Thursday, May 18, 2023

Ambermoon: Frankreich ist Speck

A pretty well in the center of town. I just haven't been able to find anything to do with it.
It is sixty years after the events of Amberstar. The hero is the granddaughter of the first game's hero, born two decades ago, just as the third moon fell out of orbit and crashed into the world of Lyramion. Orphaned during the devastation, she was raised by her grandfather, who is now on his deathbed. He has sent her from home on a vague quest to "find out what is happening . . . and what risks there are to you and life on Lyramion." To be successful in this quest, she'll need some magic armor, currently buried beneath a pile of rubble in her grandfather's basement. She has thus traveled west to the nearby city of Spannenberg, which has been invaded by bandits. They've stolen four golden horseshoes from the farrier, Tolimar. He'll give the heroine the tools she needs if she'll recover the shoes.
And thus this chapter opens in Spannenberg, which I think means something like "stretchy mountain" in German. The small city has a park with a well in its center. Ringed around the edges are a tavern, a stable, a food store, a general store, a healer, a training center, city hall, Baron George's compound, and a couple of private residences. 
Too bad I don't have Spike from the last game.
If you've played modern games like the Fallout series, the Elder Scrolls series, or the Dragon Age series, you've had this experience a thousand times: You visit a city for one reason and leave with a dozen main quests, side quests, and miscellaneous objectives. Ambermoon might be the earliest example of this common trope, albeit without an in-game quest list. That omission is fine with me, as I enjoy--prefer, even--keeping my own notes and quest lists. This is my list after my Spannenberg visit, including a couple items I had before I arrived:
  • Find some location to use Shandra's Amber to make contact with him.
  • Get tools from the Spannenberg stables to clear the rubble in grandfather's basement.
  • Recover the four stolen golden horseshoes for the owner of the Spannenberg stables.
  • Find the bandit camp in the desert north of Spannenberg and end the threat to the city.
  • Find the treasure that the bandits are searching for in the desert.
  • Deal with the band of orcs raiding the city from the mountains to the west.  
Lots of NPC dialogue about these orcs.
  • Investigate the supposed magic powers of the well at the center of the city.
  • Retrieve a brooch from the gardener in the graveyard, take it to the Thieves' Guild for entrance.
  • Put to rest the undead that the gardener, Gordon, has been raising.
  • Retrieve the golden wine goblets stolen from married couple Canth and Noralael, the first by a green creature with wings, the second by two bandits. 
  • The Baron is missing his chain of office. His wife, Lady Heidi, woke up to observe a couple of blue-green winged fairies gamboling about her house. She followed them to a cave west of town.
  • Explore an old crypt far to the north, near the Tower of the Alchemist, where powerful magicians (and perhaps their artifacts) are buried.
  • A man named Wat the Fisher is at the bedside of his daughter, who is dying of swamp fever. He wants me to ask Father Anthony about an antidote.
  • The healer, Sandra, hasn't heard anything lately from her daughter, Sabine, who practices in Burnville on an island to the south.
I guess when I find Sabine, she'll give me the cat's name.
  • The shipbuilder, Captain Torle, is also missing in Burnville. Without him, no new ships can be built.
  • Father Anthony has closed the Spring of Life, because of the orc threat, the bandit threat, or both.
  • An elf named Sandire is wandering around town, claiming she's been robbed by bandits. She's trying to sell a "Monster Eye," which tells you if monsters are following you, but she wants 5,000 gold.
The bandits are clearly the "main quest." Not only do I have to slay them to get the horseshoes and thus the tools, Baron George himself asked me to do so when I visited his office. He also asked me to deal with the orcs. 
The Baron has some amazing floor art.
The bandits are headquartered north of town in the desert, looking for some kind of treasure. The Baron says they're led by someone named Silverhand. He says that the masters of the Thieves' Guild have disavowed any relationship with the bandits, though he's not so sure. 
I find the town's graveyard during my explorations, and I'm attacked by a couple of zombies. My sword does nothing to them as they tear me apart with bows and blades. I'll have to return when stronger.
This did not end well.
In the "training centre," I find the first NPC who will join my party, a Level 1 human fighter named Egil. He's after the fortune and glory that the Baron has promised. He comes with padded armor, a long sword, a buckler, sandals, and a few potions.   
The first ally willing to put his sword where his mouth is.
The training center gives me my first taste of character development. It appears that every trainer specializes in a particular skill. This training center has two: attacking and parrying. Each point that you train costs 20 gold (at least, in this center), and each raises the associated skill by 1 point. I spend 5 on "Attacking" and 5 on "Parrying" and save the rest for now.
Half an hour every morning.
I haven't been noticing how training points increase per level. I started with 6 and got 5 when I hit Level 2, then somehow got 14 more in three levels. Maybe it's random. Similarly, my maximum hit points went up by 10 between Level 1 and Level 2 but then only 18 more between Levels 2 and 5. Attributes have not budged. The manual, I should note, has little to offer about these issues.
