Monday, October 1, 2012

Magic Candle: Melting

The party blithely decides to walk through molten lava.

I can't say I love the dungeons in this game, and thinking about it, I realized why. I'm primarily a fan of dungeons that either A) you can map on graph paper; or B) you don't have to map at all. The former category is best represented by the gridded dungeons of Wizardry and Might & Magic. Later in the history of CRPGs, we come upon plenty of examples of category B, either because the game offers automaps (Might & Magic VI, the Infinity Engine games) or because the dungeons are so moronically simple that you rarely have to remember that you haven't explored a particular passage yet (Skyrim).

(Completely out-of-the-blue, complete non-sequitur: The Elder Scrolls games should make it so you have to actually read to the part of the book that has the hint that causes you to increase your skill; you shouldn't get it automatically upon opening the book. Thank you for listening.)

The Magic Candle occupies that in-between area. Sure, the dungeons--like the overland--are tiled, but the isometric perspective means that it's tough to figure out exactly how to draw the walls, and I'm not going to waste a lot of time calculating exactly how many tiles a room has. Perhaps more important, it's not necessary to map every square of these dungeons. Games like Wizardry depend on encounters that only exist when you arrive at particular squares, so you have to make sure to hit every one. In The Magic Candle, it is, rather, only necessary to remember that you haven't been down a particular corridor or in a particular room. While much more general than mapping every square, it is, paradoxically, more difficult for me because, since I don't have to literally draw every square, it's difficult to know exactly what to draw. I mean, I could make a general sketch of the dungeon layout, but without the lock-step certainty of grid squares, I'd probably screw up the proportions. In short, I'd guess I'd rather have a lot of work that's easily accomplished than a little work that's complicated. You know what? Screw you. It's my blog; it doesn't have to make sense.

Much of my playing since the last entry has been in three dungeons: Sudogur, Meardom, and Crezimas. The first was a result of the main quest. After I got the hoyam essence from the dwarves, I explored the northern areas of Deruvia until I found Wolf Rock. Luring the White Wolf with the hoyam essence, I was rewarded with the Star-shaped key to the vault containing the Zirvanad, which contains the instructions to restoring the Magic Candle.

He just dropped it to me. Ultima I-II or Questron I-II would have made me kill him to get the key.

Plenty of NPCs had clued me that the Zirvanad was in a vault under the city of Lymeric. I traveled there, and after spending some time with Aksimento increasing my learning skill, I plunged into the dungeon.

This is the game's clue that you need the "Walkwater" spell. Since I otherwise haven't heard a peep about where to get the Demaro spellbook, I'm glad I chose Eflun.

It was long and hard. The maps were bigger than in other dungeons; there were multiple stairways and portals; and there were lots of rooms and ambushes. There were over a dozen places where I had to use "Walkwater" to stride across rivers, and continually memorizing and casting it got old.

The good thing is that there don't seem to be any "random" encounters in dungeons; once you clear an area it stays clear, so no matter how bad you're screwing up your navigation, you're generally making progress.

Wouldn't it have made more sense if this tome had been stored in, say, a cabinet right next to the Magic Candle? Perhaps with all of the artifacts needed to complete the ritual?

Despite my stubborn refusal to map, I ultimately found the vault containing the Zirvanad. The text gave me the major steps I need to finish the main quest, and I present it to you in its entirety:

Should the candle start to melt:

Three magic users must enter the hall and locate the three lightning stones. Each magic user must possess one of the following items: the white amulet of light; the green ring of order; the blue ring of power. The holder of each item must stand on the stone of its color: blue on blue, white on white, and green on green. The holder of the white amulet starts the process by changing the "ritual of awareness." It is essential that the steps described herein be executed in the exact order specified.

(Three of the following spells must be cast immediately after using magical dusts and ashes. Do not allow the dust to settle before chanting the magical words.)

Next, the wearer of the blue ring must throw crystal dust into the air and conjure a "Bubble of Captivity." The bubble will cage Dreax while the candle is being repaired. Once the bubble is formed, it is time to transfer Dreax from the flame of the candle into the bubble. This is done by the green ring holder who sprinkles elven dream dust in the air and chants the "Three Words of Will" while the dust floats around the candle. Without the effect of the dream dust, Dreax cannot be contained within the bubble for more than a few seconds.

