Part 3: Level One: Sage Wisdom, Wicked Witches, & Internet Trolls Circa 1990Level One: Sage Wisdom, Wicked Witches, & Internet Trolls Circa 1990
And so we come to our first true Place of Power, a hopefully friendly one.
We do have the option to refuse, but doing that would just be stupid:
Doing this kicks us back out the way we came. Fortunately, Places of Power are incapable of "saving" their state, so the sage will always greet us kindly no matter how many times we're rude to him. Let's head back and actually go inside, shall we?
He pours you a tankard of ale, which you sip politely. He introduces himself as the Sage Tsoreen, and you give him your name as well. "Now then," he says, "what brings you to these parts?"
At this point we're given the options to Tell Him Of Our Quest, Lie, or Change The Subject. Should we choose the latter options, we'll read the following:
You have a long and interesting conversation about nothing in particular and imbibe a truly impressive quantity of ale. The next morning, you wake up with a curious ache in your head. Your newfound friend gives you what he claims is a magical remedy, but it doesn't seem to help. As you leave the house and continue your quest, he waves cheerily from the window.
This progresses us to the next section of the maze, but it doesn't actually help us in any way. Since Tsoreen seems a friendly enough sort, why don't we tell him about our actual quest and see if he can offer advice?
"Ah well!" he says. "A difficult task you have set for yourself. It is said that Moraziel lives within the center of the Great Maze, beyond the third level. Your first task will be to find the exit to this level, where we sit. And that itself will not be easy."
An interesting bit of info that flies past if we're not paying attention: Tsoreen says the MadMaze has three levels and a final "center." Right now, that information means nothing, and we have no way of knowing if he's telling the truth, but keep it in mind as we go.
You ask where the exit lies. A crafty expression appears on his face. "Aha! I believe I can help you on this; but perhaps you can help me too."
This time, each response prompts a unique bit of text:
Refuse: "Oh!" says the Sage, turning very slightly red in the face. "Well then. Very well." The conversation lags, as both of you are a little embarrassed. Eventually, you decide to leave, as there is nothing more to say. "If you change your mind, let me know," says the Sage. "The offer still stands."
Plead With The Sage: The sage turns slightly red in the face. "Well," he says. "It's a reasonable offer, young one. Mark my words, you'll never succeed in the heroism business if you act like this." You plead some more. "Bah," he exclaims. "I can't think what the younger generation is getting to. It's a perfectly reasonable offer I'm making. Since you're being unreasonable, I shall have to ask you to leave."
Either response, as before, gives us absolutely no additional information, so let's not ruin his hope in the younger generation and go through our Hero's Journey motions by Agreeing:
"Good!" says the Sage. "That's settled then. Have some more ale." You ask if there is anything he can give you to help defeat the troll. "No," he says thoughtfully, "I think not. However, you might want to visit the crone Matilda. She lives not far from here. I believe she's had some experience with trolls."
You're beginning to get a little woozy from the ale, so you thank the Sage and continue on your way.
And so the correct response gives us... barely any more information, actually. Oh well, back to the maze. It's not as if we have to actually help him. Here's the map again:
We're in that very tiny section in the middle left. Needless to say, it won't take long for us to find the next Place of Power.
The door opens a crack and a hideous crone looks forth. There is a prominent wart on her nose and her chin is covered with wayward hairs. "A fine young dumpling," she cackles, and throws the door open. "Come in, come in, me tender morsel."
Crone's house with chicken legs. I'm starting to think maybe this PoP will be a little bit more dangerous. And it is, though you have to really push it. Maybe we ought to get out of here, which happens to be one of our options:
"So that's how it is, eh dearie?" screeches the Crone Matilda. "Eh? Well, we'll see how you like life as a FROG!" As you flee, she begins her enchantments. "Magrahcan-tsorickle-darn, now where did I put that auroch's liver? Oh well..." You manage to escape before she finds the necessary ingredients to complete the spell.
That does get us past the Place of Power, but Tsoreen said that Matilda might know information about the troll, so we'd better take her up on her offer and trust in our own cleverness to get out of this one. Because we're stupid like that.
Seems harmless enough. Say, what kind of soup is that?
Soup: She shrieks with laughter. "Young dumpling soup!" she cries gaily.
Subtle, Matilda is not. But she hasn't made a move yet. Let's tell her about our quest and who we've met already, then.
Quest: "So ye're to face the Mad One toe-to-toe, eh dearie?" She guffaws. "The Elder Wellan inveigled you into that, I'll warrant." She tastes the broth. "Just right," she says, with satisfaction.
Sage: "What, Mad Tsoreen?" she says. "That old bag of wind?"
This is getting us nowhere. Well, it's actually getting us in hotter and hotter water each time we raise a question. First, we'll see the following:
Trying to bring up any topic other than the troll is of no interest to Matilda: "Never mind that now," she says. "Let's have a satisfying scream or two. Makes the meat more tender."
We're then returned to the menu with the option to scream, which gets us the following compliment: "Thank you, sweetie," cackles the crone. "Screaming does wonders to cure the flesh."
We could also try attacking her as prompted, but as expected of a barely-armed peasant fighting a witch, this won't go so well:
You whip out your dagger and hurl it at the witch's throat. She makes a mystic gesture, and the dagger spins away to bury itself, quivering, in the wall of the hut.
"No call for that, dearie," Matilda says sweetly. "Now let's see, a pinch of thyme, a little wine, deadly nightshade and maiden's braids..." She hurls a motley slew of ingredients into the pot with you.
Lesson learned: We shouldn't be trying to attack people unless we have better equipment or training. Thankfully we can't die here, as these prompts will keep cycling until we finally actually talk about the troll, which Tsoreen advised us to ask Matilda about.
"Cursed troll!" she says. "Since it took up residence by me well, I've had to go clear down to the creek to fetch water. Hmm," she says, getting a crafty look in her eyes. "You're a gullible, I mean, heroic one, eh? Would you like to live beyond suppertime?"
You assure her that you would.
You can get a similar option by pleading for your life on one of the prompts, and Matilda will express similar sentiments but bring up the troll of her own accord. Either option leads to the following:
Hmm. Well, we have what we've come for, and Matilda is willing to let us go, but what happens if we bug her a little longer?
Yeah yeah, it's not like we'd actually die in the second Pla-
Oh. I guess we would. There's a running gag in this game that if you decide to act too dumb to live when given the option, the game will oblige.
Let's... not do that, then, and head on to the last part of this first maze, the top bit on the map above. A little more complex, but still easy to find our way to the well.
So what do we do? This is a nice, easy puzzle, as we've been handed the answer if we were paying attention and didn't deliberately antagonize all the nice people before running into the mean ol' troll. Of course if you do know the answer, I expect at least an explanation as to why you think that's the right answer. In addition, if you think there may be an alternate solution, it'd be interesting to hear it! Not every puzzle in this game can be solved simply by finding a clue and applying it, as some are tests of general reasoning and others have alternate solutions. There's the obvious way we may have picked up from Tsoreen and Matilda, but could something else work?
An alternate solution will be considered "successful" if it gets us through the PoP alive, regardless of whether it's the best outcome. In this case, we just have to not be murdered by a troll on our way through this PoP, regardless of whether we actually defeat it.