Part 5: On Barrowed TimeUpdate 05: On Barrowed Time
Markham's got a bunch of loot and a dumb face!
Dragons are known for their hoards, knave! And the cruelty of Wromthrax to the peasantry is legendary!
Yeah, well, Markham's got a mansion in a slum and doesn't care that vampires are eating the poor!
Hm, when thou puttest it that way... perhaps dragons and nobles have their similarities...
If you dorks are done, the vote went in favour of the dragon.
Wromthrax is a mighty wyrm, it does thee credit that thou art willing to engage him in battle.
...you realize you're the only person on this continent using thees and thous, right?
'tis a matter of my knightly pride, in fact.
So while the south of Tatalia is boggy lowlands and shoreline, the north of Tatalia is all icy plateau and peaks, covered in snowy pines. It's somewhat interesting that Tatalia is probably the safest place we've been on Antagarich(the entire continent's name) so far, where as long as you stick to a road and don't go into any basements, nothing will attack you. Harmondale had goblins on the roads, and Erathia's southern and northern roads had severe bandit infestations.
But wait, that implies Tatalia isn't safe if we go off the roads...
Sometimes the trees up here are dense enough that the locals get hung up on them, leaving you watching their feet spaz around under the lowest branches until they manage to wiggle themselves clear.
Egads, it's a patch of megoblins!
From mega and goblin. It's the scientific name for something big and green and humanoid.
Wow! These megoblins look just like trolls! Nature sure is strange.
Trolls are a misogynist monster. There's probably a joke about the internet somewhere in there. Aside from that, their only gimmick is being immune to Earth damage and hitting real fucking hard. Swamp Trolls are easily handled, River Trolls are a bit of a challenge and the big red War Trolls can one or two-shot practically any party member. Not to KO, but straight to dead. Their loot type is, for some reason, belts, I figure they use those to keep up the loincloths. They also tend to drop troll-blood, a decent ingredient for healing potions.
Aside from the trolls, Northern Tatalia doesn't have a lot of landmarks.
There's a crater with scattered chunks of meteor(a blue potion ingredient).
And on the western side of the icy area, a bunch of friendly archers(the local security forces for Lord Markham, at least outside of his mansion) are getting steamrolled by trolls. I tried to get involved and all I got for my trouble was a dead Zaggut. That's usually what happens when something goes wrong.
And then there's also a little stone circle on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the sea. We can't do much to it, but being that it's a stone henge, it probably ties into either the first or one of the two second Druid promotion quests.
...is that a dragon's eyeball just lying on the ground?
Damn, you think someone beat us to Wromthrax?
Nah, dragons just shed these, like lizards shed their skin.
...I can't tell if you're messing with me, incredibly wrong or telling the truth.
You'll never know!
Unlike in MM6, where the one dragon lair we came across was literally just a broom closet that forced us into an immediate knife fight with a giant lizard, Wromthrax's lair is big, which is good, because we're gonna need a lot of strafing.
Oh boye wilt thou ever! Present the statistics!
Wromthrax is "only" statted as a blue dragon, the mid tier of dragons, which gives him a "mere" 1080 hit points, when our attacks deal between 5 and 20 damage each(depending on who's firing, Stashley has a better bow than Owen who has a better bow than Zaggut, and all three of them tend to be weighted towards the middle, damage-wise) when Fire Aura is up, and they can miss(though while Bless is up, they tend to hit semi-reliably). It doesn't take a lot of maths to see that we'll be firing for a while. Wromthrax, meanwhile, does 14 to 112 damage per hit, meaning he needs all of four hits to completely annihilate the party unless he's insanely unlucky. Let the strafing begin!
I also end up wasting a lot of fire because I need a minimum safe distance to be able to dodge his breath attacks, and there's a sort of mid-range trap where projectiles will target enemies but will be out of range for actually doing damage to them.
