Deadly Rooms of Death is first and foremost, a puzzle game, created by Caravel Games. The game is about halfway between Exactly What It Says on the Tin and Non-Indicative Name - there are certainly rooms that are deadly, but the plot extends far beyond this simple dungeon concept.The game's central concept is an idealized version of the dungeon crawl - enter a room, kill all the monsters, then go to the next room. However, it's a turn-based game, so the main player moves, then each monster gets to make one move. The puzzles come from many different features - all the monsters move in predictable fashions, there are dungeon fixtures such as doors and switches, one-way arrows, bombs, and other benevolent or malevolent architecture to make the job tougher.As a puzzle game with an editor, there are several different level sets and stories available, but the main releases so far have centered around one man, Beethro Budkin, who works as a dungeon exterminator under the Smitemaster's Guild. Kings, lords, and other dungeon owners have a recurring problem of their dungeons becoming infested with monsters and nasties, and will hire experienced smiters to go kill everything and return the dungeons to usable status. There is an ongoing question of how seemingly enclosed dungeons become infested or reinfested so quickly, but the standing answers are typically "job incomplete (unintentional)" or "monsters come from inaccessible places" or "it's a fact of life, they get reinfested every now and then if they aren't supervised". Beethro's adventures lead him towards answering this question, but he gets himself into problems and circumstances far more complicated and sinister than he would have planned.The game's history is extensive, but here's a simple list of all the main releases:
DROD: Architects' Edition (includes King Dugan's Dungeon, the first official level set)
Here's how the game works in terms of money: Each game has a free demo version, containing only one room style and the first three levels of the official hold; but the demos have full functionality as regards editing and playing user-made holds. Caravel Games makes money selling the full versions (as listed above; each game includes the hold of the same name) which have more graphics, canonical plots with voice acting, and generally a high level of quality. The games are multi-platform as well, with versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux available. This means you can download the game, the user-made styles and the user-made holds, all for free, which will last most people for years, and you just have to pay for official Caravel releases.The games are downloadable at Caravel Games' main site. New players are recommended to begin with Gunthro and the Epic Blunder, which is easier than the other games, specially designed to be accessible to newcomers, and is a prequel whose ending ties in nicely to the beginning of Journey to Rooted Hold.
Some non-plot spoilers ahead. If you don't want anything about the setting or established facts spoiled, play the games.
Tropes in the games:
Aerith and Bob: Aurora in Gunthro and the Epic Blunder stands out in a world of Beethros and Vonnifas.
Anti-Frustration Features: Vision tokens, available from The City Beneath onwards. Normally, an Evil Eye watches all the tiles in a direct line in one particular direction (which may be diagonal), and tracking which tiles they watch in your head can be annoying (particularly in rooms with lots of eyes). The vision token marks their lines of sight for you, as well as revealing spiders (monsters that are often invisible).
Arc Words: "The Grand Event", first appearing towards the end of Journey to Rooted Hold. The series gradually reveals that this refers to the Empire's plans to wipe out the aboveground civilization, which Beethro must prevent.
Artificial Brilliance: The Slayer has perfect swordfighting AI. In an even fight, it's impossible to kill him, and he will always kill you if he has the chance, so you'll have to move very carefully to evade him. (At least, this is how he's meant to come across, though in reality... see Lord British Postulate below.)
Artificial Stupidity: In an uneven fight, the Slayer's AI is easy to exploit. One early level in The City Beneath has a Slayer fight you on hot tiles. He will fry himself as soon as he gets close.
Beethro: Well, I think I know who got the brains in that family.
Stalwarts and soldiers are not nearly as careful as the player, and so are often overwhelmed by roach gangs.
Backtracking: Possible or necessary in most cases, since the stairs to the next level could be anywhere. In most "straight" holds it's not necessary to backtrack to previous levels.
In The City Beneath, Beethro returns to the Hub Level, "The City", several times, and at one point must backtrack to the Infohut, the very start of the game.
