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Quests of the Spheres

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Definite improvement. While this scenario was old, it was even more revolutionary than its predecessor. While that seems to mean little today, the nodework is far from bad. The plot is a bit less than Riddles, because much of the novelty is lost, and the D'kar seemed like an awfully bad villain, to me. (They seemed little better in Destiny, but that's an entirely different scenario, and I'm not judging the trilogy as a whole.) Gameplay was drastically improved. While that means equally small quality now, it's far from boring (well, I ammend- Greeblers and those Eye monster things wwere simply awful and boring). Overall, this scenario is worth the play, and is less severely obsoleted than its predecessor. Average

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Quests of the Spheres was the second scenario by Brett Bixler (bxb11 AT psu DOT edu), the middle of the well known Spheres trilogy, and was the recipient of the high honor of second place at the initial scenario design contest. Players who have played Riddle of the Spheres prior to this will recognize the terrain, as once again the party is called in to the mysterious and magical realm to, well, more-or-less save the world again.


Quests of the Spheres is, sadly, the hallmark of a design tendency that, knock-on-wood, has begun to recede — which I shall call designer redundancy. Early on in BOE history, designers who made multiple scenarios had a unfortunate tendency to make each scenario with the exact same framework or blueprint. It was if each new effort was essentially a rehash of the old scenario — with a new plot slapped on to make things different. To be sure, each of the new scenarios was typically far more technically proficient than the original, but this redundancy seemed to stunt the growth of the BOE community, as rather than expanding BOE horizons, the new scenarios seemed to recement the old paradigms into place. Rubacus is nothing more than a much better version of The Magnificent Six. Leaving the three-in-one aspect aside, and Tatterdemalion is a rehashed version of Islands of the Wheel. And Quests of the Spheres is best described as Riddle of the Spheres part II.


As implied, the structure of Quests is virtually identical to that of Riddle. Go to a central location, and pick up the quests as they’re doled out. Make sure you find each of the spheres instruments, and bring them back to The Grove Staccato. I won’t belabor this point anymore than to say that I never found the original structure of Riddle that effective, the reworking of it here was certainly a low point.


(As an aside, I am happy to note that while Destiny was perhaps conceptually stagnant, both The Lost Expedition and The Hut of Baba Yaga mark distinct departures the Spheres framework, and both benefit greatly because of it.)


As with the other scenarios in this trend, fortunately, Quests does achieve a significant improvement in both scenario mechanics and playability than its younger sibling. The “Quests”, as they were, are far more varied than in the original, and in many places — Zumwalt’s Tower especially, but also the D’Kar Stronghold, Springfield, and a few other places — are far more enjoyable.


It will come, of course, as no surprise to veterans of this scenario that I label the high point of the adventure being the foray into The Master’s Mind. Chronologically, I do not know if this was the first real use of the BOE editor to explore “metaphysical” realms such as the mind — the other “first” candidate being Requelle’s Nightmare (more-or-less all of it) — but it’s certainly one of the most effective such uses. In fact, I might go so far as to say this strange menagerie of Freudian and Christian psychology is the primary reason, in my mind, that Quests is justifiably considered one of the great scenarios, instead of the merely good. I shall, nevertheless, offer three quick gripes —


1. I would have liked more things to do/places to explore in the Master’s Mind.


2. I would have liked the Master to have been a more significant character, either here or in Destiny of the Spheres.


3. Most critically, when asked a question requiring the answer of The Master’s father, I found quite inappropriate that the scenario accepted “Jason” (The name of The Master’s father) as an answer. That was his name, sure, but no one thinks of their parents by their proper names, and it felt false here.


Gripes aside, let me leave this area with no mistaken impressions — it’s an extremely effective segment, both because of its intrinsic qualities, as well as being such a conceptually giant step forward within the scenario.


In terms of the trilogy, I think Quests spends far too little time on the D’Kar. Of course, that’s the premise underlying the entire scenario, but I found too often that they were far less of the clear and present danger the scenario’s assumption makes them out to be, tending to be more of a vague threat lurking in the background most of the time. Too many quests/side-quests seem only to be tangentially related to this “ever-present” threat, if related at all. Given the scenario’s mechanics — basically “Do these 8 different things and then proceed to Go” — most missions feel less like integral portions of the underlying conflict, and more like busywork designed to lengthen the scenario. I don’t think it’s any real surprise that the of the most concretely linked missions — The Juggernaut Factory/D’Kar Waystation/D’Kar Stronghold — are all definite strengths of the scenario, whereas the less concretely linked missions have more misses (The Instruments of Tonality & the Sour Note portions) than hits (Zumwalt’s Tower/Saving the Master).


Quests, of course, ends on a very dramatic note, which gets (fully?) explored in Destiny. My opinion concerning Destiny, of course, is that it amounts essentially an ending to Quests, and little more. However, judging Quests standing alone, I personally found the ending quite appropriate, though perhaps a bit rushed.


Of all Brett Bixler’s scenarios, it’s still my opinion that Quests is the best. It’s designed for medium to high level parties, and is rated PG.


My score — Good

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Quest of the Spheres was, in my opinion, the best of the Spheres trilogy. While the plot was a bit less creative in its predecessor, it was more than counterbalanced by its innovative features. For this I would give it a definite recommendation.


My Score: Good


My Scale:

10.0 = Perfect

7.5 = Good

5.0 = Average

2.5 = Poor

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I thought this was excellent. I loved both it, and the first Spheres scenario. I didn't get far with the third one because the timing freaked me out (the water limit thing). Just a personal thing - I only really like untimed scenarios.


