Early and Midgame Guide
Now that you've gotten through the Valmorgen via Sewers or have completed The Trial of Venn's Spire, you can finally take your adventures beyond the city to far away lands in Ardania. This guide will provide an overview of what's out there, but keep in mind the game is open-ended and there are no fixed goals, so there is no 'right' way to play it. Whatever you do is ultimately of your choice.
- Gaining Gold: Gold is an important resource needed to supply your character with items, healing aids, consumables, and stat training.
- Levels and HP: Levels alone do not have any effect on combat mechanics and are not a good indication of character strength. Levels do affect the character's primary attribute (which ranges from very important like Intelligence, to nearly useless like Artifice), and the amount of Hit Points a character has. Early in the game, it is important to consider that if your max HP is too low, you will not be able to utilize certain healing aids to the fullest extent. For example, about 150 HP is needed to make good use of Rejuvenation Tonics, and 300 HP for an Elixir of Health. When the character gains more HP, the Total Restoration Tincture can be utilized to heal even more health.
- Items Searching: Improving your equipment, an important part of hero development and perhaps the most significant aspect of the game, is discussed later in more detail.
- Consumables: Some RPG players may not be prepared for the significance of consumables in this game. These are mandatory for completing certain quests and defeating difficult encounters. More on this below.
- Stat Training: Heroes may raise some of their stats by training at different locations of Ardania. Currently heroes may train Strength at East Cheswick Gymnasium, Vitality at Elven Village Sauna, Intelligence at Valmorgen Library, Willpower at Mayhew Meditation Chamber, Artifice at Lormidia Rogues Guild up to 12. Heroes may also train their Magic Resistance for 15 points at Valmorgen Library. Besides training combat stats, it will be necessary to train Craftmanship at some point in order to utilize schematics.
See also: Hero Attributes, Training Tables
- Quests: Most quests do not offer any rewards that are useful in the long run and are there solely for your enjoyment. The three exceptions: Merlan's Quests, which when completed grants access to new schematics and potions, the "Enlist at the East Cheswick Outpost" quest, and the "Ascend the Wizard's Tower" quest. That said, some quests are easier than others and can provide a significant gold boost for relatively little effort. Example: 8000 gold in Lormidia for the "Tempus Fugit" quest.
- Spellcasting: If your character has an INT of 10 or less, you may want to train your INT to 11. This will enable you to learn spellcasting and Flame Shield. This is a lot of effort for a single spell, but the effects are significant and about equivalent to a 'free' mid-level item slot.
To get out of Valmorgen, you must complete The Trial of Venn's Spire. There are three main maps, opening up three major areas. A guide to those locations most relevant to the early/midgame is given below.
Keep in mind that different areas are optimal for different classes, particularly in the early stages of the game. If you are having trouble with particular encounters in an area, one possibility is to avoid such encounters, using Potions of Monster Detection, purchased from the Wizards Guild. In the event that you find an important encounter that is particularly difficult, a good strategy is to equip items such as the Wand of Lightning Storm and Anti-Magic Gems just for that encounter. These and many more helpful items can also be found at the Wizards Guild.
Overview of Places to Go
- Mayhew: This should be your first destination, arriving via Central Plains and then the Sovereign Road. There are several quests here to get your feet wet, and you can get a map to the Fertile Plains (which you need to get to the Trading Post) In addition, you are one turn away from Lormidia (via the Ferry) which is definitely worthwhile to buy some items from the Magic Bazaar. It is better to do the Goblin Quest (which grants access to Goblin Shop) for Elf and Dwarf classes since they can not enter Gnome Hovels.
- Central Plains: The Central Plains have several important locations to be found within them, but the plains themselves have only one good encounter for loot, the Goblin Fortress. Clearing the Goblin Fortresses here is probably your earliest shot at finding items better than what can be found at the Blacksmith. The Bandits and Medusas who roam the plains carry a good amount of gold for the early game, but watch out for the Medusa's very high magic resistance if you're playing a spellcaster. Also, don't feel too bad when you decide to fight the Rock Golems and lose really badly...
