Monday, January 15, 2024

Bloodstone: Several Levels in Badass

Has anyone ever played this game and not immediately said "HASTUR"?
I got a fair amount accomplished this session, including some significant character development, as I lawn-mowed my way resolutely across the continent of Tarq in north-south strips, skipping a few areas I knew I had already fully explored. I should mention that the coordinate system really helps. I've created a very crude "map" in Excel with points at key coordinates. Since my party can cross mountains and rivers with little problem, physical features don't interest me--just the X and Y of cities, dungeons, teleportals, groves, mushroom patches, and camps. I wish every top-down game had a transparent coordinate system. I don't mind having to occasionally pay for it or work for it as in Ultima IV, Amberstar, and Ambermoon.
I had already explored most of the eastern half of the continent, so as I made my way west, I just re-visited a few areas. Since my party members all got +1 strength last time, I visited a weapon shop and gave them better weapons if they were now capable of carrying them. (Armor, for whatever reason, is not gated by strength, so my characters already have the best that money can buy.) I collected gold from the characters working day jobs, sold gems, and restocked on mushrooms and arrows.
Everything's all right as long as I get my edibles.
The first major "new" place I encountered was the Caverns of Delqafi. My Taldor party member, Pran, had long ago told me the password: FRAZINTOT. The caverns were three very large levels with maybe 8 total rooms. I don't believe there were any ambushes. (Ambushes in general have been much rarer in this game than in the Magic Candle series.) There was so much empty space that I began to wonder if I was missing something.
Enemies encountered in the rooms were, I believe, all new. "Epheruses" were fairly easy giant bats. "Quethrops" and "Zappos" were four-legged creatures with lots of armor and hit points, but not nearly as much of either as "Bazards," which required Mirgets every round to have any hope of damaging them. Worst of all were spider-like "Lhakats": 500+ hit points, 60 armor, and the ability to corrode weapons. Fortunately, they didn't have any shields, but my offensive spells aren't so powerful that they can quickly wipe away so many hit points. The room that had the axe Mukora (see below) had half a dozen of these beasts, and it took me a couple of attempts to defeat them all, with Danat (whose magic axe couldn't be damaged) whacking them in melee combat (a Gonshi and a Mirget every round) while the others cast whatever offensive, buffing, and healing spells they could.
Great. That should only take 29 more spells.
The battles were worth the effort, as there were four major treasures in Delqafi:
  • A set of "Methreal" armor, found in a treasure chest after a battle. 
  • A hammer, found in another chest. This doesn't sound like much of a treasure, but I need it to construct the boat.
  • Mukora, a magic axe. Its head is made from meteor ore and its shaft from petrified oak. Lore says that it was created by Palelil, the Taldor god, so that the first Taldor, Grefrin, could kill the first dwarf, Dalkhad. In return, Rohrkhad, the god of the dwarves, created Khamalkhad for Dalkhad. Dalkhad won the fight, which caused Palelil to snatch the axe away and hide it--apparently in Delqafi.
Maka does terrifying damage with Mukora against a Bazard--and still doesn't kill it.
  • The Golden Bowl (one of the artifacts required by the dwarf kings). My notes said it was buried under a skull on the edge of a lake. It took me a few tries before I found it on Level 3. 
The game makes all the artifacts sound boring.
Even better, we found the resting chamber of Dablak, the God of Earth. We awoke him with his code word (PLISTICAL) and received +2 strength, +1 resistance, +1 endurance, and +10 to our "Gemcutter" skill. I was relieved that this happened because none of my characters had been strong enough to wield Mukora, nor the previous magic axe we found, Natal. With this upgrade, I had characters capable of wielding both. This was a major upgrade to my offensive capabilities, as both of these axes do more than twice the damage of the best regular axe.
I left Delqafi and continued to move west. I found a few mushroom patches and a camp with a wizard who teaches the "Magic" skill. I spent a little time with him, as the skill rarely goes up through use. I declined to spend time or money on the "Tracking" skill in a different camp. I stopped in Rulaan (the Amazon village) when I passed and finally bought the Fanorl spell totem from Dorein. Among other things, it has the "Timestop" spell, which can win a battle by itself. We found a temple to the Hantaknor, God of Fire, and got his code word: ORTAKON. 
This will make things a bit easier.
Deep in the lands of Hataan, we found another dungeon, called AirTemple. I had some notes about this location, including the precise position to search for the Orb. The temple was very weird. It had three levels, but as far as I could tell, not a single room, encounter, or treasure other than the Orb and the god's chamber (below). It had vast spaces, winding staircases, platforms, and rooms strewn with furniture and skeletons. Maxon had some commentary as we walked along.
Maxon's comments are the only things to be found in this corridor.
But I otherwise found nothing. It was eerie. We dug in the right space on Level 1 to find the Orb, made our way up through two more levels with essentially nothing, and found the god Ziphanu sleeping in a chamber on Level 3. I had his password (FURBIMBOR) from his temple in Kafari. He awoke and gave us all +2 resistance, +1 endurance, +1 intelligence, +1 dexterity, +2 agility, and +10 magic.
Hell, yeah.
We left the AirTemple feeling we must have missed something and continued on. We came across the temple to Tito, the God of Protection for the Weak, and got his password: OPESAI.
I should mention we fought a lot of outdoor combats during our explorations, though I avoided them when I could. You get upgrades to weapon skills frequently during combat--maybe once every 8 hits per character. Danat is nearly maxed at axe ability at 92, and the others are in the 60s and 70s. Despite the frequency of development, I feel that it's been slower than in the Candle games, which is generally a good thing. I don't like hitting maximum skills well before the end of the game.
Improving combat skills against some dire wolves.
We stopped at Mikalat's camp and gave him the Hide of the Azure Sky Shark in exchange for the sword Zlmnrdra. It then turned out that only a Tlengle character can wield the sword, so that was a waste of time. On the subject of characters, we encountered two characters willing to join the party, each in separate camps: a wizard named Moryantak (who congratulated us on already having an "M-wizard) and a human named Jon Gruther. Their statistics were good, but I felt like I was already settled with my party, flaws and all, especially since they'd already gotten so much development.
Probably the best magic skill in the game, but I'd rather earn it.
Just as we were getting cocky about our newfound power, we met a new enemy called "Quem." Their hit points and armor are only modest, but they cast the "Sharpen" spell on themselves and then attack multiple times per round, overcoming Nifts and sometimes killing characters in one hit. They caused quite a few uses of "Resurrection" although no reloads.
Mewling quem.
We found a tower with a magically-locked door. I suspect it is Kireini Tower, where the mitre is supposed to be. I had no password to open it, so we had to skip it for now. I suspect this is where I'll find the Golden Needle that I need for the boat, as it was rumored to be somewhere in this area and I didn't find any other candidates.
Of course it is.
I was surprised to find the sleeping place--not a temple--to the god Hantaknor in the wilderness. I thought the gods' resting places were all in dungeons. We awoke him with the word received earlier and got another +1 strength, +1 resistance, +1 intelligence, +1 charm, +1 agility, and +9 "Metalsmith." 
Blessings of the fire god.
And with that, we were at the western shore, having fully searched the entire main continent of Tarq.
On to our next stop!
Rather than wrap up here, I went to a teleportal chamber and zoomed to the other northern island for which I had a teleportal combination: Noromi, in the far northwest. Unfortunately, I didn't find much there except for a return teleportal chamber, a mushroom patch, and the city of Noriin, occupied by Tlengles.