The raised hump in the middle of the cave is a big patch of water, I assume this means Wromthrax is in favour of having a relaxing soak from time to time.
I use a lot of dubious ingredients, but this gamer dragon bath water is too cursed even for me.
Spoilsport, we could've made a mint.
Real-time this takes me... I want to say between 20 and 30 minutes to pull off. In-game, on the other hand, Fire Aura manages to run out thrice, not to mention the Bless, so Zina and Zaggut have to re-apply buffs, and run out of spell points... good thing I found all those meteors outside!
How do you turn a rock into a potion, anyway?
Who said anything about a potion? I just hit these suckers with the mortar until they're a fine powder and then...
Gives you a real rush of energy.
Using the buffs as a timer for in-game time spent doing this, too... the party ends up spending 12+ hours running in circles firing bows at the dragon.
If I ever see a second of cardio again it'll be too much.
My biceps have started bleeding through the skin. Is that bad?
I need more meteor powder, Zina, it makes me feel invincible.
Thou canst do it, heroes! I believe in thee!
You could come over here and help, rather than sitting at the entrance and yelling!
I wouldst! But mine sword elbow preventest it!
So, it takes a while, but at last...
I think... he's slowing... down...
As soon as he hits the ground, Quixote congratulates us, names us all honorary Crusaders and then legs it before someone asks him to pay their medical bills. He'll also apologize that he can't talk Hero promotions yet, but we'll need to be on the Path of Light later in the game for that one. Dragons drop a decent amount of gold and a guaranteed level 6 item, which in this case is a hammer, meaning Zaggut now actually has a decently asskicky weapon in his hands.
There's no real hoard on the ground, sadly, just a few small piles of coins.
Lucky for Quixote I can hardly move or I'd kick his tin can ass for this trip.
I'm not even sure what day it is. I feel like I aged three years in that cave.
Let's just... head home, shall we? We've got a few people waiting for us in Erathia and Harmondale in any case.
Since the thread was generally least in favour of political violence for now, Lord Markham gets to be left alone, which I'm honestly okay with. His mansion security are reasonably tough and there's no real space to evade or juke them, so it'd be just hitting them head on and hoping for enough violence to take them down quick.
Back in Erathia with its majestic catbirds soaring through the skies, we've got a few quick errands to run before we're on our way back to Harmondale. Firstly, we delivered that letter for Norbert Thrush and now he can have his pen after it's been soaked with Zaggut's blood, troll blood, dragon blood, melted snow and covered in meteor residue.
I certainly don't hope he means he'll be recording everything we do honestly, I'd never live that down.
I think he winked when he said "correctly."
Do you think he heard me when I told him how I'd strangled Wromthrax with one arm while throwing Quixote out of harm's way with the other?
Secondly, we got another tier of ore off the ground over in Tatalia. With the lowest tier being Iron(which we haven't even seen) and the second tier being Siertal(which we found a few nuggest of in Erathia), we found the third and fourth tiers(Phylt and Kergar) littering the ground in Tatalia. Let's see if they give us some better gear gacha pulls. I go hit up the traders for three weapons and three suits of armor.
The end results being a couple of dud axes, a sword that's a clear upgrade for Owen and two very good pieces of Leather armor for Stashley and Zina. The dragon motif one is tier 4 out of 5, and the one with the spikey half-sleeves is tier 5 out of 5, and they both came with minor enchantments. So this was a solid haul.
Now it's time for Sewers 2: Sewengeance.
Why are we back in here? Please don't tell me Zina's got plans for some sort of... rat potion.
Well I do now.
Last time the chief thief eluded us with his masterful security, this time I know his tricks.
I credit Expert Fire Magic with making this as visible as it is, since it cranks up the effect of Torchlight notably.
Though I genuinely could not make out these damn switches at all until I was right on top of the fucking things.
I'm not sure why there's also a second platform with switches, since it's perfectly possible to create a crossable bridge just with the switches on this one. Down and around we go.
