Part 6: The Party Duke of TataliaUpdate 06: The Party Duke of Tatalia
Damn, I'll never take being able to turn my head for granted again.
And I'll never take Zaggut's free healing services for granted again, these Stone City priests are a ripoff!
Worth the cost to be away from ghosts and ghouls for a few hours.
Not exactly a fan of the traffic jams, though.
So, welcome to scenic Stone City. It sucks. It's probably also the only settlement you're unlikely to ever revisit more than once. Firstly, it has basically no magic guilds except for Earth magic, nor any important trainers. Secondly, it has only two quests, one of which is a main storyline quest. Thirdly, it oddly enough is the only main city that doesn't have any class advancement trainers... and lastly the traffic jams, I wasn't kidding about those.
The normal dwarf peasants aren't a problem, but for some unholy reason the dwarf guards have hitboxes just wide enough to block the passages perfectly if they're standing in the center, which they of course prefer to do. This is likely where you, in frustration, post online about this dogshit city that's just gotten you trapped in a corner and someone points out a command you'll never use otherwise: the Yell command.
It makes your selected character let out a bark that makes nearby friendlies scatter. Sometimes. And sometimes they don't. And since they move in a random direction sometimes it just makes the problem worse.
It's also oddly unaesthetic(though the free stat buff barrels are appreciated), being all just square tunnels. I mean, we know the game absolutely could handle, say, a natural cave with dwarven homes tunneled into the walls, perhaps connected by pathways and bridges displaying the cool architectural skills of the dwarves. In fact there's a later area which, please don't spoil which one, shows off that they absolutely DO know how to design a cool-looking cave.
Alright, everyone on their best behavior, King Hothfarr won't ask you to stop if you offend him, he'll just ask his guards to chop you off at the knees.
...he's absolutely hoping we get killed, isn't he?
Getting turned to stone doesn't scare me.
What, getting turned into an unmoving statue doesn't worry you?
I figure it's just like being paralyzed, except I won't be conscious for it so it'll be less boring.
Yeah, Hothfarr totally sucks, but I know this guy around the corner, he'll hook us up with some better work.
Turns out, the Barrow Downs feeling like subsided lands is actually intentional! Also this guy's quest is super easy, he just wants us to go murder troglodytes, who we basically bodied effortlessly almost ten levels ago, this time with our full complement of basic combat buff spells.
Aside from the general corridors, the only two locations of note here in Stone City are the main "square," which only hosts a few shops and this little subsection that hosts the training area and, well...
I only noticed it while going over video and screenshots, but look at the minimap here. That's a very unfortunate shape. I expect it's unintentional, since NWC hasn't ever really had any truck with that kind of shit as far as I'm aware, but I still did a double-take when I noticed it. Once I've grabbed the couple of levels accumulated from the Barrows, however, it's time to head back up north to the temple, where the entrance to the Dwarven Mines underneath Stone City is.
Do we even need all the usual magic help? They're just trogs.
Think of it this way: do you want to spend hours hacking your way through trogs, or minutes going through them like razor wire through cheese?
When you put it that way: Buff me to the gills!
So odd thing is, the elevator doesn't take you all the way down to the mines.
Instead it stops in a room with a couple of troglodytes and two barrels, and then another elevator that actually takes you to where you're trying to go. It could just as easily have been done in one stretch and doesn't actually accomplish anything, gameplay-wise, except giving you a quick check for whether your party can turn a Troglodyte into paste before you go fight fifty of them. But I can't imagine anyone getting here without being able to handle Troglodytes.
I almost feel sorry for the Troglodytes. Here they are, just expecting to bully a few dwarves, and instead they get us.
There aren't really any nuances to the tunnels. Just brown, trogs and the occasional ore deposit to wrench out of the walls. I still call shenanigans on the claim that they can collapse and kill Zaggut, since none of them do, and by now I know that if something bad can happen to Zaggut, it will.
I'm also slightly discomfited by how surprisingly tough the troglodytes are until I realize that I put on ALL my buffs... except for Heroism, thus unintentionally nerfing my own damage output.
There are a couple of points of interest, though.
This door leads to the tunnels to Nighon, we could theoretically try to get there right away, but it'd be a somewhat rude experience at our current level.
The troglodytes are also guarding Stone City's obelisk. Another bit of a surprise for MM6 players since the obelisks are now not exclusively in overworld map areas.
How many of these things are left?
Damned if I know, I figure once Wizard Eye stops indicating things we're meant to kill, I'll stop.
