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Yes, yes, yes, I'm walking as fast as I can. Slow down, boy, I don't move like I used to. The Tombs have been there for generations, they'll be there for generations yet to come; a few minutes to rest an old man's weary bones won't kill you.

You're eager, that's clear. And understandable, I suppose. Your whole life has led up to this moment. Born under the sign of Wehlm, on the third red moon in the month of stone. A rare occurrence, to be sure; I had begun to think I'd not see such in my lifetime, but here you are. Sixteen years old, so young! But not a child, no, calm down, I know you've passed your trials of manhood. Little surprise, really. Your father knew this day would come, and you've been trained every waking moment for it, whether you knew it or not.

Ay, but you're afraid, too. Oh, halt your protests, boy you fear alright: I can see it in your eyes, smell it on your breath. But more than that, I know you fear because you'd be a fool not to, and you're no fool. The Tombs... Child, I've been the storyteller of this tribe since my grandfather passed on all those summers ago, and he took the mantle from his grandfather, and him from his father, and so on. And with the title of storyteller comes a responsibility. A secret. One that, as is my duty, I speak here and now: none have ever returned from The Tombs. No soul has ever returned from the doors you shall enter.

I'm sorry, boy. I know you didn't ask for this, that your choices were decided by a birthsign and an oath spoken long before your birth, long before even mine. But my tale is not entirely a sad one; though none have made this trek and returned, the journey is not without hope. Before you enter those stygian halls, I will, as is also my duty, tell you what we know of The Tombs. It is a story I was told by my grandfather, and you now are the first living soul to whom I've had cause to tell it. The second, and last, shall be my own grandchild, when he is old enough to grasp the tale and repeat it when his time, in turn, comes. Listen well.

The world was not always as it is now. Where now there is desert, once grew great forests; where now there is rock, once ran water; where now there is only ashen, eternal gray, once blew cool winds and clouds. Our ancestors walked this paradise, they breathed it, were one with it. They were its masters; hunters without equal. Nothing living could escape their bows and blades, and though they hunted only what they needed, their domination over all life was without question. It is even said - and here, boy, is where I fear the retelling has lapsed into embellishment throughout these many generations - that they could control the skies, the water, the very earth itself.

But though these great ones ruled over all they surveyed, even they were powerless against our ancient adversary: time. Old age could and would, eventually, strike down even their strongest, fastest, and wisest hunters, albeit their lives lasted much longer than our own. And when an end came, they remembered their comrades in song and verse and tales heralding their accomplishments. These tales were given to their storytellers, my ancestors, who passed some of them on to me, and which I've at times told some of the youths of the village. Yes, boy, the stories of your youth, of bravery and sacrifice and the hunt, always the hunt - these are, save for the ravages of time, true tales of our ancestors. But I digress.

The bodies of these celebrated dead, interned in caskets of the finest gold and accompanied by all their fantastic vestments and weaponry into the next life, were placed underground, in a great vault built ages ago by some unknown race long since forgotten. The vault, deep as a mountain is tall, stored their loved ones' remains as the stories lived on.

It was a peace destined to be broken, that golden age. For hundreds of years these fantastic warriors interned their dead in that grand mausoleum, blind to its purpose and deaf to its design. At first, all was well. The corpses remained well protected, sealed in a tomb of unequaled splendor. But strange events, rare at first - only once every few generations or so - began to claim the lives of visitors and workers in this gargantuan grave. Inexplicable accidents became suspicious disappearances; suspicious disappearances became sudden, vicious attacks by forces unseen. Eventually, frightened and disheartened by their loved ones' seeming betrayal, the people sealed their burial grounds, hoping to contain whatever lie within.

The seal did not last a decade. Try though they might to keep the barrier closed, fearing all the while the horrible, ever-increasing cacaphony of hellish wails and earth-shuddering tremors emanating from inside, one dark morning the locks shattered with a retort like thunder. The doors swung wide, and from within... Oh, Wehlm preserve us, from within spilled the horrors of a world unseen.

Creatures both great and small, ferocious and vile. Things you would not, could not imagine in the darkest throes of your most horrible childhood nightmare. Horrors that had lied waiting, feeding on the souls of their dead, growing stronger, faster, and more clever with each passing year. Why and, certainly, how the thrice-cursed builders of that hideous abyss had created such an evil, not even my forebears could guess. But it was done. They had fed it to bursting. And they had set it free.

The war that ensued between these monsters and their unknowing benefactors lasted a full hundred years. Though the fields ran red with the blood of the fallen warriors and black with the bilious gore of the beasts, the true casualty of that horrible clash became all too clear in the twilight of our ancestors' victory. As the last abomination was chased, screaming and wounded, back into the sepulcher from which it had crawled, the warriors turned and looked upon a land dead and decomposing: the beginnings, boy, of the world in which you now live.

You see, physical foes were not all that had poured forth from that hole. Something else had come and, like it had the souls of their dead, consumed the very essence of the land. Plants grew crooked and brown; animals withered to sickly parodies of their former selves. What little life remained became few and far between, barely surviving on the corpse of the land. Yes, even the few remaining warriors waxed frail and decrepit, producing a lineage that, I'm sorry to say, resulted in you and I: hardened by centuries of scrabbling for survival, certainly, but nonetheless mere shadows of our great progenitors. The thing no one saw took the very soul of the land and retreated with its fetid brood back into the depths of its nest.