Following the transfer, the green ring holder chants UDE, SAMAID, and DEHUBLE to prepare the candle for repair. Immediately, the blue ring holder must fling a pinch of shir-aka ash in the air and chant EXITERALMISTO, HAXOBEZ, BEHSAIM before it settles. At this point, if all was done properly, the candle would be whole again.

There now remains one last step: the task of transferring Dreax back into the candle's flame. This operation is performed by the amulet holder chanting EKBURAMITRAL, HOX, BEGONE.

So, it sounds like I need to find a few things: the White Amulet of Light; the Green Ring of Order; the Blue Ring of Power; Crystal Dust; Elven Dream Dust; Shir-Aka Ash; the "Bubble of Captivity" spell; and perhaps the words to the "Ritual of Awareness" and the "Three Words of Will" if those aren't things that I just divine while holding the artifacts.

From consulting my notes, it appears that I've learned that the Blue Ring of Power is held by a mad wizard in Thakass Keep in the far northeast. I also had a note to return to Belazar in the Royal Castle once I'd visited the Zirvanad. He told me that the Green Ring of Order is kept by the Last Unicorn, and to lure it, I need to learn "Sherro's High Call" from the elves. He didn't give me much of a clue of where to go to do that.

He's dying, so we're going to forgive him the poor grammar.

I'm ahead of myself, though. Before I visited Belazar again, I went to Port Avur. My explorations of Sudogur had left me rich beyond the dreams of avarice. I'd already made a bunch of gold killing enemies on bridges on the way to Wolf Rock; for some reason, enemies on bridges have 3-4 times the amount of gold as normal enemies, perhaps because they extort travelers. Also, the moment I exited the dungeon after reading the Zirvanad, all of the wilderness encounters seemed to re-set. I'm not sure if this was because of the plot progression or because a certain amount of time had passed. Either way, I gathered a lot of gold from low-level enemies who could barely scratch my skin.

It's like my characters had the Crown of Barenziah.

But this gold didn't compare in the slightest to what I got from all the gems I found in Sudogur. By the time I had sold them all, I was flush with about 12,000 gold. I bought all the spellbooks I knew how to find for all characters who could use them, I stocked up on nearly the maximum complement of mushrooms for each character, I bought everyone steel plate armor, and I spent the rest on melee, bow, and magic training until I started getting messages saying I couldn't train any more.

After I finished talking with Belazar, I decided to put my new skills to the test in Meardom, the dungeon beneath the Royal Castle. I still didn't have any plot-related reason to be there, but the king's uncle thought it was important that I find something. I explored it exhaustively, and the only thing I found was an obelisk that had some strange words on it. I'm supposed to read about obelisks if I ever visit the library in Delkona, but right now I have no idea what they do.

At this point, I did something either bold or stupid. I didn't feel like backtracking the five levels out of Meardom, so I used the teleportal chamber I found there. Unfortunately, I only had one teleportal combination from Meardom to somewhere else, and that somewhere else turned out to be Udar, on the absolute opposite side of the map. Figuring "no guts, no glory," I took it.

Well, the area was absolutely swarming with enemies, and while they had the same names as enemies I'd already faced and killed in abundance, they were super-charged versions, with higher armor classes (Min can't even do any damage to most of them) and hit points.

Jerrahs on the other side of the map have ACs of 4 and stamina levels of around 30.

I soon started to run low on mushrooms. Wading through combat after combat, I made my way to the nearest town, Kharin, and found that it only had one shop: an armor shop that sells "Methreal." While I'll definitely want this, right now I need mushrooms. I left the town and fought my way through the mountains to the Crystal Castle, where at least I had some reason to be.

This is in the exact opposite corner of the map from the Royal Castle. They're like bookends.

Fortuitously enough, Crystal Castle related directly to the main quest. A wizard named Pindalf knew something about the Ritual of Awareness, which is in a book called Zilmaeron in the Tower of Ruhan on the Sunken Isle, and only someone named Meliso in Bondell knows the location. Great, that's way on the other side of the map.

Is this supposed to be a play on "Silmarillion"?

