Part 21: Digging Deeper
"Time to do a really thorough search of Swamp Town. And of course, we'll start with the most important building in town!"
"Um, are all ghosts that bald and jowly?"
"It must be that guy from The Sixth Sense! Bruce Willis! Wow, he's really let himself go."
"More like Brew Swillis, in this case. Look at that beer gut."
"Hmm. Looking from just the right angle, I can see through his skin. Judging by the condition of his liver, it would appear that alcoholism truly is punished in the afterlife."
"Hey, barkeep, got any hard cider? I've been looking for some ever since I started this journey and none of the tavens we've been to have any."
"Sorry, we're fresh out."
"But there must be some cider somewhere! Are you telling me there isn't a tavern anywhere in Terra that serves cider?"
"I don't know if there is or if there isn't, but if there is it isn't this one."
"That's not possible! I refuse to accept it!"
"Let me put it this way. What do you get if you take the letter I out of 'waiter'?"
"Water, of course."
"And what do you get if you take the letter R out of 'break'?"
"I'm not sure where you're going with this, but 'beak'."
"Right. And how about if you take the letter F out of 'cider'?"
"Huh? There's no F in cider."
"That's what I've been trying to tell you."
"... fine, just give me whatever you have. All of it."
The tavern sells food that, while hilariously overpriced, does last longer than the food we can buy in any previous town.
"1000 gold for some fruit mush? Seriously?"
"Hey, buddy, you try gathering and preparing food when you're incorporeal."
"Guess I can't argue with that. By the way, do you--"
"If you're about to ask if I serve spirits, I've heard that one before."
"Um, is it really a good idea to poke around all these graves? Shouldn't we kind of, y'know, let them rest in peace?"
"What, didn't you notice all the ghouls roaming the city streets? The dead are already restless, and these graves are already as defiled as they're going to get. We need to find the source of this disturbance and root it out."
Many of the graves are empty, although some have various minor treasures in them.
"If we're gonna be digging up graves, I guess we should pay our respects to some of the town's more famous dead folks while we're here."
"Ooh, I know this one! It's a mirror."
"Um... thanks, talking statue. I'll keep that in mind next time I see a Main Engine Sector, whatever one of those is. Assuming I recognise it when I see it."
Oh yeah, and some of the graves do this.
"When you think about it, we kind of had this coming."
"So here's the thing. We kind of robbed some graves--"
"Searched some graves. For sources of evil."
"Yeah, yeah. Anyway, like I was saying, we robbed some graves and now we're cursed. Think you can do something about that?"
"Oh, right, silent monastic order. Just make with the uncursing already, then."
"Well, what are you waiting for?"
"Psst, Murphy. I think he wants you to pay him."
"Makes sense. You going to uncurse us if we pay you?"
"I'll take that as a yes. So... how does this work, exactly? Do I just start handing you gold coins and you heal us when we've given you enough?"
"Well, at least we seem to have come to an agreement now. Back to, uh, grave-searching, then?"
"I think I preferred being cursed."
Some of the graves spawn Ghosts, which have a single attack for a respectable 10-100 Energy damage and have a good chance to age whoever they hit. Worse still, they're completely immune to physical damage: weapons with elemental properties can hit them, but our best bet is to use magic. Fortunately, we have access to plenty of perfectly good magic, and the party easily wears them down with Energy Blast and Turn Undead.
"Yad and Yud? It seems people weren't very creative with names back then."
"Could the answer perhaps be 'stairs'?"
"Woohoo, another password to a thing that we don't know what it is or how to get there. My excitement cannot be contained."
"Smallberry? For real? This guy was named Prince Smallberry? Heheheheh. Oh, that's great."
"Looks like he lived up to his name, too!"
"Who's this Sheltem the Dark dude, anyway?"
"Oh, some evil wizard or something who set in motion some kind of scheme to spark the war between Kings Zealot, Tumult and Malefactor for some reason. But nobody's heard anything from him in years. I'm sure he's not important."
