Part 6: Filling in the Gaps 2: Plot Characters, Dragons, and More MagicFilling in the Gaps 2: Plot Characters, Dragons, and More Magic
Now that we've seen a bit more and gotten some more levels, there's a little bit more to talk about in regards to the game mechanics and lore. To start out with
Who's this Caramon guy?
The majority of the first portion of the game is trying to find Caramon in Throtl and then finishing what he started. The game doesn't really talk much about Caramon, perhaps figuring that if you're playing this game you have a pretty good idea of who he is and why he's important. For the rest of us, what you really need to know is that his full name is Caramon Majere and he's one of the original Heroes of the Lance. Caramon had a major role in defeating the Dragon Highlords, although he acted primarily as the dumb muscle of the group. He's the brother of Raistlin Majere, and where his brother was famous for the strength of his mind Caramon was famous for the strength of his muscles.
Following the War of the Lance and his brother going off to pursue dark magical power by himself, Caramon became an alcoholic shell of his former self and pretty well let himself go. Right about the point where his wife had decided she'd had enough, Caramon was recruited to provide an escort to a cleric of Paladine named Crystania. This led to his involvement in his brother's scheme to wrest control of the evil pantheon, where Caramon was whipped back into shape and displayed an unexpected talent at leading an army. Following his brother's intentional failure, Caramon was returned to his original time and reunited with his wife.
The original characterization of Caramon was as a somewhat slow individual who took care of his sickly brother, and who was a very capable fighter with little to no leadership ability. The later development of his character in the Time of the Twins trilogy revealed that Caramon was actually more intelligent than the average person but had lacked confidence in himself due to living in the shadow of his brother's incredible intellect. Where Caramon had previously believed himself to be one half of a whole person, by the end of the Twins trilogy he was operating as an individual. Since we've pretty well established that this game takes place within 1-3 years after the end of the Twins series, Caramon evidently felt like making himself useful by helping the Solamnic Knights cleaning up in the aftermath of the War of the Lance.
Dragons: Part 1
At this point in the game we've encountered our first dragons, and beaten them mainly through luck and trickery. Dragons were meant to be scalable but dangerous encounters for D&D adventurers, growing more powerful as they age. If you've got relatively weak adventurers you throw younger dragons at them, while more powerful adventurers get older dragons. In AD&D dragons have 12 age categories, ranging all the way from hatchling to great wyrm. Older dragons get better stats, special powers, and can eventually learn and use mage and priest spells. I'll give a description of the dragon types we encounter as they come up, starting with
White dragons are the smallest and least dangerous of the evil dragon types, with the most intelligent members of the species equivalent to a moronic human. They are solitary hunters that dwell in the arctic zones and are extremely uncomfortable in temperate latitudes. White dragons are capable swimmers, and will follow after polar bears and seals in order to hunt them in their own element. White dragons breath a cone of frost as a breath weapon to a maximum range of 70 feet, and are completely immune to cold. They will only eat meat that has been frozen. Although white dragons can eventually use first level mage spells, it takes them nearly a century to become capable of using even a single spell.
Based on their armor class, HP, and breath weapon, the white dragons in Throtl were age category 2 (very young), or 6-15 years old. This places them at anywhere between 9 and 26 feet in total length, with the tail making up about half of that. In other words, anywhere from the size of a komodo dragon to the size of a salt water crocodile. In the original sequence of Dragonlance novels, the only appearance of a white dragon is a brief interlude where one nearly sinks the ship that the Heroes of the Lance are traveling on. We're just as unlikely to see them again in this game.
We're currently at the point where spell levels come fast and furious, meaning there's a lot to talk about in terms of magic. As before, we'll hit mage spells first and clerical spells after.
