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Hand-Crafted Items: Artifacts Grounded in Argea's History

Posted by Ceres Games (Creator)

In the grand library of Galkarru, you’ve read a story about an ancient city in the middle of the desert, situated near a fertile oasis. It was once a prosperous city of tall minarets and flowering gardens, ruled by a proud sultan who decreed that everything within his city’s walls belonged to him and him alone. When he saw a priestess of Aliltu who visited the city, he was struck by her beauty and wanted to have her, so he instructed his men to take her to his palace. But when she was brought before him and realized he wanted to make her a part of his harem, she cursed the sultan and his city: she doomed all who lived in the palace to live eternal lives, their bodies preserved at this moment in time, no longer aging – and unable to leave the palace grounds. The rest of the city she cursed to turn into scorpions, as they were as deceitful as scorpions, first showing her hospitality then allowing the sultan to take her as if she were his property. And so, the legend says, the dreaded scorpion people came into the world. 

The story also describes the sultan’s scepter: a precious thing, made of gold and silver and a dozen jewels, and enchanted with powerful spells that enhance the wielder’s beauty and grant him a presence inspiring to all who are near him. The story is widely believed to be a legend, the city a mere symbol and warning of what happens to those of great arrogance. And yet, you set out to search for it. And there, deep within the territory of the scorpion people, you find the ruins of an ancient city partially buried by the sand. When you enter the palace, you are attacked by armed guards, nimble harem dancers, and the sultan himself – their souls driven mad by centuries of being cursed to stay within the palace. You fight them off, your blades granting them the sweet release of death, and when you examine the body of the sultan – there, in his hand, is the legendary scepter, just as it had been described in the story.

 The magic items you can find in Realms Beyond are all unique, hand-crafted, and rooted in the world’s history. You won’t find randomized loot in your dungeon crawling adventures – everything is placed by our level designers. When you read about legendary ancient artifacts in the history books of Argea, it’s quite likely that they can be found somewhere in the world. But finding them is not always easy.  

Time hasn’t been kind to some artifacts of the past. They were damaged in battle or by greedy looters and are now broken into several parts, and a player who wishes to make use of their power must first repair them. Two such examples are the Sandals of Queen Mirvala and the Singing Spear.

The Singing Spear was wielded by the legendary Pyrrhenian hero Lachides, who used it to slay the treacherous dragon-snake Lathraios. All who had attempted to slay it before him fell into its traps, for it was a cunning and stealthy creature, but the Singing Spear warned Lachides with its voice when Lathraios came upon him from behind, and he turned around and thrust his spear deep into the creature’s heart. In a later episode of Lachides’ adventures, he got into a fight with the hero Antikles, who hew the blade of the Singing Spear from its shaft with a quick strike of his sword.

Not much is known about what happened to the broken spear afterwards, but several contradictory tales are told by Pyrrhenian storytellers. Only one thing is common to these tales: the shaft and the blade went on different ways, going through many hands over the course of the centuries, and were never reunited. And indeed, the player will find blade and shaft at two different locations, far away from each other. Once both parts are found, the spear can be repaired by a skilled craftsman, but if the player has only one of the parts in his possession, he can use the shaft as a staff or the blade as a dagger.

 Queen Mirvala’s Sandals are a pair of enchanted sandals once worn by the legendary sorceress-queen of the lost civilization of Virduris. Six gleaming jewels were set into them, each one imbued with a different enchantment – turning them into one of the most powerful pieces of equipment in the entire game. But while the sandals themselves are quite easy to find, still worn by the ancient queen’s magically preserved corpse, they are missing the enchanted jewels that turn them into such a powerful item. Mirvala’s tomb had been looted by graverobbers long ago, who pried out the gleaming jewels and left the leather sandals on her corpse. Tracking them all down won’t be easy, but it will be a worthwhile and rewarding quest. With each jewel you set back into the sandals, they gain an additional enchantment.

 But not all enchantments are beneficial. Some magic items are cursed with negative effects and can only be taken off with a remove curse spell. Others might have two natures, with both positive and negative effects in their enchantment. One such artifact is The Burden of Knowledge, a crown once crafted by a sorceress to remind herself of the weight and responsibility her knowledge carried with it.

 With unique items like these, varied in their effects and rooted in Argea’s history, the exploration in Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen feels exciting and rewarding. Some of the more powerful artifacts even require the player to hunt down multiple pieces and have them reassembled – epic quests that might last from the beginning to the end of the game.

Of course, not only the items are hand-crafted with an attention to detail. The dungeons are all designed by hand, too, as are the enemy encounters. No random encounters, no procedural generation, no level scaling. Everything is built by the hands and minds of our writers and level designers, as human creativity is able to create more interesting content than computer algorithms ever could.

Chris Ellis, Mike Trebel, and 45 more people like this update.


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    1. Shaun C. on

      @Tharagavverug: Great answer, thanks!

    2. Tharagavverug Collaborator on

      @Shaun: we use a slightly modified version of the 3.5 feats when it comes to weapon proficiencies. In the OGL system you have very narrow proficiencies where long swords, short swords, katanas, scimitars were all considered to be different weapons. We would put them all under the same proficiency which means that if you specialize your character in swords, a longsword, bastard sword, scimitar etc will all be equally efficient. So the issue of being specialized in a very specific weapon type, like fauchard in your example, and there not being any high-tier fauchards just doesn't exist, since your character's specialization is more general: polearms, and you can use spears and halberds just as well.

      As for the high end loot - our approach to unique item design actually makes it more likely to have a large variety than random generation would! We know of the issue that in many RPGs, longswords are the default weapons and the majority of the epic weapons you find are swords. That's why we're trying to cover a nice variety of different weapon types when it comes to unqiues.