My one issue with "kill the monsters at X"-quests in MM7 is that nothing tells you when you're done, so you could be hiking back because you missed one fucker in a corner somewhere. This quest also seems to be notoriously bugged, in that if you rest and get a troglodyte spawn, they can spawn inside the walls and make the quest unbeatable as a result.
Hah, would you look at that! The last pack of them are holed up in a little cave, like they're afraid of us coming in and cutting their brains open.
...when you put it like that, I feel kind of bad about it. I wonder if there was any other solution to this problem.
Treating monsters like people and talking our way through problems? You're gonna need to wait another decade for that.
Pwah, at least there's plenty running water to wash all the trog blood off.
Aw no, buddy, are you thinking again?
Well, looking at the map... there's an area we could almost reach from the other tunnels, and this small waterfall seems to connect to it.
Wizard Eye says there's stuff in there.
One cast of Jump, coming up.
Looks like someone tucked away a little structure up here and-
-and they stashed a guard up here, too. Damn you, Hothfarr.
It will, of course, be up to the thread whether I revisit this area without taking the polite hint once I'm done dealing with Hothfarr's shit.
Let's just get back to Spark and tell him we handled his trog problem.
Pretty decent gold reward just for killing troglodytes, we're not yet so rich that we can't easily blow ten or twenty grand on picking up spells and skills on visiting a new area, not to mention the party's persistent training and medical bills. But with this sorted, we've tapped out Stone City for the time being, and the thread's given me plenty of errands to run!
You know, I want to beat up some more undead.
Revenge for getting you paralyzed for like a week?
And aging me two years! I got gray hairs now!
Well, Org back in Steadwick did offer to give Owen a fancy title, and all of us some gold, if we killed all the ghosts in a haunted mansion here in the Barrow Downs. Two birds with one stone.
There's a relatively direct path to the Mansion, and I'm not taking it because I want to head down south first. Along the way, I visit this mesa which turns out funny. See, it has gogs on it, and they do the usual zigzag dodging pattern in between shots... and thus promptly all hurl themselves off the edge of the mesa and can't figure out a way back up to fight me afterwards. Morons.
Here's one of them about to sprint over the edge.
As I'm about to head on, though, I get ambushed by gargoyles! They populate some of the southern Barrow Downs.
Stone Gargoyles, the weakest kind, aren't a problem, but Marble and Obsidian Gargoyles can both paralyze and, of course, despite running into only two of the fuckers, one of them manages to stick Zaggut with it and I have to haul his dumpy, comatose ass back to the temple in Stone City. They also hit reasonably hard, with even the Stone Gargoyles having a 2 to 24 damage range(obviously two d12's, though, so they mostly land around the middle), meaning that a couple of unfortunate rolls can hurt the party pretty badly. Oh and the Obsidian kind, which I thankfully don't meet here, are immune to physical damage AND all Cleric magic, meaning that if we run into those, only Zina can do anything to their 200HP pools if Zaggut doesn't get some Light or Dark magic first. Not looking forward to that in any way.
The nice yellowish gargoyles are ostensibly the "marble" gargoyles, even if they look more like some sort of urine-coloured rock.
Now, we're not here for this chest guarded by the gargoyles, but since we're here, we might as well crack it open! Especially since this is one of the ones Stashley can open without killing anyone.
What the hell is this junk? It doesn't seem to be worth money.
Looks kind of like a breastplate.
Maybe it's a novelty alembic.
...it's part of a golem. You know, big, magically animated warrior/guardian types? Like Owen if he was made out of brass and only killed things on command, not when it seemed funny.
Killing things is always funny, though.
I'm not here for this little village either, it just sort of sits on the Bracada Desert/Barrow Downs transition and serves no purpose except to have a couple of fluff NPC's repeating the same talking points as everyone else in the Barrow Downs. South of the village, though...
We have about the biggest, best stat boost we can get without risking Eradication or needing to acquire Grandmaster Alchemy, so it's definitely worth a swing off the party's route. Now we can go check out the haunted mansion.
As a fun Barrow Downs Fact: The rivers may seem like obstacles forcing you to use the raised walkways and bridges, but there's literally no section of water in the Barrow Downs so broad that you can't cross it with the game's anemic jumping.
So, uh, we know anything about this place or are we going in blind?
I've got the realtor's listing here, let's see... "Four bedroom, zero bathroom. Located close to scenic Stone City and the historical Dwarven Barrows. A handyman special that will appreciate the loving touch of a dedicated DIY'er."
Well, that's incredibly useless.
It's a real estate listing, when are they not?
Welcome to the Haunted Mansion! The locals here are very excited to show you around the place, and also not much of a challenge for any party that survived the Dwarven Barrows. It's all the same enemies(except for skeletons and zombies who weren't invited to the party). That's not to say that the Haunted Mansion can't be dangerous, though.
