Monday, June 10, 2019

Darklands: Iron Men

The leader of Hamburg outlines the crimes of robber knight Eberhard Gerle.
       
Someone should make a comprehensive study of the criminal archetypes that have come and gone--made obsolete by sociology or technology. The itinerant snake-oil salesman; the train robber; the yo-ho-ho kind of pirate. The Nigerian Prince must be on his way out--too many people have heard of him. We have plenty of robbers, but no more highwaymen. In America, the classic pickpocket is essentially dead except in a few isolated cities, and the stereotypical car thief is hearing the bells toll.

In medieval literature, perhaps no extinct criminal archetype stands out more starkly than that of the raubritter, or "robber knight." The term's meaning changed slightly over the centuries, sometimes describing a landowner who abused his power to exact tolls, sometimes describing actual banditry, sometimes (as in the description above) both. But what the term always denotes is a rich person who uses his wealth to purchase armor and castle walls and thus the ability to act with impunity, until he stirs up enough trouble that other rich people with castles and armor decide to deal with him. This is an odd idea--the use of wealth to commit principally physical crimes. Imagine if instead of just ruining the country economically and spiritually, the Waltons and Kochs decided to build "Iron Man" suits and physical fortifications, then go on rampages through villages, knowing that local law enforcement officers would be powerless to stop them. There's a story in that somewhere.
       
My party achieves victory over one of the villains.
         
Robber knights form the near-exclusive stable of "bad guys" in Arthurian and other medieval heroic literature, granted with the occasional supernatural twist. The various Green Knights, Black Knights, Red Knights, Sir Bruce Sans Pity, and their lot are all essentially robber knights. Perlesvaus even has a character of of that name (he is defeated by the Coward Knight, who then becomes the Bold Knight). You can't read an Arthurian story from the 12th to 15th centuries in which the hero does not, at some point, come to a bridge or ford guarded by a mysterious armored figure who refuses to let anyone cross until they pay a usurious toll. The hero naturally thrashes the villain making this demand, but what's notable is that only someone who can afford the same types of armor, weapon, and steed even has a chance. It's what T. H. White was getting at when he had Merlyn say:
             
What is all this chivalry, anyway? It simply means being rich enough to have a castle and a suit of armour, and then, when you have them, you make the Saxon people do what you like. The only risk you run is of getting a few bruises if you happen to come across another knight. Look at that tilt you saw between Pellinore and Grummore, when you were small. It is this armour that does it. All the barons can slice the poor people about as much as they want, and it is a day's work to hurt each other, and the result is that the country is devastated. Might is Right, that's the motto.
              
It makes sense, then, that robber knights make up a major villain class in Darklands, essentially occupying the role of pirates in Pirates! They have randomly-generated names and castles, but wherever the game situates them, they're such a menace to the surrounding area that multiple political and economic leaders will pay you to get rid of them. And just like Pirates!, you can get multiple rewards for defeating the same villain.

The game adds a dose of realism not found in the typical RPG, however, when it comes to the aforementioned use of armor. I haven't worked out all the math yet--I'll leave that for a later entry--but it feels like the protective value of armor increases exponentially rather than in the somewhat linear manner used by Dungeons and Dragons-style games. Leather hardly does anything at all, and plate practically makes a man a walking fortress. There are associated encumbrance and agility penalties, but they're still worth it.
               
A secondary application brings up your quest log. I think this is the first RPG that keeps track of quests for you.
          
As I began this session, I had received a quest from several people to kill the robber knight Anton Seibt, but an initial foray into Seibt's territory suggested I was far from the necessary abilities to do that. Thus, I settled into Lübeck for a period of grinding and character development. My quest log showed that I had about a year to kill Seibt and get back to Flensburg before the quest expired.

I visited the alchemists' and tinkers' guilds and got permission to train, and I spent some days in residence at the inn, some characters working odd jobs, some training. At night, I occasionally ventured into back alleys, fought thieves, and sold their equipment the next day. My character slowly developed skills in edged weapons. Once I figured out that in the markets, you can scroll past the initial four options displayed for sale, I bought everyone shields and missile weapons. (To fund all of this, I sold most of the potions my alchemist started with.)
           
A guild master agrees to teach "Artifice" to my characters.
          
