Sunday, June 30, 2019

Darklands: Von Eschenbachs Represent!

The dangers of low reputation.
It's becoming clear that a large part of Darklands is developing the party's fame. Fame gives the party access to more political and economic leaders, and thus more quests, and thus more rewards, and thus more fame. This eventually leads to the main quest? I'm still not certain about that. But in a game where the ultimate goal is to retire with a high score, fame is a key metric. Since I began the game, my party has progressed from 0 to 168 ("modest reputation"). I started at 95 ("barely known") for this session.
The party's status at the end of this session.
Related to fame, but not the same thing, is local reputation. I gather that fame is a global measure while local reputation has more to do with how the immediate region sees you. You can be famous and still despised by a particular city. In general, cities seem to be warily neutral towards the party, no matter what fame they've achieved elsewhere, until they start doing things for that city. But it's much easier to gain local reputation. One night of killing alley thieves is enough to get you to "respected" level, and a single robber knight quest makes you "a local hero."
Sneaking into a robber knight's castle.
I thought one approach might be to build local reputation over a certain value (say, 50) in a systematic order as I worked my way through the cities. As this session began, I had just sneaked my way into Schleswig, where my reputation was -20 and guards were actively looking to arrest me. I got it to the positives (albeit single digits) by spending several nights hunting thieves. It's not a bad way to spend time. My armor is good enough that the thieves don't even do any damage by now, and I still occasionally improve weapon skills by clonking them on their heads. 

While dealing with thieves helps with local reputation, it seems to do nothing for overall fame. For that, you need to accomplish things outdoors or to finish quests. Killing robber knights adds a reliable 10 points to fame and also significantly increases local reputations in the towns that gave you the robber knight quest. By the time I left Schleswig, I had 4 quests to kill the same robber knight, and I picked up another 2 in Hamburg. Unfortunately, that robber knight was again Anton Seibt. I guess the game just keeps re-using the same names for robber knights in the same region, no matter how many times you kill them. That breaks the immersion a bit.
How many times do I have to kill you?!
This session, I kept careful note of what actions led to what effects on reputation and fame. This is what I noted.
  • Killing a robber knight: +10 to fame, +50-60 in local reputation at city where quest was given
  • Retrieving an artifact from a shrine: +10 to fame (even before turning it in to the quest-giver)
  • Donating money to a small village church: +3 to fame (may not be consistent)
  • Killing a pack of alley thieves: Between +1 and +3 to local reputation.
  • Getting rejected for an audience with the leader of a city: -1 to local reputation. 
  • Getting physically ejected from the city hall: -10 to local reputation.
  • Attacking city guards: -40 to local reputation
Actions that didn't have any effect, which surprised me: trying to sneak or coax my way into or out of cities; giving money or escorts to traveling pilgrims; bribing guards; donating large amounts to churches; rescuing merchants from bandits; destroying villages practicing witchcraft; or killing bands of roving marauders in between cities. I also didn't find any actions that had a negative effect on fame.
Getting a miscellaneous artifact quest.
In this session, I spent over a year moving randomly around the landscape. I mean that literally. Every time I reached a crossroads, I used a random number generator to determine which path I took. Yes, sometimes this took me backwards, but I almost always had as many quests (or quest rewards) in my backpath as in any of the forward options.

Upon reaching a city, I settled in to a comfortable pattern, at least assuming it was a new city and my reputation was 0:
  1. Enter during the day
  2. Immediately head for the Kloster or university and ask to study a saint. That process usually takes until nightfall. Donate money if I need the divine favor.
  3. Spend the first night killing thieves, so as to boost my reputation to "respected."
  4. The next day, visit the political leader and the Fugger, Medici, and Hanseatic League representatives for quests.
  5. Sell any excess equipment in the markets and look for potions and potion ingredients to buy.
  6. Rest at the inn if I needed it; otherwise, continue on.
Purchasing potions is a good way to get rid of excess money--fast.
In between the cities, I've killed numerous robber knights. I purged at least three villages of Satanism. (Each one offered me a hint about where the Satanists would next meet to "get revenge," but I've always been too far away to get there in time.) I killed a couple of lords who were oppressing their peasants. I've escorted and donated to countless packs of hapless pilgrims. I've killed so many bandits and highwaymen that I must be approaching a whole percentage of the population. I've recovered several artifacts from pagan altars. I've fought off wolves, boars, spiders, and schrats in the dozens.

