Saturday, August 5, 2023

Ambermoon: Men of the World

Overdoing it with plain fighters. I'd call them "vanilla fighters" but I know how sensitive some people are about vanilla.
After the last session, I convinced myself that I was crazy not to take Gryban into my party, especially if there's as much left to the game as some commenters have been indicating. As AlphabeticalAnonymous pointed out: "After all, the summit of Egil's ambitions was to clear some orcs from a cave--while Gryban clearly wants to help save the world (and has done it before)." He's right. Egil was the first to join me, so I'll always think of him fondly, but he's a bit of a rube. The rest of the party consists of a wizard who was mentored by one of Gryban's companions, a dimension-hopping sylph, a healer who set off on her own to rescue her village from a demon, and a half-feline denizen of another plane of existence. All of them are capable of wielding some form of magic. Egil is a plain fighter who works in the training grounds of a backwater town. Yes, I'm roleplaying Qamara as a classist character.
So we reluctantly bid Egil farewell--after stripping him of anything of value, of course--sent him back to Spannenberg, and recruited Gryban. Gryban has worse strength and "Attack" skill than Egil, but he has better everything else: higher levels, more hit points, better luck, charisma, dexterity, and intelligence, and the ability to memorize healing spells and use healing scrolls. He had "Medium Healing" and "Great Healing" already memorized. He comes with his own armor and a pretty good Holy Sword, although I later had him stow it for a Dwarf Axe, which does more damage in regular combat.
"Actually, we're going to need that rucksack."
He also came with an astonishing 350 training points, far more than he needed to reach the maximum of all of his skills. In fact, that's true to a lesser degree of all my party members. After I recruited Gryban, I did a quick circuit of all the training facilities and maxed everyone in just about everything, including "Swimming." The lack of further training development is one of the reasons I thought we were getting near the end. In general, the later I recruited a character, the more excess training points he or she has. I suspect that the game scales the levels and skills of your characters to the lead character's when you recruit them but forgets to deduct the extra skill points from their training point total.
Gryban needs only 32 points to max in all his skills. He has 350.
By the way, I still have no idea what "Search" does. The manual says it "describes the probability of finding a hidden treasure." Are there hidden treasures in this game? None have ever been called to my attention. The manual also suggests that there's a "Search" action on the command bar, but there isn't. I wonder if that was an element that was removed at some point.
Not really, but you gotta improve something.
While I was doing character upgrades, I spent some time finally learning some of the spells I'd been toting around on scrolls. Among the scrolls, I had almost every spell in the game. Nelvin and Sabine were able to memorize the most expensive (in terms of learning points) spells in their classes--"Ice Shower" and "Great Healing." They were also able to memorize most of the lesser spells, and I think I'll have them all by the end of the game. I had to be more selective with the three hybrid characters, but I got most of what I think I'll use regularly, including "Repair Item," Mass Hurry," "Anti-Magic Sphere," "Magical Attack," and "Magical Wall" for Qamara and "Map View," "Monster Knowledge," and "Identification" for Valdyn. I had Qamara set a "Word of Marking" spell in the foyer of her house, since I end up returning there so often.
I would literally give a limb for this ability.
While I was on the starting island, I decided to check out a dungeon hidden in the mountains that I hadn't noticed until I had the eagle. It was called the "Old Dwarf Labyrinth." As I explored, I got attacked by mine spiders, which are capable of casting almost every negative status in the game (e.g., blindness, madness, irritation, aging, sleep), and mine lizards, which hit hard and cast earth-based spells. Still, neither enemy was too hard for my group, and I cleared them out in short order.
They look harder than they are.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way forward in the mine. There was some kind of urn on legs that the game marks as a "special" object on the map, but no amount of poking and prodding would get anything to happen with it, so I assume I need to find something somewhere else.
I couldn't figure out what to do with this.
We moved on to the long island in the southern-central part of the map. It is bisected north-south by a line of mountains, and it contains the Gral Swamp to the northeast, the Thuna Desert on the east, and the city of Gemstone on the southwest. I explored it from north to south in east-west strips and found nothing until I reached Gemstone. Gemstone was a dwarven city in Amberstar, and one of the big mysteries of this game is that sometime in the past 70 years, all the dwarves have disappeared.
