GBP – Azure Bonds #8: Yulash

After completing Yulash and reaching the entrance to the Pit of Moander (see next blog post), I got to thinking about how to deal with this game’s money problem – in terms of the whole encumbered by cash issue. Aside from not giving cash encumbrance values, that is. And I thought of this based on Yulash, the Pit, and where we’re going to be going to next – Zhentil Keep.

In Daggerfall, cash has encumbrance, but you can go to banks to deposit or withdraw money as necessary, so you can have enough walking around money to do what you need to do, and cash encumbrance falls into similar categories to how it would work in a D&D game.

In a first or second edition AD&D game (or even D&D classic), that weight issue is a limit of what you can loot when you’re raiding a dungeon, and you have to know your limit for how much you can grab before you bail if you’re doing one raid, or if you’re going to do hit-and-run attacks. Or, for that matter, setting up a base camp with a bunch of hirelings and henchmen to help haul all the loot back.

Now, Pool of Radiance, we had the missed potential of taking all that cash and putting it into the possible cash sink of the reconstruction of the city of Phlan. There isn’t a similar cash sink here. However, by introducing banks where you can stash your money so you can theoretically access it later, you get the additional opportunity to have a way later in the game where you lose access to those banks.

I bring this up because Yulash is a city under siege. In order to make your way to the Pit of Moander to take on the Cult of Moander and remove that bond, you have to make your way through a city that has Zentarim patrols, Red Plume deserters who have had enough of fighting and think you’re going to take them back, looters just trying to survive in the middle of all this fighting because they can’t (for a variety of reasons) leave, and occasional Shambling Mounds who have come up from the Pit to feed on the death and destruction from the city above.

You can fall back to the perimeter encampment where the Red Plume soldiers are to rest up, and get some limited resupply. However, there’s no training hall, no temple, which means if you were using the banking mechanic, there’s no bank – and outside the perimeter there’s no safe place to rest.

There’s also not a lot of story beats – which means in terms of game-play Yulash is basically a sprint – make your way across the area and reach the Pit of Moander, while evading, and occasionally beating, some encounters along the way.

The one scripted encounter in the area is probably one that is the biggest must-fight. There are a group of Shambling Mounds investigating the corpse of a dead cleric. If you kill the mounds and search the Cleric’s body, you find a Wand of Defoliation – which is devastating to plant and fungus based monsters, like the Vegipigmies and Shambling Mounds you’ll find in the Pit – as well as the boss of the area, which means this is absolutely worth picking up.

As far as the rest of the encounters go in the City – the Mounds are obnoxious, but managable. Most of your elemental spells aren’t very effective on them, except for Lightning Bolts, which are very effective at making them a longer and harder fight, because they heal and strengthen the Mounds. However, Magic Missiles are incredibly effective and, at this point, you can cast a lot of them, so that’s pretty straightforward.

The real problem are Zhentarim patrols. They come in with a fair number of mages and clerics, and also come in pre-buffed. They also immediately tend to cast Hold Person, which depending on your party’s saves, can lead to a whole bunch of party members going down very early. Now, going into those fights with Bless and Prayer up can mitigate that – but you also need to go through the town in Search mode, because here are walls that can fall down and deal damage to the whole party – or pitfalls who can do the same – unless you’re searching – which means movement takes longer so Bless and Prayer are less useful when you’re making your way through the surface.

This is definitely one of those areas that absolutely benefits from being played using Gold Box Companion, because it lets you minimize the number of rests you need to make and extra encounters you’ll run into because in AD&D how you avoid taking damage in combat is based almost more on equipment than on level, so grinding is of limited utility.

Finally, at the end of this, you reach the Pit of Moander, and as an advance warning – once you go in, you can’t get out until you beat the dungeon, but you can safely rest there, so I strongly recommend you rest and save in a separate slot before you proceed.

Next time, we proceed to the Pit.

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