Thursday, October 8, 2020

Dark Queen of Krynn: Love and Prophet

The nature of the game is about to change significantly, it seems.
When I last wrote, I had just started exploring a lighthouse, hoping to find a sage named Fastillion, who might be able to give me some advice on my quest. The lighthouse was fun. Each of its 13 levels (eleven up, two down) was only 8 x 8, but with the corners carved out so that the levels were roughly diamond-shaped and only used 40 total squares. Every level had a "poorly-concealed pit" in the same location, and stumbling into it always sent the party tumbling down to a sludge heap on the bottom level. The first time, I had to fight an epic battle with greater otyughs, purple worms, and giant spiders the moment I stood up from the fall. I think it would have been funny (if eventually annoying) if the party had to fight the same battle every time it fell, but that's not how they programmed it. Nonetheless, they did find another way to really stick it to the player.
Complicating navigation were pairs of teleporters on almost every level. I eventually found a device that shut these down. Each level also had various monster encounters--umber hulks, hydras, gorgons, beholders, and iron golems. (The encounter texts seemed to be suggesting that the tan beholders and brown beholders were having some kind of conflict, to which they had enlisted the gorgons.) Beholders are tough even at my levels. They always start each combat firing "Disintegrate," "Stone to Flesh," "Death," and "Cause Serious Wounds" from their eyestalks before then casting a spell like "Fear" or "Slow." Even with high saving throws, the dice roll the wrong way often enough to make them dangerous. They're immune to most magic, and the only way to kill them is to pound away in melee combat, ideally hastened. However, ever since beholders were introduced to the Gold Box in Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989), they've had one major weakness: if you run up to them and run away, giving them a free attack at your fleeing back, they won't use their eyestalk attacks during the same round. SSI had three years and half a dozen games to fix this if it was an error, so by now I have to regard it as a legitimate tactic. After all, it requires me to sacrifice a couple dozen hit points, whereas reloading every time a character is "disintegrated" doesn't really require me to sacrifice anything but time.
This battle didn't work out for the party. One character has been incinerated, another is dead, another is stone, and my strongest character has just succumbed to the "Fear" spell.
The eighth level up featured an epic battle with a ton of fire elementals who utterly surrounded the party. I wasn't prepared for it, and for probably the first time in a Gold Box game, I cast "Resist Fire" on each character, one by one, after the battle had already started. After that, the clerics had to keep up with healing while the fighters killed the monsters, with a little help from the mages' "Ice Storm" and "Cone of Cold."
I'm surprised I survived this.
On Level 10, we had a similarly epic battle with iron golems. Note that resistance to "Fireball" and other mass-damage spells is becoming a theme. The worst you can do with iron golems is cast "Lightning Bolt" at them, which has the same effect as a "Slow" spell. This is the first Gold Box game in which I routinely use buffing and healing spells during combat because the combat lasts long enough to bother. This is mostly a good thing, but it might be that there are just a few too many of these combats. This particular map ended before I got sick of it.
I forgot to screen shot the golems, so here are some hydras. They look pretty good.
Level 10's stairs led to Level 11, but only to a single room with a false door. I stumbled about for a while, trying to figure out how to get to the rest of the level, before I discovered an encounter on Level 9 that I'd previously missed. I found an elf woman dying under a toppled statue. She gave me an incoherent message for Fastillion before noting that something "must be under the porch!"
The lighthouse's first square makes a point of saying that you're on the front porch. As for "under" it, on the first basement level, I had no idea because I hadn't been mapping. As I recently said to a commenter, you rarely need to map Gold Box games because the levels are so small and you almost never have to visit them a second time. If I had mapped the first basement level, I would have found a secret door leading to a one-square room below the "porch" square on Level 1. As it was, I returned to it by taking a dive down the trash chute and climbing up to the first basement. The one-square room had a teleporter that took me to the main area of Level 11. Unless the teleporter doesn't appear until you visit the elf woman, that means all the effort exploring the rest of the levels is wasted (except for the experience, of course). I suppose it would be hard to stumble upon it accidentally, though, because it's an "extra" square that otherwise doesn't fit the pattern of the levels.
Fastillion was a gnomish wizard who had filled his tower with monsters less because of malice and more out of a desire not to be disturbed. ("There weren't supposed to be evil things in my tower. The gorgons were supposed to keep them out. I bet they were working with the beholders, weren't they? I really should get around to training them.") When we got his attention, he related that there is evil stirring in the land of Thenol, probably caused by someone named Trandamere, who wants to conquer all of Taladas. I thought the name seemed familiar, but I couldn't find it anywhere in my previous screen shots.
This is going to be my new greeting for students who visit during office hours.
The wizard suggested two courses of action. The first was to get help from the "Hulderfolk" east of Trilloman, but he warned that "the price is high." Second, he suggested consulting the Oracle of Tengur in the Tombs of Kristophan. He gave us two keys, one rusted, one golden, one of which would get us into the tomb. There was no reverse teleporter, so we had to take another dive down the trash pit to get out of the tower.
