Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Darklands: Menüstadt

Darklands is a very menu-driven game.
I re-started the game and rolled up a new group for this expedition, not so much because I was dissatisfied with the statistics of the old one (although I did need someone with better alchemy skills, I think) but because I was dissatisfied with my own lack of role-playing. Darklands seems like one of the rare RPGs of the period in which you can have fun with your own imagination, and I hadn't even figured out a reason that four characters from very different backgrounds would have gotten together in the first place.

For the new party, I took the rare (for me) approach of envisioning them all as siblings from the same noble family: the von Eschenbachs from Ansbach, Bavaria, vassals to the House of Hohenzollern. The four adventurers are:
  • Viridia, 35-years old, the oldest of the siblings. Fiercely intelligent, she began an education as a teenager, studying for 10 years at Heidelberg University before taking on a role as an alchemist and then master alchemist. She is naturally most skilled in the scholarly arts, including alchemy (43), Latin (46), and reading and writing (46).
  • Maximian. The first son, Maximian grew up as the heir of his house. He served as a recruit and then a knight in the army of King Sigismund of Austria (later Holy Roman Emperor) and learned mostly martial skills but also virtue (30), common speech (39), and riding (21). He is now 30.
Getting the "knight" option wasn't easy. I had to spend time increasing my virtue.
  • Bianca. Black sheep of the family, Bianca displayed a scandalous amount of free-thinking and independence, even as a young girl. Given to running off into the forests surrounding her family keep, afternoons away from home turned to days, which turned to weeks. By the time she was 20, her family was likely to see her only on feast days, when she would arrive at the keep's gates with a boar in tow or a stag slung over her shoulders. Her skills are in stealth (20), artifice (16), and woodswise (18).
  • Ladislaus. 25-years old and twin to Bianca, Ladislaus has always been a little . . . off. There was never any proof that he did anything to his tutor, or one of the chamber maids, or two of the castle guards, but all were seen last with Ladislaus and then never again. Concerned about potential scandals, his family hustled him into a monastery as soon as they could, where it is said he specialized in the inquisitorial arts, learning about religion (22) and healing (18) more as byproducts than as main pursuits. He also shows an un-monklike skill with blunt weapons.
The four siblings were happy enough to pursue their own lives and careers, but disaster struck when their father, Baron Stefan von Eschenbach, was caught selling intelligence to the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, just before the Battle of Nicopolis. By the time word of his disgrace reached his children, he had been executed and his holdings seized and redistributed. Nameless and penniless, the four von Eschenbachs have come together to rehabilitate the family name.
The von Eschenbachs vow to turn their fortunes around.
I should note a couple of annoying things about character creation that I elided last time. First, if you accidentally go back to the main menu after creating some characters but before setting out with your new party, you lose any characters you created. I ended up having to start over a couple of times with errant mouse clicks. Second, the game assigns "nicknames" to each character that are a bit shorter than their real names. If you want to give your characters names of your choosing, you have to be careful to edit the nickname, too. Otherwise, you end up creating a character named "Viridia von Eschenbach" whose nickname is something like "Kate."

This time, the game started me at the top of the map, in the Danish city of Flensburg. It seemed to have the same options as most of the rest of the towns, and I'm not sure yet if any of the towns are varied by graphics or other options. I suspect that they're going to be a lot like towns in Pirates!, where occasionally a town didn't have a governor or wouldn't trade with pirates or something, but for the most part they offered the same visuals and decisions.

We've had menu towns in RPGs before, but none so menu-intensive as Darklands. I spent a while just mapping the various options. Some of them always work and some require some kind of attribute, skill, or reputation test first. Some lead you to new locations, some to NPCs or other encounters. This was the list for Flensburg, from the Main Street:

