Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Temple of Elemental Evil

I completed Cugel's Saga last month and now I'm going to start Rhialto the Marvelous.  When I've finished I'm going to sit down and work on a spellcasting section and finalize the magic using class, or at least its first level.


In the meantime I've been playing the Temple of Elemental Evil through Good Old Games (GOG).  This would be my third experience with a 3.x edition computer game.  I absolutely love Icewind Dales 2 (and it's predecessor) while I loathed Ruins of Myth Drannor due to it's flagrant disregard of XP rules and from what I could tell inability to flee from combat.  As you can imagine this can be quite fatal when your 1st level party accidentally walks near an incorporeal spectre.  Since both Ruins and ToEE were both turn based I was cautiously optimistic of what to expect.

I'm playing with the Circle of 8 modpack because like all Troika games it was unbelievably buggy.  I fell prey to the secret door bug about an hour and a half in and had to start from scratch.  The modpack has a wealth of new content which is nice since the content in the main game is rather sparse to put it nicely.  Plus it allows you to accrue a fair amount of experience without dealing with the monotony and excessive backtracking in the Hommlet, lazy town people's quests.

Of course that's not really the issue here, the game is called the Temple of Elemental Evil so let's talk about the actual Temple!  My first observation was how well thought out the actual dungeon was.  Escape tunnels, plenty of secret passages, massive combats, various critters, and an easy way for PC's to impersonate temple factions.  As I was exploring the dungeon I was beginning to regret playing a super good party because it looked like there was a lot of fun in store for the more nefarious party with the all the political backstabbing going on in the clerical hierarchy of the temples depths.

I'm enjoying the game but man are low levels lethal.  I haven't gone digging through books to verify this claim but it felt like you had a much harder time not getting in hit in AD&D (a la Baldur's Gate) then you did in the 3.x world.  Of course my experience with level 1 in AD&D mostly involved heavily armored characters (and occasionally supplemented with a good dexterity) while in 3.x most games I ran had lightly armored rogues, swashbucklers, druids and Wizards.  Not exactly the most stalwart bunch so I'll chalk that up to bias.

As a final closing thought I'd really like to point out the radial menu in ToEE that basically covers almost any action your character can possibly do.  At first I found it rather frustrating but as I grew used to I find it to be very intuitive.  My one major usability gripe though is finding more information on items in your inventory.  In Baldur's Gate/Ice Wind Dale a simple right click will tell you what you need to know AND have the option to identify it on the same screen.  In ToEE you must use the radial menu to identify an object, and if you are identifying more than a few objects/scrolls/potions at a time this can get very tedious.  Furthermore, you must shift+click to get more information on an item and some items won't even allow you to do so without first identifying the item.  This is rather frustrating when all you want to do is see what type of proficiency an item requires to be wielded.

All in all I've enjoyed my time in Greyhawk and the next time I run a D&D game I'll definitely be considering running it in Hommlet.  I can definitely see a lot of ways PC's can have fun with temple politics.  My first idea occurred after I had dispatched the Head Earth Priest while reading his journal and who he regarded as an ally and an enemy.  With that kind of information it would be trivial for the PC's to dress up in two sets of robes, stage a fight and have on member run in and declare the fire temple was attacking.  The group fighting would 'hold them off' while the actual temple forces would descend to attack their unguarded base.

Should be exciting.