A few graves contain spell scrolls. Most of them are spells we already know, but Cure Paralysis is a nice find for a Clerical or Druidic spellcaster, with self-explanatory effects. Belvenath learns it for now: we'll be able to buy it for everyone soon enough.
And finally, two graves contain these.
"Could these be the reason for this town's present state? They appear to hold a malign power."
"Well, the vampire lord living in the nearby mountains is the ultimate source of the problem, but these can't be helping. We should remove them and dispose of them properly, so that this town's inhabitants may have a chance to find peace."
"Wait a minute. If we manage to exorcise this town or whatever we're trying to do, are all the people here just gonna die? I mean, not all the undead are evil monsters. Some of them are just chilling out and serving drinks."
"Be that as it may, the dead do not belong among the living. We should do what we can to put their souls to rest. It's for their own good."
"I don't see you asking them how they feel about it, but hey, if that's what you gotta tell yourself..."
"That's convenient. Now we can freely travel to and from every town in the Isles of Terra, except for the legendary city on the Isle of Fire."
"You don't say. Why else would they call it that?"
"I don't see much else to do up here. Might as well go see if there are any more evil undead to wipe out in the caverns underneath town."
I am not even going to speculate on what the deal is with Scorpias. They have an attack that hits the whole party for minor poison damage and can inflict Poison, but they all die in one hit before they get a chance to do anything. I don't think they count as undead but I could be wrong.
EDIT: I don't need to speculate any more, because esteemed thread reader mrnoun has a solid theory on just what their deal is!
Pretty sure the Scorpia monster is a reference to old school game reviewer Scorpia, who did adventure/rpg reviews for Computer Gaming World back in the days when the M&M games were popular.
A quick google reveals http://www.fuyoh.net/2009/09/27/rev...ight-and-magic/ which quotes Scorpia's review of M&M 2:
" Might & Magic II seems to have swerved off the path in the boring 'monster mash/Monty Haul' direction, where ever-more-powerful characters with ever-more-powerful weapons fight ever-more-powerful monsters until it all escalates into the realm of the ludicrous...
Not up to par with the original; great graphics but emphasis on combat overshadows all else. Great for monster mash lovers, but not recommended for others."
Seems like the developers took it a little personally.
"Oh, is it time to rob some more graves already?"
"For the last time, we are searching graves."
"And I guess the fact that your searches turn up all these handy spells and items is just a happy coincidence, huh?"
"Waste not, want not. Those who inhabit this town relinquished any claim on these goods when they rose from the dead in contravention of nature's law."
"It's not like they could help it! They got killed by a vampire lord!"
"Oh, would you stop whining? We've got work to do."
"It would appear that some of these tunnels have been electrified to discourage interlopers. We ought to apply protective magic and exercise caution as we continue."
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing down here?"
"I was once King Malefactor's personal advisor, but we had a falling-out over a small matter involving the unexplained disappearance of several hundred thousand gold coins from his treasury. He decided that a measured and proportionate response would be to imprison me in a coffin and bury me alive under Swamp Town. And as people buried alive tend not to stay that way for long, here I am as you see me now. Now, as I am still technically a member in good standing of Buzzard's Guild, will you perhaps take me up on my very reasonable offer?"
"Well, we could do with some new magic. But what do you need with gold anyway?"
"Oh, I just like to look at it and remember better times. My spirit is bound forever to this coffin and it's not as if there's much else to do in here."
"Wait, if you're stuck in here, how are you gonna tell the Guild we paid you?"
"You ask too many questions for one so young and stupid. Look, just pay me or don't and leave me to rest, would you? I'm dead tired. Ahahahahaha!"
"I'll pay you not to tell any more jokes."
"Blugh. We really should learn when to quit."
Like the graves upstairs, some of the coffins curse the party when opened. Others have treasure, spells, or more Ancient Artifacts of Evil.
