Sunday, November 12, 2023

Bloodstone: Deosil and Widdershins

The party does a lot of trekking this session.
My memories of The Magic Candle II and III are hardly fresh, and I thus might be mistaken, but I don't remember enjoying the opening hours of those games as much as I've been enjoying Bloodstone. I'm enjoying the combat, the exploration, and the slow process of getting stronger incrementally. I remember avoiding outdoor combats in the Candle games as much as possible, but here I find myself inviting them, even seeking them. The difficulty level is a bit higher here and the economy less generous, so perhaps that's why the battles seem necessary in a way they never did in any of the Candle trilogy.
I adopted a very weird exploration pattern this session, mostly unintentionally. Gameplay so far has been centered in the southeast portion of the map, and a natural exploration pattern would go either clockwise or counterclockwise around the island. In my first session, I went north (counterclockwise) to Haraza; in the second, I reversed and went clockwise (south and then west) to Kafari and Tulara. In this session, I began by reversing again, going counterclockwise past Haraza to the next city, Hikar, and then going all the way back around clockwise again, past Tulara, to a few places beyond that. Each pass, I stopped in most of the cities along the way and bought upgrades as I could afford them. I also kept trying myself against the enemies in the Sea Temple in the southeast corner, slowly gaining ground.
Our journey so far.
I began with a trip to Haraza, already explored, where I put Enric to work at a gemcutter's for 35 gold per day. Between him and Volni, working at the metalsmith's in Tulara, they're making 60 gold per day. I figure I'll visit them in three or four months and have all the gold I need for a while.

