June 2: Minotaur Assassin
This is something of a welcome change from the weird and difficult combos I’ve been playing. Minotaurs are perhaps the easiest race in the game, (after all, there were a total of 109 won in the last tournament, more than double the next-highest species), and while the background doesn’t have much synergy with their aptitudes, I expect it will be easy to transition out of. I actually think it would be quite viable, though unnecessarily difficult, to play a minotaur as a straight stabber, (they have 1, 1 and -1 apts for Short Blades, Dodging and Stealth respectively, which are mediocre but hardly crushing), I won’t be doing that, and instead taking the easy route and pretending I’m playing a MiFi. That means I’ll be focusing on training up Armour for wearing heavy armour, one of the better weapons skills, (probably Axes or Long Blades), and later on Fighting. I expect this game is eminently winnable. I’ll be aiming for worshiping Okawaru, but I won’t turn down Trog or even possibly Makhleb if I find of their altars early enough. Of course, there’s still a chance I may make a critical error that prematurely, especially early on, but if I can get this one off the ground there’s a very good chance I’ll win. I’ve actually never ascended an Okawaru worshiper before, strangely enough, so hopefully I can add that to my list of achievements here.
The first thing I do is set all my experience to go into Armour. I won’t be using any of the other skills I can train right now, (except for Traps, way down the line), and while I would get cross-training to Long Blades from Short Blades I’d prefer to use axes anyway so I won’t be raising it. I should get an axe fairly quickly and once that happens I’ll be training it exclusively for a while. D:1 goes relatively well until an encounter with a gnoll. I probably should have avoided engaging it entirely, but when the fight goes poorly I have a free escape option: a teleport trap I noticed earlier. I walk into it, teleport, and escape to heal up.
I also find a suit of scale mail, which I equip. It will give fairly modest AC for now, and I’ll be dropping it for something better later, but I might as well since I won’t be training dodging at all. Finally, I trade my starting dagger for a +2, +1 short sword, which should give slightly better damage.
On D:2, I find an amulet which turns out to be guardian spirit. This is a fairly nice find for a melee character, since it essentially adds their MP to their AC, but I’ll be getting very limited benefits from it as minotaurs get next to no MP, at least without training spellcasting. Still, it helps. The combat here is fairly easy and I don’t run into anything harder than an adder, and I manage to make it through without even entering low HP, then proceed to D:3, which is more of the same, but I do run into Sigmund. He doesn’t notice me, which is fortunate, and I opt to avoid him and proceed to the next level instead. He can confuse me, make himself invisible and hits hard, so without either a good weapon or armour I’d probably die if I tried to take him on at this point. I also find a suit of chain mail, which I equip, bringing me to a low but respectable 12 AC.
I find my first hand axe lying on the ground on D:4. It could have come earlier, but this is pretty average. I immediately start training Axes exclusively, but hold off on equipping it for a short time while my skill increases enough to make its delay/damage ratio comparable to the short sword I’m wielding. I also could have gone with Long Blades, and in fact I found a falchion on this floor that would have allowed me to do just that, but I love axe cleaving. It’s fun on its own, works wonders with a vampiric axe, and works well on totally open levels that require a few tricks, (e.g. using a wand of digging), to fight all enemies one-on-one as works best with long blades. I also find a +3 ring of strength, which while not amazing does help slightly with my damage, and a ring of see invisible, which will be useful. Later on, in a vault, I run into an orc warrior with a halberd, an incredibly strong enemy for this point in the game which would definitely kill me in a melee fight.
