Part 12: Promotions 6: Top TierUpdate 012: Promotions 06: Top Tier
Why is every villainous lair just outside of town?
I suppose even villains value being near a shopping district and schools.
Sooner or later we're going to find a dungeon that's literally in someone's back yard.
Do you think the spooky statues were here before Cedric took over?
I'd wager no. If Loretta had any art around, she'd hock it for hard cash. Also rude welcome, Temple of the Moon.
For some reason it feels like we're hitting a glut of short, simple dungeons right now, including, later this update, literally the simplest dungeon in the entire game. Some of it's probably down to their more hub-based design, which makes them feels less un-ending in terms of exploration, and some of it's probably also down to the party having gotten somewhat ahead of the curve for most of these. I guess it shows how much growing up simplifies the game, because even as a kid and cheating my butt off with save editors, I always felt like this game was kicking my ass.
Snakes aren't a threat any longer, and druids have to show up in really large amounts and really bad conditions to challenge the party, too. I'd say that any time you could bonk the local gargoyles and druids to get to the Circle of the Sun, you could fight your way through the Temple of the Moon.
Remember when these things used to have us running back to the temple ten times to clear out a basement? Who's laughing now?!
Oh! Oh oh!
I know the answer! We're the ones laughing now, because they're dead!
The temple also features a decent supply of cobra eggs in case we drop by New Sorpigal at some point and want some free money. I'm sure they'll be fine in Bobelix's pockets.
I'll take care of them like they were my own children!
As for the big door at the end of the room atop the stairs...
It's locked and has a plate above it. It's obviously a puzzle.
This is an idiotic puzzle. Clearly, Might and Speed are the most important things, hit hard and fast and nothing stops you.
It probably isn't meant to be taken literally. Instead, we'll probably find some sort of challenge of wits that it'll guide us through.
Or maybe there'll be a big rock with "MIGHT" and another with "LIFE" written on it and we have to remember which order they were in!
That's patently ridiculous, so you're probably right. No way a group of druids who live up to their ankles in cobra shit would think of a smart puzzle.
All the little side rooms are pretty similar. They've got a druid-y setup, like a miniature stonehenge or the like, with an altar, guarded by some monsters. Either snakes, or druids, or...
Predictably, all three types of medusas can turn people to stone... but only up close, and they tend to prefer to keep a distance and fling spells, so if you get close enough to get turned into a statue, it's really your own fault. They also, for some reason, prioritize killing Knights over everyone else. Aside from their ability to turn people to Stone, however, they do pretty weak damage, and only the Medusa Enchantresses(the mid-tier variant) have an extra trick up their sleeve in the form of being able to Paralyze enemies at range.
So yeah, clear the six chambers, press the altars in order, hop back to the big door and its now openable.
I will give them props for not just re-using the same room six times, though. Each of them looks somewhat different.
Opening the door is about the only time you'll have a melee encounter with a medusa without it being your own dumb choice. Still, the party manages to avoid anyone getting stoned by a combination of sheer luck and constantly having so many defensive spells up that the intermeshing magical auras look like the lightshow at a rave.
The last fight of the dungeon is a room that features, predictably, a combination of druids, snakes and medusas including a Gorgon, the top medusa tier and the only one that seems particularly interested in closing to melee rather than blasting at range.
It's one of the good places in the game to use Fireball as it splashes the snakes to ashes even while it blows up the enemy back line of medusas and druids. Also note the party's HP bars, it's a riskless win, but not a painless one.
C'mon already! I'm touching this altar for all I'm worth, but she isn't picking up.
Well, she did say to call her at midnight.
And the game really does mean midnight. A minute before or after and nothing happens when you interact with the altar, so the party takes a smoke break in the inner sanctum of the Temple of the Moon.
And there we go, that's 10 out of 12 promotions.
Finally! Now, I'm feeling slightly mad with power, so how about we deal with the other undesireables in Free Haven?
As long as we loot the bodies.
