Sunday, June 25, 2023

Game 493: Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (1992)

"Of" the Eternal Sun?! We just found out about the Eternal Sun!
Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
United States
Westwood Associates (developer); SEGA (publisher)
Released 1992 for SEGA Genesis
Date Started: 18 June 2023
It's been a while since we had a console game. When I took a break from Serpent Isle, I went looking for something that would contrast well with it, and Warriors of the Eternal Sun came up in a random roll. As I researched it, a lot of things recommended it for play. First, it's a Dungeons & Dragons title, and D&D usually serves up satisfactory RPGs. Second, I believe it's the first console-exclusive D&D title since the two Intellivision games in 1982 and 1983, neither of which really had anything to do with D&D. Thus, it's the first authentic console-exclusive D&D
Third, the developer was Westwood Associates, a studio that got a rocky start (BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception, Hillsfar) and always seemed to be in the shadow of Strategic Simulations, their frequent employer and publisher. But by the early 1990s, the company had matured and was responsible for the first two Eye of the Beholder games (1991). Warriors comes on the heels of those successes, right as the company was being acquired by Virgin Games, just before it published Lands of Lore (1993).
What can men do against such reckless hate?
Warriors was one of two games that Westwood wrote for consoles in 1992; the second was Dungeons & Dragons: Order of the Griffon for the TurboGrafx-16. I'm relying on Wikipedia's information that the former was released in July and the latter in October to designate Warriors as the first. Both games are set in the Mystara campaign setting, appearing here for the first time in a video game. Westwood would have had to get permission from SSI to use the D&D license; you can almost picture SSI saying, "Whatever--we're not using that setting anyway."
Apparently, the duke doesn't have a single mage capable of "Fireball."
Those with more detailed knowledge of D&D will correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that the Mystara setting is used as the default setting for the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set starting in 1981, although at that time, it was just called "the Known World"; it didn't take the name "Mystara" until 1991. My further understanding is that Mystara is a fairly generic fantasy world, much like Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms, and that it uses the standard D&D classes, spells, and many of the same monsters. I understand the races are a bit different (one blog I consulted said there are a lot more "furry races") and there are no gods--only very powerful beings with godlike powers.
But perhaps the most important difference is that Mystara has an inside and an outside. The world is hollow, with a red sun (the Eternal Sun of the title) at the center, and the denizens of the two sides don't typically interact. The inside has become sort of a giant reservation for creatures threatened with extinction on the more volatile outer world. 
Things look grim for the castle denizens.
It is in this Hollow World that Warriors takes place. The four player characters are liegemen of a Duke Hector Barrick, who has been fighting a losing year-long war against goblins. (I imagine they either have some help or goblins are a lot stronger in Mystara.) Just as the goblins are about to overrun the castle and the defenders are all expecting to die, the ground rumbles, there's a flash, and the castle's occupants suddenly find themselves in a pleasant valley with a horizon that slopes upward on all sides. They have been transported to the inside of Mystara through methods unexplained and for reasons unknown. I assume they came from the outside of Mystara, but I suppose it's possible that the castle was transported from one of the other D&D settings; the manual doesn't specify.
I'm glad it didn't land on top of an orphanage.
The game uses Basic edition rules, which combine races and classes. You can be a cleric, fighter, magic-user, or thief--all of which are human--or a dwarf, elf, or halfling. Judging by what the manual says, dwarves are basically just fighters, elves are fighter/magic users, and halflings are fighter/thieves. Any choice can be male or female. I don't know what levels are achievable in this game, but all the demi-human classes have level caps, so I decided to throw ambiguity out the window and create a four-character human party. And for no particular reason, I decided to make them a sisterhood.
Character creation also has you choose a color, from three selections, one of them for some reason represented twice. You can roll the standard set of D&D attributes as many times as you want. The rolls are favorable; I never saw anything less than 9. At the same time, 18s are extremely rare. Characters have two active slots to which they can assign weapons, spells, or active abilities. Nobody starts with more than two.
Creating my final character.
My party is:
  • Vanya, a fighter. She comes with a sword and shield.
  • Sarah, a cleric. She comes with a mace and a "Turn Undead" spell.
  • Zoqui, a magic-user. She comes with a staff and a "Magic Missile" spell.
  • Mezzy, a thief. She comes with a dagger and a "Hide" ability.
After character creation, the party is tasked by Duke Barrick with exploring the new environment and finding allies. Gameplay begins in an axonometric interface inside the duke's castle. The character icons and movement looks like it must have been inspired by Ultima VI. You control the lead character, and the others fan out behind her, moving as necessary to get around obstacles. The directional pad controls movement; the "A" button performs most actions and acknowledges messages. The "Start" button brings up a more extensive menu, which mercifully includes an "Options" selection where you can a) turn off music independently of the rest of the sound, and b) change the hit point bars to actual numbers.
The duke sends us off.
Controls are, of course, a lot simpler since we're using a three-button controller rather than a keyboard. NPCs speak automatically when you near them, and they only speak one line. If you belly up to a store counter, it's automatically assumed that you want to shop there. The castle has an armor shop, a weapon shop, a magic shop, a caravan master, a temple, and a number of other buildings where NPCs work and live.
I don't know what this is about.
From the NPCs wandering around, I got:
  • We all wish you well in your journeys.
  • Some spells don't work in this new land.
  • The beastmen have a camp to the northwest.
  • The beastmen come from the north.
  • I've heard a rumor there's a monster in the city's dungeon.
I thought he meant some city out in the game world. I guess he meant this city.
  • Good luck on your journeys!
  • The beastmen bear ancient markings.
  • Beware of the swamps.
  • Equip yourself well before venturing forth.
  • Praise the maker that we have been spared.
  • The duke is a kind and patient man.
  • There are dinosaurs in the swamps.
There's also a graveyard, with four open graves prepared for the party members. That was considerate. Each of the stones in the graveyard has a punny rhyming epitaph worthy of any Ultima game.
  • They came, they saw, they died.
  • Here lies Todd. He angered a god.
  • He's dead Jim.
  • Eric was given to roam; all that's left is this stone.
  • He boasted of his might. But death was his plight.
  • This dwarf was much feared till he tripped on his beard.
