Part 15: If It Weren't For Bad Luck...
"You know, our, uh, rivals are probably already searching the caves and dungeons near Fountain Head looking for the Ultimate Power Orbs. I don't really wanna have to get into a fight with them. So instead, why don't we, uh, explore a little further out?"
"Well, I do have magic that will let us walk over the high seas as if they were a grassy field. It'd be a shame not to try it out, don't you think?"
The Frozen Isles in the far northern area of the world map are inhabited by more emo cyclopes. The party can kind of deal with them by now, but not easily when they appear in groups. Besides, we're focusing on sea exploration and discovering as much of the world as possible, so we'll pass them by for now. Frustratingly, you can't just stand in the ocean and pick off enemies at your leisure: arrows and spells, like vampires, refuse to cross running water.
In addition to cyclopes, the islands and surrounding oceans are home to more Sprites, who are mostly an annoyance for their ability to curse party members, but aren't actually a threat as long as you pay attention to the party's stats and run back to a temple if anyone's luck gets dangerously low.
"What are giant animated candles doing floating in the sea? Wouldn't they kind of get put out the first time a big wave comes along?"
Candle Creeps also haunt the northern oceans, but appear in such small numbers that they barely register as a nuisance: a few hits and they're gone.
The northern islands have some chests lying around full of low-to-mid-tier random treasures, which by now are mostly useful for filling out unoccupied accessory slots for a few extra points of AC, stats or resistances.
Since it's possible to equip up to five medals and two rings on each character, it actually takes quite a long time to get to a point where treasure, even fairly low-level treasure, can't possibly benefit a character in some way.
As the party heads a little further east, we encounter new monsters. Cryo Spores hit the entire party for relatively inconsequential amounts of cold damage, and their miserably low Armour Class means physical attacks tear them apart in short order. They drop 20 gems each, which isn't too bad for keeping our spellcasters happy.
"A fountain with fresh, flowing water in an icy wasteland like this? How interesting. Surely there must be some magic at work."
"Either that, or it's salt water."
This fountain would give the party +200 temporary HP, except I already boosted everyone's HP at the well near Fountain Head, so it doesn't do anything for us at the moment. Oh well, it's not like I'll need the extra health anyway. Let's move on.
The far southeast of the world map is home to the Forsaken Sands. You can't rest in most of the desert, and must find oases if you want to refresh your party; in practice, this is more of a minor inconvenience than a real danger, since if there are hostile monsters actively chasing you then it's a bad idea to rest anyway.
"Hey, look, there's a horde of barbarians charging toward us. We should have a refreshing drink of water before we beat the tar out of them."
"Whoa! It's some kind of well-based teleporter! You could even call it... a welleporter!"
"Bob, there are many things in life that we could do, but shouldn't."
Yeah, for no obvious reason this well is a two-way portal between the Forsaken Sands and Thorn Blossom Orchard. This could be a nasty surprise if you were exploring the orchard at low levels...
... but it's easy enough to pop back into the well.
"Don't they get hot in all that armour? We've only been here an hour or so and already I'm chafing in places I didn't know I had."
Enemy Barbarians have a fair bit of HP, can attack from long range, and will selectively target any Barbarians in your own party for a decent chunk of physical damage. This is a double-edged sword, since Barbarian PCs have lots of HP but relatively poor armour options, so make sure to load your Barbarian up with AC-boosting accessories before exploring the southeastern desert.
"Anyone got the time? Because according to my watch, it's loot o'clock!"
The Barbarians will be forced to find a new location for their compound. (500,000 Exp)
By driving the Barbarians out of the southeastern desert, we get a big chunk of experience and some high-tier items. Not too shabby.
There's also a well in the desert nearby, which will cure any adverse condition. Of course, it's only useful if the would-be drinker is actually in a condition to drink from it, so if you're unconscious, dead or otherwise incapacitated, it's no good to you.
That's enough desert for now. Travelling to the centre of the world map gets us to the Isle of Fire. It's completely surrounded by unclimbable mountains of igneous rock, making it non-trivial to actually reach it -- not that we'd last long even if we could.
Still, at least we can frolic in the oceans around the edge of the isle and kill some aquatic monst--
Okay, so it turns out that the monsters in the seas around the Isle of Fire can one-shot the party before we even get a chance to act. Let's forget that happened.
By carefully exploring the area around the island, we can find some hidden treasures.
Some very, very nice hidden treasures, in fact. That's two more top-tier obsidian weapons to spread around the group, giving a huge boost to the party's melee damage output. There are several crates like this scattered around.
