4x4 Archipelago strategy, etc. (warning: spoilers!)

I wound up replaying this, so I thought I’d share what I saw. Also I wanted to see what others found out. And just allow for general forum dialogues–maybe someone can do something similar for another entry.

So there are a lot of ways to approach 4x4 Archipelago, but I wanted to provide 1) people who had played with an overview and 2) give people who might not have played a shot at seeing as much as they could and, of course, 3) see what other people’s strategies were. This contains spoilers, and lots of them, so be warned. My hope is to just stir up general chat as well as maybe help someone get through quicker the second time. Or maybe help people who worry they’ll get totally stuck early on.

I put in a lot of details here, but I know I missed some (including one possibly overpowered observation,) and so I hope people can add what they find relevant. I’ve played through several times. I think the strategies I’ve written show the game is very balanced.

Here is a list of starting classes
Class Combat Magic Charisma Trading Survival
Battle Mage x x
Swashbuckler x x
Caravan Mercenary x x
Barbarian x x
Trickster x x
Tinkerer x x
Druid x x
Traveling Merchant x x
Explorer x x
Frontier Explorer x x

The very first piece of advice? Visit the hub isle and remember where it is. It may not always be the center of operations, but it’s a good place to start. Later on, the isle where you can hunt bandits is a good place to grind.

Best starting classes

The Battle Mage seems like it is best overall, and it’s the most fun in combat, because you can unload MP, then beat your enemy up, and inns are cheap to stay at. Later on you can get a marginal replacement for magic spells. And you can’t use both combat and magic skills at once. So that nerfs things a bit.

I think charisma is a good skill to have, since it allows you to chat at every island pub and return to the hub island to find new quests, visit the library, and so forth. You can keep track of stories in your journal. “You have recorded…” means you got that story. If you return all the stories, you get a nice cash bonus and 1 Renown. It’s more or less useless after that, but it’s such a quick boost. Also, one inn will have a healer, who can heal 40 HP per combat. They’re nice, particularly against quest monsters who have lots of HP, though for big fights, healing potions work better.

I also think combat is a good skill because it keeps easy combats easy, and the level 2 skills are quite strong.

However, the game is balanced. Trading is valuable short-term, because you can sell rare items recovered in random fortunate adventures for a huge markup, and also long-term. Eventually you’ll have more silver than you can spend, and bribing tough monsters gets you 1/2 of the fight’s experience, which is very handy on the random isle where you can hunt bandits. You can save time in real life BRIBEing with excess money, going to mines and then coming back later once the bandits repopulate. Or weaker players can beat up a few weak monsters and then bribe a tough one. Bribing always seems to work, and since tougher monsters take several rounds no matter what, you might as well spend your excess silver.

Magic takes a while to be really good. You don’t have enough MP for long fights, to start. But it’s very powerful once you do. Survival has some fun side quests and lets you avoid traps and also explore some optional treasure places you couldn’t otherwise. It also lets you study monsters for weaknesses–this information seems to be saved on replay, though. So perhaps running as a Barbarian first pays off later. It’s really useful to have monsters’ strengths and weaknesses.

By this reasoning, Druid is the weakest, slowest class. If you’re feeling like a challenge, go for it.

I found quick starts were more important than initial power, since you can always get a third skill later, though I also found that you didn’t need it with well-planned-out play. If you get in the doldrums, you can beat up weak bandits on the isle that lets you hunt for bandits. Or you can search for positive quests. Even bankrupt players will eventually turn up items while sailing, or the island quests that put you through dangerous terrain eventually turn up something valuable.

What stats to improve

I generally improved fortune to 2 to start, because it was pretty quick and I could avoid fights. I have no metrics, but you want to hit the good random adventures early on, and I think (?) fortune helps. The right ones can make you really strong in a hurry.

Then as a fighter I held off on stats to improve combat, because the level 2 skills are really good. If you have magic, go for level 2 magic. Spell power then focus is great. Otherwise, brawn then vitality. The new skills you get with new combat/magic really transform your character, and at the low levels, there are still lots of ways to get experience without fights. However, you may wish to improve brawn/vitality or focus/spellpower to 1, because of the very low cost of each. I prefer improving brawn and spellpower first as opposed to vitality/focus, but I have no metrics on what is best.

Early exploration and trading tips

Listen to rumors on each island. There is no downside. Sometimes, the rumors are just flavor text, but other times, they can help unlock quests. Note that the quests on each isle are set beforehand, so saving and restoring doesn’t do much good. All quests are useful, but some are particularly nice. I think all give something if you complete them… Newer players can gain experience and renown that way, though you may be blocked from the renown-gaining options by having the wrong skill, or not enough skill. I had fun save-and-retrying to see multiple paths through.

But you might not even want to act on those quests right away, or even seek out fights. Notice the traders’ markets. They’re really good. There are seven. The Great Market doesn’t count–it doesn’t buy anything at a markup, and it doesn’t sell anything.