Several amusing options for the long fall.
We left the lighthouse back to the open map and consulted our options. I had a rebellious desire to strike out in my own direction, but Kristophan was just across the strait from the lighthouse (a friendly boatman offered to transport us), and I needed a city's services, so I decided to go there first.
The overworld map.
The Kristophan map started us in front of a hut where an old hag was crying. She introduced herself as Eshalla and said she had once been a beautiful woman, but a minotaur lord had ordered a wizard to turn her into a hag over a minor offense. She claimed that a kiss from a handsome man would lift the curse. I made Dutch kiss her. (I'm curious what happens if you select a female character, but I forgot to reload and see.) The game went on at length about how repulsive the experience was for the knight, and moreover it didn't work. She asked to try again. This happened a couple more times, until it seemed like the old woman was playing a cruel prank on us, but at last the kiss took, and she did transform into a beautiful young woman. 
I wonder what happens if all your characters have single-digit charisma.
She gave us a Cloak of Displacement for our efforts, plus a brief make-out session for Dutch, along with a promise to see us again. This is the second time we've had a "romance" in a Gold Box game (the first being Treasures of the Savage Frontier from the same year). Eventually, I'll have to do a special topic entry on RPG romances. Suffice for now to say that I generally feel about romances some of the same things I feel about nudity. If it's organic and mature, I don't mind, but slight variances in writing and presentation will suddenly make me feel like I'm being invited to participate in a creepy three-way with the author. I'm more likely to trip that particular threshold if the game has an identifiable, individual author rather than a faceless team.
Get a room!
It's a bit different in this sort of game, however, because I regard all of the characters somewhat impersonally. Contrast the Eshalla episode with the Avatar's brief fling with Nastassia in Ultima VII. Although both are multi-character games, Ultima VII is structured so that you identify primarily with one character, while the Gold Box makes you feel more like you're a coach for a team. When describing the Avatar's actions with Nastassia, I used the first person (e.g., "she kissed me") whereas it wouldn't occur to me to do the same with Dutch. I sometimes use "we" or "us" or even "I" when describing actions in Gold Box games, but only when talking about the entire party. None of its individual members are "me." Reading about Dutch and Eshalla may feel slightly voyeuristic but it doesn't run the same danger of crossing the line to "creepy."
Minotaurs are the ruling class in the city of Kristophan.
Back to Kristophan. The large city is ruled by minotaurs and populated in part by a human underclass. Slave class, to some degree. Humans and minotaurs have their own zones and establishments. Repeatedly, I wandered into the wrong facility and was ordered to leave. The entire west side of the city was full of minotaur government buildings I couldn't enter. Meanwhile, street encounters invited the party to lose its cool and probably start a conflict with the minotaurs. I resisted for the time being, mostly because I'd given a bunch of steel to the bank early in the visit and didn't want to lose access to it. Here we see a microcosm of how economics prevents wars.
I wanted to attack, but instead I just distracted him by shouting. At least he stopped beating the slave.
The usual services were present, and I leveled up a couple of times, sold my excess stuff, and so forth. I've yet to find a place selling magic equipment--the store here just had the usual standard set of gear--but at least the city offered a bank for excess steel. Squirrel got Level 9 mage spells for the first time, and I memorized "Monster Summoning." There were numerous battles with thieves in the east side of the city; although high-level, they have no spell immunities and I was thus able to unleash my pent-up "Hold Person," "Fireball," "Charm," and similar spell inventories.
Anyone who needs a regular, non-magical weapon at this point is in serious trouble.
Eshalla appeared at one point to give us a helm +3 and demand another kiss from Dutch, then disappeared just as fast. In one random house, the family invited us for tea and talked about the recent theft of The Book of Amrocar from the library. When I inquired about it at the library (the minotaur librarian thought we were there to take out the trash), the librarian clammed up and threw us out. However, a human approached and said that another librarian named Bovinus had stolen the book, killing several guards in his escape, only to be found dead in an alley with the book missing. The book supposedly contains maps and information about some place called Blackwater Glade. This is one of those things that the game clearly expects us to care about but that in real life, the party would probably ignore.
The librarian doth protest too much.
We found a fortune-teller, but he indicated that he was guided by the Oracle of Tengur rather than being the Oracle himself. The Oracle in fact died a long time ago--he had aided a minotaur named Eragas the Brutish in the original conquest of the area from the original human kings--but his spirit is said to be somewhere still in the city walls. The fortune-teller's own attempt at augury was laughable; he said conflicting things and predicted that no one would ever raise a hand to Midsummer again.
Either way, Midsummer is confused.
