Darklands: Menüstadt

From The CRPG Addict


Darklands is a very menu-driven game.

        

I re-started the game and rolled up a new group for this expedition, not so much because I was dissatisfied with the statistics of the old one (although I did need someone with better alchemy skills, I think) but because I was dissatisfied with my own lack of role-playing. Darklands seems like one of the rare RPGs of the period in which you can have fun with your own imagination, and I hadn’t even figured out a reason that four characters from very different backgrounds would have gotten together in the first place.
For the new party, I took the rare (for me) approach of envisioning them all as siblings from the same noble family: the von Eschenbachs from Ansbach, Bavaria, vassals to the House of Hohenzollem. The four adventurers are:
          
  • Viridia, 35-years old, the oldest of the siblings. Fiercely intelligent, she began an education as a teenager, studying for 10 years at Heidelburg University before taking on a role as an alchemist and then master alchemist. She is naturally most skilled in the scholarly arts, including alchemy (43), Latin (46), and reading and writing (46).
  • Maximian. The first son, Maximian grew up as the heir of his house. He served as a recruit and then a knight in the army of King Sigismund of Austria (later Holy Roman Emperor) and learned mostly marital skills but also virtue (30), common speech (39), and riding (21). He is now 30.

          

Getting the “knight” option wasn’t easy. I had to spend time increasing my virtue.

           

  • Bianca. Black sheep of the family, Bianca displayed a scandalous amount of free-thinking and independence, even as a young girl. Given to running off into the forests surrounding her family keep, afternoons away from home turned to days, which turned to weeks. By the time she was 20, her family was likely to see her only on feast days, when she would arrive at the keep’s gates with a boar in tow or a stag slung over her shoulders. Her skills are in stealth (20), artifice (16), and woodswise (18).
  • Ladislaus. 25-years old and twin to Bianca, Ladislaus has always been a little . . . off. There was never any proof that he did anything to his tutor, or one of the chamber maids, or two of the castle guards, but all were seen last with Ladislaus and then never again. Concerned about potential scandals, his family hustled him into a monastery as soon as they could, where it is said he specialized in the inquisitorial arts, learning about religion (22) and healing (18) more as byproducts than as main pursuits. He also shows an un-monklike skill with blunt weapons.
          
The four siblings were happy enough to pursue their own lives and careers, but disaster struck when their father, Baron Stefan von Eschenbach, was caught selling intelligence to the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, just before the Battle of Nicopolis. By the time word of his disgrace reached his children, he had been executed and his holdings seized and redistributed. Nameless and penniless, the four von Eschenbach’s have come together to rehabilitate the family name.
        

The von Eschenbachs vow to turn their fortunes around.

          
I should note a couple of annoying things about character creation that I elided last time. First, if you accidentally go back to the main menu after creating some characters but before setting out with your new party, you lose any characters you created. I ended up having to start over a couple of times with errant mouse clicks. Second, the game assigns “nicknames” to each character that are a bit shorter than their real names. If you want to give your characters names of your choosing, you have to be careful to edit the nickname, too. Otherwise, you end up creating a character named “Viridia von Eschenbach” whose nickname is something like “Kate.”

This time, the game started me at the top of the map, in the Danish city of Flensburg. It seemed to have the same options as most of the rest of the towns, and I’m not sure yet if any of the towns are varied by graphics or other options. I suspect that they’re going to be a lot like towns in Pirates!, where occasionally a town didn’t have a governor or wouldn’t trade with pirates or something, but for the most part they offered the same visuals and decisions.