This reveals the master thief's little store room with a few underwhelming chests and some well-needed stat-boosting barrels. There's also a letter on the floor.
For spoilers, if Malwick hadn't died on Emerald Island and we'd accepted his deal, a few quests into the main questline, he'd demand that we do a heist for him. Failing to do so would get Harmondale swarmed with aggressive mercenaries, and every single NPC house and shop would close down until they'd been purged to the last man. Completing his quest(busting into a castle and stealing a tapestry, don't worry, we'll almost certainly be doing some castle heists anyway, if I know this thread) would just have avoided that trouble, it would have no other advantages.
I told you!
Please... can it wait?
As much as I'd love to... yes. We'll be back for Markham, but we'll run our own errands first, we'll come back when he doesn't see it coming.
I wanted to go say hi to Queen Catherine next, but she's apparently not taking visitors from a bunch of hobos like us until we prove ourselves as proper nobility, so we're holding off on that for the time being.
So instead we're back to Harmondale for a few errands before we visit the Barrow Downs to reach the dwarves in the creatively named Stone City.
I can't believe this place is kind of starting to feel like home.
Mmmm, it's still missing something for me. You know what they say: "Home is where your magical lab for breeding affronts to god and nature is."
Pretty sure no one says that.
Well maybe they should start saying it.
It's a pretty quick stopover, in any case. Mostly I'm snagging some fresh spells for Zina now that she has Expert Air, Fire and Earth magic, I'm also getting Expert Repair for Owen and Expert ID for Stashley. With this, a lot of the party now has their core skills at expert level, which is nice. It means I can be certain Stashley isn't going to murder the party by setting off traps for the foreseeable future.
Oh, and we've got Davrick's ring to return, too.
For how relatively easy it is to get back, this is a major payday.
Everyone packed and ready?
Rations and medical supplies, check.
Spare bottles for potions and concoctions, check.
...was I expected to bring something other than my sword? If not, check.
Hm, I wonder what to expect from the Barrow Downs.
I figure barrows. Just a hunch.
Well, certainly, but if the dwarves live there it can't just be tombs, can it?
Well, this is delightfully bleak.
Welcome to the lovely Barrow Downs.
They're mostly flat, separated by a few rivers, but then in a few places(generally the titular barrows), they suddenly rocket into the air to form near-vertical mesas. It makes the place feel like it was the victim of some sort of sudden and intense land subsidence. The entrance, if we arrive by the road as intended, at least has the generosity to dump us next to a few houses and the only tavern in the area so we can get our bearings. The houses are just generic commoners with no interesting dialogue except...
Yeah, that's kind of the impression we were getting of the place, too.
I visit the inn to top up on rations and win a quick game of Arcomage so Zaggut doesn't start getting the jitters.
So full disclosure: I don't actually know where Stone City is in the Barrow Downs. Want to just wander around at random and get into fights until we find it?
Isn't that what we usually do?
Ghosts would be a lot scarier if they weren't corporeal enough to cut into chunks.
Shades, Specters and Ghosts are the three enemies in this family, in order of escalating dangerosity, all three of them prioritizing Clerics and Paladins as targets, for obvious thematic reasons. Shades can make you Afraid, a non-worrying status effect, and Specters can age you two years per landed hit, though you'd need to be real unlucky for this to represent a serious danger. Ghosts, on the other hand, are capable of landing instant KO's(knocking a party to 0 or -1 HP no matter their hit points), which is extremely rude and actually pretty dangerous. Thankfully actual Ghosts are non-present in the Barrow Downs overworld.
Is that a chest just lying around?
I call dibs!
I don't know, it seems suspicious... just a chest lying out in the open in a haunted wasteland?
...I can see I'm being ignored. Very well, I'll just prepare the healing spells, then.
This chest is a payday and a half! Almost everything in it is so high-level that Stashley can't identify it, including a spellbook which is, unless I'm remembering the sprite wrong, a Master-level spell! Hell yeah!
