May 30: High Elf Gladiator
Gladiators are the light armour melee class, which makes them well-suited for a High Elf intent on melee. High Elves have a positive dodging aptitude and negative armour aptitude, and while both are fairly modest they’re enough to give decisive favor to EV over AC as the best choice for a defensive focus. High Elves also have a +2 aptitude for long blades, quite high, so I choose a falchion as my starting weapon. Long blades are one of the strongest weapon groups in the game, and falchions are hands-down the most damaging weapon you can start with, so this will play in my favor. I’ll eventually be dipping into bows as well as my ranged option, since I have a decent aptitude there as well and need something to make up for what is sure to be lackluster defense capabilities, but for the very early game these should be enough to carry me. Overall, this is a fairly strong combo, (listed as viable, and for good reason), and though I’m not sure I can ascend it I expect to make it quite far with good play and careful planning. I’ll be putting all of my stat points into dexterity, to raise my EV, and aiming to worship Okawaru.
D:1 is fairly uneventful. I start out training Long Blades exclusively, since all the weapons I’ll be using have fairly high delay. My falchion is able to cut down most monsters in a 1 or 2 hits, and I don’t meet anything particularly threatening. The only thing I would worry about at this point would be a solitary gnoll, which is enough to take down almost any hapless level 1 or 2 adventurer, but none appear. Over the course of the level I find both an amulet and a ring. I try on the amulet, which does not automatically identify, but opt to avoid trying the ring as I want to avoid getting stuck with a cursed ring of hunger or teleportation. I also remove the amulet, because since I can’t identify it at the moment it’s possibly inaccuracy, and the downsides of wearing that would greatly outweigh the benefits I might get from wearing conservation, clarity or resist mutation.
D:2 is similarly uneventful, but I do find a couple vaults with overflow altars for Yredelemnul and The Shining One. Both of these would be viable gods for me, but rather underpowered at this point, (especially in the case of TSO), so I opt to avoid them. Yred’s altar is in the “classic” vault with a 1-tile path between two pools of water, which contain a zombie big fish and a zombie giant goldfish, both of which I kill for the experience, (with some short breaks for healing in between), giving me enough xp to reach level 8 in long blades, at which point I turn on Dodging and focus Long Blades for a 33%-66% split respectively. I also find a pair of +0 guantlets, which I wear immediately.
The monsters on D:3 thankfully haven’t stepped up much, and I manage to make it through without even getting to low HP. I do, however, find an elven ring mail, which I opt to wear for increased AC. The evasion penalty, (or now, in trunk, “encumbrance rating”), is only slightly higher than the leather armour I began with, and the elven flavour it has will increase its effectiveness for me. I also find a pair of +2 boots, and excellent find at this point, raising my AC to a respectable 10, along with 10 EV from my dodging. Finally, I discover a Young Poisoner’s Handbook, the starting book for Venom Mages. Most of the spells in here are conjurations that I won’t be using just yet, if ever, but I opt to learn Cure Poison. My success rate for casting it is low, 47%, but it may end up saving my life, or at the very least reducing my turn count as I don’t have to spend so much time healing up.
On D:4 I almost immediately run into a pack of orcs and Menkaure, an early mummy unique. He uses torment, reducing the HP of all living enemies on the screen by half, and I retreat with the orcs in tow. That torment can spell a quick death for me, even if I’m facing Menkaure alone, so I’m going to do my best to avoid him unless I find some way of dealing with him such as a wand of flames or a decent bow. I drag the orcs up the stairs with me and kill them one by one, and find one of them was carrying a +0/+1 falchion, slightly better than mine. I may be incorrect, but I suspect my +0 elven falchion is slightly less effective than this, so I opt to switch. After exploring the level for a while, I find the Ecumenical Temple. This is excellent, as a Temple on D:4 is the best I can hope for except an early altar of my preferred god.
I enter and decide to worship Okawaru. He’s the natural choice. Trog would make me stronger in melee combat, but I plan to hybridize somewhat as my excellent spellcasting aptitudes and light armour make it quite viable. Okawaru’s Heroism and Finesse will both provide a decent benefit, and he’ll most likely gift me some decent weapons and armour. I also take this opportunity to use-identify my scrolls. I find the scroll of identify and use it on my amulet, which turns out to be inaccuracy, vindicating my earlier decision to not wear it. I then put on my rings to discover one is flight, and the other teleport control. Teleport control has unfortunately been nerfed, and I’ll have to get some evocations skill to use it, but this is still a great early find. I now move on to clear the rest of the level. I also turn on Armour for a moment, because training it up a little might help my AC, especially when I have Heroism activated.
