Friday, March 29, 2013

Game 13: Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (NES) - The Ghost of Murphy's Law

Welcome new party
With my abysmal start to Wizardry, I decided to enlist the help of the few readers that posted in the previous entry. Adding in their luck, I got past the first floor and am well on my way through mapping the second. I hope the characters are fitting to each, Archivis was the only one who requested a specific class.

I spent some time ensuring to get 17+ bonus points and focused on vitality. Even so, I still got a few levels where a character only gained a single hit point. I also went with an evil party because, well, ninjas. One thing different this time around was to only equip my first three characters. Since they're the only ones that can attack or be attacked, there's no reason to equip everyone from the start.

Before getting back into the thick of things though, I thought it best to peruse the manual a second time. Here are some interesting things I learned:
  • With high bonus totals it's possible to create a Samurai from the get go, so I did.
  • To erase the save data on the NES cartridge, you need to delete all characters, select delete character again, and confirm erasing all data. This restores the default party and resets the items at Boltac's.
  • The manual confirms that a "good" party should leave friendly enemies alone, and "evil" should kill everything because, you know, gold.
  • Characters out in the maze can lose their gold and equipment. It's a little ambiguous, but this may also apply to a party that is left out in the maze at full health.
I missed this last point until after I started pulling my old characters out and stripping them, evil party needs gold. Once I retrieved everyone I noticed I was only up 500 gold, minus 250 for raising a character that died during one of those trips. This includes the gold gained from fighting monsters.
I'm sure it didn't help to have my weapon unequipped
On the suggestion of the manual I took the first floor one fight at a time. This slow build-up felt overly cautious, but considering my first experience and the luck involved, I wanted to maximize my chances. After a few levels I felt confident and explored.

I noticed a decided lack of treasure sitting around. Chests are only gained after combat it seems, but not every combat will produce one. Pacpix has yet to fail disarming a trap, but he's only produced a single anointed mace, which sold for 15 gold, despite max luck. I've found several statues I'm not sure what to do with, but maybe there's a clue in the description.
I searched each one and came away with two keys and a massive influx of experience. This last statue summons the ghost of Murphy. He seems tied to this plane through the statue, and no matter how many times I defeat him, he keeps coming back. He's a friendly ghost though, so a good party would struggle with leveling a bit more than I did.
He's friendly, kill him, for the gold!
I started to think maybe I was over-leveling, so I moved on to the next floor. Here I was poisoned, paralyzed, and faced imminent death at the hands of 6 ninjas. The difficulty curve sure is on a steep slope in this game.
Since when do zombies paralyze?
I made it as far as one more statue, an animated frog that started doing some strange dance as I approached. What is the purpose of all these, what I assume are, quest items? There's very little of a cohesive story between them. Trying to find some clue in the description leaves me dumbfounded. A silver Key came from the silver boar, a bronze key came from the bronze statue (what do you call a half chicken / half cat creature), and a frog statue came from the frog statue.
Did I take the whole statue this time?
I guess the only thing to do is continue exploring. I stepped into floor 3 and 4 to check them out, but didn't get very far. I still have some of the second floor to map. Things are going well so far, which means I'm sure the party will meet an untimely end during my next session.

Session Time: 4h30m (Total Time: 6h00m)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Game 13: Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (NES) - I Must Be Mad

I always assumed the mad overlord was Werdna
Game 13

Title: Wizardry
Year: 1989
Platform: NES
Developer: Sir-tech Software, Inc.
Publisher: NEXOFT Corporation
Genre: RPG
Exploration: First Person
Combat: Turn-based (Party)

"We've gathered in great swarms to answer the call of our lord Trebor. Our singular quest is to confront the wizard Werdna and return with the amulet. Simple, right?"
Why would anyone subject themselves to this grueling, unforgiving game? I don't remember it being this hard on the PC when I played it about 15 years ago. I have maps of all floors to prove I beat it (I haven't peeked). Yet, here I am, writing a post on my first session, and I'm basically at square one.
My first party with some good HP despite single digit bonuses
Everything started well enough. I created new characters quickly, without worrying too much about stats, and decided upon the above party. I figured two clerical spell casters, one mage, three fighters for the front line, and a thief would lead to great victories. Little did I realize the wizard doesn't get cleric spells right away. I outfitted them with the best I could buy using the limited resources of just their initial gold.