The first level of Tendry's Tale has an Easter Egg you can only reach with the Grappling Hook, obtained on Level 7.
Big Damn Fire Exit: Not a fire, but typically whenever the player has to escape from anything collapsing or some other sort of danger, this is the result (although there will be puzzles in the way).
The most dramatic example may be the Big Damn Briar Exit in "Under the Library" (The City Beneath). Nearly every room on the level has briars behind blue doors (which open when you've solved all the rooms), so that backtracking becomes a mad dash for the exit before the briars grow to cover the entire room. Each room is configured so you can only just make it.
Block Puzzle: It's possible to implement a straight one with mirrors, pressure plates or other elements, but most commendable examples will involve the player doing a lot of other stuff. General consensus is that DROD is not and should not be Block Puzzle: The Game.
Bonus Level: Secret levels or secret rooms count as these, as well as any rooms or levels hidden behind a Master Wall or only accessible in the editor.
The Second Sky has about as many bonus levels as it has main levels!
Between the last two levels of The Second Sky, the player must return to the first level, Older Holding Vats.
The last level of The Second Sky is King Dugan's Dungeon: First Level, the first level of the entire series.
Boss Battle: The 'Neather in King Dugan's Dungeon. 39th Slayer in Journey to Rooted Hold. Halph in The City Beneath. Cyril, the Tuenan Captain in Gunthro and the Epic Blunder. First Archivist in The Second Sky.
Journey to Rooted Hold is arguably one big boss battle, since the Slayer pursues you throughout the hold. Only at the very end do you fight him, though.
Tendry's Tale has a larger number of boss fights, and a Bonus Boss, ( the Archivist).
Brutal Bonus Level: "Tar Recycling Annex" and "Arcane Laboratory" in The Second Sky. Annoyingly, there is nothing in-game to indicate that the latter is optional!
Call Back: Beethro talks about one of his nephews being his least favorite. Fast forward to the Trailer for Gunthro and the Epic Blunder, and at the end, Beethro is commenting about how how he likes telling the same nephew his stories the least, rather then how he hates him in general.
Character Portrait: Beethro's ugly mug has been present since the earliest versions. Starting with Journey to Rooted Hold and the introduction of NPCs, other character portraits can also be present to indicate who is speaking or who the player is.
Check Point: A room element that can be placed just about anywhere. Community consensus is that all but the smallest or simplest of rooms should have at least one, and rooms with multiple sections, especially long rooms, should have several.
Chekhov's Gunman: In The Second Sky, The Guardian is mentioned long before he becomes relevant.
Controllable Helplessness: You might have made the room impossible to clear three hundred moves ago, but until you die or restart you can still try to do anything else until you give up.
Corridor Cubbyhole Run: Possible to implement, but since the game is turn-based they usually aren't very challenging unless mixed with something else.
The citizen puzzles in "The City" in The City Beneath consist entirely of these.
Crate Expectations: Averted. Although crates can be present in dungeons (a reasonable expectation) their only function is as immovable obstacles, and cannot otherwise be interacted with.
Cryptic Conversation: Nearly everyone underground is, in one way or the other, incapable of answering questions normally. This drives Beethro to truly insane feats as he tries to find someone that will talk to him properly.
Cut and Paste Environments: Averted massively most of the time, since there are nine official and several user-made graphical styles, and each hold will typically have tens or hundreds of different, original rooms. However, there are some exceptions. Cutting and pasting is possible in the editor, and in hub levels where connecting rooms are unimportant, rooms can look identical. In addition, there is an idea usually called Constant Room Templates, based on King Dugan's Dungeon Level 6, where the level contains several rooms that look almost the same, but behave differently and have different solutions.
Many secret rooms are harder versions of other "regular" rooms.
Cutscene: A feature implemented in The City Beneath. Mercifully, an engine feature allows the player to press the space bar to speed up or skip any cutscene.
Death Cry Echo: The default state of the Slayer's death cry. Your mileage may vary as to whether it's awesome or annoying (especially if you're killing a lot of them).
