June 3: Minotaur Assassin, Again
For the next phase of this character I’ll be focusing on going deeper in the dungeon, then moving on to get some runes. I might be ready to go ahead and grab the Lair runes right now, but I’ll stand a better chance if I’ve leveled up my skills a little bit and collected some more consumables. I’m completely out of teleportation scrolls right now, and my other resources aren’t doing so great either. But even beyond that, I’m not entirely sure how I want to develop my character. Though the plutonium sword I found last time around would make a great resource, getting a good weapon gift from Okawaru might make me reconsider my plan to reskill into Long Blades, and a good shield gift might inspire me to make my first attempt at a 1-handed weapon + shields melee ascension. We’ll see how it goes over the next few dungeon levels.
On D:12 I start out finding a vault with a wizard and a pile of loot inside, including a randart chain mail, which turns out to be a +8 chain mail with rC+. That actually translates to a slight AC bump for me, along with a valuable resist, so I switch over. I’ll almost certainly be switching back to something with a higher base AC as my armour skill rises, either a well-enchanted splint or plate mail or even possibly gold dragon armour if I find it soon enough, but this is the best option for now. I open the door in the south of the vault and find a monster I’ve never seen, (though I have heard of), before: laboratory rats. These are apparently a bunch of weird rats that do things like shoot shocks, blink around, poison you, and some other stuff. I’ve heard they’re actually the strongest rats in the game now, taking the space formerly held by orange rats. They’re still pretty weak though, and the fight isn’t difficult, but it was still a neat little encounter.
There’s not much on D:13 besides an ice statue I need to use flight to reach guarding a vault full of gold, and D:14 is similarly filled with weak enemies. I’m slowly building up a better supply of xp and consumables though, which was the main purpose of this. On D:15 I run into one of the nastiest uniques I could meet at this point, Nikola. If I didn’t have a source of rElec, he could easily kill me with his chain lightning, but I just quaff a potion of resistance and take him down. I always try to carry a potion of resistance with me through the midgame in case I run into him, and it usually pays off.
Nikola always carries a pair of gloves and a cloak, sometimes branded, and this time his cloak turns out to be a cloak of preservation, the hands-down best cloak in the game. It grants both conservation and resistance to corrosion, (which grants a level of acid resistance as well), effects that are otherwise only present on amulets. Except for a particularly amazing randart cloak, it’s the default option for most characters that find it, but I hold off on equipping it for now. I’ve already got a source of conservation, the more important of those two brands, and the preservation cloak is only enchanted to +0 while my rPois cloak is +2. I’ll enchant the other cloak later and equip it after I’ve finished Snake, (where rPois is important if not required).
Okawaru also grants me a randart +1 large shield with rF+ after this battle. It’s not an amazing shield by any means but if I do end up sticking with 1-handed axes through the whole game it could be an option for Zot, where fire resistance will help me the most. Finally, I go through and identify my wands, discovering that I’ve found teleportation, heal wounds and even hasting. Amazing! I’d actually found heal wounds much earlier and forgotten to mention it, but this means I have basically every wand I’ll need for the rest of the game. They’re all well-charged too and I’ve got a decent supply of recharging scrolls should I need them, so I’ve largely erased my deficiency in consumables at this point. I decide to continue on for a few more levels none the less.
Later on in the level, I’m reminded of some of the problems with the 1-handed build I’m pursuing. I run into a hydra that takes me down to fairly, (though not critically), low health and manages to get up to 12 heads before I kill it. I ended up using a wand of fire rather than hitting it because I didn’t want to risk letting it grow more heads. Vampiric axes are nice, but they won’t stop hydras from growing new heads, and they aren’t always going to do enough damage to make up for it. Of course, this is a pretty specific scenario and I’m not going to face the same problem with all higher-level enemies, but it underscores some of the deficiencies I’m taking on in exchange for vampirism and some defense in the form of shields, (which don’t work well at all against hydras in particular).
D:16 goes well enough, but I do run into an oklob plant just sitting in the middle of the dungeon. They’re fairly rare outside of vaults. I equip my cloak of preservation to give me corrosion resistance, dispatch it, switch back and continue on. I don’t have any problems on D:17, but I am running low on inventory space, so I’ll probably be going back soon. On D:18 the enemies are starting to get more difficult, and I’m starting to run into ogre packs lead by ogre mages, a Vaults-level pack. I end up in a fight with one of those ogre packs, a griffon and a hydra at the same time, and thankfully the fight with this hydra goes better than the last, but as I’m finishing it up Agnes appears to join the fight.
