Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Dark Queen of Krynn: The Black Robed, the Winged Ones, and Also the Small

Bit by bit, we ruin the draconians' plans.
      
When I last wrote, the party had emerged from New Aurim and had returned to Hawkbluff to infiltrate the fortress of Trandamere, religious ruler-in-all-but-name of Thenol. Hawkbluff was an interesting set of maps. I screwed it up in almost every possible way and still managed to clear it. The fortress consists of five levels up and two levels down. There were several entrances, and each required a different pass. Apparently (I looked this up later), there are eight passes. The jeweler in town, having been shown the queen's signet ring, will forge up to three of them. 
    
I screwed things up in several ways. First, I was feeling ornery and I refused to map the small levels, even though there are multiple stairways connecting them, plus multiple secret doors, and you really have to map to make sense of it all. Second, I carried my "total war" attitude over from New Aurim and insisted on just attacking everything. Third, I only ever got one pass from the jeweler--the "Keyhole" pass that you need to enter the main doors of the fortress. From there, I put my right shoulder to the wall and followed it dogmatically, up and down stairs when I encountered them, but never finding many of the fortress's encounters. I never even visited the two lower levels. Despite that, the place was packed with encounters. Some examples:
     
  • As we entered the fortress, guards were trading rumors about "over a hundred mercenaries" attacking and sacking the palace in New Aurim.
  • Clerics demanding that citizens donate their possessions and then sacrifice themselves to the undead army. We watched one old man do this to save his daughter, then attacked the clerics and stopped the practice for good.
  • We killed some treasury guards and got access to the treasury, which had 38,771 gold pieces. Naturally, we couldn't carry most of it.
  • Multiple battles with a new enemy called "Bakali." The manual describes them as lizard men from Taladas. They hit hard, and numerous times, with their spears, and they take a pounding, but they're susceptible to most mass-damage spells. 
        
A large pack of soon-to-be-charred Bakali.
            
  • We disrupted services in the main Temple of Hith, killed all the clerics, and overturned the altars.
  • Several overheard conversations and rumors indicated that Trandamere was planning for an invasion of Ansalon once Taladas was conquered.
      
The primary battle took place in a war room in which Trandamere and his generals were discussing the upcoming invasion of a place called "Blackwater." First, we had to kill the generals while Trandamere fled. Then, we had to kill a bunch of draconians protecting Trandamere in his flight. Then, we had to kill a bunch of Bakali doing the same. Finally, Trandamere fled through a secret portal that exploded behind him.
    
Trandamere had hauled Hawkbluff's architect, Davik, to the meeting. When everyone was dead, Davik joined the party and helped direct us to various places around the fortress. Still, we had trouble figuring out what to do next. A commenter helped by offering that if we'd come in through the front door of Trandamere's war room, instead of the secret door we used, we would have seen a scripted event in which Trandamere had tossed the Book of Amrocar into a dumbwaiter. That was our cue to look for it in the kitchen. Well, we eventually found it there even though that encounter text had never appeared. The book contained an in-journal map of Blackwater Glade.
          
I got stuck for a while in a loop where the game was asking me this every step. Fortunately, it cleared up.
        
Let's pause here to talk about draconians. I've been fighting them since Champions of Krynn, but Dark Queen introduces a new set of "enchanted" varieties that really raise the stakes. Aurak draconians, for instance, resurrect twice before finally dying in a fireball that damages everyone around them. Enchanted Auraks are like this except they also have up to Level 8 mage spells and significantly damage everyone around them when they explode. 
   
"Exploding when they die" is a trait shared by several enchanted draconian breeds. Enchanted Sivaks explode in four directions with the same effects as "Meteor Swarm." Enchanted Kapaks dissolve into acid for a 10-foot radius. But worse of all are enchanted Bozaks. They not only have "Fire Shield" active when combat begins, they explode into "Ice Storm" when killed and they have "Cone of Cold," "Ice Storm," and "Lightning Bolt" at their disposal. You have to make a tough decision when fighting them: either let them cast at will, or damage them every round so they can't cast spells, in which case they rush up to engage you in melee range and you have to either extract yourself or take the damage when they explode.
  
The explosions of regular draconians were annoying but rarely fatal, but the death throes of enchanted draconians often kill one or more of my characters. The best tactic I could come up with was to cast "Monster Summoning," which almost always generates fire giants, and try to put them in between the party and the draconians while I picked them off with spells (which fail a lot of the time against draconians) and arrows. The constant struggle got relatively tiresome by the end of the game, but on the other hand it proved the first serious challenge that the Gold Box offered in a long time.
          
