At the end of my last post I had just finished exploring the first dungeon level, and I was already seeing some inadequacies in the makeup of my party. The biggest problem I found was a lack of healing power: with only one priest, there just aren't enough DIOS spells to go around. So I determined to drop one of my party members and create another priest.
The obvious character to drop was my thief, Flanker. All he's done so far is sit in the back ranks and disarm the occasional chest. It barely seems worth it, as the rewards for opening a chest are about the same as those for encounters without a chest. I'm content to use the CALFO spell to scan chests, and only open the ones that don't have traps. I'll be leaving treasure behind, but I feel like the benefits of having a second priest far outweigh the drawbacks of losing my thief.
While I was creating a priest (who I called Penitent Pat, to go along with my current priest Pious Pete), I discovered that raising IQ along with Piety qualifies a character to become a bishop. So I created another new character, a bishop named Harold (that's one for the Australian soap fans). Bishops can cast priest and mage spells, and also have the ability to identify magic items. The latter ability sounded pretty handy to me, so I was happy to have him replace one of my mages for a while. With Flanker replaced by Penitent Pat, and Misto replaced by Harold, I went back into the dungeon to do some grinding.
To give my grinding some purpose, I went on what I call a headbutting mission. The first dungeon level has a lot of unused space, so I went around bumping into every wall that might have a secret door. I found a new one, but it just led to a 1x2 square room with nothing special inside. Of much more value was the experience I earned, enough to raise Penitent Pat and Harold by a couple of levels.
I considered grinding some more, but I get impatient with that sort of thing when there is legitimate exploration to be done. I had two options ahead of me: the stairs down to level 2, or the alcove with four buttons marked A through D. I decided to check out the buttons.
My instinct here was that the buttons would possibly open up sections of the first dungeon level, or maybe transport me to a different dungeon level. My second thought was the correct one. When I pressed button A, nothing happened, but pressing button B took me to a whole new area. I immediately camped and cast DUMAPIC to get my bearings: I was on the second dungeon level, 10 squares east and 8 squares north of the stairs to the castle.
The area I had been teleported to consisted of four small rooms, with no way to get to the rest of the level. While I was poking around in here, I had an encounter with two 1st Level Priests. They died pretty easily, but not before hitting one of my characters with a damaging spell (BADIOS, I assume). One of the squares in this area had four buttons, also marked A through D. I was pretty keen to escape before encountering any other monsters, and I had no other way out, so I pressed the A button. This teleported me back to the centre of dungeon level 1, where I was able to make my escape.
At this point I decided that I would leave the buttons alone. My assumption is that buttons C and D will teleport me to dungeon levels 3 and 4, and I doubt that I'm ready for even a short stay on those levels. My current plan is to fully explore these levels before I test out the buttons; it seems safest to explore them in a situation where I know the way back to the castle.
I have to say I was feeling pretty good about my progress at this point; none of my characters had died in ages, and every trip I made into the dungeon was filling out my map and earning levels for my characters. As much as I was nervous about going down to level 2, I decided to risk it; I'm always wary about being wiped out in this game, but the lure of mapping and exploring will usually win out over grinding for experience. I'll go grind when I get definite proof that I'm in over my head. I took Harold out of the party, and brought Misto back in; I wanted my full firepower for the next dungeon level.
My first foray into the second dungeon level took me to a spiralling tunnel in the north-east section of the map. At the centre of the spiral I found the stairs down to dungeon level 3, which I'm definitely not taking yet. Along the way I encountered some Zombies (initially identified as Weird Humanoids). Most of them were easily dispelled by Pious Pete, with the rest being mopped up by my fighters.
Of much greater interest was the encounter I had with three groups of 6 Creeping Coins. The graphic for these monsters was a pile of treasure, and though they weren't that strong in melee they had all sorts of special abilities: sleep spells, a breath weapon, and a spell that reduces my Armor Class. None of these presented much of a risk (although my mages did take some minor damage). I was able to take them out with a barrage of MAHALITO spells (fireballs), and the experience rewards were enormous. Everyone gained a level when I got back to the castle, with Penitent Pat advancing multiple times.
|Creeping Coins, aka Bags of Experience
I went back to level 2, and explored another door to the north. There was some suspicious loading when I went through the door, but nothing happened. (I suspected that maybe this something to do with the keys I'd found on level 1, and I was right. When I went back without the Silver Key in my possession, the party were driven back by a silver fog and visions of terrible demons.) In this area I found a statue of a bear, with a sign saying "I've got a million of 'em." Searching the statue I found a smaller Bear Statue I could take with me.
