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Bard's Tale The Bard's Tale Series

octavius

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On the first level of Dargoth's Fortress there is a Magic Mouth that asks:
"Is it better to
Burn out, or to
Fade away?"

I don't know if it really is relevant, though.
When I answered Burn, I just encountered a Burner monster.
Maybe answering Fade will give a clue? EDIT: no, it didn't.

BTW, I actually remember that password.
Think "rhyme".

Also,
It's a spell name in a RPG system
 
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octavius

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And by some weird chance, the very answer you seek turned up in the text on the next web page I opened after posting the above message.
 

octavius

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So what's up with the seven statues on the second level of Dargoth's Tower?
I fought all seven of them, but after the sixth I had no room for more items. I hope you were not supposed to get an item after fighting them all?
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
As far as I can tell the statues are the Battletest, there's a clue somewhere on the level that mentions that you need to defeat the Battletest in order to get the Sword of Zar. I think this is it, just because nothing else on the level fits. The loot is normal random loot, I don't remember getting anything worthwhile from any of them. You get Zar much later in the Maze of Dread. Speaking of, I stopped using Zar because it turns out that Aram's Knife does a lot more damage, at least at range, and melee damage doesn't matter since the hunter one-shots everything.

I'm half-working half-trying to figure out that password. Frustratingly I still can't figure it out. If it's another silly word that randomly rhymes with something I'm going to be slightly annoyed.
 

octavius

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The combat is getting to be a bit irksome.
None of the enemies can hit me, but they always act first, and my summoned Red Dragon always act last. But when I ditched the Red Dragon for a wandering Silk Dragon (lots of HP) the Red Dragon turned hostile (even though it's just an illusion?!?) and of course acted first in combat.


As far as I can tell the statues are the Battletest, there's a clue somewhere on the level that mentions that you need to defeat the Battletest in order to get the Sword of Zar. I think this is it, just because nothing else on the level fits. The loot is normal random loot, I don't remember getting anything worthwhile from any of them. You get Zar much later in the Maze of Dread.

Ah, I thought I was supposed to get the Sword at the message that mentions the Battle Test and that I had somehow screwed up. The whole level is a bit silly, in that you are supposed to go throught that bloody maze to find a teleporter to the stairs, but you can just use Phase Door to get there in no time. I noticed that there were four strategically placed spinners that blocked my progress, so I figured I could try bypassing them with PHDO and was surprised that it worked.

I'm half-working half-trying to figure out that password. Frustratingly I still can't figure it out. If it's another silly word that randomly rhymes with something I'm going to be slightly annoyed.

Well, it's two words and they rhyme. They are not silly; they make sense based on the info you are given.
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
Ah, they rhyme with each other. That's better. I'll give it some more thought, thanks.

AFAIK if APAR works then so does PHDO and vice versa. Which means the whole level is silly because you can just APAR from level 1 directly to level 3 :P You do miss a bunch of clues, IIRC some are necessary for a blind run. I did take advantage of PHDO to fully explore that annoying dark-antimagic-antisinging 5x5 room on level 1 (you can PHDO from the outside directly into the special encounter).

BTW how are you drawing maps? By hand, or with Excel?
 

octavius

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AFAIK if APAR works then so does PHDO and vice versa. Which means the whole level is silly because you can just APAR from level 1 directly to level 3 :P You do miss a bunch of clues, IIRC some are necessary for a blind run. I did take advantage of PHDO to fully explore that annoying dark-antimagic-antisinging 5x5 room on level 1 (you can PHDO from the outside directly into the special encounter).

That's excactly what I did, when I realized it was just not wall to wall spinners and anti-magic squares, but also Darkness.
After the two first levels of the Tower, the third one is a breeze so far.

BTW how are you drawing maps? By hand, or with Excel?

By hand. Olde Skul.
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
That's it, I'm about to give up and look up the answer to the strange mage. I just can't even begin to figure out what the answer is. I went through the BT2 spell list and nothing seemed to fit. Short of going through every RPG system spell list that I know I don't think I'll get it, and brute-forcing like this is about as pointless as looking it up in a walkthrough. I'm quite angry at myself for having to resort to this, and I'll be even angrier if I see the solution and turns out to be something I could have figured out.

I lied, I haven't given up.
One of the words must be "freeze". "Burn" keeps coming up and "always reversed". Something that rhymes with "freeze".