Putting a summoned creature buffer between us and a draconian.
        
To deal with the difficulty of these and other combats, I naturally relied on buffing spells, often cast during my second attempt at the battle. "Bless," "Protection from Evil," and "Prayer" still offer some assistance. "Resist Fire" and "Resist Cold" are equally vital, although they really just halve the damage. I still use "Enlarge" even though I don't think it really helps my powered characters. My mages get "Mirror Image," "Fire Shield," and "Globe of Invulnerability." Ever since one mage found a Ring of Wizardry that gives extra Level 5 slots, I've sacrificed spaces that would have normally gone to "Cone of Cold" for "Fire Touch," which lets the characters do extra fire damage. But by far the most useful buffing spell is "Haste." Unfortunately, it continues to age the characters one year for every time it's cast, and there aren't many Potions of Youth to be found in this game. My human characters have basically given up their youth to the utility of this spell, aging from their mid-20s to their mid-40s over the course of the series. I know it doesn't make a real in-game difference, but I still feel bad for them.
    
I left Hawkbluff having explored nowhere near all of the maps but still having accomplished my objectives. Normally, I would have insisted on exploring every square, but the fortress respawned more than any Gold Box game I can remember. Every time I came across a guard station or checkpoint, it was newly stocked with fresh forces. The combats got exhausting, particularly since it's nearly impossible to rest inside the fortress.
    
A new marker had appeared on my world map, so I headed there. A ship took me across the strait to what turned out to be the village of Bai'or. A fishing village, Bai'or had been conquered by draconians allied with a thuggish faction of Bai'orians called "Sharkmen," a term used by the Oracle. The draconians had left, but the Sharkmen remained in charge. There were also a company of dragons in the woods north of town, keeping the villagers in line. The villagers had been put to work building dozens of ships to carry the eventual draconian invasion fleet across the sea to Ansalon.
 
A lot of games would have elided the logistics of an intercontinental invasion.
     
Most villagers, afraid of the Sharkmen, wouldn't talk with us. Two of them, Eric Strongbond and Oleg Hamhand, tried to pin the troubles of the town on each other.  After we invaded and destroyed the Sharkmen's headquarters, we found an old woman named Anthela who suggested we just leave Bai'or to its fate and go find allies in the gnomes in the citadel of Aldinanachru "on the northwest of the Lava Sea." We had the option to just leave or to tell Anthela that we'd take care of the dragons so the rest of the town could throw off the yoke of the Sharkmen. We of course did the latter.
    
The fight against the Sharkmen was a classic, old-school Pool of Radiance-type battle against dozens of enemies mostly capable of physical attacks, although they did have a few clerics in the back. They were tough, but a few fireballs softened them up for my melee fighters to finish off. The town rejoiced at their liberation, and even the Strongbonds and Hamhands made amends.
             
This is what I live for.
          
We then had to keep our promise to fight the dragons. In the town's northern wooded squares, we found a battle with several black, blue, and red dragons. They could be tough if they went first, but dragons hardly ever do, and a hastened Midsummer and Dutch, both armed with dragonlances, can kill eight dragons per round. The other party members can easily take down one or two. It wasn't even close.
   
When the battle was over, we met a weak, sickly red dragon who the others had been torturing. We gave it some food and water, and it related that the draconians in the Tower of Flame have been trying to bio-engineer the perfect dragon for Takhisis to inhabit when she enters the mortal plane. He was one of the genetic mistakes. Grunschka unimaginatively named him "Firebreath." Firebreath suggested we find help from unaligned dragons in Blackwater Glade.
        
If that's your way of describing the afterlife, you and I have very different ideas about what it will look like.
         
This was the fifth or sixth time we'd heard about Blackwater Glade, but we didn't know where it was. We found it by returning to the mainland and searching up and down systematically.
    
As we entered, Dutch fell into a sinkhole and briefly lost the dragonscale necklace that the king of the Hulderfolk had given to us. I think the entire episode was just to remind us that he had it. As we explored the area, a bard named Baldric joined us. His character sheet showed he wasn't a bard but a ranger, and 83 years old at that. It was clear that something was up with him because he would disappear before every battle, and later we'd find scorched earth and bodies. Grunschka decided that she hated him for some reason, and yelled "hooray!" every time he left and grumbled every time he returned.
         
