types.
              
Getting rid of the fungi for good.
      
Monsters included orcs, goblins, giant insects called "oh no bugs," and wild fungi that do a mass-damage electrical attack, because that makes sense.

There were three dungeons among the two areas: Cyclops Caverns, the Ancient Temple of Moo, and the Slithercult Stronghold. I didn't make it very far in any of them. I was turned back by a combination of very difficult monsters, traps that I couldn't avoid even when I could see them right in front of me, and secret doors that my characters were too weak to bash down. Commenters have mentioned that there are spells to avoid those traps. Once I get to Baywatch again in my natural progression, I'll take the time to thoroughly explore the options in both guilds.
      
This battle against some interesting enemies was more difficult than even my fountain-enhanced characters could handle.
      
I figure I'll return to these dungeons after I've completed a couple more overworld maps, have a few more levels under my belt, and can identify an optimal path through the buffing fountains.
    
I guess I'll have to come back for it.
    
Other than demanding a couple hundred gold pieces per day, NPCs don't act any different than PCs. You can freely swap equipment, gold, and gems, decide what they'll equip, and supervise their training. Because of this, I'm having a little bit of angst about whether to treat NPCs as full party members. Should I let them drink from barrels that provide one-time statistics upgrades? Should I pay for skills for them? I suppose it comes down to how sure I am that I'll keep the same NPCs throughout the game. I don't know. Allan Bow (archer) and Fineous (druid) complement my party well because I otherwise don't have those classes. Then again, I don't have a barbarian or robber, either. How much should I invest in NPCs that I may later drop?

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Last entry, I suggested that the ranger has only cleric spells. It turns out that, like the druid, he has the "nature" spellbook. I don't remember this from previous games, and I don't know how long it lasts. I know it's gone by Might & Magic VI, where druids are just mage-cleric hybrids.
  • I also praised the controls extensively last time. I do have one complaint: the keys that turn the party right and left seem overly sensitive. I often accidentally turn twice.
  • Positive conditions, such as those conferred by fountains, disappear every morning when the sun comes up. If you want to make fountain bonuses a major part of adventuring, you have to hit them early in the morning so you keep their benefits all day and night. Each step elapses 10 game minutes.
  • The fountains, frankly, strike me as a bit overpowered, but perhaps that's just because it's the beginning of the game. 
  • Some rings and necklaces, made of cheaper metals with no enchantments, actually make your armor class worse.
  • Some of the discussion in my first entry revolved around the annoyance of having items break. You have to get them repaired at shops. It seems to me that there's a higher chance of such breakage when the character goes unconscious.
  • Arrows can be shot through every type of terrain except buildings and mountains.
       
Wasting time and arrows on some fungi on the other side of the mountain range.
       
At the end of this session, I had a ton of unidentified equipment, so I brought myself back to the shop in Fountain Head. Although I still praise the ease of the interface when buying, selling, and trading equipment, I still have problems coming up with a good system for quickly arbitrating multiple items, assigning them, and selling the remainder.

There are three major considerations with equipment: type, material, and enchantment. Type (long sword, short sword, wakazashi) is probably the least important of the three when it comes to the power of the item, but it is what determines who can use it. Material has fairly significant effects on the damage of weapons and AC value of armor. The item's enchantment might further affect those values or they might affect entirely unrelated statistics. My "Fast Long Sword," for instance adds 5 points to the wielder's "Speed" attribute.
     
My paladin and his growing inventory.
    
Items can have multiple enchantments. My cleric is wearing a "poisonous ebony charisma chain mail." The ebony chain mail part delivers a +10 AC bonus. The "poisonous" part adds 20 to acid and poison resistance, and the "charisma" part adds 12 to personality. A "mugger leather armor of fists," worn by my ninja, has a +3 AC bonus, adds 4 to the "Thievery" skill, and casts the "Flying Fist" spell.

You can pay to get the specific statistics associated with any item, but doing this for every item would drain gold awfully fast. For the most part, I've been using the item's sale value to get a rough sense of its utility. I might get back from an expedition and find I have 7 suits of plate, chain, and scale mail and only 4 characters who could equip them. If there's a clear natural break in value among the 7 suits, I'll probably sell the lowest 3 and distribute the rest according to need.
       
Statistics for my "fast long sword," which can be wielded by a knight, paladin, archer, robber, or ranger.
      
I really do my best to achieve balance. When deciding who gets a new "Warrior Ring," which increases Might by 5, I scan everyone's might and give it to the lowest character. A new "Lapis Belt" (+2 AC) goes to the character with the lowest armor class unless he already has a better belt.

