Baldurs Gate II
Throne of Bhaal
Low-Spoiler Star Trail Game Guide
Star Trail--"Sternenschweif" in the original German--is the second in a trilogy of Realms of Arkania CRPG's
based on the popular "Das Schwarze Auge" roleplaying system, put out by Wizardry producer SirTech. These are
underrated little games; maybe they 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 Star Trail, and make the most of the former.
Realms of Arkania Review
Star Trail Hints and Tips
Star Trail Walkthrough
Star Trail Cheats/Links
Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny
Realms of Arkania: Shadows Over Riva
Realms of Arkania: Star Trail is a very straightforward, self-contained game. 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 Star Trail, as well as caveats on the things you might want to know
Bugs and 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 everything (even shopping, unlike
Blade of Destiny). 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). There's an irksome bug when you try to import your
Blade of Destiny characters: the import works just fine, but all your male characters have the same 'boy' face, and all your
female characters have the same 'girl' face. To add insult to injury, the characters' portraits can no longer be changed. To get around
this, you can either use the Star Trail "kid faces" patch
(this is apparently a known problem), or simply start your characters over again;
I found my imported characters to be too overpowered for this sequel anyway. Finally, I had a lot of problems with the automap--opening
the map would frequently cause the game to crash. If you reduce the size of the map the very first time you open it, you may be able to
avoid this problem. The huge, overly detailed maps of all the house facades are distracting and hard to navigate anyway. Regrettably,
though a feature has been added to this game whereby you can move your characters on the automap itself (thus eliminating a certain
amount of boring movement time in towns you've already visited,) using this option ALWAYS caused my game to crash. Your mileage
may vary, but save before trying it.
Continuity: Star Trail is the second in a series of three games, and since they come bundled together on one CD these
days, there's no reason not to play them in order. The first game in the series, Blade of Destiny, is
very similar to this one--Blade of Destiny runs slightly faster but has a fistful of minor gameplay annoyances that have been
solved for Star Trail, so it's definitely easier to go from Blade to Trail than vice versa. Plus, of course, you can import your characters
from Blade of Destiny to Star Trail. It's up to you whether you want to do this, due to the aforementioned faces bug. There are new
portraits available in Star Trail but no new races or classes, so there's no strong incentive to start over, but an imported party will
be a bit overpowered for this game, which some gamers will find boring (I found it a pleasant excuse to skip combats, myself).
Most of your items will transfer with you, though not your gold reserves. Quest items from the last game disappear--the red moon amulet,
"glorifications" scroll, cult membership scroll, and the black statuette are exceptions, but these four items don't seem to have any more
purpose in Star Trail than they did in the first game (the black statuette will open a secret door in the final dungeon, but since you can
find another black statuette for that purpose in the same room with the secret door, there's no point carrying the old one around with you.)
Classes: If you play on Advanced, you won't need to worry about classes very much, since you
will be able to give any character any skill. The exception is magic--only mages, elves, druids, or witches can
learn spells, and they will not be able to master more than a few spells from mismatched classes, so if you're
the sort of gamer who won't be happy without access to every spell in the game, you'll need four spellcasters in
your party. Otherwise you can easily go without 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; a dexterous fighter-type can learn to handle locks and traps just as well, and your lockpicker
needs to be in the party lead to be valuable anyway. Ignore 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 Star Trail, since you will occasionally need to have
characters in more than one place at the same time.
Health Care Issues: The Realms of Arkania trilogy 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 their boots rip. 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 sleeping bag, a shirt, a winter coat, and two pairs of boots (boots wear out slowly after time, frustratingly enough, so you must keep
switching them for new boots whenever they get in bad shape). 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. Unlike Blade of Destiny, your characters' portraits will change to a "sick
face" when they become ill, so you don't need to check them all for disease every night.
Equipment: Two welcome additions to the inventory are the key ring and the recipe book, which hold, respectively, all your party's
keys and recipes. This frees up a lot of inventory space. There are also finally slots on the character body available for rings, belts, and amulets,
so you no longer need to put away a shield or a weapon to hold your belt up. If you import your party, be sure to shuffle their inventory so
that accessories are in the proper place, otherwise they will not function. (Blue magic resistance amulets are the exception; they'll work even if
you have them stashed in your backpack.) On the other hand, the weapons and armor that can be used by various classes have
been retooled for this installment--so, for instance, my ice elf could no longer wield her silver mace (and had long since thrown away her seal
slayer, a hard weapon to find in stores). The magic waterskin and food bag eliminate the annoying micromanagement of nutrition
(I was half-expecting a calorie chart for each character)--you will find these items about halfway through the game, but in my opinion it's
worth cheating to have them from the beginning (they don't imbalance gameplay at all, as there's always more than enough
money for the party to eat well anyway). Nothing eliminates the annoying micromanagement of keeping your
weapons in good condition. Buy a whetstone and sharpen them all faithfully after every combat, or give up and
just keep a few spare weapons for every character, discarding each as it breaks. Don't bother with smiths, it's
usually cheaper to buy a new weapon. Every character needs a rope, a sleeping bag, two pairs of boots, a winter coat, pants, and a shirt.
