(This is part of my journey playing through The Temple of Elemental Evil. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
The mob — that’s you — has spoken, and as I write this the recent poll asking which of three CRPGs should I blog about next is showing The Temple of Elemental Evil as the winner, edging out Betrayal at Krondor. It’s funny to me, because even though I bought a huge bundle of Dungeons & Dragons games from GOG.com a couple of years ago, I think this is the first of the bunch that I’ll be tackling for this series.
I do have (limited) experience with ToEE, as I bought it back in 2003 and played it for a week or so. It was probably not fair to come at it with the same expectations as Baldur’s Gate II, since this was a game revolving solely around a single adventure module and was embracing a newer D&D ruleset. I recall it was tough and, of course, very buggy.
Bugs and unfinished products were par for the course with Troika Games, which also did Arcanum and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. Troika had a kind of mad genius to that studio, putting out great RPGs that were hampered by a lack of polish and development time. It’s a testament to these games that fans have worked so hard on all of them to patch up the bugs and continue development after the studio went belly-up.
Rolling my party
Without further ado, let’s get into this playthrough! The really nice thing about older games is that you can max out all of the graphical settings without worry. It still looks a little old, but certainly better than the BG2 era.
The first question I’m asked when creating my party is alignment. I thought you’d pick per-person, but here it’s for the whole party. I’ve never been a fan of the D&D alignment system — it’s just never intrigued me enough to care or roleplay through it. I always pick true neutral, because then at least you’re not dinged for doing a bad thing while good or vice-versa. I imagine it gives me the most flexibility in how I want to play.
Here’s my first character, a Half-Orc Barbarian named Girl Grey (as part of my retro gaming tradition, I’m picking names from whoever happened to be on my Twitter feed at the moment).
As you can see, the character creation process is involved. Oh, sure, you can choose one of the pre-made, won’t-gimp-yourself characters, but who really does that? Making your own characters is one of the best parts of RPGs! Still, this is pretty deep D&D stuff, with stats and feats that I’m only partially knowledgable about.
Rolling for stats is interesting here — the game throws up six random numbers (2-18) and you can either reroll or assign those six numbers to any category you like. So there’s some choice and some RNG madness to it. The game also shows you how many times you’ve rerolled just to spite you. My rule of thumb on an acceptable roll is at least three numbers 16 or higher and the other three not being too low. Otherwise, I could be rolling all day long.
Grey Girl is our tank, so we next need a healer. Meet Ardwulf, Human Cleric and general healbot. Is it me or do so many D&D feats seem incredibly dull? I pick whatever looks good — combat casting and general survival traits, because I don’t want him dying if he gets separated in a fight. Took me 57 rolls to get his stats, by the way.
Every functional party needs a Rogue, so we have the Halfling Faya. Pretty standard stuff here — lockpicker, stealthy, can find stuff. I did put her feat in rapid reload, since I’m planning to use her from the back lines as secondary archery support.
Ignore the portrait dagger, as this is Whiteberry, my unarmed Monk. She’ll be another front-line fighter, with dodge and toughness to help out while being in the thick of the battle.
Our final party member is Tesh the Druid. She’s occupying a catch-all role of being a magic-user, a diplomat, and a secondary fighter.
I’m sure that this party isn’t optimized or ideal, but I’m hoping it’s enough to get me through the encounters ahead!