Part 8: Promotions 2, Promote HarderUpdate 008: Promotions 2, Promote Harder
So, what did he say?
Nothing useful, looks like we're on our own again.
A few moments earlier...
Alright, Riddles McChucklefuck, throw me a bone here. Say I want to find a damsel in distress.
If lost maidens you seek, speak with a silver tongue.
Do you even know how to give a straight answer?
Your path I see ahead, is winding and misty.
...so I figure he was just complaining about women only wanting money, but dressing it up fancy-like.
Cheer up, Deadeye, we haven't been stumped yet! We just have to look around for someone mean enough to capture a lady!
Come to think of it, we never did clear out the Dragoons' Caves.
Yeah! If they'd steal a poor guy's harp, I bet they'd steal a lady, too!
Right, we've got better training, better weapons and way more spells than last time we dealt with a band of low-lifes. We'll blow right through them.
Uh huh, yeah, I'm noting that one down for when I have to carry you out of here in a bag.
Welcome to scenic Dragoons' Caverns. The map makes it look messier than it is, because a couple of the floors overlap each other vertically, and the parts that do interconnect, well, you probably won't have to deal with that interconnectivity unless you fat-finger your keyboard while navigating them. The entry point is at the bulbous corridor end just a bit above and left of the yellow 6.
The waist-high railing sadly prevents us from raining death down on these rogues. For now.
At this point they're generally weak enough that I just fire up Bless and Heroism and go to town on them in melee.
My loot senses are tingling.
Wow! You have a cool super sense?
Yeah, he does, it's called "greed." Anyway, let's play this one safe. Richmond?
Hm, yes, let's see, Ring of Fire...
As mentioned it blows right through level geometry, has a decent range once you're Expert or better with fire magic and it sometimes seems to ignore verticality or, at least, to be much more generous in vertical than horizontal range. Sometimes this can also backfire as it can alert/aggro creatures that would normally stay non-aggressive until you get more up in their faces. On the other hand they also usually can't do anything about it and it'll reveal them on the map, but it can sometimes make dungeons a bit more chaotic.
I also really don't want to know what sort of horrific radiation can blast through inch-thick stone walls and soil and still retain enough energy to fry whoever's on the other side.
I guess it isn't a war crime if we're a paramilitary contractor which isn't technically involved in a war. Also if no one survives to report us. And no one ever finds the bodies because the party somehow vaporizes them after looting them, something which probably doesn't bear much thinking about.
I almost feel a bit bad fighting these guys... they don't even pose a challenge. Why don't they ever just surrender?
Is this about my "you don't have to be a cannibal to work here, but it helps!"-shirt? I told you guys I'm not taking it off.
The way this dungeon is structured is generally that you have a forking path, down one way is a locked door, down the other way is something that lets you unlock the door. Not really complex. In general the Dragoons' Caverns only have one thing I'd term a "trap" or a "dick move," and it's relatively low on the scale of dick moves.
Because enemies don't know how to path to you along curved ramps, usually it means you can lure them below where the ramp "starts" and then blast them with Ring of Fire. I do this not because I have to, but because it amuses me.
There are also a couple of paths that contain optional loot. Including this one which also contains something that's puzzled me ever since I first played this game. Along the walls of this section there are little biers or bone displays, none of them register as interactible, and none of them are interactible, except for the last one before this chest.
There's no feedback message on what it does, and I've never noticed anything about the dungeon that changes but... I guess it probably does something. If any of the big brain masters of M&M6 in the thread would like to contribute and solve this mystery, it would be appreciated.
Also because this was a dungeon the game expected us to deal with some while ago, the loot is relatively unimpressive and mostly just vendor trash, but at least we got another musical instrument to sell to a random collector.
Oh, hey, someone new to kill!
Richmond, do your thing while we stave in his dumb helmet.