As long as it's for the common good.
As long as my friend Deadeye's going, I'm going, too!
A quick step out the back of the Temple of the Moon.
And after a quick rest, the party is ready to kick ass and take names again.
With two dungeons remaining in the area, I'm setting course for the Dragoons' Keep, the easier of the two, because I'm mildly worried that the second could kick my ass. That's not the structure in the distance there, though, that's the scenic Tomb of Ethric the Mad.
Why do these criminal groups keep putting up giant glowing red signs outside their lairs?
Consistent branding is important.
So's not getting nabbed by the guards if you're doing something illegal.
When did you last see a guard around here?
Uh, well, hm.
...are we the only ones doing something about criminals?
Normally I'd complain about being called a cop, but if we're the only cops we can do whatever we want.
Looks safe so far.
In general, the Dragoons' Keep is safe for us because, as I discovered, I am huuuuuuuuuugely overlevelled and overgeared for it.
Still not sure how I feel about being the long arm of the law.
90% of the enemies in here are Fighters, Soldiers and Veterans, i.e. utterly chump change at this point.
I don't "get" the rats here, much like I don't "get" the snakes in the Temple of the Moon. They're so completely outclassed that they offer zero challenge whatsoever. I suppose they work as a "flavour" monster to indicate "this place is gross and run down," but then you could toss, I don't know, some slimes in there instead. A good batch of mustard-coloured slime fellas would still give the party some brief pause and at least force them to switch to spells rather than weapons for the duration.
Anyway, they're the guards of the switch at the back, pulling it spawns a few small groups of guards and, together with another switch on the east side of the fort open a door to the basement.
The east side of the keep is more of the same, really, flattening soldiers, stomping rats, finding a lever. Plus these "furniture" items that are usually treasure containers. Here they're still containers, but all of them are empty, for some inscrutable reason. I'm not sure if that's a bug or intended or just a way that the random treasure tables can roll out.
Oddly enough, this lever doesn't spawn any extra wandering patrols in the corridors like the first lever does.
But now the basement stairs are accessible!
Turns out the dragoons have a little prison down here, with three cells. No prisoners to rescue, though, each cell just holds a group of their own people and some rats... and some levers!
Do we... actually know what any of these levers do?
Why would someone make a lever that wasn't for pulling? It's what levers are for.
When has a lever ever lead us wrong?
I've got dibbs on this one! Outta the way, rat!
Well shit, someone used our love for levers against us. Who could've seen that one coming?
No, dammit, I'm too poor to die in here! I don't have all the gold in the world yet!
It'll be alright, Deadeye! We have each other!
...and enough rations for eight days of being trapped unless we start eating each other.
So this can be a pretty heart-stopping surprise if you didn't save before coming in here and you don't have a Beacon set or access to Town Portal. You'll probably try fruitlessly yanking the lever up and down.
Why doesn't it open the door?! I never would have thought levers would betray us...
And to distract you from quickloading, rats spawn in occasionally until...
It would have been much smarter of them to just leave us to starve in the cell rather than trying to hasten our demise.
How... how long has it been? I'm not sure my eyes can handle daylight any longer...
Deadeye it's been half an hour.
Prison changes a man, Agnes, prison changes a man...
Anyway, the ambush predictably ends poorly for the Dragoons and also now their little throne room is open.
My favourite decor style: bags of gold on a shelf.
I'm more curious about that chest, crack it open and let's get to the good stuff.
That's a lot of guarding for just a single knife...
Hang on, maybe it's a special knife. Deadeye? You know valuable stuff better than any of us.
Cha-ching, it's our first artifact! Also, I believe, the only one guaranteed to be placed in one specific place in the world because it so happens to be a quest item. Back when we first reached Free Haven some merchant complained that his shipment of Mordred, the evil murder dagger, had gotten nicked by bandits. This is it. Maybe we should go return it to him.