I entered the maze and set about mapping the first level. I only got to the second room before one of my fighters died.
Encounter rates seem to rise considerably when entering doors
I finished off the battle, and realized I had no way of gauging my party's strength. The slimes and skeletons seem easy enough, but the kobolds I just faced nearly slaughtered me. Resurrecting just one character takes 250 gold for a level one character. To put that into perspective, after the four fights and with the gold left over for equipment purchases, I had 300 gold. It also takes 10 gold / hit point to recover at the inn, although I think I found a way around this. Well, as long as I don't die too much I should be able to eek out a meager existence until I gain some levels.
Well, that didn't work out...
With no money to resurrect these characters, I decided to recreate them and head back out, but I ran into a problem. I couldn't add my cleric anymore. That's strange, he just disappears as soon as I added my fighters. Did they not get along? Wait a minute, when did Durian become evil? I moved past it at the time, but in review of my recording I found the point he turned.
Skeletons are unnatural, but attacking "friendly" skeletons is bad
In my zealous pursuit of gold to resurrect Zatoichi, I attacked a few friendly encounters. Doing this turned Durian evil. Well, with my front line decimated and my cleric unwilling to travel with my goodly wizard, I decided to recreate my entire party. This time I was going to spend some time rolling up better stats.

My wizard already had a good roll of 17 bonus points, so I kept her around. All others had single digit bonuses, which I took quickly since I wanted to dive right in. Even after getting 16s through 18s for my new party I didn't notice a marked improvement. I stuck with the same names for this group, except for my cleric I picked his twin brother, Dorian. (I still have Durian as I might find need for an evil party.)
A higher vitality than last time, but less HP
Before disposing the of bodies, I looted the gold, but left the equipment. I know gathering gold from new characters is looked down on, but what's the consensus on taking from departed parties? I don't plan on creating characters purely for gold drops, but how much of this practice should be shunned? I haven't come to a decision, but since Lohlieth was a part of the original party, I didn't see much harm. Still, it's a lingering question.

Adventuring begins anew, and I spend some time grinding out some fights in the lower right room where enemies seem a little more manageable than other rooms. I do my best keeping everyone healed, and only Dorian spends nights at the inn to recover spell points so he can heal the rest of the party, saving some gold. 

A fighter or two dies, but this time I have the funds to raise them quickly, and most of my party reaches level two. It didn't seem strange then that I found a new enemy.
I missed the sign when all three fighters missed
I should have ran. I didn't. I mean it could have been a fluke, missing three times in a row. I should have ran when Fujimoto died the following round. The enemy's name changed to Highwaymen, and I realized this happened in the past too. I wonder if I've now learned what they're really called, or I killed the Man in Chain in front and now the Highwaymen are next in line.Would I always know what a Highwayman looks like?
I killed one, so I should be able to take on the rest...
Instead of running, I pressed on, and threw all my chips in when my last two fighters fell. My best laid plans came crashing down. Kreiggul was going to be Lord, and Zatoichi a samurai while Fujimoto would remain a fighter. Lohlieth, the only remaining member of the original party met her end at only level 3. It would take the gold of 6 new characters to resurrect her. Both Gullynets were great thieves, never failing to disarm a trap.
Alas, the adventure ends
Now, the next session will start like the last, character creation. I wonder if I should bother with the high stat bonuses. I wonder if I should bother retrieving the bodies of the fallen party, and to what end. I wonder if I should have some extra fire power by dropping a fighter for a full mage. The default party has two fighters, one cleric, two mages, and a thief, so maybe that's a more balanced group.