Each local market sells one of food/crafting/luxury items and buys one of them at an extra markup. There are six such buy/sell combos, and each is featured in one of the seven markets, with the seventh being random. Note the game excludes buying and selling the same thing, because that’s no way for the local merchants to make a profit. Note buying and then selling at the lesser markup works well, too, but the greater markup gives 80% more profit(570-300/450-300=270/150=1.8).

Here I advise you to make a small 4x4 graph of which market is where so you can buy everything at the traders’ markets and sell them for maximum markup. It’s worth the time spend. Each place has ~5 items you can sell for 570 after buying for 300. That’s a profit of 27*350>10000 silver, if you are diligent. The places do eventually slowly restock, which is nice for some quests.

A small finesse here: try to have 300 silver at all times for random hunter/merchant encounters. You can buy food/crafting/luxury and sell it to flip a quick profit. The markets can wait for you to buy them out. The random encounters do recur, but if you can, you’d like to take advantage of them.

With this silver, you’ll probably want to buy the Saint’s Hauberk, which is great for ease of play since it has the resurrect mechanic. (Note: one random quest gives better armor.) The Trident of Storms the mer-folk sell is also usually worth it, even if you don’t have Magic skills. It does a lot of damage. But again, another random quest may eventually give you something better.

Also note you may not wish to sell everything at once. Some quests require crafting materials or food. And when you don’t have much silver, you may need a few more trips to buy out each island, but that’s okay.

Easy Experience Early

One neat thing with this game is: you get experience for talking to or helping the right people and for learning information! So fighting is not so critical. You can flee a lot.

First, since you start with 500 gold, you may wish to buy your way to level 1 fortune at your local inn. Each drink costs 10, and you get 15 experience the first time you hear advice. There are 18 different pieces of advice. So you can just hear 17 and still have 330 gold left over, which will let you buy from random hunters or mer-folk.

Always talk to the Priestess the first time you see her. Her stories get you 200 experience. She is extra likely, as she appears on random sea or land adventures.

Similarly, talk to an old man walking around if you see him. That seems to happen in many islands, and you get 100 experience for each isle. It adds up. Anything you can get without fighting is a huge boost.

If Alba or Ivory Isle is in the game, you have a one-time boost of 200 experience at the Crimson Field or the Elephants’ Graveyard.

Renown vs. experience vs. silver

Renown is tough to find. It helps push the story forward and eventually allows access to the Academy, without which you need silver or expensive items to pay for a quest item, but the game’s still winnable. Certain random adventures improve renown. You can get renown clearing out tougher dungeons. You should also note that some quests are counted as Great Deeds (I peeked in the source) and after 3 you can confront an enemy who, if you defeat them, gives 2 renown more. I may detail them later.

Renown is most valuable, but experience comes next. You should note that sometimes you have a moral option in quests. Always be good and decent and give up your silver. You can replace silver with fights. Experience too. But not renown. One thing about renown is, once it gets to a certain level, it can jump quickly. For instance, the random minstrels won’t charge you 3000 silver to make up a song about you if your renown is high enough. Also, silver will be cheap enough that you can donate all of 15000 to the academy, which gets you 3 renown. This, however, may not be fully necessary if your renown is over 12, though there may be little else to spend silver on.

Once you hit 15 renown, you don’t need any more. And once you gain enough experience, you can’t really use it, except at the experience converter. And silver – well, there’s one item worth buying a lot of.

To save scum or not to save scum

I do. Some quests are quite nice for treasure/renown, and if you miss them, they won’t pop up again. Also, another longer quest is easier if you do. It doesn’t break the game either way.


I wanted to look at one quest in particular. It’s not game-critical, but it gives a really nice item, and I enjoyed seeing how it worked.

The Wanderer Quest

The Wanderer appears on a random isle to start, and then she tells you what sort of isle she’ll go to. If you follow her to all 16 isles, you can get a really nice reward. It’s not practical for a speed run, but you’ll still like it. I don’t know the chance you’ll find her with any given exploration, but it’s pretty good, if you’re on her isle. She is only found on “explore the island” adventures.

I’m not aware of any way to detect where she starts, so this is another reason to explore everywhere initially, maybe even twice, if you are not going for speed.

The later ones are easier, since you know what sort of isle the Wanderer will go to. While you can guess an island’s terrain type from its graphics, you can and should check in your journal to make sure. I wrote out a small 4x4 grid with starting letters FGIJMRSV (forest, grass, rocky, icy, mountain, rocky, sandy, volcanic) to track where she might be next. Then I crossed them off for each island where I saw her. If you start mapping late, your journal has information on where you were.

Here you can save-scum a bit at the end, when you know what isle she will be on. It’s a neat bit of strategy. If you have more than 2 of the next type remaining, you should just rotate among the isles. With just 2 left, it’s trickier. Exploring has a cool-down period. Go beat bandits or explore a mine or something.

