Throne of Bhaal Arcanum Wizardry 8 Syberia Arkania Morrowind

Low-Spoiler Arcanum Hints and Tips



Flattery will get you everywhere. (-: Heady with the praise from my low-spoiler Shadows of Amn directory, I've been persuaded to write one for the latest magnum opus to occupy my PC's hard drive, that being the game Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Frustrating to play, this one, but well worth the fifty bucks for the cool gameworld alone, not to mention the vast array of quests and plotlines. So vast, in fact, if you blink you may miss half of it. That's where I come in. Basically, the emphasis of these CRPG guides is on pointing gamers towards things they might not have tried, not divulging puzzle solutions or giving step-by-step walkthrough instructions. There are plenty of other sites that do that already... besides, some people don't want that stuff spoiled, they just want tips on where to look for more things to do. If you need a more explicit hint, please check out my links page for several good Arcanum walk-throughs, maps and messageboards.

Arcanum: Steamworks has great replayability in theory, what with all the different dialogue sets for different genders/races/intelligences/charismas/etc., but unfortunately movement is extremely tedious and slow, and unlike BGII, there isn't a convenient cheat set up to let you navigate the map more quickly in subsequent replayings. I'd really like to finish a whole Arcanum game with a 3-INT bimbo, but just haven't got the time or patience the hours of trudging her mindlessly across screen after familiar screen would entail. This means I'm probably missing stuff. So I hope you'll help me out by emailing me any cool character/questy bits I've missed (address tjekanefir@yahoo.com). Despite its frustrating qualities, there's easily enough in Arcanum for two or even three fun replayings, and despite the incomplete nature of this guide, I hope it can help you locate enough of what this intricate plot has to offer to make it worthwhile.

Arcanum Review
Arcanum Hints and Tips
Arcanum NPC Guide
Arcanum Quest List
Arcanum Walk through: Crash Site to Black Root
Arcanum Walkthrough: Tarant
Arcanum Walkthrough: Black Mountain Clan to Caladon
Arcanum Walkthrough: Roseborough and Beyond
'Is This All There Is, Or Did I Do Something Wrong?' Arcanum Help
Arcanum Cheat Code
Arcanum Links (Patches, Maps, Downloads, Editors, Etc.)
Spoiler List of Arcanum Schematics
Sitemap

General Arcanum Tips and Hints

Gender: It doesn't really matter if your character is male or female. Arcanum is definitely geared to both male characters and male players, though--if you're female, brace yourself for the tired old CRPG experience of having all the female characters make the same flirtations with you they do with the men, and don't expect any reaction from the male ones (except the occasional "hee-haw" of a dirty old gnome or dwarf sexually harassing you, that is). Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse of females is not taken very seriously in Arcanum at all, actually. If this is really going to bother you, maybe you'd better pick a different game. It was one of my bigger disappointments with it.

Race: Your race doesn't matter much to the Arcanum game-play either--again, you'll get some different dialogue, but I haven't found any to be especially better or more fun than the others. If you're playing a "small" or "large" race, though, you cannot be female. They make some half-hearted attempt to explain this in terms of the culture of each race, but the fact is they just couldn't be bothered to make female sprites in the other two sizes. It was also apparently easier to make everyone in the land a white brunette (despite their assertions that dark hair is rare for elves, every single elven character available has black hair). For some reason, character individuality is the first thing they cut in every CRPG I've ever seen. Someday, someone will make one with fewer torchlight animations and more possibilities for the main character you spend the whole game actually staring at, and my gaming dream will be fulfilled. (-: Till then, play a pale, dark-haired person, and be male if you want a race with a different sprite size.

Class: Magic and technology are equally fun to play and have equal relevance to the plot of Arcanum Steamworks, so just pick whichever seems coolest to you. If you've already played one way, by all means pick the other. Don't try to do both, though, or you won't do well at either. You can be a fighter/thief and still pursue a few spells or schematics, but you will lose out if you try to take spells and schematics.

Disciplines: You won't be able to master all the magickal/technological disciplines in Arcanum Steamworks, so skim through ahead of time and decide which schools look more appealing to you. You can also balance things out with NPCs, especially in the tech areas. It's a pain in the ass transferring all the Smithy ingredients to Magnus all the time, but it frees you up to study Electricity, and everyone can benefit from the items both of you make. Here's a spoiler list of schematics found in the game but not in the manual, if you're having trouble deciding which disciplines to pursue.

