Welcome, Travellers, to the Forgotten Realms. Our story takes place in the western lands between Icewind Dale in the North and Waterdeep in the South. To the West the Sea rolls to the shore and the eastern border is made up by Anauroch, the impassable Great Desert.
Exactly this notorious desert the evil armies of Zhentil Keep are planning to cross, to subdue the western lands and so further tighten their already iron grip on the Forgotten Realms. To achieve so vast a goal, they need magic items of great power. And that's where YOU come into play...
Here is a group of adventurers which did very well for me:
1 human Paladin,
1 elven Ranger,
1 half-elven Cleric/Fighter,
1 half-elven Cleric/Fighter/Magic User,
1 half-elven Magic User/Thief and
1 elven Magic User
Paladin and Ranger were the guys for the tough jobs. You need a bit of "firepower" in the first row of battle to save your delicate spellcasters from being beaten to pieces. Enough healing and magic power is extremely important, but to improve the fighting abilities I combined my Clerics with Fighters, so they were able to use any weapon and cast spells while wearing armour. The Magic User/Thief had the advantage of being able to use a bow. Arrows do considerably more damage than darts (MU standard missile weapon).
There is another, technical, advantage in using many multi-class characters. The level advancement in GttSF is very limited (Mages: level 6 max., Clerics: level 5 max.), so if quality won't be available, quantity must help. Of course this group advances slowly in experience, but its high flexibility more than outweighs this little flaw.
We awoke in an Inn in the town of Yartar, with a hell of a headache. We possessed literally nothing save a decent hangover. All our gear was stolen. Only slowly we realized that we have been tricked into drinking a sleeping potion while celebrating a succesful caravan escort mission. With the little money we had left (one of us was wise enough to hide some money under his pillow) we bought new armour and weapons at the local armory and strolled throught the town in search of a new challenge (and a way to earn some money...).
In the NW section of Yartar we surprised some thugs beating up a young man. After the thugs had died by our swords, the young man introduced himself as Krevish. As a reward for saving his life he joined our group and brought us to a secret cellar. Krevish's captain was there, and he gave us a mission. Our orders were to scout Nesme, a small town north of Yartar, find the hidden Bane temple and see what the local Bane Cleric was up to.
In Nesme we had to realize that some buildings were infested with monsters. We fought some Lizard Men, and the old parts of the city have been taken over by Trolls. When all the Trolls were killed and we received our reward at the local authorities, we looked for the Temple. After a short search we found the secret entrance to the Temple of Bane in the back of a deserted shop. We fought our way through some monsters and finally engaged the evil Cleric, who was occupied burning some documents. We killed him and his minions and rummaged through the remains of the documents. There we found evidence for a daring plan of the Zhentarim. They wanted to cross the Great Desert and assault this region! Thanks to the arrogance of the Order of Bane, who wanted to backstab their own allies by preventing this plan (a nice way to show your ally how dependent he is on you, isn't it...?) we learned of a Mage who knew a way to defeat the Zhentarim army. The chase was up. We had to find this Sorcerer before the enemy did.
So we travelled to Silverymoon. The Bane Cleric had an appointment there and we thought it would be a neat idea to go instead of him and see what we could find out. As we had some days time until the Festival of Mielikki (meeting time) we searched the town and quickly found a secret entry to a hidden complex in the NW, where we rescued a Fighter named Erek from his captors. He told us he was the servant of a mage called Amanitas. It turned out that this Amanitas was the guy we were searching for. But we were too late. Amanitas, the only one who knew how to spoil the plan of the Zhentarim, had been captured and taken to Everlund. We let Erek, who was eager to free his master, join our party.
But before leaving for Everlund, we took the appointment with the smith and secret Bane worshipper Broadhand. By introducing ourselves as envoys from Nesme we tricked this fool into telling us some more details of the Zhentarim plan and the childish quarrels for power between them and the Order of Bane. The Zhentarim were joining forces with the Krakens, an order of evil cultists in this region and with Orcs and Trolls from the North. The arm of Zhentil Keep was much longer already than we had dared to fear...