Noriin had a weird arrangement. It was built in multiple east-west strips connected by ropes and ladders, I guess suggesting a city of multiple tiers built into a mountain. I nearly didn't notice the rope connecting the ground tier and the second tier, and I nearly left the city thinking that I'd just found a very small city. Fortunately, I checked my map and noticed the arrangement.
The map for Noriin looks like a game of Donkey Kong.
The city had a gemcutter, a tavern, a music store (I still haven't explored that at all), a clothing store, a "Fistfighting" teacher (I remain mystified as to why anyone would prioritize this skill), and an armory. The most important discovery was in the clothing store, where the proprietor was willing to sell excess canvas--exactly what I need for the boat. That just leaves the Golden Needle.
Buying a sail.
The tavern had the usual selection of characters. A guy named Eddy gave me what he called a "riddle": "Back where you started, a place long dead, where a man should be, lies a treasure instead." This presumably refers to something back in the Asarene Caverns, where I started. 
A loremaster in town had a couple more teleportal combinations, and there was a temple to the Tlengle god Zlntrlkopfr and his magic word: RKDLDN.
It's funny how fantasy games try to depict lizard-man speech. Most games put a lot of sibilance in there, but this one goes with "no vowels."
We wrap up this long session still on the island of Noromi, contemplating our next move. There are two dungeons to which I do not have passwords: the one on Balat and Kireini Tower in western Tarq. I had previously visited the island of Balat and had to reload an earlier save because I couldn't find a way back, but now I suspect there was a teleportal chamber I missed. It wouldn't make sense otherwise. I could try to explore Balat again, but there's a third major island off to the east called Tanala, and I have the teleportal combination to it. I think I'll try there first.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • Given how many teleportal tiles that you find post-combat, the game seems to expect that you're going to use teleportal chambers a lot more frequently than I have. I can't imagine ever having to buy any.
  • I mentioned earlier that weapons skills increase relatively frequently. They're the only ones that do. I think that once, I got a +1 increase in "Magic," and once I got a +1 increase in "Lockpicking."
  • I would have liked to give one of the new axes to Danat, but he won't give up Aroten.
Someone tries to take Danat's blue blanket.
  • As of the end of this session, I have at least one of each spell totem except Demmock (which has the most powerful damage spells, as well as "Heal All"). According to my notes, that one hasn't even been mentioned.
My "to do" list now looks like this:
  • Find the code word used by the god Palelil and awaken him in his chamber in the DarkTemple.
  • Find the sleeping places of the gods Tito and Zlntrlkopfr.
  • Search my ruined home for the artifact hinted in Eddy's clue.
  • Find the Mitre. It's supposed to be in Kireini Tower.
  • Find the Brooch, of which I have no information.
  • Find the Scepter, which is probably in the dungeon on Balat.
I can cross one more off the list.
  • Find the Death Mask of Rohrkhad. I don't know where it is, but a traveling minstrel is supposed to have information.
  • Find the magic Quill, which I think is also in the dungeon on Balat. Take it back to Tanro, the chief of Galaq, presumably in exchange for the Silver Quarrel, which I will then take back to Katrina, chief of the Amazons. I don't actually know what that will get me.
  • Find the Golden Needle so I can take it and the other necessary items back to Denatrius and get a boat.
  • Take the boat to Castle Enterrmar and find Khamalkhad.
This was probably my most enjoyable session with the game. I think the times that I enjoy RPGs most are when what used to be very hard becomes only moderately hard. Character development in this series has always been uneven, but this particular session was one of the better ones. I think I'm enjoying Bloodstone more than any Magic Candle game since the original.
Time so far: 31 hours


