Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Eye of the Beholder II: Key Encounters

The party meets the big boss.
         
Well it's official. Wisps are the most annoying bastards in any realm. I previously added them to my "most annoying enemies" list because of their appearances in Ultima V and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but they do an equal job of infuriating you here. Fast, agile, immune to at least some spells, they pound the lead characters round after round while most of your attacks completely miss them. They're too fast for any fancy footwork, since they come into the square already attacking. Oh, and they make the most grating, cacophonous sound, as if someone combined feedback from a microphone and static. I had to stop and rest after practically each one, and I think they respawned while I was sleeping.
         
A pretty light! Let's follow it!
       
Oh, but I'm ahead of myself. When I left off, I was trying to solve a lever puzzle. I appreciate my commenters' help with that. "Faith is the key" meant that I should trust that I could step on the last hole without falling down the hole; it's illusory once you press the button in the corridor (or an invisible shield falls over it, or whatever).

A few more wasps and one copper key brought me to the end of the level. The old man who greeted me upon entering the "test" appeared again and said I was almost done. He said that two choices lay before me, the left door leading to the "next trial" and the right leading to "almost certain death." He was lying: the opposite was true, with the left door severely damaging the party and teleporting them to the beginning of the level, surrounded by wasps, and the right going on to the next level.
       
Wait. Your right or my right?
        
This was one of several places where despite hitting upon the "right" path the first time, I saved and explored the others solely for the sake of map completion. It occurs to me that in some ways, full maps are contrary to actual role-playing, as most people would seek the shortest, safest path to a goal rather than exploring dangerous corridors for the hell of it.
            
Sorry guys, but I had to see what was down here.
          
The issue came up again shortly after entering the next level, when a plaque said, "the way through three is two, not four." I don't know what the "not four" part meant, but I soon came to an intersection with three doors and plaques marking them I, II, and III. Sure enough, "II" was the correct path, but I had to test the others, one of which launched a fireball at me and one of which released a gas spore.

There were a lot of gas spores on the level. They're puffy, flying things that look like beholders. They die in one hit of just about anything, but they explode when they do, so you need to hit them at range. It was very little problem to do so, and the creatures really didn't bother me.
           
Nailing a gas spore with a thrown dagger.
           
The other enemies on the level, flying snakes, were a bit more troublesome, mostly because they respawned like crazy, choking the narrow corridors and preventing passage for sometimes 10 minutes at a time. They also cause poison. Fortunately, they die quickly (individually) and are slow enough that you can kill them in fighting retreats or side-stepping without much trouble.
        
Evolution through natural selection clearly doesn't exist in the Forgotten Realms.
          
The level had a lot of puzzles involving magic mouths. The first mouth offered what I thought was a riddle: "When we have feasted, it is I who sings the praise / When we have hungered, it is I who breathes the pain." I was all set to answer STOMACH, but the damned thing didn't give me a chance to answer. It just blew a fireball at me. What the hell?

But later, there were eight more mouths along a long corridor. Each one wanted something and had to be satisfied to open the door at the end to the next level. These were the clues:

  • "One's refuse is another's gold. Your famine is my feast." This one wanted rations that had spoiled. There were some near the beginning of the game that I dumped a long time ago, but fortunately there was another set on this level.
  • "Items born of greed are what I need. One for each year, and one less to fear." I didn't understand this one until I found a hidden area on the same level, where a plaque said, "greed may be your downfall; give what you need not." Nearby was a triangular niche in the wall that would accept any item and turn it into a rock. The mouth wanted rocks. I'm not sure what "one for each year" meant, but I just fed it rocks until it had enough and closed. I think it was five.
  • "From the fiends from below, find the item with the hidden glow." This referenced an idol found on the previous level after killing a bunch of mantises.
  • "Nature's beauty is my meat. Tiny and red, 'tis such a treat!" I was scared when I read this one. On the earlier level, there had been a place with two gems inset in a wall. While I was fiddling with them, the wall opened and the gems disappeared. I worried that I was supposed to have gotten one of them. But I needn't have worried; the riddle referred to a ruby found elsewhere on the same level.
  • "I must have the blade which has eaten so much! I must have the one which I fear not to touch!" I tried feeding it several blades before it happily accepted a polearm I'd found on the same level. I reloaded and identified the polearm first, and it turned out it was cursed -2 polearm called "Leech."
         
