Part 5: Incidental HeroicsUpdate 005: Incidental Heroics
So we're all agreed, then?
I mean it's what I'd do if I started up a criminal enterprise or an evil cult.
As worrying a statement as that is, I feel like if any of us has insight into the criminal mindset, it would be you, Deadeye.
Bobelix? How about you?
...I still think we should just go to the circus.
Alright, tell you what. If we don't find Prince Nicolai either at this Temple of Baa or in the Shadow Guild's hideout? We'll go to the circus.
But for now we've got a cult to kick upside the head. Stay sharp! I have a feeling the locals know we're coming...
So, the Temple of Baa...
Biggest dungeon we've hit so far and larger than quite a few, at least in terms of pure space. If you didn't care about the gold or XP, you could skip about half of it(like, it took me a literal hour and a half to deal with the "extra" parts simply because of the huge amounts of killing that were necessary to get past them). But the parts you have to do are the parts that are nastiest, the Temple of Baa is, I'd say, the first dungeon that brings out some of the real dick moves in dungeon design.
The start location is at the western side of the square room on the west side of the map. The four corner areas are the optional parts of the Temple of Baa, so they're up as one of the first things to clear. They'll also serve as an introduction to the new enemies we'll be encountering here.
This track also plays, though I think it may only play the first time you enter, and helps make you feel a bit apprehensive about what you're stepping inside, especially with the lack of opposition immediately when you enter, making you wary for any traps or ambushes that might pop up.
Before we start exploring, though, there's something the party needs to poke at.
I hate puzzles.
I hate the traps you trigger when you screw up puzzles.
I mean, at least if there's a puzzle to solve, it might mean we get treasure without having to fight?
Alright then, solve this puzzle for us, mister genius, and get us the free loot.
...I hate to admit it, but I can't quite see the solution. Perhaps there'll be clues deeper in the dungeon?
Clues we have to fight for, I bet. Goddamn.
So, yeah, far as I'm aware nothing, nowhere, anywhere, in the dungeon ever hints at you what the correct order for these signs is. You can brute force it, but each one you get wrong gives the party a nasty bit of zapping for their trouble, so you generally don't want to do that if you can avoid it. Anyway, off to the side chambers!
I don't get it.
What don't you get?
Why do all the Temples of Baa we've seen so far have caves full of spiders and snakes and stuff under them?
Oh, I've seen this sort of thing before, it's pretty common.
You've seen dungeons full of spiders before?
Look, I used to work in construction, alright? I bet you, their contractor was a friend of a friend.
Their contractor. For their evil temples.
C'mon, you don't think a bunch of priests are gonna build these by themselves, do you? So a friend of a friend gets the contract, and they sneak "spider dungeon" in at the bottom of every invoice, and he charges a mint for it, right into his own pockets because it's just a hole in the ground.
A hole in the ground full of spiders and skulls.
Well yeah so he can call it artisanal and charge even more. Then he splits it with his man in the priesthood.
The corner caves have a few notable things once you've cleared out the local vermin. First off are these skull piles(of weakness and curses, respectively). What happens if you touch them?
Yeah, I don't know what I expected either.
From the "search failed" I assume it might be possible to gain something from them? But since I never have, I assume it's gated behind such a massive stat or skill check that it'd be implausible to pass at this point, so just don't touch them.
Well congratulations, now you have tetanus AND dysentery.
It's rather the same for various types of cave/sewer trash piles. Just... don't bother. At best you'll get a couple of really minor rings or amulets from it, and we're not that hard up for money. Now, there ARE a couple of things in here you should mess with.
Hey, someone left out free food!
Hold it, Bobelix, I bet Mr. No Fun here is gonna tell us not to slurp it up.
Probably, because he isn't an idiot.
It could do anything! It could turn you into skeletons! Set you on fire! Explode your bones!
I think you just don't want us to have any fun. Prove this stuff is dangerous.
You know what? Fine. I'll drink it myself.
Vats of brew give +1 magic or fire resistance depending on their type. It's small potatoes, but a bonus to base resistances is always nice. I end up dumping them all on Richmond since he seems to attract an unusual number of whacks around the head. Possibly the enemies know he's about to lecture them, too, and want to avoid it.