The party meets another walking god.
        
We ran into a tribe of Bakali--so that's where they come from--and helped one with his manhood trial against a giant crocodile, but in a way that didn't rob him of the honor of slaying the beast. Although his tribe forbade him from helping us, he showed up several times during the rest of the map to give us directions.
  
Ultimately, it turned out that the Glade was the home of two species of dragons, red and silver, oddly aligned with each other just because neither group had been corrupted by Takhisis during the War of the Lance. They called themselves "Othlorx." Draconians and Thenolians were now stealing their eggs for corruption into draconians. Baldric was a silver dragon in disguise. We also met another, named Clematra, who let us rest in her lair.
          
Sounds like an abstinence-based education could solve all of our problems.
         
The red dragons were ruled by Tremor--another name from the Oracle, finally appearing. He was unaligned with Takhisis but not "good," and he kept demanding tribute from us until we just threatened him and he fled. The Book of Amrocar had a password that got us into his lair. We eventually re-encountered a subdued Tremor, who told us that the courage of the red Othlorx had been lost the day that Takhisis struck a scale from the chest of Kothar, their previous leader.
    
Of course, this turned out to be the scale that Dutch was now wearing around his neck. Just as we handed it to Tremor, a hoard of Thenolians burst in, and we all had to work together to defeat them. After that, another red dragon tried to usurp Tremor's authority, so we had to participate in a ritual in which we laid a sword across Tremor's neck without killing him, apparently proving his bravery, and his rival backed down. Tremor let us keep the sword, which turned out to be a vorpal sword, perhaps the only major equipment upgrade we got in this game except the second dragonlance.
        
Dragons are weird.
          
After all was said and done, the Othlorx offered to fly us north to the gnome citadel at Aldinanachriu, which for some reason is built on the edge of a sea of lava. As we arrived, the place was in chaos. Tasslehoff Burfoot--groan--met us at the entrance and related what's happening. Gnomes have long been divided into two castes: the Gnomoi, who do all the thinking, planning, and inventing, and the Minoi, who do all the actual work. The king recently decided he wanted to abolish the caste system, and did so by reversing the two traditional roles. The new Gnomoi laborers were stumbling over themselves while the Minoi thinkers were designing disastrous inventions. As we arrived, the castle was gutted and full of debris and the elevator was broken; every time we used it, either we took some damage or some gnome operators died.
          
Typical of conditions in the citadel.
       
We re-encountered Captain Daenor, still searching for his sister. He had hoped that the gnome king would help with the nation's fire-fleets and windships, but the king was ignoring his pleas. He re-joined the party, and I was surprised to note that he was a paladin. I didn't remember if he had that class the first time. I gave him a spare long bow +3 and long sword +4.
    
We had an audience with the king, who listened impatiently and then dismissed us. However, our lie-detection ring started glowing in his presence and revealed him to be a Sivak draconian. He ordered his guards to attack as he fled, and we had to kill a lot of probably-innocent gnomes. 
         
This plot device is used more than masks in the Mission Impossible franchise.
       
The next couple of hours had us running around the multiple levels of the gnome fortress, trying to find the abducted king. We fought several squads of disguised Sivaks, plus a bunch of hydras and iron golems coming through a portal that they had opened, plus fooled ambassadors from the Land of the Minotaurs. In doing so, we revealed draconian plans to invade the Land of the Minotaurs, for which the minotaurs thanked us. We also awoke a pack of vampires in one forgotten corner of the place, which was a tough battle. They all refused to turn. 
         
I think the minotaurs are the "black robed" of the Oracle's prophecy. It's a good thing I didn't kill them all.
          
We made use of the fortress's services as we explored, including a training hall, an inn, a tavern, and most importantly, an old woman selling missiles out of a suitcase. She sold 10 arrows +2 for 15,000 gold. I spent nearly an hour appraising and selling gems and jewels to convert them to steel pieces, and in the end, I was able to purchase about 250 arrows, split among five characters with bows (including Captain Daenor). They didn't quite last me until the end of the game, and I can see why some players, taking a long-term view, invest quite heavily in cheaper arrows + 1 in Death Knights of Krynn before starting this game.
         
About halfway through the conversion process.
        
