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version 3 of 3

About ten or twelve years ago I started playing roguelikes. I tried pretty much all of them.
Nethack, Alphaman, ToME and Adom were my favorites all through high school. I even made efforts to get two of my closest friends into them. One was a LotR buff, but she was not amused by ToME. The other wanted to write a paper about video games, and I suggested "the oldest game in continuous development, Nethack" as a topic. He did end up playing Nethack for a bit. Looking back, I never really got into the *bands (random dungeons are unsettling) but there were some good times on Mangband.

Arguably, I never figured out Nethack either. Still have not beaten that game, but I could take almost any character to the bottom of the mines fairly consistently. After that my game would fall apart. And despite reading all the spoilers (which mainly talk about the numbers behind the game) and all the YASD stories (or how-not-to-die-by-cute-game-mechanics) I'd still not know how to play the game. (Hint, read ascension posts to learn that.)

At some point I got annoyed every game for either being too thin, too buggy or too quirky. So I, being an ambitious fool, tried to make my own. Read every page on RogueBasin (the old one, before it was wiki-ized) and generally failed to produce anything of value. In summary, I can't beat the games nor can I make the games.

Then in college I started playing Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. This was something else entirely! The designers released all the time, often with radically new features. They try to make the game fun and convenient. They try to remove grinding. They try to make the UI clear and straightforward. And they succeed on all counts! It is not quite perfect: the average monster or item description is not as literary as what you'll find in Nethack.

But I find myself hitting the same old wall. There are people who can beat the game in two hours. I'm lucky if I live that long, and even luckier if I can grab a single rune. So here I'll be trying something different. I'll pick a winning game and analyse everything done in it. (If you can't beat them or make them, comment on them!)

We'll be following 78291's last adventure in the annual Crawl tournament. At just under 72 minutes, this game was the fastest. He also managed to kill the fewest monsters (429). The class combination was a Spriggan Enchanter (SpEn). To follow along with the commentary, install a TTY player and download the recording. Being a speedrun, it is not entirely representative of a real game, but it is very different from how I've always played spriggans.

If you want to know how it ends, here is the morgue file. The strategy can be summed up as follows.

  • Early game, reaching the Liar: sneak, ensorcelled hibernation (EH), stab.
  • Mid game, finding runes: invisibility, apportation, EH, stab.
  • Late game, orb run: haste, controlled teleport. Fight almost nothing.

Probably 95% of the deaths are stabs. Or he just agros a mob of monsters, then slips out with invisibility.

Let's dive into some gritty details. This section is a blow-by-blow summary of every choice made in the game. It is going to be long and dull. Each set of events has a turn count attached to them, so you follow along in the replay. I've tried to be fairly comprehensive, so if I failed to mention something it is probably because I was oblivious. Comments from experience crawlers appreciated!

