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Overview

Treasures of the Savage frontier is the sequel to Gateway to the Savage Frontier, the first part of what was to be a series of adventures set in the Savage Frontier of the Forgotten Realms.

It is part of SSI's Gold Box series of games based on TSR's Advanced Dungeons and Dragons ruleset and set in the Forgotten Realms. It continues to the use the Gold Box Engine first pioneered with Pool of Radiance and then enhanced for use in this series with Gateway to the Savage Frontier. Because it is based on the same engine behind SSI's Gold Box series of RPGs. only the setting has changed.

The most important change to the Gold Box engine with this game was the Wilderness map (a change initially instituted in Gateway to the Savage Frontier). By traveling outside of a civilized area, such as a city, a map would be displayed allowing the player to move party around on it. Random encounters were calculated by the game in this mode as they would be in the normal Adventuring mode.

The game, based as it is on the Gold Box engine, continues to use the grid-based, 3D system wherein the world is viewed from a first-person perspective with 90° turns and movement spaces. As with nearly every Gold Box game, party members were displayed in the upper right hand corner along with hit points and armor class. Random enemy encounters would provide combat opportunities within the game against mixed groups of foes, providing experience.

When combat would start, a tactical turn-based system was used to display the battlefield viewed from an isometric perspective. Every member of the party including each monster were shown as individual icons that had a limited number of moves onscreen. The player was challenged to maneuver their party on the map, take cover behind obstacles such as wells, or even block doorways and act as tanks in order to protect their spellcasters.

As this game was developed some time after the previous Gold Box titles were, it had also followed their lead in terms of its of copy protection by eschewing the cumbersome translation wheel that had been initially used.

Upon starting, a verification question is shown which directed the player to find the indicated word answer in either the rule book (the manual) or the included Adventurer's Journal. The disks themselves did not have any copy protection allowing players to make copies and play on them instead.

As with the previous games, there was an extensive amount of documentation included with the package:

  • A basic manual with setup instructions and an outline of the rules
  • An Adventurer's Journal going into detail on the races, classes, and the magic system of the game; it would also double as an additional layer of copy protection as it contained the scene description references for the game
  • A Quick Reference card for commands

If players had gone through Gateway to the Savage Frontier, the option to import their characters from that game was available.

Of particular note in the game is the use of romance. At one point, the main character of the party (the designated leader, or "active" character), can fall in love with one of two NPCs depending on their gender with considerable repercussions depending on certain factors such as whether the NPC was a part of the party or not.

Story

The story takes place soon after the events of Gateway to the Savage Frontier right on the heels of the party's victory over Zhentarim forces at the ancient ruins of Ascore. The Zhentarim forces in the region held a meeting with their allies: the Kraken Society, the mages of the Hosttower of the Arcane, and the pirate captains of the grim port city of Luskan.

Zhentil Keep, a city of dark evil on the shores of the Moonsea, sees the great trading city of Waterdeep as a rival for power, and has planned its demise by first striking at it here through its Zhentarim agents. Their new plan would involve agents that would feed false information to the cities of the Savage Frontier, sowing distrust and convincing them that Waterdeep was planning to conquer them.

Many of these cities belonged to the Lords' Alliance, a trading union of mutual defense of which Waterdeep was the leader. By plying this fiction into the ears of each city's leaders that Waterdeep was taking advantage of its position to ultimately ruin and conquer them, Zhentil Keep hoped that the infighting would do the job for them instead, allowing their own forces to take the region by surprise with little effort. It was a bold plan, but it had one fatal weakness.

Zhentil Keep's allies had little trust of each other. Therefore, it was decided that the means to ensure their unity would lie in the use of colored crystals specific to each faction. These would enable their emissaries to read the coded messages pertaining to the missions they were to undertake, but only when all of the crystals were present. Each crystal would only decode a third of the message requiring all associated members to be present so that they would know each others' moves.

The mission statements themselves were printed on "Lucky Papers", sheets with the name of the local city and written with the promise of good luck to the next person it was passed to. By hiding such information in "plain sight", it was thought to be the perfect cover in keeping their secret network intact.

As for the Heroes of Ascore, the party from the previous adventure, they return to Llorkh which is now the last bastion for Zhentarim forces in the region. Amanitas, the mage that the they had befriended in the last adventure, asks for their help in freeing the city from Zhentarim control. There, they help the dwarves overthrow the Zhentarim governor that had usurped the city from their control and eventually defeat him and his forces. Their work done, they head to Secomber to meet with Amanitas.

Unfortunately for them, the path to Secomber is filled with a variety of dangers. In Loudwater, the party encounters undead and deal with their threat, allowing the citizens to return to those areas that had been previously infested. At Secomber, they meet with Amanitas who gives them the Crown of Amanitas allowing them to communicate with him whenever they so choose. It is also where Amanitas gives them their first mission to guard ambassadors traveling from Neverwinter and Mirabar to Waterdeep. He gives them a letter for the meeting and they soon leave. They also encounter the first of the Lucky Paper crystals that they will need to stop the Zhentarim plot.