(I'm not sure what's going on with that sign. It could be a reference to the fact that you can search the area multiple times and you'll keep finding Bear Statues.)
|Finding a mysterious bear statue.
On my third foray I explored to the south, which had another door with some suspicious loading. (Again, I returned later and discovered that without the Bronze Key from level 1, a bronze-coloured smoke will compel the party to leave the way they came in.) In this area I found a statue of a frog, whose behaviour was suspiciously like that of a certain Muppet. Searching the area revealed a Frog Statuette. (With this statue being Kermit, it seems probable that the bear is intended to be Fozzie, and the "I've got a million of 'em" could refer to his joke-telling. Either way, as much as I love the Muppets I could do without them intruding into fantasy RPGs.)
|It's not easy being annoyed at the presence of Muppets.
My fourth foray into the dungeon took me exploring west, where I found a pair of doors with yet more suspicious loading. (I needed the bear and frog statues to get past these.) These doors led into the north-western area of the dungeon, which was shrouded in darkness. After much bumping around in the dark, I found a small room with a statue of a weird creature with the body of a chicken and the head of a cat. I searched this area, expecting to have a fight on my hands, but instead I found a Gold Key. My inventory was rapidly filling with keys and statues for various doors, but at this point it wasn't a huge problem. Eventually I'll probably transfer them to a character back at the castle, but for now my mages have plenty of room to carry them.
|I don't think there are any chicken-bodied,
Exploring further west, I discovered that the map wraps around to the other side. There was nothing to find in this area, aside from a series of squares with the following written on placards:
A dungeon's dark...
When it's not lit...
Watch out, or you'll...
The fourth line of this rhyme isn't revealed, but I can assume it should be Fall in a pit, because that's exactly what happened to me on the next square. Penitent Pat was killed, but nobody else took any damage. I had to lug Pat's corpse back to the castle and get him raised at the temple, costing 2500 gold. That's where I left off, with my party ready to take on the third dungeon level.
|My map of dungeon level two
The second dungeon level had proved to not be all that difficult. I hadn't done any grinding in particular; all the experience I'd earned was from exploring dungeon level 1, and I was well capable of annihilating the monsters that level 2 threw at me. These are the monsters I can remember fighting:
- Creeping Coins: I mentioned these guys above. They have lots of ineffectual special abilities, and they always attack in huge groups. My eyes light up when I get attacked by them, because I know the experience reward is going to be huge.
- Zombies: Again, I've mentioned these. I'm not sure that I've been hit by one, so I don't know if they have any kind of special attack or not. With two priests, I can dispel most of them before they attack.
- Gas Clouds: I was a little concerned about fighting them at first, because I thought they might explode when hit, like a D&D Gas Spore. They have some magical attacks, but nothing I've been affected by, so these guys are an easy kill.
- 1st Level Priests: Aside from casting BADIOS, they pose very little threat.
- Creeping Cruds: Another slime enemy like the Bubbly Slime. I assume they have more hit points and deal more damage, but I've been able to kill them all before they could cause me any trouble.
- Vorpal Bunnies: I had one encounter with a group of Vorpal Bunnies, and was able to wipe them out with MAHALITO before they could hit anyone. I'm still a little worried about them, because the name implies that they could kill a character in one hit.
|My only encounter with Vorpal Bunnies.
As far as spells go, I've been mostly relying on MAHALITO, with KATINO for weaker foes. I just got LAHALITO, which is like MAHALITO but does more damage. While exploring I've been using LOMILWA, which is a light spell with an unlimited duration that reveals secret doors. It sure beats the wall-bashing that I was doing on level 1, and ensures that I wont miss any hidden areas. I've also had MAPORFIC running, which lasts for an entire dungeon expedition and reduces the Armor Class of everyone in the party by 2.
I'm not sure if I've had a run of good luck, or if I just haven't gotten to the really hard stuff yet, but I feel like I'm doing really well. Once I got past that initial hump and gained a few levels this game became pretty breezy. I think I might grind for a bit to see if I can get my mages and priests to level 13 before I continue on. That's the level where they hit their maximum spell levels; if I'm happy with the spells I've learned at that point, I'm thinking of swapping the classes of my priests and mages; having four characters with access to all of the game's spells does seem like something to aim for. Whether I stick with the grinding depends on how much experience I'll need to get to level 13. At the moment it's been fairly reasonable, but I suspect that the amounts needed will ramp up pretty significantly from this point on.