We finally caught up to where the draconians were holding the king, fought several more battles, dealt with a scene in which the real king and a Sivak both claimed to be each other, and ultimately won the day.
   
Baldric arrived at the citadel to report that the Othlorx had finished destroying the Thenol armies. (It's kind of weird that we never had a final confrontation with Trandamere.) The restored gnome king agreed to help us and the Othlorx on a multi-pronged attack on the draconians' Tower of Flame. We will be flown by wind ship to the top floors of the tower and then work our way down.
         
This "Grathanich" will become important next time--and not in a good way.
      
I had hoped to win the game for this entry, but although I have explored most of the Tower of Flame, I'm frustratingly unable to figure out how to actually wrap up the game. I've fought what seems like about 15 "final battles," but the game apparently wants me to still fight the final battle, which I have to hunt around for. We'll talk about my end game frustrations next time, assuming I'm able to win.
     
Before I go, I just want to note that this game has done a better job than any Gold Box title since Pool of Radiance in giving a large number of what I called contextual, conversational, and choice encounters in this old entry. Some allow you to role-play, some are a kind of mini-puzzle, and some are like rolling a die. They're all welcome. Here are some examples from this session alone:
      
A rare example of a dialogue option in a Gold Box game.

Since you really need Tremor and the Othlorx, choosing "behead" must lead to instant death or a very different game.

I like having choices, but who sees this situation and thinks, "attack!"?

The man is a vampire. Helping him allows him a free attack that drains the character.
       
I'm not sure that any of the encounter choices offered in Dark Queen lead to significantly different outcomes in terms of the plot, but it's still nice to see some recognition that role-playing is about choices, and some players like choices that go beyond what weapon to use and what enemy to attack in combat. It's an important step on the road to more meaningful role-playing in later games.     
   
Time so far: 30 hours

  

66 comments:

  1. I've always thought exploding races to be ludicrous. Your army of Draconians are camped for the night. Suddenly some fool trips and falls on his sword coming back from the latrine in the dark, and the whole damned camp bursts into flames. What army would use these guys? Also, I shudder to think of a Draconian field hospital.

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    1. If I recall correctly, outside of this game, only Auraks explode, and they're meant to be a boss enemy, not a mook.

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    2. Bozaks are also supposed to explode, but theirs is more of a physical explosion, as compared to the fiery explosion of Auraks.

      The other draconian death throes are supposed to be:
      * Baaz turn to stone capturing the weapon that caused the death blow.
      * Kapaks turn into a pool of acid
      * Sivaks change shape into their killer's form. IIRC, they also explode if their killer is larger than they are.

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    3. There are actually some species of ants and termites that do explode as a defense mechanism. (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autothysis) It's not the craziest idea if you assume that you're dealing with a species where letting a few members of the colony die in defense is better for the colony as a whole (not sure these games are smart enough to illustrate that, though).

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    4. Doesn't seem like the greatest idea when your species is sterile and relies on stealing the offspring of a much larger, more dangerous apex predator in order to reproduce. You'd think Draconians would be all about preserving as many of their number as possible, but nope, they have a dozen different kinds of suicide bomber. Really, Draconians are a very "gamey" enemy and don't make any kind of ecological or logistical sense. They exist to give player characters an interesting fight and I get the feeling not much thought went into them beyond that.

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    5. Should creatures created in a magic ritual make ecological or logistical sense? I always assumed that the Dragonarmies created them as disposable troops to win the War of the Lance, with no particular plan of keeping them around once the war was over.

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    6. The draconians are a artificial species created to be cannon fodder. Causing problems for their killers was part of it.

      They were created from the eggs of the good dragons, which were kidnapped to force said dragons to remain out of the war. Finding out what the eggs were used for was what brought the good dragons into the war.

      They weren't intended for breeding.

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    7. The difference is that an exploding ant doesn't cause adjacent ants to explode in a chain reaction :)

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    8. Think of draconians as robots made from a rare resource belonging to your enemy. Dragon eggs are not a big deal if stealing them isn't difficult and you can't make anything else with them anyway. You could breed dragons, but I guess waiting for them to mature could take hundreds of years?

      The real reason I think is that Takhiss is an insane evil god and does whatever stupid thing she wants. Takhiss's reason for using dragon eggs might be just that she wanted to spite the dragons.

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  2. Did you finally spend all your wealth in Bai’or?