Next to the training center is a building housing the "Wise Men of Spannenberg." Their sign has some runes that I guess I haven't found the in-game document required to translate. One of them will identify items; the other sells spells. I'm a little bit confused as to how spells work in this game, and most of the scrolls are out of my price range, so I leave it for now.
I've been looting weapons and armor from the bandits. I'm eager to sell them to the merchant. I visit his store and he buys a dagger for 11 gold, then refuses to buy anything else that I have. But then I buy a rune table from him, and suddenly he's happy to buy all my excess stuff. Weird. I use the rune table, and it tells me that I can use the table of runes included in the package. Yay! The mage's guild sign translates as: "KNOWLEDGE IS POWER." Indeed.
Still can't use the map, though.
I'm not sure what to do with the well in the center of town. I figured it might be the place where I'm supposed to commune with Shandra, as the well, according to an NPC, was "built by a powerful magician when the town was founded." But using the amber doesn't accomplish anything there. I can't get anything to happen with the "Look" or "Grasp" buttons, either.
The House of Healing is the largest building in town. It has an inn, a scroll-seller, several NPCs recovering from wounds inflicted by orcs and bandits, and a healer named Sandra. The aforementioned Father Anthony is not here, having gone to administer last rites to a resident somewhere. One of the NPCs mentions that some orcs broke the wings on a "green fairy" and dragged her off; I'm not sure how this might relate to the various quests involving fairies. Perhaps they're compelling fairies to do their bidding by holding one of them hostage. 
Oh, my darlin'. . .
The healers' cook, Clementine, tells me of a mad mage in a cell in the basement. He arrived on the island after the Great Disaster, carrying half an amulet and a torn robe. Some farmers cared for him, but he's grown increasingly violent over the years. Clementine warns me not to approach him and to speak to him only through the bars. We head down, easily defeat some giant spiders at the foot of the stairs, and wander into the mage's room just in time to see him fireball a stray mouse. He cackles at us but doesn't respond to any dialogue options. A chest with his amulet is in a nearby room, but it's locked and I have no way to open it. I suppose this is a quest for later.
Egil and I head outside. We travel west into the mountains, round a volcano, and encounter a band of orcs. The leader is commanding his troops to search for more of "those bright-winged beings." By torturing one of them, they apparently found that they live in a cave in the area. They attack when they see us. Qamar is killed in the first round and Egil doesn't last much longer.  
Does this mean that Egil can continue the quest without the main character?
Reloading, I return to the merchant and splurge on some chain armor and leather boots. While I'm back in town, for no reason other than I don't want to remember it later, I spend 200 gold on horses. This puts a little horse icon outside of town, which you have to remember to mount when you leave. 
This is so cute.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • Either the bandit encounters occur at fixed points or their overall number is fixed. At some point, I stopped encountering them.
  • The game requires a certain amount of time to pass between rests. You can't rest just because you want the night to pass. This can make outdoor exploration annoying if you time things poorly.
My character is incapable of just passing time without sleeping.
  • If you try self-typed keywords in NPC dialogue, they remain in the dialogue list if they're words that someone, somewhere will respond to.
AMBER and AMULET got me no results with the madman, but they stayed on the list.
  • I keep being surprised at how non-interactive the overhead view of the game is. The houses and buildings have a lot of interesting objects, and I keep expecting that you should be able to do things with them, I guess since the game feels so much like an Ultima.
I feel like I should be able to do more here.
  • The "continuous" 3D interface is extremely cumbersome. It is too slow with a keyboard, comically fast with the mouse, and too easy to get turned around and lost with either method. Since the world is not interactive, there's really no need for it except that someone thought that it looked cool.
  • Mitigating the interface somewhat is the excellent automap with its fast travel options.
Once you've explored a map once, you hardly ever have to walk through it again. The fast travel points are copious.
I either have to get past one of these enemy obstacles or find some place to grind. I seem to remember that finding easy early-game combats was an issue in Amberstar, too. I'll probably head back to the cemetery next and see if my new equipment and skill points avail me at all against the zombies.
Maybe I'll do better this time.
I apologize for the long break before this entry--it was just a series of things that robbed me of my free time. May is a great time to start playing again, though. The weather is warm and sunny here in Maine, and nothing takes me back to my childhood more than sitting in a dark room playing a CRPG while a woman periodically tells me that I'm wasting a beautiful day indoors. Let's get on to the summer and waste plenty more!
Time so far: 6 hours


