Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Dark Queen of Krynn: Wet Behind the Ears

 
"Stand back and back off" doesn't have the same ring to it.
          
The Dark Queen of Krynn has been extremely combat-heavy, but I've been enjoying it a lot. Combat is the best part of the Gold Box engine, after all, and although I expected to enjoy it less because of overpowered characters, Dark Queen has managed to keep it fresh and challenging, requiring a level of concentration and strategy that don't think I've had to engage since Pool of Radiance.
    
The developers introduced a number of strategies meant to challenge even veteran players and characters. The first is the use of monsters that have otherwise never (or very rarely) made appearances in Gold Box games. The underwater levels had us fight amphi dragons, sea dragons, sea snakes, giant squids, and giant anemones, all of which could absorb a ton of damage and many of whom could poison. Because none of our fire-based spells (including "Fireball") worked underwater, it wasn't so easy to clear them out en masse. There was a brief air-based portion of the underwater world, and here we met not only fire elementals and fire minions but terrifying creatures called fireshadows, which have the ability to coat characters in fire, causing them to take damage every round indefinitely. The only way I could figure out to stop the damage was to completely heal the character. "Dispel Magic" did nothing.
       
With anemones like this, who needs a stiff drink?
        
Second, the game has found a lot of ways to nerf the party's power with the environment. Chief among these is a much lower success rate in resting, healing, and re-memorizing spells than any of its predecessors. You have to be prepared to take on most maps with existing resources. I have never been so happy with my heavy investment in cleric magic (everyone but Squirrel has some cleric spells). You know you've got a tough game when your Level 13 party is rationing "Cure Light Wounds."
   
In addition to limited resting, the game has made a lot heavier use of traps, ambushes, and special encounters that give the enemy initiative, and environmental effects to suppress abilities. The underwater level not only canceled fire magic, but it also made missile weapons useless and made it so most of my characters could only move a couple of spaces per round. (One was given a Ring of Free Action early in the level.)
      
Enemies are also a lot harder. As some of you pointed out in the comments to my first entry, enemy spellcasters often come into battle pre-buffed. In this session, I had to fight several enemy wizards who had "Mirror Image," "Fire Shield," and maybe even "Globe of Invulnerability" already cast. Spells washed over them, missile weapons often did nothing more than puncture an image, and melee attacks damaged my characters more than the enemies. Even regular enemies have enough hit points to require a couple of "Delayed Blast Fireballs" to seriously damage them.
       
Two enemies I think I'm facing for the first time.
    
Also: I haven't been poisoned so much since my useless thief fumbled every trap in Wizardry. I've grown to thinking of poison as an extremely rare occurrence in Gold Box games; so much so that I often don't even have "Neutralize Poison" memorized. This game, practically every enemy seems capable of it. Sea snakes were so bad that I actually started memorizing and casting "Snake Charm." Later, in the wizard's tower, I fought battles that pitted me against several dozen giant spiders, each with several dozen hit points. My characters were dropping like flies. Remember, in Dungeons and Dragons, poison immediately knocks out the character (the game actually says that he dies), and you can't cast "Neutralize Poison" in combat.
    
None of this is a complaint. I've greatly enjoyed digging deep into my spell bag for anything that would provide a tactical advantage, making use of items and scrolls, casting healing and buffing spells in combat, making effective use of terrain, and forcing myself to concentrate attacks on one enemy at a time. It does make the game relatively slow, however. I had to try one battle in the wizard's tower five times before I could get through it with all my characters alive.
          
Healing wounded sea elves in their realm.
        
My enjoyment of combat helps make up for a plot that already has me lost. I'm grateful that I have to blog about it, because that forces me to read everything twice so I can hopefully make some sense of it. The setup seems to be "there are still forces loyal to Takhisis out there," and the party's approach is to bumble along until we run into some of them.
 
I don't think anything that happened in the undersea kingdom had anything to do with Takhisis, but who knows. Our rescuers turned out to be sea elves, and it wasn't long before we were visited by their prince, Lyzian. They apparently already knew Captain Daenor, and primarily rescued him, but they kept us alive because they were unable to heal his wounds. He credited our ability to survive underwater to a "Deepsea" spell, and he gave us one Ring of Free Action so that one character could move around normally.
             