Agnes is a pretty nasty spriggan unique who carries a lajatang, which can be highly deadly depending on the brand. She’ll be less of a problem for me than she would for a caster in a robe, but she can still hit pretty hard and is fast enough that I’d have no chance of escape. I decide to go up the stairs instead, finish off the hydra and griffon, and go down another stairway to deal with her later. However, the next down stairs I take ends up putting me right next to Saint Roka, the orc warlord/priest unique.
Roka is probably a bigger threat than Agnes, but again I’m pretty confident I can take him down alone. He spawns with a pack of orcs, there’s another pack of ogres nearby, and some ugly things jump into the fray as well, but none of these enemies are particularly dangerous and are more likely to serve as fodder for my vampiric healing than actually present a threat. And in any case, I don’t have a lot of options here as all the staircases are being guarded by powerful uniques, (as you can see, the third staircase comes down right in this area as well), and I decide I’d rather take on Roka first. But then, of course, Agnes decides to show up as well.
I could just retreat right now, possibly teleporting away or at least running up a stairway to take these guys down one at a time, but I’m getting sick of this dance. I decide I’ll just retreat into the corridor to my northeast side and take down whichever unique gets there first, which turns out to be Agnes on account of her high movement speed. I probably would have preferred Roka, since he can smite me while I’ll chopping down Agnes whereas she can only stand there while I’m fighting him, but it turns out fine and Agnes falls after a few hits. She’s strong, but not particularly hardy. Next I move up to take on Roka, who takes a lot more punishment but eventually succumbs as well. Through all of this my health has remained well above half on account of my vampiric healing, a testament to the power of the brand even on a weak weapon like a broad axe and even against notoriously tough enemies like Roka and Agnes.
I finish clearing out the level but decline to go further. I can barely carry all the loot I’ve found, and after winning that battle without breaking a sweat I’m fairly confident I can take at least one of the Lair rune branches now. I return to Lair, stash some of my loot, enchant up my vampiric axe, and prepare to move out for Snake, the easier of the two I got this game. I also make a strategic decision: I’ll be going for that plutonium sword. I turn off all skills except Long Blades, which I need to get to 22 to get the minimum delay. I won’t necessarily be going for that immediately, but I’ll be leaving Long Blades on exclusively at least through Snake.
The first floor of Snake is an absolutely pushover. I have rPois and the enemies here aren’t that strong anyway. The worst I face is a naga warrior, which are the most durable common enemy in Snake, but the fight isn’t even a contest. Snake:2 is a bit of a different story: I run into Lamia, the naga mage unique.
With the exception of Mara or Mennas, Lamia is probably the toughest thing I could run into in Snake. She’s got tons of HP, a decent melee attack, and casts Orb of Destruction, an extremely powerful conjuration, especially when cast at range, (as it suffers a reduction of damage when used at close range). Also, as you can see, she comes with a pack of nagas including greater nagas, which are no pushovers themselves. However, I’ve got some advantages on her: I’m using a shield, which is one of the few effective defenses against Orb of Destruction, and I’m a high-AC melee character that can run right up and engage her in melee rather than a squishy caster that has to engage her at range and probably can’t take more than 1 (if even) Orb before dying anyway. That said, my first encounter with her doesn’t go that well. I dispatch some of her entourage while she closes the gap between us, but she manages to hit me with an Orb I’m unable to block and gets me to low HP. I end up blinking away with a scroll and running up the stairs, because I’d rather not risk a straight-up fight at this point.
I continue exploring the level and find her again around the same place, but this fight goes much better. She doesn’t hit me with an Orb before I reach her in melee, and while she’s able to keep me at less-than-full HP despite my vampirism it’s not even close to enough. Lamia goes down, and the rest of Snake is a cakewalk right up to the end.
Not much happens on Snake:3-4, but I do find this vault on Snake:3. It’s kind of interesting: a room filled with black mambas, water moccasins and a guardian serpent, all standing in mephitic clouds. For some character this would be a problem, and in fact the vault is totally optional: nothing in there can open the door, so players can simply forbid it if they prefer. It’s not much of a danger to me, though, and I take out everything inside for a bit of xp.
Of course, things are just going too well at this point, and I end up with what’s probably the hardest end vault on Snake:5, the fire end.
