Monday, December 31, 2018

DND-like comparison

Having played four games in the DND-like subgenre with a fairly clear path of evolution, I thought it would be worthwhile to do a compare and contrast.

pedit5 dnd DND Telengard
First version c1975, by Reginald Rutherford for PLATO c1975, by Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood for PLATO c1976, by Daniel Lawrence, possibly for the PDP-10 c1978, by Daniel Lawrence for Commodore PET 8KB
Played version pedit5 lesson at v5.4 at copyrighted 1977 VAX/VMS port of unknown date and authorship 32KB Commodore PET version copyrighted 1981
Known differences from original Unknown; the original was quickly deleted, but revived as “orthanc1” Various enhancements by Dirk and Flint Pellett Unknown Unknown
Dungeon size Single floor 20 floors, each with 9x9 squares Four dungeons, 20 floors per dungeon, each with 20x20 squares One dungeon, 50 floors, each floor is procedurally generated, and possibly endless
Goal Reach character level 6 Kill the dragon and take the ORB Find the ORB None
Gold Gold is rare, and is converted to XP on exiting the dungeon Gold is everywhere, and buys you HP and spell points on exiting the dungeon Gold is commonly found in caches or dropped by monsters, and is converted to XP on exiting the dungeon Gold is commonly found in caches or dropped by monsters, and is converted to XP on exiting the dungeon
Dungeon exit Gap in the south side of dungeon perimeter Several gaps in the dungeon perimeter on level 1 Gap in the west side of dungeon perimeter on level 1 Numerous staircases leading up from level 1
Multi-level transportation N/A Excelsior Transporter on level 1 can take you down to any level at cost of some health Excelsior Transporter found on any level can take you up or down to any level at cost of gold Misty Grey Cubes found on any level can take you up or down to any other level
Combat resolution Outcome is resolved instantly Outcome is resolved instantly Round-by-round Round-by-round
Real-time? No No No Semi-realtime. Doing nothing for a few seconds when prompted for input is interpreted as “do nothing”
Classes None None Fighter, Cleric, Magic user None
Spell system Spells are split into mage and cleric types, and further split into two tiers per type, which are unlocked as the character levels up. Each of the four tiers draws from a separate spell point pool, which get larger as the character gains XP. All spells are either for combat, buffs, or healing, and some listed spells don’t work. Spells are split into mage and cleric types. All characters have access to almost all spells from the start. Mage spell points and cleric spell points are separate. Most spells are simple combat spells, and cost one spell point from their respective pool. Clerics and magic users have access to completely different sets of spells, which are split into four tiers and unlocked as the character levels up. Each of the four tiers draws from a separate spell point pool, which get larger as the character levels up. Spells have a good variety of effects. Fighters have no spells. No distinction between mage and cleric spells. Six spell tiers, which are unlocked as the character levels up, consist of a mixture of the mage and cleric spells from DND. There is just one pool of spell points, which gets larger as the character levels up, and spells from higher tiers cost more points.
Monsters 30 distinct monster types which differ mainly by stats and spell resistances. Levels are fixed per monster type (e.g. dragons are always level 6) 7 distinct monster types which differ mainly by spell resistances. Monsters can reach levels as high as 7200, possibly even higher. 20 distinct monster types which differ by stats, spell resistances, level ranges, and battle tactics. Monster levels seem to max out at 32. Same as DND
Scaling None Monster levels are mainly determined by how much gold you are carrying, but are fixed to level 1 on the top dungeon floor. Lower dungeon levels have greater amounts of gold. Some gear only appears on lower levels. Lower dungeon levels have tougher monsters, higher monster levels, and greater rewards. There is an XP penalty for gold farming while overleveled. Same as DND
Random encounters Every four turns there is a chance of encountering a monster. Every time you enter an unexplored room there is a chance of finding loot or a monster. Explored rooms are remembered for the character’s entire life. Every turn there is a chance of encountering a monster. Every unexplored space has a chance of finding loot or a monster. Explored spaces are reset whenever you travel up or down a level. Every turn there is a chance of encountering a monster, who sometimes drop treasure. Loose treasure is only found in unexplored spaces. Explored spaces are reset whenever you travel up or down a level. Every turn has a chance for any random encounter, including finding loose treasure, even if you just stand still and wait.
Stationary dungeon features None The Excelsior Transporter on level 1, pits, teleporters, and the dragon 15 distinct types 11 distinct types
Graphics Iconographic Iconographic ASCII-like PETSCII charset looks like a blend of ASCII and simple graphics for walls and doors
Permadeath Yes Yes Yes Not in the PET version

