Saturday, September 16, 2017

Might and Magic III: Machinations and Mind-Teasers

The second king doesn't even pretend to have noble goals.
Lots accomplished in this last session. I explored the second half of columns A and B, a new town, and several dungeons I'd previously bypassed.

Area A3 was mostly forest (called the "Evil Eye Forest" in Corak's notes), dominated by "screamers"--floating heads capable of causing insanity, a condition that increases might and speed but lowers intelligence and personality. I think I need the temple to cure it, but occasionally it just seems to go away on its own. As usual there was a "spawn point," a wagon full of screamer pods, destroying which delivered far more gold and experience than individual screamers.
You can always count on New World to throw in a few original enemies.
Wagons belonging to gypsy-like travelers called "Zingara" (drawn from one of many exonyms for Romani) were evenly spaced throughout the forest, mostly offering scams. For instance, a supposed artifact ring that a Zingara named Povorka sold me for 1,000 gold turned out to be regular iron ring worth about a tenth of that, and a "protection aura" did nothing. One of the Zingara did teach the "Arms Master" skill to my knight, however, and another cured insanity.
I don't remember if this was a scam or not. I also don't remember how Allan Bow died. I didn't notice for a long time.
There was a southwest square in the middle of a bay with a single mountain tile. It held a shack, and inside the shack was a gold card engraved with a pyramid. It was in a glass case that none of my characters were strong enough to break. I made a note to return later, but I'm sure this is the way into the pyramid in A2.
Only about half of B3 was visitable at first, owing to Piranha Bay taking up much of the northern half. Corak's notes called it the "Land of Gargoyles." It was perhaps the hardest outdoor map so far, full of vampire bats and ghouls, the latter of which were particularly tough. I eventually cleared them out. The mountains in the area held a lot of buried treasure, plus a locked dungeon that I saved for later.
Checking out the stats for my ghoul foes.
Two of the graves offered simple riddles, the answers to which gave me clues about Greywind's and Blackwind's wedding days (per the last entry, on those days their thrones confer some kind of special power). The riddles and answers were:
  • "What is too much for one, enough for two, but nothing for three?" (SECRET). The phrasing is a little weird, but I recognize it as a variant of a riddle I've heard dozens of times before.
  • "The more there is of it, the less you see." (DARKNESS). I got it only after trying and failing with FOG and MIST.
My reward for a correct answer.
There were two encounters--a shack and a gargoyle altar--that seemed to do nothing but severely damage my party with no reward. A peninsula south of Baywatch held a ship that offered travel to "Swamp Town" on one of the other islands.

Area A4 transitioned to the southern part of the starting island via a washed-out bridge; everyone needs the "Swimming" skill to proceed, but I got it ages ago. The upper island reached a peninsula called "Poison Point," swarming with spiders. I found the "Cure Poison" spell after I'd defeated most of them. The lower island held "Thorn Blossom Orchard," with evenly-spaced trees. It was full of "magic mantises" and more "oh no bugs," neither of which was too hard.
A typical combat in the area.
Useful fountains generally stopped appearing after the first two maps (that's where you need them most, I guess) so I was surprised to find one in the western part of the orchard. But drinking from it didn't give me a bonus--it teleported me to a square in map E4. Surrounded by enemies, I declined to explore the area for the time being and immediately returned.
Thankfully, these guys either didn't know how to use the well or didn't care to follow us.
The last map was B4, representing the eastern end of the southern island plus the southern end of the "Land of Gargoyles." In the eastern Orchard there was an entry to "Arachnid Cavern," which I saved for later. I have a note to expect some skill upgrades in there.

