Part 23: The Spiral Pit"Guess we'd better go tackle that undead pit then."
"Do we really have to? These guys can't afford to pay us anything anyway!"
"I'm not leaving a bunch of hapless farmers to get turned into zombies. We're going."
"Wow, okay then. Yes sir."
"Anyway, you can't tell me this isn't worth defending. Think of the inn, if nothing else; don't you want to be able to eat like that again someday?"
"...yeah, fair enough. I'll smite a few zombies in the name of a decent steak."
"They said the Pit was northeast of town. Guessing we're on the right track."
"Whoah Nelly, that's the place all right. Byff, are you seeing this?"
"Are you kidding? I can see this!"
"Someone down there is mad. Whoof."
"Hey guys, you did notice the guards, right? The ones that are kind of floating in our direction right now?"
Three Shades and four Ghouls. Shades are slightly more durable and have an area-of-effect cold attack, but we're still strong enough to one-shot them. Adrenaline Rush helps, of course.
"Byff had more situational awareness than you, One-Eye. I think you need some remedial training."
"Hey screw you, you didn't notice them either!"
"C'mon, let's get inside before they rise from the dead...again."
"Nice place. Cozy."
"Kind of frigid and claustrophobic for my tastes, to be honest."
"Then we'd better start slinging some fire around, eh? Eh?"
"I got it!"
"Wait, skeletons? But we fought bigger stuff right outside!"
"I still don't understand how you can kill skeletons so easily with arrows."
"It's all in the wrist."
"Skeletons are barely stable to begin with. One good whack with just about anything will make 'em fall apart."
"Kind of weird that we aren't facing anything more dangerous though."
"Oh, it's coming, don't you worry about that."
"Oh, now this is just unthematic. Who designed this place?"
"Maybe they feed on zombies that are too old to maintain their enchantment any more?"
There's more pairs of Burning Fungi around each corner for a bit. This section of the dungeon was designed on the assumption that you're coming here straight from Silvar, so the danger level is a bit off.
"Uh, Kane? What do you think you're doing?"
"I figured you guys had that section under control, so I'd scout ahead. Guess what? More spitting mushrooms."
"Just our luck."
"Hey, coffins! I wonder what we can learn from the contents?"
"Mostly that they're upwardly mobile, I think. On the plus side, we've upgraded to zombies."
The coffins that aren't shattered mostly just have bones and basic robes in them, but we do score some minor salable loot.
"dx = target.x - self.x. dy = target.y - self.y"
"if (abs(dx) > abs(dy)) self.x += dx / abs(dx), else self.y += dy / abs(dy)"
"I'm as confused as you are, chum."
"Braaaaaaaaains. And coooooke."
I swear I've never noticed this guy on previous playthroughs. One-Eye one-shots him, so he can't be all that special. It may just be that he's a bog-standard Zombie, except he drops this:
"Hm, that one actually looks angry instead of just hungry. I guess we upgraded again."
It survives one shot from One-Eye. But not two.
"We seem to have run out of undead-infested crypt tunnels."
"No, see? A switch!"
"Yeah, okay, they're definitely angry now. I think I can make out that one's face and she looks like she just ate a lemon."
"I miss lemons."
"Hey Byff, could you take down these barriers for us?"
"Byff, you're my favorite magician."
Not much in the chest, though:
"At any rate, we're out of dungeon again."
"Got a wheel, though."
"And that did....hm."
"I hate these ancient mechanisms. You never know what they'll do until you activate them and get a vat full of cockroaches dumped on you or something."
"Thank you so much for that lovely mental image."
"Guess we backtrack, then, because we sure aren't done here."
"...haaaaang on a second. That wall looks suspicious."
"Congratulations, One-Eye, you found more undead that want to eat us."
"I know! I'm so good at this!"
Just Ghouls, nothing special.
"Oooh, giant green glowing zombies! And sparkling crystals!"
"Hm. This will make archery a bit tricky."
"What, you never learned to echolocate?"
"What? What does that even mean?"
"She means to detect the locations of things by bouncing sound waves off of --"
"Less talking, more smiting, guys!"
So yeah, for this section of the dungeon you can't see anything that's not adjacent to your party. In the original version of the game, of course, that was your default view radius unless you cast a light spell, and this section of the dungeon simply made it impossible to maintain any kind of light.