- Treldan Wood: This area has two important locations: Darkmoor Swamp and Lichfield Hollow which will need to be found by exploring the Woods. Make sure your retreat settings are correct because you can be surprised by Daemonwood encounters, which are usually fatal early on. You'll eventually need to go to Lichfield Hollow to socket your items, and to complete several early quests. Avoid the Swamp, because you will need to find your way out again, unless you're a Ranger, and the monsters in there are quite powerful. On top of that, Swamp Trolls will jump you and kill you even if you are using potions of monster detection! It's probably best to leave off exploring here until later in your career, but bring plenty of healing aids along whatever you do.
- The Goblin Territory: Accessed from the Sovereign Road on the Central Plains, the Goblin Territory is a good easy-to-handle area with good rewards. Many classes might want to try this area to gain a bit of gold before wandering elsewhere. But beware, for you can exit this location only by finding the exit or an escort by chance, unless you're playing a Ranger. As with all locations like this, and there are several, bring along plenty of healing aids before you think about entering. Potions of Monster Detection will allow you to avoid battles while you search for a way out, making them handy for this sort of work also. This area is especially good in that you will fight larger numbers of weaker foes. This means that classes with Area Effect damage are particularly strong here, as are those with high armor values. However, be careful with the Goblin Fortress encounter, some of which have Deathtowers which greatly increase the difficulty of the fight due to their high HPs and persistent ranged barrage. Note also the goblin priests cast offensive damaging spells which is very difficult to deal with for lower hit point heroes.
- Catacombs: Accessed from the Graveyard (discovered by exploring the Central Plains), the Catacombs is a lucrative early location for classes with high damage output, but are probably not the best choice for many other classes. Vampires can be quite difficult early on with their high magic resistance and Life Leach spell, and appear all too frequently in encounters here, even in the Graveyard! You will generally be unable to ever resist their Life Leech and will thus consistently take damage quickly. (Except wizards and dwarves). Potion of Monster Detections and Invisibility Gems greatly help battles against them . This area is a great place for Priestesses to hunt, as they can use Control Undead to charm anything that dwells here, and can pick up as many as 3 Vampire followers which are much better than her animated Skeletons. Note that they will leech a lot more XP due to their stronger offense and ability to attack on round one however. (Not to mention this increases your susceptibility to magic resistant foes). Also Healers and Paladins may greatly aid from their Harm Undead spell here.
- Buried Cathedral This place can be found inside the catacombs via exploring. Buried Cathedral is a good destination for players looking for lots of gold. However the main source of gold and items are inside Vaults, which are protected by Black Phantoms. If you may reach 150-160 MGR with items and spells, this places becomes an awesome place to gather gold when coupled with Treasure Chests.
- Fertile Plains: Lots of good items can be found here, including gloves, boots, bracers, and beard rings. The prized jewel of this is the "Escort Caravan" encounter, which is relatively difficult, but holds hard to gain important items (especially Rumble Mitts and Battle Boots). The presence of Greater Gorgons make the area quite challenging. Although this area is rich in loot, heroes should take caution, either by being selective in choosing when to fight, or using items for specific encounters. Heroes relying on spell damage may have trouble against the Medusae here. Buy the map from Mayhew's Map Maker for 1500 gold to access this region. You should not tackle this area until you are level 15 (or familiar with the game).
- East Cheswick: Since Trading Post is removed at 2010 Reset, this place lost great importance. However still host some importance due to Battle of the Plains and training strength for some classes. Heroes may find more interesting Guard Duty assignments here.
- Dark Forest: To gain access to the Dark Forest you must visit the Tavern in East Cheswick and observe the Rumors - make sure you get all the necessary rumors, since without them you won't be able to access certain things inside the Dark Forest. Every hero should come to the Dark Forest at some point for its important items, an aura to be gained at the Paladin's Keep, and to complete Merlan's Quests needed to gain access to his shop. The Dark Forest contains some difficult monsters, such as Oculi and Warlocks but the number of monsters you'll encounter also depends on your level. By using Potions of Monster Detection, the randomly attacking dangerous opponents may be avoided in most cases. This area is even tougher than the Fertile Plains so beware. All heroes (including Rangers) cannot leave Dark Forest without randomly finding a way out.