Early game

  • 44 - Sleeping enemy. Approach from other direction, 50% less chance to wake. Kill by stabbing.
  • 120 - Giant gecko. Dangerous! Could have thrown 5 darts. Instead rushes in and barely wins with 1 HP.
  • 360 - Learns encorcelled hibernation (EH), making the character pretty much unstoppable. Purposefully training stealth, considered by many to a waste.
  • 677 - DL 2. Does not use autoexplore. Likes shift-move though.
  • 746 - Avoids training traps.
  • 795 - DL 3. Diving as fast as possible.
  • 993 - XL 3. +1 strength.
  • 1056 - DL 4.
  • 1103 - Stops diving. Waiting for something?
  • 1160 - Spotted by hound. Does not use EH at range, gets nommed.
  • 1384 - Spots goblin. Does not recast EH when goblin wakes.
  • 1391 - First item ID, blind equips a dagger. It is draining, sets as new default weapon.
  • 1398 - MfIE ghost. Run away!
  • 1421 - XL 4.
  • 1429 - Walks into ghost, lose half of health.
  • 1449 - DL 5.
  • 1552 - Regains 2/3rds health, starts exploring.
  • 1657 - Learn and immediately disable Ice Magic.
  • 1728 - Nothing of interest in weapon shop? Does not add anything to shopping list.
  • 1739 - Eats as soon as hungry.
  • 1772 - Hits 6 scrolls. Guesses they are ID and starts IDing rings and potions. Burns through all ID scrolls. Wears ring of protection.
  • 1782 - The {!q} inscription prevents accidentally drinking the potion of mutation.
  • 1796 - DL 6.
  • 1845 - ID wand on first unsuspecting monster. Not the best results. Ditches wand after running up to monster?
  • 1877 - Giant frog. Fairly dangerous. But no match for EH + stab. XL 5.
  • 1951 - Centaur. Very dangerous! Also no match for EH + stab.
  • 1970 - Electric eels. Very dangerous. Avoids, but does not set exclusion on map.
  • 1987 - DL 7.
  • 1997 - Avoids giant beetle (high HP), stabs giant eyeball (paralysis).
  • 2032 - Random quaff, ID levitation.
  • 2054 - XL 6. +1 strength.
  • 2100 - Puts on ring of levitation. Why?
  • 2107 - Finds temple, finally read tests all scrolls. Rarest scrolls first. (This saves remove curse for last, usually.) Read tests all future scrolls immediately.
  • 2192 - Joins Elyvilon.
  • 2224 - IDs a randart ring, replaces ring of levitation.
  • 2278 - Forgets that Elyvilon hates weapons of draining. No penance, so not too bad.
  • 2281 - Test reads a scroll.
  • 2297 - DL 8.
  • 2335 - Test zaps a wand. Goes well!
  • 2360 - And all is fine with Elyvilon. Still using that dagger though.
  • 2453 - Test reads a scroll, must be charging (already knows ID and enchant armor).
  • 2460 - XL 7.
  • 2465 - Starts training enchantments.
  • 2519 - Uses enchant weapon immediately. Has been saving enchant armor for some reason.
  • 2548 - Ticks off Elyvilon. Again.
  • 2650 - Makes good with Elyvilon.
  • 2660 - One shots a manticore.
  • 2706 - Hippogriff. Most cautious fight so far, backing away between EH attempts.
  • 2729 - One shots hippogriff, XL 8. Stops training stabbing.
  • 2778 - Destroys stones. I don't think he has any saved for fighting jellies.
  • 2809 - Considers ranged fight with cyclops, instead draws the monster to a corner.
  • 2850 - Test read scroll, nothing. Does not test quaff new potion.
  • 2887 - Test reads scroll, despite standing next to a shadow.
  • 2902 - Runs away from shadow, enters DL 9. One shots an orc warrior.
  • 2969 - Does not test quaff two new potions.
  • 3051 - Test zap wand on zombie, it is digging.
  • 3130 - Hurt 50% by trap, does not bother resting before combat.
  • 3299 - Plenty of experience to space, still does not train traps.
  • 3320 - Jewelery store. Nothing of interest?
  • 3371 - Scroll store. Purchases magic mapping (IDing them) and blink.
  • 3402 - First "honest" fight in a while, against a quasit. Avoids skeleton.
  • 3428 - Book of Burglary. Very important spells in here!
  • 3448 - Jewelery store. Nothing of interest?
  • 3449 - Learns Repel Missiles (RMsl), Apportation.
  • 3475 - Runs away from skeleton to DL 10, magic map level.
  • 3497 - Eats for no reason.
  • 3520 - Gains traps & doors (leaves it on), makes a beeline for the down stairs.
  • 3571 - DL 11, magic map level. Makes a beeline for the stairs.
  • 3624 - Test zap wand on monster. Gains evocations. XL 9, +1 strength.
  • 3643 - Kills named unique, immediately test wields their dagger. Chaos, does not use.
  • 3678 - DL 12, magic maps level.
  • 3688 - New potion, test quaffs all four unknowns. Waits for effects to wear off.
  • 3752 - One shots a jelly, one shots a steam dragon.
  • 3768 - DL 13. Big room.
  • 3786 - Finds magic staff.