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Game 36: Telengard

The official story is that Daniel Lawrence first developed Telengard in 1978, as an 8-bit, 8KB adaptation of DND, on his brand new Commodore PET 2001. He continued working on it, and by 1982, it had grown to use 32KB and caught the attention of Avalon Hill, who published it. Soon it would be ported to other platforms, including Apple, Commodore, and eventually DOS, and much later even as a native Windows game.

In the chronology, I’ll be treating Telengard as a 1978 game, even though the oldest playable version is years newer. It’s impossible to know what features had to be cut from DND to fit in the 8KB version, only to be fit back in in the extant 32KB version.

I found a TAP image file for Telengard floating around, and used the PET emulator in WinVICE to load it.

Auto-load the tape file, and garbage races across the screen. Don’t worry, it’s fine.

A title screen! Interestingly, the copyright here is 1981. It’s still loading. At this point, warp mode (Alt+W) comes in very handy, and I am thankful for emulation. The real thing would take several minutes, and the PET tape drives were notorious for having fatal read errors.

Done loading! Don’t forget to turn off warp mode. Starting a new character,

Here we see the first difference from DND and all the games before it, though not evident by the screenshot. The game is semi-realtime! You’ve got about one second to decide if you want these stats or not, and then it automatically re-rolls. I waited.

No class selection this time, no secret names, and no choice of which dungeon to select. All you can do now is name your character.

This looks simple, but nicer than DND. The walls are distinct, my character sheet is positioned nicely, the X clearly represents my character, and messages output below the map. It’s reminiscent of dnd, of course, but with the benefit that the character sheet is always visible. Visibility is improved too, as it shows a full 3x3 grid, while dnd only showed the four orthogonal tiles at most.

You’re on the clock, and will be for the entire game. Whenever you are prompted to make a decision, you have about four seconds before the game automatically picks the “stay” or “wait” option. Movement is also agonizingly slow. When you move a space, it takes about eight seconds in total for the game to recognize your input, redraw the screen, and prompt you for your next move. It’s pretty exasperating to repeatedly have to wait for eight seconds for the prompt, and then have to act on it within four or lose your turn.

Another difference is that both dnd and DND had you exit the dungeon by leaving through a gap in the outer wall. Here, you leave by taking stairs up to the surface, where you arrive at an inn. Your gold is converted to XP, you level up if you have enough XP, and you recharge your HP and spells.

You can save your character to tape, and interestingly, this means that this early version of Telengard does NOT feature permadeath! The PLATO games and DND delete your save if you die, and so do later disk-based versions of Telengard. I guess there’s no way for the PET to automatically rewind the tape and record over your save file when you die.

Saving is a bit cumbersome, and I’m not sure if you were originally meant to save on a blank cassette, or onto the Telengard tape itself, but I always save on a fresh tape image file, and I keep backups of those files. It seems to work most of the time, and even though it fails sometimes, I have backups.

Like other games in the dnd line, the early game is brutal. My very first step away from the staircase was an encounter with a level four wraith, which promptly drained me a level and instantly killed me.

Reloading, my next encounter was with a level 1 orc, who I killed by fighting, and dropped some armor+2, which I nabbed, and immediately retreated to the inn to save.

Next journey, I stepped to the west, encountered a level 2 kobold, who I also killed easily. It dropped some jewels, which were worth money, but damaged my health by five points. Once again, I retreated to the inn and saved.