I manage to retreat safely up a stairway, and when I return I find the orc warrior has retreated to its vault and seems content to say there. I restrict the entrances to it, explore the rest of the level, then continue on down the stairs. I’m immediately alerted via a message that there’s an ossuary on the level, and that the timer is counting down, (the latest trunk version, which I’m playing, added this feature. Previously only labyrinths and bazaars gave alert messages, but now it’s any timed portal). I quickly find it and enter. I get a fairly easy ossuary level, a series of chambers containing either groups of mid-level zombies or traps. None of the zombies pose much of a threat to me, with the highest-level ones being big kobolds and a single water moccasin, but they do provide quite a bit of experience. About halfway through the ossuary I’ve raised my axes skill to 8, nearly eliminating the delay on my hand axe, so I turn on Armour while leaving Axes focused. There are a couple mummies in the last room before the loot, but they don’t present much of a threat either, so I kill them, grab the loot, and leave.
The rest of the level goes fairly smoothly until I meet my first ogre, which manages to knock me down to half HP. It’s fairly easy to kite away from ogres, as their attacks have a significant delay and it’s easy to open a space between you and them, allowing yourself to flee safely up stairs, but I try something else instead. Looking around, I notice a shaft trap and lure the ogre into it.
As I said, this wasn’t strictly necessary, but it’s a fun way to get rid of unwanted monsters. It’s one of the more interesting trap interactions in the game, along with the self-teleporting via teleport trap I mentioned earlier, (you can, of course, pull this one on monsters too.) Beware though, it doesn’t always work, never works with flying enemies, and you will encounter the monster you shafted on the next floor. I do in fact end up meeting this ogre later on D:6, (it was still damaged from our earlier fight), but that time I managed to kill it. I also encounter two uniques over the course of the level, Grinder and Menkaure. Grinder can often be deadly, but I manage to dispatch him with relative ease. Menkaure is a different story. He notices me immediately on coming into my LOS, and casts Swiftness on himself. I attempt to retreat, but he’s moving faster than me, and manages to get torment off before I realize it, halving my HP. I move to engage him and manage to take him down, but just barely, and am forced to quaff a potion of berserk rage to survive.
Finally, I discover the Ecumenical Temple, which I enter, find an Okawaru altar, and begin worshiping her. D:6 is rather late for the Temple, but it should be enough, as I’ve almost totally transitioned into a heavy armour fighter from my start as a stabber, and I can handle myself while I wait for my piety to build up. I actually used Heroism relatively rarely over the course of the next few levels.
On D:7 I find a +1, +2 war axe, which represents a significant damage boost over the hand axe I’m currently wielding. I switch over, and end up easily taking down an orc warrior that I run into , demonstrating the increased power it provides. The warrior drops a suit of plate mail, which I equip, raising my AC to 16. Still quite low, but enough to put a significant dent in early-game damage. I also find a +5 ring of dexterity, which isn’t that useful to me but will at least increase my damage output slightly. Finally, I run into the ghost of a Human Wanderer who casts Call Imp and Mephitic Cloud, meaning he probably started with or found a Book of Minor Magic. I almost feel sorry killing it, because that’s a great start for a Wanderer and that guy might have ascended had he survived the level, but I do so none the less and get a significant xp bump.
On the next level I find a couple interesting vaults. The first contains a few random statues at the end of narrowing corridors, including at least one ice and orange crystal statue from the part I could safely explore. I can’t do much to them now, but I’ll be coming back to take them down once I’ve got the equipment, namely a wand of disintegration for the orange crystal statue and a firey weapon and/or a generally improved character for the ice statue. At one end I find Duvessa and Dowan, but they’re hardly a threat at this point and I easily take them out.
I also find what I’ve taken to calling the “lizard vault”, a small room filled with lizards and a few plants. This is, I believe, a vault added in 0.12, and if I remember correctly it can occur at almost any depth and at very deep depths it can contain dragons,. That makes it similar to the “slime rooms” that contain very weak oozes and jellies if encountered early on, but if found on D:25 may contain deadly death oozes, azure jellies and acid blobs. In any case, this vault isn’t particularly significant, but I think it’s cute.