Mid game

  • 3791 - Finds and enters the Lair. Tests staff for enchantment/air.
  • 3807 - New potion, does not test quaff.
  • 3820 - Test wears cursed randart robe. Keeps it for the rest of the game.
  • 3829 - Lair 2. Avoids fighting spiny frog and water moccasin simultaneously. Shows caution with Spiny frogs.
  • 3975 - New wand, immediately test zaps. Wand of cold, goes well.
  • 3988 - Bolt trap takes health down to 25%. Runs away and drinks healing.
  • 4069 - Gains fighting (leaves it on) and ticks off Elyvilon again.
  • 4096 - Shows caution when fighting a komodo dragon.
  • 4132 - Eats for no reason.
  • 4151 - Finds book of Conjurations. Immediately discards.
  • 4176 - Ticks off Elyvilon once more.
  • 4184 - Black mamba. Looks like reckless combat, but caution is not possible with monsters as fast as you.
  • 4234 - Lair 3.
  • 4254 - XL 10.
  • 4407 - Flees from pack of soldier ants. Chooses to stay on Lair 3.
  • 4467 - New scroll, immediately test reads. It is blank, immediately discards.
  • 4607 - While fleeing from ants/sheep, pick up inedible food.
  • 4617 - Stops fleeing, holds this hallway. (Somehow better than previous two hallways?)
  • 4718 - Fails to EH a snail, notices a fire drake in the distance. Runs to Lair 4, immediately returns to L3. Learns Control Teleport, Invisibility.
  • 4740 - Ticks off Elyvilon. Again.
  • 4790 - Casts RMsl and Invis as prep for fire drake fight. Stabs it in its sleep.
  • 4852 - Lair 4 once more. Fights yaks around a corner, flees to L3 at 50% health.
  • 5135 - Casts invis, returns to L4, 50% health, annoys Elyvilon. Does not rest.
  • 5179 - Hungry, eats immediately.
  • 5195 - Sees gila and sheep, advances to Lair 5.
  • 5377 - Begins using apportation. (Collecting weapons to appease Elyvilon without waking electric eels.)
  • 5419 - New ring, does not ID.
  • 5430 - Uses invis before entering a pack of rats. Finds enchant weapon, does not use.
  • 5457 - New ring. IDs 3 of 3 rings (magic, sustenance, +6 strength). Replaces +2 protection with +6 strength. Discards sustenance (cursed and useless for spriggans).
  • 5506 - Invis wears off, pack of mosquitoes wakes up. Ticks off Elyvilon twice more, loses religion.
  • 5535 - New potion, does not ID.
  • 5621 - Finds and enters the Shoals. Retreats up, casts invis, returns.
  • 5687 - 25% health. 15% health
  • 5720 - Sees hipogriff, returns to L5. Rests. Returns to shoals.
  • 5978 - Finds wand shop. Nothing?
  • 5984 - New potion, immediately quaffs 3 of 4 unknowns.
  • 5977 - Replaces randart ring with cursed levitation, remove curses, evokes levitation.
  • 6005 - Seen by merfolk, casts invis. Somehow loses only 50% of heath.
  • 6033 - 15% health. Heal wounds. Column dance and kills everything. Risks life for a curse armor scroll (did not examine in advance).
  • 6057 - Weapons shop. Nothing.
  • 6266 - Shoals 2.
  • 6330 - Flees two merfolk and a hipogriff, enters shoals 3.
  • 6334 - New wand, no test.
  • 6537 - Enchants dagger.
  • 6563 - Finds deck of cards, immediately IDs with scroll. Quaff unknown potion (magic).
  • 6652 - Trains stabbing, dodging.
  • 6748 - Casts RMsl, enters shoals 4, casts invis.
  • 6782 - Enters shoals 5.
  • 6816 - Grabs rune, hightails it out to lair 5 (while fleeing for life, this is the first time stuff on the ground is examined)
  • 7073 - Finds Snake Pit, casts RMsl (to avoid naga spit), enters pit 1. Examines ground, reads fog.
  • 7098 - Zaps digging. (Why like that?) IDs amulet of res corrosion.
  • 7116 - Armor shop. Nothing. (I'd come back for the cloak of preservation.) Magic map.
  • 7133 - Digs though, casts invis, (oklobs in chamber) gets hit anyway. 22% health. Enters pit 2. Eats for no reason. Does not rest. Apports three items.
  • 7394 - Fully healed.
  • 7442 - Pit 3. Returns to pit 2. Flees, tries different stairs to pit 3.
  • 7511 - Dives to pit 4.
  • 7532 - Zaps digging to break LoS with nagas.
  • 7861 - XL 12, +1 strength.
  • 7909 - Finds ID scroll, uses immediately on ring of life protection.
