Part 9: A Very Spooky Episodeit's still Hallowe'en in some time zones isn't it
"Hey, it's you guys again. Since those other jerks from Fountain Head have probably gone and gotten themselves killed by now, we're gonna go celebrate by looting a dungeon or something. Wanna come with? We might even pay you, if we remember!"
"That depends. Are you going to steal all our equipment and leave us to die?"
"Not in that order."
"Doesn't seem like you've got a whole lot worth stealing, anyway. Wait, is that the key to the Fortress of Fear? Score!"
"I don't see what's so scary about it. It's just a big ol' hole in the ground."
"Wasn't it once a king's tomb? It's probably full of undead."
"Bah! What do we have to fear from a few undead? Admittedly, we nearly died several times in the Temple of Moo, but that was mostly because of the pit traps, not the zombies."
"Well, anyway, no point in speculatin' till we see what's WHOA WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING"
"Whatever it was, cutting it to pieces worked pretty well. And look, it was full of gold from whoever it's been eating!"
"Uh, my spear thing's gone all soft and droopy."
"You know, the apothecary sells medications for that now. Er, so I hear."
Hey, did I mention already that this game has something of a grudge against its players? Plasmoids do fairly minor acid damage with their attacks, but their gimmick is that if you hit them in melee, the weapon you used is likely to break. Broken weapons are nearly useless until you go to a blacksmith and pay to have them repaired, so when fighting Plasmoids it's much better to use arrows and magic.
This dungeon's main puzzle involves a whole bunch of levers scattered throughout it. Some are stuck in place, while others can be pulled exactly once before becoming stuck in place.
"So what do all these levers do, anyway?"
"Why don't we ask that creepy stone head over there?"
"Thanks for nothin', creepy stone head."
"Have I been drinkin' too much again or is that a giant hand made of clouds?"
Meet the second type of wandering monster in this dungeon: Carnage Hands. They have very high Armour Class, making them hard to hit even if you didn't already break all your weapons on the Plasmoids, and are highly resistant to all magic. Fortunately, they don't have many HP, so one or two lucky Fireballs can wipe them out.
Unfortunately, in the time it takes to get those one or two lucky Fireballs to land, the hand is hitting you for 60-120 physical damage. Our best fighters right now have a little over 100 HP. We are perhaps slightly underlevelled for this dungeon.
"Oh, come now. How strong can some old has-been wrapped in rags possibly--"
Mummies have a whopping 250 HP and two powerful disease-inflicting melee attacks per round, and will specifically target any Druids in the party until they're unconscious or dead. The way to deal with them is to stack the best possible armour and defensive buffs on your druid (if, in defiance of all common sense, you have a druid at all) and blast the mummy with fireballs until it stops moving.
Even so, the fight doesn't exactly go smoothly, but at least they drop plenty of treasure.
"Oh, there's no way this can possibly go well."
"Yeah, but Cyrus is gonna open it, so the rest of us can just stand back and watch the fireworks."
"Hang on, I never said I was gonna--"
"What's that, Cyrus? Did you just say, 'leave me here alone in this dungeon to get torn apart by big cloudy hands'?"
"No ma'am I didn't say anything ma'am I'll open the coffin ma'am"
All the coffins in this dungeon are locked and trapped, but it's worth opening them, because there's a shitload of decent-quality random treasure inside, plus a couple of very special items...
"Ewww! What is this? It's so... holy and stuff! Somebody take it and put it away so I don't have to look at it! Maybe we can sell it or something."
Ancient Artifacts of each alignment are found in dungeons all throughout Terra, and can be turned in at the castles of their respective alignments in exchange for fabulous prizes, and by "fabulous prizes" I mean "a decent experience point award". (Oh yeah, spoiler that should surprise nobody: in addition to Castle Whiteshield, there are castles representing neutrality and evil, too.)
"Whoa, hey, a whole room fulla those creepy stone heads! An' what's with all that lightnin' comin' outta the floor and--"
Pro tip: don't walk into a square full of lightning bolts.
"You know, Darlana, we could just leave them here. The world won't miss them."
"True, but then we'd be no better than they are. Besides, perhaps they'll grant us a more reasonable share of the treasure now that they realise their lives depend on us."
One quick trip back to town later...
"Oh, hey, we're alive. Don't expect to get paid extra for just letting us walk into danger like that, you two."
(Bonus: even more hilarious diseased-character faces!)
While in town, I take the time to fix everyone's weapons and armour, and to buy some extra stuff that showed up in the blacksmith's inventory. Druids have a very limited armour selection and can't use shields, so in an effort to boost Flowers' AC a little so that it takes him marginally longer to get eaten alive by mummies, I've bought him a silver coin to hold in his left hand. It has zero base armour class, so it's worse than an actual shield, but it still provides the AC bonus of the material it's made from.
"I'm sure glad that's over with. Time for more lootin'!"
"No wonder it was creaking! How did three mummies even fit into that coffin?"
Fighting three mummies at a time is no joke at the party's current level, and it took a couple of reloads to survive. Fortunately, it's possible to rest and recover everyone's HP and SP even in a dungeon, as long as you have enough food and there aren't monsters actively chasing the party. Unfortunately, the party's clerics are going to be constantly recasting Suppress Disease to prevent all this resting from draining the party's stats into oblivion.
The messages on the walls in this dungeon give hints to its puzzle: each lever changes the configuration of the big central room where half the party died before, replacing a lightning field with a stone head or vice versa. Another message tells us that there are sixteen levers in total. Also, cryptically, there's a message informing us that "the Eyemaster lives beyond the Blink of Destruction".