Disconnected Side Area: Journey to Rooted Hold has several of these. For example, to get one secret room on the Tenth Level, you have to come back up after reaching the Twelfth.
Do Not Drop Your Weapon: Beethro has a pretty bad case of this - he absolutely positively cannot put his sword down no matter what, even when it would be to his advantage to do so. Averted in The City Beneath with the introduction of Disarm Tokens and Oremites, which finally let the players see Beethro swordless.
Perhaps more inverted than averted. Beethro can ONLY drop or pick up his sword on a disarm token.
Empty Room Psych: The presence of secret rooms and passages means this is always a possibility with any seemingly only decorative or connective room.
Endgame Plus: Secret rooms can be beaten during normal play, or by "restoring" after completing a hold (level set). Anything behind a Master Wall can only be accessed by restoring after completion. From Journey to Rooted Hold onwards, all the official holds have included Master Wall areas.
Endless Corridor: Akandia in Gunthro and the Epic Blunder. To progress, you need to find a clue in another level telling you how many rooms west and north to move; get the number wrong and you get stuck in an infinite loop.
Event Flag: The City Beneath has some examples, and variables used in scripting allow anyone to include these in their level set.
Excuse Plot: Definitely King Dugan's Dungeon and most user holds, but averted with Journey to Rooted Hold, The City Beneath and some other user holds, where the plot is actually important and affects what kind of rooms show up.
Exposition Break: A typical way of providing exposition: having puzzle rooms, and then having otherwise empty rooms with cutscenes or exposition so they don't get in the way of the puzzles.
Extra Turn: In a typical game turn, Beethro gets to move once, and then everything else gets to move once. From The City Beneath onwards, once Beethro takes a speed potion, Beethro gets to move twice, and then everything else gets to move once.
Fandom Nod: The Raygun. Back in 2004 (before even Journey to Rooted Hold), Caravel had a forum (which still exists) for Feature Requests. Several users suggested game elements that were inordinately complex or just out of place in the DROD world. The Raygun was a parody of such fanciful suggestions, and became a fandom in-joke. Ten years later, in a non-canonical bonus level in The Second Sky, Beethro finally gets a raygun.
Faux Action Girl: Aurora Bladeseeker in Gunthro and the Epic Blunder. The other teammates refer to her as a hero and won't continue without her, but all she actually does in the game is explore some roach pits so you have to go rescue her.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: No matter where Beethro goes, he always has to clear a level of monsters and drop a blue door before he can progress. It's particularly noticeable in places like "Pirate Hideout" in The City Beneath... Beethro has just accepted a mission to journey to Rasarus and deal with some pirates who are vexing Glorthorred. The first thing he does? Clear the pirates' base of monsters for them.
Golden Ending: In The Second Sky, this must be achieved by going through a series of increasingly difficult optional levels.
Gravity Barrier: Beethro's "smitemaster reflexes" keep him from moving into a pit and dying, and indeed no monster will ever move into a pit and fall. However, The City Beneath introduces platforms, which can move out from under things and drop them into pits.
Heroes Prefer Swords: There's nothing in the game engine that says that the player's weapon has to be a sword (and some player characters go without), but most weapons in the setting are swords. The main exception is the Slayer's hook, and they're typically villains.
In Tendry's Tale, the Hook is one of the weapons available to the player, for the first time in the official holds.
The Second Sky provides a host of new weapon choices, and some puzzles simply can't be solved with the sword.
Averted in The Second Sky. Levels like the Patronage and Archivist Headquarters that were part of The City are now accessed directly from the overworld map, giving the impression that they are hundreds of miles apart.
It's Up to You: Usually justified: you're the only one doing anything about the problem anyway.
Involuntary Group Split: There are a couple of examples in Journey to Rooted Hold between Beethro and Halph, mostly for plot reasons or for puzzle reasons if having him around would be too convenient. This can also happen in-room with any of your doubles or other resources.
