I've got a new plan. Remember how the Berserkers skated through Ice Cave in a single try? How did they do that, while my fully armored party died?
Well, here's the answer. That oft-ignored character stat called EVADE. Without armor, the Berserkers had a subtle but serious advantage: their high Evade let them dodge those deadly SORCERER attacks. The precise formula for hit and evade mechanics in FF1 is now known: the chance of hitting is 168 + Hit - Evade out of 200. So essentially, each point of Evade represents a one-half percent chance of evading an enemy attack.
My previous party, packed full of heavy armor, actually doomed themselves into SORCERER slaughter. Steel Armor packs a whopping -33 Evade, and together with other items, cost me a full twenty percent of my chances to dodge each SORCERER hit.
The solution: Silver Bracelets. There isn't much physical damage danger in Ice Cave; the undead do pack some power, but should be insufficient to kill a pair of healthy fighters. Silver Bracelets and the shields should be just enough to take the sting out of the harder blows, while leaving Evade virtually unimpaired.
The other half of the solution is to bring to an absolute minimum the chances of even facing a SORCERER attack in the first place. This means skipping the Flame Sword and Ice Armor, both of which expose me to additional encounters. Every step is critical and every stride must be kept to a minimum.
I also have one more trick: before venturing off the first floor into SORCERER and MAGE territory, walk in place until I trigger an encounter. This will reset the encounter clock as I enter level two, and just might delay the fatal encounter enough to avoid it.
On level two, I met my first SORCERERs, in a pair.
I got away!
In the FLOATER room, the RNG threw me a single SORCERER again - but let me run away again!
Oh, it's tempting to go get that Flame Sword, but no, Ice Cave, you shan't tempt me this time. Into the hole.
FIR2 took care of the undead trap -- but look at that precarious HP total on my lead fighter. I should've put on the Absorb gear for this fight, and will remember to do so the second time around.
After an easy FrGIANT/FrWOLF battle, floor three held yet another SORCERER pack. But the RNG smiled grandly on me and awarded me a surprise round! Running is automatic during that, so I did so.
I reached floor one, and picked up the few treasures there amid less dangerous encounters. As before, I made sure to trigger an encounter right before descending to reset the clock again, which turned out to be 6 WRAITHs, dead to another FIR2.
Aye mean EYE! I mean I! I mean I mean EYE!
The fighters attacked and the mages slung ICE2s - that spell isn't much else use in this dungeon. It took exactly one ICE2 and one attack, and the EYE died before any XXXX nonsense!
Now I'm REALLY feeling good about my chances. This time I remembered the absorb armor for the undead trap, and won it easily with another FIR2.
I'm not feeling good enough to risk going for the Ice Armor, though. For Castle Ordeal, two characters with fire resistances (Ice Shield and Ribbon from Waterfall) will have to suffice.
Floor three served up only a pack of R.BONEs...
... and I'm out!
OK, the Silver Bracelet plan wasn't at all the key -- never once did a SORCERER even swing at me. Well, it was good in theory. :)
One more fight, and I've still got my FIR3 charges...
Eat it, Ice Cave!