But this was untimed, and it was utterly brilliant. Unique land, I loved the villain, it was just great.


EDIT: forgot the score - a resounding Good

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This is the BEST of a great mans works. The plot was great, and it introduced one of the best and most enduring BoE characters, The Master.

I found I couldn't drag myself away from my computer screen in places. Really!

The Good:


Nice missions

Good story line

Innovative work when in The Masters Head

Well balanced

Neat graphics!

The Bad:

You don't get to talk to the master after he wakes up. After growing to know and love his character by knowing his story (an excellently told story, worthy of any novel) I would have liked to talk to him a bit, and know how he ajusted when he became sane and found out all the things he'd done.

Also, the answer to the riddle 'Jason' (read Alcritas review for full explenation) Was SO annoying! Luckily, there was a hint file.

Erm... can't think of much else.

The BEST thing about this scenario, though, the Best thing, was that You get to fight Random Thoughts and Squiggles! (what more needs to be said?)

Except I give this:

Best: One of my all time favorites

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One of my favourites, too! It was one of the first scenarios I played... The squiggles part annoyed me a bit and I found that I almost sympathized with the D'kar, for some reason. But otherwise, I found everything was great, for example the gameplay and story. Especially I liked the way that the treasures, combat and missions were balanced. Good

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There were a couple minor bugs in this scenario, like how you always win the poker game, no matter what, and how metal men can block your way onto Note Isle when returning from the north. I hated the Greeblers and Slime Eyes.


Otherwise, this scenario is great. The plot is pretty good. I loved the Mind of the Master and the Slith Caves. The three major artifacts are fairly interesting and balanced, although one unimportant artifact was overpowered and boring.



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Quests of the Spheres is the second scenario of the Spheres trilogy. This scenario was second in the first Scenario design contest at Spiderweb, and it deserves it, in my opinion. Especially if you play it right after playing Riddle of the Spheres, the first part of the Spheres trilogy.


In itself, this scenario has a lot of good aspects. It has riddles and puzzles, some tactical fights, and good balance between main plot and side dungeons.


The main idea is that you come back to the Realm of the Spheres, where you went in Riddle of the Spheres, first scenario of the trilogy. The Spheres are musical beings you saved from the evil D’kar in Riddle. The D’kar invasion has now begun, and Empire sent you there to help its troops and the Realm. You must gain access to the Spheres, then do quests for them. This implies that you’ll wander throughout most of the Realm.


During your wanderings, you will travel in many islands you would know, if you’ve played Riddle before. As for Exile I and II (but to a somewhat smaller extent, though), you will notice all the changes that occurred during your absence, meet old friends, find new D’kar robots, visit places you’ve been before, understand more exactly some of the things that puzzled you during and after you played Riddle of the Spheres (including places you couldn’t go in Riddle, like this room where the sign reads I finally managed to get here by cracking the scenario with ResEdit. Yeah.). This aspect of Quests creates a substantial depth in the scenario that is really good.


As you can see with the previous example of the locked room, there’s some funny moments. Examples are the guest appearances of the Simpsons (with an essential role for achieving your quests) and your shooting for the next X-Files season — a reference that I awaited from a long time in a Blades scenario.


Those who played Riddle would know that the Realm is infused with music (in the shape of islands, in their names, in the names of the NPCs, ...), and this is another pleasant feature of Quests.


But cool things aren’t all in a scenario. To fully enjoy it, try the side dungeons (slith and trog lairs). You can win without going there, but you would miss a lot. They add an important touch to the scenario’s atmosphere, with the fugitive sights on parallel universes.


Now, some critics. After all, can so a large scenario be perfect? In fact, the critics will be light. But there were some dungeons I didn’t really like. Mainly because I got toasted and heavily beaten up. Hammer’s Forge is a real pain, the beginning dungeon, the old tower, filled with hordes of Slime Eyes and Greeblers, Slime Eyes being perhaps the most obnoxious monsters, at least for me. Another one, the first Glove of the Spheres, is inhabited by a nasty lich without any obvious reason (for me at least).


Let me end this review with a special mention of one of the greatest feature of the scenario: the quest that sends you directly into the mind of the Master. Apart from some psychedelic encounters, and the fact that the design of the outdoor levels that depict the mind aren’t so great (in my humble opinion), you’re faced with the Master’s most intimate memories. The progressively unveiled story of the Master is really a great moment.


That’s all I will say. This is an excellent scenario, and perhaps the best I’ve played so far (but I haven’t played half of the released scenarios, and neither Tatterdemalion nor Of Good And Evil). There are only a few flaws you could find in it, and it offers you a great time of playing. Though, I think the player should have played Riddle of the Spheres before, as there are constant references to this one, and you would miss a lot otherwise.


Quests of the Spheres is rated PG and High. This is due to the fact that monsters would double their HP otherwise, which doesn’t occur with this rating. In fact, the best thing to do is to begin with the party that just finished Riddle of the Spheres. If you haven’t, it is good for parties with an average level of 13-15.


My score will be 9.5. Personally, I leave 10 for absolute perfection (and the Gods). Players that haven’t played Riddle of the Spheres will have a slightly lesser interest to play and should probably consider it 9.0 rather than 9.5.



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QotS was a very creative scenario. Making a scenario themed around music, and having that atmosphere work when there is no actual music is truly an achievement. Some of the fights were a little dull, others were fun. I wasn't a huge fan of the custom graphics, either. That being said, it was still a good scenario.


One thing does confuse me about the plot, according to the descriptions the D'Kar were driven out because they are evil, but honestly, it seems to me it is rightfully their realm. Correct me if I'm wrong.



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