1. Visit the Südermarkt, the political center of Flensburg
----Examine the posted notices and collect the latest gossip
--------Read the official notices posted on doors and walls
--------Ask about affairs elsewhere in the Empire
--------Gossip about the situation here in Flensburg
--------Try to discover special jobs or interesting, adventurous tasks
--------Return to the previous menu
----Walk towards the narrow spires of the city's great churches (go to #4)
----Go to the Schrongen, the main market of the city (go to #3)
----Leave the square by the Main Street (back to main menu)
----Leave the square by a side street (#8)
2. Visit the Burg, the great fortress overlooking the city
----Request an audience with the Erbvogt
----Ask to see a clerk about services desired by the Erbvogt
----Pray for aid in getting an audience
----Move away down the main street (main menu)
----Slip away down a side street (#8)
3. Visit the Schrongen, the central market of Flensburg
----Merchants selling everyday items
----Pavilions of foreign traders
----Pharmacists' stalls
----Fugger banking offices
--------Ask for a letter of credit, converting coin to bank notes
--------Request an audience to discuss special tasks
--------Return to the marketplace
--------Slip out the side door to the back alley (#8)
----Office of the Medici representative
--------Ask for a letter of credit, converting coin to bank notes
--------Request an audience to discuss Medici tasks
--------Return to the marketplace
--------Slip out the side door to the back alley (#8)
----Hanseatic League hall
--------Inquire about special services required by the Hansa
--------Brashly proclaim our fame and ability to do great deeds
--------Chat with the clerks
--------Leave by the side door (#8)
--------Leave through the main door
----Exit to the main street (main menu)
----Exit to the side streets (#8)
4. Visit the tall spires of the great churches
----Visit the Dom, great cathedral of Flensburg
--------Attend a mass
--------Talk to a priest (day)/altar boy (night)
--------Virtuously donate one of your relics for favor and recognition
--------Ask for sanctuary
--------Leave the cathedral
----Visit the St. Nikolaikirche, a well-known church
--------Attend mass
--------Go to confession (day only)
--------Talk to a priest (day)/altar boy (night)
--------Virtuously give money to improve divine favor
--------Seek sanctuary
--------Leave by the main street
--------Leave by a side street
----Visit the Kloster, where monks study church law and administration
--------Offer 1 florin for prayers on your behalf, hoping to restore divine favor
--------Inquire about tutoring in various disciplines
--------Study about saints in the library
--------Seek aid in healing wounds
--------Seek sanctuary
----Stroll over to the Südermarkt, the main city square (#1)
----Take a connecting street to Burg, the fortress of the city (#2)
----Leave the main street (main menu)
----Leave by a side street (#8)
5. Visit the craft guilds and other, darker side alleys
----Go to the townhouse of a respected physician and healer
--------[character with healing] takes a few hours to discuss treatments
--------Ask his aid in healing wounds
--------Beg him to allow you to be his students
--------Try to interest him in buying and selling alchemical components
----Go to Astrologists' Lane, where the signs have alchemical symbols
----Go to Tinker's Square, where there are shops of fine artisans
----Go to the Clothmakers' Street, an important guild
----Take an alley to the arms-making guilds
----Take side streets leading elsewhere (#8)
----Take the main street leading elsewhere (back to the main)
6. Visit the Gasthaus, a well-known inn with stables
----Catch up on the local news and rumors
--------Read the official notices posted on doors and walls
--------Ask about affairs elsewhere in the Empire
--------Gossip about the situation here in Flensburg
--------Try to discover special jobs or interesting, adventurous tasks
--------Return to the previous menu
----Relax with a good meal and get 8 hours of sleep
----Take up residence to work, pray, study, experiment, etc.
----Visit the stables, where you can buy and sell mounts
----Store some items with the innkeeper
----Reconsider the composition of your party
----Exit to the main street (main menu)
----Exit to a side street (#8)
7. Visit the wharves and docks
8. Visit a side street where you're less visible
9. Visit a scenic grove where you can wait and relax
10. Go to one of the main gates leading out of the city  

That's a lot of menu options! And that's not even nearly all of them. In addition to a few that I didn't explore, they seem to vary by day and night as well. For this session, I explored as many as I could that made sense.
The official notices said that citizens are prohibited from traveling the streets "after the hour of Compline, unless unavoidably required by their occupation, or by an emergency." I think such notices are in pretty much all of the cities. Times in Darklands are measured in three-hour blocks: Matins (00:00-02:59), Latins (03:00-05:59), Prime (06:00-08:59), Terce (09:00-11:59), Sexts (12:00-14:59), Nones (15:00-17:59), Vespers (18:00-20:59), and Compline (21:00-23:59).
It seems like nobody, in any city, is allowed to travel the streets at night.
My attempts to pry rumors out of the citizens met with no success; neither did my attempts to learn about events in Flensburg. When I asked about jobs, I learned only that "a certain well-placed personage is hiring freelancers."

