by Victor Gijsbers
I’m very pleased to present a play report by eu, player of and occasional contributor to Kerkerkruip. Enjoy!
The past few weeks I’ve been taking Kerkerkruip’s billing as a “coffee-break roguelike” to heart and dungeon diving over lunch. Victor asked me if I would share one of my play reports from the upcoming release, which is nearing the end of its beta phase.
In this particular session I was coming in at the “apprentice” level, the easiest that Kerkerkruip’s adaptive difficulty will assign a player who’s defeated the big bad, Malygris. The difficulty names go at least ten levels higher, though I’m usually evenly matched at the next notch up, “adept”. Still, I don’t mind playing as an apprentice on occasion since that gives me a little room for cinematic recklessness.
As in prior versions, the game started out with my character’s drunken boasting getting the better of them, landing me in a ruby-lined hall deep underground. But unlike in prior versions, I wasn’t toting that trusty gilded rapier—it was a Yahvinnean dagger at my side, and there was a scroll of shadows stashed in one of my pockets. Non-standard starting kits like this might be my favorite addition in version 9, as, even before the first move, they encourage significant variation in strategy. That, and it’s somehow particularly satisfying to see Chekhov’s gun go off when the author has left that to your own mettle.
Case in point regarding strategy, my usual policy is to scout as much of the dungeon as I can before choosing a first target. But when I stumbled on a jumping bomb made of flesh, for which a dagger is an excellent choice, I couldn’t resist. I soon had it drained and deflated. That gave me a second level ability and the associated stat boosts. Some voracious sounds alerted me to a nearby giant armadillo, and, conveniently, a dagger is also useful for nailing weak points in armadillo armor. Its death added a first level skill and more boosts to the mix.
At that point I felt ready to take on the level 4 monster. A tentacle of Tooloo (merely level 3) turned up first in my search, and I decided to save it for later. Nonetheless, it was guarding a Morphean grenade, another version 9 addition and a tempting prize, so I tried my hand at burglary. Anyone who’s faced a Toolooean appendage before knows how risky this was; they’re very good at detaining adventurers who hang around too long. But my luck held.
Further exploration covered all but an exit leading to the Angel of Compassion (level 2) on a Bridge of Doom. The angel is also new, and poses an unwelcome dilemma when encountered like this. It’s sympathetic to other beings in the dungeon, and its sorrow as they perish enfeebles it. Had I killed it immediately, I could have collected its powers in their only partly diminished state, but I would have lost everything of equal or lesser level from the shock of absorption, i.e., every special ability I already had. Save the angel for later though, and the powers might fully wither. After a bit of hemming and hawing, I concluded that I didn’t want to dispatch it just yet.
Instead, I turned again to my starting kit. Thinking that the level 4 would be on the other side of the bridge, I read my scroll, which let me blend into the shadows. Then, for some reason, a bout of prudence struck me. I knew that the scroll would get me past the angel, but walking the bridge like that would also up the tension. If I let it get too high, I might give myself away at the other end. So I threw the precious Morphean (from a safe distance, since that’s now possible in version 9) and put the angel to sleep. And, of course, all I found on the other side were uninhabited ruins; I had spent my grenade for naught.
Still, as luck would have it, the ruins held a teleportation grenade, a periapt of prophecy, and an adamantine shield; I donned the latter two and crept south to find the druidess Bodmall. One pack of ment (the game’s combat drug) while hidden activated the predictive powers of my periapt, which, in combination with the armadillo’s scales taking up my defense, let me stage a formidable assault. But the ment ran out, and withdrawal kicked in right after Bodmall reached 2 health, and only by retreating to recharge my scales could I concentrate enough for a finishing blow.
Because my maximum health was down, I ran past the (no longer sleeping) angel to collect the tentacle, who couldn’t get by both Bodmall’s brambles spell and my shield. The despairing angel fell easily after that. Then, in walking back, I realized that Bodmall’s room was a grenade-manufacturing lab, so I used several unidentified scrolls I had picked up on the way as raw materials. The results were three: another Morphean grenade, a frag, and a flashbang that immediately blew up in my face. Thankfully, I wasn’t in combat and could just wait for the afterimages to disappear.
At another guess, I threw the frag and the Morphean into the adjacent room, where I figured Malygris would be. This time my hunch was correct, and I caught him dozing among the shrapnel. Trying to recreate my technique against Bodmall, I snorted a second pack of ment, but I hit maximum concentration and had brambles summoned without ever seeing a favorable periapt read-out. The tension had climbed high enough that I attacked anyway.
That got his attention, but I had hoped to follow up with a second blow. Unfortunately for me, we were in the Hall of Mirrors, and I had put all my points into the body statistic, not the mind statistic I needed to figure out which of the Malygrises darting around me wasn’t a reflection. So I called the angel’s sorrow into the room to buy time for a little concentration; grieving, Malygris could only slash at me halfheartedly. The concentration just did the job, and a clonk on his head diffused the mounting tension about who would land a hit first.
In the meantime, the brambles I had planted sprouted hidden fruit, which I commanded them to launch. Had this gambit worked out, the fruit would have imparted their concealment to me. Malygris was too perceptive though. Between the spent turn and my next attack not disrupting his mental preparations, he was able to get to maximum concentration and come after me.
It ended with me throwing the teleportation grenade knowing that a teleportation beacon was active in the portal room. Him disoriented, and his concentration broken, I hammered on Malygris with the druidess’s staff. All he could do was desperately try to teleport away.