Part 1: Howard Roark Doesn't Live Here Anymore
"What's wrong, everyone? Aren't you ready yet? Or are you having second thoughts about this adventure?"
Meet Sails. Sails is a Knight. Apart from having a high base HP and starting with the Arms Master skill (which makes attacks more likely to hit), Knights can use absolutely every weapon and piece of armour in the game. As a Gnome Knight (or a Knome Gnight, if you prefer), Sails has a penalty to HP and gains no benefit from a Gnome's spell point bonus because Knights can't cast spells in the first place. But hey, at least she has good magic resistance!
"What, and miss my one big chance to get rich? Are you crazy?"
Cyrus is a Dwarf Ninja. Dwarves get bonuses to HP and Thievery, and Ninjas have low HP and second-rate thief skills compared to Robbers, so this ends up being a pretty balanced class/race combination. In combat, Ninjas are as good as Knights, apart from having less HP and a more limited selection of weapons and armour.
"Is money all you ever think about? Think bigger! We're going to become world-famous adventurers! Everybody in high society will want to know us! Women will flock to us! But not with that attitude of yours, they won't. You have to be your own confidence!"
"What does that even mean?"
Flowers is a Human Druid. As with most RPGs, Humans have no special strengths or weaknesses, so they're reasonably suitable for most character classes. Unfortunately, Druids are terrible and I hate them.
Druids' spell points are based on the average of their Intellect and Personality, which means that both stats have to be kept fairly high. They can cast a mix of Cleric and Sorcerer spells, but they tend to get access to them later than Clerics or Sorcerers do and they miss out on some of the best ones. They also get a few unique spells of their own, most of which suck. Druids have a better weapon and armour selection than Sorcerers, but worse than every other class; their fighting skills are on par with a Cleric and they have slightly more HP. Druids also start with the Direction Sense skill, which, uh, allows you to tell what direction you're facing. It's not very useful.
"I am ready to carry out my sacred duty as a Soldier of K'rugot. Tianas, have you performed the morning rituals?"
Minty is an Elf Paladin. This class/race combination isn't really sensible, because Elves have an HP penalty and only get a bonus to Sorcerer spells, whereas Paladins cast Cleric spells. Still, racial bonuses/penalties don't matter that much. Paladins can use most weapons and all armour, and their fighting skills and HP are slightly inferior to a Knight. Paladins also start with the Crusader skill, which allows them to enter castles. This is less useful than you'd think, since the entire party needs to have the skill in order to actually do anything with it.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Let's get this show on the road."
Tianas is an Elf Cleric, which makes even less sense than an Elf Paladin, since Clerics have low HP to begin with. Never mind. Clerics aren't as good in physical combat as Paladins, and are limited to blunt weapons and splint mail for armour, but they get twice as many spell points.
"Indeed. As soon as we all have our equipment ready, we can begin our journey. I am sure it will be... mutually profitable."
"Hmph. As if a pathetic little gnome like you could contribute anything of worth to our group. If the elves hadn't vouched for you..."
"What? But you're--"
Calgon is a Gnome Sorcerer, which is a reasonable combination: more spell points than a Human, but not as fragile as an Elf. Sorcerers have the most limited weapon and armour selection in the game, the fewest HP and the weakest combat skills. On the other hand, they get Sorcerer spells, which are generally good for blowing shit up and have other uses too. They also start with the Cartography skill, which enables the automap.
The first thing we're going to do is distribute the stuff we got from stripping the pregenerated characters of all their starting equipment. Don't forget to do this if you make your own characters.
Now that we've ensured the party won't be beating up monsters with their bare hands, it's time to go explore town.
"Ooh, is this like a wishing well? I always wanted to try one of those!"
"I hope you didn't wish for anything important, because that fountain has been cursed ever since the town's protector spirit disappeared."
"Man, if we find that spirit, this town will owe us forever!"
"Can we join? I mean, even though we're not ravens? It's okay if we can only be honorary members. I'm an elf, and so's Tianas, and Calgon over there is a gnome, and Sails is a gnome too but I don't think she wants to join, and--"
"Did I hear someone call me a gnome? Who dares to call me a gnome? I'm just... an uncommonly short human. Who had the misfortune of being raised by gnomes. That's plainly obvious."
Every town has its own guild. Guilds are fairly important, since they're the place where all the spellcasting classes buy their spells. Knights, Barbarians, Robbers and Ninjas shouldn't bother paying the membership fee, since they never get to use magic anyway.
"Ah, I see this shop is home to somebody with a taste for the finer things in life. Perhaps I can find some well-aged brandy, or a work of art suitable to hang on the wall of my house."
"This, I must admit, was not quite what I had in mind."
