The Let's Play Archive


by TooMuchAbstraction

Part 31: Piratical Pick

Update 31: Piratical Pick

Last time, Bryson II got a few new books, a shiny new cloak, and an urge to stay the hell away from a vault. Short of diving into said vault, we've about finished with this level, so let's make ourselves a staircase.

Y'know, I take back what I said about Stair Creation being a low-utility spell. Why go to stairs when you can just make them? Saves a lot of effort.

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 2100')

A number of nasty monsters in that vault or room or whatever to the south, most notably the Ancient Gold Dragon and Vampire Lord. The Inertia Hounds next to them are a pain too -- Inertia breath causes unresistable slowness. We can cancel the effect with Haste Self, but that still means we can't match speed with the Ancient Gold Dragon. And of course it could kill us with a breath.

So the plan is: draw out the hounds and kill them, and teleport away the Vampire Lord and Ancient Gold Dragon. If either of them wakes up, then we get the hell away instead.

Also, that grouping of ants indicates that the Queen Ant is in the vicinity, but we can probably handle her.

Okay, so the Vampire Lord woke up. But he's coming to us, so we'll be able to teleport him away as soon as he steps into LOS.

The Vampire lord disappears!

Right, that's him sorted. Though we have to remember he's out there when we explore the rest of the level.

All the hounds are dead. Time to move in.

Perfect. Dragons are usually pretty deep sleepers, so I was fairly confident that this would work, but the RNG's usually happy to throw you a curveball.

The Ancient gold dragon disappears!

The rest of the vault templated room. It's not a vault despite having enough monsters and treasures to be one; instead it's in the "room templates" data file as "Castle". Anyway, there's another Vampire Lord (still asleep, for the moment), and sure enough the Queen Ant is here. Everything else is chump change.

Annoyingly, the Queen Ant is invisible to telepathy, but she's in the corridor to our west, along with a Mature Red Dragon that we'd really rather clear out first -- only problem is, it's behind Queenie. At least, since we resist fire, the Mature Red can't do that much damage to us.

Fun fact: since this isn't a vault, you can teleport in it!

We feed a charge of our Drain Life wand to the Mature Red Dragon, half-killing it and causing it to flee in terror. Then we have to run away from the Giant Fire Ants that Queenie keeps summoning. They aren't that dangerous, but we really can't afford to take risks, and they're just durable enough to take a few rounds to kill, each, which gives her more turns in which to summon.

Finally she pulls some chumps as summons instead of the fire ants:

These Giant Blue Ants are electricity-themed, which means they should be able to survive (and thus keep getting in the way) as we use our Wand of Lightning Balls on the Queen Ant. Or that's the hope, anyway...but it turns out Giant Fire Ants can trample weaker monsters, so there's no getting away from them

Still, the Lightning Balls keep a lid on her summons through splash damage, at least to an extent...until we run out of charges.

On the plus side, at this point the Queen Ant is nearly dead. Eat fireballs!

3 Giant fire ants resist a lot. The Giant fire ant flees in terror! The Queen Ant dies.

And then we run away. And then the Vampire Lord wakes up and starts coming for us.

At this point we have 50 SP remaining and are at 88/142 HP. The HP is trivially restored through curing potions; I'd rather save our Restore Mana potions for later, though, if possible. Teleport Other only costs 12 SP, fortunately.

The Vampire lord disappears!

Phew. Now we can rest up, recover our mana, and get back in there. Nothing else in there can really put up a fight, though there are an awful lot of Giant Fire Ants so it takes awhile to chew through the place. While we're cleaning up, a Shade shows up out of nowhere and drops a Scroll of Acquirement. Reading that gets us this:

For comparison, the Star of Elendil (which this item is based on -- as a special case, there's a 1:1 correspondence between randart and standart light sources) gives See Invisible instead of resistance to darkness, and is otherwise identical. We'll keep our lantern, thanks.