Even though it takes a long time, and I sometimes screw up and find out hours later that one of my characters has no primary weapon, I still find these types of logistics extremely satisfying, and it does make a tangible difference when you next head out.

It's been nice to play this one in a leisurely way, but I'll probably pick up the pace and cover more territory for the next entry.

Time so far: 7 hours
Reload count: 5

77 comments:

  1. The mage is wearing chain mail? I didn't think that was possible. Besides, the Personality boost would be more useful for someone who uses the Cleric spellbook.

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    1. No. Rookie mistake. It was the cleric.

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  2. I was torn over the hirelings in my play through as well, I ended up ditching them because I was having money issues more than combat issues. Of course, once I did that I started suffering for inventory space!

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    1. I never used hierlings myself - as someone says, their level is tied to their fee, so it gets way too expensive, and later on you need an awful lot of money just to train your own chars.

      Hirelings in inns make wonderful "Inventory stashes" however.

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    2. I liked having hirelings, but just left them at a slightly lower level than the characters. You're not obligated to level them up, and staying 5-10 levels back keeps them relatively cheap for your level, while still giving you the storage space and utility spells.

      Counter to Georges' suggestion, I hated that you lose a whole day every time you enter an inn, and avoided them at all costs.

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    3. Quirkz is right about time loss, you need to be careful. But having the option to stash away some specific quest items is really useful if you want to control how many exactly you give away.

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    4. I advice against hirelings, they only cost money and won't bring too much.
      You could even argue that a 3rd melee is too much, since the first 2 should get all increases to might. I usually had a thief as 3rd front guy and specialized him in ranged combat. The 3rd spellcaster will suffer a similar problem, but is still useful for buffing and curing stuff.

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    5. In my run, the cost of hirelings has been so trivial I don't even notice it.

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  3. About hirelings: Personally I didn´t use them, because I didn´t need them. Memebers of my party were usually capable to handle things theirselves.

    ABout balance: Be little careful about this. With items it is ok, but when it comes to barrels, it is a different matter. For example it´s very good to have in party somebody with very high Might (the best one for this is the first or second character in party, because it influences for example if your party is able to open something or not) than to have all members of party with average Might.
    Also I think Might affects the amount of damage, so it is very good, if very strong is somebody, who has many attacks.

    About items: the same word means always the same thing, so it is enough to identify one item and after you will know, how it is. If you will keep some notes :-) And also it usually makes sense, because you feel how precious is the material.
    So for example diamond is more precious than gold, so "pure" diamond longsword is always better than "pure" golden longsword. But platinum shortsword could be worse than golden longsword (maybe, depends on the statistic of shortsword and longsword, which I don´t know now). And another thing it is when weapon has some bonus elemental damage.
    It could seem confusing in the beginning but in time you will somehow start to "feel", what is better, and you will identify just something, what you see first time or where you have some question.
    Broken items: yes, often when character goes insconsious, he has broken items. Some enemies can break your items like part of their attack, but there is not many of them and you will start to know them.
    From the "splatter of blood" you are able to see how much your attacks are effective, so if from round to another will be big difference, you have probably broken weapon.
    And also some traps can break your items, just I am not 100% sure if it is just when you go unsconcious (I tend to think it is like this) or also some traps can damage it without making character unsconsicous.
    In short: If I remember well, there is no chance to have broken items in normal play, it can happen only if:
    1) your character goes unsconcious or dead
    2) if you fight certain monsters

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  4. I seem to recall Moo being a rather lenient starter dungeon.

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  5. In MM2 at least, the gold per day cost for a hireling depended only on level (and nonlinearly on level). *IF* the same is true in MM3, then really leveling up is the only thing you may want to think twice about if every party member can do it. For consumables though, such as barrels, I almost never give them to a hireling until late in the game when I have a reasonable expectation I can afford them for the rest of the game and want to keep them. Hirelings also get hand-me-downs until I have that assurance as well.

    I do not know if MM3 does the same, but I think MM3 does.

    Also, fountains may seem OP early, but then again you also said areas not yet explored were difficult (Baywatch, dungeons). I think MM3 expects you to use some fountains to progress, directly rewarding and almost requiring you take advantage of the game's main strengths you highlight: exploration and discovery.

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  6. Just a few quick tips before you play heimdall:

    -If you pickup an item and inventory is full, it will be discarded even if it's a quest item. You can be stuck because of this, so always leave at least one slot open.