      Our game won't end up having 15 unique long swords, 2 axes and 2 maces. Instead it's more likely to be 6 swords, 4 axes, 7 maces, 5 polearms, 4 daggers, etc. We like variety and want to give usually neglected weapon types (like polearms!) some love, too :)

    3. Missing avatar

      Tobias Herborn on

      Thank you so much for your hard work! I'm totaly hyped for the rich lore of this game.

    4. Shaun C. on

      Without any random itemization, is there any plan in place regarding permanent character choices? For example, a character specializing in a poorly represented weapon (fauchards) might be at a severe disadvantage late game.

      This is a problem in a lot of CRPGs, particularly with higher end loot, where there might be 2 great warhammers, 3 great swords and 15 long swords. With randomized loot, this can be mitigated somewhat, and I wonder if this problem will only be exacerbated by hand crafted loot.

      Perhaps you have something like smithing crafting quests for custom items?

    5. Ceres Games Creator

      @Shaun: we didn't include every attribute here because it would have been too much information in this context. The in-game user interface will show much more details such as the weapon type like "Simple Weapon" or "Martial Weapon", and sub types such as "Light Melee Weapons" or "Two-Handed Melee Weapons"

    6. Shaun C. on

      Looks great! I noticed there's a Type field for worn items but not for weapons. Even though it's in the description, shouldn't it be displayed somewhere what weapon class the magic item is?

    7. Missing avatar

      Pimpollo on

      Majestic Incline. Fantastic update.

    8. Tharagavverug Collaborator on

      @Frank Flury:
      There won't be any random encounters in the game, but you will encounter enemies on the world map. They're not truly random, however - they're wandering mobs you can already spot in the distance if your characters are skilled at spotting, and the enemies in these mobs will depend on the location. Near a bandit camp you will find wandering bandits, near an orc camp wandering orcs etc.

      We do have a detailed combat log a la ToEE. :)
      By click of a simple button near the log window, you can switch from simple to detailed combat log. The detailed log tells you about every dice roll and its modifiers so you know exactly what's going on.

      @Boris Fernandez
      We prefer a fully hand-designed approach to magic items. Our main inspirations for this kind of itemization are games like Baldur's Gate 2, Morrowind, Gothic, Arcanum. We feel it makes the world feel a lot more consistent and real if things are designed by hand, with a purpose, rather than randomized.

      But of course, modders will be able to randomize items a bit - we're going to talk about our mod tools in a future update, stay tuned for that :)

    9. Missing avatar

      xuan on

      When you wearing the Mirvala’s Sandals with all the six jewels, rubbing two shoes against each other, half of the NPCs in Realms Beyond’s world will disappear.

    10. Interstellar Marine on

      I noticed that the greatest game designer god ever created (except for Cleveland Mark Blakemore of course) donated 1000€ to Realms Beyond because of this update.

      I would strongly suggest that you let him do a really epic crypt, much grander in design than you had in mind for that stretch goal. Not only did he pledge 1000€, he also gave you the value of word of mouth* but most important of all he is a god king designer. Just imagine how wicked his crypt could be?

      *Word of mouth is the best promotion of them all according to Cleveland Mark Blakemore.

    11. Boris Fernandez on

      I like the idea for hand crafted dungeons and no level scaling.
      About object it make sense some game items, especialy legendaries, are also made that way.

      But a bit of randozimation is also something noce to have. A clear mix between both system is something thst could give the game more replayability. Why not include random loot, some gear and weapons below the legendary quality could be generated with random stats and perks.
      About dungeons I tend to agree with you but you will have to go nuts on this. Like in Elder Scroll serie. Enough content to satisfy replayability for a long time. I still play Skyrim and discover places sometime...

    12. Darkheart on

      Great update!
      I always liked loot with some thought about it that is anchored in lore (like in Baldur's Gate for instance). Randomly generated loot (like in ARPGs or Divinity) gets old fast.

      I'm also a huge fan of hand-placed loot and no level scaling. Risk vs reward is what keeps things exciting and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you managed to win a fight you were not meant to and then reap the spoils.

      Also love that you have to make some trade-offs with items that have positive and negative effects. For the right char even a cursed item might be useful (like a sword that makes you into an uncontrollable berserker in fights).

      Keep the good stuff coming and good luck!

    13. Peter Taucher

      I love the lore and item descriptions. Going on some treasure hunting Indy / Lara style is also always fun : ) The concept to completely dispense with random loot is rather refreshing.

    14. Missing avatar

      Ludger on

      Dungeons designed by hand, No random encounters, no procedural generation, no level scaling. > Yes !
      That, my dear ladies and gentlemen, is the right approach.

      I am so tired and bored by this thousands of boxes with meaningless content.
      Go everywhere, win everywhere, pick up everything, or leave it lying, no matter you'll have fun. It is bizarre that this trends are being sold as positive elements of RPG.

      I think your concept is great and wish you success. And a small request, please make a detailed combat log, as in the outstanding Temple of Elemental Evil.


    15. Frank Flury on

      Personally I would like to see some random encounters in the game.

    16. Missing avatar

      Liquid Plays YouTube on

      Can't wait to hunt down all of those gems for Mirvalas sandals!!!

    17. Ernest Scribner Weresheep of Sin on

      Fantastic update! I’m a fan of procedural generation, but in the right games, places. Your approach for this game is spot on. The history and lore-heavy objects and the exciting search for them is great. *two thumbs up*

    18. Sinitar Gaming on

      I really enjoyed the description of artifacts. One of moments when dedication can be seen :)

    19. Dark_Ansem on

      I'm so hyped for this game. We need to get it out more.