I'm an idiot. I KNEW as soon as I saw the hint about "beg with a word" that one of the words should be PLEASE. Then when the game didn't take it I thought nope, must be something else. But I should've immediately seen the "burn" bit. Instead I went through all the mental gymnastics to get to FREEZE, and only after posting the edit above did I realize I had known the other word all along. It's a bit cruel of the game to only accept them in such a specific syntax - you can't even just input "freeze please", you have to put them as 2 separate words, in that order.
I am happy now.
 
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octavius

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Glad you finally figured it out.
That riddle is one of the few things I remember very clearly from BT2, so obviosuly I struggled with it too.

Oh, and the RPG system where it's a spell is Tunnels&Trolls, mentioned on CRPG Addict's latest blog entry (what were the odds?).
 

octavius

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I'm getting a bit fed up with the combat in BT2. Not only has the encounter frequency increased significantly in Dargoth's Tower, but the whole combat is so fucking meaningless.
None of the enemies ever hit, but they always act first. My guys always hit. It's bizarre, and I can't think of any other games where combat is like this.
The only was enemies can harm me is when my low level new Wizards and Archmages are hit by breath or magic attacks.
So now I recall why Dark Domain was my favourite dungeon in BT2; it was the only place for a long time that combat provided some challenge.
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
Eventually you'll get to a point where enemies will hit, usually with Stone attacks or a critical. You'll wish they kept missing :P Combat's not a high point though, which is another reason I'm glad I imported my overpowered party. The faster it's done with, the better.

Unfortunately it seems like every game in the series is contractually obliged to go retard at the end.

Destiny Stone was perhaps the most boring dungeon. Level 1 is the best, though even that isn't terribly memorable. It starts in a pretty standard rooms-corridors section, moves into a door maze, and then finally an open area with a lot of teleporters, traps and spinners (no darkness thankfully). Encounter frequency really shot up here (if you thought Dargoth was bad...), I got back to back fights on the same square repeatedly, but running away works wonders with Speedboots, and the 6th segment can cast HEAL and has unlimited charges, so fighting stops being any kind of challenge. At some point into this level I also learned the Dreamspell, aka Totally Legit Cheat Mode. You NEED it, since AFAIK it's the only way to get out of the dungeon, but during combat it acts like a MAMA and HEAL combined. It's also a Sorcerer spell, so all 3 mages can cast it. The 2nd level is one HUGE dark room, and I raged a bit at first, but there are no antimagic zones, and with Nospen it was actually super easy to map. The exit is also 3 moves away from where you start, though there's a long way too, and I ended up taking that in order to map everything and look for clues (clues that, uselessly, told me what I already knew...). Level 3 is a boring collection of parallel corridors with small siderooms, and the snare. The snare itself is possibly the most boring part of the game, as it is little more than a glorified copy protection. The Zen Master kept getting foreshadowed, and once he joined I was impressed with his HP (2200+!), but I ditched him shortly after the snare anyway to get my 3rd mage back (which turned out to be a good idea). Once I had the last segment, I already knew where to go thanks to some clues I found, so I went to the temple and had Crooked Bee merge them all and become the Destiny Knight. Lagoth turns out to be exactly who you'd expect, and visiting him triggers the final fight.

This is where things get completely stupid. Bee was using the Scepter (the wand after combining). It is an unlimited charge one-group nuke, but it doesn't hit harder than Dreamspell, which affects ALL groups. Lagoth comes in with 2 groups of 30 Balder Guards each, who each have thousands and thousands of HP, can critical hit (one-shots melee PCs) and can breathe for 600+ damage, which will also one-shot anyone hit. Poor DraQ (my other mage) kept dying to the breath. However... the Scepter makes its user completely immune to dying. Getting killed just resets the max HP. So I had all 4 fighters defend (they kept dying anyway, except the rogue, who hid and survived everything) while all 3 mages kept casting Dreamspell over and over. Even if both DraQ and Drifting died (usually only one would) Bee is immortal and her Dreamspell bring back everybody else. By the time they all ran out of mana there were only 4 or 5 guards left, and I one-shot them one at a time with the Paladin using the Spectre Snare, while the hunter threw his Aram's Knife at Lagoth, the bard threw his Song Axe, and the rogue stood there being useless. Once he went down I was showered with XP, followed by the king giving me a "bonus" (another 1M XP). The whole thing felt extremely unsatisfying, as both the Scepter's immortality and the Dreamspell feel like cheats, but I don't think the fight is remotely doable without them.

The game was great before this though. Despite some of the snares being boring run-arounds, the other snares were great fun, as was dungeon design in most levels. It's definitely superior to the first game even if it dips at the end.