You know the place is abandoned because of the rubble.
Fittingly, Gemstone was called "Gemstone Ruins" and had no active services. It did have a couple of magic wells, but I'd used all my coins. In the northern part of the map, I found a building with a ladder descending into the earth. The party heard snippets of conversation from below the ladder. We descended and found some parties of scavengers ("rough-looking warriors") looking around for "powerful dwarf weapons." When they saw us, they immediately attacked. We had to fight three parties of them, but they were no difficulty at all--just plain fighters. Wow, I don't think I realized until this entry how prejudiced I am against "plain fighters."
But . . . you're intruders.
If the fighters were unimpressive, so was most of what they were looking for. The basement contained a few chests with copies of equipment we already had, including a Sun Helm, a Firebrand sword, a Mage's Robe, and Gala's Club, which is a nice melee weapon for a healer, but no way am I putting Sabine in melee combat. We did pick up a couple of Dwarf Slings, which are better weapons than the throwing sickles that Nelvin and Sabine are using, but only as long as I have sling stones.
This basement, incidentally, was notable as the first top-down area that requires a light source to see. Sometimes it doesn't make a lot of sense when the authors chose to use the top-down interface and when they chose the 3D interface.
Exploring a dark top-down area for a change.
In another building, we found a live dwarf named Bore. It's a good thing we picked up Gryban, it turns out, because he's the only one in the party capable of speaking Dwarven. Bore was quite mad, from loneliness or something else. "They have all gone," he moaned. "Why did Donner simply forget me?" On further questioning, he gave us a Staff of Opening that can be used to find the key to Donner's Mine.
Most important, he said, "I would have also liked to fly with the big boat to the green jewel!" In a previous session, we saw a vision of a dwarf at the helm of a flying ship, and another of a party of dwarves cutting their way through a strange-looking forest. Everything clicked: The dwarves disappeared because they invented some kind of airship and they sailed on it to another world, probably one of Lyramions moons--maybe even an amber one. (I had thought the name of the game referred to the moon that crashed into Lyramion because my color-addled mind thought "amber" was a type of red.) Which, assuming I'm going to visit this place, would explain why there can be so many hours left to the game when I've already explored most of the world.
Maybe your name is a clue.
The central building in Gemstone was the "Palace of Kire," which was locked up tight--no entrances at all. But I found a button behind a secret door in the northeast corner of the city, which made a door appear in the south wall, leading to the palace courtyard. There, a lever activated a teleporter that brought us to the interior. A further selection of buttons, levers, and teleporters let us explore the inside. We didn't find much. We were attacked by a party of spiders and a party of bandits, both laughably easy. We found a nice selection of potions and a few gems but nothing terribly useful.
I got this before being attacked by both spiders and bandits. I'm not sure how either of them "roar."
I took the Staff of Opening back to Donner's Mine, which I'd previously explored but had to abandon when I couldn't get past a locked door. It took me a while to figure out where to use it. You have to go to an island east of the mine entrance and use it in a square that seems random to me (I tried every square until it worked), at which point a different entrance opens in a mountain. This entrance later connects with the main one west of the island.
From crossword puzzles, I know this is called an "adit."
The mine had parties of the same mine spiders and mine lizards that I'd faced in the Old Dwarf Labyrinth. Annoying, but not deadly. 
I soon came across a pile of rubble. "I hope one of us has a pickaxe," Qamara said. Of course I didn't. I had to "Word of Recall" my way home, grab it, and make my way back to the island. Using it opened up a new corridor in which I found a stuck door. "We can only get in with a crowbar," Sabine opined. Aargh. I had to go back to my house a second time and get that. I grabbed the shovel at the same time, but of course I never needed that.
You know damned well that no one has a pick-axe.
Behind the door was a chest with Donner's Key, which opened the locked door I found originally. There were several more battles and several more rubble blockages to clear. I found two chests, one with over 8,000 gold and an Earthstone, and one with a Mithril Shirt, a Dwarf Axe, a Dwarf Sling, a scimitar, and a pair of Lightning Boots. I couldn't really use any of the items except for the boots. 
