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The Fog


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One of my favourite BoE scenarios.

 

Although pretty small...with only one "town" town, and with not many people in it, the creator really made the valley come to life.

 

The characters have believable motivations and desires, which conflict with each other in a nicely awkward way.

 

The custom graphics were fairly good, and I liked the idea that the story is never really explained, but that there is plenty of backstory for you to guess at the truth of things.

 

There's a few little annoyances though...the scenario is spent in a giant swamp, meaning you spend too much time casting weaken poison on yourself, which gets annoying fairly quickly. The town on the river was a nice idea, but it means you have to walk through the town every time you simply want to cross the river, which also is annoying.

 

Those are only petty annoyances, but, for me, they spoil enjoyment a bit.

 

Also, the end dungeon is a large, multi level maze which you are locked in until you blunder across the area you are supposed to be looking for, and find the way to proceed. I really hate things like that. Admittedly, this one is broken up by plenty of inventive features, and the dungeon makes perfect sense from an in-game perspective, which helps alot, but it's still a pain.

 

Not sure about the last shopkeeper at the end, sort of snaps you out of character, though it was handy.

 

GOOD.

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ALCRITAS

 

A mysterious fog... An ancient curse... And no escape... Ben Frank’s Fog starts off on these notes, and progresses from there.

 

Actually, that’s perhaps being a bit too kind. The beginning, to me, is one of the (fortunately few) low points of the scenario. The premise begins that you were out exploring, in search for adventure, when you wandered into this particular valley, and now you’re trapped. It makes for an interesting subtitle, but it doesn’t make for that great of an introduction.

 

Fortunately, the dullness of the start fades very quickly. After an initial exploration of the only village of the area, where all the residents advise you unconditionally to leave, you’ll soon realize you’re trapped in the area, a victim of the mysterious fog the scenario takes its name from. After realizing that you’re trapped along with them, the villagers soon open up, and the real exploration of the mystery begins.

 

The players in this mystery are diverse — the villagers themselves, the group of bandits known only as the “Tokal”, the owner of the nebulous and ancient castle, and the very spirits of the fog — but are all woven together nicely. Playing the scenario, you’re never sure exactly of what’s going on, but you’re also never at a loss for what to do next, which is a very nice combination.

 

It’s also a strength of Fog that you’re never told exactly what’s going on. It’s not all that difficult to figure out probably what occurred, but I’m glad for once the mystery didn’t end with “Oh yes, here’s exactly what happened,” in the grand tradition of Fred unmasking the villain at the end of each and every Scooby-Doo episode. You can certainly make some very educated guesses as to what happened, but there’s no way to know for sure if you’re correct.

 

Fog possesses a couple of nagging faults here and there — the Moss assignment feels more like busywork than anything else, and the ancient tomb near the conclusion of the scenario raises several plausibility flags — but by and large the solid mystery and suspense theme drown out any objections. Fog never quite transcends these genres into horror, as I was secretly suspecting it would, but I don’t think it’s any worse off for not doing so.

 

All said, Fog is a very enjoyable little scenario, that is certainly worth the download. Fog is rated G (although this raises my eyebrows a bit, I think it’s PG at least...) and is designed for beginner level parties.

 

My score - Good

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LAZARUS

 

Very good atmosphere. Good plot, and it was interesting to hear different different pieces and sides of the story from different characters. The Tokal quests were blatant filler, although the rest of the plot was well done. Oh, and I HATE WALKING THROUGH SWAMPS. I think the combat would have seriously pissed me off if I'd played with an appropriate leveled party, because it was reasonably tough even for the overpowered party I was using. Lots of outdoor fights too, which I hate (But got to skip since they fled from my overpowered party.)

 

Well told story. Played more like a modern scenario, which is a plus. Good

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LEW TITTERTON

 

The Fog is, at least to my knowledge, the fourth and most recent scenario by Ben Frank. Quite honestly (dare I say “frankly”), his first three scenarios, The Caverns of Stylbore Mountains, Trouble in Mendor, and Slavers of Pardes Valley, didn’t impress me much. Not so The Fog, however, which has much to recommend.

 

In a lot of ways, I see this scenario as the successor to Alcritas’ On a Ship to Algiers. Both rely on small outdoor areas (just 1x1, in fact). Of course, so did Treacherous Waters, and my own To the Quick, however there’s far more of a “foggy” connection with Algiers than either of those two. Both also feature heavy use of variable town entry (although to Frank’s credit, he doesn’t overdo it to the ridiculous extent Alcritas did). Both also open with a “you’re stuck in a nasty place” plotline, and both are very dark scenarios where winning still requires lots and lots of innocent people getting axed (or fireballed, or impaled, or...well, you get the idea).