Still never venturing far from the staircase, I found a “large gray misty cube” that offered to teleport me to any level, which I ignored. I found a healing potion lying around, and in the very next square a level 1 skeleton decided to swipe the potion and run. Killed a level 2 elf with a sleep spell, some more level 1 enemies with my sword, and eventually gained a level. At one point a level 4 hobbit swiped my armor, something that never happened in DND.

It didn’t take me long to realize that loot spawns randomly with every step you take, and doesn’t care whether you’ve searched that square on the map yet or not. You don’t even need to move; you can just wait in place, and loot will randomly spawn at your feet. So I waited outside the stairway to the inn for a while, gathering loot, killing easy enemies, running away from hard enemies, and ducking back to the inn every now and then to refresh myself and occasionally to save.

After about an hour of this, I was level 4, had found some more armor +2, a ring of protection +5, and a few scrolls of rescue. Nothing more powerful than level 4 was attacking me, and they weren’t threatening any more. At one point, I even encountered a friendly dragon, who gave me a free shield +1!

It was time to save, and go exploring.

While wandering, I encountered some new things at fixed locations, all reminiscent of encounters found in DND:

More upward stairways, all of them leading to different inns with randomly generated names like “goodly demon resthouse.”

Downward stairways, which lead down one level, but can be climbed back up.

Pits, which may be descended to reach lower, more dangerous levels. Randomly, you might just fall in.

Elevators, which automatically ascend you a level.

Fountains of water of a random color, which randomly heal you, damage you, or do nothing.

Teleporters, which involuntarily zap who to who knows where.

Thrones, which can have a variety of effects including raising stats, lowering stats, teleportation, giving money, and summoning a high level “king” monster.

Altars, which you may donate gold to, and will suffer holy wrath if your donation isn’t big enough.

I quickly gave up on the idea of mapping out the dungeon. It’s huge; level 1 goes on seemingly forever in all directions, and the gray misty cube can take you down as far as level 50. More importantly, the dungeon is not that interesting, and the realtime element makes it basically impossible to draw a map anyway.

I decided to camp at a nearby throne. I discovered that the first time you try to read the runes, there’s a very good chance of a stat boost, and I can always reload if it doesn’t work. After that, I’d just try prying the gems until king monsters attacked. My stats gradually got better, and the occasional “king” monsters didn’t pose any real problems. Undead king monsters fell easily to turn undead, living ones fell to sleep or web, and a few of them left some seriously excellent treasure chests. An elf king even liked me!

Err, thanks?

After reaching character level 7, I decided to try my luck with exploring level 2. Down there, I found a real moneymaker – a safe with four colored buttons. By pressing the right sequence, it opens and reveals some good money:

Pressing a wrong button zaps you for some damage, but the combination doesn’t change until you guess the right sequence, so you’re certain to get it open within 16 tries. This safe only did 3 damage per wrong guess, and since I have a ring of regeneration +2, there’s only a net loss of 1 HP per zap.

Once you get it open, the combination changes, and you can try again for another payload. I did this for some time, until my HP was halfway depleted. I wandered around, stumbled into a staircase going up to level 1 (and thankfully not a pit), then found a different inn on level 1, where I leveled up twice.

Feeling a bit confident, I located a misty gray cube and went down to level 4. It immediately teleported me into an elevator that elevated me to level 3. Oh well. There, I found a throne, and used it to gain a charisma point and fight a few more kings, generally of a higher level than of the throne on level 1. Again, no problem, except for a hobbit king who stole my ring of regeneration (curse it, curse it, curse it!).

Getting back posed a bit of a problem. I got hopelessly lost, and ran into some teleporters, but thankfully did not fall into any pits. Eventually I found my way back to level 1, and another staircase there took me to an inn in unfamiliar territory.