Everlund... somewhere here Amanitas must be held captive. After a longer search we finally found a secret passage, leading below the river to a building complex in the SW. There we fought some tough warriors and monsters who guarded Amanitas. Free again, he told us many things.
There was a way to stop the Zhentarim. For this we had to collect four magical statuettes made in the ancient city of Ascore and now distributed and hidden somewhere in the country. The power of these statuettes would open a safe passage through the Great Desert. If they ever fell into the hands of Vaalgamon (the Zhentarim general who was appointed to the task of opening this passage), Evil would conquer our homeland. Amanitas gave us two items: a "Ring of Reversal", which would redirect the power of the statuettes against Vaalgamon and a kind of "credit card", with which we were able to withdraw large amounts of money from the vaults of Yartar, Silverymoon and Neverwinter. At least our money problems were solved, though the task of obtaining all four statuettes was a heavy burden...
We went back to Yartar, to train and rest, and to prove rumours that a secret Kraken base was located somewhere in or below this town. We found nothing, but as we were about to leave Yartar, we were captured by a force of warriors which massively outnumbered us. They threw us into a cell in the underground of Yartar, and that's where we encountered Vaalgamon himself for the first time. He was haughty enough to just taunt, but not kill us right away. This was a mistake he would deeply regret later on...
We found a way out of the prison cell and had to kill lots of Kraken guards before we engaged their captain. He didn't live long... Especially for one reason: We recognized some of our stolen items among his gear. Finally we had a chance for revenge... But the danger was not over. To leave the underground stronghold, we had to cross a great water basin in which a handful of Giant Squids swam. These monsters were really a challenge and the fight was on the edge. But with luck and craft we defeated them and were able to ascend to Yartar, wet and battered, but alive.
The first statuette was hidden in the Tower of Luskan, a coastal town in the NW (Amanitas had told us as we visited him in his hometown, Secomber, after our escape from the Kraken base).
As we arrived in Luskan, we found the city full of Pirates waiting for an audience with the local leader to pay their taxes. Almost every house of the city was full of them. We slew them all and took the "taxes", which turned out to be money, magical items and weapons of sometimes great power. We also had some boring fights in the old city. The Undead there were no challenge for our two clerics... After clearing the whole city of pirates, magical items and undead, we rested at the local Inn and approached the great tower, which stood alone on a small island in the harbour.
It was good we had a rest before trying this tower. The Mages, Fighters and monsters occupying it gave us some tough fights. We had to be very careful in the complicated system of one-way-doors, secret passages and trapdoors. In one room we found a Sorcerer named Brinshaar being tortured by some Owlbears. After killing the monsters, we let him join our group, but as we finally killed the masters of the tower (NE corner) and obtained the Statuette of the East, he showed his true face and tried to threaten us into giving him the Statuette. The fool died within seconds for this treachery...
We visited Secomber again to ask Amanitas how to proceed. His order to travel back to Luskan and take a ship to the Purple Rocks didn't really make us happy. It was quite a long way to Secomber and back to Luskan... Back in Luskan we took a ship to Tuern. There we heard about a meteorite strike somewhere in the northern section of the island. We knew that meteorite ore was very valuable and suitable for the crafting of magical weapons, so we searched the volcanic canyons. First of all, we freed an old man who was held captive in an old fortress in the eastern section. As a reward he gave us a magical armour that yielded special protection against fire and heat. This was a very useful item in the fights against the fire creatures we engaged in our further search for the meteorite ore. Finally, in the NW section, we found two huge Fire Giants. They possessed the priceless ore. We quickly killed them and took our reward.
Still not really sure where to find the "Purple Rocks", we took a passage to the nearby island of Gundarlun. In the town of Gundburg we had a chance to rest and train, before we visited the palace of the local chief, King Redaxe. His daughter had been kidnapped, and we searched the town for her. We quickly found her engaged in a fight with her captors. After a short battle the enemies were lying dead and this haughty little princess joined us. We returned to the palace, where the king rewarded us with a magical shield and important information about the Purple Rocks.