At the Dom, it wasn't the right time for a mass, and visiting a priest just got me a little bit of information about the Dom. At St. Nikolaikirche, I spent all day in confession and penance. At the Kloster, they wouldn't teach me anything because I lacked "sufficient fame, reputation, virtue, and/or charisma." However, I was able to get into the library and study saints--for a donation of 1 groschen. Specifically, Ladislaus learned something about St. Margaret. You have to know something about each saint to pray to him or her. Otherwise, "pray" options are grayed out.
I'm still not quite sure how the whole saints/praying dynamic works, but at least I know one saint now!
I was surprised that the party got an audience with the Erbvogt (basically the mayor) on the first try. He asked us to do something about the robber knight Anton Seibt, who raids from a castle southeast of Flensburg, northeast of Lüneburg. That seems a little above my current capabilities, but I saved after I got the quest because it's relatively close.
This party's first quest.
On the artisans' lane, we visited a healer at his house, but after Ladislaus talked with him for a few hours, he still had no idea about the healer's competence. When I asked if he'd train me, he admitted that Ladislaus already knew as much as he did.
Wandering into an alley at nighttime, we faced a group of four thieves. We fared more poorly in the battle than in my first outing, but we still managed to kill them and loot their items. Bianca notably increased 4 points in her "Edged Weapon" skill. We managed to find a second group of thieves the same night. The victory screen after the second group mentioned that common folk came out into the street to thank us. "These thugs were terrorizing our neighborhood." Our local reputation increased to 11 ("respected").
Viridia gets a skill upgrade.
At the inn, we tried to get more news and rumors but had no luck, so we just turned in for the night. Another option was to take up residence at the inn for a day, putting my characters to work at different tasks. All of them had the option to "just relax," and all could take odd jobs for a few pennies a day--enough in total to earn about 8-10 pfenniges, once the cost of the inn is subtracted. Viridia had options to mix alchemical formulas. She apparently started with four recipes: "Solomon's Eyeburn" (blind), "African Sunset" (stun), "Sina's Stone-Tar" (slow), "al-Majriti's Strongedge" (sharpen weapon), and "Morienus' Transformation" (fools' gold). However, I have no ingredients.

The next day, we sold the items looted from the thieves in the central market. After we bartered for a while at a foreign trader's, the trader tossed us a pouch with 3 florins and said he was hoping we'd find the Tarnhelm, "Seigfried's magic helmet," which is rumored to have been seen southwest of Magdeburg. We didn't have the option to refuse him, so I guess that's on our quest board.
This quest might be easier than killing that robber knight.
The alchemical ingredients all seemed too expensive. At the Fugger's office, we got an audience with the master banker, Eckbert Koberger, who wants us to . . . kill the robber knight Anton Seibt! He promised us 6 florins if we succeed. Can we turn in the same quest to two people for two rewards? I guess we'll find out. We had no such luck meeting with the Medici representative or the Hanseatic League (lacked charisma, reputation, etc.).

At nighttime, we had a lot less luck with thieves than the previous night, occasioning several reloads. Finally, we defeated a party of five and turned in for the night. Everyone but Maximian is struggling with low strength. My understanding is that healing per night is dependent on the skill of the most-skilled character, and apparently Ladislaus (who only worked for two terms) isn't very skilled. The party members only recover a couple of points per night.
Selling items looted from slain thieves.
I knew it was too soon, but I wanted to get a sense of how difficult the whole "robber knight" thing was going to be, so I headed out into the wilderness in search of the castle. I ultimately found Anton Seibt's castle some distance to the south, having passed by Flensburg and Lübeck. On the way, I fielded at least a dozen encounters, including:
  • Traveling merchants, with options to see their wares or accompany them.
  • Several encounters with bandits, most of which resulted in the death of at least one character. A couple, I was able to bluff my way past. It seems that for bluffing and charisma, the game is relying on the skills of my lead character, which are decent (charisma 32, speak common 42, virtue 30, but only 5 streetwise) but not spectacular.
  • Encounters with monsters called tatzelwurms, which are not dragons but just giant lizards. Still, one was enough to tear apart my party.
Remember, if medieval folks believed it existed, it existed as far as the game is concerned.
  • Groups of refugees, who I could help by donating money--a lot of money. The game doesn't give you a choice as to how much: it just offers a menu option that says something like "donate 15 groschen and 75 pfenniges."
The grateful refugees take almost half of my coin.
  • At one point, I ran into a castle which gave me the option to check out a graveyard. I accepted and found myself on a battle map, but with no enemies visible--until I opened a door, and suddenly a horde of Knights Templar came rushing forth. Any concerns I had about not being their enemy were obviated by swift death and reloading.
  • Pilgrims headed to the city I had just left. I had options to donate money--a ridiculous amount, even more than the refugees--or accompany them to their destination, which costs in days.
An entire florin! You must be out of your mind.
I stopped when I successfully reached Lübeck and managed to get the same quest--kill the robber knight Anton Seibt--from both the town leader (Oberste Hauptmänn) and the Fugger representative Paschal of Kyrburg. Now I wonder if I couldn't have gotten the same quest from representatives in Schleswig (the town between Flensburg and Lübeck), too.