  • A thief that did fink has become quite extinct.
  • He quenched his thirst but the water was cursed.
  • Many ladies he cherished, and now he has perished.
  • Here lies Louise. A thief shouldn't sneeze.
  • Here lies Dwight. A knight he did smite.
  • His wandering eyes soon caused his demise.
  • Here lies poor Mel. He cast the wrong spell.
The graveyard makes me wonder about the specific nature of scooping up the castle and dropping it into the Hollow World, like how much soil and bedrock was included in the teleportation, and why it didn't just leave a big mess when it was deposited in its new location.
I guess the duke doesn't have much confidence in us.
After exploring the castle, we head outside. An overworld map shows us the entire valley. The castle seems to be situated on a large island surrounded by rivers. I head east for a little while and face my first overland battle against a giant leech. More on combat in a bit, but suffice to say for now that it's like Gold Box combat but with non-discrete movement. We get damaged by this one creature, and it occurs to me that we don't have any armor, so we head back to the castle to buy some (they only have leather). We also rest, which takes about two days. I hope there's no time limit on the main quest.
Our first battle.
In return expeditions outside, I keep doing well against individual monsters but am slaughtered by larger groups. And I know there are dungeons somewhere, but I can't find any. I want to show at least one dungeon shot before I end the first entry, so I take a look at the hint book to see where the closest one is--and it turns out there are dungeons right in the castle. In fact, there are three in the duke's throne room alone. I don't know how you're supposed to find them. The entrances are hidden by the oblique view and just look like walls.
The game world--or at least part of it.
If you didn't know that the company behind Warriors had also made Eye of the Beholder, you could probably figure it out from the dungeon exploration. Unlike in the outdoors, the movement in dungeons is by discrete tiles. The graphics are very similar, and combat works similarly to any Dungeon Master clone, albeit with simplified controls. You switch between characters with the "C" button and use the readied weapons, abilities, or spells, with the "A" and "B" buttons. (Using either "A" or "B" automatically switches you to the next character after the attack executes. I'm not yet sure if that's a benefit or a drawback.) I haven't experimented enough to try it yet, but I suspect you could do the "combat waltz" if the room was big enough. You can't pause except to enter the menu, so you have to be relatively quick with your fingers.
The first dungeon battle.
The first "dank dungeon" has just a few cells, one with a beastman and one with a giant rat. The message window gives atmospheric messages as you explore, which I like. The entire dungeon is only 6 x 6, and with worm tunnels. I tested for secret doors even though I didn't find any obvious "holes," and I found one. It led to a small cell with a pair of Gauntlets of Ogre Power. A random party member picks up any items you find, but you can transfer them later. Lesson learned: secret areas may be found even when they would create "razor walls." 
That must have required some real dexterity! Wait. I haven't made the precursor joke yet.
Other dungeons may get bigger, but an automap keeps track of your progress, so you don't have to map. I'm curious if there will be any Dungeon Master-like puzzles. The other two "dungeons" in the throne room are just guard towers that lead to nothing.
Now that I know what to look for, I find a third dungeon (technically, a tower) in the cemetery. "This tower has been converted to a crypt," a message reads as we enter. It is quite short--a few rooms housing the "noble family of Sperry Glen" and "the remains of King Offord." A secret door leads to the remains of a fighter who has a +1 chain mail. In a final tower in the northeast corner of the castle, I found a +1 sword, which I give to my thief.  
The game is funny if you add the phrase "with chopsticks" after all its messages.
Thus slightly better equipped, we set out again, avoiding for now the beastmen's camp to the northwest. I don't know whether the "world" map shown in the game is the entire gameworld or just the starting area, but either way, I print it so I can explore it systematically and take notes. It looks like the only way off the starting island is a bridge to the southwest. I decide to start there and work counter-clockwise around the island, which I'm hoping will ensure that I'm at least Level 2 before I hit the beastmen again. 
I don't find anything in the wilderness except combats with boars, giant leeches, panthers, flying vipers, giant racers (a kind of snake from the graphic) and beastmen. In the turn-based combat, characters and enemies go in an order of initiative that must have some random element to it. During their turns, characters can move (not indefinitely, but I'm not sure how to figure out the maximum), attack, cast a spell, or use a skill or item. The one major difference from the Gold Box is that there's no consideration of personal space. Characters can walk and stand on top of each other to get into melee range. 
Injuries and death are handled at the temple for no fee, which is handy. Walking back there can be kind of annoying. I assume that's quintuply true when I'm exploring the more remote parts of the valley. 
For a second, I could have been playing Serpent Isle.
It becomes clear that my mage is going to take forever to level up, so after my fighter and cleric hit Level 2, I give the beastmen camp another try. By slowly approaching from the west, I manage to encounter them in an advantageous arrangement where I can attack a couple of the beastmen close to me while the others take several rounds to even get into range. The strategy works, and I'm able to wipe out the beastmen. It helps that their THACO is pretty bad.
Would assume "hairy" was a defining trait for "beastmen."
With nothing else to hold my interest on the central island, I cross the bridge to the mainland. Halfway across, the game tells me that my mage and thief are nervous about crossing. I assume that's because they're still Level 1. I explore gingerly and run into parties of hill giants and grizzly bears. I'm able to kill a couple of them individually, getting my thief to Level 2 and my fighter and cleric to Level 3. But a large party soon tears us to pieces, and I suffer my first full-party death.
Who are "the townspeople" in this scenario?
Why can you resurrect us individually but not collectively?
I reload and return to town to find that the shops have new items. I'm able to buy better armor for my fighter and cleric and missile weapons for everyone. That should open up some more combat tactics. I'm looking forward to the mage getting more than one pathetic magic missile.
The weapons shop offers a lot more than when we landed.
So far, it's all right. I like the backstory and setting, and it makes as good use of D&D mechanics as any console game we've seen so far. Like any console game of the era, those mechanics are simplified from what you'd expect on a PC, but that doesn't mean it's bad. I've come to realize that console gaming can offer a relaxed experience that only requires half your attention in a way that a good PC game doesn't--the difference, perhaps, between watching a movie and reading a book.
Alternating between Serpent Isle and Ambermoon has been getting a little tiresome, so I'm going to mix things up with this third one for a bit. Any bets on which I finish first?
Time so far: 3 hours