Following the directions the King gave us, we took a ship back to Tuern, where, he told us, we would find someone to take us to the Purple Rocks. But on the way to Tuern our ship was attacked by Giant Squids and sank. After three days floating on some debris we stranded on Utheraal, the smaller island of the Purple Rocks. Not quite the kind of shortcut we would have taken if we had a choice, but anyway: there we were.
The leader of Utheraal told us their story. The Kraken society had made the neighboring island of Trisk their headquarter and were exploiting the poor people of Utheraal. We helped them by first clearing Utheraal of any Kraken and then taking a boat across the narrow channel dividing the two islands.
On Trisk, we had to fight our way through a menacing-looking fortress and many Kraken guards to the SW section. There we found a room which held the Statuette of the West. Its guards gave us a challenging fight, but we succeeded and gained the Statuette.
Having defeated the Kraken and in possession of the second Statuette, we travelled to Neverwinter. Here we had the luck to find a weaponsmith who was able to forge a weapon out of our meteorite ore. This took its time, though, and so we strolled through Neverwinter in search for something to keep ourselves busy. The Lord of Neverwinter told us that the gardens were infested by monsters, so we cleared them, rested and finally received a "Sword of Stonecutting" from the smith, a fine and powerful blade that proved to be of great use at a later occasion.
Before returning to Secomber to consult Amanitas again, we checked out Port Llast, a small harbour town halfway between Neverwinter and Luskan. There we heard that a mysterious ghost ship had just arrived. It was a matter of minutes to clear this ship of its undead inhabitants. Their masters were two mages, who were hidden in the aft part of the ship, which we were able to enter with a password we found in one of the bow compartments. These guys quickly paid for their evil deeds. Their protective bracers were a nice booty and the threat of the haunted ship was no more. We learned that the Mages from the Tower of Luskan had allied with the Kraken Society, but with both these threats already wiped away, this was nothing but an interesting information for us.
Amanitas sent us to Llorkh. There he thought one of the statuettes to be hidden. We already heard rumours before that something was fishy in Llorkh, so we knew there could be some trouble. But trouble already caught us in Loudwater, a town we visited on our way to Llorkh. A huge troop of Zhentarim waited for us on the only bridge leading to the eastern edge of town. We had to mobilize all our strength to win this fight, but we threw them over. One of the defeated men, Rishpal, asked us for mercy and wished to go with us. He said he had an open bill with Vaalgamon, who sent his fellows and him into battle without care for life. We believed his story and so he helped us as we cleared all of Loudwater of remaining groups of Zhentarim.
We took the chance to rest in the Loudwater Inn before proceeding to Llorkh, and this proved to be a very good idea. Llorkh was a trap. In the first building we entered, a trapdoor opened and we found ourselves in an underground corridor leading into an arena. On the seats surrounding the arena a couple of thousands of people were watching, among them Black Mages, strange Drow Elves, Orcs and Goblins. In this arena also, Rishpal proved to be a traitor, having lured us into Llorkh by order of Vaalgamon. The General was there himself, too. He said he gave us a chance. If we would win against the forces he threw against us in this arena, we would live. So there we were, fighting as gladiators for the pleasure of a mob of creeps. After three waves of opponents (which we easily defeated) Vaalgamon showed his true face again. He gave us our lives, but only until the next day, when we would have to stand the next fight. I can only say that this was the next mistake he made. Still underestimating us, he missed the chance again to kill us right away.