There were some okay role-playing options in this setting.
     
He was barely done speaking when the sea elves' complex was suddenly attacked by an army of giant sea creatures and sahuagin. Lyzian ran off to organize the defense and told us to find the "safe halls" to the west. Instead, we wandered around the map. It was very large, about four times the size (in coordinates, at least) of the standard Gold Box map, but there wasn't much in the way of fixed encounters. We kept stumbling upon random encounters, including combats with sea dragons and amphi dragons (both of which are "dragon enough" to die quickly at the end of a dragonlance), as well as mini-encounters with injured sea elves to whom we provided healing and "Neutralize Poison" spells.
     
One mini-encounter asked us to carry injured sea elves to the safe rooms, so we finally made our way there. Shortly after we arrived, dragon attacks damaged the door, and the elves asked us to journey to a forge in the southeast part of their complex, where we could find a hinge to repair the door. 
          
A map of the sea elves' city, from the journal.
         
I think underwater civilizations are just dumb, I don't care if they're here or in Aquaman. It never makes sense that characters can talk underwater, fight with the same types of weapons, wear the same types of armor, and survive amidst the pressure. (Yes, I know: "magic.") Stories that use underwater kingdoms always make the suspension of disbelief worse by including things that make no sense underwater, like furniture and doors with hinges. Here, not only do the sea elves somehow have a "forge," but the prince sleeps in a bed and even has an armoire in his room. Neptune preserve us.
       
Anyway, we fought our way to the forge. There was a particularly difficult battle against sea dragons trashing the elves' temple. They're capable of breathing steam, and a hit without saving instantly kills any of my characters. I had to give the Ring of Free Action to Midsummer and have her swallow a Potion of Speed to have any chance of killing them before they got one of us.
           
The sea dragon gets his steam attack off before we can stop him.
         
Back in the safe hall, the elves used the hinge to repair the door. Lyzian showed up, covered in blood, and made a snarky suggestion that we'd been resting in the hall the entire time. Fortunately, the other elves defended us, telling Lyzian of our deeds, and he apologized. He asked us to find Daenor in his chambers while he was taken off for healing.
          
Damned right we did.
         
We did find Daenor. He was feverish and said something about sahuagin, eggs, and someone named Talhook. He had somehow spied a conversation in which Lord Prince Talhook of the sahuagin had coerced the sea dragons' help by stealing their eggs. Someone is always stealing eggs in this setting.
            
Or maybe that's just a convenient excuse.
        
When Lyzian heard the news, he synthesized it with intelligence he had about strange happenings in the old city of Celanost, where there's one building full of air that "used to harbor outlander guests long ago." He asked us to go there and look for them. He gave us a magic shell that would disable the "Deepsea" spell when we reached the air area, then cast it again when we left. 
       
Reaching Celanost meant traveling south from the sea elf city down a long, narrow passage in which we faced numerous battles with sea creatures. The city was a standard 16 x 16 map, divided into water and air halves. The air half was full of battles with fire elementals, fireshadows, and human wizards. I had to reload several times in the ultimate battle because I couldn't find a way to reliably damage the mage before he could destroy my party with "Delayed Blast Fireball." I think in the end I ran a character with "Silence" and "Resist Fire" active down to him and attacked him in melee combat.
         
You'd think they'd have sucked up all the oxygen in this area.
        
We found the eggs and began the journey back to the elves' city. In the long corridor, we had an encounter with sea dragons and had the option to attack or give them the eggs. I hadn't saved in a while at that point, so I gave them the eggs even though I wanted to know what would happen if we fought them instead. As it happens, they departed with their eggs and the assault came to an end.
         
Or so we thought. Lyzian offered his chambers for rest, and when we entered, we were ambushed by Lord Prince Talhook and a company of sahuagin. They weren't nearly as hard as even a random battle with the sea monsters, and we killed them in short order.
         
Sahuagins got bigger since Pool of Radiance.
        