We also found the entrance to the Tombs, but we couldn't find a way through the door. We got a lead when we visited the human tavern and met a thief named Selias, who offered to show us the way in. He asked how much we would pay, and it's a measure of the insanity of the economy that the options were 20, 40, and 60 steel pieces, as if there's fundamentally any difference between those choices when your party has 50,000 of them. I should also mention that Selias is a Level 28 thief, twice the level of my best character, although in all that character development he didn't manage to collect even a single piece of magical equipment. Still, you have to wonder what kind of god-level character hires himself out for 60 steel pieces.
You couldn't have learned elocution somewhere in 28 levels?
Just as we enlisted Selias, blue and red dragons started dive-bombing the town, perhaps because of our presence in it. Selias recommended that we run north to the tombs. Here, the game pulls a cruel trick. It has its own idea about the shortest path to the tomb, and if you stick to it, you miss the dragon attacks. Otherwise, you take either lightning damage or fire damage every step on the way there. (A map would have helped, I admit.) This damage is accompanied by images of lighting and fireballs in the main game window. There's no way to engage the dragons; they're flying.
Animations of lightning bolts and fire accompany each dragon attack.
We reached the Tombs, and Selias used some technique to get it open. The Tombs ultimately turned out to be a multi-sectioned area interconnected by teleporters and secret doors, and here I finally had to break down and make maps. The initial area had the city's thieves' guild, but we wiped them out in a massive combat. The rest of the Tombs had a lot of battles with undead, including specters, wraiths, mummies, ghasts, and vampires. I have three characters capable of turning, if not destroying, most of these. We also faced a few "death dragons," which are basically skeletal dragons that hit really hard, but I have two dragonlances at this point.
I remember when fighting one vampire was hard.
The ultimate goal was to find "pieces of the Oracle," each of which offered a different prophecy and suggestion. These were strewn on different levels amidst various encounters, including an insane lich named Lord Destries who fancied himself a kind of "ringmaster." There was also an episode where I had to bring a heart-shaped key to the ghost of a knight. He and his beloved had been cursed to lurk on opposite sides of a locked door for stealing bread from a minotaur. The key reunited them and ended the curse.
When I fought him, he "turned" in one round.
This was sweet.
The hardest battle was on a level where we were ambushed by a vampire lord. He attacked with numerous vampire mages, vampire clerics, vampires, and specters in three clusters. For some stubborn reason, I insisted on not only winning the battle but winning it without any of my characters getting drained, which meant winning it without any of them getting hit by physical attacks. (None of the vampires responded to "Turn" even though others had in the same area.) Although I know how to use the "Restoration" spell and have plenty of them, I can't shake the fact that a drained character is somehow tainted and will never be right again. My insanity meant that I had to fight the battle four times. I also had to do things like avoid attacking the mages and clerics until I knew I could kill them in one round, since once attacked, a spellcaster cannot cast that round and thus resorts to a physical attack.
The vampire is funny, but ultimately wrong.
The Oracle clues were:
  • "The bright key opens the door to the crypt. Within you will find some words you should heed. Then find the Book that Amrocar wrote. Within its pages, words you must read." The "bright key" bit referred to the choice between the golden key and rusty key that Fastillion gave us, and it proved useful in the same dungeon. You've already heard about the Book of Amrocar. 
  • "A dragon you'll meet, more mighty than all. To stop his rampage, seek help from three friends: the black robed the winged ones, and also the small." I'll probably know who these allies are when I find them.
  • "Find the realm where Tremor is lord. Choose the right present to add to his hoard." That one, I'm not sure about yet.
The Oracle should know that "prophesy" is the verb; "prophecy" is the noun.
There were also a number of treasure chests, including several that turned into mimics. The game resolved all the mimic combats automatically, without requiring the party to actually fight them. I left the dungeon with a lot of new gems and jewels, a second Girdle of Giant Strength, some Eyes of Petrification, which I will probably sell for arrows when I finally find such a shop, and a mysterious circlet that shows up in the special party inventory instead of the regular inventory.
I toyed with showing the minotaurs exactly what I thought of their heavy-handed rule, but in a second tour of the city, I wasn't able to find any opportunities to provoke a fight. Every time I wandered into a place I shouldn't be, the game just scripted my retreat instead of offering me the option. I guess it probably wouldn't have been a good idea anyway.
A few miscellaneous notes:
  • The game has given multiple options in a few encounters, recalling the best times in Pool of Radiance. But while I haven't reloaded a lot to test out this theory, I suspect that most of the encounter options lead to the same outcome.
I suspect you get the same story and journal entry here no matter what.
  • I had a battle with black puddings. I don't remember fighting them in a previous CRPG. Man, are they a pain. Immune to everything except fire. I thought magic weapons were supposed to damage them, but they sure don't work here.
Fortunately, I'm not short on fire.
This session really didn't take that long despite all the text. I probably over-wrote to obscure my limited playing time this week. Next time, I'll pick a random place on the world map and see what happens.
Time so far: 14 hours