At Leilon, the party is drugged at a tavern where they are welcomed and fed food from a great feast set up to celebrate some event. Little do they know is that the ambassadors that they were to meet have already been kidnapped by the Kraken Society and that the food is actually drugged. They awaken in a barn where they quickly make their escape, not knowing that this is actually part of a greater plan.

At Waterdeep, the party arrive and are quickly placed under guard to face the head of security for the part of the city that they are in, although the truth is that the man is a part of the Krakens. He accuses the party of spying for the city of Luskan and the letter that they had been given by Amanitas revealed as a plot to conquer the Savage Frontier. The party quickly deduce that the real letter was actually swapped out when they were unconscious in Leilon and that they have been framed.

They are thrown into the water to be drowned, but quickly escape thanks to the help of several sea elves that witness the events. Eventually, they make their way back into the caverns beneath the city and destroy a secret Zhentil base that is there, recovering more of the Lucky Papers.

Throughout the adventure, the party visit each city in the Lords' Alliance and eventually recover enough proof to expose the Zhentarim plot and clear Waterdeep of any wrongdoing. But in the course of their adventures, they have also uncovered that Hellgate Keep, a city ruled by the undead far to the East, also has its own goals within the Savage Frontier.

Hellgate Keep are after a powerful, magical gem hidden in the lair of an ancient dragon far in the mountains. But the dwarves also want the gem to protect it. The party is drawn into this conflict at the end of exposing the Zhentarim plot and, with the help of the dwarven adventurers, succeed in recovering the relic and defeating the forces of Hellgate Keep, becoming great heroes once more.

Gameplay

Treasures of the Savage Frontier is the second game in the Savage Frontier series. The same Gold Box engine that was created for Pool of Radiance continues to see use with few changes outside of an entirely different campaign than that of its predecessor.

Imported characters from Gateway to the Savage Frontier brought across their statistics and most of their equipment, although was not necessary to play the game. A default party was available along with the option to create an entirely new band of heroes.

A vault is provided in the cities of Yartar, Silverymoon, and Neverwinter for the players to store extra equipment. A special "card" that allows them to deposit items remotely to any of these vaults, an item that imported characters may carry over from the previous game as an earned quest reward.

All of the gameplay mechanics are based on the 2nd edition of the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset, otherwise known as AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) from TSR.

Races

Six races are available for players to choose from and is the first step in creating a new character and a party of seven adventurers with which to go out and save the world. This is a standard set provided across all of the Gold Box titles as well as titles such as Hillsfar.

Players can also select what kind of sex their character is which has no effect on their abilities, only in their appearance for the character portrait.

The races did not undergo any significant changes and had been presented in the same way as before in Pool of Radiance:

  • Dwarves: Excellent warriors and often considered the best blacksmiths within the Forgotten Realms, they also harbor a strong hate for giants and their diminutive nature allows them to dodge their attacks much easier. They are also a hardy race and able to resist the effects of magic and poison.
  • Elves: Long lived and resistant to sleep and charm spells, elves are often considered among the best spellcasters in the Realms although they are also skilled with a sword. They cannot be resurrected, however, but they can multi-class in many more different combinations than others.
  • Half-elves: These share the hardiness of their human half along with the sleep and charm resistances of their elven parent, but not their long lives. And like their elven parents, are capable of noticing things out of the ordinary.
  • Gnomes: These are treated as shorter and slimmer versions of dwarves in the game, although they tend to be a little better as thieves.
  • Halflings: Resistant to magic and poison, they are about half the size of humans and can make decent fighters and thieves.
  • Human: The most common race in the Forgotten Realms, they are average in most respects but have no major weaknesses, either. Capable of dual classing.

Attributes

Each character has a set of basic attributes that affect various abilities, such as combat prowess and how many spells a magic user can memorize before they must rest and re-acquire their spells once again. During character creation, the player may re-roll as many times as they want. Prime requisite attributes are those that are a requirement for certain classes. For example, Fighters must have a good Strength score in order to be effective.

The natural maximum for any attribute is an 18, although it can go higher depending on factors such as race and magical effects. Throughout the game, unless it is due to an outside intervention such as a spell or a piece of equipment, these attributes never change even when a character levels.

