ToEE: Doors

The Temple of Elemental Evil engine supports two distinct types of doors. You’ve got your doors that separate rooms, and you’ve got your doors that separate zones. The former sort are wall features that can be toggled open and closed with a click, and that block movement and vision while closed. The latter are blue door-shaped or stairway-shaped icons overlaid on the world, that transport your party to a different map when walked into. Zone doors are actually a great deal more common than room doors. Just about every store and dwelling in Hommlet has its interior on a separate map, whereas you’re not likely to see any interior doors until you get to the dungeon, and even then, you might not see them. Despite a cursor change on rollover, they’re not nearly as visible as those bright blue zone-change icons. Let me tell you a story.

On the first floor of the moat house dungeon, there’s a room containing an ogre. I had kind of forgotten about this, because the first time I entered that room, the ogre showed that it could easily kill my guys with a single blow, and so I had mentally labeled the encounter as “too tough for now”. But in my latest session, I gave it another try, taking advantage of the “Cause Fear” spell that one of my NPC followers knows. I feel like the best monster encounters in this game have this puzzle-like aspect to them, that they become easy once you hit on the right tactics. That one spell was basically all it took to win the fight.

On the opposite side of the ogre room was a “natural cavern”-textured passage downward, leading into unexplored territory, but also back into explored territory: one branch led down to the home of those gnolls I mentioned last time. There wasn’t even a secret door or anything hiding the passage from the gnoll end; it was just a hole in the wall that I had failed to notice previously. There was, however, a secret door in the passage near the ogre side, which my elf found. Elves have a passive ability to notice secret doors without searching, and I had an elf in my party for this very reason. When the elf passed by a certain point, suddenly a blue icon appeared, indicating an inter-zone door, which led back up to the first floor. The destination was a room I hadn’t seen before: the actual hideout of the bandits I was supposed to hunt down. This room, it turns out, is directly adjacent to the dungeon’s entrance room, through a perfectly ordinary door that I had completely missed before, because that part of the room was kind of dark.

Presumably the intention here was that the ordinary door was supposed to be the easy way into the bandit room, and the secret passage was supposed to be found from there, not at the end where I found it. That would make it a way for observant adventurers to bypass the ogre and the gnolls. But I did it backwards, because it’s easier to find a secret door than to spot a non-secret one. In fact, it’s at least an ogre-fight easier.

One more irony: Before I did all this, I made a sally into another hall that I knew to be populated by humans. Not by fighting them, mind you. I had tried that before, and found them to be both numerous and tough. No, this time I just put my rogue into sneak mode and had her do some reconnaissance. Sneak mode is fairly miraculous in this game; you can walk right in front of people in well-lit conditions and they just look through you. At the end of a big room full of guards, I found the chamber of Lareth the Beautiful, who’s apparently in charge of the moat house operation, and who’s so evil, he emits particle effects even when he’s just standing there. I still haven’t confronted Lareth at all. I just rifled his dresser, boosted his diary, and scrammed. The diary told me some things I already suspected, and some other things that I did not, which I may describe later. For now, the relevant part is his delight at the arrival of the bandits: They’re a plausible cover for the murders he’s doing! If anyone comes sniffing around, they’ll just kill the bandits and leave satisfied! It’s perfect! Well, except for the minor detail that Lareth was a lot easier to find. I actually thought that Lareth’s men were the bandits until I found that diary.

Going back to Church of St. Cuthbert, I find that killing the bandits is enough to let me turn in the “clear the moat house” quest, even though I know for a fact that the moat house is not in any meaningful sense cleared. I think I may hold off on that for a little bit.

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