May 29: Octopode Wanderer
This is a fairly dismal combo. Wanderers are the “random class” – all of their starting skills most of their starting equipment (rations aside) are entirely randomized. With excessive startscumming this can actually result in a character with a better start than most standard backgrounds, but in most cases you’ll end up with an unpowered, redundant or just plain bad skill spread. Combined with an octopode, the outright squishiest class in the game starting out, this probably spells an early death. I don’t expect to survive to Lair, let alone ascend.
As expected, I come out with a downright awful skill spread. 3 levels of fighting, 2 of of short blades, and 1 each of bows, dodging, stealth, traps and invocations. Fighting, dodging, stealth and traps are all essential skills in the long run, but nothing that’s going to help me much in the early game. Short blades are useless to me unless I plan to build a stabber, (which I don’t), I didn’t even start with a bow, and I’m not even sure if I’ll have a god that uses the invocations skill. The one bright spot with this start is that I started with two important consumables – a potion of heal wounds and a scroll of teleportation. These are arguably (along with potions of curing) the most useful consumables in the early game, as heal wounds will save me when low on HP and teleportation can allow me to escape from unwinnable situations, so starting with both identified and a supply of 1 each is a great benefit.
However, I’m in a pretty precarious position, and my plan is to worship the first viable god I find. My top choices are Vehumet and Kikubaaqudgha – both will give me spells quickly and increase my chances of survival immensely. Other potential choices include Makhleb, Nemelex, Elyvilon, Okawaru and Trog, roughly in that order – each of them will give me fairly powerful abilities early on, and though none are ideal for various reasons I’ll take them if I have no choice, as waiting for a D:7 Temple to get Veh or Kiku spells almost certain death. For my skills, I’ll start by turning off everything except throwing and train that up to 3, which I’ll later most likely crosstrain into slings. Why? Because slings with sling bullets are hands-down the most powerful ranged weapon you’re likely to get in the early game, and since my squishy octopode can’t handle melee combat they’re my best option unless I find Veh or Kiku. After reaching 3, I’ll put points into stealth and unarmed, as I have a great stealth aptitude and octopodes are surprisingly decent at melee combat – their tentacles get an unarmed bonus and they can constrict at level 1. I’ll likely be able to survive the first several floors with these skills alone, but once I start running into wight packs, hill giants and yaks, I’ll need either good rings (protection, evasion or slaying) or some more substantial god-given abilities to survive.
Starting fresh out, I immediately run into an unavoidable jackal pack in the only route out of my starting location. This is bad. Jackals are my #1 D:1 killer, not because they’re particularly strong but because they spawn in packs of 3-5 and have a speed greater than most player species, meaning they can easily take down a 1st or 2nd level character, especially casters with limited MP or low-HP starters like kobolds. Luckily, as I mentioned, octopodes are surprisingly effective in early melee, and I manage to take them down without even hitting a low HP warning. The rest of the level passes uneventfully – no close scrapes, no altars, no slings. All I have to show for it is a few unidentified consumables and a few rocks.
D:2 is mostly more of the same, except for the fact I find an altar to Sif Muna. This is disappointing, since had I started with a book Sif would make a great god for an octopode, but as it is I’m essentially shut out from taking her. Sif’s gifts depend on piety, and Sif piety is gained by putting experience into magic skills. Not only that, her gifts come fairly late – 5 pips of piety, which even on a character investing entirely in magic skills rarely occurs before Lair. There’s no chance I’ll be getting a useful book from Sif and training up the skills necessary to use it before I’m killed, so I have to pass her by.
On D:3, I immediately run into altars for Xom and Okawaru. Xom is a no-go for obvious reasons, but I briefly consider taking Okawaru immediately, (each kill I made and corpse I sacrifice will benefit me if I take her, so it’s best to do so as early as possible), but I decide to fully explore the level instead hoping for other altars. However there’s no such luck, and I take Okawaru. Over the course of the exploration I avoid a gnoll pack by running away and taking the first up stairs I see, (one gnoll alone could probably kill me or force me to use my heal wounds potion, and a pack definitely would), and find an unidentified amulet. That amulet turns out to be an amulet of faith. This is possible the best item I could have found at this point – it will speed up Okawaru’s piety gain and lower her gift timeout, meaning that despite being a suboptimal god I’ll at least be getting the most out of her.
Okawaru can help me in two ways: the first is her Heroism invocation. This will provide large skill bonuses to my combat skills, most importantly unarmed combat and dodging. Unarmed gets huge damage bonuses from skill, and my lackluster dexterity (11) means I’ll need all the bonus dodging I can get. The second is gifts. Since Okawaru will only gift armour I can wear, there’s a good chance he’ll eventually gift me a randart hat with a large enchantment – very important as it’s my only armour slot and I’m by no means guaranteed enough rings of protection to get suitable AC. He’ll also gift weapons and ammunition, so if I end up taking slings, a bow, or (preferably) a crossbow as my ranged combat option over conjuring, I’ll be getting good supplies. I’ll be chomping my permafood to speed piety gain for the next little while, probably up through Lair or so, and I set my skills to put all experience into unarmed.
On D:4 I discover the Ecumenical Temple. It’s actually a fallacy to assume I would have gotten it had I not gone Oka, since levels are generated when they’re entered, but it still stings. I could have gone Kiku! It may have been better to delay regardless, but I committed to playing the first viable god I found, so at least this makes it more interesting. I also find a +3 ring of evasion, a great find at this point in the game. The enemies are starting to get harder here, and I get to low HP fighting several worker ants. I also encounter an orc pack with a priest, who I opt to avoid, as two or three doses of smiting could easily kill me.
