I've done it. I've finally done it. After ten months of constant grinding, mapping, and frequent character deaths, I've completed one of the dungeons in this game.
It seems ridiculous, when I think about it. Ten months? Really? But you know what, I have other things to do besides play games. And this game is especially frustrating and difficult. It's long, its hard, and every death sends you right back to square one. A smarter person than me would have moved on from it long ago.
My last character died while mapping level 29 (of 30), at the hands of a slime. I had gotten to the point where the monsters were no longer any threat, but the slimes remained deadly. Because of this I'd decided not to map out the very lowest levels, and instead concentrate on finding the fountain. After another look at the game's instructions, I changed my mind.
Here's the thing about The Game of Dungeons, and PLATO RPGs in general: their documentation is thorough. Just about anything you want to know about the game will be in there. So I was giving it a re-read, and I noticed something about the Potion of Astral Form: it makes you immune to slimes. Sure, you can't collect gold while using it, but you can walk through walls, teleport up and down between levels without using spell slots, and avoid slimes completely. It's the perfect item for mapping and exploring.
You can find potions while you explore, but the better option is just to buy one from the shop on level 1 of the dungeon. An Astral Form potion costs 48,000 gold, but you can stash gold on level 1 and use it to buy thing from the shop. I made a stash of about 200,000gp and set about exploring.
It took me two trips to map out level 29 and level 30. Two trips! Before that, without the potion, it would probably have taken me twenty or thirty. I can't believe I never figured this out sooner. It's going to make mapping the Tomb of Doom and the Caverns a lot easier.
I was a little puzzled after mapping level 30, though, because I never discovered the Magic Fountain. I figured that it was probably because I was in Astral Form, but later on I discovered that the Fountain isn't always in the same place. It could just be that I never hit the right location while mapping.
With mapping done, it was time to hit level 30 for real. This time I wasn't taking any chances, and I bought a Revival Potion from the shop: if I died, it would resurrect me and take me back to the surface. I'd lose all of my magic items, but that's a lot better than losing my character altogether.
I had stroke of good luck, because I entered level 30 only a few steps away from the fountain. Drinking from it restores all of your health, grants you as much gold as you can carry without being encumbered, and sometimes bumps one of your stats up. The documentation says that you might encounter the Grim Reaper, but I took two trips to the Fountain and never met him. At this stage of the game, I'm not about to risk it.
So now I have two dungeons to complete, but I'm attacking them in a wiser fashion. With smarter tactics, I expect I'll have this game finished pretty soon.