Look! People! Maybe they're trapped in here!
I don't think so, judging by those robes and staves they're...
Acolytes of Baa! They're rather like the apprentice mages from New Sorpigal, except beefier and with the Lizardmen's "keep away while pelting the player with projectiles"-AI rather than the "charge into melee despite being weedy nerds"-AI. The low-level Acolytes and Clerics(green and blue, respectively) aren't a huge issue, but the Priests of Baa(red-robed), both deal out large amounts of ranged damage and have a ton of hit points, being the beefiest enemy encountered so far, by far. Thankfully none of them inflict conditions, which is about the only nice thing I can say about any of them, and they have the potential to drop decent amounts of gold as well as some acceptable gear, though throughout this entire dungeon we never got a gear drop from any of them.
That's for making us fight all those spiders, dick!
That's for having a dungeon with puzzles in it!
Well, if that's all the resistance this temple has to offer, I can't imagine us having much trouble with it!
I should smack you upside the head for saying something like that.
Ah, well, yes, I suppose my statement does seem a bit ridiculous now that we're beset by...
Skeletons! And also skeletal knights and lords. Basic skeletons are no real threat except for being immune to poison and magical damage(as in, spells that explicitly do Magic type damage, not all magic), which could, I suppose, be very annoying for a party of all water-focused mages. Skeleton Knights are the same, but with bigger hit points, bigger swords and the ability to cause the Afraid status effect, which is one of the few that fades by itself. Being Afraid drops Intelligence, Personality and Accuracy in exchange for a minor Might and Speed boost. The real problem here is the Skeleton Lords, the big red fellows. By raw stats they're weaker even than Clerics of Baa, but they can Curse us with a hit, and Curse is effectively a "take a break to go back to town and get uncursed"-event due to how crippling it is and Bobelix not having Remove Curse yet(and at that only the spell points to cast it once, when at full magic power).
Still, once the skeletons are down, there's nothing new in this chamber, nor in the last one which is a mix of spiders and skeletons, so let's fast forward briefly.
In addition to the corner caves, the main hall has three exits(not counting the central square or the actual exit from the dungeon). They can all be opened right away, but we can't do anything with the northern one yet, and the eastwards one makes worrying explodey noises, so I take the south one first.
The doors on the left and right are both locked, this is one of those dungeons we'll be spending key-hunting all the way, but we can go straight.
Poking this wall texture at the end gives us a key we need to complete the dungeon, it unlocks one of the doors we just passed.
Now, if you pay attention to the minimap you may have noticed what just happened, which is that the dick dungeon designer just spawned a cluster of skeletons and acolytes behind us, while we're in a dead-end corridor that prevents us from backing away too far. In addition, tricks of geometry and AI trap several of them outside, clustering around the edges of the entrance, including a couple of goddamn skeleton lords which there's therefore no way of NOT getting into melee range of.
So obviously Deadeye gets winged by one of them on the way through as I bust them down, then head back to check on the chest, which contains a key. A lot of this in this dungeon, keys that unlock keys. This key goes up to the north side that we otherwise couldn't do anything with.
A ton of gold and a key to the other room down on the south side.
Maybe we're being haunted by the skeletons of everyone we've killed.
More like the ghost of bad dungeon design.
You can retreat from pretty much any other encounter, but these ambushes are real hard to wriggle your way out of. I end up kiting the skeletons back to the spa room and slipping around them(getting badly busted in the process) just so I can get back to the main space and have some maneuvering room.
If anyone's wondering, yeah, I can confirm that this dungeon's combat encounters weren't trivial.
Yep, it's another ambush when we open this door, too.
It contains a "secret door key" that we need to complete the dungeon, but don't have a use for right away. So I go out, smash apart the ambush and head for the east door.
Anyone else hear a sound on the other side of this door?
Usually the ambushes are behind us, not in front, but I'll take some variety.
More like a whooshing sound...
For whatever reason, fireballs hurtle down the center of this corridor every five seconds or so. They're easily dodged, if you know they're there, just wait for one to come past and then hug the side of the corridor.