The centerpiece of the area was Castle Blood Reign, oddly enough the "neutral" castle despite its name. There, "Tumult, King Chaotic" asked me to tip the balance in neither the direction of King Righteous or King Malefactor, but to give the Ultimate Power Orbs to him instead. At first it sounded tempting. After all, the "good" king is presented as a "zealot." Perhaps balance is the way to go. Then Tumult ruined it by saying that he wanted to maintain balance between the other kings so "my schemes can be executed unhindered." It doesn't sound like any of these kings are really admirable, and I frankly don't know which I'll support with Orbs if I ever find them. Like Righteous, Tumult had an advisor who wanted me to return with "Ancient Artifacts of Neutrality."
My map of the world at the end of this session.
I've been mentioning the "spawn points" but not the creativity with which the authors described each one. The ghouls in B3, for instance, are explained by some kind of "lamprey" biting corpses in a graveyard and bringing them to life. "Bugaboos" are apparently grown from larvae that the party burned. Orc and goblin outposts (which we burn) are described as having beds, maps, and notes on the area. Spiders spawn from a shack with a "suffocating mass of webs."
Magic mantises apparently also grow from larvae.
By the time I was done with the four maps, I had a ton of new useful spells, mostly found in mountain caches. They included "Teleport," "Etherealize," "Water Walk," and "Lloyd's Beacon," the combination of which means I can travel just about anywhere. I set "Lloyd's Beacon" for Baywatch so that I can instantly return to town from a dungeon. Side note: Lloyd was from CRON and died there, so how does the name of his spell carry over to Terra? Is this perhaps a sign that the Isles of Terra were populated by the beings whose CRON crashed into it at the end of Might and Magic II?
Setting the beacon to a convenient location.
Thanks to poison, I was in pretty bad shape when I limped into the city of Wildabar on the southeast coast, so I was somewhat chagrined to find it swarming with hostile ninjas. I managed to get through the initial battles. Corak's notes indicated that the "Wildabar Ninja Clan" had been hired by King Chaotic to take the town from the native dwarves. I ended up having to fight both ninjas and dwarves to clear the town. Wildabar had the usual services plus NPCs who taught "Navigator," "Body Building," and "Arms Master."
The party wanders into a bad 1980s movie.
I should mention that my routine includes frequent stops in the cities to check whether I'm ready to level up, and to identify and sell equipment. I've managed to settle into a quick process for the latter, and I rather enjoy distributing upgrades to my characters after every few hours of adventuring. Some of my items include a "pearl marksman pike" (4-18 damage and +10 accuracy) held by my paladin, "poisonous ebony charisma chain mail" (+10 armor class, +20 resistance to acid and poison, +12 personality) worn by my cleric, and a "venomous bronze health hammer" (0-8 damage, +2 to hit modifier, +4 acid/poison damage, +15 resistance to acid/poison, +6 hit points) wielded by my druid. Most of my characters have two-handed weapons, but each one keeps a shield on standby in case I find good one-handed weapons later.

Broken items are the bane of my existence. Repairing an item costs half it's sale value, and the worst suit of armor in the party is worth at least 5,000 gold. The aforementioned ebony chain is worth 18,000, so it costs 9,000 to repair. I've noticed that armor only seems to break when a character is knocked unconscious, so I've been dedicating a lot of effort to preventing that from happening. I guess some enemies have an attack that breaks armor no matter what, but I haven't encountered them yet.

After Wildabar, I had a long list of places to revisit and fully explore, including 12 dungeons. I began by using "Water Walk" to map the previously-unexplored water areas. I only found one new encounter in this process--an island in the southwest corner where a nymph named Althea lived. I didn't have anything for her, so she took off, but not before making all my male characters fall "in love" with her. A couple of days later, their condition unaddressed, it changed to "heartbroken." I had to get it healed a the temple.
My party, the men appropriately looking like men in love.
I returned to the Cyclops Caverns to finally finish them. The damned dungeon seemed like it would never end, opening vast new areas every time I thought I was almost done. But it was worth it. After I killed the Cyclops King, most of the tough enemies were gone. I found my first Ancient Artifacts--one good, one neutral--plus a chest with 500,000 gold.

It turns out that the Ancient Artifacts, when delivered to their respective kings' seneschals, convey a tremendous amount of experience. Several hundred thousand. That's enough for at least one level at my character's current levels (12-14). Their experience was also bolstered by a number of dungeon pools that say "you're a more experienced adventurer!" when you wade in them.
Praythos accepts an Ancient Artifact of Good.
I next cleared Slithercult Stronghold, a much easier dungeon populated by "cobra fiends," evil rangers, and living candles. Like most dungeons, the greater danger was in the traps, including a large cavern with multiple guillotine traps and teleporters interspersed among them. "Jump" helped me get through it.
Well, this looks inviting.

In a pool, I found a "Precious Pearl of Youth and Beauty," which vaguely rings a bell. I think there are more of these.
Do I give these to someone on the sea?
At one point, I reached a talking head who demanded to know who sent me. A message on a wall had given me a clue:
I didn't know the answer, but I was sure that the clue was referring to the NPC brothers I encountered in Baywatch, including Brother Alpha and Brother Beta. I assumed the rest of the clan used Greek letters for their names, so I just tried the sequence, starting with GAMMA and DELTA, before hitting the answer with EPSILON.