  • 8141 - Waits for glow to fade, casts RMsl, enters pit 5.
  • 8229 - Digs into back of rune chamber
  • 8346 - Uses agility potion, RMsl and apport to grab rune. Escapes chamber with scroll of teleport, casts control teleport.
  • 8351 - Teleports to stairs, hightails it to lair 5.
  • 8477 - Enters lair 6, bigroom. Loops around the edge of the room, apporting stuff. Reads new scroll, -MR.
  • 8519 - Stop training stabbing and enchantments.
  • 8566 - Gets mobbed instead of drawing them off one at a time. Finds and avoids stairs down. Escapes mob with invis. Trying to group all the monsters so any stairs is safe?
  • 8639 - New wands, immediately tests (fire, draining).
  • 8707 - Runs into middle of room, mobbed again. Flees to lair 7.
  • 8793 - Apports randart dagger, inspects for curse, wields, sets as default. It is holy, but continues to avoid combat with skeletons. Can be evoked for blink, but never used.
  • 8975 - Reads new scroll, silence. Starts using apport as a makeshift examine.
  • 9013 - New amulet, IDs with scroll, clarity. Wears it.
  • 9033 - Mobbed, and fire drake. Escapes with invis, descends to liar 8. Runs in circles.
  • 9296 - Enters slime pit 1, returns to lair 8. Runs in circles more.
  • 9340 - Returns to lair 7, lair 6.
  • 9395 - Apports new scroll and reads while chased by half a dozen monsters.
  • 9401 - Lair 5. Hightails it back to DL 13.
  • 9575 - New ring, IDs with scroll as slaying. Discards.
  • 9612 - New scroll, reads immediately. (curse weapon, no effect)
  • 9634 - New wand, ID zaps on necrophage (confusion). Discards. IDs amulet with scroll (gourmand), discards. IDs potion with scroll (brilliance).
  • 9650 - Zaps digging for escape.
  • 9694 - DL 14.
  • 9777 - Test zaps new wand on skeleton, magic dart, discards. Flees skeleton but stays on level.
  • 10085 - DL 15.
  • 10141 - Finds vaults, eats when hungry. Waits for glow to fade, enters vault 1.
  • 10412 - Vault 2. Heavy use of apport. Find new potions, test quaffs (strength+1, confusion (discard)).
  • 10464 - Eats ration despite being full. Engorged!
  • 10531 - Jewelery shop. Buys cursed ring of teleportation. Replaces levitation. Removes curse, removes teleport.
  • 10607 - Experience pool higher than turn count.
  • 10643 - Discards book of power.
  • 10652 - Enters vault 3.
  • 10899 - Enters vault 4, sees Nikola, returns to 3.
  • 10905 - Gains air magic.
  • 10913 - My favorite moment. Positions self so cyclops hits sleeping dragon with rock.
  • 10943 - Runs down paralysis wand, training evoke. Discards wand.
  • 11002 - Runs away from a pack of sleeping ogres.
  • 11058 - Reads test a scroll (acquirement), requests book (enchantments). Learns haste.
  • 11151 - Alerts ogre pack.
  • 11206 - Vault 4.
  • 11252 - Read test scrolls (pain).
  • 11363 - Armor shop, buys +0 buckler. Wears it and enchants it +3.
  • 11387 - Flees yaks to vault 5. Runs around, shot at by yaktaurs without RMsl or Invis.
  • 11463 - Finds new potion, quaffs immediately (invis).
  • 11477 - Vault 6. Train stabbing, enchantments again.
  • 11612 - Finds +0 cloak. Enchants to +2.
  • 11638 - Vault 7. Wait for glow to fade. RMsl. Haste.
  • 11905 - Escape hatch to vault 8. (Risky, but avoids guards on stairs.) Magic map. cTele. Reads tele. (not ring?) Teleports to center of vault.
  • 11924 - Apports rune, scrolls of ID, new rings, maxes out inventory.
  • 11934 - Nommed by dragon, sets off alarm trap. Reads tele. Returns to hatch drop, not stairs. Waits for glow to fade.
  • 12049 - IDs rings. +3 dex, +3 int, res poison. Discards dex and int. Discards starting robe. ID scroll new scroll (summoning). Discard all scrolls of teleport. Pretty sure this was unintentional.
  • 12105 - Rushes guards with haste and RMsl. Reads Blink to reach stairs.
  • 12110 - Vault 7. Hightails it back to DL 15. Finds and discards the Monster Manual, ring of hunger along the way. Is very picky about using the same stairs as coming down.
Andy (2017-08-11-11-54-07-918)