Anton Seibt's castle was about one screen to the south of Lübeck. As I entered his territory, the game warned me that I was entering the territory of a robber knight. I had a few encounters with his men, but I acted friendly, and they left us alone.
The game tries to warn me that I'm out of my league.
Eventually, I made it to the castle itself, where I simply requested entry and was surprised to find that it worked. "Even in our wild lands, we know of you," Seibt said, which makes me a little suspicious. All we've done is kill a few parties of thieves in one city. But he invited us in to dinner. There, I had options to eat and leave, and a few other things, but one that said something like "pull a daring move and convince Seibt to surrender." On a lark, I chose that one. Alas, it didn't work. Seibt summoned his men and commanded them to "slay these idiots!" and we were soon put upon by Seibt and five warriors, ending in the slaughter of the entire party.
The battle went poorly.
Still, I have a sense now of how the process works. I suspect what I need to do is linger in Lübeck for quite a long time, perhaps months, slaying thieves, building my finances, purchasing better equipment, getting some training, and learning the alchemy and prayer systems. The only thing that bothers me about this is that, judging by comments on my first entry, it seems like that's what everyone does.

Time so far: 6 hours

Fantasy Monarch is seeking help from beta testers.
I've recently been contacted by a developer who is looking for beta-testers for his game, Fantasy Monarch, which you can learn more about on its Steam page.  It seems to be a strategy/RPG hybrid that takes inspiration from SSI's Sword of Aragon. If you're interested in helping, please contact Ian Leavitt at


  1. Maximian learning "mostly marital skills" is certainly an interesting direction for the character. Are we talking bedroom prowess, or is he just super-good at active listening, validating emotions, and respect for boundaries?

  2. Could a woman attend the university of Heidelberg in the 15th century?

    1. Wikipedia says they only started admitting female students in 1900.

      Anyway, Flensburg? That's a curious place to start a game like this. Back then it wasn't strictly a Danish city, but belonged to the duchy of Schleswig, which was a Danish fief, but neither part of the Kingdom of Denmark itself, nor of the Holy Roman Empire. (Later, the kings of Denmark themselves inherited the duchy, which made things even more interesting. The territory was eventually conquered by a Prussian-Austrian alliance in the German-Danish War of 1864. After WW1, a referendum was held to decide which parts of it should be given to Denmark and which to Germany, and since then the German-Danish border has been passing just north of Flensburg.) The city also was not a member of the Hanseatic League, nor did it have a cathedral (it belonged to the diocese of Schleswig), so the developers took some liberty there. But it's definitely cool to see the area I grew up in represented in a video game, especially as it would be so easy to leave out due to its geographical and political location.

    2. The game's off-screen justification for that is that women can assume a male alias and masquerade as men to pursue life paths that might otherwise be off-limits to them. Something which has historical precedent.

      Vaguely on the subject- the one brother allegedly murdered his servants, but the sister who used to run off to the woods to go hunting is the black sheep of the family? How medieval. ;)

    3. You have to give me SOME leeway, or else there would be no female members of the party at all.

    4. Flensburg! Hah, what a nice surprise to find my hometown in your blog (or a game I didn't know before)!

      I can't add too much to Alrik von Prems post, but in case you're interested in the real St. Nikolai-church:

      The Südermarkt also has an entry in Wikipedia:

      There was no great fortress in Flensburg, though. More likely is a smaller tower castle.

    5. More importantly, it is a crying shame that the party's alchemist isn't named Edward or Alphonse :^P

    6. As funny as that would be, I'd be surprised if the Addict had ever heard of Full Metal Alchemist, and there's also the problem of alchemy only really sharing a name between the two

  3. Is Wolfram the ancestor or descendant of this band of heroes?

    1. Darklands is set in the 15th century, and Wolfram lived in the late 12th to early 13th, so he’d be the illustrious ancestor for our merry band.

