Sunday, September 19, 2021

Shadows of Darkness: Out, Ye Rogue, Play Out the Play

The thief gets a special set of gear.
      
September is always my busiest month. I pre-scheduled a number of entries in early August, but they could only take me so far. I needed to find time to play and blog just as classes were starting and a couple of major contracts came to a close.
  
Given that, you'd think a replay of a game I just finished would be the easiest option. I'd previously replayed the first three Quest for Glory games with all of the character classes, and it usually took less time for three replays than it took me to run through the game originally. That, alas, is not true for Shadows of Darkness. Running through as a thief didn't take me the same 20 hours that it took my paladin, but neither was it a half-hour lark the way it was in the first three games.
   
There are several significant timing and pacing issues with Shadows of Darkness that didn't exist with its predecessors, except to a much lesser extent in Trial by Fire. Whereas in Trial by Fire, certain events occurred on certain days, in Shadows of Darkness, events rely on particular triggers. You can't really solve any puzzles prematurely or use knowledge from a previous run to inform a subsequent one. You have to do things in the right order and wait. In a replay, you spend most of your days waiting for night to fall, and there's no quick way to do that (the way there is to, say, "sleep until morning" to do the opposite). Moreover, some of the triggers are obscure. For the life of me, I couldn't get the "Igor is missing" event to start. I don't know precisely what triggers it, but I think it may require you to visit the Burgomeister in his office during the day. That's the only thing I hadn't done after waiting about two weeks, and the event occurred the next day after I did it.
      
Until you get this bit of dialogue, there's no way to rescue Tanya.
    
Over the previous games, I've come to think of my thief as a charming, affable chaotic neutral. He isn't cruel, but he's definitely a thief. He's in it for the wealth, the adventure, and the thrill of successfully pulling off a job, whether he's burglarizing a house or conning people into thinking he's a hero. I can picture him kicking back with other thieves in a tavern, telling his stories. "Technically, I'm a prince in Shapeir. At least, I think I still am. I haven't been back in years."
    
The thief escaped the opening cave the same way as the paladin, except that I tightrope-walked across the chasm rather than crossing hand-over-hand. I found no sword and shield in the heart chamber, which raises some existential questions. Why would a corpse that appeared for the paladin not appear for the thief? Did something of the thief's exploits in Spielburg, Shapeir, or Tarna change the timeline in a way so that some random fighter never entered the heart chamber and died there? Or did Katrina plant those items for the paladin, staging a corpse so that he wouldn't be suspicious of finding them?
 
When I reached Mordavia and climbed over the gate at night, no Piotyr appeared in the town square. As dawn broke and the citizens began coming out, none of them recognized the thief sign (though all of them had an amusing reaction to it). I bought the usual selection of items at the shop and discussed the usual keywords with the townsfolk, including Doctor Cranium.
    
A couple of the amusing responses to the Thief's Sign.
    
No one gave me a key to the adventurer's guild. I had to break the door down. Once inside, I couldn't break the glass around the sword in the case. So I searched the guild and used the equipment to work out. At the top of the rope climb, I noticed something that the paladin would have missed: on one of the beams was scratched a crude mark. In the language of thieves, it was telling me to look beneath the table.
   
Doing so rewarded me with another image. There was a set of scratches suggesting different positions for hooks, then an indication that putting them in the right position would cause something to happen above the bookcase (where there was an obvious panel). It took me a while to figure out that the "hooks" were the tiny line of things to the right of the bookcase. I thought it was a chair rail. I guess that would have made more sense if it had extended around the room.
    
How did it work when this place was filled with Adventurers' Guild members?
      
Solving the hook minigame opened the panel and allowed me access to the thieves' guild. I found a knob in a grate on the floor and a guild card in a poster on the wall. The card allowed me to open the door on the back wall, and the knob fit on to a safe in that area. A minigame invited me to enter a combination of letters, which was clearly FILCH--the maker of the safe. Between other hidden safes (behind portraits) and the desk in the room, I found a bunch of gold, a thief's toolkit (including lockpicks), several daggers, and a poison cure potion.
    
A diary in the desk (Memoirs of a Master Manipulator) had a little nonsense poem:
 
Bad Boys Yell
Good Girls Giggle
Rich Girls Run
    
After I got over my annoyance with the gender stereotypes, I realized that the poem was the solution to a puzzle on the barrel in the room involving colored tiles. They were arranged 3 x 3, and the top row was blue, blue, yellow. I'm sure you can get the rest.
     