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Late game

  • 12456 - DL 16.
  • 12926 - DL 17. DL 18.
  • 12938 - DL 19. Finds new wand, IDs with scroll (healing). Charges it.
  • 12964 - New ring, IDs with scroll (wizardry). IDs randart amulet and potion (speed) and staff (channeling). Discards staff.
  • 12996 - Apports teleport scroll and enters DL 20. Just now realizes he left them all in the bottom of the vault.
  • 13024 - Experience pool less than turn count.
  • 13058 - Eats to free up inventory.
  • 13090 - Too many elves, digs escape route. Finds and discards book of power.
  • 13149 - Avoids ugly things and elves, enters DL 21.
  • 13157 - Blinks away from giant eyeball.
  • 13179 - DL 22. Runs down wand of draining, fire, cold for evoke training.
  • 13282 - Wear tests an unknown robe (+2). Discards.
  • 13287 - RMsl, DL 23. Sees frost giant, returns to DL 22. Alerts band of orcs, vampire. Flees.
  • 13321 - Skips Abyss, engorges self on porridge.
  • 13326 - Armor shop. Nothing.
  • 13340 - DL 23. Bazaar portal announced.
  • 13487 - Flees hungry ghost, enters Bazaar. Buys book of wizardry, learns teleport self. Trains translocation.
  • 13616 - Returns to DL 23.
  • 13648 - DL 24.
  • 13745 - Tries to stab 8 headed hydra. Does not go so well, flees.
  • 13847 - Fleeing orcs and trolls, enters DL 25.
  • 13923 - Avoids waking monsters, enters DL 26.
  • 14194 - DL 27. RMsl.
  • 14381 - Enters Zot 1. Storm dragon, drinks resistance. Empties wand of dig. Hit by lightning, 50% health. Heal wounds, dig twice to escape dragon.
  • 14425 - Spots orb of fire, reads blink. Hastes.
  • 14450 - Magic contamination causes mutations. Avoids fighting anything larger than a lone moth of wrath.
  • 14748 - Hit by orb of fire, blinks away. cTele, teleself, returns to DL 27. Rests, while maintaining continuous cTele.
  • 15242 - Zot 1. Avoids everything. Probably because he has no resistance to torment, negative energy, etc.
  • 15592 - Zot 2. Digs if no usable corridors.
  • 15646 - Death cob made me laugh.
  • 15793 - Zot 3, zot 4.
  • 15899 - RMsl, haste, enters Zot 5. Drinks resistance. Drinks int. Reads tele. Apports the Orb. Reads tele. Blink before the tele goes off. cTele before the tele goes off. Heal wounds. Teleports back to stairs.
  • 15925 - Zot 4. Teleports. Zot 3.
  • 15943 - Zot 2. Digs. Several near run ins.
  • 16024 - Zot 1.
  • 16029 - DL 27. Teleports.
  • 16036 - DL 26. Waits for glow to fade.
  • 16114 - DL 25. Teleports. Reads fog while waiting.
  • 16126 - DL 24. Teleports. Wrong stairs, teleports again.
  • 16140 - DL 23. Walks to correct stairs, teleports to different stairs.
  • 16172 - DL 22. cTele to be safe, but walk to stairs to diffuse glow. Picks up a mutation anyway.
  • 16198 - DL 21.
  • 16208 - DL 20. Blinks while waiting for teleport.
  • 16224 - DL 19. Walks to stairs.
  • 16245 - DL 18. DL 17. DL 16. Teleports. DL 15. Walks to stairs. DL 14. Walks to stairs.
  • 16303 - DL 13. Dodge stuff, hastes. 50% health. Wand of healing after fireballs.
  • 16360 - DL 12. New stairs. Teleports. DL 11. Digs. New stairs. DL 10. Teleports. DL 9.
  • 16427 - Walks to stairs. Almost there, sees pit fiend, fog, teleports to new stairs.
  • 16434 - DL 8. Teleports. DL 7. IDs potion of experience. Quaffs, XL 15: +1 int, +1 dex. Walks to stairs. DL 6. Walks to new stairs.
  • 16478 - DL 5. Walks to stairs. DL 4. Teleports. DL 3. Teleports. Way off, runs around waiting for mana. Teleports.
  • 16569 - DL 2. Teleports. More glow mutations. New stairs. DL 1. Teleports.
  • 16625 - Wins.