We were thrown into a cell in the arena complex. Soon we heard the sounds of a fight outside and in the confusion one of us was able to grip a ring of keys which had fallen before the door of our prison cell. We opened the door and saw that we have been freed by a Half-Orc who had started the brawl with the guards that gave us the opportunity to flee. Despite his strange and unpleasant look we agreed to let him join us. He proved to be a worthy ally, because he gave us an important information how to get out of this filthy arena complex. On our way out of there, we rescued some Ogres from their cell who later fought with us against the men and monsters guarding the secret door in the north section of the arena. Strange Fate lets you find friends where you least expect them... Through the secret door we reached a corridor leading to several rooms. In one of the rooms we found Rishpal, the traitor, together with the captain of this underground complex. It was a nice feeling to beat the crap out of him. And, even better than that, we also found the Statuette of the North there, together with the ones the guards had taken from us as we were imprisoned.
We reached the city of Llorkh again through a trapdoor and began to search for some more Zhentarim, to cool our thirst for revenge after this evil treachery. We found not only Zhentarim, but also a Medusa, hidden in an old castle in the eastern half of Llorkh. The many strange stone statues standing everywhere in town should have made us think... But we were lucky and killed this dangerous monster before she was able to petrify one of us with her deadly gaze.
We had enough of fighting for the moment and visited Secomber again, rested in the local Inn and consulted Amanitas. He knew where to find the last missing Statuette. It was hidden in a fortress high in the Star Mountains. This prospect didn't amuse us: passing the highly dangerous High Forest and climbing mountains thought to be impassable... But what choice did we have? Vaalgamon had to be stopped, and so we agreed to try. After a brief visit in Yartar, where we trained our skills we journeyed into the heart of this mysterious wood to the foot of the highest peaks we've ever seen. We rounded the mountains in search for a way up, but it was impossible. Just as we tried to struggle up another slope too high and dangerous for us, luck hit us. We stumbled over some Giant Eagles being attacked by Giant Snakes. We slew the snakes, and the gracious creatures promised to bear us up into the high mountains as a reward. Soon we saw the fortress and the eagles brought us there, agreeing to wait until we returned to bear us down again.
The inside of the fortress was a confusing maze of one-way-doors and rooms full of powerful monsters under the spell of the mistress of the fortress, a sorceress calling herself Cetienne. We had to slay many a Griffon, Ogre, Hellhound and even Black Dragons and Medusae to reach Cetienne herself, who was hidden in a small room in the western section of the fortress. Her haughtyness soon was silenced by a collision with our blades and we were able to obtain the last Statuette, together with some interesting magical items which had belonged to Cetienne. Among them was a "wand of defoliation". This item seemed quite useless at first glance ("What are we? Gardeners...?"), but later we would be glad to have it...
The eagles bore us down again and, now having all four statuettes, we went straight to Amanitas. He sent us to Ascore, the dead city at the edge of the Great Desert. There the ancient Pyramids stood where we would be able to unleash the power of the statuettes, together with the Ring of Reversal, to bring ruin to Vaalgamon and his army and end the threat of a Zhentarim assault.
To get to Ascore, we had to pass Sundabar. Unluckily we found this city occupied by Vaalgamons forces. At least that's what we thought. An army of Ettins and other foul creatures seemed to guard the town square, the only way leading to the eastern exit. We were already preparing for a very challenging battle when we discovered the whole army was nothing but an illusion. Instead we found a fountain in the middle of the square. We were quite surprised when the fountain spoke to us, asking us to throw the statuettes into the water and promising to pay us heaps of gold for them, riches we never dreamed of... Of course this was a foul trick again; as soon as we refused this "kind" offer, the fountain polymorphed into a huge Stone Golem and attacked. But against the Sword of Stonecutting it was hopelessly inferior. One single mighty blow sliced the monster into pieces, just as if it was made of butter... We cleared the eastern section of Sundabar of some monsters and wanted to leave town by the eastern exit, leading to Ascore. There we were ambushed by some Zhentarim and monsters. They didn't give much of a fight, though... After some minutes they were dead and we walked on, closing in on Vaalgamon.
Ascore... great, long-dead city at the edge of the vast nothingness called Anauroch, the Great Desert. Here the fate of the western lands would be decided. It lay in our hands...