(Sleeping bags seem to be qualitatively better than blankets, but I didn't notice any advantage to carrying both.) You need to take the
winter coats off when it's hot out and put them on when it's cold out, which can get very annoying very fast. Unlike Blade of Destiny,
you will need a torch and tinderbox even if you have sufficient magical lighting, and it's a good idea to have two pairs of lockpicks.
There are half a dozen tools available in the game (mattock, shovel, hammer, grappling hook, etc.) and I don't know if most of them were
ever useful or not (I carried one of each, so if the lack of one of these items would have hurt me at some point, I wouldn't know.) A net
and crowbar are definitely both eventually useful to the plot. Cutlery and tableware don't seem to have any effect other than being sellable. 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, so it's pretty
useless. 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 really need an alchemy set, nor any herbs other than whirlweed, loneberry, tarnele,
thonnys, and gulmond leaves; you can use the other herbs to brew potions (see Alchemy below), but none of them are really worth the
effort and expense. If you can afford it, buy expensive poison and put it on your weapons before entering heavy
combats; it makes them MUCH more effective. 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
Money: In Blade of Destiny I was always swimming in money,
but in Star Trail, I was surprised to find myself hard up
for it through most of the early game. Nothing you own fetches very much money at the store, not even spare magic items, and
buying equipment can be expensive. Haggling and searching for herbs have both been streamlined in Star Trails, and you should
definitely make use of both--since herbs are pricey, weigh next to nothing, and stack easily, collecting them is like free cash every
Save Your Game: The annoying XP penalty from Blade of Destiny has been lifted, and this is a game
with a lot of random misfortunes in it; unless you want to replay the last hour and a half of dungeon crawling because one of
your characters failed his 'sharpen weapon' roll and suddenly died of gangrene (I'm exaggerating, but not by much), save early
and often. The annoying, old-fashioned copyright protection scheme on this game forces you to look up word x on line y of
page z of the manual every time you save, which shouldn't be too much of a hassle unless, like mine, your 18-month-old has
colored all over the manual.
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'.) All two-handed weapons and all the really good 'edged' weapons (mace, morning star, war hammer, etc.) can be used
only by fighters and dwarves, so don't waste other characters' skill points in those proficiencies. Basically, characters
can have a weapon that deals 4-9 points of damage in any of the categories, but if they want one that will do better than
that, they will have to be a fighter or dwarf, use a sword or an axe, or fire a bow or crossbow. Make sure you have the
Transversalis and Banish Spirits spells, and if you have Witches, Druids, or Elves in your party each of them will need
Chameleony, Visibili, or Eagle Wolf.
Alchemy: Alchemy is close to useless in this game; the few recipes require many ingredients to produce
mediocre concoctions. 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 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 and Boron may resurrect dead characters for you, and Peraine
may cure an illness. Travia feeds the party (big spender she is). Phex will give a temporary bonus to the party's dexterity, thief skills,
or haggling, Rahja to the party's dance and seduce skills, and Hesinde to the party's analyze or lore skills. Rondra is probably the best:
she may turn one of your weapons 'magical', which will give it a permanent +2 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. I've yet to get a miracle from Praios.
Combat: Although the combat screen does not appear to have changed a bit since Blade of Destiny, it consistently
runs slower. However, there is one new combat option worth noting: "computer fight." Rather than handling combat yourself
or watching the AI try to do it for you, you can just tell the computer to shake the dice, skip to the end and tell you who won (after a little
movie of two silhouettes fighting, which you can't skip; it still takes up much less time than actual combat). If you've imported
your party, they are probably sufficiently overpowered that you will be able to win just about every fight this way. This frees you from
the tediously mediocre combat sequences (I never did get used to the awkward diagonal movement patterns, and the combat
menus are terrible). It does tend to be hard on the spell points, but since there are no time limits in Star Trail, there's no reason not
to hole up and recover them every time they get low anyway. It's too bad that the combat sequences in these games are so crappy
that I'd just as soon skip them; if your mouse fucntions properly with this game, combat may be less frustrating and more worthwhile, but
even if you come to the same conclusion I did, rest assured that there's plenty else in this game to keep your attention.
