Part 42: Bonus Update 22.5: Lava FieldsBonus Update 22.5: Lava Fields
The vote's flipped back and forth a couple of times and stayed close all the while, but I'm calling it: next time, we'll be taking on the Volcano Cave.
It's possible to meet the Crusader requirement for entering Castle Burlock by having a Paladin in your party and thereby avoid having to reconstitute Falista, but the Falista quest is good early-game experience and treasure, so why would you?
Anyway, as long as you steer clear from the lava fields, this is a good midgame area for doing quests and building up your party.
Sandworms are scary to an inexperienced party, as are the lava monsters. Everything else should be fairly manageable with levels in the high single digits. I have no earthly idea why Gargoyles give out more experience than Sandworms; in principle they can paralyse multiple characters per round, but Sandworms can kill you outright.
That cave on the east side of the map is one of the entrances to the Red Dwarf Mines. It's a way to access the western half of the world map without needing Mountaineer, Swimmer or the Jump spell, although if you don't have any of those things you may not be ready for the western half of the world map anyway.
The game isn't kidding about Dragon Cave being dangerous: it's doable with just the levels and equipment you get from Clouds, but it's not easy. The Volcano Cave isn't too bad by comparison, as long as you have a high-level party. The entire northeast sector of the world map is pretty much completely optional anyway, so you can hold off on this area until after you've built up some more strength over in Darkside.
The cave in the far north of the map is the Dragon Cave, while the one right in the middle is the Volcano Cave. The orc lairs are in the far east.
See you next update!