The fire end is hard enough no its own. It’s packed with tons of naga warriors, greater nagas and guardian serpents, (perhaps not more than in the “classic” end, but certainly enough to make for some tough battles). It’s also got salamanders swimming around in its lava pits, a nasty fire-spitting monster I’ve never seen outside this vault and Gehenna. Worse yet, I have no source of rF at this point, so I’ll be taking full damage from their attacks. I forgot to screenshot it, but when I first entered this vault I got into low HP while fighting one along with a naga pack, and was forced to teleport away. I actually ended up doing that several times over the course of this vault, and even burned my last blink scroll at one point while escaping. Luckily I had conservation to keep all my scrolls from being trashed, but I was in danger basically the entire fight.
After working my way through the first section, filled with naga packs, salamanders and the occasional greater naga, I walked into the second major challenge: a room packed with high-level nagas. Some of them had actually already been lured out, but what remained still isn’t anything to sneeze at.
This is where my vampirism comes in really handy. Even with some tough enemies, I was able to clear this area in a single go with the help of constant healing. I ended up retreating to the doorway to take my enemies on 1-on-1, (as from where I’m standing in that screenshot I can get hit by 3 adjacent enemies and poked by the 3 in the back row wielding polearms with reaching), but was never seriously in danger. The next section, however, wasn’t quite so easy, vampirism or not.
Three salamanders and a greater naga alone are more than deadly without rF, but there’s even more in this vault: a couple more greater nagas and guardian serpents ended up showing up to join the fight. From where I’m standing there, each of the salamanders can hit me every turn, (they have reaching weapons), and I ended up getting down to low HP in the fight with them. This was where I opted to use my blink scroll – it wasn’t worth the risk to try any other option. Luckily, the salamanders can’t follow me, and after dispatching the nagas and serpents that followed me I returned and engaged the salamanders more cautiously, eventually managing to take them all out and clear the rest of the room.
That leaves my favorite part of the vault for last. I’ve taken down a couple dozen of the strongest enemies in the branch and I’m almost at the rune. It looks like I’m done, right? Wrong.
This room almost killed me the first time I ran into it. All of those enemies, (black mambas, guardian serpents, and anacondas), hit pretty hard if you’re low on AC, and worse yet, the anacondas’ constriction can prevent you from blinking. Imagine my dismay when, surrounded by anacondas and guardian serpents, I attempted to blink away with a blink scroll only to see it fail. My second reading did succeed, and I actually ascended that game, but it was enough of a nasty surprise that I remember it to this day. In any case, this fight goes much better than that long-gone near-death, (a high-AC melee fighter isn’t going to have that same problem), and I have my first rune of the game. Hooray! Three more to go.
I’ve got a few options now. I could probably go ahead and grab the Shoals rune now, though not without a some amount of frustration and danger due to my lack of a source of flight. I could also go ahead and try my hand at the Vaults, at least down to the 4th floor. I could even continue in the dungeon all the way to the bottom, as if I was able to take this vault I can probably take anything I’m going to meet there. I opt for the Vaults. I’m feeling pretty confident at this point, and depending on how it goes I might even attempt Vaults:5. I’ve also reached level 15 in Long Blades, so I turn it off to focus on my defensive skills. On the last levels of the Vaults or the Dungeon I’ll turn it back on, and start wielding that plutonium sword when I’m moving towards Zot.
The first thing I see as I head down the stairs into the Vaults is a pack of yaktaurs lead by a vault warden. This is pretty typical of the enemies I’ll be facing.
None of these are really a threat, and I kill them all without losing much HP, but it’s definitely a step up from what I’ve been facing. Yaktaur packs, vaults-specific monsters like wardens, guards and ironbrand convokers can actually present a challenge in a way most of the enemies I’ve been facing really can’t. An example comes up later on in the level when I run into a pack of skeletal warriors.
These guys aren’t amazingly strong, and as you can see I didn’t exactly have a close battle here, but importantly they immune to my vampirism, as are all undead and nonliving enemies. While it’s the hands-down best brand through most of the early and mid-game, (at least for axes), the Vaults is where the effectiveness really starts to fall off. Skeletal warriors aren’t going to kill me on their own, but as part of a larger pack they might, and there’s even stronger enemies like shadow dragons that are going to be immune to vampirism as well. It’s important that I find an alternative to this weapon eventually, especially in Zot where it’s going to be nearly useless against orbs of fire, hence the switch over to the plutonium sword I’m planning.