- Wild Gardens: The Wild Gardens can be found by exploring the Dark Forest and if you have the needed rumor in your journal. A number of important stat-enchancing items, such as the Black Stone, are found here. The monsters present are relatively easy and the area is friendly to weaker hero classes, provided that the Bracer of Defilement (or Poison) is equipped against Invisible Trolls. To take advantage of this location early in the game, you might consider avoiding the more challenging monsters in the Dark Forest while arriving here. It will also take quite a while to escape the Gardens and then the Dark Forest, so expect a long stay.
- Hellfire Mountains: To access the mountains, you must either purchase a map from Farseer at Lormidia, or defeat the Barbarians guarding the bridge in the Dark Forest (However you need to find your way to Southern Pass manually if not owning a HFM South map). The Hellfire Mountains contain the "mystic" items necessary for crafting many schematics. There are four mountain regions: North, South, East, and West, each with its own distinct monster encounters. The South region is suitable for mid-strength heroes (with lots of consumables) and includes insane amount of useful items at lairs. The West region contains Greater Gorgons and is best suited for heroes with high physical damage or magic resistance as well as decent amount of armor. The North region is quite challenging and should be avoided by unprepared heroes. The East region is the easiest portion of the mountains containing mostly Goblins.
- Traveller's Dell: Located in the center of the Hellfire Mountains, you'll need to visit here to buy maps to access the regions. Traveller's Dell can be reached by the Southern Pass out of Lormidia, after a map is purchased from the Farseer there. Classes wearing robe armor should visit here as soon as possible, to purchase an Ironcloth Robe, which can be enchanted at the Wizards Guild. Do buy the Travellers Cloak and Mountain Boots while you are here!
- Elven Valley: Also located inside the Hellfire Mountains, you can only reach here after completing the Elven Escort mission, found at random in any of the four regions of the Hellfire Mountains. There are useful items available in the Elven Valley and at the Elven Village, though after 2010 Reset Elven Blacksmith sells charged items instead of nice class specific goods.
- Leprechaun Valley: Some have used this location to gain a quick amount of gold, but the cost in turns needed to enter and exit depends chance and may be undesirably high. If you want to use this place for gathering gold, make sure to bring poison, a lot of Potion of Monster Detections and Invisibility Gems. It is not a good idea for classes with limited attack power (e.g. Healer, Monk, Gnome) to camp here since you need to defeat 1-5 Leprechauns in 40 rounds in order to get out of here. So if you are not capable of getting out, then don't open Treasure Chests!
A subjective list for comparing difficulties of early, mid and mid-late game areas based on mostly roaming monsters is below. The main threats are given in paranthesis:
Easy : Catacombs (Vampires), The Royal Timekeepers' Basement (Deranged Heroes), Lormidia Sewers (Ratman Stalkers), Hellfire Mountains East (Evil Oculi and Ice Golems), Wild Gardens (Invisible Trolls), Leprechaun Valley (Mimics)
Medium : Fertile Plains (Rock Golems and Greater Gorgons), Darkmoor Swamp (Bog Golems and Flesh Hunters), Ratman Battleground (Ratman Stalkers and Ratapults), Hellfire Mountains West (Greater Gorgons and Ice Dragons), Elven Valley (Dragons and Ice Dragons)
Note that there are some tough monsters at not-hard locations. However they either rarely appear, are easily ignorable, or are encountered only on special events.
For a comprehensive list of locations, see the "Locations" section.
The article on basic combat strategy covers the use of consumables also. It is worth noting that these make a very large difference in encounters. Most characters will get quite a bit of use out of the Shapeshift Tincture, which boosts armor and HPs. Regeneration Elixirs and Dirgo Strength or Fire Balm also boost short-term power. As an added bonus, they last for 9-11 turns. Note that archery heroes can take advantage of BOTH Fire Balm and Dirgo Strength together for a big boost in offensive potential.
Poisons deal damage over time to a foe, and more importantly prevent regeneration. Even the 20 gold one will make the difference between a long, healing aid-eating fight with a regenerating Elderwood, and a much quicker, easier one.