So, boy, back to the here and now. I trust you've some idea of why, for these countless generations, we've sent every child born in the night of the warrior into the unknown. With each passing year our numbers grow fewer; we are now, I fear, a meager handful of hangers-on. Whatever was taken, whatever spirit the world once had, it must be found. And it must be taken back.

What lies inside the door to The Tombs? As I said, none have ever ventured inside and returned, not since its days as an ill-fated crypt. We can speculate, though. It is assumed that the creatures that once ravaged our people still lie within, possibly even with reinforcements from whatever black power first spawned them. Most likely, as the evil has not since spewed forth from those gates, the nastiest of these beasts lie in the deepest levels. Though during the great war the things were occasionally seen quarreling amongst themselves, for the most part they seemed to exhibit some sort of instinctual hatred for our race. Expect them to attack you on sight. Your journey will be one of combat, young one, do not doubt that.

It gets worse. Within The Tombs, the walls themselves may be against you. From the final days before its short-lived barricade, our ancestors noted that the already serpentine and confusing passages of The Tombs were getting yet more difficult to traverse. Some even claimed the paths would change ever so slightly during each visit, changes that grew more erratic and drastic with each passing day. Maps of The Tombs, were they even to exist, would be useless now, I'd wager. The evil twists its domain as it would its own limbs.

We hope, though, that there is help to be found. I cannot bring myself to believe that the souls of our ancestors are completely devoured; perhaps they can offer you some assistance on your quest, if they yet retain any control over their surroundings. The weapons and armor of the dead may still be inside as well, buried as they were during the funeral rights. We fear, though, that the strongest and most powerfully enchanted of the lot may have been taken by the strongest creatures during their retreat into the depths. And though you may feel strong now, I hope beyond hope that you may, as you destroy the beasts within, begin to free some of the power that once blessed our ancestors. Go bravely, with eyes wide open, and you may yet find help where you least expect it.

And here we are. Again, I'm sorry. I do not relish this task. I know this is a lot to digest so quickly, but I'm afraid I cannot allow you time to consider. As is the way of our kind, and has been since the war that took the life of the very soil on which we stand, your hour is now at hand. The gates lie unlocked, boy. Go. And may the blessings of the four gods go with you.

  1. Movement
  2. Movement in The Tombs is accomplished using the eight arrow keys on the number pad (please make sure num lock is ON). You may move in all eight directions; diagonal movements take the same amount of "time" in-game as do those in the four cardinal directions. Notice that until you press a key, nothing will happen - no enemies move, no numbers change, nothing. This is because, like most Roguelikes, The Tombs is a turn-based game. More on this in the section titled "time units."

    If you'd like to sit still but still allow creatures to move around you - possibly to let a creature come to you, instead of vice versa, so as to get the first attack - press the spacebar. Enemies or other creatures will move just as far as they would if you had taken a step, though you yourself remain stationary.

    As you walk around, you'll soon notice three types of objects that commonly exist in the game world: items, features, and creatures. Items are wearable, wieldable, or otherwise useful trinkets left behind by other warriors or creatures. To pick one up, stand over it and press 5, the center numpad button.

    Features are things like hidden traps, altars, chests, pillars, etc. Some can be stepped on, some will block your path. You may interact with most features, assuming you're allowed to stand on them, by pressing the center numpad button (the same one used to pick up items). The results of such interaction depends on the feature; you'll have to experiment to discover what does what.

    The most important type of feature are stairs. Stairs lead the player to the next deepest level in The Tombs, where better items and stronger creatures inevitably await. Stairs are used like any feature, with the center numpad key. Be forewarned, though: stairs in The Tombs are one-way affairs. Any items you've left behind or creatures you've neglected to kill are lost forever.

    Finally, a wandering adventurer will not wander long before running afoul of the creatures that infest the tombs. Occasionally, you'll find friendly or even tame creatures that will help you in your quests, but for the most part, assume every living - er, moving - thing you come across is hostile. Attacking or otherwise interacting with creatures is covered in later sections.

    So, those are the absolute basics. But if you're going to survive, you'll need more than that; next, let's take a closer look at the interface you see on your screen.

  3. The Message Box
  4. The message box is arguably the single most important facet of your interface with the world of The Tombs. It is the large, blue box on the upper left side of the screen, usually containing a mix of gray and white text. This box is where you receive most of the information your player perceives in the tombs, such as who attacks what and when you have reached a new level. The most recent messages will be displayed in bright white, while older messages are in a dark gray.

    If you need to see an older message, you can scroll the message box using the PgUp, PgDn, Home and End keys. Clicking on the box has the same effect as the End key, in that it jumps to the newest message. Eventually, as you progress through the game, the box will delete older messages as it hits its maximum size.

  5. The Depth Indicator
  6. In the far lower right-hand corner of the screen is a small box with a darkened image of a stairs in the background. The number in this box represents your depth in the Tombs, starting at level 1 and increasing as you delve further into the darkness. Keep an eye on this value; the higher the number crawls, the more dangerous your surroundings will become!


  7. Life, Mana, and XP Bars
  8. The bars at the bottom of the screen, in yellow and red, display your current and maximum HP and MP, respectively. HP stands for Hit Points. These are your lifeblood; damage decreases your HP, while healing spells or items increase it (up to, of course, the maximum). When your HP reaches zero, the game is over; watch this bar carefully!