Occasionally, I left the city and wandered around outside (I tended to favor healing in camp outside, as it's free). I escorted a few pilgrims, donated to some poor people, and fought an odd wolf or giant spider. (The thieves in town were better opponents because they leave you things to sell.) I wandered up the road to Schleswig to see if I could get the Seibt quest from even more people, but they wouldn't see me. When I wanted to get back into Lübeck, I sneaked in or charmed the guards to let me in, hoping to increase one of those two skills. One of the things I like about this game is that skills sometimes increase even when you fail at using them.
          
Various options when returning to a city. It costs nothing (as far as I can tell) to try hiding or charming the guards, and has a chance of raising important skills besides.
         
For a long time, I was stubborn about Ladislaus, my mentally-damaged cleric. His virtue was so low that it would take years of faking good deeds before a single saint would answer a prayer, and he hadn't managed to develop much healing skill in only 10 years of monastery service. A couple of points of increases during training didn't translate to faster healing of my characters; they were still only capable of restoring 1 point of strength a day. Finally, I got fed up, had Ladislaus "retire" (he took one-fifth of my wealth!), and rolled up a more experienced and devout Catholic. Lambert spent four terms as a novice monk, monk, friar, and abbot before joining the party, excelling in virtue, religion, and healing. When my characters rest with him in the party, they restore 2 points of strength per day--which, believe me, makes a big difference. He also starts with knowledge of three saints and an actual chance that they'll respond to prayers. I just had to build up his skill with a weapon for a while.
           
Having sent Ladislaus into retirement, I create a new holy figure with more experience.
           
The grinding period was hard. Health regenerates so slowly that you spend more days resting than adventuring. You can't afford to do it all at comfortable inns, so you have to go outside, but there you run the risk of bandits, wild animals, or just being run off the local lord's land. Paying for training is also expensive and doesn't guarantee your skill will actually go up each session. There seem to be a lot of skills you can't train--at least, I haven't found trainers yet. Everyone wants a piece of your hard-earned money. You have to pay to enter cities (if other mechanisms fail). You have to pay if you get caught on the streets at night. You have to pay if you're caught camping on someone else's land. Except for common thieves, new parties die against practically everyone and everything.

But, slowly, things started to get better, particularly when I made enough money to buy some better armor for everyone. Until then, Maximian--who started with brigantine armor--hardly ever took any damage in combat while everyone else got slaughtered.
         
Improving my situation at an armor shop.
         
I'll make a few complaints about combat while I'm thinking about it, reserving greater analysis for a future entry in which I have more experience. 1992 was the first year in general for "real time combat with pause," and we've seen it in both Darklands and Legend. It would, of course, become more famous in the Infinity Engine titles of the late 1990s. Darklands is superior to Legend in that it allows you to issue orders while paused. Right now, there's not much I can do but attack.

I am having a few problems. First, I want Maximian to bear the brunt of most combats, but no matter how far in the lead I put him, enemies just happily walk around him to engage the weaker characters. Second, the characters don't do what I tell them to do when it comes to attacking particular enemies. They remain stubbornly engaged with whoever is closest to them even if I repeatedly tell them to go attack someone else. In short, I find it hard to prioritize particular enemies and protect my weaker characters.
       
The weaker characters hang back while Maximian goes to engage the enemy. I know half of them will just walk around him and attack the other characters anyway.
       
The game is also a bit annoying in its adherence to realism with missile weapons and line-of-sight. I have my third and fourth characters equipped with missile weapons, but they hardly ever have a clear shot at an enemy because the lead characters are in the way. The process of picking up missiles from the battlefield, redistributing them, and re-equipping them is also a bit annoying. Finally, I don't like the way that the treasures found post-combat are so relentlessly predictable. It would be nice to occasionally meet a back-alley thief whose father had willed him a decent-quality long sword. Instead, thieves always carry falchions or clubs and always have leather armor for the vitals and cloth (which doesn't sell for anything) for the non-vitals. Other enemies seem similarly predictable.
            
We sneak through the robber knight's castle. At least we're not the only ones betraying the Guest Right.
         
Back to the story. After about half a year passed, I was at the point where I could defeat several bandit parties per night and didn't even have to rest for a week afterwards. I decided to try my luck against Anton Seibt again. "Try my luck" is the operative phrase because for whatever reason, everything I tried succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. Acting friendly to his men prevented me from having to fight any engagements during my approach to his castle. When I got to the castle, I knocked on the door and he invited me in for the evening. Later, I chose to have my party go to bed, but then get up and sneak to Seibt's room, and again it worked. The result is that when I finally confronted him in his room, we fought a four-on-one combat instead of one that involved his warriors. It was almost too easy.
           