Mage Spells - Level 2
Detect Invisibility - Just exactly what it says. Not a terribly useful spell, as there aren't that many enemies who actually use invisibility in any kind of tactical sense. I don't recall any instances where detect invisibility is useful in a story sense, but that would have been a nice touch. (Red and White)
Invisibility - Makes the character harder to hit with melee attacks, and prevents ranged attacks. You can't attack or cast a spell without breaking the invisibility, making this useful for surprise only. Even then, there are other, better options. (Red)
Knock - Opens locked doors. This is an option when you come across a locked door or chest, but it's usually just easier to use a thief or bash things open. (Red)
Mirror Image - Creates illusionary duplicates of the mage, drawing enemy attacks. Essentially this negates 1-4 attacks against a mage. Not a bad spell at all, if your mages are going to be in physical danger.(Red)
Ray of Enfeeblement - Reduces the target's strength by at least third if it hits (more as your mages level up), taking a lot of the sting out of enemies like giants. Very useful for dealing with powerful opponents, and probably not a bad spell for a mage to keep hanging around if they have an extra slot. (White)
Stinking Cloud - Creates a cloud of noxious gas that can nauseate enemies that enter the cloud. A real game-breaker, this spell can trivialize a lot of encounters. Enemies that fail their saving throw are helpless and can be killed in a single hit, while those who make their saving throw still receive an AC penalty. The only drawbacks are that the cloud doesn't distinguish friend from foe, has a very short range, and fades after a few rounds. (Red and White)
Strength - Sounds great on the surface, but falls apart in execution. Strength will not increase strength beyond normal human maximums, and only grants a partial increase in strength for characters with strength over 18. Instead of granting full points, Strength only provides one tenth of the benefit up to 18/00. (Red)
Mage Spells - Level 3
Blink - Another powerful defensive spell, Blink effectively makes a character invincible after they've acted in a given combat round. Unfortunately, they're still vulnerable before that. It'd be a more useful spell if the rest of the options at this spell weren't so damn awesome.(Red)
Dispel Magic - Removes or counters spells, particularly useful against hold person and charm spells. Later games will give you a chance to counter spells from enemy mages directly. It's useful, but this is a shared spell between mages and clerics. More often than not, it's better to leave dispelling to clerics. Our mages have better things to do. (White)
Fireball - Everybody's favorite mage spell. Fireball does 1d6 damage per level to enemies within the blast radius, which is 2 squares around the center outdoors and 3 squares indoors. The biggest risk with the spell is accidentally catching your own characters in the area of effect. More useful in later games, but a solid choice in this game. (Red and White)
Haste - Allows a character to move twice as fast, attack twice as often, and lowers armor class. A very powerful boost, but it also ages your characters by one year per casting. Can be handy for a few encounters, but not something you'd throw around every day. (Red)
Hold Person - Just like the cleric spell one level lower, but with an additional target allowed. Clerics are better for this niche, but it's still a very good spell. (White)
Invisibility 10' Radius - Just like the second level spell, only it affects everything around the target as well. Just as easily broken, though, and thus somewhat limited. Some monsters can see through it even if you follow the rules. (Red)
Lightning Bolt - Like fireball, but a bit easier to predict. Lightning bolt does 1d6/level damage to a line of up to 8 targets from the origin point. Lightning bolt will bounce off of walls and can even hit the same target twice, but if you hit at a strange angle you can accidentally catch your own characters. Given the way enemies tend to line up to fight your characters, this one can actually be easier to predict than fireball. (Red and White)
Protection from Evil 10' Radius - Provides bonuses to saving throws and AC against evil characters around the caster, but overall a bit of a waste of a spell. Goes to clerics once again, and paladins in later games. (White)
Protection from Normal Missiles - Keeps your wizards from becoming a pin-cushion. Can be useful, especially as spells get longer casting times. Enemy mages will eventually start to use this regularly, and it's a good idea for mages once the third level spells start to pile up. (White)
Slow - The reverse of haste, cuts enemy movement and attacks in half. A great way to cripple enemy groups, and it even selectively targets enemies. Doesn't give the enemies a year of their life back, either. (Red)
Cleric Spells - Level 3
Cure Blindness - I can't actually think of an occasion when I've used this. Not many things cause blindness, and when the issue comes up it's pretty easy to just rest and memorize the spell before moving on.
Cure Disease - Just the same as cure blindness. No point in keeping this one around for general use. Just memorize when you need it.
Dispel Magic - Probably the best thing to keep in your bank at all times, especially since it can counteract hold person and charm spells. In contrast to the third level of mage spells, the third level of cleric spells is REALLY weak. This is the best out of a bad lot.
Prayer - Improves the THAC0 and saving throws of friendly characters while doing the reverse to monsters. Much better as a pre-battle spell, but that requires you to know when a battle is about to occur. Still, not a bad option along with Dispel Magic when you have spell uses to spare.
Remove Curse - Allows you to remove cursed items. Just like Cure Blindness and Cure Disease, there's no point in keeping this one around as a "just in case" spell. If you run across something cursed it's just as easy to re-memorize spells and deal with it from there.