Goddamn! Do the Acolytes have to put up with this every day they come in to work?
"Oh, no, Joe's going to be late for the ceremony today because he forgot to duck in the fireball corridor and lost his head."
Or maybe they saw us breaking down the front door and activated all the defenses.
You really know how to kill a joke, Richmond.
A couple of dense clusters of Acolytes and Priests guard the way up, they can put out some damage, but without any Priests in the mix, they go down fast enough that just charging right in and spamming spells puts them down before they can do too much damage.
Phew! Looks like there aren't a lot of them left!
At this point the party's cleared out every major room and this little patch of acolytes, priests and clerics of Baa appear to be all that's left in here.
Appear to be.
So we start off exchanging some long-range fire with them, but I'm missing more hits than I'm landing because of their zig-zag movement.
Prompting me to move in and start pressuring them up close.
The fight eventually moves up on to the raised dais, but keeps being mobile since their shots can really hurt if they land a full volley, and since these guys are using spell-like attacks rather than, well, non-spell attacks, they always hit if the projectile makes contact.
Um, anyone hear a ringing sound? And then a rattling sound?
Yeah, so there's a trigger where the first time you get too close to the altar, it spawns some enemy reinforcements. Direct your attention to the minimap.
This is probably one of the bigger dick moves the game pulls, at least in the early game. So yeah, what happens now is that the party fucking legs it and declares a war of attrition on the hundred or so skeletons that just spawned. Most of them are normal skeletons and skeleton knights, but there are enough Lords in the mix to make things a bit tense.
It takes me about half an hour, real-time, to clear out all these fucking skeletons. Jesus Christ, New World Computing.
If you know the trigger's there you can technically avoid it by just not getting too close to the altar but... how the hell's anyone gonna know about it?!
But at long last, I make my way to the end. Now we gotta be done with all the horrors of the Temple of Baa, right?
The secret door key unlocks this mismatched wall texture behind the altar.
This corridor down here is worth noting because one of the torches on the wall will, randomly, give you 5000 gold, once, if you interact with it. Never hinted at, never replicated, it just happens.
But ha ha, you can get all this way and you still aren't getting the loot and quest item unless you deal with the CUBE PUZZLE back at the start.
This is what happens if you fuck up.
In any case, the correct solution is North, East, West, South.
Wooden, Lapis, Silver and Copper signs, if anyone wants to try and puzzle out the logic and tell me how a galaxy brain genius could've solved this one without trial and error.
And we get another key for our troubles! Now, does anyone remember what happens when we get a key?
That's right! We also get an ambush! This dungeon is mean. If you're correctly positioned you can wriggle your way out of the box at the cost of some damage(like I did) and down one of the cave tunnels to buy some distance to deal with these fuckers. Christ.
Anyway, this key opens the second door to the north.
It's the treasure room key that opens the two secret doors behind the other secret door! Anyway, you guys know the drill by now.
Insert the I TOLD YOU ABOUT STAIRS BRO meme except I TOLD YOU ABOUT KEYS BRO.
Because it fucking keeps happening.
But at long last, this is the last ambush of the Temple of Baa.
If there's another ambush behind this door I'm putting down my axe and becoming a farmer.
Thankfully this door just has the Chime of Harmony quest item. But what about the other one?
Cha-ching! Each of these bags has about 200 gold in it, so the party is leaving this dungeon richer than ever. Now we can afford all the training we want! I'm hoarding most of the money for expensive later-game spellbooks at the moment, though, it generally doesn't feel worth it to buy gear from shops, unless random drops leaves you particularly behind in a specific category like your bows. Until you're hauling around tier 4 or 5 armor, most of it's likely to be replaced soon enough that paying for new stuff isn't greatly worth it.
Blast, no sign of the prince here.
Well, it could just as well have been the Shadow Guild, at least I really hope it is.
Circus! Circus! Circus!
As a fun detail, by the end of the dungeon, you've opened enough doors that the fireballs down the eastern hallway rip all the way across the main hall and blast into the exit door. So you can unceremoniously KO yourself on the way out by not paying attention and getting hit in the back of the head by a fireball the size of a watermelon.