My party gangs up on Seibt in his chambers at night.
        
When he died, I looted plate armor from his corpse and gave it to Maximian, passing the brigantine and chain down the line. It uses almost all my encumbrance, and I couldn't therefore wield the two-handed sword I also recovered from the robber knight. I gave that to Lambert, but using it tires him out quite fast, and I suspect it's better to keep Lambert equipped with a one-handed weapon.
            
With plate armor for his vitals and chain armor for his limbs, Maximian is just shy of a full load.
           
Now the fun part. I returned to Lübeck and got rewards from both the obserte and the Fugger representative. I continued up the road to Flensburg, where I'd started, and got even more money from the Fugger, but for some reason the erbvogt (mayor) had nothing to say to me even though the little quest application insists I had the same quest from him.
         
Claiming a reward for killing Anton Seibt.
        
In any event, the three rewards loaded me up with more money than I'd even dreamed about before--the equivalent of about 18,000 pfenniges when I'd struggled to top 2,000 before. I bought horses for everyone and splurged on some alchemical ingredients, although none of the shops in Denmark seem to sell the specific ingredients that Viridia needs for the spells that she knows.
          
Both my purse and local fame grow.
        
The only other quest I had was to get the "Tarnhelm" from a pagan altar southwest of Magdeburg. I decided to head in that direction because it would put me closer to the center of the empire, with more easy access to other locations. On the way, I stopped at several cities, and in the course of meeting with various representatives, got the same quest from several of them to destroy the robber knight Eberhard Gerle, who was hanging out east of Paderborn. I also picked up some minor "fetch quests."
           
Wolves are unhappy with my acquisition of the Tarnhelm.
         
The Tarnhelm quest wasn't difficult. I simply wandered in the area of Magdeburg until I received a notice that I found a pagan altar. After picking up the helm, I had to deal with a pack of wolves, and which point the game indicated that the unholiness of the area had been lifted. I'm not keen to walk all the way back up to Flensburg just to return the helm. I can tell that I'll be wishing for a fast travel option before the game is through.
         
At one point, I stumbled upon the house of some kind of seer. She warned me of secret covens of witches growing in power but said that my party was too inexperienced to deal with them. She advised me to "go forth and train, seek experience, adventure, and fame," and then return. The problem is, I forgot to note where the house was. Is that going to be an issue?
          
Miscellaneous notes:

  • I keep encountering alchemists on the road. They travel with guards and demand all your alchemical ingredients when you encounter them. If you refuse, you find yourself in combat with their guards, who I have thusfar been unable to defeat without a death. They're very annoying.
  • The terrain changes color and texture to denote the changes in seasons. Right now, as 1400 turns to 1401, snow covers the ground. At one point, the game forced me to stop and hole up for a few days to wait out a blizzard.
           
Note the frozen landscape in January. There's a castle to the east of my party, but I can barely make it out.
         
  • My colorblindness, or some other factor, makes it difficult for me to see many of the features in the environment. For instance, note the castle to the east of my party in the shot below. I had to really "where's Waldo" the screen to find it.
  • For one of the miscellaneous quests, picked up in Braunschweig, the Fugger representative wants me to help prove that his family is of royal lineage by retrieving a crown from an old tomb. I feel like one of the Pirates! editions had a similar quest, where a random governor wanted help proving that he had royal blood.
          
A common MicroProse theme.
       
  • Both times I defeated the robber knights, the game brought up a message indicating that the party was going to loot the castles' treasuries. In both cases, nothing got added to my wealth. I guess maybe they weren't very good robber knights.
  • Horses are treated weird. They show up in inventory, and I guess you have to assume they're being "used," but you never see them. I hope they're speeding up my travel. 
            
I bought a "superb" horse for my knight, but just regular pack horses for everyone else.
           
I finished this session by finding Eberhard Gerle's castle just east of Paderborn. Surprisingly, the exact same strategy I used at Anton Seibt's worked here, and Gerle was soon dead. I have no fewer than five people prepared to reward me for the deed, and I also have to figure out if I'm going to try to equip any of my other characters with his looted plate or sell it. Either way, it feels like my money problems are almost over, quite early in the game. Perhaps alchemical ingredients will sap most of it. 

