Friday, November 26, 2010

Dungeon Master: Puzzles

I realized late in the level that I had misread the compass in the beginning. I ended up mapping the entire level upside-down.

The levels are taking a bit longer in Dungeon Master, but I'm on the cusp of being halfway through the dungeon.

Level 6 was a long and difficult experience, with tough monsters and interesting puzzles. A few postings ago, I faulted the game for lacking any real "story," but it's starting to make up for that with other challenging gameplay elements.

Coming down the stairs, I was greeted with a large room containing four small alcoves next to four inscriptions on the wall:

  1. "I am all; I am none."
  2. "Hard as rocks, blue as sky, twinkle in a woman's eye."
  3. "I arch yet have no back."
  4. "A golden head and tail but no body."

2 and 4 I got almost immediately--a blue gem and a gold coin. #3 took me a minute of checking through my inventory before I hit on a bow. #1 I never got. I mean, I figured out the object by trying random items in my pack, but I don't know why that particular phrase corresponds to a "Mirror of Dawn." Nonetheless, the solution opened an alcove containing a key as well as the exit to the room.

I lost count of how many keys I picked up on the level--something like six. With only a couple of exceptions, each key opened a door to areas that were not strictly necessary to finish the level, but which contained treasures (including two vorpal swords, which I assume are pretty cool).

I don't know what the one on the right is doing.

But each key required solving a puzzle. Near the entry room was a crypt marked "the grave of King Filius, explorer of combinations." The room contained four buttons which I had to press in a particular order to open a secret door. With no clue as to the order, I simply had to write out each possibility (1234, 2341, 4123, etc.) and cross them off one by one until I figured it out.

Next to Filus's grave was the grave of "King Milias the Golden, who even in death searches for bullion." A gold coin dropped into a slot in the wall opened that one.

There were several puzzles involving pressure plates--mostly having to throw objects onto the right ones. One kept me occupied for a long time. It seemed simple enough: the plate opened a nearby wall. But none of my items would trigger the plate; I had to be standing on it. After a long while trying to figure something out, I hit upon the solution of having monsters stand on it--there were plenty of respawning skeletons nearby. But wouldn't you know it--they wouldn't stand still long enough for me to run through the door. So after a period so long I'm not entirely comfortable admitting it, I remembered I had a number of magic boxes that would freeze enemies in place for a spell. That victory tasted sweet.

The critters on the level were reasonably difficult. There were three new monster types: beholders (that's what I'm calling them anyway; the game doesn't tell you their names), skeletons, and giant bees. The skeletons weren't too much trouble except in one place where they trapped me in a corner and attacked me in waves. Beholders were medium difficulty, pummeling me with spells but falling fairly quickly to my weapons. The giant bees kicked my ass, wiping out my entire party twice. I had to resort to firing poison spells while rapidly retreating down the corridor. Fortunately, there weren't many of them.

One wonders where giant bees find pollen in the depths of a dungeon.

In other news:

  • I've done a good job balancing out my character levels. Each of my four characters is at least a "craftsman" (fifth level) in each class. The more I play, the more I like the skill-based development system.
  • Back when I was writing about Shard of Spring, I noted that there weren't many games that allowed you to adjust the power of spells. Here's one that does. The first rune that you speak in each spell determines its potency.
  • This level didn't have any walls to walk through, but it did have plenty of tiny hidden buttons. These are virtually impossible to see from the side, so you have to turn and face every wall.

This is where a hobbit character would come in handy.

The not-knowing-how-to-evaluate-weapons-and-armor thing is getting more difficult. I found a lot of new stuff on this level, and I'm just making guesses about what's best. Y'all keep suggesting that I cheat on this point, and I admit I'm sorely tempted. So out of curiosity, if I did want to give in and look up weapons and armor on a table or something, does one exist? If so, how did the author figure it out? It's not like the weapons do a consistent amount of damage every time you strike.

Yay! A mail aketon! Unless that's worse than an Elvin doublet. In which case, boo!

I know this is a weird time to say this, but it occurred to me today that the graphics are quite good in Dungeon Master--perhaps even the best of any CRPG I've played so far. You can't see it in the screenshots, of course, but the monsters are animated, and the designers took the time to work in neat little touches like shadows. If only the dungeons had some variety to their textures--but I suppose that since the dungeon was supposed to have been one man's house, it makes sense that they don't.

I'll think about recording some video for my next posting.


  1. Happy for you you are enjoying this a bit more...

    For the items : a detailed table exists at; it was obtained by extracting information directly from the source code. Paul Stevens also disassambled manually the whole code to rewrite a windows port, providing some more info : you can read about that project here, you can check this link, it's interesting and there are no spoilers there. The guy's really crazy...

    I do not however suggest you look at the items table, it will spoil way too much info, even knowing what exists in there will take away a lot of excitment of finding new stuff. From what I've seen up to now on your blog, there are plenty of helpful people around ready to answer specific inquiries.

