Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chaos Strikes Back: Lessons in Maneuverability

Demon dogs assailed me on my most recent level. They drop food when they die.

In my last outing, I talked about how I liked the integrated combat and movement system of Chaos Strikes Back and many other games. By allowing you to retreat, strafe, and flank your opponents, such games add options for victory that depend less on the attributes of the characters and more on the agility and intelligence of the player. This often allows even low-level characters to win impossible combats.

This particular engine allowed three particular combat tactics in Dungeon Master:

  • Lead the enemy to a set of stairs. Go up or down (he doesn't follow). Regroup, heal, prepare spells. Go back to the enemy, let loose with spells and attacks, retreat along the stairs again before he can retaliate.

  • Dance around the enemy. Take advantage of the fact that it takes the enemy a couple of seconds to turn and move to flank him, get behind him, and pummel him with attacks. Jump out of the way before he can return the attacks.

Yes, I know I'd be more effective at this if I learned to use "strafe" properly. I get too confused between strafing and turning in the moment and invariably walk into a wall.

  • Lead your enemy to a portcullis. Wait until he's under it, activate the switch, and fight him while the door repeatedly slams on his head.

We can debate endlessly about which of these tactics is an "exploit," which are cheating, and which are legitimate. I maintain that the game is essentially unwinnable without at least the second one, as was Bloodwych, and I don't see any purpose to the game's real-time engine if you're not meant to do it to some degree. The first and third are unarguably a little lamer, but if they're exploits, FTL didn't do much to discourage them. They also come with their costs in time (and, consequently, hunger and thirst) an boredom. I don't mind resorting to them when I don't see any other way.

As I mentioned, though, Chaos Strikes Back screws with you on these tried and true tactics. As I closed my second-to-last posting, I was using the stair trick on a group of salamander demons on the "Diabolical Demon Director" level, but they wouldn't stop coming. Little did I know I was regenerating them every time I went up the stairs.

I want you to look at this small map of the area as I describe what happened next and its consequent effects on my maneuverability.

The stairs I was coming up are just to the west of E. Every time you go up and down these stairs, salamander demons generate in an area north of C and D, debris monsters generate in an area south of A, and black flames generate around H. The northern corridor between E and G is essentially impassable because of the black flames--it takes my party a long time to kill them with "Disrupt" spells, and one of them continually regenerates at H--so while things are actively attacking you, your only real choice is the southern corridor past A and B. The pit between B and C only opens when you step on C, and it closes when you step on it again. I think pits also open south of A when you step on C, but I can't see them.

When I beat the area for the first time, I did this: waited until the salamander demon was south of B. Ran past him and the debris monsters to C. Waited until the salamander demon was standing on top of the pit between B and C and then stepped on C. Both he and the debris monsters dropped down to the level below. Very satisfying.

Later, I happened to fall down to that level myself. I found the remnants of the debris monsters along with a bunch of items and dragon steaks that indicated a dragon had been there and was killed. I'm not sure how that happened. Maybe I dropped the debris monsters on top of him, and it was enough to kill him. Either way, it was a great boon. Unfortunately, amidst all of this, I neglected to save.

When I reloaded, I did something different: I took a flask that was in a niche on the wall above A. That opened a pit at A that dropped me down to the dragon. I mapped this area, didn't defeat the dragon before leaving via a staircase, and stupidly saved the game. From then on, every time I returned to this area, there was a big difference: the pit at A prevented any maneuverability around the level. I couldn't do the pit trick or anything. I had to defeat both the debris monsters and the salamander demons face-to-face, and it took quite a while.

That single square makes an enormous difference in maneuverability, just like a single empty square in a sliding puzzle allows you to solve it. The developers knew this, of course, and introduced this trap to screw with the player.

To take another example, let's look at the level below, containing the dragon. It's him you can see me fighting in one of the GIFs above. It's a small level.

If I want to do my flanking trick to dart around and behind the dragon, where can I do it on this limited level? The chamber to the west is impossible because of the pit. That leaves only the four-square chamber around F. That would be fine, except F sits on top of a pit that opens after you've crossed it half a dozen times. The developers knew this was the only place on the level that you could do that combat trick, and they deliberately programmed a bomb into the process. (In case you're wondering, no, you can't do either the door or stair trick here. D and E are pressure plates that open the doors, but they close behind you permanently, and you can't open them again if you come back down the stairs.)