For the next sessions, I really need to get a grip on alchemy, praying, combat, and equipment--starting with re-reading the relevant sections of the manual. (Some of my commenters have offered a lot on these issues, but I've mostly stopped reading comments on previous entries because it seemed like they were getting spoilerish.) I'll practice with those as I continue to build my fame across the empire.
         
Time so far: 14 hours
       

68 comments:

  1. "Someone should make a comprehensive study of the criminal archetypes that have come and gone--made obsolete by sociology or technology."

    Oh, they're still here, just under different names. The snake oil salesman is now a homeopathy or food supplement vendor, the Nigerian prince is a Syrian veteran, and so on. As they say, there is a sucker born every minute.

    "First, I want Maximian to bear the brunt of most combats"

    Even if that worked, it wouldn't be a good idea. There are significant bonuses and penalties for multiple combatants attacking the same opponent, so he would go down rather fast under a concentrated assault. This is why that robber knight died so easily, despite him wearing chain and plate.

    "I can tell that I'll be wishing for a fast travel option before the game is through."

    Yeah. The closest thing is traveling by boat, though that costs a couple of groschen per city.

    "I keep encountering alchemists on the road. They travel with guards and demand all your alchemical ingredients when you encounter them. If you refuse, you find yourself in combat with their guards, who I have thus far been unable to defeat without a death. They're very annoying."

    They can also throw potions that lower the quality of your expensive equipment. An item that reaches quality 0 is considered broken. As there is no repair function in the game, this is perhaps the single most annoying thing, ever. Fighting alchemists is often a huge net loss, even if you win.

    "Horses are treated weird. They show up in inventory, and I guess you have to assume they're being "used," but you never see them. I hope they're speeding up my travel. "

    Nope. According to the wiki and contrary to the manual, ownership of horses does not increase travel speed. For that matter, neither do any of the saints who are said to increase the party's speed. Their only use is escaping in some situations, or giving them to pilgrims.

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  2. I feel that, as released, this game cheats you of a great deal of enjoyment. A well documented game yields a lot of enjoyment from poring over the manuals and trying different min-max strategies.

    The so-called hint book made a huge difference in my enjoyment of the game, not because of the spoilers, which were minimal and easily avoided, but because of the wealth of information. It's somewhat akin to the player's manual in D&D, for example. How much damage does a short sword do? What is its penetration? How many strokes per minute can the short sword do? Compare this across a diverse array of weaponry. Similarly for armor, and so on.

    In that vein, I didn't find the two-handed sword could match the damage over time of much more humble weapons, which had less encumbrance penalty. But how could you figure that out, from the original documentation?

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    1. This is my primary frustration with Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny, which have a complex and deep combat system, and a UI which shows you lots of information about it, but which completely fail to document in-game any of the numbers you need to make sensible decisions about it. Okay, this spell and this spell both deal raw damage over time - but how much? The damage goes up with my level - but how much? The manual doesn't answer these questions either, unless there's more documentation I'm missing...

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    2. "strokes per minute"
      Phrasing, people.

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    3. I remember the military pick was a good min/max option for non-main bruiser characters. Good damage against armored opponents.

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  3. The "Tarnhelm" ("helm of darkness") is from Wagner's Ring Cycle. Earlier versions of the legend of Sigurd/Siegfried have a "Tarnkappe" ("cape of darkness") instead. Though in modern German "Kappe" has shifted in meaning to mean "cap" rather than "cape".

    Is it possible that plundering the vaults/finding the treasure of slain Raubritters is a separate action you have to perform?

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  4. This prompted me to read up on the effectiveness of plate armour.

    Sounds like it was actually pretty darn good against weapons not designed with the goal of penetrating it.

    Generic swords and arrows were not very effective against plate - you wanted specific hand weapons (the strange 'Estoc' sword, and various polearms) or a very strong bowman with a big bow and the right arrowheads.

    If you hit a helmed knight in the head with something weighty enough, it wouldn't need to penetrate to give their brain box a good rattling.