      (For others, Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote an early Grail romance, Parzival, which given the Addict’s expertise in the Arthurian myths must be an intentional reference).

  4. You need much more fight training (35+ skill of used weapon each) and armor (at least complete leather for everyone) just to survive travelling outside the cities. So keep battling night bandits. Local reputation lowers gasthaus price and has many other effects - it realy makes the city cozy. Random notes: Easiest way to solve RR problem is to wait by his castle till night, then sneak in and hope to find him before anyone notices. Horse riding is the least important skill. Fight skills are very cheap to improve in game, so it's better to learn alchemy, healing etc. in character generator. You can rent the room in gasthaus and let some characters earn money and others regaining health or learning (if you acquired the teacher).

    1. I wouldn't say "best" -- it depends on your characters' skills and how you want to do it!

    2. It also solves the "I did so much for this damn city and yet the Mayor still treats me like a dick, the people still rip me off, and nobody has a word of thanks" problem that so many RPGs have.

  5. "King Sigismund of Austria (later Holy Roman Emperor)"

    Also King of Hungary (called "Luxemburgi Zsigmond" here), and our second longest-reigning king. He ruled over a pretty large chunk of Europe, including Bohemia (today Czechia), which probably came as a shock to Henry of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

    "healing per night is dependent on the skill of the most-skilled character"

    That's correct. Specifically, it's 1 + best healing skill divided by 15, rounded down.

    "The only thing that bothers me about this is that, judging by comments on my first entry, it seems like that's what everyone does."

    Well, for all the chances at role-playing and the wide variety of alternative options, Darklands is still quite combat-heavy. And unless you start with everyone at 30+ strength and endurance and/or steal the armor of the pre-generated party, early battles can be quite tough. There is no enemy scaling to your party's overall skill, so it's quite easy to run into nigh-impossible battles with novice characters. It's not all that different from level 1 characters stumbling into trolls. Medieval Germany is a tough place where wimps eat cold steel.

    Especially armor can make a huge difference: if your armor rating is better than the enemy weapon's penetration, you only receive 1/8 of the damage. Getting at least chain mail and shields for everyone will make a massive difference.

  6. I've been playing the Android game "Occidental heroes" on and off for a while and it seems heavily "inspired" by Darklands. Since I like that game but find it too shallow I really want to try this out. But right now I'm playing Baldur's Gate for the first time (on vintage hardware no less). Good times.

  7. Some miscellaneous non-spoiler notes:

    - You can definitely collect rewards from raubritter quests from multiple people. It's an "easy" way to make money when you need it!
    - Your descriptions of interaction screens suggest you might possibly have missed in the manual the existence of the poorly-named "help" feature. Except on "expert" difficulty, you can hold down "shift" while hovering the mouse pointer over an interaction option to see a description of that option's chances for success.
    - If your characters have low strength, you might want to consider starting over again. Among many other things, String determines the heaviest armor worn with acceptable load penalties, which determines how much damage they'll take in combat. Since combat is unavoidable for all characters, unless you're intentionally making the game more difficult you probably want all characters able to wear at least chainmail at normal load.
    - Again if you start a new party, you can make the initial grinding sligthly easier/shorter by adding another party member -- say a great uncle who fled with a portion of the family wealth before Baron Stefan was apprehended? During initial party creation, include in the party an arbitrarily old alchemist. Each stint in one of the advanced alchemy professions starts the character with some number of additional potions. When you start the game, immediately move those potions to one of the other characters, retire the aging great uncle, and bring in the real fourth character. They'll start empty-handed, but the proceeds from the sale of the potions will be more the enough to equip the entire party with much better gear than the starting equipment.


    1. RE: "Help" feature. I read about it in the manual and forgot about it. Then someone alerted me to it in the comments to my first entry, and I forgot about it again.

      RE: Strength. My characters have CURRENT low strength, since strength also serves as hit points. Their maximums aren't so bad. I got most of them to 30 or near to it.

      RE: The potion trick: I would consider that cheating.

    2. "Thanks for reminding me!" I meant to add to the first bit.