  1. > "Character creation also has you choose a color, from three selections, one of them for some reason represented twice."

    Sounds like your color blindness has struck again. From left to right the colors on the character creation screen are: red, blue, green and yellow.

    1. I assumed Chet was being droll.

    2. I was, but thanks, WG, for clarifying what they were.

    3. You're welcome.

      Oh, and an amusing side note concerning the colors. Years ago one of the goons over on Something Awful did an LP of this game and used the team from Gauntlet for the party: Thor the red fighter, Thyra the blue cleric, Questor the green elf and Merlin the yellow wizard.

      It's here, if anyone wants to read it:

  2. So, two "fun" facts I found on Reddit about this game:

    * Every single party member has a -2 penalty to attack rolls. (This is apparently not a bug.) The manual and your character sheets do not tell you this.

    * If you somehow manage to get a character above 127 maximum hit points, any attack they take kills them instantly. (This is most certainly an overflow bug, kinda like the one in Super Mario Bros. 1.)

    1. the -2 penelty seems like a late implemented quickfix to balance the game before launch

    2. Based on comments by players, many of the stats and equipment in the game do not seem to work as you'd expect them to. Just as you are tackling this game, someone calling himself "Chili" published a patch on github addressing some of those. You can find a list of his changes in this reddit post which might help explain certain (non-)effects in the vanilla game you're playing.

      If the -2 penalty was inserted on purpose, it could also have been done to extend playtime... .

  3. "Alternating between Serpent Isle and Ambermoon has been getting a little tiresome, so I'm going to mix things up with this third one for a bit. Any bets on which I finish first?"

    This one; I'll be surprised if you don't win this game before the next post on it. (There's a youtube video of someone winning this in half an hour, so it's really not a very long game.)

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymous

    2. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 25, 2023 at 8:32 AM

      Of Ultima or Ambermoon, I expect you'll finish the former first. But it may be a close-run thing; taking a break from them like this sounds like a good idea, and maybe not for the last time.

    3. You can also find videos of people beating Ultima 7 in 20 minutes and Morrowind in less than 3 minutes; speedruns are really not representative of the real length of a casual playthrough of a game.

      My guess would be Serpent Isle->WotES->Ambermoon.

    4. I don't know why I trust this site, but HowLongToBeat has WotES at over 13 hours for the main story and over 25 for "main + extras." I figured it would be three or four entries at least.