Conclusions

The most jarring thing about this playthrough was the completely arbitrary conduct of no missiles. Never uses any. Never picks any up. Never even drops the starting 16 +1 darts, and ascends with them quivered. In the early game missiles are good for wearing down enemies, and in the middle game they can be used to draw off a single monster from a pack. With so many levels in stealth, this could have been pretty useful.

Sometimes the play style is extremely conservative. Other times it looks like he takes dumb risks. Overall the play gets more conservative towards the end, which I would expect. But in the beginning it swings wildly between the two. Does not recast EH if the first time fails. Does not cast EH from a distance, so he gets hit if it fails. But avoids all skeletons, even if they are fairly weak.

Paul (2015-06-22-13-26-02-275)

This is probably a very old game if Traps was still a skill, but I would point out that once a monster wakes up from EH, they are immune to it for the next hundred turns or so. Basically it's a one time deal unless you run away and rest and come back later.



Stabbing was extremely effective. More dangerous ranged enemies were avoided. Tunnels were dug if there was no way to avoid the nasties.

Never once used autoexplore. I'll agree the autoexplore can be pretty dumb but it makes a completionist's life much easier. Also useful for quickly picking up loot scattered around an empty room.

Really likes reusing stairs. I guess this makes some sense, as you can be reasonably certain you won't walk into a surprise. But he had a tendency to agro every monster in a room, and leave them all at one stairs. Certainly made the surface run more exciting.

Never evokes non-wands. Uses a ring of levitation once. Hauls a deck of war around for no reason. Buys and prepares a ring of teleport, but always uses scrolls or casting. Gets a weapon that provides blink, but always uses scrolls. Even purposefully trains evocations at one point, but could have been evoking blink for half the game. Spriggans are great at evocations! (Nemelex is one of my favorite gods for spriggans, as he turns junk you can't eat/wear/wield into decks you can evoke.)

Speaking of gods, what was the deal with Elyvilon? My only hypothesis is that using self-heal would save the weight of carrying a stack of heavy health potions around. There are no punishments associated with her, so maybe Elyvilon is just a fallback better-than-nothing god.

Never trains traps. The general advice is to try to get traps up to level 5 or so as fast as possible, to avoid instant death by swinging blade. Maybe the insanely high evasion provides some protection? Though much of the dungeon was unexplored, so the odds of hitting a trap were slimmer.

Examining the ground. Lots of times he walks to an item and then decides to pick it up, instead of looking at with with "x". If you are trying to play the game as fast as possible in real time, this is slightly faster. (With "x", you still have to walk over to the object if you want it. So it is like taking two trips.) But a number of times he does this when it means risking his life to various ranged attacks. After learning apportation, things gets a little better.

IDing items. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this one and still have not found any real patterns. No IDing until 1391, then blindly equipping a dagger. 1772, finds six of one type of scroll, decides these are ID. IDs all rings and as many potions as possible. 1845, immediately test wands on a monster. Generally does this whenever a wand is found. 2107, finds Temple, reads all unknown scrolls. From this point on, he generally reads any scroll the moment it is found. Even while in combat or being chased. IDing potions by quaffing is generally weird. Seems to avoid it as much as possible, unless things are quiet. Weapons/armor of interest are immediately test wielded, even while being chased. Jewelery is IDed with a scroll as soon as possible, never test worn.

Have any aspects of this playthrough completely escaped me?