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    1. There are several YouTube channels that focus on historical weapons and armor, and one thing they frequently do - even when not trying to - is correct misconceptions caused by pop culture, including RPGs. Like, how good plate and even mail armor was against swords; how cloth armor (aka gambeson) tends to be underrated and leather armor overrated; how swords are usually way overhyped when spears were actually superior except in terms of convenience; how important shields were and so on. I'll just leave a link to a video by Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatoria where he talks about realistic adventuring equipment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llPAuGy6XvQ

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    2. GRRM actually showed the spear vs plate in the mountain vs viper duel which to me from my limited knowledge read pretty much realistic.

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    3. Those channels have a lot of crud and nonsense in them, often making the "other extreme" mistake.

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    4. Since for the last three years I am practicing medieval combat, armed with a two handed long sword, let me point you to a couple of channels:

      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8Q3Fqiq-2AgQP-z-wqHd9A/videos

      This is my instructor's channel, focusing on tactics using different kind of weapons.

      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMjlDOf0UO9wSijFqPE9wBw

      This is a great channel dealing, with various forms of medieval combat, but also offering a glimpse at medieval life in general.

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    5. "Standard" one-handed swords were easy to carry around on day-to-day business - that's why they were popular. Imagine how awkward would it be to walk around town with a two-handed axe or a spear!

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    6. There are definitely misconceptions all over, but we can track the evolution of arms and armour technology to see the conceptions of the day, which were going to be at least somewhat grounded in performance.

      eg We know Arquebus rounds could penetrate the quality of plate afforded typical soldiers (really expensive, heavier plate was pretty effective against it), cos they stopped wearing it, but then they switched back to breastplates when shrapnel became a thing, because breastplates did afford protection against the low penetration power of shrapnel.

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    7. Swords were both weapons and status symbols. A spear is too cumbersome to carry, just as an AR15 is a bit cumbersome to bring along to the grocery store, and any old geek can tote around a truncheon or a hatchet or a belt knife. A sword was a gentleman’s purview, because they cost serious money, and were quite effective for civilian wear right up until the invention of revolving pistols. While they did fade from the battlefield for a couple centuries, once firearms negated the use of plate armors, they jumped right back to the front rank of military utility.

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  5. I found a way to defeat the alchemists. Spread the party out so that only one character would get hit. Send another character, with lighter armor=faster, to attack the alchemist. He goes down pretty fast. It's a matter of luck sometimes that the alchemist doesn't use eater water, I think, that degrades your armor.

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  6. I haven't played this in years, but I seem to remember that if you wander around a robber knight's castle at night and meet his guards in combat, you can walk over to his treasure chest and loot it; if you fight him alone in his chamber, you can't. Or at least I never found a way to do it.

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    1. If you fight all his men you can find his treasure, yes.
      Good way to train your party as with full armor his henchmen can only scratch you.

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  7. Am I the only one who finds frequent references to Pirates! annoying and arbitrary?

    As for robber knights, you probably miss the treasure chests which can only be found and opened in the combat mode.

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    1. Seems relevant to me, it's an obvious inspiration I never noticed before.

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    2. Yes, it's probably just you.

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    3. @Brent, how can it be an "obvious inspiration" when the games are in fact unrelated from the design perspective? There is virtually nothing in common between them. It's like saying TES: Arena, Fallout or for that matter any other open world game released after 1987 is inspired by Pirates! which would be ridiculous. I could understand if the connection was made to Sword of the Samurai, but Darklands? Come on!

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    4. Anonymous, Pirates! is an earlier MicroProse game that clearly had some influence on Darklands. They even share a key develoepr: Arnold Hendrick, who did "scenario design and documentation" for Pirates! was the project leader on Darklands. I'm not going to apologize for highlighting those connections.

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    5. I think the pirates comparisons make sense here because Chet isn't just saying "this is open world, like pirates!" bit actually comparing concrete examples like specific quests.

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  8. Combat really depends on a good choice of armor and weaponry, but also on tactics. I gave everyone thrown or missile weapons to open a fight, and kept one of my three back as primarily a missile user. Anyone discharging missiles is better kept off to the side so they fire/throw with clear line of sight. Outside you can sometimes get in enfilade, too.

    I also found good success with having one guy move towards 2-3 foes, and two guys work on a single foe. As someone else noted in the comments, the game really rewards the two in a two-on-one. So if you are outnumbered, defensive fighting is a good choice.