          
  • "I am parched. I am dry! Give me liquid so I can cry!" I gave it a Potion of Vitality, but I suspect it would have taken any potion.
  • "No matter how parched, no matter if rolled, no matter if magic, no matter how old." This one wanted any paper, I think. I satisfied it with a "Flame Blade" scroll.

There was one other interesting encounter on the level involving a wounded priest who had been trying to pass the trials. He warned us to leave him alone and said he'd wait for one of the flying snakes to deliver him an "honorable death." The game gave me the option to leave or kill him. "Officially," I left, but I had to check out the alternative. If you try to kill him, he rises up and fights you. Once he's dead, a pressure plate is revealed beneath his body, and there's a bunch of treasure on the other side, including magic plate mail and three Spheres of Fire. But crossing the pressure plate closes the wall behind you and locks you in the area with no way out.
           
I like that the pile of treasure is visible behind him. Why isn't there an option that says, "Leave, but ask him to hand you that plate mail first"?
        
The level culminated with a visit by the visage of Dran Draggore, the "high priest and overlord of this realm." He congratulated me on my progress so far but said:
         
You have killed several of my minions and pillaged my temple. I did not invite you. You are beginning to upset me. You have come sooo far, but all for naught. Alas, now we must part. To insure that you meet your doom, I have sealed the door behind you. I'm afraid there is no way out. So stay awhile . . . stay forever!
         
Before we could call him out for plagiarizing Dr. Atombender, he disappeared. If he'd been smart, he would have sealed the door ahead of us. Sealing the one behind us meant that we could continue to the next level.

The fifth level of the temple (since I blew the four horns) started with a bunch of teleporters and keys not worth recounting. It wasn't long before I discovered the first enemy: actual beholders. Anyone who thinks that dodging and waltzing and whatnot violates the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons combat needs to study the screenshot below.
       
       
Fortunately, the eye tyrants were slow and susceptible to ranged attacks down long corridors, side-stepping, and whatever the one is called where you lead him around a pillar. There were maybe eight beholders on the level, and I only really had problems with the first and the last.

There was one encounter with a beholder where he noted that we were "not acolytes of Darkmoon." A second encounter concerned a beholder stuck in a hole in the ceiling; we could help him or kill him. Helping him led him to just attack us once he was free.
         
But it was still the right thing to do.
          
Wisps were the second enemy. The first one I saw was true to his tradition; he tried to lead me onto a pressure plate that triggers fireballs. I saw the plate and declined to take the bait. He waited in the corridor patiently and is waiting there still. The other wisps I encountered on the same level just attacked me. "Bless" and "Prayer" helped a little, but nothing really changed until I had my front-rank characters put away their shields and dual-wield weapons instead. That effectively doubles their attacks, and if there's a penalty, it's not really noticeable. It occurred to me belatedly that "Haste" probably would have been a good idea, too.
        
Two attacks give us twice the chance to hit.
         
There was an area of illusory walls, but a map found on the previous level helped with those. About halfway through the level, Khelben Blackstaff contacted us telepathically and we related what we'd discovered. He reacted with alarm at the name "Dran Draggore" but was soon cut off.
          
The characters have figured out more than probably many of the players have.
        
At the end of the level, we met the illusion of a woman who noted that we are not "children of Darkmoon" and released two beholders at us. Owing to limited maneuvering space in this area, killing them took some serious effort and a couple reloads.
          
These two beholders sat like this for minutes and would, I think, have sat like this indefinitely. I think they were both trying to move into the center space at the same time. Unfortunately, moving forward broke their impasse.
       
Finally, we came to a pedestal with a carving cut out for a hand. Putting our hands on it gave us the mark of Darkmoon required by the magic mouth way back towards the beginning. A bolt of light knocked us out and we awoke in the lobby.
        
Thanks, Khelben. You sent us on a brief scouting mission, and now we're branded for life.
       
Miscellaneous notes:

  • I haven't found any more portal doors nor objects to use with them. I can't imagine that the game has that many unexplored levels left, so I suspect that the two portal doors I've already found are the only two, and the stone gem the only activator, allowing quick passage from the lower levels to the main area. Either that, or I've missed a ton of secret areas.
  • I like the way that the characters occasionally alert you to secret doors and traps and such, but occasionally it goes too far. If I'm not capable of watching my own compass to note the position of spinners, I shouldn't be playing this kind of game.
          
Why not just have a big spinning dial on the floor?
           