I got bored soon after. The dungeon is mind-bogglingly big. Possibly endless; I never found an end to it in any direction even after wandering for hours. With mapping out of the question, the only reasonable way to reach the lower depths is to stumble upon a misty grey cube, and I failed to locate one. Level 1 posed no threat to me at all, and whenever I did find a staircase or pit to lower levels, it wasn’t very long before I’d stumble into a random elevator and be taken right back up. I wanted to get to a lower floor so Telengard could be interesting again, but the glacial pace of moving around the impossibly huge dungeon has sapped away any desire to continue.

And so, that’s the end of my journey down the road to Telengard. I know there are later, and more popular versions of the game which introduce graphics, a reasonable speed, and permadeath, but my goal was to play it as close to the 1978 original as possible, and this is probably the closest that will ever be possible.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Game 35: DND

This page is obsolete, but kept for posterity.

I've since revisited this game and found a better solution for playing it. Read that page here.

Keep reading if you're interested in my initial failed attempt.

Well, this was frustrating.
As mentioned, before, DND-likes are an early sub-genre of CRPGs, which started with dnd (or perhaps pedit5) on the PLATO network, and culminated with Daniel Lawrence’s Telengard’s commercial release in 1982.

Lawrence’s mainframe branch of DND appears to be an important missing link, a predecessor to Telengard, and also to multiple other DND-likes by other authors. Lawrence denied having ever played dnd on PLATO, while dnd’s maintainer Dirk Pellett claims he outright plagiarized it.

I have just attempted to play a VAX/VMS port of DND, which I downloaded here. To make it work I had to emulate a VAX machine with the emulator SIMH, figure out how to install OpenVMS, and then mount the disk images using little but a sparse and partly incorrect readme file and some rusty knowledge of Unix.

It runs, but there’s a huge problem. The map display is incomprehensible! Take this screenshot:

Just what is going on in that mess of I’s and that X? I know the X is supposed to be me, and the I’s are supposed to be walls, but the output somehow got horribly mangled.

I mapped out the general area by brute force walking into every wall I could, and this is what the vicinity actually looks like, with an arrow pointing to where I am standing:

Confusing, right? Take a step left, and the map makes a bit more sense:

Take another step left, and it makes less sense:

The display must be glitched. I don’t know if this is a porting bug, or flawed emulation, but after about two hours of trying to map out the first level and getting maybe a quarter of it done, I’m giving up. Mapping half-blind is tedious, and I have no idea how to visually reckon where you are or where the walls are. The maps are much larger than in dnd, and are still filled with teleporters and pits that take you to other floors, at which point I am hopelessly lost and may as well kill myself and restart. The game just isn’t playable in this state.

This is the map, as I had drawn it, at the time that I gave up:

The starting space is on the left edge, near the gap in the left wall, to the left of the D. You can leave the dungeon through the gap in the wall, which saves your game, restores you, converts your gold into XP, and levels you up if you qualify.

Z – A teleporter that zaps you elsewhere. I did not once ever recover my bearings after being teleported in this manner.

S – A staircase, in this case all of them leading down. I did not try these.

F – A fountain, bubbling water of a random color. Drinking affects your stats in a seemingly random manner.

P – A pit. Sometimes you fall in, sometimes you have a choice whether to climb in or walk around.

D – A dragon’s lair. Guaranteed encounter with a dragon enemy, and death in every case where I tried it or stumbled in.

A – An altar. Ignoring it or donating too little can reap divine punishment. Or you can “desicrate” it.

T – A throne. Several options, but I’m not really sure what they do.

Ex – The Excelsior Transporter! Just like in dnd, it can teleport you to any level. I never tried using it.

R – Solid rock! But the gods show ironic mercy by teleporting you out to a random location.

From what I’ve played, it’s clear that Lawrence had played dnd, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it wholesale plagiarism. Some specific elements are, for sure. I’m certain it’s no accident that both games have an Excelsior Transporter, or that your quest is to retrieve an orb. But the general dungeon crawling template isn’t something dnd’s authors can claim exclusive ownership of, and DND has quite a few novel ideas in it that hadn’t been seen before in any prior CRPG.

For instance, the character screen:

The stats are straight out of dungeons & dragons, but for the first time, all six of them are present and accounted for. Class selection is new; pedit5 and dnd lacked this. A choice between multiple dungeons is also new.