The save-scumming occurs when you have only one isle of a certain type, and the wanderer is going to that type. Then you can make use of the auto-save (“explore the island” / load/save the autosave) until she shows up.

Naturally, if you get a good adventure, (even “only” a bottled explosion might be good enough, though fights with experience work, too) you can save it and come back later.

Without knowing odds of hitting a Wanderer adventure, it’s not clear what island/split would give the speediest solution (4-3-3-3-1-1-1?), but it probably doesn’t contain a lot of 2-islands or 4-islands. However, it’s worth noting (assuming one of each type) there will be one type that has 2 or 4 islands, because there are 7 types, and if there were an odd number total, it wouldn’t add to 16. Also, the more types of island, the better–well, for my save-scumming technique, at least.

I always took the healing potion, but you may wish to take the magic potion if you have a mage, especially if you find some super-powerful spells. Healing makes you surer to win combat, but MP potentially makes big fights go quicker. Well, as long as you have the magic skill. The Wanderer is kind enough to encourage you strongly to take the healing potion if you don’t. But she doesn’t force you, because there’s a chance you may gain the magic skill later.

(Note: I have more notes on strategy but want to hold them, as I think too much right away might drown conversation.)


Keep some money in reserve, at least enough to pay for an inn. If you get hurt and have no money for healing, you will not last long.

Also, what is “save scum”?

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An old jargon term for “save before every battle, and then if you lose, just restore the save and try again.”

EDIT: I guess the term comes out of roguelikes, where the community convention is that you shouldn’t do this – generally. Of course the practice itself goes all the way back to the troll fight in Zork.

Just a small observation that I think goes to overall strategy: I think for most classes, the easiest progression starts with doing some fundraising via low-hanging fruit (collecting stories if you have Charisma, commodity-swapping if you have Trading, and I’m not sure if there’s anything similar for Survival?), then getting mining tools and going into the mines, then from there graduating to dungeons and most of the quests.

If you have both combat skills, you might be able to jump right into the mines, or if you have zero you might need to spend more time doing noncombat stuff, I guess. But I struggled a bit when I started because I kept wanting to dig into the cool quests and explore the dungeons, but got frustrated from being outclassed.

I also noticed you didn’t include anything on the pillars stuff? I didn’t get very far with any of those since I think they’re endgame content – at least I found them harder than the last stages of my main quest.

Oh, and I don’t think I ran across the Wanderer in my one and a half playthroughs! Definitely a lot here to reward a couple more replays.

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Ooh, that’s a good point–the mines quickly pay you back just with random silver lodes alone!

Survival helps you in the mines with the unstable lodes, unless you save-and-reload constantly to get them all. But in this case I think it is not time-efficient to do so. Also, I think survival helps avoiding mine traps, so you get a bit more experience faster. So that’s something.

I don’t know what the precise odds are to get a gem at the end of excavating an unstable lode, but obviously if you can, that’s a big boost early, especially for the quest-line where the Enchanter asks you for one of each gem. (Also, getting gems early gets you ready for the mer-folk who asks for a gem and gives a black pearl (+MP/HP) later.)

The pillars are very tricky–if you get the white pillar early on, you’ve really hit the jackpot if you can fully navigate the (fixed but tricky) Coral City maze–there’s no easy way out–and the tentacles, which is a big if. For each, you must Notice Something.


Some more thoughts.

Renown: non-random ways to earn it

While you can miss on adventures that would’ve given you renown, it’s impossible to shut yourself out fully from getting 15 renown and entering the Academy, though it may be difficult to win some fights. I’ll explain how. I’ll assume you get zero renown from random adventures. This is not a practical way to get the renown you want and need, but it proves the game is always winnable, though you may have to suffer through some randomness or grinding if you miss on a lot of random adventures.

There are 6 mines scattered among the 16 islands. 2 are dangerous and 2 are deadly. You get 1 renown for the dangerous and 2 for the deadly. That’s 6 that’s always available.

The Creature of the Mist can get you 1 or 2 based on whether you’ve talked to a certain NPC that pops up randomly as you explore an island. If you have, you can avoid a fight, get the extra renown, and get a nice chunk of experience, too.

You are always able to donate 5000 silver to get 1 renown, but you can’t donate twice.

You can beat the random dragon found on island exploration for 2.
You can beat the Sea Serpent while traveling between islands for 2.
You can beat the Queen Skyhunter traveling between islands for 2.

Finally, at the Hunters’ Guild, you can complete the quest to slay the evil beasts for 1 renown.

Once you’ve defeated all these enemies, you have more than 3 great deeds. The false Mirlanda will now confront you if you visit the Academy, and you get 2 renown for her, even though you don’t need it any more.

Note it’s possible to gain access to the Academy without beating false Mirlanda, but you need good(?) luck in your random quests to do so.

