Part 4: Out of Their MinesUpdate 2: Out of Their Mines
"Been a few days since we cleared out bugs. Wonder how Joe doing now."
"Ah, the satisfying sight of justice. She is pure like the mountain vista in spring."
"Fubar think it look more like empty office with bits of bug guts swept into corner."
"The important thing is, we got a nice hefty reward for saving Vertigo. Now that's what I call justice! I bet Gunther will pay us handsomely for helping out those dwarves, too."
"Look, the well's cleared up now that the slimes are gone. Wow, this water tastes good!"
"Technically water tasteless. Flavour come from dissolved mineral ions in water. Not mean to be pedant, just point out fact."
The well now lives up to its name, fully restoring HP. It's usually not going to be any more convenient than just resting, but I guess it's useful if you don't want to bother recasting buffs.
"Those mines aren't gonna clear themselves out. Hope you're all ready!"
"At this time we are at the gates of Vertigo, and so the Red Dwarf Mines should be..."
"... just across this bridge to the west. Are you all seeing where I point?"
"That's not too far away at all. First, though, I think I see something to our left that I want to check out."
There are various fountains scattered around Xeen, providing a range of beneficial effects. Like other buffs, most boosts from fountains last until the party rests or 5 a.m. the next day.
"Fubar skin feel like made of steel! Look! Fubar hit hand with axe, not get cut!"
"Aaa! Stop that! It's much too weird!"
"This is a pretty convenient fountain. But what's that... that void beyond it?"
"That? Just edge of world. Get used to it if live nearby for long enough."
Xeen is flat and roughly rectangular in shape; the Darkside of Xeen is literally the underside of the world. The game will not actually let us step off the edge -- it's not quite that cruel.
"Ooh, there really is a lot to see around Vertigo. Might as well check it out, since it's on our way and all. Who's living in that tent?"
"If we are ever going to Toad Meadow, I will keep that inside my mind."
"We ought to do something about those witches at some point."
And just like that, we've picked up a sidequest. It'd be handy to have a few antidote potions for the Dwarven Mines, but we'll get by without them.
"Ugh. Are these horrible creatures still living so close to Vertigo?"
"You think you look better to Orc than Orc look to you? There good reason why most Half-Orc have two Half-Orc parents."
"Or else parents who drink too much, make bad life decision."
The area between Vertigo and the Dwarven Mines is infested with Orcs. The hintbook says that Orcs will preferentially attack Elves before other characters, but this doesn't seem to be the case: Vandesloof got hit once or twice, but so did most other characters. Orcs hit one character per round for 1-10 physical damage, can attack from long range and are tough enough to survive a couple of hits, making them considerably more threatening than anything we fought in Vertigo. Of course, "more threatening" is a relative term, and with the experience and loot from clearing out Vertigo they shouldn't present a serious threat.
Also, gonna quote another part of the hintbook entry on them just for comedy value: "When the Ancients were passing out abilities, the Orcs were last in line and got none."
"Wow, creepy pyramid. Is it just me or is that eye blinking?"
"Only one eye, so more like winking."
"That's even worse!"
These pyramids are scattered around Xeen in various more or less convenient places, and serve as portals between Cloudside and Darkside. As such, we won't be using them for a long, long time.
"How many magic fountains are there around here? Well, no sense looking a gift fountain in the mouth, I suppose."
This fountain, just off the main road out of Vertigo, grants bonus HP to whoever drinks from it, even above their normal maximum HP. HP bonuses like this will stick around until you rest or take damage.
"Somebody's set up a wagon on the other side of the river from the fountain. Perhaps he's a travelling merchant?"
"Or not. So do we go out of our way to save this poor guy's fiancee? I mean, I know we've got an important quest and all, but..."
"I hate to say it, but even if we manage to find her, do you really think we'll do it in time to save her? Like Derek said, it's a big forest. We should focus on the people we can save. Better still, let's focus on the people we can save who can also pay us for saving them."
"Rather a cold way to put it, but I can't argue with your reasoning -- the dwarves do need our help."