Combat is also turn-based, unlike pedit5/dnd where it resolved instantly.

Pressing an invalid button in combat produces a familiar message:

Different enemy types use different combat tactics too. For instance, a “harpie” plays a death song that can infatuate your character and lower your combat ability.

Fighters cannot use magic, but Mages and Clerics can, and have completely different spells available, divided into multiple tiers. I could not advance far enough to see any spells beyond the first tier, but from delving into the image file, I can see that spells in the game include:

Mage 1:
  • Magic missile
  • Charm
  • Shield
  • Sleep
  • Protection from evil
  • Light
Mage 2:
  • Phantasmal forces
  • Web
  • Lightning bolt
Mage 3:
  • Strength
  • Levitate
  • Invisibility
Mage 4:
  • Fireball
  • Confuse
  • Pass-wall
Mage 5:
  • Hold monster
  • Fear
  • Continual light
Mage 6:
  • Teleport
  • Power word kill
  • Prismatic wall
Mage 7:
  • Time stop
  • Wall of fire
  • Summon demon
Cleric 1:
  • Protection from Evil
  • Light
  • Cure light wounds
  • Turn undead
Cleric 2:
  • Detect traps
  • Silence
  • Pray
  • Hold monster
Cleric 3:
  • Cure serious wounds
  • Dispell undead
  • Continual light
  • Plague
Cleric 4:
  • Holy word
  • Finger of death
  • Blade barrior [sic]
  • Raise dead

There are chests and books, and function much like in dnd.

Sometimes the chests have magic gear inside:

From time to time, random and seemingly meaningless events just happen:

That’s about as much as I can really say about DND without delving deeper, and that’s just not going to happen with this version of the game thanks to the difficulties in mapping it. It’s obviously inspired by dnd, but it’s not a carbon copy either. Combat appears to be a lot more interesting, there are a ton of random events and special encounters that dnd lacks, and the magic system seems to be much better developed. It’s just a shame that my search for a playable version turned up fruitless, because from what I’ve seen, this showed a lot of potential.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Done and Done

The end finally came, principally out of boredom. It had been days of farming gold and XP, the end of it still not in sight, and I’d been getting really sick of it. So I decided to seek a thrill.

Forget the dragon spell. We know it works, and I don’t want to use it. Let’s see how it likes lightning.

Uh-oh.  There’s two things to unpack here. One, the lightning spell just damaged me for about over 12,000 hits, about 18% of my total health. Two, the dragon is not dead, and I am now forced to fight it hand-to-hand, and the amulet says the odds aren’t in my favor.

Killed it! And only took 375 hits in the process! This would support my theory that magic damage weakens monsters. Under this theory, we can assume the lightning bolt almost killed the dragon, but not quite, because it did less damage to me than most pushover monsters would at this point.

Walking out, I encountered enemies with levels into the 7000’s.

They too fell easily to my usual spells.

One step away from the exit, and plenty of spell points to spare.

So, that’s a wrap.

On first glance, this game seems a lot deeper than pedit5. And it is. But a lot of that is fake depth, with plenty of options that it seems you should never use. There are 14 combat spells, but only a few are useful throughout the game, and all of them are simple damage spells. Sleep is useless once you’re past the point where level 4 enemies can no longer hurt you, and I can’t picture a situation where I would ever want to use the other instant kill spells. Treasure chests are never safe, as I realized after finding a blinding gem of brightness in a deep chest that seemed safe, so from then on I never opened them. Books seem to be more likely to harm you than help, especially if you have a stat or two maxed out already, so I never read them. The dragon spell is worthless; if you’re not powerful enough to kill the dragon with normal magic, then you’re clearly not powerful enough to escape the dungeon with the orb with the meager spell points that casting the dragon spell leaves you with.

