Part 14: Eastern Gallery Mop-Up
"And where to next, then? I think we've done about all we can in the slith lands for now."
"Still want to go to the Tower of the Magi!"
"I vote we push deeper into the Slith lands! They haven't learned their lesson hard enough yet."
"And you've all forgotten about Formello? Help the mayor out, get a Crown Token, and we can talk to the king of Avernum himself! C'mon, Byff, if there's anyone who knows a way out of here, it'll be the king."
"There is that...damn, now I'm conflicted."
The thread has voted! And we will be going...somewhere! But first, we have some mopping up to do.
"Hold on a second! I was promised that we would break up that little slaving operation as soon as possible! And Byff's gotten some new spells!"
"So I say let's go roast some lizard butt and free those slaves!"
"I could use some target practice..."
"Let's get 'em!"
As before, this is a fight against a decent-sized slith force, with a Slith Shaman and two Fire Lizards as backup (and this time, a slime the shaman summoned), while we get a couple of friendly Mages. The difference is that this time, Byff has a new area-of-effect attack spell.
"I want to preserve this little moment. Everyone freeze!"
"If you can't take the cold, maybe you should get out of the vast network of caverns! Ha ha ha!"
Wow, fire lizards don't like that at all! Neither do the sliths, of course. Between Byff and Elly, we're able to knock our enemies down very quickly.
"Power! I have so much power!"
"Hey look, it's going to his head."
"Best place for it, really."
We can't cut them down quickly enough that everyone lives, mind you. Kane and One-Eye spend every turn healing, and it's not quite enough to keep up with the slith warriors' damage output. One-Eye dies shortly after Kane does, due to an unlucky series of hits. But after that, the enemy starts going after the allied mages instead of Byff and Elly -- the fools. We kill them with ease. One of the mages even survives!
And that's four of six crystals.
"Well, I'd say that was a worthwhile experience. How're you doing?"
"Little lightheaded. Man that was fun."
"We should probably take Kane and One-Eye back to town now."
"I just died for the sake of your crusade, Elly. Happy now?"
"Naturally not! There's still at least three more of those slave camps out there!"
The other fights play out similarly, except that for two of them, the sliths are slightly less reinforced (i.e. they don't have any fire lizards) and we get soldiers instead of mages on our side. Frankly the extra meatshields come in handier than the spells the mages were casting anyway.
I mean, look at this! We have hardly anyone trying to hit us!
We don't get crystals from every camp, of course. One of them gives us a shield:
The evasion chance is probably better for Kane than the extra damage reduction from the Treated Carapace (and we don't care about the poison resistance).
Another gives us a sword:
This thing looks dumb -- who puts pole skills on a sword? But it's great for Byff or Elly: as the name suggests, it's intended to get you more combat disciplines, and help you use them more often. Byff has 7 ranks in bows; with this sword, he has 12 total basic combat ranks and is thus only three more levels away from Adrenaline Rush.
And finally, we get a scroll:
Which is a Scroll of Return Life. Welcome, if not exciting.
"Feeling better now that we're surrounded by dead lizards, Elly?"
"Much! Thanks for indulging me, darlings!"
"I don't understand women."
A bit further south is a small section of cavern we missed the first time around.
"Elly? Byff? Opinions?"
"Honestly, even if it's trying to trick us, I think we could take it."
"Aww, the poor thing!"
"Uh, right. Greetings, sir drake."
"Not my meat stash!"
"You've been hauling that stuff around for ages. Frankly I'm amazed it's still edible."
"Here, take as much as you want. Please."
If you attack, you automatically kill it, and get 50 coins instead. You monster.
"The payoff for this had better be worth it!"
"Dude, he took three hamhocks from you. You'll live."
"What is ham even doing down here? Are there cave pigs in the underworld?"
"With all the mushrooms, it wouldn't surprise me if there were truffles down here, and where there's truffles, you need truffle pigs to dig them up. It's only logical."
"Truly, you are a man of dizzying intellect."
That's five crystals, by the way; we only need one more!
Let's start mopping up the Eastern Gallery. Waaaay over near Silvar, if we pilot our boat under the southern bridge, we can find this little alleyway:
"A human working with goblins? No way she's on the level."
"Why don't we hold back and see what they're up to, instead of charging in like madmen?"