  1. Incidentally, 'Hastur' is one of the more interesting conceptions of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and by extension the writings of Robert W. Chambers. In canon, Hastur's referred to as a person, a time, and a place all in one, which makes for a quaint occult riddle, if you're into that sort of thing. And I recommend reading Chambers to anyone who was mildly intrigued by those concepts brought up in True Detective season one.

    [This has jack all to do with the game itself, but still...]

    1. And as for saying his name out loud, one of Hastur's most frequent epithets is "the Unspeakable".

    2. Hastur is a creation of Ambrose Bierce, and did most of his evolution into the current form in the writings of Robert Chambers.

      Hastur was mostly grafted onto the Cthulu mythos - Lovecraft only mentioned him once in passing, as a reference to Chambers.

    3. While you're technically right, Gnoman, you can't deny that it was the appreciation of Lovecraft's work which brought those names and concepts into a wider public consciousness.

      Please don't be the 'Actually...' guy posting a wikipedia entry behind my admittedly streamlined comment, thanks.

    4. Maybe if you'd said it was an "element" of Lovecraft's mythos, but calling it a "conception" gives him undue credit that merited a polite correction. I'm glad you recommended Chambers, though.

    5. @BESTIEunlmt: Do you also have any recommendations on series or movies for people who liked 'True Detective' season one (not necessarily the subject as such, but the plot, acting, style etc.)?

    6. The German series Dark (available on Netflix)?

    7. @Tristan: Thanks, Fargo has also been recommended by someone else independently, definitely looks like something to check out.

      @TWS: Didn't have that on the radar yet, will look into it, thanks.

    8. Irene showed me a cartoon recently that said something like, "Remember, Lovecraft's stories are set in Massachusetts, so all the characters should have Boston accents." It showed someone regarding Cthulhu and screaming something like: "It's an ancient harrah from beyahnd the stahs!"

      I guess in this case, we'd call him "Hastah."

  2. Glad your mood improved after you finally gained the stats needed to wield Natal. The pre-Natal depression was rough to see.

    Also, if you're having trouble with quems now you'll need to be careful when you bump into their stronger variants, the quem-de-la-quems.

    Maybe it's because you summarized a lot of gameplay at once but it feels like you're making good progress with Bloodstone. It doesn't sound quite as interminable as its antecedents, at least.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousJanuary 15, 2024 at 3:26 PM

      @Mento: No, no -- "groaners" was the previous Bloodstone entry!

    2. "Deep in the lands of Hataan, we found another dungeon, called AirTemple. ...It had three levels, but as far as I could tell, not a single room, encounter, or treasure other than the Orb and the god's chamber (below)."

      So, the Air Temple turned out to be pretty insubstantial, eh?

      ...I'll show myself out.

