Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dungeon Master: Between Two Worms and a Dragon

If someone could build one of these between Massachusetts and Bourbon Street, I'd be a happy man.
Another lesson learned: don't blog when you've been awake for more than 24 hours, because you come off grumpy and it riles up the readers. I apologize for that. I'm feeling a little better about Dungeon Master tonight. When you're tired, even the most rote of games can feel like an effort, and nothing is very fun.

Though I'm not as annoyed with the game as on Monday, I didn't make much progress tonight despite playing for several hours. Still on Level 5, I first got caught up in a series of teleportation fields and had to find my way through them through trial and error. I did notice one neat thing: I don't actually have to "look" at the compass in my inventory to see the direction; instead, the icon actually changes to point towards north. That's pretty nifty.

After finishing the level, I decided to head back up to Level 4, return to the room with the constantly-respawning mushroom creatures, and camp out there to build up my characters' levels. Reader Georges left a good comment a few days ago about the importance of training all characters in all levels. Leyla had no spellcasting levels; Hawk had no ninja level; and Nabi had no fighter level. All of the characters, whether they had levels or not, were imbalanced in some way.

Leyla still lacks a priest level. Hence, the potion jar in her hand.

The game deserves more credit than I've been giving it when it comes to its skill-based leveling system. It is fairly rewarding, and in many ways, it anticipates the more complex systems in The Elder Scrolls games. To increase levels in a class, you have to use its associated skills a certain number of times. The higher the level, the more experience you need to advance.

I'm not completely sure what all the skills and actions are that contribute to each level, but from what I can tell so far:

  • You improve your ninja score when you fight without weapons and throw things
  • You improve your fighter score when you fight with weapons, get hit, and use a skill called "war cry" that, as far as I can tell, does nothing but make your character yell "yah!"
  • Priest levels advance by mixing potions
  • Wizard levels advance by casting spells

Rear characters can't attack directly or get hit, so I'm learning the importance of occasionally rotating the characters to give everyone some experience in melee. Reader John helped me realize belatedly how I could improve spellcasting skills even in a character with hardly any spell points.

Unfortunately, my plan backfired a bit, and I managed to get myself stuck in a corridor/stairs area with two giant worms at one end and a flying lizard thing at the other. Neither shows any desire to just go away, and all my characters are low on spell points and health. If I stand still, they come and get me. If I engage them, I die. Regrettably, I saved in this location, so I keep reloading, trying to defeat one or the other, dying, and reloading. I'm sure I'll get past them sooner or later.

Thus, sorry for the short posting, but I didn't want to go three days, and I don't have anything else to report after two. I might take a detour into Faery Tale Adventure tomorrow, or I might stick with this, depending on my mood and whether I can get past the worms (suggestions welcome). Thanks for hanging in there with me.


  1. Breadcrumbs work pretty well with transporter fields as well.

    Sorry to hear about the bad save situation, I'm pretty sure that's happened to me as well. You might try doing something a little different with your spells. For example those tough rock monsters resist fireball, but are very weak against poison cloud. I can't remember about the worms or the Quetzalcoatl - good luck with that anyway. ;-)

  2. Hmmm... can't the horn of fear you just found help you out a bit? Maybe trying to jump through that hole and falling behind the serpent... or going back up through the other stair. Do you have a magical box? You could try that too. If you have to fight, i guess switching people around and mixing vi potions quickly is the way to go.

    @Bill : He doesn't yet know how to throw fireballs, he didn't find the scroll yet. (Altough you could figure it out by looking at the runes significance).

  3. Glad to see your return to form. ;)

    I think you might be better off concentrating on the couatl, as its HP and armor ratings are a bit lower compared to a single worm. Its attack is very strong (as I'm sure you noticed), so this would be a prime opportunity to use those magical boxes that freeze an enemy directly in front of you.

    As you might want to occasionally backtrack to the screamer generator to train and stock up on food, its desirable to get rid of those pesty worms once and for all. :P

  4. Your situation reminds me of the time I saved just before a huge group of houndeyes in Half-Life with no ammo and only 1 health. ...Good times...

    Anyway, I was able to get through that by saving, because saving an reloading forced them to restart their attack charge. Maybe something like that will work with your problem?