On the other side of that riddle was a chamber where magic mouths took "Quatloo Coins" in exchange for 5-point bumps in attributes. I'd been finding these coins in odd chests lately, so I spent a few.

The final area I explored this session was the dungeon of Castle Whiteshield (the good castle). It pissed me off. There were about a dozen doors with this configuration . . .
. . . meaning that I had to walk into the blade and kick the door, taking damage twice, before getting into the rooms beyond.

Some of the rooms held elixirs that increased all attributes by 10 points for a character, so that was nice.
That's not sudden. I've felt that way my whole life.
In the others, notes hidden on skeletons spelled out the following verse:

The good king Zealot was quite a knave
To his wife and her lover a box he gave
The wife's young lover was an orc named Smello
With hell-hound's breath and hair of yellow
Smello's box sent him reeling
And wooden planks were his last feeling
The Queen was shocked by her pine box
For the open end had golden locks
That's a bit of a paradox.
A further note said that "the countersign lies in the queen's box," which I interpreted from the poem as SMELLO'S HEAD, though it turns out that it's just SMELLO. The "countersign" is necessary to open certain chests on the main floor of Whiteshield, but even with it, guards swam you, and those guards are not defeatable by my characters. ("Lloyd's Beacon" doesn't work in the castle, either.) I saved its use for later.
My party soon reloaded.
Miscellaneous notes:

  • As my NPCs' levels increase, so do their daily fees. I'm currently paying more than 2,000 gold per day for each of them. That's a drop in the bucket, granted, compared to what I have after Cyclops Caverns, but I still wonder if it will reach the point where they're not worth it.
This number keeps creeping up.
  • The game doesn't allow you to stand on water and shoot at creatures on land. Your shots are blocked or just miss.
Wasting time shooting at spiders.
  • There were a lot of random signs in the lower maps, something that did not appear in the upper ones.
I thought this was warning me about sea creatures, but I didn't find any.
  • Giant spiders seem to keep respawning in A4 despite my having destroyed their spawn points.
  • I still keep finding silver skulls that the guy back in Fountain Head buys for 1,000 gold.
  • In the Cyclops Caverns, I searched a pool and found something called an "Ancient Fizbin of Misfortune." The search resulted in the eradication--permanent death--of my ninja. I think this still might be recoverable by a temple, but I couldn't remember for sure, so I reloaded and marked the location in case I need the Fizbin later.
  • It appears that enemies can't fire ranged weapons at you unless you can see them. That means you can turn your backs to them and "pass" until they come into melee range. This was an effective strategy against the "evil rangers," who did more damage to me at a distance than I was doing to them.
  • The game world does not wrap. Trying to head west from column A is just like walking into an invisible wall.
  • The whirlpools out in Piranha Bay don't seem to do anything but transport you to the nearest bit of land, canceling your "Water Walk" spell in the process.
  • I've grown to hate dungeon encounters like this. You just know that you have to search the pool. Probably something good will come of it. But at the unavoidable cost of all the searcher's hit points or something.
And there's about 20 of them per dungeon.
I've mapped 33% of the overworld, but I still have a lot of dungeons in that area to explore, so I suspect I'm no more than 25% of the way through the game. It seems likely that the next entry or two will be devoted to my clearing up the stuff I bypassed between A1 and B4 before moving on to new areas.

I hope this level of detail is working out for everyone. Next time, I'll try to cover magic and combat in-depth. I'm feeling good right now because I'm writing this on 5 September 2017 but not scheduling it to post until 16 September, and I have other posts evenly-spaced in between. I'm going to be at a conference for the next 10 days with no time to play or write, but for the first time since I started the blog, I've scheduled enough material in advance that we won't have a gap like we usually do. By the time I write about Might and Magic III again, we'll be back in "real time."

Time so far: 21 hours
Reload count: 10


  1. Eradication can be cured at temples, but it's expensive. Also, the games that use this engine seem to be rather short. Since you started this, I beat both this and Xeen, and those were mostly blind playthroughs.

    1. What, both parts of Xeen? i.e. III-V in something like three weeks? That's pretty solid, actually. I wonder what you consider a long game? Daggerfall upwards?

    2. It was actually about two weeks. 7 days for Terra, 4 days for Clouds, 2 days for Darkside, and about 2 hours for Xeen's postgame stuff. I was thinking these games would take a month or two, which is about how long the first game took me.And for me, a long game would take at least a couple of weeks.

    3. I agree. I've been doing a video series on World of Xeen for my You Tube channel, and at 10 hours roughly, I've completed the plot of Clouds of Xeen (4), along with several optional areas (only a couple left), and explored a large swath of Darkside of Xeen (5) with a few of the dungeons there done.