D:9 has a few uniques on it. The first, whom I meet immediately after descending my first down stairs, is Psyche. She’s an average spellcaster who’s not too strong on her own, but she sometimes spawns with a dagger of distortion which can banish me to the Abyss or at least blink me off the stairway into a position where I can’t retreat, so I go back up and take the other stairs down. These, however, are guarded by Gastronok and the ghost of a HOFi, potentially more dangerous threats, so I decide to take on Psyche first. It’s very unlikely she’ll banish me with her first hit even if she does have the dagger, and I have a few escape options handy anyway. Luckily, she’s only carrying a dagger of poison, and I take her down easily. I also decide to go for Gastronok. After my last nasty death to him I was a little skittish, but I was more prepared this time and had a strategy. I took the down stairs he was camping, pulled him up to the next level, and immediately quaffed another potion of berserk rage. The increased attack speed, HP and damage made the fight quite easy.
Gastronok always drops a wizard hat, sometimes a branded one, and sometimes a particular unrandart hat called the Hat of Pondering. This time it was just an unbranded +1 wizard hat, which is good enough for me, since wizard hats are one of the few things minotaurs can wear in their helmet slot. I descend again and take out the HOFi ghost, which turns out to be rather weak. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it died on D:9 after falling through a shaft from D:6, or was just underpowered for the level. Finally, I find the entrance to the Lair of Beasts here. I’m not quite ready to do Lair yet, as my AC is still quite low and I’m still wielding an underpowered unbranded war axe, but my inventory is full up so I decide to drop in briefly, clear the first level, then leave and progress further in the dungeon. Most of it goes quite well, but I decide to take on a pool full of electric eels that I probably should have avoided. I kill most of them, but the last one gets me down to low HP, and I’m forced to quaff a potion of heal wounds just to be safe.
Those yaks and death yaks over on the left are stuck on an island surrounded by deep water. I’m not going to bother with them now, but if I find a ring of flight later I’ll probably come kill them for the xp and piety.
After stashing some items and returning to the dungeon, I go down to D:10 and find another couple uniques. At least I’m getting them out of the way. The first is Joseph, who wields a sling at range and a quarterstaff in melee. With a squishy Wizard or Fire Elementalist, this guy can be a real danger, but I’ve got over 2o AC and he’s not much of a threat. After that, though, I run into Fannar, who’s a little more serious. He’s the Ice Elementalist unique, and even when he’s not particularly threatening he still casts cold spells that can trash my potions. I retreat up a stairway, drop my potions, then come back to fight him. Despite his threatening reputation, the fight is rather one-sided.
I also notice the entrance to the Orcish Mines on this level. They’ve got a more impressive guard than usual: a pair of orc knights, several orc warriors, a few orc priests and a band of regular orcs. I pull some of the back but end up in a bad position with a couple of the nastiest hitting me at once while the priests snipe me, so I quaff my last potion of berserk rage to make sure the fight goes smoothly. I’m loathe to waste it at this point, but it’s better than dying.
The fight goes well, but I’m down to half HP by the end, so I’m fairly confident using that potion was the right decision. I could have retreated instead, probably teleporting away, but I’d have to deal with these guys sooner or later and this seemed like the best option. I finish off the rest of them, including another orc knight, without wasting any consumables, then move on to D:11. Most of the fights here are fairly easy, and I find a +3, +0 battleaxe of chopping, which represents a huge increase in damage over the war axe I’m wielding now. It’s not the best thing I could find, but good enough for now. I go down to D:12 and run into a 7-headed hydra almost immediately. I’m not interesting in fighting that now, (I could do Lair if I wanted that), so I retreat and decide to jump into the first level of Orc for some piety gain. It seems about time Okawaru finally gave me a gift. And sure enough, after the very first fight he does: a +5, +2 broad axe of flaming. Perfect. That will be enough to take down the hydras in Lair, and so I sacrifice the remaining corpses, leave Orc, and head off to clear Lair.
I’m glad to get a character this far after a week of depressing early splats, even if it’s an easy combo as this one. I’ll continue this in my next post sometime tonight or tomorrow.