  5. Now that Georges mentioned the hole that is also visible on the screenshot, doesn't Leyla come equipped with a rope?

    And unrelated to your current dilemma: I think I mentioned this before, but there is actually a difference in using War Cry depending on whether or not your party is facing a monster.

  6. I couldn't reach the hole because the worms are in the square next to it. Trudodyr, I don't think it's possible to get rid of the worms "once and for all." I'm sure I cleared that level, so they must respawn.

    My spell points were too low to cast anything. Georges saved me with the box suggestion. I've been lugging around two of them with no idea what they do; I see now they paralyze creatures long enough for you to pummel them. Cool.

  7. Well, there's a couple of worm generators in this level, but once you close the door to the south of the stairway that you used to be stuck in, they shouldn't really bother you any more.

  8. Happy to know you made it out of this situation! As Trudodyr said, it's a good habit to close all doors behind you when you can, just to keep potential monsters in/out. On the topic of training, on my current run I left the screamer room with everyone at craftsman in 4 skills before doing the level below with the flying snakes, and then returned to train them to artisan before going further down (a bit overkill, but I'm planning ahead for Chaos Strikes Back, and I still managed to get killed a few levels down). If you don't want to spend so much time there, at least go to journeyman so that everyone can prepare a half-decent healing potion.

  9. maybe you shouldn't be obsessing about the hidden doors so much man, imagine you're in a real dungeon - no way would you inspect every wall like that (even less so by hitting it head on ;). its a secret door, it shouldn't be found at all, that's what secret doors are about.

    but yeah, walls in DM are fun. in modern rpgs i still keep observing walls for minute details, clues, buttons, invisible walls... which is completely pointless. today, what you get as brain fodder? usable objects glow like beacons anything else is dead useless.
    where is the joy and fun of exploration and figuring things out in Dragon Age?

    ps - i think you'd have a greater time if you'd been putting the map on a squared paper. it should be faster and definitely more stylish.

  10. I figured out the closing-the-doors trick on Level 9, when I kept getting swarmed with rats.

    Rizla, preaching to the choir. But I'm not sure what you mean by the map thing. Do you mean that I should be making maps by hand on graph paper?

  11. You can do some quite stylish maps in excel too... here is for example the one I made for level 9 on my actual playthrough : http://www.georgesdimitrov.com/files/DMLevel9.jpg.I know no one is going to see them but I just like mapping and take the time to make them pretty. I just mapped the whole DM that way - it's CRPGaddict that actually inspired me to try to play the game as "fair" as possible. I should have some old hand-drawn maps from 20 years ago in a drawer somewhere (my parents did them), but I thought mapping was part of the playing experience so I'm redoing them. I've finished DM today and I'm continuing on to Chaos Strikes Back, I'll try to do it by mapping everything by myself and not looking at any FAQ/maps apart my old memories of the game.

    BTW, squared paper just doesn't cut it in the bed at night in the dark.

  12. With all this talk of mapping in the last 2 posts I have a burning desire to make an RPG that uses all the mapping tricks in the book: Islands, non-linear dungeons, everything I can find. Really if you are making a game with this much dungeon crawling in it you should get a book out of the library on mazes first...

    Secondly I want to use hexegons for everything, just to drive the mappers crazy >.>

    However I'm never going to write a CRPG, so I might content myself with writing a 1-page dungeon for a table top RPG using a funky map.

  13. @canageek: how about a dungeon layout on a torus? As a matter of fact, you can actually tile a torus using hexagons. The next step would then be a dungeon on a Klein bottle, but I actually don't know whether a Klein bottle can be tiled using hexagons.

    1. There are oodles of games with dungeons / maps on a torus - that's what you get when you wrap around left-right and top-bottom.

    2. That only works in terms of directions. It doesn't work in terms of distance, as most games feature square maps, and there's no way to make the "girth" of the torus the same distance as the circumference.

    3. Not to mention that at some point, you'd see part of the world in the sky above you.

    4. I have seen a nice use of some Escher images in the Dungeon Siege siegelet (mod) the Lands of Hyperborea. Its creator, xaa, is also very interesting in systematical thinking about gaming concepts.

    5. I've played a bit DS myself. Wish my Mom hadn't talked me out of buying it back in the day, but it is still fun. They had some crazy mods back in the day, including remaking ALL OF ULTIMA V. http://www.u5lazarus.com/

    6. I used to have complete maps of the main, 6-level pod on the CN Tower in Toronto. Since it was round, I was going to make a dungeon using polar coordinates out of it, but alas, never did.