  • Most slain beholders drop femurs for some reason.
  • The levels haven't really been making any sense. The first level beyond the "four winds" door occupied 17 x 29 space (and was, I guess, adjacent to the upper level of the temple accessible from a different stairway). The second occupied 17 x 23. But the two above that were about 30 x 30 square. This place must look awfully weird form the outside.
  • So far, the game has reliably introduced one or two new monster types per level. To get a sense of how far into the game I am, I took a scan through the monsters in the manual that I haven't yet encountered: aerial servants, lesser basilisks, bulettes, frost giants, hell hounds (or were they in the forest?), mind flayers, and salamanders. That suggests three or four levels left to go. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which bulettes ("land sharks") and frost giants make an appearance.
  • Starling the Paladin hit Level 9 during this expedition and finally got one first-level cleric spell. Gaston hit ranger Level 8 and Shorn hit cleric Level 9.
  • The two levels I explored this session had a large number of magic items, including a +3 short sword, a +3 shield, a  +3 two-handed sword, +2 banded armor, +4 dragon skin armor, and a non-magical composite bow.
     
Below, I've offered some quick thoughts on the utility of the game's various spells so far. I'll update it at the end with the last spell level.

Time so far: 25 hours

****

Mage spells

1. Armor. Protects the target with the equivalent of scale male (AC6). Useless since it doesn't stack with actual armor.
   
1. Burning Hands. Only works from the front rank, limiting its utility, although it would be interesting to play the game with mages in the front rank. It does scale with the mage level, doing 21-23 at Level 10, perhaps making it worth swapping the mage briefly to the front rank if you can be fast about it. I think "Magic Missile," which can be cast from any rank (though may do less damage) is better.

1. Detect Magic. Turns magic items blue. I have one on hand and cast it when I have more than a couple unidentified objects. If they don't turn blue, I know I don't have to waste an "Improved Identify" on them.

1. Magic Missile. Very useful, as in most D&D adaptations. Grows in power as the caster levels; by Level 10, it does 10-25 points of damage.

1. Shield. Blocks "Magic Missile" and protects against missile weapons. I haven't run into any enemies that use either.

1. Shocking Grasp. Only does about as much as "Magic Missile" and you have to be in the front rank and make a successful melee attack. Not worth it.
         
My mage tries out a couple Level 1 spells against a cleric.
       
2. Blur. Makes it hard to hit the caster with an attack. Not really useful unless you have the mage in the front rank.

2. Detect Invisibility. Are there any invisible monsters in the game? Maybe aerial servants?

2. Invisibility. I was thinking it was useless because it only affects one party member, but I suppose it could be useful as a quick way to get enemies to stop targeting a low-hit point character. Unfortunately, you can't cast it on the two front characters and then painlessly let the rear characters fire their missile weapons, as enemies can still hit the front characters while trying to attack the second rank.

2. Improved Identify. Identifies items. Priceless. Both Dungeon Master and the first Eye of the Beholder should have had this.

2. Melf's Acid Arrow. Decent attack spell that, unlike its counterpart in the Infinity Engine games, levels with the caster. It does 8-16 by Level 10.

3. Dispel Magic. I haven't been hit with anything that it dispels, like "Hold." It's also supposed to dispel enemy buffing spells, but there's really no way to tell when they're active.

3. Fireball. Less useful than in the Gold Box games, as it only affects enemies in one 10 x 10 square, but still valuable to have for its 1d6 x mage level damage. The party, oddly, can't be damaged by this, even if the enemy is right in front of you.

3. Haste. Yeah, I should have been memorizing more of these. Halves the cool down rate for attacks. The spell makes me paranoid because it ages you in some games, but there's no penalty for that here. It lasts long enough that, between two mages, you could almost always have it active and still have slots for a couple of "Fireball" or "Lightning Bolt" spells. I suspect I'll use it a lot more from here on.

3. Hold Person. Works, but there's too much other good stuff at Level 3. Better to use the equivalent cleric spell.

3. Invisibility 10' Radius. I haven't been using it. I can imagine it's helpful if you just want to sneak past enemies, but the nature of the geography makes it hard to do that in this game. 

3. Lightning Bolt. As damaging as "Fireball." Enemies rarely line up behind each other, so you don't usually get the full effect of this. Thankfully, it doesn't bounce off walls and hit the party.

3. Vampiric Touch. Drains 1-6 points for every 2 levels of the mage. Works as advertised, but I think "Fireball," "Haste," and "Lightning Bolt" are the better investments, particularly since "Vampiric Touch" only works on one creature. San-Raal comes with it, but I otherwise haven't found it.