I bought some improved armor and weapons in the city, trying not to spend everything I'd earned towards the Belfon spellbook in Tulara.
I then made another attempt at the Sea Temple. As we entered, there was this little bit of party dialogue that provided more than I needed to know about Maxon:
  • MAKA: "Whoever made this was truly amazing!"
  • MAXON: "The legends I have read speak of an ancient people who sank beneath the earth after being struck down by their gods. Supposedly they were being punished for their evil ways. The writings are very poetic, and as with all poetry it is as vague and elusive as a young girl . . . [sigh] . . . a young girl . . . Anyway, they probably suffered some natural catastrophe or sickness and their knowledge was lost."
TMI, Maxon.
We cleared out a couple of rooms of dimelves and undead, using mushrooms like gonshis (give you four actions per round instead of two), nifts (negate damage from three hits), and mirgets (increase attack damage). We also used techniques like having one player "Jump" one or more players into melee range to ensure that all four of their attacks would hit adjacent enemies (i.e., they don't have to waste any actions walking to melee range). These tactics worked, but I didn't have a lot of mushrooms or "Jump" spells; the totems I started with don't offer the spell, so I was limited to an initial memorized supply. After a few rooms, I also ran out of lockpicks--I had forgotten they were single-use items. We also started to run out of arrows. The expedition had been worth it for some gold and gems (and a bugle, if I ever find someone with musical skill) but I cut it short and moved back to the map.
Resurrecting a character after a gory battle.
Exploring northwest of Haraza, I found a temple whose altar also gave me the code word PLISTICAL. I thought in the Candle games, you found each code word in exactly one altar. Northwest of that, we found a tower with a locked door. We later determined it was Pradaqa. I'm not sure how to get in.
Can't we just hack it?
North of the tower, we found a city called Hikar. It's one of those smaller dwarven cities that we were told about, unaligned to either of the major dwarven tribes, although there were representatives in town hoping to persuade the chief.
Notes from Hikar:
  • I forgot to mention it before, but kids in every town go on about "Bucky the Superdwarf." I'm not sure who he's supposed to be, but they all admire him and ascribe a number of fantastical feats to him.
It makes me want to kill him.
  • A dwarf named Fisher in the tavern: Pradaqa is rumored to be the home of an ancient god of the taldor.  
  • Delfina: A man came into town claiming he had spent months on a floating island. The dwarves threw him out of town. Roga tells me that this same crazy man wants a golden needle.
Depends on the temperature, I guess.
  • A dwarf named Sark calls himself a "guide of these parts" and gives me the locations of some surrounding sites, including a temple and a mushroom patch. His name makes me laugh, as I was just today learning of the Isle of Sark in the English Channel and the "world's smallest prison" located there.
  • A temple in town offered the password GARTHUME.
  • We bought 20 lockpicks at a supply shop.
It was a dwarf named Jaykin in the tavern that alerted us to the fact that Carmine, a resident in the north of town, had a magic whistle. This roused our attention, as a magic whistle is one of the artifacts that both dwarf leaders want for their cooperation. We spoke to Carmine, and he was happy to part with the whistle for 500 gold. One artifact down!
You could have bargained for a lot more.
North of Hikar, snowshoes got us across the tundra and ropes got us across the mountains (each success gave us a cute image). Across a mountain range, an "ominous gateway" led to a dungeon called Dark Temple. Unfortunately, a weird enemy called "killgrill" killed us in the very first room, requiring me to reload from Hikar.
Still doesn't look like something we ought to do very often.
I swung back around the other way, stopping in Kafari to exchange some light crossbows for medium ones. In another trip to the Sea Temple, I cleared out two more rooms and found 13 rubies. Low on resources again, I returned to Tulara and sold the 13 rubies for just enough money to buy the Belfon spellbook, which includes the all-important "Jump" spell. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember where the inn was in Tulara, so it was a while before I could rest and memorize my new spells.
Easy come, easy go.
West and southwest of Tulara, I got slaughtered repeatedly by taldormages and other tough enemies in the mountains.. I pressed on, though, and eventually came upon a camp in a valley. It was occupied by a single taldor named Pranararus who said that not all taldor were hostile to us. "Some might even be persuaded to join your quest." We asked if he meant him, and he said yes. Surprisingly for an orclike being, he has miserable strength and bravery (3 each) but high dexterity, agility, intelligence (!), and charm (!!). Even stranger, he has high levels of "Trading" (65), "Stealth" (65), "Soulreading" (45), "Lockpicking" (45), and "Researching" (75!). He brings the Entus spellbook, which has some interesting options that I don't remember from previous games, like "Wherrigan" (a summoning spell), "Sharpen" (increase damage), and "Quiver" (give someone magic bolts).
I gave Pran an extra pair of snowshoes, sealskin, blanket, and rope, and the party continued west, winning battles when we could and reloading when we couldn't. We started to meet a terrifying new enemy called a "skyshark" that only has a melee attack but devastates the party if they can close the distance. We learned to start those battles as far away as possible and try to bring them down with spells and bolts. "Burrowers" were other new enemies with lots of hit points and deathly missile attacks. Eventually, it got to be too much, and I began to realize that the west side of the map--just as NPCs had told me--was far deadlier than the east side. Clearly, clockwise and counterclockwise were both the wrong approaches to exploration; instead, I should have been moving east to west in strips.
Winter fell at some point during these explorations, freezing rivers and lakes but otherwise offering no extra difficulty to the party that I could tell.
Bloodstone will be on the meteorological side of the coming Season War.
We returned to Tulara to use Pran's research skill on the DEATH mask. The tome we found related how the dwarf god, Rohrkhad, created the dwarves from stone. The first was called Dahlkhad, "son of the gods." When Dahlkhad died of old age, Rohrkhad cried tears of alabaster, which scattered into the oceans. A craftsman named Amarant collected some of these tears and made a mask called Throshikhad, or "Death Face of the God." It somehow cured Rohrkhad's grief, and he buried Dahlkhad wearing the mask. So I guess we learned . . . the mask is underground somewhere? I would have assumed that anyway.
Later, we had Pran research KHAMALKHAD in Haraza. This story takes place earlier than the one tied to DEATH. Here, we learn how Rohrkhad fashioned the mighty axe from bloodstone and gave it to his son. When Dahlkhad died, Rohrkhad took it back and placed it in his castle on Ilakasek Island, which had become cut off from the mortal lands in something called the Great Separation. It awaits an adventurer clever enough to make it to the island. If he can reach it, the word TOGARNAK will open the doors to the castle. 
Title drop!
Starting somewhere between Tulara and Kafari (I figured I'd explored the eastern area pretty thoroughly), I worked my way north. We started encountering battles with taldors and tlatols again, which was more like it.
That'll buy a few gonshis.
Eventually, we found a city on a river called Phoroshe. Inside:
  • A weapon shop run by a dwarf named Dryson, who sold crossbows but was contemptuous of them. ("Those cowardly Morin use them quite a bit.") I had accumulated enough gold that I finally ensured that all my characters had the best weapons they could use given their skills and strength.
Alas, no shotgun-axe.
  • An axe school. My axe levels up fast enough in combat.
  • A music shop run by a dwarf woman named Tuonial.
  • More about Bucky the Superdwarf:
Maiming somewhat loses its purpose in that sequence.
  • Jalen, who runs the tavern, clarifies more about what taldor are. I guess they aren't orcs. "Fierce savages, like misshapen dwarves in appearance."
  • A lot of NPCs talk about the tower of Pradaqa, which is rumored to be full of taldor. Sounds perfect, but no one has any dialogue about the password. Sarides tells me that the Moon Scarab is in the top of the tower. 
  • A dwarf named Korchar tells me about an underground complex named Delqafi, southwest of the city, where taldor used to live but were driven out by "bazards." The Golden Bowl is rumored to be there, along with a powerful taldor axe called Mukora. It was created by Palelil, the taldor god, for his son, Grefrin, to kill Dahlkhad. It was to counter this axe that Rohrhkad created Khamalkhad. Taldor legends say whoever possesses Mukora will RULE ALL GALAXIES!
"Awesome! What's a 'galaxy'?"
  • Finally, a dwarf in the tavern named Grelira says that Borton, an apothecary, knows the password to Pradaqa. 
  • A Tlengle (lizard man) named Pakkr T'thar offers to join the party. He's a strong fighter, stronger than any of my existing characters, but with no magic. I decide to stick with who I have.
  • A temple to the god Melmalan has the word HOROOPA on the altar.
Is this the god of silliness?
  • A mushroom seller. I don't have much, but I buy a few more gonshis.
  • A dwarf named Trillax sells Ashard and Chalta spell totems, but I don't have anywhere near enough money.
  • A dwarf  named Karana tells me a legend her father told her about a dungeon called Anthorn on the north end of an island. The Scepter is to be found there.
  • At last, a dwarf teaching "Research." Good thing I don't need it anymore.
  • Borton the apothecary is looking for a rare reagent called Lilten. He used to get it from a guy named Groval, who was run out of town. He'll tell me how to enter Pradaqa if I can find some. Borton's old supplier "was last seen heading west towards Amqal."
A tower full of taldor seems just what I need to get on solid economic footing, but so far I'm having no luck finding "Amqal," whatever that is, and plenty of luck running into more skysharks and burrowers. So I wrap up, still searching for it. I suppose I should go back to Phoroshe and feed everyone that keyword to get better directions.
If you're keeping track, this is the sum of the intelligence I have on the items, verified with the use of the "Search" command in the "Notes" screens, which is just the best interface element of the whole series:
  • Moon Scarab: At the top of the tower of Pradaqa. Need to find Lilten for Borton, the apothecary in Phoroshe, who will give me the password to the tower.
  • Brooch: No word yet.
  • Mitre: No word yet. 
  • Scepter: Secured in a chest on the third level of the dungeon Anthorn at the northern end of an island occupied by lizard men.
  • Golden Bowl:  Korchar in Phoroshe says that it's in the dungeon Delqafi. Not sure if its related, but a dwarf named Forzo in Tulara says he has a "bowl-collecting uncle." He won't tell us about him because he thinks we slay innocent monsters. Maybe I should ask everyone in Tulara about the artifact.
  • Orb: According to Pleitan in Kafari, buried in the temple of Ziphanu in Hataan.
  • Crown: No word yet.
  • Whistle: I have it! Purchased from Carmen in Hikar.
  • Death Mask of Rohrkhad: Buried with Dahlkhad. No idea where yet. Some minstrel is supposed to have a song about it.
  • Khamalkhad: In Rohrkhad's castle, Entemar, on the isle of Ilakasek.
I still don't know how to best allocate them among the dwarven chiefs to get their allegiance, but I'll cross that bridge when I have more than one relic. The plot is a slight variation of the "Disassemulet of Yendor" trope, though in this case, they're all separate items rather than, say, pieces of a staff (or the Amberstar). Still, whenever the plot revolves around collecting a bunch of items, I like to see some variety in the length of time and amount of effort in obtaining each item. They shouldn't all be at the bottoms of equally-sized dungeons. That's boring. Some should come to you only after epic effort, and some should be found in random chests. At least judging by how I stumbled upon the whistle and was able to just buy it, it sounds like Bloodstone, like Amberstar, is going to be the latter, better sort of game.