This game was most fun during the mapping phase, when I could easily survive level one, but the dangers on the levels below were unknown, and the risk of death seemed real. After that, the game quickly got really tedious, and remained tedious to the end. You live and breathe gold, and with permadeath on the line, there’s no good way to know how much of it you need to face the dragon, except for the amulet’s warning, and I got bored before anything useful came of that.

Gold runs quickly reached a plateau of about 10-12 million per run. The amount of gold you can get in a run depends on how long you can last in the dungeon. In the late game, just carrying a few million gold will attract monsters who are guaranteed to cause unacceptable HP loss if you fight them directly, but pose no threat to you whatsoever as long as you cast the right spell on them. Since your spell points cap at 50 points, this means you can take on about 50 such monsters before you need to stash your gold and leave. Theoretically, having more gold and XP should let you stretch your spells out longer, but in practice this didn’t seem to happen to a significant degree.

In the end, most of my time with this game was joyless. This could partly be my fault, as I spent weeks approximating the enemy spell resistances. Maybe that wasn’t necessary. Even if I had skipped that, the last several days were spent with the mind-numbing repetition of farming gold, and I really don’t see any way it could have been more enjoyable by playing differently. Trying to stay in the dungeon for extra gold once the spells ran out wouldn’t have been risky, it would have been suicide. I preferred pedit5. That game might have been cruel and random, but as I beat it in two days, and my winning character won in under three hours, at least it was short.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Devices 'n Divinations

A very useful item eluded Karl for quite some time. On several of my earlier attempts, I found the magic amulet as early as level 1, before gaining a single character level. On this run, at character level 968 and long after I finished mapping out the dungeon, I found the magic amulet on dungeon level 17.

The magic amulet tells you when you are adjacent to a teleporter. This isn’t all that useful to me now; I already know where they all are. But when you encounter a monster, it also tells you approximately how badly it’s going to hurt you. For instance, at full health, a level 200 monster causes the amulet to say “Pushover!!” And it’s not wrong; I can fight them without casting a spell and lose no more than 10% of my HP.

Seems appropriate.

 The amulet’s warning appears to be based on how much HP a monster’s attack would leave you with, rather than on its level or how much damage it would do to you. This is a good thing. I can fight several monsters in a row who pose no immediate threat to my life, but as my HP starts dwindling, the amulet’s warnings get sterner for monsters that were previously deemed pushovers.

This also means I finally have a means of testing the dragon’s strength other than attempted suicide. I sought out the dragon, and found it.

Yeah… that’s not good. It’s gonna be a long road ahead. But at least I can escape easily. Escaping takes me to the square to the left, where I am forced to use a passwall north in order to leave.

One major limitation of the amulet is that it seems to only take into account how well you will fare in a straight fight, and it doesn’t indicate how likely you are to succeed with spells. I’ve had encounters with regular monsters of levels around 1800, which cause the amulet to warn “Farewell!!”, but all of them fell to my spells. Maybe I’m ready for the dragon, maybe not, but I’m not going to try until the amulet gets more optimistic.

I did do an experiment at this point. I tried killing the dragon with the dragon spell (and exhausting my spell supply), but immediately dropped the orb. I stepped away, and then moved back on the square where I found and dropped the orb, and the dragon was back, guarding the orb again. I guess this means you’ve got to kill the dragon and return with the orb in the same run. Not a big surprise, but useful to have verified.

I’m at a point where I can comfortably Excelsior Transport down to level 20, gather 9 million pieces of gold, and walk out with a 500,000 XP gain, and these numbers will keep going up with each run. My strategy right now is to farm levels 19-20, fighting the pushovers, and casting my standard spells on everyone else, until my spells are halfway depleted, and then venture to the surface. Should I run low on spells, I can just stash my gold, leave easily, then come back for the stash with a full stock of spell points, and grind high level enemies on level 2 until my spell stock is depleted again for even more XP.

I doubt I will have much more to say about this game until I’ve beaten it, or until it’s beaten me.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Duffels 'n Dollars

This made me smile:

They even lit the right number of candles!

Anyway, I had another brush with death while grinding for the dragon.