    MP stands for Mana Points. Mana is a measurement of the amount of mental and spiritual stress your character can endure; in game terms, this equates to how many prayers, incantations, evocations, or spells your character can cast.

    To the right of your HP and MP bars is a small wheel labeled XP. XP stands for Experience Points, and is a numerical representation of the skill and knowledge your character has gained from combat since entering The Tombs. The most common source of XP is the rewards received each time an enemy is defeated, but there are other sources like spells, skills, or items that may reward or penalize this value. As you gain XP, the wheel will fill with green slices. When the slices fill the wheel, it will flash, and the message box will report that you have reached a new "level." Levels, from 1 to 100, represent the overall skill level of the player's character, and increasing your level opens up new possibilities by awarding "upgrade points" and new skill choices. More on these in a later section.

  9. The Timekeeper
  10. Left of the life and mana bars is a small rectangle with an image of a stopwatch. The number in this box is very important, as it is your only method of measuring the passage of time. Whenever the player performs some sort of action, the time unit cost of that action is displayed in this box. For more information on time units, see the appropriate section below.

  11. The Element Box
  12. All damage in the Tombs has a specific element, such as fire, ice, holy, magic, or physical. It is important to keep track of your resistances, and if you've a weakness to a certain element, you'll want to avoid creatures that wield it. That's where the element box comes in: this device is a visual representation of the types of damage you took during your last turn. Each colored bar represents a type of damage; hover the cursor over a box to show in the text below the box what specific element each color represents. When the cursor is not over one of the bars, that text box defaults to the element of the largest source of damage received.

    If, for example, you're attacked by a fire-based creature of undeath, you might take 6 fire damage and 3 physical damage. The box will display this damage as a white bar (for NORM, or physical, damage) for the first 1/3 of the boxes length, followed by a red bar (for HEAT, or fire, damage) for the final 2/3. Note that the box tracks and represents all damage taken in the last player turn from any source, not just a single creature or trap.

  13. The Preview Box
  14. In the far lower-left of the screen is a square containing a close-up view of what is under and immediately surrounding the player at any given point in time. This box will let you see up close what you are standing on, and decide whether or not it is worth picking up. It also has another, quite useful feature: to examine any item, creature, or other feature of the dungeon more closely, left-click on the object with the mouse. If your character has seen the square you click on, the box will change to show that object, and information about it will be displayed in the message box. The preview box will revert to showing what is underneath your character once you move again.

  15. The Character Screen
  16. In the center of the left side of the screen are three tabs labeled Character, Inventory, and Magic. Click on these tabs to open any of the three main information screens; click on them again to change or close these screens and return to the game. You may also use the keyboard shortcuts C, I, or M to access these screens at any time.

    The first screen, the character screen, displays general information about your character. It is here that you will make most of the decisions that decide how and when your character will develop. Will he become a great warrior? A tricky assassin? A sinister slavelord? A powerful warlock? These decisions will be presented here as the game progresses.

    Your character's level, discussed above along with the XP wheel, is displayed in the circle in the far upper-right corner. Directly left of this circle, highlighted in blue, are the character's upgrade points, if any. These points are used to purchase attribute increases and skills. You receive 10 skill points to begin the game and more as you progress deeper. The most common source of upgrade points are those rewarded for advancing in level.

    To the far left, under the title Attributes, are your character's six defining statistics, called primary attributes. Each is rated on a scale from 1-100, and all start at a relatively puny 10. The effects of these are discussed later, under "Pramary Attributes;" for now, it is important to know that you can increase these attributes - using upgrade points - by clicking on the plus symbols to the right of each number. Attribute points cost one upgrade point each. Note that each attribute also has a set maximum value, which begins at 50. You will need to purchase certain skills to increase these maximums.

    Beneath these six primary attributes are secondary attributes. These values are important, and influence the game in significant ways, but you may not directly alter them here. They are merely for informational purposes. For example, "sight range" is the number of squares in all directions that the player can see walls, creatures, etc. You may not change it directly (except with the purchase of certain specific skills), but you may add points to the primary attribute "cognition," which will result in the ability to see further.

    To the right of the primary attributes are your character's resistances. Any damage received or dealt in The Tombs has a "type" associated with it. A fireball spell might cause "heat" damage, a regular old sword will cause "norm" damage, and a horrible evil curse from some shambling fiend of Banyin might cause "bane" damage. Some may even cause varying amounts of different types of damage; for example, a creature that wields shards of piercing ice might cause both "cold" and "rain" damage, given that it is using frozen water. Your character can develop specific resistances or weaknesses to these different type of damage. If he takes normal, full damage from a source, it will simply report "None" here. But if the player has the ability to resist a type of damage, a blue percentage value will be displayed, representing the amount by which damage of that type is decreased before being subtracted from your HP. For example, if the aforementioned fireball dealt 10 points of fire damage to a player sporting a 40% resistance, he would only actually lose 6 points of HP. However, if this number is red, your character has a weakness to that type of damage; for example, that fireball will deal 15 damage to a character with a weakness to heat of 50%. Finally, in the rare instances where a player manages to make this value bright blue, the player can actually absorb damage from that type! If the 10 point fireball struck a player with a 20% absorption rate, not only would he take no damage from the attack, but he would actually gain 2 hit points back!