One of them gets stuck on the balcony at the top of the stairs and the party uses him for target practice, putting like ten arrows in his head before he drops dead.
What I don't get is why they always focus on me.
Beasts and monsters can sense weakness and chumpiness.
Blech, this indoor pool isn't even potable.
Why would you try drinking something ash-gray.
Might've been some sort of elixir of power, you never know until you try it.
Classy staircase, though, having something like this in your foyer just says "I've got money to burn."
The library's full of wights and a few ghosts, once again nothing the party can't handle at this point, though the front-loaded assault from three Barrow Wights got a bit pinchy at points.
Sadly, most of the shelves are non-interactible, so all it yields is a few high-level scrolls and we're forced to amble back downstairs.
There isn't a lot to say about fighting the locals, they don't use any dirty tricks, they don't get teleported in, they don't hide in monster closets and there isn't enough space for any sort of clever strategizing. But we're about to encounter the scariest thing in the Haunted Mansion.
For some inscrutable reason it has an insanely high(comparatively) trap difficulty of 24. Stashley is currently managing(with Expert Disarm Traps), to beat a trap difficulty of 12, which is what Stone City has(the Barrow Downs exterior has a global difficulty of 10, and the Barrows have the same). So you'd come in here expecting to be able to crack the chests relatively easily and instead BOOM, Zaggut gets killed five times by exploding broom closets.
Uh, these deaths are non-canon, right?
You bet your ass they are. Zina also gets her share from these, her slightly lower HP count meaning she gets wiped out by a few that merely break every bone in Zaggut's body but still leave him alive enough for the party to pour healing potions on him until he wakes up(you can absolutely use potions on KO'd party members, which speed things up considerably as several containers give me "Zaggut and Zina are KO'd" as the best results).
This room's got a painting with animated glowy eyes. Very spooky. Also the requisite pair of cupboards that blow Zaggut's skull to mush.
The opposite side is much the same but it also has a mean thing. Remember how we got told to find three paintings for that guy in Tatalia? And no indicator of where they are? One of them is right here. That dull-looking frame on the wall is, in fact, a supremely missable quest item!
Still, because I've played this game before, we're actually one third of the way to that payday now. I suppose it might show up with a Master-level cast of Wizard Eye as an "interesting object," or with high-level perception, but once again it would take 24 Perception, and you're not going to have Master-level magic of any kind until you've promoted your casters at least once, so the odds are you wouldn't come in here with it considering that it is(monster-wise), a low-level dungeon in a low-level overworld area.
Huh, we've busted down every door and looted everything in sight, but Wizard Eye still says there are enemies in here.
Oh boy, now we get to look for the hidden doors!
A bit of rubbing against walls and the automap soon bugs out and shows you where the hidden path(s) are, you'll notice it's now indicating a corridor between the two western bedrooms. It's obvious what falls will fold down to reveal it... but they can't be interacted with directly. This is one of the places where you'd really need high-level Perception(you'd definitely need Master perception to make any headway, at the very least) or some sharp damn eyes to spot the way onwards.
It's to do with this bed, see.
Not on the right side.
But on the left side, in the narrow space against the wall, there's a little discoloured nub on the side of the bedframe that you can interact with. It's genuinely well hidden, but not impossibly so.
The corridors back here have almost as many undead as the whole non-secret section of the mansion. An even mix of ghosts, ghasts and wights, but they're far enough apart that they usually come at you in smaller groups than one big swarm, leaving them something the party can handle.
The big score back here is four chests, even though none of the containers in here really drop particularly high-level loot. In general there are very few upgrades in the Barrow Downs and its connected areas. The only really big score has been the chest that warped us to the Gog camp and some ore scattered around the outdoors, everything else has mostly been vendor trash. Once again it seems at odds with the strangely high trap difficulty in the Mansion.
As usual, these chests blow up Zina and Zaggut multiple times. Time to investigate those spiral stairs after stitching everyone's extremities back on.
It's probably the rudest place in the mansion, enemy-wise. The way it's designed means that enemies will bunch up at the top, unable to path to the party, and then once you're close enough for one of them to path you, you get all of them at once, like fifteen Wights of various tiers coming at you at once. I had to work to pull them out in chunks for once.
Finally! I think that's the last one. It's like we butted in on an undead house party or something.
Judging by this card on the last Barrow Wight, we interrupted a couple of showings by the realtor.
Figures only ghosts would care about this place.
I'm curious about what's up here, though, let's have a look around...
This looks like the back wall of the library, I wonder if there's a way in...