Woohoo! Check out that loot!
Check out those weapons!
That hat and cloak will look perfect on me!
C'mon, Zaggut, can't you tell we're busy being carried away by greed?
Yeah, but, uh, look up.
Opening the chest rudely teleports you across the map into a swarm of Goglings, Gogs and Magogs.
Gogs are individually harmless, being squishy and dealing medium-low damage, though their habit of targeting Sorcerers is a bit troublesome since they're likely to be the squishiest thing you could possibly bring to the party. They make up for that by all having a ranged fire-damage attack allowing many of them to pitch in to the project of killing you at the same time. Oh and they blow up when you kill them, almost for more damage than their attacks do and, of course, targeting the entire party, meaning that you better have some way of taking them out from range or XP to burn.
I flatten a couple of them, go "hah! how easy!" then realize their explosions are rapidly melting the party and decide to make a quick escape instead. Handily the gogs have set up camp around the Barrow Downs obelisk, so I snag that on the way and attempt to follow the rivershore to safety.
Now, part of my issue here is that my memories of the Barrow Downs are reasonably vague, and I try not to look up FAQ's and walkthroughs too much because it's not funny if I just make a super perfect 100% run of the game. So what I don't realize is that the big structure on the minimap just NE of me is actually the Stone City entrance. Instead, my brain tells me, I gotta go through the Barrows to get to Stone City.
Where the hell did we end up?
Maybe we should climb one of those... mounds? Hills? Those things, and get figure out where we are.
...I figured Stone City would be bigger.
Well obviously most of it's underground, it's a dwarf city.
Let's just duck inside before we have to deal with more gogs.
...this is an odd foyer.
I feel like this may not be Stone City.
Well, no biggie, we'll just walk back out.
So let me explain a bit about how the Barrows work. Each Barrow has two exits, with a lever that adjusts each exit to one of two destinations. Three barrows, instead, have a keyhole in the place of one of their levers, because they have a key that unlocks their panel and the panel of a couple of other barrows with no apparent logic. The levers still work with a covered panel, you just have no idea where you're going, and with sixteen barrows in total you can easily end up going in circles for a while.
I somehow don't realize that the tree would be the way out, so I flip the switch on the other side and head deeper.
This very much is not the outside!
So! I'm now in a barrow with four potential exits, and no way of telling which one is the one I came from! And any other option is liable to just take me deeper into the network! Also, ghouls! Yaay, ghouls!
Like ghosts, they prefer to hit Clerics and Paladins(which makes it funny that they for some reason seem to prefer Owen as a target), the basic Ghasts can Disease, while the advanced Ghouls and Revenants can Paralyze. Did you know that I can't cure Paralyze! Did you know that Cure Paralysis potions are Master-level? Did you know it would be real bad if someone got paralyzed here since I can't actually get out and easily find a temple?
The fight isn't going well!
As soon as Zaggut barely regenerates back to consciousness, the ghouls knock out Zina and disease Owen.
Damn, good timing shaking off that disease, Owen! Zaggut just went down again! Help me out here!
Ugh, my head... did we make it?
Good news, Owen isn't diseased any longer.
...you appear to have propped him up on a dolly. Where did you find that?
It's folding. How else do you think I manage to carry all that expensive gear?
At least he still appears to be breathing.
...I suppose we're rolling the dice again, aren't we?
Skeletons are almost straight ported from M&M6. Base skeletons have no specialties, Skeleton Warriors can make people Afraid and the Skeleton Lords can Curse people though, thankfully, they never manage to stick that on anyone. They're also some of the few undead that don't hate holy people.
The barrows generally don't have much that's mechanically interesting, especially if you have Expert Air Magic Wizard Eye up, since it shows the various hidden doors concealing loot through the walls, but some of them do have some neat attempts to convey tombishness with the game's relatively primitive polygonal graphics. Like, if this was any other M&M game, you could've attempted to crack the sarcophaguses in exchange for getting cursed or diseased or something, but M&M7 decides to let the player not fuck themselves over.