  14. Why stop there? Lots and lots of strange shapes, non-euclidean geometry, teleporters, whatever. Heck, placing slight grades in the dungeon so that some rooms are 'over' others should be enough to drive mappers mad.

    Apparently Gary Gygax did this stuff to his players in his D&D campaign all the time, except one of his players had a perfect 3-dimensional memory, so he could memorize everything no matter what tricks he did. However old Dragon Magazines are filled with mapping tricks to confuse your players.

  15. "use a skill called "war cry" that, as far as I can tell, does nothing but make your character yell "yah!""

    War Cry has a chance to make enemies in front of you run away (like a weaker Horn of Fear). Useful when they're blocking your way.

  16. So this is about 2 years late but i'm fairly sure (at 6AM, which may be granting me unwarranted confidence in my math skills) that you can tile ANY 3D shape with hexagons cause tessellation and whatnot. Also great blog, I actually ran into it while looking for resources to help my dad through Dungeon Master after we found a port to modern operating systems. I had also played it (on our then decade old Commodore Amiga) so it was a nice feeling to see it again.

    1. I don't deny that you could create any shape; just that you could adequately represent it in a first-person view in a computer game view. I can't even imagine what a hexagon-based DM would look like.

    2. Three windows, each showing one view forwards? There are lots of old games with 4 window, one for each cardinal direction.

      Or the same as it is, with some monsters off at angles, but walls are a bit messed up, since you can't do straight lines very easily.

    3. I knew someone would respond, and I was 60% sure it would be you. I can now imagine what a hexagon-based DM would look like. Now what I can't imagine is it looking very good.

    4. Well, I was thinking about it more: You could just represent things with graphics that made it look square, and block those tiles off for movement, even if the building only takes up half the tile.

      I think it could be done, doubly so if you were in an environment that didn't need a lot of right angles, such as a wilderness setting, or a cave or such.

      It would probably be easier just to use squares, allow you to move/look down the diagonal, and make every 2nd one take 1.5 times the movement to move into though. Not super-accurate, but I'm told it isn't bad.

    5. I'm sure a hexagon-tiled game could look as good as a square-tiled game, provided you were OK with the walls being at 60 or 120 degree angles rather than 90 degrees. Actually, now I kind of want to try to make a hexagon-tiled game if I run across an engine that I can finagle into supporting it.

      As for toruses and Klein bottles, yeah, you could tile either of those with either squares or hexagons, no problem. The thing that would make a Klein bottle world or dungeon strange, though, is that after you'd wrapped around the entire thing would now be a mirror image of what it was. (Or, depending on how you look at it, you'd be a mirror image of what you were, but to you it would look like the world that had flipped.) I've actually thought before about making a game set on a Klein-bottle world, though more just for the curiosity factor than because it would necessarily play a major part in the gameplay...

      (As far as the 1.5 times movement on the diagonal, the actual accurate value would be about 1.414 times... so yeah, 1.5 times is a little off, but it's probably close enough for these purposes.)

    6. Jalen: I only know of one game that throws physics out the window in level design: Duke Nuke'em 3D. They have a level where you go around a circle and have to go 720 degrees to get back to the start, with some...interesting effects when you go into the centre of it. I'd like to see more games screw around with geometry like that.

    7. There's a city in a shareware CRPG designed to teach Japanese, Slime Forest Adventure, that I had a bit of trouble navigating... I found my way through, but the way it fit together didn't seem to make sense. I decided to map the city through screenshots, and it turned out the reason it didn't seem to make sense is because it didn't make sense geometrically. You go south from the entrance, and then the city curves to the right, and you follow it around in a circle 360 degrees, and then when you should be back where you started you're somehow north of the exit instead. There's no need to worry about what happens when you go into the center, though, because the center of the ring is filled with impassable stone.

      (I kind of wonder how that was implemented... my guess is there's one version of the city that includes the first half-and-a-bit of the city, and another that includes the second half-and-a-bit, and when you reach the halfway point you're transported from one version to the other, but since they're locally identical you don't seem to have gone anywhere.)

      I am not at all sure I have explained this well.

    8. One game with a not euclidean geometry is Hyperrogue:

    9. Watching that video made me ill.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.