Monday, November 6, 2023

Bloodstone: Gods and Monsters

I like the sentiment, but could you express it in just three words?
In the first session of Bloodstone, Danat McLagh ignominiously fled his home with four companions while his clan, the Asarene dwarves, were slaughtered by goblin-like "taldor." With a general goal of uniting the dwarven clans against this threat, the party went north to Haraza, where Torongo, chief of the Tanar clan, wanted us to bring a bunch of dwarven artifacts back to him in exchange for his support: a magic scarab, brooch, mitre, scepter, golden bowl, orb, crown, whistle, and Death Mask of Rohrkhad.
As we begin this session, the party is leaving Haraza to visit the Morin dwarves in the city of Kafari to the south. Those are the two major dwarf clans, but there are reports of minor tribes in the "wastes of northern Tarq." I don't know if we need their support or not. On the way to Kafari, we find a guy teaching "Trading," but I decline to spend money and time on it.
Arriving at Kafari.
Fighting a couple of miscellaneous combats on the way--more on combat in a bit--we eventually come to Kafari and begin our typical exploration pattern. Key notes:
NPCs talk of an ancient temple in the southwest corner of town filled with ancient "half-dead." But when we enter the building, we find a pretty temple to Ziphanu, the God of Air. The altar has a word: FURBIMBOR on it. I assume that, as in the Candle games, we'll use this word to wake up the god. He's rumored to be imprisoned in Hataan to the west. Rolg at the bar in Tulara knows more. 
This series knows how to stick to a theme, however odd.
  • In the tavern, Emmera thinks the rivalry between Morin and Tamar dwarves is so toxic that not even Khamalkhad can unite them.
  • Also in the tavern, Olga is looking for her husband, Atun. 
  • A cook named Re tells me that when dwarves die, they go to the home of their god, Rohrkhad, who was banished when he imprisoned the other gods. Some "crazy old man up north" is said to have been to his castle.
  • There's a school that teaches gemcutting, plus a gemcutter who needs help. There's a weapon shop, an inn, a wizard's retreat for those with spellbooks to memorize spells, and a place to learn archery. I don't do anything with any of them.
  • A kid tells me about an old temple to the south.
  • A dwarf named Shedara says that she once saw a fine platinum lyre in the hands of a traveling minstrel. If I ever meet him, I should ask him for the "Lay of the Death Mask."
  • A man named Horatio sells musical instruments in his shop. I do want to explore music in this game, but none of my existing characters have much skill. 
Which one will lead to the most annoying and pedantic discussion of the number of strings?
  • Notama tells me that Dablak, God of the Earth, is buried deep in central Tarq.
  • Smorqa, the Mystic of Kafari, suggests I seek certain "wise people" to aid me with totems and tiles. Tiles are the key to instant teleportation. I should ask loremasters about COMBINATIONS.
  • A trader named Ensule sells sealskins, which will let me cross rivers. I buy six, depleting most of my money.
Later: I guess they work.
  • The Morin chief lives in a hut to the southeast of town, but I need to know his name before I can enter. It's late in the session before I finally find a dwarf named Pleitan, who gives me the name as RAKAN. He also tells me where I can find a magic orb buried in the Temple of Ziphanu.
  • I meet Rakan in his house. He wants the same list of treasures as Torongo! I'm not sure what to do if I want both their support. Give half to one and half to the other?
There isn't a lot of variance in these dwarf names.
  • On a later visit to the tavern, I find a wizard named Maxon. He tells me that all the best wizards have names that start with "M," and he gives me the teleportal combination to Asarene. Finally, he offers to join the party, and I accept. He comes with the "Chalta" book and lots of spells from other books memorized.
Shortly after leaving Kafari, I find a patch of Sermin mushrooms south of the city. I pick a few, taking care to leave some still growing. South of that, I find an "ominous gateway" that leads me to a dungeon with a very long, spiraling corridor. I try to explore it, but in the first room I enter, I fight some undead called "thamalques." Like undead in the other Candle games, they spring back to life in the round after they've been slain if you don't cast "Restsoul." I only have a couple of those memorized. I go back outside and memorize more (they're part of the Gimlai spell totem that came with Danat), but when I enter again, I get slaughtered by crossbow-wielding "dimelfs" in a different room. I decide to return to this dungeon when I am stronger and better-resourced, particularly with enough Nifts to avoid damage from attacks.
Slaughtered by the drow's less intelligent cousins.
Random combats in the wilderness replenish my gold. I start taking notes as to the game's original monsters and their special attacks. If I'm lucky, I fight monsters like taldor and pennari who have only physical attacks in melee range. I'm able to kill them with crossbows before they even reach us. More dangerous are magic-using creatures like taldormages. I've been reloading after each death because the party only came with about 5 "Resurrection" spells, and we have no way to get more until we buy the appropriate totem.   
An enemy approaches in the wilderness.
Notes on monsters:
  • Taldor: Basic brutes, like goblins. Melee attacks only.
  • Pennari: Dogs that accompany taldor. Melee attacks only.