While we're on the subject of the Earthstone, I have the following rocks and minerals: Shandra's Amber, 2 Earthstones, a quartz crystal, a diamond, 2 emeralds, 2 topazes, 2 rubies, a Rainbowstone, an Amber Gem, and 16 generic "gems." I've been assuming that these are just sale items, and I haven't needed the money. But since I found nothing else plot-relevant in Donner's Mine, I have to assume the Earthstones, at least, are necessary quest items. I guess I won't be selling any of these gems.
Bursting with gold again, I decided to return to Illien and pick up the Elf Harp from Matthias for 10,000. The hardest part of this transaction was getting 10,000 gold into the hands of a single character. I had to shuffle around a bunch of equipment before I finally got Valdyn to carry it all, then offer it to Matthias.
I'm not sure the purchase was worth it. When used, the harp lets you choose any song from the game's soundtrack to play. Not being much of a soundtrack guy, I doubt I'll get much use out of it unless there's some quest-related reason to do so.
I have to admit: These are great CRPG song names.
With everything else accomplished for now, I flew to the central island with the Tower of Lebab. I repaired the windgate and found the Kalmir Herb that I needed.
Ah. It's that kind of "herb."
I moved on next to the Tower of Lebab itself. The front door was locked. A note read: "Old Lebab's business is closed until further notice. As soon as the old fool dies, I will take it over." It was signed "Drek."
". . . Marge."
Around the base of the tower were multiple entrances to the same single-level cave network. The place was crawling with gargoyles. I must have fought 20 battles against the creatures in parties of 2 or 4. They weren't difficult at all.
Some miscellaneous things in the caverns of Lebab:
  • At some point, I found yet another chest packed with "Destruction" spells scrolls--just as I was finally getting rid of my earlier supply.
This game has no respect for my inventory.
  • Spinners everywhere. They can be annoying to navigate because they don't just spin you once; they spin you at regular intervals of a few seconds each, each time pointing you in a random direction. You have to watch where you end up facing, remember where you were trying to go, and react quickly with the appropriate turn or strafe.
  • There were numerous rooms with stone shapes on the floor. Examining them brought up a message that I could "discern a round disk in the floor." I never figured out what to do with any of these.
I will take explicit hints as to what I missed here.
  • I came across a glowing orb at one point. The game asked whether Qamara would touch it. In past dungeons, such orbs have provided attribute boosts. This one exploded when I touched it, but I was unable to discern any boosts or other changes to the characters or to the dungeon.
  • I tried the "Petrify" spell at one point. As promised, it petrified a gargoyle. The gargoyle remained petrified, round after round. If I tried to attack it, the game said, "You cannot damage petrified monsters!" But without damaging him, there was no way to end the combat. I eventually had to quit and reload. Unless I'm missing something, I can't imagine ever casting that spell again.
How do I end combat, then?!
I eventually ran into Drek leading a group of 4 gargoyles. He questioned whether Lebab had sent us. Before we could answer, he said, "Whatever," and attacked. I used "Iceshower" to end the combat in one round. It's very overpowered. My mage can only cast two of them between rests, but it does something like 200-300 damage to all enemies on the screen. I haven't met many enemies who could survive even one round of that.
I never even found out what spells he was capable of.
A key on Drek's body opened the way to the Tower of Lebab. The tower consisted of five levels, all of which had multiple combats with more gargoyles. There were a lot of illusory walls and puzzles. On Level 3, we entered a room with a bunch of holes in the floor, moving around randomly. Most of the holes dumped us back into a large room on Level 2. We needed to find the one that would dump us into a smaller room on Level 2 with a couple of teleporters.
Because the holes move, you can't even note the ones you've already tried.
Level 4 had rooms full of spinners. Doors lined the walls. If we wandered into a door on the edge of the level, we ended up falling off the edge of the tower and dying. We had to fight the spinners and find the one door that led upward. 
All of this exploration amounted to nothing at all. When we reached the top of the tower, we met Lebab. He explained that Drek had been his apprentice, but his greed for power led Lebab to exile him. Drek has spent years plotting his revenge. He was happy enough that we killed him, but he didn't offer us a reward or anything.
Cool story.
The only other things of interest on his level were a) a storefront where you can pay to recharge items (nice, but I have the "Charge" spell), and b) a chest with 258 gold, a scimitar, a windpearl, a pair of wishing coins, and 5 potions of healing. All in all, not much to justify the hours spent exploring the island.
Next up: the assault on the Temple of the Brotherhood of Tarbos. A few entries ago, I had foolishly assumed that would be the end of the game.
Time so far: 59 hours