    In any case, as general guidelines : 1) the further you find it in the labyrinth, the better it is, 2) for armors, the heavier it is, the bettre it is, apart for a few self-explanatory exceptions.

    PS: Hope I don't spam your comment fields too much, it's just that I really enjoy your blog as well as procrastinating instead of writing my thesis.

  2. Indeed, Dungeon Master is a beautiful game, for a 16 color global palette on the bit-challenged Atari ST, especially. There's lots of neat touches. If you threw a club forward in say, Eye of the Beholder, it'd just be the same static sprite scaling as it flew away. In Dungeon Master, the creators put in the effort to animate the club swinging as it flies.

    You can see the tops of heads of enemies passing through the other side of some doors. Pools of water and other puddles here and there. Lots of nice touches.

    In many ways, Dungeon Master looks as good now as it did then. Although the pixel art itself is rough on technique, the design is thorough and a degree of verisimilitude is achieved because the symbolic level it has fits for what dungeon crawling entails. If the graphics were prettier/more advanced (or the enemies had more frames of animation), then the gameplay mechanics would appear eve weirder (an 'uncanny valley' effect). Like Lands of Lore. Certainly a prettier game, but there I'm starting to think 'why do I teleport 10 feet forward every time I move?' and 'why is this forest laid out in a grid?' and so on.

  3. Glad you are starting to enjoy the game more--at least, it sounds like you are. Also, "I am all; I am none" refers to any mirror, right? Not just a mirror of "Dawn"?

  4. I've listed the items you should've collected so far, ascending in strength. Other than the general ranking, no information is provided. If this poses too much of an unwanted temptation, feel free to delete this comment immediately.

    Melee Weapons:
    Lrj Fgnss
    Ibecny Oynqr

    Oremrexre Uryz
    Pnfdhra Pbvs

    Body armor:
    Fvyx Fuveg
    Svar Ebor (Obql)
    Ryira Qbhoyrg
    Yrngure Wrexva
    Znvy Nxrgba
    Gbefb Cyngr
    Zvgueny Nxrgba

    Leg armor:
    Svar Ebor (Yrtf)
    Tuv Gebhfref
    Oyhr Cnagf
    Ryira Uhxr
    Yrngure Cnagf
    Yrt Znvy
    Zvgueny Znvy

  5. Just by looking at the screenshots, Helm is spot-on about the graphics. They have aged really well.

    I'm also happy that Dungeon Master's strengths are starting to make up for lacking in some of the GIMLET categories for you. It was really interesting to read how it started to wear on you.. "it's supposed to be a classic! It can't do that!"


  6. Don't feel bad about taking forever to figure out the "use spell of freezing to keep monster on switch" puzzle. A similar one appears in God of War 1 (the head of Medusa turns enemies to stone) and I have watched several people take over 20 minutes racking their brains on it.

  7. I'm not surprised the next blog entry is taking at bit longer - the ghost/giggler-level can be quite frustrating, especially on the first playthrough.

  8. In case you didn't know this already, you can put the compass in a character's hand so you don't have to go back to your inventory to check your orientation. This should make accurate mapping easier.

    Keep up the posts, I am really enjoying this trip down memory lane; so much that I may play through this one (or the sequel) in the near future.

  9. Georges, per your suggestion, I think I'm going to resist looking at that table. I'll just do my best to figure things out using the general guidelines you offer. And I appreciate your comments, so keep writing.

    Anonymous, on the same lines, I appreciate your ROT13, but I think I'll avoid translating it unless I really get frustrated later--although I can tell form the number of letters that vorpal sword is pretty high on the list!

    Helm, thanks for noting additional things I was taking for granted.

    Kevin, even if the riddle works with any mirror, I'm not sure I get it. Why is a mirror both "all" and "none"? Because it reflects everything but itself contains no actual objects? That's pretty obscure.

    Thanks for the compass tip, Anon, but that would involve sacrificing a weapon or shield space, so I'm better off just glancing at hte inventory now and then. I hope you decide to play it!

  10. Finally finished Level 6 myself (I'm playing the game for the first time and following your posts as I complete levels). About the skeleton-on-pressure-plate riddle, I found a tile generating skeletons and then had them following me in that area; then I just waited in front of the fake wall until someone stepped on the plate. I am packed full of magical boxes and never thought of using them at all, doh! Also, I never managed to open a certain gate, behind which lies a pressure plate; entering a nearby corridor immediately warps me back, tried throwing a shuriken to land on the pressure plate but I can't reach it. I'll probably go back there when my characters get stronger.

    1. Unfortunately, it's been so long that I can no longer remember the game well enough to know the area you're talking about, but I'm glad you're enjoying the game, and I hope my postings are helping you along a little.

    2. I'm really enjoying both the game and reading your postings as I proceed. I'll definitely do this with other games as well! (e.g. Uukrul)

  11. i am all i am none refers to the mirror who, without being anyone is always the person looking at it. hence it is everyone yet nobody

    1. Decent interpretation. I think I got confused by the "of Dawn" part, which was unnecessary.


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