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Low-Spoiler Guide to Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny

Blade of Destiny--"Die Schicksalsklinge" in the original German--is the first in a trilogy of Realms of Arkania CRPG's based on the popular "Das Schwarze Auge" roleplaying system, put out by Wizardry producer SirTech. It's an underrated little game; maybe it got more attention in Germany (lord knows the English text is less than polished). Gameplay is quick and the dungeons, some of the quests, and the character advancement system are great fun; downsides are a lot of pointless dull areas, problems with the mouse, tedious combats, and irritating inventory and other interface micromanagement. Hopefully this guide can help you minimize the latter aspects of Blade of Destiny, and make the most of the former.

Realms of Arkania Review
Blade of Destiny Hints and Tips
Blade of Destiny Walkthrough
Blade of Destiny Cheats/Links
Realms of Arkania: Star Trail
Realms of Arkania: Shadows Over Riva

Blade of Destiny Hints and Tips

Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny is a very straightforward, self-contained game surprisingly free of bugs. The character advancement system is well-done and extremely detailed, leaving you enough flexibility that you can win the game with any configuration of characters you like. Here are my notes on the more problematic/annoying elements of Blade of Destiny, as well as caveats on the things you might want to know in advance.

Gameplay Problems: I've had mouse problems with this game under both Windows 95 and Windows 2000 (the cursor jitters and is difficult to use). It's not a big deal, since you can use the keyboard for almost everything. Either use keyboard commands (which are listed in the manual), or right-click the mouse and use the arrow buttons to choose from the pull-down menu (the mouse buttons work just fine). The only place it's hard to get around mouse use is buying and selling at markets, a tedious process regardless. Personally, I equipped my party via a hex editor to avoid the initial shopping, and never really had to buy anything at a store again except for whirlweeds and poison. Money flows freely in this game, and after the first dungeon I didn't bother with the aggravation of carrying loot back to town for sale, either, keeping only items that were magical or useful to my party personally.

Critical Bugs: I've only found two--in the Spider Cave, you must not burn the spider eggs. If you do, it fills the dungeon with smoke that will eventually asphyxiate you in you stay in the cave too long. Many dungeons have scenarios like this, however, this one is bugged and will continue asphyxiating you even after you leave the cave, once you have spent enough time in ANY dungeon. So you can leave the spider cave, go gallivanting around for weeks, enter the Wolf Cave and suddenly drop dead. This can really ruin your game, so just say no to burning spider eggs. Also, this did not happen to me personally, but I've heard that picking up ancient coins in the final dungeon can cause your character files to become corrupted (something that will destroy ALL your savegames), so even though I didn't experience this myself, it's probably better safe than sorry. Nothing very interesting happens when you pick up the cursed coins anyway; you just can't leave the dungeon due to the curse and have to reload. And finally, a heads-up if you bought the Arkania trilogy bundled on a CD and intend to play through all three games: put the manual in a safe place. You will need it for password purposes repeatedly in Star Trail, so if, like me, you let your 18-month-old color all over the manual after reading through it, you're going to have a lot of squinting in your future.

Classes: If you're playing on the Advanced level, you don't really need to worry about classes much, since you can give any character any skill you like. The exception is magic use--your characters will only learn spells if they are mages, elves, druids, or witches, and it will suck up their spell points quickly if they try to master more than a few spells from mismatched classes, so if you're the sort who won't be happy without access to every spell in the game, you'll need one of each (especially if you're planning on exporting your characters all the way through Riva.) Otherwise you can easily forego a druid, a witch, or both. Going without a magician or elf is harder, since the teleport spell and automatic lighting of the magician and healing spells of the elf eliminate unpleasant inconveniences. (The magician also comes with an unbreakable weapon-- a welcome relief!) Unlike many CRPGs, you don't really need a thief, since a dexterous fighter-type can learn to handle locks and traps just as well and your lockpicker will need to be in front of the party to be valuable anyway. Don't pay any attention to notations in the manual about special magical abilities possessed by ice elves; they have exactly the same spells as other elves. Combat action sprites are not customizable. Different elven races all look identical, so if you want two kinds of elves, consider making one male and the other female so you can tell them apart easily in a fight. Be warned: all male druids look like wizened old men in combat, and all female witches look like a caricature of Cyndi Lauper circa 1982. I believe it is impossible to solo Blade of Destiny, since you will occasionally need to have characters in more than one place at the same time.

