Monday, April 23, 2018

Quest for Glory III: What in Tarna-Nation

Good to see that Rakeesh is doing all he can to forestall the crisis.
       
Despite the fact that in this stage of the game, the character is supposed to be searching for the Leopardmen village and finding a way to convince the Simbani and Leopardmen not to go to war, there's still a lot to do back in Tarna. Last time, I related how I finished the ritual of the staff and returned the potion reagents to Salim.

Rakeesh, despite pledging his honor to bring peace, spends the entirety of this game session canoodling his wife. For her part, Kreesha admits that she can find no real evidence of demons, but something far to the east is "drawing her power." She suggests this might be something called a Gate Orb, which would allow demons to cross into our world. She also feels like she's being watched when she steps out of her shop.

In the bazaar, I rectified my previous failure to give some coins to the drummer. More important, I found the thief Harami lurking around. He begged me to meet him at nighttime. When I did, he talked about how awful it is to live in Tarna after being declared honorless. No one will sell anything to him, he can't get a job, and he can't leave. I took pity on him and gave him some of my food, which caused my "Honor" score to increase. He was there the next night, and the night after.
            
I love the thief's logic here.
          
In the tavern, I finally got to speak with Khatib Mukar'ram, the survivor of the peace mission that had been ambushed on the way to the Leopardmen. Withered, haunted, and insane, he related being attacked by beasts with claws and red eyes. He also dropped the bomb that Leopardmen aren't really animals--they're people who warg into half-leopard form.
          
Yikes. This is heavy for a light adventure game.
                  
The most important event--perhaps--still remaining in Tarna was the judging of my soul. It happened when I returned the Gem of the Guardian to the Temple of Sekhmet. I'm not sure I really understand the ritual. It began when the priestess forced me to drink something.
           
Any chance the Feather of Truth weighs 188 pounds?
            
I found myself floating in a void with various symbols in front of me: a heart, a key, an ankh, a pentagram, a sword, and a cup. A voice demanded that I "choose that which I was." I'm not sure that any of the symbols described what I "was," but I chose the pentagram, which was closest.
            
I was a mage. I still am, but I was, too.
             
I then had a couple of hypothetical situations thrown at me:
           
You are aiding an old wizard to cast a ritual which will bind the rushing waters of a river and prevent the flooding of the village below. Suddenly, the old mage clutches his heart and cannot speak. What do you do?
     
There were five options:
         
  1. Grab the old Wizard's spell book and continue the incantation.
  2. Help the old Wizard, knowing that his life and wisdom are more important to you than the huts of a village.
  3. Finish the spell for the Wizard, figuring that you will get to keep the spell book if he dies while you are saving the village.
  4. Do what you can to help the old Wizard quickly, then try to complete the spell yourself in time to save the village.
  5. Watch the flood waters flow past the barriers of the spell as the old man dies while you ponder the ironies of the universe.
       
Obviously, only the first, second, and fourth are remotely defensible. The third is basically the same as the first except for the character's motives. I feel that the real conundrum here is whether you put yourself fully towards helping one or the other or increase the risk of losing both the wizard and the village by spreading yourself too thin with the fourth option. If the fourth option had said something like "knowing that by trying to help both, you may doom both," it would have been harder. That's the one I chose.

Another group of symbols appeared: an hourglass, a key, a yin-yang, a fist, a ring, and an infinity symbol. "Choose what you are," the voice said. I chose the infinity symbol for no particular reason.

The next question had me in a hall of mirrors where each image reflected a different possibility. The options:
       
  1. Find the image which looks the strongest and toughest and touch it.
  2. Look for the most beautiful image and reach out to embrace it.
  3. Close your eyes and choose an image by chance.
  4. Walk away from the mirrors, knowing that physical appearance is nothing more than vanity and illusion.
  5. Smash the mirrors with a rock because you really don't want to be reminded of how you look.
                 
Do you have any questions about bigger kids demanding my sweetroll? I'd ace that one.
                