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  3. If you haven't yet met The Black Robed (a single individual, definitely not the Minotaur Mages), technically neither in Aldinanachru nor the Tower of Flame, then there's more you need to find.

    I do remember having some trouble navigating to the right place in the Tower in the past...let me look up the way to get to the final section...(ROT13ed in case you still want to avoid spoilers for this, of course)

    1. Vs lbh unira'g orngra gur zhygvcyr-jnir onggyrf va gur Grzcyr ba yriry 4 bs gur Gbjre, naq fhofrdhragyl orra fhpxrq vagb gur Nolff, gura zbfg yvxryl lbh ner orvat fglzvrq ol gur oevpxrq-hc fgnvejnlf. Zl erpbyyrpgvba vf gung rnpu sybbe bs gur gbjre unf fbzr sbez bs pehpvny bcrengvba lbh arrq gb qvfehcg gb nyybj gur tabzrf npprff gb gur uvture sybbef, naq bapr gur tabzrf unir npprff, gurl haoybpx gur jnl sbe lbh. Ba yriry 0, lbh arrq gb fznfu gur Gbjre ratvarf; ba yriry 1, lbh arrq gb qrsrng gur orubyqref naq bcra gur fvrtr cbegf; ba yriry 2, lbh arrq gb fynl gur pbira bs oynpx jvmneqf naq qrfgebl gur ynve jurer jbhaqrq qentbaf ner urnyrq; naq ba yriry 3, lbh arrq gb svtug lbhe jnl gb gur Sbag naq qvfehcg gur qenpbavnaf onfxvat va gur cbjre enqvngvat qbja sebz yriry 4. Vs lbh unira'g qbar gurfr lrg, V nqivfr *abg* ernqvat #2, orpnhfr vg pbagnvaf fcbvyref sbe nsgrejneq!

    2. Vs lbh *unir* orra gb gur Nolff naq onpx, naq qrsrngrq gur svir-urnqrq qentba vagraqrq sbe Gnxuvfvf' obql, gur tnzr rkcrpgf lbh gb punfr gur Tengunavpu nebhaq n ybg, naq riraghnyyl lbh'yy ernpu n "svany rapbhagre" jvgu vg jurer...VVEP, lbh unir lrg nabgure ovt onggyr, nybat jvgu fbzr xvaq bs zbfgyl-zrnavatyrff EC pubvpr naq vs lbh pubbfr "evtug" gur fgbar vf ybfg gb zbegny unaqf bapr ntnva (nf vg "fubhyq or"). Gur onggyr fubhyq or va gur abegujrfg dhnqenag bs yriry 2, whfg abegu bs gur naablvat Oynpx Pvepyr pbira jvgu nyy vgf nepujnlf.

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    1. I was stuck on #2, so I appreciate the hints. That would have taken me a while, and I'm losing patience.

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    2. Who am I forgetting who was black-robed, then?

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    3. Envfgyva, I'd assume (ROT-13'd)

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    4. No problem; glad my many playthroughs of DQK (plus access to the cluebook) can be helpful.

      And yes; I've always interpreted "the black-robed" as referencing Envfgyva Znwrer, gur thl lbh zrrg va gur Nolff orvat gbegherq (jub vf nyfb gur oynpx-eborq zna ba gur tnzr'f pbire neg).

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    5. My only reason for not thinking that originally was the order in which the Oracle presents the allies. The latter two are found in that order, so I figured "the black robed" would be found before either of them. Either way, I don't suppose it matters.

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  4. ""Exploding when they die" is a trait shared by several enchanted draconian breeds. "

    Most of my late game reloads were due to one of my characters dying because of miscalculating the turn an Aurak would explode (usually the last one, with the battle already won). Really annoying.

    "To deal with the difficulty of these and other combats, I naturally relied on buffing spells, often cast during my second attempt at the battle."

    I have the same experience, and honestly I struggle to consider the combat of any game fair if it relies on the player using this tactic to have a fair fight.
    It could have been easily made more stomachable if you were to get a flavor warning a couple of squares ahead of a major battle, which happens maybe twice in the entire game.

    "But by far the most useful buffing spell is "Haste.""

    I rolled three White mages back in CoK by mistake and decided to roll with it. Oh boy, I realized a lot later, no Haste. This spell is so broken that turn some battles from nigh-impossible to trivial (especially against dragons).

    I got by in DKoK with Potions of Speed and imported a bunch in DQoK, but they would never have lasted through the entire game.