    - The early mini games aren't mandatory, but if you play them and succedd, you'll have a bigger pool of characters to choose from.

    I wrote about the game in my blog:

    http://amigamemoirs.blogspot.com/2014/03/chapter-x-heimdall.html

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    1. I've actually already finished it. I noticed that the inventory thing only happens with items post-combat. Chests and items on the ground give you a chance to try again after you clear a space. (I played the DOS version, so things might have been different on the Amiga.) Not that it makes things any less unforgivable.

      When I started reading your blog entry, I thought, "Oh, man, are we going to have some diverging opinions about this game." But it sounds like the rose-colored glasses came off pretty fast.

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    2. Playing the DOS version means you didn't get to hear the kickass intro music. But judging by your posts i guess you don't care much about games music generally.

      And yes, my blog's only function is to destroy my childhood:). Barely any of the covered games hold up today.

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    3. You won't lose if a quest item disappears because every "unique" quest item is in the base inventory of one mercenary somewhere.

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  7. One frustrating thing I remember from playing 4+5 was that I reached the middle stage of the game where I could mow several outdoor areas at once without needing to rest. The problem was that all my character's inventories quickly filled up and if there was a warning it wasn't obvious enough for me to notice.

    Eventually I figured out what was going on and realized that dozens of useful or sellable items had been auto-discarded. It was discouraging enough to make me quit that playthrough.

    (Funny that RuySan just made a similar warning about Heimdall.)

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    1. Since i recently started to play this game along with the blog I can assure you that you get a popup warning when inventory is full

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    2. Huh, either they removed it for 4+5 or I was in such a zone I needed flashing lights and a siren to get my attention.

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    3. It´s a while since my last xeen playthrough so I don´t remember how they solved it or not there

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    4. You do get the alert, but it appears as an item is being lost, so it's not ideal. I always kept 1 empty slot on the second-to-last character, and 1 empty on the last character, so if I ever saw them finding an item I knew it was time to run home.

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  8. Some things, the second 2 ROT13'd because I think they may be spoilers.

    1) Druids kind of suck in the game - they've got access to a lot of low-mid tier utility, but little on the high end. Rangers are actually pretty good, since they're better than Archers in combat (almost as good as Paladins) and maintain access to the Nature spell list.

    2) Qba'g obgure jvgu uveryvatf hayrff lbh arrq gurz sbe n fcrpvsvp rapbhagre, be jnag gb fgrny vgrzf sebz gurz. Lbh unir orggre guvatf gb jvgu zbarl, yvxr cnl sbe yngr tnzr yriryf.

    3) V *uvtuyl* erpbzzraq lbh nvz fb gung bar punenpgre unf n yhqvpebhf yriry sbe rirel fgng - yvxr lbhe Fbep jvgu Vag, naq lbhe Pyrevp jvgu Crefbanyvgl. Yvxr tvir gurz 2/3 bs gur fgng obbfgf. V guvax lbh arrq ng yrnfg 50f, znlor uvture.

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  9. Another "what kind of adventurer says 'no' to this?" hall of fame entry.

    In game with permadeath if I know it cpuld be a landmine? Me :)

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  10. The way attributes are tied to stats, you're really better off specializing, except for stuff like Endurance and Speed which help everyone. Balancing AC and HP is essential though, as there's no front/back ranks, and so many mass-damage spells and traps.

    One question - I started a replay for fun (not sure if I'll get it to the end), and in my version (from GOG) I don't have the color-coding of the barrels. It just says green ooze in green text. I think colors were introduced in MM4/5. Is there a different update of the game whre they back-ported that?

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    1. Other than Personality and Intellect for casters, everyone needs everything.

      There's also diminishing returns. You get more benefit taking a stat from 10 to 20 than you get for going from 50 to 100. So the overall efficient use of stats is to boost everyone fairly evenly.

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    2. Georges, I want to say that the liquid was color-coded in just a couple of places in the Fountain Head dungeon, and I haven't otherwise encountered it since then.

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  11. Yeah the fountain buffs are overpowered, but the game seems designed for you to abuse them. It's a bit annoying.

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    1. Its mostly that one level-up fountain which utterly breaks the first half of the game though. I think its more fun to try and simply not use these boosting fountains at all - if you want the game to pose a semblance of a challenge, that is. Using them will speed up progress significantly though.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Inventory space was one of the biggest issues with the SNES port. Being stuck with only six characters, a per character limit of 14 items, and certain quest items that couldn't be traded at all made it annoying. By late game none of my characters had a full suit of armor.