    3. Re: re: potions -- According to an earlier post I thought you'd only consider this "Playing like a jackass" ;-)

      In this case though I see several mitigating factors:

      - The default starting party has significantly better equipment than new characters. I read this as implying that playtesting revealed a need for better starting equipment, but it was too late/complicated to go back and redo all the occupations -> starting equipment code.
      - There's indication that the developers thought of this trick, since characters beyond the first start without equipment, so you can only take it so far.
      - As much as I love this game, the initial grind to get good enough equipment to even leave the city can be pretty tedious. The only real impact of starting with more cash is to make that initial bit shorter, with essentially no effect later in the game.
      - It's pretty easy to come up with a good role-playing reason for your party to have a single wealthy patron. (Maybe not so much for starting all the initial characters as ancient alchemists, but certainly one.)

      Anyway, YMMV, but hopefully you'll get to the good stuff soon regardless!

  8. If anyone is interested GoG is having a sale and Darklands is only $1.49 right now.

    1. I bought it this week for that reason. My 5.25 inch disks probably no longer work. Slain about 10 raubritters so far, and have fame of about 70.

  9. I love the Darklands manual, but all the fluff text also makes it easier to miss information about the game. The saints/prayer dynamic is described on page 88ff. To summarise:
    - The character has to know the saint in the first place
    - If the pray option is greyed out, that means your character doesn't have enough virtue for this saint. E.g. St. Margaret requires a virtue of 46 (see manual) to be able to pray to her at all. Some saints require as little as 15 virtue, some as much as 81! So your thief might want to stick to St. Cosmas at first.
    - A virtue higher than required increases the chance of the prayer succeeding. You can also spend more divine favour to increase your chances of successful prayer.

    I'm a bit surprised you started out with no saints at all, since the church occupations usually give you a few saints to start with.

    1. I don't think my conception for Ladislaus is going to work. His virtue is 12, which may be why he didn't learn more saints. I should replace him with a more experienced character that I didn't envision as a sociopath.

    2. There will be many opportunities to increase your characters virtue in Darklands by slaying evil and commiting virtuous acts, so he might still work out. But it's just going to take a while for him to be effective with saints.

    3. Also one off bit about paying for access to saint prayers which I don't believe is called out explicitly (but should be at least made clear in-game) is that the price is based on party wealth. Which somewhat makes sense, but then the implementation only considers coins on hand! So you'll see widely varying prices depending on whether or not you are carrying sacks of coins versus letters of credit...

  10. What bothered me in this game is that it's really, really hard unless you know how to properly generate and equip your characters. There is an incredible amount of options, but some are so much better than others. For example, all characters should have very high STR and END (preferably 35+), as you need it to wear heavy armour and still be effective in combat (low END means your character will quickly get knocked out). You only need one character with good DEX, CHA, and PER per party. INT is only useful to alchemists.
    Next, some skills are far easier to train than others - for example, there is little need to train weapon skills at character generation, since these skills will rise quite quickly in-game. The one exception is Bows, as you need a certain amount of skill (20) to be able to use them at all.
    Also important to know is how weapon and armour works. Basically, attacks have an armour penetration rating and:
    a) if it is higher than enemy armour rating - armour provides NO protection!
    b) if it is equal - blow does 1/3 damage.
    c) if it is lower - blow does 1/8 damage.
    Note: Armour and Weapon Quality also plays a role, but not nearly as important as the penetration rating.
    As you can see, Armour is often the decisive factor in combat. To rate the available types:
    Leather, Padded - useless
    Cuirbouilli, Studded Leather - use only if no alternative; protects against Falchions and Wolves but little else
    Scale - will protect against many early game enemies, but should be upgraded as soon as possible
    Brigandine, Chainmail - the minimum you should aim for
    Plate - protects against most attacks, but heavy
    Likewise, you will struggle against many enemies if you don't have weapons that can pierce their armour. Shortswords and Maces are some of the best all-round weapons; Military Picks, Giant Cudgels or Great Hammers are needed to defeat plate armour.
    Shields are not very useful. They offer only marginal protection against melee attacks, zero protection against magic, and good protection against missile weapons - but very few enemies use those.
    Oh, and one more thing - remember you can take off your armour before trying stuff like climbing, etc.

    1. This is somewhat incorrect. Attacks on shieldless characters are made with a +10% hit bonus, while the shield prevents this and adds a hit penalty (which is another 10-15% based on size), so putting a shield on low level characters will drastically increase their survivability.

      Also Vital Strikes increase all attacks by 1d4 penetration per hit, making most armor moot even with low pen weapons like longswords.

