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Middle Earth Maj'Eyal is a Roguelike with a long history, stretching back at least 10 years. Originally titled Pernband, it was a variant of the classic Roguelike Angband with Pern influences -- although all Pern influences were removed following a Cease and Desist letter in the late 90s. It was then renamed Tales of Middle Earth, the various Tolkien elements refined and perfected, and development continued on it off and on for a decade.
Like its parent game and other games in the genre, TOME revolves around the player character delving into a dungeon with limited resources. What separates it from other Angband variants is it's scope -- whereas most Angband variants have a single dungeon and small town at the top, TOME contains an entire world map based on Tolkien's Middle Earth, complete with multiple towns and dozens of dungeons, all with different themes. In addition, the game has a quest system, giving the pointless dungeon crawling some actual point.
Another thing that differentiates TOME from early Angband variants (with the possible exception of Zangband) in the genre is the sheer number of classes, races, and subclasses -- wish to play as a Vampire Troll Druid? Ok. Barbarian Kobold Monk? Done. Spectral Dwarven Axemaster of Tukas? Go for it. Each character class / race / subrace has it's own ups and downs, and creating interesting combinations is part of the fun.
An attempt to recreate the game from scratch, avoiding some of the development problems of the the 2.X line, started and stalled out. In the meantime, the author and primary developer got married and vanished off the face of the planet, leaving development of the new TOME 3 in doubt. Around the same time, a script kiddy broke into the forums admin account, wiping the forums clean of 10 years of posts -- with no backups.
However, in 2010 development was restarted after the Author returned, resulting in TOME 4 -- a complete rewrite of the game. Moving away from "Tales of Middle Earth" to "Tales Of Maj'Eyal" to avoid the possibility of a second Cease and Desist letter, as well as making the High Fantasy elements (fireballs and teleportation spells) make more sense, the game is currently going through a development version of Wiki Magic.
It can be downloaded here.
Tales Of Maj'Eyal provides examples of:
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Technically speaking, you. The world is recovering after a 10,000 year old dark age, and there are all kinds of shiny objects hidden in those dungeons.
- After the End: The Spellblaze devastated the land and destroyed true magic, however it has "been tamed" and the planet is entering a golden age.
- Anti-Grinding: Kind of hard to avoid, considering that practically no place except the world map ever gets replacement goons. You clear a floor, it stays cleared until your next character.
- Except the Sher'tul farportal, which can be explored repeatedly if you have enough energy to sustain it.
- Apocalyptic Log: Once per dungeon, you find the records left behind by some previous explorer. Typically, the final record either ends abruptly after a reference to the boss (and has bloodstains on it), or describes how the writer was corrupted or hypnotized into allying with the boss. It's almost surprising when a dungeon hints that the writer might have survived (e.g. the apprentice mage in the Maze.)
- The Atoner: It's implied in the unlock texts that classes that are normally inherently evil in-universe (Cursed, Reavers, etc.) have become this when they're player-characters.
- Body Horror: The vast majority of the enemies in the Deep Below are this. They used to be a dwarven expedition which got corrupted by the presence of Amakthel. The boss is the transfiguration of the foreman's mouth.
- Bow and Sword In Accord: While you can technically do this with Bulwarks, Berserkers, and Archers (they have access to both missile and melee skills...if you're willing to spend a skill category point for it, anyway), Temporal Wardens are the resident lords of this art. Not only do they have default melee and bow categories, Celerity lets them switch weapons without using up a turn.
- Burn the Witch: Very common during the Age of Dusk, when mages were thought to have activated the Spellblaze intentionally. Not to mention thought to one and all be necromancers and warlocks. One document from the time says that this is a pretty ineffective way of ridding yourself of a warlock--like they wouldn't think to ward themselves against this--but still likes it for setting an example when magic sympathizers are killed this way.
- Cosmetic Award: Some of the achievements are like this, but others unlock bonus classes and races. For example, dying to undead gives you the (very very LOW) chance to unlock undead subraces. The achievements for getting specific magic books unlock spellcaster classes. Both of these conditions were changed in later versions. You can now unlock the undead races by defeating The Master at the bottom of Dreadfell, and the extra spellcaster classes no longer exist -- They've been merged into the Archmage class, and unlocking them unlocks extra talent trees for Archmages.
- In short, you need to unlock the Yeek, Ghoul, and Skeleton races, and the Archmage, Summoner, Anorithil, Sun Paladin, Temporal Warden, Paradox Mage, Marauder, Cursed, Doomed, Corruptor, Reaver, Brawler, Mindslayer, Necromancer, and Wyrmic classes.