On D:5 find a portal to a sewers, which is very nice as it’s full of low-level enemies I can kill and sacrifice for Oka piety. Unfortunately I get mesmerized by a malarious mermaid and pushed into a poor position that forces me to quaff my heal wounds potion, but I at least make it out alive with more loot and piety, reaching my first pip and gaining access to Heroism. Later, I’m almost killed when I auto-explore around a corner and am immediately shot down to 8 HP by a centaur wielding a bow of velocity with arrows of frost, but manage to escape down a stairwell just 3 tiles to the east, (had I not found this, I would have moved out of its LOS, immediately popped teleport then Heroism, hoping to avoid him). This reminds me of the importance of dodging, which I immediately turn on, splitting experience evenly between it and unarmed.
D:6 treats me more kindly, with no such tense situations. I find a Book of Power here. This is great. If I can survive long enough for my conjurations to come online, I can count on a much easier time. It means forgoing Oka’s weapons gifts almost entirely, (except perhaps swapping in the occasional randart for resists), but it’s worth it. I memorize Iskenderun’s Mystic Blast, turn on conjurations and focus unarmed, giving a split of 50/25/25 for unarmed, dodging and conjurations respectively. I’ll eventually be turning my combat skills off entirely to focus on conjurations, assuming I make it that far, but for now they’re more important. After clearing D:6 I (perhaps foolishly) return to D:5 with better unarmed and dodging, but manage it clear it as well, though I burn one of my 5 scrolls of teleport escaping from Prince Ribbit after encountering him at low HP. I manage to take down the centaur which nearly killed me earlier, (my stealth bonus allows me to sneak up on most enemies at this point), and take his bow and arrows, which will work quite well as a ranged weapon until I can reliably cast Mystic Blast.
I also take this opportunity to use-identify my scrolls. I’ve put it off longer than I perhaps should have, but since I had teleport and heal wounds identified I wasn’t so worried. One of these scrolls turns out to be acquirement. I’ve got a few choices here – armour is the natural choice, but there’s a good chance it will give me a +0 cap, and I’ll be swimming in Oka gifts soon enough, so I skip it. Wands could be good too, as it has a high chance to gift the powerful ones, (teleport, heal wounds and haste), but as I’m an octopode I opt for jewelry. This gives me a ring of protection from cold – not the protection or slaying ring I was hoping for, but good none the less.
D:7 is mostly uneventful, except for an unfortunate encounter with a wight pack. I kill two of them with the help of Heroism, then flee from a third and safely escape to one of 3 contiguous down stairs.
D:8 is a disaster. The enemies have started getting much, much harder. Not only do I encounter another wight pack, (which I opt to avoid), but I’m forced to take down a swarm of killer bees only to be ambushed by a steam dragon, forcing me to teleport. Then I realize the level is being seeded by a giant spore, which explodes on me when I walk around a corner and wakes up the wight pack, which comes running. I quaff curing to remove the confusion but there’s a goliath beetle behind me, forcing me to teleport, which lands me next to another wight and a troll zombie. I escape, and attempt to escape down a stairwell, only to find myself next to another swarm of killer bees, which thankfully do not wake up but do force me to return to D:8. Through an arduous process of spamming Heroism, kiting slower enemies with my bow, and wasting consumable, I mostly manage to clear the level when I encounter a manticore, which pulverizes me and forces me to burn a scroll of blinking to escape.
I run to the up stairs and go up, hoping to rest. But I’d forgotten that I left a wight there. I’m at 8 HP at this point, and it easily one-shots me. Game over.
I think this game was winnable. Despite a bad set of starting skills, I got some amazing loot – that Book of Power in particular could have carried me through the whole game had I managed to get conjuring up, and the D:3 amulet of faith is nothing to sneeze at either. I made quite a few mistakes, too. I probably should have delayed in choosing a god, but that was more of a conscious bad decision than a careless mistake, per se, and Oka actually carried me over those tough last levels, (there’s no way I’d have been able to take killer bee packs and wights without her). I probably should have chosen armour for that acquirement gift as well – even a couple extra points of AC could have gone a long way, and though I would have gotten something better from Oka later, one in the hand beats two in the bush. And, of course, there’s the final tactical mistakes I made on that last level. Instead of staying to fight it out to the point I did, I should have just run for a second down stairs and come back to deal with the level later when I was more prepared. Even had I survived, I would have burned 3 teleports, a heal wounds potion, 2 scrolls of blinking and several potions of curing – not at all worth the gain in experience. I’m not even sure what I was thinking. I was probably too desperate to raise my conjurations before Lair where I’d be sure to get splatted by spiny frogs, Heroism or not, and also surprised by the ferocity of the threats I faced. I almost never had time to fully heal before something else was attacking me.
It’s a somewhat disappointing loss, both because of the circumstances and the potential cred of winning an OpWn of Okawaru, but not altogether unexpected. It wasn’t a huge investment of time, the whole game couldn’t have taken more than 45 minutes, and I do feel as though I learned more about octopodes. I don’t think I’ll be playing any more OpWns anytime soon, but I may attempt a melee-based octopode at some point in the future since it was an interesting change of pace.