      I might be in trouble with SI. I hit a glitch that makes it impossible to get the blackrock serpent of order. I'm trying to research whether this is fixable with cheats.

    5. There is a "cheat room" reachable from Monitor that, among other things, should have a chest with duplicates of all quest items.

      If you read the Cheater's Corner section in this page, it tells you how to reach it:

    6. Blackrock Serpent of Order is in Moonshade. It was the Serpent you had at the beginning of the game. I don't mean to gaslight you, but are you sure you're looking for it in the right place?
      Batlin has the Serpent of Chaos. And the Serpent of Balance is also out there (but I think you already found it?).

    7. Yes, I'm sure I was looking for it in the right place. I ran into a bug that I'll detail in the next entry. Fortunately, I managed to get it with cheats.

  4. For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky!

    I wanted to say this even before I read about "He's dead Jim" on a gravestone.

    1. What would be really funny is if some of the graves had the curse "Massaracsh!" written on it as an epitaphy, eh? Not that very many of the players would get it. =)

    2. I'm slightly surprised Chet made no further remarks (yet) about the "Hollow World" concept. Well, as long as it is not a Torus ... .

      @Lorigulf: Count me among those.

    3. Somehow the first line of my comment above didn't make it:

      @Vladimir: Same here!

    4. There's even a Jazz record that builds on the hollow world concept - Miles Davis' Agharta. Though some might say it's not really jazz.

    5. “Jazz” is as tough to define as “RPG.” But a good rule of thumb is that when Miles-Goddamned-Davis calls it “jazz,” it’s jazz.

      That said, “Agharta” isn’t really my KIND of jazz.

    6. Argh, another part missing - the comment @Lorigulf was supposed to be "Count me among those who don't know what you are talking about." As it is, it sounds like the opposite.

      No idea what's up today. Sorry for the multiple posts.

    7. Seems like calling the record "Agharta" was the record label's idea; Davis was maybe not that interested in titling things by the time it was packaged for release, and my speculation is that the label might have been happy to avoid tracks named after socialist rebel movements like "Calypso Frelimo."

    8. It's - well - it's from a not very well known science fiction story where people live in the world with such weird a gravity force, that light rays kinda "fall down on the planet' at some distance - which, in the context of automatic expectations of light rays to be always straight, creates an illusion of living inside a bowl-like world, a world that does not curl "down" as a ball, but curls "up" as a bowl; having some contacts with people from normal worlds where planets are viewed as balls, they have a conception of "world-inside-out", which is called "Massaracsh" and it is considered to be some kind of bad luck to see the world like that, so the word works as a swearing word. But this is a very, VERY obscure reference, so, my bad for inserting it here I guess!!!

    9. And, yes, it was not about "Hollow" world, it was about a world that SEEMS like a bowl or an inside of a ball maybe.

    10. @Lori, I only know the Strugatzki brothers story with a similar world, isnt the place called "Sarraksch" there?

    11. Yeah, the world is called "Sarraksh", so "Sarraksh" is kinda "the World", and "the-world-inside-out" is "Massaraksh". Its theirs story as far as I heard, yes.

  5. I played this and hated it. Felt weak and boring.

  6. Beastmen can be birds or snakes too, at least in the tabletop games I’ve played.

  7. I loved this game when it came out. I'll play it occasionally with an emulator. Here's a website written by the developer. It contains the usual maps and walkthroughs but also a fair amount of behind the scenes and development notes.:

    For added fun, search around for info detailing save sate editing. There's a lot of gear and some spells that aren't available organically within the game. They were apparently included with the intent of putting them in later games that never came.

  8. A warning re automaps: Apparently, they are not retained when you leave a dungeon, so if there is a bigger one you might have to return to, maybe take a screenshot. Especially since you can't save in dungeons and enemies respawn.

    Re Caravans: According to the manual, it is a kind of fast travel mechanic to get back to certain places once you've been there.

    "Who are "the townspeople" in this scenario?" - you'll find out... .

    Like in Ultima, some epitaphs could refer to people involved in the creation of the game like Louise Sandoval and Dwight Kenichi Okahara. "He's dead Jim" came from a tester who was/is a Star Trek fan and claims to have authored about a third of the tombstone messages. The "noble family of Sperry Glen" is a nod to Glen Sperry who is also mentioned as a tester on this game.

    The cover art on the cartridge, manual and hint book is a Clyde Caldwell (of Gold Box 'fame') illustration already used ten years earlier for a cover of Dragon magazine . It seems he's not explicitly credited except in the hint book.

    1. Huh. I've always assumed that any time a Westwood game includes the name Sperry it's a reference to co-founder Brett Sperry.

    2. It kind of is, indirectly, since Glenn is Brett's brother. Seems like he did QA at Westwood (and some voice acting) for most of its existence. (I had to look that up. Never know when you might run into a John Carmack/Adrian Carmack scenario.)