    Beneath the resistances is a large box labeled simply Status. It will most likely be empty at the start of the game. This box reports any abnormal conditions, either good or bad, that currently affect the player. Things found here include spell effects, poisons, disease, blessings, curses, or any other magic or mundane state the player might currently be in. Click the name of a status effect to receive more information.

    Finally, taking up most of the right side of the character screen, is a large blue box labeled Skills. Skills are any abilities, talents, or other unusual advantages that the player has developed as the game goes on. There are literally hundreds of skills available to the player as the game progresses, and all will at some time or another appear here for purchase. As the game begins, at level one, there are a selection of special skills available. For an example, let's click on the line that says "Strong."

    Notice that the box at the bottom has changed, and now contains information on the skill "Strong." This box contains three important pieces of information. The first is "effects," which describes what this skill actually does. In the case of our example, you can see that purchasing the "Strong" skill would immediately result in four extra Vigor points. You may ask why this would be useful, given that you can also increase the attribute Vigor using the buttons to the left. But if you'll look at the number next to "Strong" in the box at the top, you'll see it's a three; this is the cost, in upgrade points, of that skill. Note that purchasing "Strong" rewards you four points while only costing three; a definite advantage on the manual increases.

    Next in the skill information box is a field labeled "prerequisites," which summarizes what must occur for the player to be able to purchase a skill. Note that if the skill appears at all in the box above, you may purchase it; this merely lets you know what you've done right in order to be able to see it in the first place. In this case, simply being level 1 was enough.

    Finally, there's a short "flavor text," or in-story description, of what the skill actually entails for the character. You will not be able to read it all at first; click the small arrows in the corners of this box to scroll and see the entire message.

    This sounds like a good skill for a starting player; click the button labeled Purchase. You'll notice a few things: Your upgrade points have dropped by 3, the cost for the skill. "Strong" is now outlined in blue on your skill list. Your vigor has increased by four, as promised. And finally, and most interestingly, the skill "Hardy" has become available. Click on "Hardy" now.

    Ah-hah! If you check the prerequisites for "Hardy," you'll see one of them is "+Strong," which indicates that you could not purchase this skill until you'd purchased the skill "Strong." Note that were it to say "-Strong," purchasing the skill "Strong" would actually prevent you from purchasing "Hardy." As you progress through the game, you'll find many, many skills that require other skills to be purchased before they can be obtained, as well as sets of mutually exclusive skills that prevent the others from being purchased. Following the different paths of advancement these skill trees present provides much of the replayability of The Tombs, allowing you to customize your character as you see fit.

    As you purchase more skills, and have yet more available for purchase, the skill screen will quickly fill up. For example, purchase "Hardy." You can now see "Vigorous," but some skills are gone from the list, scrolled off the bottom. To move around in the list, click and hold in the bar with the horizontal arrows. Where on the bar you click will determine how fast it scrolls, and when the mouse button is released, the list will "snap" to the most centered list. You may also shift-click the arrows to jump, page by page, through the skill list. This bar will become much more useful as your skill list grows.

    Two more buttons, located next to "Purchase" and labeled Learned and Available, are left. Click on them now, and you'll quickly discover their use: they filter out what skills are shown in the skill list. While "Learned" is highlighted, only those skills which you've already purchased are shown. While "Available" is highlighted, only those skills which are available for purchase (and not yet already purchased) are shown. Click the highlighted button to return to the standard, all-skill view.

  17. The Inventory Screen
  18. Next on our tour is the Inventory Screen; click on the buttons to the left to switch or simply press I on the keypad. It is here where you can organize, equip, use, or drop items you've picked up off the ground. To learn how the Inventory screen works, first you'll need to pick up some items as described in the "Movement" section.

    Items picked up off the ground are placed in the character's backpack. The backpack may hold up to 25 items. However, if you pick up armor, potions, or weapons off the ground, they're not going to be used immediately. Let's say, for example, you've picked up a nice small dagger, which you've decided would be more effective in combat than your bare hands.

    Once you've picked the item up, it will be in your "backpack" on the inventory screen. Notice on the right hand side, labeled Equipped, there are empty slots labeled "Held (Left)" and "Held (Right)." To equip an item, click on it in the backpack (it should become highlighted in light blue). Then, click the "Equip" button. If you're equipping a one-handed or finger-mounted item (rings), you'll be presented with a choice of hands. Once the item is equipped, it will appear on the right hand side. You may unequip an item by clicking on it and again clicking "Equip," which returns it to your backpack if there is enough room, or "Drop," which unequips it and drops it on the ground. You may also use the "Drop" button to drop items from your backpack.

    Some items, like health potions, must be used rather than equipped. Click on the item in your backpack, and then click on Use. Some items can even be both used and equipped! Depending on the item, once it is used up, it may disappear from your backpack completely.