(also, unlike every other quest item, it's possible to accidentally sell Mordred to a store, even though you won't even get a fraction of the 20k price. Since the game has no "buyback" feature for accidental or reconsidered sells, that can lock you out of the quest reward)
Does it concern anyone else that we're casting Town Portal rather than taking a five-minute walk?
Good thing the game doesn't measure how much cardio the party's getting.
...does anyone remember where the fellow who wanted Mordred back lives?
I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying and failing to find his house because I'm a moron. I think almost ten minutes real-time.
So we get him back his priceless artifact... and he just tells us to keep it because it isn't pretty enough and drops an extra thirty grand gold on top. Mordred, of course, instantly gets thrust into Richmond's hands and will probably never leave them for the rest of the game.
But what if I'm corrupted by the dark, sinister promises of power inherent in the wielding of a weapon of blackest magic?
Ha ha, right. Like we're ever gonna consider you a spooky threat. I'll just have Deadeye make fun of you until you cry and then we'll throw you in the harbor.
Now let's go rob a tomb full of ghosts and skeletons.
Well this is certainly-
-absolutely badass! When I finally bite it for real, I want to get buried inside a giant glowing skull, too. Hell yeah.
Welcome to the Tomb of Ethric the Mad, some guy back in town wants his skull, we want his loot and also to milk him for the delicious XP that his bones are made out of.
It's not a super complex dungeon and features few mean surprises. The main room is a bit odd since we have to ride up the wooden platforms(they're elevators) to reach any of the doors. Considering that they don't need to be activated and that the level does nothing much with height, it's mostly just a means of making the entrance look a bit weird.
To make the design a bit mad, if you will.
Like the previous two dungeons, there are some pointlessly low-level enemies here. Now, I get that the skeletons and ghosts are for atmosphere, but you'd figure they've have added in a mid-level undead enemy, zombies or mummies or something, to cover this eventuality, that they'd need some undead chaff for atmosphere that the players wouldn't massively outlevel.
In any case they guard these little rooms full of tombs, tomb rooms, if you will.
We want in so we can rob the corpses, obviously.
Though sometimes all we get to steal is infectious spores. Here's Richmond's lungs turning into mycelium. But at this point we can cure every condition in the game bar Eradication and being Stoned, so it's no big deal.
One room on each side of the main entry room also contains a switch we need to press to open up progress, because the northern door starts out locked.
Coming up the elevator, the first room we're greeted with is this, decorated in shades of early decay and with four fireball launchers constantly vomiting up blasts of burny flame.
The pattern is a bit predictable, though.
The exit we want is the northeastern one, the remainder hold nothing interesting except for a few ghosts and some minor loot. This one, though, holds Ethric's skull and some major loot.
(Obviously I still take the other paths off-screen, I'm not passing up loot, they're just not interesting enough to screenshot)
What's the plural for lich?
Properly it's "liches" but colloquially it tends to be "run away."
A handful of liches are not, however, a big issue for us at the moment and this little vanguard of the undead gets flattened in short time. Perversely, the worst variant of them for us is the plain lich, not the Power or Greater liches, since the plain liches can cast Dispel magic and strip off all our buffs, as I'm reminded in the next room.
Also, for anyone who was curious, I tested it, and Destroy Undead does somehow deal a different type of "magic" damage that isn't negated by being Magic damage immune, either that or it's simply wrong in every single source and it actually deals Physical or something instead.
Just one lich?
Ha ha, no, like ten of the fuckers.
Who strip all our buffs and then dogpile the party. Time for a hasty retreat.
For some reason Ethric is the one that decides to come out and play, the liches have the "keep distance and fire"-AI set, which generally means you have to come and get them, rather than them coming for you. Ethric himself is effectively just a renamed Power Lich, so by himself and choosing to get all up in our faces in melee, he doesn't last long and we pocket his skull.
If this wasn't worth money, this would absolutely be going on my mantlepiece, if I had one. Maybe turn it into a helmet.