    2. Ok, after reviewing the Hint Book, I will concede Shields can be useful for low level characters - if they're strong enough to carry them. The bonus attacking shieldless characters is only 5% though, and the shield bonus is 4, 10 and 16 percent for small, medium and large shields, respectively (assuming 25 quality - looted shields will usually be worse).

      However, Vital Strikes do not make armour "moot" because they add +120 to attack speed, meaning they are a lot slower than normal attacks. For example, a Longsword used this way has speed 175 (55+120), while a Great Hammer used normally has speed 120. A considerable difference.

      I highlighted the Shortsword and Mace because IMO they offer the best speed-to-damage ratio while still being good enough against most enemies' armour without resorting to Vital Strikes.

    3. Military hammer is good as well, fairly fast, matchs plate and penetrates everything else. For the most challenging fights however, short swords are hard to beat since there is a potion that boasts their penetration beyond a hammer, and that potion does not work on impact weapons, there is a potion that boasts quality of impact weapons, but that is not as helpful as increasing penetration, generally.

  11. The nightly bandit quests feel like they were added late in the game as a workaround for the initial difficulty curve, since they're pretty much unlike every other quest or encounter in the game. It's like at some point they realized there was nothing survivable for low level teams so they made the endless bandits as easy grinding. Well, Darklands' development was famously rough.

    Also I believe the 'listen to rumors' option is either bugged or badly implemented as they will only mention specific currently active high-level quests. They really should alert you to raubritter quests but they never do.

    1. I dunno how the game was designed to be played (though I also took this approach while first playing the game in the 90s), but getting ambushed by thieves while wandering around the city at night fits in extremely well with how the rest of Darklands works. There are plenty of city-based combat encounters to be had, mainly against the guards.

    2. Really? Walking back and forth at night, it's just bandit, bandit, bandit. Every other quest in the game is way more involved with multiple choices and ways to resolve. With the thieves its just fight or run, and they're basically free money and reputation. They feel totally tossed in to me compared to raubritter quests, dungeons, evil villages, dragons, etc.

  12. "What's your name?" "Kate. It's short for... Bob."

  13. There's a utility called DKQUE.EXE that might be in your Darklands directory already. It shows you all the quests you have and their time limits. It also gives a more accurate location of the quest target. A list of quests should have been in the game, but Darklands' development was a legendary disaster. It's amazing they ended up with such an incredible game afterwards.

    If it's not there, there are several quest listers to choose from at

  14. Wonderful names!

    The town of Eschenbach is actually not so far away from Ansbach.
    Though I am not sure whether these areas actually belonged to bavaria during that time. Methinks it was more Bohemia instead.
    But nice, nevertheless!

  15. Funny...i have been living in Flensburg for some years close to the Südermarkt.

  16. F'n A... a Sword of Aragon inspired modern game.

    That was one of my favorites.

  17. Sorry for the off-topic post (to be honest, I'm not even sure if this post will show up), but what did you think of the news that Larien Studios is going to make Baldur's Gate 3?

    I made a couple of other posts (one in a Battletech entry and the other in an Ultima IV entry), so please don't think I just popped in here just to post this! :)

    1. I'd say I'm mostly neutral about it so far. I haven't played Divinity, so I don't know what to expect from the developers. I felt that BG2 and its expansion wrapped up the Bhaalspawn's tale just fine, so I'm not sure how BG3 is going to be a "sequel." If it takes inspiration from the first two games to tell an original story with an original character, I guess it will be a good game.

    2. I'm hoping it'll pull the best, most epic effort out of the studio.

      I played a bit of Divinity (the original). It was a solid engine and gameplay, but lacked the, can I say "gravitas" of BG? (Given that it includes a pet hamster).

      Divinity is 2002, so I suppose it'll be awhile before you get there.

    3. Yay! My comments can be seen! :)

      With regards to their earlier games, they were good to meh. Divine Divinity (horrible name) was fairly good, but Beyond Divinity was okay at best.

      Divinity 2 seems to be a well-received game, but Divinity: Original Sin and Original Sin 2 seems to be when they really hit their stride.

      I think they are a good choice to helm Baldur's Gate 3, and they will give it the attention it deserves.

      I agree with you about the Bhaalspawn story being told, so it should not continue that, but a new story with a new character can be a very good thing!

      I'm not sure if you read my original 2 posts, but I just want to say that I enjoy your blog immensely even if I disagree with some of your views on games. Your posts (especially when you pepper it with humour) are a joy to read!