Also, somewhere in there we hit level 31 (142 HP, 249 SP). No new spells, sadly.

Finally, guess what the Queen Ant dropped?

You see a Book of Magic Spells [Mordenkainen's Escapes].

Very funny, RNG.

Continuing on, we find a couple of old friends:

One of our erstwhile Vampire Lords, and Beorn! I bet we can kill Beorn now. We just need to recharge our wands...

*insert the sound of wands not blowing up here*

Oh, Greater Recharging. What would I ever do without you?

The Vampire lord disappears!

Oh, Teleport Other. What would I ever do without you?

Ugh, y'know what? Forget this place. Another Vampire Lord (or the same one, it's not exactly easy to tell), plus the Ancient Gold Dragon in the southwest, makes for a really unpleasant-looking battlefield.

Stair Creation!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 2150')

Inside this rather nondescript room (okay, it had some adventurers in it, but who cares about them?) we find something important:

In your pack: 2 Tangerine Potions of Constitution.

Excellent! We can start digging ourselves out of the HP hole we're in.

You feel very healthy!
You feel very healthy!

To 150 and then 158 HP. Our CON score of 8 is still not going to win us any trophies, but it takes a slightly stiffer breeze to knock us over now. Also, we cannot be one-hit killed by a max-roll Cause Critical Wounds spell any more, so that's nice. If anything, CON matters even more for mages than for warriors, since they don't get anywhere near as many "natural" hitpoints. The fact that we started with a naturally low CON, and then lost two points to stat-swap potions, is really starting to weigh on us now.

Anyway, this level:

Ariel, Queen of Air is the elemental to our north, next to some ravens and wolves. We could probably take her on, but she has 2700 HP and the only element we can use is fire; she's immune to everything else. For now we'll just let her be.

We head southwest, and (after slowly chewing up a pack of Vrocks and a Marilith) run into an old friend:

Uvatha the Horseman! First of the Ringwraiths! Looking at his, Uvatha? Why don't you have any spells, buddy?

Well, this shouldn't take long.

Now that we've cleared out some of the riffraff, we can help Uvatha's pathing out a bit by turning the walls between us to mud, and then commence the blasting.

19 Acid Bolts later and he's reached melee range. You should know what that means. Phase door!

(Oops, we missed a Vrock earlier)

It takes a grand total of 30 Acid Bolts, but he never lays a hand on us. Mmm, that tasty 13k experience. And the drop! ...a magical Battle Axe, and Mithril Gauntlets of Slaying. We still don't have a pair of gloves we can actually use

On the plus side, in the room with the Vrock, we find an Amulet of Regeneration, which can replace our dinky old Amulet of Infravision. I believe I've mentioned this before, but regeneration affects not just HP recovery, but also SP recovery; this will actually make a significant difference in how long we can afford to keep slinging spells around.

Bolg, Son of Azog! Penultimate Orc! And, rather more worrying, an Enchantress up north, who can summon dragons (and was spawned with one, it looks like). Enchantresses are also very fast (+20 speed) and have enough HP that they're basically certain to get at least one Summon Dragon spell off before dying. No, best that she never knows we were here.

The Enchantress disappears!

That never gets old

Bolg dies trivially to a half-dozen Acid Bolts; his entourage barely lasts longer. His drop is interesting, though:

That's one heck of a dragon-slaying sword there, and if we were a melee class we'd probably be going right now, but for us the pick is a lot more interesting. Strength! Constitution! Stealth! Free action! We lose See Invisible from our current weapon, but that's mostly superceded by telepathy anyway. Plus, now we can pretend to be a pirate.

Our HP bumps up to 164 as we finally hit a CON of 10, a.k.a. "average" according to D&D Our Stealth is now rated at "Superb", and I'm pretty sure the ratings don't go higher than that. And we're finally below our carry limit!