Afterwards, the prince said that he'd sent word of our deeds to the "king in Dargonost." (I gather from Googling that Dargonost is the eponym of the Dargonesti elves, another name for sea elves.) In reward for our services, the king had sent along a second footman's dragonlance, which of course I gave to my second knight. That will be handy.
    
Lyzian then arranged for us to be brought to the continent of Taladas, where our ship had been heading. Daenor, mysteriously, "will join you when he can." Lyzian gave us a shell to present to someone named Ezra, who would be able to help us.  He then cast a spell that knocked us out, but not before we saw the sea elves morph into dolphins.
        
I don't know if I'm comfortable being unconscious around a dolphin.
        
We awoke in an inn in a fishing village called Hizden. It was a half-map, with the usual set of services. We got our equipment identified, got trained, rested and re-memorized spells, and so on. Already we have more wealth that we can carry, and we had to leave a bunch of steel pieces behind. No one wanted to talk about the sea elves and clammed up every time we asked.
           
I hope we find a magic store or some other money sink.
       
We eventually found Ezra and gave him the shell. He intimated that Lyzian was his father, and that perhaps many or all of the residents of Hizden were half-breed children of sea elves. He suggested we travel north from Hizden to an old lighthouse and consult with the keeper, whose "wisdom is profound."
          
Maybe an example?
        
As we were leaving, we were attacked by a group of sahuagin and sea dragons, who had apparently followed us. They soon discovered how much more powerful the party is on land.
        
When we met underwater, I didn't get a chance to show you my specialty.
    
We finally emerged on the overland map. I suppressed an urge to stake off randomly and instead walked north to the lighthouse.
       
I'm always happy when it doesn't say: "You enter the building and record your impressions as Journal Entry 72."
       
Miscellaneous notes:
    
  • This game must be hard for a newly-created party. I had a tough enough time with my leveled characters and overpowered equipment. 
  • Speaking of overpowered equipment, my new dragonlance has been my only upgrade so far. I've found a few +2 and one +3 item, but nothing better than what we brought.
  • The sound is more complex here than in previous Gold Box games that I remember. I'm not an expert, but the effects sound recorded rather than digitized, and instead of constant background music, the game offers brief tunes to accompany key events. I'd leave more music turned on if more games did that. 
  • "Lightning Bolt" and Wands of Lightning act differently underwater than on land. Instead of casting in a line, they travel to a central location and then burst, damaging everyone in a radius.
  • I believe even unconscious characters gain experience in this game, which is a Gold Box first.
  • When "Delayed Blast Fireball" was introduced in Secret of the Silver Blades, you could actually set a delay. They removed that option at some point.
         
As I wrap up, we've explored a few levels of the lighthouse. A trap on Level 1 dropped us two floors into the basement, where we roused the fury of its denizens--an absolutely enormous party of greater otyughs, purple worms, boring beetles, and giant spiders. These creatures had us completely surrounded as the battle began. The combat ranks up there among the top 5 in Gold Box history and maybe even the top 10 in RPG history. None of the enemies had spells, but they were capable of massive physical attacks each round, and some were capable of poisoning. They soaked up wave after wave of mass damage spells, and I had to keep half my party occupied each round with healing.
            
Blasting a bunch of garbage-eaters with fireballs. They can take a lot of them.
         
I think it might be since Pool of Radiance that I've faced such a huge battle against so many purely-physical enemies. When it was over the first time, I had one character dead. I could have raised him or taken him back to Hizden, but I decided to fight the battle again just for fun. Whatever Dark Queen turns into, I'll be grateful for these few hours.
    
Time so far: 9 hours
    

71 comments:

  1. Glad you are enjoying it! I found myself using spells like Cone of Cold, Lightning Bolt, Charm and Hold Monster, Ice Storm, Dimension Door etc a lot more often than any of the other Gold Box games.
    The loot is pretty scarce throughout the game and with your decked-out party you won't find too many improvements, but there are a few really good ones that make a big difference (like the second Dragonlance).

    I was surprised to find that you can look through the windows in the underwater/air levels, actually see doors and the room layout, get descriptions of the enemies in the room and sometimes jump through the windows to gain a better position in combat. I don't remember that in other Gold Box games.