      Granted, I'm so familiar with the games that I can remember most puzzles' answers and just have to explore for treasure and XP, but still. A blind run can't take too much more time.

  2. This is the first non console crpg I played and I have replayed it quite a few times since

    But one thing i´ve never been able to solve is:
    Jung gur fgbarurnqf ba fjnzc vfynaq qb jura gurl bssre gb erzrzore lbh

    Searching the web for an answer I found this rather amusing blog
    Where someone is taking two biquering parties of opposed alignment through the game

    For your enjoyment
    It´s text only i´m far to impatient to watch video playthroughs

    1. For your question:

      Nsgre nyy sbhe urnqf erzrzore lbh, tb gb gur jryy bs erzrzoenapr va S4. V guvax lbh pna gura hfr gur urnq bs sbetrggvat gb ercrng guvf?

    2. Thuryl who did that MM3 LP also did MM 1,2,4, and 5, and they're all worth reading.

    3. Agree I´ve had a lot of spare time the last weeks and they have helped keep up the pretense that i´m actually working

    4. I did that, and it didn't seem to work on SNES, fwiw.

  3. Oh, so the fizbin came from this game. Man that thing is annoying.

    1. Fizbin is a Star Trek reference and didn't come from this game.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. The spiders in A4 kept spawning for me too, the only place in the game where that happened. I suspect it's a minor bug.

  6. "I also don't remember how Allan Bow died. I didn't notice for a long time."

    From insanity, likely. It may go away on its own, but more often it kills a character, if left untreated.

    Still, the bonus to Might might be useful on occasion. =)

    1. I learned the hard way not to ignore the cursed condition for too long.

      There are other changes that are much harder to notice. For one I had to consult a walkthrough to see how it happened, as I only noticed much later (it wasn't bad or game-breaking, though).

  7. I love the detail of your posts, can´t get enough.

  8. I always feel a tad guilty when you are playing a terrible game for us, so it nice to see you dig into something that is right in your wheelhouse.

  9. You can click on the icon next to the Experience Points on the character summary to see if they can level up, which has saved me more than one trip back to town!

  10. How much are/were you enjoying this game at this point? Was it everything you were hoping for? Is it more fun than M&M 2?

    1. I can't think of another 1991 game that I've liked better than this, but I'm not sure I'll rate it higher than MM2. MM3 is hurt (though only slightly) by a bit more linearity, and I don't like the idea of a closed system. I also rather preferred MM2's difficulty--only being able to save in towns. Graphics and sound are better here, obviously, but from a 2017 perspective, the upgrade is slight.

    2. I think the fact that Chet's progress is miles ahead of his blog posts says it all!

    3. The game's a closed system, but there's enough experience in it to prevent it from becoming a problem. All it really does is prevent level grinding, and the game's not really difficult enough to require that.

  11. Eradication can be cured at the temples or by the Cleric/Paladin spell Resurrection. Raise Dead only works on the basic "Dead" condition.

    When a statistic reaches 0, the character dies. Some status effects have a 'level' which keeps getting higher; this reduces your stats further. So each time you get hit with insanity, it stacked with every time before that you were hit with insanity, and every step IIRC increased the number as well. Allan Bow likely died due to his Personality hitting 0. Not logical, I know; I have no personality at all either. But it's how the game works.

    The respawning Spiders and the lock up in F2 or F3 are about the only major bugs I found in the game, at least that I can recall.

    1. The lockup was patched in "Ultimate Might and Magic Archives", a compilation re-release of the first five M&M games. I think, GOG M&M 6-pack is based on that versions, so there should be no problem.

    2. I still have a backup of my original floppy disk version, so I wasn't aware of that. I guess I need to install the 6 pack version and pull that into my DOS folder then. Thanks for letting me know.

    3. Your welcome. I can add, what the patched version of M&M3 also has it's copy protection at the game's start removed. Developers did it officially in that re-release. It can be used as an early indicator that the version is patched.

  12. Some of the conditions like Insanity and Heartbroken act weird. Sometimes they wear off over time. Sometimes they kill your character if uncured. Sometimes the character graphic goes back to normal, but the condition is still slowly killing them.

    As for the kings, I remember reading an interview where JVC said he wanted none of the kings to be 'good guys', so the players would get over any biases fairly easily.

    The Fizbin has one positive use, which IIRC, doesn't make up for the trouble of keeping the damned thing around.