In any case, I hope my next outing is a bit more fruitful. I'm curious to know what the readers here consider acceptable gaming of the system. Three areas come to mind, making new characters purely for gold, retrieving bodies of past characters purely for their gold and equipment, and creating characters until high bonus point values are reached. What are your thoughts on these areas? I can think of one more hypothetical that doesn't need an answer right away: creating characters to equip items to see if they're cursed or have ill effects.

Looks like I'll need a reserve of names, so let me know your favorite class and I'll pair you up for the next adventure.

Session Time: 1h30m (Total Time: 1h30m)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Game 12: Final Fantasy (NES) - Rating

Combat offers some surprising strategy due to characters not re-targeting an upright enemy after their intended victim falls. This ensures planning goes into each attack and spell in hopes that they all find their mark. The alternative is adopted in future releases of the game, so I know I'm not the only one to find my party literally beating a dead horse more than a little annoying.

The party has a good arsenal of attacks from basic hits to spells and magic items that have spell like effects. Healing, buffing, and debuffing also have their place, although only the first of those are really worth the time and effort. A failed stop spell is a wasted turn, and fights are often over before buffs benefit from the turn they take.

Enemies offer a variety of unique challenges from the minor to the obscene. The worst offender are the instant death spells and attacks, but damaging elemental spells seem to hurt my own characters as much as the enemies. This means an early fight against six red gargoyles can end in their favor before I have a chance to react as they all cast fire 2. Another wrench in the mix is the critical hit available to both sides of combat.
Rating: 5
I don't have a horse, but will an asp do?
A customizable cast of party members and the ability to pick and choose spells boost this game ahead of all others so far. Class advancement is linear and limited to a single change, but it's possible to forgo this side quest if you prefer a challenge (or just enjoy the more chibi looking sprites). I remember taking all sorts of parties through the game back in the day from all fighters to all black mages. The mixed parties were the easiest ones to get through though.
Rating: 5
The default party
The only puzzling aspect to the game is the story, but we'll get to that shortly. The main quest is straightforward, and only one side quest to advance to the next class profession is available. While not all the steps make logical sense, enough hints are dispensed to avoid being completely lost in the larger world.

There aren't any puzzles to speak of, but there is one hidden mini-game. A sliding puzzle game that once completed adds 100 gold to your reserves. To play, enter the ship, hold the A button and press B 50 times or so. At least it's something to play if you're looking for a different kind of challenge.
Rating: 3
Unlimited gold!
Well, there's a main narrative, and it's about on par with other games in this era. It starts out with a simple save the princess quest, and expands into a full blown save the world. After you save the world you'd expect a stock ending, but no, the game continues on. Now, you have to save all of time.

In some weird and hard to follow twist, the game's main bad guy is actually Garland. He's the first boss we defeated, yet we learn that we didn't finish him off. The four fiends sent him back in time, and he in turn sent them to the future so they could send him to the past so he could send them to the future... forever. How is this a time-loop? The game says it is, but I'm not buying it. The epilogue doesn't offer much more insight, so I'm going to write it off as possibly a poor translation yet still mark it down for incoherency.
Rating: 3
Of course, Garland does too... wait, what?
If only there was more room in the inventory, but alas we have four weapon slots and four armor slots for each character. While each can only equip one weapon, they can have four pieces of armor equipped at the same time. This made for some tough decisions as I ran into chests with a piece of armor that I couldn't see, I only knew it was armor because that's the inventory that was full, and I had to drop one before getting it out of the chest. I dropped my Zeus Gauntlet to get a Cloth, a most unfortunate trade.

Beyond the equipment inventory, the item inventory is rather sparse. There are three different potions, plus three camping accessories, and finally a random assortment of quest items. There's no completion and no real tracking of items. As for spells, unless you have two white mages and two black, then you'll never have all the spells.