Found a switch!
...please take two steps to the left before pulling it.
The switch obviously both opens the secret back entrance to the library(getting you out slightly faster) and also fires a fireball out of the tube immediately above it, which means if you're unobservant you line yourself up for eating it right to the face.
Not a bad warmup, what's next?
I'm in no real rush to go wrangle with Medusas, you're heavy enough when you're made of meat, not stone.
Well, we do have Lasker's job in Tatalia...
Getting revenge on Markham? Don't mind if I do.
And so, I set out for Erathia! There's a brief stop by Harmondale to drag Stashley over to the Master Trap Disarm trainer(and also because Harmondale is literally on the way) and sell junk, but otherwise it's uneventful. Once I've gotten things ID'ed and upgrades equipped, though, Stashley ends up looking pretty blinged out:
That crown I found in the Gog-teleporter chest turned out to actually be mildly enchanted so I had an excuse to put it on her.
We stoppin' by Org's for my promotion while we're here?
No, not yet.
Aw, how come? I wanted to get better at killin'.
Considering what we're about to pull in Tatalia, the less witnesses, the better.
That was a faster return to scenic Tatalia than I expected, in all honesty.
The guards, of course, don't bat an eyelid at a bunch of muddy murderers wandering into their boss' house.
Zina. Zaggut. Start hitting those buffing spells.
Uh, don't you think they'll notice?
Shhh, play it cool.
Keep the chanting down! His lordship is taking a nap!
Uhhhh, yessir. Will do. Sorry for the interruption.
...did he just turn his back on us?
That is one hell of a last mistake to make.
You folks say something?
Yeah, didn't you hear us?
I'm sorry, I didn't, please repeat it.
Ahem, I was saying... kill all cops!
Alright, so, let's talk about Lord Markham's security! I'm glad you guys delayed the raid a bit, because they're pretty tough cookies.
Initiates, Champions and Masters of the Sword are all pretty nasty, even just the plain Initiates we've got here in the mansion. They're base level 40 and have 280HP a piece, the highest we've encountered thus far in a single enemy that wasn't a dragon. They also prefer to target Male Knights, which is lucky, since that's likely to be the chonkiest party member you have, if you have any knights. I'm not sure whether the male or Knight part takes priority if you have a Female Knight and a Male Paladin in the party, say. Damage for an Initiate is 24 to 40, which is also, once again, the biggest single damage chunk something's been ready to hand out. That's also calculated before they cast Heroism or Bless. That's right, these fuckers know buffs, which means if they get mixed in with some other enemies, they can be a notable force multiplier. Lastly, to cap it off, they have decent resistances across the board.
Therefore I was surprised it went as well as it did. The two guards in the foyer went down without doing too much damage.
Some elements of Lord Markham's security take longer to catch on than others, but once you open one of the doors out of the foyer, all the doors open, allowing the remainder to reach you.
The remainder are a mixture of more Initiates and Adventurers, top-tier Swordsmen who are considerably less scary. They can break our weapons and prioritize Thieves, but at this point they're fragile enough that they don't get a chance to leverage that. I don't realize the other doors are going to open, though, and get hit in the back by another couple of Initiates.
The fact that Zaggut almost eats shit would seem to imply that the Male part of the targeting is more important than the Knight part.
With a bit of time to look around before the next cops suicide themselves on the party's weapons, I take time to notice that the furniture seems oddly huge, with these chairs' backrests feeling like they stop at eye or head height.
There's also Markham's dining room, low-key and stylish.
And there's the vase, which is a gray sprite on a gray texture! Let's yank it and get out.
Somehow Owen completely dodges the accompanying trap, but it wipes out over half of Stashley's hit points and almost kills Zaggut.
So we're stumblin' outta the mansion all cut up and bleeding, clutching an expensive vase we didn't have going in, and no one out here bats an eyelid.
Either everyone here hates Markham as much as we do, or he throws some wild parties.
I get the feeling we should be making tracks, though.
I've got somewhere in mind that doesn't have an extradition treaty with Tatalia.
...and when we walk back into Erathia from the Harmondale side of the border, it'll be perfectly deniable!
You planned this bit out ever since we first visited Markham's mansion, didn't you?
You never know when you're gonna need an alibi.
While in MM6, most of the towns had sort of a same-y feel, there's a pretty big difference from the human lands to the elven lands, and even between human lands like Erathia and Tatalia. Most of the elven lands(in this case Avlee), have only a few permanent buildings on the ground.
Most of the remainder are either raised off the ground or less-permanent tents on the ground. Also, obviously, there are different sprites for elven and human peasants and guards.