I ultimately solved these problems, of course. With the dragon, I found another access point to the area through a secret door, and was ultimately able to use the stair trick on him. (It took forever as it was, so if there was a "non-exploitative" way to do it, I'd love to hear it.) In the case of the pit, I found an obscure button nearby that closed it. But I sure swore a lot at the game during the last few days.

Killing the dragon with the stair trick and poison clouds

Among other treats to this same level was a ridiculously long series of corridors that led to a dead end. To be fair, a message on the wall at the beginning did read "Dead End," but it was still horribly annoying to have to search every wall for secret doors. Getting into the area took a "solid key," so it's hard to believe there wasn't more to find, but all I found was a party of death knights. I killed them with repeated fireballs as I backed down the long corridors.

This level was a bit ridiculous.

In a comment that she ROT13ed, Amy gave me a series of tips on how to navigate this area, and I fear I succumbed to studying them. I would have figured out the monster-on-the-pressure plate on my own, I think (It was a clue when I stepped on it and nothing happened). Luring a debris monster on it caused a pit to close and allow me access to another area.

A debris monster helps me out by slithering onto a pressure plate.

But I probably never would have figured out that the way to close an invisible pit just beyond--a pit that drops you into a room full of poison in which you almost immediately die--was to cast "open" on a grate, thus allowing a salamander-demon that was hiding out behind it to move off a switch that was keeping the invisible pit open.

The next puzzle I was happy to figure out on my own. There was a pressure plate next to a message reading "Value in exchange for valuables." I saved the game and tried several items on it before I hit the right combination of coins and magic items to cause a secret wall to open and reveal not only all of the items I had donated, but a "Cross Key" as well, which opened a nearby door.

You'd be bored to tears if I tried to recount all the keyholes, triggers, teleporters, stairways, pits, and other navigational puzzles I've mapped on these levels, but I have to confess that in doing so, I've abandoned all pretense of minimal saves. I try different things, and if I don't like the result, I fireball myself to death and try something else.

Unfortunately, I've reached a point at which I'm stuck. I know there's more to explore on the level mapped above, but I can't seem to get past a pit to the northeast (I can approach it from the north via a staircase from the level above, or from the south, but I can't get east of it.) There's a keyhole on this level next to a message reading "PAIN" that I don't have the key to open. There's a "Skeleton Key" hole on the level above, but I don't have the skeleton key.

I can always go back to the Junction of the Ways and take a different path, but my understanding is that there's corbum ore to find on every path, so I don't want to leave this one until I've found it. Can anyone confirm whether I'm right or wrong about that?


  1. The only problem I see with introducing dashing about the dungeon to fight monsters is that there is no "physical" limitation. In other words, your speed and agility tied to your keyboard skill instead of the characters' abilities. Might as well attack as many times as you can click the button with no cooldown, it's sort of the same thing. How fast you move in the dungeon should be related to stamina, or something.

    1. Well, it is related in some way to encumbrance. The point you make is a good one, but basically every action RPG substitutes the player's agility for the character's. (I suppose this is why some people don't like action RPGs.)

      That raises an interesting related question. Let's say you're role-playing a barbarian with an intelligence of 5. You stumble on a sphinx who asks a difficult riddle. You, the player, know the answer to the riddle, but if you had to be honest, you'd say that your dumb barbarian probably wouldn't. Do you give the correct answer or role-play and give the wrong answer? It's essentially the same problem as the one you describe, but with something mental rather than physical.

    2. I can confirm what you wrote here: There is a Corbum to be found at every path. And I'm pretty sure the wall by that door reads, "Dain," not "Pain." To get the key for Dain, you must follow the path for Dain. That is all, before people get pissed at me again. :P

    3. My apologies. My message above was not supposed to be part of this thread.

    4. That barbarian thing is quite easily solveable if the game designer thinks a little. I.e. instead of the player getting to enter anything at all you have a set of answers preprogrammed and the only way to get the correct answer is either by being told the answer by somebody else in the world or having an intelligent character.