It also turned out, through dialogue, that Crystal Dust (needed as part of the ritual) could be found beneath Crystal Castle in the caverns of Crezimas. Hence, my third dungeon.

I had been prepared for it by the manual and some of your comments, but I was still vaguely surprised to find that Crystal Castle offered a Knights' Room (complete with proper punctuation, which is unusual for both this game and 1980s CRPGs in general) containing an entirely new roster of potential characters. I confess I don't really get this. Yes, some have slightly better stats than my existing characters, but not enough that I'm going to dump any of my current party after investing so much time and gold in their development.


Crezimas, beneath Crystal Castle, is a unique experience. I have a specific quest to kill every living monster within the dungeon--including both rooms and ambushes--so that the castle could re-open the mine and get me some Crystal Dust. The Queen apparently has an ability to sense how many monsters are left on each level:

Because ambushes only trigger on specific squares, I had to make sure I hit every square in every area, which I suppose is the exception to my earlier statement that it's not necessary to map every square. Because I only detect ambushes about 50% of the time, and each successful ambush gives the monsters an entire round to surround and attack me, wandering into this dungeon was courting disaster.

How did they all manage to hide?

So far, I've found the dungeon denizens easier than the ones outside, but my low arrow and mushroom totals have complicated things (I still don't know where to restock nearby). Although I've cleared a couple of levels, it seems likely I will have to depart the dungeon and return when I'm better-supplied. The dungeon is also swimming with lava, but fortunately I had previously purchased boots for all my characters, so I can just walk through it. We all know how effective boots are against lava.

As is my wont, let's conclude with a few random notes:

  • The dialogue system in this game is very sensitive. The nice thing about Ultima IV and Ultima V is that it would pick up your meaning from the first four letters. Asking about BRITISH, BRITAIN, or BRITANNIA will get you the same responses, and you could just type BRIT if you wanted to save time. Not so with this game. If you want Vixeskre to tell you the teleportal combination from Vocha to the Ice Plains, you'd better be sure you ask him about TELEPORTALS, not TELEPORTAL, 'cause with the latter he looks at you like an idiot and pretends that he doesn't know what you're talking about. Similarly, Belazar has a lot to say about THE LAST UNICORN, but nothing about LAST UNICORN. Apparently, definite articles are very important to him.
  • Even when you have the sound turned off, the game makes an annoying beep when you hit a wall. This may be an emulator issue rather than something programmed into the game.
  • Opening chests in dungeons runs the risk of poisoning or causing disease. In both cases, the remedy is simple: eat the appropriate "cure" mushroom and then whatever other mushroom or potion you need to restore your stamina and energy. I'm not sure if the traps are scripted or if the character's dexterity provides a way to avoid them, but either way it's a little pointlessly annoying.

This turned out to be the chest where the Forces of Darkness store their weed.

The highest number of postings I've had on any game before "Won!" is 12, with Might & Magic II. I'm up to 7 with The Magic Candle,  and I suspect it's going to beat the record. When I finally visited the Zirvanad, I basically felt like I'd finished the prologue. I hope you're all enjoying this one.


  1. "Also, the moment I exited the dungeon after reading the Zirvanad, all of the wilderness encounters seemed to re-set. I'm not sure if this was because of the plot progression or because a certain amount of time had passed. "

    The patrols reset every three months.

    I had the same problem with mapping.

    I had the same reaction as you when I found the new recruits in Crystal Palace, and I did't want to abandon the guys I had invested so much time and money in. But don't forget that some of them have better max abilities than your current guys, and some of your current guys may not be transfered to Magic Candle 2.

    1. I had read about the patrols re-setting before, and I guess the time works out right. I just thought it was funny that they reset just after I accomplished a major quest objective. Like the Forces of Darkness were like, "Damn! He's read the Zirvanad! Time to get serious about putting a stop to this party!"

      If I have to get some new people in MC2, it won't be a tragedy.

  2. nice to see a strong showing. I think most people hit crystal castle before you have so characters there are higher stats, also I think one of the magicians has better books than what you'd normaly get if you get there early.

    One of the old strategies was to bum rush to the castle asap from the start of the game, as it cuts a lot out.