"Hey, another whirlpool! I bet that means another crate full of tr--"
Welcome to the Arena. No, there's no warning of any kind that you're about to end up in it: you just step into the wrong whirlpool and wham, you're in here. And you can't even save until you get out.
"I don't see as how we have a whole lot of choice in the matter."
"Buddy, if we needed luck we'd be dead ten times over by now."
After talking to the arena master, we're transported back to the centre of the arena and a bunch of monsters are spawned to keep us entertained. For our first foray into the wonderful world of competitive slaying, we face some Bubble Men and a Screamer: basically harmless, as long as we kill the Screamer from range before it can send us insane. Monsters killed in the arena don't give any of their normal gold or gem rewards, not that the rewards from these monsters would be anything to write home about anyway.
Once we've killed every monster in the arena, we can return to the arena master and get warped back to Fountain Head. We can return to the Arena as many times as we like; the monsters get stronger each time, but the rewards get bigger too. In fact, we could have gotten here from the start of the game by saying ARENA to a portal mirror: it's a nice way to gain some experience early on. I might do a mini-update on the arena later on, or I might just grind through it offscreen when I need the experience, since all the monsters in it show up elsewhere anyway. For now, though, let's continue our exploration!
On the far eastern end of the world map, we find a large, swampy continent.
"Ah, the Deathbog. Its natural beauty is matched only by the friendliness of its inhabitants."
As long as someone in your party can cast Cure Poison, Shadow Rogues are kind of a joke. They have a missile attack, but unless you wander around aimlessly letting them chuck knives at you it shouldn't matter very much. They give out decent amounts of experience and gold, considering how weak they are.
"Is it... drooling? Ugh."
We'll have to come back for this once we have someone with the Linguist skill in our party.
Death Locusts are somewhat more dangerous, having twice as many HP and four attacks for 4-32 damage (compare Shadow Rogues' 2 attacks for 3-18 damage). Still, if you're high-level enough to cast Cure Disease and have decent equipment, they should be manageable.
"Looks like someone abandoned this place long ago. Can't say I blame 'em. Might as well see if they left anything behind, I guess."
"Whoa, look at all that awesome stuff! We gotta have us some of that!"
"I bet it's cursed."
"Told ya so."
One quick trip back to the Fountain Head temple later...
"Murphy, I can't say I like your attitude. You let the rest of us take risks for the sake of the party and then carp at us when we suffer for it. Why don't you put yourself on the line once in a while?"
"You know what? I might just do that."
"Wait, I didn't mean--"
Hey, everyone, remember the Ancient Fizbin of Misfortune? The one that eradicated a character when we first acquired it, and apparently served only to eradicate another character if they tried to use the Quatloo stat-raisers with it in their inventory?
This is the real use for it.
If the specific character who tries to loot this one particular hut is carrying the Fizbin, then instead of them dying, we get a whole bunch of free top-tier items. This is the only productive use for the Fizbin in the entire game. Yes, this is insanely obscure and there's no reason to expect it would work that way unless you read the hintbook; that's how Might & Magic III rolls.
"Another hut? I think I, uh, I hear noises coming from this one. Do you think people actually live out here? I mean, uh, people who aren't evil and trying to kill us?"
"Wow, that sounds bad. We should probably do somethin' about that at some point. Especially since he's probably got treasure comin' out the wah-zoo."
"You know, tree golems are fascinating creatures. It's said that they were spawned from the hatred and resentment of a Cleric who once challenged the rule of Greywind the Illusionist, and was exiled to these marshes and later transformed into a tree for his impertinence."
"Shouldn't you be trying a little harder to stop them from killing you?"
"I try as hard as I need to, and no harder."
Tree Golems' gimmick is that they selectively target Clerics with their attacks. Apart from being ambulatory trees with creepy human faces, they're pretty unremarkable as long as your cleric is well-armoured, which Caelas most certainly is.
"Now you tell us."
Cursed Fools hang around near the south end of the swamps. Their curse attack and low HP make them basically equivalent to Sprites in terms of nuisance value.
"Is it just me, or is the ground getting even more disgustingly soft and wet around here?"
"Oh, I'm sure it'll hold our weight. But if you're really that worried, I could always cast..."
"... a levitation spell."
"... I mean, after we get you dug out of the swamp and resurrected."
Pro tip: always have Levitate active when you're exploring the swamps. Always. Unless you like having party members insta-killed, I guess, in which case never have it active.
There are a few Trolls hanging around in the mountains toward the middle of the swamp. They were very beatable the last time we fought them and they're still very beatable now.