Fighters, Soldiers and Veterans are physical combatants that show up in the more martial-themed dungeons of the game and, for some reason, also this one. Soldiers and Veterans both preferentially target clerics and paladins-
What did we ever do to them?
-and, worse yet, have a chance to break weapons. Broken armor and miscellaneous equipment is usually a minor issue, but broken weapons can be perilous until you have the arcane chops to simply warp back to the nearest smith, then back into the dungeon. Of course, that can also end up getting expensive and tiresome, hence why Bobelix has been learning how to repair broken equipment. Aside from that they can take a lot of hits and Veterans can hit Bobelix, the at this point toughest party member, for upwards of 45 out of 145 hit points in a single swing. Though like many enemies, their most damaging attack is a "secondary" attack that only triggers a certain percentage of the time, which is why fights can sometimes feel like they swing wildly between "mild chip damage" and "suddenly someone dies" because the AI rolled a couple of high-damage secondary attacks in a row rather than their normal attacks.
That was a workout and a half, I feel like I need to bring a can-opener for some of these fights.
At least we found a button that, presumably, opens the locked door we saw earlier.
Do they really have to make that long walk every time they want to open the front door?
If I was designing a dungeon, I'd just open the doors with a key and have buttons like this drop a load of rocks on whoever pressed them.
Before we go back to that door, though, there's another optional route that leads to the bottom of the Dragoons' Caverns.
It's absolutely packed with slimes, but unless you want the XP and a bit of extra loot, you can skip it. Hence me saying I was putting it off because of the slimes, and people commenting that the slimes could be skipped. I hate having to return to dungeons, though, I prefer to just handle them in one big go.
If it was just green and red play-doh monstrosities, it would be fine, but the mustard slimes are really nasty if you don't have a lot of mana and something heftier than Fire Bolt and Sparks. Plus the game never differentiates in in-game messaging between "this attack was ineffective" and "this attack missed," so you might take a while to realize they're physical immune rather than merely having high armor class.
We're now below the guys we saw from a window at the very start of the dungeon, and because they have no ranged attacks, we can stand down here and pelt them with arrows and they'll just stand there and stare. Enemies generally won't walk down ledges, only ramps, so you can abuse height advantages in both directions. I presume this was to avoid enemies randomly pathing off ledges and dying from falling damage(if they take falling damage, I confess to not being sure).
It's also worth remembering that red and mustard slimes have ranged attacks, so if you don't go down here and clear them out first, they'll spit at you while you're crossing the bridges, and if you fuck up and walk over the edge, you're suddenly knee deep in the goop which you might have no real means for dealing with if you came here at a low level.
Anyway, heading back up, there's an elevator with, yet again, some enemies below it that Richmond erases with ionizing radiation before we take the ride down.
Plenty of the thugs are just cowering in small rooms guarding chests full of vendor trash and could, again, be bypassed, but if you're not high level enough to handle them, you're not high-level enough to handle the encounters you have to handle, anyway, so you may as well get that loot and get that kill counter up.
Secret doors are usually easily telegraphed, even when they're not opened by direct interaction.
Secret doors are also a bit less secret when the super obvious button to open it is just around the corner.
Hm, so the Dragoons are working for the Prince of Thieves, too, and the Prince of Thieves was working with the Church of Baa, or at least for them...
I always knew there was a conspiracy by the rich and powerful against us.
You also claimed they were working with little men in silver discs who abducted cows and peasants.
Hey, the jury's out on that one yet! There's still plenty of Enroth we haven't seen!
I'm just glad the bad guys keep writing down their plans for us to find, otherwise I'd be so confused.
Those corpses are the result of my unsportsmanlike sniping from below.
Once again, one branch to a locked door, another to a button for the locked door.
The next bit is honestly just the same repetition of me pulping thugs.
Ah-hah! They wouldn't possibly use a door this big if they weren't hiding something really big behind it!