The economy stays a vital part for most of the game only if you fill up said spell slots. Even with an all mage party though you'll still have plenty of cash flowing by the end of the game. Some treasures in the final dungeon even spew forth large amounts to no benefit.
Rating: 3
I never did give the Adamant to the dwarf to make Excalibur
The world at large is an interesting place with a handful of sights. It opens up at a nice gradual pace. I only wish there were more nooks and crannies that dealt less with the main plot. Everything seems geared toward getting the party through to the current task. It's even interesting to revisit old towns after certain events as some NPC dialogue will change over time.

It's a great feeling once the airship is finally unlocked and the party can soar around the globe. The graphics are consistently good, and the music is varied enough not to get monotonous. Each location has a distinct style with the elf village full of tress and the volcano flowing with lava at nearly every step.
Rating: 5
Poor Erdrick, only 29 years ago and no one remembers the dragon warrior
Final Rating: 24 (40%)

The game offers quite the challenge and it's intriguing to see where the series started. There's some replay value by trying out different party arrangements, but the story isn't one of the strongest aspects. While I'd like to say there are many firsts in this game for console RPGs, the reality is many games came along at the same time or before that offered the same features. Of course, there's one I can say with confidence Final Fantasy did first, and that's the in-game over-world map. I don't believe they kept up that tradition, but I for one enjoyed having it.

The depths to which the manual guided the player through over half the game says something about the confidence in the players. From the very beginning to obtaining the airship, the manual is filled with helpful advice; a necessity I suppose for early console gamers previously unfamiliar with RPGs. In fact the game originally came with two full maps of the dungeons, a stat sheet of all enemies, and a list of equipment and spells. I happy with the score, although I imagined it falling a bit lower. I actually enjoyed the first Phantasy Star a bit more.

Looking at the list ahead Super Hydlide was up next, but I've run into a bit of a snag; my Genesis won't turn on. I need to get around to buying a new one this week. Add in a week or two for shipping, and I think I'll rearrange the list just a bit. I apologize for those looking forward to it. I still want to move on to something I have less experience with, so I've moved Wizardry up to the next spot followed by Crystalis. If I get the console earlier than I expect, then I'll swap Super Hydlide into the next spot.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Game 12: Final Fantasy (NES) - Finally Finished!

One of the best NES landscapes I've seen
I didn't think it'd take quite this long, but I'm done with Final Fantasy. I considered an interim post between this and the previous. In the end, I couldn't really come up with anything to say. Even at this point I'm not sure I have enough coherency in me for this post, but I want to get it out tonight because of a plug at the end.
I ended the previous post just before the class change. Taking the rat's tail to Bahamut turns my mages into wizards, and my black belt into a Grand Master. To all who voted for a Black Belt, you have my thanks, he really shined throughout this this last portion of the game.

Before heading back to the Volcano (yes that long ago), I visited the town that leads to the water temple. Here I picked up some level seven spells before stopping by the Oasis for a dip in the pool. Lacking a pool, I took stock of a caravan with all sorts of trinkets, but the merchant would only sell me a bottle.
I feel like you're only here for my benefit
Inside the bottle was a fairy, which I remembered gives Oxyale. This allows me to breath underwater. Now I can enter the water temple. Before we get to that though, it's about time to take care of the Fire Fiend.
Heal everyone all the time!
The only way the Volcano is now manageable is with the help of magic items. These unlimited-use items are invaluable, especially the Heal Staff. Using this every round I still had single digit healing potions by the time I reached the Fire Fiend, Kary.