Level Editor: DROD: Architect's Edition introduced this feature. There are now hundreds of user holds and tens of thousands of rooms available to play.
Video Game Long Runners: Four main-series games and 20 years of development. Not quite enough to make it into the list, but a record in the indie market.
Lord British Postulate: 39th Slayer. You're not meant to be able to defeat him until the final level of Journey to Rooted Hold, but the fans have discovered ways to kill him in every room he appears in (except a few storyline rooms where you can't interact with him anyway). Because each room is a separate puzzle, if you kill him in one room then he's still there in others.
Magic Franchise Word: "Linchpin", referring to the central insight that a solution depends on. Rooms that involve these are generally considered the most satisfying type. It's always misspelled "lynchpin", both in the games and by the fandom.
Marathon Level: Most rooms are puzzle rooms with lynchpins or specific manipulation that might only take one hundred to five hundred moves to solve. Some hack and slash rooms might go from three hundred to seven hundred moves, depending upon the room. However, some rooms in user-made holds can take one thousand or more moves to complete.
There is a list on the forum of the longest rooms to complete, sorted in descending order of the least number of moves anyone has beaten them in.
There was a contest where the goal was to make the longest single room possible. The current record is about 1.7 x 10^45 moves. This may epitomize the Marathon Level:
The architect of "Eternity 4": At the rate of ten moves per second it would take five and a half sextillion years to complete.
As for levels in the official holds, "Abyssian Fortress" in The City Beneath is themed around making tarstuff grow to favourable places. Nearly every room on the level is a long haul.
Metroidvania: A limited example: in any typical hold, there are usually several rooms available to play at once, but levels must be completed in order. Depending on the architect and the specific level set, gameplay could be anywhere from completely linear to completely open-ended.
The MetDROiD series is notable for being true Metroidvanias made with the 2.0 and 3.0 engines.
Mirror Match: The Slayer is meant to evoke this, since he is a body and a sword just like Beethro, and can do almost everything that Beethro can. However, knowledgeable players know the differences in their behavior and properties.
Monster Clown: Slayers seem to exclusively dress in this manner, although details in appearance vary.
Monster Mash: Giant roaches, goblins, golems, serpents, and fegundos (phoenixes) are all present and accounted for.
Monsters Everywhere: The usual state of affairs. In order to cross any stretch of wilderness or reach any underground location, you'll have to kill some monsters or solve some puzzles.
Multi-Mook Melee: Possible to set up. Some rooms (labelled "hack and slash") can have the player killing hundreds or thousands of monsters of varying types.
Averted in The City Beneath with two "Interlude" levels, one of which follows one of the Empire's negotiators and the other of which follows a goblin.
No-Gear Level: The disarm token or oremites enforce this within one room, and there's also a scripting command that will permanently remove the player's weapon until another scripting command gives it back.
The series title Deadly Rooms of Death doesn't suggest that it's primarily a logical puzzle game.
In King Dugan's Dungeon, most of the dungeon was controlled by the Neather and goblins.
In Journey to Rooted Hold, Beethro doesn't reach Rooted Hold.
In The City Beneath, Beethro twice returns to the surface, and significant portions of the game take place there.
DROD RPG is a mathematical puzzle game with RPG Elements. It's not an RPG.
Finally, in The Second Sky, the world of the Eighth wraps around in all directions, so if you fall far enough into the second sky....
Nostalgia Level: King Dugan's Dungeon: First Level in The Second Sky. It's considerably harder than the first time Beethro was in there!
Notice This: Possible to implement with overhead lighting from The City Beneath onwards, and present in some puzzles in the official holds.
Now, Where Was I Going Again?: Usually averted with the help of the in-game map and restore functions, but very possible with managing all of your holds or trying to find secrets or keep track of event flags in one hold.
One-Hit-Point Wonder: Almost everything: the player and most monsters. The only exceptions are some larger monsters which split or shrink under conditions (usually something attacking them with a sword).