Damn, six chests! Oh and a Veteran. One thing I forgot to mention about them is that in addition to their shitload of hit points, they've got 30 points of resistance to practically everything, which coincidentally rolls out to on average about a 30% damage reduction from all sources. That guy takes a lot of killing. But he does get killed and now...
Stand back everyone, this is what I was born to do, let's just get this-
...what the fuck?
So okay, the thing here is that there's only one real chest. The other five are just teleport triggers that fling you around the dungeon. Some of them to areas you've probably already cleared, but two of them also to the slime pits below. So imagine if you struggled through all that at a low level, skipped the slimes, didn't save before poking a chest and then "glorp."
Thankfully the magic of quick-saving before I try each chest spares me the worst of it, and the second chest from the left contains the harp, while the leftmost chest also teleports the party much of the way back towards the entrance, saving them a lot of effort.
Seriously, though, what the hell.
For once I'm inclined to agree. It seems like the sort of trap that would only harm an intruder that had already killed everyone on their way in.
Or maybe if someone snuck in without killing anyone.
Oh come on, guys, everyone knows you can't sneak past enemies. I thought I'd try and be funny.
He's telling the truth, too, we can take the letter from the Prince of Thieves to the Dragoons back to the New Sorpigal Town Hall for an extra reward. But first...
Alright, so cross the Dragoons off our list. Permanently. What other lowlifes do we know about?
I suppose everyone's been saying the Silver Helmets are causing trouble...
Sure, we could swing by Mist again.
You know, so far the mayors have always wanted us to do stuff to the bandits around them. Maybe we should ask the one here, too.
Huh, a coherent and useful suggestion. For the novelty of it, let's try it out.
Sweet, triple payout of this is our lucky dungeon.
Proof for the mayor, possibly a damsel in distress... looting the dead?
You know, considering how little time you actually spend looking at these screens for each dungeon, I'm still surprised by the amount of work that went into them. There's a separate one, with a separate blurb, for every single dungeon in the game, when they could just have used a couple of generics(temple, castle, cave, etc.) with a differentiating blurb and likely no one would have much noticed. And once again, I want to point out, they're all animated. Admittedly on like 3 to 4-second loops, but still. It must have taken at least a decent bit of employee time to sort out.
I'll also mention it again, but it really feels like there were two different teams on actual dungeon design. One team going: "Abstract shapes, traps, put down some monsters." The other going: "Let's make this look like a place. Spend some polygons on beds and benches." And I really strongly prefer the latter, especially because there tends to be less extraneous rooms and less pointless meandering design-wise.
It also usually means all the loot is gathered in one place. You know, a treasure room, leader's quarters, rather than just being scattered around ponds and basements.
And we've got some new friends, too!
Guards, Lieutenants and Captains are effectively just Fighters, Soldiers and Veterans, but they drop any kind of armor(the latter only drops Chainmail), they have slightly less hit points and resistances, and they break armor rather than weapons. Once again they're the sort of enemy that gets mulched with Bless, Heroism and a lot of swordery rather than wasting spell points on them.
I like the Silver Helm Outpost as a dungeon. You start at the little red arrow, move past a bunk room/guard room, then you enter a main hall that everything radiates from, almost as though it was, gasp, supposed to be a place where people would need to move around without pressing ten buttons and finding a half-dozen crests and solving a shadow puzzle just to get to the bathroom.
The main hall holds the first fight in the Silver Helmet Stronghold that includes all three types of hostiles in here.
Swordsmen, Expert Swordsmen and Master Swordsmen are once again in the category of relatively straightforward enemies. No ranged attack, no class preferences for targeting, no heavy resistances, not flying and only the Master Swordsman has a mean trick, that of occasionally breaking weapons in melee. They have a lower armor class, weaker resistances and less hit points than their equals in the Fighter or Guardsman line of enemies, but, oddly enough, they always take longer to kill. Perhaps it's just random chance. Their attacks are also more forgiving, having less of a fixed damage value and a wider spread of potential rolls which means they'll only rarely hit as hard as a high-level Guardsman can.