  9. You might check to see if you can get a Sleep spell for your mage. At least in Second Edition, that spell is wildly overpowered for the first few levels -- IIRC, it can knock out as many as 16 creatures, either level 0 or level 1, I've forgotten which. The spell withers into uselessness, however, by the time monsters hit level 4, so it's a short-term tactic.

    It may not be that effective in this title, however. You mention the Basic Set, which IIRC is original Dungeons and Dragons, not Advanced. I have no idea how spells work in the original edition, as I never played it.

    Sorry if there are any typos, I don't seem to be able to preview my comment anymore.

    1. Sleep is extremely useful in this game, although there's an even more useful disabling spell available fairly early on.

  10. As a veteran OD&D player I can affirm that Sleep is the other important 1st-level spell for magic-users, and that it becomes practically useless as you face harder monsters. You can find a description of the OD&D spells in the Rules Cyclopedia (

    Sounds like the ability scores were rolled using 9d2.

  11. I'm glad to see you finally got around to the console D&D games, I think of console exclusive titles, this has the best shot as it were. Even accounting for the seemingly half-finished state it's in.

  12. A lot of graphics in this game are taken straight from Eye of the Beholder; including the weapon icons, about half the portraits, and those grayish floor/wall tiles in your dungeon screenshots.

  13. Warriors *under* the Eternal Sun would be better, agreed.

  14. Mystara doesn't have gods, it only has ascended heroes that are immortal and have churches and can grant spells to their clerics; and that is EXACTLY what gods are in most other D&D settings. The distinction is a bit silly.

    1. I wouldn't be surprised if the use of Immortal rather than god is related to all the satanic hysteria around D&D in the 80s. Since Basic allows for players to ascend to "godhood", using a different term fits in with the other changes since the original supplement was released right in the middle of all that.

      This will never happen, but it'd be interesting to see a game using this version of the ruleset end with the player becoming an Immortal then have a sequel covering all that material. For the 1991 edition, there's a few pages about Immortals in the Rules Cyclopedia but the full supplement from the following year is 130 pages with an additional 100 page module. It's a shame that so much work went into something swept away not long afterward.

    2. Even as an atheist, who theoretically doesn't have a dog in this fight, I think "god" gets thrown around too loosely in speculative fiction. Do you have an understanding of the inner workings of the universe that isn't available to mortals? Are you somehow above or outside the laws of time and physics? Do you know where all of this came from, where it's going, and why we're here? No? Then you're not a "god." You're just really powerful.

    3. That's a fair point; however if you look at classic polytheistic pantheons (such as the soap series that is Greek Mythology) you'll probably find that their definition of"god" also doesn't have any of this higher understanding. The Greek, Norse, or Egyptian pantheons are pretty obvious inspirations for those in fantasy settings.

    4. It's the difference between the big G omnipotent and omnescent God, and the small g obscenely powerful but not all powerful god

    5. Greek mythology seems to be, like, a really bad example here, because of theories of Primeval Eros being the Ur-Creator of everything or something like that. Granted, these were the theories of philosophers, not priests, but still, this intertwining of godly figures with "meta-figures from Outside of Creation" may be what paved the way for Christianity - a religion with as many Greek roots as Judaic. But if you take Tlaloc, Amaterasu O-kami or Ganesha, for example, then it is much closer to this view - "very powerful, not meta-figure in the slightest". (Well, Vishnu or Shiva may be meta-figures again, but they are closer to forms of monotheism anyway).

    6. Chad (sorry, iPhone doesn’t seem to let me post as anything except anonymous) - If I recall my ancient history course from college (which I may not as it was 25 years ago), many of the Bible creation stories (especially flood) draw heavily from Babylonian mythology, but certainly other ancient: polytheistic religions as well. Strictly speaking from historical perspective though, not trying to start a holy war, so to speak.

    7. Yeah, posting anonymous isn't what you need to be apologizing for here.

  15. 100FloorsOfFrightsJune 25, 2023 at 7:36 PM

    Yeah, 'Sleep' is a real early-level MVP for magic-users, as I think it was the only area-effect spell you could get at first level and can make tough fights a lot easier, but unlike 'Magic Missile' it doesn't scale up as you get more powerful. And there are actually some differences between the demihuman classes and the human classes. Dwarves are basically fighters, but they have a few special detection abilities in dungeons regarding secret doors and traps in stonework, plus a better hit die (d10 as opposed to d8) and improved saving throws. Elves are way overpowered - they can use any weapons or armor a fighter can and cast spells as a magic-user of the same level. This is balanced out somewhat by their comparatively lousy hit die (d6) and the fact that they need twice as much experience as a fighter to level up. The only thief ability halflings actually have is 'hide,' and they don't get the thief's backstab bonus, but they also have a better hit die (d6 vs. thief's d4). This probably doesn't matter much, as I don't think this game is complex enough to make use of thief abilities like 'climb walls' and 'hear noise.'