The Potion of Monster Detection deserves special mention. It takes 6 gold per turn, but prevents almost all monsters from getting the drop on you. With this active, you will always have a chance to bypass (almost) any encounter. This is vital for escaping from an area where you must find an exit. You can use this to explore a zone that is too difficult, in order to search for Schematic parts or whatever. Finally, this can help you from getting defeated by 'spoiler' monsters; those that are too strong for their area. For example, the daemonwood groups that most adventurers under level 12 learn to loathe. At higher levels, you will earn enough gold to effectively permanently keep Monster Detection active.
Healing Aids are obviously important. One non-obvious note is that you can buy the mid-level Rejuvenation Tonics in Lormidia, which costs 150gold for +100 HPs. This is a really good deal for most mid-level adventurers who are past Healing Potions, but hate to waste gold on Elixirs which are overkill.
Charged items are in a different category, but similar in function. By the time you have exited Venn's Spire, you have probably discovered the power of the Wand of Lightning Storm. At 320 gold per use, it is not cheap. But it does allow you to progress and defeat most hard fights that you encounter before level 15. This is probably the most important consumable in terms of swinging a fight in your favor. The invisibility gem is very good against ranged and spellcasters, who can attack you on the first three rounds. The other early wands seem too expensive for their effects.
Items are the single biggest determinant of a character's power, much more important than base stats and level once these two measures have reached a certain point. For this reason, item hunting is a large part of hero development. As soon as you leave Valmorgen, you can begin the search for mid-level items by defeating certain monster encounters.
- For classes who can wear Plate or Chain Mail, it is of great benefit to obtain this early, since these armors are much better than the Leather Scale Mail which is the best that can be purchased from the Blacksmith. Armors are virtually found at every location, quality mostly depending the difficulty of the lair.
- Totemic Masks found lying around the Treldan Wood are great for Rangers, Barbarians, and Cultists.
- Cloaks, Gloves, Bracers, and Boots mostly found on the Fertile Plains.
- Dwarven Beard Rings found on the Fertile Plains and other locations.
- Stat-enhancing accessories found in the Wild Gardens (as well as Elven Valley), which is not a terribly difficult area to explore if you can get through the Dark Forest. This requires a big turn investment though, as you must get the needed rumors to travel there, then potions of monster detection to avoid the large majority of the fights.
- stat boosting weapons crafted from schematics sold at Valmorgen Library
Probably the best approach early on is to head to Mayhew via the Sovereign Road. Here you can pick up several quests which will boost your gold supply nicely and give you something to do. Don't forget the Fertile Plains map in the Map Maker. Furthermore, it is very important to take the Ferry over to Lormidia and visit the Magic Bazaar. This lets you get a +4 armor Green Charm and a magic resistance one. Finally, you can pick up some valuable potions such as Shapeshift Tincture for difficult fights, and 100 health potions from the Marketplace (instead of the 150HP ones for twice the price per HP - but you still will them afterwards).
Then, go exploring as above and acquire a goodly amount of gold and items to sell (if you don't already have 5000 or more gold). The Goblin Territory is probably the best starting location for those fresh out of the Venn's Spire challenge.
Later in the game, you'll be able to go for more advanced "intermediate" items, including:
- Your class-specific schematic items, which are often top-choice weapons for your class, although this may vary. (For a list of best-choice items, see the pages for schematics or pages for individual classes)
- Schematics Gloves and Boots:
- Schematic Belt:
- Other powerful top-tier items: Gate Key, Ring Amulet, Circlet of Lycanthropy, Ring of Mighty Devastation, Rezzenthells Spellkiller / Dwarven Locket (last one can be obtained even w/o fights!).
Entering the "Late Game"
Eventually, as you collect more and more items, your stats (especially MGR) increase, the in-game encounters become easier and easier. However, there are still challenges ahead. The "late game" generally refers to the areas Desolate Wastelands, Ruins of Gar Uta, Ruins of Thallis, and Krolm's Anvil which contain quests and lairs leading to more advanced items, including a variety of class-specific items and upgrades of your Valmorgen schematic item.