Spending all that money

I put off buying weapons, except maybe a longbow (it can beat skyhunters with ease but not harpies, until I’ve fully explored quests. You can still beat bandits and giant rats and such. Once you know where to look, there’s so much you can find.

Saint’s Hauberk is almost always a good buy. One reason not to fight (or just to run, then save and reload when you do) is because you can save the 6000 needed for Saint’s Hauberk. That makes a lot of quests easier, and it’s a REALLY hand guard against your own silly mistakes or bad RNG, since it resurrects you to half your hit points the first time you die. You can maybe buy the 2000 silver mail armor at the Great Market if you get impatient. It’s not the worst thing to do. But do wait a bit.

The Trident of Storms is also usually a good buy, though not quite as much as Saint’s Hauberk. Some items can replace it, such as the Assassin’s Dagger in the King Crab quest. Even if you don’t use its magic capabilities, the Trident just does more damage. However, the Saint’s Hauberk should be first priority, because if you get a lot of renown fast and/or are able to make Great Deeds, you can beat up the false Mirlanda for Mirlanda’s Staff, which is the best weapon in the game, though you still need a backup. Also, if you unlock Coral City with the white pillar early on (this requires a lot of luck,) you get a great weapon.

Merchants selling longbows are worth a look, especially if you have combat skills. You may find a longbow or get a better bow later, but it’s nice to be able to defeat weaker flying monsters.

Mining tools pay themselves back quickly even if unstable deposits collapse. You’ll need them to get through the game anyway. If you’re very lucky, you can find them in the right mine (I think one is placed at random) but I think it saves time and effort to buy it.

These are better buys than donating to the Academy at first. You can always do that later–you may not even need to! Similarly, you can put off buying the Queen’s Harp if this game has the Queen’s Relics as the main quest. The mer-folk will be back. However, donating to the academy can bump up enough renown so you can get the minstrels to increase your renown for free, which also counts as a Great Deed.

roaming hunters

For the choice adventure, roaming hunters are worth challenging to combat the first time if you have combat skills. That is 200 EXP easy.

You should not try to befriend them unless you have charisma or are willing to save scum. Without charisma, there’s a 2/3 chance you’ll get robbed. With 1 charisma, 1/3. However, this is a net gain, since they sell cheap longbows or lanterns you might need, and they always sell one of food, crafting or luxury items. With 2 charisma, you will always trade, but you won’t need the profit then.

Later on, potent health potions and components for witch’s potions or even the sculptor random quest are at a nice discount. So the expected gold is 3002/3 - 5701/3, not counting other stuff to buy. You can, of course, save scum.

If the non-choice adventure pops up, you should always buy the trading item. It’s worth having a bit of spare money for this. Also, buying one lantern or a longbow can be nice, as can the first pieces for the witch’s potion or sculptor’s quest. More than that aren’t worth it, though if you buy one by mistake, you can sell it at a slight loss later.

looking ahead to take advantage of random quests

You can always save scum to make a random one-time quest pop up later, but here is what I recommend whether or not you save scum.

Have 1 extra crafting item for a sea adventure where you can trade it for renown and experience. (Don’t ask for payment.)
Have 3 food if possible for a land adventure. 1 is good enough. 1, 2 or 3 gets you renown, but 3 gets 1000 experience. 2 gets 500, 1 gets 250. 1000 silver lost from 2 extra foods you can’t sell is well worth 750 experience.
Have a gem if you can. A merfolk will ask you for one. Each gives the same result. You get a Black Pearl later, and it gives +MaxHP and +MaxMP. There may be better amulets later, but this is very good, and you can sell it for a profit. Gems can be found in mines.
Have a healing potion. Even a cheap one can heal a hunter for 1 renown, but give him your best, because you may get a super-good bow from it.
Have a magic potion. It gets you a shrink scroll, nice if you have magic or you don’t have access to Simian Island (use 1 food to get a monkey, which substitutes for a shrink spell.) The shrink scroll is nice even without magic skill, since you can sell it for a nice profit.

You may wish to hold off on buying a longbow to save money, even though that means fleeing from a few fights early on. That’s because one random adventure gives you a hunter’s badge and longbow. You can return the hunter’s badge to the guild for a point of renown. But if you’re confident you can make money, and especially if hunters sell you one (you can sell it later for only a minor loss,) go for it.

Hunter guild quests

The hunt-and-kill quest line is always present and accessible. These help you gauge how strong you are early on against a fixed variety of monsters. They give extra silver, too, so you can donate to the Academy. You will need a longbow for later ones. The last 2 or 3 aren’t recommended until you get Saint’s Hauberk or Dark Plate. The experience from the necessary fights is also quite good.

The hunter guild quests give 500 gold, then 1000, then 1500, then 2000, then a Mighty Bow. Plus, you get credit for a Great Deed. Mighty Bows are great for fighter classes, since with higher brawn and an Eagle-Eye amulet, you often one-shot enemies.