    5. Ragnar: that doesn't solve the problem at all. The problem is "how to have puzzles in a game where you roleplay a dumb barbarian who couldn't possibly solve those puzzles". Your suggestion translates to "don't have puzzles in the game" (it's not a puzzle if the solution has to be given to you by an NPC, it's instead a fetchquest where you fetch the solution).

    6. A useful piece of info that might inform on this very commonly recurring issue when talking about role-playing games:

      As d&d was designed and played in the '70s, the focus did not rest so much on character skill but on player skill. Your character was very minimal, a bunch of numbers and equipment that you'd always try to do your best with. In answer to your question, you were encouraged to be smarter than your character, whose stats were not platonic descriptors of inherent essence, but more to do with how many henchmen you could hire or spells you could memorize. D&d was not focused on amateur theater, it was a game of wits against the dungeon master, a game to be won.

      Of course nothing stopped you from role-playing your 5 int barbarian in such a fashion that it seems like he comes to the correct answer to the sphynx's riddle by mistake or hilariously wrong trail of thoughts, but it was optional.

      The concept of role-playing has shifted dramatically towards the 'mutual storytelling & amateur theatre' version after White Wolf informed the hobby very dynamically with their Vampire: The Masquerade. I have nothing against this approach, but in early D&D, the storytelling was emergent from playing an asymmetrical game of wits and tactics against a person who has full survey of the gameworld.

      Now. After 3rd edition D&d, everything became a skill to roll for. So you would meet the sphynx and roll against your int score to see if 'your character' solved its puzzle. Or roll your 'disarm traps' skill to see if spotted the deadly poison needle in the chest. Where's the fun in that? Of course, this is dependent on the DM's style of play, but depressingly so I've found the majority of people play this way. They're playing little 'simulations', basically The Sims Medieval. And there's much amateur theatre and expressions of repressed desires, too. Much less devious puzzles, traps and encounters to test the group's wits, tactical sense and foresight.

      Dungeon Master, borne from an era where D&D was quite a different thing than today, urges you to use all your skill as a player to guide your group to victory. Not to ponder life as a barbarian, who would be dead two rooms in in Chaos Strikes Back.

    7. My first cRPG was Dungeon Master.
      I grinded it to death (Master I or II in everything) but never get past dungeon level 8 or 9.
      I few year back, I came to realize the game is not even an action RPG, it's a FPS.
      A super slow Doom, or Duke Nukem: With hidden doors and trap , hysterical mouse clic attack and running around.

      Yours stats have almost no influence on the gameplay. You always have to run around enemies to strike them from the rear, or drive them into door and trap. Even at uber character level you cant stand chance in a face to face fight with second tier mobs.

      Pretty sad stuff.

    8. I played both DM and CSB quite recently, but I can't say I agree. There is absolutely no need for grinding, especially not in DM.
      I just played "naturally" without worrying about stats and levels, and without using the dance of death much. It's possible to stand your ground against most enemies if you apply the right tactics.
      If you use dance of death and strafing tactics exclusively, of course _then_ it _becomes_ an FPS, in practice.

    9. I really don't see how it's possible to stand your ground against enemies in DM when spellcasting enemies can two-shot your entire party and Stone Golems can one-shot individual characters. Maybe if you keep everybody doped up to their gills constantly on hundreds of potions, but that is much closer to being an exploit than moving while fighting IMO.

    10. Use Fire Shield and Spell Shield to protect against enemy spell casters. With Golems you can usually use the door trick.
      For hard enemies Magic Boxes work wonders.
      And Poison Cloud is always useful (well, maybe not against non-organic beings), especially in conjunction with Magic Boxs.
      Also make sure you have a good supply of healing potions.
      Then it's just a matter of doing it to them before they do it to you. Killing, that is.

    11. I've never had a one-shot kill from a Stone Golem. The only monster that can two-shot kill one of my weaker characters (not the whole party) with a fireball (or otherwise) is a Dragon. And those are both with me just standing there and letting them hit me.

    12. I confess that sometimes my use of these tactics is not strictly to avoid death but rather to avoid having to spend half an hour mixing and drinking healing potions from my single empty flask.

      I've been hoarding the magic boxes after remembering the consequences of NOT doing that in DM. Should I stop?