    The two main drawbacks of the demihuman classes are that they all take longer to level up than the equivalent human classes, and they're capped at a much lower level than humans (halflings are capped at level 8 for some reason). But if this is a relatively short game, level caps probably won't matter all that much, anyway, and there's maybe not much chance that you would even be able to get an elf past level 4.

  16. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 25, 2023 at 10:12 PM

    I found myself wondering: in what way is this 'inner sun' more "Eternal" than a normal, everyday sun? In astronomy, the usual answer is that smaller, cooler, less-massive stars live longer than hotter, larger stars. The smallest that a true star can be is roughly one-tenth the size and mass of our Sun, and such stars are thought to 'live' roughly 1,000x longer than our Sun: i.e., roughly 10,000 billion years. For an ascended Immortal that's still not quite an eternity, but maybe it will do in a pinch until something better comes along.

    But there's a catch: if the surface of the Hollow World is similar to the surface of our Earth, then a one-tenth-scale red dwarf star would heat the inner surface to an average of over 140 C -- hot enough that all water would boil, contrary to the waterfall we see in the game's intro sequence. So is it just a magic sun that doesn't obey the laws of physics as we know them? Possibly...

    BUT we can get around this if we make the world bigger! This means the Eternal Sun's energy is spread out over a wider area (e.g., it's why Pluto is colder than Mercury!). Depending on how we fudge the numbers, we need to make the world of Mystara roughly *twice as big as Earth* to give its inner surface a comparable (and habitable) temperature.

    Of course this ignores a lot of factors (i.e., if the interior and exterior are BOTH heated by stars then actually both will be hotter by a factor of roughly 1.4...) but I found it interesting to think about. Is there any official D&D information available on the size of this planet?

    1. in what way is this 'inner sun' more "Eternal" than a normal, everyday sun?

      The Hollow World sun is called "eternal" because its position is fixed in the sky: it neither rises nor sets. The Hollow World has eternal daylight and zero nighttime.

    2. It's "eternal" in that it doesn't set.

    3. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 26, 2023 at 11:05 AM

      It occurs to me that the Mystara system is essentially a miniature Dyson sphere (surrounding the so-called Eternal Sun), with the interesting twists that (1) both inner and outer surfaces are habitable, and (2) the Dyson sphere (i.e, 'planet' of Mystara) itself orbits a more-or-less Sun-like star. As Malor noted below, this arrangement may not be dynamically stable on long timescales. But... magic.

      @Adamantyr, do we know either the temperature of the Plane of Fire, or alternatively the size of the 'pocket hole' leading to it?

    4. Temperature I don't think so, but the hole was described as very small, like the size of a needle hole. The idea being pure elemental fire is serious stuff.

    5. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 26, 2023 at 11:24 PM

      Serious stuff, indeed! If the pocket hole is about 1mm across, then it would need to have a temperature of something like 600 million degrees C.

    6. Note that the main city in the Plane of Fire is the City of Brass (from the Arabian Nights). As the melting point of brass is around 900 degrees, the Plane of Fire ought to be cooler than that.

      In addition, mid-level adventurers with some preparation can survive there for minutes to hours (damage per minute depends on what edition of D&D we're looking at), again meaning it's probably not a couple million degrees.

      Not that science necessarily applies here :P

    7. Every time someone discusses logic in Fantasy an elf dies *claps hands*

  17. I'm a fan of the Known World and Mystara, I own most of the published products including the Hollow World supplement.

    In the lore, the immortals created it as a place to preserve lost creatures and cultures. A powerful pervasive spell makes the citizens unconsciously ignore advancements and not change.

    The internal sun is actually a tiny pocket hole to the elemental plane of fire.

    They actually do give the planet's size in one of the almanacs and it's actually slightly smaller than Earth. So yeah, magic. :)

  18. Also, probably the most well known pulp fiction stories of a hollow earth is the Pellucidar stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. He even had Tarzan visit Pellucidar once. There was also a movie or two made of the first story, At the Earth's Core.

    1. I just checked Wikipedia and it turns out there were extensive scientific hypotheses about hollow earth, starting in the 17th century.

    2. Yeah, one of the theories was that the northern lights were the inner sun shining through cloud layers onto the outer atmosphere.

      While I liked the setting years ago, now I'm worried there may be idiots out there who actually BELIEVE it.

    3. AFAIK, a hollow globe around a central sun is unstable, and the globe will eventually crash into the inner sun without active stationkeeping. In a fantasy world, that's no big deal, the spell opening the rift to the plane of fire just keeps itself centered. Boom, done.

      But using actual physics in the real world, AFAIK it's not possible unless the entire Earth is a construct.

      Plus, if the Earth is hollow, why is gravity so strong?

    4. There is a CYOA book (The Underground Kingdom) that has you exploring this holllow earth, where at the center of if there is a black sun, effectively a black hole.

      Not very realistic, but it had some cool ideas for a kid's book.