The shop interface has been revamped since the previous game in the series. The little icons on the left show whether a weapon is one-handed or two-handed. If there's no icon next to an item, that means the currently selected character can't use it.
Also unlike previous games, shop inventories contain some random items, and refresh each day. You'll notice there's a "glass cutlass" for sale. Materials are a new feature in this game: instead of having a Staff +1 or a Shield +4, you can have an Iron Staff or a Quartz Shield. Glass weapons do the same amount of damage as regular ones, but cost twice as much, so we won't be buying that one.
Brass plate mail is actually worse than regular plate mail, but also cheaper. We're going to steer clear of it. There will generally be better equipment available in later towns, of course.
Regardless of class, every character can equip one helmet, one pair of boots, and so on. Most of these items give a 1-point boost (plus material bonus) to Armour Class, reducing your chance to be hit by physical attacks. Other items aren't meant to be equipped but can be used; the Torch, for example, will light up dark areas.
"What's that behind the grate? Some kind of mirror?"
"Let's break it down and see!"
"I think I just dislocated my shoulder. Give me a little more warning when we're about to charge into things, will you?"
Whenever we're not in combat or shopping, we have the option to Bash into whatever's directly in front of us by hitting the B key or clicking the button with a foot on it. This causes a small amount of damage to the first two characters in the party, and its chance of success is based on their Might. Apart from knocking down doors and grates, bashing can also reveal some secret passages, although you probably shouldn't go charging into random walls unless you have reason to suspect something is behind them.
You'll notice that the little gems underneath Sails and Cyrus's portraits have turned from green to yellow: that means they're wounded from their bashing attempt. Other colours will also appear: red means critical health, blue means unconscious, black means dead, and silver means your current HP has somehow exceeded your normal maximum HP.
"Um... uh... can anyone actually think of anywhere we want to go? Somewhere with lots of money, I guess?"
This mirror is a portal. Every town has one, but right now we don't have any of the keywords needed to operate them. We'll be back here later.
Here's our first codeword. When spoken into a mirror, it takes us to Fountain Head. Seeing as we're already in Fountain Head, it's currently of limited value.
"Ultimate Power Orbs, eh? I'm sure there will be plenty of willing buyers for those, if we ever find any. Or perhaps we should just hold onto them ourselves..."
"While we're looking around town, it'd probably be worthwhile to meet the local healers. I'm not saying we're definitely going to get horribly maimed, but, well, have you seen how much health insurance costs for adventurers these days?"
"Who are you, Yoda? Just show us your price list."
The cost of healing depends on the character's level, and on what's wrong with them (reviving the dead costs more than curing poison). Temples can also remove curses on equipment. Finally, there's a Donate option; donate enough money and you can get a handy combat blessing for the rest of the day.
"This must be the bank. How about we go in and... check out their security, huh?"
"Myron? What kind of a name for a guard is that?"
Banks are a place to store excess gold (used for buyin' stuff) and gems (used for spellcasting). Valuables deposited in the bank will earn small (very small) amounts of interest each day, and won't be lost if special events cause the party to lose their gold or gems. Gold or gems put in one bank can be accessed from any other bank.
Incidentally, unlike in the previous two games, characters don't have to keep track of their own individual gold and gems; it all goes into a party pool. This makes shopping a lot more convenient.
If we didn't already have a Sorcerer in our party, there's a place in town we can go to learn cartography. Nobody wants to play without an automap, after all.
"Okay, seriously, why is everyone talking like Yoda today?"
Woo, free money! This seems like a good deal until you realise a few things:
* 50 gold is a pathetic amount of money
* In this game's calendar, each week is 10 days long and each year is only 100 days long
* Your characters do age over time, and lose stats as they age
* There's no way to reverse non-magical aging
Unless you actually intend to make a throwaway party at the start of the game, have them work into old age and delete them just so your next party can start out with a few thousand more gold, spending a lot of time doing odd jobs isn't a great idea. Besides, what's heroic about mowing lawns?
"Are those monsters I see? Enough shopping: it's time for some real adventure!"
Unlike in the first two games, we can actually see enemies coming at us before an encounter begins. If there weren't a grate in our way, we could shoot arrows or cast spells at them and wait for them to reach us. As it is, we have to bash it down and try some good old hand-to-hand combat.
"Battle has begun! To arms, my comrades! To armgmgrhhhargh"
"I'm not afraid of rats! The bigger they are, the easier they are to set on fire!"
"I... don't think that's actually how the saying goes."
As a Sorcerer, Calgon starts with the Elemental Arrow spell. If it hits, it does 8 damage of an element of your choice. It's the only damaging spell he has right now, so he'd better learn to like it.
