Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Ambermoon: We Did the Math

We did the monster math.
At the end of the last session I was trapped with the dwarves on Kire's Moon, stranded without a Navigation Stone to get me or the dwarves back to Lyramion. The dwarves had fractured into those who clung to the old ways of stonework and mining, led by Kire in Dor Kiredon, and those mostly born on the moon, who tried to live in harmony with the flora and fauna, led by Kire's son Ketnar in Dor Grestin. Both leaders were worried about Kire's wife/Ketnar's mother, Dorina, who was missing and rumored to be living in a swamp to the south.  
Dorina's domain.
It took me a while, carefully navigating past the battles on the moon's surface, to find Dorina's hideaway. It was much more to the southwest of Dor Grestin than to the "south." The doors opened at the magic word (SCHNISM) that Kentar had given me, but instead of a pleasant "house," we found ourselves in a treacherous, multi-level dungeon full of monsters and traps. Is this how Dorina treats her son?
Jets of fire shooting from the floor just say "family" to me.
The monsters were mostly giant insects called "Gizzeks," occasionally accompanied by a "Gizzek Queen." For the ridiculously low experience points that they were worth (only about 3 for each Gizzek and maybe 80 for a queen) they were annoying as hell, resistant to damage and capable of massive physical attacks, sleep, fear, and lame. Queens were capable of mass-damage spells. I burned through a lot of my spell point potions and slept a lot so I could take them out quickly with mass damage spells of my own, growling each time I saw our experience "rewards." I have no idea why the creators made combat on the moon so unfruitful. 
A bunch of gizzeks and, in the back, their queen.
Meanwhile, the levels had jets of fire that blocked corridors and instantly killed me if I wandered into them. I had to find switches to turn them off, usually behind illusory walls. I got a lot of use out of my ranger's "Map View" on these levels. I had noted last time that none of the earth-based mage spells worked on the moon. Neither, it turns out, do "Word of Marking" and "Word of Recall"; if they did, we could just warp back to Lyramion. Other fun features of the levels included holes in the floor that dumped us back to the beginning of the levels and plants that tore us to pieces if we got too close. I found one room with eight switches that I was clearly supposed to turn on in some combination. I couldn't figure it out and couldn't find any hints, but fortunately I was able to get past the carnivorous plants with the adventurer's "Jump" spell. 
The plant intelligently targets the only person who can cast "Raise Dead."
We finally found Dorina in a "comfortable room" full of potted plants. She was surprised to see us and demanded to know what we were doing there. We gave her Kire's letter, which brought her to tears--apparently, he admitted that he had been wrong for the first time in over 100 years. She resolved to visit him in his city and packed her items.
The party plays marriage counselor.
The game returned us to Dor Kiredon automatically, where Kire and Dorina had a tender reunion. The overjoyed Kire gave us two keys, one to his treasure room and the other to the "test mine" that the dwarves had sunk into the dirt. He confided in me that they had found a mysterious metal door in the test mine but had been driven away by tornaks. Dorina, for her part, gave us a brooch that added 15 to spell points and 35 to luck. The treasure chamber mostly had adventuring equipment that we didn't need, but it also had 30 pieces of amber, a bunch of other gems, and a bunch of potions. I'm not sure what use the gems are, but I took them.
"Thou art wasting it!" -- Dupre and Shamino from two universes away.
With the key from Kire, we entered the mine in the northwest corner of town. A dwarf named Gadrin stood guard on the inside. He opened the gate reluctantly, warning us of the tornak beasts down below. 
Imagine living to 267 years and only achieving warrior Level 15.
A couple of ladders led to Level 2. The first one we took brought us almost immediately to a tornak queen guarding an egg. Tar "Dissolved" it in the first round of the ensuing combat. We grabbed the egg it was guarding. For the rest of the dungeon, tornaks avoided attacking us because we had the egg. This was good because there were a lot of them.
There were a number of places to pick-axe through the wall and several places in which the game told us we found amber but then did not, in fact, deliver any amber. I'm not sure what was up with that.
No, there doesn't.
On Level 3, we found the door that Kire was talking about. There was no way to open it, but we could cut through some nearby walls with the pick-axe. The damned thing broke after a couple of walls, so we had to go all the way back to the surface for another one, then return. (This is where I discovered that "Word of Marking" and "Recall" didn't work on the moon.) The caves brought us to a room with some man made walls and some kind of receptacle with an open "mouth." Given how much amber we were finding, or supposedly finding, I tried putting some in the receptacle, and it worked. A message said that we had powered something and that we heard a hissing noise in the distance.
"Antique," surely, but "antiquated?"
We returned to the door, which now seemed to be lit up, and tried using it. "Which number?" a pop-up box asked. I had no idea what it was talking about, so I started searching around some more. Another nearby wall yielded to the pick-axe and showed an image of four triangles of various colors. I sighed and went to bed. The next morning, Irene told me that the triangles were yellow, orange, orange, and red. This didn't do anything to help.
With my vision, almost any of these could be green, orange, yellow, or red.
I looped around the dungeon a couple more times, looking for anything that might help, but found nothing. I tried the door again and saw the numbers maxed at 99. Figuring that with a decent TV show on in the background, I could work my way through 99 numbers, I started at the top, working backwards. The door opened a few minutes later at 71. I'd be grateful if someone could tell me how I was supposed to get that. [Ed. I figured out the answer in the next session, which I haven't written up yet. There's a dungeon in the northwest part of the moon where you find the code key, essentially. More next time.]
Trying the possibilities.
As I passed beyond the door, the game noted that the air "has not been breathed by a living being for thousands of years." A hole dropped us to a small area in front of another door, this one also lacking power. Nearby walls gave way to the pick-axe, leading me to another amber device that powered the door--and a deadly electrical trap in front of it. Fortunately, I found a switch behind another wall that deactivated the trap. This door opened with no number code.
An uninviting entryway.
Unfortunately, a door beyond that does want a code. This one had an image of ("Irene!") a red triangle, an orange triangle, a red circle, and an orange circle, and even more unfortunately, the potential numbers went up to 9,999. I spent some time trying to work it out. Since the first three symbols came to 71, they can't represent separate digits. They can't involve multiples, because 71 is prime, so they must be additive.
A new puzzle.
There are a lot of ways to solve x + 2y + z = 71, but assuming the symbols represent a numerical system and not just a random puzzle, the most logical explanations, allowing for the most operations, would be:
  • Yellow = 1, Orange = 10, Red = 50
  • Yellow = 50, Orange = 10, Red = 1
  • Yellow = 1, Orange = 5, Red = 60
  • Yellow = 60, Orange = 5, Red = 1