  1. This game is a good example of how writing a high-level plot is very, very hard; so many writers just re-use a low-level plot and crank up the numbers. You fight city guards and thief guilds around level THREE, so the idea that they're somehow still a threat to you at level FIFTEEN is ludicrous.

    I can think of numerous adventures where anything from goblins to dragons is conveniently statted at "whichever level makes them a threat to your current party", but this really flies in the face of coherent world building.

    And yes, the presence of a 28th-level thief is pretty silly. You're supposed to ascend to (demi)godhood by level 21.

    1. Reminds me of the (bad) level scaling in Oblivion, where a bandit wearing armor and carrying weapons worth thousands of gold pieces would try and hold you up for a handful of them. At some point you either have to swap your enemies out for something that makes actual sense, or just drop the encounter.

  2. "There's no way to engage the dragons; they're flying."

    Which makes them just about the smartest dragons in the history of videogames (why would you engage puny humans on the ground, or inside buildings, negating your main tactical advantage?)

    You seem to have missed an encounter in Khristophan: va gur "aboyr" nern bs gur pvgl, pybfr gb gur yvoenel naq gur oneenpxf, lbh fghzoyr ba na byq zna orvat oehgnyvmrq ol uvf zvabgnhe znfgre naq lbh ner tvira gur pubvpr gb vagreirar (vs lbh unq guvf rapbhagre naq qrpvqrq gb qb abguvat, jryy, funzr ba lbh :)).

    Gur riragf sbyybjvat gung rapbhagre yrnq gb gur uhznaf evbgvat naq gb n eryngviryl punyyratvat neran onggyr, juvpu lvryqf n ohapu bs fyvatf +2 gung V sbhaq n hfrshy nqqvgvba gb zl zryrr svtugre rdhvczrag.

    1. Vfa'g gung gur fperrafubg va gur negvpyr jurer gur zvabgnhe uvgf uvf fynir jvgu n pnar?

    2. You are right, I missed it completely.

      Now I'm confused, did not the shouting lead to a battle anyway?

      Maybe in my playthrough I roleplayed my knight too hard :)

    3. You first get the option to Shout, Attack, or Leave, and if you Shout, the minotaur gets in your face, and you get the option to Attack or Leave.

      Fortunately, Attacking does *not*, in fact, lock you out of any of Kristophan's resources; you just have to fight in the arena, and victory gets you a pardon.

    4. That battle also gives you a bunch of helmets +2, which are useful for imported parties, since you don't find any in the previous games. If you create new characters, those are part of their starting equipment, however.

  3. You should be able to hit the flying dragons with arrows and/or Fireball spells, and/or force them to the ground with spells like Hold Monster.

    Aside from that, D&D has a Fly spell which is available many, many levels earlier than this; but it is rarely implemented in CRPGs for obvious reasons. Dragons still fly faster than you do, but if they stop to firebreathe then you should be able to hit them with a dragonlance.

  4. Also, black pudding has a +10 protection vs getting eaten. It's only prone to melee attacks by Scottish clansmen.

  5. The minotaur fights here were some of the unfair ones I spoke of in earlier. What seems like it should be a relatively small or uneventful flavor combat based upon prior gold box experience can turn into as many as 12 mages buffed with fire shield and mirror imageand armed with delayed Blast Fireball and 20 high level fighters with lots of hit points. Doable, but extremely difficult with a new party unbuffed and unprepared for it, based upon previously kearned behavioral patterns. Imagine if the random room fights in the Hill Giant dreading, Tilverton, or New Verdigris could kick your ass without luck and you have the minotaur fights. And the treasure isn't worth (xp is ok). So you didn't miss much

    1. And it seems the autocorrect on my phone still hates me

  6. If those are all the hints you've gotten from the Oracle, you haven't found all the pieces yet. (The final piece will complete the statue of a hooded person.)

    1. Aw, really? I thought i mapped the area pretty thoroughly. Do you suppose the others are strictly necessary?

    2. Well, if you want to get a handle on the plot, you don't want to miss out on key information, do you?

      Lbh cebonoyl zvffrq fbzr ubyybj cvyynef be nabgure frperg qbbe fbzrjurer.

      You should also test out the Eyes of Petrification. You can find two pairs in this dungeon, one of them is cursed. The one that isn't, however, allows infinite(?) casts of Flesh to Stone, and is a pretty decent backup option for your kender, who probably hasn't a lot of strong offensive options.

      There's also some more useful loot down there, which you may not have found:

      N tveqyr bs tvnag fgeratgu naq n svar ybat obj.

    3. The clues from the Oracle are actually the least important of the "keys" you get from the various cities, since they're just hints pointing you in the direction of the others. However, as Klaus mentions, there are also two *very* nice pieces of treasure in the Tombs that it sounds like you may not have gotten.