Kary was much more difficult than the Lich. Even with the extra levels, class advance, and magic items, she nearly killed a single party member. Well, I guess she wasn't all that difficult, but she doesn't seem to have the weakness to ice I thought she would.
Come on Kili, are you sure you're casting that right?
Kary went down and with two orbs filled with light, I felt pretty good. I jet off to the Water Temple and things go swimmingly until I run into some of the hardest hitting regular enemies yet, Ghosts. I came to fear a group larger than four as they could quickly take out one of my party in a single round.
Here I fought five, Tont just took one out before biting the dust
In the fight above, I'm lucky enough to have Harm3 and Fire3 take them out. An earlier battle with six ghosts quickly ended one venture. I came across some good equipment in this place though, including my first Ribbon. This single piece of equipment seems to raise a lot of hidden stats such as magic defense and certain immunities to status changes. It's too bad I never found one for Kili.

The Water Fiend is a giant squid called the Kraken. As fearsome as he sounds, he was quite the pushover when I encountered him. Seriously, he basically just sat there for three rounds as Tont pummeled him into submission. Third orb lit, and we're making great progress.
Know any other tricks?
At this point I knew the rest of the game fairly well by rote. Find the slab with the mermaids, learn an ancient language by giving said slab to a professor, and get the chime from an ancient people. Heading back into the Water Temple, I quickly found them cowering on the top floor. I guess news of the Fiend's demise hadn't reached them yet, as they continued to implore me to act with haste lest they turn into bubbles.
Wait for it... LIGHT WARRIORS! Oh yeah...
I remembered to stop by the waterfall nearby to retrieve a Cube, and another Ribbon to protect Gioz as well as Tont. The Slab is passed to Dr. Unne, language learned, chime gained, and I use the chime to intone a melody that allows entrance to the Mirage Tower in the middle of the desert. I ran into some trouble... seriously, does Tont have to pull the team out of every bind?
How did this happen? Gioz had a Ribbon on!
I learned something from this fight though. Soft, the spell to cure stone status, does not work in battle. Well I won't be relying on that going forward. I'm not sure why Tont was more immune than everyone else, but it seems he's touched by the divine.
Kili on the other hand...
I make good use of that Cube retrieved earlier, and find myself teleporting up floors of the floating Air Temple. Nearing the top I can peer out a window to see the four elemental forces flowing forth to the Temple of Fiends!
Which one was the Temple of Fiends again?
The temple isn't too much trouble. I collected a number of armor pieces that kept filling my inventory, and I found myself offloading what I could. I reached a point though where I had to start making hard decisions. First to go was the Zeus Gauntlet, which let me cast a lightning spell I'm assuming. In its place I managed to get a Black Shirt, which does... some kind of damage.

Combat is still challenging at this point, with many fights that teeter on the edge of uncertainty. My only complaint here is the tides can shift in a single turn and without warning.
No damage... no spells... just death
I didn't quite know that sorcerers could kill in a single hit. I knew they could paralyze, which is bad enough. It's not even a spell that I could block. Pipi steps up in this fight and pulls the party through with her Hammer of Thor. I take this as a sign to exit and save my game before continuing on.

There's a small maze, and I remember something about down two, left two, or was it up two, right two... yes, I think I went right around the exit twice and found the entrance three times before getting it right. No WarMechs to speak of, although I would like to meet one sometime.
Gioz: "Oh my god! They killed Kili!" Tont: "You bastards!"
Tiamat has the ability to cast all the elements plus a poison gas cloud. Not sure what to defend against, I focus on punching the stuffing out of the multi-headed dragon with Tont. Magic seems ineffective once again.

I head back for some advice from the 12 sages, and I'm at a loss to describe this plot twist. I have a vague memory of going to the past, but 2000 years? This time loop is a little confusing...
So, he travels back, and waits, then travels back, then... what's the point?
I prepare for the final confrontation by buying up level eight spells and paring down my inventory. Wait a minute! Where's Life 2 and Nuke? I'm missing two of the most powerful spells in my arsenal. I actually didn't find them. This is as close as I came to them. I checked up and down, but failed to continue to the right.
Hmmm... I have a feeling it's around here somewhere, but I'm not stopping to ask directions
In any case I didn't really need them. I mean, I managed all the other dungeons without them. How hard could the Temple of Fiends be?
That ended badly
The above fight is really the worst of it. I tried to run to save time. Had I stuck it out to fight I may have survived. There were some tough fights, but Tont made quick work of any single enemy while the others constantly healed the party with the Heal Staff and two Heal Helms.

