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Topic: [Imagefest] Ancient Domains of Mystery  (Read 3310 times)
stake mistakes (dan deacon reference)
  • stake mistakes (dan deacon reference)
Permalink  •  December 14, 2015, 03:19:19 PM
[Imagefest] Ancient Domains of Mystery
« on: December 14, 2015, 03:19:19 PM »

The first time I played, I was 12 years old. I have played it ever since. I have never beaten it once.

Ancient Domains of Mystery is a roguelike RPG that debuted in 1994 and a game that I have loved for many, many years. The game is set in the ailing world of Ancardia. Violent beasts, corrupted people and demonic disfigurements have emerged the world over due to the presence of a force known as Chaos. Attracted by rumors that a maze of caverns contained within conceals the source of all Chaos, you, a wandering adventurer, have come to a mountain range known as the Drakalor Chain to locate this source of Chaos and do what you will with it. As you delve ever deeper into the earth and closer to Chaos, its presence will corrupt and distort you, transfiguring you into an appalling mutant in various ways until, if you have been quite incautious, irreversibly transforming you into a writhing mass of primal chaos and ending your game forever. If you persevere, struggle onwards, and rout Chaos at the source, you can save the entire world for all eternity!

Recently a complete overhaul was released onto Steam. It includes a pretty neat graphical tileset and, most importantly for this LP, a story mode where, unlike in the punitive roguelike of yesteryear, you can save to your heart's content and reload upon death or quitting from your existing save file. This will allow me, with a decade plus of accumulated ADOM knowhow and a bit of tenacity, to bring us to the endgame, achieve the Ultra Ending, create the best possible outcome for all the people of Ancardia, and allow you to read along from the comfort of your own home.

Let's get started!

As you saw above, ADOM was an ASCII game for the first two decades of its existence. The graphical overhaul is pretty neat, and will hopefully make this a more amusing read for you than a lot of looking at dots and symbols. Let's see who we're going to be this time.

The gods load and reload about twenty times until we find ourselves born in the month of the Cup. The EXP and spell learning bonuses are going to come in handy later, and we'll need every last advantage we can get.

Being a Dark Elf comes with a few advantages. First off, the alignment system in ADOM is pretty clear cut. It does not distinguish between evil and chaos, goodness and law. In between is neutrality, which represents the sort of unconscious, amoral balance between structure and randomness seen in the natural world. It is a path for assholes and animals. Pursuant to our long-term purposes, all Dark Elves start Chaotic, and although we'll be fully fledged and divinely favored Champions of Order by the time we beat the game, we'll need to be Chaotic at certain points in early-mid game if we want to achieve an Ultra Ending of any kind. Dark Elves also have one of the best levels of magic proficiency in the game.

Plus, Dark Elves are cool.

The background stories are randomly generated from an assortment of prescripted potential life events. I like that, despite the influence of alignment mostly falling along Tolkien/D&D lines, with trolls, dark elves and orcs tending chaotic and bad and high elves and dwarves tipping strongly towards good and order, your background seem to arise independently of that, you're perfectly capable of generating origins with compassionate families and hardships cooperatively overcome.

Contrary to the implications of the character generator's mechanics, dark elfs is sometimes kind.

Original character. Do not steal.

Hello world.

We've got most of our pertinent information up at the top, so let me go over it real quickly. Our heroine is Grendy, the bad witch who will become a good witch. She's level 1, with 15 HP and 28 MP, 11 evasion and 1 damage reduction, currently in the Drakalor Chain, Chaotic alignment, moving at 100 speed. Attributes are Strength, Learning, Willpower, Dexterity, Toughness, Charisma, Appearance, Mana, and Perception. We'll go over these in more detail as they become relevant.

Our first stop is a nearby settlement to the southwest, Lawenilothehl. We stop here for Ultra Ending reasons. To get an Ultra Ending, the first kill of the game is crucial because, later on, we will be required to delve into the Infinite Dungeon to kill a certain target. This target will be located on the dungeon level corresponding to the number of kills you have from the first monster you ever killed. If we start by killing a jackal or a rat, this could quite literally extend into the hundreds of levels, so we will stop at Lawenilothehl, slay one of the comparatively less common foes, and be set up for our Infinite Dungeon journey later in the 'fest.

And there we have it. The first step on our blood-smeared hellslog. To the northeast is the charming hamlet of Terinyo, a tranquil village of farming families. Onward!