    You have may have noticed that when you click on an item, you're presented with text about that item in the section labeled Information. There are many important bits of information contained here, and what exactly is shown depends on the type of item. All items, however, may have a brief description of their appearance, effects, or history; you may have to scroll the information box using the small arrows to see it all. Some pieces of information common to many items, especially armor and weapons, are:

    • Worn on the <area>: This item may be equipped. It belongs on the body part specified by <area>.
    • Protection: This item provides protection, subtracting from damage taken in this area. For more information, please see the "Combat" section.
    • Dodge: This item hinders or improves the character's ability to move freely, resulting in a modification (positive or negative) to his "Dodge Modifier." Your character's total dodge modifier, after items and attribute bonuses, appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the Inventory screen. For more information, please see the "Combat" section.
    • Critical Chance: If the player suffers a "critical" attack to an area of the body covered by this item, this is the percentage chance that this armor will protect the player. Essentially, this number describes how well this piece of armor protects vital points on the character's body. For more information, please see the "Combat" section.
    • Resistances: When this item is worn or wielded, his resistances (visible on the character screen) are modified by the amounts shown. Positive amounts will add resistance or even absorption points (once resistance rises above 100%); negative amounts will subtract from resistance to the point of giving the player a weakness to the specified type of damage.
    • Damage: The amount of damage this weapon deals in combat. Note that all weapons also have a damage type, and creatures may have resistances, weaknesses, and absorption rates to certain types of damage just like the player does. For more information, please see the "Combat" section.
    • Attack: The bonus or penalty this item grants to the player character's attack rating. This value represents, for weapons, the ease with which this weapon can be wielded in combat. For armor, it typically represents impedance to movement presented by overly bulky vestments. For more information, please see the "Combat" section.
    • Critical Modifier: In the event of a successful critical attack by the player, this value determines how much more damage the attack deals. For example, an attack of 5 damage becomes 20 damage with a 4x critical modifier weapon, in the event of a critical hit. For more information, please see the "Combat" section.
    • Style: Specifies whether this weapon must be wielded one-handed or two-handed.

    You may also reorganize the items in your backpack if you so desire. This process has no actual effect on the items themselves, but may make it easier to locate certain things. Simply click-and-drag on the item you'd like to move; release when over the desired spot, represented by a blue line. You may also click on the "Sort" button to automatically sort the items in an order you choose. Note: In early versions of the program, the "Sort" button is labeled "Reorder." This button does nothing.

    One final feature of the Inventory screen is the extra information included in the name of some objects. For example, in the backpack a weapon might be listed as, "small dagger (1d4, +5, x4) {+1}". These numbers are an easy, fast way to see the same information that is presented when you click on the object. Values in parenthesis ( ) represent the damage of the weapon, the attack bonus of the weapon, and the critical modifier of the weapon, in that order. Values in brackets [ ] represent the protection value of the item and the critical chance of the item, in that order. The values in braces { } represent the dodge modifier of the item. Note that not all items have a nonzero value in each of these, and the inventory screen may omit information that does not matter (so, for example, you'll never see a small dagger (1d4, +0, x2). Equippable items, therefore, with none of these values shown, have no traditional effect in combat (but may have other, special effects as described in the Information box).

  19. The Magic Screen
  20. The final information panel you'll need to use to survive your trip through The Tombs is the Magic screen. As before, click the tab or press the M key to see this screen. However, before we discuss the particulars of building prayers, invocations, evocations, and spells, we need to stop a moment and discuss the magic system of The Tombs in general.

    Magic in The Tombs is a much different matter than in similar games of the genre. Mana, or MP, still plays a role in determining how much magic you can cast, but figuring out which spells you can cast is a unique affair. In the world of The Tombs, the people who remain after the great war have come to pray to four primary gods, named Armos, Meli, Wehlm, and Banyin. Each god governs its own aspects of life, the specifics of which can be read in the magic screen by placing your cursor over the buttons on the right.

    Once you reach a certain depth in The Tombs, you will begin to find strange hexagonal objects called runes. These runes are stone hunks about one inch in diameter, carved before the age of man by unknown hands. Each is inscribed with a symbol representing a certain aspect of magic. The runes found in The Tombs come in two flavors: god runes and magic runes. God runes each correspond to one of the four major gods, and though considered useless children's trinkets outside The Tombs, inside these walls they hold the key to establishing a true link with the very essence of these deities. The magic runes are more powerful yet rarer: they are only found inside The Tombs; the people who live on the surface remain oblivious to their existence. They come in four main types, each representing an aspect of life itself: Compulsion, Control, Conclusion, and Constancy. These magic runes allow the user to, rather than request a grant of power from the gods, instead channel all or part of a magical effect through their own force of will.

    There are rumors of a fifth type of magic rune, a Corruption rune, found only in the darkest pits. Forged, it is said, by the dark powers that created The Tombs, these runes seek to pervert the natural processes described and controlled by the other four runes. The Corruption runes are things of great power, but beware: their usage always brings with it terrible danger.

    Magical effects in The Tombs are formed by combining three runes together in an equilateral triangle. These effects fall into four categories: prayers, incantations, evocations, and spells. What effect falls into what category is determined by how many of each type of rune (magic or god) is in the effect. Three god runes produces a prayer, which is a simple plea for help from the gods. The gods, unfortunately, can be fickle, and the effects are not always predictable. What's more, these prayers rarely grow more powerful with the spellcaster, as the power itself is not being channeled through the character. To form prayers, the player must have purchased the "Priest" skill.

    Incantations are similar to prayers, in that they call on the gods for power, but the spellcaster can provide much more guidance to the divine power. They are formed by combining two god runes with one magic rune. Spellcaster ability may affect the success of incantations, though not as much as in evocations or spells. To use incantations, the caster will have to first purchase the skill that allows the use of the particular magic rune it includes. Examples include "Aura of Compulsion" and "Aura of Constancy."