It's too bad that the last option continued past "with a rock" because otherwise it might have been a valid, counter-intuitive option. In my case, since none of the images showed anything that a wizard would prize in particular, I chose option 4.

Finally, I got another set of symbols chosen from the first two sets: an ankh, a candle, a pentagram, a sword, and a ring. "Choose what you will become." A candle, I guess. I'll be a candle in the wind. This led to the final puzzle:
          
Darkness surround three burning candles. Engraved in the stone floor are the words. You must choose one. The yellow candle burns the brightest, the green candle burns the steadiest, and the brown candle burns dim, but long. Which do you choose?
           
I guess the middle path? I choose green. After this, the voice interpreted my various selections. By choosing the pentagram as my past, I will be "grounded" in magic and knowledge. By choosing the infinity in the middle, I show that I "refuse to accept limitations on myself." Finally, by choosing the candle, I have shown that I desire glory. I am "drawn like a moth to the candle, and may be consumed by its brilliance."

In the end, the voice proclaimed that my "skills are in harmony with my nature." Ultimately, I am "judged worthy."
           
This text changes, it turns out, depending on your selections. But as long as you don't choose stupid or evil options, you're fine.
         
Then there was a lot more about the future:
              
Thou hast unleashed the Darkness. And the Darkness now encircles thee. Ye must walk a narrow path to bring back the light.

Let the first part of the path be guided by friendship. Thy feet already walk upon this path. Two thou hast known before. Three thou shalt free. One thou has brought low, then helped to rise again. One shall stand thy rival and thy friend. The Sword shall cross thy path, and bonds shall be cut asunder. Seek thou the least of these guides to lead thee to the depths of darkness.

Now thou art Opener of the Way and all thy heart has called shall draw near to thee. Two shall stand and five shall follow to face their greatest foe in a battle they cannot win. For thou must walk alone to free them all. Seek thee now the highest tower to find the Door to Darkness. There thy powers shall be as naught, until thy greatest spell is broken. Then thou must close the Demon's Gate.

This is that which might yet be. The path is thine own to follow or not. Go forth now, bringer of the light.
       
I don't know exactly how I "unleashed the darkness," but I assume it has something to do with killing Ad Avis. The two friends I've known before must be Rakeesh and Uhura. The one brought low, then helped to rise again might be Harami? The rest is all in the future, I guess. Anyway, after the vision I woke up in my room in the tavern.

Naturally, I couldn't let it end there. I reloaded and messed around a bit. First, I chose the same symbols but with the stupid answers to the questions. I was told that my soul was "not in balance with truth" and thus I was "not worthy for the future to be revealed." As before, I woke up in my bed.

In subsequent reloads, I tried different combinations of symbols. Each one resulted in a different scenario, all with some selections that were obviously consistent with the theme of the object, and some at odds. As long as I chose the consistent options, I was judged "worthy" and the future was revealed. However, if I didn't select the pentagram in the first or third selection, I got a message that I was denying my own nature as a wizard. I assume the thief has to choose a key first or third and a fighter has to choose a sword. I don't think the middle selections make any difference except in how you respond to the scenario.

The meaning of "three thou shalt free" became clearer--or, at least, two-thirds of it did--during the rest of the session. While exploring the eastern reaches, I freed a monkey from a cage in the middle of a path. Surprisingly, the monkey could speak--after a fashion. He introduced himself as "Manu" and called me "man-friend." There wasn't much else to do in this conversation, but I suspect we'll be seeing Manu again.
           
I was going to ask who was trying to trap a talking monkey, but then I realized that the real question is who wouldn't try to trap a talking monkey?
           
Later, I returned to the Simbani village at night and found a storyteller giving a presentation in the middle of the village. He was simply relating the theft of the Spear of Death and the current plight of the village. Alex apparently had an encounter with the same storyteller hanging out by the awari board, but I missed this. I also missed an option to ask Yesufu, the awari-player, to be my friend. Also, while I'm thinking of it, Yesufu turns out to be the son of the Laibon.
              
When you put it like that, things sound bleak.
            