    It's annoying when your characters won't follow commands, but it's reasonable that it's hard to disengage from an exchange with a foe or ignore an oncoming foe to attack some other one.

    As for armor/weapons, I found the stats in the "hint guide" critical. After playing for a bit and reading the weapon/armor charts, I re-started and made a group that featured a couple very high-strength characters so I could make them plate-and-greatsword or plate-and-warhammer types. That really paid off for me.

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  9. Today's raubritters are corporate chieftians and NGO officers who extract money from more productive members of society.

    Castles were the fortresses from which the wealthy could be safe from retribution by the people they feed on. Much like today's walled and gated communities.

    DOSbox supports tab completion. Just type out the first letter or two of the directory or file name, press tab, and DOSbox will fill it in for you.

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    1. Rent seeking, which is usually the offense charged against too-cozy crony capitalists, is not really analogous to raubritter behavior. Where one (the raubritter) is using arms to take from a helpless populace, rent seeking involves the government taking from a helpless populous and giving it to a chosen few.

      A closer analogy is probably a legally-enforced guild system.

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    2. Yeah, the closest equivelant I can think of for a raubritter is a gang demanding protection money, and I'm not sure how often that happens these days

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    3. I like how your comment is structured. After first two parts I expected another one dealing with the same topic in similar mode, but instead I got "DOSbox supports tab completion". What happened in my mind then was amazing but I can't explain what it was :)

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    4. Robber barons is the modern term. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg are the men (and they are all white men) who fill the role today. Remember when Microsoft captured the market for PC operating systems and office software? Bill Gates ruthlessly leveraged their monopoly to eliminate rivals (remember Netscape or BeOS?) and dictate pricing. So we got a world where you could have any kind of computer you wanted, provided it ran Microsoft Windows.

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    5. If you think of it in terms of utility siphoning, then billionaires are almost all 'unscrupulous' by definition. They vacuum surplus from thousands of individuals.

      Whether it's fitting to call them robber barons or not, they're probably the closest modern equivalent - especially those who've made their fortune with the aid of public influence.

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  10. IIRC if a charater is engaged in combat, you have to use "flee" instead of "move" to make him move away from his enemy. I think this gives the enemy one free blow (or was that another game?)

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  11. Historically, robber knights often came from impoverished nobility - they already had lands and castle, but struggled with their upkeep.

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  12. In English, the term got a promotion from Ritter to Baron and was used for corporate executives, esp. of railroads.
    Very interesting to classify the vast majority of Matter of Britain villains as Raubritter.

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  13. It's not surprising you'll be wishing for a fast travel option considering the distances involved. A direct road connection between Flensburg and Lübeck is about 150 km (over 90 mi) today, and that involves crossing the Eider river (the historical boundary between the territories of Schleswig and Holstein) which almost certainly had far fewer bridges then than now. And then you're still in the same (modern-day) state. From Magdeburg getting back to Flensburg would be a 400 km (250 mi) trip, which I think would have been a major undertaking in the year 1400.

    Language tip: "Pfennige" is already plural (of "Pfennig"), so no need to add a -s :)

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    1. The game uses "pfenniges," so that's what they're called in this universe.

      I wonder how the game's assessment of travel speed matches up with reality. I'll have to take note of that when I'm on the move again.

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  14. I am absolutely floored that you just randomly found the good witch / "seer", and so early on! No need to worry about not having noted where she is -- I'm guessing most players without hints/spoilers never know she exists or encounter her at all. (That was certainly my experience on my first play-through.) If you do bother finding her again, it might be interesting to see how/if her hints change as you progress, but she certainly isn't necessary to "completing" the game.

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  15. Oh, and for the economy, note the XXq following each item name in the various item lists. That is the numeric "quality" rating of each item. The quality rating of arms and armor has significant mechanical effect, and degrades from use and certain special/alchemical effects/attacks. The quality of found used equipment is rarely as high as newly-purchased, and the level available for purchase varies from city to city.

    Plus money definitely has other valuable uses than just purchasing equipment. For example, you can be far more free with your saint prayers when you have enough cash on hand to top up DF with the occasional large donation!

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    1. Correction: I had misremembered -- arms and armor quality do *not* degrade from just normal use.

