Sunday, 14 February 2016

Conquests of the Longbow – All’s Fair in Love and Archery

Written by Alex


I’ve discussed previously how the designers of Conquests of the Longbow do a great job in creating conflict in every scene. Another thing that they do is foreshadowing events to come. Every scene and just about every line of dialogue serves some purpose, whether it’s general plot-related information, introducing new game mechanics to the player, nudging Robin off in the right direction, or just setting up future events. And amazingly, so far it’s felt completely natural and not hackneyed: I haven’t found any puzzles in this game to be totally oblique, but I don’t feel like I’m being spoon-fed the solutions either. The impression I get is that, as long as you pay attention, you won’t be totally lost. This is not to say that there isn’t some silliness. There is, and while a lot of it helps reveal the different characters’ personalities (think the Merry Men’s banter), a lot of it is just there to make you smile, but it doesn’t feel out of place.


In other words, this game has a satisfying set-up/payoff structure that keeps the player interested, unlike some other games we’ve seen on this blog.

Enough talk! More action!

Day 7

Day seven gets started with a bang.

I’m sorry. That was way too easy, even for me. But it got your attention. Let’s start this over.

Day seven starts with a burning desire to bury a shaft of wood in—

Dammit!

Christmas Comes Early

Robin awakens after his adventure in the fens with one more sartorial offering in his wardrobe: The black monk’s robe. I don’t know when I’d ever want to go back to their monastery, but in a game as good as this, I doubt the option to do so is there just because.

Decisions, decisions.
 But Robin has more pressing things on his mind than his choice of wardrobe. For starters, Marian is waiting for him to give her the hand scroll and maybe even a good, solid, shaft of wood--

Alright, alright! Tough crowd!

Before heading to the sacred willow grove, there’s still the matter of the Abbott’s puzzle box and the ring of fire it supposedly contains. As I said last post, I’m certain that Fulk’s scroll of verses is the key to opening up the box. To recap, here is Fulk’s poem:

The trees argued amongst themselves to decide who was first amongst the trees.”

In Latin they spoke:
“‘Red is my crowning beauty,’ Luis claimed.
Idho cried, ‘The power of the bow sleeps within me.’
Beth bragged, ‘Men become drunk upon my sap.’
Eadha said, ‘The Romans loved me dearly.’
Music hides within me,’ said Ruis.
Ochtach said, ‘Much is made of me.’

So the trees argued, but the key is this,
Every tree is first among trees,
And first they are in order spoken.”

And here is my expert analysis:

Take the word that is formed by the first letter of each tree in the poem. Doing so gives you the word ‘LIBERO.’”

Whipping out the puzzle box, I type “LIBERO” and, what do you know, I find a magic ring (100).

I just wish it made the Zelda treasure sound.

With this ring, if Fulk is to be believed, Robin should be impervious to flame. And who wouldn’t believe a dwarf dressed in motley who speaks mostly in rhyme?

Robin can only wear one ring at a time due to some “magic force,” depriving me of my chance to play as two Captain Planet characters rolled into one. Whatever. I decide to wear the water ring because I’m more curious to see what it can do. Robin comments that he’ll give the box to Alan later because he might like toying with it, and it soon disappears from Robin’s inventory with nary a mention again.

The Tree Whisperer

There’s nothing going on in camp, no Merry men waiting by the stream to offer witty commentary and playful banter. Before seeking Marian I visit the usual spots to see if anything’s changed. It hasn’t. The only place of interest is the Widow’s. There, the Widow tells me she knows of my errand. How? She talks to the trees. Seriously.



Willows, in particular. Sounds useful! Which, of course, means that she won’t share this knowledge with Robin. It’s up to Marian, as the current priestess of the forest, to do. Taking the hint, I go to the sacred willow grove.



Marian is indeed waiting for Robin; the willows told her, too, that he was on his way. While happy to see Robin, and relieved to hear that Fulk is safe, Marian wants to know if Robin was successful before. I hand over the scroll (200), and Marian reveals its purpose.