      PS, the lack of an edit button here is also annoying.

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    2. Wow, the SNES version caps inventories at 14? PC lets you have 20 items per character.

      I can definitely see how that would get annoying.

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    3. Whenever anyone chimes in with how things are on the "SNES version," my mind mentally replaces that with "toy version." I know--it's a prejudice that I need to shake, but it's hard when what follows is usually some silly limitation or story about vastly-restricted content.

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    4. I don't think there were any "great" NES SNES ports. There were passable and terrible ports. I'm looking at you ultima V and VII.

      Now, native SNES RPGs are a whole different story.

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    5. I do double dog dare you to play 30 minutes of the SNES Ultima VII, when you get to it in 2020.

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    6. Yeah, no. Though you can beat it 2-3 hours first time in.

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  13. "How long is it going to take the new master merchant to make this back?"

    About 45 seconds, depending on your luck with item drops.

    In case it wasn't clear what the skill does, vg unyirf ohlvat cevpr naq qbhoyrf fryyvat cevpr, juvpu abg bayl infgyl vapernfrf gur nzbhag bs tbyq lbh oevat va (fbzr bs gur qebcf lbh'ir nyernql uvg unir gur punapr bs trarengvat vgrzf gung fryy sbe 10000 abeznyyl naq 20000 jvgu Zrepunag) ohg xrrc lbh sebz ybfvat zbarl vs lbh ohl gur jebat guvat sebz n fubc.

    Also, anything I posted in ROT13 on the previous entry is now safe to read if you haven't already - I was talking you about AC-lowering equipment and the "nature" spellbook.

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    1. I wasn't thinking at the time, otherwise I would have spelled them instead. They don't mean much outside of context, and it isn't much of a spoiler in the first place.

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    2. If only it halved the cost of repairing items.

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  14. One thing I liked about MM3 is the segregation of magic schools. It looks more organic than before where you memorize numbers instead of spell names.

    Although it was a little frustrating at the beginning having to refer to the freaking manual constantly until you know them better than Faraday's Law and Pythagoras Theorem.

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  15. Be careful with the "lawnmowing". The game will apparently freeze if you land on the square F2.

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    1. I've never had a problem

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  16. Don't forget to put some money in the bank. You get interest.

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  17. Interesting how you distribute items. I tend to do the very opposite, mostly. E.g. I give the best item +Might to the mightiest character and let everybody specialize in the thing they do best.

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    1. I hadn't really thought of it before, but my way IS a bit weird, and not really consistent with "role-playing." I think perhaps I'll change my approach, at least with attribute-based decisions. I still think equality in experience and armor class makes sense.

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    2. In MM3, I agree with equality in AC (and in all MMs I do as Coffeedragon suggests regarding equipment).

      In MM1-2, though, I would distribute the best AC items to people in slots 1-2, next best to 3-4, if multiple people could wear it. The exception was something like Padded Armor +5 (or more), which went to my Sorc because that was all she could wear. That is because characters 1-2 are most likely to be hit, 3-4 next most likely, in a battle so it did not make sense to keep AC balanced in MM1-2. For MM3, though, I agree that trying to balance AC is preferable.

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    3. I always try to distribute items based on what a player would puck for their character. It can be difficult when the loot favors one or two characters, but coming from a pnp background I like to think about the toons arguing to try and get some item... Of course the thief might occasionally filch more than their share!

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    4. @Chet
      Lawnmowing is already choosing efficiency over role-playing. XD

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  18. Btw, calling the MM6 Druid "just a Cleric/Sorceror hybrid" is a bit unfair to the Druid. Being a hybrid of the two most powerful casters is nothing to scoff at.

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  19. Ranger/Druid spells are largely Cleric and Sorcerer low to mid level spells. It's just a handful of unique Druid spells to pick from.

    In World of Xeen forward, the Druid/Ranger spell list loses any unique spells, and is just a hybrid of the Cleric and Sorcerer lists. While Ranger is basically a slightly sturdier Archer with healing spells to compensate for a loss in offensive spells, Druid is seriously weak in both games.

    They're better in MM6 as they get all Elemental and Self spell schools, but lack the Light and Dark schools. Since you can Master all skills available for your class, and spells aren't restricted anyway based on what level of skill you've obtained, that gives the MM6 Druid a lot of flexibility, though they'll lose out on raw power if they spread out to all 7 skills.