Health Care Issues: This is probably the most accurate CRPG ever in terms of adventurers' health problems. This is not a good thing. Your characters will become sick if they aren't dressed for each climate they pass through. They will get sick if they sleep on the ground. They will get sick if they get wet. They will get sick if they don't get enough sleep. They will get sick if undead things or rabid dogs attack them. Their wounds will get infected if they don't stop and dress them after each combat. If you aren't monitoring their health closely and constantly, they will come down with dread diseases. You will get a headache. There is no easy way around this. Give each character a bedroll and a shirt, even though they don't start with them, and in the early stages of the game heal everyone after every combat. Alternately, give one of your characters (preferably two, since you can't heal yourself) a very high "cure disease" skill and go with cure rather than prevention. Either way, get in the habit of checking each character briefly before each night's sleep.

Equipment: Inventory management is a real pain in this game. The magic waterskin and food bag eliminate the annoying micromanagement of nutrition (I was half-expecting a calorie chart for each character), so I recommend cheating to acquire them (they don't imbalance gameplay at all, as there's always more than enough money for the party to eat well anyway). Unlike in later games, it isn't necessary to use a whetstone all the time--your weapons break if and only if you get a bad roll in combat, and wasting your time sharpening them won't help. Don't bother with smiths if your weapon does break, it's usually cheaper to buy a new weapon. Every character needs a rope, a bedroll, boots, pants, and a shirt. I'm not sure whether winter coats or snowshoes were ever of any use in Blade of Destiny--you can't cross mountains in winter even with them on. It may be that snowshoes speed overland journeys in winter, or that coats lessen the chance of frostbite. A crystal ball can increase your danger sense a little, but the leftmost character has to actually be holding it in his hand for it to work. I'm not sure whether a shovel, pick, etc. ever had any effect at all, or if they have to be in the leader's inventory to help, or actually in his hand. Gold jewelry, silver jewelry, and blue rings are only good for selling. Never pay for healing potions, since it's cheaper to buy whirlweeds and they take up less space. You don't need an alchemy set nor can you use herbs other than whirlweed, loneberry, tarnele, or thonnys until you find your first recipe (which will be a while). If you can afford it, buy expensive poison and put it on your weapons before entering heavy combats; it makes them MUCH more effective. Praying at Rondra's will make a weapon magical some of the time. You will need to 'use item' to read a scroll, book or note, and remember to use a character with high literacy. A key, tool, or quest item should be used automatically if it's in your party's inventory, but it doesn't always work that way--try putting it in your first character's inventory if you're being stymied.

Magic Items: Unfortunately, most magic items look exactly like nonmagical items, and their names do not change once you've identified them. If you have a sword vs. the undead, it is called "sword" and looks like any other sword. I kept getting identical-looking magical amulets mixed up and having to re-identify them. Sell off magic items you have no use for to avoid confusion. Amulets, belts, and rings only function if held in a hand, frustratingly enough, so you cannot use a shield or hold herbs if you are wearing one; the exception is the magic resistance amulet, which works even from your inventory.

On the other hand...: You can increase your strength or decrease your necrophobia just by shifting the belt of strength or deathshead belt back and forth from one hand to the next--the game adds the bonus anew every time you put the item in a new hand, and only removes five points when you take it off. This is a cheap exploitable bug, mind you; but I'll admit to using it, if only to avoid having to waste my shield hand holding up my damn belt all the time. This also works with magic resistance items, but messing with that can interfere with your magic resistance improving when you level.

Save Your Game: Annoyingly, the game penalizes you 50 XP every time you save outside a temple. This drives nitpicky gamers like me batty, but it's better than having your characters suddenly die of gangrene from failing their 'sharpen weapon' roll (I'm exaggerating, but not by much). Save early and often. There's a lot of random crap in this game, and 50 XP isn't much.