4. Fear. Rarely seems to work. When it does, it just drives them down the corridor. You still have to contend with them.

4. Ice Storm. Does 3-30 damage across up to 3 x 3 squares meaning that you can only cast it safely at range. Very nice for softening up targets down long corridors.

4. Improved Invisibility. Nobody has it yet, but it doesn't sound very useful. Just makes the targeted character harder to hit. I suppose I should add it to my buffing arsenal.

4. Remove Curse. Vital to keep around for the occasional cursed item. I typically do a series of "Detect Magic," "Improved Identify," and "Remove Curse" when I have a safe place to rest.

5. Cone of Cold. Nice fifth level spell that sends a 1d4+1 x caster level cone down three squares. My primary Level 5 spell.

5. Hold Monster. Useful but fails too often. I'd rather just blast them.

5. Wall of Force. Puts up a barrier and blocks enemies from moving. Could be useful for shaping combat terrain and preventing attacks from multiple sides. I just got it.
         
Memorizing spells in camp.
     
Cleric spells

1. Bless. Gives an attack bonus. The bonus isn't enough to be palpable in combat, but I suppose anything helps.
    
1. Cause Light Wounds. 1-8 points of damage and must be in the front rank. Waste of time.

1. Cure Light Wounds. 1-8 healing. Never goes out of style.

1. Detect Magic. As useful as the mage version.

1. Protection from Evil. Only works on one character. Better to save this level for healing and use the improved fourth-level version.

2. Aid. Gives attack bonus and extra hit points. Good buffing spell.

2. Flame Blade. Useless once you have your first magical weapon. You're not going to put the cleric in melee combat anyway.

2. Hold Person. Works well on the few human enemies.

2. Slow Poison. Slow it for what? There's no healer in the game. Either you have a scroll, potion, or spell to cure it permanently or you're screwed. Waste of space.
        
The various colors and lines around the character portraits indicate buffing spells in effect.
       
3. Create Food and Water. Vital to cast every once in a while, since there's hardly any food in the game.

3. Dispel Magic. So far, there's been no reason to use it.

3. Magical Vestment. Waste of time since it's not cumulative with actual armor.

3. Prayer. A more powerful "Bless." Good buffing spell.

3. Remove Paralysis. Absolutely vital at stages in the game. You want multiple copies ready at all times.

4. Cause Serious Wounds. Waste of time. Use this level for healing and buffing.

4. Cure Serious Wounds. Cures 3-17. Vital.

4. Neutralize Poison. A god-send when you finally get it. You get poisoned repeatedly in the game.

4. Protection from Evil, 10' Radius. Affects the entire party, so always best to have one on-hand for buffing.

5. Cause Critical Wounds. Inflicts 6-27, but you really need this slot for the reverse.

5. Cure Critical Wounds. Need as many as you can spare.

5. Flame Strike. Does 6-48 on a square. Works about as well as "Fireball" but can't be cast from a distance. I would only bother with it once I had a couple of "Cure Critical Wounds" memorized.

5. Raise Dead. Only if you're playing the game without reloading. As per D&D rules, doesn't work on elves, but doesn't seem to subtract the point of constitution that the description says it does. I still have several scrolls on hand before I need to waste a slot memorizing this.

5. Slay Living. Enemies almost always save against it, taking a little damage instead. If I wanted a damage spell, I'd rather spend the slot on "Flame Strike," which affects multiple enemies at about the same damage level.
  
5. True Seeing. Says it dispels illusory walls, invisible monsters, items, and magical effects. Other than illusory walls, I haven't noted any of these features in the game, and illusory walls aren't that hard to find on their own. On the other hand, it sounds like this might be the solution to a puzzle later.


64 comments:

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for the Impossible Mission reference.

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    1. I thought exactly the same thing. It´s been more than 30 years since I played it but I still have that voice in my head...

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    2. I was expecting to comment, when Chet got to this part, that one of Dran's lines is from this cool game called Impossible Mission. I'm glad to see I underestimated its popularity.

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    3. I can still hear that crackling voice in my head. I think if you owned a C64 in the mid 80's, you had to have played Impossible Mission a time or two. It's one of those must owns like the Summer/Winter/California Games series.

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    4. There is a german podcast dealing with retro games which uses the "stay awhile, stay forever!" line as part of the introduction.

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    5. The interesting thing is that it is the speech that still echoes in our heads. If Elvin Atombender said the same line in text (like Dran Draggore), I don't think anybody would have remembered it until today.

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    6. Speech (especially rather decent quality speech) was such a novelty in that era that it really stood out.