  • Hightaldor: Strong taldor. But still just melee attacks.
  • Taldormage: Very dangerous. Cast spells like "Shatter" from afar.
  • Tlatol: Taldor companions.
  • Thamalque: Undead of some sort. Physical attacks only.
  • Dimelf: Shoot with crossbows. Play on "dark elf"? 
  • Bazards: Giant green lizards. 
Archery skill goes up from shooting a taldor.
The next port of call we reach, moving clockwise around the map, was the city of Tulara, still part of the Morin clan domain. Findings:
  • A casino. I lose two rolls for small amounts and decide not to waste my money there.
  • A metalsmith. He needs help and offers to pay 20 gold per day. I say what the heck and assign Volni, who has the highest skill in this art, to work with him. Even if I don't leave him here, we'll make 20 gold if we're in town for only one day, and I know I'll spend at least a day passing time in the tavern to see who shows up at different hours.
The series continues to allow some poor characters to work as wage slaves to support the party.
  • Manteki has the Belfon totem for sale for 2,525, about 1,000 more than I have. I mark the hut for later return. 
  • An armorer. I buy some leather for Maxon, who didn't come with any.
  • A trader sells shovels, ropes, and picks. I think I'm all set there.
  • A small temple has an altar with the word PLISTICAL on it. It's probably the secret word for waking up Dablak, the earth god, who lies in the ruins of Delqafi (information I got elsewhere).
"Let's get . . . plistical."
  • Rolg shows up in the tavern at 19:00. He tells me about the land of Hataan, west of Tulara. The runs with the Temple of Ziphanu are in a field, surrounded by a forest, east of a bridge, south of Rulaan, the female barbarian city.
Rolg tells me about the ruins of Hataan.
  • Numerous NPCs tell me the lands to the west are overrun with dangerous monsters.
  • I finally find a herb shop but can barely afford anything.
  • There's a tailor, but none of my characters have any tailoring skill. Also a gemseller and a guy offering music lessons.
  • A dwarf named Frozo upbraids us for killing "innocent monsters with families and children."
Always nice to get the liberal perspective.
  • In the loremaster's hut, I get two teleportal combinations. Researching TALDOR, I learn they were created by Palelil, evil brother of Rohrkhad. Rohrkhad couldn't undo their creation, but he made it so when the taldor got drunk, they'd tell anyone anything. Unfortunately, even Maxon doesn't have enough "Research" skill to research the DEATH Mask of Rohrkhad, and I'm not sure how to develop this skill.
How do you suppose this translates in real terms? How much skill do you need to read things on stone tablets?
A warrior named Enric offers to join the party in the tavern, and I take him, filling the hole that Volni left. He's stronger than Volni but lacks Volni's magic. I decide to keep him for the time being and let Volni continue to work, mostly because I can't figure out how to temporarily park a party member in this town. If anyone had skill in tailoring, I could do it there, but there's otherwise no place to "assign" a party member temporarily in order to shuffle another one in. Since I need so many things that cost money, it strikes me that it might be more advantageous to keep a slot permanently open and put one of my other characters to work in one of the other towns.
I can believe a "Musical" skill that low. I once saw Enric Palazo absolutely butcher the national anthem.
As I contemplate that, I also contemplate our next steps. At this point, we've explored maybe the southeast tenth of the main continent. We have a lot of leads, but I'm hesitant to depart from what we might call the "tri-cities" area until we're better resourced--weapons, armor, mushrooms, bolts, spells. I think I might spend what I have on what I can afford, then try that dungeon a second time.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • If I ever understood the reason for having a "Greet" command separate from "Talk," I've forgotten it.
  • The game bifurcates NPCs into named ones, who always offer ADVICE or OTHER (enter your own keywords) as defaults, and unnamed ones, who offer NEWS, WEATHER, and PEOPLE. WEATHER never produces anything interesting. NEWS seems to pick from a databank of rumors. ADVICE often leads to other keywords, but NEWS never does.
  • For a game that has so many input options--keyboard, mouse, and arrowing around to commands and hitting ENTER--I manage to flub whatever I'm trying to do a lot. I remember commenting on this several times in the Candle games. I can't put my finger on exactly what's wrong--on paper, this is just the type of interface I'm always demanding--but I'm constantly finding myself in sub-menus that I didn't mean to visit or on the verge of doing something like dismissing a party member or reloading a game, when I never meant to get anywhere near those options.
  • As with the Candle games, my colorblindness doesn't work well with icons as small and detailed as this. I'm constantly talking to inanimate objects thinking that they're NPCs.
I'm having quite a bit of fun with this one. This approach is exactly what I enjoy: A distant goal, lots of lore to keep track of, a growing "to do" list, and a strong economy (at least for now). The poison pill of the Candle series has always been character development, and I sense some of the same potential problems here. I'll talk more about that next time.
Time so far: 7 hours


  1. "I find a wizard named Maxon." Maybe you'll find the "Maxoff" wizard as well, Mr. Miyagi.