The problem is that the new door has circles. What could it mean if the symbol changes? The most obvious explanation is a change in operation. Addition doesn't make sense because you wouldn't need separate symbols. Division will give you 1 no matter what the values of the colors and subtraction will give you 0, so those don't seem the likely answer. Multiplication would result in, depending on which of the bullets above is correct, an answer of 3600, 121, 4225, or 36.
I was sure it would be one of the four-digit numbers since the counter went up to 9999, but I still felt like a damned genius when it opened at 121. Still, there's no way the developers intended the player to reason this out this way.  
On the other side of the door--shades of Might and Magic!--I was attacked by three mechanical "guardians." The animation for them is cool: they start as just balls, but then project holograms (or something) of light around them that look like muscled humanoid figures. I prepared to be exterminated, but they were mostly just physical attackers. They hit hard and absorbed a lot of damage, but nothing we couldn't handle--except for the occasional critical hit that caused instant death. Thankfully, they started delivering a reasonable amount of experience again.
Another fantasy setting ventures into science fiction.
The levels, labeled "Antique Area," had several fights with guardians, force fields that had to be turned off with wall switches, walls that had to be hacked down, and elevators going up and down between the levels. We found a receptacle in one wall that held a book written in an ancient language; I couldn't figure out a way to interpret it.
I'm not sure this elevator meets safety standards.
As we reached Level 2 of the sub-dungeon, the game warned us that equipment was malfunctioning on the level, causing bursts of electricity to roam around freely and zap anyone they encountered. I must have reloaded a dozen times after failing to anticipate or dodge them. 
OSHA would probably have something to say about this, too.
There was a square corridor in which the lightning bolts moved around in counter-clockwise patterns, and I had to walk carefully to stay ahead of them and not run into them, flipping switches on the walls as we passed. There was a door with a three-symbol pattern next to it: yellow triangle, red, triangle, orange circle. Since 121 worked for the last door, orange must be 10 and red must be 1, which means yellow must be 50. Following the pattern of adding like symbols and multiplying them to unlike symbols, this door gave 50 +1 * 10 = 510. The door opened to the code. Inside were four wall receptacles, three with nothing and one with an "ancient object" that looked like a key.
The switches opened a door that led to an elevator, which in turn led to a room with a couple switches on the wall and a teleportation field. One of the switches activated it. I walked through and found myself in a room with six wandering parties of guardians and "guardian chiefs." Winning the successive combats took over an hour, helped by Tar's "Iceshower" and lots of healing and spell point potions. Everyone leveled up at least once.
A "guardian chief" gets right up in my face.
Once I got out of this area, I found myself in a large dungeon area with multiple teleporters, multiple switches, and multiple large parties of guardians and guardian chiefs trapped behind energy fields. This area is clearly going to involve some note-taking and mapping. I had hoped to finish the dungeon before I posted this, but it's already been a while since my last entry, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish this dungeon until later this week, so we'll have to get to the conclusion next time.
Switches, teleporters, energy fields, and strange machines dominate this dungeon.
The game is running the risk of doing what Serpent Isle did: introducing new, large areas with complex puzzles when it's long past time that it should have been wrapping up. One major difference, though, is that I enjoy the combat in Ambermoon, while in Serpent Isle it never got better than "farcical."

