Part 20: The Trekkies of VARNUpdate 020: The Trekkies of VARN
"Somewhere underground in Dragonsand," huh? Not like it's an entire region of Enroth or anything...
Hmm... while we were on the way to the obelisk stash, we did see that strange pyramid.
As good a place to start as any, let's roll.
At least it looks pretty small!
After Castle Alamos, everything is gonna be looking small to me.
Welcome to the Tomb of VARN. Anyone who played the pre-6 installments of M&M probably remembers the name of VARN, which isn't a person so much as a thing.
What the hell is that? Put some arrows in it!
Oh dear, it's a genie!
Genies, Djinn and Efreeti are a family of flying monsters which, for inscrutable reasons, prioritize attacking men-
Hah! Suck it!
-and in general being really annoying enemies. Genies(the blue ones) are immune to cold and vulnerable to fire, Djinn(the purple ones) put enemies to sleep, are immune to electricity and vulnerable to poison, and Efreeti(the red ones) are immune to fire, vulnerable to cold and cause fear.
Fascinating! The people who built this place must be our distant ancestors!
Awesome, that means we're technically not grave-robbing, just claiming our inheritance when we loot this place.
Oh hey look, Richmond! It's just like the guy back from the Fire Lord's bed and breakfast! I wonder if he's going to drop some more of those hard candies.
That was a dungeon, Bobelix, and those were chunks of amber. But I recognize this thing now, it's...
A Defender of VARN! They're said to be guardians of the holy places of the ancients. The Defender and Sentinel variants are unremarkable, but the red Guardians are immune to everything but physical damage and can break weapons.
I absolutely can't wait until we get our hands on these things. Imagine how awesome they must be.
We should go dragon-hunting!
Just listen to the little guy, he's so excited. You guys wouldn't want to disappoint him, would you?
The man's 25, Deadeye. He's got more facial hair than you.
It's what's inside that counts.
Few things in the Tomb are dangerous on their own, but in sufficient numbers genies are probably the scariest thing because of the barrage of sleep attacks from the Djinni, it can really cut into the party's number of actions. Likewise, all the Defenders have physical melee attacks and energy ranged attacks, so we can't really mitigate their damage well and eventually they'll wear us down if given the time.
...by the gods no.
Oh yeah, and the Tomb itself? Fucking titanic. I think any previous dungeon could fit inside it. Hell, you could probably fit most of an exterior area inside it. It's completely insane.
I mean, where are we even going to start? You could fit all of Free Haven in here and still have room for Silver Cove.
The dungeon's really just one long scavenger hunt, though, and then figuring out the creators' logic near the end. I needed the walkthrough both for one really mean part of the hunt and also the final bit.
I'm glad the ancients didn't have any more complicated traps or locks than we have now. That sure would be inconvenient.
So let's go over the non-standard items in this chest. First, you've got the key, it opens the front door of the central pyramid. We need this.
There's the crystal skull, which, in a specific area, protects one single character carrying it from radiation damage. Everyone else will suffer constant damage-over-time until they find a Cleansing Pool(i.e. any body of water in the Tomb of VARN) to dunk themselves in.
And lastly there's the scroll.
And yes, let me just spoil it for you now: we'll be collecting codes which are all reversed names for Star Trek TOS bridge crew members. Sadly, without the scrolls the codes can't be entered, so being a Trekkie yourself doesn't allow you to bust this one wide open.
The "exterior" of the Tomb is pretty much purposeless. There's nothing out here except for a back entrance to the main area and one side area we'll need to visit for another code eventually.
I guess it's semi-impressive that the engine could handle this large a dungeon area or something?
Though it also feels a bit like, yeah, they ran out of time or ideas while making it, since the whole place is just full of dead ends.
Like this side corridor, that leads to a suuuuuuper long elevator up, that just leads to a second exit from the dungeon, two buttons that zap you, two doors that can't be opened and don't even have modelled contents beyond them, and signs hinting that certain ranks can interact with those zappy buttons without getting zapped. Like it feels like the original concept might've been more sci-fi than this, that we were meant to collect badges or other permission slips allowing us to impersonate certain ships' crew and gain access to their sections of the VARN.
There's also this small area around the back of the central pyramid. What does it contain?
A locked door at the top of that ramp.
And pain! It's the one battle in here I had to retreat from as there's no real way to separate out chunks of this genie swarm from the rest, and the 30-something amount of them allows them to just completely hell-bomb the party every round, losing me multiple actions from Djinni sleep effects and stuff.
After one round the party looks like this and I gracefully exit since this fight is thankfully entirely optional. Even when passing through this sub-area later, it's possible to just stay out of aggro range for the genies.
So much for a clever solution, straight in the front door it is.
Sometimes unbridled, direct violence is the only solution, thank the gods.
It takes a lot of work to draw the defenders out in manageable chunks, you COULD just rush in, but then we'd have a repeat of the Genie Incident from minutes before.
This room is the radioactive zone of the Tomb, but these watery puddles still count as cleansing pools, so the smart thing to do if you're gonna fight in here is to duck into them. It also helps because it limits line of sight for the Defenders and forces them to run over and get within melee range.
Wow, the ancients sure were geniuses. A room full of bathtubs!
I'm not entirely sure we should be swimming in used coolant water... but it's the safest place in here.
First place I go is this little dropdown. Now, what's worth noting is that almost every vertical shaft in the place will get you to this sub area, there are entire sub-areas devoted to just giving you another way to get down here through a shaft. It boggles my brain. I don't understand it. Anyway, we need to go here to get another code piece.
At this point I'm already so tired of the battles that I start skipping any that aren't small, manageable chunks of hostiles.
