Doyle floats his view through the dungeon as he ponders. ‘What can I do to improve the kobold’s teamwork? They already fight together decently enough but there needs to be more. The leaders don’t lead enough. Especially on the first floor. Despite her being the first leader and me even having a couple paths devoted to it, I could have designated any of the others to lead and nothing would change. She just charges in if things are too tough for the others.’
‘Then again, there isn’t really a need for her to command them at the moment. Most everything has already been planned out. What could she even order them to do at the moment? The last room is already a challenge at about the level I want. Plus with such a confined space except for the occasional trap they couldn’t really do much else.’
‘I need to give her room to work with and that just is not possible with the current room layout. The final restricted hallway was, at least in my mind, important for defense. Now that I have a second floor? Not so much. I don’t even have to change much. Just extend the wall of both her room and the connecting hallway out to match with the kobolds room.’
‘Hmm, okay that doesn’t seem too bad but the middle hallway still makes it feel disconnected. Remove that entirely and turn it into an open room so there is only one room now. Looks good though I need to move that throne over to center it again. Anyway, now that the kobolds are one big happy family, how to encourage them to do their own thing?’
‘First let’s lay down some extra necessities. Things like pots to store the berries in and what not. Even if my leader kobold won’t be able to do much in battle, she should be in charge during down times. Especially important overnight when the settlement gives me a break.’
‘Though speaking of the settlement, why hasn’t anyone entered the dungeon yet? I was expecting to be interrupted halfway through messing around here.’
Doyle takes a look outside and the answer is simple enough. Ace had apparently reserved the dungeon just for them, yet he didn’t want to dive while unsure about Sammy. Though at this point with how Doctor is acting, he is being more of a worrywart. Doyle rolls his core and goes back to planning.
‘I have more time than expected but it still won’t last me. What last touch should I top this off with? Oh right! The kobolds are basically a primitive society, yet they aren’t able to decorate their cave. I already have a carving skill myself, so I might as well let them fancy up the walls. I wonder what they will draw when they win a fight? Oh well, the only way to find out is to give them some time.’
Doyle gives them the correct permissions and goes on to the second floor. Once there though, he doesn’t see much to mess with. ‘I already adjusted the birds and only a single group making it through isn’t exactly enough data to work off of. Hell, I don’t think I could change the climbing wall at this point without messing it up. The kobolds are even all together already, so not much to do there.
Then it hits him. The two huge rooms are already fine, but what about the goatherd twins? Jim’s group managed the first one easily. So something needs to change. Going with the theme of giving his kobolds more control, Doyle lets the goatherd kobolds have more direct command. Maybe now the goats won’t just rush into a defended bottleneck.
After that, though, there isn’t really much else Doyle wants to mess with. Not that there isn’t anything to do. Just nothing interesting. Though Doyle had noticed that his ability to grind away at the simple things had improved. He chalked that change up to no longer having a chaotic mix of chemicals puppeteering his mind through the medium of his brain. That or being a dungeon core had changed something about his core self, though he doubted it.
Another peak at the surface and it looks like Ace is going to let others delve into the dungeon with the founders going again tomorrow. Though he plans to balance the teams better as Jim’s complaint about team balance was spot on. Doyle shakes his core at how overconfident they had been. Just throwing together two random groups and expecting they could just stomp his dungeon. Nevermind that Ace’s group did.
Doyle refocuses on his ever present grinding objectives. First he focused on the first floor. He had filled the entire space outside of the rooms up with stone by now, but he wanted to refine the room borders. Kellinger had bumped into the borders on the second floor with his stone shape spell but that was just a magical boundary. Someone with a pick and time could in theory tunnel all around the place.
With that in mind Doyle pumps his world energy into increasing the density of the meter or so at the edge of all the rooms. Though he leaves the inner cave features as normal rock, counting the edge of the room as if they had been plain rectangles. While he doesn’t want them tunneling all over the place it just wouldn’t be fair hardening all the stone with people like Kellinger out there. Plus if he tried to take that away there would be a lot more effort put in to try and get around his restrictions.
By the time the first group enters and stops him from going further, Doyle has made some decent progress. There is a lot of space to cover so he hasn’t doubled the density or anything, but the rock has become much tougher.
He takes a moment to watch the group start their dive, but it is clear they aren’t there to even attempt clearing the first floor. Doyle can only sigh from what he overhears. Apparently more spots are being given to farmers under Jan’s orders. Seems she wants to gather a large stockpile of food for when she runs away.