    13. I would only say stop if you run out of room in your inventory. They're not that heavy.

    14. I have to agree with Petrus here, it only feels like an FPS if you play it that way. Puzzles and riddles and the like, to me, are iconic of CRPGs of this area. It's part of what defines them in my eyes, though that simply may be bias towards the sort of games I preferred at the time.

      I think the simple dynamics of how NPCs interact with you in combat separates this from an FPS so thoroughly it can't be considered like one even if that's sort of how you try to play it. In an FPS, enemies obey the same real-time movement rules as you and operate in the same manner of strafing, firing and chasing you around. While the limitations of the technology at time make it fundamentally the same when you attack (ie, you simply face them and fire, there was no pixel-to-pixel targeting), you do get stronger in DM and it makes a noticeable difference. I do admit, both because of technology limitations of FPS and design choices of dungeon crawlers at the time, the actual method of attacking is similar.

      What makes them significantly different, other than the puzzles, is the defensive strategies. In games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Heretic, etc., the point is damage avoidance. You want to strafe away from attacks or hide behind something, etc. This is where I agree with Petrus - if you play the damage avoidance game, it can begin to feel like one and largely make your stats irrelevant. However I find a greater joy comes from playing with the more RPG styled method of damage-mitigation. All the spells Petrus mentioned are ways you'd do this that WOULD let you stand toe to toe with enemies and allow the damage avoidance options to be secondary.

      I suppose it's ultimately up to gameplay preferences however. I enjoyed trying to mitigate damage and use avoidance as simply a backup. Even when playing that way, however, I think it's a bit disingenuous to say it makes it an FPS. It simply makes it a different style of CRPG.

    15. I think Nathan was using "FPS" as more of a metaphor than a literal description of the game. But I agree that this game prizes action--the player's reflexes--over attributes or even tactics. After the manual-dexterity hell that the game just put me through in getting the Corbum ore, I'm not going to feel bad about exploiting its own engine against it.

    16. You got one of the Corbums! Congratulations!

  2. Closing that pit is probably one of the more cryptic puzzles in the game. The solution is found in the centre of the floor below: Vg vaibyirf trggvat n fxryrgba gb fgnl ba n fcrpvsvp cerffher cyngr naq gura dhvpxyl cerffvat n ohggba nebhaq gur pbeare gb trg vg gryrcbegrq njnl n pbhcyr bs fcnprf naq riraghnyyl xvyyrq.

    1. Half true. You have to do that on two separate occasions, and what you describe in your encrypted message is the second instance. It's slightly different the first time around.

  3. And yes, each path holds a corbum and you actually need all four of them to finish the game.

  4. A final thought: I don't see the strategies you employ above as exploits, for two reasons:

    1) They are, as you've said, things that the game allows to happen.

    2) These are things that you would do in real life if you found yourself having to fight monsters such as these. Would you just stand there and hack at it with a sword while it breathes fire or throws poison at you? Hell no. You'd be trying your best to kill it, while staying away from the part of the monster that's causing you to bleed profusely or make you feel like you're about to puke out your own guts. So it's kind of like playing your role, huh?

    1. Furthermore if they were exploits, FTL would have fixed them from DM to CSB. And it wouldn't be hard. You would basically have a chance to disengage from an encounter if you moved at a different square based on some 'evade' stat your group would have (possibly based on their Agility) tested against the Evade of each monster. So it'd be really easy to run circles around a debris monster but not so easy against a giant and bulky dragon.

      That FTL didn't implement such a rule means they endorse the 'dance of death' and then it's up to the players to use everything in their disposal to survive.

      All that said, I do not enjoy DM clones exactly because the dance of death (not because my fingers aren't up to it, just because the party moves so much faster than enemies that it breaks verisimilitude) but that's on me, not FTL.

  5. I can not properly understand that anyone would consider any of the three things you listed as an exploit, least of the dancing. It is such an integral part of the game. Just looking at the level design and monster placement makes this perfectly clear.

    The question in my opinion is to guess what the developers intended. Well, primarily it's a question of what you enjoy. There are people who'd rather not finish a game then accept help when they are stuck. Which is fine if they want to do so, but it is an artificial restriction they set on themselves.

