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A Beginner's Guide to DROD - Part I

Beginner's Guide To DROD. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

What is DROD?

DROD (Deadly Rooms of Death) is a turn-based puzzle game (or "stepping game" if you will), about a guy with a sword, called Beethro Budkin, who kills monsters. There is an underlying story which is great in its own right and that develops through the different game versions and levels released, but knowing or following the story is not essential to solving the puzzles.

Puzzles consist of a tiled grid on which the character moves each turn either moving to an adjacent tile, rotating (thereby turning his sword) or just waiting. Various monsters, obstacles, doors, bombs, pressure plates, trapdoors and other elements, each of which acts in a completely deterministic and predictable way, are placed on other tiles in the room. The goal in each room is to clear all the monsters in it and/or step on a conquer token. Puzzles in DROD have no memory if you leave one unconquered and come back to it, it will revert to its original state.

At its simplest therefore, DROD is about killing monsters with your sword, and many puzzles are based around just that. However, the range and flexibility of the elements available in DROD allow you to create puzzles of enormous complexity. You may have to manipulate the movement of monsters; navigate mazes; find ways to kill monsters without using your sword; solve problems of combinatorics (opening/closing/toggling doors); work out how to keep monsters alive or reconfigure the non-monster elements in the room in particular ways (e.g. dropping trapdoors in certain patterns, moving platforms around, cutting fuses to influence the timings of bomb explosions etc). (here is a good article some different kinds of puzzles that can be implemented in DROD, with examples.)
DROD, in-effect, acts as a Turing machine on which it is possible to implement innumerable puzzles. For example, Towers of Hanoi and the 3 and 5 gallon bottle puzzle puzzle have been successfully implemented.

See here for further discussion and examples.

There are various ways to play DROD.

1.You can play DROD in order to solve the puzzles and enjoy the story.
2.You can try to optimise your solutions of the puzzles (complete them in as few moves as possible). The creators have developed a system whereby your solutions can be uploaded and ranked with other people's. In this way you can compete with other players, and watch their solutions.
3.DROD comes with a level editor, allowing you to create your own puzzles, which you can then upload for others to play, allowing you to revel in their confusion.

DROD RPG is set in the same universe as DROD and shares common elements but is an entirely different game with different gameplay. I therefore won't be discussing it here.

DROD Versions, Engines and Levels

DROD has been through several iterations, and this is a potential source for confusion. There are now 5 different engines, 5 official campaigns (levelsets, or "holds", of 25 levels or more), and a number of smaller official holds (called Smitemaster's Selections, of up to 14 levels).

Since the latest DROD engine is fully backwards compatible, I would recommend simply buying the latest engine (DROD 5.0), and playing all the holds in that version. (This is done by importing
relevant hold file into the game, and this also applies for any usermade hold you might want to play)

Here is the canonical order of the main campaigns and other holds that have come out so far:

- DROD 4: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder (full campaign) was actually released with the DROD4 engine and functions as a prequel to the saga of Beethro Budkin. It follows the adventures of his grandfather, Gunthro Budkin, who gets embroiled in a war between the continents of Rasarus and Tueno. It has been designed with beginners in mind and is an ideal entry point to DROD.

- Smitemastery 101 (Smitemaster's Selection) is a small hold in which Beethro Budkin gets trained in the fundamentals, and is also aimed at beginners.

- King Dugan's Dungeon (full campaign) - This is where it all began, where we first meet Beethro Budkin, professional smitemaster, tasked with clearing out King Dugan's Dungeon. Earlier versions of the hold can be downloaded for for free here, but this version has been updated with more features, secrets and voice acting.

Recently, a remake of this hold has been made in Flash, so you can play it in your browser for free without having to download anything. This version also contains some bonuses, such as extra rooms and challenges.

- Journey to Rooted Hold (full campaign) - this was released along with the DROD2 engine. Here the saga of Beethro Budkin continues as he uncovers the underground Rooted Empire, and sets off down the High Path to uncover the headquarters.

- Perfection, Beethro's Teacher and Master Locks are Smitemaster's Selections that detail Beethro's adventures along the High Path. These are recommended for more experienced players, although Master Locks comes in two versions, easier or harder.

- The City Beneath (full campaign) is the third main hold and was released with DROD3. Beethro finally reaches the headquarters of the Rooted Empire and tries to get to the bottom of it all.

- Devilishly Dangerous Dungeons of Doom, Suit Pursuit and Finding the First Truth (Smitemaster's Selections) follow up on the revelations of The City Beneath and bridge the plot to its thrilling conclusion...

- The Second Sky (full campaign) is the epic conclusion to the saga and has been released with the latest engine, DROD5. Find out what the Empire has been up to and what the Grand Event is. This is the biggest and best version yet and contains not only new elements and monsters, but improvements and expansions to graphics, soundtrack and user interface.

There are also a number of non-canonical Smitemaster's Selections to play, including Beethro and the Secret Society and Halph has a Bad Day (packaged as Halph Stories), Complex Complex (which accompanies Suit Pursuit) and Flood Warning (released free with the full version of Gunthro and the Epic Blunder).

But, and here's where it gets even more fun, because DROD comes with a level editor, many people have made and released user-made holds. These can be found here, in a list that you can sort by release date, architect, difficulty and overall rating of goodosity. If I've counted correctly there are 477 at the time of writing, each with between 1 and 76 levels (or between 1 to 593 individual rooms).

What you can get for free.

Astute readers will have realised there's a lot you can get for free.
- DROD Architect's Edition (including the original KDD)
- KDD, as a standalone hold file
-The Flash remake of KDD (called KDD Lite, or Flash DROD) which you can play in your browser.
- Journey to Rooted/KDD 2.0 demo (comes with the DROD2 engine)
- The City Beneath demo (comes with the DROD3 engine)
- Gunthro and the Epic Blunder demo (comes with the DROD4 engine)
- The Second Sky Demo (comes with the DROD5 engine)
The demo versions of the engines come with limited graphical styles and music, but are otherwise completely unlimited.
- With the DROD5 engine you can then play every single usermade hold (currently 477 and counting) and make your own holds using all the available monsters and elements.

What you can buy, and why.

- The full versions of Journey to Rooted Hold, The City Beneath, Gunthro and the Epic Blunder and The Second Sky all excellent holds (and in getting the full versions you get all the musical and graphical styles)
- The Smitemasters Selections (all good, as discussed above, occasionally very difficult)
- CaravelNet membership. This enables you to upload your room solutions to the net, allowing you to compete with others and watch their solutions. It also lets you download and rate holds and chat in-game and on the Caravel Forum. See the FAQ for further information.
- Deadly Music of Death, the complete soundtrack to DROD:AE, DROD:JtRH and Flash DROD.

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