      From the big main room with the columns at the start of the Tombs (the first area in white), not counting the way you came in and the bricked-up original entrance, there are 7 exits. 1 is a secret door, 4 are teleporters (3 of which are also behind secret doors), 1 is the stairway you need the Golden Key for, and 1 is hidden and requires searching.

      I'll include the locations of the treasures and Oracle fragments in ROT13, noting the ones you specifically mention getting:

      Gryrcbeg sebz gur znva ebbz, abg uvqqra, yrnqf gb gur ebbz gung arrqf gur Urneg-Funcrq Xrl, juvpu vf vgfrys uvqqra cnfg n gryrcbegre oruvaq n frperg qbbe sebz gur znva ebbz. Hfvat gur Urneg-Funcrq Xrl trgf lbh cvrpr bar. You got this one.

      Gryrcbegre vafvqr n ubyybj cvyyne va gur znva ebbz (oruvaq n frperg qbbe) yrnqf gb Ybeq Qrfgevrf' Pneaviny; gur frpbaq qbbe ba gur yrsg unf n onggyr jvgu fcvqref, jub unir gur frpbaq cvrpr. You got this one.

      Genc qbbe sebz znva ebbz, bayl qvfpbirenoyr ol frnepuvat, yrnqf qbja gb n ebbz jvgu n tubfgyl svther jub qrznaqf gur Pvepyrg bs Tbyq. Gur Pvepyrg pna or bognvarq sebz gur "Fcrpvny Nggenpgvba" ng Ybeq Qrfgevrf' Pneaviny (gur bar lbh unir gb svtug gb trg gb gur rkvg). Ergheavat gur Pvepyrg tenagf gur guveq cvrpr bs gur Benpyr, nf jryy nf gur Svar Ybat Obj.

      Ba gur jnl gb gur inzcver ynve, nsgre tbvat qbja gur fgnvef gung erdhver gur Tbyqra Xrl, lbh pbzr hc ba gur npghny Gbzo bs Xevfgbcuna, ybat-enafnpxrq. Frnepuvat urer tvirf gur sbhegu cvrpr bs gur Benpyr.

      Gur inzcverf gurzfryirf uryq gur svsgu naq svany cvrpr; you got this one.

      Optional, dangerous, but lucrative: Nsgre gur inzcver onggyr, vafgrnq bs gnxvat gur gryrcbeg onpx gb gur ortvaavat, lbh pna vafgrnq gnxr n gryrcbeg ba gur bgure fvqr bs gur ebbz jvgu fbzrguvat yvxr "XRRC BHG" fpenjyrq va oybbq. Guvf yrnqf gb na "raqyrff" znmr bs pbyhzaf (gryrcbegref xrrc lbh jvguva n fznyy nern; gevpxl gb znc) juvpu pbagnvaf gernfher vafvqr ubyybj cvyynef, vapyhqvat gur frpbaq, aba-phefrq, Rlrf bs Crgevsvpngvba naq, va n purfg gung erdhverf gur Ehfgrq Xrl sebz Snfgvyyvba, gur Tveqyr bs Tvnag Fgeratgu, juvpu obbfgf bar punenpgre'f fgeratgu gb 23. Bar bs gur bgure cvyynef pbagnvaf gur gryrcbegre onpx.

      (And while I *was* able to figure this stuff out over the course of ~20 years of re-replaying this game, I do not, in fact, have notes this good: I'm referring to the official Cluebook PDF that came with the GOG version...which does not actually have complete and accurate information about all the puzzles, but comes pretty close.)

    4. Oh, and if you just want to know what the last two clues were:

      Gurl ner Wbheany Ragevrf rvtug naq fvkgl-gjb. (Gurer vf n snyfr Benpyr ragel ng svsgrra.)

    5. Oh, I suppose I'd better turn around and check it out.

    6. Heh, sorry.

      Re: your intention of picking a place at random: Just be aware that the quest chain linking in DQK is a tiny bit fragile (not quite as bad as Ultima VII, fortunately); there are several places where you can accidentally stumble on something the developers forgot to properly lock behind previous quest progress. Most of the time, this only leads to mild confusion, but there is an "intended" order for the various overworld locations to be visited, so don't be surprised if the game suddenly references something out of the blue that you haven't actually done.

  7. "ever since beholders were introduced to the Gold Box in Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989), they've had one major weakness: if you run up to them and run away, giving them a free attack at your fleeing back, they won't use their eyestalk attacks during the same round. SSI had three years and half a dozen games to fix this if it was an error, so by now I have to regard it as a legitimate tactic."

    That's cheating, and not specific to Beholders. SSI should have made the opportunity attack rule not apply to enemies with magical and breath attacks, though.