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  16. I played Gothic for the first time a few weeks ago, and they do something similar with armor. Specifically, the level of armor you have makes a significant difference in how likely you are to survive a fight with tougher enemies - far more so than going from chain to plate in a D&D game. Since you need to join a faction and progress in their questline to get access to better armors, the game uses that as a way to gatekeep the late-game areas. (Magic training and higher level spells are also tied to faction levels, in case you were going the magic-user route over melee.)

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  17. I'm not sure if horses actually help you travel faster. They should, but I don't know whether this was implemented properly. The Ride skill is ridiculously difficult to train, too.

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    1. I've recently been playing, and upgrading from fast to superb horses increased my chance to escape some situations by about 2-3%

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  18. I'm pretty sure the quest log was a fan made utility, not something included with the game originally.

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    1. Ah, I didn't realize that. It came with the GOG version. I won't use it again, then.

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    2. It's not cheating when the game SHOULD have included something like that. Unless you fancy writing down the dates of when you get quests, and guessing when they must be completed. Moreover it's hard keeping track of them all, and some of them are way over on the other side of the map. The utility is canon.

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    3. As far as I'm aware, using third party tools would be cheating under the Addict's rules as that's not giving himself the original experience. Besides, time limits tend to be rather generous, and it's not that hard to write down who's going to reward you for killing raubritters, with most other quests generally not being worth the effort

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  19. Also, while redistributing ammo is definately annoying, you don't have to reequip thrown weapons as long as you don't run out of them in combat

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  20. Whoo hoo, killing Raubritters is so fun. Good job.

    My last piece of advice would be to spend money on getting saints, as many as you can for everyone in the party. Tons of quests can be solved much easier with the right saints.

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  21. I don't mind the pirates references, I find them interesting. As to seeing the castle on the map, I'm not colourblind but I can't see it at all and I blew up the picture too.

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    1. Even at x3 zoom that castle is hardly visible. I can't imagine catching it on first pass.

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  22. off topic but was scrolling master game list and noticed no notes on why 1991 cadaver the payoff is rejected and on no play list. and why is 1998 last armageddon unplayed but on no play list. also what does the E mean in playlist

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    1. 1. I didn't put a separate reason for Cadaver: The Payoff being rejected because it's just an expansion pack to the original Cadaver, which was rejected for not having character development. In fact, since not even MobyGames lists them as RPGs anymore, I don't feel compelled to keep them on the list, "rejected" or otherwise.

      2. Last Armageddon is a "no" on the playlist because it never had a western PC release--at least, as far as I can tell.

      3. "E" means "exception." It would normally have been a "N," but I made a special exception.

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    2. Yeah, much as I like Cadaver (and the Payoff), it clearly isn't an RPG. It fails the first two of your three core criteria, and arguably the third as well.

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  23. Chet, glad to know you are enjoying my favorite game of all time!
    As for some of your issues:
    First off I dont know if you noticed the different styles of melee attacks in the menu; try to strategize around it by making your worst armored (and/or skilled) characters fight by parrying. This makes them less effective at injuring the enemy but allows the stronger fighters to finish off their opponents and come to help the weaker characters

    Speaking of armor, if you face thieves with knives and clubs your heavily armored characters are nigh impenetrable so when you party is outnumbered set them to berserk attacks to finish off their opponents quicky so they can help their teammates

    Third, long bows and darts are crucial for fighting in this game as they can outright kill the lightly armored bandits and animals before they engage in melee but you have to plan ahead a formation for maximizing their attacks, plus alchemy help a lot with stone tar potions to slow enemy down so you will heavily damage them before they engage in melee

    As a general rule the 25q items are the standard of quality for most gear but after fights the looted gear degrades by 10 points so most of it is 15q but keep in mind that even a 15q chainmail is better than leather or other non metal items

    As a side tip for your next playthough, do try to get at least a 3 restore per day healer as they are invaluable for restoring, and try to pick a military profession before you begin adventuring so your characters have decent gear plus you can loot the pregenerated party for their loot

    Try to maximize your party by using maces and short swords since they have good penetration for almost everything but plate, the military hammer is my weapon of choice especially for robber knights and evil lords

    All in all you sound like you are enjoying the game a lot, try to start donating to churches and villages (that are not demon worshippers!) that helps build your virtue and fame

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    1. Definitely second the use of stone tar potion. It is cheap to produce and very useful especially in overworld encounters where you can anticipate the corridor along which the enemy will approach you. Just plaster the way with stone tar and pelt the enemy with your guns/crossbows for some serious armour penetration.