Time so far: 13 hours


  1. "Surprisingly for an orclike being, he has miserable strength and bravery"

    That's why he's joining a band of dwarves in the first place.

  2. Does that bucky have a kind of greenish skin color and long rabbit like ears by any chance?

  3. AlphabeticalAnonymousNovember 12, 2023 at 8:32 PM

    A "Bucky" who lives underground and is adored by the populace ... does he perhaps hail from my birthplace of Madison, Wisconsin?

  4. Is that lizard guy warm-blooded? He looks cold.

    1. That supposed to be Kenit, one of the starting companions, and she is a female Tlengle. Those images assume what the main character is male and Kenit is one of the chosen companions, which is not true, in this case.

      The point about being cold is still valid, tho'.

    2. Judging by the amount of cleavage the female character is still showing, it can't be that cold.

  5. Sounds like a nice session. Maybe they learned from the earlier mainline games? Seem to remember you'd used "Sharpen" there before.

    I learned something new through the title.

  6. "I remember avoiding outdoor combats in the Candle games as much as possible, but here I find myself inviting them, even seeking them." - perhaps something to do with not losing energy while traveling?

    1. I think you're on to something. The previous system really did encourage you to just get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Combat was to be avoided because unless you micromanaged your stamina, you might suddenly find yourself in a battle with 15 stamina.

  7. My recollection is pretty hazy at this point, but I have some memories of gnoshis not setting your actions to 4, but *giving* you 3 actions (eating them consumes one), thus making their optimal use as your last "normal" action. I could be wrong about that, though.

    The means of finding the way into Pradaqa is pretty unintuitive, IMO, and I can honestly imagine quite a few players absolutely never finding it. The absolute gentlest, barely a hint I can give, ROT-13: Lbh unir nyernql zragvbarq ba gur oybt gur eryrinag ovg bs yber gung freirf nf n pyhr gb gur nafjre.


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