I tested importing into BT3. Class restrictions on items have changed yet again, so I'll have to switch things around. Infuriatingly, even though most items make the transition, I lost some of the best ones, including Sword of Zar, the Scepter (not unexpected), and most maddening, the Spectre Snare that I've had since BT1. I'm going to miss doing crits with both paladin and hunter, especially once the hunter goes Geomancer.
 

octavius

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Congrats on completing the game! And that in a very short time as well.

Skipped most of your message for now, but two words: Stone Blades. Turns every fighter type into a Hunter.
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
Short in number of days, but I must've spent at least 50h on it, most probably closer to 60h. I just couldn't put it down. Good thing most of that was over a weekend when I had nothing else to do. By comparison, I think I played BT1 over a couple of weeks, but I put in fewer hours in it, and at least in the beginning, was not grabbed anywhere near as badly.

I know you mentioned Stone Blades back in BT1 but I still haven't found any.

I started BT3 and it's a bit... underwhelming. The extra inventory space is great, but you can no longer select items with a single key and have to either use the mouse or scroll down, both of which take longer. Drifting's patch thankfully put the old spellcasting back, otherwise I'd be pulling my hair out. You can't trade equipped items anymore. E no longer works to unequip. All in all I don't like the interface changes, everything takes longer. There also seems to be nowhere to sell stuff, so I keep having to go into inventory to delete the trash. The automap is handy but it behaves oddly, half of level 1 was already explored when I walked in. The XP tables seem to be completely different. My main mages got instant levels when starting, even though I fully leveled them before importing. OTOH my fighters need 3.5M XP (???) to go from 29 to 30, whereas back in BT1 and BT2 any level above 13 required exactly 200k.

The big decision I need to make is whether to have DraQ go Chronomancer right now or wait until I level up a bit more as Archmage (currently level 9). Switching now would mean he'd have a few levels under his belt by the time I go to Arboria, going higher as Archmage might mean a bit more HP and SP on the long run. I'm not sure they're worth the wait though. Thoughts?
 

octavius

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The big decision I need to make is whether to have DraQ go Chronomancer right now or wait until I level up a bit more as Archmage (currently level 9). Switching now would mean he'd have a few levels under his belt by the time I go to Arboria, going higher as Archmage might mean a bit more HP and SP on the long run. I'm not sure they're worth the wait though. Thoughts?

Hard to say.
The game is easy enough that you don't need to minmax, so I don't think I'd aim for more level just for the HP and SP. Level 6 Archmage spell is also useless, but the lvl 7 is very nice, though.
I think what I did was to develop one mage as Archmage and the other as Chronomancer. I loaded up my BT3 game to check, but unlike in BT2 the character screens don't tell you what spell levels you have, so I can't with a glance check their "careers".
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
Well I didn't wait, and decided after backing my save (just in case) to convert DraQ to Chronomancer before going into Chaos. That turned out to be an excellent choice. Killing Brilhasti doesn't give you an XP bonus like Mangar and Lagoth - it SETS your XP at whatever is needed to advance everyone to level 36. This makes me soooooooooo glad I didn't grind in the previous games - it would've been a complete waste of time and the end result would've been exactly the same. Actually it would've made my PCs weaker - stats go above 18 in this game, so being lower level before getting the boost gets you a bunch of stat-ups. It also means my Chronomancer is level 36 already, as are both my archmages, and it also means Drifting (the 2nd archmage I created in BT2) has caught up to everyone else, despite being almost 2M XP behind initially. Drifting won't be coming with me to Arboria though, because I need to keep a slot open for Hawkslayer.

I think you're right and there's no point in leveling the future-Chronomancer too much as Archmage, since he loses all his spells anyway when you convert.

I must say the starter dungeon was pretty boring, but if I remember things do improve in Arboria.
 

octavius

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I'm not enjoying BT2 enough to finish it a second time, so I'm putting it on hold for the time being. Maybe I'll resume it when I get a craving for blobbers again.

All in all, I think it's deserved that the BT series are more obscure today than the Wizardry and Might&Magic series, for several reasons:

1. Encounter frequency. Enough said, I have already beaten this dead horse enough.

2. Balance. Both BT1 and 2 start off quite hard (very hard if using fresh characters with no Fire or Cold Horn), but after completing the first dungeon they both become way too easy. BT1 then gets brutally hard on the last few levels. I think BT2 was quite hard combatwise on the last levels as well.
BT3 is just too easy period. But it can probably provide a nice, steady challenge if you try to run away from all encounters, since the difficulty doesn't incrase dramatically at the end (ie no need for grinding to be able to beat the final boss).
Compare this with the Wizardry and Might&Magic games. The first Wizardry is perfectly balanced, while later ones only have minor balance issues. The Might&Magic games "solve" the balancing problems by being much more unlinear than the BT and Wizardry games, so if current area proves too tought, you can usually just explore somewhere else instead.