With a shake of his core, Doyle focuses back on the second floor. No one is likely to get there tonight anyway. First on the menu is improving his core defenses again. While part of his energy does go to filling in the blank spaces, he put much of his gains towards the density of his core walls.
In a grove time passes for Doyle and before he knows it, the next day has arrived and Sammy is back in the dungeon having replaced her destroyed shield. Though besides her the founders have rebalanced the teams. As noted Sammy is a part of the first group, but Jack has come along for the ride and is acting as a second tank. Besides them, the group also has Ace and Susan as melee damage plus Og and Ruby as ranged threats.
They stomp through the first floor and not even the kobolds having laid out two traps, or the changed layout for the final room phases them. They take longer to loot everything than it did to defeat the monsters. Then with her game face on Sammy leads the group through the portal and into the second floor. Ace having already cleared the level knows what to expect, so with a few orders everyone is ready to continue.
The first room is a solved puzzle to them. Two kobolds who like to sneak attack aren’t a threat, and the group roots them out with ease. Next is the assassin vine but that monster only has the location going for it. Jack strides into the plant’s room with his mace held parallel to his body. After being wrapped up, he doesn’t even need the others all that much as the system has been kind to his strength. With a roar and some effort, Jack is able to burst out of the vines. The others still finish the monster off as his hammer is out of position, but in theory he could have taken it.
In the next room, things finally stop going the way they expect. After hearing Jim’s strategy, they decided to give a try and just stay at the entrance. It even looks like it would work as the goats all start to charge towards them. Then from behind the boulder wall come a rattling hiss and all the goats freeze. Og and Ruby both manage to take down a goat, but the remaining four all retreat behind the boulders.
Ace shakes his head, “well, I guess this confirms the dungeon is changing way too fast. Though I disagree with Jim’s conclusion. This looks more like the kobolds might have some sort of memory. After all, they have started to set up traps and do a better job at commanding. The only real change I have seen with the actual dungeon is the kobold room on the first floor, and that happened overnight.”
He sighs and orders the group forward. While having to fight the goats out in the open is more of a trouble, there are only four and the kobold left. With six people in the group, they clear the room and are ready for the next.
Ace turns toward Sammy, “so are you ready for this?”
Sammy is about to say something when she pauses. After a couple of slow blinks, she laughs and it almost turns hysterical before she reins herself back in. Ace looks at her with worry in his eyes. “You okay?”
Sammy sighs and shakes her head as she grins, “the system just gave me a quest. Apparently I get a reward if I can beat the bird that beat me. So yeah, I should be good.”
Jack rubs the back of his neck, “well, that’s a thing. Does it say how you will be able to tell which is your target?”
Sammy shrugs, “of course it doesn’t. Though there should be something to indicate it. I guess we will find out once we enter the room.”
Ace gives Sammy a once over but she seems fine so he gets everyone back in formation and through the short hallway.
Now in the axebeak room again, Sammy laughs quietly to herself. “Well, I guess that answers the question of which bird I have to kill. Looks like defeating me did the bird some good. Went from a normal-looking kind of thang to that. Seriously? Taking the name a little too literal now. And did it have to have the red edge to the beak? Bird didn’t even make me bleed yesterday so I don’t know where it got that nonsense.”
Ace sighs, “was the dungeon not hard enough already? Did the system have to come in and buff out enemies? Whatever, since we know there isn’t much we can do, let’s just pull aggro from back here. Sammy and Jack up front with me. Ruby and Og, let me summon my vine shield then you can pull. Susan? Do whatever you feel best.”
Ace steps forward and uses his charm to summon a shield again. To his sides, Sammy and Jack brace themselves for the charge. Then once Ruby sees the frontline is ready, she calls up a blob of fire and starts it spinning. Faster and faster until it deforms and becomes more like a disc. With a flick, she sends it flying between the two in front of her. Og has just been waiting for her. With the fire disc off, he rapidly throws a handful of lead balls at the birds.
At the end of the hall, the four birds all turn as one towards the oncoming threat. The lead barrage has spread out some and prevents the right-most bird from dodging, even clipping its friend. On the other side it looks like the left-most bird would be able to dodge, but at the last moment the fire disc spreads out and cleanly beheads the bird.