"What fun would that be?"
If you let them be:
"Look! They're digging out another dungeon, and right next to Silvar!"
"I have to admit that seems the most likely explanation."
Unfortunately you can't attack them if you let them be, so let's just reload and kill them all instead.
Six goblins and a mage; trivial.
In the original game, there was a pointless filler dungeon here with a few witches at the end. It was tiny and, by the time you likely found it, trivial. I kind of wish it was still around if only for flavor reasons, but it was so random and completely tangential to literally everything else in the game that I can't really protest its absence too strongly.
We stop by Fort Duvno to see if J.R. will give us the time of day, but despite our "Well-Liked" reputation, she still refuses to train us in bowyering. Er, archery. On the other hand, near Duvno is the Batcave. Remember the Batcave? Kane and One-Eye died there. Fun times.
"I guess it was a bit optimistic to think we'd killed all of the bats."
So yeah, dungeons do repopulate after you clear them. Just very, very slowly. And the "boss" units like the Escaped Experiment aren't back.
"Why are we back here, again?"
"You surely haven't forgotten already, have you? There's a spellbook down here!"
"Oh, goody. Spells. I cannot contain my excitement."
"Shush you. Education is important! Knowledge is power, the power to destroy your enemies with a thought!"
"I never thought of taking that aphorism quite so literally before."
"Oh, phooey. Another one for you, Elly."
"Yeppers! Look on the bright side, One-Eye: now it won't hurt quite as badly when bad guys hit you in the face!"
"Yeah? How much less will it hurt?"
"Uhh, help me out here, Byff."
"Heard of the Schmidt Pain Index?"
"Then we'll need to do some calibrations. Hold still while I get out my needles."
"I get the impression you guys don't respect me. "
"Respect, yes. Dignify, no. There's a difference!"
"And be fair! None of the rest of us have any dignity either!"
Ward of Steel is an excellent spell, and the first ward spell Elly's gotten. It reduces the damage your characters take in melee, so this will greatly help Kane's survivability. Ward spells, like Byff's Cloak spells, last until you return to town (whence you also get a full spellpoint restore), so there's little reason to not have a cloak up at all times.
"Wait, what are we doing back at Fort Avernum?"
"Just taking care of a little unfinished business."
"Should have figured that meant stealing everything that isn't too heavy to lift."
"And you can lift an awful lot!"
One of these rooms has a Group Heal scroll, which is always welcome. The other...
"Now do you understand why I have to open every locked door I find?"
"I understand! I understand!"
"I...dammit, Elly, it's for you again!"
"Aren't there any mage tomes down here? What's with all the prayer books? "
Call the Storm level 3 just deals a bit more damage and is more likely to tag its targets with Weakness Curse. But hey, it was free. And over in the Surface Goods Storage...
"Ha! I'm still useful!"
...there's a chest with a healing elixir (nice but also common), a scroll of Spineshield (worthless), and yet another bag of sugar. We now have three of the things. And we really are done with Fort Avernum; I don't think there's ever a reason to return, now.
Next, remember the Nephar Fort? We died there too. And we had to leave some bits unfinished.
Hey, what happened to the guards?
"I'm sure I can't imagine, but guess what! I gained a level!"
"Elly, who are you talking to?"
"Oh, never you mind."
Amusingly, the Nephar Fort is one of the few where you can't enter through the front gate, because it's locked.
So you really do have to take the back way in! Anyway. Item the first:
"Don't think I've forgotten about you, book!"
"You could always learn more priest spells if you've been feeling left behind."
Improving Curing allows it to remove multiple physical status ailments when you cast it. Odds are decent that if you've been hit with one ailment, you have several on you, so curing them all at once is a welcome improvement.
Item the second:
"Is this really wise? I seem to recall Elly said we'd get dogpiled by demons if we messed with the nephar altar."
"Oh, I'm sure it'll be fine!"
"But you said..."
"And we're a lot stronger now! So go get that dagger!"
"Don't have to tell me twice!"
"Let me just cast a haste spell first..."
"...nnoott tthhaatt iitt hheellppeedd aannyy."