Intelligence: Intelligence matters a LOT to the Arcanum game-play. The smarter you are, the more quests you can get. I'm not even sure which quests and possible quest solutions are intelligence-related, but I'll hazard a guess that at least a third and maybe as much as a half of the game is going to be inaccessible to you if you're dumb. Low intelligence can also keep you from ever having some of the NPCs in your party. You can finish Arcanum with a low INT--and the "stupid" dialogues are so funny they've had me weeping when I've tried it--but it'll be a much shorter and rather less satisfying ride.

Alignment: Alignment matters a little in Arcanum; some NPCs, quests, items, and options are available only to good characters and others only to evil ones. I have not found anything available only to neutral characters, so pick an alignment early and keep your score as high as you can. You can easily increase your "good" score if you need to just by giving money to beggars. Killing people increases your evil score easily enough, but also tends to bring serious repercussions down on your head--guards may attack you, but worse, almost everyone in Arcanum is part of at least one quest, and if you kill them, you won't be able to finish their quest. There are several evil quests and evil quest solutions around--if you pursue those avidly and avoid gratuitous niceness, you should be able to keep your evil score high. The trick is to role-play a really mean SOB, not just someone who's selfish and does whatever's best for number one. The truly self-interested thief will pretty much come out neutral in Arcanum, which is useless to you for game purposes.

Stats: Some of your other numbers can also affect Arcanum's game-play a little, notably beauty, charisma, persuasion skill, thieving skills, and your magickal/technological aptitude. You get a few more possible quests and options if each of these is high--though of course, it's impossible to have both a high magickal and technological aptitude.



NPCs: The NPCs in Arcanum are a very mixed blessing. They will make combat with anything of equal or lesser power to you extremely easy, for they will automatically run over and smite the enemies and deal with their own combat management. This is convenient. Even more convenient, those with healing magic (like Virgil) will automatically use it when people (like you) get wounded, and those with skills (like lockpicking) will automatically jump in and take over for you if their skill is higher than yours. Most convenient of all, they carry your stuff. I can't even imagine the annoying backpack management and constant running to the store soloing Arcanum would entail; a friendly Sogg Mead Mug lugging your baggage around the realms is a godsend. Unfortunately, the NPCs also make combat with anything of greater power a nightmare. It is impossible to engage in tactics with them around. You can't sneak up on things; they will charge as soon as they sight an enemy. You can't draw a monster away from a group; they will charge the group. You can't get wimpier NPCs to stand behind stronger ones; they will charge to the front line. You can't get them to retreat when they're hurt; they will whine that they are about to die, but they won't flee and there's no way to tell them to. You can't coordinate an attack in any way. If you summon something, they will usually attack it and turn it hostile. (NEVER use that gem the halflings give you, for instance.) If you give them a weapon to carry or they pick one up off the ground (some NPCs are scripted to pick anything they can find up off the ground, even if it's much too heavy for them and completely worthless, so be careful breaking open chests and always dispose of rubbish in a container), they will often put away their own weapon and equip it even if it's cursed or their strength is too low to wield it. Basically, there is no way to use your superior intelligence and tactical skills against the game's AI, for your NPCs will drag you down to its level whether you like it or not. Don't attack anything unless your guys have a clear advantage on paper.

I've given some specific pointers about NPC's in this section: Arcanum NPC Guide.

