Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Darklands: Travelogue (Part 2)

Alas, the mines proved too much for my journeyman party.
We pick up where the previous entry left off:
Sometime after 5 August 1401. Goslar Mines.
Since you can't check "Party Info" while indoors, I have no idea how much time has passed since the party entered the mines. As the session begins, we find a second ladder down on Level 4 that we must have missed earlier.
With Maximian and Lambert so low on health, I've reconfigured the marching order to put Bianca first (she has the best "Perception"), followed by my NPC companion Hanse. Maximian, in ignominy, picks up the rear. Clearly, I should have waited until I had more prayers or alchemies before attempting this type of quest, but in fairness I had no idea that the mines would be so extensive. Everything until now had been a series of menu options.
We fight one gargoyle before coming to yet another puzzle door, which challenges us to figure out the next number in a sequence that goes 27, 64, 125, 216, 343.
I suspect either you'll get it right away or it will take you a while. The numbers are cubes of 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, so the next would be 8^3 or 512. Anyway, beyond the door, another dwarf told me that I'd find enemies further along who were guarding some kind of holy relic.
It would have been nice to have found this.
On the level below, four gargoyles attack just after I get off the ladder. Hanse is seriously wounded. In a side room, Hanse is unable to disarm a chest after multiple attempts. I size up the situation and conclude that I need more skill and craft before I'm able to fully clear these mines. Reluctantly, I make my way back up to the surface, camp, and restore much of my lost strength.
17 August 1401. Wilderness. Party Fame: 52 (barely known).
We notice a strange darkness in the woods: twisted trees, black birds with harsh cries, the smell of smoke. Investigating, we determine that witchcraft has taken place here. We're soon attacked by a pack of wolves but manage to slay them with minimal damage.
Fools. Everyone knows that the wolves are the enemy of the Shadow.

23 August 1401. Wilderness.
Attacked by a group of bandits. Everyone is wounded more than they ought to be for a foe we've fought many times before.
26 August 1401. Erfurt.
We arrive in a city at last. Night is falling just as we go through the gates, so we immediately see about our task to steal notes from the Medici offices. When we get to the central market, we have options to sneak past the guards and custodians, bribe them, or attack them.
Options when skulking about the market at night.
My party isn't very good at sneaking, but I try it and surprisingly it works. Hanse is able to defeat the lock, and we enter the Medici offices and recover the debt note that the Hanseatic League in Lübeck wanted.
In victory, we check into the Lilie and stay several days to return to full health.
5 September 1401. Erfurt. Party Fame: 62 (barely known). Local Rep: 3.
It's time to head back east, find a way to cross the Elbe, deal with Anton Seibt, and get to Berlin. Before we leave, we buy some reagents in the main market, but are once again tossed away from Alchemist's Lane when we try to buy some formulas.
Moving east from Erfurt, we finally find a bridge across the Elbe and thus begin angling back north.
7 September 1401. Wilderness.
On the road, a nobleman appears with knights and retainers and demands that we pay the "road toll" of 1 florin. I choose to "try to talk him out of it," and the nobleman blanches upon hearing our names, graciously letting us use his road for free. "Such are the benefits of reputation and fame," the game muses, as if we'd earned much of either.
The nobleman acts like we've introduced ourselves as the "Gambinos" or something.
9 September 1401. Wilderness.

The party investigates a castle, and it turns out to belong to the robber knight Rainald Nöttelheim. He's not a high-priority target, as the only quest we have to kill him is from the Medici representative in Goslar. But there are other benefits to killing robber knights, and we're right there.
I have no idea how my clumsy, armored characters passed this test.
Our usual tactic is to knock and ask for entry, then stay the night, then sneak into the robber knight's chambers at night. We can't do that this time because it's already night. So I choose to sneak into the castle entirely, and it works. We then sneak into his room, defeat him in single combat, and loot his armor as we did the first two times. This is too easy.

13 September 1401. Halle.

We come to a small hamlet on the way to Berlin. As usual, the schulz is no help. We go to confession at the church instead, and something odd happens. The penance given by the priest is to slowly kill a small animal, then recite 10 prayers backwards, then drink so much sacramental wine that we pass out. Needless to say, the party declines to perform this so-called penance.
A warning sign.
Wondering if this oddity is something we should act upon, we return to the schulz and note that one of the options is to accuse the village of satanic practices. We choose that, and in response multiple villagers attack us with clubs and tools. But they're just peasants, and the resulting combat is both brief and non-damaging to the party.

After the combat, one of the villagers gasps, just before dying, "We will have our revenge East of Strassburg on September 22." Afterwards, we hike up to the top of a nearby hill and find a demonic altar. With no alchemical or saintly options, we choose to "call forth the demon haunting the site and defeat it in battle," and we do in fact defeat him in battle. The altar is destroyed and we all gain some virtue points.
The cultist's statement alarms us, but Strassburg is awful far to the southwest, and there's no way we can make it there in 9 days.
14 September 1401. Leipzig. Party Fame: 72 (barely known). Local rep: 0.
349 years from now, Bach will die in this city. We have no luck here. The burgermeister won't see us; the alchemists won't talk to us; the Kloster won't even let us study saints. We buy some reagents and move on.
Through the woods to Wittenberg.