Now, with the welcome committee cleared out, let's take the tour!
The scenic prison cells!
This guy is, by the way, right about the secret door, but it's one of the game's more evil secret doors as the textures aren't quite a giveaway, there's no switch or trigger and, for once, the minimap doesn't give the game away beforehand. I poke at multiple walls and then leave again, only looking up the full version of the minimap shortly before leaving.
A martial faction would, obviously, also have a sparring room.
And a chapel since they consider themselves to be part of a holy battle against the forces of evil.
A little storage room for storing MyCrimes.txt in. Like, really, we would be in so much trouble if all these idiots didn't literally write down incriminating evidence and leave it lying around. Also note that black potion, it's part of why I say alchemy is garbage. It jacks up your level massively... but all level determines is SP and HP maximums. It feels like a leftover from an older design version closer to the original games, where level determined the damage of some spells and also how many attacks fighters got per swing(which was part of why they often outstripped casters in terms of raw damage in the endgame).
If these wall textures look familiar, then I'm sure this hidden button in the middle of them does, too.
It unlocks a hidden store room containing a key we won't be using for a good while yet, since it's one of the game's nastier dungeons as I recall it, especially since almost everything in there is fire immune and I thus can't effortlessly cheese it with Ring of Fire.
And, of course, some kitchens to feed a bunch of hungry soldiers and beds to house them. Though judging by the number of soldiers vs the number of beds, either some of them are bunking on the floor or they're snuggling up tight.
Well, that was a workout and a half. Still no signs of any damsels in distress, though, unless you count Richmond squealing when those soldiers took a swing at him.
It was a battle cry. Ahem. Anyway, what about that secret passage the prisoner mentioned?
It turns out to be the back wall of the corridor with the prison cells in it. Very mean disguise, especially since you might assume the prisoner was talking about the other hidden door you just interacted with.
I have faint memories of missing this button the first time I played MM6 and doing this next bit with the Jump spell instead, or at least trying to. Don't be an idiot like me, just kill the guards and push the damn button.
Don't walk too fast! The new steps slide out slowly and I'd rather not break my legs at the bottom!
These are the fanciest stairs I've ever seen.
You know what they say: the fancier the stairs, the fancier the loot at the top of them.
...who says that, Deadeye? I've never heard that before.
Well I just did, so shut up.
Don't touch the mural at the end yet, it'll teleport you down to the bottom so you can descend safely without the Featherfall spell. Waste of time to touch it now, though.
Once again, hidden doors, one at either end of the T-corridor. Right side is a pair of chests full of junk, left side...
Oh, I know how you can reward us alright.
Deadeye, don't be weird!
I'm, um, not sure I'd be comfortable...
What? I just meant she could tag along to Humphrey so we could get Bobelix promoted.
I'm a bandit, not a creep.
A few extra guards spawn on the way out, but, as per usual, if you've made it this far? They'll be chump change. None of them are even top-tier, just bottom and mid.
We should probably let the mayor know what happened.
Also, I've been casually looking for any of the worthwhile recruitable NPC's, but not having much luck, but I absolutely had to show off this one guy I found in Mist and I had no better place to jam it in.
Everything about this guy makes me laugh.
In any case, we're done with Mist for now. Time to dip back to New Sorpigal quickly.
When I try to go spend my hard-earned XP at the New Sorpigal training grounds, however...
Each training hall in the game has a max level it can train you up to, so you can't just effortlessly grind your way up in the "safe" parts of the game. At some point you need to actually step out into the danger zone to get promoted, and some of the end-game training halls are in supremely dangerous areas.
Now remember, when we get in there, we were totally looking for Melody on purpose to rescue her, we totally didn't just stumble over her while rooting through the broom closets for spare change.
Nothing but the truth.
Does intent really matter?