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    7. So timely.

      Ordered up a dumpster at home. Me and the wife are hoeing out the basement in anticipation of a move. Came across my old C-64. Wife says I should fire it up and show the kids (13 and 16) how we rolled back in the day.

      I said, I can't get it working, no monitor, and it won't work on a modern TV. Did more hoeing, and behold my original 1701 monitor. Also found the 1541 disk drive.

      Connected it up, and turned it on. Fired right up! noticed a disk in the drive:
      load "$", 8
      list

      "impossible"

      load "impossible", 8
      run

      "Stay awhile. Stay forever!"

      Showed my 13 year old, that I built a new battle-station with. He was not impressed. I never did beat that game.

      -Chris

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    8. And I should add that the Impossible Mission references still go on to this day. My son was playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes and I heard Doctor Octopus say at some moment: "Destroy him, my Octo-bots". Of course my son does not know anything about IM, but I smiled fondly.

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  2. How does a beholder get stuck? They have a disintegration eye ray that works equally on living and non-living material . . .

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    1. Won't help if the disintegration eye is stuck as well...:)

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    2. Perhaps the beholder didn't want to bring the ceiling down. Structural stability is very important, particularly in older buildings.

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    3. He slipped on a banana peel left behind by a careless adventurer and fell right in the hole.

      In other news, how many beholders does it take to change a light bulb?

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    4. If you dodge a disintegration ray in this game and it hits the wall behind you, the wall won't be disintegrated. This is really just a limitation of the engine, but one could imagine that Darkmoon is made of some enchanted material that resists disintegration.

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    5. At least, he had the decency to be embarrassed about it.

      Speaking of which, I remember seeing a "nice" beholder in Forgotten Realms named Xanathar. I think the bigger wears a gigantic monocle too.

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    6. There is also a spectator beholder from Baldur's Gate 2, called just a "Spectator". Quite a nice guy.

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    7. The Xanathar is an organised crime boss in (underneath) Waterdeep iirc.

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    8. Yeah Beholders are that usual boring pure eeeeevil. Spectators are, canonically, the exception to the rule. But were I to DM a beholder I'd make their motivations a bit more interesting.

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    9. Amusingly, the most recent fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons book is actually written from the Xanathar's point of view: "Xanathar's Guide to Everything".

      Well, it's nominally written from the Xanathar's point of view; they could have done more with it. In practice, it mostly amounts to the odd text box with a blurb by the Xanathar. Who, by the way, does not wear a monocle, but does have a pet goldfish.

      The Xanathar is not an exception to the rule of beholders being evil, but there is a non-evil beholder named Large Luigi in a place in the Spelljammer setting called the Rock of Bral. I'm sure there have been other non-evil beholders, though no others come to mind offhand.

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    10. One more thing about the Xanathar, incidentally... the Xanathar who runs the crime ring under Waterdeep now is not the same one who was first introduced in second-edition materials. It may have been the name of the original beholder who founded the crime ring, but that beholder is now dead, and the Xanathar kind of became a title that his successors assumed. (I don't know exactly how many Xanathars there have been at this point, or if that's even something that's been canonically established.)

      So actually, I guess maybe one Xanathar did wear a monocle, even if the current one doesn't...

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    11. As far as I can tell, the first non-evil beholder is found in 2E's Spelljammer books (basically D&D IN SPAAAACE!) One of the central areas is the asteroid Rock of Bral, and it has a bar that is run by a beholder barkeep. He uses his innate telekinesis ability to serve drinks, and nobody causes trouble in a bar run by a beholder...

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    12. Yep, that's Large Luigi, who I mentioned in my post above.

      They later gave him a really stupid and convoluted backstory and said that he probably "realizes that all of existence is contained within the imaginations of a weird class of beings beyond gods who call themselves roleplayers”, which... bleh. They should have just left it at him just being a regular, non-evil beholder, and not tried to explain it further.

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    13. (Er... a regular beholder other than not being evil, I mean. As opposed to a super powerful beholder who became non-evil because of some great insight and transformation through -- eh, I don't remember the details of the backstory they eventually gave him, except that it was overly complicated and totally unnecessary, and I don't feel like looking it up right now.)