Entering the city was not an easy task. We had to climb a steep and slippery cliff down to the half-buried buildings. We didn't really expect any human inhabitants, and we were right. Dangerous Undead wandered the streets. It seemed that Vaalgamon's forces had no control over the western section of Ascore. We had to fight many groups of Skeletons and Mummies, before we finally found a secret passage that admitted entrance to the eastern section where the Pyramids were located. Where was Vaalgamon? We should not have asked ourselves this question, because sooner than we had hoped we were awaited. We should have known before that we could not just sneak in undetected, place the Statuettes and leave without a fight...
The General engaged us as we crossed a passage in the southeastern corner of the city. The door behind us fell shut and we were trapped in a maze full of monsters. Vaalgamon proved a coward once again by sending his minions instead of himself. We had to fight through several waves of enemies, every wave more powerful than the former, with no chance to rest between battles. There were strange creatures Vaalgamon let loose on us. Among them were Shambling Mounds, huge moving heaps of plant material. We hacked at them and had to discover that we did almost no damage to them... wait a minute... What do you do to a tree or plant that's a nuisance to you? Right! Defoliate it. My Mage pulled out the Wand of Defoliation, pointed at the monsters... and they were shaking, hurt. With the help of this magical item we were able to defeat the last wave of enemies before Vaalgamon himself and his bodyguards engaged us in battle at last, his vast army waiting behind. It was time to pay back all the taunts and terrors he had made himself guilty of.
A mighty foe he was. His guard was quickly slain by the spells our mages let loose, but Vaalgamon seemed to be not affected at all. The Fighters engaged him blade against blade and had to take powerful blows. But, finally encircling him, we struck him from all sides and were able to break his strength. He fell, bleeding from many wounds before our feet, rose again, but was dragged underground, screaming, by the wrathful decayed hands of the former inhabitants of Ascore. A terribly gruesome scene, but a fitting end to a heart so rotten. The miserable death of the once so proud Great Vaalgamon brought a grim smile of satisfaction to our faces, so much we had to endure by the hand of this man...
We took advantage of the confusion the death of their mighty leader inflicted on the army and sped up the Pyramid to complete our task. We set up the Statuettes and used the Ring of Reversal to direct their power against the hordes of Vaalgamon. Rays of blinding light sliced through their numbers, slaying them in hundreds where they stood. The Western Lands were safe at last. Vaalgamon and his army of monsters and evil men were no more. The path across Anauroch was closed for ever, Zhentil Keep had failed to conquer our people. The somehow amusing thought of many heads rolling far in the east came to our minds... We returned to Yartar in triumph, celebrated as heroes who achieved the impossible.
Hints and tips
In this section I make some comments how to achieve best results in some of the adventures. If you want to find out yourself, stop reading here. For further information see the maps of GttSF.
Only a problem in the very beginning. Take the swords and shields of your opponents and sell them. It's a bit tedious, but you need the cash for training to higher levels. After you have freed Amanitas and he has given you the "credit card", money is no problem at all anymore.
If you're just some points away from rising in level, get into the wilderness. It won't take long for some monsters to find you. All types of Giants are good sources for XP. Griffons also. They always carry some very valuable gems or jewelry. It's this value that earns you loads of XP, not the Griffons themselves, which are not very powerful opponents and easy to kill.
It's important that you gain as much hit points as possible everytime your characters rise in level. So save the game before you train, and if it's not enough, re-load and try again. Note that for a fighting-class character with constitution 18 more than 10 points are possible. Note also that for multi-class characters the amount of HP is divided by the number of classes he belongs to. A Fighter/Magic User/Cleric rising in level as Fighter can thus gain a maximum of 10 HP divided by 3 and rounded, making a total of 4 HP maximum possible. That doesn't sound much, but it levels out if he rises in the other classes, too. The fact that multi-class characters normally gain less HP than single-class characters should not scare you away from playing them, as they're so very useful and flexible.