  • Strength (STR) - determines physical power and damage with weapons; also affects encumbrance in combat
  • Dexterity (DEX) - reflexes and the ability to remain hard to hit in combat; affects ranged weapons such as bows as well as a thief's abilities
  • Constitution (CON) - a character's health is determined by this and hit points are derived from this score and a bonus calculated against it with every level. This also determines a character's chances for coming back to life with a resurrection spell, but in the process, a point of constitution is permanently lost.
  • Charisma (CHA) - affects the perception that others have of a character
  • Intelligence (INT) - affects the ability to reason and think. This is an important score for magic users as it determines how many spells they can memorize and use per level.
  • Wisdom (WIS) - this is important to clerics and determines how many spells they can store in memory and use

Attributes, such as Strength and Dexterity, are also affected by the selection of race and certain bonuses and minuses are spread across them as a result. For examples, dwarves are inherently stronger than the other races and, thus, have a bonus to their Strength and Constitution scores.

Alignment

AD&D's alignment system determines what a character's outlook is. Players can choose what alignment their character starts off with, although actions within the game can slowly shift it. Certain character classes are very much restricted to certain alignments.

The alignment system remains unchanged from its previous implementation in Pool of Radiance:

  • Lawful Good - Characters that are based on this alignment strictly interpret the rules and respect order above all else for the benefit of everyone
  • Lawful Neutral - Moderation is far more important than the extreme, balancing their decisions between good and evil
  • Lawful Evil - The strong survive to enslave the weak, but one must rule in order to conquer and order must keep those that follow this character in line. An army is always stronger than a mob.
  • Neutral Good - Some rules are needed along with the freedom to decide what is best depending on the situation at hand
  • True Neutral - Everything must be balanced; both good and evil have their place and neither must overcome the other
  • Neutral Evil - Law and chaos aren't as important as the results in bringing evil to the world
  • Chaotic Good - Random actions and the freedom to implement them are more important than the rules in valuing life and ensuring the welfare of others
  • Chaotic Neutral - Randomness and chaos are more preferable to being evil or good
  • Chaotic Evil - This character will go to any lengths to grab power and influence, disregarding anything that may make sense or in cooperating with others to achieve their goals. Unpredictable and ruthless.

Classes

Gender is treated only as a cosmetic choice in the game as with many others, but race plays a major part in determining what classes a character may be restricted in playing as. The game allows dual and even triple classing among characters depending on certain options such as race.

From the stock of basic classes, players can pick from certain combinations, although experience is divided among the classes that a character belongs to. As a result, they level much more slowly than a character dedicated to a single class.

The basic classes are:

  • Fighters - They can fight with any armor or weapons, but have no magical ability. When they reach 7th level, they can get an extra attack per round.
  • Paladins - These are holy fighters whose faith gives them resistances to spells and poison. They can also turn undead creatures as a cleric can at two levels below their current level. They have an aura that repels evil much like a Protection from Evil spell. They also gain the ability to Cure Disease once a week and can heal themselves of two points of damage per day. They can also use cleric spells when they reach 9th level. However, they must be Lawful Good and have more attribute restrictions than a fighter does.
  • Rangers - They are a fighter and can defend themselves without the need for armor and weapons if need be. They do bonus damage against giant-sized creatures and must be of good alignment.
  • Thieves - They can disarm traps, undo locks, and help themselves to anything that isn't well protected. They can't wear any armor heavier than leather, but they can backstab in combat for critical damage.
  • Clerics - Fighting priests that can wield a mace, but no edged or pointed weapons, as well as use armor. They pray for their spells and automatically memorize any of the spells available for a level when they reach it.
  • Magic Users - Powerful spellcasters are always welcome in any party. They start out weak and remain physically fragile throughout their careers, but the powers they command at higher levels can rend parties of monsters apart in the blink of an eye. Nothing like a little human-sized artillery to bring onto a battlefield.

Non-human characters can multi-class with a mix of these to enhance their abilities by sharing skills across them, although they level up at a slower rate because of the experience distribution across different disciplines.

Locations

There is no Overworld map in this game, but New Verdigris has a number of locations that the players will find useful as they explore the valley:

  • Inns - These provide a safe place to rest although it will cost some coin.
  • Shops - A variety of supplies such as armor, healing salves, and nearly anything else that the party may need can be purchased here. Inventory changes from time to time.
  • Temple - Where healing and resurrections can take place if the party has enough coin to donate. Resurrections are particularly expensive.
  • Bar - Visiting one of these allows the player to catch up on the latest news and gossip within an area
  • Vault - The party can store extra equipment here as well as convert platinum coins into gems for the Well of Knowledge.