    3. Looks like everyone in the comments is also leveling up ... their puns!

  3. I'm intrigued by the fella who won't give up his axe, wondering if this is a one-off or if there's a game mechanic around characters glomming onto specific weapons or items. Have you run into this before in Bloodstone or other Candle games? It makes swapping out characters a bit more interesting if you're going to lose items to them...

    1. And as soon as I hit Publish the obvious hits me... "You CAN'T have MY axe!!"

    2. Or "NOT MY AXE!"

      This is the first time that I can remember, though it's possible that in the MC sequels, the hero wouldn't give up the magic sword from the first game. It makes sense in Bloodstone, since in the opening cut scene, Aroten is given to the main character by his father. He's not going to lightly abandon it when a more powerful axe comes along.

      So far, none of the dismissable NPCs have attached to a particular weapon.

  4. It is interesting how this game keeps track of the bodies and display them in all their gory glory. In their (Mindcraft's) wargame Siege, each of the 20+ races had specific "body" arts for all the possible deaths : slayed in melee, killed by an arrow, killed by a spear/ballista, burned to death, crushed by a rock or by a monster of prodigious strength, beheaded, ... The bodies remained on the floor for a long time (several "days" in a game that could last 30), and by the end of a typical session there was typically dozens or possibly more than one hundred bodies littering the approach of the castle, the courtyard, the ramparts, the towers, ...

    It looks like they had one artist (or designer) who loved that! :)

    1. It's "interesting" but also annoying because I often miss a live enemy among all the corpses. This series has frankly always attempted more graphic detail than the size of the graphics really allows.

  5. I remember a spell that removed all armor and shields on an enemy (maybe called weaken) and an even more powerful spell that did the same to all enemies. Might be a good addition to your battle strategy if you can get the right spell totem.

    1. "Weaken" does remove all armor and shields, and was pretty invaluable against some foes, yeah. The mass variant, "Crumble", only applied to shields, however.

      I'm actually a bit puzzled by the missing Demmock. My memories suggest that it was accessible very early, which was important given that it's got some really lynchpin spells on it.

    2. It's possible I just missed it somewhere. There are a lot of places to visit and people to talk to. It doesn't appear if I search my note file.

    3. My notes say it's sold by Eawearg va Zneng ba gur abegurea vfyr. You've mentioned going there.

    4. I didn't find it on that visit, and the entire visit was undone anyway, as I couldn't find a teleportal chamber to return to Tarq so I had to reload from an earlier save. Tomorrow's entry will explain what happened.

  6. Too bad about not having a Tlengle to wield the sword. I think I started with Kenit and switched to Rif later in the game when I played like 25 years ago. I remember a similar problem in MC2. Not enough dwarves in the party to wield all the magic axes that only dwarves can wield.

  7. Glad to see you were able to get into Delquafi! I'd misremembered which dungeon it was for, but getting the password out of Pran was something I remember being hinted at, but still fairly miss-able. :)

    1. I'm not sure what you mean. I don't remember that it was anything other than regular dialogue when he joined the party in the first place.

    2. IIRC, Pran would only disclose the password if spoken to in a tavern, wherein he had unique dialoge; otherwise, it's a secret he refuses to betray. The game does mention in a few places that the Taldor become extremely loose-lipped when drunk, as part of some divine curse on their lineage.

    3. Huh. I just checked my note file, and it does appear that he gave me the password in a later conversation, not the one where I picked him up, and judging by the conversations around it, I guess we were in a tavern. Sometimes when the party enters a tavern, one of the characters ends up out of the formation (usually because there's a piece of furniture blocking the regular formation) and I mistake him for an NPC and accidentally talk to him. I suspect that's what happened here. That was lucky, then. I don't think it would have occurred to me to do that deliberately.

  8. That capital "H" sure looks a lot like an "M" in the game's font.

    1. Maybe Hastur really wants to be called Mastur (master)!

    2. YES! It keeps screwing me up in keyword dialogue.

  9. I get that it's a gameplay thing, but there's something very funny to me about a society where in order to get a basic hammer, you have to delve into a dungeon full of evil spiders and giant bats.

    1. This is extra funny in a dwarven society, where one would expect to find more hammers than heads or nails.

  10. I'm curious about one thing: how much previous knowledge of the Magic Candle series mechanics is needed to play this game? For example, stuff like spells or mushrooms etc, does the game guide you reasonably well into learning about them, or is much of the knowledge coming into play like "oh I remember this mushroom in MC2 so I'm going to use it in a similar situation in Bloodstone"

    1. All of the spells and mushrooms are documented in the manual.

    2. I concur. I think if you had no knowledge of TMC series, you'd still be able to slide into Bloodstone just fine.


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