I've come to not like the quests in which I'm asked to sneak into a Fugger, Medici, Hanseatic, or other office in the middle of the night and retrieve documents or something. Success in these missions involves a sequence of skill checks, starting with sneaking into the market in the first place, then actually opening the doors. Sometimes, the doors are trapped, and several times, they've refused to open even when I have an NPC with a high "Artifice" skill. They often give me the option to use "Eater-Water" potions (which never work) or "Thunderbolt" potions (which inevitably summon the guards). If I happen to be successful, the rewards are low, and I think it might lower my local reputation. I'm probably going to stop doing these missions.
I'm not even sure he's telling me the whole story.
I had meant to return to Goslar eventually and finish that "knocker" quest. Now I'm hearing rumors that the mine at Freiburg is having the same problem. I'm not sure if this means there are two potential mine quests, or if I waited too long in finishing the first one. I guess the only way to tell is to return to Goslar and see if I can resume.

A couple of interesting things happened regarding the Wild Hunt. In a couple of cases in which I heard the Hunt approach, I perceived that it was after a helpless schrat--a hairy "wild man" of Germanic legend who I suppose is equivalent to Bigfoot or the yeti. Both times, I saved the schrat, who rewarded me with an increase in strength for one character. Later, a holzfrau--a female schrat--showed up a few times to warn me of an approaching Wild Hunt. She told me that I could protect myself from the Wild Hunt if I learned of St. Wenceslaus. As it happens, I know quite a good deal about Wenceslaus and flesh and wine and pine logs hither, but I suppose my characters don't. I haven't been able to find a Kloster that teaches of him. This would be more of a priority if my party got seriously beat up by the Wild Hunt, but it's always just one hunter, and it's not hard to kill him.
A holzfrau helps protect me against the Wild Hunt.
I had been so used to thinking of the schrats as friends that I was surprised when a group of them attacked me later in the game. There didn't seem to be any "noble" way to avoid the combat, so I reluctantly killed them.
Fighting schrats. I thought they were my friends!
Miscellaneous notes:
  • The mayor of Flensburg has given me the quest to kill Anton Seibt three times and has never rewarded me for it once. The quest utility says that all three are still active.
  • Nothing has ever happened to me at the clothmakers' guild. I only ever get options to leave.
I'm sure glad I visited!
  • Similarly, reading notices, engaging in gossip, and listening for rumors only ever produces the same notice prohibiting people from being out at night. 
  • During this session, Lambert achieved a skill of 45 in "Healing," and now my characters regenerate 3 points per rest session. That really makes a difference.
Lambert studies while everyone else just relaxes.
  • The save game system is a bit annoying. Every time you save, the game generates a new file. To whatever name you give the file, it prefixes your current location and date. It then precedes to sort these files in absolutely random order, so it's a hunt to find your last save, and you have to constantly delete the excess.
What is the logic of this order? It is neither by date, nor alphabetically by location, nor alphabetically by the name I gave the file.
It took me this long in the game to realize that the "leader" is different than the person at the head of the "marching order." This is why I got kicked out of every alchemist's shop for the first 20 hours. Somehow, the leader had been set to Bianca, who has the worst charisma and speech skills, and for at least two game sessions, she's been doing all my bargaining and coaxing. It's a wonder I've been successful at anything.
That Bianca passed this particular skill check--which resolved the situation at the top of this entry--is a miracle.
Towards the end of the session, something happened that I think may be the first step--or an early step--on the main quest. While sheltering from a blizzard one night near Passau, everyone in the party had the same dream. It started with a terrible demon looming over a bloody altar stone while crazed Satanists danced nearby. In succession, we then saw an ancient monastery populated by monks wearing white robes with blood-red crosses, and two seals that broke apart to reveal seven paths on the other side, each path with its own terrors--famine, fire, storms, poison, etc.--that slowly grew to overcome the world. 
You all awaken from the dream in the early morning sunlight. There is no doubt that you have been called. The only question is, what should you do now? As in most dreams, there is no clear path of action only premonitions.
True, but I have a couple of ideas. One involves returning to the northern part of the map and trying to find the seer that I encountered early in my career. The second is running around to the small villages until I find one where the residents are practicing satanism and swear revenge at a time and place I can actually reach. Whatever the case, this new mystery came along at just the right time. Things were starting to get repetitive.
The party has a vision out of Revelations.
I've compiled enough information now about combat and potions that I think I can finally focus on those things for my next entry.
Time so far: 36 hours


  1. You're using SHIFT while selecting options to see your characters' estimate of success, right? That should have tipped you off about the wrong person being leader.

    1. I don't know. It feels like the SHIFT key only ever told me I had a fair or poor chance. I don't think it helps very much.