      Do you recognize which game(s) my handle is from? ;)

    4. I gotta say after reading about Larian's thoughts and watching their trailing (gruesome), I am pretty hopeful.

      The Larian guys sound absolutely jacked up to be working on the title.

      They are building everything from the ground up (no unreal/unity engine etc).

      It could really be something.

      They seem to be reverent of both the BG titles, and the DnD universe.

    5. Divinity: OS has simply the best combat I have ever experienced in a third person CRPG; I didn't care that much for story or setting, but its fully turn-based,strategic,challenging combat and satisfying character development are just great.

      As a Gold Box games fan I imagine you would enjoy it, but I guess we will have to wait year 2040 for a GIMLET of it :)

      It's most likely nostalgia talking, but at least I think BG3 is in good hands.

    6. FYI from Wizards of the Coast's perspective, "Baldur's Gate" is now a brand, supporting the adventure "Murder in Baldur's Gate" (which killed off the protagonist of the first two games and resurrected Bhaal), the boardgame "Betrayal at Baldur's Gate" (nothing to do with Bhaal), and the upcoming campaign "Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus", which also appears to have nothing to do with Bhaal.

    7. To be fair (regarding the non-bhaal uses of "Baldur's Gate"), Baldur's Gate was a city in the tabletop setting of the Forgotten Realms for eight years before it was ever added into a video game, during which time it had no particular association with Bhaal. If modules take place in that city or include it, they arguably have more claim to the name than Shadows of Amn or Throne of Bhaal do.

  18. Completely unrelated but, you know...

    "After the game's existence was hinted at months ago and all but confirmed via website source scouring last week, Larian Studios officially announced that it is working on Baldur's Gate III today, nearly 19 years after the release of BioWare's Baldur's Gate II."

    1. I didn't expect to ever see a BG3--that is a huge bar to crawl over.

      So what's next? Half-Life 3?

    2. It's not quite the same thing, but Marc Laidlaw posted the entire plot he'd written for Half-Life 3 up on his site a few years ago. Seems we've gotten as much HL3 as we're ever likely to see.

  19. You shouldn't have to spend that much time fighting thieves in Lübeck. Especially since you invested in weapon skills during character creation, and your knight should already have a pretty good set of armor (brigandine & chain - you did equip the armor, right?).

    Try other options with the raubritter, there are a lot of them. Fighting a raubritter and guards at the same time is the worst thing that can happen to a new party.

  20. Darklands! I have been waiting for this for awhile!

    The menu-driven nature in towns does take time to get used to, but it is an interesting variation from "memorize where things are in towns". Is taking 100 steps to get the services you want from a town really a more satisfying experience? Maybe to some, but Darklands challenges that by postulating that exploring the countryside and adventuring areas is what is fun, not empty footsteps in memorized locations to get services.

    The menu-driven towns also allow for a different gaming experience from one playthrough to the next. Although more could have been done with this, the quests in particular are quite randomized (in a controlled way). The main quest itself has a few different locations for major events to occur, so you can't just go on memory from your last playthrough. There are also some towns that have more services than others (that part is not randomized it is based on size of the town which is historical, but certain results are from the menus).

    You are not required to fight the thieves, it is just a consistent approach to easy battles to gain weapons experience. You also can face encounters in the wilderness that are randomized, and some of them are not too difficult for your experience level.

    Also, a few people have commented on armor and weapons. Be aware that combat works differently in this game; there is a difference between your "white hits" and "red hits" that has to do with whether your weapon can penetrate the armor worn by the defender. Armor has not just a difficulty to hit, but also a penetration depth; if the weapon is unable to penetrate the armor fully, it will not be nearly as effective. (Weapons have a penetration depth as well, naturally.)

    Darklands does challenge several fundamental assumptions in CRPGs up to its point, not least of which is a bibliography as you mentioned up front in post #1. Many of them make for a satisfying experience (though it is not perfect). For its time, though, it is a very refreshing change, and an inspiration for many games to come, not least of which is The Elder Scrolls series.

  21. "Darklands: Menüstadt" ?

    Er, right. Gesundheit.

  22. Man, raubritters are not a joke. IIRC, some serious grinding has to be made until you have a good chance of overcoming one in a battle.

  23. Sorry, but Bianca and Ladislaus are twins? She is 20 and he is 25 years old :)

    1. Bianca is 25, too. I was maybe confusing in my bio. I mentioned that "by the time she was 20," she was a huntress, indicating that that's when I changed her profession, but she continued working as such for another 5 years.


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