Given that I don’t know how powerful the dragon is, I intend to farm gold and XP until the point where the gains per run don’t seem significant any more.

During one run, I thought this point was coming soon. You see, there’s a limit to how much gold you can pick up, determined by strength. At 18 strength, you can carry out no more than 1.8 million gold per run, which gains you 450 HP. That’s a nearly 50% increase over what I had when I finished mapping, so it’s still going to be a big benefit for a while. But after 10 runs, I’d have over 5,000 HP, and then a 450 HP wouldn’t seem like as big a deal.

Gold appears on random floor tiles as you walk the dungeon, and leaving a floor resets all of the gold. So a good way to farm gold is to Excelsior Transport down to the lowest level you feel comfortable on, then take a long walk from the spot you land on to an Up teleporter. Then take a long walk from the new spot you landed on to a Down teleporter. Repeat the cycle until you have as much gold as you like, then stop collecting it and walk back to the surface. To optimize out your XP gain too, hang around level 2 and pace back and forth near an Up teleporter, blast all the enemies that approach you with spells until you run low, and then leave.

I gradually worked my way up to a 1.8 million gold run this way. Gradually, because I didn’t want to risk attracting too strong monsters too soon by maxing out my gold. Carrying out a million pieces, the monsters on the way back proved no problem, all of them falling to my standard spells without landing a single hit on me, unless I chose to fight them. I tried a 1.2 million run, then a 1.4 million, then 1.6 million, until I finally did a 1.8 million gold piece run. The strongest enemies I ever saw were around level 400, and they still fell to my standard spells.

Clearly I was invulnerable, at least as long as I didn’t get careless and run out of spells. Eventually, as predicted, my HP gains per run plateaued, and since the monsters wouldn’t get much higher than level 400, so did the XP gains.

Or at least that would be the case if I hadn’t picked up a new artifact on my way back during the run; a bag of holding. This increases your gold capacity a hundredfold, and with it, even stronger monsters.

The potential power scope gone up by yet another order of magnitude, I decided to test the waters by Teleporting down to level 20, scooping up 2.7 million gold. Again, no problem; the strongest monsters around level 600 and fell easily. Next run, at level 409 and with over 3,600 HP, I gathered 4.24 million. On the way back, most of the monsters fell easily, but a level 812 Ghoul was not amused by my Pray spell. He did 105 damage to me, which isn’t much, but told me that maybe I was starting to get too greedy and should slow down a bit.

But on the way up, I started getting concerned that my stock of spells wouldn’t last the whole trip. I exhausted my mage spells first, and without passwall, some of the more convoluted levels forced me to take long walks to the exit, blasting several monsters out of the way with my rapidly dwindling cleric spell supply.

On level 6, with only five spells left, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. Luckily, there’s an option that up until now, I hadn’t felt the need to use. An option that Pellett added to v5.4, and wouldn’t have been an option in 1975. You can stash your gold, which I did. This dumped out all of my gold, but the enemy attacks immediately relented, and I escaped from the dungeon easily, only having to fight level 1-7 wimps.

Then I went back in, refreshed, intending to return to level 6 to retrieve my stash. Instead, I stupidly Excelsior Transported to level 20, my muscle memory taken over. Not that big a deal; I turned off gold collection, and walked all the way back to level 6, and the enemies on the way were easy enough to just fight.

On level 6, I returned to the square where I stashed my gold, and 3.99 million remained. Good enough! I took it all, and with a mostly full spellbook, easily made it back to level 2, where I farmed XP with my remaining spells and gained about 100 levels. A few enemies at level 700-800 landed some hits on me, but not enough to cause concern.

Now I’m level 606, and have 4875 HP, and I still have no idea if I’m ready for the dragon. But I’m ready to farm gold by the millions.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Dungeons 'n Diagrams

As chronicled in the last post, I now have complete maps of every level in dnd. If I die now, this is something they can’t take away from me. I completed these equipped with the Magic Lantern, which reveals invisible doors, so if you do not have this item, then some of the doors will appear to you as walls.