Time so far: 74 hours


  1. “The door opened a few minutes later at 71. I'd be grateful if someone could tell me how I was supposed to get that.”

    I think you missed an entire location.

    ROT13 below:

    Gurer ner fbzr “Napvrag Ehvaf” va gur birejbeyq ng nobhg [friragl,friragl] juvpu Xrgane vf Qbe Terfgva vf fhccbfrq gb gryy lbh nobhg. Gurer lbh jvyy svaq rnfvre rknzcyrf naq pyhrf nobhg gur ahzore flfgrz.

    1. Sorry about the post above. I just noticed that the picture you are showing has three triangles (totaling 61) and it should be in the location I was talking about, so now I’m a bit confused.

    2. Yes, it also says "Underground Ruins" on the screenshot, that's the area you referred to. You find a note on a dead dwarf (the missing explorer that Kire? mentioned) there explaining the system. The number relationships can be found on the walls of the mines.

    3. Sorry for the confusion. I found that dungeon later and grabbed screenshots from the wrong location. I made some edits above.

    4. But I found them just because I wanted to explore the rest of the surface of the moon before leaving, so thanks for clarifying where I was supposed to get the clue to go there. I don't know why I never got saw the keyword when talking to Ketnar.

    5. Nevertheless though, you were indeed very clever to solve it so. Moreover, it's fun that, the puzzle had sufficient rules to derive from such a light base leve of information! Nice work!

  2. I'm glad you found the egg and didn't fight all the Tornaks. You can also buy an egg in on of the dwarf cities.

    The only explanations I have for the low number of XPs is that it's either a bug or an encouragement to run away instead of fighting the native wildlife.

    1. Or maybe balancing/progression issues that came up too late in development to address any other way.

    2. It's obviously due to low gravity causing bone and muscle atrophy. You should feel lucky you aren't getting negative experience points.

    3. It's way too late in the game to cause balancing issues. And even if it did, there's a point not much later in the game where it would have been much easier to remove a few experience points.

    4. So what's your suggestion then, Buck? Also, the game wasn't necessarily produced in a linear fashion, meaning that section could've already been long done before they realized they were giving away too many XP in total.

    5. If it's intentional my guess would be that it was done to discourage grinding. You'd be encouraged to walk into the flashy bits instead of avoiding them if those monsters gave lots of XP.

      The game is very lenient with XPs in other parts, and since the entire game is done in an editor, they would all have been equally easy to fix.

    6. Sorry, I've overlooked you being the initial poster.

      But 'to discourage grinding' would still be an effort to better balance the game, don't you think? I've never played it through to end though...

    7. AlphabeticalAnonymousOctober 26, 2023 at 4:20 PM

      At least in my playthrough, I never felt the need for much grinding. The game felt fairly balanced overall, aside from (a) getting way too much XP for delivering a simple painting, and (b) my party being utterly unprepared for the curse wasps' many status effects. Perhaps it was even on the easy side.

    8. The forest moon is the only location where you could reasonably grind, if the XP rewards were better. I'm not even sure if the overland encounters disappear if you trigger them. But there are quite a few of them, while the monsters in the dungeons aren't that numerous.