- Cursed with Awesome: The Afflicted character classes and even more so the "Defiling Touch" and "Dark Gifts" talents of the "Cursed Aura" tree (if you level them high enough). Literally.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Not hardly, seeing how the Anorithil regard a light-darkness balance as vital to the world's well-being. There is an inherently evil element out there, still; it's called "blight".
- Deal with the Devil: How to become a Doomed in three easy steps: 1. Make one of these. 2. Suffer the inevitable betrayal of your demonic ally, who takes a good chunk of your powers with it. 3. Declare vengeance against all of creation.
- Difficulty Levels: A first for the series, there are 5:
- Tutorial: A special mode, wherein your character is made for you, you get a tutorial spirit, take less damage, and have infinite extra lives.
- Discovery: Damage taken reduced by 30%, healing increased by 30%, you get a lot of extra lives as you gain levels(at least compared to Adventure), etc. However, Achievements are disabled.
- Adventure: Baseline, no changes. Extra lives are highly limited.
- Roguelike: Same as Adventure except with no extra lives at all.
- Insane: "Absolutely unfair game setting". All damage taken increased by 50%, all damage done reduced by 50%, all healing reduced by 40%, and "player rank is normal instead of elite", meaning you are logarithmically weaker than before.
- Dual-Wielding: Favored by Rogues, Shadowblades, Marauders, Reavers, and Temporal Wardens. Reavers are unusual in that whereas the other dual-wielders can only use a dagger for the main-gauche, Reavers can use any one-handed weapon for the purpose.
- Eldritch Abomination: It shouldn't be much of a surprise that the Horror super-class of monsters is this. The noteworthy part is that the fabled Precursors, the Sher'Tul, were themselves Eldritch Abominations created by Amakthel expressly to conquer the world.
- Elite Mooks: The monster tiers. You have Critter, which is basically cannon fodder; Normal, which is your average enemy; Elite, which is fairly dangerous and has similar stats to you; and Boss, which is a seriously major enemy you need to be prepared for.
- Endless Game: The Infinite Dungeon.
- Escort Mission: Somewhere between "Escorting suicidal chipmunks" and "Leeroy Jenkins".
- You: "Wait a moment.."
- Injured NPC: "NO, WE MUST HURRY!!!" *runs off and fights a grizzly bear*
- Unlocking the yeek race is arguably this; you have to defeat Subject Z (but not as a halfling) without letting the Yeek Wayist die. Then you have to do this as a yeek to unlock the mindslayer class.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Tren-method necromancers use all manner of stratagems to avoid being corrupted by infernal presence. The Beinagrind-method necromancers, on the other hand, welcome this corruption, which they instead see as perfection of the psyche. The author of the necromancer primer wonders in-print why this "perfection" always seems to result in Beinagrinds becoming Omnicidal Maniacs. The Tren, on the other hand, see no need to go beyond "lots of obeisance, respect, and fear".
- Evil Is Visceral: At least when you're a Defiler. Sanguisuge (i.e. bloodsucking), plague, bone, blood...you get the idea.
- Final Death: Averted in some of the difficulty modes, but those lock out Achievements.
- Flunky Boss: The Mouth, boss of the Deep Below. Nothing hurts it. What you have to do is wait for it to use Gift of Amakthel (and duck behind a plant in the meantime to avoid Call of Amakthel and Drain) to generate a Slimy Crawler and kill that, which will result in the Mouth suffering about 1000 damage. You'll need to take down 10-12 Crawlers to finally do in the Mouth.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: Brawlers' specialty.
- Have a Nice Death: When you die, the death message is customized to the kind of weapon or element that killed you, from the mundane (e.g. "skewered", "frozen") to the not-so-brief ("slowly cooked", "grandfathered" for dying to temporal damage, "treehugged" for dying to nature damage, etc.). In addition, if a boss kills you, a very special fate is added to the message. The Mouth: "turned into a shrieking drem bat". Prox the Mighty: "eaten raw". Subject Z: "bloodily smeared across the walls". Bill the Stone Troll "(method) to death (yet again) and cooked into stew". And so on.
- Note that in later versions, these always have "to death" somewhere in them, usually at the end ("frozen to death," "skewered to death," etc.) This can get quite weird, e.g. "replaced with a temporal clone (and no one ever knew the difference) to death."
