Friday, November 9, 2018

Crusaders of the Dark Savant: Fun and Games

"Hey, ya'll, prepare yourself . . ."
Wow, the Rattkin area still had a lot of territory left. I appreciate the help from those of you who told me that the secret to entering the Thieves' Guild was to try to pickpocket Blienmeis. I never would have hit on that. I would have spent hours building up my "Legerdemain" skill only to face the same issue.

The pocket-picking doesn't really work. He sort-of catches you and doesn't acknowledge it, and yet you somehow snatch a signet ring anyway. Upstairs at the Guild, if the hand at the window feels the signet ring on your hand during the "interview," he lets you in. Once inside, the head of the guild turns out to be . . . Blienmeis. He jumps up from a hole in an alcove near where you usually find him. So the whole thing was rather silly, particularly since the only thing you get from the whole episode (as far as I can tell) is a clown nose.
Nonetheless, the clown nose opened the way to the ruins of "Rubi's Funhouse," a relatively interesting area full of inventory puzzles. It got a little long, but I otherwise enjoyed it about as much as anything else in the game so far.
This was one of the game's goofier moments.
A primary reason to visit the Funhouse is that it's the home of the . . . sigh . . . "Rakuza," headed by "Barlone'" (for some reason, he has an apostrophe after his name) of the "Order of Taw." You can reach him without having to solve all the puzzles. He offers a "proposition":
We've seen the machines that breathe fire and move through the sky. Long ago, there were others that had these machines. The Higardi. But they are gone now. We know that you come from a world beyond the sky. And we wish to expand our operations . . . . What we ask is something simple. There is a flying machine which descends into the old ruins of Nyctalnith. Our scouts have seen it come and go many times. Find out when the flying machine will be at Nyctalinth again.
Good news: I already had all the information I needed to answer his question in my possession. While previously at Nyctalinth, I had stolen a logbook and a decoder for the logbook, and it told me that the next ship was due to arrive at "Galactic Stardate 088:53." Whatever that means. The game doesn't have any kind of clock, so this date is always in the "future" for plot reasons, although perhaps now that I've given it to Barlone', something will happen that puts it in the present or past.
Will a rat know how to interpret galactic stardates?
In return, he told me that I could find a map piece in New City in the "passage that leads to the old Archives." If the term "archives" has come up before, I've missed it, and I suspect that's the keyword I need to ask Professor Wunderland to get the key.

The Funhouse had its own map piece, but it was at the end of a long bout of exploration and puzzle-solving. The location's theme is that it used to be an actual funhouse, like the ones you find at carnivals, although obviously created in a world in which tort wouldn't translate. It was full of rides, slides, conveyor belts, monkey bars, teedle boards, and other such mechanisms, mostly broken, and requiring us to find and use various parts to activate.

The fun part was the trial-and-error by which the process worked. Consider an early puzzle in which the goal is to stand on one end of a teedle board and get a weight to drop on the other end, propelling the party through a hole in the ceiling to arrive on an upper level (this is the only way to get there). When you first encounter the puzzle, standing on one end of the board causes a chain to come plummeting from the ceiling, but with nothing attached to weigh the other end of the board. You have to affix a 200-pound weight found elsewhere in the dungeon, and boy are you glad to get that out of your inventory.

Next, you have to find a handle with which to winch the chain back to its starting position. Then you can stand on the board and enjoy all the benefits of elementary physics.
Unfortunately, physics are not taught on Lost Guardia.
Well, not so fast. The weight is only 200 pounds, and the collective party probably weighs over 1000 pounds. Activating the board just sends the party sprawling, and taking a little damage. The solution is to pour a "Feather Weight" potion, bought earlier in the ruins, over the party. Then you can stand on the board and get propelled upward to the third floor.
Briefly, at least.
Unfortunately, when the journey ends, you're still over a hole. With no way for the vertically-propelled party to edge sideways, they just end up falling back down again, taking considerable damage. The game missed an opportunity here for some true slapstick in which the party would land on the board again and launch the weight into the air, which would then come back down on the board, which would violently smack someone in the groin just as he was getting to his feet. But it was still funny for what it offered.
Audible laughter was produced.
The ultimate solution is to first use an elastic band to repair a fan that blows air through a grate so that when the feather-weight party arrives on the third floor, they get blown down a corridor instead of falling right back down the hole.