3. Bugs. It's really remarkable that there should be so many bugs considering the high production values.
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
Vanquisher sounds pretty good, though I probably wouldn't have used him much anyway since I was running with 7 PCs most of the time. Would've been a good fill-in when going for one of the forced NPC snares.

Of course it's the sage :P I mean, it's not a Bioware-twist "Oh god I can see it coming from miles away", more of, when it does happen, it's not really much of a surprise. I don't understand Lagoth's motivations though. Was he trying to get the wand back together? Why? He's the one who broke into pieces in the first place, because it could be used to defeat him. Anyway this isn't exactly a storyfag game so who cares!

Shame you've had it with BT2, though I can understand you. With Sir Robin's in BT3, and Speedboots in BT2, I can run from every single random encounter, yet just pressing R EVERY OTHER STEP is getting incredibly tedious. BT3 is absolutely ridiculous about it. Drifting's patch is supposed to fix a bug when random encounter squares didn't get cleared - I don't even want to imagine how bad it is without it. Even WITH it, I sometimes get 2 encounters in a row, WITHOUT EVEN TURNING, on the same square - I think the "creature wants to join you" doesn't count as an encounter, and as soon as you get rid of it, the regular encounter from that square triggers. It's insane.

I'm not enjoying BT3 as much as a result. Level design is also more boring than BT2, though there are some cool ones (the Black Tower where I am now is such a one). The almost adventure game like puzzles are a very nice touch, and they make exploring the dungeons in each dimension more fun than just a linear progression to whatever the boss/mcguffin is, but the sheer volume of encounters, even if you skip all of them, slows down the pace. I had the same problem with the late game of BT1, and complained about it here. I was also a bit disappointed with Hawkslayer - it's not so much that he doesn't do or say anything, he even promptly disappears as soon as you teleport back to Skara Brae, without even a goodbye. He does hit hard though and has the lowest AC in my group. Unfortunately, although the manual claims NPCs have an inventory (they did in BT2), he doesn't. Any item you give him is lost forever (thankfully I didn't lose anything I actually needed) and you cannot equip him with anything.
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
I just realized the bard songs change depending on the instrument you're using. Very nice little touch.

Otherwise BT3 has become such a slog. Dungeon design is boring. Combat is extremely boring, and usually consists of my mages casting MAMA and FAFI and then everything dies on the same round. The little puzzles can be fun, but they don't do enough to break the monotony. As much as I couldn't put BT2 down, I'm struggling and forcing myself to finish this one.
 

octavius

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Maybe you are burnt out after alreadu having just played BT1-2?
I found BT3 enjoyable enough to finish it when I played it.
Dungeon design gets better as you progress IMO, but only the penultimate dungeon approaches BT2 quality.
Always trying to run away should (in my theory at least) make the unavoidable fights more challenging and fun.
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
I think it was partly a bit of burnout and partly that the first 3 worlds are a bit boring. Arboria and Lucencia didn't have any memorable bits, and even Geladia only had some of the gimmicks in the tower. Otherwise the dungeons are completely unremarkable, and CRPGAddict was right about one thing, when you start the game proper with all your mages maxed out and with leveling only bringing more HP and SP, it kinda kills the point of leveling, and character improvement is a big deal in combat-heavy games like the BTs. I seem to be enjoying the game more now though, Kinestia was good fun and Tenebrosia's starting pretty well with the Tar Pit. I'm not sure if making a Geomancer was a good idea though. I've lost my hunter crit (I STILL don't have a Stone Blade or any other crit weapon), and the Geomancer is so low level and has so little SP that he's useless as a caster for now. I also think Hawkslayer bugged out - he didn't leave the party when I left Kinestia. I wonder if you can tell Arboria-Hawkslayer to wait for you, go pick up the Kinestia, go to Arboria, and have them both in your party at the same time...

Anyway the way Geomancer items work is quite funny. I thought they'd retain the ability to wear their old class items, but what really happens is that they gain the ability to wear warrior items - so all my hunter-only items are now worthless, but the Geomancer has by far the best AC because he's wearing the warrior armour, the best ones in the game, that nobody else can use, on top of the mage-only items.

