Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Orthanc: Spells

If there's one common thread when it comes to surviving in these PLATO RPGs, it's this: spells are your most important resource.  In all three games I've played, combat has been little more than a process of trading blows until one combatant falls, so spells are the only tactical option you have.  Once they're gone, you're at the mercy of random chance, and that's a quick way to die.

Orthanc is no different in that regard, and it probably has the most varied range of spells I've encountered in the blog so far.  There are four levels of spells, and characters begin with four "units" with which to cast them.  A 1st-level spell costs one unit, 2nd-level costs 2, and so on.  You begin the game with access to all of the spells, but as you gain levels your spell units increase, so you cast more before your resources are depleted.

The spells are divided into combat and non-combat, so that's how I'll split my examination of them.

COMBAT SPELLS:

1st Level:

Charm: This spell is an automatic kill, but it only works on Men and Goblin-Types (the monsters are organised into categories, as I've mentioned before).  It also fails 30-50% of the time.  I haven't used it a great deal.  Most of the Men and Goblins I've encountered are weak enough to be defeated with a Sleep spell, and the rest I usually take out with more direct damage-dealing magic.  It probably won't use it at all, because there's a more effective version at 2nd level.

Sleep: Sleep gives you an instant victory against any foe of 4th level or less, except for Undead.  It always works, and it's the key to surviving the earliest stages of the game.  It's still the spell I use the most.

Magic Missile: A simple blasting spell that deals 2-20 points of damage per hit.  Against Undead it does double that, which has been enough to wipe out most of the nasties I've encountered.  It's a great spell that takes care of the one weak spot of Sleep.

2nd Level:

Hold Person: This works exactly like Charm, but it only fails 10-30% of the time.  Since it only costs 1 point more, I'll probably default to this version when I start encountering more powerful monsters.

Pray: Increases your ability to hit for a single combat, and is twice as effective against Undead.  I haven't noticed a great deal of difference when using this spell; I seem to hit more often than not even without it.

Protection:  This spell decreases the chance you'll be hit in combat, and just like Pray it works better against Undead.  Also like Pray, I haven't noticed much difference when I use it.  It lasts for 24 turns, though, which is better than a single combat.

3rd Level:

Hold Monster: Works like Charm, but it affects Animals and Insects.  I may start using this against Animals on deeper dungeon levels, but to be honest none of the Insects are very powerful.

Blast Bolt: Dishes out a whopping 5-60 points of damage, and double that against Undead.  This is the first spell I whip out against enemies to strong for Sleep.  What can I say, I like to make certain.

4th Level:

Dimension Door: This spell teleports your foe just outside the room you're in.  It fails 20-40% percent of the time, but it can be handy for surviving the battles you know you can't win.  The problem is, why would I ever use it when I have the very next spell?

Teleport: This spell works much like Dimension Door, but it teleports the target further away and fails more often.  The thing is, when it does fail it whisks you away to safety.  It's invaluable for survival in some situations, especially against Animated types, which are immune to all but 4th-level spells.

NON-COMBAT SPELLS:

1st Level:

Cure: Restores from 1-7 hit points, apparently modified by your Intelligence score.  This is another spell that gets superseded by a better spell later on, so I haven't cast it much.

Levitation: Pits and chutes abound in the dungeon, and getting dumped to a lower level that you haven't explored is a real pain.  Levitation lets you avoid that.  You can skip pits entirely, and it gives you the option of using a chute or not.  The only problem is that it lasts for just 12 moves.  It's barely worth casting.

Depth: This spell simply tells you what level you're on.  It's really helpful after you've just fallen down a chute.

Light: Reveals secret doors, and also shows what squares have monsters in them.  It's great to have on during exploration, especially if you want to avoid combat, but it only lasts for 24 turns.

Using a Light spell.  There's a secret door below me, and a monster lurking above.


2nd Level:

Speed: Lets you move faster (meaning that your spells last longer) and gives you the first turn in combat.  That first turn is important.  Sometimes you get jumped by a monster, and it can kill you before you even get a chance to react.  It doesn't happen much if you have a high Dexterity, but the chance is still there.  But again, it only lasts for 18 turns.

Find Traps: This spell is great, and I'd love it if it lasted for longer than 6 turns.  Every time you move, the spell gives you an indication of what's in the squares surrounding you, whether it be a pit, a chute, stairs or nothing at all.  I'd use it all the time, but it's just not worth the spell units for such a short duration.


Serious Cure: This works like Cure, but you can choose how many spell units to spend.  Each unit spent restores 1-7 hit points.  It's a good spell that renders the lower level version obsolete.

3rd Level:

ESP: You can use this spell to discover what lurks behind walls and doors.  I haven't found much use for it, as there are other more effective ways of avoiding monsters.

Using ESP on the wall just above me.

Continuous Light: Works just like Light, but it never runs out.  This is the only non-combat spell that I use all the time.

Pass Wall: Lets you move through a single wall.  It can be handy for exploration, or taking shortcuts, but on the whole I don't use it a lot.  I expect that won't change, unless there are more inaccessible map areas on the lower dungeon levels.

4th Level:

Pass Floor: With this spell you can pass through the floor to the next dungeon level down.  I can't see much use for it.  I don't need to explore a lower dungeon level until I've fully mapped out the current one I'm on, and it uses too many spell units to be a worthwhile shortcut.

Pass Ceiling: This, on the other hand, can be a life saver.  Quite a number of times I've fallen through a chute to a lower level and used this spell to return to familiar territory.

Invisibility: This spell lets you avoid all enemies, and could come in really useful when making a quick flight out of the dungeon.  It's not as useful as it might be, because the rooms you clear out usually stay cleared out, leaving a safe route to the surface if you retrace your steps.  But for those times when you get caught in a dungeon level that has just respawned, it could save your life.  I'll have to remember it the next time that happens.

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