Alright already, we heard you the first time!"
"We'll take option number one. Through."
"Over sounds pretty good, actually I mean, semantically they're pretty much the same thing."
"As long as we're agreed that we're not going around. That's the important thing."
"Try what you will, you shall only pass beneath me to your graves!"
"Okay, I'm going to admit it. After all that talking, I was expecting something a lot more intimidating."
A few seconds later you might notice something a bit odd. For this sequence, battles don't end when you defeat all of the enemies on the screen. Instead, they end when you move off the edge of the map. The direction actually matters, as the map screens match up. The maps in the mirror room are actually accurate (albeit possibly flipped) but since they don't have a goal marked they're not exactly helpful. Between each battle we get something like this:
"He's really getting some sick enjoyment out of this, isn't he?"
"It's probably the most fun he's had in ages."
"I think they were having a buy one get two free sale at the goblin market can we speed this along?"
"Oh, I've got a couple ways."
"Actually, we just used the necklace of missiles and mopped up the rest, but if it makes you feel better "
"Wow, I thought he was kidding about that single kobold thing."
"That isn't even a kobold, either."
"I think we're way past that point. If my decorators set up my castle like this I'd have them added to the masonry."
"At least the shambling mounds and the ettins are a change of pace."
This is a prime place to start using the Wand of Defoliation and get a handle on how it works. It's a very short range attack that can hit two enemies if they're right next to each other and does a couple of dozen damage to the shambling mounds. These ones have the same cargo of enchanted armor and weapons that we saw in the previous group, allowing us to improve everybody's gear.
"Hmmm is it me, or is there a bit of an echo just now?"
"Be very very quiet we're hunting Percy."
"Nope, it's just four regular Zhentil. Bit of a letdown, really."
"Actually, it just looks like we were just one room over which means he was all of about 20 feet away and just let us kill those four soldiers without bothering to help."
"It also looks like the exit to the plaza is right over there if we didn't want to, we could just wa ah, who am I kidding? Let's squash him."
So here it is, the climactic final fight of Gateway to the Savage Frontier. Technical difficulties prevented me from recording this, but it would have been fairly dull anyway. The first thing that sticks out is Vaalgamon, since he's living up to his various threats and probably would have stomped us into the dirt when he met us back at level 3 or so. In addition to a boatload of HP and the gear we can see, he's also got a ring of regeneration that gives him back a hit point every turn or so. He doesn't have anything to slow down our fireballs, so a couple of those at the beginning of the fight can reduce his HP total and wipe out the wizards. After that it's a matter of having your fighters pound away at Vaalgamon's HP total while using the wand of defoliation to whittle away at the shambling mounds. Vaalgamon is actually the smaller threat since he doesn't have an ability that can instantly kill your characters. It also turns out that shambling mounds are vulnerable to stinking cloud, which can help same some time. The entire thing is worth about 25,000 XP, and yes, you can grab his +5 sword and a set of +5 plate armor from him but not his ring of regeneration. The fight doesn't end until you take the north exit, and can actually be skipped by just having one of your characters make a run for the exit. As soon as they escape, it's over.
"Okay, I'm pretty sure we weren't responsible for that."
"Well, he was back on his feet pretty quick although that doesn't seem to be working out for him all that well."
"Huh, I wonder why they didn't bother us?"
"Ooh. Ouch. I don't really like seeing that happen to anyone."
"That's okay, I'm enjoying this enough for both of us."
" so, how long do you think that ring we couldn't pry off of his finger is going to keep him alive under there?"
"Just about long enough."
"Umm so they're going to just go away now, right?"
"That would probably be a no."
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me. I should have known nobody could be that mousy."
"Under the direction of Amanitas, I presented myself as a weak and helpless clerk to avoid suspicion. Little did I know that good fortune would send me such noble and courageous allies as yourselves!"
"So are you going to wish for them all to go away?"
"Shh, can't you see he's monologuing?"
"You have the four statuettes and the Ring of Reversal, and above us stands the Altar of Black Granite upon which they must be placed. Quickly, now, Galen, climb the steps!"
"Wait a second, why him? Aren't those a bit too magical for anybody but a wizard to handle?"
"See? He's obviously doing it wrong."
"Wait, you have to put them in upside down? Who in the 9 Hells designs something like that?"
"And you might want to hurry they're past the docks, and I don't think they're going to slow up very much."
"Well, getting it in only two tries isn't doing too badly."
"Uh guys, did I just trigger the apocalypse?"
"If you did, it starts with giant worms and monsters. And if we don't hurry up, we're not going to have to worry about it for long."
And with that, our adventure comes to a close with an off-screen escape sequence. Our heroes have triumphed through a literal deus ex machine as well as mass murder via monsters, and become renowned throughout the Savage Frontier although the question of who told everybody about the events at Ascore remains a mystery.
Of course, the work of heroes is never done, so their rest will be a short time. In the meantime...
Galen has come a long way, but never quite made it up to max level for a Paladin in this game. He'll just have to make up for it later. Although his character sheet shows him wearing +3 plate, he's actually wearing the armor that used to belong to Vaalgamon.
Kedzie has come a long way from the fragile flower that used to get dropped every other fight, and can now actually stand up in the front line with the rest of the fighters. She's nearly reached max level as a fighter, but she's still got plenty of room to grow as a thief.
Alaric is our only fighter type character to reach maximum level, and grew into quite the bruiser. He's also briefly holding on to some of Vaalgamon's equipment that he never got chance to use. Whatever the case, he's been one of our most reliable damage dealers and more than proved himself as an asset even as a basic fighter.
Vermunt hasn't changed much in a while. He's ready to gain several levels in the next game, and the latest loot from the shambling mounds has boosted him up considerably in terms of survivability.
Zanros is in a similar boat. It was a bit sad that his fireballs couldn't do much against the shambling mounds, but they certainly helped with crowd control on everything else. It's a bit of a sign of just how overpowered wizards can be that the game had to restrict the spell casters down to level 6 to keep things balanced.
And the Dude well, the Dude abides. His hands are empty because he was using the Wand of Defoliation in the last fight, then paralyzing shambling mounds with stinking clouds and killing them with darts. It'll be interesting to pick up some new spells for him to enable further differentiation between our spell casters.
Putting aside the next game, our characters have stocked away quite a sum of money that they should have access to in the next game. It's a far cry from when we were too poor to buy training, and this isn't even including the gems and jewelry I left stashed on each character in the event that this money somehow vanishes between games. Our characters could conceivably retire at this point, but they aren't exactly going to get that chance
Next update: Treasures! Romance!