Alright, considering what a bunch of priests came up with, we can probably expert worse from a group of sneaky rogues. Everyone on their toes, ready for traps, ambushes and twisty dungeon design!
The Shadow Guild hideout is honestly a hell of a lot easier to deal with, design-wise. There's one(1) trap, zero enemy-spawning ambushes, only one key you need to find, relatively linear layout.
Mostly the enemies in the Shadow Guild hideout are, predictably, Thieves. Compared to the Acolytes of Baa, they're comparatively fragile, but hit harder in melee. They also have an ability to steal items from the party, either in inventory or equipped. As far as I'm aware there's no guarantee of getting the items back after killing them, either. At the moment the party has nothing desperately expensive that they don't want to lose, but later on, especially if we get our hands on something literally unique, it would be vital to keep rogues at arm's length to avoid losing anything. Apparently the only way to resist it is either not getting close enough to get hit, or having a high accuracy and luck.
Also while backing away from them towards the door, one of the rogues scores a lucky max damage attack that one-shots Agnes after a couple of other hits scrape off a bit of her HP.
Huh, why would they guard an empty room?
Maybe this entire dungeon is a simply a lure for do-gooders to come in, try to deal with the guild, and get stabbed by a bunch of guards.
That would actually be a pretty smart move for anyone who knew adventurers would be coming for them.
Maybe they were guarding this button!
Needing to find a couple of secret buttons to progress is about all the complexity this dungeon has. From here on, it's just kicking down doors and mangling rogues, then stealing their stuff.
Though at some point you might notice something else mixed in with the rogues...
Thugs, Ruffians and Brigands are the beefier version of rogues, albeit without the stealing attack. They're also the first example of an enemy with a preferred target type. Ruffians and Brigands, the mid and top-level versions, will prefer to target the party's archers and sorcerers, if available, and the Brigands can actually hit hard enough to make this matter, especially since 1 in 10 of their attacks does a guaranteed 20 points of damage, which at this stage is still a considerable percentage of health for a sorcerer.
I'd also say this is the first M&M6 dungeon that attempts to look like a place rather than an abstract series of chambers with puzzles. It's kludgy, terribly polygonal furniture, but it's at least an attempt at furniture. There's also a randomly rolled piece of jewelry on one of the higher random loot tables hidden in the stove. Deadeye manages to yank out a Ring of the Golem, which gives him a +15 to Endurance(which practically doubles his base score) and a +5 to Armor(less awesome, but still, every little bit is a killing blow that might potentially be avoided).
Why would you stick your hand into the fire?
Little voice at the back of my head told me it would be worth my time.
Gods preserve me.
There's also a room full of the usual coloured mystery liquids, which result in more Endurance for Richmond, who's still the most fragile party member, and more Personality for Bobelix because his SP total is painfully low. Also see if you can spot the secret button in the screenshots, it's obvious once you know what to look for, but I could imagine some people getting a bit confused. It unlocks the last third of the dungeon, which loops back around to the start.
This chest is basically the final objective of the dungeon, since it holds the key that unlocks the dungeon's one and only locked door.
Goddammit, it's not the prince. Whatever, I guess we can rescue you anyway.
You know what this means, Deadeye.
So, uh, where is the circus?
...I guess we're headed back to the New Sorpigal Tourism Bureau.
I'm sure Sharry will appreciate being returned home, too.
Alright, I've got the money, you guys got the brochures?
Yeah, lessee... Looks like the nearest circus is over at Bootleg Bay.
What's got you so happy?
A circus AND pirates!
While I'm here, the party also gets trained up to level 12. At this point I'm focusing on getting some of their "signature" skills up to 7 or 12, depending on the skill. This is because of master-level training. For most skills it requires 12, but some that are gated behind a minimum stat requirement as well only need a 7. I'm also generally saving some of Richmond's skill points so that once he gets to Light and Dark Magic he can rapidly train some of it up to usefulness.
...well I'm just surprised you agreed with me, that's all.
I'm agreeing with you because you're right for once. It's called Bootleg Bay, so it seems obvious sailing there's a good idea.