"Shall we go and help them, then?"
"Oh, look. Even with all the chaos going on in there, they've still posted a welcoming dwarf. How nice."
The Dwarven Mines are presented by the game as a newbie dungeon -- after all, you're directed there after completing the first quest in the first town -- but they can actually be deceptively difficult for a beginner party. Still, you voted for them, so here we are. Let's turn on the lights and see what we're dealing with.
"Rather an ungainly creature. I'm surprised it can stay in the air."
Giant Bats are the weakest enemies in the mines: they're fast, but have a relatively weak attack and are likely to die in one hit.
"Oof! Fubar not burly enough! How can it be?"
As we continue on in the game, we'll sometimes find containers that have a minimum stat requirement to open. This crate requires 21 Might, which means Fubar is almost but not quite there.
"Miners know people get thirsty from work, put drinks here! Real smart!"
"Are you sure that's -- oh, okay, you've gone and drunk it already. Time to watch and see what happens, I guess. If it makes you feel any better, your horrible death and/or transformation into a monster may advance the field of medical science."
"What you talk about? Fubar feel better than ever! Ready to try crate again!"
Stat boosts are colour-coded in this game: red means Might, and there are other coloured barrels scattered around the mines that give one-off permanent bonuses to other stats as well. This is just a small taste of things to come.
"Nothing in there. But Fubar prove he stronger than crate, and that what really matter."
With Fubar's newly-boosted Might, he can bust open the sealed crate and find out that it's empty anyway.
Some of the other crates do have random items in them, so the Might boost did come in handy after all (quite apart from its usefulness in combat, of course).
"Woohoo! It's Trish's time to shine again!"
"Have you been spending too much of your time around Fubar and Flench?"
"What? No, I was just doing that thing where you refer to yourself in the third person to... aw, forget it, it'd take too long to explain."
"Instead, look what else I can do! I'm a better cure for chest pain than Entonox!"
Pretty much all chests in Xeen are locked, and need to be opened by a thief. The rewards are more than worth it.
"So, four more mines. Good to know. But where to use these codes?"
"Oh look, our enemies are coming to us. How convenient. Here's our strategy: you all kill them and I'll keep them from killing you."
The manual claims that Mad Dwarves will preferentially target dwarven party members, which could actually work to your advantage if you have one dwarf and stack all the party's best armour on them so they can't be hit. Since we don't have any dwarves, they'll attack at random. They have a little more HP than Orcs and attack twice a round for fairly minor physical damage.
"It seems they'd already begun mining for themselves, judging by all the gold and gems they were carrying."
"This might have done them more good if they had been wearing it instead of stowing it away."
"Whoa! Didn't see that one coming. Watch out for traps when you search the beds, guys. Owww."
"Bluh! Huak! Gwur! Ptuhhhhh."
"Fubar not feel so good."
There are floor traps in the mines that do around 15-20 acid/poison damage to the party and also have a small chance to inflict Poison on everyone. Poison lowers stats and gets worse over time, but can be kept under control by repeated casting of Suppress Poison spells. It's important to keep Protection from Acid active in the mines to minimise damage taken, although the party can be poisoned even if they take no damage from the trap itself.
"Ah, a clue! It would appear that these dwarves will only be revealing the secrets of their mines to those with intelligence and perseverance! Are we up to this task? Do not answer: this question, she is rhetorical! Of course we are!"
"No way am I drinking that."
"Oh, don't be that way. An adventurer should be adventurous!"
"You needn't feel that much pressure to live up to your name. It's not Ms Swallow Everything, after all."
"That wasn't so bad -- I think my eyesight is a little sharper now. And I'll have you know I'm named for the bird, not the act."
"Hmm. My magic is saying that there is a way past this wall, but my eyes are disagreeing. Who is right?"
"When eyes and brain fight, muscles break tie!"
A wall with a corridor immediately behind it usually means a secret passage. The party can bash these down just like doors in order to proceed.
"Look out ahead. Big webs mean big spiders."