  1. I think the round discs in the floor are the spinners.

  2. "I'd call them "vanilla fighters" but I know how sensitive some people are about vanilla"
    Hehe, nice callback. But do you really want to wake HIM?

    "Search" skill: You wondered about the same thing in Amberstar. Apparently, like in that game, there is only a single place where "Search" can make a difference and according to online sources it's for a weapon of which you can find another one in the area without needing "Search".
    I think in Amberstar you had to click the 'Eye' symbol to look/search, but might be wrong.

    "Petrify": Hmm, in theory maybe you could cast "stone to flesh" and it seems there is an expensive spell called "Dissolve" or "Turn to dust". However, neither makes much sense both in terms of gameplay mechanics (why should you have to spend even more SP to use this?) or in-game (why can't you just shatter it or leave it petrified and end the fight?). Maybe someone else has an answer.

    1. Thanks for the link to the old thread. I always wondered about that. So, in the States, "sweet cream" ice cream is a rarity ? In truth, I am not completely surprised. American ads love artificial and augmented things (compared to Europe).

      A case could be made stating that the true unflavored ice cream would be "ice flavor". Just kidding !

    2. "Sweet cream" isn't unheard of, but it's not a very popular flavor. It's the basis of a lot of classic milkshakes, although it's fairly common to substitute vanilla instead (your typical vanilla ice cream is not very strongly flavored in the US unless it's explicitly a more upscale "vanilla bean" flavor).

      I don't know why that has anything to do with the ice cream being "artificial and augmented", though. While we're at it, I do know that there's a popular myth about vanilla flavoring: that it's sourced from beaver scent glands. This has a germ of truth (castoreum apparently does have a vanilla-like flavor and has been used in the past as a substitute) but both real vanilla and artificial vanillin (made from wood pulp) have been way cheaper for many years. There's apparently a Swedish liquor that's flavored with beaver squeezins, though.

    3. Remind me to avoid trying strange liquers next time I'm in Sweden...

    4. The Wikipedia entry says that the castoreum-flavored schnapps is called "B√§verhojt (lit. 'beaver shout')" so it seems like fair warning.

    5. I've actually only seen it at Cold Stone Creamery where you are expected to mix stuff into it. Never seen it at a supermarket...

    6. (should have refreshed before posting, "it" in this case being Sweet Cream Ice Cream)

    7. "Cold Stone Creamery" always reminds me of "Stone Cold Steve Austin."

      Stone Cold Sweet Creamery. I'd play that, assuming it was an ice cream shop franchise RPG...

    8. Ice Cream Shop manager by day, Professional Wrestler by night

    9. I don't know about EU/US but the Soviet sweet cream ice cream was actually very slightly flavored with vanilla.

    10. I've seen "sweet cream" flavored coffee creamers fairly frequently.

  3. Egil's advantage is the large number of attacks he gets. With a good weapon, he can easily do 100-200 damage per round, depending on the armor of the opponent. He must also speak Dwarvish, as I was able to speak to Bore without Gryban in the party.