Solving the puzzle caused the right wall to slide open, revealing the chief thief. He didn't introduce himself by name, but he appears in the manual as Matt "the Cat" MacMaster. He looks a lot like Peter Lorre. Anyway, he had been turned into some kind of human/bug hybrid--some kind of curse from trying to steal a statue from the basement of the monastery. I offered to help him, and he asked me to bring him the statue.
     
That body could be useful for a thief.
     
At his suggestion, I climbed into the monastery by using my rope and hooks on the upper window. I didn't realize there was an alternate way to get in. That was great, but I soon found myself trapped inside, as I lacked the climbing skill to get back out. I had to reload. I used the more conventional way to enter the second time. I found my way into the basement as before. I tried taking the statue, but when I touched it, I turned into a slug.
    
Reloading, I found that if I used the shopping bag (purchased at the town store) on the statue, I could pick it up without harm. I brought it back to the master thief and turned him back into a human. 
   
The guild with the restored guildmaster.
      
For all that effort, the Chief Thief was spectacularly useless. He wasn't even running a fencing operation anymore, so I couldn't sell anything to him (not that there was anything to buy). The only thing he was good for was returning at occasional intervals to tell about my burglary exploits.
      
I think he's being sarcastic.
     
Not that there were so many burglary exploits. There are only two places you can burgle: Nikolai's house and the Burgomeister's office. Every time I tried to pick the lock on Nikolai's door, the game said I could hear him shuffling around; I guess he searches for Anna all night. I could only enter Nikolai's house after solving his quest and sending his ghost off with Anna, at which point it was less burglary and more trespassing in an abandoned house. Given that they both said they wished they could reward me before departing for the afterlife, you could even argue that I was owed the few dozen crowns I found in the old man's desk. I later discovered that you can enter Nikolai's house while he's still around. You just have to enter the window instead of the door. My way, Chester had no ethical pangs.
     
Snooping around Nikolai's house.
     
The Burgomeister's office can only be entered by the locked window. It requires a very high lockpicking skill, and lockpicking skill increases maddeningly slowly in this game. Every attempt consumes stamina, and burning through an entire stamina bar might only increase you 2 or 3 points. Late in the game, I discovered that a) every door in the castle is locked for the thief, so it's a good place to train stamina; and b) even after your stamina bar depletes, you can keep trying to lockpick, but it (slowly) depletes your health instead. Until I knew those things, I spent many nights attempting to pick the window until my stamina ran out, then resting a couple hours, then attempting again.
     
I passed several nights doing this.
     
Eventually, I got through the window. Inside the office, there are only two things to do: pick the desk open and pick the jail cell. There's no point in picking the jail cell until Davy gets arrested. Anyway, both locks require even higher skill than the window requires, meaning that even after I got through the window, I spent a lot of nights inside the office, futilely trying to open the desk. When it finally happened, I was clicking so fast I didn't even notice what I got, but I assume it was just some more crowns.
   
You technically don't need to let Davy out of the cell--you can just find Igor--but I think the thief gets points for doing so. I freed him and then rescued Igor anyway.
     
Davy escapes from the Burgomeister's office after I open his cell.
      
If you mess with the door to the Burgomeister's residence, you get an automatic "game over" screen. It makes sense, but it was a lot more fun back in So You Want to Be a Hero when you had the cute animation of the goon tossing you off the balcony and the confused sheriff coming out of his bedroom in his stocking cap. In fact, it occurs to me that's true throughout the game. Where previous games (particularly the first one) had all kinds of animations for scripted deaths, this one just takes you right to the message.
   
Perhaps they spent the budget on the voiced dialogue.
     
Everything else proceeded much as in the paladin's game, but here are some notes on the thief's experience, plus a few things I didn't notice until this replay:
    
  • The three townsmen in the tavern are doing bad vocal impersonations of--according to numerous sites--Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, and Rodney Dangerfield. I caught the Jack Nicholson one, but the others are so bad that they don't really sound to me like the people they're trying to badly impersonate. Anyway, during one of the first conversations,  one of the characters is saying, on screen, "I be Franz. I am wealthy garlic grower." This is the character who is supposed to sound like Dangerfield. But the vocal file that goes with the screen has the Nicholson impersonator saying, "Listen, I'm telling ya, Igor's death must be avenged." I don't know if this mis-match happens all the time or if it was a fluke.
  • This time around, a couple of times while I slept, I had dreams about Katrina and Ad Avis arguing.
    
Ad Avis is concerned both about and for me.
      
  • I didn't realize until about my 30th hour that Dr. Cranium's house looks like a face, including a mustache and bulbous nose. 
  • Davy has an amusing reaction to the Thief's Sign. He says he doesn't know what it is, but he clearly does.
     
"Steal?" Why would you mention stealing at all?
    