In Marian’s hands, the hand scroll glows with letters, revealing the secret Druid’s code. This explains the hand with letters on it in the game’s manual. I quickly use the code to spell “COPY PROTECTION.”

To ensure his understanding, Marian has Robin spell his own name using the code. This is a pretty slick move, since it also shows the player how the Druid code interface works. The game does this automatically, but this is the procedure: Click “Hand” on Robin, touch the appropriate parts of his hand using the manual as a reference, and then tap Robin’s palm to finish. I approve how this is integrated into the gameplay and doesn’t feel like a narrative-breaking tutorial. And you just know it’s going to come up later, hopefully in an epic game of “This Little Piggie” (wrong appendage, I know).


Marian asks Robin to hold on to the scroll for delivery to one of the Queen’s spies. This is all part of the secret plan to intercept the ransom money that Prince John stole from the Queen and get it to the dastardly Leopold: Robin is to attend the upcoming Saturday Fair in Nottingham and deliver the scroll to a member of their conspiracy who will be dressed as a scholar. The spy will then deliver the scroll to one of the Queen’s knights, who will learn the code and be there to receive whatever ransom money Robin has collected at the proper time. I’m guessing the code will be used for a phrase/counter-phrase indicating trust, like “My tights ride up in this heat,” with the proper reply being “But at least it’s not raining. It’s all very John le Carré with a decidedly medieval flavor (and less anti-Americanism).

The spy at the Fair will be disguised as a scholar carrying a book of royal coats-of-arms, suspiciously similar to the coats-of-arms in the game manual. Robin is to ask to see the coat of the Cornish Kings, upon which the spy will show Robin a whole bunch until Robin identifies the correct coat. Upon successfully completing this test, Robin is to give the spy the scroll. But, Marian warns, Prince John will have spies there as well, just waiting to trip Robin up.

Robin is excited by this. He also wants to enter the archery completion at the Fair. Marian tells Robin to keep a low profile, and if he sees her in town, do not make contact. I never saw her in town, but maybe I missed something. Robin then asks if Marian will stop by after this mission is complete. She agrees to come the night after the Fair. Things are sure looking up for Mr. Hood!

But it’s not over! Marian has another mission: Now that Robin knows the hand code, he is to seek out the blessing of the Green Man, guardian of Sherwood, who lives in the ancient oak in the forest. As the Sheriff has been gearing up to scour the forest of all outlaws, Marian believes this blessing could save Robin’s life. She doesn’t give any hints as to how to do this, but I have a feeling this is a problem that cannot be conquested by the longbow.

Remember what happened?

I can show Marian a bunch of other items, including Fulk’s scroll, which she keeps. She also comments on the rings: While the water ring gives her a pleasant feeling, water being her favorite elements, she does not like the fire ring. I don’t think this is correct. If adventure games have taught me anything, it’s that water elementals fear air.

On a lark, I show Marian the crystal heart again. This was a very good idea.


Bummer, bro! Right when this post was getting good!”
It’s like Leisure Suit Robin! I even get 50 points for bedding Marian! Personally, I think she’s worth more like 1,000, but what do I know?

When they are finished, Maid Marian returns to wherever it is she goes when she is not gallivanting around the forest and sleeping with outlaws, leaving Robin to seek the Green Man’s blessing.

If Wishes Were Trees


Summoning the Green Man is not as easy as just clicking “Talk” on the ancient oak. I use the Druid code to spell duir, the Druid word for “Oak,” and while Robin comments that that is the proper name, nothing happens.

At this point, I figure that maybe I don’t have what it takes to complete the puzzle and decide to sneak into town for clues. I get dressed up as a brown monk and, when I leave Robin’s cave, Friar Tuck informs me that the Widow wants to see me. But when I visit her hut . . .


. . . nothing happens. The Widow has nothing to say to me no matter how I’m dressed, but interestingly Friar Tuck only relays the Widow’s message if I’m dressed as either a brown or a black monk. I wonder if I did anything out of sequence and “broke” the game.