    Evocations, rather than form a request or guiding beacon for the gods, instead channel their power directly into a form and function entirely determined by the caster. They are formed by combining one god rune with two magic runes. Evocations can be extremely powerful, but the gods sometimes take offense at being treated so roughly. The effects of evocations are determined almost exclusively by the power of the caster, but casting them requires purchase of special schools of magic in order to handle specific combination of magic runes. Examples include "Enchanter" and "Necromancer."

    Finally, spells are expressions of magic that exist solely through the player character's force of will. These monumentally powerful (in the hands of an accomplished caster) effects are formed using three magic runes. The creation and casting of spells requires a significantly advanced caster who has purchased the "Warlock" skill.

    Though even a novice cantrip-casting priest can put any old runes together and determine if they'll result in an effect, actually casting a prayer, spell, etc. requires more complicated measures. Effects that the player wishes to invoke are permanently inscribed on tablets, which are magical constructs that bind the three runes together. Though creating these tablets is relatively easy, once created they are bound to the creator's mind, using up some "room" in his soul. A beginning caster may only create a grand total of four tablets, and as such, may only bind together and hold four effects only. Later on, more accomplished casters may of course acquire the ability to control more tablets at once, but there is a finite, absolute limit. Choose which effects you'll need for your adventure carefully!

    In addition to the caster's innate arcane strength (represented by the Willpower stat), the power of magical effects can be augmented or stifled by his proficiency with certain runes or types of magic. This stat differs for each magical effect, and can range from -4 (at which point the caster may no longer perform this effect) to +4. The exact result of a certain proficiency differs based on the magical effect. To determine your proficiency, select the magical effect (either by forming 3 runes or clicking on a tablet) and look for blue (positive) or red (negative) markers in the "proficiency" window. Skills, items, and status effects can all alter proficiencies.

    Now, we can look at the tools the game supplies the player to create magical effects. The first thing you'll likely notice is the column labeled Runes on the far right-hand side. These buttons show the current number of each type of rune the player character possesses. There is, incidentally, a limit on the number of runes the character may hold but, like tablets, this value may be increased by the purchase of certain skills. To learn more about a particular god or magic rune, place the cursor over a button. The information box in the far lower right will scroll with information on that rune.

    To build prayers, incantations, etc. the player must use the black box located in the upper center of the magic screen. Once you've collected at least three runes, click on the buttons to the right to add them to this box. Once all three have been added, you'll be told whether or not that effect exists, whether or not you can cast it, and if so, the box below will show a description of the costs and results of the effect. Note that if you add magic runes to the effect, the title above the box will change to represent whether you're creating a prayer, incantation, evocation, or spell. Note also that as you add runes, the positions of the runes may change; this is to prevent duplicate effects. For example, Meli-Constancy-Armos is the same incantations as Meli-Armos-Constancy, so the game keeps a definite order to prevent confusion. You may click the runes themselves to return them to your inventory, or click Clear to abandon your creation altogether.

    Once you've found an effect you may actually cast, the button labeled Scribe will light up. You may now click this button to permanently attach the three runes to a tablet, if one is available. Tablets, both empty and filled, are displayed on the far left-hand side of the screen, in the column labeled Tablets.

    Note that the box in the center may be used for one additional purpose: if you'd like to see the costs, effects, and proficicency of an effect you've already inscribed, click on it on the left. You may not scribe it again, and you may not reclaim the runes. Clicking "Clear," rather than returning the runes like before, will simply empty the center box.

    One more step remains before you can actually cast a spell. You must assign one of nine possible hotkeys to the spells you wish to cast in-game. You'll notice that a small circle appeared next to the tablet once you created the effect. Click it now; it should glow blue. Now, click on one of the nine blue buttons in the far lower-left of this screen. The number will appear in the circle. Note that you could also unassign hotkeys by assigning that number to another tablet or by clicking its circle and then clicking the small red button labeled "X".

    To cast the spell in the game itself (with the magic screen closed), press the 0 key on the numpad (also labeled "ins" or "insert" on most keyboards) and then press the assigned effect hotkey. Some spells may require another keypress to take effect; for example, fireballs must know in what direction they must travel. If at any time you'd like to cancel the casting of a spell, press the 0 key again.

  21. Attributes
  22. It is important to pay attention to which primary attributes you'd like to focus on (or whether or not you'd like to divide your points equally) while honing your character's skills. Care has been taken to make these skills equally valuable within the game. If one primary seems underpowered or useless, watch out: it's possible you've missed the true range of abilities that attribute influences.
    • Vigor is the overall physical prowess of the character. A character with high vigor will be able to both deal and receive enormous amount of damage.
    • Stamina is a combination of a number of factors such as physical and mental robustness, resistance to disease, threshold for pain, etc. A character with high stamina will find himself well suited for survival, including bonuses to both HP and MP.
    • Dexterity describes the balance, poise, reflexes, and agility of a character. The most common use of dexterity is in determining the success of an attack or dodge. Though at first glance similar to celerity, dexterity deals more with the ability to use ones hands or feet in a skillful, not necessarily fast, manner.
    • Celerity is speed, plain and simple. It will help with combat to a certain extent, but not nearly as much as dexterity. For the most part, celerity comes into play when determining time unit costs for the player's actions.
    • Cognition describes the overall ability of the player to accurately and quickly sense his surroundings. Vision distance, olfactory acuity, and quality of hearing all figure into cognition. Sight range is the most obvious effect of altering cognition, but many other activities (such as combat) figure cognition in to a certain extent.
    • Willpower is the character's ability to control his own mind in an effective and forceful manner. It is largely a skill for casters, as it plays a large part in determining mana and allowing the acquisition of casting skills.