This puzzle didn't take very long to solve because it was in a somewhat limited area, but the rest of the map took me several hours. There were multiple interconnected levels, some reachable only by a one-way conveyor ride. The ultimate goal was to place a variety of objects in just the right places so that the party would take a flume ride through an underground river, grab a rope at the end of the ride to jump over a hole, stand on a plate, get propelled upward, grab a wooden dowel, and shimmy across a gap to the final area. This involved placing the dowel, placing the rope, placing a heavy ball to activate the plate, and so forth. It was a lot of trial and error, but I got there in the end. My only complaint about the process was that most of the actions really only made sense for a single character. I mean, how does a party of six all manage to jump from a boat onto a single rope and swing across a pit? Or all grab on to a wooden pole at the top of a shaft? But aside from that suspension of disbelief, it was an entertaining experience.
This screenshot is Exhibit A in the RPG Community vs. Blobbers.
Exhibit B.
Of course, the hours in the Funhouse were punctuated by combat. I got attacked a lot by Rattkin--mysteriously, since I had parlayed and made deals with every Rattkin I met since entering the ruins. The ones that attacked me must be a "rogue faction" or something. The Rattkin Ronin continue to be some of the toughest enemies in the game. They often get the initiative even over characters with 18 dexterity, and if one of them gets lucky with a "Sleep" spell early in the round, it's all over. I know, I know--I should have "Magic Screen" going constantly. It wears off fast.

The other major enemy type was undead, including monstrous skeletons and ghosts. "Fetid corpses" are capable of both disease and poison and thus a major priority. Various types of oozes, capable of the same things, were also common. Lately I've been keeping a log of different creatures and estimated hit points because I'm sick of over- and under-estimating the spell power I need to kill them.

The Funhouse came to an end in a room with a locked door and a rack of spears. I had to push the spears in a particular order to open the door; fortunately, the T'Rang with the weird name had given me the order back in Nyctalinth. A few minutes later, a new map--the "BOAT" map--was in my possession.
The new map.
An exit brought the party to a previously-unexplored area of the outdoors, and I spent the rest of this session mapping it, but I still haven't figured out how it connects to the rest of the world. The area is full of dead ends where you're told that the party has to climb up or down to continue. I guess success in climbing relies on the party's "Climbing" skills, and most of the time I've been successful. In the times that I haven't, the damage is so devastating that it's basically a reload.
Good thing I've been putting points into that skill.
The problem is that I don't know how to map these locations. The automap offers no help--it just starts over from the top or bottom of one of these climbs. I started mapping as if the "arrival" square was immediately adjacent to the "departure" square, and this seemed to work for a while, but I came to an area in which the map doubled back and rammed into itself, so clearly the climbs are either supposed to take more space or the various areas are just separate maps and not part of the same world map that I've been maintaining so far. A coordinate system would really help this game.
The new wilderness area. The circle is where the first mountain pass appears. I mapped the next square immediately adjacent, which seemed to work for a while, but then I got to the area with the square. There's a huge (unmapped) area here that would never fit into the available space.
Anyway, this mountainous area brought me to a cave where I was asked a riddle about a witch that I didn't understand. I have found two of the flowers that Master Xheng is waiting for, though. There was an area too steep to climb where I had to string together various 250-foot vines I'd been finding in order to climb down.
There are some freaky wall textures in this area, too.
Enemies in this area have been tough. They include various types of giants and two-headed lions called "Q'ua-Tari." Both the giants and the lions have so many hit points that my characters usually kill them with critical hits before we can reduce their health to 0.
How do they coordinate attacks?
Some miscellaneous notes:
  • A combination of the "Detect Secret" spell and the "Scouting" skill has really been saving my butt. I try to look at every wall and search obvious squares, but during this session, these abilities called a few things to my attention that I otherwise would never have found.
  • Near where I found the 200-pound weight, I also found a 45-pound "lodestone." I carried it around this entire session, expecting it to be the solution to a puzzle. I think I fell for one of the classic blunders.
This doesn't do anything, does it?
  • There's an "Axe" skill, but I don't think I've seen a single axe in the game so far. For that matter, maces, flails, and shields have also been pretty rare.
  • I've adopted the habit of beginning each session with a careful review of my inventory. This means that when I encounter a puzzle that requires a particular object, the items I have are fresh in my mind. If I hadn't done this, I would have entirely forgotten about the "Feather Weight" potion.
  • Everyone gained a level or two in this session. My characters are either Level 16 or 17. My lord has been extremely lucky in his attribute rolls, and he now has 18 in everything. (That's the highest you can get.) My mage continues to be unlucky, with a pitiful 11 piety and 12 speed.
Civilization at last!
As this session came to a close, I finally blundered into a road, so hopefully I'll be able to find my way back to civilization. The game map suggests that I'm somewhere near the "Ukpyr Mountains," and that to get back to the world, I'll need to follow the road through the city of Ukpyr before it winds back to Munkharama. I really hope there's a way to just breeze through the city, because I'd like to get to a fountain, sell some excess goods, and take a look at the New City archives before taking on a brand new area.