  • I couldn't find any reliable way to increase my "Stealth" ability except to walk around with it on all the time. It would go up by maybe 2 points per (real) hour doing this. Then again, I'm not sure "Stealth" does much for you in the game.
     
I "sneak" through a forest in broad daylight.
    
  • Non-paladins cannot solve the Rusalka quest even though there's no particular reason for the old gypsy woman to offer the solution only to a paladin. I was able to befriend her, however. If you just talk to her and give her flowers and candy, she'll warn you about her true nature and refuse to kill you.
      
There's a good screenplay here.
     
  • A lot of the thief's puzzles use a "jump" option available only to thieves. It draws on the "Acrobatics" skill. The thief does a little somersault in the air while leaping from place to place. It's the only way for the thief to get through the swamp to the Mad Monk's tombstone, for instance, as he doesn't have the option to just trudge through the mire the way the paladin (and presumably the fighter) can.  
     
Somersaulting from islet to islet.
    
  • There are several paladin puzzle solutions that rely on strength. These aren't available to the thief even if he's strong enough. For instance, the thief can't force the castle gates or topple over the monolith.
  • My thief was magic-trained, however, and he was able to make liberal use of spells. "Fetch" got me several items I was probably supposed to get another way, and I used "Levitation" a few times when the game probably wanted me to use climbing or the rope and grapnel.
  • Despite these transgressions, I still ended the game with 500 points.
  • Every door in the castle is locked for the thief. Again, it raises the question of why. Does Katrina know that the hero is a thief and thus inclined to burglary?
     
The thief gets an exhausting number of options at doors.
      
  • The same trap-disabling interface shows up at several points in the game. The various squares in a 3 x 3 grid rapidly flash several symbols. You click to lock them in place. Get the same symbol across one row or down one column, and the trap is disarmed.
      
An easy mini-game.
      
  • I fought a lot of manual combats before I thought I'd see how autocombat works for the thief. It turns out that it has him exhaust his throwing daggers before doing anything else. "Anything else" in the case of my thief usually meant casting spells. I honestly don't know how you manually throw daggers in combat. 
      
You wouldn't think a dagger would hurt a wraith, but it does.
       
  • Because of his burglaries and the wealth he got from killing all the wraiths, my thief ended the game with over 300 crowns. It would have been more, but there's one chest in the castle that I couldn't pilfer because I got stuck in a trap where I couldn't get out of its area. Every time I opened the door to the main hall, it just put me right back in the room I'd come from again. Anyway, it's pretty ridiculous how little there is to spend money on. I hope all that money will do me some good in the next game.
    
Oh, yeah--I have three pieces of jewelry, too.
         
  • The fortuneteller has one more reading than I experienced with my paladin. In it, she explains more explicitly where to get each ritual and also makes explicit that you have to release the Dark One to save Erana and end his threat once and for all. This makes the character's actions in the endgame more palatable.
     
I'm not entirely sure why the Dark One isn't released at the endgame.
       
The endgame had some thief-specific solutions, most making use of the "jump" option. In the Bone Chamber, the thief jumps out of the bone cage rather than smashing it open like the paladin (again, strength doesn't matter). In the Blood Chamber, the thief doesn't knock over the stone to staunch the blood: he just leaps across the platforms to the exit.
    
The Breath Chamber made the least sense. The thief can't grab onto a plant. Instead, he has to wait for the wind to blow him up against the screen (I assume this is supposed to be the near wall) and then climb down and to the right. 
       
This is probably the largest graphic that we get of the hero in the entire series.
      
In the final confrontation, Erana's staff turns into a stake for the thief rather than a spear. After disabling Ad Avis with the Ultimate Joke, the thief somersaults to Ad Avis's platform and plunges the stake into his heart. I have to admit that was pretty satisfying.
       
Air assassination!
         
But I got a stake to my own heart in the final conversation with Erana. Where she told the paladin that she would love him forever, she simply tells the thief, "Thank you and farewell." I don't know whether that's a class thing or an honor thing. Either way, it sounds like Erana isn't going to be the thief's love interest in Quest for Glory V, and I know from experience that neither is Katrina. That makes me wonder who he'll end up with. I'm rooting for the Rusalka.
   
I still want to replay as a fighter and wizard, so we'll have a little more Shadows of Darkness before moving on. I think next time, I'm going to try harder to note the various triggers and dependencies. 
 
 

43 comments:

  1. AlphabeticalAnonymousSeptember 19, 2021 at 10:14 PM

    From the recent pace of postings here, I had wondered whether I wasn't the only one getting back into the groove of lecturing in person again... good luck! I also hope your institution is being safer about it all than mine (where at least masks are mandatory indoors, but otherwise anything goes).