That's enough for this level. Next!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 2200')

...that is a lot of dudes. Most importantly, a big name flashed up on the monster list:

You are aware of 43 monsters:

Kavlax. Flavor text:

A large dragon with a selection of heads, all shouting and arguing as they look for prey, but each with its own deadly breath weapon.

Kavlax is infamous for being unexpectedly brutal. He looks like an ordinary dragon, which by this point even Bryson is mostly able to just kind of walk over (excepting Mature Multihued Dragons), but he punches like a mid-tier Ancient Dragon. He can breathe acid, cold, electricity, fire, chaos, sound, shards, nexus, and gravity. That's a hell of a list! Gravity breath in particular is lethal, as it slows and stuns you. And he's fast, has 1300 HP, and is immune to all elements. No way we're fighting him now!

Fortunately, with our stealth he's highly unlikely to wake up unless we walk over and poke him. So he can just stay over there.

While taking out the pack of Hezrous to our southwest, we hit level 32: 167 HP and 257 SP.


Something breathes. You are hit by something strange! You're not as bright as you used to be... You're not as bright as you used to be...

Frickin' Time Vortices! Back up to 1% minimum failure rate for us. And we just leveled, too! It's gonna be ages before we can get that restored the natural way. The vortex gets teleported away, mostly because its breath also hurts a fair bit (58 damage apiece) and I don't want to risk taking more breaths while killing it.

Plus, we aren't likely to stay on this level very long:

Another spellcaster pit. Last time we tried this, it went poorly for us. I'd like to take another stab at it, because casters are supposed to drop spellbooks more often, but we might have to bail in a hurry.

Then a Patriarch summons undead, pulling a Nether Wraith; in attempting to avoid melee range with it, we Phase Door and end up pinned:

Yeah, this isn't really tenable. I could kill the Nether Wraith if I had appropriate terrain, but this is so far from appropriate it's not remotely funny. Time to break out Teleport Level.

You sink through the floor. (to 2250')

Rule 1 of playing a mage: run the fuck away. Run away, and survive to run away again some other day.

At this point I realize we've been lugging around a bunch of Potions of Enlightenment for some time now. Might as well chug one.

Well, that was a waste.

Erk. Drolem. These things are your introduction to the fact that poison resistance is not optional, as they can hit you for 733 damage with one breath if you don't resist it. Though if you do the math, even resisted that's 244 damage, which is more than we have HP, so it doesn't matter for us! Hooray!

If we teleported him away, he'd be awake and coming for us. Instead we retreat a bit to the south and make a tunnel around him:

With any luck, he'll never notice we were here. Also, note how drolems can't be detected by telepathy. They also aren't evil. Hope you aren't a warrior, priest, or paladin, 'cause you'll have no way to detect them!

This Ancient Blue Dragon should be killable. He can hit 211 damage with his electricity breath, but we have resistance. We're also faster than him, and he doesn't have that much HP.

Sure enough, 10 Acid Bolts later, he dies. Our first Ancient Dragon kill!

That's about enough of this level. We head back to town for a Mushroom of Vigor...

You feel less stupid.

and then find a Potion of Intelligence in the Black Market Stat-gain potions restore the stat before boosting it, so we just wasted a mushroom. Oh well!

You feel very smart!

And we hit 18/208 INT (18/88 internal stat). No change in our SP or failure rates since we didn't cross a /10 boundary.

The Black Market has three more items of interest:

Another Wand of Drain Life, a max-power Ring of Strength (+6 is as high as any stat ring goes), and a Shield of Resistance. We don't currently need a Shield of Resistance as our body armor has us covered, but if we found nicer body armor then the redundancy would be helpful. More STR is always welcome, of course, as is more artillery wands. Unfortunately, the shield and ring are mutually exclusive; we can't afford them both.

I decide to go with the STR and wand instead of the shield, maximizing current utility instead of hypothetical future utility. Here's hoping it doesn't come back to bite me in the ass!