  2. Nice captions, several made me chuckle. "Slaughtered by the drow's less intelligent cousins." "Let's get . . . plistical." ... Young(ish) readers might have to do a quick internet search for the latter one ;-). Same as for the in-game joke about "Enric Palazo" you also picked up in a caption and which shows the approximate time period this game was made.

    "Da ruins are inna field"

    I understand it's not easy to convey regional or "class" aspects of a fictional environment while writing in English (or another language), but to me (not a native speaker) this does sound a bit strange. Seems as forced as "thou" and "thy".

    1. I always envision dwarves speaking with a Scottish accent thanks to the LOTR movies. Now I'm wondering if this was Peter Jackson's choice or if there is an even older source. It somehow seems fitting but I still wonder why exactly, I don't know any particular things Scots have in common with dwarves.

    2. I believe it goes back to Poul Anderson's Three Hearts And Three Lions, which was a big influence on D&D in the early days (it's the source of the D&D style tall but wiry regeneration troll). I believe it quickly ossified as its own meme without reference to the original source though, as 1. no one I have ever played D&D with has ever mentioned Poul Anderson and 2. it's just a fun regional accent that most Americans feel qualified to fake and that sounds silly to us. Games Workshop's North English soccer hooligan dwarves probably did a lot to solidify it further.

    3. Games Workshop dwarves have northern English accents, but they're not soccer hooligans.

      It's the Orcs (who have more of a parodic cockney accent) that are soccer hooligans.

    4. It's been around for a while. Salvatore's dwarves sounded Scottish, I think. Feist may have done it, too. Pratchett also.

    5. Orcs are definitely hooligans. They love Blood Bowl more than anyone.

    6. I imagine a loud German accent fits dwarves very well.

    7. Northern accents for dwarves (which gets more similar to Scottish the more you go but is different) makes sense since mining in the UK used to mainly be done in the north. Which is why you get the stereotyped sayings like “down t’mine” where you swallow the “t” which is entirely a northern thing.

    8. I feel like a German accent would fit gnomes better than dwarves.

    9. I was wondering too where the accent came from and also ended up on Three Hearts and Three Lions. Fascinating!

      Overall I love the dwarf centred story, even if there's been little different so far to a human centred one.

  3. So, which would you say has more strings, a bugle or a flute?

    1. I was going to vote for the drum.

      Seriously, though, the interesting question to me is which of the instruments you can learn here is the most useful in practice. Might depend on personal playstyle and party composition.

      (Background from the manual: "Musical Instruments: Played by someone of skill, the various musical instruments available at music shops can be of immense benefit to the party. The Drum rallies your party in combat. Playing a Lyre will restore your party's energy. The Bugle can be used to terrify an enemy, while the Flute will soothe an enemy into submission.")

  4. I mean, kudos to the game for trying different semantics for its bestiary, but if we're remembering 'Taldor' simply as being 'Goblins' or 'Orcs' anyway, it kind of defeats the point.

    1. I think we attach negative connotations to words like goblin or orc by default. Taldor on the other hand has a regal sound, to me? Especially when there are also High Taldor. If you don't me it was an elf rather than a goblin I'd have taken it

  5. I guess they wanted to use the d&d universe - as it is familiar and everyone understands the core rules - without paying anyone.

    And about the colour blindness, I do not suffer from it and I barely can see where are the npcs in the screenshots. I wish they had used a different style.

    1. But props to the game for letting you talk to inanimate objects in the first place. Think about the role playing opportunities.

    2. This game clearly doesn't use the D&D core rules, though. It has different stats, a different list of skills, and a different scale for the numbers.

      Nor do you have to pay anyone to use standard words like "goblin". Using specific words from the Tolkien books, that's another matter.

    3. That is what I meant, Radiant. You don't use the specific rules, the specific races, but use things that are similar so people can intuitively know what a character or a race is about without explaining too much.

  6. I'm pretty sure I wage-slaved my way to arbitrarily high wealth in this game. Pentium speed, baby!

    I didn't really 'get' games that required notes, so after outfitting myself in good gear I just wandered around fighting random encounters until I got bored.

  7. "How much skill do you need to read things on stone tablets?" - Well, if they were written by, say, Hegel...

    1. I was thinking more along the lines of, "these tablets are written in some ancient language only a few scholars know how to read" (e.g. Egyptian hieroglyphs).