  23. Combat
  24. You won't get very far in The Tombs without engaging in some physical combat. The combat system in The Tombs is based on systems from similar computer games, as well as the old pen-and-paper role playing games, but it presents some flourishes all its own. Before we begin, some readers may be unfamiliar with the typical dice notation popularized by the aforementioned "tabletop" RPGs and used frequently in The Tombs. From time to time you'll see numbers like damage or protection values described as, for example, "2d6+3". The first number (2) refers to a number of dice (represented by the "d"), while the second number (6) describes the number of sides each die has. The final number (3) is a modifier to be applied each time this value is calculated. So, if a weapon does 2d6+3 damage, it actually does 3 + the result of rolling a six sided die + the result of rolling a second six sided die in damage, calculated each time the player character attacks.

    Combat occurs when the player character is next to a hostile creature (he may be attacked), or if the character tries to move into a square on the map occupied by a hostile creature. It may be easiest to describe the process of combat with an example; let's watch as, step-by-step, a sample character attacks an Orcish Brute.

    • The player tries to move into the space occupied by the Orcish Brute, initiating an attack.
    • The game first determines the player's attack rating, which is a number describing how skillfully the player tried to attack his enemy. The number is built using the attack rating of the weapon with which the player is attacking, the attack rating (usually a penalty) of the equipment the player is wearing, the player character's dexterity, and the player character's cognition and celerity (these two to a much lesser extent than his dexterity). There is also a fair amount of randomness introduced at this stage; a character with a very high attack rating on his weapons and armor and high dexterity, cognition, and celerity will usually, not always, have a high attack rating in an attack. For this example, let's say the player character rolls incredibly well, and gets an attack rating of 54.
    • Now, the creature is given a chance to dodge, done by calculating his dodge rating. Creatures add their preset dodge ratings to a random value at this stage. The Orcish Brute has a fairly poor dodge rating of +3, so let's say his random dodge roll gets an 8, resulting in a dodge rating of 11.
    • The attack rating is higher than the dodge rating, so the player has connected with his target. 54 is more than 11. What's more, 54 is more than 40 above 11, which means this attack will result in what is called a critical hit. A critical hit is a spectacularly effective move in combat, meaning that the attack will deal much more damage than normal, and will be accompanied by a special message in the message box.
    • Let's see how much damage the Brute takes. The player is attacking with a sword, which has a damage of 1d6+4. So we roll one six-sided die electronically, and get a three, resulting in a damage of 3+4=7. The player's vigor is also figured into the calculation, raising the damage to 15.
    • But this is a critical hit, so the damage will be significantly higher. The critical modifier of the sword is, for this example, 2x. So we double the damage: this attack consists of 30 points of damage!
    • But an orc is thick skinned; he has a protection value of 6. This means that 6 points of damage is subtracted from every attack, which would mean our attack dealt only 24 points. However, critical attacks have a chance of ignoring protection value altogether.
    • To see if the Brute's skin/armor/whatever will help him, we must look at his critical chance. For an Orcish Brute, this value is 50%. So there's a 50/50 chance of subtracting 6 points from the damage during a critical hit. Let's say he fails his chance, and is going to now take the full 30 points. Poor Orc.
    • One last thing must come into play before we deal the damage. It is possible, thought fairly rare, that the Orc will have a resistance to the type of damage the sword deals (Norm). He does not, but if the attack had been with a fire weapon against a fire creature (for example), this step would probably entail a significant reduction to those 30 points.
    • The attack may now end. The Orc takes 30 points of damage, and with a maximum HP of 35 points, that will almost finish it off. Let's say, for the purposes of this example, that a previous attack versus the orc did 6 points of damage, and this attack kills it. The orc is destroyed, and he drops any items he was carrying. The player, as the victorious party, is rewarded the orc's bonus value: 2 experience points.

    Now, all of that looks pretty daunting. Luckily, it's all done automatically by the combat system in The Tombs, and you'll never have to touch any of that math if you don't want to. Of course, for those number jockeys who prefer to get an intricate look at the game world, see the FAQ or the forums for more information on exactly what's going on when one creature attacks another, a creature attacks a player, or vice versa.

    Note that this example was the player attacking a creature. There would be a few differences if it occurred the other way around:

    • Calculations for creatures' attack ratings are much simpler, as they mere use a random number added to a single attack modifier based on which creature is attacking. Creatures have no primary attributes, so there's no dexterity, celerity, or cognition to worry about.
    • Calculations for the player's dodge rating are similar to calculation for his attack rating, with dexterity, cognition, and celerity playing large parts.
    • All attacks against the player are aimed at a certain part of the body: head, arms, legs, or body. Though attack rating and dodge bonuses are universal (i.e. if your shoes give you -3 to dodge you'll still have difficulty getting out of the way for a blow to the head), protection value and critical chance depend on what area of the body the attack hits. Attacks to the head are lessened by objects on the head and neck, attacks to the body are prevented solely by whatever is worn on the body, attacks to the arms are prevented by what is worn on both the arms and the hands, and attacks to the legs are prevented by what is worn on the legs and feet. For normal attacks, these protection values add together in each area; a pair of gloves with a protection value of 5, combined with some arm-plating that has a protection value of 6, means all normal (non-critical) attacks to the arms will be reduced by 11 damage. However, note that the critical chances are separate: in the event of a critical, each piece of appropriate armor rolls its critical chance separately to determine whether or not it will add to the total protection value of that area. The effects of critical hits are different, as well, based on where the blow lands. On top of the crit modifier (yes, creatures have those too!), hits to the head deal an additional 50% damage, while blows to the legs and arms deal 25% less that the normal damage, after the critical modifier is applied.