Of course, you were all extremely heroic.
Just look at that massive improvement for Bobelix, his SP maximum doubled from that promotion. Oh and we got a new extremely dangerous way to risk ourselves: return to the Mire of the Damned, fight our way through hordes of ghosts and skeletons and duel a goddamn ancient dragon. I'm glad you guys already voted for Druid and Sorcerer next, because that one's gonna be a bit rough, at least I think so, it might also be real easy, but we'll see. The Druid one is mostly waiting on the party getting tough enough to fight through the damn gargoyles, speaking of...
You guys want to celebrate Bobelix's promotion by raiding a dwarven mine?
Well, dwarves are known for being rich.
And Snergle's known for being a dick.
I suppose at this point my voting against wouldn't do anything. Let's get this over with.
So this always puzzled me a bit, the other dwarven dungeon was called Snergle's Iron Mines, but was fancy and un-mine-like, and had no Snergle despite having the throne room and the fancy bedroom. I always felt like it would have made more sense for Snergle to be in the other dungeon.
The third-cruellest encounter in this dungeon is right at the start where a bunch of dwarves rush into melee before you have even a faint chance of keeping them at distance. Dwarves and Dwarf Fighters are into the "bless and heroism, mash melee attack"-pile, now, but Dwarf Lords are still pretty dangerous to the party.
There are also gold veins to loot!
And they're not worth your time, really. If you're lucky you get between 100 and 500 gold or so, if you fail, it halfway kills the party.
Oddly enough, despite this being the dungeon you need to do second, rather than slimes and devils, it has bats. So the general threat level is a bit lower except the bats can disease you, Ring of Fire and the occasional Fireball is great for clearing out swarms of them, however, so they're mostly a non-issue.
The AI still has issues with ramps at angles to their direction of travel. Comically, because they have a slight delay on their attack when you move into range, I can dip in, bash them, dip back out, which ends up being necessary to kill them in good time since they're reasonably fire-retardant.
All the crystals here are, sadly, useless, so instead... go poke the waterfall.
If you have a mace/hammer guy, this might well be the best weapon you'll have found for them at this point. I'm not sure how good it can get, but this is already better than anything random drops have given us at this point.
Deadeye, don't try to loot those bones, they'll probably curse you or something.
Sorry, wasn't paying attention, I saw a little glimmer and thought maybe it was a coin or something.
In most other cases messing with random skulls and bones lying around curses you or kills you, but here? Boom, rewards. The other bones around the corner give Richmond +5 Poison Resistance.
Every group of dwarves gets softened up through the walls with Ring of Fire, which speeds up the killing a lot.
The cool geodes are just like the gold veins, though I think their max gold might be higher. Sadly there's no chance of forging diamond and emerald swords like in Darkside of Xeen.
Um, I'm not sure you should drink that.
Hey, every coloured thing we find in a barrel makes us stronger!
Yes, but... black? That one's new.
Cowards. Watch this!
So, Deadeye. Feeling stronger?
Maybe he's faster!
Oh, no, he's definitely smarter, because he learned to listen to us sometimes.
Yeah these three barrels just poison you and gives you nothing for it, not even like the well in the Frozen Highlands that kills you and gives you a stat boost for it.
So at first glance this room looks really bad. Tons of dwarves, tons of bats, no room to back up because and elevator just carried you into it. But if you step back and ride the elevator down, once again, the enemies are smart enough to follow you, but not smart enough to step over a ledge to pursue you, so you can sit there and rake them with fire(excepting the bats, who can fly, but then you can just cast Ring of Fire once).
Of course I don't realize this, so instead I run in circles for like five minutes casting Ring of Fire until I've worn everything down.
In the process, Richmond gets bit by a bat and a bit later I have to loop out to get him cured as I end up needing his unreduced SP pool.
The square polygonal rock behind the corpses is noticeable and attention-grabbing and you should poke it because it's a button.