The Simbani had captured a Leopardman! He had been caught spying on the village. When I arrived, he was locked in the cage, unable to escape because of its anti-magic protection.
               
I don't know. "Simbani be too smart" is a phrase that sets my alarm bells ringing.
         
I knew I'd have to free him eventually, but there were different guards on him at different times of day. He wouldn't talk with me. Lacking other ideas, I messed around with my inventory and decided to try a "dispel" potion. It worked--boy did it.
         
That she was a leopard-woman wasn't discernible in leopard form?
           
The beast turned into a woman that would give Princess Aiela a run for the title of "Miss Lost World." Everyone in the village was excited about the development, thinking we could now get from her the location of the secret Leopardman village. The Laibon was convinced she'd talk--"as a prisoner or as a wife." Say what now?

From further conversations--and I'm a little confused how we got here--it became clear that I'm expected to marry the Leopardwoman to secure her freedom and the intelligence about her village. I think there might be slightly something off with the logic that forcing a captured enemy into marriage is going to make her betray her people to her enslaver-husband, but what do I know about tribal cultures? The Laibon made it clear that he doesn't want Yesufu to wed the woman, but he set a high "bride price" for her: a fine robe, a fine spear, and five zebra skins.
              
I wish Uhura was here to hear this.
             
Well, I've got the robe and spear, but only one zebra skin, so I'll have to hike back to Tarna for the other four, maybe check in on Harami, see if Rakeesh or Kreesha have any advice, and flirt with Janna one more time before the ball and chain gets shackled around my ankle.
       
Miscellaneous notes:

  • At the advice of a commenter, I returned to the Pool of Peace and cast "Detect Magic." One of the rocks sparkled and glowed and displayed the letter "E," almost certainly for "Erana." I thought there might be something to do with the rock, like there was back in the first game, but "Trigger," "Open," and "Fetch" produced no results.
             
I want to meet this Erana someday.
           
  • Also in the Pool of Peace area, you can pet the cheetah.
        
Fun fact: cheetahs can purr but not roar. Lions can roar but not purr.
           
  • I forgot to mention last time that Uhura's story got some more depth and clarification as I spoke to her. Apparently, in Simbani society, women can be warriors, but only if they're unmarried. No Simbani man would willingly father a child with a woman who was not his wife. Uhura wanted to have a child but remain a warrior, so she sneaked off to Shapeir, where she had a child with a city guard--who could apparently care less about his lover's marital status--stayed for a while, and then returned home. No one seems to mind her little loophole. I have to give the Coles a lot of credit here: this series has featured some of the best-fleshed-out NPCs of any RPG so far in my chronology.
  • Alex titled one of his sections "The Mighty Jungle," and it made me realize that we've completely missed the boat on subtitles. We should have been mining "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." I could have made the winning entry "Quest for Glory III: Weeee-eee-ee-ee-ee-kaleo-mum-a-way."
  • For some reason, Alex got a lot more flying cobras than I did. I literally have only fought one. I wonder if certain monsters favor certain classes. My constant annoyance is dinosaurs.
          
I haven't said a lot about my character development so far, but it's been steady enough. My attributes are comfortably approaching 250, as are my most-used skills. I still can't get "Parry" to budge. "Climbing"--which isn't a mage skill anyway--doesn't respond to the ropes in the Simbani village. My combat spell skills are nearing 200, but I may need to practice my non-combat spells just for the heck of it.
             
My character at the end of this session.
      
No battle is very dangerous for me, and I haven't had to use a pill in forever. Again, we find that "challenge" isn't really the watchword for the Quest for Glory series. Both combat and puzzles remain relatively, almost trivially, easy--but the story is interesting enough that it doesn't bother me that much. The NPCs are fun to talk with and the locations are fun to explore. I'm not sure why this entry developed a reputation as a weak point of the series: already I think I'm liking it more than II, if only for its comparative nonlinearity.

Hopefully, I didn't give Alex too much to jump over this time. Make sure to check out his coverage at "The Adventure Gamer" from a paladin's perspective.