In any event, I head to town, and there is nothing I can do, save get killed if I show up to St. Mary’s dressed in brown.


The only interesting thing I otherwise discovered happened at the fens. When I approach the monastery, still wearing the water ring, the will-o’-the-wisps who are now floating in the swamp responded to me, offering to fetch me a boat to cross if I desire. I do, but the spirits say that it is not safe now since the monks are on guard, and tell Robin to come back at a quieter time. As I said, I don’t know why I’d want to go back in, but there must be some reason later on.

With nobody coming down Watling Street, there really is nothing to do, so I assume that I have what it takes to get the Green Man’s blessing. I stand in the forest like a dummy, thinking about what to do. Before long, I hear a piping flute and see a strange, small figure skitter by. The little forest elf! I had forgotten about it since my first play session. Again, I couldn’t get a screenshot of it, but when I clicked “Eye” on the passing figure, Robin remarks that it’s actually a pixie who, once caught, will grant any wish.

A wish! Perhaps I can wish to speak with the Green Man. But where’d the pixie go? Luckily, standing still on any empty forest screen does the trick. Now I’ve got to catch the little bugger. Longbow? No . . . ah! The golden net given to me by the Widow after I saved her sons! She did comment that I should “use it in the forest,” after all.


After some timing trial-and-error, I catch the pixie (10). It turns out that pixies don’t grant wishes; only the Green Man has the power to do so, and agrees to summon him for me in exchange for releasing him. Does Robin really look like a heartless bastard?


Forget I asked.

Riddle Me This

Before the ancient oak, the pixie spouts a little rhyme:

Old Man Oak,
Father Tree,
Green Man Green Man
Come and See”


This summons the big guy himself. He doesn’t grant wishes (doesn’t anybody in this game?!), but will offer his protection . . . on the condition that the supplicant answer his riddles using the Druid code. Let the copy protection begin!


Robin’s up for the challenge, but just to make things interesting, the Green Man turns Robin into a tree, save his hand. If Robin passes the test, he will be restored. Otherwise, you may as well call him Robin Wood.


Oh, come on! That wasn’t that bad! I think I deserve a hand for that one!


Bro, just stop.”

Wow. When your own blog post is out to get you, you know you’ve got problems. Anyway, on to the riddles:

  • Riddle 1: “My first master has four legs, my second master has two legs, my first I serve in life, my second I serve in death, Cure me and I live beyond my death. Tough I am, yet soft beside, ‘gainst ladies’ cheeks I oft reside.” This one took a bit of thought, but I focused on the words “legs,” “cure,” and “death,” and came up with the correct answer: LEATHER.

  • Riddle 2: “Metal or bone I may be, many teeth I have and always bared, yet my bite harms no one, and ladies delight in my touch.” I resist the urge to input my initial guess, “Piranha,” and instead settle on what turns out to be the correct answer: COMB!

  • Riddle 3: “Not born but from a mother’s body drawn, I hang until half of me is gone, I sleep in a cave until I grow old, then valued for my hardened gold.” I’ll admit, I had no clue. “Egg”? “Cheese”? “Milk”? I try MILK. It is not the answer. I was tricked by “from a mother’s body drawn.” Now that I think of it, maybe the answer was “Honey”? In any event, I fear death until the Green Man, nice tree that he is, offers me another chance.

  • Riddle 4: “I am two-faced but bear only one face, I have no legs but travel widely, men spill much blood over me, Kings leave their imprint upon me, I have greatest power when given away, yet lust for me keeps me locked away.” Easy: COIN!

And with that, Robin passes the test (200). “When you are in danger, fleshling,” the Green Man ominously intones as he retreats back into his tree, “then I will protect you.” The day ends with a somber Robin perfectly willing to talk to his companions about his burgeoning love for Marian but keeping his experience with the Green Man to himself. He and the Merry Men then lay low until the day of the Saturday Fair, which I’m assuming is Saturday.