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    1. That's interesting. I noticed you could jump through the windows, but I didn't really understand why. I never got myself into a situation where it turned out to be useful. I should have investigated those windows more, I guess.

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    2. One place where it makes a difference is the final battle of the air section of Celanost—where the fire creatures ambush you just outside the little room with the eggs. You can foil their ambush, and have better positioning for the battle, if you go around to one side and break in through the window instead of walking through the front door.

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  2. It pleases me to see you enjoying this one!

    I had fond memories of this one, thinking it to be the tightest of all the Goldbox series in its execution.

    Fewer material upgrades made me appreciate the ones I did receive. It was a real joy!

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  3. I believe the delay in Delayed Blast was removed since it was rarely used. Almost every time I've cast it in the Gold Box games it was just an extra step to cast it compared to a normal Fireball.

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    1. The Gold Box Companion guy hacked the spell into a few enemies in Secret (remember how they only ever used Disintegrate and lower-level spells on you?), and what happened was, when an enemy cast a spell, the computer would ask the *player* what delay to use. I suppose the scripting limits of the time didn't let them put in automatically put in a delay of 0 or whatever. (Odd because they were able to use Fire Shield, which has a player-chosen option as well.) The programmers probably figured it was easier to just take the delay option out.

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    2. That sounds like it should be very easy for any programmer to fix.

      Rather, it strikes me that delaying a fireball is very rarely (or never) what you want; the main appeal of DBF is that it deals more damage than regular fireballs. "Nuke whomever will be standing there twenty seconds from now" is just not a tactically sound move.

      This applies in tabletop D&D as well, unless you combo it with Timestop.

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    3. In GB at least, one of its great appeals is that it's instant cast.

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    4. Yeah, I never found it useful. I just didn't notice when they got rid of it.

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  4. Lightning Bolts basically function as fireballs underwater

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    1. Once I found how Lighting Bolt worked

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    2. (sorry) underwater, I didn't find the section particularly challenhing.

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    3. With the reduced radius of Ice Storm

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  5. I played this game with a newly created party, but I don't remember it being particularly difficult. At least easier than Pools of Darkness, which was agonizing at times. I did make the mistake of creating a multiclass demihuman or two, before it becoming apparent that they would never be useful in this game (I don't think the Forgotten Realms games implement the pen & paper rules as strictly). If memory serves me correctly, you actually also cannot resurrect elves this time around (the manuals for the Forgotten Realms games also insist that you can't, but I think that at least the temples can).

    Anyway, good thing you can swap out party member even mid-game without starting over, which is what I eventually did.

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    1. Regarding level caps it's actually opposite to what you say -- The FR games followed the standard 1st ed racial limits with thief being the only class the demihumans can max out, in Dragonlance there are more generous limits. Elves have no caps on cleric, ranger, or magic user with Qualanesti elves also have no cap on thief. Half evles can max out in cleric and thief, dwarves in fighter and kenders in thief. In Chet's party he has 4 demihumans, all multiclassed and the only one with a ceiling is his kender, who's stuck at 12 in cleric.

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    2. Really? Maybe I'm mixing things up with Pools of Darkness. Am I at least right about resurrecting elves?

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    3. The manual says that Elves can't be resurrected, but I never tried it at the temples.

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    4. The Body of Moander level almost single handedly ruined Pools of Darkness for me. While giving it points for originality it was almost unforgivably frustrating.

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  6. "I believe even unconscious characters gain experience in this game, which is a Gold Box first."

    Learning while unconscious - wow! Pretty inexplicable - but I guess it helps balance things out. I guess in the earlier Gold Box games, you had to be very careful with the physically weaker characters (mages especially), because if they were knocked unconscious on a regular basis, they'd fall behind the rest of the party?

    Come to think of it, I think unconscious experience gain was also standard in the Eye of the Beholder series. In fact, I'm not sure if this is the case here, but over there, experience was always doled out evenly between all characters, regardless of who actually killed what. Makes sense in the context of a single-player party-based RPG, because it saves the player the trouble of having to compete against himself for his character to gain the most experience.