Time so far: 9 hours

 

46 comments:

  1. "Bringer of the light"? So you're Lucifer? :)

    Unrelated, I now remember who helped me discover Mitch Hedberg.

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  2. The judgment section was my single favorite part of this game. So dramatic and unexpected! I played through it many times when I was young to experiment with the choices. I wish your decisions made more of a (or really any) difference.

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  3. "She also feels like she's being watched when she steps out of her shop."

    That's probably just Rakeesh.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. This is not Ultima VI where "you" raised the codex - the intro explains that Ad Avis's death did cause an outburst of magic which allowed the demon wizard to return.
    I suppose it's par for the course in any computer game that Only You Can Save Mankind; after pledging his honor, Rakeesh proceeds to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the game.
    The judgment sequence is great if you do only a single playthrough (if you ignore that each fifth answer is immersion-breakingly ridiculous), but really falls apart if you replay and see that it doesn't actually matter what you choose.
    That said, I'm not sure why this entry is considered "weak", either. Even the most common complaint (i.e. that the thief doesn't do anything) is patently false: gur guvrs trgf gb rcvpnyyl fgrny obgu gur fcrne naq gur qehz. Orpnhfr bs pbhefr ur qbrf.
    And yes, you do get to zrrg Renan va bar bs gur frdhryf.

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    1. Pieter,

      Fair enough regarding the thief. His path through this game IS pretty bad-ass. I just wish there was more thief-like stuff for him to do.

      Ah well. The thief is still one cool customer.

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  6. Warning: the last sentence in Pieter's comment may be considered a spoiler for the sequels, so the addict might want to not un-rot13 it even after completing this game.

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  7. If I recall correctly, at the Simbani village after you first arrive, Rakeesh mentions that the reason he's returning to Tarna is to keep his hot headed brother from starting a war in his absence.

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    1. The primary reason he returns is that his leg is hurting. I think he does mention curbing Rajah's impulses, but it's more an "at least I can keep an eye on my brother" rather than the principle reason he returns.

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    2. Apparently only lovemaking will ease the pain from his wound. (Most likely that was just to save on images. We were still in the floppy disk era at this point, and every byte of disk space mattered.)

      In my retcon, I'd say it really is all about keeping Rajah from going off to war as long as possible. It's like the "old wizard" question - Rakeesh had to choose between trying to help the two tribes find peace or trying to stop Rajah from committing Tarna to the war. Rakeesh knew he has much more personal leverage with Rajah than the Hero could have. So he chose the option for which he was best suited, and sent the Hero off to solve the other problems.

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    3. For me the fact that Rakeesh spends most of his time with his loved one never struck me as a betrayal of his pledge to help you and the situation at hand. I was a child when I played these games and it was more the positive impression of seeing, finally, in a videogame, sympathetic characters showing kindness and sexuality (I still think that image of them together is one of the better pieces of art in this generally gorgeous game) that stuck with me.

      This emphasis on the humanity of the characters is the most distinctive trait of the QfG series, for me. What other crpgs before them are actually about dynamic and evolving intimate and social character relations? What other crpgs TODAY cross that threshold, for that matter?

      And as to the stabs of darkness in the narrative of Wages of War, they're presaging the darkness to fall in QfG4. It's such a gentle lock and key that's presented to the player and reinforced with the game mechanics of the series:

      The Lock: Darkness is rising across the realm, inevitably inside of us as well
      The Key: We have to help each other with kindness if we are to make it through

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    4. I hope it's clear that I was just teasing. I didn't really expect Rakeesh to run around solving the game for me. Something had to get him off the field. I guess maybe the transition could have been a little more dramatic. Like, we start out walking together and he screams in pain and stumbles to the ground. After a little experimentation, we determine that the pain eases as he goes west but grows as he goes east. Given these new circumstances, we decide to divvy responsibilities, with me going to the east and him looking after Tarna. I mean, that's the end result anyway, but the way the plot point develops is just a little too low-key.