Day 8


The morning of the Fair, Robin finds that his men are all bummed that they aren’t going. So Robin, being the nice guy that he is, tells these sad-sacks to just go, get in any way they can, but just don’t get caught. “Okay!” they say, all smiles. Sheesh. With wimps like these as help, Robin really needs to watch his six.

I still need a disguise that will let Robin infiltrate the Fair and participate in the archery contest. Thank goodness for Disguises R’ Us, known around these parts as Watling Street!

Street Walkers

Howdy, y’all, and welcome to Honest Rob’s Watling Street Disguise Shop! Beggars, friars, or even mean ol’ fens monks—you need ‘em? We’ve GOT ‘em! Why, just in time for the Saturday Fair, we’ve got yeoman costumes comin’ on down the pike for half-off! So don’t waste your farthings on cheap imitations; come to Honest Rob’s Watling Street Disguise Shop and get THE REAL THING! And tell ‘em Honest Rob sent ya!”

But do you fear getting naked for a complete stranger?”

This time, Robin intercepts a sturdy yeoman on his way to the Fair. Seems Mr. Yeoman has a girlfriend whose father won’t give her hand in marriage unless he can prove himself worthy by performing some great deed, such as winning the archery contest and taking home the grand prize, a golden arrow. Robin, continuing his strange fetish, asks for the guy’s clothes. As with the other encounters, I explore all options. Let’s blow Robin’s horn and see what happens.


Damn! Robin got conquested! And insulted, to boot! This yeoman doesn’t mess around! Let’s try something else.

If you click “Hand” on the yeoman, he immediately draws his bow and makes Robin disarm and step aside. How humiliating! Robin says he can catch up to him, but I have a better idea: Restore! Let’s threaten him with our own Longbow.


DAMN! After some trash-talking about who’s the fastest draw in the land, they off each other simultaneously! I only wish the game could go on somehow after this. This may be my favorite image in the whole game. Yes, I am sick. Nothing left to do but take the boring option and bribe the guy (100).


Robin offers 50 marks, calls his men to pay the yeoman and escort him back north, and then heads south, bow in hand, to Nottingham and the Saturday Fair.

At the Saturday Fair


The Fair is in full swing when Robin comes to town, and is in fact the only place where anything is happening.


The Fair itself consists of three screens like the one above, divided by a long fence. The archery range is all the way to the right, but the contest does not begin until Robin successfully finds the spy and delivers Marian’s hand scroll.

It’s really fun poking around the Fair, talking to the various people and buying their wares. There are famous people, too, including people that worked on this game, some old friends of the blog, historical figures and, uh, George Bush and Dan Quayle. It would take forever to go over everybody at the Fair, so I’ll hit the highlights.

Corey, you dog!

Al Lowe?

Nice callback to the story from the scroll in the fens monastery.

She gives you tons of points, then takes away tons of points, before setting you back to your original amount. No mention of Jem and the Holograms.

These guys are everywhere!
Robin can even spend some money. While searching for my contact, I:
  • Get my fortune told (25)
  • Purchase some lovely scarves for Marian (25)
  • Give money to a beggar (10)
  • Give money to a one-legged beggar (10)
  • Buy some fragrant rose oil for Marian (25)
  • Lose money playing dice with a cheater (0)
I like how there are all of these little diversions at the Fair. There’s so much to do, and the detail put into each character on screen makes this whole sequence really memorable and vibrant despite the lack of animation.

Spies Like Us

The first scholar I meet gives me a bad feeling. It couldn’t have anything to do with those Sheriff’s men who appear and wait at a distance when I initiate conversation, could it?

No, I think it’s his face.

Get your manual ready and be prepared to say “Nay” to every coat-of-arms that isn’t the Cornish Kings. I survive this test, and do so with another scholar, before finally finding my guy.

PRO-TIP: It’s this one.