23 September 1401. Wittenberg. Party Fame: 72 (barely known). Local rep: 0.
We reach Wittenberg on the way to Berlin. We arrive at dusk. Rather than immediately head to the Goldene Weintraube for the night, we spend a couple hours on the streets beating up thieves. Maximian takes way more damage than makes sense given his plate armor. We retire to the inn and rest a couple of days to restore hit points.
Immediately on the road after leaving Witternberg, we are attacked by, and defeat, a party of wolves.
25 October 1401. Wilderness. 
Huddled mass of beggars on the road. Give 2 florins. 

4 November 1401. Berlin. Party Fame: 72 (barely known). Local rep: 0.
We arrive in Berlin at last, on a mission to steal reports from the Medici representative. That has to wait for night, so we spend the day shopping, and Maximian spends a few hours learning of St. Willebald. Just as we're about to leave, for the heck of it, we toss a few florins in the collection plate and a mysterious monk tells us to come back in the morning.
This led nowhere. Maybe we were too late in the "morning."
At night, we are able to sneak into the offices of the Medici representative and steal the treason plans that the Hanseatic League representative in Flensburg wanted. We finish off the evening with a bit of the old ultraviolence, courtesy of some hapless thieves, then settle in for a night's rest at the Alter Krug Dahlem. The next morning, we return to the Kloster but nothing special happens. I don't know what that was about. We depart the city, heading northwest along the east bank of the Elbe.
I'm beginning to wonder if these quests are really worth the trouble.
15 November 1401. Wilderness. Party Fame: 82 (barely known).
Attacked by bandits. Bluffing doesn't work. We kick their butts. Everyone's "Impact Weapons" go up a couple of points; the characters are now mostly in their 40s with the weapons after six months of practice.

26 November 1401. Wilderness.

At last, we come across the keep of Anton Seibt. We save the game and try challenging him to single combat. He attacks with a group of his retainers instead, and three of my characters are killed. Reloading, we try the tactic that has worked multiple times already: ask for entry, ask to spend the night, sneak out and find him in the middle of the night, defeat him in five-on-one combat.
Seibt doesn't fall for any of that "single combat" nonsense.
We now have multiple people to call on for rewards, including some at Lüneberg across the river. This time, there's an obvious bridge between the two sides. Why didn't we notice it last time? Did it get washed out?

5 December 1401. Lüneberg. Party fame: 92 (barely known). Local rep: -9.

The alchemist and the Hanseatic League are both grateful for the death of Anton Seibt. The game tells me that Hanse leaves after the League gives us our reward, but he doesn't right away. He stays in the party while we're still in town. Just as I'm beginning to assume it's a bug and we'll be able to keep him, he leaves us as we depart the city the next day.
Our friend announces his departure. Maybe we should have avoided turning in this quest. He was worth 10 florins.
At the alchemist's shop, I finally find someone willing to sell me alchemical formulas. Even though they cost a pretty 16 florins, I purchase four. This almost ensures that I'll be able to write about alchemy and potions next time.
23 December 1401. Wilderness.

Horrible day. We're attacked by giant spiders and just after we finish with them, we're attacked by The Hunt. Maximian is nearly killed.
What is this Hunt dude's problem?
30 December 1401. Wilderness.

Attacked by wild boars. Fortunately, no one is very hurt. Then we're ambushed by thieves. Maximian manages to bluff our way out of combat.

31 December 1401. Lübeck. Party fame: 95 (barely known). Local rep: 39.

The oberste, Adam Schmidt, gives us nearly 60 florins for killing Anton Seibt, and our local reputation goes up 43 points ("a local hero"). The Hanseatic League gives us a 7-florin reward for stealing the debt note from Erfurt.

I spend a bunch of our wealth on reagents and then spend a couple weeks at the Rathskellar, healing.

19 January 1402. Flensburg. Party fame: 95 (barely known). Local rep: 80.

Eight months after we left, we return to our city of origin with three rewards to collect. The Fugger representative gives us 6 florins for Seibt. The Hanseatic League representative gives us 3 florins for the reports regarding a plot to overthrow the city. (This lowers our local reputation by 10. What?) But the erbvogt, who also gave me the quest to kill Seibt, refuses to see us two days in a row. This is the second time he's blown us off after we've defeated a robber knight, and I assume it's some bug in the game. The quest-tracking utility, which I'm no longer using, says that we need to visit the mayor of Flensburg--twice.
The Fugger hates parting with money, even when it's due.
We decide to settle in for a period of learning and skill development, but this is hard to do in a concentrated way. For instance, the monastery seems to allow you to learn about one saint per visit to the city, not once per day. If you get someone to agree to tutor you, the agreement only lasts for a few days, during which there's no guarantee that you'll actually increase.
After a couple of frustrating weeks in which we accomplish little, we leave the city.