    MM7 they go back to sucking horribly, since they still lack the Light/Dark schools, and no longer can get all the spells of the others (due to arbitrary class caps on skills and spells being restricted to Master/GM levels of skill).

    As far as stat color boosts, they remain consistent throughout MM3, on until MM7 at least (I haven't touched 8 in ages, and that was the last game I don't care what anyone says; the virus-riddled one and the one before that don't exist).

    For stats, I actually prefer to concentrate Might on my first two characters. Reason is because they are the ones who get to (B)ash down walls and doors. It's useful for everyone, since you won't always be slinging spells with your casters, but I always concentrate on them. Endurance I tend to concentrate on the Cleric and Sorcerer a bit more. Intellect/Personality on the primary casters. Luck for my party trapper, and Accuracy and Speed spread among all characters evenly.

    For Hirelings, while it's true that their pay scales with level, later hirelings you find are also more expensive even compared to similar level early Hirelings. The ones you can get in Fountain Head will be vastly cheaper than ones you find in other towns. That said, one is a Druid, which is the worst class in the game. When playing with Hirelings, I would keep Allan Bow, and pick up someone else later, depending on party makeup.

    Characters age in this game, but you really don't have to worry about taking your time. I've beaten it many times, mostly doing everything I can and killing everything. It may take over a decade in Terra's time scale to finish, but as long as you deal with magical aging quickly, you won't ever grow too old to adventure.

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    1. I still don't see the point of the druid in MM6. Having two characters with light/dark spellbooks is enormously more useful than having a duplicate cleric or sorcerer spellbook, particularly if you go with a paladin or ranger in the other positions.

      Unless you use him as a THIRD major spellcaster? Knight, druid, cleric, mage? That would be an interesting combo.

      Other insights appreciated. I may do what you say about concentrating might.

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    2. In MM6 I agree. Classes are so unbalanced...if you can learn a skill, you can go all the way with it.

      In MM7, I have heard Druids regain their luster by being able to GM alchemy to mix certain very powerful potions in addition, but I do not know from experience.

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    3. I am currently playing a Cleric-less MM6. Knight, Paladin, Druid, Sorcerer. Seems to work well, particularly since my Paladin found a Chainmail that regenerates Mana...

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    4. Alchemy at grandmaster level allows you to mix Black Potions that PERMANENTLY increases your one of your attributes by 50 points.

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    5. I am curious how the Cleric-less playthrough goes in the late game, Coffeedragon. I don't anticipate much of a difference until then.

      That said, there are certainly times that I don't know what to do with my cleric since healing is done and I don't know a lot of spells yet, particularly in the early game...my typical MM6/7 answer is have everyone learn Bow, though perhaps a Druid helps with that so it is a stronger character early-game than a Cleric/Sorc by itself, but a weaker character late-game comparatively? That may be the tradeoff.

      I also think having a Sorc-less playthrough with a Druid and Archer trying to fill those roles would be tougher than a Cleric-less playthrough with Paladin and Druid filling those roles.

      Regardless, keep us posted as the game progresses!

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  20. I actually prefer to concentrate most of Might on one character (usually the first one), who gets about 2/3 of all Speed enhances as well. The idea is to make him able to act always first in combat and kill one monster before the enemy can act. You'll fight single monsters pretty often, and even against two or three enemies this is very helpful. The remaining 1/3 Speed enhancements go to the primary Sorcerer, in case the enemy is immune to physical damage (happens rarely, but happens).

    I must admit I never used a single fountain in all my playthroughs of MM3, 4, and 5, and it worked. In 3, the temple prayer bonuses suffice, and in 4 and 5, you don't even need those.

    Exploration: Point on! I still don't know why so few games pick up on this quality. Well, Skyrim twenty years later did it right... and then everybody else came and confused "interesting things to find" with "checklists to fill". Whopee.

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    1. I think M&M usually has the quirk of a lot of RPGs in which you want your clerics to be really slow, so they can cast heals towards the end of each combat round, after characters have taken damage.

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    2. I go back and forth on whether Clerics should have low speed. If they have low speed, they heal after other attacks that round--true--but if they have high speed, they revive before the unconscious unit was to act, which is typically much more powerful because you now get an attack that you would not have otherwise(but hopefully also more infrequent). So, I am not completely convinced yet that Clerics should have low speed.

      When I have 2 or more healers, I typically make one of them (Paladin typically since he is my 2nd healer) very high in speed, though--the debate is only if I have one and only one healer.