The taming quests are very impractical but fun for completionists. You need Survival skill for them.

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Thanks for starting this topic, and thanks to everyone who chimed in! I’m really enjoying seeing people discover and discuss all the systems I included in Archipelago. This thread, and various reviews, also gave me some good feedback on balancing changes and additional content for a post-comp release, which will definitely be a thing.

Some small notes on a couple of your points:

The Trident of the Storms: it’s not worth buying unless you’re planning to make use of its MP-cost reducing ability. The greatsword you can buy on the Great Market for 2000 coins has the exact same damage range.

Renown: it’s a nitpick, but it should be “dangerous and deadly dungeons”, not mines.

Another nitpick: The last class in your table should be Frontier Trader, not Frontier Explorer.

Worth noting: you can reduce the cooldown on island exploration not only by travelling between the islands, but also by resting at the inns. (especially useful once you’ve gained 10 renown and can rest for free).

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I think I need a grand magic potion for a quest. Should I systematically visit all shops to see whether it’s available somewhere, or is this an item you can only find on your adventures?

DIfferent question: is it always safe to sell miscellaneous goods? (Like rare fossil, rare rum, obsidian heart.)


The rare fossil and rum can be sold to the collector for more $$ if you have trading. Otherwise, sell them at the market.

The other item is 1 of 3 requested by the witch to brew really good potions.

One of the potions is a grand magic potion. The others are grand healing and levitation. The first one of each, you get for free with the right ingredients. Then you need to buy the rest.

Once you’ve given the ingredients to the witch, you can sell them safely, most of the time, unless other quests require them. However, none of these quests are game-critical.


Echoing what Andrew said, but also flagging that there is at least one quest where you need obsidian hearts. If you’ve fully explored the islands you should already know if you’ve got that one in your have, though (it may be required for others of course, I’ve only played through 1.5 times!)


I’ve played … more than 1.5 times through, and I found I still couldn’t keep track of those items that hunters may sell and that drop from specific tough monsters. I just make sure I have 1 of each for insurance. In the worst case, you sell back for a slight loss, because the hunters give you a really nice discount.

These questions reminded me I never replied to the author! The TLDR is yeah, oops, I forgot that there are better purchases than the Trident in some cases, but it always popped up, and I kind of ignored the Great Market since it didn’t have any sought-after trading goods.

So good news for newer players: I think you can get through pretty quickly by remembering a few big things. Though it’s fun to know the details.

Another thing after a few more playthroughs: buying a longbow relatively early seems VERY worth it for fighter classes, due to the special skills–even winning a couple fights you wouldn’t have makes a big difference. You might want to wait until you’ve improved your brawn and vitality, though. I’m on the fence about buying mail armor since the Huntress pops up regularly, but if you have a few fighting quests like the Crossroads Inn where you have to fight a bandit brute, it’s not a terrible idea. However, if you’ve mastered trading routes, you can just buy the Saint’s Hauberk straight out, since the Enchantress shows up a lot.

I just played as a caravan mercenary and realized a couple ways to a quick boost, because I never grasped how good two items were.

The beautiful carafe can be sold to the Collector for a nice markup if you’re a trader. It seems out of place in the gems, and you never find one, and that should’ve been a clue it was rare. So you can gain silver quickly as a trader.

quick experience as a trader

The purse of infinite coins, a trader-specific combat item which you buy from the Collector, can be a big boost early, too. Since it allows 10 free bribes, you can and should use it on the tough bandits. Each gives 100+ experience. Looking at the source, there’s an 8/14 chance you can get something with 100+ experience. There’s also one fallen knight (250) and giant (300) thrown into the mix (1/14 chance.) Assassins, elementals and trolls are 150, and troll berserkers can’t be bribed. Everything else is 100. Have a few bottled mists ready just in case fleeing is nearly impossible. (Yes, you still want to save. Take the time to, or to pretend to enter a mine.)

The expected value is 138.5 per fight, since you can’t bribe berserkers, and 3*50+150+200=the extra experience=500/13. Note that fleeing a 100-exp bribe fight increases your expected experience by 38.5. I recommend this. if you are close to an experience goal.)

Trading 1300 gold for 1385+ experience seems worth it, since that’s halfway to combat skill level 2 and the powerful volley ability. It may take time to rest and recharge the enemies, though, since after 8 wins, they avoid you.

Another approach is to just kill the weaker bandits and bribe the ones that give 100 experience.

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So I thought I’d write up what I observed about the quests you get from rumors. I poked in the source. There are three pools, A, B and C. A is easiest and may have a chance at renown. B gives renown if you do it right. C gives 2 renown and requires either a hard fight or lots of materials.

Quest pool A (3 of 9):

These are easy quests that can be won with little or no combat or skills. They always give experience and sometimes renown.