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    1. Experience points as a concept are very much a weird abstraction, so any implementation of them is going to have some inexplicable points. Personally, in other games, I've never understood games where if a character goes 10 rounds of fighting with an enemy and then gets knocked out, they don't get any experience, but if they survive and kill the enemy, they do. Surely they should have learned _something_ before being KOed?

      (and dont get me started on games where only the character who delivers the final blow gets experience...)

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    2. I might be wrong about that. My evidence is that I fought the same battle a couple of times, and my characters got the same amount of experience even when in one case one was unconscious and in the other case he wasn't. In the past Gold Box games, the game split experience among conscious party members, so if someone was unconscious, their rewards were higher. It's possible that this game is just "throwing away" the extra experience rather than giving it to the unconscious characters. Next time, I'll try some experiments and let you know for sure.

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    3. But, yeah otherwise I agree with Ian's logic. If someone gets knocked unconscious after several rounds, he's still due something for those rounds.

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    4. Well, I guess all the idiosyncracies of XP systems are basically leftovers from pen & paper. There is already so much addition and subtraction involved in pen & paper AD&D, you'd want to reduce calculations where possible, and especially you'd want to reduce division and multiplication.

      It's been well more than two decades since I've played any AD&D using 2nd edition rules (actually it's also been nearly two decades since I've played any AD&D using any edition at all), but as I recall, while the game allows the DM to handle XP pretty much any way he likes at his discretion, the implicit default for combat experience was precisely the simplest possible option - Ian's "don't get me started" variant. In that case, unconsciousness wouldn't matter at all, because XP is not divided up evenly, but rather, a given monster's XP goes to the player character who landed the killing blow, or who inflicted the most damage. The intent was clearly to add an element of competitiveness between the players themselves, who otherwise were on the same side - but also, very importantly, it was to provide the DMs with a simple resolution method that minimises number-crunching the XP after every combat.

      It goes without saying, the number-crunching problem disappears entirely when you switch to a computer - and so does the issue of competition between players. Instead, it becomes desirable to do a bit of extra crunching in the interest of equal XP distribution, so the players don't have to concern themselves with managing their characters with an eye towards who will gain the most XP.

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    5. I should add: while equal distribution is the logical option for digital party-based RPGs, this is easy to see post-hoc. At the time, there would have been a desire to include at least some aspects of pen & paper experience. Whether or not the players would have wanted it, many designers at the time would have assumed that players would want some unfairness to XP distribution. Hence weird things like "no XP if you're unconscious".

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    6. Some games where you can choose a party from a larger panel of characters give *everyone* experience at the same rate, regardless of whether they are in the party or not. Whatever you think about realism, it at least means you can choose who you want for a given mission without micromanagement, and try out characters you normally wouldn't bother to use. (And anyway, maybe the ones staying home are training vigorously all the time.)

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  7. The story is sort of unengaging but they definitely knew how to design encounters here. At least the gold box got a cool experience as its send-off, rather than something underwhelming like Buck Rogers 2.

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    1. Agreed. I still plan to make a properly epic finale to the Savage Frontier series if I ever get good enough with FRUA.

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    2. You'll be my hero.

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    3. I remember around 15 years ago playing a FRUA module that was slated as a Savage Frontier sequel (Magic of the Savage Frontier IIRC), which was pretty well designed and captured the feel of the earlier games quite well, although it did have an irritating number of juvenile sex references.

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  8. The larger plot for this entry—which, you're right, is pretty much just "Takhisis is building up another army down here, go kill it" at this point in time—doesn't really get going until the later parts. Most of the time, you're dealing with smaller plots—or even just mainly dungeon crawling—for the individual cities you'll visit, but in most places there are at least little tidbits trying to give you hints and lead you onward.

    One minor warning about exploring the map, once you get into doing that: Gur fbhgujrfgrea frpgvba bs gur znc vf pbagebyyrq ol gur Neznpu ryirf, naq gurl qb abg nyybj bhgfvqref. Nyy lbh jvyy rire trg sbe gelvat gb chfu vagb gurve greevgbel vf neebjf gb gur snpr; gurer'f ab dhrfg gb haybpx npprff gb vg.