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    14. Oh... one more thing, and then I'll shut up about beholders (for now): Yes, it's true spectators aren't evil (they're lawful neutral), but they're not true beholders; they're beholder-kin. But there are a lot of kinds of beholder-kin, and spectators aren't the only non-evil ones. The examiner and watcher, both introduced in the Spelljammer Monstrous Compendium Appendix, are lawful neutral and true neutral, respectively. (The orbus, introduced in the original Spelljammer boxed set, was also neutral, but it was unintelligent, and in 5E terms it would no doubt be "unaligned" instead.) There's also a beholder-kin called an "observer" introduced in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium II that's also lawful neutral, albeit lawful neutral with evil tendencies. So yeah, non-evil true beholders may be few and far between, but there are several kinds of canonically non-evil beholder-kin.

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    15. ...Okay, I said I was going to shut up, but just one more thing. I was pretty sure I'd remembered running across at least one non-evil beholder besides Large Luigi somewhere, and I just finally found it. The second-edition book Driz'zt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark had a lawful neutral beholder named Xenix the Occluded who runs an inn called the Severed Stalk in the beholder city of Ooltul. Though in the 3E book Underdark he was retconned to lawful evil like most beholders. (My guess is that it wasn't an intentional retcon, so much as a case of the writers of Underdark not paying sufficient attention to earlier sources.)
      Bleh. Why can't we have nice things? (Where by "things" I mean beholders. Why can't we have nice beholders?)

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    16. One of the interesting things about beholders is that they are one of the few (and the most significant) creatures representing original D&D IP. The vast majority of the D&D bestiary is a pastiche of various earlier fiction and mythologies. Mind Flayers are probably the next most significant IP and they don't have nearly the same level of cultural recognition (and let's face it they are basically just mini Cthuluhus).

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    17. That's not true at all. D&D has a lot more original creatures than you're giving it credit for. Just in the original 1E Monster Manual, there's the ankheg, the blink dog, the carrion crawler, the eye of the deep (though that's a beholder relative), the gelatinous cube, the intellect devourer, the ixitxachitl, the morkoth, the otyugh, the quasit, the remorhaz, the roper, the sahuagin, the shambling mound, the umber hulk, the xorn... and that's far from a complete list. Heck, even the gnoll, though it's been copied by plenty of other games, was a D&D original. (Well, mostly; the name comes from a story by Lord Dunsany, but he didn't describe it; it was D&D that made gnolls into the hyena men we know today.) And, like I said, that's just in the first Monster Manual; later books added a lot more. (I'd say the first-edition Fiend Folio has more original monsters than mythological ones... in fact, the first-edition Monster Manual was probably the monster book with the lowest proportion of original monsters.) D&D has a lot of original monsters; the beholder is far from alone in this regard.

      Now, the beholder was one of the few monsters in the third-edition Monster Manual that wasn't released as open content... but that's not just because it was original D&D IP; it's because it's one of the few monsters WotC considered particularly iconic and wanted to reserve for their own use. A lot of monsters that were original D&D IP were released as open content, including quite a few original monsters that were new to third edition: the allip, destrachan, digester, girallon, gray render, grick, mohrg, phantom fungus, spider eater, tojanida, and yrthak.

      Now, you could argue that none of these monsters has become as iconic as the beholder, and you could have a point (though there may be others—the gelatinous cube?—that come close). But saying that there are few creatures representing original D&D IP, and that the vast majority of D&D monsters come from earlier fiction and mythologies, is just wrong.

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    18. (For that matter, incidentally, one monster that wasn't released as open content in third edition was based on earlier fiction... the displacer beast, which was inspired by a creature called a coeurl from a science fiction story by A. E. van Vogt. So not only is it not the case that all the monsters released as open content under the d20 license weren't original D&D IP, but the converse isn't true either.)

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    19. Well, there are more 'original' monsters than I thought. I would have guessed there were about 10% in the original MM, but it's more like 20% (being slightly generous with my definition of original). The other 80% is split fairly evenly between animals (incl. prehistoric and giant varieties) and mythological/fictional beasts.


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  3. "Dran Draggore," huh? That's clearly Q.

    http://www.startrek.com/uploads/assets/db_articles/3739388d3fe6b7818abf7f44680b434debf83902.jpg

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  4. Shocking grasp has a lot more utility when playing in a PnP game. You don't have to pierce an enemy's AC, just touch them, but I haven't seen this implemented in a D&D cRPG. I'm not sure if it's in the original rules, but we played that electrical attacks dealt double damage to creatures in water and metallic armor.

    Burning Hands should hit a group, giving it a little more utility, but a saving throw cuts damage in half. Magic Missile did not originally have a saving throw.