Averted in spinoff Tendry's Tale, where the player and monsters have multiple hit points.
One-Hit Polykill: Explosions serve as this, destroying many objects in any squares they hit.
Path of Most Resistance: Secret rooms are completely optional and usually much more difficult than regular rooms. In order to master a hold and obtain 100% Completion, you'll have to beat them all.
Pressure Plate: Introduced in The City Beneath, and a common puzzle element.
Point of No Return: General consensus is that they're not inherently bad but can be used in bad ways, and that allowing backtracking at most points is best. However, since most levels are self-contained, holds like King Dugan's Dungeon will only allow the player access to the current level. On the other hand, the Restore function allows the user to "go back in time" to any point he ever visited, at the cost of any forward progress, so it's possible to make different choices and then pass the point of no return.
Purely Aesthetic Gender: The player may occasionally control a female avatar, which works as every other non-combative NPC.
Random Event: Completely averted. The game engine is completely deterministic. However, it's possible to create events that are unpredictable by any reasonable player. Even with that, though, a player with editing rights can later open the hold in the editor and look for what triggers those events.
Remixed Level: "Frozen Wood" in The Second Sky is a remixed version of the earlier level "Woodland Glade". The only difference between the two is that Beethro has his sword back (Woodland Glade was fought with the dagger).
RPG Elements: Tendry's Tale has HP, Attack and Defence stats, together with items that power them up.
Ruins for Ruins' Sake: "Forgotten Shrine" in The Second Sky. Beethro passes through with no explanation of why it's there or who it's a shrine to.
Save Point: The Restore system makes it possible to go to any room at almost any point in time, so walking into a new room or using a Check Point serves as one of these. In addition, you can just quit the game and reopen it later without losing any progress either.
Scoring Points: Averted in-game. However, there is a metagame scoring system where you can earn points by solving rooms with fewer moves.
Tendry's Tale has a scoring system, using a formula based on your character stats.
Scripted Event: A whole scripting language was introduced in Journey to Rooted Hold (and expanded with each subsequent game), making it possible to create NPCs and other story events, including cutscenes. However, most puzzle rooms will do without any of these, and many architecture contest entries include no scripting.
Self-Imposed Challenge: What usually happens if a room provides too many resources or if players get bored or think a level set is too easy. There is an entire Challenges board on the forum. Highscore optimization also counts as this.
Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Usually averted, but the Adder and any other sworded monsters will play this completely straight - their goal is to kill the player, but any monsters in the way will also be killed.
Space-Filling Path: Sometimes necessary in order to make sure time passes if the player wants to go from point A to point B, but usually frowned upon in otherwise empty rooms.
Speaking Simlish: Usually averted. Speech can have voice clips attached with actual English (or other language) use, or can just be present as text boxes in-game. If you want any gibberish to be played in-game, you'll have to create sound files of it or record people actually saying it.
The title "The City Beneath" spoils a surprise at the end of the previous game, Journey to Rooted Hold, and similarly, the title "The Second Sky" spoils a surprise at the end of The City Beneath. Unfortunately for anyone new to the series, all the game titles are revealed on Caravel's website.
The level title "Teaming with Tendry" in The Second Sky is a huge spoiler, as it reveals a character's unexpected return. For that reason, this level is referred to by initials only on the Caravel forums.
Stable Time Loop: In The Second Sky, Beethro travels back in time and meets the Young Pit Thing, which explains how the adult Pit Thing knows who he is, and so eventually leads to the Pit Thing sending him back in time.
Stealth Mentor: The Pit Thing. Through The City Beneath and for most of The Second Sky, he guides Beethro by directing him to where he can make discoveries, without ever explaining things directly. In fact, he can't — he finds speaking clearly excruciatingly painful.
The Second Sky reveals that he's also been acting as a Stealth Mentor to Halph behind the scenes.
Story to Gameplay Ratio: Varies, but the game usually has more gameplay than story. The gameplay will also usually take more time than the story, due to the difficulty of the puzzles.