There's a small treasure room hidden off to the side which contains one of the best loot items I've stumbled across so far.
Luck, the stat that's useful for practically everything and SP regeneration. Muy bueno. Finding this is why I train Deadeye in chainmail use after the dungeon, to open up more loot options for him to wear.
Looks like an important door.
The kind of door a king would have!
The kind of door a king would trap to hell and back. Now imagine, if we just waltz in and open this door...
How would a hundred dwarves just appear behind us?
You've fought ghosts, you can shoot fireballs, and you've been teleported at least twice. Do you really have to ask?
Fine, fine, so what's your solution for this one?
Oh by the Gods you were right. RECALL FASTER, RECALL FASTER.
That won't hold them off for long, now we have to actually fight, but at least this way we can win.
I have no idea how the hell anyone is supposed to deal with that scenario without using Lloyd's or a master-level Town Portal to get out of the ambush. You can't move anywhere, Ring of Fire can't wear them down with any speed, enemies can flip into each other so they can all reach you at once... it's a very mean ambush.
If you watch the minimap, that isn't even half of what's in Snergle's throne room, these dwarves are rude. I spend a good while hiding behind the wall and trying to wear them down with Ring of Fire since anything else feels doomed.
At some point I accidentally pull Snergle, which is kind of a surprise. He's actually weaker than a Dwarf Lord in literally every way except for resistances, so I kind of expected him to die in the room with the rest of them, especially as he looks completely anonymous. Predictably, he goes down like a chump.
Eventually I wear them all down. Eventually, it takes a long time.
I always wanted to steal a king's treasure.
Snergle's loot is actually kind of unimpressive, sadly. But we do get some more lore! I forget where Rocklin actually hides, I think he's somewhere in the game and that he's the one who wants Snergle's axe(looted off his corpse, no unique properties except for the name and that it can't be sold), but we just killed Snergle because we're greedy, not for justice.
There's also this really subtle big red button on Snergle's throne that opens a quick path back to the surface, and also more bones.
Lesson learned: Always touch weird bones you find in the ground. Especially if they're dinosaur bones.
The next batch of dinosaur bones warp you back to the entrance, which is something more dungeons should feature, not just in MM6 but in general in all games.
Well, that was relaxing.
Profitable and murderous.
Like I said. I think now we can set our sights higher... like that damn mansion in the swamps. I've always wanted to loot a mansion.
Also get me promoted again, yes?
So someone wanted to see the character sheets! Here you go, this is how the party looked at the end of this play session:
Deadeye has had the worst spell point supply all game, so he's been getting all the Might boosts I've found for the purpose of making him the least reliant on magic, the same goes for the accuracy. Not sure why he's ended up with so high an Endurance, but I think he has two "of the Golem" items giving him +30 Endurance, as I've been feeding most of the permanent Endurance boosts to Richmond.
Agnes has, despite being a pure caster, probably gotten the least Int and Per boosts of any member of the party, since she's also got the highest base spell points and thus, paradoxically, needs it less. She's been MVP for most of the game since during the periods where the party couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, she's been the one blasting away with magic and doing most of the damage.
Richmond has been getting the Endurance boosts since he's the weedy, fragile one. The reason he's no longer the weediest one is that he's gotten himself a promotion at this point.
Bobelix is probably the most balanced all-rounder member of the party. Now that he's gotten his first promotion so he can actually cast more than two spells in a day, it'll be time to start focusing on his spell selection since he's been a bit neglected on that front, Agnes has been getting most of the spell selection upgrades since she actually has the spell points for them.
Corlagon's Mansion and getting Agnes promoted is what's next, in that order. I'm 99% confident I can, if nothing else, cheese the fuck out of the mansion with Ring of Fire. And then I figure we'll be powerful enough to push through Silver Cove and reach the damn Circle of the Sun, and maybe surviving in town long enough to get Richmond a couple of Light spells from the guild there.