We’ve had menu towns in RPGs before, but none so menu-intensive as Darklands. I spent a while just mapping the various options. Some of always work and some require some kind of attribute, skill, or reputation test first. Some lead you to new locations, some to NPCs or other encounters. The lists differ slightly depending on time of day, which is something I didn’t fully map. This was the list for Flensburg, from the Main Street, although take it with a grain of salt as I noticed the options changed at different times of day, and I didn’t try all of them:

1. Visit the Südermarkt, the political center of Flensburg
—-Examine the posted notices and collect the latest gossip
——–Read the official notices posted on doors and walls
——–Ask about affairs elsewhere in the Empire
——–Gossip about the situation here in Flensburg
——–Try to discover special jobs or interesting, adventurous tasks
——–Return to the previous menu
—-Walk towards the narrow spires of the city’s great churches (go to #4)
—-Go to the Schrongen, the main market of the city (go to #3)
—-Leave the square by the Main Street (back to main menu)
—-Leave the square by a side street (#8)
2. Visit the Burg, the great fortress overlooking the city
—-Request an audience with the Erbvogt
—-Ask to see a clerk about services desired by the Erbvogt
—-Pray for aid in getting an audience
—-Move away down the main street (main menu)
—-Slip away down a side street (#8)
3. Visit the Schrongen, the central market of Flensburg
—-Merchants selling everyday items
—-Pavilions of foreign traders
—-Pharmacists’ stalls
—-Fugger banking offices
——–Ask for a letter of credit, converting coin to bank notes
——–Request an audience to discuss special tasks
——–Return to the marketplace
——–Slip out the side door to the back alley (#8)
—-Office of the Medici representative
——–Ask for a letter of credit, converting coin to bank notes
——–Request an audience to discuss Medici tasks
——–Return to the marketplace
——–Slip out the side door to the back alley (#8)
—-Hanseatic League hall
——–Inquire about special services required by the Hansa
——–Brashly proclaim our fame and ability to do great deeds
——–Chat with the clerks
——–Leave by the side door (#8)
——–Leave through the main door
—-Exit to the main street (main menu)
—-Exit to the side streets (#8)
4. Visit the tall spires of the great churches
—-Visit the Dom, great cathedral of Flensburg
——–Attend a mass
——–Talk to a priest (day)/altar boy (night)
——–Virtuously donate one of your relics for favor and recognition
——–Ask for sanctuary
——–Leave the cathedral
—-Visit the St. Nikolaikirche, a well-known church
——–Attend mass
——–Go to confession (day only)
——–Talk to a priest (day)/altar boy (night)
——–Virtuously give money to improve divine favor
——–Seek sanctuary
——–Leave by the main street
——–Leave by a side street
—-Visit the Kloster, where monks study church law and administration
——–Offer 1 florin for prayers on your behalf, hoping to restore divine favor
——–Inquire about tutoring in various disciplines
——–Study about saints in the library
——–Seek aid in healing wounds
——–Seek sanctuary
——–Leave
—-Stroll over to the Südermarkt, the main city square (#1)
—-Take a connecting street to Burg, the fortress of the city (#2)
—-Leave the main street (main menu)
—-Leave by a side street (#8)
5. Visit the craft guilds and other, darker side alleys
—-Go to the townhouse of a respected physician and healer
——–[character with healing] takes a few hours to discuss treatments
——–Ask his aid in healing wounds
——–Big him to allow you to be his students
——–Try to interest him in buying and selling alchemical components
——–Leave
—-Go to Astrologists’ Lane, where the signs have alchemical symbols
—-Go to Tinker’s Square, where there are shops of fine artisans
—-Go to the Clothmakers’ Street, an important guild
—-Take an alley to the arms-making guilds
—-Take side streets leading elsewhere (#8)
—-Take the main street leading elsewhere (back to the main)
6. Visit the Gasthaus, a well-known inn with stables
—-Catch up on the local news and rumors
——–Read the official notices posted on doors and walls
——–Ask about affairs elsewhere in the Empire
——–Gossip about the situation here in Flensburg
——–Try to discover special jobs or interesting, adventurous tasks
——–Return to the previous menu

—-Relax with a good meal and get 8 hours of sleep
—-Take up residence to work, pray, study, experiment, etc.
—-Visit the stables, where you can buy and sell mounts
—-Store some items with the innkeeper
—-Reconsider the composition of your party
—-Exit to the main street (main menu)
—-Exit to a side street (#8)
7. Visit the wharves and docks
8. Visit a side street where you’re less visible
9. Visit a scenic grove where you can wait and relax
10. Go to one of the main gates leading out of the city  

That’s a lot of menu options! And that’s not even nearly all of them. In addition to a few that I didn’t explore, they seem to vary by day and night as well. For this session, I explored as many as I could that made sense.
         