I'm never going to understand how someone could turn themselves into an immortal lich and then still be this weak.
Also why do they always live in tombs? If I was going to live forever, I'd choose to live somewhere nice.
Bobelix is wrong about this not being a nice place, though. Those coffins? They're all high-level loot containers.
And one of the things they contain is, at long last, a weapon upgrade for Deadeye. Grand Poleaxes are the top tier of two-handed axe, so from that point on its mostly down to their enchantments how great they are. As you might notice, this means that around now, in the midgame, most of the party already has their end-game weapon types in-hand. From here on, really only the weapon types that grant damage+ at a certain level of mastery are going to continue scaling, damage-wise, aside from the minor damage bonuses provided by Strength boosts or the somewhat larger damage bonuses provided by your Heroism caster getting better.
If you have an Hour of Power caster, the Heroism scaling has a lot more potential(because of the 4x caster skill multiplier at Master level Light magic), but otherwise it's going to increase in effectiveness quite slowly at this point.
Anyway, the dungeon gets looted, and the last few wandering skeletons get pulverized without any drama.
This time turning in the skull to paid doesn't take as long... mostly because I found the skull guy while looking for the Mordred guy last time.
Note that we get roughly a quarter of the gold for braving several tough squads of liches as we do handling a dungeon anyone could do from the moment they had access to Ring of Fire. It really feels like the game was being made by multiple teams that didn't compare notes.
I'm starting to feel left out, we should hike on over to Blackshire and disable the last Dragon Tower so I can get back to bullying Richmond properly. My heart's just not in it while he has more promotions than me.
I'm actually curious to see what the place is like. Let's offload all this crap and then hit the road.
Welcome to scenic Blackshire!
We will not be going to the southern part of the map as it's considerably nastier than the northern part, which can already spring a few asskicking surprises on unprepared adventurers, especially as you can just take a coach ride to Blackshire and end up in the middle of enemy territory from relatively early on.
So what sort of fun does Blackshire have?
On the ground, most of northern Blackshire is crawling with...
Wolfmen! Wolfmen, Werewolves and Greater Werewolves all have two things in common: they hate paladins and clerics, and they cause Disease if they land any hits. However, seeing as how they have no ranged attacks, and we never touch the ground if we don't have to, and can rain rocks on them from orbit... out here they're no real threat. If we were forced to fight them, though, Greater Werewolves would actually be dangerous. Not due to their resistances, hit point pool or any high damage they do, but because their hits have a chance to instantly knock someone unconscious and down to 0 hit points. Short of causing Death or Eradication, probably the scariest thing to be presented with.
The encounter ends predictably.
But they're not all we meet around here, there are also...
Elementals! Air ones, this time. Dust Devils, Twisters and Air Elementals all, predictably, fly and have ranged electrical attacks. The Dust Devils and Twisters are unremarkable, but the Air Elementals pick on Sorcerers preferentially and can break miscellaneous items(gloves, amulets and rings). Their main weakness is that they're not exceptionally durable, so if they can be closed on in melee or lured close to the ground for a meteor shower, their threat is quickly ended. Indoors they'd probably be a good deal scarier since they'd be able to use their flight in an area where we couldn't use ours, and thus stay out of reach while bombarding us. Sadly they also dissipate when killed, rather than leaving behind any delicious loot.
These particular elementals are guarding a fountain of Dysenteric Wisdom.
I figure it makes you smarter because it teaches you a real important lesson about not drinking from stagnant ponds. Deadeye.
You'll never stop me, it's a matter of principle now.
Maybe we should put future bodies of water to a vote...?
I'd rather get hookworm than listen to Deadeye argue. Pass.
Pretty soon, Blackshire town comes into view.
Looks pretty idyllic.
Probably all sorts of awful things going on. Let's split up and question the locals.
Unsurprisingly, people in funny hats want us to run their errands to the literal ends of the world.
You had me at "pay."
Really starting to regret learning Dark Magic...