    2. AlphabeticalAnonymousNovember 6, 2023 at 4:38 PM

      My previous comment in this subthread seems to have been lost (or deleted?).

    3. Sorry, AA. I didn't see any other comments come through on this thread. The last comment I have from you before this was on an Ambermoon thread on 4 November. I don't show anything in spam or in the moderation queue.

    4. "some ancient language only a few scholars know how to read" - describes Hegel perfectly.

  8. I would equate Research Skill with (real world) Literacy. Someone may be able to read a newspaper, for example, but not a text on theoretical physics.

    Less likely, the Loremaster has an unusual or complex system to organize his tablets and Maxon is unable to find the right one. IRL, how many people can navigate Dewey Decimal and/or Library of Congress classification systems without using a catalogue?

    (I was a Professional Librarian for 20+ years, so my Research Skill is maximized. Sadly, my Combat skills are all decidedly sub-par.)

    1. Or worse, there is no system. "I know where I put everything, why do I need a system?"

  9. Hi there CRPG Addict, been reading your site for a long time, it's my first comment! I've been looking forward to your impressions of this game, I remember really enjoying it (as I have all of Mindcraft's games). But, oddly enough, I never beat it - I don't remember the details, but I think the combat got too difficult for me toward the end. I'll be curious to read how you fare.

    1. fellow mindcraft loverNovember 7, 2023 at 8:26 AM

      Yeah, I had the same experience, anon. I remember the game had very similar late-game combat to the others, where you were pounding mushrooms and 'jump'-ing your fighters next to mages and if you didn't kill them all in the first round, you were screwed.

      There were also a lot of 'ambush' squares (like in the other games) that you could avoid by reorganizing your party and worming your way around them. I think Andrew Schultz has really good info about it in a walkthrough (imagine that...) I feel like the last hallway in the game is *extremely* brutal to a degree not found in any of the MC games.

      Still, the changes made to the engine (no energy/food) and the overall gameplay was really good.

  10. How much can you interact with the environment in these games? In this and in Magic Candles indoor areas look like they are full of containers you can search and items to pick. Or are those just static background tiles?

    1. They're completely non-interactive. That threw me in the first three games.

    2. Oh that's a shame, I was wondering if these games play a lot like the (highy interactive) Ultima 6.

  11. All of the candle games and followons were awesome for me, hands down.

  12. The font in those screenshots is awful!

    1. It isn't the best, but in the intended viewing environment it isn't so bad. You're not supposed to be looking at it as a tiny part of a larger window.

  13. "If I ever understood the reason for having a "Greet" command separate from "Talk," I've forgotten it."

    The manual has this to say: "The "Greet" command lets the selected party member switch his or her attention to a different person without leaving the Talk Menu. It can be used, for example, to make a quick round of introductions in a crowded tavern before settling down to a serious conversation with one of the patrons."

    I'm not sure this really adds anything (convenience?) except for role-playing purposes. From the manual of the first MC it sounded a bit as if the greeting could have an effect on how amenable to questions thereafter the other party is, depending on the charisma of the greeter and asker. But not sure there really is an additional element you'd miss if you went straight to talking.
    Plus I think when meeting monsters there was an option to greet them and so potentially avoiding combat.

  14. It's really refreshing to see dwarves treated as a protagonist species instead of an "accessory species." The new Zeldas have really been skeeving me out by putting the black/arab people in the same "accessory species" category as the rock people, fish people, and bird people, so this was a breath of fresh air.

    Also boy, if you don't like being told that "they attacked me!" isn't a valid reason for violence, you are lucky that Undertale is like 50 years away at this point in the blog.

  15. I loved Magic Candle 1, was one of my favourite games of the era, and I have fired it up for a replay a few times in the past 5-10 years. Magic Candle 2 I got into to start with, and the improved combta and extra mechanics with being able to split aditonal parties, and communicate were fun additions. But the dungeons just suffered from being too MOAR BIGGER and became sprawling and tedious.

    Magic Candle 3 I never tried at all. This one has intrigued me for some time - I'll be interested to hear if they managed to carry forward the improvements, while also learning to pace the content well so it doesnt get sprawling.

    1. I checked the playtimes on this blog for the Magic Candle games when Bloodstone started and interestingly, while both I and II took roughly 70 hours, the third entry only took 36, so almost half the time. The number of blog posts is lower, too. I'm not sure if this was because of a shorter game with less content, or because of familiarity with the mechanics that allowed the Addict to blow through most of the game.

    2. It is a surprise that I and II both took the same amount of time for Chet to play through. Maybe I should give MC II another go, it would be well over 20 years since my play through.

    3. Wasn’t MC IIi considerably shorter because Chet discovered that the (ab)use of mushrooms made even the most difficult combats pretty easy?
      I sure remember that this was a major criticism in the gimlet.


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