Not having to pop blisters the size of golf balls on my ankles seems like a good idea.
Hhhhhuh. Not seeing a circus. Let's look around.
I'm starting to think we're the only clowns around here. Let's head back to the ship.
Ohhhhhh, we got tickets to the wrong Bootleg Bay. Well, our mistake, I'm sure Richmond's liver will grow back.
What the fuck.
Okay, so let's talk about Bootleg Bay briefly.
The circus IS here, but on the mainland. Taking a ship here only takes you to those two islands in the bay. So you gotta walk here if you wanna get to the mainland, or take a ship and then know how to walk on water. Also, I'm sure someone's noticed that the last screenshot had some fun new enemies!
Cannibals are the only group of enemies with both male and female variants, with their upgraded versions being Headhunters and Witch Doctors. They're also a bit... well... they're literally the only enemies that are black people in the game. And they look like African racist stereotypes, with the type names not really helping. Mechanically, Cannibals and Headhunters are quite weak melee-only, though male Headhunters have a low chance of poisoning those they hit and female headhunters can inflict weakness. An oddity is that despite being identically statted otherwise, the male headhunters have more swingy damage(1d9 base dice) while the female headhunters have more reliable base damage(3d3 base dice). Witch Doctors are still pretty fragile, but are glass cannons that spam out Deadly Swarm(female) or Firebolt(male), which can do a decent bit of damage.
Considering how weak the overworld enemies are, I feel like maybe the game design intended players to visit overworld Bootleg Bay for a bit more XP before hitting the dungeons in Castle Ironfist. Or maybe it was just to avoid pulping them if they decided to go exploring, which would be uncharacteristically merciful.
Who the hell would run a ferry service to an island where visitors get attacked on sight?!
One of the two buildings is a Temple of Baa(handy, since the sole well on the island diseases anyone who drinks from it. ) and the other is a dungeon.
You owe us an explanation.
Arrrr, no refunds.
You seem awfully calm for a man about to need two hooks for hands.
Well, as I figure, none of you can sail a boat, so if you kill or maim me, you're stuck here.
I hate to admit it, but we've been outplayed. What's with this awful ferry route, though?
Usually I split the tourists' wallets with the natives. But you four have kind of ruined that plan, now haven't you?
Just take us back to Castle Ironfist before I decide I'm fine swimming.
So yes, Deadeye's gonna have to suffer his blisters to get us to Bootleg Bay.
Which has a rather rude arrival on the land side. See, it spawns you a few steps inside the province, with the nearest enemies spawned right at the edge, so they actually start behind you and throw spears at the back of your head before you even have a chance to realize they're there.
And you want to be careful here, because look at the left side of this screenshot: there are tons more of them waiting around the edges of the map, and while they're individually fragile, there are enough of them that they can hurt if they all come for you at once.
Goddamn, I don't look forward to wrestling Nicolai away from the Carnies that'd set up shop in the middle of this.
...hm, you might not have to, I don't see any.
Joke's on us, see, there are three circuses in the gameworld. One here in Bootleg Bay, one a step west of Castle Ironfist in the Mire of the Damned, and the last one far west in Blackshire. It's currently March, and the one in Bootleg Bay is only occupied in December, the one in the Mire only in August and the Blackshire one in April. We are in no way ready to make the trip to Blackshire and actually survive it.
There's a note pinned to the tent... well, hell. Looks like we're in for a wait if we want to see the Circus here.
So, I poke around the area a bit, because there are a few more spots to see around the coastline.
There's our second obelisk of fifteen.
An inn run by goblins, which no one local comments on, so I guess that's just a thing.
And a quest for one of the local dungeons(which I think we can handle, probably. possibly).
Well, what now?
The Blackshire Circus is probably impossible to reach at this point, so we need to either:
Just get on with our quests(clearing as many dungeons and quests as possible, maybe taking trips to Mist and Free Haven to load up on more spells and training) until we can hit up the Bootleg Bay circus
Or go bustin' in the Mire of the Damned(I'll probably hit the Order of the Fist on the way) so we don't need to wait as long.