Bandit King quest

You always get 200 EXP.
keep the money, 1000 silver, no renown
keep half, 500 silver, 1 renown
keep all, 0 silver, 1 renown, 2 food (can be sold for 570+ … so this is worth it. The value is 570 not 270/300 as you can only buy limited food from markets)

Stolen statuette quest

You need light for this.
You get 200 experience for solving it.
Going left gets a giant rat fight with a random treasure drop. It’s very worth it. So don’t use survival skill.
Traders can make 1000 if you let him go. Otherwise it’s 700.
Keeping the statuette after capturing him gets you a statuette.
Giving it to the temple gives you 300 extra experience.

Fisherwoman/chalice quest

Go right along the cliffside. You have 3 options. Each gives 200 experience.

Keeping the chalice for yourself gives you a 500 silver item without trading, 2500 with.
Giving it to the fisherwoman gets you 1 renown.
Giving it to the lord gets you 1000 silver.

Goblin caves/adventurer quest

There are 2 choices here. Each gives you 200 experience.

If you have trading skill, take the skull. You can sell it to the collector for a markup. Otherwise, take the 1000 silver. The skull will be worth something, but not 1000.

Merfolk storyteller

You get 200 experience no matter what tales you tell.
Hjafnir: 3 potent health
Mirlanda: 3 potent magic
Ragu: 3 bottled mist, 2 bottled explosion
treasures: 2 luxury items
beasts: 3 antidote, blessed ointment
your own adventures: 250 * silver

If you somehow have 6 renown by the time you talk to her, you want your own adventures. It’s probably not worth waiting to get 6 renown, because the other options are good.
If you have the trading skill, tell of treasure. That is 1250 silver when you sell the items. Charisma, talk about Ragu. The other prizes are nice, but you’re better off profiting then buying a potent health potion to anticipate the random sick hunter quest.

Beasts is the only bummer choice here, but you still get something you can sell.

Festival play

You get 200 experience no matter what.

Losing to Hjafnir gets 800 silver, which is really nice if you need it.

Giving the costume to Jake gets you a troll charm which raises HP. It can be sold for 500 without trading skill, so if you don’t have a charm or brawn, it may be worth it to get this charm to sell later. It will probably help you survive a fight or two. This will not get you renown.

With enough brawn you can win the fight and get a point of renown. However, fighters may wish to get a point of renown immediately. You can beat Hjafnir. Without charisma, you shrug and don’t get gold. With charisma, you should improvise a new ending for 800 silver.

Hjafnir’s asides are funny, if you have him along.

Dark book/grimoire

Closing the book gets a quick 200 experience. But you can and should do better.
“Attack the skeleton” lets you win an easy fight against a frail skeleton. You will get some experience and silver from the fight. Then each option below gives 500 silver.

Letting the woman go gets you 300 experience.
Turning her in gets 1 renown. You probably want the renown early on.

Aspiring Turtle Tamer

200 experience, 500 silver in most cases.

You can trade the Amulet of the Wilds for a hunting knife, as well. No silver, though.
Similarly you can discourage the kid. You’ll get the potent health potions but no silver.

If you have Survival skill, you get 2 potent health potions if you tame a dark wolf and return to the kid.

The experience from a dark wolf fight (100), though, may be more valuable. If you win the fight, 200 experience and silver. But no health potions–the kid had to use them on the wolf!

Miracle water

The choices here are a bit skill-based.

Buying the vial as a trader gets you something you can sell to the Collector for a nice markup. It’s well worth 200 silver.
Buying the vial otherwise leaves you out 200 silver.
If you have magic skill, accuse the man of selling water. You can prove it, and you’ll get renown.
If you have 2 charisma skill, accuse the man of selling water. You can prove it, and you’ll get renown.
If you accuse the man of selling water otherwise, you only get 200 experience.


Quest pool B (3 of 9):

Suspicious Inn
Shipwright and goblins

You get 400 exp + 1 renown at the end of this quest.

If you use charisma to convince people to pay the shipwright up front, you don’t have to fight a goblin hero.
This also happens if you kill the goblin hero, but you get the extra experience and silver from the fight. It’s a good measuring stick.
You can also supply the shipwright with 3 crafting materials to avoid the goblin hero fight.

I’d go with the goblin hero fight, though.

Gemstone scarab invasion

This is a tricky one. If you have combat or magic skills or the right weapon(s), you can hack through the fights. Otherwise, it’s tough unless you want to spend food–which is worth it if you don’t have the right skills and need a point of renown. Bottled explosions do no damage.

You should buy mining tools before this quest.

Scarabs are vulnerable only to piercing shots from a bow. Some magic weapons work. Skyhook does lightning damage, and Mirlanda’s Staff can cast the right spells at random, though you may get very unlucky with the staff. If you have a bow, evade/stalwart defense every other move, since you can’t do damage.

