Realms of Arkania: Ei im Gesicht

From The CRPG Addict

That about sums up this entire session.

Today’s subtitle comes from a conversation I had this week with Irene. My wife occasionally takes an interest in my hobby and asks about what I’m playing. She usually begins by asking, “What year are you up to?,” to which whatever my reply she responds with “still?” That’s always a bit depressing. But a few weeks ago, her first question was about the country.

“Germany,” I replied enthusiastically. “This one is based on a German tabletop game called Das Schwarze Auge.”
“The . . . black . . . owooga?” she asked, attempting to translate.
The Black Eye,” I corrected, not also mentioning that most people translate schwarze as “dark” in this context. 
Two weeks later, she came into my office while I was playing. I tend to interlace hours of work with hours of play, and without fail, if she opens the door and sees what’s on my monitor, it’s during one of the hours of play. Sometimes I don’t think she thinks I work at all.
“Are you still playing that German game?” she asked. “Egg on Your Face?”
After some confusion, I realized she had confused one metaphor for an embarrassing facial blemish for another. I suspect for the rest of my life, I’m going to mentally translate Das Schwarze Auge as Egg on Your Face. Das Schwarze Auge probably has an actual rule about egg on a character’s face, with an associated temporary loss of 3 charisma points.

I definitely don’t want these eggs on my face.

This session, I mostly continued my town-to-town explorations, trying to find the pieces of the map that will lead me to Hyggelik’s tomb. These travels were interspersed with more side explorations that I sure hope aren’t tied to the main quest, because I’ve been doing awful at them.

Take the spider’s cave, where I started. There were two levels to the place, and it was swarming with spiders and some kind of spider cultists. The combats were of average difficulty, made easier because the occultists tended to drop vials of spider venom, which I could then apply to my own weapons and thus do about three times the damage–oddly, even against spiders.

But aside from the combats, I screwed up everything in the caves. First, I chose to burn some spider eggs, and I guess that caused the caverns to fill up with smoke, which caused my characters to choke to death if they kept exploring. I had to reload from before that decision. Then I ran into an alcove where I was asked a riddle: “What is as impenetrable as an iron wall and yet as transparent as glass?” Now, the answer to this is literally nothing, or perhaps “REALLY THICK GLASS,” but I suspected the developers were going for WEB or SPIDER WEB or something. No matter what I entered, I couldn’t get it right, or at least nothing happened.

Ran out of letters!

I did solve another puzzle, probably the one that commenter Alrik von Prem was talking about last time. The riddle was in the basement, behind a one way door, and getting it right was the only way out of the area. It was, “Who is the lord of all spiders?” I figured the answer had something to do with a statue I’d seen on the first level, where “the letters S, N, A, T, C, A and M form a heptagram.” I probably could have figured it out anyway just from trying different combinations, but I’ve known for years–god knows why–that the scientific name for the black widow spider is Latrodectus mactans, and thus figured correctly that’s what they were going for.

Or else the authors were fans of SCATMAN Crothers.

That was probably my only success. I fell into several traps and damaged my party horribly. I set off several chest traps, and there were at least two chests that I never got open because of the traps. I found a bunch of crystals and two Amulets of Someone that I never found any use for. I finally left the caves dispirited and annoyed. One condition I didn’t experience, to my surprise, was poison.

I returned to the road and made it to the harbor city of Ottarje, where a visit to Hjore Ahrensson produced another piece of the map as well as a new name in Clanegh (where I’ve already been).

This was prescient of him, as I was never able to find any Thinmarsdotters living in Clanegh.

From Ottarje, I took a ship to Prem–a huge town without much interesting except an abandoned mine. I wasted a bunch of time exploring the mine, which had no enemies but lots of locked doors and traps. The mine kept caving in, which took half a day or more for my characters to clear, and they started starving and complaining of thirst. Some things that I thought would be promising treasures turned out to be nothing. I broke my only set of lockpicks in a locked door. I left a second dungeon dispirited.

I kept circling the game’s western “horn” with the goal of hitting Hjalsingor and then reaching the island of Manrek, both of which were clue locations. From Prem, we sailed to Treban, Kord, Guddasunden, and finally Hjalsingor. Algrid Trondesdotter said she used to have a map, but she sold it to merchant named “Kollborn or something.” She also gave me a new name in Breida.

This NPC wasn’t very useful.

From Hjalsingor, we sailed to Royik and then across the strait to the city of Manrin in Manrek. I had been told that my quarry was on Manrek, but not which of the two cities. Manrin was a bust, so I set out overland for Brendhil. On the way, I stumbled upon a third cave and had my third failure, largely because I hadn’t been able to find a new set of lockpicks at any shop since my original set broke. I frankly don’t even remember where I bought the originals. I opened some doors with spells but soon ran out of points. I fought some pirates, failed to figure out how to work a lever puzzle, and to cap it all off, decided to sail out of the caves in a boat we found at the back. In a scripted event (I’m not sure if high skill in anything would have prevented it), the boat foundered and sank and I had to reload from back in Manrin. I didn’t even bother to stop at the cave on my second trip to Brendhil.

Why did we sail out into the open ocean anyway?

In Brendhil, Thomas Swarfnildsson gave me my fifth map piece but nothing much else happened. We hopped a boat for Liskor back on the mainland and then walked to Clanegh for the second time. I was utterly unable to find Yasma Thinmarsdotter, who was supposed to have another map clue. I checked every building and got drunk in every tavern hoping for a clue.

This is where I am at this point.