Time so far: 69 hours


  1. Casting Levitate greatly reduces damage from falling. It would also make sense as a replacement for the featherweight potion, but I don't think that works.

    You haven't mentioned the contents of the boat map, but I'm sure you know what it is for.

    You should visit Xen Xheng again when you pass Munkharama. I'm spoiling this much because there is an (unlikely?) bug that leaves you unable to finish the game if the map this leads to ends up with the wrong person. I don't think you need the five flowers to do this, but I'm not actually sure.

    1. Oh, and speed determines your initiative. I don't think dexterity has an effect on it.

    2. Thanks. I actually meant speed.

      I actually don't know what ANY of the "maps" are for. The game doesn't even call them "maps." I realize some have hints on them, but it seems that the areas have been winnable without the hints, so I'm not sure why I have to collect them all, or even if I really do.

  2. Wow is that the first map you actually manage to find in its intended place? That must have felt rewarding at last, I was afraid you would only find wrappings everywhere by now. :)

    As for your map, its perfect, it's just that at some point before the square you pointed out, you entered in a "cave". The transition is seamless, but you are now in a dungeon. It can kind of make sense if you thing the cave below the mountain peaks you were climbing up/down earlier.

    1. The boat map is actually useful too.

    2. Ah, that's weird. For the rest of the game so far, any transition not by ladder has been mappable to the same screen.

  3. Say what you like about this game... it doesn't short-change you!

  4. May I note that the shurikens the Rakuza throw are called "death stars" (and they do have an increased critical chance.)

  5. Some thoughts:

    1) The lodestone is, indeed, a developer joke intended to merely take up your carrying capacity.
    2) There are several items you can invoke (at the risk of losing the item, so save first) to increase a statistic above 18. The cap is 20. Only do this if you are in your final classes.
    3) Keeping Levitate and Magic Screen up is critical for the rest of the game.

    Some very light spoilers (ROT13 after what they're for):

    1) Five Flowers - Gur bgure sybjref ner nyy va guvf fnzr nern. Gur erjneq vf n cbgvba bs fanxrfcrrq gung tenagf gur fanxrfcrrq crefbany fxvyy gb bar punenpgre. Orfg tvira gb n avawn.
    2) Ukpyr - V fhttrfg tbvat nurnq naq qbvat Hxcle nf zbfg bs vg vf gnyxvat. Lbh nyfb trg npprff gb gur gryrcbegre gb Arj Pvgl. Gur svtugf ng guvf cbvag fubhyq or ernfbanoyl rnfl sbe lbhe cnegl nf guvf vf gur fgnegvat nern sbe tnzrf vzcbegrq jvgu gur "tbbq" raqvat va Onar.
    3) Mapping - Gur qvssrerag "yriryf" bs gur zbhagnva pbhag nf frcnengr sybbef bs n qhatrba. Guhf, gurl ner abg ba gur znva znc. Lbh jvyy rapbhagre guvf ntnva bapr lbh ernpu n cnegvphyne pnir.