You first fight a blue scarab then a red one. The more fortune you have, the less chance the gems inside them will disintegrate. You should find treasure in the side passage(s). Also, look through the pile of deactivated scarabs before fighting.

For the final fight, you have a choice. Letting the woman out doesn’t let you fight a white scarab with a chance for a diamond. I think it’s always good to try, if it’s winnable. It gives an additional renown point, and the experience is good, too.

The white scarab, with 20 HP, can be very tough, as you’ll need more than one hit, so save before if you go the fighting route.

Talking to the scholar gets you 400 experience, 2 potent health potions and 2 potent magic potions.

Archery tournament/hunter

Buying the hunter an eagle eye amulet is the easy way through. It gets 400 exp and 2500 silver. However, you might spend that much just having the Enchanter construct one.
However, with the right skills, you can gain renown.

2 charisma or 2 combat open up options to convince the hunter to do his best without cheating. The reward is 1 renown, 400 exp, 2 wyvern teeth and a soul shard. These are useful for the Witch’s potions.

It’s worthwhile to wait to get to 2 combat skill for this, in my opinion.

the Artist/sculptor

This one may be the weakest for quick improvement, because the enemies that drop these items are rare and tough, but the mechanics are interesting.

You need to find wyvern teeth, soul shards, or golem cores. This is randomly determined. To do so, you can beat tough enemies, or you can just find the hunters’ option adventure. You can also buy one of each from the Collector, if you have trading skills. You can also get wyvern teeth/soul shards from the archer quest. Since the hunters may rob you, you may wish to save-and-reload.

Golem cores and soul shards drop in the ancient ruins, and wyvern teeth drop if you hunt beasts. But they are all relatively rare rolls.

Note the hunters’ nonoption adventure sells different rare stuff.

The artist gives you a physical shield potion, a magical shield potion, and a levitation potion. Plus 400 experience. So it’s worth it if you have the charisma to buy stuff. But I’ve had it go unfinished.

Suspicious Inn

You don’t want to drink the wine, but if you do, you need to work your way out in time. I forget the pattern, but it’s doable. However, you lose HP with each step, so by the time you have enough HP, you can probably beat the innkeeper.

If you refuse, you need to beat the bandit brute. He has 50 HP. Now’s a good time to use healing and/or bottled explosives…though there’s a wrinkle! Fleeing gets you the reward, too. But the brute gives an additional 200exp/500 silver.

Arm Wrestling

You can do pretty well boosting your brawn to 4. It you boost it to 5, Gruuk’s parents try to bribe you. You can also get Gruuk drunk at the tavern if you lose to Algernon, then bet on Algernon. You need 2 Brawn to have a shot against Algernon, without “Give it your all.” Give it your all gives +2 brawn for the round. So save it for Grunk.

Winning parameters
fisherwoman: Brawn + 1r3 >= 3
soldier: Brawn + 1r3 >= 4 (200 exp if you lose)
Algernon: Brawn + 1r3 >= 5 (300 exp if you lose)
Gruuk: Brawn + 1r3 >= 6 (400 exp/1000 silver if you lose)

400 exp/3000 silver/1 renown if you win. 400/5000 if you are bribed.

Red knight

You can defeat the Red Knight without learning tips, but it’s easier if you do. 300 silver + trading gets you secrets from his squire. 2 charisma gets you secrets from the man himself. So it may not be worth it to improve just for the experience.

He gives great treasure. The Quicksilver Axe is great for melee and combining hits, though the Mighty Bow is still best for quick kills. Hjafnir’s asides are funny, if you have him along.

Handbook of Monsters

You need to fight 3 of these:

Death Wolf
Goblin Shaman
Fire Jelly
Lightning Jelly
Toxic Jelly
Grave Scorpion
Dark Wolf
Skeleton Warrior
Skeleton Archer

Most can be found in the lesser ruins or fighting random beasts by the coast. THe jellies can be found in puddles or mines. The harpies can be found on boats.

I’m curious what happens if you get a death wolf and don’t have Bare Bones Hall. It seems like you might be out of luck on this quest, but that’s an edge case.

Vampire's Curse

Here if you have magic or charisma, those options will let you get a luxury item and 400 experience.

However, if you don’t, you can’t convince the villagers the curse is a hoax. You need to kill a wyvern, which gets 300 silver and 400 experience in addition to the wyvern fight.


Quest pool C (2 of 6):

All the big fights below give 1000 experience. You get 2 renown as well for clearing them, combat or no, and a cool unique item.

The robbed grave/Avatar of Wrath

5000 silver + 1 ruby is a small price to pay to solve the Avatar of Wrath quest. Otherwise, you must navigate an enemy alternately immune to magic or physical damage. Also, they go crazy doing damage after you kill them.

The avatar stone and 1000 experience and 2 renown are a reward. This costs less than donating to the Academy and counts as a great deed, 1 of 3 to fight the false Mirlanda. So you should go through with it, unless you want the challenge of beating the Avatar.