The official notices said that citizens are prohibited from traveling the streets “after the hour of Compline, unless unavoidably required by their occupation, or by an emergency.” I think such notices are in pretty much all of the cities. Times in Darklands are measured in three-hour blocks: Matins (00:00-02:59), Latins (03:00-05:59), Prime (06:00-08:59), Terce (09:00-11:59), Sexts (12:00-14:59), Nones (15:00-17:59), Vespers (18:00-20:59), and Compline (21:00-23:59).
          

It seems like nobody, in any city, is allowed to travel the streets at night.

        
My attempts to pry rumors out of the citizens met with no success; neither did my attempts to learn about events in Flensburg. When I asked about jobs, I learned only that “a certain well-placed personage is hiring freelancers.”

At the Dom, it wasn’t the right time for a mass, and visiting a priest just got me a little bit of information about the Dom. At St. Nikolaikirche, I spent all day in confession and penance. At the Kloster, they wouldn’t teach me anything because I lacked “sufficient fame, reputation, virtue, and/or charisma.” However, I was able to get into the library and study saints–for a donation of 1 groschen. Specifically, Ladislaus learned something about St. Margaret. You have to know something about each saint to pray to him or her. Otherwise, “pray” options are grayed out.
           

I’m still not quite sure how the whole saints/praying dynamic works, but at least I know one saint now!

      
I was surprised that the party got an audience with the Erbvogt (basically the mayor) on the first try. He asked us to do something about the robber knight Anton Seibt, who raids from a castle southeast of Flensburg, northeast of Lüneburg. That seems a little above my current capabilities, but I saved after I got the quest because it’s relatively close.
         

This party’s first quest.

         
On the artisans’ lane, we visited a healer at his house, but after Ladislaus talked with him for a few hours, he still had no idea about the healer’s competence. When I asked if he’d trained me, he admitted that Ladislaus already knew as much as he did.
         
Wandering into an alley at nighttime, we faced a group of four thieves. We fared more poorly in the battle than in my first outing, but we still managed to kill them and loot their items. Bianca notably increased 4 points in her “Edged Weapon” skill. We managed to find a second group of thieves the same night. The victory screen after the second group mentioned that common folk came out into the street to thank us. “These thugs were terrorizing our neighborhood.” Our local reputation increased to 11 (“respected”).
            

Viridia gets a skill upgrade.

         
At the inn, we tried to get more news and rumors but had no luck, so we just turned in for the night. Another option was to take up residence at the inn for a day, putting my characters to work at different tasks. All of them had the option to “just relax,” and all could take odd jobs for a few pennies a day–enough in total to earn about 8-10 pfenniges, once the cost of the inn is subtracted. Viridia had options to mix alchemical formulas. She apparently started with four recipes: “Solomon’s Eyeburn” (blind), “African Sunset” (stun), “Sina’s Stone-Tar” (slow), “al-Majriti’s Strongedge” (sharpen weapon), and “Morienus’ Transformation” (fools’ gold). However, I have no ingredients.

The next day, we sold the items looted from the thieves in the central market. After we bartered for a while at a foreign trader’s, the trader tossed us a pouch with 3 florins and said he was hoping we’d find the Tarnhelm, “Seigfried’s magic helmet,” which is rumored to have been seen southwest of Magdeburg. We didn’t have the option to refuse him, so I guess that’s on our quest board.
             

This quest might be easier than killing that robber knight.

       
The alchemical ingredients all seemed too expensive. At the Fugger’s office, we got an audience with the master banker, Eckbert Koberger, who wants us to . . . kill the robber knight Anton Seibt! He promised us 6 florins if we succeed. Can we turn in the same quest to two people for two rewards? I guess we’ll find out. We had no such luck meeting with the Medici representative or the Hanseatic League (lacked charisma, reputation, etc.).