    1. That was actually what I had planned to do when I played, but without metagaming it just took too long.

    2. You'd have to already know how to get there via previous play or a walkthrough, though. I like to play more organically.

  3. it pumpkin scented, the magic candle? I'm curious!

    1. Ah, I was almost out of candle-related references for my titles. I had forgotten about scented candles. That might be good for one or two entries if I can make it work with a plot development.

  4. You've got a good pace going. I'm enjoying the reading as always, and while it'd be fun to play along, this seems like one of those games I'd have to give up everything else to play. Maybe another time, as it seems like a classic, and I've never played it.

    Random thought regarding 'I need to learn "Sherro's High Call" from the elves' (Rot-13 to protect your right to be assist-free): 1) Fbhaqf yvxr n fbat 2) Qvqa'g lbh zrrg na rys znvqra whfg ynfg cbfg?

    1. Thanks. I'm going to leave it untranslated for now, as I haven't really explored any options yet. There are elf NPCs in various towns, plus that elf maiden from a couple postings ago.

  5. I'm quite enjoying reading this series. Like Zenic, I feel the siren's call to play the game as well, as I love these types of games, but I am also worried about having to commit too much time to it.

    Keep playing, keep reporting, keep doing what you need to do. Let me live vicariously while getting stuff done rather than losing myself and my time to this type of game! :)

  6. Great post as usual, Chet!

    Usually when I just need a "rough" map instead of an exact one I make a node graph... which is just a fancy way of saying a bunch of circles (i.e., rooms) with lines coming out of them (i.e., exits) in the appropriate north/south/east/west directions to more circles (i.e., more rooms).

    Another way to do it is to make a table. Column one is the "name" of the room, even if it's just something you have to make up. Column two lists the direction of each of the exits (e.g., "N", "S", etc). Every time you come to a new room, write its "name" down and all the exits, then pick one of the exits and cross it out on your table. Once you get to a dead end, go back to the previous room and choose a direction that isn't crossed out. Continue this process until you've explored every room and direction.

    Anyway, I'm sure you've thought of all these things, but I just thought I'd throw them out there anyway.

    1. Those are good approaches, and I've been using something akin to a node graph for the last few dungeon levels. The game vacillates between very small dungeon levels and quite large ones, so I'll enter a new level, start my node graph, realize that it only has one room, and feel like an idiot. The next level, I don't bother, and I find out a few minutes later that it's vast. I can't win.

    2. I was going to suggest a topographical map. Draw a circle with "Entrance" on it. Then draw another circle for each room, and lines connecting them. Doesn't matter how long the corridor is, or how big the room, just that you visit each one.

  7. I bought my first PC game when I was 7. The shop assistant recommended the magic candle or eye of the beholder. I picked the latter. I wonder how I would have handled the magic candle at age 7 - it seems an unusual recommendation!

    I'd always wondered about the game and am really enjoying your posts.

    1. I think Final Fantasy for the NES was the first RPG I picked out myself. But I used to watch my dad play the Bard's Tale and Pool of Radiance. I'm not sure if I would have been able to stick with Magic Candle at 7. My patience probably would have worn out. :^)

    2. I don't know, I think I was a lot more patient with computer games at 7 than I am now.

  8. I must say, this looks like a cool, interesting game...and one that I begin having an incipient panic attack even thinking about playing. Juggling all this stuff just sounds like a nightmare to me. There's a part of me that wishes my brain was set up for things like this, 'cause it seems like it would be a lot of fun,'s not. And that's all there is to it.

    1. It seems like a lot when you're reading the manual, but as you start playing it becomes second-nature. I mean, when you think about it, it's nothing compared to a modern game like Skyrim, where you have to figure out reagents and soul gems and crafting items as well as the 8 different types of armor and 4 different types of weapons, plus how to sneak, steal, pick locks, and so forth.

  9. For the beeping sound try setting pcspeaker=false in your dosbox.conf.

    1. That works, but it turns off all sound. I occasionally like to turn it back on to see if there's music or effects playing during certain events.

  10. It is a shame that you're not doing this phase of the game three months from now, because then we could wish you a Merry Crezimas.

    Eh? Eh? Who's with me?