Webs don't hurt or impede the party in any way, but they can be a little hard to see through, so you may not notice the spiders on the other side until they're upon you. Giant spiders have low HP and damage output, but can poison characters if they hit. Shoot at them from a safe distance if you see them.
"Trish, what are you doing? Aren't we supposed to be saving these mines for the dwarves, not taking the gold for ourselves?"
"Don't be silly. It's a gold mine, isn't it? If we weren't supposed to take the gold, it'd be called a gold theirs."
"If it bothers you that much, just think of it as a down payment on our reward."
The mine is full of gold veins, which generally get richer as you go deeper in: you can mine a vein multiple times, getting less gold each time until it finally runs out. There's also a 10% chance of a cave-in whenever you try to mine, which will damage the entire party -- you should reload your last saved game if this happens, not just because of the damage but because it means you'll get less gold out of the vein.
"That's funny, some of that rubble just mowhooooa look out everyone!"
Just like how some of the crates in Vertigo were full of Doom Bugs, searching rubble can disturb Giant Spiders. This can be annoying since you won't have a chance to wear them down from range, but at least they're worth some experience.
"No more foolery! It is time to be breaking out the large guns!"
"Evidently Insect Spray spell also work on arachnid. Misnamed or just versatile? Either way, Flench not mind."
Insect Spray deals with groups of spiders pretty handily, doing enough damage to one-shot them if it hits. A Sorcerer or Archer with at least 20 Speed can wipe them out before they get a chance to act.
"Is this a shopping list? Eww. Who eats those things? Worse still, who sells those things? Were these dwarf miners originally from Glorantha or something?"
"It seems we've cleared out this section of the mines. I think we could all do with a quick visit to Vertigo's temple before we try to go any deeper."
"Ah, that's much better. But what do we do with this contraption?"
"Maybe this what those travel codes for?"
By entering codes into the minecart/elevator/whatever this thing is that we're looking at, it'll transport us to different parts of the mines. (The mirror portal in Vertigo will also accept mine codes, although non-mine-related portal codes won't work on the minecart.) The mine immediately west of Vertigo, which we've just finished exploring, is Mine 1, so let's try Mine 2.
"More mad dwarves. No surprise. We drive them out."
"I wonder how far away from Vertigo that cart took us?"
If we exit to the surface, we can see that we've crossed over to the other side of the mountain range. Each of the five numbered mines has its own exit in a different but nearby location. It's a bit dangerous to explore too far north of here, and we've got a job to do anyway, so let's pop back into the mine for now.
Some of the rubble in this mine contains gems, although the character who finds them will be poisoned. We don't exactly start out with a huge stash of gems, so the prize is worth the pain.
"Aw, that thing's kind of cute in a weird way. Look at its little beady eyes and its little pointy nose and its -- oh, those are actually some pretty big claws..."
Tiger Moles are among the most dangerous enemies in the mines. They hit twice per round for a hefty 2-24 physical damage and have more than respectable HP and AC. Two or three decent hits from them can take out most party members at the moment.
To make matters worse, a bunch of them can sometimes pop out when the party opens a crate. When this happens, we want to pull out all the stops and start blasting away with multi-target attack spells from everyone who has them.
And make sure to stay healed up. If everyone in the party is knocked unconscious...
Welcome to the game-over sequence. Lord Xeen laughs at us and we're kicked back to the title screen.
Okay, let's forget that ever happened and try again, a little more carefully this time.
Even with good strategy, it can be a tough fight.
Whenever a character is damaged to -10 HP or less, even if they survive, all the armour they're wearing will be broken. Broken armour is useless and can only be repaired by running back to a blacksmith and paying a fraction of the item's cost, so this is best avoided.
"This meant to be put together with clue we found earlier, maybe?"
Mine 3 has a skeleton that will grant the Danger Sense skill to anyone who searches it, in case you're playing without a Gnome.
"Oops. Now they tell us. Well, in for a penny..."
"I do believe I'm starting to see a pattern in these clues."
