Might and Magic: Crossing the Desert

I spent most of my last session mapping out several new map sectors: contrary to expectation, I failed to find a way of teleporting to other towns from Erliquin, and made my way back to Sorpigal the long way. The next town in the quest chain was Dusk, which is surrounded by a large area of desert.

I’m not entirely clear on the mechanics behind desert tiles yet, but they seemed to have two effects when I tried crossing on foot. First, they cause you to become “lost”, which I think means that they spin you in a random direction. I could be wrong about the randomness; it’s entirely possible that it’s deterministic, in which case a thorough mapper could find a reliable way through. Regardless, the effect on my attempts at crossing is that after spending a number of turns in the desert, I would wind up stumbling out on the same side as I started.

Second, being in the desert automatically consumes food. Every character can carry up to 40 units of food, and normally only consumes it while resting. Resting is an important part of the game: it restores all your spells and hit points, and cures most conditions, except extreme ones like “Poisoned” and “Dead”. (The effects of poison actually become worse every time you rest. It doesn’t deal damage turn by turn like in Wizardry, but rather, makes you weaker day by day.) And you can rest nearly anywhere, even in dungeons, so the length of an expedition is normally only seriously limited by your desire to get back to an inn and bank your winnings before you lose a fight and, with it, your progress. But resting is only effective if you have food, so having a sudden fast drain on your food supply is a pretty big deal. There’s a cleric spell that creates just enough food to satisfy the entire party for one rest, and that may be the key to desert exploration.

But I took the teleport express to Dusk instead. And completing that leg of the quest gave me enough experience to learn the Fly spell, which teleports you to whatever map sector you specify, provided you’re outdoors when you cast it. (The spell description says it sends you to the “safest” spot in that sector, which seems to mean the entrance to a town if there’s a town available.) Suddenly, distance is no longer the obstacle that it was. There are two more towns to visit, and I no longer have to worry about how to reach them. I can get to them without exploring their surroundings.

I still want to thoroughly explore and map every sector, though, because there’s important stuff to be found out there. Back in Sorpigal — which I think I’ll still be visiting regularly, because the food is so cheap there — there’s a bunch of statues with plaques giving hints for quests. One of the more riddlish ones concludes with the line “Judgement day is then sought out”. I believe I’ve found what this refers to: a colossal statue with a set of scales that you can cause to pass judgement on your characters (and which currently finds everyone in my party unworthy). It’s found in a hidden area in the mountains, behind the outdoor equivalent of a secret door: a tile partition with the “impassible mountain range” texture which you can nonetheless pass through. The only reason I found it is that there was a seemingly unreachable space on my map.

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