Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Shadow of Yserbius: Party of One

First-round death came back with a vengeance during this session.
I began this session by mapping The Mines, accessible from the north exit from the Dungeon Entrance. I had already fully explored the level and had found Cleowyn's Key and Cleowyn's Lockpick, but I wanted to annotate a few things for later follow-up. Some notes on the level:
  • There are five NPCs. They mostly tell you about King Cleowyn: He was the King of Thieves; he had a special lockpick; he put all his money in a treasury; his palace, which makes up the upper levels of the dungeon, is full of traps. 
  • I found my first secret door in the southwest corner. It was pretty easy to find because when you stand and face it, the game says, "You see a blank wall." It doesn't say that when you face a regular blank wall. I searched with my "Detect" skill and found the door. On the other side was another door with another message (like the one in the entry hall) that you have to be Level 20 to pass.
Guess it's not blank after all.
  • Along similar lines, some squares in a northern room say, "The room is bare." But searching these squares doesn't produce anything.
  • The middle squares of the level have a large pit. When I tried to walk forward into the pit, a "kindly spirit" saved me, warning me to "stay away from danger" until I'm stronger. I don't know if that means you can just fall down the pit at a higher level.
"Until you are smarter" would have been funnier.
An eastern exit from the Mines leads to the Vestibule. A southern exit from the Vestibule leads to the Hall of Doors, which goes back to the Dungeon Entrance. But the coordinates are all out of whack by the time you loop around. The game doesn't maintain positional accuracy between its areas. I thus split them all apart for the purposes of further mapping.
The Vestibule consists of five concentric squares and four small rooms in the center square. There are multiple doors from each outer square to each inner square. Each door you open causes some other doors to lock tight, so that the first door you open ultimately determines which of the rooms in the center square you're able to access. Furthermore, some of the doors can only be unlocked with Cleowyn's Key. There are some runic messages that clue you into all of this if you have the "Read Runes" skill or the Rune Prism.
I need a slightly higher skill.
I haven't quite figured out the puzzle. It generally seems to operate under the principle that whatever door you use from an outer ring, you have to use the opposite door on the next inner ring. So if I go east through the door in the first ring, I have to circle around and go west through the door on the second. The problem is that the third ring has no door on the south end (that you enter by going north). Instead, it has two that you enter by going west. Because of this, I can't figure out how to open the northern door (that I would have to enter by going south) in the inner group of rooms. In any event, one room that I can enter has stairs leading down to a lower level, but I haven't explored that yet.