Note the shackle icons on everyone -- we've been slowed, which has a chance to rob each character of their AP, skipping their turn. Luckily, Kane and One-Eye don't lose their turns, so they can shuffle Byff out of harm's way by swapping places with him, and cure him of his slowness so he's guaranteed to get a turn. Byff then spends his turn casting Haste, which removes the Slow that everyone else got tagged with. Elly throws up Protection, and from there these three Cave Demons really can't do much to us, with their total lack of anything besides melee.
And everyone else levels up! Elly's ahead of the experience curve because she dies the least, but she's not ahead by very much. And we got the Radiant Shortblade:
I think that's worth replacing the Nephil Warblade on Kane, though losing the +1 STR on the Warblade means Kane's accuracy goes down slightly.
Item the third:
"Oh come on, we're breaking into the crypt?"
"Like I said, gotta unlock all the doors!"
"Oh, fine. Come on then, let's get this over with."
The Crypt Demons are unique enemies (well, there's two of them, but they're the only two in the game). They lead off the fight by throwing up Spine Shield, making it a bad idea to hit them in melee, and Battle Frenzy, for bonus AP. We counter by sticking Kane in the doorway and having everyone else pelt them with ranged attacks.
Aside from their status buffs, Crypt Demons have a frankly fairly minor melee attack, and an acid spray attack that...hurts rather badly. But nothing we can't handle.
"Oh, stop being such a big baby! You're fine! Ṇ̶̭̻̬̍̓̚o̶̟̪̹̙͓͉w̅͗ ͍̤̹̎͌́s̥͈̉́̌͋ͫ̋͛t̡̝͕̻̞̩̼ͣ̿̇̃o͕̣̳͇̗̪̼ͫͤ̋̋ͨͩ̆̕p̜̼̖͆̌̈́̈́̉̀͒͞ ͓̮̙̲̉͗ͤ̆̈́́̚ͅs͉ͭ͌ͪ̏ͯ̽͒n̞̟̯͖̆̅̂̏̈̊̚i̓̂̐͋̀̓̔҉f̢̫͈͈̝̹̽́̐̓̐f̦̥̻l͍̜̱̱̜̩̻ͦ͟į̝͖̠̭͛ͅn̡̹̣͇̾g̼̀ͧ̐̏͑̉̚!̷̥̆̊̍"
And that's the worst things get.
"Oh man, crypts guarded by demons always have the best stuff!"
"...it's a piece of sword."
"It's a piece of sword that goes with the blade we found earlier!"
"Still no idea what the thing is, though, right?"
"Well, no. But looks like this bit held the power supply, so it's a good thing we recovered it. Now we just have to find the tip."
"Or we could just sell the parts for cash."
"What, and never learn what they're for? Don't you have any curiosity?"
"Oh sure. But I also have a thirst for decent beer, and I know that's going to be expensive down here. How many shipments of real ale do you think the Empire sends through each year?"
Finally, just north of Fort Dranlon is a little nook off the river.
"Hey, I'll bet we're near that house we saw earlier! The one that Elly didn't want to swim to!"
"I'm not afraid of water. But you try staying afloat while carrying over 200 pounds of mushroom meal and iron bars!"
In the original game, this was another tiny dungeon, inhabited by some evil cult. It had next to no flavor text and, like the witches coven earlier, was pretty trivial.
"At last! We can repair the cave!"
"Still don't see what the big deal is."
Sure enough, back at the Crystal Cave:
"Well that was nice."
"But what did it do?"
"Uh. Good question."
"This was a whole lot of work for just feeling nice for a few seconds."
"You aren't really cut out for charity work, are you?"
"What do you think?"
Repairing the crystal cave gives everyone a permanent +1 Endurance. Which isn't nothing, but also isn't all that significant. Then again, in previous versions the cave just restored your SP, which is of even lower utility.
Toddric, the healer at Fort Dranlon who wants to visit the cave, doesn't have anything special to say now that it's been repaired. Neither does Konig, the alchemist at Cotra. However, Konig now thinks highly-enough of us to teach us his powerful spell!
"Hey Konig! How do you like us now?"
"Sweet! Lay it on us!"
"Heh. Figures he'd figure out a way to teach us that didn't actually involve talking to us."
"So long as I get me some new magic!"
Down below Cotra:
"Oh, how kind -- he's also rewarded us with his personal belongings!"
"Has he now."