    The legitimate tactic is to keep your distance (all their spells but Fear and Slow have a range of only 3, and I think 9 Fear and Slow), Haste the party and kill them with missiles, and only enter melee when you are sure you can kill them before it's their turn again.

    1. In the tabletop version at least, the beholder's central eye negates magic; so they're not immune to most magics if targeted from the back (which is pretty easy if you've got two spellcasters in the party). I suppose Gold Box doesn't have facing rules, though.

    2. AFAIK facing only matters when backstabbing.

      BTW, come to think of it, the elegant solution would of course be to make the opportunity attacks _free_ attacks that did not use up any actions. I guess one can think it was intentional behaviour when such a simple solution never was applied.
      But how _does_ opportunity attacks work in the pen&paper rules?

    3. In second edition D&D, they are in fact free attacks that don't use up any actions. So yes, this is a bug in the gold box engine.

      And yes, facing does matter when dealing with beholders (as their central eye projects a dispelling cone, similar to Cone Of Cold spells are targeted).

    4. The attacks on your fleeing back don’t use any actions, exactly. The beholders still get their rounds. They just limit, for some reason, what they decide to do with their rounds.

      Allowing the tactic might be a violation of tabletop rules, but I’m afraid I don’t regard anything built into the mechanics and unfixed for this many games as “cheating.” Maybe “exploiting.”

    5. Attacks of opportunity weren't introduced in tabletop 'till 1994's "Player's Option: Combat and Tactics". Until then people rarely played with miniatures and hex or graph maps, so the call for attacks of opportunity wasn't the same. It's hard not to see the Goldbox' as being a forerunner of something so integral to modern D&D as attacks of opportunity.

    6. No dude, as mentioned just a few paragraphs above yours, the rule that your opponent gets a free attack if you retreat comes all the way from First Edition, about twenty years before the Player's Option books. Different name, same concept.

    7. Can the clerics cast "animate undead"?

    8. Not in any of the Krynn games. It was considered "evil", and you're only allowed to play neutral or good characters in Dragonlance (at least in the Gold Box games).

  8. There is a definite conclusion with the Eshalla plot line...but I’m not sure how it’s triggered or if you can do it after the dragon attack.

    The vampire battles in this game where pretty hard, between energy drain, delayed blast fireball, blade barrier, and charm (which still seems to work occasionally) they are very versatile opponents. I only had one cleric that could cast restoration, so it was annoying especially when he got drained, or when my mages got drained and lost their higher level spells.

    I feel like the designers finally realized that basically all of the NPCs in Goldbox games are useless because of the poor AI. In Death Knights they gave you an overpowered Knight and complete control in some battles. Here they give you level 28 characters... and they still seem useless... largely because you don’t want to deck them out with great equipment because they might just leave at anytime and they are almost never serious spellcasters. It would have been nice to have some NPCs that were able to fill gaps in my party, most of my spellcasters couldn’t utilize their highest level powers because I brought them from Champions with unmodified stats.

    1. In 2nd Ed, the rogue was mainly a stealth specialist, with skills that other classes had no access to (but CRPGs seem not to use any of these, except for lockpicking).

      They are not particularly good combatants, even at level 28 (they get the to-hit roll of a fighter half their level, no exceptional strengh or extra hit points, and cannot use the best weapons or armor).

      Rogues didn't become a melee striker until 3rd Ed.

    2. Yeah; Selias is utterly useless as a combatant...but given how dumb the AI is about targeting spells, I'm actually glad they didn't decide to have him be a thief/mage or something. I've seen the clerics in this game put Blade Barriers in empty space next to my characters or on their own allies much more often than I've seen them actually put them on my party members.

      ROT13 due to spoilers for later stages of the game:
      Va zl pheerag ercynl bs gur tnzr—zl svefg jvgu gur Tbyq Obk Pbzcnavba—V'ir orra (no)hfvat vg gb znxr Tehafpuxn n zhpu zber vagrerfgvat nqqvgvba gb gur cnegl ol tvivat ure fbzr fcrpvny jrncbaf naq nezbe. Vg znxrf vg zhpu zber zrnavatshy gb unir ure vs fur pbzrf jvgu n ibecny jrncba naq nezbe gung tenagf ryrzragny cebgrpgvba guna nf whfg n snveyl qhzo ohapu bs uvgcbvagf jvgu na nkr naq n ungerq bs qenpbavna.

    3. "but I’m not sure how it’s triggered or if you can do it after the dragon attack." So I was supposed to run around until Eshalla came back randomly?

    4. I guess so??? I ran into her the third time before the dragon attack, but I approached the city differently, fighting the Minotaurs and being thrown into the arena.
      I haven’t bothered with coins or gems since Pools of Radiance, so I wasn’t worried pissing off the imperial bank....