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    3. Low Speed is never an advantage in the M&M games. Clerics do more than healing. A high Speed Cleric can Turn Undead, or cast specialized mass effect spells, before the enemies can react. A low Speed Cleric risks being killed or being unconscious before it's his time to act.

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    4. Petrus, that is true--I should clarify my response to the low speed comment to be only low relative speed among party members...or more accurately, whether my cleric gets the speed-boosting stat barrels. I am conflicted there but usually make one healer (typically Paladin but sometimes Cleric if my only healer) the fastest.

      I almost never reduce speed for any character, including cleric, and do not keep it low if there is something all party members can use to boost speed.

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  21. I do agree that once you get all the exploration skills in M&M 2-5, you basically do just end of "lawnmowing" the outdoor areas which is a bit lame. At least in the later ones you were restricted by water, mountains, etc. until you got the fly spell, then you just "lawnmowed" the remaining areas that you couldn't access earlier.

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    1. Yeah, but there is quite a lot of lawn mowing. It all depends on size of the world, technically you could lawn mow Skyrim... NOT.

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    2. I lawnmowed Oblivion. Wasn't that interesting.

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    3. I also did it, but one big difference between Skyrim and Oblivion is that you could increase your speed and agility and you had athletics and acrobatics, so lawnmowing was good for your stats and skills and also much easier. In Skyrim... well, I suppose you could do it with horses since if I remember correctly they put Spiderman to shame.

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    4. I think the great thing about TES games is that they're simply too big to lawn mow. There wouldn't be any point anyway, since if you try to experience all the content with a single character, you'll just get overpowered and bored. Moreover, nothing in the main quest depends upon randomly stumbling over an encounter in the wilderness.

      In these MM games, on the other hand, as well as Tunnels & Trolls, you have to literally step on every square to make sure you haven't missed crucial content.

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    5. I lawnmowed in Oblivion and all 3 Bethesda Fallout games. It's not that hard, really, and in the Fallout games at least you discover a lot of amusing content you would have missed otherwise.

      In Oblivion it just had me end up with a *ludicrous* amount of those special stones you got from closing the gates.

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    6. Hah! Same here but gates got old pretty fast and when I finally did almost everything outside of a main quest and started it and realised that there are like 10 mandatory gates I gave up and started to close them using console command, which resulted in at least unfinnished quest.

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    7. I have lawnmowed Daggerfall!

      Just joking... :)

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    8. > I have lawnmowed Daggerfall!

      Little side Tidbit, when I got Daggerfall I ignored the Manual because screw that (That and I wasn´t THAT fluent in English has a non native speaker) and I didn´t get the whole Auto Travel thing.
      So I stepped out of the first dungeon, looked at the map and started walking in the general direction of the next town and thought to myself "Whelp ... THAT is going to be fun now ...."

      ... In the End I DID read the Manual and translated it with a Dictionary a bit to get a better grasp at what the game offers for travel options ...

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    9. Daggerfall has (IIRC) about 4000 large twisty dungeons. That would be some mowing!

      Though I enjoyed riding my horse around the landscape. I always remember the way the horse would bend its head to look whatever way you were looking.

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    10. The best CRPG horses are from The Witches 3 and The Elder Scroll series.

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  23. re: Lawnmowing

    I wonder if designers, at least in the early days of tiled CRPGs, ever foresaw the practice of lawn-mowing.
    At what point did they discover it was being used by players and what was their reaction?
    Or was it just an emergent exploration strategy of tiled CRPGs?

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    1. Make a large field of green tiles with no special encounters, and add an NPC who gives the party a small amount of money if they stepped on every tile "for mowing his lawn".

      At least that's what I would have done.

      Not all tiled RPGs are suitable for lawnmowing, though. Wizardry, the Eye of the Beholder games, ... come to my mind, where everything has a dungeon-like layout so what you're doing is more like branch coverage.

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    2. Mowing only really appears in games where stepping on every tile is actually possible, which are few and far between. Off the top of my head, I only remember Might and Magic and Superhero League of Hoboken doing this. The latter even awards a bonus if you completely mow a sector.

      In most games mountains are completely impassable, for example.

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    3. For being explorers and adventurers, most CRPGs do ensure the adventurers miss out on what must be some of the most beautiful scenery (if you were in their shoes...not necessarily on screen) their world has to offer, now that you put it that way! I wonder how this bias arose...I understand more difficulty to pass or requiring special training, but impassable?

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    4. The Ishar games featured copious amounts of "mowing".

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