This one just replenishes spell points.
Oh gosh no, if they hung criminals, my friend Deadeye would be in so much trouble!
Sadly, this doesn't actually happen. The peasants remain peasants, even at night.
Check out of Blackshire before moonrise, got it.
Thinly veiled excuse to rob a place of deep archeological and cultural importance, check.
All this work sure does work up quite a thirst. There's no way Agnes could stop me if I just went for a quick sip...
Let's leave him like this just for a little bit. I want to enjoy the silence.
This should be the last one for Lord Stromgarde.
Funny as it would be to haul him there as a statue, we should probably unstone Deadeye before we go visit the Lord.
That's uncharacteristically generous of you when it comes to Deadeye.
Mostly because Bobelix is carrying him around and I don't want him to develop a hernia.
...do adventurers get worker's comp? I think my spine has fused into a single piece of bone.
I also find this guy around the corner from the tower...
An effective doubling of Bobelix's ability to slice people up. Who's the cuisinart now?
Can I stop carrying Deadeye now?
The last errand in Blackshire for the moment is shopping for the last couple of Dark and Light spells that aren't dogshit useless.
Hour of Power adds on a lot of fresh buffs to turn the party into human blenders, and Armageddon has... a use, for later.
I'm not sure I feel comfortable having this in my spellbook.
The way I figure, if someone gets any ideas like actually employing guards or cops to stop us, this'll work as insurance.
And then it's off to White Cap to get Deadeye promoted.
For once Stromgarde's front yard isn't full of vagrants taking pot shots at us, a nice change of pace.
Once again, the big win here is what amounts to about a 25% boost to Deadeye's spell points, because while he can hit real hard in melee, his bow at range will never measure up to the damage that a well-aimed Implosion or Lightning Bolt can cause.
So now we just have one promotion left and I can start calling these updates something else. Well, I mean, I always could have, but it just felt wrong to do it before we were done with the promotions.
The Mire of the Damned has no town portal location, so the fastest way there is to portal to Free Haven and head south.
I really missed the ambience of rattling bones and damned souls while I got trench foot from the moisture.
In case anyone wants a quick reminder of what the Mire is like, you can ignore the entire bottom half of the map. It just exists to waste your time and make you hate yourself since it's crawling with harpies and has no dungeons or interesting encounters of any kind. The three dungeons are at 11, 12 and 16(Castle Darkmoor, the lair of Longfang Witherhide and Snergle's Mines, respectively). Without Flight, you'd have to deal with the south part of the map to get to Darkmoor Village in the west, but since we can Fly, we're just going to flip off the harpies and fly through the mist. Whee.
We want to do a few things in Darkmoor before heading to Witherhide's lair, but the place is crawling with the undead and, since there are civilians around, we can't just Meteor Shower the entire thing to ashes.
Settle down, you big baby. We'll just have Bobelix run in circles for a while out here and then drop meteors on the ghosts when they come out.
A last few recalcitrant undead have to be cleared out by hand. Now let's go meet the locals and their odd little town.
Including this guy who gives us a quest to storm Castle Darkmoor and no nope fuck you nuh uh I am NOT going in there until I'm good and overlevelled for it. FUCK that dungeon. It's absolutely the worst in the game. It hates me. I hate it. It can go die in a swamp.
Don't you worry, if anything goes wrong in the dragon's lair I'll trip up Richmond and we'll run.
Calm down, if anything goes wrong in the Dragon's Lair I'll tell Deadeye not to take a sip from the dragon's water bowl and the rest of us can run.
Even with a map out indicating the building, I missed this back door so many times.
I'm just saying we could use a drink before we go to Longfang's lair.
Hm, it's not often you see dwarves around.
Snergle... Snergle... it rings a bell.
Wasn't he that dwarf we killed while looting his mines?
Ha ha, yeah, I've had Bobelix carrying around his axe as a trophy ever since. Let's show it to this guy.