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  8. "For some reason, Alex got a lot more flying cobras than I did. I literally have only fought one. I wonder if certain monsters favor certain classes. My constant annoyance is dinosaurs."

    Pretty sure monsters spawn based on location, ie crocs near water, dinosaurs in the Savannah, cobras, leapordmen and demons mostly in the deep jungle. It's not 100% as I recall, but the chances are higher based on map.

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    1. CT62, I think you are right, AND I'm playing on max difficulty. I wonder if that has anything to do with the encounter rate.

      I could deal with most any other enemy at that frequency . . . but the flying cobras are the worst: they don't give any treasure, and they poison you. Blech.

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    2. Difficulty might play a role as well, but I'm not sure. Corey might be able to provide insight on that one. I recall being blown away when I first played it as the visuals really are stunning. I also never understood the negativity toward QFG3 as it was faithful to the first 2 while introducing several intriguing new mechanics. Not sure if it was the first game with overland map/ travel and separate close up interface, but it was certainly one of the first.

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  9. This may be one of those apocryphal GameFAQs rumors I read like a decade ago, as I've never seen it myself, but supposedly there's a certain trigger that makes the Hero's eyes bug out like a Tex Avery cartoon when the leopardman transforms into a woman. If anybody has seen it or knows how to trigger it, I'd be curious.

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    1. MisterKerr,

      The eye/tongue bugging out animation when you dispel the leopardwoman is no rumor! It is no hoax! I have seen it! It has happened to ME!

      I thought I was seeing things at first. But it happened. As far as what triggers it, I can't say. Corey?

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    2. I've seen that (eyes bulging) animation also, but I don't know what triggers it. There are a fair number of random Easter Eggs in QG3; that might be one.

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    3. Now that you mention it, I've never once gotten the "Laurel and Hardy in French Foreign Legion uniforms" Easter egg to show up in this game . . .

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  10. "Alex titled one of his sections 'The Mighty Jungle,' and it made me realize that we've completely missed the boat on subtitles. We should have been mining 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight.' I could have made the winning entry 'Quest for Glory III: Weeee-eee-ee-ee-ee-kaleo-mum-a-way.'"

    Chet, I thought we had an (unspoken) gentlemen's agreement not to take the low-hanging fruit and make "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" references in our posts.

    "The Mighty Jungle" was a weak one, honestly . . . I almost called it "In the Jungle," but I just liked the sound of the word "Mighty."

    Other rejected section titles included "The Liontaur Sleeps Tonight" and "Near the Simbani Village, the Peaceful Simbani Village"

    And then good taste reasserted itself. Whew!

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    1. You know, after I wrote that, I gave it some thought and it turns out that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" doesn't really have that many lyrics. You've got "The Mighty Jungle," "The Peaceful Village," and "Hush, my Darling" and then you're tapped out.

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    2. Exactly.

      Now, if we want to delve into the true bowels of joke-writing hackery, there are plenty of other options we can choose from:

      - "Welcome to the Jungle" (Guns n' Roses)
      - "Jungle Love" (Morris Day and the Time)
      - "Bungle in the Jungle" (Jethro Tull)
      - "Jungle Fever" (Spike Lee movie)
      - "Rumble in the Jungle" (Foreman/Ali fight in Zaire)
      - "The Jungle Book"
      - "Jungle Man" (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
      - "Jungle Boogie" (Kool and the Gang)

      Feel free to use any, all, or none of these!

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    3. I am also partial to They Might Be Giant's version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OKac0K91p4

      "In the spaceship, the silver spaceship, the lion waves goodbye..."

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    4. I am surprised that neither of you has gone to the Tarzan well. Just replacing "Tarzan" with "Hero" would produce many appropriate titles, such as:

      Hero and the Golden Lion
      Hero and the Leopard Men
      Hero and the Forbidden City
      Hero and the Black Boy
      Hero of the Apes
      Hero, Lord of the Jungle
      Hero Triumphant

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  11. Just for the record, yes, it is typical in tribal cultures for a female captive to be married to one of the captors. You can imagine that in many cases, the female captive might eventually run away, but this is far from being a given. In many cases, the women accepted this new life with relative equanimity, and did ultimately bond strongly with their new society.