Gameplay Problems: Movement in Arcanum is the worst I've seen in a game in a long time. You have to scroll the screen over, click on it, and then scroll it over again any time you want your character to move. It's awkward, unpleasant, and slow. I was misled into thinking the Conveyance spell "Spatial Distortion" might allow me to teleport me across the screen, but no--it will only teleport you within your immediate range of sight, and you still have to scroll to it, so it's usless for transportation purposes. The only tricks I've found to help speed up movement at all: a) Always have Number Lock on to make your character go at top speed. b) If you're traversing already-explored area, use the map to set waypoints to your destination. At first this is a pain, since Arcanum's waypoint-finder is extremely picky, but once you've set them up, the character will move faster because the screen will auto-scroll. Also, you can go get a sandwich or something while the character runs. c) The fifth-level Conveyance spell, "Teleportation," will only take you to a destination on the large map, so it's of no use getting around town or through dungeons. However, you can use it to avoid having to backtrack through dungeons or out of town--just cast it anywhere and you can immediately switch to the town center of your choosing. It may be worth cheating to give yourself this spell early on, just to cut down on the frustrations of travel. d) Always keep your main character as free of encumbrance as possible, since he or she controls the pace of the party. It makes little difference if Magnus takes a long time to catch up to you; you can start talking to the shopkeep or whatever without him. e) There's a bug that sometimes makes your characters all start moving at a truly glacial speed. You'll know it if it happens, because it literally freezes each little leg movement for a few seconds. This bug may be triggered by encumbrance, but dropping everything doesn't help. The only way I've found to avoid it is to reload a game from before the bug occurred. This solves the problem. Always save regularly and using more than one game slot. (That goes for any CRPG, of course.)

Interface Problems: Your armor and weapons will periodically get "damaged" in combat. This can get very annoying very fast. Most CRPGs have some "reality" feature or other which makes the game unpleasant to play: food that must be manually ingested every six game hours, NPCs who have complicated schedules and must be tracked down in a different place every hour of the day, dozens of extras with nothing to say and no relevance to any quest cluttering each inhabited area and making it hard to find the useful denizens. Arcanum's contribution is weapons and armor wearing out over time. Keep a careful eye on how damaged things get, because when their hitpoints reach 0, items will break forever. To prevent this, you have to take them to a blacksmith for repair whenever they get damaged enough. And to add insult to injury, you can't repair anything an NPC is wearing or wielding, so you have to strip them and move their items to your inventory over and over to keep them functional. I'm not one to advocate cheating in most situations, but this tip is purely a matter of inconvenience to the player, not strategy or anything else meaningful: use a cheat to give yourselves five ranks in repair, and you won't have to run back and forth from every dungeon to a blacksmith, nor waste your time and energy rotating your inventory all the time. You'll still have to strip now and then, but there's nothing you can do to avoid that.

Time Management: Time is essentially irrelevant in Arcanum. I have never found a quest that disappeared after any length of time. So take your time, and if you find it annoying to try to navigate in the dark, just sleep or wait till morning every time the sun sets. You lose nothing by doing so.

Playing Style: You may feel very ambivalent about sharing your survival story with strangers. Some of them will be moved and give you money, items, and information, like you better, or even join your group. Others will attack and try to kill you. I suggest that after the first incident, you pick a tack: be forthcoming, be paranoid, or be forthcoming except when you get suspicious vibes off of people. Then role-play that. This is more fun and more interesting than telling everyone and reloading if they react negatively.

Bonus Areas: There are a whole bunch of areas on the Arcanum world map that have nothing to do with any quest. They have monsters to fight and treasure to take, and that's it. No one will ever direct you to them. They're basically just little rewards for the kind of people who actually like to manually walk from town to town rather than using the world map, and will run into them. If you're not such a person, here is a list of coordinates where you can find such places if you want to. You never have to go to any of these if you don't want to--there's nothing you need there, just a little extra combatty goodness.

Coordinates: Ancient Maze (1367W, 1585S); Ancient Ruins (1755W, 1480S); Bog (1075W, 515S); Broken Cathedral (1627W, 1207S); Cold Place (1611W, 1415S); Forbidden Pit (831W, 1033S); Lair of Bogaroth (640W, 1765S); Old Blind Masterís House (750W, 556S); Old Lagoon (1695W, 1319S); Secret Village (1320W, 181S); Small Camp (1261W, 479S); Small Pond (1595W, 882S); Strange Ceremony (1373W, 706S); Uncharted Cave (1048W, 695S); Wolf Cave (1230W, 1530S)

Lawnmowing: Don't even think about lawnmowing Arcanum (i.e. finishing one section, then moving on to another). Most of the quests will require you to go to multiple areas to finish them, and you will wind up getting information on completely different topics as you do them. Don't let that frustrate you; kick back and do whichever of your quests interests you most, then go back for the next. There is no time limit on any of them, and the interesting and well-thought-out quests are the best part of the Arcanum game, so take your time and enjoy every one.

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