      Well the computer AI does suck for targeting blade barrier, but someone put some time into programming delayed blast fireball and lightning bolt! They target with surgical precision in this game! I don’t think I saw a single enemy killed by friendly fire, but they sure were good at picking my party out of a crowd.

    5. CPRG Addict, its been a long time, but I think you can get the conclusion of Eshalla after the dragon attack, Maybe just go in the city occasionally a few times while you wander around. Maybe. I wouldn't put a lot of time into it, but its worth a few minutes each session.

  9. In Fastillion's tower, basement, there are a pair of clever teleporters that keep you from finding the well-made illusory wall unless you pay attention to your compass. It's a variation of the classic spinner trick.
    (Going up the tower is completely unnecessary plot-wise.)
    I love the psychological tricks the designers pulled, with the high tower going nowhere and the poor illusions. They really tried to give you (the player) a sense of uncertainty and distract you from the solution, with a rather gnomish (kenderesque?) sense of humour.

  10. "There were also a number of treasure chests, including several that turned into mimics. The game resolved all the mimic combats automatically, without requiring the party to actually fight them."

    What's the point of this from a game design standpoint? It seems like a weird idea to implement if there's no actual challenge here, unless you're just going for "well it's a D&D game, we have to have mimics in there somewhere".

    1. Yeah, it was pretty dumb. There were a bunch of chests, and you had a 50/50 chance that one was going to be actual treasure or a mimic. I don't think there's any way to prevent the attack (which does a trivial amount of damage), not even for a thief.

    2. Attrition. It's not particularly easy to rest in this game (thankfully). Getting attacked by draining undead every time you rest means you learn to conserve your spells.

  11. And just to (hopefully) put your anxieties to rest: It is absolutely true that once you have fully restored a drained character's XP, there are *no* lingering effects.

    It is worth noting, though, that many undead (including most or all of the vampires in the battle here) drain *2* levels on hit, not just one. When I replayed this just a few days ago, it took me (with a new party, not an imported one) several rounds of restoring and re-memorizing to restore all the levels my party had lost.

    1. The bigger problem in early Gold Box games is that even after you restored a character, he'd be knocked back down to the experience point total at the beginning of his level, not what his actual total had been. I think they fixed that at some point, but it's been easier to reload than verify, especially since you don't know ahead of time that someone is going to be drained, so you don't keep a constant total of your characters' experience points.

    2. I believe that's the "drained 2 levels" part: when you cast the first Restoration, it gets them back to the beginning of the last level they made, and when you cast the second, they get back up to their full original XP total. That's definitely what I've observed in DQK, and vaguely recall from Pools of Darkness—I don't remember doing any experiments with draining in earlier Gold Box games, probably because Restoration was only available on scrolls, and thus I would just reload. It's possible that there was some kind of bug or poor interpretation of the rules in that vein that was in previous games, that they ironed out for DQK...

    3. In 1st and 2nd editions, Restoration restored a lost level, but it gave only enough experience to restart that level. If it took an additional 100,000 experience to go up a level and you had 99,999 when you got drained, you lost all that experience when Restored. It also aged the caster in 1st and both the caster and the target in 2nd two years. It also cost so much that simply gaining the money for it would often gain more exp than the spell regained. Plus it was almost impossible to find a cleric that could cast it in the first place, AND had a 1/day per level of caster limit.

      There's a reason Restoration was a 4th level spell in 3rd edition (though it still only restored to the beginning of the level in exp) and level draining was usually temporary to begin with.

    4. First edition AD&D was peculiarly brutal with several of its spells.

      If there wasn't enough room for your lightning bolt to extend away from its starting point to its full length, the back end of it would extend back towards you.

      Your fireball didn't radiate flames to a radius of 20'; it flood-filled the volume of a 20' radius sphere with flame, without exerting any explosive pressure. Detonating at ground level in open air would fill a 25' radius hemisphere; detonating in a standard-issue AD&D 10' high, 10' wide corridor would fill 330' of corridor.

      Haste aged you every time you received it.

    5. Those first two were considered FEATURES by many. Lightning Bolt was considered by many in 3rd edition to fail because it didn't bounce, causing two hits to some enemies, compared to fireball's area hitting many enemies. And Fireball was affected by this in the Gold Box games. It had a five square diameter in outdoor areas compared to it's seven square diameter in indoor areas. At least in some of the earlier games, not certain about later ones.

      There were also considered drawbacks to make you think about when to cast such powerful spells. And later editions proved why with haste not having any bad effects. Haste has been constantly nerfed since 3.0.

    6. Basically, 1E and 2E D&D are designed with high-risk high-reward options (such as these). 3E largely skips those in favor of having options do exactly as they state. 4E doesn't like options with risks (because itsfans complain about anything having a downside). 5E doesn't like options with rewards (because of bounded accuracy). Progression of game design philosophy, in a nutshell.