My pub crawl in Clanegh paid off in another way, however, when my first NPC companion joined the party in a tavern. Nariell, a huntress, comes with a bow and 40 arrows. I haven’t done much with missile weapons since my early unsuccessful attempts, so I thought I’d keep her and see how it goes. She is highly skilled in nature-related skills and at Level 6 is much higher than my own characters. The downside is that NPCs exist in their own box off to the side, which means you can’t put them at the front of the party, which means you can’t take advantage of a lot of their skills.

Whether accepting or rejecting the NPC’s offer to join, the party leader is a jerk.

My next clue was way over in Phexcaer, a long journey overland back to Felsteyn, then down the river branch to Vilnhome, then east along the river through a long wilderness stretch. On we went through Orkanger, Felsteyn, Upper Orcam, and Vilnhome, fighting some random bandit battles on the way, stopping in each town for a proper meal and bed rest. In Vilhome, we loaded up on rations and water for the long trip upriver.

After a couple of uneventful days, the game warned that we were entering orcish lands, an event punctuated with a skull stuck on a stick. In a scripted encounter, we got stuck in a marsh for a while, and Dormauera got some kind of disease that miraculously Halberman was able to treat.

My first battle with orcs.

The fourth day out, we fought our first party of orcs–a pack of four, which wasn’t so bad. The next day, we were ambushed by eight, which was much harder. On Day 6, we met a traveler who warned us that Phexcaer is swarming with thieves–unwelcome news, as Halberman’s pocket had been picked back in Brendhil for about 80 ducats.

It turned out that I didn’t get anything for anything.

We finally reached Phexcaer after a week on the road. Halberman immediately levereld up to 4 from the fights in transit. Another large city, Phexcaer had a few features I hadn’t found in other cities, including a “gentleman’s club.” It was interesting for several reasons. First, a detailed screen that showed several scantily-clad workers or patrons, plus an animated woman dancing, was almost immediately and continually covered up by text boxes. Second, upon entering, the party was approached by a young man who asked if we wanted to purchase sex. Two of the three resulting options are to express outrage at even being asked (in which case you get thrown out) and to get down to business and ask about Hyggelik (although, oddly, the game has us say that we’re looking for Hyggelik rather than his tomb or descendants). But if you do want to take the brothel up on its services, the only option to do so is within the context of the party unanimously declaring themselves to be pansexual.

Three weird choices.

Meanwhile, if you ask about Hyggelik, the young man asks you to meet him in half an hour, “two houses to the north.” The problem is that the building two squares to the north is an armory, not a house, and none of the nearby houses had any resulting encounters. Moreover, the game doesn’t even track time in increments smaller than a whole hour. I tried nearby houses in all cardinal directions to no avail.

There’s a “gambling hall,” but you can’t actually play any gambling games. I just lost 15 ducats in a scripted encounter. A town hall had a promising option to “use its archives,” but after we paid a 10 ducat fee, we were told that a decision would be made at the next city council meeting in 3 weeks.

There were several options to talk with NPCs about Hyggelik, but they all acted like he was still alive. A guy in a bar told us he had “moved to Hermit’s Lake,” and a healer said that he had gone to Riva, which isn’t even on my map.

I’m pretty sure he died centuries ago. Are we talking about the same person?

Unfortunately, I seem to have come all the way upriver for nothing. The person I was looking for, “Gerbald,” turned out to be a smith running a shop in the southeast part of town. But no dialogue options would get anything out of him, and the most aggressive options turned into a brawl. I left the city frustrated and confused.

I figured while I was already so far west, I’d check out nearby Groenvelden–the furthest-east town on the map. But it was a tiny place with no special encounters. So now I have to make my way all the way back down the river to Thorwal and turn my explorations to the cities south of it. Maybe while I’m back in the big city, I’ll see if I have any luck in the lower levels of the old fortress.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I’m having major inventory annoyances. Between all the equipment that I feel like I should keep for when it’s necessary, backup weapons, rations and water, potions and poisons, and herbs, I’m constantly running out of room.
  • Potions would be a great money sink if they stacked.
  • Sometimes, the game doesn’t seem to apply its Scandinavian naming conventions accurately.


Or else that’s one ugly daughter.


  • Treasure chests never seen to have anything I actually want, such as weapon and armor upgrades.


A bonanza for a party of mountaineers.


  • I continue to be amused by the absurd dialogue options when dealing with shopkeepers.


No comment.


  • I give 50 silver pieces to every temple I come across and yet my prayers are never answered. I don’t even know what they’re supposed to do in theory.
  • I’ve had some weapons break, but it’s so annoying to wait the 6 hours it takes to repair them that I’ve been throwing them away and replacing them.

One thing that really struck me during this session was the overwhelming purposelessness of most of the cities and towns. Even the smallest is maybe 20 x 20 squares with a dozen buildings. In any given town, about half its buildings will have random citizens or will be empty, and the others will consist of interchangeable shops, inns, taverns, and temples. Maybe 1 in 3 cities has an NPC’s house. Prem was like 20 x 60 but hardly had anything more interesting than the smallest town. And there are over 50 cities! The developers spent an awful lot of time building numerous large spaces in which not much of anything happens.

This was also true of Spirit of Adventure, but that game had only like 3 towns. This one has several dozen. It takes forever to fully explore each one, but you must lest you miss that one important house.

I’ve just crossed the game’s 20th hour. By the same time in most Gold Box games, I was over halfway through the plot, had leveled up 5 times, and had six or seven magic items among the party members. For this game, I still feel like I’ve just started, I’ve leveled up twice, I still mostly have my starting inventory, and I keep spending hours exploring places that offer no sense of reward or resolution. I’m beginning to think that this isn’t a very good game.

Time so far: 23 hours

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