Later on we'll meet the typical cast of colorful characters, the village fool, the town druid, the elder, the baby water dragon and sheriff, but a certain task is time-sensitive and demands our attention before anything else. This tiny girl's beloved pet will be dead, regardless of when you start this quest, 4 days from the beginning of the game. Doing this quest is actually mildly counterproductive to our aims: this is an unabashedly good act, but if we want to achieve the best of all possible endings we will need every bit of Chaotic karma we can get in the early game. Plus, it's difficult for a low-level, ill-defended mage to survive such an endeavor, a five-level-deep prayer to the random number deity of your choice, while on a fixed time limit and with hardly the padding or HP to withstand the unfortunate but all too common explosion trap, poisoned or bleeding wound, or out-of-depth enemy generation. In a typical round of the roguelike version of ADOM, going on such a quest with such a character build can mean gambling your entire character's existence. In our story, in which I have elected to use the newly implemented epic nooblord option of having permanent reusable saves, this will be less of an irreplaceable single life like one of ours, but more of a Sisyphus type affair. Or maybe a Prometheus kind of deal? It'll be somewhere between a perpetual uphill stone-pushing grind and a daily experience of having ravens tear out our livers. Why are we going out of our way to bring a fragile life even weaker than us safely to its beloved human? Because.

Let's take a look at what we're dealing with as we start out. Frail but clever. Okay looking. Capable of basic social interaction. A little bit of meat on our bones to shield us from harm. I'd also direct your attention to the time. Swinging by Lawenilothehl to kill in self-defense for completely justified long-term purposes has cost us nearly two days of our life-or-death mission. Luckily for the girl, the dog, and the entire cosmic moral order, we'll be making the most of our turns once we get there.

The level lists as PC: 1. We're in the puppy cave at right around the 2 day mark. First thing we do is find us a spear. This will likely serve us better than the quarterstaff that we previously clobbered a ruffian to death with. It's a one-handed weapon and I can't possibly overstate how much easier being able to wield a good shield makes this game. In a fight that gets anywhere up close, and there will be many of those, evasion and damage reduction values are everything.

Early on, with so few keys found, you're pretty reliant on kicking locked doors open. This does make you incredibly cool, but leaves you vulnerable to certain situations, like situations where a stone block falls down and nearly squishes you to death and a bunch of things which have no business being in the same room together jump out at you with killing intent.

Not a problem. We prove ourselves fully competent in the murderous arts.

And our level of violence is skyrocketing. We are really racking up the execution points here.

We get to build on our abilities. Some of these are pretty situationally useful. Some are worthless. The most important one for a long while will be Healing, which our natural healing rate and therefore our survivability wholly depends on.

Plus Strength, one of our key attributes, has increased. Attributes are weakened or strengthened overtime by various circumstances; after a certain period of time, the game checks to see if any have changed enough to warrant a decrease or increase in the point value.

We can carry a little more. We can hit a little harder and swing more accurately.

Expect us to gain a lot of levels fairly quickly before things start to level off. With every step we can get a little more confident.


Fuck yes.

Hell fucking yes.

Fuck dammit.

Fuck. Fucking. Dammit.

Okay. So I got a little overconfident. I was having fun murdering and didn't save. Not a big deal. Although the spear is gone and we'll come to a dramatically different Puppy Cave.

hashtag relatable feels dot jpeg... damn its true... that is SO me... shaking my d*mn head

I... Fuck... What?

For 14 years I played this with only the most inconvenient savescumming options available. So many quests ended at points like this. But this time the agony of skin-melting death will not free us from the cycle we are bound to.

How about for serious this time. Maybe I could even remember to save? By the way, that message indicates there is a lawful altar nearby. There will be no need for us to appeal to gods this early, although it will be critical that we do later on if we want everything to turn out just right.

Hallmarks of the ADOM experience: a lot of gnawing on raw corpses, a lot of wearing dirty clothes that we found on the ground.

Unlike the floor grit, mites and lice, the plus two damage reduction value is nothing to sneeze at.

Oh yeah, I'm supposed to do this, aren't I.

Starting to get into the swing of things here.

And here comes our big break. In addition to the raw evasion and damage reduction a shield provides, a shield also has its own weapon skill, so as you deflect enemy attacks with it, you will get an evasion bonus proportional to your level of experience with shields. With competent shield usage early to mid level range characters can be basically untouchable by physical attacks.