    1. "Keeping Levitate and Magic Screen up is critical for the rest of the game." I'm going to die, then. "Levitate" lasts for about 30 seconds of game time. No way am I spending the rest of the game casting and re-casting that spell.

    2. You don't need levitate. It just reduces falling damage by a lot. I'd cast it in the mountains, otherwise just take the damage and heal it.

  6. There is at least one axe I know of in the game, but I don't think it's better than the Sword of the 4 Winds. What weapon is your Ninja using? I bet he does more damage with crits anyway. The Valkyrie is pretty set with a Spear +2.

  7. My only complaint about the process was that most of the actions really only made sense for a single character. I mean, how does a party of six all manage to jump from a boat onto a single rope and swing across a pit?

    Just wait till you get to 2000 and have 6 elephants riding a single horse in Bradley's Wizards&Warriors.

  8. Axes are indeed pretty rare, but you've missed one near Munkharama. The river northwest of the city can be crossed with decent swimming skill, and there are some goodies there.

  9. You're pretty much at the point I'd recommend changing class. If you do it one or two at a time (especially your casters) you can really round out your skills quickly. Usually I do my first at 15.

    1. All of his characters have swapped classes multiple times already, he did a marathon training session in one of the early postings. :P

      He's considering swapping the Mage again, because he's lagging behind, but otherwise I'm pretty sure these are now his final classes.

  10. Do you plan to bring the T'Rang the BOAT map as they requested/ordered?

    1. Not unless I have to. I was going to see what was up with the Umpani before going back to the T'Rang at all.

  11. Why would it matter if you give the right date to Barlone'? I mean, how would he know? It would have been hilarious if he accepts the wrong date, but gets angry when it doesn't show up and hunts you down.

    1. I'm not sure if the engine supports NPCs actively looking for the party. In-game rumors suggest they can, but the way they move I think they don't.

      Between agreeing to the deal and handing over the information to Barleone, Ratsputin will demand 20% of your gold as a tribute to the family if he comes across you, but I don't think he actively tracks the party. Still, having the information already at hand when you meet Barleone is the best case scenario, as refusing Ratsputin will break the deal.

    2. Rasputin in my game stumbled across me 3 times in about 8 moves, which lead to me refusing him after giving up 20% of my gold, and shortly after that leading to a dead Rasputin.

    3. So now that I've gotten the info from Barlone', I can safely reject Rasputin because I no longer have any business with the rats?

      SMBX, the dialogue says that Barlone' consults with his advisors and comes back and says, "Yes, that's plausible." So presumably they already have some intel on the issue, and the date you give is just final confirmation. If you completely make up a date, you have to hope it doesn't contradict their other intelligence.

    4. The first time you meet Ratsputin after working with Don Barlone', he will request 20% of your gold as "dues". Pay him.

      After that, immediately go back to Don Barlone', and you get access to his treasure room. There are some incredible items in there including the best possible weapon for fairy ninjas (and arguably the best weapon in the entire game).

      Save before you loot because some of it is random.

    5. I don't think killing any wandering NPC can break the game. After all, they can and will kill each other. But killing them yourself affects your standing with factions and can make it harder to get the information you need.

      So, yeah, I'd just kill him :)

    6. Makes you wonder that if Barlone' already has enough intel to determine if a date is correct, then why does he bother asking you, unless there are actually other dates he'd accept.

  12. I love the look of the "mountainous area" textures, they have a gorgeously alien vibe to them. I imagine you'd get something kind of like that if Gaudi and Giger somehow got together to work on something.

  13. I think the apostrophe after Barlone is meant to indicate some sort of diacritic because the engine doesn't support them. So Barloné or Barlonè for example. I'm not sure Bradley knows what they're for.

    1. Ha. Probably. Knowing him, he was making a play on "baloney" and thought he was being hilarious.


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