Successfully identifying the proper coat-of-arms nets you 100 points and a little extra cash from the spy. I hand over the scroll (50) and then the spy leaves so as to not draw any more attention to us. With the dangerous part of the mission out of the way, it’s time to win that golden arrow.

Adam Bell, Your Time Has Come

SICK BURN!

Bro! It’s me!”

The Sheriff’s goons charge a penny to enter a contest that used to be free. Whatever. Robin pays up and prepares to loose some shafts! Ladies beware! His competition is fellow semi-legendary English outlaw Adam Bell and his companions. Adam Bell, you’re going down.
  • Round 1: Standard archery fare. Three men shoot, two men move on.
Good enough to move on. P.S. Robin uses the alias “Puck of Barnesdale.” Much better than “Brother Eustace.”

  • Round 2: Things are heating up! But not really, because Robin rules.

On to the final round.

  • Round 3: The moment of truth. Hood versus Bell. FIGHT!

EAT IT, ADAM!
That’s how it’s done! That, and having the arcade difficulty set low, but I mean, come on! Just look at that shot!

Robin gets his golden arrow (200) and the satisfaction of telling the Sheriff of Nottingham what he can do with his offer of employment.

I love Robin’s passive-aggressive response.

The arrow contributes 10,000 marks to King Richard’s ransom. Not a bad haul for a day spent dicking around and shooting arrows! Robin heads back to celebrate with his men, cautioning that they should raise more money as a hedge against the Queen’s cash not being sent from York as planned. Little John suggests raiding the Sheriff’s own coffers, an idea Robin likes and decides to sleep on. I wonder if said coffers are in the monastery? Didn’t I say this game makes excellent use of foreshadowing?

Session Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Total Time: 8 hours.

Inventory: Horn, money, gem, hand scroll, water ring, fire ring
Ransom: 10,300
Outlaws: 34
Score: 4305 out of 7325

Problems Conquested by the Longbow (as of this post) – 5: The longbow is the most useful tool devised by mankind.
Day 1: Saved a peasant woman from being raped and murdered by one of the Sheriff’s goons.
Day 2: Rescued Maid Marian from an evil fens monk.
Day 4: Saved a poacher from arrest and execution.
Day 5: Got the brown robe from the St. Mary’s monk by threatening him, but I didn’t do this because that’s the coward’s way. Bribery is where it’s at!
Day 6: I got to threaten a black monk with the longbow, and then murder him with a quarterstaff. I’m retroactively saying that this counts. You can shoot the monk if you want, but the quarterstaff fight doesn’t happen without the threat of a good old-fashioned shafting.
Day 8: The yeoman certainly conquested his problem with his longbow. And then there’s the double-longbow-ing, which is just so awesome we should look at it again:


You know what, though? I am going to count winning the archery contest and getting that golden arrow. Not only did I show that jerk Adam Bell what for, but I got a cool 10,000 marks towards good King Dicky’s ransom.

Corrections and Omissions: Maybe I’m starting to write these better, since nobody had any corrections or omissions for me last post. Or maybe nobody’s reading these.
*5 CAPs for Reiko for pointing out that coasts-of-arms are different than a coat-of-arms.
*5 CAPs to Joe Pranevich . . . the challenge is on!
*5 CAPs to Corey Cole for reminding me that I forgot to mention the arrow-splitting as an integral part of the Robin Hood mythos.

27 comments:

  1. What I don't get is why Robin (Sorry, Puck) wins. Both arrows hit exactly the same spot. Shouldn't it be a draw? The way it is it's way too much of a handicap going first for what should be a fair test of skill.

    And it's not like there aren't two unused archery tracks standing next door so they can both have a go at hitting centre without getting in each other's way or anything.

    Now that I think about it, it would have been much better for them both to fire in separate tracks at the same time, then if they kept getting bullseyes, keep going until one of them loses or the crowd gets bored and stones them to death.

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    1. It's surely harder to split an arrow than to hit the centre of the target.