    We have hint books made by the developer. Publishers used to have hint phones. And in CSB, there's the oracle. I'm not sure if Chet has been using it at all, or if CSBwin supports it, but it was on a separate disk, iirc. The oracle reads the saved game, and gives you a hint related to your location. Obviously the developers thought the game was so difficult that including a (admittedly pretty lousy) hint mechanism was a good idea. Is using the oracle cheating? An exploit? Is it a spoiler?

    Apparently there's a web version of the oracle:

    In some ways I consider Nethack and CSB to be somewhat similar. Both of the games are initially daunting, and their difficulty can seem excessive. Both intentionally demand a ton of your time while you learn the tricks of the game. However, the cleverness of the design of CSB isn't in the robustness of the system, like in nethack. Nethack has a random dungeon, and the stuff you learn is the system. The different kinds of effects scrolls have. The different effects scrolls have when you're confused. And hey, what happens if I throw this potion of confusion on an enemy?

    In CSB, the dungeon is always the same. What you're learning is the puzzle that is the dungeon. Where stuff is, what leads to where, and how to solve the particular puzzles. How do I get through this bit? And I do think CSB has some really wonderful puzzle and level design. Which are the one and the same, really.

    In this regard CSB isn't even a CRPG, it's a puzzle game with somewhat hokey but rather unforgiving combat. It encourages you to use whatever you can, it forces you to save and reload while you're learning. To experiment. A big part of the enjoyment in CSB, as with Nethack, is that learning process.

    CSB is a fiendish Myst-like puzzle game set in a dungeon with deadly combat and somewhat harsh rules for survival. :-)

    1. Very well and honestly described opinion. Thank you unimural! CSB is simply different from any other real-time RPGs. It's pointless to complain about the difficulty of combats or "unfairness" of the dungeon structure namely invisible & timed (e.g. passable) teleports (real challenge even for an experienced Excell mapper :-)). It's just the core of the game so either you enjoy this diabolical style or you don't; and then, if the latter is the case, unfortunately, you have to move to another title.. One advice: it helps a bit if you map all the map fragments visible via Magic-map spell. You can find your position after have been teleported to a new area better. If you play w/o Magic-map available and are still able to finish the game you have my respect. Keep my finger crossed for you in this game :-) Quido

    2. Unfortunately, the version I'm playing doesn't have the mapping spell, which makes things a lot more difficult.

    3. Maybe now it's the right moment to decide whether to switch to another engine. There are 3 additional functions of the Magic map (you can find 3 different spells scattered in the dungeon) which enhance your orientation and bring ability to understand some mechanics and puzzles. 1) you can fix the map position, go somewhere else (even to another level!) and use a switch or button and check what happened on your original position. 2) you can see spells on the map - very useful if you try to aim your fireball or open-door spell to an otherwise unreachable area. 3) you can see enemies - similar to the previous topic; they are quite often the key to solving a puzzle. Neither of these functions is definitely self-redemptory. Without them you can still finish the game as a blind person finding their way out of the house full of sharp pieces of furniture.. Check this link if you decided to try (for the first time) the Amiga version. There is no alchemy needed to launch the game thanks to the owner of the site.
      The basic instructions are in English. I'm trying to push you there because I understood that you enjoy the mapping part of the game (like I do) which is IMHO one of two main reasons why to play the game (the second one is combat). Thanks to Excel you can merge/split parts of the dungeon having understood the structure better, and these precious moments are so satisfying that you forgive the authors everything :-) Again, my respect to everyone who was able to finish the game without the map or using only a graph paper (I tried it 20 years ago, but became too frustrated after third of fourth need to re-draw key parts of the map around the junction of ways.. Quido

    4. I'm too far into the game to do that, but it's good advice for readers who might be wondering what version to play.

  6. Personally I play DM and CBS with these self imposed rules:
    Using doors is perfectly legit. After all, the monster will retreat when they are damaged.
    Using stairs is cheesy, because the monsters can't do it. IOW, the "rules" work differently for the party and the monsters. I always prefer a level playing field.
    I try to avoid using the Dance of Death, saving it only for dragons. Next time I play DM and CSB I think I will try a combo of Magic Boxes and Poison Cloud spells and see how that works out.

    As for Chet's current predicament, I suggest returning to the Junction and try a different path. Maybe you then will be able to look at your current problem from a different angle.