Skills and Spells: Irritatingly, only the first character in the marching order can use most skills (exceptions are haggling, healing, and skills used in bars or while camping). This means whoever is going to walk in front in dungeons needs to have the lockpicking, perception, and danger sense skills, and preferably a high strength. Whoever walks in front while traveling needs the tracking, orientation, and nature lore skills, and preferably stealth and hiding. Whoever walks in front in town needs the social skills and a good charisma. If your mouse doesn't work well with this game, you may want to consider cheating to give the party leader all those skills so you don't keep having to swap the party order every five minutes. You will want to specialize each character in one hand-to-hand weapon style (sword, pointed, edged, two-handed, axe, or polearm) from the outset so as not to waste leveling points; however, which style of weapon each one uses is largely irrelevant (except for Magicians and Witches, who have default weapons--wands are polearms, brooms are 'edged'.) The endgame will be easier for you if one of your better fighters has specialized in swords (seeing as how Grimring is a sword). If you're planning on playing all three games, you should bear in mind that all two-handed weapons and most bludgeoning weapons (maces, etc.) can be used only by fighters and dwarves in subsequent games, so you probably don't want to waste your Thorwalian's skill points in those weapons if you're planning to export him. There are plenty of each type of weapon in Blade of Destiny, but only a few magic or special weapons: two two-handed swords, a mace (edged), a spear (polearm), and a couple of swords. There are no special pointed or axe weapons. You can theoretically finish this game with no spell skills at all, but in practice, Transversalis is particularly useful.

Alchemy: Alchemy is close to useless in this game; the few recipes require many ingredients to produce mediocre concoctions. I found only six recipes in Blade of Destiny. HYLAILIC FIRE fire makes a good missile weapon, but each vial can be used only once, hurts only one opponent, cannot be stacked, and requires 6 non-stackable ingredients (plus the recipe and an alchemy set, all eight items carried by the same alchemist--so you have to do major inventory shuffling every time you want to create one vial of fire). I've never found this to be worth it. Of more use are VOMIC and EXPURGIC, which you can use to poison your weapons; this requires only two non-stackable ingredients and two herbs (plus the recipe and set), so you can brew up several at once. If you're short of cash for some unknown reason, this is cheaper than buying poison. STRENGTH POTION is completely useless, since raw gulmond leaves can boost your strength on their own without any of the rigmarole. POTENT MAGIC POTIONS are extremely useful, but making them yourself requires thonnys blossoms, which are expensive, rare, and more useful to your spellcasters as meditation aids. And HEALING POTIONS aren't worth the trouble they take to make; raw whirlweeds are nearly as effective and can be stacked.

Miracles: Be sure to donate once at the temple of each god, but don't waste your time shooting for miracles every time you go in. Most miracles really aren't worth wasting your time with. Tsa may resurrect a dead character for you, and Peraine may cure an illness; otherwise they just heal the party a little bit. Travia feeds the party (big spender she is). Phex will give a temporary bonus to the party's dexterity, thief skills, or haggling. Rondra is probably the best: she will turn one of your weapons 'magical', which will give it a permanent bonus to hit. Ingerimm will also bless your weapons, but I haven't noticed any effect from this blessing and assume it's temporary if anything. Ingerimm may also fix a broken weapon for you. Firun and Ifirn give you "hunter's luck" and Efferd gives you "protection overseas," neither of which I've been able to discern the concrete effect of. I've never seen a miracle out of Swafnir; if you have, let me know. There are no temples to Praios, Boron, Hesinde, or Rahja in this game.