Most of the tombs also decide to start off with stuff like this, just 50 enemies in your face as soon as you arrive and then a little minor drip of enemies afterwards. It's very rude.
Why do dwarven tombs have moats?
I feel like Owen would've normally had some comment here about using siege engines for tomb robbing.
I'm sure he'll be fine, we've only been in here for... two days.
The undead are ignoring him, too.
Probably the smell.
For some reason, while Owen is paralyzed, enemies basically treat him like he's already dead. It's very handy.
Zombies are marginally tougher than Skeletons, and all three variants can disease you. I can't cure Disease with magic yet, but thankfully these Barrows are stuffed to the gills with cure disease potions for no obvious reason.
Also for some reason the white pants zombies make me think of undead kung fu artists. Maybe just me. I'm skipping over several barrows of me mulching through zombies, skeletons and rats. Nothing interesting happens there and they don't even look interesting, but trust me when I say that at this point the party is on their fourth straight day of being stuck in the Barrows.
Say, uh, doesn't Owen still need to eat?
Zina told me she was taking care of that.
I've been chewing up rations and regurgitating them into his mouth like a loving mother bird.
Psych! You two idiots totally believed it.
I've actually just been feeding him healing potions. The calorie count on those things is insane. Also, heads up, new undead incoming.
Meet the Wight, the creepy fellas looking like they're right outta an 80's slasher flick.
They're the toughest of the basic undead in the Barrows, by raw stats, but they're less scary than the ghasts in terms of special attacks. Since they can't "instakill" anyone with Paralyze, the worst they can do is making us afraid, draining spell points or aging people. None of which are good, but also none of which are instant loss.
I start despairing of actually finding a way out when suddenly...
This looks... older, than the rest.
That's not a good sign, I think that means we're deeper.
What we've accidentally found is Zokarr's Tomb. It's the only really properly unique tomb in the place, that has a real purpose beyond just annoying me.
Despite not being all that scary, this red-robed Barrow Wight is the first fucker in the dungeon network to actually score a kill on the party. He just rushes in and stabs Zaggut in the brain the first two times I try to tangle with these wights.
Enjoy Zaggut's Afraid face.
Bwah! Those pillars are rising out of the ground!
...Hume? This is where you wanted us to go?
That's some extremely trite "wisdom."
Yes, well, I'm the one wise enough not to be stuck at the bottom of a dwarven barrow.
If I pretend it was a very deep lesson, will you tell us how to get the hell out of here?
Promise me tax-exempt status and you have a deal.
[A day of trudging through barrows later]
I see sunlight! I see a crack of sunlight!
Now let's find Stone City, for real this time, so we can get Owen fixed.
Actually reaching Stone City, when not being a moron, is pretty simple. It doesn't even involve fighting more than a handful of ghosts.
Alright, so this looks a lot more city-like.
Maybe it's just full of bigger wights.
So yeah, the Barrows neither connect to Stone City nor are required to travel through to reach it. What a surprise that I can't properly recall things from almost a decade ago.
I feel welcome already.
That update was a ride and a half, between the half-hour duel with Wromthrax and the one-hour getting stuck in the fucking Barrows. At least something quite that bad shouldn't be able to happen again for a while. I hope. Pretty please.
The primary objective for the next update will be begging the dwarves to fix our castle, preferably free of charge, however, we also have a couple of secondary objectives...
A: Beat up Lord Markham and steal his
B: Beat up the undead in the Haunted Mansion(Barrow Downs dungeon) so Owen can get his promotion
C: Cause an international incident by recovering some paintings for the art collector in Tatalia.
D: Now we've met the humans and the dwarves, should we go meet the elves in the Tularean Forest and Avlee as well?