    7. RAW first edition Lightning Bolt wasn't supposed to bounce.

      It was supposed to extend backwards from its starting point if there was a solid obstruction less than 40' (wide) / 80' (narrow) away in the direction of casting.

      Plenty of people parsed that as it "bouncing" and hitting enemies twice (and Pool of Radiance codified that house rule, probably because it was easier to code), but that's not what the PHB+DMG text read together said :)

    8. That's interesting. I never thought "bouncing" made any sense. That isn't how electricity works.

    9. All 1st edition versions I can find have it bounce back towards the caster, possibly hitting the caster if it's targeted too close. But you could have a forked bolt that's basically twice as wide but half as long if you wanted to. And anything thin or weak enough would be destroyed when the bolt hit instead of causing bouncing.

  12. Eshalla gives three gifts to her lover. I guess it makes up for the lack of a decent magic shop. There is a temple that sells scrolls in Kristophan, but no ammo.

    The Vampire fight is one of the hardest and I have the same aversion you have to level draining. I tried five times and settled on two characters being hit and needing restoration. It was the best I could get.

    This game really tries to improve on the engine, but too much of Taladas is empty space. You can never visit the Armach elf cities. Aside from Kristophan, the other Minotaur cities are menu towns. The Thenol empire is a bit better.

  13. 11 floors, each large enough to have several battles with over a dozen combatants? That's some HUGE ass lighthouse.

  14. Black Puddings indeed should be damageable by weapons, but they're also supposed to split when hit like slimes in Ultima, it's possible the programming requirements for a replicating enemy were too much for them to implement in the time allowed. If you see them again try chucking magic missiles at them, it's something the monster manual specifically states they're vulnerable to.

    1. Magic Missiles work on them in UA.

    2. Black Puddings are immune to all weapons, but I believe most damaging magic works on them.

  15. This reminds me that the clue books for the goldbox games were less for wining then for making sure you didn't miss any loot.

    1. Yeah, it would be hard to really NEED a clue book for most of the Gold Box games.

  16. The secret door to under the porch is always there. They counted on the player not finding it.

    On subsequent playthroughs, or after being spoilered, when you know it's there, you can choose to skip the bulk of the tower; there's no real plot there to miss, and if you want to make the later game harder for yourself by not having the XP you would have gained there, it's your choice.

    1. I'm glad I didn't find the door on my first pass. The rest of the tower was fun.

    2. That aspect of the tower's design *really* bugged me when I played this game new, as a teenager.

      In a lot of Gold Box games you aren't really going to fail. Failure or success is more of a matter of "minimize unneeded combats" and "avoid unnecessary detours" than anything else, as, honestly, anyone given enough time can probably beat them.

      So that design decision always bugged me. It made me feel dumb for not just checking around that basement floor the first time I was dumped down there.

      So the minute I realized how it was set up, I restored my game to an earlier save outside the lighthouse, and just went straight to that teleporter. Never looked back.

      It makes me kind of wish they would have made the NPC that informs you about the door, hand you a key for it, as well.

  17. If you have a female character kiss Eshalla, she says she is flattered but she needs a man to do it. It's 1992.

    1. First the "Minus 4 Strength" rules, now this!

    2. Yeah, that illusory 'sex' thing really had everyone fooled back then. Good job we know it's non-existent now.

  18. Iam waiting for updates, is there a way of paying patrion without a creditcard?

  19. This game really seems like it was built with an acute awareness of the *factual* playing style of good Gold Box gamers.

    Going through your description of combats, and my own vague memories of playing this when it was semi-new, the designers really seemed like they tried to make the game difficult. Despite the fact that many of us really knew how to abuse the limitations of the engine, to trivialize combat.

    That baiting tactic you mention in the Beholder section, for example. It seems like the designers were clearly aware of it, and were actively trying to counter it. This game was really stacked with a lot of level draining caster mobs, and monsters with nasty effects like poison. Those abilities make that tactic incredibly risky.

    Another example is the way enemy casters come into fights pre-buffed, in a manner that generally renders delayed blast fireball useless.

    IIRC in this game many set enemy encounters are comprised of multiple groups as well. Which seem like they're custom made to prevent a first round instakill via a few fireballs/delayed blast fireballs.

    It's funny to look back on that fact, and how this game is received now.

    At the time, I honestly didn't like it much, because the standard tactics I'd always used in gold box games just didn't work here. Which forced me to always utilize less optimal tactics; a design choice I just did not like as a teenage gamer.

    But now, of course, those changes, and their awareness of the meta approach gamers often took, make this game one of the few in the series that is factually still challenging. Even if you exploit things a bit.

    1. I think this is a good analysis. I'm finding the game more challenging than any Gold Box game since the original (and barring particular battles, like the beholders in CotAB or the final one in PoD), and I think the creators did it deliberately, and in a variety of small ways.


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