    Can you use a wall of force to block fireball traps? In PnP you could build a rectangular wall, or a dome; probably not that useful, but I think it could also cancel out a single disintegrate.

    Slow poison is useful for the instant death poisons, but if all poison does in this game is small damage over time, then yeah it's useless.

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  5. I always thought that the beholder stuck in the ceiling was a spoof.

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  6. "It's hard to imagine a scenario in which bulettes ("land sharks") and frost giants make an appearance."

    I barely remember the bulettes, but the frost giants are certainly memorable and well used. :-)

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  7. The point of the Armor spell is that wizards cannot wear regular armor. Of course, by this point you'll have magic robes or bracers that do the same thing.
    I'm pretty sure Burning Hands works from the rear rank, too. It's an area effect, which Magic Missile isn't.
    Shield should boost your AC against everything. Not that you're likely to have a wizard in the front rank, anyway.
    The point of Shocking Grasp is that it remains active until you successfully touch someone. Still not great though. And no, it's not in any rules that it deals double damage to anything.
    Vampiric Touch heals the caster by draining the enemy. That's useful if you don't have a cleric, but in a game like this you clearly need a cleric anyway.
    You could prep Neutralize when you expect poison, and Slow Poison when you don't (saving your L4 slot for something better). You can cast Slow and rest while you prep Neutralize.

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    1. Invisibility gives you pretty big bonuses to attack and defense. The regular version disappears after you attack, the improved version does not.

      A well-placed Wall of Force can be used to rest in places where monsters respawn. Pbar bs pbyq pna or pnfg guebhtu n jnyy bs sbepr, juvpu vf n oht.

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    2. Burning Hands requires a physical touch to hurt an enemy, which is why the wizard would need to be in front, so they can reach who they are attacking.

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    3. That is incorrect. Burning Hands causes a jet of flame to shoot from your hands, which is why it's an area effect. It doesn't require touch of any kind.

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    4. I remember it described as thumbs touching and flames shooting from finger tips outspread in an arc of 6 - 10 feet. It makes sense to force the wizard into the front otherwise party members would get caught in the spray.

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    5. One of the few D&D video games where you'll want to load mages with Burning Hands instead of Magic Missiles is Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession. That game doesn't give BH its typical range limitation, and your party is arrayed in a single row instead of multiple ranks, so mages can constantly pelt the enemy with mini fireballs.

      Shield and Dispel may see use in EotB2 jura lbh svtug gur rarzl zntrf jub nera'g yvfgrq va gur znahny, fb nf gb pbhagre gurve pnfgvatf bs Zntvp Zvffvyr naq Ubyq Crefba. Bs pbhefr, jung lbh'q ernyyl jnag n pbhagre gb vf Sveronyy.

      In addition to the beholder rays on display in the screenshot that humorously illustrates the folly of standing and taking it, I think there are couple more implemented, Inflict Moderate Wounds and Finger of Death.

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    6. Strahd's Posession DOES have rows, though they're implemented differently than the other games built on an updated version of its engine. The two characters on the left side of the screen are in front, and the ones on the right are in back. The part about Burning Hands being useful in that game is definitely correct, though.

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    7. I think you are both right.

      I definitely spammed tons of Burning Hands in this game, and from the back ranks no less. However, after I completed the game I figured out (reading some AD&D rules), that the spell is actually supposed to be a close combat spell. So the implementation is probably not faithful to the way it is intended to work here.

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    8. In D&D rules, the question is not so much how you reach the enemy from the back rank (since all versions of the spell have sufficient reach for that, and none of them involve touching the enemy). The question is how you hit the monsters without having your allies in the area of effect. This is possible but not easy on a battle grid, and simply handwaved in EOB.

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    9. The manual says that "Burning Hands" can only be cast from the front rank, but Pieter is correct that the game allows you to cast it from any rank despite what the manual says or whether it makes any sense.

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  8. I'm pretty tired of reality impinging on my crpgaddict reading sessions...

    I have a lot of deathlord and EoB2 to catch up on!

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  9. Vampiric Touch can give the mage extra HP above their maximum, but still only works in the front line. Maybe good for a Fighter/Mage. I think Slow Poison does have some potential use from the fact that venomous monsters are never alone. You can have it reduce the damage from the poison effect until you're out of their territory, rather than neutralizing and having your characters be immediately poisoned again.

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  10. It appears you've again remembered something from the Infinity Engine games incorrectly, which should delight you.

    Melf's acid arrow DOES scale with caster level in those games, albeit in an unusual fashion. It is a spell that hits every round, and it lasts more rounds the higher level the caster is.

