(This is part of my journey playing through Arcanum. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)
As I go through Arcanum, I have to say that I’ve been deeply regretting my tendency to play it safe and smart with my character. I always do this — pick the safest choices instead of having fun with some of the more bizarre background stories and builds. I mean, I’m kind of locked into the character and path that I’m taking now — and it’s not a bad one — but I’m admonishing myself for not taking risks and just having fun with something different. I think I’m going to make a vow to myself and you right now that I’m going to challenge myself to be more experimental and daring with my RPG characters in the future if I’m given choices to do so.
Because the dev deities hate me, I can’t depart from Shrouded Hills without hitting one final speedbump. Yet another character accosts me asking for the ring. The ring, the ring, man, it better let me rule over Middle-earth at some point or I’m going to be very disappointed how the game is building this up.
All I know is that by virtue of me surviving the blimp attack and receiving this ring with the vaguest possible instructions, I’ve become a huge target for some reason. Interestingly enough, the game gives me several opportunities to rid myself of the ring, from selling it to just handing it over. I’m somewhat curious what might happen if I do so, but choosing the “I recommend you get the hell out of my way, sir” line and opening up with my revolver is a great movie moment that I don’t want to deny to myself.
So instead of heading off to Tarant, we jog south to Dernholm. A quest or two from Shrouded Hills has pointed us there, so why not?
Honestly, if there was something closer, I would’ve done that. The problem is that overland travel brings up the possibility for random encounters — and this is a long stretch of travel. I have to reload five times as we keep getting into bad scraps that are way above my pay grade and level. Finally, we make it to Dernholm, which is just as ugly as Shrouded Hills. Seriously, cool setting and all for this game, but man these are some butt-ugly landscapes and buildings, even for 2001. Especially for 2001. Baldur’s Gate did areas better than Arcanum.
Durnholm is a strange place. Lots of boarded-up houses. The local healer-in-training spills some of the backstory: There was a plague a couple of years ago that wiped out a bunch of folks, and the king is stubbornly sticking to a magic-only policy even in the face of technological advances. Ah, this should be fun for a tech-centric player, eh?
We find Sarah, the daughter of the mine ghost, squatting in an abandoned home. She spits venom (figuratively) at her brother for heckling her mom into signing the mine over to him and then taking it and selling it to a businessman in Tarant. The only help she can give me is the name and address of the business.
In the inn, a short-tempered half-ogre stomps on my face when I ask him a question. Reload! In the inn, a gnome named Vollinger listens to my story and mentions that I probably need some help — but he’s not offering, necessarily. Virgil doesn’t like him much, which means I like him even more because when RPGs stick you with a whiny, semi-useless male companion from the get-go, all you want to do is get revenge any way you can after that. Just ask Carth Onassi.
Anyway, Vollinger won’t join my party, but I think it might be a level issue. I’ll keep him in mind as I get a room for the night and save the game. All these reloads left me wiped out…