Part 12: Where Noman Has Gone Before
"Hey, I heard from, uh, someone, about a cave northeast of Fountain Head that could be full of monsters. And where there's monsters, there's treasure, right?"
"What are we waiting for, then? Monsters and treasure are our two favourite things!"
"On the other hand, being eaten alive is one of my least favourite things. Are you certain this is wise?"
"If you wanted to live wisely, you shoulda become a stockbroker. Now let's get some slaughtering done!"
The early parts of the cavern are filled with Wild Fungi and a few Bugaboos. So far, so easy. At the party's current level, the worst that can happen is that the Bugaboos pile on Calgon and knock him unconscious, possibly breaking his armour. This is a pain, but not life-threatening.
"Ah, our first likely treasure horde of the day! Now, to step in there and--"
"Why would anybody electrify a pool of blood?"
"To keep it from clotting, I'd imagine."
"Fair enough. Now, why would anyone have a pool of blood lying around in the first place?"
"Hey, even monsters get thirsty."
Yes, that's 200 points of electrical damage you're looking at in that screenshot. If you go here at a low level and laugh as you stomp all over the monsters, this is likely to be a fatal surprise for whoever searches the pool. M&M3 likes to pull tricks like this, if you hadn't noticed already. Always use your highest-HP character to search things, and save beforehand.
The random items we got out of it aren't even that good, either. The silver shield is the only thing that's better than what we've already got.
One of the blood pools gives a permanent +20 bonus to Electrical resistance, which is the sort of thing that would be nice before stepping into the pool. Others give a decent chunk of experience (25,000 to 100,000 points) to whoever's dumb enough to wade into them. In general, the greater the reward, the more damage they do. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I guess. Actually, even what does kill you makes you stronger: the best pools do up to 500 damage, which isn't survivable at this point, but that much experience is worth a trip back to the temple.
"Now this is just creepy. If I open it I'm probably going to get cursed or something."
"Maybe, but think about what's going to happen if you don't open it."
"Are you threatenin' to torture me?"
"Actually, I was just thinking we'd miss out on loot. But I can torture you if it'd help."
To make up for the bullshit it pulls on you, the game is pretty generous with treasure sometimes. We just increased the party's cash reserves by almost 50%.
Like most dungeons we've seen so far, this one has some skeletons with useful scrolls in them. Power Shield is a Sorcerer spell that reduces all damage received by an amount equal to the caster's level. Like all buffs, it lasts until 5 a.m. the day after it's cast, or until the party rests. Unfortunately its cost also scales with the caster's level and it only targets a single party member, so it's kind of a pain to use unless you have a sorcerer with very high Intellect.
"Buried treasure? As soon as we get out of this cave, we're gonna dig up every square inch of that valley until we find it!"
"Um, actually, it's probably been looted by someone else already. Not that anyone told me that, of course. I definitely didn't talk to anyone who helped dig it up. It's just a feeling I have. Still, we shouldn't bother looking there."
On one of the skeletons in the dungeon we find this key, which would be awesome if another copy didn't already come with one of the hirelings we've found.
Thanks to another scroll, Flowers now has two decent options for doing elemental damage. He's still eventually going to be outclassed as a healer by Tianas and as a battle mage by Calgon, but he's holding his own pretty well for now. Scrolls are a huge boon for druids, since they normally learn most of their good mid-game spells at higher levels than sorcerers or clerics do.
"Aw, man, we gotta walk through spike traps now? How does whoever lives here get around this place without ending up full of holes?"
These spear traps do 25 damage to the entire party. Sometimes it's possible to use the Jump spell to get past them, but not when they're in front of a solid wall like this. However, there's a chance you can exploit a glitch in the game's programming by jumping directly onto them and sidestepping before the game notices that you should be taking damage.
Here's another copy of another key that we already have. If for some reason you didn't want to do the considerably easier dungeons under towns to pick up hirelings, all the keys are also scattered around in dungeons. The game is cutting you a break here and making sure you have keys so that you can get into dungeons and get yourself killed more efficiently.
This is a nasty setup: a spike trap, followed by a closed grate, followed immediately by another spike trap. The best way to get past is to step onto the first trap (taking damage), bash down the grate (taking damage from the spike trap again for every round you attempt to bash it), and then Jump through the open grate over the second trap. If all goes well, the entire party will take only 50 damage. This is basically your warning that this dungeon has stopped playing around and is about to fuck you up.
"Oh no, it's an emo cyclops! That look is so last year! Quick, somebody put him out of his misery before anyone else has to see him."
Cyclopes are hard to kill and have a powerful melee attack that can inflict confusion. I'm not actually sure what confusion does, but if I had to guess I'd say it seems to reduce the accuracy of your characters' attacks. It wears off in a few rounds anyway, so it's no big deal.
Our best strategy for killing one right now is to have a buffed-up Sails beat it up with her obsidian weapon while Flowers and Calgon throw fireballs. The rest of the party can't really do any significant damage by comparison, so Minty and Tianas are on healing duty while Cyrus stands around and pokes ineffectually at it. A single cyclops is pretty manageable with this strategy, although the party will probably have to rest up afterwards; two cyclopes are iffy, and three or more are ruinous.