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  11. Every time I see the word illusory or illusion all I can think of is Guns N Roses and how good those two albums are.

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  12. Don't see 'Heroes of the Lance' on your upcoming list anymore, was it axed for not being enough of an RPG, or did you just decide to postpone it?

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  13. Heh. I thought the same about wisps, but then they bribed me with gold. A LOT of gold.

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  14. Shoving bones into mouths that are magical... too easy... must resist double entendre...

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  15. The fireball mouth tvirf tbbqvrf nsgre lbh unir fngvfsvrq nyy gur bgure zbhguf ba gur sybbe. V sbetrg jung fcrpvsvpnyyl.

    "Leech" mouth also accepts the cursed sword "Hunger" you found earlier.

    True Seeing is bugged in EOB2. When you cast it it reveals illusions, but it "turns off" if you save or load (incredibly annoying in the places where you need it). In EOB3 it works like any other buff spell.

    There's a certain specific enemy in the game against which Invisibility is incredibly useful, but I won't spoil which one.

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  16. Or pnershy jvgu gur cneg lbh unir gb pbyyrpg n ohapu bs zveebef, V arire cnffrq sebz gurer... Cynlrq guvf tnzr n ybg va gur avargvrf, fb znal qrnq raqf...
    First time in your blog. Playing Might and Magic 3 now, but considering a bigger challenge with Might and Magic 1...

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    1. If you want to play Might and Magic I, play the Mac version. Even though it is in black and white instead of color, the graphics are still quite a bit better due to the higher resolution. More importantly, the interface is far more approachable.

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  17. Spells that create temporary items like Flame Blade or Shocking grasp might be of situational use when fighting monsters that can take your weapons away like the Gelatinous Cubes in EOtB2.

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    1. Flame Blade has situational uses when the cleric is lower level, it can hit undead that would normally require magical weapons to hit which is useful if you haven't found such a weapon yet. It can also be used to ignite flammables, though that's only really going to happen in PnP games.

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    2. That's a good point, georg. I should have noted that.

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    3. It's useful in the D'Arnisse Keep in BG 2 if you haven't picked up a +fire/acid dmg weapon yet. Saves wasting special arrows.

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  18. Regarding the use of two weapons; according to the 2nd ed rules the weapon in the off-hand has to be of the 'small' category (basically a shortsword or dagger) and the character receives a -2 to attack with the main weapon and -4 with the off-hand weapon, though having high dexterity will mute this a bit, a character with DEX of 17-18 will have no penalty with the primary weapon and -2 with the off-hand. The exception to this is rangers, who have no penalty whatsoever, it's one of their major perks. Additionally the offhand weapon gains only 1 attack/round, even if the character normally gets bonus attacks due to their level, though they maintain the extra attacks for the primary weapon.

    No idea if EotBII keeps true to this.

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  19. Comments to your comments
    - Wow, this game is prettier than my pink shade glasses got it credit for.
    - Does anyone agree on this being the kind of equivalent of Doom but using squares? The main mechanic is the same: look for keys and look for their doors.
    - Was EOB3 the first game with the cool magic boomerang hammer spell?
    - How come none of the modern takes of this kind of game have also rescued the cut scenes? They give a lot to the immersion.
    - I used Burning Hands a lot. It's the attack spell I found more useful in here.

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    1. I think continuous movement and the ability to look up and down mark a key difference between this and DOOM, though maybe I'm guilty of over-emphasizing that.

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    2. Doom had things appear on different levels but it didn't have 'free look' - The ability was added to that engine when it was used for Heretic.

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    3. Carlos: "Does anyone agree on this being the kind of equivalent of Doom but using squares?"

      I don't recall Doom having conversations, puzzles, equipment, stats, levels, magic system, recruitable characters, or a story beyond DEMONS BAD THEREFORE KILL EVERYTHING.

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  20. Are there any invisible monsters in the game? Maybe aerial servants?

    I never played EoB2, but in the pen-and-paper rules, yes, aerial servants were indeed invisible. So I assume they are in the game as well.

    Fun(?) fact: The first-edition Monster Manual prominently featured a red dragon on the upper front cover, and for some reason when I was a child instead of realizing that was a red dragon I assumed that was an aerial servant, and that that's what an aerial servant looked like if you could see invisible objects. I'm not sure why I thought that, except maybe that the aerial servant was the first monster alphabetically in the book, so I figured it must have a prominent place on the cover? I don't know. Kids have weird ideas.

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