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  2. Huh, looks like the hero needs to get the knee of his pants patched.

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    1. No, I was just hovering the cursor there.

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    2. Sure, I see the 'dead hand cursor' over the one leg, but under it, and on the other side, there's a sort of pale patch of color on each knee.

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  3. I feel like Davy's message is less saying he has no clue what the Thief's Sign is and more saying that it's not going to get you any special treatment.

    I can't say I remember how the other games worked very well, but from my recollection those tended to go with the idea of the world being the same regardless of class, and different classes just give you different solutions to the same problem. This feels more like it changes the world to fit your class, so that each class has unique problems to fit their solutions. They're both perfectly valid approaches to designing something, although without playing I can't really say how well it's executed, or if the different approach even fits or not.

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    1. I think Davy's trying to say "I recognize that as a gesture thieves do, but I have no idea what it means." It's like if someone tried to talk to you in French but you didn't know it - saying "sorry, I don't speak French" doesn't mean you secretly understand what they're saying.

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    2. I believe this is the first time in the QFG series where the world is actually different depending on what class you've picked (although there are earlier instances where characters can tell what your class IS, and respond differently; but that's more easily explainable in-universe).

      Personally I prefer if the world is not different based on your class, but I realize this is nitpicky of me and most players likely won't notice.

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    3. "Personally I prefer if the world is not different based on your class." See, I don't care for that. I feel like it breaks a principle of "role-playing" somehow, but I can't articulate exactly why.

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    4. I agree, I think he's saying "I know what that is, but it's not going to help you here." Which I think is a nod to certain stereotypical assumptions the character -- or even the player -- might have.

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  4. That makes me wonder who he'll end up with. I'm rooting for the Rusalka.
    Baba Yaga, of course.

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    1. Fhecevfvatyl, gur erny nafjre vf bar bs gur unerz tveyf sebz gur frpbaq tnzr, gung lbh vagrenpgrq jvgu sbe yrff guna n zvahgr. Gura ntnva hafhecefvfvatyl gur jnl gb gung cnegvphyne tvey'f urneg vf whfg gb fcraq n ybg bs zbarl ba ure; fur'f cerggl funyybj pbzcnerq gb gur bgure ybir vagrerfgf.

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    2. Bonehead would have been a logical choice. You already brought it clothes and jewelry.

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    3. I'm sure Anonymous above spelled it out. There is a Thief-specific love interest in QFG5, but it's a bit out of left field and not a character you'll have remembered by the time you play the game.

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    4. Interesting. I don't remember that. I guess I'll wait and be surprised rather than translate anonymous's text.

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  5. So a common complaint about QFG3 is that the thief does not have enough thieving to do, but it really applies more to this game. At least in QFG3 you get to steal both tribes' holy treasures. And now that you mention it, yes, QFG4 really seems to have a low animation budget.

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    1. I agree. In QFG3, the thief doesn't have a lot of FENCING to do, but he has arguably the most interesting and straightforward approach to the main quest.

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    2. It appears this game has issues making the thief stand out. The fighter already had throwing skill and in this game he gets climbing too, so those can't be a thief-specific solution. Sneaking is largely useless in this game, and pretty much anything that can be lockpicked is already unlocked if you're playing another class. That means that almost every thief puzzle is solved by jumping, and the earlier games are much less one-sided about this.

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    3. For me, the attraction of the Thief was always the sidequest-y stuff, and in that respect QFG3 was a disappointment. It really needed a good break-in house in Tarna.

      QFG4 at least gives you a couple places to rob, a thieves' guild (sort of), and a new (underdeveloped) trap disarming mechanic.

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  6. This gypsy guy would probably cause an outcry in a modern game. Also, I have never seen a gnome as CREEPY as this one. Ah, good times, the eighties...when things were simply weird and not downright insulting.

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  7. Reading these entries has made me feel my memories of QfG4 have possibly been overly fond. All of the games are intentionally lighthearted to the point of simplicity, but while the mood here is great (IMO), the world is probably too limited.

    Still, I do love all the games in the series, and if I had time I'd love to replay them all.

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  8. Dear Addict, this post is not related with QfG4.

    In GamesNostalgia (that's an italian site) there is an RPG of 1990 (it runs in an Amiga), with the title "Federation Quest 1: B.S.S. Jane Seymour", published by Gremlin Graphics (It seems that it was also called "Spacewrecked").
    Here is the link:

    https://gamesnostalgia.com/game/spacewrecked-14-billion-light-years-from-earth

    I am writing this because I had not found it in your master list. But, if I am wrong I apologize.