13 February 1402. Schleswig. Party fame: 95 (barely known). Local rep: -20.
I don't know what happened to our reputation in this city. As far as I know, we've done nothing negative here, and yet the guards accosted us when we tried to enter the city. We glibly talked our way out of it, but the experience left us rattled. Maybe our growing fame in Flensburg and Lübeck hurt us here.
Our ruse works--but we're still not in the city.
I'll leave off here as the party considers a new plan and exploration pattern, probably returning to summary entries when I come back.

Time so far: 29 hours


  1. Are gaps, such as from 23 September to 25 October, just travel? A combination of travel, rest, healing, and other things?

    1. Yes, probably a combination of walking and resting. I'm not sure I annotated everything that happened, either, particularly if it had happened a lot of times before.

  2. I've been looking forward to you playing this one for years, and these posts are delivering. What a fascinating and sometimes annoying game. I feel as if there is an alternate universe where Darklands was a commercial and critical (and mostly bug-free) success, was followed by its planned sequels, and the modern role-playing lanscape is subtley but noticeably different.

  3. Is it just me or is there not a lot of variety in this game? Chet seems to be having the same four encounters over and over and over again (bandits, thieves, wolves, and identical robber knights).

    1. The same set pieces and quests are used repeatedly. I agree it gets a little boring, but it also makes it easy to pick up when something unique or unusual is happening. Again, this game is like Pirates!, where you fought the same types of battles against the same types of enemies over and over and over but the rewards of wealth and fame kept you going.

    2. There are quite a few more types of encounters, a lot we haven't read about yet. Alltogether there are probably more than in most 1992 games. I think the open world nature of the game, the main quest being a bit opaque, and the abstract nature of the menu encounters lead to a feeling of repetition. Some events, like bandit encounters, will pop up more often, but that's nothing unusual for an RPG.

      An open world game needs more content than a more linear game in order not to seem repetitive. Darklands is a game that would benefit a lot from users being able to add their own modules. The menu-based events would have been really well suited for that.

  4. "Maximian takes way more damage than makes sense given his plate armor."

    Does he have both pieces of armor? Enemy attacks have a 50-50 chance to hit vitals or limbs, so both are important.

    "The next morning, we return to the Kloster but nothing special happens. I don't know what that was about."

    Nothing special, the dialogue just switched to night mode, and there is no service at night. The game files suggest that there should be options to see the abbot, get healing or sanctuary, but I'm not sure these were actually implemented.

    "I don't know what happened to our reputation in this city. As far as I know, we've done nothing negative here, and yet the guards accosted us when we tried to enter the city."

    I think getting thrown out of buildings gives negative reputation, especially the University.

  5. "Everyone knows that the wolves are the enemy of the Shadow"
    You got me confused and interested: what are you referring to?

    1. I'm pretty sure that's a Wheel of Time reference.

    2. Damn. And I read the first 5, too !

  6. I am glad you are playing this, I could never. The fact that 95% of it seems to be menu-driven just makes me CRAZY- I feel so claustrophobic just reading about it. But it is entertaining, so thank you :)

  7. The reason why your rep took a hit is that you broke into a building in a city; certain actions such as sneaking in the city, refusal to see important npc or breaking into buildings make you “unwanted” cities close to the incident
    Btw, do try different ways to tackle raubritters because not only is it boring but it also is counterproductive to do the same thing since you cannot gauge the true power of your party from ganging up on the robber knight. The best way is to either sneak in or ask for an invitation and go through the castle killing small groups of bandits and looting the castle for money and hi quality items and gear
    The Wild Hunt is summoned by the Witches whenever you attack a satanic village, you are probably experienced enough to start doing those, they get you some good virtue... you can also start donating to good villages
    I would suggest you pick a good “base” city with an university that teaches alchemy or healing, plus local rep will help you get better quests

  8. Nuremberg is my city of choice; great quality equipment, healers, university and nearby cities for multiple questing

    1. That's funny. My playing is ahead of my blogging--I have two more posts on DL already in the queue. I spent a lot more time wandering around and then decided to "settle down," and in doing so I also chose Nuremberg.

    2. Lol, yup that’s how it is sometimes
      Seems you are enjoying the game Chet, try to focus now on getting some interesting saints like Polycarp, Gabriel etc... you will need them
      And wait till you hear rumors of dragons...

  9. So . . . that is one of the reasons I suggested going to confession. :)

    Besides, if it's in-character and in the game, it's worth trying.

    I also had a mayors, especially, refuse to see me after giving me a task to kill a raubritter. I never thought it might be a bug - I just assumed it's realistically ungrateful politicians.

  10. I'm enjoying these travelogue posts, so do keep them coming!

  11. It's possible you still got a relic from the mine. It's probably a glitch, but I know when I played, I consistantly got a relic just for opening the door, and it's possible the same happened on your copy

  12. Enjoying the review of this one so much, I even took advantage of the Steam Spring sale and grabbed myself a copy!

  13. "The quest-tracking utility, which I'm no longer using, says that we need to visit the mayor of Flensburg--twice."

    You are not using utility, but still know what it says!?
    Interesting... :D


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