I quickly auto-explore in to Eustachio. Normally I would ignore him as this point, as he’s more trouble than he’s worth and I risk death fighting his summoned imps, but I notice he’s wielding a runed falchion, which might be something quite useful for me, and I decide to engage. The first fight doesn’t go so well, he blinks around and summons some fairly hefty green rats and white imps, and I decide to retreat. After healing up on D:3 and returning, the fight goes much better, and upon killing him I discover he was wielding a falchion of slicing. It’s still very weak for a long blade, (I would much prefer a great sword or at least a falchion of flaming), but better than what I have, so I switch over and proceed to the next level.
There’s a magic scrolls shop on D:5, where I purchase an extra scroll of blinking, a scroll of fog and 2 scrolls of teleportation. The blinking and teleportation can serve as critical escape options, and the fog can block LOS when I run into centaur packs or other nasty ranged enemies. Not much else happens, but I do have an encounter with a jelly. I don’t want my falchion of slicing corroded, lowering its to-hit and damage, so I decide to switch over to my orcish falchion and dispatch it.
D:6 ends up being rather rough. Very quickly I run into a pack of wights, two of which notice me. I’ve already gotten my first star of piety, so I decide to take them on, but they seem impervious to my attacks. After getting drained and taking some serious HP damage, I retreat up the stairs and am forced to teleport away. I immediately return to the level to find Menkaure has decided to move down a couple levels. I initially try retreating, but I find he’s camping these stairs while the wights are camping the other two, so I decide he’s the lesser threat and manage to take him down with the help of Heroism. Over the course of the level I manage to take down or avoid most of the other wights, but I end up having to burn another scroll of teleport to escape and a potion of heal wounds when I encounter a giant ant at low HP while retreating. It’s not optimal, but I survived the level and picked up all the loot. At this point I realize I’ve raised Armour to 3, at which point I turn it off, as it seems like enough for this point in the game.
Compared to D:6, D:7 is a cakewalk. I do happen up on a vault full of kobolds and large kobolds, which forces me to retreat once, but with the help of Heroism I’m able to take them all down and significantly raise my piety. Not much else of note happens, but I do find a centaur with a bow, which turns out to be cursed. I carry along with me anyway so I can train it up at my leisure. Over the course of Lair and Orc I’ll probably raise it to 5 or so, hoping to encourage Okawaru to gift me a randart longbow, but not enough that he starts giving me redundant ammunition gifts.
I fairly quickly run into a pack of killer bees out in the open on D:8. I retreat up the stairwell and pull them up in groups of 2 or 3, and manage to dispatch them with the help of Heroism. I’m using this ability a great deal, which slows my piety gain, but it’s almost essential for me to survive – one bee alone can almost kill me without it, because my EV just isn’t enough to avoid their attacks as it is. Returning to D:8, I run into a second pack of killer bees out in the open. Groan. I retreat again, this time to a 1-tile chokepoint, and take down the entire pack of 6 right there. An encouraging sign. I notice that over the course of these encounters I haven’t been poisoned once, so I use a scroll of identify on an unidentified ring I’m wearing, which sure enough turns out to be resist poison, which is a great find this early. Further exploring the level, I find a set of shops. In the first I buy an unidentified potion which turns out to be resistance, and in the second I find a glowing cloak which turns out to be a cloak of darkness. I would have much preferred magic resistance, poison resistance and especially preservation, but it’s good none the less. There’s a glowing elven longsword in the third shop, which I’ll be coming back for once I have the 160 gold to afford it, and a randart leather armour in the armour shop that I’ll be picking up after that. I also find an amulet of gourmand while I’m here, along with another 2 unidentified amulets that I lack the scrolls to identify just now. All in all, probably my most productive level in equipment terms yet.
As I finish up the level I discover the entrance to the Lair of Beasts. I won’t be entering just yet, but it’s good to get it this early so I know I won’t be forced to dive all the way to D:13. At this point I switch back to my leather armour, because I’ve raised my dodging skill high enough that the ring mail is hurting more than it’s helping.
I go through D:9-10 quickly. I discover I’m capable of taking down both orc warriors and hill giants with the help of Heroism, though the latter does force a retreat at one point after a lucky hit with a giant spiked club. On D:11, I find out that the wights that gave me so much trouble earlier now go down quite easily. I also discover the entrance to the Orcish Mines. This is somewhat unorthodox, but I’m going to be entering them now, rather than doing Lair first. I won’t be finishing it, but hopefully I can get some much-needed piety gain and enough gold to buy everything I want in the first 3 levels or so. If I can’t handle it or I find myself facing a threat I can’t deal with, I’ll retreat and come back after finishing Lair.
I died to a bolt trap almost immediately after posting this. That’s so disappointing. I hate damage traps for basically this reason; they never actually add any tactical depth to the game, just the occasional instant death when you press ‘o’. Oh well, nothing I can do about it. I’ll post an analysis of the combo later.