Konig's chest (along the right-hand wall, partially hidden) contains an energy potion, spineshield scroll, and a low-value crystal. But more important is the spell tome.
"Ha! Finally, a spell for mages!"
"Hey, maybe I could learn to cast mage spells!"
"You stay out of this, Elly. This is mine. "
Cloak of Curses just has a better chance of inflicting debuffs as its level increases. It triggers fairly reliably at level 3, but enemies usually either die or recover before those debuffs can actually do much. Oh well.
Anyway, that's it for the Eastern Gallery! Before we ship out, let's take a quick look at our friends.
Kane has matured nicely into the party tank. He's tantalizingly close to getting Adrenaline Rush (just one more level!), and is otherwise focusing on Hardiness for extra survivability, and Blademaster for more damage on his attacks. His Backstab trait (bonus damage against flanked enemies) is a bit wasted, seeing as the rest of our party spends so little time in melee range, but one wasted trait is not going to hurt him.
He has all the best gear when it comes to resistances and armor. In fact, all of his gear except his bow (Cavewood Longbow), boots (Heavy Boots), and helmet (Bronze Helmet) are now magical, though none of them does anything particularly flashy. Mostly just minor increases to resistances and chances to evade attacks.
One-Eye has pretty much entirely switched over to bows now. It's not so much the ammo limitations; more that the damage improvement of javelins vs. bows is so marginal as to make little difference, and there are some magical bows we can get later that we'll want him to be able to use. He's focusing his skills on Sharpshooter for more damage per shot, and Sniper for chances at getting extra shots each turn. He's noticeably more accurate and lethal than Kane is, though of course, Kane is foregoing dual-wielding, at least for now.
Note how awful his resistances are compared to Kane. That's down solely to gear and the Hardiness skill that Kane has invested in.
Hm, One-Eye doesn't have a hat. How strange. His only really interesting gear is the Mercuric Leather, which increases his AP by 1; once he starts investing in the Gymnastics skill (which has a 10% chance per point to give 1 bonus AP each turn), he'll be able to frequently get double turns. Note his gigantic piles of Crude and Iron Javelins (229 and 92 respectively); the iron type do 40-160 damage, compared to 56-148 for his Cavewood Longbow. That's...not really an improvement.
He can't use a shield because of the Slith Warspear he's wielding, which gives him some fire resistance. Maybe we should get him a shield and the Nephil Warblade.
Byff...has better armor than One-Eye does. Must be the shield. Note also his mental resistance of 62%, thanks to all those Intelligence boosts. He has plenty of ranks in Mage Spells for the time being, so he's been focusing on more Bows skill (for Adrenaline Rush) and on Spellcraft, which makes all his spells better.
The Elemental Focus trait increases his elemental spell damage by 3% per rank, and Energy Blessing gives him 5% more spellpoints.
Byff has some nice gear and some basic trash; the bottom half is all starter junk. His necklace gives +1 mage spells, and of course he has the Discipline Blade, which he'll probably be using for the rest of the game. Unless I decide to give it to Elly.
Speaking of whom, Elly looks pretty similar to Byff, except focusing on priest spells. She also has plenty of priest spell skill for the time being -- there's a gap of six spells between the strongest spell she can buy (Call the Storm) and the strongest spell she's learned in dungeons (Ward of Steel).
Elly's stuff is mostly whatever everyone else didn't want. She's also been saddled with carrying all of our random quest trash (though we should sell those bolts of cloth; I don't think anyone wants those). Gear-wise, her only interesting stuff is the Slime-Stained Tunic we got from Mr. "Swarm of Worms" Nephil Sewer Creep, and the Magestone Band ring that increases her magical damage.
"All right, going to Formello! Gonna get in good with the royalty!"
"I dearly hope the Avernite royalty is in better shape than the Imperial Family."
"Ehh, insane leaders can be tricky, but sometimes they're actually easier to manipulate! Just gotta know the right levers, y'know?"
"Oh, phooey. Your time is coming, sliths!"
"I guess we just head north of Fort Duvno, then?"
"Strange...why build a wall and then not man it?"
"We recently wrecked the bandit population around here. Maybe Fort Duvno doesn't feel it necessary to guard this location any more?"
There used to be a bandit checkpoint here, but we killed them all.
"This is nice. Bucolic, even."