    2. Where the estimate appears tells you which character is going to perform the action. It also depends on difficulty level. On Basic, it gives exact percentages. (Giving the formula would be more helpful, but I suppose we must leave something for the $20 clue book too.)

  2. The save files get out of order one you start deleting them. Newer saves then start to take the place of old ones. To clean up this mess, occasionally I
    - delete all saves but the most recent one
    - then save again
    - then delete the last but one save

  3. I'm pretty sure I've failed mine quests just by leaving the mines when not having solved them completely. But you obviously left and went back before. There are different types of mine quests, they may behave differently in that regard. I think the rumours are regional, so your Goslar mine quest might still be active.

    It looks like you've been quite unlucky with the satanic villages. Maybe you are overestimating your travel time? Traveling by boat can also help getting somewhere faster.

  4. "Nothing has ever happened to me at the clothmakers' guild. I only ever get options to leave."

    Try going at night.

    "Similarly, reading notices, engaging in gossip, and listening for rumors only ever produces the same notice prohibiting people from being out at night."

    Most of this menu is a remnant of features that were cut from the final game, but more on this in the last posting. Only the gossiping and looking for work options function somewhat, to give you quests like the knocker mines.

    "What is the logic of this order? It is neither by date, nor alphabetically by location, nor alphabetically by the name I gave the file."

    The names of the actual save files are DKSAVE0.SAV, DKSAVE1.SAV, ..., DKSAVE99.SAV. MS-DOS didn't support the "natural" number sorting algorithm commonly used in modern operating systems, so it sorts the files in pure alphabetical order, resulting in an order of DKSAVE0.SAV, DKSAVE1.SAV, DKSAVE10.SAV, etc.

    "It took me this long in the game to realize that the "leader" is different than the person at the head of the "marching order.""

    Yikes. I thought we already told you this when we discussed the SHIFT button. But yeah, this part of the game is pretty inconsistent: sometimes it automatically chooses the best character, sometimes it's the leader.

    1. "Try going at night." Okay, every time I go at night I get caught by the city guard. Is that what you meant or is something else supposed to happen?

    2. No, getting caught is just you being unlucky. What should happen is that you get an option to awaken somebody to make a purchase or sale. They only sell a few pieces of non-metal armor, so probably not worth the time.

    3. So the developers programmed in a guild that makes the worst armor in the game and is never there to sell it during the day, instead requiring me to evade guards at night and yell them awake? Is the quality super good? Like 99 leather armor?

    4. It's fairly standard. I'm pretty sure the fact it doesn't show up in the day is a glitch, because it makes absolutely no sense otherwise

  5. "seven paths on the other side, each path with its own terrors--famine, fire, storms, poison, etc.--that slowly grew to overcome the world."

    Sounds like the latest news on global warming!

  6. Maybe it's like James Bond, with different raubritters inheriting a code name when the previous Anton Seibt retires or gets killed in the line of extortion duty.

    1. It still annoys me that Skyfall killed that theory.

    2. It was dead long before that - Tracy Bond marries Lazenby-Bond, is mourned by Moore-Bond, and Dalton-bond, and is indirectly referenced (not by name, but a short tragic marriage and Bond losing somebody very important are mentioned) by Brosnan-bond. This is something that only makes sense if, just like the books that the movies are based on, there is one and only one James Bond, and it is not a codename.

    3. You could play that off as three Bonds all lost their wives. It's a dangerous business. But seeing his parents' names on the tombstone is much harder to explain away.

  7. Regarding St Wenceslaus, he's the patron saint of the Czechs (having been Duke of Bohemia from 921-935 before being assassinated so his brother could take the throne), so as someone who's never played the game or read a spoiler guide, I'd suggest going to Bohemia to find out about him.

  8. Isn’t there a British Christmas carol about Wenceslaus?

    1. Yes, Chet referenced the lyrics in his post :)

    2. Wait, do Americans not sing that one? I grew up with it, it's my favorite Christmas Carol

    3. It's rare here but not unheard of. Bing Crosby did a nice version. You hear it now and again on holiday radio. But I doubt most Americans know all the lyrics.

  9. You might want to visit one of the sites the mention at the demonic villages, even if it too late, it could give you an idea of what you are looking for, saints willing.

  10. Monks robed in white with red crosses? Aren't those baddies in Zelda 2?

    1. I'm pretty sure it refers to the Knights Templar, as opposed to Wizzrobes

  11. Fun fact: If you ever visit Germany Chet, the mine in Goslar was the longest active mine worldwide with a over 1000 year long history.
    It is an impressive museum today ;-)

  12. Those save files look like they're sorted by date to me. The newest date is listed at the bottom. They're in YYYY-MM-DD order.


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