Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Game of Dungeons v5.4: Magic Items

I'm still plugging away at this game, trying to grind my character to a super-high level.  Belal is my 208th character, and he's currently sitting on close to 3,000 hit points and 10 million gold.  It's not a massive total, but it's enough that I can delve into the dungeon and return with the maximum amount of gold that I can carry, without a great deal of risk.  I'm exercising patience, and trying not to extend my playing sessions too long, because as long as it's taking, starting from scratch is going to take longer.

The Chosen One!

Reading back through my posts on The Game of Dungeons, I realised that I haven't discussed magic items much.  There is quite a good variety, with some significant effects on gameplay.  One item in particular completely changes the way I approach the game once I've found it.

There are the staples, of course: swords, armour, helmets and shields, all with bonuses ranging from +1 to +3.  As you'd expect, these increase your effectiveness in combat.  They're not that essential, given that most monster-killing is done with spells, but having a good set of arms and armour increases the level of monster that you can kill without suffering damage, and helps you to conserve those spells.  So they are pretty handy.

There are loads of different magic rings as well. The ring of protection works just like armour.  There's one that lets you float over pits, and another that increases the power of your spells.  The ring of invisibility helps you flee from enemies, as does the ring of swiftness.  The ring of regeneration heals you with each move you make, and the ring of luck increases your chance of finding more magic items.  They're all useful, and the ring of levitation cannot be dispensed with.

There are magic boots that reduce the frequency with which you encounter monsters, and increase your chance of running away from them.  The magic lantern lets you see secret doors.  There's an amulet that tells you when you're next to a transporter to another level, and also gives you a rough idea of how likely you are to succeed in any combat; I find it especially useful, and it was even moreso back before I'd mapped everything.

The bag of holding is the real game-changer, though.  As I've mentioned before, the strength of the monsters you encounter increases based on the amount of gold you're carrying.  With a Strength of 18 you can carry 1,800,000 gold, and the enemies max out at around level 300.  Eventually you'll get to a point where you can handle anything the dungeon can throw at you.

The bag changes that, by increasing your carrying capacity a hundredfold.  With the ability to carry more gold comes the attention of stronger foes, and they just keep getting stronger the more gold you carry.  Without the bag, you can afford to get a little complacent.  Once you have it, the rewards are bigger, but the risk returns in spades.  It's really easy to get carried away and overwhelmed by hordes of powerful enemies.

It's actually a really clever little bit of game design.    Just as I thought I'd mastered the game, I found the bag and suddenly it got difficult again.  I don't anticipate getting back to a point of complacency, either; I've not even come close to carrying my maximum gold with the bag.  And not only does the game get harder with the bag, it gets even harder again once you find the Orb.  I continue to be impressed by this game.  It has a surprising amount of hidden depth for such an early effort.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Game of Dungeons v5.4: Back to Square One

Since I began this blog, I have been praising the way that these early games use permanent character death.  I've waxed lyrical about the tension of knowing that every step could be my last, and that should death come there will be no way to bring my character back to life.

All of that has come back to haunt me.

Since my last post, I lost Godric.  I had managed to map out the whole dungeon with him, and gained over 48 million gold pieces in the process.  He had over 12,000 hit points.  I decided it was time to find the Orb, and the Dragon that guarded it.

What could possibly go wrong?

I had actually encountered the Dragon while mapping Level 17 of the dungeon, but not being prepared to finish the game I fled.  The manual says that you can always run from the Dragon, which is great, because it also says that it can dish out 100,000 points of damage.  When I returned to fight him for real, though, I wasn't worried by that.  Because, as you can see above, there's a little thing known as the Dragon Spell, which will kill it automatically.  It does so at the cost of almost all of your magic, but I thought I might be able to fight my way back to the surface through sheer muscle.

My first battle while carrying the Orb dissuaded me of that notion pretty quickly: a level 6,000 Ghoul.  For comparison, the strongest foes that Godric was normally encountering were around level 300.  I tried to run, but failed, and died in the ensuing melee.  I have to assume that it wasn't even close.

Naturally, there's only one solution to my problem: grind, grind and grind some more.  Which I did, eventually building up a very strong character who was unfortunately named Fred.  (I've used a lot of characters.  Good names are getting scarce.)  Fred accumulated over 125 million gold, and about 30,000 hit points.  I was planning to build him even further, but...  I can't even explain what happened.  I was on a routine foray, laden with gold and heading for the surface.  I was wounded, but I thought I had plenty of hit points left.  Then, when encountering a Ghoul, I let loose with a Fireball that backfired on me, and...  I was dead.  I suppose I got cocky, not bothering to check how many hit points I had left.  It was a shock, to be honest.  I think I stared at the screen for a good minute before rolling up the next guy.  (The next guy didn't do so well, as he died with a grand total of 0 gold.)

Currently I have a character with about 400,000 gold, which is a good base to start from.  Barring stupidity, a lapse of judgment or plain old bad luck, I should be able to get him to the point where I want to fight the dragon again.  I'd like to get my hit points up to 100,000 before I do that, but that could be way too much grinding.  Time will tell if I have the patience.