The real reward here is unlocking Master Axe training for Deadeye. When his weapon does a base of 3d7+9 damage, adding +12 on top of that is a pretty big deal! Even with Heroism accounted for, that's still somewhere between a +10% and +25% boost at the time.
Finally! Longfang's lair!
...are you sure this is the right place?
The map wouldn't lie, why are you doubting it?
He's trying to say it's barely wide enough for us, how's a dragon going to get his fat ass in there?
Maybe the villagers bricked it up while Longfang was asleep and they're waiting for him to starve.
Damn, did Bobelix just think up a smarter and safer way to deal with a dragon than any of us?
...let's just go fight the dragon so we can forget that.
Oddly enough, Longfang's Lair doesn't have one of the little pre-entry transition screens like every other dungeon. Or, "oddly." Since, well...
It's literally just one room.
And you're practically stepping on Longfang's tail as soon as you're inside.
Longfang Witherhide is, name aside, equal to a Red Dragon, the weakest type, in all ways... and is actually a surprisingly small threat despite it. He has a lot of hit points, almost a thousand, and can do a lot of damage, but since his damage is fire-based and we've got our defensive spells all up, that's a lot less scary to us than if he just tried to eat us. The resulting magical fire resistance has a good chance of up to halving Longfang's fire breath. Because his damage rolls are also pure dice(12d8) with no fixed part(like, say, 12d8+40), most of his rolls will be near the middle of the scale and a lot less scary than they could potentially be.
The party doesn't make it out unscathed, but close by, and the death animation for Longfang is pretty cool...
Hell yeah! Break out the sacks and crowbars and let's loot this joint!
What? What? All Longfang had was some bones and a campfire? What in the Gods' name... whatever! Bobelix, grab those bones! They'll go in the emergency fund! Humphrey had better make up for this shortfall...
Technically I portalled to New Sorpigal and then rode the coach here, but no one needed to see that.
The boost for Bobelix is much like the boost for Deadeye, but in some ways more vital since Bobelix is my emergency heal kit and I call on his spell points more often than Deadeye's.
...well, now what?
Character Sheet Overview
Deadeye's job is to hit things until they explode, or shoot them with spells until they explode, then help loot the corpses. With his ID'ing and Trap Disarming mastery, he hasn't encountered anything beyond his skills in the last six updates or so.
Agnes mostly relies on air magic for offense, with Earth as a mild backup. As those upgrades are also starting to get real expensive, I'm getting her into the Clerical side of spellcasting so I have a backup in case Bobelix eats shit or runs out of SP.
Richmond still mostly relies on Fire magic for damage dealing, while he levels his Light and Dark magic. Between that and being a Water master, he's the party's buffing/transportation toolbox, though dropping Hour of Power, Day of Protection and Day of the Gods still drains something like 75% of his SP pool even as an Archmage, so when I do it in dungeons it tends to be combined with a Lloyd's Beacon and Town Portal back to a temple to have them top him off. With two daggers, though, and Heroism, he's at a point where his melee is often more dangerous than his spells, but he has trouble landing hits due to his low skill value.
Bobelix is THE physical meathead asskicker of the team with his two swords, inching Deadeye out slightly for total damage potential. This is good, since the Cleric spellbook has so many spells that do Magic damage which a lot of things are immune to, and also because I need his spell points to pull the party's bacon out of the fire if they get in over their heads. He's also responsible for negating the trouble that gear-breaking enemies can cause, since on turn-based mode it's trivial to yank other party members' gear into his inventory and have him patch it up before handing it back and letting them take their turn.
With 12 out of 12 promotions sorted, the two main options are now...
A: Get to work on the Council Quests, we've still got 5 out of 6 to do.
B: Do non-plot dungeons. In explored areas we have...
The Fire Lord's Halls
Castle Darkmoor(god please no please no god please)
The Shadow Guild
The Lair of the Wolf
The Temple of the Snake
And there are still 5 of Enroth's 15 regions we haven't even visited yet.