NPCs: Party NPCs are of limited use in Blade of Destiny, since they will leave you after a random number of weeks to pursue their own goals. Don't let any NPC carry any item you really need. None of them have any interactions with the game or with you once they have joined you, so you may not consider them worth the trouble. There are six party NPCs I've found in the game. Ardora, the best one, is a 7th-level fighter you can rescue from the Ship of the Dead. Curian is a 9th-level magician you can find in Overthorn, but the game AI doesn't handle his spellcasting very intelligently in combat, so he spends a lot of his time out of magic points. If you haven't got a magician of your own, though, you can make use of his free wand spells. Garsvik is a 5th-level Thorwalian you can pick up in a bar in Prem, and Nariell is a 6th-level huntress you can find in a tavern in Clanegh. There are also two available rogues, the 7th-level Harika in Phexcaer and the 4th-level Erwo in Manrin, but there's not much point to hiring on an NPC thief (since you can't put them in front of the party, their thief skills are useless). Harika also charges for her services.

Conversations: This game was originally written in German, and some of it seems to be lost in the translation. Sometimes you will get a choice between three similar responses, one of which will amuse your conversational partner, one insult him, and one goad him into attacking you. There aren't too many people in the Realm to talk to, and you may want to save before chatting one of them up.

Visiting Towns: In general, towns are rather boring in Blade of Destiny. Check your journal upon arriving in each for a little local color. There is never anything in random locked houses, so don't bother breaking into them (you may get arrested, and it's a waste of time either way). Random occupied houses will yield a different random local comment each time you enter (most of which are a variant on 'go away,' but some are interesting). You can get the same results going in and out of the same house 30 times as you can going into 30 different houses, so don't waste your time scouring every home on the map. Same goes for shopkeepers, inkeepers, and smiths: there are many possible conversations you can have with each type of merchant, but you can see them all by chatting up the same arms dealer 15 times rather than visiting 15 different arms dealers. Merchants may give you special prices or a local clue if you flatter or entertain them in a way that pleases them. If you are too rude to a merchant, however, he will kick you out and never serve you again. Hanging around in bars is a good way to scroll through all the local clues, but it takes a long time and they're only open in the evenings. You can drink all night and sleep all day repeatedly if you want to see them all; your characters won't develop cirrhosis (probably because no one mentioned it to the game designers, thank God). Markets are useless as there are better shops in town every day. If you're looking for a quest person in town, they will almost always be in an unmarked house; asking after the person in a bar will give you directions to their house, which will save you from having to comb all the identical local apartments.

Visiting Dungeons: The dungeons in Blade of Destiny, on the other hand, are quite good. Explore them thoroughly, as there are tricks, traps, and little ambience bits sprinkled throughout; I'm not going to mention them in the walkthrough unless there's something confusing or special about them. Always travel with enough rope (one per character) and a light source (magicians have an automatic one).

Traveling the Countryside: Overland journeys involve multiple random events, such as being caught in a storm or trying to shoot a deer. Those aren't particular to any specific travel route, so I haven't included them in my walkthrough, though some of them are fun. Always travel with enough rope and provisions, and keep a character with nature skills in front. If you set guards they won't wake the others in case of an attack anyway, but it seems that choosing this option lessens the probability of a nighttime attack.

Traveling the Seas: Prices and durations of all boat trips are random. It can take 10 hours to cross the entire map, or 200 hours to go from one side of an island to the other. The latter kind of journey is slow and exceedingly boring; reload to try for a faster ship.

Maps: You don't get a map of the world with the trilogy CD-ROM, so you may want to sketch one yourself, or print out a screenshot of the map and write the names of the towns on it. For my walkthrough, I have simply grouped towns and places together by general region of the map. You'll have to figure out how to get to each of them yourself.

Time Management: Time is completely irrelevant in Blade of Destiny; in fact, if you finish the game quickly, it will simply have your party sit around for six months at the end waiting for the orcs to show up. (If you're late, the orcs will wait for you.) So there's really nothing wrong with holing up in an inn for two months waiting for the mountain pass to be crossable, or anything like that. There are no bonus points or other rewards for finishing anything in the game in timely fashion, nor penalties for failing to do so.

The Quest: There are nine map pieces making up the whole map. You only need seven of them to win the game, but it's more fun to get all nine. You can miss your chance to get three of them if you don't choose your words carefully with Beorn, Ragna, and Hjore, so save before approaching those people.

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