      Of course, the topic of eternal daylight (although due to multiple suns) is central to one of the best known Asimov short stories, Nightfall

    5. And let's not forget about Jules Verne's 'Voyage au centre de la terre', you bibliophiles!

  19. I didn't realise this was on the roster - I've met very few people who've played and finished it. The soundtrack is one of my favourites from this era... The worldbuilding, the combat, exploration et al can be brutal.... very curious to see how this goes.

  20. Combat initiative in Basic D&D is side-based: both sides roll 1d6 and the highest roll goes first. I can't remember if this game uses that system as it's been a long time since I played it.

  21. Yes, it's worth poking and prodding every corner in the game, not only for true secret doors, but also the "secret" doors hidden by the perspective.

  22. I enjoyed this game at first – it's got a good adventuring hook and pleasant Ultima VI-esque overworld – but didn't finish. What killed it for me were the dungeons: they're so much worse at the Dungeon Master style than Westwood had already done with their Eye of the Beholder duo. Those games were dense with puzzles and traps. Here it's just... walk to the end killing everything along the way.

  23. I got my RPG start with console games, and came to PC RPGs later in life. The limited control scheme of consoles ends up being a blessing in many ways. The concept of the context sensitive button is very much a product of consoles, and it greatly simplifies interaction. If you look at all the commands in Ultima 4, it's clear that you could trivially combine a lot of them into a single context sensitive command rather than having a bunch of distinct ones for "enter town, enter boat, etc". This reduces cognitive load on the player for minutiae and lets them focus on mechanical complexity. Once consoles hit the 16-bit era (which you're experiencing now) there was a lot of experimentation with RPG systems that resulted in games like Final Fantasy V, which has a lot of possibility in its job system.

    1. Yep! I always found it ri-di-cu-lous when each type of object requires a different keyboard button to interact with, resulting in the entire keyboard being covered with commands, when there's almost always only one way to interact with the object! It took Origin until Ultima VII to change this. In Ultima VII, actions are unified into the 'use' action, triggered by a double-click.

      That's one reason why the Sega Master System port of Ultima IV is actually a fine version to play. Too bad that there's no equivalent for Ultima V.

      (This is subjective, of course. And I know that there is something lost with this approach: the ability to use non-obvious verbs on objects, such as Nethack's feature to dip scrolls into potions. Also, this approach is only truly effective when there are no more different actions than contextual action buttons, otherwise you'll need a pop-up menu to select an action.)

      Another very basic thing that console games did much better than PC games back then: movement. You could just move smoothly by holding down the d-pad, changing direction on the fly, and 'sliding' along walls when moving diagonally into them. None of the games from U1 to U8 implemented this well, not even the Crusader games, action games (!) based on the U8 engine.

    2. Yeah, but console simplification doesn't always manifest in terms of context-sensitive actions. It often manifests instead in menus and sub-menus. The process of casting a spell that you haven't already hotkeyed to the two buttons, for instance, is painful--so much that I often resist doing it even when those spells would help. I never have that problem when all I have to is hit "C" and the spell. Inventory is also slightly cumbersome for the same reasons.

      As for simplification of the commands, there are times that I agree that it's helpful. If all you can ever do with an NPC is talk to them and the only thing you can ever do with a door is open it, then there's no point in differentiating those commands. But you could design a game in which such differentiation is possible. Ultimas IV and V are good examples, as is (as Bitmap points out) NetHack. You need different commands in those games because that door can be opened, locked, unlocked, searched, smashed, or spiked. Even when a game doesn't offer all those options, having a dozen different commands at least leaves the player feeling that there's POTENTIAL in those options. In Warriors, I know that nothing I find in the overworld is going to be interactable because there are no commands to interact with things. A game that offers commands like S)earch or D)ig or even U)se makes me excited about the possibilities of what I might discover.

    3. Yes, and if a hypothetical console/gamepad port of Nethack offered a menu for each object with only those commands that are actually possible, it'd be kind of a spoiler to be shown that scrolls, specifically, can be dipped into something. Finding out which command is possible with which object is part of the game.

      On the other hand, this could be solved differently. Let's look at the example "that door can be opened, locked, unlocked, searched, smashed, or spiked". This could be solved like this:

      - Open (if the door is closed): "Use" the door.

      - Close (if the door is open): "Use" the door.

      - Unlock with key: "Use" the door, will automatically use the appropriate key.

      - Unlock with lockpick: "Use" the lockpick from the inventory *on* the door.

      - Lock the unlocked door: "Use" the key/lockpick from the inventory *on* the door.

      - Smash the door: "attack" the door.

      - Spike the door: "Use" spikes *on* the door.

      - Search the door: Ok, "search" would need to be another action that can be applied to any object, or a second option in a pop-up menu that appears for specific objects such as doors and chests.

      Alternative: "Use", when applied to walls or the ground or the empty air, results in a search of the immediate surroundings. This can turn up secret door switches in a wall nearby, or a trap in the ground near a chest. This means that we don't need another action button for "search".