A map helps explain it better. If I want to open Door 15 to get to the stairway to the Palace Corridor, I have to go in sequence: Door 4, Door 6, Door 12, Door 15. Similarly, opening Door 16 means going in order: 1-7-9-16. I can't figure out how to open Door 13 and I'm not sure how I ever opened Door 14.
A pick that I found somewhere opened the locked doors in the Soldier's Quarters. These open doors led me to another area of the Basement as well as a Level 3 Prison. I explored the new area of the basement for a while and found a stairway to the Great Corridor on Level 3. I got part of this level explored, but a one-way door kept me from backtracking to map all of it.
There were exits to the Mausoleum and the Rune Room, plus a door guarded by a knight. "I am pledged to guard King Cleowyn's Apartments for eternity," he said. "Of course, if you had the King's Pass, I could let you through. Seek the Pass where Ranger and Troll are blessed." While wandering the Great Corridor, I stepped into a square that said, "Blessed Human or Thief, you may continue the quest," so perhaps there's a similar area that blesses trolls and rangers.
Another NPC warned me not to attack him, as if there's even any mechanism for that.
I spent a little time in the Mausoleum. There were four NPCs in the entry chamber. One, a gremlin cleric, gave me a long speech suggesting there's a puzzle in the Mausoleum that's going to involve a crown, robe, and scepter, and once I start, I don't want to leave because I'll lose the items I've already dropped. A few moments later, I got killed by some undead--my first death in a long time--so I guess I'll save the Mausoleum for when I at least have those items.
Advice not tailored to a single-character party.
I finished exploring the Treasury, which is just a half-map. I plotted the only viable path to the center chamber, where I found a dozen tough battles with enemies like ghosts, zombies, and bugbears, but no real treasure to speak of. I found a portal connecting the treasury to the Hall of Doors. I tried the king hobgoblin battle in the basement again but still died in the first round. 
I had at least four maps open at this point. I decided to focus on the only Level 2 map I hadn't explored: the Palace Corridor, accessible via the stairs from the Vestibule. Returning to this one is going to be a huge pain when I die. It was an odd map. More than half of it was inaccessible; a halfling ranger NPC warned me that there were three major secret areas on the level, and none could be accessed from the level.
Note the full Palace Corridor map shows three large "unused" areas.
The accessible part consisted of one spacious corridor heading south to the palace entrance plus a longer corridor that--wrapping east, south, and west--bypassed the main doors. The main doors were locked but opened with the Key to Cleowyn's Palace, which I believe I got in the Mines. The wraparound corridor only required a lockpick to enter. Either way, all roads led to a double-door in the southwest corner of the level, which took me to Cleowyn's Palace.
I don't know what the business with the "trap" is about. If I try to open the door without the key, it doesn't go off or anything.
An NPC had warned me that the souls of the "tortured dead" haunted the palace, and sure enough, I almost immediately died in battle to a multi-pack of banshees. I reloaded twice, marched 15 minutes back to the location, and died twice more under the same circumstances. Combats in the game had been easy--trivial, even--up to this point, so I was surprised at the difficulty.
Almost everywhere else, I've been able to get through most combats with "Shield" and either physical attacks alone or physical attacks with "Poison Cloud," which works particularly well on the ghosts I found on the same level as the banshees. There are other strategies to try, but not when I die in the first round before I can do anything at all.
I probably need to experiment with more spells.
I went back to the northeast corner of the Palace Corridor, where I'd found a stairway to the Rune Room, also accessible from the Great Corridor. I started exploring the new level, but it wasn't long before I found a human barbarian NPC who warned me that if I didn't have the King's Ring, I wouldn't get very far on the level. Then I got petrified and killed by a cockatrice.
Adventuring sucks with no fellow party members to heal you.
A few other notes:
  • Enemies drop so many potions that my inventory is almost always full of them, despite healing and restoring mana at the end of almost every battle.
  • I found a suit of "Diamond Mail," but judging by the effects on statistics, it's worse than the generic Armor Suit I already had.
The Sword of the Crypt turned out not to be anything special, either.
  • Some enemies have dropped scrolls. They usually cast mass-damage spells on enemy stacks, useful for when you don't want to spend your own mana, I guess.
  • The game definitely doesn't follow Dungeons & Dragons' idea of a "bugbear."
I guess it's just a big toad.
  • When you pick the locks on doors or unlock them, you have to use them immediately. If you take even one other action, the door locks again.
I'm not quite at the point where I don't have any paths available without grinding, but I am at the point where all paths carry a decent chance of death, which at this point is quite debilitating because it takes so long to return from the entrance. I think maybe it's time to wrap up the game. The joy of mapping was temporary, and I haven't been enjoying much else about the game, particularly since character development has slowed to a crawl (I only gained one level since the last entry). It's clear that the game wasn't designed for a solo experience, and perhaps it's best to stop trying to force it.
Time so far: 13 hours


  1. I think you're overthinking the vestibule? You described exactly how it works. Keys work automatically here, which is confusing because they don't in most of the other parts of the dungeon.
    The trap on the palace door triggers when you use a wrong key.
    The game seems to be well documented, so it wouldn't be a big loss if you quit here. If you do want to finish at least the parts before the level 20 door, maybe restarting as a wizard is an option. They get powerful spells earlier, and you should catch up to your current level quickly. Having good initiative helps, my wizard usually goes first and fleeing a combat that isn't worth it works most of the time.

  2. On the diamond mail, I seem to recall it was fairly decent armor for where you're at. It can be confusing, though, because the higher defense armors often seem to have a trade-off where you might lose a couple points of initiative or agility.

  3. So the working door sequences that you found are 1-7-9-16 and 4-6-12-15; to get from one of these to the other, you move one door clockwise in each ring. This suggests that the most obvious other door combinations to try would be 2-8-10-13 and 3-5-11-14.

    1. It's much simpler than that. Once you've opened the outermost door, all other paths are locked and there's only one door open in each of the inner rings. You just walk to it, you don't even have to apply the keys. Worst case you have to try all four doors on each ring, but it's usually the one on the opposite side.

  4. This game is documented on other sites and it seams you made it as far as single-player could without some mindnumbing grinding so maybe let it end here.

    1. Grinding isn't an issue until the parts after the level 20 door. The game throws a lot of money at you and there are powerful spell scrolls available in the guild. Low initiative might be a problem.

  5. That Knight guarding the King's Apartments troubles me. Rather than simply state what's required for entry, he gives you a hint!? Like ax nightclub bouncer saying "Look, can't let you in without ID, but I've got a mate that does a good fake one in the alley round the back" Just doesn't seem very Knight-like behaviour...

  6. How exactly does the whole "Someone in your group must always remain in the mausoleum" work when there doesn't seem to be any indication that it works differently than other blobbers? Did I miss something?

    1. I'm not sure myself. I assume it was possible to disband a party during an expedition.

    2. The leader can kick a party member, or a party member can leave a party, at any time. I guess the game keeps the instance of the mausoleum as long as one of those people remains there, refreshing only once all players have left.

    3. This game is old enough that I'm not convinced instances had been invented yet!


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