I think BT3 is the weakest of the trilogy, but it has its good points. I agree with your summation about why the games didn't become as ingrained as classics as Wizardry and M&M, but I do think they deserve more love. Aside from Wizardry 4 and Dark Heart of Uukrul, I don't think any other dungeon crawlers have such deliciously devilish design.
 

octavius

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Ah, bummer about the Hunter losing his items. I thought he'd only lose the crits.
And still no Stoneblades? I guess that's the downside to running from all encounters?
You could give him the Nightlance (or whatitsname that casts free combat spells), though.
 

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I read a review of Dragon Wars for C64 in Swedish Datormagazin -89, scored a 8/10 int heir score system and they thought Interplay "might aswell have called it Bard's Tale IV" and only negative the reviewer found about it was "that the game forces you to change discs all the time, its too bad Interplay didnt implement autodisc reading like Might and Magic II (which also got 8/10 in an earlier review), that makes it drop a point but it is still one of those RPG 's you simply must have, if you are a genuine rolepalying gamer."
 

Sceptic

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Divinity: Original Sin
And it's over.

It's not that the hunter loses his items it's just the way the Geomancer class works. The manual leads you to believe the base class loses their special but gain spellcasting. It's not true; they are in fact a completely separate class whose special happens to be spellcasting, and who can use any and all items that either the Warrior or the Archmage can use - including warrior-only items that other fighters can't use, so it's actually a good thing; I think they can get the best AC in the entire game. The problem is that otherwise the Geomancer was useless for most of the game. He was too low level to do anything worthwhile until the last fights. I think the main reason to have him in there is if you had only one Archmage and converted him to Chronomancer, since PHDO/WAWA is REQUIRED in Tenebrosia and Malefia. That said he does have a few useful spells (more on this in a bit).

I never found a single Stone Blade in the entire trilogy. The only crit item I eventually got was Strifespear in Malefia, which went to the Paladin.

BT3's 2nd half is much, much better. Kinestia is good, Tenebrosia is better, Tarmitia has a great concept with the time travel and the various aspects of War (gathering all the names is good fun), even if the dungeons themselves are not hugely interesting. And then Malefia is glorious. I actually got lost a couple of times while drawing my maps, because I'd forget to mark a pit and then have absolutely no idea where to go next, until I backtracked I found the pit again. It's a 3D maze in the best Cosmic Cube tradition. Perhaps not as brutal, but still very well done, and the fact you can approach all 6 objectives in any order is a great touch.

The finale is interesting, probably the best of the 3 games. It consists of 4 fights, the last 2 being back-to-back. The first one is a joke. The 2nd is a bit harder, though not so much if you're prepared. The 3rd is again easy with preparation, but you instantly get thrown into the fight against Tarjan after this, with no opportunity to switch equipment, or renew HP or SP outside of combat. This is where the Geomancer actually shines. EAMA is incredibly powerful; it simply removes an entire group, with no consideration for their health or resistance. Really, all you need to do in that fight is survive 2 rounds, long enough for the Geomancer to remove the Vampire Lords and Rock Demons. All Tarjan then does is summon Black Slayers, who will die from 2 NUKEs before they even have time to act. I didn't even use my 2nd Archmage - he sat there being useless for most of the fight. Once the Thief of Fate gets to 90' it's all over. I had a host of harmonic gems on my casters, but I think each only used one.

BT3 ended up growing on me, I think the game improves as it goes. I'm still not sure how to rank the series. BT2 is clearly the superior game, but both BT1 and BT3 have some great design coupled with a lot of tediousness. The BT3 engine also seems buggier than BT1-2; it doesn't even seem to recognize stepping onto special squares (stairs, NPCs, etc) a lot of the time, requiring turning around or pressing space for it to "catch". I think I can see why I quit BT3 back in the days (and I think I was playing the buggy DOS version, which for all intent and purpose is unplayable. Thank you once again drifting), but I cannot fathom why I quit BT2. No matter, since this is now remedied.

Good series overall. More people should play it. It's not as classic as the Wizardries or Dark Heart of Uukrul or Might and Magic, but they're fine games nevertheless. And despite the resurgence in aulde-skuul gaming, nobody seems to be making dungeon crawlers like these. I'd love to see devious dungeons like those of BT2 again.
 

octavius

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Yeah, I loved Malefia too; great 3D dungeon. I think Daemongar hated it, though.
Surprised final battles were still that easy even if you ran away (I assume?) from most battles.

So what's next? Dragon Wars?
 
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