Stupidity Is the Only Option: One particularly infamous example is in Journey to Rooted Hold Level 3: Beethro walks into a room with an obvious trap and two characters watching him. One of the characters says at the start that delvers are stupid and don't think ahead. To continue with the level, you have to trap yourself, at which point the Slayer will make fun of you. You get to wriggle around a little, and then the Slayer will release you from the trap and let you continue with the level.
Super Drowning Skills: The only things that can swim are waterskippers. Anything else - the player, monsters, other room elements - will be killed or destroyed when dropped into water, no matter how close dry land is.
Gunthro and the Epic Blunder introduces shallow water, which lets the player sneak around like a medieval Rambo.
Surprisingly Easy Mini-Quest: "Interlude: Negotiations" in The City Beneath. You play as a Negotiator, who has no combat ability at all. Fortunately, every room on the level provides you with a Fegundo, an exploding and regenerating bird you can fly into enemies to kill them.
Teased with Awesome: Possible to implement. Since various helpful things like potions, bombs, fegundos or friendly soldiers will only stay in the room they're placed in, you have to solve each room with the resources that are available, so you could have fifty doubles in one room but have to kill a horde of goblins all by yourself in another room.
The Verse: Most canonical and fanonical holds take place in a world setting called The Eighth. There isn't exactly a Universe Bible, but there's some more information here, in the following section of this TV Tropes article, and the forum community can usually figure out what the verse does or doesn't contain.
Three-Quarters View: Since the entire game is laid out on a grid, this is the art style most of the in-game entities and room features go with.
Time Trial: Highscoring is all about this - solving rooms in the least number of moves possible.
King Dugan's Dungeon has two. Thirteenth Level is a pure maze, with no logical puzzles, and no monsters except the single roach marking the goal. Twenty-Fifth Level introduces an antagonist who opens and closes doors to obstruct Beethro.
Journey to Rooted Hold, Twenty-Second Level. Instead of clearing all monsters in a room, you are just trying to get through them and survive.
The Second Sky has a level of Nonogram puzzles, and the bonus levels at the end include a Tower Defense mini-game.
There are many user-made holds that use DROD elements and scripting to implement well-known puzzles.
Warp Zone: Possible to implement. There are actual warp rooms in King Dugan's Dungeon and Journey to Rooted Hold.
Weaksauce Weakness: The Pit Thing's weakness is speaking clearly. He finds it excruciatingly painful, and it's what eventually kills him.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Gristy, the goblin in The City Beneath who was a temporary playable character and defeated the Aumtlich army by herself, never appears again in the series.
Alien Geometries: The Eighth, the game world, can be best described as a pocket universe the shape of a pizza slice: walk onto another "slice", you're back where you started. Walk off the outer edge, you implode back into the center. Dig down far enough, you fall into empty space and land back on the surface.
Armor Is Useless: Smitemasters explicitly go without any meaningful armor, trading it for speed and mobility. For all the armor any friendly or enemy soldiers have, they are all One Hit Point Wonders too. However, some monsters (wubbas, intact fegundos, segments of serpents) have invulnerability to swords, averting this trope.
Beneath the Earth: The default setting for most dungeons, but from Architects' Edition forward it's possible to create settings that are more and more convincing aboveground locations.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Fegundos are always referred to as such in the game and forums, but they're clearly phoenixes.
Clock Punk: The technology level is mostly medieval-level with some advances in mechanics, city planning and architecture.
Gonk: "The Fat Guy With The Big Lips And Pimply Nose" describes Beethro exactly. Beethro is ugly both out-of and in-universe.
Low Fantasy: There isn't anything explicitly magical in this setting, but with orbs and Pressure Plates that shoot lightning at doors to open them, regenerating fegundos, and potions that, when drunk, cause a double of a person to appear out of thin air, there's some stuff that nobody's yet explained with science.
Schizo Tech: The surface kingdoms are in the Middle Ages, but the Underground Empire canonically has radios and advanced genetic engineering available.