Here's a short journey showing the life and (eventual) death
of one of my many, many Crawl characters. Atomjack (the four
hundred and seventeenth, but that's another story) started
out life as a simple Level 1 Gray Elf Conjurer.
He knew one spell, Magic Dart, and as you can see from the
screen had only four pp. Any pure spellcaster is going to be
useless at fighting in the early game, so that means that
Atomjack has four Magic Darts, then he's toast. Keep that
Atomjack went a-wandering, and quickly came across a scroll.
If you find a scroll in the early game, it's almost certainly
worth reading it to find out what it does. In this case, luck
was on Atomjack's side and his cloak glowed green (a scroll
of Enchant Armour, giving an AC of 2!).
A bit more wandering led him to a wand.
Never try wands on yourself
first! It's also not a good idea to try a wand on a beastie which might kill you, except as a desperate measure.
Save it until you're faced with a nice safe rat, and then zap it and see what happens.
In this case, the first beastie Atomjack came across was
a bat, and in the excitement of the moment he completely forgot
about the wand and slayed it with a Magic Dart. Whoo-hoo!
He picked up the corpse and soldiered on.
A bit of further wandering led him to a buckler, 20
elven darts, and another scroll:
Again, it's worth reading scrolls as you find them in
the early game. Oops: it's a teleport scroll!
Off Atomjack went to a different part of the dungeon.
It's inhabited by a hobgoblin...
...who doesn't last long:
Atomjack converted the hobgoblin corpse into nice meaty
Hobgoblin Chunks(TM) (the 'D' command) and stuffed them
in his pack. You never know when you might get hungry enough to eat
Note that Atomjack had been hit during the battle, and was down to a mere 6 hp and 1 mp. Going wandering around
the dungeon in this state is asking for a beating: remember, when mp=0, hp=0 soon after for a spellcaster. Atomjack
stayed where he was and rested until he was back up to par. HP aren't so critical, so long as you've got at least 6
or 7, but spellcasters should usually rest until they've got most or all of their mp back after combat.
Moving off, Atomjack found another scroll. This one's harder to figure out:
This could be something useful, like a scroll of recharging, or it could be completely useless. If
Atomjack finds another of these scrolls, he's going to keep it until he can identify it (or work out what it is by
Heading south, Atomjack kills a hobgoblin with ease, but then
stupidly keeps going and another hobgoblin sees him! He casts a
Magic Dart at it with his last pp, but it's only wounded. Now
he's in trouble!
In this situation, it's best to keep your head. The options here
are (in order of desirability)
If the enemy's a fair way off:
- Zap a damaging wand
- Throw a missile weapon
- Run away if you're as fast as it
- Heal yourself as much as possible
If the enemy's close (1 or 2 squares away):
- Escape (use a blink or teleport scroll/spell/item)
- Run away if you're as fast as it
- Thump it and hope
In this case, Atomjack had a wand, but didn't know what it
was. This is not the time to find out unless you're really
desperate: if the wand hasted the hobgoblin then it's tombstone time.
Atomjack decided to try throwing one of his elven darts, and strikes
If that dart hadn't hit, Atomjack would have run away. Nearly all
monsters are as fast as you are, so you won't actually get away from them.
What you are aiming to do is to prevent being hit while waiting for
a magic point or two to regenerate. The ideal tactic is to play the
pillar game: find a small loop nearby, preferably in an area you've
already cleaned out. Run round and round and round until you have
regenerated (a) at least one mp, and (b) have enough hp that you are sure
you can survive being hit once. Cast your spell, rinse and repeat.
This really is a bit of a desperation tactic, but you have a much
better chance of survival than if you try to go toe-to-toe with
a hobgoblin. Note that if the critter is faster than you are (eg
snakes) then don't even attempt this tactic: you'll get creamed.
Atomjack now waits to recover his hp and mp, and notices
that his Stealth increases while doing so. At this point in
the game, spell skills are probably more important than
Stealth to a spellcaster, so Atomjack turns off Dodging
and Stealth for the time being. This is a compromise: both
of these skills can actually be very useful, but I prefer to
try and get my spell repertoire and damage up as soon as possible.
A bit more monster-thumping, and it's level-up time! Note that
Atomjack has wielded the sabre he found earlier. This was a calculated
risk: in general it's a bad idea to wield unidentified weapons. However,
as a level 1 character it may be worth the risk if you're prepared to
lost the character and start again if the weapon is cursed.
Level 1 characters die like flies: but once you get to level 2
you have a chance. Atomjack adds to his repertoire of spells:
Emboldened by his newfound powers, Atomjack saunters on and
has a rude surprise:
This is no 'small snake' but a real honest-to-God Snake
with a big S. This beastie is seriously out of depth, and
represents an immediate and deadly threat.
Strike one: a Throw Frost! Unfortunately, this misses, but
so does the Snake. If Atomjack had an escape means (eg a scroll
of teleport), this would be the time to use it: always escape
before you are badly injured if you can. He can't. There's no
point running, as snakes are fast.
Only 4mp left now: Atomjack goes for the guaranteed damage of
a Magic Dart as he can't afford another miss. The Dart wounds
the Snake, but in return it gives him a nasty bite taking him down to
4hp and poisoning him.
All or nothing: Throw Frost again. This hits, and kills the
One little thing, though: Atomjack has 3hp left and he's poisoned. He could easily die in the next couple of
turns. Time to try that unidentified potion he found earlier:
Well, it's not healing, but berserking will do. By the
time the berserking wears off, Atomjack has 2hp left but
is healthy again. He rests for quite a while to heal
up. While resting, he starts to feel hungry so snacks on
a lump of bat he had lying around from earlier.
Atomjack finishes exploring the level, and finds nothing else
interesting. Always try to explore a level in its entirety before
you go down, and if it looks like there are bits of the
level which are inaccessible, go downstairs and try to find
stairs back up to the bits you have missed. Never go down
to a new level if you still have anywhere to explore on the
Atomjack saunters downstairs. He's hungry, but doesn't eat any of the
food that he has in his backpack. When you turn hungry, it's usually worthwhile
wandering around for a while as more often than not you'll be able to kill and
eat an edible monster and hence save one of your food rations. Don't leave it
too long as a spellcaster, however, as if you get weak from hunger you won't
be able to cast spells, and you really don't want to be eating during combat.
More melee-oriented characters should NEVER eat a food ration or other
food item unless they are starving. If you stick to this, you'll almost never
lose a character due to starvation.
Atomjack moves into the level: ANOTHER snake!!
This one's only a little snake, and doesn't last long, however. One Throw
Frost does the trick. Atomjack moves over to butcher the corpse and sees
a hobgoblin lurking nearby. Now might be a good time to see what that wand
we found back on level 1 was:
So much for that. Atomjack finishes off the hobgoblin and goes back to
his dead snake.
Uh, oh! That's Sigmund, one of the uniques in Crawl. Atomjack isn't nearly buff
enough to take on Sigmund yet, so runs for the stairs...
...but not fast enough. RIP Atomjack.