 

The Fog scores points by being a more sophisticated scenario than Algiers. A large, well-done custom graphic file is used quite nicely, and there is some simply remarkable use of specials in the Outdoors. Frank deserves credit for turning his limited outdoors into an integral part of the game, as opposed to merely a conveyance from one town or dungeon to another with a few specials and encounters here and there. Granted, the Blades Editor is severely biased towards towns in terms of design capability and sophistication, so other designers shouldn’t be blamed for having humdrum outdoors — several great scenarios are “guilty” of this, which isn’t a sin at all so long as outdoors are minimal and other aspects are very good. Which is all the more reason I give Frank kudos for his outdoor accomplishments. After Slavers of Pardes Valley — almost definitely the worst high-rated scenario in terms of outdoor design — Ben got his act together and then some in designing The Fog’s outside swamps and forests.

 

Indoors are quite good too. There’s a good balance of caves relevant to the main plot (which, appropriate to the title, is nebulous to the very end) and side quests useful for building experience and atmosphere. Every cave has a distinctly professional feel, with extremely well-balanced risks and rewards, and mystery and challenge that requires skill and effort without ever transcending into frustration.

 

Writing is similarly well done. I noticed no errors, and the text, in both dialogue and narrative, had its bits of well-scripted artsiness here and there.

 

Pity that a scenario that builds up so nicely ends disappointingly, though not collosally so. The final castle is a pain, with a spell point drain that not only pissed me off to no end, it brought up a big plot hole. If Raven, the bad guy, is so powerful that his home can drain the life from his enemies, why can he be slain without much difficulty by a low-level party? Not only that, a teleporter “puzzle” proved infuriating — hardly a puzzle at all, for it was without any logical solution and totally counterintuitive. This is the kind of thing that says nothing about the player’s skill, knowledge, or intellect — it simply demands we think on the designer’s wavelength. Not a fault unique to The Fog, but a pain in the rear just the same. Worse yet, the teleporters are one-time only specials, meaning if you enter in combat mode, you don’t get teleported, and you can’t do it again! As I was playing with a 1PC party, I stayed in combat mode nearly all the time, and this fatal bug caused me to have to email Frank wondering what the hell I was doing wrong, and then restore an old saved game. Such headaches, when a simple combat block followed by a message telling me to enter in normal mode would’ve solved everything! Further castle headaches include the fact that of the five levels of the place, fully two are wild goose chases. This would be fine for exploration, experience, treasure collection and development of the dark plot and ambiance — if you weren’t loosing spell points the whole time. Ah, but you are, and at a level that, despite Ben’s claims, is not equal to the rate of SP regeneration — it exceeds that rate. Very aggravating indeed. If you know where you’re going, you can rush to the end and not be very affected by the drain. But the whole idea — and a big part of the fun, in theory — is that you don’t know where you’re going or what’s going on. As such, wandering on these two extraneous levels leaves you, to quote Mr. Burns, “as impotent as a Nevada state boxing commissioner.” With only a handful of weak energy potions to be found here and there, even a very good player may be forced to give him or herself some strong EPs via the character editor.

 

Besides this very unsatisfying concluding castle, there is a major flaw to the nature of the scenario itself: the townspeople cursed by “The Fog” are slowly dying, yet when you first meet them there is a very capable priest, mage, and several warriors — all stronger than your level 1 party. Yet they’ve all been sitting on their duffs — they even admit they’ve made no contact with Raven and very limited contact with the Tokal, his people. They know time is of the essence, yet they wait for you to show up to solve the mystery. They trust you with a bag of gold to give to the Tokal. Not only does this beg the question, “Why didn’t they do all this themselves as soon as the curse set in?” a far bigger query arises: “What if I’d never shown up?” Are we to believe the whole town is full of cowards who’d rather wait for certain death than venture into the fog, with nothing to lose? Were they sitting around saying, “Gee, I hope a band of novice adventures far less capable than us shows up and saves the day”?

 

It’s a shame that The Fog’s start and finish are as weak as they are. The meaty middle of the scenario, with its spooky tale of reincarnation and superb programming, is about as good as any you’ll play. As such, I’m left with the question of where to rank this in terms of Algiers, which I gave an 8.0. Technically, The Fog is much better (and it should be, given it was its designer’s fourth effort while Algiers was a first-timer for the now-very-accomplished Alcritas). Yet, the engine in my Mazda is more technically sophisticated than a Corvette’s, but I’d still rather have the ‘Vette. Indeed, advanced design can’t always make up for lack of visceral thrills, or a beginning and an end that don’t quite work. Algiers is less likely to wow you than The Fog, but when all is said and done, you just might have had a more fun and rewarding experience playing the former.

 

Ultimately, I give The Fog an 8.0 as well. Similar to Algiers, but very unique in many ways, with some things better, some things worse. In the case of both these scenarios, there are better choices, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth downloading. They are — and you’ll have great enjoyment if you do so!

 

GOOD

 

Just watch out about that combat mode...

 

— Lew Titterton

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Excellent work

 

Fog was an excellent scenario. It had pretty good graphics, an interesting story, and was pretty fun to play, and was very dynamic. On the other hand, there isn't much to it on the technical side (compared to today's standards.) However, it had time limits, and a 'choice' point.

 

My main complaint is that it's often unclear what to do next. That may be because I've never played a scenario like this - you always have to check back and see what's going on. Getting out of a certain cave, though, is really annoying.

 

But overall, an excellent work, one definently worth a play or two.

 

Good

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