      Not sure what the better approach is regarding Raubritter castles. I mostly just engaged their henchmen while closing in on the castle rather than talking my way in. Iirc you get a bunch of battles out of it before you even get into the castle proper, which means loot and skill increases but maybe it's not worth the time and hassle?

      Anyway, very cool to finally see the Addict play a game that I have sunk significant time into, even if I never finished it.

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    2. I'm having a miserable time with potions. I stop at every place that sells reagents and buy half a dozen of whatever they sell, but my alchemist is still missing at least one reagent for each potion for which she has a recipe. And every time I ask about new recipes, I'm tossed out the door.

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    3. Thanks for the other tips, Raul. I think my party has become pretty imbalanced towards melee combat, which has some advantages, but I definitely need to diversify.

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    4. I found potions and missile weapons of limited use. Once your melee skills reach 70+ you can't really be hit any more by most things. I used potions to solve more CYOA sections than fights, I think the simple flash bomb was the most useful.

      The best potions were the weapon and armor buffs but I think you can only get those from wandering alchemists, not the town stores.

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    5. B.J. -- counterpoint: I found both to be critical, and tons of fun to boot. Certain encounters are nigh impossible without the right potions, and you can't take melee damage from enemies who never make it to engage with you.

      Chet -- if you look at the descriptions of what the ingredients are supposed to be, it might be clear that towns are not necessarily the best place to find all of them. (Though I believe all can be found in towns if you explore widely enough and note what's on sale everywhere.)

      Also, where are yiu "ask[ing] about new recipes"? You may need to work on the skill of your alchemist most relevant to speaking to such people. (Or find+use a prayer to help them out in that regard.)

      You may have skipped previous mentions as too spoiler, but being more oblique -- with the same skill caveats, have you tried exchanging in kind?

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    6. Alchemists will also get mad and throw you out if you are more highly skilled than they are, or they don’t have any recipes you don’t already have. But mostly it’s because your lead character isn’t persuasive enough.

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  24. Seeing someone play Darklands for the first time is like watching your child take their first steps, except it makes me even happier. You're doing great. It's an extremely ambitious game, certainly the most ambitious ever made at that point, so different parts of it vary between being unfinished and being extremely well fleshed-out. You'll learn which is which with time.

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  25. There is a form of fast travel, for a fee, between cities that have river docks. It seems Magdeburg and Flensburg are on two seperate water ways, and the fastest route will be Magdeburg-Hamburg-(land)-Luebeck-Schleswig-Flensburg.

    https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/darklands/images/e/e9/MRouteMap.png

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    1. I was wondering if river travel would help me with my current problem where I need to cross the Elbe, and I've traveled months out of my way to the south and still haven't found a crossing. I'm not even sure how I got to the west side in the first place.

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    2. That map confused me terribly for a moment: "Wait, Lübeck to Schleswig? There's no river connecting those two cities, nor between Schleswig and Flensburg!" - until I realized that of course, those connections would not use rivers, but the Baltic Sea. Still, I'm not sure they would actually be faster than going overland, as Schleswig sits at the inner end of the Schlei inlet, about 40 km from the actual sea, and coming from Lübeck you'd also have to sail around the Wagrien peninsula, thus making your route at least twice as long as the crow flies... but oh well :D

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  26. For me "real time combat with pause" includes the ability to issue orders while paused - otherwise you basically have a realtime game with a pause function, and still struggle with giving commands while the action progresses. So I wouldn't call Legend a RTCP game.

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    1. In Legend, you could select a spell target while the game was paused, but that was all you could do. Still, I found the pause function helpful enough that I think it's worth recognizing three stages: real-time, real-time-with-pause, and real-time-with-pause-with-orders.

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    2. I was just reading an involved discussion on what kind of mechanics BG3 will use for this... I wonder what they'll do, and if they can come up with a variation not yet seen.

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  28. Two short tips. First, you should talk to the village leader (schultz) from villages near the robber knight. They often have an interest in seeing him gone as well.

    Also, there are potions that buff you or heal you. The game is unintuitive about how to do it. Open your inventory, select the potion and press P to take it. It took me years to figure this out. You can do this in combat. As you progress in the game and your alchemy improves, you may end up using these potions quite a bit.

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