    What saved me is a bug that let you buy random spells in a temple, which ignore Red/White restrictions and eventually got Haste, otherwise I'm pretty sure I would have never finished the game.

    "Although his tribe forbade him from helping us, he showed up several times during the rest of the map to give us directions"

    The "Area" command works in this map only if the Bakali or the bard are with you (I guess because they are familiar with the area). I thought it was a very good implementation of it.

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    1. Thanks in particular for that last bit. I totally overlooked it.

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    2. I feel like if you want to make buffs key to winning a battle, you should have a guaranteed source of that buff, especially in games where you have a lot of control over party composition. After all, being able to make any party you want doesn't mean much if it turns out you accidently screwed yourself over before you even really started playing, and that matters even more with something like the Gold Box games where you can end up screwing yourself because of decisions made multiple games prior

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    3. Haste isn’t required to win any fight in the game, it just makes winning a lot faster. I recall exploiting the opportunity attack bug in the fight with all the dragons by having a ranger wearing Boots of Speed run around giving all the dragons a free attack on him, while the Dragonlance wielders killed 3-4 dragons per round unhasted.

      The Resist spells are pretty necessary, but as they are cleric spells and I doubt anyone played through these games with no healers, that’s less objectionable.

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    4. "Haste isn't required if you abuse a bug". Right, so that basically means Haste IS required, as intended by the devs :D

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    5. Besides, aren't Boots of Speed basically Haste in item form?

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    6. No, since they don't give you extra APR.

      Personally I used Haste very sparingly due to the aging. I know characters getting very old most probably doesn't give any penalties, but I also now what the RP in CRPG means, so I use it as a desperate measure only.

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    7. Right, couldn't remember if they gave the extra attacks. Still, getting half of Haste is still buffing

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    8. One of the cool things about Goldbox games is that the combat can be approached in different ways. Buffs, spells, classes and items allow a lot of tactical approaches. The are no win situations that can occur, but that’s part of the challenge. I rarely used Haste for the same reasons Petrus mentioned, and never found boots of speed. I don’t think any of the battles are unfair.
      The party composition thing is a problem. I first played through Champions and Death Knights with six kender cleric/thieves. Death Knights was tough at the end, but Dark Queen was impossible...but I had read the manual so I knew it was a silly idea to start with.

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    9. I once played through CoK with 6 Solamnic Knights.
      The final battle with the three dragons was a bit hard, but the rest actually was rather easy, suprisingly easy.
      You find enough wands and potions to actually last.

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  5. Alas a lot of the choices are really fake ones, leading to the same outcome, Dimly I seem to recall trying to decapitate tremor doesn't do much, it wont actually let you kill him.

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  6. Oh, you will be happy to know that one of the few things that DID make a difference, you only had one pass made by the Jeweler, that keeps him alive, if you have too many passes made by him he is found out and killed. Nice little touch, since having him make the passes does make the game a bit easier.

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  7. If I remember correctly, colored dragons are always evil and metallic dragons are always good, so them teaming up is, I suppose, meant to be a sign that things have gotten really serious.

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    1. The Othlorx (most of the dragosn in Taladas) were dragons that refused to join the War of the Lance for various reasons, both good and evil dragons. Some were cursed for this, others had some sort of breakdown, but they are meant to have a different personality to normal because of it.

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  8. What I remember thinking when I played these games is that dragons must lay one hell of a lot of eggs in order to make all the draconians that I'd killed throughout. When they're not being stolen and made into draconians, the death rate among young dragons must be absolutely enormous, or the whole world would end up being overrun with dragons in short order.

    Also, they really ought to be able to do a better job protecting their eggs than they apparently are capable of. I don't normally think of dragons as being so incompetent.

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    1. It's been decades so I could be wrong, but I believe the ritual that made the draconians made multiple from each egg. Though with fewer from the more powerful dragons.

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    2. As I remember, the eggs were supposed to be off-limits in a sort of gentleman's agreement, but the evil dragons reneged. Which, of course, you would expect them to do, being evil.

      So the good dragons aren't incompetent as such, but more naive?

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    3. One egg turns into multiple draconians.

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    4. Also, once again if I remember correctly, the dragons were asleep after the Cataclysm. That's when the good dragon's eggs were stolen. Then when they woke up they were given the ultimatum: stay out of the war or we kill your children. Then once the good dragons agreed to stay out of the war, they killed them anyway.