And if you were thinking of getting clever and using the map to help you navigate, the game's got you covered:
Incidentally, there are candles and lamps in the game, and you can use them. They make the screen marginally brighter without doing a single thing to actually improve your visibility.
This particular room has a bunch of ghouls and ghasts (the green ones) that will run up and attack you. Unfortunately, we're even further ahead of the difficulty curve than I'd realized, because this is all that happens when I send Byff onto the front lines:
So, executive decision time, I'm turning the difficulty up to Hard, because it's honestly kind of hard to make this interesting when the party one-shots everything it encounters. Our difficulty options, for the record, are Casual, Normal, Hard, and Torment, and I am not going to play on Torment, thank you.
The effect is immediately noticeable; Kane and One-Eye start dealing about 2/3rds the damage they had been dealing, and their accuracy goes down. Plus, the undead are hitting us reliably, and their melee causes slowness. Ouch.
"Byff! What are you doing? Get back!"
"But they're so fascinating! I have to see how they work!"
"Can't that wait until they stop moving?"
"But then they aren't working any more! How can you understand something if you don't see it in action?"
"Oh, for -- " *yank* " -- get out of the way before you get clawed to death!"
"Brilliant job, Kane. Excellent strategy."
"Hey assholes! I'm over here! C'mon, hit me!"
Out of nowhere, someone just dumped a pile of acid on Kane.
"Hey, no fair! How come they can see us?"
We do manage to get the Ghoul and Ghast down without having to do too much healing, at least. Then we go on the hunt for the acid sprayer.
"You dick! That hurt!"
Pictured: three attacks' worth of damage from Kane, one of which was a critical. The Sentinel is impressively durable, and has cold melee attacks, but we kill him before he does anything else. I'm guessing he had the acid shower as a periodic special ability, much like the nepharim chief awhile back.
"Haha, hey, check this out!"
"I have gloves made out of ethereal energy!"
"Isn't that ectoplasm?"
"Aaaaugh nobody told me it would be slimy!"
"Now, how do we get out of here?"
"Follow the walls?"
"I guess this is like progress?"
There's two more wights behind this one.
"Hey, guys, guess what?"
"If you're going to make a "two wrongs don't make a wight" joke I swear I will shoot you in the back."
"More ancient mechanisms."
"And this one didn't do anything apparent either."
"Oh yes it did. Ow."
Near as I can tell, a cell full of Greater Shades opened up somewhere behind us when we activated that wheel. Sneaky bastards.
"Hmm, button. Worth it?"
"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not experience the frozen, draining touch of an angry ghost again."
"Well then there had better be something worthwhile in here."
"Kind of? We got one of those piercing crystals that guy was talking about."
"Eh, toss it in the loot bag."
"We've traced the walls around here...nothing but this button."
"Hooray, it didn't kill us!"
"Wait, is that an option?"
"You never know!"
This section is a small labyrinth, with the occasional Stalking Wight in it.
Stalking Wights have a cleaving attack, and with the tight quarters they're pretty well guaranteed to hit multiple targets. And of course, they know their way around the place, so once one is alerted, the others descend on you...
(Note the red tile in the southwest, indicating there's another wight nearby)
"Ow, hey! Stop biting so much! R͖̭̰͓͇̦̗̓ͣͭͩ̊͌e͕̦̝͆̍̿̿ͭ̓t̪͈̜ͪ̏̄ͨ̅ͭ̀̿͒ṳ̥̜̟̬͔̣ͥ͌͑ͯr͙͓̳͉̳̺͇ͯͮͣ͗ͨn̦̼̜̞͇̰̮̼ͯ̔ͭͥ̇̾̌ ̘̱͋ͮ͌ͫͪͮͅt̲̭̤͎͍̰̪̔ͪͪ̌̐ͧͣ̃ŏ̗̯͚̻ͩ̔͐̏̚ ̬͚ͫ̌̅́̄t͚̼̱̩̠ͯ̈́̓͌̋̅̔̂ͫh̯̞̣̗̗̙ͭ̃e͔̠̎̋̃͛͐ s̥̜̹̹̣̥ͫͯ͛ͅl̦̺͚̋̍͛̔ͭ͐ͩ̓ͅe͈̪ͩ̉̎e̦̥͈̣͓̳̠̗͑̈́p̟̥͈͖̻̈́ ̫̲̮̘͔͉̻̞ͤͭ̍̎b͔̟̰̭̦͒̓ͦe̞͋̌̎̎̐y̜͙̙͙̜̫ͬͤͩ̊͋ȍ͈̭͐n̙̯ͯͭͯ͌̿̇d̗͆̃͗ͥ̉ ̙̝͉̫̞͙̀ͫ͒͊̇͆͂͑t̮͕̼̙̭̗͔ͥ͆̄i̬̬̥̩̙͇̽̾̈̉m͍͇̤̣̹̦͚̆̔́͌̌́̉́ë͙̭̰͙̼̬͉́ͯͤ͌ͧ͗!̟̖͚̞̂̐͊̉̆ͅ"
One-Eye does a great job here; between being hasted, having a high Sniper skill (which gives a chance of attacking using half the normal AP amount), and having a moderate Gymnastics skill (for a chance of bonus AP each turn), he frequently gets two shots per turn. He needs someone to spot for him, since he can't fire his bow at melee range, but he's a major source of the party's damage.