    I think Gryban's stats are fixed. He's gated by not being able to reach him before getting an eagle.

    1. According to Chet's entry about when he met Nelvin and had him join the party, he knows elvish, dwarvish, and gnomish languages.

      That was back in mid-June, though, so with the time that has passed and two rather large games in parallel, it's no wonder he didn't remember that.

    2. All NPCs levels and stats are fixed until you recruit them.

    3. In Amberstar, fighters dealt so much more damage than every other class, that even bringing a grey mage to buff them was worse than just adding another fighter. I usually had the 3 quickest fighters in my party, one time I hex edited the dog to be a fighter. Once I played as a black mage to have 2 of them, but it takes ages until that's worth it.

      Hybrid classes are nerfed multiple times, getting less attacks per level and also needing more experience and having a lower attack skill maximum. That multiplies to like 0,3x power. Balancing was a bit overworked in Ambermoon and you also have less options, but the idea/problem is still the same.

      I don't think that will be a problem, but Egil really carries his weight

  4. That guy in the screenshot of "Burnville's Swimming School" looks like your typical swimming teacher with his practical heavy armour, gloves and helmet. And of course you should never get into the water for a swim without your trusty two-handed axe. Or is he just the bouncer / security guard of the swimming school?

    On the other hand, maybe that's his specialty. After all, in this game you as party members are supposed to somehow carry your armour, weapons and other inventory along when swimming. Just swimming around half-naked and with your arms free, that's for sissies, everybody can do that.

  5. Amber doesn't really have any green in it, so the chances of the Ambermoon being a "green jewel" wouldn't be the greatest, assuming it's meant to be taken literally

    1. Ermmmm… as an orange color, it’s got a load of green in it since in RGB it’s a mixture of red and green. If you do paint, then it’s more yellow and red, which gets trickier since green is yellow and blue - but you may indeed add some blue to tone down the orange so again there’s inherently some green there

    2. Ooh, the weird coincidence of learning a thing and then seeing it everywhere strikes again. I spent most of my life assuming that when you mixed red and green to get yellow, they were actually mixing. But no, of course, now that you think about it, individual photons have an individual wavelength, and it's not like they mix by all changing their wavelength to something in the middle. There's two different ways to produce yellow - one is by emitting photons with a wavelength around 580 nanometers. But if you instead produce a mix of photons with wavelengths around 650 and 550, that's also yellow, because your eyes can't tell the difference. They both trigger as "I'm seeing colors, but not blue".
      A weird side effect of this is that if you have an object which absorbs both 580nm and 450nm light, but not 650 and 550, it will look yellow under natural light, but black under actual yellow light (like a sodium lamp). That's why some car repairs become super visible in parking lots.

      (The phenomenon of there being two different yellows works the same way as the, I think, better known phenomenon of purple not existing - like yellow, the visual phenomenon of purple is "I'm seeing colors but not X" - in this case X=green. But unlike yellow, there isn't a single frequency on the spectrum which is also purple. The frequency that is halfway between blue and red is GREEN)

    3. I guess that's why Ritchie Blackmore founded Rainbow, there's no Purple in it.

    4. @Buck: Haha, nice! Pity you can't like / upvote other comments.

  6. I can't help myself reading 'The Tower of Kebab'... and get hungry!

  7. The parting of Egil makes me think about this comic book cover:

  8. Replies
    1. The mark and recall spells and the importance of multiple moons also remind me of Morrowind specifically.

    2. Recall and Mark, along with two moons, makes me think of Ultima Online. You got really used to "Kal Ort Por" to travel.

  9. Xenka has right to be pissed, something clearly goofed up with the jumbo-tron vision of the avatar watching an automaton trudge through acid


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