    1. I'll have to make a note to do this on my calendar, haha!

  11. I can't recall if I already left a comment, but it's been a lot of fun to read about such a monumental game I knew practically nothing about beforehand. About party-splitting: the only other game with (player-controllable) party-splitting that I can think of is Jagged Alliance 2, where it works quite well. Plot-driven party-splitting seems like a JRPG trope, and if you have under-developed characters that you're suddenly forced to use in battle, it does interesting things to the difficulty curve. (Often the games are so easy it only makes them more fun.)


    1. Wasteland had it, but there weren't many reasons to use it.

      I haven't fully leveraged it. Earlier, I had to walk between a few cities just to clean up NPC dialogues and buy items and stuff. I realized belatedly that I could have left my wizard memorizing spells for about 10 days instead of hoofing between cities. Min, who's pretty useless in combat, I could drop off to do some work while the rest of the party explores dungeons.

    2. How does it work, you move one character, then it switches to the next one, so you don't waste time, or are the other ones sitting around doing nothing while you move around one character.

    3. One of your parties is "active" at any given time. The other party can camp (or rest in an inn) and fix weapons, learn spells, and sleep to regain energy. The other party can also enroll in training while the active party moves around. But yes, if the other party isn't in a place where they can do any of these things, they end up just standing around.

    4. It was a unique and great system. Only thing it missed was a notice when a character in a non active party was finished with his current task.
      Too bad the sequel didn't have the same system. :-(
      A pity Mindscape never reached the heights of quality they did with Magic Candle, though they were quite prolific for a couple of years.

  12. This really is my favourite RPG of the period, very much enjoying the run through. I think I find it enjoyable because it has a lot more of the "strategy/planning" element than many other RPGs - so the inventory management, finding efficient routes of travel, stocking up on spells before battle, managing character upgrades via training and the ability to split the party. Basically the characters are "resources" you manage. I also like the concept of being able to perform mundane work like tailoring, smithing etc to make money - makes the world seem more real.
    Re the dungeon ambushes – detecting an ambush depends on the highest Hunting skill in the party. Buff your hunting skill to get the advantage. Make your elf or ranger go sit in the wilderness for a while doing hunting to raise (preferably wilderness cleared of wandering patrols). I can’t remember if you can train hunting.
    The writing in the game is also very enjoyable, lots of very natural dialogue for the period. The graphics have progressed to the stage where everything is nicely representative and suggestive of the detail you fill in yourself. I find the “interstitial” scenes where the view switches to side on absolute gorgeous and characterful as well (like the wolf one in the post). Everything seems to have mountains in the background though.
    Another thing that really makes this game shine is the box and contents. It’s a nice looking box with its own unique art style, a lovely fold out full colour map, a 60 page manual and a platform specific start guide. The map is GAME ACCURATE unlike the vague crap you get these days.
    The manual is so FULL of character as well – each chapter written by a different one of King Rebnard’s advisors and completely in character. Rimfiztrik’s chapter on magic (as dictated to a long suffering scribe) is by far my favourite. Highly recommend you have a read.
    I got Curse of the Azure Bonds around the same time (C64 again) and it just had a “DVD style” case made of plastic, some disks, the code wheel and two fairly bland manuals (proper manual and journal).
    Shame about the sound, I originally played on C64 which has much nicer sound and different, but about the same quality graphics. I play on PC now, but I am tempted to fire up an emulator and give it a go. As much as I enjoy the game, I have never finished it (although I am serial non completer)
    The crystal castle and the second knights room is funny. Pretty much anytime you get there by normal adventuring, you probably will be higher (or at least even) in power to the people you can get there. Theoretically you can shuttle the “new” team back to the same dungeons you already kicked over and get the stat boosts for them though - and they all start off with higher base stats. (I think – not sure if you can wake the god twice).
    HOWEVER for early game cheese you can –
    Pick a team from the 1st knight room with all the money earners for Avur (gem cutter, Smith, Tailor) along with a high Charisma character (other than the tailor) along with one or two wizards, (favour Eflun).
    Go make a bunch of cash, buy supplies and learn an ass load of spells with Eflun. You want at least 3k-4k in cash.
    After this face go back to the 1st Knights Room and get the roughest, ugliest crew of nasties you can. Probably this will be something like Sakar (mandatory), Nehor (for the hunt skill), Dalin (maybe Amad), Eflun and Ziyx. (Ziyx could be replaced by Ben or Amad)
    Wander around Port Avur / Pheron until you get the right teleportal bits from wandering merchants
    Head down to Soldain, buy 1 – 2 spell books (2 will let you keep Eflun’s book later)
    Go to Dermagud, hug the north wall and hit the telportal room
    Teleport to Yberton (Crystal Castle area)
    Hit up the 2nd Knights Room with the better guys!
    Slightly trickier – now you need to use the teleportal in Crezimas to get back to Pheron. Alternatively, there is one is one in Kherbel you can use.
    Viola! 2nd Knights Room team at the beginning of the game.