At nighttime, we had a lot less luck with thieves than the previous night, occasioning several reloads. Finally, we defeated a party of five and turned in for the night. Everyone but Maximian is struggling with low strength. My understanding is that healing per night is dependent on the skill of the most-skilled character, and apparently Ladislaus (who only worked for two terms) isn’t very skilled. The party members only recover a couple of points per night.
          

Selling items looted from slain thieves.

        
I knew it was too soon, but I wanted to get a sense of how difficult the whole “robber knight” thing was going to be, so I headed out into the wilderness in search of the castle. I ultimately found Anton Seibt’s castle some distance to the south, having passed by Flensburg and Lübeck. On the way, I fielded at least a dozen encounters, including:
          

  • Traveling merchants, with options to see their wares or accompany them.
  • Several encounters with bandits, most of which resulted in the death of at least one character. A couple, I was able to bluff my way past. It seems that for bluffing and charisma, the game is relying on the skills of my lead character, which are decent (charisma 32, speak common 42, virtue 30, but only 5 streetwise) but not spectacular.
  • Encounters with monsters called tatzelwurms, which are not dragons but just giant lizards. Still, one was enough to tear apart my part.

          

Remember, if medieval folks believed it existed, it existed as far as the game is concerned.

       

  • Groups of refugees, who I could help by donating money–a lot of money. The game doesn’t give you a choice as to how much: it just offers a menu option that says something like “donate 15 groschen and 75 pfenniges.”

          

The grateful refugees take almost half of my coin.

        

  • At one point, I ran into a castle which gave me the option to check out a graveyard. I accepted and found myself on a battle map, but with no enemies visible–until I opened a door, and suddenly a horde of Knights Templar came rushing forth. Any concerns I had about not being their enemy were obviated by swift death and reloading.
  • Pilgrims headed to the city I had just left. I had options to donate money–a ridiculous amount, even more than the refugees–or accompany them to their destination, which costs in days.

            

An entire florin! You must be out of your mind.

          
I stopped when I successfully reached Lübeck and managed to get the same quest–kill the robber knight Anton Seibt–from both the town leader (Oberste Hauptmänn) and the Fugger representative Paschal of Kyrburg. Now I wonder if I couldn’t have gotten the same quest from representatives in Schleswig, too (the town between Flensburg and Lübeck), too.

Anton Seibt’s castle was about one screen to the south of Lübeck. As I entered his territory, the game warned me that I was entering the territory of a robber knight. I had a few encounters with his men, but I acted friendly, and they left us alone.
           

The game tries to warn me that I’m out of my league.

         
Eventually, I made it to the castle itself, where I simply requested entry and was surprised to find that it worked. “Even in our wild lands, we know of you,” Seibt said, which makes me a little suspicious. All we’ve done is kill a few parties of thieves in one city. But he invited us in to dinner. There, I had options to eat and leave, and a few other things, but one that said something like “pull a daring move and convince Seibt to surrender.” On a lark, I chose that one. Alas, it didn’t work. Seibt summoned his men and commanded them to “slay these idiots!” and we were soon put upon by Seibt and five warriors, ending in the slaughter of the entire party.
           

The battle went poorly.

         

Still, I have a sense now of how the process works. I suspect what I need to do is linger in Lübeck for quite a long time, perhaps months, slaying thieves, building my finances, purchasing better equipment, getting some training, and learning the alchemy and prayer systems. The only thing that bothers me about this is that, judging by comments on my first entry, it seems like that’s what everyone does.

Time so far: 6 hours

*****
        

Fantasy Monarch is seeking help from beta testers.

        
I’ve recently been contacted by a developer who is looking for beta-testers for his game, Fantasy Monarch, which you can learn more about on its Steam page.  It seems to be a strategy/RPG hybrid that takes inspiration from SSI’s Sword of Aragon. If you’re interested in helping, please contact Ian Leavitt at monarchdev@outlook.com.



Original URL: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2019/06/darklands-menustadt.html