The devourer

All you need for this quest is 8 food. The devourer will explode if you feed it that much. You can get it by trading. The fight is much, much harder. You need to use lanterns to destroy the slimed goblins the devourer eats to regain HP. The fight gives 1000 exp, but there are a lot easier ways to get it. So only fight if you want the challenge.

The dark plate is a great reward and well worth the 8 food spent.

The Goliath

The Goliath is a tough fight without a huge reward. But it has a neat mechanic: if the Goliath gets low on hit points, you can summon a companion to defeat it.

You get the full experience/silver (1000/5000) if you beat it all by yourself and choose the silver, with or without your companion nearby, whether you remember to summon them. You’ll probably need a lot of healing.

You only get half if you call the hunter to finish the Goliath off. If you win by yourself, you can choose the Hammer of Kalt, which is nice, but other weapons are better.

Thunder roc

The thunder roc is something you’ll have to fight unless you’ve got 2 magic.

To skip the fight, you want to talk to the mages and make sure you recalibrate the spell. Buy what you need to.

It’s probably better to just fight the roc and bring healing spells.

The absorbing mail is fun armor, though you may have better.

King Crab

King Crab is a very hard fight, but trading for crafting materials and 7 bottled explosions (see the great market) isn’t too bad.

The Assassin’s Dagger is a really nice melee weapon for all classes, too.

Hunting Fury

You need a sapphire, knife, and grand magic potion to help the ghost with the ritual to disperse the hunting fury. It’s worth it, though the fury isn’t one of the tougher of these enemies.

You can buy a grand magic potion from the mer-folk, so it is not too bad.

The crimson robe you get makes fire spells more potent. But you can also sell it to recoup the costs of the reagents.

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Thanks for creating this detailed overview of all the sidequests in 4x4 A! It must have been a lot of work, even with peeking at the source, and I’m sure many players will find this useful.

A couple of comments for particular quests:

Handbook of monsters

You can always find a death wolf in the Ancient Ruins (on the island where you repeatedly fight undead enemies). In fact, all the enemies for this quest, save for the jellies, can be found in one of the three “combat areas”.

Suspicious Inn

If you drank the poisoned wine and don’t have an antidote, you can find some at the inn after leaving your room.

Also, if you drink the wine while having a Purifying Ring equipped, you get another ending, with bigger rewards, including renown.

Vampire's Curse

You can convince the villagers that the curse isn’t real even if you don’t have Charisma or Magic. Open the coffin in the castle after defeating the wyvern to gain some evidence, and a legendary item.

Thunder Roc

Survival 2 lets you avoid the combat as well.

Gemstone Scarab Invasion

If you have Survival, you can also defeat the scarabs by taming a phantom spider (whose attacks ignore all armour) and commanding it to attack them!

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Wow! Some of these alternate solutions are neat. Given the classes I played I’m not surprised I missed them. And yeah, my hope was

  1. people would have a reference if they wanted to play
  2. people might make references for other entries, so there would be cheat sheets (without too many spoilers) for those who wanted
  3. to have something fun to play between IFComp games that weren’t my sort of thing but still obviously good.

It was fun to look at the source and learn and see the design choices you made. I learned a lot. I also like nice touches like not being able to bribe the bandit brute at the Crossroads Inn.

I never really explored the undead ruins because I found one other place that regenerated random monsters gave better rewards. Also my first play-through I sunk too much time into hunting the cave of beasts, because it was the first isle I went to and I wrongly assumed others would be even tougher. I missed the whole “randomly generated” bit.

And yes I really like your ideas for balancing things. On replay I tried to restrict purchases of certain overpowered items.

I’d also add two things.

Keyboard shortcut

At the start, subtract 30 from the tens/ones digits of the silver you have. Keep hitting tab/enter to buy a drink and go back until the tens/ones digits reach that number. Then you’ve drunk the maximum that will get experience. This may be a more general handy hint for avoiding mouse hunt-and-peck stuff, but I was pleased to find it useful, particularly if you give a bunch of stories to the keeper at once.

Gambling (sort of) for a quest

Fighters may also wish to buy a Grand Health Potion from the Priestess of Light (667 silver, best) or Mer-Folk (1000 silver.) Don’t use it in a fight.

Instead, it gets you a Huntress Bow if you run into the injured hunter. While you can get a longbow elsewhere, the Huntress Bow is unique and really powerful to pick off flying enemies and seems worth the gamble. It will take down harpies before they heal HP, for instance. A longbow is OK but more firepower means you can take out heavier monsters.

This is a gamble, but a good one, I think.

Low Risk Investment

A small magic potion is a great investment at 50 gold. Give it to the small woman, and she will give you a shrink scroll worth 250 gold. The best part about the shrink scroll is, magic users can sell it after learning the spell. I may’ve mentioned this earlier, but given even magic users can sell the scroll, it’s nice.

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