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    5. Drawde is fundamentally correct

      Both the Good and the Evil dragons were supposed to be sleeping as part of the Balance, but the Green Gemstone Man accidentally let Takhiss into the world and her followers stole the Good dragon eggs.

      So, when the Evil dragons woke, the Good dragons also woke to find the eggs gone and were offered a deal - stay out of the war and you get your eggs back. But the Evil side cheated and turned the eggs into Draconians anyway. The heroes revealed this treachery and the Good dragons rode to war.

      Given that the Draconians did not go extinct, and are seen in works set well after the War of the Lance, they must be able to breed.

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    6. Not being proficent in Dragonlance lore, I assumed dragons took the stance of "Let the *puny* mortals fight each other, good or evil we're better and not giving out our eggs." Then, the "evil" dragons went "Suckers!" and betrayed the good ones.

      The whole "good vs. evil" in DnD makes absolutely no sense. Both good and evil adventurers go around killing sentient beings (evil or not) and taking their stuff, forcing themselves into someone's dungeon not invited. Wouldn't it make more sense to have alignment dependent on what you did, instead of what you're going to do?

      Currently a "lawful good" character can't do some petty evil things like just taking away the key to the Big Bad's hideout from the BB's (non-evil) butler by force without falling from grace (the stupid paladin dilemma), also a "chaotic evil" can't do some good once in a while (altruistic or not) without facing DM's wrath for not roleplaying. So absurd and bland.

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    7. Yeah it's weird, definitely. I think the ramifications of the alignment/deity system are underexplored to be honest. Most of the time, game materials just sort of assume an objective 'goodness' exists.

      But I think, more accurately, you can consider 'good' and 'evil' to be kind of like football teams, except your coach is a god.

      It's important for mortals to play for a team, and do a reasonably good job of it, or their afterlife will suck (Limbo, basically).

      In my opinion, the problem with the system as presented is that good/evil and law/chaos just dont map all that well to human behaviour (sorry Gary).

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    8. Several webcomics do an interesting job of exploring the ramifications of alignments, most notably Order Of The Stick.

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    9. kuniqs, the only way alignment can have those effects is with a DM that didn't read the rules. No edition of D&D would have penalized a paladin for taking a key - "Lawful" does not (and never has) meant "obeys the written law no matter what", it means they follow a strict code. Likewise, there's nothing preventing a Chaotic Evil character from funding an orphanage if he chooses to - "Chaotic" just means that you do what you want, and "Evil" just means that "what you want" often involves very nasty things.


      As for the Dragonlance dragons, there was no "PUNY MORTALS" notions involved. The Evil dragons were serving their god alongside Her mortal followers, and the Good dragons were perfectly willing -outright eager- to fight them alongside the other mortals until they were blackmailed into staying out.

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  9. Regarding why that bard NPC is actually a ranger, it's probably because this is still based on the 1st edition AD&D rules, and 1e bards are weird. You had to gain some levels as a fighter, some levels as a thief, and some levels as a magic-user, and *then* you could become a 1st level bard. I've never seen one played in game before. I guess they went with a ranger because it ha a mix of fighter abilities, magic-user spells, and a bit of stealth. It's the closest of the classes available in the Gold Box engine, for sure.

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    1. I seem to recall that the FRUA community was eventually able to implement some kind of a bard class through various kinds of mods...but it's been many years since I've been active in that crowd, so maybe someone more recently part of it can comment on that.

      ...But yeah, other than that, the only class available in the game engine that isn't normally accessible is, I believe, the very-unfinished Monk, so having Baldric be a Bard just wouldn't even work.

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    2. Most hackers just renamed the fighter/mage/thief class. Rangers were changed into druids in at least one mod.

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    3. Sorry, looked it up--it was an experimental hack. The ranger class (commonly used for hacks) was turned into the bard, and the player had to run a trainer program to go up in level which added the thief abilities and the relevant spells.

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    4. I mean, he never actually fights in combats with the party, so I feel the developers could have made that screen say whatever they wanted to without actually making relevant changes to the class.

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    5. In order to make the screen say "Bard", they would've needed to make a "Bard" class, even if it was nothing but a stub with a name or a copy of Ranger or something. And...given the limitations of the time, it's entirely possible that just wouldn't have fit in the available space.

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    6. ...no. Defining a new class would take about 120 bytes (one byte each for hit points, five saving throws, attack bonus; times 20 levels) plus the name. Limitations were nowhere near THAT tight on 1990s computers.