"What a singular and intriguing specimen of the undead. I would be most interested to take the time to study it and learn the precise conditions that produced it. Unfortunately, it seems to have taken an equal interest in me."
You'd expect Reapers to inflict instant death or something nasty like that, but no, they just do some magical damage to one character. They're strongly resistant to physical attacks, and while their attack only hits for 4-80 damage, the fact that they selectively target Clerics makes them a nuisance. It's best to deal with them quickly using Turn Undead and other attack magic.
There are Phantoms down here too: you may remember them as the miniboss of Baywatch Cavern. They're regular enemies here, they still strongly resist physical attacks and they can still cause aging. Of course, now that the Fountain of Youth has been raised that's no more than a nuisance.
"Ooh, I've heard lots of things about the town on the Isle of Fire, and now we can go! Do you... do you guys think we should go visit it once we're done here?"
"Um, this isn't one of those evil goddesses who's going to crush us with a giant fist or anything, is she?"
"Not as far as I am aware. Of course, there is only one way to know for certain..."
Your muscles surge with heightened power!
"That felt considerably better than being crushed by a giant fist. Well, not that I have a basis for comparison, but it seems like a fairly safe guess."
"This is incredible! Who says Elves can't be burly?"
If any party member's Might is below 50 (not counting temporary bonuses or boosts from equipped items), this altar gives them a permanent +20 bonus. If they're still not above 50 after that, you can immediately repeat the process until they are. If you really want to maximise everyone's stats, the smart thing to do is hold off on collecting all other Might boosts until after you've been here.
"I don't quite see how the right to vote and run for office will be helpful to us as stateless itinerants, but I suppose there's no harm in it."
You feel stout, like never before!
This works the same way as Ule's altar did, except instead of a +20 bonus to the party's Might it's a +25 bonus to Endurance. Getting everyone's Endurance to 50 just for exploring a relatively simple dungeon is an excellent reward, especially to classes and races with low base HP.
"I think we're done here for now, but I'm sure glad we made the visit!"
"As we now have some time on our hands, there is one more place I would like to stop by..."
"Well, I'll be. Our names are on the member list. That old dead geezer came through for us after all. Let's get to buying some spells!"
This is the high water mark of Druidic spellcasting. Druids and Rangers only get two more spells after this point, and both of those spells are kind of awful. Very soon, as melee and Sorcerer spells increasingly become the primary damage sources and Clerics get healing spells that Druids can't match, the usefulness of Druidic magic will be limited to utility spells and backup healing. Luckily, Belvenath is also a competent melee fighter. Flowers in the other party won't be so lucky: he pulled his weight early on, but he doesn't have so much to recommend him any more.
"On the bright side, this spell inflicts physical damage, so most things won't resist it. On the down side, it inflicts 40 points of damage, which is less than a single hit from an obsidian weapon. Even though it can hit a whole group of enemies, it's not much use at this point."
"It stops enemies from acting, just like Sleep or Immobilize, except it can work on stronger foes. It can still let you down when you need it, though. I'd rather just hurry up and kill them before they kill me."
"For the record, this works on people turned into sedimentary or metamorphic rock too. Point is, if you're up against monsters that can turn you to stone, you need this spell. Monsters that can do that aren't very common, but when you meet one, you'll be glad you learned it."
"This one explains itself, doesn't it? If someone's dead, this makes them not be dead any more. The catch is, it permanently drains one point of Endurance from whoever's being brought back. So it's probably better to use the temples to bring back dead characters where possible."
"I already learned this one from a scroll. For 20 spell points and 5 gems, it creates enough food to let the entire party rest once. Not bad if you're in a tight spot but don't want to head back to town to resupply. Better to come prepared with enough food that you don't need it, though."
"Already learned this one, too. Paralysis wears off on its own with time, but some of the monsters that can paralyze you are pretty damn deadly, like Vulture Rocs. Too bad we killed most of those already."
