DROD: Repeat Play

Getting back into DROD after all this time has proved fairly easy. All the little tactical swordfighting tricks that I picked up in my first play-through are still with me: how to efficiently cut down a horde of attackers, how to manipulate a goblin or wraithwing into going where I want. A great many individual rooms are still familiar to me, too — not so much so that I’d be able to recall them from memory alone, but enough for me to recognize them when I see them, and remember the main secret to solving them.

This seems to be less the case as I go deeper, though. Floor 18 is almost entirely unfamiliar to me. I suppose this makes sense — this isn’t my first attempt at a replay. I recall playing through at least the beginning in preparation for at least one of the sequels. At one point I even started playing through the game to make notes for a Hold 1“Hold” is DROD‘s term for a set of player-made levels. I was contemplating making, a “King Dugan’s Dungeon Condensed” that would attempt to distill the essential features of each floor of the original dungeon into a single room. I never finished that; I think I gave up when I found some floors that were too heterogeneous to easily summarize. The point is, I have played the beginning of this game several more times than the ending.

Nonetheless, I’m managing to clear rooms at a pretty good clip, and never really get stuck — except on one thing. The one new, unfamiliar thing. The Challenges. I’ve gotten fairly severely stuck on those several times. Floor 16 had no less than three Challenge rooms that took me multiple sessions to solve.

The thing about the Challenges is that they’re fiddly. They involve precise positioning and optimization, often even to the point where you have to already be in the correct orientation when you enter the room, just so you don’t have to waste a turn or two turning about. Without Challenges, most of the rooms in King Dugan’s Dungeon ask no more of you than competent footwork and the ability to spot the “lynchpin”, the non-obvious idea that makes it all easy. A lot of the Challenges are specifically based on ignoring a room’s lynchpin. drod-challengeFor example, one of the rooms in floor 16 is based on using tar growth, normally an inconvenience, to your advantage. There’s a serpent in a completely inaccessible area, together with a small bit of tar. Serpents die when they get caught in dead ends, but there’s no dead end in that area. The lynchpin: You can create a dead end just by letting the tar spread all the way to the wall. To do this, you have to ignore the temptation to kill the “tar mother” (the thing that makes the tar grow) for three complete growth cycles. The Challenge for that room: Kill the tar mother before the third growth cycle. I had to learn more than I had ever before needed to know about Serpent behavior to solve that one.

I’ve been spending so much more time on Challenges than on anything else that they’re basically the dominant part of my experience by now. Now, bear in mind that Challenges are optional. I could just skip them, solve the rooms the easy way and move on. But why would I do that? I’m in no rush to reach an ending I’ve already seen, or solve more puzzles I’ve already solved. No, for a return visitor like myself, having the Challenges dominate the experience is probably a good thing.

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1. “Hold” is DROD‘s term for a set of player-made levels.

2 Comments so far

  1. Insoluble on 15 Dec 2016

    The challenges really do add a lot to the experience of replaying the official holds. But yes, some of them are *extremely* fiddly. For some background, most of the challenges were culled from the message boards where players would post challenges for others to attempt. Over the years we built up quite a few of them but they are definitely a mixed bag. Some are really interesting and quite fun. Others… not so much.

    The challenge you mention (involving the serpent and tar) is a bit of both. With a really solid understanding of serpent movement rules and a bit of practice, manipulating snakes at a distance like that becomes second nature. It’s not a skill that’s ever really required in KDD (or the JtRH or TCB for that matter) but it’s become an accepted skill in the fan community and has been used quite a bit in user made holds.

    Speaking of which, “King Dugan’s Dungeon Condensed” sounds like a really neat idea! If you still have the level set, incomplete though it may be, you should post it to the message board. I’m sure others would love to see it. You may also find the “DROD History Month Compilation” interesting. It is the product of a contest in which players attempted to condense each of the first four official holds into one *room* each. Well, really just capture the feel of them in one room. But the idea sounds similar.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 16 Dec 2016

    Good to know about the origins of the Challenges. It isn’t really surprising — I remember some of the insane stuff that people came up with on the forums, back when I was paying attention to the forums.

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