      What about things like dipping scrolls into potions? When the user is in the inventory, there'd have to be another action, "combine". Select the scroll, "combine", select the potion. But this command doesn't have to available when not in the inventory, so you can re-use a button that is normally used for "attack" or something.

      Regarding the higher speed when you can select spells via keyboard: ok, but this could be solved with console-like menus that can be navigated with a gamepad/arrow keys, but which also have keyboard shortcuts for each entry.

    4. Forgot:
      - Dig: "Use" shovel *on* ground.

    5. Those are all fine, but on a PC game, the equivalent would be hitting U)se and then selecting the shovel. In a console game, you've got to hit a button to bring up the menu, then select "Use," then select the object. The time difference isn't trivial.

      In any event, it's a bit moot in this game because these options don't exist at all, and frankly they rarely do in console games of the era. So regardless of whether fewer commands and less interactivity were a necessary result of console controllers or not, that's what happened.

    6. Yes, I've veered a bit from the topic and was talking more about the principal possibilities of gamepad controls, regardless of what was common back then.

      > In a console game, you've got to hit a button to bring up the menu, then select "Use"

      The intent of my previous post was to completely avoid a menu for actions and accomplish everything with a small number of fixed context-sensitive action buttons.

      - Move to a door, press A (use/search/talk) to open it.
      - Press B (attack) button to smash the door.
      - Move up to a wall, press A to search it.
      - Press A to talk to an NPC.
      - Press X (open inventory), select the shovel, press A to dig here. That's not slower than U)se item from inventory, select shovel, press Enter to confirm, is it?

      While some variation of this control scheme is common in console RPGs, it's true that the verbs the player can do are usually reduced -- but I think that's not a *necessity* to that extent.

      Another disadvantage in having lots of commands scattered across the keyboard is that finding and hitting a key often requires looking at the keyboard and moving a hand to the key, which is slower than pressing gamepad buttons. I'm only able to quickly hit every key on the keyboard without looking if both my hands are on the home row, which is never the case, because my right hand is usually over the arrow keys (for movement).

      More concretely, I would like to play Ultima V on my Steam Deck, but it's not feasible to map all those keyboard commands to the gamepad/trackpads, and there's no good console port.

  24. I found Order of the Griffon to be closer to the Gold Box games, as it is exclusively first person in between battles, with the usual axonometric tactical combat. This game felt unusually punishing and somewhat bewildering, as early combats seemed to rely on a lot of luck. It would be cool if you were to give Griffon a try as well, although I know you're only doing console games by luck of the roll.

    If I were to play any D&D console game, it would be the NES port of Pool of Radiance, which is surprisingly authentic and represents only a modest dumbing down from the PC game. Many of the changes streamline the experience in a positive way.

    1. ( be clear, I was calling Warriors of the Eternal Sun unusually punishing, and I prefer Order of the Griffon. My comment was worded confusingly...)

    2. "If I were to play any D&D console game, it would be the NES port of Pool of Radiance, which is surprisingly authentic and represents only a modest dumbing down from the PC game. Many of the changes streamline the experience in a positive way."

      Oh, that's very interesting! Information about good console ports of computer RPGs is often hard to come by. I bounced off the computer version of Pool of Radiance and might try the NES version someday.

      Ironically, could the NES port have become more well-known if it had a different story and name, allowing it to step out of the shadow of the computer version?

    3. You never know. OotG is a western game, a D&D game, and from Westwood. I'd be more likely to play it than a lot of other console games.

    4. Re western console RPGs you might be likely to play, there's a fun NES dungeon crawler called Swords and Serpents (by Interplay, I think). I got excited when I saw a different game by that name pop up on your blog recently. Simple, but fun and fairly fast paced.

    5. I've played Pool of Radiance on both IBM and Nintendo. On IBM I ran into a bug that corrupted my save data, so I'm tempted to say that Nintendo wins by default. However, the Nintendo version was more generous with loot (N ybatfjbeq cyhf sbhe va gur Cbqby Cynmn one? Ernyyl??) and was limited to 20 monsters per encounter (and monsters that occupied multiple squares would count as multiple monsters against this limit). Overall, I'd say the IBM Pool of Radiance would have been the better version if it actually worked properly.

  25. I think I found those dungeons in the castle within half an hour of finishing character creation, so I was feeling pretty smug until you mentioned the secret doors therein. I don't remember finding those, although it's been 30 years so I might have forgotten.

    Somebody might have mentioned this on your "won" post, but I found that giving your lead character (or any character?) a ranged weapon and mashing the attack button while exploring above ground lets you target distant enemies before they appear on screen, initiating combat while they're still miles away, which can give you the jump on difficult fights.

    1. No! Until this moment, I didn't realize that you could force combat to begin. I thought you had to wait for the enemies to approach and for it to kick in automatically.

  26. I was really excited to get here when I saw you picked it up over summer. I used to rent this form my local video store back when I was a kid. I got to the jungle area, but never finished it. I'm looking forward to how it ends.


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