I take back everything mean I said about bows in this game.
"Okay, new button. Question is, will it make things better or worse?"
"I hardly see how they could get --"
"Do not finish that sentence!"
"Hey look, one last wight came to say goodbye!"
"Okay, then. Goodbye, wight."
"This is not exactly my definition of progress."
"Corpsy here has another piercing crystal on him. Wonder how much those sell for?"
Not much. Back to the labyrinth.
"More buttons! Is there no end to them?"
"Oh, probably. I mean, the entire dungeon isn't made out of the things. Could be worse!"
"Didn't you just tell One-Eye not to say that?"
That button opens up another passage adjacent to the one with the body in it.
"This looks significant."
"The circle's not active, though."
"So what you're saying is, we probably won't have to fight any demons down here?"
"That doesn't seem likely, no."
"Shame. Some demonic fire would be nice right now. I'm really fucking cold."
"That is one narrow ledge around a bottomless pit."
"Oh, surely it must have a bottom!"
"Do you want to find out how deep it is?"
"No, I guess not."
"Then, practically speaking, it might as well be bottomless."
"Hey guys! Not to distract you from maneuvering along this foot-wide path or anything, but uh, we got company!"
Meet ghosts. Ghosts are fast, moving before any of our party does. Their melee tags you with a Weakness Curse, meaning you take more damage from other attacks. And it takes eight attacks from us to kill one of them -- that's all three Adrenaline Rushes burned, leaving the party fatigued for a bit.
Oh, and there's more than one ghost, and of course a few ghasts as well, and they attack from behind, pinning us in a very narrow space with no room to maneuver. This is where you start earning the right to be in this dungeon.
And something is casting Slow spells at us out of the darkness!
"I'm starting to get the distinct impression that we aren't wanted here!"
"Gee, whatever could have given you that impression? G̼͕̯̠̗̻̲̉̈̊ͤ́ͤͭi̖͇ͩ͂̋̅͑ͧ̓ͨͬv̼̥̤̭̲̖͕͒e̥̺͍̯̺̟̘͖͗͛̓̉ͪ̿ͅ ̦̱̲̩̻͈̺͈͋͊̊̃͐ͅȃ͉̩̫̏ͧ̇̇ͩ̈́ ̣̞̞̬ͪ̌ͫ̏͑ͥ͊ͩ̐g͙̻͉̳͙̈́̇ͅi̩̲̱̠̪̎̈́ͧͮ̽ͮr͎͖͍͓͉ͯ͊̈́l͈̙͕̠̣͈ͣ̉ͣ s̱̳̤͋ͮ̈̅̍ͤo̟͕̦̬͆͂͑ͧ͂̐ͪͮm͇͓̲͙̝̝̙͔̍̆̒̅͆͛̚e̜͕̰͍̟̝̜̅ͧ̃̋̾̎̄̆ ̫̜̩͗ͩ͌r͈͙͉̣̤͍ͪ̐͗̈̃̃o̻̱͔̳͔̓̆͋o͔̱̙̻̬̟͙̭͓ͫ̾ͯ̚m͈̼̎͋ͭ̒͛̓̑ ̝̖͚̈́ͥͨ́̋͂͛̿ͬt͉̻̬͐ͩͩͭ̐͂̑ͅo̹̖͈̣͓͈̗̠͖ͫ̄ͩ̄͛ͥͩ̇̚ b͙͓ͧr̬̭̟̯̲̹̥̉̏̆͌̽ͭ͗ͮȇ̞͉ͯ̆ͮ̂à͕̲̠̘̟̐ͧt̯̟̫̱͓̰̺̞͇̓́̎̋̉̇̀̊ḥ̳̪͉̝̝̯ͫ͑̈̃̾ͮḕ͚̮̥̪̲̦ͫ͑̌ͬ͂͌ͅ ͚͍͇̤̍̍ͪͭ̓̂̽̚ͅa͎͙͈̞̮͚̮̻ͥ̇̑ͮ̓ͬl̞̯̉͒̊̋̌ͅr̪̯̺̠͓ͥ͐ͩ̄ͮͥͩ̒͐e͙̩̤͚̫̝̩̯̙͌͂̾̊̐a̙͇̻̭͕͂ͬ̾ͨd̲̗͇̩̹ͪͬ̔̎̍͌̋y̝͈͇̼͉͎̑̐̃͛!̪̠͓̼̱̅̾̄ͤ"
"Ah. Byff? A moment?"