  13. I seem to remember armor breaking when a character dies / is knocked out. I don't think it's just from arbitrary attacks. I reloaded a lot to save money in Xeen :)

    1. I'm not sure about 3, but I know in Xeen there are many enemies which have a chance to break your armor on hit, and even one that you can break your weapons if you hit them...

    2. From here:

      "If a character's HP is reduced to -10 or lower, the character's body armor will break. For that reason, equipping body armor isn't always the best strategy, as AC only protects against physical attacks. (At least it isn't bad as in Xeen, where having -10 or lower breaks *all* your armor, causing me to simply not bother with that type of equipment in that game.)"

      There probably are specific flags that trigger armor breaking, but this sounds like the most likely cause in the the early game?

    3. It's really amazing how much speculation there is over a core mechanic of a game this old. It's not just here, and it's really not just about breakage -- I've looked at a handful of walkthroughs over the years, and some of those either miss or misinterpret items here and there pretty badly. I'm going to lean toward assuming that means the game is well done, at least with respect to depth, if 25 years later some of the points aren't trivial.

    4. How I wrote in one of the previous posts, there are some enemies, who are able to break your armor even by normal attacks. I am almost sure it´s like this in the case of wbhfgref (rot13), maybe also zvabgnhef and maybe some others, which I don´t remember.

  14. Regarding the doors with traps in front of them, you won't take the damage twice if you manage to pick the lock of the door instead of bashing it. Or at least, that's how it worked in Xeen, I can't quite remember if it was the same in Terra.

    1. Also, concerning a particular spell and traps:

      Vs V erzrzore pbeerpgyl lbh pna Rgurenyvmr ba n genc naq vg qbrfa'g gevttre vg. Fb lbh pna rira Rgurenyvmr ba gur genc, gura cnfg gur qbbe, ghea nebhaq naq onfu/haybpx vg jvgubhg ceboyrz.

  15. I love M&M3. It's so charming with the puzzles, monster types ("oh no bug!") and the descriptions of the monster layers, the Star Trek references (Quatloo coins), the in jokes, the various conditions changing the character portraits, and the overall open natured exploration that the game focuses on.

  16. My favorite thing about these games (mm3 and Xeen) is that quests actually give you giant gobs of experience and treasure, instead of most of it being from combat. This was so addictive when I played through them the first time because it results in some pretty profound "just one more!" addictive behaviour. I think MM5 was the first game that I ever accidentally stayed up all night playing for that reason.

  17. Have you noticed your AGE problem yet? I know there is a solution to it, but haven't been able to find it yet....

    1. I remember there are Fountains of Youth but can't recall if it's in M&M3.

  18. I could never point my finger on why I could never be immersed in Might & Magic, but when reading the text, I found out that stuff like "Ancient Artifacts of Neutrality" breaks suspension, as well as all those signs. Nothing bad about that, but I never could take M&M serious as high fantasy. Nothing bad at all.

    1. Yeah, some of D&D's quirks probably needn't have been adopted by it's descendants.

    2. I don't think might and magic was ever trying to take itself seriously.

    3. They might have been ripping off D&D, or they might have been stealing from the same source D&D did (Micheal Moorcock)

    4. Wait, nevermind. Must be D&D, Moorcock was all about law vs chaos, which is why a neutral (Well, more of a balance) faction makes sense: Humans don't fair very well under the far extremes of either.

  19. Im a fan for letting the npcs die and be inventory slots

  20. I never did figure out the queen's countersign. Looking on it now I didn't connect the double meaning to golden locks.

    On the SNES, enemies with ranged attacks will still fire at you from the sides and rear, so that tactic for avoiding ranged damage isn't feasible.

    1. It worked when I played the SNES version. The key is that they can't be in memory yet. If they have seen you (which is the same as when you see them in the distance), they will shoot at you, even if you turn your back to them. So the trick only works if you know where the enemies are beforehand. I did it a lot in with the dead ends of the one labyrinth dungeon that almost always had enemies in them, and none ever shot their stone spell at me.

    2. Walking backwards through a dungeon seems dangerous with all the traps, but I can see how this would work.

    3. It sure isn't very practicable. Unless you know the game already or it is a location like the beforementioned one, where it's obvious that certain paths will never have traps but always enemies in them. Just bridging the gap with jump or teleport works well anyways and is less a hassle.

  21. Been playing this game from GOG. I just ran into a bug where the bonus XP turns into a penalty in the area once you go past 32? arena battles. Kind of annoying. Apparently this is an old bug since I found information on it in forums.


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