Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Game of Dungeons v8: Monsters

I've been splitting my gaming time (usually about an hour each night) between Moria and The Game of Dungeons, so I haven't been making a great deal of progress in either.  (Indeed, when it comes to Moria my progress has been backwards, as I died very stupidly and have to start from scratch.)  The majority of my time on The Game of Dungeons in the last week has been spent grinding for experience, which isn't the most interesting thing to write about.  Instead I thought I'd describe the various monsters, and their weaknesses.  Here is a screenshot showing every monster in the game:

Shadows: Rather than attacking your hit points, Shadows drain a point from your Strength on a successful hit.  This means that they don't pose much of a threat to your mortality, although they can apparently kill you if your Strength is drained to 0.  This hasn't happened to me yet, mostly because Shadows aren't all that difficult to kill.  The Cleric spell Light Candle kills them quite easily.

Rust Monsters: If a Rust Monster attacks you, it will eat your sword.  If you attack it, you will also lose your sword.  This isn't much of a problem if your sword is normal: you just have to go back to the surface to get another one for free.  If your sword is magical, that magic is gone forever.  The best spell to use on them is the Magic spell Eye of Newt; this turns the Rust Monster into a newt, allowing you to step on it (often with a satisfying "Squish!" message).

Mind Flayer: Mind Flayers drain your IQ rather than your hit points.  They're a little more difficult to deal with than Shadows, as I haven't worked out a good spell to use against them.  They are strangely susceptible to being charmed, though, and they're great to send into battle against Wizards.  My current character has a really low IQ, so I always get a little concerned whenever I have to fight a Mind Flayer.

Vampire: Vampires drain your experience points, which is just the worst.  If you lose enough XP your level will drop, and if they drain you below 0 you die.  This can be used to your advantage, though: if you gain a level and don't get many extra hit points, you can always get drained by a vampire and try again.  Like Mind Flayers, they're easy to charm, and the Cleric spell Holy Word is effective on them as well.  Apparently you can defeat them with a cross as well, but I've yet to find one. 

Dragon: Counter to most games, Dragons aren't all that difficult.  You just have to remember that the Magic spells Fireball and Flaming Arrow barely affect them.  I usually go with Eye of Newt.

Wombat: I live in Australia, and I've seen a lot of wombats in real-life.  Threatening they ain't, and I'm quite mystified as to what they're doing in this game.  Regardless, a Flaming Arrow spell is usually enough to kill them.

Death: Actually not all that deadly.  Their only special ability is that it's impossible to run away from them.  A Holy Word spell works well on them, as do the usual damage spells (Flaming Arrow, Fireball, Lightning Bolt).

Spectre: Thankfully, unlike in tabletop D&D, Spectres don't drain experience.  They simply damage your hit points.  A Lightning Bolt spell won't work on them, but Flaming Arrow and Fireball do, as does Holy Word.

Eye of Thieving: If you get into melee combat with an Eye of Thieving, there's every chance that it will steal one of your magic items.  It's chances depend on the difference between its level and yours.  The only way to avoid it for sure is to use magic, and I've found that the Cleric Dispell is the best against them.

Phantom: Strangely for an undead creature, it's resistant to Cleric spells like Holy Word.  I find that a Flaming Arrow works okay, or just plain melee.  I've had a lot of trouble with Phantoms; I haven't found a spell that's super-effective against them, and they seem to do a lot of damage in combat.

Warrior: It's almost refreshing to encounter one of these guys, and to know that you're just fighting a regular dude.  If they're 4th level or under a Sleep spell will defeat them, otherwise Flaming Arrow is good.  I find that Charm also works well, and will net you a versatile minion with a decent number of hit points.

Balrog: The first time a Balrog attacks you can be a bit scary, but any reputation they have from Tolkien hasn't translated to this game.  They're not all that tough, and a Holy Word or an Exorcise spell does well against them.  I'm pretty sure they're resistant to fire spells.

Wizard: Wizards are very susceptible to the Magic spell Mind Blast, and the Cleric spell Light Candle.  I don't think they have any particular special abilities, and I've never had all that much trouble with them.

Demon: Demons are resistant to fire spells, and most of them will be killed by an Exorcise spell.