"Hm. I guess I should probably heal her. It'll be easier than dragging her body around."
"Hey, why isn't she waking up?"
Here's another important difference from the first two games. In M&M1 and 2, being hit for more damage than your current HP would put you at 0 HP and leave you unconscious. In this game, you can actually go down into negative hit points: you're unconscious at 0 or below, and you die if you accumulate negative HP equal to your maximum hit points.
This can be good, since being hit while unconscious no longer means automatic death. On the down side, healing spells are no longer guaranteed to bring an unconscious party member back into the fight, and if you're up against an enemy that hits hard enough it's possible to go from full health to dead in one blow.
Anyway, less talk, more fighting. After another round of battle, we manage to heal Minty back into consciousness and bring the Moose Rat down to critical health. It has 40 HP and hits up to two characters per round for 2-12 damage, while the Bubble Man has only 15 HP and hits once per round for 1-6 damage, so the rat is the real threat here.
Once it's gone, the Bubble Man soon follows.
"Oh, man. There's more of those things?"
These ones are far away from us and Sails has a bow, so we can shoot at them (by clicking the bow icon or pressing S) to soften them up a little. Some enemies, like Bubble Men, can actually shoot back at us. Fortunately, rats can't.
Going through to the end of the room they were in, we find...
"Well, I guess we found out where all the rats were coming from. I don't feel much like going down there today. Besides, we don't even have a rope to get back up."
"Artifacts of good? Pfah. Why would anybody be interested in such trinkets?"
"Did you even read it? There's a reward! Like, money! Cash! Bread! Funds! Moolah! Scratch! Boodle!"
"Alright, alright, I get the point. I suppose if we find any we can drop them off with this Praythos. It's not as if they'll do us much good."
"Ooh, a Skull Miser! He must be even more creepy and evil than a regular miser! Let's go see him!"
"Aw, he's just a quest-giver. Fine, we'll go look for your ornaments I guess. But that reward better be worth it."
"Um, before we go, can I ask a question?"
"Does whatever you touch turn to skulls in your clutch?"
"Not as such."
"Do we ever! After proving our inherent superiority to those three rats and that one mutant slime thing, I think it's only natural that we should rise to become the greatest warriors in Fountain Head. We belong at the top of the food chain!"
"Then again, maybe it'll take a little while longer."
In the Might and Magic series, you don't gain levels automatically: instead, once you gain enough experience, you can pay money to level up. Training grounds are where you do this. Right now, nobody has enough experience to reach level 2.
"Guess we'd better go out and do some more fighting, then."
"Wait, there's something off about this wall..."
Notice how the little gargoyle's arm on the right side of the main view is in a different position than usual? Dwarves start with the Spot Secret Doors skill, which will cause that gargoyle to wave its arm if you're standing directly in front of a secret door.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: the gargoyle on the left flaps its wings if you're levitating, and the bat on top opens its mouth if there are monsters nearby and somebody has Danger Sense (the Gnome racial skill).
But enough talk. It's bashing time!
Not just yet, though. Resting can be done whenever there aren't monsters in sight, and fully heals the party's hit points and spell points at the cost of some time and food. However, conditions such as poison and disease will get worse. If you don't have enough food, you can't rest.
Now it's bashing time.
"I think that one looks hungry."
"Hungry... for a sword to the face!"
"Cyrus, your battle cries really need work."
After dealing with the Moose Rats, we're free to open the chest directly behind them. Of course, nothing's ever that simple: it's locked, and as our ninja, it's Cyrus's job to open it.
"There. Piece of ca
If your lockpicker's Thievery skill is too low, they may set off a trap and take damage. On the bright side, picking locks is also worth lots of experience points, so your thief is pretty much guaranteed to level up faster than everyone else.
This chest contains 900 gold and a random low-level accessory. The Coral Pendant is just a +1 boost to AC, but it's better than nothing.
"Since night has fallen, the Raven's Guild should be open. Why don't we prepare ourselves for battle by learning some more spells?"
"You're the Guardian? Hmm. I could have sworn you were redder the last time I saw you."
Raven's Guild boasts of its low prices. Of course, you get what you pay for.
As a druid, Flowers doesn't actually get access to any damaging spells until level 2. Did I mention that I don't like druids?
Tianas gets Flying Fist, which does a little less damage than Elemental Arrow (6 points instead of 8), but is rarely resisted.
And there's nothing all that exciting available to Calgon yet.
All the spells have handy little descriptions you can access before deciding whether to buy them. Here are the others:
Awaken: Pulls all sleeping party members from their slumber. (Mostly useful if the party is attacked while resting.)
First Aid: An adventurer's minor wounds of battle can quickly be healed with this anointing incantation. (It heals 6 HP, which isn't a lot in the heat of battle. Can be used for efficient out-of-combat healing.)
