I've been playing a decent amount of Orthanc through the week, but I don't have a lot to say about it right now. I haven't experimented with the non-combat spells like I had planned, and though I've found some magical items I haven't really messed around with those much, either. I've just been exploring and mapping. Currently I'm in the middle of level 5, and though I'm exercising caution I keep getting myself killed. The chief culprits are: A) chutes that dump me on levels I haven't mapped yet; B) levels that respawn unexpectedly when I'm low on spells; and C) animated monsters that are immune to all but 4th level magic. So with little progress made and not much to write about, I'm just going to throw up the maps of the first four levels.
If there's one thing I love in old-school RPGs that I miss now, it's mapping grid-based dungeons. I used to do them by hand on graph paper, but now I use an Excel spreadsheet. It's something I started doing a few years ago while playing through Bard's Tale III, and I find that it works pretty well. Occasionally I've run into problems when there are a lot of things to note about a single square, but that hasn't been an issue with any of the PLATO games.
It's a simple system: I use black lines for the walls, brown lines for regular doors and blue lines for secret doors. The pits marked with a P are traps that deal a small amount of damage, but they can be avoided with a Levitate spell. The maps are all the same size (24x20), and every square is used, but the stairs and chutes don't match up between levels.
Looking at the maps, I'm reminded of the small, blocked off section in the lower right-hand corner of level 4. I used a Pass Wall spell to get in there, not realising that I only had 1 spell point, which would leave me without the ability to get back out again. This is the first part of the dungeon I've encountered that hasn't had some sort of door leading in or out. I was trapped, but luckily for me I didn't turn the game off and create a new character. Instead I ran back and forth banging my head against the walls, hoping for some sort of miracle to save me. The miracle came, as I found out the hard way that hit points and spell points slowly regenerate in the dungeon. After a few minutes of shuffling from one end of my prison to the other I had the spell points I needed to escape, and I was high-tailing it back to the surface. I was honestly surprised that the game was so forgiving.
I'm going to continue mapping, and I also plan to check out the non-combat spells. Not only might they help me to survive longer, but they'll give me something to write about next week.
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