- He Who Fights Monsters: The document that doesn't think burning warlocks is good for much more than making examples of sympathizers does have a deeply recommended way of definitively dispatching mages. When you read it, you'll find yourself wondering how they managed to miss the sheer sadism of the method...
- Hive Mind: The yeeks have one in the form of The Way. This is the first version of a Hive Mind, where it's just a case of all the minds being in constant contact. Their aqueous cousins the yaech want nothing to do with it.
- If It's You It's Okay: If you're female, Melinda will comment on this after you rescue her.
- Inescapable Ambush: Averted in general, with one notable exception.
- Jack of All Stats: In races, the Cornac and Higher. In classes, the Temporal Warden and Mindslayer. The Temporal Warden plays with the precept in that it has a couple of skills that use your Willpower to calculate your Strength and Magic, meaning you don't have to spread your stats out as much as you'd think.
- Knight Templar: The Ziguranth have not left behind the magic-phobia that permeated the Ages of Dusk and Pyre. You can't even get in there on your own volition if you have any kind of ability besides physical, wild, hate, or psionic. Note that this precludes celestial. Note also that this does not preclude Afflicted--especially bad, seeing how this means they let in Doomed. You know, the warlocks who, after being abandoned by their erstwhile mentors, now perform much the same feats with sheer hate?
- Light Is Not Good: Amakthel created the sun for one purpose--to lay claim to everything its light fell upon. Read: the entire world.
- Magic Knight: In many different types - about one for each of the (numerous) power types. Arcane Blades channel regular old magic though their melee attacks, Wyrmics use the power of nature to emulate dragons to things like breath fire/sand/ice/lightning, Reavers use demon magic to give people diseases and then hack them apart, Sun Paladins sustain themselves through the power of (what else) the Sun, and Temporal Wardens use Chronomancy to achieve a high-speed, high-mobility combat style.
- Mind Rape: The mind damage type does this to enemies.
- Monty Haul: The amount of treasure behind the sealed doors in Dreadfell and the guaranteed gigantic equipment stash in the Vor Armoury mean that you seriously won't have to upgrade your equipment ever again. If, that is, you can put up with the ultra-powerful goons in there, seeing how these are the equivalent of Angband's greater vaults.
- Not So Harmless: In most settings, halflings are among the most phlegmatic peoples out there. Here? Militaristic traditions. Had at least one Mad Scientist during the Age of Allure. And until the Spellblaze, humans weren't the dominant race of Eyal--halflings were.
- Not Using the Z Word: Most fantasy worlds give necromancers zombies and skeletons for their expendable goons. Here, it's ghouls and skeletons. Probably justified on account of ghouls being known for their endless hunger for humanoid flesh; that's not something voodoo zombies (i.e. the source of the word "zombie") were known for, but very much so for the original ghuls of Arabian and Persian lore, even if they were demons rather than undead.
- Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: There are a few underwater levels with stationary (and depleteable) bubbles that you have to travel between to avoid suffocation if you don't have a way to just breathe water outright.
- Rage Against the Heavens: During the Age of Haze, the Sher'tul went on a crusade against the gods to put an end to their selfish manipulation of mortal life. One of the hunters and his current quarry are still at it, in the form of the Infinite Dungeon--the trickster god in question keeps creating new dungeon levels to delay the hunter, who keeps slicing through the goons and traps.
- Then again, according to Word of God, the real reason most of the Sher'tul decided to go on a deicide spree was that, being the creations of Amakthel, they had a measure of his dominant personality traits. Namely, pride, arrogance, powerlust, and a general unwillingness to have any peers or superiors, only subjects. The only divinity they spared was a sea goddess who had no interest in terrestrial dominion. Note: She's not Amakthel.
- Serial Killer: The Cursed in a nutshell. For the most part (like the one slaughtering lumberjacks, who you have to stop in order to play Cursed yourself), they're Hedonistic-thrill. Presumably, your Cursed are either instead or additionally Mission Based.
- Story Breadcrumbs: Lots, mostly journal entries. They rarely end well.
- Surrounded by Idiots: If the signs are anything to go by, the Master of Dreadfell feels like this a lot.
- The Power of Hate: Cursed and Doomed run off of it.
- Time Master: Time Wardens and Paradox Mages. Abilities include the typical "speed up, slow down, and stop creatures" but also some stranger ones like Help Your Self in the Future and Ret-Gone.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The writer of the necromancer primer anticipates this to happen to the would-be rulers of the Blighted Ruins. If you play a ghoul or skeleton, you actually bring it about.