Fortunately, the reward is well worth the effort.
There are more scrolls in the cyclopes' part of the cavern. As the name suggests, Finger of Death instantly kills an enemy for the low, low price of 10 spell points and 4 gems. In fact, I think it might actually work on an entire group of enemies, if it ever worked at all, which it doesn't. I tried it on the cyclopes here a bunch of times and it didn't hit once.
Fantastic Freeze does a flat 40 points of cold-based damage to a group of monsters for 15 spell points and 5 gems. That's slightly less than the average damage of Lightning Bolt or Fireball at this level, but for a lower cost. Since it doesn't scale with level, though, it'll soon become obsolete.
This spell goes to Calgon, because Flowers can't learn it. A lack of good high-level spells becomes an increasing problem for druids as the game goes on.
"So we've gotta give our hard-earned money away just to find out what some shrine does? Screw that."
"Ah, but it isn't really donating if we're doing it in anticipation of a reward. Think of it as an investment."
"I have a bad feeling about this pool for some reason. Someone else step in it."
"Oh, come on, the last one killed you and you still felt stronger after we brought you back, right? So what's the worst this one can do?"
"I guess you're righuaaaauuugh--"
"Huh, how about that. I always wondered what someone looked like when all of their skin had been turned inside-out. Cyrus, keep that thing she dredged up before she finished inverting. It might be useful for something."
"Why do I have to be the one to carry it?"
"Because the only other person stupid enough to volunteer is already dead. Speaking of which, I suppose we should probably go and get her revived, if only so that she can die for us again in future."
Eradication is the worst status effect in the game. It's inflicted by special encounters like this and a few late-game enemies. It's pretty much the same as being dead...
... except that it costs 10 times as much gold to cure it at the temple.
Being eradicated also breaks every single item in the character's inventory, even things that aren't normally breakable, which means even more expense to get everything fixed.
"You know what? I'm sick of fighting for my life against enemies that have a lair full of deathtraps."
"It's time to drink from every damn power-enhancing well we can find and then show those one-eyed freaks who's boss."
Now that's more like it. With everyone artificially levelled up and blessed, the party hits the cyclopes for more damage and gets hit less often, which means we can wear them down in melee without having to rest after every single fight. Even groups of them don't present a major hazard now. It's hardly sporting, but who said evil has to fight fair?
"This is their great treasure? What are a bunch of oversized weirdos with no depth perception doing with artifacts of neutrality and good?"
"Maybe they were good cyclopes. We did kind of trespass in their cave and break down several locked grates to get to them before they started attacking us, after all."
"Well, they're good and dead now. More importantly, what are we supposed to do with this junk?"
"I'll hold on to it if you'd like. So that I can properly dispose of it, of course."
"Does that mean we can master insanity in the Hall of Skills?"
"You don't need any more practice at insanity, Minty."
"This sounds pretty cool, though."
"Indeed. We shall have to investigate this cathedral."
"Hey, uh, can we talk later? Because there's an extra-large cyclops comin' up behind us."
Like most bosses in this game, the Cyclops King is just a cyclops with a bunch of extra HP and a stronger attack. If you were able to survive long enough to reach him in the first place, you can take him down.
It's well worth it, too.
If that wasn't enough, one of the chests in the king's room has high-quality random treasure. The splint mail and necklace are better AC-boosting items than anything else we've found so far, and the katana is an improvement over Minty's current weapon.
And if you're still not satisfied, there's another chest with a whopping half-million gold, and yet another with 5000 gems. For the moment, our money problems are over: we won't have to pick and choose which spells to buy each character at the mages' guild.
"Man. We should commit regicide more often, if it's gonna make us this rich."
"And now it's time to spend some of that money on becoming even more awesome than I already am."
"What? That's bullshit! Fine, I'm taking my business elsewhere!"
Each town has a limit on how high its training academy can train you. Fountain Head has the cheapest trainer, but only trains up to level 10. This means the party's forced to keep exploring and finding new towns if they want to continue progressing. Fortunately, having already discovered Baywatch, we can just run over there and get all the training we need for now.
"I'm so great even I find it hard to believe. And I'm great at believing things."
"Hey, now that we're basically millionaires an' all, anyone think about retirin'? I mean, not much point makin' money if we won't live to spend it."
"We can't retire yet! I still need to find a cure for the magical aging inflicted on me! What use is money if I'm not as beautiful as I can possibly be?"
"And I need to travel the world and do my sacred duty!"
"And I need to go around killing things for fun!"
"I have my own ambitions as well. Money can only get you so far in the world. What really matters is power, and we still need much more of it."
Well, that about wraps it up for this update, which means it's time for another vote on what the good party will do. Will they check out the local attractions in the town of Wildabar, or explore outdoors and find new places to aid and/or plunder? Vote now!
Oh, by the way, remember how I said I'd stop showing off every terrible joke I saw while visiting castles?