I sure love to navigate a small maze where my minimap is clogged up by the like five layers of dungeon on top of it!
This end of the maze just hints where we're meant to end up at the end of this dungeon, we can't actually get there this way, despite all my attempts at janking past and jumping my way over the blockage. In general, MM6, for all that it's an early-ish 3D game has pretty resilient level geometry. I've never fallen out of a level or managed to clip past something I wasn't meant to be able to clip past, or been physkilled by crushing or falling damage in an unintentional way.
In any case, just around the corner and past a few guards is the chest we're here for. It contains another code and also a key for the locked door out back.
I also think that the Tomb of VARN is the first dungeon where I've regularly used Lloyd's Beacon not just to warp out for heals and then back in again, but actually for in-dungeon navigation, simply because it likes one-way drops so much, as well as giving you real long walks back from every single goddamn objective.
So it's back to radiation central and exploring the farther corridor.
This entire sub-area just exists to lead us back to where we just were and, I suppose, provide a way to walk back up and out if you got stuck down there without any teleportation options.
If you feel like I'm skipping over a good bit of the pyramid interior, I can tell you what you're missing: yellow, yellow, orange, orange, dogman, genie, yellow, orange, empty corridors.
The reason we're heading this way is because the last chest had a key for the locked door out behind the main pyramid, which conceals a key for the last stash of codes inside the pyramid.
For some reason this little sub-area is called the Water Temple.
Another anti-radiation skull(seriously, why crystal skulls? why?), another chest key and another code!
And then a lot of running. This next area features an obscene amount of genies and defenders and if I stopped to fight them all, I'd lose my mind long before I lost any fights.
Literally the only "furnished" room in the dungeon, the library, or as its named in the key's description the "Bibliotheca."
The bookshelves contain high-level spellbooks. Nothing I need, but it helps fill out a few holes in the various collections.
So! Fun fact, there are THREE of the codes we need in here. Try and guess where they are.
Did you guess they're in the chest?
Wait, that's only one of them! Where are the other two?
Now I'll honestly say that when I hit this bit, I had no idea there were two more codes in here, and I ended up scouring every last inch of the rest of the dungeon for them before pulling up a walkthrough out of despair. It took me close to half an hour. Do you want to know where they are?
THESE FUCKING STATUE TEXTURES IN EACH CORNER, CONCEAL A CODE PAPER EACH.
I was fucking livid when I discovered that. Like what the hell, man, what the hell. It's not a cute easter egg or anything, or even an optional dungeon, it's literally needed to beat the game!
But now we've got all of them. Now we just need to enter the codes.
Errr... where do we use these damn things? We haven't been asked for a password anywhere.
Hm, good question. Deadeye? Maybe you've got some insight the rest of us are missing?
You're just hoping I'll punch something and accidentally solve it, right? Well no dice, I already tried punching a couple of walls and all I got from it was bruises.
I'm going back to the bathtubs while you guys figure this out!
...guys? The water is talking to me.
So, the anti-radiation pools will pop up the password prompt IF!
The character carrying the Chest of VARN key(from the Bibliotheca chest) is ALSO carrying the right code paper for the specific code that said pond will request. Otherwise nothing happens. This means that with a 99% certainty, the first time you go through this room, and pop into the ponds, nothing will trigger. And nothing anywhere hints that these ponds are the password triggers. I guess that's one way to make sure you sell some strategy guides.
In any case, I make the circuit, entering codes until there's only one pool left.
And no, this isn't an elevator. It just drops you down a fucking shaft.
You know, if we're descended from the Ancients, it explains a lot.
Yes, I'm afraid the only conclusion its possible to arrive at is that the ancients were completely and utterly insane.
Just imagine that. You pound through this huge dungeon. Finally find the hidden code papers. Then figure out how to enter the code. And perhaps you don't have Feather Fall up(though okay, most parties would certainly be rolling with Day of Protection at this point), and it just drops you to your death.
Leaving us in this room that we caught a glimpse of a while ago. For the reader, probably five minutes, but for me it was almost an hour and a half between those two points.
Now it feels like we're getting somewhere. Took long enough.
Aaaaaaa! Flying Eye!
Flying METAL Eyes! Richmond! Get out your damn books and tell us what this is!
Good thing Deadeye didn't see me grab that book of "Patrol Unit Schematics" off the shelf back in the Bibliotheca... ahem. Patrol Units, Enforcer Units and Terminator Units are guard dogs of the ancients. All of them attack exclusively with Energy damage, rendering most of our protective spells moot. Thankfully they're not immensely well-protected, and are minorly vulnerable to electrical damage. Patrol and Enforcer Units can break our items and Terminators can... eradicate... us. Oh dear. Not that they need it, their damage range is 40 to 120. A couple of lucky blasts could put one of us in the grave even without eradicating them.
Thankfully this place has no Terminator Units, Patrol and Enforcers are handled pretty easily in these numbers.
Huh, they die easier than Flying Eyes despite being metal. The ancients were weird.
Finally! Richmond, you know the drill!
Indeed, back to Free Haven... hopefully for the last time for a while.
Now, Richmond, hopefully you realize this is for your own good.
Agnes says if you spit out the gag I'm supposed to hit you until you stop moving! Please don't spit out the gag, I don't want to hurt you.
Delicious ancient weapons, here we come!
Of course there's a catch, we have to pry them out of someone else's hands first.
When have we ever gotten anything for free on this trip, Deadeye?
Terminator Units, eh? Well, I'm sure we can take them. How tough can they be?
Next up: Terminator Units, we find out how tough they are