While we're here, level 32 got us the other spell in Tenser's Transformations:

Elemental Brand: "Brands one stack of ammunition with fire, cold, or poison (selected at random) and at the same time attempts to improve the to-hit bonus and the to-dam bonus of the same ammunition. The spell has no effect if the ammunition is already branded, has a slay, is broken, or is cursed." Broken/cursed ammo no longer exists, so the description's a bit out of date. Honestly I don't have much experience with this spell. It used to be able to brand melee weapons too, and was an easy way to make money -- though by the time you usually found Tenser's, money was no object anyway. It might still be usable for that purpose by branding ammo, but Bryson II has no-selling turned on, so we can't exactly check. Anyway, branded ammo is quite powerful when it applies.

As a demonstration, we pick up 10 Bolts (1d5) (+3,+4) from the Weaponsmith.

The Bolts are surrounded with an aura of frost.

Better than we'll get from Frost Bolt, that's for sure. Of course our accuracy with the crossbow is somewhat suspect.

That's about enough lollygagging about in town.

You feel yourself yanked downwards! (to 2250')

Nothing much of interest happens, aside from finding two Potions of *Healing*. These are laughably overkill, healing about six times as much as we have max HP. Still, someday they'll come in handy, if we live that long. Also, we find yet another dungeon prayerbook -- Holy Infusions this time. Not to worry, though, even if we could use it we wouldn't be very excited. Holy Infusions is more or less the parts of Tenser's Transformations that we can access, except worse. Hooray!

Next level! Incidentally, I've taken to casting Haste Self before taking staircases. Might as well.

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 2300')

A bit of a dense welcoming committee, but nothing we can't handle. The two Ancient Blue Dragons and the Black Wraith (far to the southwest) are the biggest threats in attendance, and we've already killed similar threats. Hell, the Black Wraith can't even one-shot us any more!

Cleanup nets us a few items Freude would have loved -- a Staff of Speed and a Rod of Teleport Other. We don't need 'em; Bryson's spells are superior.

And then, just lying on the floor, we find a new randart:

This would have been fantastic, 20 levels ago, for a melee character. As it is, it's pretty outdated now.

Just west of there, oh my:

You are aware of 141 monsters:, everything up until Adunaphel can one-shot us, I'm pretty sure. Maybe not the Chaos Vortex. Adunaphel and the Dreadmasters can also walk through walls, and wallwalkers are the bane of a mage's existence as they're immune to spells while in walls. We can remove walls with Stone to Mud, but it's an extra turn for them to blast at us.

Oh hey, we have Potions of Enlightenment, so we can at least see if there's anything worthwhile in there.

An image of your surroundings forms in your mind...

This is the vault "Mirrored Quartet". I'll give it this -- all those permanent walls will keep things pretty well-contained. The item list shows a couple of unknown potions, an unknown scroll and wand, some endgame consumables, and a crapton of equipment, but nothing obviously useful to us in the here and now. Certainly no spellbooks (there is a book of prayers, Godly Insights, that we'd want if we were a holy caster).

Well, we can at least crack it open and take a look inside. The Lesser Balrog in the middle is standing on one of those "excellent item up to 40 levels out of depth" tiles, and he's asleep, so we might be able to get in and teleport him away without putting ourselves at risk.

A Stone Giant and a Balance Drake are (were) the only notables in this corridor. We get that un-ID'd wand: Acid Balls. Nice! 125 damage per charge (actually 180 thanks to a 44% boost from our skill) is quite respectable.

Also, from here we can detect the entire vault:

You are aware of 252 monsters.

And this is just what fit on the first page of monsters! Yeah, we're not gonna try to clear this vault. No way in hell. On the plus side, that Lesser Balrog is still asleep.

The wall turns into mud!
The Lesser Balrog disappears!

And this is what he was standing on:

Very nice, if we hadn't gotten absurdly lucky earlier.