Treasures of the Savage Frontier also features an extremely large number of cities to visit and side-locations to explore:

  • Daggerford - Here is where the evil allies of Zhentil Keep plan to cut the supply lines to Waterdeep. Daggerford straddles the River Shining, a valuable trade route from the great city and by controlling it, they plan to lay siege to Waterdeep.
  • Tower of Twilight - The home of a powerful mage who can train one magic user in the party for the price of 500 platinum pieces. But first, you have to clear all fo the nasty monsters around his home.
  • Leilon - The party was supposed to meet with ambassadors here and escort them to Waterdeep, but are waylaid and captured instead. Escaping from their captors, the party must also find clues as to where the ambassadors were taken.
  • Longsaddle - Various leaders within this ranching city have been corrupted by Zhentarim agents who plan to use it to breed monsters for use in their army.
  • Triboar - Thanks to Zhentarim agents, the city believes that Yartar is planning to attack them and are building up their forces as a result. The party must uncover the true cause and stop the war before it even starts.
  • Yartar - The Waterbaron of Yartar has been kidnapped and must be rescued. With this act, the Zhentarim hope to frame Triboar for the deed and encourage the city into attacking its neighbor in response.
  • Loudwater - The city has an undead problem and the party can help clean up the streets allowing the citizens to return to the infested area...and reward them at the same time.
  • Mintarn - This island city is under attack by ships bearing the flag of Waterdeep...but this is all a ruse by the Zhentarim to push the city into leaving the alliance. The city's leader is already convinced of this, and the party must work to reveal the truth before it is too late.
  • Orlumbor - A great fleet of ships flying the Waterdhavian flag lie off its ports as a threat. The truth is that these are pirate ships, all a part of the Zhentarim plan to discredit Waterdeep, and the party must unmask these vessels.
  • Neverwinter - The kidnapped ambassadors from Leilon are here somewhere in the city and the players must find them before they are arrested for the deed instead.
  • Port Llast - The city is rife with intrigue and adventure and stopping here is sure to bring both into the party's lives.
  • Trackless Sea Tours - Take a tour! See the Trackless Sea! And get attacked by pirates. Depending on what the party does here, their reputation may soar if they attempt to stave off the attack or suffer if they hide or run away, leaving the ship to its fate.
  • Luskan - A rescue or two is called for here in the den of pirates who won't be too happy to see the heroes that have already ruined their plans elsewhere.
  • Ruathym - This island nation is under the secret grip of the Zhentarim, something its leader wants to break himself free of but only the party can make that happen.
  • Mirabar - This is where the Zhentish plot will come apart once the party has recovered enough of its pieces. It is one of the great cities of the Lords' Alliance and where a Council will determine the truth of whether Waterdeep is to blame for the recent troubles or if is caused by something else.
  • Ice Peak - The final act plays out here, deep within the frozen lair of a mummified dragon clutching a mighty gem of incredible magic. The party will be forced to fight the undead and demonic forces of Hellgate Keep who are also after the gem, but dwarves are also there to seize it and help the party defend it against evil. But the gem itself has one card to play with its former owner before victory can be grasped.

Wilderness

One large change to the game is the implementation of a wilderness travel mode. In this mode, when the player leaves a city or other suitably civilized area, a large overland map is displayed and the player can guide their progress using it. Random encounters were generated and tactical combat ensued.

Weather now plays a part in affecting the party's movement across the wilderness as well as in battle. Rain and snow can penalize characters' abilities making it difficult for those that rely on speed and dexterity to gain the upper hand.

Combat

The Gold Box RPGs had standardized themselves with a basic system that was shared across most of the party-based entries. The interface both for party management and information display were similar across titles such as this one making it easier for veterans to get into the game and creating a similar look.

Fighting in the game continues to be handled through random and set encounters wherein experience, items, and gold are earned. When combat begins, an isometric view (the combat map) is presented with every member and attacking monster shown as an icon.

It is a turn based system with each side taking their turns to maneuver and issue commands. This tactical approach, in conjunction with the obstacles present onscreen such as walls and doorways, allowed the player to create their own strategies.

Initiative played an important role in determining who goes first. Each round is divided into ten segments and every character and foe act on a specific segment determined by their initiative. Actions can be delayed and held until the end of round and the computer can fight for the player using the Quick command.

Falling in Love

Depending on several factors, an NPC may fall in love with a party member (normally the 'lead' character in the party). If the character is male, the NPC Siulajia may fall in love with him. If female, Jarbarkas may fall for them. While this may not has as much on an impact on the main story, it does have lasting effects on how well a particular character performs in battle.

Certain actions in combat also determine the suitability of the character. By not participating as often in battle, they may not earn the respect of the NPC. By performing evil deeds such as cruelty to those they meet, this may destroy any chance of romance.

This directly affects a character's ability to fight if they become involved with an NPC. Characters that are in love fight much stronger and more effectively when their paramour is in the same party. However, if the NPC is dropped from the party, that character's abilities also suffer to reflect their feeling of loss. This persists throughout the entire game.

When romance is declared, the party must give their blessing to the couple to continue their journey together. If not, the NPC will leave and the abandoned character will suffer as a result for the rest of the game.

Conversely, if the NPC is knocked out or killed in combat, the character that is in love with them with go into an uncontrollable, berserk rage for the rest of the fight.

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