    1. Thanks for the tips and for the little walkthrough: even though I didn't play this way, I'm sure other readers will find it useful.

      I had missed the bit about hunting=detecting ambushes in the manual. I've hardly used the hunting skill because food is pretty cheap.

    2. The Hunting = detecting ambushes is actually printed on the machine specific quick start guide in the "addenda" section under the Port Avur map.

      So I think the manual missed that tip.

  13. I like big game worlds, many games end way too soon. Especially with an rpg I would like the game to last a while, what's the point leveling your characters up if the game is going to end very soon anyway?

  14. Well, thank you for this update, well written and interesting, as always! I especially liked your comment about the skill books in the Elder Scrolls series. Actually, I think you should have a quizz after reading the book, and only then be awarded skill points, based on your answers' correcteness. That would be mean! I'm not writing this mod, though :P

    1. It certainly would make things a bit more engaging, but some people might see the tests as litteral and immersion breaking rather than just a representation of memorizing the useful information. So, maybe the cons outway the pros?

  15. After several days of intensive reading, I've now caught up with all your posts. Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and I'm looking forward to all future posts!

    (Good thing I wasn't reading your blog yet when you posted about stopping - what a fright!)

  16. Glad to have you with us, Andreas. Having all of those other postings in recent memory, you might be uniquely qualified to help with something I'm going to post later today.

  17. I have been hearing the name of Magic Candle quite a while. After reading CRPG Addict blog I decided to play it. But this limited time thing turns me off. The problem is I’m a purist when it comes to CRPGs . I try to solve all the quests, examine every nook and cranny in the game. So, limited time (1000 days in easy setting) is a big minus for me. I’m not a cheater (and I’m against cheating) but is there a cheat code or something to change this to unlimited time?
    By the way I don’t know it’s owner is a CRPG Addict reader but web site add Magic Candle to its catalogue. There’re also the manual and the world map.

    1. 1000 days is plenty enough to explore every inch of the game, unless you insist on walking back and forth across the whole continent, and rest 8 hours after each battle. You can even buy some extra time.

    2. If you look here ( you will find a program (helpfully called 'Cheat') that lets you adjust the day limit. JSYK, you can set it to a number above 1000.

    3. Many thanks for the web site. This should do it.

    4. Yeah, when I played a year ago the the time limit was a big turn off to me too. That's just not how I roll in an RPG. As it turns out I ran out of real world time before I ran out of game world time so it was a non-issue.

  18. do you keep track of how many game hours are in the Titles you have completed?

    This looks like a 100hr+ game

    1. Yes, I put it in my "Game Rankings" spreadsheet. I haven't topped 100 hours yet; my highest is Rogue with 90. But I agree: this might top it.

  19. "In short, I'd guess I'd rather have a lot of work that's easily accomplished than a little work that's complicated. You know what? Screw you. It's my blog; it doesn't have to make sense."

    Yes, it does make sense and I think I understand the saltiness about it. In Ultima V the dungeons were category A dungeons that could be mapped on graph paper and I found that much preferable to the category B underworld. For the later I just kind of freehand drew a sketch of the passages between the mountains and while it tended to work out, it was a messy imprecise process and I don't like that.

    In Magic Candle I tended to drop a pearl in a bowl and then the a screenshot of the map onscreen, which I'd then add information to in a paint program.

    Ultima V of course had "peer at a gem" but the underworld was huge and gems only showed a small area, whereas in Magic Candle, dropping a pear in a bowl would provide a map of the enter level, or at least it did in the couple dungeons I was in.


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