"But you tell me over and over and over again, my friend: ah, you just don't think we're at the Blink of Destruction."
"Minty, nobody is going to get that. Stop showing off. Also, you can't sing."
"Oooh, a pearl!"
The Precious Pearl of Youth and Beauty is a quest item for a quest that we haven't seen yet. Get used to this: M&M3 doesn't enforce or even encourage playing through in any kind of logical order.
"Ah, I see. We must set the levers to arrange the central room so that the moaning stone heads are in all four corners and the lightning fields are on the sides. I suspect that once we have done this, the path to the Mummy King's chambers will be opened to us."
"Perhaps we should return to town for supplies and healing first? Not that I couldn't easily handle the Mummy King on my own, of course. But I never fight on an empty stomach if I can help it."
Baywatch's inn sells food that lasts a little longer than Fountain Head's; it's a lot more expensive, relatively speaking, but in absolute terms 50 gold still isn't much at this point.
Since the party has amassed a few thousand gems at this point, I also take the time to duck back outdoors and get this stone head's treasure...
... which is 10,000 gold plus some good-quality random items. Cameos and medals are nice because each party member can equip up to 5 of them, so you can use them to really load up on AC, stat bonuses or elemental resistances. These two are going straight to Flowers at least until we're done with the Fortress of Fear.
While we're out here, let's also do some pre-battle buffing. Here's that fountain that gives +20 experience levels to the entire party for a day, making their melee attacks and level-based spells far more effective and increasing their maximum hit points and spell points. I also drop by the stat-boosting, AC-boosting, HP-boosting and SP-boosting fountains.
Oh, hey, here's another thing in the outdoors that I haven't been able to show off.
"Hmm. We do still have all these gems we're not using for anything..."
"But of course. I always knew I was superior."
For druids, and only druids, this stone head just southeast of Fountain Head permanently raises all stats by 10 in exchange for 1000 gems. This can be repeated until each stat is at 25 or higher, at which point it no longer provides any benefit. This, plus teaching them Fireball or Lightning Bolt to give them a decent attack spell, actually makes druids a powerful character class early on. Flowers now has more HP and SP than Calgon, a slightly better weapon and armour selection, better combat skills, equally powerful attack magic, access to basic healing magic, and incredible early-game stats. Don't get too excited, he'll start sucking again soon enough.
I also teach Flowers the Astrology skill, which gives bonus spell points to Druids and Rangers. Not that he really needs them right now.
And, for good measure, I buy everyone a blessing by donating a few times at Baywatch's temple, because why the hell not. Now that we're as prepared as we can possibly be, time to head back to the Fortress of Fear for that boss fight.
"Excellent. The central room is set up perfectly. And we won't walk straight into the lightning field this time, either!"
Upon entering the middle of the central room with the heads set up correctly, the party is instantly teleported right in front of the Mummy King. He's actually not that tough: just a regular mummy with twice as many HP and an extra attack.
The battle lasts one round. We may have over-prepared a bit.
"I told you he'd be nothing to worry about. Now, let us see what treasures he's been hiding all these years..."
"Hey, I found a... thing!"
"I have no idea what that even is, but you better believe you're handing it over to us until we find out."
The random items in the Mummy King's coffin aren't bad, either, especially that Ruby Flamberge. Ruby is the fifth-best material in the entire game, and the Flamberge is the strongest weapon type. Sails and Minty can both make good use of this, but I'll probably be giving it to Blind Eagle between updates, since it's a two-handed weapon and Archers can't use shields anyway.
"Ummm, does anyone else notice that there doesn't seem to be any exit from this room?"
"Luckily, I thought something like this might happen, and set a beacon at the entrance to the dungeon just in case!"
If we hadn't done this, and didn't have access to any other means of escape such as a Teleport spell, we'd be stuck. Fortunately, the game is at least a little forgiving: there's a menu option to call upon Mr. Wizard for help. (Yes, Mr. Wizard. Look, just roll with it, okay?) This instantly returns the party to Fountain Head, at the cost of one level of experience from everyone who's above level 1. But once you have Lloyd's Beacon, there really shouldn't ever be any need to do this.
"Well, that wasn't really so bad, apart from all those times when I was beaten insensate by slime monsters, giant floating hands or mummies. But the important thing is, we all learned something today: grave-robbing is an excellent way for the aspiring adventurer to earn a handsome living."
"Wait, we actually survived that? And they didn't even remember to steal all our equipment!"
"Did you say 'steal all our equipment'? Don't mind if I do!"
"I'm the toughest, luckiest ninja around. Ain't nobody gonna out-ninja me."
"Minty, do you see any wrinkles on my forehead? I think worrying about how to treat this magical aging I've suffered is making me grow old prematurely."
"Oh yes, that does seem like a wrinkle. Do make sure to worry about it as much as you can. Remember: your suffering gives meaning to my life."
"So how's this 'precious pearl of youth and beauty' thing meant to work? Wait, maybe it's just not doing anything because I'm already as beautiful as anyone can possibly be! Yeah, that must be it!"
"So, just out of idle curiosity, what nefarious scheme will your party be embarking on next?"
"Nefarious scheme? Why, I'm insulted! We may have insidious plots, underhanded stratagems and even the occasional duplicitous machination, but I assure you, we have no nefarious schemes! Wait, no, come to think of it, we do have one nefarious scheme. But I'm not telling you about it."
Well, that's another dungeon over and done with, which means we'll be switching back to the good party next time. Should they continue exploring the outdoors to the south or tackle a dungeon of their own? The choice is yours!