Movement: Sadly, both local and global movement have taken a step backwards since Blade of Destiny. Local ("town") movement
is still blatantly tile-based, but a pseudo-3D look has been added to try to hide this fact from the player. It doesn't hide anything,
just slows down movement by 'gliding' your progress from one map square to the next. On the world map, routes no longer blink when you're
scrolling through the selection menu, so it can be hard to tell where you're going. Making a crude map on a piece of notebook paper can
help you navigate.
NPCs: Party NPCs are of limited use in Star Trail, since they may leave you without warning 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. If you cast "respondami" and "sensible," you may learn a thing or
two about any NPC you have with you at the time. Korima is a 7th-level she-warrior (who translated this thing, Tarzan?) that
you can find west of the road between Kvirasim and Gashok. She's a solid player, though you do have to pay her one silver piece
Conversations: Possibly because of the RoA games' association with SirTech, the conversation style in Star Trail has
switched to the multiple-choice 'Wizardry' style dialog box--pick a conversational topic, read what the person has to say about it,
then pick another one. There's a certain nostalgia factor to this system, but the truth is it didn't work. What happens is you pick three
topics from the sea of twenty, get boring "I don't know anything about that" responses to each, the NPC ends the conversation and
leaves, and then you reload to see if he had anything useful to say about any of the other topics. Just as in the Wizardry games,
NPCs rarely have any valuable clues anyway, so you wind up wasting a lot of time pumping them for redundant information you didn't
need. Don't fall into this trap. When you chat somebody up, just pick random topics until he leaves; in almost all cases the NPCs just
pick their responses from a pool of available ones anyway (you'll get the same three comments about "orcs" from everyone in town,
for instance). There are only a couple of map NPCs who provide plot information (none of which you really *need* anyway): the
fighter you pass on the road out of Kvirasim will tell you a story about Star Trail if you ask. I've noted the few others with unique
reactions in my walkthrough. If you miss any of them, however, your enjoyment of the game will not be diminished.
Visiting Towns: As in Blade of Destiny, most houses
contain only a badly-drawn occupant who will make one of about six rude,
partially comprehensible utterances like "Not exactly prem flounder noses. Get lost then." (I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt
and assume this was more entertaining in German somehow.) A few houses, however, will contain a named occupant
who will give you a clue (you don't need to enter into conversation with them, it's the same clue every time). So you do need to
poke around the many boring, repetitive flounder-nose houses if you want to see all the clues. Bars are far less useful sources of
information than they were in the last game, as you have to manually move your party around the bar to talk to different people
and then go through the tedious conversation screen with them (rather than them conveniently approaching you to offer a clue).
On the other hand, there are several dozen very quirky little town
events which may randomly happen as you walk around--from an encounter with a thief to a misadventure with a garbage hauler.
There's no point trying to force one to happen; they are random and can occur in any town, so you'll eventually probably see all of them
just going about your normal routine.
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. By right-clicking the mouse (or pressing 9 on the keypad) you can interrupt your
journey at any time to turn back, examine your characters, or check a plethora of boring mundanities like the weather, road
condition, and your travel speed. You'll move fastest and get sick least often if you're dressed for the weather (i.e. coats when
it's cold, no coats when it's hot, snowshoes when it's snowy), however, the weather changes randomly every day, and checking the
temperature, putting six coats on, checking it again, taking six coats off, and so on is an EXTREMELY boring waste of time. I left
winter coats on my characters at all times and suffered no noticeable ill effects other than the game whining that they were hot
Visiting Dungeons: The cool dungeons are the best reason to play this game; unfortunately, there are very few of them
(the Dwarven Pit, the Blood Peaks, and the Nameless One Temple). 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.
Traveling around dungeons has been greatly streamlined since
Blade of Destiny--to examine something, flip a switch, or open a door you can just bump into it and select from a helpful menu.
Always carry enough rope, two sets of lockpicks, a light source (magicians have an automatic one), and an extra torch.
Injoke of the Game: When NPCs gets tired of talking to you, they will occasionally say "If you're that hard up for conversation
why don't you visit Asgrimm in Breida" (the big windbag from Blade of Destiny). :-D
Random Comment: What the @#^!!@! is with that 'camping in the wilderness' picture? Why does the male fighter have what
appears to be a sleeping child in his lap? There aren't even any halflings in Arkania, so it can't be a fellow adventurer. Could he
just not find a babysitter, or what?
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