    I imagine that the good old Stockholm Syndrome might be a part of an explanation, but definitely that's not the whole story. Probably a more important aspect would be the fact that this was such a common tradition, that the female captive would not only encounter other captives-turned-wives in the village of their captors, and find a consolation in their presence, but also, she would have seen captives-turned-wives back in her own village as well. So, she would have more than enough evidence around her that once wedded, she's going to be treated as well as any free woman of the village, and that trying to run away may turn out to be the more dangerous and unpleasant option. Of course, another factor may be simply the awareness that she's going to have a hard time getting away unless her people come to her rescue - and so, it's best to settle down and wait to see what happens next. Needless to say, taking a woman captive frequently did trigger a series of retaliatory raids.

    Overall, it sounds like the Coles did do a fair amount of research for the game, and many of the smaller, more peculiar nuances of the plot are good indications of this research. I suppose a part of the fun of developing a series like QfG is that you do get to research a completely new setting every time, and as always when world-building, you want the stuff you make up to be grounded in real stuff, just because it's more convincing that way.

    (I was going to end the previous sentence with the phrase "real stuff people can relate to", but since I've mainly been talking about that specific example of female captives marrying their captors, it would be more than a little creepy to talk about people finding that relatable)

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    1. If you want to get serious about it, I suspect that ME not being an actual member of the tribe might throw a wrench in the normal customs.

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    2. It absolutely would! In a "normal" situation as might be encountered in a tribal society in our world, the captive would find the proposal to marry a tribe-less stranger horrifying. So very lucky that she can sense you're the RPG hero character ;). The tribe itself probably wouldn't be too squeamish about it though - she's not one of them, after all, and you're a paying customer.

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    3. Wow, I wouldn't have expected that this game would accurately portray tribal attitudes about women. You wouldn't get that today! It might plant the idea that not all cultures are equal.

      This sort of thing is definitely where we got Stockholm Syndrome from. Women had no choice - their entire tribe had been wiped out and their way of life was gone. There was nothing to run away to. Moreover, once she gets pregnant (which will be soon; males of all species copulate far more frequently with a new female), she needs a support system for her child. The ones that did run off didn't survive to pass their genes on and so we ended up with Stockholm Syndrome today.

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    4. "You wouldn't get that today! It might plant the idea that not all cultures are equal."

      Come again?

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    5. Here's the view, and I'm surprised that educated people aren't aware of it:

      "We must always attempt to understand the other culture. With the goal, one culture can more effectively compare & assess their own practices/norms. This leads to an evolution where we incorporate the highlights of the other culture. Eventually, with open doors, both cultures benefit by influencing the other with the best of what they have and removing their worst practices.

      The alternative is to easily dismiss the entire culture based on a few known horrible practices. This is very natural for humans. But it results in siloed societies where each thinks they are the best there is and the rest are barbarians. There is no will nor reason to objectively assess each other and themselves. This results in misunderstandings, and conflicts that only hurt the standard of living of all involved.

      For tribes, its a cultural norm to raid enemy tribes and carry off women. Families are very important and very big. Of course they have a ton of bad practices, but those don't devalue the good. Some of which we can use in the US."

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    6. For tribes, it is an evolutionary necessity to raid enemy tribes and carry off women, lest everyone be forced to marry close kin. Usually the process involves raping the captive until she becomes pregnant, at which point most of the abuse comes to an end. Once a child is born, the woman then becomes an official householder, a mother-of-warriors and the theoretical equal of all the camp's other women. Even if not pregnant or saddled with a small child, walking over hunter-gatherer distances back to her home territory with only vague ideas of where to meet her birth people would be difficult to say the least. If she reached home, she would likely be driven away or relegated to low status by taboos about "polluted" women.

      Like most everything about that nasty, brutish, and short existence, I don't see where it has much value to our society.