I decide to clear the other corridor, and am slowly wearing down a Nightmare (a pain in the ass to melee as they have a confusing attack, but they have no spells) when we get interrupted by a Dreadmaster:

The Dreadmaster disappears!

I'm definitely getting the feeling that we've outstayed our welcome here. And there's nothing worthwhile in the corridor beyond a Potion of Restore Mana and a Potion of Enlightenment. Time to book it; Stair Creation to the rescue again!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 2350')

There's an awful lot of purple in the monster list:

I'd really rather not bug Gorlim. We have Freude's monster memory still, and it says that Gorlim's mana bolts can hit for 191 damage -- and we still have 167 HP. However, this might be our chance to finally get revenge on Beorn. Uldor and of course Smeagol should be no problem.

Of course there'd have to be some hounds blocking the entrance. Oh well. Fireball is at 0% fail and does 87 damage; it mops them up fairly neatly. Though it wakes Smeagol in the process.

Fortunately Smeagol doesn't manage to hit us -- otherwise he'd try to steal and then run away. A few Acid Bolts do for him, and he drops this:

Junk. Nice pluses, but way too heavy even if we were a melee class.

With our Superb stealth, we're able to rest up in the corridor without anyone coming after us, so we head into the room with a full mana bank.

Now to pull Beorn out without disturbing too many other monsters...

The Grizzly bear squeals in pain. 3 Grizzly bears grunt with pain. Beorn, the Shape-Changer ignores the attack.

Stinking Cloud to the rescue! Bolt spells hit the first thing they encounter, but ball spells can travel over other monsters to reach their target, which in this case was the bottom-left Grizzly Bear.

Now to commence the bombardment. Beorn has no resists, but he has 1400 HP and he's fast (we're hasted, naturally). I opt to use our elemental attack wands for the better damage-per-turn compared to our spells. During this process I find that our Wands of Acid Bolts and Lightning Balls aren't really keeping up any more; their base damage is too low However, Acid Balls does quite well.

With a little Phase Door, Beorn dies without ever laying a claw on us. His drop:

I'd rather have telepathy, personally. Not to mention that we should be able to max our INT (at 18/220) through potions; we don't really need more equipment bonuses right now. a lot of stuff. Overweight and underpowered, though Slay Evil is always handy.


Fuck yes! Gloves we can use! Gloves we can use that have INT and CON bonuses! And protection from confusion! Sure, that last one is redundant at the moment, but these gloves are still amazing.

Wearing them doesn't affect our SP, but our HP goes from 167 to 171. The extra INT does tweak our failure rates slightly -- Elemental Brand (our hardest spell) went from 44% to 38%.

Back to exploring the level. We take out a Mature Multihued Dragon (with one zap from a Drain Life wand to take its poison breath below instakill range, and then a bunch of Magic Missiles for cleanup), which nets us level 33 (174 HP, 265 SP). Incidentally, we can now learn 16 spells -- which you can bet means that there are 16 spells in dungeon spellbooks we haven't found yet whose level requirement is 33 or lower. We've learned all the spells we can in the town spellbooks.

The dragon dropped a Potion of Wisdom, retroactively identifying one of the potions in that vault on the previous level. And then we faced Uldor:

Uldor the Accursed is a pretty straightforward fight; his only gimmick is summoning more 'p' monsters, but he only casts 10% of the time. He manages to cast once, pulling an Easterling Warrior and a Necromancer; Fireball takes care of them. His drop: Hard Leather Armor of Resistance and a Great Hammer of *Slay Troll*. The Necromancer also dropped this:

An easy replacement for our current armor of Resistance. Sure, it doesn't give as much AC, but we try not to be in melee range anyway, and sound resistance doesn't hurt. Poison resistance would have been preferable of course.

We're done with this level, and this seems like a good place to stop. Before we go, a quick look at Bryson II:





Next time: more diving, more hoping we don't get pasted!