Mine 4 is partially flooded, and there are a couple of treasures we can't access without the Swimming skill on our entire party. I guess I could go back to the inn and kick everyone except Ms Swallow and Anleisa out of the party, but instead I'll come back for them later. For now, we can explore enough of the mine to get the fourth clue.
"A-L-P-H... what's the bet that the final clue is an A?"
In Mine 5 a skeleton grants the Direction Sense skill, in case you were sensible enough to avoid having a Druid in your party.
"For the record, I called it."
"Time to see if code works! Go deeper, cart! Deeper!"
Here we are in Deep Mine Alpha. The deep mines are laid out a bit differently from the numbered mines, with long branching corridors instead of relatively tight sets of interconnected rooms.
Down here in the deep mines we start to run into Clan Sergeants, which are basically just tougher versions of Mad Dwarves, with more HP and stronger attacks. Overall, I'd say they're less threatening than Tiger Moles: they have more health but their attacks are weaker.
They also carry some rather nice treasure. This turned out to be a Mystic Plate Armour, which provides a small bonus to magic resistance -- that'll come in handy quite soon.
The deep mines don't have the stat-boosting barrels that the numbered mines did, but what they do have is huge amounts of gold.
"I'm seeing another pattern -- could it be that the leader of the Mad Dwarf Clan is in Deep Mine Omega? Of course, there's no rush to meet him. We can explore a bit more first."
By the way, the game keeps track of useful information like fountain locations and passwords for you. It's a handy feature.
"Oh my. If I knew there was this much money in mining, I'd never have become an adventurer."
"I do not mean to offend, but you lack the physique to be mining for a living. Most likely you would be collapsing from the exhaustion in the first hour, if you could even lift a pick."
Deep Mine Theta is even more generous with gold than Alpha: hauls like this will become practically commonplace as we go deeper.
"Looks like we've found the code for the third deep mine. How many more of these are there going to be? Although I guess I don't mind as long as there's still gold in them..."
"What do all these giant spiders even feed on? Giant houseflies? Giant cockroaches? Ugh. Why did I have to go and think about that?"
Deep Mine Kappa contains spiders. Lots of spiders. These ones are behind a secret passage, but they're not protecting any particular treasure; they're just there to annoy you.
"Ah, this is much better. Just a few more insane, murderous dwarves for us to kill. Nice normal enemies."
Behind the three sergeants is the final minecart code, just in case you hadn't guessed it already.
"And they were even protecting a reward of sorts. If only--"
"Anleisa? You okay there? What's wrong?"
"What? Ahem. Oh dear. I think I just had a small seizure of some kind. I really must try and do a better job of keeping this poisoning under control."
Having any of your stats reduced to 0 can cause you to randomly die whenever the game checks up on you and decides that you shouldn't be alive. In particular, you probably will die if you try to rest in this state. This is the problem with relying on Suppress Poison: you have to keep an eye on your stats constantly, because they will creep down over time.
"Enough exploring. Time to find leader."
And here we are. For the record, Alpha, Theta, Kappa and Omega are the only deep mines: you can't find any secret bonus mines by entering Greek letters into the minecart at random.
In addition to lots more of the monsters we've seen before, the final deep mine throws some new combinations of dirty tricks at us, like putting poison traps in front of secret passages. We step on the trap, take damage, bash the wall down, and since we stayed on the space for a turn we take damage from the trap again.
"Shh. Everyone. Look. That one up ahead, different from others. Could be leader. Probably tough. We should go back, rest, prepare."
"Is everyone ready? No last-minute preparations?"
"I am always ready! Let us go with boldness to glory!"
"I'd have expected a mad dwarven king to be a rather interesting personality, but from up close there's something remarkably dull about him. In fact, I can barely keep my eyes open..."
"What you do? No fall asleep in middle of fight! Very bad strategy!"
And it's time for our first boss fight (no, the Breeder Slimes don't count). The Clan King has twice the HP of his sergeant allies, and can attack the whole party at once for moderate magical damage with a chance to inflict Sleep. He's one tough customer.