      Even if you could grind, the game would hardly be unbalanced. The worst that could happen would be hitting the level cap at the end of the forest moon, which is still reasonably close to the end of the game.

  3. "Imagine living to 267 years and only achieving warrior Level 15."

    Maybe he eventually realized that his real interests lie elsewhere and has since multiclassed into and reached max level as miniature painter and chef.

    1. There's an old Dragon article trying to explain why a 1000 year old elf can't possibly be an uber-archmage. This is, needless to say, in the era of Gygax's D&D weirdness. It suggests (though I have no idea where they got the numbers) that instead of level caps maybe try an experience penalty. Of course in a way this then gets worse when there are no level caps at all; why is a place where there are lots of elves (for example) not just full of insanely high level everything - birthrates?

    2. Tolkien "balanced" this by stating that as the age of magic and elves gave way to the age of reason and men (in other words, as his fictional mythology of England gave way to the modern day where we obviously don't have any elves), the elves would fade from the world until they were non-physical shades.

    3. When you have literally all the time in the world, I guess it makes you lazy. And how does memory work for an immortal being anway? How much info can the brain store, and how long?

    4. Heroes usually don't get that old, especially when they can't save scum.

    5. Yeah, live by magic, die by magic

  4. The dancing lightning brings back memories of Eye of the Beholder II's tower with the damaging in-the-floor projector hopping sequence that led to immediately fighting a mantis while standing on one of the damaging projectors. That whole sequence I couldn't tolerate. I am glad that the combat is still holding some interest because there's nothing worse than when that becomes a rote slog.

  5. So what's he difference between the new-and-improved version of this blog and the deleted one?
    Curious minds want to know what to reread :)

  6. "several places in which the game told us we found amber but then did not, in fact, deliver any amber. I'm not sure what was upwith that."

    This is a bug that, if I understand correctly, showed up in (an earlier version of) Pyrdacor's rewrite of the Amiga version. At least it's discussed and explained here and was apparently solved in v1.5.2/1.6 while I don't see it in
    the list of known bugs of the unreleased English Thalion version (1.07).

    I recall there having been doubts earlier as to what version you are actually playing. Not sure if this can be easily verified (file name, intro/credits, ...?).

    Maybe others who have played the game can advise whether it's required or just useful to be able to pick up and simultaneously hold several pieces of amber, i.e. if you would have to access a cheat menu or load another version of the game to be able to progress and finish it.

    1. I did not have this bug in the original or the recent Ambermoon.net version. You find much more pieces of amber than needed in the game so hopefully it's not a problem. IIRC, as long as he has three more and uses them wisely, everything should be fine.

      Spoiler: Lbh arrq gur nzore gb cebqhpr anifgbarf. Tvira gung gur fuvc unf n guveq qrfgvangvba, vg fubhyq or ab fhecevfr gung lbh arrq gb geniry gurer, gbb. Fb lbh arrq bar gb trg onpx gb Ylevnzba, bar gb geniry gb gur guveq jbeyq, naq bar gb trg onpx. Abj gung V guvax nobhg vg, lbh zvtug or noyr gb geniry gb gur guveq jbeyq qverpgyl, arrqvat bayl gjb anifgbarf. Naq fvapr lbh svaq anifgbarf gurer, lbh zvtug rira bayl arrq bar cvrpr bs nzore. Ohg V zvtug or sbetrggvat fbzrguvat.

  7. AlphabeticalAnonymousOctober 25, 2023 at 10:06 AM

    This math was meant to /
    When you get to my door, tell them: Kire sent you.

  8. Impressed at your figuring out the codes! Not sure I would have tried to solve it, would probably have spent a lot of time wandering the dungeon frustrated!

    1. But aren't you supposed to be the Adventure Gamer guy ;)

    2. hey if they put an item in there that you can use on another item, then I'm good

  9. Chet, I hope that you and your relations aren't near the Lewiston area and that your friends and family are all okay.

  10. I note no further comments about the fussy 3D movement system. I suppose you've at least made peace with it, though I doubt it's moved into anything like "this starts to make sense" territory.

    From pure description, I would have expected dodging lightning bolts with a rough movement system to be quite annoying, but it seemed not to cause upset?

  11. Oh, additionally, beautiful double with the blog title and first image. Perfection


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