QfG5: Freedom and its Complications

There are always complications, aren’t there?

The Rites of Rulership are a series of tests of worthiness to become king of Silmaria. The content of the Rites is not fixed, but chosen to reflect the problems facing the kingdom at the time. Thus, it’s all a big contest to see who’s most capable of providing the kingdom with the kind of help it needs. In this game, the rites chosen are:

  1. The Rite of Freedom: The fishing villages along the coast are occupied by Hesperian mercenaries. Each of the five candidates for the throne is supposed to liberate a different village, and return with its sigil as proof. (I suppose the fact that there are five villages is the reason that the Rites require five participants.) The significance of the sigil is unclear to me, but the mercenaries must think it’s important, because they abandon the village when you find it.
  2. The Rite of Conquest: Assault the mercenaries’ island fortress and bring back their general’s shield. There doesn’t seem to be a nonviolent way to do this, even though you’re explicitly told that negotiating a truce would be considered just as much a success as flipping out and killing everyone.
  3. The Rite of Valor: On a remote island lives the Hydra. It never truly dies, but chopping off its heads and applying fire to the stumps will render it dormant for years, and it’s kind of traditional for heroes to do this. This Rite apparently requires two people, one to administer the chopping and one to handle the fire, but only one person can bring back its teeth as proof of victory. Although it seems like the Paladin’s flaming sword should be able to do both jobs, no?
  4. The Rite of Destiny: The first Rite that doesn’t involve fighting! All you have to do is go to Delos Island and listen to the sybil there tell your future. In the case of the player character, this consists mainly of dire warnings about the need for self-sacrifice to avert disaster.
  5. The Rite of Courage, which you might think is a synonym for Valor, but no, it’s a different rite: Descend into the underworld and bring back water from the river Styx. And while you’re down there, you might as well pick out a wife.
  6. The Rite of Peace: In something of a throwback to the first two rites, you have to stop attackers from making war on the kingdom’s ships. This time, though, it’s the tritons inhabiting the sunken ruins of Atlantis, which gives the designers an opportunity to show off underwater combat.
  7. The Rite of Justice: Find out who the ultimate bad guy is and win the game. This is the one rite I still haven’t finished.

You might object that some of these rites don’t seem to be helping the kingdom at all. How is there a pressing need to kill a hydra on a distant island? Or to visit an oracle? If you make such objections, you’ll be pleased to learn that you’re not alone: Elsa von Spielburg voices similar sentiments. Rakeesh, a liontaur paladin and old friend of the hero who’s helping out in organizing the Rites, will explain if you ask him: during each of the first two Rites, one of the participants was murdered. So for the third and fourth, they just wanted excuses to get you as far out of harm’s way as possible.

Now, to some extent, the rites support multiple approaches. You can win the Rite of Peace by singlehandedly taking on the Altantis home guard and forcing the queen to surrender, or you can sneak into her throne room and use diplomacy, convincing her of your honest intentions and then proving that she’s been tricked into war by the story’s true villain. (Fighters get extra points for choosing the violent route, and I think it likely that Thieves are rewarded for the sneaky one.) Similarly, I was able to complete the first rite, the Rite of Freedom, without fighting at all in my Wizard game simply by casting Calm repeatedly until I had the sigil.

As a Thief, I can do almost as well at avoiding combat in the Rite of Freedom. If I wait until nightfall, I can sneak to the building containing the sigil without being spotted. However, there are four guards inside, and no obvious way to avoid them. Even as a Thief, I can take them in a fight if I pop a healing pill every four seconds. But I feel like there must be a more thiefly way — something where I create a distraction, make them evacuate the building or something. So I’ve been devoting more thought this rite as a Thief than I did with the Fighter or Wizard.

How does a Thief approach this kind of competition?

When you think about it that way, the answer is obvious: He cheats.

OK, so how do you cheat? The only way I could think of was to interfere with the other candidates. If I could steal their sigils from them before they brought it back, they wouldn’t get credit for winning. Better yet, perhaps I could sneak in there and get the sigils from the other villages before them.

Somewhat to my surprise, this worked. Not only is it possible to get the sigils from all five villages for yourself, you also get ten points and a unique magic item with each one. And this reward isn’t limited to the Thief, which makes sense when you think about it. All five villages need to be saved, and you’re a hero, so save them is what you should do, regardless of whether you’ve been assigned to the task or not. I’ve been saying all along that starting over with a different class is a good way to find things that you missed the first time round, but I wasn’t expecting to find missing points before I completed the game and knew how many points I was missing.

At any rate, I still think I may be missing out on something with the Thief. But now I have a motivation to replay most of the game with the Fighter and Wizard as well, to get the 40 points. At this point, I’m glad I advanced them as much as I could before starting the Rites. I may well stop devoting my time to one class at a time now, and play the game more like I played QfG1: bouncing back and forth between saved games for every class, playing whatever part of the game I have ideas about.

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