Each floor of the Temple of Fiends has an elemental theme, and at the end of each Earth, Fire, Water, and Air floor is a re-fight with the associated Fiend. They appear in a slightly more powerful form, although that maybe that's just how I perceived them. They seem to have the same amount of HP.
Yes! Nuke! Kili wants... no, not like that
The other three fiends actually go a little smoother. Of course, Kili still dies to Tiamat. I made it through the entire temple, right up to the final level, but chickened out because I exhausted my healing spells. Had I at least Heal 3 I would have pressed on, but another 20 minutes later I was right back in front of Chaos with nearly a full reserve.
Garland? Can't say I remember... oh wait, aren't you the guy we offed at the beginning?
I'm not sure how this constitutes a time loop. I could have stayed in the future with all the orbs full of light, right? I suppose it's explained that if I had stayed in the present, then 2000 years past that point the fiends would have reappeared. Does that make sense? How exactly does Garland survive for 2000, 4000, 6000+ years?
No wait, that doesn't make sense. How is this a Time-Loop?
Gah! Forget this, time for you to die! Then I don't have to worry about this alleged time loop. About the only useful item I picked up in this final temple was the Masamune. An all powerful sword that can be equipped by anyone, including Kili. I ended up giving it to Pipi though; she needs her time to shine, plus I was afraid Kili would die again. Gioz turned out to be useless with the Sun Sword, doing only a single hit point per hit.
Leave some for Tont!
Chaos as a final boss was a bit of a let down. Maybe I got lucky again, but I received no major damaging attacks, no status effects, and one instant death spell that missed everyone. He didn't even kill Kili! I do like how the entire sprite fills the battle area, if only his menacing was as big as his menace.
Tont comes in with the killing blow
And, with that ends the reign of Chaos. As his visage slowly fades, we reflect on the journey we've taken. Peace has returned to this nameless land, and the four warriors of light return to their time and the welcoming arms of the princess. Of course, here's a problem. We have a party of adventurers and only one princess.
I'm crumbling... crumbling... crumbling
I'm happy to be done with this game. There's a nice epilogue that explains how the player is a true warrior of light, but I had a hard time getting into the story when my mind was already jumping to the next plot point without having to consider what I was experiencing. I'm looking forward to a game I've never played, like Super Hydlide, even if the series isn't remembered in a flattering light.

Session Time: 7h00m (Total Time: 18h00m)

For those interested, I ended at level 30. I remember once I played with a party of four fighters and to even stand a chance against Chaos without the Fast spell to double my damage, I had to reach max level. I'd guess this is about average party level.

Since it's Final Fantasy related, there's a charity marathon going on right now called Crystals for Life where they're playing through a number of Final Fantasy games in speedrun fashion. It ends tomorrow, but right now they're playing through Final Fantasy X and the finale is Final Fantasy VI. Please help them reach their goal of $30K to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Speaking of speedrunning, I'm often most amazed at the level of planning that goes into one for an RPG. You'd think such a thing would consist of constant saving and luck manipulation, but some are just crazy enough to get it done in one go. There's such a run of Final Fantasy in under 4 hours. Enjoy, and I hope to get the rating post out tomorrow.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Game 12: Final Fantasy (NES) - Where's the Rest of the Rat?