The shallower the dungeon level, the weaker the opponents and traps, so if we were following a logic of pure survival we'd want to stay around here and explore everything, get as much loot and exp as possible. But the lonely beckoning yelp of the cute puppy urges us deeper and headlong into danger.

With prior bad luck and deficient strategy out of the way, though, things proceed pretty smoothly.

Previous lost ground is being recovered.

And although there are occasional hiccups...

we push on ever deeper and surpass previous successes.

Natural increases and an auspicious item find push our strength level a little bit over the threshold of regular person and make us a little more viable for close quarters combat.

Plus we're finding herbs. These get so crucial later on. We'll have a big underground growhouse for them. We'll learn about a well known math game through them. For now though they're merely a random boon. One of several varieties of plant, the clumsily named 'stomafillia' herb functions as the most effective food source in the game; in eating a blessed one we'll stay full days past the point of being able to eat even a bite. Herbalism, which you may have spotted on the skill list above, determines rate of successful herb identification, cursed/blessed ratios of picked herbs, ability to plant herbs, and how many herbs you can recover from a plant.

We happen upon the next spell in our repertoire. Wizards are one of a few instances in which character generation influences loot tables. Wizards and a few other magical classes find tons and tons of tomes.

Things are becoming less of a challenge. With more casting ability and health the odds begin to come a little more into our favor. For the moment.

Bigger problems, sure.

But better means to face them with.

A few minutes and lives taken later, finally we have killed our way to the adorable objective.

Worth dying for.

Worth killing for.

Oh uh, good... yeah, good, that, the dog, evaded the trap I had no awareness of and no means of protecting it from...  very glad about that...

Looks like we've happened upon a pretty rough customer.

We'll run into an utterly obscene number of these Chaos cultists over time. Despite what you might expect, Chaos has a ruling order and we will meet higher and higher echelons of Chaotic servant as we pursue our way to the bottom of the caverns.

You handle them how you would any other creature, though. We're in sort of an awkward stage here; high level enough to be generating more dangerous enemies, but with magic not strong enough to kill more formidable opponents before they reach melee range.

This awkwardness leads to our first contact with chaotic corruption. The effects of this will become a defining feature of our experience by the end of the game. For the moment, it won't be nearly enough to confer us our first mutation, so we slay the brother and press onward, plucky puppy in tow.

Gaining levels this quickly might pose a slight problem. You'll see what I mean if I hit level 13 before we get to a certain point in the main dungeon of this game.

Isn't the real Chaos the friends we made along the way?

Another low level magician's woe. When you run out of magic points, the game offers you the chance to continue cast at the expense of physical harm to yourself. It's worth it though, we cannot allow enemies to survive long enough to stay in melee range and risk any harm to our beloved, sweet, darling, sweet, precious, sweet little precious darling cute dog.



Now a new future is written, and all that remains are memories. Horrible, horrible memories.

After accumulating firsthand knowledge of death and accumulating the karmic bloodstain of an innocent soul led to its death by our foolishness, we are finally seeing daylight and really no worse for wear.

We gather the cute dog up in our arms and begin our return trek southwest to Terinyo and the anxiously waiting girl.

We'll call it a day for now. With the puppy and kid joyfully reunited and with ourselves still firmly entrenched in that teenage gothic Chaotic phase, we can begin the next leg of our journey with no heed to turn limits. Our first task will be to retrieve one of six priceless, irretrievable artifacts that we're going to feed to a weird rat for the Ultra Ending. See you next time!
Permalink  •  December 14, 2015, 05:56:38 PM
Re: [Imagefest] Ancient Domains of Mystery
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2015, 05:56:38 PM »

six priceless, irretrievable artifacts that we're going to feed to a weird rat

Permalink  •  December 14, 2015, 07:50:59 PM
Re: [Imagefest] Ancient Domains of Mystery
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2015, 07:50:59 PM »

Deity: Lol'th


Cool stuff, though. Looking forward to more!
Permalink  •  January 30, 2016, 11:38:56 PM
Re: [Imagefest] Ancient Domains of Mystery
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2016, 11:38:56 PM »

stake mistakes (dan deacon reference)
  • stake mistakes (dan deacon reference)
Permalink  •  February 02, 2016, 10:54:23 AM
Re: [Imagefest] Ancient Domains of Mystery
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2016, 10:54:23 AM »

*prints this out and sticks it up on the wall as a reminder*
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