    1. Ugh. So let me make sure I have this straight: you need to find one corbum ore in each path, but you can't necessarily find it entirely from within that path?

    2. All paths lead to the DDD, as you may have found out already. If you got there from taking the Ku path, you have to find the door with "Ku" written on the wall nearby. Otherwise, you may find yourself standing in front of a door that you don't have the key for.

    3. I suspected, but didn't know for sure, that all paths lead here. But I still don't know if that means that I should have discovered some corbum ore at some point on the KU path or not.

    4. You have to find the door labelled "Ku" and have a key to fit it (found on the "Ku" path), and you continue on Ku way at that point. This is getting a bit more and more spoilerish, but you are asking, so I would think it's okay.

    5. To make things clear about the overall "quest":

      Each path has a "before" the DDD section (let's call it phase 1) and an "inside" the DDD section (let's call it phase 2).

      The goal of phase 1 is to find a special key to open a door inside the DDD which leads to phase 2.

      For Ku for example you already:
      1. Found the solid key in phase 1
      2. Entered the DDD
      3. Found the Ku door inside and opened it with the solid key
      4. You did not finish phase 2 to the corbum (you did something wrong in the "dead end" section and couldn't get further).

      You can do things in the order you like for the other three paths, but some sections of the DDD will be cut off until you have found the appropriate keys.

    6. There we go. Thanks, Georges. "You hosed up your map and missed a tiny little button that opens up this other whole area" was all I needed. These guys would have had me going back to the beginning of the game.

    7. Well, I spoke too soon. There's yet another keyhole that I don't have the key to pass. This freaking game.

    8. I spoke too soon with "I spoke too soon." Apparently, I can just destroy the doors in this room. I have to remember to try that with every door I encounter and not just assume I need a key or I need to approach it from the other side.

    9. Sorry. I forgot that you found the solid key.

    10. No problem. You and Petrus have helped plenty with other areas.

    11. I actually agree entirely with your self-imposed rules, Petrus, though I tended to shy away from the door trick. I thought I was the only one that played this way.

  7. The door trick survived into Liberation: Captive 2, and I seem to remember that it was hinted at in the manual, so I assume it to have been a homage to these older games. The stair trick didn't work, because the mechanics allowed opponents to follow your party up and down stairs; on the other hand, the same mechanics prevented them from attacking upwards, so you could park your party halfway up a staircase, face downwards and rain blows down on your enemy without fear of retaliation.

    Harland's comment reminds me of another trick in Liberation; you attacked by clicking on your party members' status panels and by default those panels were split with two on one side of the main view and two on the other, so to attack with everyone, you had to click once, twice, move the mouse to the other side of the screen, then click once, twice again. You could alter the layout of the screen though, and bunch all the panels on one side, then click around all four in a small and fast circular motion, increasing your number of attacks to an absurd degree.

  8. Re: the mention of realtime combat and backstabbing, one of the major flaws of Final Fantasy 12 for me was that your characters will literally always attack enemies head-on, even if you try to manually maneuver them to the back or sides.

  9. Ah, flasks are really scarse and precious in CSB and you pay the price for that one. Usually i leave it there.

    On standing ground, fighting in the inventory screen shile constantly brewing vi potions, you can stand in front of everyting short of a dragon, even 4 knights or a golem.

    For the gameplay, I personally prefer finishing all the paths below becore tackling the DDD in one shot at the end with better equip and party levels. Getting to the topmost level of Ku might however be worth it to get a particular weapon, if you can manage.
    In a symmetric way, there are two "master" melee weapons, one at the far bottom of the dungeon, one at the far top. (Navigating throu the DDD is such a challenge that I don't feel this is too spoilery... Even with this hint he might never find it)

    1. PS: Almost all items in CSB are DM items under another name and graphic. If you think a little, based on your DM experience and notes you can figure out what you have and what's missing.

      Oh and 100% well said unimural.

    2. Huh. I don't know why, but it never occurred to me that you can continue fighting while in the inventory screen. You're right, Georges: That does make standing face-to-face with monsters a little more feasible.

    3. As time passes faster, it also makes combat much quicker, monsters hit quicker but your weapons cooldown is shorter too.