You might have noticed that I didn't detail the various Slimes.  That's because it's quite difficult to figure out which type you've encountered.  You can see their icon from one step away, but to actually discover what type of slime it is you have to enter their square.  I've been blowing them away with spells where possible, so I haven't gone about cataloging their abilities.

(Oh, and while I was tooling around in the dungeon trying some things out for this blog, my 10th level character got blown up by a trapped chest.  Fuck this game.)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Game of Dungeons v8: The Death Spiral

I've been caught in something of a repetitive loop playing this game: create a character, grind until it's about 6th level, delve to the lower levels to do some mapping, die, start all over again.  I'm not quite sure how to break out of it, to be honest.  After 6th level, advancement slows considerably, and I don't feel as though the difference between 6th and 7th is all that significant.  Perhaps I just need to grind it out until I reach 10th level, or even higher.  It's just a matter of time, if I'm patient enough.  I just hate sinking time into a game and making no progress.

Currently I'm mapping the 4th level of Whisenwood Dungeon, but I don't really have much to write about that I haven't mentioned already.  In lieu of genuine content, here are my maps of the first three levels:

Whisenwood Level 1

Whisenwood Level 2

Whisenwood Level 3

As you can see, every dungeon level is the same size: 15x15 squares.  I should have marked it on the map, but your starting location on level 1 is always the square just south of the Excelsior Transporter (marked with a T).

The game is difficult to map accurately, as you can see from the arcane notations above.  I've used different colours to denote walls, doors and transporters.  The walls, of course are black, and the doors are brown.  The light blue borders are transporters that take you up a level, and the green ones take you down a level.  As in the earlier version of the game, when you go to a new level you appear in a random location.  This is part of what makes mapping the game difficult: you have to start by mapping little bits and pieces, because you won't always be transported to the same sections of the map.  Gradually the map can be pieced together, but until that happens it can be hard to get your bearings, and even harder to find a transporter that takes you back up.

(Luckily, there's a feature that's carried over from the earlier game: a spell that can teleport you up or down a level, by pressing SHIFT-PGUP or SHIFT-PGDN.  It uses up both magic and cleric spell slots, and it can also backfire and take you deeper into the dungeon, but it's vital for getting out of an unfamiliar level.)

The Excelsior Transporter that I mentioned earlier is great: you just have to step on it, type what level you want to go to, and it whisks you there instantly at the cost of a few hit points.  Also on the first level is an alchemist and a weapon store, but the prices are exorbitant; at this point I'm much better off converting that gold into experience points.

You may also have noticed a lot of arrows all over my maps.  If an arrow is pointing at a wall, that means the wall exists from one side, but not from the other; you can walk through in the direction that the arrow is pointing.  If an arrow is pointing at a transporter or a door, it likewise only exists from one side.  Sometimes the other side will be a wall, and sometimes it will be an empty space you can move through; I haven't figured out a good way to mark that on the map.  So the maps aren't 100% accurate, but they're good enough to tell me where I need to go.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Game of Dungeons v8: Two Steps Forward...

As you may have gathered from the above screen shot, I've been dying quite a bit while playing The Game of Dungeons.  Like all the PLATO RPGs, death in this game is irreversible, but at this stage it's not such a major setback.  I'm currently mapping level 3 of Whisenwood Dungeon, which requires a character of about 5th or 6th level to explore in reasonable safety.  Reaching 6th level can be done quite quickly with a bit of grinding on the entry level of Whisenwood, so exploration has not been much curtailed by my frequent deaths.

Let's examine some of the ways that I've been dying.  The screenshot above is an extreme example of my own stupidity.  I had been exploring level 3 of the dungeon, when I was attacked by a  level 5 Spectre (there are a limited variety of monsters in the game, but they get stronger the deeper you explore).  I decided to hit it with a fireball spell, but the spell backfired on me (regular readers may recall that fireball and lightning bolt are the two most powerful spells in the game, but have a tendency to damage the caster).  Not only was I reduced to 18 hit points, I was also blinded.  While I sat waiting for the blindness to wear off, I was attacked by another monster.  Because I was blind I had no idea what type of monster was attacking me, so I decided to chance using the fireball again, as I wanted to make sure of killing it.  It backfired again, and killed me, resulting in the embarrassing screen shown above.  It was my best character so far, done in by a series of bungles and misfortune.  Such is life and death in the unforgiving RPGs of the 1970s.

