JtRH: 39th Slayer

I’ve mentioned JtRH‘s Slayer before, in my post about The City Beneath‘s Slayer trainees. There, I described Slayers as “kind of like the Terminator: perfect killers, relentless and unstoppable, something to be escaped from rather than defeated”. This time through, bearing that in mind, I’m struck by how different 39th Slayer’s attitude is from your typical dogged pursuer. Usually such adversaries are depicted as grim, dour, and driven by single-minded determination, but 39th Slayer carries a sense of joie de vivre. He just seems to really enjoy his job and approach it with pride and relish and even merriment. Slaying delvers is, we will eventually learn, literally what he was made for, and he takes pleasure in fulfilling his purpose. His voice is deep and echoey, but has a hint of a laugh in it; when he taunts Beethro, it almost seems flirtatious.

But this attitude is based on confidence. When we first meet him, he makes a point of Beethro’s predictability, telling another NPC that you’re going to walk into a trap — which you then do, because it’s the only way forward. He even invites a class of Slayer trainees to observe him slaying you. Your repeated escapes are a clear embarrassment to him, but he tries to maintain a facade of confidence all the same, assuring you that your demise is inevitable, as much to convince himself as you.

Mechanically, his role is to chase you. Rooms that would otherwise be simple are complicated by your need to keep running away from him. Also, it should be understood that, like Halph, he doesn’t appear in most rooms, and that when he does, he usually enters the room after Beethro, the better to chase you. So the typical pattern is: You enter a room, you look at what’s in it, you formulate a plan for killing all the monsters, you step forward to start executing that plan… and then the Slayer comes in, adding that extra complication and forcing you to rethink everything.

Occasionally — occasionally — you can use the Slayer to your advantage. For all that he calls Beethro predictable, he’s the one whose behavior is completely deterministic. Sometimes you can manipulate him into killing monsters for you by getting the monsters between you and him. This is particularly useful when a Challenge constrains your ability to kill stuff yourself.

I said before that the Slayer in JtRH is unkillable until the ending, where it takes a whole roomful of explosives to do him in. This turns out not to be the case — the more dedicated Droddists figured out ways to do it that the designers didn’t intend, kind of like how Ultima players figured out unintended ways to kill Lord British. Killing him doesn’t affect subsequent rooms, mind you, because the authors didn’t plan for it happening at all. In a way, it’s surprising that killing him causes him to die at all. I mean, it’s not like your sword necessarily has to affect monsters; Serpents aren’t affected by your sword. But I guess he’s just inheriting the “die” behavior from the more general monster class, which the programmers didn’t originally see a need to override. In the remake, killing the Slayer prematurely is a Challenge (and thus, on Steam, an Achievement) — the only Challenge that’s not bound to a specific room. And it’s a Challenge that I’ve completed. It turns out that the only thing preventing me from figuring out how to do it was that I thought it was impossible. Once I knew it could be done, I knew to look for ways it could be done.

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