"It's not just nature lovers who got some new spells, either!"
"Suffering's one way to put it, I guess. If it works, it can kill a whole group of enemies, just like that. Trouble is, it usually won't."
"If you're in the middle of the desert or the swamp and you've absolutely gotta rest, this spell wards off monsters and bad weather for the night. It doesn't work in water, though, or when there are enemies right in front of you."
"As long as a usable magic item's got charges left, this adds some more charges to us, as few as 1 or as many as 6, for only 15 spell points and 10 gems. They say there's a risk it can destroy the item, but I've never seen it happen. If we didn't have Belvenath around and we relied on an item for water-walking magic, this'd be a good spell to know."
"Well, it does 40 Cold damage to a group of enemies. I hate to say it, but it's not really any better than Deadly Swarm. The damage doesn't scale with level, and we've already outgrown it."
"It's kinda pricy: only 20 spell points, but a whopping 50 gems. On the other hand, it can make a perfect copy of most items. It won't work on unique stuff like keys or very powerful stuff like obsidian items, though, so we can't just deck everyone out in identical obsidian swag. Oh well."
"It's like Finger of Death except slightly less useless. Even if it doesn't destroy your enemies, it'll usually do a bit of damage as a consolation prize."
"Hey, look, another spell we got from a scroll already. It does the same average damage, at 5 points per level, and it costs more spell points, but it hits everything in front of us instead of just one group. Not bad for crowd control."
"I've got this one already, too. It takes us up to 9 spaces ahead through all barriers in our way, which is great for travelling fast or for getting places that are hard to get to otherwise. Trouble is, there are a lot of places where it just doesn't work."
"I, too, have learned my share of new incantations, including some that Belvenath has already mentioned but others that are unique to me."
"This spell inflicts 100 points of fire damage against a single enemy. Its damage is respectable for the moment, and good for dealing with troublesome enemies such as Ghosts, but as its effect does not scale with the caster's power it will be outclassed soon enough."
"With this, we could travel instantaneously between towns even without knowing the passwords for the mirror portals. Of course, it also works in dungeons or the wilderness, making it an excellent means of escape from danger. However, casting it requires time and concentration, so it cannot be used in the heat of battle."
"This spell heals a very large amount of damage to the target, often enough to return them to full health even from a seriously wounded state. However, half the damage healed is in turn inflicted upon the caster, possibly leaving him gravely wounded or worse. Though it may seem impractical, it is the most reliable way to heal an ally short of Divine Intervention, and at 40 spell points it is less taxing than Power Cure for advanced casters. As such, it does have its uses, despite its drawbacks. It is especially useful for Paladins, who have more health and fewer spell points than Clerics."
"Wow, that was all so... so complicated. I'm glad I don't have to worry about magic."
"Bah, who needs magic? Those ghosts might have done a number on me, but I'm still young and strong enough to fight!"
"It's great that you're confident and all, but we should go visit the fountain of youth before our age becomes a problem. I hear it rose from the seas a while ago."
"I don't see what the rush is. I'm feeling fine."
"I finally have some good armour, but it's no use against ghosts. At least I have the magic I need to fight back. Still, this town makes me uneasy: I'll be glad to leave it behind me until we've found a way to silence its restless spirits once and for all."
"My pilgrimage to the altars beneath town was of great benefit to me. I can now withstand far more injury than I could before."
"Same here. Who knows, maybe my luck's finally turning around after all. I just wish we could find someone who could train us beyond the limits of what the trainers we've visited so far can teach. I want to see just how much I'm capable of."
"Remember me? I'm still tagging along to learn from these brave adventurers and hopefully do some good in this world."
Whew. For an update that took up a relatively short amount of playing time, the party got a lot of stuff done this time around. Let's see if the evil party can match their achievements! To choose where they go next, pick what discipline they should study: linguistics, psychology, or political science? Vote now!