"Dammit! A perfectly good dungeon to loot and we can't get in. How come between us we can pick locks, bash down solid steel grates, teleport our way through brick walls, but we can't get through a simple front door?"
"Descending into a monster-infested dungeon and purging it of all life is one thing. But trespassing? Now that would just be rude."
"Hey, I think I found something! Maybe you two bozos up front weren't the only ones who drowned here."
"Actually, this appears to be a magical scroll, containing instruction in some manner of divine ritual."
Divine Intervention is arguably the best Cleric spell in the game. Unfortunately, Caelas doesn't have enough spell points to cast it, and won't have until he either gains quite a few more levels or gets a Personality boost. Divine Intervention fully heals the party and cures all negative conditions except Eradication, at the cost of aging the caster by 5 years (plus a whopping 200 spell points and 20 gems). It's strictly for emergencies, but when you need it, nothing else will do.
"I think I found something else over here! Let me just dig it out..."
"Oh, that's not good."
There is a random top-tier item buried somewhere in the eastern part of the swamp. Unfortunately, taking it spawns a minotaur.
Minotaurs hit up to two characters per round for a whopping 3-300 damage plus a chance of instant death. They're also effectively unhittable with physical attacks until we've gained a lot more levels, and even if we could chip away at them with magic, 1000 HP means they won't go down easily.
In short, we cannot kill a minotaur. Let us reload.
"More looting in a more-or-less good cause? Don't mind if I do!"
In addition to the free experience, we get 1000 gold and some fairly unexciting low-tier items.
"Hmm, let's see. Should we destroy these horrible creatures now while we can, or should we leave them alive to grow into mindless killing machines? That's a real puzzler, that one."
"I think we should destroy them!"
"... you don't say."
Seriously, game? You're just reusing text from the same area now and changing a couple of words around? Oh well. In addition to the free experience, we get... I can't finish that joke because we don't actually get anything besides experience for destroying this nest. Probably for the best.
Toward the eastern end of the swamp, it's possible to run into Gargoyles. Just like in Might & Magic 2, their attacks can cause Paralysis, which prevents you from acting. However, they're actually less dangerous here than they were in that game, since in this game paralysis wears off on its own in a couple of turns.
"Wait, if you're Obeyer, can't we just, uh, tell you to remember us for free? And you'll, um, obey?"
"Martlin, stop negotiating with the giant stone head. It won't work."
There are a few stone heads scattered around the swamp, who promise to remember us for varying sums of gold. We'll deal with those later, when we actually have enough money to properly make use of them.
There are a couple more points of interest in the swamps, but I found what we came here for, and this update is getting long enough as it is.
"Ninjas? Really? Haven't we dealt with enough of these criminal scum already?"
If your party can survive the monsters outside town, then Ninjas will be a complete joke. I suppose the game wanted to give you a break in case you got here by ferry instead of by foot.
"Man, what happened here? Seems like half the people in town are horrible flesh-eating undead. Wait, is that what that whole vampire king thing we heard about before was all about?"
"Indeed. Only the local Ninja clan were able to bargain with him in exchange for their survival."
"Well, er, at least some of the ghosts seem friendly. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from them, while we're here?"
"They're dead and we're not. Seems like they should be the ones to learn from us."
"By any logical reasoning, resting here seems like a dangerous plan. On the other hand, it is still a better option than sleeping in the swamp."
"You can say that again!"
"By any log--mmmph!"
"Note to self: don't say things to Caelas. Apart from that, everything's goin' pretty well for me! I've got a great weapon, awesome armour and I'm still tough as nails. What more could a barbarian wish for?"
"Without my water-walking talents, none of you would be here! Well, unless you took the ferry, I suppose. But that costs money."
"I'm still here, doing what I always do. If you need any locks picked or, uh, anything like that, I'm your gnome."
"My magical powers are growing quite remarkable, if I do say so myself. Now, if only I had some new spells to try out..."
"Mph mnnm m mmvv--"
"Oh, whoops. Sorry."
"Now that I have the spell of Divine Intervention, we should stand an excellent chance to recover from even the most dire circumstances. At least, we should once I gain the magical power to use the spell."
"Y'know, just because I'm the sorcerer doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate getting handed some good armour now and then. I'm feeling a little fragile here, you know?"
"What the hell are you laughin' at?"
I bet you all thought this LP was dead for sure. Well, I didn't give up on it and I'm not going to; I just had a bunch of shit going on and a shortage of motivation. Now that I'm back, I plan on staying back, and maintaining a reasonable update schedule -- once a week, at the least.
With that said, let's get on with the business of deciding what the evil party is up to. Do you want to see strife, war, or pestilence? Vote now!