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  12. Regarding the Leopard(wo)man:
    1) Pretty sure it's not easy to discern a male and an unmated female leopard visually.
    2) You ask who'd want to marry a hot shapeshifting catwoman but you should realize that the real question is who wouldn't?

    And to Corey (a little spoilery): In the QFG universe, is it acceptable for a hero to engage in a little bigamy?

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    1. Well, I'm not going to Google "leopard penis," so I suppose you win this round.

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    2. Hot shapeshifting catwoman would make fantastic love, then curl around your leg without hogging all the bedclothes.

      She might drool on your face in the morning, though. I don't know if that would be good or bad.

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    3. The game writing is good enough that it actually does actually remark on the attractive leopardwoman - uhura jokes about how all the men who wanted to kill the (former) leopardman now want to do other things to the leopardwoman...

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  13. With speech 100 you can convince the sweetroll to eat itself.

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  14. It's pretty far out that in this QfG game and the next one, there's a strong theme of magical initiation (in the occult sense), given that in most fantasy rpgs magic is treated as an economic commodity (I have 50 mana, I can cast 10 flame darts before having to [consume mana item of choice] to regain my ability) and that's it.

    This comes from the history of the tabletop ur-game of Dungeons and Dragons, where in an effort to avoid skirting even more controversy related to supposed satanic themes in the game, the designers decided to avoid the description of rituals in the core milieu, just the mechanical and economic effects of having magic around.

    In QfG magic feels more like a colouring undercurrent that permeates everything than just an economy for killing orcs with flame darts, exactly because of scenes like this spiritual initiation (or the trials to become a wizard in QfG II which were more like a faux-scientific work application of magic for contrast). These non-combat-related magical acts feel like they have consequences and are echoed in the core narrative of the series.

    Erana is at the heart of it all, of course. Her presence is like the holy spirit, always there but transparent to the uninitiated mind.

    Being virtuous in these games is something the world acknowledges (and your honor stat is raised) because this world is animated with a magical spirit. It notices you, and it wants you to do good.

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    1. Great insights Helm. The way magic is handled in this series definitely makes it feel like a living part of the world--everyone is aware of it, it affects everything, and yet not everyone can control it to its whims.

      Good point about virtue as well.

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    2. Agreed. Magic oots seldom portrayed in RPGs outside its use in combat. Only other application I can recall similarly is from an NWN2 module called the Wizards Apprentice (3 part series). Wish there were more games that showed practical non- combat applications as it makes the world feel like magic is more a part of it.

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    3. Very true. Magic is reduced to purely for combat purposes. In the context of RPGs under D&D license, all the cooler spells (Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion, Transport Via Plants, Tenser's Floating Disc & etc.) are just wiped out of existence. Instead of a being drenched in raw esoteric power capable of manipulating the very fabric of time & space as mere playthings, we are left with glass cannons.

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  15. I enjoyed this game a lot (though I do think the transition from the text parser made it feel shorter/simpler the first time around).

    Funny that I'd completely forgotten the personality-test element. In the context of this blog it almost doesn't register as a novel element, since the idea of a game borrowing or reinterpreting something from Ultima IV is now far from old news. In the context of the adventure game genre it feels like a bigger departure! Of course, it's not really super-consequential, but no biggie - the game does give you real choice with the character classes and the variant puzzle solutions, so you *trust* the game and suspend your disbelief. It *feels* like the choices must mean something, and that adds to the atmosphere of the adventure. It's not like anything ever happens to prove that it doesn't (except replaying the game or save-scumming the test itself). I agree though that it'd be nicer if all the choices felt like "good" answers.

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  16. When you described this game as being tight, I was reminded of a book I read some years ago,"the timeless way of building" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Timeless_Way_of_Building). In it the author writes about and tries to describe the "quality without a name". While the book handles architecture, its principles also apply to other building processes, especially to my trade of Software Engineering.
    I feel like your description of "tight" touches the "quality without a name".

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    1. I appreciate the thought. To clarify, though, I was describe the SERIES SO FAR with that designation, not necessarily this game, as I hadn't played it yet.

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