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  9. Good to see you're enjoying the game!

    May be too late, but there's a strong argument for a single-level mage (or two) in this game.

    For whatever reason, the XP curve linearizes at high levels (new levels take a constant amount of XP to gain, rather than roughly-double the last one). As a result, by the end of the game a single-class mage will be 9 or 10 levels higher than a dual- or triple-class one, rather than 1 or 2 as in earlier games.

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    1. This will make a huge difference when attempting to cast spells against magic-resistant enemies.

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    2. For a dual-class character, the difference depends on when you transition out of the previous class. Multiclass characters will hit the level cap anyway, except elves, maybe?

      Do the gold box games actually implement the level dependence of magic resistance?

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    3. I should have said double-class mage. You can't do 'dual class' (change human character from one class to another) in the Krynn games.

      Level caps are much higher in the Krynn games.

      And, oh yes, the gold box games most definitely do implement the level dependence of magic resistance (a rule that disappeared in 2nd ed and came back in 3rd, though it was renamed 'spell resistance'). It's fairly obvious with high-level characters--a 30th-level mage will be able to ignore most magic resistance even as a 20th-level mage sees half his spells fail against certain monsters.

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    4. I had a long history of after winning each gold box game of re importing my characters and curb stomping the tough battles, and higher levels of magic user defiantly help against draconians. It tricky to use cone of cold with single class mages (Magic mirror is a must have) since you have to be on the front line, but its very satisfying to get one off that sets off a massive chain reaction.

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  10. Glad you are enjoying it!. I am playing a newly created party and it is hard. At the same time, we are doing pretty well for a party reduced to four. We are in Hawkbluff on the southern part of Taladas.

    Red Wizards have a weakness: Cone of Cold. Since they have a cold fire shield up, the cone does extra, sometimes, triple digit damage. I discovered too that my mages when have the same fire shield up were also immune to fire.

    The biggest problem for a newly created party is having enough experience. Neither of my straight class characters have broken the 20th level mark. Grinding is harder to come by: Hawkbluff is a good example of this.

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    1. The fight in the sub-basement of the tower is very hard. I had to reload five times myself. I found the poison of the purple worms to be most irritating aspect.

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    2. I have trouble targeting "Cone of Cold," but I'll try to use it more often.

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    3. Cone of Cold is not a proper cone; it will only "cone" to the right hand side of the caster, like this (the caster being the "o"):

      oXXXXXXX
      ____XXXX

      or

      XXXX___
      XXXXXXXo

      Cone of Cold is an excellent spell once you know its AoE. However, your mage needs to get up close for it to be effective as the cone always starts adjacent to the caster.
      So if "o" is the caster and "T" is the target, this would be the AoE:

      oXXXTXXX
      ____XXXX

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    4. That's a great explanation! It also goes further the higher level you are (I believe 1 range every 2 caster levels).

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  11. Personally, I felt like the difficulty got a bit too extreme. It's one thing to have major encounters be hard, but this felt like most encounters were made to be very hard, especially if mages get involved

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  12. I'm going to say something controversial: I actually like the "Fix" option. It annoys me to no end that I might have to do multiple rounds of healing and resting because of poor rolls. It's one thing in battle where a high roll on a fireball can mean the difference between life and death, but the cast-rest-memorize jig annoys me to no end, especially if you're in a safe place to rest.

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    1. Same. My dislike for that loop got so big when I was playing Pool of Radiance I eventually just started resting for months at a time to heal up, even though it took longer

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    2. I'm not sure that's controversial. I have no problem with the "Fix" command as a shrotcut for resting, casting, and resting again. What I don't like is that in earlier games, it seems to circumvent the surprise encounter system--that is, "fixing" almost always works without interruption, while trying to sleep for x hours to re-memorize spells gets you reliably (and fairly) interrupted. I'm not sure if that's true here, since even "fix" has shown me a high rate of failure.

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    3. Yes, there are areas in TDQK where the Fix command will fail almost systematically, unlike its predecessors.