    Please, go on with your posts, usually they're very interesting.

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    1. It is yet another game misattributed as an RPG on MobyGames and elsewhere. It is an adventure game with some combat, NPC interaction and puzzle-solving. There is no character development.
      Maybe it deserves a BRIEF, but defiantly not more than that. With a big emphasis on "maybe".

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    2. Yeah, I rejected it a while ago. It should show up on my list if you turn the filter off. I'll get around to a BRIEF one day.

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  9. Huh, I could have sworn there was a way to save the rusalka as a non-paladin, but a bit of googling confirms it's not possible. I guess it's nice that paladins get a bit of extra content.

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  10. The relative lack of animation is possibly because this is the first game on which I was a full co-designer. The resulting increase in puzzles and content left less time for adding detail to every scene. As it was, we ran over schedule, resulting in the game being rushed out the door for Christmas before it was adequately tested.

    As for the voice actors, director Stu Rosen came up with the idea of asking them if they did celebrity impersonations. One actor said, "Oh! I do a great Jack Nicholson!" Another said, "I do Nicholson too!"

    At first I said, "Um, we can't have TWO Jack Nicholsons." But they each had a different interpretation of him, and they're brothers, so I decided that worked fine. I believe you're correct that the third voice is Rodney Dangerfield, although I no longer remember. (That's one of the great things about your blog and filfre.net - preserving oral history.)

    Those voice actors also asked if it was ok to adlib, and I allowed it. That's why they have some amusing byplay that isn't in the script. We chose to leave the original text in the game, rather than changing it to match the voice acting.

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    1. The vocal banter between the three men and the gnome remains a high point of this game for me.

      To this day I still remember "You're so narrow-minded you can look through a keyhole with both eyes!"

      Perhaps I'm simply easily amused.

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    2. Your insights are always very illuminating! Thanks for reminiscing for us!

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    3. My friends and I loved the way these guys departed from the text, definitely one of my fav meta-jokes.

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    4. Ah, two takes on Jack Nicholson makes more sense than one of them being Clint Eastwood. I understand that the voice actors extemporized a bit, but I was talking about a situation in which the voice clearly didn't go with the text--in which it was drawn from a conversation later in the game.

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  11. I think this is the game where I really struggle with thief playthroughs--robbing an old man's house just seems petty when you're a prince with literally no need for money.

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    1. The funny thing is that I don't believe the thief even gets any points for this burglary, only the one in the burgomeister's office. I wonder if that's so that players wouldn't be punished for roleplaying a thief with a conscience.

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  12. "I'm not sure "Stealth" does much for you in the game."

    Generally speaking, my understanding is that in this series sneaking reduces the frequency of random encounters out in the wilderness.

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    1. That's probably true. Random wilderness encounters are so infrequent and escapable that I didn't really notice a decrease in their frequency, but it makes sense.

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  13. Chet I don't think I've ever seen you play a game this many times on this blog. You must really be enjoying it!

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    1. I always fundamentally like a Quest for Glory title. I played all three previous titles multiple times.

      Delete
  14. To throw a dagger, you have to right-click the gray background on the combat panel.

    (I don't know why this is only barely mentioned in passing in the manual, either.)

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    1. And given that there IS a combat panel this is really bad interface design; they should just have added a button to the panel.

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  15. Is Chief Thief going through some kafkaesque episode, or am I reading too much into this?

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    1. No, you’re right. He even calls attention to it by using the term “metamorphosis.“ I was saving all that for my Kafka posting.

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  16. This entry reminds me of a bigger problem I've had with so many rpg's over the decades. The class system is ridiculous. There are restrictions that make no sense, benefits that make no sense. That's why I loved when Elder Scrolls did away with it, just allowing you to get good at the skills you actually use and want to use. It felt like a natural progression and realistic character development. Locking content behind classes for games most people will never finish, let alone replay, seems ridiculous.

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    1. I suppose it works better in tabletop games; it's one way to make sure everybody gets to shine every now and then.

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  17. >>After I got over my annoyance with the gender stereotypes.

    I can't get over what a fucking idiot you are. The people that read your blog must be brainwashed.

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    1. This must be how politicians feel. I guess once you get well-known enough that you earn "detractors," those people will seize upon anything you say, no matter how out of context, and use it as an excuse to call you names.

      There's no way a reasonable person could have read that sentence and not realized I was kidding. What stereotypes could I possibly have been referring to? Rich girls run? Yeah, you know those rich girls--always running. That's definitely a thing people say. You always hear bout liberal snowflakes standing up to those stereotypes about running rich girls.

      There's such an easy solution to all of this that works for both of us: don't visit my blog.

      Delete

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