And so, here are my maps, and commentary:

On this level, monsters are always level 1, no matter how much gold you’re carrying.

S marks the starting point, but there’s also a teleporter to level 2 immediately to the left.

E’s mark exits from the maze, of which there are plenty.

The door to the right of the starting point is one way. Enter it, and you’ll see a wall behind you.
Some of the doors here are invisible and look like walls, such as the door south of the starting point, and the north door in the comb-shaped room near the starting point. Knowing about these doors makes this level a lot more forgiving when you’re starting out.

D’s mark teleporters that go downward. The square itself is not a teleporter, but the fine dotted line adjacent to a D square is. For instance, if you stand on the D in the middle, you can teleport downward by walking north.

Ex marks the Excelsior Transporter, which can teleport you to any level of the dungeon, at the cost of some HP. This is the only Excelsior Transporter in the game, so wherever you teleport to, you’re going to need to climb your way back to the surface from there one level at a time. The HP cost is probably meant to stop you from going straight to level 20 and getting a giant pile of cash with a level 1 character, but honestly, if you can’t survive the initial HP cost of teleportation, you weren’t going to survive the arduous trek back home anyway.

Zig-zagging corridors can make it tricky to figure out where you are, at least until you exit a corridor and find a junction. The pit at the end of a north corridor is a potentially very nasty surprise.

A simple level with a lot of open space. The only Up teleporter is in the lower-right corner, and may be worth using a passwall or two.

One-way doors complicate the mapping, but it’s not too hard to leave this level. The “D/U” square indicates that going north will teleport you down, and going south will teleport you up. If you’re trying to get home and are in the lower-right area, it might be worth using a passwall to get to the southern Up teleporter. Otherwise, the D/U square is easier to reach from nearly anywhere in the maze.

Not much to say, except that the teleporters here were quite sneakily hidden.

Simple level, not much use for passwall here.

Another simple level, and quite generous with the teleporters.

A mostly simple level, tricky to map, but easy to navigate.

Simple level again. It won’t last.

A convoluted layout, and possibly worth using a passwall or two to get to the Up teleporter.

This level is annoying because the doors are all invisible. Without the lantern, it can be tricky to figure out which “ring” you are on. Traversing an edge and counting the squares works well, but random encounters can distract you.

Possibly the most convoluted layout in the dungeon with multiple pits and one-way doors.

This level also introduces illusory one-way walls, which are rare. These walls are indicated here by a one-way arrow through a solid line. If you are standing next to the false side of a one-way wall, it appears solid, but you can walk right through it. But if you are standing adjacent to a square touching a one-way wall, it appears open. The magic lantern will not reveal these!

There’s a section near the lower-left corner which can only be escaped from by walking through a one-way wall, or by using passwall.

If you have levitation, then floating over the pit makes a good shortcut to the Up teleporter.

Dead simple. There’s a one-way door leading into the middle structure from the left and a one-way wall leading into it from the right, but they are pointless. Why would you want to go in there?

The mazes of doors are insanity, but once you know where you are, reaching the teleporters isn’t too hard.

A spiral! The pit is a dirty trick; if you navigate the spiral outward and don’t spot the invisible door, then you’ll follow the spiral all the way to the pit and fall in.

A complex layout, but it’s easy to figure out where you are, and the two Up teleporters are both easily accessible.

This is the level where I found the Orb for the first time. It seems to move around, though, and I don’t know what triggers it. The O’s mark the spots where I found it.

The layout isn’t too complex, but it can force you to walk a long way to get to the Up teleporter, or to use a passwall.

Just another maze-like floor with the teleporters stuck in a corner. It could be a long walk to them, depending on where you are.

This was annoying to map out, but simple in design. Finding your bearings could be the hardest thing about this map. Good luck if you don't have the magic lantern by now!

This was also annoying to map out, and yet simple in design. Walking from one end of the map to another could take a lot of steps, and there’s no place where passwall saves you that much time. All of the doors are invisible, so without the magic lantern, this map will look like an array of featureless vertical corridors.

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