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  13. I like the underwater area and wish more RPGs had one.

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    1. Agreed. Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim have huge underwater areas, and with the exception of one or two quests there's nothing to be found.

      Daggerfall has flooded sections in almost all of its dungeons, though.

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    2. Morrowind has one or two grottos and a sunken city, but other than that... yeah. Baldur's Gate 2 has the sahuagin city. Wizardry 8 and Wizards and Warriors have short underwater sequences. I like those parts of the games. Underwater areas have a certain mystery to them.

      Subnautica isn't an RPG, but I love its exploration. A great example of how good underwater content can be.

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    3. It's interesting to note that, in the Elder Scrolls series at least, the tendency is very much in the opposite direction - to reduce player time in water.

      Morrowind did have quite a bit of underwater stuff - and most importantly, it still had the Dreugh, which meant you had formidable opponents under water. Oblivion limited the underwater enemies to slaughterfish, and this naturally meant underwater exploration had to be far less rewarding, as the player had no challenge to overcome. Then Skyrim came along, and removed our ability to strike enemies underwater, which required them to make slaughterfish even less of a nuisance. By this point, water almost never an environment worth exploring for its own merits, but only a medium through which to get from point A to point B.

      I wonder why this is. I mean, sure, it was never realistic to be able to strike an enemy underwater with an axe or something - but did anyone ever care about realism in this regard? Underwater environments are great from a game design perspective, because they provide you with a whole "alternate" world, where different rules apply, and different creatures can be encountered. Why just give up on this?

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    4. I'd assume it's because most people don't like underwater segments. Even if they're great from a design perspective, from a gameplay perspective it usually comes with things like slowed down movement, not being able to breathe, and limited visibility. Even if you add spells or equipment to mitigate those, it still adds more stuff you need to keep track of to get a similar experience to doing stuff on land, and not everyone likes that.

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    5. I can't speak for every underwater level ever, but there's a particularly infamous one I enjoy: the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time. It's one of those rare segments (in modern games at least) that really took advantage of the third dimension and made you think of the dungeon as a large, interconnected space instead of a linear series of rooms. The puzzles were unique, memorable and challenging. After the N64 era, Nintendo started considering "use the item you just got" and "hit all the switches" as dastardly brain-teasers.

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    6. Eye of the beholder 3 had some nice underwater maze parts, which were a highlight in an otherwise boring design. More recently, Grimrock 2 had top-nothch underwater implementation, and a few very nice underwater puzzles/secrets.
      One game that I feel was a missed opportunity in this was Pillars of Eternity 2, with all the focus on Islands, watershapers, a water-godess and what not. C'mon, searching through underground ruins for clues to Ukaizo using water-breathing spells and/or Jules Vernes-era diving suits, anyone?

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    7. Well, I get why you might prefer to avoid underwater segments in linear RPGs, where all players must go through them. But why do it in open-world RPGs like TES? Most TES players only ever get through a small portion of the game content, choosing what they do based on what attracts their attention. You'd think you would want to seize every opportunity to make different parts of the content... well, different. Underwater exploration should be a very valuable thing in open-world games. Ah, well.

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    8. I think there was also underwater level in Anvil of Dawn.

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  14. Remember if you are having difficulty damaging those well protected mages, just go back to DKK and buy more +2 arrows or darts of hornets nest. (Kidding, kinda, but they will prove useful)

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    Replies
    1. Those Darts were made for use against Dark Mages.
      In theory Cloudkill should also be very useful, damaging them and preventing spell casting every turn, but I don't remember if it worked it practice. I remember Cone of Cold was very effective, though.

      Also, I'm glad Mr. Addict liked that huge battle in the Lighthouse basement. That's one of my favourites too.

      Looking forward to reading about Minotaurs and Enchanted Draconians.

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    2. At least in my version of the game, Darts would not stack, so I usually brought over arrows instead. Next time I'll try more darts.

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    3. Oh yeah, this is the one Gold Box game where the economy is broken very differently from the rest.