Going from frigate to canoe sounds like a downgrade; got anything that flies?
The next town that follows the Earth Cave offers little more than a stopping point to the Volcano and the Fire Fiend. Given the ease with which I stomped through the Earth Cave and on the Lich, I expect to have little trouble getting the second orb lit.
So, I had a little trouble...
One level deep I encounter red gargoyles who have a penchant for casting fire 2. At my level that quickly means death to the whole party, especially when they attack first. I resign to gaining a few levels before I try that again. I turn my attention to the Ice Cave. Technically my party hasn't heard of it, but I remember its existence and with many fire spells at my disposal I think it'll make the perfect grinding spot.
Tont and Kili go down in this fight; luckily I have the life spell as long as Pipi is alive
Before I start the grind I figure I'll give the cave a proper chance. It doesn't go very well; deep in the cave are clones of Astos. I come away from the first fight fortunate enough that Pipi survives to bring everyone back.
Only one? How hard could that be?
Well, it turns out they're actually much harder than Astos and can also cast lightning 3 in addition to rubbing out one party member at a time. At this point I figure I'm done for; no way can Tont take on enemies alone and I'll eventually meet my doom. So, might as well explore while I await my impending doom. Tont discovers a plethora of treasure while running away from almost all encounters on the first turn narrowly dodging death.
Escaping paralysis, mass damage, stoning, and sleep, Tont reaches the surface
The surface is reached, but I'm still not in the clear. I need to make it back to a town with a healer. I'm fairly sure I'll be safe once I reach my ship since the enemies in that region are much weaker. However, every fight I run into on the river has the enemies striking first.
I'm glad I can fully heal between fights
Somehow, there was only one fight I didn't run on the first chance. That's a success rate of over 90%; can anyone explain that? I've just explored the entire Ice Cave (except one room I later found out had frost dragons) with one party member and lived to tell about it. I return after my reprieve, grind a level or two, and head for the prize in the center.

Just for you Shen Nung; I don't know how you got through this game so quickly
Using my new floater I raised an airship from the desert. This past knowledge, taking things out of turn, has helped me get past the inadequacy I felt after my defeat in the volcano. It's almost as if the game punished me for following the story, yet rewarded a little self exploration.
Ah, Airship, that's more like it...
Offering additional modes of transportation is new for a NES game, but we've seen it before in Phantasy Star. However, this is the first game that allowed the player to fly around the map unhindered by random encounters, and I have to tell you that feels really good.
Ship, Canoe, and Airship; I choose Airship.
Since I've already skipped the volcano, why not take it one step further and get the class change? I remember there being a castle with a tail that I need to bring to a dragon king. My first stop is a town where I find some upgraded armor, and some spells I'll want to get in the future. I also find random plot points that don't quite make sense.
Who is this fairy and why do I care?
You're talking to me like I asked a question...
I guess that's why I should care about the fairy. What's Oxyale; is that some kind of chewing gum?
I realize now that I haven't learned the names of many places
As I fly around, I see some familiar sights: a tower in the desert, a waterfall, sink holes among an archipelago, a couple towns far away from any landing site, and the castle of courage (not really sure what it's named). To my benefit, I still have the crown I stole... I mean acquired, from the Marsh Cave since I dispatched Astos.
Has anyone made it this far without the crown?
At first I thought the castle was a maze of teleporters, but it became apparent the decisions were quite fixed and easy to decipher after entering them. Of course, I hit every path in my search for the correct one. At least the enemies weren't too difficult.
Tont became a bad-ass after rescuing the party single-handed and decided to fight barehanded
Sean clued me in on the fact that the black belt was good enough to fight barehanded from about level 10. I was under the impression this didn't happen until the class change. Fast is used to great effect in the above battle. The ease with which I leisurely stroll through the dungeon is cut short, and I'm once again on edge.
Ah, my arch-nemesis!
Really now, how is anyone supposed to take on 6 red gargoyles at any level? They can cast hold and fire 2. At least I had a chance to run this time. Sorry Kili, maybe next time.
Tont clearly takes MVP this session
I don't care what anyone says about black belts, they quickly become killing machines and a boon to the party. Just ditch the weapons as soon as you can and watch their damage potential sky rocket. Anyway, with rat tail in hand, I'm ready for that promotion. I'll get back to the volcano eventually.

Session Time: 3h00m (Total Time: 11h00m)