"I'm a little busy right now!"
"Could those circles have been activated by us moving past them?"
"Nice job, lawyer-boy! Quick, subpoena him before he can get away!"
"...how long have you been saving that one?"
Did I mention that ghosts have powerful melee? A single attack from this one half-kills Kane. It's a good thing the rest of the party is there to back him up.
"Phew. Alright, are we all still alive?"
"I'm not sure. I can't feel my left arm."
"Oh, no, that's just frostbite. You'll be fine!"
"We'd better keep going. The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the sooner we can get out."
"Oh, well then. That's nice. Does that mean we're near the end?"
"I'm going to go with yes. That is a lot of bones."
"And another barrier. Mr. Byff, if you would be so kind?"
Now I know what you're thinking: you're supposed to use those Piercing Crystals on the barrier here. That will not work. This is a level-2 barrier, and Piercing Crystals only break level-1 barriers. They are here to taunt you. Well, and to grant access to that treasure cache from earlier. You must do the Slith Tome quest to be able to get in here, so in a way I'm kind of glad we went after the sliths first thing.
Y'know, in retrospect.
"...urp. That is a lot of bodies."
"Okay, boys! Let's get to exorcising!"
"Hang on, that one looks like a leader of some kind..."
"Okay yes exorcise now please fast fast fast"
We get three Ghasts, two Wights, and the Spectral Commander himself. For our first attempt, I send Kane out front to tank his attacks while everyone else gets their buffs under way, and...
"Oh, that ain't good."
Yeah, Kane bit it to the combined weight of their assault in only one round. A better plan would be to hang back, but you have to get close enough to the Spectral Commander to "activate" him in order to start the fight (he's non-hostile until you see that dialog).
Plan B is to cast all our buffs pre-emptively and then start the fight. This works marginally better!
I did say marginally. Kane has 10 health left in this shot. The problem is that he only survived because he split the enemies' turn -- the ghasts go last in the turn, while the Commander and the Wights go first. So at the end of our turn, the ghasts, wights, and Commander all dogpile him and he dies again.
The crucial difference this time being that Kane has a wall next to him and thus can't be swarmed. We also manage to kill both wights in our first turn.
It makes no difference, though -- the Commander takes off 80% of Kane's HP with his two attacks, and then the ghasts seal the deal. However, what happens after that is very interesting:
"I don't like this plan! Couldn't you guys beat on Kane's corpse a little longer?"
The Commander isn't attacking! Why? Because he's too polite to step over the corpse in the northeast section of the room. Where One-Eye is standing thus makes a nice bottleneck where only two enemies can reach us at a time. If I were a cheeseball, I'd take this opportunity to snipe the Commander down in relative safety. Instead, let's try Plan D.
Success! Kane's still alive and he's in the bottleneck!
"Define still alive?"
"You can talk, now shut up and get healed."
"Ha! Dumbass can't reach us now!"
The Commander casts an area-effect War Curse with this move, reducing our accuracy and damage output. Meanwhile, Kane's been stunned by the Ghasts -- and stunned characters just can't act, flat-out. It's like dazing but doesn't go away when you get hit. Also, the Commander summoned an Expedition Spirit in the middle of the party, and another one at the other end of the room. This would be a great time to fall back, kill his escorts, and then gang up on him, but Kane can't move because he's stunned.
Expedition Spirits, incidentally, are worryingly durable and have an AoE frost attack.
"Okay, guys, this isn't working."