Items that cast multi-target damage spells can be helpful in this fight, especially if your melee characters are having trouble hitting with physical attacks. Keep in mind that all the enemy dwarves have a 50% resistance to elemental attacks, so spells that do physical damage like Pain and Shrapmetal are best.
Spellcasters should cast Awaken whenever there's more than one sleeping party member. Whenever nobody is asleep, Sorcerers should be casting Shrapmetal, while Clerics cast Pain or Cure Wounds (although you won't be able to heal the whole party fast enough to keep up with the king's damage output).
Eventually, you'll start to wear them down. It's a battle of attrition and hopefully you're on the winning side.
"C'mon, guys! Get back into the fight! He's almost down, but I can't beat him all by myself!"
"Fubar... not... lose! Fubar... protect friends!"
Not exactly a perfect result, but considering how many attempts it took, I'll take it. After the first couple of failures I really should have just run to the temple back in Vertigo and donated for some buffs to make this fight much easier, but I'm stubborn.
The Clan King dropped two rather nice weapons. The wakizashi has so-so base damage, but also inflicts a modest amount of bonus ice damage and does triple damage to animals. I replace Ms Swallow's katana with it: it'll come in very handy soon enough. The iron staff has a small bonus to hit chance and damage compared to a regular staff, and will make a fine weapon for Vandesloof once he's brought back from the dead.
The thing about enemies that attack the whole party at once is that they don't stop hitting you once you're unconscious, so this kind of thing can easily happen. It's curable, but it's still an inconvenience.
"Trish, how can you think of treasure at a time like this? Two of our companions are dead!"
"What, are they going to get any deader in the next five minutes? While we're down here, we might as well save ourselves another trip."
Unfortunately, all the items from the king's chest are low-quality Brass and Bronze weapons, which have a bonus to hit but a penalty to damage. The gold and gems are nice, though.
"Guh. Anleisa dead, nobody to cast protection spell. Food almost gone, too. Hope we have strength to get out alive..."
"Whew. Let's not cut things that close ever again, huh?"
"600 gold? Wow, that's kinda steep."
"They're bringing back the dead. Under the circumstances, I hardly think we can begrudge them a fair payment."
"Ah. Alive and well again, just in time to collect the reward for my heroism!"
"Wait, we just get the medal? That's it? Really?"
"Do you remember those 'down payments' that you and Trish insisted we collect from the mines? Given the number and size of them, I think we should consider ourselves paid in full already."
"Ugh. Fine, I suppose you have a point."
Our equipment really took a beating from that fight. Luckily, fixing broken gear has been made a lot cheaper than it was in Might & Magic III, so it doesn't cost us too much.
Broken equipment still sells for the same price as if it were unbroken, so if you have two pieces of the exact same armour, one broken and one not, just wear the unbroken one and sell the broken one.
"Kinda hard to believe it's already been nearly a year since we first set out to stop Lord Xeen. I guess all that time we've spent training adds up."
In Xeen, a week is ten days and a year is 100 days. The game begins on the first day of the year 610, and time marches on inexorably from there. Travelling and resting both take time, of course, but shopping and training take up significant amounts of time too. A typical game can take quite a few in-game years to complete.
"Fubar always get stronger, faster, tougher! Protect friends better! Nobody die any more!"
"I've improved quite considerably, if I do say so myself."
"Flench strong, but can still be stronger. Not stop training."
"I could get used to this whole adventuring dealio. I mean, the getting beaten half to death part isn't so much fun, but the money and power aren't bad."
"Let's not forget to buy more food before we set out again. We're nearly out. There's frugality and then there's insanity."
"The great Vandesloof lives again! I am like the vampire, but without the fangs and the drinking of blood."
We just completed a pretty major dungeon and lived to tell the tale (if with the help of a little revival magic in some cases). Should the party immediately plunge into another one by taking on the Witches of Toad Meadow, or first do some outdoor exploration while trying to rescue Celia from the zombies? It's up to you, so make your decision and vote!