I've had a few deaths caused by monsters, but not too many; a decent knowledge of the spells, and the addition of the ability to charm monsters, has served me well.  Most of my deaths have come from other sources: explosive runes from trying to read magic books, drinking potions of degeneration that drain hit points with every step, falling down chutes to lower dungeon levels and running out of spells.  It's a lot of the same stuff that was killing me in the previous version of the game, to be honest, but I would say that v8 is a bit less deadly on the whole.

The last thing I wanted to talk about was character progression.  In the version of The Game of Dungeons that I played before, character progression is constant.  So long as you survive your dungeon trips, you'll gain more hit points and items, and will steadily grow more powerful.  Version 8 is different.  There are Vampires that drain your experience points, Slimes that eat your boots, Shadows that drain your Strength, Mind Flayers that drain your IQ, and Eyes of Thieving that steal your magic items.  It's inevitable that these monsters will get you at some point, so the progress of your character won't always be upwards.  I spent a while building one character up to level 7, only to be drained by a Vampire and swarmed by Eyes of Thieving.  I escaped the dungeon, but I was back at level 5 and all of my magic items were gone.  It's frustrating, but there's nothing to be done about it but head back into the dungeon.  What else am I going to do, stop playing?

I don't mind these setbacks, because the game is fun.  The constant threat of losing things permanently, with no safety net, is a big part of the appeal of these games.  If you don't like the idea of playing without a saved game, then the PLATO RPGs probably aren't for you.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Game of Dungeons v8: Fun With Invincibility

Most of my gaming time has been devoted to Moria (because it's so damned big), but I've managed to fit in a few hours of The Game of Dungeons over the last week.  I've only lost four characters so far, which is quite good; I think that I might still have some residual talent for the game from when I played the earlier version.  My current character is an elf named Melf, who has reached fifth level by way of a huge treasure haul.  He's at the point now where he's basically invincible against all of the monsters on level 1 of Whisenwood Dungeon.  I can roam around without fear, killing everything in sight and never taking even a single hit point of damage.  It's quite gratifying after the caution required at the start of the game, and it's a great aid to mapping as well.

I found out the hard way, though, that you have a cap on the amount of treasure that you can carry.  The haul I mentioned above was a chest containing 100,000 gold pieces.  I was only able to take about 25,000, much to my dismay.  The limit is based on your Strength score and your race: Humans can carry the most, then Dwarves, Elves and Gnomes.  As an Elf with a Strength of 10, I can't really carry a lot.  I'll need to find a Bag of Holding as soon as possible.  (Also, the Help file states that you can only gain one level at a time, but I'm certain I jumped from 2nd level to 5th in one go.)

I've only mapped the first level of Whisenwood Dungeon, so my progress is somewhat slow.  There are a few things I forgot to mention last week though.

The game still features the same odd trash-talk.  Messages such as "Skewered!" and "Ribbons!" appear at the top of the screen whenever you kill a monster.  Above is my personal favourite: "What a Moose!", said while defeating a Phantom.  It's baffling.  Note also that my character in the image above has no sword: it got eaten by a Rust Monster.

There's an area on the first level that causes you to hallucinate.  My character above is seeing hallucinatory cobwebs and slime.  The doors aren't real either.  It was a bit disconcerting the first time it happened, and can really play havoc with your sense of place.  It didn't do my map any favours either.

I didn't mention slimes last time around, but they're a pretty major addition to the game.  There are seven varieties of slime in the game (including the cobweb pictured above)  Each slime affects you in a different way: some will do damage, some will eat magic items, and there are even ones that anesthetize you so you have no idea how many hit points you have left.  I've been wading through them and suffering the consequences, but just tonight I discovered that you can kill them from one space away by using magic.  You get the option of using Fire, Cold, Lightning of your sword.  Each type of slime has it's own particular weakness, and if you pick the correct one it will always succeed.  I haven't figured the various weaknesses out yet, but it's good to know now that I can get rid of the buggers.

That's it for this week.  It's time to send my character deeper into Whisenwood Dungeon, and hopefully by next week I'll have made some greater progress.