Flying Fist: Summons an enchanted gauntlet to deliver a stinging punch to a single foe. (At low levels, you probably want to save your cleric's spell points for healing. At higher levels, you're probably better off just hitting things with a weapon.)
Detect Magic: If there be a magical item in your pack this will make it known, and reveal the number of its limited use. (Not sure of the point of this one, since all magical items are auto-identifying in this game.)
Elemental Arrow: Expels a single bolt of flame, electricity, acid, or ice upon your foe. (It's not like Sorcerers can do anything else constructive in battle at level 1.)
Once we level up a bit, we'll have access to more and better spells. Which is good, because most of these ones are lame as hell if hell broke its leg.
Partial casters like Paladins have the same spell list as full casters but have to pay twice as much for them, because they're slow learners.
Spells aren't cheap and the supply of money in the game is limited, at least until much later on, so this is kind of a big deal.
Behind another bashable grate in the southeast corner of town, we find this building.
"That, uh, that sure is a lot of rats."
"Remember, top of the food chain! It's only natural that we should destroy those weaker than ourselves, and we've already shown that we're stronger!"
"But I don't wanna eat them..."
The rats, on the other hand, were not such picky eaters.
And now you know what a game over looks like. The good news is that unlike in the first two games, we can save at any point instead of just at inns. So we can just reload from our savefile before we entered the storehouse and try again, with an actual strategy this time.
Said strategy being "donate like 200 gold or so to the temple until everybody is blessed up to the eyeballs".
We'll get spells that produce all of these blessings eventually. Bless increases AC, Power Shield reduces all damage taken, Heroism increases our chance to hit and Holy Bonus increases all damage we inflict.
With all those buffs, clearing out the storehouse becomes almost trivial.
And the first chest we open already more than pays for the money we spent at the temple.
"Should we really be taking all the money from the town's storehouse?"
"We did a public service by clearing out all those rats, didn't we? So they should pay us. We're just cutting out the middle man."
Leather weapons, unfortunately, have -4 to hit and -6 to damage, so that bow isn't going to be seeing much use. Leather armour, on the other hand, is for some reason just as good as ordinary armour, and much cheaper. And yes, leather armour itself can be made of different materials, so you can have leather leather armour or steel leather armour. Don't ask me.
The belt is a Wooden Belt, which will actually make our AC worse if we wear it. But hey, at least we got a bunch of gold out of it.
I even reloaded a couple of times on this chest to see if I could get anything better, but nope, it's pretty committed to giving you worthless items.
On the bright side, all that killing gave the party enough experience to level up. And yes, that's a watermelon on the ground.
Levelling up also means we have access to new spells!
Revitalize: Restores a weakened adventurer to full strength. (Revitalise cures the Weak condition, which reduces all stats. It can be caused by going several days without rest or by a few monsters. It's not that big a deal.)
Cure Wounds: Cures serious battle damage. Restores the broken flesh of warriors. (This heals 15 HP, compared to First Aid's 6. It's a pretty nice and badly needed step up.)
Sparks: Generates a shower of sparks from your hand that cascades through a group of foes to deliver tiny electric shocks. (This hits a whole group of enemies for minor electrical damage. The damage increases with the caster's experience level, but so does its SP cost. Clerics don't have very many good options for damaging spells; this one isn't too bad.)
Energy Blast: The greater your skills, the more devastating the blow of this pure energy blast. Crisping death is delivered to its wretched recipient. (Another spell whose damage and cost increases with level, although it only hits one target and the damage isn't great. I don't find much use for it, but it can be effective against enemies that resist elemental attacks. At least the flavour text is cool.)
Sleep: Hypnotizes a group of foes into a sleep-like trance to halt their actions. (Just like in every other RPG, status effects don't work on anything you'd actually want to cast them on.)
And to end the day's adventures, the party checks into the inn. Not that it's actually necessary any more, unless I want to switch party members in or out, but it's become kind of a tradition at this point.
"I may not be very smart or good-looking, but I can hit things very hard with a sword, and isn't that what's really important? If you disagree, I can give out a free demonstration."
"Levelling up faster than everyone else is great. Getting blown up by traps in order to do so, not so great."
"What do you mean I'm not very useful? Who do you think would keep the party alive if something happened to both of our other healers?"
"How do I have less HP than you? That's a little worrying."
"At least you can take a hit from a Moose Rat now without being immediately knocked unconscious."
"Hmmph. Even I have more health than you, Tianas."
"Well, if you've got so much health, I guess you won't be needing any healing from me, will you?"
That's it for the first update. Next time: we introduce the second adventuring party!