- Unwinnable: This can happen if you kill Aerwyn the Sun Paladin before she tells you about the slime tunnel. You need to go through the tunnel in order to reach the final dungeon.
- If you do the following, the special quest where there's an electric storm cloud above Derth becomes impossible to finish.
- Pick up the quest.
- Get Antimagic at Zigur, so you can't get help from Angolwen to dispel the cloud.
- Kill their leader, so you can't get help from Zigur to dispel the cloud.
- Complain that it's impossible.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: The Sher'tul fortress needs to be powered up by dumping objects in its reactor core. This produces useless gold as an undesirable byproduct, and is thus given to you to dispose of as you see fit.
Tales Of Middle Earth (TOME 1 / 2 / 3) provides examples of:
- Anti-Grinding: Completely averted. Want to spend a few decades loitering around at the bottom of the Sandworm Lair, looking for potions that will get you additional stats and spellbooks that you need for progression? Not only allowed, but encouraged. You do have a time limit in the name of food et all, but this is averted due to the ease of teleporting in and out of dungeons.
- Bonus Dungeon: Several. Only a few dungeons are actually required for the main game, the rest are optional but have bosses with set drops of varying use. Playing the trope more straight is The Void, a huge dungeon with enemies that are scaled (somewhat unfairly) to your own level, and with no air -- finding an item that makes it so you don't need to breathe is a major part of the early postgame.
- Development Hell: The author vanished after his marriage, only returning earlier this year. With a completely new version of T-Engine, rewritten from the ground up. ...Ok!
- Excuse Plot: Averted. The 2.X series follows the Tolkien worldverse somewhat closely, having the character go through the quest of the ring, ultimately destroying it on Mt. Doom -- or dooming the world by putting it on. There's a Playable Epilogue after destroying the ring that involves you finding your way into the Bonus Dungeon to kill Mograth's soul itself.
- Final Death: There is a rare one shot item called the Blood of Life that will bring you back to life -- once -- if you die; and ultra-high level Necromancy can do this, but other than that, once you die, you're dead.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: A combat option for Loremasters. Monks specialize in it, but Loremasters and Possessors can do it as well. Gives bonuses to dodging as long as you avoid heavy armor, but also scales very well and avoids the problems (and benefits) of weapons. In addition, Possessor forms such as, say, Dragons are technically unarmed, meaning that a Possessor with Barehand Combat skill an fight just as well in Dragon Form as Humanoid Form.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Played with. Wizards die a LOT early on, whereas Warriors... die a LOT early on. Both can get to very respectable levels of power, but Warriors are far more reliant on items. Meanwhile, a Wizard that loses his or her spellbook... ugh. Summoners, on the other hand...
- Lost Forever: By default off, but you can disable the system that protects unidentified artifacts from being lost, causing them to be lost forever if you leave a dungeon floor with them on (the tradeoff is that you are told, explicitly, that an artifact exists on a floor you enter). In addition, any artifact that is I Ded and later lost is lost for good, even with this option on.
- Mythology Gag / Genius Bonus: Lots. Tolkien fans will recognize a lot of the true artifacts in the game.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Part of the charm of the 2.X series -- the sheer number of class / race / subrace / skillpoint build combinations are nearly endless. Some are incredibly powerful. Some... aren't.
- Randomly Generated Levels: Everything not a town or special level. Dungeons do have themes, however -- for example, the Orc Caves are, well, caves; the Sandworm Lair is a long twisty dungeon of nothing but sand (easily dug through). The "Ironman" option changes the engine to always generate "interesting" rooms -- interesting as defined by special rooms filled with instant death.
- Randomly Drops: Very very random, although traditionally the best loot is found either on the floor of vaults or on Dragons (which can be scummed from Quylthulgs later in the game). "RandArts", randomly generated artifacts, are also worth a mention, as they can be based on any basic item in the game and have a rather large number of stats.
- Warp Whistle: Scrolls of Word of Recall, as well as the various spell versions. Required for any dungeon dive past a few floors. Bring extras, cause they're not fireproof. (Unless they are.)
- Yet Another Stupid Death: Lots. Getting paralyzed by an eye is one of the top early ones, however, leaving you to slowly starve to death as the eye paralyzes you over and over again. Later on, anything that uses water attacks -- as there is no water resistance in the game.
- Who did you think you were? Bilbo? It instantly corrupts you if you as so much as touch it once