In addition to a bit of ELF LORE, Avlee also has some master trainers we can't use(all Master magic remains sadly out of reach), a few that we can(Master Armsmaster for Owen, hell yeah) and a promotion trainer. While we don't have an Archer, we still want the promotion XP for pretending that we have one, and since we're going to the Red Dwarf Mines for King Hothfarr eventually anyway, we might as well.
I do rather like these toadstool parasol things on the side of the local temple, though. Like they roll out the cafe chairs in the summer or something.
Avlee doesn't have much, if any, content for us at the moment, though, so we're off to the Tularean Forest! It's on the far side of Harmondale from the entrance to Erathia.
Damn mist rolling in, can't see five feet.
...do those trees look odd to anyone?
As a licensed druid, I can say it's absolutely not normal for trees to spit fire at you.
The teeth and eyes, also definitely new.
The design for these fucking things is nightmare fuel. They're thankfully pretty weak with no unique tricks that can really fuck us up, but goddamn! Look at that fucking design, gah! We're clear-cutting these fuckers.
I say we pretend those things don't exist and never speak of them again. All in favour?
Once again, time to scour the Tularean Forest for useful trainers and anyone with a quest. There are a few around here!
Tatalia and Avlee's circles are easy enough(we've already been at Tatalia's. Avlee's does have some nasty monsters around it, though), but Evermorn is somewhat more involved since it requires beating up some pirates in Tatalia for the map to Evermorn so the ships will start having routes there. Still, we need and want this promotion.
Requisite serving of ELF LORE.
Kind of a surprise the elves fought the Timber Wars to a draw considering they haven't mastered wearing armor.
It's a bit of an oddity that the elven guards are running around like half-naked stereotypical tribesmen with sticks and war paint while the elven civilians are actually dressed like more or less normal fantasy people, like the humans, dwarves and goblins.
As a kid I always hated Pierpoint(the main settlement of the Tularean Forest, with the elven kingdom's castle in it), because I kept falling off the sides, and if you don't have Jump yet there's only one staircase up.
Still, I appreciate the architectural difference so it feels like it's not just another human town with a few more pointy ears around.
Making a down payment towards eventually robbing some fairies.
This bridge is what always got me as a kid. It's fucking cruel, especially in the OG version of MM7 without mouselook.
A lot of people want us to mess with fairies, but no one wants to mess with fairies themselves. That's what you call foreshadowing.
This guy seems super suspicious, but he'll be paying us to do his weird thing, so we should go along with it.
In a more modern game, I feel like all the tents around the edges would be part of some conflict between the people living in the more permanent houses, and the lower caste/refugees living in the tents. Here I think it's just meant to imply elves living a more "traditional"/nomadic way, with the permanent buildings being the oddity. But I don't think we ever get any real, detailed lore on that.
And now I skip the party heading through Harmondale and into Erathia. Time to collect on a couple of quests.
I have to admit you were right, Stashley, no one seems to have any clue we've burgled Lord Markham.
I'm a criminal mastermind, after all. Let's hit up Org, first, then Lasker.
Hey, what gives. That's hardly any boost at all!
Yeah, Knights get kinda fucking cheated. It's only a +20% HP boost and going from Knight to Cavalier doesn't unlock any new skills at all. It's not until they get their final promotion they unlock some GM skills. It doesn't even unlock any important M skills for them. On the other hand, they start out as badasses already.
Comparatively, Stashley gets a bigger percentage-wise HP boost than Owen does from her promotion to Rogue. If I wanted to, I could actually teach her Basic Elemental magic now, which might have some uses in places, but not many. Anything she could do, Zina could do better, and it would detract skill points from Stashley's core competencies of making me richer and enemies deader by stabbing them in the spine. Once again, her real, substantive, boosts await until she gets her second Promotion.
Some trip, though! We got to see two whole new overworld areas, we killed a bunch of trees, we got some revenge on Lord Markham and on those fucking ghasts, too! So...
A: We've seen most of the overworld, but of the core areas we're still missing Deyja and the Bracada Desert. Should we finish that up?
I would like to see Deyja before this party gets me killed again.
B: Focus on clearing up promotion quests, both the honorary and meaningful ones. Non-promotion quests will only be done if they're literally in the same dungeon.
Yes! More power! More murder!
C: Focus on clearing up non-promotion quests. Promotion quests will only be done if they're literally in the same dungeon.
Yes! More money! More loot!
D: Actually get back on track with the story quest. And then loot King Hothfarr's treasury once we don't need him any more.
I don't trust his beady little eyes, and I want a battlement I can stand on while I pour hot oil on peasants.