    You may, it should be noted, attack with two weapons in quick succession, if your character is wielding a one-handed weapon in each hand. This process is called dual-wielding. Both weapons in this setup have the attack modifier equal to 75% of the lesser attack modifier of the two. What's more, the two attacks take the time units required to attack with the weapons separately, multiplied by 75% (two 1000 TU attack weapons would take 1500 TUs per attack to be used together). Time units are discussed in more detail in a later section.

  25. Time Units
  26. Given the turn-based nature of The Tombs in particular, and Roguelike games in general, some sort of system is needed to keep track of how fast players and monsters attack or move. It's not very interesting for every single creature to move/attack/whatever in a plodding, predictable, one-action-per-one-of-the-player's-actions pattern. The Tombs borrows a system of time units from many other games of this type, following the idiom that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    So if you're familiar with these systems, skip this chapter. For those of you who aren't, this can get a bit confusing, but keep at it; the system is actually fairly simple once grasped, and accomplishes what it's made to do quite admirably.

    To begin, all time in The Tombs is determined by the player. As you've no doubt noticed, when the player does nothing, the game does nothing. So each time he moves, attacks, or whatever else he wants to do, we need to determine how much "time" that action took. We do that by assigning a time unit cost to each type of action the player can accomplish. A number of things figure into this value, such as skill at what the player is trying to accomplish or abnormal status effects like haste or disease, but for the most part the number of time units is determined by the player's celerity: the higher the celerity, the less time units an action takes, which is almost always good.

    So, let's say the player is fleeing from a dangerous-looking Monkey Demon. One step is taking the player 1000 time units (his celerity is pathetically low). Each time the player steps, every moving thing in the game world is told that 1000 time units worth of events have occurred, and so each creature adds 1000 to a hidden "bank" of time units. They then all determine what they want to do with those units.

    In our example, the Demon now has 1000 time units. Let's say this fast little monkey can move at a time unit cost of only 600 time units (very fast indeed!). So he subtracts 600 from his bank of 1000 units and takes a step. He then looks at his bank again: he has 400 time units remaining, so he can do nothing. Control is returned to the player, who takes another step. Now, the demon has a bank of 1400 time units. He steps toward the player again. He's now got 1400-600 = 800 time units. Uh, oh - he subtracts another 600, and moves yet again!

    To the player, this exchange means that every couple of steps, the monkey demon moves two spaces for his one; a troubling situation indeed! Note that each creature in the game has a set number of time units needed to attack or move, with 1000 being the average for both. The player has three values for time unit cost: cost for movement, cost for attack, and cost for miscellaneous actions. All three are based primarily on celerity. Movement is straightforward; note that you may cause the amount of time units needed for movement to pass, even without moving, by pressing the spacebar. Attacking may take a different amount of time if using different weapons, and it will definitely take a greater number of time units to attack with two weapons at once (see the chapter on Combat). Miscellaneous actions are things like activating switches and casting spells; essentially, anything other than moving or attacking. Both moving and attacking take a base amount of 1000 time units before being modified by skills and celerity, while miscellaneous actions take a base amount of 750.

  27. Friends
  28. Luckily for you, not all things in The Tombs are out to get you. Some creatures are friendly, and will attack hostile creatures for you! You will usually be able to identify these unexpected allies because when you attempt to move into their square, rather than attacking them, you will switch places. You may even find creatures who are tame, and will follow you around and fight with you; some skills will even allow you to take these friends from level to level, and given that creatures can level up just like you do when fighting, these long-term companions may become formidable indeed.

    Some rare friendly creatures will not switch places with your character when you try to move into their spot. Instead, they will speak to you, offering advice or even, on occasion, the ability to barter goods in your backpack for valuable goods and services. Search out these odd spirits and creatures; they will make your trek a much easier one.

    A word of warning: not all creatures that attack other, hostile creatures are your friends. Some of the creatures that inhabit The Tombs are either mindlessly savage or are actually strong and vile enough to feed on their similarly aligned comrades. You may find yourself in the odd position of fighting for your life alongside creatures that only a minute earlier were trying to kill you!

  29. Game Over
  30. Sooner or later (probably sooner), you're going to run into something just a bit nastier than your were prepared for. So when your HP finally drops down to the dreaded zero, you'll be met with what will probably become quite the unwelcome site: The Tombs' game over screen. The text to the right describes the trials and tribulation of your belated warrior, including all pertinent information which might affect his score. Rest in peace.

  31. Conclusion
  32. That covers most of the basics you'll want to know before embarking on a trip into The Tombs. If you feel something is missing from this guide, please either post in the forums or e-mail me. I may add it here, or else I'll put it in the FAQ, an excellent source for information not contained above.

    So, enjoy your trip to The Tombs. It will probably be a short one. But maybe, just maybe, you'll be the champion this world so sorely needs.


  2003 Martin Woodard