Magic Shop and magical items
In the southwestern corner of Silverymoon you can buy a good variety of nice, but not too powerful magic items, such as arrows +1, magic darts and clerical scrolls. Especially the potions of extra healing are quite useful. Before travelling to the final fight in Ascore, for example, I dropped by in Silverymoon and bought three of these for every character. You then have the advantage of healing your heroes without the need to rest between fights. Just say "no" to the question "continue battle" and you have plenty of time to use the potions. This leaves you in the pleasant situation of being able to save your mages' powerful offensive spells for the last engagement with Vaalgamon, because you can afford a longer fight (and thus taking more damage) with the first waves of enemies.
A hundred arrows +1 for all the long-range-fighting characters? That's expensive... So what, I say. You're incredibly rich once you have the credit card and all the jewels from the many Griffons and Giants you meet...
All in all one can say that magical items are quite rare in the game. But they are mostly well-placed and useful against the special opponents you meet during the game (such as a Wand of Ice Storm and a Sword of Icewind Dale against Hellhounds, the Sword of Stonecutting against the Golem and the Wand of Defoliation against the Shambling Mounds...)
NPC's and missile weapons
Most non-player-characters are quite useless, because they tend to stand in the way when adults (you) want to play and the computer intelligence guiding their actions is on C64-niveau. Make sure that the NPC's have missile weapons (preferredly a bow and arrows). Keep yourself informed about the number of missiles they have left (buy them some if they're running short) and ready them while camping. They don't ready arrows for themselves, no matter how many they have.
Doing all this keeps them from running into melee with weak weapons, standing in the way of your good guys and having themselves beaten senseless by opponents much too hard for them. With missile weapons ready, they stand nicely where they are and shoot at anything they see. Krevish, for example, was not at all bad at shooting and thus was a real help instead of just being a nuisance in hand-to-hand combat.
Short comments on some of the adventures:
This one is tricky. Don't think that, say, if you cleared one room of emenies, it will be really clear. If you enter it again, the number of enemies will increase cumulatively. And if you enter the next room, the number of enemies will depend on how many fights you had before. The Mages and Zhentil Fighters beat the crap out of me before I realized... There are much easier ways to gain heaps of experience.
You can have it the easy way. If you try to clear the whole map you'll have a tough time (no chance to rest). Leave the northern section and the small guard houses in the east and northeast alone and fight through the buildings in the southern half of the map straight to the southwest, where the Statuette is hidden.
Most likely it was a bug in the game version I played. Everytime I entered a tavern, I had only the options "fight" or "leave" and was thrown out of the tavern by the door through which I entered. So I didn't have the chance of sneaking past the army waiting on the bridge in Loudwater through the tavern that was built over the river. If your game version doesn't have this bug, you may evade this fight. But mind you that you'll also evade all the fun...
Unfriendly town... But after you've returned there from your trip into the underground arena, you can move relatively undisturbed and clear the map of villains (and the Medusa...)
The Fortress atop the Star Mountains
Your choice again whether you want it the hard way... There's no chance to rest, so if you don't want some of your crew to die, avoid at least the Black Dragons (SW corner and a room in the SE) and the rooms with the Medusae (see map). One of these girls ain't no problem, but if there are three, the chance of killing them all before someone gets petrified are quite meager... Harpies are tricky, too. They are easy to kill, but if they charm some of your characters before, you're in deep shit. Charmed characters are a really big problem, because once charmed, he/she will be lost forever. He's considered an enemy and expelled from the group by the computer. Re-charming him or casting a Dispel Magic didnít have any effect as I tried. So, if you know that Harpies are around, don't forget to save your game!
That's it. I hope you have some fun with the game. Of course it is no "Tomb Raider Part 21", but I kind of enjoyed the storyline, which is at least as good as many of the ones I encountered within modern 3-D-Supergraphics-Megasound high end games. If there's any question concerning this game or if you have problems anywhere in one of the adventures, feel free to contact me