  1. When you'll grow old, Chet, you'll realize that the real treasure was that love, not these games! /jokingly

    1. But we still love to have you recovered and hoping you bring us lots of more years of joy of reading about old games.

  2. AlphabeticalAnonymousMay 18, 2023 at 8:44 PM

    Welcome, welcome back. We're happy to hear you have things sorted out. For my part, I'm glad to see that you're getting into Ambermoon, and that you're excited about the surfeit of quests on offer. The game offers its share of linear, gated questlines but there are still usually plenty of options about what to do next. And you still have most of the starting island left to explore!

    > I'm a little bit confused as to how spells work in this game
    Yes, the same happened to me -- it will become clearer as the game progresses.

    > I'm not sure what to do with the well in the center of town
    I never uncovered how these work during an entire play-through, but being far more experienced you may figure it out. And if not someone here can always give you a hint.

    > Either the bandit encounters occur at fixed points or their
    > overall number is fixed.
    I thought that they happened indefinitely in Spannenberg and thus offered the grinding opportunity that you seek. But perhaps I misremember.

    > If you've played modern games like ... the Elder Scrolls series
    Funny story: while at the library a few weeks ago I noticed a game available that several people have mentioned on this site over the years (and that I had never heard of, before becoming a regular reader here). I checked out the game and it turns out to be pretty fun and engrossing. It's called 'Skyrim'...

  3. Replies
    1. My dreams were my ticket out?

    2. I was *going* to say "Up your nose with a rubber hose," but I seem to have Ed Ballsed myself instead.

  4. > My character is incapable of just passing time without sleeping.
    You can pass time by clicking the hour glass. You can see it at your screenshot from the baron's floor art.

    And the number of bandits in Spannenberg is not fixed. At night time there is a higher chance to meet some bandits on the roads.

    > I feel like I should be able to do more here.
    There is some interactive object well hidden in lbhe tenaqsnguref ubhfr, which even adds some "QoL".
    It's so well hidden because you don't expect it to be interactive.

    1. Ah, thanks. Somehow I didn't interpret that center button as an hourglass. I'm not sure what I thought it was.

  5. The walking speed in the 3D interface depends on how far you move the cursor away from the center of the "screen". You should be able to move really slow. And don't forget to right click when you like to turn.

    1. Yeah, that's technically true, but getting the mouse exactly where you want in that small window isn't easy. Maybe I'll get used to it, but I just find the whole movement interface janky. I so wish that the game had stuck with tiles.

  6. "Wat the Fisher"...

    About the interface, you're entering a curious period where these 3d ones were not as polished. Specially I didn't enjoy that aspect of hexx and maybe 4 SSI games from 94-95

  7. I always mix up Francis and Roger, but not Kevin. Still trying to figure out how the first one relates to the article.

    Glad you're back, the final paragraph got a big laugh out of me.

    1. The real challenge is not to mix up Francis and Francis.

  8. Oh you are going to enjoy Albion so much, even when the rpg elements can be light.

  9. 'Frankreich ist Speck'

    I can't make head nor tail of this title in context, even though I'm a native German speaker. Anyway, good to have you back.

    1. "Francis Bacon", probably.

    2. Assuming Chet is not mixing up "eating" and "being" in German (isst/ist), I would concur with the "Franics Bacon" interpretation. Maybe because of the scientific method and searching a place systematically?

    3. I thought everyone online had heard this story:

    4. In relation to almost nothing at all, I learned a couple of weeks ago, that the Bolingbroke Castle was built by an early Earl of Chester. No one understood why I started to laugh.

    5. It's been a long time since I chose this pen name, but I doubt that's a coincidence.

  10. First of all, welcome back.

    Second of all, I love translating names literally, and "stretchy mountain" for Spannenberg is pretty funny! It sounds like the real name of some small German town, but it turns out it doesn't exist. It's apparently a real family name, though, so there's that.
    By the way, although I'm not sure how serious you were, but the town's name would be more likely to be derived from the noun "Spanne" (span, range) rather than the verb "spannen".

    Alright, German lesson over, I'll go back to reading now.

  11. “I visit his store and he buys a dagger for 11 gold, then refuses to buy anything else that I have. But then I buy a rune table from him, and suddenly he's happy to buy all my excess stuff.”

    This was an annoyance throughout the game. When you sell an item to a shop, they will add it to their own stock, occupying one of the free slots there are in the buying interface.

    If they run out of free slots, they will refuse to buy anything else from you, until you free some space in their inventory by buying something from them.

    1. But if the shop has a set number of item slots, why would he buy everything after Chet bought just the rune table? Wouldn't it be full again after selling one more item?

    2. AlphabeticalAnonymousMay 20, 2023 at 1:32 PM

      Each merchant has a finite number of slots, one slot per *type* of item. So once you've sold them one dagger, you can sell them up to 99 total (I think) without taking up extra slots. But if all slots are full, if I remember correctly then a merchant won't buy something from you even when they already have items of that type in one of their shop slots.

    3. Thank you for explaining that. I was confused about that, too.

  12. The name of Sabines cat you should remember from Amberstar. I am sure one of your old blog posts has the answer.

    The wells require a specific item, I am sure it will be clearer when you get it.

  13. Good to see you back.

    Re selling objects, just in case: How much you get for an object depends on the active character. The greater the charisma of the figure, the higher an offer the trader will make.

  14. Welcome back Chet. Enjoy your holiday break, we know we´ll be reading more of you.

  15. They will never understand, Chet. And that's fine.

  16. Joining the "great to see you back in action" chorus. Always enjoy the new entries. This one looks fun --- though lord that's a lot of quests!

  17. What differentiates him from all the other bloggers is that when he takes a break, he comes back. Always. Every time.


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