  10. If I remember right, having a creature fall on another is instant death for them. That's another trick you can use to take out dangerous creatures that don't hover/fly. I never played this expansion, however, so I may be confusing it with a sequel or another game. When I did play the original, however, I tended to just try and fight toe to toe. I would use the dance of death, however I tried to avoid the door trick. I don't think the stair one ever occurred to me, though.

    As for looking at walls for secrets or knocking on them, I found a quicker way was to clear a room (which clearly you can't always do) and then simply strafe through the area sideways. Once you are familiar with the 'tricks' to a level, it's pretty easy to spot them throughout. It saves a little time, at least.

    Finally caught up on your blog entries. A bit sad I don't have a backlog of entries to read anymore, but at least I can now participate in the discussions.

    1. I believe you following a creature through a pit ALSO means instant death for them. You may want to save before testing that, though.

    2. I rather hoped the pit itself killed them.

    3. Due to limitations of the engine, each level can only have a limited amount of different monster types. If a monster gets to a level where it doesnt exist it is killed instantly.

    4. Are you certain about that? I can think of one exception to that rule. I'm thinking about the place where you can use a lever to open a pit under some monsters. Depending on wether you used another lever or not, the monsters will either drop one level down and only get hurt, or they will drop two levels down and die.
      I assumed that the reason monsters die if the party lands on them is simply because that two different living "entities" can't occupy the same square.

    5. I think I read that somewhere, not sure where. Maybe the monster class existed on both levels in that case?

    6. Telefragging in an RPG. Cool.

  11. DM1 was a game I played and never solved. I think I could have solved that one and not been too upset. DM2 is a game I could never solve, ever, even now with all I know and have learned about games. Just reading about it pisses me off. Damned glad I never played it when I was younger or I would have been turned off crpgs entirely. Damn, I hate even reading about this game. Again, I am sorry for your pain but I would never inflict it upon myself.

    1. This actually isn't Dungeon Master 2. That came out in 1993, with the subtitle, "The Legend of Skullkeep."

    2. Slip of the fingers- CSB, not DM2, I knowed that but thank you anyways :)

  12. Time to stop playing this adventure game, and get back to playing CRPGs where skills and stats matter and there is a story.

    Reading this is making me frustrated. This is a glorified puzzle game.


    1. Trukk off. ;-)

    2. I haven't made any secret that it's not my favored type of game. I do like some of its elements, but I like them more when they're present in greater moderation in games that have, as you say, more of a story. CSB takes what it does well to a certain extreme.

      I'm not going to quit on it, though. I hope the older games I'm reviewing in the meantime take some of the edge off.

    3. Take the edge off with a a little NetHack ;)

    4. I have been, but without anything new to report. Started a bunch of characters, died a bunch of times.

  13. Ha, I thought of a general clue about iron keys and onyx keys. It's not a specific spoiler but rather some general usage tips. In Rot13 if you wish:

    Veba xrlf naq Balk xrlf ner na vagrerfgvat srngher bs PFO, va gung gurl ner abg "rffragvny" xrlf. Lbh pna svaq n ybg bs gurz, naq gurl ner abg arrqrq gb nqinapr. Gurl freir n srj checbfrf ubjrire:
    - Bcra cynprf jurer lbh pna svaq vgrzf/gernfher/sbhagnvaf/sbbq
    - Bcra fubegphgf orgjrra cnguf
    - Qrnpgvingr gencf
    - Bcra n qbbe gb na nygreangvir jnl bs trggvat fbzrjurer.

    Hfvat gur xrlf sbe gur ynfg gjb guvatf vf fbzrgvzrf hfryrff: sbe rknzcyr n jnl yrsg unf lbh orng guebhtu qrzbaf, gur jnl evtug vf bcrarq ol na balk xrl naq qbrfa'g unir n svtug. V hfhnyyl cersre svtugvat naq rkcrevrapr naljnl, naq xrrc gur xrl sbe n orggre fcbg.

    Veba xrl ner cyragl naq ner hfhnyyl sbe yrff vzcbegnag gernfher/fubegphgf, balk xrlf ner enere naq sbe zber vzcbegnag cynprf.

    By the way, such multiple solutions to puzzles or alternative paths are I think a rare thing in dungeon crawlers at the time.


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