I’m also reminded again, as I was in the earlier fight with that hydra, of the downsides of the low damage my broad axe is doing. Even with vampirism I wasn’t able to prevent this from happening:
Most of those enemies are summoned, (I believe by a boggart, but perhaps the ironbrand convoker up there can summon as well, I can’t remember. Usually they call “real” unsummoned enemies), and I really shouldn’t have been taking them on in the first place. This is still an important check though: I’m actually facing enemies that can take me down to low HP in melee now, which wasn’t the case outside of rare situations like the salamanders before. I manage to escape just by running away and waiting for the summons to time out, but I won’t always have that luxury.
On Vaults:2 I find a bazaar. I’m hopeful, but unfortunately I don’t find anything good inside. Two food shops, an antique shop, and a potion shop, all with nothing special. I buy a couple potions of speed and a scroll of enchant armour and leave. Bazaars sometimes offer really nice stuff, but I didn’t get lucky this time.
On Vaults:3 I run into a particularly nasty pack: an ettin, a stone giant, 2 ironbrand convokers and a wizard, all together.
This is a real threat, the biggest I’ve faced so far, but I decide to engage anyway. I really want to take out those convokers, because if I don’t they’ll start summoning enemies and force me into a nearly never-ending battle. This turns out to be a huge mistake. I take out one of the convokers fairly quickly, but I’m being hit by all the other enemies at the same time, including that ettin which does an incredible amount of damage in melee. Before I even realize it, I’m at low health. I have no instant means of escape so I attempt retreating a couple squares, manage to get only the stone giant on me, and quaff heal wounds. It’s not nearly enough. The stone giant hits me and the ettin manages to catch up and hits me as well, twice, knocking me to a stunning -58 HP and condemning me to incredible death. RIP, MiAs.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this death was avoidable. I shouldn’t have been fighting these guys all at once to begin with. The worst that would have happened had I retreated would have been that the convokers would have summoned too many enemies for me to handle, forcing me either to retreat again and try another stairs or just teleport away to heal up. I also didn’t have any buffs up. No Heroism, no Finesse, no Haste, nothing. Finesse might have been enough to keep me from getting into such dire straits to begin with, and had I had haste activated I could have retreated safely to either escape or heal up. I also just wasn’t paying close enough attention to the battle. I didn’t end up at low HP immediately, and had I opted to try and escape earlier it might have worked. There’s a whole slew of other factors involved in the immediate tactical failure: I underestimated, or just plain forgot, how dangerous ettins could be, warping my judgment both to engage and to focus on taking down the convokers before the ettin, I didn’t position myself better and just charged in, I hadn’t switched to a heavier armour even though it might have been more effective, the list goes on. There were also longer-term strategic failures. Had I managed my blink scrolls better I might have had one to use here, which would have certainly prevented death as I could have just blinked away. All of my defensive skills were under-leveled because I’d focused on reskilling into Long Blades rather than concentrating on my score skills, which left me ill-equipped for these more advanced threats. Perhaps I simply should have trained Long Blades from the start, (not because of the chance of the plutonium sword, but because I had some crosstraining benefit from my starting Short Blades skill and because they’re quite powerful even without that sword). Maybe I just shouldn’t have gone to Vaults here, too: late Dungeon is arguably easier, and I probably could have taken Shoals as well. In any case, I have no problem chalking this one up to poor play on my part.
That said, this actually doesn’t disappoint me nearly so much as my earlier death on my MuWz. I’m just less experience with melee characters, and I think I actually learned something from this experience whereas the Mummy was just stupid risk-taking play that I definitely should have known better than. I also made it quite far in this game, going as far as to get a rune, which is a welcome change from dying before Lair like I have for most of the games in the past couple weeks. I was also quite drunk when I died here, which both absolves me of any responsibility and should serve as an example of why you shouldn’t drink while playing Crawl.
As for the combo, I’m not sure how to evaluate it. I’ll definitely say it’s easy to transition out of, which is a good thing but doesn’t make the combo interesting in its own right. A minotaur built like an assassin sounds strange but workable, but even so, I don’t think I’ll be trying it anytime soon. There are better and more interesting combos to play as sneakers and stabbers. Really the only situation I foresee possibly playing this combo again is during a tournament if I need an easy streak game and assassins have a high point value at the time.
That’s about all I can say at this point. I still haven’t won a game worshiping Okawaru, and I had a stupid loss that was my own fault. Next up I’ll be doing another easy combo because the RNG decide to be merciful: kobold berserker, a classic. I hope to get that up soon. Later!