      You're right of course, the fairest way would be to have separate targets.

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    2. It wouldn't be a Robin Hood game without splitting an arrow. That shot is still known today in modern archery as a "Robin Hood". Of course modern fiberglass and aluminum arrows don't split properly, so breaking the nock counts. I've done it once, much more luck than skill in my case.

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    3. Yes, the arrow-splitting is classic Robin Hood, something I should have mentioned in my post. Of course, TBD's suggestion would be more fair, but I appreciate the opportunity to show up that poseur Adam Bell.

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    4. Mythbusters did an episode on the arrow-splitting thing BTW. Not possible.

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  2. Do you want corrections? There is one place in this post that says "coasts-of-arms".

    So that's what a "hand scroll" is. Somehow I missed the original explanation and was wondering for awhile if it was a hand-sized scroll (i.e. smaller than normal) or something. I get it now.

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    Replies
    1. Good one Reiko; thanks!

      Perhaps I didn't explain what the hand scroll was well enough earlier. It does sound rather like a very tiny scroll, doesn't it?

      Delete
  3. So, this is like the third game this year with a reference to Dan Quayle (the other two being Larry 5 and Free D.C.). That has to be some sort of record.

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    1. Surely a record that won't be beaten by another political figure!

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    2. Yet in the modern era, with 8 years of a vice president at *least* as stupid as Quayle was perceived to be, and nary a mention in a video game. Odd.

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  4. I was thinking you actually had to decode what trees were being referred to in the poem. I've got yew, maple, and pine so far.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Sorry about the deleted messages, I was trying to figure out how to post a link (failed). Rudyard Kipling listed the most important English trees as oak, ash, and thorn - http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos382.htm

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    3. That would be pretty cool if the Kipling poem could have been integrated. Anachronistic, yes, but when has more Kipling ever been a bad thing?

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. I'm thinking amber for the third question you could not guess for the Green Man.

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    Replies
    1. "Cheese" seems the right answer to me. The liquid whey drips off (half the body) leaving golden (yellow) treasure.

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    2. I'm tempted to check a walkthrough. After I'm finished. These riddles didn't give me as much trouble as the ones in Camelot, oddly enough.

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    3. @Corey

      Well, I checked a walkthrough and "Cheese" is, indeed, the correct answer.

      Delete
  7. Congrats on answering the riddles correctly on your first try! I had to cycle through a few. Thankfully there aren't as many as in Conquests of Camelot.

    I suspect the fair scene hides more inside jokes than we can probably detect. Some of the character names were quite unusual.

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    1. Thank you sir. These riddles are also not as obtuse as the ones in Camelot.

      The fair scene was a hell of a lot of fun. I didn't have enough money to buy everything to offer, like the dagger or the bowl of "lamb" stew (mainly because I didn't have a bowl). I also don't know if you can expose the guy (Bob Fishbach) who cheats at dice. Corey, did Mr. Fishbach have a history of cheating at games of chance?

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  8. I dare you to play "Robin of Sherwood: The Touchstones of Rhiannon" as a Missed Classic after this. :)

    http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0006903

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  9. Uh oh. A dare. I have a bad feeling about this game . . .

    I'll totally do it.

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    1. That's the spirit! Don't let the fear control you.

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    2. It's a Brian Howarth game, the first we would play for this blog, so it may not be all that bad. He was a relatively prominent adventure game developer of the 1980s and did a number of games for Adventure International UK-- I've seen him referred to as something of a British Scott Adams.

      I know of 3-4 more Robin Hood games of that era, but that one is the only one I have been tempted to play.

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    3. @TBD

      Fear? Please. I played Police Quest III. I can handle anything (short of Les Manley or Wizardry IV).

      @Joe

      I'm actually looking forward to it!

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  10. I my playthrough (a few years ago) I didn't get Robin and Marian kissing because I hadn't shown the jewel a few days prior. :-(

    Dang, it cut away just before the H-scene. Where's the uncensor patch?

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