      Gurer vf bayl bar cynpr gb ohl zntvp neebjf (vs lbh qba'g perngr arj svtugref naq genafsre gurve neebjf…) naq gurl pbfg n sbeghar, ohg zna, ner gurl hfrshy.

      Delete
  15. So the underwater section follows the same logic Spongebob does? Where underwater is basically land.

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    Replies
    1. Who lives in coral cities under the sea?
      Dargonesti!
      Who's green and webfingered with ears so pointy?
      Dargonesti!
      If area effect fire damage be something you wish
      Dargonesti!
      Then cast Lightning Bolt and flop like a fish
      Dargonesti!
      Dargonesti! Dargonesti! In Dark Queen...of Krynn!

      Delete
  16. I just wanted to clarify for you, that Dargonesti is the specific race of sea elves, and Dargonost is the name of their home. In the world of Krynn, all 4 elven kingdoms are named such (eg. The Qualinesti elves live in Qualinost, the Silvanesti in Silvanost, etc)

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  17. This will depend on your preferred playing style, but I had a lot of fun switching weapons in each encounter according to the enemies you face. Here's an armory guide to DQK:

    Dragonlance: it's a +5 weapon, but it doesn't really do amazing damage compared to other +4 weapons, and you can't use a shield with it, so it's best to only use it against dragons.

    Olin's Quarterstaff: It's a +3 weapon. Low damage, but it has a chance to stun enemies on hit, which can be very useful against enemies with dangerous attacks - dragons, level-draining undead, and, of course, enemies that poison.

    Mace of Disruption: You probably have imported one from DKK, and you can find another one in this game. Only +1 against normal enemies, but deals double damage against undead (and outer-planar) enemies, including your strength bonus, which will be massive if you're buffed up with Enlarge. Easily 40+ damage on hit. Don't make the mistake of leaving it on your cleric, this belongs in the hands of a warrior class against appropriate enemies.

    Mace +4: You'll have a bunch of these from DKK: Good against normal enemies, but poor against large ones. You'll need these against Skeletal Warriors and other undead that only receive half damage from slashing and piercing weapons.

    Long Sword +4: Same as mace against normal enemies, but good damage against large ones. The best weapon for a non-kender thief to backstab with.

    Two-handed swords: I *think* there was a +4 one in DKK. You can't use a shield with them, but they do more damage against large enemies than any other weapon, by far. The high number of enemies in encounters absolutely make them worth using.

    Hoopak: It will be a long while until you find a better one than what you imported from DKK. They actually do as much damage as two-handed swords against normal size enemies, but they're poor against large ones. Excellent for backstabbing, especially against skeletal warriors, as it's a blunt weapon.

    Staff of Striking: You may or may not have gotten this as a reward for one of the random encounters in Dragonost. A +3 quarterstaff, but it can be used for a special melee-range attack that deals magic damage. I may be misremembering this, but I think it's one of the ways you can cut through dark mages' magic defenses.

    Fine long bow: This adds your strength bonus to damage, which makes it the best missile weapon by far.

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    Replies
    1. The Mace of Disruption also has a chance of instakilling certain enemies (it says "X was disrupted!"). The only ones I can recall using this on for certain are Fireshadows (and screw them, seriously; stop turning me to green fire!).

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    2. I never got the Mace of Disruption in DKK for whatever reason, so I missed out on that.

      Delete
  18. I am curious how you go about doing your mapping since it obviously isn't by hand. What program do you use and do you leave multiple windows open then or come back to it after sketching by hand. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. One of his early entries goes into how he does this. He uses Excel.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I use Excel, but I haven't been mapping this game yet. I find that Gold Box games don't really require mapping because the levels are usually small and manageable, with lots of big, open areas, and you generally only visit them once. This game has been experimenting more with level size, but it provided me a map for its largest area.

      Delete
  19. A reader leaves a lengthy yet insightful comment, which you note in your journal as entry 15.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "Sahuagins got bigger since Pool of Radiance."

    There were no sahuagins in Pool of Radiance. The closest you got was Yarash performing experiments on lizardmen which were supposed to make them more like sahuagin, but were failing, usually resulting in horrible death.

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