"Kane! You're back with us!"
"Yeah, and we need to fall back!"
"To the tunnels!"
Except this doesn't work either, because the Commander is nearly killing Kane every turn and there are Ghasts clogging everything up -- then the Commander hits Kane with a Weakness Curse and follows it up by two-shotting him on the next turn.
And no, doing this without Kane really isn't an option.
Plan E starts with me noticing that Elly has leveled up, gaining the crucial skillpoint that allows her to use Adrenaline Rush. That will definitely help. What also helps is the Commander deciding to use his first action on a semi-ranged battle discipline. Thing is, once you use a discipline (or cast a spell, fire a ranged attack, etc.) you can't move any more (presumably to stop players from ducking out of cover, attacking, and then hiding again). And he just used his only ranged attack. So he can't move and double-hit Kane. That leaves us with this situation:
"Get back here, Kane! We can't face them all together!"
"Don't have to tell me twice, I'm on my way!"
This situation is much more tenable. I mean, it's not great, especially after he does his howl:
But having Kane only be subject to one enemy at a time is much easier than two or four or whatever. And yes, this time we are going to snipe the Commander down while cowering behind his Ghast, because screw honor.
Too bad his Expedition Spirits can breathe cold on us.
"Ow. Did anyone tell that spirit that it's not supposed to be able to affect the physical world? Because I feel like it ought to know that."
"We can tell them after they're dead!"
"Shut up and fireball that thing!"
"That I can do!"
Just as the Commander's getting near death, Byff recovers from being fatigued, and can break out Adrenaline Rush again.
"My name is Byff! This tomb shall become your pyre!"
"Great job, Byff!"
"I mean, ultimately fruitless in the long run, but we're going to survive this! Probably!"
"Gee, thanks Elly."
We slowly drain out the undead and move into the central chamber again.
"Oh my. Thems' dead sliths."
"They must have been sealed in with the humans here."
"I wouldn't have wanted to be a part of that conversation."
"I think it went pretty much like this one we're having with them right now, only less ethereally."
Fortunately, these slith ghosts (a.k.a. Fallen Sliths) appear to just be tougher versions of basic Sliths -- not very threatening.
"Huff...there. One farming village saved."
"Why do I get the feeling we're going to be doing this all over again ten years down the road?"
"Ha, you expect to live that long?"
"...yes? And I'm going to make certain of that by looting the bodies here."
+2 Gymnastics is worth losing a shield for. New weapon for One-Eye! There's also a Wisdom Crystal, and some money and basic gear.
"A third brooch. Wish I knew what they were used for. Maybe some kind of magical identification system?"
"We can figure it out later. C'mon, let's get out of here."
Now that we've defeated the Commander, the darkness effect is gone, making returning easy.
Here's the map of the Pit:
The red box roughly marks where the darkness curse starts; it persists until the last jog before the !, which is of course the center of the pit.
"Hey, guys? I thought we lifted the curse?"
"So what the hell are we doing almost dead on the way out?"
The game decides to be cute and spawns a Spectre and some Ghouls and Wights at the entrance at some point. That damage we've taken is from some AoE attack the Spectre has. Ow. Spectres also get double-turns and hit hard, though not quite as hard as the Commander does. Good thing, since there's no chokepoints available here.
This doesn't stop Kane from dying to an unlucky critical hit + heavy standard hit, mind you. Doesn't help that the Spectre's melee can cause Weakness Curse (take extra damage). Hard difficulty doesn't mess around!
So for take two, we wait for the Spectre to spend his turn moving into position, and then unload on him with everything we have:
And Elly's last action on Adrenaline Rush is enough to destroy the Spectre.
It doesn't even have the decency to drop any loot.
"Finally! Let's get out of here and into the...okay, not daylight, but you know what I mean."
"One innocent, helpless farming village saved from the ravening undead. It feels good to do some pro bono work again."
"Says you. I'm finding that mayor."
"Hey, Mayor Elmer! Guess who has two thumbs and just destroyed a bunch of undead?"
"...is it you?"
"...oh well. Money is nice too, I guess."
The ring is rather nice:
If you speak with the guards after having completed the Spiral Pit, they have updated dialog:
"Hey, you know what'd make you feel better? A nice steak. Let's go eat!"
"Innkeeper! Got some hungry undead slayers here!"
"Ahh. Rest up, boys. Big day tomorrow."
"Surely you of all people haven't forgotten!"