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    7. The space isn't an issue. The dev effort is. The character classes aren't in external resource files like a semi-modern game like NWN. They're hardcoded into the main executable that was written in assembly language. It's actually very difficult to add new data or features in those old games because you would have to shift a ton of pointers everywhere to "free up" the space you want.

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    8. Well said. Games from this era through to almost the 2000s were designed to run exactly one way, and one way only. The entire program is meticulously designed to be Pool of Radiance, or Dark Queen of Krynn or what have you, and adding new features would be akin to putting an extra piston on your car engine. If you read some of what went into translating Policenauts, you'll see that the majority of ROM hacks and other old game mods are no joke.

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    9. The distinction that you're missing is that such changes are fast and easy if you have the source code (which SSI surely has) and tedious and difficult if you have to disassemble the executable (as a ROM hacker does).

      Adding a few extra values to an array is a piece of cake in any standard programming language; and 1990s games (for the PC, at least) were most commonly written in C or Pascal, definitely not in Assembly.

      As Chet says, "the developers could have made that screen say whatever they wanted". Yes, they very easily could have. It's things like this (and the ridiculously-high-level NPCs) that makes the game feel very rushed.

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    10. For a legacy codebase, extending an array (without breaking everyting) can be fast and easy, or rather difficult. Without knowing the source code, noone can tell. They obviously didn't bother to do it, though. Might just be due to different people working on the engine and on the content.

      Assembly is still used nowadays. Early 90s, you still have some games written mostly in assembly, although I believe that was becoming rare.

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  10. That vampire battle you mentioned was a major issue for me, because I didn't realize disintegrate destroys all items a character's carrying until after I had saved. Luckily, I had an older save and was able to transfer the missing items over, which included a dragonlance and the good knight armor from the first game, along with other things that I otherwise couldn't get again.

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    1. I fought it several times, at first trying to avoid getting drained, later trying to avoid disintegration.

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  11. I think DnDs were always made to have "eternal" kinds of battle dilemmas. Plenty of players didn´t conquer them. In the day they were graphically quite appealing and the longevity feel made them seem value for money. It was still the golden age of screen rpgs. Without much analysis I´d rate this game somewhere round 35 to 40ish on the gimlet but maybe that´s too nice.

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    1. Low 50s sounds about right. The Krynn Gold Box games have done fairly well for themselves in the overall rankings thus far, at 11th and 13th highest thus far.

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    2. It finally has a economy of sorts, except one that is basically trolling the player. I wonder if he will give it a extra point or two for that.

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    3. character development and items are not strong compared to previous titles but some areas improved.

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    4. Also, the plot is a hot mess, IMHO.

      But low-mid 50s sounds about right.

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  12. "Ultimately, it turned out that the Glade was the home of two species of dragons, red and silver, oddly aligned with each other just because neither group had been corrupted by Takhisis during the War of the Lance."

    Rather, because both chose to stay out of the War of the Lance, and found afterward that their cousins don't like draft dodgers.

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  13. And here I thought 'Bakali' was a restaurant in Munic.
    Besides, it's strange that lizard folk are always depicted as stone age primitives. As lizards, they should LOVE the heat of a smithy.

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    1. Fantasy lizardfolk tend to live in (particularly tropical) minimally exploited wetlands, which under pervasive Western cultural associations between terrain and culture means they are expected to be "backwards" or "primitive".

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    2. Swamps won't support a large population and are full of insects and alligators.

      In _Water Margin_, one of the Four Chinese Classics, the outlaws all hide in the swamps.

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    3. You should look into Warhammer lizardmen then... who sometimes ride dinos carrying plasma guns, but insist on using stone axes and blowgun darts, too.

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    4. In Jeff Vogel's Exile/Avernum series the lizardfolk are often smiths due to liking the heat.

      Still makes little sense that a cave system full of cold and damp places would support a population of cold-blooded beings big enough to wage a total war with the human population of those caves.

      I think the reason why lizardfolk are depicted as primitive is that clothes are useless for a reptile. Lizardfolk are often very strong and tough in fantasy settings, so they also have little need for weapons or armor. Not much need for a steel sword when you can swing a heavy stone club like a baseball bat.

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    5. I'm pretty sure the games flag that most Slith live in caverns near thermal sources and dont like the cold areas.

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